AFI FEST Announces Cinema’s Legacy and Midnight Lineups

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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The AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi Cinema’s Legacy and Midnight lineups have been revealed. This year’s Cinema’s Legacy program, AFI FEST highlights films directed by women and is a celebration of motion picture history with a special opportunity to screen recent restorations of classic and lesser-known films.

The festival spotlights six independent filmmakers across subjects and genres, including two world-premiere restorations, and newly struck16mm presentations: THE CRUZ BROTHERS AND MISS MALLOY (DIR Kathleen Collins, 1980), DRYLONGSO (DIR Cauleen Smith, 1998), THE JUNIPER TREE (DIR Nietzchka Keene, 1990), MEETINGS OF ANNA (DIR Chantal Akerman, 1978), NITRATE KISSES (DIR Barbara Hammer, 1992) and QUEEN OF DIAMONDS (DIR Nina Menkes, 1991).

The Midnight section features an international selection of macabre and provocative genre films: CAM (DIR Daniel Goldhaber), IN FABRIC (DIR Peter Strickland), KNIFE+HEART (DIR Yann Gonzalez) and PIERCING (DIR Nicolas Pesce).

CINEMA’S LEGACY

THE CRUZ BROTHERS AND MISS MALLOY – This charming feature debut from recently rediscovered filmmaker Kathleen Collins (LOSING GROUND), THE CRUZ BROTHERS AND MISS MALLOY follows three Puerto Rican brothers who, under the watchful eye of their father’s ghost, are enlisted to help an eccentric elderly widow restore her home before her own anticipated death. DIR Kathleen Collins. SCR Kathleen Collins, Henry H. Roth, Jo Tavener. CAST Rae Ferguson, Sylvia Field, Cesar Gonzalez, Susan Hurst, Susan Lukas, Jose Machado. USA

DRYLONGSO – While photographing “America’s most endangered species” — the African-American male — Pica Sullivan encounters Tobi, disguised in men’s clothing to avoid her abusive boyfriend. Like its title, DRYLONGSO — an old term meaning “ordinary” — the issues addressed in Cauleen Smith’s powerful and little-seen 1998 film remain appallingly ordinary to young African-American men and women. New 16mm print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. DIR Cauleen Smith. SCR Salim Akil, Cauleen Smith. CAST Toby Smith, April Barnett, Will Power. USA

THE JUNIPER TREE (EINITREO) – This beautiful restoration exhumes Nietzchka Keene’s unheralded debut, a feminist interpretation of the Brothers Grimm fairytale that underscores the uncertain safety of women in a patriarchal society. Filmed in Iceland, this atmospheric fantasy features a 20-year-old Björk as Margit, who escapes with her sister Katla when their mother is killed for practicing witchcraft. World Premiere of the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research 2018 restoration with funding provided from The Film Foundation and the George Lucas Family Foundation. DIR Nietzchka Keene. SCR Nietzchka Keene. CAST Björk Gudmundsdottir, Bryndis Petra Bragadottir, Valdimar Orn Flygenring, Gudrun S. Gisladottir, Geirlaug Sunna Pormar. Iceland

MEETINGS OF ANNA (LES RENDEZ-VOUS D’ANNA) – In Chantal Akerman’s 1978 masterwork, Anna (Aurore Clément) is a respected Belgian filmmaker on a no-frills European tour promoting her latest film. As Anna travels from city to city, she has a series of startling encounters with different men and women, all of which seem to underscore her uneasy place in an increasingly dreary and anonymous Western Europe. DIR Chantal Akerman. SCR Chantal Akerman. CAST Aurore Clément, Helmut Griem, Magali Noël. France, Belgium, West Germany

NITRATE KISSES – The debut feature from celebrated filmmaker Barbara Hammer, NITRATE KISSES is an experimental excavation of queer histories, a celebration of difference across communities and a lament for histories lost to cultural repression. New 16mm print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. DIR Barbara Hammer. USA

QUEEN OF DIAMONDS – A seminal work by experimental narrative filmmaker Nina Menkes, this film stars her sister and longtime collaborator Tinka Menkes as a blackjack dealer at a desert casino. The resulting film is a hypnotic trance of white bones and blue sky, the occasional oasis, the dark nights punctuated by neon. Restored by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation. DIR Nina Menkes. SCR Nina Menkes. CAST Tinka Menkes, Emellda J. Beech. USA

MIDNIGHT

CAM – Lola (Madeline Brewer of THE HANDMAID’S TALE) is a modern-day camgirl who makes her living through online private chats, but her world is about to turn upside down. Written by former camgirl Isa Mazzei, this thriller is one of the most surprising and intelligent films of the year. DIR Daniel Goldhaber. SCR Isa Mazzei, Daniel Goldhaber. CAST Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, David Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey. USA

IN FABRIC – A demonic dress haunts the lives of all that come into contact with it in this sexually explicit, phantasmagoric fever dream. As the garment moves from person to person, it leaves death and destruction in its wake. DIR Peter Strickland. SCR Peter Strickland. CAST Gwendoline Christie, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill. UK

KNIFE+HEART (UN COUTEAU DANS LE COEUR) – A masked madman stalks across the world of a producer and her film company. What results is a psychosexual slasher set in the world of the 1970s gay porn scene in Paris, from visionary and boundary-pushing director Yann Gonzalez. DIR Yann Gonzalez. SCR Yann Gonzalez, Cristiano Mangione. CAST Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury, Kate Moran, Jonathan Genet, Khaled Alouach, Félix Maritaud, Noé Hernandez, Thibault Servière, Bastien Waultier, Bertrand Mandico, Jules Ritmanic. FRANCE

PIERCING – In Nicolas Pesce’s wicked and kinky black comedy PIERCING, Reed (Christopher Abbott) is a seemingly normal guy struggling to channel some dark urges involving an ice pick. But when he orders a call girl (Mia Wasikowska) with the secret intention of taking his violence out on her, things go disturbingly off-script. DIR Nicolas Pesce. SCR Nicolas Pesce, Ryû Murakami (novel). CAST Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Bond, Laia Costa, Maria Dizzia, Marin Ireland, Dakota Lustick, Wendell Pierce. USA

Pictured at top: THE JUNIPER TREE

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(Source: AFI Press Release)

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AFI FEST Announces Special Screenings Lineup

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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The AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi Special Screenings lineup has been revealed and from appearances it promises to be extraordinary!

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 5.31.50 PMTHE COLD BLUE – In 1943, legendary Hollywood director William Wyler crafted MEMPHIS BELLE, a celebrated tribute to the titular WWII bomber. Using footage from the National Archives shot by Wyler and his team of cinematographers, director Erik Nelson has crafted a new film, featuring gripping narration from some of the last surviving B-17 pilots. A meditation on youth, war and stunning bravery. DIR Erik Nelson. USA. The film will be followed by Wyler’s THE MEMPHIS BELLE: A STORY OF A FLYING FORTRESS (1943). This screening in celebration of Veterans’ Day has been underwritten by the Cecil B. DeMille Foundation.

COLD WAR – Zula and Wiktor meet in a provincial talent search in a love story that traverses borders and years. In this stunning black-and-white depiction of 1950s Poland, two unlikely people find love at an almost impossible cost. DIR Paweł Pawlikowski. SCR Paweł Pawlikowski, Janusz Glowacki. CAST Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn, Jeanne Balibar. Poland, UK, France

DIVIDE AND CONQUER: THE STORY OF ROGER AILES – This documentary explores the rise and fall of the late Roger Ailes, a Republican Party heavyweight. From his early media influence on the Nixon presidency to his controversial leadership at Fox News, director Alexis Bloom documents the creation of his media empire and how Ailes was one of the earliest giants toppled by accusations of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement. DIR Alexis Bloom. USA

ENEMIES: THE PRESIDENT, JUSTICE & THE FBI – In this preview of the four-part documentary series inspired by Tim Weiner’s book, “Enemies: A History of the FBI,” director Jed Rothstein and executive producer Alex Gibney examine the complex history of conflict between the FBI and U.S. presidents, as well as stories of abuse of power from within the bureau. DIR Jed Rothstein. SCR Tim Weiner. USA

EVERYBODY KNOWS (TODOS LO SABEN) – Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem turn in brilliant performances as longtime friends who must come together when a brutal event sends their families into crisis. EVERYBODY KNOWS is Asghar Farhadi’s skillful suspense saga that keeps the screws turning while sacrificing none of the layered drama for which the Iranian auteur has become known. DIR Asghar Farhadi. SCR Asghar Farhadi. CAST Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Elvira Mínguez, Ramón Barea, Carla Campra, Sara Sálamo, Roger Casamajor, José Ángel Egido. Spain, France, Italy

THE FAVOURITE – Director Yorgos Lanthimos showcases his uniquely dark humor with a royal story of intrigue, jealousy and betrayal. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne in the early18th century, while her close friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), governs behind the curtain and tends to her capricious moods. When a new servant named Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, she charms her way into the women’s lives, discovering secrets and provoking rivalries. DIR Yorgos Lanthimos. SCR Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara. CAST Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss, Jenny Rainsford. USA

I AM THE NIGHT – Inspired by true events, this TNT limited series tells the incredible story of Fauna Hodel, a teenage girl given away at birth, growing up outside of Reno, Nevada. Fauna has always lived with her contradictions and her mysterious origins, until she makes a discovery that leads her to question everything. As Fauna begins to investigate the secrets of her past, she meets a ruined reporter, haunted by the case that undid him. Together they follow a sinister trail that swirls ever closer to an infamous Los Angeles gynecologist, Dr. George Hodel, a man involved in some of Hollywood’s darkest debauchery, and possibly, its most infamous unsolved crime. DIR Patty Jenkins. SCR Sam Sheridan. CAST Chris Pine, India Eisley, Jefferson Mays, Dylan Smith, Leland Orser, Yul Vazquez, Justin Cornwell, Golden Brooks, Jay Paulson and Connie Nielsen. USA

ROMA – Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA is a semi-autobiographical recounting of one year in the life of an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City in the 1970s. From the perspective of their live-in maid and nanny Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, in an exceptionally subtle yet powerful performance), this profoundly compassionate and humanistic portrait delivers a transcendent masterwork from one of our greatest living filmmakers. DIR Alfonso Cuarón. SCR Alfonso Cuarón. CAST Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira. Mexico, USA

STAN & OLLIE – The true story of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the world’s two biggest stars, and how they fell from grace and lost not only their fortunes but their friendship. Delightful performances from Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the titular duo transport audiences to Hollywood’s Golden Age. DIR Jon S. Baird. SCR Jeff Pope. CAST John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Stephanie Hyam, Shirley Henderson. UK, Canada, USA

UNDER THE SILVER LAKE – A killer cast leads this highly anticipated noir from David Robert Mitchell, one of our most exciting directors. Hidden beneath the surface of the lives of the young and beautiful in Los Angeles lurks a sinister code to unlocking everything. DIR David Robert Mitchell. SCR David Robert Mitchell. CAST Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Zosia Mamet, Callie Hernandez, Patrick Fischler, Grace Van Patten. USA

VOX LUX – In Brady Corbet’s assured and razor-edged second directorial feature, Natalie Portman stars as Celeste, a jaded pop star who as a teen was a survivor of a Staten Island school shooting. Now, when Celeste’s most popular music video is the inspiration for another mass shooting, she must contend with the link between her past and present. DIR Brady Corbet. SCR Brady Corbet. CAST Natalie Portman, Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Raffey Cassidy. USA

Pictured at top: Natalie Portman in VOX LUX

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(Source: AFI Press Release)

More About American Film Institute’s AFI FEST Presented by Audi

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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AFI FEST presented by Audi is the American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. It takes place each fall in Hollywood, CA, and features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations and tributes. AFI FEST remains the first and only festival of its stature that is free to the public, offering the best of current cinema in Hollywood. This year’s dates are November 8th through November 15th, with the world premiere of On the Basis Of Sex opening the festival and the world premiere of Mary Queen of Scots closing it.

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AFI FEST 2018 is its 32nd edition — and its 15th year with the visionary support of presenting sponsor Audi. Los Angeles’ longest-running international film festival remains a showcase for the best festival films of the year, and an opportunity for artists to come together with audiences in the heart of the movie capital of the world.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Films categories of the annual Academy Awards® — a tradition that continues each year.

New Auteurs, is designed exclusively to raise the profiles of first or second-time feature filmmakers. This section offers a launch pad for new voices eligible for prizes awarded by an esteemed jury of critics, writers and editors from the film community.

AFI FEST’s State of the Art technology showcase provides an engaging forum on innovative new modes of storytelling that spotlight Virtual Reality filmmaking.

The festival’s World Cinema Masters in Conversation section takes a closer look at veteran world auteurs with career-spanning talks and screenings of their latest work.

The festival has paid tribute to numerous influential filmmakers and artists over the years, including Annette Bening, Danny Boyle, Marion Cotillard, Catherine Deneuve, Bruce Dern, Isabelle Huppert, Sophia Loren, Viggo Mortensen, Christopher Plummer and Tilda Swinton, as well as Guest Artistic Directors Pedro Almodóvar, Bernardo Bertolucci, David Lynch and Agnès Varda.

AFI FEST has screened many films that have produced Oscar® nominations and wins including, most recently, 45 YEARS, AMOUR, ANOMALISA, CAROL, ELLE, FOXCATCHER, THE GREAT BEAUTY, HER, INHERENT VICE, JACKIE, LA LA LAND, LINCOLN, LION, MR. TURNER, MUSTANG, NEBRASKA, THE SALESMAN, STILL ALICE, SELMA, SON OF SAUL and TIMBUKTU.

AFI FEST has also presented world premieres of films from marquee Hollywood artists, including AMERICAN SNIPER, THE BIG SHORT, CONCUSSION, DOUBT, LINCOLN, MISS SLOANE, MONSTER, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, PATRIOTS DAY, RULES DON’T APPLY, SAVING MR. BANKS and SELMA.

Stay tuned for more on the upcoming AFI FEST 2018 in Hollywood, Calif., this November 8th through November 15th!

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(Source: AFI.com)

AFI FEST 2018 Reveals ‘Oscar Heavy’ World Cinema Lineup

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi has revealed the films that will play in the World Cinema section November 8th through November 15th. Seven of the entries are nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

The World Cinema section showcases the most celebrated international films of the year and features 28 titles from 27 countries. The seven official Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® submissions are: CAPERNAUM (DIR Nadine Labaki), DOGMAN (DIR Matteo Garrone), “I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS” (DIR Radu Jude), NEVER LOOK AWAY (DIR Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), SHOPLIFTERS (DIR Hirokazu Kore-eda), SUNSET (DIR László Nemes) and THE WILD PEAR TREE (DIR Nuri Bilge Ceylan).

AFI FEST will also present the North American premiere of the first two episodes of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND as part of the section. Premiering on HBO November 18, the series is an adaptation of author Elena Ferrante’s celebrated international bestseller centered on the complicated friendship between two women across decades.

Pictured above: HAPPY AS LAZZARO

WORLD CINEMA

3 FACES (SE ROKH) – Jafar Panahi and Iranian actress Behnaz Jafari travel to a small village in northwest Iran to investigate the possible suicide of an aspiring young actress. Content to sit in the car while three generations of women examine their dual oppression, Panahi traverses moral and ideological pathways through rural Iran with trademark heart, charm and wit. DIR Jafar Panahi. SCR Jafar Panahi. CAST Behnaz Jafari, Marziyeh Rezaei, Narges Del Aram, Jafar Panahi, Maedeh Erteghaei. Iran

AMATEURS (AMATÖRER) – When German investors show interest in building a superstore in the small town of Lafors, community leaders decide to create a promotional video. Turning to students for help, teenagers Aida and Dana begin filming — and the battle for the true image of Lafors is on. Director Gabriela Pichler returns to AFI FEST with a sharp, funny, youthful and complex drama about giving a voice to those most often unheard. DIR Gabriela Pichler. SCR Gabriela Pichler, Jonas Hassen Khemeri. CAST Zahraa Aldoujaili, Yara Aliadotter, Fredrik Dahl. Sweden

ANGELS ARE MADE OF LIGHT – Filmed over three years, the latest documentary from James Longley follows students and teachers at a school in an old neighborhood of Kabul that is slowly rebuilding from past conflicts. Interweaving the modern history of Afghanistan with present-day portraits, the film offers an intimate and nuanced vision of a society living in the shadow of war. DIR James Longley. USA, Denmark, Norway

ASH IS PUREST WHITE (JIANGHU ER NV) – Jia Zhang-ke returns to AFI FEST with his latest sprawling masterwork. Centering on the struggles of Qiao (played by Zhao Tao), a gangster’s girlfriend who spends five years in prison after getting caught up in a violent attack, ASH IS PUREST WHITE is a haunting, enigmatic portrait of individuals navigating China’s new “capitalism” at the dawn of the millennium. DIR Jia Zhang-ke. SCR Jia Zhang-ke. CAST Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Xu Zheng. China, France

BULBUL CAN SING – In Rima Das’ lyrical and quietly moving third feature, an independent girl, Bulbul, lives a typical teenage life in the Assam region of India. But when a cruel shaming by a group of local men balloons into a tragedy, Bulbul must learn how to deal with her awakening desires in a restrictive culture. DIR Rima Das. SCR Rima Das. CAST Arnali Das, Manoranjan Das, Bonita Thakuria, Pakija Begum. India

CAPERNAUM (CAPHARNAÜM) – CAPERNAUM tells the story of Zain, a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life. Zain journeys from gutsy, streetwise child to hardened 12-year-old “adult”: fleeing his abusive, negligent parents, surviving through his wits on the streets, and finally, seeking justice in a courtroom. DIR Nadine Labaki. SCR Nadine Labaki, Jihad Hojeily, Michelle Kesrwany. CAST Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawthar Al Haddad, Fadi Kamel Youssef, Cedra Izam, Alaa Chouchnieh, Nadine Labaki, Nour el Husseini, Elias Khoury. Lebanon

DAUGHTER OF MINE (FIGLIA MIA) – 10-year-old Vittoria is a quiet girl whose uneventful Sardinian summer becomes upended when she discovers her birth mother is the town drunk, Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher). As Vittoria begins to split her time between Angelica and the more stable woman who raised her (Valeria Golino), she finds herself struggling with something deep and innate. DIR Laura Bispuri. SCR Francesca Manieri, Laura Bispuri. CAST Valeria Golino, Alba Rohrwacher, Sara Casu, Michele Carboni, Udo Kier. Italy, Germany, Switzerland

DIAMANTINO – When Portuguese soccer god Diamantino blows a chance at World Cup glory, the disgraced footballer finds himself unwittingly tied up in conspiracies involving evil twin sisters, gender bending genetic experimentation, lesbian spies and far-right ultra-nationalists in delightfully sharp, future cult classic. DIR Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt. SCR Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt. CAST Carloto Cotta, Cleo Tavares, Anabela Moreira, Margarida Moreira, Carla Maciel, Filipe Vargas, Manuela Moura Guedes, Joana Barrios, Maria Leite. Portugal, France, Brazil

DOGMAN – Matteo Garrone’s latest film is a gripping drama about Marcello, a gentle yet cowardly dog groomer who finds himself caught up in Italy’s criminal underworld. Marcello forms a dangerous, one-sided relationship with former boxer and cokehead Simone, who terrorizes the community. Before long, Marcello is part of his reckless antics. DOGMAN will screen at AFI FEST in partnership with Cinema Italian Style, an annual showcase of contemporary Italian cinema in Los Angeles. DOGMAN will be the opening night film of Cinema Italian Style. DIR Matteo Garrone. SCR Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Braucci, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso. CAST Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce, Nunzia Schiano, Adamo Dionisi, Francesco Acquaroli. Italy, France

FUGUE (FUGA) – Alicja suffers from memory loss and has rebuilt her own free-spirited way of life. Two years later, she returns to her family and unwillingly resumes her role as wife, mother and daughter. FUGUE evokes the social taboos around motherhood and the pressure on women to accept maternity without hesitation or reflection. DIR Agnieszka Smoczyńska. SCR Gabriela Muskała. CAST Gabriela Muskała, Łukasz Simlat, Iwo RajskiMałgorzata Buczkowska, Zbigniew Waleryś, Halina Rasiakówna, Piotr Skiba. Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden

GENESIS (GENÈSE) – While Guillaume, an outwardly confident teenager in a posh boarding school, struggles with surprising new feelings of love and alienation, his older sister Charlotte navigates a thorny path of relationships with disappointing men in Québécois director Philippe Lesage’s detailed, incisive portrait of adolescent yearning. DIR Philippe Lesage. SCR Philippe Lesage. CAST Noée Abita, Théodore Pellerin, Jules Roy-Sicotte, Maxime Dumontier, Edouard Tremblay-Grenier, Emilie Bierre, Pier-Luc Funk, Vassili Schneider, Mylène Mackay. Canada

HAPPY AS LAZZARO (LAZZARO FELICE) – In auteur Alice Rohrwacher’s stunning third feature, a simple young man named Lazzaro works with other unpaid laborers on an isolated estate in the Italian countryside. But when Lazzaro suffers an accident, HAPPY AS LAZZARO kicks into high gear as a work of fantastic time-jumping poetry and grounded social critique. DIR Alice Rohrwacher. SCR Alice Rohrwacher. CAST Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Tommaso Ragno, Sergi López, Natalino Balasso, Gala Othero Winter, David Bennent, Nicoletta Braschi. Italy

HOTEL BY THE RIVER (GANGBYUN HOTEL) – A getaway destination along the frozen Han River is the setting for Hong Sang-soo’s latest, a simmering and melancholic family drama, lensed in stark black and white, about an aging poet facing mortality and his two competing sons who cross paths with a woman nursing the wounds of a scarring breakup. DIR Hong Sang-soo. SCR Hong Sang-soo. CAST Ki Joo-bong, Kim Min-hee, Song Seon-mi, Kwon Hae-hyo, Yu Jun-sang, Park Ran, Shin Seok-ho. South Korea

“I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS” (ÎMI ESTE INDIFERENT DACA ÎN ISTORIE VOM INTRA CA BARBARI) – Mariana is a young, defiant artist mounting a theatrical production of the Odessa massacre, in which Romanian soldiers killed thousands of Ukrainian Jews. As she attempts to stage a realistic reenactment, to force her fellow Romanians to confront their sins of the past, she meets with stiff resistance from local powers. Radu Jude’s latest masterpiece is at once funny, uncomfortable and profound. DIR Radu Jude. SCR Radu Jude. CAST Ioana Iacob, Alexandru Dabija, Alex Bogdan. Romania, Czech Republic, France, Bulgaria, Germany

MAYA – Mia Hansen-Løve reunites with Roman Kolinka for her sixth feature. As the French protagonist Gabriel, he travels to India after a traumatic stint of forced captivity and encounters the charming Maya. What takes shape is a subtle increase of silent attraction as the two explore his childhood home in this gentle film filled with yearning, wandering and rumination. DIR Mia Hansen-Løve. SCR Mia Hansen-Løve. CAST Roman Kolinka, Aarshi Banerjee, Alex Descas. France

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND (L’AMICA GENIALE) – MY BRILLIANT FRIEND adapts the first book in Elena Ferrante’s renowned coming-of-age epic, beginning in 1950s Naples and spanning six decades. An unexpected phone call prompts Elena to reflect on her relationship with her brilliant friend Lila and the complexities of female friendship in a community replete with male violence. DIR Saverio Costanzo. SCR Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo. CAST Valentina Acca, Antonio Buonanno, Gennaro Canonico, Pina Di Gennaro, Sarah Falanga, Luca Gallone. Italy

NEVER LOOK AWAY (WERK OHNE AUTOR) – Inspired by real events and spanning three eras of German history, NEVER LOOK AWAY tells the story of an art student Kurt, who falls in love with classmate Ellie. Ellie’s father, Professor Seeband, is dismayed at his daughter’s choice of boyfriend, and will stop at nothing to destroy the relationship. DIR Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. SCR Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. CAST Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Oliver Masucci Saskia Rosendahl. Germany, Italy

NON-FICTION (DOUBLE VIES) – Olivier Assayas’ latest is a delightful, breezy comedy centering on a married couple (Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet) as they navigate the swiftly evolving landscape of the modern publishing industry, and the ever-thorny issue of monogamy (or lack thereof) in long-term relationships. DIR Olivier Assayas. SCR Olivier Assayas. CAST Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne. France

OF FATHERS AND SONS – Award-winning documentarian Talal Derki gained the trust of a radical Islamist family in Syria and filmed their daily lives for two years. The result is OF FATHERS AND SONS, a jaw-dropping, intensely uninhibited look at young boys training as Jihadi fighters, and their Caliphate-obsessed father. DIR Talal Derki. Germany, Syria, Lebanon

OUR TIME (NUESTRO TIEMPO) – Two-time AFI FEST alum Carlos Reygadas returns to the festival with an intensely personal project. OUR TIME tells the story of an upper-middle-class rancher (Reygadas) whose wife (played by Reygadas’ real-life spouse) draws him into a cuckolding fetish. As the emotional stakes rise, life on the idyllic landscape becomes threatened. DIR Carlos Reygadas. SCR Carlos Reygadas. CAST Carlos Reygadas, Natalia López, Eleazar Reygadas, Rut Reygadas, Phil Burgers. Mexico, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden

PIG (KHOOK) – Past-his-prime filmmaker Hasan is having a crisis of ego. A serial killer is offing local filmmakers, and Hasan wants to know why he isn’t being targeted. In veteran filmmaker Mani Haghighi’s wonderfully bizarre dark comedy, the satire is heavy and hilarious, and gender stereotypes get smashed right and left. DIR Mani Haghighi. SCR Mani Haghighi. CAST Hasan Majuni, Leila Hatami, Leili Rashidi, Parinaz Izadyar, Mina Jafarzadeh, Aynaz Azarhoosh. Iran

PUTIN’S WITNESSES (SVIDETELI PUTINA) – With PUTIN’S WITNESSES, Vitaly Mansky returns to footage he filmed when commissioned — and provided with unnervingly intimate access — on a propaganda film promoting Vladmir Putin’s first presidential election. In this captivating portrait, Mansky both chronicles the alarming ease of the dictator’s rise to power and examines his own complicity in his near two-decade rule. DIR Vitaly Mansky. SCR Vitaly Mansky. Latvia, Switzerland, Czech Republic

SHOPLIFTERS (MANBIKI KAZOKU) – The winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, SHOPLIFTERS tells the tender story of a family of misfits and grifters struggling to make ends meet. After taking in a girl off the street, a sudden incident upends their lives and exposes their secrets. Director Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the screen with a nuanced class critique, and a beautiful portrait of family life. DIR Hirokazu Koreeda. SCR Hirokazu Kore-eda. CAST Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Kiki Kirin. Japan

SUNSET (NAPSZALLTA) – As World War I approaches, Irisz arrives in Budapest with the dream to work as a milliner at Leiter, a store once owned by her family. Her hopes dashed by the new proprietor, she discovers news that a previously unknown sibling may exist, and sets out to meet them. DIR László Nemes. SCR László Nemes, Clara Royer, Matthieu Taponier. CAST Juli Jakab, Vlad Ivanov, Evelin Dobos, Marcin Czarnik, Judit Bárdos, Benjamin Dino, Balázs Czukor, Christian Harting, Levente Molnár. Hungary, France

TOO LATE TO DIE YOUNG (TARDE PARA MORIR JOVEN) – Sixteen-year-old Sofia navigates the usual pitfalls of her age against the unusual backdrop of a burgeoning utopian society in the Chilean jungle of the 1990s. A moody, atmospheric period piece, this third feature firmly establishes Sotomayor as one of today’s most original filmmakers. DIR Dominga Sotomayor. SCR Dominga Sotomayor. CAST Demian Hernández, Antar Machado, Magdalena Tótoro. Chile

VISION – Juliette Binoche stars in Naomi Kawase’s latest, a meditative journey into the heart of Japan, and a mysterious portrait of one woman’s search for meaning. When Jeanne (Binoche) seeks a rare medicinal plant in the forested Nara region, her quest is aided by a ranger who helps to reveal painful fragments of her past. DIR Naomi Kawase. SCR Naomi Kawase. CAST Juliette Binoche, Masatoshi Nagase. Japan, France

THE WILD PEAR TREE (AHLAT AGACI) – THE WILD PEAR TREE is a portrait of an ambitious young writer returning home after college. At once languid and rhapsodic, Palme d’Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film is a profound and poetic look at a misspent youth grasping at a maturity that, once attained, is revealed to be the ultimate disappointment. DIR Nuri Bilge Ceylan. SCR Akin Aksu, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. CAST Aydin Doğu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Hazar Ergüçlü, Serkan Keskin, Tamer Levent, Akin Aksu, Öner Erkan, Ahmet Rifat Şungar, Kubilay Tunçer, Kadir Çermik, Özay Fecht, Ercüment Balakoğlu, Asena Keskinci. Turkey

YARA – Yara lives alone with her grandmother on a remote Lebanese mountain-side. A farmer brings supplies, a tour guide assists with odd tasks and, lost on a hike, a charismatic young hiker happens upon Yara hanging her underwear. A gently paced romance, Abbas Fahdel’s YARA captures the elation of first love and the crushing pain of its loss. DIR Abbas Fahdel. SCR Abbas Fahdel. CAST Michelle Wehbe, Elias Freifer, Mary Alkady. Lebanon, Iraq, France.

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(Source: AFI Press Release)

Denzel Washington to Receive 47th AFI Life Achievement Award

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Denzel Washington will receive the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award, America’s highest honor for a career in film. The award will be presented to Washington at a Gala Tribute on Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Los Angeles, CA.

The AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute special will return for its seventh year with Turner Broadcasting to air on TNT, followed by encore presentations on sister network Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Audi and American Airlines return as Official Sponsors of the event.

Actor, director and producer Denzel Washington is an iconic leading man whose career spans five decades — an esteemed repertoire ranging from screen to stage, in works defined by his towering presence as heroic everymen, troubling antiheroes and real-life figures with complicated, often controversial histories. His cinematic legacy includes powerhouse, Academy Award®-winning performances in GLORY (1989) and TRAINING DAY (2001), as well as celebrated roles in CRY FREEDOM (1987), MALCOLM X (1992), THE HURRICANE (1999), FLIGHT (2012) and ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. (2017), earning additional nominations for each. Washington has crafted compelling, unforgettable characters in recurring collaborations with master directors past and present, bringing stalwart grit and nuanced complexity to films essential to the American canon, such as Jonathan Demme’s PHILADELPHIA (1993), Spike Lee’s INSIDE MAN (2006) and Ridley Scott’s AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007) — and to blockbuster, crowd-pleasing fare such as Edward Zwick’s (AFI Class of 1975) CRIMSON TIDE (1995), Tony Scott’s MAN ON FIRE (2004) and Antoine Fuqua’s THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016).

A creative force behind the camera as well, Washington has helmed critically acclaimed films, including ANTWONE FISHER (2002) and THE GREAT DEBATERS (2007), in which he also stars. He won a 2010 Tony® for his performance in the play “Fences,” and directed, produced and starred in the 2016 film adaptation that earned him Best Actor and Best Picture Oscar®nominations, as well as AFI AWARDS recognition.

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(Source: AFI Press Release)

AFI FEST 2018 Announces New Auteurs and American Independents Lineups

Posted by Larry Gleeson

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Here are the films that will screen in the New Auteurs and American Independents sections at AFI FEST 2018 presented by Audi.Highlighting rising feature film directors, New Auteurs is the festival’s platform for upcoming filmmakers from all over the world to showcase their new films. This year, the section is comprised of 18 films, with 12 helmed by female filmmakers.

The American Independents section represents the best of independent filmmaking this year. Pushing boundaries of form and content across narrative and documentary cinema, this section includes 10 films — half of which are directed by women — from both new voices and filmmakers returning to AFI FEST. Five are directed by women.

Free tickets to AFI FEST will be available October 30. Click here to purchase a Priority Pass for the festival, which provides front-of-the-line admission to all screenings excluding Galas.

Pictured at top: JINN

NEW AUTEURS

ACID FOREST (RŪGŠTUS MIŠKAS)– A wispy stretch of land from Russia to Lithuania is home to an unlikely tourist attraction: a dying forest of leafless trees overtaken by thousands of ancient black birds ruining the area with their acid-fortified feces. With daredevil cinematography and immaculate sound design, Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė’s debut is a beguiling snapshot of the juncture between nature’s destruction and rebirth. DIR Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė. Lithuania

AKASHA – Documentarian Hajooj Kuka makes his attention-grabbing, intelligent debut with AKASHA, a comedy set in a rebel-held area of Sudan, where fighting has stopped amid the rainy season — and a man, a woman and an AK-47 are entangled in a love triangle. DIR Hajooj Kuka. SCR Hajooj Kuka. CAST Ekram Marcus, Kamal Ramadan, Ganja Chakado. Sudan, South Africa, Qatar, Germany

ALL IS GOOD (ALLES IST GUT) – An arresting portrayal of a woman who refuses to see herself victimized by rape. Intimately and claustrophobically photographed, this humanistic film illustrates a rape internalized — acknowledged though never reckoned with — where a rapist’s presumed authority over a woman’s body is endemic of an oppressive, patriarchal society. DIR Eva Trobisch. SCR Eva Trobisch. CAST Aenne Schwarz, Andreas Döhler, Hans Löw, Tilo Nest, Lisa Hagmeister, Lina Wendel. Germany

AND BREATH NORMALLY (ANDIÐ EÐLILEGA) – Lára is a single mother whose job as an Icelandic border guard is all that’s keeping her afloat. While training, Lára notices that the passport of Adja, a woman from Guinea-Bissau, has been forged. From there, Adja and Lára’s stories diverge and weave together again in Ísold Uggadóttir’s elegantly constructed drama of lives affected by the ongoing refugee crisis. DIR Ísold Uggadóttir. SCR Ísold Uggadóttir. CAST Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, Babetida Sadjo, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson. Iceland

BLACK MOTHER – From red light districts to lush rainforests, director Khalik Allah’s brilliant film weaves together the sacred and the profane in a loving and lyrical ode to Jamaica and its people, a visual poem that is at once deeply felt love letter and ecstatic street-corner prayer. DIR Khalik Allah. USA

THE CHAMBERMAID (LA CAMARISTA) – Lila Avilés’ debut feature follows Eve, a young maid in a luxurious Mexico City hotel, as she struggles with long hours and monotonous work. THE CHAMBERMAID is the touching story of her ambitions to rise above her current role and find a better life, and of her journey of self-discovery along the way. DIR Lila Avilés. SCR Juan Carlos Marquéz, Lila Avilés. CAST Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez. Mexico

DEAD HORSE NEBULA – Awarded the Locarno Film Festival prize for Best Emerging Director, Tarik Aktas’ feature debut is either a real or imagined childhood memory of adults attempting to remove the body of a dead horse from an open field. This existential fever dream is a transformative experience, a distillation of the extraordinary suspense of day-to-day existence. DIR Tarik Aktas. SCR Tarik Aktas. CAST Barış Mert Bilgi, Ali Yavuz Ilman, Ömer Bora, Serkan Aydın, Dilara Topuklular, Hasan Türker, Mümin Süren, Serkan Özsalgıncı. Turkey

DEAD PIGS (海上浮城) – Five lives collide in Cathy Yan’s quirky and comic debut — a bumbling pig farmer, a salon owner battling gentrification, an American ex-pat looking for the Chinese dream, a romantic waiter and a spoiled rich girl. DEAD PIGS sharply examines a contrasting China, where modern culture clashes with the traditional. DIR Cathy Yan. SCR Catha Yan. CAST Vivian Wu, Yang Hao Yu, Mason Lee, Li Meng, David Rysdahl. China

THE DIVE (HATZLILA) – Following the death of their father, three estranged brothers — two veterans and one heading off to war — return to their family’s kibbutz to fulfill the patriarch’s final wish, setting off a firestorm of unsettled conflicts and long-buried resentments. DIR Yona Rozenkier. SCR Yona Rozenkier. CAST Yoel Rozenkier, Micha Rozenkier, Yona Rozenkier, Claudia Dulitchi, Miki Marmor, Daniel Sabag, Shmuel Edelman. Israel

L’ANIMALE – On the verge of graduation and an uncertain future, a mischievous teenager rails against the societal and familial pressures of her suburban surroundings to seek autonomy in director/writer Katharina Mückstein’s masterfully perceptive and effervescent second feature about finding oneself by embracing the caged beast within and feeding its most insatiable cravings. DIR Katharina Mückstein. SCR Katharina Mückstein. CAST Sophie Stockinger, Kathrin Resetarits, Dominik Warta, Julia Franz Richter, Jack Hofer, Stefan Pohl, Dominic Marcus Singer, Simon Morzé, Eva Herzig, David Oberkogler, Martina Spitzer, Lisa C. Nemec, Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg, Gisela Salcher, Alexandra Schmidt. Austria

LEMONADE (LUNA DE MIERE) – Incredible performances and beautiful cinematography herald a bold new voice in Romanian cinema in this tale of a young mother immigrating to America. Mara struggles to navigate the system, in a fight to bring her son a better life that might cost her everything. DIR Ioana Uricaru. SCR Tatiana Ionascu, Ioana Uricaru. CAST Malina Manovici, Steve Bacic, Dylan Scott Smith, Milan Hurduc, Ruxandra Maniu. Romania, Canada, Germany

ONE DAY (EGY NAP) – This astounding debut feature follows 24 hours in the life of a harried mother as she navigates family work and betrayal.  Anna struggles with kids, work and everyday life — but it’s an unspoken menace that really threatens this family. DIR Zsófia Szilágyi. SCR Zsófia Szilágyi, Réka Mán-Várhegy. CAST Zsófia Szamosi, Leo Füredi, Ambrus Barcza, Zorka Varga-Blaskó, Márk Gárdos, Annamária Láng, Éva Vándor, Károly Hajduk. Hungary

RAFIKI – Kena likes to kick around a soccer ball with her boys. Bubbly Ziki likes to dance with her girls. Yet when their paths cross, the two fall in love. Banned in Kenya, Wanuri Kahiu’s gay romance is delightful and full of life. DIR Wanuri Kahiu. SCR Jenna Cato Bass, Wanuri Kahiu. CAST Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Jimmi Gathu, Nini Wacera, Dennis Musyoka, Patricia Amira. Kenya

RAY & LIZ – In this immersive debut, director and photographer Richard Billingham returns to the squalid council flat outside of Birmingham where he and his brother were raised, in a confrontation and reconciliation with parents Ray and Liz. A complex and layered visual inquiry, Billingham’s probing gaze, rich saturated palette and meticulous compositions reveal a surrealistic beauty in memories of poverty. DIR Richard Billingham. SCR Richard Billingham. CAST Ella Smith, Justin Salinger, Patrick Romer, Deirdre Kelly, Tony Way, Sam Gittins, Joshua Millard-Lloyd. UK

THE RETURN – In Malene Choi’s formally daring work of docufiction, the temporary residents of KoRoot — a Seoul-based guesthouse for transnational adoptees seeking information on their Korean birth parents — form a unique bond with one another while they each process the intense emotions inherent in their journey of self-discovery. DIR Malene Choi. SCR Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen. CAST Karoline Sofie Lee, Thomas Hwan, Seong In-Ja. Denmark, South Korea

SIR – When an unexpected romance develops with her upper-class boss, a strong-willed maid in Mumbai finds herself treacherously close to breaking India’s rigid rules of class division. Director/writer Rohena Gera’s debut feature boasts a luminous lead performance by Tillotama Shome. DIR Rohena Gera. SCR Rohena Gera. CAST Vivek Gomber, Tillotama Shome. India, France

STYX – Rike (Susanne Wolff) is sailing solo through open Atlantic waters. When she spots a vessel in the distance in a dire situation — a boat, brimming with migrants, is sinking — her voyage crystallizes into a sharp moral dilemma:  What is an individual’s personal responsibility when faced with the refugee crisis? DIR Wolfgang Fischer. SCR Ika Kuenzel, Wolfgang Fischer. CAST Susanne Wolff, Gedion Wekesa Oduor. Germany, Austria

TEMPORADA – Settling into a new job in an unfamiliar city, Juliana faces life as a single woman while navigating the financial and emotional tightrope walk that is life among Brazil’s working class in this beautiful and engrossing second feature. DIR André Novais Oliveira. SCR André Novais Oliveira. CAST Grace Passô, Russo Apr, Rejane Faria, Hélio Ricardo. Brazil

AMERICAN INDEPENDENTS

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM – Filmmaker John Chester documents the eight-year effort of an ambitious, life-changing personal venture: moving out of Los Angeles with his wife and building a diverse, sustainable farm. As the farm’s ecosystem begins to awaken, the couple explores the complexity of coexisting with nature and all its intricacies in this poignant documentary. DIR John Chester. SCR Mark Monroe, John Chester. USA

BLOWIN’ UP – BLOWIN’ UP is an intimate portrait of a New York criminal court and the rebel heroines working to change the way women arrested for prostitution are prosecuted. Stephanie Wang-Breal’s essential and fascinating documentary reveals the complex hurdles sex workers must face, and the steadfast efforts of those helping to change their lives. DIR Stephanie Wang-Breal. SCR Stephanie Wang-Breal. USA

COMMUNION LOS ANGELES – A dystopian vision of the present, this experimental documentary uses poetic time-lapse photography. An indistinguishable swell of half-audible monologues, radio frequencies and voicemails maintains a decidedly unsettling distance, even as the rhythms of reoccurring highway vistas, flickering street signs and neon-lit strip malls beckon you to fall under its trance. DIR Peter Bo Rappmund, Adam R. Levine. SCR Peter Bo Rappmund, Adam R. Levine. USA

FAMILY – When her estranged brother calls in an emergency, workaholic Kate Stone (Taylor Schilling) reluctantly agrees to babysit her tween niece Maddie. Kate’s life quickly spins into chaos as one night turns into a week. She doesn’t think things could get much worse, until she learns Maddie wants to run away from home to join the life of the Juggalos. DIR Laura Steinel. SCR Laura Steinel. CAST Taylor Schilling, Bryn Vale, Brian Tyree Henry, Jessie Ennis, Blair Beeken, Matt Walsh, Allison Tolman, Eric Edelstein, Kate McKinnon, Fabrizio Guido. USA 

THE GRAND BIZARRE – The debut feature of acclaimed experimental animator Jodie Mack is a playful, eye-popping trip around the world, through its fabrics and textiles and their place in a busy international market: bright swaths of fabric, scarves and rugs dance along shorelines, in airport carousels and clotheslines to the pulse of irresistible pop soundscapes. DIR Jodie Mack. USA 

THE GREAT PRETENDER – In Nathan Silver’s latest comedy, four New Yorkers intersect within the framework of Mona’s (Maëlle Poesy-Guichard) autobiographical play. Furthering the themes of self-delusion Silver explored in THIRST STREET (2017), the film’s artificial hues of violet, yellow and green visually serve to blur the characters’ real lives with the play they’re all unwittingly performing in. DIR Nathan Silver. SCR Jack Dunphy. CAST Esther Garrel, Keith Poulson, Linas Phillips, Maëlle Poésy. USA

HER SMELL – In HER SMELL, Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) battles addiction and personal demons while trying to maintain her celebrity and creativity as lead musician of a ’90s punk-rock band. Backstage, Becky comes unhinged, bantering maniacally to her bandmates, friends and family as mascara runs down her face. With an uneasy, bass-heavy score and lengthy tracking close-ups, this is a nightmarish, abrasive ride to rock bottom.  DIR Alex Ross Perry. SCR Alex Ross Perry. CAST Elisabeth Moss, Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Amber Heard. USA

JINN – Being a teenager can already be dramatic. Now add religious conversion, first love, and having to change your favorite pizza topping. When her mother joins a local mosque, Summer is forced to explore whether she too wants to convert to Islam. Nijla Mu’min’s coming-of-age story grows into an exploration of spirituality seen through the eyes of a girl trying to find her place. DIR Nijla Mu’min. SCR Nijla Mu’min. CAST Zoe Renee, Simone Missick, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Dorian Missick, Hisham Tawfiq and Kelly Jenrette. USA

RELAXER – Indie film at its most raw is on display in this latest collaboration between director Joel Potrykus and his actor/muse Joshua Burge as Abbie, whose latest challenge forces him to stay on the couch while Y2K looms large. Lucky for him, there’s plenty of milk. DIR Joel Potrykus. SCR Joel Potrykus. CAST Joshua Burge, David Dastmalchian, Andre Hyland. USA

THE WEEKEND – In Stella Meghie’s charming and witty romantic comedy, a comedian (Sasheer Zamata) hauls the baggage of her defunct relationship on a weekend getaway with friends, which happens to include her ex-boyfriend (Tone Bell) and his new girlfriend (DeWanda Wise). DIR Stella Meghie. SCR Stella Meghie. CAST Sasheer Zamata, Tone Bell, DeWanda Wise, Y’Lan Noel, Kym Whitley. USA

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(Source: AFI Press Release)

 

First Man (Chazelle, 2018:USA) Film Capsule

Posted by Larry Gleeson

First Man (2018), a newly released biopic on the Space Era Neil Armstrong, from self-Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 1.44.46 AMclaimed film auteur and Academy Award-Winning Director, Damian Chazelle (La La Land), hits all the marks for a successful box office take in the current climate. First Man has already received nominations for best film from the Oscar-campaign-launching, Venice International Film Festival (Golden Lion Award) and the massive Toronto International Film Festival (The People’s Choice Award).

Oscar-winning, La La Land composer extraordinaire, Justin Hurwitz, returns to the Chazelle fold, bringing slightly more than is required for effect with a mesmerizing First Man score. Hurwitz creates such a beautiful composition it is easy to overlook its occasional intrusiveness. Linus Sandgren (Best Cinematography Oscar for La La Land)  is also back with his roving camera movement which is a bit dizzying. For the most part, despite a jar or two (not surprising with Sandgren’s camera shooting style) Editor Tom Cross, kept the flow fairly continuous, if not seamless. And, last but not least, Canadian-born actor, Ryan Gosling, resumes his La La Land Sebastian minimalist acting style, as Neil Armstrong. Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler provide excellent supporting characters as Edward Higgins White and Deke Slayton. Claire Foy turns in the film’s deep, emotional performance as Janet Armstrong, wife of Neil Armstrong, that the other characters either don’t bring or can’t bring to story. Gosling almost gets there! The costuming, hair, makeup and production design all add credence to the depicted time period in a convincing manner.

All in all, First Man is a nicely done film and it moves Director Chazelle up a notch on the Hollywood list of bigger budgeted films. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, Steven Spielberg received an Executive Producer credit. Nevertheless. the opening sequence, glaringly fails. The imagery is blatantly and conspicuously shot in an empty studio. I know Chazelle felt the lack of a bigger budget with La La Land not only curtailed his efforts but hamstrung his vision of a big-production, Hollywood-style musical of yesteryear. Personally, I like all three of Director Chazzelle’s full-length, feature films; Whiplash (2014) La La Land (2016) and First Man (2018).

As I watched the credits roll yesterday night, I noticed the film was based on the New York Times Bestseller First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong from James R. Hansen (who seemingly makes a cameo in the film). Josh Singer [The Post (2017) and Spotlight (2015)] gets credit for the screenplay. In my opinion, the best part of the film, by far, is the special effects. And, apparently, Chazelle shot on 35MM with IMAX cameras.

The spectacular rocket launches and the use of mirror-effects heighten sensibilities. Furthermore, the use of smoke and gasses also added a deft sense of the surreal and a touch of dream logic. In addition, Chazelle pumps in some nice archival footage and effectively utilizes foreshadowing with early frames of daytime, lunar shots. Screenwriter Singer also weaves some heady lines referencing an often under-reported and underappreciated aspect of the Space Program and NASA. Rory Kennedy’s documentary, Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow recently aired on Discovery Channel, October 13th, and details NASA’s mission as a viable reporting agency on the health of Planet Earth and Singer encodes this concept as Armstrong is asked, “Why do we explore and travel in space?”

Smartly crafting a timely topic of space exploration and NASA, Chazelle and company manage to bring the vessel home and to fruition with another buzz-worthy, award-contending product with First Man. What the film does well, it does really, really well! Warmly recommended.

In theatres now!

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