The Global Film Initiative is pleased to announce that the following films are now available on DVD
The Student | Excuse My French | 10 to 11 (formerly titled K & Ali) | Voice of My Father | Adios Carmen | Pegasus | Image Threads | Nina’s Dowry| The Pardon | Halima’s Path | Pelo Malo/Bad Hair | Southwest
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Beasts of No Nation
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
While undergoing mandatory initiation — some of it colorfully ritualized, some deeply humiliating — into a unit of mostly adolescent anti-government soldiers in an unnamed, junta-led West African country, pre-teen Agu (Ghanaian first-timer Abraham Attah, a natural on camera) is deposited by these potential comrades-in-arms in a fully dug grave. “You must die before you are reborn!” booms the voice of the Commandant (Idris Elba, in a tour-de-force), a man who can be either extremely sweet or violent but not much in between. Beasts of No Nation, directed by genre-magician Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre, True Detective), has been labeled and marketed as a film centering on the young combatant, but the formidable Commandant is no less a principal subject.
To reinforce the symbolic significance of death, they add Agu to the other candidates for membership in this fairly autonomous rebel group lined up in front of a firing squad, which executes them with blanks. He passes muster. (Shortly after, the visibly shaken, hesitant boy is forced to kill a pleading prisoner with an ax to the skull — but the sudden rush that overcomes him will motivate him in upcoming confrontations.)
These murders may not be fully distinctive from the real thing in their culture, but they are, for Agu, nothing compared to the ongoing cycle of death — the decimation of character, belief, and spirit — which he endures from the time he is captured in the wilds by these revolutionary PDF soldiers in feathered camouflage and metal helmets until the under stocked battalion dissipates in a single moment. Not long before, this boy with the wide enticing smile had been a playful jokester, devout Christian, devoted son and brother, and class bookworm psyched to study medicine, living with his family in a backwater that had been uselessly designated a buffer zone between warring factions. The old way of life also disappears in a nanosecond.
Military politics indirectly rupture a budding affectionate relationship between the demanding, manipulative powerhouse of a Commandant and the loyal, obedient boy — oedipal, but with decidedly tribal markings, fueled by flattery and extra perks. Agu’s single genuine human connection is with mute Strika (Emmanuel “King Kong” Nil Adom Quaye), who reminds him of the pals he used to horse around with before he was drafted. They forge the kind of loving, mutually protective, all-or-nothing bond that typifies close friendship in childhood, but begins to wither upon entry into adulthood. They play hide ‘n seek as if they were little kiddies: Each is the other’s respite. Strika is the one person waiting for the gullible, devastated boy after he has been fully taken advantage of, an intimate follow-up to the trusted chief’s one-on-one lecture on “keeping secrets.”
The Commandant’s urbane, high-living superior, the Supreme Commander (Jude Akuwudike), resides in a luxurious home in the city, where he serves an ostentatious spread to these peasant kids while he verbally dismantles and demotes their leader. “It has now become a battle for public image,” the head honcho tells this earthy warlord who knows little about war outside of combat and raking in the spoils. Setting and protocol stand in stark contrast to the unaccommodating jungle that has been their stomping grounds, save for a few sorties into urban areas solely to do battle.
As much for balance as to play paterfamilias for his youths, the Commandant ushers them into a low-rent brothel after leaving the Supreme Commander’s gauche home. While the other fellows lose their virginity, Agu and Strika nonchalantly watch TV in the main room. They are not quite ready for the mission, although Agu does sneak some peeks at the young girl who tends to the place. Beasts of No Nation is not totally humorless.
In response to the new scenario, the young men exit the disturbing war-movie setting to venture deep into an even more disturbing “Heart of Darkness.” (“This is madness!” one frustrated conscript screams at the boss.) The battalion is no longer a group of imitation soldiers struggling for causes they never fully comprehended in the first place — their officers depend on brainwash weaponry like religion, vague or unsubstantiated accusations, jingoism, and the illusion of offense as self-defense — but simply a gaggle of thirsty, starving kids carrying rifles without bullets who have, in support of their Pied Piper of a leader, repudiated the westernized Supreme Commander.
The months of fighting, foraging, joshing, singing, dancing, and snorting brown-brown (a potent mix of cocaine and gunpowder) — how many is impossible to know in this twilight zone — have forged a nearly unbreakable kinship with this warlord, who shamelessly tells them, “We should take our own territory and fill our own pockets.” A nearly unbreakable bond. It doesn’t help the Commandant’s case for continued solidarity when he publicly torments a dissenter, warning that if he leaves he will have nothing ahead, be shunned in his own village, and face charges of war crimes, adding that he is “stupid” and has “a poor uneducated mind.” Everyone has a threshold for sadistic treatment.
Agu survives. How many more times could he die? Family all gone, soldier pals murdered or scattered, a pariah should he return to his home town: Only the UN or some NGO might help him restore the pieces of a mind not yet fully formed. “I am thinking about my future,” he tells a sympathetic listener, noting that he has been “part beast or devil.” It’s both refreshing and cathartic to hear him own up to the recent past and look forward positively after the near-demise of his soul and the executions and brutal torture he has carried out. Ironically, he has committed the same atrocities that the government forces had inflicted upon his immediate loved ones and town at the time his childhood was so abruptly terminated.
Fukunaga’s heart does not appear to be in the urban landscapes: It is in the wilds. In widescreen he captures its sensuality, multiple textures, and vibrant colors. It is gorgeous and seductive, the occasional close-up of an insect or a leaf, or shot of a moody sky, amplifying the breathtaking, nearly hallucinatory effect. Enhancing these rich images in a film in which visuals and music carry the story much more than dialogue is Dan Romer’s eclectic score. Horns, percussion, organ, keyboard, strings, flute, and clanging bells combine and compete, volume raised or lowered, notes held or not as required to sustain both the feel of a thriller and a spiritual undercurrent. When appropriate, he inserts bits that evoke melancholy or joy, at the same time insuring that monotony does not become a distraction.
Not to force a point, but the threat of death hung over the shoot itself, as if an echo of the storyline. Production facilities were set up in Kenya until the 2013 Westgate shopping mall massacre in Nairobi altered the plan. The team settled on hot, humid Ghana, in spite of the lack of film infrastructure, because of its urban locales and abundance of verdant, unspoiled nature that recall sites in Nigerian-born Uzodinma Iweala’s 2005 novel from which the film draws its title. (The book does not, however, lend its style to the narrative, except for Agu’s voiceover that subs for the written version’s first-person point-of-view. Fukunaga goes for a linear approach, eschewing the memory-triggered temporal shifts in Iweala’s prose.)
The shoot was then delayed for a week after Fukunaga contracted a severe case of malaria. The DP tore a ham string on day one of filming, so the director, an excellent cinematographer, took over that job too, frequently strapped to a Steadicam. By the end of production, he was playing host to an intestinal parasite. When a tree branch Elba was leaning on snapped, the large actor nearly tumbled 90 feet down to a pile of rocks. Lest I forget: The crew was held up by bandits. I read that the British-born Elba, whose mother is Ghanaian, helped rescue them from several borderline disasters.
Beasts of No Nation is extraordinary, but even if it had been a misfire, it would deserve a slew of gold stars for perseverance and chutzpah. That goes for its controversial release pattern as well. Theater owners are having hissy fits that Netflix’s first feature production will be available on DVD and by streaming two weeks after its British theatrical debut, which is one week before its American bow. Some exhibitors have threatened boycotts. On whichever side of the argument you stand, foregoing the thrill of watching it is your loss.
Goran Radovanovic’s film is about a tiny Serb community living under UN protection in Kosovo.
Serbia’s nomination for best foreign-language Oscar turns clichés about the bitter civil war in Yugoslavia on their head.
Focused on a tiny Serb community living in a UN-protected enclave in Muslim Kosovo, Enclave – Goran Radovanovic’s second feature – looks at the legacy of ethnic cleansing and internecine conflict through the eyes of a small boy, Nenad.
Every day Nenad is taken to school from his father’s farm in a KFOR armored car to study alone in a school with no other pupils. Like any other boy of his age, all Nenad wants are some friends his own age. Each day, through narrow observation slits in the military vehicle he sees two Albanian boys and a shepherd boy – who has lost his father in the war and hates Serbs.
The film won an audience award last June after a competition screening at the Moscow International Film Festival.
2015 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival
Faces of Work
March 18 – April 11
Screening two recipients of GFI film grants and also awarded distribution contracts.
Sunday, March 22
Bad Hair (Pelo Malo)
Venezuela | by Mariana Rondon | 93 mins — A showdown loms as 9 year old Junior suspects his haggard, out-of-work single mother would love him more if he straightens the unruly hair he inherited form his absent father.
Sunday, March 29
Excuse My French
Egypt | by Amr Salama | 99 mins — 12 year old Hany tries to fit in at his new governmental school after his father suddenly drops dead, leaving his mother in debt and unable to continue to afford his private education.
Director Amr Salama will attend screening and Q&A at the McConomy Auditorium.
New York audiences have a second chance to view 9 Global Lens films that they might have been overlooked during their initial screenings. Our special thanks to Curator Jytte Jensen who has championed GFI’s activities for the past twelve years, and for her role as an uncompromising supporter of films from emerging nations.
The films and the dates of screenings are as follows:
Saturday, April 4
About 111 Girls (Darbare 111 Doktar)
Iraq | Directed by Nahid Ghobadi & Bijan Zamanpira (79 mins.) — A government official, carrying a message from Iran’s president, travels across Iranian Kurdistan with his driver and a young guide on a mission to stop 111 young Kurdish women from committing suicide.
Sunday, April 5
Egypt | Directed by Mohamed Diab (100 mins.)– Three Cairene women from different backgrounds join together in uneasy solidarity to combat the sexual harassment that has impacted each of their lives.
Kazakhstan by Darezhan Omirbayev (90 mins.)–A solitary philosophy student steers his directionless life toward the commission of a violent crime.
Monday, April 6
Morocco | Directed by Mohamed Mouftakir (104 mins.)–An emotionally exhausted psychiatrist assigned to a pregnant young woman found in the street muttering about “The Lord of the Hope.”
Iraq | Directed by Oday Rasheed (90 mins.)–A broken family with an incestuous patriarch rents a room to a stranger and lives uneasily within the gated courtyard of dilapidated Baghdad house.
Tuesday, April 7
The Light Thief (Svet-Ake)
Kyrgyzstan | Directed by Aktan Arym Kubat (80 mins.)— In this colorful modern-day parable of good and evil, a humble village electrician devotes his compassion and ingenuity to destitute neighbors in a wind-swept valley of Kyrgyzstan.
Wednesday, April 8
Ocean of an Old Man
India | Directed by Rajesh Shera (84 mins.)—In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and amid the stunning natural beauty of India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, an elderly British teacher struggles to run a small primary school despite the loss of many of the islands’ children to the recent tragedy.
The Night of Truth
Burkina Faso | Directed by Fanta Regina Nacro (100 mins.)— As the powerful drumming begins, both rebels and government forces gather, bringing with them years of rage, grief, hope, suspicion and bitterness.
Thursday, April 9
The Kite (Le Cerf-Volant)
Lebanon | Directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag (80 mins.)—Sixteen year old Lamia must cross a border checkpoint between Lebanon and Israel to marry a man she has never met further complicated by her surprising admission that she is in love with the Israeli soldier guarding the border.
Cairo, Egypt | Friday- 6 February, 2015
In a fresh breakthrough for Mohamed Khan‘s Factory Girl across film festivals worldwide, Arab Cinema in Sweden (ACIS), a distribution arm under the umbrella of Malmo Arab Film Festival, has announced the theatrical release of Factory Girl across Sweden on Friday, April 24th, 2015. Marking the film’s first release beyond the Arab world, Factory Girl is part of the European Film Market (EFM) within 65th Berlin International Film Festival.
Across Sweden where the largest Arabic-speaking community resides in Europe, Factory Girl will release in 12 screening venues including, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Norrkoping, Fajo, Umeå, Luleå, Lund and Hillsburg.
Produced by Mohamed Samir‘s DayDream Art Production, MAD Solution handled the distribution of Factory Girl in the Arab world, which also helms the Arab Cinema Center in its 1st edition at Berlinale as part of its long-term strategy to support and promote the Arab filmmaking industry in the Arab world.
Alaa Karkouti, CEO and Co-founder of MAD Solutions commented, “Factory Girl‘s theatrical release across Sweden is going to function as a new window on the Arab cinema for all film lovers in Sweden. He further added, “Our collaboration with the ACIS is an important step to us, as the screening of Factory Girl will highlight the artistic diversity and abundance of the Arab cinema. Since its inception, Malmo Arab Film Festival has been playing a crucial role in backing Arab filmmakers and this step marks a culmination of these long-standing efforts.”
Expressing his eagerness to release the film in Sweden, Mr. Mouhamed Keblawi, General Manager of Arab Cinema in Sweden (ACIS), stated, “It is a great honor to present Factory Girl to the Swedish audience. We are proud to bring the film to Sweden in cooperation with MAD Solutions and DayDream Art Productions, both for the large Arabic population in Sweden as well as for the whole national cinema selection. Mohamed Khan is one of the Arab world’s greatest directors whose films do not leave anyone indifferent, so neither Factory Girl. The story of the film and its topics are as urgent in Sweden as in Egypt – a romantic and at the same time serious depiction that shows how the society fights women who just want to assert their fundamental freedoms.”
Starring Yasmin Raeis, Hany Adel, Salwa Khatab, Salwa Mohamed Ali, Ibtihal El Sereti and an array of new promising stars; the film is written by Wessam Suleiman. Factory Girl tells the story of Hiyam, a young factory worker, lives in a lower-middle-class neighborhood, along with her co-workers. She is clearly under the spell of Salah, the factory’s new supervisor, who has expressed his admiration for her. She believes love can transcend the class differences between them. However, when a pregnancy test is discovered in the factory premises, her family and close friends accuse her of sinning. Hiyam decides not to defend herself and pays an enormous price in a society that fails to accept independent women.
Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl was Egypt’s official submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 87th Academy Awards (Oscars). In 2013, the film had its world premiere at Dubai International Film Festival 2013 within the Muhr Arab Feature competition where the film received the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award for Arab Feature Competition, and the film’s star Yasmin Raeis walked away with the Best Actress award in 2014. The film earned a Special Jury Prize from MED Film Festival in Italy, where it was screened at the opening gala of the festival. Concurrently, Factory Girl was a great success in Egyptian theaters, and carried on its flourishing commercial tour across 6 Arab countries, as well as Ramallah, Palestinian territories.
The film’s star, Yasmin Raeis, reaped the Best Actress Award at Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden, and its Screenwriter Wessam Soliman also received the Best Writing Award at the Sala Women Film Festival in Morocco.
Factory Girl ended 2014 with receiving multiple awards from international film festivals receiving 4 awards from the 18th Egyptian National Film Festival, which hosted an honorary screening for the film at the closing ceremony after competing in the festival’s Feature-length Competition. The film swept the festival’s major awards; Best Director award, Best Screen play and the Best Actress award.
Adding to its festival participations in a string of highly prestigious international film festivals, Factory Girl had its North American premiere at Montreal World Film Festival in Canada, and then was part of ANA Contemporary Arab Cinema Festival in New York. On November 9th, 2014, Factory Girl concluded the screenings of Twin Cities Arab Film Festival in Minnesota, USA, which was held under the patronage of Mizna.
The film was also screened as part of Shanghai International Film Festival and at the opening ceremony of the Arab Film Festival in Seoul, Korea. Also, the film has taken part in the 20th Kolkata Film Festival in India within Focus: Arabian Countries section, which showcased 7 films from the Arab world that achieved artistic triumphs at international film festivals.
Moreover, Mohamed Khan’s Factory Girl was showcased at Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema in London, which took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). The film has also been part of the 34th African Film Festival of Verona in Italy within Panorama Africa competition, which encompassed 10 African feature-length films.
Following its screening at Franco Arab Film Festival in Jordon, Factory Girl was featured at Carthage Film Festival within Special Sessions section.
The Arab Cinema Center (ACC) is the first Arab gathering of its kind across international film festivals, and functions as an international platform to promote Arab cinema and as a channel to provide access to Arab films and talents. Through its diverse activities, it will disseminate information internationally concerning film production in the Arab world, creating an opportunity for Arab filmmakers to explore and network with the international film industry professionals, production companies’ representatives, distribution slates and the organizations investing in co-productions.
Berlin International Film Festival is regarded as an exciting, cosmopolitan cultural hub as it annually attracts 20,000 film professionals and media figures from all over the world. It is one of the biggest cinema platforms with more than 300,000 sold tickets from 400 films, taking part in each edition. In 2014, Berlinale attracted nearly 490,000 cinephiles and its EFM (5-13 February) is considered one of the most 3 important film markets in the world.
Factory Girl’s screening times at the European Film Market:
Saturday, February 7 at 10:45 am at CineStar1
Photo of Alaa Karkouti
Photo of Mouhamed Keblawi
The Official Trailer of Factory Girl
Poster of the film
Stills from the film
Click here for The Factory Girl Official Trailer
The Global Film Initiative has chosen 10 films from around the world for its 2014 Global Lens Films Series, which is distributed by the New York-based FilmRise. The 10 titles also will be added to the 96-title GFI library, whose exclusive distribution rights FilmRise, headed by CEO Danny Fisher, acquired last year.
The new film lineup includes Turkey’s 11’e 10 kala (10 to 11) and Babamin sesi (Voice of My Father), India’s Chitra Sutram (The Image Threads), Armenia’s Yerku ashkharhic i hishatak (From Two Worlds as a Keepsake), Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Halimin put (Halima’s Path), Venezuela’s Pelo Malo (Bad Hair) Rwanda’s Imbabazi (The Pardon), Morocco’s Wadaan Carmen (Adios Carmen), Cameroon’s Ninah’s Dowry and Egypt’s La Moakhza (Excuse My French).
Over the past 10 years, the Global Film Initiative has provided grants and distribution support for the Global Lens series, which supports filmmakers in the developing world by providing programming for festivals, libraries, cultural institutions, schools and art house cinemas throughout North America.
“We are excited to leverage our partnership with FilmRise as we continue our work to present the very best of world cinema as a means of promoting cross-cultural understanding,” Susan Weeks Coulter, founder and board chair of the Global Film Initiative, said.
Recently, Global Lens 2013 was hand-delivered to William Wells, Executive Director of The Townhouse, in Cairo Egypt, by one of GFI’s longtime San Francisco friends and supporters, Kurt Oberhuis. As part of our ongoing support, offering visibility to Global Lens filmmakers through a few international cultural venue partners, we are pleased to donate this curated series of films from countries rarely screened in Egypt.
In addition, The Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo, Egypt recently hosted screenings of Global Lens 2007 in January and February. This “global partnership” is an exciting innovation to our series and in the coming year, GFI hopes to extend the reach of Global Lens through similar partnerships around the world.
To donate this curated series of films, The Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art is one of the region’s leading independent spaces for the arts, and provides an extensive program of visual arts, film, theatre and music, and also focuses on community development initiatives and educational programs.
Click here for more photos and information on The Townhouse