Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cannes Diary: Clooney Creates a Monster Buzz "There is Not Going to be a President Donald Trump!"

Saturday, May 14,2016

In what could be the windiest Cannes in many years, it was a Thursday of maneuvering the winding and corridored pavements of the festival to reach the many venues which opened its doors to delegates.

For the large number of Indians, what mattered most was the opening of the spacious sea-facing Indian Pavilion by the Minister of State for the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and a select team representing the country as the world’s largest producer of films.

Speaking to a filled-to-the-brim audiences, Rathore said, “India has already signed co-production agreements with a slew of countries. In the last one year five co-productions have been undertaken with France alone. We need to take these partnerships to the next level now.” He added that the government has instituted the Most Film Friendly State Award as part of the National Film Awards with the objective of encouraging states to support the film industry. Actor Kamal Haasan was also present. Others present were Indian Ambassador to France, Dr Mohan Kumar, Uday Shankar & CEO Star India , Kishore Lulla, Executive Chairman, Eros International Media Ltd, L Suresh , President, South Indian Film Exporters Association and filmmaker Sudhir Mishra.

In the evening, Un Certain Regard, second to Cannes’ competition section, and for many, even more key as the place to discover truly independent and significant films from far corners of the world, held its august opening. The film screened was the Egyptian-French film, ‘Clash’. Its director Mohamed Diab, well known at home and abroad as an activist and blogger, says that his film “portrays a very real and tense situation that brings out the worst and best of humanity”.

Set in 2013, just after the Egyptian military toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi, the film is entirely shot from within a paddy wagon, where pro-army supporters and Brotherhood members are thrown together in suffocatingly close proximity. Using a handheld camera, the film is intensely cinematic, its harshness offset with a pain and longing for one’s own country.

A walking distance away on the main Riviera street, the diehard admirers of the Directors’ Fortnight rushed for its opening film, Marco Bellocchio’s ‘Sweet Dreams’. The innocuous title is belied by the emotional impact of the film as it follows the nine-year-old boy Massimo as he grows into a man while alongside he sees a changing Italy emerge. In the first scenes the boy and his mother remain as a couple in a close relationship, But his mother’s sudden death takes him to another level of experience. Later, the film looks at his introduction and then success in journalism, first as a sports writer and then as a war correspondent in Sarajevo, and as he progresses, the film traces his deep felt anguish. 

 For Cannes’ gathering crowds at the red carpet star parade, it was a field day for gazing at and applauding celebrities. On show was actress Jodie Foster presenting her fourth film as director, ‘Money Monster’, with a star cast of Julia Roberts (her first time at Cannes), George Clooney, with wife Amal, and co-stars Roberts and O'Connell. At his Press Conference, Clooney astounded the media with his statement, “There’s not going to be a President Donald Trump” adding, “Fear is not going to drive our country. We’re not afraid of Muslims or immigrants or women. We’re not going to be afraid of anything.” The film tells the story of a blowhard financial wizard, Lee Gates (Clooney), who, along with his director (Roberts) is held hostage live on air by a man (O’Connell), who risked his life savings on one of Gates’ tips.

And off the same busy Riviera street, Critics’ Week opened with the French film, ‘In Bed with Victoria’ directed by Justine Triet. The film is about Victoria Spick, a criminal lawyer who finds herself in an emotional void. At a wedding, she meets her friend Vincent and Sam, a former drug dealer who she put out of business. The next day, Vincent is accused of attempted murder by his girlfriend. The victim's dog is the only witness. Reluctantly, Victoria agrees to defend Vincent, while she hires Sam as an au pair (domestic help). With this her troubles increase by the day.

The three festival dailies (Hollywood Reporter, Screen and Variety) are a must read. It is in one of them that I chanced on a news item that the reputed Shekhar Kapur has been signed as one of the directors on an international compendium series. This follows Anurag Kashyap's recent and successful entry into this fold (with 'Madly'), of directors joining hands, presenting their individual episodes strung into a feature length film.

Courtesy:  - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on
January 27, 2014. Reproducing Uma da Cunha's column.

Friday, May 13, 2016

From Cannes With Love: It is Woody Allen All The Way!

CANNES: A packed private Press screening in the morning and then the Gala opening night official red carpet in the evening gave ‘Café Society’ the double ovation it richly deserved. So, the film was the exclusive cynosure for the entire day. This, amazingly, is Woody Allen’s 49th film.

Woody Allen remained quiet, reserved and self assured, with his wife staying close to him at all times, as others kept a respectful distance, on this first day of the 69th Cannes.

‘Café Society” charmed the audience and critics alike, the latter feeling that while it was not among his best work, lacking the nuances, cutting wit and sly social exposures of his earlier films, it still had the unmistakable Woody Allen stamp. At the Press Conference it was the darkly glowing, ravishing camerawork by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro that stole the thunder, while Allen seemed content at being able to avoid questions.

The film is a sweet, sad, quizzical portrayal of how life just cannot fall in place in the way it should because, human nature willy nilly veers towards wrong choices, driven by uncontrollable compulsions. This is one of the very few films that Allen has set in Los Angeles and his disapproval for what it stands for comes through. The film starts and ends though in New York, a city that in Allen’s films comes out with a glory all its own.

‘Café Society’, set in the 30s, looks at an ordinary Jewish family living in New York, zeroing on the youngest son, Bobby. A gauche, nervous but perceptive young man, he is sick of his bickering parents, his strutting, successful brother who, unknown to them all is a murderous gangster, and his easy-going sister married to a man posing as an intellectual liberal. Bobby decides to go to Los Angeles seeking a job with his wealthy uncle who is well-placed in the Hollywood movie business. The film then looks closely at how Bobby’s life takes shape, with all of Allen’s engaging and observant touches, less barbed, less flamboyant, the humorous insights into character and place more gentle. Even so, it unfolds with a languid charm and human insight to show how confused and self-destructive we humans can be.

With brilliant performances from the lead couple, Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby and Kristen Stewart as Vonnie, the wise and willowy girl he falls hopelessly in love with, it is their tangled love story that is the main concern of the film. Hollywood is shown as the greedy, ambitious, hypocritical and shallow show biz world it has made for itself.

Just as Bobby seems close to getting what he wants with a wife he so dearly loves and eager to build a better life in New York, his world falls apart. The rest of the film describes how Bobby grows into a glib, loved, respected, white tuxedo- clad Manhattan nightclub manager with a mind and will of his own. Hiding his broken heart, he marries the chic and caring woman he feels is right for him, and climbs life’s ladder with all of it falling neatly in place.

But, Vonnie, his first love returns, and makes it clear that she is in the same boat as him. She cannot let go of her feelings for Bobby . Although outwardly living an enviable life, she too nurses a longing and love for him. They both go their separate ways, nostalgic in their secret bonding, living out their disillusioned half-lives, each trapped in a marriage they do not want but have deliberately chosen. Being the kind of persons they are, they will honour and abide their matrriage vows. The melancholy within the film lingers ...

In this well-knit and enticingly crafted film, the lead couple’s feelings come through with a visceral impact. However, the other man Phil in Vonnie’s life (played by Steve Carell) falls short. It seems far-fetched that a person of Vonnie’s insights and experience could be enamoured of such a puffed-up boaster. Their intimacy seems contrived and forced. And the actress who plays Bobby’s wife (Blake Lively), overly tall and large a presence in many ways alongside Bobby, seems miscast. Hoever, even with these carpings, the film holds because the rest links so well and hits the right notes in the way only Woody Allen can bring to the screen, his soft jazz soundtrack enhancing the mood and period setting.

Courtesy:  - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014. Reproducing Uma da Cunha's column.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Exclusive From Cannes: 4500 Media Persons in Place to Feed on Hype and Hopes


CANNES: The Cannes curtain rises on the evening of May 11. It does so with the universal respect accorded to the diminutive, understated director Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society’, his 49th film, and his third to open the festival after ‘Hollywood Ending’ in 2002 and ‘Midnight in Paris’ in 2011.

A day prior to the grand opening, there are already hordes of hopefuls waiting in long queues thronging the main venue, the imposing Palais des Festivals. Many are from the 4,500 media coming from far and near (a few diehards arrive even earlier). After all, it is they who feed the world on Cannes’ hype and hopes. Hardly any arrive earlier to catch one's breath for the coming frenzy. Most of us are there to glean what we can and to prepare a mind set for what is on offer.

The very first destination is where the delegate badges and festival kits are handed to hundreds upon hundreds every day. The street doorway to this Accreditation office looks like a railway station on a bad day, luggage strewn everywhere and guarded by disheveled, weary travellers waiting to get in. In time, sometimes hours, because they must have the right festival papers, they grab the badge and festival kit and then head to their place of stay.

The Kit contains the superbly brought out Festival brochures on films In Competition and Un Certain Regard, as well as their screening schedules, Press Conferences, related events, and also some key Market screenings over the next two days. This information provides key ammunition for penciling the must-see films and also who to trail and target, and trying to form a roadmap of where one is headed in this particular and special Cannes. The treasure hunt begins.

Woody Allen’s film, like a few others by exceptional directors such as Jean-François Richet’s ’Blood Father’, Yeon Sang-Ho’s ‘Train To Busan’, Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Gimme Danger’, NA Hong Jin’s ‘ The Wailing’, Jonathan Jakubowicz ‘s ‘Hands of Stone’ , Jodie Foster’s ‘Money Monster’, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Le BGG – Le Bon Gros Geant’, Shane Black’s ‘The Nice Guys’ are out of competition – too famous too compete.

It came as a refreshing surprise to read about the films In Competition. They seem somewhat more select, more unusual this year. Almost all the films present human interest, everyday stories mostly on family issues in today's world. There is hardly a sign of the grand spectacle film or a special effects, science fiction one, nor the predictable large scale period piece. The films deal with disconnected people and their restless need to love or be loved, who are hemmed in by their own demons or by the fiendish twist that life can take in our times. They are stories of people living desperate or dull lives seeking escape and solace.

Toni Erdmann’s competitive entry ‘Maren Ade’, from Germany, is on a father’s eccentric ways of winning over his daughter from her high Corporate life style. Nicole Garcia’s ‘From the Land of the Moon’ (France, Belgium), is on a feisty girl from a small French village who is determined to find her true love beyond the traditional forces that constrict her.

In Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’ (UK), a teenaged firebrand from a disturbed family leaves her humdrum job to seek pleasures of life on a fast lane. From Iran, Asghar Farhadi’s ‘The Salesman’ is about a forced change of apartment in an expanding city changing a couple’s life. Jeff Nichol’s ‘Loving’ (USA), is based on a true story of a couple who dare to have an inter-racial marriage and the husband’s 9-year struggle that wins over all those who oppose him.

Sean Penn’s ‘The Last Face’ (USA), is about a love affair in war-torn Liberia in which the couple do all they can to sustain their relationship against all odds. In Alain Guiraudie’s ‘Staying Vertical’ (France), a filmmaker goes on hunt and has a chance love affair with a shepherdess which leaves him stranded with their baby, and he finds that he loves the responsibility and care. Even the few period stories are ingrained with life experiences offset with surprise innuendoes and touches that bring an edge to them.

Photographs from Woody Allen’s Cafe Society:

Courtesy:  - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014. Reproducing Uma da Cunha's column from the first edition

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cannes Diary: Champagne with a Little Grumble!

Year of the Women! 

So, what is new about 2016 Cannes? For one, it seems bigger than ever with more stars gracefully nudging each other for attention and of course awards. However, the directors are more varied – and not as much of the usual roster of names. 

When Festival Director Thierry Frémaux and journalist/TV executive Pierre Lescure unveiled the Cannes programme, their shining moment was undimmed by the demonstration preceding it against working conditions in the French movie industry. The two stood their ground and announced around 50 films that would vie for prizes and screenings.

However, there is something different this year. Women film professionals, specially directors, present an unexpected phalanx. Two years ago there was a fairly strident outcry that women were being sidelined not only at the festival but in the entire industry. The cause was championed in 2009 by Jane Campion as she presented her film “Bright Star”. 

In the 69th Cannes, four of the nine Palme d’Or jury members are women: American actress, singer and model Kirsten Dunst, French singer, model and actress Vanessa Paradis, Italian actress and director Valeria Golino and Iranian film producer, Katayoon Shahabi. Add to this, three women directors in the main Competition for the Palme d’Or; the top award. There is British director and former actor Andrea Arnold, with her film set in the US, ‘American Honey’, a road movie starring popular American actor, performance artist, and director, Shia LaBeouf; French director, actor and screenwriter Nicole Garcia who presents ‘From the Land of the Moon’ starring Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard; and there is the German filmmaker (award winner in 2009 Berlin), Maren Ade with her film ‘Toni Erdmann’ a winsome father-daughter story (she marks the first German director in Cannes competition in eight years). 

Jodie Foster looms large as well with her new film ‘Money Monster’, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Actor Kristen Stewart appears in two films. She stars in both ‘Personal Shopper’ and the opening night film, Woody Allen's ‘Cafe Society’. A source stated that about one-fifth of the directors in the official selections are women and Un Certain Regard section screens the work of four more women directors, Israeli filmmaker Maha Haj, with ‘Personal Affairs’, Stéphanie Di Giusto, from France, with ‘The Dancer’, ‘The Stopover’ directed by sisters Delphine and Muriel Colin. 

Romania Over Cinema Savvy Italy

However, all-round diversity in the films at Cannes leaned toward feel-good titles such as Steven Spielberg's ‘The BFG,’ and Shane Black's ‘Nice Guys’ and the more menacing ‘The Neon Demon’ by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, with new films from Jeff Nichols (‘Loving’), Sean Penn (‘The Last Face’), Jim Jarmusch, with two films, ‘Paterson’ and ‘Gimme Danger’, the documentary on the American singer-songwriter, musician and actor, Iggy Pop, and from Korea, director Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden’. 

Star power as usual will thunder its way through the evening proceedings. But there are the usual grumblings. Why no films in competition from cinema savvy countries, Mexico and also Italy, when there are two from Romania? Apparently, the unflappable and during the festival, omnipresent, Frémaux, brushed this off at the Press meet by saying that the festival chose the best out of the massive 1,867 feature films submitted. And he added in good humour that this year’s poster demonstrates the regard with which Cannes holds Italy, apart from the film, ‘Pericles the Black Man’, by emerging Italian director Stefano Mordini in the respected Certain Regard section. 

Aishwarya Rai on the Carpet

The toast of Paris and also of Cannes, the ravishing Aishwarya Rai will beon parade for the 15th consecutive year at this premiere event. 

At the outset, it is Cannes’ two top sections, Competition and Un Certain Regard, that grab attention. Very soon, interest veers towards the gems in Critics’ Week which has ‘The Yellow Bird’ directed by Singapore based S Rajagopalan, originally from Kerala, and Directors’ Fortnight, where Anurag Kashyap dazzles with his chilling thriller ‘Psycho Raman’. There are sections like Cinéfondation, which honours the work of students, and the Short Film Corner, where hopefuls from around the world present their overlooked shorts and documentaries (India has over 50 films in this section). 

Another world and space co-exist in Cannes with its crowded, buzzing Market, simmering quietly at the start and rising to a crescendo as reports increase every day on talks, deals, co-productions being struck on all sides. As it is, the envy of all is the American newcomer Amazon Studios which has as many as five films in official selection. 

The eternal question remains: Which is the best place to be when there is so much going on and all of it so prized, when most of what one knows is based on guesswork, festival publicity and often thin-sounding word-of-mouth. Well, wait … and especially see.

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's Cannes Diary

Monday, May 9, 2016

2016 Locarno's Open Doors selection of Projects from Asia - India is a miss

Open Doors 2016 reveals its line-up

Open Doors Hub & Open Doors Lab
© Festival del film Locarno

Eight projects and eight producers from South Asia have been selected and will be presented to potential European and international partners during Open Doors.
Carlo Chatrian, the Festival's Artistic Director, comments: "This initial selection of projects from South Asia shows the diversity and energy of a region with major potential. This is the first stage in a work of exploration and support that will continue over three years."
Over three years, Open Doors will focus on eight countries in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
For the fourteenth edition, to be held 4 – 9 August, 2016, eight projects are selected for the Open Doors Hub :
- Cinema, City and Cats by Ishtiaque Zico, Bangladesh
- Craving (Ta Ku Tha Lo Chin Thee) by Maung Okkar, Myanmar
- Day After Tomorrow by Kamar Ahmad Simon, Bangladesh
- House of My Fathers by Suba Sivakumaran, Sri Lanka
- Season of Dragonflies (Jhyalincha) by Abinash Bikram Shah, Nepal
- The Cineaste by Aboozar Amini, Afghanistan
- The Red Phallus by Tashi Gyeltshen, Bhutan
- Then They Would be Gone (Mela Chaar Dinan Da) by Maheen Zia, Pakistan
A recent innovation to the project is the Open Doors Lab: "The Lab is the result of a 13-year experience alongside professionals from the South and the East, proposing a training for producers combined with personalized support before and after the Festival."  Sophie Bourdon, Head of Open Doors.
The eight producers and directors-producers who will participate in the Open Doors Lab:
Aadnan Imtiaz Ahmed, Kino-Eye Films, Bangladesh
Abu Shahed Emon, Batayan Productions, Bangladesh
Rubaiyat Hossain, Khona Talkies, Bangladesh
Jigme Lhendhup, Evolving Artists, Bhutan
We Ra Aung, Green Age Film Production, Myanmar
Thu Thu Shein, Third Floor Production, Myanmar
Wang Shin Hong, Myanmar Montage Productions, Myanmar
Min Bahadur Bham, Shooney Films Pvt. Ltd., Nepal
Supported from its inception by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Open Doors initiative aims to support and highlight filmmakers and films from countries in the South and the East where independent cinema is vulnerable.
As part of the Open Doors Hub the Open Doors Jury will award a prize worth 50,000 CHF, funded by the Swiss production support fund Visions Sud Est (also supported by the SDC) and the City of Bellinzona; the CNC (Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée), will offer a grant worth 8,000 Euros and ARTE will offer a prize worth 6,000 Euros.
Open Doors is organized in close collaboration with the Locarno Festival's Industry Office and enjoys support from numerous European and Asian organizations such as ACE (Ateliers du Cinéma Européen), EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs), Producers Network Marché du Film (Cannes Festival), TorinoFilmLab, Festival Scope, Clinik.Kathmandu, MEMORY! International Film Heritage Festival, Yangon Film School and Bhutan Film Trust. The Open Doors initiative also benefits from the invaluable contribution of Paolo Bertolin, a festival programmer and specialist in film from the Asia-Pacific region.
The section also includes the Open Doors Screenings, which will present to the Locarno audience a selection of shorts and features that are representative of the national cinemas participating in the Open Doors Lab, to be announced at the press conference on July 13, alongside the complete line-up for the Festival.
The 69° edition of the Festival del film Locarno will take place 3 – 13 August, 2016.