15 July, 2009

European And Asian Films Dominate New Horizons Competition

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The heart of the 9th edition of the ERA NEW HORIZONS International Film Festival, which begins its 12 day marathon of film premieres, special events and music concerts on July 23, is the NEW HORIZONS International Competition. This year’s program includes a selection of 14 premieres of a truly international roster of filmmakers, covering a mix of genres and styles to offer a survey of the best in international cinema. This year‘s selection is particularly strong on European and Asian titles.

France has three films vying for prizes. In A LAKE (Un Lac) by director Phillipe Grandrieux, a family’s insular existence in the snowy forests of an unknown country is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious stranger. The film was a co-winner of the New Horizons Award at the Venice Film Festival. FACE (Visage), director Tsai Ming-Liang’s semi-autobiographical story of a famed Taiwanese film director who travels to the Louvre in Paris to shoot his newest film, had its world premiere at this year‘s Cannes Film Festival. IRENE, director Alain Cavalier’s creative documentary of the life, career and untimely death of actress Irene Trunc, is another Cannes veteran.

The UK is represented by two celebrated films in this year’s Competition. HELEN is a riveting policier about the death of a teenage girl which won top honors at the Angers European First Film Festival for its co-directors Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor and for its lead actress Annie Townsend. HUNGER, the celebrated debut film of video artist Steve McQueen of the final weeks of Irish revolutionary Bobby Sands’ prison hunger strike, has been hailed as one of the most compelling and important films of the year.

Other European films going for the gold include: NE CHANGE RIEN, Portugese director Pedro Costa’s highly visual film that was a hit at this year’s Cannes Directors Fortnight; OXYGEN (Kislorod), a dramatic musical from Russia that won the Critics Prize at the Sochi Open Russian Film Festival for its director Iwan Wyrypajew; BURROWING (Man tänker sitt), Swedish co-directors Henrik Hellström and Fredrik Wenzel’s coming of age drama that was a sleeper hit at the Berlin Film Festival; and DAZZLE (Oogverblindend), a relationship drama from the Netherlands, that marks the return of legendary actor Rutger Hauer to Dutch cinema, written and directed by Cyrus Frisch.

Asian cinema is strong in this year’s Competition. The winner already for most imaginative film title, $e11.ou7! – SELL OUT won the Alternative Vision Award at the Venice Film Festival for imaginative Malaysian director Yeo Joon Ha. EXHAUSTED is the porn-and-violence-tinged debut film from South Korean director Kim Gok. Japan is represented by SPYDER, director Ishibashi Kiyomi’s study of big city alienation as experienced by a young woman, which was shot entirely on a cel phone. Representing the Chinese New Wave is TWILIGHT DANCING, a multi-character study of the human condition as experienced by survivors of a devastating series of car crashes, co-directed by the team of Tian Gao and Joshua Tong.

The sole North American entry in the Competition is MOCK UP ON MU, an innovative compilation film drawn from sci-fi B movies of the 1950 and 1960s, from the artist and avant-garde filmmaker Craig Baldwin.

Information on the Festival’s other competition sections, including FILMS ON ART and NEW POLISH CINEMA will be elaborated in a future posting. For more information on the full roster of events planned for the 9th edition of the ERA NEW HORIZONS International Film Festival, please visit the website:

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