Tag Archives: Director

Darren Aronofsky in Singapore: You can make anything if you persevere

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Genevieve Sarah Loh

SINGAPORE: In the space of six feature films, Darren Aronofsky has shown that challenging and original work still has a place within mainstream movie-making.

With work like the unflinching Requiem for a Dream, the fantastically ambitious The Fountain and the epic Noah in a resume that also includes award favorites Black Swan and The Wrestler, few working filmmakers have left such a striking cinematic footprint.

Which is why the Oscar-nominated director and his work are a perfect fit for the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) – a regional event with a focus on celebrating and encouraging independent cinema.

The rapt audience at Aronofsky’s sold-out SGIFF Masterclass held last Friday (Nov 25) at the ArtScience Museum turned out to learn from an auteur who, with films like Black Swan and The Wrestler, has successfully managed to bridge the gap between commercial and indie without losing artistry or audiences. They were there to pick the brain of a filmmaker whose debut feature was financed entirely from $100 donations from friends and family, and catered by his mother “who fed everyone peanut butter and jelly sandwiches”.

Darren Aronofsky singing autographs after his masterclass (Photo: Genevieve Loh)

“It’s usually that original image or idea that stays with the film forever that is an anchor,” he told the audience of local and regional film directors, writers, producers and students. “That’s the passion that makes you willing to face the hurdles you’re going to run into, because you believe that one essence is worth sharing. It’s a long process of spit-balling, telling the story over and over again, and making it richer and richer.”

For the director-writer-producer, screenwriting is similar to sculpture, in that “you slowly work your way at it.”

“For me it’s always been about just doing draft after draft after draft,” he shared, adding that he goes through an average of 20 to 30 drafts even before production starts. “Something like Black Swan probably (saw) hundreds of drafts.”

This meticulous approach – that perhaps borders on the obsessive – might just be the secret of Aronofsky’s success. And it is perhaps the reason why he’s only made six feature films since his audacious debut Pi in 1998.

It might also be the one tip many aspiring independent filmmakers in Singapore’s burgeoning film industry could consider picking up. After all, Aronofsky who studied anthropology and film at Harvard before going to graduate school at the American Film Institute Conservatory, is known for pursuing his passion projects through to fruition.

The 47-year-old told Channel NewsAsia in an interview after the masterclass that he tries to make projects that he believes in.

“That’s all I can do,” he said. “Whatever…I really believe in and seems to make most sense, is the one that I do next.

“For all my films, I just do them in the same way. I really don’t have full control if they become hits or not, but it’s just a matter if something connects with people at the time,” he continued.

Darren Aronofsky on top of the ArtScience Museum after his masterclass (Photo: Marina Bay Sands)

PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF

“It’s always a tricky balance of how to get something made. The Fountain took six years to get made and it changed very much in what it was. But eventually we figured out a way to make it,” said Aronofsky. “So I think if you have persistence, you can make anything.”

Aronofsky’s sprawling The Fountain was originally a US$70 million vehicle for Brad Pitt who famously pulled out just weeks before shooting commenced. The director only returned to the project two years later, this time with replacement leading man Hugh Jackman and a lower budget. He says of all the films that he’s made, The Fountain “was the film I was most passionate about.”

So what advice would he give to aspiring indie filmmakers in Singapore struggling to find the balance between critical and commercial viability while navigating a notoriously difficult industry?

“Certain filmmakers can make those bigger films. And if that’s their aesthetic, that’s their aesthetic. I don’t know why would you do it, it’s such a hard job,” he said with a grin.

“But I’m sure there are stories here in Singapore that need to be told… (by) someone who is passionate. And only they can tell it,” he continued. “You just have to figure out a way to tell it. If you have to do it on your iPhone or a little camera, there is nothing wrong with that. Those type of cameras work in today’s world.  There are a lot of ways to get films made.  At this point, you just have to have the story that you’re passionate about.

He confessed to not being as familiar with Singaporean filmmakers as much as he would like to be.

“I tried to educate myself before I came here but I didn’t have time,” he said.  “But I’ve met some good filmmakers and I’m curious to see what they’ve done.”

He singled out Singapore filmmaker Ken Kwek, who moderated his masterclass and is known, most recently, for the satirical Unlucky Plaza, which opened the SGIFF in 2014.

And what would Aronofsky, a filmmaker known for constantly taking risks, say to an industry in a country that is arguably risk-averse?

“Art is all about being honest and truthful… you have to continue to pursue what you want to do. It may not work well in Singapore or it may work well in Cannes. It may put you in jail, but you can’t resist it. Your job is to keep telling the truths that you know.”

This is part of Channel NewsAsia’s coverage of the 27th SGIFF, which runs from Nov 23 to Dec 4.

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

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Note from Roger – The Handmaiden

Before getting to Mr. Durling’s note, I saw this film yesterday. It’s an extraordinary effort from the South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook. Already an admirer of his now seemingly classic works of Old Boy (2003), and Lady Vengence  (2005), I experienced an entirely new level of his artistic craft with The Handmaiden. Mesmerizing and undaunting with a raw, creative, narrative flair, Mr. Park delivers an explosive human drama – thrilling and compelling. Park’s best work to date. (See below review by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

“Far too good to be watched in one sitting,” exclaims the Philadelphia Inquirer about THE HANDMAIDEN, and I couldn’t agree more.  Gorgeous, classical, and erotic, I don’t think you’ll see a more delicious film this year.  If you love cinema AT ALL, you have to see THE HANDMAIDEN.  It’s the visual equivalent of drinking champagne!

Below find the New York Times Review. It plays tonight (Tuesday) at 5:00pm, tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30pm, and next Sunday through Wednesday at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click here for tickets.

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‘The Handmaiden’ Explores Confinement in Rich, Erotic Textures
By Manohla Dargis – The New York Times

The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in “The Handmaiden.” Set in Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you may not notice its sleights of hand.

It’s not for nothing that one of its heroines, Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), is a pickpocket, though that’s getting ahead of her story. It opens with Sookee weepily saying goodbye to some adults and wailing children, their gushing matched by the torrential rain. She’s off to work for Lady Hideko (a sensational Kim Min-hee), a pale beauty who lives with her tyrannical uncle, Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), a collector and purveyor of art and rare erotic books whose darting tongue has turned black from his ink pen. The realms of his bibliophilic senses are suggested when a client asks if one of his books is by the Marquis de Sade. “It’s Sade-esque,” the uncle says, all but winking at the audience.

The kinks grow more outré and twisted, the winks dirtier and broader. The uncle has raised Hideko from childhood, away from the world, intending to wed her for her fortune. He’s also turned her into a puppet, having trained her to read erotic fiction aloud for the delectation of his potential customers. Fate in the form of the con man (Ha Jung-woo) intervenes. Disguised as a count, he insinuates himself into the uncle’s home and seemingly into the niece’s affection, enlisting Sookee in the ruse as Hideko’s new maid. The count plans to marry Hideko and then ditch her, a plan that seems doomed when Sookee and Hideko’s lady-maid intimacy steams and then boils over.

The inspiration for all this intrigue is Sarah Waters’s ambitious 2002 novel, “Fingersmith,” a lesbian romance set in Victorian Britain in which she slyly has her way with established literary themes like avaricious male guardians and cloistered female wards. In adapting the movie, Mr. Park, who wrote the script with Chung Seo-kyung, has moved the story to Korea during the Japanese occupation. This setting initially seems more thread than cloth, conveyed in the smatterings of soldiers who pass through the story and in the mixing of languages, although it also factors into the villainy of the uncle, a Korean who’s embraced a Japanese identity, asserting, “Korea is ugly and Japan is beautiful.”

Mr. Park is a genre virtuoso, known for thrillers like “Oldboy,” whose filmmaking is notable for its visual order and extreme violence, a combination that creates a seductive, at times unsettling aesthetic of immaculate frenzy. The violence in “The Handmaiden” tends to be more restrained than in some of his other work, more psychological and rather less blunt and bloody. A notable exception is some sadomasochistic whip-work that’s far more vigorous than is found in, oh, say, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” There’s also a characteristic Grand Guignol flourish toward the end that’s outrageous enough that you may find yourself at once laughing and gasping, only to hastily avert your eyes.

It’s one of the rare times you want to look away in “The Handmaiden,” which Mr. Park has turned into an emporium of visual delights. Part of Sookee’s journey is one from perdition into opulence, from a lowly thieves’ den into the sumptuousness of the mansion. Yet appearances remain deceiving, which is one of this story’s themes. Everything inside the manor and out has been calculated to enchant, from the grounds with their carpets of green and bursts of flowering trees to the interiors with their wood paneling and floral wallpaper. Nothing is more perfect than Hideko’s petal mouth with its lusciously carnal red lipstick.

Yet beauty can be a curse; a prison, too. Hideko’s uncle has forbidden her to leave the grounds, turning her into a bird in a gilded cage. Under his steady gaze and severe hand, with the ever-present threat of violence (there are rightfully ominous allusions to a basement), she has been raised amid material plenty with luxuriously appointed rooms as well as drawers and shelves stuffed with elegant feminine frippery — gloves, hats, gowns. Mr. Park loves displaying all these goods, much like a proud merchant (or Gatsby), even as moment by moment he pushes the narrative into ugliness, scratching off the gilt to reveal a grim drama in which Hideko plays both the leading lady and slave.

Mr. Park’s attention to this world’s sumptuous surfaces at first can seem at odds with the underlying evil, as if — like the uncle — he were putting his aesthetic sensibility above all else. Mr. Park just seems to be enjoying himself too much, as the camera glides over satiny robes and bodies or pauses on an exquisite tableau. In one such display, as another of the uncle’s confined women narrates a tale, two shoji screens behind her part, an opening that mirrors the sexual conquest she’s relating. Yet Mr. Park also slips in little jokes, comic line readings and clownish faces that ease the tension, lighten the mood and suggest there’s freedom in laughing into the void.

The void is by turns enslaving and emancipating in “The Handmaiden,” which plays with familiar form as a way to deliver unexpected meaning. A rebus, a romance, a gothic thriller and a woozy comedy, “The Handmaiden” is finally and most significantly a liberation story. Mr. Park may not seem to be doing all that much with the big ideas simmering here, including how the relentless pursuit of aesthetic perfection — especially when it comes to inherently imperfect human beings — can serve as a means of terror. But the ideas are here, tucked into a different kind of erotic story, one that alternately jolts and delights as Sookee and Hideko laugh their way to a new ending.

(Source: sbiff.org)

Film Capsule: FRAUD (Fleischer-Camp, 2016): USA

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi.

Fraud, the new fifty-two minute documentary from director, editor New York Times’ children’s book author, Dean Fleischer-Camp, tells the story of one American family’s economic struggles. Culled from over a hundred hours of uninhibited, raw footage, Fleischer-Camp pieces together an obsessed man’s YouTube home movies shot during a period from 2008 to 2015 – an intimate, yet disturbing, portrait emerges as the worlds of reality and fiction are merged by Fleischer-Camp to create an apocalyptic, futuristic narrative. Highly Recommended.

What Filmmakers Need To Know About Marketing In Digital Space

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Charmalne Lim

The 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) kicked off on 23rd November and we delve into the exploration of digital space.

Watching TV used to be a communal activity with the family, and movie theatres were exciting places to hang out with friends as we stuff our faces with popcorn, but now, technology gives us a push and we fall backwards into a couch at home, streaming movies and dramas online with a subscription fee of about $12 a month.

We find out from three SGIFF forum speakers, Missy Laney, Lionel Chok, and Scott Kaplan, via email interviews, on whether Virtual Reality can be a game changer, and how the Internet is a boon and a bane for filmmakers.

Choose The Right Platform, Not Any Platform

The challenge of the new-age behavioral phenomenon is not only finding the platforms to host your show, but also adopting various marketing strategies to promote it.

It boils down to the basics of marketing: Knowing what you really want to achieve.

Scott Kaplan, SVP in Global Sales at Gunpowder & Sky Distribution, points out that film distribution in digital space is a reaction to macro-shifts in human behavior.

“People want to watch WHAT they want to watch, WHERE they feel like it, and WHEN they feel like it.” – Scott Kaplan

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Kaplan outlines the rigmarole of choosing a distributing platform, “Viewership?  Revenue? Awards-recognition?  It comes to knowing how the platforms respond to creatively, what they will pay, what territories, rights and terms they need, [and if] they need exclusivity etc.”

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The Right Audience, Not A Large Audience

“Social media is a tool, not a solution. It can be used to elevate a film or degrade a film. It allows us to measure our audience, dissect our audience demographically, and ultimately communicate with our audience.” – Missy Laney

It’s easy to mistake online marketing as mindless updates, which can dilute your film’s branding.

Missy Laney, Film Strategist and Director of Creative Initiatives at BitTorrent, believes it has been easier than ever to reach your audience, but keeping their attention is tough.

She drops a strategic tip like a giant hotcake:

“To stand out on social media, you have to have a strategy customised for each platform.  Your Twitter strategy should not be the same as your Facebook strategy. Study how your audience engages, learn their language, and build a timeline of when and how you plan to cultivate and activate your fan base.”

Laney raises an issue with most strategies, “The biggest missed opportunity is slowing down once their film has been released.  Once the final release rolls around, they are either too burnt out or funds are too tight to further engage an agency. Make a post release strategy and stick to it for one or two months following the release. The release is just the beginning.”

Money As The Cause Of Frustration & Motivation

A monthly subscription doesn’t really justify the money pumped into physical production. Film creators are losing money and are desperately trying to work the digital space towards their advantage.

Kaplan says, “The decline in box office for independent films and the collapse of the DVD market can’t be replaced by a monthly Netflix subscription. But there is a ton of new money being injected into the film-ecosphere as new platforms launch, and filmmakers are getting smarter and better at making great films for less money.”

Additionally, fans can also interact with films now as funders and backers using crowd funding so that’s another big shift in the relationship we have with movies now,” says Missy Laney.

“I believe the success of each film is measured by one question, ‘Did it find an audience?’”

Virtual Reality As Our New Reality?

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The entire scope of cinematography is now changed. We have to change the environment to suit the 360 capture and delivered through a headset. So you cannot just capture it and then watch it on YouTube after.” – Lionel Chok

Lionel Chok is a Singapore filmmaker, director, and many other titles under his belt. From how he sees it, Lionel thinks the digital trend and VR technology are two great things amalgamated.

“This is something very powerful. We are currently developing apps for VR content to be published in an online store. As the cost of app development has reduced, this is definitely going to impact filmmakers, as the Play Store or the iOS store will now become a method of distribution. The platforms are also evolving and content can be priced across different stores for all demographics,” says Lionel.

While the local movie scene in Singapore is still quite dry, VR is a new direction for aspiring local filmmakers. Having a passion in Augmented and Virtual Reality, Lionel is excited about its future.

He says, “The cameras are becoming more affordable with prices matching up to $2000 ~ $4000. In time to come, I see more VR stories that are going to be curated and delivered via apps, headsets and who knows, maybe even communal VR spaces in open spaces.”

Future of Cinema Forum – Independent Film: Navigating the Digital Space, as part of the Singapore International Film Festival, will be held on 26 November 2016, 1pm at *SCAPE.

More information can be found at sgiff.com.

Feature Image Credit: onespacemedia.com

(Source:www.vulcanpost.com)

 

FILM REVIEW: Mifune: The Last Samurai (Okazaki, 2015): Japan

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson

Viewed during AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi, Mifune: The Last Samurai, directed by Steven Okazaki, is a feature-length documentary about the life and films of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. Okazaki utilizes archival clips, photographic stills and interviews with those who worked with Mifune. The film is narrated by Keanu Reeves.

Interestingly, the film is more of a creative interpretation of specific formative elements, both personal and cultural, that led to Mifune’s distinct personality. Okazaki presents Mifune is a non-linear fashion. He opens the film with the infamous rape scene from Rashomon. From there he discusses Mifune’s approach to some of his Rashomon scenes. Apparently, to embody the untamed animal instinct of his character, Mifune studied the movements and behavior of a lion. To add substance to such a claim, Okazaki shows, much to the audience’s delight, Mifune closing in on his samurai opponent in a lion-like fashion.

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Iconic Japanese Director Akira Kurasaw, left, and legendary Japanese Actor Toshiro Mifune, during a set break.

The 1950’s and 60’s were a Golden Age for Japanese Film. Iconic Japanese Director Akira Kurasawa had won the Golden Lion at Venice with Rashomon in 1951 putting Japanese films on the world scene. Kurasawa and Mifune would go on to collaborate on 16 films over an eighteen year period including renowned, classic films such of Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957) and Yojimbo (1961). 

Telling interviews from Kyoko Kagawa, Takeshi Kato, Haruo Nakajima, Yosuke Natsoki and Sadao Nakajima reveal Mifune’s ardent preparation for roles, painstakingly researching and laborious rehearsal processes. Kurasawa rarely, if ever, gave Mifune specific direction on creating characters. Other interviews came from American directors Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg revealing the admiration and respect Mifune garnered not only in Japan but in Hollywood as well.

With the advent of war in 1931 and Japan invading Manchuria every able-bodied Japanese male was conscripted into service including Mifune. Mifune and his parents were Japanese Nationalists living in China at the time. Mifune’s early experiences in the war consisted of a lot of beatings as his superior officers found his tone of voice off-putting and insubordination charges followed. By war’s end males as young as eleven years old were brought into the army and referred to as Little Citizens and Children of the Emperor. Mifune’s role became training the young men as Kamakazi’s. Both of Mifune’s parents were casualties of the war.

After the war, time were tough for the Japanese. Men sold their suits and women sold their socks just to have enough to eat. Mifune made himself a pair of trousers and a matching coat from his army blanket. Such a look, coupled with his strong voice, gave Mifune a big presence. He applied for a camera assistant position with a film studio and got the position. However, in 1947, Mifune made his entrance as an actor in Kurasawa’s Snow Trail. Kurasawa was impressed with Mifune’s work and began writing bigger and better roles for Mifune. Mifune would not go back to being a camera assistant.

Kurasawa was a well-known director in Japan before the war and continued filmmaking during the war years with propaganda films. The US banned swordplay films after the war for seven years. When the ban was lifted Kurasawa was ready with one of the great films in cinematic history, Seven Samurai, with Mifune playing a often humorous, wanna-be Samurai. Mifune’s father had been a photographer and young Toshiro often posed as a Samurai for photos.

Mifune became an inspiration for young actors who found his minimalist approach accessible. Often referred to as the John Wayne of Japan, Toshiro Mifune is The Last Samurai. Warmly recommended…a cinephile’s dream!

SBIFF Showcase – The Handmaiden

From Chan-wook Park, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.

“One of the year’s sliest, sexiest thrillers. The first section is only part of the story. The rest is so suspenseful, sexy and surprising that it would be a shame to say any more.” – Entertainment Weekly

“A feast for all the senses.” – Rolling Stone

“A hugely entertaining thriller. Simmering with genuine sexual tension.” – The Guardian

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Screening:
Sunday, November 27 @ 2:00pm
Monday, November 28 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, November 29 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, November 30 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, December 4 @ 2:00pm
Monday, December 5 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 6 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, December 7 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

THE HANDMAIDEN
Directed by Chan-wook Park
Written by Seo-Kyung Chung, Chan-wook Park
Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters
Starring Min-hee Kim, Kim Tae-ri, Jung-woo Ha,
Jin-woong Cho, Hae-suk Kim, So-ri Moon
Country of Origin: South Korea
Running Time: 144 min
Subtitled

To purchase tickets click here.

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(Source:sbiff.org)

Casey Affleck to Receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award

Palm Springs, CA (November 11, 2016) – The 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Casey Affleck with the Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor at its annual Film Awards Gala for his performance in Manchester By the Sea. Each year the festival selects an actor and actress to receive this award. The Film Awards Gala, hosted by Mary Hart, will be held Monday, January 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 2-16.

“Casey Affleck delivers his finest performance in Manchester By the Sea, playing a Boston screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-4-21-37-pmjanitor living a lonely and isolated existence,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “He has earned rave reviews from critics and is sure to garner awards attention. It is our honor to present the Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor, to Casey Affleck.”

Past actor recipients of the Desert Palm Achievement Award include Jeff Bridges, Bradley Cooper, Johnny Depp, Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Firth, Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Eddie Redmayne. In the years they were honored, Bridges, Day-Lewis, McConaughey, Penn and Redmayne went on to win the Academy Award® for Best Actor, while Cooper, Firth and Pitt received Oscar® nominations.

Affleck stars in Manchester by the Sea, the latest film from award-winning writer and director Kenneth Lonergan, about the life of a solitary Boston janitor who is haunted by his past when he returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew. The story of the Chandlers, a working-class family living in a Massachusetts fishing village for generations, Manchester by the Sea is a deeply poignant, exploration of the power of familial love, community, sacrifice and hope.  The film also stars Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Gretchen Mol and C.J. Wilson.

Casey Affleck was nominated for an Academy Award®, a Golden Globe Award® and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance in the character drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His film credits include Gone Baby Gone, Gerry, Good Will Hunting, To Die For, Interstellar, Out of the Furnace, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans trilogy, Triple 9, and The Finest Hours.

About The Palm Springs International Film Festival
The Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, welcoming 135,000 attendees last year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries. The Festival is also known for its annual Film Awards Gala, an upscale black-tie event attended by 2,500, honoring the best achievements of the filmic year by a celebrated list of talents who, in recent years, have included Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, George Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, Julianne Moore, Brad Pitt, Eddie Redmayne, Julia Roberts, David O. Russell, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon.

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For more information, call 760-322-2930 or 800-898-7256 or visit www.psfilmfest.org.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Steven Wilson / Lauren Peteroy
B|W|R Public Relations
212-901-3920
steven.wilson@bwr-pr.com / lauren.peteroy@bwr-pr.com

David Lee
Palm Springs International Film Society
760-322-2930
david@psfilmfest.org

(Source:www.psfilmfest.org)

FILM REVIEW: Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941): USA

Viewed by Larry Gleeson as part of the American Film Institute’s (AFI) AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi. Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, was first on AFI’s first 100 Greatest American Movies Movies of All Time in 1998. Ten years later, a 10th Anniversary Edition of AFI’s 100 Greatest American Movies found Citizen Kane still perched in the top spot.

Loosely based on newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane was the first feature film by Welles. Hearst forbad any mention of the film in his newspapers upon the film’s release.

After signing his contract, Welles had been green-lighted for his film with a directorial final cut by RKO Pictures after his string of successes on Broadway with his Mercury Theater, including the thrilling radio broadcast of ‘The War Of The Worlds.’ Welles also brought several of his Mercury Theater actors on board for the project, several of whom would go on to have substantial Hollywood film careers including Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane and Ruth Warrick.

Welles shared writing credits for Citizen Kane with Herman Mankiewicz and the two won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1942. The film received a total of nine Oscar nominations in 1942 including Best Picture, Best Director (Welles), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Welles), Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Sound, Recording (John Aalberg), Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Bernard Herrmann), Best Film Editing (Robert Wise), and Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (Perry Ferguson, Van Ness Polglase, A. Roland Fields, Darrell Silvera).

The film opens in what appears to be a surreal reflection with a Bengali Tiger and ominous non-diagetic music with snow falling inside a crystal with an utterance of “Rosebud.” A strong, deep-toned, narrative voice-over begins informing the viewer with wartime newsreel clips from “News on The March,” mentioning among others Khubla Khan. After a series of quick edits, a low-angle shot of a large, stone-built castle the narrator refers to as “Xanadu, a pleasure dome,” is held for a moment.

Without missing much of a beat the narration continues with quick frames of paintings, pictures and statues that have been “looted” from the finest European museums. Not stopping, the narration intensifies as the narrator projects powerfully about animals of the land, foul of the air – two of each – in creation of the world’s largest private zoo since Noah and the largest monument a man has built to himself since the pyramids using 100,000 tons of concrete and 200,00 tons of marble in its construction culminating in a crescendo as the narrator introduces by name only the film’s protagonist, Charles Foster Kane, the great yellow journalist and heir of the Colorado Lode. News stories and the biography of the his life and death are flashed on screen as the story begins with a smoke-filled room of newsmen trying to determine the significance of the last word the newspaper tycoon uttered, ‘rosebud.’

Told primarily through flashbacks as the mystery of rosebud is explored, Citizen Kane contains a highly structured narrative coupled with revolutionary deep focus cinematography, mostly unseen before in mainstream cinema. Cinematographer Gregg Toland provided the deep focus effect with his specially treated lenses and light-sensitive film stock. The deep focus cinematography allowed the entire scene being shot to have primary focus and thus allowing the subjects to have equal importance visually. In addition, Welles and Toland removed floorboards in another groundbreaking scene to create ultra low-angle shots of the newspaper men following Kane’s unsuccessful pursuit of the American Presidency. The effect visually is stunning as rather ordinary, though influential, men are now seen as overly large, powerful titans squaring off.

In its essence, Citizen Kane, is the tragic tale of a man who has high ideals to be the people’s voice, the voice of the common everyday man. Slowly, however, the benevolence of the man becomes consumed with a passionate pursuit for power.

Tellingly, Citizen Kane’s message is still pertinent today. After Kane is defeated at the ballot box by the ‘sleaze factor’ (a decidedly distasteful tactic that can skewer even the most accurate polling data) he uses his newspapers to declare “Fraud at the Polls” in large-type newsprint headlines. Historians often cite Welles’ depiction of Susan Alexander Kane (a character purportedly representative of Hurst’s long-time, close intimate, Marion Davies) as the basis for Hurst strong negative reaction to Citizen Kane. More recently, several news outlets cite President Obama’s infamous roasting of President-elect Donald Trump at a 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner as the catalyst for Trump’s headlong dive into the 2016 race for the White House. Interestingly, even before Election Day, Trump declared fraud on the election. Interesting indeed. Citizen Kane is a must-see film for any serious cinephile and is highly recommended for all filmgoers.

Nowhere To Hide at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Goeffrey Macnab

It’s late 2011, and the Americans are about to leave Iraq. The local people are rejoicing. “The whole country is now independent and free,” the radio announcer proclaims.

Three years later, and this optimism is well and truly shattered. Male nurse Nori Sharif, working in central Iraq in a part of the country deemed the “triangle of death” and a complete no-go-zone for outsiders, chronicles the slow slide into despair, the increasing sectarianism and the rise of ISIS. The violence seeps into hospitals and schools. Kidnappings shoot up.

Kurdish-Norwegian filmmaker Zaradasht Ahmed was “directing” Nori from a distance. (Ahmed himself was in the town of Sulaymaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan.) At first, the idea was that Nori would film what was going on around him – he would be the observer, not the subject.

“We gave him the camera, we gave him the knowledge,” Ahmed says of Nori. He and his collaborators would tell Nori what to shoot and where to point his camera. All the time, the violence was moving closer and closer to Ahmed. By the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, society was close to collapse.

At this point, Sharif himself became the subject of the film. It turned into the story of a man and his family trying to survive. “It was the only way to justify the work, to focus on Nori,” Ahmed remembers. “All material since about 2013 was twisted again. It was more Nori to be in front of the camera, teaching him how to film himself, teaching other people how to film him, to angle it more from a personal point of view.”

By the end, Nori was isolated. He didn’t know whether to stay or to leave. ISIS was in control. This was a world in which anybody could be a victim – and anybody could be an enemy.

Ahmed had between 300 and 400 hours of footage from which to assemble Nowhere to Hide, which runs at 86 minutes. The project involved five years of shooting and a year of research. The director pays tribute to his editor, Eva Hillstöm, and her painstaking work in uncovering the “hidden human feeling” in the story as they attempted to make a “different kind” of war film – one looking at the experiences of “ordinary” people caught up in a conflict they’ve done nothing to provoke. “The film would have been different without her,” the director says.

As for Nori himself, he is not expected at IDFA. “When I was last in Iraq a couple of months ago, I suggested to him that we wanted him to come,” Ahmed recalls. However, over the space of a month, Nori lost two of his brothers. One died in a car accident, the other “because of ISIS.” “He was not in the mood to travel. He said ‘I think I should stay here … I wish he could have been here to see his work.”

(Source: http://www.idfa.nl)

Netflix Reveals Trailer for Acclaimed Film DIVINES

DIVINES, one of the most critically acclaimed and talked-about films at this year’s Cannes film festival and recent awards winner at the American Film Institute’s AFIFEST 2016 presented by Audi, will be available to Netflix subscribers exclusively today, November 18th. Get a first look below!

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-11-01-54-amThe funny, suspenseful and often emotional drama tells the story of Dounia, a tough, but naive teenager who sees getting rich or dying trying as her most viable option in life. Set in a ghetto near Paris where drugs and religion reign supreme, Dounia is hungry for her share of power and success. Enlisting the help of her best friend she decides to follow the footsteps of a respected and successful neighborhood dealer. But when Dounia meets a strong-willed and sensual dancer, her life takes a surprising turn.

Houda Benyamina’s energetic directorial debut was awarded the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for the best first feature film presented in one of the event’s selections. Most recently, the film received multiple accolades yesterday AFIFEST. Benyamina,  Oulaya Amamra, and Divines were winners of the New Auteurs Audience Award, Breakthrough Audience Award and the Special Jury Mention for Acting.

Cast: Oulaya Amamra (Dounia), Déborah Lukumuena (Maimounia), Kévin Mischel (Djigui), Jisca Kalvanda (Rebecca), Yasin Houicha (Samir), Majdouline Idrissi (Myriam)

The film was written by Romain Compingt, Houda Benyamina and Malik Rumeau and produced by Marc-Benoît Créancier.

(Excerpted from http://www.broadwayworld.com, BWW News Desk)