Friday, April 24, 2009

28th International Istanbul Film Festival Award Winners

From April 4 to 19 the fest will run in Turkey and here are the films in the International Competition.

Rumba, Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy, France and Belgium, 2008 (I’ll try to see it)
An extremely stylized, unusual, colorful, joyful, at the same time funny and melancholic invitation to dance; a Tatiesque film with minimal dialogue that captures the spirit of the burlesque actors of the silent era. Played by the directors themselves, the main characters Fiona and Dom are teachers in the idyllic countryside. They are in love with each other as they are with Latin dancing. They even have lots of trophies that they won. One night, as they are returning from a competition, they try to avoid a failed suicide victim in the middle of the road. Their car hits a wall and their life is turned upside down.

L’Heure d’Ete (Summer Hours), Olivier Assayas, France, 2008

Le Plasir de Chanter (The Joy of Singing), Ilan Duran Cohen, France, 2008
What could bring a bigger joy than singing? The characters of this mystery crime drama are all in search of the ultimate joy, and they all take singing lessons from the same tutor, Eve… One of Eve's students is the naïve Constance, a recent widow whose husband is brutally murdered by people after a uranium secret. Among Eve's students also are Muriel and Philippe from the French intelligence, the handsome Julien who is into both guys and girls, and Eve's son. Who is genuine with their emotions, and who is undercover? The director of The Confusion of Genders weaves a delectable web of dark comedy, sex secrets, a USB stick, the joy of singing, and perhaps love.

A Film With Me In It, Ian Fitzgibbon, Ireland, 2008
"A blacker-than-black comedy with a wickedly sharp sense of humour," according to Todd Brown at Twitch, A Film With Me In It tells the morbidly delightful account of a hapless actor named Mark (Mark Doherty, also the film's screenwriter) who is struggling to make it through a day from hell, and his neighbour and best friend Pearce, a penniless, clueless, aspiring screenwriter. Mark gets home to his disabled brother (his real life brother David), unhappy girlfriend and big dog after failing an audition to discover that they haven't paid the rent for three months. Even when his girlfriend leaves him, tragedy has not hit yet, the dreadful (deadful) day has just begun. Winner of Special Jury Prize.

Zift, Javor Gardev, Bulgaria, 2008 (yeah, “dying” to see it… if only I could understand Bulgarian and Turkish)
Bulgaria's Oscar submission, and taking its name from the Bulgarian slang for the word "shit", Zift is a crime film made in the spirit of film noir, though focusing on a criminal instead of a private detective battling criminals. The Moth is released from prison after 20 years to find himself in a new and alien world: the cold atmosphere of communist Sofia of the 60s. During the one day the film unfolds, Moth tries to make amends with his past, but is tortured, chased and forced to listen to many strange stories by agents, medics, barflies, outcasts, gravediggers…

Disgrace, Steve Jacobs, Australia and South Africa, 2008
Adapted from Nobel-prize winner J.M. Coetzee's 1999 novel that presents an unflinching look at the consequences of the intense change South Africa goes through, Disgrace is the story of a South African university professor who loses everything, his reputation, his job, his peace of mind, dreams and even his daughter's well-being and safety. Professor David Lurie's life falls apart after he has an affair with one of her students, and thus has to resign from Cape Town University. He escapes to his daughter's farm where he finds some peace, but it's a dangerous world and soon they are victims of a vicious attack. With John Malkovich… hmm…

Milk, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Turkey, France and Germany, 2008 (A Must Be Seen for me)
Vying for the Golden Lion at Venice in August 2008, Milk is the second instalment of Kaplanoğlu's "Yusuf trilogy" that started with Yumurta (Egg) which won the Golden Tulip at Istanbul Film Festival in 2008, and that will be completed with Honey. Recent high school graduate Yusuf is passionate about writing poetry, and some of his poems are published in some obscure literary journals. But for the time being, he continues working in his mother Zehra's countryside milk business, also with an uncertain future. When Yusuf learns about his mother's discreet affair with the town station master, he gets even more anxious about making the sudden jump toward manhood. Will young Yusuf be able to handle the changes in his peaceful existence? Winner of the FIPRESCI Award and the Audience Award.

Poltory Komnaty Ili Sentimentalnoe Puteshestvie Na Rodinu (Room and a Half), Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2009 (Another Russian Andrei director, hmm…)
A unique assembly: the early life of great Russian poet, Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky told by great filmmaker, animator and documentarist Andrei Khrzhanovsky. "A magical, wildly creative fantasia," according to Variety, the film premiered at Rotterdam Film Festival in January and welds fiction, archival footage, animation and stills. Brodsky was exiled from Russia to the USA in 1972, never visiting his motherland again. Khrzhanovsky imagines Brodsky returning home, anonymously, and we return to the USSR of the 50s and early 60s, soaking up the atmosphere of the "European" city of St. Petersburg.

Tony Manero , Pablo Larrain, Chile and Brazil, 2008 Winner of the Golden Tulip.

Forasters (Foreigners), Ventura Pons, Spain, 2008 (could be...)
The most acclaimed Catalan filmmaker Ventura Pons' latest work is his third adaptation from Sergi Belbel's plays, the first two being his debut Caresses and To Die (or Not). Foreigners tells the story of a family that goes through two traumatic events: the loss of a family member, and forty years later, the arrival of new neighbours. Two events that disrupt the family's alleged harmony, their social setting, their fragile family ties… This is the passage of time, the meaning of existence, the fear and distrust of the unknown, the outsider, the foreigner… The foreigners are ourselves.

De Usynlige (Troubled Water), Erik Poppe, Norway and Sweden, 2008
2008 Haugesund (Norway) Honourable Mention; Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and 2008 Hamptons Audience Award; The Golden Starfish-Best Narrative Feature
The director of Hawaii, Oslo and Schpaa returns four years later with another impressive drama about morality and forgiveness. Jan Thomas is released from prison after having served eight years. Being a divinely gifted organist, he gets a deputyship in a church. He decides not to tell her about his past to Anna, the priest, but then Agnes comes to the church. She recognizes the organist as the young boy who was convicted of the murder of her son.

$9.99, Tatia Rosenthal, Israel and Australia, 2008 (yeah, “dying” to see it)
"Have you ever wondered what is the meaning of life? Why do we exist? The answers are in this small yet amazing booklet! And for a mere $9.99!" This is the ad that alters the life of the unemployed Dave who still lives with his father. When his questions are answered, he wants to share everything he knows, so his surreal path crosses with his unusual neighbours: an old man and his disgruntled guardian angel, a magician in debt, a little boy who sets his piggy bank free… This superb comedy about the post-modern meaning of life and happiness is a stop-motion animation film based on the short stories of Etgar Keret, who had co-directed Jellyfish in 2007

Athina-Konstadinoupoli (Athens-Istanbul), Nikos Panayotopoulos, Greece, 2008
This is a road movie that starts in a traffic jam and as its title suggests, it begins in Athens, ending in İstanbul, following a depressed lawyer, who, after his recent divorce, sets off a journey in his car to visit his sick father in Thessaloniki, but ends up, after many stops and detours in İstanbul. His trip is more of a runaway along which he meets a young wandering lady, realises his middle-age crisis, questioning life, death, sex, money and identity. "There's no border in the other world because you don't need borders when you can't move!"

Out of Competition

Easy Virtue , Stephan Elliot, UK, 2008
Appaloosa, Ed Harris, USA, 2008 (could be…but it’s a western!)
Ed Harris, the co-writer, producer and director of this traditionalist western with contemporary references, also stars alongside Viggo Mortensen as the freelance lawman Marshall Virgil Cole who is hired with his deputy Everett Hitch to defend the lawless western town of Appaloosa from the murderous evil rancher Randall and his gang. Virgil and Everett have been friends for many years, and they have been through a lot together. But their efforts are disrupted and friendship tested by the arrival of a refined woman from the city: "a widow, not a whore", who is there to play the piano. A standoff is inevitable between the rancher and the lawmen.

Opening film: Welcome, Philippe Lioret, France, 2009
A modern age Romeo-Juliet story with the English Channel between the lovers, who are both played by Turkish actors. Bilal, a Kurdish boy from Mosul, has travelled for three months to join his girlfriend, Mina in London. But he is stopped on the French side of the Channel. Having decided to swim across, Bilal goes to the local swimming pool to train where he meets Simon, a swimming instructor. To impress his wife, Simon decides to risk everything by taking Bilal under his wing.

Closing film: Okuribito (Departures), Yojiro Takita, Japan, 2008 (Obviously totally “dying” to watch it…)
2009 Oscar Best Foreign Language Film; 2009 Palm Spring Audience Award; 2009 Japan Academy Best Film; Best Director; Best Actor; Best Supporting Actor; Best Supporting Actress; Best Cinematography; Best Editing; 2008 Montréal Grand Prix
Oscar Winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Departures also won Best Film accolades at Palm Springs and Montréal. A delightful and sensitive journey into the heartland of Japan and an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of Japan's cultural heritage, the film follows cellist Daigo who moves back into his hometown after his symphony orchestra disbands. He reluctantly accepts a very traditional job with Sasaki at "Departures": encoffination of corpses. His life now takes an unexpected turn as he profoundly follows tradition as a husband, as a human being and as a "coffiner".

I suggest checking the films in the Turkish Cinema 2008 National Competition as there are many (too many!!!) that definitively could be must be seen. Also check the films in the Human Rights in Cinema competition with great films. To browse the fest site go here.

This is definitively one very interesting fest with excellent movies!!! To check all the winners including those in the National Competition go here.

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