'Man to Man': Defense of human-ape link to open Berlin Film Festival
The 2005 Berlin Film Festival will open on Feb. 10 with the world premiere of Régis Wargnier's Man to Man, a historical adventure drama starring Shakespeare in Love leading man Joseph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas – coincidentally, a 1996 Best Actress Academy Award nominee for Anthony Minghella's The English Patient, in which she plays the romantic interest of Joseph's brother, Ralph Fiennes.
Set in the 1870s, the French-British Man to Man revolves around a group of anthropologists searching in Africa for the “missing link” between humans and apes: captured pygmies are believed to be that coveted missing link, but another anthropologist (Joseph Fiennes) thinks otherwise.
Régis Wargnier, whose Indochine won the 1992 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and earned Catherine Deneuve a Best Actress nomination, co-wrote the Man to Man screenplay with Michel Fessler, Fred Fougea, and Ghanaian-born author William Boyd.
'Man to Man' cast
Besides Joseph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, Man to Man also features the following:
Iain Glen. Hugh Bonneville. Flora Montgomery. Alistair Petrie. Mathew Zajac. Lomama Boseki. Peter Egan.
Berlin jury president Roland Emmerich
German-born director Roland Emmerich, whose credits include a bunch of big-budget, special-effects-laden, lowbrow Hollywood productions such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, will head the 2005 Berlin Film Festival main competition jury.
Apart from Man to Man, so far (December 2004) only Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and André Téchiné's Changing Times / Les Temps qui changent have been announced as entries in Berlin's official film line-up.
Anderson's unusual comedy, which had few reviewers laughing in the United States, features Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, and Seymour Cassel. Téchiné's film stars veterans Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu.
German movies surge at domestic box office
And speaking of Germany and cinema, according to Deutsche Welle, German movie houses took in 10 percent more at the box office in 2004 than in the previous year. Peter Dinges of the German Federal Film Board (FFA) told Der Spiegel that 2004 has been the second most successful year for German films since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
During 2004's first nine months, German movies comprised 20.5 percent of the local box office gross, the highest percentage since the FFA began collecting data in 1995.
The year's biggest homemade box office hit has been Michael Herbig's (T)raumschiff Surprise – Periode 1 (“[D]reamship Surprise – Period 1”*), a Star Trek spoof starring director-coscreenwriter Herbig alongside German superstar Til Schweiger (Maybe, Maybe Not / Der Bewegte Mann).
* Raumschiff translates as “spacecraft.”
Al Jazeera Documentary 'Control Room': Controversial news network at inaugural Dubai Film Festival
Even if there aren't any Sidney Lumet movies being screened at the 2004 Dubai Film Festival, one entry – about a television network, no less – has created quite a bit of a stir.
“You're appalling, you son of a dog. May your house be destroyed!” one Egyptian woman yelled during a Dubai Film Festival screening of Jehane Noujaim's Control Room, which goes behind the scenes at the Qatar-based, Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera.
The woman's anger was directed at U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who, following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, is shown dismissing scenes of grieving Iraqis and bombed-out buildings as having been “stage-managed.”
Control Room was one of dozens of films presented at the first edition of the Dubai Film Festival, which ran for a week in early December 2004.
Radical Muslim propaganda?
The George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military have claimed that Al Jazeera is an anti-American tool for Muslim radicals, an accusation vehemently refuted by the network.
Thus far, five Arab countries, among them U.S. allies Iraq and the Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have banned the station. According to Al Jazeera itself, to date Control Room has not been distributed in any Arab nation.
Orlando Bloom & Morgan Freeman at Dubai festival
Orlando Bloom, best known for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and three-time Academy Award nominee Morgan Freeman (Street Smart, 1987; Driving Miss Daisy, 1989; The Shawshank Redemption, 1994) are two Hollywood celebrities who showed up at the 2004 Dubai Film Festival, which is supposed to work as a cultural bridge between the Muslim and the non-Muslim worlds.
Additionally, Dubai Film Festival organizers announced that more than 70 top-rated Arab performers, producers, and directors from Egypt, Syria, and Kuwait took part in the festival. Among those present were actors Duraid Lahham and Laila Olwi, directors Ali Badrakhan and Hala Khalil, and producers Safwat Ghatas and Mohamed Hussein Ramzy.
Ingmar Bergman 1982 classic 'Fanny and Alexander' gets special DVD set
In November 2004, the Criterion Collection released a special five-disc set of Ingmar Bergman's final feature film, the 1982 classic Fanny and Alexander / Fanny och Alexander. The psychological family drama won a number of international awards, including the 1983 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Criterion's DVD set includes both the three-hour theatrical version of Fanny and Alexander, and the 1983 five-hour version – which Bergman himself prefers – that was originally shown on Swedish television.
Extras include a “making of” documentary and a 1984 interview with the director for Swedish TV.
'Short Cuts' Criterion DVD
Another late 2004 Criterion release is Robert Altman's multi-storied 1993 comedy-drama Short Cuts, for which Altman received his fourth Best Director Academy Award nomination. Short Cuts' extensive cast includes the following:
Tom Waits. Annie Ross. Frances McDormand. Huey Lewis. Robert DoQui.
Short Cuts DVD extras include a “making of” documentary and a PBS bio of author Raymond Carver, whose stories served as the basis for Altman's film.
For the record, Robert Altman has been shortlisted for a total of five Best Director Oscars:
- MASH (1970).
Winner: Franklin J. Schaffner for Patton.
- Nashville (1975).
Winner: Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
- The Player (1992).
Winner: Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven.
- Short Cuts (1993).
Winner: Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List.
- Gosford Park (2001).
Winner: Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind.
'Gone with the Wind' four-disc DVD set
And finally, a four-disc special edition of Gone with the Wind, the 1939 blockbuster and Best Picture Oscar winner based on Margaret Mitchell's sprawling novel about love in times of Civil War, is another important late 2004 DVD release – courtesy of Warner Bros.
The DVD set includes an interview with the sole surviving star of the David O. Selznick / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production: eventual two-time Best Actress Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland (To Each His Own, 1946; The Heiress, 1949).
Best Actress Oscar winner Vivien Leigh.
Two-time Best Actor Oscar nominee Leslie Howard (Berkeley Square, 1932–1933; Pygmalion, 1938).
Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel.
Berlin Film Festival website.
Dubai Film Festival website.
Kristin Scott Thomas Man to Man movie image: ZenHQ Films / Skyline Films / Vertigo Productions.
Jehane Noujaim's Al Jazeera documentary Control Room image: Magnolia Pictures.
Image of Bertil Guve and Pernilla Allwin in Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander: The Criterion Collection.
“Man to Man: Defense of 'Lost Link' in Berlin + Polemical Al Jazeera Doc” last updated in January 2019.