Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 Cannes IFF: A Big Wrap

Poster for 'Midnight in Paris' with Owen Wilson

One of the most pleasant surprises of the 64th Festival de Cannes, which ran May 11 - 22, and wrapped Sunday, was the good reception of Woody Allen's latest movie, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, an imaginative romantic comedy where a character takes a late night walk in Paris and is transported back to the 1920s. He finds himself hobnobbing with literary giants Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, plus Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

The film had its international premiere on Opening Night, screening out of competition. Some of the buzz words from critics were: "upbeat", "funny", "very enjoyable", "Allen's best in years," and the film they most often compared to it? THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985), starring Mia Ferrow, Jeff Daniels and Danny Aiello, in which a character walks out of a film and into the life of a vulnerable young New Jersey woman in the 1930s.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was filmed last year in the French capital. Allen brings together a broad international cast, including Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (First Lady of France), Gad Elmaleh and Léa Seydoux.

The other surprise movie at Cannes that received accolades was THE ARTIST* by French director Michel Hazanavicius. It was not made in the 1920s, but is set in that era. Shot in black and white, it is a silent movie, a study in light and shadows. (* denotes an Cannes award winner.)

THE ARTIST screened in competition. The viewers and critics absolutely loved this movie about movies. Where is it written that all movies today must be shot in color, in high def or 3D, and have dialogue, a pop music score, and a budget of astronomical proportions?  Yes, this one is special for more than one reason. It is also a French movie filmed in Hollywood, no less.

Another buzzed-about movie is Joseph Cedar's Hebrew-language black comedy FOOTNOTE* (Israel). Three years ago, Cedar's BEAUFORT was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar, and he won two Silver Bears at Berlin for directing it, and for the screenplay. But whereas that movie is rich with political overtones, FOOTNOTE does not overtly deal with things political, but with a complicated relationship between a Jewish son and his father. Sony Picture Classics snatched up the North and Latin American rights immediately. 

Also, on Opening Night, the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci was presented an honorary Palme d'or for lifetime achievement (see previous posts), and 17 May the Festival honored French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo with a special day. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Belmondo worked with the Crème de la Crème of cinema auteurs such as Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, François Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais, Vittorio de Sica and Alberto Lattuada, in THAT MAN FROM RIO, BREATHLESS, PIERROT LE FOUR, MISSISSIPPI MERMAID, LE MAGNIFIQUE and STAVISKY AND BORSALINO, just a few movies in which he starred that showed his extraordinary acting range.

Like Bertolucci on his night, Belmondo walked the Red Carpet surrounded by friends and admirers. Later, he attended the première of Vincent Perrot and Jeff Domenech’s documentary BELMONDO, THE CAREER. The screening was followed by a dinner and party.

It would not be a film festival without a controversy, and Danish director Lars von Trier, MELANCHOLIA *, set off a storm when he spoke at a press conference about finding out when his mother was on her death bed that
he was not a Jew. His controversial statement was something like, "I have nothing against Jews, but, O.K., I'm a Nazi." 

Lars von Trier apologized for his remarks, but was banned from Cannes with this statement, "The board of directors firmly condemns these comments and declares Lars Von Trier a persona non grata at the Festival de Cannes, with effect immediately."


Closing Night the official Jury of this 64th Festival de Cannes, presided over by Robert De Niro, revealed the prize winners during the Closing Ceremony. Actress Jane Fonda was escorted onstage at the Grand Théâtre Lumière by Mélanie Laurent. Fonda presented the Palme d'or for the best film among the 20 in Competition.

The evening closed with the screening of Christophe Honoré's BELOVED (Les Bien-aimés), starring Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni (Deneuve's daughter with Marcello),  Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel and Milos Forman. 

Poster for 'The Tree of Life' with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn
And the awards went to:


Jury headed by U.S. actor/director/producer Robert De Niro. Members of the Jury were: French writer/director Olivier Assayas; Argentinian producer Martina Gusman; director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun who was born in Chad; U.K. actor/producer Jude Law; producer of Chinese-language films Nansun Shi; U.S. actress Uma Thurman; Hong Kong director Johnnie To; and Norway-born writer and journalist Linn Ullmann.

Terrence Malick
   Palme d'or - THE TREE OF LIFE (USA), written and directed by Terrence Malick, starrng Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, and Hunter McCracken. In 1979, Malick won the best director at Cannes for DAYS OF HEAVEN. More about this movie in the next post.

Grand Prix - BIR ZAMANLAR ANADOLU’DA (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and THE KID WITH A BIKE, directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne.

Best Director - Nicolas Winding Refn for DRIVE.

Jury Prize - POLISS by Maiwenn.

Best Performance for an Actor - Jean Dujardin in THE ARTIST, directed by Michel Hazanavicius.

Best Performance for an Actress - Kirsten Dunst in MELANCHOLIA, directed by Lars von Trier.

Award for the Best Screenplay - Joseph Cedar for FOOTNOTE.


Palme d'or - CROSS-COUNTRY by Maryna Vroda, and Jury Prize - BADPAKJE 46 (Swimsuit 46) by Wannes Drstoop.

CAMERA d'or - LAS ACACIAS  by  Pablo GIORGELLI, presented in the framework of the the CRITICS' WEEK.

UN CERTAIN REGARD - 21 May, presented 21 films directed by 22 directors hailing from 19 different countries. Two of the works were first films. The Jury was presided over by Emir Kusturica (Director, actor and musician - Serbia). The Jury members were: Elodie Bouchez (Actress - France), Peter Bradshaw (Critic-The Guardian - U.K.), Geoffrey Gilmore (Chief Creative Officer-Tribeca Enterprises - USA), Daniela MICHEL (Director of the Morelia Festival - Mexico).

PRIZE OF UN CERTAIN REGARD Ex-æquo - ARIRANG by Kim Ki-Duk, shared with HALT AUF FREIER STRECKE (Stopped on Track) by Andreas Dresen.

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE - ELENA by Andrey Zvyagintsev.

DIRECTING PRIZE - BÉ OMID É DIDAR (Au revoir), Mohammad Rasoulof.

CINEFONDATION - Presented 20 May and Showcasing Student Films:

The Cinéfondation and Short Films Jury (Julie Gayet, Jessica Hausner, Corneliu Porumboiu, João Pedro Rodrigues and President Michel Gondry) awarded the Cinéfondation Prizes during a ceremony in Buñuel Theatre before the screening of the winning films.

Sixteen student films coming from Asia, America and Europe composed this year’s program. They have been selected out of 1,600 entries.

First Cinéfondation Prize - DER BRIEF (The Letter) by Doroteya Droumeva, dffb, Germany, awarded € 15,000; Second Cinéfondation Prize - DRARI  by Kamal Lazraq, La Fémis, France, awarded € 11,250; Third Cinéfondation Prize, YA-GAN-BI-HANG (Fly by Night) by Son Tae-gyum, Chung-Ang University, South Korea, awarded € 7,500.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arab Cinema Finds an Niche in Western Film Festivals

In honor of Egyptian courage and expression of freedom, the International Cannes Film Festival will host Egypt film and filmmakers at the 64th International Film Festival as the first ever guest country at the Cannes IFF, May 11 - 22, 2011.

The Festival will also honor late Egyptian directing legend Youssef Chahine and screen 18 Jours (18 DAYS), as well as a grouping of short films by several Egyptian directors filmed during the nation's January 25th revolution. Profits from the films will go toward political and public education programs in rural Egypt. O.K., I'm down with the funds for rural public education programs but a bit skeptical about the motives of political education. That is very vague.

The third Arab Film Festival Berlin, organized by Cinemaiat - Friends of the Arabic Cinematheque Association, will be held from November 2 to 10 this year. The festival's main program will present recent works by Arab filmmakers, and this year's special focus section on humor will present films of varied lengths and production dates.

Feature films, documentaries and shorts made in the last three years are eligible for Berlin, as long as they are directed or produced by an Arab filmmaker/production company, or present an issue closely connected to the Arab world. The submission deadline is June 30, 2011.

The Fourth Gulf Film Festival (GFF) at Dubai, drew to a close April 20th and ended on a high note. There was a week-long showcase of 153 films from 31 countries screened free to audiences in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Arabian peninsula.

GFF 2011 drew more than 1,400 submissions from 98 countries for its fourth edition, recorded a 11 per cent growth in audience compared with its 2010 edition, highlights the growing popularity of the festival and emerging and established Gulf filmmakers among local and regional audiences.

The 2011 edition also saw one of the strongest Gulf turnouts, including the highest-ever submissions from the UAE and Qatar, and significant representation from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Iraq. In all, the 2011 line-up included 59 world premieres, 13 international premieres, 15 Middle East premieres and 15 Gulf Coast premieres.

The GFF has no graphic I can use with this post, so I used the graphic from the other film festival held in Dubai, the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF). The DIFF is more open to Westerners than the GFF. This year's DIFF edition, along with Enjazz Film Market, will be held December 7 - 14. Please click the title of this post for more information.

One of the reasons Arab cinema has made monumental strides in quality films is the filmmakers in the Gulf region now have access to production funds for five short films annually, following a new collaboration between the Gulf Film Festival and the Dubai Film Market's Enjaaz program, that aims to support filmmakers from the Arab world.

This new Enjaaz fund offers Gulf-based filmmakers up to $50,000 per project, complementing the existing funding of up to $100,000 per project offered every year by Enjaaz to features and documentaries in the post-production phase. The first application cycle for the fund closes June 1.

Arabic film festivals also offer huge monetary prizes to film festival winners, anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 per win. A glass or gold plated statue doesn't cut it with these guys. The statue must be in pure gold studded with diamonds, rubies and/or sapphires.

So, whoa up there you Americans, Brits, or European Union members. I suggest you do not pack your bags for these film festivals just yet. Many of these splendorous affairs are not open to you as competitors or, perhaps, as visitors. Some are by invitation only. Click the title of this post for more on these festivals.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sarajevo's Regional Provillon at Cannes

This year, eight countries from the Balkan region will join together at the most important film market in the world – Marche du Film of the Cannes Film Festival.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia have joined their forces in order to present themselves together to the rest of the film world, in the South-East European Pavilion. The initiative of the Regional Pavilion was announced two years ago at the Sarajevo Film Festival (July 22-20, 2011) in the framework of the Regional Forum, begun last year.

The initiative of linking regional cinema gradually has become stronger supported by the hopes of filmmakers that the implementation of the European idea of regionalization of film art will create more space for everyone.

The Regional Pavilion has been envisaged as a joint space for all filmmakers from the above mentioned countries attending the Cannes Film Festival to gather, meet colleagues, organize meetings, and find opportunities for their projects.