ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival starts this Thursday—ARThound’s top picks in world cinema

The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 2-12, 2014 and, for the first time, offers “¡Viva el Cine!” a spotlight on Latin American and Spanish cinema with eight new films, all in Spanish.  Argentine director Matias Lucchesi’s first feature film, “Natural Sciences” (Ciencias Naturales), which screens twice at MVFF 37, had its world premiere at the Berlinale where it won the Generation Kplus Grand Prix. The drama stars Paula Herzog as Lila, a 12-year-old hell-bent on finding the father she never knew.  Her quest is set against the stunning backdrop of frozen Argentine mountains and reticent adults who want her to stop asking questions.  Image: courtesy MVFF

The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 2-12, 2014 and, for the first time, offers “¡Viva el Cine!”—an eight film spotlight on Latin American and Spanish cinema. Argentine director Matías Lucchesi’s buzzed about first feature film, “Natural Sciences” (Ciencias Naturales), screens twice at MVFF 37. It had its world premiere at the Berlinale where it won the Generation Kplus Grand Prix. The drama stars Paula Herzog as Lila, a 12-year-old who is hell-bent on finding the father she never knew. Her quest is set against the stunning backdrop of frozen Argentine mountains and reticent adults who want her to stop asking questions. Herzog gave a stunning performance as child caught in the wake of Argentina’s repressive dictatorship in Paula Markovitch’s “The Prize” (El Primeo”) at MVFF36. We welcome her back! Image: courtesy MVFF

ARThound loves a great film, with a story that speaks right to my heart and if the setting is in some distant land, all the better. The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF 37) kicks-off this Thursday evening with two promising opening night films—Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman and Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children— and a splendid opening night party and then gets down to serious full-day programming from Friday onward. This festival, continually rated among the top ten in the world, offers 11 days of the best new films from around the world.  In addition, there are intimate on stage conversations with directors and stars.  This year, over 150 guests and film luminaries will attend and a select few will be honored in spotlights, tributes, centerpieces, and special screenings and many will be participating in post-film Q&A’s.  There are also numerous musical performances and parties.  And for those who fear all that sitting will take a toll on their derrieres, there’s even an Active Cinema hike this Saturday hike from Tennessee Valley to the ocean where guests can get some light, take in fresh air and share their impressions with cinephiles and festival guests.  Having poured over the program, watched numerous screeners, and gotten the scoop directly from festival programmers, ARThound is really excited to cover the festival.

If you’ve missed my previous coverage, here is the link explaining the ins and outs of this festival and the advantages of CFI (California Film Institute) membership for early access to tickets:

Sept 13—Pounce! Sunday, September 14, tickets go on sale for the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival

ARThound’s top picks in the World Cinema category:

 

Iranian producer Payman Haghani’s feature “316” (2014) has its world premiere on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 2-12, 2014, renowned for its support of emerging independent filmmakers. Haghani’s second feature film tells an elderly Persian woman’s “soleful” life story, and that of her homeland Iran, elegantly and humorously through the shoes of those she has known.  From the shoes of her youthful leftist parents through the tumult of the Iranian Revolution, to her rebellious upbringing, courtship, motherhood and the eventual solitude of her later years—we literally encounter a parade of shoes that have walked miles in a land we can only imagine.  Image: Noori Pictures

Iranian producer Payman Haghani’s feature “316” (2014) has its world premiere on Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the 37th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 2-12, 2014, renowned for its support of emerging independent filmmakers. Haghani’s second feature film tells an elderly Persian woman’s “soleful” life story, and that of her homeland Iran, elegantly and humorously through the shoes of those she has known. From the shoes of her youthful leftist parents through the tumult of the Iranian Revolution, to her rebellious upbringing, courtship, motherhood and the eventual solitude of her later years—we literally encounter a parade of shoes that have walked miles in a land we can only imagine. Image: Noori Pictures

316 —Iran | 2014 | 72 min |World Premiere | Executive Producer Behrang Saar Klein in attendance—It’s a no-brainer almost anywhere you go in the world, shoes express personality like nothing else.  From Iranian producer Payman Haghani in Rasht, Iran, (Mardi Ke Gilass Hayash Ra Khord (A Man Who Ate His Cherries), 2009) comes his endearing second feature, 316 (2104), which tells an elderly Persian woman’s life story through the shoes of people she remembers and events unfolding in Iran.   Sadly, we’ve come to accept that it’s rare for Iranian filmmakers who are based in Iran to make personal appearances at film festivals but we revel in their creativity and courage and unparalleled storytelling.  Aptly put in a recent New Yorker article (6/10/2014),  Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the editor of Jam’eh, said “We have freedom of expression in Iran…We just don’t have freedom after expression.”  And yet Iran’s next generation have managed to become central in Iran’s complex social and political discourse. Working under the constant threat of censorship and imprisonment has forced Iranian filmmakers to express themselves indirectly through metaphor and allegory and they have astounded us with rich stories that are about politics yet transcend politics to reveal what is intimate and poignantly familiar in our human condition. 316 artfully melds archival “footage” with animation and dramatic sequences to create a life story that tells a larger truth. (Screens: Saturday, Oct 4, 1:30 PM, 142 Throckmorton, Tuesday, Oct 5, 5 PM, Sequoia 1)

Japanese actress Haru Kuroki (left) won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 64th Berlinale for her performance in Yoji Yamada’s "The Little House" (2014).  Adapted from an award-winning novel, the period romance follows Kuroki’s character, a housemaid, through the war as she watches a secret relationship develop between her elegant employer (Takako Matsu, right ) and a young artist.  Image: courtesy MVFF

Japanese actress Haru Kuroki (left) won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 64th Berlinale for her performance in Yoji Yamada’s “The Little House” (2014). Adapted from an award-winning novel, the period romance follows Kuroki’s character, a housemaid, through the war as she watches a secret relationship develop between her elegant employer (Takako Matsu, right ) and a young artist. Image: courtesy MVFF

The Little House (Chiisai Ouchi) Japan | 2014, 136 minThis elegant period romance set in 1920’ Tokyo is the first romance film directed by Yoji Yamada in his 50 year career. The filmmaker is famous in Japan for his immensely popular Otoko wa Tsurai yo series (48 films made over 25 years) and Samurai Trilogy (The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and Love and Honor). The Little House is based on Kyoko Nakajima’s novel “Chiisai ouchi,” 2010 winner of the Naoki Prize, one of Japan’s most prestigious literary awards.  The story revolves around Takeshi, a young Japanese man and his posthumous encounter with his late aunt, Taki Nunomiya (Haru Kuroki), who left several journals behind.  Through the notebooks, he learns of her life and the film proceeds, in flashbacks, to tell her story.

Prior to World War II, in a little house with a red triangular roof in Tokyo, young Taki works as a housemaid for a Masaki, a Toy company executive who lives with his wife Tokiko (Takako Matsu) and their 5 year-old son. When Tokiko’s husband hires a young art school graduate, Shoji Itakura; a love affair blossoms between Tokiko and Shoji, whom Taki also has feelings for.  Meanwhile, as the war situation heats up, so too do the relationships in the little house.  This isn’t a conventional love triangle but an exploration of how this budding relationship impacts Taki’s relationship with Tokiko and her later life.  Taki transitions from an unsophisticated young maiden, who initially stands in fear and awe of her beautiful employer, to a trusted confidante who speaks the truth when called upon to do so. Haru Kuroki won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 64th Berlinale (Berlin International Berlin Film Festival).  The remarkable political discussions that occur in passing are just one of the film’s many delights. (Screens: Friday, Oct 3, 6 PM, Rafael 3 and Saturday, Oct 4, 11AM, Lark Theatre)

Midi Z’s “Ice Poison” (2014), which was shot in location in Myanmar, highlights the struggle to survive in an impoverished land that is transitioning from one system to another.  Wang Shin-hong (left) and Wu Ke-xi play two young Burmese who are drawn into drugs.  Image: courtesy Flash Forward Entertainment

Midi Z’s “Ice Poison” (2014), which was shot in location in Myanmar, highlights the struggle to survive in an impoverished land that is transitioning from one system to another. Wang Shin-hong (left) and Wu Ke-xi play two young Burmese who are drawn into drugs. Image: courtesy Flash Forward Entertainment

Ice Poison (Bing Du)—Myanmar/Taiwan R.O.C. | 2014 | 95min—Myanmar-born, Taiwan-based director Midi Z (Return to Burma (2011), Poor Folk (2012)), continues his shrewd examination of social and economic disparities in Myanmar with Ice Poison. Shot on location in Myanmar by a seven-member crew in an impoverished ethnically Chinese community on the outskirts of Lashio, near the Chinese border, this is the story of two young Burmese who get caught up in the drug trade in order to escape their bleak circumstances.  The feature opens with an old Chinese farmer and his nameless son (Wang Shin-hong) toiling on their parched field in Lashio.  The desperate farmer sells his beloved cow to buy a dilapidated scooter so his son can drive a motorcycle taxi.  He asks just one thing in return: his son mustn’t get involved in drugs. Among the son’s first fares is a Burmese-born Chinese woman named Sanmei (Wu Ke-xi), who has come home from China for a funeral and is making a new start.  She desperately needs money to bring her son to Lashio.  Her scheme involves helping her drug-dealing cousin deliver crystal meth, known as “ice poison,” to local addicts.  She convinces the son to go into business with her as a driver.  Midi Z draws us into the hard and fractured lives of these two young adults, both unfulfilled and both with reasonable expectations, for which there seems to be no easy answer.  Through its intimate portrayal of their circumstances, aspirations, anguish and choices, the film asks us to consider what really matters most in this life and what it means when achieving that is just not possible. Ice Poison won Best Film in Int’l Competition, 68th Edinburgh Film Festival and Best Director, Peace and Love Film Festival, Dalarna, Sweden (Screens: Sunday, Oct 5, 6 PM Rafael 3 and Saturday, Oct 11, 11:45 AM, Sequoia 1)

 In “The Patent Wars,” which has its North American premiere at MVFF37, breast cancer patient Lisbeth Ceriani (above) is interviewed about being forced to pay $3,700 up front for her BRCA gene test because the Myriad Corporation of Utah held the patent over two breast cancer gene mutations—BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 —and could essentially charge what they wanted for the critical test, which flags a high potential for breast and ovarian cancer.  The patent also prevented vital medical research and diagnosis beyond the scope of Myriad’s limited breast cancer test.  The US Supreme Court, in a landmark decision (June 2013) ultimately ruled that any naturally occurring human gene cannot be patented.  The filmmakers not only expose many of the inherent flaws in the patent system, they advocate for its overthrow.  German Filmmaker Hannah Leonie Prinzler will be in attendance.


In “The Patent Wars,” which has its North American premiere at MVFF37, breast cancer patient Lisbeth Ceriani (above) is interviewed about being forced to pay $3,700 up front for her BRCA gene test because the Myriad Corporation of Utah held the patent over two breast cancer gene mutations—BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 —and could essentially charge what they wanted for the critical test, which flags a high potential for breast and ovarian cancer. The patent also prevented vital medical research and diagnosis beyond the scope of Myriad’s limited breast cancer test. The US Supreme Court, in a landmark decision (June 2013) ultimately ruled that any naturally occurring human gene cannot be patented. The filmmakers not only expose many of the inherent flaws in the patent system, they advocate for its overthrow. German Filmmaker Hannah Leonie Prinzler will be in attendance.

 

The Patent Wars—Germany | 2014 | 88 min | North American Premiere | Director Hannah Prinzler in attendance—In all but the most capable hands, a documentary about trends in patent litigation could be very dry. German filmmakers Hannah Leonie Prinzler and Volker Ullrich succeed in making the complex topic fascinating by showing us how, in the U.S. in particular, the patent holder has evolved from the classical innovator like Thomas Edison into yet another tool of corporate greed that puts profit above human life.  The savvy doc takes us on a trip around the world to visit at least a dozen well-known figures who explain how the landscape has changed—how patents have proliferated and become global strategic weapons, how profits are made from the mere threat of patent infringement, and who bears the economic and social consequences. The film was in the works while the Myriad Genetics lawsuit over the patenting of human genes was still in litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court but a visit with breast cancer patient Lisbeth Ceriani wonderfully summarizes the case’s impact on breast cancer victims and on the patenting human genes.  It really does seem that almost everything can be patented in the US, sometimes with just a description (not an actual realization) by the patent holders.  Once a patent is in hand, the holder can decide later how much to charge to test for a medication or to plant a seed, thereby controlling access only to the privileged.

Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury inflamed many when he patented sequences of yoga poses. A visit to Delhi to Vinod Kumar Gupta’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), a unique database developed to prevent foreign companies from patenting products based on ancient sub-continental know-how, shows how Indian is struggling to get savvy on the IP front. Unfortunately, for India and much of the developing world, patents are currently being used to deny the development of crucial generic medications and lives are being lost.  A visit with Anil Gupta, India’s “Ghandi of Innovation” unveils what India, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic (patent-free) medicines, is doing to proactively protect its genetic resources as well.  The film concludes with a visit to car enthusiasts in Arizona who are collaborating to build the first open-source cars, showing us that patents are not the only way to inspire innovations.  (Screens: Sat, Oct 4, 5:15 PM, Rafael 3 and Monday, Oct 6, 6:30 PM, Rafael 3)

Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” (2014) had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a 10-minute-long standing ovation.  Due to unrest in Mali, the film was shot in neighboring Mauritania.  The film is set in 2012 and tells the story of what happens when people living in northern Mali deal with and ultimately resist a jihadist takeover by some militant rebels.  Actor Ahmed Ibrahim will be in attendance at MVFF37.  Photo: courtesy MVFF

Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” (2014) had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a 10-minute-long standing ovation. Due to unrest in Mali, the film was shot in neighboring Mauritania. The film is set in 2012 and tells the story of what happens when people living in northern Mali deal with and ultimately resist a jihadist takeover by some militant rebels. Actor Ahmed Ibrahim will be in attendance at MVFF37. Photo: courtesy MVFF

Timbuktu France/Mauritania | 2014 | 97 min | West Coast Premiere | Actor Ibrahim Ahmed in attendance—Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako (Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) (2002), Bamako (2007)) is one of a handful of filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa who has the rapt attention of the film world.  His latest feature, Timbuktu, is the world’s first look at the jihadist takeover of Northern Mali in 2012 by fundamentalists whose brutal Islamist law shattered the lives of innumerable families.  As always, his understated style combines graceful storytelling with a remarkably rigorous exploration of exile and displacement.   Sissako focuses on the break-up of a close-knit Tuareg cattle-herding family who live peacefully in the dunes with their beloved cow “GPS.” When the cow goes missing, the father, Kidane (first-time actor Ibrahim Ahmed in a mesmerizing performance) accidentally shoots a fisherman dead in a lake and becomes victim to the horrors of Timbuktu’s improvised court system. The peripheral story lines are every bit as riveting. The hardliners punish Timbuktu residents for playing music or even soccer with stonings, executions and lashings.  Sissako’s handling of atrocities in an almost matter-of-fact way punctuates their shock value.  (Screens: Sunday, Oct 5, 1:45 PM, Rafael 1 and Monday, Oct 6, 3 PM, Sequoia 1)

Turkish filmmaker Kutluğ Ataman’s “The Lamb,” set in northeastern Anatolia, won the CICAE Art Cinema Award for best film in the Panorama Special section of the 2014 Berlinale.  The story revolves around five-year-old Mert (Mert Tastan) (left), his older sister, Vicdan (Sila Lara Canturk)(right) and the family’s struggle to hold a feast for Mert’s circumcision. Photo:  MVFF

Turkish filmmaker Kutluğ Ataman’s “The Lamb,” set in northeastern Anatolia, won the CICAE Art Cinema Award for best film in the Panorama Special section of the 2014 Berlinale. The story revolves around five-year-old Mert (Mert Tastan) (left), his older sister, Vicdan (Sila Lara Canturk)(right) and the family’s struggle to hold a feast for Mert’s circumcision. Photo: MVFF

The Lamb (Kuzu)—Turkey | 2014 | 85 min  | US Premiere—London-based Turkish filmmaker and artist Kutluğ Ataman made such a splash in the contemporary art world (Documenta, Venice Biennale, Carnegie Prize, Cream Art) with his videos that he was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2004 and has since racked up an impressive list of exhibitions and commissions. Ataman brings his artistic flair to The Lamb, his fifth feature film, a family drama set in rural Anatolia which inhabits the delicate world of children. The story revolves around five-year-old Mert (Mert Tastan), his wily older sister, Vicdan (Sila Lara Canturk), and their financially-strapped family’s struggle to throw Mert a proper circumcision feast.  They cannot afford the traditional lamb which is central to the celebration.  When Vicdan (affectionately called mommy’s “Little Lamb”) taunts Mert by telling him that they’ll roast him in the tandoor if they don’t come up with the money for the lamb, he freaks and sets out to find a solution on his own.  The highlight of the film is the wonderful interaction of the children, who can be so sweet and so cruel. Vicdan’s descriptions of the pending procedure border on tortuous, while bumbling Mert grabs your heart.  Subplots involve the father and his womanizing and the mother and her plot to take revenge on villagers who have been unsympathetic to her plight.  In all, Ataman weaves a rich and humorous story highlighting the inequality and lack of options for women, particularly in rural areas, and the liberties accorded men.  Feza Caldiran’s breathtaking cinematography of a wintery remote Anatolia makes elevates the film to art. The Lamb won the CICAE Art Cinema Award for best film in the Panorama Special section of the 2014 Berlinale.  (Screens: Wednesday, Oct 8, 3 PM, Sequoia 1 and Sunday, Oct 12, 11:30 AM, Rafael 2)

Details: The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 2 -12, 2014.  The festival’s homepage is here. Advance ticket purchase is essential as this festival sells out. Click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option.  Most tickets are $14 and special events and tributes are more.

Rush tickets: If seats become available, even after tickets have sold out, rush tickets will be sold. The rush line forms outside each venue beginning one hour before show-time.  Approximately 15 minutes prior to the screening, available rush tickets are sold on a first-come, first serve basis for Cash Only.)

There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantage of being able to get your tickets on the spot and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL:

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept. 14–29, 5:00–9:00 pm (General Public) 1020 B Street September 30–October 12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

MILL VALLEY:

ROOM Art Gallery 86 Throckmorton Ave September 14–30, 11:00 am–3:00 pm

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

CORTE MADERA:

Microsoft at the Village at Corte Madera 1640 Redwood Hwy September 15–30, 3:00–7:00 pm September 14, 21, and 28, 2:00–6:00 pm

 

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September 30, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival showcases the best new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, starts next Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christian’s Petzold’s “Barbara,” opens the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival at the historic Castro Theatre, September 27-Ocotber 4, 2012. Set in East Germany in 1980, and starring Nina Hoss, the film is the German contender for this year’s Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film. Image courtesy: Hans Fromm.

For film lovers in the Bay Area, the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is an essential—it’s where one goes to see the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders.  The focus is Germany and German language but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make this relatively small scale festival such a stand-out in the myriad of festivals that are cropping up everywhere.  The festival will mark its 17th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage and will screen 26 feature length films and 6 shorts, including four North American premieres and three US premieres. It will pay special tribute to legendary stage and screen star Mario Adorf with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting.  Mr. Adorf will be present at the festival to receive the award and will appear in person for two films of his four-film tribute.  It all begins next Thursday, September 27, and runs through October 4, 2012, in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, with additional screenings at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street).

The festival will mark its 17th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage.  It will pay special tribute to legendary stage and screen star Mario Adorf with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting.  Mr. Adorf will be present at the festival to receive the award and will appear in person for two films of his four-film tribute. Also attending are Alina Levshin, the German Ukranian star of David Wendt’s Combat Girls (Kriegerin) which screens Wednesday October 3 and won Best Film (Bronze), Best Screenplay and Best Actress in the 2012 German Film Awards, and sensational directors Veit Helmer and Anno Saul and many more.  Stay tuned to ARThound for coverage.

Festival Highlights:

Opening Night: On Thursday, September 27th, the festival’s Opening Night screens Berlin school writer/director Christian Petzold’s Barbara, winner of both the 2012 Berlinale Silver Bear for Best Director and the 2012 German Film Award’s Best Film.  This masterful period film is set in the very restrictive GDR in the 1980’s and stars Nina Hoss in a brilliantly nuanced performance as an accomplished doctor in East Berlin’s largest clinic who has been transferred to a rural medical clinic following her application for an exit visa to the West where she hoped to join her lover Jörg (Mark Waschke).  She is forced to choose between personal freedom and saving the lives of others and her growing affection for André (Ronald Zehrfeld), her new supervisor.  Barbara is Germany’s entry to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Film category.

Director Christain Petzold is Germany’s most acclaimed director (Yella (2007), Jerichow (2008), Dreileben (2001) a key figure in the Berlin School and he’s from the former GDR, meaning he nails the physical details and psychological ambiance with authenticity.  His camerawork is exceptional too in enforcing the drama—the camera is held just below eyelevel throughout most of the film and the scenes meld into one another.  His collaboration with Hoss began in 2003 with Something To Remind Me; two years later she appeared in his Wolfsburg, for which she won the Adolf Grimme Award; in 2007, she starred in his Yella, winning the Silver Bear for Best Actress in 2007 and the German Film Award in 2008.  In Barbara, Petzold gives her a challenging role he created especially for her, while capturing her regal and haunting beauty against a backdrop that is austere but vividly humanized by his own history. You’ll probably be able to see Barbara screening elsewhere in the Bay Area several months later but nothing beats seeing a film early in a setting like the Castro.

Following the screening, the Opening Night party begins 9:15 PM on Castro’s beloved Mezzanine, where film fans are invited to celebrate the start of another great year with delicious German beer and wine and delectable amuse-bouche.

Legendary German actor Mario Adorf (left) stars in “The Rhino and the Dragonfly,” which has its world premiere at the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. Adorf will receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Acting on Friday, September 28, 2012. Image: NFP/COIN Film.

Mario Adorf Tribute:  New German Cinema is unthinkable without the legendary German actor Mario Adorf.  In addition to The Tin Drum (1978) and Lola (1981), Adorf was integral to Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970), Volker Schlöndorff’s The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975), Reinhard Hauff’s The Main Character (1977), and the omnibus movie Germany in Autumn (1978).  Adorf has played more than 200 roles in cinema and television and the tally of directors he has worked with reads like a hit list of world cinema: Sam Peckinpah, Franco Rossi, Wolfgang Staudte, Edgar Reitz, Billy Wilder, Helmut Dietl, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Claude Chabrol and Sergio Corbucci and Volker Schlöndorff.

The festival will honor Adorf with a lifetime achievement award in acting at the international and North American premiere screening of his most recent film The Rhino and the Dragonfly (2012) directed by Loal Randl, on Friday, September 28th at 6:15PM.  It will screen three more of his classics—the recently released director’s cut of The Tin Drum (Saturday Sept 29th, 8:45PM), Ship of the Dead (Friday, Sept 28th, 4:30PM) and Lola (Tuesday, Oct 2nd, 6:00PM).  Mr. Adorf participate in a Q&A following the special screening of The Tin Drum.  Berlin & Beyond’s Lifetime Achievement Award was last given to Wim Wenders in 2009.  This is the first time Mr. Adorf has been honored at a major US Festival.

The Late Show:  Alexander Sokurov’s Faust, winner of the prestigious Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Film Festival screens Friday at 9 PM.  The Russian director is most known for his historical feature film, Russian Ark (2002), which made a big splash at 2002 Cannes Film Fesitval and was filmed entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum and was a single 96-minute continuous unedited shot.

Alexander’s Sokurov’s “Faust” screens Friday, September 28, 2012, at the 17th Berlin and Beyond Film Festival. The psychologically jolting film won the prestigious Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Film Festival and retells Goethe’s classic fable with some hellish twists. Image: courtesy Films Boutique

Faust is the fourth and final film in his mesmerizing tetralogy of films about the evil that is borne out of too much power and it follows Moloch (1999) about Hitler, Taurus (2001) about Lenin, and The Sun (2004) about Emperor Hirohito.  The psychologically jolting Faust stars the Austrian Johannes Zeiler as Faust and Russian Anton Adasinskiy as an utterly creepy and misshapen pawnbroker/Mephistopheles and retells Goethe’s classic fable with some hellish twists that will have you experiencing disturbing flashbacks for days.  The obsessive and impoverished Dr. Faust hungers for knowledge about the human soul and dissects human corpses in a futile attempt to its locus.  When he falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Margarete (Isolda Dychauk), he grows obsessed and cuts a deal with the moneylender, signing over his soul to possess her.  Sokurov’s distinctive visual mark is his sepia-bathed cinematography and stunning lighting and it’s present in spades here.  What he’s chosen to emphasize though isn’t pretty—the film opens with a full on shot of a corpse’s penis and heaps of entrails and, from there, takes us straight into the highly unsanitary 16th century.  But it is Faust’s extreme loneliness and his desire for connection that grips us and we accompany him on this sick hallucinatory eternal journey crafted so impeccably by Sokurov.  The existential film is a dark meditation on many things but Sokurov takes a few jabs at Germany.  If you’re going to see it, take someone along to process it with afterwards…it will help.

Centerpiece Screening:  The Festival’s Centerpiece screening, Baikonur (2011), Veit Helmer’s newest comedy, is about a young Kazakh man obsessed with outer space and with a beautiful French space traveler whose capsule crash lands in a field in Khazakstan near his yurt.  The rest unfolds like a fairy tale in the countryside—he carries the unconscious beauty to his yurt and wakens her with a kiss but she has amnesia and isn’t herself when she agrees to marry him.  Helmer will appear at the festival for a Q&A about the largely Kazakh production, which proceeds in Russian and English. (Screens Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 6:15 PM)

Marten Persiel’s “This Ain’t California” is the closing film of the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. The documentary looks at the underground skater culture in East Germany in the 1980’s. Director Persiel and Producer Ronald Vietz will attend the screening, which is also the film’s California premiere. Image courtesy: Harald Schmitt.

Closing Night Film:  Marten Persiel’s This Ain’t California (2012) was a big success at the 2012 Berlinale where it won the “Dialogue in Perspective” award.  The film takes place in the 1980s, the last years of the GDR and tells the hair-raising story of one of the first skateboarding crews behind the Berlin Wall.  Drawing from Marten Persiel’s background as a commercial director, this first feature combines classic skate footage, kitschy commercials and first-person interviews to insightfully draw the audience into the maelstrom of excitement and controversy surrounding the sport’s early years in East Germany.  In Kate Gellene’s interview with Persiel on May 29, 2012, which appears in Rooftop Films (click here), Persiel says, “I started skating 29 years ago as a little kid in western Germany and never really stopped. I am super grateful for the friends I made in all those years and for the stuff I experienced skateboarding. It’s been a life vest and a guide through life… In the film, there is a sense that stupidly goofing around on the streets can shape whole biographies. It’s how you look at your city, the buildings around you, the streets. It’s how much you allow yourself to say ‘this is my world too, I want to play here’. To think like that could basically get you arrested in a totalitarian and militarized system like the GDR. … oh wait.. it can get you arrested in NY too! Hm.”

Closing Night party: After the screening, the closing night bash takes place at 9:30 pm on the Castro Mezzanine, celebrating the conclusion of another year of innovative programming with an assortment of local tastes and German drinks in the company of director Persiel, producer Ronald Vietz and other special guests in attendance.

ARThound’s Picks:

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Marina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel. Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

The Wall (Die Wand):  Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (about to be re-printed in English later this year).  The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge.  Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery.  She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life.  She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart), a cat, some kittens, and a cow, with which she forms a tight-knit family.

The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog.  The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell (Who hasn’t said “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!), but watching Gedeck use her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 4 PM, Castro Theatre)

Max Hubacher (left) stars in Swiss director Markus Imboden’s “Foster Boy” (“Der Verdingbub”), which has its US premiere at the 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. Image courtesy: Global Screen.

Foster Boy: Markus Imboden’s Foster Boy (Der Verdingbub), the most successful Swiss film of the last 5 years, has its US premiere at the festival. The film is set in the 1950’s and revisits a dark and nearly forgotten period in the Switzerland’s recent history, when the government occasionally intervened to take children from parents who were deemed unfit, depriving them of custody, and sending their children to work, mainly on farms, a practice that lasted from the early 1800s until the 1960s. The story is focused on a young orphan, Max (Max Hubacher), who was sold to the Bösiger family of poor farmers and on another “Verdingbub,” (contract child) in that family, Berteli, a girl who was taken from her impoverished widowed mother. The gripping story follows the miserable life of physical, emotional and sexual abuse that the children underwent in a household that was supposed to provide foster parenting but instead used them as slave labor.

Hubacher, Switzerland’s 2012 Shotting Star award winner, gives a brilliant and nuanced performance as the emotionally and physically brutalized Max, whose only solace is his accordion and his dream of escaping to Argentina.  Through its story, the film directly exposes and challenges a grave injustice.  It also highlights the important role that an observant and caring outsider can play in reporting abuse IF the authorities to whom the complaint is made are not themselves complicit.  Stay tuned to ARThound for a full review. (Screens: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 4 PM, Castro Theatre)

Festival Details:  The 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is September 27-October 4, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (at market Street) in San Francisco.  Parking can be difficult.  Allow AMPLE time to find parking if arriving by car.  Some programming is at the Goethe-Institut SF Auditorium (530 Bush Street (at Grant).  Tickets:  Price varies per program ($12 for most Castro Theatre screenings and $10 for most Goethe-Institut screenings).  Advance tickets for all shows are available at Brown Paper Tickets.  Online ticket sales end 10:00 pm prior to the day of show for each film.  For information on purchasing advance tickets and day of show tickets in person at the Goethe-Institut or at the Castro Theatre, click here.

September 22, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2nd Annual German Gems Film Festival set to sparkle at the Castro this weekend and in Point Arena on January 22, 2011

Johannes Silberschneider (left) as Mahler and Karl Markovics as Freud in MAHLER ON THE COUCH by Percy and Felix Adlon. The film opens the second German Gems Film Festival this Friday at the Castro Theatre. Photo courtesy of German Gems

The 2nd German Gems film festival opens this Friday evening at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco, presenting a line-up of ten fascinating new German-language films.  A portion of the program will be shown in Point Arena at their historic Arena Theatre on Saturday, January 22, 2011.  The emphasis of this little festival is on new filmmakers and first features whose narratives and styles define new trends in German-language cinema.  The festival opens with Mahler on the Couch  by the father and son team, Percy Adlon (Baghdad Café, Sugar Babies, Salmonberries) and Felix Adlon.  This magical and timely narrative feature of doomed love and musical genius comes at the centennial of the famous Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler’s death.  It focuses on his wife, Alma Mahler’s affair with the young architect Walter Gropius that drives her famous husband to Sigmund Freud’s couch.

 And that’s just the first gem…there are nine others addressing the little known but awesome sport of river surfing, a celebrated architect whose personal life is in complete ruins, a 17 year-old girl who viciously and unexpectedly murders a classmate, a 78 year-old pilot whose has flown notables like Haille Selassie and the king of Yemen who is building his dream plane in the Caribbean for an air show in Florida, and an epic mountain film set in South Tyrol in 1809 that is a grand love story between a Bavarian woman and a Tyrolean rebel who are both enmeshed in Napoleon’s quest for empire. 

Ingrid Eggers, founder of German Gems, now in its second year at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco.

Earlier this week, I spoke with Ingrid Eggers who founded German Gems last year.  Eggers, a long-time Bay Area resident, ran the very successful Berlin and Beyond film festival from 1996 through 2009.  Under her guidance, Berlin and Beyond became one of the most successful German language film festivals outside of Europe, presenting over 500 films to 100,000 people in the Bay Area. When the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, which had sponsored Berlin and Beyond, merged it with Los Angeles’ German Currents festival to create a single West Coast event in October, 2009, Eggers had mandatory retirement forced upon her.  She re-emerged a few months later with German Gems, a one day, three film mini-fest at the Castro Theatre that was tremendously popular. Now, she is back with her second German Gems and a lot to say about German film.

What does German Gems allow you to offer the Bay Area audience that you couldn’t offer before? 

Ingrid Eggers:  I looked very carefully at Berlin and Beyond and the other German festivals in California and examined their current programming and didn’t see any focus on first feature films from young filmmakers. I decided to bring first features here–documentaries as well narrative features–to give young filmmakers from film schools a chance to show their films in San Francisco.  In Germany, there’s a lot of money for filmmaking, a lot of competition, and there’s a lot of very interesting film resulting from that.  It’s very hard for this group to find a festival that will take them.  Our selection of 10 films, one of which is a 20 minute short, includes 6 first features and several of the filmmakers will be here to present their films.

What impacted your decision to expand to a full weekend this year?

Ingrid Eggers:  The first German Gems did very well and I thought this January slot, which was when Berlin and Beyond used to be held, was very good because there’s not much happening.  I am also offering films that wouldn’t otherwise be shown here. Of the 10 films in my program, none of them has an American distributor at this point.  The big Bay Area festivals, SFIFF (San Francisco International Film Festival) and Frameline (Gay and Lesbian festival), aren’t showing many German films. SFIFF has emphasized French films, and it does the little French and Italian series in the fall.  I am not sure where the new director of Berlin and Beyond is headed; he’s Cambodian and seems to be moving in an international direction.  I want to continue represent German films and think there is definitely an audience. 

Do you select all the films yourself?  What are your criteria?

Ingrid Eggers:  I don’t do it all alone.  I have a group of people here who watch the films and another group of UCLA film school students (which includes my daughter) in Los Angeles because I want to have some young eyes look at this too.  And I go to the festivals– Munich in the summer, Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) in February and German Currents in Los Angeles in October—and I see what’s going on.  I get lots of films sent to me too. 

In terms of selection, the number one criterion is quality and that’s a very subjective thing.  For me, quality is based on the screenplay, cinematography, the way the film is made, and the filmmaker’s point of contact with the story.  It all has to work.  This year, we’ve got Celebration of Flight a documentary resulted from the filmmaker (director Lara Juliette Sanders) traveling to the Caribbean, to Dominica, and meeting a 78 year-old pilot, a quite amazing guy, who was working on building a plane.  It all came together beautifully.  The filmmaker has a curious story too—she was in advertising and quit and went to the airport and said I’m going to fly to No. 10 on this big list of departures.  That’s how she ended up in the Caribbean and found Daniel Rundstrom.  She wrote a book about this and has become very popular in Germany, on all the talk shows.  The outcome is that she became a filmmaker and has relocated to LA.  Daniel impressed me too: he is so methodical in the pursuit of his dream but then there were big problems with this plane at the air show in Miami.  Both the director and Daniel will be at the festival.

KEEP SURFING's director Bjorn Richie Lob, an avid river surfer, rides a wave on the Eisbach in a still from KEEP SURFING, photo courtesy of German Gems

There’s another one, David Wants to Fly which is really the story of two David’s–director David Sieveking whose subject is Director David Lynch– and TM (Transcendental Meditation).  Sieveking got more and more sucked into TM and then found out about the very harsh side of it and that impacted his talks with David Lynch.  So we get insight into TM and David Lynch and this quest and it all works. 

And when I saw Keep Surfing in Munich two years ago at its world premiere, I knew this had to be shown in the Bay Area. It really gets into this sport which is little known and into the stories of the people who are doing it. It represents years of work too.  I knew nothing about this before I saw the film and I know Munich. They took me from the theatre just 10 minutes down the street to the Eisbach and it was quite amazing. I really wanted the film and finally I got it

Of course, you don’t always get you want because distributors are asking a lot of money, even for small films. Our festival is very small and if you want to get new productions, the world sales people will tell you that they want to wait and see if the film is picked up by a larger festival in the area first.  The bigger festivals want to premiere films that have not been shown in the area before.  You get lots of no’s, but we always find great films that fit our program. 

The films I have seen—Mahler on the Couch, Mountain Blood, The Architect, She Deserved It, Disenchantments— all rely on exceptionally well-developed stories and actors rather than special effects to carry the day.  Is this your curating preference or a theme in German film?

Ingrid Eggers:  I think that young filmmakers are not going for special effects because these things cost money.  It’s hard enough to get good actors, but actors can sometimes be persuaded to donate their services. 

Josef Bierbichler as Georg Winter in THE ARCHITECT, Ina Weisse's feature debut about a man whose long-held secrets drag his family down. Photo courtesy of German Gems

What themes are young German filmmakers exploring these days?  

Ingrid Eggers:  I’ve been asking myself that question. I can tell you what is not in the film that I am watching now.   One of the things is war epics…Iraq, Afghanistan… wars have been done. I’m not seeing that in German or in new American films either.  The other thing is that I am not seeing is social clashes outside of the family.  Germany is full of Turks, the major minority in Germany.  Die Fremde (director Feo Aladağ, winner of 2010 European Lux Prize) is about honor killings through the narrative of a Turkish family living in Germany. It’s being shown all around and that’s why we aren’t showing it.  I think filmmakers are retreating with these problems into the family and not dealing head-on with these big subjects out there.  They are telling a story about family relationships, and at the same time, in parallel, a story with wider social, cultural and moral aspects. The Architect, She Deserved It, and Mountain Blood are examples of this. I didn’t see much engagement with gay topics either.  

Who are the filmmakers who are most influencing this new generation of German filmmakers?  Are they German, European, American, international?

Ingrid Eggers:  Usually, young German filmmakers graduating from film school will first try to write a good script and then see if they get funding for their film.  There’s so much money in Germany now for film, it comes from taxes, and as a result German film has gotten really good.  If you ask them–and we had these discussions at Berlin and Beyond here a couple of years ago with Wim Wenders and young filmmakers–you see that young German filmmakers watch a lot of films.  They are influenced by the all the big names out there– Antonioni, David Lynch—and they are investigating and comparing but I think their main thing is to try to do their own thing with their own story.

There is also a trend in Germany towards Hollywood with films being made in this pure entertainment style, trying to be blockbusters.  Some succeed but most don’t.   There are also young German filmmakers who migrate to Hollywood and give it a try.  Usually, they are not so successful.  Those who are most successful in German film are the ones who deal with more German topics.  The big example right now though is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who got an Oscar in 2007 for his fantastic debut feature film The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and now he’s done The Tourist which I wouldn’t go and see.  I think he has much more interesting stories to tell than that one.  After success in Germany, opportunities may open up in the States but that doesn’t necessarily translate into success here.

 The Architect and She Deserved It make for a very heavy Saturday night.  What facet of German culture do they shed light on? 

I got totally fascinated by The Architect (Der Architekt) which is mystery, secrets and snow and the story of this successful guy who is a total mess.  In that isolated village, he cannot walk away from all of this and everything disintegrates in him and in his family.  It is quite intense.  People told me, and I agree, that if he hadn’t died, he would have gone back to that woman which no one wanted.  From a screenplay point of view, once the family went back to north Germany, he could not survive.  The amazing thing is that the young director, Ina Weisse, got these huge German stars, all the big names, to play in her film and did a fantastic job of directing it.

Sina Tkosch as Kati, Liv Lisa Fries as Linda, Francois Goeske as Josch, and Saskia Schindler as Susanne in the SHE DESERVED IT, Thomas Stiller's topical exploration of a 17 year-old who murders her classmate. Photo courtesy of German Gems

She Deserved It (Sie hat es verdient) is a very heavy film that’s hard to watch but we had to show it because teen-based violence is such a big topic now in Germany, actually all over the place, and we don’t really know why.  Families will probably say this can’t happen in my family but it happens every day, this past weekend in fact.   This is based on a true story of a 14 year old girl who killed her classmate.  This is shot basically from the perspective of the perpetrator, the young girl.  You really get under her skin and the dialogue with her mother–the only one who tries to find out what happened—is remarkable.  The filmmaker can’t be here but I’m going to have a therapist come up on stage and talk about the family dynamics in both families and what it is that has driven so many young people into despair, violence and suicide.  This film will be shown on German television and embedded in something called “theme evening” where people and experts talk and other things related to this topic of teenage violence are shown.  It’s a very important film.

You’ve picked a set of films that portray a very interesting and strong group of women.  The female characters in Alma Mahler, The Architect, Mountain Blood, She Deserved It— use their strengths in different ways, to different ends but they are all strong.  Is this you coming through?

Barbara Romaner portrays the passionate Alma Mahler, in Mahler on the Couch screening at German Gems 2011. Photo courtesy of Percy Aldon.

Ingrid Eggers:  I haven’t looked at it from that point of view but yes, maybe.  I know that in She Deserved It (Thomas Stiller) all the men are hopeless. In The Architect (Ina Weisse), even though he’s at the pinnacle of his career, his life is a complete mess and he is torn apart by women.  Alma Mahler in Mahler on the Couch (Percy and Felix Adlon) is a strong woman who used her sexuality to draw very intelligent men into her orbit. In Mountain Blood, (Philipp J. Pamer) the women stay at home while the men are fighting and you have two very strong women there—Katherina, the outsider, and Elisabeth, the mother, who embodies that type of suspicious insular mountain person. These women really run things.  And then too, in terms of the mix of female filmmakers in this festival, there are two.  I would not do a festival without women filmmakers.

In Germany today, who are the strongest female filmmakers?

Ingrid Eggers:  Doris Dörrie, Cherry Blossoms (Kirschblüte – Hanami) (2008), who was in San Francisco several times with Berlin and Beyond and Margarethe von Trotta, who made Vision (2008), about Hildegard von Bingen, at German Gems last year.  Both women are in their 50’s or 60’s.  There are many young German women who are maturing but not out there yet.  It’s a very long process to make it to the top because the industry is so dominated by men.  There are lots of women working in producing and at that range both here and in Germany; but directing and cinematography have been hard fields for women to really break into.    

What are your impressions of Philipp Pamer’s Mountain Blood?  I was mesmerized by its depth. I looked up this chapter in Tyrolean independence and he nailed it. 

Wolfgang Menardi and Ina Birkenfeld in MOUNTAIN BLOOD, directed by Philipp Pamer, photo courtesy of German Gems

Ingrid Eggers:  This is one of the most amazing and touching first feature graduation films. It’s a huge production, an epic drama set in 1809 in a small village in the Alps.  There’s a lot of autobiographical stuff in this film too because Philipp Pamer, grew up in that village and it’s very authentic with all the details, right down to the dialects.  There’s also the story and how it’s done.  There’s the couple and how they deal with the political unrest during the time that Napoleon took over Europe and remapped everything.  Oxburg, the home of young woman, Katharina, was a card in the Napoleonic Empire, as was South Tyrol, the home of her husband. 

The Tyrolean leader Andreas Hofer is also in the film but the focus is on the young couple.  The girl is an outsider and is not accepted.  This is very typical for this genre of mountain film. If you live in the mountains, you are cut off from the rest of the world. Within your little community, you become very suspicious of everything that comes from the outside.  She comes in and she doesn’t know what’s going on.  She doesn’t want to fight with anybody.  She starts to be accepted and then she does a major faux paus to keep her husband from fighting in the war from which there is no recovery.

What are your plans for German Gems? Are you hoping to expand it through collaboration with other festivals so that you can share the expenses of flying in more guests or of lengthening the festival?

Ingrid Eggers:  There is always the possibility to do co-presentations, which we are doing with Mahler on the Couch, but to merge with a festival and get money from them would mean you become a satellite. It would be a totally different story, like becoming “New Italian Cinema,” or “French Film Now.”  It’s a totally different way of organizing and a different relationship. You can collaborate but you don’t get real money unless you become part of them. My goal is not to turn this into a week-long festival but to leave it as weekend– two days plus a night– and see who will support this festival and how we can improve it in this format.  We’re very thankful to our sponsors–Maurice Kanbar, Barbro Osher and Kuehne + Nagel, the Bay Guardian and various local people and organizations. Last year we got money from a German foundation, Filmstiftung NRW, and that lasted for two years. 

 

Films in San Francisco, Castro Theatre Philipp Pamer’s Mountain Blood?  

Friday, January 14, 2011

7 pm  Mahler on the Couch (Mahler auf der Couch) followed by Opening Night Party

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2 pm Keep Surfing                                                                                                                                                                                                            4:30 pm Intern for Life (Ein Praktikant fürs Leben)
7 pm The Architect (Der Architekt)
9 pm She Deserved It (Sie hat es verdient)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2 pm Celebration of Flight
4 pm David Wants to Fly 

6:30 pm Mountain Blood  (Bergblut)
9 pm Disenchantments (Entzauberungen), preceded by GÖMBÖC

Films in Point Arena, Arena Theatre

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2 pm Intern for Life (Ein Praktikant fürs Leben)
4 pm Keep Surfing
7:30 pm Mahler on the Couch (Mahler auf der Couch)

Details:  San Francisco: German Gems is at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street at Market, San Francisco from Friday through Sunday.  Tickets: $9-11 per screening, $20 opening night.  Purchase online at www.germangems.com  Parking Alert: There is virtually no parking around the Castro Theatre.  Allow ample time to find a place to park and walk to the theatre.

January 12, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment