Michael Jackson: Poseur
For the record, Michael Jackson was a musical neophyte compared to pop greats like Sam Cooke, Al Green, and James Brown. It's one thing to be famous for being famous, and quite another thing to live as an actual musician of prolific talent. Two good, albeit over-produced, albums does not equal greatness. In the lexicon of 20th century music, Michael Jackson falls far below the half-way mark. Don't get me started on his pedophilia.
A Letter From Kathryn Bigelow about "The Hurt Locker"
Often times, after a movie opens, folks will come up to me and ask a question or two, wanting to know how I managed this or that shot, or why I chose this or that approach to the film as a whole. But usually, they get around to what’s really on their minds, and they say something like, “What’s the most challenging part of the job of being a director?” They want to know about the tough stuff, the hard stuff.
We’re all like that, I guess.
We’re all interested in challenge.
The truth is, once you’ve decided on the material—and that’s the first tough call—all the rest of directing, from the camera work, to creating a visual grammar for the film, to post-production, fall into place on their own, at least for me.
But there’s a big if.
If…you survive the one fork in the road that you absolutely cannot back track on.
And that’s casting. Pick the wrong actor and it doesn’t matter how dazzling your camera work is, or how great the movie sounds, you’ll still end up toast.
For The Hurt Locker, I was lucky enough to work with a brilliant screenwriter, Mark Boal, whose direct, vivid writing about the inner life of men in the bomb squad had the ring of truth and honesty that can only come from first-hand observation. Mark is also a journalist, and he’d been in Baghdad with the Army, and seen with his own eyes the intense bravery and fear these men live with on a daily basis. In William James, he’d created an extremely complex fictional character rife with vivid paradoxes—both a thrill-seeking cowboy and a calm professional, at once a hero and a man adrift in his own isolation.
My problem? Finding an actor with shoes big enough to fill such a nuanced role. I needed a young Sean Penn or a young Russel Crowe. I needed, in other words, a miracle.
I looked and looked for quite some time and then happened to see a small independent movie called Dahmer, in which this terrific actor named Jeremy Renner gave an incredibly nuanced performance, eliciting compassion and revulsion in almost equal measure. It was an arresting display of major talent, and from that moment forward I was determined to work with him. I cast Jeremy as James.
Some folks involved in the financing of the movie were a bit concerned by the choice because Jeremy wasn’t (yet) a household name. They felt they’d have to work extra long hours to bring this bright new star to the public’s attention. But to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t all that worried. Though I still had to go and actually film the movie—and spend six months in the Jordan heat and sand—the hardest part of my job was done.
– Kathryn Bigelow, director
June 12 V-Log
The Cove - In Theaters July 31st
New York Asian Film Festival 2009 - Trailer
In the Loop (Trailer)
TREVOR NEW YORK SUMMER GALA
WHAT: Ninth Annual Trevor New York Summer Gala
WHEN: Monday, June 29, 2009 WHERE: Capitale 130 Bowery St.
Guest Arrivals, Hosted Bar & Silent Auction: 6:00p.m. New York, NY 10013
VIP Dinner & Show: 7:30p.m.
Titanium Celebrity After Party: 10:00 – 11:30p.m.
WHO: Celebrity guests Dustin Lance Black, Soledad O’Brien, Lance Bass, Cheyenne Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Mark Consuelos, Carson Kressley, Judy Gold, Meghan McCain and more. Special performance by Jewel.
Please join us for an evening of comedy, musical performances and special honorees. Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and leading news network CNN are set to be honored at the ninth annual Trevor New York gala on June 29 at Capitale in New York City. Event proceeds benefit The Trevor Project, the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
“Dustin Lance Black and CNN serve as inspirations to LGBTQ youth, and have set important precedents for their colleagues by showcasing diversity and promoting inclusivity,” said Charles Robbins, executive director and CEO, The Trevor Project. “Both recipients are more than deserving of these distinctions and we couldn’t be happier to present them with these honors.”
ABOUT TREVOR: The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Every day, The Trevor Project saves young lives through its free and confidential helpline, in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources and advocacy. The organization was founded in 1998 by three filmmakers whose film, “Trevor,” a comedy/drama about a gay teenager who attempts suicide, received the 1994 Academy Award® for Best Short Film (Live Action). For more information, visit TheTrevorProject.org.
Trevor New York annually brings together top entertainers and supporters of The Trevor Project for an evening of comedy, musical performances and special honorees. The event helps raise the financial resources necessary to fund The Trevor Project’s programs including its free and confidential helpline, in-school workshops, community outreach and educational resources.
Death In Love
Not Quite Hollywood (Trailer)
Robert Rodriguez's "Shorts" Trailer (Opens Aug. 21)
An Open Letter from Francis Ford Coppola on "Tetro"
Tetro is the kind of film I might have been making 35 years ago, had my career not taken an abrupt and sudden turn as it did with The Godfather. Sure, it was exhilarating to find myself an important Hollywood director, with all that came with it. But as the years went on, I found myself trying to avoid becoming a gangster film director, with all that came with that: stabbings, shootings, car crashes and strangulations. It became pretty clear that even if well-paid, a Hollywood director is expected to do what the company who employs him wants. And most times it is a genre film of some type, if not a gangster film, then take your choice between a thriller, a caper film, a romantic comedy (nothing wrong with that) or sci-fi epic (nor that). I found myself dissatisfied, and frustrated over the fact that even though I had made successful films and won plenty of awards, I still would have to go, hat in hand, and beg permission to make something really new.
With Apocalypse Now, I ultimately found I had to finance it myself. Financing movies is a perilous activity, especially when the films are as unusual as I wanted to make. At first Apocalypse Now seemed as if it would bury me—the initial reaction wasn't good, despite some acknowledged spectacular scenes, but it was deemed too philosophical or worse, 'arty'—which is the ultimate damning word that can be used on a film. Well, I thought, weren't most of Ingmar Bergman' or Michelangelo Antonioni's films 'arty but good'? As were the many films of Federico Fellini or Akira Kurosawa? Maybe those films weren't financial powerhouses, but they stayed with you and were inspirational. And also, they were all different from any other films being made. That in the end is my main criteria for enjoying a film: that I never saw it before or anything quite like it.
Many years went by.
Then, taking inspiration from my daughter who had learned the very same tricks from me, I decided to return to my youth, and realizing that the smaller the budget of a film the greater the ideas of that film could be, began to self-finance the very kinds of films I had hoped to make at the beginning. It was like trying to find my place, after being away a long time. I took a story from Mircea Eliade, Youth Without Youth. When it was done, I found the film audience had ventured even further away from anything other than the pre-made, pre-measured genre films that I had tried to escape from, and now wanted even their independent films to be mini-Hollywood ventures. No matter, I thought, the idea was to find myself and I had done that. Now, the next step was to pick up where I had left off, and write an original story and screenplay, something I hadn't done for 30 years since The Conversation.
The result is Tetro, which you are about to see soon at a Landmark theatre near you. I hope you will find it moving, as it is drawn from real emotions related to my experiences and life—though not in any way autobiographical. I hope you wish me well on this new career of mine. It was the one I always wanted from the beginning, to be an independent filmmaker, writing stories and making personal films. God knows what will come next!
Michael Moore's Trailer for His Yet Untitled New Film
The Beaches of Agnes
The New Compiler on the Block
I read in the Times [New York] today about a new film review-compiling site run by former Fox marketing executive David Gross, that purports to give moviegoers the most accurate and complete picture of movie reviews possible. A professional standard for measuring and understanding reviews [sic].
After being sufficiently bored by the low quality design and math nerd graphs, I clicked on the "About Movie Critics" section that harbors all of the weekly and monthly magazine, and daily newspaper, critics that the site deems professionally applicable, and was intrigued to discover how many reviews these critics write per week and their average word count.
Robert Abele (LA Times and Chicago Trib) writes one 250 word review per week, while James Adams (Toronto Globe & Mail) writes one review of 575 words in length. Walter Addiego (SF & Houston Chronicle) writes one 323-word review a week, while Sara Alterman writes one 196-word review a week.
Even the Hollywood Reporter's Ethan Alter only writes one 579 review a week.
The thing is that I typically write four to five reviews--between 1200 and 1600 words--a week. If it's any wonder why salaried critics are seeing their jobs go down the drain, it might have something to do with their low output.
In all fairness, Roger Ebert writes 4.6 691-word reviews a week, and David Edelstein writes 2.8 397-word reviews a week.
Make of this what you will.
PROVINCETOWN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - JUNE 17th-21st
Thursday, June 11, 2009 -- (PROVINCETOWN, MA) – The Provincetown International Film Festival will take place in Provincetown, Massachusetts from June 17th through June 21st. The Opening Night Film will be Woody Allen’s WHATEVER WORKS (New England Premiere) starring Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley, Jr. The festival will close with Jay DiPietro’s PETER AND VANDY (East Coast Premiere), starring Jason Ritter, Jess Weixler and Zak Orth.
As previously announced by Executive Director Gabby Hanna, Artistic Director Connie White and Director of Programming Andrew Peterson, the 2009 Filmmaker on the Edge Award will be awarded to writer/director Guy Maddin (“My Winnipeg,” “The Saddest Music in the World,” “Careful”), actor Alessandro Nivola (“Junebug,” “Laurel Canyon,” and the upcoming 2009 films “Coco Before Chanel” and “Howl”) will receive the Excellence in Acting Award and Strand Releasing will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. This awards ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 20 at 6:00p.m.
Other highlights of the week include:
YOUTH & DIVERSITY PROGRAM (sponsored by the Gale Fund and Bank of America) -- This panel will take place on Friday, 6/19 at 2:00p.m. Films in this year’s program include 3 shorts from SCENARIOS USA, a program that asks teens to write about the issues that shape their lives for the annual “What’s the Real Deal?” writing contest. The winning writers then partner with top filmmakers to transform their stories into award-winning short films – “Bitter Memories”, directed by Joshua Marston, “MANChild” directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, and “Misunderstood” directed by Clark Johnson; OFF AND RUNNING, directed by Nicole Opper, and PROM NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI directed by Paul Saltzman.
THE PORTUGUESE PROGRAM – films premiering in this section that honor the heritage/cultural influence of the Portuguese who settled in Provincetown are GOOD NIGHT IRENE, FADOS, and OUR BELOVED MONTH OF AUGUST.
WAR DOGS OF THE PACIFIC (Saturday 6/20 at 11:30a.m.) -- East Coast Premiere telling the extraordinary story of the Marine Dog Platoons of World War II. A benefit screening for the Provincetown Dog Park and the Carrie Ann Seamen Animal Shelter.
For a complete schedule of screenings, panel and events – please refer to the Festival’s website at:
First produced in 1999 (the same year Provincetown celebrated its 100th anniversary as America’s oldest art colony) the PIFF is on the edge - artistically and geographically. Provincetown takes pride in embracing creativity and diversity in a thriving and increasingly year round tourist, business and art economy. For decades, Provincetown has attracted legendary artists, writers and filmmakers to this furthest tip of Cape Cod. Eugene O’Neill, Norman Mailer, Lily Tomlin, John Waters, Connie Francis, Helen Hayes, Billie Holiday, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Richard Gere, and Eartha Kitt have all worked and performed here to the delight the town’s cosmopolitan visitors and residents.
Presenting Sponsors of the film festival are Art House, Bacardi Dragonberry, Crown & Anchor and HBO. PIFF is also supported by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Provincetown Tourism Fund.
The Stoning of Soraya M.
Duncan Jones on "Moon"
Moon is sort of a more elaborate version of that—me and the people close to me putting our ideas together and working out how to put something impossible on screen for very little money. There's a lot to be proud of; Moon is one of the few indie films ever to be invited to be featured in the special effects bible Cinefex, a publication usually devoted to how blockbusters achieve their effects and it’s got a score by Clint Mansell, a man I believe is one of the great contemporary film score composers.
I hope you enjoy it.
Duncan Jones, director
THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART PRESENTS MAJOR RETROSPECTIVE ON THE ARTISTRY OF FILMMAKER TIM BURTON IN NOVEMBER
Hundreds of Artworks Never Before Exhibited Illuminate the Creative Vision Behind "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Beetlejuice," "Batman," "Edward Scissorhands," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Sweeney Todd"
NEW YORK, June 10, 2009—The Museum of Modern Art will present a major exhibition exploring the full scale of renowned filmmaker Tim Burton’s career, both as a director and concept artist for live-action and animated films, and as an artist, illustrator, photographer, and writer. The exhibition will be on view from November 22, 2009, through April 26, 2010. Tracing the current of Burton’s visual imagination—from his earliest childhood drawings through his mature work in film—the exhibition Tim Burton will bring together over 700 examples of rarely or never-before-seen drawings, paintings, storyboards, moving-image works, puppets, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera, and includes an extensive film series spanning Burton’s 27-year career. The exhibition explores how Burton has taken inspiration from sources in pop culture and reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as an expression of personal vision, garnering him an international audience of fans and influencing a generation of young artists working in film, video, and graphics.
Tim Burton is organized by Ron Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, and Jenny He, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film, with Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.
Mr. Magliozzi states: “There is no other living filmmaker possessing Tim Burton’s level of accomplishment and reputation whose full body of work has been so well hidden from public view. Seeing so much that was previously inaccessible in a museum context should serve to fuel renewed appreciation and fresh appraisal of this much-admired artist.”
Organized in collaboration with Burton, the exhibition presents artworks and objects drawn primarily from the artist’s personal archive, as well as studio archives and the private collections of Burton’s collaborators. Included are little-known drawings, paintings, and sculptures created in the spirit of contemporary Pop Surrealism, as well as work generated during the conception and production of his films, such as original The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride puppets; Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Sleepy Hollow costumes; and even severed-head props from Mars Attacks! Also featured are the first public display of his student art and earliest nonprofessional films; examples of his work for the flash animation internet series The World of Stainboy (2000); a selection of the artist’s oversized Polaroid prints; graphic art and texts for non-film projects, like The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories (1997) and Tim Burton’s Tragic Toys for Girls and Boys (2003) collectible figure series; and art from a number of early unrealized projects. Additionally, a selection of international posters from Burton’s films will be on display in the theater lobby galleries.
The exhibition follows the entire course of Burton’s career, with childhood ephemera, juvenilia, and amateur short films from his youth in Burbank, CA; cartoons and drawings from his time at California Institute of the Arts; and examples of his first professional work at The Walt Disney Studios. Moving on to his mature work, the exhibition touches on the creature-based notions of character, motifs of masking and body modification, ongoing themes of adolescent and adult interaction, and elements of sentiment, cynicism, and humor that inform Burton’s work in a variety of mediums.
Burton’s entire cinematic oeuvre of 14 feature films—Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Ed Wood (1994), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and Sweeney Todd (2007)—will be screened over the course of the five-month exhibition in the Museum’s Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. His early short films Vincent (1982) and Frankenweenie (1984) will also be featured.
In conjunction with Tim Burton, MoMA presents The Lurid Beauty of Monsters, a series of films that influenced, inspired, and intrigued Burton. Taking as its starting point a screening of horror movies that Burton organized in Burbank in 1977, the series includes such films as Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963), Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920), The Pit and the Pendulum (Roger Corman, 1961), Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922), and Earthquake (Mark Robson, 1974).
An accompanying publication will be released in conjunction with MoMA’s exhibition, to be published in November 2009 by The Museum of Modern Art.
Tim Burton is sponsored by Syfy.
Entry to Tim Burton is included with Museum admission. Museum tickets are: $20 adults; $16 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D.; $12 full-time students with current I.D. Free for children 16 and under. Free for MoMA members. Free every Friday from 4:00-8:00 p.m. during Target Free Friday Nights. Admission to all film screenings is included with Museum admission.
Film-only admission is $10 adults; $8 seniors, 65 years and over with I.D. $6 full-time students with current I.D. The price of a film ticket may be applied toward the price of a Museum admission ticket when a film ticket stub is presented at the Lobby Information Desk within 30 days of the date on the stub (does not apply during Target Free Friday Nights 4:00–8:00 p.m.).
Museum tickets may be purchased in advance at www.moma.org. No service charges apply.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
THE RETURN OF JEAN-JACQUES BEINEIX
Cinema Libre Studio to Release "Betty Blue: The Director’s Cut" for the First Time in US Theatres, A Retrospective at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, and The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection on DVD
LOS ANGELES (June 2, 2009) – Cinema was forever changed in the 1980s when a new wave of French auteurs exploded onto the scene redefining modernity in film. With Diva (1982) and Betty Blue (37°2 le matin) (1986), director Jean-Jacques Beineix created two of the most provocative films of the era that were dark, memorable, filled with voluptuous imagery and generous dollops of sex and/or violence. Both films were international hits, winning cinematic immortality for their director.
This summer, film lovers nationwide will get the chance to view Beineix’s work in theatres and on DVD, with several titles released for the first time in the US. Director Beineix will be in attendance in Los Angeles for the theatrical release.
Betty Blue: The Director’s Cut
A cult classic, Betty Blue (37°2 le matin) was an international hit when first released in 1986, and was nominated for 9 César awards and Best Foreign Language Film at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. Featuring an indelible screen debut by Béatrice Dalle, Betty Blue hypnotized audiences with its uninhibited sexuality and all-consuming vision of amour fou that ultimately defined passion for an entire generation.
Cinema Libre Studio will release a recently-struck 35mm print of Betty Blue: The Director’s Cut, Beineix’s definitive 1991 version featuring additional footage never before seen by U.S. audiences. Film premieres June 12, 2009 with an exclusive weeklong engagement at New York’s Cinema Village, followed by calendar runs in markets including Los Angeles (July 3 at the Nuart), Minneapolis (July 24 at Landmark), Seattle (August 7 at Landmark’s Varsity), Denver (August 21 at the Starz FilmCenter), Boston (September 11 at Landmark’s Kendall Square), and in Washington D.C (October 2 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema).
The Jean-Jacques Beineix Retrospective at the American Cinematheque In Los Angeles
Several of Beineix’s films will be screened at the American Cinematheque (Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028, tel. 323.461.2020) starting July 2.
Thursday, July 2 at 7:30 PM: The Moon in the Gutter (La Lune dans le Caniveau, 1983, 137 mins.) Beineix’s terrifically atmospheric and vastly underrated adaptation of David Goodis’ noir classic stars Gerard Depardieu as a raffish longshoreman who mourns his raped, suicided sister amongst the sleazy dives of the Marseilles waterfront. Film is preceded by Beineix’s first film: Mr. Michel’s Dog (1977, 14 min.) Discussion following with the filmmaker.
Sunday, July 5 – 7:30 PM: U.S. Premiere! Roselyne and the Lions (Roselyne et les lions), (1989, 170 min.) Thierry (Gerard Sandoz) drops out of school to apprentice as a circus lion tamer where he falls in love with Roselyne (Isabelle Pasco). Landing in Germany, they both fall under the tutelage of aging big cat trainer Klint (Gunter Meisner). Film is preceded by the short documentary: Locked In Syndrome (1997, 27 min.), Beineix’s original take on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby that would eventually be remade into the award-winning feature The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Discussion following with the filmmaker.
Wednesday, July 8 at 7:30 PM: Double Feature: Los Angeles Premiere of Mortal Transfer (Mortel Transfert, 2001, 122 min.) After a break from narrative filmmaking, Beineix returned with a mesmerizing balance of poisonously dark comedy and psychological thriller starring Jean-Hugues Anglade, as a psychoanalyst who falls asleep while listening to his sado-masochist kleptomaniac patient, Olga (Helene de Fourgerolles) and awakens to find her strangled. The film is followed by Diva (Rialto Pictures, 123 min.) Beineix’s debut film and international art house hit; a deftly constructed soufflé of a suspense thriller with a comic, tongue-in-cheek tone about postman and opera fanatic Jules (Frederick Andrei) and his obsession with diva Cynthia (Wilhemenia Wiggins Fernandez).
"The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection" on DVD
Cinema Libre Studio will be releasing six of Beineix’s films on DVD, several of which have not been released before in the U.S., in ‘The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection.’ Each title will be released individually with the box set available December 1, 2009.
* Locked in Syndrome with Otaku and Mr. Chien’s Dog, streets June 23.
* Roselyne and the Lions, with The Grand Circus bonus documentary (Drama, 1989), streets July 14.
* IP5: The Island of Pachyderms (Drama, 1992), streets August 18.
* Mortal Transfer (Comedy/Thriller, 2001), streets September 22.
* The Moon in the Gutter (Drama, 1983), streets October 20.
* Betty Blue: The Director’s Cut, (Drama, 1986) streets November 17.
* The Jean-Jacques Beineix Collection box set, available Decmber1. www.TheBeineixCollection.com
Beineix started as an assistant director in France, before he directed his first short film. In 1981, he directed his first feature, Diva, a stylish thriller that became a word-of-mouth sensation eventually winning four Césars. He followed that with The Moon in the Gutter in 1983. Five years later, Betty Blue became an international cult sensation and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at both the Oscars and Golden Globes, and earned 9 César nominations. In the 90’s, Beineix turned towards more socially conscious subjects, directing two documentaries as well as taking up the paintbrush. He returned to feature filmmaking in 1992 with IP5: The Island of the Pachyderms, which was the last film for renowned actor, Yves Montand and also stars Olivier Martinez (Unfaithful, S.W.A.T.). Unlike many filmmakers, Beineix has kept the rights to his films while continuing to produce and direct films through his Paris-based company, Cargo Films.
About Cinema Libre Studio:
Cinema Libre Studio has been a leader in the distribution of social issue documentaries and arthouse independent features. The six-year old company is best known for distributing films such as: Outfoxed, Uncovered: The War on Iraq, Raising Flagg starring Academy-Award winner ®Alan Arkin, and Angels In The Dust. The company has recently produced The End of Poverty? which premiered during the Cannes Film Festival and has subsequently been selected to over 20 international festivals with a September 2009 theatrical release planned www.cinemalibrestudio.com.
Gyorgy Palfi's Taxidermia
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL CELEBRATES 20 YEARS
Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center--June 11-25, 2009
Program of 32 Films from 17 Countries, Including 26 New York Premieres
"A Film festival that wagers hope against injustice, imagination against apathy."
- Ariel Dorfman
(New York, May 13, 2009) – The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will return to The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater in June for its 20th anniversary with a packed program of films dedicated to raising awareness of human rights issues around the world (http://www.hrw.org/en/iff/new-york). The festival, co-presented by Human Rights Watch and The Film Society, will run from June 11 to 25, featuring 21 feature-length films and 11 shorts from 17 countries, including 26 New York premieres.
“When the festival began 20 years ago, it was a rare oasis for people to see compelling and timely human rights films,” said John Biaggi, director of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. “Now that human rights are in the mainstream, these films are not only central to global discussions about rights, but also can effect powerful change.”
For its 20th anniversary program, the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will host many returning filmmakers. One is the renowned Costa-Gavras, who will make his third visit to the festival to present the June 11 Benefit Screening of his latest drama, Eden Is West. The director draws on his early experience of exile to tell this bittersweet tale about an illegal migrant in Europe, whose dream is to reach Paris.
Pamela Yates, who will bring her fourth film to the festival, will be at the June 12 Opening Night presentation of The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court, which chronicles the work of the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and his team as they face down warlords, rebel leaders, and even heads of state in bringing perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice.
The pursuit of justice takes a more personal form in My Neighbor, My Killer, an emotional portrait of a tiny Rwandan village as it goes through a remarkable experiment in community-based justice after the cataclysmic violence of the 1994 genocide. The director, Anne Aghion, will receive the festival’s Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking for this final film (and third in the festival) in her series on Rwanda’s Gacaca Tribunals – open-air hearings created by the government for citizens to judge their neighbors who took part in the massacre. The film probes the difficult steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation, asking what it means to have the man who killed your family living next door.
Three more featured documentaries highlight social issues from Africa. Gabriela and Sally Gutierrez Dewar’s Tapologo looks ata group of HIV-positive former sex workers in South Africa who are now home caregivers to others living with HIV. Returning filmmakers Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater’s Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter is the story of a Malian woman’s fight for political asylum in the US to protect her baby daughter from the traditional practice of female genital mutilation. Landon Van Soest and Jeremy Levine’sGood Fortune explores, through the intimate portraits of two Kenyans living in poverty, how international efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa may be undermining the very communities they aim to benefit.
Afghanistan is another country in the spotlight at this year’s event. Havana Marking’s Afghan Star, this year’s Festival Centerpiece, follows the dramatic stories of four contestants – including two women – as they risk all to become their nation’s answer toAmerican Idol. Barmak Akram’s drama Kabuli Kid provides an incisive look at daily life in Kabul as it follows the adventures of a taxi driver and the baby he finds abandoned in his cab. Fabrizio Lazzaretti and Paolo Santolini’s Back Home Tomorrow highlights the work of the Italian aid organization Emergency through the stories of a young boy recuperating in a Kabuli hospital after losing his hand in a landmine accident, and a teenager in Sudan who has to undergo a drastic heart operation.
Fabrizio Lazzaretti will also be present for the screening of his Afghanistan-set documentary Jung: In the Land of the Mujaheddin (2000), part of the festival’s 20th anniversary showcase of five past recipients of the Nestor Almendros Award. Other acclaimed films featured are Barbara Sonneborn’s Regret to Inform (1998), Hany Abu-Assad’s Ford Transit (2002), Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Born Into Brothels (2003), and James Longley’s Iraq in Fragments (2006).
The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will also welcome back a special guest, the Russian activist Garry Kasparov, for a screening of Masha Novikova’s In the Holy Fire of Revolution, a look at Vladimir Putin’s Russia through a year on the campaign trail with Kasparov, the chess champion turned politician.
Two other festival favorites, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno – also known as The Yes Men – will be back infiltrating corporate corridors with outrageous political pranks in the Closing Night selection, The Yes Men Fix the World.
Other program highlights include Look Into My Eyes, Naftaly Gliksberg’s provocative investigation into anti-Semitism in the world today; Aida Begic’s Snow, a moving drama of life in a post-war Bosnian village; Jawad Metni’s Remnants of a War, which charts the efforts of Lebanese citizens to remove thousands of undetonated cluster bombs; and two exceptional films on environmental themes – Joe Berlinger’s Crude, a dramatic look at the legal battle between environmental activists and Chevron over the oil company’s practices in Ecuador, and Franny Armstrong’s futuristic docudrama The Age of Stupid, a call to action on climate change starring Pete Postlethwaite.
The festival will also present the second edition of Youth Producing Change. Adobe Youth Voices, the global initiative of the Adobe Foundation, is the founding presenter of this special program of 10 short films created by youth from across the globe. Armed with digital cameras and their own boundless creativity, these young people turn the lens on their own lives and share their visions of change. Many of the teenage filmmakers – from Seattle to Mozambique – will make the trip to New York to present their work.
In conjunction with this year’s film program, the photo exhibit Long Story Bit by Bit: Liberia Retoldwill be featured in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater. Tim Hetherington’s photographs, from his recently published book of the same name, explore the dynamics of power, international complicity, and the search for justice in recent Liberian history.
All films will be screened at the Walter Reade Theater at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, 165 West 65th Street, upper level (between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.).
Single screening tickets for the 2009 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival are $11 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $7 for Film Society members, students (w/ID), and children (6-12, accompanied by an adult). They are available at both the Walter Reade Theater box office (cash only) and online at www.filmlinc.com. HRWIFF Series Pass ($40 public/$30 Film Society member) admits one person to five titles in the festival. It is available only at the Walter Reade Theater box office. Additional information is available online at www.filmlinc.com and http://www.hrw.org/iff/, or by calling (212) 875-5600.