Sunday, February 20, 2011

Berlin Film Festival 2011: Competition

Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin 10-20 Feb 2011. Festival director: Dieter Kosslick.

I'm visiting Berlin just for meetings, no films, so here is a just a listing of the competition films with terms strictly Platonic except Offside. The descriptions are from the Festival catalogue. I heard that
- the Golden Bear winner Nader and Simin is really good
- The Turin Horse is solid Béla Tarr
- Les Contes de la nuit is a great 3D animation by Michel Ocelot in homage to Lotte Reiniger
- Margin Call is an interesting Wall Street drama
- most of the delights were out of competition, such as
- the Coen brothers' True Grit in the opening ceremony
- Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland, a highly regarded Turkish-German tragicomedy by newcomer Yasemin Samdereli
- Unknown, a breathtaking Berlin action thriller in the style of Polanski's Frantic and the Bourne films, starring Liam Neeson, Diane Krüger and Bruno Ganz, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
- top German directors made fascinating documentary openings into 3D: Wim Wenders celebrated Pina Bausch in the dance spectacle Pina, and Werner Herzog had access to the Chauvet Point d'Arc with the oldest paintings of the world in Cave of Forgotten Dreams

OUT OF COMPETITION: Offside (Jafar Panahi, IR 2006), the wonderful film of the Iranian master, who was invited to be a member the Berlin International Jury. His chair remained empty, as it did in Cannes last year, as in his country Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison (on probation for the moment) and to a twenty-year ban from all film work.

SILVER BEAR: A Torinói ló (The Turin Horse, Béla Tarr, HU 2011). “In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Albert. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse.” These are Béla Tarr’s introductory words at the beginning of his film, which picks up the narrative immediately after these events, and is a meticulous description of the life of the driver of the hansom cab, his daughter and the horse. This Hungarian director’s new work bears all the hallmarks of his inimitable style including long takes, black-and-white photography and almost no dialogue. "

OUT OF COMPETITION: Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland (Yasemin Samdereli, DE 2011). In her first feature film Yasemin Samderelin tells a tragicomic tale of a Turkish family that came to Germany in the 1960s but now the grandfather wants them to return to Anatolia. I heard delighted comments about this.

Bizim büyük çaresizligimiz (Our Grand Despair, Seyfi Teoman, TK/DE/NL 2010). The parents of Fikret and Nihal have died in a road accident, and Fikret asks his two friends Ender and Cetin with whom he shares a flat in Ankara to let his sister Nihal join them. Both Ender and Cetin start to feel more than sympathy with Nihal.

Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes, GB 2010). Ralph Fiennes transposes William Shakespeare's tragedy, set in the beginning of the fourth century in ancient Rome, to the present. He plays the title role and other actors include Gerald Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, and Brian Cox.

El premio (The Prize, Paula Markovitch, MX/FR/PL/DE 2010). The autobiographically inspired debut film by Paula Markovitch is set in Argentina in 1976 at the beginning of the military dictatorship. The film centres on a little girl, the daughter of political dissidents.

THE GOLDEN BEAR: Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (Nader and Simin, a Separation, Asghar Farhadi, IR 2011). Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and their daughter. Nader calls off the journey to take care of his sick father. Simin files for divorce, but her action is denied. The daughter decides to stay with her father. Nader hires a young woman to help him at home. - A popular choice for the Golden Bear, the buzz was good.

Les Contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night, Michel Ocelot, FR 2011). 3D animation. "Every night, a boy, a girl and an elderly technician meet in a closed, rather dilapidated old cinema. But the old picture palace harbours a secret. If truth be known, the cinema is a magical place where the three friends enjoy rummaging about, fantasising, dressing up and playing parts in make-believe stories which, at night, become all too real for the three friends. For this is the time when sorcerers and elves take over in the auditorium, courageous stable hands long for beautiful princesses, werewolves howl and hard-hearted ladies swish their heavy silk skirts. Here, there are cities of gold and forests that are so deep that nobody ever finds their way out again. This is a magical universe pervaded by waves of harmony, where heavenly choirs compete with the dull thud of magical drums. On nights such as these, malevolence can unleash great misfortune. But, in the end, good always triumphs. Animation filmmaker Michel Ocelot has always been fascinated by the techniques of classical animation. In Les Contes de la nuit he juxtaposes silhouette animation as introduced by Berlin director Lotte Reiniger almost a century ago, with state-of-the-art 3D technology. Like Reiniger, whose 1926 film Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed became a key work of the genre, Michel Ocelot also takes his audience on a journey every bit as rich and enchanting as the stories from the ‘Arabian Nights’. Modern digital technology enables the filmmaker to create extraordinary worlds full of colour that transform the cinema into a genuinely magical place." 

OUT OF COMPETITION: Les Femmes du 6ème étage (Service Entrance, Philippe Le Guay, FR 2010). "Paris in 1960. Jean-Louis and Suzanne Joubert are no longer exactly youthful. This stockbroker (Fabrice Luchini) and his wife (Sandrine Kiberlain) live a quiet, middle-class existence in an elegant tenement building. You might even describe their lives as dull – especially since the children have been packed off to boarding school. Things are a good deal livelier on the sixth floor of their building where all the female staff live. The most recent arrivals are ‘guest workers’ from Spain: six women of different ages from Burgos. Jean-Louis finds himself increasingly drawn into their world – a world that is so different to his own. The main reason for his fascination is Concepción (Carmen Maura), a mature but still attractive Spanish woman for whom this man, who is somehow greying both outside and in, develops a quiet passion. He also develops a genuine interest in her colleagues, and this sees him popping upstairs to the sixth floor with increasing regularity in order to enjoy the refreshingly different, friendly atmosphere that prevails. But the more he learns about this different world, the more difficult it becomes for him to return to his own marital home. Naturally, Jean-Louis’ behaviour arouses his wife’s suspicion and jealousy until finally, Suzanne throws her allegedly philandering husband out of their apartment. Her husband isn’t too concerned however because it just so happens there’s a room available on the sixth floor. And it doesn’t bother Jean-Louis in the slightest that the vacant room is in fact only a larder… "

Margin Call (JC Chandor, US 2011). "This thriller set in New York’s Wall Street at the time of the international financial crisis of 2008 takes place in the offices of a major investment bank during the decisive twenty-four hours that precede their bankruptcy announcement. Having examined the books, young analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) suddenly realises that the valuations on which the company has based its business are faulty and that assets from the firm’s mortgage business do not have the same value recorded in the accounts, on the contrary – they have brought the firm to the brink of collapse. No sooner do they hear about the situation that night than the firm’s top management convene a meeting to try to save the bank. Among those at the meeting is Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), an experienced stockbroker, his boss Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) and risk analyst Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore). The company head, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), is also flown in to the meeting by helicopter and it is he who ultimately comes up with a plan to bail them out: as soon as the stock exchange opens in the morning they are to offload all ‘toxic’ debts – a move that will have drastic consequences, not just for Wall Street … JC Chandor: “The American independent investment bank as we knew it died. Margin Call is my attempt to share the experiences of a small group of characters that were sitting at the heart of this crisis without even realising it. The machinery they were a part of had grown so large and complex that no one could comprehend its destructive power until it was too late.”"

OUT OF COMPETITION: Mein bester Feind (My Best Enemy, Wolfgang Murnberger, AT/LU 2010). Vienna in the 1930s. "Victor Kaufmann (Moritz Bleibtreu), the son of a wealthy cosmopolitan Jewish couple, works in his father’s art gallery. His best friend whom he has known since childhood and from whom he is inseparable, is Rudi Smekal (Georg Friedrich). Victor’s girlfriend, the attractive and vibrant Lena (Ursula Strauss), is also a friend of Rudi’s. In a moment of exuberance Victor shows his friend a well-kept family secret: a drawing by Michelangelo that was believed lost. It comes as a terrible shock to Victor to learn that Rudi has long been a member of the Nazi party and is hoping that Austria’s annexation to Germany will improve his career chances with the Nazis. Having missed the right moment to flee Austria, the Kaufmanns are now stuck in Vienna. They transfer their estate to Lena in an attempt to protect it from being confiscated. Having bragged about the Michelangelo drawing, Rudi receives an order from Berlin to seize the art work. In order to save his old friends, Rudi suggests a deal: the drawing in exchange for the Kaufmanns’ freedom. But he has overestimated his influence. No sooner does the drawing fall into the hands of the Nazis than the Kaufmann family is sent to a concentration camp. Rudi gets engaged to Lena. Years later, with Germany’s successful belligerence on the wane, it is decided that the Michelangelo drawing will be presented to the Duce as a gift from the Führer in order to seal their alliance with Italy. But the drawing turns out to be a fake and now the real Michelangelo must be found. Rudi is given an order to retrieve Victor from the concentration camp and bring him to Berlin to be interrogated. Their plane is shot down, killing the crew – the two friends are the only survivors … " Udo Samel and Marther Keller as Jakob and Hannah Kaufmann.

Odem (Lipstikka, Jonathan Sagall, IL/GB 2010). "Lara is Palestinian. She left Ramallah thirteen years ago to begin a new life in London where she married Michael and had a child. She, her husband and her seven-year-old son James lead a pleasant, albeit somewhat dispassionate life in one of the city’s better districts. But there’s nothing that a good slug of vodka won’t help her to cope with. But then, one day, Inam turns up at Lara’s front door. She is a childhood friend from Ramallah. No sooner does Inam surge into the apartment, ask Lara about her husband (currently out at work) and shower attention on Lara’s little boy than it becomes apparent that there is a certain tension between the two women. It’s not long before Lara realises that everything she has created for herself is endangered by Inam’s brusque intrusion. The two women share a secret. Back then, on the West Bank, the girlfriends shared a closeness borne out of their adolescent sexual experiences. One evening in 1994 during the Intifada, they ignored the curfew and headed out to the Jewish part of Jerusalem to see a film at a cinema. Two young Israeli soldiers who noticed them mistook them for Italian tourists. After the film they went out for a drink together. But something that began as a youthful prank took an unexpected turn. What really happened depends on the way each individual perceives those events. Your memory can play tricks on you. Especially when it concerns your deepest fears … "

OUT OF COMPETITION: Pina (Wim Wenders, DE/FR 2010). 3D dance documentary. "Pina is a film for Pina Bausch. Shot in 3D with the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, this feature-length dance film portrays the exhilarating and inimitable art of this great German choreographer who died in the summer of 2009. Inviting the viewer on a sensual, visually stunning journey of discovery into a new dimension right onto the stage of the legendary ensemble, the film also accompanies the dancers beyond the theatre, into the city and the surrounding industrial landscape of Wuppertal – the place that was the home and centre of Pina Bausch’s creative life for more than 35 years. Wim Wenders first saw a piece by choreographer Pina Bausch – ‘Café Müller’ – in 1985, and was immediately bowled over. Their first meeting soon evolved into a long-standing friendship that was to lead eventually to an idea for a joint film project. However, their project’s implementation was long thwarted by the limitations of the medium of film. Wenders sensed that he had yet to find a suitable form in which convey Pina Bausch’s unique art combining movement, gestures, speech and music. But then, in 2007, Wenders saw the concert film U2-3D, a digital production in 3D about the Irish rock band U2 and, all at once, it became crystal clear to him that “3D was the way to do it! Only by including the dimension of space did I feel confident (rather than merely presumptuous) that here was a suitable way of transporting Pina’s Tanztheater to the screen.” Wenders began to familiarise himself thoroughly with the latest developments in 3D cinema and, in 2008, he and Pina Bausch began to think about realising their dream. They decided to include the following pieces from her repertoire: ‘Café Müller’, ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’, ‘Vollmond’ and ‘Kontakthof’."

Saranghanda, saranghaji anneunda (Come Rain, Come Shine, Lee Yoon-ki, KR 2011). "She is going on a business trip to Tokyo. In the car on the way to the airport she tells him that she is leaving him. He seems to accept this. No questions, no confrontation. Some time later. A severe storm sweeps through the city. The couple are spending their last day together at the house where they have spent the last three years. Small things remind them of shared memories and the life they once led. But neither of them tries to turn back the clock and both appear to be reconciled to the situation. When the rain gets heavier, they discover a cat on the roof of their storehouse and bring it in. Frightened, it escapes and hides. Shortly afterwards the doorbell rings. It is the couple next door, looking for their cat. These unexpected guests bring awkwardness into the house but, at the same time, they somehow also rekindle some of the old feelings that have been dormant for so long. The phone rings. It’s the other guy, the one she’s leaving him for. She hesitates and tells him she’s going to spend one more night at the house; it’s because the bridge to the city is blocked due to the storm. Has she changed her mind? The neighbours go home at last. The cat still hasn’t surfaced. They start preparing their last supper together. Peeling the onions makes him cry. He goes to the bathroom to wash his face, but he can’t stop crying. Is it really because of the onions? They have almost finished cooking when the tremulous cat appears. She soothes the cat, or maybe herself: “Everything’s going to be alright.” "

SILVER BEAR: Schlafkrankheit (Sleeping Sickness, Ulrich Köhler, DE/FR/NL 2011). "Ebbo and Vera Velten have spent the better part of the past twenty years living in different African countries. Ebbo (Pierre Bokma) is the manager of a sleeping sickness programme. His work is fulfilling. Vera (Jenny Schily), however, feels increasingly lost in Yaounde’s ex-pat community. She can’t bear the separation from her 14-year-old daughter, Helen, who is attending boarding school in Germany. Ebbo must give up his life in Africa or he risks losing the woman he loves. But his fear of returning to a land now remote to him increases with each passing day. Years later. Alex Nzila, a young French doctor of Congolese origin, travels to Cameroon to evaluate a development project. It’s been a long time since he set foot on this continent, but, instead of finding new prospects, he encounters a destructive, lost man. Like a phantom, Ebbo slips away from his evaluator."

SILVER BEAR: The Forgiveness of Blood (Joshua Marston, US/AL/DK/IT 2010). "Nik is seventeen and is in his last year at high school in northern Albania. Something of a go-getter, Nik has decided that, as soon as he has his school graduation in his hands, he wants to open an internet café. He has also recently started having feelings for girls – and has fallen in love with a girl in his class at school. Nik’s sister Rudina is fifteen; she too has a clear idea of what she wants from life and dreams of attending university. But then their family becomes embroiled in a fight over ownership of some land and their father is accused of murder. All at once, Nik and Rudina find themselves drawn into a terrible vendetta. According to dictates of the Kanun, Albania’s centuries-old traditional laws, none of the family’s male members – not even their young seven-year-old brother – may leave the house. As long as their father is hiding in the mountains and Nik is prevented from showing his face in public, the family has to rely on Rudina, who is now obliged to leave school and take over her father’s affairs. The young girl clearly begins to flourish as a result of her new responsibility; her brother however feels nothing but anger and frustration as a result of his isolation. Somehow Nik has to put an end to this blood feud – even if it costs him his life."

The Future (Miranda July, DE/US 2011). "Sophie (Miranda July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) are something of an odd couple. Both thirtyish, they live together in a one-room apartment; both hate their professions, and their relationship seems to have run up against a brick wall. They spend most of their time online, which doesn’t do much to help their relationship. A joint project and an increased sense of responsibility might be useful in such a situation. And so Sophie and Jason decide to adopt an injured cat that needs to be nursed back to health. Paw Paw will need twenty-four-hour attention – a fact that the pair finds increasingly unsettling as the day draws closer when they will pick up Paw Paw. But before that day arrives, Sophie and Jason decide to do something they’ve wanted to do for a long time, namely, ditch their jobs. Jason decides instead to turn his attentions to the environment. He starts fundraising for a conservation project that is promoting the sponsorship of trees, and Sophie starts choreographing an idea that has long been of interest to her. Time flies by, but Sophie is obliged to admit that she has barely made any progress on her dance. One day when she is feeling particularly disappointed, she decides to pay a visit to the cat that they will soon take home. Here she meets Marshall, a 55-year-old man, with whom she begins an affair. Marshall lives in a satellite town where Sophie doesn’t have to be herself. While Sophie’s life begins to swing back and forth between two diametrically opposed realities, Jason’s life seems to get stuck in a groove. Meanwhile, back at the animal shelter, Paw Paw the cat is still waiting."

OPENING CEREMONY: True Grit (Kova kuin kivi, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, US 2010). "Arkansas in 1872. Indian country. This is where Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) has sought refuge. He’s on the run from fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), the daughter of the farmer he has just shot dead. She is determined to bring her father’s murderer before a court of law – and her determination is unshakable. She turns to Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) – a man whose fame precedes him – for help. And no wonder, the man has brought down no fewer than twenty-three men in just four years of service but, so Cogburn, ‘none that didn’t deserve it.’ An obstinate, boozy and one-eyed individual with wild hair, an eye-patch and worn-out clothes, Cogburn doesn’t exactly give the appearance of being particularly reliable. But Mattie is looking for something special. She’s looking for ‘true grit’ – the determination to see something through to the bitter end. Reluctantly, Cogburn allows Mattie to convince him to take her along on the hunt for Chaney across the lawless expanse of the prairie. But they are not alone – Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) is also after the fugitive because there’s a price on his head. Before long, Mattie comes dangerously close to her father’s murderer…Based on the titular novel by southern writer Charles Portis, True Grit was first adapted in 1969 by Henry Hathaway with John Wayne as Cogburn. It has taken the Coen brothers, however, to recreate on screen the unique tone of the novel which is told through Mattie’s eyes. Speaking in 1996 of this narrative voice, US writer George Pelecanos wrote: “Mattie’s voice, wry and sure, is one of the great creations of modern fiction. I put it up there with Huck Finn's and that is not hyperbole.”"

Un mundo misterioso (A Mysterious World, Rodrigo Moreno, AR/DE/UY 2011). "Ana tells Boris, “I need time.” Boris is confused. Time? A period of separation? What does Ana mean? Does ‘time’ mean a week, a month, a year, or ten years? All at once, Boris is alone. Things are pretty tough for Boris whose problems begin the moment he tries to organise his everyday life. Boris knows that planning, organisation and appointments are as important as taking one’s relationship seriously – but how on earth is he to manage all that? Boris decides to buy his first car. His baby blue second-hand Romanian-built car is a dead ringer for a Renault 6. In fact, rather like the car’s owner, it’s somewhat conspicuous at first glance, but perfectly normal underneath. After a while and on closer inspection however, characteristics begin to emerge that nobody would have suspected; traits that could make it difficult to envisage a harmonious life together. Boris starts meeting people. A classmate introduces him to a circle of friends that end up confusing him. But then, Boris is invited to Uruguay to spend New Year’s Eve with friends in Montevideo. He climbs into his blue Tokha and sets off, but when he arrives in Montevideo there’s nobody at home, and when he calls all he gets is an answering machine message. Rodrigo Moreno’s Un mundo misterioso tells the story of a likeable oddball moving through a paralysed society threatened by economic ruin."

OUT OF COMPETITION: Unknown (Jaume Collet-Serra, DE/GB/FR 2011). "Dr Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) has come to rain-soaked Berlin for a biotechnology conference. But no sooner does he step into a taxi than he is involved in a bad accident. The taxi driver, Gina (Diane Krüger), succeeds in saving the unconscious Harris from drowning but because she lives illegally in Germany, she runs off before the police arrive. When Dr Harris wakes up from his coma he finds himself all bandaged up in a hospital bed. ‘Identity unknown’ says the sign at the foot of his bed. For Harris this marks the beginning of a nightmare: his wife Liz (January Jones) no longer recognises him and another man has taken his place – claiming to be not just her husband but also the renowned scientist who is to hold an important lecture at the conference. As if that weren’t bad enough, Harris is also being pursued by a hit man. He even begins to doubt his own sanity. What on earth has happened to him? In order to try to get back his old life, he sets off in search of Gina; through her he meets former Stasi agent Jürgen (Bruno Ganz) who has come across the surprising information that Dr Harris ‘is not the person he believes himself to be’. But, before he can discuss this with Martin, he is murdered. Once again, Harris and Gina find themselves completely alone in their bid to save his identity – moreover, they are up against some powerful adversaries."

V subbotu (В субботу / Innocent Saturday, Alexander Mindadze, RU/DE/UA 2011). "Saturday, 26 April 1986. A reactor tower at Chernobyl power station has exploded. The party heads play things down but Valery Kabysh (Anton Shagin), sometime drummer and now a faithful young party official has seen the panic written on the faces of those in charge and senses that every second counts. This is the true story of his failed escape. He tries to leave the city together with Vera (Svetlana Smirnova-Matsinkievich), the woman he loves, and his musician friends. But his life holds him back. It’s Saturday. People are out walking, shopping, celebrating weddings; children are playing outside. Caught up in this carefree hustle and bustle, every attempt he makes to leave is unsuccessful. All the while, the disaster is an invisible but ever-present figure in this story. It is as if the people are handcuffed and have lost the key. A lost passport, a broken heel, a missed train. A wedding where the musicians must play on to the end. Vera is singing in the band that at one time used to be Valery’s. And Valery is filling in for the usual drummer who is too drunk to play. What? A life-threatening catastrophe? Deadly radiation? Even when Valery’s colleagues in the band are told what’s going on they continue to party. Another vodka! Another bottle of wine! All that counts is to carry on and be happy, even if it’s only for a moment. It is Saturday, the sun is shining and the grass is green – still. But this Saturday is far from innocent and the people are mercilessly left to their fate."

THE ALFRED BAUER PRIZE: Wer wenn nicht wir (If Not Us, Who, Andres Veiel, DE 2011). "West Germany in the early 1960s. The country is quiet – for the time being. Bernward Vesper (August Diehl) takes up his studies in Tübingen where he is attending Walter Jens’ seminar on rhetoric. Bernward wants to be a writer and spends his nights bashing the keys of a typewriter. At the same time he is keen to defend his father, the poet Will Vesper who was celebrated by the Nazis as a proponent of their ‘Blood and Soil’ ideology. The land where Bernward lives is being suffocated by its past. The war has only been over for fifteen years, old Nazis are back in positions of power, and nobody is prepared to talk about war crimes; the Republic is standing to attention. One day Bernward meets Gudrun Ensslin (Lena Lauzemis) and her friend Dörte. Before long, the three friends are living together in a ménage à trois. But their three-way relationship doesn’t last long. It soon transpires that Gudrun and Bernward are twin souls. This marks the beginning of an extreme relationship that is unquestioning and excessive, a love story that goes beyond the threshold of pain. Setting out together to conquer the world, the pair arrives in West Berlin in 1964 where they become part of the left-wing bo-ho set. When the Social Democratic Party agrees to form a grand coalition with the Christian Demo­c­ratic Union, Bernward and Gudrun are not the only ones who decide to join the Extraparliamentary Op­position movement. Gudrun and Bernward become part of a social and political upheaval that soon takes hold around the globe: liberation movements, student protests and the Black Panther movement in the USA; drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The course of history is inexorable but, at the time, for a moment, it looks as if it might be possible to change its path. If not us, who? And when, if not now? And then another man, Andreas Baader (Alexander Fehling), appears on the scene. Here is someone who is more unswerving, more radical and resolved than Bernward. Before long, Andreas, Gudrun and Bernward find themselves caught up i(... the official file is cut here)."

Yelling to the Sky (Victoria Mahoney, US 2010). "Life is anything but sweet for 17-year-old Sweetness O’Hara (Zoë Kravitz). Her family life lacks warmth and, at school and on the street, she finds herself the target of naked aggression. One day when she is out riding her bike in her neighbourhood, some kids block her path, demanding that she hands over her bike. Sweetness resists, but is beaten to the ground by the gang and their leader – Latonya – a notorious bruiser. Luckily, Sweetness’ older sister Ola appears on the scene and saves her from her predicament. But Sweetness won’t be able to rely on Ola for much longer; at home shortly afterwards Sweetness’ white father, Gordon, an aggressive drinker, and her black mother, Lorene, have a fight. When her father gets violent, her mother leaves home and Ola decides to join her. From now on Sweetness must look after herself. She does so – with astonishing determination. With the help of local celebrity Roland she manages to earn herself a bit of street credibility and, before long, two of her erstwhile rivals, Fatima and Jojo, become her allies. With their support, she dares to attempt a head-on collision with Latonya – and succeeds in beating her rival to a pulp in front of the other pupils. All at once, the pecking order is turned upside down. Sweetness becomes an increasingly loudmouthed bully. Only when her mother and sister come back into the family fold, does Sweetness come to the realisation that she is now the author of the kind of aggression which used to make her own life a misery… "

SPECIAL SCREENING: Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, US/FR 2010). A documentary film in 3D. "The Chauvet Pont d’Arc cave in southern France contains what are currently believed to be the oldest cave paintings and drawings in the world. The cave, which is situated in the Ardèche valley, was not discovered until 1994. Numbering over 400 murals, these paintings are believed to be over 30,000 years old. The cave is not open to members of the public because their breath would change the humidity in the cave and be extremely detrimental to the depictions of animals and symbols on the walls. Even scientists are only allowed to enter the Chauvet cave at certain strictly regimented times. The cave consists of several corridors and caverns. The paintings on the walls are not all flat, rather, the painters would incorporate the walls’ bulges into their work, creating reliefs to which colour was added. There had long been a plan to give a single filmmaker access to the cave and, for the symbolic fee of one Euro, to allow them to capture the paintings on film for the benefit of the general public. Werner Herzog was the man that was chosen for the job and he does not disappoint: using only a minimum of light and a custom-built hand-held camera he succeeds not only in filming but in bringing the images to life. His choice of 3D format also literally conveys the cave’s spatial dimensions. Moreover, the director makes use of the contours of these ‘moving’ rock paintings as the starting point for a philosophical meditation on the origins of the art of film as well as questions of human existence to which this encounter has inspired him."

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