Archive for April, 2013

April 28th 2013

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

It was at an event held by the NFTS last year that I first heard of the Sundance Film Festival having a new off-shoot to be held in London. The French filmmaker who talked about the event didn’t hide his surprise at my ignorance of such a major addition to the London calendar.

I think the backlog of work post-Dubai was a factor in my missing out on last year’s edition.

This year, however, I was totally oblivious to the exact event dates; it was a dear friend from work who alerted me to the start date.

Having soaked in film titles, panel discussions and general festival buzz through the internet, Saturday was going to be my first day at Sundance London.

I was particularly annoyed with myself for the calendar oversight, as this had caused me to miss out on tickets for two very important panel discussions: Screenwriting Flash Lab, and Sense of Humor and Humour US – UK Comedy. Both events were sold out by the time I was kindly reminded of the festival dates.

There was, however, a slight parting in the clouds on Friday evening, as en route to a pre-reminder-of-festival-dates-arranged meeting I received a text cancelling the appointment.

Within minutes, I was on a Jubilee line train to North Greenwich.

As I walked into the large open space outside the glass-walled station, the Dome appeared to rise in greeting with its weathered canopy and yellow steel columns. This was my first visit since the place was called the Millennium Dome.

The young volunteer in a yellow Sundance jumper directed me to the tickets table on the second floor of the huge Cineworld multiplex. There, the bearded young man, in a simple jacket and a blue t-shirt, explained the ticketing system.

No tickets for the two panel discussions – that was the short of it.

For the day’s feature, I picked Emanuel and the Truth about the Fishes (Dir. Francesca Gregorini, USA 2013).

With the ticket in my pocket, I took the lift down to the ground floor. Food was in order.

In the lift, I was joined by a middle-aged lady who dressed and spoke Laura Ashley.

“Have you seen anything good today?”, she asked.

“It’s my first day at the festival. Will be watching Emanuel… later.”

“How about you?”, I added.

“Well, I just walked out of a ghastly film called … Who in their right mind would find a screen full of pink penises remotely interesting is beyond me.”

On the ground floor, we continued our Sundance moment, and it transpired that the lady was an investor-cum-producer of a feature about…

“The star of the film has just been offered two roles in Hollywood, and I am going to … to talk about a couple of scripts he’s written.”

This was a success story that I admired.

En route to the supermarket, the rumble in my tummy was overwhelmed by the rant of a young man that stopped me in my tracks.

“Shut the**** you **** idiot!”

I thought this Gallagher brothers lookalike was shouting at another man.

The sobs of a little girl, not more than four, were the shocking recognition that this person was directing this tirade against his child.

The sight of the Emirates Air Line cable cars gently passing overhead, as I ate a cheese sandwich, couldn’t erase the horrid episode from my mind.

Back at the cinema, Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes temporarily pushed the incident to the back, as this film dreamer appreciated yet another example of the American indie scene producing a wonderful comment on the human condition through a simple, but well executed, story.

The young lead, Kaya Scodelario, is going places.

On the way back to the station, I couldn’t help overhear the scolding a young woman was giving her man. “I am sick and tired of you treating me like a ***** in front of your friends.”

Go girl; may the child of earlier grow into an assertive and intelligent woman, despite her father’s evident ignorance of the privilege that comes with being a parent. Who knows, she may grow to be the next director to be launched by Sundance.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

April 21st 2013

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Filmwise: Two script readers have sent me their feedback on the 2nd draft of the little girl in Baghdad script. They both agree on a couple of points, but appear to have divergent views about the style in which the story is imparted. I will draw on both of their respective script notes for the third draft. All good.

A blessing in disguise…

A dear friend had suggested that I attend the screening of Sadourni’s Butterflies (Dir. Dario Nardi, 2012) on Friday evening, as part of London’s Argentinean Film Festival.

With an invitation gratefully received, I hurriedly threaded my way through the evening deluge of office workers heading to the Tube, rushed at Stratford Station towards the Overground, and made it on time for the train to Hackney Central.

As the train pulled away from the station, I resigned myself to the fact that I will be a few minutes late. The 45 minutes separating my leaving the office and the start of the film would not be sufficient to cover the journey door to door.

At the Hackney Picture House, on the other side of the road from the Hackney Empire, I approached the box office.

“The screening began at 6:45 sharp.”

Knowing that the director was at the screening, as a filmmaker I couldn’t make a fellow cine-dreamer suffer the distraction a late-comer causes the audience.

Noticing my indecisive posture, a staff member, who turned out to be the projectionist, pointed out a table in the cinema cafe. “The festival organisers.”

On saying hello, the young lady turned out to be Sofia Serbin de Skalon, Fetstival Director.

“And here is the director of the film, Dario Nardi.”

In his beautiful English, Dario walked me through the ten years that it took him to make Sadourni’s Butterflies. “We shot the prelude of the film in the year 2000, thinking that we would use it to pitch the whole film to producers. And the budget to shoot the whole of the film didn’t come together until 2010.”

Interestingly, the story time of the film has a ten-year gap between what takes place in the prelude and what happens in the rest of the film. “So, we saved on make up, as the actor was ten years older when we came to shoot the rest of the film with him.”

Watching Dario’s film has made me think of going back to writing film reviews regularly, for one was in the presence of cinematic majesty. There were echoes of German expressionism, of Film Noir, and also of the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. But primarily, this was a master class in making a feature film that is most likely to find a home in the heart of audiences the world over.

In this instance, being late was a huge bonus.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

April 14th 2013

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Filmwise: A short break from writing and editing.

This week, it was announced that the living icon for all things whimsical and French that is Audrey Tautou will be la maîtresse des cérémonies at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.

Like many people of my generation, I can recall almost frame by frame the beats that my heart skipped as I witnessed the birth of Amélie (Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France 2001) on the big screen.

It seemed as if the black and white Paris of the early Nouvelle Vague was made even more beguiling and mesmerizing in colour. The innocent and inquisitive round dark eyes, which seemed like a cinema screen inviting us to wallow in the images and stories they held… they ingrained in this film dreamer’s heart a new name and persona… Mlle. Tautou.

I can’t remember how many times I went back to my local cinema to watch the film again and again. What I know is in that autumn of 2001 the quantity of films I watched at the pictures was drastically reduced, despite continuing to buy a ticket at least twice a week.

The films and characters that she took since have struggled to escape comparisons with Amélie, both for those of us who fell in love with the girl from Montmartre, and also for those who sniffed at what they considered to be sentimental romanticism.

I am looking forward to Tautou’s new film Thérèse Desqueyroux (Dir. Claude Miller, France 2012), not only for being the last work of the late Claude Miller, but also due to the apparent conversion it has caused among some of Tautou’s more avid detractors in France.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

April 7th 2013

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Filmwise: The second draft of the little girl in Baghdad script is with my usual script reader. Hoping to receive her feedback, comments and questions this week. Exciting.

Three lines…

On the Friday morning train to work, the train driver seemed to go off script ” ladies and gentlemen, good morning, good service, good morning.”

With my writing duties momentarily carried out, this weekend was a long-awaited break that was blessed with the actual arrival of spring.

A friend dropped by around noon on Saturday, and the short stroll to the local supermarket turned into a three-hour urban hike.

At the hairdresser, the radio in the background was shaking to the tune “I am alive, I am alive, I am alive.. I can fly, I can fly, I can fly”.

Not sure who was the youngster behind the computer modified voice. but the start of the song was like Prozac without prescription.

On Sunday, I soaked in the warm sunshine on the South Bank. The day was replete with stories and anecdotes, thanks to a dear friend’s company.

In the evening, I watched Woody Allen: A Documentary (Dir. Robert B. Weide, 2012) – a most delicious end to a great weekend.

Pointing to the small house where he was born, the bespectacled  one quips, “it doesn’t look like much, but it wasn’t!”

Peace and love,

Ja’far