Post(s) tagged with "breakthrough"

A Breakthrough Filmmaker Discusses His Craft

11/04/12 - Chinese 4, 3:30 p.m.
11/07/12 - Chinese 6, 2:00 p.m.

By Kim Luperi

AFI FEST Now had the chance to sit down with German filmmaker Jan Ole Gerster to discuss his debut feature OH BOY, which had its North American premiere at AFI FEST.

AFN: OH BOY is featured in the Breakthrough section of AFI Fest. Can you tell me how the film was selected to be included?

Jan Ole Gerster: We sat down, looked at the festivals we loved, submitted it, and it was accepted. It’s hard to believe, because there are so many great filmmakers applying here, and it’s a great honor to be here.

AFN: What was it about this idea that interested you? Was any of it based on your personal experiences?

JG: I went through the same phase as my main character when I came to Berlin in my early 20s, and, at one point, I noticed a lot of my friends went through a similar period. This is the time when a lot of people start to question their decisions when they get older — am I on the right track? will this be what I do for the rest of my life? does it make me happy? — so I thought one or two people may relate to that story.

AFN: OH BOY is your feature debut, and you are credited as the writer and director. What was the writing process like?

JG: First of all, without thinking about shooting the script or going out with it right away, I wrote it because I had to; it all came out of intuition. I wrote scripts before but in a very analytic way — how to write a script, how to create a character, how to build dramatic conflict — all these things they teach you in school, and I was a little unsatisfied with these scripts, because I felt like I was a hypocrite and I didn’t know what I was talking about. At that point, I thought it was worth having a closer look at my personal life. They also taught that in film school — stories have to be personal but not necessarily private. It’s easy to say but hard to do.

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A Patchwork of Farce and Tragedy

11/03/12 - Chinese 2, 9:15 p.m.
11/04/12 - Chinese 2, 1:45 p.m.

By Katie Datko

In much the same way that a quilt is formed of seemingly random shapes and fabrics that up close appear disjointed and unrelated, Ali Mosaffa’s THE LAST STEP is a fractured narrative — snippets of flashbacks chronicling the protagonist, Koshrow’s (Ali Mosaffa) death.

Loosely combining Joyce’s “The Dead” and Tolstoy’s “The Death Of Ivan Ilyich,” the film takes us through Koshrow’s untimely demise piece by piece. What at first might seem like a disjointed plot thread becomes carefully interwoven into the narrative in such a way that each seam joins with one another, creating a fuller — yet still questionable — picture of the story.

Koshrow, planted firmly in a middle-class Iranian existence, has hemmed himself into a plodding and meticulously curated life. Married to an actress, Leili (Leila Hatami from A SEPARATION, AFI FEST 2011), he’s a character with the sort of unwaveringly mediocre personality that obsesses over measurements and minute details. Yet even so, he can’t seem to get it right. Just like the ‘last step’ in his house that is higher than the other, his fixations cause him to trip up — with fatal consequences.

As THE LAST STEP opens, Leili, on a theatrical stage and in period costume, succumbs to uncontrollable laughter and repeatedly fails to deliver her lines: “I cannot even recall your face,” she explains. “As if you’d never existed.” A cut to Koshrow skateboarding down a hilly street maintains this lighthearted touch. With each acrobatic fall and narrow escape, it’s easy to think this is a story about middle-aged Iranians-turn-hipsters, until the voiceover of Koshrow’s ghost kicks in: “It was actually the day before his death…it seemed he’d wished for it.” Throughout the film, the dead Koshrow’s narration alternates between a distant, objective detachment and an all-knowing, shared intimacy.

There’s some ambiguity about what precipitated Koshrow’s death, whether it was an accidental blow to the head or a psychosomatic reaction to a diagnosis given by Amin (Alireza Aghakhani), an old family friend who is also a doctor. The more we glimpse the interplay between the three characters, the more questions we are left to ask about their motives, their relationships and their true connections with each other. At the heart of this triad lies Koshrow — in spectral form — who binds them in death but who seems almost inconsequential even while he’s living.

Even though the focus in this film is on death, it’s really about life — the choices one would make if he or she knew there was only a limited amount of time left. There is a sense that perhaps Koshrow would’ve been able to wake up to the reality of his life mired in the middle class, best illustrated by Mosaffa’s clever use of hands and gestures. While driving on an isolated country road to his homeland, Koshrow spontaneously sticks his hand outside his car, catching the breeze. It is perhaps this sort of insight into what he might have become that makes THE LAST STEP traverse the border between farce and tragedy.

Mosaffa’s THE LAST STEP is refined, focusing on the trappings of middle class life instead of the more typical gritty and realistic portraits and political statement that are usually part of the film festival circuit, and affirms the sophistication of Iranian auteurs.

Katie Datko is an LA-based writer who has written for the LA Weekly, and the LohDown on Science.

Breakthrough and Midnight films screening at AFI FEST 2012.

World Cinema, Breakthrough, Midnight and Short Film Selections

World Cinema showcases the most anticipated and prize-winning international films of the year, Breakthrough highlights work discovered only through the submission process and Midnight’s selections are always haunting. Both World Cinema and Breakthrough feature a number of films making their North American or U.S. Premieres, including THE ANGELS’ SHARE, GREATEST HITS, LAURENCE ANYWAYS, NAIROBI HALF LIFE, PIETA, WHITE ELEPHANT and ZAYTOUN.

Two of the shorts in competition are from AFI Conservatory’s recent class of 2011 – Justin Tipping’s NANI and Ryan Prows’ NARCOCORRIDO, both winners at the 39th Annual Student Academy Awards® in the Narrative film category earlier this year. Heidi Levitt (AFI Class of 1987) is once again represented at the festival, this time as executive producer of GINGER AND ROSA in the Special Screenings section.

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Strains of Confinement

The Day He Arrives

Egyptian-Spielberg, 11/7/2011, 4:15 PM
Egyptian-Spielberg, 11/8/2011, 7:15 PM

Three and a Half

Egyptian-Spielberg, 11/5/2011, 1:00 PM
Chinese 1, 11/8/2011, 4:15 PM 

By Katie Datko

A reoccurring motif in this year’s programming lineup is confinement. Sometimes it’s figurative like in Cristián Jiménez’s BONSÁI where Julio, the main character lives in self-imposed isolation. Other times it’s more literal, as with Luc Besson’s gala film, THE LADY, about Burma’s intrepid champion for democracy Aung San Suu Kyi or Jafar Panahi who managed to smuggle THIS IS NOT A FILM out of the country in a cake while awaiting the verdict of his trial in Iran. Two other films where this theme plays out is Hong Song-soo’s THE DAY HE ARRIVES and Naghi Nemati’s THREE AND A HALF.

In Hong’s film, the main character, Sungjoon (Jun-sang Yu) is trapped within the origami-like folds of a recurring plot. A former film director-turned-professor who comes back from the countryside to visit Seoul, he is part of a repetitive narrative that consists of banal conversations, chance encounters and uneasy relationships. Its black-and-white imagery at first seem dynamic, infusing energy into the storyline. But as each piece of the story unfolds, the relationship between the various parts become tenuous—the plot turns back on itself, almost but not quite to the point of being monotonous. Sungjoon is held captive by his inability to move forward, essentially swathed in an unending cycle of critical junctures that never meet any resolutions.

THREE AND A HALF is a stirringly claustrophobic film: three women on furlough from prison try to escape Iran. In interviews, director Nemati claims the women are convicts, but in the film itself, it’s never clear what their prison is—for one of the women, it’s a relationship, another, social constraints. Shot mostly in close-ups with a few mid-shots, the camera mirrors the suffocating space the main character, Hanieh, pregnant and sick, inhabits. She’s constricted not only by her actions, but by those of the men in her life. As the movie opens with a blurred close-up of Hanieh crying and gun shots in the background, it’s also the ambient sound that smothers us, louder than usual, reminding us of Hanieh’s instability.

In both films not much backstory is provided, yet in each film we get a sense of how the main characters’ pasts inform their present. Neither character is truly sympathetic—there is something unhinged about both Sungjoon and Hanieh. Each is a victim, captive by their own misdeeds. Watching them navigate their restrictions and limitations causes us to wonder if freedom is a possible or if it is an untenable illusion.

Katie Datko is an LA-based writer who has written for the L.A. Weekly, and the LohDown on Science.

LIGHT OF MINE screens as part of our Breakthrough section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

Rapidly going blind, photographer Owen and his wife Laura take a life-changing trip to Yellowstone National Park where they experience a beauty that rivals their tragedy.

WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT screens as part of our Breakthrough section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

In this Swedish romantic drama, uptight Mia attends her father’s engagement party and not only gains a stepmother, but also a new lover, Frida.

EXPECTING screens as part of our Breakthrough section at AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi!

In Chile, a young girl and her boyfriend wait for a black-market drug to take effect in this tense and insightful examination of teen pregnancy.


We are thrilled to announce the films screening in the World Cinema, Breakthrough, Midnight and Short Film Categories of this year’s AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi.

World Cinema showcases the most anticipated and prize-winning international films of the year, Breakthroughhighlights works discovered only through the submissions process and Midnight’s eclectic selection presents films with provocative and unexpected ideas. Both World Cinema and Breakthrough feature a number of films making their U.S. premieres, including ALMAYER’S FOLLYCAFÉ DU FLOREFAUST and WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT(World Premiere).

Three of the 35 shorts in competition are from AFI Conservatory’s recent classes of 2010 and 2011 – Julian Higgins’THIEF, which won the top prize in narrative filmmaking at the 38th Annual Student Academy Awards and top honors at the 32nd College Television Awards earlier this year, Lindsay MacKay’s CLEAR BLUE, which placed second at the 32nd College Television Awards and Casey Cooper Johnson’s UNMANNED, which was finished just in time for festival submission. Rick Rosenthal’s (AFI Directing Class of 1973) BLINK is also in competition. The AFI Conservatory was rated the #1 film school in the world by The Hollywood Reporter for the quality of its instructors and speakers, and its “glittering parade of alumni.”

WORLD CINEMA SELECTIONS A showcase of modern masters and emerging filmmakers from across the globe, this year’s World Cinema program showcases some of the most anticipated and prize-winning international films of the year.

ALMAYER’S FOLLY: DIR/SCR Chantal Akerman. Belgium/France. U.S. Premiere.

ALPS: DIR Yorgos Lanthimos. SCR Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou. Greece/France. U.S. Premiere.

ARIRANG: DIR Kim Ki-duk. South Korea.

CAFÉ DU FLORE: DIR/SCR Jean-Marc Vallée. Canada. U.S. Premiere.

CARRÉ BLANC: DIR/SCR Jean-Baptiste Léonetti. France/Luxembourg/Russia/Belgium/Switzerland. U.S. Premiere.

THE DAY HE ARRIVES: DIR/SCR Hong Sang-Soo. South Korea.


FAUST: DIR Alexander Sokurov. SCR Alexander Sokurov, Marina Koreneva. Russia. U.S. Premiere.

FOOTNOTE: DIR/SCR Joseph Cedar. Israel. Israel’s official foreign-language Oscar submission.

THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD: DIR Joshua Marston. SCR Joshua Marston, Andamion Murataj. USA/Albania/Denmark/Italy.

THE INVADER: DIR Nicolas Provost. SCR Nicolas Provost, Giordano Gederlini, François Pirot. Belgium. U.S Premiere.



MAMA AFRICA: DIR Mika Kaurismäki. Germany/South Africa/Finland.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA: DIR Nuri Bilge Ceylan. SCR Ercan Kesal, Ebru Ceylan, Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Turkey/Bosnia/Herzegovina. Turkey’s official foreign-language Oscar submission.

PLAY: DIR/SCR Ruben Östlund. Sweden/France/Denmark.

A SEPARATION: DIR/SCR Asghar Farhadi. Iran. Iran’s official foreign-language Oscar submission.

THE SILVER CLIFF: DIR Karim Aïnouz. SCR Beatriz Brachner, Karim Aïnouz. Brazil.

TARGET: DIR Alexander Zeldovich. SCR Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Zeldovich. Russia.

THIS IS NOT A FILM: DIR/SCR Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Jafar Panahi. Iran.

THE TURIN HORSE: DIR Béla Tarr. SCR Béla Tarr, László Krasznahorkai. Hungary. Hungary’s official foreign-language Oscar submission.

BREAKTHROUGH SELECTIONS The Breakthrough films are true discoveries – films that come straight from the submissions process.

EXPECTING: DIR/SCR Francisca Fuenzalida. Chile. U.S. Premiere.

LIGHT OF MINE: DIR Brett Eichenberger. SCR Jill Remensnyder. USA.

THREE AND A HALF: DIR/SCR Naghi Nemati. Iran. U.S. Premiere.

WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT: DIR/SCR Alexandra-Therese Keining. Sweden. World Premiere.

MIDNIGHT SELECTIONS The Midnight section showcases an eclectic group of films across the globe from fearless proponents of provocative, jarring and unexpected ideas.


HEADHUNTERS: DIR Morten Tyldum. SCR Lars Gudmestad, Ulf Ryberg. Norway.

KILL LIST: DIR Ben Wheatley. SCR Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump. UK.

SHORT FILM SELECTIONS (In Competition) The films in this section are in competition for the Grand Jury Prize for Live Action Short Film and Animated Short Film. Both award categories are recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as qualifiers for the annual Academy Awards®.

30,000 DAYS: DIR Stephanie Barber. USA.

ALL FLOWERS IN TIME: DIR Jonathan Caouette. USA.

ALL IN ALL: DIR Charlie Reff, Jacki Sextro. USA.


BABYLAND: DIR Marc Fratello. USA.

BLINK: DIR Rick Rosenthal. AFI Conservatory Directing Class of 1973. Canada.

BROKEN NIGHT: DIR Yang Hyo-Joo. Korea.

CLEAR BLUE: DIR Lindsay MacKay. AFI Conservatory Thesis Film/AFI Directing Class of 2010. USA.

DR. BREAKFAST: DIR Stephen Neary. USA.


EX-SEX: DIR Michael Mohan. USA.

FROZEN STORIES: DIR Grzegorz Jaroszuk. Poland.

INFINITE MINUTES: DIR Cecilia Felmeri. Hungary/Romania.

JUAN Y LA BORREGA: DIR J. Xavier Velasco. Mexico.

LIBERTAS: DIR Kan Lume, Megan Wonowidjoyo. Australia/Singapore.

LITTLE KITTEN: DIR Stephanie Barber. USA.

MASKA: DIR Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay. USA.

MEXICAN CUISINE: DIR Francisco Guijarro. USA.

NEGATIVIPEG: DIR Matthew Rankin. Canada.




PIONEER: DIR David Lowery. USA.

PROTOPARTICLES: DIR Chema García Ibarra. Spain.

THE RUNAWAY: DIR Victor Carrey. Spain.

SATAN SINCE 2003: DIR Carlos Puga. USA.

SLEEP STUDY: DIR Kerri Lendo, John Merriman. USA.

TATUM’S GHOST: DIR Stephanie Barber. USA.

THIEF: DIR Julian Higgins. AFI Conservatory Thesis Film/AFI Directing Class of 2010. USA.

TO DIE BY YOUR SIDE: Dir Simon Cahn, Spike Jonze. France.

UNMANNED: DIR Casey Cooper Johnson. AFI Conservatory Thesis Film/AFI Directing Class of 2011. USA.


WE’RE LEAVING: DIR Zachary Treitz. USA.

YEARBOOK: DIR Carter Smith. USA.

ZERGUT: DIR Natasha Subramaniam, Alisa Lapidus. USA.

SHORT FILM SELECTIONS (Out of Competition)



MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO: DIR Juliano Dornelles. Brazil.

MY BOW BREATHING: DIR Enrico Maria Artale. Italy.


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