Wednesday, October 15, 2014

United Nations Association Film Festival turns 17.

The 17th UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival), will be held from October 16-26, in Palo Alto, Stanford University San Francisco. This year the theme for the festival is "BRIDGING THE GAP", and to that aim, high quality films will be screened
on human rights, environmental themes, population, migration, women’s issues, refugees, homelessness, racism, health, universal education, and war and peace, all in all 70 films from all over the world.
These are some of the outstanding film this year, that explore cultural writers, celebrities, scorned leaders and the manipulation of images created by media that drives public opinion.

“Regarding Susan Sontag”, a film about the late intellectual and cultural critic will be screened at Stanford University on Oct 18. The film made by Nancy Kates skillfully weaves archival footage with testimony of the people who remember her life. Actress Patricia Clarkson reads Sontag’s own words from her writing. Sontag was an open critic of war and proclaimed that the terrorist actions of 9/11 were a proclamation against the US as a superpower, a viewpoint that brought strong criticism. She held her own with her contemporaries and was outspoken on a number of issues. She refused to be called a woman writer -  just a writer. This film fits well with the film festival’s theme of Bridging the Gap.

“Brave Miss World” by Cecilia Peck chronicles the experiences of former Miss Israel, Linor Abargil who was kidnapped, assaulted and raped in Milan, Italy six weeks prior to the Miss World competition. She was only 18 at the time, and later decided to come out in the open and speak about her experience. She traveled to parts of the US where she openly addressed groups of primarily women and encouraged them to send to her their survivor experiences.  The film screens Oct 20 at Stanford University.

“In the Wake of Stalin” is a French Russian coproduction by Thomas Johnson. 60 years after the death of the dictator and 20 million people under his watch, comes the disturbing news that his legacy is being positively revived and for some as a person who was a hero of the Soviet Union. To counteract this propaganda human rights activists in Russia tell the truth about his deadly regime, and are interviewed in this film. The documentary screens Oct 19 at Stanford.

“Valentino’s Ghost” by Michael Singh in collaboration with  the  Center for Asian Americans takes its title from the image of Rudolph Valentino in “Son of the Sheik” in 1921 , where the famous actor is dressed as an Arab. From this Singh explores the U.S. media portrayal of Arabs and Muslims and its relationship with the American foreign policy agenda in the Middle East. The filmmakers speak with a panel of experts and try to piece together how media images originally allowed Americans to project their fantasies on the Middle East and later were induced to loathe Arabs, Muslims and Islam. Although there was a romantic attraction to the Middle East for adventure and excitement with films starring Valentino to Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, the conquest of the Middle East by the British changed this image. When these countries tried to regain their land they were called ruthless or barbaric savages.  "Valentino’s Ghost" is an exceptional documentary that turns the tables on Middle Eastern history perpetuated by the media and its representation of this area of the world. The documentary takes up the Palestinians who shot and killed Israeli  athletes in 1972 at the Olympics in Berlin,  a turning point for the representation of Arabs.  This was followed by the representation of Islam as the religion of disobedient Muslims. The film screens Oct 25 in Palo Alto.

Other exceptional films this year tackle subjects such as city slums, global warming, black photographers, mental illness, revolution, spirituality, and civil disobedience .

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/15/2014
Movie Magazine International

Bertolucci Film Series at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco

By Moira Sullivan

On Saturday October 18 a special film series dedicated to Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci will be screen at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The program is organized by the Istituto Luce-Cinecittà in Rome, the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco and program director Amelia Antonucci. (Last year Antonucci presented a film series on Pier Paolo Pasolini with the same sponsors, and actor Ninetto Davili was a guest).

Four films including the centerpiece,  a  3D screening of a newly restored version of THE LAST EMPEROR will be screened that was presented for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival last year. In honor of this occasion, actress Joan Chen who appears in the film,will be present at the Castro to see the new version for the first time.  Joan Chen plays Empress Wanrong,the wife of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China . The Japanese government proclaimed Puyi as the first Emperor of Manchukuo and Wanrong as Empress in 1932.  Wanrong, whose husband was often away became a heavy opium addict. Joan Chen was excellent in the film in playing the Empress. She remarked in Arthur Dong’s brilliant documentary "Hollywood Chinese" that had she been a white actress her career would have taken off after the critical acclaim she received.
 THE LAST EMPEROR spans Pu Yi’s life in the Forbidden City in Bejing from 1908 up to the Cultural Revolution where he is displaced and imprisoned by Chinese communists.
THE LAST EMPEROR was also the first feature film to be authorized by the Chinese government to be filmed at the Forbidden City.
The film won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, three BAFTAs including Best Picture and four Golden Globes including Best Director.

The other films in the Bertolucci series are:

THE CONFORMIST (IL CONFORMISTA) (1970) based on the novel by Alberto Moravia starring Jean-Louis Trintignant Stefania Sandrelli and Dominique Sanda. Trintignant plays Marcello Clerici, an Italian who is going to assassinate his teacher living in exile in Paris for the fascist cause, and falls in love with his wife played by Sanda.

THE SHELTERING SKY (IL TÉ NEL DESERTO) (1990) – is an adaptation of Paul Bowles’s novel and stars John Malkovich and Debra Winger. They play a couple who have been married for 10 years and who attempt to breathe new life into their relationship in the African desert.  

LAST TANGO IN PARIS (ULTIMO TANGO A PARIGI) (1972) – stars Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, a couple who meets after the suicide of Paul’s wife and who embark on a clandestine sexual encounter. The film was improvised and many of the scenes were made without Schneider’s approval. She was angry with Bertolucci for many years for exploiting her on screen. Her next film, The Passenger by Antonioni opposite Jack Nicholson shows what she could have done as a serious actress had it been her first film.  

BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI was born in Italy in 1940 and first served as an apprentice to the late Italian director Pier Paulo Pasolini. Many of his films are critical studies of fascism in Italy such as 1900 and Il Conformista. One could say that the sado masochistic relationship of Schneider and Brando is also an exploration of fascism.

An interview with the late Maria Schneider will air on Movie Magazine on Oct 22. 

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date:10/15/14
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Yasoumi Umetsu’s 'Kite' set to live action

By Moira Sullivan

Kite is a sci-fi revenge thriller, a low budget property of Harvey Weinstein,starring Samuel L Jackson as Detective Karl Aker, and 20-year-old India Isley, as Sawa, a deadly teen assassin who is a hit girl for corrupt detectives and bad guys.Set in the future, this is a live action rendition of Kite Yasoumi Umetsu’s anime with human traffickers and rampant corruption. Umetsu from Fukushima Japan is best known for his anime Kite and Kite Liberator.

Sawa wants to forget her parents were murdered, and at the same time is out to revenge their death. Amp is a drug she uses to suppress memory and Sawa is hooked. Deep within Sawa is the orphan who lost her parents in a gory murder. Karl Aker, her father’s partner, looks after her, as does a young fellow assassin who knew her parents, Oburi played by Callan McAuliffe.

Sawa is a skilled fighter and plows through the targets for whoever hires her. Her specialty is her use of bullets that penetrate the body and cause it to explode.India Isley has a standout role as Sawa and her versatility as a victim and a violent perpetrator has just the right momentum.

The set design of the film is grungy and dark, but works, concerning how little money was actually spent on it. Most of the cars used in the film are from today. The set is reminiscent of Sucker Punch in its drab colors and freaky futuristic characters. Contrapuntal to all these dark colors is Sawa’s fire engine red wigs and clothing, offset by black and white costumes. The human traffickers, predominately black South Africans, are reminiscent of the cannibals of I Am Legend.

The live action film like the anime is graphically violent and R rated. Some of the cut out bad guy characters are opulently dressed with gaudy, colorful suits and some of the dialogue is also a bit stagey, like “I want her head in a sandwich bag”. The color that is used in the film comes from the clothing or blood, otherwise it is a dark dark universe.

Kite opens October 10 at theatres and on iTunes. The anime has a cult following and so will this film.

© 2014 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 10/08/14
Movie Magazine International