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KARLOVY VARY 2024 Proxima :: Review: Nothing in Its Place
How far are people willing to go for their political beliefs, and how much can the ideology of a group influence the behavior of an individual? Nothing in Its Place holds up a mirror to more than one revolution..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 :: Noaz Deshe :: Director of Xoftex :: Interview
"I wanted to document the progression of the mental state of stateless people in a refugee camp." The director tells us more about his new film, in which he portrays refugees filming satirical sketches and preparing for a zombie..
KARLOVY VARY 2024 Competition :: Review: Xoftex
Xoftex is the name of a Greek refugee camp for Syrian and Palestinian asylum seekers. To pass the time, camp inhabitants such as Nasser make satirical short films and prepare to make a zombie film. Noaz Deshe explains how he..
Shanghai IFF 2023 :: A Review of 'Cause of Death: Unknown'
The first film by Ali Zarnegar receives an overall acceptable score. The writer and director's extensive experience, including his frequent involvement in short cinema, writing.., has had a positive impact on the film's quality..
Bahar Lellahi :: 40-year-old Iranian Female filmmaker Murdered in Prison
Bahar Lellahi, an Iranian director and screenwriter from the Northern city of Amol and a resident of Tehran, was killed at the Islamic Republic's detention center and was secretly buried in a cemetery near the city of Karaj..
Dead of Night :: A standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji
“Dead of Night”, a standout feature by Farhad Vilkiji, marking his directorial debut, delves into the struggles of an Iranian intellectual navigating political and personal challenges, promising a poignant exploration of human resilience..
BERLINALE 2024 Encounters :: Interview :: Matías Piñeiro
Matías Piñeiro’s experimental, hour-long film 'You Burn Me', an interesting work based on texts by Cesare Pavese and Sappho about the relationship between two women, was included in this year’s Berlinale Encounters program..
Super Size Me :: A terrific cheeky stunt :: small wonder Morgan Spurlock never matched it
'Super Size Me' director Morgan Spurlock dies aged 53. 'Super Size Me' was his masterpiece – a documentary which really did have an effect and challenged the way we think about food..
Cannes 2024 review :: 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig' - A powerful rebellion in the name of art & freedom
Mohammad Rasoulof examines Iran's contemporary tensions through the internalization of turmoil by a family of four. It's a suspenseful and bold call to arms for those..
Sean Baker’s ‘Anora’ Wins Palme d’Or at 2024 Cannes Film Festival
Sean Baker’s Anora has won the Palme d’Or at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, which wrapped Saturday night (May 25). It marks Baker’s second time in Competition, following 2021’s Red Rocket..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘Grand Tour’ :: Review :: In Search of Lost Time
Closer in spirit to an essay film like "Sans Soleil" than to a conventional love story, this lushly abstract travelogue is as gorgeous as it is impenetrable. Miguel Gomes’ Beguiling Colonial Romance Travels from Saigon to Shanghai in..
Cannes 2024 :: ‘All We Imagine as Light’ :: A Sensual Triumph
India’s First Cannes Competition Title in 30 Years Is a Sensual Triumph. Payal Kapadia captures the way two women in Mumbai move through the world with bracing intimacy. It is both dreamlike and like waking up from a dream..
Cannes 2024 :: Mohammad Rasoulof Speaking to IndieWire
Rasoulof Made It to Cannes for ‘Seed of the Sacred Fig,’ but His Perilous Journey Out of Iran Isn’t Over. "I consider making works of art as my right, and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t fight for this right."..
Cannes 2024 :: Donald Trump Origin Tale ‘The Apprentice’ Gets 11-Minute Ovation At Its Cannes World Premiere
The Trumps were on the red carpet this evening at the Cannes Film Festival — sort of — as Ali Abbasi’s The Apprentice world premiered in competition. There was lots of hugs..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 ::
Francis Ford Coppola Finally Talks Megalopolis

The Oscar-winning legend has been the subject of deafening rumors about his self-financed new epic. For the first time in public, he finally got to tell his story...
UPDATE :: I exist to narrate :: Mohammad Rasoulof writes about his forced departure from Iran
By publishing a post on his personal Instagram page, he announced his forced departure from Iran. His writing, which you can read here, is a testament to the many artists who were driven..
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is finally online!
The Phoenix (Simorgh) is a short film Written & Directed by Nora Niasari. It follows Mr Farid, an exiled Iranian actor, who teaches drama to reluctant asylum seeker teenagers inside an Australian Detention Centre..
Films Boutique boards Mohammad Rasoulof’s Cannes Competition title
Berlin-based Films Boutique has secured world sales rights to Mohammad Rasoulof’s 'The Seed Of The Sacred Fig' ahead of its premiere in Competition at Cannes, and has closed a distribution deal in France..
Nika's Last Breath :: BBC World Service Documentaries
Secret document says Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester. An Iranian teenager was sexually assaulted and killed by three men working for Iran's security forces, a leaked document understood to have been..
Cannes Film Festival 2024 :: Michel Hazanavicius & Mohammad Rasoulof Movies in Competition Lineup
Cannes Film Festival has added some international titles to Competition Lineup: Hazanavicius‘ 'The Most Precious of Cargoes' and Rasoulof‘s 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig'..
'Biological Terror?!' :: Speculations about Alidoosti's unknown disease
According to some sources, Taraneh told her colleagues that she passed out during her interrogation by IRGC intelligence agents and then, realized that she was injected with an unknown ampoule, after which she felt dizzy..
Taraneh Alidoosti's mother: Pray for her! Her disease is severe!
The celebrated Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti's mother has announced that her daughter is suffering from an illness of "unknown origin". Earlier, there were reports that Taraneh Alidoosti was ill and hospitalized..
‘The Apprentice’ :: A dive into the underbelly of the American empire
The drama charts a young Donald Trump’s ascent to power through a Faustian deal with the influential right-wing lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn. A first look at the forthcoming film from Ali Abbasi, set to premiere at Cannes..
STOCKFISH 2024 :: Review: Tove’s Room
A new biopic about Danish poet Tove Ditlevsen and her tortured marriage to the sadistic news editor Victor Andreasen. We’re in Copenhagen in 1969, and the entire action of this tense, neurotic – yet very intriguing – kammerspiel takes place..
American Fiction :: Movie Review
Jeffrey Wright gives a knockout performance in this edgy, Oscar-nominated comedy. Cord Jefferson marries broad humour with affecting familial dysfunction and biting observations on race. This season’s edgiest comedy arrives with richly deserved Oscar nominations for..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Silent Trees
Zwiefka – whose last film, Vika! has enjoyed a healthy festival run and is still travelling the world – now trains her lens on a completely different topic: the story of a Kurdish refugee girl stranded in the no man’s land between Belarus and Poland...
CPH:DOX 2024 :: Review: Immortals
Immortals is a dystopian film that turns into an ode to fragility, and it shows the contrasting feelings of those who allowed themselves the luxury of hoping that David might kill Goliath. Maja Tschumi’s film is built around the hopes and broken dreams, but most of all the..
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers Call Out AMPAS Over Omission
Exiled Iranian Filmmakers (IIFMA) has written to AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) to protest the omission of murdered Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui from the In Memoriam segment of the Academy Award..
Oscar 2024 :: How to Watch Every 2024 Oscar-Nominated Movie
It’s time to fire up your Letterboxd, roller-skate out of the real world, and head off to movie land. The 2024 Oscar nominations have been officially announced, giving you a perfect watchlist for catching up on all the films you..
Berlin: Indie Juries Pick :: ‘Sex’, ‘Dying’ and ‘Cake’
Matthias Glasner's German family epic 'Sterben' (Dying), Iranian feature 'My Favourite Cake,' and Dag Johan Haugerud's Norwegian drama 'Sex' picked up multiple awards from the independent juries at the 74th Berlinale..
BERLINALE 2024 Awards :: Mati Diop’s Dahomey bags the Golden Bear
The 74th Berlinale (15-25 February) was brought to a close tonight by the traditional awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast, which saw the triumph of Mati Diop’s Dahomey, the winner of this year’s Golden Bear..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Competition Review: Architecton
Several thousand years of architectural history are woven together in Kossakovsky's visionary blockbuster, which almost without dialogue - but with images as sharp as flint and a soundtrack as massive as a pillow - is a total cinematic..
BERLINALE 2024 :: Review: Afterwar
An immersive and uncategorisable film, shot over a period of 15 years, was made in close collaboration with its four Kosovar protagonists. A dark chapter in modern European history draws to a close. Haunted by memories of the past and caught in an uncertain state of limbo..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Review: My Favourite Cake
All eyes were on writer-directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha – or, rather, their absence – at the world premiere of their new film, My Favourite Cake, which has just made its debut in the Competition section of..
NAVALNY (2022) :: Navalny’s Plight in a Russian Prison Highlighted
The fact that this documentary movie involves one of the most brazen incidents of state sponsored assassination in memory means this is a unique document of a very singular man. After almost being poisoned to death in 2020..
CPH:DOX 2024 :: The line-up of the 2024 CPH:DOX competitions
CPH:DOX unveils the films nominated across all six award categories. The selection features 66 films in competition, among which 47 are world premieres, 17 international premieres and 2 European premieres..
BERLINALE 2024 :: ‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran
‘My Favourite Cake’ Directors Deliver Powerful Message From Iran After Authorities Banned Travel to Berlinale: ‘Like Parents Forbidden From Looking at Their Newborn Child’..
Farshad Hashemi :: Director of 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others' :: Interview
“I can’t predict the future, but I know this is just the beginning”. The winner of Göteborg’s Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award plays with fact and fiction in his debut film..
BERLINALE 2024 :: EXCLUSIVE :: Trailer for Berlinale Panorama entry 'My Stolen Planet'
The German-Iranian co-production is a diary-style narrative by Farahnaz Sharifi, from her childhood to the 2022 Women, Life, Freedom uprising..
Farshad Hashemi's film wins The Ingmar Bergman Debut Award at Goteborg Film Festival
The Ingmar Bergman International Debut Award goes to Farshad Hashemi's feature debut 'Me, Maryam, The Children And 26 Others'. The prize consists of a stay at The Bergman Estate on..
‘Eternal’ :: Rotterdam Review :: A soulful exploration of love and regret
How can you commit to the future when life on earth seems so finite? It is a question that haunts the central character in writer/director Ulaa Salim’s admirably offbeat romance Eternal..
IFFR 2024 Tiger Competition :: 'Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others'
Farshad Hashemi's feature debut, Me, Maryam, the Children and 26 Others, which has just world-premiered in IFFR's Tiger Competition, will inevitably inspire associations with Iranian cinema's tradition of intertwining..
Berlinale Calls for Iran to Allow Directors to Attend Festival
The Berlin Film Festival has called on Iran to allow directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha to leave the country to attend the world premiere of their new film My Favorite Cake..
"My Favourite Cake" :: to premiere in the Berlinale Competition
Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha’s My Favourite Cake to premiere in the Berlinale Competition. Last year, the pair were banned from travelling in relation to their film..
Asghar Farhadi, Iranian filmmaker :: “I saw how powerful women are”
In a new interview with french newspaper Le Monde, Farhadi reveals he won't be making any new films in Iran, for the time being, as an act of resistance against the regime..
IPADOC 2024 :: Review :: Son of the Mullah
Nahid Persson pays tribute to Rouhollah Zam, an exiled Iranian activist and journalist with a tragic fate, with a moving film about the pursuit of regime opponents. “I had a beautiful life before I left Iran”..
‘Gunda’ :: Berlin Review :: Intensely moving and quite genuinely unique
Anyone who never thought they could imagine the feelings of an animal will have their mind changed here. Viktor Kossakovsky’s extraordinary film is every bit as resonant as Bresson’s ’Balthazar’ or Bela Tarr’s ’Turin Horse’..
BERLINALE 2024 :: “Sons” by Gustav Möller :: Selected for main Competition
BERLIN. “The Guilty” director Gustav Möller's prison drama “Sons” will be celebrating the World premiere in the International Competition strand of the Berlinale as the first Danish-language film in eight years..
BERLINALE 2024 Competition :: Encounters
The Berlinale (15-25 February) has announced the full line-ups of its Competition and Encounters sections. Twenty films will vie for the Golden and Silver Bears, including two debut features..
La chimera :: A fairy tale with a social conscience and plenty of humor
Alice Rohrwacher's film is clever, ambitious, and funny throughout, but it also works as an intelligent meditation on our attitudes toward life, love, and death. Get used to her name, because she will be sticking around well after..
Iran: PEN International Calls for investigation over Baktash Abtin’s tragic death
PEN International holds the Iranian authorities fully responsible for the death of the prominent writer, poet, and filmmaker Baktash Abtin and calls for an urgent investigation into..
GOLDEN GLOBES 2024 :: 'Anatomy of a Fall' wins two Golden Globes
Justine Triet’s film shone bright at the ceremony, at which the main winners were Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer and Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, which also boast European participation..
Tótem :: A dazzling, vibrant child’s-eye view of jubilation and tragedy
Lila Avilés’s latest film is filtered largely through the perspective of a seven-year-old girl who experiences the ups and downs of life in a day with her big and beautiful family.. A co-production between Mexico, Denmark and..
Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers Is a Holiday Triumph
Alexander Payne's new film The Holdovers, starring Paul Giamatti, is the kind of wonderful comedy-drama we used to take for granted. Today it feels like a cinematic miracle. In Payne’s work, one individual’s failings..
Film Orgs call on Iranian authorities to drop charges against two movie directors
Some 30 film organizations, festivals and professionals have signed an open letter calling on Iranian authorities to immediately drop all charges against directors Maryam Moghadam..
Absence :: Ali Mosaffa's mystical thriller
An Iranian man, while investigating into his father's youth in Prague, finds himself in the shoes of a third man who is almost dead and happens to be his half-brother. Absence is an attempt to shed light on a forgotten corner..
‘Cafe’ :: Review :: Screened at 64th Thessaloniki Int. Film Festival 2023
May seem absurdist, but it is at least partially autobiographical. Like his countryman Jafar Panahi, a ban on filmmaking didn’t stop Mihandoust and, in the three years he was waiting for the sentence to be enacted, he..
Stockholm International Film Festival Awards 2023
Best Film: “The Settlers” by Felipe Gálvez Haberle. In a remarkable triumph, Chilean maestro Felipe Gálvez’s brutal western clinched the coveted Best Film award. The film delves into the annals of Chilean colonization and..
36th TIFF :: Tokyo 2023 :: Winners
Family drama Snow Leopard, directed by the late Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden, has won the Tokyo Grand Prix, the top prize at this year’s Tokyo Film Festival. Tatami by Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Guy Nattiv won the Special Jury Prize, also the award for Best Actress for Zar Amir..
Tokyo Film Festival 2023
The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), set to run October 23 to November 1, revealed the lineup for its 36th edition, including 20 world premieres across its two competition strands. The festival features 15 titles in its main Competition section led by Japan and China..
GoCritic! Animest 2023 :: Review :: The Siren
As shown through the eyes of a teenage boy, Sepideh Farsi's animated film shows both the horrors and kindness that wartime brings. A striking, bleakly beautiful account of living in a war zone, which captures a traumatic and..
LONDON 2023 :: Review :: Celluloid Underground
Unsuitable films were burned after the Islamic regime took over Iran. But one man stashed away reels and reels of banned and western movies – to thrill a new generation in secret film clubs.. A salute to the underground film lovers..
Golshifteh Farahani On the Shocking News of One of Iran's most prominent film-makers' Murder
"I did my very first movie 'The Pear Tree' with him when I was 14 years old. He was One of the most incredible directors of Iran and a great friend throughout these 26 years"..
Noted Iranian film director and his wife found stabbed to death in their home
Fans of the celebrated Iranian film director Dariush Mehrjui have woken to the shocking news of his murder at home by an unknown assailant. He was 83. He was a co-founder of Iran’s film new wave in the early 1970s..
ORCA :: A Protest Against Hate, Intolerance and Dehumanization
Iranian swimmer (Taraneh Alidoosti) fights abuse and oppression with an “Orca” as her Spirit Animal. This drama ... is a genuinely inspiring story, in part because it doesn't adhere to the formula we might expect..
Copenhagen Cinematheque :: 'Leila's Brothers' :: Film of the Month in October
Iranian cinema surprised at last year's Cannes festival – this time with a screwball comedy about finances and love, family relations and generational gaps..
LOCARNO 2023 :: Radu Jude :: Interview :: It's Later Than You Think
Jude once again proves himself to be one of the most original auteurs of our times. Moreover, his lack of fear at being controversial – or simply wrong – allows him to create cinema on an extraordinary scale that does not necessarily..
OSCARS 2024 :: European titles submitted for the Oscars race
European countries reveal their titles submitted for the Best International Feature Film Award at the 2024 Academy Awards. With the 96th Academy Awards ceremony scheduled to take place in Hollywood on 10 March, 2024..
Oscars 2024 :: Denmark Picks ‘The Promised Land’ for Best International Feature Category
Denmark has picked its 2024 Oscar contender, selecting period epic The Promised Land as its official Academy Award entry in the best international feature category..
Oscars 2024 :: Sweden selects Milad Alami’s 'Opponent' as Oscar candidate
“We are very proud and honoured to be the Swedish submission to the Oscars this year! I am personally extra proud of our fantastic actors and our team.” Alami said. The film produced by Annika Rogell for Tangy is also nominated for..
Female Freedom Fighters :: The Politics of Women's Hair
Why the World’s First Feminist Revolution is Happening in Iran. A female revolution is underway in Iran. The mullahs are fighting back with brutal force. A year after it all began, women aren't giving up..
Oscars 2024 :: 'The Night Guardian' :: Iran Oscar entry
Iran has submitted Reza Mirkarimi’s The Night Guardian for Best International Film category at the 96th Academy Awards, in a move that will likely prompt pushback from the country’s dissident film community..
Venice 2023 :: ‘Green Border’ Review: Agnieszka Holland’s Humanitarian heart-in-mouth thriller Masterpiece
A modern-day resistance movie dealing with a new kind of fascism, and very much of a piece with Holland's previous classics 'In Darkness'..
Venice 2023 Winners :: Full List :: Golden Lion Goes To Yorgos Lanthimos For ‘Poor Things’
The 80th Venice Film Festival handed out its awards and Yorgos Lanthimos has clinched the top prize with his latest feature Poor Things, starring Emma Stone; Hamaguchi, Sarsgaard..
Venice 2023 :: ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ Review :: Ryusuke Hamaguchi Delivers A Constantly Surprising Film
Nature cannot be evil, only indifferent. But what about us? Hamaguchi is not interested in taking the easy road to a satisfactory resolution. On the contrary; his story runs up hard against..
Venice 2023 :: ‘The Beast’ Review :: Bertrand Bonello’s Trippy Sci-Fi
Is it sci-fi? Is it a romance? Is it a mystery? Is it a drama? It’s all these things together and none of them at the same time. It is moving and alienating, intellectual and visceral, it is challenging and confusing but it’s undeniably a..
Venice 2023 :: Woody Allen Gets Rapturous Reception :: Talks Love Of European Cinema; Life-Career Luck..
Allen was last in Venice in 2007, with Cassandra’s Dream starring Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor, and prior to that was invited in 1995 to receive a Career Golden Lion, but did..
VENICE 2023 Giornate degli Autori :: Interview: Ayat Najafi :: Director of The Sun Will Rise
The director talks about his Iranian-shot film, which documents the trials and tribulations of a theatre company, while outside, in the streets, youngsters are demonstrating..
Venice 2023 Flash Mob :: In Solidarity with Iranian pro-democracy protests
Jane Campion, Damien Chazelle, Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Guy Nattiv joined a flash mob on the Venice Film Festival’s red carpet on Saturday in support of the Woman, Life, Freedom protests in Iran..
Venice 2023 (Orizzonti) :: ‘Tatami’ Review :: Potent Political Sport Thriller
Billed as the first feature film to be co-directed by an Iranian and an Israeli filmmaker, “Tatami” goes all in with a lean and tense narrative that is part sport movie, part political thriller — with both parts equally neatly realized..
Variety (EXCLUSIVE) :: Iranian Filmmaker Ali Asgari Banned From Traveling & Making Movies
Ali Asgari, whose latest film “Terrestrial Verses” (co-directed by Alireza Khatami) world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, has been banned by the Iranian authorities from leaving the country and directing movies until further notice..
Venice 2023 :: ‘Priscilla’ Gets 7-Minute-Plus Ovation In Venice
Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla got a rousing response at its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Monday evening. The pic, a biopic of Priscilla Presley, who was in attendance for the movie based on the memoir she co-authored, scored..
Venice 2023 :: ‘Poor Things’ Review :: Emma Stone In Yorgos Lanthimos’ Glorious Paean To Freedom
Flamboyant, florid, fantastic, and freakish, this might well be one of the most unique movies you’ll ever see. Screening in competition in Venice and certainly one of the most eagerly..
Venice 2023 :: The Promised Land (Bastarden) :: Mads Mikkelsen At His Staunch, Heroic Best
A classic Scandinavian drama about human frailty, The Promised Land is earthy, enjoyable stuff: an expansive, sweeping epic with hope in its heart and dirt under its nails..
Venice 2023 :: ‘El Conde’ Review :: Pablo Larraín’s Latest Is A Bold, Wildly Irreverent Sensational Creation
A madly inspired reinvention of events embedded in the notion that longtime Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet became a vampire who ultimately tires of life and wants out after..
Venice Film Festival 2023 :: All Of Deadline’s Movie Reviews
The Venice Film Festival began August 30 with opening-night movie 'Comandante', an Italian World War II drama.. Deadline is on the ground to watch all the key films. Here is a compilation of our reviews from the fest..
Lars Von Trier Makes A Social Media Plea For A Girlfriend/Muse
He Says He Has “A Few Decent Films” Left In Him. Should we actually be surprised when Lars von Trier goes on social media to post a video about his search for a new girlfriend? Will Lars von Trier find her, and thus, continue his life as a feature..
'SUBTRACTION' :: TORONTO STAR :: REVIEW
“They don’t just look like us, It’s like we’re clones.” Seeing is believing: after getting a peek at the look-alikes in question, skeptical but sympathetic Jalal can only agree that something spooky is going on..
Celebrated Iranian Filmmaker Receives Prison Sentence over "Leila’s Brothers"
Renowned filmmaker and screenwriter Saeed Roustayi has been handed a six-month prison sentence, along with supplementary penalties, by the Tehran Revolutionary Court, as revealed by..
LOCARNO 2023 Competition
Review: ‘Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World’

Radu Jude’s eighth fiction feature seems to imply that the apocalypse might not arrive as a spectacular big bang, but rather as a flood of stupidity – and it’s actually already here..
Locarno Film Festival Awards :: ‘Critical Zone,’ the Film the Iranian Government Doesn’t Want to Be Seen, Wins Big at Swiss Fest
The hype is real: Ali Ahmadzadeh’s “Critical Zone” (“Mantagheye bohrani”) has picked up the top Golden Leopard at Locarno. ..
LOCARNO 2023 Competition
Review: 'Critical Zone'

Ali Ahmadzadeh’s third film defies Iran’s authoritarian regime, painting the portrait of a tired and unpredictable society which now believes in nothing but artificial paradises..
'Silent House' :: Award winner at Melgaco film festival 2023
“My brother and I weren’t able to leave (Iran) due to false and unfair accusations that were made against us. We lost many opportunities that our film created for us due to the ban”..
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SUNDANCE 2023
World Cinema Documentary Competition
Review: 20 Days in Mariupol

by Nataliia Serebriakova, Cineuropa
30/01/2023

- Mstyslav Chernov’s film tells of the first few horrific weeks of the Russian invasion, presenting us with footage of shelling, civilian deaths and the bombing of a maternity hospital

Mstyslav Chernov, along with photographer Yevgeny Maloletka and producer Vasilisa Stepanenko, arrived in Mariupol on 24 February 2022, an hour before the start of the Russian invasion, as part of an Associated Press (AP) team. They recorded everything that was happening in the city, including the humanitarian disaster brought on by the siege, the mass burials of civilians, crimes by Russian troops and the work of doctors, and they were the first to show the world the consequences of the bombing of Maternity Hospital No 3. Chernov and Maloletka sent the media files, which were later watched by the whole world, while hiding under some stairs near a flattened grocery shop – the only place in Mariupol where a signal could be found.



20 Days in Mariupol, which has just won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at Sundance (see the news), is very hard to watch and impossible to view without shedding a tear. It contains footage of children dying in hospital, which is hard to forget. The children who were brought to the hospital and were filmed all subsequently died. Editor Michelle Mizner has said that she had never cried so much while editing a video.

The documentary is very truthful and contains ambiguous footage of civilians looting the city. At that time, the film crew was in the hospital for a few days, spending the nights there. Then, when they went back to the city centre, they saw everything that was happening and that people were already looting the shops. There were even stores where people were simply allowed to go in and take whatever they needed. Chernov and his colleagues simply did not recognise the city.

The lack of information on the conditions of the blockade at that time served two purposes: the first was to sow chaos, as people did not understand what was happening and therefore panicked. The second reason was impunity, as without footage of destroyed buildings or dying children, the Russian troops could do whatever they wanted.

On 15 March, the AP team managed to leave Mariupol through the humanitarian corridor. The video footage that Chernov took out of Mariupol went on to form the basis of the documentary. However, during their escape, the problem was that by that time, Chernov and his colleagues had already lost their car, and they simply could not work or leave the city. They were lucky that a policeman who had helped them earlier came to their aid once again, and took them and his family through the Russian checkpoints, albeit in a wrecked car, riddled with shrapnel and with no windows. They succeeded because many people were leaving that day. Fortunately, there was so much chaos at the checkpoints that they were not under too much scrutiny, unlike those who passed through the following day.

Chernov is a Ukrainian videographer, photojournalist, director, military correspondent and writer, currently working for the AP. He is the president of the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers. He covered the Revolution of Dignity, the war in Eastern Ukraine, the aftermath of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, the Syrian Civil War, the Battle of Mosul in Iraq, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Chernov's material has been published and broadcast by many media outlets all around the world.

For their work in Mariupol, Chernov, Maloletka and Stepanenko have already received myriad international prizes, such as the Livingston Award, the Rory Peck Award, the Royal Television Society Award and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award. They were also made “journalists of the year”, according to the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper.

20 Days in Mariupol was produced by Ukraine’s Frontline and Associated Press.

ofh

1/31/2023

 ***** 

Cineuropa
Cineuropa's Best of 2022

by Cineuropa

- The results are in for the poll of Cineuropa’s journalists. Which are the best European works of the year?

Cineuropa's Best of 2022

One year on, and we are still here. 2021 tried hard to allow us to recover from 2020 (check out our list of the Best Films of 2021 here), but it wasn't until 2022 that the industry returned to what we once called "normal", and film festivals went back to their usual dates, schedules and red-carpet razzle-dazzle. Amidst all of this, what has been the state of European film and series production, now well and truly intertwined? The eternal struggle between veterans and newcomers to grab the limelight has arguably shifted in favour of the latter, with the newer voices drowning out the older ones, even though some of the older ones are proving they can deliver films that are just as fresh and daring as the youngest.

The results are in for the poll of Cineuropa’s journalists. Which European (co-)produced works world-premiered this year are the best, according to our team?

25 Safe Place, Juraj Lerotiæ (Croatia/Slovenia)

"Everybody needs a safe place, both in the physical and the metaphorical sense. For instance, safety is the key component of the concepts of home and family, which are rooted so deep in our society and our psychology. But what if the safe place is denied for somebody? Safe Place is a tense psychological drama that treats its serious topic from a sincere point of view belonging to those indirectly affected by it." (Marko Stojiljkoviæ)

24 The Eclipse, Nataša Urban (Norway)

"The Eclipse is a remarkable exploration of collective and personal memory and responsibility. Combining 16mm and manipulated Super 8 footage with an exquisite analogue, tape modulation-dominated soundtrack, the director has created a multi-layered work that resonates on several distinctive levels." (Vladan Petkovic)

23 El agua, Elena López Riera (Switzerland/Spain/France)

"Impending doom, esotericism, tradition and the heavy family legacy also float, and sometimes sink, in this tense calm before the outbreak of the furious, sweeping storm, proving once again that López Riera manoeuvres harmoniously and confidently in any film genre." (Alfonso Rivera)

22 The Quiet Girl, Colm Bairéad (Ireland)

"One of the most surprising titles at this year’s Berlinale, The Quiet Girl is crafted with two simple tools: three excellent lead actors who play their parts with great honesty and the use of “naturalistic time”. It’s rare to see this type of tempo staged successfully in a contemporary film." (Davide Abbatescianni)

21 I Have Electric Dreams, Valentina Maurel (Belgium/France/Costa Rica)

"I Have Electric Dreams isn’t your usual coming-of-age tale where a young woman turns into a young woman over the course of a summer. Eva sees beyond that. How and why has violence become a language within her family unit, a conversation between her father and herself, and sometimes even with her mother? What can be done about this legacy, this violence handed down between generations?" (Aurore Engelen)

20 The Beasts, Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Spain/France)

"Divided into two time frames, The Beasts is not only disturbing but also deeply moving. Beneath its violent film texture (it is impossible not to recall films like Straw Dogs and Deliverance, to name a few of the “you are not welcome here” subgenre) pulsates a thrilling love story: a shared idealism capable of overcoming any fear, tragedy and threat." (Alfonso Rivera)

19 Mutzenbacher, Ruth Beckermann (Austria)

"In Mutzenbacher, one of the more curious Encounters at the Berlinale, Beckermann digs out one of the more scandalous literary works from her native country (or indeed any country) from the last century and checks it off against contemporary moral(ism)s. Enlisting a group of men of various ages, she has them share their reflections on the matter at hand. No women are ever in view, but they are certainly talked about." (Jan Lumholdt)

18 Holy Spider, Ali Abbasi (Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden)

"It might be an odd way to describe this dark, unsettling story, actually inspired by a real-life case, but Abbasi never forgets that films – even ambitious and undoubtedly complex ones – should also be fun to watch. Also, there is something about this film that makes one feel utterly uncomfortable, but it’s not due to its violence. It’s mostly because the way people react here, the way they dehumanise women quickly and easily, feels recognisable and it feels true." (Marta Ba³aga)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Ali Abbasi)

17 The Worst Ones, Lise Akoka & Romane Gueret (France)

"Akoka and Gueret's first feature provides material for a particularly topical sociological discussion. But above all, it has a real heart that beats wildly and a power that releases emotions that are both formidably lively and cinematographically very accomplished in their form, interweaving two worlds that wrongly misunderstand each other and that benefit from discovering each other." (Fabien Lemercier)

16 Pamfir, Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk (Ukraine/France/Poland/Chile/Luxembourg/Germany)

"Pamfir is an original Ukrainian movie, unlike anything we’ve seen before from the country, which not only speaks about the war (there is also a line about the conflict in the East), but also tells the story of a family tragedy, which will easily resonate with many viewers from different countries." (Nataliia Serebriakova)

15 Rimini, Ulrich Seidl (Austria/Germany/France)

"Although this is as merciless and as pointed – for Seidl's admirers – as ever, one can still identify a breakthrough, through characterising it as a “late work”. Rimini earns its laurel as a sensitive study of mortality, as well as a lacerating look at much else that Seidl sees in us, as is his wont." (David Katz)

14 Will-o'-the-Wisp, João Pedro Rodrigues (Portugal/France)

"Folklore, environmentalism, queer desire and Hollywood musical-style ensemble choreography come together in this short but ravishing feature by Rodrigues. Films with these outré descriptions often dot festival catalogues and flatter to deceive, but this one absolutely lives up to the excitable copywriting on viewing, whilst beneath its pleasurable surface lie many thought-provoking ideas." (David Katz)

13 One Fine Morning, Mia Hansen-Løve (France)

"Playing ever so gently with the colours and patterns of the fabric of all our lives, Hansen-Løve patiently weaves together a luminous film about our awareness of existing (just being here) in a place where love, in all its paradoxes, acts as a connecting thread. At times incredibly moving, the film nonetheless retains focus on a level of modesty and restraint which doesn’t hide anything, but which says everything there is to say." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)

12 Mantícora, Carlos Vermut (Spain)

"If Vermut did not exist, he would have to be invented. Thanks to his unaccommodating audiovisual work, Spanish cinema reaches levels of disturbance that few dare to even contemplate. All we can say is that some may find the story amoral or scandalous, but which - under the surface - addresses the need for affection that we all have, even the most abominable and abject monster imaginable." (Alfonso Rivera)

11 Piggy, Carlota Pereda (Spain)

"There is no avoiding a mention of Carrie in any Piggy-related conversations – once again, a girl’s body is treated as her own enemy and the stills of a blood-soaked girl serve as a reminder of that unfortunate bucket. But this one stands (and breaks one’s heart) on its own, an exceptionally skilful work that really proves that there is some genre-film revolution going on." (Marta Ba³aga)

10 Alcarràs, Carla Simón (Spain)

"Nothing really happens in Alcarràs, and yet everything does, as one family’s entire world is about to change forever. Simón practises the “inside” kind of filmmaking, coming as close as she can, peeking through leaves and seemingly trying her best to refrain from hugging the protagonists. It’s nothing short of miraculous that they are all given their own moments to exist here. Frankly, she might be one of the most tender directors around." (Marta Ba³aga)

9 R.M.N., Cristian Mungiu (Romania/France/Belgium/Sweden)

"The whole, subtle art of Mungiu is to introduce and truly bring into existence a huge number of supporting characters, thus painting a very comprehensive portrait of the microcosm that could almost be documentary-like, if the filmmaker didn’t also have the specific talent of being able to sensitively probe their private lives. It all makes for a perfect, fascinating and astute fresco, which takes shape around the key issue of the collective in the face of its urges for life and death." (Fabien Lemercier)

8 Close, Lukas Dhont (Belgium/France/Netherlands)

"Covering four seasons through the mirror of family work in fields of flowers and among the natural elements, Close proves a wonderful cinematographic balancing act, both incisive and thought-provoking, which combines realism, lyricism and melodrama with touching smoothness and without a hint of excess." (Fabien Lemercier)

7 Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Östlund (Sweden/Germany/France/Turkey/Greece/Denmark/UK/USA)

"Östlund’s “Rubensonade” (if we may) provides maximal mischief and minimal nobility in any sense – the filthy-rich clientele on the flashy yacht bound for wreckage are at least as filthy as they are rich. As a storm brews and the very merchandise sold by our Russian peddler hits the proverbial fan (plenty of bodily waste flies around here, unproverbially so), we’re in for some desert-island hardships, better left untold here." (Jan Lumholdt)

(Read full review)
(Watch interview with Ruben Östlund)

6 The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin McDonagh (Ireland/UK/USA)

"It feels almost strange to laugh during McDonagh’s films sometimes. They are hilarious, endlessly quotable and yet so very, very sad. It’s hard to say how all of it goes together, but it does. It’s almost as if after realising the world is doomed and all hope is gone, one were to just sit there, smiling. The Banshees of Inisherin is a smaller film, in scope and in spirit, as a tiny island community suddenly witnesses something exciting: the end of a life-long friendship." (Marta Ba³aga)

(Read full review)

5 EO, Jerzy Skolimowski (Poland/Italy)

"Among the films devoted entirely to animal protagonists, EO still sticks out a little. The veteran Polish director’s take on the ever-changing fortunes (and whereabouts) of one donkey is weird and occasionally hilarious. There is something about it that feels very young, film school-y even, but it’s quite inspiring that instead of delivering safer fare, Skolimowski still feels like playing." (Marta Ba³aga)

4 Godland, Hlynur Pálmason (Denmark/Iceland/France/Sweden)

"Godland is a work of very high artistic level, looking in-depth at the crushing link between the millennial powers of nature and the gaping moral faults that are revealed when humans are pushed to their limits. This very spectacular and no less intense film confirms the gradual rise in quality of world cinema by a very talented director." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Hlynur Pálmason)

3 Aftersun, Charlotte Wells (UK/USA)

"Perfect performers, refined and inventive direction, a sense of rhythm, lighting and framing, an emotional sensitivity, a small crossover and a deft reversal of the film's major narrative subject, which shifts from the father to his daughter, a harmonious weaving of symbols and motifs that tell different stories: beneath its "banal" appearance, Aftersun is a truly impressive first feature." (Fabien Lemercier)

2 Pacifiction, Albert Serra (France/Spain/Germany/Portugal)

"With Pacifiction, Serra deceptively seems to be shrugging off this Romanticism-and-oil-painting obsession, finally positioning our frightening modern world in his sights. Although containing some elements of a classic paranoid thriller, the film is really more of a detailed character study, uninterested in plot progression and more so in creating a fully rounded portrayal of a human being." (David Katz)

1 Saint Omer, Alice Diop (France)

"Lifting the veil on "the story of a ghost woman whom nobody knows" and that of a "gradual disappearance to which a mother also subjects her child", Saint Omer works with delicacy on distance and on the prejudices and preconceptions surrounding a crime which goes beyond all comprehension, all the while releasing diffuse clues on the exact nature of its message (racism is very subtly evoked). Its opacity is the strength of this imperious yet cryptic film, which perfectly reflects its troubling protagonist." (Fabien Lemercier)

(Read full review)
(Read interview with Alice Diop)

Want to see our journalists' individual tops? Click here!

 

OFH

12/26/2022

 ***** 

CINEUROPA
Cineuropa's Best Films of 2021

by Cineuropa The results are in for the poll of Cineuropa’s journalists. Which are the best European films of the year?

After the world was shaken to its core in 2020, all of us, professionals, cinephiles and occasional readers, were looking forward to what the future might bring.

While we still don't know what's in store for us, and with things looking bright one day and equally grim the next, one thing is for sure: 2021 has been an incredible year for cinema, with many titles being pushed back from last year to this one, and many others being finished and released during the last few months.

We have been able to enjoy film festivals again, and we have celebrated the reopening of the theatres with the releases of some eagerly awaited films. We want to hope that things are back on track, and wills are stronger than ever.

Cineuropa's Best Films of 2021

The results are in for the poll of Cineuropa’s journalists. Which European (co-)produced films world-premiered this year are the best, according to our team?

Here is our Top 2021:

25 L'arminuta, Giuseppe Bonito (Italy/Switzerland)

"In his third film, Bonito elegantly directs this "coming of age," garnishing it with evocative sequences (such as the slow motion in the scene of the flying seats at the village carousel or the run to the sea) and keeping a constant watch on Sofia Fiore's timelessly graceful face. Tears and emotion are assured for audiences over 25." (Camillo De Marco)

24 Mr Bachmann and his Class, Maria Speth (Germany)

"Move over, Dangerous Minds, and your fierce Michelle Pfeiffer, as Dieter Bachmann has now entered the classroom. This over 200-minute-long documentary, which would make Lav Diaz proud, is a nice surprise – a lovely human story about a sixth-grade teacher. He wears a cool beanie and an AC/DC T-shirt, and plays guitar to boot, but his ultimate coolness lies not in his fashion sense, but in the way he approaches his job." (Ola Salwa)

 

23 Who’s Stopping Us, Jonás Trueba (Spain)

"Trueba’s latest offering, a prodigious work with a runtime of over three hours centred on a group of teenagers who commit heart and soul to every scene, is so audacious, so gutsy that it’s verging on a kamikaze venture. The result is a simply stunning film that makes being in a cinema among strangers a new and more powerful experience, as we share the intense emotions evoked by watching a group of such likeable humans bare their most intimate selves in the name of cinematic art." (Cristóbal Soage)

 

22 Pleasure , Ninja Thyberg (Sweden/Netherlands/France)

"Displaying formal mastery at all levels, Thyberg's unflinching film dissecting an incredibly harsh initiatory journey from both an entomological and a female point of view, making the porn scene of the late 1970s, is a socio-melodramatic, ultra-realist work which is brutal, to say the least, but which offers an infinitely modern peak behind the scenes of an industry where dreams of glory come at a heavy cost." (Fabien Lemercier)

 

21 Parallel Mothers , Pedro Almodóvar (Spain)

"The film might still end up somewhere in between “the weird Almodóvars” and “the vintage Almodóvars”, but if there is one thing that the director seems to be preaching here, it’s to be over and done with secrets already, be it the ones festering under the roof of an elegant Madrid home or in a mass grave that everyone in the village knew about yet never opened. With that closing scene alone, he is getting ready for the reckoning." (Marta Ba³aga)

 

19 Petrov’s Flu , Kirill Serebrennikov (Russia/Switzerland/France/Germany)

"'Your poem is too long – in the 1970s, they prided themselves on doing short ones!' Words to this effect are exclaimed by a fatigued member of a Russian poetry club as she interrupts a particularly meandering reading. The ensuing ruckus, involving a prim librarian dishing out some mean, gravity-defying, almost Asian-choreographed action kicks, is quite a sight, and a bloody one at that. It’s surreal moments like these that perk up Serebrennikov's film, which, with its two-and-a-half-hour playing time, toys fearlessly with both the meandering and the fatiguing parts." (Jan Lumholdt)

 

= The Innocents , Eskil Vogt (Norway/Sweden/Denmark/Finland/France/UK)

"There is an element of William Golding's Lord of the Flies in seeing the terrible consequences of what happens when children gain power, over which they have autonomy. The Innocents also questions the nature of good and evil, pondering whether it is inherited, the work of the devil or something learned. Vogt's ambiguous narrative makes all of these conclusions possible." (Kaleem Aftab)

 

17 Vortex , Gaspar Noé (France/Belgium/Monaco)

"A round of applause for Noé, if you will. As the history of cinema lopes by, even the finest directors at work seem to be beset by a particular anxiety of influence. Noé has his influences but every time he comes out, there’s a concerted drive to reinvent what cinema can do formally, and how the elasticity of the medium enhances our sense of various subjects. He’s gone from sex to crime to dance and, here, to death. Specifically, the lonely, sorrowful deaths befalling the ageing population of the “developed world”: and here, he examines love’s overlap and struggle with life’s great full stop." (David Katz)

 

= The Green Knight , David Lowery (USA/Canada/Ireland)

"Lowery follows A Ghost Story with a stunning take on the Arthurian legend. Gloriously weird, sad and sexy, his might be the most surprising quest of the year, featuring beheaded ghosts, woodland chapels and the best talking fox since Lars von Trier's Antichrist. Absolutely bewitching." (Marta Ba³aga)

16 The Tsugua Diaries , Miguel Gomes & Maureen Fazendeiro (Portugal)

"Around spring of last year, when the true severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, thoughts turned to the fate of the arts and the creative industries: would we have them again? The more pertinent question, however, was how they might be transformed, just like nearly every aspect of global life. Gomes and Fazendeiro have created one of the better responses to this challenging existential riddle, further developing the former’s skill at blending fiction and documentary." (David Katz)

 

14 Playground , Laura Wandel (Belgium)

"An ultra-realist approach, which borders on documentarian, perfectly conveys the many, fine nuances in this film exploring a very simple yet somewhat shocking subject. It’s an initiatory journey as seen from the inside, depicted head-on by a film which is totally out of the ordinary, but it’s also a difficult and emotionally charged task for tiny tots thrust out into the world, alone." (Fabien Lemercier)

 

= Flee , Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark/France/Norway/Sweden)

"One of the most mesmerising animated features in many a year, Flee uniquely documents an Afghan refugee’s harrowing attempts to find asylum abroad, his journey anything but a linear progression. Poher Rasmussen finds remarkable means to unearth the memories of his protagonist, Amin, congealing them into something akin to a classic suspense tale, yet one still rooted in documentary credibility." (David Katz)

 

12 The Lost Daughter , Maggie Gyllenhaal (USA/UK/Greece/Israel)

"There is no questioning Gyllenhaal’s tenacity, as instead of flying low with her directorial debut, she went for the best actors and the hottest writer. Her film is one of those strangely unnerving stories unravelling not in the darkness, but under the sizzling sun, and certainly not another sweet take on the “rewards” that come with having a child. Here, the reality is just brutal." (Marta Ba³aga)

 

= Compartment No. 6 , Juho Kuosmanen (Finland/Russia/Estonia/Germany)

"Kuosmanen doesn’t so much make “period films” as films that seem to actually come out of their respective periods. He is also a very tender filmmaker, seemingly trying to stop himself from hugging these odd characters at any given moment and consistently delivering what some like to call “small stories with a big heart”. What a wonderful trip this is." (Marta Ba³aga)

 

11 France , Bruno Dumont (France)

"Although the filmmaker seems to be making a scathing satire of the world of television journalism as embodied by his main character France de Meurs, his film is in fact more about the brutal irruption of reality into the life of a people and a nation. It depicts the realisation of an upcoming annihilation, of a monstrous presence from which we’d been diverting our eyes for a long time." (Fabien Lemercier)

 

10 Memoria , Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Colombia/Thailand/UK/Mexico/France/Germany/China/Taiwan/USA/Switzerland)

"As for the current shape of our sensory champion, it can safely be said to be as fine as ever, at times surpassing itself. In Swinton he’s found a perfect “antenna” and in Colombia some of the most fructiferous plant life seen on 35 mm celluloid. The ride, should one decide to join in, is pure, unadulterated and one-of-a-kind Apichatpong. No less. Or precisely that." (Jan Lumholdt)

 

9 What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? , Alexandre Koberidze (Germany/Georgia)

"It is ambiguous as to whether Koberidze has answered the question of his own film's title, but one thing the film does definitely tell us is that we have never seen anything quite like it. The directorial approach borrows elements from silent movies, 1970s cinema in the broadest sense, observational documentary, and who knows what else. But almost incredibly, Koberidze wraps it all into a warm, coherent and, ultimately, romantic film that keeps you surprised and happy throughout its 150 minutes of running time." (Vladan Petkovic)

 

8 The Souvenir Part II , Joanna Hogg (UK)

"There is something very young about this film, a delightful, considerate effort, and not just because of all those wonderfully pretentious students running around. Once Julie decides to make a film about what she went through, she needs to answer questions about herself. But as she finds her way through to addressing that, and then some, making cinema that invokes fantasy and moves away from the kitchen sink, it’s almost as if Hogg was giving herself a small pat on the back, too. And justly so." (Marta Ba³aga)

7 Happening , Audrey Diwan (France)

"The debate around abortion is as vibrant, important and contentious as ever. One only has to look at the protests led by women in Polish cities in early 2021 following the near-total ban on abortion. It's arguable that there should be more films about it. Diwan concentrates on what happened, rather than creating a morality around it, letting the audience bring their own feeling into the room without hiding just how painful and dangerous Anne's abortion attempts are." (Kaleem Aftab)

6 The Hand of God , Paolo Sorrentino (Italy)

"Gradually, The Hand of God ventures down its own, darker paths, and as tragedy strikes the Schisa family, we’re reminded, if not before that, that perhaps we’ve been watching a true Sorrentino film all along. While the phrase “Sorrentino-esque” may not yet be in wide usage, it would not be entirely undeserved one day. At least the baroness upstairs would clemently agree." (Jan Lumholdt)

 

5 Annette , Leos Carax (France/Germany/Belgium/Switzerland/Mexico/Japan)

"From the moment that Sparks show up, joined by the whole cast singing “So May We Start” and waltzing onto the streets, Annette is a memorable kind of experiment, even if not all of it makes actual sense. But there is something delightful about this film, going back and forth between laughable, genuinely touching and just mad. So very, very mad." (Marta Ba³aga)

 

4 Petite Maman , Céline Sciamma (France)

"Sciamma, while rightfully lauded for her portrayals of women, just seems to “get” kids. Or maybe she remembers it all, that lady magician – remembers what it feels like, how children see things and how they hurt. It's almost hard to explain how something so tiny, so simple and so unassuming can also be so touching, but again, she just knows how to speak that language, and she is probably still able to see those black panthers in her bedroom, too." (Marta Ba³aga)

 

3 Titane , Julia Ducournau (France)

"There is no stopping Ducournau, whose new effort, is just, well, pure mayhem. The Fast & Furious franchise might have long abandoned any pretence of reality, but this is the kind of car loving that Vin Diesel would probably not approve of. Or maybe he would just be jealous. There is just no questioning her talent, smoothly delivering the weird and the shocking like it’s take-out. And, somewhere along the way, she proves that “Macarena” will just never die, however hard people try. Hey Macarena!" (Marta Ba³aga)

 

2 The Worst Person In The World , Joachim Trier (Norway/France/Sweden/Denmark)

"It’s nice to see Trier back in Oslo with a film that ventures where few dare to these days – right into romantic-comedy territory. It has charming meet-cutes and a cheery moving-in sequence, scored with a jazzy tune like it’s – shall we whisper it really quietly – a Woody Allen movie. But Norwegians do things differently, it seems, so a whole discussion about some missing bumholes also makes the cut, the most animated one since that infamous alternative edition of Cats." (Marta Ba³aga)

 

1 Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn , Radu Jude (Romania/Luxembourg/Czech Republic/Croatia/Switzerland/UK)

"One of those that are utterly divisive, Jude’s more than aptly (including the loony part) titled film revisits some of the director’s main themes, packing them into a feature that switches with great gusto from porn to philosophical collage and a chorus of idiots. This is definitely a must-see, as there are few features more stimulating or more able to emulate the craziness the entire world has been facing during the pandemic. The main thing the audience should truly embrace about it is the dare it confronts us with: to ponder honestly our own choices and decide whether, knowingly or unconsciously, we prefer to pay attention only to what we consider appealing in our lives. Appealing to others, that is." (ªtefan Dobroiu)

 

Want to see our journalists' individual tops? Click here!

ofh

3/1/2022

 ***** 

ROME 2021
Review: The Will to See

by Camillo De Marco, Cineuropa
29/10/2021 

A world tour of forgotten wars and urgent humanitarian crises from the perspective of French writer, philosopher and activist Bernard-Henri Lévy.

You can say what you like about Bernard-Henri Lévy, but not that he is a salon intellectual. Some old images included in the documentary The Will to See - co-directed by the writer, philosopher and activist with Marc Roussell and presented as an event at the 2021 Rome Film Festival - portray him in hot moments of recent history as a direct witness to conflicts and humanitarian crises; at 22, he was already in Bangladesh, and then in the 1980s, alongside Joan Baez or Liv Ullmann in Cambodia and Thailand.

"Writing, talking, but first of all going on the field," he said. Inspired by his book Sur la Route des Hommes Sans Noms (On the Road of the Nameless Men), this new film testifies, after 25 years of written reportage, to BHL's (as he is called in France) desire to capture his travels in images.



The philosopher without borders calls this documentary a 'world tour of forgotten wars,' and it really does feel like a descent into hell, with images that are often shocking, unsterilised by television censorship, showing the worst of mankind. It all began with a proposal from Olivier Royant, editor of Paris Match, who in the middle of lockdown offered BHL a series of investigations.

The doc begins with a plea for help for Christians in Nigeria, massacred by Boko Haram, the African Isis, and abandoned by a government poisoned by radical Islamism. In the Middle Belt, BHL meets Jumai Victor, who has seen houses burn and her husband and four children die before her eyes. She is pregnant, so her torturers limit themselves to butchering her arm. At the end of this journey, one is left with the terrible feeling of being back in 2007, when Khartoum's mounted militias sowed death in the villages of Darfur or South Sudan, or even longer ago, in Rwanda. BHL returns to Paris, feeling disconnected, not understanding the anger of the yellow vests.

Next trip: destination Syrian Kurdistan, to Rojava, the de facto autonomous region on the front line against Isis and which "the West shamefully abandoned in October 2019 when Erdogan invaded." BHL meets leader Aldar Khalil, "the invisible inspirer of the Kurdish democratic revolution."

On the frontline, he meets young Kurdish female fighters. "Equality with men is achieved through the weapons in their hands," he reflects bitterly. He thinks of the Amazon warriors of Queen Penthesilea, who defend cities in Homer's Iliad. He moves on to another forgotten war: the "low-intensity" one in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass, 450 km of frontline "against elite units working for Putin." How do they resist, BHL asks, the world's second largest army? "'The aberration of a war in Europe."

And then the return to Africa, to Somalia. In Mogadishu, "a ghost town, abandoned to the warlords." In Dhaka, Bangladesh, he meets Sheikh Hasina, "the only woman on Earth who rules a Muslim country," and then visits the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, where the pandemic has worsened the situation. He returns to a Paris deserted by lockdown, "but more important than being at home is being near those who have no home."

He leaves for Lesbos, Greece. The Moria refugee camp is the most inhuman in Europe. Then on to Libya, which brought him so much criticism after his controversial documentary The Oath of Tobruk.

Finally, Afghanistan, where he meets the leader of the anti-Taliban resistance Ahmad Massoud, the son of the national hero Commander Massoud, killed by Al Qaeda. Why this incessant travelling? To the class of Parisian students who meet him, BHL answers that it is "the desire to transmit knowledge." You never get used to it, you are always a newcomer to abuse and horror.

The documentary was produced by Kristina Larsen with Madison Films, in co-production with France 2 Cinéma and the participation of France Télévisions, Canal+ and Ciné+.


Movie Info

THE WILL TO SEE

by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Marc Roussel
international title:     The Will to See
original title:     Une autre idée du monde
country:     France
year:     2021
genre:     documentary
directed by:     Bernard-Henri Lévy, Marc Roussel
film run:     92'
screenplay:     Bernard-Henri Lévy
producer:     Kristina Larsen
production:     Madison Films, France 2 Cinéma, France Télévisions, Canal+, Ciné+

OFH

11/5/2021

 ***** 

Chess of the Wind:
Rediscovered Iranian Drama is a Revelation
(LFF Review)

Screened only twice (once for an empty theater) before it was banned in 1979, Mohammad Reza Aslani’s rediscovered and newly restored film Chess of the Wind (Shatranj-e baad) was destined to be lost forever. That is, until six years ago, when Aslani’s daughter found the original print in an antique shop in Tehran. Still banned in Iran, she had to smuggle the film out using a private delivery service straight to Paris. Once there, the film was restored in gorgeous 4k thanks to Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project and the Cineteca di Bologna

Not only is the tale of finding and restoring Chess of the Wind supremely satisfying, but the film itself is a revelation: a sensual, politically charged tale of aristocracy and class struggle through the lens of sumptuously crafted gothic storytelling. The film is dense with color and ornate set designs, indulging in a similarly elegant visual style as the works of Italian director Luchino Visconti. The camera moves sparingly throughout, clearly capturing the near-overwhelming decadence of the locations. When the camera does move, it usually signifies a shift in the narrative, newly revealed information, often spelling doom for the characters.

Speaking of characters, the film concerns itself with a wealthy family who all vy for power and inheritance after the death of the matriarch. There is the ruthless, misogynistic patriarch (Mohammadali Keshavarz, who some may recognize as the Film Director from Abbas Kiarostami’s Through the Olive Trees), the matriarch’s daughter (Fakhri Khorvash) and the daughter’s maid (Oscar nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, in her debut role).

These characters, as well as two adopted brothers, all eventually find themselves tangled in a web of murder, deceit, lust, and rivalry. While the pacing is often fairly slow, the narrative twists and turns in astonishing ways, leading to a shocking and surprisingly dreamlike climax. Each actor gives a convincing performance, but it is really Fakhri Khorvash and Shohreh Aghdashloo who steal the show. Khorvash portrays an elusive, mysterious figure who may be capable of more than she lets on, and Aghdashloo gives the maid an innocent, dependable veneer that belies possible ulterior motives.



Chess of the Wind (Courtesy of BFI London Film Festival)

Chess of the Wind is a stunning visual experience backed by a terrific and eerie score, courtesy of Sheyda Gharachedaghi, as well as a cast of determined actors. The film reaches revelatory heights due to its insightful and progressive political commentary.

Aslani depicts a society controlled by greed and capital: in fact, capital is the motivating force for many of the characters. The film even quotes the Quran at the very start, stating that competition in worldly gains breaks people apart.

Aslani is heavily critiquing what he sees as a money-obsessed, competition-obsessed society where someone’s value is based on what they own. Furthermore, Aslani takes aim at the patriarchal figure of the central family, showing his vicious dominance and misogyny and how he is but one aspect of an oppressive, patriarchal society.

Lastly, I am a fan but by no means an expert of Iranian cinema, and yet I have never seen an Iranian film with an explicitly gay character. The empathetic representation alone makes Chess of the Wind an essential watch, but it is also bolstered by lavish visuals, compelling commentary, and a stellar cast.


Chess of the Wind (Shatranj-e baad) is currently screening digitally at the BFI London Film Festival, and will be available to watch on the BFI Player until Tuesday 13 October 2020.

OFH

5/10/2021

 ***** 

Winners of the 2021 ‘Sepanta Awards’
14th Annual Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco
September 18-19, 2021

iranianfilmfestival.org

Welcome to the 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco, the first independent Iranian film festival outside of Iran. This year, the festival presented 60 films from Iran, USA, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Germany, France, China, Bulgaria, Tunisia…

We are proud to continue our mission to discover and support the next generation of Iranian filmmakers living and working around the world, while we honor the veteran filmmakers for their distinguished careers. Please join us to celebrate the outstanding works of Iranian filmmakers..

Please Note: Due to the current pandemic situation, the festival has been Virtual this year.



 September 18-19, 2021 

While some specifics of Iranian culture are on display, African Violet is universal in its approach to everyday people and their daily lives. -- Susan Wloszczyna (AWFJ Women on Film)



Winners of the 2021 ‘Sepanta Awards’

Best Film:  African Violet

Best Director:  Mona Zandi Haghighi
Best Actor:  Amir Hossein Fathi for The Slaughterhouse
Best Actress:  Fatemah Motamed Aria
Best Screenplay:  Hamidreza Bababeigi for African Violet
Best Cinematography:  Mehdi Rezaei for KulbarF
Best Documentary:  Duchenne Boys by Sohrab Kavir
Best Short Film:  Tattoo
Best Director for a Short Film:  Farhad Delaram for Tattoo
Best Screenplay for a Short Film: Meysam Fard for A Simple Examination
Best Documentary Short:  Nahma by Masoud Mirzaei
Best Actor in a Short Film:  Babak Karimi for Muncher
Best Actress in a Short Film:  Mahshid Ajam for 2 Weeks Later
Best Cinematography for a Short Film:  Ali Eskandari for To Be
Best Children’s Short Film:  Bread & Dementia by Kaveh Azizi
Best Music Video:  One More Kiss by Aydin Aryainejad
Best Animation Film:  Stars in the Rain by Sara Namjoo
Best Experimental Film: The Phoenix by Farzin Nobarani




Animation Films

The history of animation films in Iran goes back to the 1950s, decades after it was invented. Since then, despite all the obstacles from lack of equipment to lack of knowledge, animation films have still were made by aspiring filmmakers all the way through the present time.

With the latest technology and dedicated filmmakers, the highest number of animation films are being made today in Iran. Iranian Film Festival dedicates its Spotlight on Animation Cinema in Iran, created by a group of talented artists by showing: Imaginary scene, Wavelength, A Goodbye, Crisis, Lines of Exile, Goodbye Earth, Nail, Stars in the Rain, The Letter, House…

Documentary Films

Aside from the fiction, the Iranian Film Festival pays special attention to the documentary genre with some of the best young talents Iranian cinema can offer. Films such as: Simin Behbahani: Love at Eighty [a retrospective of Simin Behbahani’s life and unique poetry], Ill Fate [about women in Iranian cinema before the Revolution], The United States of Elie Tahari [about the fashion designer and mogul Elie Tahari], Duchenne Boys [an epic quest to form a virtual football team made up of young sufferers of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy]…

Short Films

The genre of short films, if we can call it that, is a platform for the filmmakers to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end in a short amount of time. While they can be under time pressure to tell their whole story, but it gives them the time management to work within that time frame. For that reason, the short films are always the jewel of filmmaking, and we are happy to present a fraction of a large number of short films we received this year, among them: Muncher, Hiss…, Closed Circuit, The Phoenix, To Be, The Dagger, For the Clean Up, Tattoo, A Simple Examination, The Shadow, Psycho, The Sign, Witness, Flasher, Demonstration…


Tattoo by Farhad Delaram

The Shorts Programs are scheduled on Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19 at 12:00 PM.

Music & Dance Films

This year, the Iranian Film Festival received the highest number of music videos showing that the music is alive and well in the hearts of Iranian people specially the younger generation. Among those chosen are: The Goodbye [directed by Arman Karkhanei], Sanam [directed by Nemat Zareian], Entangled [directed by Sam Javadi], I Fell in Love [directed by Sobhan Farzaneh], Daya [directed by Maryam Yadegari], Capriccio [directed by Dareios Haji Hashemi], One More Kiss [directed by Aydin Aryainejad], Nahma [directed by Masoud Mirzaei]…

Films for Children & Young Adults

For the past few years, the Iranian Film Festival – San Francisco, has paid more attention to the films made by or about the children and young adults. These are some of the films that are selected for this year: Permission Ms., Present [about a boy who can’t afford to go to school to help his family], The Kids [about a teenage boy and girl who are brother and sister but want to separate from each other], White Clad [about a young boy who tries to save someone’s life], Bread & Dementia [about a small girl who loses her grandfather who suffers from dementia], Behind the Glasses [about a skyscraper glass cleaner who finds a way to communicate with some children in a hospital]…

Poster Contest

Iranian Film Festival- San Francisco holds a contest for its annual poster in order to introduce some of the best graphic artists working in the field in Iran. The winner of this year’s poster contest is Rasool Haghjoo, who created his design based on 12 blue Lotus leaves [the flower of life], which was a symbol of old Persia, and a camera lens.

Sepanta Award

When the Iranian Film Festival decided to give awards, the first name came to mind was Abdolhossein Sepanta [1907-1969], the father of sound in Iranian cinema. Sepanta, was also a director, screenwriter and producer who made The Lor Girl (1931), Ferdowsi, Shirin-o-Farhaad, Black Eyes, and Leyli o Majnun (1936). In honor of his role in Iranian cinema, the Iranian Film Festival chose his name for its awards in 2013, and presents the Sepanta Award every year in various categories.

Support the Festival

If you like what we do, to continue bringing the best of independent films made by or about Iranians from around the world, support our efforts by sponsoring, advertising, and your contributions. We, Iranians, need to have a strong voice in our host country by unity and representing the best talents any community can offer. This support can be in variety of ways but for sure it benefits the Iranian community.

Join Us

We know there are many talented Iranian artists out there, aside from those in film that can share their talent with us in visual art. If you are a photographer, graphic artist, musician…join the festival and participate in whatever capacity the festival can offer you. Drop us a note and be a part of our festival.





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September 18-19, 2021           
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Iranian Film Festival - San Francisco
6 Beach Road, 544
Tiburon, CA 94920 USA
Phone: (415) 251-8433
info@IranianFilmFestival.org
www.IranianFilmFestival.org
Supporting the Iranian Film Culture©

OFH

9/29/2021

 ***** 

VENICE 2021 Out of Competition
Review: Ennio

by Jan Lumholdt, Cineuropa
13/09/2021

VENICE 2021: Giuseppe Tornatore’s tribute to Morricone is a gargantuan, occasionally exhausting, homage, taking in an exceptional musical journey

The first frame of Giuseppe Tornatore’s homage to the genius of Ennio Morricone, titled simply Ennio  and premiering out of competition at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, shows a metronome clicking into life. This trick, seen in many a music documentary, is far from original, and neither is the denomination of “genius”. For the next 168 minutes, though, one can live with it.

Address him as “maestro”. Refrain from the expression “spaghetti western”. These were two of the (ahem) fistful of instructions conveyed to those few chosen ones given an interview appointment with Ennio Morricone. They would be received in his renaissance palace home, a stone’s throw from Piazza Venezia in the heart of Rome, surrounded by a cacophony of traffic.



In this stately oasis, he created his own cacophonies, mainly for the cinema. In the world of film, he scored soundtracks throughout seven decades, for titles such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Danger: Diabolik, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, 1900, Days of Heaven, The Mission, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, The Hateful Eight and some 400-500 others. The very last one, Correspondence, was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who, after 13 Morricone-scored films, would give the maestro one more task: to receive him in his own home, filming him telling him about himself and his work. This constitutes the foundation of Ennio, a gargantuan tapestry, abundantly quilted with film and sound clips taking in a musical journey, some will claim, on a par with Bach, Mozart and Verdi, “but in his own time”, as is declared by at least one voice here.

Checking in are collaborators, colleagues and admirers, among others Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone, Roland Joffé, David Putnam, Terrence Malick (in a sound clip), Wong Kar-Wai (one of the producers here), Dario Argento, Marco Bellocchio and Bernardo Bertolucci from the film world.

From the music side, there’s Joan Baez, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Bruce Springsteen, Pat Metheny and Quincy Jones. Some, like Metheny, who aside from his career as a jazz guitarist also scores films, provide interesting thoughts, while others add little more than a repetition of the “g” word. Missing, regrettably, are Burt Bacharach, whose own musical journey may be the closest of all to Morricone’s (and vice versa), as well as, more understandably, those no longer alive, not least that most iconic fellow worker Sergio Leone.

Being an Italian film about an Italian artist, many a compatriot shows up, among them pop singers like Edoardo Vianello, whose early 1960s hits like “Abbronzatissima” and “Guarda come dondolo” sported some gorgeously innovative Morricone arrangements. Throughout this occasionally exhausting multitude of eulogising heads, the maestro himself remains comfortably seated in his armchair of choice in his renaissance palace, where he calmly, with as sharp a memory as they come, revisits the exquisite minutiae of his compositions, humming, chirping and “whau-whauing” his way through an exceptional treasure trove. “I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like his music,” says Eastwood. Yup, one can live with the “g” word.

Ennio is an Italian-Belgian-Chinese-Japanese production staged by Piano B Produzioni, Potemkino, Fu Works, Terras, Gaga and Blossoms Island Pictures, with sales overseen by Block 2 Distribution.

alif

9/13/2021

 ***** 

An interview with Asghar Farhadi
A Hero, the most successful at 2021 Cannes so far

Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero was screened in Cannes Film Festival today and was faced with longest standing ovation in history of this festival.

The following is an interview with Asghar Farhadi  by Nick Vivarelli for the variety about A Hero.  

Asghar Farhadi, an Oscar winner for “A Separation” and “The Salesman,” is in Cannes with “A Hero,” the Iranian auteur’s fourth film to world premiere in the festival’s competition after “The Past,” “The Salesman” and Spanish-language “Everybody Knows.”

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.

8/8/2021

 ***** 

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.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

By: Sheri Linden

OFH

9/8/2021

 ***** 


Night Train To Lisbon
Annette Focks


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