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cambridge film festival daily

Issue 1 // Monday 14 September

THE ARMY OF CRIME Opening Night Film

FRee event SILENTS ON THE STREETS, Sunday 30 September on Bridge St & Magdalene St Cinema takes to the streets this Sunday as part of the SILENTS ON THE STREETS screening. Rediscover the moving image to the stunning backdrop of Magdalene and St John’s Colleges at this unique event.

The Responsibility oF resistance

Screenings run from 8.00pm until 10.00pm

EXCLUSIVE interview with French director Robert Guédiguian By Marina Bradbury


rimming full of enthusiasm on a Monday morning, French filmmaker Robert Guédiguian speaks to me from Paris about his latest feature, L’ARMÉE DU CRIME (THE ARMY OF CRIME). Set in a German-occupied Paris during World War Two, the film tells the true story of a group of Jews, Hungarians, Poles, Romanians, Spaniards, Italians and Armenians who form a partisan group and risk their lives to attack Nazis and their collaborators in the name of the country they love, France. Based on real stories, real events and real documents, L’ARMÉE DU CRIME offers an intimate portrayal of 23 characters, whilst maintaining the pace and drama of their collective struggle. Three

protagonists take centre stage in this struggle: Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian) the Armenianborn poet and leader of the group, his wife Mélinée (Virginie Ledoyen) and the young, hotheaded Marcel Rayman (Robinson Stévenin). In a moving final sequence, the words in the film are read from a letter written by Manouchian to his wife just before he was killed. Born in Marseille in 1953 to an Armenian father and Germanborn mother, Guédiguian was told Manouchian’s story as a young child and it immediately

“I hate directors who talk about ‘freedom’, I talk about responsibility”

captivated him, inspiring an early interest in left-wing politics. “My interest wasn’t just theoretical. First and foremost, I had this moral conviction, which I probably took from certain phrases of Manouchian’s letter.” From the outset Manouchian’s letter took an all-important role at the film’s intense dénouement. Guédiguian points to one phrase in particular, in which Manouchian declares that he will die “without hatred for the German population”. It’s a “sublime phrase, a phrase of pure humanism, saying that humanity exists above all, despite all, even in the most difficult, dark circumstances.” Needless to say, Guédiguian’s humanist sensibility stems from early contact with his parents. “My father was from a “peuple

genocidé [a population which suffered genocide] and my mother from a peuple genocidaire [a population which inflicted genocide]”. Growing up aware of this made him “opposed to any kind of excess of these kind of sentiments”. I ask Guédiguian about his approach to music, and sound in general, as some of the most striking moments in his film are composed of stunning cinematography pared with haunting sound. continued on page 3

Cambridge Film Festival Daily 2009 Supported by TTP Group

IDENTITY OF THE SOUL - Multiscreen Cinematic Installation at Emmanuel College

In l’Armée du Crime, the recurrent use of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, culminating in its inclusion in the final torture scene, makes watching almost too painful. Guédiguian is adamant that music should bring “another sense” to a film, rather than simply “commenting” on images on the screen. “I want music to tell us something different… something poetic, something which may not be explicit.” Unlike the political activists portrayed in many of his films, Guédiguian tends to engage in politics primarily through cinema these days. Directors, he says, should focus on telling stories that can be

Soul Searching

“understood by audiences –

Interview with Thomas Høegh, director of cinematic installation IDENTITY OF THE SOUL By Fiona Scoble

films more in line with John


Ford than Pasolini” (he chuckles when referring to two of his cinematic heroes). One day he hopes, filmmakers can return to offering them more complex works. But for now, “we must be aware of what the public want”. “I hate directors who talk about ‘freedom’, I talk about responsibility. We’re not free. We are ‘free’ to write what we want, but we have to have a certain responsibility, and adapt to the writing of our times too.” Unusual words, for an “art house” director? No,

not really. They’re words of a profoundly humanist filmmaker who makes films for society as much as for himself. THE ARMY OF CRIME (L’ARMEE DU CRIME) is screened on Thursday 17 September at 8.00pm

DENTITY OF THE SOUL? Anyone working under that title has got to be up for a challenge. Norwegian director Thomas Høegh is not one to take the easy option. He chose the title, chose to create a five-screen cinematic installation, chose to combine a contemporary Palestinian poet with a nineteenth century Norwegian one, and chose to translate the work from Norwegian into six different languages - starting with Japanese. Why did he choose these things? As to the title, Høegh explains: “To some extent I feel like this performance is a journey into the core of us as human beings. We all have identities and we all have souls. I wanted to look at these components, at what makes us act in one way or another.” So far, so grand. But in expressing these thoughts Høegh chose an interesting route. IDENTITY OF THE SOUL is tightly focused on two poems: Ibsen’s

epic Terje Vigen published in 1862, and renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s 1967 poem A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies. In many respects these poems have nothing in common. Ibsen’s is an action-packed narrative stretching over 43 stanzas about a Norwegian sailor, Darwish’s is reflective, free-verse, full of symbolism, about a conversation with an Israeli soldier. But Høegh emphasises that both share key themes of moral choice, revenge and reconciliation. Their disparity serves to dislocate each poem from its context and free up the audience to consider more universal themes. It’s not simply a matter of the poems inspiring a film: Høegh’s work comprises a reading of the two poems, performed by

Vanessa Redgrave for the English translation; an original fusion soundtrack of Scandinavian and Arabian influences; and five screens of images, which in some outdoor performances have been projected onto any available surface with Høegh accentuating certain images by illuminating surrounding buildings. For Høegh, the five screens are symbolic of how we experience the world. On the one hand you can be immersed in the images, and on the other the gaps between the screens force you to imagine the rest of the picture. Although at times the images explicitly illustrate the poem, Høegh is keen to provoke varied interpretations of the performance. “There’s a layer of symbolism that I created myself”, he says. One key motif is red

“I feel like this performance is a journey into the core of us as human beings. We all have identities and we all have souls”

Revealed: Condi’s crush for Ice-skating!

fabric, which recurs throughout the work. “It’s my representation of hatred and of the uncontrollable anger that most of the time is threatening but some of the time is the only thing we have. It’s the strongest part of some people’s lives, the grudge they have against someone.” The images are consciously disassociated from the locations of the poems. There are no flags, no posters, and those accompanying Darwish’s poem were shot predominantly in Egypt. “I don’t think this poem has to necessarily only belong to the Palestinian situation”, says Høegh. Many would disagree; Darwish was regarded as the Palestinian national poet and when he died last year Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning. Yet despite these strong cultural ties IDENTITY OF THE SOUL has been performed to great acclaim over the last year in eight cities across the West Bank, as well as Qatar and in a disused paper mill in Skien, Norway

Its move inside to Emmanuel College might at first seem odd, but Høegh is confident it will provide a more intense experience. “Outside can be more like a carnival”, he explains, “more like going to a huge rock concert. 4,000 Palestinians attending an outdoor show with mobile phones going off is a very different experience.” And for future projects? Last year Høegh interpreted a poem using a screen shaped like a keyhole, and he’s currently interpreting an Arab poem onto a long and uneven screen. “In the future I may make works with five or two or one screens, whatever”, says Høegh: watch this (dimensions undecided) space. IDENTITY OF THE SOUL opens on Thursday 17 September at 9.00pm at The Queen’s Theatre in Emmanuel College

Agreeing to let his close friend write and shoot a documentary about his unrelenting quest for love, Devin Ratray’s only term of condition is that he is aided in his desperate search to meet and ‘court’ the woman of his dreams, Condoleezza Rice. As the basis for a documentary piece, this in itself sounds utterly bizarre. Director Sebastian Doggart presents his truthful exploration of the largely unknown private life and upbringing of Condoleezza Rice wrapped in a thick layer of outlandish, Baron Cohen/Larry David style pseudo-documentary shenanigans. Ratray, the man claiming to be in love with Rice, is probably best known for his stint in the HOME ALONE series of the early 90s. His Jack-Blackian musical performances present a frame for the ‘documentary’ that can only be false and farcical, creating an oddball juxtaposition

COURTING CONDI // Sebastian Doggart

against genuine archive footage of interviews of Rice as she details her upbringing, discussing issues of race, her passion for music and a secret delight for ice-skating. Are Ratray’s affections legitimate? Knowing he is an actor, there seems to be a little too much ironic comedic performance involved for it to be truth. An illuminating documentary, encased in an outright eccentric shell, but yet one that somehow surprisingly succeeds in remaining informative, supplying a human soul to the political façade of Condoleezza herself. Laura J Smith COURTING CONDI is screened on Thursday 17 September at 6.30pm

Letting Sleeping Dogs lie COURTING CONDI

Nicole Torre’s documentary on the oil industry bores deep into the western world’s dependence upon oil, questioning why political figures have constantly allowed the ‘sleeping dog’ of a global energy crisis to lie. Torre approaches the issue with restraint, allowing an array of genuine Texan oil men to tell their own stories with candid honesty and humour. The fundamental point Torre is attempting to make to the audience is that the dire energy situation the world finds itself in will only be resolved by unified efforts. Certainly Washington and the scientific world have a significant role to play, but so too do energy consumers.


It has perhaps always been too easy to disassociate oneself from the real necessity to conserve energy and the role that each of us plays in the constant demand for more to be produced. However after 85 minutes in the company of Torre’s oil men the true price being paid at the petrol pumps might seem to have increased a great deal more than 2p a litre. Christopher Peck HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM is screened on Thursday 17 September at 11.30pm

our Team (of SPies)

Endurance Swimmer Martin Strel at the Sunset Screenings on Grantchester Meadows

BIG RIVER MAN The River Cam provided the perfect backdrop to an outdoor screening of BIG RIVER MAN. John Maringouin’s humorous documentary follows marathon swimmer Martin Strel’s 2007 bid to swim the length of the Amazon. Best of all, Strel arrived by punt at the Grantchester Meadows to present his film personally. Set from the perspective of Strel’s son (and manager) Borut, the film follows through the usual themes of people losing it in the jungle a la Apocalypse Now. But for all of this Strel made the distance, and as he took to a platform afterwards only one response seemed appropriate – applause. David Perilli BIG RIVER MAN screened on Monday 31 August on Grantchester Meadows

Top Ten: the people’s Favourite Film Award Half the fun of the festival is discussing the films afterwards - and the Festival would like to know what you think. Go online to register your reactions and rate the films you’ve seen. In this space in future issues we’ll be letting you know what the current TOP TEN films at the festival are, as voted for by you the public. Last year’s winner was CONVERSATIONS WITH MY GARDENER. As for this year - it’s up to you!

Cambridge Film Festival Daily © 2009 Editor David Perilli Sub-editors Christopher Peck, Laura J Smith Editorial assistant Sara Cathie Design Robin Castle Printed by Victoire Press

Codename: Fleur Elise Alias: Laura J Smith, Daily subeditor Cover Story: Sub-editor for the Daily, writing features and reviews and overseeing content for the publication and website Point of origin: Norwich M.I. Spy - Movie Inspiration Spy: Jean-Paul Belmondo as Silien in Melville’s Le Doulos For Your Ears Only: (Hans Zimmer’s) The Third Man Specialist skill: Writing in tongues

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CFF09 Daily 1  

Cambridge Film Festival Daily newspaper, issue 1, Monday 14 September 2009

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