Tag Archives: film festivals

Berlinale Forum Announces 2011 Program


With 39 films in the main program and 6 films as specials, the 41st Forum of the Berlinale will be screening 24 world premieres and 12 international premieres February 10 through 20. In addition, Forum will show 8 films by the seminal Japanese director Shibuya Minoru, who directed more than four dozen films between 1937 and 1966.

Last year, Berlinale Forum selected Winter’s Bone, The Oath, Sawako Decides, among other important finds.

More to come, but for now, here’s the raw list for this year:

Main Programme
Amnesty by Bujar Alimani, Albania/Greece/France – WP
Auf der Suche (Looking for Simon) by Jan Krüger, Germany/France – WP
Ausente (Absent) by Marco Berger, Argentina – WP
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye by Marie Losier, USA/France – WP
Brownian Movement by Nanouk Leopold, The Netherlands/Germany/Belgium – EP
Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron by Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, Republic of Korea – IP
Day Is Done by Thomas Imbach, Switzerland – WP
Dom (The House) by Zuzana Liová, Slowak Republic/Czech Republic – WP
E-Love by Anne Villaceque, France – IP
De Engel van Doel (An Angel in Doel) by Tom Fassaert, The Netherlands/Belgium – WP
En terrains connus (Familiar Ground) by Stéphane Lafleur, Canada – WP
FIT by Hirosue Hiromasa, Japan – IP
Folge mir (Follow Me) by Johannes Hammel, Austria – IP
Halaw (Ways of the Sea) by Sheron Dayoc, The Philippines – EP
Heaven’s Story by Zeze Takahisa, Japan – IP
Hi-So by Aditya Assarat, Thailand – EP
Jagadangchak: shidaejeongshin kwa hyeonshilchamyeo (Self Referential Traverse: Zeitgeist and Engagement) by Kim Sun, Republic of Korea – WP
Kazoku X (Household X) by Yoshida Kōki, Japan – IP
Man chu (Late Autumn) by Kim Tae-Yong, Republic of Korea/Hongkong, China/USA – EP
Made in Poland by Przemysław Wojcieszek, Poland – IP
Les mains libres (Free Hands) by Brigitte Sy, France – IP
El mocito (The Young Butler) by Marcela Said, Jean de Certeau, Chile – WP
Nesvatbov (Matchmaking Mayor) by Erika Hníková, Czech Republic – IP
Ocio (Idleness) by Alejandro Lingenti, Juan Villegas, Argentina – IP
Osmdesát dopisů (Eighty Letters) by Václav Kadrnka, Czech Republic – WP
Os residentes (The Residents) by Tiago Mata Machado, Brasil – IP
Patang (The Kite) by Prashant Bhargava, India/USA – WP
Poor kor karn rai (The Terrorists) by Thunska Pansittivorakul, Germany/Thailand – WP
Sekai Good Morning!! (Good Morning to the World!!) by Hirohara Satoru, Japan – EP
Silver Bullets/Art History by Joe Swanberg, USA – WP
State of Violence by Khalo Matabane, Republic of South Africa/France – EP
Submarine by Richard Ayoade, Great Britain – EP
Swans by Hugo Vieira da Silva, Germany/Portugal – WP
Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols, USA – IP
Territoire perdu by Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd, France/Belgium – WP
Traumfabrik Kabul (Kabul Dream Factory) by Sebastian Heidinger, Germany/Afghanistan – WP
Unter Kontrolle (Under Control) by Volker Sattel, Germany – WP
Utopians by Zbigniew Bzymek, USA – WP
Viva Riva! by Djo Tunda Wa Munga, Democratic Republic of Congo/France/Belgium – EP

Special Screenings
Dreileben – WP
Etwas besseres als den Tod by Christian Petzold, Germany
Komm mir nicht nach by Dominik Graf, Germany
Eine Minute Dunkel by Christoph Hochhäusler, Germany
Eine Serie von Gedanken by Heinz Emigholz, Germany – WP
Himmel und Erde by Michael Pilz, Austria, 1979-82 (Revival screening)
Sleepless Nights Stories by Jonas Mekas, USA – WP
The Stool Pigeon by Dante Lam, Hongkong, China – EP
Twenty Cigarettes by James Benning, USA – WP

Shibuya Minoru
Honjitsu kyushin (Doctor’s Day Off) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1952
Gendaijin (Modern People) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1952
Seigi-ha (Righteousness) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1957
Akujo no kisetsu (The Days of Evil Women) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1958
Mozu (The Shrikes) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1961
Kojin kojitsu (A Good Man, a Good Day) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1961
Yopparai tengoku (Drunkard’s Paradise) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1962
Daikon to ninjin (The Radish and the Carrot) by Shibuya Minoru, Japan 1964

EP = European premiere
IP = International premiere
WP = World premiere

New York Film Festival – Mistérios de Lisboa / Mysteries of Lisbon


10 October
New York Film Festival
Mysteries of Lisbon (Mistérios de Lisboa)
Raúl Ruiz, 2010, Portugal/France, 272m

Léa Seydoux … Branca de Montfort
Melvil Poupaud … Ernesto Lacroze
Clotilde Hesme … Elisa de Montfort
José Afonso Pimentel … Pedro da Silva Adulto
Catarina Wallenstein … Condessa de Arosa
Maria João Bastos … Ângela de Lima
Lena Friedrich … Moçoila
Filipe Vargas … D. Paulo de Albuquerque
Malik Zidi … Visconde Armagnac
Joana Pinhão Botelho … Criadita
Albano Jerónimo … Conde de Santa Bárbara
Ricardo Pereira … Alberto de Magalhães & Come-Facas
Carloto Cotta … D. Álvaro de Albuquerque
Adriano Luz … Padre Dinis & Sabino Cabra & Sebastião de Melo
Margarida Vila-Nova … Marquesa de Alfarela

A breathtaking visualization of Camilo Castelo Branco’s 1854 “diary of suffering” Mistérios de Lisboa. Distilled from a 6-hour television production.

The story begins and ends with teenage boy living under the care of a mysterious priest and desperate to discover his parentage. Gradually introduced to his mother, a beautiful countess married to a sadistic nobleman, the boy slowly learns pieces of his story, always a step behind us, with tragic consequences.

Layers of confession, penance and forgiveness. Expert art direction and camerawork, including one unforgettable sequence in which the narrator’s mother gives permission for the priest to tell her son the story of his birth. Opens in sun, which becomes overcast as she withdraws.

Update: US Distributor – Music Box Films (2011)

New York Film Festival – Le quattro volte / The Four Times


26 September

New York Film Festival

Le quattro volte / The Four Times
Michelangelo Frammartino, 2010
 Italy/Germany/France, 88m
A Lorber films release.

Michelangelo Frammartino traces the cycle of life through the daily rituals of people in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Home of Pythagoras – where dust is the soul become visible.

Smoke from the Earth. A sick old man and his goats. A dusty church is under water, it produces medicine. David Lynch.

The rhythm of village life. Cross, Roman Soldiers, Christ – pageant. A dog and a truck. Escape of snails and goats. Death and the low frequencies.

An amazing sequence, a triumph of comic timing, done in one take. The old man’s dog first barks to move people around, then removes a stone block holding a truck, which then crashes into the goat pen and releases them. Not to be missed.

A little goat lost – “Maa!” A big tree and the solemn death of a kid.

Observational. Episodic – seemingly unconstructed. Frederic Wiseman. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The story of charcoal. Film as memory and history.

The director lived with shepherds and goats for two years in the village of his family.

Winner of Palme Dog at Cannes. Only professional was the dog.

Dust is the projection on the screen.

New York Film Festival – Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives


25 September
New York Film Festival
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
 (Thai: ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ, RTGS: Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010, UK/Thailand/France/Germany/Spain, 113m. A Strand release.

Thanapat Saisaymar as Uncle Boonmee
Jenjira Pongpas as Jen
Sakda Kaewbuadee as Thong
Natthakarn Aphaiwong as Huay, Boonmee’s wife
Jeerasak Kulhong as Boonsong, Boonmee’s son
Kanokporn Thongaram as Roong, Jen’s friend
Samud Kugasang as Jai, Boonmee’s chief worker
Wallapa Mongkolprasert as the princess
Sumit Suebsee as the soldier
Vien Pimdee as the farmer

“Uncle Boonmee” opens to a black screen accompanied by forest sounds. “I am obsessed by sound,” says director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Weerasethakul and his production team had collected a huge library of jungle sounds from previous projects, and this film is the beneficiary.

Set in Thailand’s rural northeast, “Uncle Boonmee” tells the story of a farmer dying from kidney failure, who is tended to by loved ones and visited by the ghosts of his wife and son in his last days.

Throughout, sounds are very important. Pages turning in a photo album. Fragments of conversation, “I don’t know if I’ll like it here – all these ghosts and migrant workers.” And bugs.

Uncle has killed too many communists and bugs in his quest for tamarind and honey. His karma is not too good.

A fairy tale, the princess and the catfish.

Boonmee’s dream, photos, the future. His final cave dream. Past people – monkey ghosts. The scream of the forest.

A closing scene with Jen, her friend, and a monk. Simultaneously in hotel room watching television, and in a Karaoke bar. A disruption in time. What is reality, what is illusion?

“Uncle Boonmee” is the final installment in Weerasethakul’s multi-platform art project, called “Primitive,” which deals with the director’s homeland – the Isan region, just by the border with Laos. His script was inspired by a sermon book written by a local monk who recorded the story of the old man who claimed to have recalled his previous incarnations. It consists of six reels each shot in a distinct Thai cinematic style.

The movie opens with a water buffalo running across a broad plain, who is found, recaptured, and brought (with resistance) back to his place. Then we meet Boonmee, nearing the end of his life, as his veranda becomes a meeting place for spirits from his past: the ghost of his beloved wife, and his son, now a “monkey ghost” who have come to watch over Boonmee and usher him onward, along with his living family.

“Uncle Boonmee” premiered in competition at Cannes on 21 May 2010, where it won the Palme d’Or – the first Asian film to win the award since 1997 and the first Thai film to win the award.

From the director:

“I believe in the transmigration of souls between humans, plants, animals, and ghosts. Uncle Boonmee’s story shows the relationship between man and animal and at the same time destroys the line dividing them. When the events are represented through cinema, they become shared memories of the crew, the cast, and the public. A new layer of (simulated) memory is augmented in the audience’s experience. In this regard, filmmaking is not unlike creating synthetic past lives.”

Audio over closing credits. A song – Acrophobia by Penguin Villa.

Films I Want to See in New York – 7 – Putty Hill


Putty Hill
Matthew Porterfield, USA
2010, 89 min

Cast: Sky Ferreira (Jenny), Zoe Vance (Zoe), James Siebor, Jr. (James), Dustin Ray (Dustin), Cody Ray (Cody), Charles “Spike” Sauers (Spike), Catherine Evans (Cathy), Virginia Heath (Virginia), Casey Weibust (Casey), Drew Harris (Geoff), Marina Siebor (Marina)

To be screened at BAMcinemaFEST, Sun, Jun 13 at 8:45pm

A junkie’s house, a boy’s death. Girls smoking in the woods. Cops on the hunt for a bank robber. Grandma is a good egg. Tagger – Rest in Peace, Cory.

A girl comes home to her estranged father’s tattoo party. A karaoke wake. Visiting a dead brother’s junkie lair at night. All he kept was his skateboard. The friendship of girls.

Putty Hill in the Northeast of Baltimore is both urban and bucolic. A filmmaker was working a coming-of-age tale about a group of metal-heads skirting the fringes of Baltimore. It was a timely script, but financing fell through. To rescue the work of everyone involved, he shot a new film in 12 days. Director Matt Porterfield:

“Putty Hill is not quite like anything I’ve ever seen. On a most basic level, it is an amalgam of traditional forms of documentary and narrative realism. But it is an approach to realism in opposition to the anthropological, lyrical, and romantic currents present in most of the genre. More importantly, though the structure of the film was plotted, the details of individual scenes were largely improvised, breathing life into the dialogue and bringing an enhanced degree of naturalism to the relationships between characters. I had already established firm bonds with my cast working with them on Metal Gods, so they trusted me enough to take risks and bring a level of emotional honesty to the material.”

A triumph of salvage. Not to be missed.

US Release: Feb 18, 2011 (Cinema Guild)

Films I Want to See in New York – 4 – This Way of Life


Watch This Film

This Way of Life
New Zealand / Canada, 2009
Director: Thomas Burstyn
Cast: Peter Ottley-Karena, Colleen Ottley-Karena, Llewelyn Ottley-Karena, Aurora Ottley-Karena, Malachi Ottley-Karena, Elias Ottley-Karena, Corban Ottley-Karena, Salem Ottley-Karena

In a rare bit of luck, I met the filmmakers in Berlin while covering Forum. Their film was in another section, Generation, so I asked for a DVD. One of the smartest things I did during the festival.

I can’t improve on the Berlinale essay:

“Family life in New Zealand. Except that this is no ordinary family: filmmaker Thomas Burstyn spent four years capturing on camera daily life in one Maori household. Peter and Colleen Karena (Ngati Maniapoto) have six children and fifty horses. Peter is in his early thirties and a horse whisperer by trade – as well as a farrier, butcher, saddler, hunter, labourer and philosopher. The life he leads is very close to nature – and this makes him something of an outsider. His life is also unfettered – as is that of his self-confident children. It’s almost as if the word ‘risk’ doesn’t exist for them: barefoot, bareback and without reins or riding hat is for instance the way the Karena’s six-year-old daughter gallops across the New Zealand prairie.

“When the family’s house burns down, the parents, their oldest son (eleven-year-old Llewelyn, from whose point-of-view the film is told) and his five younger siblings decide to pitch their tents on a nearby beach. But although their family life appears to become even more idyllic, it is not without its conflicts. The Karenas live in the here and now, in spite of their parents’ traditional gender roles. But while Colleen devotes herself to looking after the family, Peter still has an axe to grind with his father. The film focuses on the way in which he mends this broken relationship and, at the same time, manages to maintain a healthy relationship with his own son, Llewelyn. Some people may think that the Karenas live a life of poverty. But this isn’t true. THIS WAY OF LIFE is a film about freedom.”

I am dying to see this beautiful film on a big screen. Some of the compositions are destined to become classics for film students in the new century. Children riding across a hill, a glistening body of water. New Yorkers deserve to see this movie.


Films I Want to See in New York – 3 – Die Fremde / When We Leave


Watch This Film

Die Fremde / When We Leave
Germany, 2009
Director: Feo Aladag
Cast: Sibel Kekilli, Florian Lukas, Derya Alabora, Tamer Yigit

Screened at 2010 Tribeca Film Festival (North American Premiere), winner World Narrative Feature Competition, winner Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film (Sibel Kekilli)

An accomplished debut feature that manages to tell an emotionally charged story with nuance and compassion for all the characters.

25-year-old Umay (Sibel Kekilli) has run away from unhappy marriage in Istanbul, fleeing to her parents in Berlin with her young son. But social conventions draw the family inexorably toward a terrible deed. Director and screenwriter Aladag defies easy stereotypes to tell a story of errant human beings who inflict great cruelty.

I missed this in Berlin, and am grateful to Tribeca for selecting.

[Berlinale] [IMDb]

Films I Want to See in New York – 2 – Bibliothèque Pascal


Bibliothèque Pascal (2010). Director: Szabolcs Hajdu

Single mother Mona Paparu (Orsolya Török-Illyés) must convince a bureaucrat in child protective services that she should regain custody of her young daughter, who she left in the care of an aunt while working as a prostitute in England. No, that’s not right.

Through a series of unfortunate events, young Mona finds herself stripped of her passport in a modern-day slave market, bought by Pascal (Shamgar Amram), who runs bordello where the elite of the worlds of art, politics, and business purchase the services of sexual slaves representing figures of literature (Joan of Arc, Pinocchio, Desdemona, etc). No. That’s not it either.

A tale of the brutal sex traffic between the former USSR and the UK stands as a metaphor for the rape of imagination that rules the global culture business. Not one of these interpretations quite works.

Once upon a time, a theatre buffet girl told her story to a filmmaker. Bibliothèque Pascal is first and foremost a fine movie – a dream projected onto our world to wake us up.

A perfect cast, led by the luminous Orsolya Török-Illyés, who once seen can never be forgotten.


Films I Want to See in New York – 1 – Aisheen / Still Alive in Gaza


Aisheen / Still Alive in Gaza
Switzerland / Qatar, 2010, 86 min
Director: Nicolas Wadimoff

“A situation report from the Gaza Strip in February 2009, just one month after the end of Israelʼs military offensive.” [2010 Berlinale catalog]

“‘Where’s the ghost town?’, asked the little boy to the theme park attendant. ‘It’s there, right there. But it has been bombed… Do you want to see it?’ It is with these words that the film begins – an impressionist journey through a devastated Gaza after the war. The ghost town? Gaza is the ghost town…” [cineuropa]

“Shot a few weeks after the January 2009 Israeli offensive in Gaza ended, the compelling, sensitively crafted docu “Aisheen (Still Alive in Gaza),” from Swiss helmer Nicolas Wadimoff, captures the human suffering and devastation wrought, but really focuses on daily survival. Observing ordinary Gazans literally picking up the pieces of their past despite harsh, dangerous conditions, the pic lets the powerful images and articulate subjects speak for themselves without voiceover narration. Quality broadcast item could find limited theatrical play in select territories; further fest exposure is guaranteed.” [Variety]

Have you screened it? Are your planning to? Please let me know.

Berlinale Forum – Born of Dissent, All Grown Up, with Integrity Intact


Born of dissent, the International Forum of New Cinema serves filmmakers and audiences who – while appreciative of cinema’s power to entertain and knowledgeable of the tools of entertainment – want something more.

The singular value of the Berlinale Forum – the most consciously political section of the most political of the mega film festivals – is to be found in its evergreen ability to change our minds as the world changes around us.

“The Forum has always defended cinema’s role as a forum of artistic expression beyond imposed limits or categorizations, focusing on the new and unusual, whether seeking to preserve the experimental qualities of cinema or arouse the interest of audiences for expressive cinema from off the beaten track, ‘Expanded Cinema’, the filmic avant-garde, documentary film projects that shatter formal boundaries as well as popular world cinema have all found their place at the Forum…”

Christoph Terhechte[1]

Over the past four decades, international audiences have first seen films like Sátántangó and Shoah; films by Peter Watkins and Frederick Wiseman, at this unique festival-within-festival.

“The Forum thus has to be many things at once, goals which conflict with each other; a venue to reveal otherwise undiscovered geographic-cinematic territory; a place for the premiere of such films that, still today – though maybe not in the next decade – have a small chance of commercial distribution internationally; an integral part of a public event which services hundreds of thousands of Berliners but also visiting members of the media and festival programmers, who are looking for films to write about and bring home to their own festivals and who both thrive on negativity…”

Mark Peranson[1]

In my brief four years of attending Forum, I’ve been impressed by the skill, knowledge, and passion of Forum interrogators during the all-important dialogs at the end of each screening. Here we see the heart of the project, the dedication to help give audiences orientation in the evolving world of cinema.

Taking advantage of the special attention span that occurs when people go crazy seeing as many films as possible for ten days, and filmmakers from around the world have an opportunity to engage with a knowledgeable audience and with each other, the Forum programmers help to show us a new way, often through films that don’t fit into the mainstream festival and distribution system.

This year, I was fortunate to see twenty of the thirty-four films on the Forum main slate, and a retrospective screening of three groundbreaking films by Bill Forsyth.

Seeing Red
I was interested to see the rapid emergence of the Red camera this year, employed to impressive effect in Imani (which recounts a day in the lives of three people in Kampala and in Gulu province, in Uganda); Im Schatten (a straight-up crime film juxtaposing the mechanics of a career outside the law with clear-eyed views of industrial Berlin); Fin (a subdued, tense psycho-thriller in which an 18-year-old recruits two younger teenagers for a mysterious, unnamed action at a mining site); El recuento de los daños (a novel telling of the tragedy of the victims of Argentina’s military dictatorship); and Yoŭ yī tiān (a wholly original film, in which none of multiple narrative streams can be pinpointed as reality).

Ethnography, Sometimes from Unexpected Locales
Several fine films explored new aspects of ethnography in the film medium. In Paltadacho Munis, a tale of loneliness, compassion and the eternal struggle against bigotry, a widowed forest ranger in the Western Ghats of India’s Goa district struck up an unlikely relationship with a madwoman he finds lost and alone in the woods. Putty Hill set a tale of death and coming of age on the fringes of Baltimore. Director Yang Rui spent three years with the Wa people in southwestern China, on the border with Burma, to film Fan shan, tale of human sacrifice, young love, a Russian hand grenade, and a hopeless television set. Winter’s Bone is the unflinching telling of a Ozark Mountain girl’s desperate quest to keep her family intact by finding a father who vanished after posting their home as bond. From the perspective of her stationary camera, filmmaker Sharon Lockhart documented the progress of a solitary clammer in Double Tide over two magic hours in a profession as old as there have been human inhabitants of this area. The Oath – also a selection of this year’s New Directors/New Films series – explored the twin tragedies of 9/11 and America’s reaction to the attacks by tracing the story of Salim Hamdan, largely from the perspective of his friend Nasser al-Bahri, a.k.a. Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s chief bodyguard until his arrest shortly before the attacks.

Globalized Angst via Europe
A number of European filmmakers contributed novel perspectives on modern life in a global culture. Through interviews, a video diary, and film clips, filmmaker Gamma Bak documented her adult life as a “child of freedom,” punctuated by seven episodes of schizoid-affective psychosis in Schnupfen im Kopf. Pus explored a dystopian Turkey. First and foremost a good movie about a woman who loses her job and has problems, Eine flexible Frau also revealed work and life for a woman in the New Berlin, and countless other “cities of women” of the new global capitalism. Der Tag des Spatzen followed connections between sparrows and humans from Leeuwarden to the Buechel air base in the Mosel valley, the villages and forests of the Eifel region, the coast of the Baltic Sea, and cities Bonn and Berlin. In Bibliothèque Pascal, Szabolcs Hajdu employed ravishing cinematography with unique humanity and irony to relate a tale of the brutal sex traffic between the former USSR and the UK as a metaphor for the rape of imagination that rules the global culture business. In a miracle of focused sight and sound, stories of nine travelers unfolded in the context of an extended documentary view of a morning at Orly airport. In Indigène d’Eurasie, director Sharunas Bartas plays the character of a ruthless killer who is not a bad man.

Asian New Wave
Young Asian filmmakers continued to break new ground. Kawa no soko kara konnichi wa demonstrated the power of a “lower-middling woman” – chu no ge no on-na – through a perfect performance by Mitsushima Hikari, an expressive, physically precise comic genius. Kenta to Jun to Kayo chan no kuni, Omori Tatsushi’s second feature, cast Love Exposure’s Ando Sakura as Kayo, a lonely girl who encounters two dim-witted orphans on the eve of a final attempt to break out of their miserable lives. Na-neun gon-kyeong-e cheo-haet-da! explored the lives of young professionals and office workers in Seoul through the misadventures of a vulnerable man stuck between poetry and the law exam.

Another Chance
For each film they select, the Forum curators buy a print, pay for subtitles, and archive – often showing to Berlin audiences in the Arsenal Kino long after the February snow of Berlinale has melted. That makes me hopeful that I will yet see the films that I missed this year: Aisheen (Still Alive in Gaza); Yiye Taibei/Au Revoir Taipei; La belle visite; Soreret/Black Bus; La bocca del Lupo/The Mouth of the Wolf; Congo in Four Acts; El vuelco del cangrejo/Crab Trap; Kanikosen (actually saw this at New York Film Festival, but lost my essay); Neo-wa na-eui i-shib-il-seki/Our Fantastic 21st Century; Portretul luptatorului la tenerete/Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man; Sona, mo hitori no watashi/Sona, the Other Myself; Sunny Land; Ya/I Am.

1. Dialoge mit Filmen: 4 Jahrsehnte Forum/Dialogues with Films: 4 Decades of the Forum. Berlin: Arsenal – Institut fur Film und Videokunst e.V., n.d.