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WATCH IN CINEUROPA NEWS – I FILM CHE NON VEDREMO MAI IN ITALIA
Dal 13al 29 novembre si svolge la 24esima edizione del Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in arte PÖFF. La piattaforma affiliata dell'industria audiovisiva del PÖFF, Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event si svolgerà praticamente quest'anno dal 23 al 27 novembre.
Come uno dei principali festival cinematografici del Nord Europa e l'unico festival di lungometraggi competitivo accreditato FIAPF nella regione, Black Nights offre una selezione di oltre 200 lungometraggi e documentari e oltre 300 animazioni e cortometraggi nel suo programma principale e festival collaterali - festival di cortometraggi e film d'animazione PÖFF Shorts e festival di film per giovani e bambini Just Film.
Per la prima volta in assoluto, tutti gli eventi virtuali e una grande selezione dei nuovi film in anteprima a Black Nights - il festival proietta oltre 60 anteprime mondiali e internazionali - sono disponibili per la stampa e i professionisti indipendentemente dalla posizione geografica.
Vincitore di un'etichetta Cannes 2020 e portato da eccellenti performance, l'esperto secondo lungometraggio di Naël Marandin è una storia di dominio tra le sfide economiche dell'allevamento animale.
"Young people with ambition and ideas, that’s exactly what our region needs, you can count on my support." When your family farm is going into administration and close to being sold, when the market prices of animals keep going down and strangling you, and when your project for getting back on your feet must get the green light of the Safer (Land Development and Rural Establishment Companies) through a preemption within the framework of support for young farmers, every extended hand should be welcome. But people in weak positions sometimes awaken the appetite of ill-intentioned individuals, especially if you happen to be a beautiful young woman working in a very macho environment. This is the starting point of Beasts, the second feature from Naël Marandin (after She walks in 2016), recipient of the 2020 Critics’ Week label of the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, and having its European premiere in competition at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights International Film Festival. An accomplished film, both in its original layering of two topics that have often been in the news these past few years (economic difficulties in the agricultural world, and abuses of power as the means to sexual assault), and for its very realistic, almost documentary-like approach, credibly complimented by the cast within a dramatic but perfectly controlled story.
The mooing and the delivery of cows: in the local auctioning arena (“Lot n.2, six-year-old cow, IBR certified, vaccinated more than 60 days ago, 776 kilos, starting price: €1,230”), Constance (the impressive Diane Rouxel) is faced with the implacable reality of the market. The breeding farm she controls with her father Bernard (Olivier Gourmet) and her future husband Bruno (Finnegan Oldfield) cannot survive in its current form, and already a few “vulture” neighbors are circling it, waiting for her bankruptcy. But the young woman has a plan for the future: “to produce what we need to feed our animals, work in a more environment-friendly way and sell our products directly so as not to give away our profits to the big distributors.” A project which requires the green light from the administration counsel of the organization regulating rural land in the sector. The owner of the marketplace Sylvain Rousseau (Jalil Lespert) heads the organisation and suggests to Constance that her dream might come true. But as his wife, the local vet, herself says about him, when this forty-something family man “sets his mind on something, not many people can stop him” and his interest soon reveals itself to go far beyond a professional work relation. Constance soon finds herself trapped, the silent victim to a manipulating pervert…Very well informed about the conflicts in the world of animal farmers (maneuvers to seize union power, strategies of modernization or expansion) and about the everyday difficulties of the job, Beasts unfolds with an excellent script (written by Naël Marandin together with Marion Doussot and Marion Desseigne-Ravel), a dynamic mise-en-scene and a beautiful, very organic cinematography by Noé Bach. Solid on every level, the film makes no mistakes in terms of rhythm, in the vein of fascinating social realist cinema and following in the footsteps of a female heroine facing the dark forces of male domination ("this isn’t a world for you, can’t you see that?", "it will be your word against his"), but who won’t give up without a fight.
Produced by Diligence Films, Beasts was co-produced by France 3 Cinéma and K’ien Productions. The release in French cinemas will be handled by Ad Vitam on 3 February 2021 and international sales are handled by Kinology.
Recensione: ‘Il pittore dei segni’
Viesturs Kairiss mostra che puoi dipingere sulla storia tutto ciò che vuoi, ma sarà sempre lì.
Also known for The Chronicles of Melanie, Latvian director Viesturs Kairiss still has war on his mind in The Sign Painter, playing in Competition at this year's Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. This time, it affects a lovely little town and while changes are initially slow – with the good first 20 minutes of the film spent by a lake – they soon pick up the pace, and good-natured painter Ansis (Davis Suharevskis) can no longer look away. The sweetness of this setting, miles away from The Chronicles' relentless gloom, doesn't come without a bitter aftertaste. Although everyone here seems pretty decent, Ansis' crush on a Jewish girl still comes with the side of “don't you meddle with Jews, they killed Jesus”. As the Second World War approaches, old prejudices remain firmly in place, but new ideologies come and go and the young man is forced to change street names so often that the paint barely has the time to dry. Those changes reveal what used to be hidden to such an extent that the town just can't fit in no more.
The Sign Painter – based on a novel by Gunars Janovskis – is engaging enough, although it does feel overlong and old-fashioned, with some of the shots way too calculated, the kind of proper historical drama that Golden Globe voters seem to enjoy the most. What's interesting however is Kairiss' choice of protagonist, a naive man way too unsure to really stand up for his or any choices, and who instead follows much more dominant girls around like a little doe. Anises might be in love with Zisele (Brigita Cmuntová), making use of his painting ladders to knock on her window at night, but his passiveness and the fact that at one point he literally drops his paintbrush on somebody else's skirt understandably come in the way.
This is a story about a failed love triangle as much as anything else, and for the most part, Kairiss keeps the mood generally upbeat – with the help of a soundtrack that feels as if an exceptionally brisk village band was following one around at all times. Soon, however, Ansis' hands start to ache from all the sign painting and nastiness prevails as the increasingly hostile community tries to make sense of the ever-changing authority, carrying yet another bust of a political leader up and down the stairs. That includes the girls in his life, with Jewish Zisele “siding with the Russians” and Naiga (Agnese Cirule) responding better to the Nazi ideology, while Anises himself tries to stay neutral, echoing Agnieszka Holland's recent statement about her film Charlatan [+]: “Even someone who believes he is beyond politics will eventually find out that politics is interested in him – that it’s using him and it can destroy him.” Not to mention it will make his hands ache. The Sign Painter was produced by Guntis Trekteris for Artbox, and is sold internationally by EastWest Filmdistribution.
BLACK NIGHTS 2020 Competition
Review: ‘Caged Birds’
by Giorgia Del Don
18/11/2020 - Joel Basman and Marie Leuenberger prove an exciting pair who inject most welcome energy into Oliver Rihs’ latest film. Based in Berlin, Swiss director Oliver Rihs (mostly known for his cult film Black Sheep and for 2014’s Ready, Steady Ommm!, which enjoyed resounding commercial success for a Swiss film) uses his latest work Caged Birds, which was presented in an international premiere at Tallin’s Black Nights Film Festival and selected for the Camerimage Festival’s International Competition, to explore a key period in Switzerland’s history. Known for being the cradle of human rights and praised for its stability and integrity (as well as its rather bothersome reputation for chocolate box scenery), the Swiss Confederacy also conceals some darker moments within its past which have, over time, proved necessary drivers of the freedom that we take for granted today. And it is precisely this period of the 1980s, with its fierce protests and social uprisings against the restrictive and smothering nature of everyday life, which Oliver Rihs explores in the present film. Emblematic of these struggles, albeit motivated by very different causes, are the radical lawyer Barbara Hug who fights for prisoners’ rights with a view to securing an overhaul of the antiquated and inhumane penitentiary system, and the “Fugitive king” Walter Stürm, a symbol of an uncompromising, extremely left-wing outlook.
Based on real events, the film recounts the meeting of these two complex characters who are driven by the same desire: freedom - but it doesn’t hold the same meaning for both of them. Whilst lawyer Hug believes that freedom cannot exist outside of a utopian world grafted onto a socio-political landscape which isn’t always entirely friendly, Walter Stürm - known for his tongue-in-cheek crimes which laugh in the face of the privileged world into which he was born, as well as his successive jailbreaks - sees it as a veritable way of life, a raison d’être: escaping from prison allows him to escape his own self, to get away from his privileges, the original sin with which he is branded and which goes by the name of “middle-class”.
The real-life characters on which the film is based already hold plenty of intrigue, but Caged Birds also benefits from two actors who confer all the gloss of the Swiss celebrity world: Joel Basman … Caged Bird reminds us of the degree to which our present is indebted to a past composed of “ordinary” people who knew how to follow their own ideals, to the point of becoming extraordinary; “beautiful losers” who have won us a freedom which we should never take for granted.
Mainly produced by Zurich’s Contrast Film (whose team-member Ivan Madeo is also one of the movie’s co-screenwriters, alongside the director himself, Dave Tucker, Norbert Maass and Oliver Keidel), the title was shot in Switzerland, Germany and Spain, and is co-produced by Berlin-based Port au Prince and Stuttgart’s Niama Film, together with SRF Swiss television/SRG SSR, Teleclub AG, ARTE, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Hessischer Rundfunk.
Oliver Rihs begins shooting ‘Caged Birds’
by Muriel Del Don
03/05/2019 - Three years after the comedy Monkey King, the Swiss director is starting principal photography on his new feature, which is being produced by Contrast Film
Besides the involvement of Zurich-based outfit Contrast Film as the majority producer, Caged Birds (working title: Storm) is being co-produced by Germany’s Port-au-prince Films (Berlin) and Niama Film Stuttgard. ARTE, Swiss Television SRF, Bayerische Rundfunk and Teleclub have also boarded this particular venture. Oliver Rihs made a name for himself among audiences thanks to his cult 2006 movie Black Sheep, the box-office smash Ready, Steady, Ommm! (Solothurn Film Festival in 2013) and the more recent Monkey King (Zurich Film Festival in 2016). Boasting a budget of €4.2 million, his new effort, Caged Birds, is one of the biggest film productions to be shot in Switzerland this year. The main character in Caged Birds is idealistic lawyer Barbara Hug, who devotes her life to fighting back against the deplorable prison system in Switzerland in the 1980s. During her struggle, Barbara comes across an unexpected ally: international criminal Walter Storm, nicknamed “the jailbreak king”. One thing leads to another and – who knows? – perhaps the feelings that bind these unlikely partners will start to run deeper. Caged Birds is an unconventional love story in which the fight for freedom and the characters’ emotions unashamedly intertwine.
Walter Storm is played by Joel Basman, one of today’s most sought-after Swiss actors, who won the 2019 Swiss Film Award for Best Actor (for Wolkenbruch's Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa)…
The director of photography will be Felix von Muralt (winner of the Swiss Film Award for Best Cinematography for 2016’s Little Mountain Boy), while musician and electronic music producer Beat Solèr will compose the score. The Swiss distribution of the film is being handled by Ascot-Elite Entertainment Group.
BLACK NIGHTS 2020 First Feature Competition
Review: ‘The Translator’ by Kaleem Aftab
Rana Kazkaz e Anas Khalaf raccontano la recente turbolenta storia della Siria in un thriller ricco di azione che ha echi di Costa-Gavras.
18/11/2020 - Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf recount the recent turbulent history of Syria in an action-packed thriller that has echoes of Costa-Gavras.
Showing in the First Feature Competition at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, The Translator is a thriller in the Costa-Gavras mould. The Arab Spring and the strong-arm tactics of President Bashar al-Assad to stay in power serve as the backdrop to this tale of guilt, exile and family from first-time directors Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf, who themselves fled Syria, rather than live under al-Assad's regime.
The central premise is so well thought out and believable that it's surprising that it's made up. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Sami (Ziad Bakri, the star of the directors' award-winning short film Mare Nostrum) is working as an interpreter for the 14-member Syrian Olympic team. When a reporter asks a boxer about his reaction to Bashar al-Assad succeeding his father, President Hafez al-Assad, the fighter repeats what the official Syrian handler tells him to say. However, Sami slightly mistranslates the answer, leading to him going into exile in Australia. The power of words and the need to report the truth are central themes in the film, so it's especially intriguing that the directors start by showing the protagonist's failure to uphold this basic tenet of reporting.
A decade later, and images of the Arab Spring and demonstrations in Sami's home town start to haunt him. When his brother goes missing, Sami decides that he has to return "home" to try to discover the truth and relieve some of the guilt that he feels for living a comfortable life in Australia, while his former friends and family take to the streets.
While the fast-paced introduction to the film and its themes seems overly driven by the needs of the narrative and plot, the filmmakers find better pacing once Sami lands in Syria, where demonstrations demanding human rights are taking place. That's not to say that the thrills stop there: The Translator continues to be a densely plotted thriller with plenty of twists and turns involving journalists, lawyers, broken friendships and family, and there is even a surprising cameo by leading Arab filmmaker Annemarie Jacir as a beaten-up protestor.
It's also noteworthy to see a Syrian-set tale told as a genre film, rather than a haunting refugee drama or a heart-breaking documentary. While the results are occasionally uneven, the film does a sterling job of relating the sense of confusion, fear and hope of the time, helped by the cinematography of Éric Devin (who also shot Soudade Kaadan's Syrian-set The Day I Lost My Shadow, which was awarded the Venice Lion of the Future for Best First Feature).
Like Costa-Gavras’ Missing, The Translator is concerned with highlighting how war gets reported and how the truth is often in the eye of the beholder. The strongest moments of The Translator are when it veers into thought-provoking and challenging statements on the power of peaceful protest. The film’s coup de grâce happens when it holds five United Nations Security Council permanent member states to account not just for their failures over Syria, but also for the way that they report and deal with peaceful demonstrations in their own countries.
The Translator is a Syrian-French-Swiss-Belgian-Qatari co-production staged by Georges Films and Synéastes Films, in co-production with Tipi’mages Productions, Artémis Productions, Arte France Cinéma, RTS-Radio Télévision Suisse, SRG SSR, Ad Vitam, Proximus and Shelter Prod. Its international sales are handled by Charades.
BLACK NIGHTS 2020 First Feature Competition
Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf • Directors of The Translator
“It's like every government has learned this playbook, a way to delegitimize the peaceful protester” by Kaleem Aftab
19/11/2020 - Filmmakers Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf talk to Cineuropa about their debut feature, The Translator, playing in the First Feature Competition at Tallinn Black Nights
Filmmakers Rana Kazkaz and Anas Khalaf reveal how their personal guilt about leaving Syria led to them making The Translator, now screening in the First Feature Competition at Tallinn Black Nights, and what they’ve discovered about the power of peaceful protest.
Cineuropa: The story of an interpreter making a minor slip-up when talking about the Syrian regime feels so real that it's surprising to learn that this part of the film is fabricated. How did you come up with the idea?
Anas Khalaf: Well, all of the dates are real for the beginning of the revolution, and the Syrian Olympic team did go to Sydney in 2000, with 14 athletes. There was a translator, a boxer and a regime guy making sure that everything went smoothly because the regime makes sure that every word is the right one. So we really played on that.
BLACK NIGHTS 2020 Baltic Film Competition
Review: ‘The Last Ones’ by Fabien Lemercier
Recensione: ‘Gli ultimi’
Il nuovo film di Veiko Õunpuu, la sottomissione dell'Estonia agli Oscar 2021, è un moderno western ricco di testosterone in lapponia dove il capitalismo si scontra con l'ecologia, sogna con la realtà.
16/11/2020 - Veiko Õunpuu’s new film, Estonia’s submission for the 2021 Oscars, is a modern Lapland-set western rich in testosterone where capitalism clashes with ecology, dreams with reali
“As soon as you're born they make you feel small / By giving you no time instead of it all / 'Til the pain is so big you feel nothing at all.” Sung at the local bar, a sinister tavern where miners get drunk surrounded by the gigantic natural expanses of Lapland, John Lennon’s Working Class Hero sets the troubled tone for Veiko Õunpuu’s The Last Ones, which had its international premiere in the Baltic Competition section of the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and was selected as Estonia’s submission for the 2021 Oscars. In setting his camera in Finnish land, the director of Autumn Ball (Orizzonti prize winner in Venice in 2007), The Temptation of St. Tony (in competition in Sundance and Rotterdam in 2010) as well as Free Range (Berlinale Forum 2014) has found a territory fit for the rugged exploration of a topic close to his heart: the grey areas of Good and Evil. “We can dig a little more and we will dig.” Owner of a mine that is falling apart, Kari (the charismatic Tommi Korpela) commands the days and nights of his workers, who he secretly supplies with drugs so that their drunken evenings and their dreams of faraway places can help them forget a little about the bitterness of their existence, the narrowness of their mobile homes, the dangerous tunnels filling with water. However, at surface level, a completely different way of life subsists, that of the reindeer breeders, a small community struggling to make ends meet and progressively disappearing, its last members gathering around campfires while the explosions from the mine echoe in the distance (“the world is becoming a strange place”).
Between these two universes is Rupi (Pääru Oja), worker at the mine and dealer for Kari, who uses him (“do you want to rise up or do you want to fall down to the side like the others in their own shit?”) to retrieve pieces of land which Rupi’s aging father refuses to sell. A shrewd leader of men (ready to sacrifice the lives of others without scrupules), an alpha male and a perverse manipulator who alternates between corrupting seduction and humiliating violence, Kari (who is secretly planning to sell the mine to Chinese buyers) has another target in his sights: Riitta (Laura Birn), a beautiful girl who lives with former rock musician Lietmanen (Elmer Bäck). Dreaming of escaping from her everyday life as a cleaning lady, she has also caught the eye of Rupi. A time for life-changing choices is coming for the latter, as events soon escalate…
Playing with strong contrasts between a majestic landscape of tundra and mountains, and the mediocre and almost hellish life in the savage capitalism of mining, The Last Ones paints a brutal portrait of the other side of the Lapland dream, very far from the touristic cliches of snowmobile and canoe adventures. Using the codes of the western, with its cunning, corrupted and secretly cruel villain, its coquettish saloon girl, its outcast “natives”, its smuggling, and its quiet hero/antihero (at the heart of local contradictions) driving around on his motorcycle, the film relies on the atmosphere of a decadent society in a faraway outpost of civilization to create a dusky and ferocious moral tale dotted with explosions, very manly words of advice (“seven chunks of raw celery in the morning, followed by five minutes of icy water on the testicles: your testosterone levels will rise naturally”), and invitations to “get the rubble out of the well” in the hope of being born again.
Produced by Estonian company Homeless Bob with Finnish company BUFO and Dutch company PRPL, The Last Ones is sold internationally by French company Loco Films.