November 2008

Last updated on November 20, 2008. Please check back later for additions.


Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Winter 2008
A Christmas Tale: An Interview with Director Arnaud Desplechin JUST ADDED! (11-20-08)
Indian Visions Film Festival
The Cinema Lounge
The Toronto International Film Festival
Slumdog Millionaire: Q&A with Director Danny Boyle
Adam's Rib
Happy Go Lucky: Q&A with Director Mike Leigh
"Little Voice" Director Gives Big Voice to a Tough Subject: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Q&A with Director Mark Herman and Author John Boyne
The Venice Film Festival
Synecdoche: Q&A With Director Charlie Kaufman
We Need to Hear From You
Calendar of Events

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Cool Temperatures, Hot Films Sizzle on Screen

Coming Attractions Trailer Night, Winter 2008

It’s time for the final parade of Oscar contenders, plus a spectrum of action, comedy, drama, romance, and comic/superhero films. Come in from the cold, grab that significant other, get cozy, and check out what’s going to heat up the screen. Be among the first to view the season’s hottest trailers with fellow film fans at 7 p.m., Wednesday, November 12, at Landmark’s E Street Cinema (E Street between 10th & 11th St., N.W.).

You’ll get to be the judge of the film studios’ marketing skills by joining local film critics, Joe Barber and Bill Henry, as they dissect each trailer in a no-holds-barred give and take. PLUS, attendees get to vote on the films they’re most looking forward to (or not) and we pass this information on to the studios. Summertime box office lived up to the hype. What’s on the A-list for this season? You decide if the buzz is believable as you choose your favorites.

Here’s what you might see: Daniel Craig as Bond is back for revenge, and badder than ever in Quantum of Solace. Romantic comedy Four Christmases pairs Reese Witherspoon with Vince Vaughn. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in the screen adaptation of Twilight. Baz Luhrmann’s sweeping epic, Australia, unites Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in the Outback while Revolutionary Road reunites Titanic’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Not to be confused with The Road, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, with Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in a father and son, post-apocalypse survival story. Other adaptations include Broadway's Doubt, based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play, with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, Frost/Nixon about the David Frost TV interviews with Richard Nixon, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, and Cate Blanchett, and Frank Miller’s The Spirit featuring Gabriel Macht as a dead policeman returning to fight evil. We also might feature The Soloist with Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr., Milk with Sean Penn as San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, Keanu Reeves in a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Jim Carrey in Yes Man, Crossing Over with Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, and Sean Penn, Bolt, about a dog that thinks he has superpowers, animated sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, and the hardest working man in show business, Samuel L. Jackson, joins the late Bernie Mac and the late Isaac Hayes in Soul Men.

The evening is $5 for DC Film Society members, free to Gold members and $8 for nonmembers. It includes lots of movie promotional items, movie posters, and raffles of movie tickets and DVDs. For more information on this unique event and an update on trailers to be shown at “COMING ATTRACTIONS TRAILER NIGHT” visit
the website.

An Interview with Arnaud Desplechin, Director of Un Conte de Noël

By Leslie Weisman, DC Film Society Member

This interview took place in the offices of the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Leslie Weisman: If I may preface my questions with an observation: This can be a very demanding film for audiences, one they can revisit repeatedly, and discover something new each time. It’s chock-full of cinematic, theatrical, philosophical, medical, and literary references; its characters are deeply human, but can quickly become utterly alien, to the viewer, to their family — even to themselves. Abel is gentle and humorous, yet asserts that he feels no grief upon the death of his little boy, and listens to sharply, even painfully dissonant music; bad boy Henri is almost pathologically self-centered, yet capable of making an extraordinary sacrifice for someone who, by virtue of her relationship, should love him even if the whole world rejects him, and yet tells him frankly that she doesn’t — and (except for a fleeting moment) never did. What led you to create these characters? Which came first: the characters, or the storyline?
Arnaud Desplechin: If I like a film, even if I don’t like it very much, I will see it maybe three or four times, because now it’s on TV, on DVD. Sometimes if you see a movie once, it’s perfect. But it can happen that people see it twice. So each time I make a movie, I try to put a few things in it so that if someone is forced to see my humble films twice, he won’t be bored; perhaps he will see other things in it. So if I can hide here and there a few details ... a person will be obliged to see it three times, which is such a bore! I’m just trying to help him get more out of it each time. When I make a movie, my first thought is that I’m making it so that it has to be seen once. But with TV today and DVDs, and the silly things we have on planes, you know... If you add a few things, the audience won’t be bored the second time, you know? I think it’s nicer.

LW: Well, I don’t think the audience will ever be bored. Several of the cast members — Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Devos among them — you have directed before; they seem to form almost a part of your film family. Did they contribute to the script, to the development of their characters?
AD: Oh, no. Actually I’m not able to write for actors, because if I was writing for an actor, I would deprive myself of freedom. I would think — and I’m not avoiding the question, but — I would start to think it’s too mean or it’s difficult to say, or it’s too weird, or it’s too something. So I would write it so it’s easier for the actor. And in a way I think, what I have to write will just have to be bleak or weird or obscure or absolute... to go a little bit too far. If I was writing for someone, then I would restrain my imagination, I think. For example Matthew [Mathieu Almaric] loved it, the way his character is depicted as Matthew. It was the first line in the script, for his character. A man is walking in the street, he’s mumbling an odd song; and then you have the song, which is really odd — which is unactable, no actor except Matthew could act it — “my nose don’t belong to me, my ear is not mine, my eyes... if I’m losing... my ass is not mine” — it’s so bizarre, it’s obscene. So if I was writing this for Matthew, I would be so ashamed, I couldn’t do it. What I’m able to do is to say to Matthew, “I have a few lines which are unactable, but if you could do something with it, if you could manage, well, fine.” Plus the character who is depicted is a massive man, this massive man is walking and mumbling, and in the previous film with Matthew, it was not Matthew, the character was not massive, he was light. But in this film the character has to be Matthew. I’m sure if I was thinking about Matthew in the writing process, I wouldn’t allow myself to write — you know, the character is Mathieu, the character is this, or the character is that, that woman is beautiful, that woman is... I wouldn’t dare. I just wouldn’t dare.

LW: Well, and especially with Matthew, when he takes that precipitous fall... That must have been painful. Did you have something that caught him, or...?
AD: Professional secret. Well, you know — remember those commercials — “Don’t try this at home.” You would be dead.

LW: Now this is a long question, and I apologize. Although this is a richly cinematic work, the theatrical references are notable, chief among them Shakespeare, but also the ancient Greeks. Junon [Catherine Deneuve] and Henri [Mathieu Almaric] directly address the viewer, almost at times like a chorus. And Abel quotes from the prologue to Nietzsche’s “On the Genealogy of Morals” in trying to comfort Elizabeth: “For us this law holds for all eternity: ‘Each man is farthest from himself,’” recalling in reverse the ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thyself.” And in fact the children’s play has elements of Greek tragedy, of (as Andrew O’Hehir wrote in Salon) “banishment, punishment, repentance, forgiveness,” which “recapitulate the central themes” of the film. At the same time, that scene (with the children) can be seen as a sort of extradiegetic tweak on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when in Act III the players enact a scene that evokes Claudius’s murder of Hamlet’s father. And the closing lines of the film — “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended” — are Puck’s closing lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream — and of course you use the wonderful Mendelssohn throughout the film. And — closing the loop — Elisabeth is a playwright, and Henri’s default on a loan to buy a theatre sets the whole story in motion. These references to things theatrical testify to your love and knowledge of the theatre. Was there also a larger purpose in these references for the viewer to see?
AD: There could be so many ways of answering that question. I don’t know if I can elaborate on this, but I will try. One thing is that I’m using these as tools. When I’m reading books, or anything, I feel that what I’m learning is free for me to use, that I can use parts of it. It’s true, you know, on one level what I could say is — I always like this line — “to bring the words back home.” It seems to me that that’s one thing the cinema can do. Instead of using these big words and these names — Nietzsche, the Greeks — you take them and [bring them down to earth]. Like if it’s a film about the Mob, like The Godfather, you say it’s Greek. You know, it’s simple; it’s just a tool to understand what’s happening, what we are experiencing. But in a way it’s true: the Mob is a metaphor for Greek theater, the Greek theater is a good metaphor for our very common lives. So what I like is to use big materials, but to depict very common events, really common. I’ll just mention two of them. I had the final big explanation between the sister and the brother. What are they saying, by the way? Anything. The guy is really just saying, I think you are quite embarrassed because you forgot why you’re upset with me. So you should ask me. But because you hate me, you won’t ever ask me? It’s so silly. And they are so sure that they are full of bitterness. They are fifty years old, and they are behaving like eight-year-olds. And then as soon as I start to write the scene, I know that in such a scene I can’t provide absolute truth, because it would be a scene about hate. So in a way you have two theatres. Each time we have an argument, sisters and brothers, or enemies... we are so sure, and full of anger, that in a way we are playing something. We are playing a part where we think that we are noble: “I am the very Truth and I am so proud of it,” and we behave just like actors. So I thought it would be nice to have the two arguments, the argument between the two of them and the kids who are playing — in a way, you have two theaters — it would be like two ways of representing this argument between the two of them. In the eight first minutes, you have all the Sturm und Drang: bankruptcy, cancer, the death of a child, etc. And we thought it would be funny — I met with my co-scenarist, Emmanuel — it would be funny to have in the next scene Junon, who starts the exposition all over again. As if she was saying, after everything has been explained, settled: “Okay. We will start again, but one thing will be different: I’m the main character. You know, I mean, it’s my cancer which really matters. And so I’m the storyteller, I’m the narrator of this movie.” And when I wrote it I thought that it was funny, because instead of being so proud, Emmanuel and I, of being clever in the exposition, we realized it was very true about the character of Junon, too. You know, “By the way, I’m the main one; the other ones are secondary.” But it’s also true of this family, of the Vuillard family. We started to have this idea that each character at one point of the storytelling would say: “By the way, I do matter. I am the narrator. The other ones are not that important.” So we came up with this idea that each one of the characters would have one moment where he is the narrator of the movie. And this fight between all of them — to think “I am the main one, the other ones are... forget about the other ones, I’m the important one, I do matter” — it was the absolute perfect depiction of the Vuillard family, the fact that they are so brash, each one of them.

LW: Like sibling rivalry, writ large. There are also references, both explicit and suggested, to films by what I understand are some of your favorite directors — Hitchcock and Bergman among them — and I guess we’ll let viewers have fun scoping that out for themselves. And there’s also the embryo-like image that opens the film, recalling Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a striking evocation of fragility and innocence, and a reminder of how each of these lives began. And the delightful cameo by Françoise Bertin, a veteran of nearly 100 films whose face is certainly known to U.S. audiences, if not necessarily her name. And then there’s the scene where Paul, Elisabeth’s son, is watching a silent film featuring a woman in white with a little man riding or pulling on the train of her gown, perhaps...
AD: It’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

LW: Ah, marvelous! Well, that explains why that was in there. Are these references to other filmmakers there so that audiences will have fun recognizing them, or is there a deeper significance to them?
AD: What’s important for me is that here the sound stops. What’s important in the last part is that even a spectator who’s fourteen years old should be able to understand. Whether or not he understands Nietzsche, he should be able to understand the music of the words. But what’s interesting in this scene, where Abel is trying to comfort his daughter, we don’t know that it’s Nietzsche — the spectator doesn’t see that it’s Nietzsche, you see it at the end in the credits, but I put it there in case any spectator is curious. But what’s also interesting is that the father is trying to comfort his daughter, he’s a man and he doesn’t really understand and he does it in a sort of clumsy way; he doesn’t really know what to say. So he reads a citation from Nietzsche. But in the middle of the citation the sound goes off, and instead of a continuation of the citation, you see a scene of Roubais, and we know Roubais is not a very beautiful or very fancy city. [Note: Roubais is Desplechin’s hometown.] And then you hear this music by Mendelssohn. And then it comes back into the citation. What I mean is that you’re not obliged to listen to the words. It’s not teaching anything; you can just think the man is old, that his daughter is a wreck. That it’s about the snow when it melts. It’s about when we are looking for some truth; it has to be as simple as a song. Just as a song. And if someone is looking at the movie with a different kind of knowledge, it has to have a meaning too. So if someone is looking at the film twice, it doesn’t have to be boring. Yes, but — what if someone sixteen years old is in the audience? What if someone forty years old — or if there is a doctor, or if there is a mathematician in the audience? A film has to be made, to my mind, for anyone, and you can always catch or grab a different meaning which will absolutely fit, which has to fit. But it’s also because — yes, I’m a film buff, but after that — what in a way, is so simple — you enter into the blood and flesh of Juno. And then it is scary, because he says: there are cells, there are small cancers in there. And it’s gorgeous at the same time: it looks like space. So if I were to pretend that I’m the first one to have the idea — no. I know that Kubrick had it, but before that, Pascal said it: “These infinite spaces fill me with dread.” So I won’t pretend that I’m greater than Kubrick, I’m just his pupil. I consider it’s a quotation, I know the path, because I love films, so I can recognize when it’s a path. As soon as we are speaking about men obsessed with women, I’m sure that at one point, Vertigo will be quoted.

LW: The silhouettes that set the stage with the story of the Vuillard family recall both Lotte Reiniger’s silhouette figures and the prelude to Orson Welles’ The Trial. Did either of these films or directors have any impact on your decision to use these silhouette figures?
AD: Not really. It’s not a quotation. The first concern is really just to tell something more quickly, to find a form that goes more quickly. And I thought it would be fun. We have Elizabeth, she’s writing in her diary, and she’s looking at her shadow, and it’s fun. And I thought that the fact that it’s a girl that’s afraid of having a shadow, of her dark part... And she wants to be immaculate and neat, and not to be a monster. “Come on, you’re just a monster, just like your brothers and father and mother.” You have to accept that you have a shadow; it’s great to have a shadow, a shadow is nice. It means that you have a body, and to have a body is great news. So after that, we started to work with that. As for influences, I can’t say. It’s not quotation... It’s true that we had a big
exposition of Kara Walker’s works in Paris, and I missed it — a great misfortune, because I was working, and I was so sad to have missed it. One year after that I was in Boston, because I was showing a film, and I was meeting a teacher in a French restaurant. It just happened we were meeting in the lobby where a film of mine was screening, and we began to speak. And she said, “By the way, do you know, Kara Walker did her studies here, and we have two of her works,” and we saw the two of them. For sure, I don’t feel that I can quote Kara Walker, because I deeply respect her work, and her work is deeply involved with political issues and racial issues that I can’t share, being white. And I really worship what she is doing, because it’s so involved. But for sure, it has an influence on me because in a way, I am living in the world that Kara Walker and all those great artists are inventing, I am just part of it. So in a way, it’s going through me, because she is such a powerful artist. And so here we are, it is — the way you put it — a legend of a family, shadows. Plus it’s the birth of cinema. Orson Welles? Because of his novel, Bram Stoker, Dracula? For sure, Coppola.

LW: There are several references to Jewish things and people: Henri’s girlfriend Faunia, who identifies herself as a non-observant Jew; Abel commanding his daughter to “Read! It’s a mitzvah!”; Junon calling Henri “my little Jew,” with what seems like a mixture of mockery and affection. Is there a thread linking these references?
AD: It’s something that I’d have a hard time explaining, and that I had an easy time living. As a Frenchman, if I think of Renoir and Truffaut, if I want to portray a little cinematic world in the French language, if I don’t have a vertical axis of Christians and a horizontal axis of Jews, I’m not really able to portray something. You have to have two dimensions, one dimension is not enough. If not, it wouldn’t be a world; it would be a prison. So after saying that, yes, it’s a Catholic house, and it’s Christmas, and they’re very serious about being Catholic. But after that, I thought, if I could see Jesus on the TV — I remember this American friend, who said to me, “You can’t put The Ten Commandments on TV for Christmas; you can’t.” And I said, “But why?” And he told me: “Because it’s an Easter movie.” And I guess that’s why I brought it into the movie, because I thought it would be redundant. (Laughs). And it’s true that not everyone is Christian, that’s for sure, and it’s not true that everyone is white. It’s not true that it’s normal to be white, it’s just specific. Just like this election. It’s good news, it’s just absolutely good news.

LW: I guess we have time for one final question, and I’d like to close with something light. The Obled brothers are as cute as buttons. I understand, if my information is correct, that the entire film was scripted, and that there was no improvisation; but these two little charmers — they’re what, four or five years old?
AD: Four and six.
LW: Four and six! What was your method in working with them? Did you create these parts with Clément and Thomas and in mind?
AD: They are actors, you proceed just like with actors. But it’s the pleasure of it, you know? The pleasure for them to be considered actors. But I wouldn’t speak with them any differently. I would speak to them just like with any actor, exactly the same. For them it’s a great pleasure because I can argue with them, and work with them in a very straight, plain way. And it was also a pleasure for Catherine Deneuve. It’s amazing to see the great pleasure she took, to be seen on the same level with all the actors, along with these two kids from Roubais — who have this very strong accent you could cut with a knife — and to see Catherine Deneuve work with that, and to be seen as an equal with these two boys.

LW: And it has been a great pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure as well to have with us, assisting as needed in translation and clarification, Paul Young, Assistant Professor of French at Georgetown University. Mille mercis!

Indian Visions 2008

Indian Visions 2008, a film festival dedicated to films and filmmakers from or about India, will be held from November 13-16 at Phoenix Union Station theaters.

“This groundbreaking film festival was conceived and created in response to the growing interest, appreciation and demand for quality Indian Cinema in our nation's capital - the home of international institutions and major educational and cultural centers. The mission of Indian Visions is to showcase the best of Indian Cinema, from established directors like Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Mira Nair to promising newcomers like Brahmanand Singh, Ashish Avikunthak and Spandan Banerjee”, said Sukumar Srinivasan, the festival’s director.

The festival will present several DC premiere films. Designed to educate, entertain and provoke, the programming includes a rich array of feature films, running the gamut from narratives to documentaries and representing different regions and genres. Highlights include Welcome to Sajjanpur, Naalu Pennungal (Four Women), AIDS JaaGo, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Pancham Unmixed, Valu and Shot in Bombay.

A film worthy of special mention is Franz Osten's stunningly beautiful A Throw of Dice, an Indian silent classic from 1929, digitally restored and featuring a new soundtrack score by British Asian composer Nitin Sawhney and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

There will be three shorts film programs that feature talented filmmakers from India and the diaspora and include a panel discussion on the theme of “Identity”.

Invited film personalities include Liz Mermin (Shot in Bombay), Brahmanand Singh (Pancham Unmixed), Umesh Kulkarni (Valu) and shorts filmmakers Spandan Banerjee and Ashish Avikunthak. The filmmakers will introduce their respective films and lead a discussion after the screening.

For more information visit
the website.

The Cinema Lounge

The next meeting of the Cinema Lounge will be on Monday, November 10 at 7:00pm. The topic to be discussed is "Movies Ahead of Their Time."

The Cinema Lounge, a film discussion group, meets the second Monday of every month at 7:00pm at
Barnes and Noble, 555 12th St., NW in Washington, DC (near the Metro Center Metro stop). You do not need to be a member of the Washington DC Film Society to attend. Cinema Lounge is moderated by Daniel R. Vovak, ghostwriter with Greenwich Creations.

Last month at Cinema Lounge
On October 13, 2008, we discussed "Love chemistry--why does it work sometimes and not others?" However, about 30-45 minutes into the discussion, the topic suddenly died and quickly evolved into "Great Death Scenes." (See this month's Adam's Rib column on death scenes). It was the first time in the past nearly two years that one of our discussions hit a dead end. But oh, what a fun twist of a night it became!

Someone began the discussion (about love chemistry) with saying that ego is a leading reason for a lack of love chemistry on screen. Sometimes actor contracts require a certain number of camera shots. Other times narcissism gets in the way. One actor commented about a kissing scene that she had on screen. "We had a huge kissing scene and we hadn't practiced, so we did. Kissing someone you don't know can be a problem on screen."

Other times atmosphere can be a problem. How intimate is the set, allowing for screen romance to develop? Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is a good example of intimacy. Office Space (1999) is another, a film loved by many for multiple reasons. One person said that Kirk Cameron in Fireproof (2008) had a kissing scene, but he wouldn't kiss someone other than his wife, so she secretly filled in for a few shots.

A bad script can be another reason why romance on set flops. Gigli (2003) was perhaps the worst romance film ever. Charlie Wilson's War (2007) had terrible chemistry between Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Knocked Up (2007) showed no love whatsoever between the main characters, the opposite of the theme of the movie.

Then someone said that there are also movies with good bro-mance (male friends who click on screen). Brokeback Mountain (2005) came to mind, though Jake Gyllenhaal was definitely not a cowboy type. The Bucket List (2007) had good bro-mance between Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

Someone said, "It seems with all movies that: 1) Either the directors are on crack, 2) the screenwriters are on crack, 3) The actors are on crack, 4) The audience is on crack, 5) Or the movies are just about crack." Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2005) came to mind.

Ironically, "death" became a fun topic. Spontaneously, many in the group started hurling their favorite death scenes at each other. Here is a list:

In James Bond: A View to Kill (1985) they should have shot the blond, but didn't. Yes, "Shot the blond, not Bond!"; In Deep Blue Sea (1999), everyone dies; True Romance (1993) has many great death scenes; Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi died a great death in Star Wars 4: A New Hope (1977); Alan Rickman in Die Hard (1988); Yoda in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983); Mr. Inconceivable in Princess Bride (1987); Marlon Brando in Godfather (1972). Also, the horse death, too!; Jason Statham in Crank (2006); Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles (1966); The bald fighter man with the airplane propeller in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); In Dr. Strangelove (1964), everyone dies; Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960); The first death in Jaws (1975); The death scene with Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3 (1993); Bambi's mother in Bambi (1942); Old Yeller in Old Yeller (1957); Death by water with the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz (1939); Everyone dies in The Departed (2006); The one man in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988); Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th (1980); The skinned rabbit in Roger and Me (1989); John Travolta in Pulp Fiction (1994); King Kong in King Kong (1933 & 2005); Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); The last scene in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966); The death of Spock in Star Trek 2; The death in Cocoon (1985); William DaFoe in Platoon (1986); Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket (1987); The eyeball scene in Zombie 2; The lawyer in Jurassic Park (1993); The magic trick in Dark Knight (2008); The fax machine in Office Space (1999); Hal 9000, the Computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); All the passengers on Ghost Ship (2002); The deaths in Se7en (1995); Morgan Freeman in Lucky Number Slevin (2006); The girl who drowned in The Prestige (2006); Micky in Rocky 3 (1982); Apollo in Rocky 4 (1985); And didn't someone die in Rocky 12?; Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (1936, etc); The near-final scene of War of the Roses (1989).

A few bad death scenes were mentioned: Young Guns (1988) had a bad death ending. Death to Smoochy (2002) was bad. Also, Queen of Alderaan in Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith (2005).

The Toronto International Film Festival

By James McCaskill & Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Members

The Toronto International Film Festival remains North America's most important film festival. More films are purchased, even in financial hard times, for distribution in the US and Canada than any other. Plus they have top films from established filmmakers and filmmakers worrying over their first film. Next year the Venice International Film Festival plans to take on Toronto. In the past Venice had to be all be wrapped up when Toronto began but not next year. Venice has shifted so that its opening day will be one day before Toronto's opening. (
See below for a report from the Venice Film Festival). My money is on Toronto. Major stars, major directors and major films all come to Toronto. As part of TIFF08, 312 films from 64 countries were screened, including 249 feature-length films, 76 per cent of which were world, international or North American premieres, and 61 of which were feature directorial debuts.

Concern was expressed that not as many US foreign film buyers are buying films these days. Economic concerns have caused a number to go out of business and an unwillingness to tie up millions with no box office guarantees. Darron Aronofsky’s The Wrestler had already been purchased at the Venice Film Festival a week earlier by Fox Searchlight. Some of the films picked up at TIFF2008 for distribution in the United States have included Kathryn Bigelows The Hurtful Locker (Summit Entertainment), Steven Soderbergh’s Che (IFC Films), and Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments (IFC Films).

Although there were some festival attendees like New York Observer critic Rex Reed, who were disappointed that Hollywood studios did not have some of their top films at TIFF2008, and that the press and industry screenings were overbooked; we and many others felt that overall, TIFF2008 was probably the best TIFF yet. We were disappointed that the Festival priced tickets for the Elgin Theatre at $40 each, and that this year did not allow full pass holders to choose Elgin films as choices. TIFF does seem to be trying to muster all the funds it can to finish building its Bell Lightbox building complex which will include theatres, a film reference library, and administrative offices. We only viewed 2-4 films that we could describe as poor or very mediocre out of a combined 55 films we saw this year. Like many festival goers, we like to find the small independent U.S. and foreign films that are real discovered gems. We hope that these films at least make major festivals as we saw more outstanding films this year than any other year. Each of these films deserves an audience.


  • All About Us (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, Japan, 2008). This is a fascinating look at the life of a married couple. Kanao, quits his shoe repair job to become a court sketch artist and to support his pregnant wife, Shoko. Both characters have different journeys of individual change and redefining their marriage. In the courtroom, we are privy to a string of sensational trials in the sentencing stage which also provide a microcosm of the modern Japanese legal system and society.

  • Everlasting Moments (Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick, Jan Troell, Denmark/Sweden, 2008). Filmed as a daughter's tribute to her ground breaking, strong willed mother who during the Depression held her family together. Using her camera the independent Maria (Maria Heiskanen) really does provide for her family and change the world. Outstanding acting, screenplay and photography place this film on the Must See list. Sweden’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film.

  • A Film With Me In It (Ian FitzGibbon, Ireland, 2008). Farcical, ironic and darkly funny. A Film With Me In It pushes the boundaries of irony to its limits. Two down and out actors try to make the best of an awful situation. The Toronto the audience laughed from the opening scene to the closing credits. Reminds one of the great Ealing Studio films from the 40s and early 50s. This film was also popular at Edinburgh IFF.

  • Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy, 2008). "The book is a tapestry of Gomorra, the criminal gang that controls much of Naples and beyond," the director said at Toronto. "The book is compartmentalized, who fought whom. The book is huge; many, many stories. He choose five stories. I have a strange way of woking as I begin with the screenplay. I verify so many things as so many things change. It is good to have the author of the book working on the film. The opening sequence, the tanning lounge, was not in the book nor the screenplay." The film won the grand prize at Cannes, a fictional story but at the same time it documented how far reaching the Casalesi clan is. Bernardo Terracciano, who plays a boss in the film was arrested on charges of extorting protection money and having ties to the mob which over the summer filled six African immigrants and generated riots that forced the government to send in 500 troops to quell. Giovanni Venosa, who also plays a boss was arrested earlier this summer. Italy’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film. Also playing at the AFI EU Film Festival in November 2008.

  • Hunger (Steve McQueen, UK, 2008). Renown English artist Steve McQueen has come through with a superb film on the prison hunger strike by Irish dissidents. They did not want to dress in prison garb as they did not consider themselves criminals. This is the strike that brought Bobby Sands to international prominence. McQueen brings all his artistic talent to the events at Maze Prison. Michael Fassbender gives an award winning performance as Bobby Sands. This is a tough film to watch but it is brutal, honest and frank.

  • Paris 36 (Faubourg 36, Christophe Barratier, France, 2008). Christophe Barratier (The Chorus) has again directed a charming musical. This time a comedy featuring a talented ensemble, wonderful production values and top notch musical numbers. Set against the Depression and the rise of the French Popular Front, Paris 36 tracks a Parisian community's determination to keep their music hall open. Nora Arnezeder is stunning in her musical numbers.
  • Slumdog Millionaire Opens here November 12. See the Q&A and interview article in this issue of Storyboard. Danny Boyle's well-earned reputation as one of Britain's most versatile directors will be further cemented by his latest feature, a distinct change of tack from his recent films such as Sunshine and 28 Days Later. Based on Vikas Swarup's best selling novel, Q&A, and adapted for the screen by Full Monty scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire is a vibrant, modern love story set and shot in India. Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating: how could a 'slumdog' know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life – tales of the Juhu slum where and his brother Salim grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika, the girl he loved and lost. Each picaresque episode holds the key to the answer of one of the game show's questions. Intrigued by Jamal's story, the jaded Police Inspector begins to wonder what a young man with no apparent desire for riches is doing on the show. The revelation of Jamal's story, and the role of television in it, are fascinating and funny, and are well served by Boyle's confident direction, which brings an energetic, contemporary feel. The kinetic, visceral flashbacks to Jamal's life on the streets are stunningly composed and beautifully atmospheric, and exquisitely photographed by Anthony Dod Mantle. The cast brings together the acting talents of Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and international cinema's highly regarded Irfan Khan (The Warrior, A Mighty Heart) and marks the first big screen roles for British actor Dev Patel (Skins) and newcomer Freida Pinto. Neatly balancing humour and drama, and making inventive use of its eclectic, multi-cultural soundtrack, this European Premiere of Slumdog Millionaire promises to bring the festival to an upbeat, cheering close. (Note from the London IFF catalogue).

  • Still Walking ((Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2008). An exquisite meditation on family by acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. The past events around the untimely death at sea of their son engulf this tragic family. At Toronto the director said, "Still Walking is based on a personal experience. I spent a lot of time with my mother during her last two hospitalized years, mostly talking about her childhood. I began the screenplay when she died. the films rhythm comes from the everyday life in Japan. People tell me I make films about people left behind. I lost my father and mother in quick succession. Like the mother in the film, my mother made corn tempura for us. we also lived next door to a corn field. Unlike the father in the film, my father did not steal corn." The film plays like an homage to films made by Ozu and others.

  • Summer Hours (Oliver Assayas, France, 2008). From the Edinburgh catalogue on this absorbing film: "When a family fractures who gets the heirlooms? This latest drama from Oliver Assayas (Irma Vep, Demonlover, Boarding Gate) observes the troubled fate of a priceless private art collection, as family members disagree as to its best use. Preserve or sell? Display or protect? With a stunning cast including Juliette Binoche, Jeremie Renier, Charles Berling and Edith Scob, this is a intelligent and tender assessment of the power of memory and the value of objects." Summer Hours was also at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

  • Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel/Germany/France, 2008). An animated documentary from the personal viewpoint of an Israeli soldier after the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Twenty-six years after the conflict, Folman still has recollections of the impact of violence on young soldiers and refugees. When Folman was asked why he made the film animated, he said, “For me, animation was the only way to do this film and to show my lost memories or the recovery of black holes of memory.” When asked about how the film was received by Israeli audiences, of different generations and by military personnel, Folman said. “Surprisingly, the film did not create a great deal of controversy which we had expected. I have not been with an audience of very young viewers, but many of the adults see it as a very personal story, and many soldiers, and former soldiers, have come up to me to tell their own war stories. I hope that it can become a healing film and encourage more dialog about what returning soldiers experience and continue to live with.” It is Israel’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film. Many think it will also make the short Oscar lists for best animation and documentary film. Waltz With Bashir is scheduled to open in our area later this year.

  • A Woman in Berlin (Anonyma-Eine Frau in Berlin, Max Farberbock, Germany/Poland, 2008) A more correct translation of the Germany title is "An Anonymous Woman in Berlin." When this anonymous German woman's diary was published in 1954 it caused quite a sensation and much denial. The film graphically depicts the depths that women in Berlin had to sink to just to stay alive during the Russian invasion of Berlin. While this is set during the closing days of World War II it could very be a good many wars where invading armies plunder a city. Women in wartime make "deals with the devil." And anonymous the author is till this day.

    Additional Must See Films recommended by others at TIFF: The Hurtful Locker, I’ve Loved You So Long (opening night film at the AFI's EU Festival), My Mother is a Hairdresser, Rachel Getting Married (currently playing in D.C.), The Wrestler (scheduled to open here later this year).


  • 35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum, Claire Denis, France, 2008). Much more accessible with a clear storyline than many of Denis’ cinematic, poetic films, she recreates a community of working class French characters. The main story is the father-daughter relationship of Lionel who drives a train, and his grown daughter, Jo who works in a record store. Denis said in a Q&A that she has dedicated the film to the memory of Ozu and his films. When asked why many of her films deal with outsiders or immigrants, she said, “I grew up in Africa, so I have a more vigorous tendency to work with Blacks and I grew up in an open world where no door was closed.” Although this is a strongly driven character study, Denis still has her standard cinematic moments unlike other film makers that celebrate the mundane objects and parts of our lives like focusing on everyday implements like cups and plates, and furniture to enrich her fllm’s tapestry.

  • Easy Virtue (Stephen Elliott, UK/US, 2008) Elliott, whose previous films include the cult film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Welcome to Woop Woop, turns his talents to bringing this Noel Coward's underperformed and very funny play to the screen. The all-star ensemble of Jessica Bid, Colin Firth, Kristen Scott Thomas are perfectly cast. They plus coward's rapier dialogue and Elliott's directing an American descending on a proper Edwardian family make this a most entertaining evening at the movies.

  • Happy Go Lucky (Mike Leigh, UK, 2008) is playing in the Washington area now. Sally Hawkins provides an Oscar worthy performance as the optimistic, free-spirited elementary school teacher, Poppy. Although she seems annoying at first, we really are provided with a well developed character study, and we can gradually see what a proactive change agent like Poppy could mean in many others’ lives. See the full Q&A with director Mike Leigh in this Storyboard issue.

  • Is There Anybody There? (John Crowley, UK, 2008). "What I love about this story is that it chimes with what I believe," director John Crowley said in Toronto. "It is a bitter sweet look at the world through the eyes of a child. It examines youth and old age. The northern England humor of Michael Caine when that finger gets chopped off. People who are told they are going to die but get better say that they are going to live their life better. The theme of this film is you had better start now. I looked in the mirror and I looked like hell. When deciding to make a film I want something I have never done before. Also more difficult than anything I have done before." Crowley (Boy A) returns to the world of a young boy, fashioning a film of a very different kind. the world of a precocious and curious lad named Edward, Son of Rambow's Bill Miller, played against the bitter, burned out Clarence (Michael Caine).

  • JCVD (Jean Claude Van Damme, Malbrouk El Mechri, France/Luxembourg/Belgium, 2008). This was a surprise hit at the festival and played in the Midnight Madness slot of films which are primarily horror films. It is a satire about what it is like to be Jean Claude Van Damme when he returns to his home town to regroup a failing career and marriage. It is very funny and entertaining and the star makes fun of his iconic role. The one long scene he has with the camera was partly scripted and partly adlibbed, but Jean Claude insisted no one but the director knew the content until it was filmed. He woke the director up, nervous about how the scene would go, but miraculously it was done in one raw take.

  • Lorna’s Silence (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy, 2008). Lorna, a young Albanian planning to purchase a snack bar with her boyfriend, is seeking Belgian citizenship so that (in return for a tidy sum) she can marry a Russian mobster in need of the same; with that in mind, she's already entered into a sham marriage to junkie Claudy. The trouble is, whereas Lorna merely wants a divorce, Fabio, who arranged the scam, would prefer Claudy to OD... That's just the first third of the Dardennes' characteristically audacious and topically relevant film, which boasts rather more plot than its predecessors. Indeed, the brothers have taken a new tack in other regards; the camerawork is less restlessly mobile than in Rosetta, The Son or The Child, and our perspective on events is more akin to detached observation than to immersive participation. There's such a wealth of subtle, telling detail, however, that the movie rewards on several levels; its bold intelligence and profound compassion constitute filmmaking of the very highest order. (Notes from the London IFF catalogue).

  • Machan (Uberto Pasolini, Sri Lanka/Italy/Germany, 2006). More Lavender Hill Mob than crime caper. At Toronto the director said, "I came across a news item of 23 Sri Lankan men who vanished in Bavaria. Casting was difficult as all the actors were middle-class and well fed, did not look poor. But those who were poor could not act. In the end we cast two actors with TV experience, lawyers, grave diggers. Among the smaller roles we had professional actors. One of them played one of the aunties. She is wonderful. You might think it would be difficult to direct actors in a language you do not speak but it was easy with a wonderful translator. The title is a Tamil word and means 'My Brother'. Appropriate after decades of civil wars." Take a dozen or so men from a third world country who yearn for the good life in Europe. Take an international handball tournament in Germany looking for international teams. Add together and you get a light hearted romp that could only exist in the movies. Except it is based on a true story. The team came to Germany, played two rotten games, then vanished. No one has been seen again.

  • Me and Orson Wells (Richard Linklater, UK, 2008). It's 1937 and Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and his Mercury Theatre troupe are about to open their groundbreaking production of Julius Caesar that will stun New York audiences. McKay's performance of Welles is uncanny. He was discovered doing a one-man Orson Welles tribute show. Everything - his voice, his looks, his movements - bring Welles to life. Casting one small part (Zac Efron) leads to confrontations that reveal another side of Welles.

  • Of Time and the City (Terrance Davies, UK, 2008). "As we grow older, the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated of dead and living." Terrance Davies quotes his favorite poet, T.S. Eliot in an unabashedly homage to his hometown Liverpool. This is a love song as film. In this film, that took Cannes by storm, Davies creates a wonderful blend of past and present in which Liverpool's cobbled streets of terraced houses, its bustling docks and long-vanished monuments of municipal magnificence. Of Time and the City is a film of feelings, at once tremendous tenderness and at the same time outraged indignation at places reduced to urban rubble. The crumbling facades of Georgian Liverpool are illuminated by the music of Mahler, and the anonymity of high-rise living transfigured by the warmth of Peggy Lee. A film to be savored. The film was praised at Edinburgh, Toronto and London film festivals.

  • Patrick 1.5 (Patrik, Age 1.5, Ella Lemhagen, Sweden, 2008). Sven and Goan are a married gay couple expecting to adopt a one and one-half year old baby. Except someone in social services drops the decimal and they end up with a criminally deliquent, homophobic 15 year old. The skilled work of Gustaf Skarsgard, Torkel Peterson Tom Ljungman and director Lemhagen keep this from becoming a Will & Grace episode. The film is a sensitive, yet funny, study of problems in contemporary gay life.

  • Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan). The husband takes the fall for a wealthy politician who has caused a hit-and-run car accident. This is a psychological drama or morality tale about the husband (now in prison), his wife, son, and the rich man, and the high definition and cinematography are an added character to this mood play. This is Turkey’s nominated film for the 2008 Oscar foreign language films.

  • Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan/The Netherlands/Hong Kong/China, 2008) "By no means is this film a farewell to horror film. When I run into a good idea I'll make another one. I wanted to try something different. This film is about an average person in Tokyo with a modest glimpse of hope at the end. The truth is that in my horror films i thought I injuected a bit of hope but you could not see that for all the dead bodies," said Kiyoshi Kurosawa at Toronto.

  • Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy, Germany/Switzerland/Kazakhstan/Russia/Poland, 2008). Asa is returning home after serving in the Russian navy and wants to settle down and raise sheep. Before he can do that he must, by tradition, marry. His chosen wants to leave the struggling life on the steppes and head to the big city. So she tells her family she can't marry Asa, his ears are too big. A delightful film, beautifully photographed; a film for the whole family. Kazakhstan’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film.

  • Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA, 2008). Once again teaming with her Old Joy collaborator, writer Jonathan Raymond, director Kelly Reichardt delivers a composed and carefully constructed slice of indie Americana, confirming her skill in creating resonance and meaning from seemingly small, individual stories. Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a young woman of few means, headed to Alaska and a brighter future with her beloved dog, Lucy. Stranded when her car breaks down in a backwater Oregan town, her efforts at shoplifting some basic necessities land her on the wrong side of the law, and whilst she's in custody Lucy goes missing. Alone, distraught and short of funds, Wendy meets mostly indifference, with only one or two more kindly souls offering some limited help. Forlorn but stoic in her drive to make a better life, Wendy is brilliantly and sympathetically played by Michelle Williams. In a performance of few words, every hope and every disappointment is written on her face. There's inevitable sadness in this story of the failings of modern America, but genuine tenderness too, and the combination is both deeply felt and subtly expressed. (Notes from the London IFF catalogue). This film is scheduled to play in Washington, DC at the end of January.

  • A Year Ago in Winter (Caroline Line, Germany, 2008). The sudden death of a favored nineteen year old son casts deep shadows over the surviving family. A probing artist (Josef Bierbichler) painting a portrait of the older sister Lilli (Karoline Herfurth) and her dead brother opens long closed wounds to find they are still struggling with their lives. Link's Nowhere in Africa won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


  • Blind Loves (Slepe lasky, Juraj Lehotsky, Slovakia, 2008) "The fact that someone is born to 'darkness' calls for a number of questions about the way people live. One of the most important, in my opinion, is, 'Where is the source of their happiness?' Their world might be lacking sight but it can be rich in sporituality. Maybe it's they who really understand the true essence of happiness. Blind Love is a film about love between blind people. Love can be soft, love can be silly, love can be blind at times," said Juraj Lehotsky. This is Slovakia’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film.

  • Che (Steven Soderbergh, USA/Spain/France, 2008). I saw this with both parts back to back (each part is 131 minutes long) and it will be shown as 2 films when it is released later around December 12. The first film subtitled The Argentine covers Che Guevara’s life in Cuba from 1955 through 1962, working with Fidel Castro to overthrow Batista. The second film, subtitled The Guerilla covers 1966 until his death in 1967 in Bolivia. In Bolivia, he faces vast challenges trying to galvanize groups of peasants into guerilla soldiers, and he is primarily viewed as an outsider. Benicia Del Toro is excellent as Che, but more than 4 hours of viewing cries for some editing, especially in the Bolivian sequences. The second part was filmed in the new Sony Blu-Ray high definition technology which allows crisp details on long shot perspective shots.

  • Cloud 9 (Wolke 9, Andreas Dresen, Germany, 2008). A frank film about Inge and her long-time husband Werner and their marriage. One of the few films to show older couples with healthy sexual appetites and needs while also exposing us and them, to the reality of the aging process. A powerful, but minimalist study of Inge rediscovering her sexual joy and indepedence, but at the same time the pain it may bring to others.

  • The Country Teacher (Venkovsky Ucitel, Bohan Stama, Czech/Germany/France, 2008). A tender story of gay science teacher who leaves the city to teach in a rural Czech village. He meets a lonely widow who works on her farm with her teenage son. In a Q&A, the director defended his storyline which clearly divides audiences about the actions taken by the lead character. He says that he showed the film to many of his gay friends, but many find the self-hating homosexual character to be somewhat stereotypically dated. Actions and consequences of the teacher also seem divisive to character development we thought. Others questioned the some of terminology used in the film; was it correctly applied or is it a Czech legal or cultural issue. The cinematography and acting are very good. It will have screenings at the AFI EU Festival in November and should provoke lively discussion.

  • Fifty Dead Men Walking (Kari Skogland, UK/Canada, 2008). Inspired by the Martin McGartland and Nicholas Davies’ book about Northern Ireland in the 1980s, this film centers on an Irish Republican Army covert member and whether he provided information to the British that also could have saved lives on both sides. Jim Sturgess and Sir Ben Kingsley are the lead actors in this thriller. There was controversy in Toronto if the film would be shown at all, due to threats about possible litigation about truths and the real Martin who is still in hiding.

  • Khamsa (Karim Dridi, France, 2008). A very frank story of a young Roma teenager in economically depressed Marseille and youth living on the French cultural fringe. The director used non professionals. The director said he spent more than a year among the Roma in caravan trailers, and that some of the storyline is taken from real incidents. Khamsa, at 13 has a moment where he dreams of having a regular life and job in a bakery, but the realities of his own family problems, foster homes, and grit of living on the street really forecast what kind of life he will have. Shot in broad Cinema Scope by newcomer Antoine Monod, the film seems like a documentary.

  • Last Stop 174 (Ultima Parada 174, Bruno Barreto, Brazil, 2007). This film is really the fictionalized prequel story that lead to the hostage taking 2003 documentary Bus 174. Youngsters Sandro and Alessandro are followed from birth to their hardened lives as street kids in Candeleria and Rio. It is interesting to see which child becomes the man who eventually is on Bus 174. This is Brazil’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film.

  • The Lion’s Den (Leonera, Pablo Trapero, Argentina/South Korea/Brazil, 2008). Julia ends up in prison, accused of murder and pregnant. A loner, she slowly has to accept her fate and discover friendship with other inmates and motherhood when her son is born in prison. A fascinating glimpse at women in prison with their children. This is Argentina’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film.

  • Lovely, Still (Nik Fackler, USA, 2008). Nik Fackler wrote the script when he was 17 years old. Martin Landau saw the script and helped produce the film with Nik as a first time director (now 24 years old). What seems to be a simple story about an older man living alone morphs into an astonishing film. Ellen Burstyn costars and both actors were extremely complimentary and supportive of this new young voice in film that seems to be able to create intergenerational dramas. It was filmed in both Omaha, Nebraska and New York City. This could become a Christmas classic if it gets a distributor and a good holiday time slot. This is a prime example of the good films that TIFF presents in its "discovery" category for new and sophomore film makers.

  • Mark of an Angel (L'Empreinte de l'ange, Safy Nebbou, France, 2008). Catherine Frot plays Elsa, a mother locked in a custody battle with her ex-husband for her son. She also meets a young girl that haunts her and she follows her. The girl’s mother is played by Sandrine Bonnaire, who at first welcomes Elsa’s interests but then realizes she has other plans. This is a taut well acted psychological drama that the French do so well.

  • Pandora’s Box (Pandoranin Kutusu, Yesim Ustaoglu, Turkey/France/Germany, 2008. This is a story of how modernity and dysfunctional middle-class families can easily alienate or isolate those not in the urban setting or the forgotten older generation, still living in the rural homelands. The director could not find a Turkish actress of the age needed to play the elderly mother Nusret. She is powerfully, yet almost silently played by French actress Tsilla Chelton, who was the lead in the 1990 film Tatie Danielle. “At 90 years of age, she was a marvel, learning Turkish and climbing the mountains,” said the director Yesim Ustaoglu. This is a special film not to be missed like her earlier award winning films Waiting for the Clouds and Journey to the Sun.

  • Snow (Snijeg, Aida Begic, Bosnia and Herzegovina/Germany/France/Iran, 2008). Another beautifully photographed and realized story by a first time director in the "discovery" program at TIFF. In 1997, a small town populated mostly by widows and orphaned children from the Bosnian war, try to survive and the intergenerational emotions of the women to create some kind of new family is dramatically portrayed. This is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2008 nominee for best foreign language film.

  • White Night Wedding (Bruoguminn, Baltasar Kormakur, Ireland, 2008). "The film is based on Chekov's Uncle Vanya and at the same time we were making the film the cast was also performing the play. The film was the highest grossing film in Iceland. We use older Icelandic songs from the 60s. People go to these outer islands to live an austere life, a life without electricity," said director Baltasar Kormakur. This is Iceland’s 2008 submission for best foreign language film.

  • With a Little Help from Myself (Aide-toi et le Ciel t’aidera, Francois Dupeyron, France, 2008). Sonia is the matriarch of a family of rebellious children, a deadbeat husband, and rising bills. Her indomitable spirit just keeps going as she hurdles one problem solving crisis after another for her African immigrant family living in projects on the outskirts of Paris.


  • Two-Legged Horse (Samira Makhmalbaf, Iran, 2008). The director of such fine films as The Apple and At Five in the Afternoon has made a morality tale about a father in Afghansitan who hires an older boy to carry his disabled son around. The older boy is physically fit, but has some mental disabilities, and the story quickly becomes a troubling exercise in absurdity of victimization of one human being by another. This is a tough film, but was repetitive in its scenes of cruelty. She kept hitting you over the head with her metaphors several times which made the film more an exercise of the viewer’s squeamish toleration to sit through it, rather than as a powerful film which much editing could have provided. We heard that the audience members were very vocal at other screenings.

  • Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/France/Netherlands/Germany/Spain). This film was strangely lauded at TIFF by the critics of local papers. An alcoholic man returns from his job on a ship to Patagonia to visit his estranged family in a very rural setting. Non professional actors and the choice of locale are the director’s mainstay. We got the overriding isolation theme but this is minimalism at its most minimal.

    An indieWire poll of film critics and bloggers selected their favorite films at TIFF2008 as: (1) Still Walking; (2) Goodbye Solo; and (3) The Wrestler. Their favorite documentary was Agnes Varda’s Les Plages d’Agnes (Agnes’ Beaches).


    The 33rd Toronto International Film Festival announced its awards:

  • Award for Best Canadian Short Film
    The award for Best Canadian Short Film goes to Chris Chong Chan Fui's Block B. The film examines the lives of an expatriate Indian community weaving itself through the contradicting soundscapes of contemporary Malaysia. The jury notes: "simple, graphic, hypnotic - this is an achievement of bringing cinema to its bare essentials." A special citation goes to Denis Villeneuve's Next Floor. The short film jury members are filmmakers Louise Archambault and Min Sook Lee, and Rotterdam International Film Festival programmer Peter van Hoof. The award offers a $10,000 cash prize and is supported by the National Film Board of Canada.

  • CityTV Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film
    The Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film goes to Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu's Before Tomorrow "for its arresting beauty, its humanist, innovative storytelling and its artistic integrity in capturing the narrative of a people through an intimate tale." Based on the novel by acclaimed Danish author Jørn Riel, Before Tomorrow is a moving drama about a strong Inuit woman and her beloved grandson, who become trapped on a remote island as they face the ultimate challenge of survival. A special citation goes to Lyne Charlebois' Borderline. Established by Citytv, the award carries a cash prize of $15,000.

  • City of Toronto-Citytv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film
    The City of Toronto-Citytv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film goes to Rodrigue Jean's Lost Song. Elisabeth (Suzie LeBlanc), Pierre (Patrick Goyette) and their new-born baby move to a summer cottage in a remote area north of Montreal. Isolation and the difficulty of coping with her new situation and surroundings send Elisabeth into a spiral of depression. The jury described the film as "constantly surprising," and "profound, masterful and devastatingly sad." A special citation goes to Atom Egoyan's Adoration. Generously co-sponsored by the City of Toronto and Citytv, the City of Toronto-Citytv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film carries a cash prize of $30,000.

  • Canadian Feature Film Awards Jury
    Winners of the Citytv Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film and the City of Toronto-Citytv Award for Best Canadian Feature Film were selected by a jury of film industry professionals, consisting of filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, filmmaker and actor Sarah Polley, programmer for the Locarno Film Festival Vincenzo Bugno, and producer Michael Burns.

  • Diesel Discovery Award
    The Diesel Discovery Award goes to Steve McQueen's Hunger. The film follows Bobby Sands and the other political inmates of Northern Ireland's Maze Prison in 1981 as they seek to gain special category status for republican prisoners. The Festival press corps, which consists of 1000 international media, voted on the Diesel Discovery Award. The award offers a $10,000 cash prize and a custom award sponsored by DIESEL Canada.

  • Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize)
    The Festival welcomed an international FIPRESCI jury for the 17th consecutive year. This year's jury was expanded and considered eligible films in the Discovery and Special Presentation programmes. The jury members consist of jury president Jonathan Rosenbaum (USA), Nick Roddick (United Kingdom), Elie Castiel (Canada), Ranjita Biswas (India), Kim Linekin (Canada) and Pablo Scholz (Argentina).

  • The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Discovery is awarded to Derick Martini's Lymelife. From the filmmaking team behind Smiling Fish and Goat on Fire (TIFF 1999) comes an examination of first love, family dynamics and the American Dream in late 1970s Long Island, as seen through the innocent eyes of a 15-year-old. Scott Bartlett (Rory Culkin) is a gentle boy - a direct contrast to his blustery father, Mickey (Alec Baldwin). After an outbreak of Lyme disease hits their suburban community, the lives of the Bartletts and their neighbours begin to crumble in the wake of illness, confrontation and paranoia.

  • The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Special Presentations is awarded to Steve Jacobs' Disgrace. Professor David Lurie's (John Malkovich) life falls apart after he has an impulsive affair with one of his students. Forced to resign from Cape Town University, he escapes to his daughter's farm in the Eastern Cape. Their relationship is tested when they both become victims of a vicious attack. In order not to lose the love of his daughter, David stands by her as she accepts her tragic circumstances. She continues her life on the farm and their individual disgrace finally settles to an uneasy grace.

  • Cadillac People's Choice Award
    The Cadillac People's Choice Award is voted on by Festival audiences. This year's award goes to Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire. From acclaimed director Danny Boyle comes a story about a kid with nothing, who has everything to lose. Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?" Arrested on suspicion of cheating, he tells the police the amazing tale of his life on the streets, and of the girl he loved and lost. But what is a kid with no interest in money doing on the show? And how does he know all the answers? First runner-up is Kristopher Belman's More Than A Game and the second runner-up is Cyrus Nowrasteh's The Stoning of Soraya M. The award offers a $15,000 cash prize and custom award, sponsored by Cadillac.

    The Awards information and other information about the festival can be found at the website.

    Slumdog Millionaire: Notes from Toronto and Q&A with Danny Boyle

    By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member

    Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” The show’s host, Prem Kumar, has little sympathy for this rags-to-riches contestant. Having clawed his way up from the streets, Prem doesn’t like the prospects of sharing the Millionaire limelight, and refuses to believe that a kid from the slums could know all the answers. When the show runs out of time and breaks for the night, Prem has Jamal arrested on suspicion of cheating, Jamal tells the police the incredible story of his life on the streets, and of the girl he loved and lost. But what is a kid with no interest in money doing on the show? And how is it he knows all the answers?

    That’s what the Police Inspector wants to know. Interrogating through the night, he finds that Jamal is as confused as anyone else by how far he has come in the contest. They go over the questions one by one; Jamal explains how he came to know each answer. As he does his extraordinary story emerges. Jamal’s story is a story of modern India. Growing up in the slums of Mumbai, as a young boy his mother is killed in a religious uprising. Jamal, his older brother Salim and Latika, an orphaned girl they befriended develop an unusual relationship. Jamal begins to fall in love with Latika and Salim falls for wealth and power. At the Toronto International Film Festival director Danny Boyle is asked how he became involved. “They sent me the script and told me it was about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire so I turned it down. They sent it again and I began to read it. Twenty pages in and you must say ‘Yes.’ My job as a director is to make you feel what I felt when I first read the script.... In India people come out of the womb with movies printed on their heads. ‘We don’t care about film, we do music.’ Kids are happy doing a bit of acting. In casting a film that takes place over many years the trick is to get kids who look like each other at each age.... We tried to do most of our work on location in Mumbai. That was an enormous challenge. The word slum is pejorative in the West. In India slums have schools and, as India is a democracy, everyone votes and they have enormous political power. The residents like the close community and resist governmental efforts to clean up the slums and move them to outlying communities. Hospitality in the slums was incredible. The guy who did the music (A. R. Rahman) is so famous. He can not go out alone as he will be mobbed. Even in London people would see him and come screaming across the road. It was like being out with the Beatles. He works on many Bollywood films. He did a lovely, lovely soundtrack for us. The screenplay was adapted from a novel. There is no love affair in the book. Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Among Giants) did a wonderful job of weaving twelve stories together. He weaves memories for young people who have their whole live ahead of them. The dance sequence, which was filmed at Victoria Terminus in the heart of Mumbai, was not in the script but you can’t film in India without dance. Where would we put it?” Stay seated through the closing credits and you will see where they put this wonderful sequence.

    Q&A With Danny Boyle

    This Q&A took place on October 22 at Loew's Georgetown Theater. Michael Kyrioglou, Director of the DC Film Society moderated.

    Michael Kyrioglou: I saw a reference in the press notes that the novel or maybe the adapted screenplay had some references to Dickens.
    Danny Boyle: I didn't read the novel at first. I read the screenplay which was written by Simon Beaufoy who also wrote The Full Monty. I only read it because of him. The agent described it as a film about "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". And I thought, 'who wants to make a film about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and who wants to watch a film about Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.' But it was a wonderful wonderful script and it was Dickensian in a way. You feel that when you go there [India] because there are such extremes in society. It feels like that's what Dickens witnessed in Victorian London, an economy expanding at a phenomenal rate creating enormous disparity of riches and poverty. You just get challenged to work on a large scale, emotionally and melodramatically. Bollywood films are like that with good reason. I like extreme things, I like pushing things to extremes as much as I can. People have exiled those extremes to fantasy films in the last 10-15 years because we don't witness those extremes anymore although they are all around us. It's an extraordinary land of contraditions and they're not resolvable. Your mind tries to find a solution but you have to allow the contradiction to be there.

    Question: In the credits a co-director was listed. Could you tell us about that?
    DB: She [Loveleen Tandan] was the casting director originally and I worked with her for months on the casting of everybody in Mumbai and elsewhere in India but mostly in Mumbai. And I realized as I was working with her that I wanted her to be on the set the whole time. I managed to persuade her and the money people to let her be on the set the whole time because she worked well with the kids, most of whom don't know English. She wants to be a director in her own right and you could tell that she could do it. I set her up with the second unit and she did some of the second unit work. It seemed right to credit her as a co-director. Without the help that she and the first assistant director Raj Acharya gave me, the film would not have been a quarter of what it is.

    Q: How did you pick the actors?
    DB: Anil Kapoor [who plays the game show host] is a big star in India. He never did a film in English although he speaks it well. The rest are actors from the Bollywood world; the kids are from different parts of Mumbai. Some are slum kids from a very poor background. Dev Patel, the lead who plays Jamal, is from London. I couldn't find anyone in Mumbai; I wanted someone who is 18 and all the 18 year olds in Mumbai are training to get into Bollywood. They're all in the gym ten hours a day and they're all built like the Michelin man. Because they're only 18, their heads remain the same size but their bodies are huge. They can't put their arms down by their sides because they have huge muscles. My daughter who is 17 said "you should watch this guy in this British television show called Skins." I watched it; he plays quite a small comic character in it. He was sort of what I had in mind visually for the part. So I met him and he was fantastic, actually. The biggest problem was that we had to get rid of his mom who came to all the auditions with him. We eventually persuaded her to let him come to Mumbai on his own.

    Q: How did the film do in India?
    DB: We don't know yet. In order for any film to screen in India it has to be vetted by the Indian government. There's a kind of Soviet style censorship which has a lot of control over films. They haven't seen it yet. We are hoping to release it there in January provided they don't ask for too many unacceptable cuts. They are likely to ask for some cuts--not the ones you probably imagine. But we are hoping to show it there. There are some Bollywood elements in it. There are some very serious films made in India as well as the Bollywood films. The guy who played the police sergeant [Saurabh Shukla] is a writer as well as an actor. He wrote a film called Satya which is as good a film as I have ever seen. A wonderful serious film about gangsters in Mumbai. There's some wonderful films there as well as the Bollywood stuff which is three hours long with singing and dancing. You can't live and work in Mumbai and not dance, so we had that dance at the end.

    MK: Did you have any difficulties with the filming or filming where you want to?
    DB: Permission for aerial photography was very difficult. They're very nervous about it. Mumbai is an island and there's a naval base there. They eventually did give us permission. We applied when we first got there, about 14 months ago, and written permission for it came through about six weeks ago. Too late.

    Q: How long were you there and how long did it take you to acclimate to the society?
    DB: We filmed there for three months--November, December, and January. Before that I was there eight months, about a year from start to finish. I fell in love with the place. I loved the energy of the place and the generosity of the people. The slums are very surprising places, they're not what you expect. Full of amazing people who don't have enough water or sanitation or electricity, but it's not their fault. What they have is an enormous and amazing resourcefulness. I admire the place. The film was made with a great deal of love for it, not to exclude some of the tough things that happen there, but to do honor to the place. They had to drag me away. We took about ten western crew and they had all gone home and I kept going with the Bollywood crew. The producer left and closed all the bank accounts, forcing me to go home. It's a wonderful very inspiring place. There's a great book about it which I recommend called Maximum City (2004) by Suketu Mehta. That was my Bible, it was with me every day. An extraordinary book. Everybody calls Mumbai the "maximum city" now.

    Q: What was your budget?
    DB: We raised 7 million pounds, about 13-14 million dollars at the time. That's all I can raise as a director without a star in it. Anything more than that, you need to have a star. We kept to the budget. We were with Warner Independent but a few months ago they shut down Warner Independent and we were like orphans, in terms of North American distribution. But fortunately they showed the film to Fox Searchlight and Fox is distributing the film.

    MK: What are your thoughts on the independents disappearing. Will this cause difficulties for filmmakers like yourself?
    DB: It will be very difficult. We were at Telluride and Toronto and they had panels about that issue. Clearly everybody's going to have to take a wage cut; they will have to make things more cheaply. Distributing films will be difficult. I've been really lucky so far; I've never had to struggle.

    Q: Could you talk about the sound track?
    DB: A.R. Rahman did it. He is famous in India. It's difficult to say how famous he is. He's like Beethoven, John Williams and Tom Cruise all put together with a bit of Lady Di thrown in. He's a wonderful, modest man who is one of the biggest selling artists in the world. Every CD he puts out sells a hundred million copies. They don't pay very much for each copy obviously, but with a hundred million but still he's in the top 30 artists of all time. It will be on i-tunes in a few weeks time.

    Q: What will you do next?
    DB: I don't know. I was thinking about an animated film. I've got three kids and have watched all kinds of animation over and over again for the last 20 years. I've done all the homework. That fell apart at last moment. So, I don't know what I'll be doing. I like to do one thing at a time and just finished this project.

    MK: Is there a common thread in your material?
    DB: Pots of money. Scenes in toilets. No other national culture is as obsessed with toilets as we are. This film has two key scenes in toilets. We use a combination of peanut butter and chocolate, same as in Trainspotting. It's very delicious!

    Q: Some of your locations were not in a Bollywood backlot. What was it like to shoot in this kind of environment. Did you have to shut down the train station, for example?
    DB: You can't shut down anything over there, not in Mumbai anyway. It's a really interesting question because the thing you normally have as a director is control. That's really what directing is about, getting control of something, shoot it in a number of different ways. You can't control Mumbai at all. To think you can is just insane. You'll spend your whole budget just trying to get control for one scene. So I learned really quickly that you just have to go with what there is and hope and trust that something will come back to you eventually. You can turn up at a location and it is completely changed from the day before. You have to go with it and see what happens. Suddenly four o'clock in the afternoon arrives and you think you'll never get any of the shots and suddenly the whole scene appears, ten fold better than you could have ever imagined. It's the only way to work there. Our philosophy was to shoot on the streets, Bollywood tends to shoot in studios because they need to control everything. But I loved it out there; it liberated me. We followed the script quite closely but you have to be brave.

    MK: Subtitles were used so dynamically that you don't even think you are watching a foreign film.
    DB: Originally the script was written in English. But when we went there it was clear that the seven year olds couldn't act in English because it wasn't native to them. I had a conversation with Warners, giving them the great news that the film was going to be in Hindi, and even more exciting with subtitles. So we tried to make them colorful, more interesting, moving them around on the screen.

    Q: How did you get the rights to use the name of the TV show [Who wants to be a millionaire]?
    DB: We were very lucky. You'll see a name on the film Celador. The guy who invented the show 10 years ago sold it for hundreds of million of pounds. The show has aired in more than 100 countries. He had a clause put in the contract saying that if there was ever a film to be made that they [Celador] would have the right to do it. Technically, they have the right to make the film. We got to use all the sets for free. They wouldn't let us use the Hindi title because they weren't sure how we would protray the show. But other than that we could do what we wanted.

    Slumdog Millionaire opens in D.C. on November 12.

    Adam's Rib Delves Into Great Movie Deaths

    By Adam Spector, DC Film Society Member

    Actors love good death scenes, and so do audiences. Just in time for Halloween I explore some the most powerful, tragic and touching film deaths in my
    new Adam’s Rib column. Did I leave out any of your favorites? Drop me a line and share your picks. If I get enough responses, I’ll do a follow-up column (with full attribution).

    Happy Go Lucky: Q&A with Director Mike Leigh

    By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member

    This Q&A took place October 13, at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD. Former Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson interviewed renowned British film writer and director Mike Leigh, who has made such unforgettable films as Secrets and Lies and Vera Drake. Happy Go Lucky opened in the Washington area on October 20.

    Desson Thomson: I am thrilled to be able to interview one of my favorite film directors of the past 21 years, Mike Leigh. I don’t know where the films are always going and he has such universal characters. I was completely delighted with this film.
    Mike Leigh: It’s great to see you again, Desson, and to be back in Washington DC. I will be on the road the next few weeks and will miss the beginning of the London Film Festival.

    DT: AFI has created a terrific showcase of theaters, and a chance to interface with the film maker. Mike, have you seen old theaters like this restored, and programs with the film makers?

    ML: Yes, the National Film Theater I used to attend when I first got to London has been running since 1931. I was there when Jean-Luc Godard was booed and people threw stuff at him. I even saw the old restoration versions of Abel Gance’s Napoleon. A great deal can be learned from viewing these older masterpieces.

    DT: Poppy is a character we don’t see often in films, a happy spirit or one that has such a life affirming view.
    ML: Yes, well don’t confuse Poppy with the title of the film Happy Go Lucky. She is not a delirious, air-head, or someone that seems to have had a lobotomy. Sally Hawkins portrays Poppy more about the happiness of being fulfilled, being a responsible proactive being. Poppy is not naïve. She has a great joie de vivre and a healthy sense of optimism. A challenge may come when you are confronted with someone like Scott, the driving instructor, who has no sense of humor. It brings out the worst in those characters.

    DT: She is a teacher and with students at the beginning of life and learning.
    ML: The film is about teaching and learning. We all live in tough times. We are destroying ourselves, the environment, and the economy, but there are many people out there rolling up their sleeves and maintaining optimism or positive outlooks. I have started to view this film as the “anti-misery film.”

    DT: I thought at first it was an anomaly, not one layer. Even films like Vera Drake and her character, helping others with abortion. All your films have a least some fleeting happiness.
    ML: They also have pain, especially Scott in this film, and also Poppy’s younger married sister, and the damaged homeless man she meets one night. I make films about life as we live it, full of joy and pain, comedy and tragedy. I was asked do I approach a comedy like a drama. They are all chances to show life.

    DT: The film has a definite teacher motif. At least 3 teaching situations are presented: Poppy and her fellow teachers with the students; Scott, the driving instructor; and the flamenco teacher. They say the dance teacher is a good teacher but needs to keep all her emotional crap out of the dance classroom.
    ML: Scott was not based on a real driving instructor who was bad. His character is a composite of many teachers we have had in various schools and teaching situations. Scott is very vulnerable. Poppy is firm, but sensitive, to the situation, but he is utterly deluded and has strange ideas. We know she can deal with the kids, and Scott is in a way a big kid, but has many more problems.

    DT: I found it to be a thriller. I dreaded what would happen to Poppy being with Scott.
    ML: Many people say that or when she meets the homeless man, that something dreadful is going to happen. Audiences have expectations, but I like to subvert expectations. Topsy-Turvy turned the expected British costume drama on its head, although a number of current British films seem to be perpetuating those old stereotypes.

    DT: Many American films are using those themes also. Your films convey more stories about typical people.
    ML: Yes, it is healthier to make films far away from Hollywood stereotypes.

    DT: Secrets and Lies is your most successful film to date.
    ML: Yes, I don’t think it was because of the Palm d’Or at Cannes, but because it was illegal in the U.S. and many other places to trace your biological mother after an adoption.

    DT: The Hollywood press is rumored to have said that we can’t have many films with women as the lead characters. Yet, you have many films with strong women.
    ML: I have made about 18 feature films and I would say half have had women lead characters. I make films about real people. I do deliberately make very good parts for women. There are plenty of strong women in my films. Many other films only have women as side kicks or as being subservient to the male (factory) leads. So I collaborate with actresses to make good parts.

    DT: Katrin Cartlidge was one of those strong women in our films like Naked and Career Girls and a wonderful actress who died very young. I see some resonance of her acting in Sally Hawkins.
    ML: Katrin was a wonderful actress. I don’t see Sally really in that type of acting, if so it is not deliberate or conscious. Katrin also played a part in the brothel in Topsy Turvy and told me she had been to Paris to research the part.

    DT: Can you discuss what the film started as and what it became in the process?
    ML: I start with very little script, including this film. It came into existence with what I would call a feeling, and then getting a location, etc.; but I work for about 6 months with the cast developing the script, rehearsals, and then creating the film that is later shot.

    DT: The end result is very unique. A boxed set of Mike Leigh’s films is coming out soon. Let’s open up the discussion with some audience questions.

    Question from Audience: Thank you for the film. It’s great to see films that challenge us to see the world with a new perspective.
    ML: Thanks, that’s why I make films.

    Q: I found the relationship with Poppy and the social worker awkward and wasn’t sure if they connected.
    ML: You are all welcome to your experience with the film, but I didn’t get that. I see a straight connection or click between them right away. I see it as a healthy relationship, that they don’t always have to tell the other what they are thinking. It is not a Hollywood fake romance.

    Q: I agree with you that there was an immediate, but honest, easy communication between the couple, like they had already been friends. I must tell you I saw this on an airplane flight, and it is much better on a big screen.
    ML: I agree it needs a wide screen viewing.

    Q: Thank you for taking your films on the film festival circuit. Talk a little about Sally Hawkins, she does a phenomenal job, more about the casting?
    ML: Sally was the posh girl who is raped and obtains a legal abortion in Vera Drake. She was also in All or Nothing and recently was the lead "Anne" in a remake of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that was successful in England. She is a brilliant character actor, very adaptable, and can play real people. It was great fun, and I thought this is the time to put her to the front.

    Q: Can you tell us who have been your favorite directors and those that influenced you?
    ML: There are so many. I was a boy during World War II in Manchester. My mother avidly took me to the pictures. It was when I went to London I finally saw my first non-English language films and great world cinema: Fellini, Satyajit Ray, Bergman, Renoir, Ozu, Kurasawa, Capra, Billy Wilder among others.

    Q: I loved Poppy’s boots, how long did it take to choose them and her wardrobe?
    ML: We create the characters first, and then the actors and the costume designer, Jacqueline Dunne, go out shopping to find the look. They found the clothes locally at major department stores or shops last year. Edith Head did not work on this film. The actor and costume designer pick it out. Part of the outfits is how Sally dresses also; the boots were hers.

    Q: I loved the musical score. It was an old fashioned, but vibrant score.
    ML: It was written in the classical style. Gary Yershon did the original music and score. He does scores for theater and animated films. He did a score for a play I did. Andrew Dickson usually does my movie scores, but I went with Gary on this for his succulent, tuneful score. It begins with the motivation from the opening scenes on her bike. One of my favorite parts of making a movie is going to the recording sessions.

    Q:I have read some unfair reviews that say the character is too perky. As a teacher, I envied her courage.
    ML: We all know someone like Poppy. Some critics thought she was an unbearable, irritating woman. I don’t get why they don’t like her.

    Q: Isn’t Poppy a happiness touchstone?
    ML: Especially when she visits the youngest, pregnant sister. It makes her sister question her values and goals.

    DT: The use of various sounds works well also.
    ML: Some scenes with far shots had muffled sounds. I take sound very seriously, including the dialog. These days we work with sound editors, advanced on technical knowledge, who can do the most remarkable things. When we made Vera Drake we shot some scenes with dialog under a glass roof during a rainstorm. The sound editors were able to remove the rain sound and maintain the voices, something that was impossible to do until recently. In the car Sally and Eddie had to be actually driving at times, and the sound editors could blend all the voices correctly together.

    Q: What was the reason to add the scene with the homeless man? Was this another teaching moment?
    ML: When we planned that scene, Poppy has just kept walking and she and we do not know where she is. She has been pulled out of her comfort zone when she meets the tramp. The scene is about Poppy’s openness, but also her ability not to be judgemental and to connect in some way with this guy. Was she naïve to go there? We who live in urban places, often run into alleys or unknown spaces. Stanley Townsend, a brilliant theater actor, plays the homeless man, very well as a damaged person, but one who still has dignity. We can tell he is a poet that has been bludgeoned by life’s experiences. It’s also a private moment, and Poppy never tells anyone else about her encounter during the movie. I see it as a moment of reflection. Many people tell me there was a period of impending doom or dread about the scene, that Poppy was over her head and in a dangerous position. But at the end of the day I see it as another moment of her connection to others.

    Q: How tightly scripted was the film which felt so real?
    ML: There was none, or very little improvisation in the final script. It is very well rehearsed by then. Most of the improvisation had already been done as we developed the characters and the story the first weeks that the cast go together.

    Q: I felt that Poppy was so empathetic to others that it was sad. Luckily, she could take that and move on with her life.
    ML: That’s absolutely right. She was empathetic but still tried to better situations.

    Q: I thought that one of the best performances was that of the schizophrenic, homeless man.
    ML: Yes, Stanley is a very distinguished Dublin stage actor. The chant he uses is identical to that of Dublin news vendors. The Dublin audience at a screening were the only ones who recognized the chant for what it really was and laughed.

    Happy Go Lucky is currently playing in local theaters.

    "Little Voice" Director Gives Big Voice to a Tough Subject: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

    By Ronn Levine, DC Film Society Member

    At first glance, a film director like Mark Herman and a novelist like John Boyne look and sound pretty much like we do. The middle-aged Herman speaks softly and has good hair. The 37-year-old Boyne is more forceful and engaging, with a shaved head and dark glasses. Herman wonders how in the (film) world they are going to market a Holocaust fable starring children and unhappy endings; no Life Is Beautiful here. Boyne gleefully says he’s a little ashamed to have had such a good time on the set, given the subject and all, watching his novel become a movie.

    But then you ponder the accomplishments of these two artists–the British Herman directed the fun and triumphant Brassed Off, the award-winning Little Voice and the star-laden Hope Springs; the Dublin-based Boyne has written six novels, read his work throughout the world, and won numerous awards–and you sit up a little straighter and listen a bit more intensely.

    They ocean-hopped to America together late last month to rally enthusiasm for Herman’s new movie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, based on Boyne’s 2006 novel of the same name. Though polite, Herman does not look and sound as if cheerleading is his favorite pastime. But after spending six months adapting the book, 10 weeks filming in Hungary and a year editing–the longest he has ever spent for that chore ("I just wanted to get it right," he says)–cheerlead he must.

    "I was aware that the subject matter might scare studios off," Herman recalls. "But I was wanting some challenges at that time, so I bought the rights myself, did the writing and then went to Miramax. They gave me a green light on it straight away. It was a new regime there and this was their first actual production. Quite a brave film to make."

    That Herman and Boyne travel together seems to reflect the respect each has for the other, especially since Boyne had very little to do with the movie.

    "I wrote Brassed Off and that got transferred to the stage," says Herman, explaining how he could relate with adapting someone’s novel. "Even though it wasn’t contractual, I sent John every draft and asked for his notes and thoughts. It’s very rare that the person who wrote the original work is here promoting the film."

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas tells of a high German officer (David Thewlis) who is assigned the running of a concentration camp. So he must uproot his family from a busy city life–more noticeably remove his son Bruno from his friends–and take them to a remote area. His wife, played by The Departed’s Vera Farmiga, is unaware of the atrocities around her–a fact that Herman strongly defends from his research on such families. Bruno (Asa Butterfield from Son of Rambow) is also unaware, especially after sneaking in to view a German-made propaganda film about the camps, showing the prisoners happily playing, singing and eating. Bruno wanders off into the woods one day and encounters, through a strong wire fence, Shmuel (newcomer Jack Scanlon), a boy his age dressed in striped pajamas. The two strike up a friendship, talking, playing checkers and averting loneliness. But the storm clouds hover.

    Herman says that he based the propaganda film on a real one–Hitler Gives the Jews a City–that he was able to watch during his research. "It’s horrific," he says. "I was going to use the original, but it was a bit too old." He put the film in to help Bruno’s journey. Doubting his father, he gets something to restore that faith. The propaganda film also helps push the wife’s story "because [the audience] thinks that in hindsight surely she knew, but then you see how they portrayed it."

    In addition to inserting the film, one of the few changes from the book that Herman made was cutting down the dialogue between the boys and increasing the role of the wife. "In the book, 70 percent is the kids talking; very charming to read but on film it can get irritating, so I cut that right down," Herman says. "That created a void for the story; we needed to follow someone in their voyage of discovery."

    The film is in English, perhaps disconcerting at first, but it feeds into Herman’s intention to humanize the characters. "The only authentic thing to [have done] would [have been] to shoot in German," says Herman, "and then we wouldn’t be discussing this movie now [because it wouldn’t have gotten made]. We were very keen that this movie reach as wide an audience as possible. We could have tried German accents, but I know how off-putting that can be, especially to kids."

    Seeing the film, one probably agrees that this way was best. Hearing German or a German accent may have closed the audience off too soon to any expansive thought. But seeing and hearing a "typical" family around the dinner table, we might think of atrocities in our nation’s present that go on quietly in our midst. Where does our responsibility as human beings start and stop?

    "I do like what [hearing English] does to people’s notions, that terrible things can go on [in any society]," Herman says. "The book has been translated into 35 languages, so the language doesn’t seem to be that important."

    Boyne adds that "the book is very successful in Germany actually. I’ve been to literary festivals there where the audience has been very big–very interested, very engaged in the subject, naturally a very difficult subject for the national consciousness. People today reading the story, it’s not their story; they have no responsibility for it. People there felt it’s an original way to approach the story, and they seem quite grateful for it."

    Herman hopes that families come to see his movie and discuss it together afterward–as he says has happened in Europe. He notes that no violence is depicted and little bad language is heard. But getting children to see it still poses a problem. Another movie out now, A Secret, hides its Holocaust story in a web of family intrigue. Herman puts his front and center; let’s confront what happened and see where it takes us.

    Boyne says that he has been discovering the subject "since I was 15. "I read The Periodic Table [short stories] by Primo Levi, his other autobiographical writings, and a lot on the subject, trying to understand those times better. Writing fiction, it never crossed my mind that I would be writing about this until this idea came to me. I knew three things from the start: the boy would be taken away from his normal setting, he would meet the other boy and how it would end.

    Bruno appears in just about every scene, so casting his role was important. "I knew straightaway; he was on the first tape I saw," Herman says. "He just stuck with me." The "talent" behind the film is also quite impressive. David Heyman produced the Harry Potter movies, The Daytrippers and the forthcoming Yes Man. James Horner is an Academy-Award winning composer. And production designer Martin Childs won an Oscar for designing the stylish Shakespeare in Love.

    At interview’s end, Herman says he is grateful for any help pushing the movie. "It needs the help. Such a hard film to market." Again, he looks and sounds like an everyman, of someone hoping that his car might just last a little longer or his young daughter for once might score a goal in soccer. He knows that he has picked some difficult ground to play on.

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Q&A with Director Mark Herman and Author John Boyne

    This Q&A took place at the AFI Silver Theater on October 27. AFI programmer Todd Hitchcock moderated. Director Mark Herman has received numerous awards including a Cesar and author of the novel, John Boyne, has won two book awards. The novel has sold three million copies.

    Todd Hitchcock: Can you tell us about your experiences in writing this novel?
    John Boyne: I started the novel in April 2004 in Dublin. I had done a first draft of another novel called "Next of Kin" and was taking a bit of a break to recharge my batteries. I had the idea for this story; it started with just a very simple idea of two boys sitting at a fence talking to each other. I knew where the fence was and that it was a place that nobody should be, let alone two little boys, and I was interested in writing the journey of what would bring them there, the conversations they would have and the necessary end that their story would reach. I started writing it almost immediately and it was published in 2006. In mid 2005 before it was published it was in proof form. Mark and I share an agency and he got a copy of the book.
    Mark Herman: I had just come off a romantic comedy. Each project takes about 3 or 4 years out of your life and I was thinking about the next project. The book blew me away. It's not just another holocaust story. It's seen through the eyes of a child, a German child. The book made me cry.

    TH: I'm impressed at how quickly the book was made into a movie.
    MH: Sometimes you buy before the book is written. It was difficult to imagine as a film. I bought the film rights myself. I wanted to be my own boss. Writing the screenplay took a few months. I took it to Miramax who was brave enough to make the movie.
    TH: Had you worked that way before, taking options of your own and developing them?
    MB: No, this was the first time.

    TH: Why did you decide to shoot the film in Hungary?
    MH: Financial. You get more on the screen for the money. The crews are excellent. Hungary often doubles for Berlin in films. The only problem was that it was very hot.

    Question from the Audience:: How has the film been received in Europe, considering that it is in English rather than German? MH: It would be more authentic for it to be in German. But I wanted to reach as wide an audience as possible. The book has been translated into 35 languages.
    JB: I'm sometimes asked why I didn't write the book in German. [Everyone laughs].

    Q: How did you cast of the two boys? Was this your first time working with child actors?
    MH: No, but it was the first time with kids that young. I had worked before with 13-14 year olds. The casting was long and tough, the line for auditions was long. You live or die by the performances of two eight-year olds. Asa Butterfield was fantastic with expressive eyes. But it's difficult because of the regulations--you have only so many hours per day to work with child actors. The challenges were enormous. Asa is in almost every scene; he had great stamina to be on the set all day.

    TH: I noticed two other actors: David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga. Vera Farmiga is working a lot these days; she's always different and remarkable in each movie.
    MH: I didn't know her very well; I knew her from The Departed. As you said, she's very different in every film and that was a real attraction; she also has a Central European look. I had tried to get David [Thewlis] before but he always turned me down. But I was glad to get him this time.

    Q: Why was it important to write from the viewpoint of a child? You have done this in other books.
    JB: I've written seven novels, two are through the eyes of children. For this, I wanted a child, and a German child rather than a Jewish child. I have studied Holocaust for years and am very interested in the subject and it was something that I really wanted to understand and I read widely. When I started writing this, all my reading fed into the story, and I felt that I wanted a protagonist who really didn't understand anything, who was trying to figure out what was going on there. He wakes up every day and looks across and asks "who are all these people and what are they doing there?" He takes the place of the reader or myself, of someone who is just asking questions. Despite the fact that I had read widely, despite the fact that I feel am educated as I can possibly be on the subject, I know nothing really. So I figured that was the way to do it, through the eyes of an innocent child. I couldn't put myself in the shoes of the Jewish character, so I take the place of the other child who is asking the questions.

    Q: How did you two collaborate on the screenplay and dialogue. Were there any disagreements?
    MH: We didn't have any disagreements because we didn't collaborate. I did Brassed Off (1996) which was later transferred to the stage and know how it feels to hand off your baby to someone else. With such a special book as this, I certainly wanted John's involvement, approval and support. I sent him every draft of the screenplay.
    JB: He sent me drafts and I sent him my comments and would try to be as constructive as possible. His decisions were in the best interest of the movie.

    Q: Does the book end the same way as the film?
    JB: The novel ends similarly but in a slightly different way although the fate of Bruno is exactly the same. The chase sequence that you see on film is not in the book but the result of the chase is the same. In the novel Bruno does go under the fence and they look for Shmuel's father and end up the same way. But nobody knows what happens to Bruno. It's only three pages at the end of the book that tells you what happened afterwards. Several months later the family still hasn't understood what has happened to Bruno. He just sort of vanished. And one day, Bruno's father walks to the fence and walks to that particular place where Bruno sat and he kind of looks around, he thinks, and pieces it all together and when he does he sort of falls to the ground and collapses in grief. And then a few months later the soldiers came with the liberation army and when they took him away, he didn't care what they did anymore. Nothing mattered to him. Bruno's mother goes back to Berlin, hoping that Bruno will show up there someday, but of course he doesn't. She becomes very unhappy and depressed for the rest of her life. In spite of all the fights and arguments they had, his sister spends her days crying because she misses her brother so much.

    TH: When you worked on a screenplay and visualizing the climax, did you try different scenarios?
    MH: I wanted the Hollywood element of the chase and followed it with an un-Hollywood ending. I was delighted to get James Horner to do the music. The music of the final scene is one of the best he has ever done.

    Q: It's unusual to see both the writer and director on stage. What impressed you most?
    JB: What didn't impress me most is that he refused to cast me! What impressed me most is the fact that the scenes that were added feel to me like scenes I wish I had written. For example, you remember when Bruno goes downstairs in the cellar to look for his football and sees all the naked bodies of the dolls piled up; meanwhile something similar is happening on the other side of the fence. It's one of those things I wish I had thought of. It's a very visual thing and works best on the screen, but it's so in keeping with the book. Also when we first met and talked about this, Mark asked, "Are there any particular moments that are really important to you?" There is a moment at the end of the novel when Bruno and Shmuel hold hands in the climactic scene. It's important to me because I felt that despite what is happening, despite their death, that it's a small moment of beauty and friendship. They die as best friends for life. So that closeup on the screeen is just a second or two, but it's crucial. It's really important to me. It's one of the things I felt quite grateful for when I saw it for the first time.

    Q: It's unusual to see a 94 minute holocaust movie.
    MH: Most movies are too long. We edited it for a long time, editing it down. It's more powerful when it's only an hour and a half.

    TH: The photography was exceptionally nice. Was the crew new or had you worked with them before?
    MH: Martin Childs was the production designer. It was a very difficult set. He did a great job on the fence. It was designed to look like a farm even though it's a camp. Also there was a camp set already there which had been used for another movie.

    Q: It's rare to see a PG 13 rating for a holocaust film instead of an R. Was it an issue getting that rating, was it something you were looking for?
    MH: We were keen to get as low a rating as possible. It's shocking and upsetting and it's heartbreaking but it's good to have your heart broken sometimes.

    Q: What was the historical context of the novel and what historical examples are factored in?
    JB: There is a lot of research you can do on this period. The commandants and senior officers brought their families but were ordered under pain of death not to tell their wives what was actually going on. The most famous commandant was Rudolf Haas who was at Auschwitz for most of the war and had his wife and his five children at the camp. Anyone who has been to Auschwitz knows that the garden where the children were playing was separated by a wall from one of the gas chambers. So the children playing in the garden would be able to hear people walking to their fate. I knew that there were German families there but I didn't want to base the story on any one of them. I didn't want to use the word Auschwitz. It's not about one place, it's about all the camps. I don't know of any situation when a child would have crossed over into the camp. Inmates on work duty would walk through villages and people there would be aware of them walking through. There are some stories which have come to light recently of people who knew each other back during those days on either side of the divide and who met up later in life. But again, it's not based on any of those things. One German said that the story is possible but implausible. But the implausibility of it is not important to me. There are bigger truths in the story.

    Q: Could you tell us about the propaganda film?
    MH: Yes, that was based on real footage, "Hitler Gives the Jews a City." It's horrific to watch. Jews were photographed at gunpoint pretending to have a good time--playing soccer, playing in an orchestra. Rather than use that footage--it was too old--we recreated it ourselves.

    Q: How did the two child actors process those scenes in the gas chamber?
    MH: One of the things I've learned about the difference between being a film director and being a parent is that when, as a director, you ask a kid to do something, they do it. Certainly it was scary for them in that scene with 200 Hungarians they had never met. It was a shocking moment for them, regardless of the story.

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas opens in our area on November 7.

    The Venice Film Festival: The Mostra, 65th Edition

    By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

    The 65th edition of the Venice Film Festival (“the Mostra”) opened spectacularly with Joel and Ethan Coen’s Burn After Reading black comedy with “Gorgeous” George Clooney and Brad Pitt cavorting on the red carpet to the clear delight of Festival onlookers. Director Darren Aronofsky claimed the grand prize, the Golden Lion Award, for his movie, The Wrestler, featuring Comeback Kid Mickey Rourke as a down and out wrestler forced into retirement and romancing a stripper played by Marisa Tomei. Washington, DC’s own resident filmmaker Haile Gerima won the Special Jury Prize and Best Screenplay Awards for Teza, about a village expatriate’s return home from abroad to find his country in political chaos. Other film festival offerings focused more on art/independent selections, Asian films, and films with dark, contemplative, and serious-minded themes. Twenty-one films were in competition, five of which were from the U.S. Countries represented included Ethiopia, Algeria, Brazil/China, and Turkey. Whether due to the major Hollywood writers’ strike, competition from other film festivals, or simply a well-thought out decision for change, this year’s Festival, which ran from August 27 through September 6, 2008, was marked by an absence of the usual, significant Hollywood star presence and stable of major English stars. Not that there weren’t enough stars to make things interesting. Natalie Portman debuted as a director with film short, Eve, featuring Lauren Bacall and Ben Gazzara. Portman and multiple Oscar-winner, Italy’s own Dante Ferretti were recipients of Kineo Awards for their excellence in contribution to film.

    Back in Venezia for the fourth time, again I am not at all surprised that I remain entranced with the excitement of being in this magical place of wonder on water, home of the vaporetto, gondola, and all things beautiful. After reacquainting myself with a now-familiar festival environment, it was time to explore the offerings.

    What’s New, Exciting, and Different?
    This year for casual lounging, free drinks, official interviews, and people-watching, the Lancia Café and the Spazio Italia Venezia 2008 areas at the famed Hotel Excelsior were the places to be. Amidst the fine design and splendor of dazzling blue, black, green, and white batik-like décor were the funkiest green wicker chairs I had ever seen. S. Pelligrino, assorted Italian wine manufacturers, and the Hollywood reporter were amongst the sponsors offering liquid refreshment and reading materials to festival-goers. For night-time entertainment, Quintessentially Yours, which by day offered luxurious ambiance complete with egg-shaped wicker beds (you’ve seen something similar in L.A. and Miami nightclubs!) with hanging egg-shaped speakers to match!, was the place to be for after 5 action. It’s still amazing to realize that these temporary structures are created just for the Festival. They definitely enhance the experience. Such dedication to artistic creativity and originality!

    And speaking of dedication to beauty, world-renowned fashion designer Valentino (a.k.a. Valentino Garavani) appeared at the world premiere of Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary on his life and 45-year career. Movie-goers were awed in his presence, some even shedding tears, and gave him a five-minute standing ovation!

    Film selections were definitely original. One film, entitled, Shirin, featured the voiceover of a narrator telling a story that appeared onscreen, only the festival audience could only watch the faces of the movie goers in this film who in turn were watching a movie. It’s just like going to a movie with your back turned away from the screen and you’re looking at the audience!

    Festival-goers shared keen interest in the U.S. elections as the Democratic and Republican Conventions were held during the duration of the festival. Not a bad time to be coming from Washington, D.C.; everyone wanted to talk politics.

    The Lido Low-Down
    Rumor has it that there were fewer press attendees this year due to the selection of films at the Toronto Film Festival, which occurs right after the Venice Film Festival. Festival goers everywhere lamented the lack of Hollywood star wattage, compared to the A-list entourages from past years. Some called this the “year of the women” to make up for all the male eye candy! Anne Hathaway, Frances McDormand, and Natalie Portman joined other international stars Charlize Theron, Tilda Swinton, Claudia Schiffer, Stefania Sandrelli, Emmanuelle Béart, and Liz Hurley on the red carpet.

    It was hot and humid, Miami-feel, weather, perfect for the beach, or an evening stroll alongside the Excelsior Hotel. See you next year on the Lido!

    And the Winner is … 2008 Awards
    For a comprehensive list of award winners, a complete description of the Festival’s mission, competition categories, and a complete roster of films, please see
    the festival website.

    VENEZIA 65
    The Venezia 65 International Jury at the 65th Venice Film Festival, chaired by Wim Wenders (Germany) and comprised of Juriy Arabov (Russia), Valeria Golino (Italy), Douglas Gordon (Scotland), Lucrecia Martel (Argentina), John Landis (USA), and Johnnie To (Hong Kong) viewed 21 films in competition, and decided the following:

  • GOLDEN LION for Best Film: The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky (USA).
  • SILVER LION for Best Director: Aleksey German Jr. for the film: Bumažnyj Soldat (Paper Soldier) (Russia).
  • SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Teza by Haile Gerima (Ethiopia, Germany, France).
  • COPPA VOLPI for Best Actor: Silvio Orlando in the film Il papà di Giovanna by Pupi Avati (Italy).
  • COPPA VOLPI for Best Actress: Dominique Blanc in the film L’autre by Patrick Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic (France).
  • MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD for Best Young Actor or Actress: Jennifer Lawrence in the film The Burning Plain by Guillermo Arriaga (USA).
  • OSELLA for Best Cinematography: Alisher Khamidhodjaev and Maxim Drozdov for Bumažnyj Soldat (Paper Soldier) by Aleksey German Jr. (Russia).
  • OSELLA for Best Screenplay: Haile Gerima for Teza by Haile Gerima (Ethiopia, Germany, France).
  • SPECIAL LION for Overall Work: Werner Schroeter.

    “LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS” AWARD FOR A DEBUT FILM: Pranzo Di Ferragosto by Gianni Di Gregorio (SIC - International Critics’ Week, Italy).

    FIPRESCI Award: Best Film Venezia 65: Gabbla (Inland) by Tariq Teguia.

    Best Film Horizons and International Critics’ Week: Goodbye Solo by Rahmin Bahrani.

    SIGNIS Award: The Hurt Locker by Kathyrn Bigelo, special mention to Teza by Haile Gerima and Vegas: Based on a True Story by Amir Naderi.

    So, Who Was There?
    Darren Aronofsky, Pupi Avati, Emmanuelle Béart, Paulo Benvenuti, George Clooney, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Claire Danes, Hugh Dancy, Joaquim de Almeida, Jonathan Demme, Claire Denis, Ralph Fiennes, Valentino Garavani, Haile Gerima, Giancarlo Giammetti, Valeria Golino, Pascal Greggory, Anne Hathaway, Takeshi Kitano, Diane Kruger, Jennifer Lawrence, John Landis, Benoit Magimel, Frances McDormand, Hayao Miyazaki, Silvio Orlando, Natalie Portman, Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke, Stefania Sandrelli, Barbet Schroeder, Tilda Swinton, Kitano Takeshi, Charlize Theron, Johnnie To, Wim Wenders to name a few.

    No Venice, No Party

    By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

    I have indicated in past articles the importance of the social scene at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals and the differences between them. It remains true that even if you’re a casual film festival attendee and not a journalist or a film executive out to consummate a business deal getting into the party scene will be a nice extra to enhance your movie-going experience. Here’s an opportunity for you to talk one-on-one with film principals as they relax, dine, and dance the night away! Then you can tell your friends and family all about it when you return home.

    The Venice Film Festival’s social calendar is included daily in CIAK magazine, under the column, “No Venice, No Party.” Here’s a quick summary of some of the social highlights this year: The venues that are established for the Festival’s meet and greets and the more extravagant affairs are often temporary constructions built especially for the Festival. Believe me when I tell how grand they are. Imagine on the beach at the Hotel Excelsior a specially designed gazebo with wood flooring and leather furnishings, why, it’s the perfect setting for an Opening Night Party on the beach! A grand view of a starry-night, the sea, the cabanas, and filmy curtains establishes the setting for an unforgettable beach party when guests include the cast and crew of Burn After Reading. Who says that tuxedos and couture evening wear don’t fit on the beach? Who cares when guests include Oscar-winners galore: The Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, and Tilda Swinton. Brad Pitt hasn’t yet won an Oscar, but he was there too! I did say that this was a night with stars!

    Quintessentially Yours, the afore-mentioned, nightclub/bar/lounge/restaurant upscale setting offered a variety of exclusive VIP parties. By night, this luxurious open-air nightclub by the sea, offered the best of everything glamorous: great dancing, lighting, and plenty of action, pricey drinks, and gourmet cuisine. During the day, I happened to lounge on one of easy chairs and spotted actor Joaquim de Almeida eating lunch. When he had finished, he was fair game for any of us who had seen him in “The Burning Plain,” where he portrays “Nick,” the married man, with whom the equally-married character portrayed by Kim Basinger is having an affair. It was definitely a photo opportunity! I also paused to briefly tell him that we had met in 1994 at the Kennedy Center when it premiered the movie, “Clear and Present Danger.” The management and staff were especially warm and courteous to all of their guests. Celebrities received fun SWAG items, ranging from top-quality assorted clothing items to wine encased in portable bar-tending kits.

    I had a fun time gawking at the fabulous clothes of the guests who attended a charity function there. Jeans never looked so good when paired with a custom- made jacket and shoes. I was told the party lasted until 6:00 a.m. the next morning! There were other private parties held there, of course. I had already returned home before even trying to experience the dj’ing talents of one of Ibiza’s (the party island capital of Spain) own from the famed Pacha nightclub and a special party featuring Ralph Fiennes and Mickey Rourke, significant because Rourke’s movie, The Wrestler eventually won the grand prize.

    There were other chic beach parties, less grand affairs, with champagne and hors d’oeuvres, music wafting, combined with the sounds of the sea, and a magnificent sunset. I had a big thrill, however, meeting the Ambassador of South Africa and his friendly, well-informed staff from Rome and Milan as they hosted a reception at the Hotel Excelsior featuring South African wines and distributed information on World Cup 2010. Embassy officials, actors, and models mingled with the international audience film festival attendees and hotel guests, quite possibly a similar target group to convince to travel to South Africa in a couple of years. All that was missing was a couple of Italian soccer players. Now that would clinch the deal. Next year perhaps?

    Notes from the Venice Film Festival

    By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member

    The screen offerings are diverse at the Venice Film Festival. So there’ll be something that will definitely interest you. If you choose to watch an American-made (or English-speaking) movie, here’s your chance to look at foreign subtitles, in this case, Italian, and hone your foreign language skills! Also, certain films present the opportunity to actually see the film principals attending the screening of their respective films. Here are my film notes for this year’s round.

    So, what’s the advantage about seeing movies at the Venice Film Festival? You can actually meet the film stars and filmmakers who often attend the public screenings of their films. You can learn Italian (all of the films are screened in their original language with subtitles in English and Italian, yes, we’re talking in some cases two sets of subtitles on a single screen.) with all the words and phrases they won’t teach you in school! You will see, occasionally, films that are already released in the U.S., but this time can see again with a heavily-Italian audience. More often, however, you will see film premieres.

    I saw lots of great films. My favorites? Guillermo Arriaga’s The Burning Plain, Hayao Miyazaki’s Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea), and Pupi Avati’s Il Papà di Giovanna (Giovanna’s Father). Here follows a brief synopsis of a selection of these films with commentary.

  • Burn After Reading (USA): Oscar-winning Writers/Directors Joel and Ethan Coen join George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and Richard Jenkins in a mad-cap black comedy of errors. This a story of what happens when an ex-CIA agent’s memoirs encased on a CD are found by two gym employees desiring to play covert agents themselves and blackmail the agent by offering to return the CD for a price. Couldn’t help thinking that Spy Museum programming staff would love this Washington, DC area-based movie as an example of its assertion that it’s one of the spy capitals of the world. It’s a clever movie, funny, and well-acted. A good choice for the Festival Opening Night Film.

  • The Burning Plain (USA): Writer/Director Guillermo Arriaga presents a multi-layered story that portrays the troubled relationship between a teenage daughter and her mother as the teen, portrayed by Festival Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence, witnesses her mother’s adulterous affair. Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, Joaquim de Almeida, and José María Yazpik also star. Arresting storyline and great performances all around.

  • Gake no ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) (Japan): Writer/Director Hayao Miyazaki presents another impressive animated film, a cross between The Lirttle Mermaid and Finding Nemo. After seeing much serious, even gloomy fare, it was a real treat to view some well-done Japanese anime about a fish princess, Ponyo, that wants to become a human girl and friend to a five-year old boy, who lives by the sea. Although we’ve seen this storyline before, the Master Storyteller still manages a unique take on the subject largely due to his visual technique. This film gets the award for “cuteness” and is definitely appealing to the child in all of us. This film received very enthusiastic applause.

  • Il Papà di Giovanna (Giovanna’s Father) (Italy): Writer/Director Pupi Avati presents Silvio Orlando, Francesca Neri, and Alba Rohrwacher in a moving story about what happens when an Average Joe marries a bella donna and they produce an unattractive daughter, Giovanna. Giovanna grows up with massive insecurities despite the doting attention and encouragement from her schoolteacher father. At age 17, she murders a female classmate in a fit of jealous passion over a young man, a classmate she’s obsessed with, but has eyes only for someone else. Giovanna spends the next seven years in a psychiatric institution for the criminally insane with her father as the only visitor. It’s clear that she also suffers from the unrequited love from her mother, but her father’s devotion never wavers. The 1930s/1940s period costumes, Cinecitta sets, and dimly-lit cinematography add a nice vintage feel to the movie.

  • Landscape No. 2 (Pokraina St. 2) (Slovenia):): Director Vinko Moderndorferi presents a terrific cast, including Barbara Cerar, Marko Mandic, Maja Merljak, Slavko Serjak, and Jaka Lah, in a murder mystery/thriller. Two friends steal a painting, entitled “Landscape No. 2,” originally appropriated by the Nazis during World War II. One, Sergev (Mandic) decides to also remove a document, which unknown, to him, reveals the secret to the Nazi collaborators to atrocities. Suddenly, one by one, his friends are murdered, as the assassin seeks to destroy all who have knowledge of this document. This was a chilling, suspenseful story, with gruesome depictions.

  • Plastic City (Dangkou) (Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan): Director Nelson Yu Lik-wai focuses on the large Japanese community in Brazil where a father and son team rule the Black Market and then decide to get out of it. This is gritty, urban drama with very realistic scenes of crime, violence, and corrupt government officlals. Jeff Chen, Milham Cortaz, Yi Huang, Taina Muller, Antonio Petrin, and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang round out the cast.

  • Shirin (Iran): Director Abbas Kiarostami presents the tale of Khosrow and Shirin, a 12th-century Persian poem enacted on stage. We see only the audiences’ faces as they react to what’s on stage and hear the narrator’s voice describing the action that the audience is seeing onstage. This is an eample of a brilliant idea, not well-executed. This freshly original concept might have worked better as a short film. It was difficult, an even distracting at time simply watching facial expressions for a two-hour duration, while listening to the story.

  • Tutto è musica (Italy) Writer/Director/Singer/Composer Domenico Modugno, known the world over for his “Volare” song, wrote, directed and starred in this 1963 film dramatizing the famous “Volare” and his other songs. The film is dated, and has some odd scenes: a man pretending to be a dog, a working horse challenging a thoroughbred an a racetrack, beach beauties dancing with a muscleman. The best parts of the movie are at the beginning where Modugno illustrates that everyday “noises” form a musical compensation inlife, whether it’s the sounds of heels clicking, or car horns honking, and the very best part of the film is the soundtrack with those marvelous Italian songs, including, of course, the beloved “Volare.”

  • Valentino: The Last Emperor (USA): Director Matt Tyrnauer, Vanity Fair special correspondent, followed world-famous couture designer Valentino Garavani and his partner in life and business, Giancarlo Giammetti, for two years gathering candid moments to include in his documentary on the life and career of Valentino. For clothes afficianados and lovers of great design, this documentary has the zest of the fictional The Devil Wears Prada and elevates it. The audience gathers some insight into the man and his creative method from the drawing board concepts, to the fabric selections, design modifications, right down to the nitty gritty details of the fashion show galas introducing the designs behind stage on the catwalk and at the private after parties at his residences. It’s all there. Tyrnauer offers an intriguing glimpse into Valentino’s psyche, his dedication to beauty, and the making of his fashion house, the designing/fashion business, the issues associated with it, and some aspects of his personal life, including his relationship, alternately humorous, witty, and serious, over the course of his 45-year career. It was magnificent and a real treat to attend a screening where Valentino himself attended.

  • Vinyan (France): Writer/Director Fabrice Du Welz portrays the inner anguish of parents who have difficulty coming to terms with the death of their only child in a tsunami. Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell portray a European couple living and looking for their missing child in Thailand. A video that they see by chance at a fundraising party suggests that their son has survived and been sold into slavery prompting them to pay for assistance in finding him in the jungles of Burma. Beart does an incredible job particularly in scenes right out of Night of the Living Dead where she attempts communication with zombie-like children in the jungles where there search takes them.

    Flashback: Last year I wrote: “Queen” Cate Blanchett will have another banner year, watch for her Oscar nomination again next year.

    This year’s predictions: None. I wish that I had seen The Duchess here.

    Films I wish that I had seen: Un Giorno Perfetto (A Perfect Day), Puccini e la fanciulla (Puccini and the Girl), Tez, Rachel Getting Married.

    Synecdoche: Q&A with Director Charlie Kaufman

    At a preview of Synecdoche on October 18 at Landmark's E Street Cinema, director Charlie Kaufman answered questions. DC Film Society director Michael Kyrioglou moderated.

    MK: How did you come to direct this film? Could someone else have directed it?
    Charlie Kaufman: When I was writing it Spike Jonze was going to direct it and by the time I finished it he was starting another movie. I didn't want to wait until he was done with that movie so I asked him if I could do it when it became available. It [directing] was always something I wanted to do at some point.

    MK: But the original idea was that he was going to do it?
    CK: I was going to write and he was going to direct.

    MK: What sort of challenges did you find in directing and how involved were you in your previous projects?
    CK: I was very involved in all aspects of production in other films. I did a few plays and had experience with actors. It gave me confidence. This was a massive project with a lot of scenes, around 240, and not a big budget. I had to figure out how to do everything. We shot it over 45 days.

    Question: Does that warehouse exist?
    CK: It's an armory in Brooklyn. We made the interiors on a computer model and placed it in various locations.

    Q: How autobiographical is the film and what is the significance of the burning house?
    CK: Everything that everyone writes is autobiographical whether or not you want it to be. Obviously I never built a replica of a warehouse in New York, but the characters, etc. are things that I think about. About the burning house: I don't like to explain the meaning of things because I think it's for the audience to interpret it as they will. I have the authority as the writer (that's where author comes from) and if I say it then everyone says "oh, I see, that's what it means," whereas my goal is to have people come to their own interpretation. At every Q&A I've done someone has asked that question. People come to me and tell me about various things that are in the movie that are private things and I like that. So I don't want to take that away.

    Q: Do you want to do more directing?
    CK: I like writing but I do want to try directing again. It makes the work more ideosyncratic and I like that about it. I like the job; it's a very different job than writing. I don't think it's a bigger job or a better job. I don't think there's a hierarchy involved as I thought when I first started doing it--there's the writer and there's the director. I like doing both.

    MK: How collaborative do you get with actors as far as generating ideas?
    CK: Collaborating with the actors is more about figuring out the characters and I want to do it that way. They bring so much to their roles. And it's not just the actors, but also the production designers and cinematographers.

    Q:How did the idea for this film come about?
    CK: Spike and I were approached to do a horror movie, so we were thinking about things that were scary in the real world--aging and illness and dying and regret, relationships, disasters, etc. So it took the form of a man whose wife has left him, who has a series of illnesses, trying to figure out his life and afraid of dying.

    MK: How long ago did you finish the film?
    CK: We finished in August of last year and have been editing since.

    Q: After working with other directors are you making a conscious effort to top yourself?
    CK: I'm trying to become truthful and now that I'm older I have had different life experiences. And these experiences become included in my ideas of what I want to do and what I'm thinking about. Cader's project will never be finished. The only definitive ending is death.

    MK: One of the things I loved about the movie was that it was an intimate story but it's epic also. The whole thing was so personal on so many levels.
    CK: It's really subjective. I think that everything is. Someone, I forget who, wrote that the goal of a writer is that everything you know should be in everything you write. I like that idea and I don't think you can realize that but the goal is how you approach that. Not to compartmentalize things.

    Q: Why did you pick "Synecdoche" for the title?
    CK: I knew that eventually the character was going to move to New York City to do his play and I wanted to pick a city in New York. I don't remember why exactly I picked Schenectady, but once I picked it I had in the back of my mind that it would parallel with the word synecdoche. It wasn't the title at first, it was something I had in my head and it seemed like an appropriate title.

    Q: In your earlier films Being John Malkovich and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind you are interested in how the brain works. Is that your intention here?
    CK: The only experience anyone has in the world is subjective and whenever I would try to write something I would come up against that. If my brain is creating the character's interior existence then that point of view becomes essential in telling the story. Everything is told from Cader's point of view; everything that happens to him is an externalizing of his internal world. The experience of time is completely subjective--it may not even exist outside our brains. I wanted that to be a driving force in the movie.

    Q: How did you happen to work with Jon Brion? [composer of music score]
    CK: I worked with Jon on Eternal Sunshine. Jon was interested in the script; he was really affected by it. He signed on right away. We talked a little bit about it during production and afterward discussed what the score represented in the movie, how the score fit in telling the story. He wrote some stuff and I made a few suggestions and he would transform them into results that were quite beautiful.

    MK: The casting was quite interesting, especially some of the women. Did you have specific people in mind for the roles?
    CK: I don't write with actors in mind. I would end up thinking about that person rather than the character. But once I finished, Philip Seymour Hoffman was the first person I went to. I next went to my favorite people and most everyone agreed to do it.

    MK: I noticed Dierdre O'Connell
    CK: Dierdre was the first person I cast; I actually cast her before Philip Seymour Hoffman. She is in Eternal Sunshine in a small part, playing Tom Wilkinson's wife and Philip Seymour Hoffman was excited to work with her.

    Q: When other directors work with your material they act as a filter. Now that you are the writer and director there is no filter. Is that something you thought about? How did that affect you?
    CK: It made it more personal and idiosyncratic. I respect Spike Jonze but I feel more raw and feel served by that idiosyncracy. But I didn't think about that when I was working on it. The thing I realized is that the main qualification of a director is to be someone with an opinion. People are asking you all the time and you have to make choices regarding the actors, sets, costumes. It becomes very personal. I have to constantly decide.

    Q: Would you direct another person's script?
    CK: I would rather not. Right now, I'd rather do my own. I like writing and I like that aspect of it; I like thinking about issues and characters. No one has offered me anything. I would rather do my own thing. I think I would be more open to doing an adaptation of someone's work. The only reason would be for expedience, to get it out quicker if I don't have to write it, although that's not a good reason.

    Q: What are you working on now?
    CK: I'm trying to write something but don't know what it is.
    MK: Would you direct any of your writing for the stage?
    CK: I love to do plays and would love to do another one and will at some point. But right now I need a job. It's been five years working on this.

    Q: Can you tell us about your writing process?
    CK: I like to think about things. I don't really outline. I start somewhere and things come over time. I spent two years thinking of this; I let it go in one direction and go back and forth. It's a kind of open, sprawling experience.
    MK: Do you write dialogue?
    CK: I don't do outlines at all. I write notes about the character, ideas I have about time, or death, or illness. I try to keep myself open. I would rather not write about something far in the past that I don't have a perspective on. I think perspective is a lie because it's on something that no longer exists. If you have perspective you're telling a story about something you are not in. But we're always in the situation that we are in. Always. My thought is to write about where I am and accept the lack of perspective and the chaos as part of the experience of being a person, and try to make that what I am writing about.

    Q: How did Sony happen to make this project? Do you think now that Hollywood is becoming less of a climate for anything that is more challenging? Is is getting harder to sell your ideas?
    CK: I don't really try to sell any ideas. But 8 of the 12 independent distributors went out of business and the remaining four are trying to figure out how to do the next quirky comedy. I did this without a distributor. When we first showed it, it was very hard to sell; it took awhile to sell it. That's an indication of what's happening right now. Obviously with the economy the way it is, things won't get better for awhile. The problem is, people don't go to these kinds of movies and it costs so much to market them. Nobody wants to spend the money on marketing something like this. If they put money into this then they've lost that much more money. People don't go to these kinds of movies, I don't know why. Certain things sell, but not this.

    Synecdoche comes to our town on November 7.

    We Need to Hear From YOU

    We are always looking for film-related material for the Storyboard. Our enthusiastic and well-traveled members have written about their trips to the Cannes Film Festival, London Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Palm Springs Film Festival, the Reykjavik Film Festival, the Munich Film Festival, and the Locarno Film Festival. We also heard about what it's like being an extra in the movies. Have you gone to an interesting film festival? Have a favorite place to see movies that we aren't covering in the Calendar of Events? Seen a movie that blew you away? Read a film-related book? Gone to a film seminar? Interviewed a director? Taken notes at a Q&A? Read an article about something that didn't make our local news media? Send your contributions to Storyboard and share your stories with the membership. And we sincerely thank all our contributors for this issue of Storyboard.

    Calendar of Events


    American Film Institute Silver Theater
    The AFI's big event this month is the 21st annual "European Union Film Showcase," with dozens of first rate films from EU member states including film festival award winners, box office hits and US premieres. See the website for titles and dates.

    "At the Crossroads: Slovenian Cinema" is a collection of eight films from Slovenia, a country of only two million people. Most films are recent but some are from the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s. Slovenia is also represented by one film in the EU Festival.

    "Noir City DC" is a series of film noir and the first edition of the Noir City Film Festival produced by the Film Noir Foundation. The series ends early in November but you can still catch The Prowler, Raw Deal, Kiss of Death and Night and the City.

    Freer Gallery of Art
    "Roads to the Interior: Another Side of Japanese Cinema" is a collection of recent films presenting the slipside of Japan's high-tech, anime, pop culture image. On November 7 at 7:00pm is Adrift in Tokyo (Satoshi Miki, 2007) with the director in person for that film and the next two: In the Pool (2005) on November 8 at 7:00pm and Turtles Swim Faster Than Expected (2005) on November 8 at 2:00pm. On November 14 at 7:00pm is Sway (Miwa Nishikawa, 2006); on November 16 at 2:00pm is Your Friends (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2008); on November 21 at 7:00pm is Funuke, Show Some Love, You Losers! (Daihachi Yoshida, 2007); and on November 23 at 2:00pm is The Sakais' Happiness (Mipo Oh, 2006). The series will continue in December.

    Two evenings of documentaries from Iran will be followed by a discussion with Iranian filmmaker Persheng Sadegh-Vaziri, a teacher of film studies at New York University. On November 13 at 7:00pm is Dream of Silk (Nahid Rezai, 2003) shown with Tehran Has No More Pomegranates (Massoud Bakhshi, 2007); and on November 20 at 7:00pm is President Mir Qanbar (Mohammed Shirvani, 2005).

    The final film of the series by Indian director Kumar Shahani Kasba (1990) is on November 2 at 2:00pm.

    National Gallery of Art
    "Roman Ruins Rebuilt" is a film series to accompany the Gallery's new exhibition Pompeii and the Roman Villa. On November 15 at 3:00pm is Antony and Cleopatra (Enrico Guazzoni, 1913) with an introduction by Martin Winkler and James Doering on piano premiering the original 1914 music score. On November 23 at 4:30pm is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Richard Lester, 1966) with an introduction by Martin Winkler, professor of classics at George Mason University.

    "Film Indians Now!" is a series of films and discussions focusing on the portrayals of American Indians. Events are at the Gallery and the National Museum of the American Indian (see below). On November 1 at 2:00pm is Tkaronto (Shane Belcourt, 2007) followed by discussion with the filmmakers. On November 22 at 2:00pm is a series of short films by American Indian filmmakers followed by a moderated discussion with the series curator and several of the filmmakers. More in December.

    "Josef von Sternberg, Master of Mood" is a six-film series beginning with The Salvation Hunters (1925) on November 8 at 2:00pm with Andrew Simpson on piano. On November 8 at 4:00pm is Children of Divorce (1927) with Andrew Simpson accompanying on piano; on November 15 at 12:30pm is Thunderbolt (1929); on November 29 at 4:00pm is The Docks of New York (1928) with Donald Sosin on piano and Joanna Seaton providing vocals; on November 30 at 4:30pm is An American Tragedy (1931); one final film in December.

    Special events include a program of short films from Europe on November 2 at 4:30pm; In the Land of the Headhunters (Edward S. Curtis, 1914) with live accompaniment by the Coast Orchestra on November 9 at 6:30pm; Herb and Dorothy (Megumi Sasaki, 2008) with Herb and Dorothy Vogel and Megumi Sasaki in person on November 16 at 4:30pm; and The Exiles (Kent Mackenzie, 1961) on November 28 at 1:00pm and 3:00pm and on November 29 at 1:00pm.

    Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
    On November 6 at 7:00pm is a screening and discussion with artists Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt of their work including Magnetic Movie (2007). On November 13 at 8:00pm is a documentary The Rising Tide: New Art in China (Robert Adanto, 2008) about new video and photography in China.

    National Museum of the American Indian
    As part of the film series "Film Indians Now!" (also see the National Gallery of Art, above), is "It's Not TV, It's Indians" on November 2 at 2:00pm. Three Native artists perform spoken word, song and dance pieces inspired by their favorite "Indian" episode of television.

    National Portrait Gallery
    "Brando Himself" is a part of the Portrait Gallery's Cultures in Motion series. Actor Edward Gero brings Marlon Brando to life using his own words. Note that this is not a film.

    Smithsonian American Art Museum
    On November 12 at 5:30pm is Ansel Adams (Ric Burns, 2002), a documentary about one of the great pioneers in American photography. on November 13 at 6:00pm is a program of four short films "Comedy to Tragedy" including Reel 4 (William Wegman, 1973); Peggy and Fred in Kansas (Leslie Thornton, 1987); Semiotics of the Kitchen (Martha Rosler, 1975); and Viet Flakes (Carolee Schneemann, 1965). On November 19 at 6:00pm is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998) as part of the "American Classics: Page to Screen" series.

    The Smithsonian Latino Center presents two films from Puerto Rico on November 22: at 1:00pm is La Isla Chatarra (Karen Rossi, 2007), an award-winning documentary about Puerto Rican car culture; and at 3:00pm is Angela (Jacobo Morales, 2007), a political thriller about dirty cops.

    Films on the Hill
    To commemorate the 90th anniversary of the end of WWI and the signing of the Armistice, Films on the Hill presents a three-part series of films covering different aspects of the war. On November 12 at 7:00pm is Barbed Wire (Rowland Lee, 1927) starring Pola Negri as a French farm girl whose farm is taken over to use as a prisoner of war camp. Clive Brook co-stars. On November 14 at 7:00pm is Spy In Black (Michael Powell, 1939), a box-office hit in England, opening on the day war was declared. Conrad Veidt stars as a U-boat commander whose assignment is to get information on the British fleet in the Orkney Islands. On November 19 at 7:00pm is Doomed Battalion (Cyril Gardner, 1932) starring Luis Trenker as an Austrian fighting the Italians in the Dolomites, based on Trenker's actual experiences.

    Washington Jewish Community Center
    On November 3 at 7:30pm is "Israel Through the Lens: Contemporary Trends in Israeli Cinema," a lecture with film clips and discussion. Amy Kronish, a lecturer in the field of Jewish and Israeli film and author of two definitive books on Israeli film, will use clips from contemporary film and television to present a view of the diverse issues facing Israeli society today. A reception will follow.

    On November 10 at 7:30pm is The Woman from Sarajevo (Ella Alterman, 2007), a documentary about a Muslim woman who sheltered a Jewish family during WWII in Sarajevo. In a fascinating twist, the Jewish family then rescued the Muslim family during the 1990s and brought them to Israel.

    Goethe Institute
    A new series of films by GDR director Rainer Simon "Between Fiction and Reality" began in October and ends in November. On November 3 at 6:30pm is Jadup and Boel (1981) which was banned by the GDR and not released until 1988. On November 10 at 6:30pm is The Woman and the Stranger (1984), winner of the Golden Bear at the 1985 Berlin Film Festival.

    A new series "Artists in Film," portrays the extraordinary lives of outstanding artists, focusing not only on the artists' works but also glimpses into their personal lives. On November 17 at 6:30pm is Goya (Konrad Wolf, 1971) about the Spanish artist who finds the Inquisition on his trail. On November 24 at 6:30pm is Mephisto (István Szabó, 1981) , based on Klaus Mann's novel. More in December and January.

    National Geographic Society
    On November 1 starting at noon is the "Maori Film Festival," part of the All Roads Film Project. A program of short films begins at noon and at 1:00pm is Guarding the Family Silver (Toby Mills and Moana Maniapoto, 2005), a documentary about Mairo symbols and images.

    On November 5 is "A Wave of Change," a program of two new documentaries. At 7:00pm is Restoring the Mauri of Lake Omapere (Simon Marler, 2007) about a New Zealand lake's environmental degradation; at 7:55pm is River of No Return (Darlene Johnson, 2008) about Australian actress Frances Djulibing who appeared in Ten Canoes. The filmmaker and the actress will be present for discussion after the film.

    On November 13 and 14 at 7:00pm is "The Best of Mountainfilm on Tour," a program of short films about various environmental topics. See the website for more information.

    The Japan Information and Culture Center
    On November 14 at 6:30pm is Nobita's Dinosaur, a Japanese anime film featuring "Doraemon," a robo-cat of the future cited by Time Magazine as "the cuddliest hero in Asia." Reservations are required; visit the website or call 202-238-6949.

    National Archives
    On November 15 at 3:00pm is Johnny Tremain (Robert Stevenson, 1957), a Disney film about a Boston silversmith apprentice. This film is part of the "Treaty of Paris" film series.

    On November 12, 13, and 14 at noon is a program of documentaries from the U.S. Army Air Forces' First Motion Picture Unit which produced more than 300 films from 1942 to 1945 to train and boost the morale of its airmen. The three programs feature a selection of films from the Archives' holdings.

    National Museum of Natural History
    On November 15 starting at 10:00pm is the South Asian Literary and Theater Arts Festival, featuring discussions on literature, author readings and two films. Amal (Richie Mehta) is the story of an auto-rickshaw driver who meets an eccentric millionaire, based on the book A Slice of Life by Mehta's brother Shaun. Filmmaker Sooni Taraporevala screens her debut feature film Little Zizou about two Bombay families who love and hate each other.

    The ocean stars in a series of classic films. On November 15 at 12:30pm is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), based on the book by Jules Verne and on November 15 at 3:00pm is Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Both films will be introduced by David Pawson from the Department of Invertebrate Zoology. On November 16 at 12:30pm is Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) with Clark Gable and Charles Laughton and at 3:00pm is Moby Dick (1956) starring Gregory Peck.

    The Avalon
    On November 12 at 8:00pm is Divided We Fall (Jan Hrebejk, 2000) as part of the "Czech Lions" series of films, set in a small Czech town during WWII.

    On November 13 at 8:00pm is Moving Midway (Godfrey Cheshire), about the Southern plantation in North Carolina belonging to the director's family and its move to escape urban sprawl. Godfrey Cheshire and film participant Robert Hinton will attend the screening.

    On November 19 at 8:00pm as part of the "French Cinematheque" series is The Grocer's Son (Eric Guirado, 2007), set in the French countryside, about a family's black sheep son who returns home to help his sick father run their grocery store.

    On November 5 at 6:30pm is a program of two documentaries. Buscando a Gabo (Luis Fernando Bottia, 2007) portrays Gabriel Garcia Márquez through interviews and narration, shown with Manuel Zapata Olivella: Abridor de Caminos (Maria Adelaida López, 2007) about the novelist, anthropologist, researcher, and social scientist Manual Zapata Olivella.


    Indian Visions
    The second annual Indian Visions, part of Filmfest DC takes place November 13-16. See above.

    The 2008 European Union Film Showcase
    The 2008 AFI European Union Film Showcase, now in its 21st year runs from November 6-25. More than 30 films from 24 European Union countries will be shown, including 11 official Oscar selections for 2009. "The 2008 EU Showcase may be our best edition ever," said Todd Hitchcock, film programmer. "We will screen a wide array of films from all over the EU, critically praised films and festival award winners, including many that will represent their countries in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2009 Oscars.

    The Opening Night film is I've Loved You So Long from France and the Closing Night film, a US premiere, is El Dorado from Belgium. Visit the website for the complete schedule.


    The Corcoran
    On November 17 at 7:00pm is "An Evening with Christopher Plummer." Plummer, actor in more than 100 films, will reminisce on his career and some of the actors and directors with whom he has worked in both film and stage. He will discuss his new memoir In Spite of Myself which was published this year.

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    January, 2008
    December, 2007

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