the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:


Doclisboa's 6th Annual Blitz of Int'l Documentaries

"The Whole World Fits in Lisbon" is the rallying cry of Doclisboa's sixth annual blitz of international documentaries that rains down on the Portuguese capital October 16-26, 2008. Rousing words indeed for Lisbon audiences who, still hungover from Portugal's Age of Discovery, crave global stories that the inward-looking media tends to eschew.

And that's the big seduction of the country's sole festival dedicated to nonfiction films. In its short track record, Doclisboa has cultivated a public of moviegoers that flocks to its issue-heavy themes for entertainment and a way out of the sense of isolation that still pervades the nation nearly 35 years after the fall of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

In 2007, 33,000 people came out for their documentary fix — up 20,000 from a scant three years before — including many who took their annual vacation to do so.

Showcasing films with a political or socially conscious pulse is not only an audience builder, it's a Doclisboa strategy for enlightening decision makers and even for affecting change—and not just locally.

Last year head of direction and programming Sérgio Tréfaut seized on the EU Summit in Lisbon to alert European premiers to US torture practices in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, as exposed in Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side."

Though no such forum graces Lisbon this time around, Doclisboa 2008 continues its romance with newsworthy themes among its 150 titles and peppy program of panels, industry breakfasts and parties. Highlights include a retrospective of 11 Frederick Wiseman classics, with the eminence on hand to parry questions and teach a masterclass.

Also on offer is "Made in China," a section tracking the individual in Chinese society since 1994 as lensed by Zhang Yuang, Jia Zhang-Ke and Huang Wenhai, among other directors made in China. And a sidebar spotlights former Portuguese colony Mozambique, whose national film archives are currently being restored with the aid of Doclisboa parent Apordoc (The Portuguese Documentary Association).

As in previous editions, this year's festival hosts "Filmed Diaries and Portraits," "New Vision" and "International Competition" sections as well as a joust among Portuguese submissions. Three debut sections are "New Families/ New Identities," "Docs 4 Kids" and music-themed "Heart Beat," spanning Daniel Schmid's Il Baccio di Tosca and Scott Hicks's Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. Films that come with special buzz are Maradona by Kusturica, by Emir Kusturica; Standard Operating Procedure, by Errol Morris; Z32, by Avi Mograbi' Alex Gibney's Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson; and Jogo de Cena, by Eduardo Coutinho, who also holds down a masterclass.

International contenders vie for three prizes: the City of Lisbon award for best feature documentary, a 15, 000 € bounty; the Odisseia award for first documentary, at 3,500 €; and the Johnnie Walker award for short documentary, which decants 3,000 €. Journalist Jonathan Rosenbaum, producer Joana Vicente and photographer Nan Golden are among the jurors deciding these fates. Of the four prizes in the Portuguese competition, Sony metes out 3,000 € plus an HD Camera to the winning first documentary.

With its de-insulating mission and thoughtfully curated slate—this year pared down from 1,300 submissions --Doclisboa enjoys bragging rights as a purveyor of media that matters.

As Tréfaut explained, this extends beyond immediate festivalgoers to include distributors seeking theatrical and TV product and news outlets considering grabby angles for what they deem tough-sell global stories. Whetting public and media appetites for the world beyond its borders is the festival's niche and passion. "Portugal is a country that is narcotized."

Its fervor to move past what Tréfaut calls a "provincial mentality" also applies to the film industry. The 11-day revelries in Culturgest, Londres Cinema and São Jorge Cinema include a seminar reassessing the Portuguese documentary tradition of profiling artists, which Tréfaut describes as an "Estates-General" to counsel on "the artist film plague…or how to finish for once and for all with biographies about non-fascinating topics."

As opposed to many other European countries, such as  France and Germany, where TV is the main documentary funder, Portugal defrays some 80% of a film's budget through the Portuguese Film Institute. However enviable, this cushy scene has its downside.

Said Tréfaut, "Nobody who makes a film is pressured by a producer, which is not necessarily a good thing--there's a lack of dialogue and a lack of producers, including line producers."

Then he added, "I'm not complaining about not having a dictatorship from TV, but often the films are not as good as they could be."

While Doclisboa celebrates those that are, champions of the artform like Tréfaut see the festival as a goad to a brighter and less isolated future of nonfiction filmmaking and watching in Portugal.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2008

You may know Karlovy Vary from the movies--its Grandhotel Pupp played a starring role in the Bond thriller Casino Royale--but the Czech spa town better known as Carlsbad produces its own film franchise, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. This July 4th the venerable festival raises the curtain on its 43rd sequel.
And the town is ready for its close-up. For eight days, 253 feature films from around the world will be screened amid some of Eastern Europe's most elegant spa hotels. Once the oases of royalty, these lovingly preserved manses still serve up therapeutic hot springs--a pleasure that, to today's EU passport-toting Czech, is a reminder of why some homegrown traditions must be protected at all costs.

All the more reason why the West Bohemian outpost two hours from Prague prizes its festival. Drawing thousands of industry types, film buffs and travelers questing for an Old World escape with modern distractions, the annual bash pumps enough krowns into Karlovy Vary's coffers to support its preservation habit.
Also preening their exteriors every fest are celebrities-Robert De Niro will stardust the opening night tribute gala and Saffron Burrows fronts Amy Redford's The Guitar-consigning to history's quaint dustbin Karlovy Vary IFF's 40 years of alternating with fellow traveler Moscow International Film Festival, until 1993. Again enter the Pupp, which that year joined with the Town of Karlovy Vary and the Ministry of Culture in creating a foundation tasked with producing the festival.  
Over the years the KVIFF has emerged as the leading showcase of Eastern European cinema. It has two main jousts: the Official Competition among international premieres, whose grand prize is the Crystal Globe ($20,000), and the celebrated East of the West section, where filmmakers from Europe's Orient contend for top honors. East of the West marks Karlovy Vary's strategic niche in the increasingly crammed world festival circuit, mirroring the Czech Republic's geopolitical perch between Central and Eastern Europe. Of Parents and Children, by Vladimír Michálek, represents the country in this segment.  
KVIFF was founded more than 60 years ago to showcase productions of the newly nationalized Czechoslovak film industry, and to this day its homegrown titles command a nurturing hand. "It's important to have an overview of film production in the domestic environment, and to have the will to help promote it," said KVIFF program director Eva Zaoralová. "Thanks to their screenings at Karlovy Vary, various Czech films have found their way into competition at other festivals or informative programs, or they've been purchased for distribution abroad."
While the festival prides itself on celebrating quality work regardless of national origin, it does its part for indigenous talent. Explained Zaoralová, "It's chiefly a case of including a Czech film in the main competition." Michaela Pavlatova's Night Owls and Petr Zelenka's Dostoevsky-inflected The Karamazovs are the Czech submissions vying in the Official Competition; Zelenka's Year of the Devil snared the Crystal Globe in 2002.
Ten movies grace the Czech Films 2007-2008 program, among which Jan Hřebejk's relationship dramedy, Teddy Bear, stands out for its tonal departure from the director's Oscar-nominated WWII remembrance, Divided We Fall. Václav Havel inspired two cinematic ruminations in this non-competitive section, one a documentary by Pavel Koutecký and Miroslav Janek (Citizen Havel) and the other, a seriocomedy by Jiří Vejdělek (Václav). Absurdist doesn't begin to describe the humor in this unlikely tale of mental disorder and clemency based on a true story involving the artsy Czech leader. And Alice Nellis is back with Little Girl Blue, having swept three Czech Lions (Best Czech Film) in 2007 for her previous foray into domestic tensions.

Also of Czech provenance, Jana Bokova's Bye Bye Shangai, Helena Trestikova's Rene and Juraj Lehotsky's Blind Loves are contenders in the documentary silo. This last aims to open viewers' eyes with its four love stories among the sight-impaired, while Bye Bye Shangai profiles several accomplished Czech émigrés and concludes that you really can't go home again in any meaningful way. The eponymous subject of Rene is the sometime imprisoned, sometime released criminal and writer Rene Plasil, set against a cascade of political events in and beyond the Czech Republic. The documentary competition gins the entries that exceed 30 minutes from those that don't, and gives both nonfiction formats a reprieve from oblivion.
Conquering obscurity is what a popular sidebar curated by Variety magazine is all about. Now in its eleventh edition, Variety Critics' Choice: Europe Now! is jointly sponsored withthe European Film Promotion (EFP). Seven of this year's ten works are debut features, with directors under 40 a recurring theme, inviting the broad observation that young talent is currently amok across Europe.
Some of the marquee-name entries at Karlovy Vary are bunched under the Open Eyes program. This whizz-worthy event reprises 13 films recently screened at Cannes. Gomorra, by Italian Matteo Garrone, took this year's Grand Prix on the Croisette, and it joins jury prizewinner Il Divo, another spiky political expose by way of Italy, in the Open Eyes lineup. So do Three Monkeys, which nabbed for Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan Best Director award, and Lorna's Silence, Best Screenplay laureate from the Dardenne brothers. The animated war documentary Waltz with Bashir comes to Open Eyes amid an extra measure of anticipation. Its Israeli director, Ari Folman, bagged KVIFF's Special Jury Prize in 1996 for the comedy Saint Clara, and he sits on the 43rd KVIFF Grand Jury.    
Heading up that Jury is émigré filmmaker Ivan Passer, whose credits range from Czech New Wave classics The Firemen's Ball and Loves of a Blond (which he co-wrote and assistant directed) to Hollywood release Cutter's Way (which he directed). Jurors include British actress Brenda Blethyn, US producer Ted Hope, Dutch actress Johanna ter Steege, Hungarian-born cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Czech actor/composer/musician Jan P. Muchow.
Beyond the whirr of screenings, parties and panels and the glam of stars and spas, Karlovy Vary once again opens for business-the business of  toasting international work while also boosting the Czech and other former Socialist bloc movie industries whose films are as challenging to fund as they are to distribute outside of national borders.

ZINEBI 50: Festival Of Nonfiction and Tapa-Sized Films

The Bilbao International Festival of Documentary and Short Film (ZINEBI) jubilates its 50th birthday November 23-29, 2008, making it one of the world’s oldest showcases of the seventh art. Who knew?

A mere hour from San Sebastián—home to Spain’s premier fest--this year’s juried meet in the heart of Basque country drew 2,849 contenders from 85 countries for its coveted Mikeldi Award. Eighty of these survived Selection Committee scrutiny, which includes the criterion that films and video productions come in at 45 minutes max. Twenty-six countries are represented in the final slate.

Read more: ZINEBI 50: Festival Of...

NY Latino Film Festival Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The New York International Latino Film Festival (NYILFF) celebrated its 10th Anniversary recently, screening in Manhattan from July 27 to August 2nd. This year, NYILFF debuted in new venues at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 9 and the School of Visual Arts Theater. NYILFF is presented by Home Box Office.

Major stars appearing in films at this year’s festival included Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo, Calle 13, Ruben Blades, Vin Diesel, Christina Milian, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Jim Jones, Kerry Washington, Brandon Routh, Illeana Douglas, Shannyn Sossamon, Lara Flynn Boyle, Easi Morales, Ericka Alexander, Voltio, Tego Calderon, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Rasuk, Kuno Becker, Ana de la Reguera and Rev. Al Sharpton.

"We are very excited to be celebrating our 10th Anniversary,” says Calixto Chinchilla, Executive Director. “The NYILFF began as a dream to showcase our talent and to empower Latinos. We’ve been fortunate to have grown in size and stature. This year, we have everything; highly anticipated Hollywood premieres to independent films from filmmakers across the globe, industry forums, music showcases and free outdoor events for everyone."

Read more: NY Latino Film Festival...

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.