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Cannes 2021 Where Is Anne Frank, a film by Ari Folman
By Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter on 07/09/2021
There’s a lot going on in this feature — at times too much, although that surfeit of story is designed to click with the younger viewers the film aims to reach.
Kitty, the imaginary friend addressed in Anne Frank’s diaries, jumps off the page as a pen-and-ink version of a flesh-and-blood girl in Ari Folman’s vividly rendered Where Is Anne Frank.
Given that the Anne we meet in the film is an ardent movie fan, it’s fitting that Kitty’s exploits cover a Hollywood-style narrative range — historical drama, action-adventure, romance, social commentary.
There’s a lot going on in this feature — at times too much, although that surfeit of story is designed to click with the younger viewers the film aims to reach.
The son of Auschwitz survivors, Folman set out to make the first international Holocaust film for young people, ages 12 and up. In collaboration with the foundation established by Frank’s father, Otto, he and his filmmaking team have developed an accompanying educational program as well.
There’s an instructive element to the film, and adult audiences likely will find one or two passages conspicuously didactic. Despite this, and putting aside the occasionally convoluted plotting, Where Is Anne Frank spins around exceptionally engaging central characters, expresses the story’s unspeakable sadness with eloquence and sensitivity, and winningly captures the intelligence, humor and adolescent exuberance so evident in photographs of Anne Frank and in her writing.
Working with animation director Yoni Goodman, whose innovative work gave Folman’s 2008 documentary, Waltz With Bashir, its hauntingly distinctive look, the filmmaker has taken another novel approach, placing 2D characters against stop-motion backgrounds.
In its depiction of Amsterdam, where the story is largely set (with a heartrending visit to present-day Bergen-Belsen, the concentration camp where Frank died), there’s an architectural integrity to match the historical one.
Most of the action revolves around the Anne Frank House — in its contemporary status as a world-famous museum and during its use from 1942 to 1944 as the secret annex where the Franks and the van Pels (called the Van Damms in the diaries and this film) hid from the Nazis.
In the present day, designated for the sake of narrative license as “a year from now,” museumgoers queue up in a blustery storm. Sowing the seeds of a subplot, a family of refugees from Mali, living on the street, struggle to save their tent from the violent winds.
On special exhibit inside is Anne’s original diary, with its red plaid cover and pages overflowing with her cursive writing. Through a serendipitous collision of weather and magic, the book’s glass display case shatters, an antique fountain pen is brought to life, and Kitty (voiced by Ruby Stokes) materializes from the lines of ink. She’s a resourceful and willowy redheaded teen with a fierce devotion to her creator, Anne (Emily Carey, whose unforced soulfulness matches that of Stokes), and she has no idea that she’s stepping into another world, 75 years after the girls last communicated.
Kitty’s baffled to find an endless stream of strangers crowding into Anne’s bedroom, peering at its sparse furnishings and the fangirl movie-star photos hanging on its walls. Kitty is invisible to them. The logic of when she can and can’t be seen is explained to her — and us — by Peter (Ralph Prosser), a young street kid whose skills as a pickpocket would make Robert Bresson smile.
According to the somewhat shaky logic, whether she’s visible or not, the diary is the crucial puzzle piece she needs. She removes it from the museum as she embarks on her quest for Anne, and the missing diary becomes the city’s top story, a 100,000-euro reward in the offing.
The film’s title refers to Kitty’s search, but it’s also something of an accusation, a reminder that totems of cultural significance like the diary can become cast in amber, detached from their meaning. In the contemporary setting, Anne Frank’s name emblazons a hospital, theater, bridge and school.
At the same time, the government is cracking down on war refugees and refusing to grant them asylum. Among the seekers is the Malian family from the opening sequence, whose young daughter Awa (Naomi Mourton) charms Kitty with her dazzling knack for cat’s cradle.
In a more subtle paradox than the immigrant issue, before the diary goes missing the police break into the museum — the same building where two families lived in fear of the authorities for two treacherous years — in order to protect the prized book from suspected vandals. One policeman (voiced by Folman with a slurry of the weary, the snide and the sincere) pronounces the diary “the biggest spiritual treasure this country’s produced since Rembrandt,” as if repeating a memorized line.
Trading in vintage jewelry for fast fashion, Kitty plays the part of a modern girl (with the musical contributions of Karen O and Ben Goldwasser heightening the metamorphosis). But when she reads the diary she’s likely to shift back into Anne’s world. (Again, the magic’s logic is of the delicate just-go-with-it variety.) Through the girls’ openhearted conversations, Kitty learns of the Nazis’ targeting of Jews and comes to understand the day-to-day realities of life during the occupation for Anne, her parents (Michael Maloney and Samantha Spiro) and her sister, Margot (Skye Bennett).
On the streets, the SS loom as stylized, towering figures with death’s-head masks. Within the Franks’ clandestine quarters, new boarder Albert Dussel (Andrew Woodall) brings harrowing news of “the East,” where the machinery of extermination is in motion.
Scenes of the war-era past pulse with the perspective of a bright, perceptive teen. Folman doesn’t deny the weight of fear and oppressiveness — indeed, he builds to it powerfully. But he makes sure to give time and space to the joys that shaped Anne’s privileged youth before the dark days took hold. A rundown of the boys who loved her, presented in the whimsical form of a parade, bursts with color and zingy schoolgirl language, 1940s-style: “He’s a tough guy, but he’s a brat,” she declares of one unqualified hopeful. In another scene the image on a jigsaw puzzle comes to life, and there’s a wonderfully wry commercial for the company Otto Frank works for, complete with a Felix the Cat look-alike.
Anne’s budding romance with the shy Peter Van Damm (Sebastian Croft) is paralleled by Kitty’s with her more worldly-wise Peter. The latter pair get to skate down the city’s frozen canals; back in the annex, the greatest adventure Anne and Peter can muster is an imaginary exploration of a radio’s innards.
The intertwined layers of history and imagination fuel the drama with greater urgency as it moves toward the awful days after the Franks were discovered in their hiding place. With high emotion and thriller tension, a bravura sequence interweaves Kitty’s ride on a passenger train with Anne’s forced ride to the dreaded East.
Folman doesn’t depict the camps explicitly, but he taps into the enormity of their horror: a Hades incarnate for Anne, a born writer with a love of Greek mythology.
That the film’s lessons about intolerance are still urgent is hardly news. And yet there’s something surprisingly urgent in the way Folman and company turn clean, simple lines into full-blooded characters.
It’s not kid stuff the way Anne’s brow furrows with worry, and the tears of her beloved Kitty, when she learns what happened to Anne, just might knock you sideways.
- In her Cineasti del Presente title, the German director follows a young woman on her way to emancipation
German director Sabrina Sarabi premiered her film No One's with the Calves at the Locarno Film Festival in the section dedicated to a young generation of filmmakers, Cineasti del Presente. She drew inspiration from a novel by Alina Herbing and found her own approach to tell this story of a young woman who needs to surmount her fears of rejection and to stand alone in order to find her way in life. We talked to the director about her research for the film and the concept for the main character.
Cineuropa: Your film is inspired by the novel by Alina Herbing. What fascinated you the most about it? Sabrina Sarabi: I like the protagonist very much. She has something clumsy and out of place. She does stupid things to get out of the village she lives in, sabotaging her environment. I wanted her to move inside an anarchic men's world, to be a woman all alone on a piece of land surrounded by men.
How did you conduct your research? In order to get a personal feeling for the rural landscape, I drove around Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg for about a month. I wanted to experience being alone in the countryside, as is the protagonist of the film. Moreover, the novel was published in 2017 and I wanted to see how the rural environment looks and feels like today.
How did you develop the main character? First, I had to find a personal approach to the novel, for example by living out the childhood and youth memories of the protagonist. Moreover, I asked the actress, Saskia Rosendahl, not to read the novel and to instead find a bond with the character through the things I told her. Moreover, the other people working with me on the film didn’t get much background information, because I wanted to avoid overloading them with details. I had to emancipate myself from the novel and I managed to do it while I was writing the script, and forgot about certain things automatically.
How did you find your actress? I had already worked with Saskia on my first film. She spent only two days on set then, but I was fascinated by her and her way of being. I knew she would be the perfect choice for the role.
Christine is attracted to Klaus, although he does not respect her either. He behaves as if she were his possession. How do you interpret this bond? Christine can't be free and strong when it comes to relationships. There is always someone who dominates her. She just doesn't know that it could be different. She is too used to it and, at the beginning, doesn't have the strength to fight back. But I didn't want someone great to come along and save her. She had to get there by herself.
She has a strange understanding of what should be worn in the city. Together with my costume designer, we wanted her to always be a bit out of place. She never nails it, concerning fashion. Still, we wanted her to look good and didn't want to make a fool of her. We were inspired by fashion we saw and imagined to be en vogue in a village.
How did you develop the film’s visual concept? Why did you choose the handheld camera aesthetic? I wanted to use the handheld camera to be closer to the protagonists and to be able to react spontaneously to the acting. In my opinion, this technique has something direct, immediate and lively.
The story suggests an environmental commentary. How did you proceed there? The wind turbines symbolise the evil that comes from the city. They produce the electricity that is used by the people in the city. They produce noise, take away space, they are the personified enemy of the rural population.
An interview with Asghar Farhadi A Hero, the most successful at 2021 Cannes so far
“A Hero,” which sees Farhadi returning to filmmaking in Iran, is about a man named Rahim who is in prison because of an unpaid debt. While on a two-day release, he and the woman he loves hatch a plan to try and convince the creditor to let him off the hook. But it spirals out of control due to social media, which plays an important part in this drama exposing the pitfalls of media manipulation in Iran’s repressive regime but also, by extension, the world. Farhadi spoke to Variety in Cannes about his concerns over social media and his certainty that the best antidote to the disconnect it can create is cinema.
How did ‘A Hero’ originate? From time to time in the news in Iran you get stories about very average people who in their daily lives do something that is very altruistic. And that humane way of being makes them very noticeable in society for a few days, and then they are forgotten. The story of the rise and fall of these kinds of people was really what interested me.
Has social media manipulation been on your mind in recent years, especially as it pertains to Iran? When I started working on the story I wasn’t so aware of social media. I developed that aspect when I realized that this is something so pervasive in every society around the world these days. It has become such a powerful tool of communication in every society and there are no borders. It’s the same in Iran and the rest of the world.
But I think that what’s specific in Iran is that because there are tensions in society between different groups, opinions, ideologies, it becomes a tool in the hands of [groups of]people to confront the others. That’s the reason why it plays such as major part in the development of this story.
In ‘A Hero’ media manipulation intersects with the Iranian justice system. Are you concerned about this manipulation when it comes to putting people in jail? Well, it’s not even at the level of being a concern anymore. It’s a fact. It’s just the way we are living. I think it’s not even relevant to question this. It’s just the way we are. And the way we express things to each other. What I found interesting in the issues of this film is to see that all institutions and social groups use this tool. It’s a way of opening up to the other. But what I found paradoxical and interesting in this story is that instead of being a way of communicating and opening up to the other, it’s the exact opposite: a way of hiding and dissimulating things.
What’s also interesting is the speed [of social media]and its very few words: the very small space that you need and use to present a piece of news, a person, a story. It goes very quickly and very often the situation is more complex; the person is more complex. You need more space to actually present the nuances and the complexity of the situation. When you do it with so few words then of course it becomes the perfect space for misunderstanding.
‘The Salesman’ star Taraneh Alidoosti last year risked going to jail after she shared a video on Twitter of a member of Iran’s plainclothes ‘morality police’ insulting and attacking a woman on the street for not wearing the hijab headscarf. Tweeting can be dangerous. This has to do with the fact that Iran is a repressive country in which you have no freedom to speak up and say what you think. When you have a medium like this which gives you the opportunity to express your feelings and what people have kept inside for years, of course they burst out. I think Iran must be on top of the list of countries in which the content of the conversation on social media is more about social and political issues. I’ve been researching this subject. Once when I was in Hong Kong I asked people: “What do you mainly talk about on social media?” They said: “It’s mainly personal or about cooking or more random everyday life issues.” Of course now with the troubles with China they also use social media for politics, but not as much as in Iran where I think people are really using it as an opportunity to finally speak up and connect on issues that they felt had been repressed.
In the U.S. one of the biggest social media manipulators in politics has been Donald Trump who basically prevented you from going to the U.S. to attend the Oscars. Do you think something will change with President Biden, especially when it comes to U.S. policy in Iran? I think extremes are very similar, no matter what country or political systems. Of course having Joe Biden in place makes the whole world a better place. I have no doubt about that. But as for Iran and trying to predict whether it’s going to help things with Iran, well while Trump was having such extreme behavior and reaction towards Iran, there was the same kind of extremism in Iran. So, of course they were on the opposite side, but their way of behaving and reflecting was the same. And in Iran the same people are still in power. So there should be a change also on the Iranian side in order to make sure that there can be an improvement on both sides.
How do you think the social media disconnect is affecting cinema? I had a discussion with a friend a few days ago and he was saying that this flow of information, images and sound that is pouring on all individuals nowadays is going to kill cinema, because it’s a competitor that cinema cannot catch up with. But I think that it’s quite the opposite because it’s really the reverse side of the use of images and sound with speed. Cinema is the medium that can take time to develop, to show different aspects, to show the complexities, the nuances. And to take this time. That’s exactly the reason why I think social media is in no way a threat to cinema. What you don’t have in social media is time for reflection and being able to see the different aspects and dimensions of a question. For that there is cinema.
By Alex Ritman, Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter July 17, 2021 10:29am
The 74th Cannes Film Festival kicked off July 6, two months later than usual, amid safety concerns due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s festival was canceled because of COVID-19.
Julia Ducournaubecomes only the second female director to claim Cannes' top prize, but the ceremony was (comically) overshadowed by jury presidentSpike Leeaccidentally revealing the winner at the start of the night.
Chaos reigned at the awards ceremony for the 2021 Cannes International Film Festival after jury president Spike Lee accidentally announced the winner of the Palme d’Or — Julia Ducournau’s wildly extreme fantasy drama Titane — right at the start of the night.
The master of ceremonies attempted to laugh off the slip-up and forget that it had happened, but with Cannes’ top prize having been revealed prematurely it set a comically awkward tone over the rest of the proceedings. When it was actually time for the Palme d’Or presentation, Lee acknowledged his mistake.
“In 63 years of life I’ve learned that people get a second chance, this is my second chance,” he said. “I apologize for messing up. It took a lot of suspense out of the night I understand, it wasn’t on purpose.”
'Titane' Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
However, Lee still had to be stopped from revealing the winner before the final special guest, Sharon Stone, had been welcomed on stage.
Titane, Ducournau’s follow up feature to her lauded cannibal-coming-of-age story Raw (which premiered in Cannes’ Critics’ Week sidebar), combines body horror, female revenge films, and F9-esque car-obsession in what is arguably the most radical film in the Cannes competition this year.Ducournaunow becomes only the second female winner of the Palme d’Or afterJane Campion, who won in 1993 forThe Piano.
The win was also a victory for Neon, which has Titane‘s U.S. rights, giving the distributor two Palme d’Or awards in a row after Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite claimed the prize in 2019, the last time Cannes was held.
Elsewhere on the night, two films won the Grand Prix award, Iranian drama A Hero from two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) and Compartment No. 6,Juho Kuosmanen’s follow-up to his debut, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, which won the Un Certain Regard prize for best film in Cannes in 2016.
Caleb LandryJones picked up best actor for his performance in Justin Kurzel’s Nitram, in which he portrayed the disturbed lone gunman responsible for the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, the worst mass shooting in modern Australian history. Renate Reinste was named best actress for The Worst Person in the World, Joachim Trier’s dark romantic comic comedy-drama.
Leos Carax, who opened the Cannes with his musical dramaAnnette, won the best director award.
The 74th Cannes Film Festival kicked off July 6, two months later than usual, amid safety concerns due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s festival was canceled because of COVID-19.
Lee, who has appeared in Cannes with films such as BlacKkKlansman (2019) and Do The Right Thing (1989), is the first Black person to be president of the Cannes jury. This year’s jury is also the first in Cannes history where a majority of the jurors, five out of nine, are women.
The 2021 Cannes Festival will close with the out-of-competition screening of Nicolas Bedos’ French spy spoof OSS 117: From Africa With Love, starring Jean Dujardin, on July 17.
Trailer For Bille August’s ‘The Pact’ Unveiled by SF Studios, REinvent (EXCLUSIVE)
By Eksa Keslassy, Variety Feb 4, 2021
SF Studios and sales banner REinvent have unveiled the trailer for “The Pact,” Bille August’s psychological drama based on real events in the life of Karen Blixen, the Danish author best known for her autobiographical novel “Out of Africa.”
The film depicts Blixen’s tumultuous relationship with Thorkild Bjørnvig, a promising young poet, after she returned from Africa. Birthe Neumann headlines the film as Blixen in her first major dramatic film role since “The Celebration.”
“The Pact” is produced by SF Studios and Motor with producers Jesper Morthorst and Karin Trolle. Nordic distribution is handled by SF Studios while REinvent International Sales is selling worldwide rights. The film will be released in cinemas in Denmark on April 15.
Along with “Margrete-Queen of the North” and “The Emigrants,” “The Pact” is one of the thee projects from SF Studios which will be presented in the Works in Progress section at this year’s virtual Nordic Film Market, part of Sweden’s Götborg Festival.
The film was written by Christian Torpe (““Silent Heart”), based on Thorkild Bjørnvig’s memoir “The Pact” which was published in 1974 and became a literary sensation.
Bjørnvig first met Blixen in 1948 when he was 30 and she was 63. While Bjørnvig was an easily influenced poet with a wife and child, he formed a secret bond with Blixen, who fascinated him.
“‘The Pact’ is a relationship drama, the eternal story of seduction and wanting to be seduced, of the art of manipulation, of guilt and innocence, of a highly unusual friendship between two deeply talented people and a relationship that develops into a fateful bond,” said August, one of Scandinavia’s most revered filmmakers whose credits include the Palme D’Or-winning films “Pelle the Conqueror” and “The Best Intentions.”
Blixen’s autobiographical book “Out of Africa” was adapted by Sydney Pollack into the 1985 pic starring Meryl Streep (as Blixen) and Robert Redford.
Beyond the Hills[trailer,film focus], confirms his serious
talent (read thereview). He continues to refine it
in the context of a national filmsectorstill in crisis,
but it is one in which the Cannes Film Festival continues to believe, as shown
by his selection for its 65th official competition.
What are the differences between this film and
your last? Cristian
Mungiu: I don't think it's good to compare this film with my last. To
understand this film, you have to forget what I have done before, because I did
not encounter the same problems in production or shooting, and I very simply
wanted to tell a different kind of story. It's not a film about friendship like
in my previous film, but rather one about love and what the abandonment of love
provokes in us, in the choices we
Who are the real culprits in this
film? The film
shows us a victim, but the real culprits are not featured in this story. It's
all the result of a weak educational system that was set up a long time ago and
that is failing these people. What interests me is not denouncing the culprit.
Choices are important. Are we always right to help others, even those we love?
Do we really help them by imposing our values on them against their will? The
man of faith thinks he is helping the girl, because no one else is helping her.
He takes her to hospital, but the doctors can't help her and he interprets this
failure as licence to decide her fate and the way she is treated. His acts
correspond to his choices, but we don't really know if he was ever able to
choose his beliefs or how he reached this way of life in the first place. No
Do you consider religion to be
dangerous? I try
not to criticise anybody. This film discusses particular cases. There is no
generalisation, and I am not describing Romanian society through this
littlecommunity. A film is not able to be
so all-encompassing.Beyond the
Hillsis more about
superstition than it is about religion. It is not an analysis of religion's
perverse effects, and I am not saying that people's beliefs are the same as
those of the Romanian orthodox church as an institution.
Could you tell us about Oleg Mutu's
started to work with him when we were students. We didn't need to talk to each
other a lot. We fixed a few things in the beginning, but not too much.4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2
Dayswas very formal, but
without a single angle and everything was very flat, pictorial onscreen. Here,
when Oleg follows a character with his camera for eight minutes, there are
moments in which what is filmed is not important, and the consciousness of what
is happening takes over. Once again, the director removes himself, but this
takes away none of Oleg Mutu's incredible talent without which I could not have
attained this difficult result.
How has the Romanian film sector's
financial crisis affected this film? Our industry's problem is not
funding, it's cultural. Films that are not entertainment are not popular in
Romania. This is why we receive lessmoneyfrom the state for arthouse films, and
why I had to look for international funding. My film will be seen much more
abroad than it will be at home. That's just how it is. We have to hold on and
continue to produce good quality films also aimed at the Romanian
ALI SAMADI AHADI The German-Iranian filmmaker reflects on the impact his taut political documentary, The Green Wave, has made on the Middle East.
In June 2009 hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to dispute the result of the country’s presidential election, which many believed had been rigged by the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
What followed was a violent crackdown, evidence of which leaked out through social networking sites.
German-Iranian Ali Samadi Ahadi’s film, The Green Wave, which had its UK premiere at last month’s Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, brings together fractured pieces of footage filmed on mobile phones and testimony from bloggers in the country to document the brutality.
A mixture of news reports, animation and interviews, the film uses the emergence of social networks – which were pivotal in the propagation of the unrest – to mitigate the difficulties inherent in making a documentary in a context where journalists were expelled or imprisoned and information was under the control of the government. LWLies spoke with Ahadi recently about the film’s impact both at home and abroad.
LWLies: The Green Wave takes a very close-up view of events in Iran, which you were at the time quite distant from. How did you come to make the film?
Ahadi: When the elections took place in Iran, like other Iranians outside of Iran I was watching what was going on in the country. I was shocked and paralysed because of this brutality and the violence which we were facing.
After three months of being too shocked to be able to do anything, I wanted to do something. Not only to react but also to take action.
And because I am a filmmaker, I decided to make a film. We asked Associated Press to help us with their footage. This is a big part of our material.
And then we collected images which were shared on the internet, and we used images that we collected inside Iran and smuggled out of the country.
But all of these images were not able to tell the whole story, because they had mostly not a beginning, not an end, like broken puzzles.
We had to find a way to bring them together, because they had no protagonists, so we had to find a way to weave them to each other and that was the reason why I decided to use blogs and Twitter messages to bring all these things together.
I never think in genres and I never think in the way of tools. I find that if I get the subject, I try to understand how this subject can be told through me.
I try to collect all my tools and play around with them until I find a way of how I can tell the story.
A natural criticism of this style of documentary making is surely that you are bringing together a lot of very subjective evidence and trying to make it into an honest narrative.
It is a very subjective way of talking about the issue. We don’t have to lie to our audience and say we know the truth, and we have the whole truth and we are objective. I don’t believe that.
I believe in complete subjectivity. We don’t need to hide ourselves because it is subjective. It is very important to make it clear that it is our point of view, we have this opinion.
I think even journalistic pieces – mine is not journalistic – are subjective, and we know that. We know that it is not true when journalists say ‘we are objective’.
It is the same with the blogs and images we use. I read more than 1,500 pages of blogs and chose only 15 of them.
You can’t believe how often people talked about the same situation from different sides of the same place and the same momentum from different perspectives.
The same is with images. There is a moment in the film, where a Basij [militiaman] is on the roof of a building, shooting into a crowd of people, and we have it from more than 10 cell phone cameras from 10 different perspectives.
[President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad would say “these are not in Iran and these are from somewhere else”, but to be honest, we know that these things took place.
Maybe there are images which are not true, but this is not important. I’m not saying that we are showing the whole truth, I am saying that what is important is that we are able to say these things are true or not true, and no one will harm you.
In Iran if you would say that Ahmadinejad is a liar, they would arrest you or kill you. This is important, and not the evidence of this image or this blog. What is important is that you have the freedom to talk about it. And this is something that is much more important.
This is the bigger point. We tried our best to keep the evidence high, to double check the images, to double check the blogs. But even if there is a failure there, I think the much more important point is being able to talk with freedom.
I think even if you are a journalist, the only controlling system which really works every time is your own inner voice. My teacher when I was a student said to me you can do anything, but never forget the conversation with your inner voice.
Which is very true – you can make out of this footage 100 different films. Against and pro-Ahmadinejad. Where is the controlling mechanism? It is only you.
This was one striking feature of the revolutions that have taken place in the Middle East in the past few months – that they are not really political in the sense that they aren’t calling for one regime to be replaced by another, they are really just asking for representation.
In the film this comes out – people were not really going out to vote because they wanted [opposition leader] Mir-Hossein Mousavi to win – they were going out because they want to be heard.
I think we are going through a moment in the Near and Middle East the ideological regimes are coming to an end. People are sick and tired of either the religious ideology or socialism and communism.
They don’t care about that. Young people in Egypt, or in Iran, or in Yemen, or in Bahrain, are able to go to the internet and Google you and look how you live, and they ask themselves, ‘Why is this person able to live in that way and I am not?’
We are both human beings, but why can he talk freely and I can’t? They are not looking for ideologies, they are looking for human rights, which makes the big difference between these movements and the movements 20, 30, 40 years ago?
Has the moment for change passed in Iran? Is the regime there not better able to control this message the second time around.
It has not passed. I think Iranian society made a big development in the last 18 months, or 20 months after the election. They started asking, ‘Where is my vote?’, for a recount of the ballots, for re-election. Now they clearly talk about system change.
This is a big development. And this is not a minority that is talking about change, this is the majority. It needs really a blitz to explode the whole thing. It is like a desert.
When the first rain falls down, the earth is really hard and the rain can’t penetrate the soil, but with time, when the rain continues, the soil becomes soft and the water can penetrate.
The existence of so many recorded perspectives on every event has changed – as you have said – the monopoly that governments can have on information. Has it changed the way that documentary filmmakers record these events?
I think so. When we started to make this film, I had no idea what it would look like, because I don’t know of any films that have been made in that way. I thought it is bungee jumping without a bungee, pure risk.
I think really that these instruments make our business, filmmaking, much more democratic, much more open. We are not dependent on broadcasters. We are not dependent on the permission of countries like Iran to be able to make images.
And we are not dependent that much on money. If you see what we made with really horrible, small, bad quality images. We screen it on 70 square metres in theatres, and it works. I think it really changed, fundamentally, filmmaking.
Especially in countries which are under pressure. I think that there is now more democracy in filmmaking, because you can get a direct connection to your audience. It will change our language, I think. The language of filmmaking.
Cerified Copy, the latest Abbas Kiarostami film will be on US screens soon and to learn more about this film, we interviewed William Shimell, the actor of the film.
William Shimell made his screen acting debut alongside Juliette Binoche in Abbas Kiarostami’s Copie Conforme (Certified Copy), in competition at Cannes Festival 2010. Born in 1952, he is one of Britain's most accomplished operatic baritones and has earned himself an international reputation in the world's leading opera houses.
William is well known for his interpretations of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which he first sang in Britain for Welsh National Opera and ENO, and has since sung in opera houses throughout the world. He has recorded the role for EMI with Riccardo Muti.
His reputation has been further enhanced by his worldwide performances of Marcello in La Bohème, as Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress, as Sharpless in Madame Butterfly, as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, as Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte and as Dourlinski in Cherubini's Lodoïska at La Scala, which was recorded live for Sony.
In 2005 William took the title role in Handel’s Hercules in a Luc Bondy production which was filmed for broadcast and DVD release. He is also much in demand on the concert platform, appearing at a range of venues including the Orange Festival in France, and recording performances with the likes of Sir Georg Solti and Riccardo Chailly.
Certified Copy is the story of a meeting between one man and one woman, in a small Italian village in Southern Tuscany. The man is a British author who has just finished giving a lecture at a conference. The woman, from France, owns an art gallery. This is a common story that could happen to anyone, anywhere.
Bijan Tehrani: How were you first introduced to Certified Copy? William Shimell: I was working with Abbas Kiarostami in the south of France at the opera Festival, where he was directing 2 years ago. Abbas asked me if I had ever been in a film and I said no and then he asked me if I would be interested in being in a film, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I though that maybe he is asking me to do a line or two or maybe just be on the background and sing but that was not what he had in mind at all.
BT: Did you read the script before getting involved with Certified Copy? WS: I read the script before going to the shoot yes, but not before I accepted and signed the contract, basically I wanted to work with Abas and it would not have mattered what he proposed. I enjoyed the experience of working with him in France so much that I was very interested in working with him again whether it is with a film or any other project. The first version of the script I saw had been translated from Farsi into French and then from French into English; so after going through two translations in two languages it was almost incomprehensible, I think that the person who translated it from French to English did not do a very good job. Abbas and his assistant Massoumeh Lahidji did actually work very hard on the script to get it to what we eventually worked with.
BT: How did you communicate with Abbas and was there any difficulty with the language barrier? WS: No, his assistant Massoumeh Lahidji is an astonishing translator and Abas English is not that bad. He can certainly make himself understood and one of the reasons why I enjoyed working with him is that I had a very good grip on what he was saying. When you work in Opera there is no real barrier in the language at all.
BT: When was the first time that you were exposed to Abbas work and when did you begin watching his films? WS: To be honest I had never heard of him and I usually don’t go to the cinema, I have two young children and the only time that I go to the cinema is when I take my children to see films that young children like to see. Otherwise I am not a film buff. When I was told that Abbas would be directing the opera I did a little homework just to see what I was going to be going up against. As a result I saw some of his films; I find them quite difficult I must say.
BT: How difficult was it to work in Certified Copy? WS: It was horrifically difficult for me because I really did not know what I was doing; sometimes opera companies make video operas for their own purposes or for DVD, but I am an opera singer and not really an actor so I did not know what I was doing really, it was hard. As far as the character that I was playing and story in the film I concentrated on each scene as I came to it and it wasn’t until the film was put together that I really had an idea of what the result would be.
BT: How much freedom did Abbas give you in terms of his direction? WS: He is used to working with none actors and he has a very light hand when he directs and he tries not intimidate. Especially with someone like me who is put I this situation and being in front of the camera, so I was never really aware that I was being directed; but Abbas still had a way of getting what he wanted.
BT: Describe working with Juliette Binoche? WS: Well it was an enormous privilege to work with such a talented person and she was extraordinarily helpful and encouraging throughout the whole process really and I don’t know how I could have done it without her or everyone else’s help. One of the thing that surprised me was how open and eager everyone was to help out and work with someone who was inexperienced.
BT: Did you do any study or research of the character that you were playing prior to the shoot? WS: Well I read and learnt the script, but I’m an opera singer and I am used to searching out the character from the words and the orchestra score from the music that is usually where the character is hidden in opera. I didn’t have that in this film so I had to focus more on what the character said and use what few tools I had in my experiences in opera; the dialogue has to be from within you and form your own experience and from your own personality.
BT: Did you have a chance to change the dialogue to your liking? WS: We worked to try to make the dialogue sound as natural to an Englishman as I could, because I was the only English person working on the project.
BT: How much do you think that the location meant to Certified Copy? WS: When people see the film they we see that the star is Juliette and the co-star is the Italian countryside. The atmosphere of Italian countryside and the colors of the buildings, of the sky and the Tuscan countryside paint such a vivid picture. They really help shape the emotional structure in the film. What this film did do is give me a great deal of respect for film actors and I enjoyed making the film and it was a huge pleasure and privilege.
BT: Do you plan to be in another film in the future? WS: I would love another try and I had such a fascinating try and when you get to my age it is not often that you get the opportunity to try something different and I would love to learn some more.
Berlin film review: "Nader and Simin, a Separation"
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:54:05 PM
BERLIN -- Just when it seemed impossible for Iranian filmmakers to express themselves meaningfully outside the bounds of censorship, Asghar Farhadi’s Nader and Simin, A Separation comes along to prove the contrary.
Apparently simple on a narrative level yet morally, psychologically and socially complex, it succeeds in bringing Iranian society into focus for in a way few other films have done.
Like About Elly (2009), which won Asghar Farhadi the best director award at Berlin two years ago and which went on to find release in many territories, it has the potential to engage Western audiences with the right handling.
Politics are ostensibly out of the picture, though the whole premise is based on a middle-class couple’s divorce because the wife Simin (Iranian star Leila Hatami) wants to move abroad to find a better future for their 11-year-old daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). But that may not be the real reason for the separation.
Nader (Peyman Moaadi, seen in About Elly) is a decent man but a stubborn one, and he neglects his wife. Too proud to ask her to stay with him, he lets her move back to her mother’s place while he and Termeh are left to look after his aged father with Alzheimer’s disease. He hastily hires a poor woman named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) as a daytime caretaker, who signs on without telling him she’s pregnant (or does she?).
A few days later he fires her and shoves her out the door; she falls on the stairs (perhaps) and has a miscarriage. The rest of the film is a crescendo of tension as Razieh’s hot-headed, debt-ridden husband Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini) takes Nader to court for manslaughter.
We are honored to invite you to participate in the:
Iranian documentary Film Festival - Malmö | Sweden | Saturday 19 February 2011
If you are interested in contributing to the festival with your film please send your film to us. The deadline for receiving films is 15th February 2011. We have special sections for productions from amateurs, pupils and students.
"Cinema Without Borders is establishing an Open Page for Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof as an on-going, action-oriented commentary about the jailing of the filmmakers in Iran. The Page will remain open until Mr. Panahi and Rasoulof are freed, and free to make movies of their choice.
Film critic Vera Mijojlic is our first contributor. Cinema Without Borders invites readers, filmmakers, critics, supporters, and friends of international cinema to submit their comments and keep this Page active until Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof are freed".
First the physical jail for the body, then post-incarceration ban on the mind, heart and soul; wow. Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof are dangerous men alright. We got that. Compared to their predicament, Solzhenitsyn’s gulag years do not even compare. After all Mr. Solzhenytsin was able to continue with his subversive creative activities. The two Iranian filmmakers are apparently bigger threat to their homeland of more than 70 million people. Over there they seem to be trembling with fear at the sight of them. No small feat for a country of considerable military and spiritual might. So maybe we should investigate this affair a little bit deeper and find out who else might be so afraid that no other path was open to Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof but the one-way to jail, both here on Earth and within the more eternal realms of the future as well.
Both were found guilty of treason, disloyalty to their country, bent on telling stories for which they must have known would land them in trouble. To add insult to injury neither filmmaker wanted to flee to a nice country like say France and seek artistic asylum for their tortured souls. Instead they opted to stay put in Iran where they called to task its very solemn government. They made their government look bad, and expected clemency! What insolence on the part of Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof. They should have known that one doesn’t fool around with people who don’t have any sense of humor. Iranian leaders are somber, serious men, busy with policing a massive populace of restive compatriots. They have already made a mistake in letting a whiff of democracy blow through their heretofore closely controlled elections which led to a thing called hope in the person of an opposition candidate whom the two filmmakers may, for all we know, have supported or, insolent as they are, encouraged with their movies. Ah, the magic of moviemaking!
Democracy, as we have all learned during the past decade, can be a real nuisance. It is understandable that Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof saw no big advantage in fleeing to the West ruled by the leaders of the free world whose claim to fame rests in the ruins of their own populace through ingenious economic instead of crude police measures. Sensitive as artists tend to be, Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof probably saw no advantage in washing ashore west of their homeland as poor refugees hoping to make a beer commercial to sustain themselves.
No, they chose to stay in their country and defy its rulers.
And rulers like rulers eventually had enough. The united voice of these two filmmakers was one opposition voice too many. The more I think about it, the more I understand why Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof had to go to jail for all our sakes. Times are tough, and we have enough on our hands to deal with in their part of the world. Who has the time to continue messing with this case where no Western politician stands to gain anything?
Indeed, who? Who is left to keep Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof in our collective consciousness?
One is immediately thinking of the media. Yes, of course, the media! Surely, the media will do that. There are infinitely more news outlets today than ever before. But there is also a vast amount of news to digest. And as a consequence, whether we like it or not, we have grown numb, deaf, and indifferent because we have seen it all already, every single detail of human existence many times over. We have been given front row seats in the theater where punishing light was shed on every pitiful world leader, rebel, criminal, sociopath or genius alike. Everyone finally got their 15 minutes of fame, and quickly found out that without upping the ante forever, every single day, with another piece of news, whether real or engineered….if we stop broadcasting .....well, we then fall into the abyss of obscurity and non-existence. Our 15-minute lifetime span is up. Next!
And where do Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof feature in all this? This may sound harsh to you (after all, the men are in jail), but their time in our news cycle has been up for about a week now. Meanwhile fresh stories from around the world keep pouring in, the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar has just started, and one can always count on North Korea to provide the most entertaining and media-friendly content. Plus, too many calls for justice and petitions from human and animal rights groups and concerned citizens over the past media-heavy decade have had the same age-old effect on us as the shepherd who cried wolf too many times had on the villagers …. when it finally mattered, no one came.
What is one to do when the wish for information abundance comes true, as it has in our lifetime? Who knew that once we ‘got the knowledge’ about everything under the sun we’d grow weak, complacent, drained of attention and filled mostly with curiosity about the shiny objects of media desires, like indigenous people once were of glass beads, and rendered just as powerless and as easily manipulated?
For all I know Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof might have been jailed to serve another purpose, as chips in a future political bargain that we are not yet privy to between the “West” and the “East”. I have never met either one and who knows, both might be an unpleasant sort. Artists tend to be difficult people. But I asked myself, what if someone I knew, someone talented and in the prime of his or her creative life, someone whose future films I want to see, someone who can give me something to look forward to beyond the trashy headlines, what if someone like that got jailed? I’d be mad as hell!!!!
Perhaps, let’s face it, you’d be too – if it was your friend?
Do we wait for someone else to raise hell? And who, may I ask, is that someone else, precisely?
The quickly congealing media silence is cementing Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof further and further away. If they are being robbed of their future films, then I am robbed of experiencing them. If they do not get another chance at freedom, then I am poorer for one too. They did not murder anyone, or commit a crime for which they should be kept away from us. They made movies, problematic for the rulers of their country perhaps, but that’s the rulers’ problem, not theirs. We are free to critique their craft of film making, but we overstep our boundaries when we silence people for their thoughts, and in this case even future thoughts. Thoughts and stories and movies that are yet to come.
It is all too easy to blame everything on politicians and autocratic governments. Where are we in all this? To whom exactly do we transfer our responsibility when we grow tired of a news story? Ultimately, what is the meaning of ‘speaking up’ in the global entertainment circus?
The question we are faced with is not just the jailing of two filmmakers, but also the media death of the story. The encroaching silence that comes with diminishing media coverage, leading to indifference and ultimately forgetting.
In John Schlesinger’s “Marathon Man” Laurence Olivier famously kept asking Dustin Hoffman, “Is it safe?”
I guess it never really is, as Mr. Panahi and Mr. Rasoulof have already found out. There is no such thing as safety, so get over it. I am not afraid of whatever it is that I am supposed to be afraid of in a world so thoroughly infused with fear. Are you?
JAFAR PANAHI, b. 1960, is one of the leading directors of the Iranian New Wave. He won praise and international acclaim with his films “The White Balloon”, “Crimson Gold” and “Offside” among others. He was in and out of jail in 2010 until December, when he was convicted of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran” and of undermining its national security. He was sent to jail for 6 years, and banned from making films, writing screenplays, giving interviews or leaving the country for the next 20 years after that. If his sentence stands, he will be 76 years old when he gets another chance at making movies.
MOHAMMAD RASOULOF, b. 1972, gained international recognition with his first feature-length docudrama "Gogooman" (2002). His other films include multiple award-winner "Iron Island", as well as “The White Meadows”, and "Head Wind", a documentary about the restrictions currently imposed in Iran on using satellites and internet. He was also in and out of jail throughout 2010 and in December sentenced and sent to jail under the same terms as Jafar Panahi.
To comment, add your name to the Cinema Without Borders “Open Page for Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof”, Please email us at email@example.com and for post your comments in the same article in CWB BLOGS.
IFF Iranian Film Festival Honors Fakhri Khorvash
Veteran Iranian actress Fakhri Khorvash will be honored for her lifetime achievements during the Iranian Film Festival, which will be held in San Francisco on September 18 and 19.The ceremony has been arranged to honor her 50-year career in Iranian stage and screen.
Fakhri Khorvash, a star of Iranian intellectual theater for a few decades, has also been acting in movies since 1958. She has worked with several well-known Iranian filmmakers such as Bahman Farmanara and Dariush Mehrjui.
Fakhri Khorvash appeared for the first time in 1958 Sadegh Bahrami’s “Bohloul” and her last part in a movie was in Bahman Farmanara’s A Little Kiss (yek booseh khuchulu) in 2005.
"Enemies Of the People", which won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury prize at Sundance 2010, and a dozen other international Festival awards, still awaits permission for a national theatrical release from the Ministry Of Culture and Arts of Cambodia.
Cambodian reporter Thet Sambath and British documentarian Rob Lemkin collaborated on the exceptional "Enemies Of The People."
Sambath, whose family were killed in the "killing fields" of the Khmer Rouge, spent a decade patiently wooing a friendship with Khmer Rouge second in command, Nuon Chea AKA "Brother Number Two." Years into his freelance assignment, Thet Sambath met Brit filmmaker Rob Lemkin, who was on a research trip to Cambodia during the 2006 Khmer Rouge Trials. Dedicated Sambeth repeatedly visited Nuon Chea and other interviewees gaining their trust. These weekend trips to the countryside nearly destroyed his family life.
Smiling patiently as he listens to harrowing truths, Sambath never reveals that his family members were Kymer rouge victims, lest he lose the participant's stories. “I think only the killers can tell us the truth, why they killed the people and who ordered them to kill,” explains his narration, which reveals a Buddhist compassion as well as a tenacious digging for the truth. Peasant soldiers were forced to kill or face execution themselves. An uneasy interviewee smiles at the camera as he demonstrates the throat cutting style he was taught and used on hundreds of bound victims.
No amount of archival footage can match the power of this astounding documentary. What began as a investigation, seeking the justice that revealing the truth can bring, becomes over time, a lesson in forgiveness as Sambeth finds himself oddly concerned for the ailing Nuon Chea, once he's arrested to face War Crime trials.
Ten years of visits wears down Chea's defenses. The now frail 83-year-old tyrant, known as the ideological leader of the genocidal regime, at first denies knowledge of the local level assassinations. Eventually he acknowledges that the rural mass murders were policy handed down from the top. Sambath reveals that all his family was killed and Nuon Chea apologizes. This is the unique time that a high level Kymer Rouge accepted responsibility for the extensive war crimes. (Pol Pot died in 1998.)
Interviews with victim's relatives, peasants who point out where the bodies lay in the now tranquil countryside, and low-level participants in the army massacres add some additional color, but it is the final resolution with Chea that gives the film it's dramatic force.
Durin 2009 the ECCC tried Comrade Duch, charged with the deaths of over 20,000 prisoners. He will serve an additional 19 years in prison for his 'Crimes Against Humanity". Nuon Chea (Brother Number 2) and three other senior Khmer leaders, charged with genocide, are awaiting trial.
Originally reviewed at SBFF, 2010. Opens August 26- Laemmle Music Hall.
Hassan Khademi , the Iranian director of Rapping in Tehran, is a graduate with MA of Arts from University of Tehran and has conducted several research projects about Iranian underground music.
Hassan khademi's short film, Rapping in Tehran, has participated in several international film festivals such as International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival and Peace on Earth Film Festival-Chicago.
Cinema Without Borders: How did you come up with the idea of Rapping in Tehran? Hassan Khademi: I am a social researcher and I have conducted research in the field of Iranian youths and also young subcultures in Iran and I’ve written some papers about them. During my research, I found that Persian rap is the most popular music style among young Iranians. I should say that Persian rap is something more than a music genre; it is a social phenomenon.
CWB: How challenging was it to shoot this film? Did you face any problems and limitations? HK: Since underground music is illegal in Iran and underground singers, mostly Persian rappers, sometimes may face legal repercussions, these groups are not easily accessible and it is actually very difficult to find them. It took me 5 months until I could convince them to take part in my film.
CWB: Did you know all the bands and performers beforehand, or you did you get to know them over the shooting period? HK: Before the shooting period, I had studied about all the important Persian rappers and I had listened to most of their works. During creation of the film I got to meet with them and made friendships which still last to this day.
CWB: How did you manage gain the trust of the artists performing in Rapping in Tehran? HK: It was such a difficult job! The artists were particular in how they were filmed because they all feared of getting identified by the police, which would be troublesome for them. We tried to accommodate all of their requests to ensure their safety and peace of mind.
CWB: Did you have a visual style in mind when you started “Rapping in Tehran”, or would you say that your vision came through in post-production? HK: I had a screenplay before shooting. But, like most documentary films, the events which happened during shooting changed the story of the film. For example, my film ends with the unwanted exile of some of the pioneering Persian rappers while, at the beginning, I hadn’t prospected this event. I can say my film was produced during the editing process.
CWB: Were there any of the artists that did now allow you to have them in Rapping in Tehran and were there any scenes that you liked that you had to remove from the final-cut? HK: In this film, I went to the most talented Persian rappers, and the most important ones were ready to cooperate with me. A couple of them said they would only participate if I agreed to exclude other rappers because of their competition; a condition that I didn’t accept. In terms of film scenes, I should say I loved some of them but I had to omit them because they didn’t correlate with the main story or they would create trouble for the rappers.
CWB: How did the artists react after seeing Rapping in Tehran? HK: The musicians who have watched the film are very pleased. They are happy to be portrayed in a positive light and they enjoy how they are represented.
CWB: What is the current state of Iranian underground music and how do you see its future? HK: Underground music is the most popular music genre amongst Iranian youths. My recent survey, which I conducted for a government organization in Iran, has confirmed my research results and also verified my understanding about underground Persian rap during the shooting period. It is difficult to foresee the future of this genre, but it is obvious for me that Persian rap in Iran is not the cause, but it is the effect. It doesn’t matter if the effect is Persian rap or anything else, as long as the cause is still there.
CWB: Are you working on any new projects? HK: Yes. I am in the research period of a film about Iranian clergies.
CWB: How can interested individuals watch Rapping in Tehran? HK: Although my film cannot get permission to be shown in Iran, I have shown it in private gatherings with students, teachers and other Iranian elites—even to some cultural policy makers of the Iranian government. (An Interview with Cinema Without Borders)
"No one Knows About Persian Cats, showed me a new way of looking at art"
No one Knows About Persian Cats is the story of two young musicians that have recently been released from prison and decide to form a band. Together they search the underworld of contemporary Tehran for other players. Forbidden by the authorities to play in Iran, they plan to escape from their clandestine existence, and dream of performing in Europe. But with no money and no passports, it won’t be easy...
Bahman Ghobadi, director of No One Knows About Persian Cats, was born on February 1st, 1969, in Baneh, a city near the Iran-Iraq border, in the province of Kurdistan, Iran. After receiving his high school diploma from Sanandaj, he moved to Tehran in 1992 to further his studies. Ghobadi began his artistic career in the field of industrial photography. Although he earned a B.A. in Film Directing from the Iranian Broadcasting College, he never properly graduated, believing that he learned more by making short films than by formal study. His direct experience with film helped him to expand his individualistic voice and his vision of the world he inhabited. He initially used 8mm film, shooting short documentaries as a starting point. From the mid-1990s on, Ghobadi’s short films began to receive foreign and domestic awards. LIFE IN FOG ("the most famous documentary ever made in the history of Iranian cinema") in particular was the recipient of a number of international prizes and opened new opportunities in Ghobadi’s career. With the making of his debut feature, A TIME FOR DRUNKEN HORSES in 1999, Ghobadi became fully recognized as an international director. The first full-length Kurdish feature film in the history of Iranian cinema, it firmly established Ghobadi as the leading Kurdish director from Iran.
Bijan Tehrani: How did you first encounter the story of No One Knows About Persian Cats? Bahman Ghobadi: Three years ago I wanted to shoot a project called Thirty Seconds about Us. I didn’t get the permission for making that film and therefore I was very disappointed and I was looking for a solution for making a project that would help me overcome the disappointment that I had. I am a filmmaker and I had no other way but to make a film and just before saying goodbye to my crew and letting go because my project had failed, I decided that I would go to an underground music studio and record my songs and music and I would try to do some artistic work that way. When I went to record my music, there I met these Iranian underground musicians and I was amazed while learning about their goals; they opened up a new window for me. It showed me a new way of looking at art and a new way of being an artist, they gave me the courage and the bravery to know that I don’t have to wait in order to get permission to make a film, I don’t have to wait to go and get a budget; I could make a project about ideas such as underground Iranian music without a budget or permission. This way of filmmaking would allow me to go after ideas and subjects that we were not even allowed to get close to or even make a film about them. It became bigger than music, because there are so many problems and issues that are forbidden to talk about. I wanted to try an urban movie, making a movie in the city and about the city life.
BT: No One Knows About Persian Cats shows a new picture of Iran, we see a face of Iran that we have not seen before in any Iranian films. BG: That’s quite true. At the Cannes Film Festival, everyone called this a new wave in Iranian cinema when they saw this film. I was hearing a lot of comments like that in the places that the film was showing, Iranians were coming to me after the film and telling me that they never knew that anything like this existed in Iran. As I mentioned, this whole thing was a gift given to me by underground Iranian musicians that actually let me find a new way of telling a story which was different than the other movies that I had worked on. Also, in this film I showed a whole new face of the capitol of Iran, this was also because of the subject of the film which allowed me to show this face of the city.
BT: I wanted to know, among the characters in the film, if they are real characters or fictional ones. BG: Every character, every group, every location; everything in the film is real—nothing is fiction in this film. Before we started this film, we had conducted interviews with the characters that you see in the film. We used all of the comments and all of the real stories of the characters and musicians in order to build this screenplay. Every scene of the film that you see with a band is a result of conversations with the real members of that band, their experiences and all of the things that have happened to them. Every single event in the film, everything that happens to every character is based on real stories.
BT: Something that is amazing to me is how brave the characters in the film are; that despite the circumstances in their country, they openly come out to participate in this type of film. Were they not scared of the consequences that could possibly follow? BG: I just got a little bit of my bravery from these guys: they are really, really brave. The film is limited to the bands who participated, but there are thousands of bands in Tehran only playing music. But my film is an hour and a half and there was no chance of showing all of the bands. Even if I had filmed all of them, it would have been a messy project. When the bands that I shot got in front of the camera, they are just playing music; they are not saying anything that would cause trouble for them. They are protesting through their music in a very calm and polite manner, in a peaceful manner. When we were about to finish the film, the two main characters, Negar and Ashkan, told us that they were about to leave Iran in twenty days, and we based our story on the real struggles of this young girl and young boy who had been in jail because of their music. After they leave the jail, they put a band together and leave the country; their goal was to leave Iran and go to a place where they have more freedom to play and record music without restriction, they would then come back to Iran and educate on their experiences. I was thinking that they might get in trouble, but they are now in London and they are working on their first album.
BT: One of the characters in No One Knows About Persian Cats which I found quite impressive is Hich-Kass, Nobody. How did you first meet this character? BG: I know Soroush personally and he is a very interesting and nice person, and he had a great influence over my work and this film. He introduced me to a man that had worked on his music videos and he helped me with the video clips in the film. He had a great effect over the structure in my film. He really loves Iran and even though he is currently under close observation and restriction, he still works under these hard conditions and teaches rap music to the underground musicians of our time. He is really a rebel, but at the same time he is a very honest person, like all of the other musicians in the film.
BT: You have a very unique style with this film as opposed to your other films; it’s an entirely new way of making films for you. How did you come up with the new style? BG: Actually, this came from the music of the artists; I was listening to their music everyday and night. I wanted to make a film that was completely new for Iranian cinema and use unique locations and characters that are based on truth. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do more than what I had done, because we only had seventeen days to do the whole thing. I think everything else came from the music, trying to go and discover Iran and seeing the different layers of life in Iran—all of this came through the music. If this film is very energetic, that energy comes from the music of the bands that are in the film. First we were going to just have the camera in the studio and have the bands play for the camera and that would be the start of the film, but as I was listening to the music, I could see the visual interpretations of the music in my head. I decided that the viewer would want to see the visuals of this music that would give a face to the whole film.
BT: Right now, you are living outside Iran. Some say that an artist that is cutting his roots and living elsewhere can’t match the quality of his previous work. Do you agree with that? BG: I have not left my country forever; I left my country to do a few projects, especially due to all of the censorship that is preventing the freedom of the artist. But soon I will go back to Iran, as I am not ready to leave that front. I want to go back and make my films there.
BT: Will you please tell us about your future projects? BG: I am working on a movie that will be filmed in either the U.S. or in Germany. I am also working on a dark-comedy that will be shot mostly in English in Iraq. I hoped that I can make both of these projects happen and I will make the first one in 2010. I hope that these films will pass new messages and ideas to my audience. BT: Thank you for your time and good luck.
An interview with Lone Scherfig director of An Education
An Education happens in the post-war, pre-Beatles London suburbs. A bright schoolgirl is torn between studying for a place at Oxford and the more exciting alternative offered to her by a charismatic older man.
Lone Scherfig director of An Education , was born in Copenhagen and studied film at the University of Copenhagen and the National Film School of Denmark. She has written and directed short films, radio dramas and television series. Lone has collected 22 awards and 11 nominations for her work. Italian for Beginners (the fifth Danish Dogma Film) received a FIPRESCI award and a Silver Bear Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Robert Award for Best Original Screenplay from the Danish Film Academy. Her features include The Birthday Trip and On Our Own. Her first English language film Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself received the FIPRESCI prize and a host of international film awards. Lone conceived the characters which formed the basis for Andrea Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize winning film Red Road. Lone is a recipient of Denmark's prestigious Carl Dreyer Honorary Award. Just Like Home, her last feature before An Education, screened at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007.
Bijan Tehrani: What initially motivated you to make An Education? Lone Scherfig: When I read the script, I was seduced by David just like everybody else. I wanted to make close-ups of this male character and be in this world for a while. I wanted to look through the eyes of this girl that I could understand and identify with.
BT: One thing that is very impressive about the film is the visual style. How did you come up with the visual style of your film? LS: We wanted to do something that had the innocence that Jamie has. When you see things for the first time through her, it should be something that is not pretentious, but we are in her mind and the film works to get an impression of this girl’s view of the world. I think it is hard to make period films entertaining and I don’t want the audience to sit and focus on costumes and production design. They should interpret the story and then, after the film, they can absorb the time and space.
BT: How has this film been received by younger audiences? LS: I don’t know, but when we tested the film, they liked it: They understand it and they related with the characters. This is about a character that gets an education for her sake, and decides how she wants to live, so I feel that this is an important message to send to young people. We see many issues that effect youth. We have underage sex, drugs, and racism; on the other hand I think that the film has very strong values and I would not mind my daughter watching the film.
BT: There is a touch of Tony Richardson filmmaking present in this film. Did you intentionally draw influence from this director? LS: No, my cinematic background is Scandinavian. I love more southern European films and the directors that I feel closer to are French and Italian. I looked at the films that were made during the 60’s just to get a better understanding of the period and to interpret the language.
BT: An Education is a very international film in terms of the cast and crew. As a Scandinavian, what do you think that you bring to the film in terms of your own background? LS: I did a lot of research to make up for my lack of knowledge on British culture. I know that there are things that you take for granted as an Englishman that I don’t, so it makes it easier to understand for people that are not British. You do not need to be British to understand this film. Peter and I are the only outsiders.
BT: How did you go about casting the film? LS: The casting director found many, many girls and Carey was one of them. I liked her from the beginning and it is wonderful to see how her career is taking off at a wonderful speed.
BT: How did you actually work with Carey Mulligan? LS: We just talked everyday and I let her try things out and expand her range and help each other. We rehearsed a little bit, but not that much; you don’t want to over-rehearse a comedy because it flattens it. We never had any conflict and I would love to work with her again.
BT: And how was it like working with Alfred Molina? LS: He was wonderful! He was just a pleasure and he would always make everyone around him happy. He got the character straight away and he understood the actor completely. He grew up in England and he said that he had met men like his character when he was a child.
BT: What was it like working with the Director of Photography on this film? LS: John and I love the same things and the same films, and he is a great person. John has a great crew that he works with, which is important in creating a nice atmosphere on the shots, even if we shot the film in six-and-a-half weeks, we still had time to try things out. (Link to the interview)
Israeli Samuel Maoz wins Golden
Lion in Venice VENICE, Italy (AFP) Posted 14 September, 2009 | by Fiona
"Lebanon" by Israeli Samuel Maoz, the story of the first Lebanon war told
from inside an Israeli tank, won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival
"I know it may be naive, but I like
to believe that the film I made will open people's minds and that they will ask
themselves who it is that we are," Maoz said.
June, 1982 - The First Lebanon
War. A lone tank and a paratroopers platoon are dispatched to search a hostile
town - a simple mission that turns into a nightmare. The four members of a tank
crew find themselves in a violent situation that they cannot contain. Motivated
by fear and the basic instinct of survival, they desperately try not to lose
themselves in the chaos of war.
Reymond Amsalem ...
Assna Ashraf Barhom Oshri Cohen ...
Herzel Yoav Donat ... Shmulik Michael
Moshonov ... Yigal Zohar Shtrauss ...
Gamil Dudu Tassa Itay Tiran ...
Her directorial debut dissects Iranian society at the time of the 1953
CIA-backed coup that overturned the nationalist government of Mohammed Mossadegh and
installed the shah in power.
backdrop, four women -- a prostitute, an activist, a cosmopolitan woman and a
traditional young girl -- fight for individual freedom and independence, winding
up together at an idyllic orchard in the countryside.
"This has been a labour of love for six years," Neshat said. "This film
speaks to the world and to my country," she said, ending her remarks by making a
"V for victory" sign.(Venice
Film Festival 2009 Winners)
A Prophet wins inaugural London Film Festival best film award
The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival’s inaugural Star Of London award for best film went to Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet at the awards ceremony last night
Jury chair Anjelica Huston said of France’s foreign-language Academy Award submisison: “A masterpiece, Un Prophete has the ambition, purity of vision and clarity of purpose to make it an instant classic. With seamless and imaginative story-telling, superb performances and universal themes, Jacques Audiard has made a perfect film.”
The jury gave a special mention to John Hillcoat’s The Road.
In another first-time presentation, the Best British Newcomer award celebrating a film-maker who had demonstrated “real creative flair and imagination with their first feature” went to The Scouting Book For Boys screenwriter Jack Thorne.
The jury gave a special mention to J Blakeson, the writer and director of The Disappearance Of Alice Creed, which premiered recently in Toronto.
The longstanding Sutherland Award presented to the maker of the most original and imaginative first feature went to Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami, Israel’s foreign-language Oscar submission.
The London Film Festival Grierson Award for best documentary was presented to Yoav Shamir for Defamation.
John Hurt and Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé earned BFI Fellowships for their “significant achievements in the fields of acting and directing.”
Hurt stars in two films that screened in the festival, 44 Inch Chest and The Limits Of Control. Cissé’s Tell Me Who You Are received its UK premiere at the festival
Nahid Persson and Farah Diba to compete at Sundance
Nahid Persson Sarvestani’s film The Queen and I (Drottningen och jag) is the first ever Swedish documentary to compete at the Sundance Festival.
It was recently announced that Nahid Persson's new documentary The Queen and I, about Farah Diba, has been selected to compete in January's Sundance Film festival. This marks the first time ever that a Swedish documentary is in competition at Sundance.
Representatives for the festival ploughed their way through 1,623 documentaries from around the world, selecting 16 for the World Cinema section and 15 for the American section.
"It's fantastic, Sundance is so big. I recently presented the film at IDFA in Amsterdam and was totally bowled over by the reception. The film screened six times to completely full houses," says Nahid Persson. "And since the Sundance announcement I've had emails from several major companies wanting to distribute the film. That's very cool indeed!"
Two years ago Nahid Persson travelled to Iran to finish off her film Four Wives – One Man, which went on cinema release last year. As soon as she landed at Teheran Airport she was arrested and subjected to intense interrogation, culminating in her being forced to sign a declaration that she would make no more films about Iran. And it was during these interrogations that she got the idea for her latest film.
Going back thirty years, Nahid took part in the revolution which ousted the Shah and brought down the monarchy in Iran. Yet she has always been fascinated by the Shah's wife, Farah Diba. And it is to this seemingly unlikely subject that she has turned so many years after the revolution and the betrayal she felt at being forced into exile, a fate she shares in common with the former queen. During the two years of filming her former adversary there were many moments of disagreement, but also of surprise and revelation. The film unfolds a meeting between two women who have much more in common than either of them might have imagined.
Distributed by Folkets Bio, The Queen and I opens in Sweden on 13 February 2009. The Sundance Film Festival runs from 15-25 January 2009.