Search
3D 5th Wave 80s Cinema A Night of Horror Action Activism Adaptation Adelaide Film Festival Adventure Advocacy African American Age of Adaline AI albanian Alien Abduction alien covenant aliens altzheimers amazon Amitabh Bachchan Animation anime Ari Gold Art Asian Cinema Australian film AV Industry Bad Robot BDSM Beach Boys Berlinale BFG Bianca Biasi Big Hero 6 Biography Biopic Blake Lively B-Movies Bollywood Breast Cancer Brian Wilson Brisbane Bruce Willis Camille Keenan Cancer candyman Cannes cannibalism Cannon Films Cesars CGI Chapman To Character Actors Charlie Hunnam Charlize Theron Chemsex China Lion Chloe Grace Moretz Chris Hemsworth Chris Pratt Christchurch christian cinema christmas Christopher Nolan Classic Cinema Close Encounters Cloverfield Comedy Coming-of-Age Conspiracy Controversy Crowd-sourced Cult Cure Dakota Johnson Dance Academy Dardennes Brothers darth vader Debut Deepika Padukone Depression Disaster Movies Disney Diversity Documentary doomsday Dr Moreau drama Dunkirk Dustin Clare Dystopic EL James eli roth Elizabeth Banks Entourage Environmental Epic Erotic Cinema Extra-terrestrial Extreme Sports faith-based Family Film Fantasy Father Daughter Feminism Fifty Shades of Grey Film Film Festival Foreign found footage French Cinema Friendship Fusion Technology Gareth Edwards Gay Cinema Ghostbusters Ghosts Golan Globus Gothic green inferno Guardians of the Galaxy Guillermo del Toro Gun Control Hacker Hailee Steinfeld Han Solo Happiness Harrison Ford Harry Dean Stanton Hasbro Haunted house Hhorror Himalaya Hitchcock Hollywood Holocaust horror Horror Film Housebound Hunger Games Idris Elba IFC Midnight IMAX In Your Eyes Independence Day Independent Indian Film Indigenous Infini International Film
Saturday
Aug122017

NEW ZEALAND

Geographical isolation from the European centre of early film technology was no hindrance to the development of a strong cinema culture in New Zealand. As far back as 1896, cinema projection was introduced to the North island of Aoteoroa – at the Auckland Opera House as part of the Charles Godfrey Vaudeville Company travelling showcase. By 1910, one of the oldest theatres in the world, The Kings Theatre in Wellington, opened its doors and featured the premiere of the French silent short Two Kids on a Spree in Brussels (1909).

The birth of global cinema ignited the curiosity and ingenuity of New Zealand’s early film craftsmen, and soon the newsreel spools of pioneers A.H. Whitehouse and Joseph Perry were capturing life in The Antipodes on celluloid. Whitehouse directed the earliest footage that still survives from the period – the January 1900 departure of troops for the Boer War, of which fifty feet, or thirty-three seconds, of usable frames remains to this day. They are the very earliest images of a nation bound to Monarchist rule and a society struggling to integrate a centuries-old indigenous culture and young European settlement.

Film production began in 1913, when filmmaker/adventurer Gaston Melies (brother of famed French producer Georges Melies) declared “To get something fresh, set sail on the Pacific for the land of the sunny south.” He would produce three short films highlighting Maori culture and mythology - Loved by a Maori Chieftainess, How Chief Te Ponga Won His Bride and Hinemoa, the first of many adaptations of the local legend (George Tarr directed a 1914 version that is still regarded as New Zealand’s first feature film). A major achievement from the period was the work of James McDonald of the Dominion Museum who, with the blessing of Maori elders, filmed the now famous ‘Scenes Of Life’ series, documenting for the first time tribal life and customs. Some of the surviving reels were restored and screened in 1986, among them Scenes at the Rotorua Hui (1920), Scenes of Maori Life on the Whanganui River (1921; pictured, above) and Scenes of Maori Life on the East Coast (1923).

Newsreel and travelogue productions flourished, with the occasional silent feature being produced, such as Barry Marschel’s adaptation of the nationalistic ballad The Kid From Timaru (1917) and Australian director Harrington Reynold’s hugely-popular The Birth Of New Zealand (1922), which featured re-enactments of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and Captain Cook’s landing. Filmmaking endeavours were springing up in most major cities, including Maoriland Films in Otaki, producers of the hit Chaplin homage Charlie’s Capers (1921).


Key to the sector’s growth in the 1920’s was ex-pat Brit, Rudall Hayward. Having relocated to New Zealand at a young age, Hayward applied his passion for the new artform in a most unique way; with his colleague Lee McLeod Hill, Hayward devised the ‘Community Comedy’ films. Travelling from town-to-town, the pair would shoot some slapstick footage with a rudimentary storyline featuring the townsfolk, and return ten days later to screen it. It became a source of national pride to Depression-era New Zealanders to have Hayward or Hill visit their township. (Pictured, above; an advertisement produced to encourage participation in the Community Comedy initiative) 

With his second feature, Rudall Hayward would create one of the most beloved New Zealand films of all timeRewi’s Last Stand (1925; pictured, right), the story of the bloody confrontation at Orakau during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s when 300 Maori defied five assaults by 2,000 British troops. He would continue to shoot films of a proud, nationalistic flavour, including The Te Kooti Trail (1927), The Bush Cinderella (1928), his first sound film, a bigscreen version of the popular radio serial On A Friendly Road (1936) and the blockbuster release of a remade sound version of Rewi’s Last Stand (1940). His passing in 1974 brought a day of national mourning and honoured the commitment and good grace he always showed for his adopted homeland.

The advent of sound in a January 1930 ‘Coubray-tone News’ newsreel from director/journalist Ted Coubray (who had directed the beloved romance Under The Southern Cross in 1927 with Danish filmmaker, Gustav Pauli), the 1929 opening of the 3500-seat Civic Theatre picture palace in Auckland and the establishment of the National Film Unit (N.F.U.) in 1940 were positive signs for the region. The global love of cinema as a social event never waned – imported films, first from the U.K. and then from Hollywood, were hugely popular (though often viewed with disdain by the conservative censorship regime, who would ban Brando’s The Wild One in ’54); screenings of the N.F.U.-produced newsreels ‘Weekly Review’ and ‘Pictorial Parade’, that captured New Zealanders at play, became standing-room only events.

But feature film production all but ceased; incredibly, between 1940 and 1970, only three feature films were produced. Broken Barrier (1952), Runaway (1964), Don’t Let it Get You (1966), directed by John O’Shea for his Pacific Film Unit shingle (later renamed Pacific Film Productions), kept the feature film industry afloat over three decades. Their investment in the industry’s future included financing a slate of documentaries, which allowed technicians and craftsmen to hone their skills. Other forms of New Zealand cinematic ingenuity sprung forth, notably Dunedin-based animator Fred O’Neill, whose stop-motion puppet masterpiece Phantasm (1960) won an amateur filmmaker’s award at the Cannes Film Festival (pictured, above; O'Neill with his creations, photo:Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.)

The wave of social change that was sweeping the world reignited the New Zealand film industry in the early 1970s. A short documentary made for the World Expo called This is New Zealand (1970) became a sensation in the nation’s cinemas. In 1972, the launch of the Wellington Film Festival and the publication of the magazine Alternative Cinema contributed to film’s resurgence. Maori social and cultural issues were being pushed to the fore; the six-part television documentary Tangata Whenua: the People of the Land (1974) became a landmark small-screen production.



The first New Zealand hit movie in nearly thirty years was Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs (1977), a brutal, politically-charged tale that featured names that would shape and define New Zealand cinema output foe decades to come – Australian-born Donaldson (Smash Palace, 1981; The World’s Fastest Indian, 2005; McLaren, 2017); actor Sam Neill; industry figurehead Ian Mune (Came A Hot Friday, 1985; The Grasscutter, 1990; What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?, 1999); and, indigenous industry trailblazer, Don Selwyn (The Maori Merchant Of Venice, 2002).

After years of inactivity, the industry was jolted from its slumber and the government responded with the formation of the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) in 1978. Production surged and the ingrained ‘cultural cringe’ that a generation of domestic audiences had developed having not seen themselves on the silver screen began to crumble. In the early years of the NZFC’s reign, the tax breaks afforded investors led to one of its most prolific and internationally recognised phases of production. This period included Paul Maunder’s Sons for the Return Home (1979); Michael Black’s Pictures (1981); Sam Pillsbury’s The Scarecrow (1982), the first New Zealand film to screen at Cannes in the Director’s Fortnight section; Vincent Ward’s Vigil (1984) and The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988); Rolf Hadrich’s Among the Cinders (1984); John Reid’s French-New Zealand co-shoot, Leave All Fair (1985), with John Gielgud and Jane Birkin; Geoff Murphy’s cult hits Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), Utu (1983), The Quiet Earth (1984) and Never Say Die (1988); Richard Riddiford’s Arriving Tuesday (1986); British director Mike Newell’s New Zealand/U.K. co-production, Bad Blood (1981); and, the prolific hits of genre director John Laing, including Beyond Reasonable Doubt (1981), The Lost Tribe (1983), Other Halves (1984) and Dangerous Orphans (1985). The decade saw the release of the one of the biggest films in New Zealand’s cinema-going history – the late Murray Ball’s rough-around-the-edges animated adaptation of his iconic comic strip, Footrot Flats: The Dog’s Tale (1987; pictured, above).

Of course, it was also the decade in which a young, slightly twisted filmmaker named Peter Jackson unlaunched his unique brand of horror comedy in the landmark gross-out low-budgeters Bad Taste (1987), Meet The Feebles (1989) and Braindead (1992), films that paved the way for one of the most successful international directing careers of all time. By Jackson’s side for much of the way was Costa Botes, who co-created the hilarious mock-umentary on the nation’s film history, Forgotten Silver (1995) before a long career as a factual filmmaker (Saving Grace, 1998; Struggle No More, 2006; Act of Kindness, 2015).



This growth in production and financing also allowed for native Maori and Polynesian islander films to develop. In 1986, a collective of Maori artists, elders and community representatives called Te Manu Aute was established, and from its commitment grew films such as Merata Mitu’s documentary Patu! (1983) and her feature debut Mauri (1988); Mike Walker’s Kingpin (1985), Barry Barclay’s much-loved Ngati (1987) and Te Rua (1991) and Lee Tamahori’s adaptation of the Alan Duff bestseller,  Once Were Warriors (1994), which became a cultural phenomenon upon release. The increased profile and acceptance of Maori culture onscreen led to the NZFC co-financing Niki Caro’s Whale Rider in 2002, a global hit that earned young star, Keisha Castle-Hughes (pictured, top) a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

‘Kiwi’ film output in the new millennium has reflected an industry secure in its native cinematic voice and innovative enough to attract global productions to its unique locales and facilities. Filmmakers who have impacted global cinema in the last two decades that have sprung from the creative community of Aoteoroa include Jane Campion, two-time Palme D’or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, for her short Peel (1982) and her Oscar winning worldwide hit, The Piano (1993) and most recently, the critically acclaimed TV series, Top of The Lake (2015-17); Gaylene Preston (Ruby And Rata, 1990; Bread And Roses, 1994; Perfect Strangers, 2003; Home by Christmas, 2010; My Year with Helen, 2017); Robert Sarkies (Scarfies, 1999, Out Of The Blue, 2006, starring Karl Urban); Christine Jeffs (Rain, 2001; Sylvia, 2003; Sunshine Cleaning, 2009);  and the return home of Vincent Ward (River Queen, 2005; Rain Of The Children, 2008.) In the wake of the …Rings juggernaut, a new generation of directors are emerging, including Chris Graham (Sione’s Wedding, 2006; The Ferryman, 2007), Toa Fraser (No.2, 2007; Dean Spanley, 2009; The Dead Lands, 2014); Glenn Standring (The Truth About Demons, 2000; Perfect Creature, 2006), Dana Rotberg (White Lies, 2013), Jonathan King (Black Sheep, 2008; Realiti, 2014) and James Napier Robertson (The Dark Horse, 2014), with star Cliff Curtis (pictured, above).

The latest local lad to follow in the Hollywood footsteps of countrymen Peter Jackson, Andrew Adamson (Shrek, 2001; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, 2005) and Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, 1995; The Mask of Zorro, 1998; Casino Royale, 2006) is Taiki Waititi, who arrived on the scene with the Oscar-nominated short Two Cars One Night (2005) followed by a parade of crowdpleasers - Eagle vs Shark (2008), Boy (2010), What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016). In 2017, he helms the MCU blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok.

Key Events:
New Zealand International Film Festival – Various cities, New Zealand; from July.
The New Zealand International Film Festival is the banner under which four key New Zealand cities hold their annual film events – Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. In addition to these events, a travelling roadshow of selected titles plays to smaller regional centres from July through to November.
https://www.nziff.co.nz

Contact:
New Zealand Film Commission
Level 3, 119 Ghuznee St
Wellington, New Zealand
Tel: (+64 4) 382 7680
Email: info@nzfilm.co.nz
Web: www.nzfilm.co.nz

(All effort has been made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate. No claim to ownership on any visual material; please contact the site directly with issues regarding copyright for immediate resolution).

Monday
Jan092017

NORWAY

Norway took a while longer than its continental neighbours to establish a domestic film industry. The turn-of-the-century Norwegian cinemagoer happily consumed output from Denmark, Sweden and France, whilst the country’s artisans set about creating their own cinematic culture.

(Pictured, above: The King's Choice, 2017)

The recorded history of Norway’s earliest films lacks clarity; in 1906, or 1908, a film that may have been called Fiskerlivets farer (Dangers of a Fisherman’s Life) or Et drama paa havet (A Drama at Sea) was made, although none of it has survived.  In 1911, Halfdan Nobel Roede’s Fattigdommens forbandelse (The Curse of Poverty), a titillating melodrama that borrowed many of Swedish and Danish cinemas key elements, i.e. urban settings, eroticism, a free-spirit, proved a hit in the large cities. Production continued in fits-and-starts – Waldemar Hansen’s Bagtalelsens gift (The Clown’s Revenge, 1912) and Peter Lykke-Seest Æresgjesten (1919) provided cinemagoers with all-too-rare glimpses into contemporary Norway; the short film Daemonen (pictured, below) stired debate for its portryal of upper-class hedonism.

It was not until 1920 and the release of Rasmus Breistein’s Fante-Anne (Gypsy Anne) that distinctive traits that would emerge in Norwegian cinema. The film – a rural-set tale of an orphan overcoming hardships, with the majesty of the countryside as its backdrop and the essentially good nature of the country’s landfolk celebrated in hearty characterisations – created a genre of outdoorsy, moralistic, nationalistic films (Erling Eriksen’s Kjærlighet på pinde, 1922; Harry Iversen’s Til sæters, 1924; and Breistein’s much-revered Brudeferden i Hardan/The Bridal Part in Harden, 1926).

The 1930’s saw the Norwegian film industry boom and public acceptance of representations of themselves become established. Tancred Ibsen’s 1931 film Den store barnedåpen (The Great Christening) was the country’s first ‘talkie’. The growing hunger for new films saw a successful period of literary adaptations engulf the Norwegian sector – the prolific Rasmus Breistein released Skjærgårdsflørt (1932), sourced from the popular play of the same name; John W. Brunius directed En glad gutt (The Good Boy, 1932), based on Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson much-loved novel; Helge Lunde’s Sangen om Rondane (1934) warmed the hearts of those who remembered the novel fondly.

The Nazi occupation of Norway, and the accompanying censorship that impacted Norwegian cinema, had a long-lasting impact upon the nation’s film culture. Lost was the innocence of the country’s motion picture output, with the national cinema becoming dogmatic under German HQ directives. A national film directorate was formed, providing a body that oversaw film production, even if the output of the early years was propagandistic. By the end of the war and with the dissipation of Nazi rule, a cinema industry of well-trained technicians and craftsmen existed that would help launch the next great era of Norwegian filmmaking.

In 1949, Norway’s first and greatest female director, Edith Carlmar, made her first film, the noir-inspired thriller Døden er et kjærtegn (in full, above). A major hit that sparked debate and outrage as to its central character – Norway’s first sexually-aggressive femme fatale, played by Bjorg Riiser-Larsen – the film turned Carlmar into a national celebrity. She would make films for another ten years and is credited with discovering a young actress named Liv Ullman, who made her debut in Carlmar’s final film, 1959’s Ung flukt (The Wayward Girl).

This prosperous period changed Norwegian film forever. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, the careers of some of Norway’s finest filmmakers were launched. The great Arne Skaaren, who directed 17 films, including the Oscar nominated Ni liv/Nine Lives, in 1957 – a film most believe to be the crowning achievement of Norwegian cinema; the magical puppet-movies of Ivo Caprino (pictured, right), an artist considered a national treasure in Norway and who, from his first short film Tim og Toffe in 1949, would make the most successful movie in Norway’s history – 1975’s marionette extravaganza Flåklypa Grand Prix (Pinchcliffe Grand Prix); and the documentary filmmaker Thor Heyerdahl, who’s first-person account of his global raft trip, Kon-Tiki (1952), won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Though the young Norwegian filmmakers of the 1960’s tried to follow in the footsteps of the French New Wave (most notably with Erik Løchen’s Jakten/The Chasers, 1959, and Pål Løkkeberg’s Liv/Life, 1967), it was not as commercially successful nor as artistically influential of the New Wave movements that swept Europe. It was not until a period of social-realism in the 1970’s, reflecting an increasingly fractured and dissatisfied population, that Norwegian cinema found its most resonant voice. Oddvar Bull Tuhus’ Streik (Strike, 1974) and Wam and Vennerød’s Det tause flertall (The Silent Majority, 1977), as well as the first film of Anja Briein’s landmark Hustru (Wives) trilogy, spoke in harsh tones and portrayed a Norway decaying, suffering through social over-crowding and an abandonment of the traditions that had created the national identity.

(Above: Pål Sletaune's Budbringeren/Junk Mail, 1997)

Things lightened up in the 1980’s and Norwegian filmmakers rediscovered the joys of genre filmmaking. Norway’s most popular films throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s included the international hits of Ola Solum (Orions belte/Orion’s Belt, 1985, and Landstrykere/Vagabonds, 1989), Nils Gaup (the Oscar-nominated Veiviseren/The Pathfinder, 1987), Martin Asphaug (En håndfull tid/A Handful of Time, 1989), Erik Gustavson (Telegrafisten/The Telegraphist, 1993), Hans Petter Moland (Kjærlighetens kjøtere/Zero Kelvin, 1996), Berit Nesheim (the Oscar-nominated Søndagsengler/The Other Side of Sunday, 1996) and Pål Sletaune (Budbringeren/Junk Mail, 1997, winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week prize).

The new millennium ushered in unique visions from a new, young breed of Norwegian filmmakers. Names that have exploded onto the world stage include Tommy Wirkola (Død Snø/Dead Snow, 2009), Andre Ovredal (Trolljegeren/Troll Hunter, 2010), Jens Lien (Den brysomme mannen /The Bothersome Man, 2007), Roar Uthaug’s (Fritt vilt/Cold Prey, 2008; Bolgen/The Wave, 2015), Morten Tyldum (Hodejegerne/Headhunters, 2011), Aleksander Nordaas (Thale, 2013), Petter Naess (Tatt av kvinnen /Gone With The Woman, 2008), Marius Holst (Kongen av Bastøy/King of Devil’s Island, 2010), Anne Sewitsky (Sykt lykkelig/Happy Happy, 2010; pictured, right) and Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Max Manus, 2008).

Norway now boasts a vibrant and distinct Scandanavian film voice; Zaradasht Ahmed’s Nowhere to Hide (trailer, below) won the coveted Best Feature Length Documentary at the 2016 International Documentary Film Festival. More importantly, the Norwegian people are more willing than ever to embrace the national cinematic output – in 2007, Vinterland/Winterland from director Hisham Zaman was a box office hit...despite a running time of less than an hour. Erik Poppe’s historical epic The King’s Choice, amongst the final nine titles in consideration for this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a blockbuster in its homeland.

 

Key Events:
Oslo International Film Festival – Oslo, Norway; November
In addition to the traditionally strong line-up of films from the Nordic countries, the Oslo International Film Festival embraces international independent features, shorts and documentaries. The chosen event to premiere Norwegian films, the Festival was founded in 1990 and is run in conjunction with Oslo Kino and Norwegian Film Institute.
www.oslofilmfestival.com

Contact:
Norwegian Film Institute
P.O. Box 482 Sentrum, 0106
Oslo, Norway.
Tel: (+47) 2247 4500
Fax: (+47) 2247 8041
Eml: post@nfi.no
Web: www.nfi.no

(All effort has been made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate).

Thursday
Oct132016

VIETNAM

Despite being torn apart by the devastation of two separate aggressor invasions and often finding its artisans hamstrung by censorship and bureacracy, the 100 year-old Vietnamese film community has forged a strong brand and unique voice within the global cinema community.


               (Picture, above: Tôi thay hoa vàng trên co xanh; Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass, 2015) 

Three prominent production entities were formed in Hanoi in the 1920’s - the Huong Ky Film Company, producers of documentary footage (notably the funeral of Emperor Khải Định and the enthronement of Bảo Đại) and the silent feature Một đồng kẽm tậu được ngựa (A Penny for a Horse); the Vietnam Film Group, producers of Một buổi chiều trên sông Cửu Long (An Evening on the Mekong River) and Thầy Pháp râu đỏ (The Red-Bearded Sorcerer); and, the Asia Film Group, makers of the nation’s first sound films Trọn với tình (True to Love), Khúc khải hoàn (The Song of Triumph) and Toét sợ ma (Toét's Scared of Ghosts), between the years 1937 and 1940.

The government propaganda machine was also a prominent producer of documentary footage, having formed a film unit in 1945 (pictured, right). They were responsible for capturing iconic images of the First Indochina war in documentaries such as Trận Mộc Hóa (Mộc Hóa Battle, 1948), Trận Đông Khê (Đông Khê Battle, 1950), Chiến thắng Tây Bắc (North West Victory, 1952) and Việt Nam trên đường thắng lợi (Việt Nam on the Road to Victory, 1953).

Following the creation of the North and South divisions, film production was shared between Hanoi (which produced the government’s propaganda films) and Saigon (where the more audience-friendly genre films were being made). With the opening of the Hanoi Film School in 1959, talents such as Nguyễn Hồng Nghị (Chung một Dòng sông / Together on the Same River, 1960) and Phạm Kỳ Nam (whose 1963 feature Chị Tư Hậu / Sister Tư Hậu won a Silver Bear at the Moscow Film Festival) began to emerge. Manuel Conde's Filipino co-production Chúng Tôi Muốn Sống (We Want To Live), a stiring account of wartime defiance, was a hit. There was even an animated feature, Đáng đời Thằng cáo (A Just Punishment for the Fox), in 1960.

But, with the American War ravaging the countryside and its resources, most film technicians and equipment were being utilised for newsreels, sent by embedded photojournalists. Some features were produced – the hit film Chúng Tôi Muốn Sống (We Want To Live, 1959), the family dramas Nguyễn Văn Trỗi (1966), Người Tình Không Chân Dung (Faceless Love, 1965) and Chiếc Bóng Bên Đường (Roadside Shadow, 1967) and the comedy Triệu Phú Bất Đắc Dĩ (The Reluctant Millionaire, 1970) – but in a country under siege, cinema was often a luxury that the population could not afford.



The reunification of Vietnam in the 1970’s led to a wave of social-realism cinema, stories that focussed on the plight of the nation’s people in wartime and of heroic, revolutionary struggles in the face of oppression; notably Em bé Hà Nội (Little Girl of Hanoi, 1973; in full, above) and Cánh đồng hoang (The Abandoned Field: Free Fire Zone, 1979). Production surged – by the early ‘80’s, Vietnam was producing 20 feature films annually, including the international critical hits Hà Nội trong mắt ai? (Hanoi Through Whose Eyes?, 1983),  Bao gio cho den thang muoi (The Love Doesn't Come Back, 1984), Bao Giò Cho Đến Tháng Mười (When The Tenth Month Comes, 1984), Người công giáo huyện Thống Nhất (A Catholic in Thống Nhất District, 1985) and Cô gái trên sông (Girl on the River, 1987).

The introduction of free market economics under the Đổi Mới period of social reform and the wave of television and video content that surged into the sector on the back of the VHS boom kept the population indoors for most of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, severely hurting the exhibition sector. B-movie aesthetics came to the fore and artistry suffered, and soon the unregulated film industry was in the hands of producers chasing the quick buck. The richness that had been synonymous with the great visionaries of past Vietnamese film eras was kept alive through such independent works as Hà Nội trong mắt ai? (Hanoi Through Whose Eyes?, 1983); Thuong nho dong que (Nostalgia for The Countryside, 1984); Anh và em (Siblings, 1986); Chuyện tử tế (Story of Good Behavior, 1987); Gánh Xiếc Rong (The Travelling Circus, 1988; pictured, above); and, Canh bac (The Gamble, 1991), though clogged distribution channels meant these films were often not heralded until years after they were made.

The Vietnamese film industry turned around overnight with the release of Tran Anh Hung’s The Scent of the Green Papaya in 1993. The film would win two awards at the Cannes Film Festival, including the Camera d’Or, trophies from the British Film Institute and the French Film Academy and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Tran’s follow-up film, Cyclo (1995), would win the highest accolade at the Venice Film Festival and his subsequent works - Mùa hè chiều thẳng đứng (The Vertical Ray of the Sun, 2000) and I Come With The Rain (2009, starring Hollywood import Josh Hartnett) – would be globally acclaimed.



Tran’s presence in the marketplace opened the films of Vietnam to a wider audience and inspired his countrymen. Soon, such notable works as Regis Wargnier's Indochine (1992) and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Lover (1993), two high-profile international productions, as well as Tony Bui's Ba mùa (Three Seasons, 1998, with Harvey Keitel), Lê Hoàng's Gai nhay (Bar Girls, 2002) and its sequel Lọ lem hè phố (Street Cinderella, 2004), Nguyễn Võ Nghiêm Minh’s Mùa len trâu (The Buffalo Boy, 2003), Phi Tiến Sơn’s Lưới trời (Heaven's Net, 2005), Quang Hai Ngo’s Chuyen cua Pao (Pao’s Story, 2006) and Ham Tran’s Vượt Sóng (Journey From The Fall, 2007) were impacting festival programmes and arthouse cinemas worldwide. A horror film (a genre frowned upon by censors) finally made its way to local screens in the shape of Kim Tae-Kyeong’s Muoi The Legend of the Portrait (2007), the first film to bear a under-16 censorship tag; documentaries have found favour again, particularly Nguyen Trinh Thi’s gay-themed Love Man Love Woman (2008) and Doan Hoang’s Oh Saigon (2008).

The debate over censorship and the influential role of the Vietnam Film Department flared in 2013, when the Nguyen Brothers film Bui doi Cho Lon faced a ban for content deemed violent and anti-social. The banning raised deep concerns amongst the industry that the governing body was becoming too strict in its enforcement of ageing standards, especially when anachronistic actioners like Lady Assassins 3D (2013), Quang Dung Nguyen’s Shaw-inspired Ninja-babe romp, were getting greenlit and heavily promoted.
That same year, the Vietnam Department of Cinema announced with much fanfare that an injection of US$309million would kickstart a resurgence in Vietnamese production and exhibition. The aim was to ensure the region’s film output and cinema attendence would be the number one per capita earner in South-East Asian territories by 2020. However, as of 2016, it is Korean interests CJ CGV Cinemas and Lotte Theatres that have secured control of 70% of the multiplex market, while the planned investment in regional cinema venues (predominantly owned and operators by local entrepreneurs) has slowed. Piracy remains a major concern, with stalls often spruiking DVD knock-offs of current release titles on the same street as theatrical houses.

Despite these obstacles, both the commercial film sector and independent arthouse producers are surviving in the modern Vietnamese film landscape. Broad entertainment such as the period action epic Lua Phat (Once Upon a Time in Vietnam, 2013), the body-swap comedy Em là bà nội của anh (You Are my Grandmother, 2015), the raucous farce Battle of The Brides (2011) and its sequel (2014) and the horror/romance hybrid The Housemaid: Co Hau Gai (2016) open to receptive local crowds, while more personal, indie-sector works such as the rural drama Tôi thay hoa vàng trên co xanh (Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass, 2015, and Vietnam’s official foreign language Oscar entry in 2016), the transgender documentary Finding Phong (2015), Dap Canh Giua Khong Trung (Flapping from the Middle of Nowhere, 2014) and the wartime melodrama Nha tien tri (The Prophecy, 2015), buoy the sector, which maintains an enviable presence in the face of the western sector imports.

Key Events:
The Hanoi International Film Festival – Hanoi, Vietnam; November.
The 4th edition of the northern city's premiere film event begins November 1, under the guidance of the Cinema Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. To honour the theme of 'Cinema, Integration and Sustainable Development', the event will screen 12 features from 11 countries, as well as provide a sidebar focus on Indian Cinema.

Contact:
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST)
Cinema Department
147 Hoàng Hoa Thám,
Quận Ba Đình, Hà Nội.
Tel: (+84) 4 845 2402
Fax: (+84) 4 823 4997
Eml: cucdienanh@fpt.vn
Web: http://english.cinet.vn/

(All effort is made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate)

Thursday
Jun092016

ROMANIA

Even the most ardent supporter of Romanian cinema would concede that the nation’s film output, which averages about 15 features a year, adheres to a pretty dour aesthetic. The exception that proves the rule may be a film like Radu Muntean’s Boogie, a 2008 charmer about three men who wish themselves back to their high school days, but overall Romanian cinema reflects a society of artists still ruminating on the atrocities of recent regimes and the struggle of both its urban and rural population to cope with the commercial realities of the new Europe.

                                    (Pictured, above; Radu Jude's Everybody in Our Family, 2012)

Like much of Europe, the new invention of the Lumiere Brothers premiered in Romania before the turn of the century. An employee of the French pair, Paul Menu, filmed the first footage on Romanian soil, a newsreel that captured King Carol 1 atop his steed and leading The Royal Parade in May, 1897. As the new medium became further established, young filmmakers emerged and the silent shorts began to accompany the newsreel footage. Also, filmed theatrical productions, such as Nicolae Barbelian’s Păpuşa (The Doll, 1911) and Victor Eftimiu’s Dragoste la mănăstire (Love in a Monastery, 1911), began to introduce audiences to cinematic storytelling techniques. 

Considered many to be the first significant filmmaker to emerge from the birth of Romanian cinema was Grigore Brezeanu, whose short fictional films Amor fatal (Fatal Love Affair, 1911), Înşir'te mărgărite... (Spread Yourselves, Daisies, 1911) and the feature-length epic Independenţa României (The Independence of Romania, 1912; pictured, right) would be the country’s first major works of international standing. Only 20 when he directed Independenţa României, Brezeanu’s premature passing from typhoid in the post-World War 1 epidemic robbed a nation of an extraordinary talent. The financier of the film, Leon Popescu, was flushed with profits from its success and established the nation’s first production company, Film de artă Leon Popescu (Leon Popescu Art Film), resulting in a range of commercially-viable films that helped establish the Romanian film community - Amorul unei prinţese (The Love Affair of a Princess, 1913), Răzbunarea (Revenge, 1913), Urgia cerească (The Sky-borne Disaster, 1913), Cetatea Neamţului (The German's Citadel, 1914) and Spionul (The Spy, 1914). Aristide Demetriade directed two films of note - Oţelul răzbună (Steel Takes Its Revenge) and Scheci cu Jack Bill (Sketch with Jack Bill), both in 1913 – but the First World war would decimate the exhibition and film production sectors, rendering the industry inactive.



(Above: Scenes from Jean Mihail's 1924 drama, Păcat (Sin)

It was not until Jean Mihail returned to his homeland in the mid 1920’s that the industry would find the impetus to resurrect its film culture. He first came to prominence as co-director (with German Alfred Hallm) of Ţigăncuşa din iatac (The Little Gypsy Girl in the Bedroom, 1923), then helmed such significant works as Păcat (Sin, 1924), Manasse (Manasseh, 1925), Lia (1927) and Povara (The Burden, 1928). The resurgent industry fostered such talents as Ion Şahighian (Năbădăile Cleopatrei /Cleopatra's Caprices, 1925; Simfonia dragostei /The Symphony of Love, 1928), Ghiţă Popescu (Vitejii neamului /The Bravest of Our People, 1926; Năpasta /The Calamity, 1927) and Niculescu Brumă (Ecaterina Teodoroiu, 1929).

In 1930, the era of the talkie was launched in Romania, with German director Martin Berger adapting the culturally significant novel Ciuleandra in 1929. Most films being shot in Romania over this period were financed, wholly or in part, by visiting producers – it was not until Bing-Bang (1934), a vaudevillian-style collection of skits and musical numbers featuring a collection of the nation’s most popular performers, that a fully-Romanian feature would hit the screen. The beginning of the sound era was problematic for Romanian cinema. Foreign films, each one of higher production standards than the last, flooded the market and pushed true Romanian cinema into the background. Only 16 films were made in the country in the 1930’s.

To stop the decline in the cinema culture, the government established the New Cinema Fund in 1934. A percentage of all foreign film ticket sales would be channelled into the local industry, resulting in a steady flow of nationalistic films – Mihail’s documentary România (Romania, 1937); Şahighian’s O noapte de pomină (An Unforgettable Night, 1939); Paul Călinescu’s Venice-prizewinning documentary Ţara Moţilor (1938; pictured, right); Jean Georgescu’s O noapte furtunoasă (A Stormy Night, 1942) and Visul unei nopţi de iarnă (A Winter Night's Dream, 1944); and Cornel Dumitrescu’s Pădurea îndrăgostiţilor (The Lovers' Forest, 1946). Though the Second World War raged around them and many of the nation’s film technicians were forced to work on propaganda film projects, the passion of the filmmaking community kept Romanian cinema active in these years.

Following communist occupation in 1948, the Romanian film industry as the free-thinking creator of narrative, fictional films, all but ceased to exist. The people and resources that the National Film Fund had brought to prominence were now at the mercy of a ruling party that saw the film sector as the tool of the political body. Films espousing the communist dogma lead to a period of social realism in Romanian film – directors who would play influential roles in the decades to come, such as Manole Marcus (La mere, 1953), Geo Saizescu (Doi vecini, 1958), Iulian Mihu (Jocurile copilariei, 1955) and Gheorghe Vitanidis (Ciulinii Baraganului, 1958), emerged from this period. This was also the era of the great Romanian animator Ion Popescu-Gopo, who would produce 15 short works in 1955 and win the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1957 for Scurtă istorie (A Short History).


(Above: Ion Popescu-Gopo's Scurtă istorie/A Short History, 1957)

Through the 1960’s, Romanian filmmakers, inspired by the New Wave mentality sweeping European cinema, began to slyly subvert the Communist doctrine. Mihai Iacob’s Darclee (1961), Lucian Bratu’s Tudor (1962), the legendary Lucien Pintilie’s Duminica la ora 6 (Sunday at Six, 1965), Cannes Best Director winner Liviu Ciulei’s Pădurea spânzuraţilor (Forest of the Hanged, 1964) and Mircea Mureşan’s Cannes-honoured debut Răscoala (1965) were all instrumental in a noticeable shift away from the state-sanctioned cinema of social realism and political message.

This revolutionary tone, however subtle, fuelled a passionate industry that blossomed in the 1970’s – a period that many refer to as Romanian cinema’s own New Wave. Out of the film school culture that had flourished in the 1960’s came directors that would represent Romanian cinema well into the 1980’s and in the final years of the Communist rule - Dan Pita (Nunta de piatra/The Stone Wedding, 1972; Bietul Ioanide/Poor Ioanide, 1979; Rochia alba de dantela /The White Lace Dress, 1989), Mircea Veroiu (Duhul aurului/Lust for Gold, 1974; Dincolo de pod/Beyond the Bridge, 1975; Sfarsitul noptii /The End of the Night, 1982) and Mircea Daneliuc (Cursa/The Long Drive, 1975; Croaziera / The Cruise, 1983; Glissando, 1985; Senatorul melcilor/The Snail’s Senator, 1995). There work led to a relative surge in production activity that saw 8 vital films released in the early 1990’s, among them acclaimed works by Bogdan Dumitrescu (Unde la soare e frig / Where The Sun Runs Cold, 1991; pictured, right), Florin Codre (Sobolanii rosii/The Red Rats, 1990), George Busecan (Pasaj, 1990) and Nae Caranfil (E pericoloso sporgersi/Don’t Lean Out of the Windows, 1993; Asfalt tango/Asphalt Tango, 1996; Filantropica/Philanthropy, 2002).

It took Romanian cinema 100 years but, in the 2000’s, the ‘Golden Age’ had arrived. This period also established the reputation that Romanian films have for their bleakness, though what now seems indicative of Romanian cinema was the point of difference a decade ago that made the film culture of the region stand out. After impacting the international festival circuit with Cristi Puiu’s Marfa si banii (Stuff and Dough, 2001), Cristian Mungiu's Occident (Accident, 2002) and Radu Muntean’s  Furia (Fury, 2002), the global critical community rallied behind Puiu’s 2005 breakout hit, Moartea domnului Lazarescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), earning the film the Un Certain Regard honour at Cannes and over 20 other international awards. Momentum was with Romanian cinema Ruxandra Zenide’s Ryna (2005) enjoyed domestic and arthouse success and made a star of the stunning Doroteea Petre; in 2006, Corneliu Porumboiu’s A fost sau n-a fost (12:08 East of Bucharest) won Cannes’ Camera d’Or; in 2007, Cristian Nemescu's posthumous California Dreamin' won the prize in the Un Certain Regard section, while Christian Mungiu's abortion drama Patru luni, trei saptamâni si doua zile( 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; pictured, right) received the Palme d'Or. Other significant works from this time include the fresh output from Lucian Pintilie, including Afternoon of the Torturer (2001) and Niki and Flo (2003). 

After a lean 2008, when domestic box office saw a dip in audience acceptance of Romanian films for the first time in many years, new works by Corneliu Porumboiu (Police Adjective, 2009) and Florin Şerban (Eu când vreau să fluier, fluier /If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, 2010) have scored big at home and abroad. Most recently, Calin Netzer’s Child's Pose (Pozitia copilului) took Golden Bear honours in Berlin while Romanian cinema welcomed the found-footage horror genre to its industry with Adrian Tofei’s Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, a brutal shocker that won Best Film at Sydney’s A Night of Horror Film Festival in 2015. Other notables include Cristi Piui's Cannes 2016 competition title, Sieranevada; Christian Mungui's Graduation (2016), Radu Jude's Aferim! (2015), and Alexabdra Belc's vital doco Cinema, Mon Amour (2016), which provides insight into the struggle of the independent cinema owner in modern Romania. 

Key Events:
KINOFEST International Digital Film Festival – Bucharest, Romania; October.
The first digital film festival in Romania, Kinofest’s aim is to promote the film, music and vis-art of the region’s young film-makers. Festival director Valentin Partenie also hopes to cultivate interest in and promote the arts and media culture among the general public through independent film, video and new media making. Kinofest includes 3 competitions (Animation, Fiction, Micromovie), with 3 distinct juries. Expanding into a weeklong event in 2010, the 4th edition of Kinofest will enhance its film content programme and create more social-networking events (such as concerts, expositions and seminars)
www.kinofest.com

Contact:
Romanian Film Commission
Asociatia pentru Promovarea Filmului Romanesc
Popa Soare St 52 Et 1 Ap 4
Bucharest 2
Tel:  (+40) 21 326 02 68
Eml: info@romfilmpromotion.ro
Web: www.romfilmpromotion.ro

(All effort is made to ensure content is comprehensive and accurate)

Monday
Apr042016

NEPAL

(Note – With due respect to the Bikram Samwat calendar of the nation of Nepal, all dates in this article have been converted to the Gregorian calendar.)

Geographically remote and often burdened with financial hardship that has not always allowed for the costly craft of filmmaking, the Nepalese film industry did not premiere its first full-length feature film until 1952. D.B. Pariyar’s Satya Harischandra was shot in India and utilised Nepalese technicians and craftsmen living in India; an expanding release pattern in makeshift cinemas and town halls ensured it became a cultural sensation, although there is some debate as to whether it was shot in the Nepalese dialect or later dubbed.

(Pictured, above; Deepak Rauniyar's Highway, 2012) 

The ruling government was aware of the impact upon the poorer classes that communal cinema going had and created a handful of propaganda films to indoctrinate them, but feature film production was nil. It was to be a decade later that Shiva Shanker and Bhuwan would star in Nepal’s first domestically produced and shot feature, Hira Singh Katri’s Aama (Mother, 1964). Its success was quickly followed by the film that would shape the Nepalese film industry, it’s success unprecedented – B.S. Thapa’s Maitighar (Maternal Home,1966), starring Bollywood siren Mala Singha (pictured, right; with co-star C.P. Lohani and child extra). So popular was the film that the region in which it was set was renamed after the film’s title and remains so to this day. Maitighar was the crowning achievement of the Royal Nepal Film Corporation, formed in 1962 to foster local production, including Hijo Aaj Bholi (1968) and Parivartan (1972). But the film’s success overwhelmed the small sector – it would be 16 years before another ambitious film, Juni, would be attempted, and its commercial failure sent many investors scurrying.

The implementation of a production sector tax rebate and a fresh wave of creativity overtook the Nepalese film industry in the late 1970’s and 1980’s and production prospered. Kathmandu (or ‘Kallywood’, as it is known locally) became the centre for film production – Man Ko Bandh, Kimoori, Sindoor and a series of films called Jeevan Rekha employed many and were enjoyed by the masses.

The political upheaval of the early 1990’s engendered the young members of society with a vibrancy and freedom that had not been allowed to surface for many years. Production started to generate, the resurgence led by the blockbuster releases of director Tulshi Ghimire (Kusama Rumal, 1987, featured below; China, 1991; Darpan Chaya, which took over 20million Rupee’s, in 2001).

The war with Maoist rebels, which intensified between 1998 and 2000, shattered the film industry and stifled cinema attendance of Nepal, and the dire state of affairs remained that way under monarchist rule until 2006. Some filmmakers were able to construct films that resembled the social-realism works of 1950’s European cinema, and factual filmmaking, chronicling the plight of the people and the land gained international coverage. Key amongst this movement was Tsering Rhitar Sherpa, whose 2000 film Mukundo (pictured, below) was a deeply spiritual study in grief and traditional religion and earned rare international exposure. But as a commercial film culture, Nepal was moribund.

It was the April 2006 overthrow of the monarchy that allowed for the rejuvenation of the film culture. The integration of the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal into mainstream politics resulted in investment in domestic production, the likes of which the Nepalese industry has not seen for some time. In 2007, Narayan Puri’s Aago (The Fire) and Himmat (The Guts) premiered, as did Badri Adhikari’s Aawaji (The Voice); a rebellious voice in the form of Dinesh Karki caused furore and debate with the racially volatile Aahankar; and factual film-making grew in stature with the release of Mami Kunaka Manchhle (We, the People of Remote Corner), that examined the slow developments of Nepal’s poorer communities, and Chaama Deu! Tara Nabirsa (Forgive! Forget Not!), based on the life of tortured journalist Bhairaja Ghimire.

Production has remained relatively constant, with the sector veering away from the Bollywood clichés that have dominated commercial cinema and finding new voices willing to tell contemporary narratives. In recent times, Nepalese auteurs such as Nischal Basnet (Loot; Kabbadi; Talak Jung vs Tulke), Joes Pandey (Saanghuro), Deepak Rauniyar (Highway), Narayan Rayamajhi (Paradeshi), Subarna Thapa (Soongava-Dance of the Orchid; pictured, right) and Yaday Kumar Bhattarai (Jhola) have found favour both domestically and abroad. Advocates are demanding the government take a pro-active stance in protecting and fostering local production; with imported Bollywood (and, increasingly, Hollywood) fare still accounting for 80% of theatrical releases in Nepal, the local sector continually struggles to be seen by Nepalese audiences.

In 2015, Australian director Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa, a documentary that captured both the seething tensions between guides and tourists on Mount Everest and the horrific tragedy of the April 2014 Khumbu Icefall disaster, earned a BAFTA nomination and was lauded internationally.

Key Events:
Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival – Kathmandu, Nepal; January.
Organized by Himal Association, KIMFF started as a non-competitive, biennial festival founded in 2000. A wide selection of films reflecting contemporary society have been screened, including alpine documentation, archival footage, adventure cinema, experimental shorts, commentaries, anthropological narratives and narrative feature films. These movies have dealt with issues regarding cultural practices, lifestyles, conflict, wildlife, mountain-climbing, environment, globalization and gender.
www.kimff.org

Contact:
Film Development Board, Nepal.
GPO Box: 4400, SaraswatiNagar, Chabahil, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: (+ 977 1) 4812332, 4812387 Fax: (+977 1) 4812360
Email: fdbnepal@gmail.com
URL: http://www.film.gov.np/

(All effort is made to ensure editorial coverage is comprehensive and accurate.)