‘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, about the defense of the human-ape link amidst scientific and cultural upheavals in European society. The French-British socio-historical drama stars 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 1860s, Man to Man revolves around a group of British anthropologists searching in Africa for the “missing link” between humans and apes. Captured pygmies – later brought to the United Kingdom – are believed to be that coveted missing link, but a dissenting 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.
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 Berlin Film Festival’s 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 Best Actor Oscar nominee Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, 2003), Owen Wilson, Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, 1998), Best Supporting Actress winner Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor, 1985), Jeff Goldblum, and Best Supporting Actor nominee Seymour Cassel (Faces, 1968).
Téchiné’s film stars veterans Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu (Best Actor Oscar nominee for Cyrano de Bergerac, 1990).
German movies surge at domestic box office
And speaking of Germany and cinema, according to Deutsche Welle, German movie houses took in an extra 10 percent more at the box office in 2004 when compared to 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 the year’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-co-screenwriter Herbig alongside German superstar Til Schweiger (Maybe Maybe Not / Der Bewegte Mann).
* Raumschiff translates as “spacecraft.”
Al Jazeera Documentary ‘Control Room’: Contentious Qatar-based news network at inaugural Dubai Film Festival
From the controversial Man to Man defense of the human-ape link in Berlin to a documentary centered on the controversial Qatar-based, Arabic-language news network Al Jazeera in Dubai.
“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 offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into 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.”
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 news station.
And according to Al Jazeera itself, to date Control Room has not been distributed in any Arab nation.
Orlando Bloom & Morgan Freeman at Dubai Film Festival
Noujaim’s documentary was one of dozens of films presented at the first edition of the Dubai Film Festival, which is supposed to serve as a cultural bridge between the Muslim and the non-Muslim worlds.
Orlando Bloom, best known for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and three-time Academy Award nominee Morgan Freeman (as Best Supporting Actor for Street Smart, 1987; as Best Actor for Driving Miss Daisy, 1989, and The Shawshank Redemption, 1994) were two Hollywood celebrities in attendance at Dubai in early December.
Additionally, festival organizers announced that more than 70 top-rated Arab performers, producers, and directors from Egypt, Syria, and Kuwait took part in the event. Among those 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 edition
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:
Best Supporting Actor winner Tim Robbins (Mystic River, 2003).
Best Actress winner Frances McDormand (Fargo, 1996).
Best Supporting Actor nominee Bruce Davison (Longtime Companion, 1990).
Best Supporting Actress nominee Anne Archer (Fatal Attraction, 1987).
Best Supporting Actress nominee Lily Tomlin (Nashville, 1975).
Best Actor nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin, 1992).
Matthew Modine. Madeleine Stowe. Andie MacDowell. Jennifer Jason Leigh. Peter Gallagher. Lyle Lovett.
Buck Henry. Lili Taylor. Lori Singer. Chris Penn. Tom Waits. Annie Ross. 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
Lastly, 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).
Directed by (George Cukor replacement) Victor Fleming, with some assistance from Sam Wood and William Cameron Menzies, besides de Havilland (a Best Supporting Actress nominee that year) Gone with the Wind features the following:
Best Actress Oscar winner Vivien Leigh.
Best Actor Oscar nominee Clark Gable.
Two-time Best Actor nominee Leslie Howard (Berkeley Square, 1932–1933; Pygmalion, 1938).
Best Supporting Actress winner Hattie McDaniel.
Thomas Mitchell, who won that year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar – but for John Ford’s Stagecoach.
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 (Erroneous) ‘Lost Link’ in Berlin + Polemical Al Jazeera Documentary” last updated in May 2019.