Thursday, May 31, 2007

Titanic Studio Sold in Mexico

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett in Titanic

The Rosarita, Mexico, studio where sea-faring films such as Titanic, Master and Commander, Pearl Harbor and Tomorrow Never Dies were filmed, has been sold.

Baja Studios, formerly owned by Twentieth Century Fox, was sold to an investment group called Baja Acquisitions for eight figures.

An attorney for Baja Acquisitions would not reveal the new owners or their plans for the 46-acre oceanfront studio.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “The studio's activities spread economic activity across the border region. Extras and crew members were hired from throughout Baja California and San Diego. Materials, supplies and services were purchased on both sides of the border.

“Movie stars, directors and others connected with productions rented houses, condos and villas during filming.

Titanic contributed more than $60 million to the cross-border region during the nine months that production was under way, Baja Studios general manager Charles Arneson said at the time.”

Since 2000 the studios have become a tourist attraction with the addition of a museum for Titanic props. Retail and restaurants around the studio took on the Titanic moniker and theme.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hungarian Hero

Hungarian director Istvan Szabo (above) has reportedly signed on to direct a film about World War II hero Captain Francis “Frank” Foley.

Producer Timothy Haas said Szabo is onboard and that filming for The Inside Outside Man is slated for Hungary and London.

He’s currently searching for stars to play the leads Frank and Kay Foley. Foley, a British secret service agent, was known as “the man who saved 10,000 Jews” during the war.

The film is controversial in Britain, with some claiming it could harm national security. A legal dispute is under way between the producer and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

Szabo is known to American audiences for directing Being Julia, which led to an Academy Award nomination for Annette Bening, and for Mephisto, which won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

This Just In: New DVDs

Meatball Machine, 2005, directed by Yudai Yamaguchi and Jun'ichi Yamamoto, Japan
A new romance between factory workers Yôji (Issei Takahashi) and Sachiko (Aoba Kawai) is going well -- that is, until aliens invade Earth and implant themselves into tumor-like growths on human shoulders. When Sachiko is attacked and transformed into a slave cyborg, it's up to the half-infected Yôji to rescue his lover. Co-directors Jun'ichi Yamamoto and Yudai Yamaguchi surround their tender love story with a rollickingly gross splatter-fest.

Out of Hand, 2005, directed by Eva Urthaler, Germany
Determined to quell the boredom of their unremarkable adolescent lives, Sebastian and Paul (Sergej Moya and Ludwig Trepte) kidnap a beautiful woman (Elisabetta Rocchetti) and take her to a remote location where no one will hear her scream. Of course, once they get her there, they have another problem: They have no idea what to do with her. As the boys' anger and frustration fester, the situation threatens to get seriously out of hand.

The Great Masters of the Italian Renaissance, 3-Disc Series, 2006
The great artistic achievements of the Italian Renaissance spring to life in this engrossing documentary series. Fanning out across Europe, the filmmakers provide enlightening historical context about the artists and the times in which they lived. Among the masters profiled are Raphael, Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Piero Della Francesca, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Anthony van Dyck and Bernardo Strozzi.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cannes Winners Announced

The Cannes Jury, headed by Stephen Frears, awarded the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days the Palme d'Or of this 60th Cannes Festival. But our films and artists from our Sister Cities countries did very well!

The Grand Prize was awarded to Naomi Kawase (left) of Japan for The Mourning Forest.

Kawase said, "It's wonderful to have been able to make films and to continue making them. I'm happy. It's very difficult to make a film. I think it's as difficult as living; it is similar to life. In a life, you also encounter many difficulties, many things that make you suffer; there are many things that make you hesitate or stumble on your path. At those moments, I believe, you look for something deep within that can restore your confidence and strength. You try to find strengths – and I don't mean money, cars, or clothing – it's not necessarily something visible. It can be the wind, the light, the memory of the Ancients which gives us their strength. And when you find that foothold in the world, you can be all alone and go on. Thank you for appreciating my film, for recognizing what I wanted to say with it. Thank you very much! This is a wonderful world."

The Best Screenplay went to Fatih Akin (left) of Hungary for The Edge of Heaven.

“Thank you much, the Jury,” Akin said. “I have to write a new screenplay and that will inspire me a lot. I want to thank all the people who have worked on the film, everybody, whole crew. I want to thank my wife. I have one message for Turkey. All is one, united we stand, divided we fall.”

The prize for Best Director was awarded \to Julian Schnabel for Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

The prize for Best Leading Actor was awarded to Konstantin Lavronenko for his performance in The Banishment by Andreï Zyvagintsev.

The prize for Best Leading Actress was awarded \to South Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon for her performance in Secret Sunshine by Lee Chang-dong.

The Jury Prize, a tie, was awarded to Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and to Silent Light by Carlos Reygadas (far left).

Carlos Reygadas said: "Good evening. Thank you to Jaime, Natalia, Jean Labadie, the Festival, and the jurors."

Awarded by the Cinéfondation-Short Film Jury presided by Jia Zhangke along with actress Marina Hands, the Palme d'Or for Best Short film was awarded to Ver Llover (Watching it Rain) by Elisa Miller.

Elisa Miller: "Thank you very much! Gracias! I'm very, very happy. I thank the Festival. It was incredible to be here. I thank Mexico. Thank you!"

Additionally in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar recognition was given to Gegenüber (Counterparts) by Jan Bonny, of Germany and The Edge of Heaven by Fatih Akin of Hungary was presented the Ecumenical Jury Prize.

The Jury mentioned: "This film skillfully tells the story of the intersecting destinies in Germany and Turkey of men and women from different backgrounds. It makes the viewer aware of the pain and complexity of the loss of cultural identity and relationships, as well as the valuable cultural exchanges, transitions, and cohabitations possible between these two worlds. Two other major themes are parent-child relationships, sacrifice, and reconciliation." Established in 1974, the Ecumenical Jury designates works of artistic quality, film testimonials to the depth of human feeling and its mystery, through human preoccupations, hopes, and despairs.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Kei Kumai, a Japanese film director who created true-life films with social themes, died this week in Tokyo. He was 76.
In 1974, his Sandakan Hachiban Shokan Bokyo (Sandakan Brothel No. 8), which detailed the lives of Japanese women forced to work as prostitutes before World War II. The film brought him international acclaim. Kinuyo Tanaka, who starred, won the best actress Silver Bear at Berlinale for her work.
In 1987 Umi to Dokuyaku (The Sea and Poison) won a special jury prize at Berlinale. Sen no Rikyu (The Death of a Tea Master), won a Silver Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 1989.
Kumai’s last film, Umi wa Miteita (The Sea is Watching), was released in 2002 and featured a script by legendary director Akira Kurosawa.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Silent No More

Carlos Reygadas’ Stellet Licht (Luz silenciosa) or Silent Light, has been getting a ton of buzz at Cannes, and on the Internet. In fact whenever I write about the film, hits to this blog shoot skyward.

The film was shot in Chihuahua, Mexico, and was funded in June 2006 by the World Cinema Fund.

The story takes place in a little known Menonite community in Mexico. Reygadas’ slow-building style apparently suits the emotionally closed atmosphere of the community.
The lead character is a respected father and farmer who falls for another woman. He doesn’t hide the attraction from his wife, and neither woman meets. The farmer believes the hand of God can be seen here, others believe the devil is at work, but not in an Exorcist Hollywood way.

The Hollywood Reporter raved, “"Silent Light," or "Stellet Licht" in the Plautdietsch tongue, continues to dwell within your mind long after the lights have come back up.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

H2O sign Lajos Koltai to two films

Lajos Koltai
by Mike Goodridge
May 16, 2007

Cannes, France -- Andras Hamori and Mark Horowitz’s H20 Motion Pictures has signed Lajos Koltai to direct two features – Under The Frog and Born Of Fire.
Oscar-nominated cinematographer Koltai directed Hungarian Holocaust epic Fateless and next month’s US release Evening for Focus Features with a cast including Meryl Streep, Claire Danes, Glenn Close, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson.
Under The Frog, set to shoot in Hungary and Germany in November, is a co-production with New York’s Vox3 Films.
Hamori will produce alongside Christina Weiss Luric, Steven Shainberg and Andrew Fierberg, and H20 will start selling here.
The company is in advanced talks with Germany’s EuroArts and Ireland’s Element Pictures to join the production.
Based on Tibor Fischer’s novel, a love story set against the backdrop of Hungary’s 1956 anti-Soviet uprising. Lindsey Shapiro and Dezso Magyar have written the screenplay.
Budgeted in the $50m range, Born Of Fire is the story – written by Axel Melzener and Heiko Burkardsmaier - of 16th Century English cannon-maker Adam Dreyling.
He was a superstar of his day in perfecting the most effective weapon of his time but to assure the Protestant government of his loyalty, the Catholic Dreyling’s wife and two children are taken hostage by the queen’s secret service.
The film is budgeted in the $50m range and will feature epic battle scenes. “It is a true European story which is going to be a European multi-country co-production,” said Hamori.

This Just In: New DVD Releases

Afro Samurai, 2007, Directed by Fuminori Kizaki, USA, Japan
Produced by Tarrant County-based Funimation. In a futuristic Japan where conflicts are settled by the sword, Afro Samurai, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson (photo at left), must avenge his father's murder by challenging a powerful warrior named Justice (Ron Perlman) in this anime miniseries. If he can defeat Justice, considered the premier samurai, Afro will become the new No. 1. He's joined on his quest by Ninja Ninja, who provides excellent strategic advice in combat -- but who also may be a hallucination.

Apocalypto, 2006, Directed by Mel Gibson, Mexico
Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson moves on from biblical fare to tackle the end of the Mayan civilization in this gripping action-adventure set just before Spain's conquest of Mexico and Central America in the 16th century. When an invading force threatens his peaceful existence, a courageous native risks everything to protect his way of life -- even if it means leaving his beautiful mate and unborn child behind.

Letters From Iwo Jima, 2007, Directed by Clint Eastwood, USA, Japan
As tens of thousands of Allied troops push further inland, the Japanese troops defending Iwo Jima during World War II prepare to meet their fate in this Clint Eastwood-directed Oscar nominee for Best Picture, a companion piece to his hit film Flags of Our Fathers. Japanese Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) knows his men are outnumbered and, with no hope of rescue, that most will eventually die in battle -- or end up killing themselves.

The Good German, 2007, Directed by Steven Soderbergh, USA, Germany
U.S. Army correspondent Jake Geismar (George Clooney) gets caught in a web of intrigue involving ex-flame Lena (Cate Blanchett) in Steven Soderbergh's drama set in post-World War II Berlin. Lena's missing husband is hunted by U.S. and Russian military, and in desperation, she looks to Jake for a way out. Tension mounts as Jake discovers Lena's been keeping secrets and the black market dealings of his shady driver (Tobey Maguire) come into play.

As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me (So Weit Die Fube Tragen), 2003, Directed by Hardy Martins, Germany
After escaping from a Siberian labor camp in the wake of World War II, German soldier Clemens Forell (Bernhard Bettermann) makes his way toward his wife and children, traveling more than 8,000 miles over the course of three long years to reach his final destination. Hardy Martins directs this critically acclaimed adaptation of the best-selling book by Josef Martin Bauer, a true story of survival and courage.

Sansho the Bailiff (Sanshô dayû),1954, Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan
After deliberately disobeying a cruel feudal lord, a governor and his family are exiled and forced to fight for their survival, standing up to a pack of slave drivers determined to capture them and tear them apart. Extras include interviews with Japanese film critics Tadao Sato, Tokuzo Tanaka and Kyoko Kagawa, who discuss the influential work of director Kenji Mizoguchi and the film's status as a cinematic masterpiece.

Urban Tribes (Tribus Urbanas), 2006, Directed by Director: Guillermo Lagunes, Mexico
In an effort to halt violent gang battles in Mexico City and stop the barrio kids from killing one another, an idealistic priest proposes a graffiti competition to bring everyone together. The plan works for a while … until a lover's feud explodes and covers the streets with renewed bloodshed. Real-life inhabitants from the streets of Mexico City co-star in this tragic tale of urban life and loss.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cha Cha Cha Deal

Mexican directors v have inked a huge deal for their production label Cha Cha Cha to the tune of $100 million.

The deal, inked with Universal Pictures, includes a five-picture package with films budgeted for between $10 million and $40 million. Financing will come through the studio’s foreign sales division, Focus Features International.

Some of the films will be in Spanish and not all of the films will be directed by the Three Amigos. Joining the three are Carlos Cuaron and Rodrigo Garcia. Cuaron is Alfonso Cuaron’s younger brother, and co-wrote "Y Tu Mama Tambien," Garcia, has directed episodes of “Six Feet Under” and “Big Love.”

Maybe we can work an angle with Garcia and Bill Paxton for the FWSCI Film Series and Lone Star Film Festival in Fort Worth Nov. 8-11. Paxton is a Fort Worth son and was recognized in January by the Lone Star Film Society.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Asian Excellence Awards

Merianne Roth and Quentin Tarantino
Chow Yun-Fat (below) gave an emotional acceptance speech as he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at the sixth AZN Asian Excellence Awards in Los Angeles.
The Asian entertainment world united to recognize diversity and cultural achievements during the star-studded event.
A special preview of the award ceremony will be televised Monday, May 24 on AZN and E! networks and the full show airs May 28 on AZN.
My wife Merianne and I were special guests and were ecstatic about meeting film legend Quentin Tarantino. He was the nicest guy and walked around all night talking with all of us non-stars. He hung out at the VIP party and the post party chatting with folks, even when the other stars had flown the coop.
We also talked with Lou Diamond Phillips, who’ll be coming to back to Fort Worth for “A Few Good Men” at Casa Manana Theater June 5-10. Sadly Phillips said he won’t be able to make the Lone Star Film Festival and FWSCI Film Series next November due to scheduling conflicts.
And, being a little ballsy, I asked Tarantino to come to our film series/festival and bring Robert Rodriguez along. He demurred, but wished us good luck.
So on to the films nominated in the Outstanding Film category for Asian Excellence Awards. They include Babel, Curse of the Golden Flower, Letters From Iwo Jima and The Namesake. Outstanding Film Actor nominees included Jet Li, Kal Penn and Ken Watanabe. Outstanding Film Actress nominees included Maggie Cheung, Gong Li, Rinko Kikuchi and Tabu.
Not all awards were presented last night, I’m not sure why. Maybe they were trying to keep the mystery for the broadcast. But on E! online, they spill the beans. Letters from Iwo Jima took top film and Rinko Kikuchi won best actress, according to E!
Masi Oka, Japanese star of the hit TV show Heroes, won Outstanding TV Actor in tough category featuring Lost’s Naveen Andrews and Daniel Dae Kim and Law & Order: SVU’s B.D. Wong.
Outstanding TV Actress winner Parminder Nagra from ER, beat out Kully Hu from In Case of Emergency, Yunjin Kim from Lost and Sandra Oh from Grey’s Academy.
Cool event making me more excited about the upcoming Lone Star Film Festival and FWSCI Film Series in Fort Worth Nov. 8-11. Not only will we be recognizing Asian cultures, but European, Latino and African.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This Just In: New DVD Releases

del Toro and Pan

Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006, Mexico, directed by Guillermo del Toro
In this fairy tale for adults, 10-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) stumbles on a decaying labyrinth guarded by Pan (Doug Jones), an ancient satyr who claims to know her destiny. With a new home, a new stepfather (Sergi Lopez) -- a Fascist officer in the pro-Franco army -- and a new sibling on the way, nothing is familiar to Ofelia in this multiple Oscar-winning tale set in 1944 Spain from director Guillermo del Toro.

Black Kiss, 2004, Japan, directed by Macoto Tezka
To advance her career, aspiring model Asuka (Reika Hashimoto) relocates to Toyko, where she moves in with a new roommate. Meanwhile, a serial killer is at large, and Asuka soon witnesses his demented handiwork: Across the street from her apartment, Asuka sees a grisly murder, the victim's body mutilated and arranged as a piece of art. At each crime scene, the killer leaves his mark, a black lip print, the kiss of death.

Vengeance Is Mine, (Fukushû Suruwa Wareniari), 1979, directed by Shohei Imamura
Legendary Japanese director Shohei Imamura (The Eel) helms this chilling tale of horror and revenge based on actual events about a seemingly harmless young man who blossomed into a cold-blooded, remorseless murderer. On the run from the police over the course of a 78-day killing spree, Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) reflects on his life via flashback and reveals how he came to have such disdain for human life.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lola Wants You

Tykwer and Hoffman from Perfume
So while I was sleeping the German Film Academy presented the Lolas for best German films of the year. Back on March 19 I gave the rundown of nominees for the top awards and it appears there was a bit of an upset for Best Picture. The German Film Academy hopes to build the awards ceremony audience up to rival the Academy Awards or the UK's BAFTA.

The big-budget film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Dustin Hoffman, was thumped by upstart Four Minutes (Vier Minuten), directed by Chris Kraus. While Perfume and Four Minutes were both nominated for eight Lolas, Perfume appeared poised to sweep pulling down six awards. In the end, Four Minutes took the top prize and Best Actress for Monica Bleibtreu.

Four Minutes is the story of an aging piano teacher helping a musical prodigy that is serving time for murder in a women's prison. Perfume is the story of a scent prodigy trying to capture the most exquisite aroma in a bottle, when things go wrong – so to speak.

Winning a Silver Lola was the Bavarian comedy Grave Decisions, directed by Ray Hayter. Grave Decisions uses a Bavarian dialect so heavy that even most Germans can’t understand the dialogue. (Check my March 9 Filmies blog entry on Grave Decisions.)

Hannah Herzsprung co-stars in Four Minutes (Vier Minuten).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Good Mourning

I’d never heard of Naomi Kawase (above) before the Cannes list came out a couple weeks ago. But after reading a bit of her bio, she seems like a cool person – someone we could hang out with and talk. The lead item in her bio on her official website says “Her love for basketball goes back to her junior high days. During her high school days, she became the captain of her school team and led the team to the National Athletic Meet.”

Much of her early acclaim came via documentaries, and she’s been feted by many film festivals around the globe. Her film Mogari No Mori (The Mourning Forest) was selected for competition at Cannes.

Little has been written about Mogari No Mori. The German Press Agency gives the best synopsis I’ve seen.

“The Forest of Mogari is set in an ancient Japanese capital of Nara and highlights a relationship between 70-year-old Shigeki, who suffers from memory loss and a cognitive disorder caused by senility and a 27-year-old caretaker Machiko.

“His longing for his deceased wife and Machiko's guilt at losing her son take them on a mourning journey through the serene forest of Mogari, where Shigeki's wife is buried. Mogari means the time or act of mourning.

“As the odd couple make their way to the graveyard, they contemplate the meaning of life and death.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Béla of the Ball

Werckmeister harmóniák (2000), Director Béla Tarr

Hungarian director Béla Tarr (at left) is one of several director’s from our seven Sister City countries who have had works accepted at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Tarr’s works – in an exceeding positive review – were once described by a critic as, “Ponderous musings on misery, doom, and despair, set in apocalyptic Eastern European purgatories of feral dogs, relentless rain, and viscous mud …” He’s best known for his trilogy featuring a seven-hour film, with the bookend films clocking in at another six or so.

His film of the hour at Cannes is The Man From London (Londoni férfi) and is based on the novel by Belgian writer Georges Simenon. Tarr adapted the film with László Krasznahorkai. The film production itself seems to fit the above description of agony in the making from threats to shut down the production, lack of financing and finally completion.

The film is about a man who witnesses a mystery, and nothing else is known at the moment. It stars Tilda Swinton opposite Czech actor Miroslav Krobot. The international ensemble cast also features British actress Leah Williams, and Hungarian actors Janos Derzsi and Istvan Lenart. German cinematographer Fred Kelemen is the director of photography.

Tarr has been written about extensively and here are some links to web articles about the artist.
Brightlights Film Journal
Village Voice

Monday, May 7, 2007

This Just In: New DVD Releases

The Tiger and the Snow (La Tigre e la Neve), 2005, Italy, director Roberto Benigi
Borrowing a bit from the plot of his Oscar-winning film Life Is Beautiful, Italian actor-director Roberto Benigni plays a romantic poet who vows to follow his love (Benigni's real-life wife, Nicoletta Braschi ) to the ends of the earth -- even if that means going to Iraq at the dawn of the American invasion. Skirting political bias, Benigni's whimsical comedy presents a world in which all camps are absurd. French actor Jean Reno co-stars.

Cat Girl Kiki, 2007, Japan

Nothing much ever happens to shy Yoshiro, until one day when he brings home a stray kitten. The next morning, Yoshiro awakens to discover that the kitten has become a beautiful woman named Kiki. She may be the girl of Yoshiro's dreams, but how will he deal with her nasty habit of scratching the furniture? This nerd-meets-girl comedy is the second film in the Akihabara Trilogy, following The Legend of the Doll and preceding Pretty Maid Café.

Don't Look for Me (Such Mich Nicht), 2004, Germany, Director: Tilman Zens

Wounded in the line of duty, contract killer Anna (Lea Mornar) has decided it's time to hang it up. Her boss is willing to let her retire, provided she fulfills one last job. But when Anna learns that her final target is someone close to her heart, she finds herself faced with an impossible decision. Directed by Tilman Zens, this stylish German thriller also stars Udo Schenk, Stipe Erceg, Jürgen Lehmann and Mark Zak .

Linda, Linda, Linda, 2005, Japan, Director: James Iha

It's three days before the big school talent show and Kyoto, Kei and Nozumi are in a fix when their lead singer quits over artistic differences. Their only candidate to fill the spot is a Korean foreign exchange student who can barely speak any Japanese. Time for some all-night rehearsals! Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita and featuring a score by former Smashing Pumpkins member James Iha, this lighthearted comedy stars Du-na Bae and Yu Kashii.

Shinsengumi: Assassins of Honor, 1969, Japan, Director: Tadashi Sawashima

One of Japan's most revered actors, Toshirô Mifune stars in this historical samurai epic. As the end of the 19th century nears, the balance of power shifts from the shogunate to the emperor. Isami Kondo (Mifune), a farmer turned warrior, leads the fierce Shinsengumi, a small rebel army composed of farmers and peasants. Isami and his men oppose the emperor and band together to wage a battle against the inevitable tide of change.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Silent Light

Here’s the second installment of my profiles of films from our seven Sister City Countries tapped to play at Cannes.

Stellet Licht (Luz silenciosa), directed by Carlos Reygadas

The film was shot in Chihuahua, Mexico, and was funded in June 2006 by the World Cinema Fund.

“Reygadas, who in 2002 received a special mention for the Camera d’Or in Cannes with his debut film Japón and who was selected for the Cannes competition last year with Batallo en el Cielo, is seen as one of the biggest talents of international cinema, according to

“Stellet Licht is produced by the Mexican production company Mantarraya Producciones (which also produced Japón, Batalla en el Cielo and Sangre) in co production with BAC Films, Arte France and Motel Films and is also financed by the Netherlands Film Fund.
“Stellet Licht tells the story of the married Johan who, against the laws of God and his people, falls in love with another woman. He is faced a dilemma: will he betray the woman he once loved so much or will he sacrifice his true love?

“The love story of this film plays in a Mexican community of Mennonites. This small community lives according to the laws of their very traditional belief that finds its origin in the Netherlands. Therefore the language spoken in the film is old Dutch.

“Distributor Lumière will release Stellet Licht in the Benelux.”

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Gotta Have Faith

Cannes is coming, Cannes is coming. So as part of the lead up to Cannes, I’ll try to give an overview of films from our seven Sister City Countries, starting with ...

Edge of Heaven (Auf der Anderen Seite), Director Faith Akin
Info on some of the Cannes films is limited, so I lifted this from Above is a picture of Akin receiving the Golden Bear at the 2004 Berlinale for his film Head On. There’s also a “Making of Auf der Anderen Seite” video, if your German is good enough. Otherwise, it’s interesting visuals (apparently Akin is a big foosball fan, I mean, who’s not?).

“Linked through encounters, relationships and even death, the fragile lives of six people connect on emotional voyages toward forgiveness and reconciliation in Germany and Turkey ... Nejat (Baki DAVRAK) seems disapproving about his widower father Ali's (Tuncel KURTIZ) choice of prostitute Yeter (Nursel KSE) for a live-in girlfriend. But he grows fond of her when he discovers she sends money home to Turkey for her daughter's university studies. Yeter's sudden death distances father and son. Nejat travels to Istanbul to search for Yeter's daughter Ayten (Nurgl YESILCAY). Political activist Ayten has fled the Turkish police and is already in Germany. She is befriended by a young woman, Lotte (Patrycia ZIOLKOWSKA), who invites rebellious Ayten to stay in her home, a gesture not particularly pleasing to her conservative mother Susanne (Hanna SCHYGULLA). When Ayten is arrested and her asylum plea is denied, she is deported and imprisoned in Turkey. Lotte travels to Turkey, where she gets caught up in the seemingly hopeless situation of freeing Ayten.”

Director Fatih Akin was born in 1973 in Hamburg and began studying Visual Communications at Hamburg's College of Fine Arts in 1994. In 1995, he wrote and directed his first short feature, Sensin - You're The One! (Sensin - Du bist es!), which received the Audience Award at the Hamburg International Short Film Festival, followed by Weed (Getuerkt, 1996). His first full length feature film, Short Sharp Shock (Kurz und schmerzlos, 1998), won the Bronze Leopard at Locarno and the Bavarian Film Award (Best Young Director) in 1998. His other films include: In July (Im Juli, 2000), Wir haben vergessen zurueckzukehren (2001), Solino (2002), the Berlinale Golden Bear-winner and winner of the German and European Film Awards Head-On (Gegen die Wand, 2003), Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul (2005), and The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite, 2007).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Slanted Screens

Jeff Adachi’s documentary Slanted Screen comes to PBS station KERA in Dallas as part of a series on Asian heritage.
“From silent film star Sessue Hayakawa to Harold & Kumar Go to Whitecastle, The Slanted Screen explores the portrayals of Asian men in American cinema, chronicling the experiences of actors who have had to struggle against ethnic stereotyping and limiting roles, according to the Slanted Screen website. The film presents a critical examination of Hollywood's image-making machine, through a fascinating parade of 50 film clips spanning a century.
“The Slanted Screen includes interviews with actors Mako (at left), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, James Shigeta, Dustin Nguyen, Phillip Rhee, Will Yun Lee, Tzi Ma, Jason Scott Lee, comedian Bobby Lee, producer Terence Chang, casting director Heidi Levitt, writer Frank Chin, and directors Gene Cajayon and Eric Byler.
“The film was written, directed and produced by Adachi, co-produced and edited by Alex Yeung, with the opening music, titles and credits by Sean Dana. Michael Becker composed the musical score and the post-production sound and audio. The film also features a new song performed by the San Francisco rock-punk band Say Bok Gwai.
The documentary aires at 10 p.m., May 10 on KERA-TV Channel 13. Esther Wu, Dallas Morning News columnist, writes an interesting piece on her views on media as an Asian growing up in the United States.

This Movie is Totally “Sick”

The Japanese distributor of the movie Babel has begun warning Japanese audiences that some scenes make cause nausea or headaches.
Some 15 complaints had been filed with the distributor, Gaga Communications, which is investigating which scenes may lead to the nausea. The Academy Award-nominated film hasn’t reported this problem elsewhere in the world.
The film’s opening was highly anticipated, following the Best Supporting Actress nomination of Rinko Kikuchi (above left). The film starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett (above).
The film, which is directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, occurs in multiple countries and focuses on how lives in various cultures are intertwined.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Crazy Blood

Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana (above) has begun filming his next project Sangue pazzo, a film set in fascist Italy following WWII. The film is about two famous actors who were part of the Salò Republic, were accused of collaboration and were later tortured and shot.
It stars hottie Monica Bellucci (left), Luca Zingaretti and Alessio Boni. Filming is slated for a 13-week run in Venice, Milan, turn and Rome. "Sangue pazzo" translates literally as "Crazy Blood".
The €10 million film received €1 million in funding from Eurimages and was deemed of cultural interest by Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali – General Direction For Cinema, according to
It’s scheduled for a spring 2008 distribution. The €1 million is the largest amount granted by Eurimages this year.
Eurimages also funded Palestinian helmer Suleiman $500,000 for "The Time That Remains"; Michael Glawogger's "Das Vaterspiel"; Helma Sanders-Brahms' biopic on composer couple Clara and Robert Schumann, "Clara"; psychotherapy thriller-drama "Dorothy Mills" by France's Agnes Merlet; Denmark's Madsen for "Flammen & Citronen," with Mads Mikkelsen; "Ljubav i drugi zlocini" (Love and Other Crimes) by Serb director Stefan Arsenijevic; and music drama "Fados" from Portuguese director Carlos Saura.