René Vautier: Anti-Colonial Filmmaker

November 8, 2008 at 12:32 am

I first heard the name of René Vautier from Erwan Moalic, the powerhouse behind the remarkable film festival in Douarnenez, a true community-based festival dedicated to working class audiences and featuring films on ethnic and other minorities (in existence since the 1970s). I was asking Erwan if he could please identify what was the ideological influence that had informed the establishment of the Douarnenez event, and he named Vautier, whom he described as a hugely important but little known and widely-suppressed Breton filmmaker. The description proved correct, as when I asked around about Vautier at a later point (talking mostly to colleagues in anthropology and French based in the UK and the US), almost no one knew of him (I gather, I did not ask the right people): I was left with the impression that the filmmaker is not as widely known as he apparently should be. Eventually I was nicely surprised to come across a lengthy article on him in the Financial Times (of all places), in which author Tobias Grey described him as ‘the most censored of all French filmmakers’. Luckily, there is the Internet where one can find more on him, from the good French-language Wikpedia article to various write ups on his classic anti-colonialist film Afrique’50 and on his best-known film, the documentary-style feature Avoir 20 ans dans les Aurès (1972).

It is this film,
To be Twenty in the Aures, that prompted me to write on Vautier today, as I finally got round to watching the French language DVD I had purchased in France a few months ago. It is a memorable and certainly extremely brave feature, which can be taken for documentary at moments, especially when featuring extreme scenes such as the rape of a local woman or the torture of detainees (scenes that surpass in intensity similar scenes from such anti-war classics as Brian de Palma’s Casualties of War or recent Iraqi-war themed films like Nick Broomfield’s The Battle for Haditha). A platoon of hesitant French soldiers are fighting the colonial war, being fed daily doses of indoctrination from the radio dispatches and from their own lieutenant Perrin (a remarkable young Philippe Léotard), yet the things that happen on the ground and the local relationships they forge make them more and more disillusioned about the supposedly patriotic mission they are serving. The only French film to be included in the Cannes selection in 1972, the film received the FIPRESCI prize. Aesthetically it is a pre-cursor of Claire Denis’ Beau Travail (1993); at moments I also thought that certain scenes in it may have influenced Bill Douglas’ Comrades (1986) — both films featuring European men who are essentially displaced by being transplanted to a Southern environment. The film is released by Doriane Films, a distributor that carries the work of filmmakers like Peter Watkins and Ousmane Sembene. I see that in the Amazon.fr site, from where it is available for sale, this rare DVD ranks at around 30,000 level of popularity. Sad.

The DVD features various extras, most importantly a 55 minute-long extraction of his earlier work on colonialism in Algeria, called Peuple en marche which presents the anti-colonial stance of the director particularly persuasively and features what I suppose is an extremely rare footage (as Vautier is, reportedly, the only French filmmaker who has filmed the war in Algeria from the point of view of the colonized). The 23 minute documentary called Vautier The Indomitable which chronicles the life of the director, was particularly important to see, especially as it features the sequence of systematic suppression of his work over the years (filming, prison terms, filming again, hunger strike, filming, censorship, and so on) in a light-hearted manner, evidently this being the way in which Vautier prefers to present himself. Born in Bretagne in 1928, he has remained at the periphery of French militant filmmaking. It is sad to see he is so little known, provided that what I saw of his work appears to be so enormously important: after all, he filmed in Algeria at the very same time when Frantz Fanon was writing his seminal The Wretched of the Earth (1961). Yet spending time in Paris earlier this year, I did not come across any mentions of Vautier nor across events that would feature his work (whereas, in conjunction with the commemorations of 1968, there were plenty of discussions of other similarly-motivated groups, such as the Medvedkine collective and others).

© Dina Iordanova
6 November 2008

Nomad (2005), a Kazakh film by Sergei Bodrov and Ivan Passer

June 6, 2008 at 12:24 am

Nomad is a film that belongs to a specific genre: epics that usually tell of the founding of the nation in a way that is geared toward Western audiences, produced by smaller countries with the ambition to tell the glorious story of their origins to the world. Usually these are large scale lavish productions, where significant amounts are thrown in for the sake of enlisting the assistance of supposedly reputable film professionals who would be able to give the film a Western look and feel and whose names would help facilitate international distribution.

Typically for the genre, Nomad ‘s making is driven more by political than commercial considerations. Reportedly, powerful Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev himself is the initiator of the production; the film even concludes with his commentary on the events shown. Several years in the making, with a troubled production history involving a mid-way change of director and cameraman, Nomad cost about 40 million U.S. , an amount that places it into the ranks of the most expensive non-English language epics ever made. Originally started by Czech new wave émigré Ivan Passer, the film was completed by transnational Russian director Sergei Bodrov and released in 2006. Executive produced by New York-based Czech Milos Forman and distributed in North America by the Weinstein company, the theatrical distribution of the film was a commercial flop, recovering less than three percents of the investment (but it seems the picture is somewhat improved by the DVD distribution).

Set in the 18th century, it is the story of a young man, Mansur (Kuno Becker), who grows up facing serious challenges to later on become founder and leader of the Kazakh nation, Ablai Khan. A descendant of the Kazakh Khan, Mansur is the target of hostile Dzungars; this is why he is secretly raised and trained by a mysterious visionary teacher (Jason Scott Lee). Taken in Dzungar captivity along with his beloved, he is being forced to earn his freedom through fighting in gladiator type events (unknowingly, he even kills his best friend). Once he has freed himself, Ablai Khan comes for a glorious return to combat the tyrants.

The production relies on the amazing horse-riding skills of scores of Kazakh extras, and on the spectacular vistas of Kazakhstan (also used in Bodro’s subsequent epic film, Mongol), majestic landscapes that have been made use of in the range of ‘eastern Westerns’ produced by the Soviets and East Europeans in the area back in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though the script is credited to respected writer Rustam Ibragimbekov, the story (and the parallel love affair) lacks proper dramatic build up. The most problematic element (but also an approach typical for the genre), is the decision to cast Western actors in the leads: the protagonist is played by Mexican soap opera star Kuno Becker, the mysterious teacher – by Jason Scott Lee, and the best friend – by Jay Hernandez. Released in dubbed Russian, English and French-language versions, the Kazakh language does not figure in Nomad beyond the opening credits.

The international release of Nomad coincided more or less with the release of Borat – Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan“>Borat (a film that purportedly represented today’s Kazakhs), thus it inevitably ended up being framed through this unfavourable comparison and barely managed to make its intended point about the glorious origins of the Kazakh nation.

Described as a ‘brawny historical actioner’ (Lesley Felperin in Variety), critic Don Willmot sees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nomad as representative of the ‘eastern Western’ and believes the film would only appeal to audiences with pronounced interest in 18-century Asian history. He is wrong. There are plenty of interesting reactions from ordinary viewers who have commented on it at the IMDb. Many of the comparisons are favorable and appreciate the entertainment and production values of the film. The parallels range from films such as 300 (2006), Gladiator (2000), to films like Luc Besson’s The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc(1999), the The Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) and to the Nordic action-adventure Pathfinder (2007). An IMDb posting describes it as ‘Troy meets Pearl Harbor‘, and another one talks of it as ‘soft on the eyes and full of epic eye candy’. A user from Italy says to him the film is no different from any in Hollywood epic.

These IMDb discussions are particularly interesting as they represent a global dialogue between viewers located in very different contexts, with participants logging in from the US, Kazakhstan, or Italy, as well as native Kazakhs living in diaspora (and Westerners working in Kazakhstan), thus giving the discussion a much more diverse perspective.

©Dina Iordanova
6 June 2008

Jean-Pierre Mocky ‘Solo’ (1970)

June 4, 2008 at 12:33 am

The vendor at the MK2 Bibliotheque DVD store who sold me a copy of Solo could not answer very clearly my question on who precisely is Jean-Pierre Mocky. I had asked him what the director is like, as I had only heard fleeting references that described him as a maverick of sorts (and I knew he was owner of the small Le Brady cinema in a seedy part of Paris). The sales assistant said that many people believe Mocky’s kind of cinema is precisely what cinema ‘should be’. In response to my request to choose one film that would give me a taste of Mocky’s work, he picked out Solo in an English-subtitled version.

Mocky is the writer, the producer, the director, and the lead actor of Solo, a political thriller that exposes the shady role that the police played in suppressing the change-seeking rebellious French youth. It is 1968. Vincent Cabral (Mocky) is an internationally-known violinist who, on the side, also smuggles diamonds in his Stradivarius. Returning to Paris after a trip, he learns that his younger brother, Virgil, is in trouble for involved with a 1968 student group that organizes pogroms on demoralized bourgeoisie, and the police are after him. Vincent enters a dangerous game, with lots of shoot outs and blasts on the way; he manages to save his brother, but at the expense of his life — his final brilliant solo performance.

Watching Solo brings so many endearing references to trashy popular culture films in mind, not least because ts production values place it clearly in the B-movie category. On the one hand, moments of the film are truly reminiscent to some of the Japanese jakuza films of the 1960s (e.g. Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter, 1966). On the other hand, the skinny long-armed and handsome Jean-Pierre Mocky reminds at moments to young Clint Eastwood, from the Dirty Harry period. On the background of a Georges Moustaki tune, he is driving and talking, with a cigarette always hanging out of his mouth; he jumps easily in and out of female beds, and has a subdued elegance which comes along with the feeling that something about the protagonist is low-class.

One of the bonus features on the DVD, an aged Mocky talks of the film’s reception history. Released in early 1970s, Solo enjoyed good reviews and was generally regarded as one of the films that reflected the spirit of 1968. Later on, however, it fell out of favor with the crowd of critics that control the reminiscing of 1968. In 1998, for the thirtieth anniversary of ’68, it was shown only on two TV, and at that not in May but only in November, a timing that effectively obscured the reference to ’68. Mocky felt that this oblivion erased the frame of referencing in which the film had been created (I can confirm that in 2008, except the comprehensive program at Cinematheque Francaise, I did not see the film scheduled in any of the retrospectives of ’68).

Judging by what I see at the IMDb, Mocky is a one man powerhouse. Born in 1929 and having appeared in supporting roles as early as 1950 (notably, also in Cocteau’s Orphée), he is 81 now and still active as director, actor, writer and producer. He is credited as the director of nearly sixty films (which, rumor has it, can mostly be seen at his own cinema, Le Brady in the 10th arondissement). He has been in small roles in films by Godard, Visconti, and Antonioni, and in the lead of many other films; actors that have appeared in his films range from Bourville to Jeanne Moreau, Michel Serrault, Richard Bohringer and Michel Blanc. An idiosyncratic history of French cinema, in other words. His history of producing and directing suggests that he may qualify as a French Roger Corman. No wonder that critical interest in Mocky is awakening, and that his oeuvre, like the work of many other popular culture figures whose films were snubbed for years, is being rediscovered and reassessed (I stumbled on a comparison of Solo to the work of Jacques Audiard, and was persuaded by it). Just last year, Pathe Europe released a number of Mocky on DVD, many with English subtitles. There is an authoritative BiFI-published monograph by Eric Le Roy, Jean-Pierre Mocky, as well as a book of interviews, M. le Mocky.

© Dina Iordanova
4 June 2008


Grigori Aleksandrov’s Vesna (1947), with Lyubov Orlova

June 2, 2008 at 12:29 am

A small company in France has released a copy of the rare Soviet film, Grigori Aleksandrov and Lyubov Orlova‘s musical Vesna/ Spring (Le printemps), one of the first Soviet productions made after the end of WWII. It is an amazing cinematic document from one of the fascinatingly controversial directors in the history of Soviet film, starring the most popular ever film actress of the Soviets, Lyubov Orlova, star of such quintessential Soviet films like Jolly Fellows (1934), Circus (1936), and Stalin’s favorite, Volga-Volga (1938). I have written on Orlova in the past; see my 2002 article Stalinism’s Shining Star for Senses of Cinema.

The plot of the musical comedy is based on a continuous quiproquo: a film studio decides to make a film about the inspiring work of scientist Nikitina, who is about to unveil a major discovery in the field of energy at her Institute of the Sun. The role is assigned to the young Shatrova, a feminine beaury who desperately wants to be in the film but finds it a real challenge to represent the prickly masculine scientist. So Shatrova goes to Nikitina in an attempt to get her assistance for the role, a move that generates a series of misunderstandings and substitutions, as the two women are identical lookalikes (of course, both roles are played by Orlova, and quite often both Nikitina and Shatrova appear in the same frame, in a novel and skillful usage of split screen techniques). As a result of their interaction, the scientist becomes more feminine and finds love, and the actress’s talent to play different roles is recognized and her film career takes off.

The film makes a great document for any film historian. It may have been made during the harshest years of Stalinism, yet it feels and looks like an American studio feature from the 1930s, with an amusing infusion of socialist work ethics. The elegant robes and the hairdos of the women, the long coats of the men, the cars that drive them from one place to another and the lively street hubbub, it is all as if directly transplanted from Ninotchka (1939). With the exception of an opening musical number where a group of Comsomol girls in white march through the streets of an early morning Moscow, all the other street and studio scenes look more like a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film and certainly do not resemble anything we know of the Soviet tradition. If one seeks international epigones of Hollywood studio product from the 1930s, Aleksandrov is probably the director that needs to be looked at first and foremost. He literally absorbed all style features of Hollywood musicals that he came across during his fated visit to America alongside Eisenstein in the 1930s, and later on reproduced the lessons fatefully and productively, both in dramaturgy and in film style. In Vesna, the relationships between the protagonists bear some element of socialist morality and responsibility but are equally playful to those seen in films by Mark Sandrich. The added comical subplots are directly reminiscent to Hollywood’s approach to structuring romcoms of the time. Remarkable and certainly worthwhile for a closer critical scrutiny by film historians.

The picture shows Orlova and husband Grigori Aleksandrov on a visit to the West in the 1960s, in a period when she had already wrapped her career in musicals and appeared only in smaller dramatic roles.

For Vesna, Aleksandrov has assembled a team of top professionals, who all appear unscathed after the difficult war years. Like earlier musicals from the 1930s, the uplifting music is credited to Isaak Dunayevsky, the most popular composer of the period; the chorus numbers are performed by the Bolshoy Theatre troupe. The script, as usual, is based on an idea by Aleksandrov who has developed it with the assistance of two more screenwriters. Arranging for studio space in Moscow at the time just after the war was problematic, so the film became one of the first ‘runaway’ productions to be shot almost entirely at the Barrandov studio in Prague. The great dramatic actor Nikolay Cherkassov, who is cast here as the director of the film and the scientist’s love interest, appears totally inadequate, especially as this role appears comes after his inimitable performance in Ivan the Terrible, released just three years earlier. Two other great Russian actors appear in supporting roles, the comedy star Faina Ranevskaya, as the housekeeper, and the highly respected soft-spoken Rostislav Plyatt.

© Dina Iordanova
2 June 2008

The DVD of Vesna in original Russian version with French subtitles is available for purchase from the French Amazon site.

Ozu’s Autumn Afternoon/ Sanma no aji (1962)

May 28, 2008 at 1:47 am

Saw Ozu’s last film, Autumn Afternoon (a.k.a. The Widower), certainly not a widely available one. Like other films by Ozu, it tackles themes of radical solitude, of egotistic parents and siblings, and of family politics. (Mariko Okada stars as the daughter in law).

The scene of the daughter’s wedding day from this 1962 film reminded me of the photo of a newly wed couple that we took in 2007 at the Shinto shrine in Yoyogi park in Tokyo.

Japan may have changed, but in some respects at least it looks the same as in earlier times.

Autumn Afternoon‘s use of bright color spots (blue, yellow, red, pink) on the background of generally monochrome interiors, has been replicated in cinema in films ranging from Tati’s Playtime (1967) to Kusturica’s Black Cat, White Cat (1998).

© Dina Iordanova
28 May 2008

Laurent Cantet wins Cannes Film Festival 2008

May 26, 2008 at 1:17 am

French director Laurent Cantet has won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival for Entre les murs/The Class, a film based on a book by François Bégaudeau.

Being based in Paris these days, I can certainly say this was totally unexpected for the French. The other film in competition, Arnaud Desplechin’s Un conte de Noël, is widely covered, its group of actors are on the front pages of every possible magazine, and the film is already playing at cinemas everywhere. The coverage for Entre les murs, on the contrary, was a low key affair throughout, with a few interviews here and there and in a subdued tone in the overall, as the film screened last at Cannes and was not expected to leave a particular mark (beyond the generally good impression that the cinema of Canted normally enjoys). It may also be that the French, after having awarded scores of Cesars to Abdellatif Kechice’s L’Esquive/Games of Love and Chance a few years ago, may be tired of classroom films. As I write this on the day after the Festival closed, the imdb entry for the film is incomplete, and the Wikipedia article about the book on which it is based is only two lines long. This will certainly change very quickly.

Here is a clip from the film.

In the French tradition of ‘auteurs’, Cantet has built up a solid even if not ‘hot’ reputation over the years, and one can certainly say he is one of the most robust and level-headed filmmakers working today in the vein of the classical realist tradition. His ‘method’ has already been the subject of a scholarly investigation(Pour une méthode d’investigation du cinéma de Laurent Cantet). His first international success, Ressources humaines/Human Resources(1999), was extremely well-received and even though it dealt with the seemingly most prosaic subject matter — the intricate politics between employees within an organization — it was reviewed as highly original and unexpected; no wonder as it is one of the rare contemporary films to tackle head on the world of work. This is still my favorite among his films. It was followed by L’emploi du temps/Time Out(2001), based on the true story of a man who had lost his job but who felt uncomfortable telling his family and cheated on them for a long time by continuing to pretend he was crossing into nearby Switzerland for his job while gradually suffocating in a web of financial swindles. A very fine portrayal of the contradictory reaction of a weak person confronting a difficult situation. More recently, Cantet continued exploring complex human relationships, this time of subtle exploitation, in Vers le sud/Heading South(2005), his most wiedly distributed film starring Charlotte Rampling. It is an investigation into transnational sex tourism involving vulnerable young Haitians, an allegory of the not so subtle exploitation that generally marks the interactions between the global North and South.

Cantet’s earlier, The Sanguinaires (1997), a study of the family dynamics’ over a summer spent on a small island, is available on VHS.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish cineaste to whom I dedicated a post on 14 May 2008, has won the award for best director. Click here to read it.

© Dina Iordanova
26 May 2008

Chacun son cinéma

May 18, 2008 at 1:21 am

To mark Cannes anniversary in 2007, long-time festival director Gilles Jacob commissioned a group of thirty-odd contemporary international filmmakers to make three minute-long shorts on the topic of cinema, which were to be included in the omnibus project Chacun son cinéma (To Each His Own Cinema) (subtitled as ‘Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que le film commence’). The compilation screened at the festival’s 60th edition, and is now available on a Limited Edition DVD containing 32 shorts by well-established world directors, most of whom explore subject matters like cinema-going, voyeurism, and cinéphilia, or reflect on the impact that cinema has had on their lives.

Dedicated to Federico Fellini, Chacun son cinéma‘s shorts pay homage to cineastes that are no longer around, from Marcello Mastroianni (Theo Angelopoulos’ film), through Dreyer (Atom Egoyan’s) to Michal Waszynski, the Polish-Yiddish director of the 1937 The Dybbuk (Amos Gitai’s).

Many of the participants have chosen to feature the unique excitement coming along with seeing films in open air at locations all over the world (Raymond Depardon – Alexandria, Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige – rural China, Wim Wenders – Congo) or in a variety of urban settings and social contexts (Bille August, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Andrei Konchalovsky, Ken Loach). Some — like Youssef Chahine, Nanni Moretti, Lars von Trier, and Claude Lelouch — reflect on their cinematic careers.

In the interview that accompanies the DVD, many directors speak of how hesitant they were to committing to this project, mostly because Gilles Jacob’s invitation had come at a time when they were working on a larger feature project and an engagement with the completely different genre of the short would distract them. Only Manuel de Oliveira, the incontournable nonagenarian, said that he handled it easily by simply applying the principle of ‘three’: he chose a story with three actors, shot it over three days, and, voilà, he got a three minute-long film!

Aki Kaurismaki’s, Takeshi Kitano’s and Roman Polanski’s contributions carry the trademark of their uniquely black humor. But the short that takes most applause is Brazilian Walter Salles’s A 8944 km de Cannes, which I have transferred here from YouTube.

This DVD’s availability in the US is limited, it is not available in the UK, but it is possible to easily order it from France. There are English subtitles to all the films. As most are really short, they make for an easily accessible illustration in the teaching of film, and many give a good idea of the director’s style and range of thematic concerns. The supplemental DVD contains an extra short by David Lynch, as well as a 50 minute-long interview with most of the participating directors about the project’s history (in French only).

© Dina Iordanova
18 May 2008

Djibril Diop-Mambety’s Tales of Little People

May 16, 2008 at 12:29 am

I love the work of Senegalese director Djibril Diop-Mambety (1945-1998). His sense of humor, his remarkable sensibility in telling a story, his ability to show social dynamics through the movement of the protagonists around Dakar and the periphery. Like many other African directors, his filmography is fairly short, and there are gaps of a decade and even longer between his films. His two full-length features, Touki Bouki (1973) and Hyenas(1992), both classics of African cinema and both among my favorite films, have limited availability. His Parlons grand-mère (1989), reportedly a hilarious documentary about the shot of Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Yaaba, is unavailable. Neither can one see his early films, Badou Boy (1970) or Contras’ City (1969), a witty portrayal of Dakar. (These are briefly discussed in N. Frank Ukadike’s important interview with the director at California Newsreel‘s web-site).

So I was overjoyed to be able to watch Mambety’s last two films, 45 minute-long novellas, the second one of which has been completed post-humously after the director’s death in 1998. The DVD of Tales of Little People contains The Franc (1994) and The Little ‘Sun’-Seller (1999), both subtitled in English, Spanish and French (and perceptivly reviewed by Acquarello at Strictly Film School). The DVD’s bonus features a memorable interview with the director (in French only), where he talks of his unique approach to visualization and narrative, a ‘master class’ of sorts where he comes across as an accomplished philosopher of cinematic art.

Set against the background of the 50% disastrous devaluation of the West African Franc by France in 1994, it looks as if the cripples from Ousmane Sembene’s Xala and the young workers from Jean Rouch’s Jaguar have simply stepped over into Mambety’s tales. The blind woman’s disabled granddaughter, who is doubly disadvantaged for being handicapped and being a girl, makes a really tough choice by becoming a street vendor of the ‘Sun’ newspaper, yet bravely lives up to the challenge. The impoverished musician from The Franc, a proud follower of folk-legend Yaadikoone (a man who Mambety refers to as his inspiration as well), does not have much other chance to recover financially but winning the lottery (which, hilariously, does happen). The Franc contains some of Mambety’s trademark sequences of phantasizing about prosperity, for which the director is famous from the time of Touki Bouki. Even if not naming names, his targets are the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which he calls ‘enemies of humankind’, a treatise directly leading to the open accusations in Abderrahmane Sissako’s recent Bamako.

Tales of Little People was meant to be a trilogy co-produced by Senegal, France and Switzerland. The project, however, was cut short by the untimely death of the director by lung cancer at a Paris hospital at the age of fifty-three.

© Dina Iordanova
16 May 2008

Nuri Bilge Ceylan at Cannes Film Festival

May 14, 2008 at 1:18 am

The atmospheric cinema of Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan represents a direct continuation of Tarkovsky and Kiarostami’s legacy. The lonely quests of his protagonists take them on contemplative walks across alienated wintry cities, to river banks awash by icy waters. The monochrome cityscape reveals dramatic skies with fast moving clouds; in the village scenes the grass leans in one direction and whispers, chased by the wind, like in Tarkovsky’s Mirror. As the years go on, Bilge Ceylan’s films are taken over more and more by despair and by the existential melancholy, the hüzün, the feel of which Nobelist Orhan Pamuk created so vividly in his essay novel Istanbul.

Bilge Ceylan’s new film, Three Monkeys (3 maymun), is one of the competition entries at Cannes this year. With the director’s growing reputation (his 2006 Climates (Iklimler) was pronounced by many critics the finest family drama of the year, rivaling in intensity Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage ) he is most certainly into the run for awards. The most interesting news, however, is that according to the director’s web-site Three Monkeys has been pre-sold across a range of European territories, which means we are certain to have the chance to see this film at a theatre and then get it on DVD, disregarding what happens at Cannes. Traditionally, such treatment has been reserved for Hollywood films exclusively, which get to the cinema no matter how good or bad they may be. However, things are changing; it is so good to come across situations where films of directors from smaller cinemas do not depend on performance at festivals in order to get into distribution.

A DVD with Bilge Ceylan’s great Early Works, containing Kasaba (The House) and Mayis sikintisi (The Clouds of May) – both films clearly revealing his artistic roots, both evolving around the conviviality of extended family, both taking place in endearing remote provincial locations – is only available in the UK. His later films, the Istanbul-set existential treatise Distant (Uzak, 2002) and Climates (Iklimler, 2006) are available on DVD more widely.

14 May 2008

Buy Distant in the US and in the UK.

© Dina Iordanova
14 May 2008

Buy Climates in in the US and in the UK.