Sunday, August 23, 2015

#Venezia72 Check No. 7 - The Asians

There are two directors from Asia, Amos Gitaï from Israel and Zhao Liang from China. Besides geography both have in common the fact of being politically committed, thus controversial in their own countries.

Amos Gitaï

Born on October 11, 1950 in Haifa, Israel. After studying Hebrew school, living in a Kibbutz, do his compulsory military service, he enrolls in Haifa's Faculty of Architecture where in 1975 graduates in Architecture. In 1979 he gets his PhD in Architecture from Berkeley University.

More related to cinema, it is in 1972 when his mother gives him a Super-8 camera and he starts to make his first experimental films. In 1974 he does his first short film Ahare and from 1976 to 1979 he does more short films until 1980 when he does a full-length documentary, House, for the Israeli television corporation, which refuses to show it. The film, which describes the attachment of Palestinians to their land, is the first of a trilogy of works on the same house in West Jerusalem. The others are A House in Jerusalem (1998) and News from Home / News from House (2005).

In 1981 Makes Wadi, the first of a documentary trilogy that continues in 1991 (Wadi, Ten Years After) and 2001 (Wadi Grand Canyon). In 1983 no longer able to work in Israel, he and his family move to Paris. In 1985 makes his first full-length feature film, Esther, that premiers at Cannes Critics' Week, film is the first part of the "exile trilogy", followed by Berlin-Jerusalem (1989) and Golem, the Spirit of Exile (1991).

Gitaï has been in Cannes four times with 1999 Kadosh, 2000 Kippur, 2002 Kedma and 2005 Free Zone; but is in La Biennale where he has been more times and won more honors, as his first time in 1989 with Berlin-Jerusalem was followed with1999 Zion, Auto-Emancipation, 2001 Eden, 2002 short segment in 11'09'01, 2004 Promise Land, and 2013 Ana Arabia.

Amos Gitaï has a very extensive filmography and the best place to learn about this short films, documentaries and feature films is to visit his official website here, where you can also browse for any other info related to the director.

Of course I'm very familiar with Amos Gitaï as a relevant contemporary director in world cinema and in the cinema from Israel; but have to admit that haven't seen most of his work. Still, the few films I have seen are still in my mind because the story they tell and most of all, the director's storytelling style. Most remarkable for me is Kadosh (Sacred) starring Yaël Abecassis that is still imprinted in my mind and mention it because Abecassis is also in Rabin, The Last Day, which makes film must be seen for me with rather high expectations thanks to cast and director, even do I know film will not be easy-to-watch for story and director storytelling style.

Basic info about רבין, היום האחרון Rabin, The Last Day
Director: Amos Gitaï
Writers: Amos Gitaï and Marie-Jose Sanselme
Language: Hebrew
Runtime: 153 mins
Production Countries: Israel and France
Production Companies: AGAV Films (France), Agav Hafakot (Israel) LGM Cinéma SAS, Les Films du Worso, United King Films
Distribution: Le Pacte

Cast: Yaël Abecassis

Plot Summary
A film that casts a light on one of the most traumatic events in Israeli history: the assassination of the Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a young right-wing radical, determined to undermine the difficult process to build peace with the Palestinians. The film is centered on the report by the official court of inquiry headed by judge Meir Shamgar.

Film Still

Zhao Liang

Born in 1971 in Dandong, Liaoning Province, China. Graduated from Luxun Fine Art Academy in 1992. Worked as a photographer while working on his early documentaries. His early work was independent and not approved for release by the Chinese government. Since 1993 he has been based in Beijing working as an independent documentary filmmaker as well as an artist in photography and video art.

In 2009 he did his documentary Petition: The Court of the Complaints that premiered in Cannes, a doc that was filmed over 12 years and after Cannes premiere was immediately banned in China. Since then he has transformed his relationship with the government and in 2010 he did Together -about discrimination against Chinese with AIDS/HIV-positive- which was commissioned by the Ministry of Health.

His 2015 documentary Behemoth seems that has not pleased government authorities as once again seems film was banned and film web pages have disappeared. There is not much info about director and film but was able to find that film was a project at 2014 Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum and Bingo! there is a lot more info about both director and film. If you wish to read project brochure go here.

Behemoth (aka Dust) was produced in China by Wong Kar-wai's company Jet Tone Films and filmed in breathtaking 4K by Zhao Liang himself.  Even do I haven't seen any of his documentaries, what calls my attention is the continuous mention of the beautiful scenes in his recent work, meaning that probably his films have awesome - beautiful-to-watch cinematography. Also learned today that his stories are not-easy to digest, so probably his work really has great photography to ease the story pain and allowing viewers to endure watching. I'm very interested in his previous work as well as in his latest doc.

Perhaps what sold me is what found at the film publicity company site, it reads: Behemoth travels between documentary and narrative, stark truth and allegory, dream and reality ... a feast of images, sounds and music, inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy.

Basic info about 悲兮魔兽 Bei xi mo shou (Behemoth)
Director: Zhao Liang
Language: Mandarin
Runtime: 95 mins
Production Countries: China and France
Production Companies: INA (Sylvie Blum), Arte France, Jet Tone Films (Pang Yee-wah)

Plot Summary
1-Four People, from different places and different backgrounds, through the swirl of dust and ashes, were brought together by a coal miner in Inner Mongolia and by destiny.
2- With camera in tow, filmmaker Zhao Liang travels through the prairies of Mongolia’s vast plateau. Unfolding before his eyes are the signs of controversial upheaval due to an aggressive modern economy. Heavenly green grasslands are being covered by the gloomy dust of a growing mining industry. Confronted with the ash and infernal din of incessant mining, herdsmen and their families have no choice but to move away as grazing meadows dwindle. Day and night, miners are busy picking out coals from mountains of rocks. In nearby ironworks, men bake in the scorching heat like the condemned in “Inferno.” In a sort of “Purgatorio,” sufferers of work-related illnesses await death in hospital. A genuine “Paradiso” has been destroyed in exchange for an urban mirage, the empty new buildings of modern ghost town Ordos.

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