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EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS 2017
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Invasion (2017)
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Emma Thompson demands
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Actress Emma Thompson has accused Boris Johnson of doing “sweet FA” for the British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran..
Kedi (2017) • Movie review
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'Young Torless' • Cruelty of Man Is Explored
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The Killing of a Sacred Deer
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Until the Birds Return (2017)
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The Divine Order (2017)
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WINDOW HORSES • A Canadian film about Iranian Poetry
A young Canadian poet with Chinese and Persian parents travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival. Ann Marie Fleming’s..
A Look at “My Brother Khosro”
An intelligent movie dealing with a pain, a pain that without any pessimistic approach is part of a pain of a family, one of whose members has a mental problem..
ON THE BEACH 2017
'This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.' These lines from T.S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute's novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears..
Al Berto: A Biopic about the life of Portuguese poet
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Houman Seyyedi talks to CWB
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The Polish event’s Grand Prix went to the Chinese feature To Kill a Watermelon. Danish film The Charmer by Milad Alami won Competition 1-2 prize..
LOVING VINCENT (2016)
The final mysterious days in the life of Vincent van Gogh are the subject of investigation in this formally daring work, seven years in the making, that marries live action performance to..
Never Let Me Go
With Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek has delivered a graceful adaptation that captures the spirit of the Ishiguro novel -- which will be precisely the problem for some viewers..
Interview • Milad Alami
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Wild (2014)
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An Iranian film director
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How does censorship work in Iran? The FRANCE 24 Observers team is publishing a two-part interview about censorship and Iranian cinema..
Mountain | Monte (2016)
Now, at 70 years old, Amir Naderi is a true international filmmaker. After "Mountain" (made in Italy) he is now ready to come home to US and start all over again. "It is just the beginning,"..
10th Annual Iranian Film Festival - San Francisco
Welcome to the 10th Annual Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco. This year, the festival presents 40 films from Iran, USA, Italy, France, Canada..
Shirin Neshat • Interview
VENICE 2017

Iranian artist Shirin Neshat remembers an iconic figure from Arab music on the big screen in Looking for Oum Kulthum, a film in competition in the Giornate degli Autori
VENICE 2017 • Interview
Emre Yeksan's The Gulf

“We live in a period of slow decay, and the smell won’t go away any time soon.” Emre Yeksan’s feature debut, The Gulf, has been premiered in the International..
Video Essay Explores
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‘MOTHER! • VENICE 2017
7 Things to Know About

Darren Aronofsky's 'Mother' centers on a couple whose relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence...
Shirin Neshat • VENICE
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“story of an Iranian woman filmmaker, living in exile, who dares to make a film about an iconic Arab singer without being Arabic herself,” Neshat said in her first..
VENICE 2017 • Orizzonti
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Iranian filmmaker Alireza Khatami is presenting his debut feature Oblivion Verses in Orizzonti at Venice, where Cineuropa spoke to him about fantasy..
VENICE 2017 Competition
'Human Flow'

Artist Ai WeiWei is in the Venice competition with this documentary shot in 2015 and 2016, uncovering the growing crisis of displaced people across the..
Asghar Farhadi begins filming 'Everybody Knows'
The two-time Oscar winner is shooting this European co-production in Spain, with a Spanish-speaking cast headlined by Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz..
The Song Of Scorpions
Anup Singh’s ambitious third feature stars Golshifteh Farahani and Irrfan Khan, following an independent woman as she struggles against hardship and treachery to remain true to her own instincts..
Tokyo Sonata :: Movie Review
An adventurous work both disturbing and ultimately moving. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's first domestic drama is music to general audience's ears..
The Homesman (2014)
A genuine art film
"The Homesman," despite the title, is about women. Women are the center of the action, women drive the action forward, women are not only damsels in..
MONSIEUR IBRAHIM :: Movie Review
Tender but never sappy, Monsieur Ibrahim brings two people of vastly different age and background together in ways that are touching, and telling..
The Innocents (2016)
'The Innocents’ is a profound meditation on a forgotten moment in history. Lou de Laage shines in Anne Fontaine's provocative historical drama. When Anne Fontaine’s “The Innocents” made its..
VENICE 2017 :: Venice Days
Samira Makhmalbaf named as jury president for Venice Days 2017. The Iranian actress and director will chair the jury made up of 28 young viewers from..
NETWORK (1976)
It's never been more timely
Criticised by some at the time for a certain naivety and lack of subtlety, this remains one of the most devastating condemnations of the media's urge to..
Woody Allen & his New Orleans Jazz Band at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival
The iconic filmmaker and clarinet player Woody Allen joins the international headliners at the Copenhagen Jazz Fest
Death And The Maiden
A thought-provoking piece
"Death and the Maiden" is said to be based on events in Chile, but it could take place in any of the many countries where rule is by force and intimidation..
'Insyriated'(2017)
Gripping from start to finish

This nerve-wracking study of life in Damascus won an Audience Award at Berlinale. Hiam Abbass holds together a household under siege in..
Ali & Nino (2016)
A fascinating story of two young people in love who found themselves between East and West cultures during World War I and Civil War when young democratic Azerbaijan Republic got squashed by..
Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Venezia's Hidden Treasure

Based on the true story of Veronica Franco, a well-born Venetian beauty who deliberately chose the life of a courtesan because it seemed a better choice than..
The Polygon People
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A First look at the ‘most nuked place on Earth’ where Soviet Union detonated 456 bombs over the course of 40 years. A look at the way locals’ lives were..
‘When God Sleeps’ (2017)
winner of the Golden Heynal

The best music documentary film and hence the winner of the Golden Heynal award at the 57th Krakow Film Festival, by the decision of the Jury under the..
Cannes 2017 • Awards
And the winners are...
Ruben Östlund’s The Square wins the Palme d’Or. Pedro Almodóvar’s jury divided its prizes across a generally deserving spread of films..
Retrospective • Dustin Hoffman • The Graduate
Dustin Hoffman turns 80 later this year, the Irish Film Institute (IFI) takes the opportunity to celebrate the work of Dustin Hoffman, on the occasion of..
Mohammad Rasoulof's
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A Master's Final Frames
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Movingly presented at the largest cinema in Cannes, the Iranian auteur Abbas kiarostami's final film may be the most experimental ever shown at the..
Iranian filmmaker wins major prize at Cannes
Iranian auteur Mohammad Rasoulof's bleak drama "A Man of Integrity" won the Un Certain Regard competition at the Cannes film festival on Saturday..
Kantemir Balagov's 'Closeness' at Cannes
A social realist debut from Kantemir Balagov is an intense film influenced by the Dardenne brothers. For the Un Certain Regard selection at Cannes..
Cannes’ FIPRESCI Prize goes to (Beats Per Minute)
The international critics have crowned Robin Campillo’s film BPM (Beats Per Minute); Closeness and The Nothing Factory also awarded..
The award winners of the Cinéfondation unveiled
Student films from Belgium, Iran and France, awarded at the Cinéfondation. The jury of the Cinéfondation, chaired by Cristian Mungiu, has handed prizes..
The Golden Eye goes to 'Faces, Places' at Cannes
The film by Agnès Varda and JR has won the award for the best documentary screened across the various Cannes selections this year..
'They' (2017)
Movie Review • Cannes 2017

A minor-key portrait of an identity crisis. Jane Campion executive produced Iranian-born director Anahita Ghazvinizadeh's debut feature..
Susan Sarandon talks film and politics • Cannes 2017
In the run-up to the screening, Sarandon, who was named an ambassador for the beauty brand last year, sat down with WWD to talk film..
Loveless (2017)
Cannes 2017 • Movie Review

Such a haunting experience that it remains absorbing even when it doesn't go anywhere. Russia has always been a cold and dreary place in the cinema of..
Get Out (2017)
With the ambitious and challenging “Get Out,” Jordan Peele reveals that we may someday consider directing the greatest talent of this fascinating actor and writer..
Karim Moussaoui
Interview • Cannes 2017

Cineuropa met up with Karim Moussaoui to discuss his first film 'Until the Birds Return', presented in the Un Certain Regard section at the 70th Cannes Film..
Alejandro Jodorowsky's 'Endless Poetry' (2016)
Alejandro Jodorowsky's 'Endless Poetry' is the most accessible movie he has ever made, and it may also be the best. It's Felliniesque and moving..
The Other Side of Hope
Movie review

Five years after Le Havre, Finland’s deadpan morose-romantic master delivers the second part of a prospective ‘dockyard trilogy’ with this..
Lerd (2017) • Cannes
Interview with M. Rassoulof
Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rassoulof represents Iran at the Un Certain Regard competition section of the 70th Cannes Film Festival with his latest film ..
Arnaud Desplechin talks about 'Ismael’s Ghosts'
CANNES 2017: French director Arnaud Desplechin talks about Ismael’s Ghosts, which was screened out of competition at the opening of the 70th Cannes Film..
Happy End (2017)
Cannes Film Festival
First Clip from Michael Haneke’s ‘Happy End’ Features a Very Unhappy Dinner Party. After all, this is the director behind such films as 'The White Ribbon,' 'Amour..
Vanessa Redgrave Sparks
'The Loves of Isadora'

Karel Reisz' biographical portrait of Isadora Duncan stars Vanessa Redgrave as the famed modern dancer, who gained notoriety for her revolutionary..
Wild Tales (2015)
An inventive Argentinian film
Argentina’s “Wild Tales” comes as such an extraordinary surprise. Perhaps the best multi-story feature this reviewer has ever seen..
Noureddin Zarrinkelk
Life Achievement Award

A tribute to legendary Iranian/American animation director, writer and illustrator. Born on April 10, 1937 in Iran, Zarrinkelk founded the first school of Animation..
"The Idea of a Lake"
By Milagros Mumenthaler
Finding inspiration in the true story of a woman whose father disappeared during the civilian-military dictatorship in Argentina..
Tehran Taboo (2017)
First animation in Critics’ Week

In his animated drama, the German-Iranian filmmaker paints a dark picture of the metropolis, a city of prohibitions..
The Day Will Come
London Film Festival 2016
Based on real stories from a boy home called ‘godhavn’, where lots of boys were victims of violent and sexual abuse and medical experiments...
Respiro (2003)
The Critics' Week Grand Prize Winner at Cannes 2002

A cheerful, life-affirming film, strong in its energy, about vivid characters ; using mental illness as an entertainment..
Southside with You (2016)
Barack and Michelle Obama's First Date
A mostly-true account of the first date between Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. A look back on a fateful..
History of the Festival de Cannes
A NEW FESTIVAL IS BORN

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Slavoj Zizek's
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The Birth of a Nation
Biblical passion and Cheesy emotion
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Graduation (2016)
A Study of Grubby Bureaucratic Compromise

Graduation marks yet another well-written and powerfully acted look at morality and societal decay from..
Incendies (2010)
A Powerful, Disturbing film
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Spotlight (2015)
The Power Of The Press

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese..
Before the Flood (2016)
An Inconvenient Truth
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I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Winner of the Palme d’Or

I, Daniel Blake marks yet another well-told chapter in director Ken Loach's powerfully populist filmography. Returning to filmmaking after saying..
"Razor’s Edge: The Legacy of Iranian Actresses"
A look at the often controversial role of women in Iranian cinema during the secular period from the 1930s to the Islamic Revolution in 1979..
Afghan Film Festival
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Bahman Ghobadi's
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Produced by Martin Scorsese, this is the first film Ghobadi has made in exile. The work of a great talent marshaling all of his powers as a cinematic storyteller..
Dying for a Song
"Art is education, art is existence, its everything"

A documentary about the musicians being persecuted for raising their voices against political, cultural or religious..
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A Frozen Setting Frames a Chilling Tale
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Paterson (2016)
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Welcome to Online Film Home! The place for all film lovers.

'Life Itself' (2014)
Roger Ebert doc deserves a thumbs up

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Life Itself
Directed by Steve James
United States, 2014
Documentary, Biography

Critics review films, sometimes they even appear in films, but films are not made about them. Roger Ebert, however, did things his own way, and "Life Itself," a fine and moving new documentary that tells his story, shows us how and why he stood out.

Starting with his Pulitzer Prize-winning print reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times, continuing with his hugely influential television partnership with Gene Siskel and culminating in his early and massive adoption of social media, Ebert had a large presence and an expansive personality. He not only embraced the public role of a film critic, he just about created it.

Ebert was a colleague and friend for two decades before his death last year and I always marveled at how deftly he handled the personal aspects of his job, how much he enjoyed reaching and touching people. As Ebert himself says in a clip that begins the film, "Movies are like a machine that generates empathy," that enables us to understand the dreams and fears of others, and no one created that one-on-one connection with more aplomb than he did.

Chaz and Roger Ebert in a scene from the documentary "Life Itself." (Magnolia Pictures)



------------


 A review of the documentary "Life Itself" in the July 4 Calendar section said that at the age of 21 Roger Ebert became the youngest film critic at a major newspaper in the United States. Ebert was 24 when he became a critic at the Chicago Sun-Times.

------------

It's typical of the astuteness with which director Steve James has chronicled this critic's life that he starts "Life Itself" (named after Ebert's autobiography, which serves as a starting point) with that quote.

An experienced documentarian whose films include "Hoop Dreams," "The Interrupters" and the too-little-seen "Head Games," James has unerring instincts as to what parts of Ebert's story are worth spending time on. It's another mark of the director's skill that he took me deeper into aspects of that life that I thought I knew the most about.

"Life Itself's" insightful exploration of what one witness calls the "radioactive relationship" between Ebert and Siskel is one of the film's strongest aspects. — Kenneth Turan

Though he could not know it when he began, James started this film five months before Ebert's death, and a key element of it shows how indomitable the man was in the face of ever-increasing health difficulties. Determined that this film be as honest as possible about what he was going through, Ebert insisted that even the medical procedures that were hardest on him be photographed.

Cancer ate away at Ebert, but after the removal of his jawbone cost him the ability to eat, drink and speak in July 2006, he turned to a computerized voice synthesizer, and his blog, to communicate.

As director Werner Herzog, who dedicated a film to Ebert, says, his friend was "the soldier of cinema, a wounded comrade who cannot even speak anymore but he soldiers on. That touches my life very deeply."

Using segments read from Ebert's autobiography as voice-over, James goes back to the critic's youthful passion for journalism, which led him as a child to write and publish the Washington Street News, about his neighborhood in Urbana, Ill.

When pure happenstance led him in 1967 to become at age 21 the youngest film critic at a major newspaper in America, he threw himself into what he felt was the romance of journalism, holding court at a Chicago bar called O'Rourke's, drinking too much (he joined AA in 1979) and at times being, in his own unsparing words, "tactless, egotistical, merciless and a showboat."

It was also chance that led to Chicago's public television station joining Ebert with the Chicago Tribune's Siskel in a show called "Sneak Previews" that eventually made these two men the best known and most influential critics in America, helping to jump-start the careers of such directors as Martin Scorsese and Errol Morris.

"Life Itself's" insightful exploration of what one witness calls the "radioactive relationship" between Ebert and Siskel is one of the film's strongest aspects. James' extensive interviews with several "Sneak Previews" producers as well as Siskel's widow, Marlene Iglitzen, take us inside this fraught collaboration.

As bristling outtakes from the show demonstrate, both men possessed strong egos and did not take well to being disagreed with. Siskel was, says one observer, "a rogue planet in Roger's solar system."

Yet over the years, especially after Ebert met and married his wife Chaz, the men became closer. Gradually, Iglitzen notes, "they grew to respect and even love each other." And it was Siskel's decision to hide from everyone the brain cancer that killed him that influenced Ebert's decision to be as public with his illness as he was.

Another of "Life Itself's" strengths are the sections that deal with Ebert's relationship with Chaz, especially as their vibrant marriage took on the cataclysmic series of illnesses that marked the final decade of the man's life.

The cascading surgeries that Ebert went through would have toppled a less determined man, and it is difficult to watch the scenes that show him in obvious discomfort and pain. But this behind-the-scenes look at what Ebert meant when he said that Chaz's love was "like a wind pushing me back from the grave" is deeply moving, as are what the film tells us about the specific circumstances of Ebert's last day.

"Life Itself" may sound like it's a film that would only be of interest to those who knew Ebert personally or to fellow film critics, but the opposite is true. Because of Ebert's remarkable ability to connect with individuals and enlarge their lives with his passion for film, it wasn't just a few people who knew him that well. It was everyone.

kenneth.turan@latimes.com


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