Friday, August 30, 2013

MWFF 2013: Ivan Son of Amir



Director : Maksim Panfilov
Screenwriter : Maksim Panfilov, Andrei Osipov
Cinematographer : Oleg Lukichev
Cast : Karolina Grushka, Bobur Yuldashev, Dmitry Dyuzhev, Andrey Merzlikin, Lola Eltaeva, Nargis Abdullaeva, Aziza Begmatova, Anastasia Smoktunovskaya, Samira Khuseynova
Film production and Sales : Film Company: Vera, Mosfilmovvskaya str. 1, Moscow (Russia), tel. and fax: +7 499 1439222,

"A Russian woman from Sevastopol flees with her two children during the Second World War. Amir, an Uzbek with two wives, gives her shelter in a remote village. The Uzbek has not gone to the front to fight, because he, as he explains, he does not like to kill people. Nevertheless, Amir believes that he is "defending the motherland" by looking after and feeding his own family along with the Russian, now his third wife, her two children and little Ivan, his new son from the Russian woman. When the war ends, the woman's husband, a lieutenant of the Black Sea fleet, who was assumed to be dead, shows up looking for his wife and children. He finds them and returns with them to Sevastopol -- his wife, the children and little Ivan. But he has difficulty accepting that his wife was third wife of a Muslim man who wouldn't fight in the war and the product of their union, Ivan, who is named after him, is now playing host to Amir's visiting family."

Ivan Son of Amir was the only Russian film shown  at the Montreal World Film Festival this year. The image to the left shows the Director of the film Mr. Maksim Panfilov (on the right) with two interpreters at the Press Conference that took place at the Hyatt Hotel in Montreal on August 28, 2013.

Two images below are also of the director Maksim Panfilov. On the left, he is listening to a question during the press conference. On the right, posing next to the official poster of his film right after the same press conference.

The film had merited an enthusiastic applause at the end of all three official screenings at the festival. Mr. Panfilov's film presents a very human situation, where a mistaken information is provided to the film's main character, which consequently leads her to faced a dilemma of making some life-changing choices to assure the survival of her two children and herself during the World War II. The original motive for this film was given to the director by his mother when she narrated to him a true story that happened to a Russian woman when she was evacuated from a war-torn Russia to Uzbekistan.

The film's heroin, interpreted superbly with great skill and sensitivity by Karolina Grushka, portrays emotions and conflicts experienced in a very unusual and difficult situation. This is especially true when her husband, previously declared dead in action, finds her in Uzbekistan after the war. Meanwhile, she has become a third wife of a Muslim Uzbek man, to whom she has born a son, small Ivan, called by his Uzbek father to honour the heroin's presumably fallen husband whose name was Ivan.

Although I could tell you more as what took place next, I would actually prefer you saw the film in person, in order to appreciate the ensuing drama, the characters' search to resolve the situation, and the inter-human relationships that triumph even in a complex diverse cultural situation, where purely human values common to all of us, regardless of our nationalities, triumph at the end. 

The film features a superb cinematography with compelling, poetic, and skilfully constructed imagery. The music and sound effects are innate to the story line and help to bring it to the sharp focus. The other principle actors Bobur Yuldashev, Dmitry Dyuzhev also deliver a commendable performance, along with all the supporting actors and even extras.

The picture to the left shows the film's director Maksim Panfilov with the Montreal Film Festival's director Serge Losique at the Mayor of Montreal reception which took place under a tent, on the Montreal City Hall's terrace, on August 28, 2013. The photo below and to the left is of director Maksim Panfilov on the City Hall's terrace during the same reception. The photo to to the right shows Maksim Panfilov with his interpreter on the stage of the Montreal's Maisonneuve Theatre just before the screening of his film.

Film's trailer:


This film has merited the Best Screenplay Prize that was awarded at the very end of the festival. Read more about it in my post of September 3, 2013:

Montreal World Film festival 2013: Best Screenplay - Ivan Son of Amir

Top Image courtesy MWFF 2013 and the Director of the film.
All other photos by Nadia Slejskova.
© Nadia Slejskova

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MWFF 2013: Life Feels Good

Life Feels Good
Chce Sie Zyc


Director : Maciej Pieprzyca
Screenwriter : Maciej Pieprzyca
Cinematographer : Pawel Dyllus
Editor : Krzysztof Szpetmánski
Cast : Dawid Ogrodnik, Kami Tkacz, Dorota Kolak, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Katarzyna Zawadzka, Anna Nehrebecka
Music : Bartosz Chajdecki
Film production and Sales : Wieslaw Lysakowski, Tramway Studio, Rejtana 14/9, 02-516 Varsovie (Pologne), tél.: (+48-22) 845 03 52, / TVP - Film Agency, Varsovie (Pologne), tél.: (+48-22) 547 81 67,

"Mateusz has cerebral palsy. In addition to his obvious physical handicap, he was diagnosed at a very early age as a mentally disabled person with no communicative ability. After twenty five years, however, it turned out that apart from his physical problems, he was a perfectly normal, even quite intelligent person. The film is a chronicle of his life. We get to know Mateusz now, when he is 30 and is institutionalized at a clinic for the mentally disabled. He is about to be examined by a committee which will decide whether he is normal or not. In retrospect we follow his life from the early 1980s to the present, in happy and sad times. We also get to know the love of his life, Anka. 'The story of Przemek (the name of the real person on whom Mateusz is based) is above all a pretext to ask existential questions about life, death, faith, love, normality and understanding. Life does not bring unambiguous moments of sadness or joy; it is more a state in-between those feelings, between a funeral and a wedding. Life is both tragic and comical.'-- Maciej Pierprzyca"

The photo to the left shows the production team of the Polish film Life Feels Good aduring the press conference at the Montreal's World film Festival. Starting from the left is the lead actor Dawid Ogrodnik, in the centre - film director Maciej Pierpzyka, and on the the right - the cinematographer Pawel Dyllus.

The film is based on a true story. At the very end of the film we see the real person who inspired this film and whose real name is Przemek. Diagnosed at birth with a cerebral palsy, due to a medical error during his birth, he was tested through his childhood and early adulthood for any signs of intelligence. Unable to talk and to communicate to the others, he was time and again pronounced to be mentally deficient. In reality, he had a normal intelligence and an inquisitive mind, and had to live a life full of frustration, unable to convey this to others and especially to his family members. The breakthrough took place when the woman therapist who brought to Poland the BLISS communication language that enables severely handicapped people to communicate by blinking 'yes' or 'no' when shown various images (the BLISS language, which she incidentally learned in Canada). It was only then that the hero of the film, as well as the real person on whom the film is based, was able to tell the world that he was not a 'vegetable' as he was repeatedly referred to by others, even doctors, but a mentally normal person. 

The role of the main character Mateusz is superbly played by the Polish actor Dawid Ogrodnik. He really deserves a prize for his skilful and sensitive portrayal of the character's handicap. The role required not only the character study but also a physical training to be able to twist his joints in conceivable and plausible ways. But that was not enough. The actor also had to train with a mime - as he told those present at the Press Conference - to be able to acquire the needed skills in order to be authentically real in his role.

Below, in the image to the left we see the lead actor Dawid Ogrodnik as he relaxes on the terrace of the Hyatt Hotel, the headquarters of the film festival. On the right is the photo of Dawid Ogrodnik with the film director Maciej Pierpzyka after the press conference that took place at the same hotel.

Click on images to enlarge them.
Image at the top courtesy of MWFF and the Director of the film.

The film was awarded three prizes at the MWFF 2013:

-Grand Prix des Americas
-Ecumenical Prize
-Public Award for the most popular film of the Festival

All photos in this article by Nadia Slejskova
© 2013 Nadia Slejskova

MWFF 2013: The Ferry

The Ferry


Director : Shi Wei
Screenwriter : Shengsheng H. D'après/Based on: The Ferry. De/By: Shengsheng He
Cinematographer : Wang Yang
Editor : Wang Qiuyue, Zhang Sheng
Cast : Zhou Guangda
Music : Wang Yuanping
Film production and Sales : Peng Yanfang, Qiang Chen, Hubei Film Studio, 139 Wangsongyuan Road, Jianghan District, Wuhan, Hubei Prov. (Chine), tél.: (+86-27) 8548 89 03, Ventes/Sales: China Film Promotion International, Room 305, Red Chamber, 25 Xinwai Street, Beijing 100082 (Chine),

"Deep in the Enshi mountains, the Tian family live near an old ferry. To keep a commitment made by their forebears, three generations of the Tian family have helped people cross the river without collecting a penny for the ride. Using a wooden punt, they ferry the villagers across the Dasha river which divides the village. A widower in his 60s, his son away outside the village, Tian Huai’en is the third generation of the family to work the ferry. These years Huai’en has been living alone in a small stone hut built by the villagers, spending every day and night with his ferry, living a lonely and monotonous life. One day, his son Chuanjie takes a break from his job to visit his sick dad. He does not understand why Huai’en insists on running a free ferry. To explain, his father recounts how when Chuanjie’s great grandfather and his family came as refugees, the villagers sheltered them. The Tians began providing the free ferry as a token of their gratitude, and a tradition was established. Now Chuanjie wonders whether he should relieve his father. After spending his vacation rowing the ferry, Chuanjie realizes its significance. As his contribution to its future, he decides to save up and replace the wooden punt with a motorboat. Will the tradition continue?"

The film, based on a true story, features superb photography of the natural, mountainous, rural setting. It was filmed in Hubei Province in China. The film skilfully portrays the poetry of the running river, the sounds the water or rain makes, the harmony of colours and forms. But most importantly, it stresses the traditional family and simply human values like, for instance, honour expressed in keeping a promises once made from one generation through the succeeding generations, as well as the honour and pride in one’s work skilfully performed - a free service provided to the local community.

The film deals with the relationship between a son, who arrives for a 10 day holiday from a busy concrete filled city, and his father, who lives in the heart of nature and talks to the water and the river, across which he ferries people back and forth many times per day. At first, their is a conflict between the two, but as the film progresses they both come to understand and respect each other.

At the Montreal World Film Festival 2013 Press Conference, the film's director Shi Wei has stated that he had based his film on the ancient Chinese way of seeing the world, of finding the middle way: there are the heavens and the earth, and in the middle their are the people, and the goal is to harmonize all those spheres of existence.

The film clearly shows that no on-screen violence or portrayal of sex is required to make a film that could make us reconnect to many of our common sensibilities and emotions, to our humanity, love and respect.

MWFF 2013: Gaming Instinct

Gaming Instinct


Director : Gregor Schnitzler
Screenwriter : Kathrin Richter, Jürgen Schlagenhof
Cinematographer : Andreas Berger
Editor : Georg Söring
Cast : Michelle Barthel, Jannik Schümann, Maximilian Brückner, , Richy Müller, Ulrike Folkerts, Sophie von Kessel, Helmut Berger, Isolde Barth,
Music : Gerd Baumann
Film production and Sales : Markus Zimmer, Clasart Film & Fernsehproduktion GmbH, Kaufingerstr. 24, 80331 Munich (Allemange) tél: (+49-89)4506 10 24, Ventes/Sales: Carlos Hertel, TM International, Munich (Allemangne),

"Fourteen-year-old Ada, expelled from her previous school for fighting, arrives at Bonn’s Ernst Bloch High School. An intelligent girl who prefers her own company, she has problems with her bourgeois schoolmates. The only people she respects are the elderly history teacher Höfi, who is able to challenge her fierce intellect, and the young Polish sports teacher, Mr. Smutek, who encourages her passion for running. When a new student, 18-year-old Alev, arrives at the school, Ada is attracted by his cool. Multi-ethnic Alev lives with his mother Amila and is friends with Grüttel, Tom and Bastian, who are his own age and live in a residential unit that is part of the school. Ada feels herself also drawn to Alev in a physical way, but Alev, not without self-awareness, tells her he is impotent. Nonetheless, the two gradually grow closer and Ada falls in love. Eventually, Alev explains to her his theory of the “gaming instinct", which views people as characters in a game and their behaviour as gaming moves. When Mr. Höfling, one of the few people both Ada and Alev respect, commits suicide, Alev decides to put one of his elaborate game plans into practice. And Ada is its starring character." 

This film, shown at the Montreal World Film Festival 2013, is at times hard to watch as it portrays a type of violence which is not exactly physical. It is a psychological and a moral type of violence that fully involves physical senses of both characters, even when only voyeuristic, as in the case of the male character. 

Two teenagers are involved in deceit, manipulation, blackmail and extortion. They totally luck respect for a person who had treated them well, their teacher. They strip him of his dignity and moral integrity. In the process, they commit these same crimes also towards themselves, towards their inner human core.

At the end, the main preoccupation of the heroin is revealed - she is the one who won the game. Incredibly, she really cherishes the acknowledgement of this fact by her partner in crime, whereas should she had grown through her ordeal, she basically would not have cared at all what he thought. As this scene of her having won plays itself out towards the end of the film, it becomes more than obvious that unfortunately she has not gained any understanding as to what it was they have done, into what really sick place both of them had fallen. No regrets or guild are being expressed; no moral dilemma seems to exist for either of them. Moreover, the film ends by showing us a very satisfied-looking heroin, with a happy smirk on her face, first riding  a motor bike into the sun-lit seaside scenery, then walking through the ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi where the famous phrase “Know Thyself” is carved in the stone. It become painfully apparent that she has not won, as what she was told by her crime partner, but has actually lost, since she has failed herself and others as a human being and has not come to fully (and it appears even partially) to comprehend this fact.

Monday, August 26, 2013

MWFF 2013: Another House

Another House 
L'Autre Maison


Director : Mathieu Roy
Screenwriter : Mathieu Roy, Michael Ramsey
Cinematographer : Steve Asselin
Editor : Louis-Martin Paradis
Cast : Marcel Sabourin, Roy Dupuis, Émile Proulx-Cloutier, Florence Blain Mbaye, Julie Gayet
Film production and Sales : Roger Frappier, Féliz Frappier, Max Films, 1751, rue Richardson, bureau 5.101, Montréal, QC H3K 1G6 (Canada), tél.: 514 282-8444, Distributeur canadien/Canadian Distributor: TVA Films, 1600 boul. de Maisonneuve est, 9e étage, Montréal, QC H2L 4P2 (Canada),

"At 86, Henri Bernard has begun to suffer from dementia and keeps wandering away from his country house to find another more "comfortable" one. His two sons, Gabriel, a star reporter who travels around the world covering wars and political hotspots, and Eric, a pilot-in-training who can't get enough flying time because of filial duties, disagree about what to do with their increasingly erratic and forgetful father. Gabriel considers placing the old man in a nursing home but is turned off by what he sees when he and his father visit one. Eric scolds his brother for not "being there". He fends off his girlfriend's complaints and is resentful that his efforts seem unappreciated. But through the pain of their predicament, the two brothers realize that they must overcome their differences so that they are together when they accompany their father to the enigmatic place that he keeps seeking, the place he calls "the other home". "What really inspired me was the spirit that my father has preserved in his decline... It touched all of us in the family, and I wanted to pay homage to that. So there are autobiographical elements, but the film does not tell the life of my father, nor mine, nor that of my brother. These are characters who have found their own personalities and their own stories." -- Mathieu Roy "

A Quebec production Another House was the Montreal World Film Festival 2013 opening film. Especially those who had to care for an ageing parent or some other family member will immediately relate to this film, regardless if the illness of their loved ones being different from that of the main character in the film. Marcel Sabourin's performance is superb. His portrayal of Henri Bernard makes it easy to comprehend the limitations that his illness imposes as well as the stress experienced by those family member who care for him. His two sons are equally superbly portrayed by Emile Proulx-Cloutier and Roy Depuis.

Below are some photos taken just before the red carpet walk to the festival's opening night and the film's premier. To the left is the official poster of the film, and to the right picture of Roy Depuis with the film's director Mathiue Roy in the centre talking to a festival's participant.

Below are two images of the film's actors being interviewed by press. To the left is of the principal actor Marcel Sabourin, and to the right Roy Depuis.

Click on images to enlarge them.
Image at the top courtesy of MWFF and the director of the film.

All photos in this article by Nadia Slejskova.

© 2013 Nadia Slejskova

MWFF 2013: Opening Night

Montreal World Film Festival: 37th Edition

22 August-2 September 2013

This year's Montreal World Film presents a remarkable array of films, 432 in all in various categories:

Around the world in 432 films

218 feature films (113 world and international premieres)
14 medium length films (13 world and international premieres)
200 short films (147 world and international premieres)

World Competition : 20 feature films and 11 short films

First Films World Competition : 20 feature films

Hors Concours / World Greats : 13 feature films

Korean Cinema of Today : 8 feature films, 1 medium length, 9 short films

Focus on World Cinema : 105 feature films, 1 medium length, 110 short films

Documentaries of the World : 26 feature films, 12 medium length, 3 shorts films

INIS Productions : 10 short films (4 fiction films and 6 documentaries)

Canadian Student Film Festival : 1 feature film and 42 short films

Best Student Films of the World : 15 short films

Hommage : 1 feature film

Our Cinema – Review of a Year of Hits : 13 feature films

Cinema Under the Stars Loto-Québec : 12 feature films

The Film Festival's opening night was held at the Theatre Maisonneuve at Place-des-Arts. Unfortunately, because of the rain the usual red carpet walk across St.Catherine street was cancelled. The guests passed instead from the Complex-des-Jardins to Place-des-Arts through an underground passage.

The photo to the left shows dignitaries lining up before the red carpet walk, with Serge Losique - the founder and the President of the Montreal World Film Festival - in the front and in the centre of the photo.

To the right is Serge Losique with Festival's participants including members of the jury during the red carpet walk. 

Below are the members of the jury on the stage at the Maisonneuve Theatre at Place-des-Arts. The first from the left is Jiri Menzel, the president of the Montreal World Film Festival's jury this year.

To find out more about the festival and to see the program, visit the festival's website.

Click on images to enlarge them.

All photos in this article by Nadia Slejskova.
© 2013 Nadia Slejskova

MWFF poster at the top courtesy MWFF.