Back in 2009, I was privileged to see an advance screening of the film ‘Tibet in Song’ by Ngawang Choephel in NYC and was absolutely mesmerized by Tibet’s breathtaking views, its people’s courage and beauty and its filmmaker’s strength and resilience in the face of adversity. I know that after watching ‘Tibet in Song’ I would try to never again complain about a rainy day I have to spend inside and I would respect my Tibetan brothers and sisters only that much more! I mean, the fashions and jewelry alone have made me a fan of Tibet but their courage made me a lifetime supporter. Back then, I caught up with Choephel and he shared some of his insight into this very personal journey of a film.Read More
As I sit with a group of journalists surrounding Alice Rohrwacher, on an open terrace in Cannes, there is a dog howling and barking, far in the background. I giggle to myself as I seem to be the only person noticing it and because in her film ‘Lazzaro Felice’ (‘Happy as Lazzaro’) she features a wolf who is quite central to the story. This sound in the distance brings a whole otherworldly, almost magical element to our chat and if she does anything with her films, Rohrwacher proves a purveyor of magic through the lens.
This week, Rohrwacher descends on Doha to become a Master during their annual Qumra event. The Doha Film Institute is also about magic, and they make theirs happen behind the scenes by bringing together the crème de la crème of international filmmakers, producers, film curators, programmers, sales agent and festival directors to create a cinematic tsunami that is bound to be felt around the world. It is five days and nights of jam packed cinematic networking as well as constant learning, through their Masterclasses, lectures and mentorship, as well as over fine local dishes at working breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
From where I stand, the partnership seemed inevitable between Rohrwacher and the DFI.Read More
There is something about Lady Melissa Percy that reminds me of a young Katherine Hepburn. Aside from both being tall and slim, they don’t share actual physical traits as much as the ability to look glamorous and feminine in casual, sporty clothes. What both women of course do share is a love of the outdoors, sports and the similarities could continue beyond that.
Glamour to me has always been an affair of substance over style and it’s clear Lady Percy, Missy to her friends, embodies that wholeheartedly.Read More
Roberto Saviano, to any Italian, is a figure that we constantly re-evaluate. I started out being completely taken by his apparent courage and in fact wrote the piece below after meeting him in secret in NYC. I named it “The Face of Courage” for the Huffington Post.
These days, his police protection magically gone, even though the Camorra is still going strong, he’s written the screenplay for an award winning film at Berlinale, and I am starting to doubt his intentions. Or even his provenance. When I wanted to catch up again with the writer and TV personality, he dismissed me on a couple of occasions. But regardless of my own experiences and thoughts about Saviano, this interview I conducted with him in NYC in 2012 is a great testament to something. I just have to figure out what… My good writing perhaps?Read More
Guillermo Arriaga is currently on a book tour promoting ‘El Salvaje’ and follows the route of the book’s latest translations, which, among other locations, so far have taken him to my native Florence and will take him to Holland at the start of 2019. In fact, while in the Netherlands, he’ll participate in what promises to be an engrossing conversation during the International Film Festival Rotterdam, part of their #FeelIFFR series of events.Read More
Having just closed its thirty-third edition, the Settimana Internazionale della Critica (Venice International Film Critics Week also known as SIC for short) is the Venice festival sidebar that can boast the discovery of such world cinema masters as Olivier Assayas (SIC 1986), Pedro Costa (SIC 1989), Bryan Singer (SIC 1993), Peter Mullan (SIC 1998), Abdellatif Kechiche (SIC 2000), as well as Ronit and Shlomi Elkabets (SIC 2004). Each year, and year after year since the early ‘80s, the Venice International Film Critics Week has been changing cinema and in the process, also reshaping us and making us better. Because I do believe that cinema is undisputedly the fastest and most efficient way to change the world.
For the past three years renowned Italian film journalist and critic Giona A. Nazzaro has been SIC’s General Delegate, a duty he was elected to by a committee and for which the current mandate expires with this edition. Inshallah, as those of us who have spent more than a day or two in the Arab world are used to saying, he will be reelected to another mandate. I’ve grown quite fond of Nazzaro, in a truly professional way. He’s kind and very talented, but he also has an incredible instinct for discovering the unprecedented. And the past three years have been exciting ones at the SIC.Read More
Back in 1999, at the Festival de Cannes, Bruno Dumont presented 'Humanity' ('L'humanité') a film that caused an uproar among critics, who initially mocked and then went on to three of the top awards from the Competition jury headed by David Cronenberg.
So, in case you were wondering, Dumont seems to always manage the last laugh.
Fast forward almost two decades and Dumont is getting quite a lot of laughs indeed, this time from audiences at the Locarno Festival watching the world premiere of the latest installment of the TV series the French filmmaker started for ARTE in 2014. The original installment was 'Li'l Quinquin', now his characters are all four years older and the second season is titled 'CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans'.Read More
It was the film I most craved to watch at this year's Locarno Festival, and it happened to be the very first film I watched here. It didn't disappoint me!
Dominga Sotomayor's 'Too Late to Die Young' ('Tarde Para Morir Joven') is a beautiful shot, strangely evocative and perfectly soothing piece of filmmaking. Yet it somehow has stayed with me throughout the festival, a meter by which I have been judging everything else I've watched in Locarno.
Sotomayor’s film tells the simple enough yet unusual tale of a teenager, Sofia (played by Demian Hernandez) coming of age in a commune on the slopes of the Andes just above Santiago, Chile and the surrounding cast of characters that accompany her journey all the way to the final climax of the film. It is accented by this etherial cinematography and cool sounds and you can't help, as an audience member, but become wrapped in nostalgia. In this film's case, unlike a Syrian filmmaker once said to me when I interviewed him for his film, childhood is a geographical place and Sotomayor brings us there to experience it along with her. It's her memories of growing up in a community very much like the one in the film.
I caught up with the cool and self assured Sotomayor in Locarno where the film screens as part of the festival's International Competition.Read More
Film and TV titles designer Kyle Cooper was at the Locarno Festival this year to be bestowed with the Vision Award Ticinomoda for his career. In fact, if you research Cooper you will be impressed by how much he's done. Guaranteed. Almost every single title sequence for favorite films and beloved TV series have been designed or influenced in some way or another by Cooper.
From 'Se7en' to 'Indecent Proposal', from 'The Joy Luck Club' to 'Quiz Show', from 'Mission: Impossible' to 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', and for TV 'The Walking Dead', 'Feud' and 'American Horror Stories' among much, much more, Cooper has been involved in creating those titles.
And if you've ever tried to watch a film without titles, to me it's a bit like traveling without buying a ticket first. Yes, it can be done and you will probably get to the destination desired, but the experience you have set yourself up for won't be quite the same. Disorganized, late and without a clue is never a good way to start off. And arrive.Read More
Just over a month before the Festival de Cannes kicked off on the Croisette, an announcement rocked the world of Arab cinema: Egyptian producer extraordinaire Mohamed Hefzy would be the new head of the Cairo International Film Festival. There are many reasons why Hefzy is the perfect man for the job, since CIFF has had its share of troubles following the revolutions of the Arab Spring. Among them, that he's long been a great cinematic bridge between the Arab world and the West. Also to keep in mind, the movie business in Egypt has gone through changes that would have shut the industry down in most other countries, and yet out of those ashes it is thanks to a visionary producer like Hefzy that Egyptian films are now seen beyond the Arab world.
I can easily quote the 'Yomeddine' example -- a simple, straight from the heart indie-like film that competed for the Palme d'Or this year in Cannes. Yes, in Competition, in Cannes. Not bad for a debut feature film!
So knowing that Hefzy will be at the helm of the oldest and most prestigious festival in Egypt is great news to this lover of Arab cinema.Read More
Ever since last September, when I ran across Abel Odor, the Amsterdam-based fragrance company of New Zealander Frances Shoemack at Pitti Fragranze, I've been obsessed with these natural smelling olfactory creations. In my own philosophy of life, which includes great cinema, quality food and a generous helping of fashion, I find that perfume plays an integral part. It communicates who you are, in just a split second. And I always want my fragrance to say "intelligent, world-conscious and a bit wild" -- a message which Abel creations convey perfectly.
So to celebrate the fact that Abel products are now available in the US, both to order online from Abelodor.com and in select specialty stores, I revisit here my own journey through Abel scents and an interview with its founder -- a fragrance and personal favorite.Read More
I can't help but think of this iconic image of James Ivory at the Oscars this year, wearing the Andrew Mania designed shirt featuring the likeness of 'Call Me By Your Name' co-star Timothée Chalamet. It's everything it should be and more and it's the recognition this giant of the indie film world deserves. What Luchino Visconti was to cinema in the 1960s and 70s, James Ivory -- and his partner, the late Ismael Merchant -- have been to it since then. All the way to 2018! A film featuring either of their names means quality, beauty, poetry and most of all, cinematic dreams galore.
So I wanted to revisit this interview with the Grand Maestro himself, from 2016, which I managed to secure on the occasion of the re-release of 'Howards End', a touching beautiful film about human connections. And love, so much love. In between the serious questions, Ivory and I also exchanged some recommendations on current films to watch -- I suggested 'Elvis & Nixon' which has the feel of a Merchant Ivory production, starring Michael Shannon as, yes, Elvis Presley! -- and I shared my love for 'A Room with a View' the first film I bought on VHS tape, to own and cherish until video went away.Read More
Back in 2014, filmmaker and producer Lee Daniels visited the Dubai International Film Festival. What came out of our chat fueled my love for cinema and made me believe in humanity again. It was the age of Obama then, a different America and a different world.
But I discovered I need to revisit his wisdoms today. They make even more sense now.Read More
The magic of Matteo Garrone's latest 'Dogman' lies in the Italian filmmaker's fantastical vision -- a creativity simply like no other in narrative cinema. There is something about how this Cannes Competition title was shot, almost surrealistic and old timey, and how the story has been told without compromise that left me breathless.
'Dogman' is a true collaboration between two exceptional individuals, Garrone as its director of course and his leading man Marcello Fonte, whom the filmmaker allows to steal the show without any ego or possessiveness to the story he wrote (along with Massimo Gaudioso and Ugo Chiti). In fact, Fonte manages to be even more mesmerizing than the dogs in 'Dogman' and those four legged creatures are plentiful and quite spellbinding themselves. Some would say that by the final image of 'Dogman' Fonte has become one of them, an ownerless dog who just lost his master.
I fell in love with her film 'Salt of This Sea' first, captured by its heroine Soraya, who was unapologetically woman and so perfectly angry. Then I got to interview her during the now defunct Abu Dhabi Film Festival and found her to be as wonderfully real as her film characters are. Once again, one of her films 'When I Saw You' made me dream from my cinema seat and I found its omissions from that year's Oscar race a large oversight.Read More
I've always been a fan of Wright's work, from his unforgettable Tony and Emmy award winning performance on Broadway and TV as Belize in 'Angels in America' to his always welcomed appearances in political thrillers such as 'Syriana', 'The Ides of March' and 'The Manchurian Candidate'. Yet the final straw of my enchantment with this understated actor who is also a relentless human rights advocate, was his performance as Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1996 Julian Schnabel film on the American artist. In one beautiful performance, Wright portrayed all the vulnerability and talent of a man who seemed to live in a world of his own, and yet had his cultural roots deeply planted in the American way.Read More
A good forty-four years after Lebanese director Heiny Srour had her film featured in the Official Competition at the Festival de Cannes, Nadine Labaki once again breaks all records, foregoes all the unspoken rules and becomes the second woman filmmaker from the Arab world ever to be chosen to be part of the prestigious lineup. And in fact, we can count the women directors who have been on that list on the tips of our fingers...
It's no wonder that the cool, glamorous and utterly fantastic Labaki and her crew (including her composer husband Khaled Mouzanar, who lends the music to all her cinematic masterpieces) celebrated the news of her latest 'Capernaum' being nominated for a Palme d'Or with a video that has gone viral on her social media.Read More
“The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture.” So Alfred Hitchcock once famously said and no one argues with the Master of Suspence.
Recently, I found that for me the triumph of Warwick Thornton’s ‘Sweet Country’ lies in Ewen Leslie’s performance as Harry March. Part dysfunctional sociopath, part shell-shocked soldier and a whole lot of smoldering angst to fill in the shades of grey in between, Leslie’s performance as the racist, sexual abuser March kicks off with a vengeance this poetic Indigenous Outback western with a Tarantino-esque twist.
I had the pleasure to interview Leslie in person a couple of years ago in Dubai, when ‘The Daughter’ played as part of the Dubai International Film Festival 2015 line-up. In person, the handsome Australian exudes a warmth and kindness which only add to his undeniable charm. And yet, here was this perfect gentleman being a complete bastard in ‘Sweet Country’. I mean, he wasn’t the model dad in ‘The Daughter’ either, but at least in Simon Stone’s film he upheld a certain moral standard. Not so in Thornton’s film, not at all, not as far as the eye can see — for the whole of maybe fifteen minutes he’s on the big screen! Leslie is every bit the perfect villain and more.Read More
On what would have been the late Egyptian actor's 86th birthday, I wanted to revisit an interview from seven years ago, one of my favorite pieces and most beloved encounters. And for me, since then, there have been many. But Omar Sharif was, is and forever will be the greatest Arab movie star. Unequaled and inimitable.Read More
While I interview Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel in Venice I can’t help but feel incredibly vulnerable. For one, I started writing about cinema and attending film festivals after her previous film ‘The Headless Woman’ was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. And I never had a chance to watch either ‘The Holy Girl’ or ‘La Ciénaga’ before that. So I’m a Martel virgin going into her latest ‘Zama’.
But mostly, I feel unguarded, bare in the presence of this quietly powerful woman. She is a filmmaker, an artist, an undeniable trendsetter — Martel smokes a cigar during our interview and of course, there are those trademark cool glasses she wears — but she is first and foremost a formidable woman. I gush constantly and I’ll admit hearing myself on tape to transcribe our interview afterwards is painful.Read More