One of the most maddening things about film fests is that when the film selection announcements first start rolling out, you can hardly ever find anything about most of them. It's enough to drive a cinephile insane how few independent films have official websites up (or even enough info on their IMDb pages) by the time their fest inclusion is announced. I get that a lot of these filmmakers may be frantically in post getting their film ready for the fest, or working three jobs to pay off the credit card debt they amassed while making their films, but surely they have friends or relatives who could at least slap together a MySpace page or something.
I can wait for the professional, proofread-90-times production notes if I have to, but filmmakers, seriously! We want, nay, we need, info about your films. There are tons of films in a fest the size of TIFF, and only so many films our crew can see before their eyeballs explode. If your film isn't being repped by one of the big agencies who will pimp your film night and day until we get our butts to a screening, you need to give us enough about your film to make it rise above the fray to get us to see it. If you're a filmmaker and you have a film in TIFF, and you have an official site that's not listed on IMDb (and if it's not, list it), or you have production notes, anything, really, that will tell me why I should make sure someone on our team sees your film, email me at kim(at)cinematical(dot)com. In the meantime, I've poked around and rounded up what info I could find on the bevy of international films announced for the TIFF slate on Wednesday.
Gala presentations were announced for Alexi Tan's Blood Brothers, produced by John Woo and Terence Chang, which will play TIFF in addition to closing the Venice Film Festival. I just watched the trailer for the Asian gangster flick -- it looks visually stunning, although the storyline seems to be pretty typical gangster fare: young gangsters break into the mob, which is run with an iron fist by a badass boss; one of them falls for the beautiful but unobtainable nightclub singer who belongs to the boss, betrayal and much gunslinging ensues. Nonetheless, it looks great and could have potential to be a huge crossover hit, even with the subtitle-phobic mainstream American audience. I found the trailer over on Hong Kong Cinemagic, check it out and see what you think:
The Last Lear, directed by Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh (who also co-wrote the film). Lear, based on Utpal Dutt's play Aajker Shahjahan, stars Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan (who, bizarrely, this Hollywood Reporter story refers to as a "she") whose lengthy Bollywood career has waxed and waned over several decades, including a stint hosting the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Interesting side note for anyone as film-geeky as I am: Bachnan began his acting career way back in 1969, in a film called Saat Hindustani, in which he acted alongside Dutt. Bachchan also has a role in Mira Nair's upcoming Shataram, starring Johnny Depp (and produced by Depp's prodco, Infinitum Nihil). I haven't been able to find a trailer for this one yet, but when one is available we'll have it here.
Special presentations were announced for a bevy of films. Ang Lee's Lust, Caution doesn't have an official website up yet (the Focus Features says one is "coming soon") but there is a trailer up over at Focus, so you can take a look for yourself. As you might expect from an Ang Lee film, it looks gorgeously shot, and the storyline (what I can get of it from the trailer) looks interesting. More on this one as Focus doles out the info.
Julio Medem's Chaotic Ana has a page up on the director's website, which has a poster for the film (left, click for a larger version). I also found a teaser for the film over on YouTube, it doesn't really tell you much about what the film is actually about, but it's interesting nonetheless. This one is NSFW -- there is nudity in it (hooray for those Europeans and their nudity!). The official site is in Spanish, and there doesn't appear to be an English version yet, so we'll have to rely on the ever-wonky Google Translator, which gives us this interesting translation of what the film is about: "Ana is a free spirit who overturns his passion by the life in the painting. Justine, a cosmopolitan patron, invites to him to complete its formation in Madrid next to the group of artists whom it protects. It will be the beginning of a physical trip not only, that will take to discover it new continents, lives last and remote myths. Ana will try to break the chain of ancestral violence that shows in the doors that paint, and at the end of the adventure it will choose if it becomes monster or princess"
Next up: Jan Schütte's Love Comes Lately (that one stars Barbara Hershey, Elizabeth Peña and ... Rhea Perlman! Holy heck! Okay, I want to see it just for that now ... ). The film's prodco is Zero West Filmproduktion, which has the director's name spelled "Schuette, " whereas IMDb says Schütte. I'm guessing the prodco has it right, but can't say for certain. ZeroWest has this synopsis of the film up: "Though approaching his eighties, Max Kohn shows no signs of slowing down. He pursues his love life – both real and imagined – with youthful vigor, thereby risking his relationship to Reisel, the woman he loves but neglects. LOVE COMES LATELY is a film about imagined longings and the dream of love; about death and sex. It speaks of New York, its immigrants and the timelessness of the city." No trailer up that I could find yet, but the official site does have some stills up (click where it says "details" on the film's page).
Sergei Bodrov's Mongol (about the early life of Ghengis Khan) has an official (albeit brief) synopsis up on the Picturehouse site: "Directed by Sergei Bodrov (Prisoner of the Mountains, The Nomad), Mongol is the epic story of a young Genghis Khan and how events in his early life lead him to become the legendary conquer and father of Mongolia. The film will star Tadanobu Asano (Zatoichi) as Genghis Khan and will be produced by Sergei Selyanov, Anton Melnik, and Bulat Galimgereyev. Bodrov penned the script with Arif Aliyev. Mongol is currently in production and is scheduled for release in 2007." I found a teaser up on YouTube -- is it just me, or is it very reminiscent of Braveheart? We'll have more on this one as it becomes available.
Also announced was Hans Weingartner's Reclaim Your Brain (I've got nothing on this one, anyone know if this is the one listed in IMDb under the title Free Rainer?), and Milcho Manchevski's Shadows (aka Koski), about which I was able to find only this little tidbit in a quote from the director on MPT Online, a Macedonian website (and a hat tip to IMDb user "sasekicevo" for the pointer there): "It's a modern film, taking place in the modern world i.e. how we, as people, are treating our community, our ancestors, the un-born, our moral obligations." So there you have it, and you now know as much as most people about that one.
Chacun Son Cinema (aka To Each His Own Cinema, which was produced for the 60th anniversary of Cannes and debuted there), a collective of three-minute shorts by 33 diverse directors -- including Roman Polanski, Wim Wenders, Jane Campion, Atom Egoyan, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, among others -- is slated to play at the fest as well. We'll most definitely try to have a review of that one, so keep your eyes out for it.
The Contemporary World Cinema section ("dedicated to shining a light on international voices," according to the official TIFF site) will include Sarah Gavron's Brick Lane (which, as we noted last week, has already been picked up by Sony Picture Classics). Maddeningly, SPC has nothing up yet on the film, and I can't find a trailer or even stills. SPC did put this synopsis up on IMDb: "Brick Lane" is the story of a beautiful young Bangladeshi woman, Nazneen (Chatterjee), who arrives in 1980s London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged marriage and a new life. Trapped within the four walls of her flat in East London, and in a loveless marriage with the middle aged Chanu (Kaushik), she fears her soul is quietly dying. Her sister Hasina (Zafreen), meanwhile, continues to live a carefree life back in Bangladesh, stumbling from one adventure to the next. Nazneen struggles to accept her lifestyle, and keeps her head down in spite of life's blows, but she soon discovers that life cannot be avoided - and is forced to confront it the day that the hotheaded young Karim (Simpson) comes knocking at her door." Very likely, SPC will have more info on this film soon, and we'll keep our eyes out for it.
Fest fave Linda, Linda Linda director Nobuhiro Yamashita's newest film, A Gentle Breeze in the Village (aka Tennen Kokkeko), is also lined up for the fest. This one is a youth film based on a girls' manga, about which Mark Schilling , reviewing the film for The Japan Times Online, said, "Yamashita's gentle-spirited celebration of the sort of slow-paced, human-centered childhood and youth that may be familiar to generations past, but is becoming a rarity in today's hyper, wired Japan, where teens source more friends online than in the flesh - and discard them as casually as last month's fashions." That description alone (well, that and Linda, Linda, Linda) is enough to make me want to see that one. Oh, and the film actually has an official website (albeit in Japanese), so just for that, it gets its pic at the top of this column. Doesn't it look pretty? Don't you want to see it now? I know I do.
Also in Contemporary World Cinema, we have Ventura Pons' Barcelona (A Map), which the director also wrote (no official website for this film that I could find, but at least the director has a pretty slick site, and it's translated, for your browsing convenience, into English, Spanish, and Catalan (the national language of Andorra!). Pons' previous film, A Life on the Edge, does have an official website (which looks pretty, even though it's not translated to English that I can find, so I have to kind of guess at what it says there -- I know, I should be more cosmopolitan and expand my knowledge of world languages -- I'll get on that in my spare time), so I'll hold out hope that a (translated, please) website for Barcelona (A Map) will be forthcoming.
Battle for Haditha by Nick Broomfield (who previously brought us Ghosts, which just played at Sundance -- talk about a busy year) is also in the lineup. This one is another film about the Iraq War, this one, according to its IMDb, is "An investigation of the massacre of 24 men, women and children in Haditha, Iraq allegedly shot by 4 U.S. Marines in retaliation for the death of a U.S. Marine killed by a roadside bomb. The movie follows the story of the Marines of Kilo Company, an Iraqi family, and the insurgents who plant the roadside bomb." I was able to find a trailer for this one on the film's MySpace page (Yay Nick Broomfield! And just for that, I'm making sure we review this one for you, and we'll do our best to get an interview with Broomfield as well, as this film is sure to be controversial). Here's the trailer, pretty powerful stuff (keep in mind that the film was still in post at this time):
Next up is Phillipe Faucon's Dans La Vie. Now, my French is even worse than my Macedonian, but I think this roughly translates to In the Life (perhaps someone out there who does speak French will comment and tell us if that's right or not, and hopefully without being too insulting of my lack of French language skills, if you don't mind). There's no IMDb entry for this film yet, (tsk, tsk) but I was able to glean a little info from this page over at FilmdeCulte.com, which Google translator (rather amusingly) translated for me thusly:
At two days of the first clap of the turning of the new project of Philippe Faucon, of which we revealed you the existence one month ago, one has from now on a more detailed synopsis.
The film will thus be interested in the character of Sélima, a young woman of Algerian extraction, liberal nurse who practises care in residence. One day, it is called by Elie (Patrick Chesnais), wire of an old woman of Jewish confession: Esther. The latter suffers from a paralysis of the lower limbs, and needs assistance. Esther, originating in Oran and folded up on the memory of Algeria of his youth, accomodated the young nurse well, in spite of fears of his son. She is however sometimes reticent (in particular at the moment of its toilet), living this assistance obliged like a constraint and a humiliation. Sélima arrives however, with humour and direction of the meeting, to make him forget its fears, during handling which makes it possible to make pass Esther of its wheel chair to the bath-tub.
Coproduit by Arte France Cinema and Istiqlal Films, In the life will profit 10 weeks of turning.
Draw our forum from its paralysis.
"Draw our forum from its paralysis?" Okay, you can stop giggling now. I know, the translation is a bit wonky, but it still sounds pretty interesting, n'est-ce pas?
Lone Scherfig's Just Like Home has an official site, a poster (left, click on it for a bigger view of all those naked butts) AND a trailer. Unfortunately, I couldn't for the life of me get the trailer on the official site to play, but I was able to scour one out over on the every-trusty YouTube (Since it doesn't appear the trailer on YouTube was put up there by the producers, I'm just linking to it rather than embedding it here; hopefully the film's producers won't be mad about this -- if they get the trailer on the official site working, email me and I'll update). The trailer is in Danish (which, shockingly enough, I also don't speak) and there are no subtitles on it as of yet, but I could get enough of the gist of the film to intrigue me anyhow, and perhaps you will, too. The official site also has a gallery of downloads.
Phillipine Science (Pisay), the latest offering from filmmaker Auraeus Solito (The Blossoming of Maximus Oliveros, Tuli), is about Phillipine Science High School, the top high school for the sciences in the Phillipines, where the real cream of the cream among gifted Filipino children are trained to become the top minds of future science and technology. The film has a nicely done official website and the trailer doesn't seem to be overly serious though, it feels more humorous, kind of Rocket Science meets Fame or something. You can view the trailer yourself and see what you think:
A website called Akomismo -- "Presenting the thoughts and writings of a Filipino social studies teacher" has the jump on all the film sites, having already scored an interview with Solito about the film. Niiiiiice. The interview is pretty interesting; reading it I learned (A) that Solito himself was a student at the Pisay, which is why he was inspired to make the film; (B) that the film follows eight scholars in Phillipine Science High School during the 1980s (that explains the bad hairdos and fashions prevalent in the trailer) during the last stages of the Marcos dictatorship through the People Power revolution of 1986, and (C) Solito believes that in a few years, indie will become mainstream and a new generation will redefine what indie will be. Read the full interview for more.
Åke Sandgren's To Love Someone (which has been described to me as "quietly intense") is also slated for the fest. According to Nordisk Films' site on the film, this is what it's about: "To Love Someone" is a film about Alf, a fish-shop owner, who lives a good life together with Lena. The only problem is that, despite knowing he makes Lena happy, Alf feels he is being compared with Lena's previous husband, Hannes. When Hannes suddenly appears in their lives again everything that matters is put to a test. In matters of the heart, can you forgive the unforgiveable?
Fleshing that out a bit for you, what I know about the film at this point is that Lena was in an abusive relationship with Hannes, which, with the help of a support group for battered wives, she got out of. She remarries to Alf, who is a good man who treats her right. Hannes, meanwhile, gets therapy while serving time in prison for beating Lena, has realized what a jerk he was and changed his ways, and then reappears in Lena's life. Lena finds herself drawn again to Hannes, believing that he's really changed, and faces the anger and disbelief of her friends and family, who cannot believe she would consider leaving her nice husband for the man who abused her so violently in the past. Now if that doesn't sound intriguing, I don't know what does. No trailer that I can find yet on this one, but stay tuned, if I track one down I'll post it.
Palme d'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, directed by Cristian Mungui, also joins the lineup. This film is part of a larger project called "Tales from the Golden Age," "a subjective history of communism in Romania told through its urban legends. The project's aim is to talk about that period with no direct reference to communism but only through different stories focused on personal options in a time of misfortunes that people had to live like normal times." 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is set in a small town in Romania , and tells the story of Otilia and Gabita, two young women who are college roommates, who set out to obtain an illegal abortion for Gabita. Our own James Rocchi, who caught the film at Cannes, said in his review that it is " incredibly affecting, magnificently acted and superbly made" and compared it to one of my fave films of last year, The Lives of Others. High praise indeed. Here's a link to a clip over on YouTube, I wasn't able to find an official trailer yet. There are a bunch of film stills over at the official site, and also some "making of" stills as well.
Two additions to the Vanguard category round out Wednesday's announcement: John Crowley's Boy A and James Spooner's White Lies, Black Sheep. Crowleys' directorial debut, Intermission (which stars Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy) screened at Telluride and TIFF in 2003, and he's back again with Boy A, about which I can find nada at the moment (it could be this little tidbit listed in IMDb, maybe --it's a UK TV production about a guy who committed a murder as a child, and Crowley is Irish -- but I can't say for sure.) More on that one as I can ferret it out. I'm trying to dig up info on White Lies, Black Sheep right now; I believe it's by the same guy who did Afropunk (I'm trying to contact him to verify this). As soon as I get official word on that, and hopefully a pointer to a website or any info at all about this film, I will let you know.
As is always the case with fest lineups, most of us go in generally knowing very little about most of the films other than the descriptions we get from PR folks and the descriptions in the catalog, which invariably make each and every film sound spectacular ("The must-see film of the year!"); then comes the work of trying to guess from said descriptions which of the 200 or so films at a fest our team will be able to fit into their schedules, and hoping that we end up hitting as many of the films that will end up being either the best or the most buzzed about (not always the same thing). Hopefully having at least this much info in one place will help make your own viewing decisions easier. I'm going to attempt to get up similar posts for the other major categories before I leave for Telluride, so stay tuned for more.