November 26, 2009





2&3, DECEMBER 2009


02-012-2009 3.30 PM - THE PHOTOGRAPH

03-12-2009 3.30 PM - HAFEEZ


November 23, 2009

Dreams of Dust

Dreams of Dust
2006/86 min/ French/ Burkina Faso, Canada, France
Official Selection 2007 Sundance Film Fesival

Cast and Crew
Starring: Makena Diop as Mocktar
Rasmané Ouedraogo as Thiam
Fatou Tall-Salgues as Coumba
Director of Photography: Crystel Fournier
Editor: Annie Jean
Writer/ Director: Laurent Salgues

From France, Canada and Burkino Faso, French writer-director Laurent Salgues’s Rêves de poussière is a vivid depiction of hard labor, sustained by hopes for a better future, and poverty. Mocktar, a Nigerian farmer, has just lost his youngest daughter. Burdened by guilt for inadequately providing for wife and family, he travels to northeast Burkino Faso to work in the gold mines. An official explains, “The gold rush is over.” His response gets Mocktar hired: “I’m just looking for a job.”
The film opens with an extreme long-shot of sand being blown by wind screen-right across the landscape. A human figure enters the frame and proceeds, by foot, screen-left—in the face of the wind. This is Mocktar symbolically braving life’s misfortunes. Neocolonialist exploitation of African resources and peasants contributes to African poverty. “The gold we risk our lives for,” Mocktar himself notes later on, “is for white people.” At the camp, Mocktar is attracted to Coumba, who has lost family members in a shaft collapse there, and whose young daughter Mocktar helps with his pay, redeeming himself from guilt over his own recent loss. At the last, in an extreme long-shot, he is shown journeying home.
Much of the film is given over to showing, in documentary fashion, the harsh, dangerous labor involved in different facets of the mining. (Mocktar, his first day, suffers a horrible accident.) We also see Mocktar’s after-work interactions with an older miner who takes Mocktar under his wing; but when this gentleman replaces the bullying, uncaring boss, we see the start of his transformation into a facsimile of that boss—black against black at the behest of white interests: an appropriation of available limited power.
Cinematographed by Crystel Fournier, images are hauntingly dreamlike. Wind-swept dust is a recurrent motif.

The Photograph

The Photograph
Direction & Screenplay: Nan T. Achnas
2007/94 min/ Indonesian


A young karaoke bar hostess vows to fulfill the last wishes of the terminally ill photographer who took her in following a harrowing experience in which she was gang raped by a group of drunken customers in The Photograph. Sita is a 25-year-old bar hostess who also moonlights as a prostitute. One day, after Sita is gang raped and beaten by a violent group of customers, kindly Chinese-Indonesian photographer Johan comes to her aid. Though Johan is twice Sita's age, an unlikely bond forms between the pair when the traveling photographer invites the young woman to move in with him. Upon realizing that she is unable to return to her position as a bar hostess, Sita offers to become Johan's personal servant in exchange for room and board. Later, Johan reveals that he has but a few months to live, yet longs to fulfill three lifelong fantasies represented in three photographs: a photo of the sea represents Johan's wish to travel to China by ship, a snapshot of railway tracks represents his longing to travel by train, and a still life of a camera sitting next to a chair represents his deep desire to find a successor before he passes away. When Sita discovers a dark secret from Johan's past, the enraged photographer does his best to drive her away. Weeks later, on his deathbed, Johan realizes that his time has finally come, and summons Sita back to take one final photograph.



98 minutes/ 2007/Iran-Japan/ Persian/ EST

Director: Abolfazl Jalili

CREDITS: Abolfazl Jalili - Director, Abolfazl Jalili - Editor, Abolfazl Jalili - Composer (Music Score), Yungchen Lhamo - Composer (Music Score), Abolfazl Jalili - Producer, Yuji Sadai - Producer, Abolfazl Jalili - Screenwriter

Cast: Mehdi Morady, Kumiko Aso, Mehdi Negahban, Hamide Hedayati, Abdollah Shamasi


A religious scholar is accused of a crime of impropriety against one of his students in this independent drama. Shams al-Din (Mehdi Moradi) is an Iranian scholar who has gained the nickname "Hafez" (from a celebrated Persian poet) for his deep knowledge of the Koran. Shams is hired to tutor Nabat (Kumiko Aso), a young woman from Japan, on the holy text as she prepares to marry the son of a local judge. Islamic law prevents Shams from looking at his pupil, but they can speak to one another, and as he guides her through the Koran, he becomes both intrigued and infatuated with her. One day, Shams can no longer bear his curiosity, and takes a brief look at his student, discovering she's as lovely as he imagined. Shams' timing is unfortunate, and he's seen looking at Nabat; her future father in law is enraged, and insists the teacher be punished as severely as possible. Even through he faces jail time, a public beating and banishment from his home, Shams refuses to apologize for his actions, insisting his love for Nabat is pure and not lustful. Written and directed by Abolfazl Jalili, Hafez was a rare co-production between Japanese and Iranian production companies.

Farewell Gulsary/ Proshai Gulsary (2008)

Farewell Gulsary/ Proshai Gulsary (2008)

102min/ Kazakhstan/EST
Directed by Ardak Amirkulov.

Screenplay, Amirkulov, Erlan Nurmuhambetov, Erzhan Rustembekov,

based on a novel by Chinghiz Aitmatov.

Cast: Ardak Amirkulov, Raykhan Aytkozhanova, Dogdurbek Kydyraliev, Nurlan Sanzhar, Zhanel Makazhanova

Farewell Gulsary by Ardak Amirkulov is a nostalgic film, both in tenor and mode. It is the second rendition of the eponymous short story by the famous Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aitmatov about the love of Tanabai, a devout Kazakh communist and a WWII hero, for his beautiful stallion Gulsary, who is a symbol of freedom and idealism—everything the main character stands to lose to the crash collectivization in the Far East in the 1940s and 50s.

gulsaryThe first adaptation appeared in 1968, only two years after the publication of Aitmatov's story, and is better known under the title The Racing Ambler (Beg inokhodza). Produced by Kyrgyzfilm, it was the directorial debut of the legendary Soviet cameraman Sergei Urusevskii. Associated with the amazing images of such Soviet classics as The Cranes are Flying (Letiat zhuravli, 1957), Soy Cuba (Ia—Kuba, 1964), both directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, The Forty First (Sorok pervyi, 1956, dir. Grigori Chukhrai), The Return of Vasilii Bortnikov (Vozvrashchenie Vasiliia Bortnikova, 1952, dir. Vsevolod Pudovkin), Urusevskii succeeded in directing only one more film, Sing a Song, Poet (Poi pesniu, poet, 1973) before his death in 1974.

gulsaryBefore taking up Aitmatov's story, Amirkulov made two shorts and three fiction films, two of which, however, propelled him to national and international fame. The Fall of Otrar (Gibel’ Otrara 1991) and Abai (1995) were expensive, two-part epic pictures inspired by Kazakh mythological heroes and heavily influenced by the elaborate mise-en-scènes of Andrei Rublev (1966) by Andrei Tarkovsky, Kagemusha (1980) and Red Beard (Akahige, 1965) by Akira Kurasawa, and flaunting “resemblance to elements"— both visual and narrative—of The Last Emperor (1987) by Bernardo Bertolucci and even Alexander Nevsky (1938) by Sergei Eisenstein.” (See Abikeeva).

gulsaryBut while his national-(istic) epics made him one of the best known Kazakh directors, the fact that he is also a successful business man and an owner of a stud-farm for expensive, pure-bred racing horses is almost unknown. This adds an unexpected twist to the otherwise pretty straightforward biography of Amirkulov: born in rural Kazakhstan in 1955, he first studied philology, then the Film Institute VGIK under Sergei Solov’ev, to later become himself a film-production professor at the Zhurgenov Academy of Arts in Almaty, where his strong personality has undoubtedly been a decisive influence in the formation of the young directors from the so-called “new-new Kazakh wave” (see Smailova, Knox) from the last decade or so...

gulsaryAmirkulov refers to his film as “the story of the last nomad,” as personified by the main character, Tanabai (played by Dogdurbedk Kydyraliev, the star of both The Fall of Otrar and Abai) and his determination to live according to his own uncompromising moral laws, which puts him increasingly at odds with the growing conformity of the regimented, Stalinist Kazakhstan. But there is yet another, poetic dimension to his stubborn inability to yield to mediocrity—his creative spirit, externalized in his amour fou for the ambler Gulsary, and for the young and beautiful widow (played by the student Zhanel Makazhanova). The former he loses to a Communist Party official who demands the stallion Gulsary for himself (and, after failing to dominate him at the races, gets him castrated), and the latter (along with his loving, but proud wife) to circumstance. And yet, at the film's sad finale, the aged and lonely Tanabai is reunited with the old horse, who turns to be his only, albeit short-lived, link to his real, former self, which remained hidden, but untouched by age. In this sense Tanabai is indeed “the last nomad,” and the film represents a series of his stubborn and futile resistance against the numerous attempts to destroy his farm, his horse and his soul. In spite of the harsh (self)-inflicted punishment—expulsion from the Party, demotion, labor camp—his free spirit refuses to be domesticated by the oppressive system, firmly insisting that traditional animal farming is the best and only way to farm.

gulsaryIn a way, Tanabai is yet another cinematic expression of the longing for a (positive) hero in post-Soviet cinema. Strangely enough, the almost mystical Kazakh steppes seem to be the place where such a character is likely to roam most convincingly, without masquerading as a chudak (an odd-ball), whose goodness somehow borders on the psycho-pathological as is the case with films on urban themes—for example the eponymous mermaid from Anna Melikian’s film The Mermaid (Rusalka, 2007), or the retired eccentric and his out-of-town helper in Boris Khlebnikov’s Help Gone Mad (Sumashchedshaia pomoshch’, 2009). By contrast, in films such as Mikhail Kalatozishvili’s Wild Field (Dikoe pole, 2008), Guka Omarova’s The Native Dancer (Baksy, 2008), or Sergei Dvortsevoi’s Tulpan (2008), the genuine moral fervor and humanism of the main characters are externalized in their unconditional love for animals—goats, sheep, dogs, horses. Indeed, in melodrama, according to Peter Brooks’s seminal analysis of the genre, the loss of traditional values in times of severe social and moral crisis is occulted, “masked by the surface of reality,” and allowed to break into the open only after being carefully disguised as emotionally excessive reaction. In Farewell, Gulsary!, however, (as well as in the other steppe films, mentioned above), traditional values are proudly flaunted by strong and emotionally reserved characters, brave enough to survive as loners against “a sea of troubles.” It is the human-animal bond, as well as the invariably mysterious presence of fate looming in the background of the rolling steppes, that bring into the open the “the underlying drama... of operative spiritual values” in a most convincing way.

gulsaryAlthough Amirkulov has pointed out time and again his disapproval of 'art-house' cinema as targeting a niche audience and therefore being not “quite moral,” the intricate metaphoric language of his film brings him once again closer to the Soviet poetic cinema of the 1970s, especially to such masters as Sergei Parajanov, Otar Iosseliani, Iurii Il’enko, where escapist indigenous cultural motifs—ecological and mythological—suppressed by Communism, stood for an oblique criticism of the oppressive system. By sentimentalizing the high canon of Soviet poetic cinema, he openly exposes the devastation, inflicted by the artificially imposed Soviet modernity on the traditional way of life, culture and ecology in Kazakhstan. Thus in a surprisingly convincing and powerful way, Amirkulov’s Farewell Gulsary! joins the ranks of the most recent successes of the “new-new” Kazakh cinema. Moreover, it aligns with the growing global trend of cinematic resuscitating of lost moral values and ecological traditions as being arguably the only way for the survival of our species...

MY MARLON AND BRANDO(Gitmek: My Marlon and Brando)
35mm / 2008 / 92 min.
In English, Turkish and Kurdish with English subtitles

Director: Hüseyin Karabey
Script: Hüseyin Karabey, Ayça Damgaci
Photographer: A. Emre Tanyildiz
Montage: Mary Stephen
Sound: Mohammed Mokhtari
Music: Kemal S. Gürel, Erdal Güney, Hüseyin Yildiz
Costumes: Yasemin Taşkin
Cast: Ayca Damgaci, Hama Ali Kahn, Volga Sorgu, Cengiz Bozkurt, Mahir Günsiray

Three years ago, in real-life, Hama Ali, a charismatic actor from Iraq famous locally for his performance as Iraq's version of Superman, met Ayca on a film-set. He and Ayca, a fiery actress from Turkey, had a passionate love affair before returning to their respective homes. From his Kurdish village, Hama Ali sends Ayca video love letters which he has filmed on his handycam. She watches them from her sofa in Istanbul, with her cat for company. The video love letters capture the hellish violence engulfing Iraq, the goats and uncles populating his rural area, and also his tender affection towards her. Feeling suffocated by her own city and angered by the indifference towards the war that surrounds her, Ayca decides to make the journey eastwards to Iraq to be reunited with her lover. GITMEK, a dramatic feature film, is based on the true story of Ayca's departure from Istanbul and her extraordinary journey to the Iraqi border. At a time when many people were fleeing from East to West in search of safety, Ayca makes the opposite journey, in search of love. She is helped by immigrant artists who live in the slums of Istanbul and the mothers of long distance truck drivers who she meets at various border towns. The journey takes her through breathtaking landscapes, strange encounters and terrifying times.

Postcards from Leningrad

Postcards from Leningrad ( Postales de Leningrado)

Venezuela/2007/90 min/Spanish with EST.

Written,Directed by:Mariana Rondon

Cast:Laureano Olivares - Teo

Greisy Mena - Marcela/Clara/Mercedes

William Cifuentes - Teo (Child)

Haydee Faverola - Grandmother

María Fernanda Ferro - Marta

Ignacio Marquez - Tio Miguel

Oswaldo Hidalgo - Grandfather

Claudia Usubillaga - The Girl

Postcards from Leningrad (2007, Spanish title: Postales de Leningrado) is a Venezuelan film, written and directed by Mariana Rondon. It is a drama about children growing up among guerilla groups in the 1960s in Venezuela.

It is Venezuela's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film of the 80th Academy Awards


During the leftist uprising in the 1960s in Venezuela, a young guerrilla-girl, living in secrecy, gives birth to her first daughter during Mother's Day. Due to that, her photos appear on the newspaper, since that moment they'd have to run away.

Hidden places, false disguises and names are the daily life of THE GIRL, the narrator of the story. Alongside with her cousin (Teo), they re-live the adventures of their guerrilla parents, building up a labrynth with superheroes and strategies, in which nobody knows where the reality (or madness) begins. However, this children's game does not hide the deaths, tortures, denunciations and treasons within the guerrillas.

The kids want to convert themseleves into The Invisible Man, in order to escape from the danger. However, they know that their parents might never comeback and therefore, they'll only receive Postcards from Leningrad.

Awards and Honors

Best Director (Rajatha Chakoram)at International Film Festival of Kerala(IFFK), 2008

Golden Sun Award at Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema 2007

Golden India Catalina Award for best film at Cartagena Film Festival, 2008

Feature Film Trophy for best film at Cine Ceara National Cinema Festival, 2008

International Jury Award (Revelation Category) at Sao Paulo International Film Festival, 2007