Cinefile - Nadav Lapid's Synonymes and Alvaro Brechner's A Twelve Year Night
Cinefile this month talks to Nadav Lapid the director of the Franco-Israeli 2019 Berlinale Golden Bear-winner, Synonymes, and to Spanish star actor, Antonio de la Torre about his role as former rebel and former president, José Muhica in Alvaro Brechner's A Twelve-Year Night.
A TWELVE-YEAR NIGHT
Alvaro Brechner’s film is so beautifully shot in parts that it disconnects from the extremely tough story of three Uruguayan leftist rebels in 1973 who are thrown into prison and kept in solitary confinement for some 12 years. The junta chief says he wants to make them lose their minds.
Based on the true story of the rebels who survived years of inhumane treatment to become politicians, one a minister and one, José Muhica, president, from 2010 to 2015.
Brechner’s film which has enjoyed plenty of success internationally, released in France in March.
Brechner throws in a love-sick sergeant with a heart and shows not all Uruguayan soldiers were as mean as the army chief.
However, neither this scene nor the amazing way he captures light and shades, detract from the effect of scenes of rough-handling and torture. The painful result is partly because, the three main actors on the rebel side, Antonio de la Torre as Muhica, Alfonso Tort as Eleutherio Fernandez Huidobroa and Chino Darin as Mauricio Rosencof, handle themselves so well.
They experienced some hardship in preparing their roles. De la Torre said “we all lost about 15 kilos for this film and whenever we had a break, all we would talk about was food.”
A feeling of numbness starts to creep in the film during its series of different forms of humiliation and of jail-transfers. It's still impossible to imagine how these could have men felt day after day, night after twelve years of nights of being ill-treated, living in squalor, hungry and thirsty.
Listen to the interview with guest of the month, Antonio de la Torre in the latest Cinefile.
Anyone who knows the recent history of Uruguay knows that the nightmarish and sad scenes will come to an end and there will be a happy ending.
Writer-director Nadav Lapid is a philosophical sort. He’s concerned with questions of identity in general and Israeli identity more specifically and even more specifically masculine identity.
For example, he said in Berlin just before receiving, along with his producer Sayeed Ben Sayeed, the Berlinale’s Golden Bear in February 2019 for Synonymes. “It’s very tough to be a woman in Israel.” He agrees that it’s tough to be a woman in many places actually.
Philosophy and satire
In his award-winning French-co-produced film which released in France this spring, Yoav (Tom Mercier) a young Israeli who has quit Israel some time after his military service, is fleeing the Israel he doesn’t identify with, and seeks to become French.
Yoav discovers that underlying an appearance of freedom in a country largely at peace, is a similar identity is also defined by everyone feeling the same, being taught to feel the same about their country.
In strange circumstances, he meets Emile (Quentin Dolmaire), an aspiring writer and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte), a musician. They are two seemingly contained, slightly odd, rather cold and artistic individuals who warmly befriend Yoav.
The runaway is also investigated by Israeli agents to whom he speaks in perfect literary French about the Battle of Troy, contrasting with one Israeli's bullish , sexist provocation.
Combined with biting caricatures, and high-energy dance scenes Lapid allows his poetic side to irrigate Synonymes which at times flows fast, and then slows down to a pseudo New Wave pace.
Listen to more of the interview with Lapid in Berlin in the latest Cinefile.
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Cinefile - 'The Journey' and 'Whatever happened to my revolution'
Mohamed al-Daradji's film The Journey, or Baghdad Station, which has finally released in France, begins with a daunting prospect of a suicide bomb attack. "I think it's important for French people, and everyone, to see this and think about maybe why some people become [radicalised]."
Tout ce qui me reste de la révolution (in English: Whatever happened to my revolution) has taken French director-actress Judith Davis' from the stage to the screen. "After the stage play of almost the same name, I felt I had more to say about the important matter of political committment in our times, and for my generation."
Click on the arrow above to listen to the interviews in this month's Cinefile.
The Journey (Baghdad Station)
Daradji's fifth film, which won recognition at the Toronto Film Festival is a psychological thriller in a time capsule.
A young woman, a determined look in her eye, bulk around her middle and her hand on a trigger. All around Sara (Zahraa Ghandour), the usual hustle and bustle of the central station of the Iraqi capital on the day, former dictator Saddam Hussein is executed. A day when the renovated hub is to be inaugurated with a little ceremony.
Little does she know that the train carrying the VIPs will be late and that she is about to make an unexpected journey with wise-guy Salam (Ameer Jabarah).
Little does he imagine the full weight of their encounter and where it will end.
Throughout the film, Daradji has the spectator meet the war-scarred of Iraq, or the region more broadly. The Journey seems something of a miracle film given the volatile situation during the film shoot.
As well as telling an exceptional tale, Daradji also reveals stories and casualties of everyday life and love – and the will to survive in a war zone.
The Iraqi director wasn't daunted by the risk of filming a vulnerable subject in the renovated Baghdad Station at a time when his country was recovering from war – and under threat of more violence from the Islamic State armed group.
Tout ce qui me reste de la révolution (Whatever happened to my revolution)
On a remarkably sunny day in France, Angèle (Judith Davis) has just lost her job and lost her peg with her former sexist employer. She is boiling with rage as she graffittis a rude gesture on a bank machine with a marker pen in broad daylight.
Just then, a gentler encounter, a young teacher called Saïd, comes her way, along with his class of inquisitive seven-year-olds.
Davis's character is sufficiently unconventional and sufficiently recognisable as a child of revolutionary parents fighting for the same kind of changes her elders were confronting 50 years ago.
Angèle's anger is a motor for the high revs of theatrical or witty comedy in a film which nonetheless calls into question philosophical and political values of our society.
The father hanging onto the past and the mother making the most of the achievements of the revolt.
Davis is supported by fabulously lively and talented actors, Claire Dumas and Malik Zidi, who wowed last year's Angoulême awards jury, headed by Karine Viard.
With its unwieldy title, there's something positively refreshing about Davis' debut.
Almost a revolution in French film.
Cinefile - January Special : French film Kabullywood harnesses youths' hunger for arts
A group of friends - a musican, an actress, a documentary maker and an artist in the Afghan capital Kabul - decide to follow their dream to establish a culture centre in the city after the Taliban clamp-down on arts.
RFi's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Kabullywood's director Louis Meunier.
Four friends set about renovating a disused cinema inhabited by the former projectionist and a bunch of orphans.
Roya Heydari plays Shab, a young woman who against the wishes of her brother, hangs out with her male artist friends. Farid Joya is her mean brother Khaled. Ghulam Reza Rajabi is the painter, Mustafa. A contemporary guitar player, Qais, is driven by his desire to compose, and Mohd Qais Shaghasy take this role. The project leader, reluctant at first, but eager to impress Shab, is called Sikander. He's a documentary film maker whose father and police-chief is concerned primarily about his son's well-being and future.
Kabullywood champions freedom of expression in a place where it is curtailed. But it's also about generational misunderstandings. It has the feel of a first feature film, with a certain freshness and intuitive experimentation. However, it's not just any debut. It was made against the odds in Kabul, where Louis Meunier and his crew had to deal with real-life security issues.
The docu-fiction is a brave attempt to show the enthusiasm and convictions of some Afghans to defend and keep art and artists alive.
Listen to the interview with the link above.
Cinefile - CINEFILE January 2019 Another Day of Life and Les invisibles
In January, Cinefile takes a closer look at Les invisibles, The Invisible People, an artistic gesture of social realism to foster a sense of resistance against inhumane pragmatism, while a docu-drama Another Day of Life combines highly-colourful and imaginative animation, historicial documents and recent interviews in a tribute to the work of reporter Richard Kapuczinski during the Angolan War.
RFI's Rosslyn Hyams hosts guest directors Louis-Julien Petit and Raul de la Fuente.
Corine Masiero who plays Manu, the manager of the womens' day-time shelter says Les Invisibles, a film with a balance of gravity and humour, is a political film.
“Manu starts out with setting up a humanist centre. When she loses official support, she says, OK, I’m going to take this on my own shoulders. It’s what people around us today are doing to oppose the agro-food heavyweights, or they flout laws to help migrants and refugees. You get to a point where you have to move your arse, no matter what. Julien-Louis Petit’s film tells politicians that, hey, enough, we the ordinary people are doing what we can. Now it’s time you found solutions.”
Click on the link to listen to the interview.
Cinefile - Love smoulders in Cold War and embers refuse to die in L'amour Flou
In October's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams talks to Cannes award-winning director Pawel Pawlikovski about his grave love story, Cold War and talks about light-hearted but serious unlove story L'Amour Flou's success with actor-directors Romane Bohringer and Philippe Rebbot. Click on the arrow to listen to Cinefile.
A lot has already been written about Pawel Pawlikovski's film, as it has travelled across the world since winning the prize for best director at the 2018 Cannes Fim Festival.
Zula and Viktor fall in love just after World War Two is over. She is much younger and intrinsically unsettled. She unsettles Viktor who remains perturbed throughout the film.
Joana Kulig plays opposite Tomasz Kot and they are a well-matched as ill-matched lovers, her exuberance and passion versus his smouldering desire. Although in real life, there is a mere five-year age difference.
It's not surprising as when they first meet at an audition of girls and boys from the Polish countryside, ironically, supposed to be pure, Zula explains that she if she killed her father it's because she needed to explain to him that "he had confused his daughter, with his wife."
Kulig explains why this line is so important in building Zula's character.
"We knew that she had a problem with the father, with a really difficult situation and something really strange about her background. So in her relationship with Viktor, we knew that Zula, who is so sensitive, at the same time, she doesn't have a good example from men. Sometimes Zula fights with Viktor, but he really loves her, and she has a problem with trust. She later on realises the problem and turns to drink to help. But it doesn't."
No matter that they want different things from life, Viktor and Zula are destined to be together, because of love.
Contrasts are key to the director's vision in Pawlikowski's third feature film Black and white, a powerful folk, jazz and rock and roll music score and the passage of 30 years in the space of less than two hours, sharpen the drama of Cold War, which as Pawlikovski says "is not political, although public money does go to folk culture rather than to some more contentious expressions. That being said there is freedom of expression today."
Cold War is not just a clever title about an impossible love affair. It led Kulig to think about the Communist past of Poland."I knew it was difficult in those times for my parents and grandparents, and I remember my mother and grandmother talking about Walesa, and thinking this was very important. Now we can say what we think. In those days people were scared and had to be careful."
L'amour flou (Hazy Love)
In their first directing bid, the Bohringer-Rebbot team, mother-father and two children, Rose and Raoul, dish up a comedy based on the drama of separation. They make a sallient point about the blurry lines upon which so many relationships flounder, and make a success out of a situation commonly deemed a failure.
Experienced actors both, they bring something refreshing to their French romp.
Romane and Philippe have had enough of each other. Or so they think. It's not so easy to cut the ties and move on, or out, when you have two little ones you want to care for.
Avoiding potentially stale humour about domestic love-on-the-wane, the duo lead the spectator along a bumpy path to possible contentment.
Bohringer and Rebbot are at their funniest in this bundle of emotions when they feel the pull of attraction elsewhere. Rebbot's eye wanders to a much younger jogger, is thwarted by a cat-allergy, while Bohringer is led astray by lust and fantasy, hetero and homo sexual.
Bravo to them for converting a family break-up into a tender un-breakup.