Tag Archives: Obaidah Zytoon

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

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Mihir Fadnavis

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

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

Under The Shadow

Director: Babak Anvari
Country: Iran

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

The Lure

Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Country: Poland

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

Personal Shopper

Director: Oliver Assayas
Country: France

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

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

Old Stone

Director: Johnny Ma
Country: China

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


Director: Cristian Mungiu
Country: Romania

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

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

Things To Come

Director: Mia Hansen Love

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

My Life As A Courgette

Director: Claude Barras
Country: Switzerland

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


Director: Paul Verhoeven
Country: France

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

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

Sand Storm

Director: Elite Zexer
Country: Israel

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

Hounds Of Love

Director: Ben Young
Country: Australia

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

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

The War Show

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

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

The Lovers And The Despot

Director: Rob Cannan and Ross Adam
Country: Britain

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


Director: Reza Dormishian
Country: Iran

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


Director: Mohamed Diab
Country: Egypt

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

After The Storm

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Country: Japan

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

The Salesman

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Country: Iran

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

Other Notable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

Death in Sarajevo: Danis Tanovic’s new film.

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

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

All about European film

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Giulia Privitelli interviews Sarah Chircop about her experience on the jury that was in charge of selecting the winner of the Venice Days Award, part of the historic Venice Film Festival.

Last year, I had the opportunity to take part in the 72nd edition of the Venice Film Festival as a 28 Times Cinema jury member – an initiative supported by the European Parliament. This initiative is now in its seventh year, and this year’s Maltese representative was Sarah Chircop. In this interview, she shares her experience as this year’s 28 Times Cinema and Lux Film Prize Maltese ambassador.

What is the 28 Times Cinema initiative and how did you come to know about it?

This is a EU-funded initiative where 28 young people from every European country screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-5-13-59-pmbetween the ages of 18 and 25 are selected and invited to Venice to experience the oldest film festival in Europe.

The 28 members essentially form part of a unique jury who are in charge of selecting the winner of the Venice Days Award. With each year, the initiative demonstrates a consistent interest in arthouse cinema and independent film by the younger generation.

I remember that you yourself had mentioned this initiative a while back, and encouraged me to apply through Spazju Kreattiv. In turn, I encourage every young cinephile who happens to be reading this to the same next year.

What was it like being part of this year’s jury?

Well, the beauty of this jury is its versatility and diversity. We were 28 different people sharing different thoughts and ideas, different academic backgrounds and of course cultures.

And, the more time spent together and discussed as a jury, the more our differences were revealed, as well as our similarities. But all in all, I tried to keep an open and inquisitive mind, questioning as much as possible even though the days were long and tiring making it quite difficult at times.

But did you meet any other actors or directors as a 28 Times jury member? I remember exchanging a word or two with Elit Iscan from Mustang and Ondina Quadri from Arianna , as well as the director of Mediterranea, Jonas Carpignano at the Villa degli Autori…

The red carpet was always rolling on star after star. I attended the premiere of The Bleeder, starring Liev Schreiber who was awarded the Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award 2016, which was cool.

But honestly, I was much more moved to sit in the same room as the directors of The War Show, this year’s winner of the Venice Days Award, and to later meet the producers too. A personal favourite director, Luca Guadagnino, was also there with a film called Ombre dal Fondo and we did get to have the director of a film called Boys in Trees DJ at our closing party, which was crazy fun.

Apart from all the film-watching, naturally, celebrity-snooping and the parties, what other activities were you involved in throughout the two weeks of the festival?

Honestly, there were times you’d be at a panel and all you can think of is whether Cate Blanchett would be gracing the red carpet at some point. She didn’t, much to my disappointment.

Besides all the film watching and jury debating, we also had to select and attend a Screen Shot 2016-10-09 at 5.14.56 PM.pngworkshop. I chose the Active Cinemagoers Workshop, led by Irene Angel, where we learnt what it takes to be an active cinemagoer and what is involved in organising a film festival through discussing renowned case studies and then working together to imagine our own festival.

Other workshops included Film Criticism, Radio Film Journalism, Seeing and Translating Cinema and Social Networks & Film Festivals. Besides these workshops, we also attended various panels on the European Parliament, Virtual Reality, Biennale College Films, War on Screen and The Selection Process in Film Festivals. There was also the Miu Miu Women’s Tales, where female filmmakers and actors discussed their work and experiences. Guests included actresses Juno Temple and Dakota Fanning.

Sounds like you had plenty to keep you busy! In fact, in a nutshell, what was a typical day for a 28 Times jury member like?

My day would always start with… you guessed it… an espresso. The hours of sleep I managed to rack up determined the number of these said espressos. But I loved waking up early to a hungover Lido and go about searching for a different bar to properly come to my senses. The croissant was as important, might I add.

Once the caffeine was in my system I would usually meet up with some of the group to get tickets for a film we wished to see out of the Venice Days selection then head to our first ‘compulsory’ screening of the day. Lunch was either a quick bite at the Lion’s Bar right in the heart of the festival area before heading off to a workshop, panel discussion or another film but sometimes there was also time for a sit down meal before resuming more movie-watching.

Once our compulsory activities were done for the day, we’d usually try to catch even more films, watch the celebrities gracing the red carpet and maybe even manage an Aperol spritz – and most of the time we did. The day almost always ended, at least for me, with an ice cream.


Back to your role as jury member. What was the Venice Days selection like this year? Was there a unifying theme?

This year, 12 feature films were selected as part of the Venice Days programme; these were our priority and responsibility to watch and think about for jury discussions presided by Canadian artist, Bruce la Bruce.

As with each year, Venice Days aims to focus on the rich variety of different cultures and nations, to look both to the future and the past and allow for a young and curious audience to play an active role. The Mississippi Mermaid was the star of this year’s posters, stressing the achievements of women in the film industry today, while also presenting, and I quote: “an emblem of an ever-changing cinema that stirs our emotions and fears instead of soothing us.”

The jury selected the Syrian film The War Show by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon as the winner of the award for this year. What was the jury’s statement, yours included, for choosing this film?

The War Show. Yes. Well, it was clear to most of us from the start that there was no real contender against this film. It provoked an impassioned response, to say the least, from the Jury. It presented sensitive and violent content in such an effective way yet it was not solely through its content that it won our vote but the way in which it was presented; through a series of powerful images portraying life and death.

Although some deliberated on whether it belonged alongside the rest of the Venice Days selection, which was comprised of narrative fiction features, it was ultimately recognised as an outstanding crafted piece of cinema. It succeeds in painting a truthful picture of the political and societal portrait of Syria and of “a war which is defining a conflict of time”. It is with sadness that I urge all of you to experience The War Show, yet I fear the necessity of making another a film like this.

Political and social content is also central to the films presented for the Lux Film Prize which, I am to understand, you are also representing this year.

Yes. Toni Erdmann, As I Open My Eyes and Ma Vie de Courgette are the three finalists vying for the Lux Prize this year – all brilliant films in their own right. As a Lux Film ambassador, my role actually started once I returned to Malta.

Having represented Spazju Kreattiv, which manages Malta’s only specialised art-house cinema in St James Cavalier, I am to promote these European films locally, while also contributing to bringing Europe’s cinematic soul closer to Europeans. The films are subtitled with the 24 official EU languages, enabling them to travel and be screened in more than 50 cities and 20 festivals across Europe.


You speak of European film – how would you define such a film, if you could?

Through this experience, I have come to understand European Film as an art form which essentially tries to unite Europe by telling European stories, a form of cinema that focuses on cultural values and intercultural dialogue.

However, I feel that it is actually quite hard to rightly define European cinema and perhaps its nature is something free from the constraints of a technical description, but is rather something which should be left to be whatever it needs to be.

Would you say European cinema is sufficiently represented in Malta?

Spazju Kreattiv is part of the Europa Cinemas network and has recently launched their new cinema programme which includes quite a varied selection of films, including the screening of Lux Prize nominated films such as L’Avenir which was actually one of the 10 shortlisted films for this year’s Lux Prize.

This year, Spazju Kreattiv will also be participating in the first edition of European Art Cinema Day taking place today. There is also the Kinemastik Short Film Festival which promotes European Cinema and, of course, the Valletta Film Festival which debuted its second edition last June with a large selection of European as well as international films. I see this festival fast becoming one of the most attractive in the Mediterranean region.

Any final words to potential future Maltese 28 Times Cinema and Lux Film Ambassadors out there?

Just go for it. It’s an experience that will truly stimulate your mind, enter your heart, and settle permanently into that cosy little home called memory. Let’s keep cinema alive and let’s keep European cinema the place to carry on recognising and celebrating different cultures.

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