Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Africa United

Over the weekend the biggest film festival in Africa opened. The biennial Pan-African Film and Television Festival opened in Burkina Faso.
News out of Africa has been limited on the festival, but this great overview piece ranFriday and Saturday in many African newspapers.

Africa's biggest film festival opens in Ouagadougou
Boureima Hama Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Africa's biggest film festival opens on Saturday in the capital of Burkina Faso hoping for a revival of the continent's ailing cinema industry.

The Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, or Fespaco, which runs from February 24 to March 3, is a two-yearly event gathering more than 3 000 film types from across the continent, from South Africa through Mali to Morocco, as well as from the African diaspora.

Ironically, this year's event takes place as the curtain comes down for cinemas across the continent, but also as African films rake up top international awards, feeding hopes of a new golden age in the years to come.

South Africa's Tsotsi last year won Oscar celebrity status, picking up Hollywood's coveted best foreign-language film award. It is one of two South African entries among the 20 feature films competing for Fespaco's top prize, the Etalon d'Or de Yennenga or Golden Stallion of Yennenga.

Also competing for the top Fespaco award this year are two films from Chad, including one that last September won the Venice Film Festival's Special Jury Prize -- Daratt (Dry Season) by Mahamet-Saleh Haroun.

Haroun, who is 45 and has shot three feature films, plans to buy a block of land in the Chadian capital Ndjamena to build a cinema there.

With the exception of South Africa and Nigeria, cinema houses have been closing down one after the other across the continent, the African monthly Continental said in its February issue. Senegal's last cinema shut down last year, Congo-Brazzaville's seven cinemas have been sold to churches, of the eight cinemas in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde, only one has survived.

"African film is in crisis and the closure of cinemas is only the most visible sign," the magazine said.

After receiving state backing in the post-independence 1970s, producers, directors and distributors have largely had to fend for themselves since the 1990s, when governments cut funding due to pressure from world financial institutions.

With little funding, few to no cinema schools and a poverty-struck public, African film-makers have had to look abroad for support.

Gabon's entry for the top award, L'Ombre de Liberte (Shadow of Freedom) by Imunga Ivanga, for example, was five years in the making, three of them spent drumming up funds for the modest budget of just under €1-million ($1.3 million).

Also competing for the Etalon d'Or de Yennenga -- a reference to the mythical founder of the Mossi empire, whose descendants make up 40% of the country's 14-million people -- are films from Benin, Burkina Faso (three), Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea (three), Mali, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal and the north African states of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

The 20th edition of Fespaco will also feature awards for TV-video films and sitcoms as well as for short movies.

And the African International Film and Television Market (MICA) will be held on the sidelines in a bid to help buyers and distributors to screen African film. - Sapa-AFP
Tsotis Competes for Best Film

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New Releases

This week's new releases to DVD features several scary movies and several scar people.

Conejo en la Luna (2006), directed by Jorge Ramírez Suárez, tells the story of a couple framed for murdering a politician and suddenly find themselves emersed in the world of corrupt government officials, bad cops and murderous henchmen, according to Netflix.

Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965), directed by Ishirô Honda, features another wrongly accused individual. After being blamed for destroying the countryside a 20-foot-tall mutant fights it out with the guilty monster/reptile Baragon. Honda was the director of the original Godzilla movie.

Perversion Story (1969), directed by Lucio Fulci, is a high-definition transfer from the original vault negative. The mystery mixes obsession, deceit, sex and murder when a doctor turns Casanova and begins dating a stripper.

Prayer Beads (2006 series), directed by Masahiro Okano, this movie blends realistic animation and live action in nine horror stories of karma and fate.

Synesthesia (2005), directed by Toru Matsurra, features a man with a strange sensory disease making him the only person in the world who can stop a serial killer.

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), directed by Yuki Yukite Shingun, is a documentary in which Shingun tries to determine the reason for unexplained deaths of soldiers during World War II. He blends research and in-your-face interviews with former military officers, accusing them of war crimes.
New York Times: New Release Review

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sorpresa, sorpresa

My initial reaction was surprise, but then it turned to resignation and frustration as a filmie.
Germany's "Lives of Others" pulled what is considered an upset over Mexico's "Pan's Labyrinth" as Best Foreign Language Film. Mexico has yet to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film after six previous tries. This film by director Guillermo del Toro was considered to be "the time."
Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (at left) pulled out the win in his first feature film after previous success in short films and television work.
So, why the frustration and resignation? Most of us never had the chance to see "Lives of Others." It only opened in this region on Friday, see previous blog. It doesn't open in Fort Worth until a "special screening" at the Modern Art Museum in March.
Maybe it's the better film. But most of us dont' know. Instead we're left with the sinking feeling that an opportunity was missed, both ours and Mexio's.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Secret Lives

Finally The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) opens in area theaters today, Feb. 23. The film, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film is directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
It stars Ulrich Mühe as Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler, Ulrich Tukur as his chief officer Anton Grubitz, Sebastian Koch as the playwright Georg Dreymann, and Martina Gedeck as his lover Christa-Maria Sieland.
In 1984 eastern Germany, Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler, is assigned to spy on playwright Georg Dreymann, who is suspected of western leanings. The agent finds out the real reason for the spying is that the spy agency’s minister is attracted to Dreymann’s girlfriend and wants to get the playwright out of the way.
While Pan’s Labyrinth has garnered most of the buzz in that category. The Lives of Others made a case for it’s popularity a couple weekends ago during its US premier. The film opened with more than $200,000 in 13 theaters for an average of $16,430.
The film is currently an exclusive locally at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth March, The Magnolia, Dallas, and the Angelika Plano.

Maestro Update

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screened the nominated shortfilms to a packed house at Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. Hungarian animator Geza M. Toth's Maestro is up for animated short. Checkout Kim Adelman's summary of the evening on

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Viva la Cinemex

Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival (FICCO) is officially under way.
The festival’s goal is promoting the best world cinematography in the city and offering an “alterantive window” to attendees. The focus is on young directors in feature and documentary categories.
Competition includes the world premiere of Mexican director Ivan Avila’s La sangre iluminada and Mexican director Ruben Imaz’ Familia Tortuga (Turtle Family).
Films by Spike Lee, David Lynch and Bruno Dumont will screen, but not in competition.
The festival runs through March 4.


Indonesian Film Banned

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Into Africa

So what’s it like filming in Africa?
Across the continent, film groups are trying to pull film producers in to learn more about options and opportunities.
James Hall, executive director of the Golden Lion Film Festival in Mbabane, Swaziland, has spent time cultivating the consular corps in his country. The work has netted him invitations to visit France and Cannes to market his festival and country.
The Golden Lion web site makes this invitation: “Filmmakers are invited to explore Swaziland, where African culture and tradition thrive in a beautiful mountainous setting. Mlilwane Game Reserve is only 15 minutes from two of the festival’s principal venues. Our South Africa venue, Casterbridge Cinema, is located in White River, the gateway to Kruger National Park, Africa’s oldest game reserve.”
And in Uganda director Kevin Macdonald told how his visit in 2002 for research encouraged him to return when it came time for filming. Macdonald’s The Last King of Scotland has been earning raves and actor Forest Whitaker appears a shoe-in for Best Actor at this weekend’s Academy Awards.
"The locals had the desire for it to be good because it was their story, a lot of them had lived through the Amin period or knew Amin,” Macdonald said in an article posted on Filmmaker South Africa.
In South Africa recently, screenwriters were cultivated with a symposium for writers attended by two-time Academy Award-winner Emma Thompson and British actor Stephen Fry at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. The programs were held prior to the release of a film on local poet Ingrid Jonker.

New This Week

German director Mathias Dinter’s Night of the Living Dorks arrives this week on DVD. It looks like your typical American teenage movie – only in German.
The promo I saw on Netflix said, “Philip, Konrad and Weener – the three biggest dorks at Frederich Nietzsche High School – get a second stab at coolness when they’re killed in an auto accident and reanimated as flesh-eating zombies.”
How could that not be good?
At the opposite end of the spectrum a biopic called Puccini is this week’s Italian offering. The 1952 film by director Carmine Gallone presents selections from Madama Butterfly, La Boheme and Turandot. The film focuses on Puccini’s romantic life via a singer, a beauty and a servent.
And finally, this week’s anime feature: Chevalier D’Eon is set in France, but is a Japanese animated film. D’Eon is based on a true story about a brother who begins investigating the death of his sister, along with many other women who are turning up dead in Paris's Seine River, D’Eon becomes inhabited by his sister’s spirit and the diplomat, writer, spy and Freemason adds another moniker, as he spends the second half of his life living as a woman. Now that’s a story.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Iwo Jima Anniversary

Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima is causing a stir on both sides of the Pacific. The film is up for a fistful of Academy Awards and is pulling audiences into the theater across Japan. Already it’s landed a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film Award. Some 7,000 American soldiers died at Iwo Jima and more than 20,000 Japanese soldiers died there. The battle ranged for more than a month from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945.
Eastwood’s companion film Flags of Our Fathers, which tells about the battle from an American standpoint, is out now on DVD.
The film has been doing well in Japan, and according to Time Magazine: “the Oscar-nominated Letters has grossed just under $40 million, earning it the top spot during the Japanese cinema industry’s all-important New Year holiday season.”
Now’s a good time to watch both.,8599,1581828,00.html

Let’s Talk About Babel

Babel makes its DVD arrival tomorrow, just in time for pre-Academy Awards viewing.
The movie features an international cast, locations and languages – and it’s a candidate for Best Picture.
Since I’m behind on my film watching, I’ve decided to wait to watch Babel on DVD. So many films left to see.
Stars Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt lead the Hollywood cast, but not the award list. The Academy instead smiled upon two actresses virtually unknown in the United States: Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi.
Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu also was nominated for Best Director. Altogether there are seven Academy Award nominations. Inarritu won a Best Actor Award at Cannes Film Festival. The film won Best Picture Award at the Golden Globes and Kikuchi won Best Actress Award from the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Who was that silver-masked man?

The Cartoon Network has announced plans for an animated series based on the Mexican icon Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata (the silver masked man).
Mexican wrestler El Hijo del Santo (son of Santo) is working with Carlo Olivares Paganoni to develop the untitled adventure/fantasy series set in Mexico City.
According to Cartoon Network, El Hijo del Santo is heir to the legendary silver mask, once held by his father, the flesh and blood icon Santo, El Enmascarado de Plata. A highly idolized figure in Mexico, Santo is a cultural icon who has not only conquered the world of lucha libre (Mexican wrestling), but has also been immortalized in film and television. Santo passed his legacy onto his son 25 years ago, who has since successfully defended his father’s title and propelled the distinguished reputation to a world-wide level. Today, El Hijo del Santo is recognized as the silver masked wrestler, Santo.
Santo uses his new powers to defend justice inside and outside the wrestling ring and faces a slew of enemies ranging from everyday criminals to genetically enhanced mystical villains. Created and executive-produced by Paganoni with Alex Soto ( Ben 10) as supervising producer, 13 half-hour episodes are being produced at Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, Calif. Cartoon Network (, currently seen in more than 91 million U.S. homes and 160 countries around the world.


International glam star Jennifer Lopez debuted her new film Borderline at Berlinale and was simultaneously recognized by Amnesty International for her work on the film.
The film also was reportedly booed by the audience. Who boos at the theater anymore, unless you’re tossing popcorn at a melodrama?
OK, so I wanted to boo during and after Gangs of New York, but I resisted. In fact, I want to boo right now, but I digress.
Anyway the film is a thriller set in Juarez, Mexico, and Lopez plays a Chicago-based reporter who crosses the border to investigate serial killing of women from the maquiladoras.
The film is directed by Gregory Nava, who directed Lopez in Selena so many years ago. It also co-stars Antonio Banderas and Martin Sheen.'
Nava has been working on the project, but it wasn’t until Lopez agreed to star that financing fell into place and the stars aligned.
Amnesty recognized Lopez for bringing attention to the real-life plight of women in Juarez. The killings have been going on for years, but Mexican officials reportedly are ignoring the problem for fear of loosing the lucrative border manufacturing business that comes from U.S. companies. Amnesty believes more than 400 women have been killed in Juarez.
The Berlinale audience reportedly didn’t like the “thriller” aspect when applied to a real-life investigation. I figured European film audiences were made of stronger stuff than that.
Kudos for Lopez and company for tackling tougher stuff than demanding bosses and romances with dance partners. (My favorite Lopez movie is 1998’s Out of Sight with George Clooney.) What’s yours?
Does anyone have thoughts on the Juarez killings or the concept of a thriller built around a true-life tragedy?

Banderas, Lopez, Nava

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Berlinale Roars Toward Finale

The 57th annual Berlinale Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin started Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 18.

Berlinale is Germany’s biggest film festival. In its second week, the festival is reaching a feverish pitch with a distribution deal landing for actress-turned-director Julie Delpy’s 2 Days in Paris, with Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Berlinale's film programme is divided into six sections: Competition, Panorama, International Forum of New Cinema, Generation, Perspektive Deutsches Kino and Retrospective. Each section is headed by a section director, who is responsible for selecting the films and is advised by the Berlinale's correspondents and other experts.

This year’s international jury consists of seven members from the film industry, and they consider films only in the competition section, awarding the festival’s main prizes. Prizes include the Golden Bear for best film and Silver Bears for Jury Grand Prix, Best Director, Best Actress and Actor, outstanding artistic contribution and Best Film Music. The Alfred Bauer Prize is given to a work which “takes the art of film in a new direction.”

The 2007 jury includes American Gigolo director Paul Schrader as jury president, Palestinian actress Hiram Abbass, German actor Mario Adorf, American actor Willem Dafoe, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal (at right), Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi and Danish film editor Molly Malene Stensgaard.

Berlinale’s website offers live streaming video and archives of news conferences and red carpet events at

Awards are presented the final day of the festival, Feb. 18.

Pal Erdoss, 1947-2007

Hungarian film director Pal Erdoss dies at 60
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Film director Pal Erdoss, winner of an award at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, died Wednesday, his family said. He was 60.
Erdoss died early Wednesday after a brief, serious illness, said his daughter, Eszter. Erdoss's family did not provide further details.
His last film, Lads of Budakeszi, based on an autobiographical book by Istvan Kovacs, was about a young boy's experiences during the 1956 anti-Soviet revolution. It was screened at the 38th Hungarian Film Week, which ended last week.
Erdoss's made his debut as director in 1982 with Adj kiraly katonat! (The Princess), for which he won the Golden Camera award, given to the best first film, at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.
The film, which chronicles the travails of a teenage young girl from the countryside who comes to Budapest to work at a textile mill, was well received by critics.
In its review of the film, The New York Times called Erdoss "a director of considerable subtlety and promise."
The Princess also earned Erdoss a Golden Leopard award at the 1983 Locarno International Film Festival.
Born in Budapest, Erdoss began his career in 1965 at Hungarian State Television, working as a location manager and assistant director.
Among his other features were Countdown (1983), Tolerance (1986), A Light-Sensitive Story (1993) and Last Seen Wearing A Blue Skirt (1997).
Erdoss also directed some 50 documentaries and films made for television.
Besides his daughter, he also is survived by his wife.
Funeral details were not immediately released.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Get Shorty

Among the shorts nominated for Academy Awards this year is a Hungarian entry by Geza M. Toth.
Maestro is a 5-minute animated short as the maestro sits in front of a dressing room mirror and prepares for his show.
Toth is a Hungarian artist and lecturer in the Animation Department at the Hungarian University of Art and Design.
He’s screened at more than 50 festivals and is working on a film adaptation of Bela Bartok’s "Bluebeard’s Castle".
It may be possible to watch Maestro online. I wasn't able to run the video, but it appears to be at several sites, including
Maestro showed at the 2006 Reggio Film Festival, hosted by one of our Sister Cities.
Maestro also played at Gifu HIAFF - 2006: Semi Grand Prize; La Bourboule PLEIN la BOBINE-2006: Children Jury's Prize; Leeds International Film Festival - 2006: Special Mention; Bucharest DaKINO International Short Film Festival - 2005: Special Prize; 2006 -Granada International Short Film Festival (in competition); 2006 - Jerusalem International Film Festival); 2006 - London International Animation Festival ; 2006 - Melbourne International Animation Festival; 2006 - Nashville Independent Film Festival; 2005 - Los Angeles IFP Film Festival; 2005 - Mill Valley Film Festival; 2005 - Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival. You can catch Maestro and the other nominated shorts at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Feb. 23–25, showings are 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday. For more info, call the Modern at 817.738.9215, or visit online:

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tip Tap Shape

Several films from our Sister City countries arrive on DVD this week, including Ginger & Fred, directed by Federico Fellini.
The film stars Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina and Marcello Mastrioanni as two celebrity impersonators who became famous as a Ginger Rogers/Fred Astair dancing routine. The couple parted company, but are asked to reunite for a TV variety show and the two leap at the opportunity.
The 1986 film was nominated for a Golden Globe and BATFA and won three Italy’s David di Donatello Awards, including a Best Actor for Mastrioanni.
Fellini completed two other films before his death in 1993. He died at 73 of a heart attack on his 50th wedding anniversary. Masina died six months later of lung cancer.
In 1993, Fellini also received a special Oscar in honor of his work.

Polanski’s Pomeii

Academy Award-winning director Roman Polanski has signed on to direct Pompeii, starting this summer in Italy.
The film is based on the best-selling novel by Robert Harris and tells the story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius through the eyes of a young engineer. The engineer was sent from Rome to repair an aqueduct and is forced to fight corruption and mother nature.
Polanski won an Academy Award in 2003 for The Pianist, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Chinatown (1975) and Tess (1981). His last film was Oliver Twist in 2005.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pick Pan's

After weeks of waiting, I finally saw Pan’s Labyrinth – great picture. Also nice to see a full theater.
It’s also a surprising movie. You never know what a film is going to be like based on clips and hype.
It’s not all fantasy. It’s not like Lord of the Rings. If you’re not a fantasy film fan, don’t steer clear of the movie just because of that.
In fact the storyline I enjoyed the most was following the housekeeper, Mercedes, played by Maribel Verdú, and her brother’s band of resistance fighters against Franco’s Spain. The majority of the film is set in the real world. It had a real Hitchcock feel and urgency about it as in Notorious.
It’s violent. There are a lot of cringe-worthy screens, and once out on DVD I don’t’ recommend it for children.
Go see it in a theater for the spectacle.

Red Carpet Gala

Speaking of the Academy Awards, the Lone Star Film Society of Fort Worth and Texas Christian University College of Communication are hosting an Evening at the Academy Awards at 6 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 25 at The Dee J. Kelly Alumni Center, TCU, 2820 Stadium Drive.

Here’s your chance to revel in all that is Hollywood, without having to deal with that annoying paparazzi. Watch the Academy Awards live on three jumbo screens and root for your favorite stars and films.

Walk the red carpet with “celebrities” to the cocktail reception at 6 p.m., and then watch the awards broadcast starting at 7 p.m. Come dressed as your favorite movie character or in cocktail attire.

The event honors Mr. & Mrs. Jesse Upchurch for their continued support of the Gwendolyn P. Tandy Film Library.

For tickets or more information, call 817.735.1117 or visit

Friday, February 9, 2007

Get Thee to a Theater

OK we’re fast approaching the Academy Awards ceremony – which airs Sunday, Feb. 25 – so you need to grab a friend and get out to the picture show.

Here’s a quick, alphabetical overview of films that relate to our Sister City countries.

Remember that movie? It’s largely been ignored by the Academy, but it did receive nominations for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Makeup. Yawn. There’s no category for most frenzied movie. Apocalypto was directed by Mel Gibson and filmed in Catemaco and Paso de Ovejas in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Unknown actors from Mexico City, the Yucatán, some Native Americans from the United States and Canada, and locals from Los Tuxtlas and Veracruz star in this picture featuring the Yukatek Maya language.

This crisscrossing global movie was directed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. It’s nominated for seven Academy Awards. Nominations include: Best Picture, Best Director, Original Screenplay and two Best Supporting Actress nods, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. The film takes place in Morocco, Japan and Mexico. It comes out on DVD Feb. 20, if you want to go ahead and see something else in the theater and watch it at home.

Letters from Iwo Jima,
This movie, while directed by Clint Eastwood, is acted totally in Japanese. That’s a twist for the guy who got his start with Italian-filmed westerns many years ago. Nominations include: Best Picture, Best Director, Original Screenplay

The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
This German film rolls into theaters Feb. 23 in North Texas, so be watching for it. It’s been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Pan’s Labrynth (El Laberinto del Fauno)
This film by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro takes place in Franco’s post-war Spain. Nominations include: Best Foreign Language Film and Original Screenplay.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Global Universities

Several area universities host free global film series. Texas Christian University’s KinoMonda Film Series is 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday in Sid Richardson Building, Lecture Hall No. 4. This spring’s series has a wide variety of film, but only two from our Sister City countries: Uiridiana, directed by Luis Buñuel, from Mexico (1961) will show May 2 and I Vitelloni, directed by Federico Fellini Italy (1953) shows May 23.

University of North Texas in Denton hosts a Global Film Series at 7:30 p.m. every Monday. Two films from Germany show in February. Films are shown in Room 184 of the Radio, Television, Film and Performing Arts Building, which is located one block west of Welch and Chestnut streets, Denton.

Feb. 12 - Bonhoeffer - This 2003 documentary from the United States tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German theologian and pacifist who was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis for plotting to assassinate Hitler.

Feb. 26 - Europa Europa - Released in 1990, this German film tells the story of a Jewish boy who separated from his family in the early days of World War II. He poses as a German orphan and is taken into the heart of the Nazi world, and eventually becomes a Hitler Youth.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Come on Ride a Train

Based on an allegedly true story, Train Man (Densha Otoko) has led to a media frenzy of books, comics and now a movie. The movie makes its DVD debut this week and you can find in at sites like Netflix, Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.
The story is a modern love story about a Japanese computer geek, who meets a pretty girl on a commuter train and saves her from a lewd fellow passenger. He falls for her and a few days later she sends him a thank you gift.
Unsure of what his next steps should be, the guy enlists the help of his cyber friends from the 2ch bulletin board. Soon he’s bombarded with “surefire” recommendations from cyberspace.

You say Otoko I say Otaku
So try to work these words into your daily conversations. "Otoko" means man. In Japanese slang, "Otaku" means fanatic and has a derrogotory tinge to it, according to the Train Man web site. Some common uses include paso-kon otaku (personal computer geeks), game otaku, idol otaku, tetsudou otaku (metrophiles), or gunji otaku (military geeks). Apparently "densha" means to send messages, as in "denshabato" or carrier pigeon.

2ch or 4ch
Never heard of it, but sounds interesting. The Train Man site also has a little primer on 2ch and 4ch. “2ch is the largest Internet forum in the world. With over 10 million visitors a day, 2ch is gaining a significant profile in Japanese society, competing for influence with traditional mass media such as TV, radio, and magazines. 4-ch ( is an English-language website, with discussion boards for English speakers, presented in the style of 2ch. It also contains a board where Japanese 2ch users can talk to each other in Japanese.”

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Indonesian Film Turmoil

The film industry in Indonesia is in the midst of several conflicts: one dealing with regulation and the other with the top award presented to a film during a recent festival. The two controversies seem to pit young filmmakers against the established film industry.
I’m the first to admit I don’t know much about Indonesian film, but from the outside it looks like young filmmakers are rallying against a federal law that involves a government censor.
The second controversy surrounds accusations of copyright infringement against the producers of Ekskul, a comedy-drama. Apparently the score of another film was lifted without consent and used in Ekskul.
In response, more than 20 directors, actors and film professionals returned their Citra Awards to the Indonesian Film Festival in protest.

Indonesia Flood Relief Effort,1077,0_314_6030,00.html

You can help those affected by countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.

Monday, February 5, 2007

This Just In

Several Japanese films make their DVD debut tomorrow, and I’ll profile some this week starting with what looks like a fun movie, Shinobi: Heart Under the Blade, directed by Ten Shimoyama.

Shinobi is promoted as a cross between X-Men and Romeo and Juliet, (sounds like great marketing even if the film doesn’t hold up to the comparison). However it won the 2005 Bunshun Kiichigo Award, the equivilent to a Razzie Award, as the worst Japanese film of the year. I'm not sure what criteria they use.

In the story, which was adapted from the novel The Kouga Ninja Scrolls by Futaro Yamada, two Japanese villages that train Shinobi (something like a ninja), have been forbidden to come in contact with each other. The villagers have possessed mysterious, superhuman powers for the last 400 years, but now are compelled to meet in a duel.

The tournament-style duel pits Oboro, the granddaughter of Iga Tsubagakure’s chieftan, and Gennosuke, the heir of Koga Majidani’s chieftan. The two don’t know their respective positions, and fall in love destined by fate.

Let me know if you’ve seen this movie, and tell us what you think.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Go Go Grant

Mbabane native Richard E. Grant has had a busy year following his directorial debut in 2006 for Wah-Wah – a drama set in Swaziland. Grant is the ubiquitous actor I mostly remember from Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.

He currently has four projects under way, according to Independent Movie Database Two TV projects Freezing and Miss Marple: Nemesis, and two film projects Ecstasy and Jackboots on Whitehall.

Ecstasy, directed by Rob Heydon, is in preproduction and Grant plays Father Brian. According to IMDB, “Ecstasy, a collection of three short stories, was published in 1996 and became No. 1 in its first week of publication. The film is based on "The Undefeated", the last novella in Welsh's book, which was previously adapted into a play and performed to sold-out audiences in Canada and Scotland. After seeing the play, Welsh called it the best adaptation of his work, opening the door for Heydon to obtain the rights to produce a film adaptation. Ecstasy is a transformational love story; from the love of ecstasy to the ecstasy of Love.”

Jackboots is slated for 2008 and is an animated satirical comedy about the Scottish defeating the German invasion of England during World War II. I guess director Edward McHenry has a vision. But apparently it’s a good enough vision to also attract Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson and Alan Cumming to the cast. Grant does the voice of The Vicar.

Grant has a loyal fan base and an official website: