I've been a fan of Göran Hugo Olsson's filmmaking since I watched his 'The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975' quite a few years ago. He talked to me then about having a "100 percent connection with the material" which make his films not only wonderful but deeply honest.
With 'That Summer' -- screening in the Panorama section of Berlinale -- he tells a story within a story. His latest documentary, which was just purchased by Sundance Selects for US distribution, is as much a film about Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale -- Little Edie and Big Edie of Grey Gardens fame -- as it is the love story from behind the camera of Peter Beard and Lee Radziwill. It blends heroic women who happen to break the stereotype of what that means, with the unrepeatable vibe of NYC in the 70s. While I didn't get to NY until the 1980s, both Olsson and I grew up during a time when that place, at that time, seemed like the promised land. And while the filmmaker admits to "going to ANC meetings on my bike" in Sweden, his activism was balanced by his dreams of being part of that New York artists' scene. Andy Warhol, Beard and the gang, they were all part of that dream.
In the remixing of the footage that Beard collected at Grey Gardens, once again Olsson proves that a personal connection, whatever and however the" in" happens to be -- in this case just a dream, an admiration from afar -- to the material is the best hook, the most perfect way to grab an audience by their eyes and keep them interested through their hearts. I watched 'That Summer' at a late screening that started at 10.30 P.M. and didn't realize the hour when I came out of the cinema.
Perhaps a common thread here, but what strikes the viewer first about Reem Saleh's documentary 'What Comes Around' is how raw her footage is. Slowly, as our eyes get used to the powerful, bright, unsteady camera and incredibly intimate images that are presented to us, we realize that we've become a part of the film, like a visitor in the lives and homes of its protagonists.
Shot over the period of six years inside the Rod El Farag neighborhood of Cairo, one of the poorest in the city, I have personally known of the project since its very beginning steps and have always yearned to watch it. Part love letter to the inhabitants of Rod El Farag, who make ends meet with dignity and a sense of community now forgotten in most other parts of the world, and part a cinematic eulogy to Saleh's late mom who hailed from there, 'What Comes Around' is the kind of film that reinvents cinema for me, and in the process, teaches me about my fellow humans.
To quote Saleh during the Q & A after the sold-out premiere of her film, "there is nothing wrong with being poor," and she proves wholeheartedly that our worth within humanity is not about how much money we possess, but how we connect to our brothers and sisters around the world.
Bengali-born filmmaker Qaushiq Mukherjee, "Q" for short, is as unique in both his approach to filmmaking and his cinematic work as they come. And yet audiences from around the world connect with his messages wholeheartedly. After the success of 'Gandu' at the Berlinale seven years ago, he's back with his latest 'Garbage' -- screening in the Panorama section. With themes taken from today's headlines -- revenge porn, women treated as slaves and Hindu fundamentalism running rampant in India -- Q spins a tale that is part social commentary, part psychedelic horror story and all wonderful, in your face, well... entertainment! A great film should possess the ability to shock, awe and inspire, but also, at its very heart, it has to be fun to watch -- I believe. And 'Garbage' is all that and more.
Even if sometimes, I wish I could have looked away, or undo that image that is now seared in my mind. for a long, long time.