Friday, December 14, 2012

The Central Park Five by Ken Burns

By Moira Sullivan

In 1989 a white woman was brutally assaulted and raped while jogging in Central Park.  Five teenage African American were arrested and charged with the crime.  They were picked up for being among a street gang of about 25 young black and brown men that had assaulted joggers and pedestrians in the park that night in a violent male ritual called “wilding”. 

The five teens appear in the documentary –Antron McCray (who chose to only use his voice to protect his anonymity), Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam. 

The crime received tremendous media attention, and the investigation seized the teens and tried to piece the story together and make it fit with the presence of the young men in the park.

The accused were racially profiled and upon conviction spent time in prison from 6 to 13 years despite conflicting testimony and lack of DNA evidence. In testimony the teenagers admitted to the crime but later said they were tricked, coerced and just wanted to get it over with by giving up. In 2002 Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to the assault of the woman and claimed he acted alone. DNA evidence confirmed it and testimony by Reyes he could not have known from the crime scene. Despite that New York detectives still believe that the five teenagers were accomplices and that their confessions don’t lie. Burns' material used in the making of this film has since been subpoenaed by the New York City but refuses to turn the material over. The Central Park Five has brought $250 million lawsuit against the NYC for wrongful conviction, The information that the filmmakers have would help to collaborate that the NYC prosecution had probable cause to proceed in their convictions and that the confessions were sound. But the convictions and charges were set aside and the Central Park Five were released.

Directors Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon interviewed various experts in the judicial system, relatives and the accused and have assembled the pieces into a complex tapestry of testimony. The interviews revolve around the story of the five men with each of them explaining how they were as young people.  There is footage of the young men when they were indicted and admitted to the crime. 

The directors examine the environment of New York at the time, the financial and educational problems and neighborhoods falling apart. Crime was on the upswing with six murders a day and crack had made its inroads where poor black and brown teenagers were targeted. The story told with extensive testimony, with dozens of experts include former NY Mayor Ed Koch who called the assault the crime of the century, former NY Mayor David Dinkins and former NY Governor Mario Cuomo who condemned the perpetrators.

The one person that does not receive much attention even if this crime was about her was the unknown woman jogger at the time. It feels eerie to see the story revolve around this event, which serves as a backdrop, for everything that happened after that was representative of New York’s crime wave at the time. The jogger was a white woman, wearing a white tank top and white jogging pants, a woman without an identity. When she is spoken about it is as the rape victim. The blue chip investment banker stands in sharp contrast to the low income teenage men of color. The racial profiling of these black men demonstrates how inflamed New York was with racial tensions and the crime is used to make an example of that. Since then the Central Park Jogger who has no memory of her assault, Trisha Meili has come forward, and has written a book I Am the Central Park Jogger. As a postscript she is mentioned in the documentary. But this film is not about her or her crime but the wrongful conviction of her would be assailants.

This was an interracial rape. If Meili had been raped in Harlem according to a lawyer it wouldn’t have been of interest.  A woman who was raped in Brooklyn and thrown off the roof got little attention since it was within the same racial group.

The Central Park Five debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. Ken Burns and one of the Central Park Five Raymond Santana were in San Francisco to promote the documentary recently and gave an exclusive interview to Movie Magazine. Here now is the director and Raymond Santana.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/12/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

By Moira Sullivan
We seldom hear about heroic women in film who are superheroes, even though there are countless examples, such as Lucy Lawless as Xena Warrior Princess, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil and what comes to mind most often --- Wonder Woman.

 Kristy Guevara-Flanagan looks at this phenomena in WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines and wonders why there are not more. To answer this question she traces the origin of the comic book in the late 30’s and the great depression when people needed heroes.

Feminist Gloria Steinem, who is interviewed in the documentary, declares that Wonder Woman was the only game in town. And she is the first , and has survived 70 years. In 1941 William Moulton Marston created an Amazon princess goddess for a comic book company and Wonder Woman became an overnight success. In fact she became so natural that it was not unusual to envision that within a 100 years, a matriarchy would evolve who didn’t need men warriors.

After World War II when men came home,  the image of Wonder Woman , turned more to romance with pictures of Wonder Woman being saved by men. In 1954 a book was published by Fredric Wertham  - "The Seduction of the Innocent" –and the author claimed that comics were the cause of juvenile delinquency.  Comics became regarded as bad influences and Wonder Woman was one of them.

In the 1950's, some comic books were subject to a "comic code" and powerful women were subdued, such as Lois lane whose ambitions were cooled in Superman.  Wonder Woman was declared a lesbian which in itself was not negative, but the concerted effort of ultra conservatives to make lesbians negative was damaging. Wonder Woman was even transformed without magical powers and not as an Amazon princess in the  "New"Wonder Woman.

With this in mind, it is little wonder that we don’t have many women superheroes even today, and as one of the women Kristy Guavara Flanagan interviews states, they are often self sacrificing and need men.  Regardless of the backlash women associate Wonder Woman with feminism and as a symbol of female power.

Lynda Carter played Wonder Woman on TV in the 70s broadcast during the second wave of feminism. Interviewed on the documentary, Carter spoke of her character helping a community of women and revealed that the producers didn’t think a woman could carry the show. But other shows were to follow such as "Charlie's Angels" and "The Bionic Woman" with actress Lindsay Wagner who said "the feminist principle" was the unifying theme of the program.

According to another women interviewed in the documentary,  today heroines need to be "sexy, good looking, women who don’t run the story line and serve men.

Its not strange therefore that there are few super heroines today since 3% of the decisions to cast them in films are made by women. That amazing statistic comes from Kristy Guavara Flanagan's brilliant documentary.

"Wonder Women! The Untold Story of Superheroines" will be shown Saturday, December 1 at Fort Mason in San Francisco at 7pm as part of the "Celebration of Women & Film". The "LunaFest", a collection of short films by women will also be screened on December 1. The high quality films depict various kinds of women such as young gymnasts, women artists, a woman going through chemotherapy, the founder of Terry Bikes who fashioned bicycles for women’s bodies and women who work and dream of a better life. The show times for this program 12noon & 2:15pm
These two parallel programs are part of the "Celebration of Craftswomen 2012", which will be held for the final weekend on December 1-2 from 10am-5pm at Fort Mason.
"Wonder Women" together with the Luna Fest,  will pay tribute to women's creativity and help to support the Women's Building of San Francisco.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/28/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Holy Motors: The Death of Identity

By Moira Sullivan

Holy Motors was presented in the official selection at Cannes in May, and was probably the most innovative film in the competition. It caused a lot of discussion and was loved by those who appreciate art cinema and made those expecting a film that follows the conventions of classical narratives uncomfortable.  However the unusual film that focuses on identity is a cinematic rarity.

Leos Carax' dystopia is set in Paris and is about a man whose everyday job involves acting out the various identities of a variety of people. In the initial scene morning, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), is a middle-aged businessman, picked up in a white stretch limo. He lives in a beautiful mansion and is chauffeured by Céline (Eva Scob) all day. On his seat is a notebook with his second job. In a traditional narrative since the setting is established we would be pulled into the identity of the characters and lifestyle of our lead.

The businessman turns out to be one role, and being a middle-aged street lady is another. Within the same day Monsieur Oscar also goes to Père Lachaise cemetery and acts out certainly his most bizarre unconventional role. But the fact that he constantly changes identities and draws us into character identification is disarming.

At a photo shoot of a beautiful model (played by Eva Mendes) Monsieur Oscar has undergone another makeover where he wears a red wig has one false eye and long grotesque fingernails. He is barefoot and walks with a cane. The photographer decides to play with this freakish occurrence and incorporates this little man into the photo shoot. He decides that his model Beauty has found a Beast but only on a superficial level for in the next few minutes the little man bites the fingers of the photographer's assistant, kidnaps "Beauty" and takes her to an underground crypt.  Here he dresses Beauty in a Middle East burqa, which draws attention to the fantasy of appearances Beauty does not protest, and the little man lays his head on her lap.

Monsieur Oscar is also a father with a daughter, and we think that this is the real Mr. Oscar finally. He picks up his daughter who has hid in a bathroom at a party and has a father daughter talk with her.
Next he is a murderer who kills his double, thereby destroying his own image. When he is later an old man taking his last breath, Monsieur Oscar has gone through some real metamorphoses but not before he returns home to another family.

The scenes are carefully composed as small vignettes that are thought provoking. Not only does Monsieur Oscar assume identities the environments change too.  Many parts of Paris such are the sites of different kinds of architecture from different time periods such as  the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and tract homes outside Paris.

Leos Carax' addresses motion capture cinematography with Monsieur Oscar animating digital character models for video games and virtual reality.

Monsieur Oscar meets a depressed colleague on top of an abandoned building. She is played by Kylie Minogue, who has been also chauffeured in a white limo. The title Holy Motors has special meaning meeting for the transformative process of the passengers in these white limos.

Mr. Carax has had a long absence from moviemaking and is best known for Les Amants du Pont-Neuf  - the lovers on the bridge in 1991Holy Motors in such an absence has many messages - about the death of cinema with motion capture cinematography, the death of pop culture with the scenes with Kylie Minogue and Eva Mendes the death of Industrialism with gutted out abandoned buildings. There are also shapeshifting messages about gender and identity.

The critical response to the film was either exuberant or morose. It will most likely enjoy the same reception in Paris’ sister city San Francisco.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Cannes.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/14/12
Movie Magazine International

Skyfall: Is Bond a Relic of the Cold War?

By Moira Sullivan

The Bad Bond Girl - Sévérine - Bérénice-Lim Marlone
Judi Dench called James Bond  a “misogynist dinosaur” and “relic of the Cold war” – in her debut opposite Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in GoldenEye. In Skyfall this antagonism continues. According to "M", “orphaned children make the best agents”, and in this film she winds up becoming more of a maternal symbol than ever. Not exactly what you expected but this is Judi Dench’s last Bond film.
Sam Mendes is the mastermind behind Skyfall who has crafted a brilliantly entertaining film.
In the opening scene James Bond is in hot pursuit of a French rogue named Patrice (Ola Rapace). The  M16 agent Eve played by Naomi Harris is ordered by M to take aim at Patrice even while he struggles with Bond on the top of a moving train. The rogue gets away and Bond takes a bullet. Later we learn that Patrice works for a master hacker who sets off bombs triggered by remote programming. M is targeted and the rest of the targets are on a microchip.  Acquiring it pits Bond against Patrice one more time in Shanghai. It is also time to meet the good Bond girl and the bad one. Eve shows up again as the nice Bond girl and works behind the scene while Bond tries to score on the bad Bond girl. The morose Bérénice-Lim Marlone plays Sévérine, the bosses girlfriend and slave, who can lead him to the owner of the microchip 
Bond was not so happy about how expendable he seemed to be for M. This fits in nicely with the main villain in the film, Raoul Silva played by Javier Bardem, an ex 00 agent M at one time found expedient.
The younger equivalent of Q ( Ben Whishaw)  knows about computers and hacking and is able to follow the path of Silva through his expert skills.

Cold War Relic? 
We eventually travel to Bond’s family home, with Sean Connery’s old 007 Aston Martin to Skyfall, located in Scotland, where his parents died in an accident while the young James hid in a secret pathway called a "priest hole". Albert Finney plays Kincade, the gamekeeper of the Skyfall manor.  
Ralph Fiennes as  Gareth Mallory, debuts as the new head of foreign intelligence in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Skyfall is set in Shanghai with exquisite art direction, Turkey, England, Scotland and an island in Japan. 
Adele sings the Bond theme song “Skyfall” and Eve doubles not only as a 00 agent but in the end as the new "Miss Moneypenny".

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/14/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ghostbusters relived in 2012

By Moira Sullivan

Gozer, the destructor with Dana and Louis trapped within her servants

Twenty-eight years ago, a New York tale of ghouls and goblins infiltrating and haunting libraries, courtrooms, buses and the subway became one of the most beloved films in modern movie history. Made on a budget of $32 million it has grossed 10 times over that worldwide and was nominated for two Oscars for special effects and best song -- the film is Ghostbusters. There are so many things I like about this film, that I find myself watching it about four times a year. On Halloween, I’ll watch it once more.
First of all some of the "Saturday Night Live" talent is in this: Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, and Dan Aykroyd , co writer of the film. Sigourney Weaver did Ripley and Zuul skits for SNL—Ripley being her role in Alien, and Zuul from Ghostbusters, the demigod and servant to the Sumerian shape shifter Gozer the Gozerian, the destructor, played by Serbian model Slavitza Jovan.

The story of Ghostbusters begins with three scientists –more on the sociopathic side - that try to make their living doing pseudo science off of university grants. They are fired from the university and decide to open a business catching ghosts, and buy a hearse, rent a condemned building, and hire a secretary and another assistant called Janine Melnitz played by Annie Potts and Winston Seddmore – played by Ernie Hudson. Their secret weapon is a "proton pack" with a stream that captures ghouls, which is then trapped in a container and kept in a facility in their building.   

Their first client is Dana, (Sigourney Weaver) who complains about a monster in her fridge. Dr. Peter Wenkmen (Bill Murray) comes home to visit and leaves when Dana feels he's more on the "game show side". In truth there is a monster in her fridge who later embodies her, with its twin that takes over her neighbor Louis played by Rick Moranis. Dana is the gatekeeper and Louis is Vinz Clortho, the key master. Dana’s apartment is the threshold in a haunted building built by a demented mad doctor called Ivo Shandor who wanted to bring about the end of the world. Meanwhile the Ghostbusters find trouble with the EPA with their ghost catching compartment in the building and are forced to shut this machine down unleashing all the ghosts they have captured with their ghost detectors. The mayor of New York finally grants them permission to take on the haunted house and rid the town of the ghosts.
The timing in the script makes it one of the humorous films of the 80s and it doesn’t seem to have aged. It’s a definite New York made product with lots of crowd scenes of willing extras subjected to earthquakes, falling debris and a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The Canadian Czech director Ivan Reitman is behind this film and the sequel, and also provides the voice of Zuul.
“There is no Dana Only Zuul” is one of his lines before Dana levitates above her bed. The ensemble cast is brilliant in a film that takes a look at paranormal activity with a script of memorable lines that make it a good choice for a sing along at the Castro in Halloweens to come.

For Movie Magazine , this is Moira Sullivan wishing you Happy Halloween from San Francisco.
© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/31/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lisa Ohlin's chronicles Swedish anti-Semitism in 'Simon and the Oaks'

Bill Skarsgård and Karl Linnertorp in 'Simon and the Oaks'

By Moira Sullivan
Children in Swedish films are known for being teachers to their parents. These films are not made for the youth market but for all ages. Simon and the Oaks is such a film, based on a novel by the Swedish writer Marianne Fredriksson and filmed by the Swedish director Lisa Ohlin. As in other novels by Frederiksson, the film is about friendship and religious ties.  The film follows two young boys and their families during the outbreak of WW2 and the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden. Although the Germans didn’t occupy Sweden during the war, there was an arrangement made in which German soldiers were allowed to travel in trains through Sweden to occupied Norway. Jews in Norway were deported to Germany and many Swedes gave safe harbor to some of them. But Sweden thought Germany was going to win the war and their position wasn’t totally neutral including supplying Germany with iron ore for weapons.

Simon meets Isak at a private school in Göteborg, the son of a successful Swedish bookshop owner and a German woman who spends her time indoors in fear of the Nazis. Simon comes from a working class family with foster parents;  his mother abandons him after his Jewish father has deserted them. His foster mother is the kind and nurturing Karin (Helen Sjöholm) and stepfather Erik (Stefan Gödicke) tries to get his son to stop talking to an oak tree and teaches him how to fight and learn woodwork. But Simon is not interested in this, and soon makes friends with Isak at a private school. When Isak’s mother sets her room on fire and is taken to hospital, Isak comes to live with Simon.  Isak's father Ruben (Jan Josef Liebers) also becomes a part of the family, with dreams of establishing a ship building firm with Simon’s father.

Isak's father exposes Simon to the world of art and music, which he is drawn to as a way of expressing his emotions and inner world, in the same way he finds comfort in the giant oak that was a solid point in his upbringing.  This meeting of families from different classes and religions is not without complications as Simon’s father is proud and unable to accept at first the generosity of Ruben who brings gifts of coffee, perfume, books and sugar to the family of modest means. 

Simon and Isak grow up and become teenagers when the war ends. The atrocities of the concentration camps are reported over the radio, including eye witness reports by a Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte who was sent to Siberia where he died. Swedish Prime minister Per Albin Hansson soon after created the Swedish Folkhem, an extensive social welfare program.

The older Simon played by Bill Skarsgård falls for Iza (Katarina Schuettler) , a young woman that spent time in a concentration camp but eventually chooses another girl. Isak (Karl Linnertorp) marries and has a daughter. There isn’t strong dramatic dialogue to tie the film together as much as images of the passage of time, the beauty of nature, the frailty of humans, and the growth of young boys into men surrounded by loving family. In between dramatic scenes, these images are set to music, above all the sound of the violin played by Isak and Simon.

'Simon and the Oaks' is beautifully crafted with shots of Swedish nature, the seasons, and animals. Ample nature scenes without dialogue is also characteristic of Swedish film. The production team spared no expense in recreating the time period from the 30s to 40s in Sweden and fulfills its ambition  to put Marianne Fredriksson’s most beloved novel to film.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/17/12
Movie Magazine International

Sunday, September 16, 2012

San Francisco Iranian Film Festival

By Moira Sullivan

The fifth annual Iranian Film Festival was held at the San Francisco Art Institute September 8-9 in a two days celebration of Iranian cinema. Special guest of honor was the film composer Esfandiar Monfaredzadeh who did the film score for several films with , including one of his best-known scores for, 'Dash Akol' (1971). The film screened in honor of his visit. Monfaredzadeh now lives in Sweden.

Esfandiar Monfaredzadeh
'Dash Akol' is based on a short story by Sadegh Hedayat, the story of a man (Behrouz Vossoughi) from Shiraz who falls in love with Marjan (Mary Apick), the daughter of the late Haji Samad. Akol became the executor of Samad's estate on his deathbed. One day someone asks for Marjan's hand in marriage. Out of honor Dash Akol arranges this. He is challenged to a duel by the town bully, and during the passion play of Imam Hussain, he is mortally wounded.  Later he sends Marjan a parrot that he has taught to speak his declaration of love, an obsession that killed him.

The focus of the festival this year was Kurdish film. One of the films screened was a problematic love story directed by the Iranian filmmaker Fariborz Kamkari, 'Flowers of Kirkuk' (2010). The Kurdish doctor Najila who has been studying in Rome with her boyfriend Sherko must choose between her dreams and love. Sherko sends her word that she must forget about him when he returns to Iraq, which sets her on a path of sacrifice and duty. Her return to Iraq launches a series of challenges. The film is set during the regime of Saddam Hussein.  

Mohamed Zouaoui and Morjana Alaoui  
The Tunisian actor Mohamed Zouaoui plays Mokhtar, a soldier in Saddam Hussein’s army who falls for Najila. Zouaoui won a Golden Globe last year for Best Breakthrough Actor last year and Fariborz Kamkari was nominated for best film.  The real scene-stealer is the Moroccan actress played by Morjana Alaoui who plays Najila who comes to realize that getting word out that Saddam Hussein is massacring Kurds is much more important than her personal relationship. Fariborz Kamkari beautifully makes the film with high quality craftsmanship.

Several of the films at the festival dealt with Iranians in exile that live in Canada, the UK and the United States. One disturbing film about the difficulties for Iranians who try to begin a new life in another country was screened on Sunday - One Line of Reality directed Ali Vazirian. The film is about a couple that run a cultural magazine that has forced them into bankruptcy. At the same time they get a phone call from an Iranian woman in Sweden who claims to represent a company that will provide a lucrative grant if they travel to a central meeting point and serve as a conduit for shipped goods. The entire operation as we suspect is a scam. Vazirian shows the political circumstances that have closed Iranian journals to stop publication and the despair of cultural workers who are unable to continue their profession. 

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/12/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, August 9, 2012


By Moira Sullivan
Carol Bouquet in Unforgiveable
Unforgiveable is a film by André Téchiné that was featured in the director’s fortnight of last year’s Cannes Film Festival and selected for this year’s Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco.

The film title in French is The Unpardonable, yet all of the excesses of the film’s characters are flawed but far from unpardonable. Set in Venice, there are some beautiful scenes filmed over a period of four seasons. Remarkably the film is shot nearly devoid of tourists, which flock to the city in droves all year round. 

The famous retired crime writer Francis played by Andre Dessolier wants to rent an apartment in Venice from a French real estate agent, Judith, played by Carole Bouquet.  She shows him a rental home on the tiny island of Sant’Erasmo, which is about a half an hour from Venice by boat in the middle of the lagoon. It is an island I have stayed on when attending the Venice Film Festival and just as in the film, the mosquitoes and the infrequent vaporetto boats to and from the island are drawbacks. But you can rent a bicycle and travel around some breathtaking countryside. Sant’Erasmo has all the advantages of being in Venice without the complications. 

Francis spontaneously asks Judith to move into the rental with him, and amazingly she accepts. She is sought after by both men and women and one of her female ex lovers is employed by Francis to find the whereabouts of his daughter. At the same time, he hires the son of Judith’s ex lover to spy on her. The intrigue of this film is that everyone is searching for love, and trying to find it in someone who is preoccupied with someone or something else.

The inclusion of the film at the Frameline Festival has to do with Judith’s bisexuality and her ex lover and also the woman’s son who engages in gay bashing by throwing a man into the Venice canals when he tries to kiss him. 

Its really hard to understand why Francis and Judith are together but it all seems to boil down to their loneliness and realization of their past mistakes. If they can succeed then perhaps there is hope for the others. But they are all connected with Judith. Francis' daughter is a love addict and her boyfriend Alvise fancies Judith as does her ex lover’s son, Jeremie. The film for this reason is not totally believable nor a world populated with these kinds of characters desireable. But the beautiful background of Venice includes one traditional wedding of a very young couple that takes place on Sant’Erasmo with classic wedding songs sung by the guests.  André Téchiné seems to be concerned with the problems of modern day city dwellers in Unforgiveable, and a year in a country home does calm things down for a bit.

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 08/08/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dark Horse

By Moira Sullivan
Selma Blair and Jordan Gelber in Dark Horse

 Dark Horse by Todd Solondz premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and is now in San Francisco. The film is enjoying a new romp at the theatres and it’s worth a visit to check out Solondz' latest creation. This is one of his upbeat movies compared with his previous somber tales about dysfunctional families even though this film is riddled with characters that are indeed dysfunctional. First there is Abe, brilliantly played by Jordan Gelber, a 30 + man who is the dark horse of the family, who lives at home with his parents played by Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken and who works in his father's business. Abe is a very unhappy man who was unable to strike out on his own and remained at home unlike his successful brother Richard, played by Justin Bartha, a doctor, who he felt wronged by growing up because he was just the opposite of him –successful and his father's favorite.  Abe’s life takes a turn for the better when he meets Miranda, played by Selma Blair, at a wedding. Her character is a little like the one she plays in Hellboy, the depressed woman who is unable to control bursting out in flame when she experiences dark emotions, or any kind of emotion. Miranda is depressed most of the time and on one of their first dates Abe speaks to Miranda who is lying face down on her bed. Todd Solondz is clever in creating believable characters but also personalities that  create identification and pathos for us. His sense of timing is extraordinary even with characters  such as the clerk at a huge toy  store who wont take back a toy that Abe has bought because “he opened it”. Abe is at the point of a volcanic eruption and the slightest interaction that he perceives that is the least negative sets him off. He is generous with his mother and also Miranda who allow him to be himself, but when Miranda presents her ex boyfriend to him, Mahmoud, he flies into a rage because he probably infected Miranda with Hepatitis B. In fact it is Abe that as a scapegoat reveals all the emotions of his characters by reacting to and playing out their dysfunctionalism.  The film weaves in and out of dream states to show the underlying motives of the people that Abe is surrounded by and tries to relate to. Eventually his family life gets to him even if it took many years to cause a melt down. Dark Horse makes you appreciate those family members who are pushed aside for  the sake of convention.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/18/12
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Farewell My Queen

By Moira Sullivan

In time for national independence day in France commemorating July 14, 1789 after the storming of the Bastille prison, is a new film about the events leading to the execution of Marie Antoinette directed by veteran filmmaker Benoît Jacquot.  

This story is about the relationship of Marie Antoinette with her reader in the final three days of the Versailles court. Diane Kruger plays Antoinette and the reader Sidonie Laborde is played by Léa Seydoux. The film begins with Sidonie being called by the queen to read  plays for her. On the way, Sidonie passes the haughty Duchess de Polignac, played by Virginie Leydoyen.  The regal airs of the Duchess surpass those of the queen, who is amazingly tender and affectionate to her servant and attends to her mosquito bites with rose water. At the same time Sidonie is a quietly effective observer of her queen and can be seen eavesdropping or scrutinizing the increasing tension at court prior to and following the storming of the Bastille.

It is not an easy story to witness the final days of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI before the barbaric execution of the royalty for their excesses in levying taxes amidst luxurious living in a growing class war between the peasant and aristocracy. Filmed at Versailles, it is true that Diane Kruger as Antoinette gives one of her best performances ever. She is soft, and emotional, firm and regal. Léa Seydoux is also excellent as the queen’s lady in waiting who knows what she wants out of life, and is one of the queen’s most loyal companions. True to her character Virginie Leydoyen plays the woman who abandons the queen and who dies of a broken heart because of it. The film is shot mostly indoors or on the palace grounds of Versailles and most of the story concerns the inner workings of the court, the intrigues, the gossip and the rigid differences between the royals and their servants.

Farewell my Queen is based on the novel by Chantal Thomas who co wrote the script with Gilles Taurand and director Benoît Jacquot.  The French helmer succeeds in creating an intense and foreboding tale of increasing suspense and his merits lay in his ability to draw out the emotions of his key players in a narrative that flows and intoxicates. We all know the fateful last minute attempts to spare Louis and his wife from the wrath of the French revolutionaries who were led to revolt by writers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, and the execution of the king and queen prior to the reign of Napoleon. The internal operations of the court from the point of view of Marie Antoinette and her relationship to her reader make for an intriguing tale told with excellent craftsmanship and performances.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/11/12
Movie Magazine International

Mississippi I Am

By Moira Sullivan

When Constance Millen asked to bring her same sex partner to her high school prom in Mississippi in 2010 she was told no. She contacted the "Safe Schools Coalition" in her state and brought up a discrimination complaint.  The high school was ordered to explain their policy and allow Millen to bring her date. Rather than do that, the high school cancelled the prom.

The incident brought Mississippi to national attention, a state that Lance Bass, former member of 'N' Synch was tired of seeing regarded as backwards. Bass came out in 2006 and received flack in his home state despite his popularity nationwide. He decided to produce Mississippi I Am, after hearing about Constance Millen, - a high quality documentary directed by Katherine Linton, and Harriet Hirshorn. They set out to interview the young gay people of Mississippi who became activists in order to change the attitudes of discrimination of gays in their state. According to the documentary there is a church on every corner of Mississippi. The church does not approve of gays and lesbians and tries to convert them in order to be changed. One of the interviewees was a pastor in a church who willingly admitted on camera his prejudices against gays.

Most Mississippians love their state and their country. The first thought that comes to mind when you see the blatant prejudice against gays in this state is why don’t they leave. You realize by the time the film ends how change has come about and how inspirational that is. Thanks to the efforts of these young activists interviewed in the documentary, a new era of civil rights has been ushered into Mississippi. These young people created "Second Chance", the opportunity to attend a same sex partner prom. Lance Bass at 32 attended. If Mississippi can change through the efforts of young activists this can happen anywhere. The cinematography by Vincent Venturella is excellent and the film is well edited. It is Lance Bass’s wish that the films be seen my mainstream America in order to change public opinion. Mississippi I Am is just the kind of film that will be able to address the homophobia that is an important civil rights issue today.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/11/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Queer Women of Color 8 Audience Award to Zoila Avilés

By Moira Sullivan

Zoila Avilés - Audience Award for "Corazón de Melón!"

On the final day of the recent Queer Women of Color Festival (QWOCMAP), which closed on June 10 at the YBCA, awarded the audience award to "Corazón de Melón!" by Zoila Avilés.  The film warmly received by the audience is a humorous film about two women who meet online and fall in love on opposite sides of the Mexican border. The relationship is not without complications because one of the women is not out to her teenage children. The film was part of the selection of films in the festival entitled " I Do, and I Don't" about gay marriage.

The last program of the 8th QWOCMAP festival featured an exceptional program of documentaries with a broad range ranch of subjects.

In "Crossing Barriers: To Re-Gay Ourselves" (Carolina Reyes, 2012) interviews young queer women of color speaking up about coming out to their families, love, life and their identities.

"Kai Green made It Gets Messy in Here" (, 2011) as part of her masters program at USC. The film takes a look at the problems when transgender lesbians of color use restroom facilities and receive comments that they should leave because they don’t look like women.

Narissa Lee’s humorous "The Arrival" (2012) plays with some of the stereotypes about the gay parishioners of a Bay Area church. The older parishioners, according to Lee have been around since the AIDS crisis.

Two films "Looking for Jiro" (Tina Takemoto, 2011) and "Bloodlines" (Celeste Chan, 2012) deal with queer history in America during WW2. Takemoto discovered the history of a Japanese-American cook at detention camp for the Japanese during World War II. Jiro was gay and liked "muscle men". Chan revisits Angel Island where Chinese immigrants were kept in detention in the 40’s.

"Coming in America" (Aba Taylor, 2012) explores queer women of African descent and the various ways they look upon their cultural origins and community.

Two films looked at spirituality in the queer community. "Sacred Space" (Ava Square-Levias, 2012) explores healing rituals Square-Levias' film "De Colores Spirit Warriors" (Berenice Dimas) discusses two spirit religions and altars.

The final film "Drum Love Joy" (Shawn Nealy, 2011) takes a close look at the legendary drummer Carolyn Brandy who played with Bay area groups such as "Alive" and "Sistah Boom" during the 80s.

This years QWOCMAP festival for the first time did not have to turn anyone away for lack of space, and during the festival the autdience was able to raise the rent for next years festival. The festival directors are Madeleine Lim, and T Kebo Drew and the festival is growing in importance and popularity. San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu and State Senator Mark Leno cut the ribbon of the opening ceremony.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan. 

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/20/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cannes Report 2: Dracula in 3D!

By Moira Sullivan
Daria Argento and Thomas Kretchman in Dracula in 3D

After seven days of the Cannes Film Festival, the party for the celebration of cinema‘s best showcase of new cinema shows no sign of letting up. The real Cannes is nothing like what you find on line. For starters, the red carpet is short, there is a small space around you and although there are a hundred photographers, it doesn’t feel like that. I was able to experience this first hand as a member of the Queer palm jury this year, a parallel but independent section of the festival. Being on the jury has its advantages. For example, last night I was given a Red carpet ticket for Miike Takeshi's surprise screening - narrative based on a manga about a young boy with a scar on his head, worse than Harry Potter. Ai To Makato, a youth tale considered a romantic comedy.

On May 20th I climbed the red carpet also to acknowledge a beautiful film about a couple in their eighties who have been music teachers: Love by Michael Haneke. One day Anna played by Emmanuelle Riva suddenly loses her memory and stares into space. A trip to the hospital does not reveal much other than she needs a small medical procedure.  After the unsuccessful operation she is left to the care of her devoted husband Georges, played by Jean Louise Trintignant.

The deterioration of his wife’s health is sorrowful for him to observe and the way that he deals with his caretaking role is beautifully told. This film is a sharp contender for the Palm d'Or.

As a member of the Queer Palm jury I was also able to see some films in the International Film Critics Awards. Augustin by one of two women directors at the festival, Alice Winocour,  is about a  young woman who has epilepsy, played by French singer Soko . She comes to the attention of a gynecologist, played by Vincent Lindon, who examines her and helps us to come to grips with her illness. We learn  how the concept "theater" developed from doctors sitting around  patients, usually hysterical women as they are called. For the doctors,  the observation of women is a spectator sport.

Another film that was striking was The Hunt by Thomas Vinterberg from Denmark about a young divorcé with a teenage son who finally gets a stable job so that he can share custody of his child with his estranged wife. The job is at a day care center for children and one day the young daughter of his best friend reveals that she was molested by him. The entire city goes haywire.

Dario Argento's Dracula in 3 D was exciting to watch for several reasons. There hasn’t been an Argento movie for awhile, it casts Thomas Kretchman, who gives good romantic reason why he should be reunited with Mina and it also stars Argento's daughter Asia Argento.

Next week a closing report of the Cannes film festival For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Cannes.

© 2012- Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/23/12
Movie Magazine International

Cannes Report - Holy Motors, Paperboy and Rust & Bone

By Moira Sullivan
Denis Lavant and Kylie Minogue

Holy Motors, a film presented in the official selection yesterday at Cannes, is probably in a class of its own and has caused a lot of discussion.  It does need to be discussed, however, and maybe it is the best thing to happen to the Cannes Film Festival competition this year. It is beyond the character-driven narratives of the official selection and is a cinematic rarity.

Leos Carax' dystopia set in Paris is about a man whose job is assuming many identities and playing many roles each day. In the morning, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), a middle aged businessman, is picked up in a stretch limo. He leaves a beautiful mansion and is chauffeured by Céline (Eva Scob) all day. On his seat is a notebook with his first job. Some of the assignments include going to the Père-Lachaise cemetery where there is a photo shoot of a beautiful model (played by Eva Mendes). Monsieur Oscar now wears a red wig and has one false eye and grotesque fingernails. He is barefoot and walks with a cane. The photographer is so taken by the man that he asks to photograph him along site “Beauty”, as "the Beast".  He bites the fingers of the photographer's assistant and kidnaps "Beauty". Then he takes her underground where he dresses her in a burka. She does not protest, and he lays his head on her lap.

Monsieur Oscar is also a father with a daughter who he picks up from a party where she has hidden in the bathroom, a murderer who kills someone who looks like him in a garage, and an old man taking his last breath. Some of the scenes are so exquisitely composed that they are mind-boggling. Many parts of Paris such as Père Lachaise are the sites for various assignments, and symbolize different epochs of architecture such as the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and tract homes outside Paris.

The film clearly is an affront to motion capture cinematography with Monsieur Oscar in yet another identity dressed in a suit with dots enacting scenes that will later be made into video games and virtual reality. Leos Carax seems quite indifferent to this change in filmmaking. Kylie Minogue plays a woman who has the same job as Monsieur Oscar. They have only 20 minutes together and she sings a morose song.

Mr. Carax has made a visually stunning film with foreboding messages. The film is entirely subjective, but in French “motor” means “action” on a shoot. The entire film thus is a shoot with different sets.  Here, in this two - hour film, we witness the death of cinema, the death of pop culture, the death of industrialism, and the death of gender and the death of identity.  Because of its artistic content it will probably not open at a cineplex in San Francisco anytime soon, but is a feast for cineastes who want an experience and to assemble meaning in film rather than having it already prepared.
The critical response to the film was below average, as was expected. It opens in France on the French national holiday, Bastille Day, July 4th.

Lee Daniels
Near the end of the Cannes film Festival comes a film that just blows it all in a new direction, clearly the most visceral and well sculpted  film for that. Every shot is exquisitely executed and some of the montage sequences recall the principles of Eisenstein for the creation of pathos. "Paperboy" is a critty narrative, shocking in parts some of which are even repugnant. Seldom has such realistic stuff been arranged in a film. This film has it all: casting (Lea Daniels Butler), script, editing and cinematography.  Based on a novel by Peter Dexer.

Oscar winner Marion Cottilard plays a killer whale trainer who loses her legs in a water show in Jack Audiard's Rust & Bone.  The title means the particular taste of blood in one's mouth after taking a dunk on the head. And Cottilard's boyfriend played by Matthias Schoenaerts takes a lot of hits to the skull. The film is stunningly beautiful with excellent acting, editing by Juliette Welfling (The Hunger Games, A Prophet) and cinematography by Stéphane Fountaine (The Prophet). It is on the short list for one of the best films in the "Official Selection".

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/23/12
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cannes Opens with Moonrise Kingdom

By Moira Sullivan

What you can hear in the background is the music from a bar in one of the many Cannes parties being given and you can also hear the waves from the Mediterranean washing up on the shore. I was just at a party for one of the publicists, who just had a birthday. This publicist is dealing with several films for the festival including a new film by Jackie Chan. 

For 12 days the city of Cannes is an inferno of media, fans, celebrities and press. It’s hard to believe that over 4000 media can crowd into the facilities at the Palais, but in fact they do, somehow. For some days, some are here and leave, and new ones come.  There is a great line up of films, and I am saving some of my energy for Dario Argento’s Dracula in 3D that will be screened on May 20, a special favorite. But everything has to begin somewhere.

Today I had the privilege of seeing Tilda Swinton. The first day of the Cannes Film Festival featured the opening film Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. It started off well enough, but the film turned out to be a beautifully cinematographed step-by-step, drag out romp in the nature. Maybe as the Cannes Film Festival's opening film, it was appreciated because of its less than spectacular subject matter and its artistic decor.

It was supposed to have the feel of an ensemble acting theater troupe, that is what Bill Murray said at the press conference at any rate, which works fine on the stage, but not on film.
Two young people, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are cast in the leads, virtual unknowns and an unlikely couple to fall in love at that.  It’s not clear what they see in each other, but they both are outcasts in their families and beat up their peers when provoked. Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky decide to run away and leave their surroundings. For Sam, it’s a scout troop, and for Suz,y it's her family,

In fleshing out the characters, screenwriters Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola did a great job of creating some memorable cinematic moments - like Sam’s parents -Frances McDormand, calling her troops together in their New England home with a megaphone, or Bill Murray taking out his anger on a tree, then falling asleep on the job before putting on the final stroke with his ax.

Director Wes Anderson who has served up delightful farces such as The Royal Tenenbaums and The Fantastic Mr. Fox called back some of his favorite actors to star in this film about youth and dysfunctional families in New England.

Surprisingly enough, not one question was asked about the derivation of Camp Yawgoog, a scout camp for boys on Native American land on Narragansett Bay. The area, which sports historical Native American trails, has more than a postcard function. You have to get past all of that. This historical area is populated by scouts with scoutmasters like Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman and Edward Norton. The island is patrolled by a sheriff, like Bruce Willis. The island social services is headed by Tilda Swinton, looking more like a 50's movie usher in her matching royal blue outfit.

It is understandable that the actors, and storyteller Bob Balaban had a lot of fun making this film. Each scene is set up with impeccable detail. It would have worked far better to not have the usual rising action, falling action, and resolution. It's hard to feel any empathy with the crescendos and the relief is long coming as loose ends are tied up in the aftermass.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Cannes.
Hope you enjoyed the music and the waves!¨

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/16/12
Movie Magazine International

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gelso d' Oro to Silenced at Far East Film Festival14, Udine

By Moira Sullivan

The Gelso d’Oro , the public prize for the best film at the Far East Film Festival (FEFF14 - April 20-27) went to South Korea’s courtroom-drama Silenced by HWANG Dong-hyuk, 2011. The tough and true story of the abuse of hearing appeared children that enraged the Korean public was also voted best picture by Black Dragon accredited film critics at the festival.

Silenced wins FEFF14 Gelso D'Oro
Second place, went to the Taiwanese road movie to the highest point in Tibet. One Mile Above, from Taiwan by Jiayi Du.

The Korean war drama The Front Line won the bronze medal. Just before the armistice is signed between North and South Korea in the 50s the soldiers engage in one final and unnecessary battle with each other. chose the Japanese farce about bathhouses in ancient Rome and modern Japan Thermae Romae, which was presented in Udine as a world premiere.

This year Hong Kong filmmaker Johnny To won the coveted "Lifetime Achievement Award". The 57 year old filmmaker presented his latest film Romancing in Thin Air. 

The Friulian film festival  in Italy – “a rock-solid Asian outpost in the West” attracted over 50 thousand viewers at the Teatro Nuovo “Giovanni da Udine” theatre with 1200 seats, and 1200 accredited (journalists, critics, film students, experts, and insiders from 16 countries

At least 20 thousand people participated in numerous side events in downtown Italy such as martial arts demonstrations and at the Minnamoro discotheque, the after hours hang-out for festival fans. 

More than 100 volunteers helped out the staff of this prestigious quality festival that showcases the very best of new Asian films. Special film experts stationed in Korea, Thailand, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysi and the Philippines cull the box office to bring amazing films to this medieval Italian city close to the Italian Alps. Nearby is the little town of Casarsa where Italy’s controversial and beloved filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini lived with his mother.

The Far East Film Festival is precided over by president Sabrina Baracetti and is part of the "Center for Cinematographic Expression" (Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche).  

Next week Movie Magazine will bring you an exclusive interview with Darcy Paquet, Korean film programmer and curator for the Far East Film Festival retrospective on Korean films from the 70s "The Darkest Decade".

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan , UDINE Italy

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/02/12
Movie Magazine International

Far East Film Festival 14, Udine Italy, Report 1

Abe Hiroshi in Termae Romae
By Moira Sullivan 
The Korean drama Sunny was featured on the opening day of the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy, which runs from April 20-28. A renowned and excellent extravaganza of popular films from Asia, this festival is now in its 14th edition.
The title of the film comes from the hit single "Sunny" (performed by Bonie M, and written by songwriter Bobby Hebb - 1966). The story is about a seven-member girl gang who meet years later when one from the group is hospitalized with a grave illness. The film revisits the first day of school for Na-Mi who hails from a small town in the Jeolla province and moves to the capital city Seoul
Na-Mi quickly makes friends with six other young women who come to her rescue from classmates who otherwise would have bullied her for her dialect. Na-Mi quickly fits in with the gang comprised of the excellent fighter Choon-Hwa, heavyset Jang-Mi, and Jin-Hee - skilled in the use of profane language, the literary Geum-Ok, future Ms Korea Bok-Hee, and arrogant and perceptive Su-Ji.
Being a teenager is often painful and girls are cruel at this age. The pressures from home, school and growing up are formidable. At school, they find reasons to pick on any kind of difference and often judge each other on appearances, class differences or perceived lifestyles that clash with their own. The heteronormative upbringing is often homophobic and requires conformity. Girl gangs are sometimes a necessity for survival. Director Hyeong-Cheol Kang is adept in bringing these conditions to film and was present at the festival.  
As if the first day wasn’t enough entertainment, on the second day Hong Kong producer Johnny To was in town to present his new film Romancing in Thin Air – a film about a woman who lives in a hotel in the mountains and loses her husband. Then, her long time idol arrives who is suffering form alcoholism. She nurses him to back to health but must come to term with her loss that takes precedence over her fan worship. Johnny To also presented his latest project of several years, Fresh Wave - a Hong Kong mentoring program for young filmmakers including a short film festival, which is now partnering up with other international festivals.
On Saturday night a wild film about bathhouses - Thermae Romae was screened by Japanese director Takeuchi Hideki and made at Cinécitta in Italy. It features ancient Rome renowned for its bathhouses, and modern Japan and it’s contributions to this area. 
A retrospective of Korean films from the 70s entitled “The Darkest Decade” is featured with some rare films on the Korean psyche during this period. 
Other films include The Front Line by Jang Hun about a final maneuver by the North and South Koreans before the armistice is signed in the 50’s.  In The Great Magician, Derek Yee from Hong Kong has created a mind-boggling extravaganza of color and fanfare starring Tony Leung as a magician who outmaneuvers a warlord and his seventh wife. And from Thailand comes a story of ladyboys, MTF transgenders who experience heartbreak for choosing their lifestyle, but still keep their spirit, directed by MTF helmer Tanwarin Sukkhapisit in It Gets Better.
Next week more from the Far East Film Festival!

© 2012 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 04/25/12
Movie Magazine International