Watching and workshopping
The Reluctant Revolutionary
Suzy Gillett, 10 February
This is my first Berlinale. I’ve been preparing for months, as I’m running a massive distribution and marketing workshop called Making Waves – this week is the calm before the storm. Twenty-five film students from Spain, France, Romania, Germany and the UK will be working (hopefully) together in five pan-European teams for the week, role-playing distribution companies and learning the nitty-gritty of working with independent film. It looks good on paper but how will it actually turn out?
Meanwhile, I’m also wondering how many films I can sneak off to see. I’ve got to catch Sean McAllister’s The Reluctant Revolutionary – he’s just got out of jail in Syria and is one of the UK’s most interesting documentary makers – as well as Roma director Tony Gatlif’s latest, Indignados, which sounds particularly in with the [Occupy-movement] zeitgeist. I’ve an appointment to catch up with Faouzi Bensaïdi and see his Death for Sale, which scored the Special Jury Prize at the Moroccan National Film Festival in Tangiers, and I’m very keen to watch the promising Aujourd’hui by talented Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis… and all that’s just on Saturday! I’ve also pencilled in the archive screening of Shirley Clarke’s rarely seen 1961 film The Connection.
My gang arrives on Sunday; for bonding purposes I’ve booked us all into a hostel, workshop trainers and students alike (so they need to remember their towels). Then we all have to see our case study films. For the best part of this month I’ve been cajoling (with help from colleagues in partnering film schools) International Sales Agents to let us have precious new films in the Berlinale to work on – during the week our band of 25 will be creating posters, trailers and distribution strategies using real film materials.
Farewell, My Queen
We’ve scored some beauties: we were incredibly lucky to get the festival’s opening film, Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen (Les adieux à la Reine), a sumptuous costume drama that I hope is properly republican in tone; then, thanks to the Co-production Office – which always has the jewels of arthouse cinema on its books – we’ll be working on the completely beguiling, in-competition Greek film Meteora by Spiros Stathoulopoulos, the love story of a monk and a nun who live in retreats atop facing rock pillars.
Another film in competition is Antonio Chavarrías’ Spanish work Childish Games (Dictado) – it will be great to see what the students come up with for it. The fourth case study (which is showing in the European Film Market) is The Phantom Father by Lucian Georgescu, senior lecturer at the Romanian Film School (whence all those incredible directors), which is a road movie through my favourite landscape, Transylvania.
The fifth, Reported Missing (Die Vermissten), is the first feature by two graduates of the dffb, the amazing state-of-the-art Berlin film school that is playing host to our workshop and many of the European Film Market screenings. The graduation film of producer Sol Bondy and director Jan Speckenbach was totally brilliant, so my hopes are high for this one.
While this whirlwind of a week is hard to conceive of, I’m looking forward to sharing the discovery of another batch of new films in the company of such promising talent. And if all goes to plan, maybe they’ll let me sneak off to catch Harun Farocki’s latest…
A Thousand Months reviewed by Philip Kemp (August 2004)