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June 22 2018

HOW-TO: Tips For Making A Story Portfolio For Feature And TV Animation

In just ten minutes, L.A. artist Toniko Pantoja walks you through everything you need to know about creating an industry-worthy story portfolio for feature and tv animation.

The post HOW-TO: Tips For Making A Story Portfolio For Feature And TV Animation appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

June 21 2018

Netflix Releases Trailer For Japanese-Chinese Co-Pro ‘Flavors Of Youth’

The latest animation project from the studio that made the Japanese blockbuster "Your Name."

The post Netflix Releases Trailer For Japanese-Chinese Co-Pro ‘Flavors Of Youth’ appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Hits 30: A Look Back At ILM’s Astonishing Old-School Optical VFX

Academy Award winner Ed Jones explains what it took to create "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" in the days before digital vfx.

The post ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Hits 30: A Look Back At ILM’s Astonishing Old-School Optical VFX appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

Brooklyn's Indie Showcase: BAMcinemaFest 2018

Support the Girls
In its tenth year, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAMcinemaFest solidifies its position as re-launching pad for the best titles from the Sundance and SXSW festivals. This year’s program is packed with hyped indies that will hit theaters throughout the summer. Traditionally, a few films (like the ninth edition’s The Work and Princess Cyd) receive distribution in the fall and land on year-end critics lists. This year’s BAMcinemaFest runs from June 20 to July 1, with a slate of 25 narrative and nonfiction films and 10 shorts, all American indies. The centerpiece film, Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, has already been covered by the Notebook. We previewed several titles from the eclectic program to find the highlights.
The festival brings the world premiere of Feast of the Epiphany from directors Michael Koresky, Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman of the online film publication Reverse Shot. The film begins with the casting process. Epiphany (theophany in Greek) means “appearance of a god,” and Feast of the Epiphany participates in a higher power of personal enlightenment, reaped by service for one’s neighbor. But film’s journey toward enlightenment is as jarring as it is true to life.
Feast of the Epiphany brings together a fiction short (the script was 37 pages) and a farming documentary all under the same emotional arc. The short is set at a Brooklyn dinner party thrown for an alienated friend. There’s tension between the host and guest of honor that builds in anticipation for resolution but crescendos instead with isolation. At the moment understanding, the two recoil, moving further into their siloed New York City existences. The documentary begins in a totally different city with positive scenario, as if the last scene of the fictional short was a hair of the dog before the painful jolt into a proverbial A.A. The documentary follows a group of would-be farmers. Through meditation and participation in the work, the workers build bridges to each other. We don’t learn much about the workers, but their connection to each other is the connective tissue to the film’s first half. This speaks gently, but directly, giving reason for the loneliness experienced in the first short. The film requires an openness rarely asked of an audience, and it prescribes a solution to suffocating individualism.
Minding the Gap unfurls to become something larger than the sum of its parts. It’s primarily a skate documentary but becomes a character study of the filmmaker Bing Liu and his friends, Keire and Zack. The project follows these young men from being teenagers to, at times, irresponsible adults. Bing is the most curious of the trio. He uses their archived skate footage juxtaposed with current conversations with his friends to analyze their development in chaotic family environments. Each guy has emotional, spiritual and physical damage from sour relationships with their fathers. At one point, Bing, who is psychically detached from the moment by sitting behind a monitor, is told by his mother that he’s using the documentary as therapy. The conversation ends as Bing becomes reflective and can’t continue with filming. Where Bing and Keire can change their direction, informed by the self-knowledge acquired by the documentary process, Zack remains developmentally stagnant. We watch him change dramatically from thin skater to a physically and emotionally thickened roughneck. It’s beautiful to watch his friends flourish, but perhaps more relatable to see Zack accumulate baggage as he goes from mistake to mistake. Minding the Gap is an emotional story that leaves you wanting the best for everyone involved. Only time will tell if childhood baggage and adult economic struggles can be surmounted.
Also set in an economically distressed community, Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls follows a day in the life of Lisa (Regina Hall), manager of Double Whammies, a Hooters-like sports bar. Lisa acts as manager/mother figure/moral compass, just as Bobby (Willem Dafoe) did for his motel tenants in The Florida Project. The film’s naturalistic lighting and hand-held camera work coincides with its working class characters, which isn’t my favorite trope in stories about everyday Americans. Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Sean Baker’s recent films show you can depict the working poor with an aesthetic that matches their abundant inner lives. Thankfully, the story overcomes this trope. The amount of work that goes into preparing the restaurant is nothing less than daunting. The emotional preparation and chattiness among the staff reminds you how grating food service jobs can be. Support the Girls hit its stride when Double Whammies’ owner shows up to access the damage from a hilariously bungled break-in. The humor and emotional wallops dovetail when we watch the girls negotiate their dignity with sexuality. The story understands the girls aren’t exactly upwardly mobile, and the chance of a better life only comes with a risky, ‘had it up to here’ gamble.
Two Plains & a Fancy, by Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn (L for Leisure), is shot on beautiful Super 16mm Kodak film—easily the best looking film at the festival. Set in 1893, three Whit Stillman-esque city folk wander Colorado for its best hot spring. Billed as a “spa western,” the film is littered with mannered performances interjected with stark, modern humor. Take the skinny dipping scene, in which the dandy colorist (Benjamin Crotty) and mystic woman (Marianna McClellan) consider themselves naked by wearing what look like Mormon temple garments, while the lady geologist from France (Laetitia Dosch) goes full monty. There’s always a visual or verbal quip, usually from Crotty to punctuate an otherwise nonchalant discussion with an exclamation point. The cinematography by Horn, spatially matched with the traveler’s emphasis on art, science and mysticism makes western’s visual tone similar to Robert Altman’s haunted McCabe & Mrs. Miller.
One of the best films at this year’s festival is Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. The story follows thirteen-year-old Kayla’s (Elsie Fisher) final week of middle school. Kayla fumbles her way through an pool party thrown for the cool kids who ignore her. At the party she crushes on Riley (Luke Prael) and dismisses the adorably awkward Gabe (Jake Ryan). Through a chance pairing with senior Olivia (Emily Robinson) at a high school visit, Kayla is told for the first time that she’s good enough. Olivia teases out self-confidence in Kayla through her love and acceptance. Kayla’s new confidence is immediately tested when she stands up for herself in a sexually vulnerable moment. Burnham’s debut film is hilarious, heartwarming and poignant.

June 20 2018

L.A.-Based Animation Director Ken Duncan Joins Bodega Animation

Bodega will exclusively represent animation director Ken Duncan in the U.S. market for advertising.

The post L.A.-Based Animation Director Ken Duncan Joins Bodega Animation appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

EXCLUSIVE: Academy Denies Animation Producer Kobe Bryant Opportunity To Become Member

Kobe Bryant may be an Oscar winner, but he won't be allowed to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The post EXCLUSIVE: Academy Denies Animation Producer Kobe Bryant Opportunity To Become Member appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

Das Lächeln im Angesicht der Tragödie: Yasujirô Shimazus Tonari no Yae-Chan / Our Neighbour, Miss Yae (Japan 1934)

 Als ich vor kurzem einmal wieder Our Neighbour, Miss Yae gesehen hatte, da war das einer von diesen seltenen Momenten, wo man nicht genau weiß, was da eigentlich gerade passiert ist; aber als die Abblende kam, nach dem letzten Bild mit der Kamera in den wolkenverhangenen Himmel hinauf – obwohl sich doch, wenn nicht alles, so doch so manches zum Guten aufgelöst hatte – war ich den Tränen nahe und zutiefst gerührt. Dabei war da gar nichts wirklich Rührseliges passiert, oder gar aufwühlend Melodramatisches. Der Film endet so, wie er anfängt, zumindest auf der Tonspur. Eine liebliche, langgezogen sehnsuchtsvolle Geigenminiatur, die von etwas Herzschmerz aus dem Leben kleiner Leute der unteren Mittelschicht aus irgendeiner japanischen Vorstadt in der Nähe von Tokio verkündet. Einmal sagt die Mutter, heute sei das Wetter so klar, man könne den Fuji sehen, aber das muss man glauben. Im Film taucht er nicht auf. Das ist kein Film für nationale Monumente. Hier wirken Dinge und Kräfte, die man nicht unbedingt auf den ersten Blick sehen kann – auch wenn sie gefühlt sehr groß sind.

Der vollständige Text ist bei shomingeki in Ausgabe No. 25 erschienen. Hier kann man ihn lesen.

Michael Schleeh


June 19 2018

‘Incredibles 2’ Fastest Animated Film To $200 Million

It took just 4 days for Brad Bird's latest to reach $200 million at the domestic box office.

The post ‘Incredibles 2’ Fastest Animated Film To $200 Million appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

Konfetti 7: Autonomie

11 x 14, James Bennings dieses Jahr auf der Berlinale wiederentdecktes Frühwerk aus dem Jahr 1977, ist, neben vielem anderen, ein Autofilm. Nicht direkt ein Film über Autos allerdings, eher ein vom / von Automobilen infizierter Film. Nur in wenigen der 65 in gewisser Weise autonomen, isoliert für sich stehenden Einstellungen, aus denen der Film besteht, ist ein Auto das eine, zentrale Bildelement. Deutlich öfter sind Autos an den räumlichen und auch zeitlichen Rändern der Bilder präsent, gleich mehrmals finden sich zunächst autofreie Einstellungen, durch die dann plötzlich doch ein Auto fährt, oft ganz nah an der Kamera vorbei, auf einer Straße, die selbst unsichtbar bleibt. Das Auto erscheint im Film wahlweise als Signatur, oder eben als Träger einer Infektion, jedenfalls als etwas, das sich dem Film und auch der Welt, die er zeigt, aufprägt. Irgendwann stellt sich die Erkenntnis ein, dass auch die Gebäude und die Landschaften, die der Film zeigt, und selbst die sozialen Beziehungen, die der Film in seiner fragmentarischen Erzählung eher andeutet als zeigt, einer automobilen Logik unterworfen sind. In gewisser Weise ist 11 x 14 das notwendige Gegenstück zu all den - gleichermaßen großartigen - Roadmovies und Auto-Actionfilme der 1970er; wenn dort das Auto zum Fetisch, aber auch zu einem Medium der Freiheit wird (das Auto als ein Objekt, das die Blicke gleichzeitig anzieht und freisetzt), dann erscheint es bei Benning eher als ein Fluch, der die Bilder heimsucht und einen maschinellen Blick etabliert, dem auf die Dauer niemand entkommen kann (das Auto als ein Objekt, das die Blicke gleichzeitig abweist und bindet).


Es gibt jedoch in 11 x 14 eine Einstellung, die dem Regime des Autos entkommt. Es handelt sich um die vielleicht schönste und ziemlich sicher längste des Films: Für gut zehn Minuten folgt die Kamera einer Zugpassage über Eisenbahngleise durch eine Großstadt. Die Kamera ist innerhalb des Zuges montiert, im - so scheint es jedenfalls - vordersten Waggon, und sie blickt sowohl seitlich als auch frontal ins Freie, auf die in zumeist in gleichmäßiger Geschwindigkeit vorbeirollende Stadtlandschaft. Im Vordergrund, im Inneren des Waggons, ist als verschattete Silhouette ein Passagier - vermutlich ein junger Mann - zu sehen, der ein Buch zu lesen scheint. Auf der Tonspur durchgängig das Rattern der Gleise und das Pfeiffen des Fahrtwindes.

Der direkte Blick nach vorne, auf die sich vor dem Zug ausbreitenden Gleise, löst bei mir eine leise Irritation aus, die bis zum Schluss der Einstellung nicht verschwindet. Wir befinden uns offensichtlich nicht im Führerhäuschen des Triebwagens, also in jenem Zugteil, der in fast allen S- und Stadtbahnen am Frontende des Zuges montiert ist. Wo befindet sich in diesem Zug der Zugführer? Ich komme auf die Idee, dass der Film in dieser Einstellung möglicherweise rückwärts abgespielt wird, dass wir uns also nicht am vorderen sondern am hinteren Ende des Zuges befinden. Ich suche im Bild nach Hinweise, die diese Annahme bestätigen oder widerlegen. Beides ist freilich, zumindest in der DVD-Fassung, nicht so leicht möglich. Erst hinterher, bei Recherchen im Internet, komme ich darauf, dass die Überlegung ziemlich sicher hinfällig ist: Der Führerhäuschen des “L” Train in Chicago, dessen Passage die Einstellung zeigt, ist so klein, dass daneben in der Tat noch Platz ist für Passagiere, die einen freien Blick nach vorne haben.

Dennoch bleibt eine Spannung in der Einstellung. Etwas anderes, was mich an dem Bild interessiert, ist das Verhältnis von Innen und Außen. Zunächst gleitet mein Blick fast automatisch zu den beiden Fenstern, dem vorderen und den seitlichen. Die Bewegung und die durch die Bewegung entstehende Varianz ziehen die Aufmerksamkeit an, ich gleite mit der Bahn gemeinsam durch den urbanen Raum, jede Kurve offenbart einen neuen Ausblick. Der Charakter der Stadt verändert sich langsam, im Hintergrund erahne ich Autos und Passanten, ein Leben, das vom Kamerablick gestreift, aber nicht wirklich eingefangen wird. Allerdings, merke ich dann irgendwann, nehmen die Fenster ja nur einen Teil des Bildraums ein. Genau genommen höchstens die Hälfte, vermutlich weniger. Im Bild selbst ist das in sich verhältnismäßig statische Innere des Waggons mindestens genauso präsent wie die in Bewegung gesetzte Stadt. Meine Aufmerksamkeit beginnt sich zu teilen. Ich nehme mir vor, gelegentlich auch die dunklen Areale des Bildes in den Blick zu nehmen. Wer ist der Mann, der da sitzt, was liest er, was ist das für ein Ort, an dem er sich befindet, was heißt es, im Dunkeln, Unbewegten, Überdachten zu sitzen und sich durch einen hellen, dynamischen Raum mit offenem Horizont zu bewegen?

Und irgendwann bemerke ich dann, dass es dem Mann in der Bahn genauso geht wie mir. Oder geht es im genau anders herum wie mir? Jedenfalls ist auch seine Aufmerksamkeit gespalten. Zumeist konzentriert er sich auf das Buch in seiner Hand, aber gelegentlich blickt er auf und schaut nach vorn durchs Fenster. Ich stelle mir vor, dass für ihn die Fahrt eine Routine ist. Vielleicht fährt er dieselbe Strecke täglich ab. Für ihn ist nicht die physische Welt draußen, sondern die Gedankenwelt in seinem Buch das variable, dynamische Element. Und doch lässt auch er sich gelegentlich ablenken und blickt auf die vermeintlich gewohnte Welt vor dem Fenster.

Diese Ablenkungen des Blicks, seine wie meine, sind es, denke ich dann, um die es in der Einstellung geht. Beziehungsweise: Es geht darum, dass wir beide die Wahl zwischen beiden Blicken haben. Der erste, durch die Bewegung hervorgerufene Blick ist automatisch und in gewisser Weise auch ohne Auto automobil (und deshalb unzweifelhaft ein Blick, der der Moderne zugehörig ist), aber die Ablenkung des Blicks ist nicht automatisch und auch nicht automobil, sondern autonom.

Die Textreihe "Konfetti" entsteht im Rahmen des Siegfied-Kracauer-Stipendiums. Mehr Informationen hier.

super fly (gordon parks jr., usa 1972)

Über die Geburtsstunde der Blaxploitation kann man sich äußerst fruchtbar streiten. Vielerorts wird Melvin van Peebles‘ SWEET SWEETBACK’S BADASSSSS SONG als Initialzündung genannt, aber bereits ein Jahr vorher hatte Ossie Davis COTTON COMES TO HARLEM ins Rennen geschickt und Superstar Sidney Poitier in THEY CALL ME MR. TIBBS!, dem Sequel zum Oscar-prämierten IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, noch vor SHAFT einem schwarzen Cop zu Heldenstatus verholfen. Genannter SHAFT – von Gordon Parks, dem Vater des SUPER FLY-Regisseurs – war dann die frühe kommerzielle Krönung des jungen Subgenres, aber auch ein Film, der nicht bei allen Afroamerikanern gut ankam. Der Film um den schwarzen Supercop, dessen sexuelle Überlegenheit sein Name als rassistisches Klischee zitiert, war als Gegenentwurf zum weißen James Bond angelehnt und hatte mit den urbanen Realitäten der amerikanischen Großstädten nur am Rande zu tun. Ein Muster, dass sich durch das gesamte Blaxploitation-Genre zieht, mal mehr, mal weniger deutlich: Die meisten Filme wurden von weißen Filmemachern gedreht, die sich nicht ganz vom Vorwurf des Exotismus und Rassismus freisprechen konnten, auch wenn sie es gut meinten. Spätestens ab 1972 war der Blick auf Revoluzzer, Pimps, Pusher, Prostituierte, Drogenabhängige und die cool cats aus den Ghettos ein geschäftsträchtiges Feld, das ganz in der Tradition der Exploitation aufklärerisch verbrämt wurde, um seinen Zuschauern das Alibi mitzuliefern.

SUPER FLY ist verglichen mit Filmen wie SLAUGHTER, SLAUGHTER’S BIG RIP-OFF, CLEOPATRA JONES, COFFY, FOXY BROWN, BLACK BELT JONES, TRUCK TURNER, TNT JACKSON oder BLACK SHAMPOO und anderen noch aus einem anderen Holz geschnitzt. Auch hier gibt es das bekannte, oben beschriebene Personeninventar aus Pimps, Pushers, Nutten und Verzweifelten, aber Gordon Parks jr. macht daraus kein buntes Spektakel mit jive talk, bunten Hüten und comichaft überzeichneter Gewalt: Er erzählt seine Geschichte um den Drogendealer Priest (Ron O’Neal) mit den Mitteln des Sozialdramas als beinahedokumentarische Reihe von grobkörnig-intimen Moment- und Großaufnahmen, die weitaus roher und authentischer wirkt als etwa die grelle Larger-than-life-Stilistik, die Jack Hill seinen Reißern angedeihen ließ. Das „Black is beautiful“-Sloganeering, das höchst reale Themen wie Rassismus, Armut und Selbstermächtigung zu bloßen Stylefragen bagatellisierte, wird hier einer höchst kritischen Betrachtung unterzogen: Priest ist den „Brüdern“ nämlich nicht schwarz genug und selbst Rassismus-Opfer und das Leben als Pusher und Pimp hat ihm zwar einigen Wohlstand beschert, aber eben eines noch lange nicht: Den Ausbruch aus einer Gesellschaft, die für ihn nur die Rolle des Abschaums von der Straße bereithält. Alle versuchen sie sich irgendwie über Wasser zu halten, die einen mehr, die anderen weniger erfolgreich, aber Solidarität gibt es nicht. Als Priest von drei schwarzen Aktivisten bedrängt wird, die ihn – verkürzt – als Verderber der Jugend und Verräter an den eigenen Leuten anklagen, antwortet er ihnen nur, dass sie ihn in Ruhe lassen sollen, solange sie nicht Ernst machen und ihre Brüder für den Kampf gegen „whitey“ bewaffnen. Der Kampf ums Überleben kennt keine Bruderschaftsromantik.

Zynisch ist SUPER FLY dabei nicht, nur realistisch. Das gilt auch für die 1972 im Rahmen eines großen Kinoerfolgs wahrscheinlich ziemlich revolutionäre Sexszene zwischen Priest und seiner Freundin Georgia (Sheila Frazier), die komplett in Zeitlupe und Großaufnamen der beiden sich nackt in einer Badewanne räkelnden Körper aufgelöst ist und damit wahrscheinlich politischer als alle großen Equality-Reden, die die Blaxploitation-Helden in ihren Filmen zu halten pflegen. „Black is beautiful“ verkommt hier nicht zum Modebekenntnis, sondern darf tatsächlich als Forderung nach einer Gleichberechtigung verstanden werden, die vor nackten, ungeschönten Tatsachen nicht Halt macht. Das gilt interessanterweise nicht nur für die Verständigung zwischen Schwarz und Weiß: Der Blick der Kamera verharrt hier nämlich nicht, wie es sonst üblich ist, auf den sekundären Geschlechtsmerkmalen der Frau, sondern fängt die im Liebesspiel verschlungenen Körper als einen ein. Was da Mann und Frau ist, lässt sich kaum noch trennen. Es ist nur eine der impressionistischen Inszenierungsideen Parks‘: Die tragische Unfalltod des harmlosen Kleindealers Fat Freddy wird mit einem Dialog zwischen Priest und Sheila parallel montiert, bei dem er ihr von seinem Wunsch und Vorhaben schildert, endlich auszusteigen aus dem Leben des Drogendealers. Es wird nicht nur klar, von welchem Leben Priest hier eigentlich spricht, es schwingt auch die Idee mit, dass es beim Wunsch bleiben könnte: Wen die Straße einmal im Griff hat, den lässt sie so schnell nicht wieder los. Eine andere Szene löst Parks in Standbildern auf, die er in einer preisgünstigen Variation von Jewisons Splitscreens aus THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR in immer neuen Kompositionen und Anordnungen zusammenfügt. In Verbindung mit einem Drehbuch, das auf große Action-Set-Pieces verzichtet und beinahe antiklimaktisch endet, unterstreichen solche Einfälle den Charakter einer pointierten Momentaufnahme. Priests Traum ist kein Indiz für einen Wandel, er dient nicht als Vorbild, dessen Ideal man nacheifern sollte: Seine Geschichte ist nur eine weitere von vielen, die mal anders, mal ganz ähnlich verlaufen.

Es muss ja eigentlich nicht noch gesondert erwähnt werden, aber das entscheidende Tüpfelchen auf dem I ist natürlich Curtis Mayfields sensationeller Score, eines der seltenen Beispiele, in dem sich eine radikale Vision für den Künstler auch in Zahlen niederschlug. Mayfields Soundtrack verkaufte sich millionenfach, angetrieben von den Hitsingles „Super Fly“ und „Freddy’s Dead“, und darf neben einem Album wie Marvin Gayes „Let’s get it on“ als politisches Manifest der damaligen Gleichberechtigungsbewegung lesen. Film wie Musik bildeten den Nährboden, auf dem auch Hip-Hop gedeihen konnte, auch Literaten wie Donald Goines, dessen roher Ghetto-Pulp den Charakterstudien und Beobachtungen Mayfields sehr nahesteht, dürften ganz genau zugehört haben. Zugegeben, den Funk brachten auch andere Blaxploiter, aber die subversive Kraft von Mayfields im Falsett vorgetragenen Zeilen über den „man of odd circumstance, a victim of ghetto demands“, diese Mischung aus Sozialkritik und empathischem Realismus, erreichten nur wenige. Vielleicht lag es auch einfach daran, dass SUPER FLY tatsächlich das Projekt einer weit überwiegend schwarzen Crew war und nicht die aufgeblasene Ghettofantasie eines Weißen.

(Wer mehr über den Soundtrack lesen will, findet in diesem kürzlich veröffentlichten Review Futter.)

Short Pick Of The Day: ‘Tank’ by Stu Maschwitz

In a visual homage to vector arcade games of the 1980’s, "Tank" tells the story of a team of pilots that must take on a weapon of mass destruction in a battle to save their world.

The post Short Pick Of The Day: ‘Tank’ by Stu Maschwitz appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

The Tale of the Passenger: Affonso Uchoa Discusses "Araby"

Since its premiere in the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Hivos Tiger competition in 2017, Affonso Uchoa and João Dumans’ Araby has become a sleeper festival hit, welcomed at prestigious series such as New Directors/New Films, FID Marseille, Karlovy Vary, Viennale, San Sebastian, London and BAFICI. Focusing on the life experiences of a journeyman laborer (Aristides de Sousa) in the inland states of Brazil as seen through his own autobiographical journal, it’s another small, unassuming jewel in the current outpouring of great cinema from that country; a look at the daily lives of the rural and suburban disenfranchised that inspire so many of these directors interested in telling real stories of the real country. But Dumans and Uchoa, while solidly anchored in a (reasonably conventional) narrative, also borrow from the playbook of documentary, with a non-professional cast enacting scenes from everyday life that are not a million miles away from their own hard-scrabble existence.
While this is Uchoa’s third feature after Afternoon Woman (2010) and The Hidden Tiger (2016); Araby is Dumans’ feature debut as a director and the pair’s first joint credit as directors. But their connection goes back to Uchoa’s previous film, The Hidden Tiger, an out-and-out documentary where Dumans worked as editor, screenwriter, assistant director and co-producer; and it has projected beyond Araby as well, with Uchoa recently serving as editor on Juliana Antunes’ acclaimed Baronesa, where Dumans was associate producer—another sign of the current esprit de corps running through Brazilian cinema (on that note, Araby was co-edited by Luiz Pretti, from the Alumbramento collective, and regular Júlio Bressane collaborator Rodrigo Lima, both of them directors in their own right). 
We met up with Affonso Uchoa after Araby won the Special Jury Prize at IndieLisboa, to speak about the "James Dean" of Brazilian cinema, moving from documentary to fiction, and emergence of new regional cinema in his country.

NOTEBOOK: Araby is directly connected to your previous film, The Hidden Tiger, in that you’ve kept one of the non-professional actors in that film, Aristides de Sousa, and developed the project with him in mind.
AFFONSO UCHOA: Yes, especially since the idea came up during the very long process of doing The Hidden Tiger. We shot it over four years, ended up with 130 hours of material, and that required an incredibly intense editing process that took a whole year. That process was also very transformative, in the sense of an experience that transforms your life and opens new paths for you to follow. At the same time, it was also very foundational, in that it gave me a lot of ideas, suggested themes that interest me in filmmaking, as well as giving me an opportunity to find out more about what film language is closest to me and gives me a sense of my identity. And the great legacy of that process was our desire to continue looking at the exurban, peripheral universe of the Brazilian poor, as well as continuing to work with Aristides. We realized that, although he had no formal training or education, he had an impressive natural talent. We usually say as a joke that he is our James Dean, one of those people who seem like they’re always living in a movie. That kind of seduction is amazing and very hard to find. So yes, we wanted to continue working with him, but in a more fictional way, since The Hidden Tiger was much more of a documentary. Here we wanted to use him as an actor to create a story, a mainly fictional character.
NOTEBOOK: Though the main story is framed as a diary being read by someone else, pointing out that what comes next is fiction, you’re asking Aristides to act in a story that may be close to his own life experiences. You’re not asking him to play someone very different from himself.  
UCHOA: In the end, for us, the film is a fiction, in that the scenes, the dialogue, were mostly written by us. They’re propositions we made to the people on-screen, regardless of them being actors or just people passing by that we invited to participate in the shoot; they’re doing stuff we asked them to do, and that makes it a fiction. But we did create based on reality. We’ve created this story from real observations, real stories, real people. For instance: in pre-production, we asked Aristides to write a journal, just like his character Cristiano does, as if he were the character, writing down his experiences, his memories, his tales. None of what he wrote ended up making it into the film, but it was crucial for us, so we could find the voice of the character, create the feelings we needed to bring Cristiano and Aristides closer. We wanted to create a character for him that wasn’t him but that could have been him, a little dream of what his life could have been. Nothing that his character does in the film is alien to him. He may not have necessarily had those jobs but he knew what they were all about and he knew people who did them for a living. It was a way for us to impregnate the movie with his own knowledge, his own wisdom and intelligence and bodily posture, with feelings that come from a universe he can access more directly. It was not directly autobiographical.
NOTEBOOK: That look at the socially disenfranchised is very relevant at the moment in Brazilian cinema, which is also a very regional, decentralized cinema that comes out of the country’s many states. Do you feel part of that current movement? 
UCHOA: We are indeed a part of that movement, in the sense that what I find most interesting at the moment in Brazilian cinema is our heterogeneity. Since we’ve started traveling with Araby, I can sense a dangerous homogeneity of form and style: the connections between film funding, film labs and festivals create a sort of flattened cinema, where everything is similar to everything else and most filmmakers create these amorphous versions of whatever filmmakers are hot right now. So right now we’re in a moment where Matías Piñeiro and Hong Sang-soo are the “models,” in two years who knows… But in Brazil all of us are different. We’re kind of saved by our own failure to be similar! Look at Argentina—when we were in the Cartagena festival there were ten films from Latin American countries and six or seven were Argentine! They have a big international presence and a remarkable level of quality, where we in Brazil have a harder time breaking through. It’s only now, on my third film, that we managed to get on international festivals, whereas strong filmmakers like Caetano Gotardo haven’t broken out yet. So, since we’re not as present internationally, we come up with stuff that is a little less formulaic, like a series of anomalies, some very strange pictures… 
NOTEBOOK: Yet there are a series of connections between your generation. There’s a strong desire of making film, as well as an energy similar that what happened in the 1960s and 1970s with Cinema Novo.
UCHOA: Well, we are living a very special moment and we do feel part of it. We have a very strong state investment that didn’t exist beforehand, and a lot of decentralization, a democratization of the access to cinema. We have a lot of filmmakers coming from the different states, from the south, from the suburbs, whereas Brazilian film was always very much centered in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. One of the things that I’m most interested in are those peripheral, suburban creations—people from the suburbs that get to study film and make movies from an insider point of view. That was very rare: in Brazil the suburbs were always the object of social studies, and whoever made the movies came from the middle-class or the elites and had this sociological vision of things, like they were studying something they could not relate to, that they had never lived through. That’s why I’m particularly inspired by the work of André Novais de Oliveira and Adirley Queirós, that’s very much what I’m trying to get to since The Hidden Tiger
NOTEBOOK: I was also very much reminded of the Dust Bowl films of the 1930s and also of the 1970s New Hollywood filmmaking, with its burned-out quality and its look at desolate, deserted places…
UCHOA: We weren’t aware of that when we started, but it makes sense, and we did see a number of connections to that seventies Hollywood cinema while editing. We hadn’t really made the connection; but in pre-production we did see something whose spirit stayed with us, Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show. It’s a film we admire a lot, but whose only direct connection to Araby is that in our film Barreto is a little bit like Sam the Lion, the old man who is admired by everybody and who leaves a trace of sadness when he leaves… And there was another film we saw in the editing, Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory, a biopic of Woody Guthrie that is a kind of beacon for us. But that spirit of the Great Depression and a little of that desolate Americana came to us more through literature than through film. Araby was very much influenced, from the beginning, by American literature and especially John dos Passos, because of his narrative structure of stories that build into something bigger. He may have a character whose story is reduced to a page and a half, then another runs 50 or 60 pages, and that poetic irregularity, that mosaic narrative structure, always fascinated us. Plus of course his combative spirit, his left-leaning worldview, particularly in something like the USA trilogy. 
NOTEBOOK: For all that classicism, Araby is extremely modern in many ways, especially in its choice of very long takes.
UCHOA: We’ve always tried to create a balance between different desires and influences, while doing things that interested us, politically or aesthetically, and finding our own voice and our own path, without repeating something somebody else had done before. In that sense we deliberately wanted to make a classically narrative film—something that is in itself a bit strange in current Brazilian cinema, because it’s the kind of thing that only big-budget, old-fashioned films aim for… But we didn’t want to make a classically narrative film in the banal sense of just telling a story. We wanted there to be a degree of invention, a different form of narrative construction. Through the idea of the journal, we found a roundabout way to do it, as apparently random stories find a through line and connect into something bigger. So some of the modernity you speak of can come from there.
NOTEBOOK: Like the connection between Townes van Zandt and Brazilian pop superstar Maria Bethânia—and again there’s a strong American connection… [Note: due to rights clearances reasons, Townes van Zandt’s I’ll Be Here in the Morning, used to great effect in the film’s original festival version, was replaced by Jackson C. Frank’s Blues Run the Game in the US release version, in a choice approved by the filmmakers.
UCHOA: Funnily enough, the music was another challenge. The Brazilian inland is a sort of mystical space in that it’s essentially nothing—it’s not the Amazon, it’s not the coastal areas, it’s not the big city, it’s not the Europeanized South, it’s not the dry Northeast… It’s nothing, it’s a non-place, a non-entity. But there is music in there, the music from the day laborers, the travelers, the isolated people—it’s a kind of working-man music, of farmers, peasants, laborers, with a tradition all its own and a connection to the country’s history. Someone like Renato Teixeira, a singer-songwriter inspired by roots music, is perfect because the music itself evokes the locale immediately. But we didn’t want to be purely illustrative; we wanted to suggest other connections, create our own look at those little deserts where everything is temporary, landscapes, building sites, the character itself… 
NOTEBOOK: In that sense, Cristiano is always a passenger in his own life.
UCHOA: Yes, certainly. So the music was for us a way to remind audiences that these places exist everywhere and people like Cristiano exist everywhere. There will always be people looking for a better life, shooting themselves in the foot at a given moment, caught in the world’s social demands. And Townes van Zandt was a way for us to say that there was also something of Texas in here. The American Midwest wasn’t that different from the Brazilian inland, and Cristiano himself could have been a hobo riding the rails in the 1930s. 

Back to Burgundy

Back to Burgundy.jpg

Ce qui nous lie
Cedric Klapisch - 2017
Music Box Films Region 1 DVD

The original French title of Cedric Klapisch's new film translates as "What binds us". His working title, the homophonic Le vin et le vent translates as "The wine and the wind". Both titles are both more evocative of the familial conflicts at the heart of the film beyond the return of the prodigal son, Jean, to the family vineyard in Burgundy.

As Klapisch confirms in one of the DVD supplements, the film is something of a return to the kind of films made about twenty years ago with When the Cat's Away and Un air de famille. Both films primarily took place within a specific space, a working class neighborhood and the family home. Klapisch also pared away gimmicks and stylistic flourishes, save for a couple of moments when past and present co-exist. As a film about two adult brothers and a sister, Klapisch knows how to economically film the trio in conversation and be visually interesting without resorting to cutting between close-ups and back and forth shots. What is most radical a break for Klapisch is having a film taking place in a country setting, and using a cast of younger, less familiar actors.

After ten years of travel, youngest brother Jean returns to the family domain upon news of his father's illness. Warmly greeted by sister Juliette, Jean has a more tense relationship with older brother, Jeremie. With the death of the father, Jean stays to help with the impending harvest of the grapes. Jean reveals that for the past five years, he's been married with a son, with his own domain in Australia. The siblings have to decide what to do with the family domain as the income from the wine they sell is barely enough to cover the inheritance tax, while they could enjoy a significant profit from simply selling the land. The original French title is more meaningful with the conflicts between the siblings, whether Jean will return to Australia, Jeremie's attempts to keep the peace with his father-in-law - a competing wine maker, and Juliette's hesitation about taking over the family business.

Klapisch chose to make the film about Burgundy, the wine, as it was the favorite of his father's. Also, wine making in the province of Burgundy is still done by individuals and families, and not industrialized. Effort was made to make every aspect shown in both the vineyards and in the processing as authentic as possible. Much of the credit would go to Jean-Marc Roulot, an actual vinter and actor, who shares screenwriting credit and plays the part of the vineyard's operations manager. While not somber, there are just a few lightly comic moments, another break from the big laughs of Klapisch's more recent work.

Klapisch discusses the unusual making of Back to Burgundy in this brief interview.

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01
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