“Theatrical largely did die,” stated Toronto Fest artistic director Cameron Bailey, kicking off the Locarno 2016 edition of Step-In. Whether that is a problem or we’re just being nostalgic was one of the questions addressed by Step-In, Locarno’s industry think tank for distribution, exhibition, and sales professionals of auteur cinema, which launched on Friday Aug. 5 with a panel featuring TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey, Telefilm Canada’s Carolle Brabant, Mongrel Media CEO Hussain Amarshi, and Emerging Pictures’ Ira Deutchman. Bailey discussed what trends in audience habits signify from a festival perspective, how TIFF is catering to the niche “villages” of interest now emerging, and to the increasing multiplicity of choice facing audiences. Following the session, Variety grabbed Bailey at Locarno.

In what ways is TIFF embracing the current changes taking place in the world and in the film industry?

Any significant festival that lasts has to change all the time. Recently, our changes have had to do with the rise of high-quality television and new technology. We now do VR and, over the last few years, have begun working with streaming services. The way films are made and where they are made also changes: This year’s Spotlight is on Lagos, Nigeria, which has had an enormous growth over the last twenty years. Change is a part of what we do, it’s just the nature of running a festival.

TIFF this year will exhibit 280 films. How do you ensure films reach their intended audiences, or “villages” of interest? 

We have a version of a recommendation engine that you find in many online services. We recently announced the new Denis Villeneuve film, “Arrival,” so once a person buys a ticket to that, the system may recommend a film that it thinks is similar. Visitors can also search for films from certain regions, or films about certain issues — social change, or LGBT issues, as an example — and it gives you a list of films on that topic.

During Friday’s Step-In panel you stated, “Theatrical largely did die,” and suggested many people go to the movies not necessarily because they want to see that film but because they don’t want to be left out of the conversation. Is the “eventization” of festivals a trend that cannot be stopped?

It’s part of a natural process. It’s so important not to assume that what we experienced in our youth was always the law of the world. Between the 1950s to 1980s. movie-going was a regular habit. That’s done. People now go to the cinema if they feel there’s a film that dominates popular culture or if something speaks to them particularly. Today, though, we can see movies on our phone or at home with high quality. The desire to engage in visual stories has not changed, but it doesn’t mean we’re all going to the movies every Friday.

And yet festivals are increasingly engaging new audiences. Come festival time, they’re saying, “Yeah, I really want to see that new eight-hour Lav Diaz film.”

It has to do with the context of the event of a festival, the sense of discovery people have. It’s a privileged space that doesn’t happen year-round. You put that Lav Diaz film the week after in the same theatre and people will not go in the same numbers. They go because there’s an excitement and an urgency around seeing it at that particular moment. We try to cultivate that every year but we don’t expect it will continue once the festival closes.

TIFF is one of a number of festivals starting in the next months. In this competitive festival season, how do you ensure the ecosystem lives?

Festivals are an increasingly significant part of how films that aren’t purely commercial survive in the world. We help to deliver audiences, media coverage, awareness. There are new festivals all the time, which are constantly rising and falling in significance, so if you’re running a festival it’s your job to maintain its health but also that of the overall ecosystem. There’s naturally some competition, but it should never be a kind of scorched earth competition where anyone’s looking to destroy another festival. That’s not good for any of us.

“The Magnificent Seven” is TIFF’s opening night film. Sequels and reboots are often criticised for destroying creativity in cinema. What’s the good side of a reboot?

Well, you know, James Joyce rebooted Homer! There’s a lot to be said for artists that will go to previous material and find new ways to express it. That can be done at a high level and in a crass, commercial way, too. It’s all in the execution. We’re glad to be opening with “The Magnificent Seven”; it’s using great source material but is a totally new film. It’s about 2016; it speaks to our age right now, as Westerns always do. I have no objection to filmmakers working with previous material, it’s all about what they do with it.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/bailey-talks-audience-trends-tiff-2016-the-magnificent-seven-1201832516/

Tessa Ross, the uber-successful former head of Channel4’s movie-arm Film4, and Juliette Howell, the former head of television at Working Title, have set up a film and TV production company, House Productions, with the backing of the BBC’s international distribution arm, BBC Worldwide, and Access Entertainment, part of billionaire Len Blavatnik’s business empire.

House Productions will be based in London with Ross and Howell as joint CEOs, working across the company’s slate of television and feature films. BBC Worldwide has taken a 25% stake in the company, and will act as the global distributor for its TV slate. Access Entertainment, which is headed by the BBC’s former director of television, Danny Cohen, has agreed to a first-look deal to develop and finance feature films with House. In addition, House will receive additional investment from New York-based investor Laura Sloate.

Ross was controller of film and drama at Channel 4, and as Film4’s boss backed a host of award-winning films, including BAFTA winners “Four Lions,” “This is England” and “In Bruges,” and best picture Oscar winners “Slumdog Millionaire” and “12 Years a Slave.” She left the broadcaster at the end of 2014, where her most recent commissions included Oscar winners “Room” and “Ex Machina,” and Oscar nominees “Carol” and “45 Years.”

Ross said: “We’re going to build a creative and supportive home at House Productions and look forward to growing something unique and long lasting with both new and old collaborators.”

Howell stepped down last year after five years as Working Title’s head of television, having established the British production arm in 2010, and overseen a raft of acclaimed drama series, films and comedy. These include BAFTA winners “London Spy” and “Birdsong” for the BBC, the BBC/HBO film “Mary and Martha,” and Sky’s hit comedy series “Yonderland,” currently in production on its third season. Howell also oversaw “You, Me and the Apocalypse,” which aired on Sky/NBC.

Howell said: “Along with our partners, Tessa and I share a vision for the company where the flow of ideas and creative talent between film and television can achieve the best and most ambitious work. House Productions will be the home of original, exciting stories, a place where ideas can be nurtured and produced in a supportive environment.”

Following her departure from Film4, Ross served as chief executive of the National Theater, but resigned after only six months in the role. Explaining her decision to step down, Ross said at the time: “It has become clear to me that the new leadership structure, with a separate role of chief executive, is not right for the NT at this time.”

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/film4-tessa-ross-working-title-juliette-howell-house-1201831388/

Thriving in spite of rising conservative pressures, Israeli cinema is back at Locarno festival with Israeli and Palestinian projects, a year after facing widespread threats of a cultural boycott, proving that it still boasts a liberal industry.

At Locarno, Israel is being showcased at the Match Me forum, along with Brazilian and Chilean producers. It’s not surprising that one of the three producers chosen by Locarno to represent Israel is a Palestinian one: Baher Agbariya, the producer of Maha Haj’s “Personal Affairs” which opened at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. Whereas its TV landscape is vastly dominated by Israelis, its film industry owes its international profile and recognition in festivals to both Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers.

But amid the current turmoil shaking up the Arab world and tensions with Israel’s right-wing government, the relationship of Palestinian producers and directors with Israel is being put to test.

“(Politically-speaking), we’ve been in a deadlock for a long time with Palestinians, and that’s reflected in our relationship with filmmakers: There are ups and down,” said Katriel Schory, the executive director of the Israel Film Fund, adding that Jerusalem film fest had even collaborated with Ramallah festival back in 2010 — an initiative that is not concevable today.

Indeed, the Israeli film industry is currently at a crossroads, creating a volatile climate. The minister of culture and sports, Miri Regev, an outspoken right-wing conservative, has threatened to cut funding for films that are being critical of the state of Israel. Meanwhile, the national budget allocated to culture, including film, is being renegotiated next year for 2018-2022 which raises the stakes of current debates. The film sector is currently financed with an 18 million Euro envelope.

“So far there has only been talks, no actions,” said Schory at Jerusalem film festival in July. The exec, who’s been heading the Israel Film Fund for 17 years, pointed the budget for culture could get cut by 10% to 15% at most.

But the biggest blow carried by Regev was her decision to impose Palestinian movies that are supported by Israel to be credited as Israeli rather than Israeli-Palestinan pics. That policy was enacted following the scandal caused by Suha Arraf, a Palestinian director who refused to list her film “Villa Touma” – which was selected at Venice — as Israeli even though it had been partly financed by Israel.

Agbariya said the new rule was “unfair” to Palestinian directors, not only ethically-speaking but also because it makes it more difficult to have their movies travel in the Arab world. Apart from a few exceptions, like “Personal Affairs” (a Nazareth-set dramedy centering on a dysfunctional extended family) which was selected at Beirut Film Festival, movies that are partly financed by Israel are blacklisted in most of the Arab markets.

Yet, the support of the Israeli funds is a driving force behind the new generation of Palestinian filmmakers, Agbariya admitted. “For the new generation, their only choice is to be supported by Israeli funds: The Arab world gives no money to young, unknown directors; they give money to big names, and they prefer not to help directors who have the Israeli citizenship,” added Agbariya, who runs Majdan Films.

But the question is: Will Israel continue supporting Palestinian directors the same way in spite of political pressures?

While the Israel Film Fund and the Rabinovich Foundation are NGO’s, they are financed by the government and Regev seeks to exert greater control over their editorial policies.

Even without an effective change in policy, Agbariya says he fears film funds increasingly have Regev’s threats in mind when selecting projects.

“Negev is succeeding: When funds read the scripts they think about her and they are being more and more cautious about financing radical films,” said Agbariya, who nevertheless noted that Schory was one of the last standing gatekeepers of the industry who fights for the freedom of every filmmakers.

But even Schory acknowledges the looming threat. “we may see more and more self-censorship. And what’s dangerous is that it’s very difficult to detect,” said Schory.

Meanwhile, it may not be a coincidence that Israeli funds are also encouraging filmmakers to tackle lighter stories and crowd-pleasing comedies that can click with local audiences, and not solely work at film festivals around the world. Israeli moviegoers are rarely fond of movies dealing with the conflict.

In spite of the turmoil, Locarno, like Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Karlovy Vary and many other international festivals, are still celebrating Israeli films.

“I think people are understanding that what happens in the Israeli film world is different from what’s going on elsewhere,” said Markus Duffner, project manager for Locarno’s First Look and Match Me showcases, about the absence of controversy over Israel’ presence at the festival, compared with last year’s boycott calls.

“As long as Israel will continue financing films that are satirical, entertaining, critical and engaging – regardless of their genre — we will be rooting for them at Locarno,” added Duffner.

At Locarno, Agbariya is pitching Haj’s follow up to “Personal Affairs” and Tawfik Abu Wael’s “Wise Hassan,” a drama about a man with big dreams who is tasked to kill a collaborator who lives in Tel Aviv and finds out his target is a transgender female who makes a living as a prostitute.

The other two producers – shortlisted by Israel Film Fund and Locarno’s Match Me initiative — are Adar Shafran from Firma Films who is pitching Roi Werner’s romantic comedy “Ger-Mania” and Keren Michael at Dori Media Paran who is presenting Eran Kolirin’s dramedy “Let it be Morning,” Amikam Kovner and Assaf Snir’s suspense drama “Echoes,” among other projects.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/global/israels-relationship-with-palestinian-filmmakers-sees-ups-downs-1201832223/

LOCARNO, Sitzerland — Berlin-based Films Boutique, a world sales company for movies from new art-house talent and established – though often singular – auteurs, has acquired “Heartstone” and “Guilty Men,” both of which are set to world-premiere at September’s Venice Days.

The two titles are first features. Films Boutique will also be representing black-and-white Venice competition title “The Woman Who Left,” the German sales agent’s second title with Philippine Lav Diaz this year.

Written and directed by Icelandic feature first-timer Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson, and with ace cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (“Victoria,” “Rams”) serving as DP, “Heartstone” is set in a remote fishing village in Iceland. Teens Thor and Christian experience the rush of first love as one tries to win the heart of a girl; the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend.

“When summer ends and the harsh nature of Iceland takes back its rights, it’s time to leave the playground and face adulthood,” the synopsis reads.

“Heartstone” is produced by Join Motion Pictures, a new company in Iceland, and the much more established and larger SF Studios Production, in Denmark.

“Guðmundur is a real talent. He manages to combine the breathtaking beauty and harshness of wild Iceland with the tenderness and youthful energy of the characters,” said Louis Balsan, at Films Boutique.

He added: “Recent successes like ‘Mustang’ show us that audiences connect with a film that takes the freshness of youth to deal with serious issues.”

“Heartstone” was developed at the Cannes Festival’s Cinefondation Résidence Program. A graduate from the Icelandic Art Academy, Guðmundsson garnered a special mention at Cannes for his short film “Whale Valley,” which was also nominated for a European Film Award. The director took home a string of prizes for his 2014 short “Ártún.”

Directed by Colombia’s Ivan D. Gaona, “Pariente” (“Guilty Men”)  begins with a couple, Mariana and René, preparing their wedding. As an illegal paramilitary armed group demobilizes in the region, strange new murders endanger their village’s tranquility.

A drama thriller and neo-Western with a social underbelly, suggesting how some of the paramilitary moved into racketeering, the movie has echoes of Sergio Leone. Well-connected in Latin America, Films Boutique saw large success handing Colombian Ciro Guerre’s Oscar-nominated “Embrace of the Serpent,” as well as select other Latin American titles such as “La jaula de oro.”

“The most daring section in Venice, Venice Days is an excellent platform to launch two emerging filmmakers,” said Bausan. Both titles are in the running to hit a further big festival later in September, which would allow Films Boutique to follow-up on business broached at Venice.

“Not all the buyers in the world are at Venice. But there are always some high-quality acquisitions executives,” said Bausan. He added: “Every time we’re at Venice Days, we end up closing the first deals, which are the hardest to close. And you arrive in Toronto with reviews.”

The acquisitions come as Films Boutique has already seen a banner 2016. “Divines,” a ghetto drama from Houda Benyamina, won the Cannes Camera d’Or for best first feature. Lav Diaz’s epic “A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery” scooped up the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for innovation. Sundance and Berlin Panorama title “Kiki,” directed by Sara Jordenö and Twiggy Pucci Garcon, earned a Teddy Award for best documentary. Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ “The Ornithologist” competes this week for Locarno’s Golden Leopard.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/films-boutique-acquires-heartstone-guilty-men-locarno-1201832534/

Most people outside Poland have never heard of the late-20th-century painter Zdzisław Beksiński, and even within the country few are familiar with director Jan P. Matuszyński. Yet for those paying attention to international arthouse cinema, “The Last Family” should boost name recognition for both. While unable to wholly surmount the usual problem of biopics, which either simplify (not the case here) or allow life’s messiness to remain disjunctured, the film is a remarkable, frequently unsettling exercise in staged voyeurism, recreating the interdependent lives of the three members of the troubled Beksiński family. Visually and musically reproducing the era to a T, and boasting terrific lensing by Kacper Fertacz, “The Last Family” is likely to pick up numerous awards on the festival circuit.

Much of the material for Robert Bolesto’s script comes from Zdzisław’s obsessive, decades-long video- and tape-recording of himself and family (some of it available on YouTube), which Matuszyński restages in conversations and entire scenes, often via master shots. However, the film isn’t simply recreation, but rather an intimate portrait of three intertwined lives. The script pays no attention to political changes of the period from 1977 to 2005, and offers no insight to Zdzisław’s art, nor how the paintings are reflections of his personality. Matuszyński is only interested in what happens inside the walls of the family’s apartment, and that of their son — it would take a miniseries, at the very least, to expand it any further.

The deliciously subversive opening instantly grabs attention, as Zdzisław (Andrzej Seweryn) tells a biographer in detail about a computer program he fantasizes about, involving an over-educated Alicia Silverstone simulation with super-long legs and a penchant for S&M. As audiences begin to process this graphic information, told by a 76-year-old man wearing hearing aids, the film jumps back to 1977 (there’s no other temporal shift), and the moment when Zdzisław and his wife Zofia (Aleksandra Konieczna) take their son Tomasz (Dawid Ogrodnik) to his new apartment.

In a state of perpetual agitation, even when happy, Tomek is the focus of his parents’ lives, together with Zdzisław’s unsettling surrealist paintings. Zofia’s role is to hold everything together: she runs the household, cooks, cleans, and looks after her mother and mother-in-law, both of whom live with them. Without Zofia’s solidity, the family couldn’t function. On screen, as in life, she’s rarely the focus of attention — she barely merits a close-up, yet by mimicking her position in the family dynamic, Matuszyński reinforces her centrality.

Tomek’s neuroses and near constant agitated movements make him an eccentric figure, but he’s functional, working as a club and radio DJ as well as translator into Polish of English-language films. He is an unpredictable storm, especially compared with Zdzisław’s outward placidity. Good-natured, kind, and ever-observant of himself and his family, Zdzisław is seen videoing everything in the apartment, whether himself in the mirror or painfully raw family discussions; only when eating does he display a modicum of his son’s voracity. What’s not shown is him with brush in hand; although the works themselves cover the walls, their post-surrealist, at times post-apocalyptic darkness are the only outward manifestation of the well-hidden demons that must have been constantly prodding his psyche.

The film progresses through various stages in the family’s life, punctuated by the recurring visits of Polish expat Piotr Dmochowski (Andrzej Chyra), a collector and unauthorized family chronicler. As in real life, episodes connect solely through chronology and the subjects’ force of personality rather than any artificial narrative linearity, which for some viewers may seem like a weakness. Truth be told, it’s hard to imagine reproducing these lives in any other way, but it means that individual scenes have a potency that doesn’t entirely hang together as a whole. Worth singling out is a squirm-inducing sequence with fixed video camera in which Tomek tells his parents of his inability to find love or perform sexually, and the almost unbearably powerful ending, accompanied by a ravishing Mahler song.

Star Seweryn (numerous Andrzej Wajda films, “Schindler’s List,” etc.) captures Zdzisław’s outward geniality while ineffably conveying something darker brewing inside, something Beksiński himself probably strove to cover except in his art. Ogrodnik has the showier role, moving as if a low-current electric charge was pulsing through his agitated existence; his nervous energy is the flip side of Seweryn’s calm, and the two are grounded by Konieczna’s crucial, emotionally rich equanimity.

Visually, the mixture of fixed master shots with recreated early home videos makes it feel at times like we’re watching the Beksińskis as viewed through a diorama. The apartments themselves lend a sense of intimacy, practically become characters in their own right, thanks to Fertacz’s camerawork as well as Jagna Janicka’s production design, flawless in capturing the period (no doubt Polish audiences will nostalgically nod when seeing the books and red reel-to-reel boxes on Zdzisław’s shelves). Just as powerful at evoking period but also mood is Matuszyński’s unerring feel for music, crucial to the characters’ lives, whether it be Schnittke or Yazoo.

Locarno Film Review: 'The Last Family'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), August 4, 2016. Running time: 122 MIN. (Original title: “Ostatnia rodzina”)

Production

(Poland) An Aurum Film, HBO Europe, Mazovia Film Fund, Lightcraft, Universal Music Poland production. (International sales: New Europe Film Sales, Warsaw.) Producers: Leszek Bodzak, Aneta Hickinbotham.

Crew

Director: Jan P. Matuszyński. Writer: Robert Bolesto. Camera (color, widescreen), Kacper Fertacz. Editor, Przemysław Chruścielewski.

With

Andrzej Seweryn, Dawid Ogrodnik, Aleksandra Konieczna, Andrzej Chyra.
Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/the-last-family-review-1201832466/

Roughly midway through “Paula,” Christian Schwochow’s lush, involving biopic of iconoclastic German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker, artistically inclined viewers will notice a brief character cameo by Camille Claudel — the ill-fated French sculptor who has received two major big-screen portraits of her own. Her fleeting appearance in the narrative may cue us to expect an equivalent tale of woe, yet while “Paula’s” script repeatedly signposts its heroine’s untimely demise, it’s a film that daubs an unexpected range of tones, from the tragically romantic to the jauntily comic, onto the canvas with free abandon. Modersohn-Becker’s naive expressionistic style wasn’t subtle, so it’s apt enough that “Paula” often paints with a pretty broad brush; following its Locarno premiere, the attractive result should engage mainstream arthouse audiences at home (hitting German theaters just before Christmas) and abroad.

“My life shall be a short, intense party,” declares Paula (sparkily played by Carla Juri, seen most recently in the Sundance hit “Morris From America”) early on in proceedings, before announcing her ambition to leave the world with “three good paintings and a child.” It’s not the only time the film’s screenplay, developed over a period of nearly 30 years by veteran German scribes Stefan Kolditz and Stephan Suschke, goes in for rather schematic foreshadowing — though it hardly needs to be said that Modersohn-Becker, the first female painter in history with a museum devoted exclusively to her work, had considerably more good work to her name when she died in 1907. Whirling and busy with incident, “Paula” certainly captures the intensity of her life, with its artistic escapes to Paris, flirtations with hedonism and belated sexual awakening; as parties go, however, it could still be rather a lonely one.

The opening stages of “Paula” promise a familiar enough tale of one plucky woman overcoming substantial adversity in an aggressively guarded man’s world. “Women will never produce anything creative apart from children,” bleats Fritz Mackensen (Nicki von Tempelhoff), her condescending instructor at a Worpswede artists’ colony, “correcting” her unorthodox brush technique by forcibly guiding her hand. (Call it “manspainting,” if you will.) But while feminist resolve drives much of the storytelling, the film’s gender politics grow more complicated in its study of her rocky romance with fellow painter Otto Modersohn (a fine Albrecht Abraham Schuch), an ostensibly kind figure with limited understanding of his wife’s gifts.

A widower whose superstitious fear of loss leads him to keep his marriage to Paula cruelly unconsummated for several years, Otto hovers on the brink of enlightenment, but remains susceptible to Mackensen’s chauvinistic bluster. He eventually agrees to fund his frustrated wife’s studies at L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris — where sculptor Clara Westhoff (Roxane Duran) and poet Rainer Maria Rilke (Joel Basman) welcome her into the expat bohemian fold — though as she drifts further away from her marriage, her material demands on her husband increase. Neither the script nor Juri’s performance shy away from a certain hard-edged petulance in the character; however sympathetic her social circumstances, not every one of the film’s cards is stacked in her favor, as it evolves into an affectingly even-handed anatomy of a loving but dysfunctional marriage. (It should be noted that certain biographical and chronological details — particularly pertaining to Modersohn’s first marriage — have been slightly fudged here in the interest of romantic and dramatic tidiness.)

As is often the case with artist biopics, “Paula” has a slightly harder time dramatizing its subject’s unusual creative process, often settling for familiar tics of fey, impulsive inspiration — “Your emotions only express your lack of technique,” chides Mackensen — and well-worn observations on the relationship between art, hardship and loneliness. The filmmakers and their mischievous leading lady are generally on surer footing with ecstasy than agony, anyway: A sustained sequence detailing Paula’s sensual education at the hands of dreamy, guyliner-sporting Parisian painter Georges (Stanley Weber), tied into the creation of her famous nude self-portrait, is among the film’s loveliest.

Craft elements are all of a suitably high standard, even if the film’s ornate design elements seem inspired less by Paula’s own bold, heavily stylized paintings than past depictions of its well-decorated period: Costume designer Frauke Firl has particular fun with the gaudy, bustling excesses of Art Nouveau-era Paris and the heavy tweedy dourness of what Paula comes to regard as “Philistine” Germany. Frank Lamm’s soft, burnished lensing doesn’t shy away from rosy-gold filters toward the beginning — perhaps intentionally draping proceedings in the prettified 19th-century aesthetic Paula Modersohn-Becker labored so defiantly to escape.

Locarno Film Review: 'Paula'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 6, 2016. Running time: 123 MIN.

Production

(Germany-France) A Pandora Film Produktion, Grown Up Films production in co-production with Alcatraz Films. (International sales: The Match Factory, Cologne.) Produced by Ingelore König, Christoph Friedel, Claudia Steffen. Co-producers, Laurence Clerc, Olivier Thery-Lapiney.

Crew

Directed by Christian Schwochow. Screenplay, Stefan Kolditz, Stephan Suschke. Camera (color, widescreen), Frank Lamm; editor, Jens Klüber.

With

Carla Juri, Albrecht Abraham Schuch, Roxane Duran, Joel Basman, Stanley Weber, Nicki von Tempelhoff, Jonas Friedrich Leonhardi, Bella Bading. (German, French dialogue)
Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/paula-review-1201832190/

“Train to Busan,” which is the fastest driving film of the year in Korea, this week achieved the box office opening record for a Korean film in Singapore.

The zombie horror film, distributed by Clover Films and Golden Village, scored US$453,00 (S$611,000) putting it second in the chart behind only “Suicide Squad.” The DC comics superhero movie was the runaway leader with US$1.93 million (S$2.6 million) in 4 days. But it was enough to beat “Jason Bourne” which played in its second week to US$400,000 (S$540,000.)

The previous best Korean film in Singapore was “The Host,” which opened with US$252,000 (S$340,000) and went on to score US$507,000 (S$685,000) in 2016. It is expected to top the all time best performance of “200 Pounds Beauty” which weighed in with US$727,000 in 2007. (All data cited are supplied by the Clover as there is no public source for box office information in Singapore.)

“Train” became one of the fastest films to 10 million admissions in Korea, achieving that milestone in 19 days of official release, though extensive previews distort the comparison. Only 14 films have ever clocked up that total in Korea.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/asia/train-runs-to-singapore-box-office-record-1201832571/

“Shin Godzilla,” Toho’s reboot of its iconic monster franchise, roared to its weekend win at the Japanese box office. It is now projected to finish its run far north of the distributor’s initially forecast $40 million.

Reviews from critics have mostly been raves, while fans have been filing into theaters multiple times to pick up the nuances of the dialog-heavy storyline.

The highest ranking new entry to the top ten, at number four for the August 6-7 weekend, was the Toei SF/fantasy double bill “Kamen Rider Ghost the Movie: The 100 Eyecons and Ghost’s Fateful Moment” and “Animal Sentai Zuohger the Movie: Heart-throbbing Circus Panic!” Bowing on 304 screens nationwide, the two kid-targeted live-action films earned $2.5 million. That is nearly 30% more than Toei’s double bill featuring the Kamen Rider franchise last year, and the films are projected to end their run above the JPY1.0 billion ($9.8 million) milestone.

Opening at number five was “Rudolph the Black Cat,” Toho 3-D CG animation about a Countryside cat in downtown Tokyo. Released on 346 screens, the film grossed $2.1 million.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/asia/japan-box-office-shin-godzilla-second-weekend-win-1201832574/

Roadside Attractions has acquired U.S. distribution rights to the Smallbone brothers drama “Priceless” and set an Oct. 14 release date, Variety has learned exclusively.

It’s the feature debut for Joel and Luke Smallbone, who comprise the Christian band For King and Country. Joel Smallbone stars with Bianca Santos (“The Duff”), Amber Midthunder (“Longmire”), Jim Parrack (“True Blood”), and David Koechner (“The Goldbergs”).

Ben Smallbone directs from the script by Chris Dowling and Tyler Poelle. The film was produced by Steve Barnett (“300”). David Smallbone and Luke Smallbone serve as executive producers, and Jacob “Cubbie” Fink is a co-producer.

The story centers on a man who finds himself at a crossroads following the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl. Unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked — but when he discovers what he is delivering, he is faced with a life-changing choice.

“Part of the DNA of For King and Country is this idea of respect and honor in relationships and women being priceless,” Joel Smallbone said. “What we’ve found in our beliefs as men is that people are made equal. The film continues the idea that no one is a commodity and everyone deserves to be loved and loved well. And we are fortunate to have our family on board for this journey — our brother Ben directed the film while our father David and brother Luke produced.”

Roadside Attractions’ Howard Cohen said, “‘Priceless’ is a film that will push those emotional buttons which can engage and transform.”

The band’s single “Priceless” has quickly risen since its debut and currently is No. 1 on both the Billboard and CHR charts. The band embarks on “Priceless|The Tour” this fall.

The Australian duo broke out with the release of 2012’s “Crave” and has since sold 750,000 albums and topped the 100 million mark earlier this year in total streams of their music.

Roadside’s recent releases include “Our Kind of Traitor,” “Love and Friendship,” and “A Hologram for the King.” Upcoming titles include “Southside with You,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and James Schamus’ directorial debut “Indignation,” starring Logan Lerman.

Watch the trailer for “Priceless” below:

 

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/for-king-and-country-smallbone-brothers-priceless-roadside-attractions-1201832521/

Robert De Niro will receive a lifetime achievement award, the Heart of Sarajevo, on the opening night of the 22nd edition of the Sarajevo Film Festival, which runs Aug. 12-20.

As well as receiving the honor, the actor, who won Academy Awards for “The Godfather: Part II” and “Raging Bull,” and was Oscar nominated on five other occasions, will present Martin Scorsese’s restored “Taxi Driver,” in which he starred. The movie, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, is being shown at an open-air screening in front of a 3,000-strong audience.

De Niro will also be interviewed on-stage at the festival’s National Theater about his career by Mike Goodridge, CEO of Protagonist Pictures, who also programs the Kinescope section of the festival.

De Niro will next be seen in The Weinstein Company’s boxing film “Hands of Stone,” and Grindhouse Entertainment’s “Bus 657.” Further screen appearances include Taylor Hackford’s “The Comedian,” and HBO’s “Wizard of Lies,” in which he plays Bernie Madoff.

Previous recipients of the Heart of Sarajevo Award include Angelina Jolie, Benicio Del Toro, Gael Garcia Bernal and Steve Buscemi. The award was designed by French designer and filmmaker agnès b, who is also a patron of the festival.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/global/robert-de-niro-lifetime-achievement-award-sarajevo-film-festival-1201832606/

A lumbering, unmoored soaper of fraternal conflict and romantic healing in the trauma-ridden aftermath of the First World War, “Ceasefire” has all the hallmarks of having been infelicitously adapted from a longer, richer, more discursive epic novel: key character arcs seem unduly stymied, multiple timelines are hastily braided, and observations that might look poetic on the page turn purple on the actors’ tongues. So it’s something of a surprise, as the credits roll on screenwriter Emmanuel Courcol’s first feature as director, to learn that this cluttered, continent-hopping kinda-epic is his original creation. Either way, it’s a story that feels incompletely told, the most intriguing potential narratives of which play out peripherally to the damaged hero’s less compelling personal crisis.

At least, as played by an unusually starchy Romain Duris, he cuts a visually resplendent figure, dashingly bearded and attired in rakish, rumpled linen tailoring. Such decorative surface detailing represents the chief pleasure of “Ceasefire,” which is shot in classically honeyed fashion by Clint Eastwood’s favored d.p. Tom Stern; mostly looking the part of an old-school period wallow, it’d make glossy background viewing to a Sunday afternoon of quality time with the couch. Theatrically, it’s a less tempting proposition, though Duris’ name and ongoing public interest in the WWI centenary will ensure a measure of international distribution. Still, compared to other recent cinematic studies of the Great War’s legacy, notably James Kent’s U.K.-focused “Testament of Youth,” this is less stirring fare.

Courcol opens proceedings with a literal plunge into the hell of battle, as Stern’s camera drops from a lofty aerial establishing shot into the frenzied trenches at Argonne, where commander Georges Laffont (Duris) weathers a hailstorm of bullets, shrapnel and flying body parts. This suitably ugly pre-credit sequence is executed with some muscle, only for the tone to shift disorientingly as we cut to the sunlit, clean-scrubbed calm of Nantes in 1923. Living with his elderly mother (Maryvonne Schiltz), doleful, moon-faced war veteran Marcel (Grégory Gadebois) has apparently been struck deaf and dumb since his time in the trenches, but is tentatively drawn out of his shell by the kindly attentions of sign language therapist Hélène (Céline Sallette) and mousy war widow Madeleine (Julie-Marie Parmentier).

As the narrative ups sticks yet again, catching up with Georges — now shaggy-haired and tanned the shade of Clark Gable in “Mogambo” — in the former Upper Volta colony of French West Africa, viewers could be forgiven for wondering how these seemingly disparate strands correlate. As it turns out, Marcel and Georges are brothers, albeit a mere fraction more plausibly so than Arnold Schwarzenneger and Danny DeVito in “Twins”; a third military son, meanwhile, has been MIA for years. Pinched by a guilt-ridden sense of duty to his devastated family, and weary of trading goods with (somewhat heavily exoticized) African tribespeople, Georges returns to Nantes.

In case the helpful prognosis of a tribal witch doctor — “I sense anger in you, dark shadows fighting in your heart” — hasn’t sufficiently clued us in, Georges’ worldly exterior just barely masks his own deeply embedded PTSD when he comes home. Struggling to empathize with his brother’s less concealed trauma, he initiates a guarded romance with  Hélène, argues with his mother about fraternal responsibility, and generally louches about the countryside in covetable jazz-age leisurewear — costume designers Edith Vesperini and Stéphan Rollot can take a deserved bow. But Courcol’s wandering, flashback-strewn script lends little shape or tension to its egotistic protagonist’s inner turmoil — the stakes of which appear lower and less compelling than Marcel’s frustrated, inarticulate struggle to re-enter civilian life, though the film frequently sidelines him as brusquely as his brother does. Sallette and Parmentier, in particular, draw what pathos they can from roles that remain underwritten to the last, even as the film calls out Georges’ haughty assumption that war is principally a man’s tragedy.

Often a supple, playful performer in contemporary surrounds, Duris looks hemmed in by “Ceasefire’s” polite heritage aesthetic: He can’t do much to enliven or defrost this tough-talking poseur of a character, beyond striking the requisite poses with burly aplomb. “It was impossible to come back whole,” Marcel eventually writes of the human cost of war, which might well be true — though that’s no excuse for this attractive, hollow diversion to write its characters by halves.

Locarno Film Review: 'Ceasefire'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 5, 2016. Running time: 103 MIN. (Original title: "Cessez-le-feu")

Production

(France-Belgium) An Indie Sales, Polaris Film Production & Finance presentation in coproduction with Umedia, Fontana. (International sales: Indie Sales, Paris.) Produced by Christophe Mazodier. Co-producers, Jean-Jacques Neira, Martin Metz, Adrian Politowski, Gilles Waterkeyn, Nadia Khamlichi, Gilles Gramat, Hubert Caillard, Dominique Boutonnat, Arnaud Bertrand, Remi Prechac, Gilles De Laclause.

Crew

Directed and written by Emmanuel Courcol. Camera (color, widescreen), Tom Stern; editors, Geraldine Retif, Guerric Catala.

With

Romain Duris, Céline Sallette, Grégory Gadebois, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Maryvonne Schiltz, Wabinle Nabié, Yvon Martin, Arnaud Dupont, Mathilde Courcol-Rozes, Armand Eloi. (French, Mandinka dialogue)
Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/ceasefire-review-1201831999/

“Suicide Squad” smashed records, scoring a colossal $135.1 million debut despite suffering some of the worst reviews of the year.

That sets a new high-water mark for an August launch, lapping “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” $94.3 million bow. It also ranks as a new personal best for star Will Smith, trumping “I Am Legend’s” $77.2 million debut in 2007. The action spectacle is resonating with foreign crowds. “Suicide Squad” earned $132 million overseas from 57 territories, bringing its global total to more than $267 million.

“It bested anything that we could have expected,” said Jeff Goldstein,  Warner Bros. distribution executive vice president. “The marketing campaign was brilliant and the performances by the cast, starting with Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto, were just extraordinary. They’re fun and wicked and fans enjoy it.”

“Suicide Squad” has been one of the most hotly anticipated films of the summer. Buzz on the film has built steadily since Warner Bros. released a teaser trailer at last year’s Comic-Con that highlighted Jared Leto’s grill-sporting Joker and Margot Robbie’s demented, highly gymnastic Harley Quinn. However, the studio was caught off guard by the fusillade of withering reviews, prompting widespread concern on the lot that the poor reception would dampen the opening numbers.

 

Related

‘Suicide Squad’: Joel Kinnaman on Intense Training Regimen, Possible Sequels and Jared Leto’s Disgusting Gifts

 

And boy were those reviews awful! The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern called the film “…an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment,” New York’s David Edelstein branded it “the worst of the worst” and MTV’s Amy Nicholson dismissed the picture as “two hours of padding.”

“There’s a major disconnect with between what the critics are saying and what audiences are seeing,” said Goldstein.

Indeed, audiences appeared to like “Suicide Squad” better than critics, handing the film a B+ CinemaScore. Younger consumers were more receptive to the film’s charms than older moviegoers, with audiences under the age of 18 giving it an A rating. The question is will “Suicide Squad” show some endurance?

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” the previous entry in DC Comics’ series of interconnected superhero films, was also a critical piñata. It managed to overcome the bad notices to debut to $166 million, but the poor word-of-mouth caught up to the film in its second weekend, pushing receipts down by nearly 70%.

There are signs the hostile reviews are already hobbling “Suicide Squad.” The film dropped sharply on Saturday, falling 41% from its Friday numbers — although it should be said that those grosses include Thursday pre-show results.

The studio has a lot riding on “Suicide Squad.” It spent $175 million making the picture, including tens of millions on reshoots. But the high cost isn’t the only concern. DC is struggling to generate the same level of excitement for its stable of Batman, Superman and assorted Justice League heroes that Marvel has managed to stoke for its movies about costumed avengers. It needs more of its films to be beloved, as well as financially successful.

“Suicide Squad” was a difficult birth. Production on the film was reportedly rushed with writer and director David Ayer having less than two months to turn a script around. The film centers on a team of super villains who are recruited for a black ops mission by the U.S. government.

Men accounted for 54% of “Suicide Squad’s” opening weekend audience, with more than half of the audience clocking in under the age of 25. Warner Bros. released the film across 4,255 locations. Imax accounted for 381 of those venues, and the big screen company comprised $11 million of the first weekend gross.

The weekend’s other new release, EuropaCorp’s “Nine Lives,” died a quick death. The story of a ruthless executive (Kevin Spacey) who gets transformed into a cat, coughed up $6.5 million, and managed to score even worse reviews than “Suicide Squad.” Spacey barely promoted the movie, which was the brainchild of former EuropaCorp CEO Christophe Lambert, who originally envisioned the project as a comedy for adults before repositioning it as a family film. Ousted from the company last February, Lambert died of lung cancer in May. He was 51 years old. “Nine Lives” cost just over $30 million to make.

Last weekend’s champ, Universal’s “Jason Bourne,” dropped 62% in its second frame, topping out at $22 million. That was strong enough for a second place finish and brings the spy sequel’s domestic haul to $103.4 million.

STX Entertainment’s “Bad Moms” snagged third place in its second weekend, picking up $14.2 million. The raunchy comedy about a group of mothers who rebel against pressures to be perfect parents has made $51 million since opening, a healthy return on its $20 million budget. Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” nabbed fourth place with $11.6 million. The family comedy is one of the year’s biggest hits, having made $319.6 million during its run. Paramount’s “Star Trek Beyond” rounded out the top five, earning $10.2 million to push its stateside gross to $127.9 million after three weeks.

Warner Bros. had something to celebrate besides “Suicide Squad’s” hefty numbers. The studio crossed the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office over the weekend, powered by hits such as “Central Intelligence,” “The Conjuring 2” and even the much-loathed “Batman v Superman.” The studio is now the only Hollywood player to reach that milestone for 16 years in a row.

“Suicide Squad” also helped lift the overall box office. Receipts for the weekend will finish up at roughly $230 million, a nearly 74% jump on the year-ago period when “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” was in its second weekend of release. Once dismissed as a dumping ground for movies, August has become an important platform for more off-beat studio fare such as 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” and 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“What was formerly the dog days of summer is now a land of opportunity,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/suicide-squad-box-office-will-smith-1201832158/

“Whoever approached the Spirit will feel its warmth, hence his heart will be lifted up to new heights,” begins Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ “The Ornithologist.”

The quote from St. Anthony perfectly sums up the journey through which Rodrigues takes his viewers, a journey of change and exploration through mythology and self-identity. The film tells the story of Fernando, an ornithologist who gets lost on one of his expeditions and goes through a metaphysical, physical and psychological transformation as he discovers more about himself.  Variety talked to Rodrigues as the film bowed at Locarno.

The film is full of religious symbolism. How did you decide on that?

I tried to do like a biopic of St. Anthony but a totally upside one – totally happily blasphemous. St. Anthony is like the patron of Lisbon. I like to dig into Portuguese mythology and St. Anthony is very popular mythology. We have no idea if it’s true because it’s someone from the 13th century. I became obsessed with him: During the dictatorship, he was a symbolic figure – religion was very important at the time. I wanted to make an iconoclastic film about a character that I appropriated. My idea was to depart from the mythology.

Where did you film “The Ornithologist” and why did you choose that place?

We filmed it in one of the most remote parts of Portugal. In some places it’s like a nature reserve that not even humans can enter. But we had permission to film there. It’s like “virgin” nature. There are the species you see in the film that are protected: People aren’t allowed in so that they won’t get disturbed because there are few left. The character is trying to get back home. I didn’t want any interiors in the film. I liked the idea of being in mysterious places because they are not populated and very little is known about it.

What was your favorite part of making this film?

It was a pleasure to film birds, for example. I wanted to be an ornithologist when I was young. The access was tough and we had to carry all the materials by hand but it was like this adventurous way to make a film even if we were very prepared before we set out. Everything was very precise, to find the way of this character in nature. It’s physical, psychological and metaphysical.

Why did you switch with Paul Hamy as Fernando at the end of the film?

I thought it would be a lot stronger if the change was totally radical and being physical is the most radical you can be. I thought a lot about how animals look at us. The idea that the birds themselves can see the transformation before it happens. Usually you film birds in nature but you never think about how they see you and it was one of the ideas that made it through the film. It was a complete mystery to me. What is in their heads? It’s impossible to know but I thought that cinema could be the medium via which I could approach this kind of question.

What does the dove represent?

I was playing with that symbolism, it comes from religion and from painting, religion but seen through art – the white dove being the Holy Spirit. It’s all in this idea that’s kind of iconoclastic. I’m not religious myself but I’m intrigued by religious iconography. It’s a symbolic thing but can be a real thing, a real white dove that he gets in his hand.

What message do you hope viewers get from the film?

Everyone sees whatever they see. I think hard because all viewers are different. It depends on your background and experience. I think I’m hoping people get intrigued by the concept of spirituality in our current time, if in the end it really makes sense or not.I wanted to make a western. Like a “Pasolini-type” Western. Like in a Western, the hero has to endure a series of challenges and privations in an adventure journey towards self-knowledge and finally, perhaps, enlightenment. I guess that’s what I aimed for.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/joao-pedro-rodrigues-the-ornithologist-st-anthony-locarno-1201832161/

LOCARNO, Switzerland — The Locarno Film Festival’s innovative European Casting Director Award has spawned its first winner(s): France’s Antoinette Boulat and Elsa Pharaon for discovering first-timer Rod Paradot and casting him as the lead in Emmanuelle Bercot’s 2015 Cannes opening film “Standing Tall.”

Paradot’s performance as a turbulent teenager who repeatedly winds up in detention centers has drawn critical praise and scored him prizes as most promising French actor at both France’s Cesar and Lumiere awards this year.

The jury was made up by Swiss director Ursula Meier (“Sister”); prominent German producer Peter Rommel (“Wetlands”); and French actress Clotilde Courau (“In the Shadow of Women”).

Locarno’s new European casting director prize breaks new ground because there are virtually no nods for this key industry category within the global film community. Requests for a casting directors’ Oscar in the U.S. have fallen on deaf ears within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for years, though the Academy in 2013 did establish a Casting Directors branch. The European Film Academy also lacks a casting award within the roster of its EFA Awards.

“We are on a quest to enhance the profession,” says Rome-based casting director Beatrice Kruger, whose credits include Anton Corbijn’s “The American,” which George Clooney produced and starred in, and Woody Allen’s “To Rome With Love.”

“It’s a scandal that there is no award for casting directors,” she laments. Kruger is a member of the Academy and of the International Casting Directors Network, which has launched the prize in tandem with Locarno. “This is an important step forward, that we hope will serve as inspiration in Europe and in Hollywood,” Kruger noted.

ICDN which represents casting agents in 24 countries was founded in 2005 within the Berlin Film Festival’s Shooting Stars initiative which promotes young European actors.

These were the seven contenders for the European Casting Director Award: 

Simone Bär (Denmark) for LAND OF MINE by Martin Pieter Zandvliet, 2015, Denmark/Germany

Antoinette Boulat and Elsa Pharaon (France) for STANDING TALL by Emmanuelle Bercot, 2015, France

An Dorthe Braker (Germany) for LABYRINTH OF LIES by Giulio Ricciarelli, 2015, Germany

Amy Rowan (Ireland) for MY NAME IS EMILY by Simon Fitzmaurice, 2015, Ireland/Sweden/Norway

Yngvill Kolset Haga (Norway) for ONE NIGHT IN OSLO by Eirik Svensson, 2014, Norway

Magdalena Szwarcbart (Poland) for THE MIGHTY ANGEL by Wojciech Smarzowski, 2014, Poland

Pauline Hansson (Sweden) for DRIFTERS, by Peter Grönlund, 2015, Sweden

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/antoinette-boulat-elsa-pharon-win-first-european-casting-director-award-in-locarno-1201832214/

“Suicide Squad” is dominating the U.S. box office, heading for around $147 million in opening weekend ticket sales at 4,255 locations.

The massive opening weekend numbers shatter the previous record for August openings set by “Guardians of the Galaxy” when it earned $94.3 million in 2014. The Warner Bros. tentpole is shaking up a summer of disappointing box office performances with an opening day of $65 million Friday, which included $20.5 million from Thursday night previews. Imax screenings contributed about $5.8 million.

Friday results indicate that “Suicide Squad” is also performing well at the international box office — the film opened in 17 additional territories including the U.K., Mexico and Spain, bringing in $33 million in one day. That raises the international totals to $64.6 million.

The film, directed by David Ayer, has seen a critical thrashing over the past few days, earning it a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, it has earned a pretty strong CinemaScore, generating an overall B+ and especially promising A in the under 18 age group.

Based on the DC comic strip, “Suicide Squad” centers around a team of imprisoned antiheroes who are sent to execute dangerous missions. The star-studded cast includes Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, and Cara Delevingne.

Warner Bros. spent $175 million making the movie as part of its efforts to create an interlocking cinematic universe filled with DC superheroes, much like what Disney has achieved with the Marvel characters. Earlier this year the studio opened its DC cinematic universe with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which grossed a mildly disappointing $870 million worldwide after an impressive $166 million opening. The U.S. Critical response was largely negative, generating 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a B CinemaScore.

Fan support has been strong with nearly 4 million followers for the “Suicide Squad” Facebook page. Online ticket seller Fandango reported Tuesday that “Suicide Squad” was the top August pre-seller in the company’s 16-year history, eclipsing “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Rival studios are avoiding opening against “Suicide Squad” except for EuropaCorp’s family comedy “Nine Lives,” starring Kevin Spacey as a kitty cat. The $31 million production should open to around $6 million at 2,264 locations.

Universal’s second weekend of Matt Damon’s “Jason Bourne” will likely bring in about $22 million — enough to push the action film past $100 million. STX Entertainment’s “Bad Moms,” which had a production budget of about $20 million, is expecting a strong hold into week two — it should earn about $14 million, with a 10-day total of over $50 million.

‘Suicide Squad’ Members: Who’s Who
Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/box-office-suicide-squad-opening-weekend-nine-lives-1201831969/