January Special : French film Kabullywood harnesses youths' hunger for arts
A group of friends - a musican, an actress, a documentary maker and an artist in the Afghan capital Kabul - decide to follow their dream to establish a culture centre in the city after the Taliban clamp-down on arts.
RFi's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Kabullywood's director Louis Meunier.
Four friends set about renovating a disused cinema inhabited by the former projectionist and a bunch of orphans.
Roya Heydari plays Shab, a young woman who against the wishes of her brother, hangs out with her male artist friends. Farid Joya is her mean brother Khaled. Ghulam Reza Rajabi is the painter, Mustafa. A contemporary guitar player, Qais, is driven by his desire to compose, and Mohd Qais Shaghasy take this role. The project leader, reluctant at first, but eager to impress Shab, is called Sikander. He's a documentary film maker whose father and police-chief is concerned primarily about his son's well-being and future.
Kabullywood champions freedom of expression in a place where it is curtailed. But it's also about generational misunderstandings. It has the feel of a first feature film, with a certain freshness and intuitive experimentation. However, it's not just any debut. It was made against the odds in Kabul, where Louis Meunier and his crew had to deal with real-life security issues.
The docu-fiction is a brave attempt to show the enthusiasm and convictions of some Afghans to defend and keep art and artists alive.
Listen to the interview with the link above.
CINEFILE January 2019 Another Day of Life and Les invisibles
In January, Cinefile takes a closer look at Les invisibles, The Invisible People, an artistic gesture of social realism to foster a sense of resistance against inhumane pragmatism, while a docu-drama Another Day of Life combines highly-colourful and imaginative animation, historicial documents and recent interviews in a tribute to the work of reporter Richard Kapuczinski during the Angolan War.
RFI's Rosslyn Hyams hosts guest directors Louis-Julien Petit and Raul de la Fuente.
Corine Masiero who plays Manu, the manager of the womens' day-time shelter says Les Invisibles, a film with a balance of gravity and humour, is a political film.
“Manu starts out with setting up a humanist centre. When she loses official support, she says, OK, I’m going to take this on my own shoulders. It’s what people around us today are doing to oppose the agro-food heavyweights, or they flout laws to help migrants and refugees. You get to a point where you have to move your arse, no matter what. Julien-Louis Petit’s film tells politicians that, hey, enough, we the ordinary people are doing what we can. Now it’s time you found solutions.”
Click on the link to listen to the interview.
Love smoulders in Cold War and embers refuse to die in L'amour Flou
In October's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams talks to Cannes award-winning director Pawel Pawlikovski about his grave love story, Cold War and talks about light-hearted but serious unlove story L'Amour Flou's success with actor-directors Romane Bohringer and Philippe Rebbot. Click on the arrow to listen to Cinefile.
A lot has already been written about Pawel Pawlikovski's film, as it has travelled across the world since winning the prize for best director at the 2018 Cannes Fim Festival.
Zula and Viktor fall in love just after World War Two is over. She is much younger and intrinsically unsettled. She unsettles Viktor who remains perturbed throughout the film.
Joana Kulig plays opposite Tomasz Kot and they are a well-matched as ill-matched lovers, her exuberance and passion versus his smouldering desire. Although in real life, there is a mere five-year age difference.
It's not surprising as when they first meet at an audition of girls and boys from the Polish countryside, ironically, supposed to be pure, Zula explains that she if she killed her father it's because she needed to explain to him that "he had confused his daughter, with his wife."
Kulig explains why this line is so important in building Zula's character.
"We knew that she had a problem with the father, with a really difficult situation and something really strange about her background. So in her relationship with Viktor, we knew that Zula, who is so sensitive, at the same time, she doesn't have a good example from men. Sometimes Zula fights with Viktor, but he really loves her, and she has a problem with trust. She later on realises the problem and turns to drink to help. But it doesn't."
No matter that they want different things from life, Viktor and Zula are destined to be together, because of love.
Contrasts are key to the director's vision in Pawlikowski's third feature film Black and white, a powerful folk, jazz and rock and roll music score and the passage of 30 years in the space of less than two hours, sharpen the drama of Cold War, which as Pawlikovski says "is not political, although public money does go to folk culture rather than to some more contentious expressions. That being said there is freedom of expression today."
Cold War is not just a clever title about an impossible love affair. It led Kulig to think about the Communist past of Poland.
"I knew it was difficult in those times for my parents and grandparents, and I remember my mother and grandmother talking about Walesa, and thinking this was very important. Now we can say what we think. In those days people were scared and had to be careful."
L'amour flou (Hazy Love)
In their first directing bid, the Bohringer-Rebbot team, mother-father and two children, Rose and Raoul, dish up a comedy based on the drama of separation. They make a sallient point about the blurry lines upon which so many relationships flounder, and make a success out of a situation commonly deemed a failure.
Experienced actors both, they bring something refreshing to their French romp.
Romane and Philippe have had enough of each other. Or so they think. It's not so easy to cut the ties and move on, or out, when you have two little ones you want to care for.
Avoiding potentially stale humour about domestic love-on-the-wane, the duo lead the spectator along a bumpy path to possible contentment.
Bohringer and Rebbot are at their funniest in this bundle of emotions when they feel the pull of attraction elsewhere. Rebbot's eye wanders to a much younger jogger, is thwarted by a cat-allergy, while Bohringer is led astray by lust and fantasy, hetero and homo sexual.
Bravo to them for converting a family break-up into a tender un-breakup.
A compassionately splendid The Happy Prince, in We the Coyotes, LA tests young love
For RFI's December Cinefile, there's Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince about the legendary writer Oscar Wilde's last chapter of life. We the Coyotes is a Franco-US coming of age-couple flick with howling good vibes. Click on the arrow on the photo to listen to Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde's grandson talking about his ancestor and the "moving" film, and to Hanna Ladoul and Marco La Via, directors of We the Coyotes whose feature is close to home.
The Happy Prince
Director and leading actor for The Happy Prince, Rupert Everett, takes on the challenge of engaging cinema-goers with yet another interpretation of 19th century writer Oscar Wilde.
Everett's rendering is framed within Wilde's fairy story of the same name; by way of introduction Wilde is seen as storyteller and loving father.
Then he delves into the trials and tribulations of the legendary literary figure, juggles with the exuberance of a person who has become an icon of wit as well as of gay rights.
The first-time director's acting experience creates a captivating and beautiful cinema story about love, as if Wilde might have predicted that his life would be fit for film.
Everett gives Wilde the expected enfant terrible attitude, and distills the character and the story with serious stuff which strikes a chord or two today.
Oscar's lover, Alfred Bosie Douglas is played by Irish actor Colin Morgan, quite transformed as the beautiful blond boy.
The two of them take up most of the screen time as they travel from Dieppe to England and to France.
However, three solid second roles, shore-up their performances. Colin Firth plays loyal pal, Reggie Turner, Edwin Thomas as the adorable Robbie Ross is the most tender, and Emily Watson as Constance, Wilde's estranged wife and the mother of his two sons is gracious and romantic.
The locations in France and Italy are beautiful, and French actress Béatrice Dalle adds a little zing as the punchy cabaret mistress.
Everett pulls off the challenge.
We the Coyotes
Jake (McCaul Lombardi) is in love with Amanda (Morgan Saylor) and apparently carefree. Amanda is in love with Jake and is pent up. The two 20-somethings have just moved across the country to the West coast, to Los Angeles to follow their dreams.
They appear to be incompatible but are in fact delightfully complementary.
The film has an ordinary feel to it. The camera follows the two young adults as they try to find work, somewhere to sleep, get their car towed away and their money stolen. All in a day's normal life adventures when you're new in town.
In between the couple's pitfalls and the less pretty parts of the city are mischief, beats, Jake's laid-back style, an endearing happy-go-lucky friend and a dose of good fortune.
The two up and coming actors are spot on.
The basis of the story sounds familiar. Two young French people, Hanna Laddoul and Marco La Via had set off to discover the US and Hollywood a few years ago. Their first feature film made it to ACID, the independent distributors programme on the sidelines of the main official Cannes Film Festival.
Happy as Lazzaro and The Mumbai Murders
In November's Cinefile RFI's Rosslyn Hyams speaks to Alicia Rohrwacher, Italy's fairytale filmmaker about Happy as Lazzaro and Indian director Anurag Kashya's, more brutal style in The Mumbai Murders. Click on the arrow on the photo to hear the interviews.
Alicia Rohrwacher on Happy as Lazzaro
You can count on 36-year-old Alicia Rohrwacher for a miracle.
Lazzaro Felice, or Happy as Lazzaro doesn't disappoint. A wonderful miracle occurs as Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) resusscitates after a fall on a lonely hillside and is rescued by a fairy-tale wolf to find that his family has left behind the world of innocence that they knew.
They have had to go out and fend for themselves after the feudal Marquesa falls on hard times.
They may have lived frugally and in isolation before, but on the outskirts of the city, they are truely excluded. One character intercedes: "People only realise they have been slaves when they are free."
"We use fables because what is happening in Italy these days is so extreme, that it's difficult to imagine that it's real, so maybe just fairy-tales can be useful to understand the reality in this moment and imagine another end of the story," she says, "I hope we will always be free to talk. The problem is [whether or not] there are people listening."
If you aren't up to speed on the politics of Italy, the film has plenty of universal hooks to grab, as well as pleasant decors, grass, trees, a decrepit mansion and a curious shelter by the ring road cobbled together out of recycled bits and bobs.
Rohrwacher is joined again by her actress sister, Alba in the second part of the film. She seems to fit the picture each time.
"When I wrote the script I never thought of her. It was because we met Agnesse Graziani, the character of young Antonia. I was very touched by Agnesse as a beautiful human being, but also because she was so similar to my sister. So they asked them to be the same character. I would love to write a movie about my sister, but in these two movies she arrives after the writing, as big beautiful surprise."
The Cannes Film Festival 2018 gave two Best Screenplay Awards in 2018. One went to Happy as Lazzaro, the other to Iranian director Jafar Panahi's 3 Faces.
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The Mumbai Murders
Anurag Kashyap is happily continuing his career as director and producer and making small-screen Netflix pix as well as cinema releases.
The Mumbai Murders (2016) is a tough one to watch. A serial killer (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is hunted by drug-riddled cop (Vicky Kushal).
Some of the scenes are extremely cruel, eye-shutting stuff. As the film is Hindi, if you close your eyes you also miss the translated dialogue in the subtitles.
"I do not like the superhero violence at all, because violence is painful, its repelling, it's extreme, but we make it palatable. You don't see the true nature of violence," he says.
Siddiqui as the 1960s unhinged serial killer, seems to reach a peak of unpalatable nastiness and is reputed to have suffered personally during and after the making of the film.
Kashyap, as in previous bad or ineffective-cop and worse-villain films, cracks a pace and spirals away in a tornado of brutality. Getting beyond that, the twists and turns in the narration allow some intellectual respite from the emotional battering.
One of his latest films released in India is called Manmarziyaan, a complicated by traditional triangular love-rivalry story, and stars Vicky Kushal, Tapsee Pannu and Abishek Bacchhan.