ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

MVFF41 starts Thursday—¡VIVA EL CINE! showcases 15 award-winning Latin American and Spanish language films with many special guests

Special guests make a film come alive.  Cuban actor Héctor Noas will attend MVFF41 as part of ¡Viva el Cine!  Noas plays Russian cosmonaut Sergei Asimov in Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s drama Sergio and Sergei, set in 1990 Havana, and based on a real incident.  Photo: Ernesto Daranas

The forty-first edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF41) kicks off Thursday (Oct 4) with two big opening night films—Matthew Heineman’s bio-pic, A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike as tenacious Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin and Peter Farrelly’s drama, Green Book, which takes us on a tense 1962 concert tour in the American South with Mershala Ali (Moonlight, MVFF2016) as black jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley, and Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lipp, his Italian-American chauffeur and bodyguard.  Starting full force Friday and running for 10 days, MVFF41 delivers an exciting line-up of the very best and latest in American indie and world cinema, with more than 300 guests in attendance. Special events—Centerpiece and Closing Night Presentations, Spotlights, Tributes, Special Premieres, the Mind the Gap Summit, Behind the Screens Panels  and intimate parties and receptions—bring the films to life, fostering engaging discussion about issues and art.

The festival’s wonderful ¡Viva el Cine! series, programmed by MVFF Senior programmer Janis Plotkin with the help of Claudia Mendoza Carruth, turns five this year.  The line-up has doubled to include 15 award-winning Latin American and Spanish language films and there’s even a new ¡Viva el Cine! Launch Day that brings a fiesta to the Smith Rafael Film Center.  With films from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and the US, the series’ spellbinding storytelling and special guests make it an increasingly influential forum for the exploration of history, culture and identity.

¡Viva el Cine! Launch Day: Sunday, October 7

Coco / Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios

 

It all begins Sunday morning at the Smith Rafael Film Center with a family-friendly fiesta with live mariachi music, Day of the Dead face painting, fresh churros and hot chocolate. At 11 am, on Smith Rafael 1’s big screen, is the first Marin-ever screening of Coco, the Oscar-awarded, Pixar family favorite in Spanish with English subtitles, so that all children attending can both listen and read it.

Running concurrently in Smith Rafael 3, is the acclaimed coming of age drama, Too Late to Die Young (Tarde para morir joven), directed by Chilean Dominga Sotomyer, who will be in attendance.  This is Sotomayer’s second feature film and its set in 1990 Chile, with three main characters, ages 10, 16 and 16, who experience the pain of unrequited love and begin in their own ways to relate to the complexities of their parents’ world, all against the back-drop of a society reeling from Pinochet.

In Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Museo, Gael Garcia Bernal, plays thirty-something veterinary student, Juan Nuñez, who takes a job at the Anthropology Museum in order to support his marijuana habit.  He learns enough about the museum to come up with a plan to rob it with the help of his best friend. Image: Courtesy Alejandra Carvajal

At 2 p.m., Mexican Director Alonso Ruizpalacios will be in attendance for the screening of Museo, an art heist thriller with Gael García Bernal, based on the 1985 robbery of more than 100 Mesoamerican and Mayan artifacts from Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology.  Winner Best Screenplay award at the Berlin International Film Festival.

At 8 pm, Argentinian director Luis Ortega’s fourth feature, the engrossing biopic, The Angel (El ángel), presents a dramatized true story of angelic-looking, baby-faced young sociopath, Carlos Robledo Puch, aka “The Death Angel,” who in the 1970’s embarked on a murder spree across Argentina.

Centerpiece:  Roma,  Monday, October 8

A scene from Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Image: courtesy MVFF

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, his first film shot in Mexico, since Y tu mamá también (2001) is a meditative masterpiece on the meaning of family that screens as the festival’s Centerpiece.  Cuarón will be in attendance for an extensive on-stage conversation about this film, awarded the Golden Lion in Venice for best film and Mexico’s foreign language Oscar submission.  Set in 1970’s Mexico City, Roma follows the life of a quiet live-in indigenous housekeeper, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), and the upper middle class family that employs her.  Through a series of small moments, both humorous and poignant, there’s a slow build to mounting crisis for both Cleo and her employers.  Gorgeously shot in black and white.  Every scene and every woman seem steeped in personal memory and deep reflection.  Roma is Cuarón’s follow-up to Gravity (2013), awarded Academy Awards for directing and editing.

Harvest Season: World Premiere, Sat, October 13

Napa Valley Latina viticulturist, Vanessa Robledo, is profiled in Bernardo Ruiz’s Harvest Season.  Image: Roberto “Bear” Guerra

¡Viva el Cine! also includes films produced in the U.S. that are relevant to Latinos’ experiences here.  Benardo Ruiz’s documentary, Harvest Season, set and filmed in the Napa valley, has its world premiere at MVFF41 on Sat, October 13.  Through four stories, the film addresses the Latino and Mexican-American entrepreneurs and activists involved in the production and harvest of the grapes that go into premium California wines, small players with fascinating insights.  Shooting began in December 2015 and continued during the 2017 harvest, one of the most dramatic grape harvests in decades.  Filmmaker David Ruiz, Producer Lauren Capps, and subjects Vanessa Robledo, Maria Robledo, Angel Calderon and Gustavo Brambila will be in attendance. Screens: Sat 10/13 and Sun 10/14.

 

6 must-see films:

For recommendations, I went to Claudia Mendoza Carruth, who helped program ¡Viva el Cine!  She is well-respected for initiating and running the Sonoma International Film Festival’s Vamos Al Cine  and she regularly attends Havana’s Festival Internacional del Neuvo Cine Latinoamericano (or Havana Film Festival). (Read ARThound’s review here)  This year, she brought some of the best films from the Havana festival to MVFF and is especially excited to screen the Cuban film Sergio and Sergei with Cuban actor Héctor Noas to MVFF for an audience discussion.

“I’ve always marveled how Cuba, with all its limitations can produce such incredible cinema,” said Carruth. “It’s always been thought that it was difficult to impossible to bring Cuban films and actors here.  It’s not easy, but my attendance every year at the Havana Film Festival has enabled me to see the immense scope of films that come out of this island and the region and make connections.  I hope to really help develop MVFF’s programming.”

Sergio and Sergei

In Sergio and Sergei, Cuban actor Tomás Cao plays a ham-radio buff and downtrodden professor of Marxism in Havana who unexpectedly makes a connection with a Russian cosmonaut stuck in space. Image: Ernesto Daranas

One of the first films to come out of Cuba that has outer space effects, Ernesto Daranas Serrano’s Sergio and Sergei, is a story of human communication between Earth and the Russian Mir space station.  The engaging and very funny satirical drama is set in 1991, during a period of economic hardship for both the unraveling USSR and Cuba. Sergei (Héctor Noas) is stranded satelliting Earth on Mir space station, unable to descend and, by chance, communicates with Sergio (Tomás Cao), a ham-radio buff and professor of Marxism in Havana who is unable to support his family. A friendship forms as both men realize they share feelings of geopolitical isolation.  The film is shot in Havana.  Héctor Noas in attendance.  Screens:  Tues 10/9 and Wed 10/10.

Los Adioses

Mexican actress Actress Karina Gidi plays feminist writer Rosario Castellanos in Natalia Beristáin’s Los Adioses. Image: courtesy MVFF

Mexican filmmaker Natalia Beristáin’s second feature, Los Adioses, is a superbly acted portrait of Rosario Castellanos, one of Latin America’s greatest 20th century writers.  A poet, novelist, and essayist, Castellanos was an early supporter of women’s rights in postwar Mexico when the society was extremely patriarchal.  Her style was vulnerable, revealing, self-searching.  She struggled with balancing how to be happy in a love relationship, how to be a mother and, at the same time, how to work and assert her thoughts about the struggles of being a woman into her work.  Actress Karina Gidi, who plays the older Rosario, took home the Best Actress trophy at the Ariel Awards, Mexico’s equivalent of the Academy Awards®.  Screens: Tues 10/9 and Thurs 10/11

Virus Tropical

In Virus Tropical, Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist Power Paola takes ownership of her life story, working with Colombian director and artist, Santiago Caicedo, to adapt her 2011 graphic novel to an animated film with exquisite, emotive black and white drawings. Image: Courtesy of Timbo Estudio/Santiago Cacedo/Powerpaola

Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist and Power Paola (the pen-name of Paola Gaviria) is well-known for addressing themes of sexuality, feminism, family and personal identity in her graphic novels (Por Dentro, Todo Va a Estar Bien).  Her animated autobiographical film, Virus Tropical, is an adaptation of her 2011 graphic novel of the same name.  This coming- of-age tale, set in middle class Quito, Ecuador, and Cali, Colombia, is focused on family dynamics from the perspective of Paola, a very self-aware young girl, who is the youngest child in a close-knit family of three girls.  There are intimate scenes from family dinners where she is picked on, moments of pain and loss as she confronts the shock of her father’s suddenly moving back to Colombia and reflective moments such as her sister’s wedding.  It took Paola roughly five years to create the 5,000-plus detailed black-and-white line drawings that comprise the novel. Video artist and animator Santiago Caicedo, who previously worked with Paola on the short film Uyuyui! (2011), has beautifully transferred these to the screen.  Filmmaker Power Paola in attendanceScreens: Sat 10/13 and Sun 10/14

Amalia, the Secretary

Colombian actress Marcela Benjamin in a scene from Colombian director Andrés Burgos’ comedy, Amalia the Secretary (Amalia, la secretaria, 2017).  Image: courtesy MVFF

Colombian Director Andrés Burgos has hit the sweet spot with his comedy Amalia, the Secretary (Amalia, la secretaria, 2017) played to pitch perfect rigidity by Marcela Benjamin.  The story is about Amalia, who runs the office by taking passive-aggressive swipes at everyone who crosses her path until she meets Lazaro, a maintenance temp who so intrigues her that she creates more and more work for him by breaking things. “It’s so rare in Latin America to have a very well-crafted comedy that has people doing belly laughs,” said Claudia Mendoza Carruth. “One of my favorite scenes involves Amalia, this very very rigid woman, attempting yoga.  The way her character evolves and she asserts herself in almost every situation is really special.”  Director Andrés Burgos in attendance.  Screens:  Thurs 10/11 and Fri 10/12

 

Birds of Passage

A still from Birds of Passage. Image: Quinzaine

Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano), a crime epic, co-directed by frequent collaborators Cristina Gallego and Ciro Gallego, portrays the slow and steady destruction of a close-knit native family who gets caught up in the marijuana export business in the 1970s, and the beginnings of Colombia’s burgeoning narco-trafficking industry. The film, selected as the opener for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is a bit of ethnographic thriller as well introducing the Wayúu, Native Americans who live in North part of the country, in the deserts of the north-western Guajira peninsula, that many people, even native Colombians, know very little about.  At its heart, this is a family story that involves power, legend, culture, money, greed and the difficulty of honoring ancestors and customs in an increasingly modern world.  Cristina Gallego has accolades as a producer and this is her directing debut, while Ciro Guerra has global acclaim. His Embrace of the Serpent, co-produced by Guerra, (2015, MVFF38) won the Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes and was the first Colombian film to be nominated for the foreign language Oscar.  Screens: Wed 10/10 and Thurs 10/11

 

Ernesto

Japanese actor Joe Odagiri as Japanese-Bolivian medial student, Freddy Maemura Hurtado, in a scene from Junji Sakamoto’s biopic Ernesto (2018), screening twice at MVFF41. Photo: @2017 ‘Ernesto’ Film Partners

It’s a rare that one encounters a portrait of Che Guevara from a Japanese perspective.  Junji Sakamoto’s biopic Ernesto (2018), a very rare Japan-Cuba co-production, tells the story of idealistic Japanese-Bolivian medial student, Freddy Maemura Hurtado (Japanese superstar Joe Odagiri), who travels to Cuba in 1962 to become a doctor but instead joins Che Guevara’s guerilla army.  He becomes a very serious revolutionary who idolizes Che and becomes vehemently anti-war and outraged with American aggression in the Cuban missile crisis. The films traces Hurtado’s life from the time he sets foot in Havana in 1962 to his violent end in the jungle. Shot mainly in Cuba.  Screens: Thurs 10/11 and Fri 10/12

 

Details:

For full descriptions of ¡Viva el Cine!, click here.  MVFF41 is October 4-14, 2018.  For full schedule and to purchase tickets, click here.  Advance ticket purchase of films is essential as they sell out.

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October 3, 2018 Posted by | Film, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

¡Vive el cine! Havana’s 37th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema—a magical encounter with Havana and film

Opening night at Teatro Karl Marx at Havana’s 37th International Festival of New Latin Cinema, December 3-13, 2015. The film was Argentinean director Pablo Trapero’s “El Clan” (2015) and Geraldine Chaplin, the British-American daughter of Charles Chaplin, was honored. The theatre is Havana’s largest cinema house and seats over 5,000.

Havana’s 37th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, December 3-13, 2015, had its opening night at Teatro Karl Marx in Havana’s Miramar district. The film was Argentinean director Pablo Trapero’s “El Clan” (2015). Geraldine Chaplin, the British-American daughter of Charles Chaplin, was honored. Teatro Karl Marx is Havana’s largest cinema house and seats over 5,000 in a huge single auditorium. After the screening, the rum flowed as participants partied in heavy rain at Havana’s palatial Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

One of the main attractions of the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema or “Havana Film Festival” is its locale—sunny Havana, Cuba.  Every year, for the first two weeks in December, this phenomenal festival, now in its 37th edition, brings Cubans and international guests to 14 historic cinema halls all over downtown Havana and outlying neighborhoods.  Scurrying from venue to venue has never been more exciting as Havana is experiencing its own cinematic moment.  The city still has much of its unique time-capsule feel—old Chevys, cobblestoned plazas, faded facades, and 1950’s Soviet-style architecture.  The famous five mile long Malecón, the broad esplanade, roadway and seawall, looks much the same as it did a half century ago.  But on nearly every block within the city center, those fabled baroque buildings are undergoing surgery as hundreds of new businesses, restaurants, bars and hotels go up.  A chaotic melange of people go about their daily business while foreigners with cameras and phones click away.

The prestigious festival itself is one of the Havana’s and Latin America’s most anticipated annual events, offering the best and latest in Cuban, Latin American and world film—over 675 features, documentaries, fiction, animation, and archival gems from 49 countries.  Programming Director, Zita Morriña, received over 1,500 film submissions, the biggest year ever and the festival seeks out and invites prizewinners from Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Toronto.

Travel has been denied most Cubans but they are well-informed, voracious cinephiles and will wait for hours in lines that stretch on for blocks to see a film that generated a buzz abroad. The energetic atmosphere makes all the hassle of getting to Cuba worthwhile.  With juried competitions in eight areas and numerous awards, including best unrealized screenplay and even one for the best artistic design of the festival’s poster, the festival acknowledges talent across the board.  I was on the lookout for Raúl Castro, who usually makes an appearance at every festival, but Cubans are excited about famous guests.  Over the years, the festival has flown in a good number of Hollywood stars—Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck, Robert DeNiro, Chris Walken, Annette Bening, Spike Lee, and others.

I attended the 37th edition of festival—December 3-13, 2015.   I had been inspired by the Sonoma International Film Festival’sVamos Al Cine” programming, organized by Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, which in 2014 brought several Cuban films, directors and actors to Sonoma.  I had also spent part of the summer of 1987 in Cuba with colleagues from the Columbia School of Journalism and was intrigued to learn how life had changed there.

There were no direct flights to Cuba, so I traveled from San Francisco to Cabos San Lucas, Mexico, and then on to Havana.  My accommodations at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, in gorgeous Vedado, just a few meters from the sea, were booked through the festival.  The pace of change in Cuba is brisk, so look for direct flights to Havana soon.

 

 

There’s no better way to see the Cuban country side than hitting the road in an old Chevy with knowledgeable and lively traveling companions. Sonoma International Film Festival programmer Claudia Mendoza-Carruth (R), originally from Columbia, eased Spanish language concerns and introduced me to the world of Latin cinema while Sacramento lobbyist Noreen Blondien (L) was enthusiastic about business opportunities and discovering Cuban wines. Photo: Geneva Anderson

There’s no better way to see the Cuban country side than to hit the road.  Sonoma International Film Festival programmer Claudia Mendoza-Carruth (R), originally from Columbia, eased Spanish language concerns and talked film while Sacramento lobbyist Noreen Blondien (L) was enthusiastic about business opportunities and discovering Cuban wines. Photo: Geneva Anderson

 

After leisurely touring the Cuban countryside in an old Chevy for three days with friends from Sonoma, I attended opening night and the first five days of the festival and saw five to six films per day, from 10 AM through midnight.  The festival catalogue, Apuesta por el cine (Committed to Cinema) offered 200 pages of films.  About a third of the films were subtitled but all program information was in Spanish.  I realized that I knew next to nothing about the cinematic history of the region, much less its newest films and most important directors, and would need help.

The historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba is the festival’s main host hotel. Built in 1930, the five-star Vedado hotel is situated on a hill just a few meters from the sea and its guests have included Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba is the festival’s main host hotel. Built in 1930, the five-star Vedado hotel is situated on a hill just a few meters from the sea and its guests have included Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Breakfast at the festival hub, the Nacional, included the who’s who of Latin American cinema, all pouring over their Diarios del Festival.   This 8-page daily festival newspaper lists screening times and venues for the current day and the next day, and whether or not a film contains English subtitles.  It also profiles celebrities in attendance and historic film and festival moments.  Loaded up with recommendations straight from directors, producers and actors, I built an ambitious schedule.

The informative “Diario del Festival,” the festival’s daily newspaper (entirely in Spanish), is indispensable for scheduling and the latest festival news. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The “Diario del Festival,” the festival’s daily newspaper (entirely in Spanish), is indispensable for scheduling and the latest festival news. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Getting to the various venues in the morning via some form of taxi was the first challenge and the second was navigating the huge lines.  A festival “participante” pass ($40) gets you in the theatres ahead of non-pass holders but you still stand in long lines.  Almost every day, it rained heavily off and on for several minutes, creating monstrous puddles to navigate while in line.  One can’t help but be swept up in the moment—the excitement of the crowd, the impassioned conversations, the glory of these old cinema houses— Infanta, La Rampa, America, Charles Chaplin and 23Y12.

This is bound to change, but with so few cell phones, people actually communicate directly with each other, something I enjoyed.  I met an endearing trio of women in their late 70’s, friends since childhood, who make this festival their annual get together and haven’t missed a year yet.  They recounted memories of Harry Belafonte and Annette Bening.  After the gala screening of Todd Haynes’ lesbian melodrama, Carol (2015), I walked on to the next screening with two university students who were struggling to understand why the film had gotten so much hypein Cuba, it’s a given that some freedom’s are denied but they found something missing in the film and hadn’t been able to relate to the characters emotionally.

Cine Yara, in Havana’s Vedado district, is one of the main venues for Havana’s International Festival of New Latin Cinema. A key example of Cuba’s “Modern Movement” in architecture, it opened in 1947 as “Teatro Warner Radiocentro” with 1,650 seats, and was operated by Warner Bros. In 2015, it became one of Havana’s first cinemas to embrace digital projection but it retained a 35 mm projector to allow screening of classic films. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cine Yara, in Havana’s Vedado district, is one of the main venues for Havana’s International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. A key example of Cuba’s “Modern Movement” in architecture, it opened in 1947 as “Teatro Warner Radiocentro” with 1,650 seats, and was operated by Warner Bros. In 2015, it became one of Havana’s first cinemas to embrace digital projection but it retained a 35 mm projector to allow screening of classic films. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Bustling Cine Yara. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Bustling Cine Yara. Photo: Geneva Anderson

If you’re looking for perfect screening conditions, creature comforts, or envision sipping a mojito during a screening, Havana is not for you, at least not yet.  There were technical issues—primarily with sound, or films that would not play, and, a few times, there were no subtitles.  Substitutions were made on the spot.  Basic snacks—chips, cups of popcorn, greasy nuts, Cuban candies and fruits—are sold outside the theatres in huge shopping carts.  There is no “to go” for coffee and this was challenging.  There’s not much to buy but each theatre displays and sells wonderful movie posters and t-shirts that you’ll be tempted to stock up on.

One of the best experiences to be had in Havana is taking a taxi colectivo (shared taxi), about 30 cents a ride and always in a vintage American car. Photo: Geneva Anderson

One of the best experiences to be had in Havana is taking a taxi colectivo (shared taxi), about 30 cents a ride and always in a vintage American car. Photo: Geneva Anderson

After each film, it was a race out the door to the street curb to hunt down a way to get to the next screening.  Most tourists use Convertible pesos or “CUC” and pay the equivalent of US $5 to $10 dollars to go from venue to venue in some form of private taxi.  The locals all use buses or taxi colectivos—big old classic cars from the 1950’s, which go just one way, up or down the long boulevards.  People cram in like sardines and hop in and out and pay just 30 centavos in Cuban “CUP” (the national coin used by Cubans).

What I did see in my five days was largely exceptional and I had the time of my life.  Here are five aspects of the festival that most impressed me—

Opening Night at Karl Marx Cinema

Over 4,000 people showed up at Teatro Karl Marx, Havana’s largest cinema house, located in Miramar, central Havana, for opening night and it rained.  Following festival director Alfredo Guevara’s opening remarks, there was a brief homage to Geraldine Chaplin, the British-American daughter of Charles Chaplin.  Born in Santa Monica, in 1944, she has over 140 acting credits and chaired the festival’s jury for fiction films.  Next, the audience was treated to Pablo Trapero’s El Clan (2015). The prominent Argentinean director won a Best Director Silver Lion at Venice for this brutal bio-pic about the notorious real-life Puccio family who resided in an affluent Buenos Aires suburb and kidnapped their wealthy neighbors to extort ransom and then murdered their captives anyway.  With a dark performance from Argentinean actor Guillermo Francella, the film picks up right after the 1981 fall of military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, whose regime was responsible for the disappearances of some 30,000 Argentinean dissidents.  At the festival’s closing awards ceremony, the film picked up the Coral Award for Popularity, which was based on audience feedback.

Argentina’s Oscar entry and its box office sensation “El Clan,” directed by Pablo Trapero, was the opening night film for the 37th International Festival of New Latin Cinema, December 3-13, 2015, in Havana, Cuba.

Argentina’s Oscar entry and its box office sensation “El Clan,” directed by Pablo Trapero, was the opening night film for the 37th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, December 3-13, 2015, in Havana, Cuba.

As it turned out, Havana offered a number of stomach churners whose moral consequences weighed heavily on viewers.  Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s El Club (2015) took the Coral Award for Best Feature Film.  This dark treatise on the Catholic church through the prism of a group of exiled priests had picked up the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlinale.   What I found lacking in Havana was post-screenings Q & A’s with the directors and actors that help one process their experience and broaden perspectives.  These have become such an integral part of most festival experiences that when they don’t happen, you feel you’ve missed out.

Revisiting important events in Latin American history

It’s thanks to movies like Patricio Guzmán’s La Batalla de Chile (The Battle of Chile) (1975-78, Chile, Cuba, France) or Costa Gavras’ Missing (1982) that many of us learn about events in Latin American history such as the CIA-funded military coup in Chile that installed the right wing dictator Pinochet and led to thousands of deaths and mothers and sisters searching for decades for the remains of their missing loved ones.  In Havana, I witnessed the power of film’s storytelling to reopen debate on what these significant events meant and how to move on.

Columbian director, Klych López at the screening of “Siempreviva” (2015) which addresses the siege of Columbia’s Palace of Justice thirty years ago.

Columbian director Klych López at the screening of “Siempreviva” (2015) which addresses the siege of Columbia’s Palace of Justice thirty years ago.

Prior to viewing Columbian director Klych López’s engrossing drama, Siempreviva (2015, 111min), his first feature film, I had never heard of the siege of Columbia’s Palace of Justice.  The 1985 raid by members of the guerrilla group M19 (or April 19) led to all 25 of the country’s Supreme Court Justices being held hostage, over 200 civilian deaths and disappearances, and three decades of largely futile efforts by surviving family members to recover the remains of their loved ones. López, an acclaimed television director, was a just a boy when the siege occurred but he went to school near the Bogotá courthouse and witnessed the event unfolding. His work in television has also addressed aspects of historical memory. Siempreviva tells the story from a family’s perspective. In their large Bogotá household, which is held together by a struggling strong mother (Columbia’s beloved Laura Garcia), all of Columbian society is represented through skillfully interwoven stories.

Peruvian director Héctor Gálvez’s NN (2015), Peru’s Foreign Language Oscar nominee, also confronted the scars of civil war but was less successful from a storytelling perspective.  The drama focuses on a forensic anthropologist (Paul Vega) in Lima whose team spends their days excavating remote mass graves and sorting through human remains trying to help people find missing relatives who were victims of Peru’s Internal Civil War (1980-2000). He struggles to remain detached but a long-suffering elderly widow, who only knows that her husband was pulled off a bus in 1988 by the military police, gets under his skin.

A scene from Peruvian director Héctor Gálvez’s second feature film, “NN” (2015), Peru’s Foreign Language Oscar nominee, which addresses the ongoing Peruvian struggle to identify the remains of and remember Peru’s disappeared persons.

A scene from Peruvian director Héctor Gálvez’s second feature film, “NN” (2015), Peru’s Foreign Language Oscar nominee, which addresses the ongoing Peruvian struggle to identify the remains of and remember Peru’s disappeared persons.

 

Encountering big Latin stars unknown in the US

Havana is an inauguration into the legacies of talented Latin stars who, largely due to the exigencies of film distribution in the US, are virtually unknown in the States.  Casual conversation with festival participants generates a list of not-to-be missed performances by actors as well as not-to-be missed actor-director pairings.  A film that completely charmed me was Argentinean director Maxi Gutiérrez’s Tokio (2015), a love story that unfolds in 24 hours against the backdrop of jazz piano and low light.  Since there are hardly any romantic films in the US with characters past the age of 70, I was delighted to watch 75 year-old Argentinean film and television siren, Granciela Borges turn out a tender, sensual performance conveying the hesitation, insecurity and joy that accompany falling in love late in life.  Over the years, Borges has acted in over fifty films.  Her co-star, the beloved Argentinean film, theatre and stage actor Luis Brandoni, 76, matched her step for step and together they elevated the film into an unexpected masterpiece.

When is the last time you saw a love story starring 70 year-olds in the US? Argentinean director Maxi Gutiérrez’ “Tokio” (2015) stars Graciela Borges,76, and Luis Brandoni, 75, who last appeared together on film 36 years ago.

A scene from Argentinean director Maxi Gutiérrez’ “Tokio” (2015) starring Graciela Borges,76, and Luis Brandoni, 75, both big stars of Argentinean television and film.

Experiencing cinematic history

Attending the premiere of Bob Yari’s Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (2015), the first Hollywood film to shoot on location in Cuba since the trade embargo was imposed in 1960, was one of the more memorable festival experiences.  Most of the cast and crew flew in for the event.  Yari, the director of Crash (2004) and The Illusionist (2006), shot the film in 2014 with the assistance of the Cuban Film Institute.  The film generated a lot of media attention and festival screenings were enormously popular with Cubans.  The screenplay by the late journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc recounts his relationship with Hemingway, whom he befriended when he was a young Miami Herald journalist.  Later, Petitclerc was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and he retired in Sonoma.  Adrian Sparks was brilliant as Hemingway, capturing the vulnerability under the rage and bluster of this great genius in his last years.  At 41, Giovanni Ribisi  was miscast as a young reporter and turned out a rather lackluster performance.  My Papa experience reached its zenith when I shared an elevator with Mariel Hemingway, who makes a brief screen appearance.

Adrian Sparks is Hemingway in Bob Yari’s “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” (2015), which premiered at the 37th Festival of New Latin American Cinema. The film is set against the turbulent backdrop of the Cuban Revolution, with many scenes shot at Finca Viga, Hemingway’s Havana estate, as well at La Floridita, his preferred watering hole. Sparks used Hemingway’s actual typewriter in a scene shot at Finca Viga.

Adrian Sparks is Hemingway in Bob Yari’s “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba” (2015). The film is set against the turbulent backdrop of the Cuban Revolution, with many scenes shot at Finca Viga, Hemingway’s Havana estate, as well at La Floridita, his preferred watering hole. Sparks used Hemingway’s actual typewriter in a scene shot at Finca Viga.

Cuba’s cinema moment

My enthusiasm for Cuban film brought me to Havana and the selection was vast—61 films!  I got a list of must-sees from Jorge Perugorría, Cuba’s most famous actor, now 50, who in 1994, played Diego in Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s delightful fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) (1994), reportedly the first Cuban film with a gay hero.  Perugorría has since stared in over 50 films and visited the Sonoma International Film Festival in 2014 with Se Vende (2012) Naturally, he recommended his latest film, Irish director Paddy Breathnauch’s Viva (2015), a Cuban-Irish co-production about Cuban drag queen culture, enlivened by pitch-perfect acting and its gritty barios Havana setting.  Viva is Ireland’s Foreign Language Oscar entry.  Héctor Medina’s seductive and tragic performance as a young man struggling with his identity stole the show but watching Perugorría’s transformation from a wrecked and aching man into the role of a real father was something to behold.  Viva was one of a large number of films at the festival addressing gay, trans and alternative lifestyles from multiple perspectives.  It was just picked up by Magnolia Pictures, expect a State-side release.

Héctor Medina is Jesus in Paddy Breathnauch’s “Viva” (2015). Jesus works backstage at a nightclub styling wigs but yearns to perform in drag on stage. When he gets his chance, he emerges as the stunning chanteuse “Viva” but, just as he is building his confidence, his long-absent father (Jorge Perugorría) appears and demands that his son stop performing. As the son learns to forgive the father and to broaden his identity, the father learns to accept his son.

Héctor Medina (R) is Jesus in Paddy Breathnauch’s “Viva” (2015). Jesus works backstage at a nightclub styling wigs but yearns to perform in drag on stage. When he gets his chance, he emerges as the stunning chanteuse “Viva” but, just as he is building his confidence, his long-absent father (Jorge Perugorría) appears and demands that his son stop performing. As the son learns to forgive the father and to broaden his identity, the father learns to accept his son.

Pavel Giroud Eirea’s El Acompañante (The Companion) (2015), took the Coral for Best Screenplay.   I knew that filmmaking has been quite arduous for Cuban filmmakers whose scripts must still be approved by the State but I also began to pick up on the fact that most Cuban dramas seem to need to fulfill a purpose–they revisit some aspect of Cuban history.  This one brilliantly focuses on an unpleasant moment in Cuba’s recent past.  In the 1980’s, during the peak of AIDS epidemic, the Cuban government began testing citizens for HIV and taking those who tested positive to Los Cocos, a sanatorium where they were quarantined from the rest of society and cared for.  Each incoming patient was assigned a companion who educated them and simultaneously spied on them.  The film tells the story of hunky Horatio (Latin Grammy winning singer Yotuel Romero), a former Olympic boxing champion who was caught doping and becomes the companion/watcher for Daniel (Armando Miguel Gómez ), a defiant soldier who was infected by a prostitute.  Under constant surveillance, their trust grows and slowly develops into a friendship that is challenged by Daniel’s attempts to escape and Horatio’s desire to resume boxing.  The film managed to deliver a searing critique of state policy and magnetic performances.  Its best moments are found in the ruthless behaviors of its desperate characters.

Yotuel Romero and Armando Miguel Gómez in a scene from Pavel Giroud Eirea’s El Acompañante (The Companion) (2015), which won the Coral for Best Screenplay.

Yotuel Romero and Armando Miguel Gómez in a scene from Pavel Giroud Eirea’s El Acompañante (The Companion) (2015), which won the Coral for Best Screenplay.

My Cuban line-up also included Rigoberto Jiménez Hernández’ first feature film, Café Amargo (2015, Cuba/Spain), a period drama centered on four sisters living independently and working in very macho culture on a coffee plantation in Cuba’s remote Sierra Meastra mountains.  Risking their lives, they give refuge to an injured young rebel who is leaving to join the guerrillas and he profoundly impacts each of the women.  Jorge Luis Sanchez’s third feature, Cuba Libre (2015), the first Cuban film to depict the US army’s intervention in Cuba’s 1898 war of independence (the Spanish-American War), boasted extravagant sets, magnificent period costumes and wonderful acting, bringing late 19th Cuba to life through the eyes of two Cuban children who are both witnesses to and caught up in a battle that involves three countries with competing interests.  Crowds turned out in droves for this film, filling the Charles Chaplin theater.  Marcelo Martin’s quite documentary, El Tren de la Línea Norte (2014), took me on an unforgettable journey on a single wagon train, the only means of transport between several small towns in the rustic province of Ciego de Avila, the agricultural heart of Cuba highlighting how difficult and different life is in the provinces.

Bleary-eyed from my whirlwind and wonderful Cuban festival experience, I then stepped into full-swing into Christmas stateside.  Looking back, there’s no more exciting locale than Cuba, a country teeming with talent and excited to step onto the world stage and an important hub for Latin cinema.  And while I concentrated on Latin American and Cuban film, I did run into San Francisco experimental filmmaker Dominic Angerame, who for the past 10 years, has been programming a popular experimental and avant garde film program that screens a half dozen or so films each festival.  He explained that the Cubans in his audience had read everything they could about experimental film but few had actually had the opportunity to watch one until he came along.  With so many film angles to explore in Havana, I can’t wait to return next year.

Details: The 38th Festival of New Latin American Cinema is December 8-18, 2016 in Havana.  Click here for information a few months prior to the festival.

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soulful, spirited, political—the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival has a line-up of stories from around the world with an emphasis on Cuban film—it kicks off tonight

Columbian director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara’s “Field of Amapolas” (Jardín de Amapolas) addresses the impact of Columbia’s ongoing struggle with corruption through the story of two innocent children.

Columbian director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara’s “Field of Amapolas” (Jardín de Amapolas) screens at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014 as part of the popular Vamos Al Cine series. Filmed in Ipiales, in the Nariño region of Colombia, the film addresses the impact of Columbia’s ongoing struggle with corruption through the story of two innocent children. Latin American cinema is hot right now, so much so that in most of the big festival offerings it has nearly replaced Asian cinema. The films are coming not from the old standbys (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil) but from Colombia, Chile, Peru, nations that have had sporadic cinematic output. Columbia in particular is a hotspot for vibrant film. SIFF 17 will offer over a dozen films from Latin America and is showcasing Cuban film.

ARThound loves a great film, one whose story speaks right to my heart.  This year’s 17th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), which kicks off tonight, features over 115 hand-selected films from 22 countries—features, documentaries, world cinema, and shorts.  Two hundred filmmakers and celebrities will attend and participate in premieres, Q&A’s and panel discussions spread over five glorious days in Sonoma. The festival is also one long party, offering pass holders world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners in  “The Backlot,” SIFF’s culinary hub, a one-of-a-kind hospitality tent on the North side of Sonoma’s City Hall.  Whether you’re a passholder or come for individual film screenings, this festival has a to offer.  It all starts this evening with an opening night party, two opening night films and an after party.  If you’ve missed my previous coverage of the festival basics and Big Nights, here are the links explaining all about the passes vs going solo—

March 23—The line-up has been announced for the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014…pounce on individual tickets

March 12—Sonoma International Film Festival passes are on sale now and prices will increase on Monday, March 17, 2014

ARThound’s top picks in the World Cinema category:

In choosing these must-see films, I’m looking for something that I won’t be able to see elsewhere, countries that are less represented/new directors generating a buzz, a unique story with an international point of view, and the promise of cinematic magic.  SIFF doesn’t provide critics with screeners, so putting this information together requires lots of research and some guesswork.  Given the ascendency of Latin cinema, I recommend attending as much as you can of this year’s Vamos Al Cine programming.   This wonderful series, initiated three years ago by Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, began as programming for the Spanish speaking community but has morphed into one of the festival’s biggest draws. This year, it offers 10 films, emphasizing distinctive new voices from Columbia (2), Cuba (4), Dominican Republic (1), Mexico (2) and Venezuela (1).  There’s an emphasis on Cuban cinema with 4 Cuban films and several Cuban directors and actors in attendance.

A young Iranian woman is gang raped and must deal with the fall-out in Pourya Avarbaiyany's   "Everything is Fine Here," screening at SIFF 17.

A young Iranian woman is gang raped and must deal with the fall-out in Pourya Avarbaiyany’s “Everything is Fine Here,” screening at SIFF 17.

Everything is Fine Here— Iran | 2012 | 75 min. | Dir. Pourya Avarbaiyany (in attendance)

On the verge of her marriage, Arghavan a 25 year old writer who is newly engaged and acclaimed, with an invitation to lead a prestigious writing workshop in Germany, is gang-raped in a deserted area of Tehran.  In a strict, conservative society where young women are expected to be virgins before marriage, the crime is that of her assailants but the catastrophe is hers. Overwhelmed by rumors, her life turns into a nightmare and her pending marriage and her relationship with her parents are threatened. The film addresses Iran’s perplexing state of gender inequality and the battle of the individual in a discriminatory society to cope when a tragedy occurs. In 2011 in Iran, there were reports from Human Right Agencies chronicling 6 brutal rapes of Iranian women and in some of these cases, Iranian officials blamed the victims. Iran’s women face a host of laws which limit their rights in marriage, divorce and child custody.  In some cases, their testimony in court is regarded as less than half that of a man’s.  This young director is from Tehran.  I can’t wait to hear how he managed to make a film like this.  Screens: Thursday, April 3 (12:15 pm) Vintage House and Friday, April 4 (9:30 pm) Murphy’s Irish Pub

Cuban actors Armando Miguel Gómez and Yuliet Cruz are a couple impacted by the closure of the sugar mill in Carlos Lechuga’s first feature, “Melaza,” screening twice at SIFF 17.

Cuban actors Armando Miguel Gómez and Yuliet Cruz are a couple impacted by the closure of the sugar mill in Carlos Lechuga’s first feature, “Melaza,” screening twice at SIFF 17.

 

Melaza—Cuba | 2012 | 80 min. | Dir. Carlos Lechuga (in attendance)—With the closure of its local sugar mill, the picturesque (fictional) Cuban town of Melaza has become desolate and lifeless. School teacher Aldo (Armando Miguel Gómez) and now-unemployed Monica (Yuliet Cruz) eke out a meager living, going as far as renting out their tiny home to the local prostitute for extra cash. When they get in trouble with the authorities, resulting fines lead to more desperate measures. This beautifully filmed, contemplative first feature explores the social crisis in the Cuban sugar factory neighborhoods following the dismantling of many production units. It poses the question of how to survive in a country in crisis.

This is Lechuga’s first feature film. Director’s statement: “While the post-production process went on, I began to realize that a love story was being told that in the end left an optimistic taste, but which, like molasses (melaza), hides certain bitterness. The bitterness of a tragedy set up in the Tropics, with a brilliant sun, green sugarcane and lovers holding each other’s hands, awaiting the worse.”  Screens: Thursday, April 3 (8:45 pm) Murphy’s Irish Pub and Saturday, April 5 (7:15 pm) La Luz Center

 

 

Chronic Love (Amor Crónico)—Cuba | 2012 | 83 min. | Dir. Jorge Perugorria (in attendance)—This exhilarating and energetic blend of fact and fiction follows flamboyant Cuban-born/New York-based singer and Grammy nominee Cucú Diamantes on her first tour of Cuba. This unique road film interweaves footage of her cabaret-style performances with a fictional love story. A love letter to Cuban cinema, to Cuban music and to its people.  Directed by Cuban actor and visual artist Jorge Perugorría (famous for his part as Diego in Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate), 1994).  Screens: Friday, April 4 (8:00 pm) Sebastani Theater and Saturday, April 5 (5:00 pm) La Luz Center

Yilmaz Erdogan’s “The Butterfly’s Dream” (Kelebeğin Rüyası) was Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar.  Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of the bond between two young poets who both contract tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman.

Yilmaz Erdogan’s “The Butterfly’s Dream” (Kelebeğin Rüyası) was Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar. Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of the bond between two young poets who both contract tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman.

 The Butterfly’s Dream (Kelebeğin Rüyası)—Turkey | 138 min. | 2013 | Dir. Yilmaz Erdogan—Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar which had a long gestation period—seven years of screen-writing and two years in pre-production. Set during World War II in impoverished Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of the bond between two young poets long forgotten by history—Muzaffer (Kivanç Tatlitug), the optimist romantic, and Rüştü (Mert Firat)  the pessimist dreamer—whose brotherly camaraderie is based upon their shared loved for the written word and their mutual misfortune. Forced to work in the coal mines, they both contract tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman, an aristocrat’s daughter, played by star Belçim Bilgin, who is also Erdogan’s wife. The title is from an ancient passage by Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu, in which he pondered his dream of being a butterfly. Erdoğan’s gorgeously-shot film addresses the nature of reality and the power of artistic practice to mitigate hardship. Screens: Saturday, April 5 (3:15 pm) Burlingame Hall and Sunday, April 6 (10:00 am) Murphy’s Irish Pub

 Field of Amapolas (Jardín de Amapolas)— Colombia | 87 min. | Dir. Juan Carlos Melo Guevara— Filmed very close to director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara’s hometown of Ipiales in the Nariño region of Colombia, this is the first feature film to ever be shot in the area. When accused of collaborating with the enemy in the ongoing guerilla war in Colombia, farmer Emilio, along with his nine-year- old son Simon, is forced by rebels to vacate his piece of land. After relocating with the help of a relative, Emilio and his son face such an economic struggle that Emilio to takes work in the illegal poppy (Amapolas) fields belonging to a local drug lord, who happens to be his cousin. Meanwhile, Simon meets and befriends Luisa, a girl his own age. She is obsessed with playing with a puppy dog she can’t afford. Simon steals it for her every day, but returns it each night. One day, the cousin discovers Simon’s secret and decides to use him for his own greedy plan.

This is Guevara’s first feature as director, screenwriter and producer. Director’s statement: “The idea was not only make a portrayal unique to the film history of Colombia, but to make a story through the point of view of two kids who can only see their reality with innocence, without speeches or academic criticism; that’s why this is not a film about war, on the contrary, the war is only a stage where life, dreams, and hopes can continue.”Screens: Sunday, April 6 (11:00 am) La Luz Center 

Nigerian director Biye Bandele’s “Half Of A Yellow Sun” finds Chiwetel Ejiofor co-starring opposite Thandie Newton in the adaptation of the bestselling (and Orange Prize for Fiction-winning) novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, set against the backdrop of the 1967-1970 Nigerian-Biafran war.  This is the first Nigerian film to screen at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Nigerian director Biye Bandele’s “Half Of A Yellow Sun” finds Chiwetel Ejiofor co-starring opposite Thandie Newton in the adaptation of the bestselling (and Orange Prize for Fiction-winning) novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, set against the backdrop of the 1967-1970 Nigerian-Biafran war. This is the first Nigerian film to screen at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Half of a Yellow Sun Nigeria | 2013 | 113 min. | Dir. Biye Bandele—For the first time, SIFF17 welcomes a film from Nigeria, first time writer-director Biyi Bandele’s acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun, an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel of the same name.

This epic chronicle of family drama and tribal violence begins in 1960 and leads up to the Nigerian-Biafran War which ended in 1970. The film tracks war through the story of headstrong twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton—Crash, The Pursuit of Happiness) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose), privileged girls from Lagos, who return home after their respective university educations abroad. Both make similarly scandalous decisions. Olanna defies familial expectations and convention not only by becoming a sociology professor herself, but also by moving in with firebrand academic Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor—12 Years A Slave, Children of Men) in the college town of Nsukka. Kainene assumes management of the family business and falls in love with an English – and married – writer (Joseph Mawle). The loyalties of the sisters are tested amidst the horrors of the Nigerian Civil War, and the rise and fall of short-lived republic of Biafra. The main focus is on the Olanna and Odenigbo whose passion is ignited over political protest but things get rocky when Odenigbo’s battle-ax mother (Onyeka Onwenu) comes to visit. An uneducated village woman with a mean and scheming personality, Mama is determined to split up the lovebirds up any way she can, and nearly succeeds.Rich in period atmosphere, evoking a strong sense of how these Nigerians lived their lives day-to-day, and how devastated they are when war and all its atrocities rip that fabric apart. Screens: Friday, April 4 (11:00 am) Murphy’s Irish Pub and Sunday, April 6 (2:30 pm) Vintage House

 

SIFF Details:

The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival is April 2-6, 2014. All films are screened in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance along Sonoma’s historic plaza

Click here to purchase all SIFF passes.

Click here for more information, or call 707 933-2600

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Film, Food, Jazz Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vamos Al Cine! The Sonoma International Film Festival’s contemporary Latin cinema programming starts Friday

Venezuelan director Hernán Jabes (award-winning director of Macuro) adrenaline-fueled crime drama “Piedra, papel o tijera” (“Rock, Paper, Scissors”) was Venezuela’s official submission to the 2013 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language film.   A betrayal is uncovered, leading the paths of two families at opposite ends of the economic spectrum to cross.  Ten-year-old Luis is the unwitting catalyst to a dizzying downward spiral of violence in the overpopulated neighborhoods of Caracas.  Extortion, murder, drug trafficking and several emotionally volatile personalities combine to produce a thrilling and unpredictable outcome in a brutal game of chance.  (Screens Friday, April 12 3:15 p.m., Burlingame Hall and Saturday, April 13, 5:30 p.m., La Luz)

Last year, the Sonoma International Film Festival’s celebrated its 15th anniversary with “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta,” featuring the best of cinema “en español.”  For the first time in Sonoma Valley, both Latino and film festival audiences enjoyed a selection of award-winning films from Mexico to Bolivia.  “La Q” was a huge hit, bringing the beloved Havana Eva, with the presence of lovely Prakriti Maduro, and Hidalgo, the historic epic from Mexico, starring this year’s Spotlight Award honoree, Demián Bichir.   SIFF also celebrated the coming-of-age of Janeth and Lupita with a real Quinceañera party.

Director Javier van de Couter will lead an audience Q&A following Friday's p.m. screening at the Sebastiani Theatre.

Director Javier van de Couter will lead an audience Q&A following Friday’s 9 p.m. screening at the Sebastiani Theatre.

This year, SIFF presents its inagural “Vamos al Cine” program, featuring 9 films all shown with English subtitles.  A rich cinema blend with flavors from Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain with an emphasis in Mexican cinema, “Vamos al Cine” will be presented both at La Luz Center’s Booker Hall, in the heart of the Latino neighborhood, and in the festival’s main Plaza venues.

“We hope to bring pride to our Latino community in our award-winning cinema and inspiration with the presence of Spotlight Award recipient Damián Bichir, ” said Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, who organized last year’s “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta” and this year’s “Vamos Al Cine” programming.

Highlights include:

Mia from Argentina will feature an engaging Q&A with its director, Javier van de Couter, coming from Buenos Aires. This narrative feature, which is also part of SIFF LBGT programming, is about the struggles of the transgender community. Alé is a trans woman who lives in disparity in a shanty town of Buenos Aires, surviving by collecting recyclables for cash. She discovers the diary-suicide note of another trans woman named Mia, leading her to become entwined with Mia’s grieving family. The film offers a tender and realistic window into humanity-regardless of whether one is queer or straight. (Screens Friday, April 12, 9 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre)

Director Carlos Osuna will lead audience discussions after the Sat and Sun screenings of his "Fat, Bald, Short Man" ("Gordo, calvo y bajito)

Director Carlos Osuna will lead audience discussions after the Sat and Sun screenings of his “Fat, Bald, Short Man” (“Gordo, calvo y bajito)

Fat, Short and Bald (Gordo, calvo y bajito) (2011), from Colombia, will also have its director Carlos Osuna in attendance. Using bright primary colors and an innovative animation technique, where the faces of the real actors are in animated form, this clever and touching story is about a man who lives a gray life thinking that by being fat, short and bald there is no chance for him… until a man just like him, loved by everyone and very assertive, becomes his boss. (Screens Saturday, April 13, noon, La Luz and Sunday, April 14, 1:45 p.m.Women’s Club)

The films:   Acorazado (México), Borrando la Frontera  (México/EE.UU), En Fuera de Juego (Spain, Argentina), Gordo, calvo y bajito (Columbia), Hecho en China (México), MIA (Argentina), Miss Inc. (Canada), Piedra papel o tijera (Venezuela), La Cebra (México).

Prior to last year’s Quinceañera Film Fiesta, there had been Spanish films in the programming but not a specific programming segment,” said Mendoza-Carruth. “I made a personal commitment to make of film a bridge that would connect our Anglo and Latino communities in Sonoma Valley. We were very successful at doing so last year. Latinos that had never been to a Festival party at the Plaza were dancing celebrating Janeth and Lupita’s real quinceañera, Anglos who had never seen a Spanish film in the Springs area, came to the Charter school to enjoy a selection of the best 15 films in contemporary Latin cinema. Thanks to the generous support of the MacMurray Foundation, we are continuing this year the celebration of the values, contributions and diversity of our Latino community by the Vamos al Cine program.”

 

Miss Inc. (Canada, Venezuela, 2011, Dir. Orlando Arrigada) With a dozen Miss Universe and Miss World titles, Venezuela is the undisputed global beauty pageant champion. After oil, pageants are the country’s second most important industry.  Although 80% of the population lives below the poverty line, many women spend a fortune on their appearance, and the pursuit of the Miss Venezuela crown is followed with near-religious fervor. Exploring the backstage world of the Venezuelan beauty industry, Orlando Arriagada’s documentary asks: Is beauty manufactured at any cost?

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sonoma International Film Festival starts this evening, offering a stellar line-up of cinema, food and wine— all in gorgeous Sonoma

In Gilles Legrand’s “You Will Be My Son” (“tu seras mon fils”), Niels Arestrup plays a distinguished vintner in France's St-Emilion region, who is about to be awarded the Legion of Honor.  He’s deeply attached to his vineyard and, now that he is aging, is obsessed with passing it all down to posterity.  Who will that be—his son or another protégé?   This story is richly honed with lush cinematography of one of France’s most fabled wine producing regions.  One of three films opening the 1th Sonoma International Film Festival.

In Gilles Legrand’s “You Will Be My Son” (“tu seras mon fils”) Niels Arestrup plays a distinguished vintner in the St-Emilion region, who is about to be awarded the Legion of Honor. He’s deeply attached to his vineyard and, now that he is aging, is obsessed with passing it all down to posterity. Who will that be—his son or another protégé? This story is richly honed with lush cinematography of one of France’s most fabled wine producing regions.

This evening, the curtain rises on the 16th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings— 105 new films from more than 30 countries— with great gourmet food and wine.  Highly anticipated by its loyal film-savvy audience, who see an average of 5 or more films each, this festival takes place in eight venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s charming town square.  Known for its laid back vibe and exceptional “back-lot” tent serving passholders the finest local wines and gourmet offerings, this sweet festival has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors. 

Stay-tuned to ARThound for festival coverage.

SONOMA SPOTLIGHT AWARD:  This year SIFF will honor Golden Globe-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker and actor Demián Bichir at a Tribute event taking place on Saturday evening, April 13.  Mary-Louise Parker has enjoyed a diverse career in film, television and on stage.   She was most recently seen in the hit action-comedy Red opposite Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. Her upcoming feature films include Red 2, R.I.P.D., Jamesy Boy and Behaving Badly.  Parker is widely known for her starring roles in such films as Fried Green Tomatoes, Boys on the Side, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Reckless, The ClientNaked in New YorkBullets Over Broadway and Longtime Companion.  Parker also won a Golden Globe and received four SAG Award nominations for her portrayal as Nancy Botwin in the hit Showtime television series Weeds and also received a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for her role in the TV mini-series Angels in America.  She is also a highly acclaimed stage actress and was a Tony Award nominee for Prelude To A Kiss, Reckless and Proof, winning the Tony in 2001 for Proof.  She was most recently seen in Dead Man’s Cell Phone and the Broadway revival of Hedda Gabler.  

Mary-Louise Parker (left) as drug dealing Nancy and Demián Bichir as Tijuana mayor, jilted husband and devoted daddy, Esteban Reyes, on the Showtime TV series “Weeds” which ran 8 seasons.  Parker and Bicher will be honored with a Spotlight Award at SIFF on Saturday, April 13, 2013.  Image: courtesy Showtime

Mary-Louise Parker (left) as drug dealing Nancy and Demián Bichir as Tijuana mayor, jilted husband and devoted daddy, Esteban Reyes, on the Showtime TV series “Weeds” which ran 8 seasons. Parker and Bicher will be honored with a Spotlight Award at SIFF on Saturday, April 13, 2013. Image: courtesy Showtime

Demián Bichir received an Academy Award, SAG Award and Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Actor for his portrayal of an undocumented worker in A Better Life.  He also starred in Steven Soderbergh’s 2008 two-part epic Ché as a young Fidel Castro, as well as Oliver Stone’s Savages, both with Benicio del Toro. He is known to television audiences for his role on the Showtime series Weeds. His will next star in the Paul Feig comedy The Heat, Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills and has the lead role in the new FX series The Bridge.

“Both Parker and Bichir exemplify such amazing traits as actors,” says SIFF Executive Director Kevin McNeely, “We are thrilled to celebrate their contribution to independent film…and even more excited to be able to reunite this Weeds duo.” (The tribute is 6 to 7 p.m. and the tribute dinner is 7 to 9 p.m., Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Building.)

The Film Line-Up:

Opening Night:  The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with three screenings, all around 6:30 p.m:  Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman (2012) at the Sebastiani Theatre; Gilles Legrande’s You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils) (2010) at Burlingame Hall and Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur’s The Deep (Djúpiô), Iceland’s official foreign-language Oscar entry, at The Women’s Club.  Thematically, you can go in any direction your taste takes you.  This festival has something for everyone.  I am focusing on films that tell great stories that you aren’t likely to see screened anywhere else and the opportunity to see stars and directors in live conversation.  Most of the films screen twice, so with careful planning you can see most of them.  

Director Ariel Vromen and star Ray Liotta will both attend the Sebastiani Theatre screening of The Iceman (2012), a drama thriller based on the life of notorious New jersey Mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski, starring Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans and James Franco.  Based on Anthony Bruno’s novel “The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer,” the film tracks Kuklinski as he falls in love, gets married and goes from editing together porno movies to becoming a father by day and a hit man for low-level mafia man Roy DeMeo (Ray Liotta) by night.  

Epicurean Delights: Food and wine is where SIFF stakes its claim.  This year, there are four films, two set in France and two in Italy, which address winemaking and one, Sikh Formaggio, which has Sikh immigrants from India making fine Parmigiano-Reggiano in Northern Italy’s struggling Parmesan cheese industry while attempting to keep their identity and beliefs in a foreign land.

Gilles Legrande’s You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils)(2010), from France, is a modern and sensitive retelling of the parable of the prodigal son set in the beautiful Saint-Émilion region. The story is set around a prestigious winemaker, the subtle transmission of his knowledge to a successor and traditions within the world of wine. (Screens Wednesday, April 10, 6:45 p.m. Burlingame Hall and Saturday, April 13, 6 p.m. Sebastiani Theatre)

Veteran documentarian David Kennard’s new film A Year in Burgundy documents Burgundy’s touch-and-go harvest of 2011 which brought unprecedented spring heat waves and storms. Along with Martine Saunier, a famous wine importer, born in Burgundy, but living in the Bay Area, he follows seven wine-making families— Domaine Leroy, Morey-Coffinet, Denis Mortet, Perrot-Minot, Bruno Clavelier, Michel Gay et Fils and Dominique Cornin— through the course of an entire year. Some of these families go back four generations. Saunier, who has sold wine for 40 years, knows the families personally. The film is not about showing how wine is produced industrially. Instead, the duo wanted to show how winemakers’ lives unfold, working every day in the vineyard, in the cellar, and in private life. The result is a sophisticated, even poetic film about the very heart and soul of this fabled wine region. (Screens once—Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m. at the Sebastiani Theatre)

Lo Zucco: The Wine of the Son of the King of the French, a U.S. Premiere from Italian director Lidia Rizzo about the Duke of Aumale, known as the King of the French, the richest Frenchman of the late 18th Century. When exiled from France, he settled in Sicily where he applied the agricultural precepts of Virgil. Who would have imagined that the great chef Vatel’s closely-guarded secret of Chantilly cream would lead to the discovery of the long-lost secret of le vin de Zucco? The Duke’s famously pure wines are no longer produced but the Zucco farm still exudes the charm of its incredible, romantic history. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 3:15 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, 1:30 p.m., both at Vintage House.)

Cannubi: A Vineyard Kissed by God: Spanning a mere 15 hectares (37 acres) in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, the 250 year-old Cannubi vineyard is world renowned. The highly sought-after plot of land grows the Nebbiolo grape, producing Barolo – one of the best red wines of Italy. Determining Cannubi’s precise boundaries is a very complicated and emotionally-charged issue. Conflict between producers over the vineyard’s true designation continues as wineries seek to have the coveted “Cannubi” wording on their labels. James Suckling, one of the world’s top wine critics, visited Cannubi to talk with the winemakers involved. This 37 minute short chronicles their thoughts, feelings and passion toward their craft – and the vineyard that fuels it all. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 3:15 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, noon, both at Vintage House) 

Sonoma County real estate professionals Doug Hecker (left) and Chris Oscar spent six years making the documentary “Project Censored: The Movie,” which has its world premiere at SIFF.

Sonoma County real estate professionals Doug Hecker (left) and Chris Oscar spent six years making the documentary “Project Censored: The Movie,” which has its world premiere at SIFF.

Of Local Interest:

Project Censored The Movie! Ending the Reign of Junk Food News:  We all know and joke about the farcical state of our news media.  Since 1976, the very vital Sonoma State-based media watchdog group, Project Censored (PC), has sought to uncover the real agendas of corporate media by publishing an annual list of the top censored stories.  Now there’s a thoughtful documentary, by former PC Sonoma State University student and Star editor Doug Hecker and longtime PC supporter Christopher Oscar, which features original interviews about PC and media censorship and PC’s longstanding efforts to expose important stories that are rarely—if ever—reported by corporate media.  The 58 minute film captures luminaries Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Greg Palast, Oliver Stone, Daniel Ellsberg, Peter Kuznick, Cynthia McKinney, Nora Barrows-Friedman, John Perkins, Jonah Raskin, and others.  Several PC affiliated faculty and students also participate including Dr. Carl Jensen, PC’s former director and Professor Mickey Huff, its current director.  (Screens:  Friday, April 12, 6:30 p.m.,Sebastiani Theatre, and Sunday, April 14, 3 p.m., Burlingame Hall)

Rebels With A Cause, (U.S., 2012, 74 min): We of blessed zip codes, Marin and Sonoma County, know how special the communities we live in are. This valiant documentary, produced by Nancy Kelly and Kenji Yamamoto, who have collaborated on critically-acclaimed documentary and narrative films for the past 25 years, connects all Bay Area residents with our legacy of progressive thinking and activism.  Rebels With A Cause documents the extraordinary efforts of several local citizens who saved the lands of the Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area from development.  Their efforts resulted in an 80 mile-long park that supports open space, recreation, agriculture and wildlife and shaped the environmental movement as we know it today, ultimately leading to a system of 14 National Seashores as part of the National Park Service.  Narrated by three-time Academy Award nominee Frances McDormand, the film had its world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival last fall and won the audience favorite award for Best Documentary.  The coastal cinematography is stunning, making it an essential to see on the big screen. (Screens: Thursday, April 11 pm at 3:15 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre and Sunday, April 14, noon, MacArthur Place)

Two other environmental films, both narrated by Robert Redford are noteworthy— Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West is Mark Decena’s important documentary about the urgent threat facing the once-mighty Colorado River and exploring a new water ethic. (Screens Friday, April 12, 6:15 p.m., Woman’s Club)   A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet, directed by Mark Kitchell, is a big-picture exploration of the environmental movement’s evolution of grass-roots and global activism.  It examines the Sierra Club’s battle to halt dams in the Grand Canyon; Love Canal residents’ struggle against 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals; Greenpeace’s heroic campaign to save whales and baby harp seals; Brazilian rubbertappers’ fight to save the Amazon rainforest; and the battle to acknowledge and address climate change. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 6:45 p.m., Saturday, April 13, 11:45 a.m.. both at Vintage House)  

VAMOS AL CINE PROGRAM: Last year, as a celebration of SIFF’s 15th anniversary, Claudia-Mendoza-Carruth organized “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta,” featuring the best of cinema “en español.” “La Q’s” success marked the fact that for the first time in Sonoma Valley, both Latino and film festival audiences enjoyed a selection of award-winning films from Mexico to Bolivia.  This year’s “Vamos al Cine” program presents films from various countries.  Highlights include: 

Mia from Argentina will feature an engaging Q&A with its director, Javier van de Couter, coming from Buenos Aires.  This narrative feature, which is also part of SIFF LBGT programming, is about the struggles of the transgender community.  Alé is a trans woman who lives in disparity in a shanty town of Buenos Aires, surviving by collecting recyclables for cash. She discovers the diary-suicide note of another trans woman named Mia, leading her to become entwined with Mia’s grieving family. The film offers a tender and realistic window into humanity-regardless of whether one is queer or straight. (Screens Friday, April 12, 9 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre)  

Fat, Short and Bald (Gordo, calvo y bajito) (2011), from Colombia, will also have its director Carlos Osuna attending.  Using bright primary colors and an innovative animation technique, where the faces of the real actors are in animated form, this clever and touching story is about a man who lives a gray life thinking that by being fat, short and bald there is no chance for him… until a man just like him, loved by everyone and very assertive, becomes his boss.  (Screens Saturday, April 13, noon, Women’s Club) 

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at the 16th Sonoma International Film Festival.  The film explores Hannock's artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA.  In 2011, Hissen brought “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited” to SIFF.   “Dreamscapes” screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13.

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at the 16th Sonoma International Film Festival. The film explores Hannock’s artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA. In 2011, Hissen brought “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited” to SIFF. “Dreamscapes” screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lunafest—shorts by, for and about women:  A traveling film festival of award-wining shorts LUNAFEST is an integral part of the festival sponsored by Luna, the makers of those fabulous tasty and nutritional bars.  This year’s program features 9 films which will make you laugh, tug at your heartstrings and motivate you to make a difference in your community.  Incredibly diverse in style and content, LUNAFEST is united by a common thread of exceptional storytelling – by, for and about women. The main beneficiary is the Breast Cancer Fund, is dedicated to eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer.  (Friday, April 12, 7:15 p.m. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art)

Closing Night:  The festival closes with the North American Premiere of A Monkey on My Shoulder (À coeur ouvert), directed by Marion Laine (A Simple Heart) and starring Juliette Binoche (The English Patient) and Venezuelan superstar Édgar Ramírez (Carlos), as cardiac surgeons who have two passions: their jobs and each other.  When Mila unexpectedly becomes pregnant, the prospect of a baby undermines the balance of their relationship.  Javier’s drinking becomes uncontrollable and they spiral downwards from unbridled passion to rage.  (Screens Sunday, April 14, 6:30 p.m., Sebastiani Theatre)

Wine, Food and “Backlot”

Anyone who has been to Sonoma knows that this is a community that savors life along with the finest of food and wine.  “The Backlot,” the festival’s culinary hub, is a one-of-a-kind hospitality tent on the North side of Sonoma’s City Hall that is open to all pass holders.  Here, they can mingle in a chic lounge environment while enjoying the best wine country vintages and culinary delights.  You’ll also notice at many of the screenings that staff is on hand giving out generous samplings of treats like yogurt, ice cream and snack bars

Details:  the Sonoma International Film Festival runs April 10-14, 2013, in Sonoma, CA.  Eight screening venues are all within walking distance of the central town plaza.  Street parking is ample.

 Ticket Information:  SIFF offers several pass options, ranging from “One Day Movies Only” passes ($60) to VIP Star Passes ($900), offering the full festival experience—first entry to all films and panels, all receptions and after parties, VIP and industry mixer events, dinners, Gala and Awards ceremony.   Individual tickets may also be purchased on a stand-by basis at the last minute for $15 cash at the screening venue.  Detailed pass information at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/film-festival-passes.html

All passes can be picked up at the festival Box Office located on the East side of City Hall on Sonoma Plaza beginning Wednesday, April 10 at 1:00 PM.  The box office will be will be open 4/10 (1:00 – 9:00PM); 4/11-4/13 (9:00 AM – 9:00 PM) & 4/14 (9:00AM – 5:00 PM).  

The full list of films is below or at www.sonomafilmfest.org

Screening Locations:

Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East
New Belgium Pub at The Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East
Mia’s Kitchen at Sonoma Community Center – 276 E. Napa Street, Room 109
Murphy’s Irish Pub – 464 First Street East
Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room – 389 Fourth Street East
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway
Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Hall – 126 First Street West

Vintage House– 264 First Street East

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sonoma International Film Festival starts tomorrow, offering a stellar line-up of cinema, food and wine— all in gorgeous Sonoma

In Columbian director Carlos Osuna’s “Fat, Bald, Short Man” (Gordo, calvo y bajito), Osuna transforms a traditional story about a middle-aged man ridiculed for being different into a delightful film using bright primary colors and a loose animated style. The film is part of the Sonoma International Film Festival's new "VAMOS AL CINE" program which starts Friday, April 11, and includes 9 contemporary gems of Latin cinema.

In Columbian director Carlos Osuna’s “Fat, Bald, Short Man” (Gordo, calvo y bajito), Osuna transforms a traditional story about a middle-aged man ridiculed for being different into a delightful film using bright primary colors and a loose animated style. The film is part of the Sonoma International Film Festival’s new “VAMOS AL CINE” program which starts Friday, April 11, and includes 9 contemporary gems of Latin cinema.

This Wednesday, the curtain rises on the 16th annual Sonoma International Film Festival, pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly nonstop screenings— 105 new films from more than 30 countries— with great gourmet food and wine.  Highly anticipated by its loyal film-savvy audience, who see an average of 5 or more films each, this festival takes place in eight venues within walking distance of Sonoma’s charming town square.  Known for its laid back vibe and exceptional “back-lot” tent serving passholders the finest local wines and gourmet offerings, this sweet festival has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors.  Stay-tuned to ARThound for a full festival preview and individual reviews.  

In addition to its special events—Opening Night, SONOMA SPOTLIGHT AWARD (honoring Mary-Louise Parker and actor Demián Bichir), and Closing Night—the festival offers 3 delightful art-related films that you will not be able to see elsewhere. 

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at the 16th Sonoma International Film Festival.  The film explores Hannock's artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA.  In 2011, Hissen brought “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited” to SIFF.   “Dreamscapes” screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13.

“Dreamscapes,” is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary on contemporary artist Stephen Hannock, that has its West Coast premiere at SIFF and screens Thursday, April 11 and Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Dreamscapes (USA, France, Germany, 2011, 37 min) is Wolfram Hissen’s new documentary looking behind and beyond the canvasses of contemporary artist Stephen Hannock.   The film, which has its West Coast premiere at SIFF, explores Hannock’s artistic process, following him from the opening of Northern City Renaissance (commissioned by Sting) to openings in Venice and New York to his studio in Williamstown, MA.  Hannock’s commanding landscapes, often massive in scale, are brought to life through shots of him in process and through reflections of those who have followed his remarkable career.  

In 2011, Hissen brought Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Running Fence Revisited to SIFF. (Screens Thursday, April 11, 9:30 a.m., Burlingame Hall and Saturday, April 13, 2:45, Vintage House) 

The Cover Story—Album Art (USA, 111 min):  What would you give to hear Yoko Ono describe what provoked her to pose naked, front and back, with John Lennon for the cover of the now iconic “Two Virgins”?  Mill Valley filmmaker Eric Christensen has that story and many more in his highly entertaining documentary which presents the untold stories behind some of the classic covers of the vinyl era.  It’s really hard to get some of these famous musicians to reveal something that hasn’t been previously explored but talking about their album covers proved a magical and revelatory topic.  Yoko Ono, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Bob Weir, Steve Earle, John Mellencamp, Sammy Hagar, Huey Lewis, Ray Manzarek of the Doors, Mark Volman of the Turtles, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.  Those are just the people who appear in the first five minutes.  Yoko Ono also discusses the cover for “Seasons of Glass,” which featured the bloody lenses removed from Lennon’s face the night he was shot to death. (Screens: Thursday, April 11 at 10:30 a.m., Murphy’s Pub and Saturday, April 13, 9 p.m., Vintage House)

In Carlos Osuna’s “Gordo, calvo y bajito,” Antonio Farfán is a middle-aged man working in a notary office who believes that his dull life is the result of his looks: being fat, bald and short.  The film’s animation is in perfect tune with its theme, there’s a devastating power in the simple drawings of the characters and the realism of the backgrounds and the urban landscape.

In Carlos Osuna’s “Gordo, calvo y bajito,” Antonio Farfán is a middle-aged man working in a notary office who believes that his dull life is the result of his looks: being fat, bald and short. The film’s animation is in perfect tune with its theme, there’s a devastating power in the simple drawings of the characters and smeared realism of the backgrounds and the urban landscape.

Fat, Bald. Short Man (Gordo, calvo y bajito) (Spanish, English French, 2011, 91 min):  Using bright primary colors and an innovative rotoscoping animation technique, where the faces of the real actors are bone white and in animated form, this clever and touching story is about a man in Bogotá who, audiences round the world have related to.  Antonio lives a timid and gray life, one of pain and isolation, thinking that by being fat, short and bald there is no chance for him… until a man just like him, loved by everyone and very assertive, becomes his boss. Director Carlos Osuna, from Colombia, will lead a discussion afterwards. .(Screens Saturday, April 13, noon, Women’s Club)

VAMOS AL CINE PROGRAM: Last year, as a celebration of SIFF’s 15th anniversary, Claudia-Mendoza-Carruth organized “La Quinceañera Film Fiesta,” featuring the best of cinema “en español.” “La Q’s” success marked the fact that for the first time in Sonoma Valley, both Latino and film festival audiences enjoyed a selection of award-winning films from Mexico to Bolivia. This year’s “Vamos al Cine” program presents 9 films in Spanish with English subtitles from various Latin countries.

Details:  the Sonoma International Film Festival runs April 10-14, 2013, in Sonoma, CA.  Eight screening venues are all within walking distance of the central town plaza.  Street parking is ample.

 Ticket Information:  SIFF offers several pass options, ranging from “One Day Movies Only” passes ($60) to VIP Star Passes ($900), offering the full festival experience—first entry to all films and panels, all receptions and after parties, VIP and industry mixer events, dinners, Gala and Awards ceremony.   Individual tickets may also be purchased on a stand-by basis at the last minute for $15 cash at the screening venue.  Detailed pass information at http://www.sonomafilmfest.org/film-festival-passes.html

All passes can be picked up at the festival Box Office located on the East side of City Hall on Sonoma Plaza beginning Wednesday, April 10 at 1:00 PM.  The box office will be will be open 4/10 (1:00 – 9:00PM); 4/11-4/13 (9:00 AM – 9:00 PM) & 4/14 (9:00AM – 5:00 PM).  

The full list of films is below or at www.sonomafilmfest.org

Screening Locations:

Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East
New Belgium Pub at The Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East
Mia’s Kitchen at Sonoma Community Center – 276 E. Napa Street, Room 109
Murphy’s Irish Pub – 464 First Street East
Sebastiani Winery Barrel Room – 389 Fourth Street East
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway
Sonoma Veteran’s Memorial Hall – 126 First Street West

Vintage House– 264 First Street East

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment