Saturday, October 30, 2010

BAFTA screenwriting lectures - complete videos

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) held a Screenwriters on Screenwriting lecture series in September. Now they've posted those six lectures online. I've posted them all below and included the links for a pdf file of the transcripts.

The featured screenwriters were Sir David Hare (The Hours, The Reader), Christopher Hampton CBE (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement), Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire), Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory), and Sir Ronald Harwood CBE (The Pianist, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).

Quite an impressive lineup.

Each lecture was followed up by a Q&A with the audience. For a transcript of the lectures and discussions, click on the link after the video.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Film review: Inside Job

Writer/Director: Charles Ferguson
Producer: Audrey Marrs, Charles Ferguson
Narrator: Matt Damon
Documentary, 120 minutes

You may think you know what happened in during the great economic meltdown of 2008. But do you really?

Some films have tried to lay it all out for us, such as  Michael Moore's excellent Capitalism: A Love Story. But critics often dismiss Moore's work by attacking him personally and ignoring the films themselves. Charles Ferguson has the advantage of not being a personality, at least not yet. He was Oscar-nominated for his superb Iraq War documentary No End in Sight, but also has a B.A. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in political science. He puts his expert knowledge to use in meticulously laying out the events and machinations behind the financial crisis in his latest film Inside Job.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

13th Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal, Nov. 10 to 21

The 13th Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) has announced its programming. This year's festival takes place Nov. 10-21 and opens with Stephanie Lanthier's Les Fros. The closing night film will be Lucy Walker's Waste Land which was just nominated for the  IDA Documentary Awards' top prize.

In between, you'll be able to catch many of the major hits on the festival circuit, such as those from Sundance (The People vs. George Lucas), Hot Docs (A Drummer's Dream) or the Toronto International Film Festival (Pink Saris). But be sure to catch some of RIDM's own discoveries. In the 2009 RIDM, one of the breakout films was the world premiere of Last Train Home by Lixin Fan, which won the Cinémathèque québécoise award for best film from Quebec/ Canada. It then went on to win numerous other awards at other festivals including the top prize at the world's largest documentary festival, the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA).

2010 European Union Film Festival, Toronto - programming announced

The European Union Film Festival takes place in Toronto annually in late November. This year, the festival runs from November18-30. It's different than the other film festivals because it doesn't have programmers. It is instead sponsored by the member states of the European Union, and each country is submits their own selection for screening. The screenings are free to the public, but they do accept donations.

All screenings take place at the Royal Theatre, 608 College St. West (5 short blocks west of Bathurst). Tickets are distributed on a first come, first serve basis one hour before the screening time. Audience members may leave their ticket stubs with the volunteer ticket collectors after the screening to give the film they just saw their vote for the Audience Award. Arrive early -- many screenings sell out, especially well-reviewed films or those with large ethnic communities in Toronto.

Nominees announced for 2010 IDA Documentary Awards

Earlier today, the International Documentary Association (IDA) announced their nominees for the 2010 IDA Documentary Awards. In the top category of Distinguished Feature Documentary, the five nominees were Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop, Laura Poitras’ The Oath, Joonas Berghaell and Mika Hotakainen’s Steam of Life, Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s Sweetgrass, and Lucy Walker’s Waste Land. All are very different in style, and it's debatable whether Exit Through The Gift Shop is a documentary in the true sense of the word. But they are all strong and interesting films.

In the category for Music Documentary Award, the nominees are Mark Moormann and Jim Bigham's For Once In My Life, Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont's Genius Within: The Inner Life Of Glenn Gould, Leanne Pooley's The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, Mark Landsman's Thunder Soul, and Mat Hames' When I Rise.  Previously announced awards are the IDA Career Achievement award for Barbara Kopple; the IDA's Pioneer Award for Susan Raymond and Alan Raymond; the Preservation and Scholarship Award for filmmaker and professor Mark J. Harris; and the 2010 IDA/Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award for Jeff Malmberg, director of Marwencol.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Friday, December 3rd at the Directors Guild Theater in Los Angeles. The gala will be hosted by famed documentarian Morgan Spurlock.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nominees announced for the 2010 AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards

The Australian Film Institute earlier today announced their nominations for their 2010 AFI awards (not to be confused with with the American Film Institute). The announcement was hosted by Jacki Weaver, who was joined by various other actors including special guest AFI Ambassador Cate Blanchett. Ms. Weaver herself received one of the record 18 nominations by the crime thriller Animal Kingdom. It took at least one nomination in each category in which it was eligible. It cannot win all 18 awards, however, since two of its nominations were in the Best Lead Actor category and while three nominations were in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Next with 12 nominations was the war drama Beneath Hill 60. Jane Campion's period romance Bright Star about the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Fanny Brawne was next with 11 nominations. Other multiple nominees include Tomorrow When The War Began, Bran Nue Dae, The Tree and The Boys are Back.

The awards ceremony takes place over two nights on December 10 and 11 at Melbourne's Regent Theatre. 

Free screenings - The Worldwide Short Film Festival National Tour

The Worldwide Short Film Festival normally takes place in Toronto in early June. It is run by the Canadian Film Centre and is the largest short film festival in North America. Now they are taking the show on the road and offering a free screening of sample films from the recent festival in three Canadian cities -- Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver -- in their Best of the Fest National Tour.

Films include a number of prize-winners such as I.D. by Sam Firth, which won numerous awards such as the “Human Condition 60 Second Film Competition” at the Chicago International Film Festival. The Poodle Trainer won Best Documentary Short at this year's WSFF, which Slip won Best Experimental Short. There is a good mix of fiction and documentary, live-action and animation, and Canadian and international films.

Screenings take place in mid- to late-November. To RSVP, click on the link provided.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Award winners for the 11th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival

The 11th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival came to a close on Sunday evening in Toronto at a closing night party where filmmakers, musicians, artists, media and industry celebrated, and where a number of awards were handed out. The awards reception took place at The Mod Club, hosted by award-winning actor Billy Merasty (Elijah).

The Best Dramatic Feature prize went to Boy, which was presented at the sold-out opening night gala. The Alanis Obomsawin Best Documentary Award winner was Y el Rio Sigue Corriendo (And the River Flows On).

The festival's Executive Director, Jason Ryle congratulated the winners. "They embody the excellence and diversity of works presented at the festival. I am consistently impressed by the ingenuity and creativity of Indigenous artists worldwide and I look forward to future work from the recipients." 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Awards for 2010 Festival du nouveau cinéma

Although Saturday, October 23 wasn't yet the last day of the 39th Festival du nouveau cinéma, they held their closing gala screening of Curling by Denis Côté along with the awards ceremony and the closing party. The top prize Louve d'Or went to Año Bisiesto (Leap Year) by Michael Rowe, which won the Camera d’Or (best first feature) at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The Canadian film Oliver Sherman by Ryan Redford won the Grand Prix Focus - Cinémathèque québécoise awarded to the best feature from the Focus section, which also comes with a prize of $1,500 in cash and $3,500 in services.

Two prizes were shared. The Best Actress Award was a tie between Avtandil Tetradze in Susa, and Sibel Kekilli for Die Fremde (When We Leave). The Grand Prix for short film was also a tie, between Sophie Lavoie by Anne Emond, and Jonathan et Gabrielle by Louis-Philippe Eno.

Next year's 40th Festival du nouveau cinéma will take place from October 12-23, 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

4th annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards - nominees announced

Nominations for the fourth annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards were announced and leading the way with 6 nominations was the Chinese blockbuster Tangshan dadizheng (Aftershock) by Feng Xiaogang. It recently broke the all-time Chinese box-office record and was submitted by China to the Academy Awards for consideration for the Best Foreign Language Film category. It received APSA nominations for Best Feature Film, Achievement in Directing, Achievement in Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by an Actress.

The Korean film
Shi (Poetry) by Lee Chang-dong was next with four nominations for Best Feature Film, Achievement in Directing, Best Screenplay and Best Performance by an Actress for Yun Jung-hee. Lee Chang-dong took the Award for Best Feature Film in the inaugural 2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards for Miryang (Secret Sunshine). 31 films from 15 countries received nominations. Nominated countries include Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, New Zealand and Iran. Canada was a co-producing nation with China for the excellent Best Documentary nominee Last Train Home

Winners will be announced at a ceremony at
the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Australia’s Gold Coast on December 2, 2010.

11th Annual imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, October 20-24, 2010

The 2010 imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival begins today with a free welcome reception at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, 16 Spadina Road. It starts at 1pm and goes until 4pm. After an opening prayer by honoured elder Rose Logan, community leaders will share greetings and there will be performances by Gabe Gaudet, Eddy Robinson, Richard Scott-Moore and the Tribal Vision Dancers.  

Over the next five days, you'll have an opportunity to view some acclaimed films by aboriginal filmmakers such as the opening night film Boy, world premieres such as Jeremy Torrie's A Flesh Offering and Zacharias Kunuk's (Atanarjuat – The Fast Runner) latest feature Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change. The festival also screens the first ever feature from Greenland Nummioq, which has been submitted to the Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film category.

In addition to films, imagineNATIVE programs work by indigenous artists in video, radio, music and new media.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The 2010 Gotham Independent Film Awards - nominations announced

Awards season kicked off on Monday, October 18 with the announcement by Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) of the nominations for the 20th anniversary Gotham Independent Film Awards, given for smaller-budget, independently distributed features from American-born or American-based filmmakers. Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone led the nominations with three for best feature, best ensemble and breakthrough actor Jennifer Lawrence. It was an indie hit about a girl from the Ozark Mountains searching for her father. It's three nominations were the same three that The Hurt Locker received last year to kick off its successful awards season that culminated in key victories at the Academy Awards.

Also nominated for best feature were Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, and Matt Reeves’ Let Me In. The nominees for best documentary were 12th & Delaware, Inside Job, The Oath, Public Speaking and Sweetgrass. In addition to these six competitive categories, IFP previously announced honorary awards for filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, actors Hilary Swank and Robert Duvall, and Focus Features CEO James Schamus. The winners will be announced Monday, November 29th at Cipriani Wall Street, in New York City.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Opera review: Death in Venice

Composer: Benjamin Britten
Libretto: Myfanwy Piper
Director: Yoshi Oida
Conductor: Steuart Bedford
Cast: Alan Oke, Peter Savidge, William Towers

Last night was the opening night for the Canadian Opera Company's production of Death in Venice by Benjamin Britten. The Toronto audience was privileged to hear Steuart Bedford lead the orchestra, Britten's own choice of conductor for the 1973 premiere. He exuded a comfort and ease with the music that made its strange modernism come to life beautifully. In the demanding lead role of Gustav von Aschenbach, British tenor Alan Oke was magnificent. In a supporting role, his fellow Brit Peter Savidge was delightful as "The Traveller," which took the form of numerous roles.

Dramatically, the story taken from Thomas Mann's novella is pretty thin: A German writer Aschenbach whose wife passed away, decides to vacation in Venice where he spies a youth Tadzio and lusts after him. Even after warnings of a cholera plague begin to circulate, he chooses to stay behind and imagines that they could be alone together. It's not exactly the usual melodrama that we get with opera. Rather, it's a spare, minimalist inner struggle. The same story became the basis for Luchino Visconti's movie of the same name.

Award winners announced for VIFF 2010

Prior to the closing gala screening on Friday, October 15 of the French film L'illusioniste (The Illusionist) by Sylvain Chomet, award winners were announced for the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival. The closing screening took place in the Visa Screening Room at the Empire Granville 7 Cinemas. Two juried awards were announced previously. Two other awards were decided by jury, while another five awards were chosen by the audience.

Winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film award was Incendies, which also won that same prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was chosen to be Canada's representative for the Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, and was the best film I saw at TIFF and the best film I've seen so far this year. Montreal-based director Denis Villeneuve previous won this prize in 2000 with his debut feature Maelstrom. Winner of  Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film was Montreal filmmaker Halima Ouardiri's 15-minute short film Mokhtar, which coincidentally is set in the Middle East as is Incendies. The jury also added two impromptu categories for best actor and actress and bestowed those awards to Alexander Gammal (MODRA) and Lubna Azabal (Incendies) respectively.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 39th Festival du nouveau cinéma, Oct. 13-24, 2010

Tonight is the opening night for the 39th edition of the Festival du nouveau cinéma. Over the next 12 days, they will be screening 295 films from 51 countries including 33 world premieres and 64 North American premieres. Although the festival is called "nouveau cinéma," it is the oldest film festival in Montreal.

Tonight's opening night gala will be 10½ by Daniel Grou-Podz, while the festival closes with Denis Cote’s Curling, both coming-of-age Quebec films.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival programming announced

Tonight at the Japan Foundation in Toronto, the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival announced their program for their upcoming 2010 festival. The opening night feature will be the fun martial arts comedy Gallants, while the closing feature is the Taiwanese romantic comedy Au Revoir Taipei. In between, you'll find a varied assortment of intriguing, exciting and prize-winning films from around the world. Reel Asian also features a large number of concurrent events for both the industry and the public. They will have gallery installations, live music at the Rivoli, industry workshops, parties, and the annual Pitch Competition.

Founded in 1997 by producer Anita Lee (National Film Board, Ontario) and journalist Andrew Sun, Reel Asian is Canada's longest-running festival of films by and about East Asians by Canadian and international filmmakers. They have also been slowly expanding beyond the downtown festival itself with year-round events. Two screenings will take place at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, starting with an October 18 screening of Ip Man 2, starring Donnie Yen. The 2010 festival runs from November 9th to 15th.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Call for applications: NSI Drama Prize program

The National Screen Institute (NSI) has announced their call for applications to their NSI Drama Prize program. The NSI is based in Winnipeg and is one of Canada's leading film schools. The Drama Prize is for filmmaking teams of two or three people with a short film fiction project of no more than 10 minutes.

The teams should consist of writer, director and producer but the writer may double as the director or producer. The director and producer, however, may not be the same person.  Successful applicants will be expected to spend some time in Winnipeg as part of their training, but the remainder of the training and the production of the film itself can take place in wherever the teams are based.

This is an excellent program for emerging filmmakers. The application is very detailed, so you will want to get started on it as soon as possible. The deadline for applications to be received in their office is Wednesday, November 17, 4:30 p.m. Central Time. They do not accept applications by fax or email.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

WGC presents the CTV Diverse Screenwriters Program

The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) and television network CTV have partnered to present a new professional development program for screenwriters. This is an exciting new initiative to address the present lack of diversity on screens and in the writing rooms.

Canadian writers of any underrepresented group may apply, but must self-identify. You need not be a member of the WGC. Up to 8 participants from across Canada will be selected to partake in a one-week intensive workshop in March 2011. As this is the first year of the program, it will only take place in Toronto but there is the possibility that it can expand to other cities in the future. After the workshop, writers will spend 8-12 weeks developing their project idea with a mentor. At the end of this period, one writer will be selected to receive a paid internship on an existing CTV series.

Deadline for applications is December 1, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Foreign Language Film submissions for 2011 Oscars [updated]

Friday, October 1 at 5pm PT was the deadline to submit entries to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for consideration at the 2011 Academy Awards in the categories of Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film and Foreign Language Film. For the Foreign Film category, the process is quite convoluted. Each country's Oscar selection committee submits its single choice to the Academy. Eventually this will get whittled down to a short list of 9 contenders on January 20, 2011 before the Academy announces the final 5 nominees with the nominees of every category on January 25. The 83rd Academy Awards take place on February 27, 2011.

This year, there were submissions from 65 countries, the same number as last year. Countries included for the first time were Ethiopia and Greenland, with its first ever film Nuummioq (in spite of the fact that TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey had tweeted that they weren't allowed to submit because Greenland didn't have an official Oscar committee). Some such as Vietnam did not submit this year. Canada's choice of Denis Villeneuve's Incendies is considered a strong choice, and was my favourite film that I saw from this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Other strong contenders include Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu's Biutiful from Mexico, Xavier Beauvois' Of Gods and Men from France (winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes), and Thailand's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (winner of the Palme d’Or).

Controversially, Italy selected the comedic La prima cosa bella (The First Beautiful Thing) instead of the critical darling Io sono l'amore (I Am Love) which stars Tilda Swinton speaking fluent Italian and Russian. Curiously, Finland's choice is a documentary, the fine Steam of Life.

The Online Film Critics Society list of 100 Best First Films

The Online Film Critics Society today returned to compiling their Top 100 lists, their first since 2004. Their first list is their compilation of the top 100 debut films by directors. Needless to say, it's an interesting but arguable list.

The choice for the number 1 spot is rather obvious, since Citizen Kane is considered by many to be the number one film of all time, regardless of it being a debut film. The fact that it was Orson Welles' first picture makes it all the more impressive an accomplishment. But the rest of the list, however, includes some middling first films by well-known directors. For example, I liked Clerks as much as the next guy, but it isn't really all that exceptional. The list is also very Hollywood-centric with not enough foreign titles, with most of the foreign films mentioned coming from France. The list is heavily weighted to the last couple of decades. There are few women directors's films, and no Asian titles (e.g. where's Red Sorghum by Zhang Yimou?). Only two documentaries make the list.

Still, it's worth taking a look at what others consider to be important works. And some of the films mentioned are ones I haven't yet seen, so I'll be adding them to my viewing list. Others I haven't seen for a while, so this has piqued my interest to see them again too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2010 Toronto Palestine Film Festival, October 2-8

The 3rd annual Toronto Palestine Film Festival begins today and runs for one week. It features films by and about Palestinians. It opens tonight at 6:30 with a screening of Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains. The closing night film will be Budrus by Julia Bacha.

Screenings take place throughout the week. In addidtion, there will be industry events, panels, breakfasts and Q&A sessions with attending filmmakers. A highlight will be Thursday's panel discussion A Conversation with Ken Loach and Paul Laverty. Ken Loach is a highly respected Irish filmmaker and Paul Laverty is his Scottish writing collaborator.

Toronto's Nuit Blanche 2010

"Nuit blanche" is a French term that literally means "white night" but is an idiom that means an all-nighter or "sleepless night." In the late 90s, several European cities started hosting events with this name for all-night arts events. They proves so popular that they've spread to many other cities including Toronto and Montreal, and for the first time this year New York. Whereas Montreal's festival takes place in February as a reprieve from the cold winter, Toronto's event always happens in early fall and is billed as a dusk 'til dawn event from 7pm to 7am.

Toronto has been hosting the Nuit Blanche since 2006. Each year it grows bigger, with last year's event attracting over 1 million people. As usual, the city is divided in to 3 zones, each one organized by a different curator: Zone A curated by Gerald McMaster, Zone B by Anthony Kiendl, and Zone C by Christof Migone. It's always a bit hit-or-miss, but it's fun trying to take in as much as you can handle. If you plan to catch a fair bit, it's best to have a bicycle. But the crowds can be very thick, so you have to zip around them. And many (most) of the venues do not stay open until 7am as they're supposed to, so don't leave any of your must-sees until the very end.