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INTERNATIONAL FILM AT NAF (article first published : 2005-06-21)

Current international films that people are talking about (including several premières) complement screenings of dozens of recent South African movies and a selection of avant-garde works on the film programme of the National Arts Festival which takes place in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 9.

Nicole Kidman stars in two of the more challenging productions: in Dogville by Lars von Trier she plays a lone traveller with a mysterious past who is the catalyst for prejudice, exploitation and female martyrdom in a hick town. In Birth by Jonathan Glazer, she plays a widow who is about to remarry when she realises her young son could be the reincarnation of her late husband. Denys Arcand reassembles the cast of The Decline of the American Empire (older but not necessarily wiser) for his clever and sensitive The Barbarian Invasions.

Two films take audiences to Afghanistan: Siddiq Barmak’s Osama tells the story of a girl in the time of the Taliban. Disguised as a boy, she is packed off to a training camp in the mountains, deep amongst the most fanatic mullahs. At Five in the Afternoon by Samira Makhmalbaf follows a group of Kabul schoolgirls allowed to return to school after the fall of the Taliban regime.

Michael Winterbottom’s In this World is a distillation of the experiences of a multitude of real-life asylum seekers and migrants. It won a Golden Bear at the Berlin film Festival and a BAFTA for Best Foreign Language Film. A second film by this distinguished British director, Code 46, is billed as a far-sighted thriller with a fraught love interest.

Three more thrillers are each based on a novel. A glacial study of obsession and fear, John Michell’s Enduring Love (a première) is based on the Ian McEwan book. John Malcovich in Liliana Cavani’s chilly and elegant Ripley’s Game brilliantly brings novelist Patricia Highsmith’s amoral Mr Ripley to life. Based on a book by Nicholas Shakespeare, The Dancer Upstairs is John Malcovich’s directorial debut: a combination of cop thriller, political drama and love story set in Latin America.

Starring Liam Neeson, Bill Condon’s frank take on the famous American sex researcher (Kinsey) has caused a fluff of moral outrage. Alejandro Amanabar’s The Sea Inside tells the true story of a person who fought the Spanish government for 30 years for the right to kill himself. John Maybury’s futuristic The Jacket (a première) tells the story of a man who dies twice. Mike Leigh’s talked-about Vera Drake tackles the moral issue of abortion in the context of poverty.

A series of films, vintage and new, honours the 400th anniversary of the publication of Cervantes’ benchmark novel, Don Quixote. Orson Welles’ filmic sortie into the story celebrates his liberation from Hollywood orthodoxies, while Don Quixote, Knight Errant by Manuel Gutierrez Aragon casts the shabby soldier into a new adventure. A delightful two-part animation provides an easy introduction to Cervantes’ monumental text, and Lost in la Mancha is a documentary on Monty Python man Terry Gilliam’s disastrous attempt to film his version of the novel.

Still in Spain, a short programme revisits the work of the “unholy duo”, Luis Buñuel and Jesus Franco. The latter’s Miss Muerte features a sexy go-go dancer turned kinky killing machine. Two Buñuel classics are to be screened: The Young One aka White Trash La Joven has entwined themes of racism and nymphomania while Viridiana has poverty and decadence which violate human goodness.

Another special programme includes films drawn from the startling oeuvre of Orson Welles. Movies he made and starred in are included: The Stranger (in which Welles plays a Nazi on the run), Macbeth, The Lady from Shanghai, The Third Man, Mr Arkadin and Welles’ filmic reading of Kafka’s nightmare novel, The Trial.

Buffalo '66 and The Brown Bunny, two explicitly erotic films by Vincent Gallo head up the short-listing of movies under the heading “The World Gone Wrong”. Larry Clark's Ken Park is his second foray into teenage amorality and in a second Clark movie, Masked and Anonymous, Bob Dylan plays an ageing rock star who stages a miraculous comeback amid thinly veiled references to the Gospel story. In Paul Schrader's Autofocus, two ageing sex addicts use hidden cameras to record their exploits.

Trevor Steele Taylor is the director of the film programme of the National Arts Festival and once again, popular cineaste Leon van Nierop will be on hand to lead discussions about a number of the screenings.

Free Booking Kits for the Festival are available at selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets. Booking is open at Computicket nationwide. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nafest.co.za

The Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund and the National Arts Council proudly sponsor the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.




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