Film Festivals

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If Youth makes a probable appearance at Cannes next month, it will mark the fifth time a Paolo Sorrentino film has been nominated for the Palm d’Or. Il Divo won the Jury Prize in 2008 and This Must Be the Place won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in 2011. (Thanks to Bryce for bringing this to our attention.) The Great Beauty won the BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. Donatello nominations and wins too numerous to list. Sorrentino finally won an Oscar for The Great Beauty in 2014 because it only takes the Academy about 10 years to get a clue.

“Fred and Mick, two old friends, are on vacation in an elegant hotel at the foot of the Alps. Fred, a composer and conductor, is now retired. Mick, a film director, is still working. They look with curiosity and tenderness on their children’s confused lives, Micks enthusiastic young writers, and the other hotel guests. While Mick scrambles to finish the screenplay for what he imagines will be his last important film, Fred has no intention of resuming his musical career. But someone wants at all costs to hear him conduct again.”

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Robin Write at writeoutofla.com has selected his favorite Best Director winners at Cannes.

At the 1958 Cannes Film Festival French film-maker François Truffaut was nowhere to be seen. Truth is, he was not allowed to attend that year as a result of him verbally lashing out at the competition as an institution. I won’t say he had the last laugh, but the very next year his very first feature film The 400 Blows won over audiences at Cannes – as well as rewarding Truffaut with the Best Director prize. Film politics are fickle, always have been, but what a victory for cinema that was. I don’t believe many people reading this were not at all aware that the French New Wave had arrived that year.

I love how the juries at Cannes reward the movies. The winners of Best Director are so diverse, and yet still feature many names we know to be acclaimed. Not necessarily following any trend with regards to what the best film might be, for example. Did you know Joel Coen has won it three times between 1991 and 2001? Michael Haneke won for Cache, though it was two other of his films, The White Ribbon and Amour, that took the Palme d’Or. New German Cinema directors Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders have both taken the prize. Even Martin Scorsese has been named Best Director – for After Hours believe it or not. Cannes has also seen those fifth slot, yet arguably most deserving, Oscar nominees win the prize – Robert Altman (The Player), Pedro Almodóvar (All About My Mother), and David Lynch (Mulholland Drive). Last year’s Best-Picture-less Foxcatcher somehow earned a Best Director nod, and Bennett Miller was the last recipient in Cannes last May.

Here are five excellent examples of how Cannes Best Director winners really do seem to acknowledge a director’s significant and commanding presence on a film’s impact. That they are honoring actual stand-out film directing. Madness, right?

2007 – Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Worthy Alternatives:
Wong Kar-wai (My Blueberry Nights)
David Fincher (Zodiac)

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The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is an extraordinary looking film, and concept, unlike much you have seen before, or could see in the future. A grand achievement by Julian Schnabel. The set-up is purely about perspective, we see much of the movie through the point of view of the main character. And I mean this quite literally, through his eyes. For those who have not seen it, or know what it is about, the movie is based on real events, when Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) suffered a stroke and was left paralyzed from the head down. Bauby’s eyes guide us (well, one eye actually), not the exact way they guided him, but Schnabel certainly gives it a good go. The film also tells the story of Bauby’s life prior to the ailment. Some of the technical story-telling is so astonishing you wonder what kind of trickery this really is. Schnabel’s direction is so tight and meticulous, it flourishes – at times you suffocate as your heart breaks.

2011 – Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)

Worthy Alternatives:
Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty)
Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin)

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I feel I have exhausted my merits of Nicolas Winding Refn, both in my written form, and that personal praise I give him for his work on directing Drive. I will, though, never stop singing the praises of this. The movie is so perfectly stylish and refreshingly cool, even in its very dark and violent moments. You can see the director’s blueprint all over the movie, via the edgy, yet very different, performances from main actors (Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks in particular), to the shifts in movement and pace. I mean, at times it almost lingers so much it comes to a complete halt, but is not for one second tedious or uninteresting. Even the dance music Refn uses sits right beside the chugging tone of the film’s narrative, and could have been so out of place in anyone else’s grip – but is a perfect companion to it. With the disappointing reception of Only God Forgives, we hope to experience more of the kind of showcasing from Refn in the future he gave us with Drive.

2002 – Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love)

Worthy Alternatives:
Alexander Payne (About Schmidt)
Mike Leigh (All or Nothing)

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Hooray for Cannes once again for acknowledging one of the finest, and most talented directors of today’s generation, but also rewarding one of his most under-rated works. Punch-Drunk Love is a love story more than anything else, but is smeared with Paul Thomas Anderson’s signature ingredients. The characters are likable oddballs, especially Barry played by Adam Sandler, acting, really acting. Anderson shoots with vigor and energy, his camera pulls back and forth as effectively as it did in Magnolia – only on a much smaller story-scale. His arsenal as a film-maker is full to the brim with expertise, he makes movies likes he has been doing it since the seventies. Punch-Drunk Love is a much better film-watching experience now (and earns its place in Anderson’s consistently brilliant filmography) knowing what he has since achieved with the likes of There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice.

1979 – Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven)

Worthy Alternatives:
Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now)
Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career)

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I remember when I was very, very young, and seeing a documentary about cinematography, and there was a significant discussion on Days of Heaven by Terrence Malick. I watched film frames capture so much scenery, and the camera moving with Richard Gere as he shoveled coal into a furnace, eloquent and glorious camera-work I, as a kid, had not really seen too much of. But was certainly appreciating now. Néstor Almendros won Best Cinematography at the Oscars, and this movie is a text-book example of the craft, even now. Malick, though, is a true master behind the camera, an artist who can incorporate his bold skill as a director into the movement and vision of the camera frame. He has since worked with the likes of cinematographers John Toll and Emmanuel Lubezki, with similarly amazing visual results. Sometimes his landscapes are untouchable, a real treat for the eyes. Days of Heaven was the promise he has kept.

2006 – Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel)

Worthy Alternatives:
Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Sofia Coppola (Marie Antoinette)

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Oscar winner for Best Director for Birdman. But not 21 Grams. Or Babel. That’s another discussion altogether. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s win at Cannes was another notch on the bedpost of Mexican film-makers that year, with fellow nationals Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) also at the chair of terrific movies. Brave, incomparable movies. Babel was a multi-character piece, over several main story strands (as was 21 Grams, though the narrative time-shifts were a world apart). Iñárritu sets a formidably different tone in each of the stories, though we’re never allowed to assume this is not one complete movie. He gets intense and emotive performances from his cast, and manages to surprise us with both the faces we know, and those new ones we do not – Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza rightly got the most attention, and were eventually nominated for Oscars. Compellingly sluggish and rather gloomy, Babel still hits hard, and not one frame is wasted.

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Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at writeoutofla.com

You can follow him on twitter too.

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Our good friend Robin Write at writeoutofla.com has selected his favorite Best Actor winners at Cannes.

Oh Cannes Film Festival, how we miss you. More so around this time of year, when the Oscars and its end trails are not a long enough distant memory. They to us now, and the whole mirage of the awards season, are the messy house, the dog hairs, the dusty shelves – we want to have a spring clean. And Cannes is returning home, after a short well-earned break from it all, looking forward to letting the clean house smell drift through your nostrils. Open the window, breathe that sea air.

Completely forgotten by AMPAS, and many other critics and awards groups alike, our great Brit Timothy Spall was awarded the Best Actor prize last year for his terrific, quirky, devastating central role in Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner. I know we are not far away geographically, as if this has anything to do with it, but British actors have not done as well as winners at Cannes as they have with the Oscars (I mean, Daniel Day Lewis has three of those bald statuettes). And that is for reasons of a refreshing diversity not many festivals or awards can vouch for. Although the French understandably pop up more often than most nations, when you look back at the Best Actor winners in Cannes over the years you’ll find actors from all over the cinematic planet. Japan, Belgium, Russia, Austria, China, Israel, Turkey. America. Oh, and France.

The following choices (including the upcoming series in other categories) are not necessarily my all-time favorites. But as Best Actor winners at Cannes go, they are close. I admit, I have not seen all the movies that have won prizes at Cannes, but here are five at least that deserve a revisit:

1993 – David Thewlis (Naked)

Worthy Alternatives:
James Spader (The Music of Chance)
Otto Sander (Faraway, So Close)

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Mike Leigh again deserves some of the credit, not just for Naked, but for the irredeemable work his does with his actors and actresses. If you tried to pick a favorite Leigh performance you would lose yourself after using all fingers and both thumbs on each hand to tally them. David Thewlis though stands on his own here, a giant of his own making. He rants and implores Leigh’s words on screen like a natural, convincing nut-case. Arrogant declarations and theories of apocalyptic grandeur or the world we live in now. Thewlis gives Johnny a sarcastic, over-bearing presence, whether likeable or not you can not help but watch and listen.

2009 – Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Worthy Alternatives:
Tahar Rahim (A Prophet)
Steve Evets (Looking For Eric)

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I, and many others I am sure, have often wondered if Christoph Waltz would have taken home an Oscar had he been in the Lead Actor category. I would say yes, without much doubt. The voting in Cannes is not really too concerned with this. There was the usual debates of course from the moment Waltz won Best Actor in Cannes right through to the awards season. There was quite simply no performance so grand or glorious that year. Maybe the decade. At least that’s what I think. Waltz’s charismatic, multilingual achievement was certainly a show-stopper. Is this a rare time that both Cannes and Oscar get it right?

2011 – Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

Worthy Alternatives:
Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In)
Ryan Gosling (Drive)

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Not only was there a heavy revival of the silent cinema days with Michael Hazanavicius’ The Artist, but Cannes was also crammed with some fascinating male leads who did not predominantly rely on the spoken word to be compelling. Ryan Gosling (Drive), Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life), and even Ezra Miller (We Need To Talk About Kevin) are three such popular examples. Eventually going all the way to the Oscar Best Actor award (unlucky Mr Clooney) Jean Dujardin not only has the chiselled looks of an old-time movie star, his performance captured the eccentricities of that classic days of silent cinema, delivering heavy emotion and comedy in equal bursts of success.

1991 – John Turturro (Barton Fink)

Worthy Alternatives:
Joe Mantegna (Homicide)
Michel Piccoli (La Belle Noiseuse)

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Even today, Barton Fink is so good, like any of the Coen Brothers’ movies, I still shake my head when many awards groups stayed clear. Cannes, however, have a wonderful habit of embracing the movies of Joel and Ethan – and indeed those film-makers sinfully ignored elsewhere. Once a regular feature in their movies, John Turturro might not have been this magnetic in any of his movies prior, or since. The troubled Barton Fink, the character, was the perfect foil for the somewhat dumbstruck-looking actor (I mean that in the best possible sense) in a movie so odd, but ultimately so original. The movie was also reward with Best Director prize for the Coens, as well as the illustrious Palme d’Or.

1979 – Jack Lemmon (The China Syndrome)

Worthy Alternatives:
Klaus Kinski (Woyzeck)
Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now)

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The China Syndrome was one of those movies from the seventies you discover on your own. Nobody really told me about it, nor was I simply aware of it through it’s critical and award success, or the film’s status as instant classic (like, say, The Godfather). I saw this movie quite by accident as a boy, probably a teenager, and it gripped me from start to finish. A young Michael Douglas was a surprise, but the real stars here were Jane Fonda (who I was in love with anyway), and the terrific Jack Lemmon. Back then I was obviously a fan of his famous comedy work, but to see him this impressive in a pure dramatic role was a real eye-opener, as I continued to nurture my passion for cinema.

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Robin Write, longtime fixture at AwardsDaily, runs his own site at writeoutofla.com

You can follow him on twitter too, if you have good sense.

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by Stephen Holt

It’s always a pleasure to participate in the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s great “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.” The audiences are always as varied, delightful and intensely interesting, by age and gender, accurately reflecting the always-thrilling diversity depicted on screen.

This year the Rendez-vous initiated for its’ 20th anniversary, a series of Live Free Talks open to the public, cinephiles all.

I attended a particularly memorable one called “Actress On Actress” with French film icon Natalie
Baye and actress-turned-director Melanie Laurent. I got to ask the first question, which was how, when it seems even films with women as the central characters struggle to be made in the U.S., never mind films made BY women themselves, how is it that in France, it seems definitely not
be the case.

I pointed out that even this year’s Oscar nominations for Best Actress only had FOUR nominees in English speaking films, and the fifth was a French woman, Marion Cotillard, acting in her own language in a Belgian Film, “Deux Jours, Une Nuit.”(Two Days, One Night).

Both actreses seemed a bit astonished that this should be so, but Melanie Laurent was quick to answer. “In France, it is never the gender of the character that matters, it’s whether the script is good or not. If the script is good, whether about a man or a woman, it will get made.”

And they both felt that actors and actresses were treated equally across the board, and that even extended to women as directors, too.

Laurent felt she experienced no resistance to her attempting to change her career path to include directing. Her second film “Breathe” or “Respire” was featured in this year’s Rendez-Vous. Though “Breathe” was about a teenage lesbian love story, no one even thought to bring this up as a topic or question to Laurent. It was simply accepted as a well-told romance

Also on hand in person, was the charming quipster and heart-throb Guillaume Canet, who picked up all five of the hand mikes that were on the floor when he ascended the stage, and held them like a bouquet of roses, and said “I am not a serial killer.” Though the actor/screenwriter/director actually played TWO in two films at the Rendez-Vous “Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart” and “In the Name of My Daughter.” Both noirs based on true stories, he told of actually being able to talk on the phone to the man whose character he was portraying in “Daughter” which co-stars Catherine Deneuve as his mother-in-law.”Sometimes the conversations would go on for hours,” he said. “It was wonderful to have that much information, but it was weird.”
And what was it like acting for the first time opposite the legendary Deneuve? “I was always scared,” he said.

Just as scary, I imagine as he was in “Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart”(“La Prochaine Fois Je Viserai Le Coeur”) which was my favorite film this year I have to say. This year’s theme of the Rendez-Vous was a celebration of French Film Noir and there was plenty of excellent examples of that on hand.

In “Next Time”, Canet chillingly but expertly interprets the mind of a notorious French serial killer, who terrorized France in the winter of 1978-79. The twist here, and it’s true, he was one of the main gendarmes inspecting the case. No wonder they couldn’t solve it!

It was a wonderful cat-and-mouse thriller, with Canet’s schizoid character constantly throwing the police off the track. HIS track. Cedric Anger, who was once a critic for “Cahiers du Cinema” wrote and directed this taut true crime thriller.

I also liked “Wild Life” or “Vie Sauvage” which was about the tortured flight of a father escaping his divorced wife with two of their young sons. Also based on a true story, as many of the films in this year’s Rendez-vous were, it tells the story completely from the point of view of the anguished hippie dad, who wants his sons to live free off the land, nomadic-ly, in modern day France. Not an easy thing to do. Constantly chased by the police, their life underground and on the run was fascinating. Mathieu Kassovitz and Celine Sallette played the warring parents to perfection. Directed by Cedric Kahn.

I also liked “Hippocrates,” a Paris-set hospital drama, written and directed by Thomas Lilti, who is himself a doctor. The lack of funds are crippling the staff of this small hospital which struggles to treat its’ patients, and save their lives against vast bureaucratic and economic obstacles. Another film, “Eat My Bones” showed the underbelly of French society, the lives of the French trailer park gypsies, as they, too, struggle and plot, their only alternative seeming to be a life of crime.

And of course, the biggest French star of them all at the moment, Best Actor Oscar Winner Jean du Jardin, was back in fine form as the good cop in a very gritty gangster flick that is sure to be a hit stateside. “La Connection” is the French side of the drug ring depicted in the original “French Connection.” As a shoot’em-up genre film, it kept the beat going on with the back-drop of the French Riviera in 1970’s glamorous, but drug-ridden Marseilles.

As you can see, these French films keep besting their American counter-parts at every turn. And Vive la Difference, I say!

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Now fully grown Ellar Coltrane, whom we all watched grow up in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, gives a moving speech as he presents his movie parents Hawke and Arquette with the American Riviera Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Hawke also talks about Robin Williams, what it was like to work with him and that strange way certain people have of hiding inside the work:

Arquette and Hawke on the reaction to Boyhood:

Ethan Hawke on the whole awards experience, “it does feel like it’s really not happening.”

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The Coens have a movie coming out, Hail Caesar. But it isn’t clear whether that means the film will show at the festival out of competition.

For the first time in the history of the Festival de Cannes, not one but two leading figures will chair the Jury.

Indeed, American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen have accepted the invitation from President Pierre Lescure and General Delegate Thierry Frémaux to become the Presidents of the 68th edition of the Festival.

“We look forward to returning to Cannes this year”, Joel and Ethan Coen said from the Hail Caesar! film shoot with George Clooney, Christophe Lambert, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Josh Brolin and Channing Tatum. “We welcome as always the opportunity to watch movies there from all over the world. Cannes is a festival that has been important to us since the very beginning of our career. Presiding over the Jury is a special honour, since we have never heretofore been president of anything. We will issue further proclamations at the appropriate time.”

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The Santa Barbara film festival is coming at the end of the month. It’s just been announced that Aniston will be the recipient of the Montecito Award on January 30, 2015. Aniston is making one of the most astonishing 11th hour bids for Best Actress I’ve seen in a while. She’s well liked, and overdue for a nomination. Though Julianne Moore has this in the bag, her main competition for the prize will be Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl and Jennifer Aniston for Cake.

Press release as follows.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 2, 2015

JENNIFER ANISTON TO RECEIVE THE MONTECITO AWARD

AT THE 30th SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Santa Barbara, CA- The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is proud to announce that it will present the prestigious Montecito Award to Jennifer Aniston in honor of her celebrated career, including this year’s inspirational performance in Cinelou Films’ Cake, directed by Daniel Barnz. The Tribute will take place on Friday, January 30, 2015 at the historic Arlington Theatre during the festival’s 30th edition.

The Montecito Award was created in recognition of a performer who has given a series of classic and standout performances throughout his or her career and whose style has made a major contribution to film. Previous recipients of the Montecito Award include such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Javier Bardem, Naomi Watts, and Annette Bening, who was the award’s first recipient in 2005.

Aniston’s most recent work includes her moving performance as Claire Bennett in Cake, where she plays a mother in pain over the loss of her child who struggles as she drives away her friends, husband, and even her chronic pain support group. This heart-wrenching story has rightfully garnered awards season buzz, with Aniston having already received SAG and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.

“Once in a while a performer who we thought we knew gets outside of his or her comfort zone and shows us the unexpected,” said SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “When that happens it is cause for celebration – and this is why the 2015 Montecito Award is bestowed upon Ms. Aniston.”

Jennifer Aniston is a Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actress, thanks to 10 seasons playing Rachel Green on the classic television comedy Friends. The role earned her five Emmy nominations, two SAG Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations. During hiatus from Friends, Aniston pursued a film career, landing roles in Then There Was You, Picture Perfect, Dreams for an Insomniac, She’s the One, Rock Star, The Object of My Affection (her first of many films with Paul Rudd) and Bruce Almighty. One of Aniston’s most critically acclaimed roles was 2002’s The Good Girl, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. With the end of Friends in 2004, the San Fernando Valley native devoted herself full-time to her movie career, receiving critical praise for playing a depressed housekeeper in director Nicole Holofcener’s Friends With Money. Adept at both indie films and studio features, Aniston has starred in such box office hits as The Break-Up, Marley and Me, He’s Just Not That Into You, Horrible Bosses and We’re the Millers. She was most recently seen in Life of Crime. Upcoming films include Horrible Bosses 2, in November, and She’s Funny That Way, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, next year. Aniston made her directorial debut with the short, Room 10. She recently directed one of the Project Five short films, exploring the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives. She is also a producer on Call Me Crazy, a Project Five film premiering on Lifetime in April.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs January 27 – February 7, 2015. The Montecito Award will be presented at the historic Arlington Theatre on Friday, January 30, 2015. Tickets are available now and can be purchased through www.sbfilmfestival.org or by calling 805-963-0023. Festival Passes and Packages are still available and sold exclusively at www.sbfilmfestival.org and 805-963-0023.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG® Australia, is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, SBIFF offers 200+ films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in-between. With its commitment to cultural diversity and powerful storytelling, SBIFF transforms beautiful downtown Santa Barbara, CA into a rich destination for film lovers, attracting more than 85,000 attendees. SBIFF brings to the forefront the importance and power of filmmaking and continues its commitment to providing free children’s education and community outreach programs through its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. The Festival is set to run January 27 – February 7, 2015. For more information, please visit www.sbiff.org.

# # #

Publicity Contact:
Carol Marshall Lisa Taback
Carol Marshall Public Relations LTLA Communications
818-760-6450 310-274-3880
carol@cmarshallpr.com Lisa@lt-la.com

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(Press Release) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues its tradition of honoring the year’s standout performers by presenting The 2015 Virtuosos Award to Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up), Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood), Logan Lerman (Fury), David Oyelowo (Selma), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child), it was announced today by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. The Award presentation, sponsored by Travel + Leisure, will take place Sunday, February 1, 2015 at the Arlington Theatre at the 30th edition of the festival, which runs January 27 – February 7, 2015.

The Virtuosos Award was created to recognize a select group of actors who have distinguished themselves through performances in film this past year. Previous recipients for this award include Ann Dowd, Elle Fanning, Ezra Miller, Eddie Redmayne, Omar Sy, Quvenzhane Wallis, Demian Bichir, Rooney Mara, Melissa McCarthy, Shailene Woodley, Andy Serkis, Patton Oswalt, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Lesley Manville, Hailee Steinfeld, Jacki Weaver, Emily Blunt, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gabourey Sidibe, Michael Stuhlbarg, Casey Affleck, Marion Cotillard, Viola Davis, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Melissa Leo, James McAvoy, Ellen Page, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Jared Leto, and June Squibb.

Comments Durling, “These are seven exemplary performers that provide us with undeniable evidence that 2014 was a dynamic year in acting.”

The talented group of actors will be recognized for their exceptional careers, including their portrayal of some of the most memorable characters in film this year. Following his critically acclaimed performance as Jackie Robinson in 42, Chadwick Boseman brings to life James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to one of the most influential musicians in history in Get on Up. Ellar Coltrane’s courageous performance in Boyhood, where we watch him grow up over the course of 12 years, charts the joys and pitfalls of a child named Mason, evoking nostalgia and self-reflection along the way. Following previous films such as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Percy Jackson, Logan Lerman comes into his own as Norman Ellison in Fury. David Oyelowo gives us a powerful performance as one of the most iconic heroes in history, Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, capturing not only King’s mannerisms and physicality, but offering an intimate portrayal of the man himself. Rosamund Pike’s incredible performance in Gone Girl where she plays missing wife Amy Elliot-Dunne has earned her widespread critical acclaim. J.K. Simmons expertly embodied egomaniac bandleader Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash, adding to his already diverse body of work that spans motion picture, television, and stage. Jenny Slate offers up a stellar performance in Obvious Child as Donna Stern, a Brooklyn standup comic who intimates with her audiences, but is closed off in her personal life.

The 2015 Virtuosos Award will take place at the Arlington Theatre on Sunday, February 1, 2015. Tickets, Festival Passes and Packages are available now and can be purchased through www.sbiff.org or by calling 805-963-0023.

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The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now in its 30th year, SBIFF offers 12 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in-between.  With its commitment to cultural diversity and powerful storytelling, SBIFF transforms beautiful downtown Santa Barbara, CA into a rich destination for film lovers which attract more than 85,000 attendees. SBIFF continues its commitment to providing free children’s education and community outreach programs through its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars.  For more information, please visit www.sbiff.org

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Playing young parents who grow into different people over the course of twelve years, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are wonderful in Boyhood. Though they’re both going to be in the supporting categories, they kind of feel like leads in this film. Either way, they will be feted February 5 in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG® Australia, is delighted to present the 2015 American Riviera Award to actors Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke at the 30th edition of the Fest, which runs Tuesday, January 27 through Saturday, February 7, 2015. This is the first time the award will be bestowed upon two honorees, who will be honored with a Tribute celebrating their careers, including their remarkable collaboration in Richard Linklater’s critically acclaimed epic “Boyhood,” it was announced today by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. The Tribute will take place on Thursday, February 5, 2015.

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The 2014 AFI Fest is turning into the hottest ticket in town. Last week, the festival opened with the World Premiere of J C Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, and today, Ava DuVernay tweeted they would be showing Selma in full.
Originally, a 30 minute preview segment of the drama based on Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement was going to be shown, but DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey took to Twitter to announce that Selma would be shown in its entirety at the AFI Fest.

DuVernay tweeted,

The film also stars, Tim Roth, Cuba Gooding Jr, Giovanni Ribisi, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King.

Another film that has just been announced is American Sniper. The film was confirmed as the festival’s secret screening movie, and will have its first public screening tomorrow. American Sniper was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper as the most lethal sniper in American military history.
American Sniper opens on December 25.

It seems the AFI Fest is changing predictions as we talk, where will these films stand in your predictions after tomorrow?

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(Press Release) LOS ANGELES, CA, October 31, 2014 – AFI FEST 2014 presented by Audi, a program of the American Film Institute, announced today that it will offer a first look at director Ava DuVernay’s highly anticipated film SELMA on Tuesday, November 11. The presentation will feature 30 minutes of exclusive footage from the film followed by a conversation with producers Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo at the Egyptian Theatre.

SELMA, from Paramount Pictures, Pathé and Harpo Films, is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the Civil Rights Movement. DuVernay’s SELMA tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. The film is produced by Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. The film is written by Paul Webb and directed by Ava DuVernay.

AFI FEST will take place November 6 through 13 in Hollywood, CA, at the Dolby Theatre®, the TCL Chinese Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Free individual tickets to AFI FEST screenings and Galas are available to the general public online at AFI.com. AFI FEST Patron Packages and Passes include access to sold-out Galas and other high-demand films and events. Passes are on sale now at AFI.com/AFIFEST, and AFI Members receive special discounts. The American Film Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational and cultural organization, and Patron Packages are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

The AFI FEST mobile app is now available for download. Festival-attendees can create their own personalized festival schedule; learn all about this year’s films and events; receive instant messages and breaking news; and purchase passes and get free tickets. Download the iOS version or the Android version for free here.

For the 11th year, Audi is the festival’s presenting sponsor. Additional top sponsors include AT&T, Coca-Cola, VIZIO, American Airlines (the official airline of AFI), Dunkin’ Donuts, Netflix and Stella Artois. The festival’s venue sponsors include the Dolby Theatre, TCL Chinese Theatres, the Hollywood & Highland Center, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the Egyptian Theatre.

About the American Film Institute
AFI is America’s promise to preserve the history of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI Awards, honoring the most outstanding motion pictures and television programs of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory. For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or connect with AFI at twitter.com/AmericanFilm, facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute and youtube.com/AFI.

About AFI FEST presented by Audi
A program of the American Film Institute, AFI FEST presented by Audi is a celebration of global cinema and today’s Hollywood – an opportunity for master filmmakers and emerging artists to come together with audiences in the movie capital of the world. AFI FEST is the only festival of its stature that is free to the public. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes AFI FEST as a qualifying festival for both Short Film categories for the annual Academy Awards®. This year’s edition takes place November 6–13, 2014. Additional information about AFI FEST is available at AFI.com/AFIFEST. Connect with AFI FEST at facebook.com/AFIFEST, twitter.com/AFIFEST and youtube.com/AFIFEST.

Checking out of the hostel prior to 10:00 left me in a peculiar predicament: not having a lot to do. Nine days of solid work, thereabouts, have equally left me exhausted and left me baffled when confronted with a rare space of more than five minutes of free time. With my first film on my final day in London not getting underway until 15:30, I spent that time as wisely as I could – watching reality TV. When I’m not staring at a cinema screen, I’m staring at a television screen. Or, most often of all, a computer screen. I’m not sure I’d even be here were it not for online catch-up TV services.

Can we not go into The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom? Jacob Cheung’s wuxia film was, by some considerable margin, the weakest of the 23 films I saw at the festival (and I’ve seen film #23 at the time of writing, and it’s very good). Actually, it’s had rather more competition for the sad title of Worst Film of LFF 2014 than the selection I saw last year, though I’ve had perhaps even more fun. White Haired Witch stars Fan Bing Bing, whom I adore on a red carpet, less so on the big screen, and features Hark Tsui as ‘artistic consultant’. One can detect his penchant for maximalism in Cheung’s film, though with extraordinarily little of his sense of invention. This is a silly film. The Q&A (naturally, there was a Q&A, because when is there not?) after the film, which I could only attend part of (naturally, because when do I ever have the time to attend a whole Q&A?), didn’t shed much light on what artistry there was supposed to be in the film, so I don’t think there was supposed to be much. Cheung did reveal, during the first part of the Q&A, that Hark had been asked to serve as producer on the film, but had been tied up directing Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, which is a far superior film, so more power to him.

On a side note, some grumpy old cunt seated next to me in the cinema groaned when he spied the packet of crisps I’d brought in with me. He wasn’t impressed either when I messaged my boyfriend as the trailers began, muttering ever louder and louder about the daft young kid beside him – alas, how could I ever know anything about cinema and what was I doing at a film festival? I just told him to mind his own fucking business. Funny how little it takes to shut people up.

If only I didn’t have to hurry from The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom to The Duke of Burgundy, because the hurrying was far from over. Hooray for Peter Strickland! What a revolting sweat I’d broken into, clad in my most generously-proportioned outfit of the week, lugging around a shoulder bag and a suitcase, sprinting around the tube. Peter Strickland saved the day. The Duke of Burgundy is dense, funny, erotic, playful, artistic, bizarre, confounding, enlightening, completely magnificent. It’s a puzzle that yearns to be solved yet begs not to be, a sado-masochistic curio to rival the central relationship in itself, a monumental work of art that sings the praises of non-narrative cinema (in glorious atonality), all the while with its own narrative, apparently simple yet remarkably multi-stranded. It’s as bewildering and as beguiling as all that sounds too. And it’s a great way to cap off my London 2014 experience.

It might not have been, though. After a slightly late start, I had a mere one hour and 45 minutes to make it onto my plane. After missing my homeward flight last year, it was looking precariously possible that the same might occur this year. I was perched, a few stairs already out of the screen, at the rear of Curzon Mayfair’s lovely Screen 1, waiting for the credits to roll. As soon as they did, I dashed all the way to gate 55D at London Gatwick airport. This involved a dearth of available taxis, several wrong turns at the airport, a queue jump and an inexplicable search of my hand luggage, and at last I could relax: against the odds, I’d made it in time, albeit only by one minute – not even exaggerating, one minute. Or it would have been a long, hard sleep on a long, hard airport floor.

For more coverage of all kinds of film, all year round, you can take a look at my blog – screenonscreen.blogspot.co.uk – or follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen. It doesn’t get any better there, alas, but it could hardly get worse.

Suck it, bitches.

Cheung 01 Cheung 02 Cheung 03

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I arrive back in Belfast tomorrow night, hopefully some time before 23:00. Fourteen hours later, I’ll be at work. I’ll have blog work to complete, including the remainder of my LFF coverage, films to see before they are removed from theatres, housework that I neglected, unwisely, before I departed for London, and sleep to catch up on, in my own bedroom, alone, nice and chilly. I want more time, I need more time. Not here, alas the festival finishes tomorrow, but just time to relax and come to terms with all I have to do before starting back at bloody work. Since festival season commenced at the end of August, it’s been almost non-stop graft for me. What will become of me over Christmas, I wonder? What to do when all of my favourite TV shows have ended, when there’s no film news to report on, when I’m – and here’s a word I genuinely don’t think I’ve used about myself for many weeks now, not once – bored? I don’t think anyone ever gets used to boredom. We human beings will always find something to make us happy, something to make us irate, something to make us sad, something to make us bored.

Is life in London ever boring? I don’t think I’d like to have grown up here – it’s just too big, in a standard, centralised kind of way. Not like, say, New York, with its districts. London is one massive city with one massive centre – however to feel at home in it? I suppose one must live within said centre, like the affluent new upper class, as inbred as they ever were but now with pretensions toward relevance and a supposed connection to the rest of the world. They turned out en masse for the 11:45 screening of Song of the Sea, the highly-acclaimed new film from Irish animated film director Tomm Moore, whose last film The Secret of Kells received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature five years ago. What’s more annoying than a cinema full of children? A cinema full of children with nannies. Not that the nannies are any extra bother, just that children with nannies are. They don’t just have nannies, they have £20 to fork out on a single ticket to a European gala premiere in central London… on a Saturday fucking morning. The exquisitely beautiful but dramatically lacking film is fun and full of delight; it’s not quite the classic it has been hailed as by some, not quite the equal of the Studio Ghibli films that the creative team, in attendance for a disappointingly frothy Q&A (they were playing to their audience, granted), needed to admit were their inspiration, but very much worth a watch. Just maybe not for £20. Any foreign audience would surely appreciate the lovely Irish humour strewn through Song of the Sea; not so much this crowd – I suspect what’s needed to tickle their funny bones is a daft old chap named Rafe and a jolly good case of misunderstanding involving a chimney sweep, a crystal decanter and a rather smashing plate of pork pies. Spiffing.

Are my diaries ever boring? I bet they are, especially when I go on about jolly shitty cases of faulty internet connections, misplaced pen drives and a rather horrid display on the ATM machine when I check my balance. I’ll move on to the second film of my busy day, and one which I rly rllllllly needed to start on fucking time. I knew precious little about Chiung Chiang Hsiu’s The Furthest End Awaits, also receiving a European premiere at LFF although not at y screening, prior to booking a ticket to see it – I only became aware of the Japanese film from the Taiwanese director upon reading about it in the festival programme I received in the mail some weeks back. It didn’t even have a proper IMDb page until recently. The film is about a woman who moves from Tokyo to remote coastal Japan to revisit her childhood home, the only asset left to her by her missing father, now believed dead. She forms a bond with a neighbouring girl living with her younger brother and her absent mother, and there’s a lot of learning and growing and moving on from the past etc. in the process. That’s not very kind of me, because actually the film is a total delight, made with a soothing sensitivity in every aspect of its production, rightfully causing many critics to reminisce on Ozu Yasujiro’s works in its fine depiction of family life in the Japanese countryside. But did it start on fucking time? Did it shit. I waited five fucking minutes for the introduction to begin, then another five fucking minutes before the director had been introduced and translated, leaving me with a mere seven minutes to get from Leicester Square to the South Bank. I had my belongings packed before the film had ended, forewent the credits and didn’t even get close to attending the post-screening Q&A. Like the one I’d unfortunately missed with Frederick Wiseman, and the one I’d had to cut short yesterday with Viggo Mortensen, it was a Q&A I was very keen to participate in, but was unable to. Still, the important thing is that I see all the films I’m booked to see.

Were those seven minutes of travel boring? Lol plz. I don’t think I’ve sweated so much nor smelt so bad since I was being given birth to. Despite making it to the cinema five minutes late – and that’s an impressively quick journey – the curtains were still pulled upon my arrival, a sure sign that, as expected, there’d be a Q&A after the film, and they were waiting for the special guests to turn up to introduce the film. Why as expected? Well, since Viggo Mortensen was in town for a Q&A yesterday for Jauja, he’d likely be here for today’s screening of Far from Men, David Oelhoffen’s film in which he stars opposite Reda Kateb as two unlikely outsiders caught in the Algerian war in the 1950s. It’s based on an Albert Camus story, and functions basically as a North African Western. The Q&A didn’t seem to have very much to elaborate upon, since the film is mostly just what one would expect upon, say, reading the synopsis or watching the trailer; those in attendance answered questions from interviewer Damon Wise and audience members, who reacted about as enthusiastically as any I’ve experienced this year, perplexingly. Actually, it’s not that perplexing – this probably wasn’t the type of audience that would have even stayed to the end of From What Is Before a week ago. The film’s panel did a good job, though, illuminating the film’s strongest and most persuasively intelligent points, if occasionally dodging the question. And what a panel, a truly international one, featuring Viggo, David, Reda, producer Matthew Gledhill and composers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The only one who didn’t speak was Cave, but he had a lovely pair of shoes on.

An evening in which to work… at last! Lol fuck it I got a few bits done in between dilly-dallying, eating, listening to Gwen Stefani’s new song (naturally) and getting as early a night as I could. Only I couldn’t, because it was a legitimate sauna in that motherfucking dorm, I mean it’s October fs, what’s the deal here? Who did that? How am I gonna get up tomorrow morning at 8:30 to check out?

Not spiffing, not smashing, just poppycock. Utter poppycock.

Cast 01

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Chiung 02

Ellis 01

Kateb 01

Mericeau 01

Mericeau 02

Moore 01

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Mortensen 01

Odeon 01

Oelhoffen 01

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Panel 01

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Panel 04

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Keaton, Birdman

The event will pay tribute to Keaton, a Santa Barbara resident, and frontrunner for Best Actor this year.
Keaton gives easily his best performance to date in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman where he plays a former superhero actor trying to become legit by “adapting, directing and starring in” the Raymond Carver short story What We Talk about when we Talk About Love. Press release as follows:

Santa Barbara International Film Festival will honor Michael Keaton with the Modern Master Award for the 30th anniversary edition of the Fest, which runs January 27 – February 7, 2015, it was announced today by SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. The Tribute will take place on Saturday, January 31st, 2015 at the historic Arlington Theatre.

The Modern Master Award is the highest honor presented by SBIFF. Established in 1995, it was created to pay tribute to an individual who has enriched our culture through his/her multi-faceted accomplishments in the motion picture industry. Keaton joins past recipients including Ben Affleck, Christopher Nolan, Michael Douglas, Jodie Foster, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Diane Keaton, Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Dern, Peter Jackson, George Clooney, Will Smith, Cate Blanchett, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Plummer and James Cameron.

Michael Keaton will be honored for his distinguished career, including his most compelling performance to date in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Keaton) — famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself.

SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling commented “There is no actor more befitting of the Modern Master Award than the legendary Michael Keaton. His performance in Birdman is tremendous, showing the range of decade’s long experience.”

Michael Keaton first gained national attention in the hit comedy Night Shift, followed by starring roles in such films as Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and The Dream Team. In 1989, he earned the ‘Best Actor’ award from the National Society of Film Critics for Clean and Sober and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Keaton later re-teamed with Burton to play the title role in the blockbusters Batman and Batman Returns.

In 2002, Keaton played ‘Robert Weiner’ in HBO’s critically-acclaimed Live from Baghdad, based on a true story of the CNN crew who reported from Baghdad during the Gulf War, and he received a Golden Globe® nomination for his performance. In 2005, Keaton was featured in Game 6, a story centered on the historic Game Six of the 1986 World Series, and in the following year, he starred in the feature film The Last Time.

In 2007, Keaton was in the TNT mini-series The Company, a dramatic story of how the CIA operated during the Cold War, and that same year, he made his directorial debut and also starred in the drama The Merry Gentleman, which was accepted into the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Also, in 2009, Keaton co-starred in the Fox Searchlight comedy Post Grad. In 2010, Keaton was the voice of ‘Ken’ in Toy Story 3, the latest addition to the successful and endearing Pixar franchise, and he also co-starred in the comedy feature The Other Guys, with Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson for Columbia Pictures. In 2013, Keaton appeared opposite Michelle Monaghan in the feature film Penthouse North, and earlier this year, he was featured in both Robocop and Need for Speed.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival runs January 27 – February 7, 2015. The Modern Master Award will be presented at the historic Arlington Theatre on Saturday, January 31, 2015. Passes and Tickets are available now and can be purchased through www.sbiff.org or by calling 805-963-0023.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG® Australia, is dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, SBIFF offers 200+ films, tributes and symposiums that range from American indie films to world cinema and everything in-between. With its commitment to cultural diversity and powerful storytelling, SBIFF transforms beautiful downtown Santa Barbara, CA into a rich destination for film lovers which attract more than 85,000 attendees. SBIFF brings to the forefront the importance and power of filmmaking and continues its commitment to providing free children’s education and community outreach programs through its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. For more information, please visit www.sbiff.org

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Director Céline Sciamma talks about her film Girlhood at which received an honorary commendation at the BFI Festival Awards. Danny Leigh at ft.com says its “one of the LFF’s freshest experiences, a film with life in its bones and a vivid aesthetic zing. In place of wagging a finger at her audience, Sciamma shows us Mariéme and her friends miming rapturously to Rihanna in shoplifted dresses with the antitheft tags still attached. Do you want to judge them? La vie, Girlhood says, est complexe.

The official BFI summary seconds that emotion:

“Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, Tomboy) continues her exploration of the effects of social conventions on delicately forming female identities in her triumphant third film. Sixteen-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré) must navigate not only the disruptive onset of womanhood, but also the inequalities of being black and living in the underprivileged suburbs of Paris. Excluded from school and in fear of her overbearing brother at home, Marieme escapes into the shielding environment of a girl gang. She renames herself ‘Vic’ for ‘Victory’ and gives up on asking for the things she wants and learns to just take them. Formally meticulous, the film is divided into four distinct segments in which Marieme changes her physical appearance to suit the different worlds she must navigate (school, home, street). Each transformation magnificently captures the heavy burden that visibility and image play in Marieme’s life, whilst Crystel Fournier’s stunning photography that favours a distinctive blue palette ensures that Marieme remains a defiantly vital presence on screen even while it appears she is disappearing from society’s view. The jubilant soundtrack infuses the film with vigour and passion, from the opening juddering electro-goth of Light Asylum’s ‘Dark Allies’ to a full length lip sync to Rhianna’s ‘Diamonds’. With Girlhood Sciamma flawlessly evokes the fragile resilience of youth.”

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I woke up with a Cannes-do attitude. Sorry about the pun, but I’ve got to bulk these diaries out somehow. This is the second of three days, and the first of two consecutive, during my stay in London where I’ll be catching three films, a task that is made more difficult by the necessity to write reports on all three, plus a daily diary, and all without wifi on this malfunctioning laptop. What work I could get done before screening #1, I’d have to do quickly, as my film-watching day was set to commence at 12:00.

All three of today’s films were Cannes competition entries: from the official selection, Foxcatcher and Leviathan, and, sandwiched between them, Un Certain Regard selection Jauja. That’s the kind of thing that makes you question the Cannes selection process. First was Foxcatcher, a film which I’d been looking forward to as a promising mainstream American product, but was also approaching with a critical eye – would this studio film probe as deeply as the best films I’ve seen here at LFF, or would it be just atmospheric fluff, handsomely made but hollow, effective but forgettable. I was very pleased with how the film turned out to be: sharp, subversive, and most handsomely made indeed. It represents an even more radical deconstruction of the classic American man, whether defined by wealth, physical strength or decent, family-man integrity, than Miller’s first narrative film, Capote, and it’s a whole world away, thematically, from Moneyball. Though its real-life story and straightforward style may seem to reject the notion of multiple interpretations, there’s at least one that rings out very loudly – Foxcatcher is an alternative homoerotic tragedy, gay porn disguised as wrestling thriller, its three central characters each identifiable gay archetypes and each falling prey to the true foxcatcher, the culture that insists on their conformity, then punishes them when they fail to meet their expectations. That’s what I took from the film, at least. Perhaps I was just transfixed by the outline of Channing Tatum’s cock.

With the wifi remaining determinedly down on the laptop, I was forced to seek out an internet cafe. Not the first one, it was shit, the internet barely worked, which only aggravated my anxiety. I tried a second, and was much more successful, getting the work I needed to get done completed efficiently. So efficient was I that I even shed some weight in the process – not a lot, just the equivalent of a pen drive. It wouldn’t be until I returned to the hostel to complete my day’s work after the next two films that I’d realise my mistake. It didn’t end up making m work impossible, just another obstacle to overcome in what was already a stressful experience. Never mind, I have films to watch. That’s why I’m here, and I’m still enthused about seeing each and every one of them, and still exhilarated by the experience. Obviously I’ll be returning to London next year.

Jauja was the one film I resolutely did not want a Q&A for today. I’d have roughly 50 minutes to get out of Leicester Square and make it down the road to Curzon Mayfair; that’s a journey that can be made by foot in 20 minutes, but who knows, maybe the film would start late, and maybe there’d be an introduction, and maybe that introduction would be long, and maybe all that actually did happen and my travel time would be cut to 30 minutes. And maybe the Q&A would be with the film’s lead actor, producer and composer, Viggo Mortensen. And maybe he’d be eloquent and insightful and funny and personable and smartly-attired. By the time I’d ran to and from the tube to the Curzon for Leviathan, I bet he was still talking. He was worth listening to – it’s nothing to do with his stardom, it’s due to all of the above qualities that made his interview thereabouts the most illuminating and interesting of the festival so far, and he’s not even the film’s director or writer. Leaving that session early was almost as great a disappointment as needlessly missing the Q&A with Frederick Wiseman after National Gallery. Jauja, btw, is a beautiful, mystical, intoxicatingly wonderful film, director Lisandro Alonso applying his inimitable style to a narrative with more clarity than his former films, but with an equal amount of cryptic philosophical wisdom, so stylishly rendered via Alonso’s incredible mastery of cinematic language.

Here’s a foreboding detail: Curzon Mayfair don’t like to start their films on time. Last year, when I was late for a screening of Borgman at this cinema, I missed the first part of the film – that’s how it ought to go, right? Perhaps I could have hung around longer to listen to more of what Viggo Mortensen had had to say, because their screening of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan didn’t get underway until 21:10, ten minutes later than officially scheduled. That’d be forgivable were there special guests to wait for, but there weren’t; that’d be acceptable for my final screening on Sunday, The Duke of Burgundy, were I not booked on a flight that leaves less than two hours after that film finishes. They’d better fucking start that screening on time. They’d srsly better. Leviathan was met at Cannes with such enormous critical praise that Jane Campion’s jury’s decision to reward the film with the Screenplay prize was considered, by many, to be a snub. What nonsense. Leviathan is a good film, ambitious and forceful, an epic satire on an intimate scale. One of the reasons I’d been so satisfied attending the Q&A with Viggo Mortensen was how he remarked on the increased power of cinematic text as universal allegory when its specificities are refined as diligently as possible – this is precisely how Leviathan functions, a narrow portrait of a family’s fight against brutish local authorities to maintain control over their land, but also an expansive portrait of humankind and our irresponsible, destructive nature, both over ourselves and over one another. It’s a film that comments on our species’ need to have a home of our own, but also on our outrageous self-importance in believing that we could ever own a piece of this planet.

And then I noticed my pen drive was missing. It had already been a long day. #sickofthisshit. The films were good, though, very good, in fact. I’d readily watch all of them again – they’d surely all reward repeat viewings. Leviathan has been touted as a potential Oscar contender – against all the odds, Russia selected it as their official submission for the Foreign Language Film category, their first smart choice in years. I’m not certain it’ll get in: it might have to rely on the committee vote, despite its broad appeal and frontrunner status, and that vote could be very competitive in a formidable year in his category. It’s gonna get a main category eligibility run too; the writers might pick up on it, as the Cannes jury did, and the critics’ groups could show it some love. Foxcatcher ought to make a splash in major categories come awards season, it’s good enough, frankly. All of the main performers are worthy nominees for big awards; Steve Carell is just marvellous, utterly outstanding. It’d be a worthier Best Picture winner than most.

Tomorrow, I see Tomm Moore’s animated Song of the Sea, Chiung Chiang Hsiu’s The Furthest End Awaits, and David Oelhoffen’s Far from Men. It’ll be a quick turnaround between those last two, so let’s hope The Furthest End Awaits kicks off on time. And let’s also hope that Viggo’s still in town, cos I’ve plenty of time after Far from Men and would love to hear more from this immensely talented artist.

Please come back tomorrow. Please don’t leave me here. Come back to cold mountain fs

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[Scroll down to find links to all seven of Paddy’s LFF Journal entries featured this past week – Ryan]

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Gates 01

Hippodrome 01

Odeon 01

Viggo 01

Viggo 02

Viggo 03

Viggo 04

Viggo 05

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LFF Day One
LFF Day Two
LFF Day Three
LFF Day Four
LFF Day Five
LFF Day Six
LFF Day Seven

Paddy Mullholland’s blog: ScreenOnScreen
Twitter: @screenonscreen

Sorry, Thomas. People who stay in hostels tend to be of a select few varities, two specifically. There are the loners, like myself, often silent and solitary, though occasionally the opposite: over-eager to socialise. And then there are the groups, usually between three and six in number, more often male than female, generally young, slim and Mediterranean. So, yeh, sorry Thomas, but I’ve been perving. There’s just too much talent in The Royal Bayswater Hotel for me not to. These boys deserve to be ogled. You’re not here, Thomas, I need something to look at. Plus, a lot of them wear tight white briefs. That’s not even fair.

Here are the rules regarding the films I’m seeing at LFF: they have to be films, and they have to be showing at LFF. Bruno Dumont’s Li’l Quinquin was made as a mini-series, and it’s easy to detect its mini-series structure even as it shows here as a feature film, since the four episodes are each preceded by a chapter title. It premiered at Cannes in May, though, as a feature, rather like last year’s Behind the Candelabra, and that was before its TV broadcast in France (or anywhere else in the world), so technically I’m justified in considering it a film. As a director, Dumont – whose films include 1999’s excoriating Humanity, and the recent Camille Claudel 1915, starring Juliette Binoche at her incomparable best – is tough to love, and sometimes even tough to admire, but his defiant singularity and his command of his craft always provide his films with much to ponder, far more depth than their stark, breezy aesthetic and enigmatic stares imply. Li’l Quinquin sees Dumont turn his hand to comedy, at least for as long as he can sustain it (his predilection for human horror eventually inescapable), and with impressive ease: Li’l Quinquin doesn’t feel like the work of someone stretching their abilities or testing their boundaries, and the humour feels ingenuous and wholly appropriate. The story involves one of Dumont’s specialities, a rural community in Northern France, and the fumbled investigation into an ongoing series of murders in the region. One can see why it was opted for TV – similar stories have been at the heart of so many recent European TV successes, like The Killing, The Bridge and Sean Durkin’s under-appreciated Southcliffe. I found the film as oblique as ever from Bruno Dumont, but unfortunately not as stimulating as his best work. It’s hilarious, though, absurd and politically incorrect, and also chilling – in particular the horrible, unforgettable final scene.

With Li’l Quinquin running over two hours, I had mere minutes to use as wisely as I could before my next film, so obviously food. The National Film Theatre, or BFI Southbank, has an unnerving procedure of announcing upcoming films, declaring things such as “Last call for _____” about five minutes prior to the scheduled start time. For someone such as myself, obsessively punctual, that’s the sole ingredient required to create the perfect panic pie, though I understand why they do it – middle class people have a tendency to expect everybody else to wait for them, including cinema staff, and middle aged people have a tendency to be extremely slow to boot. The audience for Pedro Costa’s Horse Money reminded me of why I’d been so glad to return to dirty Belfast blockbuster audiences after last year’s LFF. Some guy who looked like he’d packed up have of South London in his numerous bags was in my seat for some inexplicable reason, so he moved over one into a seat which also wasn’t his, as I discovered when a late arrival resigned herself to taking another seat rather than asking him to pack up and fuck off, because we didn’t have all year. Two seats away from me sat a pair of bona fide nerds, essentially pimples with legs and opinions. Pleeeease not more opinions. Opinions on films! Definitive opinions, straight out of the school thesaurus by way of Total Film, real faux-intellectual bullshit. They discussed Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement with a misplaced assurance that left me with the certainty that they’d never even heard of Ulrich Seidl before booking those tickets. Why were these philistines seeing a Pedro Costa film?

I felt like a bit of a philistine myself exiting the screen, though. I just have to keep reminding myself that I did explore Horse Money, I did examine it, I did attempt to interpret its design as something less obvious, more complex than it appears. I suppose I failed, and I don’t know if I’m to blame or if Costa is. Horse Money allegorically concerns the legacy of Portuguese occupation in Cape Verde, the film a heady sensorial and cerebral poem about a nation’s collective pain and grief. That poem is expressed in the disturbed and detached experiences of Costa’s lead, Ventura – a thoroughly magnetic performer. But, no matter the film’s considerable beauty in a great many regards, Costa’s technique is too blatant and too direct to probe as deeply and as broadly as it intends to, the themes he engages in too obvious. For a film of such artistic integrity, it doesn’t break any new ground, not really. As poetry porn, it’ll attract limitless raves, and hopefully extensive discussion over years to come, perhaps making it as viable an artistic document, in my eyes, as Costa’s other works to date.

I had intended to do quite a lot of work, plus catch up on quite a lot of missed TV shows, in the evening of Day Seven: Horse Money was over by 17:30, and I hoped to avail of the serviceable Wifi at BFI Southbank to achieve all of this. But this old laptop was not playing ball, not at all. Wifi issues at every location I visited made accessing the internet on this poor old dear an impossibility, and money woes prevented me, initially, from being able to afford computer access at the hostel’s internet cafe, this after a long and stressful journey back from the cinema. Eventually, I got as much done as I could on the hostel’s computer system, and tried to get an early night. I tried, but for the energy that an evening of anxiety, furious work and plentiful Dr. Pepper had stimulated in me, and there wasn’t a lot of hope that sleep would arrive soon. And then, this happened: a commotion erupted in the hostel room which, in my half-sleep and in whispered voices was fairly difficult to make sense of. By the time one of the hostel employees had arrived in the room and switched on the lights for a good half hour, the entire room learned – one particularly soused individual had pissed himself… in bed… on the top bunk. Basically, he pissed on some poor sod’s face, and all over his and his girlfriend’s belongings. Escorting him out of the room was far from an easy task. Getting to sleep was scarcely any simpler.

Writing this diary, on the morning of Day Eight, I still don’t know if Wifi plans to operate properly, and Im about to find out. I’m not sure that I want to. It’s been a relatively optimistic morning so far, despite the woes of last night, principally due to the fact that on my slate today I have Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, three films which I’ve been very keen to see since they premiered at Cannes. Wish me luck with Wifi, bitches!

byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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basement

It was the day I hadn’t been looking forward to. Isn’t it a shame that my LFF experience would entail such a day? The films, they were there, they always will be. The travelling, it too, this being London, and how great to be in London! The company, it was there too, and then it wasn’t.

I’m still pretty far behind on my work. With Thomas around, I’ve been making the most of what free time we have here to, well, make the most of him. As much as one can make in a hostel room with 18 others… Work would be forced to take a serious backseat in the first half of today, or as much of a backseat as I can bear to resign it to. Thomas’ flight leaves this evening, and Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement, showing at 15:00, would be our final film together at the festival. What nonsense, that I should feel so downbeat as we explore the roads around Leicester Square, looking for a suitable place for lunch and a drink. What nonsense, that I should feel so bereft as I lie in my hostel bed, a snoring stranger where Thomas was lying not 24 hours ago. I’ll see him again on Sunday, and we’ll see thousands more films together in our lifetime. But fs I wish he could stay.

I’m a fan of Ulrich Seidl, to an extent. He can try one’s patience, but his films are regularly impressive and intriguing pieces of work, and his position within international cinema is important. No-one does sardonic distraction like him, not even his neighbour in both geography and style, Michael Haneke. In the Basement is interesting and enjoyable, not very probing but it doesn’t need to be – it may peel back the prim, pristine curtains of Austrian society, or in this case peer down the trapdoor ‘Im Keller’, to reveal dirty, shameful secrets we all suspected were there, but Seidl’s latest document is both his most concise and his most open-minded yet. It’s like a distillation of everything he’s done since he last produced a documentary thesis on the curious habits of his countrymen in 1996’s Animal Love, by now wholly lacking in freshness, nevertheless as incisive as ever. It’s caustically funny, and it shocked – most intentionally – many audience members (Thomas included, though did anyone in the theatre find scrotal stretching especially enjoyable?). I believe there was a sole walkout that caught my attention. This audience probably knew what it was getting itself into to begin with, and we Brits don’t normally make a habit of walking out of films, but I’d expected more. There were more walkouts during Hard to Be a God on Sunday.

We navigated our way to King’s Cross / St. Pancras (or, as Thomas unfailingly and unironically referred to it, St. Pancreas) Station to send my beloved away to the distant shores of Derryadd. They’re not that distant, but they might as well be. I see the charity ads on the Tube stating that 200,000 children a year die while fetching water, and I wonder if Thomas will be next. What if he drops his candle and falls in the well? Even with a breather of several hours between screenings, there’s still not enough time. We stop for refreshments at the station, and suddenly it’s time to separate. He descends the escalator toward the train, and I wonder if I’ll ever see him again. Not because something terrible might happen, just that he’ll probably catch the train to fucking Timbuktu by mistake or some shit. Lol jk I’m the one who got the wrong train (kinda) back to the cinema, to see Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe.

A Ukrainian film featuring a cast of deaf actors, The Tribe is told entirely by use of Ukrainian sign language, and without translation, subtitles or voiceover. The packed screening included a high proportion of deaf attendees. Festival programmer Damon Wise introduced director Slaboshpytskiy and creative director Elena Slaboshpytskaya, alongside a vocal translator, to the stage to introduce the film. Between the translations and Slaboshpytskiy’s verbosity, this wasn’t a brief introduction, but it was a valuable and informative one. It wasn’t a popular one, though, as many in the audience were most dissatisfied with the lack of a sign language interpreter on the stage to accompany those already there. Too many speakers, too many languages, too few microphones and too little patience – it wasn’t wise of the BFI not to think to provide a signer for the planned post-screening Q&A, but who’d have thought that the introduction would stretch on for so long. The disquiet was dispelled as soon as Wise revealed that the film was going to make as little sense to speakers as to non-speakers anyway, and the film finally began. It’s a bold, intense film about tribal community values and structures, its themes and its plot highly effective in their given context, but also easily applicable to a limitless array of stories and situations in reality. Slaboshpytskiy’s decision to forego conventional verbal or written communication is, in fact, a terrific one, forcing the viewer to explore other aspects of the filmmaking in order to derive meaning, a requirement that is both simple and rewarding. It’s a powerful, perfectly-formed film. The Q&A was fairly short – a late start time, itself delayed, a film that ran over two hours, an enforced cut-off time of 23:30. Slaboshpytskiy’s responses to the questions posed were lengthy and veered off in any direction his mind allowed them to, but they were consistently intelligent and illuminating. He dismissed the notion that the film was an intentional allegory of recent political events in Ukraine, though didn’t dismiss the validity of such a notion in relation to his film should anyone find it suitable to it, and demonstrated a love for film that’s often at its strongest with debut filmmakers (as he is, extraordinarily). Perhaps most notable about the Q&A session was its accidental connection to the film, and to the process of understanding those who, either literally or figuratively, don’t speak our language. The BFI, by this stage, had gotten its act together and found a signer to interpret both questions and answers – signed questions verbally interpreted by the signer, translated by the translator, answered by Slaboshpytskiy, whose answers then went back along the same chain of translation. Curious to wonder what was getting lost, or altered, along the way. Curious to wonder if it matters.

The MPAA would have had a field day with these two films today – copious amounts of sex and nudity, and not of the kind they tend to appreciate. I hope to appreciate tomorrow’s movies, which include Bruno Dumont’s mini-series Lil’ Quinquin, being presented here as a single feature, and Pedro Costa’s Horse Money. And then I might have time to get some fucking work done again.

Night night bitches

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eden_51

The pleasure of being able to relax, the quality of the films and the plain old good company made Day Five the best day yet at the London Film Festival, for me at least. I don’t think I’ll be able to top it during the second half of my ten-day stint here in the capital. Rushing from one location to another is, surprisingly, no less stressful when accompanied by a loved one – their welcome presence is mitigated by one’s concern for not only yourself but for them as well. So to be able to remain in Leicester Square, a homely hub of the LFF, for the duration of Tuesday was something of a delight. Thomas and I took in a few sights, had a few moderately-priced sit-down meals, and generally tried not to wander too far from Vue West End. At least, I did. Thomas has a curious habit of turning the wrong way out of near every exit we pass through; I don’t know if Londoners think he’s trying to escape, the number of times I’ve had to pull him off the tube in the direction of the Way Out signs.

A lunchtime stop at the imaginatively-titled London Chinatown restaurant (at least that’s what was on its menus, but don’t hold me to it), after which I had planned to scribe a review of yesterday’s A Girl at My Door, ran too close to the commencement of film #1 today, which left me worryingly far behind on my work. Never mind, once Thomas goes home tomorrow I’l have plenty of free time – too much, possibly, if I’m lucky! Film #1 was the documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, a film that I booked to see purely on the strength of its critical reception out of Cannes. It’s a compilation of raw video footage from the Syrian conflict in 2011, taken from dozens of video libraries from ordinary Syrian citizens, and new videocamera footage from the doc’s creators, Ossama Mohammed, a director in exile in Paris, and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, a woman trapped in the ravaged city of Homs. It’s the kind of film that rly should be thoroughly horrifying, and that it is. The heartfelt honesty of Mohammed and Bedirxan’s artistry and the sheer visceral power of the footage they’ve been granted access to combine to produce the most harrowing film I’ve witnessed in a very long time. The screen at Vue was unfortunately empty – it’s not a film that has received much publicity, and it probably never will, though it deserves to; it would probably have fared better in one of the festival’s many arthouses. The audience was remarkably still and silent, however, even for a British crowd, and, tellingly, there was no applause after the film. Not that it wasn’t appreciated by those in attendance: one viewer toward the rear of the screen tried to start up an ovation, but that was roundly rejected by the rest of us. It was clearly not only me who was so intensely moved by the film, and Thomas, who’d expressed that this had been the film he had least been looking forward to seeing, exited the cinema proclaiming it as his favourite of his trip so far.

With the time we had between screenings, I completed some work, indulged in a Costa Creamy Cooler, accompanied Thomas to Trafalgar Square – home of the National Gallery, the subject of Frederick Wiseman’s documentary which I viewed on Sunday – and stopped in at a pub for a few beers. After all, this evening’s film was Mia Hansen-Love’s French house music scene biopic, Eden, so what better condition to take it in than in utter inebriation?! That wasn’t my plan, ok, and it wasn’t what occurred either – I was only a little tipsy by the time the film commenced, thankfully. On the way to the cinema, we passed by the red carpet hosting the premiere of LFF’s centrepiece gala film, Testament of Youth, and caught a glimpse of Kit Harington, one of the film’s stars. Funny that he spends much of his year living in the same city as me, and it’s only now that we meet… lol jk we didn’t meet plz with all my bodyguards he couldn’t get fucking near me. And, inside Vue for the screening of Eden, I observed Mia Hansen-Love, there to introduce the film and to participate in a Q&A afterwards, and actor Alba Rohrwacher, who was seemingly there on recreational grounds, since she’s not in the film.

Kate Taylor, a festival programmer who has been a presence at a number of the screenings I’ve attended, is a wise and eloquent interviewer with an incisive understanding of cinema. She introduced Hansen-Love, who introduced Eden, which introduced me to a wealth of terrific dance music I feel ashamed at not having noticed until now. A film can do that to me, enhance my appreciation of music I’d previously ignored – I almost became a Stone Roses fan after watching Shane Meadows’ recent documentary on the band last year. But much of Eden’s soundtrack is right up my street, and it was perhaps that element, alongside the general excellent filmmaking courtesy of Hansen-Love, that elevated Eden for me, beyond being a basic biopic. It’s a vibrant and deeply-felt portrait of its musical subject, and the film’s human protagonist, based very closely on Mia’s brother Sven, who co-wrote the film. And the Q&A thereafter was an enlightening experience, no matter how urgent my need to go for a slash might have been. Mia’s responses, in a second language, were dense and detailed, and illuminated upon the very finest aspects of a very fine film, providing valuable contextual information, and enriching my appreciation of Eden and the events it catalogues with admirable precision and a palpable respect.

Thomas leaves tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to that, but I am certainly looking forward to the first film I’ll catch without him since National Gallery, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Cannes Critics Week winner The Tribe, which promises to be one of the most unique films on my schedule this year. Before that, though, we’ll together be seeing Ulrich Seidl’s documentary In the Basement, not to be confused with Todd Field’s In the Bedroom, by any means. More on that tomorrow, though. For now, just be happy I bothered to write five fucking paragraphs for your perusal. It’s more than you deserve!!

#rly #yesrly #yehiwentthere

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Nelson's Column 02

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