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Archive for July, 2010|Monthly archive page

India By Song – Film Review

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 12:14 PM

Vijay Singh, writer and director

Bottom Line: An appealing whirl through modern Indian history, linked by song and dance clips.

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Deborah Young

An imaginative attempt to describe the complicated history of modern India from independence and partition to Western-influenced consumerism, Vijay Singh’s “India By Song” is told through a mixture of interviews, newsreels and Indian musical numbers. It targets various audiences, from history students to fans of Bollywood and classic movies; the latter could give the hour-long doc a leg up with broadcasters beyond the shores of the U.K. and France, which produced.

In some ways the doc feels like a natural continuation of Singh’s India-themed feature films “One Dollar Curry” and especially the romantic “Jaya Ganga.”The Paris-based director, who appears on screen as a Western-based narrator splicing the tumult of history together, takes a sweeping overview of the last 60 years of Indian history, from Gandhi’s peace movement through the Indira, Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi assassinations. It’s a lot to take in, but happily sweetened by tantalizing musical interludes lifted from famous films. These delightful, unidentified song and dance numbers are frequent, but probably not frequent enough for most non-Indian viewers, who will tune out on issues like agricultural problems and the Union Carbide tragedy. Still, as a taste of India, it leaves a hankering for much more.

Production companies: Silhouette Films, Sodaperaga Productions, France Television
Director: Vijay Singh
Screenwriter: Vijay Singh
Producers: Mandakini Narain, Guy Seligmann
Director of photography: Arun Varma
Music: Paban Das Baul, Mimlu Sen
Editor: Benoit Martin
No rating, 64 minutes

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Bipasha’s ‘Lamhaa,’ banned in the UAE

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 4:06 PM

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI — A new Bollywood film that puts the spotlight on the Kashmir issue has been banned in the United Arab Emirates, the director of the film said.

“Lamhaa,” which opens in Indian cinemas on Friday, is a thriller set in the strife-torn Himalayan region at the heart of hostility between India and Pakistan.

“If anyone should have a problem with the content of the film, it should be India or Pakistan, how is the UAE concerned?” the film’s director Rahul Dholakia said.

Separatists in Kashmir began an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989 — a movement almost immediately backed by Pakistan — and since then tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Most fighters want all of Kashmir to become part of Pakistan but many ordinary Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan.

But Dholakia, whose earlier film “Parzania” dealt with the Gujarat riots and their aftermath, said he did not think “Lamhaa” is controversial.

“My film talks about the basic problems of the Kashmiri people, which is a crisis of identity, the armed forces and of course the problem of the Kashmiri Pandits who live in Jammu,” he said.

The director said he spent a lot of time researching the film, interviewing prominent politicians and common people but it was still difficult to make a film that would be unbiased.

“Lamhaa,” which stars Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu and Anupam Kher has been in the making for three years and focuses on the “ground realities” in Kashmir.

In the past, several films have been shot in the region and dealt with the problem of insurgency but haven’t found much success at the boxoffice.

Both Santosh Sivan’s “Tahaan” and Piyush Mehra’s “Sikander” had children as protagonists while Dholakia’s film revolves around a former army official.

Getting To Know 15 LAFF Directors

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2010 at 10:12 AM

A scene from Aaron Schock’s “Circo”

Courtesy of IndieWire

Compiled by Nigel Smith and Emily Kaplan

LAFF ‘10 | “Upstate” Directors Katherine Nolfi & Andrew Luis Talk Collaboration

“We both have day jobs as does our producer, Melanie Pimentel. With all of us working full-time pre-production took a long time. And of course making a low-budget, truly independent film is such a crazy venture. We begged, we borrowed, we stole… We’ll never be able to repay all the favors we incurred while making “Upstate”.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director John Kastner Witnesses a Confession in “Life With Murder”

“When I was 16-year-old actor I played the lead role in a training film for prison guards for the National Film Board of Canada. I spent weeks in a real prison talking with real killers, bank robbers, fraud artists. Intoxicating stuff for a teenage boy. I was hooked. I keep returning to offenders’ stories like an addict.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Hossein Keshavarz Aims to Show the Real Iran in “Dog Sweat”

“One of our actresses came to set one day and said that her father found out that she was doing the film and that he had forbid her to continue. She told us that in the morning and had to be back home by noon. So we had a couple of hours to do something. I sat down with the DP and the actors and discussed what the characters themselves might do. Then I sat down for a half hour and wrote the scene and we shot it before she had to head back.”

LAFF ‘10 | “A Small Act” Director Jennifer Arnold: “Be Prepared for Anything”

“Kenya fell into unexpected conflict, something which changed the original script completely. So the original approach was “be prepared,” but ultimately the reality was more like “be prepared… for anything.””

LAFF ‘10 | Director Hilda Hidalgo Tackles Taboo Subject Matter in “Of Love and Other Demons”

“A few years ago, during a workshop at the EICTV, I told García Márquez that this was one of his most cinematic works to date and I wondered why no one had made a film based on the book. He then told me that he had actually experimented with several screenwriting techniques while creating the novel and challenged me: “Would you like to make the movie?” I immediately said yes.”

LAFF ‘10 | Malcolm Murray Turns Over the “Camera Camera”

“Watching our film may feel to some people like looking in a mirror- many of us have taken photographs in foreign countries and the film could be about any of us. And we filmmakers are the same as our subjects- people in a foreign country with a camera in our hands.”

LAFF ‘10 | Lisa Leeman and Cristina Colissimo’s Interspecies Love Story “One Lucky Elephant”

“We as humans have been fascinated with the profound inter-species bond that can exist between man and animal since the beginning of time. Today, the popularity of YouTube videos like the emotional reunion of a lion and the two men who raised him, are a testament to this.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Aaron Schock Delves Deep Into the Heart of Mexico in “Circo”

“It often happens in documentary that you discover your story sometime after you have chosen your subject. When I began filming, I didn’t know I was about to enter a simmering family dispute between a husband and wife over whether they should pass their century-old circus tradition on to their children.”

LAFF ‘10 | Collins Takes On Russian Economics With “VLAST”

“At the end of the day “VLAST” is about what motivates people to do genuinely extraordinary things, the most elevated, noble and intelligent things and the most foolish, self destructive and inexplicable things.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Brett Haley on his Crewless Film “The New Year”

“Hopefully they like the no-frills approach to the characters and story. We tried to make a film that is honest to it’s characters and situations. At the end of the day, it’s really about people being good to each other and true to themselves.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Adam Reid on his Low-Budget Multi-Narrative “Hello Lonesome”

“I was a nerdy kid with huge plastic glasses and big fluffy hair. I wanted to be an inventor for a while, which led me to build flame throwers out of super soakers, but once “Back to the Future” came along my brain was irreversibly hard wired for movie making.”

LAFF ‘10 | Director Pernille Fischer Christensen On Her “Family”

“This film started as a very personal journey. I started writing a text when my father died i 2001. It wasnt really a film or a script but more an essay or a pieces of poetry.”

REVIEW | Dull Flame: Shamim Sarif’s “I Can’t Think Straight”

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2010 at 5:33 PM

Courtesy of Indiewire

By Chris Wisniewski

You would think that a cross-cultural, cross-religious lesbian romance should have enough built-in conflict to sustain an 80-minute feature, but Shamim Sarif‘s “I Can’t Think Straight” slumps and stretches its way from its first uninspired set piece, an engagement party for Jordanian-Christian Tala (Lisa Ray), to its mildly embarrassing closing montage, cut to, natch, Jill Sobule‘s “I Kissed a Girl” (hello, 1995!). As with her other feature, “The World Unseen” (released to theaters earlier this month), Sarif adapts and directs her own novel here, with Ray and Sheetal Sheth playing the lead roles. For “I Can’t Think Straight,” she enlists the help of co-writer Kelly Moss, but to no avail: Sarif has crafted a movie with such paper-thin characterizations and so lacking in dramatic incident that it’s frankly surprising that she was working from a novel at all—much less one she wrote herself.

As the movie opens, Tala finds herself betrothed for the fourth time, after having broken three previous engagements on or near the scheduled wedding days. Her wealthy Christian parents throw her an elaborate engagement party, after which she leaves Jordan for London, where she meets Leyla (Sheth), the guarded Indian-Muslim girlfriend of her friend Ali (Rez Kempton). During their first encounter, Tala immediately shakes up Leyla’s world with some banal provocations about religion. The next day, after a breathy, strenuous tennis match, it’s clear the two have kindled a romance—though they remain ostensibly oblivious to their nascent feelings.

Tala reads some of Leyla’s prose and pronounces her a Major Talent; Leyla begs her parents to let her spend a weekend with Tala at Oxford. At this point, Leyla’s spunky sister registers Leyla’s excitement, notices her k.d. lang CDs (seriously), and puts two and two together. Yet Leyla refuses to acknowledge her sapphic desires until her Oxford weekend culminates in a sensual dance turned, in a flurry of rapid cuts and awkward close-ups, to soft kisses and heavy petting.

After their Oxford encounter their roles reverse, with bashful Leyla staking a bold claim to Tala’s affection and her brash lover cracking under the pressure of social propriety. Tala insists on the impossibility of living as lesbians in their respective cultures, and indeed, both women are particularly burdened by unforgiving mothers who seem to embody those cultural constraints. Leyla’s clings to tradition, mostly in the form of food. When one of her daughters makes Ethiopian bread, she counters, “We have Indian bread right here,” while brandishing some naan. Tala’s mother, meanwhile, is essentially the villain. As the movie opens, she snaps at one of her servants, “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you!” After the Oxford weekend, she flies Tala’s fiance in to drive a wedge between her daughter and Leyla.

Despite the relative demonization of both mothers, all the talk of the cultural consequences of queerness never actually yields dramatic payoff. Tala and Leyla come out to their parents in fleeting scenes that are played mostly for laughs, and afterwards, Sarif drops those narrative threads almost completely. “I Can’t Think Straight” is pretty much a comedy—albeit not a very funny one—and while there’s nothing wrong, in principle, with the lightness of its touch, its pat comedic resolution, after so much hemming and hawing from Tala, ends up feeling glib. The film’s tone problems are compounded by Sarif’s unimaginitive visual sensibility and heavy reliance on montage to cover dramatic ellipses and elisions. Still, if “I Can’t Think Straight” isn’t very good—and frankly, it isn’t—it is, at the very least, mostly inoffensive.

[Chris Wisniewski is a Reverse Shot staff writer, a regular contributor to Publishers Weekly, and director of education at the Museum of the Moving Image.]

New York’s Asian American Fest Unveils 33rd Edition

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2010 at 1:13 PM

A scene from Raymond Red’s “Manila Sky.” [Image courtesy of AAIFF10]

Courtesy of IndieWire

Asian CineVision’s Asian American International Film Festival 2010 (AAIFF10) announced a slate of 23 features and a hearty list of shorts for its 33rd edition.  The fest, which focuses on films from Asian-American directors or about Asian-American experiences, also features films from other directors of Asian descent and “cutting-edge” work from Asia.

The fest is spotlighting its selection of Southeast Asian films for this year’s edition.  Program Manager Martha Tien noted, “This year, the AAIFF10 looks especially forward to bringing several Southeast Asian films to our audience.  Southeast Asia has such a dynamic cinematic community, but its movies still tend to be underrepresented in most film festivals.”  Included in the spotlight are the Opening Night film, Raymond Red’s “Manila Sky” (Philippines), Malaysian filmmaker Yuhung Ho’s “At the End of Daybreak,” and Thai director Kongkiat Khomsiri’s thriller “Slice.”

The fest will also be screening several other films that have been lighting up the international festival circuit:  the Closing Night film, Quentin Lee’s “The People I’ve Slept With,” has been popular with audiences from San Francisco to Miami to Sao Paulo.  Also on tap is Bruce Beresford’s “Mao’s Last Dancer,” which won the best feature award at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival.  Stephanie Wang-Breal’s “Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy),” which won the jury prize at last week’s Silverdocs, and Taiwanese-American director Arvin Chen’s “Au Revoir Taipei,” which won big at the SF Asian-American fest, will be the fest’s Centerpiece Presentation.

AAIFF10 will screen at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema, the Quad Cinema, and MOCA, the Museum of Chinese America.  For more information, the complete lineup, and tickets, visit the AAIFF10 website here.

Asian CineVision’s Asian American International Film Festival 2010 (AAIFF10) announced a slate of 23 features and a hearty list of shorts for its 33rd edition.  The fest, which focuses on films from Asian-American directors or about Asian-American experiences, also features films from other directors of Asian descent and “cutting-edge” work from Asia.

The fest is spotlighting its selection of Southeast Asian films for this year’s edition.  Program Manager Martha Tien noted, “This year, the AAIFF10 looks especially forward to bringing several Southeast Asian films to our audience.  Southeast Asia has such a dynamic cinematic community, but its movies still tend to be underrepresented in most film festivals.”  Included in the spotlight are the Opening Night film, Raymond Red’s “Manila Sky” (Philippines), Malaysian filmmaker Yuhung Ho’s “At the End of Daybreak,” and Thai director Kongkiat Khomsiri’s thriller “Slice.”

The fest will also be screening several other films that have been lighting up the international festival circuit:  the Closing Night film, Quentin Lee’s “The People I’ve Slept With,” has been popular with audiences from San Francisco to Miami to Sao Paulo.  Also on tap is Bruce Beresford’s “Mao’s Last Dancer,” which won the best feature award at this year’s Provincetown International Film Festival.  Stephanie Wang-Breal’s “Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You, Mommy),” which won the jury prize at last week’s Silverdocs, and Taiwanese-American director Arvin Chen’s “Au Revoir Taipei,” which won big at the SF Asian-American fest, will be the fest’s Centerpiece Presentation.

AAIFF10 will screen at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema, the Quad Cinema, and MOCA, the Museum of Chinese America.  For more information, the complete lineup, and tickets, visit the AAIFF10 website here and get your tickets today!

Check out the 8 films to watch at the upcoming New York Asian Film Festival!

Last call for Telluride Film Festival submissions!

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 1:34 PM

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

By Jay A. Fernandez

The Telluride Film Festival, which runs September 3-6 this year, is issuing a last call for film submissions.

The deadline is July 1 for any last shorts or student films that want a shot at a slot in the 37th annual fest. The feature film deadline is July 15.

Fest organizers point out that past first-time filmmakers that screened at Telluride include Terry Zwigoff, Richard Rodriguez, Doug Liman, Jon Favreau and Lodge Kerrigan.

10 Tips for Marketing & DIY Distribution

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Courtesy of Indiewire

By Kim Adelman

Kicking off with an “it can only get better” rallying speech from indie film guru Ted Hope and concluding with cautionary “budget for P&A” advice from “Bass Ackwards” producer Thomas Woodrow, the Los Angeles Film Festival presented an extremely insightful marketing and distribution symposium over the weekend. Those independent filmmakers lucky enough to be one of the 200 people seated in the Grammy Museum auditorium heard innumerable words of wisdom from heavy hitters such as Jon Reiss, Peter Broderick, and Kickstarter’s Yancey Stickler.  Here are ten things that particularly resonated.

1. “The world we’re living in is worse than what we’re moving forward to.”  – Ted Hope

In his opening remarks, Ted Hope said people in the independent film business are still nervous about what the future landscape is going to be.  But there is no reason to fear the future.  We are entering the age of the artist/entrepreneur.  “For the first time, we have the potential to establish a broad middle class of creative individuals who support themselves through their art, aligning and collaborating with specifically defined audiences, and not having to conform to the limited dictates of the mass marketplace and its controllers.”

Hope raced through his power point presentation, which he promised to put online at some point in the future.  Two other notes from his speech:

2. “We are no longer in the business of one-offs.”

Hope clarified, “You cannot afford to rebuild the wheel with each project.  Focus on the ongoing conversation with your audience.  You won’t be delivering a single product anymore.  You will be delivering many products in many formats in many variations.”

3. “It will be to your advantage to have a previously aggregated audience base.”

Audience building before production even begins was a key part of many speaker’s presentations.  Hope’s advice was to collect 5,000 fans prior to seeking financing, then gain 500 fans per month during prep, prod, and post.

4. Re: projects raising funds on Kickstarter, “If a project reaches 25% of its goal, 92% of the time it will get funded.”  – Yancey Stickler

Kickstarter cofounder Yancey Stickler rattled off stats and advice regarding how to use Kickstarter successfully to raise money.  The majority of film projects using Kickstarter are documentaries and webseries.  Features have a harder time raising money than documentaries because there isn’t a core group interested in the subject, so you’re selling yourself.  It’s very rare that a film’s full budget is raised, most common is finishing funds.  A shorter time period for raising funds is better than longer – 30 days seems optimal, with $8,000 the average amount raised for film projects.

5. “Personal experience between those who create the film and those who enjoy the film gives the viewer a history with the film and a connection.” Cory McAbee

Filmmaker/musician Cory McAbee of “The American Astronaut” and “Stringray Sam” fame skyped in to have a conversation with Jon Reiss, author of “Thinking Outside of the Box Office.”  Sharing his experiences touring with his films, McAbee pointed out that filmmaker appearances are an important part of the film’s life, so make sure you have in the initial production budget “a small stipend to cover rent” for at least a year of touring your film.

6. “The secret to social media is storytelling” – Sean Percival

In discussing social media tools, MySpace Director of Content Socialization Sean Percival reinforced that social media is just another way of continuing your film’s narrative.  “You’re telling the story of your movie – your successes, your failures, bring your characters to life… You need to adapt your knowledge of storytelling to these new platforms.  Get people on the hook and keep giving them stuff that they enjoy.”

7. “In the final analysis, it’s all about audience” – Peter Broderick

Having recently spent weeks thinking about crowdfunding, consultant Peter Broderick presented his thoughts on the importance of finding audiences, reaching out to them, engaging them, and harnessing their power.

Broderick reminded us that in “old world” thinking, the audience is the last part of the equation. In the new world, the audience comes onboard very early in the process – by financing the film via crowdfunding.  In the old world, there were barriers between you and your audience – filmmakers were not interacting directly with audiences.  Previously, the audience was anonymous; now we know them/have their emails.  In the old world, the audiences were passive.  Now we must engage them.  Previously they were just consumers.  Now we need them to be evangelists and patrons that you can take with you to other projects.

8. “A stunt is no substitute for actual P&A” – Thomas Woodrow

When asked his best advice for filmmakers, “Bass Ackwards” producer Thomas Woodrow immediately responded, “Budget for P&A.  It’s obligatory with these small films.  You’ll be so much happier and you’ll insure release for a film you worked so hard on.”
9. “Film is a face-to-face business.  A filmmaker is the best sales person of the film.”  – Mynette Louie

Producer of “Children of Invention” Mynette Louie warned that DIY distribution will suck up a lot of your time and your other projects will be neglected.

10. “No one knows enough.  You are as much the authority on how to market and distribute your film as anyone.  Ask around within your community.  You will find out information from your peers.  Read Truly Free.  Read indieWIRE.”  Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures

‘Nuff said