Brooklyn: Press Conference with Director John Crowley, Screenwriter Nick Hornby, Novelist Colm Toibin, Producer Finola Dwyer and Actress Saoirse Ronan
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
A press conference for Brooklyn was held October 13, 2015 in London as part of the 2015 BFI London Film Festival. Brooklyn (United Kingdom/Ireland/Canada) is based on the novel by Colm Toibin about a young Irish girl who decides to go America after WWII to find a job. The film follows her trip, homesickness, employment, friends and eventual boyfriend and then dealing with troubles back in Ireland. Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis Lacey who ends up working in Brooklyn in a department store, lives in a house run by Julie Walters, and is befriended by local priest played by Jim Broadbent. There have been rumors of Oscar nominations for Ronan and possibly Walters. The cinematography and 1950s clothing and scenery are remarkably well done.
Screenwriter Nick Hornby, Actress Saiorse Ronan, Director John Crowley at the London Film Festival
Moderator Angie Enigo: Colm, what was your biggest anxiety about transferring the book into a film?
Colm Toibin: In the book the world that Eilis navigates is so full of people helping her in some way, especially in America and the flavors of that I must admit I think the movie captured maybe better than the book. It may have taken five pages in the book to describe a scene and Eilis reaction, but on screen just Saorise’s look and turn of the head captured all of it amazingly.
Moderator: Saorise, you are the right age of going from adolescence to young womanhood and have traveled. You also have the personal background of living both in Ireland and New York, but was there some other personal connection that drew you to do the film?
Saorise Ronan: I’ve had that feeling of belonging in two different places but you can’t really return to some idea of home again. You are also not quite settled in this new place either. From the time I met John, I had that feeling. I read the book which completely speaks to you. I also found it quite unusual sometimes to not quite turn off your emotions at the end of the day.
Moderator: John, you have a long theatre career and working with actors is like meat and drink to you, but this was a huge undertaking. You shot in three countries with a large cast. What was the biggest challenge for you?
John Crowley: Saorise can address that also. There were different characteristics shooting in all three areas, Ireland, Montreal and New York. We shot out of order, so that was sometimes challenging and yet be consistant.
Moderator: Nick, you’re not a young Irish girl, but you’ve been so successful writing women’s roles lately, what element in this story did you most want to focus on?
Nick Hornby: This was an extremely well written and classic work that doesn’t come about every day. There are also wonderful main and supporting characters that you don’t always get. Many characters are concerned about Eilis.
Press Question: For Saoirse, the film captures that buttoned up old-fashioned romance from the 1950’s. Would you like to see some of that kind of romance return to our lives or do you think in our busy lives today, is social media ok or more appropriate or other methods?
Saoirse Ronan: I think that is a very personal choice on how people now find each other. It is scary sometimes that technology has taken over our lives so much, but it’s not really emotional. It’s more looking at the screen and the person in front of you. The movie has certain steps, dating, marriage, sex, children, etc. even though you’ve got those bubbling feelings. I think that can be exciting.
Press Question: When I read the book I felt more drawn to Brooklyn than to Ireland but in the movie I felt more torn and there was more of a balance where she could have chosen either place. Was that intentional or not to make the Irish part more attractive?
John Crowley: Yes we tried to make it more balanced and a real decision for Eilis but really once the cat was out of the bag about her marriage in Brooklyn she had no choice.
Nick Hornby: We wanted to show the time and investment in Brooklyn she and Tony gave to dating and romance. So we wanted the audience to feel her dilemma.
The movie provides more story on her return to Ireland. In the book when Jim is presented it still leaves you with the feeling there is no way she will stay in Ireland and give up Tony. So unlike the book, the screenplay had to find a way to present Jim as a possible proper suitor.
Press Question: Saoirse, what was your opinion of the fashion of this time? Do you want to keep dresses from the film or like that?
John Crowley: We needed to recreate that period. I stressed to our costume designer that I needed wearable clothes, not costumes. So we needed a little bit of pop culture in some of the American girls. There was a sense of glamour then but realistic.
Saoirse Ronan: There is a confidence she has also in wearing the clothes which I noticed from wearing the clothes. Everything even with undergarments is so delicate. We really notice when she returns to Ireland how much she shines and the pop colors of her dresses capture her new popularity. Even the sun glasses are a statement. I remember myself when younger thinking they were too flashy, well you don’t need sun glasses in Ireland often anyway for protection (laughter). But she needed confidence to show in her clothing, so rather than just green we played with the color palette and you see her also wearing bright reds and yellows. Also in the 1950s girls were encouraged to have curves, boobs, and a bum, unlike now. It was considered quite healthy then to have properly fitted bras and skirts. I wanted that yellow coat but no.
Press Question: Saoirse do you live in Ireland now?
Saoirse Ronan: I do live there part time but was living in London when I was contacted about the film. I lived in New York when I was young also. Ireland will always be my base, but I may live in a different city. I am actually also moving to New York soon also. I left Ireland when I was 3 years old and lived in New York and it and Ireland complement each other so much. New York is a place I want to be when young but Ireland is my true home and where I will often go.
Press Question: Your male co-stars aren’t here today, but could you talk about working with them?
Saoirse Ronan: It’s odd having two main male characters or hunks, but they represent two different worlds. They are both wonderful young men and offer her different lives or worlds and working with Emory and Domhnall was great. She responds to both of them. I’ve known Domhnall for years and we were supposed to have worked in about three films and never did. He’s very funny on set and can get you to giggle. Emory works in a different way with lots of preparation.
Press Question: My question is for Nick and the fears or anxieties you have working on a well-known novel and if you contacted the author?
Nick Hornby: Yes I was anxious, since this is a loved novel. But Colm was so hands off on this and he trusted the film to get on with it. We met once and he gave me some good suggestions such as not saying “rashers and bacon”, just say rashers. Also saying ma my not maymy.
Moderator: Yes it is very rare to have the novelist and the screenwriter on a panel.
Colm Toibin: Yes, it was those two items really that I advised on.
Press Question: What was it like having Julie Waters as the landlady? Was there lots of laughing on the set?
Saoirse Ronan: She was amazing and surprisingly a very humble person. She would scrunch up her face if laughed to get ready for the next take. She would help us with our lines. She had a wonderful team like energy. We did all those eight dinner scenes in about 2 days.
Press Question: Did the locals in Ireland have a proprietary air?
John Crowley: No the original shop is still there in Enniscorthy. There isn’t a strong film culture in that area of Ireland so it gave them pride about the town. If you are up around 6 am you only see those who were out late. It’s a work ethic town. Another film was shot in the town in the 1970s but we did have some crowds and lots of need for extras for the town folk. There will be a screening in the town but only so much space in the theatre so I am still getting letters asking if their cousin or other can still get into the screening.
Press Question: Saoirse, after reading the book and the script and seeing the movie, what would you have done personally at the end?
Saoirse Ronan: What would I do? It’s tough, I could justify her staying in Ireland with her mother. It will always be simple in a way and have some security. It’s hard to say but I think I would go to New York, because she has the experience of now traveling and finding herself elsewhere which would be hard to give up.
John Crowley: We can say living now she would have a choice, but in 1950’s Ireland once Nettles Kelley knows she has been married in Brooklyn, she has no real choice.
Press Question: You did a remarkable change from greasy skinned Eilis in Ireland to confident, coiffed and made up Eilis in New York. How did you do that?
Saoirse Ronan: I think the clothes again were important. Also wearing high heels made you confident to practice and carry that off.
John Crowley: Also the make-up and where the scene was done had to show difference in her attitude and look from earlier in Ireland. We didn’t want the film to be sentimental, but a confident emotional film of her long journey.
Colm Toibin: I love the scene with Nettles Kelley when Eilis just turns her head in indifference which is wonderful and not in the book.
Brooklyn will open around November 20, 2015 in the DC area.
Trumbo: Press conference at London Film Festival
By James McCaskill, DC Film Society Member
A press conference on Trumbo was held at the London Film Festival. Taking part were the moderator Dave Calhoun and actors Bryon Cranston, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.
Left to right: Actors Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren and John Goodman at the London Film Festival Press Conference.
Dalton Trumbo was a Communist; he had been since 1943. He was also one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood, having written all or some of sixty-nine films. He was also a passionate believer that the First Amendment to the Constitution gave him certain rights. This was a dangerous mix that resulted in Trumbo being sentenced to eleven months in prison even though he had committed no crime. What he had done was to stand up to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Trumbo, along with other Hollywood insiders became famously known as the Hollywood Ten. Upon release from prison no one would hire them, they were blacklisted.
The moderator asked Cranston what was the message of the film. "The message resonates internationally about rhe results when a government overreaches; that's a cause for alarm. A man went to prison for a year for committing no crime." John Goodman added, "It is a cautionary tale. It happens now. Actors who receive bad headlines, such as OJ Simpson, can't work." Helen Mirren, who plays gossip columnist Hedda Hopper who gave names to the Committee and named probable Communists in her column said, "It is a story about the fearful power of the press. Instead of challenging it acquiesces."
When asked about the lingering fears generated by McCarthyism Goodman said, "There were a lot of troubled actors when I started, a great deal of resentment. Great fear. A lot of people were affected."
The moderator asked about the effect in Britain. Helen Mirren said, "Britain benefitted. Directors came to the UK. Art film directors worked in Britain."
Cranston was asked about possible future plans. "A cameo in Better Call Saul? I would do it. A quote he liked in the film was the one his character said about John Wayne, who had given names to the Committee. 'We both have the right to be wrong.'"
Akinnuoye-Agbaje said on the effect of the Hollywood Ten on film today, "History impacts and themes resonate. It is the nature of writers, wordsmiths use words their audience might not like."
Cranston responded to a press question, "I try to make the best film possible. This is an important film told with humor. I would not do a film that perpetuated ideas I don't like. I may play a character who believes things I don't." Goodman added, "I would not do it."
Mirren was asked about the many exuberant hats her character wore: "I love hats. I loved all of them. My costumes were brilliant What fun to wear hats." On Hedda Hopper, Mirren said, "She would have scared the shit out of me. A bit nerve wracking to play."
On what they thought broke the power of the Hollywood Blacklist. Cranston said, "Kirk [Douglas] taking the risk to insist that Dalton be named as screenwriter for Spartacus and Otto Preminger stubbornly insisting that Trumbo be credited for Exodus. "Hollywood has always been political, circumstantial if nothing else'" said Cranston.
One small actor who the audience loved was the tiny parakeet. "The bird," said Cranston. "I loved the little bird. His name was Sloppy Joe, He loved to preen my mustache. He would rub against me. They arranged his preening to make it look like he is kissing me."
Another press question about the use of humor in the film. "Not filmed as a comedy. We did a read through," answered Cranston, "The approach was not comedic. Jay (Roach, the director) can see the humor in human behavior. Jay filmed Game Change and the TV movie, Recount.
A member of the press asked about censorship in Hollywood. Cranston said, "Some self-imposed. There is no blacklist as such in Hollywood but if you have skeletons coming out of your closet people don't want to work with you. OJ Simpson was slated to make a film, people started dropping out. The film was not made. Hope there is no political list in Hollywood. After 35 years in show business there are only four people I would not want to work with again." Akinnuoye-Agbaje said on this point, "You have a lot more to sacrifice. You never know what you would do."
Trumbo will open soon in the DC area.
The 40th Toronto International Film Festival
By Ron Gordner, DC Film Society Member
The 40th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was held from September 10-20, 2015 showcasing about 399 films (including 110 shorts, and 289 features, documentaries, and retrospectives) and 132 world premieres from approximately 71 countries, chosen from over 6,118 submitted films. It was attended by over 473,000 people, 5,400 industry personnel, and 1,200 journalists. It was the 40th Anniversary of the festival with the theme: Defining Moments since 1976. Starting out as a collection of films from other festivals — a "festival of festivals" — the Toronto International Film Festival has now become one of the most beloved cinematic events in the world, universally regarded as an ideal platform for filmmakers to launch their careers and to premiere their new work and one of the major film festivals where public screenings are held. A few films from major studios or highly anticipated indie films this year did not see the need to spend advertising at festivals or skipped TIFF this year were films like Carol, Steve Jobs, Suffragette, Joy, The Hateful Eight and Revenant. TIFF has a large economic impact on Canada, Ontario and Toronto since it brings in over $170 million Canadian dollars annually and currently employs more than 100 full time staff, 500 part time and seasonal staff and over 2,000 volunteers. The festival has become progressively more expensive per ticket depending on the venue and category, but is still one of the largest festivals offering public screenings.
TIFF has sections or categories of films and also has some art installations. Sections this year were: Gala Presentations, Masters, Special Presentations, TIFF for free (some free films publicly screened outdoors and a free additional screening of the Audience Award winner on the last Sunday), Discovery (first and second time filmmakers), TIFF DOCS (documentaries), Vanguard, City to City (this year’s selection was several films about London, England), Mavericks (engaging, on-stage discussions with cutting edge and established filmmakers), Contemporary World Cinema, Canadian Programming, TIFF KIDS, Visions (filmmakers who challenge our notions of mainstream cinema), Wavelengths (avant garde cinema), and their famous Midnight Madness section (primarily horror and black comedy films screening at Midnight with usually an appreciative and rowdy crowd). The Wavelengths category described as: daring, visionary, and autonomous voices. Two new programs this year were Platform and Primetime. Platform named for Jia Zhang-ke’s film is a juried section spotlighting the next generation of film masters and a chance to discover new visionary cinema. Primetime included serial television storytelling that shows how recent tv films are blurring the line between big screen and small screen viewing experiences.
TIFF has become a major market and sales stop for films to North America. There is a small market at the Venice Festival but it is really Toronto where they are primarily sold. Over 5,400 industry delegates from over 80 countries came to Toronto this year. 2015 was not a stellar sales year at TIFF since many of the films came with distributors already attached. Some of the deals made included Paramount Pictures picking up Anomalisa, Bleeker Street picking up Eye in the Sky, and two other projects Into the Forest and Hardcore were other films sold.
Legal issues prevented two films from being screened that were planned to be shown at TIFF this year. Aretha Franklin threatened legal action on the biopic Amazing Grace by director Sydney Pollack in 1972 that had not been completed. The film records Aretha Franklin gospel performances at the Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles which later became her best-selling album Amazing Grace. The other film pulled from screening was the United States/United Kingdom co-production London Fields, which is a crime thriller starring Jaimie Alexander and Amber Heard. The director Matthew Cullen objected to the movie cut being shown without his permission or final say.
I thought the selections this year were all good to very good since I have attended the festival including top notch Hollywood or American indie films. I only saw a few films that could be described as mediocre of about 55 films seen. Although a few film goers reported some films they thought dreadful, I did not see any I would consider really bad, but will discuss some that are divisive it seems between public and critics/industry or press audiences. One film however many found confounding and too abstract was the Canadian film Endorphines. Another film that I found disappointing was Ma ma by Spanish director Julio Medem who has had wonderful films in the past like Sex and Lucia and Lovers of the Arctic Circle. Ma ma stars Penelope Cruz and Luis Tosar in an over the top melodrama involving a pregnant woman with cancer. It’s amazing how Cruz’s character never shows physical evidence of her disease.
There were also some divisive films that either the public liked and critics didn’t such as my guilty pleasures: Men and Chicken from Denmark‘s director/writer Anders Thomas Jensen. It is an odd film about strange family eugenics on a remote island and a black comedy with animals everywhere (reminiscent also of this year’s Lobster). The Dressmaker, a quirky, Australian funny hoot of a film starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving which many critics panned. On the other hand, critics seemed to like films like Victoria with the one long panned shots and over the top actions of films like 11 Minutes that I found the shaky camerawork or Run Lola Run or Birdman paced action sometimes hokey or nauseating although the plots were interesting.
MUST SEE FILMS: (I did not include some excellent films at TIFF2015 already seen closely before or after TIFF in DC previews and a few have already opened now in DC such as Black Mass. Some additional films not discussed here that reliable sources on the street or in reviews also said were very good or excellent are: Assassins, Heart of a Dog, Brooklyn, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi and The Wave).
Dheepan (Jacques Audiard, France, 2015). Palme d”Or or Golden Palm winner at the Cannes film festival in 2015. The story begins in Sri Lanka where after battles, a Tamil soldier, a young woman and a girl in a refugee camp create a fake family to secure escape to France from aid workers. Once in France, not all is wonderful either with violence to refugees and a daily struggle to survive. The film will open in December in the U.S.
French Blood (Un Francais) (Diateme, France, 2015). Marco is a skin-head from the France’s Front National white power group. He is violent like his mates and the film spans 20 years of his life and how his views on life radically change in that time. Actor Alban Lenoir vividly captures the violent behavior of extremists, but also the torment of a lost soul.
Girls Lost (Pojkarn) (Alexandra-Therese Keining; Sweden, 2015). Based on an award winning young adult novel in Sweden, this film captures teen sexual awakening, gender confusion, and sci-fi plots of three adolescent outsider girls who transform themselves overnight into boys with help from a plant. A rare plot that seems untold before.
Land of Mine (Under Sandet/Unter dem Sand) (Martin Zandvliet; Denmark/Germany, 2015). After World War II ends, German soldiers are commandeered to defuse and remove landmines the Germans put along the Danish coastline. A Danish Army sergeant is given a group of very young German soldiers to clear part of the coastline. Danish hate for German occupancy and the dangerous job given the soldiers creates a very tense plot. At my screening, the movie was briefly stopped when an audience member fainted from the film’s portrayal of the harm bombs can cause. Surprisingly Denmark chose a film called War over this film for its foreign language nominee for 2016.
The Martian (Ridley Scott; United States, 2015). This film has already played in DC theaters with Matt Damon as the stranded astronaut on Mars and his determined survival instincts. Matt Damon may get a nomination for best actor.
The Man Who Knew Infinity (Matthew Brown, United Kingdom, 2015). A beautifully told biopic story starring Jeremy Irons as G. H. Hardy, a renowned Cambridge University math professor and Dev Patel as Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian genius and mathematician who had very little formal education at the turn of the 20th century. Many cannot see his brilliance, only the color of his skin.
Mountain (Yaelle Kayam; Israel/Denmark, 2015). An Orthodox family lives near the Old Jerusalem City Mount of Olives cemetery. We slowly discover the secret life of the mother Tzvia after her husband and four children leave for the day. She is fascinated by the outside world and its strangeness but must make a decision on which world she will choose to remain in. One of the most surprising films I saw in the festival.
Patch of Fog (Michael Lennox, United Kingdom, 2015). A thriller and black comedy based in Belfast between a security guard and Sandy Duffy, a well-known author/professor and tv personality. Each man has many secrets. The director did the wonderful nominated short last year: Boogaloo and Graham.
Rams (Grimur Hakonarson Iceland, 2015). The film has been chosen as Iceland’s foreign language nominee and was the winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Two older brothers rarely speak to each other but live on adjacent rural sheep farms. A wonderful dark comedy and morality tale of sibling rivalry.
Room (Lenny Abrahamson; Ireland/Canada; 2015). Winner of the audience award at TIFF, it is hard to believe this is the same director that did last year’s Frank. Based on best-selling Irish Canadian novelist Emma Donaghue, Room is a story of a kidnapping, rape and later a child raised in a small shed for several years. Brie Larson as the mother and Jacob Tremblay as the five year old Jack have been lauded with much praise for their acting.
Son of Saul (Xavier Dolan; Hungary, 2015). Hungary’s foreign film nominee for 2016. Grand Prix winner at this year’s Cannes festival. A new story about the Holocaust based on a member of the concentration camp’s Sonderdommando unit who finds a young boy who may be his son among the heaps of bodies. Outstanding cinematography and acting. I found it difficult to believe this film did not win the top prize or Golden Palm at Cannes.
Sparrows (Runar Runarrson; Iceland/Denmark; 2015). A second excellent film from the small country of Iceland. A teenage boy must leave his comfortable life and home in Reykjavik to live with his estranged drinking father in the remote rural landscape of Iceland. How he adjusts to the new land and his family are well drawn. The film won best film or Golden Seashell at this year’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
Sunset Song (Terence Davies; United Kingdom/Luxembourg, 2015). Based on the famous 1932 Scottish novel of the same name by Lewis Grassic Gibbons about a young farm girl and her choices at the time. Peter Mullan plays the stern father and Ayness Deyn the daughter Chris who finds that an independent woman can have some choices. Reminiscent of Far from the Madding Crowd but with beautiful cinematography of Scotland; it marks another treasure in Davies’ memory realism ouevre of films.
A Young Patriot (Shao Nian, Xiao Zhao) (Du Haibin, China/United States/France, 2015). A sobering documentary based on young 19 year old Zhao, proudly waving the Chinese flag and marching in the streets. He travels to the rural Shanxi province to indoctrinate the rural folk about Mao and also to promote education. He finds corruption at various levels of civil and higher government and questions what the future will be for China.
VERY GOOD FILMS:
45 Years (Andrew Haigh; United Kingdom, 2015). Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtney star as a couple about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary in a remote Norfolk village. Party preparations, old photos and old memories bubble to the top in this restrained but emotional film about memories and loyalty and sudden questioning, what if I had done something different all those years ago.
Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, United States, 2015). A stop motion animation film is somewhat of a romance of two strangers who meet. Motivational speaker Michael Stone (David Thewliss) meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in Cincinnati on a speaking tour. Lisa is clearly different than others he has met or his family at home.
Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga; France, 2015). A film funded by Netflix. A boy Agu (Abraham Attah) is captured in his African village and made into a child soldier to work under his commandant (Idris Elba). His life as a child soldier is very sobering and Attah was named best actor in Venice this year at its festival.
The Club (Pablo Larrain; Chile, 2015). Chile’s foreign language nominee for 2016 also played recently at the AFI Latin American Film Festival. A household of priests in a seaside town is visited by another priest and many secrets are unfolded.
Far Away (Desda Alla) (Lorenzo Vigas; Venezuela, 2015). Winner of best film this year in Venice is an odd dark film about classes in society still. Armando (Alfredo Castro) upper class dentures maker, like to single out young adolescent boys and pay them to undress, but does not touch them. He develops a strange intimacy after violence with a boy Elder that goes farther than he could imagine.
Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamanta;Guatemala/France, 2015). Guatemala’s foreign language nominee for 2016 also screened at this year’s AFI’s Latin America Film Festival and won the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. 17 year old Maria and her family pick coffee beans but the family needs money and he foreman has a solution. She and her family don’t speak Spanish well but she must travel to the city to visit relatives in the hospital. It is a depiction of the classes in Guatemala society.
James White (Josh Mond, United States, 2015). Mond’s first feature film set in New York City, stars Christopher Abbott as late twenties deadbeat who has still not quite gotten everything together, including a study job. Cynthia Nixon plays his mother who is battling cancer. Extreme close up photography and Abbott’s and Nixon’s fearless acting make this a breakthrough indie American film. It opens in November 2015 in DC.
The Lobster (Yagos Lanthnimos; Ireland/United Kingdom/Greece/France/Netherlands; 2015). After Lanthnimos did the nominated Dogtooth, he returns with another black comedy starring Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz. Another film about warped societal rules, here lonely singles go to a secluded hotel and have 45 days to find a soul mate or be turned into an animal of their choice.
London Road (Rufus Norris; United Kingdom, 2015). City to city entrée for London this is a verbal musical based on a stage musical. It has been performed in England and also in Toronto on the stage before. It is based on the reactions of the London Road residents in Ipswich after several prostitutes have been murdered on their streets.
Mustang (Eniz Gamze Erguven; Turkey/France/Germany, 2015). An astounding first feature film from Erguven about five sisters in a remote Turkish seaside village who live with their grandmother and constantly test the societal and religious rules on how young women should dress and deport themselves. The daughters’ stories are somewhat reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof. An audience pleaser receiving a standing ovation at my screening. The surprising choice for France, not Turkey as their foreign language nominee over Cannes winner Dheepan. Cohen Media Group is the U.S. distributor and it may come out in late November or early December in selected cities.
Wedding Doll (Nitzan Gilady; Israel, 2015). Hagit (Moran Rosenblatt) is a mildly mentally disabled pretty young woman who dreams of being in love and getting married (reminiscent of Muriel’s Wedding) and is closely guarded by her mother. She works part time in small business making toilet paper which she fashions into wedding dolls and their dresses. Her mother Sarah (Asi Levi) plays the over protective parent and won best actress at the 2015 Jerusalem Film Festival. She tries to give Hagit some range of freedom and have time to build her own personal life. Can Hagit successfully separate her fantasies of love and marriage with the real world?
Baba Joon (Yuval Delshad; Israel, 2015). The first Persian language film shot in Israel deals with the widening gap of a father and his young 13 year old son who doesn’t want to work on the turkey farm the rest of his life. Delshad also wrote the screenplay based in part on his own memories of growing up in an Iranian immigrant family. Baba Joon has been selected as Israel’s foreign language nominee and is in Farsi and Hebrew.
Bleak Street (Arturo Ripstein; Mexico/Spain, 2015). Filmed in black and white by the Mexican film master Ripstein again captures the plight of the lower classes in Mexico. Loosely based on the 2009 deaths of fraternal little people wrestlers, this is a tale of exploited entertainers, aging prostitutes, and the mix of desperation and despair of life.
Box (Florin Serban; Romania/Germany/France, 2015). From the director of acclaimed film If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle this film details the building passion of two passing strangers; 19 year old Rafael trying to be a boxer and 34 year old Cristina, a married actress. Winner of the FIPRESCI award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this year.
The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper; United Kingdom 2015). Hooper was director of The King’s Speech this time has the story of Einar and Gerda, successful Danish painters and married couple in the 1920s. Einar finds he likes dressing like a woman named Lilly and the story is based on one of the first attempts for gender reassignment surgery. Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander are excellent in their roles which may become Oscar nominations, but the film itself seems a bit flat. The film should open around Thanksgiving or soon after in the U.S.
Disorder (Maryland) (Alice Winocur; France/Belgium; 2015). An effective thriller starring Diane Kruger and Matthias Schoenaerts as her bodyguard. Although Vincent (Schoenaerts) is an excellent bodyguard thanks to his military training, he also has some traumatic issue of his own like other combat soldiers dealing with PTSD. She also co-wrote the screenplay for Mustang.
Guilty (Talvar) (Meghna Gulzar; India, 2015). Indian star Irrfan Khan (Lunchbox) stars as a police detective in this feature film based on the notorious 2008 Noira Doubel Murder Case. Is an honor killing or servant involved in the murder or are these red herrings to the case? The film played already in Virginia theatres that regularly show Indian films.
Homesick (Anne Sewitsky; Norway; 2015). From the director of the successful film Happy Happy this time gives us a tale of two young adults trying to find the feeling of home. Charlotte and her half-brother Henrik were separated many years ago and reuniting leads to the age-old taboo of incest and resolution.
Magallanes (Salvador del Solar; Peru/Argentina/Colombia/Spain, 2015). Taxi driver Magallanes (Mexican star Damian Alcazar) one day has a young indigenous girl Celina enter his cab. She does not recognize him, but he recognizes her as a girl years ago his Colonel (Frederico Luppi) had kidnapped and raped. He wonders if he can blackmail the Colonel or his family for money.
One Breath (Christian Zubert; Germany; 2015). Elena decides to go to Germany to get a job and leave Athens and her boyfriend. Tessa is a mother who decides to return to work and find a nanny. The two women’s lives become tangled and the welfare of the women and children become involved in a fast paced thriller.
Parisienne (Danielle Arbid; France, 2015). Eighteen year old Lina arrives from Beirut to stay with her uncle who turns out to be a letch. She escapes to Paris with nothing and hopes to find a room and go to college. What enfolds is what can happen to a young immigrant woman in Paris today until she finds her grounding.
The Price of Love (Hermon Hailay; Ethiopia, 2015). A gritty story of what can happen to pretty girls from villages who sold or lured into prostitution in Addis Ababa and if they can escape their circumstances.
The Program (Stephen Frears; United Kingdom, 2015). Ben Foster does an amazing job looking like Lance Armstrong in this film about the seven-time Tour-de-France cyclist winner and his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Foster does such a good job it’s hard to find Armstrong a likeable character.
The Promised Land (He Ping; China, 2015). Usually a director of historical dramas like Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker Ping this time has a modern love story. A young girl Ling Ai who worked in the city returns to her hometown as a former ballerina to visit her father and meets He Jiang, a young hockey coach. Most of the film was shot on chosen locations but much of the script was improvised and has a fresh, lyrical look at the decision many young Chinese face about remaining in their hometowns vs going to the capital Beijing.
A Tale of Three Cities (Mabel Cheung; China, 2015). Based on the real background story of actor Jackie Chan’s parents lives and eventual settling in Hong Kong stars Chinese stars Tang Wei and Sean Lau as lovers who are separated for years at a time.
The Treasure (Comoara) (Corneliu Porumboiu; Romania/France, 2015). Director of hits like Police, Adjective and When Evening Falls on Bucharest has an allegorical tale of looking for possible treasure buried near the family’s country home. A gentle comedy about the city slickers and towns folk and possible secrets and hidden treasure is a modern moral parable.
The White Knights (Les Chevaliers Blancs) (Joachim Lafosse; France/Belgium, 2015). Starring Vincent Lindon working with a NGO Move for Kids, a charity trying to save children from war-torn Chad. A critical look at colonialism and the legitimacy of NGOs the story again is based on a true story from the French headlines of news sources.
THE OFFICIAL TIFF 2015 AWARDS:
People's Choice Award: Room. Runners-up: Angry Indian Goddesses and Spotlight.
People's Choice Award For Documentary: Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
Toronto Platform Prize: Hurt
People's Choice Award For Midnight Madness: Hardcore
Best Canadian Feature Film: Closet Monster
Best Canadian First Feature Film: Sleeping Giant
Prizes of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Special Presentations Section: Desierto
Prizes of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for Discovery Section: Eva Nova
NETPAC Award For Best Asian Film: The Whispering Star
Award For Best Canadian Short Film: Overpass
Award For Best International Short Film: Maman(s)
The Dropbox Programme Filmmakers Discovery Award: Black
Check local theater listings and upcoming festivals such as AFI’s European Union Film Festival and The DC Jewish Film Festival who may have some of these and other films.
Other Reviews and Awards
Indiewire’s criticWire survey of top film critics and bloggers selected their favorite films, directors, and performances at TIFF2015 including these:
Best Narrative Features: Anomalisa, Spotlight, Room, 45 Years, The Martian, Son of Saul, Sunset Song, Beasts of No Nation, Sicario and The Green Room.
Best Documentaries: Where to Invade Next, Heart of a Dog, Thru You Princess, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Miss Sharon Jones, In Jackson Heights, Janis: Little Girl Blue, Hurt, The Pearl Button and Afternoon.
Best Lead Performance: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Brie Larson, Room; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl, Agness Deyn, Sunset Song; Geza Rohrig, Son of Saul; Tom Hardy, Legend; Cate Blanchett, Truth; Christopher Abbott, James White; Laia Costa, Victoria; and Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation.
Best Ensemble: Spotlight, The Martian, The Lobster, Sicario, The Witch, Black Mass, Brooklyn, High Rise, Victoria and Anomalisa.
Visit the TIFF website for more information about the festival.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
"The Things of Life: The Cinema of Claude Sautet" is a series of eight films. Titles include The Things of Life, Cesar and Rosalie, A Heart in Winter, Classes Tous Risques, Max and the Junkmen, Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud, The Dictator's Guns and Vincent, Francois, Paul and the Others.
Actor Keir Dullea will appear for Q&As at two of his films: on November 7 at 4:00pm with Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) and on November 7 at 7:00pm with 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967).
The "Silent Cinema Showcase" began October 30 and continues through November 21. Films include The Daughter of Dawn 1920) with live music accompaniment by Not So Silent Cinema; The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) with music by Gabriel Thibaudeau; The Adventures of Prince Achmed with music by Gabriel Thibaudeau; a 100th anniversary show of Regeneration (1915) with music by Gabriel Thibaudeau; Variety (1925) with music by Gabriel Thibaudeau; Piccadilly (1929) with music by Gabriel Thibaudeau; Beyond the Rocks (1922) with music by Andrew Simpson; Sherlock Holmes (1916) with music by Donald Sosin; Beggars of Life (1928) with music by Donald Sosin and an introduction by William Wellman, Jr.; You Never Know Women (1926) with music by Donald Sosin and an introduction by William Wellman, Jr.; Wings (1927) with music by Andrew Simpson and an introduction by William Wellman, Jr.; The Family Secret (1924) with music by Ben Model; Peter Pan (1924) with music by Ben Model; a program of Silent Comedy Rarities from MoMA with music by Ben Model and an introduction by film historian Steve Massa; a program of Marcel Perez Comedy Shorts with music by Ben Model and an introduction by film historian Steve Massa; and a program of Chaplin Mutual Shorts with music by The Snark Ensemble.
"Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel" is a program of five films with introductions by William Wellman, Jr. Titles are Beggars of Life, You Never Know Women and Wings, all also part of the Silent Cinema Showcase, and Westward the Women and Yellow Sky.
"Fred Wiseman's New York" is co-presented with the National Gallery of Art. Titles include In Jackson Heights (2015), Hospital (1970), Welfare and High School II.
"25 Years of Milestone Films" is co-presented with the National Gallery of Art. Films are The Exiles (1961), The Wide Blue Road, Word Is Out, Maborosi, It Happened Here and silent films presented as part the Silent Cinema Showcase: Piccadilly, The Daughter of Dawn, Beyond the Rocks, and The Adventures of Prince Achmed.
Special events in November include John Carpenter's Obey, a 40th anniversary show of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Internet Cat Video Festival, The Graduate (1967), The Bubble (1966) in 3-D and two other 3-D programs with introductions by Bob Furmanek from the 3-D Film Archive: The Mask (1961) and a 3-D Rarities Program.
A new AFI Docs Film Series will be a year-round documentary screening program. The first film is Michael Moore's Where To Invade Next to be shown at Landmark's E Street Cinema on November 16. Michael Moore will participate in a discussion following the film.
On November 6 at 6:45pm is the documentary Iraqi Odyssey (2015) with filmmaker Samir participating in a Q&A after the film. Iraq's official Oscar pick. On November 18 at 7:15pm is Paradise Is There: A Memoir by Natalie Merchant (2015) with Natalie Merchant present for Q&A.
Freer Gallery of Art
"Action, Anarchy, and Audacity: A Seijun Suzuki Retrospective" takes place October 9-December 20. On November 1 at 1:00pm is Passport to Darkness (1959); on November 1 at 3:00pm is Eight Hours of Fear (1957); on November 13 at 7:00pm is A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness (1977); on November 15 at 1:00pm is The Sleeping Beast Within (1960); On November 15 at 3:00pm is Smashing the O-Line (1960); on November 20 at 7:00pm is Carmen from Kawachi (1966); and on November 22 at 2:00pm is Capon Cries a Lot (1985). More in December.
The series "Close Up" features Bollywood Action Master Anurag Kashyap, in person with Gangs of Wasseypur I (2013) on November 6 at 7:00pm and Gangs of Wasseypur II (2013) on November 8 at 2:00pm.
On November 12 at 7:00pm is Frame by Frame (Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli, 2015), a documentary about photojournalists in Afghanistan.
National Gallery of Art
"Agnès Varda: Ciné-Portraiture" (October 2-November 22) is a series of films by and about Agnes Varda who received the Palme d'honneur in May 2015. Note that not all films are shown at the Gallery. On November 4 at 7:00pm is La pointe courte (1955) shown at American University's McKinley Building. On November 22 at 4:00pm is Jane B par Agnes V (1988) shown at the Gallery's East Building auditorium.
Special Events in November include "The Black Power Mixtape (1967–1975)," (Goran Hugo Olsson, 2011) archival footage about the Black Power movement on November 1 at 4:00pm. The Washington premiere of Kandahar Journals (Louie Palu and Devin Gallagher, 2015) is on November 7 at 3:00pm with the filmmakers in person. On November 14 at 2:30pm is Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (Dyanna Taylor, 2014) with the filmmaker in person. On November 29 at 2:00pm is Way Down East (D.W. Griffith, 1920) with live music accompaniment by the National Gallery Orchestra conducted by Gillian Anderson.
"Frederick Wiseman's New York" is co-presented with the AFI Silver Theater. On November 15 at 4:00pm is Central Park (1989); on November 21 at 12:30pm is Racetrack (1985); on November 21 at 3:00pm is Model (1980); and on November 27 at 2:00pm is Ballet. See the AFI for more Frederick Wiseman documentaries in this series.
"Twenty-Five Years of Milestone Film" (November 28-December 27) is co-presented with the AFI Silver Theater. On November 28 at 2:00pm is I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964). More in December. See See the AFI for more.
National Museum of the American Indian
On November 11 at 2:00pm is the documentary Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson, an advocate for Native Hawaiians. After the film, there will be a discussion with Fred Cachola, a Hawaiian cultural historian.
Museum of American History
Films are shown as part of the History Film Forum. On November 19 at 7:00pm is In the Heart of the Sea (Ron Howard, 2015), with author Nathaniel Philbrick present for discussion. On November 20 at 7:00pm is the documentary The Pilgrims with director Ric Burns present for discussion. On November 21 at 12:00 noon is the documentary Mississippi Inferno: Seeds of Revolt with discussion following. On November 22 at 12:00 noon is Moby Dick: Heart of a Whale, about 19th century whaling. On November 22 at 2:00pm is the documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (Stanley Nelson, 2015). See below.
Washington Jewish Community Center
On November 3 at 7:30pm is the documentary Imber's Left Hand (2014) about the painter, with filmmaker Richard Kane taking part in a Q&A along with Imber's wife Jill Hoy.
On November 10 at 7:30pm is Dough (John Goldschmidt, 2014) starring Jonathan Pryce.
On November 24 at 7:30pm is Tango Glories (Oliver Kolker and Hernán Findling, 2014) preceded by a tango demonstration. This film was Opening Night film at the 2015 Filmfest DC.
Library of Congress
On November 20 at noon is Kennedy v. Wallace: A Crisis Up Close, a behind-the-scenes television documentary about Robert Kennedy's role as Attorney General during the 1963 civil rights crisis.
"Kino 2003–2015: Your Favorite Films" (November 2-December 7) is a selection of favorite films shown during the past 12 years. On November 2 at 6:30pm is Kebab Connection (Anno Saul, 2005); on November 16 at 6:30pm is Late Bloomers (Bettina Oberli, 2006); On November 23 at 6:30pm is Go Trabi Go (Peter Timm, 1991) and on November 30 at 6:30pm is Burden of Dreams (Les Blank, 1981). One more in December.
The "Film | Neu" film festival runs from November 6-12. See below.
National Geographic Society
The Telluride Mountainfilm Film Festival runs from November 12-14. Adventure films of all kinds are shown at 7:00pm each day. See the website for film titles. A festival pass is available.
On November 16 at 7:00pm is the documentary Le Temps Derobe (Raphaelle Aellig Regnier, 2013), about French pianost Alexandre Tharaud.
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On November 13 at 6:30pm is the anime film Royal Space Force (Hiroyuki Yamaga, 1987). On November 18 at 6:30pm is Pale Flower (Masahiro Shinoda, 1964).
On November 10 at noon is the documentary Hunting in Wartime (2014) with filmmaker Samantha Farinella present to discuss the film.
On November 14 at 2:00pm is Arthur (Steve Gordon, 1981) starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud.
Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema
"Movie Rewind" is a new series of classic films on Wednesdays. On November 4 at 7:00pm and 9:30pm is The Thing (John Carpenter); on November 11 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm is There Will Be Blood; on November 18 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm is The Queen; and on November 25 at 4:00pm and 7:30pm is The Sound of Music.
On November 4 at 8:00pm is A Brilliant Young Mind (Morgan Matthews, 2014), part of the "Programmer's Choice" series.
On November 11 at 8:00pm is Sally Pacholok (Elissa Leonard, 2015) part of the "Films in Focus" series.
On November 18 at 8:00pm is The New Girlfriend (Francois Ozon, 2014), part of the "French Cinematheque" series.
This month's "Reel Israel" film is Youth (Tom Shoval, 2013) on November 25 at 8:00pm
There are two "Film Studies" programs for November. See below.
Italian Cultural Institute
Two films are shown as part of the "New Italian Cinema Events" Festival (NICE). On November 16 at 6:30pm is Italo (2015) followed by Q&A with filmmaker Alessia Scarso. Note that the location for this film is the NYU Auditorium. On November 17 at 6:30pm is Partly Cloudy With Sunny Spells (Marco Pontecorvo, 2015), shown at the Embassy of Italy.
On November 30 at 6:30pm is La Sedia della Felicita (Carlo Mazzacurati, 2013).
Anacostia Community Museum
On November 7 at 2:00pm is Eye on the 60s (2013), a documentary about former LIFE magazine photographer Rowland Scherman. Discussion and Q&A with filmmaker Chris Szwedo follow.
On November 18 at 11:30am is Before the Music Dies (2006), a documentary about popular music.
On November 3 at 7:30pm is Stray Dog (Debra Granik), a documentary about a Vietnam veteran. On November 19 at 7:00pm is the documentary Most Likely to Succeed, about education in the US.
On November 2 at 6:45pm is a film screening and book signing of The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific, a documentary about seafaring Polynesians. Filmmaker and anthropologist Sanford Low will be present for discussion and book signing.
Reel Affirmations XTra
On November 13 at 7:00pm is The Revival Movie: Women and the Word (Sekiya Dorsett), a documentary about five women who try to become poetry rockstars. The filmmaker and others will take part in a Q&A after the film.
Busboys and Poets
On November 4 at 6:00pm is the DC premiere of No One Left Behind, a documentary series about social change, shown at the 14th and V location. On November 11 is The Rubble Kings (Shan Nicholson) at the 14th and V location. On November 12 at 8:00pm is the documentary Romeo is Bleeding at the 14th and V location. On November 18 at 6:00pm is A Place at the Table at the 14th and V location. On November 15 at 5:00pm is Autism in Love at the Brookland location.
George Mason University
On November 11 at 4:30pm is a screening of the documentary (T)Error and Q&A with filmmaker Lyric Cabral. The film, about a counterterrorism sting operation, has won prizes at Sundance and Full Frame Documentary Festival. Open to the public.