cineuropa.org

16 December, 2008

UK Doc MAN ON WIRE Continues Awards Spree



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The British documentary MAN ON WIRE by James Marsh, the story of French aerialist Phillipe Petit’s legendary tightrope walk between the doomed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, has become the documentary to beat in all the major award races. The film, which has been in steady release in the United States for the past six months via Magnolia Pictures and has grossed nearly $3 million in the U.S. alone, was named this week as Best Documentary Film by the New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. film critics associations. The film also recently won nods at the International Documentary Association Awards , a Golden Globe nomination and is short listed for an Oscar nod. The film was also cited by the National Board of Review, a national critics association in the U.S., as well as winning a British Independent Film Award last month.

Strong Nod To Europeans With Golden Globe Nominations

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, UK)

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Golden Globe Awards in mid January, has announced their nominations. International films and non-American talents figured strongly in the award nods. Among the films with international credentials nominated for Best Drama are FROST/NIXON, THE READER and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (in a list that also includes THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and DOUBT). In the Best Comedy or Musical race, non-Hollywood titles including HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, IN BRUGES and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA were prominent (in a list that also includes the musical hit MAMMA MIA!, which began life as a UK stage production and the Coen Brothers satire BURN AFTER READING).

In the acting categories, British thespian Kate Winslet scored a double nomination, winning recognition as Best Actress for her unhappy housewife in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and Best Supporting Actress for her German prison guard in THE READER. British actress Kristin Scott Thomas received a nod for her French language role as a former prisoner attempting to reconnect with her family in the French drama I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG.

Other non-American receiving recognition with Golden Globe nominations include British actress Rebecca Hall, playing an American abroad, Spanish actor Javier Bardem as a seductive painter, and Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, as a mentally unstable artist, in Woody Allen’s VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA; British actress Emma Thompson as a frustrated single woman in LAST CHANCE HARVEY; Irish actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who play a team of hit-men in the offbeat IN BRUGES; British actor Ralph Fiennes as the imperious husband in THE DUCHESS; and the late Australian actor Heath Ledger, who scored a Best Supporting Actor nom for his performance as the anarchic Joker in director Chris Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT.

Three British directors received nominations, including Danny Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), Stephen Daldry (THE READER) and Sam Mendes (REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film are Germany's THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, Sweden/Denmark's EVERLASTING MOMENTS, Italy's GOMORRAH, France's I’VE LOVED YOU FOR SO LONG and Israel's WALTZ WITH BASHIR.

09 December, 2008

Awards Night At The Tallinn Film Festival



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

In what had to be one of the more unusual and visually artistic Awards Ceremonies I've ever attended, the 12th edition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival came to a dramatic close last evening (although screenings continue through the day on Sunday). The ceremony, a multi-media show that included video, live music by an Estonian rock band and an avant-garde performance presentation involving the Festival's jurors, was greeted by the enthusiastic audience as another sign of the Festival's artistic spirit. The beautiful Russian Theater on the outskirts of Tallinn's Old Town proved an eye-popping venue for the highly original awards event.

The top prize of the evening, the winner of the Grand Prix in the official EurAsia Competition of European and Asian films is the English-Irish prison drama HUNGER. The debut film, by video artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen, was acknowledged by the Jury for its powerful cinematic language and confident and passionate narrative. The dramatization of a hunger strike in a Northern Ireland prison in the 1970s, the film has won major awards at other festival events, notably the Camera d'Or for Best First Film at the Cannes Film Festival. The Award includes a cash prize of 10,000 Euros given by the city of Tallinn.

The Best Director Prize in the EurAsia Competition also went to a fellow British filmmaker. Acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom was honored for his work on the film GENOVA. The Best Actress prize was announced for young Russian actress Aleksandra Tiuftej for her role in MUKHA. The Best Actor prize was split among the three leads of Mika Karusimaki's THREE WISE MEN: Kari Heiskanen, Pertti Sveholm and Timo Torikka. A Special Jury Prize was awarded to the Israeli animated documentary WALTZ WITH BASHIR, another film that figures to win accolades during the end-of-the-year awards season. The Best Cinematography Prize was given to Luca Bigazzi for his work on the Italian political docudrama IL DIVO. The Jury also announced two Special Mentions - THE WORLD IS BIG AND SALVATION LURKS AROUND THE CORNER (Bulgaria) and TWO LEGGED HORSE (Iran). The EurAsia Competition section included 18 films from Europe and Asia, and the Jury was headed by Dutch film director Jos Stelling.

The Jury of the Tridens Baltic Feature Film Competition, held for the first time this year, awarded the Latvian documentary THREE MEN AND A FISH POND the inaugural Tridens Baltic Film Award. The Jury praised Latvian documentarians Laila Pakalnina and Maris Maskalans for creating a humane poetic and affecting portrayal of the parallel ecologies of human friendship and the natural world. The Award for Best Cinematography also went to the same film, with a cash prize scholarship of 1000 Euros from Elokuvakonepaja.The Scottish Leader Estonian Film Award, which a cash prize of 50.000 Estonian kroons (about $4,000) was given by the Jury to the animated film LIFE WITHOUT GABRIELLA FERRI by Priit and Olga Pärn. The jury announced two Special Mentions, for the Estonian documentaries ALYOSHA (Meelis Muhu) and TOOMIK'S MOVIE (Marko Raat).

The FIPRESCI International Film Critics Prize, which was given this year at the Festival for the first time, presented its inaugural award to the Estonian documentary THE KINGS OF TIME by director Mait Laas. The Jury of NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) gave its award to the Chinese film THE SHAFT by director Zhang Chi. The Jury of the International Federation of Film Clubs (FICC) gave its prize to the Bulgarian film THE WORLD IS BIG AND SALVATION LURKS AROUND THE CORNER by director Stephan Komandarev. The Audience Award, voted on by the Tallinn audiences attending all the Festival screenings, was given to the American film THE WRESTLER by Darren Aronofsky.

The Festival presented two Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first was given by the Estonian Society of Cinematographers to acclaimed Estonian cinematographer Harry Rehe for his unique creative contribution to Estonian film culture and for his promotion efforts of the national film art. The award includes a cash prize of 3000 euros.

The Filmmaker Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to the veteran Swedish actor Max Von Sydow, who appearances in many of the films of Ingmar Bergman and his memorable supporting role in THE EXORCIST has made him an international favorite and a true "actor's actor". Van Sydow could not attend but promised Festival Director Tina Lokk that he will try and attend next year's event. His award will be waiting for him.

07 December, 2008

New VOD Services Introduced At Baltic Event



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

One of the most interesting presentations held at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival's Baltic Event was the introduction of 4 new Video On Demand (VOD) services based in Europe and focusing on the alternative distribution of European cinema. The sessions focused on the profiles of the services, what kind of content they currently feature and plan to add in the coming months and how their business plans work vis a vis independent producers.

Moderated by John Dick of the Media Programme, the panel/presentation covered many interesting aspects of these new services, and how they will impact the distribution chain in general and European independent producers in particular. The first presentation was by Belanski Films, a new and innovative world sales and distribution company focused on internet based and digial media platforms. Livis Abus, Head of Film Partnership and Andrea Di Tonto, Marketing and Communications Strategies, described how they acquire rights for arthouse cinema titles and how they market their over 100 titles (including features, documentaries and short films). Alternating between a classic international sales strategy (selling to individual territory distributors) and providing film packages to VOD platforms and mobile technology outlets, the Hungarian company is straddling both the traditional and the innovative worlds of international film distribution. For more information on the company, visit their website: http://www.belanski.com

UniversCine is a French VOD company launched in 2001 and entirely owned by a consortium of 50 French independent producers and distributors. Bruno Atlan, Manager of Marketing and International Development for the Paris-based firm, described how the company aggregates VOD rights on feature films from internatonal independent film producers, distributors and rights holders with a combination of new releases and library titles in the back catalogue. The company distributes VOD rights to the major VOD distributors and operators in France. In addition, the company serves as an editor/publisher of a VOD platform of its own in the French market, specifically of French films. Supported by the Media Programme, UniversCine is in the process of replicating its VOD services in Belgium, with plans to broaden its umbrella and unique model to build a network of VOD platforms across Europe. For more information on the company, visit their website: http://www.universcine.com

Affiliated with Trust Film, the Danish production and distribution banner founded by filmmaker Lars Von Trier and others, Movieurope is a VOD portal for distribution of European films via the Filmmakers' Independent Digital Distribution (FIDD), a filmmaker based cooperative organization. FIDD is building the infrastructure that allows European producers and distributors to reach wider audiences via digital distribution. FIDD was founded in January 2005 and is currently co-owned by more than 160 leading European filmmakers from 14 EU countries. The company is dedicated to optiming the earning potential of European films by cutting out the middle men and allowing a more diverse group of films to reach audiences via the internet. The company also maintains a television channel in Denmark, further expanding its efforts to reach a larger public. The company works on a revenue sharing model that fairly divides profits to great advantage than current international distribution deals (for which filmmakers receive a much smaller percentage with much higher marketing costs deducated from potential profits). For more information on this initiative, visit their website: http://www.movieurope.com

Finally, Paul Lilje, Content Services Manager for Estonian telecommunications giant Elion, owned by AS Eesti Telekom, explained how VOD services are expanding on the digital television services it provides over 75,000 household in Estonia. In addition, the company own Estonia most popular internet portals, NETI and hot.ee. The company provides both household and business communications services that includes telephony, internet, data communication and digital television. It is expanding its digital television bundled packages to include a mix of VOD services, games and myTV solutions. The VOD service offers more than 800 Estonian and foreign movies, television series, music videos and free of charge conference lectures. For more information, visit their website: http://www.elion.ee

While the current world economic crisis may slow down the timeframes of expanded services, it is clear that these and other initiatives provide a necessary "shot-in-the-arm" for the international independent film community, providing extensive and less costly means to the distribution stream and allowing for audiences to find, share and enjoy a more diverse menu of offerings than is currently available in the theatrical marketplace and at the home video/dvd retail outlet. The potential for European and other international non-Hollywood films is tremendously exciting.

04 December, 2008

Focus On Turkey At Tallinn Film Festival



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is presenting a Focus On Turkey as one of its special highlights. Turkish cinema is as old as cinema itself. Over the years, Turkish cinema has been incredibly well received and diseminated, particularly in the Middle East and Europe, mixed with periods of artistic decline. Since the 1990s, a younger generation of film auteurs have found a receptive critical and audience response around the world, introducing such artists as Dervi Zaim, Bari Pirhasan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Zeki Demirkubuz, Reis Celik, Serdar Akar and others.

Beginning with the film Yol (1984) which won the Palme d'Or in Cannes as well as Golden Globe, Cesar and British Film Critics awards and nominations, the new Turkish cinema was showcased after years of decline. More recently, the film Distant by Nuri Bilge Ceylan was an international arthouse hit and won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. The New Turkish Cinema is ably represented in the Festival's Turkish program. Of the 10 films, four are modern classics from the past two decades, including Yol (1984) by Serif Goren, Somersault In The Coffin (1996) by Dervis Zaim, Innocence (1997) by Zeki Demirkubuz and Hamam (1997) by Ferzan Ozpetek.


The newer titles show a continued vibrancy in films from the former Ottoman Empire. In Pandora's Box by Yesim Ustaogly, contemporary lives in Istanbul are explored through the complicated relationships between two sisters, a brother and their aged mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The film recently won the Golden Seashell as Best Film at the San Sebastian Film Festival, as well as a Silver Shell for Best Actress for its lead Tsilla Chelton. The film will close the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival on Saturday evening.


Other films featured in the section deal with family relations, romantic attachment and ultimate disillusionment. In Bliss, a woman's rape brings on traditional condemnation and a crisis of family honour. The film is adapted from an international best seller by director Abdullah Oguz to illustrate the clash between tribal traditions and modernity in contemporary Turkey. My Marlon And Brando, a Turkish/Netherlands/UK co-production by Huseyin Karabey, tells the story of a Turkish actress who forms a temporary romantic liaison with a Kurdish actor she meets on a movie set. She returns home to her native Istanbul just as the Iraq War begins, which creates a powerful tension as the two lovers send video letters to one another. The film was a major box office hit in its native Turkey, and won Best Actress prizes for its lead Ayca Damgaci at the Istanbul and Jerusalem film festivals.


In the film Autumn, debut director Ozcan Alper offers an existential drama about lost youth and idealism, set in the mountainous area of Turkey's eastern Black Sea region. A young man returns to his native village after ten years of incarceration for his radical political views. He is clearly broken by the experience but ultimately finds a way out of his paralysis when he encounters a younger Georgian prostitute. A film of silence and reverie, Autumn features a star-making performance by actor Onur Saylak, who says much about the human condition through the poignant beauty of his handsome face.

Winner of the FIPRESCI International Film Critics Association Prize at the Istanbul Film Festival, Summer Book by Seyfi Teoman is a film about the bonds and barriers of familial love. an ambitious merchant who is cold and austere towards his family falls into a coma, which releases the love/hate feelings of his immediate family, including his harried wife, wayward teenage sun and his disaffected brother, who attempts to bring the family together. The emotional film has won prizes at the Taormina and Montreal World film festivals.

Probably the best known Turkish director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the Best Director prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival for the psychological thriller Three Monkeys. The film is a kind of introspective melodrama, focused on a family which suffers from a major communication breakdown during their struggle to to get through their hardships. The film has a black comic edge and some pulp-thriller elements that offer a look at the mysteries and self-destructive contradictions of the human heart. The film has been selected as Turkey's official representative for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Turkish cinema is something to sample and savour in Tallinn this year.

02 December, 2008

North American Indies In Tallinn



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The largest showcase to date in Eastern Europe of independent films from the U.S. and Canada is currently being presented at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (www.poff.ee) in the capital city of Tallinn, Estonia. In a program section titled Crazy Cool: North American Independents, the Festival is presenting 10 films, all Eastern European and Baltic premieres.

The films, which made big impressions at previous film festivals from Sundance to Toronto, include: ADORATION (Canada, Atom Egoyan), THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE (Canada, Benoit Pilon), GOOD DICK (US, Marianna Palka), GOODBYE SOLO (US, Ramin Bahrani), FROZEN RIVER (US, Courtney Hunt), HUMBOLDT COUNTY (US, Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs), MOMMA’S MAN (US, Azazel Jacobs), FUGITIVE PIECES (Canada, Jeremy Podeswa), MY WINNIPEG (Canada, Guy Maddin) and WHEN LIFE WAS GOOD (Canada, Terry Miles).

In addition, the Festival will screen several American films in its other program sections, including Woody Allen’s VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA in the 12 Selected Titles section; Kathryn Bigelow’s HURT LOCKER, Tom McCarthy’s THE VISITOR and Kelly Reichardt’s WENDY AND LUCY in the Panorama section; Jonathan Demme’s RACHEL GETTING MARRIED in the Forum section; MANDALA BALA (Jason Kohn) in the Documentary section; THE WRESTLER (Darren Aronofsky) in the Screen International Critics Choice section; PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE by Steven Sebring in the Culture And Music section; BALLAST by Lance Hammer in the BMW Group Presents section; JAY McCAROLL: 11 MINUTES by Michael Selditch and Rob Tate and VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR by Matt Tyrnauer in the Fashion On Film section; the documentaries DARFUR NOW (Ted Braun) and OPERATION HOMECOMING: Writing On The Wartime Experience (Richard E. Robbins) in the Social Issue section; and the low-budget indie thriller BAGHEAD by Mark and Jay Duplass in the Night Films section of “midnight movies”.

North American indie titles were programmed and coordinated by Sandy Mandelberger of International Media Resources, a marketing, promotion and editorial services devoted to the worldwide promotion of independent and international cinema. Mandelberger also serves as the North American Editor for Cineuropa and the Web Editor for the newly launched International Film Guide website: http://www.internationalfilmguide.com

International Film Guide Website Introduced In Tallinn

Yoram Allon, publisher, International Film Guide

As part of the Baltic Event professional sidebar of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, the newly launched website of the International Film Guide was presented yesterday to an assembled group of film industry professionals at the Nordic Hotel Forum, the Festival's main hq. Yoram Allon, the publisher of the International Film Guide and editorial director of Wallflower Press (www.wallflowerpress.co.uk) , the UK's largest independent film book publisher, gave a short presentation, introducing aspects of the 2009 Guide and the recently launched film website.

The International Film Guide, which will publish its 45th edition in January 2009, has an unrivalled reputation as the most authoritative and trusted source of information on contemporary world cinema. The new edition will feature digests of the output of local cinemas in 130 countries, as well as offer news and information from the international film festival circuit and various special feature articles on new trends in technology and distribution. The Guide will first be distributed at the Berlin Film Festival and then at numerous film festivals and trade events in Europe, North America and Asia. It will also be available in retail book shops and via Wallflower Press online (www.wallflowerpress.co.uk).

The publication will name its Five Directors of the Year and will devote a special section to the explosive cinema output of Israel (with the award-winning film WALTZ WITH BASHIR as its cover image). In addition, the 2009 IFG will have a special section devoted to the cinema stories of the nations who joined the European Community in the past five years, including many of the Eastern European and Baltic nations who are present in force at this Festival. The dedicated website www.internationalfilmguide.com will not only reprint the authoritative content of the International Film Guide, but will offer original news from the worlds of international and independent cinema and the film festival circuit.

The site will draw from the more than 80 international contributors around the globe to offer a comprehensive and unduplicated resource for film professionals and film buffs alike. In addition, by mid 2009, the site will have digitized 45 years of data from all the previous International Film Guides since 1963 to provide a searchable database that will be an invaluable resource for filmmakers, distributors, programmers, archivists, academics and film students.

The website, which is hosted by Cineuropa, is open to your suggestions, comments and editorial contributions. Please visit www.internationalfilmguide.com and let us know what you think.

Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Baltic Event Brings Together Media Professionals



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Baltic Event, the co-production and networking professional event that is at the heart of the professional activities at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, began yesterday with an ambitious agenda of film pitches, professional seminars and special events. Now in its seventh year, the Baltic Event initiative is presenting 12 projects in the Co-Production Market section, offering film producers early contacts with distributors, programmers, film critics and other professionals for their projects, which already have some financing in place. The goal is to find co-production partners who can offer financing or distribution in order to realize the projects. The film projects participating in the Co-Production Market section include:

DIG DEEPER (ZK Studio, Poland)
DON'T LOOK BACK (Filmpartners, Hungary
ILLUMINATED NIGHT (Tandem Pictures, Russia)
MONEY FIRST (Eetriüksus, Estonia)
ONE STEP BEHIND THE SERAPHIM (Hifilm, Romania)
PRINCESS (Art Films Production, Finland)
RUNDOWN (Európa Film & Communications, Hungary)
THE ENTHUSIAST (Ego Media, Latvia)
THE EXCURSIONIST (СineMark, Lithuania)
THE TENSION (Film Studio TANKA, Latvia)
YOUNG SOPHIE BELL (Breidablick Film, Sweden)


The Baltic Event also presents a program called Coming Soon, which presents works-in-progress of films that are in production or post-production. This "early look" series allows distributors and film festival programmers to set the films on their radars for when they are completed in the coming months. Projects include:

VASHA (Allfilm, Estonia-Finland-Germany)BURATINO (Estinfilm, Estonia-Russia)
BANK ROBBERY (Filmivabrik, Estonia)
THE TEMPTATION OF ST. TONY (Homeless Bob Production, Estonia-Finland-Sweden)
A WISH TREE (Revolver Film, Estonia)DEATH TO YOU (Fa Filma, Latvia)
LITTLE ROBBERS (F.O.R.M.A., Latvia-Austria)
THREE TO DANCE (Kaupo Filma, Latvia)
THIS HAPPENED TO THEM (Studio Tanka, Latvia)
VORTEX (Studija2, Lithuania)
NEITHER BEFORE OR AFTER (Studio Kinema, Lithuania)
ANARCHY IN ZIRMUNAI (Tremora, Lithuania-Hungary)


The Coming Soon program presents a special focus on films from the Ukraine, including:

AN ORDINARY CASE (Garmata Film)
CASTING (Pattern Film)
ONCE I WILL NOT SLEEP (Ministry of Culture of Ukraine)
THE MELDOY FOR BARREL-ORGAN (Sota Cinema Group)
AN AWESOME TALE (Interfilm Production Studio)


For more information on The Baltic Event projects and events, visit: http://2008.poff.ee/?todo=view_page&lang=2&id=601

EurAsia Competition At Tallinn Black Nights FF



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The main competition program at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, which began last Friday evening with the Eastern European premiere of Mike Leigh's popular Happy Go Lucky, is EurAsia, new films from the European and Asian continents. Estonia sits at a great divide between East and West, and has stood as a way-station between those two nexuses for the past thousand years. The Festival encourages a mutually supportive point of view that sees both the differences and connections between European and middle Asian culture. The Festival is presenting 18 films, most making their Eastern European premieres at the event.

Films competing for the Festival's top prize in the EurAsia Competition include:

ASBE DU-PA / TWO LEGGED HORSE (Iran, Samira Makhmalbaf)
GENOVA (United Kingdom, Michael Winterbottom)
GULABI TALKIES (India, Girish Kasavalli)
L’HEURE D’ETE / SUMMER HOURS (France, Olivier Assayas)
HUNGER (United Kingdom/Ireland, Steve McQueen)
IL DIVO (Italy/France, Paolo Sorrentino)
KOLME VIISASTA MIESTÄ / THREE WISE MEN (Finland, Mika Kaurismäki)
LØNSJ / COLD LUNCH (Norway, Eva Sorhaug)
MAN JEUK / SPARROW (Hong Kong/China, Johnnie To)
MOZART TOWN (South Korea, Jeon Kyu-hwan)
MUHA / MUKHA (Russia, Vladimir Kott)
THE PHOTOGRAPH (Indonesia/France/Netherlands/Switzerland/Sweden, Nan Triveni Achnas)
SHUREITACHI / VERMILION SOULS (Japan, Masaki Iwana)
SNIJEG / SNOW (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany/France/Iran, Aida Begic)
SONBAHAR / AUTUMN (Turkey, Özcan Alper)
THE WORLD IS BIG AND SALVATION LURKS AROUND THE CORNER / SVETAT E GLOJAM SPASENIE DEBNE OTVSJAKADE (Bulgaria/Germany/Hungary/Slovenia, Stephan Komandarev)
WALTZ WITH BASHIR (Israel/France/Germany/USA,Ari Folman)
DIE WELLE / THE WAVE (Germany, Dennis Gänsel)

IDFA Announces Winners In Amsterdam



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

IDFA came to a smashing and glamorous climax last evening at the IDFA Awards Ceremony. Winning the Joris Ivens Competition, the Festival's most prestigious prize, was Burma VJ--Reporting From A Closed Country by Danish director Anders Ostergaard. The film is a gripping chronicle of the 2007 uprising by Burmese monks, which creates a political and religious crisis in a country that is viewed as the most repressive regime on earth. Nearly all the footage in this fascinating and historically significant work was shot by native, covert video journalists, who risked their lives in getting the story out to the rest of the world. A few have since been arrested and are spending time in jail awaiting criminal prosecutions.


The film mixes staged shots with authentic footage and reconstructs telephone coversations, weaving in the dramatizations with the factual set pieces to powerful effect. The filmmakers provide an honest and deliberate portrait of the courage, the struggle and the sacrifice of those who stand up for the rights of the people in a regime that does not tolerate descent of any kind. The film also won the Movies That Matter prize for best social issue documentary. For more information, visit the film's website: www.burmavj.com

The popular favorite and winner of the IDFA Audience Award was RIP! A Remix Manifesto by Canadian Brett Gaylor. The film displays the artistic virtuosity as practiced by such popular remix artists as Girl Talk, who construct contemporary club music by "mashing up" well-known pop tracks and creating a musical sound all its own. The film explores the many legal and copyright-oriented issues involved in re-using popular music and imagery, while defending the first amendment right to comment and react to an existing work of art. The film includes segments with fellow remix artists, along with a lawyer/lobbyist who speaks at industry forums and college campuses about his strong urging of the U.S. government to loosen its grip on strict copyright law to allow for the popular expression of "mash up" reworkings. What is born is a manifesto that takes on the powers that be and reestablishes the right of the common citizen to interact with popular culture that is part of the public domain (although corporate copyright lawyers would disagree with that assessment. Making it clear that downloading of imagery and audio tracks and the disemination of the remixed works over the internet cannot be fully policed, the film invites viewers to engage in the issue of public versus private and an expansion of rights where consumers are no longer passive but are encouraged to actively engage with the media that surrounds them. The film also recently won a Special Jury Prize at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema Montreal. The public is invited to remix the existing film into their own "mash up" by visiting the website: www.opensourcecinema.org

IDFA WINNERS

Joris Ivens Competition
"Burma VJ - Reporting From a Closed Country," (Denmark/Sweden/Norway/UK, Anders Ostergaard)

Silver Wolf Competition
"Boris Ryzhy," (The Netherlands, Aliona van der Horst)

Silver Cub Competition
"Slaves - An Animated Documentary," (Sweden/Norway/Denmark, Hanna Heilbronn and David Aronowitsch)

First Appearance Award
"Constantin and Elena," (Romania/Spain, Andrei Dascalescu)

IDFA Student Award
"Shakespeare and Victor Hugo's Intimacies," (Mexico, Yulene Olaizola)

Dioraphte Audience Award
"RiP - A Remix Manifesto," (Canada, Brett Gaylor)

Movies that Matter Human Rights Award
"Burma VJ - Reporting From a Closed Country," (Denmark/Sweden/Norway/UK, Anders Ostergaard)

DOC U! Award
"Kassim the Dream," (USA/Germany, Kief Davidson)

The Dutch Cultural Broadcasting Fund Award for Documentary 2008
"Monsters Under the Bed," (The Netherlands, Sarah Mathilde Domogala)

27 November, 2008

Austrian Documentarist Nikolaus Geyrhalter At IDFA




by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

IDFA has selected Austrian documentary filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter to present the annual Top Ten program at this year's Festival. As part of the program, Geyrhalter will present a few of his own films and other documentaries that have influenced him.

Among those Geyrhalter films being showcased are Pripyat (1999), which won the Diagonale Grand Prize Award at the Diagonale Film Festival, as well as the SCAM Award at France's Cinema du Reel. His best known film, Our Daily Bread (2005), a look at the international business of food farming, was a major documentary hit, winning nominations as Best Documentary at the European Film Awards and winning the Special Jury Award at IDFA. His latest film, 7915km (2008), about the people who live along the route of the Paris-Dakar rally, is competing in the Joris Ivens Competition here.

Among the films that have influenced Geyrhalter's visual style, the program will screen such landmark films as Good News: von Kolporteuren, toten Hunden und anderen Wienern (1990) by his compatriot Ulrich Seidl, Koyaanisqatsi (1982) by Godfrey Reggio and Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002) by Peter Mettler. The sole fiction film in the group is iconoclastic director Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005). On Sunday, 23 November, Geyrhalter gave a master class in which he discussed his Top 10 and his own work.

Introducing The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival


by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

When I recently told family and friends that I was soon to attend a film festival in Tallinn, Estonia, a queer look came over their faces. This was really testing their geographic skills. Did they known that Estonia was its own kingdom for centuries before being part of the Russian empire. The photos I've seen show a civilization that has been around since the 14th century, with a prosperous port on the Baltic Sea. I don't arrive until Monday but I can tell it will be quite an experience, a real revisiting of early European history. On top of that, I had programmed 15 US and Canadian films for the Festival, introducing myself while also introducing them to this somewhat exotic part of the old Europe.

More impressions and photos later, but first here's today's lesson: the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is celebrating its 12th anniversary starting this Friday. In a little over a decade, the Festival has become the most forward-thinking in Eastern Europe, with a healthy curiosity about films from all over the world. However, to put a special spotlight on emerging filmmaker talents from the region, the Festival sponsors a special competition section.

Along with programs devoted to animation, fashion and films for children and young adults, the Festival explores new trends in filmmaking via its International Panorama section. The section that I programmed, 15 films from the US and Canada, is entitled CRAZY COOL: North American Independents. It is a survey of some of the more celebrated and admired films of the past year, mixing features with documentaries. More on the section in a later article.

To top it all off, the Festival hosts The Baltic Event, a co-production and networking forum where producers, programmers and talent from the region and Eastern Europe have a chance to meet their contemporaries in Western Europe and beyond. I'm very curious to see how this meet-and-greet is organized and what new developments I can hear about coming from the Baltic region.

It will be stimulating and informative, and I will keep my readers informed. Please come back to this blog site during the next 10 days, while we cover one of the intriguing newcomers to the world stage: the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. And by the way, "black nights" refers to the more than 16 hours of dark in these short winter days in Tallinn. Darkness in Tallinn, both outdoors and inside the theaters......festival film noir.




To find out more information, check out the film festival's website: www.poff.ee

12 November, 2008

A Mahon On A Mission



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Don’t let the twinkle in his eyes or the lilt in his Irish accent fool you….. Irish director Mark Mahon is indeed a man on a mission, at least when it comes to his feature film directing debut, the boxing drama STRENGTH AND HONOUR. The film, which screened last weekend to an enthusiastic audience response at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, is a redemptive story about the emotional and professional comeback of a wounded fighter, in many ways a parallel to Mahon’s own dramatic story.

A native of Cork City, Ireland, Mahon started out as a singer/songwriter. At the age of 18, he was accepted into the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art where he trained as an actor of both contemporary works and the classics. At the age of 22, Mark was severely injured in an accident and spent several months in a hospital during a slow and painful recovery. Confined to a wheelchair for over three years, he turned his love of acting to writing film screenplays.

In the past few years, he has not only completed five scripts and one novel, but also set up his production company Maron Pictures with offices in Ireland and Los Angeles. In 2005, his unproduced screenplay FREEDOM WITHIN THE HEART won the Best Unproduced Screenplay Award at the International Action on Film Ceremony in Los Angeles. Even more daunting for a young man left with a permanent disability, he made the bold move this past year of writing, producing and directing the ambitious STRENGTH AND HONOUR, his feature helming debut.


STRENGTH AND HONOUR tells the story of an Irish-American boxer (played with great sensitivity and the right physical dimension by American actor Michael Madsen) who promises he will never fight again when he accidentally kills his friend in the ring while sparring. The film then cuts to seven years later, when he discovers that his only son is dying of the same hereditary heart disorder that claimed the life of his loving wife. Determined to raise the money for the boy’s operation in the only way he knows how, he sets out to train for the bone-crushing, bare-knuckles street fight known as The Pump, against some of the most physically imposing and violence-prone heavies seen on the screen in a long time. Chief among these is Vinnie Jones as the intimidating and near-psychotic “Smasher”, whose nickname aptly describes the man’s violent temperament and no-holds-barred style of fighting.

As important as the boxing match that offers the film its final climatic crescendo is the delicate handling of the Madsen character’s inner pain and the depiction of the hardscrabble lives of the itinerant Irish gypsies known as “travelers” who provide the film with its particular setting and its deep-seated emotional core. Irish actors Patrick Bergin and Gail Fitzpatrick bring a lived-in quality as the male and female leaders of this unique community that prizes loyalty above all else.

What is most impressive about STRENGTH AND HONOUR, is not only Mahon’s sensitive direction of the small-scale scenes between Madsen and his son or among the gypsy “travelers”, but his deft handling of complex crowd panoramas involving dozens of extras. “I worked by storyboarding the entire film so that we could work within our limited budget and yet shoot a sprawling film with many characters and extras”, Mahon shared with me in an interview earlier this week. “I really wanted the film to honor the authenticity of its characters and the environments in which they lived to make their stories feel very real for the audience.”

Mahon approached the Irish Film Fund about financing, but was rejected. "The project was deemed too American because it had an American actor in the lead and also prominently featured American actor Richard Chamberlain in a key supporting role. It was really silly because the rest of the cast is solidly Irish or English and the crew was entirely Irish, we shot on location in Ireland and did our post-production work in Dublin and London. The film is entirely financed with private monies, making it quite unusual for an Irish movie."

STRENGTH AND HONOR was completed in late 2007 and has since blazed a successful trail at North American and international film festivals, winning Best Feature prizes at the Boston, New York Independent and Mount Shasta film festivals, with Madsen picking up Best Actor honors at the Boston Film Festival. Mahon himself has been praised with Best Director prizes and nominations at the International Action On Film Festival and the Irish Film & Television Academy. The film had its international premiere at the Shanghai Film Festival and will also compete at next month’s Cairo Film Festival. Mahon picked up another Best Director honor on Sunday night in Fort Lauderdale. The film has also screened at the Strasbourg and Cambridge Film Festivals in Europe, and has opened theatrically in Ireland via Eclipse Pictures.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far”, Mahon expressed. “People have really responded to the film in ways that I could never even imagine and I feel proud to show what someone who has had his own share of personal challenges can do when given the chance.” For more information on the film and writer/director Mark Mahon, log on to the website: http://www.strengthandhonorthemovie.com/

09 November, 2008

Fort Lauderdale FF Hosts European Cinema



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

As winter spreads its cool tentacles across most of North America, all eyes turn to the sunshine state, Florida, where the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, one of the formidable regional festivals on the scene, concludes its three-week marathon of films, special events and parties this weekend.

The Festival, affectionately known as FLIFF, is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year, as an important Florida cultural resource and also a strong advocate for world cinema. And that is not only a month-long commitment during the Festival. The Fort Lauderdale Film Society is a year-round organization that sponsors film screenings and events, and hosts local premieres of international titles at its flagship Cinema Paradiso. A converted church that is now a temple of independent and international film, the theater showcases prominent European and international titles that would not otherwise come to the theatrical marketplace here.

At this year's Festival, nearly a third of the films are from Europe, hailing from such countries as Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The UK is most represented, with five films in the program, including Mike Leigh's latest HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, director Matt Lipsey's Welsh-set comedy CAUGHT IN THE ACT, the stringent urban satire A DEAL IS A DEAL, the UK/US co-production REZ BOMB by director Steven Lewis Simpson, and the darkly comic short film MEET ME AT DAS FOOD by director David Gibson.


Irish cinema (which has experienced a renaissance of late) is well represented in the program. 32A is an Irish/German co-production by director Martha Quinn with a terrific cast of young teenage girls that was a box office hit in its native Ireland. STRENGTH AND HONOUR by writer/director Mark Mahon is a hard-hitting yet sensitive redemption tale of a washed-up boxer who finds a reason to return to the ring, featuring great performances by American actors Michael Madsen and Richard Chamberlain and European talents Patrick Bergin, Vinnie Jones and Gail Fitzpatrick. SATELLITES AND METEORITES by writer/director Rick Larkin is a quirky love story set in the subconscious imagination of two coma patients.

France is represented by the prize-winning (and possible Oscar-contending) film I'VE LOVED YOU FOR SO LONG (Il Ya Longtemps Que Je T'Aime) by Phillipe Claudel and the Jewish family saga CYCLES (Les Murs Porteurs) by writer/director Cyril Grelblat. A contemporary story about Europe's melting pot, CIAO BELLA by Swedish director Mani Masserat-Aghat,looks at a young Swedish girl of Iranian descent who does not fit into the cliched mold of the blonde virgin. DUNYA AND DESIRE by Dutch director Dana Nechushtan has a similar theme, in a story about two 18 year old girlfriends, one from a Moroccan family and the other as Dutch as cheese and tulips.


Other distinguished European films in the program include the prize-winning O'HORTEN by Norwegian director Bent Hammer; the local box office hit, and biggest budget film to come out of Latvia, the historical epic DEFENDERS OF RIGA by director Aigars Grauba; the absurdist comedy thriller NIGHT BUS by Italian director Davide Marengo; the Russian/Cuban co-production OCEAN by writer/director Mikhail Kosyrev; and the Hungarian family comedy VIRTUALLY A VIRGIN by veteran director Peter Bacso.

With so many of the above films not yet in the traditional theatrical distribution mix, the screenings at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival afford local audiences the rare opportunity to see these films on the big screen. Hopefully their warm embrace by the local FLIFF crowd will add momentum to their distribution chances. Once again, FLIFF uncovers some of this year's most intriguing European talents and gives these worthy films a berth in the difficult American market.

06 November, 2008

Finzi Heads From Locarno To Miami


by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Tiziana Finzi, formerly of the Locarno Film Festival has been appointed the new Director of the Miami International Film Festival. Finzi, a seasoned film professional with more than 20 years of experience in film festival programming and coordination, will assume her new post on December 1.

Finzi served as head of programming for the Locarno Film Festival for the past nine years and deputy director since 2005. During her tenure, Finzi introduced various innovations at the venerable Swiss film event, including the expansion of the sections “Cinéastes du Présent” (Contemporary filmmakers), “Compétition Vidéo” (Video Competition) and “In Progress,” a visual arts collaborative section with some of the preeminent museums and galleries worldwide.

Prior to her tenure at Locarno, the Italian-born Finzi served as a programmer for the Venice Film Festival from 1995 to 1999 and served as head of programming for the Pesaro and Taormina film festivals in 1999. Additionally, she has served as a consultant and curator for several international film festivals and institutions such as Italia Cinema and the Trieste Film Festival, among others.

“I am looking forward to building on the great successes of the first quarter century of the Miami International Film Festival", Finzi commented in a prepared statement. "I am also looking forward to connecting with Miami’s dynamic community.”

The 26th edition of the Miami International Film Festival , preented by Miami-Dade College, will be held March 6-15, 2009. The Festival is renowned as a key platform for the presentation of films from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, as well as premieres from the worlds of International and American Independent cinema. For more information, visit the Festival's website: http://www.miamifilmfestival.com

04 November, 2008

New German Cinema at New York's Museum of Modern Art

Hanami (Doris Dorrie)

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Kino 2008, the Museum of Modern Art’s 29th annual survey of new films from Germany, will bring a selection of contemporary fiction features, documentaries, student works, and animated films—all New York premieres—for one week beginning on November 5. The film series, by both veteran and debut filmmakers, open with Hanami (Cherry Blossoms/Kirchblueten) (2008), a tender, emotionally intense, and profoundly moving story of family by Doris Dorrie, one of Germany’s foremost filmmakers. The series also includes Eye to Eye-All About German Film (2008), a lively and passionate survey of German film history through the eyes and films of key contemporary German filmmakers such as Wim Wenders, Dorrie, and Andreas Dresen, whose new film, Wolke 9 (Cloud 9), explores the sexual relationship between a 65-year-old married woman and her 70-plus-year-old lover. Die Welle (The Wave), directed by Dennis Gansel, is a suspenseful account of one high school teacher's lesson in fascism going horribly awry. Kino 2008 is presented with the support of German Film, the national promotion board and the Goethe Institute New York.

30 October, 2008

European Cinema Hightlights In Hawaii



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

One of the more intriguing showcases for European cinema in the past few weeks was at the Hawaii International Film Festival, which was held October 9 to 19 in the sunny capital city of Honolulu. The Festival's lead sponsor is high end retailer Louis Vuitton, so a taste for European haute couture is definitely part of the event and its festivities.

The European Showcase section of the Festival was a potent grab bag of some of the more impressive European films of the year, including ABSURDISTAN (Germany), director Veit Helmer's inventive and allegorical comedy about a fictional yet very emblematic country in central Europe; THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS (UK), a fictionalized story told through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy shielded from the reality of World War II by director Mark Herman; the German/French co-production CHERRY BLOSSOMS-HANAMI,a poetic story of selfless love by iconic director Dorris Dorrie; THE CHICKEN, THE FISH AND THE KING CRAB (Spain), a virtuso documentary look at the Olympics of haute cuisine, bringing 24 chefs from around the world to compete against one another in Lyon every other year; A CHRISTMAS TALE (Un Conte De Noel), French director Anraud Desplechin's dysfunctional family drama that features an all-star cast including Catherine Deuneuve and Mathieu Almaric; FIGHTER (Denmark), the story of a Turkish immigrant student who is also a passionate kung fu fighter; THREE MONKEYS, award-winning Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's searing psychological drama about the unspoken dynamics in a dysfunctional family; and THE MERMAID (Russia), director Anna Melikyan's modern fairy tale in which age-old myths and
youthful imagination are merged in a surreal urban romance.

The Festival, which is a major showcase of Asian cinema, presented its Maverick Award to the Koran director Kim Jee-woon for his box office smash THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD, while also honoring the film's lead actor Jung Woo-sung with an Acting Achievement Award. The Festival also presented its "Vision In Film" Award to the Shanghai Media and Entertainment Group (SMEG), which among other things, sponsors the prestigious Shanghai International Film Festival.

For more information on the Festival, log on to the Festival website: www.hiff.org

25 October, 2008

Andrzej Wajda Retrospective At New York's Lincoln Center



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

It is not stretching to declare the director Andrzej Wajda is indeed one of Poland's great cultural treasures. Well into his eighties, Wajda remains a current and consistent icon of European cinema. His last film, a meditation on one of the great tragedies of World War II, the massacre of Polish officers by the invading Russians in the film Katyn, was nominated for an Oscar last year. It is one of many international prizes the director has garnered in a career that spans over five decades, including an Honorary Oscar in 2000 for his illustrious career achievements.

For those who have not seen his ground-breaking films or those who want to re-experience them on the big screen, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in association with the Polish Cultural Institute, has mounted a near-complete retrospective of the filmmaker's oeuvre, which is currently on screen at the Walter Reade Theater, the Film Society's flagship cinema at the Lincoln Center cultural complex in New York. The series will tour, thus renewing Wajda's status as an important cultural figure and a prolific filmmaker of over 50 films for the big screen and television.

Andrzej Wajda was born on March 6, 1926, in Suwalki, Poland. He described his childhood as a happy pastoral country life before the Second World War. His father, named Jakub Wajda, was captain in the Polish infantry and died at the Katyn Woods massacre in 1939 (the subject of his Oscar-nominated film Katyn). Wajda survived the Second World War with his mother and his brother in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Following the war, he moved to Krakow, where he studied painting, particularly the impressionist and post-impressionist painting, and was especially fond of Paul Cezanne. This interest in the visual arts translated into an interest in the moving image. In 1950, he moved to the city of Lodz to enroll in its world-famous Film School (which has produced other Polish film auteurs from Kieslowski to Polanski).

In 1955 he made his debut as director of a full-length feature, A Generation, about a generation of youth coming out of age during the Nazi occupation of Poland. This was followed by the two other films in a triology of Polish life during World War II. Kanal (1957), a dramatic recreation of the Warsaw uprising in 1944, won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, bringing international fame to the 30 year old director. This was followed by Ashes And Diamonds (1958), about Polish resistance fighters, which won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize at the Venice Film Festival. In probably his most famous film, Landscape After Battle (1970), Wajda adapts a celebrated novel of an Auschwitz survivor to tell a harrowing story of the liberated prisoners of a Nazi concentration camp.

Wajda was often at odds with the Soviet-dominated Polish authorities who tried to compel him to make jingoistic propoganda films that extolled the Communist paradise of post-war Poland. Wajda, positioned himself as an artist who was above the conflict. He still managed to make the films that he wanted during this repressive period, mainly due to his international status.

His Oscar-nominated The Promised Land (1975), a depiction of early 20th century capitalism in Poland, held criticisms of the meager lives that characterized Poland's citizens during the Communist period by contrast. The shooting of workers in the final scenes was a direct reference to the policies of killing outspoken proletarians that tooks place in both Russia and Poland in the 1960s. In the companion films Man Of Marble (1977) and Man Of Iron (1981), Wajda unmasked the Communist regime's manipulations against the "Solidarity" labor movement of Lech Walesa. Man of Marble won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, which heightened his international prestige but also put him in direct opposition with the Polish government, which considered the film an embarassment to their policies.

Under continued pressure from the Polish authorities, Wajda spent the next decade working in France, producing a number of historical epics, including The Possessed (1988), an adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novel about young Russian revolutionaries and Danton (1985), featuring an Oscar-nominated performance from Gerard Depardieu as the fiery French revolutionary statesman.

Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Poland's move towards democracy, he returned to his native land. From 1989-1991, he served as a Senator for the newly elected republic and then became the leading member of the Presidential Council for Culture. In recent years, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2000 and an honorary Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.

For a complete list of the films to be screened in the Wajda series, log on to the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center: www.filmlinc.com

21 October, 2008

Norwegian Film Wins Top Prize At Hamptons Film Festival

TROUBLED WATER (Norway/Sweden)


by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Hamptons International Film Festival concluded its 5-day marathon run of films, special events and oh-so-fabulous parties with its Gala Awards Ceremony, held today at the United Artists Theaters in the heart of tony East Hampton. Handling hosting duties was writer/comedienne Lizz Winstead. Presenters included Festival Board Chairman Stuart Match Suna, Executive Director Karen Arikian, Director of Programming David Nugent, Board Member Alec Baldwin and members of the Festival juries.

The Golden Starfish Best Narrative Feature, carrying an awards package of over $185,000 of in-kind production services, was presented to TROUBLED WATER (Norway/Sweden) by Norwegian director Erik Poppe. The tense drama is the story of Jan Thomas has served his eight year term for the murder of a young boy, and is released back into society a rehabilitated man. He begins to believe that he has truly left his past behind him – but now another boy is missing, and he is the prime suspect. The film also won the Festival Audience prize. Previously, the director won an Amanda Award, the Norwegian Oscar, for his 2004 film HAWAII, OSLO.

The Zicherman Family Foundation Award For Best Screenwriter, carrying a $5000 cash prize was awarded to Romanian screenwriters Alexandru Baciu, Razvan Radulescu and writer/director Radu Muntean for the film BOOGIE. The film, about a group of aging buddies who try to relive their lost youth, had its premiere in May at the Cannes Film Festival.

Another film from the Balkans region won the Brizzolara Family Award for Films of Conflict and Resolution. The prize, which carries a $5,000 cash prize each, was awarded to Bosnian director Aida Begic for the film SNOW. The film tells the tale of a government delegation that comes to a quiet Bosnian town four years after the war, offering the villagers money for their land, but find that the locals are not willing to abandon their homes and the memories they hold so dear.

The Golden Starfish Documentary Feature Film Award, carrying a cash prize of $5,000, was won by director Megumi Sasaki for the film HERB AND DOROTHY (USA). The film is an affectionate portrait of a working class couple, a librarian and postal worker, who amass one of the most important private art collections in the country. The audience pleaser also won the Festival Audience Prize as Best Documentary.

The Kodak Award For Best Cinematography, worth $6,000 in kind services and product, was nabbed by Israeli cinematographer Ram Shweky for his exemplary work on the film VASERMIL ( Israel). This Israeli drama depicts the lives of disaffected and struggling teenage boys confronting the volatile elements of clashing cultures and generations, when a football coach tlaches the boys some valuable life lessons.

Other awards included: The RoC Gold Standard Award for Female Feature Director, which was presented to Australian director Elissa Down for her film THE BLACK BALLOON; the Heineken Red Star Award, created to provide increased exposure and visibility to an American independent filmmaker, was won by Patrick Read Johnson for his film '77; and the $25,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film Prize in Science and Technology, given to a feature-length film that explores science and technology themes in fresh, innovative ways, which was awarded to American director Marc Abraham for the film FLASH OF GENIUS, a David & Goliath story based on the life of Robert Kearns, who took on the Detroit automakers who he claims stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper.

One can only hope that some of these strong films that have not yet found distribution in North America will have their careers buoyed by winning prizes at one of the best run regional film festivals on the circuit. Hats off to you, Hamptons!!

17 October, 2008

Hamptons Film Festival Partners With European Film Promotion



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Hamptons International Film Festival and OK! Magazine will continue the popular Rising Stars Showcase, welcoming three North American actors to highlight their talents and films at the 2008 Festival. This year the Festival is expanding this program for the first time to officially include three actors from the Shooting Stars program, an initiative of European Film Promotion (EFP).

Entering its 12th year, Shooting Stars, which debuts each year at the Berlin International Film Festival, showcases young actors who are well known in their native countries, and on the way to international recognition. The actors are selected by a jury of industry professionals, and represent the best up-and-coming talent from the 28 member countries of EFP. For the first time, EFP will bring the program to the US , introducing three young European actors at the 2008 Hamptons International Film Festival.

“Through the Shooting Stars initiative we have seen many talented young actors emerge and move into very successful careers in film,” says Renate Rose, Managing Director of European Film Promotion. “Our aim in this new venture is to actively incude the actors in the marketing of their films, and at the same time, to help them make the jump from national to international recognition. ”

The three European actors being welcomed in the Hamptons include:

Hannah Herzsprung (Germany, Werther) made her feature film acting debut in the 2007 Hamptons International Film Festival Audience Award winner Four Minutes (Vier Minuten) directed by Chris Kraus. Herzsprung earned the 2007Bavarian Film Award for "Best Young Actress" for her role in Four Minutes, as well as the Bunte readership's "New Faces Award".


Anamaria Marinca (Romania, Boogie) first came to public attention in 2005 when she won the “Best Actress” BAFTA for her performance in the British Channel 4 TV mini-series Sex Traffic by David Yates. She next appeared in Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d'Or-winning drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days, which was her feature film acting debut. Her performance earned her a “Best Actress” nomination during the 20th European Film Awards in Berlin and the “Best Actress” prize at the Stockholm International Film Festival. She can also be seen in The Aviatrix directed by Ineke Smits and Hans Christian Schmid’s Storm.


Maryam Hassouni (The Netherlands, Dunya & Desie) starred in the award winning original series Dunya & Desie. In 2005, Maryam received and Emmy Award for “Best Actress” in Sacrifices. Other works include Shouf Shouf! and Albert ter Heerdt's Kicks. Maryam reprises her role as Dunya in Dana Nechushtan's theatrical film Dunya & Desie which will have its premiere at the Festival and which is this year's Oscar submission from Holland .

All participating actors will be part of an intimate mentoring brunch this afternoon, led by Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand.

15 October, 2008

Valentino Documentary To Open Hamptons Film Festival



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

As one festival closes, another one begins…..such is the film season in New York. The venerable New York Film Festival ended this past Sunday, after an impressive array of film talents presented their films on the glorious screen of the Ziegfield Theater, the city’s largest single-screen establishment (a vestige of cinema’s past glory). After taking a breath for only two solitary days, the cinema action begins anew, this time about 100 miles to the east of the great metropolis, in the idyllic setting of the Hamptons.

Th Hamptons International Film Festival, celebrating its 16th anniversary, has become a destination event for a wide array of film talents, industry attendees and local audiences with a penchant for independent and international cinema. The Festival, which this year will present 122 films, including 14 World Premieres and 23 North American Premieres, runs through this Sunday, October 19. The main event is centered in the upscale beach resort of East Hampton, with additional venues in the storied towns Southampton, Sag Harbor and Montauk.

The Festival was founded to celebrate independent film and to introduce a unique and varied spectrum of international films and filmmakers for its local and visiting audiences. “The process of compiling the slate of films for the 2008 Festival was truly a process of discovery,” says David Nugent, Director of Programming. “The cross-section of films we are seeing this year represent unique and often unheard voices in film. From films made in China, Iran and Denmark, to those made right here in Montauk and East Hampton, I'm excited to be presenting our audiences global perspectives and local voices.”

This year’s event is the first under the helm of Karen Arikian, who came on board last Spring after 3 years as the Co-Market Director of the European Film Market (Berlin). Arikian brings a trans-continental approach to the event, drawing on her many contacts and affiliations over the years. “Our aim this year was to begin to develop long-term partnerships - both here and abroad - in order to solidify the foundation of our festival and to broaden its reach and appeal,” Arikian commented. “I think, with this diverse program, and the many international guests we are expecting, we have achieved this goal.”

The Festivities begin this evening with the U.S. Premiere of Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary by Matt Tyrnaner that chronicles the final days of the fashion designer’s 45-year reign at the helm of his own fashion dynasty. The film was produced by Acolyte Films and is being sold internationally by French uber-agent Celluloid Dreams. The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and generated strong buzz at its screening at the Toronto Film Festival last month.

"I know what women want…..they want to look beautiful", says the perpetually tanned Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani near the beginning of this intimate portrait. Valentino has built an almost fifty-year career on this maxim, forging a global brand out of the refined art of haute couture. Tyrnauer, a journalist for Vanity Fair, set out to chronicle the twighlight years of an old-fashioned stylist who succumbs to the pressure of a globalized economy (a place where there is hardly any room for personal craft or expression). What emerges however is an intimate portrait of a supreme diva, but also an understated love story that charts the 45-year personal and professional relationship with the level-headed Giancarlo Giammetti.

The documentary begins with the Paris pret-a-porter show in February 2007 that turned out to be Valentino's last. The film takes us into the fashion mogul’s Rome-based atelier, where we are reminded that beyond the dazzle and the glamour of the fashion runway, there are a team of hard-working, no-nonsense dressmakers and seamstresses. Fashion at this level is in fact a hand-crafted art, with all the detail and temperament that it implies.

The film revels in unexpected moments of surrealistic comedy, including scenes involving Valentino’s ridiculously pampered dogs, who defecate during photo shoots, have their teeth cleaned by hand, and take up the hostess seat on the designer's private jet. Other priceless moments of high comedy come when Giammetti and Valentino bicker about each other's excess fat, or when Giammetti tells the near-orange couturier that he is perhaps "a little too tanned". Celebrity friends like Gwyneth Paltrow, Elton John and a gaggle of minor Euro-royals provide background color, contributing to a circus-like atmosphere that jet sets from Rome to Paris to New York to Venice.

For those infatuated with the glamour of it all or outsiders who may be intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes at fashion show extravaganzas, the film points out that the glory is bolstered by lots of hard work, agonizing indecision and an agonizing tension that what one dreams is not exactly what one sees in the end. That makes Valentino as much of an artist as any painter or sculptor, and his moody nature belies the pleasures of a life lived at the top of the fashion heap.

13 October, 2008

Film In Focus: TULPAN



by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Despite its simple story and subtle cinematic form, I cannot get the images of the film Tulpan out of my head. Perhaps because the film takes one to a truly exotic location (the vast emptiness of the Hunger Steppe plain in southern Kazakhstan) and brings you up-close-and-personal with the toughened people who inhabit that truly forlorn environment, that it has made an impression that is light years away from a National Geographic special (although its visuals are comparably beautiful). The film made its U.S. Premiere at the New York Film Festival this past week.

Celebrated Kazakh documentarian Sergey Dvortsevoy won the Prix Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival for this, his first dramatic feature — an astonishing ethnographic drama-cum-wildlife movie. The story circles around a young nomad named Asa who, upon completion of his military service, returns home to his brother-in-law’s yurt with hopes of becoming a shepherd. He also wants to find a wife, any wife, but the pickings are slim on the steppe. So, he must find a way to win the affection of his beautiful neighbor Tulpan, a young woman he has never even seen.

The film brings its natural environment to vivid life. There are long scenes of dust storms, tornados and lighting storms….a natural parallel to the longings and emotional upheaval of its protagonists. In this sense, Dvortsevoy is an heir to that pioneering faux-documentarian Robert Flaherty, who also mixed strict documentary stylings with staged scenes to increase the dramatic effect.

In the film’s most remarkable scene, Asa helps a sheep give birth, then gives the newborn mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This comes after his beloved Tulpan has left the scene, with either a different marriage prospect or the possibility of a new life in a different part of the world. That Asa finds his own place in his unkind universe by understanding that his future is linked to his past and that being a shepherd with a regard for all life is about the highest aspiration he can imagine. That, in the end, may be the most exotic element of this beautiful and touching film.

The film is a co-production of Pandora Films (France) and Pallas Films (Germany), with international sales activity by the Match Factory (Germany).

07 October, 2008

Strong European Presence At New York Film Festival


Hunger (Steve McQueen, UK)

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The New York Film Festival, which is celebrating its 46th anniversary this week, has long been a supporter of European cinema. Over the decades, it has showcased and many times cemented the reputations in the United States of such iconic filmmakers as Michaelangelo Antonioni, Jean Luc Godard, John Schlesinger, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pedro Almodovar, Ingmar Bergman, Roman Polanski and many others.

That tradition continues this year, with almost half of the Festival's films being entirely European in origin or part of a co-production pudding with European film resources. New Yorkers are avid Europhiles, so the marriage is a good and lasting one.

French cinema, as has already been reported in this blog, is always an audience favorite, with the Festival showing four French films and various co-production efforts. A Christmas Tale by Arnaud Desplechin brings together some of France's most celebrated actors (Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Almaric, Melvil Poupaud and Chiara Mastroianni) in an acerbic portrait of modern family life. Family tensions and rivalries are also at the core of Summer Hours (L'Heure d'Ete) by director Olivier Assayas, which features a sparkling cast led by Juliette Binoche. Let It Rain (Parlez-moi de la pluie) is the latest film from urbane social satirist Agnes Jaoui, exploring the realms of class, power and sexual politics in a seemingly simple story of a feminist novelist who returns to her small country town. Daniel Leconte, the French investigative journalist and satirist, chronicles the messy legal trial surrounding cartoons published in the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo that lampooned Muslim fundamentalism, in what has to be the Festival's most unusual title, It's Hard Being Loved By Jerks (C'est dur d'etre aime pare les cons).

Italian cinema is having a mini-renaissance and one of its more controversial films was screened this past week. Gomorrah, directed by Matteo Garrone, is a stylistic and brutal depiction of the influence of the Mafia in a tapestry of five personal stories. The film is graphic in its violence but its visual artistry also leans to the poetic. The same can be said for Hunger, by UK video artist Steve McQueen. The winner of the Cannes Camera d'Or, the film is a brutal neo-realist portrayal of the final days of Bobby Sands, an IRA revolutionary who starved himself to death while being incarcerated in a British prison. Michael Fassbender, a German-born but Irish-raised actor, gives a haunting and physically demanding performance as he literally becomes skeletal in pursuit of justice for his compatriots and his cause.

Although it has an American director (Steven Soderbergh) and a South American protagonist (Che Guevera), the film Che, a 4 1/2 hour biopic of the famed revolutionary that premiered at Cannes this year, is indeed a French/Spanish co-production. The film, which features an extraordinary performance by Benicio del Toro that will surely be remembered at awards season, faces major challenges because of its length and attention to detail. However, it is certainly destined to be one of the most talked about films of the season.

Other European films premiering at the Festival include Bullet In The Head (Spain/France), an intensely claustrophobic film about modern surveillance that is also a superb mystery by director Jaime Rosales; Chouga (France/Kazakhstan), a modern day version of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina by Kazakh director Darezhan Omirbaev; Four Nights With Anna, an existential thriller by Polish director and NYFF favorite Jerzy Skolimowski; Happy Go Lucky, the breezy yet profound new meditation on life and love by UK director Mike Leigh; Northern Land, Portugese director Jao Botelho's adaptation of a prize winning novel that interlocks stories that cross centuries, classes and lifestyles; and Tulpan (Germany/Kazahhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzerland), a beautifully rendered story of love and desire set on the empty fields of the Kazakhstan Hunger Steppe.

With their various genres, subjects and visual stylings, one thing is abundantly clear. European cinema remains an intriguing counterpoint to Hollywood and the source for much pleasure and inspiration for audiences willing to take their particular journeys.