Saturday, April 25, 2009

9th Milan International Film Festival

The MIFF is quite an interesting festival because it has the format of many festivals, but their award ceremony follows the format of any awards show. This means that since before the fest starts, they have already listed all the nominees in each of the categories that will receive awards. This totally makes sense to me. The fest runs from May 11 to 19 in the famous Italian city. By the way, according to the site this fest has been nicknamed by the press as the “Milanese Sundance” and have to say that their awards are well, interesting; they give Leonardo Da Vinci’s Horse awards.

So let’s take a look at the nominees in the major categories.

Best Director
Erica Dunto for The 27 Club,
Damian Harris for Gardens of the Night
Derick Martini for Lymelife
Dror Reshef for Who Are You to Me
Jean-Marc Vervoort for Sur Le Mont Josaphat

Best Acting Performance Female
Grace Fulton in Badland
Noni Hazlehurst in Bitter and Twisted
Melissa Leo in Stephanie’s Image
Hila Meckier in Who Are You To Me
Renée Zellweger in My One and Only

Best Acting Performance Male
Joe Anderson in The 27 Club
Taner Birsel in Cars of the Revolution
Rory Culkin in Lymelife
Jamie Draven in Badland
Logan Lerman in My One and Only

If a movie has a nomination in any category automatically becomes a nominated film for the top award at the fest and here are some of the nominated films in the Best Film category.

The 27 Club, Erica Dunto, USA
When you're dead, you are gone. You exist only in the minds of those whom you've left behind. You become a fragment of a story, a beginning, middle, or an end. Tom is dead. Elliot has been left behind. Tom was the front man of the their successful band Finn. He died on his 27th birthday. They've spent their whole lives side by side. Elliot is left to decide if he, too, will join the 27 Club. Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain also belong to this infamous club – they all died at 27. As Tom and Elliot's story is revealed, and the history of their life unfolds, it's clear that it takes more than just a number to determine one's fate.

Gardens of the Night, Damian Harris, USA
As an eight-year-old girl Leslie(Ryan Simpkins) was abducted through trickery by an older man, Alex (Tom Arnold), and his young accomplice Frank (Kevin Zegers). Leslie was held captive in their house along with an eight-year-old boy named Donnie ('Scooter' Smith). The children create a bond with each other managing to escape into a fantasy world they create in their bedroom. Years later Leslie and Donnie, now seventeen years old, are living as street-kids and struggling to cope with what they suffered through. Donnie's feelings for Leslie are those of any teenager in love, however Leslie's perception of love has been severely mutated through her relationship with Alex and her instinct is to run from Donnie.

Lymelife, Derick Martini, USA
Set in the late 70's, seen through the innocent eyes of a fifteen-year-old boy, Scott, 'Lymelife' is a unique take on the dangers of the American Dream. This funny, sad, violent and sometimes tragic look at first love, family dynamics and divorce weaves an intricate tapestry of American life during a time of drastic economic and emotional change.

Who Are You To Me, Dror Reshef, Israel
Anya, 25, is mentally handicapped but manages to lead an independent life. Since the sudden death of her parents she has been living alone, surrounded by her own silence, earning her living as a cleaning-lady inside an office building. One morning while Anya starts her working-shift, she meets Ari , 26, an unemployed guy who used to work as a start-up programmer at the building where she now cleans. Ari tries to snick into the guarded building. He wishes to confront his employer Naama, with whom he was in love. Naama had fired Ari after a long period of hospitalization due to his schizophrenic attacks. But Ari has no entry permit to the building. He desperately needs someone from 'inside' to let him in. In order to break Anya's fear to help him, Ari pretends to be her lover. When the rational manipulative plan becomes mixed with new real emotions, Anya comes up with the question: 'who are you to me?'

Sur Le Mont Josaphat, Jean-Marc Vervoot, Belgium
Alain Tiwili, young reporter working for a small Brussels local TV news channel is about the nervous breakdown. He is about to be fired because he made a too politically incorrect TV subject and his girlfriend threaten him to leave if he doesn't submit to a guru group therapy for couple crisis. Last but not least, his boss ask him to shoot a TV subject on the mysterious disappearing of pigeons in the Josaphat park.

My One and Only, Richard Loncraine, USA
When her husband Dan is caught cheating, Ann (Renee Zellweger) scoops up her son George and his brother Robbie, and the trio hits the road in a shiny new Cadillac convertible. They drive from city to city in search of stability, cash, and a new husband, not necessarily in that order. As George deals with the woes of new schools and his own budding sexuality, Ann gives her heart to each new suitor, only to find every one unsuitable indeed. They make their way out West, where a surprise encounter with a familiar face forces Ann to decide: is she really looking out for her sons’ futures, or just running from her own past?

Stephanie’s Image, Janis DeLucia Allen, USA
A former model, Stephanie, is found murdered in her San Francisco apartment. Her boyfriend, Richard, whose body is also found at the scene, apparently killed her and then committed suicide. A photographer who worked closely with Stephanie decides to make a documentary about her life, a kind of memorial. She interviews those people closest to Stephanie, but she soon discovers that almost everything she has been told about the crime is false, and everyone she interviews is lying. The circumstances surrounding Stephanie’s death become more and more mysterious and contradictory. As the filmmaker struggles for the truth through her interviews, she comes to realize that she may have played a strange part in what happened to her friend. This subtle drama, shot in a documentary style, features Melissa Leo (2009 Academy Award Best Actress Nominee for FROZEN RIVER), Janis DeLucia Allen and an ensemble cast.

The feature fiction film jury has too many members –how they will agree on something?- but includes well-known American actors like Sandra Oh, Robert Foster, and Martin Landau. Check the all jury members here.

To check the official announcement with all the nominees go here or here and check information for each movie. Somehow I find that this fest is too much American for my taste, but now I do understand the reason why for the nickname, as screens many independent American films. Still, is another interesting vehicle for indie films, isn’t?

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