Tag Archives: Women

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: For Ahkeem (Levine,Van Soest, 2017): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest presented For Ahkeem, a new documentary, at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in Forum. For Ahkeem attempts to address and capture a young, black woman’s life pathway from footage accumulated over the course of approximately two years. In doing so, Levine and Von Soest limit a wider lens.

For Ahkeem tracks a roughly seventeen year-old African-American female, Daje, from the north side of St. Louis, Missouri, an area of the city notorious for its gun violence and innocent killings from drive-by shootings. The film is predominantly direct cinema.

Daje comes across as a rather representative, angry, militant teenager of the area. Daje has been expelled from school for the final time and has to make an appearance in juvenile court. The judge has read Daje’s not-so-promising juvenile record and decides to give her a refuge of last resort – an alternative school he started. It’s an offer Daje can’t refuse despite her best efforts.

It’s here Daje transforms from adolescent girl to young woman. With help from the staff and support from family and friends, Daje blossoms into a confident, independent young woman. As her graduation nears, Daje struggles with math, yet manages to overcome her obstacle and proudly receives her diploma. She’s persevered pregnant and birthing a child with another alternative schoolmate she felt was nice to her and to whom she could talk with and confide in.

Levine and Van Soest’s focus successfully captures the trajectory of young African-Americans in the North St. Louis ghetto, in my opinion. Footage from Michael Brown’s mother shouting into a camera shows the passion this cultural segment possesses. As Michael Brown graduated high school so did Daje. The tragic life of Michael Brown need not be repeated in Daje’s son Ahkeem. Efforts from community leaders allow troubled youths a way out. But, it’s not a one stop cure all.

 

 

 

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Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sangsoo, 2017): South Korea

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Kim Minhee returns to the big screen after her scrumptuous portrayal of Lady Hideko in Chan-Wook Park’s The Handmaiden (2016). Kim, as Younghee, portrays an actor out-of-work, in On the Beach at Night Alone (Bamui haebyun-eoseo honja). Officially, Younghee has decided to take some time off after having had a tumultuous affair with a married man, a rather considerable Korean societal taboo.

The film opens with Younghee traveling to Hamburg attempting to sort out her life. One of the film’s treasures is its mise-en-scene. In the early scenes, Younghee is shown taking long walks along colorful riverbanks and through wintry parks revealing the depth of her conflicting feelings and desires.

Written and directed by Hong Sangsoo, [Right Now, Wrong Then (2015), Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013) and In Another Country (2012)] On the Beach at Night Alone, is a think-piece. Utilizing long takes and a stationary camera, Hong gives the viewer an intimate perspective of Younghee as she grapples with issues of love and its pursuit, a common theme in all Hong Sangsoo’s films. Unbeknownst to her, Younghee has been the subject of tabloid rumors.

Skillfully shot by Directors of Photography, Kim Hyungkoo and Park Hongyeol, the natural beauty and energies of the characters, as well as the film’s mise-en-scene, are highlighted.

In allowing the characters time and space, Hong has written some fairly heady dialogue in the first half of the film, as Younghee explores the metaphysical possibility of her lover following her if he misses her as much as she misses him. Younghee is a woman of some mystery and has an abundance of desire.

In the second half of the film, Younghee search for meaning moves to the forefront. She revisits old stomping grounds in Gangneung, a coastal town with an expansive, recreational beach where she reconnects with friends from her past. While not seemingly a big imbiber of alcohol, Younghee allows herself to be coerced at first and then joyfully partaking while reveling in alcohol’s mind-liberating properties.

And, as is usually the case, too much of a good thing can have deleterious effects as the answers Younghee is seeking seem to just slip through her grasp. During an informal dinner party, Younghee and her friends are partaking in the traditional Korean cultural custom of eating together and enjoying Soju, the country’s national drink. Speaking from her now blemished heart and finding courage with her Soju consumption, Younghee has harsh and inconsiderate words for those in her close company as deep feelings and personal truths are unveiled. Sharing a needed, tender, sensuous, on-screen kiss with another female, Younghee’s vulnerability reaches its climax. Afterwards, she retreats to the beach at night alone to just be. At this point, it seems Younghee can only truly find herself in nature.

On the Beach at Night Alone is a beautiful film from start to finish. Intricacies of Korean culture are displayed and explored. Sanghoo’s  exploration of love and the affective role it has in life provides the groundwork for the the protagonist’s, Younghee’s, truth and life revelations to unfold in dramatic and profound ways and Kim Minhee devours the complexities of her character Younghee. This was the second powerhouse performance in a row from Kim. For her portrayal of Younghee, Kim received the 2017 Silver Bear for Best Actress from the 2017 Berlin International Film Jury. Highly recommended film.

 

*Featured photo credit: Kim Jinyoung © 2017 Jeonwonsa Film Co./Berlinale.de

 

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

 

 

 

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 he 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

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

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)