Tides, a documentary about the river Foyle in Derry by Italian director, and some time Derry native, Alessandro Negrini has gained yet more success; this time at the Gold Movie Awards in London where it won Best Documentary.
At the event in London’s historic Regent Cinema where Negrini rubbed shoulders with the likes of Billy Zane and Sadie Frost, the normally humble Negrini admitted that he allowed himself a certain amount of pride and excitement at the film’s recent achievements,
“I hope that my film continues to infect people with the desire to listen to their forgotten dreams; to reserect what they have put away in drawers years ago and forgotten about. I hope that in my own poetic way I have helped to tell the story of some of the things that have been put in those drawers. That I have reserected forgotten dreams for people”.
Tides has continued to make a big impression on audience’s across the world; this being the twelfth award it has collected. Negrini, together with his production team of Director of photography Oddgeir Saether, Editor Stuart Sloan, music by Chris Ciampoli and narration of Emma Taylor have won, among others; the main prize at A Film for Peace Film Festival in the United States, the award for best cinematography at the Sole Luna Film Festival in Palermo, the award for best documentary at the Malta International Film Festival, the award for best documentary at the Mediteran Film Festival in Bosnia, the best screenplay at The Tehran Film Festival, and The Parma International Music Film Festival. It can only be hoped that film festivals and awards in Ireland can take notice of this truely mezmorising film.
The Favourite, starring Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, is loosely based on events in the British royal court during the reign of Queen Anne.
Whenever something is labelled as “historic” it can often get bogged down on whether or not the events which happen on screen actually took place in real life. In the case of this film, if the events which take place had actually happened in real life it would have long ago caused a sensation that no monarch since could ever have surpassed or covered up. In any event, to obsess over such things is the somewhat miss the point of a film, tv, or literary adaptation; it is exactly just that: an adaptation.
Indeed, this of all adaptations is whimsical, farcical and light-hearted, it’s purpose is to entertain, and, to a broad extent, that is exactly what it succeeds in doing. Emma Stone, (her who’s star has risen over the past year because of the success of La La Land), plays a servant girl who appears to have come from nowhere, but is, in fact, a down on her luck aristocrat Abigal who finds herself under the charge of Lady Marlborough, played by Rachel Weisz, the favourite lady in waiting of Queen Anne. It is in this position, and because of a few chance encounters with the isolated and lonely monarch, that Abigal seizes an opportunity to regain the once hight status of her family.
Through a series of carefully thought-out manipulations, Abigail is able to win favour with the monarch. The way she approaches it, however, results in her making an enemy of Lady Marlbourgh, who is determined to win back her privelaged place in court.
The film is engaging on the eye with a series of well made costumes and splendidly plush settings, the acting, while not being slapstick hilarious (which would indeed not be in keeping with the tone of the film) is indeed entertaining. The script however seems rushed in places and the dialogue, although this particular reviewer is reluctant to mention it, does not seem in keeping with the times. What however does result on the whole is a thoroughly watchable and entertaining film. Go and see it at the cinema while you can however because it is doubtful whether or not it will have the same hold when it arrives on smaller screens in the future.
A generous crowd gathered at the Holywell Trust building in Derry for the launch of a book of Japanese folklore which has been published in bilingual form with stories collected by an Irish poet published in both English and Irish.
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece in 1850 to an Irish father and Greek mother. In correspondence with non other than W.B. Yeats Hearn said, “I had a Connaught nurse who told me fairytales and ghost stories and so ought to love Irish things and do”. In fact a nanny was not Hearn’s only claim to Ireland as his father was from Co. Offaly so to all intents and purposes he was Irish.
Hearn it would seem is well regarded in Japan, however it is only relatively recently that he has begun to be appreciated in Ireland, with a Japanese garden having been opened in Tramore, Co.Waterford in 2015. The book itself is a beautifully designed and illustrated paperback with text in both English and Irish. The only glaring omission being that an opportunity was missed to include some Japanese. For further details on how to purchase the book contact the Holywell Trust or The North West Japanese Cultural Group in Derry.
In The Kindergarten Teacher, which was shown as the closing film at this year’s Foyle Film Festival, Maggie Gyllenhall plays Lisa Spinelli a thirty something kindergarten teacher who is disillusioned with family life and her work. Then in class she notices that an otherwise quiet and unassuming boy in her class by the name of Jimmy is particularly good at writing poems. The problem is that many of these poems come sporadically and out of the blue. Another problem is that no-one seems to be nurturing the boy’s talent at home because his mother is seemingly absent, his father spends next to no time with him because he is busy with his work and his nanny fails to notice the significance of what the child is saying. Alongside her day job Lisa takes a night class in creative writing. As Lisa nurtures Jimmy’s talent more and more it becomes unclear whether Lisa Spinelli is doing so for his benefit or her own. It is only once it becomes clear that Lisa is trying to nurture Jimmy’s talent for his own sake that things turn against her. Part of the charm of The Kindergarten Teacher is that the classroom in which it is set almost becomes a character in its own right. In many of the scenes that are without any, or very little, dialogue you can almost hear Sara Colangelo and Nadav Lapid’s screenplay being read out loud to the audience.
Maggie Gyllenhall is excellent as Lisa Spinelli who you’re never quite sure of the motivation of, displaying characteristics of both light and shadow. Also of note is young Parker Sevak who while still young at five years old, is a wise old head on young shoulders. You can’t help but feel however that this is a talent best left out of the spotlight and allowed to mature, returning in about twenty years from now to reactions of “oh yeah, that was him”.
The Kindergarten Teacher goes on general release in March
The Return of the Hero, shown recently as part of the 31st Foyle Film Festival is a French farce with plenty of laughs. Set during the Napoleonic wars it tells the story of Captain Neuville, a dashing, handsome war hero who has fallen in love. Upon being called into action only hours after he has proposed, he leaves his sweetheart broken hearted.
Despite promising to write every day Pauline falls into a deep depression when his letters fail to appear. In an act of desperation, and hating to see her so depressed, Pauline’s sister Elizabeth decides to take on the role of the dashing hero, at least in pen, and begins writing to her sister masquerading the dashing love of her life. Each letter gets more and more outrageous, recounting all of his exploits (which are probably not really happening. The problem is that Elizabeth is getting just a little bit too comfortable with her new role when matters are complicated by… well, the return of the hero.
What follows are a series of events which creates confusion for all involved with hilarious results. The Return of the Hero is a comedy like only the French know how to make, creating farce out of what is sometimes even the gravest of situations. This film is a delight.
How would it feel if you or a relative was coldly and callously murdered and buried at the side of the road in an unmarked grave. Imagine if you will that your grave is then tarmacked over to make way for a duel carriageway. This is just one situation faced by many of the families of people who were killed by both sides in the horrific events which took place between 1936 and 1939 when General Franco launched a coup in Spain against the democratically elected socialist government. Upon victory what followed was one of the most brutally oppressive regimes in modern day western Europe. Throughout the civil war and his fourty year rule Franco’s troops were responsible for some of the most brutal acts of torture and murder. Upon his death in 1976, in order to set up a democratically elected government once again both sides decided on a pact of forgetting. The Silence of Others explores the flaws of this pact as the viewer follows families whose relatives were killed by Nationalist forces during the civil war fight through the courts in Argentina (because it is illegal to do so in Spain) in order to find out what has happened to their relatives. Of course where the film, and perhaps any other film about a war, falls down is in the fact that it does not acknowledge the victims on both sides. Of course the natural and reasonable justification for focusing on the victims of Nationalist forces during the civil war is that they were on the winning side and the fact that the Franco regime, during a dictatorship which spanned nearly half a century, tortured and killed many who simply didn’t agree with their politics. The natural reaction to this of course would be to say that, at the outbreak of the civil war, the republican government was the one in power and their forces were responsible for their fair share of atrocities, including clergicide.
On the whole however the way that the directorial team of Robert Bahar, Almudena Carracedo together with writers Ricardo Acosta, and Kim Roberts treat the material at their disposal is done with compassion and tact, painting a picture of a group of families seeking justice for their loved ones. It can only be hoped that all of those involved in this terrible conflict can create a legacy that Spain can finally learn to move on with.
Poland has become renowned for its cinema in recent years, typified by it’s 2013 Oscar winner Ida. From the director of that very movie comes Cold War, a film set during temultious times for a pair of long distance lovers.
The film sees the leading character Wictor traveling throughout the country trying to band together the best musicians that Poland can get and recording the folk music that they play. The film has a fantastic opening shot of an extreme close up of a French horn, from here on in the film is a visual delight to behold. The ultimate objective (for Wictor) is to create a school of excellence where talent is nurtured for the cultural wellbeing and the future of the nation. Unbeknownst to him the nation is merely interested in propaganda. It is as part of this work that Wictor meets a music student named Zula, they fall in love and eventually hatch a plan to escape their oppressive existence. However they become separated at the point of crossing and instead have to live life apart for a time. It is at this point that the story takes a back seat to a certain extent in favour of visuals.
With exquisitely choreographed scenes of folk dancing depicting what would have been the communist ideal of the time, although shot entirely in black and white the film has a vividness that matches any colour film. While Cold War won’t exactly bowl people over with the plot it does more than enough visually to hold the audience’s attention.
The Netherlands, more than any other country, has an obsession with cycling. It is a way of life, as natural to Dutch people of all ages as breathing. In Why We Cycle; which was screened at the Nerve Centre in Derry recently as part of the Foyle Film Festival, this national pastime is explored more fully.
In this documentary we aren’t talking about lycra wearing troops of middle-aged men taking up roads or footpaths, ringing their bells as they wizz past unsuspecting pedestrians who are using the spaces provided primarily for the latter while specially designed bike lanes lie empty. Various members of Dutch society, as well as those visiting the country give testimony to how the Dutch fit the ordinary everyday cyclist into ordinary everyday life.
This documentary tells the viewer how Dutch society has successfully integrated all in their society; from the youngest to the oldest into its mainstream transport system safely and responsibly.
What Why We Cycle does well is promote cycling as a casual pastime that anyone can take part in rather than the “sport” that participated in by dangerous obsessives who want everything their own way; which it is in danger of becoming.
It is a documentary which should be shown in every school, to every town planner and to everyone who wants to stand any hope of building a properly integrated transport system.
The world of film, just like every other, is filled with unsung heroes; those people who are there to help the main actor or, as in this case, the director. Leon Vitali, the subject of documentary, Filmworker, shown as part of the Foyle Film Festival,is one of those people. After staring alongside Ryan O’Neill in Barry Lyndon, Vitali gave up a career in front of the camera for one in front of it.
Throughout the film Vitali remains forever humble; leaving it up to other contributors to expound his virtues. The lines on Vitali’s face, each one indicating the passage of time; but also so much more than that. They show experience, a life lived.
Vitali is portrayed throughout the documentary as someone who has a thirst and ambition for what he does, however unlike the situation in most cases it is for the sake of the work alone, the finished piece rather than for satisfying his own ego or career ambitions. This is emphasised by his children who lament the fact that they didn’t see so much of him as they would have liked; although it has to be said that this is stated rather matter of fact rather than with any sense of bitterness.
Filmmaker also keenly illustrates the sort of criticism that Vitali took upon his own shoulders regarding Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick’s 1999 career finale, which the director died not long after making. Much of the criticism for the movie falling upon him rather than postumously on Vitali.
Filmworker is about someone who could have easily had stardom at the other side of the camera but who doesn’t seem to regret it for one single moment. He doesn’t regret it because he got to work with one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century and as a result has become a part of cinematic history.
This is one for Stanley Kubrick fans and general film fans alike. Although it would be suggested that if you are in any way a casual and unenthused cinema goer you leave this one alone.
For the rest are you who didn’t get to see Filmworker as part of the Foyle Film Festival you can now get it in the usual formats from the usual sources.
Orson Welles is widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time; his 1941 debut Citizen Kane is thought of by many as the greatest film ever made. In this documentary, director and writer Mark Cousins explores the many passions of Orson Welles, including many unseen before sketches, drawings and paintings. Along the way Cousins guides the audience through Welles’ many interests from his childhood in Wisconsin to youthful foreign trips, 1930s activism and his interest in African American theatre.
For anyone whose life has straddled the two most recent centuries it is hard to believe that Welles, such an innovator in cinematic arts and sciences, has not been around to witness such advancements in the world such as the internet, or, perhaps more thankfully for him has not given witness to the rise of a real life Charles Foster Kane.
The entire feel of The Eyes of Orson Welles reads as it sounds, as if the great maestro himself is looking on; looking on as Mark Cousins and we the viewer intrude upon a life that was. Throughout the film you have a sense that Orson Welles’ ghost (an alternative title perhaps) is following Cousins, but unable to control what Cousins is doing, unable to have a say. Or maybe it’s even the other way around.
As we travel with Cousins we travel with Welles’, through a lifetime of drawings and sketches and photographs, all of which would go on to inspire the many works of Orson Welles.
In between visits to old neighbourhoods, interviews with Welles’ daughter you see clips from Welles’ extensive body of acting as well as directorial work; only through this could many people, unless they be the most enthusiastic of film fan, just how extensive and important to cinema Orson Welles really was.
Although this film might be considered self indulgence to some it is without doubt an important testament to one of the most important figures in twentieth century cinema. A must watch for any film fan!