30 April, 2012

Turkish Cinema At Lincoln Center

 CAN (Raşit Çelikezer, Turkey)

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Starting this past Friday and running through May 10, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is presenting an ambitious survey of contemporary and classic cinema from Turkey. The Space Between: A Panorama of Cinema in Turkey is the largest retrospective of films from Turkey to be presented in the United States. The retrospective is produced by The Moon and Stars Project of The American Turkish Society and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Opening the festivities last week was the New York premiere of CAN (2011) directed by Raşit Çelikezer. The film was Turkey’s first ever entry at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving the Special Jury Prize for Artistic Vision. This modern day love story, based in Istanbul, relates a heart wrenching tale of a young couple faced with infertility, who plot to illegally buy a child. The Closing Night film will be Özcan Alper’s THE FUTURE LASTS FOREVER (2011), the story of an Istanbul music student who travels the country to record traditional music and confront her past. “Turkey has an extraordinarily rich cinematic tradition that, despite the growing importance of that country on the world stage, has remained largely unknown to even the most dedicated American film goers”, opined Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center Richard Peña. “This 29-film series focuses especially on the many socially-engaged works--works often made under difficult and even dangerous conditions--that offered a counterpoint to Turkey's prolific commercial cinema.” For a complete description of the entire program, visit:

27 April, 2012

A French Flavor At Tribeca FF

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

New Yorkers’ continued love affair with French cinema is evidenced by a strong representation of French films at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Among the feature highlights are 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK, actress/director Julie Delpy’s comedy of cultural errors that co-stars Chris Rock; A BETTER LIFE, a gritty romance about the passionate love of an idealistic chef and a single mother as presented by director Cedric Kahn; CHICKEN WITH PLUMS, a morality tale about an Iranian man who loses himself in reveries of his youth, from the team that created the Oscar nominated film PERSEPOLIS; ELLES, a sexually charged drama that stars Juliette Binoche as a journalist investigating the phenomenon of nice college girls moonlighting as prostitutes; POLISSE, a gritty tale of the daily grind for a motley band of cops in the Juvenile Protection Unit who confront abusive parents, child molesters, traumatized kids and oversexed teens as part of their daily routine; and SLEEPLESS NIGHT, an adrenaline-fueled policier about a cop who steals a bag of cocaine and whose son is held for ransom by the mob boss it belongs to.

25 April, 2012

Brits Shine At Tribeca FF

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

Three British feature films are making their premieres at this week’s Tribeca Film Festival. CHEERFUL WEATHER FOR THE WEDDING, directed and written by Donald Rice, is a world premiere. In this lighthearted relationship comedy, a woman (Felicity Jones) on the morning of her wedding, hides out and dreams of the idyllic summer before. Her scatterbrained mother (played by DOWNTOWN ABBEY’s Elizabeth McGovern) has set all the wedding arrangements, but even she can’t prepare everyone for the arrival of her daughter’s unpredictable best friend, played with great charm by Luke Treadaway. Other UK features making their U.S. premieres are HYSTERIA, a Sony Pictures Classics release of a feminist fable set in ninteenth century London. In the story, based on an award-winning stage play, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a feminist whose melancholy is solved by an electro-mechanical vibrator invented by a progressive young doctor played by Hugh Dancy. As more society women discover this unexpectedly thrilling cure, filmmaker Tanya Wexler makes a telling commentary on the eternal battle of the sexes.

In TRISHNA, celebrated film director Michael Winterbottom adapts ninteenth century novelist Thomas Hardy’s classic Victorian melodrama Tess of the D’Ubervilles to contemporary India. In the beautifully shot film, a budding romance develops between an Indian peasant woman and the son of a wealthy Englishman. The radiant Freida Pinto (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) stars in this intense drama about prejudice and class divisions. Six short films from the UK are also included in the Festival’s many short film programs.

23 April, 2012

Tribeca Film Festival Available Online

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

If you cannot make it to New York for this week’s Tribeca Film Festival, you can experience some of the films and most of the highlights via your computer or mobile device. The Tribeca Online Film Festival, presented by founding partner American Express, offers the TFF experience across digital platforms, allowing domestic audiences to view select feature and short films for free, including four world-premiere features to be streamed just after their TFF theatrical premieres. Audiences across the country will get front row access to the exclusive Festival content and hear filmmakers and industry leaders talking about the future of the industry as TFF’s 11th edition runs concurrently in lower Manhattan from April 18 to 29. The 2012 Tribeca Online Film Festival offers film enthusiasts new avenues to experience the film festival. Audiences will get to vote, via, on the best online feature and short, with winners receiving a total of $16,000 in prize money. Winners will be announced at the Tribeca Film Festival Awards on April 26. There will also be a social voting competition, based solely on popularity: the number of “likes” that film accrues on the Tribeca Online Film Festival film detail page. The feature film and the short film that drive the most Facebook likes on the page will each receive a separate $500 prize. Winners will be announced on April 30.

18 April, 2012

The Return Of Whit Stillman

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

After a nearly decade and a half hiatus from the filmmaking scene, writer/director Whit Stillman, one of the leading lights of the American indie movement in the 1990s, is back with a vengeance with his newest film DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. The film, which opened via Sony Pictures Classics in U.S. theaters this past weekend, mines the familiar territory of the haute bourgeoisie and the privileged few that Stillman has examined since his first film. The film has been warmly received by critics and a new audience that will ultimately see the new project as a continued exploration of a certain caste of American society. What happened to the celebrated director in the past 15 years is a fascinating story unto itself.

But first some background……Whit Stillman was raised in the upstate New York town of Cornwall, the son of an impoverished debutante (Margaret Riley Stillman) from Philadelphia and a Democratic politician (John Sterling Stillman, an assistant secretary of commerce under President John F. Kennedy from Washington, D.C. A true WASP, he attended Harvard University where he honed his writing skills with humor columns for The Harvard Crimson. After graduating from Harvard in 1973, he began working as a journalist in New York City. He was introduced to some film producers from Madrid and persuaded them that he could sell their films to Spanish-language television in the U.S. He worked for the next few years in Barcelona and Madrid as a sales agent for directors Fernando Trueba and Fernando Colomo, and sometimes acted in their films, usually playing comic Americans.

He then got the directing bug himself, writing and directing his premiere feature METROPOLITAN (1990), a celebrated film about the young jet set in New York City, a community he knew much about. In these still formative days of the American indie movement, he had to finance the film by selling his New York City apartment (for $50,000) and with the contributions of friends and relatives. Loosely based on real-life events, METROPOLITAN tells the tale of the alienated Princetonian Tom Townsend’s introduction to the “Sally Fowler Rat Pack”, a small group of preppy Upper East Side Manhattanites making the rounds at debutante balls during Christmas break of their first year in college. Though he is a socialist deeply skeptical about upper-class values, Tom (Edward Clements) grows increasingly attached to the cynical Nick (Chris Eigeman) and plays an important part in the life of Audrey (Carolyn Farina), a young debutante. Many of the exclusive interior locations were lent to Stillman by family friends and relatives. For his work, the fledgling writer/director was nominated for an Academy Award in 1991 for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. He won the 1990 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best New Director.

So his film career was off and running. For his second project, he chose another subject close to his heart and experience. BARCELONA (1994), his first studio-financed film, was inspired by his own experiences in Spain during the early 1980s. In the film, two Americans, Ted and Fred, experience the awkwardness of being in love in a foreign country. The film, while not quite as successful as his first effort, was embraced by critics and a growing public, and Stillman was among those American indies of the 1990s that was fast developing a cult reputation. His third film was 4 years in the making. THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (1998) was loosely based on his experiences in various Manhattan nightclubs, including the legendary Studio 54. The film concerns Ivy League and Hampshire graduates falling in and out of love in the disco scene of Manhattan in the early 1980s. It concludes a trilogy loosely based on his own life and contains many references to the previous two films, including some of the characters who appeared in the earlier efforts who are dealing with the anomie of the approaching millennium. In 2000, he published a novelization of the film.

After completing his film trilogy, Stillman departed from the independent film scene and started researching and writing a series of scripts set abroad. He relocated to Paris, spent time in Spain and did not return to America until 2010. There was broad speculation about his reasons for leaving the U.S., including a visceral response to the events of 9-11 (by now he had a family) but he also had tired of the struggle of raising finances and promoting American indie films, in contrast to his European colleagues who could rely on government subsidies and steady work once they had “made it”. However, weary of the ex-patriot life and wanting his children to grow up in America, New York beckoned again and he began writing the script for his fourth film.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS premiered as the closing film at the 2011 Venice Film Festival (like many artists before him, Stillman was more appreciated in Europe than his native land). The film has played the international festival circuit and is now being seen by the wider public. The film, which stars Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody and Analeigh Tipton, is the story of three young women at an East Coast university and the transfer student who joins their group. It again visits the world of the upper class, privileged and self-important young women who take it as their mission to reform society, men and class values in their own image. Although satiric and written as a comedy, the film also demonstrates that in America, the supposedly classless society, a war between the classes has been taking place for as long as there has been a union. Stillman’s stoic style speaks volumes about a certain class of people remains unmoved by war, economic malaise or societal changes. Even more important than whether this new film is a box office success (or not), is the fact that Whit Stillman is back…….with his sharp wit and observant eye as intact as ever.

12 April, 2012

Kenneth Branagh To Be Feted

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The San Francisco Film Society has announced that British actor/director Kenneth Branagh will be the recipient of the Founder’s Directing Award at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, which takes place from April 19 to May 3. (April 19 – May 3). The FDA will be presented to Branagh at Film Society Awards Night, Thursday, April 26 at the historic Warfield Theatre. Branagh, who was nominated this past year for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his incarnation of Sir Laurence Olivier in the film MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, will also be honored at An Evening with Kenneth Branagh at the Castro Theatre at Friday, April 27. An onstage interview and a selection of clips from his impressive directing career will be followed by a screening of DEAD AGAIN (1991). “We are thrilled to honor Kenneth Branagh for his remarkable directorial achievements and multifaceted career at this year’s Festival,” said Melanie Blum, the San Francisco Film Society’s interim executive director.

10 April, 2012

Tribeca Hosts World Cinema

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), which runs from April 18 to 29 at various locations in New York City, is still an event in the process of defining itself. The hiring several months ago of former Cannes Directors Fortnight topper Frédéric Boyer and the increased programming involvement of Geoffrey Gilmore, Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises, points to the Festival’s ambition to be a major showcase of world cinema. Rounding out the curatorial team are Genna Terranova, who was promoted to Director of Programming and Cara Cusumano, who returns as Programmer.

While TFF is still home to new American films, both indie and Hollywood, it seems to be banking its reputation as a strong showcase of international cinema, which is good news indeed for New Yorkers always on the lookout for hot titles from both known and newly discovered film talents. The 2012 film selection includes feature films from 32 different countries, including 53 World Premieres, 5 International Premieres, 16 North American Premieres, 10 U.S. Premieres and six New York Premieres.

Twelve narrative films are competing in the World Narrative strand, a mix of American and international titles. This article will focus on those films produced outside the borders of the United States. It is interesting that the Festival is mixing international and homegrown productions, but that speaks to its viewpoint of independent film as an international phenomenon that transcends national boundaries. Films in this section compete for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best New Narrative Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. The following are the list of non-American films in this section (most with some European coin), with descriptions provided by the Festival:

ALL IN (Daniel Burman, Argentina, International Premiere)

Professional poker player Uriel has been on a real hot streak—with the ladies—since his marriage fizzled out. But in between growing his online gambling business and helping to raise his kids, Uriel has rediscovered his old pre-marriage flame, Gloria…. Starring the great Valeria Bertuccelli (XXY) and Oscar®-winning songwriter Jorge Drexler, this romantic comedy from Daniel Burman unfolds in the acclaimed director’s signature style: poignant, natural, and bitingly funny.

BEYOND THE HILL (Emin Alper, Turkey/Greece, North American Premiere)

Faik, a proud old forester, is having trouble with nomads grazing their livestock on his land. For revenge, he and his hulking farm hand Mehmet snatch a goat to butcher for a family holiday, unwittingly sparking a dire blood feud. Debuting Turkish director Emin Alper creates an atmosphere of skin-crawling terror in this psychological drama by withholding, not showing, the escalating acts of violence that hurtle these feuding farmers toward a shocking confrontation.

THE GIRL (David Riker, USA/Mexico, World Premiere)

From the director of LA CIUDAD comes this moving drama about a single mother (Abbie Cornish) caught in emotional quicksand after losing her job and custody of her son. Desperate to earn cash for her custody battle, she makes the daring choice to help smuggle illegal immigrants over the border. A deep connection to a young Mexican girl will take her on a life-changing journey and force her to confront her past.

POSTCARDS FROM THE ZOO (Edwin, Indonesia, North American Premiere)

Acclaimed Chinese-Indonesian director Edwin (BLIND PIG WHO WANTS TO FLY) returns with a gorgeous, dreamlike fairy tale set inside Jakarta’s wondrous Ragunan Zoo. Abandoned in the zoo as a little girl and raised among the wild menagerie, Lana finally embarks outside the peculiar confines she has always known—and into the seedier side of Jakarta—when she falls in love with a charming magician.

UNA NOCHE (Lucy Mulloy, UK/Cuba/USA, North American Premiere)

Fed up with catering to the privileged tourist class, Cuban teens Raul and Elio are tantalized by the promise of a new life in Miami. Accused of assaulting a foreigner, Raul has no choice but to flee, but Elio must decide whether his own escape is worth abandoning his beloved sister. Brimming with the nervous energy of Havana’s restless youth and evocative cinematography of the sun-bleached capital, UNA NOCHE follows one sweltering day, full of hope and fraught with tensions, that burns to a shocking climax.

UNIT 7 (Alberto Rodriguez, Spain, International Premiere)

UNIT 7 is a semi-official police detail with a seemingly impossible mission: kick Seville’s most vicious drug trafficking ring out of town ahead of a major international expo. By any means necessary. As they slip outside the bounds of the law in the name of duty, two officers fueled by violence, lies, and ambition end up on opposing paths. Spanish superstar Mario Casas (NEON FLESH) stars in this adrenaline-pumping action thriller.

WAR WITCH (Kim Nguyen, Canada, North American Premiere)

At 14, Komona has lived through horrors that eclipse any adult’s worst nightmares. In this mesmerizing, otherworldly drama, shot entirely in the Congo, she confides to the baby growing inside of her the harrowing story of her life since rebel warlords stormed her village. Fortified by eerily mystical powers and the warming friendship of an albino boy, the sensitive girl battles through this dire, war-ravaged world enchained as a child soldier.

YOSSI (Eytan Fox, Israel, World Premiere)

Returning to the role that won him TFF’s Best Actor award in Eytan Fox’s YOSSI & JAGGER in 2003, Ohad Knoller is extraordinary as Yossi, a closeted gay man living a solitary existence in Tel Aviv. A chance encounter with a group of soldiers ignites Yossi’s desire to live an open, fulfilling life. Directed with uncommon honesty and compassion by Fox, this is a deeply moving film about the power of second chances.

09 April, 2012

Tribute To French Film Queen

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The stars and star-struck admirers came out last Monday evening as the Film Society of Lincoln Center bestowed its annual Chaplin Award tribute to iconic French actress Catherine Deneuve. Oscar winning actress Susan Sarandon served as Honorary Chair for this year’s Gala, which raises money for the year round film society, and presenters included such stellar names as Martin Scorsese, Glenn Close, Chiara Mastroianni, François Ozon, and James Gray.

New Yorkers have always been hopelessly in love with French cinema, and Deneuve represents the kind of high gloss glamour that only improves with age that still makes her a sex symbol of sorts at age 68. She is the embodiment of the cliché (apparently true) that European women age gracefully and alluringly. However, hers is not a talent simply of beautiful cheekbones. She has a glowing resume of cinema highlights over the past five decades, where she gave indelible performances working with some of the greatest directors in the world. Among her collaborators have been such names as Roman Polanski, Jacques Demy, François Truffaut, Luis Buñuel, Manoel de Oliveira, and Raul Ruiz, among many others. Among her dozens of notable movie roles are her appearances in such classics as THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (Jacques Demy, 1964), REPULSION (Roman Polanski, 1965), THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (Jacques Demy, 1967), in which she co-starred with her sister Françoise Dorleác, BELLE DU JOUR (Luis Buñuel, 1967), TRISTANA (Luis Buñuel, 1970), THE LAST METRO (François Truffaut, 1980), with Gérard Depardieu, THE HUNGER (Tony Scott, 1983), and INDOCHINE (Régis Wargnier, 1992). In the past few years, rather than rest on her extraordinary achievements, she continues to challenge herself and expand her art, lending her talents and prestige to works by exciting, cutting-edge filmmakers such as Arnaud Desplechin, Leos Carax, François Ozon, Lars Von Trier, Andre Techine and Philippe Garrel.

The Film Society’s Annual Gala began in 1972 and honored Charles Chaplin – who returned to the US from exile to accept the commendation before receiving his long overdue Oscar in Los Angeles. Since then, the award has been renamed for Chaplin, and has honored many of the film industry’s most notable talents, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas and most recently, Sidney Poitier. Deneuve is only the fourth “non-Hollywood star” to receive the Chaplin Award. Her predecessors were Yves Montand (1988), Alec Guinness (1987), and Federico Fellini (1985). For more information, visit:

03 April, 2012

Nanni Moretti Retrospective In New York

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

On the eve of the release of his newest film WE HAVE A POPE, a satire on the behind the scenes drama and shenanigans of the Vatican, the IFC Film Center in lower Manhattan is presenting a retrospective of the director Nanni Moretti’s work, entitled La Vita E Cinema: The Films Of Nanni Moretti. The Italian actor/director is best known for the films CARO DIARO (1994) and THE SON’S ROOM (2001), two celebrated films that are more serious than his usual penchant for broad comedy and social satire. This complete retrospective offers the chance to discover the filmmaker’s lesser known oeuvre, including BIANCA (1984), with Moretti starring as a shy math teacher in a high school under attack by a serial killer; PALOMBELA ROSSA (1989), in which a water polo match becomes a metaphor for the Italian left; and THE CAIMAN (2006), about a shlock film producer who agrees to finance a film attacking former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. For information on the complete series, visit: