Winner of four audience awards, including at the AFI Dallas and Santa Barbara film festivals, Skin tells the factually inspired (and quite curious) story of Sandra Laing (Hotel Rwanda's 2005 Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo as an adult; Ella Ramangwane as child), the “black” daughter of “white” Afrikaner parents (veterans Sam Neill and Alice Krige), who until then – South Africa in the 1950s – had been unaware that they must have had some black ancestors.
Though raised as a white girl by her parents, Sandra soon discovers the importance of her skin color after she's officially reclassified as black and is expelled from her school. Her parents then fight a judicial battle to have their daughter regain her “whiteness” – and all the privileges that come with it – taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
Sandra becomes officially “white” once again – but her skin hasn't changed colors. Racism continues to be an issue for her. Compounding matters, she falls in love with a black vegetable seller (Tony Kgoroge), which leads to serious family conflicts.
Written by Helen Crawley, Jessie Keyt, and Helena Kriel, Skin is the feature-film debut of UCLA's Film and Television School grad Anthony Fabian. In The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Rechtshaffen says it “serves as a stirring allegory for birthright and the assertion of one's identity in the face of oppression … the fact that it's actually based on a true story adds an extra layer of poignancy, heightened further by another superb Sophie Okonedo performance.”
Phone Sex 'Easier with Practice' + 'North by Northwest': AFI FEST
Kyle Patrick Alvarez's feature-film debut Easier with Practice, CineVegas Grand Jury Award winner and Best International Feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival, will screen at the AFI FEST 2009 (website) on Wed., November 4, at 10 p.m.
Easier with Practice tells the story of a writer (Brian Geraghty of The Hurt Locker) who, in a desperate attempt to promote his still-unpublished novel, hits the road with his younger brother (Kel O'Neill) on a self-planned book tour. Things don't go very well at first, but when out of the blue a sexy female voice calls the writer at his ordinary motel room – to ask what he's wearing, no less – everything changes. The phoning couple eventually move from voice-induced masturbation to emotional intimacy, but complications arise when the writer decides he wants to match face to voice.
Also in the Easier with Practice cast: Marguerite Moreau, Jeanette Brox, Jenna Gavigan, Katie Aselton.
A former assistant to Warren Beatty, Alvarez, 26, decided on the topic for his first film after reading Davy Rothbart's article “What are you wearing?” in the August 2006 issue of GQ magazine.
Here's Kyle Patrick Alvarez as quoted in the film's press release:
“What ultimately inspired me was the possibility to make a film that dealt frankly and honestly with a man's complicated sexuality. When I say sexuality I mean something far more personal even than gender preference, rather comfortability with one's self. I think the male ego is a tricky thing and one that is normally dealt with superficially in modern media. In general, men are not portrayed as emotionally weak or uncertain, especially in regards to their sexuality. I thought this story would be an opportunity to have a lead male character who had a lot of fears of maturing, especially when thrown into situations that are sexually threatening to him …
“I was also excited about making a movie that featured its lead character in every frame of the film. I knew the film would require a sincerity and delicate pace; I had to allow the audience to commit wholly to Davy's experience, and not be able to see beyond that, in order for the conclusion to be satisfying in what is essentially a one-sided love story. …
“In the Web 2.0 era, technology has so quickly changed the way people interact. Even 6 years ago the thought of meeting someone on the Internet concerned people, nowadays it's common practice. While Davy's relationship with Nicole doesn't involve the Internet, I had those intense web-based relationships in mind when I started writing the script. … Ultimately, my intention was to make a film that challenged people's perceptions about intimacy and sexuality without ever being confrontational or didactic.”
Among the highlights of AFI FEST 2009 is the Nov. 2 screening of AFI Conservatory Alumnus Daniel Raim's documentary Something's Gonna Live, which profiles several behind-the-scenes Hollywood veterans – most of whom have already passed away – including production designers Robert Boyle (who turned 100 this past Oct. 10), Henry Bumstead (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting), Harold Michelson (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Mommie Dearest, Dick Tracy), and Albert Nozaki (When Worlds Collide, The War of the Worlds, The Ten Commandments), in addition to cinematographers Conrad L. Hall (In Cold Blood, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Road to Perdition) and Haskell Wexler (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat of the Night).
Both Robert Boyle and Haskell Wexler are expected to attend the World Premiere screening of Something's Gonna Live.
Raim's previous documentary, by the way, was the Oscar-nominated The Man on Lincoln's Nose (2000), which focuses on Boyle's work as production designer, including his collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock on several films. Among these is North by Northwest (1959), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Appropriately enough, this Hitchcock classic about a man, a wheat field, and a dot in the sky that turns out to be a plane will also be screened on Monday, Nov. 2. Leading lady Eva Marie Saint and bad guy Martin Landau are scheduled to take part in a q&a moderated by Academy Award-winning filmmaker William Friedkin.
North by Northwest is supposed to be the first Hitchcock film to be released on Blu-ray.
'A French Gigolo': IFC Festival Direct
Next month, IFC Films will be releasing via its video-on-demand platform the French box office hit A French Gigolo / Cliente, starring veteran Nathalie Baye, on November 4, and Canada's submission for the 2009 best foreign language film Oscar, The Necessities of Life, on Nov. 11. These films are part of the “IFC Festival Direct” program, an electronic film festival available “at the touch of a remote control button.” Each month, viewers can choose from six new films that have premiered at major film festivals from around the world.
The film information below is the the IFC press release:
A French Gigolo, the French box office hit, continues the long tradition of exploring female desire and sexuality with sharp wit and insight. The film caused much discussion in France for its frank depiction of female sexuality in a country that's never been shy on the matter. Directed, written and co-starring Josiane Balasko (French Twist), the film stars Nathalie Baye (Venus Beauty Institute, Tell No One) and Eric Caravaca (Monsieur Ibrahim) and premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Baye stars as an elegant and mature TV personality who believes she's found a way to have a satisfying sexual life amidst her chaotic professional life: instead of messy relationships, she opts instead for straightforward sexual servicing through a series of male escorts she chooses on the internet. Her sister Irene (Balasko) and next-door neighbor couldn't disagree more, but Judith is adamant this laissez-faire arrangement works. And it does work for her until unconventional and handsome escort Patrick (Eric Caravaca) enters her life.
As their arrangement escalates, Judith's frozen emotional state begins to thaw, but all is thrown into chaos when Patrick's wife discovers that his days are not spent on a construction site. A French Gigolo is a classy, thoroughly enjoyable film with terrific performances. Lisa Nesselson of Screen International called it “engaging and intelligent with a classy, nuanced performances.”
The Necessities of Life, is a profound story of culture shock and barrier-transcending human connections starring Natar Ungalaaq from Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Shortlisted for a 2008 Academy Award as Canada's official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film, The Necessities of Life premiered in August of last year at the Montreal World Film Festival where it received numerous awards including the Grand Jury Prize.
From the acclaimed Canadian filmmaker and renowned documentarian Benoît Pilon, Necessities of Life is a heartwarming and life-affirming drama about Tivii (Ungalaaq) an ailing Inuit hunter diagnosed with tuberculosis by Canadian authorities and forcibly removed from his family and quarantined in a Quebec City sanitarium. For Tivii, everything seems alien and he slides into a deep depression as he realizes his treatment might last up to two years, until finding hope again when he forges an unlikely friendship with a young boy.
Sylvain Verstricht from indieWIRE said “The Necessities of Life is a touching film with great performances from its two lead actors.” Daniel Harvey from Variety called the film “a model of delicate emotional restraint.”
A French Gigolo and The Necessities of Life will be available for three months on demand.
Colin Firth Santa Barbara Award
Colin Firth, the star of Tom Fords A Single Man, will receive the Santa Barbara International Film Festivals Outstanding Performance of the Year Award at Santa Barbaras Arlington Theatre on Feb.13, 2010.
In A Single Man, the 49-year-old Firth plays a grieving, gay college professor in the Los Angeles of the early 1960s. His lover (Matthew Goode) has just died and he is seriously considering ending his own life. Also in the cast: Julianne Moore and Nicholas Hoult.
Among Colin Firths previous films are Another Country (1984), A Month in the Country (1987), Valmont (1989), Bridget Joness Diary (2001), Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), Love, Actually (2003), Mamma Mia! (2008), and Dorian Grey (2009).
The Santa Barbara Film Festival runs from Feb. 4-14.
Screamfest LA winners
2009 Screamfest LA: Oct. 16-25 in Hollywood
In Tom Six's The Human Centipede (First Sequence), a German surgeon (Dieter Laser) sets out to merge together three human beings into one by joining them with a single digestive system. To achieve his goal, he conscripts two American girls (Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie) looking for shelter and a Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura) who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), involving a 12-human centipede, is slated for release in 2010.
Best Picture: The Human Centipede (First Sequence), Tom Six
Best Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez, Tres días / Before the Fall
Best Actor: Victor Clavijo, Before the Fall
Best Actress: Joceline Donahue, House of the Devil
Best Screenplay: Hate Night, VJ Boyd & Justin Boyd
Best Cinematography: Before the Fall, Miguel A. Mora
Best Musical Score: The House of the Devil, Jeff Grace
Best Editing: Before the Fall, Nacho Ruiz Capillas
Best Special Effects: The Revenant
Best Makeup: The Revenant
Best Short: Prelude to Hell, Harry Doright
Best Student Short: Else, Thibaut Emin