Nisimazine Mauro Andrizzi & Marcus Lindeen Yves Caumon Hail Iâ€™m Carolyn Parker The Invader Pietro Marcello Ben Rivers Sal Swan Tusi Tamasese Marina de Van Whoresâ€™ Glory
from Accidentes Gloriosos by Mauro Andrizzi and Marcus Lindeen (interview page 4)
For five years the name ‘Nisimazine’ has been signifying a renewed opportunity of international trainings for young film critics, and the publication of daily magazines at various film festivals all over the world (Cannes, IDFA, Abu Dhabi, Rio de Janeiro... just to name a few). As we like to keep in contact with our previous participants and as NISI MASA at large aims to establish a long-term network for young film talents to develop themselves, we thought of proposing something ‘special’ to our alumni. What if some of them would be brought together to cover a major film festival in an alternative way? So here came the idea of covering the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival and of this e-book! What better than Orizzonti indeed to establish this new format, a programme which clearly reflects the cinema that Nisimazine has from its start been keenly expressing itself about: this is a place of daring first works, unconventional documentaries, experimental short films, and hybrid pieces of visual art. Out of the 56 films presented this year, we decided to focus our attention on 12 of them, and to alternate between interviews and reviews.
We were impressed by the singular first features of Amiel Courtin-Wilson (p.9), Nicolas Provost (p.13), and Tusi Tamasese (p.24). Yet re-familiarising ourselves with the distinctive patterns of experienced directors such as Yves Caumon (p.6), Jonathan Demme (p.10), Teresa Villaverde (p.23), Marina de Van (p.27), and Michael Glawogger (p.28) proved to be rewarding. The versatile trajectories of the young but hyperactive Pietro Marcello (p.14), James Franco (p.20), and Ben Rivers (p.18), capable of navigating between various film projects, appeared to us as a true sign of creative freedom, but also as a model path to follow for aspiring filmmakers in the context of a shattered film industry. And what to say about the ‘blind date’ between the Swedish Marcus Lindeen and the Argentinean Mauro Andrizzi (p.4), brought together to collaborate on the making of a film, except to be enthusiastic and notice that it could very well have been one of those filmmaking workshops NISI MASA organises all year long? When it results in an Orizzonti Award as it did, we want more random encounters like that one!
Matthieu Darras, Director of the publication
Each year DOX: LAB, a programme commissioned by CPH: DOX festival in Copenhagen, pairs European filmmakers with talents from South America, Asia and the Middle East in order to instigate a cultural dialogue through filmmaking. In the case of Marcus Lindeen (Sweden) and Mauro Andrizzi (Argentina), their ‘blind date’ was set almost a year ago, with Accidentes Gloriosos being the fruit of their creative collaboration. Shot in black & white, the film is comprised of nine vignettes poetically recounting life-changing experiences of death and transformation.
How did you come up with the idea for the film? Marcus Lindeen: It all started when we watched Steven Sodenbergh’s And Everything Is Going Fine, a documentary on actor Spalding Gray. Gray mentions this concept of going through a ‘glorious accident’ by being physically injured - an incident that made him see life in a different way. Soon after this, we started fantasising about a glorious accident - not just an epiphany that might occur when you are close to death - but an accident with a more mysterious element attached to it that can make you question reality. Tabloid news clips were also one of your resources for the script. ML: I come from a journalistic background and I also work as a theatre director. Tabloid news clips have been a huge inspiration for a long time and I have kept an archive. When I met with Mauro in Copenhagen we had this discussion about where we derive our ideas from. News headlines came up, we exchanged stories and things took off from there. Mauro Andrizzi: This exchange did not only serve screenwriting purposes, but it also gave us the opportunity to get to know each other.
Mauro Andrizzi &Marcus Lindeen
Co-directors of Accidentes Gloriosos (Sweden / Argentina) How did you work together? Did you maintain a sort of ‘long distance relationship’? ML: It was pretty much a long distance thing (laughs). We first met in Copenhagen, where we spent a week speaking to advisors and attending lectures by philosophers, mathematicians, neurologists and filmmakers. MA: It was a very stimulating process. However, when we returned to our countries, time difference was an obstacle. It was only until Marcus arrived in Argentina that the communication flew and the real work began. We started writing, producing and shooting the film at the same time. Did you experience any cultural differences in the filmmaking approach? ML: Not really. I guess that is what one would expect from this type of project. Coming out of this process, we both agreed that culture clash is a myth. Modern filmmaking has reached a level where it almost looks the same all over the world. Young people travel and connect through the internet. We are more alike than we are different. That said, I also think we have been lucky. Things could turn into a disaster, considering one is meant to work with a director that he didn’t chose himself. He could feel threatened artistically. Thankfully we are both open-minded and we embraced each other’s ideas from the beginning.
MA: If you are smart enough, when you recognise a good idea – even if it is not yours – you have to take it. Why not? I believe in artistic differences, not cultural ones. You have both experimented with documentary in your previous films. Do you consider the genre a medium for truth-telling or a tool to manipulate ideas? ML: I do not believe in objective documentary making. A film might strive to be objective, but as soon as shooting and editing are involved, the truth is lost. Anyhow, we are moving to a direction where this discussion will not be of interest. CPH: DOX for example is a documentary festival that has progressed into the 2.0 field. In 2009 they awarded Trash Humpers, which is an avant-garde drama rather than a documentary. MA: I agree. There are more and more documentary festivals that screen pure fiction films. ‘Documentary’ as a label is disappearing. Who cares about the truth anymore? Let’s leave that for journalists. As filmmakers, we are not meant to deal with truth.
text by eftihia stefanidi // nisimazine special: orizzonti // 5
Yves Caumon Director of The Bird (France)
French director Yves Caumon brings a lyrical and reflective film to Orizzonti, exploring the aftermath of losing a child. The Bird (L’Oiseau) centres on Anne (Sandrine Kiberlain), a woman in her mid-thirties who leads a secluded and disconnected life. Her brief encounters with the people that surround her (Clément Sibony, Bruno Todeschini, Serge Riaboukine) leave her indifferent. It is only when a bird makes an unconventional arrival in her apartment that she seems able to find the way back upstream. The film explores a sensitive topic in a very subtle way. I appreciate that it did not fall into sentimentality. How do you make an unsentimental film about child loss? This is a very good question. The idea from the beginning was to avoid making a psychological portrait. It was not my aim to tell Anne’s story, but to tell a story – one that could be anybody’s. I did not want to focus too much on feelings either, so I pretended to be indifferent. I figured that if the director is impersonal then the audience might take the lead and participate. When I was shooting, I simply did not care. I was making fun of my characters, trying to keep a certain distance from them. I would film them in the same manner I film asparagus or buses going by. Clearly this indifference is fake, because the truth is that I do watch and study my characters - a lot. You said that you did not find the film sentimental; if you had told me that you did, I would also agree with you. You mean the film is open to interpretations. Perhaps. What is the most interesting though is that we can have this dialogue and that you are sharing your opinion. It is important for me to understand what I did and not just stick with the memory of what I wanted to do.
How do you perceive the film now? For me the film is very lyrical in a very limited way. It is as if the characters are being divorced from the universe; you can feel it as you develop a need to find peace and unity with its cosmos. You have captured this cosmos in an exquisitely looking manner. Thank you. I was not after any abstract sense of beauty though. I was more into the kind of beauty that you feel and you want to touch. It seemed logical to me that since the film was a drama, the world had to be beautiful. This was very important and here lyricism contributed to making the world look desirable. When the world is so beautiful just in front of her eyes, Anne seems like a person in total anaesthesia. I find this very poignant. And I wanted to show my character that what is out there is totally worth it. Whereas if the world was crap and she was going through this tragedy, she would not have any reason to reach out, right? There is a scene in which Anne seeks emotional refuge in a movie theatre. Is your relationship with cinema of a similar kind? How do you respond to films? I totally share this idea. In the past, when I watched films I used to study them. Even when I was dreaming, I was dreaming of shooting techniques. This phase of my life has reached closure and I am back to being a child again. The older I get the more vulnerable I feel when watching films. Apart from being a filmmaker you are also a professor at the University of Toulouse. Is filmmaking a craft one has to study? I do not think it is necessary to attend film school. After all, filmmaking is a sort of do-it-yourself job. What you can learn is the practical side of it, but also how to behave around actors. People in universities often forget to teach the most simple of things. I tend to teach my students the very basic stuff elementary psychology is one of them.
6 // text by eftihia stefanidi // nisimazine special: orizzonti
by Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Australia) Amiel Courtin-Wilson is an Australian documentarist and experimental video artist who has already been exhibited and awarded in several international film festivals, such as Sundance and Cannes. Inspired by the personal story of its main performer, Daniel P. Jones, who the director met during the making of a documentary about an Australian theatre company founded to rehabilitate ex-prisoners, Hail is the filmmaker’s first fiction feature. Dan is a surly, mercurial and silent man in his fifties, reunited with his girlfriend Leanne after getting out of prison. They love each other, argue, shoplift, take narcotics… They live from day to day until he finds Leanne dead in their bathroom after a drug-fuelled night with a friend. From then on he only has one goal: to find and kill Leanne’s supposed murderer. Courtin-Wilson focuses on the faces of his two main characters, trying to probe into and sound out their minds, giving meaning to their hazardous but united lives. Their bodies and wrinkles are magnified by the director’s gaze, whilst the editing alternates realistic hand-held shots of Dan in his environment – the garage he works in, the parties with friends – with almost experimental elemental shots of water, wind... Raw and natural lighting is opposed to a more dreamlike framing, and close-ups of skin and hair give an impression of great sensuality between the two characters in spite of their down-to-earth environment and way of living. They are given a spiritual aura through the use of slow-motion shots, in which we see the characters as if they are floating out of what is happening around them.
This sensation of escaping from the hard reality is stressed further by shots of Dan in wild, open landscapes. These shots aren’t narrative and add breaks to the course of events in his life. Around Leanne’s death, the shot of a horse falling from the sky to the earth, seen from an airplane’s view, seems to suggest a metaphor of Dan’s fall, a once wild and now tamed animal. Leanne’s death is going to wake up the savagery in her lover and his will for a vengeful rampage. The elemental inserts and wide shots of this troubled man within landscapes are combined to let us penetrate the intimacy of both a physical and spiritual life – a spiritual life that the raw, realistic shots alone wouldn’t let us catch a glimpse of. We enter Dan’s mind but it remains mostly enigmatic and impossible to decipher, because of his silent personality. These different elements of the mise-en-scene (close-ups, slow-motion effects, dreamlike shots) are used one after the other and set an overly repetitive rhythm in what is already a slow and elliptic narration. Yet the very few turning points in the action are real surprises to the audience in the middle of a thin course of events. For example, the scene where Dan discovers Leanne’s body lying in the bathroom is truly unexpected and adds to the sense of randomness around his life. More than an intense drama, the film shows fragments of an outcast‘s everyday life in which love leads the way, to a point of no return.
text by elisabeth renault-geslin // nisimazine special: orizzonti // 9
I’m Carolyn Parker; the Good the Mad and the Beautiful by Jonathan Demme (USA)
Accomplished documentary and fiction director Jonathan Demme is known for his social and political concerns as well as films about strong women’s destinies such as Clarisse Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs (1991) or Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) in Beloved (1998). While he was taking shots of New Orleans for a documentary after the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, he met Carolyn Parker, spokesperson for the revolt against the lack of government action towards the people of New Orleans after the floodwaters. They became very close and he decided to dedicate an entire film to her daily struggle to return to her wrecked house. Carolyn Parker was the last to leave her house during the hurricane, and the first to go back to it. Demme followed her periodically during five years after Katrina and managed to assemble a 90-minute film from hundreds of hours of rushes. He handled the camera himself with the help of a very small crew of three to five people – thanks to which, the close friendship and trust built between the filmmaker and his subject is palpable. We witness the reconstruction of both Carolyn Parker and her house, which at first has no walls anymore and is full of holes. The house emerges as the centre of this survival story, standing as a symbol of struggle against injustice. It stands out amongst the other grey, destroyed, empty, ghostly homes in the neighbourhood because of its colour-painted outside walls. This aspect of the documentary seems to have a lot of similarity with the feature film Beloved: the house arousing all curiosities, the mother raising her daughter alone while her two elder sons have left to study, the struggle to survive despite the fierceness of fate…
For years, Demme has been showing a strong interest in social themes, struggles against intolerance (Haiti. Drums of Democracy) and African American rights (Cousin Bobby, about Reverend Robert Castle of the Episcopal Church in Harlem). He has moved between high profile projects like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia (a fiercely committed movie), documentaries and independent fiction, such as the family drama Rachel Getting Married. Here, in a technically minimalist documentary format, he tells a real story with the real people who lived it. In some way, I’m Carolyn Parker stands as a touching chamber piece, set within the limited range of one strong voice, alongside a few other figures. And yet, with the impending scope of the hurricane and the haunting presence of the house, it ends up reflecting the renaissance of the surrounding area, the organic life of it, and several interactions: witnesses, caught by the camera at church or in the streets, help to outline Carolyn’s character and stand as a reminder of the city’s other lives. Though conceived and shot on a small scale, Demme’s movie often captivates. As a fiction maker, he tried to make worlds as real as possible. As a documentary maker, he tries to make this New Orleans world as entertaining as possible. For him, a documentary should above all educate, bear witness, and shed light on the intolerance in life’s fierce dramas. Not necessarily entertain after all, but certainly regain something of the purity of filmmaking. In this engaging story of one bold woman, the viewer feels in a personal way the sense of liberty, pure cinema, image, sound, and whispered stories.
10 // text by elisabeth renault-geslin// nisimazine special: orizzonti
The Invader by Nicolas Provost (Belgium)
Belgian experimental filmmaker Nicolas Provost, darling of video art lovers and award-winner in an array of prestigious festival shorts selections, returns to the Orizzonti selection this year with his audacious debut feature and most conventionally cinematic work to date, The Invader. The title refers to both the film’s protagonist and on several different levels to its central theme - an extension of Provost’s 2004 work Exoticore, which he dedicated “to all exotic heroes in the universe”. In a visually striking and unsettlingly scored first sequence we meet clandestine immigrant Amadou, washed up on European shores after journeying from an unnamed African country. An attractive white woman is sprawled naked on the beach, and then strides towards the water to meet the gaze of the uninvited incomers; one wonders if the opening close-up of her genitalia is a hint at sexual incursion, an allusion to rebirth, or perhaps a tease for viewers expecting something rather avant-garde. The Invader is in fact an edgy, gripping thriller which incorporates many of the familiar immigration story ingredients (unscrupulous traffickers out to exploit their charges, the inevitable trap of unsanitary working and living conditions, the guilt-ridden unease felt towards these outsiders), channelling them into a provocative social drama about foreignness, exclusion, and the illusion of the European dream. The whole narrative is carried by the powerful, magnetic screen presence of leading actor Issaka Sawadogo (also the star of Exoticore), who conveys a volatile energy veering between charismatic exuberance and uncontrollable fury. Amadou, built like an ox and blessed with an optimistic, resilient nature, ends up as an illegal labourer in Brussels where he attempts to carve out a better existence. Yet he is quickly disenchanted, and after a sickly companion is
cruelly tossed out of their shared lodgings he trashes his boss’s car in an impulsive, violent episode before fleeing into the night. We follow the dazed stranger through the seedier side of the Belgian capital - all neon-flooded sex shops, dismal gambling houses and grubby take-aways, starkly filmed alongside panoramas of an alienating urban skyline. Renewed hope appears briefly in the form of the beautiful Agnès (Stefania Rocca), a high-class businesswoman whom Amadou determinedly pursues and pins his dreams of a new life upon. However they are worlds apart, and when it becomes clear that she has no intention of continuing their erotically charged affair his amorous attentions turn into obsessive stalking. Further rejection by a callous modern environment leads him into ever darker layers of his nightmarish limbo, as he is driven to the brink of insanity by impotent rage. The exotic hero thus becomes a dangerous criminal, the demonised Western cliché of the black man’s primitive aggression. As the protagonist’s transformation reaches its final dramatic climax, The Invader’s closing shot returns to an almost playful, wilful ambiguity - an abrupt question mark about the filmmaker’s intentions. What mostly remains with the audience however is a bold, convincing piece of storytelling which confirms Provost as one to watch.
text by jude lister // nisimazine special: orizzonti // 13
Director of Il Silenzio di Pelešjan (Italy) Following his critically-acclaimed poetic documentaries Il Passaggio della Linea (2007) and La Bocca del Lupo (2009), Italian filmmaker Pietro Marcello has turned his attention to one of the lesser-known greats of cinema. Il Silenzio di Pelešjan is a 52-minute “account of an extraordinary memory” of filming the Armenian film-essayist Artavazd Pelešjan, whose distinctive editing technique is described as “distance montage”. Where did the desire to make a film about Pelešjan come from? In terms of editing, Pelešjan had always been a point of reference for me. Clearly not the only one, but amongst the most important filmmakers, the ones I love the most. He didn’t make so many films, but the ones he did make expressed all the strength and energy that turns around the movement of cinema. In what way for you does he represent a singular element in the history of Soviet cinema? He is Armenian, but he settled in Russia, and his training [at the VGIK film school in Moscow] was Soviet, Russian… The auteurs that he studied were Russian, such as Dziga Vertov. One can say that in the cinema of Pelešjan there is a kind of fusion between two theories of cinema: the one of Eisenstein and the other of Vertov… He always worked with meagre materials, recycled footage. Everything is created in the editing. Others have wanted to film Pelešjan and failed in the past. How did you experience this unique encounter, and what was the rhythm of working during the shoot? For me this was a study film, it wasn’t tiring. I always had a fascination with Russian cinema, and this process allowed me to go deeper into certain themes. It was a very pleasant experience, enjoyable and stimulating… a kind of recreation. Even if at some points Artavazd was not the easiest man, it was a beautiful thing. In the end I spent two or three weeks with Pelešjan, no more than that. We weren’t filming every
day, and most days when we did shoot it was 3, 5, 10 minutes maximum. He was the one who decided – he doesn’t suggest, what he says goes. In what way was the aesthetic style of your film an homage to Pelešjan, especially in terms of the editing? For me, and for the editor Sara Fgaier, it was a fun process: there was no pretension to put a certain style on it. The film became a kind of hybrid. It’s a film made to accompany Pelešjan’s work. What interested me, maybe even in a naïve way, was to recount a small piece of the history of cinema. As a director he taught me a lot of things. There was no aspiration to make a film in the classical meaning of the word. The desire was to show the silence which for him was a choice – there’s probably no other film which portrays a director who doesn’t speak. The gamble was exactly this, and I liked it. There is a voice-over which explains a little. It was necessary, even if for me it could have been great to not have it – because not everybody knows about Pelešjan. I believe that he has an incredible energy, and the reason he didn’t make more films could have been because of his vision of the world, or his character, or the fact that it hadn’t been easy for him, growing up during an era in which it was difficult to make cinema. We made something in a very playful form, very joyous. I did it for the love of his cinema. Yesterday [during the press conference] it was emotional for me to see him standing up amongst the people, because he was heard.
14 // text by jude lister // nisimazine special: orizzonti
Mauro Andrizzi & Marcus Lindeen - 4 Yves Caumon - 6 Hail - 8 Iâ€™m Carolyn Parker - 10 The Invader - 12 Pietro Marcello - 14
18 - Ben Rivers 20 - Sal 22 - Swan 24 -Tusi Tamasese 26 - Marina de Van 28 - Whoresâ€™ Glory
from Two Years at Sea by Ben Rivers (interview page 18)
Director of Two Years at Sea (UK)
In 2005 London-based artist Ben Rivers made a short film about Jake, a solitary, self-sustained man living in the wilderness of Scotland. With Two Years at Sea the filmmaker returns to his subject, this time allowing enough time to observe the daily rituals of this enigmatic character. Ben’s raw 16mm black and white footage invites you into Jake’s organic milieu in an enticingly peaceful manner. While the film received the FIPRESCI award for the Orizzonti section, Nisimazine spoke with the director about labels and parallel universes.
You are often referred to as an ‘experimental filmmaker’. What does this term mean to you? Was it a conscious decision to become one? I definitely did not want to be one. I went to Art College and when I showed things in the art world I was not really referred to as ‘experimental artist’, but quite simply as ‘artist’ - which makes more sense to me. But I appreciate that people need labels. I guess I am not very much into the idea of the experimental network. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a lot of films under that umbrella and I think it is a fantastic space to be working in, but it is also an easy way to explain things. With Two Years at Sea I had a very clear idea of what I was doing, albeit the script was very basic. I mean, I knew what I was doing in the same way a narrative filmmaker knows what he is doing. We tend to attribute the term ‘experimental’ to films that defy classification or when genres intersect. For instance, in your work you draw elements from the documentary genre even if the narrative is bespoke, which makes it fictional. But then again those are all labels… Of course it is impossible not to have those labels, because that is the way people make sense of things. However, I still prefer to think of my films as ‘cinema’; it would be nice if that was enough. I see Two Years at Sea as neither as a documentary nor as narrative/ experimental. What is it for you? It is cinema, a film! (laughs). I suppose there is also a good side if you are placed in that category, which is that you are given more freedom to do what you want. My budget is obviously a lot lower compared to a narrative feature,
but the funding I receive I am free to use as I want. This is obviously nice. The majority of your films are set in secluded places, perhaps a reflection of your personal desire to live as your characters do: in a self-sufficient and remote manner. Do you create those parallel universes in order to feed a temporary need of leading a different, more organic life? Yes, you could say that I live that part of my life by making films. Maybe it is also a way to investigate this type of living, which I am very interested in. In a way, I am trying to find out how real and plausible it might be. I am not completely convinced I could do it. Perhaps when I am older. On the other hand, I do really enjoy living in London. I like that side of things too, the cultural one. Two Years at Sea runs for 88 minutes with no dialogue, perhaps not easy viewing for some. Do you have the audience in mind when you create? I try not to think too much. I used to run a cinema with friends for ten years and what I have come to realise is that you can never predict what audiences want. Never! I think this philosophy has imbued my filmmaking. If you start thinking if the audience will like what you do - if for instance, someone would walk out when I am shooting a ten minute take of a person on a lake - then you are going the wrong way. Of course people are going to leave, but you are hoping there will be others who will stay and appreciate the scene. As a filmmaker, you have to accept the fact that films are never going to be for everybody.
18 // text by eftihia stefanidi // nisimazine special: orizzonti
Sal follows the last day of once-teen-idol Sal Mineo, stabbed to death in 1976. At the age of fifteen, Mineo played with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and later in Giant and Exodus, but soon into his twenties his career fell apart. James Franco, best known as an actor since TV show Freaks and Geeks and Spider-Man, is a multidisciplinary artist juggling between indie and mainstream cinema, directing and painting (amongst other pursuits). His shorts and features have been screened in Cannes, Sundance and Berlin. With a strong commitment to the gay cause, he won a Teddy Award in Berlin for his short The Feast of Stephen. He also starred as James Dean in a biopic for which he won a Golden Globe award. Having played in several other biopics, Franco wanted to take an unusual approach to Mineo’s life: more emotional, less Wikipedia-like. He has managed to avoid a history lesson and deliver the sensitive side of his subject. Sal differs from The Broken Tower, his biopic about Hart Crane, another gay figure, because of its strict adhesion to a small canvas of time. What happens in the film is exactly what happened the day Mineo was killed. This means nothing really thrilling, but an overview of what could have been a rebirth of the fallen star. He was rehearsing a play for Broadway, and was close to directing his first feature film. But what we see is an eventless sequence. His last day was neither glamorous, nor scandalous as we suppose a Hollywood failure’s would have been. He goes to the gym, has lunch with his boyfriend, gets some calls, rehearses his play…
to the next subject, the weather forecast. Going back to his last 24 hours, Franco has chosen to create an intimate portrait far from the noisy scandal, completely at odds with the limited memory left today of Sal Mineo’s life. Indeed, when he died, the tabloids implied a lover and a drug addiction in his murder, whereas the real killer was a complete stranger to Mineo. James Franco openly admits Gus Van Sant’s huge impact on his work, both in the influence from the Kurt Cobain-inspired Last Days and the biopic Milk, about another gay figure, which featured Franco in a major role. But Van Sant’s Last Days hints at the forthcoming tragedy and projects itself into it; Franco’s hero has no sense of his impending fate. The elliptical and contemplative narration, looking for a certain lack of action, gives the impression of an intimate point of view. The hand-held camera shoots close-ups of Sal’s enigmatic face, and the ambient score provides drones and vaguely designed moods, in keeping with the low-key tone the film strives to set. The light and colours recall 70s video archives, as if a friend had followed Sal during this day and shot him randomly. These close-ups are not dramatic ones. James Franco simply sits us next to Mineo so that we can watch him just be. Seen from behind, Franco himself appears in the movie as Milton Katselas, director of the play P.S. Your Cat is Dead. In contemporary cinema, he stands as a successful mix between mainstream and independent creation, managing to both work in the middle of the pressures of the Hollywood business and find ways to avoid it..
The film opens with TV news archive footage from 1976 about Sal’s death. The journalist says very little about him and rapidly goes on
by James Franco (USA)
text by elisabeth renault-geslin // nisimazine special: orizzonti // 21
by Teresa Villaverde (Portugal)
What is immediately appealing and at the same time knotty with a film like Swan is that there is no specific point of view that we are meant to follow. The clues given on the characters are limited, clearly not enough to provide a sufficient background for the audience to decode. Vera sits in the centre of the narrative, a mysterious protagonist who discloses little, even when she sings. The people orbiting around her are also distant creatures themselves, subtly influencing her trajectory. It does not come as a surprise when Vera quotes Portuguese writer Maria Gabriela Llansol – one of the director’s favourites: “the unsupported supports itself by the lack of support I read or I am reading – a poem is unsupported”. This is a story about people who need a hand from the ones who suffer equally. Llansol’s quote is open to interpretation, but it undoubtedly sets the contextual thread and prepares us for a certain aesthetic lyricism that requires reading between the lines.
give way to the joining of scattered dots, the film’s core message is communicated. Essentially it is about people growing up and learning how to help each other do so. Both Vera and Sam are artists, curious about the world, sensitive, histrionic and overtly romantic. Their inquisitiveness allows encounters with characters from completely different worlds. Vera has Pablo - he has Vera, as well as the street kids who come under his protection. Meanwhile, Sam crosses paths with a dwarf who shows him the way to uncomplicated warmth. It is rather ironic how these side characters representing drifters who tend to pass unnoticed - are the ones who save the protagonists from their dark vulnerability. Despite their immediate differences, there is a strong link chaining them together: that of the urgent need to make a better living. But it is also Lisbon. There is no dwelling on the city’s aesthetical attractions, but it is the periphery that matters here instead; that small café on the corner that invites a man and a woman to dance.
Portuguese director Teresa Villaverde returns to Venice with Swan (Cisne), another poetic and oblique story of coming of age with a vigorous female lead. Vera (Beatriz Bartada) is a singer giving the last show of her performance tour in Lisbon. When her long-term love Sam asks permission to stay in her house alone, to get perspective on their relationship, she is deeply hurt and checks into a hotel. Pablo, her newly appointed assistant, becomes a friendly companion with whom she shares her sleepless wanderings through the nocturnal streets of the city. What she offers in return is her protective wing for a different cause. As one of the street kids Pablo cares for kills an abuser, Vera makes her own justice.
Swan is one of those films that could irk you for being too personal and at times impenetrable. This is not necessarily a case of pretentiousness (as one could easily pass judgement on), but of an organic process. For Villaverde, filmmaking is an experiential process - her films tending to become more in synch with her own idiosyncrasy. Still, that does not prevent us from walking along with her, hand in hand, following her stream of thoughts like good listeners. Even if we don’t get it every time.
Despite its low production values, Swan strikes with some beautiful imagery and a sort of visual poetry in parts. However, its verse has no clear direction; scenes are elliptical and jump cuts indulge in reverberating earlier scenes. Still, if traditional narrative techniques
text by eftihia stefanidi // nisimazine special: orizzonti // 23
interview 24 // text by jude lister // nisimazine special: orizzonti
Director of The Orator (New Zealand / Samoa)
Tusi Tamasese’s The Orator (O Le Tulufale), the first feature film to come out of Samoa, is a subtle drama infused with the traditions and culture of the South Pacific islands and shot mainly with local, non-professional actors. Considered an outsider in his rural village, the diminutive and taciturn Saili lives a quiet existence with his wife and daughter, until increasing conflicts with the community mean that he must put himself forward to defend his loved ones . How did the script of The Orator come about? The film came from a fascination I have with death and how in Samoa we bury our beloved in front of our houses. To me that was a challenge – people are challenging death and saying “you cannot part us”, so I thought I had to write something about this. Also I was interested in the image of a chief - an orator - in Samoa: to me an orator is tall, fearless and well-spoken. I wanted to see what happens when you strip that away, and I ended up with a small person as a metaphor. So these were the bones of the script, and I just needed to involve the culture and themes that people could relate to. How difficult was the casting process, especially for the main character Saili? It had to be a small person: that was what made the story. In Samoa there are not many, there is only one actor who does commercials, who I originally thought of. I paid for his ticket to come, but the fellow didn’t turn up so we had to start looking again. We got a phone call from this woman who said her son was a dwarf. So we caught the ferry to the other island and he was in fact a 16-year-old boy! Then she said that there was a small person living down the road; we went over and there he was, the main character actor. I asked him why he didn’t answer the radio call and he said he hadn’t wanted to, but now that we were there he thought it must be a sign from God that he had to do it. He’s a very private person and we were fortunate to have him. I had to re-write the script, because he was shorter and had more difficulty walking than the original actor. The relationship between Saili and Vaaiga comes across as a little ambiguous. It was quite a challenge; I was very particular with
the relationship. I wanted them not to touch, even in the massage scene there are the leaves blocking them. But I wanted to show the relationship, their love that exists in the space that they occupy. It’s all in the glances and the way that they talk. She mocks him, and to me that’s a sort of love. There are many scenes which portray specific aspects of traditional Samoan culture. How much did you think about making the film accessible to people who know nothing about Samoa? I wanted to people to be immersed in the movie. I knew that if you have the patience to sit and watch this very slow world, then you will understand it. I wanted people to be exposed to things, and question them, and eventually I give them hints, but I didn’t want to explain too much. I knew it was a very fine line. The performances are so subtle that it was very risky as well, so I am asking quite a lot from the audience. Are some of the old traditions disappearing now? The chiefly oratory is one example. The younger generation is beginning to untie its bond from the culture and is becoming more urban. When I grew up English was a class thing, but now they are all speaking it. The oratory language is filled with history and metaphors. You have to have a good knowledge of proverbs… It’s like poetry, the words mean a lot. Everyday language is different; you would only use the oratory language with an older person.
Marina de Van
Director of Le Petit Poucet (France)
After graduating from the Fémis (the French national film school) in 1996, Marina De Van started to work as a screenwriter and actress with her classmate François Ozon. She directed her first feature film In My Skin in 2002. After directing Don’t Look Back, starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci, which screened at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, she adapted Charles Perrault’s famous tale Le Petit Poucet. You’re painting a very dark portrait of society… Poucet takes his revenge on his parents because they abandoned him and his brothers. It deals with the characterisation of food, how you dominate and who you dominate through eating the living. It’s the same among animals and humans, except that we are more shocked when it concerns humans. On the contrary, Poucet is very sensitive to this matter and becomes vegetarian at the end of the film. Meat is a tool for power. It’s what you possess when you’re rich. The richer you get, the more power you have over the living. That’s why Poucet, becoming rich, throws meat on the floor at his parents and brothers to exert his power over them, while he is eating an apple.
The human condition is shown in a very radical way. You change the ending of Perrault’s original tale. What drove you so far? In the original tale, Poucet finds the ogre’s treasure and brings it back to his parents. I couldn’t see how he could give money to people who abandoned him in the woods. The least he can do is take his revenge! It’s impossible to come back and kiss your parents on the cheek. It’s cheesy. He comes back and exerts a cruelty he learned and which is also motivated by his suffering. And he is right to do it!
What brought you to this dream sequence of the ogre, totally opposed aesthetically to the rest of the film? I find it amusing to put a very modern, contemporary aesthetic in the Middle Ages. It is how I wanted the fantasising to be felt. He dreams in contemporary costumes and cold Plexiglas settings. I opposed this dream to the sequence where the children are in the ogre’s stomach. His mind is sterilised, while his stomach is organic and seething. While watching the film we feel various influences, such as Les Amants Criminels by François Ozon, Hannibal by Ridley Scott and Une Affaire de Goût by Bernard Rapp, in the sequences with the ogre. Do these references speak to you? I have to admit I completely forgot Les Amants Criminels. But I don’t work with any particular references. The films I like are very eclectic. They most certainly do influence me in a way, but I never have them in mind while working. What brought you to this project after Don’t Look Back? Actually it was a commissioned film from the producer JeanFrançois Lepetit, for TV. He proposed me to direct the tale of my choice. If nobody had proposed me this idea, I would never have done it, but I found the exercise quite amusing. I took it as a game. The production has been very fast and we shot in 21 days on a small budget of one million euros. Are you going to other festivals with this film? Yes, I will be at the Fantastic Film Festivals of Strasbourg and Sitges. Do you have other projects already in planning? I have two. One is a horror movie with children that I wrote called Dark Touch. I hope to shoot it this autumn in Ireland and Sweden. The other is a tortured love story I wrote with Pascale Bonitzer. I will shoot it next summer with Sami Bouajila and Giovanna Mezzogiorno.
So there is no forgiveness? No!
text by elisabeth renault-geslin // nisimazine special: orizzonti // 27
Who Renowned for his work on the exploitation of manual labour around the world (Workingman’s Death, 2004), Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger has adopted a somehow similar global approach with Whores’ Glory to address prostitution, encapsulating both its permanent features and cultural differences. Composed of three mid-length features of about forty minutes each, this cinematic triptych starts in Thailand, then continues in Bangladesh, and eventually ends in Mexico. Each episode takes place in a defined and recognised area of prostitution: Glawogger not only films practices but also geographical and social spaces. From the Bangkok massage parlour called “Fish Tank” due to the very large showcase where the girls sit and are picked up by customers, passing by the narrow streets of Jaridpur’s “City of Joy” – a ghetto dedicated to sex trafficking which Bengalis venture into, to the “Zona” of border city Reynosa where cars slowly zigzag between puddles in search of their sex fix, Whores’ Glory is a total immersion into the world of brothels. Indeed what distinguishes Glawogger’s documentary is not really an innovative approach to the topic (there’s nothing completely unexpected nor mind-blowing we get to come across), but the feeling of being right in the middle of where things happen, as privileged witnesses - without being put in an uncomfortable voyeuristic position - of how prostitution works, and of situations we would not have possible access otherwise. To achieve this degree of apparent smoothness and openness, no doubt hours, days, even months of negotiation (and of getting the film crew to be accepted) were necessary. Some might criticise the fact that the director could only get what the prostitutes, pimps and customers alike were willing to ‘give’ him, but the deal fits the purpose of the film as it reflects what prostitution at large is: faking an intimate relationship.
The extraordinary cinematographic experience is for a large part due to the high profile of the production. Wolfgang Thaler’s cinematography is just breathtaking at times, almost glamorising the most sordid places with oversaturated colours. And if the soundtrack – mixing an original score and folk singers such as Antony & The Johnsons, PJ Harvey, and CocoRosie – is surprising at first (some might even consider it misplaced), it eventually conveys the notion of glory (a sense of grace and presence of God in all human activities – including prostitution) the title of the film is referring to. As a matter of fact, even though the title and the choice of a triptych structure seemed to suggest a religious approach to prostitution – or at least an approach placing religion at the core of the subject, the result remains somehow superficial. Of course, the Thai prostitutes burn incense to have more customers; one young Bengali girl says she will never perform oral sex as her mouth is the organ praying to Allah; and the Mexican women devote a mysterious cult to ‘Santa Muerte’’, the Saint of Death. Yet, Glawogger deceivingly never investigates deeply the complex relationships between religion and prostitution. Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity are considered as simple cursors on how the prostitution activity is either socially accepted or ostracised in a given society. The non-judgmental touch of the director here reaches one of its limits, as Glawogger clearly seems to favour the Buddhist philosophy taking sex as a human need – like any others – over the Muslim or Christian ones, where notions of guilt and of necessary evil are prevalent. This being mentioned, Whores’ Glory is definitely one of the highlights of the Orizzonti Section of Venice this year – confirmed by the Special Jury Prize it received.
28 // text by matthieu darras // nisimazine special: orizzonti
by Michael Glawogger (Austria/Germany)
director of publication: Matthieu Darras editor: Jude Lister contributors: Matthieu Darras, Jude Lister, Elisabeth Renault-Geslin, Eftihia Stefanidi design/layout: Maartje Alders
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Very special thanks to Paolo Moretti and Paolo Bertolin
credits You can watch
Accidentes Gloriosos, The Invader, The Orator, The Bird, Hail, Le Petit Poucet and Swan
on Festival Scope now! (click on the logo to the left)
30 // nisimazine special: orizzonti
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CALL FOR SHORT FILM PROJECTS Deadline: 10th of October! Deadline: 10th of October Luxembourg 3 2.-8. January Maribor 2.-4. March
Published on Sep 13, 2011
Special edition of Nisimazine covering the Orizzonti section of the 68th Venice Film Festival. Included are 12 articles (6 reviews and 6 int...