Thursday, October 29, 2015

AIFF 2015: Features In Competition From Turkey, UK, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Iran

"In competition" means these films were selected by the screeners to be eligible for awards at the festival.  "Features" are 'stories' that are full length. While there are always other features which different folks like better than those in competition, it's a good bet these are among the best features at the festival.  This year's picks are all from outside the US.

The point of this post isn't to tell you what each of the features in competition are about, but rather to just give you a glimpse of something about the film I found interesting.

I don't have the times and locations yet.  I'll add them later and I might make other changes as things come to my attention.  

Here's the whole list and below I look at each one. 

Film (all are in competition) Director Country Length
And The Circus Leaves Town Mete Sozer Turkey 99 min
Creditors Ben Cura United Kingdom 81 min
Jasmine Dax Phelan Hong Kong 80 min
Magic Utopia Shoji Toyama, Shuichi Tan Japan 88 min
Orphans & Kingdoms Paolo Rotondo New Zealand 74 min
The Descendants Yaser Talebi Islamic Republic of Iran 80 min

And The Circus Leaves Town  
Mete Sozer 

Turkey √
99 min
And the Circus Leaves Town is the story of a village caught in between life and death. This is the story of the moment when the paths of the village which wants to forget its past and the “Stranger” who wants to grasp his past converge. The “Stranger” gets off the train with an old, wooden, red suitcase. His destination is a village where only a handful of people are left, where the young have left and the babies cease to be born, where each moment repeats a previous moment. The arrival of the “Stranger” is met with curiosity first, and suspicion later. The dark, covered memories of a bloodied wedding night are revived. Is the “Stranger” someone from the past, or a brand new hope... (From the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts iFKA)

Won for International Feature Film at the 5th Underground Film Festival in Cork City, Ireland this past August.


Ben Cura   
United Kingdom √
81 min

Much of what I know about Ben Cura comes from a recent in-depth interview with Film Courage.    Cura wrote the screen play,  directed the film and acts in it.   But it also has some strong, established actors, like Christian McKay, Simon Callow, and Andrea Deck.
"At times disturbingly funny and cruelly bleak, "Creditors" deals with the most private aspects of human relationships. From questioning our concepts of marriage and fidelity, to trying to establish the role of the modern woman in a world still trapping her within the confines of old fashioned canons, the film's story stirs, moves and sometimes even angrily rebuts our very own personal definitions of each."
The interview covers a wide range of topics from Cura's background (his father is a major opera singer which meant as a child Cura traveled the world); adapting the film from August Strindberg's 1888 play; the challenges of being a first time director and of black and white;  budgeting, and more.

 The film's world premiere is October 31, 2015 in New York's Nordic International Film Festival.  Then, it appears, to Anchorage.  Those who seriously want to prepare for the festival can read the original Strindberg play here.  


Dax Phelan  
Hong Kong √ 
80 min

UPDATE Dec. 10:  Just opened an email from Dax Phelan who said the second review quoted here was of an unfinished version of the film.  So take it with a grain of salt.

TwitchFilm liked it:
"Dax Phelan, veteran screenwriter and producer based in Los Angeles got the Hong Kong bug on a writing research trip to the city in 2005. By his own tongue-in-cheek admission, it had become somewhat tedious being handsomely paid for writing screenplays that rarely if ever get made. Citing inspiration by such auteurs as Lodge Kerrigan (The Killing TV series, Keane) and the Dardenne brothers (Two Days, One Night) Phelan sensed that Hong Kong could be fertile ground for a psychological thriller that would be his directorial debut. He penned Jasmine based on a story that he had co-written with Jason Tobin. . .

For the first time ever, Hong Kong plays a characterful, if inhospitable backdrop to an english language film with artistic sensibilities, a restrained, rhythmical build, and a chilling and thought-provoking climax. It explores themes of loneliness amongst the masses, fear of postponed regret, and most poignantly our ability to invest everything in our own flawed narratives."
Screen Daily wasn't as kind:

"Writer-director Dax Phelan uses the trope of the unreliable narrator to mixed effect in Jasmine, a classically-executed slow-moving descent into paranoia set on the streets of Hong Kong. Working from an idea by Phelan and Tobin, Jasmine’s script is too thinly fleshed-out to be fully successful, and the production tends to drag through its final frames. This moody noir will find a slim audience locally, and works best as a calling card for its director and lead actor, who are clearly capable."
Guess we'll have to see for ourselves who's right.   As of Oct 26, Anchorage isn't mentioned on either the director's Twitter or Facebook pages. 


From Keiko Shiga's Tumblr page
Magic Utopia
Shoji Toyama 
Japan √
88 min

Finding out about this film isn't easy.  There this from
"A young girl who lost her mother suddenly begins to float in midair when she meets a man trapped in a past of painful memories. At the same time, an old man receives a message on his answering machine from his long dead daughter."
 And this from what seems to be the film's website:

  1. 思い出せない秘密
  2. 抑えられない衝動
  3. 真実しかない孤独
 But this picture on their website suggests this could be good. 

Image from Orphansandkingdoms website gallery
Orphans & Kingdoms
Paolo Rotondo 
New Zealand √
74 min

From an interview with Director Paolo Rotondo in the New Zealand site Flicks:

How did you discover the three young leads?

They all auditioned. Calae who plays Kenae was the only kid who could really stand up to an adult actor in the audition and hold his own. Hanelle (Tibs) had auditioned for me when I was helping to cast a US TV film, she was so strong I wanted her for Orphans. Jesse auditioned and proceeded to teach me about the real world of the characters I was exploring, he didn’t need a script – he knew the story.
Director bio from a story generator workshop he ran:
I am a passionate and accomplished Artist who has worked in New Zealand’s Film, Theatre and Television industries for twenty years. My need to tell stories began as an Actor and inspired me to develop my skills as a Playwright and consequently Filmmaker. I offer a depth of experience in Film and Theatre, ranging from acting, to producing, to writing and directing.
The short films I have written have won awards and garnered international acclaim. This year I will be releasing my first full-length feature film ‘Orphans & Kingdoms’ which I wrote and directed, funded by The New Zealand Film Commission.
As a Playwright my works have been published and have toured nationally and internationally to universal critical and audience acclaim. “In 2014 my Play “Strange Resting Places” was invited in the New Zealand showcase at Edinburgh Festival.


The Descendants

Yaser Talebi 
Islamic Republic of Iran √
80 min

From the Youtube description:
"Jacob's family worries about Farrokh, the son of the family. Farrokh left Iran to continue his studies but he has not been in touch with them for a long time. Jacob travels to Sweden to look for his son..."

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