“Twenty years ago, there were 120 cinemas in Syria; when I was there for The New Yorker in 2006, only six were functioning.” Lawrence Wright: “I had the good fortune at the time to meet Orwa Nyrabia,” co-founder of Proaction Film and Dox Box, “the largest documentary-film festival in the Arab world. Orwa was one man who quietly stood against the Syrian police state. He was not a revolutionary but he was an independent filmmaker, which inevitably placed him in jeopardy. In this brutalized society, he was also a person who still held onto joy and hope, qualities that are hunted down in Syria by forces dedicated to suffocating the best in human nature. Last Thursday, Orwa was abducted before boarding a flight from Damascus to Cairo.” Jean-Michel Frodon: “Liberté pour Orwa!” Update: At Thompson on Hollywood, Jacob Combs has a statement from the Toronto International Film Festival: “Nyrabia belongs to the emerging generation of Syrian filmmakers passionate about world cinema and passionate about freedom. We are extremely concerned by his arrest—filmmakers must be allowed to express themselves through their films, without fear of reprisal.”
In other news. The International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography PLUS CAMERIMAGE has announced that, during its 20th anniversary edition, running from November 24 through December 1, a Lifetime Achievement Award for Directing will be presented to David Lynch.
The Zurich Film Festival (September 20 through 30) will present its A Tribute to… award to Tom Tykwer.
The San Francisco Film Society is bringing Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar) to the city for its Artist in Residence program, September 25 through October 9.
Reading. “The idea comes from Gilles Deleuze: two types of cinema, one tending more toward the body, the other emphasizing the brain.” Stressing that it’s “not a strict or absolute distinction,” Adrian Martin, writing in De Filmkrant, focuses on “Stephen Dwoskin and Chris Marker, body and brain. Dwoskin, free-ranging avant-gardist for over 50 years, creating his œuvre in intimate proximity to his own, disabled body—and going all the way to the outer limits of physical (as well as psychical) pleasure and pain, in search of literal and metaphorical nakedness…. Marker: always the text, written or spoken, effortlessly eloquent, a triumph of rhetoric, wit and poetic association. Words, thought, language guide everything in Marker’s work, even though he was (like Dwoskin) someone with a prodigious visual (and aural) sense.”
Paul Cullum in the Los Angeles Review of Books on Alan Greenberg’s Every Night the Trees Disappear: Werner Herzog and the Making of Heart of Glass: “Greenberg met Herzog at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, where the director recognized in him an incendiary mix of idealism and recklessness and quickly pressed him into service, telling him, ‘There’s work to be done—and we will do it well.’ Two days later, this had somehow mutated into, ‘You, too, will be held accountable.’ Very quickly, as captured in a breathless, downhill prose, the chaos of filmmaking soon becomes inseparable from the vortex of the filmmaker, around which everything else circles and seems in danger of disappearing into.”
“The island of Samos was the scene of a recent summertime détente between Greeks and Germans on the occasion of Harun Farocki’s Between Eye and Hand, the inaugural exhibition of the Culture Hotel Pythagoras art museum and residency.” A dispatch to Artforum from Cathryn Drake.
In MUBI’s Notebook, Leo Goldsmith files a full report on Locarno: “But by far the best competition film—and the most conspicuous omission from Locarno’s awards—was Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor‘s much-anticipated Leviathan.” And we’ll be hearing much more about it in the coming weeks and months.
“I want to make a film that breaks your heart, but I’ve never done it.” Anisse Gross interviews Francis Ford Coppola at the Rumpus.
Kiva Reardon in Reverse Shot on David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962): “The film’s understanding of T.E. Lawrence (or lack thereof) is encapsulated in its use of white.”
At the Montréal World Film Festival, John DeFore‘s caught Viola Shafik’s My Name Is Not Ali and reviews it briefly for the Hollywood Reporter: “Best known for playing Ali, the young Berber laborer whose relationship with an older German woman is recounted in Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, El Hedi ben Salem was credited on close to a dozen Fassbinder films and was the director’s lover for some time…. Haphazard consumer-grade video footage doesn’t help the film’s lack of focus. Neither does the suspicion that, somewhere out there, there are people or documents that might have brought this enigmatic man to life.”
DVD/Blu-ray. New essays from Criterion: Phillip Lopate on Paul Fejos’s Lonesome (1928) and Howard Hampton on Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia (1979), “the closest thing England has produced to its own Mean Streets.” Meantime, Film Quarterly editor Rob White revisits Duncan Jones’s Source Code (2011), “a Sisyphean vision of repeated and necessary failure.”
In the works. Back in THR, Scott Roxborough: “ZDF Enterprises, the international distribution arm of German public broadcaster ZDF, has picked up world sales rights to Werner Herzog’s two new documentary series: Hate in America and On Death Row. The latter is a three-part follow up to Herzog’s well-received Death Row series of intimate interviews with death row inmates…. Hate in America is four, 1-hour documentaries each examining a different aspect of hate crime.” And Pitchfork‘s Larry Fitzmaurice reports that Herzog will be directing The Killers’ live webcast on September 18.
From Entertainment Weekly‘s Jeff Labrecque: “Ryan Gosling will write and direct How to Catch a Monster, a ‘modern day fairytale’ starring his Drive costar Christina Hendricks as a single mother ‘swept into a macabre and dark fantasy underworld while her teenage son discovers a secret road leading to an underwater town.'”
And ET‘s Anthony Breznican talks with Roman Coppola about A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, featuring “Charlie Sheen as a brokenhearted playboy and Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman as his best friends, who try to pull him out of a surreal spiral after the love of his life dumps him hard.” A few photos accompany the interview.
THR‘s Tatiana Siegel reports that Michael Douglas will play Ronald Reagan in Mike Newell’s Reykjavik, taking place “over a few days in 1986, when Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met for talks in the Icelandic capital to iron out peace against the backdrop of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The producers now are looking to find their Gorbachev.” Newell’s Great Expectations, by the way, will close this year’s London Film Festival.
And for Filmmaker, Byron Camacho checks in on four independent productions: Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, Tim Garrick’s Feed the Dog, Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, and Jeremiah Chechik’s The Right Kind of Wrong.
Obit. “Steve Franken, a character actor specializing in comedy who appeared in films with Peter Sellers, Jerry Lewis and others, but was best known for playing the wealthy and snobbish Chatsworth Osborne Jr. on the hit sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, died on Friday in Los Angeles,” reports Daniel E. Slotnik in the New York Times. “He was 80.”
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