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Empire Blogs

Under The RadarA chat with Jury chair Lee Daniels & the results of the 11th Dubai Film Festival

Posted on Thursday December 18, 2014, 09:24 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
A chat with Jury chair Lee Daniels & the results of the 11th Dubai Film Festival

A charismatic man, more curious and open than one might imagine from his sometimes somewhat strident films, Lee Daniels has mixed feelings about his time chairing the jury at the Dubai International Film Festival. He’s enjoyed it, learned from it, but also been troubled by it – or, rather, what he’s come to understand about his own ignorance of the Arabic world. “I’m gonna get into trouble,” he says, when asked about what truth he has discovered at the festival. “My publicist isn’t here to protect me!”

Another journalist – there are four of us, chatting with him in the bar at the Mina A’Salam hotel, says we don’t want to get him into bother. But he’s undeterred. “I’m gonna tell you the truth. I was supposed to come here last year, but didn’t make it because I was doing The Butler. So when they asked me to come this year – even though I was doing Richard Pryor [a biopic st...

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Under The RadarPaying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen

Posted on Thursday December 18, 2014, 05:51 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
Paying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen

As well as serving on the jury at the Dubai International Film Festival, Virginia Madsen sat down for an hour-long Q&A with delegates.

In a wide-ranging and very interesting chat, moderated by E Nina Rothe of the Huffington Post, she touched on various issues – aging, women in film, the difficulties for independent producers – but perhaps the most enjoyable, and quietly inspiring moment, was in answer to an audience question about the dangers of taking jobs just for the money.

It’s long, but for aspirant actors, filmmakers – or, really, anyone in freelance arts – it’s well worth reading what the star of Sideways has to say:

“This is something that actors and filmmakers really beat themselves up about. Because, yes, it would be wonderful if we could all get paid, you know, a million dollars to make the Academy Award winning film... That’s not really the reality of our...

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Under The RadarMovies And Medinas: Empire Reports From Marrakech International Film Festival

Posted on Tuesday December 16, 2014, 15:03 by Phil de Semlyen in Under The Radar
Movies And Medinas: Empire Reports From Marrakech International Film Festival

Opened by jury president Isabelle Huppert (Heaven’s Gate, The Piano Teacher) on December 5, the 14th Marrakech International Film Festival came to a close with an awards ceremony at the city’s Palais de Congress. The ceremony, short and sweet, was followed by a screening of J. C. Chandor’s latest, A Most Violent Year, a slow-burn crime drama starring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac.

Over its week-long run, the Marrakech festival – held under the patronage of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, no less – managed to be both wide-ranging and intimate, with a main competition comprising just 14 entries. The region was represented by films from Morocco and Egypt, the rest of the world weighing in with works from such far-flung places as Azerbaijan, Serbia, South Korea, Mauritania, The United States and the UK. Hard to pick a winner even in such a small field, but Empire particularly enjoyed The Last Hamme...

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Under The RadarDubai Film Festival: The unlikely appeal of camel beauty pageants…

Posted on Tuesday December 16, 2014, 12:06 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
Dubai Film Festival: The unlikely appeal of camel beauty pageants…

Nearby Sky sounds like it might be a contemplative meditation about life in Arabia. It is actually a documentary about a woman who enters camels in beauty contests. And it is lovely. The subject, Bedouin woman Fatima Ali Alhameli, faces resistance from the event organizers, as the first Emirati female camel owner to enter her stock in the events. They do, indeed, get the hump.

Empire sat down with award-winning producer/director Nujoom Al Ghanem to discuss the charm of her subject, the restrictions she faces as a filmmaker, and whether her inspiring eighth feature was any easier to make than her first…

Fatima, whose journey you follow, is described in the film as “amazing” and…
…and “strange”! She’s hilarious.

You approached her after seeing a short news report about her, didn’t you?
Yeah, I saw her and ...

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Under The RadarMission: Probable - Dubai's attempt to attract Hollywood

Posted on Tuesday December 16, 2014, 04:40 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
Mission: Probable - Dubai's attempt to attract Hollywood

Dubai is a testament to what humans can do with determination, imagination and money. A lot of money... The heat and the harshness of the natural environment make the fact it was constructed at all remarkable – let alone that is has become, over a few short decades, such a striking and powerful city. With its high rises, high finance and high proportion of British ex-pat businessmen, it’s a little like living in a JG Ballard novel.

But it’s hard not to admire the determination of the place. Banking and oil and media boom here, and now there is an emphasis on film. Fourteen films and ten TV series shot here in 2014, taking advantage of a customised rebate and the new production facilities – housed appropriately in ‘Studio City’ – built in 2012.

“We have 22 million square feet of a plot: office space, studio space, workshop, warehouses and a backlot,” says Jamal Al Sharif, chairman of the Dubai...

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Words From The WiseThe European Film Awards 2014: A Victory For Ida

Posted on Monday December 15, 2014, 17:36 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
The European Film Awards 2014: A Victory For Ida

The European Film Awards ceremony is something like a more regular Brigadoon: every other year it pops up in a random European capital before reverting to Germany, its home nation. And once it’s over, there’s a similar amount of head-scratching: was it really there? Did it really happen? Did anyone really drink the Jägermeister?

This year the event was hosted by Riga in Latvia, birthplace of Sergei Eisenstein, an amazing city filled with art nouveau architecture, theme parks for bunny rabbits and really big wooden spoons. But though it barely troubled the headlines in the way that the likes of the Oscar, the Baftas and the Golden Globes do, this year’s EFAs highlighted something important in the early days of awards season: the strength of world cinema this year, in the wake of a very weak showing from Hollywood and the rest of the English-speaking mainstream.

With just two weeks to go to close of play, the Academy Awards’ Best Picture f...

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Under The RadarThe Dubai International Film Festival: Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe turn directors

Posted on Friday December 12, 2014, 03:19 by Nev Pierce in Under The Radar
The Dubai International Film Festival: Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe turn directors

Dubai’s eleventh annual celebration of cinema opened on Wednesday night, with lifetime achievements and an Oscar favourite, though the most intriguing international films here thus far are from actors stepping behind the camera for the first time.

Opening film The Theory Of Everything– for the one of you who hasn’t already read about it – is Working Title’s take on the life of iconic physicist Stephen Hawking. Eddie Redmayne has been justly praised for his portrayal of a great mind trapped in a deteriorating body, but for me the performance of the picture is Felicity Jones as his dedicated wife Jane. In a role that could easily have proved saintly or shrewish, she brings extraordinary charisma and keeps a light in the eye of someone enduring what it means to unconditionally love.

Other true-life pics playing here include The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher and Wild

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: The Harvest, Let Us Prey and Nuntius

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 18:26 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: The Harvest, Let Us Prey and Nuntius

Following the Nordic Invasion, the Spanish films and the documentaries, I can’t come up with a connection for the remainder of my Night Visions, so this is just a rattle bag of The Rest.

Guest of honour at the festival was John McNaughton, presenting both his debut Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and his newest film, The Harvest. The latter, which doesn’t yet have distribution anywhere, sees the eclectic director tackling what he sees as a modern fairytale, in which young orphaned girl Maryann (Natasha Calis) lately moved in with her grandparents (Peter Fonda and Leslie Lyles), befriends sick boy Andy (Charlie Tahan) in a house across the woods. The two strike up a friendship, but are quickly and perplexing barred from seeing one another by Andy’s ferocious mother Katherine (Samantha Morton). Katherine’s beleaguered and downtrodden husband Richard (Michael Shannon) wearily shuffles in and out of the dispute.

It’s a g...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: Marcos Ortiz and In Darkness We Fall

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 18:19 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: Marcos Ortiz and In Darkness We Fall

The dark star of Alfredo Montero's caving horror In Darkness We Fall is actor/producer Marcos Ortiz. Not a potholing enthusiast to any extent, he told me how he ended up enduring two separate productions of the film underground. One of them nearly killed him...

Are you a caving enthusiast?
[Leans into microphone] NO! That was my first time.

Did you enjoy it? Will you do it again?
[Leans into microphone] NO! Never, never, never!

And you had to do it twice for the film, right?
Yes, we actually shot the film twice. The first time was a year and a half ago, and the second shoot was about eight months ago. The director, Alfredo Montero and myself are also the producers, so we originally financed the whole original production, with very little money. We shot it in Formentera, just next to Ibiza, for five weeks, with a Canon 5D. It was a very difficult process because the cave is actually very small an...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: Pablo Larcuen and Hooked Up

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 18:12 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: Pablo Larcuen and Hooked Up

Somewhere between Helsinki bars, I cornered director Pablo Larcuen to talk me through his iPhone-shot found-footage horror Hooked Up.

You shot this film in 2011. How sick are you of talking about it at this point?
Haha, well maybe we won’t talk too much about the phone. That would be good! But I actually haven’t talked about it for a while now, so it’s OK.

OK, let’s talk about the phone. Why shoot with an iPhone?
Dammit! Well it was because we had no money to rent any other type of cameras, and I don’t like cheap digital cameras. What I found with the iPhone was that when you shoot in low light it resembles film more than cheap digital cameras. So when we made that decision it was great because we then knew we could design the story around it and have the characters interact with it. It was a 4S. We’re two generations on already. I think you can do slow-motion on the 6!

We...

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RECENT POSTS

A chat with Jury chair Lee Daniels & the results of the 11th Dubai Film Festival
By Nev Pierce

Paying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen
By Nev Pierce

Movies And Medinas: Empire Reports From Marrakech International Film Festival
By Phil de Semlyen

Dubai Film Festival: The unlikely appeal of camel beauty pageants…
By Nev Pierce

Mission: Probable - Dubai's attempt to attract Hollywood
By Nev Pierce

The European Film Awards 2014: A Victory For Ida
By Damon Wise

The Dubai International Film Festival: Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe turn directors
By Nev Pierce

Night Visions 2014: The Harvest, Let Us Prey and Nuntius
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: Marcos Ortiz and In Darkness We Fall
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: Pablo Larcuen and Hooked Up
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