38th Flanders International Film Festival

And yes, it’s once again that time of the year: the international film festival in Ghent. This year I found the time for 11 films and as usual I’ll give you the list of those films.

Tuesday 11 october

The magic trip

Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s “Magic Trip” is a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s fabled road trip across America in the legendary Magic Bus. In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair. He was joined by “The Merry Band of Pranksters,” a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac’s “On the Road,” and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With “Magic Trip”, Gibney and Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. The directors restored over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history.

Wednesday 12 october

The Help

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter, a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. This turns her friends’ lives – and a small Mississippi town – upside down. Aibileen, Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, is the first to open up, to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community. Despite Skeeter’s life-long friendship hanging in the balance, she and Aibileen continue their collaboration and soon more women come forward to tell their stories. As it turns out, they have a lot to say. Along the way, unlikely friendships are forged and a new sisterhood emerges, but not before everyone in town has a thing or two to say themselves when they become unwittingly – and unwillingly – caught up in the changing times. “The Help” is based on the #1 New York Times best-seller by Kathryn Stockett.

Thursday 13 october

Trollflöjten

The Queen of the Night asks the young prince Tamino to free her daughter Pamina. She is held captive by Sarastro, the Priest of the Sun. Bird hunter Papageno accompanies Tamino on his quest. The Queen of the Night gives a magic flute to Tamino and magic bells to Papageno. When Tamino finds Pamina and Sarastro, he learns the truth and realizes he has been misled by the Queen of the Night. Tamino and Pamina are asked to pass Sarastro’s trials. If they do, they will be initiated into the Temple of Wisdom. Ingmar Bergman once said he’d have loved to be a conductor, if he wouldn’t have been completely obsessed with cinema. With his film version of Die Zauberflöte, he combines the best of both worlds. Bergman slightly altered Mozart’s popular opera for his adaptation, which was sung completely in Swedish. The director wanted to shoot the film in the Drottningholm Palace Theatre, one of the best preserved Baroque theaters in Europa. However, the theatre was too fragile to accommodate a film crew, so the entire stage was copied and erected in the studios of the Swedish Film Institute.

Saturday 15 october

UFO in Her Eyes

Director Xiaolu Guo has amazed audiences with her films “How is Your Fish Today?” and “She, a Chinese”, the last one winning the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival in 2009. Her new film is based on her eponymous second novel, partly inspired by Kafka’s ”The Metamorphosis” and Kurosawa’s ”Rashomon”, and portrays the lives of ordinary individuals dealing with radical political changes in a chaotic contemporary Chinese society. One very hot afternoon, the life of an anonymous Chinese village woman abruptly changes when she believes that she has just witnessed a UFO flying through the sky. The village chief takes advantage of this unexpected event to boost the poverty-stricken local economy – to stimulate tourism, get government support, and even make contact with the USA. Under a scrutinizing police eye, a collective portrait unfolds…

Juan

Juan, a famous artist and infamous womanizer, meets the beautiful upper-class lady Anna at the opera. After seducing her, Juan is caught in the act by her father, a powerful police commander. Juan tries to escape him, but soon he’s on the run from the entire police force. The consequences of his flamboyant lifestyle haunt him, but a leopard cannot change its spots. Together with his assistant Leporello, Juan strays the city, but he can’t restrain himself from seducing beautiful women. The casanova knows not how to stop, only how to accelerate. This film, based on Mozart’s famous opera Don Giovanni, is the directorial debut of Kasper Holten. Kasper Holten is the artistic director of the Royal Danish Opera and has staged more than 50 operas worldwide. In 2006, he received international praise with his production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. With his movie “Juan”, Holten now shares his passion for opera with film audiences worldwide.

Sunday 16 october

Weekend

On a Friday night after hanging out with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a nightclub, alone and on the pull. Just before closing time he picks up Glen and sleeps with him. Glen is leaving very soon to study in the States, but still they decide to meet up again. A one-night stand becomes a lost weekend and Russell and Glen indulge in lots of drinking, recreational drug use and sex, but at the same time their long and winding conversations are often very meaningful and profound. The genuine words and tender gestures they exchange, ensure that the screen romance between Russell and Glen is a sincere one, one that isn’t smothered with candy-coated romantic cliches. This unique lovestory is already catching on with film audiences and has won the Audience Award in the section “Emerging Visions” at Austin’s SXSW Festival.

L’Hiver Dernier

Somewhere on an isolated mountainous plain. Johann has taken over his father’s farm, devoting all his time and energy to his work. Surrounded by a struggling community and a natural landscape that has taught him all he knows, his heritage is his entire life. As autumn goes and winter comes, a barn burns to the ground and jeopardizes the fragile balance of the farm’s survival. How does a person deal with the prospect of the disappearance of all that was given to him? In a fragile world doomed to a certain death, Johann isolates himself. Rather than dealing with the loss, he continues to do the things he knows and loves without being able to let go of what he holds in his hands. The story of a man trying to love the world he belongs to one last time, as hard as he can, before it sinks into darkness. “The Last Winter” is the feature film debut of John Shank, a Belgian director with North American roots.

Monday 17 october

Elena

Elena and Vladimir are an older couple, they come from different backgrounds. Vladimir is a wealthy and cold man, Elena comes from a modest milieu and is a docile wife. They have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena’s son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir’s daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father. A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where he realizes that his remaining time is limited. A brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth. Back home he announces it to Elena. Her hopes to financially help her son suddenly vanish. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life. Andrei Zvyaguintsev is the director of the modern film classics “The Return” and “The Banishment”. “Elena”, his third movie, received the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the Film Festival of Cannes.

Tuesday 18 october

Fanny och Alexander

Fanny and Alexander are children in the exuberant and colorful Ekdahl family early in the twentieth century. Father Oscar is the director of the local theatre company, mother Emilie its leading lady. When Oscar dies early, Emilie marries a bishop and moves with her children to his forbidding chancery. The cheerful lives of Fanny and Alexander seem to come to an end as the children feel immediately miserable in their new environment. Ingmar Bergman decided “Fanny & Alexander” would be his last theatrical movie. The film was originally conceived as a four part television movie, the cinematic version was created later (but was the first version to appear). Bergman would continue to make films until 2003, but still “Fanny & Alexander” can be considered the culmination of an era. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever made in Sweden and the director had serious doubts of himself pulling the huge project off.

Wednesday 19 october

Jane Eyre

In this 19th Century-set story, Jane Eyre suddenly flees Thornfield Hall, the vast and isolated estate where she works as a governess for Adèle Varens, a child under the custody of Thornfield’s brooding master, Edward Rochester. The imposing residence – and Rochester’s own imposing nature – have sorely tested her resilience. With nowhere else to go, she is extended a helping hand by clergyman St. John Rivers and his family. As she recuperates in the Rivers’ Moor House and looks back upon the tumultuous events that led to her escape, Jane wonders if the past is ever truly past…In 2009, director Cary Fukunaga won many prizes with his previous film “Sin Nombre”. Encouraged by this triumph, he now embarks on a new adventure as he adapts the classic novel by Charlotte Brontë. This landmark in world literature, published in 1847, has already been adapted to film more than 15 times. Many fans of the novel consider Fukunaga’s version to be the best and most faithful adaptation to this day.

Thursday 20 october

Medianeras

Buenos Aires: 3 million people and a unequalled feeling of loneliness (which explains the largest number of psychologists per square meter worldwide). Martin is a phobic in recovery process. Little by little he manages to step out of the isolation of his one-room apartment and his virtual reality. Mariana just broke up after a long relationship. Her head is a mess, just like the apartment where she takes refuge. Martin and Mariana live in the same street, in opposite buildings, but they never met. They walk through the same places, but they do not notice each other. How can they meet in a city of three million people? Urban loneliness in Buenos Aires. What separates them is what brings them together. Medianeras is based on the eponymous short film, winner of the Grand Prix at the international short film festival of Clermont-Ferrand in 2005, and contains references to classical films such as Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and Jacques Tati’s “Playtime”.

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