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Antonio Banderas Curates Realism in Spanish Cinema

Even when he's just voicing Puss in Boots in Shrek movies, Antonio Banderas is one of Spain's most visible cultural exports. His collaboration with Antonio Banderasdirector Pedro Almadóvar on films such as the Oscar-nominated Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown established him as an international symbol of the Movida -- Spain's post-Franco counter-cultural movement -- while starring roles in Evita, The Mask of Zorro, Desperado and myriad other hits launched him as Hollywood royalty. And now, sharing his luster, the screen idol hopes to spotlight lesser-seen treasures from the Spanish vaults.

Banderas is the curator of a new film series, Realism in Spanish Cinema 1951 – 1963, spanning post-WWII films produced under the authoritarian dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The series is comprised of 10 classic works selected for their artistic and historical merit.

They will be screened from May 10 to 19, 2010, at New York's courtly Cervantes Institute. Banderas, who serves on the Cervantes advisory board, conceived the idea for the program. He will be on hand to open the series on May 10, prior to the screening of Furrows / Surcos, by José Antonio Nieves Conde.

Each selection mounts a veiled critique of 1950s and 1960s life in Spain, with its considerable challenges and repressions. As the Generalissimo enforced cultural politics to engineer national homogeneity, work deemed out of step with Catholic, family and fascist ideals was largely nixed. Filmmakers who failed to toe the line faced incarceration or worse.

This harsh imperative gave rise to artistic sleights of hand that make watching the era's films an adventure in decoding. Not unlike their Eastern Bloc counterparts, SpanishScene from the film filmmakers had to shroud their social and political commentary in sly intimations in order to slip past the national censors. Allusion, symbolism and metaphor entered the narrative and visual foreground, and put a fresh spin on Neo-Realism. 

A particular blend of tragicomedy also filled Spanish screens of the era. As Banderas points out, "What do expect from a country that produced Goya?" 

Most of the Realism in Spanish Cinema titles participated in or earned prizes at international festivals. (Surcos, Bienvenido Mr. Marshall!, Muerte de un Ciclista and Los golfos had a Cannes Film Festival connection, while Venice FF united El cochecito, Calle Mayor and El verdugo, leaving Luis Buñuel's Viridiana one for the film history archives.)

While French, Italian and other European productions from the post-war era have been celebrated around the world, Spanish cinema of the '50s has yet to enjoy broad distribution in the US. Realism in Spanish Cinema seeks to redress this imbalance.

All of the films are in Spanish with English subtitles. Each will receive one screening, beginning with the opening night selection. Admission is gratis.

An annotated listing of the films is available at

Realism in Spanish Cinema 1951 - 1963
May 10 to 19, 2010

Cervantes Institute New York
211 East 49th Street
New York, NY 10017
212 308 7720

Seattle Int'l Film Festival Is America's Biggest

To impress me, a guy from Seattle, Washington, once FedExed a 20-pound salmon to my New York address. Okay, that was a wow. But nothing like the Seattle International Film Festival, which envelops the Emerald City for 25 days (May 20 – June 13, 2010), raining down more than 400 movies from 67 countries in at least a dozen different venues.

America's largest film festival is a surge of independent and world cinema, with documentaries ever on the rise. It's known as more of an audience event, and not a mandatory drill for the industry. So the fact that it overlaps the last three days of the Cannes Film Festival is of no tragic concern. In 2009, roughly 150,000 cinema lovers flocked to its screens.

Yet by no means is SIFF some Pacific Northwest recess off Hollywood's trodden path. On the contrary, it's a favorite testing ground for many filmmakers -- Francis Ford Coppola zings to mind -- who swear by the sophisticated smarts of its caffeinated audiences.    

Last year's jury summed it up neatly. "This is a festival designed for a serious film-going community evocative of the Toronto International Film Festival before industry interests started dominating it," a fest rep stated.

Celebrities can also expect to feel the love here. Again to quote 2009's jury, SIFF "has a less feverish and more sane tempo than most other festivals, which also gives [it] time to take special care of its guests."

At 36, the event has the polished ways of a grown up, but a kid's penchant for grins.

Opening the 2010 edition is the comedy of manners, The Extra Man. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (American Splendor) directed this droll adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novel about an aspiring writer (Paul Dano) who takes a room in the Manhattan apartment of a gentleman escort (Kevin Kline).

Following the screening, a Gala party will unfold in downtown Seattle's Benaroya Hall.

Other venues in and around the city will host Festival gatherings, including:
Seattle Center's SIFF Cinema

Harvard Exit
Pacific Place Cinemas

IMAX Pacific Science Center
and performing arts centers in Everett and Kirkland.

One of the films arriving to SIFF with advanced hype is Waiting for Superman. Directed by Oscar-laureate Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), this expose of public education in America nabbed the audience award for best US documentary at January's Sundance Film Festival.

Another buzz magnet among the Festival's 54 documentaries is American: The Bill Hicks Story. Told through a mesh of testimonials, performance footage and animation, Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas's bio-doc about the titular comedian and social critic was a hit at South by Southwest and other fests.

Centurion is also headed for Seattle after grabbing attention at SXSW. The sword-and-sandal thriller from Neil Marshall retraces the legend of Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West), the Roman Ninth Legion general whose march on Scotland met with Pict rebels and doom.  

A Little Help, one of the Festival's 25 world premieres, is getting its share of asterisks as well. In this directorial feature debut by King of Queens creator Michael J. Weithorn, a widowed single mom links up with a former beau who happens to be her brother-in-law. Jenna Fischer (The Office) stars.

Cyrus shows a similarly vexed take on romance, and it too is a sought ticket. The new dramatic comedy from Jay and Mark Duplass (Puffy Chair) features John C. Reilly as a divorcee whose new flame (Marisa Tomei) turns out to have another guy in her life -- her son (Jonah Hill).

Luckily, the Festival's own track record concerning surprises is pretty solid. Each year it programs a side bar of four undisclosed films known as a "Secret Festival". To prime the suspense, once viewers have seen a selection, they must pledge in writing that they will not divulge any details.

This being Seattle, local musicians are naturally part of the program. This year the "Face the Music Live" section has Seattle country rock band, The Maldives, performing an original live score to the 20's silent Western, Riders of the Purple Sage.

Another silent picture, Bu Wancang's A Spray of Plum Blossoms, will be screened with Donal Sosin on piano, debuting a an original composition. The 1931 film, from China, is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona. A third Face the Music Live program, co-sponsored witRobert Duvallh STG Presents, matches up The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt with the 1916 silent film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Merritt will play an original live score in duet with organist David Hegarty.

The Festival will pin its 2010 Golden Space Needle for Outstanding Achievement on actor Edward Norton. Revelries include the west coast premiere of Leaves of Grass, which he stars in, and an on-stage interview enlivened by clips of his screen roles. The film by Tim Blake Nelson laces crime drama conventions with drug comedy kicks in its quest to define happiness.

The Closing Night Gala will present Aaron Schneider's Get Low, starring Robert Duvall as a reclusive townie who stages his "living funeral" --both Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray co-star.

After the screening at Pacific Place Cinemas, celebrants will raise a last toast to SIFF 2010 at the Pan Pacific Hotel (2125 Terry Avenue; 206-264-8111, Seattle, WA 98121).

Panels, workshops and parties add to the Festival luster -- and its afterglow, stoked by the announcement of the juried Competition Awards and Golden Space Needle Audience Awards.

Look for the full sweep of this superfest at:

Seattle International Film Festival
May 20 – June 13, 2010

SIFF Cinema
Box Office
321 Mercer Street, McCaw Hall, Seattle Center
Box office opens half hour before the first show
Showtimes and Information: 206-633-7151
Phone: 206-324-9996
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Main Office
400 9th Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
Fax: 206-264-7919
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Second Annual Migrating Forms Festival at Anthology

After its well-received first run last year, the Migrating Forms Festival is back with its second annual edition at Anthology Film Archives, from May 14 to 23, 2010. Contemporary works by more than 50 film and video artists comprise the program, which has expanded from five days to 10. Led by Nellie Killian and Kevin McGarry of the now defunct New York Underground Film Festival, Migrating Forms continues the tradition of showcasing new experimental cinema and visual arts.Image from Kevin Jerome Everson's Erie

Kevin Jerome Everson's fourth feature-length film, Erie, kick-starts the festival on Friday, May 14, at 8:30 pm. Erie keeps up with Everson's continual theme of the African American working class - this time focusing on Black migration in the U.S. through scenes in and around Lake Erie.

This is the Ohio-born, Virginia-based artist's fourth feature-length project, following Spicebush (2005), Cinnamon (2006) and The Golden Age of Fish (2008), all of which received their New York premieres at NYUFF. Spicebush won the 2005 Jury Prize at NYUFF for Best Documentary.

Everson is also the prolific maker of more than 70 short films and videos since the late 1990s. His work is regularly exhibited internationally, at venues including the International Film Festival Rotterdam; Sundance Film Festival; Images Festival, Toronto; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Pompidou Centre, Paris; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; REDCAT, Los Angeles; and Whitechapel Gallery, London, among others.

Other highlights of the festival include retrospectives by:

Jean-Pierre Gorin
The filmmaker will present a program of his work including two films from his California Trilogy, Poto and Cabengo (1976) and Routine Pleasures (1986). Most famous for his work as a member of the Dziga Vertov Group with Jean-Luc Godard, Gorin created a trio of films on, to quote Senses of Cinema, “language, arrested development and cultural displacement in Southern California” that are important touchstones for the essay film genre. 
Co-presented with Light Industry.

Kerry Tribe
This survey of the Los Angeles / Berlin-based artist tracks her continued exploration of the limits, failures and crises of cognition. Tribe will present and discuss her projects made for screen and those made for installation over the past 15 years. Her most recent film, H.M. (2009), is currently on view in the 2010 Whitney Biennial.

Tribe's work has also been exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Generali Foundation, Vienna; Kunst Werke, Berlin; and SMAK, Gent. She was a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2005-2006, received her MFA from UCLA in 2002, was a Whitney Independent Study Program fellow in 1997–98 and received her BA in art and semiotics from Brown University in 1997.

There will also be a program of 16mm films by the world-renowned Ed Ruscha. Introduced by Linda Norden, this rare East Coast presentation screens the seminal American artist's only film works, Premium (1971) and Miracle (1975).

Bruce and Norman Yonemoto's Made in Hollywood (1990) -- an irony-steeped personal and cultural mediation of reality and fantasy, desire and identity, stirred by the myths of television and cinema with a cult cast featuring Patricia Arquette, Mike Kelley, Ron Vawter and more -- will also screen. It will be preceded by the Yonemotos’ classic short video Vault (1984).
 Presented by Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) 
and introduced by Bruce.

There will also be programs by Brian McCarthy, Matt Keegan and James Richards.

Of course staging this at Anthology Film Archives makes ultimate sense since it is an international center for the preservation, study and exhibition of film with a focus on American independent and avant-garde cinema, founded by avant gardist filmmaker Jonas Mekas. In 1979, Anthology acquired Manhattan’s Second Avenue Courthouse building. Under the guidance of the architects Raimund Abraham and Kevin Bone, and at a cost of $1,450,000, the building was adapted to house two motion picture theaters, a reference library, a film preservation department and a gallery.

Tickets are $9/day in advance; $10/day at the box office; and $60 for a festival pass.

For more information and the full schedule, go to

Migrating Forms Festival
May 14, 2010 - May 23, 2010
Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Ave.
New York, NY 10003

Cannes Film Festival 2010 Does the Obvious

The Cannes Film Festival / Le Festival de Cannes announcing its lineup always strikes me as the way we hear Charlie Brown's teacher: "Wah wah. Wah wah wah." We know she's talking, but we don't care so much about what she's actually saying.

As we near the 63rd edition of the festival, running May 12 to 23, 2010, this becomes clearer to me: It doesn't really matter what Cannes chooses. Cannes is Cannes. With a few exceptions, Cannes makes the movies, not the other way around.

Cannes remains the only festival with that power. Founded in 1946, it is one of the world's oldest and most prestigious film festivals. It doesn't have the North American marketing muscle of Toronto or the indie veneer of Sundance. It has tradition. It has the French Riviera -- the Cote D'Azur. It has unrestrained snootiness. And it has a circus atmosphere that film reporters like me find irresistible. Cannes FF Palace

Most of the movies will never be viewed in the dark expanse of an American cinema. If you're a foreign movie buff, maybe you'll catch them when they arrive via Netflix. But when you watch them for the first time in the cinephile-saturated Palais des Festivals -- in the resort town of Cannes -- they seem like the most important movies ever. At least for the first few minutes.

Here's hoping to an entry with breakout power like last year's Inglourious Basterds. This year, Doug Liman's take on the Valerie Plame spy scandal, Fair Game, will at least have Sean Penn on hand to spice up the proceedings. It's the only U.S. entry in the Official Competition. And the President of the Jury is the American director Tim Burton. Yank this, Cannes.

The festival also reared its clubby side in choosing its original sweet 16. Returning for another stab at the prestigious Palme d'Or are:

Abbas Kiarostami with Certified CopyMathieu Amalric
Brit Mike Leigh with Another Year
Mexican-born Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with Biutiful
Japan's Takeshi Kitano with the Yakuza shoot-em-up Outrage

For those of you keeping score, eight of the main entries have French ties, including Mathieu Amalric's Tournee and Xavier Beauvois's Of Gods and Men. Being on the home team has its privileges.

Most of the American studio presence got ushered aside like a paparazzo without a tux. Robin Hood, yet another Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe collaboration; Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps from director Oliver Stone, and Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger will all screen out of competition. At age 74, it's satisfying to see Allen still cranking them out.

But he's got nothing on Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, who's bringing The Strange Case of Angelica to the Un Certain Regard category. He's 102. That's 1-0-2. I plan to attend the press conference just to find out what vitamins this guy takes.

The Cannes Film Festival is organized in various sections:

The Official Selection - The main event of the festival:
         • In Competition - The 20 films competing for the Palme d'Or. They are projected in the Théâtre Lumière.
         • Un Certain Regard - 20 original, different films selected from cultures near and far. They are projected at the Salle Debussy.
         • Out of Competition - These films are also projected in the Théâtre Lumière but do not compete for the main prize.
         • Special Screenings - The selection committee chooses for these films an environment specially adapted to their particular identity.
         • Cinéfondation - About 15 shorts and medium-length motion pictures from film schools over the world are presented at the Salle Buñuel.
         • Short Films - The shorts competing for the Short Film Palme d'Or are presented at the Buñuel and Debussy theaters.

Parallel Sections - These are non-competitive programs dedicated to discovering other aspects of cinema:
         • Cannes Classics - Celebrates the heritage of film, aiming to highlight works of the past, presented with brand new or restored prints.
         • Tous les Cinémas du Monde - A showcase of world cinema. Each day, one country present features and shorts in celebration of its culture, identity and film works.
         • Caméra d'Or - It rewards the best first film of the Fest, choosing from the Official Selection, the Directors' Fortnight and the International Critics' Week selections.
         • Cinéma de la Plage - Screening of Cannes Classics and Out of Competition films for the public on Macé Beach, preceded by a program of film music.

Other Sections - Produced by outside organizations during the Cannes Festival:
         • Directors' Fortnight
         • International Critics' Week

         • Marché du Film - The busiest movie market of the world.
         • Masterclasses - Given in public by world renowned filmmakers.
         • Tributes - Honors internationally renowned artists with the presentation of the Festival Trophee following the screening of one of their films.
         • Producers Network - An opportunity to make international co-productions.
         • Exhibitions - Each year, an artist, a body of work or a cinematographic theme is the focus of an exhibition that diversifies or illustrates the event's program.
         • 60th Anniversary - Events organized in 2007 dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Festival.

Prior to the beginning of each event, Cannes’ board of directors appoints juries who choose which films will receive an award. Jurors are chosen from a wide range of international artists, based on their work and respect from their peers:  
    • Feature Films - An international jury composed of a President and various film or art personalities , who determine the prizes for the feature films in Competition.
    • Cinéfondation and Short Films - Composed of a President and four film personalities. It awards the Short Film Palme d'Or as well as its three best films.
    • Un Certain Regard - Composed of a President, journalists, cinema students and industry professionals. It awards this Prize for best film and can honor two other films.
    • Caméra d'Or - Composed of a President, as well as film directors, technicians and French and international critics. They reward the best first film in any selection.

          • Palme d'Or - Golden Palm - The most prestigious award given for the best film.
          • Grand Prix - Grand Prize of the Festival
          • Prix du Jury - Jury Prize
          • Palme d'Or du court métrage - Best Short Film
          • Prix d'interprétation féminine - Best Actress
          • Prix d'interprétation masculine - Best Actor
          • Prix de la mise en scène - Best Director
          • Prix du scénario - Best Screenplay
          • Prix Un Certain Regard - Young talent, innovative and audacious works
          • Cinéfondation prizes - Student films
          • Caméra d'Or - Best first feature film

Given by Independent Entities
          • Prix de la FIPRESCI - International Federation of Film Critics Prize
          • Prix Vulcain - Awarded to a technical artist by the CST
          • International Critics' Week Prizes
          • Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
          • Palm Dog, for best canine performance

For more info go to:

The Cannes Film Festival
the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Cannes, France

[general info courtesy of Wikipedia]

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