Category Archives: Spotlight Screening

My Life as a Courgette, The Salesman: Films to watch out for at 18th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2016

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Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Mihir Fadnavis

If you are by any chance a film buff you’d be aware of your favourite time of the year – the 18th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. You’d also no doubt be really confused about what films to watch considering the sheer volume of amazing films put together by the lovely people of Jio MAMI.

Fret not. Listed below is a handy guide to make note of 15 films you should absolutely, under no circumstance, miss at the festival.

Under The Shadow

Director: Babak Anvari
Country: Iran

By far the most exciting film at the fest, Babak Anvari’s film contains a mysterious spooky entitypestering a mother and her daughter during the fag end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. The film has been gathering some serious buzz ever since it premiered in Sundance back in January. It’s also UIK’s official entry to the Oscars — which bodes well for fans of intelligent horror cinema.

The Lure

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Country: Poland

Set in a Warsaw nightclub and full of weird lurid visuals, The Lure chronicles two mermaid sisters who arrive on land to explore the ‘human’ side of the world, and clash when they fall for the same human. Things get stranger when we discover the mermaids also have vampiric tendencies. The film created quite a buzz in Sundance where it won a Jury Prize.

Personal Shopper

Director: Oliver Assayas
Country: France

It seems like this year’s MAMI has turned into the Fantastic Fest (what could possibly be better than that) because this is the third acclaimed horror film to watch out for. Oliver Assayas who totally bowled us over two years ago with The Clouds of Sils Maria is back with a spooky story with an undercurrent of social commentary.

Assayas’ regular Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, an assistant to a fashion mogul in Paris who contacts a spirit of some sort. Festival darling Assayas picked up the Best Director award at Cannes earlier this year.

Old Stone

Director: Johnny Ma
Country: China

We know China can be a weird place, and debut director Johnny Ma explores yet another bizarre quirk of the country: if you help someone in a car accident and take him to the hospital, you are liable to pay their rehabilitation fees for the rest of their life. The protagonist of the film, a cab driver finds himself in such a scenario in a film that bagged Ma the award for the best debut film at the Toronto International Film Fest earlier this year.

Graduation

Director: Cristian Mungiu
Country: Romania

Graduation puts 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days director Mungiu back to his roots – in the underbelly of Cluj. The film follows a surgeon who for some reason is a target by unknown pranksters, and whose daughter is mugged and assaulted on her way to her exams.

With handheld cameras, bleak blue tones, and the exploration of grassroots corruption, Mungiu’s latest has been heralded as a return to form for a filmmaker whose previous film Beyond the Hills was criticized for being too self indulgent. Mungiu bagged the Directors trophy at Cannes for this film.

Things To Come

Director: Mia Hansen Love
Country:France

Fast emerging as one of the most exciting filmmakers of this generation, Hansen Love’s new film follows a 50 year old woman who needs to come to terms with dealing with life after a divorce. Hansen Love bagged the Silver Bear for Best Director in Berlin, but her amazing work in her previous film Eden is enough reason to be excited for this one.

My Life As A Courgette

Director: Claude Barras
Country: Switzerland

Celine Sciamma who earlier wrote the magnificent Girlhood teams up with director Barras for a stop motion animation about a 9-year-old boy who is put in an orphanage after his alcoholic mother dies — for which he may or may not be responsible.

Elle

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Country: France

The filmmaker behind some of the most nihilistic films of all time like Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers returns after years with Elle, another nasty takedown of the society we live in. This time the story follows a rich video game honcho named Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) who is attacked by a masked man at her Parisian home.

Like all Verhoeven’s previous films, Elle is supposed to present moral dilemmas with a satirical bite and a layer of icily dark commentary on sex, violence and, in this case, video games. It’s France official entry to the Oscars.

Sand Storm

Director: Elite Zexer
Country: Israel

Winning the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, Elite Zexer’s film which is set in Southern Israel follows a Bedouin woman dealing with everyday sexism and not so casual misogyny of the region after her husband is about to be married to a second, much younger woman. That should be an interesting watch because it’s a topic that folks in India can unfortunately relate to all too well.

Hounds Of Love

Director: Ben Young
Country: Australia

In case you’re looking for a serial killer movie, debut filmmaker Ben Young presents a highly intriguing one with Hounds of Love, which introduces us to a serial killer couple whose latest kidnapping victim realizes that the only way to escape is by getting the two psychos to turn against each other.

One other little aspect to convince you to see this film is that the many audience members at the Venice Film Festival walked out because they couldn’t stomach what was happening on the screen.

The War Show

Director: Andreas Dalsgaard, Obaidah Zytoon
Country: Syria – Denmark

The War Show is supposed to be a blistering account of the Arab Spring seen through the eyes of radio host Obaidah Zytoon who began filming the state of things during and after the protests.

The Lovers And The Despot

Director: Rob Cannan and Ross Adam
Country: Britain

It’s pretty obvious how demented and scary North Korea is, and it seems there’s no dearth of bizarre stories to come out of the country. This documentary brings us the real life story of a filmmaker couple who was kidnapped by Kim Jong II and were forced to make films in the country because the great dictator was a film buff.

Lantouri

Director: Reza Dormishian
Country: Iran

Yet another fascinating film from Iran, we’re taken through three intertwining stories: one which follows a gang of thugs that attacks and kidnaps young children from families that gained their wealth through financial wrongdoings, another which chronicles a journalist who is not allowed to voice his opinion and the third which follows a prostitute who turns into a thug.

Clash

Director: Mohamed Diab
Country: Egypt

After garnering acclaim for his film Cairo 678, Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab is back with another interesting story that puts various characters in a single location – a police riot car during the raging bloody streets of Cairo when the Muslim brotherhood president Morsi was overthrown and the country went nuts.

After The Storm

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Country: Japan

Like Father Like Son filmmaker Koreeda returns with another film with similar themes of isolation in the Japanese society. The film follows a writer struggling to live up to the success of his first novel and dealing with vices such as gambling and ego. While researching his next book he begins to spy on his ex wife who is now seeing another man. Reality hits him when he discovers that their son, in the custody of his mother is perfectly happy without him. The film has naturally received glowing reviews everywhere it’s screened.

The Salesman

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Country: Iran

It’s Farhadi’s new film — that’s all you need to know.

Other Notable Mentions:

Swiss Army Man: A delightful tale of a suicidal man whose life is saved by a farting corpse.

The Wailing: Yet another engrossing watch from Korean maestro Hong Jin Na about a Korean village going through a turmoil after a Japanese man encroaches their territory.

Neruda: The new film from Pablo Larrain which has been garnering some terrific buzz.

Madly: A short anthology featuring directorial works fromAnurag Kashyap,Gael Garcia Bernal, Mia Wasikowska, Natasha Khan, Sion Sono and Sebastian Silva.

Death in Sarajevo: Danis Tanovic’s new film.

I, Daniel Blake: Festival darling Ken Loach’s latest which is sure to have insanely long lines – make sure you get to the screening hall early.

(Source: http://www.firstpost.com)

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Venice Film Festival 2016: Impressive Line-Up For Golden Lion Nominations

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The 73rd Venice International Film Festival has been set in motion. The dates are out and the line-up has been released. The festival will pit twenty movies for the top prize named Golden Lion. From dramas to thrillers, the line-up is loaded with some power packed performances.

Venice Film Festival will kick start with the world premiere of La La Land. Directed by Damien Chazelle, the musical has already been the talk of the town due to the sizzling chemistry of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The plot of the movie revolves around a jazz pianist who falls in love with an ambitious actress in Los Angeles.

Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven will be showcased before the curtain closes on the festival. The movie stars Denzel Washington in a plot set for the modern retelling of the 1960 classic about outlaws in the Old West.


Talking about the festival, director Alberto Barbera says that the focus of this year’s line-up has been philosophical and existential questions that prevail in films. He says movies which steer away from brutality of reality and every day news are approached. He clarifies that the idea should not be looked upon like a sort of escapism.

 

Venice Film Festival Nomination Line-Up
Ana Lily Amirpour, The Bad Batch
Stephane Brize, Une Vie
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Derek Cianfrance, The Light Between Oceans
Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat, El ciudadono ilustre
Massimo D’Anolfi, Martina Parenti, Spira Mirabilis
Lav Diaz, The Women Who Left
Amat Escalante, La region salvaje
Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
Roan Johnson, Piuma
Andrei Konchalovsky, Paradise
Martin Koolhoven, Brimstone
Emir Kusturica, On the Milky Road
Pablo Larrain, Jackie
Terrence Malick, Voyage of Time
Christopher Murray, El Cristo ciego
Francois Ozon, Frantz
Giuseppe Piccioni, Questi giorni
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Wim Wenders, Les beaux jours

The popular one among the lot, The Light Between Oceans, to be showcased at Venice Film Festival, is a story about a couple who help a baby that drifts away in a rowboat. The cast of the movie includes Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz and Michael Fassbender.

The Venice Film Festival will also be remembering the great work by two legendary film directors, Abbas Kiarostami and Michael Cimino, reported Euro News. Both the directors recently passed away. Venice Film Festival comes to a close on Sept. 10 2016.

(Source: http://www.movienewsguide.com article by Ancy John)

Zero Days: More or Less

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Zero Days, the latest film by acclaimed documentarian, Alex Gibney, details claims that the US and Israeli governments conducted covert cyber warfare operations against the Iranian government and the Iranians’ nuclear enrichment program. Zero Days, a fitting Opening Night Film for AFI DOCS, served as a catalyst for conversation in the Q & A  immediately followed its screening at the Newseum in Washington D.C.

AFI President & CEO Bob Gazzale introduced the film and commented on the importance of Director Gibney’s work in line with “dreams for a better world. Dreams that demand debate!” In addition, Gazzele stated how honored he was to be partnering with this year’s presenting sponsor AT & T. AT & T spokesperson, Jennifer Coons, took stage and expressed what a privilege it was for AT & T to bring together politics, business and investment to learn from one another while connecting people.

Zero Days opened with a 2010 clip from an Iranian television station with the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vehemently denouncing Western and Zionist regimes interference in the Iranian nuclear enrichment program. Throughout the film, Gibney intersperses narrative voice overs and archival footage as the spokespersons for the US government repeatedly delivered “I can’t comment” when asked about the existence of a cyber warfare super virus, soon to be revealed as Stuxnet. Two malware,  computer programming specialists from internet security behemoths Symantec and Kaspersky, uncover Stuxnet and both reach a professional conclusion  after engaging in deep analytic data processing that the virus they are uncovering is more than just the work of an at-large hacker. The sophistication and the virus’ ability to replicate itself without a user doing anything and its ability to mutate undetected is known in malware jargon as ‘zero-day exploitation’ without any protection against it and was undoubtedly the work of a nation-state. The effect the virus had on the Iranian infrastructure as it attacked power plants, energy grids, gas pipelines and industrial sites resulted in deaths and severe repercussions for scientists and line operators alike. The Symantec and Kaspersky experts estimated 500,000 attacks were unleashed over the course of its deployment.

A former employee of the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency went on camera to say that he knew of one or two nation-states that were using cyber weapons for offensive purposes. However, when asked who the states were and were the states involved using Stuxnet, a dance of denial ensued with the former employee back peddling while reiterating he did not mention names of the existence of Stuxnet often uttering “I can’t comment on that.”

In Zero Days Gibney has  upped the ante from previous works with heightened production values utilizing CGI and textual overlays to convey the genesis of a new era and a medium of espionage at the highest governmental levels and has done his homework as he provides a historical backdrop of the Iranian nuclear program disclosing the US gave Iran its first nuclear reactor under the Shah of Iran’s rule. In addition, he shows the pride the Iranian people have in their nuclear program demonstrated by their national celebrations for Nuclear Enrichment Day, a national nuclear day that has galvanized the republic of Iran. Throughout the remainder of Zero Days Gibney delves deeply into Homeland Security and the arsenal of the US Cyber Command apparatus with probing interviews and expose investigative reporting concluding with speculation on where this new game of  global cyber warfare may lead.

Zero Days is one of this year’s most important films in light of recent accusations a foreign power hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer system as well as Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign system. New York Times columnist David E. Sanger reports on this in the July 30th edition with his article “U.S. Wrestles With How to Fight Back Against Cyberattacks.”

Gibney’s other works, no less confrontational, include Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) and We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013).

AFI DOCS 2016 Wrap Up

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With ninety-four films from over 30 countries the 2016 AFI DOCS had something for just about every documentary film lover. The Opening Night film dazzled the at-capacity audience at the Newseum with Alex Gibney’s North American Premiere of Zero Days,a detailed account of claims the US and Israeli governments unleashed a sophisticated virus to thwart the Iranian nuclear enrichment program. The film also addressed the issue of retaliation and made for a lively conversation and Q & A following the screening. Highly recommended.

 

 

Kicking off the first full day, I had the good fortune of seeing seven short documentaries under the guise of Shorts: Outside In; Tracks, The Great Theatre, Rotatio, Neige, Fundir and Chocolate Mountain Metal, Shorts: Outside In. Warmly recommended.

Winding up a busy Day 2 at the Newseum, an interactive museum of news and journalism in downtown Washington, DC, Newtown, an emotionally, powerful look at the local community two years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre from acclaimed director Kim Snyder, and Audrie & Daisy, a story of two high school girls who were sexually assaulted in indefensible states and their vilification on social media with tragic consequences, were shown. Both are must-see films. Highly recommended.

 

Day 3 brought  After Spring, a telling tale of the relocation of Syrian refugees and the challenges they face at the Zaatari relocation camp inside the Jordanian border. Directors Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez attended the screening and made themselves available to discuss the making of the film. Recommended.


Almost Sunrise, explores an alternative approach to the traditional diagnosis and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Director Michael Collins chronicles the journey of two Iraq War veterans as they share a 2700 mile hike from the Midwest to the state of California to create an awareness of their trauma. Along the way, the two are warmly greeted and supported by fellow veterans and communities alike. Warmly recommended.

Unfortunately, due to an overwhelming demand for seats at the Guggenheim Symposium and Screening, I was not granted a place for the evening’s conversation with Werner Herzog and Ramin Bahrani including clips from Herzog’s storied career and a screening of his latest work, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. Nevertheless, I made my way over to Silver Spring, MD, AFI Silver Theater for Cinema, Mon Amour, a wonderful story of a Romanian family and their ‘never say quit’ spirit as they work determinedly to keep open the last of Romania’s grand movie palaces.

Day Four began with a visit to the AFI DOCS Lounge for the Filmmakers Forum and the making of short documentaries. Quick and to the point, storytellers and the movers and shakers of the industry engaged in an informative format as filmmakers and producers provided guidance and probed the issues in today’s filmmaking environment.

Full of vigor, the featured Command And Control,directed by Robert Kenner, recounted a 1980 nuclear accident with surreal details. Highly recommended.

Next, I dropped in on Vanessa Gould’s Obit, an insider’s guide to the world of who’s who in the annals of lives lived through the eyes of the legendary New York Times obituaries desk. Obit reveals a unique form of journalism and the idiosyncrasies of the writers and editors who create and compose these celebrations of extraordinary lives lived. Warmly recommended and my personal favorite!

Closing out the evening again at the Newseum with a Spotlight Screening of Check It.  Check It, a mesmerizing look at an inner city, Washington DC, gang composed of gay and transgendered teens who allied themselves together for protection and survival out on the streets of the nation’s capitol over a three year period, was directed by Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor. Over the course of the film, the Check It gang comes to the realization that while surviving is critical so is leading a productive and useful life. Warmly recommended.

Day 5 kicked into gear with another visit to the AFI DOCS Lounge for Part Four of the Filmmakers Forum. I arrived early and met Discovery’s Gina Scarpulla. Unbeknownst to me, Ms. Scarpulla and her team at Discovery are pioneering virtual reality in film. Virtual headsets, known as lunchboxes were made available before and after the forum. See my full write up here: AFI DOCS Filmmaking Forum on Virtual Reality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came the Chicken People, directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes. Chicken People delves into the worlds of the contestants and their contenders, pure bred chickens,  as they vie for best fowl at the Ohio National Poultry Show and the title of Super Grand Champion. Warmly recommended and A Don’t Miss!

Doc & Darryl, a soon-to-be-aired ESPN 30 for 30 film, depicts the trials and tribulations of the 1986 Major League Baseball World Champions New York Mets and the meteoric rise and setbacks of the team’s two most talented players, Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. The film was co-directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. See my write up: Doc & Darryl

Closing out the 2016 AFI DOCS was Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. This is a masterpiece of television history. Breathtaking images of actors, writers and directors watching clips from  All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and Good Times juxtaposed against their commentaries, highlight this cinematic gem. Another must see film! And I know Norman Lear wouldn’t have it any other way. Highly recommended.

Norman Lear , center, on the red carpet with filmmakers Heidi Ewing, right, and Rachel Grady, left, before the screening of the 2016 AFI DOCS Closing Night film, Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You, June 26, 2016, at the Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson)

This was my first AFI DOCS. Set in our nation’s Capitol, the festival ran smoothly. Two venues were in downtown Washington, DC, and were within walking distance of one another. Also, both venues were easily accessible by the Metro and had plenty of shops, coffee bars, sports bars, and restaurants nearby. The third venue was in Silver Spring, Maryland, home of the AFI DOCS Silver Theater and Cultural Center. Again, plenty of shops and nearby eateries and fairly easy to get to by Metro. The Washington Post calls AFI DOCS “The nation’s leading documentary film festival.” I couldn’t agree more.

Until next year, I’ll see you at the movies!

AUDRIE & DAISY

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Spotlight Screening
AUDRIE & DAISY tells the story of two teenage girls who went to parties, drank alcohol, passed out, and were sexually assaulted by guys they thought were their friends.  In the aftermath, both girls discovered that the crimes were documented on cell phones.  Video and pictures were passed around.  Their lives were changed forever.

A riveting examination of the frightening consequences of social media gone out of control, AUDRIE & DAISY focuses on the traumatic aftermath for two teenage girls who were sexually assaulted in 2012. As evidence of the crimes went viral, the victims were scorned by their communities and cyber-bullied by their peers — to tragic ends. This heartbreaking film makes a powerful plea to end the cultures of shame and silence surrounding rape in the digital age. — Chuck Willett

 

Director’s Statement

As directors and parents of teenagers, we are struck by the frequency of sexual assaults in high schools across the country and have been even more shocked by the pictures and videos, posted online – almost as trophies – by teens that have committed these crimes.  This has become the new public square of shame for our adolescents.   Unfortunately, the story of drunken high school parties and sexual assault is not new.  But today, the events of the night are recorded on smartphones and disseminated to an entire community and, sometimes, the nation.  Such was the case for Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, two teenage girls, living thousands of miles apart but experiencing the same shame from their communities.  While the subject matter is dark, we are inspired by these stories to make a film that captures these truths but can also help audiences digest the complexities of the world teenagers live in today.

As we began our research, the Steubenville, Ohio High School rape case was underway.  At the time, there was wide criticism directed at national news outlets for their lack of focus on the victim and perceived sympathy for the perpetrators.  As more cases have come to light since then, this damaging attitude – stemming from what many refer to as pervasive “rape culture” in American society – has remained largely in tact.  However, journalists need stories and stories require characters.  As is the norm in underage rape cases, in Steubenville, the survivor chose (understandably) to maintain her anonymity as a “Jane Doe.” We decided then that a genuinely emotional, meaningful film about teenage sexual assault required the affirmative on- camera participation of the survivor.  Our main subjects, Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott, involuntarily lost their anonymity when rumors, insults and photos about their assaults circulated around school and on social media.  Identified by name and subjected to online character assassination, Daisy decided with great courage to speak out publicly.  Audrie’s parents chose to go public with their daughter’s story after the unspeakable tragedy of Audrie’s suicide, as well. Thus, using their deeply personal – and, now public – stories as a starting point, we launched into production of our film.

AUDRIE & DAISY, directed by Bonni Cohen and Joe Shenk is screening Thursday, June 23rd, 2016, at the Newseum at 8:15 P.M. Click here for tickets.

NEWTOWN

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On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and murdered 20 schoolchildren and six educators. In the aftermath of the killings, filmmaker Kim Snyder traveled to Newtown and trained her lens on a grieving community, following several families who came face to face with tragedy. NEWTOWN reveals both the indelible scars gun violence leaves behind and the resilience of people who come together to heal.  — Vicki Warren

Filmed over the course of nearly three years, the filmmakers use unique access and never before heard testimonies to tell a story of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history on December 14, 2012. NEWTOWN documents a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Joining the ranks of a growing club to which no one wants to belong, a cast of characters interconnect to weave an intimate story of community resilience.

NEWTOWN, a 2016 AFI DOCS Spotlight Screening, is scheduled to show on Thursday, June 23rd, 2016, at 5:45 P.M. at the Newseum.

“You won’t truly understand gun violence until you see the NEWTOWN documentary.” – Esquire

“A breathtaking gut punch. This film is an important historical record, and an important reminder of an event in American history that could have changed everything, that should have changed everything. NEWTOWN is a crucial reminder of that.” – Indiewire

For more details visit: Newton/AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center.

 

 

CHECK IT Advance tickets sold out @AFIDOCS

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The AFI DOCS Spotlight Screening of Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer’s riveting documentary, Check It, has sold out its advance ticket sales for its Saturday, June 25th, 9:00 P.M. show at the downtown, Washington, D.C., Newseum. However, there will be a standby line at the screening for any unclaimed seats.

Brief synopsis of Check It

In the heart of the nation’s capital, the Check It is a street gang comprised of gay and transgender teens who support each other in the face of outside bullying, attacks and discrimination. The group struggles with an existence underscored by violence, poverty and prostitution, but when a young mentor comes into their lives, he endeavors to help them find a more productive outlet: through the creative world of fashion. Finally faced with a better option, the Check It members must now attempt to beat the odds by getting off the street and working toward lives of purpose and accomplishment. — Chuck Willett

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