New Directors/New Films 2013 – People’s Park


People’s Park
Directed by: Libbie D. Cohn & J.P. Sniadecki
78 minutes

“As close to pure pleasure as cinema can provide”
A “brilliantly joyous conceptual documentary” in one continuous 75-minute long tracking shot that takes in the vivid reality of People’s Park in Chengdu, Sichuan.

As Cohn runs the camera in a wheelchair/dolly that Sniadecki pushes along, and park-goers return the camera’s gaze, we gradually awaken to a revolutionary meditation on the reflexivity of watching.

People’s Park, like last year’s Leviathan, exploits immersive film technologies developed at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab – notably in an astounding audio track .

New Directors/New Films 2013 – Shorts Program 3


ND/NF Shorts Program 3

Santiago Gil | 2013 | Germany | 26m
A father encourages his young son to join him for a swim in a woodland lake. Suddenly the world changes, and everyone around them must question their memories and perceptions as time circles around the central event, defying rational interpretation. “Memories are treacherous, but they are all we have.”

A Cidade (The Village)
Liliana Sulzbach
| 2012 | Brazil | 25m
A few miles from Porto Alegre, a village exists in paradise. Only 35 people live here, all of them over 60, none of whom freely chose to come here.

From the director:

“When I first visited Itapuã in 2007, I had the impression that I was in an idyllic place, a tiny little town that was surrounded by mountains, still untouched, a virgin forest, a little piece of heaven on Earth. Paradoxically, this unique beautiful place hides an unhealed wound that its citizens had trouble revealing…”

We are midway into the film before we find out. Vintage newsreel and photos brilliantly juxtapose with the present.

Para armar un helicóptero (To Put Together a Helicopter)
Izabel Acevedo | 2012 | Mexico | 35m
Mexico City, where summer rains bring power outages to poor neighborhoods that rely on dodgy connections.

Seventeen-year-old Oliverio lives with his mother in a building where apartments house gardens, ducks and chickens along with computers, televisions and phonographs. A raw, original film mixing the dystopian vision of Blade Runner with the promise of teenage passion and communal solidarity. Watch this team for more.

New Directors/New Films 2013 – Shorts Program 1


ND/NF Shorts Program 1

Peter Kerek | 2012 | Romania | 21m
A careless question, “Do you want a Pepsi?”, sets off a Cold War domino effect escalating to catastrophe for a mother and child trying to escape 1960s Romania.

Jordi Wijnalda | 2013 | USA/Turkey | 16m
A Dutch human-rights activist who devotes her life to smuggling desperate refugees into Turkey, has missed out on her own son’s marriage and the birth of her grand-daughter. A confrontation on a Syrian beach forces mother and son to decide what is most important to them.

Que puis-je te souhaiter avant le combat? (What Can I Wish You Before the Fight?)
Sofia Babluani | 2012 | France | 16m
In a mere 16 minutes, Sofia Babluani and her extraordinary cast realize the Chechen agony through a chance meeting of two girls, showing that no one escapes the effects of war.

Everything Near Becomes Far
Mauricio Arango | 2011 | USA/Colombia | 10m
Visual artist Mauricio Arango speaks a language that is newly emergent in cinema, the voice of the indigene, the original people of the land. How he got it, I don’t pretend to know. But the vocabulary is strong and distinct, as delivered in a parting glance by lead actress Wendy Rojas.

Cyril Amon Schäublin | 2012 | Germany | 20m
Twenty minutes of agonizing tension and physical human beauty, set in a Metro station. Cyril Amon Schäublin is a master craftsman, and an emerging artist of considerable vision. Stampede is the first film I have seen to make me think of Caravaggio, and what he would have done with the medium.

My New Directors/New Films 2013


ND/NF Shorts Program 1
Sat 3/23/2013 1:00 PM

Directed by: Ali Aydin
94 minutes
Language: Turkish with English subtitles
Sat 3/23/2013 6:00 PM

The Act of Killing
Directed by: Joshua Opennheimer
121 minutes
Language: Indonesian with English subtitles
Sun 3/24/2013 2:00 PM

Die Welt
Directed by: Alex Pitstra
80 minutes
The Netherlands
Language: Arabic, Dutch, and Swedish with English subtitles
Tue 3/26/2013 6:15 PM

Directed by: O Muel
109 minutes
South Korea
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Tue 3/26/2013 9:00 PM

Directed by: Matías Piñeiro
63 minutes
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Wed 3/27/2013 6:30 PM

They’ll Come Back
Directed by: Marcelo Lordello
105 minutes
Language: Portuguese with English subtitles
Wed 3/27/2013 9:00 PM

Directed by: Leonardo Di Costanzo
86 minutes
Language: Italian with English subtitles
Fri 3/29/2013 6:15 PM

ND/NF Shorts Program 3
Sat 3/30/2013 3:30 PM

People’s Park
Directed by: Libbie D. Cohn & J.P. Sniadecki
78 minutes
Language: Chinese with English subtitles
Sat 3/30/2013, 6:00 PM

Berlinale 2013 – La plaga (The Plague)


La plaga / The Plague
Spain 2013, 85 min
Languages: Catalan, Spanish, Ilokano, Moldavian, Russian
World Sales: Berlinale Forum Office (

Director: Neus Ballús
Cast: Raül Molist, Maria Ros, Rosemarie Abella, Iurie Timbur, Maribel Martí

A classic meditation on life and death
Maribel sits by a country road under a sickly yellow sky, waiting for tricks who never appear. Instead, she is greeted by locals traveling the road on their disparate life-paths.

Raül tries to make a living as an organic farmer, but is stymied by drought and a plague of white flies. Iurie, a Moldavian wrestler, young, but no longer young enough to make it in his chosen sport, relies on the extra cash he earns working with Raül. Maria’s respiratory illness forces her from her beloved country house into a nursing home, where her strong personality and intellectual vitality alienate her from the depressed and declining people around her.

Rosemarie, a young nurse from the Philippines, makes her way on foot to work a 12-hour shift at Maria’s nursing home. The two fight over showers, which Maria despises, yet form a truce that owes as much to Maria’s respectful sympathy for her caregiver’s lot as to Rosemarie’s clear-eyed assessment of her job (delivered in Ilokano to a junior colleague, grieving over the death of a client):

“It was soul destroying at first. They give us affection, we give it to them. But don’t let it affect you. Forget him, but keep him in your heart forever. He’s dead, that’s all you can do.”

The miracle of La plaga is that it wasn’t meant to be like this. Director Neus Ballús describes the four-year process that elevated her film from a straight documentary to this impressive debut feature:

“At first I thought that The Plague would be the portrait of a place, and in fact it ended up being a portrait of a group of characters who devoted themselves wholeheartedly to the film. This does not mean that as a filmmaker I have not taken a very active role in selecting all the elements that make up the film. Far from being an observational document, we filmed it as a fiction: we made things happen, we set up the collision between characters and their collision with their own dramas. The entire construct of the film is created to serve the characters: a kind of elevated platform where they can express themselves and from where their most authentic emotions and gestures may arise.”

The film that emerges is delightful entertainment (seriously!) and a milestone for social realism. And it is something more – a classic-worthy meditation on life and death in our globalized society, and a resounding affirmation of human compassion in the face of individual catastrophes.

Berlinale 2013 – La Eterna Noche de las Doce Lunas (The Eternal Night of Twelve Moons)


La Eterna Noche de las Doce Lunas / The Eternal Night of Twelve Moons (Generation Kplus)
Colombia 2013, 87 min
Languages: Spanish, Wayuunaiki
World Sales:

Director: Priscila Padilla

“Everyone has their traditions…”

A storm approaches on the Guajira peninsula in northern Colombia. The children of the rain gather twigs for protection.

Aapushana, Epieyu, Iguana, Jayaliyuu, Jusayuu, Pausayuu, Sapuana, Tijuana, Uliana, Uliyuu, Uraliyuu, Ulewana, Walepushana, Walapuana. The clans refer to themselves simply as Wayuu (people). Other indigenous people are Kusina (Indian). Europeans and outsiders are Alijuna (the civilized).

Perched in a tree, a Wayuu girl tells a tale of Pulowi, “told by my aunt in a dream.”

The origin of the clans of Wayuu in the marriage of Pulowi, she of the toothed vagina, and Juya the hunter.

Wayuu women are expected to be mature and full of wisdom. They are the weavers, the shamans, the politicians. Their path is hard. As soon they begin menstruating, Wayuu girls submit to a period of seclusion for up to two years in a simple hut where only a few women are allowed to visit them. Pili is 12 years old when, for her grandmother’s sake, she decides to follow this custom. For the first few days Pili lies motionless, shrouded in her hammock. She emerges to take Jaguapi (an herbal preparation) and for ritual washing.

Over the next months, Pili continues her studies in mathematics, the Wayuunaiki language and Spanish, with visits from a tutor. She also learns to weave, a practice that becomes her closest companion over the twelve moons of her seclusion.

An old man comes to bargain for Pili, as a bride for one of his nephews. Upon discussion, Pili and her family politely refuse, as Pili wants to continue her studies, attend university and become a career woman.

In the Q&A, the audience of young Berliners meets a lovely girl in a beautiful gown and headdress, with great poise. Pili answers their questions in a clear strong voice, direct, confident but modest.

“Everyone has their traditions.”

Berlinale 2013 – Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza (An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker)


Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza / An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Competition)
Bosnia and Herzegovina / France / Slovenia 2013, 75 min
Language: Bosnian
World Sales: The Match Factory

Director: Danis Tanovic
Cast: Senada Alimanovic, Nazif Mujic, Sandra Mujic, Semsa Mujic

AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR (Silver Bear): Nazif Mujić

A masterpiece of social realism
Oscar and Golden Globe winner Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land) adapts a news story into a compelling docu-drama, persuading the article’s sources to re-enact their health-care ordeal on screen.

Nazif Mujic and Senada Alimanovic are a loving couple with two lively daughters, a happy family despite the stress of poverty. Nazif (who won the Silver Bear for Best Actor and could double for George Clooney) poaches trees from a neighboring forest to heat his home and demolishes cars for scrap metal, earning his share of 153 Bosnian Marks per car. Senada keeps a tidy home, washing clothes in a plastic baby tub, cooking chicken and potatoes, and kneading dough for a mouth-watering bread and cheese dish that gives the family a convivial meal together before the health disaster strikes.

Returning from work, Nazif finds Senada bleeding and in pain. Rushing to the hospital, they learn Senada has miscarried and urgently requires surgery. They have no medical insurance, so the hospital demands 980 Bosnian Marks (about 670 US dollars) for the operation. Unable to pay, Senada and Nazif return home.

For nine cold winter days, Nazif desperately searches for more scrap metal while seeking help from neighbors, relatives, and social aid agencies to save Senanda’s life.

Nazif, we learn, fought in the Bosnian war and lost a brother in the fighting. Yet he has no government pension, child benefit, or health insurance.

Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza is a masterpiece of social realism, shot on a reported budget of USD 23,000. The film spares us romantic cliches of “Gypsy life” to show a family of limited means rising to meet a health crisis. Potential for great interest to US audiences, many of whom share this family’s vulnerability to unexpected, potentially bankrupting health crises.

Berlinale 2013 – In Bloom (გრძელი ნათელი დღეები)


გრძელი ნათელი დღეები/In Bloom (Forum)
Georgia / Germany / France 2013, 102 min
Language: Georgian
World Sales: Memento Films International

Directors: Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Groß
Cast: Lika Babluani, Mariam Bokeria


An absorbing coming-of-age story set against siege conditions of Tbilisi in 1992, amid the multiple conflicts of the Georgian Civil War

On talk radio a voice rants, “Every Georgian in Georgia should be armed.”

We meet Eka and Natia, best friends bravely fighting their circumstances to live normal lives of 14-year-old girls in a world of cramped and chaotic family apartments, bread-line riots, and ever-present suitors, bullies and thugs (these last are often one and the same).

In an early scene worthy of Chekov, a pistol is introduced via one of those suitors. The girls’ interwoven storylines draw thriller-taut as the gun’s one bullet lies waiting in its chamber through increasingly explosive showdowns.

Young actors Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria burn the screen as Eka and Natia. Eka is a reserved, gimlet-eyed observer of her hypocritical town, admixing the worst elements of ancient patriarchal traditions and modern anomie into a uniquely toxic miasma for young women. Natia is more outgoing and precociously eye-catching. She gets the gun first, and the friends pass it back and forth as each seem most in need of protection.

Rich cinematography in vintage hues (the DP is veteran Romanian New Wave cameraman Oleg Mutu) helps elevate three sequences to potential classic status: a clandestine party of girls smoking and gossiping about who is a slut; a dinner at Natia’s apartment that escalates into a family version of civil war; and a traditional wedding dance performed solo in a breath-taking tour-de-force by Lika Babluani.

In Bloom is a natural fit for the US market, destined to receive media attention in the national debate over gun control while attracting art-house audiences with its strong story, appealing characters, and high production values.

Update: US Distributor – Big World Pictures (2014)

Berlinale 2013 – A batalha de Tabatô (The Battle of Tabatô)


A batalha de Tabatô (Forum)
Guinea-Bissau / Portugal 2013, 78 min
Language: Mandinka
Production Company: Papaveronoir

Director: João Viana
Cast: Imutar Djebaté, Fatu Djebaté, Mamadu Baio


“While you were waging war…”
A voiceover emerges from a background of rainforest sounds, recounting millennia of cultural advances in West Africa under the Mandinka Empire.

Interviewing the frontman of the hottest band in modern-day Guinea-Bissau, a DJ flaunts his knowledge of Mandinka culture, gleaned from a college class taught by the musician’s fiancé. At the same time, the band leader’s fiancé rushes to the airport to meet her father, who has returned from exile to attend the wedding. There’s a fender-bender in the parking lot and, hearing the crash, her father falls to the ground as if shot.

A batalha de Tabatô rises from these sparse opening scenes to attain grand, mythic scope, ultimately pitting the rhythmic harmonies of the Mandika’s ancient wooden balafon against the metallic cacophony of warfare.

Employing vivid imagery (despite losing their lighting equipment in a ferryboat accident) and minutely observed sound design (tiny crabs scraping across sand), João Viana and his team gradually transpose the fabulous (though real) musical village of Tabatô over ruins of Guinea-Bissau’s recent colonial past.

Fatu Djebaté and Imutar Djebaté make a beautiful and believable daughter-father pair, guiding the viewer into a fully realized world of tragic myth. Imutar Djebaté extends the silences between Fatu’s questions and her father’s answers nearly to infinity, as if he were inventing language with each word.

A batalha de Tabatô won Best First Feature special mention at this year’s Berlinale.

Berlinale 2013 – Krugovi (Circles)


Krugovi (Forum)
Republic of Serbia / Germany / Croatia / Slovenia / France 2012, 112 min
Languages: Serbian, English
World Sales: Memento Films International

Director: Srdan Golubovic
Cast: Nebojsa Glogovac, Vuk Kostic, Leon Lucev, Hristina Popovic, Nikola Rakocevic


An act of human decency has profound consequences
Marko (Vuk Kostic), a young Serb, is on leave from his army unit to visit his fiancé. While sitting at a café with a friend, he witnesses a group of Serbian soldiers savagely beating a Muslim shopkeeper. Marko decides to act, with profound consequences for those who at the scene and many who are not.

Twelve years later, the tortured life-lines of the remnant converge violently against a background of guilt and hatred. No one alive is innocent, and “a beast remains a beast.” There are times it takes great courage just to be a decent human being.

Well cast, intricately scripted and skillfully edited, with riveting camerawork and atmospheric score, Krugovi repays repeated viewings. A propulsive thriller and a complex, ethically challenging film.