A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Apicatpong "Joe" Weeasethakul's new film SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY. Apparently there's quite a story brewing around this film by the director of Buried Treasure nominee TROPICAL MALADY. After Thailand's Censorship Board demanded Joe cut four "sensitive scenes" from his film, he decided not to release the film in his home country unless the laws were changed to allow it to be screened in its intended form. Joe has started a petition of have those laws changed called the "Free Thai Cinema Movement" where he says, ""We're petitioning not only for a just decision for Syndromes and a Century, but also for a long-needed modernization of Thai legislation concerning movie censorship." GreenCine Daily reports that the movement is receiving some serious backing from political and cultural heavyweights. Chlotrudis members, especially those that voted for this year's Best Documentary winner THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, should take a look at the petition and consider signing it. I did.
Incidentally, according to Limitless Cinema, the four "sensitive scenes" that the Thai Censorship Board demanded cut showed:
- a young monk playing a guitar
- a group of doctors drinking whisky in a hospital basement
- a doctor kissing his girlfriend in a hospital locker room
- two monks playing with a radio-controlled flying saucer
Now don't you really want to sign the petition?
posted on behalf of Gil Cordova by Michael Colford at the O'Hare Airport in Chicago!
While some may associate the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin only with music, SXSW is actually a ten-day festival in mid-March that also includes an interactive media conference in addition to one of the top film festivals and film conferences in the country. As some of you know, Amanda and I lived in Austin before moving to Boston and we’ve been able to attend SXSW on and off for the last ten years. So this year, we were fortunate enough to travel south for a steady diet of good films interspersed with margaritas, barbecue, and warm weather.
With all that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the films that we saw:
RUNNING WITH ARNOLD – Half-baked political doc about the action star turned California governor. Despite some great footage, the film only brushed the surface as to why California voters thought Arnold was their best option to govern the state. Due to scheduling, the film didn’t include his recent re-election which would have provided another interesting chapter of the Arnold saga. (2 ½ cats)
THE UNFORESEEN – In this documentary produced by Robert Redford and Terence Malick, Austin filmmaker Laura Dunn profiles the life of real estate developer Gary Bradley and his battles with local Austin environmentalists. The film, which includes some of the most gorgeous cinematography that you are likely to see, presents a thorough analysis of the types of sacrifices that come with economic progress. (4 ½ cats) Will be screened at IFFB.
STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME (www.stealapencil.com)–Director Michele Ohayon (Cowboy del Amor) profiles the life of Jack Polak, a young accountant who was sent to a concentration camp in 1943 with both his wife and girlfriend. Adapted from the novel by the same name, the film is both a tragedy and a love story and also noteworthy for condensing a large amount of history and personal narrative in an informative and engaging manner. (4 ½ cats)
SCRAMBLED BEER (MALTA CON HUEVO) – Odd-couple comedy from Chile about a slob who is trying to get along with his neat freak roommate. Formulaic at first, the film has some nice twists that prove original and entertaining. (3 ½ cats)
EAGLE VS. SHARK – Certain to appeal to fans of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and MURIEL'S WEDDING. A funny little comedy from New Zealand about two relationship-challenged twentysomethings. (4 cats) Will be screened at IFFB.
KNOCKED UP – the latest comedy by one of my favorite writers/directors, Judd Apatow, who directed THE FORTY YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and the cult TV shows "Freaks and Greeks" and "Undeclared." In this film, Seth Rogan plays Ben, an aimless slacker who is forced to make some mature decisions when he “knocks up” Katherine Heigl after a drunken one-night stand. As with Virgin, Apatow brings some heart and depth to a one-note premise and it is certain to be one of the better studio films that will be released this summer. (4 ½ cats)
638 WAYS TO KILL CASTRO – British filmmaker Dollan Cannell looks into the countless attempts by the CIA and Cuban exiles to kill Fidel Castro. Without doubt, the film includes some unbelievable footage, yet I couldn’t help but think that the parts were better than the whole. Still worth checking out for those thought-provoking parts. (3 ½ cats)
RUN GRANNY RUN – Documentary about 90-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock who was the Democratic nominee for the New Hampshire US Senate seat. Underestimated by both her opponents and allies, Granny D struck a chord with voters as she campaigned against politicians who caved in to special interests. One of the better political docs that I’ve seen and another example of the difference that one person can make. (4 cats)
MONKEY WARFARE – In this Canadian feature starring Chlotrudis faves Don McKellar and Tracy Wright, the two actors play former revolutionaries who are keeping a low profile from the authorities. As a result they are forced to work low-income office jobs and sell garage sales purchases on the Internet. When the two encounter a young woman intent on taking on the establishment, an interesting conflict develops. While McKellar is great as usual, the film is a true showcase for Wright. (4 cats) Will be screened at IFFBoston AND CO-SPONSORED BY CHLOTRUDIS.
As is the case with festivals, we could not see everything that we wanted to see. Fortunately, the Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFB) will be screening many of the most buzzed-about films that were shown at SXSW. IFFB starts next Wednesday, April 25 and continues through Monday, April 30th. Some of the films include:
FAY GRIM - the IFFB opening night film and a follow-up to Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool
AUDIENCE OF ONE – Special Jury Award Doc Winner at SXSW about a minister who believes that God told him to make the next blockbuster biblical film
BLACK SHEEP – Peter Jackson-produced horror/comedy about genetically-mutated killer sheep
HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS – the new film from “mumblecore” filmmaker Joe Swanberg (LOL) and starring fellow “mumblecore” filmmakers Andrew Bujalski (MUTUAL APPRECIATION), Mark Duplass (THE PUFFY CHAIR) and Todd Rohal (THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE)
THE KING OF KONG – Documentary about competitors looking to break the world record score on video game classic Donkey Kong
A LAWYER WALKS INTO A BAR – Documentary about the legal world and five law school graduates studying for the bar exam
Many festival films now have their own websites and MySpace pages where you can view trailers which is the best way to get an idea as to whether you might want to see the film. If you haven’t already checked out the IFFBoston lineup (www.iffboston.org), I encourage you to check it out so you’ll be all set for next week.
Those Danes and their rules. Most film enthusiasts are familiar with the Dogme95 collective, which has spawned some remarkable films such as Thomas Vinterberg's THE CELEBRATION; Lars Von Trier's THE IDIOTS; Søren Kragh-Jacobsen's MIFUNE; Lone Scherfig's ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS; and Susanne Bier's OPEN HEARTS. Now after a conversation with Lars Von Trier, directors Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen (whose film ADAM'S APPLES we are going to see Monday night) have come up with a new concept called The Advance Party. The Advance Party is the banner for films incorporating the characters originated by Scherfig and Jensen after Lars von Trier had set the challenge of putting the same actors playing the same characters into different films authored by different directors. It was originated in 2002 by the Glasgow Film Office who suggested to Scottish Production Company Sigma Films that they persuade theirs partners at Zentropa (the Danish Production Company responsible for many Dogme95 films) to collaborate on a series of films by emerging directors.
The rules are as follows:
- The scripts can take their starting point in one or more characters or they may be subjected to an external drama. The characters can also participate in a form that is governed primarily by neither characters nor plot.
- The films take place in Scotland but apart from that the writers are free to place them anywhere according to geography, social setting or ethnic background. Their back-stories can be expanded, family relations can be created between them, they can be given habits good or bad, and secondary characters can be added if it is proper for the individual film.
- The interpersonal relationships of the characters differ from film to film and they may be weighted differently as major or minor characters.
- The development of the characters in each story or genre does not affect the other scripts.
- All of the characters must appear in all of the films.
- The various parts will be cast with the same actors in the same parts in all of the films.
Less technical and more character-driven than Dogme95, but still a spur to creativity by its limitations, The Advance Party first brings to mind the self-imposed structure of Chlotrudis Award multiple winner THE TRILOGY by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux, where three films, in different genres, about the same characters were filmed and released at the same time. THE TRILOGY won four Chlotrudis Awards in 1995 including Best Cast, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Movie (for which it tied with SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING.)
The first of the Advance Party's films is Andrea Arnold's RED ROAD, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year. In RED ROAD, Jackie (Kate Dickie) works as a CCTV operator. Each day she watches over a small part of the world, protecting the people living their lives under her gaze. One day a man appears on her monitor, a man she thought she would never see again, a man she never wanted to see again. Now she has no choice, she is compelled to confront him. RED ROAD has already drawn comparisons to REAR WINDOW and Michael Haneke's Chlotrudis Awards winning CACHE.
In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine earlier this week, writer/director Arnold discusses The Advance Party, and the making of RED ROAD. Chlotrudis Board Member Bruce Kingsley caught RED ROAD earlier this year at the Miami International Film Festival, where it won Best Film. RED ROAD also features as one of its stars, Natalie Press, who was nominated for a Best Actress Chlotrudis Award for MY SUMMER OF LOVE. All of this is just to say that I'm very intrigued and getting excited about RED ROAD'S release, and it will be interesting to see where the other two participating directors (Morag Mckinnon and Mikkel Norsgaard) take these characters. It's the first time in several months that I have been intrigued and excited by an upcoming release that I'd never heard of before.
With the kick-off just over a month away, the Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced the impressive line-up for its 5th Annual Festival. I'm truly looking forward to MONKEY WARFARE, Reg Harkema's look at aging hipsters in Toronto that stars recent Chlotrudis guests Don McKellar and Tracy Wright. In a similar Canadian vein, I can't wait to check out Sarah Polley's feature narrative directorial debut, AWAY FROM HER. Hal Hartley is back with FAY GRIM, a sequel of sorts to HENRY FOOL. As has been the case in the past, the IFFB offers an outstanding batch of documentaries as well, with PROTAGONIST leading the pack for me... that's Jessica Yu's follow up to Chlotrudis nominee IN THE REALM OF THE UNREAL. Go check out the list!
A few weeks ago, Scot reported to the Chlotrudis membership that our beloved Canadian TV sitcom, "Twitch City," was finally being released in the U.S. (it was finally released in Canada last fall). Now it hasn't yet appeared in Netflix, but it is available for purchase over at Amazon. We were wondering if the commentary on the U.S. version would be the same as the Canadian, and judging from the description on Amazon, it does sound like it will be. This is actually an exciting bit of news for Chlotrudis. The commentary is done by Don McKellar, this year's Chlotrudis special guest, and lead actor from the show, who calls his co-stars on the phone for assistance. When he reaches Daniel McIvor, past Chlotrudis "Body-of-Work" Award winner, the two have a rather amusing conversation while watching the debut episode. When they get to the "job wheel" scene (one that Chlotrudis members should know well) Daniel actually starts talking about coming to Boston to receive an award for his body of work, and the fact that we showed this clip. It's pretty cool and pretty funny, even though he doesn't mention us by name.
In related news, we have now confirmed our second guest for the 13th Annual Chlotrudis Awards coming up soon. This is an unofficial announcement, as a press release will follow, but I'm just so excited I couldn't contain myself any longer. She's got "cat-i-tude!" Tracy Wright will be honored at the Awards Ceremony for her "career-so-far!" Tracy is best known in the U.S. for being part of the Chlotrudis Awards-winning Ensemble Cast of ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW. She has done extensive work in Canadian film and tv, including the wacky Dizelle in the afore-mentioned "Twitch City," a major part in Don McKellar's ensemble piece, LAST NIGHT, and a lead role in the upcoming MONKEY WARFARE, co-starring McKellar and Nadia Litz. She most recently appeared off-Broadway in "A Beautiful View" at the Public Theatre, a play written and directed by Daniel McIvor (see how synchronistic this post is?) Tracy Wright makes every movie she is in better, and I can't wait to meet her. Look for the official word on the front page of this website very soon.
Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald's latest film THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS scored a distribution deal at the Berlin Film Festival this week. This experimental film stars busy Chlotrudis-winner Ellen Page, who is nominated this year for her compelling performance in HARD CANDY. To tell his story of a girl struggling with puberty, McDonald takes the film title literally by using fragments of images, often many at a time, to visually represent what Tracey is experiencing. McDonald film work has been little seen in America (HIGHWAY 61, DANCE ME OUTSIDE, HARD CORE LOGO, PICTURE CLAIRE), but Chlotrudis members will definitely know him for some of his television work ("Twitch City," "DeGrassi: the Next Generation," "Queer as Folk").
THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS has been picked up by Canada's Odeon Films for distribution in Canada and Germany. Here's hoping it makes an appearance south of the border. With Page getting some attention with HARD CANDY, and the recent Sundance premiere of AN AMERICAN CRIME, in which she co-stars with Catherine Keener, perhaps THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS has a chance of getting U.S. distribution. THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS is based on a novel by Maureen Medved who also wrote the screenplay.