Category Archives: Art

K – New Directors/New Films


Directed by Darhad Erdenibulag & Emyr ap Richard
88 minutes, China, 2015
North American Premiere
Sat 03/21/2015 3:45 PM
Walter Reade Theater, NYC

K may have been conceived with no geographic/ethnographic location in mind, as the film makers state, but anyone familiar with Nicholas Roerich’s 1920s Altai-Himalaya: A Travel Diary will appreciate this film’s brilliant association of petty officialdom in China’s provinces with Franz Kafka’s lunatic bureaucracy.

Land surveyor (Bayin) in K
Land surveyor (Bayin) in K

The New Directors/New Films synopsis provides a good starting point:

“Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel The Castle is relocated to present-day Inner Mongolia, and the translation is startlingly seamless. Land surveyor K (Bayin) arrives in a frontier village, and soon discovers that his summons was a clerical error. Taking a job as a school janitor, K seeks an audience with the high-level minister he believes will resolve the situation, but cannot gain access to the castle where the local government is based. Intermittently aided by a barmaid and two hapless minions, K finds his efforts at clarification stymied by local hostility and administrative chaos alike…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Shot entirely in natural light, and with an effective soundtrack featuring Western honky-tonk music and John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, K evokes the claustrophobic residences of The Shining, Barton Fink and The Tenant while introducing entirely new tropes of transient paranoia.

A selection of Berlinale’s Forum. The big mystery for me is why this movie hasn’t yet found a distributor for North American theatrical release.

The Creation of Meaning / La creazione di significato – New Directors/New Films


The Creation of Meaning/La creazione di significato
Director/Screenwriter/Producer/Editor/Director of Photography: Simone Rapisarda Casanova
95 minutes, Canada/Italy, 2014
U.S. Premiere (World Premiere, director’s cut)
Thu 03/19/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade Theater, NYC

Cast: Pacifico Pieruccioni, Alexander Auf der Heyde, Benjamin Auf der Heyde, Siria Battelli, Bartolomeo Puccetti, Cinzia Bertuccelli, Maria Paola Casanova, Gruppo UIEI Pietrasanta, Coro Versilia, Andrea Taccetti, Francesco Marchetti, Diego Bonuccelli, Marco Bonuccelli, Marco Bondielli, Roberto Walter Colombini, Daniele Eschini, Alessandro Elmi, Massimiliano Pisano, Nellina Pieruccioni

“Though its title arcs toward grand philosophical inquiry, the stirring power of Simone Rapisarda Casanova’s second documentary-fiction hybrid—winner of the 2014 Locarno Film Festival’s Best Emerging Director prize—lies in its intimacy of detail and wry political observation…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

“Only when the past, present and future meet can the all-too human device we presumptuously call ‘meaning’ be created.” -Simone Rapisarda Casanova

The Creation of Meaning/La creazione di significato
The Creation of Meaning/La creazione di significato

The Creation of Meaning opens in alpine meadow, with a group of schoolchildren reciting events from the final months of World War II, when retreating German forces massacred hundreds of civilians in the Tuscan mountains. Also receiving this catechism, the audience learns that the film is set precisely on the Gothic Line, where blood shed seven decades ago is a living memory and a topic of daily conversation.

The film follows the formerly self-sufficient, now precarious, life of Pacifico Pieruccioni, born seven years after VE Day, tending his hens and goats through our current catastrophe. The same breathtaking mountains that once held Nazi fortifications now provide an efficient means of suicide for villagers facing absolute ruin in the wake of the global economic crisis.

As the fates would have it, Pieruccioni’s own survival depends on the sale of his property to a German land speculator who might deign to allow him to stay on as a caretaker.

Ethnographic documentary, political commentary, and dramatic narrative in equal parts, The Creation of Meaning is essential viewing for anyone who seeks to understand the devastating impact of financial crimes against humanity committed in our generation.

ND/NF selected another important film in this category (Line of Credit/Kreditis limiti), which I’ll discuss in another post.

Violet – New Directors/New Films


Written and Directed by Bas Devos
Director of Photography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
82 minutes, Belgium/Netherlands, 2014, DCP
Sat 03/21/2015 1:15 PM
Walter Reade Theater, NYC

Cast: Cesar De Sutter, Raf Walschaerts, Mira Helmer, Koen De Sutter, Jeroen Vander Ven, Fania Sorel, Brent Minne

“The muted but harrowing tone of Violet emerges in the prologue, as closed-circuit monitors impassively display the stabbing death of a teenager at a mall…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Violet is a highly accomplished debut feature led by Flemish writer/director Bas Devos, director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis, sound designer Boris Debackere, and a perfectly cast team of actors.

Cesar De Sutter as Jesse in Violet
Cesar De Sutter as Jesse in Violet

Flashes of violet (the last color on the visible spectrum), and the story opens on a bank of security cameras capturing the attempted robbery and fatal stabbing of a teenage boy in a mall. The lone physical witness to the murder is his friend Jesse (Cesar De Sutter), cowering in a shop doorway, unsure of what he is seeing.

A visual poem shot on 65mm film and the digital Alexa, Violet effectively captures Jesse’s heightened sensitivity to his surroundings as he tries to come to terms with an irrevocably changed life in the wake of a friend’s murder.

That the audience cannot see all of the security cameras contributes to a sense that we are not seeing some things that might be essential, as we follow Jesse and his struggle to cope with this horrific event over the next several days.

Normal teenage preoccupations with courage and cowardice, acceptance and ostracism are heightened by Jesse’s survivor’s guilt and the suspicion that even his mother and father may look at him differently, as do his BMX rider mates who openly wonder how Jesse survived without any visible harm while their friend was stabbed to death.

Winner of the Berlin Generation 14plus Grand Prix (Best Feature Film) and Best Original Music and Sound Design of the Ghent International Film Festival, Violet should get a second look for North American theatrical release.

New Directors/New Films – 2015


Among the movies at this year’s New Directors/New Films, I’ll be looking closely at several that haven’t yet found a distributor for North American theatrical release (*):

*Christmas, Again
Directed by Charles Poekel
Sat 03/28/2015 6:15 PM
Walter Reade
“A forlorn Noel (Kentucker Audley) pulls long, cold nights as a Christmas-tree vendor in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. As obnoxious, indifferent, or downright bizarre customers come and go, doing little to restore Noel’s faith in humanity, only the flirtatious innuendos of one woman and the drunken pleas of another seem to lift him out of his funk…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane
Thu 03/26/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Winner of top prizes at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals, Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*The Creation of Meaning/La creazione di significato
Directed by Simone Rapisarda Casanova
Thu 03/19/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Though its title arcs toward grand philosophical inquiry, the stirring power of Simone Rapisarda Casanova’s second documentary-fiction hybrid—winner of the 2014 Locarno Film Festival’s Best Emerging Director prize—lies in its intimacy of detail and wry political observation…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

*Dog Lady/La mujer de los perros
Directed by Laura Citarella & Verónica Llinás
Thu 03/26/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“An indelible and quietly haunting study of a nameless woman (memorably played by co-director Verónica Llinás) living with a loyal pack of stray dogs in silent, self-imposed exile in the pampas on the edge of Buenos Aires…” [more at ND/NF] [Variety review] [THR review]

*The Fool/Durak
Directed by Yuriy Bykov
Sat 03/21/2015 9:15 PM
Walter Reade
“The lives of hundreds of the dregs of society are at stake in this stark, grotesque portrait of a new Russia on the verge of catastrophe…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*Fort Buchanan
Directed by Benjamin Crotty
Wed 03/25/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“Expanding his 2012 short of the same name, Crotty chronicles the tragicomic plight of frail, lonely Roger, stranded at a remote military post in the woods while his husband carries out a mission in Djibouti…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Goodnight Mommy/Ich seh, Ich seh
Directed by Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
Fri 03/27/2015 9:15 PM
Walter Reade
“The dread of parental abandonment is trumped by the terror of menacing spawn in Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s exquisite, cerebral horror-thriller…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

The Great Man/Le grand homme
Directed by Sarah Leonor
Sat 03/28/2015 3:30 PM
Walter Reade
“When we first meet Markov (Surho Sugaipov), he and fellow French Legionnaire Hamilton (Jérémie Renier) are tracking a wild leopard in a desert war zone, at the end of their posting in Afghanistan…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Shim Sung-bo
Sat 03/21/2015 6:15 PM
Walter Reade
“First-time director Shim Sung-bo (screenwriter of Memories of Murder, the second film by Haemoo’s producer Bong Joon-ho) distills a gripping drama from a real life incident and delivers a gritty, brooding spectacle of life and death on the high seas…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

Directed by Darhad Erdenibulag & Emyr ap Richard
Sat 03/21/2015 3:45 PM
Walter Reade
“Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel The Castle is relocated to present-day Inner Mongolia, and the translation is startlingly seamless…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*Line of Credit/Kreditis limiti
Directed by Salomé Alexi
Sat 03/28/2015 1:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Things are tough all over. Mortgage crises and other economic woes have hit the entire world, including the Republic of Georgia…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Virgil Vernier
Sun 03/22/2015 8:15 PM
Walter Reade
“With an eclectic assortment of shorts, documentaries, and hybrid works to his name, Virgil Vernier is one of the most ambitious young directors in France today, and one of the hardest to categorize. Taking a cue from Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Vernier’s most accomplished film to date trains his camera on the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet, shadowing two receptionists (Ana Neborac and Philippine Stindel) who work in the lobby of the titular high-rise…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

New Directors Shorts Program 1
Mon 03/23/2015 6:15 PM
Walter Reade
“Five short films by exciting new talents from around the world: San Siro (Yuri Ancarani, Italy, 24m), Boulevard’s End (Nora Fingscheidt, Germany, 15m), Blue and Red (Zhou Tao, Thailand, 25m), Nelsa (Felipe Guerrero, Colombia, 13m), and The Field of Possible (Matías Meyer, Mexico/Canada, 10m).” [more at ND/NF]

New Directors Shorts Program 2
Sun 03/22/2015 2:45 PM
Walter Reade
“Seven short films by exciting new talents from around the world: Icarus (Nicholas Elliott, USA, 16m), The Chicken (Una Gunjak, Germany/Croatia, 15m), Heartless (Nara Normande & Tião, Brazil, 25m), I Remember Nothing (Zia Anger, USA, 18m), Discipline (Christophe M. Sabe, Switzerland, 11m), We Will Stay in Touch About It (Jan Zabeil, Germany, 8m), and Odessa Crash Test (Notes on Film 09) (Norbert Pfaffenbichler, Austria, 6m).” [more at ND/NF]

Directed by Yohei Suzuki
Wed 03/25/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Jobless young Tetsuo and his girlfriend Yuriko are inexplicably immobilized after laying eyes on an orb-like object that appears out of nowhere, hovering near his bedroom ceiling…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Lukas Valenta Rinner
Tue 03/24/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“A Buenos Aires office worker finishes his day, visits his father in a rest home, lodges his cat in a kennel, and cancels his phone service…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

*Tired Moonlight
Directed by Britni West
Thu 03/19/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“Britni West’s directorial debut, which won the Jury Award for Narrative Feature at this year’s Slamdance, discovers homespun poetry among the good folk of West’s native Kalispell, Montana…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

The Tribe/Plemya
Directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Sat 03/28/2015 8:45 PM
Walter Reade
“A silent film with a difference, this entirely unprecedented tour de force was one of the must-see flash points at last year’s Cannes Film Festival…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

Tu dors Nicole
Directed by Stéphane Lafleur
Fri 03/20/2015 6:30 PM
Walter Reade
“With this disarmingly atmospheric comedy, Québécois director Stéphane Lafleur continues to secure his place high among the recent surge of talent flowing from French Canada…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

Directed by Bas Devos
Sat 03/21/2015 1:15 PM
Walter Reade
“The muted but harrowing tone of Violet emerges in the prologue, as closed-circuit monitors impassively display the stabbing death of a teenager at a mall…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb]

White God/Fehér isten
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Fri 03/20/2015 9:00 PM
Walter Reade
“Thirteen-year old Lili and her mixed-breed dog Hagen are inseparable. When officials attempt to tax the mutt (a law that didn’t pass in Hungary, but was actually attempted), Lili’s father dumps Hagen on the street…” [more at ND/NF] [IMDb] [film website]

My Virtual Berlinale – 2015


Two dozen from the 65th Berlin International Film Festival (with a focus on Forum and NATIVe).

Many excellent films screening at Berlinale aren’t included here, but these 24 stand out from my idiosyncratic perspective, looking for under-reported movies. With luck, many will receive theatrical release in New York.

UPDATE: Award winners included Balikbayan #1, Il gesto delle mani, and Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir. The Hollywood trades reviewed Eco de la Montaña, Hotline, Koza, La maldad, Las Niñas Quispe, Rabo de Peixe, La sirène de Faso Fani, Violencia, and Yvy Maraey (either from Berlinale or previous festivals).

201511069_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Balikbayan #1 (Memories of Overdevelopment Redux)*
By Kidlat Tahimik, The Philippines
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Language is the key to the empire. Enrique is the slave of Ferdinand Magellan, who circumnavigated the globe. Aside from bathing Magellan every evening, Enrique also has to translate Filipino languages into Portuguese and Spanish. The film opens with a cardboard box containing film rolls being dug up from the ground”… [more at] [IMDb]

*Balikbayan #1 won the Caligari Film Prize.

201510896_3_IMG_FIX_700x700Bankilal (Eldest Brother)
By María Dolores Arias Martínez, Mexico 2014
“In his role as Bankilal (the older brother), Manuel Jiménez strives to reconcile the contrasting beliefs that surround him through vivid prayer and public involvement in the day-to-day activities of the community. This quiet observation illustrates the situation as contemporary lifestyle versus cultural permanence and shows how elders have adapted to syncretic forms of worship since the introduction of Catholicism”… [more at]

fc09mainDari Marusan
By Izumi Takahashi, Japan
(Forum – International Premiere)
“Dari works for an agency that tracks down missing pets, and is given the assignment of finding the parrot that Yoshikawa lost two years previously. She will have to figure out what her client has really lost and find her own dignity in the process”… [more at] [IMDb]

201507925_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Le dos rouge (Portrait of the Artist)
By Antoine Barraud, France
(Forum – International Premiere)
“In Le dos rouge, a famous filmmaker played by Bertrand Bonello searches for an image of the uncanny. An eccentric female art historian accompanies him through museums, where they examine and discuss numerous works of art. A metamorphosis gradually takes place, as red marks appear on the filmmaker’s back”… [more at] [IMDb]

MV5BMTgyNjUxMDI2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ5MTUzMTE@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_AL_Eco de la Montaña (Echo of the Mountain)
By Nicolás Echevarría, Mexico 2014
“Artist Santos Motoapohua de la Torre lives as isolated and forgotten as his Huichol village in Jalisco. His colourful work has catapulted him into the Western art scene, yet Santos does not let this world encroach on his people’s heritage”… [more at] [IMDb] [Variety review (Abu Dhabi)] [THR review (Cinema du Reel)] [film website]

Exotica, Erotica, Etc.
By Evangelia Kranioti, 201506545_1_IMG_FIX_700x700France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Alone among men on board gigantic freighters, the director travelled to 16 countries and lived with prostitutes in various harbour towns. From these experiences she has created a film whose impressive images and haunting soundtrack merge into a maritime symphony, a narrative of freedom, longing, love, and desire”… [more at]

Flotel_885796yFlotel Europa
By Vladimir Tomic, Denmark / Serbia
(Forum – World Premiere)
“When this film’s director was still a boy, he stood in front of “Flotel Europa“ and was hugely excited about the prospect of this gigantic ship moored in the port of Copenhagen becoming a new home for him, his mother and his older brother. Together with about 1000 other refugees from the former Yugoslavia, they started life anew on the ship.” [more at]

201505705_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Freie Zeiten (After Work)
By Janina Herhoffer, Germany
(Forum – World Premiere)
A girl band makes music. Women at a slimming course talk about successfully losing weight by controlling what they eat. Teenagers dance or go shopping. A role-play on conflicts at work is performed at a meeting of a men’s group. Other people do yoga, meditate to the sound of Tibetan singing bowls, limber up by babbling gibberish or run laps in a gymnasium”… [more at]

il_gesto_delle_mani_hand_gestures_locandina_berlinale2015Il gesto delle mani (Hand Gestures)*
By Francesco Clerici, Italy
(Forum – World Premiere)
“A bronze foundry in Milan. Hands that shape, knead, model, mix, repair, sand and polish. Work carried out on matter and fire, out of which the bronze figure of a dog by artist Velasco Vitali will ultimately emerge. The Fonderia Artistica Battaglia was founded in 1913 and is one of the oldest and most important artistic foundries in Italy. It produces bronze sculptures using lost-wax casting, a founding technique that dates back to the 4th century BC and is still done in much the same way today”… [more at] [IMDb]

*Il gesto delle mani won a Fipresci Jury Award and the Tagesspiegel Readers’ Jury Award.

10513606_detHamaca Paraguaya (Paraguayan Hammock)*
By Paz Encina, Argentina / France / Netherlands / Paraguay / Spain 2006
“Set in a remote Paraguayan village in the 1930s, Ramón and Cándida are an ageing couple of Guaraní peasants who are waiting for better times to come. They go about their daily chores, meeting at regular intervals at a clearing to sit in a hammock and talk about seemingly trivial things: the nuisance of a dog’s barking, the overwhelming heat, the rain which teases but doesn’t come”… [more at] [IMDb]

*Hamaca Paraguaya was released theatrically in New York in 2008.

By Silvina Landsmann, Israel / France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“The women from the Tel Aviv hotline for refugees and migrants work around the clock. They look after the rights of people without papers, give legal advice, go to government offices on their behalf and do public relations for their cause”… [more at] [THR review]

By Ivan Ostrochovský, Slovakia / Czech Republic
(Forum – World Premiere)
“They call him Koza, the goat. His best days as a boxer are behind him. Sometimes he re-watches the video of his fight at the 1996 Olympics. Now he needs money because his girlfriend is pregnant. That’s why he decides to return to the ring”… [more at] [IMDb] [THR review]

201510668_2_IMG_FIX_700x700Lo que lleva el río (Gone with the River)
By Mario Crespo, Venezuela, 2014
(NATIVe – World premiere)
“For Dauna, life on the Orinoco delta cultivated a strong curiosity for what lay beyond the river. Her natural talent for language and learning was always nurtured by her family and Father Julio. Tarcisio, her childhood sweetheart, also patiently supports her, but doesn’t know how to deal with social pressure in the Warao community. Dauna is sure of her love for Tarcisio but fears he will succumb to what tradition dictates, thwarting her ambition for academic development. The ever-present sepia river symbolises the divergence and convergence experienced throughout the story”… [more at] [IMDb]

201511054_1_IMG_543x305Madare ghalb atomi (Atom Heart Mother)
By Ali Ahmadzadeh, Iran
(Forum – World Premiere)
On their way back from a wild party, Arineh and Nobahar cause a car accident. A mysterious stranger by the name of Toofan offers to cover the costs. This won’t be the last time they’ll cross his path over the course of the night”… [more at] [IMDb]

7266749_300x300La maldad (Evilness)
By Joshua Gil, Mexico
(Forum – World Premiere)
“An old man in the country wants to make a film, the story of a whole life told across twelve songs, of a love lost and a family torn asunder, all guided by the logic of dreams. But even if the script is the best in the world, this film won’t be easy to make, as actors aren’t cheap and Mexico City holds the purse strings”… [more at] [THR review]

quispe girlsLas Niñas Quispe (The Quispe Girls)
By Sebastián Sepúlveda, Chile / France / Argentina 2013
“Secluded in the arid mountains of the Atacama Plateau, sisters Justa, Lucía, and Luciana are committed to their work as goat herders, but are also plagued by the isolation they suffer being the last of their kind. They repress their feelings and femininity in order to survive. The news that Pinochet has given an official order to prohibit herding in their region becomes the turning point in their quiet struggle to preserve their way of living. The imminent threat of the authorities coming to alter their whole existence is unbearable for the sisters, and all options seem bleak”… [more at] [IMDb] [Variety review (Venice)] [THR review (Venice)]

201506034_1La nuit et l’enfant (The Night and the Kid)
By David Yon, France, Qatar
(Forum – World Premiere)
“A child throws stones at the moon. They say the sun has gone and will only return when anxiety has disappeared. Until then, the stars are there to offer comfort. So the child counts the stars in the night’s endless expanse on the slopes of the Algerian Atlas mountains. Aness, the child, is the companion of Lamine, a young man on the run. Both are being pursued by nameless people carrying arms. Who are these criminals? Why must the two of them hide and sleep at night with weapons in their hands? Is the child merely a figment of Lamine’s imagination? A desire made flesh?”… [more at]

201510401_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Rabo de Peixe (Fish Tail)
By Joaquim Pinto, Nuno Leonel, Portugal
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Rabo de Peixe is a village in the Azores that is home to the largest collection of artisanal fisheries on the whole archipelago. Joaquim Pinto and Nuno Leonel first came here at the end of 1998 to see in the New Year. After befriending a young fisherman named Pedro, they decided to make a film with him over the following year, a TV documentary later tampered with by the broadcaster and shown only once. They have now edited the same material into something new, a tender essay rooted in friendship and fascination”… [more at]  [THR review]

SipOhi-El-lugar-del-ManduréSip’ohi – El lugar del Manduré (Sip’ohi – Manduré Place)
By Sebastián Lingiardi, Argentina 2011
“Gustavo Salvatierra returns home to Sip’ohi, in the impenetrable Chaco forest region in north-western Argentina, to capture Wichí culture and spirit through their ingrained tradition of storytelling. With great respect and from a certain distance, he approaches the bearers of local tradition – and listens. These tales and legends have an expressive strength that triggers the imagination far beyond the filmic imagery”… [more at] [IMDb]

ZONGO_Michel_2015_Faso_fani_00_ban_BerlinaleLa sirène de Faso Fani (The Siren of Faso Fani)
By Michel K. Zongo, Burkina Faso / France / Germany / Qatar
(Forum – World Premiere)
“After it was shut down in 2001, the Faso Fani textile factory in Koudougou, Burkina Faso’s third-largest city, was left to rot. It probably figures in the World Bank and IMF archives as one more piece of collateral damage, yet another write-off in a West African sideshow. Michel Zongo, who grew up in Koudougou, reopens the case of this legendary factory. He visits relatives and former employees, including his uncle, who once owned a much admired modern cult object thanks to Faso Fani: one of the first refrigerators in town. Zongo digs through radio and TV archives and pieces together the factory’s proud history, which produced so much more than just textiles”… [more at] [IMDb] [THR review]

Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir (Twenty-Eight Nights and A Poem)*
By Akram Zaatari, Lebanon / France
(Forum – World Premiere)
“The song ‘Fil bahr’ (At Sea) extols the moon in twenty-eight different ways before finally making its point about the fleeting nature of love at the end. Different variations on one and the same thing, each an original: 28 Nights and a Poem is an interpretation of the archive of the Sheherazade photo studio. Photographer Hashem el Madani opened the studio in 1953 in the Lebanese city of Saïda after spending years photographing people in front of their shops, in public squares or at the beach to satisfy their wish to appear before the camera”[more at]

*Thamaniat wa ushrun laylan wa bayt min al-sheir won a Special Mention for the Think:Film Award.

poster01_en_bigÜber die Jahre (Over the Years)
By Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria
(Forum – World Premiere)
“When we see nappies being packed in cellophane by hand, we already suspect it will all soon be over. Taking the demise of a textile factory in Austria’s Waldviertel region as its starting point, with the antiquated manufacturing plant initially shown in full operation, this film poses the question of what work means for people’s self-image and character. After the factory goes bankrupt and closes, the filmmaker accompanies some of its employees as they continue to make their way, questioning them about their daily routines, the circumstances in which they live, about looking for work or the new jobs they find”… [more at]

201506680_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Violencia (Violence)
By Jorge Forero, Colombia / Mexico
(Forum – World Premiere)
“Cicadas and birdsong, a black screen, the jungle floor coming into view at the start of day. A leisurely tracking shot: roots, moss, a metal chain, a sleeping man shackled, hands clasped together, feet caked in mud. A silent captive whose captors’ faces remain unseen, a daily routine in the forest as helicopters rumble above. Pleasurable moans in a dark bedroom, a white curtain with black flowers that keeps out the morning light. A teenager making his way through the city, CV in hand, the camera his constant companion: bustling streets, bright colours, huge intersections, a skate park. But he only finds a job in the countryside”... [more at] [IMDb] [THR review]

MV5BMTQ4NzE3ODY2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQyNTY1OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Yvy Maraey (Land without Evil)*
By Juan Carlos Valdivia, Bolivia / Mexico / Norway 2013
“Andrés, a ‘karai’ or white man, has lost touch with his inner self and is going through a creative and spiritual crisis. He becomes obsessed with the existence of an uncorrupted and secluded Guaraní population, which might hold the answer he needs. Andrés hires Yari to guide him on a road trip deep into Guaraní lands in modern-day Bolivia, where the white man is the minority. Their journey is one of self-discovery and intercultural understanding.”… [more at] [IMDb] [THR review (VLAFF)]

*Yvy Maraey screened once at the King Juan Carlos I Center, New York University, on 3 May 2014.

Salamanca’s Galeria Urbana

"Siempre he sabido que la democracia llevaría a esto" (Ana Villalón, 2013)
“Siempre he sabido que la democracia llevaría a esto” (Ana Villalón, 2013)

A friend introduced me to Galeria Urbana, a free-range gallery in Salamanca’s Barrio del Oeste, where young artists and graphic designers are given  storefronts and buildings (vacant and occupied) to use as their canvases.

Artists include Julio Herrero, Pablo S. HerreroLaura Serradilla, Andrea Ruano Flores, Nuria San Jose, Sheila Rodríguez Cañestro, Álvaro Giménez, Alex Robles, Doa Oa Ocampo, Cristina Muñoz, Kike Martin, Cristina Carmona, Inés Carballido, Mónica C. Peláez, Héctor Carazo García, Alejandro Pérez, Verónica Ledo, David Iglesias, Elena Benito Alonso, Alejandro Labrador, David de la Mano, Arina Esse, Marcos Abella, César San José, Miguel Mateos, Alejandro Sánchez, Alsira MonforteBaz, Ana Villalón, Manolo Gutiérrez, and Antonio Feliz.

Galería Urbana en el Barrio del Oeste de Salamanca is a project of Asociación Vecinos ZOES, a community association, and Lemarte, an art collective formed by María Crisóstomo and Elena Gómez of the University of Salamanca.

I’ve posted a slideshow and album on Flickr. But this is only a small sample. See it for yourself (Salamanca is a terrific place to visit.)

Nicole Maxali’s Forgetting the Details – FringeNYC


Forgetting the Details
Nicole Maxali Productions
Writer: Nicole Maxali
Director: Paul Stein
The White Box at 440 Studios
Sunday 17 Aug 2014

“Family, Filipinos & Alzheimer’s. Described by Dave Chappelle as “funny, heartwarming & funny again,” this one-woman show will make you laugh, cry & remind you that in the end, it’s not the details that matter.”

Nicole Maxali is an actor with finely tuned control of her instrument and – with this show – mastery of the back story underlying her impressive CV (extracted here from Brown Paper Tickets):

“Nicole Maxali quit her highly-stressful job running scripts for news producers and began her journey as a working actor and non-profit humanitarian in 2005. Since that first day she stepped out of the newsroom and onto the stage she has evolved creatively and spiritually through various local artistic productions at Bindlestiff Studio, Shelton Studio, StageWerx Theater, Off Market Theater, Brava Theater and Herbst Theater to name a few. Wanting to perform more of her own writing, Nicole took her first stand-up comedy workshop under Kevin Camia in 2007. In just a year, her stand-up experience exploded. Nicole has performed comedy at The Purple Onion, San Jose Improv and had the honor to open for comic genius Dave Chappelle at the San Francisco Punchline.

Under the tutelage of acclaimed comic/solo performer, W. Kamau Bell, Nicole Maxali wrote and performed her very first solo show, Identification Please, in 2008. Identification Please, directed by Allan Manalo & produced by Bindlestiff Studio, played a three week run at The Thick House in April 2009 and was selected as part of the 2009 Kearney Street Workshop’s festival, APATURE.

Nicole is no stranger of what happens behind the scenes of a theater production. In 2008 she successfully co-produced an original musical “Love in the Time of Breast Cancer” at Off Market Theater with fiscal sponsorship by California Pacific Medical Center and South of Market Health Center. From 2009 to 2010, Nicole also co-produced “City Solo” at Off Market Theatre. City Solo was a weekly solo showcase which featured the best of the best solo artists in the Bay Area.”

Through “Forgetting the Details,” Maxali transforms family drama into a courageous and powerful essay on memory and loss, and an important document of the American experience in the 21st century.

See this performance if you can, and watch for Maxali’s evolving work.

No, She Doesn’t Have Downs Syndrome (NTTAWWT)! – FringeNYC


mislabeledilEMMA: No, I Don’t Have Downs Syndrome – FringeNYC
Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, NYC
Monday, 11 August 2014

Quirky Girl Productions
Writer: Emma McWilliams
Director: Anne Moore
“A quirky girl’s search for identity amidst the confusion of being told she was “disabled.” She faces the issues of discrimination, gender equality, race, religion, and “fitting in” as she tries to understand the Syndrome she was born with spontaneously.”

Emma McWilliams is on a mission from God. Not the scary ISIS/ISIL kind; think more like The Blues Brothers, with a dose of human genetics mixed in.

In her one-woman show at FringeNYC, Ms McWilliams traces the story of a girl born to be one of a kind. Okay, to be literal, 1 in 50,000. (That’s the estimated prevalence of people with mutations in the LMX1B gene that cause nail-patella syndrome.)

But mislabeledilEMMA isn’t just a tale about a girl with a rare genetic condition. It’s the universal coming-of-age story, brought into sharp focus by Ms McWilliams’s experience of genetic rarity, which she has creatively forged into a potent message of compassion for the little alien that lives in many of us, and a powerful critique of the tyranny of normalcy.

Catch mislabeledilEMMA at FringeNYC if you can, and keep a lookout for Emma McWilliams’s other work.

Cosmetic Ethnobotany Practiced by Tribal Women of Kashmir Himalayas


Cosmetic ethnobotany practiced by tribal women of Kashmir Himalayas

Shaheen H, Nazir J, Firdous SS, Khalid AU
Avicenna J Phytomed
2014 Jul;4(4):239-50
PubMed Central: PMC4110779
Poonch District, Azad Kashmir
Poonch District, Azad Kashmir (Source: Wikimedia Commons user Pahari Sahib)

Investigators from University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Muzaffarabad and University of Poonch Rawalakot, Azad Jammu & Kashmir conducted a survey of cosmetic uses of plants by the tribal women in Poonch District, Azad Kashmir Pakistan.

Their study is the first to focus on cosmetic ethnobotany in the area. From the introduction:

“The tribal women population of Kashmir Himalayas is very laborious and dynamic; and by instinct conscious about cosmetic applications of local herbs. In male dominated, conservative religious mountain tribes, women are reluctant, discouraged and shy to discuss their cosmetic problems with doctors or family member. A tragedy of the modern time is that the precious cosmetic ethnobotanical knowledge is disappearing quickly. Due to the lack of interest and knowledge the younger generation prefers allopathic medicines and cosmetic products. Preservation of the values of plants can only be maintained with the help of the indigenous people who have used this knowledge for centuries. Although researchers have conducted a lot of work in the field of ethnobotany, yet its cosmetic aspect has never been focused in this area previously. The main objective of this research was to explore the cosmetic value of plants and make the new generation aware about it.”

Working with 310 female participants from 16 villages, the team documented 39 plants species being used for various cosmetic purposes including control of acne, hair growth, bad breath, facial spots, allergy and wrinkles, and for fairness and eye and lip care.

Citrus limon
Citrus limon (Source: Wikimedia Commons user Elena Chochkova)

Among the major plant species used for cosmetic purposes were Citrus limon, Lycopersicum esculentum, Mentha longifolia, Raphanus sativus, Rosa indica, Allium sativum and Allium cepa. The plant species and their cosmetic applications are detailed in tables.

The authors note a generational shift away from home-made ethnobotanical preparations toward commercial synthetic compounds. From the discussion:

“The women of the area prefer cosmetic ethnobotany because in the remote areas, women have no alternative choices, poverty and they have faith in plants and trust in the effectiveness of folk lore herbal remedies. These ethnomedicine are natural and beneficial for the health because there are no impurities in this type of medicines which are prepared by people themselves. Women also prefer ethnomedicine because allopathic medicines are expensive as compared to natural ethnomedicine.
“…Our results revealed that the older generation possessed sufficient knowledge about cosmetic herbs as compared to younger generation. The younger generation seemed to be involved in synthetic cosmetics inspired by intensive media campaigns and advertisements.”
“…there is further need of detailed and intensive investigations with particular reference to herbal cosmetics in Kashmir Himalayas. The rapid socioeconomic and cultural transformations in Himalayas have brought about changes in ecology and people plant interaction. The indigenous knowledge about local herbs is declining in several regions.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

My FringeNYC Wish List


“The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues.”

I would be happy if I could see just half of these productions:

The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine
The Plinth
Writer: Robert Morgan, Martha Ross, and Leah Cherniak
“Two clowns get married and move into a closet. It’s cute, at first. But then little things become Big Things. And Big Things become EXCRUCIATING. Ernest and Ernestine are trapped. Will Love be enough?”
1h 10m Local Manhattan, NY
VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente
SAT 9 @ 2:45 TUE 12 @ 5:30 FRI 15 @ 9:30 SUN 17 @ 7:30 THU 21 @ 3

Bacchae Redux
American Bard Theater Company
Writer: Jack Herholdt, Adapted from Euripides
Director: Michael Heitzler
“Bacchae Redux puts a modern twist on the classic tale of divine vengeance. The gruesome rivalry between the god Dionysus and the mortal king Pentheus serves as both feast and fodder for Dionysus’ infamous female disciples, The Bacchae.”
1h 30m Local Manhattan, NY
VENUE #16: Robert Moss Theater at 440
SAT 9 @ 12:30 TUE 12 @ 7 FRI 15 @ 7 SAT 16 @ 4 TUE 19 @ 4:15

Birds Should Fly Free
AKA Productions
Writer: Alex McFarlane
Director: Veronica Dang
“Polly wants more than a cracker. Megalomania erupts when the line between humans and animals is blurred. Can we get along together or will the law of the jungle prevail? This dark comedy boldly goes where no humanity has gone before.”
1h 30m Local South Salem, NY
VENUE #6: Connelly Theater
SAT 9 @ 2 SUN 10 @ 7 THU 14 @ 9:45 SUN 17 @ 4:15 SAT 23 @ NOON

Breaking the Shakespeare Code
Hey Jonte! Productions, L.L.C.
Writer: John Minigan
Director: Stephen Brotebeck
“A brash, naive young actress approaches a gifted but callous acting instructor to coach her for an audition. Surprising them both, Anna and Curt’s explosive chemistry sparks 16 years of cat and mouse seductions and entanglements.”
1h 30m Local Astoria, NY
TUE 12 @ 9:15 THU 14 @ 2 SAT 16 @ 7 TUE 19 @ 5:30 WED 20 @ 6:15

Campo Maldito
People of Interest
Writer: Bennett Fisher
Director: Jesca Prudencio
“Angry ghosts are disrupting business at a tech startup in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. When the CEO hires a Santeria priest to purify the office, he gets more than he bargained for. A dark comedy about gentrification and the afterlife.”
1h 0m National San Diego, CA
VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente
SAT 16 @ NOON SAT 16 @ 4:30 TUE 19 @ 4:15 THU 21 @ 7 SAT 23 @ 5

CLIVE BARKER’s History of the Devil
Joshua Young
Writer: Clive Barker
Director: Joshua Young
“A deprived and lovelorn Satan misses God and is sick and tired of living in Hell. So he calls a trial seeking re-admittance into Heaven. The witnesses recount Satan’s influence, or just reveal a reflection of humanity’s depravity.”
2h 0m Local Manhattan, NY
VENUE #8: The Theater at the 14th Street Y
SUN 10 @ 9 TUE 12 @ 4 WED 13 @ 9:30 THU 14 @ 8 SUN 17 @ 1:45

Come Thick Night
MAUS Theater
Writer: John Crutchfield
Director: John Crutchfield
“A young woman wakes from a nightmare about killing her father – only to find she’s still in it. MAUS Theater of Berlin presents John Crutchfield’s “gruselkabinett,” a darkly hilarious mash-up of Ingmar Bergman, Elvis, and the Scottish play.”
1h 15m International Berlin, GERMANY
TUE 19 @ 9:45 WED 20 @ 4 FRI 22 @ 4:30 SAT 23 @ 7 SUN 24 @ 2

Milkwood Theater
Writer: Judith Goudsmit
Director: David Riley
“Two marine biologists are at odds during the most important expedition of their career. When a stranded shark refuses to die, things get weird in this physical theatre piece about the nature of ego, love and revenge.”
1h 0m Local Brooklyn, NY
VENUE #8: The Theater at the 14th Street Y
SUN 10 @ 5:30 SUN 17 @ 7 TUE 19 @ 7:30 THU 21 @ 2 SAT 23 @ 8

The Fiery Sword of Justice
Pill Hill Productions
Writer: Lauren Letellier
Director: Kel Haney
“The last thing any corporation wants to hear is … the truth! One businesswoman’s super-heroic compulsion to confront hypocrisy leads her to battle Big Pharma, boozy bosses, and the fractured family fantasies that fueled her fight for Justice.”
0h 55m Local Manhattan, NY
VENUE #3: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente
SAT 9 @ 5:45 WED 13 @ 8 SAT 16 @ 8:45 MON 18 @ 3:45 WED 20 @ 2 FRI 22 @ 5:30

Fire Dance
Loading Dock
Writer: Michael Parsons
Director: Jacob Titus
“Attorney Sean McManus moves in with firefighter brother Nicky to salvage their family – and to pursue old flame Janice. When Janice intrudes into their world, however, cold-hearted Nicky’s passions flare, pitting both brothers in a reckless clash for dominance.”
1h 30m Local Brooklyn, NY
SAT 16 @ NOON SUN 17 @ 3:45 TUE 19 @ 9:45 THU 21 @ 4:45 FRI 22 @ 9:15

Forgetting the Details
Nicole Maxali Productions
Writer: Nicole Maxali
Director: Paul Stein
“Family, Filipinos & Alzheimer’s. Described by Dave Chappelle as “funny, heartwarming & funny again,” this one-woman show will make you laugh, cry & remind you that in the end, it’s not the details that matter.”
1h 15m Local San Francisco, CA
VENUE #15: The White Box at 440 Studios
WED 13 @ 3:45 FRI 15 @ 9:30 SUN 17 @ 7:45 THU 21 @ 2 FRI 22 @ 5:30 SAT 23 @ 3

The Drifting Theatre
Writer: Alaska Reece Vance
Director: Alaska Reece Vance
“Award-winning Appalachian theatre company brings to life the untold story of the changeling boy from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Battling fairy monarchs. Forbidden boundaries. Passionate desires and a planet on the brink. Will he survive Puck’s savage game?”
1h 49m National Elizabethton, TN
VENUE #4: Teatro LATEA at the Clemente
TUE 12 @ 4:15 FRI 15 @ 8:30 SUN 17 @ 8:45 MON 18 @ 2 SAT 23 @ 4

Little Mother
Lust & Liberty
Writer: Katie Green
Director: Paul Markert
“Little Mother is a living silent film for the stage—a dark fairytale featuring subtitled live acting, shadow puppetry, and an original score. A young mother risks confusing fantasy with reality, as she sacrifices everything to support her family.”
1h 0m Local Queens, NY
VENUE #8: The Theater at the 14th Street Y
SUN 10 @ 7:15 SAT 16 @ 10:15 WED 20 @ 5:45 THU 21 @ 9:45 SUN 24 @ NOON

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe
The Covey Theatre Company
Writer: Garrett Heater
Director: Garrett Heater
“Award-winning psychological thriller examines every searing detail of the notorious unsolved double axe murder of a Victorian woman’s father and step-mother. Striving to be the most historically accurate representation of the Borden case, period details punctuate this engrossing mystery.”
2h 0m Local Syracuse, NY
VENUE #4: Teatro LATEA at the Clemente
WED 20 @ 6 THU 21 @ 8:45 FRI 22 @ 2 SAT 23 @ 9:15 SUN 24 @ 2:15

mislabeledilEMMA: No, I Don’t Have Downs Syndrome
Quirky Girl Productions
Writer: Emma McWilliams
Director: Anne Moore
“A quirky girl’s search for identity amidst the confusion of being told she was “disabled.” She faces the issues of discrimination, gender equality, race, religion, and “fitting in” as she tries to understand the Syndrome she was born with spontaneously.”
1h 0m National Los Angeles, CA
VENUE #3: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente
FRI 8 @ 7 MON 11 @ 3:45 FRI 15 @ 4:15 SAT 16 @ 5:15 WED 20 @ 7:30 SAT 23 @ 12:15

Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn
Writer: Marla Hirokawa, Music by Keith Hall, Craig Brann, Taki Rentaro, Harold Payne, Jake Shimabukuro
Choreographer: Marla A. Hirokawa
“It’s WWII and a Nisei, 2nd generation Japanese American soldier has to overcome bigotry displayed against him and his family by the very country he is fighting to protect. This legacy unfolds in a ballet of love, strength and honor.”
1h 10m Local Brooklyn, NY
VENUE #8: The Theater at the 14th Street Y
SAT 9 @ 3:30* TUE 12 @ 7 WED 13 @ 5:45 FRI 15 @ 6:15 SAT 16 @ 2

The Princess Pyunggang
Bibimbab Theatre
Writer: Sookyung Hwang
Director: Jong Yeoup Lee
Choreographer: Grace (Yu Sun) Kang
“The story of Princess Pyunggang is a Korean ancient tale that tells the unforgettable love between a fool and the princess of Goguryo. This story combines Korean traditional drumming instruments songs and dances to deliver a breathtaking performance.”
1h 30m International Seoul , KOREA
VENUE #13: Sheen Center – THE LORETTO
FRI 8 @ 2:30 MON 11 @ 2 THU 14 @ 9:45 SUN 17 @ 6:30

The Secret – The Spanish Inquisition In Old St. Augustine
Lee Weaver’s Special OPS (One Person Shows)
Writer: Lee Weaver
Director: Lee and Nanette Weaver
“A Finder (Investigative Attorney) who furnishes names of Jews to The Monarchy and The Church, crosses with Pedro Menendez in 1565, discovers Maranos! – posing as Christians to escape persecution. Pirate and Indian attacks, love, hate, life, death, bigotry, betrayal, survival!”
2h 0m National St. Augustine, FL
VENUE #3: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente
WED 13 @ 9:45 SAT 16 @ 2:15 SUN 17 @ 6:15 FRI 22 @ 9:15 SAT 23 @ 2 SUN 24 @ NOON

This is Where We Live
Paperbark Theatre Company
Writer: Vivienne Walshe
Director: Alec Fellows-Bennett
“US premiere, winner of the 2012 Griffin Award. Two teenagers collide like a modern day Orpheus and Eurydice in a dead-end Australian town. A dark, moving comedy infused with the rhythm of beat poetry.”
1h 0m International Sydney, AUSTRALIA
VENUE #14: Sheen Center – THE BLACK BOX
THU 14 @ 7:45 SAT 16 @ 7 MON 18 @ 4:15* THU 21 @ 2 SAT 23 @ 7