Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness) – New York Film Festival 2011


Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness)
Ulrich Köhler, 2011
NYFF Main Slate
Country: Germany/France/Netherlands | French, German, Dutch and Bassa with English subtitles | Running time: 91m

Pierre Bokma (Ebbo Velten)
Jean-Christophe Folly (Alex Nzila)
Jenny Schily (Vera Velten)
Hippolyte Girardot (Gaspard Signac)
Maria Elise Miller (Helen Velten)
Sava Lolov (Elia Todorov)
Francis Noukiatchom (Dr. Monese)
Ali Mvondo Roland (Ruhemba)
Isacar Yinkou (Joseph)

“If you can’t bear Germany, welcome back here.”

A Berlin School director in the groove of Joseph Conrad and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. An exploration of modern day colonialism, in the guise of medical humanitarian aid.

Ebbo Velten and his wife Vera have spent two decades combating an epidemic of sleeping sickness in the villages of Cameroon. After a visit from their teenage daughter, Vera returns to Europe while Ebbo remains behind. A young Parisian doctor—a Frenchman born to Congolese parents—travels to Africa to evaluate the efficiency of Ebbo’s program for a report to the funders.

Ulrich Köhler’s first feature film Bungalow debuted in the Panorama section of the Berlinale in 2002. His next feature, Montag kommen die Fenster premiered at Berlinale Forum in 2006. Schlafkrankheit premiered in competition at Berlinale 2011, where Köhler won the Silver Bear for Best Director.

2011 PEN Literary Awards


2011 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony
CUNY Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium, NYC
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One highlight – Roy Blount, Jr. introducing Roger Angell for the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing, and 90-year old Angell talking like a man half his age with the wisdom of a man twice his age.

The awards:

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize: To a fiction writer whose debut work, published in 2010, represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise. Judges: Susan Cheever, Paul Harding, and Yiyun Li.
Winners: Susanna Daniel, Stiltsville (Harper Perennial); Danielle Evans, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (Riverhead) Runner-up: Teddy Wayne, Kapitoil (Harper Perennial)

PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award: For a book of literary nonfiction on the subject of the physical and biological sciences published in 2010. Judges: Rita Charon, Bill McKibben, and Richard Panek.
Winner: Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies (Scribner)
Runner-up: David Abram, Becoming Animal (Pantheon)

PEN/W. G. Sebald Award for a Fiction Writer in Mid-Career: To an author who has published at least three significant works of literary fiction. Judges: Jill Ciment, Salvatore Scibona, and Gary Shteyngart.
Winner: Aleksandar Hemon

PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction: A biennial award for a distinguished book of general nonfiction possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective published in 2009 or 2010. Judges: Charles R. Morris, Elaine Showalter, and Lee Siegel.
Winner: Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire (Metropolitan Books, 2010)
Runners-up: John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010); Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House, 2010)

PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Awards for an American Playwright in Mid-Career and a Master American Dramatist: A pair of awards, which honor: a Master American Dramatist and an American Playwright in Mid-Career. Judges: Kenny Leon, Laura Linney, and Thomas Lynch.
American Playwright in Mid-Career: Marcus Gardley
Master American Dramatist: David Henry Hwang

PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay: For a book of essays published in 2010 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem of the essay form. Judges: André Aciman, Jo Ann Beard, and William H. Gass.
Winner: Mark Slouka, Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations (Graywolf Press)
Runners-up: Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) Alex Ross, Listen to This (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing: For a nonfiction book on the subject of sports published in 2010. Judges: Madeleine Blais, Buzz Bissinger, and Phillip Lopate.
Winner: George Dohrmann, Play Their Hearts Out (Ballantine Books)

PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing: To a writer whose body of work represents an exceptional contribution to the field. Judges: Roy Blount, Jr., Terry McDonell, and David Remnick.
Winner: Roger Angell

PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography: For a distinguished biography published in 2010. Judges: Brad Gooch, Benjamin Taylor, and Amanda Vaill.
Winner: Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life (Little, Brown and Company)
Runners-up: Wendy Moffat, A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry: To an emerging American poet of any age showing promise of further literary achievement. Judges: Carolyn Forché, Kimiko Hahn, and Terrance Hayes.
Winner: Ishion Hutchinson, Far District (Peepal Tree Press Ltd.)

PEN/Nora Magid Award: To a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits. Judges: Lan Samantha Chang, Willing Davidson, and Jane Smiley.
Winner: Brigid Hughes, Founding Editor of A Public Space

PEN Open Book Award: For an exceptional work of literature by an author of color published in 2010. Judges: Cornelius Eady, Nam Le, and Lizzie Skurnick.
Winner: Manu Joseph, Serious Men (W. W. Norton & Company)
Runner-up: John Murillo, Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher Books)

PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship: To an author of children’s or young-adult fiction, who has published at least two books, and for whom monetary support is particularly needed to complete a book-length work-in-progress. Judges: Coe Booth, Marina Budhos, and Louis Sachar.
Winner: Lucy Frank, Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling, a novel in verse (available for publication)

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation: For a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2010. Judge: Martha Cooley.
Winner: Khaled Mattawa, Adonis: Selected Poems (Yale University Press, The Margellos World Republic of Letters Series) Runners-up: Jonathan Galassi, Canti by Giacomo Leopardi (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Michael Hofmann, Angina Days by Gunter Eich (Princeton University Press); Charles Simic, Oranges and Snow by Milan Djordjević (Princeton University Press)

PEN Translation Prize: For a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2010. Judges: Jonathan Cohen, Barbara Harshav, and Sara Khalili.
Winner: Ibrahim Muhawi, Journal of an Ordinary Grief by Mahmoud Darwish (Archipelago Books)
Runners-up: David Bellos, Hocus Bogus by Romain Gary, publishing as Émile Ajar (Yale University Press); Malcolm C. Lyons with Ursula Lyons, The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (Penguin)

PEN Translation Fund Grants: To support the translation of book-length works into English. Judges: David Bellos, Susan Bernofsky, Edwin Frank, Michael F. Moore, Michael Reynolds, Natasha Wimmer, and Jeffrey Yang.
Amiri Ayanna, The St. Katharinental Sister Book: Lives of the Sisters of the Dominican Convent at Diessenhofen (from Middle High German); Neil Blackadder, The Test (Good Simon Korach), a play by Swiss dramatist and novelist Lukas Bärfuss (from German); Clarissa Botsford, Sworn Virgin, a novel by Albanian writer and filmmaker Elvira Dones (from Italian); Steve Bradbury, Salsa, a collection of poems by Taiwanese poet Hsia Yü (from Chinese); Annmarie S. Drury, collection of poems by Tanzanian poet Euphrase Kezilahabi (from Swahili); Diane Nemec Ignashev, Paranoia, a novel by Belarusian author Viktor Martinovich (from Russian); Chenxin Jiang, Memories of the Cowshed, a memoir by Chinese author Ji Xianlin (from Chinese); Hilary B. Kaplan, Rilke Shake, a collection of poetry by Brazilian writer Angélica Freitas (from Portuguese); Catherine Schelbert, Flametti, or the Dandyism of the Poor, a novel by German writer Hugo Ball (from German); Joel Streicker, Birds in the Mouth, a collection of short stories by Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin (from Spanish); Sarah L. Thomas, Turnaround, a literary thriller by Spanish writer Mar Goméz Glez (from Spanish)

PEN Emerging Writers Awards: One award each to an up-and-coming fiction writer, nonfiction writer, and poet who has been published in a distinguished literary journal, but who has yet to publish a book-length work. Judges: Reif Larsen, David Lehman, and Robin Romm.
Fiction Winner: Smith Henderson (nominated by Hannah Tinti of One Story); Runner-up: Elliott Holt (nominated by Joel Whitney of Guernica)
Nonfiction Winner: David Stuart MacLean (nominated by Ladette Randolph of Ploughshares); Runner-up: Chester Phillips (nominated by Hattie Fletcher of Creative Nonfiction)
Poetry Winner: Adam Day (nominated by Erica Wright of Guernica); Runner-up: Brett Fletcher Lauer (nominated by Robert Casper of jubilat)

“PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 144 PEN centers in 101 countries that together compose International PEN.”

You Are Not I – New York Film Festival 2011


You Are Not I
Sara Driver, 1981 | USA | English | Running time: 48m
6 October 2011, Walter Reade Theater

Writing credits: Paul Bowles (short story); Sara Driver: Jim Jarmusch

Original Music: Phil Kline

Cinematography: Jim Jarmusch

Cast includes: Suzanne Fletcher; Evelyn Smith; Luc Sante

“When I walked out of the gate after the accident.”

From the NYFF program:

A haunting adaptation of a 1948 short story by Paul Bowles about a woman who escapes from an asylum, You Are Not I played widely in the international film festival circuit in the early Eighties. Then, a leak in a New Jersey warehouse destroyed the negative, leaving director Sara Driver with only a battered, unprojectable copy. Miraculously, a print was found among the holdings of Paul Bowles in 2009 [preserved in bug spray] and now the film has been restored and is available once again. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive works to emerge from the post-punk downtown scene, the film was beautifully shot by Jim Jarmusch (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and features Suzanne Fletcher, Nan Goldin and Luc Sante.

Shot in six days on a $12,000 budget. A year and a half of editing. Concentrated on sound. Putting her budget there.

A woman wanders through scenes of destruction, placing stones in the mouths of corpses. Riding in a Gran Torino.

Her sister and her neighbors. Old women. Whispers.

The transmigration of souls.

Is there a direct line of influence from Sara Driver to Guy Madden?


Invasión | Invasion – New York Film Festival 2011


Invasión | Invasion (1969)
Hugo Santiago | Argentina | Spanish/Argentinian with French and English subtitles | Running time: 123m
5 October 2011, Walter Reade Theater

Writing credits: Jorge Luis Borges (story, screenplay); Adolfo Bioy Casares (story); Hugo Santiago (screenplay)

Original music and soundscape: Edgardo Cantón

Cast includes: Olga Zubarry (Irene); Lautaro Murúa (Herrera); Juan Carlos Paz (Don Porfirio); Martín Adjemián (Irala); Daniel Fernández (Lebendiger); Roberto Villanueva (Silva); Lito Cruz (Jefe de los jóvenes [as Oscar Cruz]); Jorge Cano (Julio Vildrac); Ricardo Ormellos (Cachorro); Leal Rey (Moon); Horacio Nicolai; Juan Carlos Galván (Jefe de otro grupo invasor); Aldo Mayo (Jefe del grupo invasor); Hedy Krilla (Vieja sirvienta); Claudia Sánchez (Mujer del restaurant)

“Dying is a habit most people have.”

The first work conceived for the cinema by Jorge Luis Borges, in collaboration with Adolfo Bioy Casares and novice director Hugo Santiago (a former assistant to Robert Bresson). Shown on the opening of the first Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes Films Festival.

“A work that is lyrical, unsettling and infinitely suggestive.” (NYFF)

Invasión is set in fictional Aquiléa, a city that looks a lot like Buenos Aires. A gang of middle-aged men, led by an elderly gentleman, resolve to mount resistance to tan-suited invaders while a separate army of youths train for insurrection. The Iliad meets genre police thriller, western, and surrealistic fantasy.

Invasión holds the distinctive honor of a “disappeared film.” Because eight reels of the original negative were stolen upon the official ban, no new print could be made until 2000, when two good prints were found and restored to the density and contrasts of the original release, thanks to Pierre André Boutang, the cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich, and the people of Arte Channel.

From Olivier Gonord’s 2009 interview with Hugo Santiago:

What is the genesis of Invasión?
I was living in France and going back to Buenos Aires to make two short films. I had a simple idea, a town invaded and defended by a handful of people. I saw Bioy Casares and told him about it. He told me “you have to speak to Borges about it”….

How was the shooting and where does the black and white contrast come from?
The shooting went very well. We had an old Arriflex camera from pre-war time but it had a great short lens and we had an excellent operator. We worked a lot, we had time. There were no spectacular things that would have required a lot of money and I had what I needed. We had already made two short films with Ricardo Aronovich, the cinematographer -the second one was more contrasted than the first one. To make Invasión we experimented things. We looked for those intense greys, our reference was Rembrandt’s sketches. We had the chance to work with a laboratory where we could experiment what we wanted. The baths, the times, we worked a lot with an ultra-sensitive film we brought from Rochester, from Kodak. When the film was done and the people of Kodak saw the film, they sent us a congratulation letter asking “how did you do that ?”. This had been the work of a photographer in a lab, testing baths, trying again…

From Kenji’s review on mubi:

The meanings of Invasión “extend well beyond Argentina … to a universal sort of allegory, in which we must all be on our guard and ready to resist, the young ready to pick up where the older generation left off. It’s quite gripping, and almost impossibly cool, something like Melville, with violent men in dark suits, meets Godard, with intellectuals talking in musical cafés, meets Antonioni- the director who lived in France was apparently influenced by the latter. It makes excellent use of the urban and country locations, it’s mysterious and elusive.”

These men, who walk in custom-tailored suits, unencumbered by briefcases, bags, or backpacks, remind us of ancient heroes. “Why die for people who won’t defend themselves?” The answer is forgone. We meet at midnight.

Fantastic camera movements. Rapid-shot visual details. A girl with a cougar. Wild horses. A rare thing, a deeply strange movie.

The shape of Invasión owes as much to the sound design as to the images. Three themes appear in the title sequence and evolve throughout the film, in parallel with the characters, transforming each image.

  • A steel door opening
  • A bird of the pampa (Chajá, Southern Screamer [Chauna torquata])
  • Footsteps going down stairs

“Sound is a character as much as the characters themselves.” Hugo Santiago

Thanks to Hugo Santiago (the most generous of filmmakers, who responded to a question from the audience about the film’s soundscape with a brilliant exposition of method); Richard Peña (for his essay in the brilliantly conceived NYFF online feature “Why You Should See/NYFF Spotlight”); Olivier Gonord; and Kenji.


Miss Bala – New York Film Festival 2011


Miss Bala
Gerardo Naranjo | Mexico | Spanish with English subtitles | Running time: 113m
Sunday 2 October, 4 PM, Alice Tully Hall

Cast: Stephanie Sigman (Laura Guerrero), Irene Azuela (Jessica Berlanga), Miguel Couturier (General Salomón Duarte), Gabriel Heads (Agent Bell), Noe Hernandez (Lino Valdez), James Russo (Jimmy), Jose Yenque (Kike Camara)

Bala is a bullet.

It began with a news photo of beauty queen captured with drug gang.

“The stupidest job in the world gets together with the cruellist job in the world. What has to happen to bring them together?”

Shot in Tijuana. Gun scenes in the provinces.

An essay on impotence, fear, passivity.

A brilliant third outing by Gerardo Naranjo (Voy A Explotar | I’m Gonna Explode, NYFF ’08), with a striking performance by the lead actress, Stephanie Sigman.


Update: US Distributor – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (2011)

Jodaeiye Nader az Simin | A Separation – New York Film Festival 2011


Jodaeiye Nader az Simin | A Separation
Asghar Farhadi | Iran | Persian with English subtitles | Running time: 123m
2 October, 1 PM, Alice Tully Hall

Cast: Leila Hatami, Peyman Moadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Babak Karimi, Merila Zarei

People lie.

Beneath the opening credits, a photocopier copies IDs, one after another.

We open to a courtroom. A beautiful married couple, Simin (Leila Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Moadi) have obtained coveted visas to leave Iran for an unnamed country, where Simin hopes to offer a better future to their 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (the director’s daugher, Sarina Farhadi). Simin has red hair and determined eyes; Nader has an honest face. They address the camera as if we are the judge.

“You don’t have good reasons for a divorce.”

Their hard-won visa expires in a month or two; Nader will not leave, Simin must, with Termeh. The problem, Nader is devoted to his father (Ali-Asghar Shahbazi), who has Alzheimer disease and is totally dependent on his son and his family. And so the couple embark on a trial separation.

An upper middle-class household, a stable home, parents who value education and security for their daughter perhaps above all.

Simi has found a caretaker, Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a pregnant, deeply religious woman with a young daugher who takes the job unbeknownst to her husband (Shahab Hosseini), an out-of-work cobbler. A devout woman with a young daughter (Kimia Hosseini), to mind his father while he is at work.

Negotiations – she lives far away, the pay is not good, her husband does not know. The first day, grandpa pees his pants. Modesty. Razieh asks him to clean himself up; he can only ask for Simin. She makes a call to her imam for religious advice. She can clean the old man. Her daughter watches through frosted glass, ever curious.

In the meantime, Nader teaches his daughter to be assertive, first with the gas station attendant.

The caretaker quits. It’s heavy work for a pregnant woman and a little girl. We know she’s pregnant, but does Nader?

It’s a big problem. Who else? Razieh comes back. My husband. He cannot know you hired me. But maybe he can come.

Here begins the disaster. Class war. Breakdown of families and society.

The two daughters are at the heart of the story.

Truth, guilt, the bitter disappointment of a child in her parents.

Tense and narratively complex, formally dense and morally challenging, flawlessly crafted, brilliantly performed and intimately photographed, A Separation premiered at Berlinale, where it won the Golden Bear for Best Film as well as the top prizes for Best Actor and Actress for its male and female ensembles.

“The idea for the film came to when I was sitting in the kitchen of my friend’s flat in Berlin nearly one year ago. I was here preparing another film, but I decided to do this one instead. I was smoking a cigarette in the kitchen, listening to some Iranian music and then I decided to make it. The film is influenced by my personal experiences and the situation in Iran and also some abstract pictures I had in my mind. It was like a puzzle. The story was in my mind for some time but when I decided to make it it happened quickly.” – Asghar Farhadi

It began with picture of a man with Alzheimer’s. “I found the button and made a suit.”

Do not miss this movie.

Update: US Distributor – Sony Pictures Classics (2011); Academy Award/Oscar – Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (2012)

Dreileben – New York Film Festival 2011


Saturday 1 October
1 PM, Walter Reade Theater
Dreileben (Parts 1-3)

  • Part One: Beats Being Dead (Etwas Besseres als den Tod) Christian Petzold | 2011 | Germany | 88m
  • Part Two: Don’t Follow Me Around (Komm mir nicht nach) Dominik Graf | 2011 | Germany | 88m
  • Part Three: One Minute of Darkness (Eine Minute Dunkel) Christoph Hochhäusler | 2011 | Germany | 88m

Cast includes: Stefan Kurt (Molesch); Eberhard Kirchberg (Marcus Kreil); Jeanette Hain (Johanna, Jo); Jacob Matschenz (Johannes); Luna Mijovic (Ana); Paraschiva Dragus (Cleo); Vijessna Ferkic (Sara); Susanne Wolff (Vera); Misel Maticevic (Bruno)

Music: Stefan Will, Sven Rossenbach, Florian van Volxem, Bert Wrede

The unreliability of appearances

“What interests me in cinema is the seduction to pay attention.”

Born from e-mail correspondence between three auteurs of the Berlin School of German cinema, this trilogy revolves around the escape of a convicted sex murderer from a hospital in a small town in “the green heart of Germany,” Thuringia, a mythical region full of legends and superstition.

The project originated with a mis-remembered Schiller tale of a man who is fleeing and becomes the monster who is being sought, combined with a documentary about an anticolonial Chilean terrorist who remains a child to commit terrible acts while remaining an innocent.

Conflicting reports of a crime make for “compulsively watchable films make for generous entertainment and a fascinating exercise in the polymorphous possibilities of storytelling.”

Equal parts fairy tale, homage to Universal horror movies (Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Wolf Man), and skillful crime procedural, Dreileben is an absolute delight.

Beats Being Dead (Etwas Besseres als den Tod)
pedal on violin
blue – clinical
wald krankenhaus dreileben
filthy, stinky homeless woman
young hospital nurse
increasing presence of police
motorcycle gang
photo fellatio
ana attacked
molesch ran away
escapee killed a girl?
cry me a river
translate and dance
romance and english lessons
the lonely, exposed walk from hotel to hospital
the boss’s daughter
who is the murderer?
hints of incest, ambiguous ending

Don’t Follow Me Around (Komm mir nicht nach)
saturated colors
the woman from the elevator
Jo – a psychologist consulting on the hunt for the mad killer
Patrik, who was dating two women at the same time in Munich, 15 years ago
human stories around a manhunt
tourists hunting for Barbarossa
nosy neighbors
police corruption
hunt for the killer was a ruse, but Jo stays on
red and yellow
mannerist sculpture – capture of the fugitive
the mysterious origins of children

One Minute of Darkness (Eine Minute Dunkel)
transporting the prisoner
molech’s dead mother
the secret door, left open
fast-paced pursuit
from the perspective of the monster
Wagner’s Thuringen
Babarossa tourism
and local cops
the old murder
descent into feral condition
tourists hear the legend of witch burnings, and tales of witches capturing hikers; he also hears
the night fog fills the cave
how long does it take to become an animal, living outdoors
pursued like a monster from an old Universal horror movie
the police chain advances
hiding in smaller and smaller spaces
extremely resourceful in escape
the chief investigator has a bum ticker and family troubles
the three films do not line up chronologically; rashoman
the closed up house, Molech’s childhood home
sleeping in a hunters’ blind, the man has uncanny luck
one minute of darkness
universal horror films – the police chain after the invisible man, frankenstein’s monster and the little girl, the wolf man

[NYFF] [IMDb: 1, 2, 3] [Berlinale 1, 2, 3]