Thursday, July 28, 2011

EU 2011 - Chart 4

BIFF Reviews Working Document

EU Film Festival 2011 – Chart 4: Thursday and Friday, July 28-29 – Prepared by Thomas Ohlson

At Vista Theater 7, 4th Floor, Kadsuankaew, Chiang Mai


Thursday, July 28, 2011     



Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

2 PM



The Paper Will Be Blue (2006)


Original Title: Hîrtia va fi albastrã

Country : ROMANIA

Category : Action/ Drama

Writer/ Director : Radu Muntean

Principal Cast : Paul Ipate, Adi Carauleanu, Dragos Bucur

Length : 1 hr 35 min


During the confused night of 22-23 December 1989 young militiaman Costi, eager to join the rebel forces, escapes from his unit. Captain Neagu assembles a patrol to hunt down the deserter, while nervous citizens watch history unfolding on their television sets. A gripping, taut rendition of the birth pangs of contemporary Romania.


Nominated for the 2006 Golden Leopard award at Locarno International Film Festival.


Trailer at:



Neil Young’s Film Lounge: Promising stuff, and executed with a certain technical skill, a real-time, you-are-there doggedness and a Bloody Sunday-style verisimilitude that may impress certain viewers. In the end, however, the atmosphere of laborious, grittily downbeat intensity – relieved by only the barest flecks of ironic humor – proves monotonously uninvolving, capturing all too well this long, long, dark, dark night of one nation's troubled soul.

Rotten Tomatoes synopsis: The December 1989 fall of Communist Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu sets the stage for co-writer/director Radu Muntean's wry action drama following one perplexed militia's attempt to find out just who has assumed control of Bucharest once the despised tyrant has fallen. Romanian despot Ceausescu has been overthrown by a combination of military coup and civil insurrection, and now Lt. Neagu (Adi Carauleanu) has been assigned the task of maintaining the peace in a small Bucharest suburb. When Lt. Neagu and his heavily armored militia squad hear news that pro-Ceausescu forces are attempting to wrestle control of a national television station away from anti-Ceausescu counterparts, ambitious militiaman Costi (Paul Ipgate) suggests that the troupe leave to help fend off the "terrorists" who would see the feared dictator reinstated. After Costi slips away from the militia to help defend the television station, he is recruited to help defend a house full of protestors from terrorists. Inexplicably, Costi himself is accused of terrorism by the very people he was attempting to help and is forced to convince the protestors of his democratic beliefs. Realizing that Costi has deserted the militia and frightened that he will be held responsible for losing his soldier, Lt. Neagu and his squad discover that their mission is far from over after arriving as Costi's suburban home. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi


IMDb viewer Dominic Ambrose: This is a film about one of the most iconic and fateful events of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the liberation of Romania in December, 1989. It was the most brutal confrontation of that historical period, and the one that is perhaps least understood. The film opens with a scene of senseless violence, a case of confusion and wild gunfire in the dawn hours of December 23, 1989. This serves as the context and creates the mood of panic, confusion and deadly danger of this film.

The film takes us inside an armored militia vehicle as it patrols the streets of Bucharest on the darkest night of revolution. The soldiers are confused, unsure of even the most basic truths about their job: Who are they protecting? What are they defending and who are they fighting? Who are they serving? What country is this? The soldiers have no idea, and they prefer not to think about it.

This is the story of revolution. What seems to us such heroic activity guided by higher ideals of liberty and justice, is often unimaginable confusion and wasteful carnage. The performances are very good, the characterizations low keyed and hemmed in, just as these soldiers are hemmed in by the circumstances they find themselves in. The dialog is terse and chattering, in nervous counterpoint to the deadly serious events. But the events are at times mercilessly confusing, and this tends to decrease the impact of some of the key scenes. Just because the characters are confused doesn't mean that the film viewers should be as well! This is especially true at the television station when it is quite difficult to tell which side the soldiers there are defending.

In general, the film is quite successful in that it brings the viewer into that time and place, and makes the madness come alive. I think there is room for further development of some of the characters, as there is so much irony in their predicament that is only obliquely alluded to. As for the ending, I was a bit disappointed that the filmmaker chose not to show the final scene that we are left to imagine. It seems like a choice of modesty that does not give full impact to the pathological nature of war.

3:45 PM



Erratum (2010)

Country : POLAND

Category : Drama

Writer/Director : Marek Lechki

Principal Cast : Tomasz Kot, Ryszard Kotys, Tomasz Radawiec

Length : 1 hr 35 mins


Years ago, Michal left his hometown behind to study in the city. He leads a comfortable life with a happy family, a nice apartment and a good job. When work brings him back to his hometown, a car accident thwarts his plans to avoid running into anyone. Forced to stay in town during the investigation, Michal must confront the choices he has made.




2011 International Film Festival Tofifest, Torun - Golden Angel

2011 International Film Festival of Uruguay - FIPRESCI Award

2011 Lecce European Film Festival, Italy - Special Jury Priz

2010 Thessaloniki International Film Festival – Best Screenplay Award

2010 Chicago International Film Festival - Gold Plaque in New Directors Competition

2010 Gdynia Polish Film Festival – Awards for Best Directorial Debut and Critics Award




About the Writer/Director Marek Lechki: Born in 1975 in Brzeg Dolny, Poland. Director, screenwriter, and producer. Graduated from University of Silesia in Katowice (Radio and Television Dept., 2002). He won several awards for his student films and short documentary forms at various amateur film festivals.



For a trailer (in English) check out


12th Annual Polish Film Festival of Los Angeles: Michal must travel to his hometown, Szczecin, to pick up his boss' car. The trip reminds him of all the reasons why many years ago, after his mother's death, Michal left Szczecin and escaped from his father. A car accident, in which he kills a homeless man, forces Michal to extend his stay in Szczecin. Out of guilt he starts searching for the homeless man's family. This simple task quickly transforms into an emotional journey into his past. The harder he tries to move on and leave, the deeper he sinks into a world of unfulfilled dreams and ambitions, and unresolved conflicts.


Twitch: There's a wave of young talent breaking in Poland right now, an infusion of fresh blood bringing new energy to one of the most established film cultures in Europe. And one of those young guns is director Marek Lechki. A multiple award winner for his student, television and earlier feature work, Lechki will soon be premiering his latest drama Erratum.


OffPlusCamera: Marek Lechki’s “Erratum“ can be described as a little film about very large issues. In an impressively skilled manner the director tells the story of a man who got very lost within his own life but failed to notice it.

The main character of the film is Michal (brilliant Tomasz Kot)– a well-respected husband and father, who is forced to face his fears and issues from the past. As a result of a tragic coincidence Michał has to stay in his home town for much longer than he had initially planned. All the problems and conflicts that have been haunting him for years are now coming back and they are more real than ever. This time however, there is nowhere to run. Initially, this sense of limbo makes Michal aggressive towards himself and everyone around him. Gradually, this feeling of helplessness has a positive side-effect and means that Michal can at last reflect on his life and make an effort to accept the world he no longer belongs to as a part of his past.

Simple stories are usually the most difficult to tell. One of many great things about Lechki’s film is the fact that the director manages to avoid any kind of straight forwardness and obvious solutions. The story unfolds unhurriedly; there are no dramatic twists or unconvincing formal tricks and still, you will be at the edge of your seat throughout the screening. The director steers clear of judging his characters and he does not reprimand anyone. His characters are full-blooded human beings who make mistakes and who then attempt to correct them in panic.“Erratum“ is a must-see for all of those who doubted that there were original voices in recent Polish cinema. It isn’t often that we have the opportunity to see a vision so clear, coherent, and mature.


Coffee, coffee, and more coffee: For the flimsiest of reasons, Michal, an accountant, is asked by his boss to pick up a specially ordered car and drive it back. The car is in the town where Michal grew up. Whatever feelings Michal may have about the town do not include nostalgia. Michal is urged by his wife to see his father. The idea of tenuous family bonds are already indicated by Michal's relationship with his own family. There is already a sense that Michal's going to his old home town is not a good idea. Michal's plan to simply take the train to town, pick up the car, and drive overnight to deliver the car, are tossed aside by a road accident.

What follow are a series of events where Michal is forced to reconnect with his father, his former best friend, and a friend of the family. Parallel to this is Michal's taking on for himself to discover the identity of the derelict he has hit by accident, connecting with a man whom no one can clearly identify, discovering that man's family, and his past. There are no revelations, or tearful reconciliations to be found here. Erratum might be said to be more about simply making peace with one's past, including all mistakes.

There isn't much at this time to be found on Marek Lechki. That will probably change soon. Erratum has been racking up awards not only in his native Poland, but also more recently in film festivals in Chicago and Pusan. This is Lechki's first feature. In a film where several of the characters are, or were, musicians, I did find out that Lechki has also had a history of playing what has been described in Polish Wikipedia as alternative music. Perhaps approaching Erratum as a somewhat abstract musical work may be best for this film. In this way, the viewer is like Michal, surrendering expectations and allowing things to reveal themselves at their own pace.

5:30 PM

The Last Pulcinella (2009)


Original Title: L'ultimo Pulcinella

Country : ITALY

Category : Drama

Director : Maurizio Scaparro

Principal Cast : Massimo Ranieri, Domenico Balsamo, Adriana Asti


Length : 1 hr 29 min


Michelangelo, an unemployed actor, is forced to leave Naples for Paris with his son after witnessing a Mafia killing. He meets Marie, also an actress, who owns and looks after a theatre. Together they try to stage a play about the traditional Neapolitan character of Pulcinella. If they succeed, a dream of the many Italian immigrants will come true.


Italian Film Festival New Zealand: ‘The Last Pulcinella’ is liberally inspired by Roberto Rossellini’s unedited screenplay and directed by acclaimed theatre maestro Maurizio Scaparro.  A story of the difficult relationship between a young Neapolitan in search of new creative inspirations and a life far away from his hometown, and a father who hardly manages to survive as a street artist. 

Massimo Ranieri (one of Italy’s greatest pop singers) stars as the struggling middle-aged actor Michelangelo, separated from his wife, who performs ‘stories of Pulcinella’ as a street artist in Naples’ piazzas. His son Francesco (Domenico Balsamo) flees to Paris after witnessing a Camorra crime. Michelangelo follows him after a tip-off by his estranged wife even though he does not speak a word of French. With the help of an old friend Dorient (Jean Sorel), and an ageless actress (Adriana Asti) who lives in an abandoned theatre, the father and son put on a show that will reinvigorate their often strained relationship.

‘The Last Pulcinella’ is a powerful film about a changing world and the power of theatre to bridge the gap between people, set against the backdrop of French racial tensions.


Dominic Ambrose Blogblot: The Last Pulcinella stars Massimo Ranieri, the renowned Italian singer and actor. His early fame in the 1960s was with pop songs in the style of San Remo, where he twice won the top prize. In the 1970s he started in a new direction with his album entitled ‘O Surdato Nammurato” a live recording of one of his theatrical performances of Neapolitan sketches. This album, with its cover photo of him dressed in the white pajama costume of Pulcinella, has become a classic and it established the future trajectory of his career. Today he is best known as an interpreter the classic Neapolitan repertoire, and he has come out with several more collections of Neapolitan standards, the latest one in 2009. Many of these songs are over one hundred years old and they have been interpreted over and over again by innumerable singers from the most talented to the ridiculous. His renditions are superb, as he uses his clear and sharp voice to bring out the bel canto qualities of these songs, while at the same time making them enjoyable for the modern ear. In this film Ranieri plays a custom made role, as Michelangelo, a Neapolitan actor who performs Pulcinella. His voice and abilities are as breathtaking as ever, but alas, the years have erased Michelangelo’s youthful good looks. This does not stop him, though, and he continues to evolve and when he arrives in working class Paris in search of his missing son, he wants to bring the theatrical traditions to a new generation of performers. Ranieri’s Pulcinella performances in the film are wonderful. His ability to become the Commedia dell’Arte character has been perfected over a long career and this shows. Unfortunately, it is not enough to make the film palatable.

One glaring problem is the lack of veracity. There are plot twists and little conflict-resolutions throughout that conveniently fall from the sky without rhyme or reason. All of the points of tension: Michelangelo’s son’s escape from Naples, the suspicions of the elderly actress toward the immigrant neighbors, and especially the belligerence of the police force and the glimpses of police brutality, are dangled for a moment in front of our eyes, then blithely forgotten. The discovery of an empty theater just waiting for the protagonist to arrive, and the impressive artistic talent of all the neighborhood characters who just happen to saunter in, are elements that would work fine in a Broadway musical, where the audience doesn’t really care about all the niceties of logic – just get to the music, but they are absolutely insulting to the intelligence of someone watching a film that is supposed to be “realism.” This story calls on Deus ex Machina contrivances so often that it hardly seems worth it for Deus ever to climb back into his Machina.

7:10 PM

Run If You Can (2009)


Original Title: Renn, wenn Du kannst

Country : GERMANY

Category : Romantic Drama

Director : Dietrich Brüggemann

Principal Cast : Robert Gwisdek, Anna Brüggemann, Jacob Matschenz

Length : 1 hr 52 min


Ben is in a wheelchair and Christian is doing his national social service as Ben's caretaker. They meet the cellist Annika, who is under a lot of strain finishing her music degree. Ben and Christian fall in love with the same woman. The film's story of an unusual love triangle and the absurd, humorous dialogue goes straight to the heart..

Trailer (German only):


Variety: First theatrical feature from young Teuton helmer Dietrich Brueggemann (sharing writing honors on a pleasingly full-circle script with his thesp sister Anna) offers witty dialogue and appealing performances in a romantic triangle with a twist, while the underlying theme of overcoming one's physical and mental limitations lends the small but affecting pic an additional marketing hook. After a limited German rollout this summer, expect "Run" to glide into further fests, with extended Euro ancillary life.

In the industrial northern Rhine city of Duisburg, tart-tongued, wheelchair-bound paraplegic Ben (Robert Gwisdek) is finishing his master's thesis and making life difficult for his assistants. But Ben meets his match when he's assigned easygoing Christian (Jacob Matschenz), an aspiring medical student unwilling to be drawn into his power games.

The growing friendship between the two young men is strained when they both take a shine to Annika (Anna Brueggemann), a pretty cellist with a bad case of performance anxiety. Annika likes the playful Christian, but she's also drawn to the prickly Ben, whose verbal brilliance and appreciation for music makes her overlook his handicap.

Aiming for an offbeat tone, director Brueggemann successfully injects the realist material with black humor and some almost-screwball physical comedy that occasionally falls flat. He also incorporates numerous authentic details of life lived with a severe disability.

Although both Anna Brueggemann and Matschenz provide sympathetic screen presences, thesping honors belong to thin, lanky Gwisdek (son of popular actors Michael Gwisdek and Corinna Harfouch). Physically convincing as a paraplegic, he conveys Ben's hopes, fears and frustrations with a performance of great delicacy and dexterity.


Friday, July 29, 2011


Note: Times uncertain! Check at EU desk. First two films may start earlier than listed; last two films may start later. They’re short by about 30 minutes.



Title / Original Title / Country / Category / Director / Length / Festival Synopsis

Comments / Reviews

2 PM


May start early!

Above the Street, Below the Water (2009)


Original Title: Over gaden under vandet

Country : DENMARK

Category : Drama

Co-writer/ Director : Charlotte Sieling

Principal Cast : Sidse Babett Knudsen, Mohammed Al-Bakier, Anders W. Berthelsen

Length : 1 hr 40 min


Ask and Anne are married, with everything they could ever want: good careers, lovely children, and an apartment in the most beautiful part of Copenhagen. One morning Anne learns that Ask wants to take a break from their marriage. Like rings in the water, Ask's decision starts affecting everyone around them.  

An examination of why humans are unfaithful.


Warsaw Film Festival: One 24-hour period. One city. One divorce. In a couples' therapy session, husband Ask astonishes his wife Anne with the idea that he needs a break from their marriage. In the next 24 hours six people try to survive their own choices, controlled by their passions (or lack thereof). While these adults struggle obsessively with their emotional lives, their children watch their parents in astonishment. Are we supposed to become like them? An elegant debut which uses the Aristotelian idea of unity of action, time and place to present a grotesque story of everyday life. A film about the adult generation of today, which has everything and can do anything - except figure out how to live together.

Charlotte Sieling:

Born 1960, in Denmark. Graduated as an actress from the Danish National School of Theatre in 1985, and in 1995 from the National Film School of Denmark, where she graduated in screenplay writing. Stage and film actor for ten years before taking up directing. She made her first short in 1998. 'Above The Street, Below The Water' is her feature film debut.

3:50 PM



May start early!

When We Leave (2010)


Original Title: Die Fremde

Country : GERMANY

Category : Drama

Writer/Director : Feo Aladag
Principal Cast : Sibel Kekilli, Nizam Schiller, Derya Elabora

Length : 1 hr 59 min


Umay is a young woman of Turkish descent, fighting for an independent and self-determined life in Germany against the resistance of her family. Her struggle initiates a dynamic that results in a life-threatening situation.


Generally favorable reviews, Rotten Tomatoes. A multi-award-winning film.




In awarding the film Best Narrative Feature Award, and Best Actress Award for Sibel Kekilli, the Tribeca Film Festival Narrative Jury said of the film: " When We Leave examines one woman's struggle for personal freedom. It is a riveting and heartbreaking story of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, who must not only free herself from that marriage, but also the cultural prejudices and judgments that would keep her there. Feo Aladag built the nuances of her film over a six year period. She rehearsed her actors for seven months. She immersed herself in every detail of a culture that is revealed to us in remarkable detail. The result is a film that balances complex social issues with honest human yearnings. Through the brutality, When We Leave is also a story of tenderness, the struggle for compassion, the inexorable pull of family and the need to love and be loved." German-born Umay (Sibel Kekilli) flees her oppressive marriage in Istanbul, taking her young son Cem with her. She hopes to find a better life with her family in Berlin, but her unexpected arrival creates intense conflict. Her family is trapped in their conventions, torn between their love for her and the traditional values of their community. Ultimately they decide to return Cem to his father in Turkey. To keep her son, Umay is forced to move again. She finds the inner strength to build a new life for herself and Cem, but her need for her family's love drives her to a series of ill-fated attempts at reconciliation. What Umay doesn't realize is just how deep the wounds have gone and how dangerous her struggle for self-determination has become... -- (C) Olive Films


NOW Toronto, Norman Wilner: Anyone can make a movie about a woman suffering under the restrictions of a fundamentalist mentality; the trick is making one that doesn’t fall back on stereotypes and simplistic finger-wagging.

In her directorial debut, When We Leave, the German actor Feo Aladag neatly avoids those traps and comes up with a tense drama about people, rather than character sketches. The movie’s universe of cloistered women and controlling men living within today’s Germany feels distressingly credible.

The terrific Sibel Kekilli stars as Umay, a German-born Muslim who abandons her abusive husband in Turkey and takes their son back home to her family – only to find they think she’s dishonored them by fleeing her marriage and aren’t interested in hearing her side of things.

Depicting Umay’s oppressive surroundings in long, largely silent sequences, Aladag creates a suffocating atmosphere that gives the story’s grim trajectory – signaled in the very first scene – a terrible inevitability.

When We Leave uses dread powerfully, letting us watch impotently alongside Umay as her relatives fall into a feedback loop of indignant self-justification.

Manipulative? Absolutely. But awfully effective.

5:20 PM


May start late!

Cell 211 (2009)


Original Title: Celda 211

Country : SPAIN

Category : Thriller/ Action/ Drama

Writer/Director : Daniel Monzón

Principal Cast : Luis Tosar, Alberto Ammann, Antonio Resines


Length : 1 hr 53 min


Newly hired prison officer Juan Oliver finds himself in the midst of a prison riot after an unforeseen turn of events. With the inmates around him unaware of his position, he must pretend to be a prisoner to survive.


Generally favorable reviews, Rotten Tomatoes. A multi-award-winning film.




Empire Magazine, Kim Newman: An outstanding thriller, with enough political and character strokes to lift it out of the straight genre category - but rough and tough enough to stand alongside any given Hollywood hardman buddy vehicle.


ViewLondon, Matthew Turner: Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerful Spanish prison drama with terrific performances from Alberto Ammann and Luis Tosar.


What Culture, Shaun Munro: On the surface this is a relatively familiar prison thriller, yet when executed with panache of such disarming brutality and tension, it finds room to distinguish itself in an overcrowded genre..


Daily Express, Henry Fitzherbert: Director Daniel Monzon's picture - very well acted by the leads - manages to combine extremely clever, unpredictable plotting with plausible but unexpected character development, elevating standard genre fare to something much more substantial.


Boston Globe, Wesley Morris: What this movie lacks in plausibility (which is almost everything), it makes up for with authentic adrenaline -- and Spanish Goya Awards (it won eight this year).


Washington Post, Michael O'Sullivan: The cast is uniformly strong, Monzon's direction riveting. For his portrayal of Malamadre, a villain both honorable and evil, Tosar won a well-deserved award at this year's Goya awards (the Spanish Oscars), along with Ammann and Etura. Monzon took home the award for best director; the film itself won four additional prizes, including best picture.

It's easy to see why, though there's nothing easy about this tough and beautiful tale.

Contains frequent, bloody violence and rioting, near-constant obscenity, partial nudity, sexual references, brief sensuality and drug use. In Spanish and Basque with English subtitles.





May start late!

Weekend With My Mother (2009)


Original Title : Weekend cu mama

Country : ROMANIA

Category : Drama

Writer/Director : Stere Gulea

Principal Cast : Medeea Marinescu, Adela Popescu and Tudor Istodor

Length : 1 hr 27 min


Fifteen years ago, Luiza decided to make a fresh start in Spain, leaving her 3-year-old daughter Cristina in the care of her relatives. On returning to Romania, she learns some shocking truths: Cristina is a drug addict whose 2-year-old girl lives in an orphanage. Overwhelmed by guilt, Luiza attempts to save her daughter and redeem the mistakes of her youth.

IMDb viewer: It's exquisite. ... I can truly say that the journey, although a bit extreme and romantic aesthetics in it, was a very Romanian one. And it is nice to find yourself lost in the artistic beauty of a tragedy ... but also in a day to day cultural mirror. Bad habits, ignorance, mistakes, the death of family values, lack of respect, streets, filth, carelessness, loneliness at an old age, indecency ... the shallow hope of an absolution that is not consistent with reality ... All here.


IMDb viewer: This one topped my expectations! The story develops around an 18-20 year old girl named Cristina (Adela Popescu). She's a drug addict. The story gets going when she meets her mother who just returned from Spain. It's a powerful drama about family relationships and past while dealing with the present.





EU 2011 - Chart 4 Page 2 of -n- By Thomas Ohlson - Printed Thursday, July 28, 2011

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