Tag Archives: Programming

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Ana, mon amour (Netzer, 2017): Romania

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Călin Peter Netzer returns to the Berlinale Competition, having captured the Golden Bear in 2013 with his low budget, digitally shot, Mutter & Sohn, a mother-son relationship piece. Netzer’s entry this year, another relationship piece, is Ana, mon amour, starring Diana Cavallioti, as Ana, and Mircea Postelnicu as Toma. Ana, mon amour is a story of two young people who meet at the university and begin a co-committed love affair full of hopes and dreams. Each feels mutually supported.

Opening in tight framing, Netzer introduces us to Ana and Toma discussing Friedrich Nietzsche and Adolph Hitler. Panic ensues for Ana. Toma caresses her belly and the two become intimate partners. Director of Photography Andrei Butică delivers highly crafted frames representing the closeness and intimacy Ana and Toma share.

As the relationship evolves the episodes continue until medication is used and then reconsidered with psychoanalytic therapy. Along the way we meet both sets of parents and discover root causes for the affective emotionality Ana and Toma exhibit and experience.

Netzer shows Ana’s struggles and Toma’s attempts to cope with exquisite, tender and emotive close ups. In, addition Netzer incorporates the use of extended narrative flashbacks as Toma is participating in on-going, regular psychoanalytic therapy sessions.

In addition, Netzer addresses racial and social bias in Romanian society. Each visits the other’s parents home. Taking a cue from Milos Forman’s The Loves of a Blonde (1965) Netzer gives an up-close and introspective view exploring in seemingly real-time these racial and social biases. Afterwards, the two begin to isolate themselves from their families and friends. Moving into more graphic detail, Netzer effectively shows Ana unravelling and Toma’s increasing frustration at his own inability to stabilize her.

Eventually, Toma succumbs to the stress from Ana’s anxiety and walks away from his career becoming a stay-at-home husband/father as the two have chosen to embark on parenthood. Ana has now become the sole breadwinner. Unsure of herself at first, Ana begins therapy with a competent psychologist finding an inner strength from the insights and support she garners from her sessions. Toma feels left out and the relationship comes to a head.

In Ana, non amour, Netzer delves into some rather deep and heady territory including dream interpretation as it relates to psychoanalysis. The film’s narrative is strongly driven by Andrei Butică (Director of Photography) camera work and dynamic editing from Dana Bunescu (Editor) in revealing the multi-faceted aspects and multi-faceted complexities of relationship in a most intimate space. Bunescu would go on to win the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution in the categories camera, editing, music score, costume or set design. That being said, the actors more than hold their own.

But above all, In Ana, non amour, Netzer delivers a profound dramatic presentation on mental illness, how it’s overcome and the toll it takes on an adult, romantic relationship. Netzer delves into some rather deep and heady territory including dream interpretation as it relates to psychoanalysis revealing the complex psychological affects due to repression related to Romanian societal taboos.

 

 

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Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian, 2017) China

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Liu Jian mortgages the house to make films! Chinese artist/filmmaker Liu Jian delighted the house at the Berlinale Palast Theater during the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.

Utilizing a warm color palette and an exceptional musical score mixing classical American jazz with traditional Chinese sounds, Liu Jian takes the viewer on a colorful journey through a southern Chinese city drawing several people from diverse backgrounds with different motives into bloody conflict in the darkly comedic, animation feature film, Have a Nice Day.  But wait, there’s more!

Have a Nice Day is Liu Jian second foray into feature animation film. His first Piercing I, a cold, hard look at the 2008 global financial crisis. Liu Jian is now in production on his third film, a self-reflective animation feature, School Town, an autobiographical look at Liu Jian’s own life.

In Have a Nice Day, Liu Jian allows a bag containing a million yuan to take center stage. Greed and selfish motives take over. The gangster boss who lays claim to the bagful of yuan holds court and wistfully recalls days from future past while pontificating to a subordinate who has spunk and maintains he’s an artist. Some philosophical discourse takes place on what exactly constitute art and who can call themselves a true artist. The bag has been lost and/or stolen and a butcher/hitman is sent to recover the money-laden bag.

The bag representing progress continues to move from one point to another. Various, vicarious and unsuspecting, dialoguing individuals reveal social and moral issues issues while clutching the bag of money tightly in hopes of securing a better life. In the end, it’s all just an illusory pipe dream fantasy.

Nevertheless, Modern China is in flux and a real war for control is ripe with violence and dangerous activities. With the animation format, Liu Jian is adeptly able to circumvent and soften some of the more distasteful aspects of this movement toward progress while heightening and stylizing the mood in China today.

Along the way, Liu Jian adds some subtle Western influences as he develops nuances of character. For example, the Hitman is a butcher when he’s not working for the mob boss. To add depth to the butcher, Liu Jian inserts a Rocky movie poster starring Sylvester Stallone on the Hitman’s locker at the meat processing plant.

In recent time, much is made of China’s growing economic power and goal of world dominance and, by the film’s end, one of the film’s protagonists, the Hitman, laments, “without high-technologies we just can’t win.” The film closes with an earthy mise-en-scene as a large city-scape with shades of browns and grays sits silently while a long, steady rain cascades across the screen in a vertical fashion.

Another beautiful film in the Berlinale Competition. While Chinese animation short films have been in previous Berlinales, Liu Jian’s Have a Nice Day, is the first feature-length, Chinese animation film to be screened at a Berlinale. It’s a touching expose. And, it’s a worthy contender for the Golden Bear. Warmly recommended.

*Featured photo: Courtesy of Liu Jian/Berlinale.de

 

 

 

BERLINALE TALENTS 2017: COURAGE IN ACTION!

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

The 15th edition of Berlinale Talents was rounded off yesterday by Berlinale International Jury member and artist Olafur Eliasson as well as director Raoul Peck, who is at the festival this year with the Oscar-nominated I Am Not Your Negro (Panorama) and Le jeune Karl Marx (Berlinale Special). During the last six days, over 100 experts, 250 Talents and well over 6,000 visitors turned HAU Hebbel am Ufer into an international hub of discussion and networking for film lovers.

 

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Prof. Monika Gruttes, the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media (Photo via monika-grutters.de)

“Once again, this year’s Berlinale Talents proves to be the festival’s innovation lab. Where else can young filmmakers and experienced experts from every culture, country and profession have such open, inspiring exchange and collaborate on bringing new films to life? I wish these Talents success as they turn their ideas into reality. And above all: Have courage!” said the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Prof. Monika Grütters, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Berlinale Talents.

 

 

Courageous Mutual Exchange

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-9-48-23-pmIn a time of political and social upheaval, this year’s theme has been a call to take a clear stance on cinematic narratives and aesthetics as well as a reminder against discouragement to rally our optimism and work together to bring about change. Throughout over 100 events and workshops, Talents discussed and worked with renowned experts and mentors, including Paul Verhoeven and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christo, Agnieszka Holland, Ana Lily Amirpour, Isabel Coixet, Andres Veiel, Gurinder Chadha, Laura Poitras, Timothy Spall and many more.

Sunday’s opening panel, with this year’s Berlinale International Jury President Paul Verhoeven and Berlinale International Jury member Maggie Gyllenhaal set the tone for this year’s edition. “Be courageous and step into the unknown,” was Paul Verhoeven’s encouragement for the Talents. Christo, in his 90-minute discussion with the audience, called for creative work to be based in real contexts: “The most important thing of all our work is that it is about real things: real wind, real wet, real dry, real fear.” The days to come were a journey towards discovering personal, creative and filmic moments of courage. Talents alumna Ana Lily Amirpour, who returned this year as an expert, summed up what makes Berlinale Talents so special: “I loved it here when I came in 2010, and I still feel the same. It’s invigorating to be around so many people from everywhere in the world who are just madly in love with their ideas.”

Prizes during Berlinale Talents

Once again, prizes were awarded to filmmakers during Berlinale Talents.

As part of the “Talent Project Market,” the VFF Talent Highlight Award, endowed with € 10,000, went to the project The Bus to Amerika by producer Nefes Polat and director Derya Durmaz (Turkey). Cash prizes of €1,000 each were awarded to the Cuban producer Maria Carla del Rio and the Singaporean producer Jeremy Chua for their nominated projects.

For the fifth time, the Robert Bosch Stiftung awarded during Berlinale Talents film prizes to promote international cooperation between German and Arab filmmakers, endowed with up to € 60,000 each.

Animation: Night by director Ahmad Saleh (Jordan) and producers Jessica Neubauer (Germany) and Saleh Saleh (Jordan)

Short Film: The Trap by director Nada Riyadh (Egypt) and producers Eva Schellenbeck (Germany) and Ayman El Amir (Egypt)

Documentary: Behind Closed Doors (Mor L’Bab) by director Yakout Elhababi (Morocco) and producers Karoline Henkel (Germany) and Hind Sah (Morocco / France)

Co-Partner Nespresso kicked off the vertical video contest “Nespresso Talents 2017” during Berlinale Talents. The competition is open for entries until April 17, 2017, at nespresso.com/talents. Winners will be officially announced during the Cannes Film Festival and receive a cash prize and participation in a mentoring programme.

And tonight, Berlinale Talents and Perspektive Deutsches Kino will jointly award the inaugural Kompagnon-Fellowship during the closing evening of Perspektive Deutsches Kino.

For press information and interview requests please contact:

Malte Mau

Phone +49.30.259 20.518
Fax +49.30.259 20.534

Berlinale Talents is an initiative of the Berlin International Film Festival, with the support of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the Federal Foreign Office and the German Federal Film Board.

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(Source: Berlinale Press Office)

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Logan (Mangold, 2017): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Writer/Director James Mangold’s Logan is hot out of the box! Making its World Premiere last night, February 17th, at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, Logan brings back Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine and has blockbuster written all over it!

Set in 2029, the film opens in low-key lighting as a band of Latino roughians are in the process of stripping tires from Logan’s (Wolverine) small limousine. Unfortunately for the desperadoes, the vehicle has chrome plated lug nuts and even more so, the Wolverine is coming to after having tied one on.

This scene sets the tone for the film as the Wolverine winds up taking a beating but still manages to fend off the aggressors. Logan looks haggard and worn. This scenario is carried out repeatedly in several action sequences Logan without it getting old.

Patrick Stewart returns as an ailing Professor X with his now mind control registered as a weapon of mass destruction. The albino, Caliban, played again by Stephen Merchant, reprises his mutant tracker role. Newbie Dafne Keen plays young mutant, Laura Kinney/X-23, to great affect. Laura appears as a fugitive pursued by dark forces led by Boyd Holbrook. She’s a showstopper with plenty of moxie!

Logan is the tenth installment in the X-men series of film and the third and final installment of the Wolverine franchise following the successes of The Wolverine (2013) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). Both films grossed in excess of $130,000,000 at the box office. Logan is sure to match and/or surpass this figure. All three films are big-budget film. While budget numbers for Logan are not made readily available, the film boasted it created 15,000 jobs in its production.

In addition to the hand-to-hand combat fighting scenes with the Wolverine’s wielding his bristling, shimmering trademark claws, the narrative in Logan has a slightly familiar feel as the mutants are portrayed as very open and loving towards one another. And, again, they are portrayed primarily social outcasts pursued by predators for diabolical purposes. There’s also a new twist added to the story.

Nevertheless, Mangold manages to keep it fresh. Just when situations seem to be hopeless or on the verge of becoming mundane, Mangold injects a new catalyst propelling the film forward in dramatic fashion. Costumer Daniel Orlandi does excellent work keeping characters believable while imbuing them with just enough complementary edginess to enhance the narrative. Director of Photography of John Mathieson teams up with Editors Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt to unveil some wickedly fun action sequences.

Unfortunately, Jackman has said this is his final go with the Wolverine character. Quite frankly, it’s a shame. But, to have had one of the world’s great, great actors – onstage or on the big screen – portray a comic book action/adventure character for the films spanning just over a decade has been an unexpected delight.

While Jackman tends to carry most scenes, young Dafne Keen gave the audience quite a thrill with her own acting chops and sharp-witted quips. Hats off to screenwriters Mangold, Michael Green and Scott Frank for keeping any semblance of staleness at bay. Newly added character, Donald Pierce, played by Narcos star Boyd Holbrook, brings an energetic, counterbalancing dynamic to offset the mind-boggling powers of the mutants consistent with the previous Wolverine films.

Granted, Logan has the look and feel of the previous two Wolverine films. For fans of the previous Wolverine prequels, Logan is a must-see. For anyone not seeing the prequels, Logan stands on it’s own merits and is sure to make a believer out of the uninitiated . Highly recommended!

The film is scheduled to open in US theaters this Friday, March 3rd, 2017.

Logan was produced by Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and employed over 15,000 personnel in its production.

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Joaquim (Gomes, 2017) Brazil

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Wanda Films and Writer/Director Marcelo Gomes bring forth Joaquim, a loosely based account of Brazilian henchman turned revolutionary, Joaquim de Silva Xavier, at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in Competition. Set in eighteenth century Brazil, Joaquim, seemingly, is a dichotomy between historical realism for mise-en-scene and a North American hit job to seal its commitment to the past and to a revolutionary future. Utilizing a hand-held, point-of-view frame, Gomez adeptly draws in the viewer to this world out of time (and world out of place with its diagetic sounds) to achieve his objective.

Surprisingly, he portrays the film’s protagonist, Joaquim, as weak, uninspiring and without a backbone. He positions Joaquim as a whiny, Second Lieutenant who is seen lusting after a beautiful, black, female slave, Preta, portrayed very well by Isabél Zuaa. Unable to have her for himself, he stands by while the regional Administrator fornicates with her. As the grunts and groans grow louder, Joaquim stomps off and is shown finding relief by galloping hard upon his horse.

Julio Machado, portrays Joaquim. Director of Photography, Pierre de Kerchove, illustrates the film’s characters with a plethora of tightly framed shots inundating the viewer with intimate and personal details of the characters costuming and facial features. Rô Nascimento created semi-realistic costuming with an accent on the luxurious – probably not the quality of clothing adorned by slaves, low-ranking military officers and peasants. Anna Van Steen and Evelyn Barbieri are credited with Make-up.

After introducing the film’s main characters and establishing its theme, Gomes moves the film’s narrative into the outback. With a growing fear among the colony’s corrupt Portuguese officials that gold production is declining, Joaquim is sent off to find gold having made a name for himself earlier as a hunter of gold smugglers – an unusual change of duty assignment for a military officer.

For his expedition, Joaquim picks a known prospector and another purported soldier along with a few natives to comprise a team. Off they go into the rugged territory where Joaquim believes the gold is waiting. Here, the character, Joaquim seems a little confused as he believes finding gold will give him Preta. Using Chinese-wok shaped sifters (without any sifting capacity). the men scoop stones and dump them on nearby rocks sorting through the worthless rocks with bare hands. The men grow weary and tell Joaquim they are leaving. Joaquim watches them go with hardly an utterance.

Only after Joaquim is captured by  looting, indigenous black bandits does he show emotion – seemingly because one of the bandits’ members was his former black girlfriend and she thwarts his new advances. Rejected, Joaquim is shown meeting and feasting with another group of corrupt, well-to-do officials representing the religious sector under the guise of revolution as the film closes..

In my opinion, the film never quite finds its feet. Overt attempts to create an artistic portrait of Joaquim  de Silva Xavier would have apparently been better served creating a figure the Brazilians could understand, emulate or identify with. Instead, Gomes and Wanda films hand them a useless tidbit full of innuendo and disparaging satire. Not recommended.

*Featured photo credit: © REC Produtores & Ukbar Filmes/Berlinale.de

 

 

#SBIFF Announces 3rd Weekend

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

sbiff_app_updateThe Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) announced its 3rd Weekend featuring Festival highlights for FREE!

All screenings this year will be at the Fiesta Theatre at 916 State Street.
Seating is first-come first served.

Info on each film is available at schedule.sbiff.org and on the new SBIFF app available on iOS and Android.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17

5:00PM “DOCUMENTARY SHORTS: REFUGEES”
Including “REFUGE” and “REFUGEE” – Winners of the Best Documentary Short Film Award

7:30PM “THE CONSTITUTION”
Winner of the Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film

9:30PM “GAVIOTA: THE END OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA”

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18

11:00AM “REBELS ON POINTE”

2:00PM “THE GOOD CATHOLIC”
Winner of the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema
Preceded by “IT’S BEEN LIKE A YEAR” – winner of the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film

5:00PM “SÁMI BLOOD”
Winner of the Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film

7:30PM “MY HERO BROTHER”
Winner of the Audience Choice Award and Best Documentary Award

9:30PM “GIVEN”

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19

11:00AM “TAMARA”
Winner of the Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema

2:00PM “ANGRY INUK”
Winner of the Social Justice Award for Documentary Film

5:00PM “STRAWBERRY DAYS”
Winner of the ADL Stand Up Award
Preceded by “CONFINO” – Winner of the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film

7:30PM “JERICO, THE INFINITE FLIGHT OF DAYS”

(Source: sbiff.org)

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Return to Montauk (Schlöndorff, 2017): Germany

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Director Volker Schlöndorff debuted Return to Montauk (Rückkehr nach Montauk), at the 67th Berlin Film Festival in Competition. Volker having previously adapted “Homo Faber” draws again from the world of Max Frisch with new variations on the motifs of happiness and the pain that comes with remembering.

Opening in spectacular fashion with titles and music swarming in and out, around, across and seemingly through the viewing screen, Return to Montauk starts out on a high, buzzing note. From here the viewer is dragged down into the abysmal life of aging writer, Max Zorn, embodied well by Stellan Skarsgard. Well past the norm for a mid-life existential crisis, Max doesn’t seem to adhere to that adage and decides to go there anyway.

He has a beautiful and loving wife/partner in Clara, portrayed by Susanne Wolff, who would walk  the ends of the earth and back for Zorn. Clara has taken up a residence in New York to make sure Max’s book receives its due publication – a very personal novel that tells the story of a great but failed love affair.That being said Max seems to envision his life from some distant metaphysical space as he allows a long-forgotten affair to consume his being.

His novel details the affair he so flippantly discarded years earlier as he finds himself struggling to make ends meet financially. His then lover, Rebecca, played divinely by Nina Hoss, has moved on achieving a high-degree of success as a New York lawyer specializing in financial mergers and acquisitions.

Max can smell the money and follows the scent with support from another earlier acquaintance, Walter, portrayed by Niels Arestrup, a seemingly wealthy, albeit aloof, art collector. Walter is well aware of Max’s situation and knew Max and Rebecca as a couple. Throwing all caution to the wind (and that’s putting in midly) and with little thought of Clara, Max incredulously goes all in and meets up with Rebecca.

The two return to Montauk, situated at the far end of New York’s Long Island, where their flame had ignited years before. Director of Photography, Jérôme Alméras provides solid cinematography accenting a rather luscious mise-en-scene. Editor Hervé Schneid utilizes continuity editing in large part with some intimate long takes as the once-lovers take mesmerizing and exquisite seashore walks. Costuming is spot on from Majie Poetschke and Angela Wendt.

Interestingly, most of the film revolves around Max rekindling the long-ago extinguished relationship with Rebecca. Max tries to get close. But Rebecca stands in her truth, grounded in the present. She’s worked to get to where she is building a formidable new life with a now deceased partner. Yet, she is still reeling from the past hurt she experienced with Max.

Unfortunately for Max, the well ends up being deep and dark inside. Yes. The two shared a love and being adults reconnect intimately during their weekend together. Rebecca, however, coolly rejects a present day relationship with Max.  Nevertheless, a symbiotic and somewhat cathartic healing occurs for Rebecca. Meanwhile, Max’s metaphysical, roller-coaster ride continues, plunging his relationship status with Clara to an unexperienced new low.

While Return to Montauk finished out of the running for the Berlin  International Film Jury prizes it is nonetheless a beautiful film with excellent casting by Cornelia von Braun, Amy Rowan, and Meredith Jacobson Marciano. The production design by Sebastian Soukup is noteworthy with a few subtle nuances that further specific aspects of the film’s narrative while enhancing the already mentioned luscious mise-en-scene. Highly recommended.

 

*Featured photo credit: © Franziska Strauss/Berlinale.de

 

 

 

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: The Bar (Iglesia, 2017): Spain

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Director Álex de la Iglesia rehashes an oft-used scenario of a group of individuals held against their will in a life-threatening situation in his new film, The Bar (and yes, it is set in a bar). The titles roll with a peppy, “warm and sunny day” jazz beat. The location is present day Madrid, Spain, on what seemingly could be any typical day in the city.

Iglesia wisely opens with the stunningly beautiful Blanca Suarez (kudos to José Quetglas for Make-up) as Elena, waltzing through a fast-moving urban city-scape while conversing on her cellular phone about her romantic prospects while a business man initially crosses her path bearing the same lughole accessory. Ángel Amorós serves as Director of Photography and his opening scene is nothing short of brilliant. A must-see!

Both these characters, Elena and the businessman, wind up in a nearby bar where quick transitions from Editor Domingo Gonzales reveal colorful characters in a slapstick-like manner. A few patrons are enjoying breakfast while a few others are enjoying their first espresso of the day. Costumer Paolo Torres outfits the group in rich, vivid attire. Short, rapid fire exchanges of dialogue compliment the character intros. Suddenly, a blast overwhelms the bar. Sound Designer, Sergio Burmann, creates a reverberation somewhere between gunshot and a medium-grade explosive.

Without missing a beat, a body is discovered lying outside the front door sidewalk with a gunshot wound to the head. A patron exits to discover what has happened when another, now identifiable, gun blast takes his life. The customers are visibly horrified and they watch helplessly. They scurry for cover. Brief pandemonium ensues. However, the trepidity begins to recede and an observation is made – the streets are empty. An eerie feeling has taken hold. Questions abound. Why is there no one on the sreets? Is there a sniper on a rooftop? Or could the perpetrator be somewhere in the bar?

The group quickly realizes they must work together to stay alive. From here the film’s narrative oscillates between thriller and dark comedy while the characters oscillate between solidarity and egotism with moments of confidence and terror as they struggle to survive begins amidst outbursts of greed and hatred, helpfulness and compassion.

In The Bar Iglesia sets forth an adventurous, often calamitous tale primarily set in the bar’s basement rooms and the underground passageways of Madrid. Iglesia focuses his lens on these characters in a most intimate manner. The colorful characters’ personality layers  (and clothing!) are peeled as they try to stay alive. However, along the way, lives are lost. Yet,  truths are revealed, self-discovery is made and inner strength is found. The film has a run time of 102 minutes allowing for some emotional depth in his supporting characters while bringing the character of Elena to full fruition.

Granted, the film’s narrative does have its flaws and its characters, while colorful, do raise some eyebrows with larger-than-life personas while spewing forth some rather zealous dialogue. However, Iglesia slyly embeds a deep socio-political truth into The Bar‘s  story line. Herein lies the beauty and magic of this film.

Highly recommended from the 67th Berlinale!

HELPING FILMS GET MADE AT THE BERLINALE CO-PRODUCTION MARKET

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

THREE PRIZES AND 1,200 MEETINGS

Three monetary prizes were awarded to selected narrative film projects at the Berlinale Co-Production Market (February 12 to 15).

On Sunday evening, the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award, with an endowment of 20,000 euros, was awarded to The Wife of the Pilot (director: Anne Zohra Berrached), which Razor Film Produktion from Germany presented here. The prize money is intended as a development grant from the European film fund Eurimages.

The three members of this year’s jury were renowned industry professionals Pablo Pérez de Lema (Spain), Leontine Petit (The Netherlands) and Manfred Schmidt (Germany).

Two additional prestige prizes were also awarded. The VFF – Verwertungsgesellschaft der Film und Fernsehproduzenten from Munich awarded its VFF Talent Highlight Award, with an endowment of 10,000 euros, to the project The Bus to Amerika, presented at the market by producer Nefes Polat from Turkey and director Derya Durmaz. Since 2004, the VFF has each year honoured a promising project by up-and-coming filmmakers from the “Talent Project Market”, organised by the Berlinale Co-Production Market in cooperation with Berlinale Talents. Nominated for the VFF Talent Highlight Award this year in addition to Nefes Polat were Cuban producer Maria Carla del Rio, with her project Shock Labor, and producer Jeremy Chua from Singapore, with Tomorrow is a Long Time. Each project received a recognition of 1,000 euros as well as the opportunity to pitch their projects to participants of the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

This year, the renowned ARTE International Prize, which has been presented since 2011, was awarded to the project Lost Country by Serbian director Vladimir Perišić, which is represented by KinoElektron (France), MPM Film (France) and Trilema Films (Serbia). ARTE bestows the 6,000 euro prize on an artistically outstanding project drawn from the entire Berlinale Co-Production Market.

The 14th Berlinale Co-Production Market, which runs until February 15, is a place where the producers of the 36 selected narrative film projects can also meet with potential co-producers and funding partners. Over the four days, some 600 participants take a total of more than 1,200 individual meetings. In the coming days, this Berlinale partner hub will also focus on “Books at the Berlinale”, the presentation of books that could be adapted into films, and “CoPro Series” for TV series. The platform received more than 2,000 requests for meetings this year. More than 240 films that came to the market looking for partners have since become completed films, and seven of those are screening this year alone in the film festival programme.

The main partners of the Berlinale Co-Production Market are MDM – Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung and the European Union Creative Europe MEDIA programme.
Another partner, and also the market venue, is Berlin’s House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus).

The Berlinale Co-Production Market is part of the European Film Market.

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(Source: Berlinale Press Office Release)

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