film festival

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San Sebastian Film Festival 2015: Charlie Kaufman Masterclass

A highlight for many at this year's San Sebastian-Donostia film festival was the presence of screenwriting ace Charlie Kaufman who notably wrote such idiosyncratic gems as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

More recently he's forayed into direction and carried his originality a stage further. Synecdoche, New York, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, was his first directorial outing, which garnered more respect than acclaim. He then went on to write an experimental theatre piece called Anomalisa, now turned into a feature film that, after its Venice and Telluride screenings last month, has thus far maintained a 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Anomalisa is an odd, dark, dredging of the human soul. That it should do this with such probingly uncomfortable insight - and be made in stop-motion animation - is testimony to Kaufman and to animation specialist Duke Johnson, who co-directed. In the San Sebastian catalogue, Anomalisa is simply described in one sentence (in Basque, Spanish and English): "A man struggles with his inability to connect with others". This belies the fact that our hero is a British inspirational speaker in Cincinnati to give a talk to about his book to adoring fans.

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San Sebastian Film Festival 2015 – Rural Icelandic Drama Takes the Top Prize

San Sebastian Film Festival may not be as high on the A list of film festivals as Cannes is, but its vast city centre beaches beat Cannes' into a cocked hat. It's only normal then that their prizes are called shells, or Concha, as in seashells, in shades of gold for best film and three silver for runner up categories.

This year's gold, the Concha de Oro, went to Sparrows, written and directed by Runar Runarsson. Sparrows is an intricate coming of age story that takes place in rural Iceland. 16-year-old Ari is shunted to remote Westfjords from Reykjavik by his mother. She's off to save Africa, and he now has to contend with his dead-beat dad, country life and sexual awakenings in a place where there's not much to do. So far, so thematically predictable, but, by all accounts, the quality of the filmmaking and its narrative finesse turned it to gold in Donostia (the Basque name for the town). It's worth observing for a country as small as Iceland that this is the second rural drama with zoological title to get a major award this year. Rams took the top prize in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes 2015.

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Cannes 2012: The Winners and Losers

Séamas McSwiney is our guest film correspondent with decades of experience in film journalism, and work published in some top international publications. For the past fortnight he has been reporting for us from the Cannes film festival, and here he reveals the big winners. 

The cloud filled skies in the middle days of Cannes 2012 also coincided with some of the darkest films, three of which are already described here in this blog. Despite their "feel-bad" impact, their artistic quality was such that they finally ended up with awards at Sunday night's closing ceremony.

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Cannes 2012 Preview

Séamas McSwiney is our guest film correspondent with decades of experience in film journalism, and work published in some top international publications. Here he previews this year's Cannes film festival. 

"Moonrise Kingdom is this year's Cannes opener. It also opens in UK cinemas on May 25th, giving a welcome opportunity to keep up with the latest buzz from planet cinema, a world that systematically migrates to the French Riviera once a year in May. As usual it will have a Cannes competition programme that goes beyond the standard all-American multiplex fare and will again provide a wide range of celluloid offerings from the planet's finest filmmakers.

American Offerings

This said, Cannes 2012 also offers a particularly fine crop of quality contemporary American movies. For starters there is the afore mentioned opener, Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson. On the surface it tells an all-American simple story of a little boy who loves a little girl in 60s USA, all trammelled with scout camping trips and indulgent parents, too dim to understand the essence they lost by growing up. But add the oddball, the quirky and surreal, the habitual tones of Wes Anderson's cine-palette, and you have quite a different and hilariously memorable experience.

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My French Film Festival

Bonne Année is French for Happy New year and, if you ever felt like organising a French film festival, this is the year and now is the time. You can start next week and the whole thing will be done and dusted by the end of the month.

Usually you would need to plan a long way ahead, find sponsors, staff and cinemas. Then you would need to pick the films, negotiate the rights, arrange the transport of the celluloid spools and the special guests and ...pray that they arrive on time for the advertised screening. And that is only half of the joys, headaches and suspense that are part and parcel of managing a cultural event like a film festival. It's like that on a large scale for Cannes, Berlin, London and all of the major film festivals, and also for the thousand local festivals happening somewhere in the world every single day of the year. One thing they all have in common is that the organisers never have the time or the peace of mind to enjoy the films.

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