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Seattle Int'l Film Festival Launches African Picture Lineup


SIFF is renowned for not only its massive size but its near limitless scope as the festival, which spans 25 days, features over 250 full length and 150 short films from over 70 countries worldwide.

Last year, SIFF was awarded a grant by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to sponsor their blossoming  African Pictures program. As part of this new charter, SIFF has an unparalleled opportunity to bring African films which would otherwise go largely unnoticed to a new, Western audience.

Festival coordinator Carl Spence had the following to say: 

"We are excited to launch African Pictures as a major program of the Seattle International Film Festival. With vital support from AMPAS along with other partners we look forward to the opportunity to shine a light on and bring awareness to provocative, relevant and entertaining stories being told across the continent of Africa through the medium of film."

Amongst this maiden African Picture program is an eclectic group of features sure to capture the attention of many festival-goers. The twelve films included in this year's African Pictures category each offer a unique perspective on modern Africa and span genres from rom-com to suspense, documentary to drama.

  • Documentarian Bryan Little focuses his camera on street dance throughout South Africa in The African Cypher, a North American premiere which presents the punchy soul of modern African dance.

  • Coming Forth by Day comes forth from female Arab filmmaker Hala Lofty and focuses on the living relationship between a mother and daughter in modern day Egypt.

  •  Filmmakers worldwide will be sure to enjoy this provocative first look at Hillywood, the Rwandan Film Industry, in Leah Warshawski’s lovingly made Finding Hollywood. Warshawksi’s film sets it’s sights on the emerging culture of film and filmmakers within the auspicious confines of Rwanda.

  • Following up on the 2011 SIFF hit Spud, Spud 2 returns to the life of the titular character going through the motions in a South African boarding school and features the return of Monty Python alum John Cleese.

  • An impactful and important look at climate change and human influence in Mali, Sand Fishers by Samouté Andrey Diarra takes the narrative of a group of fishermen forced out of a job due to overfishing and turn to collecting sand and gravel to sell to the local big cement industry. 

  • Comrade President by Mosco Kamwendo of Zimbabwe documents the life and death of revolutionary leader Samora Moises Machel and illuminates the shifting political winds within the Mozambican government and the eternal struggle for independence.

  • From South Africa director Henk Pretorious comes Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, a new age rom-com that explores the cross pollination of cultures in the midst of a multi-cultural wedding.

  • Kasper Bisgaard of Uganda brings his film Kampala story which follow the young Apio, a 14-year-old Karamojong girl, as she tries to find her father after he suddenly stops sending money home to her and her mother.

  • Co-financed between Nigeria and the UK, Obi Emelonye’s Last Flight to Abuja is already a bona fide box-office hit even before it’s North American Premiere and focuses on a group of airline passengers as they deal with romance, blackmail and murder.

  • First time filmmaker Joel Karekezi takes a heart wrenching look at the twisted ethos that led to the Rwandan genocide with The Pardon (Imbabazi) which deals with a pair of friends who fight on different sides of the horrific genocide and how they struggle to make amends later.

  • The Repentant, directed with heart and panache by Merzak Allocate, showcases a Jihadist who escapes his violent lifestyle in pursuit of peace and a new lease on life only to find that his past isn’t as escapable as he might have thought.

 Running from May 16 - June 9, the Seattle International Film Festival will play a host of venues including the SIFF Cinema Uptown, SIFF Film Center, AMC Pacific Place, Egyptian Theatre, Harvard Exit, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, MOHAI and the Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center.

For more info on the Seattle International Film Festival go to:

NYFF's Foreign Films Make Academy's Top Picks in 2012

The Academy of Motion Pictures has released a list of 71 films from foreign countries -- including first-time entrant Kenya -- that have been submitted for consideration for best foreign language film for the 85th Academy Awards. Some of these films screened at the New York Film Festival, which, in its 50th year, is having its strongest season ever.

They include the Italian selection for best film, Caesar Must Die, a black-and-white film directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Shot to look like a documentary, it's set in a high-security prison in Rome where the inmates put on a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. While performing they interject details about their own personal lives, suffering and crimes; they are all hard-core criminals, who also happen to be talented actors.

The Taviani brothers have been hard on the festival circuit promoting their film, since the actors cannot; all but one, the excellent Salvatore Striano, who plays Brutus, are in the slammer, some of them with life sentences. The film won the Golden Bear Award at the most recent Berlin Film Festival. At the NYFF press conference the duo were particularly entertaining with Paolo, 81, happy to be the straight man to his older brother, Vittorio, 83, who is the talkative one.

The Romanian entry, Beyond the Hills, directed by Cristian Mungiu, is a disappointing follow up to his excellent Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days. Set in a convent in Romanian, it is about two young women who forged a close relationship -- most probably sexual -- while growing up in the same orphanage. One of them becomes a nun, while the other young woman, who is obsessed and in love with her, becomes desperate to get her to leave the convent and go with her to Germany. The two leads, Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur, shared the best actress award at this summer's Cannes Film Festival.

The basis of Our Children, by Belgium director Joachim Lafosse, comes from a news story about a housewife and mother of four who commits an unthinkable act. At the press conference, where the director was interviewed on Skype, he said that his intention was to show that the mother "was not a monster." This movie had journalists talking well after the press conference was over.

German director Christian Petzoid's Barbara is a 1980’s Cold War thriller. Nina Hoss, the charismatic star, plays a physician planning to defect while exiled to a small town in East Germany. There's an undercurrent of menace and a fascinating look at how the Stasi, the East German secret police, ran their operations. There's also some cool disco music on the soundtrack because Petzoid likes disco -- especialy Chic -- and because the East German government disapproved of it.

From Chile comes Pablo Larrain's No, which stars an excellent low-key Gael Garcia Bernal as a brilliant Chilean advertising executive René Saavedra who organizes the 1988 campaign to unseat the nototious dictator Augusto Pinochet. This film is shot in a grainy, documentary style to capture the real-life event that toppled the military regime. The savvy, witty film received a lot of buzz at Cannes where it was shown at the Directors' Fortnight and although popular by the critics it is an underdog for best foreign film Oscar. 

I liked the Israeli film, Fill the Void, directed by Rama Burshtein, making her dramatic feature-directing debut. The film is an inside look at Israel's closed orthodox Hassidic community in Tel Aviv as seen though the eyes of Shira, an 18 year old girl, who is anxiously waiting to hear about a marriage match she desires. When her sister dies giving birth to a son her mother pressures Shira to marry her brother-in-law and the dilemma makes for an aborbing and well-acted drama.

The film is so lushly and beautifully shot that the men in their boxy hats and the women in their ornate, oddly designed garb seemed to have stepped out of a tableaux of a Jewish Raphael painting. Although Burshtein's film is a long shot for an Oscar, Fill the Void is so good it makes you look forward to her follow up effort.

My money is on Michael Haneke's Amour from Austria to win the best foreign film Oscar. It's impossible to imagine a more exquisite and beautiful film. The film won the Palme D'Or. Acting legends Jean-Lous Trintignant (Z, The Conformist, Three Colors: Red) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) star as an elderly couple, happily married for more than half a century, they are now facing the end of their lives as the wife becomes partially paralyzed after a stroke. It's not exactly cheery -- the chic crowd in Cannes was sobbing -- but the film is so beautifully acted and directed, without being sentimental or manipulative, that it is simply transcendent.

According to Variety, this year Iran bowed out of the Oscar race in protest against the U.S.-made anti-Islam video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. This is particularly regrettable since Iran has so many strong directors. Last year it won its first Oscar in the best foreign language film category with Asghar Farhadi's family drama, A Separation.

The 85th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 10, 2013, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2012 will be presented on Sunday, February 24, 2013, at The Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries. 

Below is a list of the Academy's 71 films submitted for the foreign film race in 2012:

  • Afghanistan -- The Patience Stone -- director Atiq Rahimi
  • Albania -- Pharmakon -- director Joni Shanaj
  • Algeria -- Zabana! -- director Said Ould Khelifa
  • Argentina -- Clandestine Childhood -- director Benjamín Ávila
  • Armenia -- If Only Everyone -- director Natalia Belyauskene
  • Australia -- Lore -- director Cate Shortland 
  • Austria -- Amour -- director Michael Haneke
  • Azerbaijan -- Buta -- director Ilgar Najaf
  • Bangladesh -- Pleasure Boy Komola -- director Humayun Ahmed
  • Belgium -- Our Children -- director Joachim Lafosse
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina -- Children of Sarajevo -- director Aida Begic
  • Brazil -- The Clown -- director Selton Mello
  • Bulgaria -- Sneakers -- directors Valeri Yordanov and Ivan Vladimirov
  • Cambodia -- Lost Loves -- director Chhay Bora
  • Canada, "War Witch," Kim Nguyen, director;
  • Chile, "No," Pablo Larraín, director;
  • China, "Caught in the Web," Chen Kaige, director;
  • Colombia, "The Snitch Cartel," Carlos Moreno, director;
  • Croatia, "Vegetarian Cannibal," Branko Schmidt, director;
  • Czech Republic, "In the Shadow," David Ondrícek, director;
  • Denmark, "A Royal Affair," Nikolaj Arcel, director;
  • Dominican Republic, "Jaque Mate," José María Cabral, director;
  • Estonia, "Mushrooming," Toomas Hussar, director;
  • Finland, "Purge," Antti J. Jokinen, director;
  • France, "The Intouchables," Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors;
  • Georgia, "Keep Smiling," Rusudan Chkonia, director;
  • Germany, "Barbara," Christian Petzold, director;
  • Greece, "Unfair World," Filippos Tsitos, director;
  • Greenland, "Inuk," Mike Magidson, director;
  • Hong Kong, "Life without Principle," Johnnie To, director;
  • Hungary, "Just the Wind," Bence Fliegauf, director;
  • Iceland, "The Deep," Baltasar Kormákur, director;
  • India, "Barfi!" Anurag Basu, director;
  • Indonesia, "The Dancer," Ifa Isfansyah, director;
  • Israel, "Fill the Void," Rama Burshtein, director;
  • Italy, "Caesar Must Die," Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani, directors;
  • Japan, "Our Homeland," Yang Yonghi, director;
  • Kazakhstan, "Myn Bala: Warriors of the Steppe," Akan Satayev, director;
  • Kenya, "Nairobi Half Life," David 'Tosh' Gitonga, director;
  • Kyrgyzstan, "The Empty Home," Nurbek Egen, director;
  • Latvia, "Gulf Stream under the Iceberg," Yevgeny Pashkevich, director;
  • Lithuania, "Ramin," Audrius Stonys, director;
  • Macedonia, "The Third Half," Darko Mitrevski, director;
  • Malaysia, "Bunohan," Dain Iskandar Said, director;
  • Mexico, "After Lucia," Michel Franco, director;
  • Morocco, "Death for Sale," Faouzi Bensaïdi, director;
  • Netherlands, "Kauwboy," Boudewijn Koole, director;
  • Norway, "Kon-Tiki," Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, directors;
  • Palestine, "When I Saw You," Annemarie Jacir, director;
  • Peru, "The Bad Intentions," Rosario García-Montero, director;
  • Philippines -- Bwakaw -- director Jun Robles Lana
  • Poland -- 80 Million," Waldemar Krzystek, director;
  • Portugal -- Blood of My Blood -- director João Canijo
  • Romania -- Beyond the Hills -- director Cristian Mungiu
  • Russia -- White Tiger," Karen Shakhnazarov, director
  • Serbia -- When Day Breaks," Goran Paskaljevic, director
  • Singapore -- Already Famous," Michelle Chong, director
  • Slovak Republic, "Made in Ash," Iveta Grófová, director
  • Slovenia -- "A Trip," Nejc Gazvoda, director
  • South Africa --"Little One," Darrell James Roodt, director
  • South Korea -- Pieta; Kim Ki-duk, director
  • Spain -- Blancanieves -- director Pablo Berger
  • Sweden -- The Hypnotist -- Lasse Hallström, director
  • Switzerland -- Sister -- Ursula Meier, director
  • Taiwan, "Touch of the Light
  • Headshot
  • Where the Fire Burns
  • The Firecrosser
  • The Delay
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • The Scent of Burning Grass

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