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.