Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Cannes 2005: French-speaking scriptwriters take the bull by the horns

Under the unlikely working title of Vache Violette, a selection of French-speaking scriptwriters are coming together to present their pitches to the Cannes film community. Coming from France, Belgium and Canada, the writers will print a selection and put them under the noses of producers and agents in a way that has never been tried before. Other writers are welcome. Working knowledge of French is advisable. For details, sign up (for free) on Scenaristes en herbe.

"Adventure in Shorts" follows the jump from indie shorts to features

Two years ago, London-based Ashvin Kumar posted a notice asking for a crew to join him in a non-paid gig on the Indian-Pakistani border. The ensuing film, "Road to Ladakh", won dozens of awards and is now being re-made by Richard Dreyfuss' production company. But before arriving on the screen, it suffered countless setbacks including drunken drivers, torrential rain and the lead actor breaking his arm. Kumar's ensuing film, "Little Terrorist", was another trial of endurance that was again highly praised.

These shorts and their tales have been packaged as a DVD that will interest guerilla film-makers, and provide a cautionary tale. They are completemented by a documentary on Kumar's subsequent visit to Cannes.

For more information, visit the official site. To buy the DVD, click here.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Russian cinema about to explode

Russia has always had a unique and powerful cinema, starting with one of the early masters, Eisenstein. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the country went through a long curve of importing largely American TV and movies. But last year, Russia produced some 120 features - half the number in France, for example, but still a significant number. Consistent investment over the past 10 years has led to the creation of new studios and facilities. Unlike the rest of Europe, Russian cinema has started to focus very quickly on popular cinema. The most recent example is "Night Watch", which has broken all previous box office records and is Russia's candidate for a Best Foreign Language Oscar. The rights have been bought by Fox Searchlight, with talks of an English-language version.

Speaking to Screen International, producer Konstantin Ernst is upbeat about the future: "I see the Russian market developing along the lines of the Japanese market, rather than the European model. Like Japan, 30-40% of the market will be locally-produced. The Russian economy is growing and it is going to continue to grow. Russian audiences want to see big budget Russian films and this is the kind of film we are going to see produced. For five years Russian audiences wanted to see American TV programmes but after seven years we began to produce our own. Now we are going to see the same with films."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

"Zelary" playing in the US

Fellow movie bloggers "DougandHannah" have pointed out that Ondrej Trojan's gripping "Zelary" is still playing in a few places in the US. The film was the Czech Republic's candidate for a Best Foreign-Language Film for the Oscars last year. The tale is set in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II. Two people from different backgrounds are thrown violently together. Moving but not afraid to pull punches, "Zelary" is a harrowing tale of love during war. The story is taken from a famous novel written by an 80 year-old, Kveta Legatova, who also wrote the script. For more details, read this interesting article from Radio Prague. Read DougandHannah's review here and check US times here.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Oscar nominee "Alzheimer" ripe for re-make

Belgium's hit thriller "De Zaak Alzheimer/the Alzheimer Case" is being prepared for a re-make in the US prior to the film's release there. Written by Erik Van Looy and Carl Joos (on a novel by Jef Geeraerts), the Flemish-language film tells the tale of two Antwerp cops on the trail of a killer with memory problems. The film has been seen by 750,000 people since October and won 4 times at Belgium's annual movie awards.

It is Belgium's nomination for a foreign-language Oscar. This means it is up against movies such as "Les choristes/The Chorus", "Kontroll", "Downfall" and "The Sea Inside".

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"Basic Instinct" writer looks at Hungarian water polo!

According to a report in Screen International, Joe Eszterhas, the Hungarian-born writer of "Basic Instinct", "Flashdance" and "Showgirls" is looking at dramatising the 1956 water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union. Against a backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution, the two teams met at the Olympic semi-finals in Melbourne. The ensuing match is considered to be one of the most violent sports events ever, leaving the pool red with blood.

Eszterhas is also the author of the aptly-named "Hollywood Animal", a tale of greed in movieland. Since contracting throat cancer, it was not felt he would return to writing. The as yet unnamed film is slated for a 2006 release, in time for the 50th anniversary of the match.

"Hollywood Animal" on Amazon US
"Hollywood Animal: A Memoir" on Amazon UK

Monday, December 13, 2004

European Film Awards salute Germany and Spain

Germany and Spain came out as the big winners in this year's European Film Awards, held in Barcelona this weekend. Over a 2-hour ceremony, Germany's Fatih Akin (photo) was first on the podium to pick up the People’s Choice Award for best European director with "Head On/Gegen Die Wand", a drama about an impossible mixed-race love affair that is playing across Europe. He was also the last when "Head On" was later crowned as the best European film of 2004. Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri won yet another award when their "Look At Me/Comme Une Image" was judged best screenplay. Other significant awards included actors Imelda Staunton for "Vera Drake", Penelope Cruz for "Non ti muovere/Don't Move" and Daniel Bruehl for "Love In Thoughts/Was Nutzt Die Liebe In Gedanken".

Globally, the awards rightly recognised the strength and diversity of current film-making in Germany and Spain. For the full list of winners, visit EFA.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Scenario mag offers extracts from recent films in French, one of several French sites devoted to scriptwriting, recently decided to throw even more focus on actual scripts. The site currently features 12 pages from "Narco", the tale of a narcoleptic starring Benoit Poelvoorde in an unlikely pairing with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Gilles Lellouche wrote the screenplay from the original story by Alain Attal and Philippe Lefebvre.

Although they are widely available in English, it is hard to find screenplays in French. So Scenario-mag's initiative is invaluable for writers and movie buffs. Other extracts available on the site include "Swimming Pool" and "Un long dimanche de fiançailles/A Very Long Engagement".

To find out more, visit

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Scriptunities lists UK opportunities and competitions

Scriptunities, a UK site with extensive lists of competitions and learning possibilities, has just been updated for Christmas with 7 pages of competitions opportunities and contacts mostly with a UK/Europe connection. The list is available as a PDF download or browse online.

Go to Scriptunities

Saturday, December 04, 2004

"Banlieue 13" banned from Brussels major complex

In the sort of publicity that many films would dearly pay for, the latest Luc Besson production "Banlieue 13" (Suburb 13) has been banned from Brussels largest cinema complex Kinepolis. The stylish, acrobatic gang movie written by Bibi Naceri ("La mentale/The Code") and Besson and directed by Pierre Morel fell foul of the complex which has had problems with young gangs and preferred not to create further tension. "Banlieue 13" is showing at other complexes that belong to the same group in other towns, and has caused no incidents in France where 500,000 people have already seen it in two weeks.

Visit the official site and message board (in French) here.

"Banlieue 13" on Amazon FR
Luc Besson On Amazon UK