A monthly cinema feature with a special French focus.
Cinefile October-November 2019 French releases
In this October-November 2019 Cinefile podcast, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams talks to Little Joe's leading actress Emily Beecham, and looks at For Samaa, Alice et le Maire (Alice and the Mayor). Also, Roman Polanski's An Officer and a Soldier (J'accuse) and Costa-Gavras Adults in the Room, and more. The title of the Franco-Algerian film Papicha, which won hearts at Cannes in the Un certain regard section means pretty girl. In this film it applies in the plural, and makes the subject all the more biting. Why hide beauty, when as the poet John Keats wrote, "A thing of beauty, is a joy forever"? Mounia Meddour sets her film in a particular period of acute repression in Algeria in the 1990s. Since then the cries for women's rights have become louder. But progress in most quarters is patchy. Here's a film which flies in the face of curtailment of rights and freedoms seen through 20-year-old Nedjma's experiences and encounters. Her journalist sister assassinated, her student friends traumatised and prevented by machismo from making the most private and personal choices about their own lives, Nedjma decides to organise a fashion show with revealing clothes made out of a cloth, a haïk, traditionally used to cover women like a hijab. Papicha is young and full of energy. The fast-moving action flows from one chapter to the other. With the action revolving around Nedjma's all-female university residence, Meddour's characters span a range of male and female situations. For example, one male shop owner is sympathetic to the girls, another puts on a front for the religious fundamentalists, another delights in the cloistering of the girls, exploits them and would even rape them. Females and males are equally part of the clampdown on freedom for women, but women fight the hardest against it. Meddour's film avoids pitfalls and endows Papicha with appeal beyond the 15-35 female age group. Click on the "play" button above to hear Emily Beecham talking about "Little Joe" and about the rest of this films in this edition of our Cinefile podcast. Fahim, the little chess prince Gérard Dépardieu (as grumpy chess coach Xavier Parmentier) reigns supreme in this French film for all ages, which just fails to bring tears to the eyes. Fahim, the Little Chess Prince is based on the true-life story of a Bangladeshi wunderkind, son of an asylum seeker who's determined his misfortune will transfomed into 8 year-old Fahim's triumph.
Cinefile September 2019 - Port Authority, Du Sable et du Feu
In this month's early autumn Cinefile, Rosslyn Hyams meets director Danielle Lessovitz and her leading actress Leyna Bloom to talk about Port Authority. Director-Producer Souhail Benbarka's Du Sable et du Feu, is a love story, and a cloak and dagger story, based on 19th century true-life characters embroiled in international conflicts. Click on the arrow in the photo to listen to Cinefile. Port Authority Lessovitz' début feature was nominated for an Un certain regard award at Cannes in May as well as a wave trophy at the Deauville American Film Festival in September 2019. She sets her love story between Wye, a transgender woman (Leyna Bloom), and Paul (Fionn Whitehead) a down-and-out young white man who lands in New York, at Port Authority bus station, homeless, friendless, but mildly charming. Lessovitz confronts the two. She, although strikingly beautiful, is a misfit according to the mainstream population. He, because he's poor and naive, is also a misfit in a society which measures success on how much you have in your pocket and your address. Her family is the 'ballroom-voguing' family, with its strong mother role. It's more than a club who like dancing and dressing up, they all look out for each other and form a community. His family is a step-sister who slams the door in his face. Their seemingly impossible love story convinces in streams of fashionable colours and simple but poignant dialogue. Lessovitz says her film celebrates, "the family that's chosen," against the inherited parents, siblings and other relations. Love does triumph in this film. Du Sable et du Feu (Of Sand and Fire) Souhail Benbarka's fourth feature, an epic-style historical romance co-written with Bernard Stora, hit the screens in France and elsewhere this month. It stars Rodolfo Sancho as a Spanish spy, Domingo Badia, sucked into in a plot that involves French emperor Napoleon. He plays opposite and sometimes very closely with Carolina Crescentini as the English noblewoman, as Lady Esther Stanhope who falls in love with Prince Alibey, the man Badia pretends to be. Things of course go wrong for the handsome couple and their burning passion. They get a taste of power and it drives them crazy and drives them apart. The film spans 16 years from 1802 to 1818. Lady Esther, a favourite at the court of George III and the niece of his prime minister, turns into a blood-craving religious fanatic converted to Islam after falling in love with the alleged Syrian prince. A prophecy made in her youth said she would become one day queen of Palmyra. So that's what she does. Badia is recalled from his dangerous mission to organise the overthrow of the Sultan of Morocco by tribes from the north, just when he starts to believe he should replace the sultan himself. Damn he thinks as with bared teeth he smashes all the glass and wood he can lay his hands on to overcome his frustration. Stanhope, transformed from genteel English rose to warrior-queen Meliki, bares her teeth when screaming at her many troops to "kill the infidel". In a dramatic speech, she explains to Badia who she sees now as her enemy, that they don't worship the same Allah. Spanish actress Marisa Parades of Almodovar and other fame plays Meliki's lady-in-waiting. Dutiful Mrs Williams whisked away from pastures green to the middle of the desert.
Cinefile Late Summer 2019 - Untouchable and Late Night
In this late summer Cinefile podcast, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to UK documentary film maker Ursula McFarlane about Untouchable, a moving and compelling set of interviews, audio recording and newsreel footage, which revisit a deeply rooted culture of different types of harrassement in the film sector via the Harvey Weinstein case. Also Late Night, an overall feel-good film which carries a sharp observation of the effect of power and hierarchy in the TV business. Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling star in Nisha Ganatra's latest. Click on the arrow to listen. 18 minutes.
In which... Denis Lavant talks about Alverson's 'The Mountain', Lav Diaz about 'The Halt'
In July's Cinefile Rosslyn Hyams speaks to leading French actor Denis Lavant, and a Philippines film director, the prolific and multi-talented Lav Diaz. Click on the arrow on the photo above to listen to the interviews. Or subscribe to Cinefile. The Mountain Also known as a psychosurgical odyssey, The Mountain was released in the US in July on the heels of it's French première at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival. The Mountain has a serious track record, featuring in the Venice Film Festival 2018 followed by Sundance in 2019. US director Rick Alverson's 5th feature is on the surface about the practice of lobotomy, invented by a real-life doctor called Walter Freeman in America in the 1950s. Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan play respectively lobotomiser Dr Wallace Fiennes and his would-be lobotimised photo assistant, Andy. Of course, that's the top layer. Its slow pace, lacklustre palette and trunkated, creepy dialogue, potentially lull the viewer into a mindless state. However, if you seek, you may find issues about today's America, or about many parts of the world today. Alverson puts a lot of thought into this film. The Mountain is a mind-game, where the mostly eery calm of the cajoling or passive characters is blown apart by French actor Denis Lavant. He plays French single-father Jack, who wants lobotomy-mad Dr Fiennes to operate on his teenage daughter, the object of Andy's first love. Lavant is known for his energy and seemingly unbridled action on stage, as well as on screen. His ability to slip into the skin of arresting characters out of a Tolkien novel or a Shakespeare play or from a French equivalent of East Enders, makes him any director’s dream, but he selects carefully. "Jack is already a bit schizo to begin with. I don’t need to analyse this character to be able to play him. I just have to act the character if you like. Rick Alverson is great and really knows how to direct actors. He suggests plenty of imaginative ideas." Listen to Cinefile podcast to hear more about Denis Lavant's take on The Mountain. Ang Hupa -The Halt The four-hour-40 minute long film is largely dark and once again deals with Lav Diaz' main concerns, the politics and sociology of his country, the Philippines. Set in 2034, when the volcanic action has put out the light, a raving, deluded dictator (Joel Lamangan) is manipulated puppet-style by two women security chiefs (Hazel Orencio and Mara Lopez). Their ambition and love of power drives the plot while their passions are inflamed by a love-triangle involving a teacher with a quest and a part-time escort job (Shaina Magdayao). The man to follow is the enigmatic Hook Torollo played by Piolo Pascual. He realises that he will achieve greater fulfillment from helping street children than firing rocket-propelled grenades or the like. Philippines director, writer, producer, composer, editor Lav Diaz could of course say much the same in a shorter time, but he maintains that this would zap his propos. Not just a whim, and far from detracting from the story-telling, the slow pace adds fluidity to Anga Hupa -The Halt, allowing the film to sink in. "I want to work more on spaces, so you can actually touch the thing, a corporal experience with the medium. The so-called audience must also be engaged, not just entertained... rather than being subordinated to the action of Tom Cruise. I want you to see the ants and the birds and the wind." Première at Cannes Lav Diaz', Ang Hupa or The Halt in English premièred at the Cannes Director's Fortnight in May 2019, it also screened at Poland's New Horizons and the Jerusalem Film Festival. Listen to the Cinefile podcast or by clicking on the arrow on the photo above to hear Lav Diaz talking about the dictatorship, street children, homosexuality on film, and why there are a few glimmers of light in his literally dark films.
All about Yves, My Polish Honeymoon and Zombi Child
In this month's Cinefile podcast, RFi's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to film makers Bertrand Bonello and Benoit Forgeard and actress Judith Chemla about their latest films released in June in France. Click on the photo above. Quick-fix reviews below. Zombi Child by Betrand Bonello Essentially a teen movie around a Franco-Haitian story, told as a zombie story, based on the possible zombie case of real-life Clairvius Narcisse. From an educational point of view it has a lot to offer. It carries a pre school-holiday warning about summer love, and slips in valuable, not chicken, nuggets of Napoleonic French history. However, interesting as it is to discover little talked-about French elite institutions, and popular as zombie films are at present, Bonello's film misses the mark and Zombi Child lacks the suspense and boldness of his previous youth hit, Nocturama (2016). All about Yves by Benoît Forgeard Can a fridge fall in love? Become a new-age matchmaker? Could a fridge take over our lives? Yves is a smart looking and sounding fridge-freezer programmed to improve eating habits. The machine is imposed on a sausage-consuming rapper who has moved into his granny's home to write a star-quality composition. A gimmicky rom-com à la française, like chocolate and hazelnut paste spread over a hot contemporary topic. Love it or hate it. It's entertaining. My Polish Honeymoon by Elise Otzenberger A young Jewish mother reluctantly leaves their baby in Paris with grandparents to spend a few romantic few days in Poland with her child's father. Poland, not Venice because Anna's husband has been invited to attend a commemorative ceremony in his grandfather's home village, in Poland. Anna leaps at the chance like Bambi. Otzenberger mixes comedy and gravity, fact and fiction, to vehicle a personal story, tied to the historical tragedy and horror of the World War Two attempt at genocide in Europe. Should the search for roots become so important when it means uncovering dead-ends, disappointments and a scarred present?
CANNES 2019 SPECIAL: Les Misérables, Atlantique,
In this Cinefile, RFi's Rosslyn Hyams looks at three films which premièred at the Cannes Film Festival, Les Misérables, Atlantique and My Brother's Wife. Les Misérables Ladj Ly’s police thiller has it all. An engaging plot, credible, just larger than life characters, pace and an athletic camera lens. The joint-winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Jury Prize shared his trophy with Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Bacurau, which, like Les Misérables, has a devastating and cruel social divide. Ly’s Les Misérables remains rooted in the everyday but made of stuff of memorable films, it surprises and shocks. A new police officer, Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) joins a crime squad whose beat is a poor, tough and drug-infested housing estate. Stéphane immediately locks horns with rough, bossy and mouthy Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada who has grown up in the ‘hood (Djebril Zonga). They have to find ways of dealing with all the local clans, from teenage girls to estate lords, to bored penniless pre-teen boys hungry for kicks, the religious gang and also, the outsiders and very muscular circus team. Ly portraits these groups and some indiviuals, but refrains from judgment of people or characters. They are drawn from his real life experiences of growing up in a poor area. In Monfermeil, many families were originally from Africa, but their children, like Gwada the police officer, have grown up in France. The younger generation, Issa’s, were born in France. Ly disproves the old saying that directors should neither work with children nor animals. On his first film no less, he takes the risk of working with both. His own son plays Buzz, the all-important drone operator, and Issa is the wayward teen who attracts trouble like a magnet and cannot resist stealing an adorable lion cub. Only the lion cub belongs to the circus, and in particular one lion-tamer with massive biceps. The housing estate is a tinderbox. The theft sparks a war between the three local crime squad officers. Director Ly can handle them all. He and his crew turn the most ordinary and unattractive places into décors and real-life into cinema. Ly has refreshed the European approach to social dramas with some strong character actors, and pumps excitement into French cinema. Atlantique Another prize winner at Cannes. Maty Diop’s debut feature won the Grand Prix. It’s set in Senegal and is based on a short film which was tied to the film festival. Atlantique explains why young men leave behind their loved ones and risk their lives on the sea. They hope of finding jobs for which they will be paid. A young woman, Ada, is promised to a rich businessman. Her true love Suleiman is a construction worker, too poor for her family to consider him a suitable husband. Diop pitches the natural playing style of young Senegalese actors against a story of the supernatural, with special, rather than visual effects. The green laser beams in a club, its mirrors and the moon were used to effective mysterious effect without adding the zombie eyes. Quite a teen film, in spite of the serious case of the effects. Le femme de mon frère, My Brother’s Love Anne-Elisabeth Bossé makes this Québecois rom-com with socio-political undertones, an agreeable watch. Bossé plays Sophia, the sister who feels ditched by life because she can’t get a job in spite of her PhD.. She then feels doubly ditched by her brother who falls in love with her own gynaecologist. Bossé bounces her often hilariously sad lines off her wonderfully crazy '68er father (Sasson Gabai) and mother (Micheline Bernard) or off brother Karim (Patrick Hivon). Director-screenwriter Monia Chokri’s constant stream of sometimes deeply satirical humour, seems made for the actress. Charming in many ways, love, couples and connections are at the heart of Canadian-Tunisian Chokri’s happy-ending, 30-somethings, debut feature. Listen to the film directors Ladj Ly and Monia Chokri and film score composer Fatima Al Qadiri in the Cinefile podcast....
Nadav Lapid's Synonymes and Alvaro Brechner's A Twelve Year Night
Cinefile this month talks to Nadav Lapid the director of the Franco-Israeli 2019 Berlinale Golden Bear-winner, Synonymes, and to Spanish star actor, Antonio de la Torre about his role as former rebel and former president, José Muhica in Alvaro Brechner's A Twelve-Year Night. A TWELVE-YEAR NIGHT Alvaro Brechner’s film is so beautifully shot in parts that it disconnects from the extremely tough story of three Uruguayan leftist rebels in 1973 who are thrown into prison and kept in solitary confinement for some 12 years. The junta chief says he wants to make them lose their minds. Based on the true story of the rebels who survived years of inhumane treatment to become politicians, one a minister and one, José Muhica, president, from 2010 to 2015. Brechner’s film which has enjoyed plenty of success internationally, released in France in March. Brechner throws in a love-sick sergeant with a heart and shows not all Uruguayan soldiers were as mean as the army chief. However, neither this scene nor the amazing way he captures light and shades, detract from the effect of scenes of rough-handling and torture. The painful result is partly because, the three main actors on the rebel side, Antonio de la Torre as Muhica, Alfonso Tort as Eleutherio Fernandez Huidobroa and Chino Darin as Mauricio Rosencof, handle themselves so well. They experienced some hardship in preparing their roles. De la Torre said “we all lost about 15 kilos for this film and whenever we had a break, all we would talk about was food.” A feeling of numbness starts to creep in the film during its series of different forms of humiliation and of jail-transfers. It's still impossible to imagine how these could have men felt day after day, night after twelve years of nights of being ill-treated, living in squalor, hungry and thirsty. Listen to the interview with guest of the month, Antonio de la Torre in the latest Cinefile. Spoiler alert: Anyone who knows the recent history of Uruguay knows that the nightmarish and sad scenes will come to an end and there will be a happy ending. SYNONYMES Writer-director Nadav Lapid is a philosophical sort. He’s concerned with questions of identity in general and Israeli identity more specifically and even more specifically masculine identity. For example, he said in Berlin just before receiving, along with his producer Sayeed Ben Sayeed, the Berlinale’s Golden Bear in February 2019 for Synonymes. “It’s very tough to be a woman in Israel.” He agrees that it’s tough to be a woman in many places actually. Philosophy and satire In his award-winning French-co-produced film which released in France this spring, Yoav (Tom Mercier) a young Israeli who has quit Israel some time after his military service, is fleeing the Israel he doesn’t identify with, and seeks to become French. Yoav discovers that underlying an appearance of freedom in a country largely at peace, is a similar identity is also defined by everyone feeling the same, being taught to feel the same about their country. In strange circumstances, he meets Emile (Quentin Dolmaire), an aspiring writer and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte), a musician. They are two seemingly contained, slightly odd, rather cold and artistic individuals who warmly befriend Yoav. Punchy stuff The runaway is also investigated by Israeli agents to whom he speaks in perfect literary French about the Battle of Troy, contrasting with one Israeli's bullish , sexist provocation. Combined with biting caricatures, and high-energy dance scenes Lapid allows his poetic side to irrigate Synonymes which at times flows fast, and then slows down to a pseudo New Wave pace. Listen to more of the interview with Lapid in Berlin in the latest Cinefile. If you enjoyed Cinefile this month, you can subscribe to the podcast.
'The Journey' and 'Whatever happened to my revolution'
Mohamed al-Daradji's film The Journey, or Baghdad Station, which has finally released in France, begins with a daunting prospect of a suicide bomb attack. "I think it's important for French people, and everyone, to see this and think about maybe why some people become [radicalised]." Tout ce qui me reste de la révolution (in English: Whatever happened to my revolution) has taken French director-actress Judith Davis' from the stage to the screen. "After the stage play of almost the same name, I felt I had more to say about the important matter of political committment in our times, and for my generation." Click on the arrow above to listen to the interviews in this month's Cinefile. The Journey (Baghdad Station) Daradji's fifth film, which won recognition at the Toronto Film Festival is a psychological thriller in a time capsule. A young woman, a determined look in her eye, bulk around her middle and her hand on a trigger. All around Sara (Zahraa Ghandour), the usual hustle and bustle of the central station of the Iraqi capital on the day, former dictator Saddam Hussein is executed. A day when the renovated hub is to be inaugurated with a little ceremony. Little does she know that the train carrying the VIPs will be late and that she is about to make an unexpected journey with wise-guy Salam (Ameer Jabarah). Little does he imagine the full weight of their encounter and where it will end. Throughout the film, Daradji has the spectator meet the war-scarred of Iraq, or the region more broadly. The Journey seems something of a miracle film given the volatile situation during the film shoot. As well as telling an exceptional tale, Daradji also reveals stories and casualties of everyday life and love – and the will to survive in a war zone. The Iraqi director wasn't daunted by the risk of filming a vulnerable subject in the renovated Baghdad Station at a time when his country was recovering from war – and under threat of more violence from the Islamic State armed group. Tout ce qui me reste de la révolution (Whatever happened to my revolution) On a remarkably sunny day in France, Angèle (Judith Davis) has just lost her job and lost her peg with her former sexist employer. She is boiling with rage as she graffittis a rude gesture on a bank machine with a marker pen in broad daylight. Just then, a gentler encounter, a young teacher called Saïd, comes her way, along with his class of inquisitive seven-year-olds. Davis's character is sufficiently unconventional and sufficiently recognisable as a child of revolutionary parents fighting for the same kind of changes her elders were confronting 50 years ago. Angèle's anger is a motor for the high revs of theatrical or witty comedy in a film which nonetheless calls into question philosophical and political values of our society. The father hanging onto the past and the mother making the most of the achievements of the revolt. Davis is supported by fabulously lively and talented actors, Claire Dumas and Malik Zidi, who wowed last year's Angoulême awards jury, headed by Karine Viard. With its unwieldy title, there's something positively refreshing about Davis' debut. Almost a revolution in French film.
January Special : French film Kabullywood harnesses youths' hunger for arts
A group of friends - a musican, an actress, a documentary maker and an artist in the Afghan capital Kabul - decide to follow their dream to establish a culture centre in the city after the Taliban clamp-down on arts. RFi's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Kabullywood's director Louis Meunier. Four friends set about renovating a disused cinema inhabited by the former projectionist and a bunch of orphans. Roya Heydari plays Shab, a young woman who against the wishes of her brother, hangs out with her male artist friends. Farid Joya is her mean brother Khaled. Ghulam Reza Rajabi is the painter, Mustafa. A contemporary guitar player, Qais, is driven by his desire to compose, and Mohd Qais Shaghasy take this role. The project leader, reluctant at first, but eager to impress Shab, is called Sikander. He's a documentary film maker whose father and police-chief is concerned primarily about his son's well-being and future. Kabullywood champions freedom of expression in a place where it is curtailed. But it's also about generational misunderstandings. It has the feel of a first feature film, with a certain freshness and intuitive experimentation. However, it's not just any debut. It was made against the odds in Kabul, where Louis Meunier and his crew had to deal with real-life security issues. The docu-fiction is a brave attempt to show the enthusiasm and convictions of some Afghans to defend and keep art and artists alive. Listen to the interview with the link above.
CINEFILE January 2019 Another Day of Life and Les invisibles
In January, Cinefile takes a closer look at Les invisibles, The Invisible People, an artistic gesture of social realism to foster a sense of resistance against inhumane pragmatism, while a docu-drama Another Day of Life combines highly-colourful and imaginative animation, historicial documents and recent interviews in a tribute to the work of reporter Richard Kapuczinski during the Angolan War. RFI's Rosslyn Hyams hosts guest directors Louis-Julien Petit and Raul de la Fuente. Corine Masiero who plays Manu, the manager of the womens' day-time shelter says Les Invisibles, a film with a balance of gravity and humour, is a political film. “Manu starts out with setting up a humanist centre. When she loses official support, she says, OK, I’m going to take this on my own shoulders. It’s what people around us today are doing to oppose the agro-food heavyweights, or they flout laws to help migrants and refugees. You get to a point where you have to move your arse, no matter what. Julien-Louis Petit’s film tells politicians that, hey, enough, we the ordinary people are doing what we can. Now it’s time you found solutions.” Click on the link to listen to the interview.
I Feel Good, Fortuna, The Wind Turns
In this edition of Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams keeps us posted on films in French with a look at the bittersweet I Feel Good, and the beautiful, poetical Fortuna. And she speaks to leading French actor with loads of charm, Pierre Deladonchamp about his latest film, The Wind Turns. To listen to September's Cinefile, click on the arrow on the photo. I feel good Jean Dujardin (Jacques) and Yolande Moreau (Monique) play 40-50 year-old siblings whose lifestyle choices are so far apart. Jacques' first appearance is when he rolls up in a monogrammed white towelling bathrobe and slip-ons, walking along the motorway. Monique, is an almost overly-sympathetic worker with an out-of-the-way charity centre where objects are repaired and recycled like the people who have found shelter there. The satirical writers and directors, Gustave Kervern et Benoît Delepine went to a real Emmaus 'village' for their film location to slam unbridled capitalism and draw attention to people who are so often invisible to most of us. After failing to amass dizzying amounts of material wealth, Jacques lands up in his sister's world and, through contact with her and the other residents, he undergoes an extreme transformation. The transformation materialises thanks to the enthusiastic embrace of capitalist values in a former communist country. Both serious and ironic, the film had entertainment value as well. However, the humour can be cumbersome at moments and could leave a nasty taste for some. But the film actually is the bearer of a crucial message. Degrees of whackiness aside, Kervern says their film is "optimistic because it shows that capitalism has its limits, that money cannot be an end in itself." Full of good heart and the potential to become a cult film from the directors of Mammuth (2010) starting Gérard Dépardieu. Failing cult-status, it will be remembered for the screen presence of non-actors at the Lescar-Pau Emmaus village. Le Vent Tourne (The Wind Turns) Environment, ecology are muddled with the meaning of personal freedom. Pauline (Mélanie Thierry) invests her energy in her family farm in the mountains. Her partner Alex (Pierre Delandonchamps), an urbanite, is as committed to the project, and like a convert, tires himself with zeal. The couple tires too. The two add-on characters, the wandering engineer and the young Eastern European house-guest who lands up to improve her health, pale into insignficance in comparison with the force of Pauline and Alex. Swiss director Bettina Oberli's achievements in this film lodge in some dramatic moments, such as the challenges facing farmers caught between politically correct 'green' practices and those handed down by previous generations The theme is definintely a popular European one these days. Some are more tightly interwoven on the human vs. environment issue however, such UK director Clio Barnard's Dark River this year, and Hubert Charuel's big hit of 2017, Petit Paysan. Fortuna Fourteen-year-old Ethiopian orphan Fortuna, played by Kedist Siyum lands up in a monastery in the Alps and unfortunately becomes attached to a fellow countryman, Kabir, 12 years her elder. Veteran actor Bruno Ganz anchors the story, and adds to the dramatic force of the black and white feature with his expressions of doubts and a few certitudes about life and human beings, in his role as Father of the few monks whose spiritual lives are disrupted by the migrants who are waiting for the asylum process to save them. Sounds and silences mark this film steeped in snow and isolated from the world until a police raid interrupts the quiet concerns of all. It's a sad story, made of sad beauty in snowy, yet firey black and grey and white.
Love smoulders in Cold War and embers refuse to die in L'amour Flou
In October's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams talks to Cannes award-winning director Pawel Pawlikovski about his grave love story, Cold War and talks about light-hearted but serious unlove story L'Amour Flou's success with actor-directors Romane Bohringer and Philippe Rebbot. Click on the arrow to listen to Cinefile. Cold War A lot has already been written about Pawel Pawlikovski's film, as it has travelled across the world since winning the prize for best director at the 2018 Cannes Fim Festival. Zula and Viktor fall in love just after World War Two is over. She is much younger and intrinsically unsettled. She unsettles Viktor who remains perturbed throughout the film. Joana Kulig plays opposite Tomasz Kot and they are a well-matched as ill-matched lovers, her exuberance and passion versus his smouldering desire. Although in real life, there is a mere five-year age difference. It's not surprising as when they first meet at an audition of girls and boys from the Polish countryside, ironically, supposed to be pure, Zula explains that she if she killed her father it's because she needed to explain to him that "he had confused his daughter, with his wife." Kulig explains why this line is so important in building Zula's character. "We knew that she had a problem with the father, with a really difficult situation and something really strange about her background. So in her relationship with Viktor, we knew that Zula, who is so sensitive, at the same time, she doesn't have a good example from men. Sometimes Zula fights with Viktor, but he really loves her, and she has a problem with trust. She later on realises the problem and turns to drink to help. But it doesn't." No matter that they want different things from life, Viktor and Zula are destined to be together, because of love. Contrasts are key to the director's vision in Pawlikowski's third feature film Black and white, a powerful folk, jazz and rock and roll music score and the passage of 30 years in the space of less than two hours, sharpen the drama of Cold War, which as Pawlikovski says "is not political, although public money does go to folk culture rather than to some more contentious expressions. That being said there is freedom of expression today." Cold War is not just a clever title about an impossible love affair. It led Kulig to think about the Communist past of Poland. "I knew it was difficult in those times for my parents and grandparents, and I remember my mother and grandmother talking about Walesa, and thinking this was very important. Now we can say what we think. In those days people were scared and had to be careful." *** L'amour flou (Hazy Love) In their first directing bid, the Bohringer-Rebbot team, mother-father and two children, Rose and Raoul, dish up a comedy based on the drama of separation. They make a sallient point about the blurry lines upon which so many relationships flounder, and make a success out of a situation commonly deemed a failure. Experienced actors both, they bring something refreshing to their French romp. Romane and Philippe have had enough of each other. Or so they think. It's not so easy to cut the ties and move on, or out, when you have two little ones you want to care for. Avoiding potentially stale humour about domestic love-on-the-wane, the duo lead the spectator along a bumpy path to possible contentment. Bohringer and Rebbot are at their funniest in this bundle of emotions when they feel the pull of attraction elsewhere. Rebbot's eye wanders to a much younger jogger, is thwarted by a cat-allergy, while Bohringer is led astray by lust and fantasy, hetero and homo sexual. Bravo to them for converting a family break-up into a tender un-breakup.
A compassionately splendid The Happy Prince, in We the Coyotes, LA tests young love
For RFI's December Cinefile, there's Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince about the legendary writer Oscar Wilde's last chapter of life. We the Coyotes is a Franco-US coming of age-couple flick with howling good vibes. Click on the arrow on the photo to listen to Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde's grandson talking about his ancestor and the "moving" film, and to Hanna Ladoul and Marco La Via, directors of We the Coyotes whose feature is close to home. The Happy Prince Director and leading actor...
Happy as Lazzaro and The Mumbai Murders
In November's Cinefile RFI's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Alicia Rohrwacher, Italy's fairytale filmmaker about Happy as Lazzaro and Indian director Anurag Kashya's, more brutal style in The Mumbai Murders. Click on the arrow on the photo to hear the interviews. Alicia Rohrwacher on Happy as Lazzaro You can count on 36-year-old Alicia Rohrwacher for a miracle. Lazzaro Felice, or Happy as Lazzaro doesn't disappoint. A wonderful miracle occurs as Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) resusscitates after a fall on a lonely hillside and is rescued by a fairy-tale wolf to find that his family has left behind the world of innocence that they knew. They have had to go out and fend for themselves after the feudal Marquesa falls on hard times. They may have lived frugally and in isolation before, but on the outskirts of the city, they are truely excluded. One character intercedes: "People only realise they have been slaves when they are free." "We use fables because what is happening in Italy these days is so extreme, that it's difficult to imagine that it's real, so maybe just fairy-tales can be useful to understand the reality in this moment and imagine another end of the story," she says, "I hope we will always be free to talk. The problem is [whether or not] there are people listening." If you aren't up to speed on the politics of Italy, the film has plenty of universal hooks to grab, as well as pleasant decors, grass, trees, a decrepit mansion and a curious shelter by the ring road cobbled together out of recycled bits and bobs. Rohrwacher is joined again by her actress sister, Alba in the second part of the film. She seems to fit the picture each time. "When I wrote the script I never thought of her. It was because we met Agnesse Graziani, the character of young Antonia. I was very touched by Agnesse as a beautiful human being, but also because she was so similar to my sister. So they asked them to be the same character. I would love to write a movie about my sister, but in these two movies she arrives after the writing, as big beautiful surprise." The Cannes Film Festival 2018 gave two Best Screenplay Awards in 2018. One went to Happy as Lazzaro, the other to Iranian director Jafar Panahi's 3 Faces. * * * The Mumbai Murders Anurag Kashyap is happily continuing his career as director and producer and making small-screen Netflix pix as well as cinema releases. The Mumbai Murders (2016) is a tough one to watch. A serial killer (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is hunted by drug-riddled cop (Vicky Kushal). Some of the scenes are extremely cruel, eye-shutting stuff. As the film is Hindi, if you close your eyes you also miss the translated dialogue in the subtitles. "I do not like the superhero violence at all, because violence is painful, its repelling, it's extreme, but we make it palatable. You don't see the true nature of violence," he says. Siddiqui as the 1960s unhinged serial killer, seems to reach a peak of unpalatable nastiness and is reputed to have suffered personally during and after the making of the film. Kashyap, as in previous bad or ineffective-cop and worse-villain films, cracks a pace and spirals away in a tornado of brutality. Getting beyond that, the twists and turns in the narration allow some intellectual respite from the emotional battering. One of his latest films released in India is called Manmarziyaan, a complicated by traditional triangular love-rivalry story, and stars Vicky Kushal, Tapsee Pannu and Abishek Bacchhan.
Young men make tough, clear choices in 'Shéhérazade' and 'Sauvage'
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets artists from two French feature films. Both stories about the rougher or tougher side of life: Shéhérazade and Sauvage. Shéhérazade In the sunny port of Marseille, director Jean-Bernard Marlin sets a true-story based on the experiences of teenagers who roam the streets in less salubrious areas and hang out with local, and barely older gang-leaders in housing estates near the city limits. Marlin cast Dylan Robert who'd just been released from a deliquent's centre in real life, as his hero, Zac. Not a professional actor, but with charm and vitality, able to convey different emotions from joy to anger to love and Robert should be well on his way after this first on-camera try. Marlin's leading lady, Kenza Fortas who plays the title role, makes a huge impact in her debut role. She incarnates a street-wise character, forced to grow up before her time, who after cracking tough deals in exchange for her body, falls asleep in Zac's arms like a baby. With the city by night and by day as a backdrop, these unbridled youths seem to take possession of the streets, becoming involved in violent as well as petty crime. The camera seems to be constantly on the go. Marlin stays close to Zac and Shéhérazade as they take on eastern European gangsters, local gangsters and disinterested parents. The story could take place in any other city or any other region says the director, "I researched the background to the true love story that took place in Marseille between a very young prostitute and the boy who became her pimp. That was just the starting point. Afterwards I went to the areas where the prostitutes were. I talked to many of the yong girls, and then I dramatised the situations for my screenplay." Marlin, admits an affinity with the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, "especially his first two films, Amaroma and Accatone where he worked with actors who had no previous experience, and people we don't often see in cinema. Also Elia Kazan, for his ambiguous relationships and contradictions in the characters, like in America, Amercia or On the Waterfront... I think my main character is not so dissimilar to the main character in On the Waterfront [Marlon Brando]. Without giving the game away, one reason he chose a happy ending was to prevent his first feature (after an award-winning short called Fugue or Runaway) falling into the banality of real-life.
Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman opens in European cinemas
US director Spike Lee's latest film opens in cinemas around Europe this week, as welll as in Argentina. BlacKkKlansman is the true story of a black police officer who infiltrated the white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. In May the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in southern France where it won the Grand Prix. BlacKkKlansman opened in cinemas in the US on 19 August and has earned over 20 million euros at the box office so far. RFI's Isabelle Chenu was among a...
Martel's colonial, absurd and splendid 'Zama' and Silver's rare Franco-US coprod 'Thirst Street'
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams tells curious film-watchers about two arresting June and July releases in France, Argentinian film Zama and US-French Thirst Street.
Lav Diaz's dark Season of the Devil, Samuel Collardey's luminous A Polar Year
In this month's Cinefile Rosslyn Hyams meets French director Samuel Pollardey who filmed a year in Greenland for Une Année Polaire (A Polar Year), and Lav Diaz, Filipino director of Season of the Devil, a four-hour film entirely sung, shot in black and white, which is more 'scuro' than 'chiaro'.
Cannes Film Festival awards and The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir
Cinefile with RFI's Rosslyn Hyams takes a look back at some of the main features of the Cannes Film Festival this month, a bumper edition in many ways. Also a feelgood pic pools India and French production talent in just released The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir directed by Ken Scott. The 2018 Cannes International Film Festival jury headed by actress and women's rights activist Cate Blanchett gave the Golden Palm to Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu's 13th feature, Shoplifters. The jury usually awards seven prizes but this year was special in that it awarded nine. The Best Scenario Palm went to to two best scripts, Alicia Rohrwacher's Happy as Lazarro and Jafar Panahi's 3 Faces which is one of the first Palm winners to go on general release in France since the festival, on 3 June 2018. A special one-off award was given to 87-year-old Jean-Luc Godard for his work, and for his intellectually and emotionally stimulating film entry in the Palm competition this year, The Image Book where he plays as much with sound levels as with images, colour and form. Besides the strong films from across the world which won the prizes, and some others which didn't, the festival pulled off a change of media focus. Ahead of the festival, screening time changes were not well-received and doomsday commentators thought the end was nigh because of this and other novelties. But, once into the event, action to further the cause of women's rights stepped into the spotlight, and the Cannes International Film Festival rediscovered its former glory. Two high-profile women-power demonstrations at peak viewing time, the at least-50-per-cent satisfying selection, as well as clinched deals in the market section, proved that the festival can thrive. It doesn't need former US producer Harvey Weinstein, now in the eye of the sexual-abuse and harrassement storm. Review - The Fakir's Extraordinary Voyage Looking for a charming but not entirely soppy film? The Fakir's Extraordinary Voyage could be the one to liven your spirits. Canadian Ken Scott of Delivery Man and Starbuck-fame has directed this Franco-Indian-Belgian coproduction, blessed by Sony International Pictures. As the hero says, "Chance is in the hand of cards that life deals you," and the production seems to be quite lucky to get such a boost. The hero Ajatashatru Oghash Rathod, performed by southern Indian actor, Dhanush, is a showman, and Dhanush's energy level and expressions keep the romcom on the move. As in a fairy-tale, Scott makes the impossible possible. He also makes fun out of difficult situations. Aja, the conman-tourist's life is a roller-coaster. Even when the hero is about to be deported from the UK as an illegal immigrant, Scott throws in a singing policeman routine. High points in The Fakir's Extraordinary Journey are some examples of Indian cinema's legendary dance routines, which Dhanush mixes with a touch of Michael Jackson and Saturday Night Fever nostalgia whisking Bérénice Béjo round a green- and purple-lit disco, postcard pretty scenes in Paris and Rome, the "I don't think I'm a lesbian" flat-mate-in-pyjamas scene, the singing policeman, and the way Scott has us laugh along with would-be migrants. The director also observes the hardships of migrants from Africa or elsewhere as they are shunted around and back to square one, if not worse. "If we get people to think about what the migrants go through and to realise that they are the same as everybody else, then we will have accomplished something," said Scott who also told me that he was sought out so that he would bring his trademark humour to the film. Released in France on 31 May 2018.
Is Gemma Arterton a happy woman; Walid Mattar follows the Northern Wind
In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets British actress and producer Gemma Arterton for her new film The Escape, directed by Dominic Savage, and Walid Mattar for his Franco-Tunisian film Vent du Nord (Northern Wind). THE ESCAPE -UNE FEMME HEUREUSE The Escape (Une Femme Heureuse) reads like a short story with train-ride views instead of an illustrated page inserted before each chapter. Editing speeds up the family routine and disrupts the monotony. What is happiness and how do you find it? "It's an honest film. It's not necessarily an easy one to watch. It's quite a taboo subject, talking about a woman who leaves her children..." Tara, played by Gemma Arterton, is married (her husband is played by Dominic Cooper). However, she is pulling away from him even though he beleives he has everthingl he needs to be happy - wife, kids, house, car, and job. Tara flails around from the beginning of the film until she reaches for the cross-Channel train and a pokey hotel room in Paris. Inevitably, she embarks on a romantic interlude in Paris with Jalil Lespert whose footloose character has his own baggage. The film is realistic, but the paring down of the elements packs an emotional punch and drama. "I think even the happiest of couples may go through difficult times," Arterton says. The audience is left with even more questions than they did at the outset, the most sallient of which is Tara 'Une Femme Heureuse', a happy woman? VENT DU NORD - NORTHERN WIND Walid Mattar's Vent du Nord, Northern Wind blows industry from the north. Mattar's film is constantly moving and offers brief pauses for thought with aerial views of a container ship sailing from the top of the screen to the bottom and vice versa. Throughout the film, Mattar asks about what the people who live in these physically different places have in common. It stars Corinne Masiero as a swimming pool cleaner flogging her husband's fishing catch to colleagues, and Philippe Rebbot as her husband trying to rebound after miserable lay-off pay-off. Kacey Mottet-Klein is their school-leaver son who chooses what ironically appeals as a 'secure' job away from his economically depressed home area. Nineteen-year-old Mottet-Klein has already shown his versatility after playing the 18th century Spanish, Prince Louis role in last year's The Exchange of the Princesses where Lambert Wilson played his father, the mad King Philippe. Mattar's social-realism film bears traces of Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake, but is not as dark. Mattar captures and contrasts the northern sea and sky colours of the region on the English Channel around Calais, with the sunnier southern side of the Mediterranean. "The optimism in the film lies [in the fact] that any 'normal' human being wants to keep going. The question I'm asking is whether in the current system are human beings important," he says. There are two cultures and two stages of economic development. Mattar manages to find commonalities between the two in his search for humanity. The grass is always greener even when there are pebbles and sand.