There has been a certain je ne sais quoi in the air here in Cannes, and I wasn’t able to quite put my finger on it. It bothered me, someone always good at defining a moment, person or place, that I couldn’t put that feeling into words. Then I attended the press conference for Luca Guadagnino’s ‘The Staggering Girl’ and I had a ‘EUREKA!” moment. So bear with me for a moment while I get to that…Read More
How would you cope with being told you have a terminal illness?
That is a question I’ve asked myself often these days, as I deal with people I love getting ill and the recent death of my father. Where do you find the strength to go on, when you know the days are numbered and how do you continue to be a functioning member of society when probably all you wish to do is go into the woods and hide?
Well, in Natalya Merkulova’s and Alexey Chupov’s haunting, beautiful and at times painfully truthful film ‘The Man Who Surprised Everyone’ which screened in the Orizzonti section in Venice, the real life husband and wife team tackle the difficult question.Read More
This year's Venice Film Festival seemed to carry a special soundtrack, like a mixtape of our collective thoughts and hopes and wishes. For a future where we are finally able to learn from our past and stop thinking that our opinions count individually. For a world where we will discover, finally, a middle ground in shades of grey, instead of living everything in either black or white.
Here is my Venezia 75 Mixtape.Read More
'The Day I Lost My Shadow' by Soudade Kaadan won the Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 75th Venice Film Festival. It's a win to be celebrated for all women filmmakers, of course, but also for Syrian filmmakers who, since the start of the war in 2011 have all but disappeared. Scattered around foreign lands, their voices and visions have become the true casualties of this conflict.
In her film, which world premiered at the festival in the Orizzonti section, Kaadan uses the metaphor of personal shadows as a way to show how the war strips people of their humanity and hope. When Sana, played by the beautiful Sawsan Arsheed, goes out looking for a gas canister so she can cook for her son, she is pulled into a three day nightmare that eventually ends the way everything ends in Syria... I'll leave that to your imagination and perhaps your first viewing of the film.Read More
Think back to the last time a film redefined love for you. That felt like a magical discovery then, didn't it? For me, cinema exists at its best when it does something that changes me -- and of course I want that change to be for the better.
In Claire Burger's touching follow up to her Cannes Camera d'Or winner 'Party Girl' -- which she co-directed with Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis -- I found a new fatherhood role model. For a woman whose own father was at best unavailable throughout my teenage years and beyond, Burger's wondrous father figure Mario (played by the spellbinding Bouli Lanners) is a revelation and offers a sense of newfound hope. His quest to be a good father to the young Frida (the perfectly rebellious Justine Lacroix) and the teenage Kiki (cool and flirty Sarah Henochsberg) takes the audience on a journey of discovery along with the characters.
But 'C'est ça l'amour' is a multilayered film and so it's no surprise that, among quite a few strong and beautiful stories featured in this year's Giornate degli Autori line up, Burger's film ended up walking away with the top prize -- the GdA Director's Award.Read More
As we watch our nightly dose of immigration porn fed to us by the local news channels, particularly those of us who live in Europe we see row after row of young men stepping off boats and assorted vessels. We could be mistaken into thinking that they left their women safe at home, in their country of origin, the wives and girlfriends and mothers awaiting their return, as well as their paycheck. That's so far from the truth and if you ever held such a wrong opinion, 'Joy' by Sudabeh Mortezai will set you straight.
In her beautifully shot and perfectly told film premiering in the Giornate degli Autori, Venice Days sidebar at the Venice Film Festival, Mortezai shows us the complex network of Nigerian women who virtually invisibly inhabit our European streets. 'Joy' is as much about the oldest profession in the world, the prostitution networks these women get sucked into and then, once they have paid off their debts, also manage and run in Europe, as it is about womanhood itself. We follow the story of these young women from the juju ritual they are subjected to at home, in Benin City Nigeria, to the streets of Vienna where they owe their traffickers the kind of money one wouldn't spend traveling around the world for a year and staying at the best hotels.Read More
I'm a sucker for a great love story. But often, the films that hit me deepest aren't filled with happily ever after endings and the perfect romance between a handsome boy and a beautiful girl. It's the redefinition of true love that gets me to my core.
In Mikhaël Hers' latest 'Amanda' which premiered in the Orizzonti section at this year's Venice Film Festival, the filmmaker reworks the idea of family and in the process, also rewrites the perfect romance. Of course Hers' film is not missing out on a handsome boy -- the charming Vincent Lacoste breaks hearts as David -- and a pretty girl -- with the striking Stacy Martin playing his love interest Léna. But at the center of 'Amanda' is the title character, a little girl played beautifully by Isaure Multrier, a child who suddenly goes from being an occasional playmate in the life of her somewhat immature uncle David, to being entrusted to him permanently.Read More
Of all the films we watched at this year's Venice Film Festival Roberto Minervini's was the most important.
For two very specific reasons. One, it's a documentary, and while many narrative films did explain my own personal struggle as a modern woman in today's world, those fictional stories can be dismissed by their critics as simply made up. 'What You Gonna Do When the World's On Fire?' cannot, since it's real life, it's in your face and it's downright true.
Point number two follows closely my first point, in that while watching the press preview of Minervini's film, which premiered in Competition at the festival, I saw more of my colleagues shift in their seat and -- after what appeared like much inner debate and a prolonged anxiety -- leave the theater than ever before. The answer is not a reflection on the quality of 'What You Gonna Do...' which is visually stunning, features a terrific soundtrack and makes its two hours duration fly by in what seemed like fifteen minutes.Read More
The first ever Venice Film Festival was held in 1932, from the 6th to the 21st of August and it opened with 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' -- the Fredric March version. March went on to win favorite actor and since there were no official prizes, he was picked by the audience.
In that magical moment, during the first edition of the first ever world film festival our own profession -- film criticism and film writing -- was also born. There hadn't been a true need for it before, think about it.
When I come to Venice, I realize this is where it all comes from, and despite some problematic years in our history, we should remember the heritage of the Venice Film Festival. All journalists should take a moment and think about that when they first set foot on the Lido. Without Venice, we probably wouldn't be here. They started it. All.Read More
As I sat down to meet legendary fashion photographer Bruce Weber I said "Mr. Weber, I can't say I grew up with your photographs because I'm older than I look, but I definitely grew into my sexuality thanks to your iconic images." It's true. Those NYC billboards in Times Square of underwear models for Calvin Klein, the Ralph Lauren "out of Africa" campaign, Kate Moss in the bathtub, the beach scenes, the catalogues I devoured before the advent of the internet, I grew into my skin thanks to Weber's images.
Today, Weber has helped me to rediscover the beauty and genius of classic American actor Robert Mitchum. 'Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast' screens at the Venice Film Festival in the Venice Classics section and is co-produced by Weber's wife Nan Bush. In the documentary, Mitchum is shown as never before, a singer, a lover and a poet, aided in part by cameos by Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Polly Bergen, Brenda Vaccaro and Liam Neeson, among many many more.
So why a film about Mitchum, why from Weber and why now?Read More
Filmmaker Rick Alverson has never made films that are easily comprehensible to an audience. His work is the antithesis to the American superhero movie. From his first work 'The Builder' in 2010 he's proudly yet quietly worn the "independent filmmaker" badge of American moviemakers. In the tradition of greats like Dennis Hopper and John Cassavetes who came before him.
In his latest film 'The Mountain' which premiered in Competition at this year's Venice Film Festival, Alverson throws the audience a proverbial bone. What I mean is that 'The Mountain', starring Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan, is as close to a traditional film as we will ever get from Alverson. While he still describes it as "an anti-utopian film" in his director's statement, 'The Mountain' takes the audience through a hippie trippy ride on a sparse, pastel hued rollercoaster with few words, great acting, haunting images and sounds and by the end, leaves us feeling lobotomizes. I could swear the entire crowd of the Sala Darsena, where the press and industry screening took place the day before the film's official premiere, walked out with a very specific look on their faces. Not unlike that of the leading character of Andy, played by Sheridan.Read More
It is immediately clear, from the beautiful black and white shots and the poetically intimate details that 'Roma' is a very personal film for Alfonso Cuarón. At times, the real-life inspired story of a middle class family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, told through the eyes of their housekeeper Cleo, felt so private, so confidential, it seemed like I was intruding on something really special. But I still could not bring myself to look away, I didn't want to stop watching, I also didn't want the film to end because for more than two hours, Cuarón paid homage to womanhood. It takes a big man to do that and an even bigger filmmaker to get the message across.Read More
So you may have read by now that the Venice Film Festival is being singled out for not having enough women filmmakers in their Competition line-up. One publication even went so far to criticize Italian culture as a whole, and they used two non-Italian reporters to write the story of course -- one the token male journalist. Because a single, lone, able woman journalist would not have been able to do the job?
Ever hear that saying "don't talk bad about my mama?"
Anyway, while everyone is up in arms for yet another slight at womanhood, I say, get over it! I'm a woman, I'm Italian and I feel very well represented in Venice -- thank you very much. In fact, I have never seen so many beautiful women's stories, so much truth for our gender and so much care in telling those stories as I see in the various line-ups and sidebars this year at La Biennale del Cinema. But of course, you'd have to look beyond the media-selling headlines, watch deeper, dig in the sidebars too and know in your heart that great cinema was never about gender, rather about quality and vision. Just like it ain't about politics, even when the subject is political.Read More
A great film festival for me is defined not only by the quality of films I get to watch but also the meetings and chance encounters that happen along the way. In a queue waiting for a film to start, sitting in the lobby of a hotel waiting for an interview and sometimes, just stopping for a whole hour or two in the midst of the hectic festival schedule makes all the sense in the world.
I tried this yesterday afternoon and went to visit a friend in the restaurant of The Belvedere hotel, a good while after lunch and as interview junkets were being conducted all around me. It turned out to be the best decision of the day.Read More
The greatness of Qumra, the annual industry event held by the Doha Film Institute to help connect, inspire and encourage filmmakers, lies in its diversity of activities. From the daily working breakfasts with some of the most well-respected festival directors and programmers, sales agents and producers to the Masterclasses with cinema greats, from its Qumra Talks to the networking sessions held each afternoon just around the corner from my hotel, there is a buzz of activity at any given moment and even a non-filmmaker like me can feel the excitement of great cinema in the making.Read More
Every meeting at this year’s Venice Film Festival has been a once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter for me. From chatting with the fabulous James Toback, to meeting his visionary producer Michael Mailer, from the relaxed junket on San Clemente island with Kirsten Dunst and the Rodarte sisters to sitting leisurely with artist Shirin Neshat at Villa degli Autori, from the wisdom of Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel to the Zen discipline and class of Maestro Ryuichi Sakamoto — it’s all been divine. There is no other word to describe it.
And yet, on the seventh day of the festival, another surprise awaited me. A cozy, wonderful junket with Jim Carrey and director Chris Smith, who together made a film that has quickly risen to my top five — alright top three actually — in Venice.Read More
On one of the English language news channels this morning, they were talking about this new film ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ which is making a big splash — or shall I say “flush” — in India at the moment. It’s a love story shot around the absolute, undeniably dire need for better plumbing facilities in the Desh. “This is one instance where perhaps a movie has been able to change policies,” said one anchor. Duh, I thought. Cinema has been changing the way we think, act and feel since its inception. It’s just that we don’t often think about it, because the kind of films which usually change us, for better or for worse, are those that entertain us without apparently teaching us anything. But the power of their subliminal messages is there, always, on the big screen, your TV and even your mobile screen.Read More
If you think that in order to feature strong women a film festival only has to pay attention to the male to female ratio of filmmakers in their Competition section, think again. At this year’s Venice Film Festival, powerful, interesting, revolutionary women roles, filmmakers and icons have been everywhere. You just have to know how to look. And maybe you won’t always find them in the director’s chair, which is alright by me. But in the case of the first two films I’ll talk about here, they happened to be both in front of and behind the camera.Read More
It is a thin line that filmmakers walk every time they make a film, that invisible border which separates cinema the audience wants to watch from the work they really wish to make. Sometimes, as in the latest film from American auteur James Toback premiering at the Venice Film Festival, they balance perfectly on that tightrope and create a watchable masterpiece like ‘The Private Life of a Modern Woman’ which is also critically acclaimed and emanates important subliminal messages for days after viewing it. Other times, for example with George Clooney’s ‘Suburbicon’ well, they miss, tumbling onto the safety net of their celebrity-dom which allows fans of their work to oh and ah, regardless of how valid their product really is.Read More