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Bonus Issue // Sunday 27 September www.cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk

cambridge film festival daily THE OTHER IRENE

Balloon ticket ...and the SURPRISE FILM was revealed to be... the Pixar Animation UP.

The other Romania An interview with the director of THE OTHER IRENE, Andrei Gruzsniczki By Marta Machala

A

s part of the Festival’s ‘Border Crossings’ season, audiences saw a Romanian production, THE OTHER IRENE directed by Andrei Gruzsniczki. Just before the screening of the film, I had an opportunity to talk to the director. Sipping his tea, Gruzsniczki tells me about “the story behind the story” of his movie, specifically “I didn’t choose the story. It chose me.” Based on true events, THE OTHER IRENE recounts what actually happened to one of Gruzsniczki’s friends. In the film we see a security guard, Aurel, whose wife goes to work in Cairo and never comes back from her trip - having allegedly committed

suicide. Naturally Aurel wants to find the truth behind his wife’s death but his search is hindered on all possible fronts as he faces the harsh reality of bureaucracy and a total lack of understanding from everyone around. “In the very beginning I wouldn’t dare to make a movie out of this story”, says Gruzsniczki. He then adds that after two years he went back to the subject and looked at it from a strictly documentary perspective - with proper distance. With time, he closed in upon the main character to portray the

“I DIDN’T CHOOSE THE STORY, iT CHOSE ME”

tragedy of “a lonely man, a poor guy who is trying to find out the truth and never discovers it”. As the director says, “in the beginning it’s a story about love, then it’s a story about finding a way to the truth… It’s a story of how much you know your other half, how you never really get to understand, really know the person next to you”. The “total indifference around [Aurel], the total lack of compassion, was the most important thing that finally made me decide to make this movie”, says Gruzsniczki. The director talks about his interest in the subject of relations between people, especially between couples, and about issues connected with knowing and

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not knowing each other. When I call him “a director of human relations” he laughs and answers, “yes, at this point that’s who I am”. But as Gruzsniczki points out, THE OTHER IRENE is also a picture of Romania today: emmigration for reasons of poverty and lack of opportunities, especially from the areas outside of big cities, is quite a common pattern; just like the bureaucratisation of social life. Looking at the problem of relations between people in continued on page 2

Cambridge Film Festival Daily 2009 Supported by TTP Group


THE OTHER ROMANIA contd... contemporary Romania from before the Revolution, Gruzsniczki comments that before the Revolution, in the communist era, “[the Romanians] were more human to each other, even if we didn’t have lots of things”. Now, with the emergence of the middle and upper classes, and a poor ‘base’ of the society, the models of family and human relations in general have changed. Asked about his future projects, Gruzsniczki enthusiastically talks about his plans of putting onscreen a story of a separated couple who face various pressures in their relationship. The director promises that his own personal vision of love and life is not going to be as bitter and sceptical as that presented in THE OTHER IRENE. THE OTHER IRENE was screened on Saturday 26 September

Jingle Bells Interview with Lucy Akhurst & Charles Thomas Oldham of MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON By Lucy Lewis

D

uring my conversation with husband-and-wife team Lucy Akhurst and Charles Thomas Oldham (director and screenwriter / producer respectively of MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON), it occurred to me that creating a film must have a lot in common with dancing as part of a morris troupe. An instinct for choreography - by which I mean, balancing different roles and pressures - must be essential to co-ordinate a project as multi-faceted as this. Maybe it’s even a little like marriage as well. Against the odds, however, the pair have pulled it off: they have assembled an impressive cast, captured the beauty of the English landscape, and updated the image of a rather underappreciated English pastime. It is a film filled with gentle (and occasionally riotous) humour, that should – and hopefully will – do for morris dancing what STRICTLY BALLROOM did for

another popularly-derided dance form. If the film is to get its message across, however, it will need to reach audiences countrywide, and this is the challenge that Akhurst and Oldham are now facing. Although the Picturehouse chain of cinemas will be screening MORRIS in the coming months, the film has yet to attract a commercial distributor. There have been many informal screenings via the Moviola company (in church halls and similar venues), not to mention a highly-successful outing at the Seattle Film Festival in May of this year, when it came fourth out of 248 in audience ratings. Akhurst and Oldham were upbeat when I spoke to them by phone on

STRICTLY BALLROOM FOR MORRIS DANCING

the morning following the London premiere of MORRIS. It’s clearly been a labour of love, and a very personal project, for Oldham (who also plays the male lead, a radical morrisman called Derecq Twist). He explained to me that he grew up with a family of morris-dancingdevotees, and the film closes with a tribute to the man who inspired the film. The film is anything but self-indulgent, however, and all credit must go to director Lucy Akhurst, whose crisp editing keeps the narrative moving. The plot follows the way that Derecq Twist attracts the criticism of the Morris Circle (an elite council) for his innovative approach, and how this ultimately leads him to the States, where he finds love. Lucy explained that during shooting she had concentrated on drawing out carefullynuanced performances from


STolen cinema

Charles Thomas Oldham & Lucy Akhurst - MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON © TC

the actors, something which she understood, having come from an acting background herself. Careful technical preparation before shooting ensured that she could afford to lavish her attention on the dramatic side. Although making the transition to directing was not something Lucy had planned (apparently it came about almost by chance), she and husband Oldham do feel that they have hit on a winning formula in terms of the division of roles. Future projects are anticipated. Next up will be a film on ‘guerrilla gardening’ (the unofficial appropriation of public space for growing plants), a phenomenon sweeping the country. If MORRIS is anything to go by, this should be well worth looking out for. Does MORRIS deserve wider distribution? Definitely. It’s the performances and the script that make the film. Derek Jacobi plays the slightly scary leader of

the Morris Circle, while Harriet Walter plays a Cambridge academic specialising in the history of the dance. Greg Wise plays the American philanthropist who sponsors the Californian troupe Derecq joins, a zany individual whose philosophy of life combines a belief in UNIX-based operating systems with the healing power of dance. Hilarious! For me, the film was very reminiscent of A MIGHTY WIND, the 2003 mockumentary about folk singing. However, the term ‘mockumentary’ implies satire of a potentially cutting kind, and that is not really found in this affectionate film. MORRIS is more about celebrating eclecticism and eccentricity in the best British tradition. MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON was screened on Saturday 26 September

“I’m sorry if that hurt, that was not my intention,” says Mark Boswell, after the screening of a number of his short films, running chronologically through the years from 2001 to 2008. This set the tone of the whole event both the films and the discussion afterwards – full of energy and humour, and never less than engrossing. The joy of viewing a collection in this manner is that it is possible to see running themes and idiosyncrasies in Boswell’s work, such as his interest in the Bush administration and post-Cold War issues. Comprised mainly of existing footage, some of the highlights are laugh-outloud moments where classic film scenes are used, but with subtitles contradicting what the characters are saying. His juxtaposition of the written word overlaying the image is remarkable, used in various ways throughout.

MARK BOSWELL: THE ART OF NOVA-KINO // Mark Boswell

Abstract and certainly not narrative in the traditional sense, the variety of images thrown at the audience is obviously selected and constructed with intelligence and personality – which at times could lose the audience, is also a pleasure, being able to take away a list of titles, names and images that you want to research and explore further. Indeed, the event as a whole revealed that Boswell is just as interesting as his films. An exciting filmmaker, who aptly sums up his work, “pessimism interacting with too many movies and too much realism”. How could that not be intriguing? Mike Boyd MARK BOSWELL: THE ART OF NOVA-Kino was screened on Saturday 26 September

Seen this one before? Thankfully in TRIANGLE horror director Christopher Smith has developed a script that does well to defy expectations with the introduction of a timeloop. Based upon the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, the film replaces the expected premise of survival at all costs. Instead the lead character, Jess, must discover the true nature of a mysterious 1930s ocean liner in order to prevent actually boarding it in the first place. Melissa George as Jess installs a fervent intensity to one of the genre’s favourite protagonists – a young single mother. Whilst the inevitable repetition of events don’t feel as tight as they could have, for a horror film that literally repeats itself (opposed to the many that

TRIANGLE // Christopher Smith

just feel like the same murder scene stuck on repeat), the pacing is excellent, climaxing with a fantastically unexpectedly wellresolved ending. Although the film taking on a fragmented timeline does rid it of all the potential to be at all frightening, TRIANGLE marks itself out as positively refreshing amongst the recent influx of unoriginal 1970s horror remakes. Matthew Migliorini TRIANGLE was screened on Friday 25 September


Money & Mondrians

Duncan Ward, director of BOOGIE WOOGIE © TC

Interview with Duncan Ward, director of BOOGIE WOOGIE By David Perilli

I

n between discussing the recognised height of midgets and his new film BOOGIE WOOGIE, director Duncan Ward drops in an impromptu maths lesson, “…that big 30% drop on a $50 million picture is still going to sound big. What does that come to?” The focus here is telling. As my brain boggles with basic division I ponder Danny Huston’s caricature in the film. Playing art dealer Art Spindle, he’s all big black Jay Jopling style specs, red turtle neck and a flat three syllable laugh which lolls out at every conceivable occasion. Some critics of the film have interpreted the performance as pantomime but they’re missing the point. It’s an impression of characters in the art world. Ward explains: “Danny’s character is an amalgam of a few of them, and in the art world we all know who they are. For the uninitiated they are a very curious type of character,

slightly larger than life, unforgiving in some respects...” At which point Ward does a capable impression of that laugh himself. “Ha, ha, ha”. BOOGIE WOOGIE comes across as a Robert Altman film for the art world. Relocating Danny Moynihan’s novel about the New York 1990s scene to a contemporary London, the film pivots around the battle between two rapacious dealers to possess a rare Piet Mondrian painting – the Boogie Woogie – from a bankrupt private collector. Ward is keen to point out his work’s key difference from Altman though is his lack of transitional scenes here. “Altman spends quite a bit of time getting you to the scenes, and I took that out of our story”. The vast ‘name’ cast

encompasses Huston, Stellan Skarsgård, Gillian Anderson, Heather Graham, Alan Cumming and more besides who flesh out a facsimile of the whole merry-go-round from curators to struggling artists to the next hot thing. Naturally everybody is keen to betray each other. Ward had few problems assembling the ensemble as the script gave them all parts to play around with. But talking about characters in the art world with unique tics turns the lens on Ward himself. As we chat, his sentences continually seize up as words are elongated and sustained before next packet of information arrives. Intimate with the art world himself, Ward has previously made

“Danny’s character is an amalgam of a few of them, and in the art world we all know who they are”

several documentaries about artists over the last 20 years including TARASIEWICZ, a portrait of Leon Tarasiewicz. Returning back to the cash, money plays an interesting aspect here as the film went into production a few months after the credit crunch hit in mid 2007. Ward decided to carry on regardless as “it kind of makes the film seem almost like a documentary on one level”. But now the words no longer fade away. Ward continues. “From an historical point of view the pricings we did in Boogie are very accurate. That type of market that still exists… People are still shelling out 35 million for a picture no bigger than this table [a rather small coffee table in the Arts Picturehouse bar]. This still takes some balls”. BOOGIE WOOGIE was screened on Tuesday 22 September


WELCOME

the channel between us The director of WELCOME, Philippe Lioret, has expressed concern that his film about illegal immigrants trying to cross to England from Calais should make money out of people’s misery. However, the film is not a documentary, and its success lies in the compelling and heartfelt plot it presents. Bilal is a 17-year-old Kurd who wants to cross to England to be reunited with his girlfriend. After failing to pass through the border in a lorry he decides he will swim across the channel, and so heads to the local pool. Here he takes lessons off Simon, who is currently in the process of being divorced by his wife. For reasons that are never entirely clear, but which have to do with his divorce, Simon’s initial indifference for the plight of the

WELCOME // Philippe Lioret

immigrants turns into a desire to help Bilal swim across the channel. By focusing the story on one figure, WELCOME gets across the unjust and inhumane way in which these immigrants are treated. It does this more than thick descriptions, statistics, or logical arguments ever could. In a way, then, it is storytelling at its best: truthful, passionate, and, above all, gripping. Stuart Mason WELCOME was screened on Saturday 26 September

THE RAINCOAT FAIRYTALES // GINA BIRCH The famous illustration - “this is a chord, this is another, this is a third. Now form a band” - parodies a notion behind the punk music scene: that anyone who had the inclination to create music could perform. This was the era under which art students Ana da Silva and Gina Birch formed the band ‘The Raincoats’. Gina Birch (appearing in person) explained that her film covered the period 1977 - 1981. Combining Super-8 footage from the band’s early days with more recent footage and insightful interviews, the formation of the band is charted and placed into a wider context. As the film continues, the question of feminism naturally arises. It appears that without being deliberately feminist this all-woman punk group ended up epitomising some of feminism’s goals. Running to around 40 minutes in length, the film certainly packs in plenty of visual and informative material. Even now Birch still has more footage to incorporate. Undoubtedly this film, once it has been completed and given its final polish, will be an important addition to the archives of punk culture and music history. Graham Hughes THE RAINCOAT FAIRYTALES screened on Saturday 26 September

Flotsam OF a life in Film Crowned rather unflatteringly as ‘the grandmother of the New Wave’, Agnès Varda was in fact 27 when her debut feature film, LA POINTE COURTE was released in 1954. Over 50 years later, THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS is something of a swansong. BEACHES sweeps across the eight decades of Varda’s life: part documentary, part memoire, it chronicles an astonishing personal history, from Varda’s role in founding the Avignon Festival, to her awardwinning New Wave film CLEO DE 5 A 7, her photojournalistic forays across China and Cuba, and her lifelong partnership with the filmmaker Jacques Demy, who died in 1990. Above all, it is the bonds of friendship that Varda has established across the world, that come to the fore most prominently – an extraordinary cast of figures spanning four

THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS // Agnès Varda

generations featuring some unusual friendships, including Harrison Ford and Jim Morrison. As ever, Varda’s filmmaking is stunning, and her training as a photographer and art historian is evident in her attention to compositional detail. BEACHES is both playful and mournful in turn, grieving those Varda has loved and lost, while delighting in the elasticity of the film form to tell the colourful stories of an extraordinary life. Jenny Chamarette THE BEACHES OF AGNÈS was screened on Sunday 20 September


Our Team (of extra Spies) Top Ten: the people’s Favourite Film Award

Our Team (of Extra Spies) First row: Christopher Peck, Simon Panrucker, Chloe Chennells-Milton Second Row: Mel Castrillón, Clare Leczycki & Tom Martin Third row: Che Thomas, Emily Hammond Fourth row: Tony Jones, Adam Bryan

1. LOSING BALANCE 2. MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON 3. THE THIRD MAN 4. IN BERLIN 5. NOMAD’S LAND/ THE STORM BIRD 6. TONY 7. MACHAN 8. SERAPHINE 9. TRIDENTFEST 10. MARY AND MAX

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

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CFF09 Daily #11: BONUS  

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