Tag Archives: creativity

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: The Other Side of Hope (Kaurismaki, 2017): Finland

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Writer/Director Aki Kaurismaki served up a full platter of entertainment with Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope) during the 67th Berlin International Film Festival at the Berlinale Palast Theater. Tackling the migration and asylum bureaucratic processing issues of the day, Kaurismaki serves up quite a treat with The Other Side of Hope.

The film opens in the dark of night in a shipping harbor complete with fog horn blasts and heavy equipment operating including a dock loader transferring coal from ship to shore. The black, glistening bituminous coal shimmering in the light as it is being piled is magical this night. Emerging from the center of the pile a rounded shape with two spherical orbs projecting light are visible. Soon a human form emerges.

A cut is made to a businessman, Wikstrom, played by Sakari Kuosmanen primping himself for what appears to be another day. Yet, on this day, Wikstrom has decided to leave his wife, who comes into frame with a full head of curlers, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, attired in a cheaply-made, tropical floral robe. Wikstrom places his wedding ban on the table and exits. The woman reached for a gin bottle pouring herself a double taking a mouthful to wrap up the scene.

Using these two main protagonists, Kaurismaki embarks on a story showcasing two very different lives. Wikstrom, a haberdasher of sorts peddling ties and men’s shirts, drives a black luxury sedan listening to Western music while the coal refugee, Khaled, a Syrian asylum seeker, portrayed by Sherwan Haji, takes a coin-fed shower releasing the black soot from his skin’s pores. These men are on different trajectories. Khaled tries to do the right thing by finding the nearest police station in Helsinki to seek political sanctuary status from Aleppo. Despite his best efforts Khaled is denied sanctuary and decides to stay in the country illegally as many in his predicament seem to be doing. Wikstrom is hustling at a private, high-stakes poker game winning enough money to purchase outright an old, seemingly well-established restaurant in one of the remotest areas of Helsinki.

The restaurant undergoes several incarnations – each one bringing more laughs from the audience than the previous one. Wikstrom has developed very solid rapport with the chef and head waiter and takes to heart almost every one of their suggestions. Khaled, on the other hand, has been living on the streets and has made friends with a hip and funky group of rock-n-rollers. As luck would have it, or, maybe it was a form of divine Providence, the Wikstrom finds Khaled sleeping in the back of his restaurant and winds up giving him a bed and a job. With the help of the Wikstrom’s connections, Khaled is reunited with his sister and manages to find a way to stay in the country.

Hats off to Kaurismak. He wields quite a powerful wand in The Other Side of Hope. Bringing the main protagonists together after nearly forty minutes and having the story and its characters gel in a believable manner is no easy task. Quite the opposite. Tiina Kaukanen rapid fire costume changes aids immensely in the humorous attempts to find a working restaurant motif. I would be amiss not to mention the uber strong production design managed by Mark Lwoff and Misha Jaari. Director of Photography, Timo Salminen, captures the telling mise-en-scene with various lighting sets ranging from very low-key sets to more traditional tungsten indoor lighting set ups.

An interesting note: Eevi Kareinen handled the casting while serving as the Assistant Director.

In the end, Kaurismaki brings these two characters together – the practical businessman and a refugee seeking a life free from Syrian war for him and his sister. Along the way, he provides plenty of comic relief in this heart-warming and life-affirming tale of pragmatism and redemption. An exceptional film in light of the present migration dilemma and one I recommend highly without reservation.

*Featured photo credit: Malla Hukkanen © Sputnik Oy

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Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: The Party (Potter, 2017): Great Britain

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Director Sally Potter and her new dark comedy, The Party, found a receptive audience at the Berlin International Film Festival with a near-capacity crowd at the spacious Berlinale Palast Theater. Filmgoers were abuzz after the screening. Potter is most well-known for films Orlando (1992), Tango Lesson (1997),The Man Who Cried (2000) and Ginger & Rosa (2012). She is also an accomplished writer and performance artist.

Potter artfully chooses to portray The Party feature in black and white over color. The film opens with an unusual dutch angle-style frame of Bill, portrayed by Timothy Spall, the drunkard husband to Janet, played by Kristen Scott Thomas,  a recent ministerial appointment in the British government. The two have decided to celebrate her appointment with a few close friends.

Without much adieu, the film’s other characters are adeptly brought into the fold with revealing details as they begin arriving one-by-one. Janet, the aforementioned appointee and wife of Bill, is having a clandestine affair. Gottfried, played by Bruno Ganz, is the husband of Janet’s most ardent admirer, April, played by Patricia Clarkson. Gottfried has taken up with meditation in public spaces and is a practicing life coach. Tom, portrayed by Cillian Murphy is a high financier – emphasis on high as after he makes a grand entrance he retreats to Janet and Bill bathroom to ingest a fair amount of cocaine and to get a grip on a semi-automatic pistol complete with a hidden body holster.

Next to join the group are Jinny, played by Emily Mortimer and Martha, played by Cherry Jones, a same-sex couple expecting a child. Jinny is three months pregnant fresh off an overwhelmingly successful ultrasound while Martha is a drab, pseudo-intellectual, college professor. Quite an eclectic set of characters to celebrate with!

Imaginatively, Potter intertwines innuendo, double entendre and some wickedly pointed dialogue exchanges in setting the stage for the ensuing drama hiding in The Party’s underbelly. Meanwhile, Director of Photography, Alexey Rodionov is utilizing deep focus and ultra low angle framing, ala Gregg Toland in Citizen Kane, with satirical affect. Editors Anders Refn and Emilie Orsini keep the viewer’s eye moving from frame to frame matching pace with the characters’ rapid-fire bantering.

Expertly, Potter leads the viewer to the precipice where it’s all about to implode into a dark chasm as tempers are starting to flare when Bill flips the entire scenario inside out. The drunkard declares he is terminally ill and then collapses unconscious! The fury seething beneath the surface has found a fissure for its release as the characters all come rushing to aid Bill in his time of need.

The film’s narrative notches up a warp here with some philosophical musings, snarky female comments and Gottfried’s Eastern meditative point-of-view insights. Gottfried’s comments bring some resounding comic relief while also beginning to make sense now in the teetering moments of crisis. As the characters begin revealing their innermost sacrosanct feelings and beliefs, the situation comes to a climax.

Thanks to the casting of Irene Lamb and Heidi Levitt, Potter has considerable talent to work with and she does a nice job of  providing ample space for character development. She uses the intellectual bantering very effectively to tap into the charatcer’s emotional reserves revealing some serious sensibilities while keeping the viewer guessing at what is coming next.

And, Potter’s efficiency is remarkable. One character action leads right into another as the plot advances in whirlwind fashion. It is lean and mean and before you can say Jack Robinson, it’s over and and it’s complete.

Very nimbly and quite adeptly Potter and The Party make a seamless, nearly compass accurate, full circle narrative from opening to close with nary a dull moment in between. A highly recommended film.

The Party was a bonafide 2017 Golden Bear contender and was Potter’s eighth feature film. Potter previously took part in the Berlinale Competition in 2009 with Rage.

 

*Featured photo credit: Adventure Pictures Limited 2017

BERLIN UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BEAR

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

MID FESTIVAL RESULTS LOOKING GOOD FOR THE 2017 BERLINALE

Audience crowds at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival have once again been overwhelming. Halfway through the festival, again more than 250,000 tickets have been sold.

Berlinale_Director“We’re very happy that the Berlinale has drawn so many people into cinemas again this year. The passion for film shown by curious audiences who spend eleven days on a cinematic voyage of discovery, is really impressive. And the response to the new EFM initiatives and events is extremely positive”, says Festival Director Dieter Kosslik.

The Open House program at the Audi Berlinale Lounge gives the public an additional opportunity to experience the festival up-close and personal and see Berlinale guests in the flesh. Open events are held there every day, such as talks with celebrity filmmakers, discussions, and lounge nights with a DJ or live music.

The 2017 European Film Market (EFM) has drawn more participants than last year (9,640). The popular “EFM Industry Debates” segment celebrated its ten-year anniversary this weekend. This year, Gropius Park also played host for the first time to the “Berlinale Africa Hub”, a platform for innovative projects and ideas from the African film industry.

Over at Berlinale Talents, Jury President Paul Verhoeven and juror of the International Jury Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as the artist Christo, have been among the distinguished guests at the panel discussions. The coming days will see more exciting events, with Agnieszka Holland, Isabel Coixet, Sally Potter, David OReilly, Raoul Peck and juror Olafur Eliasson on the program.

The Berlinale Publikumstag on Sunday, February 19, 2017, provides an encore chance for audiences. That day, numerous festival films from various sections will have repeat screenings at the Berlinale venues.

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(Source: Berlinale Press Office)

The First Edition of Asian Brilliant Stars launched

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Press Release – 12 Feburary 2017

The first edition of Asian Brilliant Stars launched on February 12th in Berlin. Three influential Chinese Talents received recognition for their recent works i : Xu Haofeng won the Best Director Award for The Final Master, Jerry Ye won the Best Producer Award for The Wasted Times and Liu Zhenyun was awarded the Best Screenwriter for Someone to talk to. Numerous guests were present on the red carpet, including representatives of Berlinale (Kathrin Schafroth), European Film Market (Jana Wolff), European Film Promotion (MartinSchweighofer), Beijing Film Academy (Hou Guangming), 2017 European Shooting Stars Winners and Asian Talents (Yan Geling, Nansun Shi, Ouyang Baoping etc.).

Asian Brilliant Stars is organized by Asian Film & Television Promotion (AFTP), Beijing Film Academy and Actor Committee of the China Radio and Television Association (CRTA). Modeled on the longstanding European Shooting Stars, the program aims to bring international exposure to Asian emerging and established talents, including directors, actors producers and screenwriters.

 

bestdirectoe_asianstarsXu Haofeng is one of the most influential wuxia (martial arts) author, screenwriter and director in China. He wrote Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster and directed The SwordIdentity, Judge Archer and The Final Master. In these films, Xu Haofeng develops a unique and personal aesthetics of martial arts. Xu Haofeng new film The Hidden Sword is expected in 2017. Xu Haofeng said while handing his award : “I started making films at the adult age, an age to do responsible things. That’s why I do  wuxia  films, a genre I can master.”

 

Jerry Ye is the CEO of Huayi Brothers, one of China’s leading film companies. Ye was previously VP of Wanda Culture. Ye’s credits as a producer include blockbusters The Taking of Tiger Mountain (2014), Mojin: the Lost Legend (2015) and critically acclaimed Go Away Mr. Tumor (2015) and The Wasted Times (2016). Jerry Ye deliverd a speech in fluent English: “I hope we can create bridges between Europe and Asia, work with the European Shooting Stars to do films in Chinese for the Chinese movi(e)goers.”

Liu Zhenyun is one of the most popular novelists in China. His first success Cellphone was adapted for a film directed by Feng Xiaogang. His recent I am not Madam Bovary was also adapted for a film directed by Feng Xiaogang. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the Best Film and Best Film Awards at San Sebastian International Film Festival in 2016. Liu Zhenyun expressed his hope for Chinese cinema, “We can’t do films as pure financial products, we need to tell stories about ordinary lives.That’s what we did in I am not Madam Bovary, the story of a woman who stands 20 years to assert one phrase, “I am not Madam Bovary.”

 

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Richard Shen, winners of 2017 Asian Brilliant Stars and European Shooting Stars

 

As well as the awards, Asian Brilliant Stars is also co-organizing a panel on Casting Chinese Actors for Co-productions with the European Film Market (EFM) and Bridging the Dragon on February 15 during the Sino-European Production Seminar. Richard Shen, Secretary-General of the AFTP, said during the ceremony : “It’s a great honor to be a strategic partner of the Berlinale and to host the first Asian Brilliant Stars awards ceremony during this year’s Berlinale. The quick development of Asian economies has brought increasing opportunities for Asian films, and the European market has shown a growing interest in Asian Film markets. In the future, Asian Brilliant Stars will collaborate with more Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.”

(Source: Press materials courtesy of Yang Pei, Go Global)

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Spoor (Holland, 2017): Poland

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Agnieszka Holland screened her film, Spoor (Pokor), at the 67th Berlinale, February 12th, 2017. The film is centered around a Stephen King, Misery Chastain-like character, Duszejko, a supposed retired civil engineer. Duszejko is a vigilante at heart who professes to be an astrologist. Holland gives little evidence to Duszejko’s proficiency in either of these areas. Nevertheless, Spoor is a film that catches the eye and attacks the viewer’s sensibilities of right and wrong.

The film opens with a narrative voiceover espousing a person’s date of birth points to a person’s day of death. Somber non-diagetic music accompanies character Duszejko’s enlightening epiphany. The camera, meanwhile reveals a pre-dawn mountain landscape with fog billowing up and the diagetic sounds of birds chirping and dogs barking. A

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Photo credit: Robert Paeka

transition is made revealing jeeps rolling up into a small glen where a group of hunters are meeting. A lone jeep is seen leaving as another transition takes the viewer inside a sleeping Duszejko’s home via an extended tracking point-of-view take. Frantic dogs bark rousing Duszejko from a slumbering sleep. Duszejko’s rises, quickly dresses and sets out into the pasture with her beloved dogs. She stretches and raises her arms skyward in a back shot as a new day is dawning. A cut is made to a hen house full of abused, caged foxes and a brute of a man cursing and racking the cages with a metal bar.

Admittedly, Holland sets the tone for what is a wild and wily ride. After her dogs have gone missing, Duszejko sets out to correct a world gone mad (albeit her world). Spoor is set in a rugged region with hunting seasons corresponding with nature’s cyclical seasons. Despite her best attempts to thwart the hunting of living creatures including a consultation with the local priest who tells to Duszejko to pray not for the animals or for the hunters but for herself.Spoor is set in a rugged region with hunting seasons corresponding with nature’s cyclical seasons and the priest proselytizes man is meant to subdue the animals of the earth At wits end, Duszejko takes matters into her own hands finding a vindication in her supposed astrological indicators and support from an unlikely network like-minded sympathizers. Utilizing flashbacks the truth is revealed in the film’s denouement.

At its core, Spoor is a semi-stylistic film advocating vigilantism to protect the inherent sacredness of our planet’s ecological system from a microcosmic perspective. In my opinion, Holland delivers an important message in a very dark manner pitting formal religion and community against purported astrological insight and personal vendetta. Not recommended!

*Featured photo credit: Robert Paeka

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Viceroy’s House (Chadha, 2017): Great Britain

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Kenyan born and British-reared Gurinder Chadha, best known for Bend It Like Beckham (2002),  presented Viceroy’s House at the Berlinale Palast as part of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. Chadha stated in the press conference immediately following the screening, she felt compelled to make the film in memory of her aunt and grandmother.

Viceroy’s House is set in 1947 India. India had been under British rule for nearly 90 years form 1858 when the East India Company transferred rule to the Royal Crown. In 1947 amid growing tensions and strife, Britain acquiesced authority. Viceroy’s House is Chadha’s truth regarding the political background surrounding the transfer of authority and the ensuing transition to independence.

Chadha’s agenda is a heady one as she attempts to present how the transfer was negotiated among Jawaharial Nehru, Mohammad Jinnah, and Mahatma Ghandi while speculating on the role of the viceroy and his wife. Seemingly, to keep the audience intrigued and to help move the narrative forward, Chadha tosses in a love story between Jeet (Manish Dayal), a handsome young Hindu servant and Aalia (Huma Qureshi), a stunningly beautiful Muslim woman working in the Viceroy’s House.

The film opens with non-diagetic music playing while an establishing wide-angle pan reveals the setting. The musical beat picks up in tempo as a transition is made revealing a multitude of uniformed Indian servants cleaning and dusting. Two servants in a sidebar conversation have heard the British have announced plans to leave India after a presence of almost two centuries due to the high cost World War II inflicted on the treasury. A viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, Queen Victoria’s great grandson, is coming with his wife and daughter to carry out the transfer of authority and to oversee the country’s transition to independence. Mountbatten is to be the last viceroy.

As simple as that may sound, it isn’t. India had three differing groups in the Hindus, the Muslims, and the Sikhs. Mahatma Ghandi implored all the people to stay united as one nation. However, according to Chadha, the British had a private agenda to partition the country into a Muslim Pakistan and a smaller secular India to secure oil futures for the British economy. Repeatedly, the spun phrase “divide and rule,” was proclamated throughout the film.

Viceroy’s House is a large scale, big budgeted production with many extras, extravagant costuming and exquisite production design, and has the feel of a propagandized melodramatic revisionist film. Visually, the film has much to offer with physically attractive characters and strong production values. The acting is solid with Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson as Lord and Lady Mountbatten, the Viceroys appointed to carry out the peaceful transfer. Cinematographer Ben Smithard (My Week With Marilyn) presents nothing short of a visual feast as part of an alluring mise-en-scene. The musical score by A. R. Rahman enhances the narrative nicely evoking the period.

All in all, Viceroy’s House works on the surface. Beware, however, of its dark-sewn agenda. Warmly recommended.

 

*featured photo credit:Kerry Monteen Photography)

Felicite (Gomis, 2017): Senegal

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Felicite, a new film written and directed by  Alain Gomis, set in Senegal in modern time, paints a portrait of a community through the trials and tribulations of a full-figured female singer, Felicite, played convincngly by Véro Tshanda Beya. The film received funding from the World Cinema Fund and participated in the Venice Final Cut Program.

Felicite opens with low-key lighting, handheld camera work providing a cinema verite feel characters breaking the fourth wall inviting the viewer into their world.Celine Bozon is credited as the Director of Photography. Slowly, the scene reveals a night club and a Singing begins. Drinking ensues. Mayhem rears its face as the nightclub erupts with brawling instigated by a massive male, Tabu (Papi Mpaka).

When not clubbing, Tabu is a handy man, selling and servicing Felicite’s newly purchased second-hand refrigerator in side Felicite’s sparsely furnished flat. Oumar Sall (le grand) is the film’s Production Designer.

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Vera Tshanda Beya, above, as lead character, Felicite, is on a mission in Alain Gomis new meserizing film, Felicite. (Photo credit: Andolfi)

In addition, the culture depicted has an undercurrent and Gomis stunningly reveals it in the form of religious zealousness, classically trained musicians and singers rivaling any found on the planet. Interestingly, Gomis juxtaposes diagetic and non-diagetic music in convincing fashion melding the worlds into one. The Kasaï Allstars are credited with the music. Jean-Pierre Laforce and Fred Meert are responsible for the Sound Design. And, Benoit De Clerck crafted the film’s sound.

Outside the streets are strewn with trash, scooters dominate the dirt thoroughfares as the towns inhabitants navigate the market area. Not exactly Shangri La. In many respects quite the opposite. Yet, the community has its redeeming virtues and long-standing cultural nomes often found missing in larger, modernized communities..

However, tragedy is quickly introduced as Felicite’s son has been involved in a motor scooter accident.  Frantically, Felicite finds her son, discovers he needs medicine and an operation she can’t afford. The love a mother has for a child radiates as Felicite reaches out to those closest to her to generate the monies necessary for the operation. But, it’s not enough. Felicite is not a woman who takes no for an answer. She manages to get the necessary funds. Unfortunately, the hospital proceeded with an amputation drawing laughter from a patron seated directly behind me.

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Vero Tshanda Beya, left, and Papi Mpaka merge and meld in  as Felicite and Tabu inAlain Gomis’ heartfelt film, Felicite. (Photo credit: Andolfi)

While, I didn’t find a mother discovering her son had an amputation humorous, I did find a warmth in Felicite’s acceptance of her evolved condition after her experience and seeing Tabu bring her son out of despair following his amputation. At her most basic essence, Felicite is a deeply committed woman in a community that values itself, its culture and one another.

Felicite is an artistic delight with surreal mise-en-scen and heartfelt emotions. While, the film delves into the religious aspect too deeply for comfort, Gomis makes his point – spirituality is the driving force behind the community. With singer/mother Felicite, Gomis embodies the community in a human form – imperfect and spirited.

And, while the film could have been made in 65 minutes, Gomez chose to expand the run time to 123 minutes. In doing so, he takes the film to a new level a higher dimension representative of the driving force behind this fictionalized Senegal community. Highly recommended!

#SBIFF Announces 2017 Winners

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The  32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival has announced it film awards. This morning over breakfast at The Fess Parker filmmakers were thanked for their participation and the following awards were bestowed:

Audience Choice Award
sponsored by the Santa Barbara Independent
MY HERO BROTHER
Directed by Yonatan Nir

Best Documentary Award
MY HERO BROTHER
Directed by Yonatan Nir

Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film
THE CONSTITUTION
Directed by Rajko Grlić

Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema
THE GOOD CATHOLIC
Directed by Paul Shoulberg

Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema
TAMARA
Directed by Elia K. Schneider

Social Justice Award for Documentary Film
ANGRY INUK
Directed by Althea Arnaquq-Baril

ADL Stand Up Award
sponsored by Santa Barbara and Tri-Counties ADL
STRAWBERRY DAYS
Directed by Wiktor Ericsson

Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film
SÁMI BLOOD
Directed by Amanda Kernell

Best Documentary Short Film Award
REFUGE
Directed by Matthew K. Firpo

Best Documentary Short Film Award
REFUGEE
Directed by Joyce Chen and Emily Moore

Bruce Corwin Award – Best Live Action Short Film
IT’S BEEN LIKE A YEAR
Directed by Cameron Fay

Bruce Corwin Award – Best Animated Short Film
CONFINO
Directed by Nico Bonomolo

The festival has year-round programs and screenings including its weekly Showcase Film Series and its Wave Film Festivals featuring films from foreign and exotic locales including Spain, France and Asia. For more information visit sbiff.org.

FILM REVIEW: Django (Comar, 2017): France

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.

Django, showing in Competition, from French helmer, Etienne Comar, was the Opening Night Film for the 67th Berlinale, more commonly referred to as the Berlin International Film Festival, tells the story of legendary musician/composer and gypsy-swing jazzman Django Reinhardt. Django is set in France during the German occupation in the years from 1943 to 1945 and backed by strong research. Director Comar delivers an authentic portrait of the artist.

The film opens with a suspenseful rolling of the tiles in blood red accompanied by non-diagetic music. After the titles roll, the gypsy swing music continues as the opening scene reveals a forested, snow-flurried backdrop somewhere in the German Andennes region where a band of gypsies has set up camp. The men are gathered strumming their instruments in a soulful celebration of life. How quickly life changes as the Nazi’s raid the Roma camp. The scene fades as the eldest member of the troop has taken a lethal bullet to the forehead. Two adolescent brothers escaped the gunfire.

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Pictured left to right; Beata Palya, Bim Bam Merstein and Reda Kated from the French film, Django, by Etienne Comar. (Photo credit: Roger Arpajou)

Comar  forwards to Paris where preparations are being made for a concert performance. However, the lead musician has gone missing. The manager is sent to find and retrieve him. Without much effort, the manager finds a man fishing along a river bank. The man is Django Reinhardt, the film’s protagonist, played delicately by French actor, Reda Kateb, and the manger is his brother. As the brother tries to hurry Django, Django slows the tempo pretending to have a greater interest in the 4 ½ inch juvenile catfish he caught. Nevertheless, Django is whisked back to the theater where his mother, played compellingly by Bim Bam Merstein, awaits admonishing her soon for his tardiness. Django hasn’t a care in the world. He’s above such pettiness. And he goes out on stage and captivates the theater audience with his exquisite and complex musicianship.

The situation, however, quickly changes as the Nazis are using the Paris as the “whorehouse for their army.” Django has a blossoming reputation and the Nazis want a German tour to raise the country’s morale. Yet, they dictate “no more nigger music, dancing in the aisles, no tapping of the feet and no solos longer than five seconds.” Naturally, Django refuses to go on tour, is consequently arrested and spends the rest of the film trying to get he and his family to Switzerland with the help of an admirer, played by the lovely Cecile de France (The Young Pope).

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Left, Cecile de France as Louise de Klerk in a vital moment from Django. (Photo credit: Roger Arpajou)

Up to hearing Django Reinhardt for the first time I considered myself fairly astute when it came to jazz. Myself being an avid Django Reinhardt music fan from my first listen when had to ask who was playing the lush syncopated rhythms, I was told by a bewildered Santa Barbara City College Photography Instructor, Seantel Sanders, it was Django Reinhardt. Noticing this film about Reinhardt was opening the Berlin Film Festival, I was on a mission to see it. I sat raptured as Comar makes, in many respects, a period piece with spot-on costuming, made by Pascalene Chavanne, tight production design incorporated by Oliver Radot and smooth cinematography provided by Christoph Beaucarne. Warren Ellis handled the music.

Coming in at a surprisingly quick 117 minutes, Django is an exceptional film illuminating a gifted artist struggling with his sensibility regarding the use of his music for political purposes. Underneath, the narrative is a powerful look at the treatment of the Roma camps and their survivability as the German Army closes in. Working off archival materials, Comar delivers a timely piece on gypsy culture and the improvisational skill and unique sounds that emerged and captivated the Parisian club scene during WWII. Highly recommended.

Berlin Film Fest International Jury Press Conference

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The 67th Berlin International Film Festival International Jury held its  opening press conference Thursday, February 9th, at the Berlin Grand Hyatt Hotel to introduce this year’s  Berlinale festival goers to its panel. As previously announced, Director and Screenwriter, Paul Verhoeven is serving as this year’s  Jury President. Other members of the Jury include; producer Dora Bouchoucha Fourati (Tunisia), artist Olafur Eliasson (Denmark), actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (USA), actress Julia Jentsch (Germany), actor and director Diego Luna (Mexico), and director and screenwriter Wang Quan’an (People’s Republic of China). After a warm Berlinale welcome and very brief introductions, the panel opened for questions from the floor.

Interestingly, a Kurdistan/Iraq news agency reporter popped the first question with all the zeal of a U.S. White House Press Briefing first informing the press conference her agency would be reporting live for ten days. From there, she set the tone for her question stating “traditionally the Berlinale is quite political with its selection of films. What political message do you want to transmit with this year’s festival?” Verhoeven coolly replied as the International Jury President his focus is on a film’s qualitative nature rather than any specific ideological or political message.

Quickly, the Boston Herald took the floor next delivering a two-pronged inquiry for Ms.Gyllenhaal and Verhoeven into the courageous nature of creating film roles and insider casting details of Elle.

Taking the lead, Verhoeven affirmed the Herald’s line of questioning telling the room he and the Elle producers tried to make Elle a Hollywood film with a profit motive. However, after several unsuccessful pitches to A-listers, the Elle team returned to France moving forward with a French film production. French starlet Isabelle Humbert had made it known through various channels she was very interested in the film. She thoroughly studied the characters from Phillipe Dijan’s novel “Oh…” With hat-in-hand, Verhoeven offered to Humbert. She accepted. And she delivered according to Verhoeven with a courageous performance.

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American Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, third from left, at the 67th Berlin Film Festival International Jury Press Conference on Thursday, February 9, 2017. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Gyllenhaal interjected “Isabelle was meant to play that role and was very courageous.” Continuing Gyllenhaal remarked most often actors choose roles they can identify with as a person versus as an actor and when a collaboration between a director such as Verhoebven and Humbert works together something special is created.

A handful more of questions came forth ranging from why Russian films weren’t in the festival to Luna’s feelings about a  border wall to what does the jury expect from the festival. In reverse order, the jury has high hopes of learning more about film, while Luna artfully and quite diplomatically said he is still investigating the wall issue. However, he plans to be a part of the solution as he has several love stories with the United States and to sever such beauty makes no sense. Verhoeven reminded the audience, the jury does not select films.

Coming full circle, the press conference concluded with how Gyllenhaal was introduced as the brother of Jake Gyllenhaal. Jake served on the jury five years ago. As inquiring minds want to know, Maggie was asked if she called Jake to ask about being on the jury. She did and Jake told her it was an amazing experience seeing films from all over the world from filmmakers he didn’t know existed. Wrapping up and putting the finishing touch on the morning, “What an amazing time to be an American at an international film festival,” said Ms. Gyllenhaal. Without further adieu, the 2017 Berlin Film Festivals’s International Jury Press Conference concluded.

The festival runs through February 19th.