Friday, September 5, 2014

Evan Horan blogs for the IFI from Venice Days as part of 28 Times Cinema

As part of 28 Times Cinema, Evan Horan was chosen to represent the IFI at this year's Venice Days/Giornate Degli Autori. Here's an update on his adventures...

As I am now approaching the end of my time in Venice, it seems impossible to remember life outside the festival routine and consider returning to normality.  To explain why I'm in Venice, I have been selected by the IFI and Europa Cinemas to be part of the 28 Times Cinema initiative which allows a group of 28 young cinéphiles, one from each EU member state, the chance to experience the world's longest running film festival and act as a jury in selecting the winning film for the Venice Days category.

After coming off the plane at Venice airport, I headed straight into the first screening, Before I Disappear, directed by and starring Shawn Christensen and based on his Oscar-winning short Curfew. The film tells the story of Richie, a man unable to cope with life, who is reluctantly given the responsibility of taking care of his niece, Sophia. Before I Disappear takes place over one night and it has an energetic pulse in showing one man's need to take responsibility for his own life and act no longer like a child, similarly to Sofia Coppola's Golden Lion winning Somewhere.

With the majority of press screenings taking place in the early hours of the morning, I unfortunately missed my chance to catch the festival's opening film Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Despite this, I decided to stand outside the red carpet for the film's premiere in the Sale Grande at the Palazzo del Cinema. After spotting members of this year's Official Selection jury panel such as Tim Roth, Sandy Powell and Joan Chen, members of Birdman's cast and crew started to make their way onto the army of photographers. Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Michael Keaton and Iñárritu were all in attendance to officially launch the festival. 

That evening we watched Mita Tova (The Farewell Party), an Israeli-German co-production directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon. Delivering a balance between humour and drama for those who are facing death, the film delves into the controversial issue of self-euthanasia. It provides another angle on the issues explored in Haneke's Amour and certainly stands as one of the most accessible films from this year's category.

Starting off my first full day at the festival on Thursday, I began with Xavier Beauvois's  La rançon de la gloire (The Price of Fame), a much lighter piece than his previous work in Of Gods and Men, I then headed over to the Palazzo del Casinò to catch Guy Myhill's The Goob. This coming-of-age tale shows a protagonist who starting to realise his own path from the influence of his community. Another title to add to the genre of British social realism, the film's casting stands out with newcomer Liam Walpole and Sean Harris as Goob's chilling stepfather. 

On entering our next screening, I slowly noticed that there was a sense of commotion in the queue with a line of photographers preparing to pounce. Then out of nowhere, Lena Dunham, Kirsten Dunst and Kate Mara strutted past us into the theatre due to their association to the Miu Miu Women's Tales programme, which has developed eight female directed short films. The screening featured So Yong Kim's Spark and Light and Miranda July's Somebody. As an enormous fan of the latter's work, I was thrilled as July was announced into the theatre. Somebody is a companion short to quite an ambitious project in which July has developed a new messaging system in a corresponding app. In an age where texts, emails and phone calls are constantly exchanged, Somebody aims to reintroduce a sense of spontaneity in how we connect where a nearby stranger can read out a message from your loved one.

I managed to fit in Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes, a tense drama dealing with the problem of foreclosure starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon. Day 2 was then capped off with Adrián Biniez's El 5 de Talleres (El Cinco), examining the process of making a fresh start as the lead comes to terms that his career as a footballer is coming to an end. 

Friday kicked off with the jury making its way to the Venice Days headquarters for a panel discussion on European film distribution with Georgette Ranucci from Lucky Red and the director of the Sofia Film Festival, Mira Staleva. The pair discussed the different challenges facing the European film industry and shared anecdotes about the audience trends from their own countries. The afternoon was spent in the extravagant Hotel Excelsior where I heard from the ambassadors of the Miu Miu Women's Tales which featured several names from the previous day's screening along with 12 Years a Slave producer Dede Gardner. The women reflected on their experiences of working in the industry.

In preparation for a panel discussion I watched some micro-budget projects, one of which is an Irish film, Blood Cells, by Joseph Bull and Luke Seomore. The son of Irish immigrant parents, Adam (Barry Ward) is a farmer whose livelihood has been devastated by Foot and Mouth disease. He is an isolated figure who embarks on a journey throughout the UK in order to reconnect with the people who have fallen by the wayside over the years. 

One of my main goals of the festival was to see a film in the Sala Grande, the festival's main theatre in the Palazzo del Cinema so first thing on Friday morning, I made my way to a press screening of Manglehorn, directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Al Pacino as the film's eponymous character, he is a gentle and solitary man who is simply getting on with life, regularly visiting an array of characters including a boisterous con artist (Harmony Korine) and a timid banker, beautifully acted by Holly Hunter. But it is Pacino who dominates this subtle piece, reminding us once again that he is incomparable to any other actor. 

Sunday's screenings included Laurent Cantet's Retour à Ithaque (Return To Ithaca) and Larry Clark's The Smell of Us. Having great admiration for both Entre les murs (The Class) and Kids, I was intrigued to see what both filmmakers had to showcase. Cantet explores the long lasting effects of Cuba's difficult past through the reunion of five friends who have not been together in over 16 years. On the other hand, The Smell of Us focuses on a group of subversive Parisian youths who interact with their urban playground by skating around and getting stoned. This gang are a product of their generation, resulting in incredibly explicit and destructive situations. Certainly a divisive film, I can't help but feel that Clark has not yet realised that the '90s were nearly two decades ago.

Our first jury meeting took place on Sunday and finally gave a chance for the 28 of us 
to share our varying opinions on the films we had seen by that point. 

I then managed to obtain a ticket for the main premiere of David Oelhoffen's Loin des hommes (Far from Men). As I once again made my way to the Sale Grande, the fact that Viggo Mortensen was attending led to a different atmosphere than before. Surprised by Mortensen's skill in speaking French and Arabic, the film has a Western sensibility as two men embark across the frontier in 1954 Algeria. With an expected selection of breathtaking landscape shots, the film ultimately lacks any suspense that you associate with the genre.

28 Times Cinema is an initiative launched jointly in 2010 by Europa Cinemas, the Giornate Degli Autori and the Lux Prize of the European Parliament, welcoming 28 filmgoers to represent a cinema of the Europa Cinemas network as well as one of the 28 member countries of the European Union.

No comments:

Post a Comment