Having escaped the very low powered financial world many years ago myself I find films set in a high pressured corporate finance world exotic and appealing. It’s a perfect vehicle for race against time drama such as the recent Margin Call where you find Jeremy Irons doing what he does best playing a morally corrupt senior executive.
The City Below [Unter Dir Die Stadt] has a a similarly morally corrupt senior banker Roland Cordes, played by Robert Hunger-Büehler, embarking on an affair with the wife of a subordinate Svenja Steve, played by Nicolette Krebitz, which unsurprisingly makes life very complicated for them both.
The performances in the solid, slower moving, darkly witty drama are strong, particularly the many non-verbal interactions between the Hunger-Büehler and Krebitz. The cold clinical takeover negotiations take place in cold clinical boardrooms, however it’s refreshing to see late middle-aged German financial executives spending some of these crucial business meetings spacing out about the opposite sex as much as the rest of us.
Anca Damian is a well-known cinematographer, director, writer and producer and in this, her first animated feature, she delivers the beautifully made, well-told and shockingly recent (2008) story of Claudiu Crulic. Claudiu is a 33 year-old Romanian who went on hunger strike after being wrongly accused of theft in Poland. Narrated by the protagonist from beyond the grave, Crulic chronicles the events that lead up to his death.
The film begins with a phone call to Crulic’s uncle from Polish authorities telling him that Crulic is dead. His mother and sister go to Poland to identify him, which they find difficult, as he had lost about 30KG and looked much older than he was. As they journey home with Crulic’s body, the story commences. He begins with his childhood, which is a typical story of a boy born into a poor family, whose parents separated when he was very young. He was left in the care of his father but was raised by his aunts and uncles. He left school early as the family needed money and went to work in a garage. He then began travelling to Poland with his Uncle buying various trinkets (that were unavailable in Romania) and selling them. He is then arrested and this is where his life changes forever.
The style of animation is very beautiful – but dark. The medley of animated styles used throughout the film serve to really hold the viewer’s attention and ultimately lend themselves to the tragic nature of the story. Collage, line drawings, watercolors, stop motion and a small amount of live action along with the narration by one of Romania’s top actors, Vlad Ivanov, creates a visual and auditory spectacle. The bleak colours and often childlike line drawings evoke further empathy for Crulic and the events that unfold after his imprisonment. The transitions between animation styles are seamless and stylish. The small details in the animation, for me, had the greatest impact. This is clearly evident in the distressing scenes where he is in prison wasting away from hunger lying in the foetal position. The lines become thinner, sketchier, the colours of his clothes and face change and become bleaker and more transparent.
The story is mainly told visually but the slow, steady pace and the sadness in the voice of the narrator completely envelops you. Crulic’s own letters, photographs and documents are incorporated with animated images and when the film ends and the credits are rolling, real news footage is shown, bringing the audience back to reality with a bang. The introduction of news footage at this point reminds us that this is a real story and these injustices can and really do happen.
There was a Q&A session immediately after the showing with the director of the film Anca Damian. Damian related how unconditionally trusting and supportive Crulic’s family were during the making the film and their intention to go to trial using the film to prove his innocence. Damian describes Crulic – The Path to Beyond as a story about the dignity of human beings and human rights.
The film was very well received although there were some comments from the audience about how critics view animated documentaries and how they might not be as respected and not as believable as live-action documentaries. Damian described how she made an animated feature rather than a live action documentary, having conducted her research for a year and collected countless documents and photographs. The contrast between the starkness of real events and the creative medium of animation strengthens what is a visually unusual, moving and thoroughly enjoyable documentary.
The 2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival presented a selection of Irish Film Board short films this evening. On show was an impressive array of exciting talent whose short films came to life on the big screen at a sold-out screening in Dublin’s Light House cinema.
There’s always a buzz around a festival screening of shorts as an audience prepares to enter into the relatively unknown and it provides a rare opportunity to celebrate cinematically film in its short form. In a year when 2 Irish short films are in the running for an Oscar® that buzz was particularly palpable tonight as the the Light House played host to a fine display of creative storytelling and skilled craftsmanship.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in a bubble after having your heart broken, Kealan O’Rourke’s wonderful animation The Boy Who Lived In A Bubble provided the answer. Still Films’ We, The Masses explored some sort of apocalyptic anti-biosphere and was a perfect showcase for Robyn O’Neil’s expressive drawings.
Clare Dix’s beautiful Downpour eloquently encapsulates a history of romantic memories in the space of 4 minutes all under showers of rain. And a merman of sorts was found on a beach in the comically observed Washed Up Love
The documentaries sought to capture special moments in time breathing life into its subject matters. Home Turf celebrates the dying craft of turf cutting, shot with an elegant visual simplicity, while Remember Me, My Ghost is a beautifully crafted and haunting tale of one woman’s life living in the Ballymun flats.
There was Irish dancing with a twist (An Rinceoir), a swift return to roots in the animated Origin, a young rebel with a cause (Asal), death & birth on the rough seas (The Hatch), a journey to honour a father (The Fisherman), animated arctic adventures (23 Degrees 5 Minutes), and Tadhg O’Sullivan and Feargal Ward’s Quarantine, a tender and touching portrait of one one woman’s week-long stay in the Radioactive Iodine Suite in St Lukes hospital.
It’s one of the most important functions of festivals to showcase the talent working in the short film art form and always provides a fascinating snapshot of the standards of the inventive imagination of new filmmakers at work – and with the skill and craft on display this evening those standards are high.
The 2012 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival launched earlier tonight in the lush setting of the Savoy cinema. Brenda Fricker attended the Opening Gala screening of Thom Fitzgerald’s comedy Cloudburst, in which Fricker stars alongside Olympia Dukakis as two elderly lesbians in love. Dot (Fricker) and Stella (Dukakis) have lived together and loved each other for 30 years. After Dot is taken from her home by her granddaughter, Molly, and put in a home, Stella plots a geriatric breakout out and the pair set off on a road trip to Canada where they plan to get married. Along the way they pick up a young hitchhiker (Ryan Doucette), who’s on his way to see his dying mother.
Festival director Grainne Humphreys was on hand to officially launch the festival, now in its tenth year, and introduced Cloudburst to a packed cinema as a ‘really special film’ and recalled the ‘joyous experience’ she’d had watching the film and laughing for 2 hours. Grainne welcomed writer/director Thom Fitzgerald to introduce his film, which is his first new movie since 2005’s 3 Needles, followed by our very own Brenda Fricker, who’s starring in two films at this year’s festival (Cloudburst and Albert Nobbs). Brenda told the audience how she had pestered Grainne to watch the film as it was so beautifully written and made.
Fitzgerald explained how Brenda came to be in the film – he had written the part of Stella specifically for Dukakis, with whom he had worked before. He had originally written the character Dot for Joan Orenstein, who sadly passed away while he was writing the film. He said he knew that Brenda would have ‘the bravery, the strength and the softness’ to take on the role of Dot. He thanked Brenda and told an enthusiastic audience that he now knows everything there is to know about geriatric lesbians. With proceedings taken care of the audience sat back as the curtain opened and Cloudburst took over Savoy 1.
The film delivered the laughs the introduction had promised and proved to be a real crowd-pleaser providing the perfect start to the festival. There’s a wonderful chemistry on screen between Dukakis and Fricker and the film never takes easy refuge in sentimentality and plays it in an honest manner true to the reality of a relationship that has lasted so long. Dukakis’ butch Stella is a foul-mouthed juggernaut who holds nothing back and it is her belligerent set of balls that stoke the comedy throughout the film. Her passionate commitment to Dot is a testament to their long-term relationship. Fricker’s gentle Dot provides an unpretentious softness and depth to proceedings and allows for a genuine tenderness to shine. Fricker has that rare quality of seeming not to be acting and once again proves herself to be the ‘national treasure’ Grainne Humphreys described her as at the beginning of the evening.