Paris riots: Dramatically flawed ‘La Haine’ proves socially prophetic
As the fall 2005 Paris riots continue into their ninth day – having now spread to other French cities – film aficionados might want to check out Mathieu Kassovitz’s Prix César winner La Haine / Hate, a 1995 anti-establishment drama that chronicles the lives of three young (male) Parisian outcasts: a Jew (Vincent Cassel), an Arab (Saïd Taghmaoui), and a black man (Hubert Koundé).
Despite actor-turned-screenwriter/director Kassovitz’s hipper-than-thou direction and his tendency to overemphasize the obvious – including his choice of the socio-ethnic groups represented by the three leads – La Haine is worth a look due to its ever-timely subject matters: poverty, social injustice, bigotry, violence, repression. Notwithstanding their urban French setting, these issues are in fact universal in scope.
Considering our myriad cross-border threats – ranging from terrorism to global warming – all of which fueled by a mix of greed, corruption, ignorance, social disenfranchisement, and political apathy, only the braindead could opt to see Planet Earth as a place inhabited by disparate tribes, and subdivided into first, second, and third compartments.
We all share the same world and it’s the only one we have. La Haine begins and ends with a warning: if things continue as they are, it’s only a matter of time before we experience our own planetary Big Bang – and time is running out fast.
The current Paris riots will then look like child’s play. But who’s paying attention?
‘Summer Storm’ kicks off Chicago gay & lesbian film festival
From the Paris riots to Summer Storm in Chicago: Billed as “the second-oldest lesbian and gay film festival in the world,” the 24th Chicago Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, a.k.a. Reeling 2005, opened on Nov. 3 with a screening of Marco Kreuzpaintner’s German drama Summer Storm / Sommersturm, described as “a sexy, evocative coming-of-age story that defies the stereotypes of the genre to deliver a fresh and gratifying vision of young gay athletes in love.”
Other Reeling 2005 highlights include:
- Angelina Maccarone’s German drama Unveiled / Fremde haut, the tale of an Iranian lesbian seeking asylum in Germany.
- Peter Paige’s Say Uncle, a American production about a “a quirky gay artist” whose best friend is platonically in love with him.
- The festival’s closing night gala presentation, George Bamber’s U.S.-made romantic comedy The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green, based on Eric Orner’s comic strip character, and featuring Daniel Letterle, Diego Serrano, David Monahan, and Meredith Baxter.
Reeling 2005 comes to a close on Nov. 12. More information here.
Amazonas Film Festival: Claudia Cardinale & Roman Polanski expected to attend
From Chicago to the Amazon: The Amazonas Film Festival – World Festival of Adventure Films, whose official goal is to “alert the public of the need to protect and defend” the Amazon ecosystem, kicked off on Nov. 4 in the Brazilian city of Manaus, located in the heart of the Amazon jungle. Lasse Hallström’s An Unfinished Life, starring Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez, and Morgan Freeman, was the opening night gala presentation.
Expected guests include veteran Claudia Cardinale, the female lead in Werner Herzog’s 1982 Amazonian epic Fitzcarraldo; Best Director Oscar winner Roman Polanski (The Pianist, 2002); and Victoria Abril, whose credits include Pedro Almodóvar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and High Heels.
Eight international adventure films will vie for the top award; there will also be a competitive sidebar featuring eight “ethnic and/or wildlife” documentaries, in addition to a Brazilian short film competition. Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night, The Hurricane) will head the feature film jury.
The week-long festival is being held at the Amazonas Opera House, a renaissance-style theater built in 1896 during the boom years of the region’s rubber plantations. The festival comes to a close on Nov. 10.
Norwegian movie series in New York City: Oscar-winning ‘Kon-Tiki’ & young Liv Ullmann
From Manaus to Norway by way of New York City: To celebrate Norway’s independence centenary, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater will be presenting the 29-movie series “A Luminous Century: Celebrating Norwegian Cinema” between Nov. 12–19.
The series consists of Norwegian productions from the early 1920s to the present, including the following:
- Pioneer Gunnar Sommerfeldt’s drama The Growth of the Soil / Markens Grode (1921), adapted from a novel by Knut Hamsun, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature the year before the movie came out. The Growth of the Soil was Sommerfeldt’s final feature film. In the cast: Amund Rydland and Karen Poulsen (as Karen Thalbitzer).
- Kon-Tiki (1950), Olle Nordemarand’s Academy Award-winning documentary about the ocean expedition of Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl.
- Edith Carlmar’s drama The Wayward Girl / Ung Flukt (1959), starring 20-year-old newcomer Liv Ullmann as a defiant young woman in love. The two-time Best Actress Oscar nominee (The Emigrants, 1972; Face to Face, 1976) will be introducing the film at the Nov. 12 screening. Also in the cast: Atle Merton and Rolf Søder. Note: Carlmar’s 1959 The Wayward Girl is unrelated to Lesley Selander’s U.S.-made 1957 B drama of the same name.
- An updated adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People / En Folkefiende (2005), directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg (Insomnia), and featuring Jørgen Langhelle as a TV celebrity who returns to his native town where he plans on producing the world’s purest bottled water – except that the local springs may not be ideal for the project. (Directed by George Schaefer, a little-seen 1978 American version starred Steve McQueen, Bibi Andersson, and Charles Durning.)
“A Luminous Century: Celebrating Norwegian Cinema” has been organized in collaboration with the Norwegian Film Institute, with the support of the Consulate General of Norway in New York.
U.K. Jewish Film Festival highlights: ‘Fateless’ & ‘Bee Season’
From New York City’s Norway to London: The 2005 U.K. Jewish Film Festival, which kicked off on Nov. 5 in London, will screen more than 400 films, including the following:
- Cinematographer-turned-director Lajos Koltai’s Holocaust drama Fateless / Sorstalanság, starring Marcell Nagy as an adolescent sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and featuring Daniel Craig in a cameo. The big-budget (by Hungarian standards) production is based on Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész’s semi-autobiographical 1975 novel Fatelessness. Music by veteran Ennio Morricone (Once Upon a Time in the West, Cinema Paradiso).
- Scott McGee and David Siegel’s Bee Season, starring Richard Gere as a fanatically dedicated professor of Judaism who turns his attention to his daughter (Flora Cross) after her unexpected spelling bee contest win. Also in the cast: Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, 1996) and Max Minghella (son of The English Patient director Anthony Minghella).
- Anat Zuria’s Sentenced to Marriage / Mekudeshet, a documentary showing how the Israeli court system treats women as second-class citizens.
“Our festival enables a huge diversity of Jewish films to be seen by the public,” says festival director Judy Ironside. “From short films, films about Orthodox Jewish lesbians, and Israeli rappers, to feature films starring some of Hollywood’s biggest names.”
More information on the U.K. Jewish Film Festival here.
Judy Ironside quote via the European Jewish Press.
‘Gallipoli’ documentary revisits devastating World War I campaign
From London to Turkey: Director Tolga Örnek on his World War I-set Turkish documentary Gallipoli / Gelibolu:
Of course, it’s not my goal to shock people, but it’s my goal to display the conditions and how horrific it was. And I want to take the glory and the polish out of war, because when we glorify battles, when we mythicize, like make campaigns into mythical stories, I think we really undermine the actual suffering that takes place, the actual horrors that take place. So I think the response, the overall response that we got in Australia in the preview screenings, where people responded to this, people got this from the film, people understood that war is not glory, war is not polished. As in the film, at the end of the film, it’s mud, disease, death, and fear.
In 1915, more than 100,000 people lost their lives – most of them Turkish soldiers – in the Winston Churchill-planned Gallipoli campaign, which became one of the Allied Force’s most disastrous World War I debacles.
Partly narrated by Best Actor Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, 1990) and Sam Neill (Plenty, A Cry in the Dark), Gallipoli – which doesn’t sound at all like something intended for the Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down crowd – is not to be confused with the 1981 Peter Weir anti-war drama featuring Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, Bill Kerr, and Harold Hopkins.
Tolga Örnek quote via film critic Peter Thompson’s article on Gallipoli.
More November news: One-year anniversary of Theo van Gogh’s murder + U.S. Republican representative accused of influence peddling
- In the Christian Science Monitor, Bruce Mutsvairo discusses how the brutal murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh (Baby Blue, 06/05) has polarized Dutch society. On Nov. 2 last year, van Gogh was stabbed to death by a Muslim fanatic outraged by his televised short film Submission: Part I, perceived by some as an attack on Islam. Maurits Burger, a terrorism expert at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, is one of those quoted in the CSM article: “The [Christian Democrat-led] government policy has been too harsh and in violation of civil rights, especially in the long term. The continued bashing of Islam that has been taking place has caused widespread damage. The bitterness and resentment has increased within the Muslim community, which is why it is difficult to reconcile this split.”
- The Los Angeles Times reports that U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher – a Republican from Huntington Beach, California – “used his influence to open doors in Washington” for movie producer Joseph Medawar, who had previously optioned for $23,000 Rohrabacher’s screenplay about a “conservative” U.S. war veteran. Medawar, whose credits in various producing capacities include little-seen late 1980s and early 1990s releases such as Hardbodies 2, Slaughterhouse Rock, and Sleepwalkers, has recently pleaded not guilty to a 23-count federal indictment alleging that he has defrauded dozens of investors by selling $5.5 million worth of stock in his company, Steeple Enterprises.
- The Australian embassy in Beijing is sponsoring this year’s Australian Film Festival on two consecutive weekends, Nov. 4–6 /11–13. The festival will showcase several of Australia’s most notable movies of the last five years, among them Kevin Carlin’s The Extra; David Caesar’s Mullet; Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence; and Sue Brooks’ Japanese Story, starring Toni Collette of Muriel’s Wedding, The Hours, and The Sixth Sense fame.
- According to the 26th American Film Market organizers, AFM 2005 opened on Nov. 2 in Santa Monica, California, “with a record number of exhibitors, buyers, screenings and market premieres.” A record 419 companies from 33 countries will be presenting films at “the world’s largest motion picture trade event, including film and television companies, financial institutions, sponsoring organizations and trade media.” More information here.
Image of Vincent Cassel in prophetic “Paris riots” movie La Haine: Canal+.
Robert Redford An Unfinished Life image: Miramax Films.
Marcell Nagy Fateless image: Magic Media.
“Paris Riots Coming to Your Neighborhood? + Rancher Robert Redford & Youthful Liv Ullmann” last updated in August 2019.