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Pedro Almodóvar Film Star + Andrzej Wajda vs. Censors & Mia Farrow Sudan Message

Pedro Almodóvar: Best-known Spanish film director

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

According to a poll conducted by the Spanish-based SigmaDos, Pedro Almodóvar is the best-known modern-day Spanish film director in his home country, Zinema reports. That should come as no surprise to anyone anywhere in the world, of course. In fact, what’s somewhat surprising is that Almodóvar was named by 69 percent – as opposed to something like 99 percent – of Spaniards.

Pedro Almodóvar is followed by these Spanish filmmakers:

  • 2005 Academy Award winner and multiple Goya winner Alejandro Amenábar (The Sea Inside) with 34.3 percent;
  • Academy Award nominee José Luis Garci (The Grandfather) with 13.4 percent;
  • Academy Award winner Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque) with 10.7 percent;
  • Academy Award nominee Luis García Berlanga (Placido) with 6.3 percent;
  • Alex de la Iglesia (Perfect Crime) with 6.2 percent;
  • Santiago Segura (Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley and its sequels) with 4.6 percent;
  • Bigas Luna (Jamón, jamón) with 4 percent;
  • Academy Award nominee Carlos Saura (Carmen) with 3.4 percent;
  • Antonio Banderas, who has taken to directing in the last few years (Crazy in Alabama, Summer Rain), with 2 percent.

The only female Spanish director among the top 20 is Isabel Coixet, whose English-language drama The Secret Life of Words, starring Tim Robbins and Sarah Polley, won the Goya Award for Best Film of 2005.

Pedro Almodóvar movies

Pedro Almodóvar began his filmmaking career in the mid-1970s – according to the IMDb, his first film was the four-minute 1974 comedy short Film político – but he would become an international star director only about a decade later. Among Almodóvar’s most notable films are What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984), with Carmen Maura and Luis Hostalot; Matador (1986), with Antonio Banderas, Assumpta Serna, and Nacho Martínez; Law of Desire (1985), with Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas; Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nominee Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), once again with Banderas and Maura; and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), with Banderas and Victoria Abril.

Also: The Flower of My Secret (1995), with Marisa Paredes and Juan Echanove; Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner All About My Mother (1999), with Paredes, Penélope Cruz, and Cecilia Roth; Talk to Her (2002), with Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, and Leonor Watling; Bad Education (2004), with Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez; and Volver (2006), with Best Actress Oscar nominee Penélope Cruz, Lola Dueñas, and Carmen Maura.

‘Man of Marble’: Andrzej Wajda subversive filmmaking in Communist Poland

Andrzej Wajda’s 1977 political drama Man of Marble / Czlowiek z marmuru, made at the time when Poland was still under Communist rule, is the subject of Matilda Mroz’s article “Fracturing the Marble Façade: Visceral Excavation in Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble” in Senses of Cinema.

“This was politically explosive content in 1979 [Man of Marble was released in 1977],” explains Mroz, “when the repressive administration of Edward Gierek was characterised, as Wajda notes, not so much by terror but by a gigantic manipulation of people and reality. Under communism, artists were creatively disenfranchised and recruited into the régime to produce Socialist Realist documentaries, an occupation which Wajda himself undertook and which he acknowledges in the film by appending his name to the credits of one of [Man of Marble‘s characters, filmmaker Jerzy] Burski’s documentaries.”

Mroz adds that Aleksander Scibor-Rylski’s Man of Marble screenplay was shelved by the Polish government for twelve years “before a slightly more progressive state film producer in the late 1970s granted permission for the film to be made.”

‘Man of Marble’ vs. Polish censors

Man of Marble, however, would run into more issues with Polish censors. After the film’s completion, “all attempts were made to restrict its release, and positive reviews of the film were suppressed. Having already approved the content of the screenplay, the reaction of the government suggests the presence of an element fundamentally more subversive than what could be contained in a script, an ‘impalpable something,’ Wajda suggests, ‘which renders inoperative the rules of censorship.'”

Perhaps Andrzej Wajda learned that technique from Mae West, notorious for getting risqué material into her films of the ’30s.

Man of Marble features Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Krystyna Janda, Tadeusz Lomnicki, Jacek Lomnicki, Michal Tarkowski, and Piotr Cieslak. A sequel of sorts, Man of Iron / Czlowiek z zelaza – also directed by Wajda, written by Scibor-Rylski, and starring Radziwilowicz and Janda – would earn a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nomination in early 1982.

Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble Jerzy Radziwilowicz image: New Yorker Films.

Eytan Fox to attend Brazilian Jewish film festival

August is the month for Jewish film festivals in Brazil. The 11th São Paulo Jewish Film Festival is currently taking place in Brazil’s largest city. It’ll be followed by the 3rd Rio de Janeiro Jewish Film Festival (Aug. 16-23, 2007) and by another Jewish film event in Porto Alegre. (Image: Eytan Fox.)

Among the São Paulo screenings are Dror Shaul’s Sweet Mud / Adama Meshuga’at, a kibbutz-set drama that shared with Aviva My Love last year’s Ophir Award for Best Israeli Film; Miguel Littin’s The Last Moon / La Ultima luna, about the friendship between a Jew and a Palestinian in 1914 Palestine; and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Just an Ordinary Jew / Ein Ganz gewöhnlicher Jude, in which the Downfall director tackles the issue of “Jewishness” in early 21st-century Germany.

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Eytan Fox movies at the São Paulo Jewish Film Festival

Additionally, the São Paulo Jewish Film Festival will present three Eytan Fox-directed productions:

  • Walk on Water, an affecting drama about a Mossad agent (Lior Ashkenazi) who discovers he can’t go on living the life of a merciless avenging angel, especially after befriending a young gay German (Knut Berger) and his sister (Caroline Peters) who happen to be the grandchildren of his next target: a wealthy Nazi war criminal;
  • The Bubble, a somewhat unfocused but haunting Romeo and Juliet – or rather, Romeo and Romeo – tale revolving around two young men, a Palestinian (Yousef ‘Joe’ Sweid) and a Jew (Ohad Knoller);
  • and episodes from the Israeli TV series Florentine, about young Tel Aviv residents too immersed in their own lives to spend time discussing Middle East politics.

Eytan Fox is expected to be present at the festival.

Brazil’s Jewish population

São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Porto Alegre are home to the overwhelming majority of Brazil’s Jewish population – somewhere between 100,00 and 200,000 people, depending on the source.

Eytan Fox photo: Strand Releasing.

Mia Farrow Offer to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Mia Farrow, 62, in a letter to Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, posted on her website:

“Suleiman Jamous is greatly respected by humanitarians like myself for his selfless commitment to the people of Darfur and his respect for human rights. Colleagues in Sudan tells me that his enforced absence from relief work has made access negotiations to volatile rebel-controlled areas less certain and more complicated.

“As you are undoubtedly aware, Mr. Jamous is in need of a medical procedure that cannot be carried out in Kadugli. His absence from Arusha is an impediment to progress in the peace process to which your government has said it is committed.

“I am therefore offering to take Mr. Jamouss’ place, to exchange my freedom for his in the knowledge of his importance to the civilians of Darfur and in the conviction that he will apply his energies toward creating the just and lasting peace that the Sudanese people deserve and hope for.”

Suleiman Jamous, in his mid-60s, is a Darfur rebel leader who has been an important link between several rebel factions and aid workers in Sudan. Jamous, who has been suffering from abdominal problems, is at a U.N. hospital in the Darfur area. He fears he’ll be arrested or suffer reprisals if he leaves the hospital.

According to a Voice of America report, more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been chased from their homes in Darfur since 2003. The conflict is ethnic-religious: The Sudanese central government is Muslim Arab and so are the rampaging militias, whereas the rebels are mostly animistic or Christian Sub-Saharan African farmers. (Farrow offers a timeline of the Darfur crisis on her site. Also, check out the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website.)

Mia Farrow, who has visited Darfur twice, is a goodwill ambassador for Unicef, the United Nations’ children’s agency. According to the Voice of America report, “UNICEF spokeswoman Kate Donovan said Monday that the organization was ‘not aware that Mia Farrow had written the letter to the president of the Republic of Sudan under her UNICEF goodwill ambassador title, and we’d like to consult with her before we make a comment.'”

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