Monday, December 08, 2008

Gomorra sweeps European Film Awards

In a not totally unexpected move, the Italian Mafia drama "Gomorra" has won numerous prizes at the 21st European Film Awards. As this was very much a collaborative piece with intertwining tales, no less than six writers picked up the Best Screenwriter award for it, Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso and Roberto Savian."Gomorra" also picked up Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography.

Other notable wins include "Hunger" (European Discovery) and "La graine et le mulet" (European Film Academy Critics Award). For the full list of winners, visit the European Film Academy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

British Independent Film Award winners

The much anticipated 11th BIFA awards ceremony took place on Sunday 30 November in London, hosted by James Nesbitt. The tone was upbeat, which is hardly suprising as it has been great year for British film. Elliot Grove, founder of Raindance and the BIFA's says "The nominated films and film-makers and winners prove that filmmaking is alive and well in the U.K." Johanna von Fischer and Tessa Collinson, BIFA co-directors said: “It’s been another stellar year for independent film in Britain. The diverse range of films nominated showcases an astounding lineup of talent both new and established that demands to be celebrated.”

John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council, the major funding partner of the BIFAs says: "This year's BIFA nominations and award winners really highlight the range of talent working in the UK with powerful, ground-breaking and imaginative films coming from filmmakers with diverse voices."

All this would be irritating if there weren't some truth to it. The range and quality of the films is impressive this year. Here are the 2008 winners.

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire

Martin McDonagh – In Bruges (personal favourite!)

Steve McQueen – Hunger

Vera Farmiga – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

++Michael Fassbender – Hunger

Alexis Zegerman – Happy-Go-Lucky

Eddie Marsan – Happy-Go-Lucky

Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire

The Escapist

Zebra Crossings

Cinematography – Sean Bobbitt – Hunger

Man on Wire


Waltz with Bashir
THE RICHARD HARRIS AWARD (for outstanding contribution to British Film)
David Thewlis

Michael Sheen

Joe Dunton

For further details, visit Raindance.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

European Film Awards 2008: the nominees

Two major Italian films are in the running to pick up a European Film Award, whose fifth ceremony will be held on December 6 in Copenhagen. And on a personal note, I'd say that one of them, "Gomorrah", stands a pretty good chance of walking away with it. Roberto Saviano is also nominated as scriptwriter of the year.


Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino)
The Class (Laurent Cantet)
Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone)
Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh)
The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona)
Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman)


Laurent Cantet (The Class)
Andreas Dresen (Cloud 9)
Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir)
Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah)
Steve McQueen (Hunger)
Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo)


Michael Fassbender (Hunger)
Thure Lindhardt & Mads Mikkelsen (Flame & Citron)
James McAvoy (Atonement)
Toni Servillo (Gomorrah and Il Divo)
Jürgen Vogel (The Wave)
Elmar Wepper (Cherry Blossoms)


Hiam Abbass (Lemon Tree)
Arta Dobroshi (Lorna's Silence)
Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
Belen Rueda (The Orphanage)
Kristin Scott Thomas (I've Loved You So Long)
Ursula Werner (Cloud 9)


Suha Arraf & Eran Riklis (Lemon Tree)
Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso & Roberto Saviano (Gomorrah)
Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir)
Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo)


Luca Bigazzi (Il Divo)
Oscar Faura (The Orphanage)
Marco Onorato (Gomorrah)
Sergey Trofimov & Rogier Stoffers (Mongol)


Marton Agh for production design (Delta)
Magdalena Biedrzycka for costume design (Katyn)
Laurence Briaud for editing (Un Conte De Noel)
Petter Fladeby for sound design (O' Horten)


Tuur Florizoone (Moscow, Belgium)
Dario Marianelli (Atonement)
Max Richter (Waltz With Bashir)
Fernando Velázquez (The Orphanage)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mamma Mia now biggest ever UK movie at UK box-office

With box-office reaching £66,995,244 (€84,758,880 or $104,590,000), "Mamma Mia!" is the second highest-grossing film of all time in the UK behind Titanic and the biggest ever UK movie at the UK box office. The celebration of Abba was directed by Phylida Lloyd on a script by Catherine Johnson.

Quoted by Screen International, David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International said, "We think it still has some life in it. The sing-along version has been a great success and will continue to give it a bump, and we now have Christmas party bookings coming in from across the UK. One driver is the multiple viewings with people going back to see it again and again. It really is happening on a scale that we haven't seen before."

It's easy to knock this film, but both it and the underlying stage play touch a very deep chord in audiences worldwide. The inherent silliness is not a problem, as from having seen it, one can only salute the power of Abba's songs. Like the music it is based on, "Mamma Mia!" will not win any creative awards. It doesn't have to; it connects with the audience in a way most other films can only vaguely dream of.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"You, the Living" picks up Nordic Council Film prize

One of the most bizarre films in Europe has just picked up the Nordic Council Film Prize. "You, the Living", written and directed by Sweden's Ray Andersson ("Songs From the Second Floor") is a surreal but very touching exploration of man's best and worst sides. Shot entirely in studio, it breaks with what Andersson calls the "prevailng Anglo-Saxon film dramaturgy, but is still a story". Looking at extracts, I'm reminded of Tati at times due to the disconnected style of using bizarre vignettes. One of the most remarkable scenes features a tramp singing an ode to a motorcycle. Odd, but it works.

"You, the Living" was shown in the "Un certain regard" section of Cannes 2007, was Sweden’s Oscar entry and won Best Film, Director and Script at Sweden’s Guldbagge awards.

The official site is here. For a few extracts, visit Cineuropa's website.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

German shorts go on the road

I just received an e-mail from German about German shorts that are going on the road (there's a pun there that I will resist!).

The 41st Sitges Film Festival (02.-12.10.2008) is showing FULL EMPLOYMENT (ARBEIT FUER ALLE) by Thomas Oberlies and Matthias Vogel and KINGZ by Benni Diez and Marinko Spahic in the Official Fantstic Shorts competition. A6/A9 by Johannes Schiehsl and FREQUENCY MORPHOGENESIS by Onni Pohl were invited to screen in the section entitled Animat Shorts.

THE GIRL WITH THE YELLOW STOCKINGS (DAS MAEDCHEN MIT DEN GELBEN STRUEMPFEN) by Grzegorz Muskala, SEA DOG'S DEVOTION (SEEMANNSTREUE) by Anna Kalus and A SUNDAY IN WINTER (EIN SONNTAG IM WINTER) by Hella Wenders are competing in the short films competition of the 37th Festival Nouveau Cinéma Montreal
(08.-19.10.2008). MY HAPPY END by Milen Vitanov, A SUNNY DAY (EIN SONNIGER
TAG) by Gil Alkabetz and VIDEO 3000 by Joerg Edelmann, Joern Grohans, Jochen Haussecker and Marc Schleiss can be seen in the childrens programmes. EXIT by Jochen Kuhn is screening in Prsentation Spcial, the programme Temps/Nouvelles Images will be showing DESCENDANTS
(NACHKOMMEN) by Heiko van der Scherm.

BROTHER, BROTHER (BRUDER, BRUDER) by Lars Kreyig and ILLUSION by Burhan Qurbani were invited to the student films competition of the 2nd Middle East International Film Festival Abu Dhabi (10.-19.10.2008).

The 53rd Cork Film Festival (12.-19.10.2008) will be showing ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) by Reto Caffi (DE/CH), JOURNEY TO THE FOREST (REISE ZUM WALD) by Joern Staeger and SUNRISE DA CAPO by Nina Poppe in the International Shorts competition. MY HAPPY END by Milen Vitanov can be seen in the section for Family Screenings.

The 52nd London Film Festival (15.-30.10.2008) has selected five German shorts. 7 MORE MINUTES by Izabela Plucinska (DE/PL), ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) by Reto Caffi (DE/CH) and W. by The Vikings will screen in Short Cuts & Animation. REMOTE INTIMACY (FERNE INTIMITT) by Sylvia Schedelbauer and PNEUMA MONOXYD by Thomas Koener (DE/RS) will be shown in the Experimenta sidebar.

The 46th Viennale (17.-29.10.2008) has invited 2 ODER 3 VERSUCHE, EINE IDEE UMZUSETZEN by Jan Peters and Marie-Catherine Theiler (DE/CH), MONA by Agnes Rossa (EG/DE), PIANOFORTE by Christoph Girardet and SCOPE and TEACHING THE ALPHABET by Volker Schreiner to its short film sections.

ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) by Reto Caffi (DE/CH), TOMORROW-YEAH! by Daniela Abke and WHEN WE ARE IN HEAVEN (UND WENN WIR DANN IM HIMMEL SIND) by Daniela Risch will be running In Competition at the 27th International Short Film Festival Uppsala (20.-26.10.2008). A SUNNY DAY (EIN SONNIGER TAG) by Gil Alkabetz and WHITE (WEISS) by Florian Grolig can be seen as Childrens Films.

HASTINGS by Nikolas Jger will be shown in the sidebar Brick Film Fest, while 40 SQUARE METERS (40 QUADRATMETER LEBEN) by Eva Thron is being shown in the programme of Gay/Lesbian: At Home and Out and About. AMIN by David Dusa (FR/DE/NL) is part of Short Matters.

ENERGY! (ENERGIE!) by Thorsten Fleisch and SUPER SMILE by Effi Wu are invited to the Shorts Competition of the 22nd AFI Fest Los Angeles (30.10.-09.11.2008).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Stranger than fiction: Italian actor arrested in mob swoop

Italy has decided to get heavy on the Mafia, sending 3,000 military in to the worst areas to support police activities. But in a bizarre twist, two actors who played the role of gangsters in the award-winning film "Gomorra" by Matteo Garrone have been arrested as part of a group of people associated with a Mafia gang in Naples. The arrests follow the murdering of six Africans suspected of dealing in drugs and who were killed as a way of warning others to back off the lucrative trade. Following rioting, thousands of people took to the streets to denounce the killings and organised crime, with a similar demonstration in Rome drawing a very large crowd.

The semi-professional actor Giovanni Venosa was known to the police as a petty criminal and was fingered by a prison inmate as a possible drugs pusher. He plays a local boss in the movie.

UK review on Time Out
Trailer in English on Optimum releasing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

William Friedkin masterclass in London

You might have to move fast on this one. William Friedkin is the writer/director/producer of landmark films such as "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist", both of which redefined their genres and provoked considerable outrage at the time. Since then, he has also produced "Cruising" and "To Live and Die in L.A." and is now active in TV and opera.

In an event organised by The Script Factory, he will be interviewed live by Mark Kermode following a screening of "The French Connection" on October 21 at 8pm at the Screen on the Green in Islington, London. Tickets priced £10 are on sale from Screen on The Green box office on 08700 664777.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Love is All" picks up Best Dutch film award

The box-office hit comedy "Love is All/Alles is Liefde" picked up the Best Film award at the 2008 Golden Calves ceremony (Dutch national film awards) on the last day of the Netherlands Film Festival. Over a million visitors saw the film last year, which also earned the Best Director Golden Calf for Joram Lürsen. The script is by Kim van Kooten.

Robert Jan Westdijk’s "In Real Life" won awards in the categories of Best Cinematography and Best Editing, while Mijke de Jong’s "Katia’s Sister" was awarded Golden Calves for Best Supporting Actress (Olga Louzgina), and Best Screenplay, for Jan Eilander and Jolein Laarman. Paula van der Oest’s "Tiramisu" won Best Actress honours for Anneke Blok and Best Score for Michiel Borstlap.

The acting awards for men went to Robert de Hoog for his role as a Jewish skinhead in "Skin" and Ton Kas for his supporting role in the political satire "Vox Populi". The Audience Award went to "Mafrika" from Paul Ruven.

Local heroes
I often pick out winners at the festivals around Europe, and looking back at them, it still surprises me how few of them break through outside their home territories. Scandinavia has a thriving local cinema that simply does not travel for the moment. The region of Flanders in Belgium has the same problem. In fact, it's worse. Even though they share a language with the Netherlands (Dutch), the two show very little interest in each others' movies.

This is clearly a huge handicap to the development of Europe's industry. Going back a decade or so, the French cinema used to produce movies of a large scale that were released globally. They often called on Italian or Polish directors for ambitious projects. They have scaled back considerably since then, despite a healthy flow of successes such as "Amélie Poulain", "La vie en rose" or the "Taxi" franchise.

Every five years or so, someone tries to set up a larger European company with global ambitions. But they seem to hit a glass ceiling every so often. It has also regularly been said that the type of project being produced in Europe (such as "Love is All") are films with in-built limitations in terms of mass appeal.

Until something changes - in either the development or the distribution - most of these local heroes seem to be condemned to being just that.

This article is featured on the Carnival of Cinema.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Louise Michel" picks up screenwriting award at San Sebastian

Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine (photo) have picked up the Best Screenplay award at Spain's 56th San Sebastian Film Festival for "Louise Michel". Their third feature, the film stars Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners, Benoît Poelevorde and Matthieu Kassovitz (who also co-produced) in a goofy tale of a hit-man and his client chasing an unscrupulous company boss. The film will screen at the London Film Festival (October 15-30) and open in Belgium on December 24. Overall winner at San Sebastian was the Turkish film "Pandora's Box" by Yesim Ustaoglu (co-written by Selma Kaygusuz), which also won Best Actress.

For details, check the 56th San Sebastian Film Festival.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Italian films score at home, move to Toronto

Italian films made an impact at Venice this year, putting the country's cinema back on the map to a degree. Amongst the title that picked up the best reviews were Ferzan Ozpetek's Rome-set family drama "Perfect Day" (pictured right), the directorial debut of Marco Pontecorvo with "Pa-Ra-Da", the true story of the Franco-Algerian clown Miloud Oukili and Marco Bechis' "Birdwatchers". The first two are programmed for the upcoming Toronto festival.

In other Venice news, the challenging British movie "Hunger", about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands that died in prison, has picked up the Gucci Group award. "Hunger" was directed by Steve McQueen and written by McQueen and Enda Walsh ("Disco Pigs").

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IRA flick in life rights issue

An interesting case for writers is about to hit the screen. "50 Dead Men Walking" is based on the autobiography of Martin McGartland, an RUC mole that infiltrated the IRA during Northern Ireland's "troubles" in the eighties. Yet McGartland recently claimed that his portrayal "misrepresents his life" as it shows him taking part in bombings and torture and is reserving his right to have the film withdrawn.

Of particular note is the fact that he told the magazine Screen International, "I definitely have a case in terms of infringement of my moral rights not only in the UK but all around the world. If my solicitor tells me it damages my reputation I will seek an injunction to see that the film is pulled and the DVD doesn’t seen the light of day."

The producers recently said of the film that "although inspired by the contents [of the book], it is not a representation of Mr McGartland's life". It is worth noting that they acquired the rights to the book and that McGartland was also given the option of having the main character's name changed, which he apparently declined. Not having read the agreement between him and the producers HandMade Films/Future Films, it is impossible to come to an opinion about this issue. But it does show the complexity of portraying real people on the screen, and the need to nail down any legal issues before production. By the same token, it shows the danger of undertaking a writing project without some sort of agreement with the subject of a biography and/or its authors.

"50 Dead Men Walking" was written and directed by Kari Skogland and will premiere at the Toronto International Film festival on September 10.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Italian movies to dominate Venice Mostra

With 18 feature films being show, the Venice Film Festival will have a clear Italian tone to it this year. The 65th festival will be unlike any other, as it is going through a deep re-think of where it is in the festival circuit. The Rome festival is pulling some of the glamour later in the year, for example, which means producers and distributors often have to choose between the two. Venice also competes with Toronto and Cannes.

The Italian focus is also due to a lower number of American films, as the effects of less production due to the writers' strike are felt. Italian films in competition include Italian-Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek's "Un Giorno Perfetto," featuring the events of one day on a group of people, and Pupi Avati with "Il Papa' di Giovanna," the story of a father dealing with his daughter's horrible crime.

Italian cinema has a low profile for the moment. This is not helped by political changes amongst the bodies that promote it - plus the fact that the news sites are no longer translated into English or French.

Interesting sites such as Cinecitta News are now monolingual. One of the most bizarre sites is Cinecitta's page about the festival, which details the architecture of the Spazio Italia it is hosting there but doesn't mention any films. This reflects the in-fighting going on inside the institutions at the expense of effective promotion.

If Venice sounds too exotic and far away for scriptwriters or directors, think again. I attended it a few years ago, flying low-cost and staying in a 'pensione' (very basic accommodation). For lunch, I chose to eat in working mens' canteens that were both tasty and cheap. At night, I ate in the self-service canteens at the festival. The only problem is finding tickets to the actual screenings. But there are plenty of opportunities to network anyway. Plus, Venice is truly one of the most magnificent towns on the planet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Doctor Who" scripts picks up Hugo award

"Blink", an episode of the rejuvenated BBC series "Doctor Who", received a Hugo Award on August 9 last, in the section for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form (in this case a TV episode). The Hugo Awards are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. They were first awarded in 1953, and then every year since 1955. The awards are run by and voted on by fans and are billed as the "biggest award in fandom". They are awarded each year at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).

"Blink" was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald. Moffat has written extensively for TV, including "Coupling", "Doctor Who" and "Jekyll". Moffat won this category for the past two years - with "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" and "The Girl in the Fireplace". He is currently working on an adaptation of the Belgian comic strip hero "Tintin".

"Blink" is in the third series of "Doctor Who".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

British films hit $3 billion mark in 2007

Although there are serious concerns about future productions, last year was a good year for British movies. According to figures released by the UK Film Council, British films raked in $3 billion last year, an increase of 50% over the previous year.

Film such as "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "The Golden Compass" and "The Bourne Supremacy" helped British take 29% of the domestic box office, 16% in Europe and 12% in the US.

These successes are of course driven by the major (US) studios. The Council also points to the success of "Control" and "This is England" as examples of more specifically British film-making (although Anton Corbijn is in fact a Dutchman). Films to look forward to include new Bond and Potter movies as well as "Brideshead Revisited".

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

UK's Screenwriter Magazine becomes 12

Screenwriter Magazine, perhaps the leading screenwriting magazine in Europe (with France's la Gazette des Scénaristes) is entering the digital age as From July 1, the magazine has become an online site and is (alas) no longer being printed. The new site will include the articles produced by Screenwriter, as well as all the bells and whistles you would expect of a website. This includes tips and an "ask the agent" section for subscribers as well as the inevitable forum.

If you move fast, you can pick up a free 10-day subscription. Check the site here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brussels festival celebrates first and second films

The sixth Brussels Film Festival is about to kick off, with its usual focus on first and second films from directors across Europe. The festival is opened and closed by "Melodrama Habibi/Une chanson dans la tête" by Hani Tamba and "Tricks" by Andrzej Jakimowski respectively (and a world and a Belgian premiere respectively too). Films to look out for include Germany's "The Stranger in Me", France's "57 000 km entre nous" and Russia's "Everybody Dies but Me".

The festival also features a special section devoted to rare movies, and an interesting selection of free outdoor screenings on the freshly-renovated Place Flagey in Ixelles. For film-makers there is a pitch competition (now closed) and a film workshop. Dates: June 28-July 6. For details in English, French and Dutch visit the Brussels Film Festival.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

RIP: Dino Risi, master of the Italian comedy

Dino Risi, master of the so-called "Italian comedy", died on Saturday June 7. Il maestro came to the spotlight with films such as "Il sorpresa/The Easy Life" and the original "Profuma di donna/Scent of a Woman", now better known as a remake starring Al Pacino.

I attended a special retrospective of his work in Brussels a few years back, and was struck by a number of things. All his films have the most amazingly brazen characters, which might also be due to the fact that he also worked with the most amazing actors such as Vittorio Gassman, Alberto Sordi and Ugo Tognazzi. His best films are also very clearly collaborative. You can feel the teamwork behind his minor masterpiece "I mostri/The Monsters", which would probably be more accurately translated as "Bastards". I asked at the time, "Who could possibly do movies like this these days?" The question still stands.

As a writer, I ask myself: which came first, the ferociously satirical scripts or the opportunity to create films with ferociously satirical actors?

Risi had some 50 films to his credit, and had a strong influence of post-war Italian cinema. He is the father of prolific director Marco Risi and received a Golden Lion at the Venice festival six years ago.

Salute, maestro.

Dino Risi on Amazon US
Dino Risi on Amazon UK

Jaco Van Dormael to talk in Brussels

One of the most promising writer/directors in Europe some ten years ago was Jaco Van Dormael, who made a huge splash with "Toto le héros" in 1991, followed by "Le huitième jour" in 1996. Rumours about his upcoming "Mr Nobody" have been extravagent to say the least, saying it covers "time" and is the most expensive Belgian film ever made.

This Tuesday June 10 he will put the rumours to rest or confirm them when he talks to the French-speaking Belgian writier's group ASA in Brussels.

For details, visit ASA.

Jaco Van Dormael on Amazon UK

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dardennes Brothers pick up Cannes script award

I haven't much to say about the Dardennes Brothers' "Silence of Lorna", as I haven't seen it (I thought "La promesse" was a fascinating glimpse into a bleak lifestyle and noble sentiments).

So apart from congratulating the pair for their screenplay award at Cannes, all I can do is point you in the direction of the interview they gave Cineuropa some time back.

Check it here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Out to lunches

Screenplay Europe will be going quiet for a few days, as I am packing for Cannes. I'm shopping two projects, "Protag" and "Tunerz", with a director and a producer respectively. The meetings have been lined up, the pitches honed (a good exercise in itself, of course - funny how you often get new insights into a story by constantly thinking up new pitches) and I'm feeling pretty upbeat about the whole exercise.

Plus, it will be nice to hang out with the film community for a few days. Anyone else down there can look out for me at the Belgian and Irish stands. I'll also be checking the conference schedule at the UK pavilion. Look for the dude with the hat.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

European cinema on the rise in Europe

We're so used to bad news generally, that I suppose this counts as good news. According to figures released by Europe's Audiovisual Observatory, the share of European films in European cinemas last year was 28.8%, up by 0.2% This is against a background of slightly falling attendance of 1.3%.

The rise comes from a greater number of films produced in Europe, 921 against 911 last year. Increased production in France, Spain and Italy contributed significantly to overall growth. "With a total of 133 entirely national films (+6) and 52 majority co-productions (+15), France registered the second highest production level of the past five years, up 21 films from the previous year. Spanish production levels hit a record high, increasing 9% to 115 entirely national films (+6) and 30 majority co-productions (+6). Continuing its upward trend Italy counted a total of 109 ‘national’ films split into 93 national (+3) and 16 majority co-productions (+4). In contrast, production figures declined strongly in Hungary and Sweden, falling by -18 and -16 respectively. However in both cases this represents a return to more normal levels against a background of exceptional production activity in 2006," according o the Observatory.

It's interesting as the distribution situation in Spain and Italy is very difficult. So I just have to conclude that it's very difficult to stop film production!

The top 5 European films last year were: "Harry Potter", "la Môme", "Taxi 4", "Hot Fuzz" and "El Orfanato". Get the full press release on the Observatory site.

This article is quoted on Carnival of Cinema.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Belgian distributor drops French-speaking Belgian films

If you read the blurbs for French-speaking Belgian movies over the past few years, everyone was upbeat: the films regularly pick up awards and the directors were celebrated in the world's press. Yet at home, the situation is entirely different. There have been numerous debates over the past few years about the disastrous box office results of French-speaking movies in Belgium. This has come to a head with the recent announcement that Lumière, until now the main distributor of the films, has decided to simply stop showing them.

Needless to say, this comes as quite a shock in a year that has three Belgian movies in competition in Cannes. However, the situation was perfectly foreseeable. For years, the focus has entirely been on so-called auteur movies to the expense of any others. Even the award-winning titles such as Bouli Lanner's "Ultranova" brought in very disappointing results. It should be pointed out that it's the distributors that take the greatest risk in these films. Production is partly subsidised by public funds, but not distribution. Although they are often hailed for their "personal" vision, the truth is that many of the films are personal to the point of being private indulgences.

Too much rope?
I remember a headline one year ago where a politician asked, "When will the Belgian audience be interested in Belgian movies?" It was, of course, the wrong question - as if the audience was there to serve the film-makers rather than the other way around. The Belgian audience will be interested in Belgian movies when the film-makers take an interest in the Belgian audience. That's the way it works in the real world. Many of these film-makers have simply been given too much rope for too long.

Just a short trip up the road, a different mentality can be seen. 2007 was one of the all-time best years for Belgium's Dutch-speaking film-makers, with numerous box-office hits and good results in art-house movies such as "Ben X". In fact, there is so much TV and film work that good scriptwriters are hard to find.

I know this might sound old-fashioned, but you must be doing something right when people are willing to pay to see your movies on a Saturday night. Deep down, I think too many people had gotten used to too much easy money for too long. I welcome the new constraints. They were a long time coming.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

French director wins "Crossing Europe" award for second time

French director and actress Isild Le Besco has won the European Competition for the second time and receives the CROSSING EUROPE Award European Competition 2008 for her film "Charly. The jury in Linz (Austria) called Le Besco an “original voice in European cinema” and added that “this simple ‘coming-of-age’ story lingered disturbingly in our minds due to its uncompromising style and great acting.”

Greek director Thanos Anastopoulos received a special mention for "Diorthosi/Correction". The Ray Audience Award went to "Ljubav i Drugi Zlocini/Love and Other Crimes" by Stefan Arsenijevic.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pudor takes top prize at Lecce European Film festival

The Spanish film "Pudor" (Modesty) directed by David and Tristan Ulloa (on a script by the latter) walked away with the top prize at the European Film festival in Lecce, Italy. According to the jury, the film won the Golden Olive for “knowing how to command everyday surrealism with original solutions, applied to a subject that is today being discussed again and is in progressive transformation and dissolution – the family”.

The film bills itself as being "about intimacy... desires, obsessions, secrets and fears that we keep hidden, even from those we love most". The producer's site (in Spanish) can be seen here.

The best screenplay award went to Andrei Zvjagingev’s "The Banishment".

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gazette des Scénaristes: new issue

I have been writing here less as I have been writing more elsewhere. I'll be attending Cannes again with two projects in development: "Protag", a dark contemporary thriller for the YouTube generation, and "Tunerz", probably Europe's first movie about the tuning scene. So I'll be posting less as the deadline approaches and the pitches, treatments and cover letters are reworked.

The only news I have now is that the new issue of France's quarterly Gazette des Scénaristes is out. The Gazette is one of the best scriptwriter magazines. This issue looks at the future of scriptwriters (pretty bleak unless some heads are knocked together), has an open letter to "those who develop, finance and show films without scripts" (a blast at the ultra-auteur syndrome that is strangling European cinema) and a very big question: should we write like Americans?

I haven't read that article, but I already know what most people's answers will most likely be in Europe.

The Gazette can be bought by mail at Dixit.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New French writer's site

For many years, Version Finale was the main hub of contact for France's writing community. It recently changed hands and many of the most active members moved to their own temporary board, called As with many temporary things on the web, it might just end up being definitive.

Check the messageboard (le Forum). The members are toying with the idea of giving an award to the weirdest script (in French) at the Cannes festival, the Prix Zarbi.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Michael Haneke replays "Funny Games"

Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke (director of "Caché" and "The Piano Player") has pulled off an unusual stunt with the recent release of "Funny Games" in the US. The film is an almost shot-by-shot remake of the excellent though scary original Austrian language original, released in 1997. "Funny Games" is the tale of two clean-cut smiling sadists (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) that terrorise a family - for a while. It's rare, if not unique, for a remake to be a total remake, rather than an adaptation, given the differences in mainstream American audiences and the very varied European audiences.

The new version is picking up excellent reviews (some saying it's as good as the original). The official site: Funny Games US.

Funny Games 1997 on Amazon US

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Iron Maiden singer scripts movie for Cannes

According to a report in the BBC, Bruce Dickinson (singer with the metal band Iron Maiden) will unveil a film at this year's Cannes festival. "Chemical Wedding" will star Simon Callow as Professor Haddo, the reincarnation of British occultist Aleister Crowley, once described as Britain's most evil man. Julian Doyle, who directed the video for the band's 1988 single 'Can I Play with Madness', co-wrote the script with Dickinson and is directing. The reaction from test screenings are that it is very much in the vein of the Hammer Horror films.

Julian Doyle, for those that read the small print on DVDs, has also worked as an editor and/or second unit director on "The Life of Brian", "Brazil" and "The Wind in the Willows". Sounds promising.

Friday, March 07, 2008

O'Horten picks up 4 Norwegian movie awards

Norway just held its annual awards ceremony, on the closing night of the Kosmorama Film festival in Trondheim. The big winner of the night was Bent Hamer's comedy "O'Horten", which picked up awards as Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Music (by Kaada) and Best New Creator.

The festival opened on February 28 with the Norwegian premiere of the political thriller "Night of the Wolf" by Swedish action specialist Kjell Sundvall. Other highlights included a masterclass by US filmmaker John Sayles and Peter Greenaway’s presentation of his latest film "Nightwatching".

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Terry George premiere and masterclass in Belfast

Oscar-nominated writer and director (and who has excelled in both roles) Terry George will premiere his new film "Reservation Road" at the 8th Belfast Film Festival and will also run one of the masterclasses at the event. George is best known for "In the Name of the Father" and "Hotel Rwanda". His masterclass on April 11 will "examine the similarities and differences in writing for TV, Film and the internet, the art of characterization and the subjects of plot, structure and dialogue". He will also take part in a Q&A session after his film's projection.

For more details, visit the Belfast Film Festival site.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Taxi" director to talk at French screenwriter fest

Love 'em or hate 'em, the "Taxi" franchise is one of France's most successful over the past ten years, boasting over 24 million viewers. This year's guest of honour at the 11th International Screen Writer's festival in Bourges, France (27-30 March) is Gérard Krawczyk. His César-nominated short films will be showcased, as well as the features "Je hais les acteurs", "Fanfan la tulipe" and "La vie est à nous". They provide an opportunity to host meetings based on the unusual pairing of auteur and action.

The event also features premieres, round tables and other activities such as a pitching forum and special activities focused on animation. For details, visit Scenario au long court.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"La graine et le mulet" wins best script award at Cesars

Abdellatif Kechiche's script for "La graine et le mulet" picked up the best script award at France's prestigious Cesar ceremony, also picking up awards as Best French Film and Best Director. That's quite a hat trick.

Other notable awards went to "The Lives of Others" as Best Foreign Film, "Persepolis" as Best Adaptation and Marion Cotillard as Best Actress for her monumental role in "La vie en rose".

Check the full list of winners on the Cesar site.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Award-winning writers to speak at Screenwiters festival

Britain's Screenwriters Festival will be held this year July 1-3 in Cheltenham. The guest speaker line up so far includes Christopher Hampton, Oscar winning writer of 'Dangerous Liaisons' and the 2008 Oscar-nominated 'Atonement', and Kay Mellor producer and BAFTA award winning writer of such well known series' such as 'Band of Gold', 'Playing the Field', 'Fat Friends' and 'The Chase'.

The programme for the 2008 Festival will be up on the website on Friday 14th March 2008. The festival also has a pitch contest. See the details on their website.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Atonement" and "La vie en rose" mark the Baftas

"Atonement" (Best Film and Best Production Design) and "La vie en rose" (Best Actress, Best Music, Best Costume Design and Best Hair and Make-Up) were the big winners at this year's Bafta awards.

Other notable winners were "This is England" as Best British Film, "Juno" by Diablo Cody (Best Original Screenplay) and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" for Ronald Harwood (Best Adapted Screenplay).

For the full results, see the Bafta site.

Friday, January 25, 2008

"La vie en rose" and "Le secret" top Cesar nominations

France's upcoming Cesar nominations will see two heavyweights battle it out, as "La vie en rose" and "Le secret" are both nominated for a staggering 11 awards each, going head to head notably in the Best Film and Best Actresses categories.

Nominations for screenplays are:

Best Original Screenplay
Olivier Dahan - La Vie en Rose
Julie Delpy - 2 Days in Paris
Abdellatif Kechiche - The secret of the Grain
Anne le Ny - Ceux qui restent
Laurent Tirard and Grégoire Vigneron - Moliere

Best Adapted Screenplay
Claude Berri - Hunting and Gathering
Christine Carrière - Darling
Ronald Harwood - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Claude Miller and Nathalie Carter - Un secret
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud - Persepolis

The awards ceremony will be held on February 22.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bafta award nominations

This year's Bafta award nominations have just been announced.


JUNO – Diablo Cody
THE LIVES OF OTHERS – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
THIS IS ENGLAND – Shane Meadows


ATONEMENT – Christopher Hampton
THE KITE RUNNER – David Benioff
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Paul Thomas Anderson

As usual, the nominees are largely US-based. I'll be rooting for "The Lives of Others", although there are enough good scripts in there for the award to fall into deserving hands. For the full list of nominess, visit the Bafta site.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Script courses and co-production in Belgium

Although it is not known as a source of overtly commercial cinema, Belgium does have a unique position by being bilingual (French/Dutch) and reliant on international co-productions to get those stories told. So it has always had an international perspective. The overwhelming majority of movies are released in their mother tongue with subtitles for example.

The French-speaking writers' group ASA (of which I am a member) have three events coming up. On Tuesday January 15, writer and script doctor Luc Janssens will be taking a bold look at the role of scripts, connections with the audience, what constitutes a "good" character and other questions using "African Queen" as a basis.

I suspect this will be a condensed version of a longer cycle he will be running on the five Saturdays between February 2 and March 1.

On January 26 he will be using his script for the cartoon "Asterix et les Vikings" as the basis for a discussion. Janssens is a vastly experienced and practical writer/teacher. So these promise to be interesting events. Details on the ASA site.

Meanwhile, Media Desk is organising a round table for Belgian and UK producers that are looking for partners on February 28 in Brussels. Details from Jeanne Brunfaut on 00/32/(0)2/413 22 71 in Brussels or Media Desk UK.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Foreign-language films in Bafta awards

This year´s Bafta awards feature a number of heavyweights in the foreign-language section. The nominees are "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", "The Kite Runner", "The Lives of Others", "Lust, Caution" and "La Vie en Rose". One of the surprises is that "4 months..." is nowhere to be seen. The event will take place on February 10 in London.