27 April, 2009

Visions Of Italy in Palm Beach

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

When you are part of Italian film royalty, one of the things that you do know is Italian cinema. Veronica De Laurentiis is the daughter of legendary film producer Dino De Laurentiis and neorealist film star Silvana Mangano. With cinema in her blood, she is the perfect programmer for the VISIONS OF ITALY program screening today at the Palm Beach International Film Festival.

De Laurentiis, who jet sets between homes in Rome and Los Angeles, has worn many hats in her career. Actress, fashion designer, best-selling novelist, lecturer, television personality.....all of these impressive credentials have made her one of Italy's most recognizable faces. Her memoir LA MIA VITA (Claim My Life) is on the Italian best seller list for months and she is currently finishing up a follow-up book. She has been one of the first to tour Italy and speak openly about issues of rape, domestic abuse and breaking the silence surrounding these taboo subjects. She has launched her own foundation to combat domestic violence and is one of Italy's most respected motivational speakers (self-help being a new phenomenon in Italian culture).

"For the film series that I have programmed here in Palm Beach, I wanted to bring fims that have a message of hope and tell the truth", De Laurentiis commented during our interview. "I have found in my personal life that finding the truth is the most important thing we can do with our lives, and films help that process by showing how others have done it. In this way, film is a great inspiration."

The program of Italian films, most making their U.S. debuts at the Festival, includes: ATOMIC! A TRAIN OF MAD ITALIANS IN CHINA, a documentary about mental patients and their care workers who take a train from Venice to Beijing, directed by Giovanni Piperno; DOUBLE (Doppio), the story of an Italian filmaker who must work in a dubbing house to make ends meet, written and directed by Eric Alexander; NARCISO, DIETRO I CANNONI, DAVANTI AI MULI, a look at the emergence of multiculturalism in Italy as told in the story of a mountain worker who returns to his native village with a Muslim son and wife, written and directed by Marcello and Dario Baldi; and SALVATORE, the tale of a young boy who is forced to live with his grandfather, who is played by Giancarlo Giannini. In addition, the program will showcase four short films from a new generation of emerging Italian filmmakers.

With Italy's filmmaking scene making (yet another renaissance) with the international successes of films like GOMORRAH and IL DIVO, this program of new Italian film talents is of definite interest. Asked why this resurgence in interest in Italian cinema has blossomed again, De Laurentiis offered "Italian filmmakers get so little government support and yet they have amazing stories to they must find economical and effective ways to put their films on the screen."

24 April, 2009

Oscar Nominee Saved From Direct-To-DVD Fate

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

THE BAADER-MEINHOF COMPLEX, a German historical pastiche of the real-life 1970s terrorist group Red Army Faction that was nominated for both the Oscar and the Golden Globe, was slated to go directly to dvd release into the United States. That one of the most celebrated European films of the year would have such a fate is testament to the challenge that arthouse films, particularly those with sub-titles, are facing in this economic market. However, like a knight on a white horse, a new American art house distributor has galloped to the rescue to offer film audiences a chance to discover the film on the big screen.
Vitagraph Films (, which is currently distributing the diverting documentary VALENTINO THE LAST EMPEROR, has secured North American rights for the film from German production company Constantin Films. BAADER-MEINHOF was written and produced by German honco Bernd Eichinger and directed by Uli Edel, who helmed one of Germany’s best-known films of the 1980s, CHRISTIANE F.
The historical film features an all-star German cast, including Martina Gedeck (“The Lives of Others”), Moritz Bleibtreu (“Run Lola Run”), Johanna Wokalek (“Aimee and Jaguar”) and Bruno Ganz (“The Reader”). “This is a story that has not been widely told in America,” Vitagraph prexy David Schultz commented in a prepared statement. “With the early years of our current century dominated by the aftermath of 9/11, this is an interesting time for audiences to take a look at a previous generation of terrorism that continues to reverberate in our times.” To read more about the film, its historical context and see a trailer, visit:

21 April, 2009

European Films In Tribeca Spotlight

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Tribeca Film Festival, which begins tomorrow evening with the world premiere of the newest film from New York iconic director Woody Allen, has a strong lineup of European films in its streamlined program of 85 feature films this year. The Spotlight section of the Festival includes a trio of European titles that have won awards at other events or are from established directors/stars with a strong following in the New York film community.

Among the European films making their premieres in the Spotlight section are: EASY VIRTUE (UK), a comical tale based on a Noel Coward play, directed by Stephen Elliot with a delicious cast that includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth, Jessica Biel and Ben Barnes; FEAR ME NOT (Denmark), an intense psychological thriller from director Kristin Levring that won Best Screenplay and Best Actor honors at the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina; and MOON (UK), a hi-tech sci-fi flick starring Sam Rockwell and (the voice of) Kevin Spacey that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, directed by Duncan Jones.

European titles figure strongly in both the World Narrative and World Documentary competitions, which will be reviewed in later articles. As attention turns to downtown Manhattan over the next two weeks, international cinema is again king of the hill. For information on these and other films participating in the Tribeca Film Festival, visit:

17 April, 2009

Irish Tax Incentives Stimulate Production

Anand Tucker

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

As Ireland attempts to attract international co-productions by offering generous tax incentives to international producers, the newly initiated financial stimulus is already paying dividends for the tight Irish filmmaking community. shake-up in the country's system of tax incentives late last year already is paying dividends for the Irish filmmaking community. Late last year, the Irish government greenlighted plans to raise the individual investor cap for those wishing to invest finance in film in Ireland. The government upped it to £50,000 ($65,000) per annum, from the previous limit of £31,750 and pushed up the relief on it to 100% from 80%.

Those attractive incentives are attracting interest. A case in point is the Spyglass Entertainment production of LEAP YEAR, a romantic comedy to star Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, directed by Anand Tucker (SHOPGIRL, WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER). The film is expected to spend some $16.5 million on Irish crew and services, according to a statement released by the Irish Film Board. Tucker is expected to prep and shoot in various locations throughout the country over a four- to five-month period and the project will be co-produced by Morgan O' Sullivan and James Flynn of World 2000, based at Ardmore Studios. Irish production company World 2000 has a long running relationship with Spyglass, having previously worked on REIGN OF FIRE and THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. For more information on production opportunities on the Emerald Isle, visit:

14 April, 2009

US/Euro Co-Production To Open Palm Beach FF

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

STONE OF DESTINY, the latest film from actor-turned-director Charles Martin Smith, will open the 2009 edition of the Palm Beach International Film Festival on Thursday, 23 April. The film, a US/Scottish co-production, retells the fascinating and true story of four young Glaswegian students who, in 1951, outwitted the British authorities in their successful attempt to take back the Stone of Scone - a beloved symbol of Scottish pride. The adventure comedy stars Robert Carlyle (TRAINSPOTTING), Peter Mullan (BOY-A) and Brenda Fricker (MY LEFT FOOT).

Director Smith won a fistful of international awards for his debut feature THE SNOW WALKER in 2003, after a prolific career as an actor in such well known films as AMERICAN GRAFFITI and THE UNTOUCHABLES. For his work on STONE OF DESTINY, the writer/director was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA Award, with the film winning the Audience Award at the Victoria International Film Festival earlier this year. The film had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival and was featured at a host of international events, including the Toronto Film Festival. The Palm Beach International Film Festival is fast emerging as a major showcase of American and international cinema with a reputation for enthusiastic audiences and welcoming hospitality for its visiting filmmakers. For this year's edition, there is a strong European representation, with a special mini-sidebar of contemporary Italian cinema. For more information on this year’s event, visit:

08 April, 2009

New German Cinema In New York

The Invention of Currywurst

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The Museum of Modern Art presents Kino! at Thirty: New Cinema from Germany, the Museum’s 30th annual survey of recent German cinema, from April 22 through 30, 2009. Over the last three decades, MoMA has celebrated new cinema from Germany with an annual presentation of contemporary fiction features, documentaries, student works, and animated films.

This year’s selection opens with Germany ’09, a compilation of short films organized by esteemed German director Tom Tykwer. For Germany ’09, which premiered at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, 12 leading filmmakers working in Germany today take a look into the country’s current social, cultural, and political landscape.

An important highlight of this year’s presentation is Laurens Straubn and Dominik Wessely’s Reverse Shot—Rebellion of the Filmmaker (2008), an illuminating documentary about the legendary Filmverlag de Autoren, the founding organization of the New German Cinema movement (Neue Kino). It will be complemented by a selection of that movement’s defining films and filmmakers drawn from MoMA’s archives, including The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Stroszek (1977) by Werner Herzog, and Sisters, or The Balance of Happiness (1979) by Margarethe von Trotta. Reverse Shot provides a bridge between the filmmakers working 30 years ago, when Germany won its first Academy Award for best Foreign Language film (Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum), and the current New German Cinema.

Kino! at Thirty includes the New York premiere of three feature films by German directors exhibiting at MoMA for the first time, each of which deals with some aspect of modern German history: Ulla Wagner’s The Invention of Currywurst, Christian Schwochow’s November Child, and Christian Klandt’s Weltstadt, all made in 2008. Kino! at Thirty: New Cinema from Germany is organized by the Museum of Modern Art, the Goethe Institute and German Films Service + Marketing. For information on the full program, visit the Museum's website:

01 April, 2009

The New European Auteurs At NDNF

UNMADE BEDS (United Kingdom)

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

New Directors New Films, an annual rite of spring in New York film circles, provides the armchair traveler with a delicious and intoxicating journey through world cinema. While the series is certainly international in scope, new films from Europe provide the cream in the coffee for ambitious filmgoers. This year, new European auteur directors are making a strong impression on New York film critics and industry reps.

The themes and styles of the films are decidedly different. In CAN GO THROUGH SKIN, a feature debut by Dutch director Esther Rots, a young woman’s carefree life in Amsterdam is upended when her boyfriend breaks up with her and a deliveryman breaks into her apartment and assaults her. After helming two short films that have been featured at international film festivals, her impressive debut is a study of the battles that occur between the subconscious and reality.

In Russian director Vladimir Kott’s feature debut THE FLY, a macho truckdriver with interest in little else than life on the road (and the casual sex and vodka drinking done there) discovers that he may have a teenage daughter living in a dismal Russian town. When he decides to pick up the pieces and re-enter her life, high drama and delicious humor ensues, topped off by the strong acting of Aleksei Kravchenko as the father and Alexandra Tyuftey as the unruly daughter.

In the French/German co-production GIVE ME YOUR HAND, director Pascal-Alex Vincent sets his road movie as a journey by twins who are hitchhiking to their mother’s funeral in Spain. In another feature debut, Vincent sets the physical terrain against the interior struggles of the fraternal brothers, creating an atmosphere that is at once freewheeling and also tainted with rivalry and jealousy. After directing numerous short films, including the animated CANDY BOY, Vincent is a new French film talent to watch. GIVE ME YOUR HAND will reach theaters later this year via arthouse distributor Strand Releasing.

French director Ursula Meier worked on several films of the acclaimed Swiss director Alain Tanner before helming her debut feature HOME. Starring Isabelle Huppert as the matriarch of a family living in a desolate stretch near an unused highway, the film looks at the dynamics of her intense family, particularly after the highway becomes clogged again by whizzing cars and the sounds of “progress”. Finding the right balance between farce and drama, Meier gives her talented cast room to expand their characters and create a portrait of a family in distress.

Also from France comes the collaborative team of Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine, whose third film LOUISE-MICHEL is set in a troubled factory. When they are abandoned by the factory management, they decide to hire a hit man to take care of business. Both a social satire and a “cri de Coeur” of economic hard times, the film is a potent reminder of the possibilities for revenge and retribution.

Italy has been enjoying yet another renaissance these days and the film MID-AUGUST LUNCH by writer/director Gianni Di Gregorio is a welcome addition. After a long career as a screenwriter (including the script for Matteo Garrone’s award-winning GOMORRAH), Di Gregorio takes the director’s chair in telling the tale of money-troubled Giovanni, who spends his days caring for his demanding elderly mother. Winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Isverma Award for Best First Film and London’s Satyajit Ray Award, the film is a potent charmer.

Spanish director Daniel Hernandez makes an auspicious debut with ORDINARY BOYS, a political drama set in a small Moroccan village that was home to the terrorists of Madrid’s infamous train station bombing in 2004. The film introduces use to a group of people who muddle through their lives and have simple desires but are sometimes influenced by the wrong forces. After producing more than 30 documentaries for television and the cinema, director Hernandez uses a realist eye to find the small exchanges that make up the lives in this slice-of-life drama.

An impressionistic story of the early days of the Soviet space program, Alexey German’s PAPER SOLDIER is part drama and part film essay. Through the eyes of a doctor working with young cosmonauts, German outlines the tensions in Kruschev-era Russia, where liberal intellectuals began to look into the future towards a new era of openness (that would not actually arrive until two decades later). After winning best film honors for his previous film THE LAST TRAIN at the Thessaloniki Film Festival, the director has been honored as the “discover of the year” by Russia’s Nika Awards.

Following his international success GLUE, Argentine director Alexis Dos Santos has made his first film in English. UNMADE BEDS, a UK production, follows a wide-eyed Spaniard who comes to London who finds himself in the midst of a bohemian community living in an underground squat. Allowing his misfits to carve out precious terrain in a hostile environment, Dos Santos uses original visual language to tell the story of these irreverent searchers.

To read more about these films and the full program for the New Directors New Films series, which runs to April 5, visit the websites: and