Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

May 24th 2015

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Cannes 2015 Part II

Having arrived early for his meeting, he loitered at the bottom of a marble staircase on the ground floor of one of the elegant hotels dotting the Croisette.

A tall and effortlessly chic French woman sat on a blue velvet upholstered beige wood chair and balanced a notebook at the edge of her short skirt.

“Ok, 4:30 at the suite. But, please, don’t wear any makeup or cream or oil, on your face or hair,” she said firmly on her phone.

Then, ticking off items with an expensive pen, she added, “ Just the dress and the black high heels.”

After the disconcertingly short chat upstairs, he descended the stairs and headed to the lobby. Rather than the usual sprinkling of middle-aged men with expensive watches, he stumbled into what looked like a fashion show. Women resplendent with elaborate and clearly exorbitantly priced dinner dresses were queuing at the entrance to a ballroom.

“Hello, we are ready for you,” the French fashion adviser of earlier said to a Japanese young woman dressed in an exquisitely layered pink number.

“You have lipstick on your teeth,” she whispered as she walked her to the red carpet where   cameras and lights seemed to be forever blinking.

In the queue for Songs My Brothers Taught me (Dir. Chloe Zhao, USA 2015), at the Directors’ Fortnight, he stood next to a father and daughter. They talked about cinema, politics and Cannes.

During the screening, there was an intimate scene involving passionate kissing and, oddly, a Tampon.

In the dark, the father and daughter quietly made their way to the exit.

The two separate parties that he asked for the rating they gave the film agreed on a nine out of ten.

Looking for the apartment where his next appointment was meant to be with a production company, he came upon a pitch in progress, in the landing of the floor below his destination.

“And when she comes upon this sight, she capitulates to the tears that she’d been holding back for so long. She cries for a lost youth – her’s and her child’s,” the young woman was clearly relating a narrative close to her heart.

Her listener was a young man himself, perhaps an intern sent out from the apartment behind them to shoo away yet another indie filmmaker attempting to sell the company something, when the outfit has come all they way to the South of France looking for buyers – so seems to be state of mind of the overwhelming majority of firms at the Marché.

As he walked past the pitcher and pitchee, he hoped for them to hit it off on a personal level at least, for they both seemed so young and full of good energy.

En route to the afternoon screening of the official competition film Dheepan (Dir. Jacques Audiard, France 2015), he noticed a gentleman in a Panama hat and a dark blazer gingerly approaching a group of festival-badge-carriers seated outside an ice cream parlour.

“Excuse me, sorry to bother you; are you interested in buying scripts?” he asked them, with his right hand hovering by the inside pocket of his jacket.

“No!” was the predictable answer from the seated ones.

“Thank you,” he responded, and walked away with as much dignity as one could muster in such a situation.

“It’s my first Cannes, and I am just trying my luck,” he explained to him.

“I have tried to talk to producers in cafes – the rich ones smoking cigars,” he added.

“Here; you’re welcome to my story outline,” and he took out a neatly folded A4 from his jacket pocket.

Though thoroughly absorbing, Audiard’s latest outing didn’t better his previous work, most notably A Prophet (2009) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005).

Walking to the bus stop, he overheard a chap with a Middle Eastern accent like his own ask a fellow festival goer for advice: “How expensive is it to stay in Cannes? At the moment, I am renting in a nearby town.”

“I have no idea; my paper is paying. But during the festival, Cannes is one of the most expensive places on earth!” he said in immaculate English with a slight Spanish accent.

On the plane back, a tall and bearded thirty-something producer bemoaned the lack of interest in low budget features at market.

“A financier told me, ‘it’s easier to get a £2m budget together than one for £300k,’” he said incredulously.

As the pilot instructed the crew over the PA to prepare for landing, he watched on his mind’s screen the many eye-opening and insightful events that he’d experienced at this year’s festival.

He awarded this edition nine out of ten.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

May 17th 2015

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Cannes Film Festival

Sprinting with a laptop under his arm, while his hand was steadying the jacket pocket as it swung with the weight of the charger and mouse, he couldn’t help smiling at what a passer-by might think, “a thief… Or a writer running home after completing a manuscript!”
A thief seemed more plausible.
Having made it to the last train, he calmed his breathless state with the thought of his plane taking off in less than six hours.
In his apartment, he hauled the shirts with the film postcards and the incomplete list of contacts into the small carry-on suitcase; no time for picking and choosing clothes or business cards.
The aircraft cut through the early morning chill, climbing to nestle above the clouds and nearer to the sun’s warmth.
At Nice airport, he missed the early coach for the little town with the charming studio.
Waiting, his attention was drawn away from trying to disable all the internet connections on his mobile, for the World Wide Web comes at a hefty price abroad, when a spectacled gentleman rolled by with his trolly and an assistant in tow. It was Toni Servillo, star of Oscar-winning LA Grande Bellezza /The Great Beauty (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) and many Italian productions.
His ride arrived ten minutes late. The thirty-something driver promptly stamped his ticket and pressed the button shutting the door closed.
He had the whole 30 seater to himself.
“Music is ok for you?” She asked him, testing his level of French.
“Oui, ok.”
Her driving felt more mellow, despite dividing her time between reading and tapping massages on her phone, answering a couple of calls and waving to other drivers ferrying passengers to the airport.
He felt good for her apparent contentment.
Not ten minutes into his arrival at Cannes, he was fully badged and furnished with the festival bag, loaded with the glossy catalogue and the all-important screening schedule.
He braved the overflowing pavements on La Croisette, with filmmakers, fans and tourists at times spilling out onto the main road, to the chagrin of motorists and the police alike.
His first meeting was at a swanky cafe off the main road, where the smell of cigars mingled with other aromas of wealth.
Later, he climbed the stairs to the second floor apartment of a major indie studio. The laid-back crowd was enjoying the free bar and the rather nice buffet.
“Hello, what do you do?” He’d learned over the years that at Cannes one needs to be direct.
“I am an actress.”
Her film was in the process of being acquired by the studio. They both watched the trailer on her phone, before she had to make her way to the next reception.
At one of the five-star hotels lining the corniche, he wandered into the bar, seeking a soft drink and a place to rest.
In the lobby, a familiar face; a major Middle Eastern director.
They chatted briefly, before the maestro needed to head to a dinner party.
Ahead of a screening, he grabbed a free cup of coffee at the Nespresso bar. Standing next to him was a French lady who turned out to be the translator and subtitles editor of a film taking part in the Directors’ Fortnight.
She lamented the disinterest of a number of directors in her work, leaving the process to the distributor.
“But the subtitles are how foreign audiences learn the story; no?” She asked.
He headed home, with bated breath for more encounters and screenings over the next week.
Peace and love,
Ja‘far

October 26th 2014

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Filmwise: More rewrites and revisions. All good.

For my final London Film Festival viewing this year, I chose The World of Kanako (Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima, Japan 2014), an unhinged mix of violence, sex, alcohol abuse, and comic strip storytelling techniques. The positive in the experience was learning of what appears to be a popular genre of film in Japan.

The other positive was the art exhibition held at Rich Mix, the screening venue.

Entitled “Camus, Clough and Counter Culture: 20 Years of Philosophy Football,” the exhibition consists of a long row of football T-shirts carrying the thoughts of the great and good from across the spectrum of the arts and sports. Really worth the trip to Shoreditch.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

October 19th 2014

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Filmwise: Working on a couple of short pieces.

Being in my adopted home city, the London Film Festival and Raindance are probably the only festivals at which I feel most like an audience member, rather than a filmmaker. In their respective special ways, they  have the variety and quality curating of works from all over the world that gives one an impression of the zeitgeist of the moment across the filmmaking community.

In August, you would find me checking and rechecking their respective sites for programme updates.

So, having attended Raindance earlier in the month, on a rain-soaked Monday evening this week I was rushing on Shaftsbury Avenue to Curzon Soho for my first taste of this year’s London Film Festival.

The film was Décor (Dir. Ahmad Abdalla, Egypt 2014), the latest from a proponent of a new generation of Egyptian and other Arab filmmakers that are managing to tell local stories on an international stage.

Having watched the director’s best known previous work, Microphone (2010), I was keen to be among the audience for the world premiere of his latest.

The most impressive aspect of Décor is the fact that it has been made, as it is a decidedly art house piece, shot in captivating black and white, with high production values.

I look forward to Mr Abdalla’s next project.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

October 6th 2014

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Filmwise: Continuing to explore new stories.

Raindance Film Festival

The first logo that stood out for me in this year’s poster of the Raindance Film Festival was that of the BFI. I understand that this is the first year in which Raindance has received support from the film culture fund of the state. Great news.

Arriving straight from work on Monday evening, the Boozin’ N’ Schmoozin’ networking event was already booked up.

Out of a choice of three features, I settled on The Light Shines Only There (Dir. Mipo O, Japan).

The story of three characters in a northern Japanese coastal town, this was a film of two halves. The first is of direction, and the second is of storywriting.

The direction, camera work and frame composition were cinematically sound. A good  use of mis-en-scene to convey emotions and add subtle undercurrents to the scene.

The storywriting could’ve benefitted from some editing, and the pruning of scenes and element that do not contribute to the respective character arcs.

That said, it was a good watch.

Until next Raindance.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

September 7th 2014

Sunday, September 7th, 2014
“Every week, I receive something like five to ten scripts,” announces my designated “market matchmaker”.
“But I don’t read any of them!”
We are in the Gold Badge-holders meeting area on the third floor of the Excelsior Hotel.
The matchmaker goes on to explain the mountain of obstacles facing a second feature project, like mine.
Not sure whether it’s the bitter dose of reality that I’ve just had or the small breakfast this morning, but I feel positively lightheaded – I need food.
I walk a couple hundred feet along the Lungomare Marconi to a beach restaurant which I had tried on my first day here.
As I walk in, I greet the staff and the chef. His American accent has an Eastern flavour. His parents hail from Afghanistan.
The waiter is about to say “no” for my request of grilled fish mix, when the chef gives him the thumbs up.
When my large plate arrives, the waiter confides,”the chef made an exception for you; we’re not serving lunch at the moment.” I look around me and everyone is having ice cream and coffee.
With no more meetings booked for the day, I head to Sala Darsena, at the back of the Palazzo Del Cinema.
Hungry Hearts (Dir. Saverio Costanzo, USA/Italy 2014) is a remarkable study of parental love and over-protection of their offspring. It develops a narrative thread with instinct and survival as basis of a logic that feels equally acceptable in modern day New York as it would have in a pre-historic tribal setting. Would have benefitted from some prudent editing, but very good nevertheless.
At the Sala Perla at the Palazzo del Casino, I join the audience for The Smell of Us (Dir. Larry Clark, France/USA 2014) in the Giornate Degli Autori (Venice Days) parallel event to the festival.
“It has taken me 20 years to make this film. A movie about French adolescents which no one thought I could make, perhaps because I am not french!,” says the director in a statement read out by an official.
Where Kids, the director’s most well-known work, was a study of New York teenagers and children’s sexual activity and the threat of Aids to their blossoming life, The Smell of Us mixes drugs, teenage prostitution, porn, with a dash of angst thrown in for good measure. The world of bottomless drugs-fuelled underground gigs and orgies with loud incoherent music which these teenagers seem to inhabit appears more the work of middle-aged fantasy than reality.
In the evening, I hop on the Vaporetto for a long-delayed visit to Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.
They both deliver on beauty, magnificence and sheer scale of ambition and achievement of their builders.
Peace and love,
Ja’far
Venice Film Festival Part II
“Every week, I receive something like five to ten scripts,” announces my this morning’s appointment.
“But I don’t read any of them!”
We are in the Gold Badge-holders meeting area on the third floor of the Excelsior Hotel.
He goes on to explain the mountain of obstacles facing a second feature project, like mine.
Not sure whether it’s the bitter dose of reality that I’ve just had or the small breakfast this morning, but I feel positively lightheaded – I need food.
I walk a couple hundred feet along the Lungomare Marconi to a beach restaurant which I had tried on my first day here.
As I walk in, I greet the staff and the chef. His American accent has an Eastern flavour. His parents hail from Afghanistan.
The waiter is about to say “no” for my request of grilled fish mix, when the chef gives him the thumbs up.
When my large plate arrives, the waiter confides,”the chef made an exception for you; we’re not serving lunch at the moment.” I look around me and everyone is having ice cream and coffee.
With no more meetings booked for the day, I head to Sala Darsena, at the back of the Palazzo Del Cinema.
Hungry Hearts (Dir. Saverio Costanzo, USA/Italy 2014) is a remarkable study of parental love and over-protection of their offspring. It develops a narrative thread with instinct and survival as basis of a logic that feels equally acceptable in modern day New York as it would have in a pre-historic tribal setting. Would have benefitted from some prudent editing, but very good nevertheless.
At the Sala Perla at the Palazzo del Casino, I join the audience for The Smell of Us (Dir. Larry Clark, France/USA 2014) in the Giornate Degli Autori (Venice Days) parallel event to the festival.
“It has taken me 20 years to make this film. A movie about French adolescents which no one thought I could make, perhaps because I am not french!,” says the director in a statement read out by an official.
Where Kids, the director’s most well-known work, was a study of New York teenagers and children’s sexual activity and the threat of Aids to their blossoming life, The Smell of Us mixes drugs, teenage prostitution, porn, with a dash of angst thrown in for good measure. The world of bottomless drugs-fuelled underground gigs and orgies with loud incoherent music which these teenagers seem to inhabit appears more the work of middle-aged fantasy than reality.
In the evening, I hop on the Vaporetto for a long-delayed visit to Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.
They both deliver on beauty, magnificence and sheer scale of ambition and achievement of their builders.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

August 31st 2014

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Venice Film Festival

Saturday August 30th 2014
Venice Film Festival Day 2
“Perché amore” demands the teenage girl sat opposite me.
“Non so!,” grunts the boy with arms folded to chest.
“Non so!,” she says incredulously and looks away.
The bus stops and a throng of festival visitors climb on board, badges hanging from necks.
The silent treatment is working on the boy. His arms come down.
“Wise move, brother,” I think to myself.
At the Excelsior, I follow the signs to Film Market.
At the top of a marble staircase that reveals and then hides itself from the hotel lobby below, I am greeted by three ladies at the market information kiosk.
They direct me towards a hall of mirrors, “yes, that’s the film market.”
This large ball room turns out to be the open area adjacent to market. The latter occupies two medium-sized rooms. The first of these, market proper, has all of seven or eight booths dedicated to film bodies, including Eurimage, a Turkish cinema promoting body and the Chinese sponsor of market.
The place is so monastery-quiet that he sight of hotel guests’ kids running around and popping their heads into the room is a welcome diversion.
The second space dedicated to market is for meetings. This turns out to be half-full with  producers seeking gap funding.
Back at the information desk, I make an appointment with a “matchmaker” from the market team. “He can see you at 11 tomorrow morning.”
This takes the total of meetings I have confirmed to three.
The first is with a film development fund. The head of programmes arrives late, and admits that now he can’t take the meeting, as a film that his fund had supported is having its world premiere. We decide to walk and talk.
We go past the Palazzo del Cinema and walk up the ramp to Palazzo Del Casino, a town-hall like building with a cavernous marble floored reception area.
We join the queue to a pop-up cinema in the grounds nearby.
Short Skin ( Dir. Duccio Chiarini, Italy 2014) is part of the roster of features developed and funded through the Biennale College Cinema, an initiative run by the festival in partnership with Gucci.
Using the the male anatomy as a locust for the coming of age adventures of a teenage boy in a seaside town near Pisa, the film is a master class in telling a universal story with a micro-budget.
As I step into the afternoon heat, I am drawn to the red carpet and the positively restrained razzmatazz, compared to other festivals, for the arrival of world renown movie stars. There is hardly any music celebrating these pre- screening moments, and no public announcements are made welcoming the stars onto the red carpet à la Cannes.
I join the queue for badge holders, for I am not your average member of the pubblico, but a member of the tutti gli accrediti.
On the giant screen behind me, I see Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg being corralled into the lens path of this wall of photographers, before the cries of the other group gets too loud for the stage manager to ignore.
As I stand in applause along with the full house for the stars at Sala Grande, taking their seats in the balcony at the back, I wonder whether Chiara Mastroianni is feeling the presence of her parents on the big screen before us.
3 Coeurs/ 3 Hearts (Dir. Benoit Jacquot, France 2014) feels like a French take on something that Ruth Rendell would pen. Yet, the cumulative understanding of cinema and storytelling that the leads and director bring to bear on the piece make this a majestic addition, at least, to my film viewing history. Sublime.
Walking past the red carpet, I see the stars of the next premiere arriving. At the very end of the jam of festival limousines, a crowd is quickly gathering.
Looking through the mesh of iPhones and cameras, I catch a glimpse of Al Pacino.
Peace and love,
Ja’farVenice Film Festival Day
“Perché amore” demands the teenage girl sat opposite me.
“Non so!,” grunts the boy with arms folded to chest.
“Non so!,” she says incredulously and looks away.
The bus stops and a throng of festival visitors climb on board, badges hanging from necks.
The silent treatment is working on the boy. His arms come down.
“Wise move, brother,” I think to myself.
At the Excelsior, I follow the signs to Film Market.
At the top of a marble staircase that reveals and then hides itself from the hotel lobby below, I am greeted by three ladies at the market information kiosk.
They direct me towards a hall of mirrors, “yes, that’s the film market.”
The first appointment I have arrives late, and admits that now he can’t take the meeting, as a film he needs to watch is having its world premiere. We decide to walk and talk.
We go past the Palazzo del Cinema and walk up the ramp to Palazzo Del Casino, a town-hall like building with a cavernous marble floored reception area.
We join the queue to a pop-up cinema in the grounds nearby.
Short Skin ( Dir. Duccio Chiarini, Italy 2014) is part of the roster of features developed and funded through the Biennale College Cinema, an initiative run by the festival in partnership with Gucci.
Using the male anatomy as a locust for the coming of age adventures of a teenage boy in a seaside town near Pisa, the film is a master class in telling a universal story with a micro-budget.
As I step into the afternoon heat, I am drawn to the red carpet and the positively restrained razzmatazz, compared to other festivals, for the arrival of world renown movie stars. There is hardly any music celebrating these pre- screening moments, and no public announcements are made welcoming the stars onto the red carpet à la Cannes.
I join the queue for badge holders, for I am not your average member of the pubblico, but a member of the tutti gli accrediti.
On the giant screen behind me, I see Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni and Charlotte Gainsbourg being corralled into the lens path of this wall of photographers, before the cries of the other group gets too loud for the stage manager to ignore.
As I stand in applause along with the full house for the stars at Sala Grande, taking their seats in the balcony at the back, I wonder whether Chiara Mastroianni is feeling the presence of her parents on the big screen before us.
3 Coeurs/ 3 Hearts (Dir. Benoit Jacquot, France 2014) feels like a French take on something that Ruth Rendell would pen. Yet, the cumulative understanding of cinema and storytelling that the leads and director bring to bear on the piece make this a majestic addition, at least, to my film viewing history. Sublime.
Walking past the red carpet, I see the stars of the next premiere arriving. At the very end of the jam of festival limousines, a crowd is quickly gathering.
Looking through the mesh of iPhones and cameras, I catch a glimpse of Al Pacino.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

May 18th 2014

Sunday, May 18th, 2014
Cannes 2014
Wash, tumble dry and iron four shirts before packing for Cannes. That was the plan for the night before flying out to the festival.
By the time I leave work, it is too late to head to the launderette, and my newly installed washing machine at home is too unknown a quantity for me to attempt a wash at such an unsocial hour.
Faced with the prospect of no fresh clothes for the trip, I decide to grab a couple of hours of sleep – “the world is more rosy after some sleep,” I tell myself.
At 6.15 am, I am on the full plane, accompanied by a small suitcase containing some Cannes contacts, the latest issue of Little White Lies, a brilliant film magazine gifted to me by a dear friend, and a book of essays by filmmakers, a present from another dear friend. And four unwashed shirts.
Outside terminal 2 of Nice airport, I absentmindedly hop on the free shuttle to terminal 1 – “that’s where I normally catch the coach to Cannes.”
Just as the driver is about to shut the doors, a distinctly English accented female voice asks him, “pour aller a Cannes?”
He points her to a big sign on the other side of the road. “Cannes”
I rush off and join the short queue for bus tickets.
The voice turns out to be of an English actor. She is certainly of my indie variety of filmmakers; on top of her suitcase she carrying a pillow. I daren’t ask what sort of accommodation she has found.
“If it’s not the air traffic controllers it’s the baggage handlers or the taxi drivers. We’ve had most of our day one meetings pushed to Monday,” complains an American producer I am visiting at the Marché de Film.
As I hear and read about cancelled Nice-bound flights from London, including one apparently on my own day of departure last Thursday, it begins to dawn on me how lucky I’d been that my journey from London to Nice and through to Cannes had not been affected by this industrial action by several trade unions.
My first meeting this year is at the Dutch Pavillion. It goes well and I learn a couple of important facts about the obstacles that may appear in the path of any co-production between different European countries. Food for thought.
Back at the Marché, I say hello to a young lady (wo)manning the queries desk of an indie distributor. “You can email madam XYZ, and she will write back after market,” is her well- rehearsed response for my request for a meeting with the boss.
I take the card and continue to chat with her about the new films I’ve learned her firm has acquired from Berlin and other markets. Unexpectedly, she asks me about my new project. I give her the brief pitch. She is moved.
I am allowed an audience with madam XYZ for Sunday.
My final meeting of the day is supposed to be at the British Pavilion, but as soon as I take my seat in the back terrace, a polite London accent informs us that this section is to be closed off for a private function.
The pitch goes well, though I learn that one mustn’t overwhelm the listener with too many details from the story.
Back at the British Pavilion, I attend the last half of a panel discussion on women in the film industry. Aside from the expected “men are stupid” prognosis from a panelist, with which I and a couple other men half-agree, the opinions expressed are quite informative.
On the way out, there is a pile of neatly folded  white Tshirts. “In Brussels, they have balls,” shout the letters inscribed on the front. This is a free gift from the Brussels film commission.
I help myself to one, as I still need to wash and iron those four shirts.
I join a queue at salle soixantième for the “Red Army” (Dir. Gabe Polsky, USA 2014), a documentary about the legendary Soviet Ice Hockey team of the 1970s and 1980s. The woman standing ahead of me in the long queue is looking through the programme. “What film are waiting to see?” She asks me. Inadvertently, I misinform her by saying that it’s a Russian film. “Oh, a Russian film, really!”
After some deliberation, she declares “I don’t want to see a Russian film!”
I joke, “you’re not Ukrainian are you?”
“Yes, I am. But it’s not because of that, I just don’t like Russian cinema!” And she walks away.
The main subject of the documentary, team Captain Viacheslav Fetisov, is called to stage by the artistic director of the festival Thierry Fremaux to join the young director.
The festival director introduces the film and then acts as French interpreter for the American director and for the strained English of the retired Russian champion.
When Thierry appears to have missed the end of a sentence from Fetisov, “are you going to translate Thierry?,” chastises the big Russian impatiently.
Laughter from the whole room.
By the red carpet, I am allowed a magical moment, as the six or seven deep crowd parts to allow me a glimpse of Naomi Watts as she glides, carried by the energy of a thousand blinking flash bulbs. In her barrier-reef green dress, standing before a sea of admiring faces and camera lenses at the bottom of the steps, she looks every particle a star.
Peace and love,
Ja’far
Cannes 2014
Wash, tumble dry and iron four shirts before packing for Cannes. That was the plan for the night before flying out to the festival.
By the time I leave work, it is too late to head to the launderette, and my newly installed washing machine at home is too unknown a quantity for me to attempt a wash at such an unsocial hour.
Faced with the prospect of no fresh clothes for the trip, I decide to grab a couple of hours of sleep – “the world is more rosy after some sleep,” I tell myself.
At 6.15 am, I am on the full plane, accompanied by a small suitcase containing some Cannes contacts, the latest issue of Little White Lies, a brilliant film magazine gifted to me by a dear friend, and a book of essays by filmmakers, a present from another dear friend. And four unwashed shirts.
Outside terminal 2 of Nice airport, I absentmindedly hop on the free shuttle to terminal 1 – “that’s where I normally catch the coach to Cannes.”
Just as the driver is about to shut the doors, a distinctly English accented female voice asks him, “pour aller a Cannes?”
He points her to a big sign on the other side of the road. “Cannes”
I rush off and join the short queue for bus tickets.
The voice turns out to be of an English actor. She is certainly of my indie variety of filmmakers; on top of her suitcase she is carrying a pillow. I daren’t ask what sort of accommodation she has found.
“If it’s not the air traffic controllers it’s the baggage handlers or the taxi drivers. We’ve had most of our day one meetings pushed to Monday,” complains an American producer I am visiting at the Marché de Film.
As I hear and read about cancelled Nice-bound flights from London, including one apparently on my own day of departure last Thursday, it begins to dawn on me how lucky I’d been that my journey from London to Nice and through to Cannes had not been affected by this industrial action by several trade unions.
My first meeting this year is at the Dutch Pavillion. It goes well and I learn a couple of important facts about the obstacles that may appear in the path of any co-production between different European countries. Food for thought.
Back at the Marché, I say hello to a young lady (wo)manning the queries desk of an indie distributor. “You can email madam XYZ, and she will write back after market,” is her well- rehearsed response for my request for a meeting with the boss.
I take the card and continue to chat with her about the new films I’ve learned her firm has acquired from Berlin and other markets. Unexpectedly, she asks me about my new project. I give her the brief pitch. She is moved.
I am allowed an audience with madam XYZ for Sunday.
My final meeting of the day is supposed to be at the British Pavilion, but as soon as I take my seat in the back terrace, a polite London accent informs us that this section is to be closed off for a private function.
The pitch goes well, though I learn that one mustn’t overwhelm the listener with too many details from the story.
Back at the British Pavilion, I attend the last half of a panel discussion on women in the film industry. Aside from the expected “men are stupid” prognosis from a panelist, with which I and a couple other men half-agree, the opinions expressed are quite informative.
On the way out, there is a pile of neatly folded  white Tshirts. “In Brussels, they have balls,” shout the letters inscribed on the front. This is a free gift from the Brussels film commission.
I help myself to one, as I still need to wash and iron those four shirts.
I join a queue at salle soixantième for the “Red Army” (Dir. Gabe Polsky, USA 2014), a documentary about the legendary Soviet Ice Hockey team of the 1970s and 1980s. The woman standing ahead of me in the long queue is looking through the programme. “What film are waiting to see?” She asks me. Inadvertently, I misinform her by saying that it’s a Russian film. “Oh, a Russian film, really!”
After some deliberation, she declares “I don’t want to see a Russian film!”
I joke, “you’re not Ukrainian are you?”
“Yes, I am. But it’s not because of that, I just don’t like Russian cinema!” And she walks away.
The main subject of the documentary, team Captain Viacheslav Fetisov, is called to stage by the artistic director of the festival Thierry Fremaux to join the young director.
The festival director introduces the film and then acts as French interpreter for the American director and for the strained English of the retired Russian champion.
When Thierry appears to have missed the end of a sentence from Fetisov, “are you going to translate Thierry?,” chastises the big Russian impatiently.
Laughter from the whole room.
By the red carpet, I am allowed a magical moment, as the six or seven deep crowd parts to allow me a glimpse of Naomi Watts as she glides, carried by the energy of a thousand blinking flash bulbs. In her barrier-reef green dress, standing before a sea of admiring faces and camera lenses, she looks every particle a star.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

April 6th 2014

Sunday, April 6th, 2014
Filmwise: enjoying the break.
Postponed..
Keeping to my morning ritual of coffee and reading on the latest from the film world, I almost poured the hot stuff all over my shirt on Tuesday morning; a short press release from the Dubai HQ of the Gulf Film Festival was the cause.
It announced the postponement of this year’s edition of the festival.
Mercifully, this appears to be a simple organisational decision specific to this year, rather than a cancellation of the whole festival.
Readers of this blog may recall the wonderful time this film dreamer had at the 2012 Gulf Film Festival. I look forward to the return of this major film event to the seventh art calendar of the Middle East and Beyond.
Peace and love,
Ja’far
Filmwise: enjoying the break.
Postponed..
Keeping to my morning ritual of coffee and reading on the latest from the film world, I almost poured the hot stuff all over my shirt on Tuesday morning; a short press release from the Dubai HQ of the Gulf Film Festival was the cause. It announced the postponement of this year’s edition of the festival.
Mercifully, this appears to be a simple organisational decision specific to this year, rather than a cancellation of the whole festival.
Readers of this blog may recall the wonderful time this film dreamer had at the 2012 Gulf Film Festival.
I look forward to the return of this major film event in the seventh art calendar of the Middle East and beyond.
Before I go, a word about Noah (Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2014): I braved it, despite the pillorying it’s had from critics on both sides of the pond.
In all fairness, it is a good, well-performed and directed take on a story shared between the three monolothic religions. If anything, this Noah is far more complex and multi-faceted than the one-sided saint of the holy narratives.
I imagine the visceral criticim of the film is partly caused by a sense of disappoinment that Mr. Aronofsky, a star among his generation of filmmakers, has failed to deliver an epic picture that would set a new benchmark for all that follow, in the way Ridley Scott did with Gladiator (2000). That aside, Noah is enjoyable, with good turns from Russel Crowe, Ray Winstone, Jennifer Connelley and Emma Watson.
Go see it.
Peace and love,
Ja’far

November 10th 2013

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

November 10th 2013

Filmwise: Have completed the first version of the fifth draft of the little girl in Baghdad screenplay. Over the next fortnight, I will spend more time on specific scenes and areas. On track for completing the new draft by the start of December.

Surprise…

As part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the launch of the Dubai International Film Festival, the organisers have been working for the past year on compiling a list of the top 100 Arab films of all times.

Having spent a decade studying Arabic cinema and literature, I am pleasantly surprised to find a few films in the list that I have not yet watched.

The compilation of the list is particularly good in view of the transparent methodology adopted for its creation. Each film in the list is presented on the DIFF website along with the names of Arab and international filmmakers and critics who voted for the film.

I am looking forward to the books that will be published as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations at DIFF.

Peace and love,

Ja’far