Great review of OSLO, AUGUST 31st from AFI FEST 2011.
Post(s) tagged with "AFI FEST"
AFI FEST presented by Audi was a resounding success this year, and it couldn’t have happened without our patrons and sponsors, an army of volunteers, top of the line venues, visiting filmmakers and, of course, enthusiastic festival goers. We extend our deepest thanks to all of you and look forward to seeing you at AFI FEST 2012!
Our Audience Awards were announced at a special ceremony at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Thursday.
World Cinema: (Tie) JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (David Gelb) and KINYARWANDA (Alrick Brown)
New Auteurs: BULLHEAD (Michaël R. Roskam)
Young Americans: WUSS (Clay Liford)
Breakthrough: (Award accompanied by a $ 5,000 cash prize) WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT (Alexandra-Therese Keining)
Our New Auteurs Critic’s Jury (Justin Chang, Mike Goodridge, Mark Olsen and Jean Oppenheimer) awarded prizes to:
Grand Jury Prize: THE LONELIEST PLANET (Julia Loktev)
Special Jury Prize: ATTENBERG (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
Acting Award Prize: BULLHEAD’s Matthias Schoenaerts
In addition, our Shorts Jury (Barry Jenkins, Gerardo Naranjo and Kim Yutani) announced its winners, which qualify the films for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Academy Awards.
Grand Jury Prize – Live Action Short: FROZEN STORIES (Grzegorz Jaroszuk); Honorable Mention: BABYLAND (Marc Fratello)
Grand Jury Prize – Animated Short: THE EAGLEMAN STAG (Michael Please); Honorable Mention: THE VOYAGERS (Penny Lane)
THANKS TO OUR COMMUNITY SUPPORTERS
The Actors’ Network, APA First Weekend Film Club, Asian Professional Exchange (APEX), The Association of Media and Entertainment Counsel (AMEC), Australians in Film, California Lawyers for the Arts, Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE), Consulate General of Austria in Los Angeles, Consulate General of Belgium, Consulate General of Brazil in Los Angeles, Consulate General of Chile in Los Angeles, Consulate General of France in Los Angeles, Film & TV Office, Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles, Consulate General of Israel Los Angeles, Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary in Los Angeles, Consulate General of Turkey, Consulate of Spain in Los Angeles, Dance Camera West, DIVA Diverse and Inclusionary Artists, EGEDA, Embassy of Sweden, Film at REDCAT, Gelson’s Cultural and Promotional Affairs, German Consulate General in Los Angeles, GLAAD, Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, Hola Mexico Film Festival, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), Iranianhotline.com, The Japan Foundation, Japanese External Trade Organization, Los Angeles (JETRO), Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles, Korean Film Council (KOFIC), LACMA Muse, Latino Leaders, Latino Weekly Review, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Filmforum, Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, NAACP, NewFilmmakers LA, Noor Film Festival, Outfest, Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF), Polish Film Festival Los Angeles, Quebec Govt Office, Royal Danish Embassy, Royal Norwegian Consulate, Russian-American Business and Arts Council, SAG Affirmative Action and Diversity, Screamfest Horror Film Festival, South African Consulate General, South East European Film Festival, Los Angeles, UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies, UCLA Extension Entertainment and Performing Arts, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, UCLA G.E. von Grunebaum Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA Latin American Institute, uniFrance, University of Guadalajara Foundation, Visual Communications (VC) and Women in Film
By Katie Datko
One day that’s strongly etched in my memory of childhood is when I was first introduced to Tintin at age seven. It was a sunny Saturday in Georgetown. My dad took me to Olsson’s Bookstore and he bought me Hergé’s The Secret of the Unicorn (1943). Initially I was more fascinated by the Asterix and Cleopatra book he’d also picked up (mostly because I was in love with the colorful pages and her dresses). But after we got home and I snuggled into my dad’s lap (a rare occasion), I was quickly enrapt by Tintin.
Maybe it was the realistic way my dad read Captain Haddock’s blustery lines (similar characters they were) or Red Rackham’s red-plumed costume, but from that day on, Tintin became a personal source of inspiration. With each colorfully drawn page, I was introduced to the complexities and intrigue of a world beyond my suburban life, the fire of my desire to explore and travel stoked by a teenage boy wearing outmoded plus fours with a funny tuft of hair. To say that I’ve read each Tintin book I own about 100 times is an understatement. Some of them I can probably quote from memory.
It’s with this love of all things Tintin that I went into the North American premiere of the Spielberg/Jackson THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN with extreme misgivings. From what I could glean about the movie beforehand, key elements of the plot had been altered and spicier villains created from minor characters. My fear was that the Hollywood rendering of Hergé’s creations would alter the prescient and clever adroitness of his stories and the complexities of his plots. Even with talented screenwriter Steven Moffat (DOCTOR WHO) on the project, I didn’t trust that something as treasured as Tintin would make the translation to film intact. Instead, I fretted that I’d be treated to a one-dimensional superhero sailing off into a clichéd sunset while listening to the ubiquitous John Williams score.
I had to consciously release my expectations, breathe deeply and just let myself enjoy the film for what it was. Tintin, after all, can never really be justly interpreted on the screen. Even THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN television series of the early ’90s—dutifully created from panels in the books—somehow falls short. There is nothing to compare to Hergé’s masterful use of the gutter (the space between frames) to propel the action of the story forward. On this score, animation will always leave little to the imagination by filling in these mental gaps for us.
So, my first pleasant surprise with the film was the sets. Spielberg and company have crafted a colorful world that rings true to the comic while at the same time adds a degree of depth that drew me into the action. In this, the construction of a Tintinesque realm, Spielberg has succeeded in toto. Although at times there were scenes that could have been taken directly out of Indiana Jones, there were also some inventive action sequences. One of the most intricate was a single “take” of a chase through the byzantine streets of the fictional (most likely North African) port of Bagghar. My personal favorite was the use of creative dissolves while Captain Haddock describes his ancestor Sir Francis Haddock’s fight with the pirate Red Rackham. Executed with a crackerjack sense of timing there was an unforced and seamless transition between the stories.
Like most adaptations these days, the film takes liberties with the plot, changing original characters and collapsing the stories of three books (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure) into one mega-adventure. For me, as a Tintin purist, it is all too easy to denigrate this. Some elements of the plots have been simplified in the film and I found myself mentally fashioning more elaborate storylines based on my knowledge of the books.
But for the Tintin neophyte, the melding of these stories makes the narrative a little more accessible, following the established rhythm of a modern action film and more closely aligning with what kids in the 21st century expect. In particular, substituting the drug-running plot in the The Crab with the Golden Claws with the search for the Unicorn’s hidden treasure brought a more positive focus to the adventure.
Another update to the classic is a deeper backstory for Captain Haddock and a more well-rounded sense of who Tintin is as a character. Despite a few moments in the film when Tintin uncharacteristically shows a bit of self-doubt (a Spielberg rather than Hergé touch), the characters’ mannerisms, language and personality are elaborations that do not detract too much from the original—revised enough to appeal to a new generation of fans but not so far gone so as to be unrecognizable.
The overall verdict from the point of view of a Tintin geek is this: unless you are the most ardent aficionado hellbent on finding fault with the film, you will find THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN attention grabbing, entertaining and lively. It’s a pleasant diversion with several humorous and identifiable nods to the original. For a generation of American kids raised on 3D animation and video games who haven’t been introduced to the pleasures of reading of Tintin, seeing the film might motivate them to pick up the comic books and become immersed in Hergé’s slower-paced yet complex creations.
By returning to the source they will have a chance not only to see the world through the eyes of a master of the graphic novel, but also to learn about and gain a deeper understanding of other cultures and issues that are still relevant today. They might just be inspired to strike off on adventures of their own. All because of a teenage boy who, while now updated in 3D, never becomes outdated.
Katie Datko is an LA-based writer who has written for the L.A. Weekly, DailyOm.com and the LohDown on Science.
By Paul T. Bradley
Béla Tarr has been called one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers. His films have their own pace, their own rhythm, and at times, a very forced perspective on some very intricate details in time. In watching them, you may find yourself rapt in the repetition of people doing what people do. You may find yourself transcending what may sound boring, into a higher echelon of visual poetry—Tarr showing you a woman’s daily trip to the well may indeed beatify banality. He is, after all, unlocking the logic of the universe before your very eyes with the power of his camera.
Sadly for all of his fans, Mr. Tarr is not touching that camera again—he has said that THE TURIN HORSE will be his last film. Simply asking him “Why?” does not suffice for an intellect of his caliber. He doesn’t like to repeat himself, and he feels that he has said everything he wants to say with film. What do you ask a man who is tired of answering questions, and just wants to get on with the mere living of life?
Mr. Tarr was nice enough to answer just a few more questions for me, even though the drudgery of festival touring was, admittedly, beginning to wear on him.
Q. Your film THE TURIN HORSE is based on a somewhat important philosophical event. What is your experience with philosophy?
I have never been a philosopher. I have never studied philosophy. When I was young I wanted to be a philosopher, but life was different. In the end, I never went to university and I never studied philosophy, but everything in life connected me to film. I became a filmmaker and now I am a former filmmaker.
Q. Ah, that’s right, this is your last film and now you are a Former Filmmaker? What about becoming a philosopher now?
No. Not now. When you need reading glasses, your life is totally changed there less of a chance for philosophy. To be a philosopher you need to read everything, newspapers, magazines, books—you must know a lot of things…not a lot of things: everything about the world and the whole universe. And that is if you really want to be a real philosopher and not just someone who just takes notes on Heidegger or something. For me, I am too lazy, too old, and too tired to start to understand the whole universe. But, I am fine with that.
Q. And you are okay with that? Well, you seem to understand the details of people very well. Maybe you don’t need to read to be a philosopher.
That’s what I like: to be with the people, to understand them, to follow them and to show them with all of my sensibilities and my knowledge…and I have to show them with tenderness. That’s what I used to do. And now I don’t.
Q. Well, you could always be a bartender now?
No. No. It is totally different.
Q. How are you going to spend your days now, then? I don’t want to harp on you for your retirement. I know you don’t like to repeat yourself.
My day always depends on the situation. Normally I am listening, except in the interviews. Now I am talking.
Q. Well, I could just talk to you, then?
Yes, that might be much more interesting.
Q. Ha! I highly doubt that. In watching your films, the music always plays a crucial role in punctuation. Do you spend a lot of time with musicians, how have musicians influenced your work?
Yes. Our composer…I have worked with him since 1983, we have been friends for such a long time. I do go to his concerts and to his rock ‘n roll shows. When we work, though, we never talk about the arts or the craft, we talk about life. Life is much more interesting than art. I have lots of friends who are critics and artists. But you are stupid if you are only talking about film or music. It’s nice to talk about food or architecture.
Q. Do you talk about the future?
Of the world?
Q. Sure. Especially.
First of all, I am not a prophet. I am not into judging. I cannot say, “This world is good, this world is bad.” This is our creation. Your creation and my creation. That’s what we cooked and we have to eat. The problem is, maybe sometimes we cooked something wrong and our creation is a piece of shit. Because people never respect each other. People never respect human dignity. They never respect nature. They do not respect anything that is eternal. They just always want to use the world for daily life. Just to have it. They do not learn. Maybe I felt this way when I was young, but now I prefer to share—not just have it. But maybe you need age to learn these things.
Q. But THE TURIN HORSE might be seen as showing bleakness in growing older, or a bleakness with age.
Why do they always use this word “bleakness”? What does bleakness mean for you?
Q. Bleakness may imply an inevitable absolute darkness, and I, personally don’t believe in an absolute darkness, an absolute end.
I really don’t like this “bleak” word. Because I really just made a movie about the logic of life. What is happening? You are always doing your daily routine. Every day is different, you do the same, but every day, you are getting weaker, you have less and less energy, less and less hope. In the end, life just disappears. What we see now is life just disappears…you quietly slip away. There is not an apocalypse—the apocalypse is just a TV show. Of course, when you die, you will be alone. Of course, when you die, the darkness will be total. The film is talking about this. It is not talking about the conditions of the world. It is talking about the whole of life—which is, of course, unacceptable—we want to refuse and we hate. But fact is fact. It will come. That is why I don’t like saying “bleak.” Because I want to show this is the heaviest thing. When Kundera wrote The Unbearable Lightness of Being…I wanted to show the Heaviness of Being.
Q. So, if not bleakness then, just inevitability?
Q. How is it that you gained this perspective? Where do think it started?
I worked in a ship factory for my first film. I learned everything about people for that film. Then, film by film, I learned more. Now I just listen to people, and if you have empathy, this is a perfect universe.
Q. Do you have any sense that people may change, in a hundred years, or a thousand years?
I don’t know. I said I am not a prophet! I am just interested in what is there now. Right now. And right now I need to smoke a cigarette.
Q. After that, are you going to see any other films at the festival?
I always see the main ones. But, how can you compare films? How can you compare a Bresson film with a Hitchcock movie? Two different worlds in the same planet. This is why it is quite nice to always watch movies, because you can see how colorful the world is.
And with that, Bela Tarr went out to smoke a cigarette.
Many thanks Mr. Tarr. Best of luck facing your next stage of the inevitable. I promise not to call it retirement. Or bleak.
Paul T. Bradley is a freelance writer, cinephile and former ditch-digger. He is a regular contributor to LA Weekly’s arts section, where he covers haute nerdery, semi-refined vulgarity and hastily-scrawled, pro-Los Angeles jingoism. He reluctantly tweets from @paultbradley.
The 25th edition of AFI FEST presented by Audi concludes tonight, having screened more than 100 films from around the globe over the last eight days. Keep an eye on our Tumblr blog and Facebook page today: we’ll announce the recipients of our Audience Awards (for World Cinema, New Auteurs, Young Americans and Breakthrough sections). The winning films will be shown again today at the Egyptian Theater at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard at 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. We’ll also announce the winners chosen by our New Auteurs Critics Prize and Shorts juries.
ON THE RED CARPET
Our Closing Night Gala is the North American Premiere of director Steven Spielberg’s THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, based on the internationally beloved adventure comic series by Hergé about a young reporter and his loyal dog, who discover a model ship carrying an explosive secret. Starring Jamie Bell (BILLY ELLIOT) as Tintin and Daniel Craig (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) as the nefarious Red Rackham.
At Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Boulevard)
5:00 p.m. Press check-in
6:00 p.m. Red Carpet arrivals
7:00 p.m. Program begins
Expected appearances: Jamie Bell, Daniel Mays, screenwriter Edgar Wright and screenwriter Joe Cornish.
KINYARWANDA was honored with the AFI FEST World Cinema Audience Award; it will be opening theatrically December 2.
By Joey Ally
En route to meet Alrick Brown at the Roosevelt Hotel on a recent uncommonly blustery yet stereotypically sunny L.A. Sunday, I attempted to prepare myself for what would undoubtedly be a very serious conversation. Brown directed this year’s KINYARWANDA, the first Rwandan produced film on the 1994 genocide. Between that, his masters in education, his Peace Corps years in Côte d’Ivoire, the sociopolitical tone of much the rest of his filmic canon, and his NYU film grad pedigree—all by the age of 35—I figured he had to be one intense dude. Which he was. Only, not in the way I would have expected.
The man I met in Hollywood was formal neither in dress nor in any other way; he was a good-looking guy donning duds indicative of a New York fall—newsboy cap, oversized scarf, jeans—and it was immediately evident that, like his getup, this guy was effortless style with no frills. Similarly, any fear over interviewing an “artiste” was quickly dispelled—Brown is an artist, to be sure, but he’s an artist who proclaims on his own website, “There is a place where we can still dream…My porch is where my peoples and I chill, plan, and dream of the future. What is said on the porch ultimately becomes reality. It’s not magic, we just make it happen.” And, in his case, all metaphorical conceptual blahblahblah pretension aside, he really is talking about a porch—his mom’s porch—in Plainfield, New Jersey.
After sitting down and swapping the typical hodgepodge of prerecording pleasantries, Brown asked me, What is your dream? The question was so casual, so easy, so sincere, so direct—typically, I’d be flabbergasted into relative incoherence at receiving such a question from a filmmaker whose work I respect so immensely, but answering seemed perfectly natural—even after the three minutes or less we had known each other at this point, it already felt like we might as well be old friends chatting over coffee. In that moment, I received insight into exactly how an entirely Rwandan production team was able to trust this American outsider with their stories.
This was Brown’s most winning quality throughout the interview: his respect for human life on a macro level, writing and directing films that seek to change the world, trickles down into his behavior toward human beings on a micro level. On that Sunday, in a city notorious for ever-increasing fakery, the depth of Brown’s character shone through. (Incidentally, we laughed a bit sadly as the irony kicked in that we were sitting discussing African genocide in an interview suite with floor to ceiling windows facing Madame Tussauds). This is a man who believes in art, and believes in people, and believes in art as an agent of and for the people. Brown is the real deal.
Because Brown is only serious, only intense, about one thing: in his words, “the work.” He should be maddening—this guy decided one day to go to film school and was studying with Spike Lee one year later; his fervor for philanthropic artistry is so great that without his miraculously laid-back temperament he would surely topple over into sermonizing—and yet he’s stunningly likeable. I’m no less jaded and cynical than the next guy, but something about Brown strikes as unnervingly authentic—even as he’s discussing the moment he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker while sitting on a rock on a beach, or his coming from a “Hitchcock school of filmmaking,” or purporting that the Academy Award isn’t the ultimate goal (gasp!).
Initially allotted 20 minutes for the interview, Brown pushed commitments around to give us more time—he wanted to make sure I was able to get my story; 45 recorded minutes later, as I shook his hand in awe of all that had been communicated, all I could think was: this guy has devoted his entire life to helping other people with their stories, now he deserves to share his. Here is some of that story.
J.A.: The story of KINYARWANDA is by a Rwandan man, Ishmael Ntihabose. Can you tell me how you came to be linked up?
A.B..: When I went to NYU, one of my Peace Corps colleagues, Josh, ended up eventually working in Rwanda, and Ishmael was an aspiring filmmaker and genocide survivor. Josh hooked us up through email, said, “Ishmael if you want to know about filmmaking, this is the guy you need to talk to.”…I’m a filmmaker helper so I wanted to help. So I said, “Y’know, whatever you need I’ll help you out with.”… Eventually I ended up going to Rwanda to help him make this story.
J.A.: The intriguing aspect of what you’ve done here, is you’ve made a film about genocide with the people who suffered that genocide.
A.B.: This was a land woven of stories, and all I had to do was respect that. To tell a story that’s this crazy or tragic or this encompassing it’s actually better to focus on these individual characters and these people from their perspective. That’s probably a more truthful representation of any tragedy, as opposed to seeing one side versus the other in political accusation… I picked six stories and I started writing…. there was Lt. Rose, who was the president’s advisor at the time when I was in the country, and I sat with her to talk about her experiences. She helped end the war, y’know, she was one of the soldiers. And so that character is based on her, but the line that I took from her directly when I met her, she told me that when she went to Uganda and she came back her son didn’t recognize her. The moment she told me that I wrote it into the script.
J.A.: How did the screenplay actually come to exist? And, considering the production was almost entirely Rwandan, were there any rehearsal or mid-shooting edits made in collaboration with the cast and crew?
A.B.: My training taught me that the script is the bible, I’m a slave to the script, so I got it right on paper before we started shooting. We didn’t have any rehearsals, really. If I met you, the audition was the rehearsal, and then we got on set and we did it again… And my Assistant Director, he had never A.D.’d before, but he was a soldier in the war so I said, “you be my A.D.” So there’s an accuracy and a truth to that entire process.
J.A.: The film is almost stunningly non-violent for a film of this ilk—was that something you chose to do because of who you were doing the film for, or was that something that just came out through the writing and telling of the stories.
A.B.: I don’t believe that you change those situations by showing bodies and statistics. I believe that wars end and genocides are prevented when people are humanized…when one drop of blood is valuable, when one life is valuable, when you know the names of the people, when you see them as mothers, as sisters, as sons, as cousins, as uncles, and you laugh or they turn you on or they look sexy or they smile—that’s when it’s harder to drop a bomb or to swing an ax or a machete or… And I’m from a Hitchcock school of filmmaking…I think the psychology of violence is much more terrifying than actually showing it sometimes.
J.A.: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that there are a few different moments that you recall when you knew you wanted to be a filmmaker, one of which was at the slave castles of Elmina in Ghana. Can you talk a bit about why that experience was so transformative?
A.B.: I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the slave castles…these are where the slaves were housed for like 90 days before they got on the ships to go to the Americas. [A lengthy, horrifying description of sub-human dungeon conditions follows.] It’s a traumatic place, there’s a lot of stuff there… I was walking along a beach going to the next village, I kind of got lost, I started thinking about my life, I started thinking what if I died right now and nobody found me, and I was talking into this little tape recorder leaving a message to my mother and I just asked myself simply if I died doing something in this world what would it be. And I calculated everything I had done: the places I had lived, the languages I’d spoken, the things I wanted to do in this world, being a teacher, everything. And honestly, I sat on a rock, and film was the answer.
And it’s just like one of those things where you say it and everything made sense, every single thing I love about storytelling, wanting a bigger classroom—which is what a screen is for me…having an impact on people, knowing how to speak to people in a way that other people can’t. I know what I’m capable of; it was calculating all of that and then that moment I said “film school” and that was it. And I eventually found my way to the village I was going to and I got back to my country, which is Ivory Coast, and I started applying to film school. I had never made a film before.
J.A.: Well, I’m flabbergasted, so I’m going to go right back to the questions. The common thread between your films seems to be a focus on outsiders, largely immigrants, and it is interesting that you began your life as something similar—when did you come from Jamaica to New Jersey and do you feel that making that transition had an effect on the kind of storytelling you want to do?
A.B.: I came to the United States when I was five years old, and I think much more than being an immigrant it was the outsider thing or the underdog. We moved into a black neighborhood, and I remember being ridiculed and made fun of a lot for being dark skinned—it was before being dark skinned was cool—and being Jamaican was a no-no, and I would deny where I was from. African Americans are not used to a black person being so confident: they were taught to hate themselves, to hate their own skin color. White people were taught to fear me. I took karate classes and found a lot of racism around the Korean community that I was in when I was doing martial arts.
And I just started understanding why people are angry, where the hate comes from, and, so as a writer, as a humanist, as a human being, every time I look at a story, I try to understand people and not impose my beliefs on them, and respect where they’re coming from, whether it’s wrong or not. So I have always sided with the underdog. And I don’t know, maybe it’s my mother, it’s being the Jamaican immigrant, maybe it’s because I lost my father at a young age, I’m not sure.
Q: How old were you when your father died?
A.B.: I was four and he was killed; he was shot and killed in Jamaica. So, I know I’m not here to do the work that other filmmakers do, I was given a chance to be here to do something special and I’m not going to waste it. And I know that. I knew it from a young age. It just so happens that film is the medium. When I sat on that rock I knew I had a responsibility to the world.
J.A.: So from that rock, to now, sitting across from Madame Tussauds, having won the Audience Award at Sundance, having been featured in the IFC documentary FILM SCHOOL, having picked up a number of accolades for other films—how do you feel?
A.B.: I don’t covet awards or accolades. There’s so much work to be done. There’s a story that was conceived in those slave castles that I want to tell. No matter how much I approve of myself, the way Hollywood works it says, “You can’t tell that story, you’re not good enough yet, you’re not seasoned enough yet,” and I have to get to a point where I can tell that story.
I think there’s a saying that the minute that you convince yourself that you’re successful you lose your success. I’m broke, I live in my mother’s basement, I don’t go out, I wish somebody would pay me to write. I want to just write my next project. The hustle continues. Whatever glamour people see on the surface, my pocket is still empty and I go to an interview and they drop me off in a limo and I’m standing on the street corner like, “Okay, what am I gonna eat?”
Sundance, festivals, it’s a game. Your film gets into a festival, it doesn’t make it good. And just cause it doesn’t get in doesn’t make it bad. I don’t covet, I don’t look back; my mission is the next project I have to make because that project is gonna change somebody’s life and that’s what I’m trying to get to. Every project I’ve done, I’ve done with the mentality that: would I be proud leaving this behind if I died the next day? And I am.
J.A.: That’s a pretty weighty question to be putting on yourself every single second of every project that you’re doing…
A.B.: It is, but it’s not, in a weird way. It’s balance…like, it’s a movie. So it has to be weighty, and it has to be significant, but it’s still only a movie, so…relax. Y’know, like Bruce Lee? [Here, Brown holds his right arm at length, looking out the window just past his pointed index finger, then at his finger.] Look at the moon, but don’t forget the finger in front of your face, and look at the finger in front of your face but don’t forget the moon.
J.A.: What’s next? What should we be excited about?
I just finished directing a new television show for ABC called FINAL WITNESS that’s gonna be out in January which is pretty cool—primetime TV. That was the first time I’ve ever been paid to direct, and that meant a lot. Unfortunately that money all went to making sure I got all the rights and the licensing to release KINYARWANDA December 2, but that’s an awesome thing.
Y’know, filmmakers get all hyped up about film festivals and theatrical releases, but in truth, with primetime television, your work reaches millions of people. And I was fortunate with that series that the producers and the people involved are looking for artists, and they were working like artists, and they’re looking for craft and real storytelling, so the series looks amazing. The visuals, the cinematography, the style, the storytelling—it’s unlike anything I’ve seen on television, particularly network. So it’s gonna be a cool show.
But that leads me to this theatrical release. We have a limited release with a firm, the African American Film Releasing Movement on December 2, and in Los Angeles we’re going to be at Laemmle, and, for a little film like this that we started in Rwanda through emails…to have the chance for people to be able to go into a movie theatre to see this, to see my cast and crew who had never acted before…
J.A.: I read the update on your website, where by the way, I loved the banner at the top, the whole porch metaphor, “this is a place where we can still dream,” I mean, did you have a porch growing up, or is that something that you just…?
A.B.: No it’s my porch in Plainfield, my mom’s basement where I crash, that’s where all my boys used to come and hang and that’s where I did all my dreaming. My porch.
J.A.: KINYARWANDA played at the 34th Street Theatre in Manhattan, which I know is a big theater and one in the city you’ve lived in—what was that like?
A.B.: It was magical, because a lot of people from my hometown came to that theater to see it. I mean, as a kid you sat in those theaters and you watched these big movies, and then to sit back in the dark and to think that these people in here are now watching a movie that I made…I think that’s why I need to be in a relationship at some point, because after something like that who do you share that with? Y’know, you go home and you go “look at what I just did, what I just went through.” And it’s maybe one of those things where it’s not going to make sense until I look back.
I don’t know if it’s going to get better than this. Like, the newness of it all. I don’t know if it’s going to get better than this…playing 34th Street Theatre, playing at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre right now. I just stepped on Bruce Lee’s star and my movie’s playing right inside there and he walked on these streets, and Hitchcock walked these streets, and I’m playing this theatre?
J.A.: What is your favorite Hitchcock film?
A.B. I’d have to say NORTH BY NORTHWEST. My high school English teacher, Mr. Richard Weigel, introduced me to that film—white teacher, black and latino students who don’t want to see old time movies—and he made us watch the film in 10th grade maybe…and I was blown away. Hitchcock became a recurring thing in my life. I think it was one of the seeds that was planted early on about what I was gonna do with my life.
J.A.: What is it about Hitchcock’s films that intrigues you so deeply? Or what aspects do you try to emulate as a director yourself?
A.B.: The moment I sat down to watch NORTH BY NORTHWEST to the very last frame, I was riveted. And if I take anything away, it’s that when I try to make a film; whether I’m talking about police brutality or the Rwandan genocide, I want the audience to sit there and go on a journey and be completely riveted moment to moment, scene to scene, shot to shot, I don’t want anyone to want to get up or text or go to the bathroom, I want you to stay engaged in it.
I took a writing seminar that Tony Gilroy did at NYU—Tony’s the write of BOURNE SUPREMACY and BOURNE IDENTITY, I love him—and in one session he changed my whole idea of screenwriting. But one of the things he said in that class is his greatest fear is losing the audience’s attention for one second. And I think that’s a part of my fear, too. What Hitchcock did is he brought us into this world of common, regular people going through extraordinary circumstances. And he did it without violence, without cursing, without a lot of the shock value.
J.A.: Without the gimmicks.
A.B.: I have mad respect for that dude, man. And I love the fact that he never got an Academy Award for directing. I love it. I mean, so many actors and talents who—I’ll ask them, “What’s your dream?” And they’ll tell me they want an Academy Award. They don’t talk about the work. They want the Award, right? And I love people like Hitchcock. It sucks that he didn’t get it, but it’s like, he’s one of the greatest directors that ever lived. And if he didn’t get it, it’s okay if I never get any of those awards. I’ll be fine, as long as I go down in history as having told strong and beautiful stories.
J.A.: I was so intrigued by Edouard Bamporiki’s performance in KINYARWANDA, by the fact that he plays one of the aggressors of the genocide in a way that is still so human and three dimensional, and I know that he’s also a filmmaker, poet, etc. How did you find him and what was that relationship like?
A.B.: Edouard was a gem. So I went to meet with this group of guys at Almond Tree Films, Isaac [Lee Isaac Chung, Writer/Director of MUNRUYANGABO, in which Edouard acted] helped these guys start Almond Tree. I went to them to do our ‘behind the scenes’ video. And as I was sitting in the living room and talking to them I met Edouard and I saw his personality and I said, “Dude, you should be in my movie.” And he said okay.
And I had written that role on the page, but Edouard brought a lot to it. He’s a Hutu, and by the way those terms are not used in Rwandan day-to-day life anymore, they call themselves Rwandan, but for the purpose of accuracy he was a Hutu. He was 11-years-old during the genocide and sick in a hospital where over 50,000 people were killed. Including his school teacher, who happened to be Tutsi.
So he came to this character with the weight and the responsibility of all of those killings and killers, but he’s devoted his entire life to peace and prosperity and writing books about the shame and the guilt. Because he saw those guys, and the energy that they brought when they were killing, and the power they felt when they had that kind of control, when they were holding their machetes, and y’know…we were on the same page, and it was a pleasure. And he’s just brilliant, he’s a brilliant actor and a brilliant human being.
J.A.: It’s stunning to realize that this was the first entirely Rwandan-produced feature-length film ever. What are your feelings about the future of Rwandan film? Do you think that a seed has been planted?
A.B.: Yeah, I mean the seed was not planted by me. It was planted by Isaac and even by HOTEL RWANDA and all those…and Rwandans didn’t particularly like some of the politics in that film, so they started picking up cameras to tell their own story. Like I said, it’s a land of stories. So, the seed was planted as soon as they saw that film was a viable medium, and it’s gonna continue, I think they—like Nigeria before them, and all these African countries—see that film is a way of telling their stories, and of empowerment, and also of entertainment. And it’s gonna happen. There’s a few film schools, a few exchange programs, people are building rental houses, so there’s a lot happening there now. And the digital age has turned it into something. And I think after the genocide so many people were running to Rwanda—Americans and Europeans—and Rwandans kind of latched on and saw it and said, “Why don’t we tell our own? We’ve got all these people coming in to tell our stories. Why don’t we tell our own?”
Joey Ally is a writer and actor who comes from New York City, lives in Silver Lake, and has driven cross-country three times in the past year-and-a-half. Joey was Jesse Pinkman for Halloween, and can be found on twitter at @joellenally.
AFI FEST presented by Audi enters the homestretch today, our last regular day of screenings before our repeats, Jury and Audience Award winners, and Closing Night Gala tomorrow. For today, we’ve got our final Guest Artistic Director screening (NIGHTMARE ALLEY), our Spotlight on Joe Swanberg’s complete “Full Moon Trilogy” and much more.
ON THE RED CARPET
In SHAME, director Steve McQueen’s searing followup to HUNGER, Michael Fassbinder delivers a fearless portrayal of a man spiraling out of control into sexual addiction.
At Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Boulevard)
5:30 p.m. Press check-in
6:30 p.m. Red Carpet arrivals
7:30 p.m. Program begins
Tilda Swinton is extraordinary as Eva, a reluctant mother whose life is shattered beyond repair by her son’s violent tendencies in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.
At Chinese 1 (6801 Hollywood Boulevard)
5:30 p.m. Press check-in
7:45 p.m. Red Carpet arrivals
8:15 p.m. Program begins
Expected appearances: SHAME: Michael Fassbinder, Nicole Beharie, Steve McQueen, Emile Sherman and Iain Cain; WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear. Also attending: Yorgos Lanthimos (ALPS), Julia Loktev, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Helge Albers and Marie Therese Guirgis (THE LONELIEST PLANET), Bill Morrison (SPARK OF BEING) and Lynne Ramsay (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN).
FREE TICKETS AND PASSES
In celebration of our 25th anniversary, we’re offering 25 FREE Cinepasses to the first 25 festival goers in line at the box office when it opens at 10:00 a.m.! You can get last-minute tickets the day before each screening at AFI.com/AFIFEST or the day of each screening at the AT&T Box Office (Hollywood & Highland Center, Suite 219).
Additionally, rush lines will begin forming one hour before each screening, and remaining tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tickets for the following films tomorrow — Thursday, November 10 — will be available online today beginning at 10:00 a.m. PT:
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN; Award Winner 1; Award Winner 2; Award Winner 3; Award Winner 4; THE KID WITH A BIKE; ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA; PLAY; THE SILVER CLIFF; SPARK OF BEING and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Egyptian-Rigler, 11/9/2011, 4:30 p.m.
By Dennis Cozzalio
The sleazy, claustrophobic, catch-as-catch-can transience of the carnival world, with its ever-changing roster of freaks, geeks, disappointed con men and women with few options, clinging to shreds of dignity and eyeing a better life while digging themselves deeper into the one from which they want to flee, seems a naturally cinematic subject. Yet there are surprisingly few movies that have ever captured the symbiotic push-pull of vibrant show-biz fakery and dark personal obsessions that lurk behind the curtain, beyond the barker’s call.
Somewhere between the boy’s wish-fulfillment of TOBY TYLER and the mind-wrenching funhouse mirror reflections of Tod Browning, Tobe Hooper and Rob Zombie, Edmund Goulding’s film of W.L. Greshman’s NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), from a script by Jules Furthman (reportedly quite faithful to the novel), captures the attraction of the fairway for the suckers and the sham artists running the games, as well as the desperation to trade the sawdust floors of tented arenas for brighter, shinier halls where the sheep waiting to be fleeced have thicker wool and far deeper pockets.
Watching NIGHTMARE ALLEY today, it’s plain to see that while the divide between the carnies and the upper classes awash in dough is as marked as ever (maybe more so), the desperation for recognition, for reward, is no longer a simple symptom of poverty. But in 1947 it must have been quite a shock to see a handsome star like Tyrone Power give himself over to a role for which audiences wouldn’t have been expected to have much empathy.
Power’s opportunistic Stan Carlisle is so thoroughly at home amongst the shadows and hidden compartments of the carnival setting that it’s almost a surprise to hear that he has aspirations beyond it. However, his eagerness to expand his talents to more sophisticated scams for more sophisticated targets soon sucks in both the essentially good-natured Zeena (Joan Blondell) and the relatively innocent Molly (Colleen Gray) into a world where the lies get bigger, thornier, more perverse, and the inevitable fall back to earth is all the more devastating.
Cinematographer Lee Garmes brilliantly conjures the film’s first half in chiaroscuro patterns and recesses formed by the impermanent tents and wagons, all of which coexist almost subconsciously with the ballrooms and theaters of the slightly less compelling second half. But NIGHTMARE ALLEY's central power lies in the faces of its actors, the carnival life lived as painted in creases on their faces, in smiles and banter meant to hide the truth, in haunted looks and, conversely, averted eyes. Joan Blondell is smashing as Zeena, accidentally widowed by Stan's (subconscious?) enabling of her alcoholic husband. She carries the weight of an entire disappointed life in her big, beautiful, forlorn eyes.
As for Power, he couldn’t have been, and probably never was better than he was in this movie. Critic Charles Taylor observes about Power’s towering performance that the actor conjures Stan’s essence in that “he manages always to look away from anyone declaring any tenderness for him… His gaze is always fixed on where he’s going.” The commitment which Power, Goulding and Furthman show toward Gresham’s concept of Stan’s corruption is that which Hitchcock could not follow through on in flirting with villainy for Cary Grant in SUSPICION. The blasphemous blackness in Stan’s heart is given near full reign down the darkest nightmare-fueled alleys in the film; it sticks its chilling effect in our hearts like a stake pounded into soft ground, a stake meant to anchor a carnival tent in place long enough to provide cover while the movie takes us for all we’re worth.
Dennis Cozzalio writes film criticism and other film-and-life-related essays for his blog Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.
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