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Berlin 2005 : the Talent Press
Sunday, February 13th 2005A Troubling Need for Love (Anahi Berneri: A YEAR WITHOUT LOVE - Panorama)
The positive side of cultural globalisation
Mapping Landscapes, Forming Identities
Ageless and historical SOLO SUNNY (SOLO SUNNY - Retrospective)
Making History, Not Repeating It (HOTEL RWANDA - Competition)
Clearing the Clouds on Turkey 's Past (WAITING FOR THE CLOUDS - Panorama)
In this sombre Argentinian movie, director Anahi Berneri sets a very complicated character in the centre of the story. Pablo is an HIV positive poet, who is gay and is involved in the S and M world. The problem of hidden identities of the internet world is discussed too.
Pablo is fighting against his disease and in the meanwhile he tries not to remain alone. The most beautiful thing in this film is the way in which it shows the parallel development of Pablo's physical and psychical state. Every day his illness gets more and more serious and his immune system more and more vulnerable.
In line with this, he is more and more eager to find love and as he becomes desperate, he leaves himself emotionally unprotected. He falls in love with the first person who shows some feelings towards him.This makes him very vulnerable, and he is cruelly humiliated. But as the medical treatment makes an effect and his immune system begins to be stronger he is also able to deal with his feelings, and he returns to his earlier life - which is unfortunately one still without love.
Anahi Berneri in her first film directs her actors maturely, particularly since every character - even if their written parts seem to be very complicated - seems totally authentic. In order to depict the loneliness of Pablo she uses a lot of close-ups of objects (the keyboard of his computer, his sheets, etc.) to show he is surrounded more by them than by people. We also see too many scenes filmed with a shaking hand-held camera which are supposed to illustrate the agitated inner life of Pablo.
A YEAR WITHOUT LOVE is intriguing because its authors dare to dig deep into the character's soul without euphemism. However touching, human stories could be told without complicating things so much. This is why the emotional involvement of the spectator is not complete.
It's simply Planet Talent.
Young, enthusiastic and potentially enterprising filmmakers from every part of the world converging on the 1950s edifice dedicated to the cultures of the world - The House of World Culture. And they represent the positive side of a globalised world.
There is no better way to appreciate the cultural diversity and the creative energy in these people, who are mostly under 30, than in the unity of purpose that has brought them to Berlin. They are all here to celebrate the 7th art and showcase their cultures and worldview under the platform of the Berlinale Talent Campus.
In its third edition this year, the Talent Campus is proving to be an integral part of the Berlinale, and one of the most popular segments. Not even the wintery weather that has brought intermittent showers of rain with it can deny the talents an exciting time in Berlin. More than 500 of them are here to interact, showcase their promise and learn from about 90 film experts from some 21 countries, including directors whose films are in competition. They may also gain useful insights from the special focus of the Talent Campus this year, which is Production Design; but they will not be limited to that.
According to the Director of Talent Campus, Christine Dorn,
who introduced some of them on Friday at the Sony Centre to officially
declare open this year's programme, talents will enjoy the "positive
side of cultural globalisation."
She says nothing is required of the talents except their creative application, which is the reason for the excitement seen in nearly all the talents, be they a group of young talents from the National Film Institute in Nigeria, or an animator from Bulgaria, Andrey Koulov, who wishes "to learn, mix and see everything," or even the ambitious producer from Thailand, Sarawut Chutiwongpeti, who craves a quick transformation into mainstream world of filmmaking.
He may not be day-dreaming afterall, since "the future
has already begun," according to the initiator of the Talent Campus,
who is also the Director of the Berlinale, Dieter Kosslick.
At the opening ceremony on Friday, the presence of experts like Walter Salles, one of the hosts of the Talent Campus this year and Peter Cowie, the respected film scholar/Critic, who is one of the supervisors of the Talent Press segment, was a source of inspiration to the talents. But their relationship with the experts in the next six days, Dorn says, will be symbiotic. "It's not just about teaching the talents. It's an intellectual exchange", she says.
Huge in participation and apparently deft in organization,
Talent Campus however risks alienating other professionals like costume
designers and make-up artists who are not represented this year. As participating
countries and sponsors grow each year, so should areas of specialisation
for participants; what may however be reviewed is the number of participants.
Nevertheless, the object of the exercise is not lost at
all. Whether they are exhibiting samples of their works, or are receiving
awards or just making contacts, the Talent Campus participants this year
look good to be touched by this wonderous, even if eclectically intimidating
"I come from a country whose identity has not fully crystallized yet", remarks Brazillian director Walter Salles, the slender, soft-spoken auteur, in the opening stages of our interview. In the space of less than a decade Salles has established his reputation as a humanist director with CENTRAL STATION, BEHIND THE SUN, and THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES.
Attending the Berlinale as a host/mentor for the Talent Campus, Salles' introductory statement illustrates both the common thread that weaves his filmography, and his motivations as a filmmaker - a contribution to the formation of a cultural identity, and a process of self-discovery.
Citing German director Wim Wenders' early road movies, ALICE IN THE CITIES and KINGS OF THE ROAD, as influences, Salles says that, "somehow I tried to find in my work this same process of unveiling a country while following a character".
"Many early documentaries made by regional filmmakers were very important at that time, because they showed we were much more diverse than we thought we were. They broke the perception that the European colonisers had of Brazil , and made us understand that this was much more of a polyphonic society than we ourselves thought it was."
Road movies really interested Salles, "because they were not only films about characters, but about people who were changed by a certain physical and human geography."
"Cinema for me is much more interesting when it concerns a process of discovery rather than a process of confirmation. To give you an example, for all of us who did THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, what we were undergoing as we advanced further and further into the heart of that continent, was very similar to what Ernesto and his friend had actually conceptualized at the outset of their journey - which was to go with a very free form and with a completely open mind and let themselves be permeated by what they were finding, not only on the road, but in the margins of the road as well."
"What you must understand is that our culture is much less crystallized than the ones you find in Europe , where we are talking right now. It's in constant flux, and we witness every single day the collision of different social classes who want to redefine their roles in that society."
One wonders if Salles will be able to maintain his humanist imprint while directing films outside the familiar region of Latin America ? His next film, the recently completed DARK WATER, is an American-produced remake of a Japanese horror film, starring actress Jennifer Connelly.
Understanding an old national cult movie is a challenge for a person with a different cultural background. So in a way the text you're about to read is like a review of CLOCKWORK ORANGE written by an Eskimo.
SOLO SUNNY is a legendary film by Konrad Wolf that was a hit at the Berlinale exactly 25 years ago. The leading actress Renate Krössner won the Silver Bear then. But seeing it today made me realise that if it would be a new film, competing today, it would definitely be the best indie picture of the year.
Sunny is a singer in a band that doesn't really appreciate her. That can be said about her career and about her personal life too. She goes through miserable relationships, gets kicked out of the band and faces an unsuccessful suicide-attempt.
Without seeing the life in East Berlin in 1979 it's impossible to relate fully to the frustration and longings of the East German youth. And as for the issues of women's sexual liberation...well, after seeing THE ANATOMY OF HELL by Catherine Breillat I have no more questions about that. But the emotional visuals (the emphasized ugliness of East Berlin and magnificent cinematogaphy), very good acting and catchy music make up a combination only very few films achieve - it´s an ageless piece and a piece of history at the same time. The emotional tone of the film is tragi-comic. All the men in the film are unbeliveably ridiculous (and I´m not talking about the moustaches here) - they are stupid and coldhearted enough to balance Sunny's sad and romantic longings. Of course GDR is very trendy now, but relating to SOLO SUNNY is not about camp. It's about loneliness, solitude, the need to love and be loved that are in today's world more relevant than we´d probably like to admit.
Certain films are stories of such importance that they defy ordinary criticism. Perhaps HOTEL RWANDA is not of this class, but it stands out in the programme of this year's Berlinale as being, although out-of-competition, an example of the importance of film beyond art and entertainment. In a world where the media is a rich man's prerogative and where news is indexed to sales, film remains, in some ways, a final bastion of "reality". And so, 11 years after the western media failed to cover the Rwandan massacre, we finally have a film that broaches this tragedy.
HOTEL RWANDA tells the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu hotel manager in Kigali during the genocide. Terry George is an Irish filmmaker and screenwriter with a background in emotionally and historically charged films, including IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER and A BRIGHT AND SHINING LIE. He initially set out to shoot a story based in Africa from a native perspective. This is significant in the context of an unrepresentative mainstream film industry in which African perspectives are largely absent. The Berlinale recognises this in 2005 with a programme that focuses on what Festival Director Dieter Kosslick refers to as "sex, soccer and Africa".
It is unlikely that documentary could convey the emotional devastation of the situation in Rwanda. We see Paul save the lives of 1,268 people. Specific numbers and individualisation of suffering is crucial in any attempt to understand events of "genocide". It is easy to get lost and confused among the figures and statistics of news today. It's easy for life to lose its appropriate value, and death its significance. Even the word "genocide" is too inscrutable. HOTEL RWANDA exemplifies the power of film to access the experience of the "other", and personalise vast historical events. Polanski's THE PIANIST was a compelling treatment of the holocaust. HOTEL RWANDA succeeds for similar reasons: excellent casting, reference to a true story, and attention to historical detail. The film is both plausible and emotionally resonant.
Ultimately, George's film cannot fathom the "why" of what was the fastest genocide in modern history. It alludes to the European colonial roots of much of the racial divide, and their culpability in regards to weapons supply; however, it is the human element in mass murder that is most troubling. HOTEL RWANDA examines the universal affect of greed and fear on human behaviour. It also lays great responsibility at the feet of local racist propaganda. Most importantly, the film indicts the ongoing effects of western political indifference on the fate of one country.
HOTEL RWANDA tells an important story that should be heard and represents best practice for films grappling with inchoate historical events. If the general public is willing to be informed and even confronted by film, rather than just entertained, then perhaps, by increments, we can change the world.
Armchair criticism is all very well, but watching HOTEL RWANDA reminds us of the unique power of film to evoke human experience.
FOR THE CLOUDS is the third feature of the Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu,
whose acclaimed second film JOURNEY TO THE SUN dealt with the treatment
of Kurdish people in contemporary Turkey . This time she treats a rather
little-known tragedy, when Greeks from the Turkish region of Pontus were
forced into exile after WW1.
For 50 years Ayse feels a terrible guilt over abandoning
her brother. When Selma , her "sister" from the family that adopted
her, dies, the memories of her past overwhelm her. As she breaks down,
her memory of her own language returns. The only one in the village who
can connect with her now is 8-year old Mehmet. He discovers that Thanasis,
a stranger in town, and Ayse share a similar past. Thanasis helps her
confront her past, and even locates the long-lost Niko in Greece .
© FIPRESCI / Berlinale Talent Campus 2005