Costa-Gavras: Director Gets Eisenstein Honor + Israeli Academy Award Winners

by Alt Film Guide

Costa-GavrasScreenwriter, director, and producer Costa-Gavras, 74, never one to shy away from inflammatory themes, will be honored with the second-ever Eisenstein Award handed out by the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

The Sept. 28 ceremony will launch a two-day Costa-Gavras mini-festival, with screenings of four of the director's films: the Academy Award-winning 1969 political thriller Z, one of the best examples in the genre; Amen, a 2002 drama about the Catholic Church's silence during the Holocaust; Missing, a first-rate 1982 political thriller starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek as Americans reluctantly involved in the U.S.-backed coup against left-wing Chilean president Salvador Allende; and the subversive The Ax, in which a desperate unemployed man takes some radical measures to get rid of the competition.

On Sept. 29, the director's daughter, Julie Gavras, whose Blame It on Fidel! is currently being shown in Los Angeles, will join Costa-Gavras and several guest scholars in a panel discussion focused on the director's work and on political cinema in general.

All events are free, but reservations are required at The festival will take place at the Norris Cinema Theatre/Frank Sinatra Hall. Passes for Parking Structure D may be purchased for $7.00 at USC Entrance Gate 5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Ave., south of downtown Los Angeles.

As per the event's press release, the Eisenstein Award “recognizes visionary and distinguished contributions to the cinematic arts.” Filmmaker Agnès Varda was the first recipient of the award in November 2003.

Schedule and additional information (from the press release):

Friday, September 28th, 2007

6:30PM: Welcome reception outside of Norris Theatre.

7:15PM: Opening remarks; presentation of the Eisenstein Award by SCA Dean Elizabeth M. Daley to Costa-Gavras.

7:45PM: Screening of Missing (1982), 122 min. Followed by a brief Q&A between the filmmaker and the audience.

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

12:00PM: Screening of The Ax (Le Couperet, 2005), 122 min., in French with English subtitles.

3:00PM: Screening of Amen. (2002), 132 min., in French with English subtitles.

6:00PM: Panel discussion about political cinema and the works of Costa-Gavras. Panelists will include USC History Professor Steven J. Ross, Boston College Professor John Michalczyk, SCA Production Professor Jeremy Kagan, in addition to Costa-Gavras and Julie Gavras.

7:00PM: Catered reception in Queen's Courtyard, directly in front of Norris Cinema Theatre.

8:00PM: Screening of Z (1969), 127 min., in French with English subtitles, introduced by the director.


Costa-Gavras was born in Greece in 1933 and attended high school in Athens before moving to Paris to enroll at La Sorbonne and subsequently the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in 1956. For several years, he worked as the assistant director for such established filmmakers as René Clair, Jacques Demy and Marcel Ophüls.

His debut as a feature film director and screenwriter came in 1965 with The Sleeping Car Murder” (Compartiment Tueurs), which won the National Board of Review's award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1967. The film established early-on Costa-Gavras' astute eye for casting and preference for ensemble casts, including future “Z” co-stars Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacques Perrin and Charles Denner.

The critical and commercial success of “Z” internationally in 1969 brought the director such prestigious awards as the Prix Spécial du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1970. Costa-Gavras followed the success of Z with several hard-hitting political thrillers based on real historical events, including “The Confession” (L'Aveu, 1971), “State of Siege” (État de Siege, 1973) and “Special Section” (1975), which brought him a Best Director award at Cannes.

He became one of the most visible and important filmmakers during the height of international political cinema in the 1970s, particularly for his frequent collaborations with screenwriters Jorge Semprun and Franco Solinas.

In 1982, he made his first English-language film, Missing, which won the coveted Palme D'Or at Cannes and the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Costa-Gavras and Donald Stewart, in addition to nominations for Best Picture, Actor (Jack Lemmon) and Actress (Sissy Spacek) in 1983.

From 1982 to 1987, he served as the President of La Cinémathèque Française, a title that he recently reassumed in 2007. His work throughout the 80s and 90s included “Hanna K.” (1983), “Family Business” (Conseil de Famille, 1985), “Betrayed” (1987) & “Music Box” (1989), both scripted by Joe Eszterhas, “The Little Apocalypse” (La Petite Apocalypse, 1992) and Mad City (1997), with John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman.

His most recent films include “Amen.” (2002) and “The Ax” (Le Couperet, 2005). He is currently working on a new production with co-writer Jean-Claude Grumberg. His honors include the title of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor.


“Missing” (1982) is based on the true story of American journalist Charles Horman, an American journalist who disappeared in the bloody aftermath of the Chilean coup of 1973 that deposed President Salvador Allende. The film follows Horman's wife (Sissy Spacek) and his father (Jack Lemmon) as they investigate the practices of the deadly new regime and possible U.S. complicity in Horman's abduction. “Missing” won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Actor (Lemmon), Best Actress (Spacek) and Best Picture. The film won the 1982 Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival.

“The Ax” (Le Couperet, 2005) follows Bruno Davert, a middle-aged, middle-class executive in the paper industry, who finds himself out of work after many years of dedicated corporate servitude. After three subsequent years of unemployment, Bruno becomes all too aware of the abundance of candidates vying for the scarce positions that he qualifies for. In a desperate attempt to land his dream job, Bruno decides to improve his odds in the workforce by eliminating, literally, the competition.

“Amen.” (2002) is an examination of the possible complicity between the Catholic Church and Nazi Germany during WWII. Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur), a real-life chemist and member of the Institute for Hygiene of the SS, is compelled to act against the regime when he learns that the chemical used to purify water for the troops, zyklon B, is being used as a poison to kill prisoners in the gas chamber. Gerstein attempts to notify Pope Pius XII, but is appalled by the lack of response he gets from the Catholic hierarchy. His only ally is a young Jesuit priest (Mathieu Kassovitz), who refuses to accept the Vatican's silence.

Z (1969), although never expressly situated, is a thinly veiled indictment of the military junta that came to power in Greece during the early 1960s. Determined to eradicate the influence of leftist politics in the country, the government implements a variety of ideological programs meant to indoctrinate the mass public. When a liberal politician (Yves Montand) is murdered in an attack during a peace demonstration, the police and the military try to hide not only their complicity in the assassination, but the entire murder as well. The prosecutor (Jean-Louis Trintignant) must act as a detective to unearth the corruption of a government operating in the absence of accountability. Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film Editing Academy Awards in 1970, and nominated for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Winner of the Jury Prize and Best Actor Award (Trintignant) at the Cannes Film Festival.

More Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Entries

On the Wings of Dreams by Golam Rabbany Biplob

Golam Rabbany Biplob's Swapnodanay / On the Wings of Dreams (above, top photo), which debuted at the Rotterdam Film Festival, has been chosen as Bangladesh's submission in the foreign-language film category for the 80th Academy Awards.

The Bengali-language On the Wings of Dreams tells the story of a struggling medicine salesman (Mahmuduzzaman Babu) whose luck seems to improve when his wife (Rokeya Prachy) finds money in a pair of second-hand trousers bought for their son. The problem is that the money is in an unknown foreign currency, and they need to find a bank that will exchange it. Believing himself rich, the salesman even starts courting another woman, whom he intends to have as his second wife.

Last June, On the Wings of Dreams received the best director award in the Asian New Talent category at the Shanghai Film Festival. Earlier this month, the film was screened at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival.

Johnnie To's crime comedy-drama Fong juk / Exiled (above, lower photo), best film and best director winner at the 2007 Hong Kong Film Awards, will represent Hong Kong. Starring Simon Yam, Suet Lam, and Anthony Wong, Exiled follows a couple of hit men hunting down a couple of other hit men hunting down a renegade hit man as Macau is about to be handed over to China.

Israel's pick is writer-director Eran Kolirin's comedy-drama Bikur Ha-Tizmoret / The Band's Visit (above), a hit at this year's Cannes Film Festival and the winner of eight Israeli Film Academy Awards, including best film, director, actor (Sasson Gabai), actress (Ronit Elkabetz), and screenplay.

The Band's Visit portrays the humorous problems encountered by members of an Egyptian brass band stranded in a small Israeli town. The film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in Los Angeles and New York on Dec. 7.

Eklavya: The Royal Guard, starring Bollywood film legend Amitabh Bachchan, is India's entry. Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra – his first directorial effort in seven years – who also acted as co-screenwriter with Abhijit Joshi and Swanand Kirkire, Eklavya: The Royal Guard tells the story of an obsessively devoted guard (Bachchan) at Devigarh, a centuries old citadel in Rajasthan. The guard's devotion will be sorely tested when the region's London-based crown prince returns to his homeland following the queen's death, and peasants revolt against the king.

Also in the cast: Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, and Jackie Shroff. (The film's official site is very much worth a look. And make sure you have your speakers on.)

Estonia's submission is Ilmar Raag's dark drama and local box office hit Klass / The Class (below), about two high-school students (Vallo Kirs, Pärt Uusberg) who join forces to avenge themselves against their bullying classmates. Inspired by the Columbine massacre, The Class received a special mention in the East of West sidebar at the 2007 Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The 80th Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2008, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Charles Durning: SAG Life Achievement Award

The Screen Actors Guild has announced that Charles Durning, 84, will receive the guild's Life Achievement Award at the 14th SAG Awards, to be held on Sunday, Jan. 27.

Hardly a household name, Charles Durning is a somewhat curious choice for the SAG Life Achievement Award, which, especially in the last few years, has almost invariably gone to major film and/or television stars. Among the award's previous recipients are Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Martha Raye, Katharine Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, Gene Kelly, Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier, James Garner, Edward Asner, Ricardo Montalban, Pearl Bailey, Clint Eastwood, Shirley Temple, and Charlton Heston.

Charles Durning movies

Charles Durning, whose acting career spans more than half a century, has appeared in nearly 100 films, almost invariably in supporting roles. Those range from Harvey Middleman, Fireman, in 1965 all the way to this year's Polycarp.

Durning has been nominated twice for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award: for his tap dancing Texas governor in Colin Higgin's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, and for his Nazi colonel in Mel Brooks' To Be or Not To Be (1983), toplining Brooks and Anne Bancroft. The first time around, Durning lost the Oscar to Louis Gossett Jr. for An Officer and a Gentleman; the following year, he lost to Jack Nicholson for Terms of Endearment.

Among Charles Durning's other films are George Roy Hill's Best Picture Oscar winner The Sting, The Muppet Movie, Home for the Holidays, The Hudsucker Proxy, Dick Tracy, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?. In Sydney Pollack's blockbuster Tootsie, Durning memorably falls in love with Dustin Hoffman's television “actress.”

Besides his film work, Durning also appeared on Broadway (That Championship Season, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and in numerous television productions, perhaps most notably in the 1975 TV movie Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, opposite Maureen Stapleton. For that role, Durning received his first of eight Emmy nominations.

'The Band's Visit' tops Israeli Film Academy Awards: Ophir Awards 2007 winners

Despite stiff competition, Eran Kolirin's The Band's Visit, the tale of an Egyptian brass band stranded in a small Israeli town, won a total of eight Ophir Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Sasson Gabai), Best Actress (Ronit Elkabetz), Best Supporting Actor (Saleh Bakri), and Best Screenplay (Kolirin). The winners of the 2007 Ophir Awards were announced on Sept. 20.

Its Best Film win has automatically made The Band's Visit Israel's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. One problem with that choice, however, is that much of the film's dialogue – possibly more than 50 percent – is in English. If so, that would render The Band's Visit ineligible in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

At the Ophir 2007 ceremony, Best Supporting Actor winner Saleh Bakri declared, “I want to thank my father, who taught me to love mankind, and my mother, who taught me to bear the burden of life in this country and stand strong,” while Best Actress winner Ronit Elkabetz told Eran Kolirin, “You reminded us of a thing or two that we have already managed to forget. You showed us what would happen if we would stand before each other, Jews and Arabs and look each other in the eye.”

The runner-up at the 2007 Ophir Awards was Joseph Cedar's war drama Beaufort, which took home four trophies: Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Sound.

Saleh Bakri and Ronit Elkabetz Ophir Awards 2007 quotes via Ynet News.

Ophir Awards 2007 winners and nominees

Best Picture
* The Band's Visit / Bikur Hatizmoret
My Father My Lord / Hofshat Kaits
Jellyfish / Meduzot

Best Director
Joseph Cedar - Beaufort
* Eran Kolirin - The Band's Visit
Ayelet Menahemi - Noodle
Etgar Keret, Shira Gefen - Jellyfish
Tzahi Grad - Foul Gesture

Best Actor
Oshri Cohen - Beaufort
* Sasson Gabai - The Band's Visit
Assi Dayan - My Father My Lord
Liron Levo - Strangers
Gal Zayed - Foul Gesture

Best Actress
* Ronit Elkabetz - The Band's Visit
Ania Bukstein - Hasodot
Sarah Adler - Jellyfish
Mili Avital - Noodle
Keren Mor - Foul Gesture

Best Supporting Actor
* Saleh Bakri - The Band's Visit
Adir Miler - Hasodot
Tzahi Grad - Jellyfish
Yiftach Klein - Noodle
Asher Tzarfati - Foul Gesture

Best Supporting Actress
Rinat Matatov - The Band's Visit
Neta Garty - The Debt
Michal Shtamler - Hasodot
Zaharira Harifai - Jellyfish
* Anat Waxman - Noodle

Best Screenplay
Ron Leshem, Joseph Cedar - Beaufort
* Eran Kolirin - The Band's Visit
David Volach - My Father My Lord
Shira Gefen - Jellyfish
Ayelet Menahemi, Shemi Zarhin - Noodle

Best Documentary Feature
A Working Mom by Limor Pinkhasov, Yaron Kaftori
Old-Time Stories by Yoav Gurfinkel
9 Star Hotel by Ido Haar
* The Champagne Spy by Nadav Schirman
Three Times Divorced by Ebtisam Mara'ana

Best Cinematography
* Ofer Inov - Beaufort
Shay Goldman - The Band's Visit
Giora Bejach - The Debt
Boaz Yehonatan Yaakov - My Father My Lord
Itzik Portal - Noodle

Best Editing
* Zohar Sela - Beaufort
Arik Lahav Leibovitz - The Band's Visit
Itzhak Tzehayek - Hasodot
Sasha Franklin - Jellyfish
Einat Glazer Zarhin - Noodle

Best Music
Ishay Eder - Beaufort
* Habib Sh'hada Hana - The Band's Visit
Daniel Salomon - Hasodot
Hayim Ilfman - Noodle
Karni Postal, Dudush Klemes - Foul Gesture

Best Art Direction
* Miguel Markin - Beaufort
Eitan Levi - The Band's Visit
Ido Dolev - The Debt
Yoram Shayer - Hasodot
Avi Fahima - Jellyfish

Best Costume Design
Maya Mor - Beaufort
* Doron Ashkenazi - The Band's Visit
Inbal Shuki - The Debt
Inbal Shuki, Mishmish Uri - Hasodot
Li Almabik - Jellyfish

Best Sound
* Ashi Milo, Alex Klod, Yisrael David - Beaufort
Itay Elohev, Gil Toren - The Band's Visit
David Liss, Yisrael David - Hasodot
Gil Toren, Aviv Aldema, Eli Yrakoni, Ashi Milo - Jellyfish
Ashi Milo, Aviv Aldema, Yisrael David - Noodle

Special Award: Avraham Leibman

Lifetime Achievement Award: Itzik Kol

The Band's Visit photo: Sony Pictures Classics.

Eklavya by Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Oscar Drama with an Indian Setting: 'Dharm' vs. 'Eklavya'

When not making movies, Indian movie personalities seem to spend a lot of their time fighting one another in court.

Following the long soap opera revolving around allegations of bias and corruption at the National Film Awards, the Mumbai High Court has found the Film Federation of India's (FFI) pick to represent the Indian film industry at the Oscars was “prima facie biased.”

This latest courtroom drama began when filmmaker Bhavna Talwar (left) and WSG Pictures, whose Dharm (above, top photo) was passed over as India's Oscar entry in favor of Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Eklavya: The Royal Guard (above, lower photo), filed a petition alleging favoritism.

In their petition, Talwar and WSG claim that selection committee director Sudhir Mishra and members Jagdish Sharma and Ranjit Bahadur were close to Chopra, adding that Bahadur was the editor of a promo for Eklavya.

Talwar has publicly remarked that by choosing Eklavya as India's submission for the best foreign-language film Academy Award “the FFI is embarrassing not just the film industry but also the whole country.” Dharm (“religion”), the story of a Brahmin priest who befriends a four-year-old, came in a close second in the FFI voting.

Curiously, even FFI chairman Vinod Pandey wasn't all that pleased with the committee's selection.

“It was a shock to me that Dharm, a competent, poignant and relevant film, didn't make it,” Pandey told The Times of India. “Dharm was technically brilliant, outstanding in terms of photography, sound design, art design and had nuanced performances. The only thing it did not have were superstars.”

Eklavya, about a devoted royal guard, stars Indian film icon Amitabh Bachchan.

The High Court has ordered the FFI to respond within 10 days.

The Times of India discusses Eklavya's Oscar-worthiness – or lack thereof.

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a.prasad -

I write from a city called Ahmedabad in Gujarat state in INDIA.I watched the movie Band's visit at least thirty times so far on the “world movies “channel.Initially I thought it was an ok movie.But then I was attraceted to the movie when I continued watching it.It is quite an intriguing film.I continue watching and watched it twice today and my wife asks me what I find in the movie.I am so much taken in by each character in the movie and the story itself has a big effect on me.The Lead actor and the lead actress are just outstanding.I just cannot take my eyes off them when they appear on the screen.Great actors.The supporting cast,in fact all of them and the director have done a superb job.I wish to know as to what the lead actors do now and whether I can watch any other movie in which they have acted .Please do convey my deep appreciation to the lead actors,the supporting cast and the director..I still do not know why in the last scene after giving a piece of paper to the lead actor the lead actress put out her hand,as if to take it back, when he put the paper in his pocket.What had she written in that?She was in love with the chief of the band I think.I may be wrong I would like to know.Do let me know.Thanks.A.Prasad.


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