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
It’s undeniable that Keanu Reeves and fashion go together like peanut butter and jelly. In fact, you could say Reeves was born an icon, a closeted fashionista who could do no wrong, whether photographed with a scruffy beard, in his slim frame bare chested or sporting a suit.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
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
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
"I'm in love with everyone I've ever met in one way or another. I'm just a crazy, unhinged disaster of a human being." -- Edie Sedgwick
You can have your Kim Kardashians, your Gigi Hadids, your newly transformed princesses and Instagram sensations, I'll take Edie Sedgwick every day over any of them. In fact, nearly fifty years after her death, she remains for this child of the 70s a favorite fashion icon, an "It Girl" like no other and an example whose style and attitude I always keep in my consciousness.
So why has Sedgwick remained such a star, even though she could appear to have done little more than be born a socialite and die at age 28, of an overdose-slash-suicide after several stretches in mental institutions? Because she once met Andy Warhol, whom with his usual flair for discovering the broken yet utterly fascinating -- see Jean-Michel Basquiat and Candy Darling among many many more -- made of Sedgwick the original reality star. She is the predecessor of the Kardashians, only her reality was captured on film, by Warhol, a master artist of creation.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
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.
“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
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
I met Jeff Goldblum in Berlin, where his latest project, Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated masterpiece 'Isle of Dogs' premiered and kicked off the 68th edition of the Berlinale. The actor was dressed to the nines, as he typically is, in the past even having prompted a special quote from his three-time director, "I like the pastel hues of Jeff Goldblum –' That’s the title of something," which remains a personal favorite quote to describe Goldblum.
In person Goldblum is bigger than life but in a way that's not burly or self-important. He simply is the man with the constantly evolving good looks, the actor who has gotten better with age and who, at 65 years old, can still hold a table of jaded journalists spellbound. For the half hour we chatted with him, there seemed to be no one else in the room, even with Bill Murray and Liev Schreiber just feet away at other tables. That's how charismatic Goldblum is. It is a quality that definitely comes across whenever the actor is photographed, like the photographer captured the shot above.Read More
Morgan Spurlock’s latest film ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ is quite simply a perfectly truthful, wonderfully watchable, life-changing and good habit forming example of why movies will always show us the way forward.
Following is the interview I conducted with Spurlock in Dubai, where he talked about the mafia of “Big Chicken”, how poultry farmers get the short end of the nugget in the U.S. and how to vote for better food practices using the power of our wallets.Read More
I meet Danish actor Claes Bang at the Dubai International Film Festival, at the height of the sexual harassment tidal wave of scandals that has engulfed the entertainment industry since early October 2017. Major Hollywood players keep falling around us, left and right and in fact, not even a week after my interview with Bang, another filmmaker whose film is featured at the festival, Morgan Spurlock, comes out with his own confession of wrongdoings, on Twitter.
Yet Bang seems unaffected by the hoopla, his soave behavior unchanged as he gazes deep into my eyes and with an almost unrelenting stare. He also sits quite close to me and doesn't care about crossing into my personal space often, during our interview. I don't mind one bit, it's actually refreshing to talk without reservations about sex with a spellbinding man I'll probably never meet again. I won't even have to go out with him, or have to sit through a glass of wine together, while I struggle to keep quiet and "let the man talk" -- as my BFF has often admonished me -- while sitting on my hands to avoid moving them around too much.Read More
Can a film change the world?
Italian filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi’s latest masterpiece Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) was awarded the top prize at this year’s Berlinale and jury president Meryl Streep declared the film “urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking,” when handing him the Golden Bear. Fuocoammare also received the Ecumenical Prize and that jury released a statement saying that Fire at Sea is “a film that refuses to allow the status quo to go unquestioned.” If that isn’t changing the world through cinema, then I give up.Read More
For me, James Toback’s ‘The Private Life of a Modern Woman’ — which he shot in just nine days and is only 70 minutes long — is the perfect film. Because it not only combines the talent of actress Sienna Miller with the filmmaker’s wonderful visual sense, but it also offers a view into what it’s like to be a woman in today’s America, and even more specifically in NYC. Those smug stares and taunting looks men bestow upon us on a daily basis to undo us from within, and the subtle violence we face in everyday life, coming at us from all directions, no male reviewer has caught it in their writing. But we women, we know. We feel it and now Toback filmed it, for all to see. If cinema is a way to decode the world around us, perhaps this is a step towards the genuine emancipation of the modern woman — because trust me, we still got a long long way to go to be truly free, to be exactly who we want to be. Even in our good ol’ U.S. of A.Read More
On a recent sunny afternoon in Venice, I sat in the company of Jim Carrey in a corner of a shaded garden and found before me a human being who is both wise and charming, as well as a handsome fifty-something man who captured my imagination and filled my thoughts for days thereafter. Part spiritual guru, part Saint Francis — yes, there was a bee buzzing around him the entire time, the animal clearly enamored with his scent and the actor unaffected by the imminent danger — Carrey appeared like the romantic hero with a sense of humor I had come across so many years ago. In ‘Once Bitten’ what is probably one of his first and most forgettable films, when I was in my teens and he, well, super young too.
But a few days after our tranquil interview, when we talked to Carrey about his latest project ‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’, a Vice production premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the actor pulled a red carpet prank at NY Fashion Week and all was hilariously-Jim-Carrey-right-with-the-world once more. I imagined Carrey giggling to himself after our talk, thinking “I got that journalist, I really got her good, now she thinks I’m a smooth, great looking mystic and will write the most beautiful piece about me.”Read More
Ladies, get a hold of some waterproof mascara, ‘cause you’ll need it!
In Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special, actor Michael Shannon gives everyone a daddy complex, by being the best father we all wished for in our youth, or that fantasy baby daddy we’ve dreamed about in the thick of the night. And the tears, well those are a fabulous byproduct of this charismatic actor’s latest, cathartic performance.Read More
Stephen Dorff has come a long way, from his early stint as a teenage heartthrob on TV sitcoms and playing through the darker side of characters, in sometimes forgettable films.
These days Dorff is navigating us comfortably through his own intoxicating brand of understated sensuality, in roles that span from his turn as discontented superstar Johnny Marco in Sofia Coppola’s touching 'Somewhere', to captured Israeli fighter pilot Yoni who becomes unlikely ally to a reluctant Palestinian teenager in Eran Riklis‘ latest masterpiece 'Zaytoun'. He is, easily, the modern thinking woman’s sex symbol.Read More
The last time I met Rajasthani-born superstar Irrfan Khan was in Abu Dhabi, and as we spoke, sitting in a busy hallway inside the grandiose Emirates Palace, waiters and chefs from India and Pakistan working for the hotel would approach him constantly, to ask for an autograph and get their picture taken alongside their idol. The actor indulged them every time, with grace and class.Read More