Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Global Film Initiative Announces Global Lens 2010 Film Lineup

A FIPRESCI award-winner, an Oscar® candidate and seven U.S. premieres highlight The Global Film Initiative's upcoming Global Lens 2010 film series. As announced late last week, 10 award-winning narrative feature films from Algeria, China, India, Iran, Mexico, Peru, Serbia, South Africa, Uruguay and Vietnam will headline Global Lens 2010.

"We're very excited about the 2010 series," says
Susan Weeks Coulter, Board Chair of the Global Film Initiative. "This year's films are some of our boldest, most visually striking, unique visions to date—each filmmaker is reimagining our world from an entirely fresh viewpoint."

Global Lens 2010 features the U.S. premiere of Bui Thac Chuyen's provocative Vietnamese drama Adrift (FIPRESCI, Venice International Film Festival) and Masquerades (Best Feature, Dubai International Film Festival), Algeria's official submission to the foreign language category of the 2009 Academy Awards. Also featured are critical favorites Ordinary People (Best Film, Sarajevo Film Festival), The Shaft (New Directors/New Films) and South African tour-de-force Shirley Adams (Best Actress, Durban International Film Festival).

In addition, Global Lens 2010 will present the U.S. premiere of Granaz Moussavi's Iranian independent, My Tehran For Sale (Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival) and the North American premiere of Ocean Of An Old Man (New Currents, Pusan International Film Festival)—the first film ever to be shot on India's Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The upcoming series includes a vibrant showcase of Latin American films from emerging directors, including Josué Méndez's Gods (Best Peruvian Feature, Lima Latin American Film Festival), Alejandro Gerber Bicecci's Becloud (Special Mention, Morelia International Film Festival) and GFI grant-recipient Enrique Buchichio's Leo's Room (Official Selection, San Sebastian International Film Festival).

Global Lens, now in its seventh year, will premiere in January 2010 at the Museum of Modern Art and other locations in New York before embarking on a yearlong tour of over 35 cities across the United States and Canada. The series will also be released throughout the year on Virgin America airlines as part of an ongoing partnership between the Global Film Initiative and Virgin America, and be presented as a special showcase in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February to inaugurate the launch of the newly established Puerto Rico Film Society.

Global Lens 2010 films

Adrift (Choi Voi), dir. Bui Thac Chuyen, Vietnam, 2009—A young wife, ignored by her immature spouse, is caught in a love triangle between her best friend and a handsome stranger during a languorous summer in Hanoi. The first film from Vietnam to officially take part in the Venice International, Adrift was awarded the FIPRESCI Horizons and Critics' Week Prize. Adrift was likewise featured in the Contemporary World Cinema sidebar at the 2009 Toronto International where Raymond Phathanavirangoon observed Director Chuyen's skillful use of "languid takes to highlight the emptiness and solitude of the characters, while slowly expanding the story to encompass a whole cast of fascinating personalities. Even more remarkable are the moments of sheer eroticism—all subtly executed with nary a glimpse of flesh."

Becloud (Vaho), dir. Alejandro Gerber Bicecci, Mexico, 2009—After years of separation, three boyhood friends reunite in Mexico City to overcome a tragedy that scarred their neighborhood, and childhood, years before. José reluctantly works at his father's ice factory in a poor urban district; Felipe works at an Internet café, where he cultivates a voyeuristic crush on a customer; and Andrés spends his free time with a group devoted to a pre-Columbian golden age. Friends since boyhood, the three young men are linked by a defining incident that connects the destinies of their entire neighborhood. Bicecci's enthralling mix of history, memory, guilt, and atonement turns a tangled neighborhood tale into a sly parable about modern Mexico itself.

Gods (Dioses), dir. Josué Méndez, Peru, 2008—Elisa, a wealthy industrialist's young working-class fiancée, plunges into the extravagance of her lavish new life as stepmother to two troubled children—Diego and Andrea—who self-destruct in a series of desperate attempts to escape their privileged upbringing. Diego reluctantly prepares himself for a career at his overbearing father's factory, and his sister Andrea indulges sexual promiscuity as an emotionally aimless party-girl. Backed by excellent performances and stylishly composed images of domestic seaside splendor, the sharp dialogue infuses brittle manners with the promise of destructive mayhem. Ultimately, Méndez's coolly scathing satire of Peru's upper classes conveys the anguished hollowness beneath shallow spirituality and material extravagance. As director Méndez states it: "Diego struggles to find a place in this upper-class society where all characters behave as gods: beyond rules, beyond morality and beyond belief." Winner of the Golden Sun Award at the Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema and Best Sound at the Havana Film Festival.

Leo's Room (El Cuarto de Leo), dir. Enrique Buchichio, Uruguay, 2009—Leo is a handsome but secretly troubled young man who wraps himself in the comfort of his music, hides behind the white lies he tells his family and friends, and treasures the privacy of his small rented room. When his relationship with a woman dissolves due to his impotence, he begins tentatively cruising the Internet for male companionship and undergoing analysis with a sympathetic therapist. But an encounter with an old primary school classmate, a woman with secret troubles of her own, leads to a friendship that slowly reshapes their lives and offers new directions. Neil Young hails "the brief appearances of Rafael Soliwoda as Leo's live-in landlord Felipe—from whom he rents the pokey, underfurnished habitacion of the title—an unflappable couch-potato whose cereal-munching, TV-glued inertia makes the feckless Leo look like a paragon of decisive dynamism."

Masquerades (Mascarades), dir. Lyes Salem, Algeria, 2008—Mounir, a "horticultural engineer" (i.e., part-time gardener) for a wealthy estate owner, dreams of improving his small family's lot and gaining a measure of respect in his dusty Algerian village. He's determined to marry off his narcoleptic sister, Rym, to a "real gentleman," but Rym dreams of marrying Khliffa, his best friend. When Mounir counters village gossip with a fib that he's promised Rym to a wealthy outsider, she embraces the rumor to press Khliffa into action. The town rallies around the fictional nuptials, propelling Mounir to big-shot status by association, and swelling his impressionable ego beyond recognition. This charming romantic comedy suggests that when dreams turn into reality, it's time to wake up.

A narcoleptic sister as a character, writes Film-Forward "would usually be grist for farce. Instead, the gossip, misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and Pyramus-and-Thisbe-like romance her condition sets off are handled with charming humor and affection for village life." At Variety, Ronnie Scheib concurs: "It may not be P.C. to make fun of narcolepsy, but when servicing the slapstick requirements of thoughtful—even socially conscious—comedy, the joke has much less to do with real illness than with classically executed farce." Scheib's rave review adds that as "an accomplished comedy of manners" Masquerades "deftly tosses matrimony, celebrity and narcolepsy into a potent brew with international appeal. A likable cast, a witty star turn by Salem, faultless staging and a neatly inflected pace contribute to a modest but sparkling romp that has racked up several fest prizes."

At Screen, Fionnuala Halligan writes: "Genuinely amusing, if not downright funny at times, Lyes Salem's biggest asset in Masquerades is himself, playing the pop-eyed, misguided, at times quite delusional Mounir…. The score is whimsical, but not obtrusive; Masquerades' script is surprisingly tight, and technically the venture is assured. Undoubtedly, Masquerades marks Salem out as a talent we'll certainly be seeing more of; and if his next work is as genial as this, the pleasure will be all ours."

The Arts Desk, Sheila Johnston writes that Masquerades is a "battle of the sexes, a comedy of errors and a cutting satire" that succeeds as "a broad, madcap farce." Johnston adds: "Salem, 36, …paints an unvarnished portrait of his mother country as hobbled by poverty, unemployment, corruption and antiquated patriarchal prejudice, but also as a place of spectacular wild beauty and one where sheer humanity compensates for a multitude of sins." Though she qualifies that the French critics who "have invoked the spirits of Moliere, Almodovar, Kusterica" are "over-excited", she concluces that Masquerades "is conceived on an altogether more modest scale and has a much more sentimental streak than those masters; but that should not deter from its unassuming, captivating achievement."

My Tehran For Sale, dir. Granaz Moussavi, Iran, 2009—After two years of detention in Australia, an ailing Iranian asylum seeker wearily relates her story to her by-the-book government handler. Through a series of flashbacks, this riveting look inside Iran's capital city introduces Marzieh, a serious actress unable to perform openly under Iran's oppressive regime, as she develops a doomed relationship with Saman, an Iranian-born Australian citizen with whom she plans to relocate to Adelaide. Poet-turned-filmmaker Moussavi reveals the restive underground culture flourishing beneath Tehran's authoritarian order.

Screen, Frank Hatherly declares that Moussavi's "cry from the heart" will be "a surefire festival favorite." ABC's Margaret Pomeranz states it is "an ode to a city under cultural siege." Reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are more qualified.

Ocean Of An Old Man, dir. Rajesh Shera, India, 2008—Set in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands off the eastern coast of India in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami, Shera's debut feature is a delicate meditation on grief and loss amid stunning natural beauty. An elderly British teacher runs a small school serving the children of the neighboring islands, several of whom have disappeared after a catastrophic wave that killed thousands. Reeling from the loss of his own family and haunted by memories and dreams, he guides—and follows—the children as they come to terms with the tragedy.

Ordinary People, dir. Vladimir Perisic, Serbia, 2009—One quiet afternoon, a busload of young soldiers is unexpectedly forced to question the morality of their profession after being enlisted to execute civilian prisoners at a remote facility in the Serbian countryside. Ordinary People screened in the Critics Week at Cannes, where Variety's Jordan Minzer described the "staged hyperrealism" of Perisic's film as a "landmine" in which the director exhibits an "unquestionable talent for finding beauty within bloodshed." At Screen, Howard Feinstein observed that the film's title—which will, invariably, be confused with Redford's 1980 feature—"succinctly sums up its subject: soldiers who violate international law during wartime without self-judgment, viewing their acts as banalities on the same level as smoking a cigarette or brushing their teeth." At The Hollywood Reporter, Jon Frosch emphasized: "Perisic hints at the psychological toll of these acts through a repeated shot of Dzoni staring at his hands, followed by a close-up of the hands themselves, summing up the character's disbelief at how quickly and capably he has learned to kill." At Cineuropa, Fabian Lemercier concluded: "This clinical description of a terrifying reality is explored in a realist style and looks at the symbolic initiation to evil, giving Ordinary People a universal and philosophical resonance."

The Shaft (Dixia De Tiankong), dir. Zhang Chi, China, 2008—In Zhang's wise, visually poetic, and wonderfully acted debut, set in a poor mining town in western China, three distinct stories revolve around a father and his two children. When the attractive daughter is accused of an affair with the mine manager, she loses the respect of the workers and her devoted boyfriend; her brother dreams of being a singer, but after an unforeseen stint in prison he reluctantly heads into the mines like his father before him; and their father finally reaches retirement, only to spend it looking for the longlost first love who left him many years before. Like the industry that plunges deep below the delicate but scarred countryside, The Shaft plumbs its characters' seemingly stoic surfaces to unveil the turmoil of emotions and desires beneath.

Featured in the Lincoln Center's 2009
New Directors / New Films series, The Shaft impressed Brandon Harris for delving deeply into notions of filial responsibility and questioning the "subservience of one's desires to that of the state (or its preferred means of ideological control, the patriarchal family)." At Variety, Alissa Simon extolled the film's "gritty power", singling out Luo Deyuan's performance of the aging father Baogen as "shatteringly poignant", and noted how The Shaft's "visuals continually stress geography as destiny, with train tracks overhead and upwardly winding roads contrasting with the miners' descent into the shaft. Motif of the mine's elevator cage slamming shut also serves as a metaphor for their feelings of being trapped."

Shirley Adams, dir. Oliver Hermanus, South Africa, 2009—In the depressed Cape Town neighborhood of Cape Flats, a single mother contemplates her fate and cautiously accepts the help of an overeager social worker as she struggles to care for her paraplegic and suicidal son. Winner of Best South African Film, Best Actress, and Best First Feature Film at the Durban International Film Festival (where it was hailed by the Festival Jurors as "a South African masterpiece"), Denise Newman's titular performance in Shirley Adams has received stunning accolades throughout its festival trajectory. At The Hollywood Reporter, Ray Bennett exclaims that Newman's "extraordinary" performance sets the bar for best actress awards this year. Variety's Jay Weissberg describes her performance as "wrenching" and notes that the "inherent power of the story makes it practically impossible not to get an emotional rise out of the audience." In his capsule for the 2009 Toronto International, Cameron Bailey praises Newman's "authentic, fully realized" performance along with the film's overall intimacy and restraint.

Global Lens 2010 will also present the award-winning film The Night of Truth (dir. Fanta Regina Nacro, Burkina Faso) as part of the Initiative's retrospective program, Chairman's Choice, which was established in 2009 to re-introduce exceptional films from the Global Lens Collection for theatrical exhibition. The Night of Truth originally appeared in Global Lens 2006.

The Global Film Initiative is a U.S.-based, 501(c)3 organization specializing in the acquisition, distribution and support of independent film from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Founded in 2002 with the mission of promoting cross-cultural understanding through the universal language of cinema, each year the Initiative awards numerous grants to deserving filmmakers from around the world, and supports a touring film series entitled Global Lens. For more information about the Global Lens film series and Global Film Initiative programs, please visit: http://www.globalfilm.org.

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Joe said...

I'm really anticipating this year's line-up. Thanks for the write-up!

Jim Gerow said...

Michael, thanks for the writeup on Global Lens. I saw The Shaft at New Directors and highly recommend it--poignant and visually striking, with a documentary-like feel for location. Look forward to seeing some others when the series comes to MoMA. Leo's Room looks especially interesting.

Maya said...

You're welcome, Joe. Let me know what you think once you've had a chance to see them.