Monday, February 28, 2011

The Academy Awards (for films of 2010)

The 83rd Academy Awards

Actor in a Leading Role
* Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
* Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
* Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
* Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
* James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role
* Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
* John Hawkes in “Winter's Bone”
* Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
* Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Geoffrey Rush in “The King's Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role
* Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
* Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
* Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
* Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
* Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role
* Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
* Helena Bonham Carter in “The King's Speech”
* Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
* Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
* Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature Film
* “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
* “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
* “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction
* “Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
* “Inception”
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
* “The King's Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
* “True Grit”
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

* “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
* “Inception” Wally Pfister
* “The King's Speech” Danny Cohen
* “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
* “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design
* “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
* “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
* “The King's Speech” Jenny Beavan
* “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
* “True Grit” Mary Zophres

* “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
* “The Fighter” David O. Russell
* “The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
* “The Social Network” David Fincher
* “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)
* “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
* “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
* “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
* “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
* “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)
* “Killing in the Name” Jed Rothstein
* “Poster Girl” Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block
* “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
* “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
* “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing
* “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
* “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
* “The King's Speech” Tariq Anwar
* “127 Hours” Jon Harris
* “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film
* “Biutiful” Mexico - Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, MX/ES 2010)
* “Dogtooth” Greece - Kynodontas (Giorgios Lanthimos, GR 2009)
* “In a Better World” Denmark - Hævnen / Kosto (Susanne Bier, DK/SE 2010)
* “Incendies” Canada - (Denis Villeneuve, CA/FR 2010)
* “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria - (Rachid Bouchareb, FR/DZ/BG 2010)

* “Barney's Version” Adrien Morot
* “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
* “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)
* “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
* “Inception” Hans Zimmer
* “The King's Speech” Alexandre Desplat
* “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
* “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)
* “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
* “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
* “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
* “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Best Picture
* “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
* “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
* “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
* “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
* “The King's Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
* “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
* “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
* “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
* “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
* “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Short Film (Animated)
* “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
* “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
* “Let's Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
* “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
* “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action)
* “The Confession” Tanel Toom
* “The Crush” Michael Creagh
* “God of Love” Luke Matheny
* “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
* “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing
* “Inception” Richard King
* “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
* “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
* “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing
* “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
* “The King's Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
* “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
* “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
* “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects
* “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
* “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
* “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell
* “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
* “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
* “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
* “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
* “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
* “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
* “Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)
* “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
* “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
* “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
* “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
* “The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

Friday, February 25, 2011

Les César 2011 (films sortis en 2010)

La 36e cérémonie des César du cinéma, récompensant les films sortis en 2010, s'est déroulée le 25 février 2011 au théâtre du Châtelet, à Paris.


Meilleur film
* Des hommes et des dieux de Xavier Beauvois
o L'Arnacœur de Pascal Chaumeil
o Le Nom des gens de Michel Leclerc
o The Ghost Writer de Roman Polanski
o Tournée de Mathieu Amalric
o Gainsbourg, vie héroïque de Joann Sfar
o Mammuth de Benoit Delepine et Gustave Kervern

Meilleur réalisateur
* Roman Polanski pour The Ghost Writer
o Mathieu Amalric pour Tournée
o Olivier Assayas pour Carlos
o Xavier Beauvois pour Des hommes et des dieux
o Bertrand Blier pour Le Bruit des glaçons

Meilleure actrice
* Sara Forestier pour Le Nom des gens
o Isabelle Carré pour Les Émotifs anonymes
o Catherine Deneuve pour Potiche
o Charlotte Gainsbourg pour L'Arbre
o Kristin Scott Thomas pour Elle s'appelait Sarah

Meilleur acteur
* Éric Elmosnino pour Gainsbourg, vie héroïque
o Gérard Depardieu pour Mammuth
o Romain Duris pour L'Arnacœur
o Jacques Gamblin pour Le Nom des gens
o Lambert Wilson pour Des hommes et des dieux

Meilleure actrice dans un second rôle
* Anne Alvaro pour Le Bruit des glaçons
o Laetitia Casta pour Gainsbourg, vie héroïque
o Valérie Bonneton pour Les Petits Mouchoirs
o Julie Ferrier pour L'Arnacœur
o Karin Viard dans Potiche

Meilleur acteur dans un second rôle
* Michael Lonsdale pour Des hommes et des dieux
o Niels Arestrup pour L'Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie
o François Damiens pour L'Arnacœur
o Gilles Lellouche pour Les Petits Mouchoirs
o Olivier Rabourdin pour Des hommes et des dieux

Meilleur espoir féminin
* Leïla Bekhti dans Tout ce qui brille
o Anaïs Demoustier dans D'amour et d'eau fraîche
o Audrey Lamy dans Tout ce qui brille
o Léa Seydoux dans Belle Épine
o Yahima Torres dans Vénus noire

Meilleur espoir masculin
* Edgar Ramirez dans Carlos
o Arthur Dupont dans Bus Palladium
o Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet dans La Princesse de Montpensier
o Pio Marmaï dans D’amour et d’eau fraîche
o Raphaël Personnaz dans La Princesse de Montpensier

Meilleure photographie
* Caroline Champetier pour Des hommes et des dieux
o Christophe Beaucarne pour Tournée
o Pawel Edelman pour The Ghost Writer
o Bruno de Keyzer pour La Princesse de Montpensier
o Guillaume Schiffman pour Gainsbourg, vie héroïque

Meilleur montage
* Hervé de Luze pour The Ghost Writer
o Marilyne Monthieux pour Gainsbourg, vie héroïque
o Annette Dutertre pour Tournée
o Luc Barnier pour Carlos
o Marie-Julie Maille pour Des hommes et des dieux

Meilleur scénario original
* Baya Kasmi et Michel Leclerc pour Le Nom des gens
o Mathieu Amalric, Marcelo Novais Teles et Philippe Di Folco pour Tournée
o Bertrand Blier pour Le Bruit des glaçons
o Xavier Beauvois pour Des hommes et des dieux
o Gustave Kervern pour Mammuth

Meilleure adaptation
* Robert Harris et Roman Polanski pour The Ghost Writer
o Julie Bertucelli pour L'Arbre
o Éric Lartigau et Laurent de Bartillat pour L'Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie
o François Ozon pour Potiche
o Bertrand Tavernier, Jean Cosmos et François-Olivier Rousseau pour La Princesse de Montpensier

Meilleure musique
* Alexandre Desplat pour The Ghost Writer
o Bruno Coulais pour Océans
o Grégoire Hetzel pour L'Arbre
o Delphine Montoulet et Tony Gatlif pour Liberté
o Yarol Poupaud pour Bus Palladium
o Philippe Sarde pour La Princesse de Montpensier

Meilleur son
* Daniel Sobrino, Jean Goudier et Cyril Holtz pour Gainsbourg, vie héroïque
o Philippe Barbeau, Jérôme Wiciak et Florent Lavallé pour Océans
o Jean-Marie Bondel, Thomas Desjonqueres, Dean Humphreys pour The Ghost Writer
o Jean-Jacques Ferrand, Vincent Guillon et Éric Bonnard pour Des hommes et des dieux
o Olivier Meauvezin, Séverin Favriau et Stéphane Thiebaut pour Tournée

Meilleurs décors
* Hugues Tissandier pour Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
o Michel Barthélémy pour Des hommes et des dieux
o Guy-Claude François pour La Princesse de Montpensier
o Albrecht Konrad pour The Ghost Writer
o Christian Marti pour Gainsbourg, vie héroïque

Meilleurs costumes
* Caroline de Vivaise pour La Princesse de Montpensier
o Olivier Beriot pour Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
o Pascaline Chavanne pour Potiche
o Alicia Crisp-Jones pour Tournée
o Marielle Robaut pour Des hommes et des dieux

Meilleur premier film
* Gainsbourg, vie héroïque de Joann Sfar
o L'Arnacœur de Pascal Chaumeil
o Simon Werner a disparu... de Fabrice Gobert
o Tête de turc de Pascal Elbé
o Tout ce qui brille de Géraldine Nakache et Hervé Mimran

Meilleur film d'animation
* L'Illusionniste de Sylvain Chomet
o Arthur et la Guerre des deux mondes de Luc Besson
o L'Homme à la Gordini de Jean-Christophe Lie
o Logorama de H5
o Une vie de chat de Jean-Loup Felicioli et Alain Gagnol

Meilleur film documentaire
* Océans de Jacques Perrin et Jacques Cluzaud
o Benda Bilili! de Florent de La Tullaye
o Cleveland contre Wall Street de Jean-Stéphane Bron
o Entre nos mains de Marianne Otero
o Yves St Laurent Pierre Bergé, l'amour fou de Pierre Thoretton

Meilleur court-métrage
* Logorama de H5
o Petit Tailleur, de Louis Garrel
o Une pute et un poussin, de Clément Michel
o Monsieur L'Abbé, de Blandine Lenoir
o Un transport en commun, de Dyana Gaye

Meilleur film étranger
* The Social Network de David Fincher (États-Unis)
o Inception de Christopher Nolan (États-Unis)
o Invictus de Clint Eastwood (États-Unis)
o Bright Star de Jane Campion (Nouvelle-Zélande)
o Les Amours imaginaires de Xavier Dolan (Canada)
o Dans ses yeux de Juan José Campanella (Argentine)
o Illégal d'Olivier Masset-Depasse (Belgique)

César d'honneur
* Quentin Tarantino

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ingmar Bergman: Truth and Lies (exhibition)

Although I did not get to see any films during my days in Berlin I saw a fine exhibition:

Ingmar Bergman. Von Lüge und Wahrheit. Exhibition at the Deutsche Kinemathek - Museum für Film und Fernsehen, 27 Jan until 29 May 2011, Potsdamer Strasse 2, Berlin.

Catalogue: Nils Warnecke, Kristina Jaspers (ed.): Ingmar Bergman. Von Lüge und Wahrheit. Berlin: Deutsche Kinemathek / Bertz + Fischer Verlag 2011

The Ingmar Bergman: Truth and Lies exhibition had its premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, 16 Sep 2010, curated by Nils Warnecke and Kristina Jaspers (Deutsche Kinemathek) and Ellen Harrington (AMPAS) with the Ingmar Bergman Foundation (Stockholm).

Ingmar Bergman directed more than 130 plays at the theatre, 42 radio productions, 23 television plays und 39 theatrical films. During the Berlin Film Festival was mounted what was called the most comprehensive Ingmar Bergman retrospective film series ever, but Sånt händer inte här, Riten, and Efter repetitionen were not included, and Scener från ett äktenskap and Fanny och Alexander were not shown in their long versions, so I think that even we in Helsinki have shown more comprehensive retrospectives. Besides the obvious titles were included the Bergmanic films directed by others, Den goda viljan (The Best Intentions, Bille August, 1991), Trolösa (Faithless, Liv Ullmann, 2000), and Bergman's final tv production Saraband. Also included were the Stig Björkman documentaries Ingmar Bergman (1972), Bilder från lekstugan (2009), and ...But Film Is My Mistress (2010).

From the festival catalogue: "On show for the first time are personal papers and work documents from Ingmar Bergman's estate, plus scripts, photographs, sketches, notebooks, diaries and letters. In addition, production photos and stills, architectural and costume designs, props, set models and original costumes."

The exhibition is structured under the following headlines: PROLOGUE, SEARCH, ARTIST, FAITH, FÅRÖ, RELATIONSHIPS, GERMAN EXCURSION, and RESUMÉ.

Verdict: a wonderful Bergmanian experience manages to chart his life from childhood to the final days, his work as a man of the theatre and as a man of the cinema, and some of his great central themes. There is a good blend of the well-known and the unknown. I was amazed at his good handwriting in the many samples of his workbooks, scripts, and letters. It was moving to read the letters from Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick. The overall atmosphere is genially Bergmanian, mixing magic with professionalism. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kalle Kinnunen on Taxi Driver in 4K

Kalle Kinnunen, film critic of the Suomen Kuvalehti magazine, writes that Taxi Driver in 4K was his personal highlight of the Berlin Film Festival. It was presented by Grover Crisp from Sony Pictures.

Kalle Kinnunen is a critical observer of the digital transition period. Now he writes that Taxi Driver in 4K was as good if not better than film. "I may never have seen a film print this good". "4K is the future".

Myself, another critical observer of the digital transition, I try to keep updating my views. On the home viewing front blu-ray is so astounding that it is a contender for film projection in a small cinema. We must see to it that cinema projection is superior to the one in our own living-room!

I would like to avoid fanaticism. During the last 15 years we have witnessed veritable volte-faces, even photochemical purists becoming digital apostles. I would like to keep an open mind to all alternatives. We can afford film and digital.

As a film archive programmer I'm aware of the immense treasures of rare films that exist on 35 mm, 16 mm, and 8 mm film. It will take generations to make them all available digitally. There are important films of which there have never been new prints since their first run 50 years ago... 70 years ago... That could be witnessed last year in Bologna as this trouble concerns even a pantheon director like John Ford. From this we can project that 50 years from now we still need film projection.

Film has been remarkably durable since it was invented by George Eastman in 1889. In 1894 Thomas A. Edison established the traditional aspect ratio and perforation practice still in use.

Digital means constant change. Nothing is permanent. Engineers realize this in a much more profound way than we film culture experts. I still haven't recovered from the devastating presentations of the shaky grounds of digital existence that the engineers made in the FIAF Oslo Joint Technical Symposium.

But I agree with Kalle Kinnunen that superior screenings can be possible with 4K and better.

P.S. 15 April 2011: I have learned this week that Taxi Driver was screened in Berlin from a 4K DCP but on a 2K projector because of a malfunction in the 4K projector.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Berlin Film Festival 2011: Berlinale Special Gala

The descriptions are from the 2011 Berlinale catalogue.

Escuchando al Juez Garzón (Listening To The Judge, Isabel Coixet, ES 2011). Documentary. "Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón is not afraid of big shots. He became a household name in 1998 when he issued an international warrant for the arrest of Chile’s former president Augusto Pinochet, accusing him of the murder of Spanish citizens. As a result, Pinochet was taken into custody in London and placed under house arrest. Later, when he was allowed to return to Chile, this courageous judge announced his intention to press charges against former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger for his involvement in political crimes in Latin America. Moreover, Garzón instituted proceedings against members of the Argentinean military dictatorship regarding the ‘disappearance’ of Spanish citizens. And, as if this wasn’t enough, in 2001 Garzón applied to the European Parliament for the annulment of Silvio Berlusconi’s immunity. In 2009 he opened proceedings concerning accusations of torture in Guantánamo and ordered an inquiry into the actions of former members of the Bush government. Outside his home country, Baltasar Garzón is a much revered, highly decorated lawyer. In Spain, however, he has been suspended from office since spring 2010, having been accused of prevarication. Isabel Coixet visited him in Madrid on 18 December last year. Their conversation lasted over six hours. When the director later showed him her ninety-minute rough cut, he had no objections to her selection of footage, and only asked shyly, “Don’t I look a bit larger than life?” Isabel Coixet’s immediate response was, “Baltasar, with everything that you’re going through, if you weren’t larger than life, I’d begin to worry!”"X

Gianni e le donne (The Salt of Life, Gianni Di Gregorio, IT 2010). "There are plenty of things that Gianni, a married man who has recently retired, needs to think about, but love certainly isn’t one of them. Gianni lives with his wife and daughter in a small apartment in Rome. He spends his days walking his dog as well his attractive neighbour’s mutt, shopping for cleaning agents and food and – under his wife’s vigilant eye – paying the bills. He is a kind of general dogsbody – even for his daughter and her unemployed friend, who seems to have moved in with them. Gianni’s ancient, aristocratic mother – a relict from a bygone age – lives with her pretty carer Cristina in a huge villa. Ensconced in her crumbling retirement home she is busy squandering her son’s savings playing poker and quaffing expensive champagne. But then one day Gianni’s old friend Alfonso tells him some astonishing things about his recent sexual escapades. Somehow Gianni seems to have ignored the fact that all his contemporaries are in the throes of reliving their youth. Even old Maurizio who always hangs out in a shell suit has found a younger woman. For this reason, Alfonso decides that it’s time that Gianni rejuvenated his love life and found himself a girlfriend. And yet, in spite of his best endeavours among all the fairer sex of his acquaintance, and a dose of Viagra, good old Gianni still seems to chug along like a rusty motor. Nonetheless, the spark plugs have indeed been ignited – one only wonders if and when the engine will begin turning over."

Late Bloomers (Julie Gavras, FR/GB/BG 2010), with Isabella Rossellini, William Hurt, Joanna Lumley, Simon Callow. "Adam and Mary have been married for over thirty years; they have spent more than half their lives together. Their children left home long ago; it seems as though Adam and Mary have enjoyed and endured all of life’s ups and downs together and are now looking forward to what should be a quieter phase in their lives. But then, gradually, certain irritations begin to creep into their lives and both are obliged to acknowledge that the years are now taking their toll. Mary complains that she is having trouble remembering things. Is she just a little confused? Or does this herald the beginnings of dementia? Adam was once a successful architect and is reluctant to let go of his status in life. As far as he is concerned, it would be best if things just stayed the way they used to be. Perhaps this is the reason why he’s overly keen to surround himself with young women. But his career and his financial situation are no longer as flourishing as Adam likes to maintain. Slowly, he and Mary begin to drift apart – until their separation seems inevitable. Their children have also noticed their parents’ problems. They would dearly like to repair their marriage but soon realise that any intervention from afar is fruitless. They have been living their own lives for too long. And so, all they can do is hope that Adam and Mary to come to their senses."

Sing Your Song (Susanne Rostock, US 2010. Documentary with Harry Belafonte. "Singer, actor, activist – over the past seventy years Harry Belafonte has had many roles. In fact, the entertainer, who was born in New York in 1927, doesn’t even see himself as a singer – at least not when he thinks of the singers that took to the stage in his day. He is an actor, he says, whenever he is asked about his main profession – the best proof of this being the number of people who believe him to be a singer. Easy-going understatement and ebullient friendliness are the salient characteristics of his art. The young Belafonte’s greatest role model was singer, actor and left-wing activist Paul Robeson, who once visited Belafonte’s dressing room to give him a piece of advice: persuade the audience to sing your song, then they will feel what you feel and share your conviction. His admiration for Robeson, who was persecuted in the USA on account of his left-wing views, but also his friendship with Martin Luther King and the ubiquitous discrimination against Afro Americans in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s to which black celebrities were also subjected, are just some of the things that made Harry Belafonte one of the most popular propagandists of the American civil rights movement. Harry Belafonte is still politically active today, and his criticism of America’s foreign and social policies still causes a stir. Susanne Rostock’s film follows the personal trajectory of this extraordinary artiste."

The King's Speech (Kuninkaan puhe, Tom Hooper, GB/AU 2010).

Toast (SJ Clarkson, GB 2010), with Oscar Kennedy, Helena Bonham Carter. "Great Britain in the sixties – as seen through the eyes of Nigel Slater who, thirty years later, was to become one of the country’s favourite cookery writers. Even as a child he seems to display a propensity for this profession. Nigel is no normal boy. He consumes cookery books as others might consume pornography. His mother may have something to do with this for she has always been a poor cook and neither her asthma nor her predilection for anything in tins will do anything to change that. No wonder then that Nigel looks longingly at anything that seems remotely appetising. His father long suspects that there is ‘something not quite right’ about his boy, and the relationship between the two is somewhat troubled. Nigel gets on much better with Josh the gardener, who reveals to him the wonders of nature as they scoff fresh radishes and pork pies. As Nigel’s mother deteriorates, so too does the relationship between Nigel and his father, who one day fires Josh for no apparent reason. Shortly before Christmas, Nigel’s mother dies, leaving two broken-hearted men behind. Soon after, Mrs Potter, the new cleaner, enters their lives. Her curvaceous form and her lemon meringue pies bewitch Nigel’s father and prompt him to take them all on a country outing – much to Nigel’s horror. Only by attending home economics classes, decides Nigel, will he have a chance to acquire the skills that will help him trump his adversary and gain his father’s attention. A job in the local pub opens up yet more prospects – both culinary and sexual. And, when his father dies, he is ready to set out for London…"

Zhao shi gu er (Sacrifice, Chen Kaige, CN 2010). "For more than four generations the members of the Zhao clan have held the highest positions in the land. Zhao Dun is currently chancellor and his son, Zhao Shuo, a general in the royal army. He is married to the king’s older sister, Zhuang Ji. Tu’an Gu, the Zhao’s arch-enemy, is not content to accept the clan’s power and influence; he incites a massacre which decimates the entire Zhao clan – over 300 members of this family fall victim to the carnage which leaves no-one alive. As her husband faces death, Zhuang Ji goes into labour and gives birth to the last Zhao. She dies in childbirth and the doctor, Cheng Ying, takes the baby into his care. This news reaches Tu’an Gu and, angered that his plan to wipe out the clan might be thwarted, he takes all the babies of the city hostage until the last descendant of the Zhao is found. The doctor Cheng Ying has also just become a father. When Tu’an Gu’s soldiers arrive to take away his son, his wife hides her own child and gives the soldiers the little Zhao, pretending that he is her child. Shortly afterwards they find the baby that Cheng Ying’s wife was hiding. Taking him to be the last member of the Zhao clan, Tu’an Gu has the boy killed. The townsfolk’s children that were being held hostage are given back to their families. The last Zhao now grows up as Cheng Ying’s son in the doctor’s house. Years go by. Cheng Ying decides to take his step-son with him to serve at Tu’an Gu’s court. Tu’an Gu becomes a patron of the last Zhao. But Cheng Ying has other plans in mind – plans in which his step-son will play a central role."

Il marchese del Grillo (not released in Finland / The Marquis of Grillo, Mario Monicelli, IT/FR 1981), with Alberto Sordi, Caroline Berg. "Onofrio, the Marquis del Grillo, is a member of the nobility close to His Holiness Pius VII. Boredom prompts him to make regular forays among the common people, accompanied by his friend Ricciotti with whom, in disguise, he frequents Rome’s taverns. During one of these secret excursions Onofrio meets a coal merchant named Gasperino, a coarse drunkard who however is the spitting image of the Marquis. Onofrio persuades Gasperino to swap roles, so that Onofrio can follow the beautiful Olympia to France. Meanwhile, the pope has condemned Onofrio to death; Gasperino, now standing in for the Marquis del Grillo, is arrested. The day of the execution arrives. Onofrio is among the crowd that has gathered to watch. Although struggling with his conscience at the thought of an innocent man going to the gallows in his stead, he is even more upset that the pope sentenced him to death in the first place – and hatches a plan … (Catalogue text from the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival, 1982) Italian director Mario Monicelli died on 29.11.2010. He had taken part in the Berlinale seven times since 1956 and received the Silver Bear three times as Best Director: in 1957 for Padri e figli, in 1976 for Caro Michele and in 1982 for Il marchese del Grillo."

Taxi Driver (Taksikuski, Martin Scorsese, US 1976) 4K digitally restored version presented by Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures.

Berlin Film Festival 2011: Competition

Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin 10-20 Feb 2011. Festival director: Dieter Kosslick.

I'm visiting Berlin just for meetings, no films, so here is a just a listing of the competition films with terms strictly Platonic except Offside. The descriptions are from the Festival catalogue. I heard that
- the Golden Bear winner Nader and Simin is really good
- The Turin Horse is solid Béla Tarr
- Les Contes de la nuit is a great 3D animation by Michel Ocelot in homage to Lotte Reiniger
- Margin Call is an interesting Wall Street drama
- most of the delights were out of competition, such as
- the Coen brothers' True Grit in the opening ceremony
- Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland, a highly regarded Turkish-German tragicomedy by newcomer Yasemin Samdereli
- Unknown, a breathtaking Berlin action thriller in the style of Polanski's Frantic and the Bourne films, starring Liam Neeson, Diane Krüger and Bruno Ganz, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
- top German directors made fascinating documentary openings into 3D: Wim Wenders celebrated Pina Bausch in the dance spectacle Pina, and Werner Herzog had access to the Chauvet Point d'Arc with the oldest paintings of the world in Cave of Forgotten Dreams

OUT OF COMPETITION: Offside (Jafar Panahi, IR 2006), the wonderful film of the Iranian master, who was invited to be a member the Berlin International Jury. His chair remained empty, as it did in Cannes last year, as in his country Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison (on probation for the moment) and to a twenty-year ban from all film work.

SILVER BEAR: A Torinói ló (The Turin Horse, Béla Tarr, HU 2011). “In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse.” These are Béla Tarr’s introductory words at the beginning of his film, which picks up the narrative immediately after these events, and is a meticulous description of the life of the driver of the hansom cab, his daughter and the horse. This Hungarian director’s new work bears all the hallmarks of his inimitable style including long takes, black-and-white photography and almost no dialogue. "

OUT OF COMPETITION: Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland (Yasemin Samdereli, DE 2011). In her first feature film Yasemin Samderelin tells a tragicomic tale of a Turkish family that came to Germany in the 1960s but now the grandfather wants them to return to Anatolia. I heard delighted comments about this.

Bizim büyük çaresizligimiz (Our Grand Despair, Seyfi Teoman, TK/DE/NL 2010). The parents of Fikret and Nihal have died in a road accident, and Fikret asks his two friends Ender and Cetin with whom he shares a flat in Ankara to let his sister Nihal join them. Both Ender and Cetin start to feel more than sympathy with Nihal.

Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes, GB 2010). Ralph Fiennes transposes William Shakespeare's tragedy, set in the beginning of the fourth century in ancient Rome, to the present. He plays the title role and other actors include Gerald Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, and Brian Cox.

El premio (The Prize, Paula Markovitch, MX/FR/PL/DE 2010). The autobiographically inspired debut film by Paula Markovitch is set in Argentina in 1976 at the beginning of the military dictatorship. The film centres on a little girl, the daughter of political dissidents.

THE GOLDEN BEAR: Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (Nader and Simin, a Separation, Asghar Farhadi, IR 2011). Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and their daughter. Nader calls off the journey to take care of his sick father. Simin files for divorce, but her action is denied. The daughter decides to stay with her father. Nader hires a young woman to help him at home. - A popular choice for the Golden Bear, the buzz was good.

Les Contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night, Michel Ocelot, FR 2011). 3D animation. "Every night, a boy, a girl and an elderly technician meet in a closed, rather dilapidated old cinema. But the old picture palace harbours a secret. If truth be known, the cinema is a magical place where the three friends enjoy rummaging about, fantasising, dressing up and playing parts in make-believe stories which, at night, become all too real for the three friends. For this is the time when sorcerers and elves take over in the auditorium, courageous stable hands long for beautiful princesses, werewolves howl and hard-hearted ladies swish their heavy silk skirts. Here, there are cities of gold and forests that are so deep that nobody ever finds their way out again. This is a magical universe pervaded by waves of harmony, where heavenly choirs compete with the dull thud of magical drums. On nights such as these, malevolence can unleash great misfortune. But, in the end, good always triumphs. Animation filmmaker Michel Ocelot has always been fascinated by the techniques of classical animation. In Les Contes de la nuit he juxtaposes silhouette animation as introduced by Berlin director Lotte Reiniger almost a century ago, with state-of-the-art 3D technology. Like Reiniger, whose 1926 film Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed became a key work of the genre, Michel Ocelot also takes his audience on a journey every bit as rich and enchanting as the stories from the ‘Arabian Nights’. Modern digital technology enables the filmmaker to create extraordinary worlds full of colour that transform the cinema into a genuinely magical place." 

OUT OF COMPETITION: Les Femmes du 6ème étage (Service Entrance, Philippe Le Guay, FR 2010). "Paris in 1960. Jean-Louis and Suzanne Joubert are no longer exactly youthful. This stockbroker (Fabrice Luchini) and his wife (Sandrine Kiberlain) live a quiet, middle-class existence in an elegant tenement building. You might even describe their lives as dull – especially since the children have been packed off to boarding school. Things are a good deal livelier on the sixth floor of their building where all the female staff live. The most recent arrivals are ‘guest workers’ from Spain: six women of different ages from Burgos. Jean-Louis finds himself increasingly drawn into their world – a world that is so different to his own. The main reason for his fascination is Concepción (Carmen Maura), a mature but still attractive Spanish woman for whom this man, who is somehow greying both outside and in, develops a quiet passion. He also develops a genuine interest in her colleagues, and this sees him popping upstairs to the sixth floor with increasing regularity in order to enjoy the refreshingly different, friendly atmosphere that prevails. But the more he learns about this different world, the more difficult it becomes for him to return to his own marital home. Naturally, Jean-Louis’ behaviour arouses his wife’s suspicion and jealousy until finally, Suzanne throws her allegedly philandering husband out of their apartment. Her husband isn’t too concerned however because it just so happens there’s a room available on the sixth floor. And it doesn’t bother Jean-Louis in the slightest that the vacant room is in fact only a larder… "

Margin Call (JC Chandor, US 2011). "This thriller set in New York’s Wall Street at the time of the international financial crisis of 2008 takes place in the offices of a major investment bank during the decisive twenty-four hours that precede their bankruptcy announcement. Having examined the books, young analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) suddenly realises that the valuations on which the company has based its business are faulty and that assets from the firm’s mortgage business do not have the same value recorded in the accounts, on the contrary – they have brought the firm to the brink of collapse. No sooner do they hear about the situation that night than the firm’s top management convene a meeting to try to save the bank. Among those at the meeting is Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), an experienced stockbroker, his boss Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) and risk analyst Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore). The company head, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), is also flown in to the meeting by helicopter and it is he who ultimately comes up with a plan to bail them out: as soon as the stock exchange opens in the morning they are to offload all ‘toxic’ debts – a move that will have drastic consequences, not just for Wall Street … JC Chandor: “The American independent investment bank as we knew it died. Margin Call is my attempt to share the experiences of a small group of characters that were sitting at the heart of this crisis without even realising it. The machinery they were a part of had grown so large and complex that no one could comprehend its destructive power until it was too late.”"

OUT OF COMPETITION: Mein bester Feind (My Best Enemy, Wolfgang Murnberger, AT/LU 2010). Vienna in the 1930s. "Victor Kaufmann (Moritz Bleibtreu), the son of a wealthy cosmopolitan Jewish couple, works in his father’s art gallery. His best friend whom he has known since childhood and from whom he is inseparable, is Rudi Smekal (Georg Friedrich). Victor’s girlfriend, the attractive and vibrant Lena (Ursula Strauss), is also a friend of Rudi’s. In a moment of exuberance Victor shows his friend a well-kept family secret: a drawing by Michelangelo that was believed lost. It comes as a terrible shock to Victor to learn that Rudi has long been a member of the Nazi party and is hoping that Austria’s annexation to Germany will improve his career chances with the Nazis. Having missed the right moment to flee Austria, the Kaufmanns are now stuck in Vienna. They transfer their estate to Lena in an attempt to protect it from being confiscated. Having bragged about the Michelangelo drawing, Rudi receives an order from Berlin to seize the art work. In order to save his old friends, Rudi suggests a deal: the drawing in exchange for the Kaufmanns’ freedom. But he has overestimated his influence. No sooner does the drawing fall into the hands of the Nazis than the Kaufmann family is sent to a concentration camp. Rudi gets engaged to Lena. Years later, with Germany’s successful belligerence on the wane, it is decided that the Michelangelo drawing will be presented to the Duce as a gift from the Führer in order to seal their alliance with Italy. But the drawing turns out to be a fake and now the real Michelangelo must be found. Rudi is given an order to retrieve Victor from the concentration camp and bring him to Berlin to be interrogated. Their plane is shot down, killing the crew – the two friends are the only survivors … " Udo Samel and Marther Keller as Jakob and Hannah Kaufmann.

Odem (Lipstikka, Jonathan Sagall, IL/GB 2010). "Lara is Palestinian. She left Ramallah thirteen years ago to begin a new life in London where she married Michael and had a child. She, her husband and her seven-year-old son James lead a pleasant, albeit somewhat dispassionate life in one of the city’s better districts. But there’s nothing that a good slug of vodka won’t help her to cope with. But then, one day, Inam turns up at Lara’s front door. She is a childhood friend from Ramallah. No sooner does Inam surge into the apartment, ask Lara about her husband (currently out at work) and shower attention on Lara’s little boy than it becomes apparent that there is a certain tension between the two women. It’s not long before Lara realises that everything she has created for herself is endangered by Inam’s brusque intrusion. The two women share a secret. Back then, on the West Bank, the girlfriends shared a closeness borne out of their adolescent sexual experiences. One evening in 1994 during the Intifada, they ignored the curfew and headed out to the Jewish part of Jerusalem to see a film at a cinema. Two young Israeli soldiers who noticed them mistook them for Italian tourists. After the film they went out for a drink together. But something that began as a youthful prank took an unexpected turn. What really happened depends on the way each individual perceives those events. Your memory can play tricks on you. Especially when it concerns your deepest fears … "

OUT OF COMPETITION: Pina (Wim Wenders, DE/FR 2010). 3D dance documentary. "Pina is a film for Pina Bausch. Shot in 3D with the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, this feature-length dance film portrays the exhilarating and inimitable art of this great German choreographer who died in the summer of 2009. Inviting the viewer on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension right onto the stage of the legendary ensemble, the film also accompanies the dancers beyond the theatre, into the city and the surrounding industrial landscape of Wuppertal – the place that was the home and centre of Pina Bausch’s creative life for more than 35 years. Wim Wenders first saw a piece by choreographer Pina Bausch – ‘Café Müller’ – in 1985, and was immediately bowled over. Their first meeting soon evolved into a long-standing friendship that was to lead eventually to an idea for a joint film project. However, their project’s implementation was long thwarted by the limitations of the medium of film. Wenders sensed that he had yet to find a suitable form in which convey Pina Bausch’s unique art combining movement, gestures, speech and music. But then, in 2007, Wenders saw the concert film U2-3D, a digital production in 3D about the Irish rock band U2 and, all at once, it became crystal clear to him that “3D was the way to do it! Only by including the dimension of space did I feel confident (rather than merely presumptuous) that here was a suitable way of transporting Pina’s Tanztheater to the screen.” Wenders began to familiarise himself thoroughly with the latest developments in 3D cinema and, in 2008, he and Pina Bausch began to think about realising their dream. They decided to include the following pieces from her repertoire: ‘Café Müller’, ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’, ‘Vollmond’ and ‘Kontakthof’."

Saranghanda, saranghaji anneunda (Come Rain, Come Shine, Lee Yoon-ki, KR 2011). "She is going on a business trip to Tokyo. In the car on the way to the airport she tells him that she is leaving him. He seems to accept this. No questions, no confrontation. Some time later. A severe storm sweeps through the city. The couple are spending their last day together at the house where they have spent the last three years. Small things remind them of shared memories and the life they once led. But neither of them tries to turn back the clock and both appear to be reconciled to the situation. When the rain gets heavier, they discover a cat on the roof of their storehouse and bring it in. Frightened, it escapes and hides. Shortly afterwards the doorbell rings. It is the couple next door, looking for their cat. These unexpected guests bring awkwardness into the house but, at the same time, they somehow also rekindle some of the old feelings that have been dormant for so long. The phone rings. It’s the other guy, the one she’s leaving him for. She hesitates and tells him she’s going to spend one more night at the house; it’s because the bridge to the city is blocked due to the storm. Has she changed her mind? The neighbours go home at last. The cat still hasn’t surfaced. They start preparing their last supper together. Peeling the onions makes him cry. He goes to the bathroom to wash his face, but he can’t stop crying. Is it really because of the onions? They have almost finished cooking when the tremulous cat appears. She soothes the cat, or maybe herself: “Everything’s going to be alright.” "

SILVER BEAR: Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness, Ulrich Köhler, DE/FR/NL 2011). "Ebbo and Vera Velten have spent the better part of the past twenty years living in different African countries. Ebbo (Pierre Bokma) is the manager of a sleeping sickness programme. His work is fulfilling. Vera (Jenny Schily), however, feels increasingly lost in Yaounde’s ex-pat community. She can’t bear the separation from her 14-year-old daughter, Helen, who is attending boarding school in Germany. Ebbo must give up his life in Africa or he risks losing the woman he loves. But his fear of returning to a land now remote to him increases with each passing day. Years later. Alex Nzila, a young French doctor of Congolese origin, travels to Cameroon to evaluate a development project. It’s been a long time since he set foot on this continent, but, instead of finding new prospects, he encounters a destructive, lost man. Like a phantom, Ebbo slips away from his evaluator."

SILVER BEAR: The Forgiveness of Blood (Joshua Marston, US/AL/DK/IT 2010). "Nik is seventeen and is in his last year at high school in northern Albania. Something of a go-getter, Nik has decided that, as soon as he has his school graduation in his hands, he wants to open an internet café. He has also recently started having feelings for girls – and has fallen in love with a girl in his class at school. Nik’s sister Rudina is fifteen; she too has a clear idea of what she wants from life and dreams of attending university. But then their family becomes embroiled in a fight over ownership of some land and their father is accused of murder. All at once, Nik and Rudina find themselves drawn into a terrible vendetta. According to dictates of the Kanun, Albania’s centuries-old traditional laws, none of the family’s male members – not even their young seven-year-old brother – may leave the house. As long as their father is hiding in the mountains and Nik is prevented from showing his face in public, the family has to rely on Rudina, who is now obliged to leave school and take over her father’s affairs. The young girl clearly begins to flourish as a result of her new responsibility; her brother however feels nothing but anger and frustration as a result of his isolation. Somehow Nik has to put an end to this blood feud – even if it costs him his life."

The Future (Miranda July, DE/US 2011). "Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are something of an odd couple. Both thirtyish, they live together in a one-room apartment; both hate their professions, and their relationship seems to have run up against a brick wall. They spend most of their time online, which doesn’t do much to help their relationship. A joint project and an increased sense of responsibility might be useful in such a situation. And so Sophie and Jason decide to adopt an injured cat that needs to be nursed back to health. Paw Paw will need twenty-four-hour attention – a fact that the pair finds increasingly unsettling as the day draws closer when they will pick up Paw Paw. But before that day arrives, Sophie and Jason decide to do something they’ve wanted to do for a long time, namely, ditch their jobs. Jason decides instead to turn his attentions to the environment. He starts fundraising for a conservation project that is promoting the sponsorship of trees, and Sophie starts choreographing an idea that has long been of interest to her. Time flies by, but Sophie is obliged to admit that she has barely made any progress on her dance. One day when she is feeling particularly disappointed, she decides to pay a visit to the cat that they will soon take home. Here she meets Marshall, a 55-year-old man, with whom she begins an affair. Marshall lives in a satellite town where Sophie doesn’t have to be herself. While Sophie’s life begins to swing back and forth between two diametrically opposed realities, Jason’s life seems to get stuck in a groove. Meanwhile, back at the animal shelter, Paw Paw the cat is still waiting."

OPENING CEREMONY: True Grit (Kova kuin kivi, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, US 2010). "Arkansas in 1872. Indian country. This is where Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) has sought refuge. He’s on the run from fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), the daughter of the farmer he has just shot dead. She is determined to bring her father’s murderer before a court of law – and her determination is unshakable. She turns to Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) – a man whose fame precedes him – for help. And no wonder, the man has brought down no fewer than twenty-three men in just four years of service but, so Cogburn, ‘none that didn’t deserve it.’ An obstinate, boozy and one-eyed individual with wild hair, an eye-patch and worn-out clothes, Cogburn doesn’t exactly give the appearance of being particularly reliable. But Mattie is looking for something special. She’s looking for ‘true grit’ – the determination to see something through to the bitter end. Reluctantly, Cogburn allows Mattie to convince him to take her along on the hunt for Chaney across the lawless expanse of the prairie. But they are not alone – Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also after the fugitive because there’s a price on his head. Before long, Mattie comes dangerously close to her father’s murderer…Based on the titular novel by southern writer Charles Portis, True Grit was first adapted in 1969 by Henry Hathaway with John Wayne as Cogburn. It has taken the Coen brothers, however, to recreate on screen the unique tone of the novel which is told through Mattie’s eyes. Speaking in 1996 of this narrative voice, US writer George Pelecanos wrote: “Mattie’s voice, wry and sure, is one of the great creations of modern fiction. I put it up there with Huck Finn's and that is not hyperbole.”"

Un mundo misterioso (A Mysterious World, Rodrigo Moreno, AR/DE/UY 2011). "Ana tells Boris, “I need time.” Boris is confused. Time? A period of separation? What does Ana mean? Does ‘time’ mean a week, a month, a year, or ten years? All at once, Boris is alone. Things are pretty tough for Boris whose problems begin the moment he tries to organise his everyday life. Boris knows that planning, organisation and appointments are as important as taking one’s relationship seriously – but how on earth is he to manage all that? Boris decides to buy his first car. His baby blue second-hand Romanian-built car is a dead ringer for a Renault 6. In fact, rather like the car’s owner, it’s somewhat conspicuous at first glance, but perfectly normal underneath. After a while and on closer inspection however, characteristics begin to emerge that nobody would have suspected; traits that could make it difficult to envisage a harmonious life together. Boris starts meeting people. A classmate introduces him to a circle of friends that end up confusing him. But then, Boris is invited to Uruguay to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Montevideo. He climbs into his blue Tokha and sets off, but when he arrives in Montevideo there’s nobody at home, and when he calls all he gets is an answering machine message. Rodrigo Moreno’s Un mundo misterioso tells the story of a likeable oddball moving through a paralysed society threatened by economic ruin."

OUT OF COMPETITION: Unknown (Jaume Collet-Serra, DE/GB/FR 2011). "Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has come to rain-soaked Berlin for a biotechnology conference. But no sooner does he step into a taxi than he is involved in a bad accident. The taxi driver, Gina (Diane Krüger), succeeds in saving the unconscious Harris from drowning but because she lives illegally in Germany, she runs off before the police arrive. When Dr Harris wakes up from his coma he finds himself all bandaged up in a hospital bed. ‘Identity unknown’ says the sign at the foot of his bed. For Harris this marks the beginning of a nightmare: his wife Liz (January Jones) no longer recognises him and another man has taken his place – claiming to be not just her husband but also the renowned scientist who is to hold an important lecture at the conference. As if that weren’t bad enough, Harris is also being pursued by a hit man. He even begins to doubt his own sanity. What on earth has happened to him? In order to try to get back his old life, he sets off in search of Gina; through her he meets former Stasi agent Jürgen (Bruno Ganz) who has come across the surprising information that Dr Harris ‘is not the person he believes himself to be’. But, before he can discuss this with Martin, he is murdered. Once again, Harris and Gina find themselves completely alone in their bid to save his identity – moreover, they are up against some powerful adversaries."

V subbotu (В субботу / Innocent Saturday, Alexander Mindadze, RU/DE/UA 2011). "Saturday, 26 April 1986. A reactor tower at Chernobyl power station has exploded. The party heads play things down but Valery Kabysh (Anton Shagin), sometime drummer and now a faithful young party official has seen the panic written on the faces of those in charge and senses that every second counts. This is the true story of his failed escape. He tries to leave the city together with Vera (Svetlana Smirnova-Matsinkievich), the woman he loves, and his musician friends. But his life holds him back. It’s Saturday. People are out walking, shopping, celebrating weddings; children are playing outside. Caught up in this carefree hustle and bustle, every attempt he makes to leave is unsuccessful. All the while, the disaster is an invisible but ever-present figure in this story. It is as if the people are handcuffed and have lost the key. A lost passport, a broken heel, a missed train. A wedding where the musicians must play on to the end. Vera is singing in the band that at one time used to be Valery’s. And Valery is filling in for the usual drummer who is too drunk to play. What? A life-threatening catastrophe? Deadly radiation? Even when Valery’s colleagues in the band are told what’s going on they continue to party. Another vodka! Another bottle of wine! All that counts is to carry on and be happy, even if it’s only for a moment. It is Saturday, the sun is shining and the grass is green – still. But this Saturday is far from innocent and the people are mercilessly left to their fate."

THE ALFRED BAUER PRIZE: Wer wenn nicht wir (If Not Us, Who, Andres Veiel, DE 2011). "West Germany in the early 1960s. The country is quiet – for the time being. Bernward Vesper (August Diehl) takes up his studies in Tübingen where he is attending Walter Jens’ seminar on rhetoric. Bernward wants to be a writer and spends his nights bashing the keys of a typewriter. At the same time he is keen to defend his father, the poet Will Vesper who was celebrated by the Nazis as a proponent of their ‘Blood and Soil’ ideology. The land where Bernward lives is being suffocated by its past. The war has only been over for fifteen years, old Nazis are back in positions of power, and nobody is prepared to talk about war crimes; the Republic is standing to attention. One day Bernward meets Gudrun Ensslin (Lena Lauzemis) and her friend Dörte. Before long, the three friends are living together in a ménage à trois. But their three-way relationship doesn’t last long. It soon transpires that Gudrun and Bernward are twin souls. This marks the beginning of an extreme relationship that is unquestioning and excessive, a love story that goes beyond the threshold of pain. Setting out together to conquer the world, the pair arrives in West Berlin in 1964 where they become part of the left-wing bo-ho set. When the Social Democratic Party agrees to form a grand coalition with the Christian Demo­c­ratic Union, Bernward and Gudrun are not the only ones who decide to join the Extraparliamentary Op­position movement. Gudrun and Bernward become part of a social and political upheaval that soon takes hold around the globe: liberation movements, student protests and the Black Panther movement in the USA; drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The course of history is inexorable but, at the time, for a moment, it looks as if it might be possible to change its path. If not us, who? And when, if not now? And then another man, Andreas Baader (Alexander Fehling), appears on the scene. Here is someone who is more unswerving, more radical and resolved than Bernward. Before long, Andreas, Gudrun and Bernward find themselves caught up i(... the official file is cut here)."

Yelling to the Sky (Victoria Mahoney, US 2010). "Life is anything but sweet for 17-year-old Sweetness O’Hara (Zoë Kravitz). Her family life lacks warmth and, at school and on the street, she finds herself the target of naked aggression. One day when she is out riding her bike in her neighbourhood, some kids block her path, demanding that she hands over her bike. Sweetness resists, but is beaten to the ground by the gang and their leader – Latonya – a notorious bruiser. Luckily, Sweetness’ older sister Ola appears on the scene and saves her from her predicament. But Sweetness won’t be able to rely on Ola for much longer; at home shortly afterwards Sweetness’ white father, Gordon, an aggressive drinker, and her black mother, Lorene, have a fight. When her father gets violent, her mother leaves home and Ola decides to join her. From now on Sweetness must look after herself. She does so – with astonishing determination. With the help of local celebrity Roland she manages to earn herself a bit of street credibility and, before long, two of her erstwhile rivals, Fatima and Jojo, become her allies. With their support, she dares to attempt a head-on collision with Latonya – and succeeds in beating her rival to a pulp in front of the other pupils. All at once, the pecking order is turned upside down. Sweetness becomes an increasingly loudmouthed bully. Only when her mother and sister come back into the family fold, does Sweetness come to the realisation that she is now the author of the kind of aggression which used to make her own life a misery… "

SPECIAL SCREENING: Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, US/FR 2010). A documentary film in 3D. "The Chauvet Pont d’Arc cave in southern France contains what are currently believed to be the oldest cave paintings and drawings in the world. The cave, which is situated in the Ardèche valley, was not discovered until 1994. Numbering over 400 murals, these paintings are believed to be over 30,000 years old. The cave is not open to members of the public because their breath would change the humidity in the cave and be extremely detrimental to the depictions of animals and symbols on the walls. Even scientists are only allowed to enter the Chauvet cave at certain strictly regimented times. The cave consists of several corridors and caverns. The paintings on the walls are not all flat, rather, the painters would incorporate the walls’ bulges into their work, creating reliefs to which colour was added. There had long been a plan to give a single filmmaker access to the cave and, for the symbolic fee of one Euro, to allow them to capture the paintings on film for the benefit of the general public. Werner Herzog was the man that was chosen for the job and he does not disappoint: using only a minimum of light and a custom-built hand-held camera he succeeds not only in filming but in bringing the images to life. His choice of 3D format also literally conveys the cave’s spatial dimensions. Moreover, the director makes use of the contours of these ‘moving’ rock paintings as the starting point for a philosophical meditation on the origins of the art of film as well as questions of human existence to which this encounter has inspired him."

Berlin Film Festival 2001: Opening Letter from Jafar Panahi

Read in the Opening Ceremony, 10 Feb 2011:

The world of a filmmaker is marked by the interplay between reality and dreams. The filmmaker uses reality as his inspiration, paints it with the color of his imagination, and creates a film that is a projection of his hopes and dreams.

The reality is I have been kept from making films for the past five years and am now officially sentenced to be deprived of this right for another twenty years. But I know I will keep on turning my dreams into films in my imagination. I admit as a socially conscious filmmaker that I won’t be able to portray the daily problems and concerns of my people, but I won’t deny myself dreaming that after twenty years all the problems will be gone and I’ll be making films about the peace and prosperity in my country when I get a chance to do so again.

The reality is they have deprived me of thinking and writing for twenty years, but they can not keep me from dreaming that in twenty years inquisition and intimidation will be replaced by freedom and free thinking.

They have deprived me of seeing the world for twenty years. I hope that when I am free, I will be able to travel in a world without any geographic, ethnic, and ideological barriers, where people live together freely and peacefully regardless of their beliefs and convictions.

They have condemned me to twenty years of silence. Yet in my dreams, I scream for a time when we can tolerate each other, respect each other’s opinions, and live for each other.

Ultimately, the reality of my verdict is that I must spend six years in jail. I’ll live for the next six years hoping that my dreams will become reality. I wish my fellow filmmakers in every corner of the world would create such great films that by the time I leave the prison I will be inspired to continue to live in the world they have dreamed of in their films.

So from now on, and for the next twenty years, I’m forced to be silent. I’m forced not to be able to see, I’m forced not to be able to think, I’m forced not to be able to make films.

I submit to the reality of the captivity and the captors. I will look for the manifestation of my dreams in your films, hoping to find in them what I have been deprived of.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Are all films really available?

Dave Kehr: "My old friend Roger Ebert recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “This instant, sitting right here, I can choose to watch virtually any film you can think of via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MUBI, the Asia/Pacific Film Archive, Google Video or Vimeo” — something I can only wish were true. The sad fact is that only a tiny fraction of classical Hollywood is available for viewing, and the situation is far worse for independent, avant-garde and foreign films. We aren’t talking “lost” films here, but movies for which workable prints and even camera negatives exist in the archives".

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Jussi Awards for 2010

* Napapiirin sankarit - tuottaja Aleksi Bardy
Rare Exports - tuottaja Petri Jokiranta
Taulukauppiaat - tuottajat Auli Mantila ja Jussi Rantamäki

Kohtaamisia - Saara Cantell
* Napapiirin sankarit - Dome Karukoski
Taulukauppiaat - Juho Kuosmanen

Harjunpää ja pahan pappi - Peter Franzén
Napapiirin sankarit - Jussi Vatanen
* Paha perhe - Ville Virtanen

Kohtaamisia - Anneli Sauli
* Prinsessa - Katja Küttner
Taulukauppiaat - Auli Mantila

* Kohtaamisia - Sampo Sarkola
Napapiirin sankarit - Kari Ketonen
Vähän kunnioitusta - Asko Vaarala

Kohtaamisia - Meri Nenonen
Kohtaamisia - Johanna af Schultén
* Sisko tahtoisin jäädä - Sara Melleri

* Napapiirin sankarit - Pekko Pesonen
Sisko tahtoisin jäädä - Marja Pyykkö ja Laura Suhonen
Taulukauppiaat - JP Passi

Kohtaamisia - Marita Hällfors
Paha perhe - Tuomo Hutri
* Rare Exports - Mika Orasmaa

Kohtaamisia - Sid Hille
* Rare Exports - Juri Seppä ja Miska Seppä
Täällä Pohjantähden alla II - Jaakko Kuusisto

Ito - kilvoittelijan päiväkirja - Joonas Jyrälä, Miia Nevalainen ja Panu Riikonen
* Rare Exports - Tuomas Seppänen, Timo Anttila ja Jussi Honka
Sisko tahtoisin jäädä - Panu Riikonen

* Rare Exports - Kimmo Taavila
Reindeerspotting - Sadri Cetinkaya
Sisko tahtoisin jäädä - Mikko Sippola

Paha perhe - Markku Pätilä
* Rare Exports - Jalmari Helander
Taulukauppiaat - Juho Kuosmanen ja JP Passi

Napapiirin sankarit - Anna Vilppunen
* Rare Exports - Saija Siekkinen
Sisko tahtoisin jäädä - Tiina Kaukanen

Ito - kilvoittelijan päiväkirja - Pirjo Honkasalo
* Miesten vuoro - Joonas Berghäll ja Mika Hotakainen
Reindeerspotting - Joonas Neuvonen

Matti Kassila, director, screenwriter, since 1946

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Tuntematon emäntä / [The Unknown Farm Mistress]

Den okända bondkvinnan. FI 2011. PC: Kinosto Oy. P: Taru Mäkelä, Jouko Seppälä. D+SC: Elina Kivihalme. DP: Jouko Seppälä - shot on HDV with a Sony EZ-1 camera, archival footage in SD quality - 35 mm prints struck from the DCP in Denmark. Post Control: Marko Terävä, Sami Haartemo, Juho Räsänen. M: Miro Mantere, Anne Seppänen. S: Anne Tolkkinen. ED: Tuuli Kuittinen. Readers of letters: Pirkko Hämäläinen, Seppo Pääkkönen. Featuring: Alli Toivari, Pentti Ojaniemi, Onerva Hintikka, Anna-Liisa Salmioja, Eeva Jalo, Leena Posti-Ahokas, Anna-Kaarina Jaakkola, Märtha Kevin, Sirkka Nukari, Sirkka Lauerma, Sointu Talvitie. 79 min. Distributed by Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus, in Finnish, with one of the interviewees in Swedish, with Swedish / Finnish subtitles by Sophia Beckman-de la Riva / Anitra Paukkula. A 35 mm print viewed at Kinopalatsi 6, Helsinki, 5 Feb 2011 (premiere weekend).

A big unknown area of the WWII experience in Finland in 1939-1944 finally discussed in a film directed by Elina Kivihalme, stemming from the experiences of her own family. Finland was an agrarian country, and while the men were on the front, women did double duty on the farms and elsewhere for five years. Without them, survival would have been impossible. The war veterans are acknowledged every year, the home front women hardly ever. There is a warm feeling of empathy in the 11 interviews which form the foundation of this picture. There is vintage newsreel footage, too, and 8 mm home movies. Letters of wartime correspondence are read by the actors Pirkko Hämäläinen and Seppo Pääkkönen. The film covers a lot of territory, from Karelia to Porkkala and to Lapland. When the men finally returned home, the final jolt was sometimes that they were profoundly changed, psychically wounded, in a time when neurological problems were little known. It was considered improper to get a divorce when the man returning from the war was psychologically changed. Women were supposed to stay silent about the war, there was a culture of silence, and never any acknowledgement. The film is beautifully shot in natural light, with an understanding of the expressive beauty of the human face, and the archival footage has been treated with respect, including scanning in the correct aspect ratio.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Leikkipuisto / Playground

[Lekplatsen]. FI 2010. PC: For Real Productions Ltd. P: Cilla Werning. D: Susanna Helke. SC: Susanna Helke, Jan Ijäs. DP: Heikki Färm. M: Sanna Salmenkallio. ED: Susanna Helke, Jerem Tonteri. S: Vesa Meriläinen, Pelle Venetjoki. 30 min. Introduced by Susanna Helke. A digibeta from For Real Productions viewed at Cinema Orion (Nordic Cinema), Helsinki, 4 Feb 2011

A gang of twentysomething guys who have known each other since childhood meet in the evening on an empty playground in the Helsinki suburb of Malmi next to the railway. A story of "global diaspora": they are all from refugee families: from Kosovo and Somalia, boat people from Vietnam and Cambodia, "the united colours of Malmi". They represent the three, four great world religions. The range of their topics is from eating pig to cosmic matters. They speak Finnish. Susanne Helke has won their confidence. The implications are amazing.

Susanna Helke: Nordic Documentary Film (a lecture)

A lecture in the series Nordic Cinema organized by the Film Society of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 4 Feb 2011.

Susanna Helke is Professor of Documentary Film at the Department of Motion Picture, Television and Production Design at the Aalto University.

A central topic was the Swede Stefan Jarl's Mods trilogy, Dom kallar oss mods [They Call Us Mods, SE 1968], Ett anständigt liv [A Decent Life, SE 1979], and Det sociala arvet [The Social Heritage, SE 1993], the remarkable follow-up project which continues until a next generation. The answers to the question of marginalization are partly surprising: many have survived, and the next generation may overcome the social inheritance. The perishing may take the undramatic form of bloating.

Documentaries on the Third World became big in the Nordic countries since the 1960s. A special focus was on the Danish writer and filmmaker Jørgen Leth, particularly his film Det perfekte menneske (The Perfect Human, DK 1967) and its follow-ups. These films are about the Western guilt about the underdeveloped world, the "burden" of welfare. Jørgen Leth breaks the boundaries of the documentary with his provocations.

The autobiographical documentary, dealing with the crisis of the ego, has become a staple of Nordic film-making since the 1990s. A young director studies his own family, uses the film as self-therapy. The political has become truly personal. In Finland, a special pioneering film was Antti Peippo's Sijainen [The Substitute, FI 1990], a vivisection of the director's own family, yet transcending the horizont of the ego.

In Sweden, Linda Vestvik directed Pappa och jag ([Dad and Me], SE 1997), where the nice parents comply to a video interrogation of their daughter, who even forces her dad to a DNA test to confirm that he really is her dad. Unwittingly, the film becomes a documentary of the loss of empathy of the film-maker. She even makes her parents beg for mercy in front of the camera.

In Finland, Anu Kuivalainen directed Orpojen joulu ([The Christmas of the Orphans], FI 1994) in search of her father. Visa Koiso-Kanttila has directed a trilogy, Isältä pojalle ([From Father to Son], FI 2004), Talvinen matka ([Winter Journey], FI 2007), and Miehen kuva ([The Image of a Man], FI 2010). In itself, Nordic fatherhood, here profoundly problematized, is a product of the Nordic welfare state.

There are also documentaries about normality and triviality, in the tradition of the photographers Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, and William Eggleston. Christian Sønderby Jensen’s debut film Side om side ([Side by Side], DK 2010) is about two ordinary neighbour families who have not talked with one other in 15 years, due to a trivial misunderstanding.

The Nordic welfare state has been based on a contract of consensus. With multiculturalism the whole spectrum of global cultures and religions has been entering the Nordic countries, especially during the last two decades. The foundation of the social contract is being broken. There is no longer a "we".

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Kainuu 39.

Kainuu 1939 - händelser i en avlägsen del av Finland. FI/SE 1979. PC: Sveriges Radio TV-1 SR 1, Jörn Donner Productions Oy. P: Jörn Donner. D+SC: Pirjo Honkasalo, Pekka Lehto. DP: Pertti Mutanen - colour - 16 mm. AD: Jaakko Talaskivi. Cost: Pirjo Honkasalo. M: Heikki Valpola. ED: Pirjo Honkasalo. S: Pekka Lehto. Drawings and maps: Måns Hedström. Cast: Markku Suutari (Vihtori Juhonpoika Suutari), Mauri Matero (Janne Rissanen), Antti Moilanen (Aarne Johannes Kemppainen), Eija Kemppinen (Annu Suutari), Reijo Seppänen (Mikko Korhonen, "Korhos-Mikko", kauppias), Eija Heikkinen (Johanna Juhontytär Suutari). 82 min. A vintage 16 mm print (original format) without subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion (A Tribute to Pirjo Honkasalo), Helsinki, 2 Feb 2011

A remarkable historical film by Honkasalo-Lehto that seen now seems to connect with the current cycle of historical films involving Jörn Donner, especially The Border 1918. There is a fundamental Tolstoyan philosophy of history about the alleged world leaders making decisions while the actual course of events may be profoundly disparate. The approach in Kainuu 39. is Brechtian, mixing documentary, animation, and live enactment. The actors are amateurs, but there is a vital sense of authenticity, as they are a younger generation of the same village performing the lives of their parents' and grandparents' generations. There is a distanciation effect but at the same time a unique sense of reality. The story is a tragedy: at the start of the Winter War on 30 November 1939 the people in the border village in Suomussalmi were neglected to become evacuated. They had to endure three or more months of Soviet rule, and when they were allowed to return, several were executed and punished with prison terms in Finland. A film that helps understand the complexity of history. A film where a wonderful sense of humour prevails in the face of tragedy. A witty film, with a sense of irony, always on the side of the persecuted. The cinematography by Pertti Mutanen seems fine, but the colour in the vintage print is fading. The music by Heikki Valpola is wonderful, and also the sound montage is exciting.