Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Go East to showcase best of Eastern and Central European cinema

The annual goEast festival in Wiesbaden, Germany, April 5-11, will again feature an exciting range of movies from this vast region. The festival throws its net wide, featuring everything from a major retrospective of mainstream Russian movies (including the best-known musical, "Volga Volga" from 1938) to the work of more obscure Lithuanian director Šarunas Bartas. There will laso be a retrospective of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.

From their website: "goEast shows films that created a stir in their countries of making, attracted attention in the international media, represent the cutting-edge – or have already achieved the status of classics. The 2006 goEast Competition features ten fiction films and six documentaries; thirteen of these films are screening in Germany for the first time."

For details, check the goEast website.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Writer/director Philippe Blasband premieres "The Colour of Words"

Philippe Blasband, probably one of Belgium's foremost scriptwriters with films such as "Le tango des rashevskis", "Une liaison pornographique" and the more recent "Femme de Gilles", has just opened with "La couleur de mots/The Colour of Words" in Belgium. As he has pointed out in interviews, there is a certain irony in the tale. It follows Marie, a child suffering from dysphasia, a condition that renders the understanding of language very difficult. It is based on Blasband's own experience, as his eldest son suffers from the same condition. The irony is that he was born to a father that lives from language and communication. As he says on his site, "This is not a film about dysphasia. It’s a film about someone with various characteristics, including dysphasia. [It is neither] a documentary nor a demonstration. It is fiction. It is based on our observations of dysphasic children, especially our son Théo, but it is also a subjective creation."

"The Colour of Words" was made with an ultra-low budget. "It's not that I'm particularly enamoured with poverty in movie-making. But when you try and finance a film, you get lots of comments concerning the project. In this particular case, I wouldn't have been able to bear them. We could work so cheaply as I know most of the crew, and many of the actors know my son and felt involved."

"The Colour of Words" won 2 prizes at the 25th Amiens International Film Festival (France): Best actress award for Aylin Yay & the Signis Prize awarded by an ecumenical jury for "the artistic qualities of the film, and the human, social and spiritual values that it expresses". Blasband is currently working on another project as a director.

For an interview in English, French, Spanish and Italian, visit Cineuropa. Visit the official Couleur des mots site.

La femme de Gilles on Amazon FR

Le Tango des rashevski on Amazon FR

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Masterclasses in Paris and London

John Turturro is best known for his roles in Coen brothers films. However, he is currently more active as a writer and director. To coincide with the release of the down-and-dirty musical "Romance and Cigarettes", he will be presenting a masterclass at the Screen on the Hill in London on March 23. This is being organised by The Script Factory and Icon. For details, visit ScriptFactory.

Over in Paris, Robert McKee will be giving his celebrated "Story" seminar between April 20 and 23. According to the organisers, Dixit, some 35% of the inscriptions are from producers or TV channel execs - which sounds interesting in itself. For further details, visit Dixit

Monday, March 06, 2006

Finnish movies reach 55% of local movie-goers

Given the current pessimism in movie circles, the figures coming in from Finland are encouraging to say the least. With nearly 950,000 ticket sales, there have already been more viewers of Finnish films in January and February 2006 than in all of 2005.

Aleksi Makela’s "Matti – Hell Is For Heroes" (photo), a fictional film based on the life of ski-jumper Matti Nykanen written by Marko Leino, leads the way. Romantic sports comedy "FC Venus" (written by Outi Keskevaari, Katri Manninen and Joona Tena) follows, with Pekka Karjalainen’s comedy "Jackpot" following. Yet there have also been two - "Mother Of Mine" and "Beauty And The Bastard" - that have been running since September and October respectively. Overall, it means that the local share of the market is an incredible 55%.

For the full report, see the Finnish Film Foundation.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Europe and the Oscars: Lost in translation?

So Oscar night looms. And we hope to see the best/most amusing/most glamorous movies pick up awards. But as was already painfully obvious during the British Baftas, everything is more glamorous and exciting if you speak English. Am I the only one to be increasingly bemused by the sherpherding of all non-English speaking films into a single catch-all bag? The ghettoisation of "world" cinema is becoming increasingly difficult to justify, yet remains firmly entrenched in the UK and US mentalities. It is no secret that German funds bank-rolled a significant part of American output over the past ten years. Before that, the French banks and CANAL+ were major backers. Currently, the UK and France are major co-producing partners, with Spain coming in close behind. This makes it ever more difficult to determine the "nationality" of a film, a situation best illustrated by Warner's backing of "A Very Long Engagement/Un long dimanche de fiançailles" and the ensuing legal battles.

It would be inconceivable that the Cannes festival shepherd all non French-speaking films into a single category and leave them there. So why do the language policies still hold in London and L.A.? But US and UK audiences don't like watching foreign-language films, I'm sometimes told. If the bias reflects popular opinion, then why not push this to its logical conclusion and just give awards to the biggest-grossing movies in each country and have done with it? That would be the best reflection of popular opinion wouldn't it? Who needs an academy? Your thoughts are welcome on this issue.

European productions competing at the Oscars this year include: "Merry Christmas/Joyeux Noël", the controversial "Paradise Now", "Sophie Schell", "Don't Tell", "The Constant Gardener", "Pride and Prejudice", "Mrs Henderson Presents" and "The March of the Penguins".

UPDATE March 6: Euro winners at the Oscars include "March of the Penguins (best documentary), "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (best animated feature) and Rachel Weisz, best supporting actress for "The Constant Gardener".