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Empire Blogs

Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: The Documentaries

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 17:57 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: The Documentaries

Given that Night Visions is a genre festival taking place in a particularly dark city at Hallowe’en, you’d expect a predominantly horror-centric programme. Not necessarily so. Sci-fi and action are well represented too, and there’s a great, wide-ranging documentary strand. I sadly couldn’t make it to the Japanese punk movie Get Action!, but I did catch 2000AD celebration Future Shock! (lots of exclamation marks in these titles), Cannon Films autopsy The Go-Go Boys, and Richard Stanley’s fascinating L’Autre Monde (The Otherworld).

Winner of the audience award this year was the brilliant vampire mock-doc What We Do In The Shadows, but in impressive second place was Future Shock!. It really is that good: it makes you want to run out and buy trade paperbacks of classic Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and whatever else right away. But crucially, while the ...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: The Nordic Genre Invasion

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 17:37 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: The Nordic Genre Invasion

This was my third year at Helsinki’s Night Visions festival, but to my shame, I’ve never really written much about Finnish or Nordic cinema before. In my defence, that’s partly a reflection of the festival’s programme, which isn’t heavily local. Perhaps with that in mind, this year the festival organised an entire day devoted to presentations on Nordic cinema: a celebration of a deliberately organised ‘movement’.

The idea behind what’s been self-dubbed the Nordic Genre Invasion is a recognition of how popular the Nordic crime genre became in recent years, thanks to writers like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo; the movies based on their and others’ work; and the TV series’ like Wallander, The Killing and The Bridge which achieved breakout international success. With a feeling that those things are becoming slightly old hat now, there’s an attempt underway to kick-start something similar for other genres: action, sci-fi, horror. A coalition...

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Under The RadarThe Rio Festival: The Prizes

Posted on Monday October 13, 2014, 15:22 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The Rio Festival: The Prizes

Festival do Rio 2014, the biggest film festival in South America, came to an official end on October 8 with a gala awards ceremony at the fest’s docklands HQ in downtown Rio. And for once, Empire picked the winner. Director Lirio Ferreira’s film Sangue Azul (Blue Blood) picked up three Redentors (a golden figurine formed from film stock that mirrors the city’s iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer), including the top prize of Best Feature in the Premiere Brazil section, a showcase for new works by homegrown filmmakers. The film, an earthy character-driven meditation on love and art set in the colourful world of a travelling circus, also netted Best Director for Ferreira and Best Supporting Actor for Rômulo Braga.

Announcing the Premiere Brazil awards, Jury president Karim Ainouz commented: “The films awarded were chosen because they all have a strong personality and flirt between strong social commentary and poetic fables about the worl...

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Under The RadarThe Rio Festival: Closing Film

Posted on Thursday October 9, 2014, 09:44 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The Rio Festival: Closing Film

Apart from Wednesday’s awards ceremony and closing gala, Festival do Rio wrapped last night with a screening of Trash, written by Richard Curtis and directed by Stephen Daldry. It might seem odd to close a festival that promotes South American and Latin cinema so vigorously with a British film, especially one that looks, on paper at least, to be seriously at odds with the overarching indie-arthouse tone of the programming – a trio of plucky urchins find a discarded wallet in a trash dump and hair-raising scrapes ensue. Throw in an exotic, photogenic location (Rio de Janeiro) and surely it’s an Olsen Twins movie in disguise. The poster shows three figures dancing with glee as a blizzard of banknotes flutters around, the twin peaks of Corcovado and Sugarloaf silhouetted in the background against a blazing blue sky.

It’s a surprise – a shock, actually – to discover that Trash is, in fact, a gritty urban thriller that is at pains to ...

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Under The RadarThe Rio Film Festival: Trinto, Castanha, Campo de Jogo and Sangre Azul

Posted on Wednesday October 8, 2014, 15:06 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The Rio Film Festival: Trinto, Castanha, Campo de Jogo and Sangre Azul

Now that we’ve had a chance to see a few films, here are some contenders for the completely unofficial and, in fact, made up on the spur of the moment Empire Yes-That-Was-Worth-Coming-All-This-Way-To-See Award.

Trinta
A biopic of Joaosino Trinta, the self-taught artist and dancer who revolutionized Brazilian carnival with his groundbreaking and outlandish designs. A tremendous performance by Matheus Nashtergale (Central Station, City Of God) in the title role is the centerpiece of a uplifiting and, to those not steeped in the culture of carnival, fascinating film. It paints Trinto in entirely saintly colours, but this is not remotely the sugar-coated showbiz clichéfest it might have been. Top marks to writer Caludio Galperin and director Paulo Machline for that.

Castanha
Director Davi Pretto’s brilliantly made, moving and often bleakly funny drama follows the life of Joao Carlos Castanha, a 5...

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Under The RadarThe Rio Film Festival: The First Report

Posted on Tuesday October 7, 2014, 12:18 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The Rio Film Festival: The First Report

Arriving at a film festival, especially one you’ve never attended before, can be a daunting experience. After checking in to the hotel, you confront the breezeblock-sized catalogue with a sinking heart. With the best will in the world, there’s no way you can cover everything. This year’s Festival do Rio catalogue is particularly intimidating, a tribute to the enormous diversity and sheer number of films that are being shown here – over 350, representing more than sixty countries at 35 venues throughout the city. It’s almost a relief that Empire is only in town for the last four days of festivities.

As you’d expect, the festival places great emphasis on bringing global attention to contemporary Brazilian cinema, principally through the Premiére Brasil section, which comprises the main competition. This year over forty films will screen at Premiére Brasil, many of them receiving their world premiere. Ten features and ten documentarie...

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Under The RadarZurich International Film Festival: Escobar: Paradise Lost

Posted on Monday September 29, 2014, 14:37 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
Zurich International Film Festival: Escobar: Paradise Lost

Saturday night at the ZFF 10 was an appropriately rowdy afterparty for Northmen, which enjoyed its world premiere at Zurich’s Corso Theater earlier in the evening. The venue was the upstairs space of Zurich’s foremost vegetarian restaurant. How you can have a Viking party without massive hunks of charred meat and at least one wild boar’s head with a spit-roasted raven in its mouth beats me, but cast, crew and a boatload of revelers managed to pull it off.

Despite the ruckus, I managed a convivial chat with Automata writer-director Gabe Ibáñez who gave us the lowdown on low-budget shooting in Bulgaria and how the look of the film was dictated by what props and scenery could be scrounged from the leftovers of previous productions, so some of them might already have passed through Antonio Banderas’s hands on Expendables 3. Click here for a behind-the-scene...

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Under The RadarZurich International Film Festival: The First Two Days

Posted on Monday September 29, 2014, 14:34 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
Zurich International Film Festival: The First Two Days

True, the Zurich International Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, but even so anticipation for its opening night seemed unusually keen. Crowds lined the Theaterstrasse from early in the day on Sunday; some of them had obviously been there for a while, judging by the lawn chairs and thermos flasks in evidence. In the end, however, closer inspection revealed the throng to be Apple geeks doorstepping the tech store next to the Corso cinema, desperate to get their hands on an iPhone 6.

Still, ZFF 10 got off to raucous, vaguely un-Swiss, start on Thursday night with a gala screening of James Brown biopic Get On Up. Chadwick Boseman, who stars as the Godfather of Soul, and director Tate Taylor strutted their stuff on the green carpet beforehand. The crowd, of course, went wild. Apart from the Apple corps that is, who barely looked up from their soon-to-be-scorned 5s and 5Cs. The screening was followed by a party at the Globus department store adjacent to the Corso. ...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves

Posted on Saturday November 9, 2013, 18:40 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves

My favourite film of the festival was The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, the second "arthouse giallo" (after 2009's Amer) from the writing/directing partnership of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. When I left the screening I felt almost battered by it, but its been in my head ever since. A heady and surreal experience, it's a difficult film to describe, but on its most basic level involves the nightmarish psychological journey of a man (Klaus Tange) searching for his wife, who has disappeared from their Parisian apartment, which was locked from the inside. If that sounds like any sort of conventional locked room mystery, I'm not doing it justice.

The structure for a while has flashbacks to the stories of more disappearances in the same opulently decayed building running alongside Tange's current investigations. So we get the woman upstairs, dressed in black lace, sitting in deep shadow, her face always obscured, relating how her husban...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom

Posted on Friday November 8, 2013, 16:14 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom

Winner of the audience award at this year's Night Visions was Frank Pavich's documentary Jodorowsky's Dune (Filth came second and The World's End placed third - take that, Gravity). This was the film I was most looking forward to seeing at the festival, having heard so much great stuff coming out of Cannes, Telluride, TIFF, Sitges, Fantastic Fest and wherever else. In many ways it doesn't disappoint, but it's also not the kind-of transcendent experience I'd hoped it would be. Despite the story's starting to sound overfamiliar, it's a fascinating and comprehensive glimpse of the film that might have been, with the engaging presence of Alejandro Jodorowsky himself front and centre. So on its own terms as a celebration of the greatest film that never was, it's a complete success. But it lacks any sense of balance, any dissenting voices, and any sense that its principal narrator might be at all unreliable. As such it comes across as over...

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