Berlin Film Festival: Series of Eastern European films will commemorate 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 2009 Berlin Film Festival will serve as the launching pad for the German Federal Cultural Foundation and the Deutsche Kinemathek series “After Winter Comes Spring: Films Presaging the Fall of the Wall.”
This is from the Berlin festival’s press release:
“… ‘After Winter Comes Spring’ will present films made in both Germanys and Eastern Europe during the last decade of the Cold War – films that convey a sense of the radical changes to come. Some of these works were made in the official studios of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Others were realized more at the fringes, e.g., by underground artists.
“Curated by Claus Löser, this selection of feature and documentary works, as well as animated, short and experimental films[,] includes big names from film history – e.g., Krzysztof Kieslowski and Jan Svankmajer – and lesser-known filmmakers. Their works formulate the hope of a political or economic opening and, above all, artistic freedom. They pushed boundaries in both form and content, while boldly articulating the need for reform.”
‘After Winter Comes Spring’ movies
Some of the “After Winter Comes Spring” films will be shown in Germany for the first time, among them Piotr Szulkin’s “initially banned fatalistic science-fiction parable about daily life under a dictatorship,” The War of the Worlds - Next Century / Wojna swiatów - nastepne stulecie (Poland, 1981–83), and András Jeles’ “surreal portrait of manners from Budapest,” Little Valentino / A kis Valentinó (Hungary, 1979).
Also screening will be:
- Krzysztof Kieslowski’s take on the Fifth Commandment, A Short Film About Killing / Krótki film o zabijaniu (Poland, 1987), winner of both the Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, in addition to the Best Film European Film Award. In the cast: Miroslaw Baka, Krzysztof Globisz, and Jan Tesarz.
- Helke Misselwitz’s documentary After Winter Comes Spring / Winter adé (East Germany, 1988), about the lives of various East Germans.
- Petar Popzlatev’s The Countess / Az, Grafinyata (Bulgaria 1989), about a marginalized young woman “caught between drugs and the psychiatric ward.”
- Rashid Nugmanov’s feature film debut, the thriller The Needle / Igla (USSR 1988), starring Soviet rocker Viktor Tsoi.
- Michael Klier’s The Grass Is Greener Everywhere Else / Überall ist es besser, wo wir nicht sind (West Germany, 1988), the story of an unlucky Polish immigrant in the United States.
- Gábor Bódy’s last film, The Dog’s Night Song / Kutya éji dala (Hungary 1983), described as “a post-modern vivisection of Hungarian society.”
‘Artistic and political possibilities under totalitarian rule’
Additionally, “After Winter Comes Spring” will feature fourteen short, animated, and experimental films exploring “diverse artistic and political possibilities under totalitarian rule,” including:
- Thomas Heise’s Why Make a Film About People Like Them? / Wozu denn über diese Leute einen Film? (East Germany, 1980), a portrait of petty criminals in East Berlin.
- Yuri Norstein’s animated Tale of Tales / Skazka skazok (USSR, 1979), about “world history and individual experience.”
- Jan Svankmajer’s animated short Dimensions of Dialogue / Moznosti dialogu (Czechoslovakia, 1982), in which “communication breaks down and violence escalates.”
- János Veto’s Trabantománia (Hungary, 1982), which focuses on the punk rock scene.
Audience participation & new prints
“After Winter Comes Spring: Films Presaging the Fall of the Wall” will take place at the CinemaxX 8 at Potsdamer Platz and the Zeughauskino, Unter den Linden.
Audiences will be able to take part in discussions with the directors, and a “special event” is scheduled to accompany “After Winter Comes Spring.” New prints are supposed to be struck of all the films in the series.
Following the Berlinale 2009 screenings, the “After Winter Comes Spring” films will be shown in other venues across Germany.
Berlin Film Festival website.
Deutsche Kinemathek website.
Bruce LaBruce Retrospective: When politics, social conventions & explicit sex collide
Dec. 4: Below is the intro to the Bruce LaBruce Retrospective to be held at Toronto’s The Royal Cinema.
“In our era of commercialism, Bruce LaBruce’s films remain committed to pushing the boundaries of cinema, society, moral comfort – and yes, even taste – in his desire to demystify and explore at any cost worlds many deem taboo.
“Over the years, LaBruce has become one of the most equally controversial and influential members of the ‘queercore’ movement. His outrageous mixture of comedy, art, porn and politics has won him numerous awards and acclaim around the world.
“A writer, editor, actor, and photographer, LaBruce is most widely known as an auteur whose films challenge and invert the way contemporary culture is depicted and celebrated.
“The Bruce LaBruce Retrospective gives audiences the opportunity to experience this one-of-a-kind artist’s amazing output, meet the director himself, and learn how to make films outside the system.”
Besides Bruce LaBruce’s latest, Otto; or, Up with Dead People, starring Jey Crisfar as a neo-Goth zombie suffering from an identity crisis, the mini-retrospective will screen the following:
- Hustler White.
- Super 8½.
- The Raspberry Reich.
- No Skin Off My Ass.
Sundance Film Festival: Feasting on movie stars
The 2009 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, which runs Jan. 15–25 in Park City, Utah, seems to be focused on more commercial fare. If so, that’s understandable considering that for the most part Sundance films have been flopping left and right at the U.S. box office. That is, when they find distribution.
This year, there are quite a few films – many of which seem to be about romantic endeavors – featuring name talent. Examples include:
- Timothy Hutton and Dominic Cooper in John Krasinski’s adaptation of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
- Dominic Cooper once again, plus Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard, and Alfred Molina, in Lone Scherfig’s An Education, which actually stars Carey Mulligan.
- Nathalie Baye in Josiane Balasko’s A French Gigolo.
- Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan in Shana Feste’s family drama The Greatest.
- Jeff Daniels as a reclusive author in John Hindman’s The Dream of the Romans.
- Emmy Rossum in Adam Salky’s Dare.
- Michael Cera as (a version of) himself in Nicolas Jasenovec’s Paper Heart.
As usual, some of the Sundance Film Festival documentaries have a clear sociopolitical bent. Among them:
- Anders Østergaard’s Burma VJ, about the dangers faced by Burmese journalists.
- Mary Ann Bruni’s Quest of Honor, about a former teacher’s fight to eradicate honor killings in the tribal areas of Kurdistan.
But there’s also lighter stuff, such as:
- Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal’s Nollywood Babylon, about Nigeria’s prolific – albeit little-seen internationally – film industry.
- R.J. Cutler’s The September Issue, which follows Anna Wintour (Meryl Streep – sort of – in The Devil Wears Prada) and her team’s preparations for the crucial (for some) September issue of Vogue.
Proposition 8 boycotts?
Talks of Proposition 8 boycotts, which have been plaguing the Sundance festival since the United States’ Nov. 2 election and the illegalization of gay marriage in California, have slowed down somewhat.
Even so, Michael Cieply reports in the New York Times that festival organizers “will make certain that no film is screened only in the Holiday Village theater in Park City, operated by Cinemark, a chain whose chief executive, Alan Stock, donated to Proposition 8’s backers in the November election. The idea is to give anyone who has qualms about Cinemark the opportunity to see a movie somewhere else.”
Coincidentally or not, after a cursory glance at the Sundance movies’ plots, out of the 100+ films in competition the only one that seems to have what might be taken as a “gay theme” is Lynn Shelton’s Humpday, a comedy about straight male bonding gone amok. (Update: Sundance 2009 has few more gay-related titles.)
See below the list of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition entries.
World Cinema Documentary Competition
Afghan Star / Afghanistan and U.K. (Director: Havana Marking).
After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, “Pop Idol” has come to television in Afghanistan – and millions are watching and voting for their favorite singer. This film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk their lives to sing. North American premiere.
Big River Man / U.S. (Director: John Maringouin).
An overweight, wine-swilling Slovenian world record-holding endurance swimmer resolves to brave the mighty Amazon – in nothing but a Speedo. World premiere.
Burma VJ / Denmark (Director: Anders Østergaard).
In September 2007, Burmese journalists risking life imprisonment to report from inside their sealed-off country are suddenly thrown onto the global stage as their pocket-camera images of the Saffron Revolution make headlines everywhere. World premiere.
The End of the Line / U.K. (Director: Rupert Murray).
Based on the book by journalist Charles Clover, the film reveals the devastating effects of global overfishing on fish stocks and the health of our oceans. World premiere.
The Glass House / U.S. (Director: Hamid Rahmanian).
Follows four teenage girls striving to overcome drug addiction, abandonment and abuse by attending a rehabilitation center in Tehran, Iran. North American premiere.
Kimjongilia / France and U.S. (Director: N.C. Heikin).
Defectors from North Korea finally speak out about the terrifying reality of their lives and escapes. World premiere.
Let’s Make Money /Austria, China, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and U.S. (Director: Erwin Wagenhofer).
From the factories of India to financial markets in Singapore to massive housing developments in Spain and offshore banks in New Jersey, the film reveals the complex and shocking workings of global money flow. World premiere.
Nollywood Babylon / Canada (Directors: Ben Addelman, Samir Mallal).
Welcome to the wacky world of Nollywood, Nigeria’s bustling homegrown movie industry. U.S. premiere.
Old Partner / South Korea (Director: Chung-ryoul Lee).
A humble octogenarian farmer lives out his final days with his spitfire wife and his loyal old ox in the Korean countryside. North American premiere.
Prom Night in Mississippi / Canada (Director: Paul Saltzman).
When a small-town Mississippi high school resolves to hold its first integrated senior prom, strong emotions fly and traditions are challenged to their core. World premiere.
The Queen and I / Drottningen och jag / Sweden (Director: Nahid Persson Sarvestani).
Swedish filmmaker Sarvestani, an Iranian exile who helped overthrow the Shah’s regime in 1979, confronts her own assumptions and complex truths about Iran when she enters the life of the Shah’s widow. World premiere.
Quest for Honor / Kurdistan and U.S. (Director: Mary Ann Bruni).
A former teacher and tireless activist works with local lawmen, Kurdish government agencies and her colleagues to investigate and eradicate honor killings in the tribal regions of Kurdistan. World premiere.
Rough Aunties / U.K. (Director: Kim Longinotto).
Fearless, feisty and unwavering, the “Rough Aunties” protect and care for the abused, neglected and forgotten children of Durban, South Africa. North American premiere.
Thriller in Manila / U.K. (Director: John Dower).
A tale of betrayal stoked by the racial politics of 1970s America, the film chronicles the most intense and bitter sporting rivalry to date: the 1975 final boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. North American premiere.
Tibet in Song / U.S. (Director: Ngawang Choephel).
Through the story of Tibetan music, the film depicts the determined efforts of Tibetan people, in Tibet and in exile, to preserve their unique cultural identity. Choephel served six years of an 18-year prison sentence for filming in Tibet. World premiere.
211:Anna / Italy (Directors: Paolo Serbandini, Giovanna Massimetti).
The story of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human-rights activist who risked her life to report the truth about the Chechen conflict and President Vladimir Putin. World premiere.
Sundance Film Festival website.
Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Ellie Kendrick, Carey Mulligan, and Emma Thompson An Education image: BBC Films / Sony Pictures Classics.
Jey Crisfar Otto; or, Up with Dead People image: Jürgen Brüning Filmproduktion / Existential Crisis Productions.
Image of Miroslaw Baka in the “After Winter Comes Spring” presentation A Short Film About Killing: Film Polski.
“’After Winter Comes Spring’: Movie Series Celebrating the Fall of the Berlin Wall + Star-Studded Sundance” last updated in March 2018.