Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dublin International Film Festival...

And time to put on my amateur film critic hat :)

This year's DIFF will run from Feb 15th to 24th. I was planning only to go see a few, especially given my work schedule, but once I checked out the programme I couldn't help but wanted to see a ton. I still can't believe that in the end I bought tickets to 14 shows!!!! But there IS a method to my madness - as there are just so many good choices in the categories of movies I like to go for in film festivals that I found it really hard to narrow the field down to just a handful. I would be completely movie'd out by the end of this month (going for 3 movies in a row on a Sunday must NOT be good for you, no matter how much of a film buff you're, and I'm not at all qualified to be called a buff in matters celluloid), so let's just hope that the films will prove not to be a waste of my precious time and money... (All movie blurbs that follow are excerpted from the DIFF website).

Amongst the 14 final choices, quite a few deals with current wars (Iraq and the recent bombing of Lebanon by Israel). Well, according to my purchasing logic, these films are not likely to get a wider release in Dublin, and it'll be pointless to wait til they come out on DVD (that is, IF they do become available in DVD in Ireland at all), because events/debates would have moved on and I don't want my viewing of these films to be coloured by the later twists in public discourses about these events, so I may as well binge on these documentaries while I can...

Under the Bombs (Sous les Bombes)
"Philip Aractingi's film is made in Lebanon in the immediate aftermath of the war last year. Aractingi was living in Beirut during the Israeli attacks on the city and filmed some footage at the height of the conflict. This may have been a project conceived in chaotic circumstances and shot on the hoof, but it is deftly scripted, boasts two fine central performances and is far more than a piece of reportage dressed up in dramatic clothing. "

War on Democracy
"John Pilger, the celebrated veteran film-maker and human rights campaigner... aims his quiver of poisoned arrows directly at the US and its policy of using secretly funded surrogates, covert actions, secret diplomacy, disinformation and subversive propaganda - not to mention alleged torture and murder - in pursuit of its so-called 'self interest'."

Battle for Habitha
"The film is a highly realistic, verite-like fictional rendering of an incident that took place in the village of Habitha, a hotbed in the middle of the Sunni Triangle where much of the insurgency has taken place... The film renders the harsh realities of this quagmire where innocent civilians, simply trying to get by, are caught in the crossfire, victims of Americans who kick down their doors, and Iraqis who do the same thing."

The other film in this war category that I'm missing out on is "Redacted", as it's shown on a week evening at an out-of-town venue so it's just not meant to be... At any rate, I think I would have had my fair share of grim films with the above choices.

My other main category of film choices concern Asian cinema, again because these films would not likely have any general release in Ireland, so the film festival is really the only time that one can catch them...

Blind Mountain (Mang Shan) - "Li Yang's intense psychological drama was one of the stand-outs at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Portraying the kidnapping of a young female student by a peasant family... the film delivers a trenchant commentary upon relations between rural Chinese and their urbanised neighbours."

The Mourning Forest (Mogari No Mori) - Winner of Grand Prix, Cannes Film Festival 2007. "Naomi Kawase's naturalistic touch creates an inner geography of emotion, gracefully linking it to the region's awe-inspiring togography in a way that recalls Japan's long tradition of landscape painting."

Tuya's Marriage (Tuya De hun Shi) - Winner of Golden Bear Award, Berlin International Film Festival 2007. "Living conditions are deteriorating for those who lead a rural existence in north-western Mongolia. China's industry is expanding - and the government is pressuring Mongolian sheppards to give up their nomadic way of life... Beautiful and self-confident Tuya refuses to leave her pastureland. She'd rather stay here with her disabled husband, two children and a hundred sheep and continue to pursue a life of privation in the endless expanse of the steppe."

Mongol - "The tale of how a young boy ascended to become Khan centres Bodrov's epic tale of love and betrayal... This saga plays out against the stunning landscapes of Central Asia, where tribal loyalties rule and violent warfare trumps other means of resolving differences."

(While we are on the subject of Asian cinema, I must mention the fact that I've finally seen Lust Caution - yes, the film that all the Chinese bloggers were raving about last year, it was finally out briefly late last month in Ireland. I went to see with a Korean friend, and has wanted to blog about it immediately afterwards. I have soooooo much to say about the film! But alas, it coincided with my laptop crashing last month, so I never got around to finishing the post that I started... and then I got caught up in commenting on the sorry real life sexphotogate after my laptop came back to life.... oh well, let's see if commenting on the DIFF films on my blog later this month would help me finish that post on the most controversial Asian movie of 2007).

The third category of film choices are the more typical art-house fares from renowned maestros around the world that film festival buffs like to boast about, and which I feel I would miss out if I don't indulge in these also...

Chacun Son Cinema - contribution by 33 of the most acclaimed directors in world cinema, each responsible for 3 minutes of celluloid.

Estomago - A Gastronomic Story - "An adult fable on power, sex and cooking." Director Marcos Jorge's works "have received more than 50 festival awards".

Empties (Vratne Lahve) - "Arguably the Sverak's best film, this sophisticated and perceptive comedy is full of the low-key observation characteristic of the best of Czech cinema - unpretensious, involving, and apparently effortless."

Love in the Time of Cholera - Enlisting "a stunning cast to bring this multi-generational tale to life", Newell's adaptation of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez masterpiece is "nothing short of lush, extravagant, sad and touching throughout.'

Caramel (Sukkar Banat) - Lebanon's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008). "In her gorgeous and love-affirming feature debut - a sleeper hit of hte 2007 Cannes Film Festival - Nadine Labaki finds gold in the hot goo used to strip body hair. Set in and around a Beirut beauty salon, Caramel stirs together five women's lives."

Finally, there's a film that I'm really looking forward to see, as I missed it the first time round when it was out in Ireland last year, just like so many others who didn't realise that this gem of a film was out at all, despite the fact that it apparently won the Audience Award at the DIFF last year, and then gone on to win Sundance. Why then did its makers not make any effort to promote this film when it was on a very short general release last spring just completely boggles the mind!! (And really unfair to Irish audiences, I have to say, especially when compared to the way the film was recently released in the UK this year). Anyway, as Oscar buzz starts gathering, this film is now being brought back to the DIFF again this year, to make up for its complete lack of an Irish distribution strategy last year. I do hope that this will be brought back to the Irish cinemas for another proper run, but until that is firmly on the cards, I am not going to miss an opportunity to see this film again. Oh yes, so this is the film I'm hankering after...

"Even the great Stephen Spielberg has been reported as declaring that the film gave him enough inspiration to last the rest of the year... infused with an emotional honesty that bewitches its audience, filled with heartbreaking songs performed by lead actors..."

It's been compared to an Irish version of Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, and being a complete die-hard fan of the latter films, I simply CANNOT WAIT to see this, even though it means having to skive off work slightly earlier as it's on on a weekday at 4:30pm!!! (Just don't tell my boss... anyway my work is not a 9-5 job and given how many late evenings and even all-nighters I've pulled on numerous other occasions, I'm really not feeling too guilty about having to leave half an hour earlier for this... But again, can you see the complete IDIOCY of the release of this film in Ireland??? It's like they are doing everything possible to PREVENT people from going to see this!)

However, the first movie I'd get to see at the DIFF, is Stuart Townsend's Battle in Seattle. It's on at an ungodly hour (11am on a Saturday), but apparently Townsend and his wife Charlize Theron (yes, that Charlize) would attend the screening and the film will be followed by a post-screening discussion, so I still look forward to dragging myself to a dark cinema on a Saturday morning. (Not to mention the fact that I love Seattle as a city when I visited it on a conference trip in 2004, and actually our conference was held at the World Trade Center, where the protests against the World Trade Organisation took place back in 1999).

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At Sun Feb 10, 09:04:00 a.m. GMT, Blogger Tourist said...

strongly recommend Blind Mountain (Mang Shan), Tuya's Marriage (Tuya De hun Shi) and Once, especially Blind mountain, it's so moving that I put it on my 2007 top 10 movie list.

At Mon Mar 03, 08:55:00 p.m. GMT, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Hi Tourist, thanks for your comment and it's great to see you here again. Yes, Blind Mountain was a very emotional film - so much so that after seeing it (and two other films that day!) I wasn't able to drag myself to see any of the films I've booked for the next day (which included, Once and Tuya's Marriage!!). I will blog about Blind Mountain when my computer woes are a bit more under control...

Once is apparently going to be back on our cinema screen soon, so here's hoping I won't miss it the third time!


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