29 July, 2008

Toronto Talent Lab To Return To Film Festival

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival announced today a lineup of esteemed governors and 22 filmmaker participants who will be taking part in this year's Talent Lab. Now in its fifth year, Canadian Initiatives' Talent Lab offers invaluable artistic development opportunities to emerging filmmakers in a four-day intensive programme. This year's governors include celebrated French director Olivier Assayas (Chacun Son Cinema, Paris, je t'aime, Clean) and internationally acclaimed British producer Stephen Woolley (Breakfast on Pluto, The Crying Game).

"Our fifth-annual Talent Lab is delighted to open its doors to an outstanding group of talented emerging filmmakers," said Karen Black, Acting Director, Canadian Initiatives. "The programme provides an invaluable opportunity for participants to interact with and learn from internationally acclaimed filmmakers and artists."

Talent Lab is an artistic development initiative that provides emerging filmmakers with the opportunity to build networks in a creative environment and to learn from some of the most esteemed filmmakers and artists in the world during the Toronto International Film Festival. Twenty two producers, writers and directors from across Canada will participater in the program, learning the ins and outs of both the creative and business side of film from two of Europe's most respected film auteurs.

The 2008 Talent Lab initiative is facilitated by Strada Films producers Sandra Cunningham and Brad Fox. Strada Films has produced works by some of Canada 's most notable directors, and is currently in production on the feature music documentary 27. Talent Lab filmmakers are provided with video-capture mobile phones by Motorola in order to experiment with mobile movie filmmaking first hand. Talent Lab participants receive support through the RBC Emerging Artist Bursary programme.

26 July, 2008

French Crime Wave Hits Manhattan

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

With temperatures hitting record high levels on the steamy streets of New York, the timing could not be better to escape the blazing sunshine and enter the black and white world of classic French film noir. The heat that comes off the screen is from the repertory series coming to the Film Forum, New York's most adventurous arthouse cinema complex, in the form of THE FRENCH CRIME WAVE,a five-week, thirty-eight film festival of Gallic Noir and thrillers, spanning over six decades. The treachery a la francaise begins next Friday, August 8 and runs through September 11.

The French not only coined the term Film Noir (a play on Série Noire, a popular line of pulp crime novels) to define a certain kind of Hollywood thriller, but also had their own Golden Age of Noir and a tradition of crime movies that continues to this day. THE FRENCH CRIME WAVE includes classics and rarities by such masters of the genre as Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob Le Flambeur, Le Cercle Rouge, Un Flic, Le Doulos), Jacques Becker (Touchez pas au Grisbi, Casque d’or, Goupi Mains Rouge), Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique, Quai des Orfèvres, Wages of Fear), Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face), Jacques Deray (La Piscine, Borsalino), René Clément (Purple Noon), Louis Malle (Elevator to the Gallows, The Thief of Paris), Claude Chabrol (La Cérémonie), Robert Bresson (Pickpocket, A Man Escaped), and François Truffaut (Mississippi Mermaid).

Among the many stars showcased are the five French tough guys (hommes durs) of the genre, including Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, Yves Montand, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Alain Delon. The femme fatales who work their deadly charms in the series include such dynamic dames as Simone Signoret, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, and Brigitte Bardot.

THE FRENCH CRIME WAVE kicks off with perhaps the most famous and popular French Noir of them all: the seminal 1955 heist film Rififi, directed by the late Jules Dassin. The American-born director came to Europe in the early 1950s, a victim of the Hollywood blacklist. For his first European film, he turned a potboiler by milieu specialist Auguste le Breton into an existential thriller that earned him the Best Director prize at Cannes. Rififi is especially legendary for its thirty-minute heist sequence, without dialogue or music, and details so specific that the picture was banned in some countries for fear of copycat robberies.

Among the many rarities in the festival are Clouzot’s La Vérité, starring Brigitte Bardot as a hedonistic bourgeoisie on trial for murder; Jacques Deray’s The Sicilian Clan, starring three of the most iconic hommes durs — Jean Gabin, Alain Delon, and Lino Ventura — as a family of jewel robbers; Yves Allégret’s Riptide, in which murderer Gérard Philipe returns to his childhood home; Alain Corneau's Série Noire, a twisted pulp masterwork that puts a Parisian twist on the Hollywood noir classic Double Indemnity; the darkly comical Les Tontons Flingueurs, starring Lino Ventura as an ex-gangster pulled back into the business; André Cayatte’s We Are All Murderers, in which a former Resistance fighter finds he can’t stop killing; and Jacques Becker’s Goupi Mains Rouges, with rustic murder at a country inn.

The festival will conclude with a one-week run of Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, based on a story by American pulp novelist David Goodis. For more information on the series and other events at the Film Forum, log on to:

23 July, 2008

Mixing Dance And Film: The Career of Dominique Delouche

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York will host the first American retrospective of French dance film master Dominique Delouche. The program, Dominique Delouche: Ballet Cineaste, opens tomorrow evening at the Walter Reade Theater, the Film Society's flagship cinema. The five day series will present the outstanding works of a film master who deserves wider recognition in the United States. The acclaimed director will be present to introduce the films from his unique career.

Trained as a young man in piano, theater, classical singing, architecture and painting, Delouche entered filmmaking in the early 1950s when he met Federico Fellini at the Venice Film Festival. He went on to assist the maestro on Il Bidone (The Swindle), Nights of Cabiria, and La Dolce Vita, before directing a trio of narrative features: 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman (1969); Man of Desire (1971); and Divine (1975). Yet his primary interests as a filmmaker were always opera and dance.

Starting in the 1980s, Delouche created seven feature-length dance portraits that has since become his forte and his unique artistic contribution to the worlds of both film and dance. The series includes such esteemed portrait films as Katia et Volodia (1988) and Les Cahiers retrouvés de Nina Vyroubova (1995), both of which capture the rare beauty of some of ballet’s most celebrated talents.

Other films to be showcased over the next five days include: Cannes Film Festival selection Yvette Chauviré: Une étoile pour l’exemple (1981); Serge Peretti, le dernier italien (1997); Maïa (1999); Markova, la legende (2001); and Violette et Mr. B (2001). The unifying theme in all these films are a rare behind-the-scenes look at the difficult but rewarding world of ballet, as recorded in coaching sessions and first-person interviews.

One of the highlights of the series is the rare screening of La Fille mal gardée (1989), a unique look at a performance of the 18th-century ballet classic by the Ballets de Nantes, choreographed by Ivo Cramér . Delouche co-directed the performance and created its sets and costumes.

As an added bonus, the series also highlights Delouche’s early career, showcasing his work as assistant director to Federico Fellini with a screening of Nights of Cabiria (1957). Delouche’s first feature, 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman (1968), starring Danielle Darrieux, will also be screened.

The dance film program has been timed to parallel the Lincoln Center Festival, a multi-media performance series that includes live music, theater, opera and dance. For more information on the series, log on to the Film Society's website:

18 July, 2008

Cannes Palme d'Or Winner To Open New York Film Festival

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The winner of this year’s Cannes Film Festival’s most prestigious award, the Palme d’Or, will open the 46th edition of the New York Film Festival (NYFF), one of the most important film showcases in North America.

The Class (Entres Les Murs), a gritty but very human story of the dysfunctional French education system, won the top prize at Cannes for its director Laurent Cantet. Three of Cantet's four features have played in programs at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which presents NYFF, including Human Resources at the 2000 New Directors/New Films series, Time Out at the 2001 New York Film Festival and Heading South at the annual Rendez-vous with French Cinema program at the Walter Reade Theater, the Society’s flagship cinema.

The Class is the fourth Palme d'Or film to open the fest, following Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000), Mike Leigh’s Secrets And Lies (1996) and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994). The film, about high school teachers and students at an interracial inner city school, marked the first time that a French film had taken the Palme d’Or honor since 1987’s Under The Sun of Satan.

Arthouse powerhouse Sony Pictures Classics, a “classics division” of Sony Pictures, picked up the rights to the film after Cannes. The Class has been praised for its neo-documentary feel and the intensity of the acting and script. Although it snagged Cannes’ top honor, the film was not immediately picked up at the Festival, but took many weeks for a deal to be secured with Sony Pictures Classics (at far less than the Cannes asking price). “The film is great and deserves to be seen”, one veteran American distributor shared with me. “But it is a tough film to market to an audience…..the key will be how to interest American audiences in a tough film that is not a classic French love story.”

The New York Film Festival has also announced two special showcases to run parallel to the main programming event. In The Realm of Nashima will feature an exhaustive survey of the work of one of Japan’s most controversial directors. Views from the Avant Garde, an ambitious program that checks the pulse of contemporary video and media arts, will offer a 30th anniversary presentation of French director Guy Debord's underground classic We Spin Around the Night Consumed by the Fire. The New York Film Festival opens on September 26and runs until October 12. For more information on the Festival and other Film Society programs, log on to their website.

16 July, 2008

Norwegian Film To Open In North America

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

With the market for non-English feature films becoming especially treacherous in North America, an exciting new film from a bonafide European auteur is cause for celebration. Sony Pictures Classics, the successful specialty division of Sony Pictures, has signed a deal securing North American rights to O’Horten, the fifth feature by leading Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer. Hamer is best known in America for his filmed adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s Factotum starring Matt Dillon, and for his highly praised Kitchen Stories, Norway’s 2003 Academy Award entry as Best Foreign Language Film.

O’Horten is a bittersweet tale of train engineer Odd Horten, retiring after 40 years of traveling a very stable rail and now, uneasily, having to adapt to his new life as a pensioner. The film follows Horten through absurd adventures and quirky encounters – bringing much appreciated humor to a subject often treated as tragic. The film is co-produced by Norway’s Bulbul Films and Pandora Filmproduktion of Germany.

The film made its international premiere in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and will have its North American premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was presented to great acclaim last week at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. O’Horten is nominated for seven Amanda Awards (the Norwegian Oscars), which will be announced late next month.

“We are excited to be working on O’Horten and with Bent Hamer, a filmmaker we have long watched and have been eager to forge a relationship with,” Sony Pictures Classics’ co-chiefs Michael Barker and Tom Bernard said in a prepared statement. “Bent has a wonderfully skewed view of the human condition and O’Horten gives us that somewhat absurdist vision with great warmth, a little melancholy and universal understanding.” Sony Pictures Classics is a major distributor for European film titles, with such recent successes as Brick Lane (UK), Persepolis (France), The Counterfeiters (Austria), The Lives Of Others (Germany) and Volver (Spain). The company expects to release O’Horten in early 2009.

11 July, 2008

Finding Slovenian Cinema On The International Film Map

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

What most American do not know about the country of Slovenia could easily fill the mileage that separates the two countries. Well, with the idea that film can be an informative and illuminating guide to other cultures, New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Slovenian Film Fund will be presenting a program of classic and contemporary Slovenian films from July 16 to 22. So ladies and gents, it’s time to brush up on your Slovene savvy.

Let’s start with some basics: Slovenia, officially the Republic of Slovenia is a country in southern Central Europe bordering Italy to the west, the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north. The capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana. At various points in Slovenia's history, the country has been part of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia following World War I and the Socialist Republic of Slovenia after 1945, before gaining full independence in 1991. Slovenia is the only former communist state to be at the same time a member of the European Union, the Eurozone, the Council of Europe and NATO. Through its long and often troubled history, the Slovene people have retained their own distinct cultural identity.

In terms of film, Slovene cinema has a more than century-long tradition with such notable historical film auteurs as Karol Grossmann, Janko Ravnik, Ferdo Delak, France Štiglic, Mirko Grobler, Igor Pretnar, France Kosmač, Jože Pogačnik, Matjaž Klopčič, Jane Kavčič, Jože Gale, Boštjan Hladnik and Karpo Godina. In the past decade and a half, since becoming its one sovereign nation, there has been a generation of film artists who have been referred to as the “renaissance of Slovenian cinema”, including such contemporary film directors Janez Burger, Jan Cvitkovič, Damjan Kozole, Janez Lapajne and Maja Weiss. In all, there have been over 150 Slovene feature films, plus a few hundred documentaries and short films, currently producing between four and six feature films each year.

Film genres have been a mix of domestic comedies, social realist dramas and poetic meditations. As with many films produced in the post World War II era, Slovenian films were often more warmly embraced outside the country than inside it. A case in point is the 1957 film Valley of Peace, for which African-American John Kitzmiller received the Best Actor prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival. The same new openness that characterized films from Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the 1960s were evidenced in Slovenia as well, with such international hits as Dance in the Rain and Paper Planes. The post-Communist period was rocky, but the creation of the Slovenian Film Fund in 1994 has been essential in fostering new talents and promoting Slovenian cinema internationally at film festivals, film markets and other events.

Bringing the Slovene sensibility to New York film audiences, At the Crossroads: Slovenian Cinema will showcase more than a dozen classic and contemporary films that chart Slovenian cinema’s continued evolution as a distinct member of the world cinema club. Screenings will be held at the Walter Reade Theater, the flagship for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, with director Marko Nabersnik and author/film scholar Joseph Valencic on hand to introduce screenings throughout the series.

Classic films to savor in the series include: Dance In The Rain (1961, Bostjan Hladnik), a modernist classic about a painter who looks back at his thwarted personal and artistic choices; Paper Planes (1967, Matjaz Klopcic), one of the films that defined the 1960s aesthetic of quietly observed characters and modern sexual relationships between a photographer and a ballet dancer; Raft of the Medusa (1980, Karpo Godina), a surrealistic-tinged debut by cinematographer Godina about two young school teachers who encounter an avant-garde troupe of artists; Valley of Peace (1956, France Stiglic), a World War II-set film about a downed American flyer who is rescued by a group of Slovenian children, which won African-American actor John Kitzmiller a Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival; and Vesna (1953, Frantisek Cap), a gentle college comedy that remains one of the best loved of all Slovenian film.

More contemporary Slovenian cinema ripe for discovery include: Beneath Her Window (2003, Metod Pevec), an offbeat romantic comedy about a dance instructor who becomes involved with a married man; Guardian of the Frontier (2002, Maja Weiss), a feminist tale about a trio of student on summer break that screened at the 2003 New Directors/New Films series; Idle Running (1999, Janez Burger), a quirky low-budget tale of a slacker student and his friends and romances, which screened at New Directors/New Films in 2000; Outsider (1996, Andrej Kosak), the local box office hit about a young man’s growing involvement with a local contingent of punk rockers; Rooster’s Breakfast (2007, Marko Nabersnik), a contemporary box office hit that skillfully mixes coming-of-age, thriller and musical genres; Spare Parts (2003, Damjan Kozole), a searing look at the human trafficking between the new and old Europe; Sweet Dreams (2001, Saso Podgorsek), an adaptation of a popular local bestseller about a young boy’s cultural clash with modernity in 1970s Yugoslavia; and When I Close My Eyes (1993, Franci Slak), a unsettling psychological thriller of family secrets and betrayal that develops into a devastating portrait of a society ruled by suspicion and power games.

For more information on the films in the series, log on to the Film Society’s website: Once you have experienced the rare screenings of these films from a culture so far and yet so close, you will be able to find Slovenia on the international film map……

10 July, 2008

First Look At The 2008 Toronto Film Festival

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Although it does not start for almost two more months, the first press releases from the Toronto International Film Festival ( are already stirring up anticipation for what has become one of the top film festival events in the world. Overlapping with the closing days of the Venice Film Festival and immediately following the boutique Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, the Canadian juggernaut is viewed by many industry insiders as the official start of the fall film season and the first chapter in what has become an extended “awards season”.

The independent and international film industries, which have been battered these past few months with downbeat economic realities and troubling closures of several major American and European distribution companies, are looking to Toronto to provide a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy forecast. Whether Toronto can provide that shot of adrenaline that the industry desperately needs is still unclear, but the first announcements of films to screen at the prestigious showcase are already generating considerable industry buzz and speculation.

Two highly anticipated European films were announced a few days ago in the first of several programming announcements that will be sequentially released over the next month. Good, a UK/German co-production by Brazilian director Vicente Amorim, will have its world premiere at the event. Viggo Mortensen stars as John Halder, a literature professor in the 1930s who writes a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. His interest in “mercy killing” is quite personal….he has a neurotic wife, two demanding children and a mother suffering from senile dementia. When the book is unexpectedly enlisted by powerful political figures in support of government propaganda, Halder encounters a troubling moral dilemma with personal consequences. The film, director Amorim’s follow up to his 2003 The Middle Of The World, also stars Jason Isaacs, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Strong and Gemma Jones. It was produced by London-based production company Good Films and German shingle Miromar Entertainment. For more information and to view a trailer, visit the film’s official website.

Toronto serves as the North American festival premiere for the celebrated Italian film Il Divo directed by Paolo Sorrentino. The Italian/French co-production won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film is a biopic of the controversial Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, who was elected to the office seven times over a 40 year political career. In many ways, he held the fate of Italy in his hands for over half a century until the disconcerting accusations of involvement with the Mafia caused his political downfall. The film has been praised as an insightful, intensely political film that delves into the hidden character of one of the most powerful figures in the history of Italian politics. The film was produced by Rome-based Indigo Films in collaboration with Studio Canal and Arte France Cinéma. The project received subsidy support from Il Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Eurimages and the Film Commission Torino-Piemonte. For more information and to view a trailer of the film, visit the official film website.

Other films already announced for the event include: Disgrace, an Australian/South African drama directed by Steve Jacobs and starring John Malkovich; Miracle at St. Anna, a world premiere presentation by iconic American director Spike Lee; Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, an American indie film set in New York’s rock-n-roll scene directed by Peter Sollett; and the Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker by American director Kathryn Biglelow, with an all-star cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse, Jeremy Renner and Christian Camargo.

The Festival previously announced that it will open with the World Premiere of Passchendaele, written, directed and produced by celebrated Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross. The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4 to 13, 2008.

01 July, 2008

Cannes Directors Fortnight Celebration In New York

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

With the American economy in the crapper and the dollar at near record lows, a trip to the Cannes Film Festival has become an inexpensive indulgence, even for the media professionals who “must” be there. For the general public, who may be curious about who goes on along the famed shores of the Riviera, the difficulty of being part of the Cannes action is doubly difficult. Well, for the past month, Cannes has been made affordable and surprisingly accessible, with the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Directors’ Fortnight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinématek.

The “Quinzaine des Realisateurs” as it is known in France, emerged in the volatile year of 1968, when student, worker and film activists actually closed down the Festival, as part of the general uprising known as the “May events”. The Festival, which had been the very definition of elitism, needed a good pummeling, and one of the results of its trauma was the creation of a section at the event that would be shielded from the commercial pressure and paparazzi insanity and concentrate strictly on the auteur and his/her oeuvre (which the French still romantically call the “seventh art”). The Directors’ Fortnight became a haven for art appreciation, administered by the French directors’ guild and building a reputation for artistic integrity and independence.

For the past month, as New York suffers through its hottest June in half a century, the Brooklyn Academy of Music has offered (air conditioned) refuge with a survey of some of the extraordinary international films that had their first unveilings in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival. The Directors’ Fortnight at 40 was mounted in collaboration with La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, Unifrance, the French Cultural Services, and co-presented with FIAF (French Institute Alliance Française). This series combined past and current international selections from the 40-year history of the prestigious showcase.

The series opened on June 13 with a week-long run of Jacques Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau) (1974), starring Juliet Berto, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, and Dominique Labourier, in a recently stuck print courtesy of BFI. Following that rare week-long run, the series kicked off in earnest with a “who’s who” of international cinema superstars. First off, was German iconoclast Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was represented by his most accessible and intriguing film, Fox and His Friends (Faustrecht der Freiheit) (1975). Next on were a pair of black-and-white films about the post-punk British music scene, Radio On by Christopher Petit (1979 and featuring Sting in his first role) and, one of this year’s arthouse hits, Control by Anton Corbijn, a wildly inventive biopic of Ian Curtis, the doomed lead singer of Joy Division.

A rare film in the series was Adhen (Dernier Maquis), the U.S. premiere of Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche’s latest work. The Algerian-born French filmmaker is the writer-director of such well-recognized films as Bled Number One (2006), winner of the Award of Youth at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as Wesh Wesh, qu’est ce qui se passe? (2001), winner of the Wolfgang Staudte Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Adhen, an Algerian-French co-production, set in contemporary France is about a Muslim entrepreneur who decides to open a mosque at his garage, but picks an imam that creates major controversy. Directors’ Fortnight Artistic Director Olivier Père and the director Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche were present at the screening.

Other key European films in the program included Morvern Callar (2002) the second feature film by Lynne Ramsay, starring Samantha Morton; La France (2007), by critic-turned-director Serge Bozon, which stars Pascal Greggory and Sylvie Testud; Before I Forget (Avant que j’oublie) (2007), in which the director Jacques Noulot plays an HIV-positive ex-hustler; Change of Address (Changement d’adresse, 2006), a sophisticated comedy by Emmanuel Mouret; On Fire (Ça brûle, 2006), a coming-of-age by Claire Simon; and the arthouse hit The Heartbeat Detector (La Question Humaine, 2007) by Nicolas Klotz, starring Mathieu Amalric as a psychologist in the human resources department of a Parisian petrochemical corporation. The series ends this week with Béla Tarr’s hypnotic Werckmeister Harmonies (Werckmeister Harmóniák, 2000).

One of the highlights of the series was the North American Premiere of the documentary 40x15, a compilation film of the 40 year history of the Directors Fortnight, directed by longtime Festival programmer Olivier Jahan. The film, which had its world premiere during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, offers amazing archival footage starting with its beginnings in the volatile atmosphere after May ’68. The film features interviews with such diverse personalities as Pierre-Henri Deleau (former Quinzaine director), Costa-Gavras, Werner Herzog, and the current Quinzaine director Olivier Père, who attended the special screening.

Forty years of showcasing quality and risky cinema is a rare accomplishment in this day and age. With the traditional distribution channels narrowing as the industry shifts into new media mode, many of the films so lauded at the Directors Fortnight will find a hard time to find a theatrical distributor in the U.S. and Canada. This gave the showcase at BAM a special significance… could be the only time that New Yorkers can even see the films on the big screen, before they head into the small screen worlds of television and dvd. The opportunity to see so many current (and classic) films was a great summer treat and a reminder that a vital international cinema is deserving of greater exposure and public awareness. Happy birthday, Quinzaine……..