An extraordinary moral fable about the awakening of conscience amidst the scrambling, underground economy of Seraing, a ravaged town on the banks of the Meuse river in French-speaking southern Belgium. Roger is an overweight man with demonic energy who desperately loves and furiously dominates his 15-year-old son, Igor. Together they live in a post-industrial limbo and exploit illegal immigrants by providing them with false papers, flophouses, and off-the-books construction work. The film's style and structure are spontaneous, brazen, and energetic - drawing excellent performances from mostly unknown actors while allowing for emotionally significant events to transpire in wide unbroken shots. This is the third feature outing by brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. The Dardennes were born and raised in Seraing and, for more than 20 years, made socially conscious Leftist documentaries on labor issues and Nazi resistance in Belgium. Their first feature film to find an American distributor, "La Promesse" updates the immediacy of the postwar Italian Neo-Realist movement with an enhanced sense of the struggle for dignity and moral redemption in a shattered homeland. Best Foreign Language Film winner of both the 1997 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards and the 1997 National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA.
Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman was born in Nazareth in 1960 but spent 12 years in a self-imposed exile in New York. In "Chronicle of a Disappearance" he returns to the land of his birth to search for his roots with something akin to a visual diary. The film is divided into two parts: the first section presents a series of impressionistic and lyrical vignettes of family and community, the second part gives way to a surreal narrative that communicates the heartache of Jerusalem. Film critic Robert Horton says, "Chronicle of Disappearance succeeds as an surprisingly watchable comedy, like a travelogue slide show presented by a deadpan Jim Jarmush. Is it a political film? It would be impossible for a movie made in Palestine to avoid political overtones entirely, but Suleiman's style maintains an abstract, sardonic distance - he scores his points with a gentle touch." "Chronicle of a Disappearance" played at Sundance and the Museum of Modern Art's New Director / New Films series. It received a prize for best first feature film at the 1996 Venice Film Festival and won the New Director's Showcase Special Jury Prize at the 1997 Seattle International Film Festival. Palestine, 1996.
The Unfinished Liberation Conference is bringing a series of documentaries and events to campus that are free and open to all. It includes a Friday Film Forum presentation of documentaries on Policing, Violence and Prisons that will begin screening films at multiple locations on campus, Friday, March 13th, from 1 - 7 PM. An evening film panel with noted documentarians Christine Choy, Ed Guerrero, Gloria Rolando, and Lee Lew-Lee will follow from 7 - 9 PM. Late Friday night screenings will be held from 9 - 11 PM. Screening of films will be repeated on Saturday. The documentaries that will be showing are as follows: All Power to the People: The Black Panther Party and Beyond. An examination of radical activism in the late '60's and early '70's. (1 hr, 55 min.) Black and Blue. A look at police brutality in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (58 min.) Defending our Lives. Focusing on the lives of eight woman incarcerated for killing their abusive spouses. (no running time available as of this writing) Eyes of the Rainbow. Subject: Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party who is now in political exile in Cuba. (47 min.), Live from Death Row. Subject: Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther Party member and journalist who is now awaiting execution on death row. (27 min.) Massacre at Octeal, Chiapas. A work-in-progress about the December, 1997 massacre of indigenous Mexicans supporting the Zapatista's land rights. (15 min.) No! Examines sexual abuse and black women. (20 min.) Resistance Conspiracy. A look at a network of underground groups that claimed responsibility for a series of bombings of government and military buildings in 1983-85. (40 min.) A Shot Heard 'Round the World. Examines the tragic 1997 murder of Japanese exchange student Yoshi Hattori in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Based on true events, "Mrs. Brown" sets itself into motion in 1864, when England's Queen Victoria (Judy Dench) is still reeling from the deep depression caused by the loss of Prince Albert three years earlier. The Windsor staff entreats one of Albert's favorite servants from a Scottish retreat at Balmoral to lure the Queen back into some physical activity, little foreseeing how the entrance of the kilt-wearing, brash, outspoken hunting guide and commoner, John Brown (Billy Connoly), will dramatically change the tone around the palace. A deep friendship blossoms between the Queen and her servant, causing rumors to circulate that threaten the very future of the monarchy. Judi Dench and Billy Connolly have received much acclaim for their powerful chemistry together and garnered similar praise for bringing the kind of elegance and passion to a love story that has not been seen since Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn lit up the screen in "The Lion in Winter." Billy Connolly received a 1998 Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for his performance. Judi Dench won a 1998 Golden Globe for her performance and, as of this writing, just received an Academy Award nomination.
Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov is committed to the tradition of psychological realism. He will manipulate an image as it is being filmed but feels it is wrong to manipulate it afterwards with, for example, a computer. "Mother and Son" illustrates both of these points by tackling grief with a purity of cinema seldom seen; it is visual poetry wherein sound (wind, rustling, footsteps, whispers) and song (soft classical passages of Romantic music) are applied delicately. Sokurov's creations of nature (thin brush strokes on glass in both the foreground and background of the camera) work in a similar way and integrate perfectly with the actual scenery as light and shadow alternate their own subtle blend onto the scenes. "Sokurov's films define a new form of spiritual cinema. Sokurov mixes elements of Transcendental Style - austerity of means, disparity between environment and activity, decisive moment, stasis - with other traditions; visual aestheticism, meditations, and Russian mysticism. 'Mother and Son,' Sokurov's latest feature, was shown at the Berlin, Cannes, Telluride, and New York film festivals. It explores, with very little dialogue, the final day of a dying mother and a devoted son; 73 heart-aching, luminescent minutes of pure cinema. Sokurov is a master." - Paul Schrader (writer of "Taxi Driver" and "The Last Temptation of Christ").
One of the most acclaimed films at Cannes, "Welcome to Sarajevo" is a potent and shocking story of life in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. Director Michael Winterbottom (Butterfly Kiss, Jude) takes an unflinching look at a drama based on the memoirs of journalist Michael Nicholson. Stephen Dillane and Woody Harrelson star as war correspondents with different backgrounds who struggle to stay alive while reporting on the devastation that surrounds them. While the press struggles with its own battles of objectivity they also help render understandable the Bosnian political situation (actual news footage is mixed in with the drama). Film critic Michael Atkinson says that Welcome to Sarajevo "is easily the most crucial and riveting film of its perhaps dubious genre, certainly running roughshod over, say, Salvador, Under Fire, The Year of Living Dangerously, or The Killing Fields. If that says little in the end, let it be recognized that Winterbottom is one of the very few filmmakers working in English who seems to be incapable of a boring shot, and keeps his imagery alive not through pyrotechnics or stylized design but via a dazzling fidelity to the nature of intense experience. He may well be the only commercial director to whom a 'moral cinema' is possible."
A Latin comedy that gives socialist life in Cuba a nudge with whimsical sweetness and a touch of magical realism. Guantanamera is co-directed by Juan Carlos Tabio and the late Tomas Gutierrez Alea (who passed away during its filming), the team that produced the Cuban comedy "Strawberry and Chocolate." Alea was a well known satirist who will be fondly remembered for, among other accomplishments, his ironic 1968 masterpiece, "Memories of Underdevelopment." Guantanamera stars Alea's widow, Martha Ibarra as the wife of Adolfo (Carlos Cruz), a civil servant with a "brilliant" plan that will, hypothetically, save everyone some money. The plan calls for each town to share the financial burden of transporting corpses through a relay system of vehicles along the funeral route to that no one town gets stuck with the full tab. Adolfo gets to put his untested scheme to the test when his elderly Aunt promptly dies. But the bureaucratic nightmares and mishaps pile up and his marriage is pushed to the edge. Whether you enjoy decoding a film for its political message or simply like to enjoy a vibrant film full of life and revealing details, Guantanamera is full of disarming humor, emotion, and grace. Winner of the Best Foreign Film at the 1996 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival.
This uncompromising debut feature by Sandrine Veysset (a 30-year-old art director's assistant) captured France's Best Picture Cesar last year and is being lauded for the quality of its realism. The film explores the grim and desperate life of a single mother and her seven children on a farm in the French countryside. Shot on location in the farmlands of the rural south over the consecutive seasons of summer, autumn, and winter, the film avoids any specific historical associations and works with an almost fairy-tale logic that caused Cahiers du Cinema to favorably dub the film a kind of "Snow White, The Ogre, and the Seven Dwarfs." Veysset emphasizes that she "really wanted to talk about manual labor, because I feel you never see it on screen, or not very often. Labor couldn't be anecdotal, I wanted to show its internal rhythm and the exertion it causes. The main characters are completely immersed in work, and it modifies their personality. I wanted the audience to feel as if it was visiting these people. I needed to show the lack of material comfort, along with a certain human warmth generated by the family." The result mixes a verite style with a world of archetypes and bravely steeps the viewer in a landscape of textures that do not often frequent the silver screen.
As one of the most original filmmakers around, Errol Morris, the creator of A Brief History of Time, The Thin Blue Line, Vernon, Florida, and Gates of Heaven, needs virtually no introduction. In this, his latest film, he dices together interviews with four obsessive men who work in wildly different fields: a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, a mole-rat specialist, and a robot scientist. Amazingly, these disparate fields start to slowly yield a cohesive narrative that says a heck of a lot more about humans in general than it does about lions, shrubs, rats, or robots. Utilizing the talents of Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson ("Natural Born Killers," "Casino"), Morris works with numerous film formats and resolutions - including black and white, color, 35 mm, 16 mm, Super-8, video, and stock footage - to create a dynamic vision that probes deeply into what it means to be human. The film was also shot with the use of Morris' invention, the Interrotron, which allows his subjects to look directly into the camera lens and, at the same time, have eye contact (through an image projected on a teleprompter) with Morris. The exploration of "a world of pure ideas" (as Morris puts it) becomes its own obsession via documentary sleuthing, but one that is both fun and thought-provoking.
When Westword named EYE FOR AN I CINEMA as Colorado's "Best Showcase for Unknown Filmmakers" in 1994, no one could have predicted the heights to which the fledgling festival would soar. Since that time, EYE FOR AN I has distinguished itself as the premiere showcase for short, independent, Colorado-made films. The work on display in this venue is fiercely non-Hollywood, funded most often from the artists' own pockets. Yet despite their small scale, several of these productions have received prestigious honors like the Student Oscar (reg. trademark sign here), the CINE Golden Eagle, and even a place on Film Comment's "Ten Best Films of the Year" list. At tonight's special screening, EYE FOR AN I producer Brock McDaniel will reach beyond Colorado's borders to host a collection of cutting-edge independent film & video from two of America's hottest creative hubs: Seattle and Austin. Alternately funny, angry, frightening, and sexy, these movies represent the best in short-form narrative, documentary, animation, and experimentalism. When you add to this selection the seldom-seen pre-El Mariachi short by Robert Rodriguez, Bedhead, the message of EYE FOR AN I CINEMA comes into sharp focus - these filmmakers don't stay unknown for long.
Boni (Gregoire Colin) is a 19-year-old who works in a pizzeria in Marseilles and has violently erotic fantasies toward the baker's wife. Nénette (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) is his 15-year-old sister who escapes a boarding school to visit her brother when she becomes pregnant. With a strangely dreamlike and suggestive quality refreshingly void of verbal exposition the film tackles the dynamics between the siblings who are reunited for the first time in years Both actors won Silver Leopard best acting prizes at the Locarno Film Festival for their skillful and unsentimental performances. World Affairs Conference stalwart Roger Ebert notes the following: "Claire Denis, born in French Africa, is a director who seems drawn to stories about characters who want to build families out of unconventional elements. I have never forgotten the haunting emotional need in her first film 'Chocolat' (1988), about a mother and daughter living in an isolated African outpost, the father absent, and finding themselves drawn to an African foreman whose ability and stability offered reassurance. With 'Nénette et Boni,' she makes a more delicate film. She feels affection for the characters, especially Boni, and is very familiar with them." This gorgeously shot film was nominated for Best Foreign Film by the Independent Spirit Awards and also won the Best Picture Golden Leopard award at the 1996 Locarno International Film Festival.
Director Alexander Rosler, himself a Jewish refugee from Germany, arrived in Norway in the 1950's. The film's atmosphere is taken from Rosler's childhood, but the funny, warm, and coming-of-age story of how nine-year-old Mendel comes to terms with his displaced status as a German Jew in a remote Norwegian town is itself fictitious. The film takes place in 1954, a time when refugees were as exotic in Norway as a displaced Aurora Borealis shimmering off the coast of Mexico. While Mendel agonizes over the peculiarities of the Norwegians, he also discovers that life is not simple among the Jews either. For Mendel's family the war is still a daily and nightly reality. The cast is comprised of experienced German and Norwegian actors who are fluent in both languages and make this delicate treatment full of strong emotions all the more gripping and real. Mendel premiered at the 1997 Berlin Film Festival.
Fallen Angels is Wong Kar-Wai's fifth feature, and in it he presents a wildly stylized and soulful gangster film populated by extravagant characters: an anonymous assassin; the woman who manages his hits; a youth who can't or won't speak and who breaks into stores by night; a strange blonde woman who goes after the killer; and a young man who films his elderly father on video. It is strikingly photographed with light-smearing energy by Kar-Wai's long-time Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. J. Hoberman of the Village Voice notes the following: "Half of Fallen Angels takes place in a monsoon; the rest is set in a pungent series of lovingly selected locations (deserted subway stations, an empty McDonald's, 24-hour noodle joints, impossibly narrow apartments, entropic dives where the jukebox plays Laurie Anderson).... Shot entirely at night and mainly in wide angle - Christopher Doyle's camera racing down rain-slicked Nathan Road or positioning itself an inch from a performer's face - Fallen Angels is suffused with nostalgia for the present. As the director told one interviewer, his evocation of the 1960's, Days of Being Wild was the 'reinvention of the disappeared world,' while Fallen Angels attempts 'to seal some of the existing images onto the negative, while they are still there." Fallen Angels was nominated at the 1996 Hong Kong Film Awards in nine categories and won three of those in the fields of Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Film Score.
Distribution is a huge issue in film exhibition these days. One of the reasons Hollywood can grease by just about any shlock project and turn a buck is related to its pre-established and cross-promotional monopolies (books, toys, fast-food, soundtracks, etc.). Of course, that leaves many foreign and local independent filmmakers completely out in the cold. In an effort to rectify this situation, there are some grass-roots experiments going on that give original voices and visions their own means of expression. Flixtour is one such project, and the goal is a noble one that has filmmakers traveling across the land to talk with live audiences about their film . It gives the filmmaker a little money and exposure and also gives the audience the chance to see something totally new and interact with people who are making their films by any means possible. MovieMaker publisher Tim Rhys says "I consider Flixtour the most important new independent film series in the country.... Flixtour is providing a badly needed forum for independent filmmakers whose art is not currently finding an audience through traditional outlets. " For the film Guinea Men writer/director Tom LeGros draws on his own experiences as a human lab rat while trying to earn easy cash at the local medical research facility in order to tell a story of social misfits who are subjected to a series of timed functions dictated by a loud speaker. The film brings to mind comparisons to THX1138 with a touch of horror. All the editing and sound composition for Guinea Men took place on a personal home computer, and Tom conformed his own negative in his apartment living room. Those with internet access can find out more about Flixtour at: http://www.flixtour.com.
Before Trey Parker and Matt Stone found fame and fortune as the creators of South Park, they worked on a film that was destined to slowly create its own cult following - there is even a movement afoot to give it the kind of live-audience treatment formerly reserved to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The film deals with Colorado's own Alferd Packer, the only person in the United States to have been convicted of cannibalism. As the trailer says: "It's Friday the 13th: Part II meets Oklahoma." The C.U. Film Studies Program is well represented with cameos by various people from our department (Stan Brakhage, Don Yannacito, Jerry Aronson), but ultimately, it is the students who actually put together the film that are the stars. Producer/Actor Jason McHugh is excited about bringing the film back to its original stomping grounds and, as of this writing, plans to attend the screenings (but as producer of Parker's latest film, "Orgazmo," his schedule has been pretty nutty). Although Cannibal: The Musical has played the Denver Film Festival, Slamdance (twice!), and even enjoyed a run on Showtime cable, it is only recently that it was finally struck onto a 35mm print. So here it is - "Alferd Packer: The Musical" transferred onto 35 mm film for the first time in all its goofy, gory, glory with two midnight slots to welcome it back to the land of Packer.
Every year at the Sundance Film Festival one title stands out among the large selection of quality entries and achieves "the crown." This is not just a reference to the awards, of which Sunday won two at Sundance (including the Grand Jury Prize), but rather to the overall buzz afforded to it by the crowds in attendance. Sunday went beyond the hype and proved itself a strong film with a lot of heart that takes a poetic, tragicomic look at two middle-aged people who happen to meet one day and end up helping each other along with a bit of fantasy. Oliver (David Suchet) is a former IBM employee who has been downsized and left homeless. Madeleine (Lisa Harrow) is a dejected actress who mistakes him for a director. Oliver, flattered at the idea and attracted to Madeleine, plays along and they both develop a fragile accord that shifts their hopes for a career alongside dreams of personal redemption. The powerful performances work on multiple levels and propel the film along a narrow line wherein the spectator is left unsure as to whether Oliver and Madeleine are engaged in something beautiful or destructive.
Bob Flanagan was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child. He also learned to eroticize pain and become one of the longest-living survivors of the incurable lung disease. This fascinating documentary provides ample insight into the psychological dynamics of sado-masochism but is probably more poignant for its detailed account of how one man dealt with a fast impending death sentence. The film is all the more admirable for managing to feel like a true collaboration with its protagonist, showing both his humor and pathos with unflinching honesty. There has been an incredible amount of praise surrounding this documentary, and each glowing review is also careful to warn any potential audience that "Sick: The life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist" is not for everyone. Some viewers have complained that the critics are guilty of elitism for giving a film such high praise only to scare off potential audience members with a laundry-list of disclaimers. It's an interesting point but I feel I need to position myself alongside the critics, so let me reiterate their point thusly; if you can handle actual footage of a man nailing his penis to a wooden board along with a slew of other such sadistic acts then you'll make it through this film - and it will be well worth it. But make no mistake, the reason to see this documentary is not to impress others with your mental stamina or to get some kind of exploitational buzz from an imagined sideshow. The reason to see this documentary is to witness one of the most revealing films you will ever see about our own mortality. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.
Before abandoning his native Holland for Hollywood, director Paul Verhoeven ("Robocop," "Basic Instinct") flunked Fantasy 101 in a 1983 movie called "The Fourth Man." Small wonder: Rationalists and inheritors of a spare Calvinist world view, the Dutch make their mark with a precisely observed naturalism - like old Flemish paintings (Van Gogh was an insane exception), the ones with the intricately detailed lace collars. Not surprisingly, their forte in films is documentary. Now along comes a young filmmaker named Alex van Warmerdam to prove that you can fuse moody doc-like images with black comedy and a good story line and come up with a top-notch movie called "The Dress." In a twisted casting decision, Van Warmerdam himself perversely plays the unappealing train ticket-taker de Smet, who follows pretty young things home and imposes himself, to say the least. Due to unaccountable acts of fate, all of the victims are wearing the same patterned dress. This truly unique film is charmingly cruel, hilarious and refreshingly politically incorrect - all at the same time. / Howard Feinstein, The New York Post. "The Dress" won the Dutch Film Critics Award at the 1996 Dutch Film Festival as well as the FIPRESCI Award at the 1996 Venice Film Festival.