Capsule reviews from students of Film & Media Arts Dept., University of Missouri – Kansas City

Alice Rohrwacher’s film Corpo Celeste is a subtle embodiment of the human soul. Constructed beautifully, Rohrwacher shows the struggle faced between religion and blind faith. The journey of a young girl, Marta, proves to be an adolescent pilgrimage of questioning authority and faith. A film, so relatable, in every aspect, that it will stand the test of time and encapsulate a small piece of every audience. Marta’s intellectual defiance is a modern day classic on the fundamentals of life and the youthful struggle we have all faced.

— Lindsey Wilson

 

Summer Games
The natural and practical lighting give the film a realistic look. The warm highlights of summer paint children at play while harsh, moody fluorescents reveal the nights’ turmoil. At one point, the boorish father tells his son that abusive behavior is hereditary. The children remind us what it is like to face the demoralizing pressures of the world yet carry on nonetheless. I don’t believe there was one static shot in the film; they all seemed to be handheld or in motion. These techniques combined with the careful choice in cutaways seem to remind us to look closer. To find hope in smaller things, like the tides or, perhaps, the short lives of insects. We watch them warm in the sun for a day before passing away into the dark.

Stars Above
The wonderful use of color and thoughtful camera placement make this film very pleasing to the eye. Long shots focused on the face, simple movement, and a muted plot give the action and dialogue a natural pacing. It allows the characters an existence outside the typical filmic pressure cooker. This film is in no hurry. It doesn’t cram plot down your throat. The narrative falls somewhere between realism and fantasy. Our perspective is dislodged from time and space. I enjoyed this aspect very much. The simplicity of the human relations warmed my heart. It made no grand gestures or statements but whispered in words not spoken. It told me our daydreams, our hopes, and our fears are alive; that they connect us with the past. Generation after generation, we relive the same dramas. Each carries its own unique sprinkling of insight. However, the vigilance of matter and energy continue to deny consciousness the satisfaction of concrete knowledge.

— Jonathan Piedimonte

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SMALL CRIME – Review by Elliott D Moore, New York University

SMALL CRIME - Review by Elliott D Moore, New York University

I first saw Small Crime back in 2010. On a whim, my father and I decided to spend a day, during the last day of spring break of my senior year of high school, to drive two hours north and attend the Cleveland International Film Festival. Knowing little to nothing about many of the films being shown, we had picked 4 films at random and hoped for the best. Small Crime was one of those films. Then, just a few weeks ago, I was approached with the opportunity to introduce a film at this festival. An instance of near perfect unison that sometimes happens in life, I was again in the car with my father, this time during the spring break of my junior year at NYU. I was scrolling through the list of films on my phone, when I saw that Small Crime was being shown. I jumped at the opportunity to look back on this film; a movie that I thought I may never see again.

Small Crime was made in 2008 and directed by Christos Georgiou. The film is in Greek and is very much tied to the culture and soul of island life in Greece. It stars Aris Servetalis and Vicky Papadopoulou in the main roles. The film opens on a sleepy town, clinging to the edge of cliffs and nestled within a tiny island in the middle of the Aegean Sea. This is where we find our protagonist, Leonidas. A young, relatively new police officer, he spends his time attending to seemingly insignificant tasks around the Island. The most exciting parts of his day involve giving out warnings to mischievous teenagers and watching the Island’s only famous native, Aggeliki, as she hosts a popular nationally syndicated morning show. Leonidas is searching for adventure, for any bit of excitement to disrupt the day-to-day stillness that persists on the island.

Daily life in Aegean Greece is captured perfectly in Small Crime. Shot on an island that operates almost completely independent from the mainland; Small Crime manages to adeptly capture the small town normalcy typical of this area of the country. The film takes great care to insert long-shots that lovingly depict clusters of small white houses, unpaved roads in the midst of scraggly, green fields, and pebbled beaches that blend into the vast, blue sea. The camera delves into the tiny shops, restaurants, and homes of the residents who all know each other by name. It documents children playing on rooftops and locals conversing in the narrow streets.

Through this, the film is able to depict a close-knit community; yet a community that is also very much reliant on tourism to retain this way of life. Much of the film is permeated by the actions taken by local residents to enact measures that will bring tourism, and presumably economic resources, to the tiny island. These people’s daily lives are, for many, a tourist attraction in itself. An opportunity to see a culture so dependent on, and intertwined with, one another and the tiny island community they call home. Yet, everything that makes this island so unique is also what makes it so fragile. Every new tourist that may come to the island threatens to disrupt the culture they are helping to preserve.

A comedy, Small Crime, resists formula by focusing on the unique characters presented in the film. It does a fantastic job of endearing each character to the viewer by ingraining them with vibrant personalities that are indiscernibly tied to the Greek culture in which they live. From the nosy older woman who loves to spread gossip, to the Albanian handyman who used to work in the theater, all intermix and form a mosaic of personalities as important to the construction of the identity of the island as is the sea in which it is located. Like many comedies before it, Small Crime, is able to deftly depict the struggles and triumphs associated with figuring out what is really important in life; it is a film centered on the solving of a crime that is really about so much more. By the end of the film, this overzealous police officer’s journey to solve this first real case has taught the audience about family, that home is where the heart is, that a career isn’t everything, and of course, it has opened up to us its own unique definition of love.

– Elliott D Moore
New York University, Cinema Studies

FEED ME WITH YOUR WORDS – Review by Emily S Pitter, New York University

FEED ME WITH YOUR WORDS1

Simplistic style, a steady pace, and enigmatic meaning characterize Martin Turk’s first feature film Feed Me With Your Words. With this film Turk aims to capture the emotions relating to loss in severed relationships, the dual burden and benefit of family, and the pursuit of dreams no one can understand or believe in but the dreamer alone. The film was released in 2012 and has since been doing the international film festival circuit, playing in countries such as Brazil, Italy and Estonia. It stars a small cast including real-life father and son duo Sebastian and Boris Cavazza portraying the estranged father-son Janez and Matej.

At the heart of the film, Feed Me With Your Words aims to depict the relationship of a family connected by loose but unbreakable ties. After ten years of separation, the family is brought back together when Matej receives a phone call from his father saying his brother, Robert, has gone missing during a research trip to Italy and he needs help finding him. The distressing situation of Robert’s disappearance forces the family to interact despite lingering tensions. The film is testament to the love that can exists among families, even estranged ones, which lead people to surprising actions.

Another theme explored in the film is being trapped within one’s own mind. This is most explicit in Irina who suffers from dementia. She perceives things in her own way, making it difficult to be understood by others. In a less obvious manner, this theme is also seen in Robert’s own delusions which become the driving force behind his pursuits. Since only he understands what he wants and what he is looking for, he becomes reclusive. Through these depictions, the film explores the lonely and scary notions of what it is like to become disconnected from one’s surroundings.

The character-driven plot demands the actors tap into something more organic than flamboyant dramatics, calling for subtle facial expressions and body movements to illustrate what cannot be said but must be understood. The actors generally do a good job fulfilling their roles, allowing the audience to grasp the characters’ internal thoughts and struggles. Boris Cavazza really stood out for his ability to portray Janez’s confusion, worry, and frustration through his silent scowls, hand gestures, and angry but quick outbursts. His demeanor within the narrative seemed natural and brought a sense of authenticity that extended to how the actors allowed their characters to play off each other. The pensive pauses before dialogue and candid stares between one another helped create believable relationships.

The film’s biggest strength lies in its technique. There is clear attention to detail demonstrated by the positioning of actors and scenes to create beautiful cinematic images. Throughout the film, there exists a visual parallel between the character pairs of Matej and Janez and Ana and Veronika in which the bodies mirror each other in their placement within scenes, underscoring the characters’ relationships in a visually striking manner. The images have a distinct and pervasive blue tint, which adds to the solemn and longing tone of the film. The dream-like aesthetic quality of the images are an enhanced representation of reality, paradoxically encapsulating the film’s realistic portrayals in the frame of a fictional world. To contrast the bright atmosphere of the film’s many outside shots, dark shadows are utilized to add to the feeling that there is something wrong creeping within this otherwise normal narrative.

Feed Me With Your Words feels reminiscent of the art cinema movement and films such as L’Avventura because of its focus on capturing a sense of realism and tackling complex psychological processes while, ironically, immersed within an idyllic, grand, and beautiful environment. Audiences of the film will feel a tinge of nostalgia as they relate to the characters and the relationships portrayed on screen.

– Emily S Pitter
New York University, Cinema Studies

SUMMER GAMES – Review by Chance Huskey

SUMMER GAMES - Review by Chance Huskey

If you begin to feel nostalgic during Rolando Colla’s Summer Games, do not be so surprised. Even if you aren’t familiar with the Tuscan seaside, if you aren’t fluent in both French and Italian, or if the city of Porto Santo Stefano doesn’t ring a bell, you may find the themes at the heart of Summer Games — young love, the pull of family history, the overlap between socioeconomic strata — very familiar.

That is not to play down the importance of time and place in this film. It is quite apparent that for Colla, a Swiss citizen of Italian heritage, Summer Games carries a particular weight. The film was released in Switzerland in the fall of 2011, during which Italy’s sovereign debt rating was downgraded by both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, while Switzerland had the highest average of wealth per adult of any country. This economic disparity is manifest in the film’s two protagonists, a Roman boy named Nic and a girl from Geneva named Marie, who find themselves and their families situated in a commercial marine campsite in the western Italian region of Tuscany. As a popular tourist destination, the town attracts guests from a wide array of ethnic and national backgrounds. The gang of children at the center of the story is a melting pot in miniature. While their families eye each other suspiciously, the children are far more trusting, the inheritors of a world (and region) in which national identity has become ever more complicated.

Disinclined to relax around their parents, these children seem entirely capable of fending for themselves. Nic and Marie use their cellphones as if by second nature, exchanging between them some of the most memorable sounds and images of the film. Indeed, Colla seems fascinated by technology’s relationship to shifting identities and perspectives. As the eponymous games become increasingly heated, Nic and Marie frequently bluff about whether or not they can feel pain. The games become out-of-body experiences; “pretend you’re someone else,” the children often repeat. Lorenz Merz’s incredibly agile camera work mirrors the children’s shifting perspectives; notice the many sequences shot from unconventional angles. These children struggle with senses of identity that, in the new millenium, are far more fluid than those of their parents.

Over the course of Summer Games, the campgrounds and surrounding countryside seem to morph into Never Never Land, complete with the not infrequent threat of bodily harm. With outsized agency, the children take control over a derelict farmhouse. One game they play, a variation of hide-and-seek, has one child assuming the role of killer, another of judge, and another of victim; the film’s most intense and rewarding moments come in seeing how each character responds to varying degrees of empowerment and violation. It is in the sequences that we also begin to understand how the spectres of the children’s parents inform their behavior, often subconsciously. While of course this is readily apparent to us in the audience, we can still identify with the horror of recognizing our parents in ourselves.

Early on in Summer Games, as Nic lies in bed, he observes on the side of his tent the shadow of an insect. Beautiful as it is, for Nic it is a sinister, early warning of nature’s imminence. He knows that, as his family becomes more marginalized, the prospect of personal failure – not unlike his father’s – becomes ever more likely. Nic’s dread of familial entrapment and genetic destiny casts a dark, urgent shadow over his feelings for Marie; it is as if, through his love for her, he hopes to become a different person. Summer Games may not have all the answers, but it does capture the period in our youths during which our glimmers of hope shine brightest, during which we feel we can learn from each other in a small effort to correct the mistakes of countless generations.

Summer Games is a Swiss production, and was released in Switzerland in October of 2011. It was screened at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and the 36th Toronto International Film Festival, among many others. The film was selected as Switzerland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film award for the 84th Academy Awards. It has been theatrically distributed in countries throughout Europe, but does not yet have an American distributor.

– Chance Huskey
New York University, Cinema Studies

TOMBOY – Review by Eun Jin Kang, New York University

TOMBOY - Review by Eun Jin Kang, New York University

Have any of you here wondered, as a kid, why boys’ things are blue and girls’ pink? From looking at pink curtains and spaceship beddings in our first rooms, we learn to codify these markers of gender. We begin to distinguish ourselves from “the other team,” from our different playthings and clothing, yet without understanding the notion of sexuality. Suspended in this curious genderless state, both physically and psychologically, children emulate and violate adults’ customs of gender in their own ways. Children on screen, however, too often are represented as how adults see them: innocent and formulaic. The movie Tomboy (2011) doesn’t shy away from exploring the strange and noncompliant mind and sexuality of a child.

Tomboy is the second feature film by 30-year-old director and screenwriter Céline Sciamma. She first received international acclaim from her debut Water Lilies, which also deals with teenage girls’ amorphous sexual identities. Shot in 20 days with a digital camera, minimal budget, and a crew of just 15, Tomboy was selected to premiere at the prestigious opening night of the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section, and was nominated for the Louis-Delluc award given to the best French films.

Despite the politically loaded topic of youth exploring unconventional sexuality, Tomboy doesn’t have the bombast and tragedy of Boys Don’t Cry. Rather, Tomboy presents the story in a static, minimal, yet brilliantly stylized mise-en-scene of a new generation art film. Sciammasays that “Tomboy is not built around ‘why’ she’s doing things; it is all about ‘how’ she’s doing it. The character doesn’t project in the future, she’s all about the present. That was a way to be fair in the portrait of childhood I wanted to make.” Sciamma therefore shows a tomboy’s strange sexuality in the most frank and natural way. The understated and minimal cinematography, as if to mimic the shy reticence of a child, quietly shows rather than tells the story of a girl spending her summer days as a tomboy. The camera nonchalantly captures her naked body that is entirely unmarked and undifferentiated by gender. Some scenes of the tomboy’s intimate yet innocent exchanges with her sister and her girlfriend even appear to slightly resemble the sexual behaviors of adults. Due to the Hollywood’s taboo against child’s sexuality, American films tend to shun away from such representation with an outrage, unless it is trivialized or criminalized. European cinema, on the other hand, is less timid when it comes to showing erotic component of children’s emotional and personal lives. In Tomboy, such representation is nothing shocking or terrifying, but only guiltless and natural.

Although the film isn’t visibly about female rebellion or defiance, Tomboy is also a coming-of-age snapshot of a rebellious young woman who wants to live her life according to her own ideas about the world. The film this way combines two known tropes of French Cinema: firstly, the portrayal of children and adolescents who question the hegemonic system of adult world (most representatively in Truffaut’s 400 Blows or Vigo’s Zero for Conduct), and secondly the portrayal of child-woman who explores her prepubescent female sexuality through the young protagonist’s subjective point of view (a common protagonist in mainstream French Cinema of the 80s and 90s). Emerging from these traditions, Tomboy can be seen a fresh attempt of expressing the narrative agency of a young woman on screen, which has frequently been experimented in modern French Cinema.

– Eun Jin Kang
New York University, Cinema Studies
Programmer of independent screening series Black Mariah Films on Lower East Side in Manhattan

Panel Discussion – Streaming as Source of European Cinema – 2013

Panel Discussion: Streaming as Source of European Cinema

Streaming as Source of European Cinema
Panel discussion, April 9th, 2013
New York

for video recording of the panel please follow think link

Panelists (R-L):
Ira Deutchman, Managing Partner, Emerging Pictures
Andrew Mer, Vice President Content Partnerships, SnagFilms
Delphine Selles-Alvarez, Cinema Program Officer of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Ryan Werner, Consultant

Moderated by:
Irena Kovarova, independent film programmer and Disappearing Act curator and producer

CORPO CELESTE – Review by Austin Kim, New York University

CORPO CELESTE - Review by Austin Kim, New York University

Corpo Celeste is a coming-of-age tale set in modern day Italy against the backdrop of the country’s ongoing economic and spiritual turmoil. Growing up is never easy, but for thirteen-year-old Marta, it’s an especially trying ordeal. After moving with her mother and sister back to their small southern Italian hometown after ten years in Switzerland, Marta is the quintessential stranger in a strange land. Among her family and classmates Marta is reserved; her effervescent features and her genuine curiosity about faith setting her apart from those around her and causing Marta to withdraw into herself. Yet when she’s home alone, her shy curiosity transfigures into a keen awareness of her surroundings—she takes in the town’s lunar post-industrial landscape and picks out small signs of life—a few old ladies singing next door, a woman doing laundry on her rooftop, a group of boys in the distance picking up garbage. Above all, though, Marta, like other young girls, must come to terms with her changing body, her nascent sexuality, and the uncomfortable realization that she may be unknowable—even to herself. As her Confirmation draws closer and an impromptu road trip with Father Mario gives her a new perspective on herself and on her faith, Marta will have to make some critical decisions that will shape the course of her young life.

While Corpo Celeste is primarily concerned with Marta’s spiritual and physical awakening, the film is also a portrait of contemporary Italy. In a small town like Marta’s, the Catholic Church has always held a central position in communal life, but its influence has weakened considerably in the face of secularization, ongoing modernization efforts, and the European economic crisis. Father Mario’s decision to replace the sleek, neon cross with a wooden figurative crucifix is a significant attempt to bring back a traditional way of life to the faltering community. An even more telling revelation of the mood of the times comes early on in Corpo Celeste, when Marta and her classmates are blindfolded and forced to wander through the empty nave of the church, guided only by the droning hum of the neon cross.

Released in 2011, Corpo Celeste premiered at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and has since gone on to show at Sundance, the BFI London Film Festival, and the New York Film Festival. The film has won several awards in Italy, including Best New Director for Alice Rohrwacher. Since then, Corpo Celeste has received warm critical reception in the United States—Mark Holcomb of the Village Voice writes, “Rohrwacher’s understated characterizations, cinematographer Hélène Louvart’s rapturous range, and especially Vianello’s eerie grace combine to make Corpo Celeste the ideal cinematic antidote to the summer doldrums.”

Corpo Celeste signals a remarkable international debut for writer-director Alice Rohrwacher, who began her career in Italian documentary, an influence apparent in her first feature. Often drawing comparisons to the Dardenne Brothers and the early Italian neo-realist tradition in the vein of De Sica and Rossellini, Rohrwacher brings a documentarian’s light touch to every shot, quietly observing Marta’s external and internal worlds. With her close, intimate style, she manages to bring out the hidden depth of both.

The title Corpo Celeste comes out of a passage by Italian writer Anna Maria Ortese. In it she writes that, “Legends and school books spoke of the blue space and heavenly bodies as a world above, yet the Earth was also a heavenly body. We were that world above.” The notion that everything no matter how small, no matter how mundane, has a divine quality, is the heart of Marta’s spiritual quest in Corpo Celeste.

— Austin Kim
New York University, Cinema Studies
Programmer of independent screening series Black Mariah Films on Lower East Side in Manhattan

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