Thursday, August 20, 2015

#Venezia72 Check No. 5 - From Europe and Asia

Turn to check two (2) bi-continental directors, Emin Alpert from Turkey and outstanding Aleksandr Sokurov from Russia

Emin Alper

Not much info about this director but here are the basics; most data comes from Berlinale official site. Born on August 13, 1974 in Konya, Turkey. Trained in Economics and History at Bogazici University-Istambul; holds a PH.D. degree in Turkish Modern History. He teaches at Istanbul Technical University's Humanities and Social Sciences Department.

He is the writer and director of the short films, 2005 Mekup (The Letter) and 2006 Rifat. He has also occasionally acted in a couple of short films. His debut feature film, Tepenin Ardi (Beyond the Hill), collected multiple accolades all over the world after premiering in 2012 Berlinale Forum section.

His second feature film Abluka (Frenzy) opens in competition for a Golden Lion at 2015 Biennale and according to what I have seen up to this moment, film looks and feels with awesome cinematography with a story that could be interesting. We have to mention that Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a jury member this year and well, some are wondering what could happen; me, I don't as you know that Nuri Bilge Ceylan is one of my most favorite filmmakers and want to believe in whatever he criteria he uses as La Mostra jury.  Worth to mention that film North American premiere will be at 2015 Toronto fest.

Basic info about Abluka (Frenzy)
Director: Emin Alper
Writer: Emin Alper
Language: Turkish
Runtime: 117 mins
Production Countries: Turkey, France and Qatar
Production Companies: Paprika Films (Pierre Fleurantin), Liman Film (Nadir Öperli), Bulut Film (Enis Köstepen), Insignia, Eurimages (support), Doha Film Institute (support)
Distribution: The Match Factory (World Sales)

Plot Summary
Kadir is released after a 15-year prison term and goes in search of his younger brother Ahmet. Meanwhile, Istanbul is in the grip of political violence. Hamza, a high-ranking police officer, helps Kadir find a job as an informant. He collects garbage, checking to see whether it contains material related to bomb-making. Ahmet works at the municipality as part of a team responsible for destroying stray dogs. When Ahmet shuts himself up in his house to care for a wounded dog, Kadir thinks he is being threatened by terrorists. Kadir relays his concern to Hamza, who sends the police to investigate.

Long (with spoilers): The story takes place in a fictitious present in Istanbul. After a 15-year prison term, Kadir (45) is released. Now, all Kadir wants is to find his brother Ahmet (30) and reunite his family. Meanwhile, Istanbul is in the grip of political violence and chaos.  Mevlut, a high-ranking police officer and son of a prominent man from Kadir’s village, helps him find a job with the municipality. Kadir is to collect garbage from the shanty town, check to see if it contains material related to bomb making, and report back to the police. Kadir enthusiastically accepts the job, because the shanty town where he will be working is where Ahmet lives. Kadir has been following his brother’s whereabouts through letters he received in prison. When Kadir shows up at Ahmet’s house expecting to live with him, Ahmet panics. He takes Kadir to his friends Ali and Meral, who have an available flat in their building, and Kadir moves in. Ahmet, whose wife and children have left him, also works at the municipality as part of a team responsible for killing stray dogs, which the public believes are being collected and taken to animal shelters. Ahmet becomes obsessed with a dog he wounded, which later turns up at his house. He keeps the dog and hides it. Friendship develops between Kadir, Ali, and Meral. But after a wave of bombings that shocks the city, Kadir is taken by the police for questioning and discovers that Ali and Meral are attached to armed insurgents that are behind the bombings. The disappointed Kadir is humiliated by Mevlut for not being able to see what was right in front of him. Upon losing his friends and being unsuccessful at work, Kadir works even harder and starts making up political scenarios, with Ahmet becoming a part of his paranoid schemes. Ahmet has shut himself up in his house with the dog, repeatedly refusing to let his brother in. Kadir begins to think that Ahmet is being threatened by terrorist groups and is hiding Ali and Meral in his house. Kadir, who tells this story to Mevlut, wants them to save Ahmet by raiding his house. Mevlut sends policemen to search the house and Ahmet, who is delirious with fever, fires at them, thinking that they have come for the dog. Ahmet and his dog are killed during the police raid. Kadir is devastated by the death of his brother.


Aleksandr Sokurov

Born on June 14, 1951 in Podorvikha, Irkust Oblast, Siberia, RSFSR, USSR (now Russia). During his childhood his family frequently moved from one place to another, thus he first went to school in Poland and graduated in Turkemenia. After graduating from high school in 1968 entered Gorky University, Department of History; he started to work with Gorky Television as tech assistant and later producer's assistant. At the age of 19, he made his first television shows as a producer and during the 6 years working with Gorky TV, Sokurov created several TV films and live TV shows. He graduated in 1974 with a degree in History.

In 1975 he entered the Producer's Department of All-Union Cinematography Institute (VGIK, Moscow) and he was granted the Eisenstein Scholarship. He had to graduate a year earlier (1979) as had conflict with the administration, who deemed his work as unacceptable and was accused of formalism and anti-Soviet views. So, his first feature film The Lonely Voice of a Man, was not accepted as a graduating project; film later won several awards. He met Andrey Tarkowski who gave him support even when he was out-of-favor with the authorities at that time.

Their friendship will last even after Tarkowski left Russia, but in 1980 Sukorov was able to work at Lenfilm studio thanks to Tarkowski's letter of recommendation. His filmmaker story continues with many of his works banned only to be released later when political climate changed. If you wish to learn more about Sokurov suggest you check The Island of Sokurov site here.

One of my favorite contemporary Russian directors thanks to outstanding films like awesome, beautiful-to-watch with painful story, 1996 Mother and Son; great real-one-single-take film 2002 Russian Ark, his mirrored 2003 Father and Son, his 2007 Alexandra, and outstanding 2011 Venice Golden Lion winner Faust.

His latest film Francofonia (aka Le Louvre sous l'Occupation) scores pre-sales ahead of Venice world premiere, which is expected thanks to the director's credentials; then North American premiere will be at 2015 Toronto in the Masters section. So, do I have expectations about this film? Oh, yes. Very HIGH expectations, which perhaps I should consider downgrade a bit as maybe film style could be a blurring melange of documentary and fiction, which with one location could be very hard to successfully execute. My reference is another great filmmaker that was allowed to film inside the Louvre museum and gee, the end-product was really not good, sigh.  Nevertheless this is Sokurov, the one who was able to do amazing Russian Ark, so perhaps he will succeed where others have not.

Basic info about Francofonia
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Writer: Aleksandr Sokurov
Language: French, German, Russian
Runtime: 87 mins
Production Countries: France, Germany and Netherlands
Production Companies: Idéale Audience (Pierre Olivier- Bardet), Musée du Louvre, Zero One Film (Thomas Kufus), N279 Entertainment (Els Vandervost), ARTE France Cinéma (Olivier Père)
Distribution: Sophie Dulac Distribution (France), Films Boutique (International Sales)

Cast: Louis-Do de Lencquesaing

Plot Summary
Short: Transforms a portrait of the world-renowned museum into a magisterial, centuries-spanning reflection on the relation between art, culture and power

Long: Another century has passed on the Old Continent … Large armies are trampling on the heart of civilisation and cannon fire is once again taking its toll. Amidst the massacre and the ruins, everything majestic, magnificent, and sacred, that took millions of minutes and hours of determined labour to build, is wiped out. Jacques Jaujard and Count Franziskus Wolff Metternich worked together to protect and preserve the treasure of the Louvre Museum. Alexander Sokurov tells their story. He explores the relationship between art and power, and asks what art tells us about ourselves, at the very heart of one of the most devastating conflicts the world has ever known.

Info/Background: The reflection on art and power opens in occupied Paris in 1940 with the meeting between German officer Count Franz Wolff-Metternich - overseer of France’s art collection during the war - and Louvre director Jacques Jaujard. Wolff-Metternich was sent by Adolf Hitler to repossess the museum’s invaluable collection, but according to Jaujard’s diary, the aristocrat was not strongly attached to the Nazi cause and expressed relief that the Louvre had been largely emptied of its treasures, even assisting Jaujard in keeping the museum’s contents out of the hands of the art-hungry Nazi high command.

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