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Posts from May 2015

Cannes 2015: Emma's blog

Posted Friday 29 May 2015 by Duncan Carson in FEDS scheme, Festival Reports, General

Emma Caviezel

Our FEDS trainees - 15 ambitious young people receiving experience in distribution, exhibition and international sales - are moving ahead with their careers. Here, Emma Caviezel gives her take on her first time in Cannes.

As soon as I started my FEDS work placement at Umedia International in late January, it became clear that festivals were a major part of the sales agency calendar. Some of the first tasks I was assigned were to do with the imminent Berlinale, and, having spent some of my first working days in an almost empty office as my colleagues left for Germany, I was pretty curious as to what the whole festival thing was really about. When it came to Cannes, a bittersweet series of events led to me being transferred a badge, and I made my way over with the aim of spending some time working in the office, as well as having a general look around.

Arriving at the office, I knew the sales team would be extremely busy, having spent the weeks leading up to the festival booking their meetings. By the time I came in over the weekend, it was only just beginning to wind down, as the majority of activity took place in the first few days. Basically, the aim of the sales team is to sell the rights of the films on their slate to distributors representing different countries or regions. At this particular festival, their focus was on a few major projects, all at different, but early, stages of production. The team there were very generous with inviting me to sit in on meetings, and I was really impressed by the matter-of-fact and honest way in which the projects were pitched and discussed, both parties being very up-front about their hopes and visions for the finished film. Although the agents’ calendars were completely booked up, what I had pictured as a hectic and stressful environment seemed much the opposite. Each new distributor, whether arriving in groups or individually, was greeted with new energy, and with a selection tailored to their company’s, or region’s, tastes. During the latter part of the market, meetings were also had with producers, with a view to discussing new upcoming projects that the sales agents may be interested in picking up.

The Lobster
Inspiring red carpet madness in Cannes: Yorgos Lanthimos's The Lobster

Otherwise my stay in Cannes revolved mainly around screenings. Having unexpectedly received red carpet tickets on the afternoon before leaving, I had my first Grand Palais experience on the night of my arrival to see Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. The buzz for the film had been building up all day, with an earlier screening in the morning. By mid-afternoon, the whole Croisette was crawling with tuxes, shades and sparkles – people milling around waiting for the screening, but also hopefully waving handmade signs asking for any extra tickets. On the way to the carpet, laid out on the Palais steps, you go through a gate, then another, and then another, to the sound of blaring music and cameras flashing from absolutely everywhere. It all culminates in the entrance of the cast and director into the cinema to thundering applause, with the anticipation for the movie at an absolute high. The whole thing was simply surreal.

My Golden Days2
My Golden Days by Arnaud Desplechin was a favourite of Emma's from Cannes 2015

In addition to this surreal quality, what mostly struck me about Cannes was the contrast between it being extremely exclusive on the one hand, but also more accessible than I had thought. Before leaving, I’d been variously warned that there might not be a point in even going because of its shallow and selective side - and that side was definitely very real, as I saw the controversial ‘heelgate' policy enforced at the screening of Todd Hayne’s Carol. However, since so many were there for networking purposes, people were generally quite open and inviting. And although I was lucky in terms of screenings at the Palais, my favourite film at the festival was Arnaud Desplechin’s Trois Souvenirs de Ma Jeunesse (My Golden Days), which was screened at the Director’s Fortnight (Quinzaine des realisateurs) – a series of screenings open to industry and the general public alike. If you don’t have a badge, individual tickets are €7, although you do have to queue up about an hour in advance, as even with a ticket you’re not guaranteed a place.

Being in Cannes proved an invaluable opportunity to see some amazing films, as well as to learn more about the sales process through sitting in on meetings at Umedia. However, it was not without relief that I got on the plane back to the real world, as I definitely had my fill of glitz, glamour and blisters.

News round-up... 29/05/2015

Posted Friday 29 May 2015 by Sarah Rutterford in General, News Round-up

Cannes posters
Lovely Cannes posters for Competition films Our Little Sister and Son of Saul

News

  • We've just opened applications for Elevate, our training programme for managers in film distribution, exhibition or international sales companies. Want to learn how to inspire your team, improve your confidence, gain networks and identify your personal career aims? Read more and apply.
  • Read Indiewire's piece on our Developing Your Film Festival training course - now accepting applications from festivals worldwide.
  • Check out Creative Europe Desk UK's new website which is full of resources, info on available CE funding for film, TV, new media and video games, and how to apply.
  • Didn't make it to our recent Children's Screening Days? Read Film Hub North West Central's blog post on the day.
  • The Edinburgh Film Festival has launched its 2015 programme, including previews of key upcoming independent releases such as Asif Kapadia's already acclaimed Winehouse portrait Amy and Andrew Haigh's 45 Years, a focus on Mexico and a strand exploring new American indie.
  • East End Film Festival 2015's programme is also out (complete with mind control experiments) and looks great! 
  • We've been keeping tabs on Cannes acquisitions and are especially pleased Un Certain Regard winner Rams will be getting a UK release - it's been picked up by Soda Pictures, who also acquired Louder Than Bombs, Bridgend and The Here After - and Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room, picked up by Altitude/Picturehouse.
  • We're very excited to add Malvern Theatres to our roster of programming clients. Read more about it in Worcester News and check out their ICO profile here.

Opportunities...

  • Film London's Microwave scheme - which offers emerging filmmakers not just funding, but a programme of training-through-production and distribution support, is open for submissions.
  • The BFI Film Academy is looking for 30 creative 16-19 year olds from across the UK to join them in Sheffield for a week-long course where you'll learn about film programming, marketing, exhibition and distribution.
  • BFI Film Academy is also partnering with Creative Skillset to match trainees to film companies - so if you work in production, distribution or exhibition and think your company might be interested in hosting a talented young trainee, find out more (note you've only until Sunday to express interest)! 
  • Budding film critics: the Observer / Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism is now open for entries. Write a 1,500 word review and submit by 30 November for a chance at winning a £2K prize!
  • The London Short Film Festival is (still) open for 2016 submissions.
  • Short filmmakers - you've only DAYS to submit to Encounters Short Film Festival.
  • Film Africa is open for short film entries - enter and be considered for their Baobab Award, which aims to support new voices emerging from the continent and offers a £1K cash prize.
  • Colchester Film Festival is open for short film submissions (which are free).   
  • The BFI London Film Festival has launched a new Short Film Award.
  • Apply now for early bird passes to the Children's Film First Conference, designed for anyone who works with children to educate and inspire them about film. It's in September in Brussels.

Read this!

  • Maybe you're all Cannes-ed out by now, but if you missed any of our reports, click here to see what we've covered, from female representation to European cinemas to 'heelgate'.
  • Drool over the gorgeous posters for films from this year's Cannes, especially the delicate Kore-eda.
  • A Cannes 2015 critics' poll puts Todd Haynes' Carol on top (also on Carol, see Tim Robey's lovely 5 star review), followed by Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour... we also like Geoff Andrews' round-up of his picks.
  • "I’m an artist, a filmmaker and my role is to be a conduit for some of that collective conscience of rebellion." Timbuktu - a critical hit and much enjoyed at our recent Screening Days - is out this Friday; in this fascinating Conversations about Cinema piece director Abderrahmane Sissako articulates how and why he made this stunning film. Read more about this deservedly lauded filmmaker here.
  • “I have an entire bestiary of prizes with bears, dogs, etc. but people still don’t give me funding. As fishermen say, ‘A little less thanks, and a little more money!” Agnès Varda comments on industry inequality, feminism and creativity on receipt of her honorary Palme d'Or.
  • Enjoy Mad Max: Fury Road's Hey girl tumblr.

Cannes 2015: ICO Reports

Posted Friday 29 May 2015 by Duncan Carson in Festival Reports, General

Ingrid Bergman Cannes

The Independent Cinema Office had a VERY busy Cannes. If you've missed any of the coverage, check out the selection below.

Programmer reports

Our programmers covered a lot of ground during their time in Cannes. In these reports, you can get a strong sense of how the bigger competition films will play in UK exhibition, but also some great recommendations on which smaller titles could prove good additions to your programme.

  • In Selina's first report from Cannes she covers French delinquency drama Standing Tall, Japanese family drama Our Little Sister, Hollywood action smash Mad Max: Fury Road and French relationship drama In the Shadow of Women. Read it here. In her second report, she covers some big and small titles including Turkey's Mustang, Indie follow up Green Room, Hungary's Son of Saul, prize-winning Mon RoiThe Lobster, Barbet Schroeder's Amnesia and Paulina. Read it here.
  • Jemma covered a HUGE amount of ground in Cannes, with Competition titles and many more in the sidebars. In her first report she ticks off Son of Saul, Carol, Sicario and (out of Competition) Woody Allen's Irrational Man. Read it here. In her second report she uncovers the conflicts in female representation in Cannes 2015, including reports on Krisha, Paulina, Nahid, The Anarchists, My Golden Days, Tangerine and My Skinny Sister. Read it here.
  • Jonny starts his time in Cannes with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cemetery of Splendour, Jonas Carpignano's Mediterranea, Denis Villeuneuve's Sicario and David Pablos' The Chosen Ones. Read it here. His take on the later selections in Cannes, include Ethiopia's first festival title Lamb, Mountains May Depart, The Here After and Palme D'Or winner Dheepan. Read it here.
  • Simon's first report from Cannes covers Romania's Radu Muntean's One Floor Below, Italy's Matteo Garrone's Tale of Tales and Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda's Our Little Sister.Read it here.
  • Team reports

There was plenty to talk about besides the films, and the rest of the ICO team has recommendations and reportage from the Croisette and beyond.

  • ICO Director Catharine reports on the Europa Cinema conference, giving us a taste of what's happening across the continent, but also caught Journey to the Shore, Louder than Bombs, The Measure of a Man and Alias Maria. Read it here.
  • Marketing and Comms manager (and Cannes first-timer) Duncan gives his take on the Cannes experience, including tips on how to embrace your irrelevance and make the most of your time on the Croisette. Read it here.
  • Sarah, Operations Officer extraordinaire, runs down her viewing including Emily Blunt's fine features in Sicario, Phillipine drama Taklub, SXSW smash Krisha, French/Algerian study Fatima and the latest from Jia Zhang-Ke Mountains May Depart. Read it here.
  • Nine years at Cannes, ICO Head of Operations Becky gives her tips on how to do the festival and verdict on The Sea of Trees, Mia Madre and Rams. Read her first report here. In her second half she catches up with a whirlwind of world cinema including The High Sun, Disorder from France, Dégradé from Palestine, Coin Locker Baby from South Korea and Mon Roi from France. Read it here.
  • Head of Training Hatice highlights two portrayals of women's lives - Fatima and Mustang - as her picks of Cannes 2015, against the backdrop of 'heelgate'. Read it here.
  • Our FEDS trainee Emma had the chance to travel to Cannes this year in her role at Umedia International. Read her report here.

Cannes 2015: Selina's blog (part 2)

Posted Friday 29 May 2015 by Selina Robertson in Festival Reports, General

Paulina3
Santiago Mitre's Paulina asks some difficult questions, but are its answers satisfying?

To read part one of Selina's coverage, click here.

Young Argentinean director Santiago Mitre’s sophomore feature Paulina played early on in Critics’ Week and has now been given the Grand Prix. A re-make of Daniel Tinayre’s La Patota (The Gang) from 1960, it’s a social drama that asks complex questions from its audience; questions that were not easily answered for me, as a female spectator. The absorbing story follows PhD student Paulina (Dolores Fonzi) forgoing her studies to become a lawyer instead to teach in a rural school close to the border of Paraguay, a region where the affects of deforestation are immediately apparent. One night on her way home she is attacked and raped by a gang of young men who she later realises are her students. Rather than deciding to prosecute her perpetrator (whom she quickly singles out), she chooses to stand by her radical political idealism and refuses to cooperate with the police and, significantly, her overbearing father, a well-connected judge. Dolores Fonzi physically inhabits the character of Paulina (similar to Michelle Williams’ performances in Kelly Reichardt films), a whip smart and stubborn young woman who literally thinks through her political ideals with and on her body. Paulina’s final decisions make for uncomfortable viewing, and leave me with a question that had this story been written by a woman (instead it’s adapted from the original screenplay by Daniel Tinayre), would Paulina have put the personal over the political?

The Lobster
Yorgos Lanimithos' The Lobster, starring John C. Reilly, Colin Farrell and Ben Wishaw, proved an early critical hit at Cannes

Another title that I was looking forward to (and had to work for, spending 2 hours in the queue) was Greek ‘weird waver’ Yorgos Lanthimos’ Orwellian drama The Lobster. Partly funded by the BFI and the Irish Film Board, the film is Lanthimos’ first English-language film since his relocation to London. Set in a sinister countryside hotel (managed with an iron fist by Olivia Coleman) where singletons are sent in order to find a mate in 45 days; if they fail they will be turned into an animal of their choice. This is a joyfully barmy idea that posits questions about contemporary culture's obsession with coupledom and the nuclear family. The film plays in two parts: strange happenings and bizarre human (mating) rituals in the hotel (Ben Wishaw is especially good as The Limping Man) and then killing games in the forest, with the outsiders headed up a poncho wearing Léa Seydoux as Loner Leader. A particularly paunchy Colin Farrell plays David, an everyman who asks to be turned into a lobster if he fails to find his true love. That ‘true love’, which turns out surprisingly tender, comes in the form of Rachel Weisz, an outsider fighting for her life. The joy of Lanthimos’ films is their free interpretation, and as with his previous work Dogtooth and Alps, he explores ideas around power structures, intimacy and human connections. Shot in a familiar performative/artificial manner with mannered dialogue and cold eroticism, it’s interesting to watch these purposely alienating Lanthimos’ tropes translate into an English-language film with recognizable actors/actresses. Whilst the film might not win over any new converts to 'the cult of Lanthimos' (as I overheard in one queue), The Lobster is a brazen outsider film made for multiple viewings and investigations.

Rams34
Rams, now picked up for UK distribution by Soda Pictures, is a stunning slice of life about the bitter rivalry between two brothers

Rams, playing in Un Certain Regard, was the Icelandic film in Cannes this year. Given that the Icelandic Film Centre only fund about 5 features a year, this was hardly surprising. The film plays directly to the same audience for Of Horses and Men (last year’s Icelandic audience pleaser) and has the same lead actress, Charlotte Høving. However, Rams setting of a remote Icelandic farming valley and two elderly feuding brothers is a much more paired-down affair. Director Grímur Hákonarson is a seasoned documentary filmmaker and has tasked himself with dutifully capturing a deeply-rooted rural way of life, the weather, the daily rhythms of farming and the expansive landscape that is closely connected with the Icelandic national spirit. There were aspects of the film that reminded me of Gideon Koppel's sleep furiously (2009). Not without some dry, wry Scandi humour, the film’s combination of landscape, sound and vintage sheep acting make for a rich and rewarding viewing. Thumbs up that the film was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize, it's great news that Soda Pictures have acquired it for UK release.

Son of Saul
Son of Saul proved one of Cannes' most feted, and most harrowing watches

Son of Saul was a towering piece of cinema that was given the Grand Prix at Cannes’ closing ceremony on Sunday night. A debut film written and directed by 38-year-old Hungarian Lázló Nemes (former assistant of Béla Tarr), this was the film that made the biggest impression on me. Set in Auswichtz in 1944, the drama centres on a fictional member of the Sonderkommandos (Jewish workers who were forced to carry out the daily atrocities of mass murders). A Hungarian man called Saul decides that he must find a rabbi to give a young boy, who might be his son, a proper burial. There is really interesting Guardian interview with the film’s lead actor Géza Röhrig who is a poet and a teacher and first-time actor.

The film takes place over a day and a half, and is mainly shot in close up. It’s an intensely immersive cinematic experience that I was 100% invested in from the start; it reminded me of the feeling I had when I first watched Wolfgang Peterson’s anti-war drama Das Boot (1981). As the critics have rightly suggested, the film creates a new Holocaust narrative and rightly signals what cinema can achieve, its potential, in creating radical new interpretations formally and through storytelling.

Green Room3
Green Room: Jeremy Saulnier follows up Blue Ruin with a taut genre film with British talent Imogen Poots and Joe Cole

I made a mad dash along the Croissette with my fellow ICO-er Jemma to join another ICO-er Duncan who was sacrificially withering in the sun waiting in line to watch Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. This was the hotly-tipped follow-up to Saulnier’s debut feature Blue Ruin. Green Room is a violent crime/thriller about a cash-strapped punk band who are paid to do a gig at an unsavoury neo-Nazi club. After the gig, a murder takes places that catapults the band into a kill or be killed situation. The film has heaps of violence and plenty of twists and turns to keep genre fans happy. With an eclectic cast of Imogen Poots (great skinhead haircut), Alicia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and Patrick Stewart as leader of the neo-Nazi pack, the film will play really well to a (younger) genre-loving audience and many late night movies slots. Personally, I found the film a little over-hyped but from the Cannes audience reaction, I realise I was in the minority.

Amnesia
Barbet Schroder's Amnesia: German post-war reflections in '90s Ibiza

German national but French new-waver Barbet Schroeder has had an eclectic career to say the least - from the '70s sado-masochistic drama Maîtresse to '90s Hollywood psycho-femme thriller Single White Female to more recently directing an episode of Mad Men, as well as starting up Les Films du Losange when he was just 23 years old, Schroeder has a distinct position straddling European arthouse and the Hollywood studio system. His latest film Amnesia, exploring German memory and history, is an interesting premise to say the least as the story is based on his mother’s life, who moved to Ibiza after the war (along with other intellectuals like Roland Barthes). She, as did many others of that generation, vowed to never speak German again. Schroeder calls this ‘a culture of refusal’. The story is set in the early '90s and follows an older woman who meets and finds herself falling in love with a young German DJ who has moved to Ibiza to be part of the growing club scene. The film is immaculately shot (with natural light) and edited, but for me the performances, except for Max Riemelt as the rookie DJ, were wooden, theatrical and a little old fashioned. Part of the problem is that most of the dialogue, because of the politics of the film, is in English, the affect being that acting felt somewhat removed or displaced. However, there is plenty to enjoy in the gorgeous geographical setting and light of Ibiza with the traditional Ibiza finca (which is Schroeder’s mother’s real house) plays a prominent role in the film. I’m not too sure if this film will pop up in UK distribution, which is a shame, as it’s a film that deserves to be watched in the cinema.

Maiwenn
Maïwenn, director of the affecting French melodrama Mon Roi

How happy was I to see that lead actress Emmanuelle Bercot was given the Best Actress Award for her blisteringly good performance in Maïwenn’s (Polisse) competition drama Mon Roi. The film took quite a battering from UK critics but I really like the film, because this was a very affecting melodrama told from a distinctly woman’s point of view: a courtship, marriage and break up that shows how love lives can be messy and complicated. How refreshing is that? Emmanuelle Bercot plays Tony, a high-achieving lawyer, who falls in love with restaurateur and jack-of-all trades Georgio (a brilliant Vincent Cassel). She falls for him hard, they get married but Tony is a man-child unable to grow up. The film’s title Mon Roi - My King, perfectly sums us her relationship to this man who is so destructive for her because she has to put him before herself in order for the relationship to work. Maïwenn’s breathes new life into this familiar tale of broken love and together with her DoP Claire Mathon (Stranger by the Lake) cinematically delivers the deep emotional and immersive journeys that Tony has to travel on. Watch out for a StudioCanal release late in 2015 or 2016.

Mustang2

My final film of the festival came by way of a recommendation, which is always the best way, a Turkish coming-of-age comedy/drama called Mustang. I caught the film on my last morning with fellow ICO-er Hatice. A debut feature by Denis Gamze Ergüven, co-written by Alice Wincour (Disorder), it’s a life-affirming story about five free-spirited sisters who live on the coast of Turkey, whose lives revolve around being teenagers (boys, make up, sunbathing) which would be fine if they lived in Istanbul but instead they live in a conservative, traditional household with their grandmother and uncle acting as their guardians. Even though the film’s script does have a few holes in it, and at times the story points in the direction of an on-the-nose cultural critique between modernising and traditional Turkey, the strength of the film is the infectious and refreshing performances from the five young actresses, especially Güneş Nezihe Şensoy as the youngest and punkiest sister Lale. I loved the film’s unadorned celebration of the spirit of girlhood and the audience did too, I would be surprised if this film was not picked up for UK distribution.

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