The closing credits of a documentary always include a list of film and TV clips, along with the sources that granted their permission to use them. At the end of “Erase and Forget,” the list is jarringly different: It’s a catalogue of clips lifted right off of YouTube, listed simply by their URL addresses, with no permission given. This could prove to be a legal-rights nightmare for any company that was interested in distributing “Erase and Forget.” And it’s of a piece with the film’s thrown-together student-movie naïveté. The director, Andrea Luka Zimmermann, hasn’t so much made a documentary as presented 90 minutes’ worth of raw material for a documentary. Yet Zimmermann has grabbed hold of the tail of a fascinating subject: the life of James “Bo” Gritz, the Vietnam veteran who enjoyed 15 minutes of fame in the 1980s (he was said to have inspired the character of Rambo), and whose exploits lead to the paranoid pathology of where America is today.

Gritz (rhymes with “rights”), born in 1939, enlisted in the Army in the late ’50s and served as a lieutenant colonel in Vietnam, where he was a U.S. Army Special Forces commander. He collected a glittering pile of medals, but a number of his military awards were called into question, and that’s just the first of many chapters in what’s dicey about him. Was he really the model for John Rambo? Not at the beginning. The novel that “First Blood,” the original “Rambo” film, was based on was published in 1972, and by the time it was brought to the big screen (in 1982), it had been altered enough so that the Sylvester Stallone character, a grease-painted survivalist renegade at war with the U.S. government, was mostly a screenwriter’s concoction.

Yet by that point, Gritz had already launched the scam that became the basis of his “legend.” It was a fantasy of heroism that merged with the movies. Convinced that America had abandoned POWs in Vietnamese prison camps, Gritz put together a series of “missions” to Laos and Thailand to try and rescue those soldiers. He secured equipment from the U.S. military, and he used questionable documents to raise money from two celebrity sources (Clint Eastwood gave him $30,000, and William Shatner bought the movie rights to his saga for $10,000). The missions were never completed, but Gritz, dicking around with his shadier contacts from the war, said otherwise.

Everything about this story — the notion that American POWs were ever abandoned, Bo Gritz’ attempt to save them — was an elaborate piece of fake news. But the news became “real,” or at least a real piece of entertainment, when the PR mythology of Gritz’ POW rescue was used as the jumping-off point for the smash-hit 1985 sequel “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” The Rambo character was now hunting for stranded POWs, and his war against the U.S. military became larger-than-life. At the time, it seemed a trivial irony that Rambo’s rage combined left-wing anti-government cynicism — a tic left over from the counterculture — with Middle American yahoo gun lust.

But who knew that Rambo was creating the future?

Do you tend to get your information about the world from high-testosterone, oily-muscled ballistic action flicks starring Sylvester Stallone? It would seem the height of absurdity to say yes, but 32 years after “Rambo,” it’s clear that for a lot of people — including Donald Trump and his apocalyptic right-hand man, Steve Bannon — the U.S. government has become nothing so much as a sinister mythological creature: a dragon that needs to be blown up. Any shred of information that feeds into that mythology is embraced as the truth. (Hillary Clinton is a killer? Sure. The U.S. military left POWs in Vietnam? Of course.) The point being that in a culture built on conspiracy theory, the fantasy that is fake news rules the day.

“Erase and Forget” is basically a feature-length collection of clips of Bo Gritz, served up one after another, with the time period almost never specified. Gritz became a media presence in the late ’70s, so that’s 40 years’ worth of clips, and the audience has to place them by scanning the videotape image or by looking at Gritz and trying to suss out, in each case, how old he is. Oh, this is the lean-and-mean ’80s Bo! Okay, he’s thicker in the middle, with grayer hair, so it must be the ’90s.

What doesn’t change much is his voice, which carries the emphatic ersatz-macho snap of a right-wing talk-radio host (in fact, he was one for a long time). Whatever era he’s in, Gritz is selling the (fake) myth of himself. He even has his own “military training” seminars and videos, all part of a course he called SPIKE (Specially Prepared Individuals for Key Events). He’s a snake-oil charlatan: a war veteran who trumped up his military service, then fused it with showbiz. At the time, his actions seemed laughable, but in the age of the ultimate trumped-up reality showman (namely, Donald Trump), they seem like an early version of the virus that ate our sanity.

“Erase and Forget” is an inadequate documentary. The movie is all Bo Gritz, all the time, yet here are a few of the details it leaves out: that in 1988, Gritz ran for Vice President on the Populist Party ticket, where he was briefly paired with former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke; that he believes in fighting against a Jewish-led “New World Order”; that in 1986, he accused Richard Armitage, the Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, of drug trafficking. (The film does mention, though it doesn’t explain, that Gritz tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the heart. He missed.) He is, in a word, a wing-nut, something the movie hints at much more than it captures.

Yet there’s one chapter of the Bo Gritz saga that “Erase and Forget” nails all too well: the part he played in the siege at Ruby Ridge, in 1992. He helped to end the 11-day stand-off between Randy Weaver and U.S. Marshals by convincing Weaver to give himself up. Of course, that didn’t stop Gritz from going out and selling the notion that the U.S. Marshals trying to arrest Weaver — for the possession of sawed-off shotguns, which is illegal — was an invasion. And Zimmermann, in the context of this story, puts together one small journalistic coup: She produces a photograph of Gritz giving a Nazi salute to a group of white supremacists, a shot he claims caught him in mid-wave. Then she produces a videotape of the same moment — and no, it’s not a wave, it’s a full-on Nazi salute. At that point, “Erase and Forget” becomes a true piece of documentary filmmaking, which made me want to say to Andrea Luka Zimmermann: More, please.

Berlin Film Review: 'Erase and Forget'

Reviewed at CineStar (Berlin Film Festival), February 11, 2017. Running time: 90 MIN.


A Fugitive Images, Bright Wire Films production. Producers: Andrea Luka Zimmermann, Ammenah Ayub Allen. Executive producer: Gareth Evans.


Director: Andrea Lukas Zimmermann. Screenplay: Zimmermann, Taina Galis. Camera (color, widescreen): Andrea Luka Zimmermann, Taina Galis. Editor: Taina Galis. 


"Bo" Gritz, Ted Kotcheff, Tudor Gates.

Crime action drama, “Fabricated City” debuted on top of the South Korean box office. The CJ Entertainment release earned $7.66 million from 1.07 million admissions between Thursday and Sunday, accounting for 37% of the weekend box office.

Directed by Park Kwang-hyun (“Welcome to Dongmakgol”,) the story sees marginalized youngsters fight against an almighty villain.

Another CJ release, “Confidential Assignment” slipped to second spot. The action drama earned $4 million between Friday and Sunday for a total of $51.6 million after four weekends.

Locally distributed by Lotte Entertainment, Paramount’s “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” landed in third. The Vin Diesel-starring action movie scored $2.7 million between its Wednesday opening and Sunday.

Next Entertainment World’s crime drama “The King” 72% week-on-week and earned $835,000. That extended its total to $37.4 million after four weekends.

UPI’s “Arrival” earned $680,000 for a total of $4 million after two weekends. Opening on Thursday, UPI’s “Fifty Shades Darker” earned $815,000 over its first four days. Franchise debut, “Fifty Shades of Grey” earned $1.72 million in its first four days in February, 2015.

Animated family drama “Ballerina” earned $634,000 between Thursday and Sunday. Disney’s “Moana” earned $516,000 for a total of $15.34 million.


Contemporary politics came to the fore once again at the Berlin Film Festival. This time it concerned “Viceroy’s House,” Gurinder Chadha’s period piece about turbulent events at the time that India separated from the British Empire.

While the end of end of empire is clearly large canvas stuff, Chadha chose not only to set the film in a microcosm – the ridiculously opulent palace inhabited by the Viceroy of India and 500 servants – she also pitched it as a personal project.

Chadha was born in East Africa of Punjabi parents and grew up in the U.K. where hostile locals told her to go home. “But my homeland was now in Pakistan,” she said. She refused to call it anything other than “pre-partition India,” until a research trip took her to the Punjab and her family’s ancestral home, where five refugee families had taken up residence.

“Now we are seeing the film at time when the politics of hate and division are so prevalent in our society. It is not just in America, but also in France, Germany and Britain where we have the rise of the Right. This film is a timely reminder of what happens when you promote hate and division,” Chadha said.

The film makers paid tribute to Om Puri, the veteran Indian actor who died last month between the film’s completion and its premiere. “Om Puri’s character manifested how we were trying to balance and humanize everybody. A lot of (Indian and Pakistani) films demonize the other side,” Chadha said.

“We need to move on. (Failing to do so, would be) playing into the hands of the divide and rule brigade,” she continued. It is significant that our premiere is here in Berlin, a city familiar with division,” she said, a reference to the Berlin Wall that divided the German capital until 1989, and whose traces pass through the festival venues in Potsdamer Platz.

The event saw producer Deepak Nayar, actors Manish Dayal, Gillian Anderson, Huma Qureshi, and screenwriter Paul Mayeda Berges, also weigh in with contemporary, political observations. But it was left to British actor Hugh Bonneville, to deliver a note of levity.

“As some of you know I am not only an extremely modest actor, I have an extraordinary range. Going from playing an Earl in ‘Downton Abbey’ to a Viscount in ‘Viceroy’s House’ shows my breadth,” he quipped in response to a question about the similarity of the roles.


TOKYO — “Partners: The Movie IV,” a crime thriller that is part of a popular TV/film franchise about the cases of a smart, unconventional middle-aged cop (Yutaka Mizutani) and his younger partner, bowed atop the Japanese box office for the weekend of Feb. 11-12.

Director Hajime Hashimoto and scriptwriter Ai Ota have both long been associated with the “Partners” films and TV series, which has been broadcast since 2002 on the TV Asahi network.

On its opening weekend the film earned $3.5 million on 317,000 admissions, with Toei distributing. A new record for the film series, this figure is more than double the first weekend score of the previous entry, which finished with $19 million in 2014. “Partners IV” is on track to end its run near the $50 million mark.

At number two was “Survival Family,” the latest film by Yaguchi Shinobu (“Waterboys”.) Released by Toho on 268 screens, this film about a Tokyo family comically caught in the chaos of a nationwide electrical breakdown recorded $1.5 million and looks likely to finish above $10 million.


As a director, Raoul Peck is a passionate and protean talent. He has been making films for close to 30 years, and he’s right in the middle of his most seismic moment with “I Am Not Your Negro,” his searching meditation on James Baldwin, which has struck a deeper, wider chord than anyone might have anticipated. In 2000, Peck made a galvanizing drama about Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected leader of the Congo, that was the cinema’s most perceptive (and agonizing) study of colonialism: what it is, how it works, why its legacy is so hard to shake off.

Now, at the Berlin Film Festival, Peck takes a different leap altogether with “The Young Karl Marx,” a classically conceived and executed biopic that traces how Marx, as a struggling family-man writer in the 1840s, came to create “The Communist Manifesto.” It’s an impeccably crafted and honorable movie — but, I have to say, not a very enthralling one. If you didn’t know Raoul Peck’s name was on it, “The Young Karl Marx” would look like a so-so Merchant Ivory film from 1993. It’s dutiful, but it’s also superficial and polite, and it commits the genteel sin of the old biopics: It turns its hero into a plaster saint.

Is Karl Marx morally responsible for everything in the 20th century that happened in his name? Of course not. Yet if you look at that legacy — mass incarceration and death (in China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia) on a scale comparable, in some cases, to genocide — then you can at least ask the question: Was the madness of 20th-century Communism encoded in the naïveté of Marx’s writings? In “The Young Karl Marx,” he’s played, by the German actor August Diehl, as an eager, bushy-haired (and bushy-tailed) liberal philosopher, fighting for the proletariat even though he’s never been a working man himself.

An opening title provides the context for Marx’s struggle: The Industrial Revolution has arrived, and the old order that ruled Europe — the monarchy, the imperial aristocracy — is getting ready to topple. (It would have happened anyway; Marx gave it a nudge.) In the early scenes, when we meet Karl, all glorified schoolboy fire, and also Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske), the very bourgeois factory owner’s son — he wears a top hat and high collar — who becomes his comrade and writing partner, the movie makes the point that the whole scheme of analysis we think of as “Marxist” was already in place. The perception of the class system, the rage against the capitalist oppressors, the dream of a world in which workers would unite as brothers: Karl Marx didn’t invent any of that.

So what did he do? In “The Young Karl Marx,” he gets into friendly debates with Pierre Proudhon (Olivier Gourmet), the firebrand French anarchist who preaches against the world of assembly-line labor (what he calls “the new machines from hell”), and he speaks, rather defensively, about how he doesn’t want to be “a scribbler urging world revolution.” (Good luck.) Then he meets Engels: The two take the piss out of each other for about five minutes, but after that it’s all high-minded bromance. “You’re the greatest materialist thinker of our times,” says Friedrich. “A genius.” That’s quite a claim, but the film never begins to explain what it means. As presented, Karl’s big insight appears to be that the dissolution of the class system can’t reject materialism — it has to be about the redistribution of it. Yet the movie, oddly, never makes us feel the radicalism of this idea; Karl just presents it as common sense.

August Diehl is a skillful actor, known for his work in films like “Inglourious Basterds,” but he and Konarske are both a little too fetching and caught in their own placid glamour to play these upstart philosophers with the right tone of prickly fanaticism. In “The Young Karl Marx,” they’re like a couple of indie rock stars, grooving on each other’s riffs. Engels, to write his book about the struggle of the worker, has done his research, mostly by romancing the cutest worker (Hannah Steele) in his father’s textile mill. As the two men skip around the continent, going from Germany to Paris to London, nattering on in drawing rooms about the proletariat as if they were collaborating on the world’s most ardent term paper, the one dramatic constant is Marx’s struggle to take care of his family: his radiant and endlessly supportive wife, Jenny (Vicky Krieps), and young daughter. He does a good job of it, and Diehl, in fact, makes Karl so centered and loving that he’s never thrown off balance. I kept wishing for him to have a moodier side — wondering what, say, an actor like Oscar Isaac might have brought to the role. The Karl we see in “The Young Karl Marx” is never more (or less) than the sum of his compassion.

Peck stages the movie with the kind of stodgy middlebrow competence that, after a while, can wear you down; he doesn’t make glaring mistakes, but he never upsets the apple cart. And maybe that’s because he’s lost, in his way, in a view of Marx that’s too automatically romantic. The film is at its best when Karl gets concrete about what his philosophy means — like his crusade against child labor. Yet it buys too easily into Marx’s utopian (and deeply bourgeois) view that the class system is a conceit imposed by the oppressor, and that the attempt to try and equalize everything is simply the higher wisdom.

Near the end, there’s a classic corny biopic moment when Marx and Engels are writing “The Communist Manifesto,” sculpting the sentence that reads “A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of Communism…” The weight of the words never feels spontaneous; it comes with a Great Books seal of approval. But then, startlingly, the closing credits play over clips of news footage from the 20th century, with Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” blasting on the soundtrack. That’s certainly the kind of audacity this safe and slightly dull movie could have used more of. Yet if Peck is saying that Marxism is having a moment of comeback, the 20th century (unlike the 19th) isn’t a great advertisement for it. I watched those clips thinking: What would the young Karl Marx have made of what was done in his name?

Berlin Film Review: 'The Young Karl Marx'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival, Feb. 12, 2017. Running time: 112 MIN. (Original title: “Le jeune Karl Marx”)


An AGAT Films and Cie, Velvet Film, Rohfilm GmbH, Artémis Productions prod. Producers: Nicolas Blanc, Rémi Greilety, Robert Guédiguian, Raoul Peck.


Director: Raoul Peeck. Screenplay: Peck, Pascal Bonitzer. Camera (color, widescreen): Kolja Brandt. Editor: Frédérique Broos. 


August Diehl, Stefan Konarske, Vicky Krieps, Olivier Gourmet, Michael Brandner, Alexander Scheer, Hannah Steele, Niels Bruno Schmidt. (French, German, English dialogue)

China Film Corp. has come on board European sci-fi franchise movie “Iron Sky: The Ark” as a major partner. It will co-finance, co-produce and take Chinese distribution rights.

The film is set to go into production this year – and shoot in Beijing – ahead of a planned release in 2018. The budget is indicated as $25 million.

Timo Vuorensola, who directed the first two installments of the franchise about Nazis regrouping on the moon, is set to direct. Screenplay is by Dalan Musson, Max Wang, Vuorensola and Yu Hongyang.

The film had already been set up as a China-Finland partnership last year when Shanghai Jiabo Culture Development Culture came on board in mid 2016. At the time they promised that there would also be a major Chinese distributor joining them.

Producers now describe the film as a China-Finland-Canada co-production between CFC, Jiabo and Iron Sky Universe, in association with Pan Pan Pictures and Longevity International Enterprises.

“Iron Sky: The Ark” tells the story of two Chinese university dropouts who decode a mysterious message coming from the moon, and discover the secretive Illuminati organization.

The first “Iron Sky” movie was released in 2012. Producers are gearing up to release the second picture, “Iron Sky: The Coming Race” in 2017. It stars Udo Kier, Lara Rossi, Julia Dietze and Vladimir Burlakov.


Three prestigious prizes given each year at the Berlinale Co-Production Market have been awarded to films from Germany, Turkey and Serbia.

The Eurimages Co-Production Development Award has been awarded to Anne Zohra Berrached’s “The Wife of the Pilot.” The Eurimages prize was announced Sunday evening, the first day of the market, and comes with an endowment of €20,000 ($21,277) intended as a development grant. Germany’s Razor Film Produktion presented the project in Berlin.

Monday saw two more prizes announced. Turkey’s “The Bus to Amerika,” produced by Nefes Polat and directed by Derya Durmaz, received the VFF Talent Highlight Award. The $10,640 prize has been offered by the Munich-based Verwertungsgesellschaft der Film und Fernsehproduzenten since 2004 to recognize a promising project by an up-and-coming filmmaker selected from the Berlinale’s Talent Project Market. Other nominated projects, “Shock Labor” from Cuban producer Maria Carla del Rio and “Tomorrow is a Long Time” from Singapore producer Jeremy Chua also receive $1,064 and an opportunity to pitch their projects at the Co-Production Market.

The ARTE International Prize went to Serbian-French co-production “Lost Country,” from Serbian director Vladimir Perisic. The $6,380 prize recognizes an artistically outstanding project selected from among all 36 titles offered at the Co-Production Market. “Lost Country” was presented in Berlin by Serbia’s Trilema Films and KinoElektron and MPM Film of France.

The winners were selected by jury, whose members included Pablo Perez de Lema from Spain, Leontine Petit from the Netherlands and Manfred Schmidt from Germany.

The Co-Production Market, now in its 14th edition, runs Feb. 12-15 at the European Film Market alongside the Berlin Film Festival. It offers producers of 36 selected narrative feature projects the opportunity to meet potential co-producers and financiers. Over its four-day span, 600 participants take part in more than 1,200 individual meetings.


In her biting political comedy “The Party,” which bowed in competition Monday at the Berlinale, writer-director Sally Potter sought to present “a loving look at the state of England, a kind of broken England.”

Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz and Cillian Murphy star in the film, which revolves around a house party to celebrate the appointment Scott Thomas’s character Janet as a minister in Britain’s shadow cabinet – only for chaos to ensue.

Potter told reporters at the Berlin Film Festival that she wrote the dialogue to focus on “what people don’t say or feel they can’t say,” while the film’s black-and-white palette offered “an incredible space for emotional color – the magic that the brain can see things in different ways, in this abstract world of light and dark. Many of my favorite films are in black and white, and I’d like to think it’s in that lineage.”

Potter said she began writing the film during the last elections in Britain, when the Labor Party was moving so far to the center that it was almost indistinguishable from the Conservatives. Now, by contrast, Labor has swung far in the other direction.

“People were losing their faith in political life, losing the ability to tell what the truth is. The truth is very central to the story,” Potter said. “We were filming during the Brexit vote, as the events unfolded. The day after [the June 23, 2016, referendum], half the people on set had tears in their eyes. The film is also about the healing power of laughter when things go horribly wrong.”

On working with her high-caliber cast, Potter said it was about “loving and caring for what they do, teasing it out of them to go in the direction I want to go but also respecting where they want to go. It’s the magic of collaboration.”

Clarkson added: “The camaraderie we had carried us through the wickedness of these characters. We enjoyed a great deal of humor among ourselves; we really fell in love with one another. It was a real privilege.”

Asked whom he preferred, Harry Potter or Sally Potter, Spall replied: “Without denigrating H. Potter, S. Potter is always more preferable. Collaborating, working with someone you admire, someone whose work is always changing, is wonderful. All of Sally’s films are so incredibly different. It’s a real joy. Without putting on any pretentious color, it is very artistic work – definitely Sally Potter all the way.”

Scott Thomas echoed the sentiment, but added that the initial challenge of the film caused some nervousness. “It was like doing a play. There was panic knowing that we only had two weeks to shoot it and no time for multiple takes. But it was one of most memorable filming experiences I’ve ever had.”

Murphy was likewise thrilled with the project. “It was great fun. I was really attracted by the deliberate misdirection of the script. He [Murphy’s character, Tom] doesn’t look mentally well. For any actor, to start a part in one place and then end up somewhere completely different is really wonderful. That really appealed to me.

“When I saw the cast that Sally had gathered, it was obviously a no-brainer,” Murphy added. “I’ve watched and have been a fan of these people since I was very young. You’re always learning as an actor, it never stops, and it was a real joy to watch these actors work.”

Ganz, who plays Gottfried, an esoteric German yoga aficionado, said the film was a chance to “make Madame Merkel happy by playing a good German in a film,” the Swiss actor deadpanned.


The Danish movie “Land of Mine,” nominated for a foreign-language Oscar this year, is in many ways a local story of the teenage German POWs who, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, are forced to diffuse tens of thousands of land mines planted along Denmark’s coast.

But director Martin Zandvliet and producer Mikael Rieks tell Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM that the movie is also a warning sign of the dangers of European disunion.

“It kind of scares me because in the beginning, [the movie] was about the way I saw our nation portraying itself,” Zandvliet says of the response to the film in Europe. “But it also was about the things going on in Europe, about closing down Europe, talking about building a wall around Europe and not letting the Syrian refugees in.”

He said that “when people see it, they don’t just see it as a dusty old period piece. Try to make it as contemporary and emotional as possible. They are feelings that we still have.” He said that he was “kind of shocked about how relevant” the movie is given that so much reflects hate and fear.

Rieks says, “It is very very important to note that the longest period of peace in European history has been the past 70 years, because nations are united. United Nations. United States. United Europe. And now we are afraid this will all go up in smoke and close our borders. That is why I think on a very local scale this movie is very global.”

The movie focuses on a Danish sergeant (Roland Moller) who supervises a group of German POWs tasked with diffusing the mines. The sergeant has a hatred for the Germans, but gradually gains some sympathy for his POWs, all of them teenage boys who have long odds of ever getting to return home. In total, 2,000 POWs were assigned to diffuse 1.5 million landmines, according to some estimates, and casualties were high.

Listen below:

Stars Speaking Out

Steve Ross, the author of “Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics,” is skeptical that celebrities are all that effective in changing minds when they speak out about President Donald Trump.

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs 2-3 p.m. ET/11-noon PT on SiriusXM’S political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.


You know that movie about the father and his estranged teenage son going on a road trip? While that hackneyed premise is unquestionably rich with possibilities, there needs to be something memorable about such a script to distinguish yet another reworking, and Thomas Arslan’s well-acted, attractively shot “Bright Nights” offers minimal variation on the theme. More in line with Aslan’s early, minimalist films like “Vacation” than the more recent “Gold,” this two-hander largely shot in northern Norway is simple and honest, but in an already overpopulated field won’t stand out in the crowd. German and Norwegian cinemas will probably see modest returns.

Industrial engineer Michael (Georg Friedrich) receives word that his father died of a heart attack in northern Norway. They hadn’t seen each other for a while, but he’s still affected, more so than his sister who simply doesn’t care: “He gave us no opportunity for forgiving,” she tells him on the phone. “Now it’s too late.”

Things aren’t exactly going great between Michael and his partner Leyla (Marie Leuenberger) either, and when she breaks the news that she’s been offered a one-year transfer to Washington, D.C., it’s clear they won’t last (though given their lousy communication skills, it’s unlikely they’d remain together one more week, let alone one year).

Needing to deal with his father’s funeral arrangements in Norway and preferring not to go alone, Michael takes his reluctant 14-year-old son Luis (Tristan Göbel), although the two have rarely spent time together after the divorce. Relations are strained, with Luis flinty and Michael controlling; the teen realizes he has no choice when his dad surprises him by saying they’re taking a road trip up north. What follows are picturesque scenes of forested mountains seen from the car and from campsites, punctuated with usually tense parental conversations.

Michael wants forgiveness for being an absentee dad, obviously seeing a familiar pattern following his relationship with his own father. Yet it’s foolish to expect a 14-year-old to understand such an adult need, and in truth, has Michael earned it? It all feels so clichéd, with each semi-crisis kept relatively muted, yet positioned exactly where one expects it to be.

Arslan opens one interesting window when Luis asks his father about his favorite movies, and Michael answers with titles from the late ’70s and early ’80s: This is a man who has not moved on with his life, which is a sad realization, though hardly a surprising one. By the end, there’s the potential for a glimmer of understanding between the two and maybe even some bonding, but don’t expect Sokurov’s “Father and Son.”

Arslan’s handling of actors has always been a strong suit, and the two leads are well cast. Friedrich captures Michael’s shut-down nature, unable to understand how to repair his mistakes and prevent his wounded past from doing more damage. Even more interesting to watch is young Göbel, already a film veteran (“Tschick,” “West”) and highly skilled in the nuanced, relatively non-verbal ways he reveals Luis’ frustration as well as bewilderment at being forced to deal with his father’s emotional baggage on top of his own.

“Bright Nights” reunites Arslan with “In the Shadows” DP Reinhold Vorschneider, and widescreen visuals are picturesque, attuned to how the Norwegian summer light casts a cool spell over the increasingly earthen colors. It’s an appropriately expansive backdrop for these two solitary figures driving into the fog, not always willingly sharing nature’s feast together. Pared-down music and drawn-out, unchanging electronic sounds add to the moodiness.

Berlin Film Review: 'Bright Nights'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 13, 2017. Running time: 86 MIN. (Original title: “Helle nächte”)


(Germany-Norway) A Piffi Medien (in Germany) release of a Schramm Film, Mer Film, FilmCamp, WDR production, in collaboration with the Post Republic. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Producers: Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber. Co-producers: Maria Ekerhovd, Svein Andersen, Kjetil Jensberg.


Director, writer: Thomas Arslan. Camera (color, widescreen): Reinhold Vorschneider. Editor: Reinaldo Pinto Almeida.


Georg Friedrich, Tristan Göbel, Marie Leuenberger, Hanna Karlberg, Aggie Peterson, Frank Arne Olsen, Helle Goldman. (German dialogue)

Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks and William Fichtner have joined Milo Gibson and Gbenga Akinnagbe in the action-thriller “All the Devil’s Men” for GFM Films and producer Hannah Leader.

“All the Devil’s Men” is in pre-production with GFM handling sales at the Berlin Film Festival and assisting with production financing together with Ben White’s U.K.-based White & Co.

Gibson, who starred in his father Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” will play a battle-scarred War on Terror bounty hunter who’s forced to go to London on a manhunt for a disavowed CIA operative, with Fichtner and Akinnagbe as the other members of his team. They find themselves locked in deadly urban tactical combat with their former military comrade and his private army, who are protecting the operative. Hoeks will play the determined CIA handler in command of the mission.

Matthew Hope (“The Veteran”) is directing from his own script. Producers are Leader (“Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead,” “Gosford Park”) and Amory Leader. Elizabeth Fowler (“Devil’s Knot”) and Ben Press are exec producing.

Gibson will also appear in “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” starring Jennifer Garner. Hoeks will be seen next in “Blade Runner 2049,” opposite Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Fichtner starred in “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

“‘Devil’s’ will have more of a real world approach than we’re used to seeing in modern action-thrillers; akin to films like ‘Collateral’ and ‘The French Connection,'” Hope said. “It will be a hard procedural about how clandestine warfare is waged in western cities in the name of the War on Terror. The film will have the slickness of a Hollywood film, but played out in the back streets of London.”

Gibson and Fichtner are both represented by Primary Wave Entertainment and APA reps Akkinagbe and Gibson. Hoeks is represented by ICM Partners.