13 December, 2010

Interview: Ewan McGregor

This article, by Federico Grandesso, was originally published in Bespoken Magazine by Scabal, and is reproduced here with their kind permission. To enjoy your copy, subscribe at

Scottish actor and icon Ewan McGregor, who was awarded Best European Actor at the 2010 European Film Awards for his performance in The Ghost Writer (2010) talks about his acting adventures.

Known across the galaxy since his role as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Ewan McGregor has gone from strength to strength as an actor. Moving from sharp, unforgiving interpretations in Shallow Grave (1994) and Trainspotting (1996) to seductive romantic roles in Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Down With Love (2003) he has seldom been off our screens, and has worked with some of the world's finest directors, including Danny Boyle, Tim Burton, George Lucas, Woody Allen, Ron Howard and, most recently, Roman Polanski in The Ghost Writer (2010), which was adapted from the Robert Harris novel.

McGregor plays 'The Ghost', the writer of the title, who lands the opportunity to write the memoirs of renowned UK former prime Minister Adam Lang (and any similarities to Tony Blair are mere coincidence, of course) played by Pierce Brosnan. But writing for a living can be very dangerous, as 'The Ghost' is about to discover.

Amid all the acclaim, we caught up with Ewan for a chat.

Bespoken: Does the location of a prospective movie play an important part in your choice of scripts, as you are well known as a man who loves to travel? Also, what was your best recent on-set experience?
Ewan McGregor: I have never had the opportunity to choose the locations for my movies, and no, it's other considerations that determine my choice. Yes, I love to travel, but I do have to say that I would be glad sometimes to have the opportunity to work at home, because it can be hard to be on location far away for so long. In The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) the atmosphere on set was great because the director Grant Heslov loves to work at a certain rhythm and doesn't go for megatakes - two or three are enough, which is good, because I have had bad experiences in the past when I have had to work for an entire day on a very short scene. I loved working with George Clooney, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. We laughed a lot, had a lot of fun and, don't forget, we also worked with professional goat actors, who were fantastic! [laughs]

How do you feel about your profession?
I've always loved this job, and my passion for what I do is actually growing. What I don't like are the moments when you have to wait - not only when we are actually working on set, when make-up has to be done or when a scene is being set up, but also the gaps between a great movie and the next one. You have to wait a long time to achieve a perfect interpretation and, in our job, the chances to work on ambitious and interesting projects are rare. Sometimes, you have to wait for years.

Some of your fellow actors, such as Sean Penn, are politically engaged. What about you?
Not really. To begin with, I have never been in the army, but I have a brother who, until two years ago was in the RAF, flying Tornadoes in war zones. My only experience of conflict was the 48 hours I once spent in Baghdad Airport. I met a lot of soldiers, and I was very surprised at how young they were, but I also left that airport feeling very proud, as these guys were doing something I could never have done. I didn't want to stay in that place one minute more than was absolutely necessary.

Was there anything about Roman Polanski's methods that particularly stood out?
One day on set, and we had been shooting for some weeks at this point, Roman came up to me and said: 'I have an idea for the ending,' and he described it to me, and I thought it was just amazing. It's a beautiful, very clever shot, in which I don't think the camera moves apart from following my character through a door and then it's static. It's a beautiful piece of storytelling, classic filmmaking, classic Polanski. You can imagine other directors needing 50 shots for the sequence in question, and he just pans the camera and leaves us to imagine what's going on offscreen, which is marvellous.

In The Ghost Writer, you also had the chance to work with Pierce Brosnan. How was that?
Pierce is an actor I've always followed - there's a handful of other actors that you wonder if one day you might work with, and Pierce was always one of those. I've always enjoyed watching him. My experience in The Ghost Writer was unique, in that I was there from the beginning to the end, and I was always there, ­I was always on set. I became like one of the crew, really, whereas other actors would come in and out. But for the first week or so, I was mainly on my own. I just did all the stuff with 'The Ghost' on my own, before Pierce arrived, and he was tremendous to work with, simple as that.

Tell us how it was, really, to work with Polanski?
I only spoke to Roman on the phone before I met him in Germany, because he was in Switzerland at the time and I was shooting The Men Who Stare at Goats in New Mexico and Puerto Rico, and I was unable to get to Europe, so we didn't actually meet before I turned up. That day, I was doing costume fittings when he came in, and as you know he's an iconic man and a legendary director so, for an actor, it was quite nerve-wracking to meet him. He's like a perfect host before you get on set, but he's two very different men [laughs]. When you're off set, he's preparing you coffee and making sure everyone's alright and then when you start working, be it on the text or actually on set, he's very direct. His direction is not guarded or sugar-coated in any way, ­he's really quite brusque with it. But his style is always very interesting, and it's no coincidence that he's considered to be a great movie director. On set, you just have to listen to him and, more often than not, in fact all the time, he is right. It's kind of annoying, but when you follow his instructions, it's like 'Oh, yeah, he's right about that.' Actors are quite sensitive, myself included, and when I tried something out, if Polanski didn't like it, he wouldn't worry about hurting your feelings. But I have to say that I realized very quickly he's like that with everybody - he directed the props guy, the painter and the set dresser in exactly the same way. In fact, all of our camera crew was Polish, he often hung out with them between scenes and you could hear them telling jokes in Polish. They were his buddies, but he was toughest with them when he was directing! [laughs]

05 December, 2010

The 23rd European Film Awards: The Winners

Well, for a change, I didn't go to the trouble of predicting the winners this year (which, considering the hash I made of it last year, is probably a very good thing) but there is no doubting, to my mind, that the right film won, across six major categories.

It only remains for us to congratulate Roman Polanski, whose quite excellent film The Ghost Writer (2010) did so very well, as may be seen below. The European Film Awards are increasingly becoming a good indicator for how the US Academy Awards may play out - we shall see.

Anyway, the more than 2,300 members of the European Film Academy (EFA), filmmakers from across Europe voted for this year's awards and, at the ceremony in Tallinn, European Capital of Culture 2011 on 4 December, the following awards were presented:

The Ghost Writer, France/Germany/UK
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Robert Harris and Roman Polanski
Produced by Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde and Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer

Sylvie Testud in Lourdes

Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer

Robert Harris and Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer

Giora Bejach for Lebanon

Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier for Carlos

Albrecht Konrad for The Ghost Writer

Alexandre Desplat for The Ghost Writer

Written and directed by Samuel Maoz
Produced by Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, David Silber, Uri Sabag, Einat Bickel, Benjamina Mirnik and Illan Girard

Nostalgia de la luz (Nostalgia for the Light), France/Germany/Chile
Directed by Patricio Guzmán

The Illusionist, by Sylvain Chomet

Hanoi, Warszawa (Hanoi – Warsaw), Poland
by Katarzyna Klimkiewicz

Zeynep Özbatur Atakan, producer

Bruno Ganz, actor

Gabriel Yared, composer

PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD for Best European Film 2010
Mr. Nobody
Written and directed by Jaco van Dormael
Produced by Philippe Godeau

04 December, 2010

The 23rd European Film Awards: Guests and Presenters

When the doors at the Nokia Concert Hall in snowy Tallinn open for the 23rd European Film Awards this evening (Saturday, 4 December) winners, nominees and EFA Members – altogether 1,400 guests - will be welcomed by German comedy star Anke Engelke and Estonian actor Märt Avandi who will lead us through the evening as the show’s hosts.

There will be an impressive line-up of European actors and actresses presenting the individual awards, among them EFA Ambassador Maria de Medeiros (Portugal), Jean-Marc Barr (France), Hannelore Elsner (Germany), Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Denmark), Miki Manojlović (Serbia), Amanda Ooms (Sweden) and – adding a bit of a local flavour to the event – Lembit and Juhan Ulfsack from Estonia. With them on stage will be some of the actors and actresses from the European Film Promotion’s 'Shooting Stars' programme: Agata Buzek (Poland), Kryštof Hádek (Czech Republic), Edward Hogg (UK), Michele Riondino (Italy), and Pihla Viitala (Finland), all of them Shooting Stars 2010, and Alba Rohrwacher from Italy (Shooting Star 2009).

The list of presenters is completed by Russian director Victor Kossakowsky, Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou and EFA President Wim Wenders.

Among the guests this year will be Zeynep Özbatur Atakan (European Co-production Award – Prix EURIMAGES), the recipients of the honorary awards Bruno Ganz and Gabriel Yared, and some special surprise guests.

Watch the 23rd European Film Awards live here.

23 November, 2010

German Comedian and Estonian Actor to Host Awards Ceremony

The 23rd European Film Awards ceremony will be hosted by German comedian Anke Engelke and Estonian actor Märt Avandi.

When the 1,400 guests take their seats for the 23rd European Film Awards at Tallinn's modern Nokia Concert Hall, they will be welcomed by German comedy star Anke Engelke and up-and-coming Estonian actor Märt Avandi. Last year's EFA host Anke Engelke has been producing and acting in her popular comedy show Ladykracher for almost ten years. Joining her on stage is Märt Avandi, a young Estonian actor, known for his comedy acts both in films and on stage, and as one half of a popular parody-duo hosting different television and live-shows.

Among the evening’s distinguished film guests will be Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, recipient of the EFA Lifetime Achievement Award. Another honorary award, the Eurpoean Film Academy Achievement in World Cinema 2010, will be presented to composer Gabriel Yared who will also be in Tallinn for a special film music concert with the Brussels Philharmonic.

Watch the 23rd European Film Awards on 4 December at

The European Film Awards 2010 are presented by the European Film Academy e.V. and EFA Productions gGmbH with the support of European Capital of Culture Tallinn 2011, Estonian Ministry of Culture, the City of Tallinn, Estonian Cultural Endowment, Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Public Broadcasting, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and BDG.

14 November, 2010

EFA Short Film Nominees

The short film nominees for the European Film Awards 2010 were recently announced at the International Short Film Festival in Drama, in Greece.

The list of nominated short films is now complete. The short film initiative is organised by the European Film Academy in co-operation with fifteen film festivals throughout Europe. At each of these festivals, an independent jury presents one of the European short films in competition with a nomination in the short film category of the European Film Awards. Among the fifteen nominated short films there are fiction films, documentaries and animation films, representing 14 European countries. The 2,300 members of the European Film Academy will now vote for the winner.

The overall winner will be presented during the Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 4 December, in Tallinn, Estonia.


The nominations:

EFA Short Film Nominee Ghent
by Thomas Wangsmo (Norway 2009, 14′, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Valladolid
by Giulio Ricciarelli (Germany 2009, 14’, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Cork
by Sophie Roze (France 2009, 12’, animation)

EFA Short Film Nominee Angers
BLIJF BIJ ME, WEG (Stay, Away)
by Paloma Aguilera Valdebenito (the Netherlands 2009, 24’, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Rotterdam
ØNSKEBØRN (Out of Love)
by Birgitte Stærmose (Denmark 2009, 29′, documentary)

EFA Short Film Nominee Berlin
by Nathalie Teirlinck (Belgium 2009, 27′, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Tampere
LUMIKKO (The Little Snow Animal)
by Miia Tervo (Finland 2009, 19′, documentary)

EFA Short Film Nominee Cracow
by Jonas Odell (Sweden 2010, 14′, documentary animation)

EFA Short Film Nominee Grimstad
HANOI - WARSZAWA (Hanoi - Warsaw)
by Katarzyna Klimkiewicz (Poland 2009, 30′, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Edinburgh
by Anne Milne (UK/Spain 2009, 16′, documentary)

EFA Short Film Nominee Vila do Conde
by Catalina Molina (Austria/Argentina 2010, 40′, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Sarajevo
RENDEZ-VOUS A STELLA-PLAGE (Rendezvous in Stella-Plage)
by Shalimar Preuss (France 2009, 18′, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Locarno
DIARCHIA (Diarchy)
by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino (Italy/France 2010, 20′, fiction)

EFA Short Film Nominee Venice
by David OReilly (Germany 2010, 15′, animation)

EFA Short Film Nominee Drama
by Bálint Szimler (Hungary 2010, 36′, fiction)

06 November, 2010

Nominations for 23rd European Film Awards

At the Seville European Film Festival the European Film Academy (EFA) and EFA Productions announced the nominations for the European Film Awards 2010. The more than 2,300 EFA Members will now vote for the winners, which will be honoured during the awards ceremony on 4 December in Tallinn, Estonia.


Bal (Honey), Turkey/Germany
Directed by Semih Kaplanoğlu
Written by Semih Kaplanoğlu & Orçun Köksal
Produced by Semih Kaplanoğlu and Johannes Rexin

Des hommes et des dieux (Of Gods and Men), France
Directed by Xavier Beauvois
Written by Etienne Comar and Xavier Beauvois

The Ghost Writer, France/Germany/UK
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Robert Harris and Roman Polanski
Produced by Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde and Roman Polanski

Lebanon, Israel/Germany/France
Written and directed by Samuel Maoz
Produced by Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, David Silber, Uri Sabag, Einat Bickel, Benjamina Mirnik and Illan Girard

El Secretos De Sus Ojos (The Secret in their Eyes), Spain/Argentina
Directed by Juan José Campanella
Written by Eduardo Sacheri & Juan José Campanella
Produced by Gerardo Herrero, Mariela Besuievsky and Juan José Campanella

Soul Kitchen, Germany
Directed by Fatih Akin
Written by Fatih Akin and Adam Bousdoukos
Produced by Fatih Akin and Klaus Maeck


Olivier Assayas for Carlos
Semih Kaplanoğlu for Bal (Honey)
Samuel Maoz for Lebanon
Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
Paolo Virzi for La Prima Cosa Bella (The First Beautiful Thing)


Zrinka Cvitešić in Na Putu (On the Path)
Sibel Kekilli in Die Fremde (When We Leave)
Lesley Manville in Another Year
Sylvie Testud in Lourdes
Lotte Verbeek in Nothing Personal


Jakob Cedergren in Submarino
Elio Germano in La Nostra Vita (Our Life)
Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer
George Pistereanu in Eu cand vreau sa fluier, fluier (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle)
Luis Tosar in Celda 211 (Cell 211)


Jorge Guerricaechevarría and Daniel Monzón for Celda 211 (Cell 211)
Robert Harris and Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
Samuel Maoz for Lebanon
Radu Mihaileanu for Le concert (The Concert)

Giora Bejach for Lebanon
Caroline Champetier for Des hommes et des dieux (Of Gods and Men)
Pavel Kostomarov for Как я провел этим летом (How I Ended this Summer)
Barış Özbiçer for Bal (Honey)


Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier for Carlos
Arik Lahav-Leibovich for Lebanon
Hervé de Luze for The Ghost Writer


Paola Bizzarri and Luis Ramirez for Io, Don Giovanni (I, Don Giovanni)
Albrecht Konrad for The Ghost Writer
Markku Pätilä & Jaagup Roomet for Püha Tõnu kiusamine (The Temptation of St. Tony)


Ales Brezina for Kawasakiho růže (Kawasaki’s Rose)
Pasquale Catalano for Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)
Alexandre Desplat for The Ghost Writer
Gary Yershon for Another Year

Watch the 23rd European Film Awards live on 4 December at

31 October, 2010

Co-Production Award for Zeynep Özbatur

Turkish producer receives Prix EURIMAGES

The winner of the fourth edition of the EUROPEAN CO-PRODUCTION AWARD - Prix EURIMAGES, an award acknowledging the decisive role of co-productions in the European film industry, was recently announced in the framework of the 'New Cinema Network' in Rome, attended by many cinema industry professionals.

This year’s prize will go to an outstanding producer who has always joined forces with European producing companies to develop and promote European cinema: Zeynep Özbatur, a major name in international film production, who heads Zeyno Film Production in Istanbul, Turkey.

Zeynep Özbatur is a film producer whose recent credits include the award-winning Üç maymun (Three Monkeys) (2008) and Climates (2006), both directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and supported by Eurimages. She graduated from Marmara University Department of Cinema and Television in 1991. Ms Özbatur has been working in film and commercial production since 1986. In 1994, she became one of the founding members of CO Productions, which produced numerous commercials. She recently founded her own production company, Zeyno Film, which is also involved in training young professionals in the Turkish cinema industry.

The EUROPEAN CO-PRODUCTION AWARD - Prix EURIMAGES will be presented during the European Film Awards Ceremony in Tallinn, Estonia, on Saturday 4 December 2010. Eurimages is a support fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works, established by the Council of Europe in 1988.

Click here for more information.

28 October, 2010

EFA Nominates Three Documentaries

The European Film Academy proudly announces the nominations in the category EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY DOCUMENTARY 2010 – PRIX ARTE. A committee consisting of EFA Board Member Despina Mouzaki (Greece), EFA Members Pierre-Henri Deleau (France) and Francine Brücher (Switzerland), experts Claas Danielsen (International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film), Ally Derks (director IDFA, the Netherlands), and Jacques Laurent (producer, Belgium) has chosen three films for a nomination.

For the first time, the nominated documentary films will now be made available to all 2,300 members of the European Film Academy who will vote for the winner.

Nominated are:

ARMADILLO: Denmark/Sweden
Directed by Janus Metz
Produced by Ronnie Fridthjof & Sara Stockman

MIESTEN VUORO (Steam of Life): Finland/Sweden
Written and directed by Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen
Produced by Joonas Berghäll

NOSTALGIA DE LA LUZ (Nostalgia for the Light): France/Germany/Chile
Written and directed by Patricio Guzmán
Produced by Renate Sachse

In association with the European culture channel ARTE, the winner will be presented at the 23rd European Film Awards on 4 December in Tallinn/Estonia.

24 October, 2010

EFA Honours Gabriel Yared

The famed composer is set to receive the European Film Academy’s EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT IN WORLD CINEMA AWARD 2010.

A self-taught musician, Gabriel Yared started his career composing, orchestrating and producing songs for a variety of popular French, Italian and Brazilian performers such as Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud, Johnny Halliday, Mina and Françoise Hardy as well as composing a lot of ballet music, jingles and signature melodies for television, radio, and commercials.

He wrote his first film score in 1980 for Jean-Luc Godard's Sauve qui peut la vie (Every Man for Himself) and since then the majority of his career has been essentially dedicated to music for the cinema: He wrote the score for 37.2 le matin (Betty Blue (1986)) by Jean-Jacques Beineix, Camille Claudel (1988) by Bruno Nuytten,Vincent et Théo (1990) by Robert Altman, and L'Amant (The Lover, 1991) by Jean-Jacques Annaud, for which he received a French César. Yared collaborated with Anthony Minghella for The English Patient (1996), for which he received virtually every award there is, among them an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a Grammy, The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), and for Cold Mountain (2003). In 2006, he was nominated for the European Film Awards for Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. His impressive body of work includes the music for City Of Angels (1998) by Brad Silberling, Message in a Bottle (1999) by Luis Mandoki, Azur et Asmar (2006) by Michel Ocelot, Adam Ressurected (2008) by Paul Schrader, Amelia by Mira Nair and Coco et Igor by Jan Kounen (both 2009).

In recognition of a unique contribution to the world of film the European Film Academy takes great pleasure in presenting Gabriel Yared with the award EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT IN WORLD CINEMA 2010.

Gabriel Yared will be a guest of honour at the 23rd European Film Awards Ceremony on 4 December 2010 in Tallinn.

12 October, 2010

EFA Discovery Award: Five Debut Films

The European Film Academy has announced this year’s nominations for the EUROPEAN DISCOVERY - Prix FIPRESCI, an award presented annually as part of the European Film Awards to a young and upcoming director for a first full-length feature film. This year’s nominations were chosen by a committee comprising EFA Board Member Els Vandevorst (the Netherlands), EFA Member Pierre-Henri Deleau (France), and experts Jacob Neiiendam (director of the film festival CPH:PIX, Denmark), Alin Tasciyan (film critic, Turkey), and Mariola Wiktor (Forum of European Cinema, Poland), all of them members of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics.


LA DOPPIA ORA (The Double Hour), Italy
directed by Giuseppe Capotondi
written by Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi & Stefano Sardo
produced by Nicola Giuliano & Francesca Cima

EU CAND VREAU SA FLUIER, FLUIER (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle), Romania
directed by Florin Serban
written by Catalin Mitulescu & Florin Serban
produced by Catalin Mitulescu

DIE FREMDE (When We Leave), Germany
written & directed by Feo Aladag
produced by Feo Aladag & Züli Aladag

LEBANON, Israel/Germany/France
written & directed by Samuel Maoz
produced by Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, David Silber, Uri Sabag, Einat Bickel, Benjamina Mirnik & Illan Girard

NOTHING PERSONAL, the Netherlands/Ireland
written & directed by Urszula Antoniak
produced by Reinier Selen & Edwin van Meurs

The nominated films will now be made available to all 2,300 members of the European Film Academy. They will vote for the winner who will be announced at the 23rd European Film Awards on 4 December in Tallinn/Estonia.

10 October, 2010

The Ghost Writer (2010)

Written off

Official Selection, European Film Awards 2010

One can but hope that, while the ‘story behind the story’ concerning the sexual crimes of Roman Polanski, the director of The Ghost Writer (2010) has once again faded from view, the same will never occur concerning the fact that the film’s Adam Lang, a UK former prime minister, is in no way intended to resemble one Tony Blair. For the benefit of our American readers, that last sentence was an example of 'irony'. I thank you.

There’s no doubt that, on the strength of The Ghost Writer, Polanski is still very much a class act. Despite his very ocassional slip-ups (such as, perhaps, The Ninth Gate (1999)), there has always been a rare expectancy to each of the films from the man behind Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974), much as there always was with the work of Stanley Kubrick.

Adapted for the screen by the author of The Ghost, Robert Harris, this silky smooth, slow-burning examination of just how dangerous politics can get is a perfect foil to your run-of-the-mill, facile conspiracy-theory thriller – a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) labelled only as ‘The Ghost’ in the credits lands the plum gig of knocking the memoirs of UK former prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) into shape. A smooth operator, Lang, who held sway over British politics for many years before retiring with his beautiful wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) to a luxurious, isolated and heavily guarded retreat in the US, nevertheless becomes embroiled in scandal concerning revelations as to just how far he was prepared to go to keep it chummy with Uncle Sam. Any of this ringing any bells yet, hmmm? Anyway, things threaten to get much, much worse for The Ghost, as he gradually realizes that the convoluted mess of a manuscript on which he is working may well contain life-threatening indiscretions…

What makes this such a joy, I believe, is how well the two central characterizations by McGregor and Brosnan hang together – the former, a cynical hack coming to realize that there are consequences to actions and the latter a Machiavellian prince of darkness who has known this for a long time – and the performances of both reveal a maturity and intelligence that have not always been so evident in either actor’s work.

In addition, Polanski’s passion for revealing the darkness at the heart of humanity is more than amply expounded here and the kicker, when it comes, will hit you, well, like a hit-and-run. Thrillers can still be made that do not insult the intelligence – allow The Ghost Writer (2010) to convince you.

Awards: Click here for details.

128 mins.

02 October, 2010

Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) (2010)

Who's killing who?

Official Selection, European Film Awards 2010

Though this film portrays terrorism and its victims, this is not another 'post 9/11 film'. In fact, the events it portrays transpired between 1993 and 1996, and had nothing to do with America, George W. Bush, or Iraq. The victims were French, and the perpetrators Algerian. But which Algerians? One of the film's characters even gets to utter the question raised by countless Algerians and outside observers: "Qui tue qui?" ("Who is killing who?").

For the monks of Tibhirine, that question may never really be answered with certainty. What is certain, however, is that Xavier Beauvois has given us a unique film - the Cannes 2010 Jury Grand Prize winner. A film that is very difficult to categorize, neither a thriller nor just a film about monks or terrorists. That said, it has plenty of suspense, even if pretty much everyone knows the eventual fate of the monks.

Our time spent with the monks gives us a sense of their world, before Algeria's decade-plus of bloodshed intervened to change their pastoral idyll forever. It is the portrayal of the monks' lives, and their anguish over the violence taking over their adopted country, which is so powerfully rendered in Des Hommes et des Dieux. The spectator is transported to Algeria in the mid-Nineties, and the sigh that a monk utters over the sheer beauty of the landscape of the high steppes and forested hills is something that one can almost feel. And the sense of impending loss.

Beauvois has given us a beautiful film, and the casting is perfect. Lambert Wilson as Brother Christian, the Prior of the monastery, has an ascetic intellectual steel behind wire-rimmed glasses beloved of French priests. He resents the intrusion of the warring factions on the monks' work, though his decision to stick it out in the isolated mountains causes him constant anguish. Olivier Rabourdin as Christophe is riven with doubt, and closeups of his eyes replace any need for extraneous dialogue. Brother Luc, played by an avuncular Michel Lonsdale, has seen it all - literally. During Algeria's war of liberation in the Fifties, Luc was taken prisoner by the FLN, only to be released when they realized that Dr. Luc Dochier was treating Algerians - both FLN fighters and civilians.

Despite the difficulty of treating such a subject, Olivier Beauvois gives us a very subtle film, one that hints at the ambiguities of the record. The monks recoil at the violence perpetrated by both sides, and their stubborn insistence at staying with the villagers who depend on them for employment, for medical treatment, and for intelligent conversation becomes an annoyance to the combatants.

A hovering helicopter gives a premonition of the fate that may have befallen the monks, the loud, whirling blades audible as they pray in their chapel. Is it Army protection, or something else? In 2009, former French military attaché in Algiers General François Buchwalter testified that the monks were in fact killed in a botched attack on what the Army took to be an Islamist group.

Of Gods and Men is an ode to a group of incredibly brave men, beautifully acted and filmed. A fitting memorial to the monks buried on a hillside in their beloved Algeria.

Gerald Loftus
122 mins. In French.

25 September, 2010

Le concert (The Concert) (2009)

The right notes

Official Selection, European Film Awards 2010

Comedies make you laugh, and tragi-comedies do too, but how to describe Radu Mihaileanu’s latest film Le concert (2009)?

Its Russian settings, with hilarious takes on all the cliches we’ve come to expect of post-Cold War Russia – thuggish, gun-toting Mafia lords and their cash approach to culture, aging Communists longing for the good old Soviet days, Everyman (and Everywoman) scrounging to raise a ruble in the crudely capitalistic present – will make you laugh until you cry. The frenzied action never lets up – it might even strike some as a bit over the top, like a Kusturica film – even when the troupe is unleashed on a sedate and unsuspecting Paris.

But the tears you’ll shed during the climactic concert – a faux Bolshoi orchestra attempting to recreate a Brezhnev-era musical moment that was cruelly cut short – will be tears of joy. A neighbour of ours, a hardy outdoorsman who had never before displayed his sentimental side, said that he was not immune to the emotion of Le concert, and I can understand. Music does that to you, especially a stirring Tchaikovsky concerto played with such virtuosity.

Don’t get me wrong – despite its title and its story premise, this is not a musical, or even a musical comedy. There’s that difficulty again in classifying Le concert. Let’s just say that if you like a good story, a good laugh (despite the tears), and music from visa-fixing Gypsy fiddlers to the Red Army Chorus’ ever-rousing Kalinka, you’ll enjoy Le concert. But there’s a serious side to the story, which is what attracted France-based Mihaileanu to it.

Mihaileanu, the son of a Romanian Communist who had to change his name from Buchman to escape Nazi extermination camps, has dealt with Jewish themes before. His award-winning 2005 film Live and Become (Va, vis et deviens), dealt with the difficult integration into Israeli society of the Ethiopian Falasha Jews. He has based Le concert on an amalgam of historical incidents, based on the record of Antisemitism in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.

With all the recent hoopla over 1989 and the Gorbachev perestroika and glasnost that helped to bring about the fall of the Soviet Union, it is worth remembering the darker days that preceded Mr. Gorbachev. Brezhnev appeared to be a throwback to the days of Stalin and his henchmen, especially as regards Soviet Jews. Writes Professor Christie Davies in The Social Affairs Unit blog:

Official anti-Semitism was also popular. It gave the most menial of workers someone to hate, someone to blame, someone to despise. Your vilest traditional prejudices were endorsed and encouraged by your rulers. Newspapers deliberately stressed the Jewish identity of Jews executed for economic crimes…

Without miring us in historical detail, Mihaileanu focuses instead on the memory of Lea, the violin soloist whose ouster from the Bolshoi has left a lasting mark on all who knew her. The director’s choice of French actress Mélanie Laurent uncannily parallels the fictional 'faux Bolshoi' conductor’s selection of a French soloist to replace – or is it replicate? – Lea. Actress Laurent speaks of her own Jewish roots: her grandfather, like Mihaileanu’s own father, was also a Communist who resisted Nazi persecution.

So there it is: a feel-good movie that isn’t lightweight; a comedy with a serious side; a film where music’s role is central but does not require a degree in Tchaikovsky studies…Le concert is a touching film, a fitting addition to Mihaileanu’s growing body of respected work.

Awards: Click here for details.

Gerald Loftus
119 mins. In French and Russian.

21 September, 2010

EFA Animated Feature Film 2010

The European Film Academy proudly announces the three nominations in the category European Film Academy Animated Feature 2010.

The jury consisting of EFA Board Members Per Holst (producer, Denmark) and Antonio Saura (producer, Spain) as well as representatives of CARTOON, the European Association of Animation Film, Mark Baker (animation director, UK), Giuseppe Lagana (animation director, Italy) and Serge Siritzky (managing editor Ecran Total, France) decided to nominate the following films:

PLANET 51 (Spain, UK)
Directed by: Jorge Blanco
Co-directed by: Javier Abad and Marcos Martínez

Directed by: Ben Stassen

Directed by: Sylvain Chomet

The nominated films will now be submitted to the 2,300 EFA Members to elect the winner who will be honoured at the European Film Awards Ceremony on Saturday, 4 December, in Tallinn, Estonia.

16 September, 2010

EFA Honours Bruno Ganz

At the 23rd European Film Awards this year, the European Film Academy (EFA) will honour Swiss actor Bruno Ganz - whether as an angel in Wings of Desire (1987) by Wim Wenders, in the Italian comedy Bread & Tulips (2000) by Silvio Soldini, or playing Adolf Hitler in Oliver Hirschbiegel's The Downfall (2004), Bruno Ganz has lent his face to some of cinema's most unforgettable moments.

Together with actress Iris Berben, Ganz was elected President of the German Film Academy in 2010.

The European Film Academy takes great pleasure in presenting Bruno Ganz with the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding and dedicated body of work.

Bruno Ganz will be an honorary guest at the 23rd European Film Awards Ceremony on 4 December 2010 in Tallinn.

The European Film Awards 2010 are presented by the European Film Academy e.V. and EFA Productions gGmbH with the support of European Capital of Culture Tallinn 2011, Estonian Ministry of Culture, the City of Tallinn, Estonian Cultural Endowment, Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Public Broadcasting, Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and BDG.

11 September, 2010

The Science of Sleep (2006)

Sleeper hit

Winner of the European Film Academy Award For An Artistic Contribution 2006: Production Design (Pierre Pell & Stéphane Rozenbaum).

While the majority of the French population sit around smoking Gauloises, sipping Absinthe and trying very hard to look like tortured artists, Michel Gondry seems to have something else keeping him awake - sleep.

The acclaimed director is something of an oddball, having directed such an eclectic range of movies, including videos for Daft Punk and Massive Attack, the quirky Be Kind, Rewind (2008) and even an episode of the TV cult hit Flight of the Conchords.

He seems at his best when working with the ever-so-slightly surreal, and has the knack of making it fun, engaging and entirely unpretentious. His first sleep-themed film to catch my eye was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - a film in which I was not only surprised to find that Jim Carrey is a mighty fine actor, but that Kate Winslet also has her moments.

You will remember, if you have seen Eternal Sunshine..., how dreams and sleep almost interweave with real life in a subtle and quiet manner, up to the point where it's often difficult to tell which is which. This, of course, is the thrust of the story. Many ancient cultures - and some modern ones - believed that dreams were just another part of consciousness, and talked about them as if they were on a parallel with conscious thought and experience. Gondry appears to have found a way of expressing this in cinematic form and is stamping his authority all over this movie-making method. His real talent lies in making both these worlds distinctly separate, yet linear, and managing to portray them so effortlessly that there is little danger of appearing too 'arty'.

Written by the talented Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovitch (1998)), it's a love story in essence, but don't worry - it doesn't get too squishy. If you know Kaufman's work, you'll know it's not going to be formulaic, and will require at least a medium-term attention span. The reward is a cracking story, so well worth the efort. Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) arrives in Paris, the town of his birth, from Mexico, following the death of his father. Despite his limited ability to speak French (it was his mother's language) he manages to get a job in a design studio, hoping to forge a career as a graphic designer. There follows a few really well-paced gags on his clumsiness with the language which manage to be cute and touching rather than 'oh look at the stupid foreigner', and eventually the meeting with Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Gainsbourg, of course, is following the French law which requires her to look nothing but gorgeous, so obviously Stéphane would like to see more of her. His courtship is something of a farce in many ways, as he clumsily stumbles from one limp excuse to another and fails to win her over - except for her fascination with his aptitude for cartooning, stop-frame animation and the invention of weird gadgets. This plot device allows a fairly seamless transition from reality to dreams.

The Science of Sleep (2006) is a well-acted movie by a writer with a penchant for the unusual and a director who's more than up to the job of filming his stories. Bernal and Gainsbourg make for an odd couple - not in looks, but in sensibilities, and play their respective parts with aplomb, but the real star is the set. Skipping between dreams set in a cardboard TV studio and flights of fancy lovingly rendered in stop-frame, this gentle romantic comedy (and yes, that's really what it is) should leave you with a nice, warm and fuzzy feeling and a smile on your face. If not, there's always A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Awards: Click here for details.

105 mins. In English, French and Spanish.

10 September, 2010

Tamara Drewe (2010)


Official Selection, European Film Awards 2010.

Well, she has obviously had the oil removed in which she was eventually covered during her short-lived appearance in Quantum of Solace (2008), and it is fair to say that most red-blooded males will be happy about that – Gemma Arterton's natural beauty simply lights up the screen in Stephen Frear's adaptation of Posy Simmonds' graphic shorts concerning a girl who returns to her roots.

Tamara Drewe returns from her job as a London newspaper columnist to the idyllic country village in which she grew up. Back home to sell her parents' house and to interview rock star Ben Sargeant (Dominic Cooper), Drewe's transformation from the proverbial ugly duckling (with, it must be said a nose that was out of proportion to her face) into the strikingly attractive young woman (post nose-job) now gracing the village has not gone unnoticed, either by Ben himself, her old boyfriend Andy (Luke Evans) or Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam), who plans on doing the dirty on his wife Beth (Tamsin Grieg). And, on the periphery of this enclosed world are Jody (Jessica Barden) and Casey (Charlotte Christie), two precocious teens who very much have their own agenda concerning the rock star. Trouble is brewing...

But, this being Stephen Frears (The Queen (2006), Dirty Pretty Things (2002)), the trouble is always of the entirely charming variety – perhaps, as with the films of Richard Curtis, one never quite buys the sense of genuine community that the film creates, and maybe its town mouse/country mouse motifs are a little too broad for their own good at times (as are the performances by Barden and Christie, which occasionally veer too close to caricature), but the timeless (and immaculately timed) performances from Arterton and particularly Cooper, more than make up for any reality gap.

Yes, there may also be few too many British stereotypes laid on a little thick, but what harm is there in that, exactly? Director Frears proves that they still do make 'em like they used to, with Tamara Drewe (2010), and that is no bad thing at all.

111 mins.

EFA 2010: Selection Announced

46 films, 32 countries

As announced by the European Film Academy and EFA Productions and already published on the European Film Awards website, there are 46 films in this year’s EFA Selection, the list of films recommended for a nomination for the European Film Awards 2010. With 32 countries represented, the list once again illustrates the great diversity of European cinema. The selected films also cover a wide range of genres and themes from comedies about families, restaurants or burials to dramas about childhood, prison life or prostitution, from political thrillers, film essays, and historical epics to a 5½-hour terrorist biopic.

The 20 countries with the most EFA members have voted one national film directly into the selection list. To complete the list, a Selection Committee, consisting of EFA board members and invited experts Gunnar Bergdahl (Sweden), Pierre-Henri Deleau (France), Stefan Kitanov (Bulgaria), Derek Malcolm (UK) and Nikolaj Nikitin (Germany), has included further films.

The EFA Selection 2010

by Tomáš Mašin
Czech Republic, 110 mins.

by Renos Haralambidis
Greece, 90 mins.

Ágnes Kocsis
Hungary, 136 mins.

by Mike Leigh
UK, 129 min.

by Ineke Smits
the Netherlands/Georgia, 104 min.

by Aleksi Salmenperä
Finland, 95 mins.

by Olivier Assayas
France/Germany, 318 mins.

CELL 211/CELDA 211
by Daniel Monzón
Spain/France, 114 mins.

by Radu Mihaileanu
France, 122 mins.

by Antonio Nuić
Croatia, 94 mins.

by Jean-Luc Godard
Switzerland, 102 mins.

by Paolo Virzi
Italy, 116 mins.

by Roman Polanski
France/Germany/UK, 128 mins.

by Semih Kaplanoğlu
Turkey/Germany, 103 mins.

by Goran Paskaljevic
Serbia/Albania, 95 mins.

by Alexei Popogrebsky
Russia, 124 mins.

by Carlos Saura
Austria/Italy/Spain, 120 mins.

by Florin Serban
Romania, 94 mins.

by Christoph Schaub
Switzerland, 87 mins.

by Jan Hřebejk
Czech Republic, 95 mins.

by Samuel Maoz
Israel, 94 mins.

by Ferzan Ozpetek
Italy, 116 mins.

by Jessica Hausner
Austria/France/Germany, 99 mins.

by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson
Iceland, 88 mins.

by Giorgio Diritti
Italy, 117 mins.

by Sergei Loznitsa
Germany/Ukraine/the Netherlands, 127 mins.

by Dorothée van den Berghe
Belgium/the Netherlands, 101 mins.

by Urszula Antoniak
the Netherlands, Ireland, 85 mins.

by Sam Taylor-Wood
UK, 98 mins.

by Xavier Beauvois
France, 120 mins.

by Jasmila Žbanić
Bosnia & Herzegovina/Austria/Germany/Croatia, 100 mins.

by Mathieu Amalric
France, 111 mins.

by Neil Jordan
Ireland, 111 mins.

by Daniele Luchetti
Italy, 98 min.

by Benjamin Heisenberg
Austria/Germany, 96 mins.

by Borys Lankosz
Poland, 101 mins.

by Babak Najafi
Sweden, 80 mins.

by Juan José Campanella
Spain/Argentina, 129 mins.

by Damjan Kozole
Slovenia, 90 mins.

by Fatih Akin
Germany, 99 mins.

by Thomas Vinterberg
Denmark, 110 mins.

by Stephen Frears
UK, 111 mins.

by Veiko Õunpuu
Estonia, 114 mins.

by Sara Johnsen
Norway, 95 mins.

by Svetoslav Ovcharov
Bulgaria, 107 mins.

by Feo Aladag
Germany, 119 mins.

In the coming weeks, the 2,300 members of the European Film Academy will vote for the nominations in the different award categories. The nominations will then be announced on 6 November at the Sevilla European Film Festival in Spain. The 23rd European Film Awards honouring the winners will then take place in Tallinn, Estonia on 4 December. For full details of this year's European Film Awards selection, please click here.

08 September, 2010

Kick-Ass (2010)

Super-heroic stuff

We are delighted to welcome talented young author Eleanor Salter to the fold, with her take on the latest comic-book adaptation, which is in the selection list for the People's Choice Awards 2010.

By now, nearly everyone must have seen or heard of Kick-Ass (2010) via its clever advertising and the famous actors in the cast, and the hype leading up to the release of one of the biggest films of the year was well worth it. The actors include Aaron Johnson (Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)), Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider (2007), World Trade Center (2006)), Mark Strong (Stardust (2007), Sherlock Holmes (2009)) and 13-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz ((500) Days of Summer (2009), Bolt (2008)).

It’s a film for anyone who’s a fan of gory comedy, action and slightly awkward romance – a very impressive take by actor-director Matthew Vaughn on the famous comics by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. The storyline revolves around comic geek Dave Lizewski (Johnson) who aspires to be a real-life superhero. Despite the innocent motive behind his schemes, ‘Kick-Ass’ soon gets caught up with REAL superheroes, who kick ass cooler than he could have dreamed.

Hit-Girl (Moretz) and Big Daddy (Cage) aren’t there to mess around, they’re trying to take out big-shot gangster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). Kick-Ass is now a wanted man but manages to get caught up in romance whilst still trying to keep his identity a secret! With some phoneys, torture, revenge and a massive bazooka, the end of the film sees Kick Ass discovering not only his true self, but also that normal human beings really CAN kick ass.

I enjoyed the film hugely and couldn’t stop laughing – the gory humour could easily have been extreme but was played in such a way that I wanted even more! I found Aaron Johnson’s performance very impressive and, despite the nerdy weakness of his character, I managed to leave the cinema without hating him.

It is definitely a movie I would recommend you watch, just for Chloe Moretz’s humour. Although young, she is extremely experienced and her performance here reflects what we can expect from her in the future. Watch Kick Ass. You won’t regret it.

Eleanor Salter
117 mins.

06 September, 2010

People’s Choice Awards: The Vote is Open

Well, that is it - the build-up to the European Film Awards 2010 officially starts here, with the chance for you to cast your votes in this year's People’s Choice Awards.

Film fans across Europe can now begin electing their favourite film of the year, and there's also the chance win a trip to the European Film Awards Ceremony. Every year, when the European Film Academy invites its members, Europe’s greatest film stars, directors, producers, cinematographers, screenwriters, designers, nominees and winners, to attend the European Film Awards, the People’s Choice Award casts a spotlight on the people films are made for - the audience.

Click here to cast your vote, and take your chance to attend the 23rd European Film Awards on Saturday, 4 December 2010, in the Estonian capital Tallinn on the Baltic coast!

And the nominees are:

Written by Alejandro Amenábar & Mateo Gil
Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Produced by Alvaro Augustín & Fernando Bovaira

written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
produced by Giampaolo Letta & Mario Spedaletti

Written by Nick Hornby
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Produced by Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey

FLICKAN SOM LEKTE MED ELDEN (The Girl Who Played With Fire)
Written by Jonas Frykberg
Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Produced by Sören Staermose

Written by Robert Harris & Roman Polanski
Directed by Roman Polanski
Produced by Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde & Roman Polanski

Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Produced by Matthew Vaughn, Brad Pitt, Kris Thykier, Adam Bohling, Tarquin Pack & David Reid

MINE VAGANTI (Loose Cannons)
Written by Ferzan Ozpetek & Ivan Cotroneo
Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek
Produced by Domenico Procacci

Written and directed by Jaco van Dormael
Produced by Philippe Godeau

LE PETIT NICOLAS (Little Nicholas)
Written by Laurent Tirard & Grégoire Vigneron
Directed by Laurent Tirard
Produced by Eric Jehelmann

Written by Fatih Akin & Adam Bousdoukos
Directed by Fatih Akin
Produced by Fatih Akin & Klaus Maeck

So, what are you waiting for? The ballot boxes await!

28 August, 2010

Sarajevo Nominates French Short

The European Film Academy (EFA) and the Sarajevo Film Festival congratulate the Sarajevo Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards 2010 Rendez-vous à Stella-Plage (2009), France, by Shalimar Preuss.

The film is now nominated for the European Film Academy Short Film 2010 Award. It was selected by the festival’s short-film jury, which comprised Frank W. Albers, director of the Robert Bosch Stiftung (Germany), Christine Dollhofer, director of the Crossing Europe Film Festival (Austria) and Serbian director Vladimir Perišić.

In a cemetary, the ‘present’ (attentive and collected) pay homage to the ‘absent’. A public telephone rings. A young couple is passing and takes the call. On the other end of the line, a mother wants to talk to her daughter. Albane takes the game one step further and pretends to be the daughter...

The short film initiative is organized by the European Film Academy in co-operation with fifteen film festivals throughout Europe. At each of these festivals, an independent jury presents one of the European short films in competition with a nomination in the short film category of the European Film Awards.

When the annual cycle is completed in September, the nominees will be presented to the over 2,000 members of the European Film Academy and it is they who will elect the overall winner: the European Film Academy Short Film 2010 which will be presented at the 23rd European Film Awards Ceremony on 4 December in Tallinn/Estonia.

This feature first appeared on the European Film Academy website.

18 mins. In French.

23 August, 2010

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Dench does demented

Winner of the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, Dame Judi Dench astonished audiences in 2006 with this, one of her darkest films.

Guess what? Another film I enjoyed. The difference this time being that it was one of a collection that was recently purchased by my good lady. Our taste in films differs quite a bit from time to time and having seen the cover of the DVD and the dreaded words ‘Starring Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett’ I thought I’d be in for an evening of unbridled chick-flickery.

Happily, I turned out to be wrong – which is, of course, highly unusual. Anyway, moving quickly on – this is a real gem of a film from director Richard Eyre (Stage Beauty (2004), The Absence of War (1995)). It’s one of those that will have you giggling at the black and acerbic one-liners and remarks as Barbara Covett (Dench) writes her diary and at the next turn getting a real tingle in your spine as you realize just exactly what she’s up to. The diary narrative is done in voice-over by Dench, who strikes the tone of just the right amount of measured insanity . Dame Judi is famous for playing a variety of roles – hard woman, quaint ageing lady, royalty – and has even appeared in a rather average sitcom on the BBC, but as far as I can remember, this is the first time I have seen her playing a part as complex as this. She is a retirement-age closet lesbian living alone except for a cat – and a chain-smoking, scheming, manipulative woman trapped in her own bitter loneliness. As John Cooper-Clarke once said: “Deliciously, deliciously deranged”.

A teacher with a reputation for being uncompromising and a tough disciplinarian, she is held in high esteem at the Islington school where she works. She at first dismisses Sheba Hart (Blanchett) as a flighty, eager-to-please teacher with wishy-washy politics and a casual attitude. Despite her apparent dislike for her, she rescues Sheba when a classroom fight leaves her unable to control her students. Sheba invites her to a family lunch to thank her, and their friendship grows. It becomes apparent quite quickly that Barbara’s affection for Sheba is more than just merely platonic, unbeknown to anyone at first, except for Barbara and her diary. She very quickly becomes a big part of the lives of Sheba, her husband Richard (a superb Bill Nighy) and their kids.

This cosy relationship takes a turn for the worst when Barbara slips out of a school play for a breath of fresh air and sees Sheba involved in a game of “hide the sausage” with one of the fifteen-year-old male students in a mobile classroom. Barbara soon sees this as the perfect opportunity to win a huge advantage over Sheba, and to bring her closer. She demands a meeting, telling Sheba what she’s seen and promises not to tell anyone – it’ll be “their little secret” – and demands that Sheba end the relationship straight away. Of course, it wouldn’t be a very long film if she did, but I kind of wished she had and saved herself the full horror of what awaited her.

That’s about all I can say without giving too much of the plot away. There are some neat little twists and some powerful (and often disturbing) acting in this film. It’s very well paced and all the little bits – the black humour, the spartan musical score and the locations – all fit together extremely well. My favourite bit? When Barbara goes to Sheba’s house after her cat is put down at the vet’s. If that doesn’t leave you with your mouth open, you should probably switch it off and go and do something else. Dame Judi, please do more of this. In the nicest possible way, you are a world-class nutter.

Awards: Click here for details.

92 mins. In English and French.

Italian Short Diarchia (Diarchy) (2010) Nominated

The European Film Academy (EFA) and the Locarno International Film Festival congratulate the Locarno Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards 2010,
Diarchia (Diarchy) (2010) by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.

Made in Italy, the film's EFA 2010 nomination was made by the festival’s international jury, comprising directors Eric Khoo (Singapore), Lionel Baier (Switzerland) and Josh Safdie (USA), actress Golshifteh Farahani (Iran) and actor Melvil Poupaud (France).

The short film initiative is organized by the European Film Academy in co-operation with 15 film festivals throughout Europe. At each of these festivals, an independent jury presents one of the European short films in competition with a nomination in the short film category of the European Film Awards.

When the annual cycle is completed in September, the nominees will be presented to the more than 2,000 members of the European Film Academy and it is they who will select the overall winner, the European Film Academy Short Film 2010, which will be presented at the 23rd European Film Awards Ceremony on 4 December in Tallinn, Estonia.

The next nomination will be presented in co-operation with the Venice International Film Festival.

20 mins. In Italian.

Previously published on

12 August, 2010

Io sono l’amore (I Am Love) (2009)

What lies beneath

Based on an original story by director Luca Guadagnino (Melissa P. (2005)) and co-produced by star Tilda Swinton, Io sono l’amore (I Am Love) (2009) is far more than just another family drama, writes Otilia Ilie.

The movie tells the story of a wealthy, industrial family in Milan, the Reccchis – the story is centred around the brave-yet-delicate Emma (Swinton), the Russian wife of Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) who leads a noble, elegant and empty life, surrounded by servants in an austere house, and spends her time doing little more than organizing family dinners.

Emma has lost her sparkle, is taken for granted by the whole family, and is losing sight of true real self: ‘When I moved to Milan, I stopped being Russian…I had to learn to be Italian.’

But change is coming, on all levels, as the owner of the family’s textile business, Edoardo Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) decides to leaves everything to his son, Tancredi and his oldest grandson, the sensitive Edo (Flavio Parenti).

Emma finds out that her daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) ‘likes’ girls, the business is faced with globalization, and her son’s new friend, the shy and talented chef Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) seems to stir something in her. The new passion seems set to finally reveal her real identity, but at what cost?

Excellent performances and expressively emotional cinematography from Yorick Le Saux portray family secrets, passion and the transformational power of love – the power to admit who you really are and to break free from the oppression of an Italian bourgeoisie opulent life.

While the set-up may appear to be achingly familiar (I mean, how many times have we had ‘older woman finds redemption with younger man’?), the passion, both implicit and explicit at the story’s core, nevertheless imbues the film with a fresh, invigorating perspective.

The music by John Adams is also in perfect agreement with Emma’s reawakened awareness and, while the narrative may seem at times to be simplistic, with only Swinton’s expressions telling the story, you just can’t help but admire the art behind the film.

120 mins. In Italian, Russian and English.

30 July, 2010

Talleres Clandestinos (2010)

The European Film Academy (EFA) and the Curtas Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival offer their congratulations to the Vila do Conde Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards 2010.

Talleres Clandestinos, by Catalina Molina, is an Austrian/Argentinian production and tells the story of Juana, a young Bolivian woman, who goes to neighbouring Argentina to work as a seamstress, while her husband and child remain behind. But it doesn’t take long for the illusion of financial gain to burst – Juana is being exploited and must produce textiles for a luxury brand. Her employer’s demands become ever more absurd, and working conditions become unbearable. When her son becomes ill, Juana starts making plans to return but, as far as her employer is concerned, leaving is not an option...

The film is nominated for the European Film Academy Short Film 2010 award. It was selected by the festival’s jury for the national and international competition which was made up of Portuguese director/photographer Daniel Blaufuks, Laurent Guerrier, festival programmer from Clermont-Ferrand, and directors Balint Kenyeres (Hungary), Manuel Monzos (Portugal), and Katell Quillévéré (France).

The short film initiative is organised by the European Film Academy in co-operation with 15 film festivals throughout Europe. At each of these festivals, an independent jury presents one of the European short films in competition with a nomination in the short film category of the European Film Awards.

When the annual cycle is completed in September, the nominees will be presented to the more-than 2,000 members of the European Film Academy, who will choose the overall winner: the European Film Academy Short Film 2010, which will be presented at the 23rd European Film Awards Ceremony on 4 December in Tallinn, Estonia.

This article first appeared on the European Film Academy (EFA) website, and is reproduced here with the EFA's permission.

22 July, 2010

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

And what rough beast…?

Director Roman Polanski was honoured with the EFA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 - and this is still his best film.

Can it really be already 40 years since Roman Polanski’s paranoia classic proved that big-budget, intelligent and truly creepy horror had a place in mainstream (even Oscar-honoured) cinema? Time for a tribute, then, to one of the very best fright films ever made.

It has been claimed that, such is the fidelity of Polanski’s vision of Ira Levin’s original novel, if you’ve seen the film of Rosemary’s Baby, you don’t need to read the book, and vice versa.

It is this reviewer’s opinion that you’re missing out if you miss either of them – but, Polanski’s film, which numbers among the very best cinema adapations ever (and it was produced, amazingly enough, by 1950s and 60s schlock-meister William Castle) amounts to so much more than Ira Levin’s (admittedly very well-written and gripping) original novel.

It’s happy times for young couple Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) – he’s a talented but as yet under-employed theatre thesp looking for his break into movies, and she’s a beautiful, broody housewife delighted at the prospect of moving into their suite of rooms in The Bramford, a gloomily gothic but beautiful New York apartment building. Their former landlord, Hutch (Maurice Evans), is sad to see them go and, over a ‘last supper’, entertains them with tales of The Bramford’s creepy, even diabolical, history, which involves Satanists, dead infants and cannabalism. Rosemary and Guy don’t take his warnings seriously, of course – they’re getting the apartment for a song and, besides, bad things have happened in every old building, right?

Well, the first bad thing to happen during their new tenancy is the suicide of a young girl, Terry (Victoria Vetri), that Rosemary had been getting to know at laundry time. She had been a guest of Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer) Castevet, the Woodhouses’ next-door neighbours and, to help the Castevets get over their pain, Guy and Rosemary accept Minnie’s invitation to join them for dinner. The Castevets (and Minnie in particular) slowly become more involved in the Woodhouses’ lives and, when Rosemary falls pregnant after ‘Guy’ makes love to her when she’s ‘drunk’, things start to get really weird…

Forgive the somewhat vague synopsis – it’s there for the benefit of those who have not yet had the pleasure of seeing the film. And what a treat you have in store – a consummately brilliant, superbly acted study in (justified?) paranoia. Rosemary slowly becomes convinced that both her neighbours, and even her new gynecologist Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), who was hired for her at the insistence (and expense) of the Castevets, may have their own designs on her unborn child – when she discovers that Roman is the son of celebrated 19th-century Satanist Steven Macarto (‘the name’s an anagram’ – the message Hutch left Rosemary from his death-bed), it would appear that her worst fears are confirmed. She has no idea…

Ruth Gordon won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of a real neighbour from Hell (the first such gong to be awarded to a horror film since Frederic March scooped Best Actor in Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)), and the rest of the cast are exemplary but, what really makes the thing sing (or shriek) is Polanski’s profoundly witty and disturbing screenplay and direction.

As Stephen King wrote in Danse Macabre, Rosemary’s Baby can almost be read as an incredibly dark shaggy-dog story – ‘What have you done to his eyes?’, Rosemary shrieks at the climax. Roman’s response? ‘He has his father’s eyes.’

A marvel – and, as with classics such as Psycho (1960), The Great Escape (1963) or Jaws (1975), it’s the sort of film that’s always worth just one more view. And, if you’ll excuse me, that’s exactly what I’m going to do now. See you at The Bramford…

PS. The Dakota, located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York City, was the actual building Polanski used for the exterior shots of The Bramford (and it’s been steam-cleaned since the film was made, which unfortunately makes it look a good deal less creepy). John Lennon once lived there with Yoko Ono – on its steps, on 8 December 1980, the Beatle was murdered.

Awards: Click here for details.

136 mins.

17 July, 2010

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)

A thing of darkness...

In 1999, renowned Italian composer Ennio Morricone was honoured with an EFA Liftime Achievement Award - we pay tribute to a truly creepy film that featured one of his creepiest scores.

Late 2009 provided a rare chance for certain upper-echelon critics to admit they got it wrong at the time, as they tend to do (get it wrong, that is, not own up and retract) with all the very best horror (Peeping Tom (1960), anyone?) – in a master stroke, presumably to celebrate, erm, the 27 years that had passed since its original release, John Carpenter’s masterpiece of paranoia, suspense, still-incredible S/FX and terror, The Thing (1982), was briefly re-released in UK cinemas.

And those critics of the time? Virtually to a man (with the notable exception of horror historian Alan Frank and, more recently, Anne Billson, who wrote a superb appreciation of the film for BFI Modern Classics) they slammed it – to be fair, the last truly great horror boom was in full swing, and one might forgive some commentators for being a little jaded with the blood-and-guts excesses of films such as Friday the 13th (1980), The Burning (1981) etc, and it was the same year as Spielberg’s mega-smash ‘cuddly alien’ E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982), but they missed so much in what is now rightly regarded as one of the 20th century’s landmark horror films, with shape-shifting effects from Rob Bottin (accomplished way before the days of CGI) that are still jaw-dropping.

Bill Lancaster’s tight and spare screenplay, a brilliant adaptation of John W. Campbell’s 1930s sci-fi short story Who Goes There?, focuses on the paranoia of an enclosed group, facing the fact that one (or more) of their number is a monster in hiding, with remarkable characterizations from the all-male cast, each of which provides a nuanced, subtle evocation of their reaction to the deteriorating situation. Backed up beautifully by Ennio Morricone's haunting, singular soundtrack, this is the real deal.

Alcoholic ‘copter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) becomes the group’s reluctant leader, gradually transforming into Everyman as the implications of the infection become apparent – basically, the thing has big plans, but it didn’t count on Mac…

Macready: I know I’m human. And if you were all these things, then you’d just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This thing doesn’t want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It’ll fight if it has to, but it’s vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it’s won.

In fact, it is Dr. Blair (a wonderfully manic Wilford Brimley) who first realizes the enormity of what the group (Nauls (T.K. Carter), Palmer (David Clennon), Childs (Keith David), Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart), Norris (Charles Hallahan), Bennings (Peter Maloney), Clark (Richard Masur), Garry (Donald Moffat), Fuchs (Joel Polis), Windows (Thomas Waites)) is facing, but he quickly develops his own agenda (he goes stir-crazy), leaving Macready to take up the cudgels against their extraterrestrial ‘guest’.

The story was also the inspiration for the Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks/Orson Welles (?) film The Thing from Another World (1951) which, while still a thrilling sci-fi epic, reduced the monster to James Arness running around in a Boris Karloff-esque outfit and dispensed entirely with the paranoia elements essential to Carpenter’s vision.

The film forms part of Carpenter’s self-proclaimed ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ (the other two being In the Mouth of Madness (1995) and Prince of Darkness (1987)), and, even though he is the director who redefined horror with works such as Hallowe’en (1978) and The Fog (1980), The Thing was without question his finest hour. Arguably the first film to incorporate horror and a ‘whodunnit’ theme, it’s full of intricate, ambiguous detail. Who was the shadow on the wall? Who was first infected? Who stole the keys? Who survives? Well, that would be telling…

Childs: What do we do now?
MacReady: Why don’t we just wait here for a little while… see what happens…

Horror of horrors, a ‘companion piece’ prequel is now being promised for 2011. Now, there’s a scary thought…

Awards: Click here for details.

109 mins.