Penelope Cruz & AFI FEST Movies + Narcoleptic Transgender Mónica Cervera

by Alt Film Guide

Pedro Almodovar and Penélope Cruz at the 2004 AFI FEST in Los AngelesLikely Best Actress European Film Award and Academy Award nominee Penélope Cruz – for Pedro Almodóvar's family comedy-drama Volver – will receive this year's AFI FEST Tribute at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Nov. 2, at the ArcLight Hollywood's Cinerama Dome.

Cruz happens to be a mere 32 years old, and has been in films for only 14 years, but her performance in Volver has elicited comparisons to Sophia Loren, Anna Magnani, and assorted Earth Mothers, and has received loads of publicity around the globe. Additionally, Cruz is awful pretty and a few years back dated Tom Cruise. All good reasons for a Career Tribute. (If only fellow Volver player Carmen Maura, one of the best film actresses around, had also dated Cruise.)

The ceremony, which will include an interview with Cruz , film clips, and assorted guests, will be followed by a screening of Volver, Spain's official entry for this year's Academy Awards and the winner of the Best Screenplay and Best Actress awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

Volver, as far as I'm concerned the film event of the year, opens in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Friday.

From the AFI FEST press release:

AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi: AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival has selected Penélope Cruz as the recipient of the Festival's annual Tribute. The Tribute to Penélope Cruz will take place at ArcLight Hollywood's Cinerama Dome on Thursday, November 2, 2006. Pedro Almodóvar's highly acclaimed film Volver in which Cruz stars, will also premiere that evening immediately following the Tribute as part of the Festival's Centerpiece Gala series. Volver, which was recently announced as Spain's official selection to the 79th Oscar Best Foreign Film category, is a Sony Pictures Classic release starring Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo and Yohana Cobo.

“Penélope Cruz is an actress whose dynamic spirit truly shines through every character she creates. Our challenge in choosing an artist each year is to find someone with a compelling body of work about whom we crave to know more. There is no doubt that Penélope fits this criteria,” said AFI's Director of Programming Nancy Collet. “Both Penélope and Pedro Almodóvar have been good friends of the Festival for many years. We are delighted to welcome them back and host this very special evening for them. “

The Tribute will be a celebration of Penélope Cruz's career and will include a lively on-stage conversation, film clips, a few surprises and visits from special friends. The Tribute is made possible through a collaborative partnership with the Skirball Cultural Center.

Set in Spain, Volver is a dramatic comedy that explores the generational story of three women: a good mother (Maura) who is desperately in love with a man who is far from being a saint, a young mother (Cruz) carrying a hard life upon her shoulders and an illegal hairdresser (Dueñas) whose shop is the meeting point for all the neighborhood gossips.

“From ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER to TALK TO HER to BAD EDUCATION, AFI FEST has been a good luck charm for Pedro Almodóvar and his movies. The showing of his new film this year should be another unforgettable evening. VOLVER is the work of a world master at the peak of his form featuring the performance of a lifetime by Penélope Cruz,” said Michael Barker & Tom Bernard, co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics.

The AFI FEST Tribute has become a signature event at the Festival, consisting of a single, special, live on-stage tribute to a leading figure in the international motion picture community. Previous AFI FEST Tribute recipients have included Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Caine, Johnny Depp, Anjelica Huston, Jessica Lange, Ang Lee and Louis Malle.

Penélope Cruz has proven herself to be one of the most versatile, young actresses by playing a variety of compelling characters. First introduced to American audiences in the Spanish films JAMON, JAMON and BELLE EPOQUE, in 1998 she starred in her first English language film, HI-LO COUNTRY for director Stephen Frears, opposite Woody Harrelson, Patricia Arquette and Billy Crudup. In 1999, Cruz won the Best Actress award at the 13th Annual Goya Awards given by the Spanish Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for her role in Fernando Trueba's THE GIRL OF YOUR DREAMS.

Confirming her status as Spain's hottest international actress, Cruz won pivitol [sic] roles in films as diverse as ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, WOMAN ON TOP, OPEN YOUR EYES, TWICE UPON A YESTERDAY, BLOW, CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN, VANILLA SKY, MASKED & ANONYMOUS, FAN FAN LA TULIPE, DON'T TEMPT ME, DON'T MOVE, GOTHIKA, HEAD IN THE CLOUDS, NOEL, CHROMOPHOBIA, and SAHARA.

Volver is the third collaboration between Cruz and Almodóvar. The two first worked together in 1997 on LIVE FLESH and again in the critically acclaimed ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, which was awarded the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Foreign Film in addition to being a Closing Night Film of AFI FEST.

20 Centimeters movie monica cerveraMónica Cervera in 20 Centimeters.

Narcoleptic Transgender Woman-to-Be & Gay Bosnian Drama: Chicago Gay Fest

Reeling: The Chicago Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, the second-oldest gay-themed film festival in the United States, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary when it runs Nov. 2–11.

Reeling will open with what one publication has labeled “another significant milestone” in gay film history: Phillip J. Bartell's Eating Out Two: Sloppy Seconds, supposed to be the first ever sequel to a gay-themed movie. The film revolves around a gay man (Jim Verraros) pretending to be straight so he can get the guy of his dreams – something that may make sense to someone, somewhere. (Clarification: Verraros' character pretends to be an ex-gay dating a girl; the couple taking part in a three-way would be his sextrategy for getting physically intimate with hunk Marco Dapper.)

Significant Gay Movie Milestones aside, the Chicago gay and lesbian festival's film line-up does include a number of intriguing titles, among them the following:

  • Ramón Salazar's 20 Centimeters / 20 centímetros, a musical starring Mónica Cervera as a narcoleptic transvestite who wants to become a woman. Cervera is the hilarious sex-crazed psychopath in Álex de la Iglesia's Perfect Crime / Crimen ferpecto.
  • Jean-Marc Vallée's multiple-award winner C.R.A.Z.Y., about a young gay man (Marc-André Grondin) growing up in the Montreal of the '60s and '70s. C.R.A.Z.Y. also features Michel Côté, Danielle Proulx, Pierre-Luc Brillant, Maxime Tremblay, and Alex Gravel.
  • Ahmed Imamovic's controversial Bosnian War drama Go West, the gay (and mighty difficult) love story between two Bosnian men – one Serb (Tarik Filipovic), one Muslim (Mario Drmac).

According to Reeling's website, the program offers “something for everyone,” including documentaries “on subjects ranging from transgendered women (MtF) in prison to a Christian summer camp for queer teens.”

Mónica Cervera 20 Centimeters photo: Reeling: The Chicago Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival.

AFI FEST movies

A few picks for today, Nov. 5, at the AFI FEST:

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, and starring Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, and Frances de la Tour, the dramatic comedy The History Boys (12:30 p.m.) was written by Alan Bennett from his own Tony Award-winning play about eight young students trying to get into college. The film has received 4 nominations for the 2006 British Independent Film Awards, including Best Actress (de la Tour) and Best Screenplay (Bennett).

At 1:30pm, one can travel back in time to the ancient world of Rolf de Heer's Ten Canoes, which tells a story within a story within a story that isn't much of a story at all. But if Ten Canoes is lacking in terms of plot and drama, it offers an unsentimental, unflinching look at a culture – belonging to one of Australia's aboriginal groups – that has nearly vanished off the face of the planet.

I found the rhythm of Ten Canoes much too slow, especially at the end, but the film is still worth a look because it shows how human beings can be so different from “us” and at the same time be so very much like “us.” (I have the “us” in quotes because, after all, those spear-throwing, goose-egg hunting, big-headed people in de Heer's film are “us,” too.) Ten Canoes is Australia's submission for this year's Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

Based on director Szabólcs Hajdu's brother's experiences, Fehér tenyér / White Palms (6:45pm) follows a talented Hungarian gymnast who, left traumatized by an abusive teacher, strives to regain his passion for the sport after emigrating to Canada. The film is Hungary's submission for this year's Foreign Language Film Academy Award. (The AFI FEST synopsis states that White Palms was nominated for an 2006 European Film Award for Best Film. It wasn't, though it was in the running for a nomination in that category.)

Screenwriter-director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others (6pm), a drama about the Stasi, East Germany's feared state police-cum-spy agency, became a huge box office hit in Germany and has been widely praised. The film won 7 Lolas (Germany's Academy Awards), including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Ulrich Mühe), and Best Screenplay. Das Leben der Anderen is Germany's submission for this year's Foreign Language Film Academy Award, and has been nominated for 6 European Film Awards (out of a mere 7 categories), including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Mühe), Best Actress (Martina Gedeck), and Best Screenplay.

Nov. 6, Monday, at the AFI FEST 2006 - a few picks:

At 12:30pm, screenwriter-director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others, a much-praised drama about East Germany's feared state police, the Stasi. The Sunday evening audience enthusiastically applauded the film, though I was quite disappointed. I was expecting a hard-hitting political tragedy but got instead an overlong, old-fashioned melodrama. Ulrich Mühe, however, is remarkable as the Stasi eavesdropper who starts questioning his allegiance to the ruling party, and was certainly a deserving winner of Germany's 2005 Best Actor Lola Award. More interesting than the film was von Donnersmarck's lengthy discourse on current German politics – but more on that later.

At 4:15pm, Alanté Kavaïté's Ecoute le temps / Fissures is a gritty psychological-paranormal drama that boasts an outstanding performance by its young lead, Emilie Dequenne. The film revolves around a sound engineer (Dequenne) who, while staying at the crumbling house of her recently murdered clairvoyant mother, manages to capture sounds from the past that will eventually help her crack the case. Both director and star were present at the Sunday evening screening.

At 6pm, Marwan Hamed's The Yacoubian Building, a controversial drama involving sex, corruption, and assorted human relationships in an iconic Cairo building. The film caused a furor among political and religious reactionaries in Egypt, and is that country's submissions for the 2006 Foreign Language Film Oscar.

At 7pm, David Lynch's Inland Empire. The film stars Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, and Jeremy Irons, among others. The AFI website refers to it as a “ sophisticated puzzle.” Some who've seen it have been left quite puzzled indeed.

Nov. 8, Wednesday, AFI FEST picks:

At 1:15pm, Chris Kraus' Vier Minuten / Four Minutes, the story of an elderly piano teacher (Monica Bleibtreu) who tries to reform a murderess (Hannah Herzsprung) by developing the young woman's musical talents. Vier Minuten won the Golden Goblet for Best Film at this year's Shanghai International Film Festival.

At 4pm, Jasmila Zbanic's Grbavica, a Bosnian War drama about a young woman who discovers the truth about her father's role in the war (and in her mother's life). The film won the Golden Bear at this year's 2006 Berlin Film Festival and has been nominated for two European Film Awards (Best Film and Best Actress – Mirjana Karanovic).

At 7 p.m., Jesper Ganslandt's Farval Falkenberg / Falkenberg, Farewell, Sweden's entry for the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Set in a small Swedish town, Farval Falkenberg follows four young friends on the cusp of adulthood as circumstances begin to push them apart.

And at 9:45pm, Randolph Mark Viverito's My Name Is Jackie Beat, described as a “concert-style documentary.” As per the AFI FEST catalog, Viverito “follows the life of one of today's most notorious bad-girl drag performers – Jackie Beat. Backstage we meet Kent Fuher, the man behind Jackie Beat, an incredibly talented performer whose life is ruled by constant doubts and insecurities. As Kent Fuher travels between New York City, Toronto, Los Angeles, Fire Island and then across the Atlantic to Berlin, he constantly questions his life and profession and slowly reveals his personal life.”

Friday evening at the AFI FEST 06:

At 4:15pm, Roger Michells Venus, starring Peter OToole who has been touted for an Oscar win as an elderly actor (married to Vanessa Redgrave) who befriends the grandniece (Jodie Whittaker) of a fellow veteran actor (Leslie Phillips). Venus was nominated for five British Independent Film Awards: Best Actor (OToole), Best Supporting Performance (Redgrave, Phillips), Best Newcomer (Whittaker), and Best Screenplay (Hanif Kureishi).

At 7pm, Argentinas submission for the 2006 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, Derecho de familia / Family Law. Directed by Daniel Burman, Derecho de familia is a dramatic comedy starring Daniel Hendler as thirty-something attorney who must come to terms with his role as both father and son.

At 7:15pm, Tony Gatlifs Transylvania, a road movie of sorts, starring Asia Argento as a woman who travels to Romania to meet with one man, but ends up hooking up with another, played by Birol Unel of Head-On.

At 9:30pm, Jens Liens quirky comedy Den brysomme mannen / The Bothersome Man, winner of the Best Director, Best Actor (Trond Fausa Aurvaag), and Best Screenwriting awards at this years Norwegian Film Institute Amanda Awards.

Thursday at the AFI FEST:

At 4:15pm, Jesper Ganslandts touching and more than a little disturbing Farval Falkenberg / Falkenberg, Farewell, Swedens entry for the upcoming Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Set in a small Swedish coastal town, Farval Falkenberg follows five young friends on the cusp of adulthood, as they do drugs and loaf around until tragedy unexpectedly strikes.

At 6:30pm, Rachid Boucharebs Indigènes / Days of Glory, the story of North Africans fighting for France during World War II, and the winner of an ensemble Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film FestivalIndigènes is Algerias selection for the 2006 Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award. (Bouchareb was born in France, but is of Algerian ancestry.)

At 6:45pm, Roger Michells Venus, starring Peter OToole who has been touted for an Oscar win as an elderly actor (married to Vanessa Redgrave) who befriends the grandniece (Jodie Whittaker) of a fellow veteran actor (Leslie Phillips). Venus was nominated for five British Independent Film Awards: Best Actor (OToole), Best Supporting Performance (Redgrave, Phillips), Best Newcomer (Whittaker), and Best Screenplay (Hanif Kureishi).

At 12am, Mexicos selection for the 2006 Best Foreign-Language Film Academy Award, El Laberinto del fauno / Pans Labyrinth, a mix of politics and fantasy in which a young girl escapes from the brutal reality of the right-wing regime of Spains General Francisco Franco by creating an imaginary world of mystery and horror. Directed and written by Guillermo del ToroPans Labyrinth stars Ivana Baquero and Doug Jones.

AFI FEST

The AFI FEST 2006, which takes off tonight at the Grauman”s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, will screen Emilio Estevez”s Bobby as its opening-night gala presentation.

From the AFI press release:

AFI FEST 2006 presented by Audi: AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival announces that Emilio Estevez”s Bobby has been chosen as the Festival”s Opening Night Gala presentation. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, Bobby revisits the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968. This presentation will mark the film”s US premiere.

The film features a remarkable ensemble cast including: Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather GrahamAnthony HopkinsHelen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeoufLindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
and Elijah Wood. Many from the cast are expected to attend.

With an incredible ensemble cast portraying fictionalized characters from a cross-section of America, Bobby follows 22 disparate individuals whose lives intersect at the hotel as they anticipate Kennedy”s arrival for the presidential primary election night party-an event which would change their lives forever. This historic night is set against the backdrop of the cultural issues gripping the country at the time: racism, sexual inequality and class differences. Bobby is a Bold Films production of a Weinstein Company presentation and is being distributed in theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM).

Bobby will open AFI FEST 2006 on Wednesday, November 1, 2006 at Grauman”s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. A reception will follow at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The Opening Night Film and Gala are presented by Audi of America with support from the Hollywood Sign Trust.

“We are honored to launch AFI FEST 2006 with the US Premiere of Bobby. This is a film that chronicles a powerful moment in American history—a moment that is also significant in the history of the city of Los Angeles,” says Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI”s President and CEO. “As AFI FEST celebrates its 20th year, we are especially proud to premiere this film here.”

“When I began writing Bobby is the summer of 2000, I had a growing frustration with “runaway production.” It seemed that one remedy was to create a piece indigenous to Los Angeles by setting the film at the infamous Ambassador Hotel,” said Estevez. “Surely, this grand hotel could never be duplicated north of the border. It is only fitting that the US premiere takes place in Los Angeles. AFI FEST choosing my picture for the opening night is as big of a thrill as a filmmaker could hope for. I am honored to be chosen for this auspicious event.”

Thirteen of the films making their World Premieres at AFI FEST 2006 include:
AFTER (USA) Director: David Cunningham
AFTER is a visceral, high energy, adrenaline fueled thriller about urban explorers in the Moscow underground, featuring original music by The Crystal Method.

BACK HOME (USA/Rwanda) Director: J.B. Rutagarama
The first film about the Rwandan genocide made by an actual survivor, BACK HOME is the true story of director J.B. Rutagarama, who was adopted by reporters as he fled the killings. They gave him a new life — and the courage to eventually return to his homeland to confront what happened there.

BEAUTIFUL OHIO (USA) Director: Chad Lowe
Starring William HurtRita Wilson and Julianna Margulies; BEAUTIFUL OHIO is a coming-of-age story of an entire family in the late ”70s.

BIG DREAMS LITTLE TOKYO (USA) Director: David Boyle
BIG DREAMS, LITLLE TOKYO is the story of Boyd, who aspires to succeed in the world of Japanese business but finds himself mostly on the outside looking in. His roommate, Jerome, is a Japanese American who has always felt too American to be Japanese but too Japanese to be American. Together they struggle to find their place in a world where cultural identity is elusive.

BROKEN (USA,) Director: Alan White
Hope (Heather Graham) confronts all the wrong turns she has made in her short life and ultimately ends up facing the biggest wrong turn of all: her dangerous ex-boyfriend Will (Jeremy Sisto), who”s determined to win back her love or die trying.

COMIC EVANGELISTS (USA/Canada) Director: Daniel Jones, Dann Sytsma
In the small town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, the world”s first improv troupe, the Comic Evangelists are on a mission from God. When group co-founder Nigel suggests that the group enter the Toronto International Improv Festival, the group immediately leaps on the opportunity to spread the gospel to a larger audience. But will the group”s faith be enough to get them through this experience?

FISSURES / ECOUTE LE TEMPS (France) Director: Alante Kavaite
After Charlotte”s mother is murdered, she decides to take action. As a sound engineer, she uses her equipment to carry out her own investigation. While listening to a recording just made in the house where the murder took place, Charlotte discovers a strange phenomenon—sounds from the past blend in with sounds from the present.

GIRL 27 (USA) Director: David Stenn Note: This film has been withdrawn from the festival.
In 1937 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the most prestigious and powerful movie studio in the world, tricked 120 underage dancers into attending a stag party for its salesmen. Patricia Douglas was raped trying to escape. Instead of heeding studio advice and staying silent, she went public and filed a landmark lawsuit. The resulting scandal and studio cover-up drove Douglas into hiding. “We had her killed,” an MGM executive boasted at the time. Now, 65 years later, Patricia Douglasemerges in this documentary to tell her incredible story.

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS (USA) Director: Henry Jaglom
Set in the City of Angels, featuring engaging performances by David Proval, Karen Black, Zack Norman and Melissa Leo, a young girl fresh off the bus from Iowa (Tanna Frederick) falls in love with a promising young actor (Justin Kirk), complicating her goal of becoming a famous actress.

MEMORIES OF TOMORROW (Japan) Director: Yokihiko Tsutsumi
Suffering from dizziness and headaches, unable to find the words he is looking for or remember people”s names, Saeki (Ken Watanabe) is diagnosed with anearly onset of Alzheimer”s disease. This emotionally touching story depicts and questions, what it is to love and share a life with someone who has lost his memory.

MOTHERLAND AFGHANISTAN (USA/Afghanistan) Director: Sedika Mojadidi
An Afghan-American filmmaker follows her father”s return to Afghanistan to battle one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Following their travels from Kabul”s Laura Bush Maternity Ward to one of the country”s most isolated rural hospitals in Ghazni province, this documentary gives a rare insider”s view into the lives of the women behind the statistics.

NO SWEAT (USA) Director: Arnie Williams
An all-American tale about an all-American garment—the T-shirt—this documentary takes a wild ride into the Los Angeles garment industry. Mostly undocumented workers at American Apparel and SweatX are offered better wages, benefits, even a shot at worker-ownership. But what”s really behind the label?

SCREAMERS (UK) Director: Carla Garapedian
The film follows the Grammy-award winning rock band System of a Down as they confront the issue of the Armenian genocide in 1915 Turkey and efforts by the Turkish government to deny it. Through the band”s personal campaign to stop all such tragedies, this documentary traces the Armenian genocide”s links to the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Iraqi Kurds and today”s conflict in Darfur. We may say “never again” but we do we mean it?

As previously announced, AFI FEST 2006 will be celebrating 20 years in 2006, with plans to celebrate AFI FEST and 15 years of FILMEX through a series of commemorative events, series and special programs throughout the 11 day festival.

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2 comments

Andre -

David,

I've also been an Almodovar fan since the mid-1980s. (I was 5 years old then, but very precocious.)

In any case, you should be happy to hear that “Volver” seems to be doing quite well here in Los Angeles. Lines at a nearby theater showing the film were going around the (lengthy) block — that has rarely happened before.

Also, “Volver” will quite likely get a Best Film Oscar nod. And it will win the Best Foreign Language Film award, pretty much without a doubt.

And yes, the AFI has a great selection of films this year. I'll be posting more on the screenings in the next several days.

Reply
David K -

I'm glad to see Mr Almodovar getting more exposure, I'v been a long time fan of his movies, can't wait to see “Volver”, I wish I could be in Hollywood to attend this years' AFI.

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