Sunday, September 27, 2009

San Sebastián IFF Presents Awards

Mo'Nique in PRECIOUS

The TCM AUDIENCE AWARD at the 57th San Sebastián International Film Festival was awarded to PRECIOUS, USA, directed by Lee Daniels. This is the third major festival audience award for PRECIOUS. The other two being Sundance and Toronto. Now, what will the movie do at the New York Film Festival NYFF, currently in progress?

At the SSIFF, the TVE-Another Look Jury also gave a special mention to LA MUJER SIN PIANO (The Woman Without a Piano), directed by Javier Rebollo (Spain-France). It also awarded a TCM AUDIENCE AWARD to an European film, DESERT FLOWER, directed by Sherry Hormann (Germany).


The Official Selection Jury for the Film Festival decided to award the Golden Shell for Best Film to CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH by LU CHUAN (China). The movies director of photography, Cao Yu, received the Jury's Best Cinematography Award.

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH, filmed in wide screen and black and white, begins in 1937. Japanese troops have entered China's temporary capital, where their cruel occupation will be known as "The Rape of Nanjing." The film alternates between Japanese and Chinese points of view, presenting a portrait of surviving in wartime day-to-day living conditions amidst a devastated city while confronting never before encountered ethical dilemmas.

This and other awards were presented last evening at San Sebastián, Spain, in the Kursaal, with the entire media event being hosted in the Anoeta Velodrome where a broadcast of the closing gala was shown on the giant Velodrome screen. The evening was also broadcast live on the sansebastianfestivalTV channel via the Web.

The gala evening began with the showing of the final screening from the Zabaltegi-Pearls section with Johnnie To’s VENGEANCE. Following the awards, the evening closed with the screening of MOTHER & CHILD (USA), presented in person by director Rodrigo García and the actors Naomi Watts, Kerry Washington and Jimmy Smits, who made an appearance on the Velodrome stage. Also in the movie, but not at the SSIFF, are Annette Bening, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Other awards from the Official Selection went to:






The President of the International Jury was LAURENT CANTET (France), and the three other males on the jury were: BONG JOON-HO (Korea); DANIEL GIMÉNEZ CACHO (Spain); and JOHN MADDEN (United Kingdom). The females were LEONOR SILVEIRA (Portugal); PILAR LÓPEZ DE AYALA (Spain); and SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF (Iran).

The FIPRESCI Award for the Best Film Made in Spain went to Catalonian director Isaki Lacuesta's LOS CONDENADOS (The Condemned, Spain).

The HORIZONTES Jury Award for films in Spanish made outside of Spain, and carrying €35,000 (€10,000 for the director of the winning film and €25,000 for its importer in Spain), went to the film GIGANTE (Uruguay) directed by by Adrián Biniez, with a Special Mention to FRANCIA (Argentina) directed by Israel Adrián Caetano. Also, the movie CONTRACORRIENTE, by Javier Fuentes-León (Peru-Colombia-France-Germany), received the Horizontes Sebastian 2009 Award.

KUTXA’s social program granted €30,000 in aid to the film by Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro, YO TAMBIÉN, a competitor in the Official Selection, for highlighting the values of integration and equality, precisely the values promoted by Kutxa.

The FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Grand Prix for Best Film of the Year screening at the San Sebastián Festival was presented at the opening gala on Friday, 18 September, to THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band, Germany), directed by Michael Haneke. In order for a movie to be given a FIPRESCI GRAND PRIX at an individual film festival, it must have won at least on major award at a major film festival. WHITE RIBBON won the Palme d'or at Cannes in May. Can't get more "major" than that. Will Germany place it in competition for this year's Best Foreign Film Oscar®?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Yikes! An Oscar® Submission Deadline

Yes, it is true. It is that time again. Like, already.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that next Thursday, 1 October, is the deadline to submit entries in the Foreign Language Film, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film categories to be considered for the 82nd Academy Awards®. Complete entries must arrive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills by 5 p.m. PT that day.

In the Foreign Language Film category, filmmakers must submit entry forms, one English-subtitled film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline. Only one motion picture will be accepted from each country

For the short film categories, filmmakers must submit an entry form, one film print or copy in an approved digital format, and all other required materials by the deadline.

Click the title of this post for complete 82nd Academy Awards rules. Additional information may be obtained from Awards Coordinator Torene Svitil via phone at (310) 247-3000, ext. 190, by fax at (310) 247-2600, or by e-mail at

The 82nd Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, 7 March 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New York Film Festival Opens Today

The 47th New York Film Festival (NYFF) opens today in New York City (NYC), and will run through 11 October. One of the most interesting venues is always the New Directors / New Films.

This year, representing 20 countries, the titles in the 38th edition of New Directors/New Films will screen in their New York premieres or, in some cases, their United States and world premieres. From Opening Night's charming, multicultural drama AMREEKA, to Closing Night's WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, a documentary portrait of an early Internet pioneer, the festival once again affords movie goers the chance to discover the independent and world cinema stars of tomorrow.

The NYFF Main Slate selections will screen at the fully renovated Alice Tully Hall, with reserved seating, except where otherwise noted. See full Main Slate program by clicking the title of this post. Then, follow the links on the left sidebar of that page for Avant-Garde, special programs, Masterworks, ticket information, etc.

With award season starting soon, it will be interesting to see how the films entered in various festivals will "shake out" at the NYFF. For additional information on this blog about the NYFF, click the tag "NYFF" at the bottom of this post.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SSIFF Honors to Brooks, McKellen and Uribe

Actor Ian McKellen, UK, and director Imanol Uribe, Spain, each received special awards yesterday at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. In addition, the Festival is honoring the late American writer / director Richard Brooks with a retrospective of his movies.

Sir Ian McKellen, 71, has left a lasting impression on millions with his diverse roles in movies such as THE DA VINCI CODE, THE LORD OF THE RINGS series, RICHARD III, KING LEAR and HAMLET, both in the movies and on television. He was the guest of honor at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, which honored him with the Donastia Award for years of exceptional work in Movies.

The date also signified McKellen's 40-year relationship with the Hollywood film industry. He received the Festival's Silver Shell (la Concha de Plata) for Best Actor in the 1998 movie, GODS AND MONSTERS, directed by James Whale.

What many do not know is that this diverse actor is a trained Shakespearean actor who originated the role of Antonio Salieri in the Broadway production of 'Amadeus,' has hosted 'Saturday Night Live,' and appeared in the original X-MEN. He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in 1990 for his services to drama. He has been twice nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor but, alas, both alluded him.

In 1986, the Festival created the Donostia Award, to be given to a great film personality in recognition for their work and career. That year, the first one was awarded to Gregory Peck, and the honorees who have followed have been very diverse beginning with Peck to this year's honoree, Ian McKellen and last year's honoree, Meryl Streep. See all honorees.

Also on Wednesday, director Imanol Uribe received the Zinemira Award at the Basque Film Gala. Uribe was born in San Salvador (1950), but is of Spanish heritage and was raised in Madrid. After the death of dictator Francisco Franco, the Basque cinema could come forward, and it did with a vengeance in the late 1970's. The film that mostly facilitated the rise of the New Basque Cinema was written and directed by Uribe, THE BURGOS TRIAL (El proceso de Burgos). In 1979, the movie was awarded the Pearl of the Cantabrian Award for Best Film in the Spanish Language at San Sebastián.

He went on to make movies honored around the world such as, ESCAPE FROM SEGOVIA, (La fuga de Segovia, 1981), MIKEL'S DEATH (La muerte de Mikel), both films also related to the political situation of the time. Then, he turned his attention to other genres resulting in fine contemporary Spanish movies such as, BILBAO BLUES, (Adiós pequeña, 1986), THE DUMBFOUNDED KING (El rey pasmad, 1991), and two movies for which he landed the Golden Shell at San Sebastián Festival, Días contados (1994) and Bwana (1996).

The late American filmmaker Richard Brooks (1912 - 1991) is being honored by the Festival with a Richard Brooks Retrospective. Thirty movies, either written or directed by Brooks are being shown during the Festival, and their dates span the years from 1944 to 1985.

The movies of Richard Brooks, dubbed into Spanish of course, were very popular in Spain. Dubbed American movies, always older than those being shown elsewhere, were staples in the movie theaters and shown on television during era of dictator Franco. There was a complete industry in Spain devoted to dubbing movies from any language other than Spanish into Spanish, altering the content and dialogue at the same time in order to please Franco's censors.

When I first went to Spain, most people I met there knew more about American movies and movie stars than did I, even though I was practically raised in a movie theater in the American heartland. I wanted to know about films made in Spain and they did not want to talk about then, many saying they did not even go to see Spanish movies because they were mostly propaganda tools for, or against Franco.

To my dear friends in Spain, I wish I could be there this year to enjoy this Richard Brooks Retrospective with you, and here is the list (see more about them here):

KEY LARGO ( USA, 1948 )
CRISIS ( USA, 1950 )
DEADLINE-U.S.A. ( USA, 1952 )
LORD JIM ( USA, 1965 )
$ (DOLLARS) ( USA, 1971 )

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Iraqi Filmmaker wins Cinema in Motion Award at SSIFF

Iraqi Mohamed Al-Daradji's movie IN THE SANDS OF BABYLON received the 5th Cinema in Motion Award yesterday at the San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF). The award is worth about $50,000 in cash and services.

In the Program, San Sebastián's Cinema in Motion, together with Films in Progress, presented three films, one each from Iraq, Egypt and Palestine: IN THE SANDS OF BABYLON (Iraq) by Mohamed Al-Daradji; NOMAD'S HOME (Beit Sha’ar, Egypt) by Iman Kamel; and PORT OF MEMORY (Palestine-Germany) by Kamal Aljafari. Afterward, the participants in the program decided to grant their award to Al-Daradji.

Mohamed Al-Daradji (born in Baghdad, Iraq) is now a dual Dutch-Iraqi citizen. He studied theatre directing in Baghdad and fled to The Netherlands in 1995 where he specialized as a cameraman. Later, he graduated with a MA in cinematography in Leeds. He has created several short films and commercials. 

One of his first features was AHLAAM, 2005, which took him back to Baghdad to film for four months while the war was raging. It was dangerous and difficult to film. Production was slowed as electricity would often fail. In 2006, the movie won the Brooklyn International Film Festival's Spirit Award. His other films include: SON OF BABYLON, 2009, and The Actors, Match Report and Chicken Soup, all in 2004.

For more about the SSIFF, see previous posts, and for more on the films in the 'Cinema in Motion' program, click title of this post. For all posts about SSIFF, click SSIFF in tags at bottom of this post.

San Sebastián IFF Open and Going Strong

The San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF) opened Friday night with the main presentation (Opening Film) in the Victoria Eugenia Theater of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Director Quentin Tarantino and actor Brad Pitt presented the movie to kick off the Official Selection, although BASTERDS screened out of competition.

Coincidentally, according to Box Office Mojo, this past weekend BASTERDS took in $3.8 million for a $110.1 million 31-day haul. It passed PULP FICTION to become Tarrantino's highest grossing movie. However, over-all attendance for PULP was much higher than BASTERDS because of the difference in ticket prices between then and today.

Of course, that wasn't the only thing that happened Friday evening in San Sebastián, because SSIFF is a marathon of multiplexes. It is not linear with only one thing happening at a time. Other Sections opened as well.
The New Directors Section got underway at 4:00 p.m. in the Kusaal, 2, with WO DE TANG / SEASONS IN THE SUN, China, Zhang Huilin, director. The Latin Horizons followed in the same venue with SIN NOMBRE (NO NAME, USA, Mexico), directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

Over in the Principe 7, at 6:30 p.m., the Made in Spain Section opened with PAGAFANTAS (Spain), Borja Cobeaga, director. Later, in Principe 9, the Panorama of Basque Cinema opened with ZUZENDU, MESEDEZ!, Juan Miguel Gutiérrez, director. Sorry, Google does not translate Euskara, i.e., Basque, but it is a documentary about teacher, artist, filmmaker Juanjo Franco Zabalegi, who died at San Sebastian in 2008.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Toronto Audience Award is PRECIOUS

PRECIOUS, the movie that won the top prize plus the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, was awarded the Cadillac Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) yesterday.

Other than recognizing some films, such as Canadian ones, this is the only major award the festival bestows as it is a non-competitive festival. This award is not only sponsored by Cadillac, it is considered the Cadillac of audience awards. Last year's winner was SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Other notable winners include, AMERICAN BEAUTY and CHARIOTS OF FIRE.

Based on the novel 'Push' by a former Harlem educator who writes under the name of Sapphire, the movie was originally titled PUSH and won at Sundance under that name. However, it arrived at Toronto with a new name, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE.

PRECIOUS was accepted at Toronto IFF with not much else than the strength of the novel and the wins at Sundance going for it, except it had some heavy hitters behind it. Among them is Lionsgate, the production / distribution company based in Vancouver, Canada, plus executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Both Perry and Winfrey attended the Festival as chief cheerleaders.

PRECIOUS also has some other heavyweight names involved. It is directed by Lee Daniels, who produced MONSTERS BALL and directed SHADOWBOXER, with a screenplay adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher. It stars Mariah Carey and Mo'Nique in supporting roles, the latter winning the Sundance Special Jury Award for her portrayal of the abusive mother.

Both the comedienne Mo'Nique and singer Carey play against type. Carey is said to have worn no makeup in the movie. Mary J. Blige contributed a song to the soundtrack, and author Sapphire has a minor part.

The lead character is played by an unknown actress from Harlem, Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, who plays Clareece "Precious" Jones, a 16-year-old Harlem girl, an overweight illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child. Both pregnancies are the result of Precious having been raped by her father.

Precious is also repeatedly beaten by her mother. When she is invited to enroll in an alternative school she gains hope that her life can head in a new direction, but the road is not altogether the yellow brick road to Oz for which she has wished.

The movies LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and JUNO were each named "the little movie that could go all the way" after their wins at Sundance, and they did. PUSH, now called PRECIOUS, has been similarly annointed. With this important win at Toronto, it now is at the front of all the movies chugging uphill in quest of an Academy Award®.

The 47th New York Film Festival opens this Friday night, 25th, and PRECIOUS: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is this year's Centerpiece Film, one of the most prestigious spots in the Festival's lineup. The current questions are, "Will PRECIOUS gain more distance from the pack at the New York Film Festival?" and "With the new expanded 10-nominee format for Best Picture, will PRECIOUS make the list?"

I can't guess the NYFF prospect, but I can hazard a guess that the answer to the last question is, "Yes." The movie's tagline is: "Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is rich. Life is....Precious." With a tagline like that, Oprah and the others, can it possibly miss?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SSIFF High Tech, TIFF Brouhaha, NYFF Opening

Wouldn't you know. I posted yesterday about the San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF) and, low and behold, today I received a notice that many of the programs, including the opening and closing ceremonies, will be Web cast, and available on mobile phones.

But before I give you the skinny, remember, you can access every post on this blog concerning the Festival, and any other festival, by clicking the tag for that festival (i.e., SSIFF, TIFF, HFF, etc.) found at the bottom of almost every post. Okay, here is the skinny.

This year, San Sebastian Festival TV offers the opening and closing galas, the Donostia Award ceremonies and the press conferences, also a number of videos among which are the Zabaltegi Meetings and the Horizontes Breakfasts, the arrival to San Sebastian of guests, the photocalls, a summary of each day, interviews, different aspects of participation of the teams presenting films at the Festival, and all of the clips of the films participating in the different sections. The content is presented in easy-to-use galleries, with search options to simplify consultation and navigation.

The majority of the programs are broadcast in Spanish, with some English and French. Some subtitles, except for live events. The Official Web site's contents will be accessible also through mobile phones, with a new navigation system adapted to use on these devices accessible through the Festival Official site.

The Festival Newspaper, Festival Diary, will be available in digital (pdf), which will make it available for download from the Official site. There will be special sites for the Press, and for industry representatives. Besides the usual audio translations, the Festival will offer assistance to persons with visual and hearing impairments.

All the above will begin opening day, except for Festival TV where trailers, etc., are now being shown.

See previous posts for more on SSIFF, and click title of this post for Official Site.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Brouhaha is over the Festival's choice of Tel Aviv for this year's City to City program.

Piers Handling, Director and CEO of TIFF and Cameron Bailey, Co-Director of the Toronto International Film Festival issued the following statement regarding the City to City program: (See (1) at end of statement)

The Toronto International Film Festival stands by our choice of Tel Aviv as the inaugural focus for the City to City program and we welcome the discussion that is being prompted by our series. We programmed City to City to give our audience a window into Tel Aviv from the perspective of filmmakers who live and work there -- this includes filmmakers who cast a critical eye on the status quo. The city's filmmakers are experiencing a renaissance right now, and we congratulate Tel Aviv director Samuel Maoz on winning the top prize Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his film LEBANON. Healthy debate about the role of cinema in society is at the core of our Festival every year.

It is unfortunate that the producers of the film HELIOPOLIS have decided to withdraw their film in protest of this year’s City to City program. While director Ahmad Abdalla has voiced his opposition to the program, he is a champion of ensuring that filmmakers from the Arab world continue to have a voice at our Festival. The producers, however, have the legal authority to withdraw the film. . . .

We have had to cancel the first screening for THE TRAVELLER due to a legal dispute between the Italian producer and the Egyptian producer, the Ministry of Culture. The Festival has received no communication from the film's director or producers referring to the issues surrounding the City to City program. . . .

We continue to encourage everyone engaged in the CTC debate to keep the work of these filmmakers front and center as we all grapple with that eternal question: what can art do?"

(1). Slightly edited for length and for American English.

The 47 New York Film Festival opens 25 September and runs through 11 October. Here are some of the special programs:

Opening Night - WILD GRASS (Les herbes folles) based on Christian Gailly’s novel 'The Incident,' Alain Resnais, 2009, France.

Closing Night - BROKEN EMBRACES (Los abrazos rotos), Pedro Almodóvar, 2009, Spain.

Center Piece - PRECIOUS, based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, directed by Lee Daniels, 2009, USA, winner at the Sundance Film Festival. PRECIOUS won both the grand jury prize and the audience award for drama as well as a special jury prize for acting to Mo'Nique.

Special Screening - LIFE DURING WARTIME, Todd Solondz, 2009, USA.,

Special Screening - LEBANON, Samuel Maoz, 2009, winner of the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival.

Special Screening - THE WIZARD OF OZ, Victor Fleming, 1939, USA. Celebrating the digital release of this beloved classic, and there will be some special surprise guests, plus a new Warner Home Video Release.

Tickets are on sale now, and are not cheap. Regular screenings, $20, special screenings and programs, $40. Rush Tickets: $10, and only 50 tickets will go on sale one hour before showtime, limit two. Check their Official Site for more options.

San Sebastián IFF Opens Friday

The 57th San Sebastián International Film Festival (the Zinemaldia) opens this Friday, 18 September, in San Sebastián, Spain. Renault, once again, will provide the official cars for the Festival.

Tickets went on sale Sunday and a total of 46,455 tickets were sold as compared to 37, 579 last year. Quentin Tarantino's INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, WATEVER WORKS and PRECIOUS were the first to sell out, the Tarantino movie within seven minutes.

This year's Festival will include a total of 202 films. The competitive sections are as follows: 17 films in the Official Selection, 14 in Zabaltegi-New Directors, 15 in Zabaltegi-Pearls and 13 in Horizontes Latinos. Made in Spain will offer 15 titles and Zinemira-Basque Film Showcase another 9, plus a short retrospective. The Zabaltegi-Specials has a recent addition of Hana Makhmalbaf’s GREEN DAYS.

The 57th Edition will offer 27 world premieres, 5 international premieres and 12 European premieres. The Selection Committee viewed a total of 1,819 films, compared to the 1,696 in 2008, in order to choose the titles presented in the different sections.

Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried star in the opening movie, CHLOE, which is almost sold out for the largest venue, the Kursaal Auditorium. As of now, there are still tickets available in the smaller venues for opening night.

Only a few tickets remain for the Cannes Festival winner, THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band), also winner of this Festival's FIPRESCI Grand Prix. Same for THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS and SIN NOMBRE, all three expected to be among the most popular movies screening at the Festival.

Sir Ian McKellen will receive the Donastia Award on the 23rd. Cultivated in the Shakespeare classics, the British actor achieved worldwide fame in THE LORD OF THE RINGS and X-MEN. He won the Festival's Silver Shell for Best Actor in 1998 for GODS AND MONSTERS.

The Antonio Elorza Velodrome has been converted into an enormous 3-D cinema for screening the Spanish premiere of BATTLE FOR TERRA, OCEANWORLD, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and the 3-D version of TOY STORY. Almost 3,000 viewers at each screening will be able to enjoy the experience of watching films in three dimension as part of an enormous audience and before a giant screen.

Canadian director Atom Egoyan and producer Ivan Reitman will present their film CHLOE at the Festival opening gala. Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz will also present INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, the opening movie of the Zabaltegi-Pearls section, on the first day of the Festival at the Victoria Eugenia Theatre.

At the closing gala in the Kursaal, on Saturday, 26th, the director Rodrigo García, together with actresses Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington, are expected to present MOTHER AND CHILD, bringing the 57th edition to a close.

French director Laurent Cantet will chair the Official Jury. He will be accompanied by Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho, Korean director Bong Joon-ho, Spanish actress Pilar López de Ayala, British director John Madden, Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf and the Portuguese actress Leonor Silveira.

Some of the glitterati expected to attend the festival, other than those mentioned above are: Ang Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Terry Gilliam, Michael Winterbottom, François Ozon, Tom DiCillo, Jacques Audiard, Johnnie To, Bahman Gobhadi, Lee Daniels, Olivier Hirschbiegel, Christophe Honoré, Juan José Campanella, Matthias Glasner, Fernando Trueba, Isaki Lacuesta, Javier Rebollo, Nicolas Klotz, Jalil Lespert. Robert Duvall, Chiara Mastroianni, Miranda Otto, Brenda Blethyn, Ricardo Darín, Carmen Machi, Lola Dueñas and Ariadna Gil.

The International Film School Meeting 24 and 25 September will offer youngsters the chance to present their works. They and their teachers will also comment on them. The showings at the Kutxa Function Hall are open to the public.

Producer and director Lluís Miñarro will chair the jury consisting of students from the participating film schools that will choose the winning film, the director of which will win €10,000 in Panavision filming material for his or her next work, also earning the chance to participate in the Short Film Corner at Cannes. Twelve countries will participate in the Meeting, which includes a Masterclass.

For more see previous posts. For detailed ticket information, click the title of this post to link to the Festival's official Web site.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Israeli Film Wins Lion at Venice


The 66th Venice International Film Festival (Le Biennale di Venezia)(VIFF), which ran from 2 - 12 September, wrapped yesterday evening with a somewhat surprising list of winners, and only two for the USA. The awards ceremony in the Sala Darsena was followed by the screenings of LOVE YOU (Chengdu, wo ai ni, China) by Fruit Chan and Jian Cui, and RAMBO (Director's Cut) by Sylvester Stallone.

Director Ang Lee, two-time Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro) winner, served as head of the Jury that selected the top prizes, and he personally awarded the Golden Lion for Best Film. He first won the Golden Lion in 2005 for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and again for the World War II drama LUST, CAUTION in 2007. His latest movie, TAKING WOODSTOCK, screened out of competition at Venice.

The festival top prize, the Golden Lion for Best Film went to LEBANON (Levanone, Israel), a debut feature film for director Samuel Maoz. Set in June, 1982, the start of the Israel-Lebanon War, four young Israeli soldiers operate a tank that is assigned to go into a Lebanese village to clear it of PLO terrorists, the first tank to cross the border in what was supposed to be a one-day mission. It turns into much more than that.

Director Maoz was only 22 when he fought in the Israel-Lebanon War. He spent years in after-combat distress, suffering outbursts of anger and extended episodes of depression. After 25 years, he decided that creating a fictionalized version of his experiences might help him, and others.

The buzz started early at the Festival for this film as a contender for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar® for Israel, and it will now kick into high gear. That remains to be seen, as much will depend upon what it does at Toronto, and what distributor picks it up for the U.S. Market.

Shirin Neshat was awarded the Silver Lion (Leone d'Argento) for Best Director for WOMEN WITHOUT MEN (Zanan Bedone Mardan, Germany), and another coveted award, the Special Jury Prize was awarded to SOUL KITCHEN by Fatih Akin (Germany). Note to myself: Films about cooking are coming out of the woodworks this year from a variety of countries on the heels of the Julia Child take-off, JULIE AND JULIA.

The Volpi Cup (Coppa Volpi) for Best Actor / Actress went to British actor Colin Firth for his role in Tom Ford's debut film, A SINGLE MAN (USA), and Russian actress Ksenia Rappoport for her role in the film THE DOUBLE HOUR (La doppia ora, Italy) by Giuseppe Capotondi. A SINGLE MAN is based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, and the buzz is that this could be Firth's Oscar year. This role is, after all, a strait man who portrays a gay. Again, a lot depends on what happens at Toronto and with the film's yet-to-acquire distributor.

Todd Solondz is bringing home to the USA the "Osella" for Best Screenplay for LIFE DURING WARTIME (USA). Joe Dante will do the same with a Persol 3-D Award for the Best 3-D Stereoscopic Film of the Year (Prize awarded on 11th September 2009) for THE HOLE, a film described as a, "Kiddie horror film." The prize is given to a film that best explores (the) new cinematic frontier” of 3-D. These were the only two Venice Festival awards for the USA.

The Horizon's Award (Orizzonti) went to ENGKWENTRO by Pepe Diokno (Philippines). China's Du Haibin received the Horizon Best Documentary award for 1428. THE MAN'S OTHER WOMAN AND OTHER STORIES (Aadmi ki aurat aur anya kahaniya, India) by Amit Dutta received a special mention.

For list of all awards, click title of this post.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Win Bleacher Seats for Red Carpet

Beginning Monday, 14 September, anyone can enter a random online drawing to be a fan in the bleacher seats flanking the red carpet at the 82nd Academy Awards®. The Awards ceremony will be held on 7 March 2010, in Hollywood, California, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®.

Registration for this drawing will begin on Monday, 14 September, at noon ET/9 a.m. PT and close on Sunday, 20 September, at midnight ET/9 p.m. PT. Click the title of this post to go to entry page.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Toronto IFF, Films You Haven't Heard About

This comes from one of the Toronto International Film Festival Blogs. I post the link here for those who are genuine festivalphiles. You know, the kind of festival goers who love to seek out the unusual at film festivals? Well here are the films you have never heard about at Toronto 2009.

It is doubtful any will ever play at a movie theater near you, but watch for them on DVD sometime next year.

For more up-to-the-minute about Toronto IFF check out "TIFF Alerts" by clicking title of this post.

Have a BlackBerry© smartphone? You can follow the festival from the palm of your hand.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Telluride Wraps, Toronto Opens

Abbie Cornish in the period drama BRIGHT STAR, directed by Jane Campion

One of America's most prestigious film festivals wrapped Labor Day in Colorado. That was, of course, the Telluride Festival (TFF). This year was the 36th and it did not disappoint. Telluride, like the New York Film Festival, is a non-competitive festival. No special awards are given. People go to enjoy restful and beautiful Telluride, to see, appreciate, and to talk, film.

As Oscar® looms, with Telluride under the belt, and Venice closing Saturday (12th), here are some of the films many have tapped as possibly being Oscar bound. First and foremost from Telluride is Jason Reitman's UP IN THE AIR. George Clooney's much-praised performance is considered by many to be a timely theme about an American culture hurting for connection and basic humanity. It now heads to Toronto with a Special Premiere.

Clooney stars in a second much talked about movie this year, THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, and both will screen at Toronto. He squired Miss Elisabetta Canalis in Venice and Telluride and, most likely, will do it again in Toronto.

Another high-profile movie, THE ROAD, which had screened to a good reception at the Venice International Film Festival, screened Sunday night at Telluride with an opening ovation. The fact that Viggo Mortensen stars, received a special fest tribute, and was on hand for questioning, helped to brighten this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's bleak, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. John Hillcoat directs and the movie will also receive a Special Premiere at Toronto.

Werner Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, reportedly pleased Telluride fest goers. Herzog, along with star Nicolas Cage, will now take their film North to Port of Call Toronto. Herzog will have another movie this year at Hollywood North, MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE? A USA - German co-production.

Other notable movies at Telluride will now go to test their metal at Toronto. Among them, Jane Campion's BRIGHT STAR, Jacques Audiard's A PROPHET, and Michael Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON (Das Weisse Band) winner at Cannes this year.

The Toronto International Film Festival Group (TIFFG) is a charitable, not-for-profit, cultural organization, which is often dubbed Hollywood North, and ranks with Cannes, Sundance, Berlin and Venice as one of the world's most influential film festivals. I is considered the kick-off of the film awards season, which culminates with the Academy Awards® 7 March 2010.

The lineup of directors, producers, actors, and others for the 34th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), when compared to other film festivals this summer, is huge - - over 500 expected. The Festival opens this Thursday, the 10th and closes on the 19th.

Like many festivals this year, TIFF has expanded its Outdoor programs and free screenings. There are not just free films but also free concerts at the Live at Yonge and Dundas Square.

The winner of the Cadillac People's Choice Award will be announced on the afternoon of 19 September. The presentation that evening on the closing night of the festival is free. Last year, the People's Choice went to Danny Boyle's multiple Academy Award®-winning SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. It was then that I felt almost certain that the movie had "The It" to win the Academy Award, having also followed its reception at Telluride.

Opening Night - Live satellite feed from the Roy Thomson Hall red carpet for the Opening Night Gala Presentation of CREATION. TIFF YDS Spotlight: Opening Night concert by DJ Champion, hosted by Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman.

Closing Night - TIFF Live In Concert Film Series: world premiere of COPYRIGHT CRIMINALS. The Festival Wrap Party, presented in association with Future Projections and hosted by Chuck D, featuring the infectious improvised audiovisual "mashups" of Eclectic Method. With special guest Clyde Stubblefield, plus the presentation of the Cadillac People's Choice Award.

Full Screening List For Toronto

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Montreal WFF Awards Announced

The Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF) wrapped last night and presented a large slate of awards. The International Film Critics FIPRESCI PRIZE, as well as the Special Grand Prix of the Jury (feature film) went to WEAVING GIRL by Wang Quan'an (China).

The other top top feature film prize, the Grand prix des Americas, went to KORKORO (FREEDOM) by Tony Gatlif (France), which also garnered the Public Award for the most popular film of the Festival, and Special mention of the Ecumenical Jury.

The Award for Best Documentary Feature went to THE MAIN THING IS TO STAY ALIVE (L'IMPORANT C'EST DE RESTER VIVANT) de Roshane Saidnattar (France-Cambodia). In the short films category the First Prize went to PIGEON IMPOSSIBLE by Lucas Martell (U.S.A.)m abd the Jury Award went to ATTACHED TO YOU (FÄST VID DIG) de Carin Bräck, Cecilia Actis, Mia Hulterstam (Sweden).


Best Director: VILLON'S WIFE (VIYON NO TSUMA) by Kichitaro Negishi (Japan);

Best Actress: MARIE LEUENBERGER for the film WILL YOU MARRY US? (DIE STANDESBEAMTIN) by Micha Lewinsky (Switzerland);

Best Actor: CYRON MELVILLE for the film LOVE AND RAGE (VANVITTIG FORELSKET) by Morten Giese (Denmark);

Best Screenplay: I'M GLAD THAT MY MOTHER IS ALIVE (JE SUIS HEUREUX QUE MA MÈRE SOIT VIVANTE) by Claude Miller and Nathan Miller, screenplay by Alain Le Henry (France);

Best Artistic Contribution: SAINT GEORGE SHOOTS THE DRAGON by Srdjan Dragojevic (Serbia-Bosnia-Bulgaria);

Innovation Award: ATASHKAR (FIRE KEEPER) by Mohsen Amiryoussefi (Iran).


Golden Zenith for the Best First Fiction Feature films: JE TE MANGERAI (YOU WILL BE MINE) by Sophie Laloy (France);

Silver Zenith for the First Fiction Feature Film: WHEN THE LEMONS TURNED YELLOW by Mohammadreza Vatandoost (Iran);

Bronze Zenith for the Fisrt Fiction Feature Film: LOS CANALLAS (RIFF RAFF) by Cristina Franco, Jorge Alejandro Fegan; Diego Coral López, Nataly Valencia (Ecuador).

PUBLIC AWARDS (not noted above)

Public Award for the most popular Canadian Feature Film: A CARGO TO AFRICA by Roger Cantin (Canada).

Award for Best Canadian Short Film: SURMENAGE by Alexandre Leblanc, Benoît Bourbonnais (Canada).

Glauber Rocha Award for the Best Latin American Film: ANDRÉS NOS QUIERE DORMIR LA SIESTA (ANDRÉS DOESN'T WANT TO TAKE A SIESTA by Daniel Bustamante (Argentina).

ECUMENICAL PRIZE (not noted above), CEASEFIRE (WAFFENSTILLSTAND) by Lancelot von Naso (Germany).


Special Awards for their exceptional contribution to the cinematographic art: PIERRE LEBEAU (Canada) and GU JUN (China).

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Telluride FF Receives Grant

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has awarded a $50,000 grant to underwrite the 2009, 36thTelluride Film Festival’s Guest Director program. Academy President Tom Sherak announced that Oscar®-winning screenwriter of SIDEWAYS Alexander Payne is this year's Guest Director. Sherak spoke of the importance of the Academy to support such a program as the Telluride Guest Director program at a time when funding for the arts is critical.

Payne is an Academy member and a former Academy governor. This is the second consecutive year that the Academy has funded the program. Last year, the festival’s guest director was Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian political philosopher and cultural critic.

If you are heading to Telluride, Colorado (4 - 7 September), passes are still available to buy for the Telluride Film Festival (TFF) in person. Online ordering is closed. This year's festival poster by artist William Wegman will be unveiled Labor Day Weekend.

Venice IFF Opens Today

The 66th Venice International Film Festival (VIFF) opens today with Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore's BAARIA, hyped as a Sicilian drama that includes Fascism, World War Two and Communism. Tornatore won an Oscar® for CINEMA PARADISO. The festival on the Lido waterfront runs through the 12th.

Because Italian movies have tended to disappoint in the past three years, and film festival attendance is down in general, festival director Marco Mueller is leaning more heavily on American movies that have stars and directors with international reputations.

Expected to walk the red carpet during the festival are Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Colin Firth, Tom Ford, Richard Gere, Werner Herzog, John Lasseter, Julianne Moore, Michael Moore, Viggo Mortensen, Eva Mendes, Omar Sharif, Todd Solondz, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone, Charlize Theron, and others.

George Clooney, who has a home in Italy and is a local favorite, appears in the oddly titled movie, THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, directed by Grant Heslov, along with Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. The movie is about a reporter, a U.S. military unit in Iraq and the paranormal. The movie is not in competition. Neither are John Lasseter's TOY STORY, 3-D, and TOY STORY 2, 3-D.

Oliver Stone brings SOUTH OF THE BORDER about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Tom Ford makes his feature debut with A SINGLE MAN, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, about fashion. Stallone is there to receive a special award.

Nicolas Cage appears in Werner Herzog's BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, a remake of the 1992 movie directed by Abel Ferrara, which may break the record for movies with long titles. Mortensen, Theron and Robert Duvall star in THE ROAD.

Venice has always had a global reach and this year is no exception. Who better to represent that than Omar Sharif in Egypt's THE TRAVELER. China, Austria, Israel, Japan, France, Hong Kong and Germany all have films representing their country.