Berlin 2005: the Talent Press
Saturday, February 12th 2005
The seven talents introduce themselves
Tioseco (Philippines) : Indie Writing
Jefferson (Australia) : Beyond the Comfort Zone
Hsiang-yao (Taiwan) : Fighting For a New Hope
Ulfsak (Estonia) : Necessary Freshness
Turan (Turkey) : With a Social Science Background
Ayorinde (Nigeria) : Criticising Nollywood
Gyenge (Hungary) : Watching Movies Like Art Work
love the arts. I believe art is a powerful, powerful tool. It has the
capability of affecting the very soul of a person in such profound, lasting
ways. Film in particular is a medium that I feel to be most in tune with
the pulse of society. I first began to write about film for a youth section
in a Philippine daily some three years ago. Eight to ten articles after
the first I wrote a serious piece on a film for an issue whose theme
was addiction. The article was butchered - re-written in a watered down
style by an editor who had not even seen the film discussed. That was
the last article I wrote for the paper. I have since then become a staff
writer and featured writer on Philippine Cinema for the website Indiefilipino.com.
The name's prefix "indie" denotes "Independent", which represents both
the type of media agent we are, and the main thrust of our coverage (focused
on, but not limited to, independent film). Media in the Philippines,
and various critics have admitted this to me directly, are given an envelope
when they attend a premiere or press preview of a film. Inside that envelope
is their "lagay", or in English, bribe-money, which is used to persuade
the critic to give the film a favourable review.
The need I have to write for a publication such as Indiefilipino
in order to be heard unfiltered mirrors the need of the Philippine filmmaker
to work independently in order to be heard unfiltered. In the present
context of Philippine Cinema, it is only through working outside the
system that any chance for progressive criticism, or for creating progressive
works, is possible.
Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz's 5-hour intimate epic masterpiece,
BATANG WEST SIDE, was a ground-breaking work when it premiered in the
Cinemanila International Film Festival in December of 2002. WEST SIDE
was a landmark achievement not only because of its radical length (by
far the longest Filipino film ever made) but even more so as a declaration
of independence by Diaz, and call to arms to young filmmakers to nurture
their craft and treat their work with respect. I was always keen on writing
about cinema and thoroughly enjoyed doing so, but it was only after witnessing
the lack of serious critical attention given by the Philippine media
to BATANG WEST SIDE, that I truly began to feel a responsibility with
regard to my writing on film.
Being a young film critic in the Philippines can be daunting. Aside from
Noel Vera, a fearless critic whose opinion I might not always agree with
but usually respect, there are hardly any other critics in the Philippines
that write regularly and write well about both local and international
cinema; there are very few critics that are dedicated to the craft of
criticism, in a manner more than simple "good" or "bad" reviews, in short;
there are very few people who deserve to truly be called film critics,
and therefore very few people to learn from.
It is for this reason that I look forwarding to the opportunity
of working with and learning from the pool of established and seasoned
critics that will guide the Talent Press, and doing so in the context
of such a grand festival as the Berlinale.
the Comfort Zone
I grew up in Sydney, in a suburb that didn't feel like home. I was an
only child so I read a lot and talked to myself from time to time. One
of my best friends at high school shared my genetic love of classical
music, and over years I assimilated her passion for films and filmmaking.
I was always a writer, and more of a reader than a film watcher; being
a late starter, I still feel comparatively fresh to the body of film
history. I am easily impressed by film buffs.
The only thing I love as much as film is history. Again,
I feel the impossibility of coming to terms with the vastness of that
subject. It still frustrates me, and so I buy excessive amounts of non-fiction
I started writing film reviews for a youth media website
in 2002, and it was just a hobby. My first ever review was of THE ROYAL
TENENBAUMS. That was the first and only review I ever tried to follow
any kinds of guidelines for. I thought the film rocked, but I just tried
too hard to sound intelligent in explaining why.
At first I wrote so that I could see films for free; then
I was beguiled by the idea of connecting with an audience, and the exchange
of ideas; then I realised that writing about film was probably the most
satisfying work that I had ever done. I started writing really long reviews.
I've thought a lot since then about what I think is the
ideal approach to reviewing. I think it is better in general to write
for your audience and then yourself rather than the other way around;
I think the purpose of a review is to give the reader a sense of what
the film might be like to watch - give them enough information to make
their own decision about whether or not to see it; I think any discussion
of a film should take into account its artistic, political and social
context; I think that films are most significant not as an industry or
an art form, but as the ways we interpret ourselves, our society and
our history. Through representation on one end and interpretation on
the other end, great gaps in experience between different people can
And this then, is the fundamental core of why I think films
are important: they can give us access to the experiences and ideas of "others" -
and only by empathy (in the literal sense) with others can one truly
be a responsible citizen of the world. And that is how I hope that film
can (cough) change the world.
So why be a film reviewer? I think it is totally fatuous
and self-indulgent. But if it causes thought, discussion, questions -
then it is important at the most, and at the very least harmless.
In one of my other incarnations, I run a short film festival
is Australia. It is based around the idea of social change through increased
communication through film. It calls on young people to explore the evolving
medium of film/video to represent their ideas on issues important to
them, whether personal, political, social, local or global. It started
as an idea I had in Byron Bay on a holiday in 2002. Now it's 3 years
old: a toddler festival. It can walk but it still sort of bumps into
I also sell books. Someone pays me to do this. In some
ways this is one of life's little cosmic jokes, since my dad is a second-hand-book-dealer
and my house has more book shelves than wall space.
Finally, I am in the midst of a truly dreadful and prolonged
law degree. I have very successfully eluded my degree for 6 years now.
In an alternative universe I would be graduated and working in a law
firm. That is generally considered the smart thing to do. You don't meet
many people who make a living off writing, still less through film writing.
Hell, you don't find many people making a living through the arts full
stop. But somehow this anti-social behaviour continues.
I feel totally unqualified to generalise about the condition
of film journalism in Australia; however, I do notice that there is a
dearth of deep criticism in the mainstream media. What really frustrates
me about Australia is the poor state of our own film industry, and the
lack of exposure to foreign cinema - particularly our lack of exposure
to Asian Cinema, despite the incredible scope and proximity of that population.
I feel like in both filmmaking and film-watching we are possibly a trick
or two behind our peers.
I hope to soak in new perspectives at the Berlinale, My
personal challenge will be to move beyond my comfort zone, and not get
too lost in the splendour.
Fighting For a New Hope
majored in Architecture and Sociology at the National Taiwan University
Graduate School. While these subjects do not have the closest relationship
with film, they provide me with wider perspectives within which to read
film as a text of different dimensions. The condition of film criticism
in my country is pretty much in danger, as celebrity photos and PR releases
from Hollywood devour most of our media. People expect nothing from films
which do not seem to be more than mere entertainment. I am trying my
best with some other writers to fight for a new hope.
Any kind of cinema excites me. However, I feel more interested
in originality. My favourite contemporary directors are Atom Egoyan,
Peter Greenaway, Godard, Resnais, Kaurismaki, Hal Hartley and P.T. Anderson.
I love the cold atmosphere of solitude, and encyclopaedic writing. I
have written film reviews for three years. Life as a freelance reviewer
is difficult but I am willingly committed to this choice. My expectation
of being a member of the Press at the 55th International Berlin Film
Festival is to be able to exchange ideas with writers from other countries.
I think we may have some similar worries regarding the condition of film
graduated from the University of Tartu with a degree in journalism in
2003. I work at Estonia's biggest weekly newspaper, Eesti Ekspress as
the editor of cultural news and film. I have been a film fan since my
childhood, probably because of my background - my father and brother
are both actors.
The possibilities to study film criticism and film theory
in Estonia right now are limited (actually, there are none). That's why
I'd like to go and do my Masters degree abroad soon. All the professional
film critics we have are over 40 years old - they all have the old-school
cinema education from Moscow or St. Petersburg. There are no young professional
film critics in our newspapers. People who write about film are practical
filmmakers or wide-profiled cultural journalists, but very few people
look deeply into film-business with the necessary freshness, and radical
or modern ways of thinking.
Some of my favourite filmmakers are Jim Jarmusch, Kim
Ki-duk, Ulrich Seidl, Francois Ozon, and favourite films include LAST
TANGO IN PARIS, BEFORE SUNSET, and LOST IN TRANSLATION. My favourite
actors are Vincent Gallo and Jim Carrey.
My expectations in Berlin are to see films, learn something
new about writing, meet colleagues with different backgrounds and crazy
With a Social Science Background
was born and raised in Istanbul. I have graduated from the Austrian College,
where I studied German for eight years. My undergraduate education was
in Sociology, which I completed at Istanbul's Bosphorus University. I
continued with the graduate programme in the Film & Television Department
at Istanbul Bilgi University. This is my second year, and I am about
to finish my thesis. Coming to cinema from a social science background
opens many opportunities for studies on many different levels and from
many different perspectives.
During my education I also began working at an independent
company, and a specialized shop for alternative music and video. I have
written press releases of new albums and videos for three years. Apart
from this, since 1999 I've been working as a journalist (art, music,
and cinema) for various magazines and webzines such as Time-Out Istanbul,
Aktuel, Istanbuldostlari and NME. Lastly, in 2002 I started coordinating
a music training project here. We are trying to support some underprivileged
young people who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds by providing
them music and its technology skills. I just recently began working as
the Communications Coordinator for the Independent Film Festival Istanbul.
the last two years I have been the chief film critic of The Punch, the
largest circulating daily in Nigeria, although I have also worked as
an arts journalists for The Guardian and The Comet also in Lagos, Nigeria.
Even though I read music at University, the visual pleasantries of the
big screen have always held a tremendous attraction for me. Nevertheless,
my background in music is useful in having a complete approach to film
as a moving picture.
I enjoy a film better when its story is told through the
language of cinema rather than dialogue. I abhor censorship of any kind
in film. Films should be rightly classified for viewers. Filmmakers should
be allowed to communicate through their creativity.
But the situation is not exactly like that in Nigeria,
where the film industry, now dubbed Nollywood by the New York Times,
is now the third largest producer of films in the world, after Hollywood
and India's Bollywood. My problem with our Nollywood is not with the
video format through which nearly all the films are being produced, but
the low quality and the arrant disregard for the rules of the profession.
However, I have been fascinated as a reporter that many Nigerians still
prefer these poorly produced video films to the big flicks from the West.
As a critic however, I am yet to see enough reason for celebration.
Because of the "cash and carry" pattern of producing film
in Nigeria, critical analysis of the films are lacking. Producers only
associate with journalists who sing their praises with their writings,
in the name of encouraging them. Rather than have an association of film
critics, a group of reporters danced to the tune of producers by forming
the so-called Guild of Movie Journalists. What they do is to attend tele-guided
film previews that lack critical reviews. Save for a few critics, film
criticism is lacking in Nigeria. However, there are a few publications
that focus on the film industry. Most are patronising but a few daily
newspapers like The Punch, The Guardian and This Day are championing
new waves of critical analysis of the film industry in Nigeria, more
so that the whole world seemed to have been attracted by the phenomenon
I have been privileged to have covered the Cannes Film
Festival, and I look forward to the 55th Berlin film festival as a platform
through which I can reach other worlds through their films, meet and
interview filmmakers from other parts of the world, and most importantly
seek professional comments on the true language of film - is it about
the format on which the film is shot that matters or the expertise put
I hope to discover at the festival what it really takes
for a good African film to be considered for mainstream distribution.
Watching Movies Like Art Work
graduated in art history, and I have turned my attention towards films
during the last year of my university, when with my friends I started
a Ciné-club, and we edited a small review for every screening.
I continued my studies in Paris where I listened to courses in film history
and film criticism. Meanwhile, the team of the Ciné-club has developed
the review into a professional monthly film magazine, which is still
the only one of its kind in Romania. I have been a critic for Filmtett
since its beginnings in 2000. I publish film reviews, interviews with
film professionals, and articles about film festivals. In 2003 I started
a PhD program in film theory.
I am especially interested in art films, but I have somehow
a larger conception of this notion, as I like to include in it, all movies
with some kind of originality, or with a personal touch of its author.
I always try to watch a movie like an art work, and - when possible -
only write reviews about films which I liked. I consider that one who
has enjoyed a movie has understood much more of it than those who didn't
like it. It is much more difficult and interesting to articulate why
a film is important, beautiful, touching, etc. than to enumerate its
The biggest problem of film criticism in Romania is that
it exists only in the culture segments of daily newspapers or in weekly
cultural magazines. Even if there were some short-lived attempts to found
film magazines, they all disappeared after a few issues, and this is
why our journal is the only one of its kind. Besides this, our position
is a little bit special as - being part of the Hungarian minority - we
write and publish in Hungarian, and we have strong connections with the
more developed cinema culture of Hungary.
My expectation towards every film festival is to find a
lot of good and a few great movies. This year's Berlinale will be of
course very special for me, as I hope that by being part of the Talent
Press programme I will be able to know the festival more intimately.
The Talent Press programme will give me the possibility to know other
traditions of film criticism and by this, further develop my writing
style. I would also like to meet interesting people - members of the
Press and filmmakers participating at the festival.
© FIPRESCI / Berlinale Talent Campus 2005