Montreal World Film Festival

FFM 2017: My prediction for best film – Y de Pronto el Amanecer

Chilean director Silvio Caiozzi, right, instructs child actors in his film Y de Pronto el Amanecer (And The the Dawn.) The film ran in competition at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde. The winner will be announced tonight, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

UPDATE: Y de Pronto el Amanecer did indeed win the Grand Prix of the Americas, for Best Film.

I predict that Y de Pronto el Amanecer (And Then the Dawn) will win the competition for best film at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde tonight.

I did not even see all the films in competition, but I really liked The Hidden Sword, from China; Upstream, from Taiwan, was very well done, and friends who saw it told me Anna Karenina: Vronsky’s story was spectacular.

Given all that, it might be rash to predict a win for Y de Pronto el Amanecer, but the story, the acting and the scenery in this Chilean film from director Silvio Caiozzi were all so very impressive. The film is 195 minutes long, but I was never bored for even one second.

A few hours from now I’ll either be saying “Ooops!” or “I told you so!”

The awards ceremony will be at 7 p.m., at the Imperial Cinema, 1430 Bleury St. When it is over, at approximately 7:30 (so I am told) there will be a free, closing film. The name of the closing film will only be announced at the ceremony.

These are the films in competition:

41ST MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL
18 films in WORLD COMPETITION

A PROMINENT PATIENT / MASARYK by Julius Ševcík (Czech Republic / Slovakia)
100min; anglais s.t.f & s.t.a

AND SUDDENLY THE DAWN / Y DE PRONTO EL AMANECER by Silvio Caiozzi (Chile)
195min; espagnol s.t.f & s.t.a

ANNA KARENINA. VRONSKY’S STORY / ANNA KARENINA. ISTORIYA VRONSKOGO by Karen Shakhnazarov (Russia)
138min; russe s.t.f & s.t.a

APPENDIX by Hossein Namazi (Iran)
83min; farsi s.t.f & s.t.a

CARDINAL X by Angie Wang (USA)
98 min; anglais s.t.f

DEAR ETRANGER / OSANAGO WARERA NI UMARE by Yukiko Mishima (Japan)
127min; japonais s.t.f & s.t.a

ELVIS WALKS HOME by Fatmir Koçi (Albania / UK)
94min; anglais s.t.f

FALLING IN /OUT OF LOVE by Dominic Bachy (France)
95min; français s.t.a

FOOTPRINTS by Wong Wai (Hong Kong, China)
120min; mandarin s.t.f & s.t.a

FROZEN IGNAT / CINE A UCIS CRACIUNUL? by Dinu Tãnase (Romania)
81min; roumain s.t.f & s.t.a

PATH OF MARYAM by Atia Aldaraji (Iraq / Germany)
76min; arabe s.t.f & s.t.a

RECONCILIATION / ZGODA by Maciej Sobieszczanski (Poland)
87min; polonais s.t.f & s.t.a

SAYAKBAY – HOMER OF 20TH CENTURY by Ernest Abdyjaparov (Kyrgyzstan)
82min; kyrgyz s.t.f & s.t.a

THE BASICS OF KILLING / DRUŽINICA by Jan Cvitkovic (Slovenia / Serbia)
99min; slovène s.t.f & s.t.a

THE HIDDEN SWORD by Xu Haofeng (China)
137min; chinois s.t.f & s.t.a

UNAWARE CONTROL / HUA SE by Xiaoyan Xu (China)
94min; chinois s.t.f & s.t.a

UNSUNG HEROES / NOI ERAVAMO by Leonardo Tiberi (Italy)
90min; italien s.t.f & s.t.a

UPSTREAM by David Chuang (Taiwan)
80min; mandarin s.t.f & s.t.a

The Awards Ceremony for the Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde will be at 7 pm. Monday, Sept 4, 2017, at the Imperial Cinema, 1430 Bleury St. When the ceremony is over, around 7:30, there will be a free closing film.

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Festival des film du monde review: Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is a documentary portrait of Naoto Matsumura, a man who voluntarily looks after the (mostly) four-legged victims of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March of 2011. These include dogs, cats, cows, and a pony. There are some wild boars prowling around, too, though they look like scroungers, not officially under his care. And then there are the two otherwordly ostriches, with their quizzical expression and powerful legs that can break ribs.

The nuclear plant went into meltdown after an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Humans were quickly evacuated because the radiation leak made the area too dangerous for them to remain. Many people had no idea that they would be gone so long. They tied their dogs up and planned to come back for them within a day or so. But they were not allowed to come back, and shelters did not accept dogs and cats, in any case.

Some cattle were destroyed on orders of the government, others starved to death, but some were entrusted to Naoto Matsumura, and he continues to look after them to this day. In the beginning, he bought food for them with money from his small pension, now he also gets donations from supporters. He says he wishes the government would look after the animals, that would be the moral thing to do, and it would also increase knowledge about the effects of radiation. The animals are mammals, just like us, whatever happens to them might happen to humans, too.

On a technical level, Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is not perfect. Especially in the opening footage, some bright areas are bleached out, and throughout the film, the microphone picks up many distracting sounds – truck engines, and fierce winds among them. But heart is more important than technique – watch the film to see Naoto feeding and interacting with the animals and describing his feelings of obligation toward them. He tells us how the nuclear plant changed his town of Tomioka – at first it brought prosperity, and conspicuous consumption – a car for every family member! Then came the disaster. It could take 30 years to decontaminate the town; maybe it will never be safe again. He wonders if the decontamination work is really just for show.
Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Director : Mayu Nakamura
Cinematographer : Mayu Nakamura
Editor : Mayu Nakamura
Music : Saho Terao
Film production and Sales : Prod.: Mayu Nakamura, Omphalos Pictures,Tokyo 180-0002 (Japon), tél.: +80 (80) 3408 85 30 missyn510@aol.com.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 – 4 p.m. – Cinéma Quartier Latin 2, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

Wednesday night suggestion at Festival des films du monde: satirical superhero The Portuguese Falcon

David Chan Cordeiro, left, plays Partridge Kick, and Gonalo Waddington plays the Falcon in a satirical film from Portugal, Capit‹o Falc‹o (The Portuguese Falcon). The film is being shown at Montreal's Festival des films du monde.

David Chan Cordeiro, left, plays Partridge Kick, and Gonalo Waddington plays the Falcon in a satirical film from Portugal, Capit‹o Falc‹o (The Portuguese Falcon). The film is being shown at Montreal’s Festival des films du monde.

UPDATE: I saw The Portuguese Falcon on Wednesday night, and I thought it was pretty funny! The audience seemed to enjoy it, too. I hope to write a proper review after, but just wanted to add this note, right now. On Thursday, Sept. 3, it will be shown at noon. If you work in the daytime, maybe your boss(es) would allow you to take a long lunch to watch it? It’s a thought!

Capitão Falcão (The Portuguese Falcon in English) is a satire on superheroes. Instead of defending truth and justice and the American Way, as such characters usually do, the Falcon and his sidekick defend the fascist regime of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar from commies and feminists in the 1960s.

The film was directed by João Leitão, and written by him and Nuria Leon Bernardo. Gonçalo Waddington plays the Falcon and David Chan Cordeiro plays Partridge Kick, who is more or less Robin to his Batman.
Here’s the synopsis from the web site of Festival des films du monde: “A parody of Portugal’s first superhero: Captain Falcon. A fearless defender of the fascist regime of the 1960s, Falcon, along with his Asian sidekick, Partridge Kick, defends his nation against various threats: evildoers, thieves, and above all, the Red Peril: communists! But one day, Lisbon, the capital, starts experiencing mysterious attacks, and no one is sure who’s behind it all. Will Captain Falcon save the country once again?”

I haven’t seen The Portuguese Falcon yet, but it sounds like good cheesy, goofy fun, the kind of thing more likely to be seen at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. But we all like to laugh, don’t we?

The Portuguese Falcon, in Portuguese with English subtitles, is 106 minutes long.

Wednesday Sept. 2, 2015 – 9:30 PM – CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 14
Thursday Sept. 3, 2015 – 12:00 PM – CINÉMA QUARTIER LATIN 14

Cinéma Quartier Latin: 350 Emery St., Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

Festival des films du monde: It’s Really Kind of You Review

This mysterious woman is one of the two main charcaters in the South Korean film It's Really Kind of You.

This mysterious woman is one of the two main charcaters in the South Korean film It’s Really Kind of You.

It’s Really Kind of You is a Korean drama-thriller-mystery, which I saw at the Festival des films du monde / Montreal World Film Festival.

It’s hard for me to review it because I didn’t like it. On the other hand, I don’t like to be negative, I do enjoy Korean films in general, and I’m well aware that different people have different tastes. So, here goes!

First of all, I was confused because the film did not begin as I expected it to; a murder described in the film’s synopsis only took place once the film was well underway. Presumably, that was a flashback, though it COULD have been a dream, or a figment of one character’s imagination.

The plot is ingenious, but most of the characters range from unpleasant to despicable.

In the opening moments, the main character (played by Ok Ja-yeon, I think) is hitchhiking, in the dark, beside a country road. When a driver does stop for him, he seems so creepy and his manner is so odd, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to give him a ride. He just stares for what seems like a very long time, then makes his request in a flat, robotic tone. He says that he was fishing and that he missed the last train; could the driver take him downtown? Well, I certainly wouldn’t! The actor conveys creepiness extremely well, but the story would be more believable if he could pretend to be charming, or at the very least relatively normal, now and then.

Nonetheless, Creepy Hitchhiking Man gets a ride from a guy who turns out to be a dog-breeder. They chat awkwardly for a while, then they fight and there’s an accident. A dishevelled woman who’s wearing just a slip shows up; she has a bruised face and haunted eyes; she does not speak. She seems traumatized and more than a little strange herself. She might, or might not, be mentally handicapped.

This woman will later be involved in some graphic sex scenes that are disturbing, go on for a long time, often take place at inappropriate times in inappropriate places, and are definitely not “artistic” in any way.

It’s difficult to say more without going into spoiler territory. The film could have ended much earlier than it did and still have been quite creepily effective. I’m sorry not to be more specific about the actors the credits went by very quickly and I incorrectly assumed that I could find out later who played which role. The Montreal screening is a world premiere, so there isn’t much info about the film out there.

When the film was over, an audience member asked me: “Did that make any sense to you?” I told him that it did (more or less) make sense to me, but I did not like it.

BTW: An Internet search tells me that hitchhiking is not too common in South Korea. This film won’t do anything to make it more popular, that’s for sure!

It’s Really Kind of You, from South Korea, in Korean with English subtitles, 90 minutes

Director : So Jae-ick
Screenwriter : Pak Me-hyun
Cinematographer : Cho Choul-ho
Editor : Chol Hyun-sook
Cast : Ok Ja-yeon, Bae Tae-won, Choi Dae-hoon, Do Young-cha, Kim Young- hwan, Baeg Ae-gyeong, Kang In-chul
Music : Lee Jae-sin
Film production and Sales : Prod.: So Jae-ick, So-Film, #310-402, Shindo braenew 11, Yonghyun-dong, Uijeongby-si, Kyungki-do (Corée du Sud). tél.: +82 (10) 6221 07 53, jaeick10,hanmail.net.

It’s Really Kind of You will be shown on Wednesday, Sept, 2, 2015, at 6:30, in Theatre 12 of the Cinéma Quartier Latin, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud will present his Chinese film Wolf Totem twice on Saturday, August 29

In the Chinese film Wolf Totem, Chen Zhen (played by William Feng Shaofeng) adopts a wolf pup, against the wishes of his Mongolian mentor.

In the Chinese film Wolf Totem, Chen Zhen (played by William Feng Shaofeng) adopts a wolf pup, against the wishes of his Mongolian mentor.

Wolf Totem is a Chinese film with a Chinese cast, based on a Chinese book, shot by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

The 2004 novel Wolf Totem was an international best-seller. It was translated into more than 30 langauges, sold millions of copies, and won the Man Asia Literary Prize in 2007. It was based on the experiences of author Lu Jiamin (writing under the pen name of Jiang Rong) who lived among the semi-nomadic herders of Inner Mongolia for 11 years, beginning in the late 1960s. He was one of the millions of students who were sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

The landscapes in the Chinese film Wolf Totem are stunning.

The landscapes in the Chinese film Wolf Totem are stunning.

The author’s alter ego, Chen Zhen, learns a lot about the herders’ traditional way of life, and the fear, respect and admiration they have for the wolves who share the grasslands with them. Some of the book’s dialogue sounds more like one-sided lectures than true conversations; even so, it’s a fascinating read. Politicians living far, far away make cringe-inducing decisions of the “this-will-not-end-well” kind – to set up large farms, to encourage the immigration of Han Chinese, and to slaughter all the wolves.

Chen Zhen (played by William Feng Shaofeng) develops a fascination with the wolves, and adopts a young pup, going against the wishes and advice of his Mongolian mentor, Bilig.

While an official announcement hasn’t yet been made, several news articles say that Wolf Totem will be China’s entry in the race for an Academy Award.

Wolf Totem has two Canadian connections. One is actor Shawn Dou, who plays Chen Zhen’s friend and colleague Yang Ke. He moved from China to Vancouver with his parents when he was 10 years old, and returned to China in 2008 to study acting.

During the filming of Wolf Totem, a wolf named Cloudy became very fond of director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

During the filming of Wolf Totem, a wolf named Cloudy became very fond of director Jean-Jacques Annaud.

Animal trainer Andrew Simpson was an integral part of the film. He was born in Scotland, but has run his business, Instinct Animals for Film, from a ranch north of Calgary, Alberta, since 1994. While he and his partner, Sally Jo Sousa, work with many kinds of animals, they specialize in wolves. But North American and Eurasian wolves are quite different, so they could not use the wolves they already had. They spent more than three years in China, training Mongolian wolves for their roles in the film. They got five-week-old wolf pups from a zoo and raised them in their Beijing apartment, giving them their constant attention. You can read more about that process, and see photos of Simpson cuddling the wolf puppies, in this 2012 article from The Telegraph, which calls Simpson a “wolf whisperer.” A Calgary Herald article from last year indicates that after the film was completed, he brought 16 of the wolves to the Calgary ranch. In 2013 Simpson made Wolves Unleashed, a documentary about working with wolves; you can buy it from iTunes for $19.99

 

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, left, and animal trainer Andrew Simpson with some of the trained wolves from the Chinese film Wolf Totem.

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, left, and animal trainer Andrew Simpson with some of the trained wolves from the Chinese film Wolf Totem.

Wolf Totem, in Mandarin and Mongolian with English subtitles,  will be shown as part of the Festival des films du monde / Montreal World Film Festival on:

Saturday Aug. 29, 2015 – 7 p.m. – CINÉMA IMPÉRIAL
Saturday Aug. 29, 2015 – 9:30 p.m. – CINÉMA IMPÉRIAL, 1430 Bleury St., Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2J1

Wolf Totem
Director : Jean-Jacques Annaud
Screenwriter : Alain Godard, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Lu Wei, John Collee. D’après le roman de/Based on the novel by: Jiang Rong
Cinematographer : Jean-Marie Dreujou
Editor : Reynald Bertrand
Cast : Feng Shaofeng, Shawn Dou, Ankhnyam Ragchaa, Yin Zhusheng, Basen Zhabu
Music : James Horner
Film production and Sales : Prod.: Max Wang, Xu Jianhai, China Film Co., Ltd. / Beijing Forbidden City Film Co., Ltd.
Festival des films du monde / Montreal World Film Festival continues until Sept. 7, 2015. Consult the festival’s web site for more information.