Posts Tagged ‘drama’

This week’s highlights:

  • Until 3rd January @ ICA: Chasing Ice

Jeff Orlowski’s 2012 documentary gives a visual narrative to the work of James Balog, once-climate sceptic and founder of the Extreme Ice Survey in 2007. If the shots below aren’t enticing enough in themselves, Philip French from The Observer calls them “sensational in their beauty, terror and the irrefutable evidence they provide of the rapidity with which age-old ice packs are melting away.” Book tickets here for the ICA or visit the Chasing Ice website for a full list of screenings between December and April throughout the UK.

  • 17th-20th December @ Curzon Renoir: Dead Europe

This Tony Krawitz (The Tall Man, Jewboy) adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ novel is not likely to get you in the Christmas spirit. However if what you’re after is “a bruising blast of intense drama” (Sydney Morning Herald) you’re likely to be enthralled by the story of Isaac (Ewen Leslie), an Australian photographer who travels to Greece to scatter his father’s ashes only to get caught in a political and preternatural inferno. Trailer and tickets available here.

  • 17th-20th December @ Curzon Mayfair: Babette’s Feast

Much more festive than the above, Gabriel Axel’s 1987 adaptation of Karen Blixen’s timeless classic will be a welcome Christmas treat to anyone for whom the holidays are first and foremost about culinary feasts. Book your tickets here.

Coming up:

  • 26th January @ DFG: A Short Guide to Short Docs – Saturday School

The folks at the Documentary Filmmakers Group share their passion and expertise during this one-day course, teaching you how to pitch your film and the “why, what, where and how” of what a successful “calling card” of a short doc should include. Price is £54 for non-members and £42 for members. Early booking is recommended.

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This week’s highlights:

  • 10th December @ Goldsmiths: The Masterclass of Editor Nicolas Chaudeurge

Following last week’s “Producing in 50 Questions” with Fish Tank producer Kees Kasander, Fish Tank editor Nicolas Chaudeurge will be delivering a masterclass in editing at Goldsmiths University. This promises to be a rare treat from the man who worked alongside director Andrea Arnold on all of her Oscar- and BAFTA-winning films. Free registration.

  • 11th December @ Oval Space: The House I Live In + Panel Discussion

Eugene Jarecki’s 2012 film (Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance) offers a hard-hitting look at the effects and effectiveness of the war on drugs in America. A panel of experts from the Drug Policy Reform movement in the UK will take part in a debate following the screening at the Oval Space in Bethnal Green. Tickets are £7 or £5 concessions.

Coming up:

  • 18th December @ Phoenix Artists Club: London Screenwriters’ Festival Christmas Party

The London Screenwriters’ Festival are holding their annual networking Christmas party at the famed Phoenix Artists Club in Charing Cross Road. An excellent opportunity to meet like-minded people from the film industry in a festive atmosphere! Entry fee £3.

  • 10th-27th January @ Future Cinema: The Shawshank Redemption

Tickets for Future Cinema’s next live cinema experience are available now! Early booking is recommended for this highly popular cinematic event with a twist.

 

 

“All my life I have been fighting to get films on screen and now it’s more and more complicated.”
Kees Kasander on why it’s important to keep makeup artists happy and your location manager drunk.
 

Make no mistake: film production may involve numbers and budgeting but Kees Kasander is just as passionate about his vocation as the next art director. His Netherlands-based production house, Kasander Film, has released nearly 80 titles since 1981. Andrea Arnold’s 2009 Fish Tank won the Jury Prize in Cannes the same year and the 2010 BAFTA for Best British Film.

Speaking at a Goldsmiths University event “Producing in 50 Questions” in London on Wednesday, he delivered a string of no-bullshit sound bites and pearls of personal wisdom that provided a delighted audience with an insight into the idiosyncrasies of both master and craft.

Kees Kasander likes diligence. He likes music, editing, and working with the same team. He doesn’t like the sound guys. (“Maybe it’s because they think with their ears.”) He avoids spending time on set. The cutting room, on the other hand, he spends as much time in as possible: “I like to sit and see if it comes together, and maybe I can be useful. Every film is too long, that’s the first problem. Every director wants to put more into a film than the audience wants.”

So he enjoys problem solving? “No, it’s part of the job. It’s a stupid job, to be honest, film producer. If the film is good it’s because of the director, if it’s bad it’s my fault.” When asked how he likes to spend time off from this stupid job, he prompts a question of his own: “What is time off? Why should I take time off from something I enjoy?”

FilmsThree decades of allegedly continuous work notwithstanding, experience is not what Kasander values most: he even calls it “a dodgy business”. He has fired people when they insisted they had done things differently on a previous set. In Kasander’s eyes neither film school nor a five year stint as assistant are a guarantee of success; after all 99% of scripts never make it onto the screen.

As if to dispel any feelings of gloom or outrage his abrupt honesty might have caused, he meekly offers: “We made some films that were not very good, but interesting. You have to pick the right one, the one to your taste.” Kasander’s personal taste (and against a certain consensus in the business) favours writer-directors: “It seems it works better because it’s so personal.”

From a producer’s point of view, however, there is much more excitement to be found in the non-fiction arena of documentaries. Kasander draws no division between documentary and film, contending all a film needs to qualify as such is an interesting director and an interesting idea. In fact with documentaries “you are making a film while you are making a film. You have to use your brain: [fiction] film is more like bookkeeping.”

His passion for this particular art form is clear: “Documentaries are like one big contingency. You have so much money left, how are you going to use it? You start it and you don’t know how it’s going to end.”

One might surmise his partiality lies in a certain artistic licence that, ironically, is harder to exercise in the production of fiction. With the wild variety of constraints imposed by individual countries, one simply cannot make a film to be distributed around the world. In India, kissing is forbidden on screen. In Japan it’s pubic hair. “Silly idea, not even Japanese, it’s American. I can’t be bothered with that sort of nonsense.”

As an example of the challenges that can arise from cultural differences and filming abroad, he quotes a film crew that shortened a 10-week stay in Japan by a whole nine weeks because “they just didn’t know how things worked”. Hence the necessity of skillful management when it comes to leading crew members: “You don’t have a location contract, you have a location manager, so if he goes missing you suddenly have no location. You have to keep giving him alcohol.”

The location manager is not the only person Kasander covertly collaborates with. When something is wrong “the first person an actor will complain to is the makeup person, they never come to me, so I have to have a good relationship with everyone. It’s almost like football in a way. You have 11 people on the pitch. If they all do their job, it’s a dream job. If not it’s a nightmare.”

He acknowledges that very often “different people are shooting different films” and mostly with the best of intentions: “Everyone wants to make the best possible film. You just have to make sure they’re fighting for the right reason.”

It naturally follows that he should favour small teams. “I had 10 people once and I was working for those 10 people. Instead of making the best possible film I was working for an office.” An independent-minded man, Kasander professes that “the first thing I’ve learned is to control my own budget and control my own schedule.”

Controlling one’s budget seems the crucial element here: “You have to make sure there are many partners, otherwise they control your film and before you know it you are working for them. It’s the hardest thing, staying independent. Even if you are 32 years in the business they can still tell you what to do. And you need to be 100% financed before you get any money [to start shooting].”

In CannesSo when does the budgeting start? “When you read a script, you start financing a film I believe. I need to know by the end of it how I’m going to do it. Sometimes you read a script and you think it’s fantastic but I don’t know where to get the money.”

Other than issues related to budgeting, which nominally are the core aspect of a producer’s calling, in this day and age distribution presents a much bigger challenge. “The most problematic part of filmmaking is getting it out to the audience.” Festivals might remain the best remedy to anonymity but even in Cannes “you get a lot of attention but not a lot of sales. Everyone wants to talk to you, it’s nice.”

If such a remark is anything to go by, Kasander places a bigger stake in the audience’s verdict than his peers’. This is where the World Wide Web steps in. “How will you find out if a film is good? On the internet, I think. I don’t think it’s from Time Out anymore. There’s a different relationship now with audiences.”

Internet distribution may still be in its early days “but in five years’ time all my films will end up being distributed on the internet rather than in a cinema – we are thinking of putting our films for free on the internet because then at least people can see them – unless I’m making Batman 5 because that will always be released in the cinema.”

Does he bear a grudge against houses that favour blockbusters over independent productions? “If I were a cinema owner I would play Skyfall because there’s money in it, so I understand.” And there is an upside to the public taking distribution into its own hands: “I’m very famous in China because of The Pillow Book. They sold more than a million copies. Illegal copies.”

On the equivalent success of Fish Tank in Britain, he muses: “You never know who your audience is before you start. Was it the right film at the right time? Nobody knows.”

Kasander’s appraisal of his favoured directors – along with the Goldsmiths audience appraisal of Kasander – seem to suggest that the answer is to be found, quite simply, in talent, perseverance, and a flair for damn good filmmaking.
 

To attend the Masterclass of Editor Nicolas Chauderge, editor of Fish Tank, on Monday 10 December reserve your free ticket here. For information about more weekly events at Goldsmiths visit the university’s website.

Based on Domitilla Calamai’s eponymous book, Julie Gavras’ 2006 Franco-Italian debut feature film enchanted audiences at home and abroad, collecting several awards from francophone countries and featuring at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Anna (Nina Kervel-Bey, brilliantly, convincingly strong-headed)  is a 9 year old Parisian daughter of Spanish and French petite bourgeoisie. The film follows her story from the death of her uncle under Franco’s regime to the assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende on September 11th 1973.

When Anna’s aunt and cousin find refuge in the family home in Paris, Anna’s tranquil, regulated life is thrown into a shambles. New terms such as distribution of wealth and communist, uttered by her increasingly reactionary parents, creep their way into her vocabulary alongside the familiar and reassuring teachings of the school nuns’ bible study.

Anna struggles to hang onto a reference point in a world that is many shades of grey: she witnesses wisdom within prejudice and prejudice hiding behind a screen of progress; she discovers her ancestors are torturers and their children self-styled freedom-fighters.

As a throng of bearded visitors and a succession of exotic nannies (from “countries where they burn children with napalm”) all but invade the downsized house her family now inhabits, Anna’s hunger to understand slowly takes precedent over her outright rejection of this drastic change in her traditional upbringing. Initially dubbed “la momia” by her father’s Allende-supporting friends, she learns to tolerate their late-night presence and increasingly seeks out their company. Her attempts at spying on her mother’s feminist meetings and secret recording sessions are met with strict rebuttal.

While the adults each fight their own battle, she tries to assimilate the concept of “group solidarity” which they make her experience first-hand in an anti-Franco demonstration. Her lack of understanding in the face of issues such as social mobility and abortion mirrors that of the older generation and her catholic schoolmates’ parents, but her curiosity and an incontrovertible sense of logic push through: she braves mistake after mistake in the pursuit of her own conclusions, under the sometimes benevolent, sometimes appalled eye of her parents. It becomes clear that even without all the pieces, this puzzle is less complicated to a child than to the adults who purport to redefine its shape.

As Anna completes her journey, from haughtily “cutting fruit properly” to switching off the boiler in winter to save electricity, we experience and celebrate her frustrations and moments of epiphany, and the puzzled apprehension and delight of newfound freedom.

This unpretentious film offers a brilliant portrayal of 1970s reactionary Paris through its fallible characters and the eyes of the child who watches them suffer and grow. The string of usual revolutionary clichés are mercifully not in abundance here, as Julie Gavras puts careful thought into demonstrating both the importance and futility of symbols and individual action. A few joyous moments of subtle humour complement the overall light-hearted treatment of a heavy historical subject. Armand Amar’s wonderful soundtrack, reminiscent of the more widely known Yann Tiersen, is a pleasure in itself.

Blame in on Fidel! is available on BBC iPlayer until 17th April.

One of my favourite films of all times couldn’t go without a review.

Marc Foster’s 2005 high-impact drama was very much overlooked upon release. Scripted by David Benioff (The 25th Hour, Game of Thrones), arguably one of the finest young writers out there, and starring Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Bob Hoskins and the more recently celebrated Ryan Gosling, the psychological thriller category under which falls this gem of a film belies the visually stunning poetry of its cinematography.

Sam Foster (McGregor) and his partner Lila (Watts) live a comfortable life in New York, each of them dedicated to their passion and career, psychiatry and painting respectively. When Sam takes on suicidal patient Henry (Gosling), unsettling thoughts, events and manifestations start seeping into his existence.

Is it a dream? Or a nightmare, more like. Is it madness we’re dealing with? Whose madness? The therapist’s? Or his patient’s, drawing the therapist into his own world? Or is it us he’s drawing in? We hear Lila call Sam “Henry”: is then she the one who’s mad? We, the audience, know she called him that, we heard it, with our very own ears. So is the therapist drawing us into his madness? But he’s not the patient…

All throughout the film, there are signs – apart from the all-round fucked-up narrative – subtle signs that there’s something deeper going on. Something we can’t make sense of and something the character probably only senses without ever getting close to identifying. There are visual clues – all the things happening in doubles – the two girls, with the brown bob and yellow raincoat, simultaneously exiting opposite sides of the car, opening the boot, and simultaneously pulling out two identical suitcases. This, in a remote corner of the overall street view as it’s shot; easily missable, nagging at our subconscious nonetheless. The twins (or clones) passing Sam in the corridor. The omnipresent symmetry. And the cinematography – the staircase!! Everything leads to an explanation of the truth behind the story that we’re not equipped to decipher or even grasp – and so we’re contrived to sitting back and enjoying the aesthetics of it. The beauty of it.

And the final scene – and it is only in the very final scene – when everything falls into place, everything we’ve seen, everything we’ve questioned, everything we’ve noticed and even things we haven’t – it all flashes before our eyes, and it doesn’t make sense but we understand it. Just as our character does. The absoluteness of the tragedy grips us, while the promise of redemption in the form of a new beginning leaves us wondering whether we’re choking back tears of grief or joy.

Now that is cinematic genius.