A terrifying thriller that feels like it could be in today’s headlines.

 Following the cult-hits Zombieland and Deadpool, screenwriting-partners Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick turn science-fiction into science-fact with Life, a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that could have caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Written by) have been partners since 2001. Their first feature collaboration was Zombieland, which they wrote and executive-produced for Columbia Pictures in 2009 and became one of Hollywood’s highest grossing zombie movies ($100M+). They wrote and executive-produced Twentieth Century Fox’s 2016 superhero action-comedy Deadpool, which became the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time ($782M+). The two also wrote Paramount Pictures’ G.I. Joe: Retaliation, that went on to gross nearly $400M worldwide.

 

Astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.

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Real Fear

“Finding life on other planets is obviously extremely exciting, and I think we could be very close to that,” says Paul Wernick, who co-writes the film with his partner, Rhett Reese.  “I think that grounds the movie.”

“I think what’s scary about discovering extraterrestrial life is just that we don’t know if its intentions will be friendly or hostile, whether its intelligence will be high or low, whether it will exploit us or be exploited by us,” says Reese. “I think that’s a real fear – Stephen Hawking pointed out that extraterrestrial life may not be friendly or have the most pleasant designs on humanity.”

Reese and Wernick came up with an idea for a completely original alien creature.  “We had a vision for this alien whereby it began as a single-celled organism and then that cell divided many, many times, until it became a multi-cellular, complex organism that was able to navigate its environment,” says Reese.  “It’s not a higher intelligence – it’s a combination of cells that are not differentiated.  A human body has differentiated cells – muscle cells, nerve cells, blood cells, and all of these cells perform different functions.  In this particular alien, every cell performs every bodily function on its own. Every cell is an eye cell, a muscle cell, a nerve cell, and as such, the creature is very, very adaptable.”

Life is an original production that originated at Skydance, where it was overseen by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg, who developed and packaged the film.  Skydance then brought in Sony Pictures as the film’s production and distribution partner.

The approach to Life was to make a terrifying thriller that feels like it could be in today’s headlines.

It’s an idea that was with the film from its genesis. “Dana and I had an idea around the time period when Mars Curiosity had touched down,” says Ellison. “What if the Curiosity discovered single cell organism life on Mars and brought it back to the ISS for analysis.  Then, once it was introduced into an environment that was conducive to life, it started to grow… and what if, in the way that humanity does all of the time, with the best of intentions, it was probed, which turned it hostile.  This would fundamentally turn the movie into an incredibly tense, sci-fi horror movie set on the ISS, all at zero gravity.”

Director Daniel Espinosa says that before he was approached to direct Life, he had given some thought to the ways his filmmaking heroes approached science fiction. “I think the reason so many great directors have walked into science fiction is to work with the unknown – the fear or fascination with the unknown,” he says.  “We live in a world that is quite mundane, but in space, you enter an adventure – you don’t know how it looks, how it feels, what it can do to you, where it is.  It doesn’t make a sound.  That’s terrifying.”

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Daniel Espinosa is a filmmaker whose edgy, visceral approach to his work brings his films to life in a way that captivates audiences and takes them on a journey into his characters’ aesthetically chaotic world. Born in Chile, raised in Africa, and educated in Sweden, Espinosa’s international upbringing has given him an unaffected approach to his filmmaking, providing both him and his actors with a raw, kinetic energy that brings their stories to life. Espinosa graduated from the director’s program at the National Film School of Denmark in 2003, with his acclaimed and award-winning student final film, the dramatic short The Fighter.

After reading the script for Life, Espinosa saw a way to draw on the work of those icons and yet make a film that would bear his own personal stamp.  “This script felt more like a realistic science fiction – maybe science reality,” he says, noting that scientists have discovered proof of water on Mars, thousands of exoplanets revolving around other stars, and even waking 50,000-year-old microbes that have been hibernating inside crystals.

That gives the movie a sense of urgency, says producer and Skydance CEO David Ellison.  “One of the things that was very important early on from the genesis of this project was that you could feel like you could turn on the news and hear that this happened today,” he says.

“We’re not making a film that takes place a hundred years from now,” adds producer Dana Goldberg.  “We very much wanted to make a film that felt more like science fact than science fiction.”

“We are going to Mars to try to find other life forms.  So what happens when we actually find it?  What happens when we communicate or relate to it?” asks producer Bonnie Curtis.

“Occasionally, we as people tend to take beautiful, brilliant things and try to shape them to our will,” says Goldberg.  “But this life form feels threatened and decides it wants to survive.  The tables get turned.  Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.”

As Life would be differentiated by its commitment to a “science real” approach, the filmmakers took special effort to get it right.  “What I like about this movie is that it’s in the realm of the possible,” says producer Julie Lynn.  “We did a lot of work to keep it in the realm of the possible.  Talking to biologists, exobiologists, and geneticist Dr. Adam Rutherford… we didn’t want the life form to be a person in a suit or a puppet.  We wanted it to be something that could evolve from a cellular piece, a tiny cell.  It’s not that it comes out with an intent to do harm; it is its own creature, and it is affected by what happens to it.”

“Rhett and Paul wrote a very scary, well-paced thriller, but it’s really fed by their investment in the characters,” says Lynn.  “These six astronauts are smart, industrious, tenacious, hardworking – and when things get hairy we care about what’s going to happen to them.”

The filmmakers could not ask for a more terrifying location to unleash this exploration of the unknown than the cramped, zero-gravity, inhospitable climate of the International Space Station.  “The International Space Station is one of the last fundamental idealistic acts that humanity has been able to put together over the past fifty years,” adds Espinosa.  “It’s one of the cores of humanity: exploration, the discovery of the unknown.  The movie is an homage and a tribute to that courage of meeting the unknown without fear.  But at the same time, it has an undercurrent of mankind’s history – we don’t have a great history in how we handle the unknown.  So the question is maybe not what does the unknown do to us, but what do we do to the unknown.  If we treat the unknown harshly, don’t you think the unknown will treat us harshly back?  If we treat the unknown with fear, don’t you think the unknown will respond to that fear?”

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“I think Daniel Espinosa wanted to create a world that was suffocating, in a way,” says Jake Gyllenhaal, who stars as David Jordan.  “In other movies, you can separate yourself from the reality of what you’re seeing.  Daniel wanted to create an environment where everything was truly alive.  Not only feeling that from the creature itself, but also truly alive emotionally.”

Gyllenhaal’s character, David Jordan, has the distance and remove of a man who has spent over 473 days on the International Space Station.  No one knows this home better than he does.  The new crew members joining him are there using his home in space as a base for their mission: to discover the first proof of life on Mars.

Gyllenhaal was intrigued not only by the script’s scares, but the larger ideas behind the characters.  “It was a beautifully paced, terrifying script.  It’s a fun idea – you think you know where it’s going, and then it evolves into something where you really, really don’t,” he says.  “The life form is literal, but it’s also an incredible metaphor for what can happen. Curiosity is one of the most important human traits, but I think searching too far can be full of hubris.  In that way, the life form is a repercussion for that kind of curiosity.”

‘Life represented a journey of discovery as the filmmakers – Espinosa, the screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, and producers David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Bonnie Curtis, and Julie Lynn – consulted with astrobiologists, space medicine experts, and other scientists not only to create the realistic, zero-G world of the ISS that we all familiar with, but also to create a new life form that was wholly unique and original to film, but drew on very real biological principles that would inspire a terrifying creature.

In their research, they turned to two technical advisors: Dr. Kevin Fong and Dr. Adam Rutherford.

“Space is an extreme environment, like any of the extreme environments we’ve attempted to conquer in the 20th century – deserts, polar ice caps, our highest mountains,” says Fong, whose training as an astrophysicist and as a medical doctor made him uniquely suited to work with NASA’s Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.  As an expert in space medicine – how to keep astronauts healthy and alive in space – both David Jordan and Miranda North would have training like Fong’s.  “What we know about extreme environments is that you can’t go there for long and it’s not without penalty – you come back literally less than the person you were.”

“As a doctor, when you’re looking at protecting human life in this environment, you’re really aware of how fragile it is.  When you add an extra threat by way of something alien, the questions become even harder,” Fong continues.  “It’s hard enough to stay alive up there on a routine mission when everything goes right.  When things start to go wrong, people start to die off pretty quickly.”

Hugh Derry would have training closer to that of Dr. Rutherford, a British geneticist who has published influential books on the creation of life and the use of genetic modification to make new life forms. “When you’re dealing with unknown agencies or unknown organisms, possibly dangerous, possibly infectious, there’s a number of protocols in place to stop any potential threat,” says Rutherford, describing Derry’s lab.  “You know these are rigorously enforced with smallpox and Ebola – there are tight regulations which are all managed by major organizations like the CDC.  In this case, it’s contained in an incubator, which is contained in a sealed lab, which is on the ISS in low-Earth orbit.  This seems like a sensible protocol at the time…”

LIFE“I worked with Ariyon a lot before we started filming,” Rutherford continues. “He wanted to understand the mindset of a scientist.  Finding proof of extraterrestrial life is the most important discovery in the history of science, but as a scientist, you’ve got to figure out what the hell it is and what you’re going to test, so you can explain what this thing is.”

Fong’s expertise came in helping the filmmakers understand how real astronauts might respond to the threat on board the ISS.  “I spent days watching the film scenes and thinking, ‘If you were the doctor on that mission, what would be happening?” says Fong. “These are scenarios I’ve played out in my head in theory, but when you see it played out with this high fidelity… it was fantastic.”

One of Fong’s suggestions comes as Jordan has to get outside the ISS very quickly.  However, the proper EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) suits take quite a long time to put on properly.  “We had to rethink that, think about the sort of spacesuit we’d use,” Fong recalls.  “We decided to use the launch suit, which isn’t quite up for the purpose of going on a spacewalk, which adds another edge to the threat of that scene.”

Fong and Rutherford say that while the discovery of life on Mars is definitely science fiction for now, the idea might not be all that far-fetched. “Mars is an object of fascination, because about four billion years ago, conditions on Mars were very similar to the conditions on Earth at that same time,” says Fong.  “The big question is whether life happened on Mars.  It had the conditions that would have allowed life to arise.”

The Mars of today is another story. “We don’t think that a life form would survive on the surface of Mars.  The atmosphere is too thin and it would be sterilized by ultraviolet radiation,” Rutherford notes.  Still, there could be ways that life could have survived for millennia, and Rutherford was able to suggest one possibility: “The idea was that the alien has been in hibernation, protected from the radiation beneath the surface of the planet.”

A vivid and all-too-relevant exploration of America’s recent past.

Controversial subject matter fuels great stories, and with Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow adeptly balances an expertly crafted cinema verité filmic and up-close-and-personal approach with screenwriter/producer Mark Boal’s tension-packed “you are there” narrative.

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Director/Producer Kathryn Bigelow is a two-time Academy Award®-winner and an artist of singular talent. As a director and producer, she has crafted a body of work that challenges genre norms and offers viscerally stunning portraits of characters and conflicts. Mark Boal is a two-time Oscar winner for producing and writing Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker, and a two-time Oscar-nominee for producing and writing Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty, both his original screenplays directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

Director Kathryn Bigelow memorably demonstrated in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, and subsequently, in Best Picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty, that she and frequent collaborator, screenwriter/producer Mark Boal are no strangers to controversial subject matter.

Aided by a brilliant cast of film veterans and rising talent, including John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Captain America: Civil War),John Krasinski (13 Hours), Will Poulter (The Revenant), Algee Smith (Army Wives), Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Jacob Lattimore (Collateral Beauty), Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones) and Kaitlyn Dever (Justified), Bigelow transports us back to the summer of 1967 into the boiling cauldron of civil unrest that ripped apart the city of Detroit.

The summer of 1967 was a pivotal moment in modern American history when the country was beset by growing political and social unrest: the escalation of the country’s military engagement in the Vietnam War and decades of racial injustice and repression. The epicenters of all this discontent and simmering rage proved to be the nation’s major cities with their systemic discrimination, racial disparities in housing and education, and growing unemployment in African-American communities.

Two nights after the Detroit rebellion began, a report of gunshots in the vicinity of a National Guard staging area prompted the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Army National Guard and a local private security guard to search and seize an annex of the nearby Algiers Motel. Flouting procedural rules, several policemen forcefully and viciously interrogated motel guests, conducting a “death game” in an attempt to intimidate someone, anyone, into confessing. By the end of the night, three unarmed young men had been gunned down point blank, and several other men and women were brutally beaten.

No gun was ever found.

Into The Cauldron

After decades of neglect and broken promises, the city’s urban center erupted in rebellious violence, and the militaristic response to the unrest further fanned the flames of discord. The combination of mayhem and might sometimes blurred the distinction between victim and perpetrator.

Beyond the egregious loss, the biggest casualty, however, was innocence, as demonstrated by the film’s central dramatic story. The true-life events of what transpired one terrifying night at the Algiers Motel and its aftermath, though well-known at the time, have since been relegated to historical footnote.

In Bigelow’s expert hands, the incidents of that fateful night and what followed are resurrected and vividly reconstructed. This up-close-and-personal approach mirrors the technique Bigelow mastered in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. The cinematic medium, she contends, “speaks to the subconscious, inviting an almost active engagement from the viewer.”

In The Hurt Locker, Bigelow successfully put our boots on the ground in Iraq and in Zero Dark Thirty, directly inside Osama Bin Laden’s compound. “In this case, I wanted to place the viewer inside the Algiers Motel, so that they’re experiencing it in nearly real time.” In unearthing this largely forgotten but critical moment in recent American history, Bigelow and Boal sought to honor the survivors and those who perished in a way that was thoughtful and respectful.

Boal, who first brought the idea to Bigelow and Annapurna Pictures through his Page 1 Productions, conducted exhaustive research into the incident and spoke to everyone he could find who was still alive and involved in the urban rebellion on the streets of Detroit.

Because Kathryn Bigelow and Barry Ackroyd utilized a familiar cinema verité docu-style camera, she and editor Billy Goldenberg made the decision to mix existing footage into the film to enhance the strong, central narrative and immerse the viewer. “During the research process I found footage from the rebellion and it blended so perfectly with Barry’s work that it could be inserted into the film and provide an almost tactile authenticity.”

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Crafting The Screenplay

“On film, history can be a little antiseptic, especially if you are fifty years removed from it,” according to Boal. “Only when you meet the people involved do you begin to appreciate that history is really the story of the individuals. And that became the focus of my script.”

Beginning in 2014, Boal and his team of researchers interviewed dozens of participants in the actual disturbance, from African-American residents of the community to police and military personnel. His team of six full-time researchers, led by Pulitzer Prize-winning Detroit reporter, David Zeman, uncovered a trove of materials, including newspaper, radio and TV reportage, court records, FBI and Department of Justice investigation materials, contemporaneous accounts, sociological research, as well as documents that have never been publicly released from the Detroit Police Department and the University of Michigan.

Of the dozens of personal stories Boal came across, one stood out, the historical record of Larry Reed (portrayed in the film by Algee Smith), the lead singer in a popular up-and-coming singing group, The Dramatics, who had booked a room for the night at the Algiers motel for himself and his close friend, Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), in order to get them off the streets during curfew. “Larry had been pulled into this true crime story,” says Boal, “and it altered the course of the rest of his life; and that, in my mind, would form the film’s spine.”

Boal tracked down Reed, who had not spoken publicly about the incident in decades.

While initially hesitant, Reed eventually shared his wrenching experiences that night at the Algiers motel and Boal was so moved, he realized he had to bring this unjustly neglected moment of history to light. In addition to all the documentary evidence on the Algiers, he managed to find several other guests who also had been scarred into virtual silence by this terrifying incident.

Telling this ensemble story brought with it the onus of responsibility to tell it fairly and without judgment, says Bigelow, who also spoke to and spent time with the survivors. “When you’re making a story about a real-life event and you meet the witnesses to that event, you want to ensure that those experiences did not happen in vain; that you can convey the resonance of their story and impart it to the audience.”

Adds Boal, “when you choose to tell a real-life story such as this one, you have to come at it with a sense of personal responsibility both to history and even more so, the individuals involved, some of whom survived and others who did not. While we were making a fictional entertainment and not a documentary, we were freighted with the responsibility of honoring the past in a way that is thoughtful and respectful.”

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Prologue As Context

Before plunging into the Detroit uprising and the central narrative, Bigelow wanted to give the viewer some socio-historical background into what led up to the conflagration as well as some insight into the city’s cultural landscape in 1967. “Having been a longtime admirer of the work of the great African American artist Jacob Lawrence, his seminal series regarding the great migration seemed the right voice to describe the decades leading up to the civil unreast of the 1960’s, so that the viewer can better understand the anger and inequity that had been building over so many decades and put this country on a collision course.

We approached the Estate of Jacob Lawrence with an idea, to blend the panels into one another, one leading to the next. When the time came to add text, again we were in awe of the scope and complexity of what led to the turmoil of the 1960’s. This time we turned to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African American Research at Harvard University,” Bigelow shared.

Up Close And Personal

In addition to the voluminous research they conducted, the Detroit filmmakers were fortunate to have three witnesses on hand, all of whom had been involved in the Algiers Motel incident that fateful night in summer 1967. Their accounts gave the filmmakers unique insight into the unfolding chaos that developed over the course of the brutal interrogation.

Melvin Dismukes, Larry Reed and Julie Ann Hysell helped the film team piece together the events from differing perspectives. They were also brought on as consultants to help the filmmakers be as accurate as possible during shooting.

After fifty years, however, the truth about that night and his part in it has finally come to light, says Dismukes . “This movie, Detroit, will tell you what really happened.”

For Reed, Detroit is more than a film. It is a record of a pivotal moment in twentieth century American history. While for many years Reed was reticent to talk about that life altering night, when he was approached by the filmmakers, he felt he owed it to his friend and the others who lost their lives to come forward. “My purpose in opening up now is that people need to know what happened,” says Reed. “I don’t want this event to be forgotten, what my friend and I went through. It’s something that should never have happened.”

Hysell is thankful for the movie Detroit and the filmmakers’ sensitive but honest handling of what transpired. “I thought I’d have a hard time during filming because I don’t know that I’ve ever dealt with what happened that night. But Kathryn surrounded me with such a great group of people and they helped me through it. The only time I lost it was when they were filming the courtroom scene and the not guilty verdict was announced. I literally had to leave the set. I mean, those people were murdered. In cold blood. They were murdered and the cops were acquitted.

“That’s why this was such an important story to tell. I’d like people to look at this story and say, ‘yes, it’s time that things changed.’ That’s what I’d like to see happen.”

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Holding Up The Past As A Mirror

Any similarities to the nation’s present-day discussion of institutional racism and the events depicted in Detroit was purely intentional, say the filmmakers. “I think this is an important story to tell,” says producer/screenwriter Boal, “because one of the values of looking at the past is that it enables you to look at the present from another perspective. And to ask questions such as ‘how much has changed?’ And ‘how much has not changed?’”

The events of summer 1967 in Detroit and other major American cities “were not a unique moment in time,” Boal continues. “They were part of a continuum. And to the extent that we are made aware of that continuum, maybe we can be more thoughtful about it.”

The principal cast in Detroit came away with their own take on the film.

”I was very proud to work with filmmakers who are seeking to do more than simply entertain with their work, who are trying to raise awareness of real-life issues and problems in society,” says Will Poulter. “In order for us to move forward, it’s vitally important that the media and art highlight these issues.”

“When the movie ended, I wasn’t sure how I felt,” admits Algee Smith. “On the one hand, I felt happy to be a part of this important story. On the other, I felt sorrow for what the actual people had to go through and angry because of the injustice that followed. Let’s just say I was confused, though ultimately I felt immense gratitude that this story was told.”

According to Bigelow, “If the purpose of art is to agitate for change, if we are truly ready to start addressing the inequity of race in this country, we need to be willing to listen.I hope this film will encourage some small part of that dialogue, and we find a way to heal the wounds that have existed for far too long in this country.”

An unpretentious comedy, a film that does not take itself seriously

In the local action-comedy Finders Keepers, a strip joint janitor and a club patron strike up an unlikely friendship as they evade gangsters and Russian mobsters, and try to secure the release of a kidnapped stripper, by trading her for a lucky fish they had stolen

Finders Keepers was conceptualized by director Maynard Kraak back in 2012 when he set up West Five Films, but it was not until early 2014 that he brought his very good friend Strini Pillai,  onboard to write the screenplay – Pillai, who now resides in Australia, is an award winning film, television and stage actor who has branched out into writing and stand-up comedy.

Neels van Jaardsveld and Dalin Oliver in Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers is the pilot film project of the Emerging Black Film Maker initiative, run by the NFVF and the IDC. The film is the third film to be directed by Maynard Kraak, and the fourth that he has produced. The movie is being distributed in Southern Africa by Ster Kinekor Entertainment with the highly anticipated theatrical release of this comedy set for 18th August 2017. The film has already been picked up for US distribution by Tom Cat Films and sales agent Summer Hill Films will be representing international sales (a first sale has already been made). Participation in the NFVF Cannes catalogue would specifically be targeting potential international buyers. In particular, the film would benefit from a market screening in Cannes, and the sales agent would be able to utilize the opportunity to also invite buyers from their database of clients.

The Art Of Collaboration

Director Maynard Kraak

The screenplay is an original work, with the story by Maynard Kraak and Strini Pillai.

They both grew up in Cape Town in neighboring areas Penlyn Estate and Rylands Estate, but met for the first time when they started working on SABC series Generations within a couple of weeks of each other, and subsequently became firm friends.

Only a month difference in age, Kraak and Pillai were teenagers in the Eighties and both frequented a local movie theatre, the iconic Cine 400 in Rylands.

Here they were fed a healthy dose of 80’s popular culture comedies like Revenge of the Nerds, Weird Science, Bad Medicine and Porkies.

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Strini Pillai

So, when developing the screenplay, Maynard Kraak and Strini Pillai set out to create a film script that transported them back to their youth, with a film that is targeted predominantly at teenaged boys and young adult males.

Anyone who knows Strini personally, will acknowledge that he is one of the funniest people in the entertainment industry. His personality certainly permeates throughout the humour in the film.

Maynard Kraak on the other hand, has a love for comedy as well as Theatre of the Absurd. His first professional work as a director was his Absurdist stage play Bourgeoisie Gam and he has directed three television sitcom series: Let Heaven Wait, Parys Parys and Loitering in Jozi.

Having produced three feature films in Afrikaans (Vrou Soek Boer, Sonskyn Beperk, Knysna), Maynard Kraak has shifted his focus onto films in the English language.

Where he believes in creating content for the various language groups in South Africa, Maynard also feels strongly that we need to also make English language films, in particular films that can travel beyond our shores.

Finders Keepers is the first of a large slate of projects that West Five Films will be concentrating on over the next three years. The cornerstone of his local productions will be comedic films, with Maynard developing and strengthening relationships with the local comedy industry.

Bringing The Screenplay To Life

Once the screenplay and financing were finalized, long-time collaborator, casting director Thorsten Wedekind came on to cast the film. During the casting of the film, Maynard and Thorsten spent close on three months in auditions and call backs before being finalized.

While producing the film Knysna, Maynard Kraak discussed Finders Keepers with Neels van Jaarsveld (Knysna, Man Soos My Pa, Sonskyn Beperk, Bang Bang Club).

Then directly after that production, an approach was made to stand-up comic Dalin Oliver during the run of his successful one man show I Came, I Taught, I Left at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Maynard Kraak had been tracking the young comedian for a year, catching his stand up shows at venues in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Lise Slabber, who has risen to prominence in the Starz series Black Sails, is the Russian dancer Sonja, who works at the strip club Pussie Galore. She is the victim of manipulation on the part of the Russian mobster club owners, who have her young daughter.

Grant Swanby (Beyond the River, Modder en Bloed) is an award winning actor and here he makes a hilarious turn as the Russian gangster Kiril. Tyrel Meyer (I Now Pronounce You Black & White) is the younger Russian brother Fedor, the muscle in the criminal organization.

Cape Town comedian Stuart Taylor makes his acting debut as Jackie Jardine, the leader of the Seven’s gang that includes Irshaad Ally (Four Corners) and Khalil Kathrada (Alien Outpost). Clayton Evertson (Honey 3) is Lee, Jackie Jardine’s son. Siv Ngesi steps out of his comfort zone, as the conflicted camp bouncer SS. Then there is Matthew Dylan Roberts (Faith like Potatoes) as the swashbuckling bookie, Sweet George.

Even though the film is skewed towards the ridiculous, true to Maynard Kraak’s Absurd roots, the comedy still originates from a place of truth and honesty.  Finders Keepers is an unpretentious comedy, a film that does not take itself seriously, and aims to provide unashamedly, a vehicle to entertain and make one laugh out loud, without descending into vulgarity and crassness. Bottom line, the film is really very funny

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Creating The World Of Finders Keepers

Finders Keepers is set in Maynard Kraak’s hometown of Cape Town.

After twenty years living in various places including Johannesburg, the UK and the US, Maynard Kraak returned to Cape Town to shoot the action comedy.

As an ex-pat Capetonian, it was important to Kraak to return home to make a film.

Principal photography took place for 30 days in and around Cape Town.

During the development, it was Strini Pillai’s idea to introduce the fish character to the story. Other animals have been commonplace in films, but to have a fish that has to interact with the actors is something novel.

Maynard Kraak, embraced the idea, and engaged the services of Hilton Treves, one of the most experienced Visual Effects Supervisors in South Africa. A 3D fish was designed and animation was undertaken by Lung Animation, with lead animator Claudio Pavan sharing the Visual Effects Supervisor role.

It may have been easier and cheaper to cut Ishy the Fishy from the script, but instead, Maynard Kraak decided to take up the challenge and push out the envelope.

A true theatrical epic.

The National Theatre Live’s Angels in America:  Millennium Approaches (Part 1) and Angels in America: Perestroika (Part 2) will be screened on 19 August and 2 September respectively at Cinema Nouveau in South Africa.

Angels In America

James McArdle and Andrew Garfield in Angels in America – Millennium Approches (c) Helen Maybanks

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Andrew Garfield (Prior) and Nathan Stewart-Jarre (Belize) in ‘Angels in America – Millennium Approaches

One of the theatre highlights of the year in the UK, the first installment also marks the 60th National Theatre Live broadcast to screens worldwide.

With cameras carefully positioned throughout the auditorium to ensure that cinema audiences get the ‘best seat in the house’, National Theatre Live broadcasts retain the feeling of live performance and a real sense of shared event.

Olivier and Tony award winning director Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, War Horse) directs this new staging of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize winning work. Angels in America follows the lives of a group of New Yorkers as they grapple with life and death, love and sex and heaven and hell against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in Reagan’s America in the mid-1980s.

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Nathan Lane

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spider-Man) plays Prior Walter, whose boyfriend Louis (James McArdle, Young Chekov trilogy) leaves him on discovering he has AIDS. Russell Tovey (Being Human, Him & Her) is Joe – a closeted Mormon married to Harper (Denise Gough, Paula, People, Places & Things) whose marriage is on the rocks due to his secret homosexuality. Nathan Lane (The Lion King, The Birdcage) plays Donald Trump’s mentor Roy Cohn, who is about to receive some devastating news that will change his life forever.

Emma Keith, head of National Theatre Live, said the team is looking forward to the show being shown in cinemas worldwide: ‘’It seems fitting that Angels in America is our 60th broadcast, as it really sums up what National Theatre Live is all about – bringing world class theatre to those who may not otherwise have had the chance to see it.

“An amazing cast, fantastic creative team and a play that has more than stood the test of time – which, in fact, seems more timely than ever – means that this broadcast really is unmissable.’’

Angels in America:  Millennium Approaches (Part 1) releases on Saturday, 19 August 2017 for four screenings only: on 19, 23, 24 August at 19:30 and on 20 August at 14:30.The running time of Part 1 is 3 hours and 40 minutes, including two 15 minute intervals.

Angels in America: Perestroika (Part 2) releases on Saturday 2 September also for four screenings only on 2, 6, 7 September at 19:30 and on 3 September at 14:30.The running time of Part 2 is 4 hours and 20 minutes, both including two 15 minute intervals.

Both films will show at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban.

For booking information visit www.sterkinekor.com and the Ster-Kinerkor App. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

ANGELS 2

Denise Gough and Russell Tovey

Inventive and Ingenious

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt (1/ 8/ 17)

Eschewing circular narrative twists and sci-fi leanings, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is certainly an unusual film for the writer/director. It’s also undeniably one of his best.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk’s narrative is divided along the lines of land, sea and air, with each story arc somewhat intersecting by the end, although the land arc takes place over the course of a week, the sea over a day and the air over an hour. Viewers who miss those crucial time cues (presented via title cards in the beginning) may have a hard time consolidating the incongruity of the onscreen action.

It’s not a major gripe ultimately as Dunkirk is the sort of film that throws the audience into the thick of things as an accomplice and largely leaves them to their own devices to make sense of the unfolding events and respond as they see feel compelled.

Dunkirk is not a conventional war movie epic and is largely concentrated on individuals or small groups. The full scale of the surrounding backdrop of the Dunkirk evacuations is conveyed mostly through exchanges between characters. As a whole, dialogue is kept to a minimum, and the focus is on action and reaction.

It is almost documentary in its tone, resisting the emotional-manipulation cues and hackneyed character drama that usually accompany war films. There is no sense of ham-fisted patriotism and the film very much takes its tonal direction from Winston Churchill’s assertion – following the events depicted in it- that “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.” It is a film about survival and duty, but without delusions of grandeur and/or faux Wilfred Owen posturing.

Key to the film’s success is how its components work together to create this tense, immersive effect. From a technical standpoint there’s nothing to moan about. The visuals are exceptionally rich without demanding attention. They utilize incredible detail and meticulous framing to enhance the captivating effect of the story rather than to pull you out and be scenic. The sound design too fits right in. There’s something to be said for the synergy that emerges from long-standing creative partnerships and the one between Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan continues to yield some of the finest soundtrack work to be found anywhere.

Bombastic when necessary, restrained for much of the time and subtly incorporating sound elements from the story and setting to create atmosphere and set the pace; it’s equal parts inventive and ingenious.

A complaint which has been leveled against Nolan’s work in the past has been the relative bloodlessness of his violence. In The Dark Knight Rises this was pushed to the point of absurdity when many character deaths appeared almost comical because of how coyly they were handled. With Dunkirk this subdued approach becomes a strength. The expected blood and gore in war films (from Saving Private Ryan to Hacksaw Ridge) has become such a well-worn trope that it largely ceases to be a shocking reflection of the realities of war and instead plays to horror genre gore-hounds. Nolan’s restraint here serves to keep the emphasis on the character’s survival rather than the anticipation of grisly demise, and it works. In fact the film rarely, if ever, actually shows the enemy forces, their looming presence is largely implied (but no less threatening, as the nail-biting opening sequence testifies).

Crucially important is that one watches Dunkirk on as large a screen as possible (ideally 4K or Imax) as a huge part of the film’s impact is lost on a smaller setup. It may seem a pernickety observation, but viewed at large scale, Dunkirk is an immersive, tense and harrowing experience.

On a smaller screen, the slightly patchy narrative, jarring moments and niggling cracks are allowed to push forward a bit more and detract from the experience. Which is to say in a sense, that Dunkirk is not a flawless film; but one intended to be experienced in an overwhelmed state with gut reactions ‘in the moment’; without time to weigh-out options and reflect. Seen at it’s best, there’s nothing quite like it.

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The most criminally underrated science fiction offering of the last decade

Reviewed by Tim Leibbrandt 

No one could have predicted that 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be as good as it was. Truth be told, I still consider it to be the most criminally underrated science fiction offering of the last decade.

Perhaps even more impressive and unexpected is just how good the two sequels (2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the new War for the Planet of the Apes) would turn out to be, rendering this new trilogy the first without a glaring weak point in quite some time.

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The strength of all three films lies in outstanding, empathetic characters, engrossing story-telling, resonant themes and a phenomenal use of CGI motion capture in order to serve the story rather than to be flashy. Although they never feel restrained, the scope of each entry never spirals out of control and has always been centered on the physical and emotional journey of a core group of characters.

All three films have really been about the relationship between chimpanzee Caesar (portrayed by Andy Serkis) and Maurice the Orangutan (Karin Konoval) as they struggle to build a just and free society for the increasingly intelligent apes, trying to come to terms with the nature of violence without succumbing to the self-destructive tendencies of humanity. In War this comes front and center as Caesar grapples with unbearable loss at the hands of Woody Harrelson’s thoroughly despicable Colonel.

Caesar serves as a vehicle for the filmmakers to look at the mythologizing of visionary revolutionary figures into near religious archetypes. Watching his journey from a carefree baby chimp swinging about in James Franco’s attic in Rise through to his current position as reluctant pacifist leader of the apes forced into armed struggle for survival has been utterly heart-breaking.

Themes of racism, intolerance, the burden of forgiveness, and the all-consuming destructive force of violence are examined in incredibly sophisticated ways; conveyed through the narrative rather than shoehorned-in by way of exposition. These are emotionally taxing and heavy films to be sure, but all the more important because of it.

What is particularly impressive is how the filmmakers have skirted the line between fan service and accessibility.

All three films are full of Easter eggs and clever references/setups to the originals, but understanding these are not a requisite to enjoying them, it just adds another layer of enjoyment. In fact each entry in this new trilogy can be watched as a self-contained story and thoroughly appreciated; a rarity in the piecemeal teaser approach of most franchise world-building these days.

 In a nutshell, you owe it to yourself to watch all three films of the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. From beginning to end, they form an emotional, cathartic and complex story which has something to say for itself.

In successfully wrapping up the series’ themes and character arcs in such a striking, powerful and unpredictable way, War in particular forms one of the strongest conclusions to a film trilogy ever.

Bring tissues.

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With all these ingredients, and under the helm of a visionary filmmaker, Baby Driver is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who takes a seat on this wild ride.

With its mixture of mph and music, the newest explosion of genre-crossing excitement from writer-director Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is an action thriller unlike any other.

Full of reversals, rewinds, fast forwards and heart-stopping skips, and inspired by the types of crime-and-chase movies that have thrilled moviegoers since Steve McQueen in a revved-up Mustang changed car pursuits forever, Baby Driver is a game-changing, lane-changing, hard-charging blast only Wright could have dreamed up.

Edgar-Wright-Directing-Baby-Driver

Edgar Wright had been thinking about how to cast Baby Driver for years before it went into production. Though he initially imagined Baby as short – “because I’m short,” he adds, laughing – he says meeting Ansel Elgort made him realize nobody else could play the title role. “The thing that really charmed me about him was the fact that he’s very musical, and he can play lots of instruments,” says Wright. “One of my favorite scenes with Ansel, he has his headphones in and he’s listening to Dave Brubeck, and starts playing piano on the table. There was something so beguiling and hypnotic about watching a 21-year-old actor play along to some jazz from the ‘50s. Ansel is fascinating in that regard.”

Baby (Ansel Elgort), an innocent-looking getaway driver who gets hardened criminals from point A to point B, with daredevil flair and a personal soundtrack running through his head. That’s because he’s got his escape route plotted to the beat of specific tunes that go from his well-curated iPod straight to his ears, and which translate into expertly timed hairpin turns, gear shifts and evasive maneuvers that leave his passengers on the ride of their lives.

Baby works for Doc (Kevin Spacey), a kingpin on a lucky streak of brash daytime bank heists, thanks in part to his faith in Baby’s auto acumen. Doc’s go-to professionals include former Wall Street type turned outlaw Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s young, lawless and scandalous partner in crime Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and the impulsive, gun-slinging Bats (Jamie Foxx), whose suspicions about Baby – from his attitude to his aptitude – begin to create a dangerous rift in an until-then smooth-running operation.

Baby’s outward appearance – the sunglasses, the aloofness, the ever-present earbuds — may suggest a kid in over his head, but his catch-me-if-you-can skills are second to none. And yet the encroaching demand for his talents, and what he’s doing with them, begin to weigh on his sense of right and wrong, especially when he falls for a sweet, kind-eyed diner waitress named Debora (Lily James), and a doomed job threatens his chance at love and happiness away from his perilous profession.

Who Is Baby Driver?

Cool but a little naive. Young but with an old soul. goofy at times, but all business when it counts. Thrillingly good at his given task, but not always aware of the consequences of what he does. That’s Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, a character Edgar Wright created as a way for moviegoers to live vicariously through a criminal, but also experience the very real fallout of that world.

“The movie is structured so it opens with the dream of being a getaway driver, and very quickly turns into the nightmare of being a criminal,” says Wright. “The opening chase is sort of positioned as a clockwork act of precision. Everything goes right. Then very quickly, with subsequent situations, things start to go wrong, and very visceral consequences start to bear down. The storm clouds have been gathering during the movie. At some point, Baby’s luck is gonna run out.”

The Baby we meet at the beginning of the movie – hidden behind sunglasses, dialed in to his iPod playlist, then a hellion at the wheel – is like the greatest gang apprentice ever. “This kid’s a hotshot, but he’s also on the fringes of the gang,” says Wright. “He literally sits as far away from them as he can, because he really doesn’t want to be part of the group. He thinks, wrongly, that he can be a getaway driver but not be a criminal Like, ‘I’m just the courier. I don’t have anything to do with the bad stuff.’ The action scenes are kind of like Baby’s day job, and I think a lot of people that work in a job sometimes shield themselves in a different persona. Then when they’re home, they’re a different person.”

When Wright was dreaming up the role, he envisioned a riff on the strong silent type personified by Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen, but with the tension that it might all be a front. “You meet him, and he’s a badass in his profession, and then immediately afterwards you start to meet the real kid. It’s an interesting dichotomy, that he’s really good at a job that he should not be doing.”

The music that drives the Baby Driver is, to Wright, indicative of his twofold persona. Blasting his favorite tunes while he does his job looks cool, but it masks a defect tied to a tragedy. “He has this hearing defect, tinnitus, a whine in his ear caused by being in a car crash when he was young,” says Wright. “It has the effect of him not wanting to talk too much, because people with hearing defects can feel more self-conscious talking. But the other aspect of that is to listen to music, to drown out the whine. It becomes a security blanket, and then a full-blown obsession. He literally has to soundtrack his entire life because he can’t really do things without the right music playing.”

Baby is encouraged by his elderly deaf foster father (CJ Jones) to get out of his life of crime. Meeting the friendly, beautiful waitress Debora (Lily James) further articulates for him how misdirected his life is, and how much better it could be. But Baby has to make that leap, and cut ties with his profession. What will it cost?

“I just like the idea of a character having to choose between what he does very well, and what he ultimately wants to be,” says Wright.

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Strap In, Turn On, Hit Play

Edgar Wright was himself a Baby Driver-ish 21 years old when he was listening to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and thinking, “This would make a great car chase.”

Years later, Wright made his chase, and the movie around it, what he now calls “a labor of love and a dream project. Two of my great passions brought together in one movie. I always wanted to do an action movie that was powered by music.” With producers Nira Park, Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan on board, everyone was excited to take the cleverly crafted themes behind Wright’s action thriller and fuse them into one uniquely choreographed cinematic experience.

“There might be music, and there might be choreography, but this is not your everyday musical,” laughs Wright about his upended, re-imagined heist movie. “At the same time, we had to maintain the right sense of tone that is both intense and suspenseful, but most importantly fun and exciting.”

Says director of photography Bill Pope, Wright’s longtime collaborator, “It’s a postmodern musical. So there’s not singing and dancing in the street, but the world acts to music.”

Director Edgar Wright on the set of TriStar Pictures' BABY DRIVER.

Edgar Wright’s passion for cinema is reflected in everything he works on. Wright began his journey as a filmmaker in his hometown of Somerset, England where he made short films with a Super 8 camera as a young teenager. He soon after entered one of his animated short films, I Want to Get into the Movies, an allegory about wheelchair access, into a Comic Relief contest and won a Video 8 camera.Wright’s talent gained notice in the U.K. when he directed the entire two seasons of Spaced for Channel 4. The series served as a launching pad for the 2004 movie Shaun of the Dead, which Wright directed and co-wrote with Simon Pegg. It was followed by the action comedy Hot Fuzz, which Wright again directed and co-wrote with Simon Pegg. Wright’s next undertaking was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, based on the famous graphic novel. Wright co-wrote, produced and directed the film.In 2013, Wright, Pegg, and Frost reunited once more for The World’s End, which would go on to win the Empire Award for Best British Film, and officially brought the Cornetto Trilogy to a close.

Known for his innovative films, Wright revels in challenges that lead to one-of-a-kind visions on screen. Continues Pope, “Edgar’s movies are always challenging. His movies are complex, especially this one in particular, where you don’t just have a bank robbery scene with gunfire and squibs and cops showing up on time and cars crashing. You have rain. You have lightning. And the kicker, it’s all set to music, so the windshield wipers act to tempo. People die to tempo. The gunfire is on the beat, and it’s all usually in one shot. And it’s daring to have all of that choreographed.”

Choreographer Ryan Heffington describes the first day of shooting, which involved one of the largest pieces. “It was a street scene, where Baby would travel three blocks within the city in one take. We had to choreograph pedestrians. We had to choreograph café workers, children, dogs walking. It’s like this great play on reality, where it looks like a realistic scene, but everything happens to be in time and in rhythm.”

Says producer Nira Park, “The film is not just set to music because Edgar loves music. It’s a way of inviting audiences inside the mind of the main character, and to see the world through his eyes or ears. In coping with his traumatic past, Baby drowns out the world around him by always listening to music through stolen iPods.”

Continues Park, “It’s an action thriller executed in a way that’s never been done before – there are car chases, intense action sequences, shootouts, all to the beat of over 30 songs that Edgar put together before finalizing the script.”

Four years prior to the start of principal photography, Wright sat down with editor Paul Machliss and accumulated a playlist of over 30 songs that would inspire the script. “It’s something that’s very much a part of my previous films, and I thought of this idea of how to take that a stage further by having a character who listens to music the entire time.”

Ansel Elgort, who plays Baby, recalls how singular the project was from very early on. “Initially the script was given out on an iPad that had little ‘Baby Driver’ emojis that you could click, and the music would play as you read the script. The music drove the script, which is very much how this movie works. When you read it, you could feel the rhythm of the scenes already.”

Says Jon Hamm, who co-stars as heist man Buddy, “The musical element to it, which is very interesting, allows Edgar to really play with his incredibly developed skill set.”

The film’s second unit director and stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott says, “Edgar is such a visionary and his style is so unique, this project is a true testament to his creativity. I’ve said since the beginning that it would be a great film school exercise to take a mainstream song and choreograph anything to it, like a fight scene or a car chase. It’s not easy what we’re doing here. There’s a lot of nuance in this. I think you can watch this film a dozen times, and each time you’ll pick out something new, or some intricacy that’s innate in an Edgar Wright film.”

Wright even cared enough about the heists to meet with a technical consultant named Joe Loya, who in the early 90s was convicted for bank robbery and served a seven-year term. Loya wrote a book called The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber, which inspired Wright to meet Loya. “Loya helped solidify the authenticity of each heist,” says Park. “With all the added elements, Edgar wanted to make sure the heists felt very real and believable.”

BTS/ Director EDGAR WRIGHT with Lily James and Ansel Elgort (center) on the set of TriStar Pictures' BABY DRIVER.

Writer- Director Edgar Wright with Lily James and Ansel Elgort (center) on the set of TriStar Pictures’ Baby Driver.

Casting Baby Driver

Edgar Wright had been thinking about how to cast Baby Driver for years before it went into production. Though he initially imagined Baby as short – “because I’m short,” he adds, laughing – he says meeting Ansel Elgort made him realize nobody else could play the title role.

“The thing that really charmed me about him was the fact that he’s very musical, and he can play lots of instruments,” says Wright. “One of my favorite scenes with Ansel, he has his headphones in and he’s listening to Dave Brubeck, and starts playing piano on the table. There was something so beguiling and hypnotic about watching a 21-year-old actor play along to some jazz from the ‘50s. Ansel is fascinating in that regard.”

Elgort explains that it was his and Edgar’s mutual love for music that connected them upon their first meeting in LA. “Edgar and I met in Los Angeles and we had lunch, and all we talked about was music,” says the actor. “At the time I didn’t even know what this film was about, but we both shared a love for music.”

Says Wright, “Ansel is actually obsessed with music, which the lead character in the movie is. His life is completely governed by music and living to the rhythm of the music he’s listening to, and Ansel has a dance background. And also he’s a great actor and a nice guy.”

Elgort was excited to take on the role of Baby, explaining, “I loved how eclectic the role was. He’s the getaway driver so I had to learn to drive, he has a deaf foster dad who he signs with, so I had to learn to sign, and his life moves through music so there’s the dance and choreography challenges too.”

BABY

Turn It Up

For a movie whose pump is primed by music, and specifically music chosen by its lead character, it’s not surprising that Wright had songs picked out before he’d ever written a word of Baby Driver. Tunes like “Bellbottoms” from The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, “Neat Neat Neat” by The Damned, “Brighton Rock” by Queen and “Hocus Pocus” by Focus gave Wright the inspiration to dream up highly choreographed sequences. “The form of those songs starts to shape the scene,” says Wright. “’Bellbottoms’ has a long two-minute build before the rock really kicks in, so that’s perfect for a getaway driver waiting outside a bank. Then at the two-minute mark, the chase starts.”

But it’s not just car action that’s choreographed to music: Baby gets his own flat-footed, coffee-errand “number” on the streets of Atlanta, to the sounds of “Harlem Shuffle,” and even gun battles find themselves in synch with certain tracks. “The very first germ of the idea was how could I do an action movie that’s completely driven by music?” says Wright. “The music is the motivating factor.”

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 15:  Ryan Heffington attends Tim Headington & Elysium Bandini Present The 8th Annual PARADIS Benefitting The Art of Elysium during the 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2015 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Luca Teuchmann/Getty Images for Art of Elysium )

Ryan Heffington

To that end, finding the right choreographer was as crucial as any other job on the film, and that meant hiring Ryan Heffington. Best known as the choreographer behind the music videos for Sia’s “Chandelier” and Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”, Heffington gladly embraced the challenge to join Wright’s team for the first time to choreograph talent and crew in his feature film debut. Heffington’s partner in the process was assistant choreographer, Ryan Spencer, who has been involved in the arts since the age of 3, becoming an independent at 15 years old performing and choreographing talent nationally and internationally.

“Edgar is very specific about what he wants and he knows every single detail about the film but he puts his trust in the team he’s assembled and he really let me go to work which makes him a great collaborator and an amazing director,” says Heffington.

“I think the story mostly determined what we were doing. And Edgar had a lot of say in what he wanted in terms of movement and timing and the mood of it all. I did get to come up with a lot of original, ideas and movements. I think that along with Edgar’s direction it’s something that’s going to be really rich for the film.”

Elgort, like his six fellow heist co-stars, had some experience with music and choreography, something producers contemplated when casting the seasoned actors. “In casting these heist men we knew it would be necessary to have talent with experience in rhythm and who could pick up the choreography that was so vital to making this movie work,” explains Park.

“The actors all worked very hard to choreograph their scenes, but hopefully it’ll come off looking easy. I think that’s my job to help make it look natural and pedestrian,” adds Heffington.

Wright calls Heffington “an amazing genius,” who helped the actors think in counts, like dancers do. “Say for example people are shooting guns in time with the music, he would get them to memorize this part of the rhythm. Ryan would go up to Jon Hamm and say, ‘This next bit is you going da, da, da, da, da, da.’ Then you get that in your head. Then it cuts together with the song. It really works.”

Explains Heffington, “We started with rehearsals with Ansel back in LA about six months prior to filming to get an idea of what Ansel’s movement style was and his natural character without adding too much of Baby in it so we could determine where we could take this character.”

At the age of nine, Elgort’s mother took him to try out for The School of American Ballet, where he began his official dance training. He later attended the Professional Performing Arts School, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School and Stagedoor Manor summer camp, further establishing himself as a dancer and stage performer. When he is not filming, Elgort lends his talents to producing electronic dance music under the name “Ansolo.”

Elgort says, “I started with regular dialogue auditions before Edgar asked me to start dancing since Baby is always moving to the beat, whether it be in his own mind or dancing in front of a mirror like no one’s watching.”

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Behind The Wheel

With high-gear, precision driving essential to the heart-pounding fun of Baby Driver, the right action choreography, the right cars and the right stunt team had to be in place. Wright and three different storyboard artists began the process by drawing the car chase sequences, then turning them into animatics that provided a rough animation of how they would play out. “Those animatics are pretty close to the finished movie,” says Wright. “The next stage is working with a cinematographer, a stunt team, and a physical effects team. Which parts need a stunt driver? Which parts can be the actors? What rigs do we use?”

What Wright didn’t want to do is “hose the scene down,” meaning shoot with multiple cameras, grab millions of feet of film, then figure it out in the editing room. “The animatics became a great roadmap, because you knew how many shots you needed for a sequence,” says Wright. “It’s getting the maximum bang for your buck.”

 

An attack on your culture, is an attack on your identity.

”Identity, a sense of belonging and reconciliation are strong, universal themes in this powerful tale,” says producer-director Roberta Durant of Krotoa,  the poignant story of a feisty, bright, young eleven-year old girl, who is removed from her close-knit Khoi tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck  at her uncle’s trading partner.

Krotoa is brought into the first Fort, established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There she grows into a visionary young woman, who assimilates the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck (Armand Aucamp ), who became the first Governor of the Cape Colony. Krotoa (Crystal Donna Roberts – ) ends up being rejected by her own Khoi people and destroyed by the Dutch, when she tries to find the middle way between the two cultures.

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The history of South Africa, in the 17th century, is strongly intertwined with a Dutch history that deserves more attention. The Dutch’s wealth and strength, during its VOC period, is one-sided. The way in which the Dutch lived their lives in a colony, far from their homeland, and the complexity that this brought along on a social and political level, is under-exposed. The strong characters in this film each have an interesting and refreshing point of view on colonisation, therefore the story is not only rich in diversity, but also provides a unique perspective on a shared South African and Dutch history

The film, written by Kaye Ann Williams and Margaret Goldsmid, was created by a dynamic team of women, with acclaimed filmmaker Roberta Durrant as director and producer.

Roberta is the creator of various award-winning South African television series, including Ring of Lies, Home Affairs (nominated for two International Emmy Awards and as Best Drama at the Banff Film Festival), Montana, Izingane Zobaba, Sokhulu and Partners (nominated for an International Emmy Award and as Best Drama at the Africa Magic Awards), Shreds and Dreams, Saints and Sinners, Zbondiwe, Isikizi and Forced Love; as well as sitcoms like Sgudi Snaysi, Going Up, Madam and  Eve (won a Rose Award for Best comedy  at the Golden Rose Awards in Lucerne), SOS, Fishy Feshuns, Going Up Again, Mazinyo dot Q, and Stokvel. She is also responsible for the children’s film, Felix, which won seventeen international film awards, while other productions like Inside Out, Skilpoppe and Ingoma were also very well received. Ingoma won six SAFTA Awards in 2016.   She is also the producer of the new kykNET drama, Sara se Geheim.

The film conquered the hearts of international film lovers and critics, crowned with more than 8 International Awards, including Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival held in New York.

This film, has already received six official selections at international film festivals, like the International Film Festival for Environment, Health, and Culture, World Film Awards, Artemis Women in Action Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival. It has also won eight sought-after awards, including Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival http://harlemfilmfestival.org/ an Award of Excellence at the International Film Festival for Women, Social Issues, and Zero Discrimination, a Best of Show Award at the Depth Of Field International Film Festival, a Platinum Award at the International Movie Awards, a Diamond Award at the Filmmakers World Festival, a Best of Show Award at the The IndieFEST Film Awards, an Award of Excellence Special Mention: Women Filmmakers at the Accolade Global Film Competition and a World Platinum Award at the World Woman Awards.

Director’s Statement

”The identity of someone, who is in between two cultures, is very relevant in any multicultural society. More specifically, discrimination between conflicting cultures and the (both strong and weak) position of a woman standing in between these cultures, are the two main threads of this story.”

In comparison to men, very few women have been acknowledged for having an impact on South African history. During the struggle, women like Ruth First, Lillian Ngoyi, Bettie du Toit and Sophia Williams-du Bruyn stood their ground in the fight against the apartheid government.

However, if we dig into South Africa’s rich history, we discover that there were other indigenous females – who contributed to the change and development of our great nation – even before the sisters who were involved in the struggle. One of these women, is the focus of this feature film. A tragic heroine – Krotoa: Eva of the Cape.

As the only recorded female interpreter of her time, she became the bridge between the Khoi people and the Dutch Settlers. She aided Jan van Riebeeck in his dealings with the natives and was instrumental in negotiating the end of the first Dutch-Khoi war. Her marriage to Danish surgeon and explorer, Pieter van Meerhof, is the first recorded inter-racial marriage between an indigenous woman and a European man. She was the first recorded indigenous woman to be baptised into the Christian religion of the colonialists. Pieternella, her daughter, birthed many Afrikaner, mixed-race and even black families, establishing Krotoa as a tangible bridge between all cultures in our country.

Krotoa

It is not only important to tell her story because of all these great achievements, but it is also necessary to highlight that she was caught between two ways of life and constantly forced to choose between these two cultures. The tension and mistrust created between Krotoa and her people, because of her skill as interpreter that was frequently used by Jan van Riebeeck and the VOC (The Dutch East India Company), led to the tragic end of this influential woman, but also to the great beginning of a nation. The footprint she left on South African society, although forgotten or unknown by some, still has an impact on all of us today.

The film is inspired by real-life historical events. The filmmaker tried to stay true to facts and deductions made about her life by various historians, while taking dramatic license.

Krotoa5

The contrast between the Dutch and the Khoi is, in keeping with our theme of Krotoa being caught between two worlds, created by the key-characters in her life: Her childhood sweetheart – Doman, her benefactor – Van Riebeeck and her lover / husband – Pieter van Meerhof.

Beginning-period – 1652:

Here Krotoa is a girl of eleven years old, and the visuals depict her innocence and freedom, living her life as a Khoi girl within her tribe. This contrasts with the Dutch fort environment, with its rigidity and strangeness, which she is thrust into as a young servant girl within the Dutch community.

Krotoa 1Period – 1659:

During this period, we see Krotoa blossoming into a young woman through the eyes of Van Riebeeck, who is attracted to her (not only sexually). This is contrasted in the same period when Krotoa loses control over her situation. For example: When she is imprisoned by Maria, coveted by Van Riebeeck and when she returns to her Khoi village in a state of shock, having been violated.

Period – 1662:

Here Krotoa is settled with Van Meerhof. The period before Van Riebeeck leaves and Wagenaar takes over as Governor, is one of reasonable balance, with Krotoa comfortable with her status as Van Meerhof’s partner and Van Riebeeck’s interpreter and negotiator. Once Van Riebeeck leaves and Wagenaar takes over, she is forced into baptism and marriage, and sent off to Robben Island when Van Meerhof – her husband – is put in charge of the penal colony there.

Period – 1665:

Krotoa’s life spirals out of control on Robben Island. In one moment of clarity, she dons her skins and tells the Dutch gathering at the fateful dinner the truth about her experience with the Dutch.

Period – 1672:

Krotoa is imprisoned on Robben Island in 1672.

Period – 1674:

Krotoa dies in prison, on Robben Island, in 1674.

 

Your Guide To What’s Happening On The Big Screen

Latest Releases /  South African Films /  Films Released in 2017  /  Top 20 Films Of 2016

July 2017 / September – December 2017

Upcoming Film Releases In South Africa: August 2017

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links

Local Is Lekker: New South African Films

KrotoaThe remarkable local drama  Krotoa (4/8) was inspired by real-life historical events and tells the story of a feisty, bright, young eleven-year old girl (Charis Williams), who is removed from her close-knit Khoi tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck (Armand Aucamp), her uncle’s trading partner. She is brought into the first Fort, established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There she grows into a visionary young woman, who assimilates the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck, who became the first Governor of the Cape Colony. Krotoa (Crystal-Donna Roberts) ends up being rejected by her own Khoi people and destroyed by the Dutch, when she tries to find the middle way between the two cultures. The film, written by Kaye Ann Williams and Margaret Goldsmid, was created by a dynamic team of women, with acclaimed filmmaker Roberta Durrant as director and producer. Roberta is the creator of various award-winning South African television series and sitcoms, as well as the children’s film, Felix, which won seventeen international film awards. The film has already won eight coveted awards, including an Award of Excellence at the International Film Festival for Women, Social Issues and Zero Discrimination; a Best of Show at the Depth of Field International Film Festival; a Platinum Award at the International Movie Awards; a Diamond Award at the Filmmakers World Festival; a Best of Show at the IndieFEST Film Awards; an Award of Excellence Special Mention: Women Filmmakers at the Accolade Global Film Competition; a World Platinum Award at the World Woman Awards and an award for Best Film at the Harlem International Film Festival held in New York. Watch the trailer

Finders KeepersIn the local comedy Finders Keepers (18/8) Lonnie and Brian go on the run from the Cape Town underworld, after finding a box filled with cash and a valuable wrist watch. They steal a lucky fish to barter with the gangsters. Directed by Maynard Kraak. With Dalin Oliver, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Lise Slabber. Watch the trailer.

 

 

Animation

Son of BigfootIn Son Of Bigfoot (11/8) teenage outsider Adam sets out on an epic and daring quest to uncover the mystery behind his long-lost dad, only to find out that he is none other than the legendary Bigfoot! He has been hiding deep in the forest for years to protect himself and his family from HairCo., a giant corporation eager to run scientific experiments with his special DNA. As father and son start making up for lost time after the boy’s initial disbelief, Adam soon discovers that he too is gifted with superpowers beyond his imagination. But little do they know, HairCo. is on their tail as Adam’s traces have led them to Bigfoot!  This Belgian CGI-animated film is directed by Ben Stassen and Jeremy Degruson. Watch the Trailer

Action – Comedy

Baby DriverIn the action crime-comedy Baby Driver (4/8), Ansel Elgort (The Divergent Series, The Fault in Our Stars) is a talented getaway driver who relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his criminal lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a mob boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.Written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) Watch the trailer

Hitmans BodyguardIn the action-comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard (18/8) the world’s top protection agent (Ryan Reynolds)  is called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world’s most notorious hit men. The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their journey from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades and a merciless Eastern European dictator who is out for blood. Action comedy film directed by Patrick Hughes and written by Tom O’Connor. With Gary Oldman and Samuel Jackson. Watch the trailer.

Sun City10 Days In Sun City (25/8) is the latest from Nigerian movie producer and actor comedian AY that is the 3rd installment of the hilarious ‘Akpos’ franchise (30 Days In Atlanta, A Trip To Jamaica).  It is directed by award-winning South Africa-based Nigerian, Adze Ugah, written by Kehinde Ogunlola and produced by AY. The movie features celebrities such as 2face Idibia, Adesua Etomi, Mercy Johnson, Falz The Bahd Guy, Uti Nwachukwu, Yvonne Jegede, Alexx Ekubo and veteran actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo. Also featured are South African comedienne, Thenjiwe Moseley, Amanda Du Pont, Celeste Ntuli and a bit of Hollywood spice, Miguel Nunez Jr. Watch the Trailer

Chick Flick

Girls TripIn Girls Trip  (4/8) four lifelong friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. Sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.directed by Malcolm D. Lee. The film stars Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Larenz Tate. Watch the trailer

snatched-trailerWhen her boyfriend dumps her, Emily (Amy Schumer), a spontaneous woman in her 30s, persuades her ultra-cautious mom (Goldie Hawn),  to accompany her on a vacation to Ecuador in the action comedy Snatched (11/8). At Emily’s insistence, the pair seek out adventure, but suddenly find themselves kidnapped. When these two very different women are trapped on this wild journey, their bond as mother and daughter is tested and strengthened while they attempt to navigate the jungle and escape. Directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Amy Schumer, Katie Dippold, and Kim Caramele.  Watch the trailer.

Women In Love

below_her_mouth_-_h_2015Below Her Mouth (11/8) is a bold, uninhibited Canadian drama that begins with a passionate weekend affair between two women. Jasmine is a successful fashion editor living with her fiance. On a night out in the city with her best friend, she meets Dallas, a roofer recently out of a relationship. Surprised by the confidence with which Dallas pursues her, Jasmine turns Dallas down but can’t get her out of her head. When Jasmine finally succumbs, the two women embark on a steamy affair that forces them both to re-evaluate their lives. Directed By Ang Lee from a screenplay by Jean-Christophe Castelli.Directed by April Mullen, the film stars Natalie Krill as Jasmine and Erika Linder as Dallas, two women in Toronto who meet and begin a passionate love affair.  Watch the trailer

Drama

Family ManIn A Family Man (18/8) a Chicago personnel recruiter (Gerald Butler) is hungry to stay on top of his competitive profession, but when his son (Max Jenkins) is diagnosed with cancer, his priorities are called into question. Directed by Mark Williams and written by Bill Dubuque. Watch the Trailer

 

 

 

 

2.22In the thriller 2.22 (25/8) New York City air traffic controller Dylan Branson (Michiel Huisman) is the embodiment of a guy at the top of his game, until one day at 2:22pm, a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few crucial seconds as two passenger planes barely avoid a midair collision. Suspended from his job, Dylan begins to notice the increasingly ominous repetition of sounds and events in his life that happen at exactly the same time everyday. An underlying pattern builds, mysteriously drawing him into Grand Central Station everyday 2:22pm. As he’s drawn into a complex relationship with a beautiful woman who works in an art gallery, Sarah (Teresa Palmer), disturbingly complicated by her ex-boyfriend Jonas (Sam Reid), Dylan must break the power of the past, and take control of time itself.  Directed by Australian filmmaker Paul Currie (One Perfect Day)  and written by Nathan Parker and Todd Stein. Watch the trailer

Romance

My Cousin RachelIn the American-British romantic drama My Cousin Rachel (11/8) a young Englishman (Sam Claflin) finds his cousin Ambrose dead after traveling to Florence, Italy. He vows revenge against Ambrose’s missing wife Rachel (Rachel Weisz), blaming her for his untimely demise. When Philip meets Rachel for the first time, his mood suddenly changes as he finds himself falling for her seductive charm and beauty. As his obsession for her grows, Rachel now hatches a scheme to win back her late husband’s estate from the unsuspecting Philip. Written and directed by Roger Michell. This dark romance is based upon the 1951 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. Watch the trailer

Horror

Annabelle 2Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home in Annabelle 2: Creation (18/8), soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle. Directed by David F. Sandberg, and written by Gary Dauberman. With Stephanie Sigman, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Miranda Otto. Watch the trailer

 

Live Theatre On The Big Screen

Angels in America 2Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s stageplay Angels In America forms part of the NT Live S4eason and will be screened in 2 parts. Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches (19/8) is set in America in the mid-1980s. In the midst of the AIDS crisis and a conservative Reagan administration, New Yorkers grapple with life and death, love and sex, heaven and hell. Andrew Garfield (Silence, Hacksaw Ridge) plays Prior Walter along with a cast including Denise Gough (People, Places and Things), Nathan Lane (The Producers), James McArdle (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Russell Tovey (The Pass). This new staging of Tony Kushner’s multi-award winning two-part play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, is directed by Olivier and Tony award winning director Marianne Elliott (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and War Horse). Part One: Millennium Approaches was first performed at the National Theatre in 1992. Running Time: Part One is about 3 hours and 30 minutes, with two 15-minute intervals. Part Two: Perestroika, will be broadcast live from 2 September.

Exhibition On Screen: Art On The Big Screen

HokusaiBritish Museum presents: Hokusai, a documentary and exclusive private view of the British Museum exhibition, Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave (5/8). The documentary will be screened at Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau sites nationwide, the art cinema that promises a unique and inspiring cinema experience for film lovers with an appreciation of the beauty and artistry of film.Filmed in Japan, the US and the UK, British Museum presents: Hokusai focuses on the work, life and times of Katsushika Hokusai, painter and printmaker of the Edo (Modern Tokyo) period. Hokusai is regarded Japan’s greatest artist, who influenced Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists.The film uses spectacular close-ups and expert insights to show his wide-ranging influence and legacy. Using pioneering 8K Ultra HD video technology, Hokusai’s paintings and prints are examined by world experts who are at the forefront of digital art history.The famous volcano Mount Fuji, which was a model for Hokusai in his quest for immortality during his later years, appears in the background of his most famous painting, ‘The Great Wave’, an image depicting an enormous wave threatening boats off the coast.Known as the father of manga, his drawings, prints and paintings show Hokusai’s generous, all-embracing view of humanity. Interestingly, he is the only painter with his own emoji.Through much tragedy, and poverty, he never stopped striving for perfection in his work.The documentary is introduced by arts presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon, and features artists David Hockney, Grayson Perry and Maggi Hambling, along with leading scholars of the day. He was a master, and as Hockney put it, “He was a prodigy, like Picasso.”The running time is approximately 90 minutes, including an interval. The  Hokusai releases on Saturday, 05 August, for four screenings only: on 05, 09 and 10 August at 19:30 and on 06 August at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban. Book your seats here / Watch Trailer

Renoir - Revered and ReviledThe Exhibition On Screen documentary Renoir – Revered and Reviled (26/8)  joins the longstanding debate over the merit of the artist’s ‘late period’ works. Was Renoir a self-indulgent fantasist? Or was Matisse right to declare his voluptuous female figures “the loveliest nudes ever painted”? Viewers will be able to decide for themselves, guided by a host of esteemed art experts and an up-close view of the collection itself. Watch the trailer

Western

Brimstone-2016-trailerThe western thriller Brimstone  (4/8) is a triumphant epic of survival and a tale of powerful womanhood and resistance against the unforgiving cruelty of a hell on earth. Our heroine is Liz (Dakota Fanning), carved from the beautiful wilderness, full of heart and grit, hunted by a vengeful Preacher (Guy Pearce) – a diabolical zealot and her twisted nemesis. But Liz is a genuine survivor; she’s no victim – a woman of fearsome strength who responds with astonishing bravery to claim the better life she and her daughter deserve. Fear not. Retribution is coming. A western thriller film conceived, written and directed by Martin Koolhoven. The film stars Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Kit Harington and Carice van Houten. Watch the trailer

History Revisited

The Lost City Of ZBased on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, The Lost City Of Z (11/8) tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages,” the determined Fawcett – supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide-de-camp (Robert Pattinson) – returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925. An epically scaled tale of courage and passion, told in writer/director James Gray’s classic filmmaking style, The Lost City of Z is a stirring tribute to the exploratory spirit and a conflicted adventurer driven to the verge of obsession. Watch the trailer

maudie-108022The biographical romantic drama Maudie (25/8) is based on a true story, the unlikely romance in which the reclusive Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) hires a fragile yet determined woman named Maudie (Sally Hawkins) to be his housekeeper. Maudie, bright-eyed but hunched with crippled hands, yearns to be independent, to live away from her protective family and she also yearns, passionately, to create art. Unexpectedly, Everett finds himself falling in love. MAUDIE charts Everett’s efforts to protect himself from being hurt, Maudie’s deep and abiding love for this difficult man and her surprising rise to fame as a folk painter. Watch the trailer

Crime

DetroitA police raid in the period crime drama Detroit (18/8) in 1967 results in one of the largest citizen uprisings in United States history. The story is centered around The Algiers Motel Incident, which occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967, during the racially charged 12th Street Riot. It involves the death of three black men and the brutal beatings of nine other people: seven black men and two white women. Period crime drama directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal based on the The Algiers Motel Incident. Watch the trailer

Espionage -thriller

atomicblonde2.0Charlize Theron is Atomic Blonde (25/8), an undercover MI6 agent, sent alone into Berlin to retrieve a priceless dossier from within the destabilized city in an action spy thriller directed by David Leitch and written by Kurt Johnstad, based on Antony Johnston’s 2012 graphic novel. Equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on an impossible mission, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through a deadly game of spies. Watch the Trailer

July 2017 / September to December 2017 

”I hope that Viceroy’s House will help people understand the logical consequences of the politics of hatred and division. That can’t be the future of humanity. That’s not something that people can be proud of.”

As a writer-director, Gurinder Chadha has repeatedly translated her personal experience as a Punjabi-British woman into uplifting, crowd-pleasing movies, from her ground-breaking 1993 debut Bhaji On The Beach to her box-office smash Bend It Like Beckham, and now brings us the epic historical drama Viceroy’s House, the astonishing true story of the final months of British rule in India.

VICEROY 1

Gurinder Chadha and cinematographer Ben Smithard scope out a shot on Viceroy’s House

A Personal Journey For Writer-Director, Gurinder Chadha

The 1947 Partition of India has always been part of Gurinder Chadha’s life. Though raised in West London, and born in Nairobi, Kenya 13 years after the controversial Mountbatten Plan struck a jagged line through the north-west of the freshly independent Union of India to create the Dominion of Pakistan, the British-Punjabi film-maker describes herself as someone who grew up “in the shadow of Partition”.

Her ancestors lived in the foothills of the Himalayas, now on the Pakistani side of the border. Her grandparents lived through the tumultuous events which saw sectarian violence between India’s minority population of Muslims (many of whom craved their own homeland) and the Hindu and Sikh majority, bring about the greatest refugee crisis the world has ever seen; in a vast diaspora, an estimated 14 million people were displaced during Partition and up to a million died. An independent India was a cause for celebration, and the creation of Pakistan was equally a cause for celebration amongst many millions of Muslims. But the process by which this was achieved was what caused such terrible suffering for so many Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.”

Gurinder ChadhaAs a writer-director, Chadha has repeatedly translated her personal experience as a Punjabi-British woman into uplifting, crowd-pleasing movies, from her ground-breaking 1993 debut Bhaji On The Beach to her box-office smash Bend It Like Beckham. This tragic aspect of her cultural and family background was something she’d always shied away from as a film-maker because, she says, “it was too dark, too traumatic.”

Then, in 2005, she took part in the BBC’s family-tree-exploring programme Who Do You Think You Are? which took her back to her ancestral homeland. “I was quite reticent in my feelings about Pakistan,” she recalls now. “ In the programme as I arrive in Pakistan, I say I prefer to refer to it as ‘pre-partition India’. But I was in Jhelum, trying to find my grandfather’s house, and eventually we found it with the help of the people who are now living there.” Chadha was struck by the warmth and generosity of the Pakistanis she encountered. “But what was so moving was that we met all these elderly people, and I’d ask, ‘how long have you been living here? Did you know my grandfather?’ And everyone I met said, ‘Oh I came in ’47. I came in ’47. I came in ’47’. So I got this real sense that an entire Sikh community had been expelled from Pakistan and replaced by another community, just as that new Muslim community had itself been expelled from India and their own ancestral homes. That really brought home to me the meaning of Partition.”

It was then Chadha realised that she had to confront her fears and make her movie about Partition. “I decided I wanted to make a film about what I call The People’s Partition,” she explains. “I didn’t just want to explore why Partition happened and focus on the political wrangles between public figures, I also wanted to make sure the audience understood the impact of Partition on ordinary people.”

Chadha therefore conceived the idea of setting her story entirely in Viceroy’s House, the British Raj’s seat of government in Delhi, to create an “Upstairs, Downstairs vision of Partition,” which would focus on the negotiations upstairs between Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, and the country’s political leaders Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah, whilst interweaving the stories of the Indians downstairs (their hopes and fears in relation to how these negotiations will impact their own lives).

“In the film, Viceroy’s House is almost a character in its own right”, says Chadha “It was designed by Lutyens and took 17 years to build.  Its imposing architecture was an expression of Imperial power, intended to intimidate.  I’m sure that when it was completed in 1929, no one could have imagined that in less than 20 years it would become the home of the first President of India (and it remains the largest residence of any head of state anywhere in the world!).

Conceptualising The Story

As Chadha’s conception of how to tell the story developed, she approached Cameron McCracken (Executive Producer and Managing Director of Pathe in the UK) to help progress the project. He brought in the BBC, the BFI, Ingenious and Indian co-producer and co-financier, Reliance (the largest media company in India). Deepak Nayar also came aboard as lead producer.  This combination of British and Indian backers gave Chadha the opportunity to make the kind of film she grew up loving, but which she feels are now few and far between: the British historical epic. Whilst bowing down to their genius, Chadha sees her movie as being in the same tradition as David Lean’s A Passage To India (1984) and Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982).

“David Lean has always been one of my favourite film-makers,” she reveals. “I love those huge, epic-canvas British films. I think it’s sad that we don’t make those kind of epic, populist films as much because they somehow help define who we are as a nation. They tell us who we are by going back, looking at our history to understand our present.  That is exactly what I wanted to achieve here, to reach out to the broadest audience possible and remind them of this hugely important event that has been largely forgotten.” But whilst the film may be in the same tradition as other Raj movies, Chadha’s movie has a very different point of view. She is the first British Asian female director to examine the role of the British in India.

“Growing up in England, I was brought up with the commonly held historical narrative that in 1947, after a long freedom struggle led by Ghandi, the British wanted to hand India back, so they sent Mountbatten out there to do it, but we started fighting each other,” she continues. “And because of that, Mountbatten had no choice but to divide the country. So in a way the violence of Partition was our fault. This is the version of history portrayed in Attenborough’s seminal film Ghandhi. But now if you look at the evidence, that is a very one-sided interpretation.”

“After two hundred years of British in India, the Indians came together against their British rulers in the 1857 mutiny or first war of independence depending on which history book you read. The British won back control but were shocked at the strength of the mutineers and so instigated the British Imperial policy of ‘divide and rule’ and sowed the seeds of segregation between Hindus and Muslims.

The film opens with the quote:

“History is written by the victors”

“My intention is to examine how someone like me can look at new historical evidence and explore an alternative historical narrative to what I’d been taught as a girl.”

When the British grip on India started to weaken, conflict erupted in the growing power vacuum and the British accelerated their departure, perhaps genuinely believing it would reduce violence, or perhaps simply wanting to run away from the mess they had created, or perhaps there was an altogether different reason that the post war map of the world was presenting the Empire?”

As well as being a product of Partition, Chadha is also a former BBC journalist so felt a strong responsibility to work hard on the research and get the facts right. Which made writing the script for Viceroy’s House a journey of discovery in itself.

viceroys_house

In order to bring Chadha’s complex and finely poised script to life, she had to pull together an impressive ensemble of actors, beginning with the casting of ‘Dickie’ Mountbatten himself, a man vilified by some but still recognised as being utterly charming, embodying a “thoroughly British sense of civility and fairness,” as Chadha puts it. In her mind, nobody better represented that quality than Hugh Bonneville, perhaps best known as the on-screen epitome of ‘upstairs’ life in the role of Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, in TV hit Downton Abbey (a show which Chadha reminds us hadn’t yet appeared on our TV screens when she started working on the script to Viceroy’s House 8 years ago). Another person who was pleased with this casting was Lady Pamela Mountbatten herself, who Chadha met with a few times while researching the film, and for whom the film was screened as a courtesy, once it was completed. “She was absolutely delighted,” says Chadha, “although she did say her father was slimmer than Hugh! She was quite overcome with the way the film brought back memories of that period of her life.” Pamela’s spirited mother Edwina, meanwhile, is portrayed by Gillian Anderson. “Gillian is an amazing actress, and I don’t use that word lightly,” Chadha says. Anderson studied film footage of Edwina and “really became her, the way she would hold her head and walk in a particular way.”

Writing The Screenplay

Initially, the prime source used by Chadha and her co-writer, Paul Mayeda Berges (who also happens to be Chadha’s husband), was Freedom At Midnight (1975). “Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s account of the British Raj’s final year is the seminal book on Partition,” says Chadha, whose father loved it and always kept it on his shelf.

Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Burges

“We spent a couple of years working on a script based on that book,” she says, “then one day I was in St. James’ Palace at a reception for the British-Asian Trust charity, of which Prince Charles is the Patron and I’m one of the ambassadors. Given that the Prince of Wales is actually Mountbatten’s great-nephew (Charles even considered the former Viceroy his “honorary grandfather”), I couldn’t resist telling him that I was making a film about his great-uncle. Prince Charles said, ‘You have to read this book, The Shadow of the Great Game by Narendra Singh, the Maharaja of Sarila and Mountbatten’s ADC [aide-de-camp or personal assistant], because it tells you what was really going on’.”

In a strange coincidence, only a few days later, Chadha was approached by an aspiring young actor in India while promoting the release of her latest film, and it turned out that he was the son of Narendra Singh. “He said, ‘my father has written a book on Partition and I read you’re making a film on the subject, and I really want you to have the book.’ And he gave me the same book!” (Years later, he would be rewarded with a part in the movie – as Mountbatten’s ADC!

By the end of the same week, Chadha was sitting with author Narendra Singh (by then a distinguished Indian diplomat, having spent 20 years as the Indian Ambassador to France), in a club in St.James. It turned out that, while researching another book (about the Maharajas) at the British Library in 1997, he’d happened upon two de-classified “Top Secret” documents from 1945/47 which revealed the concern about handing India back and political arguments suggesting how some of northern India could be annexed to serve British military and strategic interests in the region. He also came upon a map for partition that had been drawn up by the British government as early as 1946. The conclusion Singh drew from this was that, despite its public stance of neutrality, Britain was clandestinely supporting Jinnah’s idea of Partition as a way of protecting its oil interests in the Persian Gulf while at the same time blocking the Soviet Union’s access should a left-leaning newly-independent India gravitate towards the Russians.  The theory was that if the British supported the creation of a Muslim homeland separate from India then that new country would be indebted to Britain and help protect British interests in the region.  However, Singh was convinced that Mountbatten was not aware that Partition was the preferred outcome for many in the British government.

“That revelation took the script in a whole new direction” said Chadha, “and we brought on board a new co-writer, Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre).  Together we depicted a Mountbatten who was not the Machiavellian architect of Partition but a man caught up unwittingly in a bigger political game.”

That depiction will come as a shock to many.  Whilst he was attending the Toronto Film Festival, Chadha relates a story she was told by McCracken.  He was in a cab with a Sikh driver who asked what film he was working on. When he talked about Viceroy’s House the Sikh was almost apoplectic, telling McCracken to “make sure you tell the world what an evil man Mountbatten was. That man destroyed India!” People who still harbour such feelings for the last Viceroy, she thinks, “may well be unpersuaded by my interpretation of events, but I have read the documents and spoken to the people closest to Mountbatten at the time and it feels like the right interpretation.  In any event, what happened in 1947 has been pored over for the last 70 years and my interpretation is not the first and it will not be the last. But at least it will stimulate debate!

Aside from Mountbatten, Chadha was equally keen to ensure that all the protagonists were fairly treated. “One of the things I worked very hard to do was make sure that no Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs were singled out for blame for the violence of Partition.  That violence seemed to me to have arisen from a series of blunders on all sides. Whilst making the film it was vitally important to me that I could sit and watch this film in London, in Delhi and Lahore and not feel uncomfortable. I needed the film’s message of reconciliation to speak to Pakistanis, to Indians, and to the British; and to speak to people’s hearts as well as their heads.  To make a purely political film, I might just as well have made a documentary. But to reach a broader audience, I needed to entertain as well as educate.  That’s why I chose to interweave these political events with a love story – after all, even when the world is falling apart around our ears, life goes on – people’s hearts endure pain but also have huge capacity for love!”

The film’s narrative is fairly evenly split between the political wrangling of the real historical figures upstairs; and the emotional downstairs scenes, centred on the fictional romance between Jeet (a Hindu personal valet to Mountbatten), and Aalia (a Muslim translator for Mountbatten’s daughter Pamela).

“There’s a moment when Jinnah and Mountbatten are talking and some servants come in with tea and cakes,” Chadha says, providing an example of how she tried to maintain this balance. “Jinnah talks about Pakistan and the Muslim servant turns to his Sikh colleague, smiling and excited, and of course his colleague looks back, deeply upset. Normally in Raj movies, the servants would be wallpaper, but in mine I hope you feel these momentous political beats being discussed ‘upstairs’ by the leaders impacting on real people ‘downstairs’ with real emotion.”

Bringing It Home

Gurinder Chadha’s sense of responsibility to tell a story which wasn’t just truthful, but also reflected the experience of her own family during Partition, never waned. While filming those difficult scenes in the refugee camp, her nine-year-old son Ronak visited the set and said, “Mum, it’s so dirty and smelly here, and all these people look very upset. I don’t want to be here. Why are you doing this?” So Chadha told him the story of Partition. “I said, ‘my family, my grandma, my uncles and aunties, a lot of our relatives — this is where they were. They had to leave their home overnight and they ended up in a place like this. And that’s why I’m telling this story. So people understand what happened back then so it doesn’t happen again’. It was a very important moment for me, because it’s really for him. It’s for my children. It’s for that generation so whilst living a privileged life in leafy north London, they understand the context of our history.”

She strongly feels the film has a powerful resonance today, and a universal one, too. The refugee camp shoot coincided with the worldwide publication, on 2 September, 2015, of the shocking picture of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who was found lifeless on a Turkish beach.

“Every day on the news we were watching Syrian and other refugees in camps, victims of the world’s great powers waging a proxy war in Syria. And when the little Syrian boy was found washed up on a beach it was heart-breaking, because it was like, ‘oh my god, I’m spending all this money to recreate misery for a thousand actors pretending to be refugees, recreating something that I’m seeing happen in real life all over again. That really was quite depressing.”

Almost a year later, on 23 June, 2016, while Chadha was cutting the film with editor Valerio Bonelli, the British public voted to withdraw from the European Union. “Valerio is Italian with an English wife and children who are Italian and English,” the director explains, “so as we were watching the drama of Brexit unfold, he was just devastated.”

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On the screen of their editing suite, Chadha’s downstairs characters agonised about their futures: would they have to move from their homes if they ended up on the wrong side of the border? Would their communities become divided? Bonelli himself was feeling a similar sense of disquiet.

“What really came home to him was what happens now to him and his family? Where does he belong?” Chadha says. “And so that went into the film, somehow. You’ve got a situation [with Brexit] where a nation was divided and you had the same thing – pushed to an extreme – with Partition. That’s one of my favourite things about the film. It’s not a stuffy period piece that belongs to 70 years ago. It is very relevant today.”

Chadha hopes that Viceroy’s House will help people understand, as she puts it, “the logical consequences of the politics of hatred and division. That can’t be the future of humanity. That’s not something that people can be proud of. So hopefully my film will appeal to those people who feel that politicians let them down when they peddle hate. It shows you the direct consequences of what can happen when you promote division. It ends in death, destruction and violence.”

Not that violence is something you see much of on screen in the movie. Chadha chose to focus her film on the 6 months leading up to Partition, rather than on Partition itself, and she made a very deliberate choice to keep much of the terrible violence of Partition out of frame.

“I did not want to recreate the full extent of the horror and risk alienating a broader audience,” she states. “I don’t like physical violence on screen in any event, but I also felt it just wasn’t the point of my story. It somehow felt like re-opening old wounds. So in the riot in the staff compound, I tried to make it more abstract – with the use of generic costumes, for example, so it was difficult to make out  who was attacking whom. I didn’t want the audience to think, ‘oh these are the Muslims killing the Hindus, or here come the Hindus killing the Muslims’. I just wanted to show that violence was erupting on all sides.”

“For similar reasons” says Chadha, “I did not want to end the film on a traumatic note.  Yes, the events surrounding Partition were terrible, but the 70th Anniversary this year is also a cause for celebration because Pakistan was born and India achieved its independence.  So I decided to end the film on a note of hope with Jeet and Aalia marrying”.

However, quite late on in the editing process, McCracken suggested that ending the film in 1947 with a wedding scene for Jeet and Aalia was too small. “He wanted the audience to feel the resonance of those distant events right now,” Chadha explains. “That ending didn’t feel right, because at that point of the film the audience is concerned with something much bigger than the fate of just Jeet and Aalia.” McCracken brought out an article Chadha had recently written for The Guardian newspaper, in which she wrote about her family and provided a photograph of her aunts and uncles as children around the time of Partition.

“He talked about using the photo, and I had the idea: why don’t we take a picture of them today? One was in Kenya, one was in Australia, two were here in the UK. So I got them to stand in the same poses and we dissolve from the young children in the first picture, to the elderly Sikhs they became in the second, and you realise, ‘oh my god, that’s them, they survived these horrible events. There’s hope!’ That’s what makes the film moving.”

So the ending of Viceroy’s House not only brings the 70-year-old events of the film firmly into the present, but also concentrates its epic vision into a simple, personal, intimate, family moment. “I think this final beat makes you re-examine everything you’ve just seen,” says Chadha. “Hopefully what that does for you as the audience is to make you feel like you’ve just witnessed something very personal. Jeet and Aalia being reunited is in one sense pure Hollywood. But it is also exactly what happened to my grandparents, reunited in a refugee camp!”

Initially, she confesses, she wasn’t sure about personalising the end of the movie in this way. “Because it made me feel too vulnerable. But actually I think what it does is, if there are any Muslims or Hindus or Sikhs who might feel, ‘Oh, this film didn’t tell my story,’ then at that moment they should feel, ‘Oh. Okay. It’s her story’.”

And here we perhaps find the heart of Viceroy’s House. As previously mentioned the film opens with the famous quote, “History is written by the victors” (most often attributed to Winston Churchill). But who is the victor here?  Perhaps the British Asian woman who got the chance to tell her own family’s story.

 

 

What’s New On The DVD Front

Logan – the defining chapter in the cinematic saga of The Wolverine

From visionary writer-director James Mangold comes the defining chapter in the cinematic saga of one of the greatest comic book heroes ever created. Logan sees Hugh Jackman reprise his iconic role as The Wolverine for one, final time in a raw, powerfully dramatic standalone story of sacrifice and redemption.

If there’s one reason to add this DVD to your collection, it’s for the absolutely insightful and intelligent audio commentary by writer-director James Mangold, taking us into the world and journey of writing and making the film. A must for aspirant screenwriters and filmmakers!

Logan

There’s no question that the movie absolutely will speak to those longtime fans of Wolverine, those who have followed Jackman’s portrayal over the last 17 years. In fact, it was critical for Jackman, as he said farewell to his extensive X-Man past, to put everything on the screen for this, his last mutant adventure. “There was a moment that I came to terms with the fact that this was my last one,” Jackman says. “I love this character, and he’s been amazing to me. I’d be lying if I said that I would have been okay if I didn’t feel everything was left on the table. And I mean everything. Every day, every scene was a kind of battle to get the best out of that character, to get the best out of me.”

Logan stars Hugh Jackman in the title role, alongside Patrick Stewart (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant and newcomer Dafne Keen. The film is directed by James Mangold (Walk the LineThe Wolverine); from a screenplay by Mangold and co-scripter Scott Frank (A Walk Among the TombstonesThe Wolverine) and Michael Green (Alien: Covenant).

It’s 2029. Mutants are gone—or very nearly so. An isolated, despondent Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban and an ailing Professor X, whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request—that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his own past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.

Go behind the scenes of Logan

Competition – Win a Jagveld DVD!

JAGVELDThe Afrikaans revenge-thriller Jagveld stars Leandie du Randt Bosch as a rough-and-tough farm girl Emma le Roux who is on her way home to the family farm in the Great Karoo when her car breaks down. Her path will crosses with Bosman and Baz and Jay. And Boela and AJ and Piet. Bosman (Neels Van Jaarsveld) is the mastermind of a drug syndicate and a psychopath; he is savage and violent.

If you want to add Jagveld to your collection of local films, tell us who wrote the film and send your answer with your contact details and ‘Jagveld’ in the subject line to us before August 15, 2017.  Enter competition here

 

Hidden Figures – NASA’s Wonder Women

Hidden Figures uncovers the incredible, untold yet true story of a brilliant group of Wonder Women who changed the foundations of the country for the better — by aiming for the stars.  The film recounts the vital history of an elite team of black female mathematicians at NASA who helped win the all-out space race against America’s rivals in the Soviet Union and, at the same time, sent the quest for equal rights and opportunity rocketing forwards.

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At last, the story of a visionary trio of women who crossed gender, race and professional lines on their way to pioneering cosmic travel comes to the screen starring Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Benjamin Button, Hustle And Flow), Octavia Spencer (Allegiant, Fruitvale Station, The Help), singer Janelle Monáe making her motion picture debut and Kevin Costner (Black Or White, Field Of Dreams, Dancing With Wolves).

Everyone knows about the Apollo missions.  We can all immediately list the bold male astronauts who took those first giant steps for humankind in space:  John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Neil Armstrong.  Yet, remarkably, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson’s are names not taught in school or even known to most people — even though their daring, smarts and powerful roles as NASA’s ingenious “human computers” were indispensable to advances that allowed for human space flight.

Director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) brings the women’s rise to the top ranks of aerospace in the thrilling early days of NASA to life via a fast-moving, humor-filled, inspiring entertainment that illuminates both the gutsy quest for Earth’s first, seemingly impossible orbital flight and also the powerful things that can result when women unite.

The bonus features include a fascinating featurette on the life of Katherine Johnson and honoring her achievements, a wonderful audio commentary by director Theodre Melfi and Taraj P. Henson,  and filming in Georgia. Go Behind the scenes of Hidden Figures

M. Night Shyamalan’s Split delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s fractured, gifted mind

Following last year’s breakout hit The Visit, Shyamalan reunites with producer Jason Blum (The Purge and Insidious series, The Gift) for Split,  being hailed as “Shyamalan’s most terrifying film to date, ” and “a masterful blend of Hitchcock and horror.”

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Shyamalan felt there were only a handful of actors who could play the demanding role of a man with 23 personalities in Split. It was paramount for the writer/director that Kevin’s personalities not be viewed as caricatures but as fleshed out personas that audiences would embrace with sympathy. To that end, Shyamalan sought out James McAvoy—a dynamic actor who handles blockbuster roles and small, intimate parts with equal aplomb—to play the lead character’s many roles. Shyamalan saw James McAvoy as absolutely up for the challenge. “This is the most complex character I’ve ever written. I was thinking, ‘Does he understand what I’m asking him to do in this piece?’ And he did; I’ve never worked with an actor so fearless.”

Though Kevin (James Mcavoy, X-Men series, Wanted) has evidenced 23 personalities—each with unique physical attributes—to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Tony Award winner Betty Buckley, The Happening, TV’s Oz), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others.

Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him—as well as everyone around him—as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.

The bonus features include a featurette on writer-director Shyamalan and how he constructs a film, a look at how James Mcavoy transformed into the different characters and deleted scenes with commentary by Shyamalan. Go behind the scenes of Split

A Dog’s Purpose Takes Us Into The Soul Of A Loving Canine

Based on author W. Bruce Cameron’s beloved best-selling novel, A Dog’s Purpose shares the heartwarming and surprising story of one devoted dog who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.

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Given Hallström’s track record of inventive filmmaking, and having already directed an Amblin Entertainment (then DreamWorks) film, The 100-Foot Journey, it was a unanimous decision that the filmic version of this story could not be in better hands. The director claims it is no accident he was attracted to the material: “I made two movies about dogs previously—My Life as a Dog and Haichi—so this is my third dog story. If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog’s feelings and a dog’s life.”

Over the course of five decades, a single voice—that of an indefatigable dog—takes us along a riveting and uplifting path that speaks to the heart of anyone who has ever loved an animal.  Although he is reincarnated in the bodies of multiple canines through the years, it is his unbreakable bond with a kindred spirit named Ethan that carries and inspires one dog throughout his journey to find a true purpose for his boy.

“I made two movies about dogs previously—My Life as a Dog and Haichi—so this is my third dog story,” says director Lasse Hallström, who claims it is no accident he was attracted to the material: . ”If you have an interest in outsiders and emotions that seems irrational to humans, you can certainly relate to a dog’s feelings and a dog’s life.”

A Dog’s Purpose is adapted for the screen by Cameron & Cathryn Michon (Muffin Top: A Love Story) and Audrey Wells (Shall We Dance) and Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear) & Wally Wolodarsky (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days).

Go behind the scenes of A Dog’s Purpose

 

 

“We want to take the audience on a very intense ride.  That’s the experience we want to give the audience—to make them feel that they’re actually there and allow them to feel what that would be like.”

Visionary storyteller and storymaker Christopher Nolan has taken audiences from the streets of Gotham City, to the infinite world of dreams, to the farthest reaches of space.

Now, for the first time, the innovative director/writer/producer has turned his camera to a real-life event, one that has resonated with him throughout his life: the miracle of Dunkirk.

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Seeing the event through the eyes of just a few individual characters was something that struck Branagh when he read the script. “Chris managed to weave together a very human story that brings all those personal moments together within this epic dimension,” the actor states. “He is quite brilliant in my view, a master filmmaker.”

Dunkirk opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces.  Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea, they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.

The story unfolds on land, sea and air.  RAF Spitfires engage the enemy in the skies above the Channel, trying to protect the defenseless men below.  Meanwhile, hundreds of small boats manned by both military and civilians are mounting a desperate rescue effort, risking their lives in a race against time to save even a fraction of their army.

Dunkirk features a multi generational ensemble cast, including Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy and Barry Keoghan, with Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.  Nolan directed “Dunkirk” from his own screenplay, utilizing a mixture of IMAX® and 65mm film to bring the story to the screen.  The film was produced by Emma Thomas and Nolan, with Jake Myers serving as executive producer.

One of the greatest stories in human history

“Dunkirk” is based on the evacuation that—although it took place in the early months of World War II—had a direct impact on the outcome of the war.  Rather than make a battlefield drama, however, Nolan’s objective was to turn this historical moment into immediate, immersive cinema: a propulsive, ticking-clock, epic action thriller in which the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Says Nolan: “What happened at Dunkirk is one of the greatest stories in human history, the ultimate life-or-death race against time.  It was an extraordinarily suspenseful situation; that’s the reality.  Our aim with this movie was to throw the audience into that with an absolute respect for history, but also with a degree of intensity and, of course, a sense of entertainment, too.”

”It’s one of the great human stories, and it’s one of the most suspenseful situations that I had ever heard of in my life. You have 400,000 men – the entire British army – trapped on the beach at Dunkirk. Their backs to the sea, home is only 26 miles away and it’s impossible to get to. The enemy is closing in, and there’s a choice between annihilation and surrender. I just think it’s the more extraordinarily suspenseful situation. That, I think, speaks to a lot of things that I am interested in with film.

Nolan’s longtime producing partner, Emma Thomas, offers, “‘Dunkirk’ is a huge spectacle film, but also a very human story and, in that way, it’s universal.  Chris wanted to put the audience in the center of the experience along with the characters, whether they be the soldiers on the beach, the pilots in the air, or the civilians on the boats.”

The remarkable true story that inspired the fictional film is one that has fascinated Nolan for many years “and one I’ve been wanting to tell for quite some time,” he says.  “Like most British people, I was raised on the mythical story of the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the victory that was snatched from the jaws of defeat,” he relates.  “It’s a massive part of our culture.  It’s in our bones.”

Like many Britons of his generation, Nolan grew up with stories about Dunkirk in his household, where the specter of the war loomed large. “My grandfather was in the Air Force,” he said. “He did not participate in Dunkirk; he was a navigator in Lancaster and he died in the war.”

Nolan visited his grandfather’s grave, outside the French city of Lyon, while he wa in pre-production for “Dunkirk.” That connection was one of a few ways that the movie — his 10th feature, and his first British production since his 1998 debut “Following” — was his most personal to date.

“I try to only make films that I feel very connected with on some emotional level,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve taken on a real-life event, and there’s a huge responsibility that comes with that. But I suppose in some ways feel more personal.”

Much of that had to do with the family connection. “Growing up, I’d hear about my grandfather, and my father and my uncle were so affected by the war,” he said. “Certainly with the aerial sections of the film, it was very important to me to get those right. My dad used to be very scathing about movies you’d see with depictions of the Air Force if they weren’t right.”

But the event itself has stuck with him since childhood. “Dunkirk is something that you grow up with as a British person,” he said. “The telling of the story that you get is simplistic and mythical in a way, almost like a fairy tale. The interesting thing to me about doing this project is that the more I found out about it, the more extraordinary it actually seemed. Reality is messy, nothing is as simple as fishermen jumping in rowboats and picking up troops, but the reality of what actually happened on that beach and across the channel is one of the great stories.”

Dunkirk

Dunkirk is about the preservation of freedom.

The story began in late May 1940, when the British Expeditionary Force, along with French, Belgian and Canadian troops were forced back to the beaches of Dunkirk.  Though home was just 26 miles away, there was no easy way to reach it.  The shallow-drafted beach, with its 21-foot tide, prohibited the large British naval ships from rescuing the men.  But there was hope: a call had gone out for small boats to aid the effort and a flotilla of non-military “little ships” sailed out from the southern coast of England to bring the men home, codenamed Operation Dynamo.

The film’s historical consultant, Joshua Levine, author of the book Forgotten Voices of Dunkirk, emphasizes that the 1940 evacuation is far more than just a British story.  “It was a massive event that still has international significance.  Everything that’s celebrated about World War II—in Britain, in the United States, and all around the world—would not have happened without the Dunkirk evacuation taking place.  It was unbelievably important.  If the British army had been killed or taken prisoner, Britain would almost certainly have surrendered, and we’d likely be living in a very different world today.  To me, Dunkirk is about the preservation of freedom.  Once those ships were underway, the world still had a chance.”

Kenneth Branagh, who plays the British naval commander, agrees.  “Your life and mine would have been profoundly changed had that courageous, brave, patient, impossible moment not been lived through by people who stuck at it, and in so doing protected all of our futures.  Its place in our military, social, political, and emotional history can never be underestimated.  In a sense, you could look at an evacuation as being unheroic, but somehow it adds up to something phenomenally heroic about the human spirit.”

In fact, the rescue of their stranded army against seemingly impossible odds gave rise to a term that is a permanent part of the British cultural lexicon: “the Dunkirk spirit.”  Thomas defines, “It’s something English people pride themselves on: that sort of plucky grit and determination in the face of adversity.”

Mark Rylance, who plays the captain of one of the little ships, concurs, “It has a deep meaning for the English people.  We were the underdogs on that beach, but we rose to the occasion and eluded the superior forces of the enemy at that time.  The Dunkirk spirit has to do with that perseverance and endurance and also selflessness.”

Newcomer Fionn Whitehead, who takes on the role of one of the young British soldiers on the beach, says, “The Dunkirk spirit brings to my mind a sense of togetherness and a show of community—coming together to help out someone in trouble.”

It was with a friend on his small sailing boat—similar to those that formed the “little ships”—that Nolan and Thomas first visited Dunkirk during the mid-1990s.  The trip would give them a whole new appreciation for the seminal event they had only read about.  Hampered by rough seas and bad weather, the voyage across the Channel unexpectedly took 19 hours.  “It was a very arduous crossing,” Nolan recalls, “and that was with nobody dropping bombs on us.  What really stuck with me was just how extraordinary it was, the notion of civilians taking small boats into a war zone.  They could see the smoke and the fires for many miles, so their willingness to do that and what that says about communal spirit are extraordinary.”

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How to tell the story

Nolan continues, “In looking at how to tell the story, I came fairly early on to the idea of showing events from the land, sea and air: seeing the action from the perspectives of the men on the beach, the people coming to help on the boats, and the pilots trying to protect them from above.  I was immediately struck by the need to use a different time scale for each strand of the story because the guys on the beach are there for the better part of a week in the film, while the boat crossing takes place over the course of a long day, and the action in the Spitfires involves a single hour.  Each of those storylines—one week on land, one day at sea and one hour in the air—had different temporal characteristics, so in braiding them together editorially, I had to plot them out very carefully.  Intertwining these stories leads you through the events in a very subjective way and allows you to understand the journey each of the characters is on, while always trying to suggest that there are many other unseen journeys.  In an event of this magnitude, you can’t possibly get a comprehensive understanding of so many individual experiences in a single film.”

Researching the script, Nolan read several books and firsthand accounts.  He also consulted extensively with Levine, whom he says, “very quickly understood the tricky balance between entertainment and historical accuracy that we were trying to strike.  He also arranged for us to meet with some surviving veterans of Operation Dynamo.  It was a great, great honor to meet those people and hear about their experiences and discover what Dunkirk meant to them.”

“Nevertheless,” Thomas notes, “Chris felt strongly that he didn’t want to put words in the mouths of these real-life heroes, or have to change their stories for reasons of time or dramatic effect, and decided that the best way to approach the story was to use fictional characters inspired by those elements he discovered in doing his research.”

Seeing the event through the eyes of just a few individual characters was something that struck Branagh when he read the script.  “Chris managed to weave together a very human story that brings all those personal moments together within this epic dimension,” the actor states.  “He is quite brilliant in my view, a master filmmaker.”

Rylance adds, “I don’t imagine anyone else could have done a more faithful and essential telling of this story in a more thrilling and exciting way.  I think it makes for an extraordinary movie-going experience.”

Cast in his third Christopher Nolan film, Tom Hardy agrees.  “Time and time again, Chris consistently manages to raise the bar.  He is a true professional who doesn’t leave a stone unturned or dismiss an opportunity.  He’s always in control and set in his volition, but he is not inflexible.  That’s extremely powerful for an artist.  He’s generous, sensitive, funny and incredibly intelligent, and I trust him—if he says he’s going to do something, he will.”

To help him achieve his time-bending, threefold vision for the film, Nolan collaborated with his creative team, including director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema, production designer Nathan Crowley, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, editor Lee Smith, special effects supervisor Scott Fisher and visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson.

Nolan’s primary goal was to put the audience directly onto the beach, onboard the boat traversing the Channel, and in the cockpit of the Spitfires.  He had been the first to use IMAX cameras in a major motion picture, for “The Dark Knight,” and has employed IMAX cameras on all of his subsequent films.  But for “Dunkirk,” he expanded the use of large format—shooting the entire film with a combination of IMAX and 65mm film, something, he confirms, “I’ve never done before, but ‘Dunkirk’ is a huge story and it demanded an enormous canvas.

“The reason we were shooting on IMAX film,” the director continues, “is that the immersive quality of the image is second to none.  When you sit in the movie theatre, the screen disappears and you really get a very tactile sense of the imagery.  That lends itself to incredible panoramas and large-scale action.  But we’ve also found over the years that if you use it for more intimate situations, it creates an immediacy that’s very engaging.  So our feeling was, if we could find a way to do it physically, the payoff would be well worth it.”

Another hallmark of Nolan’s films is his preference for capturing the action in-camera and eschewing digital effects and CGI as much as possible.  “To me,” he clarifies, “it’s always very important to try and work with real things and real people.  The resulting effect of that is very visceral and enveloping, and draws you into the story.”

That was equally true for the cast.  Cillian Murphy, working with the director for the fifth time, asserts, “I can only speak for myself, but I do think the rest of the actors would attest to this as well: when you’re in the environment and things are happening for real, it leads to a more honest, truthful portrayal of your character’s journey.”

Adding to the verisimilitude, the filmmakers, cast and crew were honored to have the opportunity to film a portion of “Dunkirk” on the actual beach and at the exact same time of year that the miraculous evacuation happened.  There were some logistical challenges, including inclement weather, rough seas, and the construction of the mole: a narrow, kilometer-long, wood-boarded breakwater that poked precariously out into the cold waters of the Channel.  Nevertheless, Thomas says it was the best possible choice.  “The beach at Dunkirk is a singular place,” she states.  “We looked at other options, but it became clear that it would be difficult to replicate exactly the look we needed anywhere else.  We all felt very lucky to be able to shoot at the location where the event occurred.”

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Visual Storytelling

Another interesting aspect of Dunkirk will be Nolan’s decision to aim for visual storytelling over dialogue and exposition:

”Yeah, you know it’s the kind of film where the visual aspect of the film is dominant right from the get-go. There’s dialogue in the film, but we really tried to approach the storytelling very much from a visual point of view, and an action and suspense point of view. Trying to create suspense visually — a visceral sense of what it would be like to be confronted by this awful paradoxical situation.”

”I think the visual nature of the storytelling is something I’m excited about. It’s something I value in films and film history; I’m an incredible lover of silent films. The challenge of taking on what I call a present-tense narrative – that is to say, we don’t learn a lot about the people we’re experiencing this with. We really just try to live in the moment and experience it with them, and look through their eyes. That was the challenge of the film, and as it is shaping up I think that, for me, is the thing that I challenged myself the most with and I am excited about that.”

“The events of Dunkirk are sacred ground,” Nolan reflects, “not to be ventured onto without great care.  It’s daunting for a filmmaker, but also irresistible.  There were moments when I looked at the very large re-creation of events we pulled off—the real little ships arriving, with naval destroyers in the sea, and rebuilding the mole—and it felt quite extraordinary.  To have that many different elements come together definitely made a lasting impression on me.”

Yet the filmmakers agree that their first priority was always to entertain, and every creative decision Nolan made was intended to transport audiences to that place and time.  “The thing Chris does in his movies, which I really appreciate, is that when you watch them in the cinema, you’re experiencing something you couldn’t really experience anywhere else,” Thomas states.

“We want to put people on the beach at Dunkirk, on the deck of the Moonstone and in the cockpit of a Spitfire,” Nolan concludes.  “We want to take the audience on a very intense ride.  That’s the experience we want to give the audience—to make them feel that they’re actually there and allow them to feel what that would be like.”

 

I was extremely conscious of the compromises and choices that must be made whenever history is brought to the screen.

Book and historical adaptations are hugely popular on the Big and Small screens and when the producers looked for a screenwriter for Churchill, London‐based  screenwriter  and  historian Alex von Tunzelmann was the ideal candidate to tackle the subject matter.

CHURCHILL WEBSITE

Churchill follows Britain’s iconic Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) in the days before the infamous  D‐Day landings in  June 1944.

As allied  forces stand on  the south coast of Britain, poised  to invade  Nazi‐occupied  Europe,  they  await  Churchill’s  decision  on  whether  the  invasion  will  actually  move  ahead.

Fearful of repeating his mistakes from World War I on the beaches of Gallipoli, exhausted by years of  war,  plagued  by  depression and  obsessed with  fulfilling  historical greatness,  Churchill is also  faced  with  constant  criticism  from  his  political  opponents;  General  Eisenhower  and  Field  Marshal  Montgomery.

Only the unflinching support of Churchill’s brilliant, unflappable wife Clementine (Miranda  Richardsoncan) halt the Prime  Minister’s physical and mental collapse and help lead him to greatness.

Churchill is  directed  by  Jonathan  Teplitzky  (The  Railway  Man,  Marcella)  from  an  original  screenplay  by  British  historian  Alex  von  Tunzelmann  (Medici:  Masters  of  Florence)  in  her  feature  debut.

Churchill - Publicity & Productions Still © Salon Churchill Ltd cs12- 06.06.16. sc 61,BEACH Churchill explains his depression, he might paint at the weekend. The people must feel unified, inspired, hopeful. END 2 . BEACH Churchill on a beach, he loses his hat, hears noises, the seawater turns red. Tells Clemmie he can’t let Galipoli happen again 26 BEACH Churchill on the beach, contemplating Katie Player Production Coordinator - Churchill 07795 313 846 katie.productionoffice@gmail.com Salon Churchill Ltd Unit 17 - Ground Floor Castlebrae Business Centre Peffer Place Edinburgh EH16 4BB stills credit Graeme Hunter Pictures, Sunnybank Cottages 117 Waterside Rd, Carmunnock, Glasgow. U.K. G76 9DU. m.07811946280 e. graemehunter@mac.com

How does a historian become a screenwriter? It was a natural evolution and a deep fondness for films for von Tunzelmann. Writing for The Guardian’s “Reel History” where she analyzed the accuracy of historical movies helped guide her in the direction of screenwriting.

I was commissioned to write this in 2013. I’ve really had a long interest in Churchill and that period. I’d been thinking about writing about it for ages, but my inclination as a historian was to consider a biography, which would have been a very different angle. But when the producer approached me to write a screenplay about Churchill, I knew it was a fantastic opportunity. They had stumbled across this story about him initially being opposed to D-Day, which was a good jumping off point and allowed me to explore some of the things that were interesting about his character.

We are very familiar with Churchill as the great hero of 1940, and that’s the popular image of him in the U.K. The movie is set in 1944, which is a very different period—the war has been going on for years—and it is a really different Churchill. That’s also when Lord Moran, his doctor, started dating the beginning of Churchill’s decline. There is an incredible kind of poignancy. Just when the Allies were really beginning to win the war—D-Day was going to turn the tide on the Western front—that Churchill himself personally was beginning to lose, fail, and have difficulties. That seemed to say something about the incredible toll war takes on you, even if you are fighting as a politician, not as a combatant.

I was extremely conscious of the compromises and choices that must be made whenever history is brought to the screen. I wanted to focus specifically on [the] profound concern Churchill had for the men he would send to war; how a leader deals with that responsibility and guilt, especially when in the past it has gone badly wrong.

Film and television adaptations on the life and work of Winston Churchill are not scarce. However, given the extensiveness of his contributions, it seems both difficult and simple to choose an area to focus on during his lifetime. Alex dug deep into the man behind the public persona to reveal the lesser-known side; the Great Prime Minister who remained utterly focused on his duty while coping with extreme doubt and severe depressive episodes at a moment when the fate of the world depended on him.

My priority was to get to the character of a man who acknowledged his lifelong struggle with depression and yet who could inspire a nation; who lived with the guilt of his failures and yet could push through that to victory. He [Churchill] wrote beautifully about his depression. He referred to it as the ‘Black Dog.’ There were days where he couldn’t get out of bed, and yet he achieved so much. I thought this might be inspiring to people struggling with [similar] issues.

I based the narrative largely on the incredibly candid war diaries of Alan Brooke, a senior officer in the British Army played in the film by Danny Webb. They really kind of paint a picture of a man whose powers were beginning to wane, who was becoming more vague and couldn’t get out of bed in the morning,” she says. “And I found that a sort of extraordinary idea, that just at the point where the Allies were beginning to win the war, that Churchill himself — maybe partly because of the huge, kind of physical effort he’d put in — was beginning to fail. Of course, he is often with his trademark cigar in “Churchill,” but also with a glass.

The film takes place as Churchill wrestles with his own demons and fears on the eve of D-Day, a pivotal Allied campaign he initially opposed that would prove to be the turning point of World War II. Also, given more attention than in most other films regarding the Prime Minister’s work, is his marriage to Clementine “Clemmie”

The film does explore the strains that Churchill put on his marriage, and Clemmie, as in real life, is no silent ‘angel in the house,’ but a woman of remarkable character, holding strong opinions which were quite independent of her husband’s.

The journey from ideas and research to completed shooting draft was no quick path. Von Tunzelmann began writing the script in 2013.

My apartment was covered in index cards written in different colored Sharpees all across the room. Over time as I reached completion of the script, the index cards slowly disappeared and my apartment returned to normal. I worked in the library a regular day nine-to-five, but I did slip from that sometimes waking at three a.m. with the answer and needing to write that down.

Understandably there was to be a level of artistic or dramatic license taken to convey those emotions. Were Churchill’s doubts about the Normandy invasion as severe as depicted?

I think they were pretty serious. On the night before the invasion, when the ships had sailed, Churchill famously said to Clementine, “Do you realize that by the time we wake up, 20,000 young men may be dead?” For him, that was the worry. It did recall the 1915 Gallipoli campaign and the amphibious landings in the Dardanelles. I think it’s so extraordinary—how he responded to the Gallipoli disaster by leaving political life and actually going and signing up for the army and fighting on the Western Front. I think that is an amazing response that you wouldn’t see any politician doing today!

Churchill

What were the most challenging aspects of the process for you?

The difficulty is the kind of four-dimensional game of chess that you’re trying to play. I was concerned with trying to be as accurate as we could be given that we were making a film for entertainment. I knew the essence of the story I wanted to tell and wanted it to be true to the sources that I found poignant—like Alanbrooke’s diaries at the time and some of Churchill’s secretaries’ memoirs—which made really excellent reading. And some of his own writing about his depression, which I found extremely poignant. I knew that those were the kind of aspects that I wanted to bring out. You know you’ll have to make certain compromises because real life doesn’t squish into three acts in a lovely, beautiful way. You know it is about determining what you think is really important, and then making the changes you have to make, with respect hopefully, for the truth of it.

But I did want to be true to that and I did care about respecting Churchill. Particularly this massively huge thing of portraying his depression, or at least giving a glimpse into that. We were very respectful about that because you can’t accurately diagnose a historical figure. It’s not possible to do because you can’t meet him or psychoanalyze him. All you’re going on is the clues in his writing, so I didn’t want to disrespect any aspect of that. But I also wanted to make that sympathetic, and I hope moving, because that is something to me that has huge resonance. Obviously most of us haven’t had to fight World War II, but a lot of us have experience with depression personally, or through a family member or friend, so I think that is an incredible thing. And I know some people may find that disrespectful—there is unfortunately still prejudice out there about how depression works—and they see that as making Churchill less of a hero, but in my mind, it makes him much more of a hero. I hope people find that inspiring.

If you would like to catch up on von Tunzelmann’s contributions to The Guardian’s “Reel History,” her pieces are collected in the 2015 book Reel History: The World According to the Movies. Her writing can also be seen on the Netflix drama Medici: Masters of Florence. Churchill is Alex’s first feature. Visit her website

 

Add These Titles To Your Collection

Jackie is a portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Kennedy.

JackieThe poignant and captivating Jackie takes audiences on a personal journey into one of the most extraordinary events of American history – and also into a deeply stirring drama that illuminates in fascinating new ways the woman, the times and the ways we cope with and tell the stories of the most intensely public of tragedies. Chilean director Pablo Larraín draws an Oscar worthy performance from Natalie Portman, For Natalie Portman, who committed herself fully and fearlessly as to find the part of Jackie that still resonates with us now. “I think every individual will have their own experience of who Jackie is,” she concludes. “But the one thing I truly hope is that you see someone who is not just an icon but a very human, complex woman who found her own way through a situation few of us could imagine.” The film takes us behind closed doors in Jackie’s private, tightly-contained world. Suddenly alone, save for her family, confidante and priest, the First Lady faced a remarkable series of challenges as a wife, a mother and a reluctant part of the political machine: consoling her young children, planning her husband’s funeral, preparing for the next President to rapidly move into the White House and most remarkably, fighting to maintain control over how history would forever define her husband’s legacy.

Jackie Kennedy led a multi-faceted life of power and influence, but when it came to writing about her, screenwriter and journalist Noah Oppenheim came to feel there was one story that spoke to her psyche in the most compelling way – the very brief but remarkably consequential days that the First Lady spent nearly alone in the White House following her husband’s death. Read more about the film

Proudly South African filmmaking

REBELLIE 2In Chris Barnard’s poignant drama Die Rebellie Van Lafras Verwey Tobie Cronje takes on the title role of a man who has worked as a clerk in the Civil Service in Pretoria for thirty years. By day he sorts files and whiles away the mundane hours writing grandiose propaganda speeches and drilling imaginary platoons in the washroom, but unbeknownst to his colleagues he is also a clandestine parcel courier for a secret organization that recruited his services to complete their covert mission. The bonus features include a behind the scenes featurette.  Watch The Trailer

RIVERIn the captivating Beyond The River two men from vastly different walks of life have one thing in common: to win gold. But there are a few things in their way. One has a marriage on the verge of collapse. The other is on the run from the law, and his so-called life. Through a series of unexpected events, the two men find themselves attempting the three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon as a doubles pair. But there are a few things they must overcome, not least of which are the completely different worlds they come from. They realise that the dream they both desperately desire requires them to work together, both in the boat and beyond the river. Inspired by the true story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks, who together won gold in the 2014 Dusi, Beyond the River delivers a nail-biting adventure story about the triumph of the human spirit. Directed by Craig Freimond and written by Freimond and Robbie Thorpe. Freimond: “The film is quite different. I can’t think of too many films like it. It’s got a feel-good side to it,but it has also got a lot of depth. People who’ve seen it have responded to the story, the film itself, the actors, the landscapes. People will enjoy this movie.” The bonus features include a documentary on the real story and an interview with writer-director Craig Freimond.  Watch The Trailer

Action Packed Entertainment

InterrogationIn the thrilling Interrogation the FBI receives a threat that endangers the entire city, an interrogator (Adam Copeland) and an I.T. specialist (C.J Perry) are plunged into a series of mind games with a criminal mastermind, desperately racing against time to uncover the villain’s true agenda as they fight to protect thousands of lives. Copeland and Perry deliver a knockout blow in this electrifying thriller that crackles with edge-of-your-seat suspense. It is directed by Stephen Reynolds from a screenplay by Adam Rodin and Michael Finch. Watch the trailer

sleepless3In Sleepless undercover Las Vegas police officer Vincent Downs (Jamie Foxx) finds himself caught in a high-stakes web of corrupt cops, internal affairs and murderous gangsters. When a failed heist leads to the kidnapping of his teenage son (Octavius J. Johnson), Downs must race against time during a wild and restless night to save him and bring the criminals to justice. It has an age restriction of 16.   Watch The Trailer. 

 

Cross WarsArmed with a powerful ancient Cross amulet, Callan (Brian Austin Green) and his team of weapons experts battle local thugs and heinous criminals in Cross Wars. When a ruthless villain named Muerte (Danny Trejo) threatens to kill Callan’s crew, he and his team join forces with an all-girl crime-fighting squad led by Riley – who has an ancient amulet of her own! But Muerte is not working alone. He has resurrected the evil immortal Gunnar (Vinnie Jones) who has a plan more sinister than anyone can imagine. Can Callan prevent the looming apocalypse and save humanity? It’s enough to make a superhero all stressed out! It has an age restriction of 10 – 12 PGV. This action fantasy was written by Patrick Durham, John Sachar, and Tanner Wiley. Watch The Trailer

Drama

TicketIn the intriguing drama The Ticket, directed by Ido Fluk and written by Ido Fluk and Sharon Mashihi, a blind man (Dan Stevens) inexplicably regains his vision and becomes possessed by a drive to make a better life for himself. However, his new improvements — a nicer home, a higher paying job, tailored suits, luxury car — leave little room for the people who were part of his old, simpler life. As his relationships buckle under the strain of his snowballing ambition, it becomes uncertain if James can ever return from darkness. Watch the trailer

Family Viewing

AppleIn Apple Of My Eye A tragic accident causes a young equestrian (Avery Arendes) to lose her sight and her ability to connect with anyone or anything. Feeling hopeless and dejected, Bailey’s loving parents seek out various options to help her adjust, including enrolling her in a program for seeing-eye dogs, but she is unable to connect to anyone or anything. That is, until Charles (Burt Reynolds) the head trainer of South eastern Guide Dogs, trains Apple, a miniature horse, to be her companion and surrogate eyes. The bonus features include some bloopers and deleted scenes, as well as a Doggywood featurette. Watch the trailer

smurfsSmurfs: The Lost Village is a fun-filled animated, all-new take on the Smurfs. Best friends Smurfette (Demi Lovato), Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) use a special map that guides them through the Forbidden Forest, an enchanted wonderland that’s filled with magical creatures. Their adventure leads them on a course to discover the biggest secret in Smurf history as they race against time and the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) to find a mysterious village. There are many bonus features, including how to draw a Smurf, a village dance along, and filmmakers commentary.  Watch the trailer

Comedy

meet-the-blacksThe zany comedy horror film Meet The Blacks is directed by Deon Taylor, written by Taylor and Nicole DeMasi, and is a parody of the 2013 film The Purge. When some unexpected money comes his way, Carl Black (Mike Epps) moves his family from cold and windy Chicago to bright and sunny Beverly Hills, Calif. As the Blacks settle into their beautiful new home, they start to notice some strange behavior in the neighborhood. Nighttime is approaching, and President El Bama (George Lopez) announces that the annual purge is about to begin. Carl and his loved ones must now endure a 12-hour period of lawlessness before they can enjoy life once again. The bonus features include a making of featurette, outtakes and Hit The Gas Music Video. There is a 16 age restriction.  Watch the trailer

 

Not since Avatar has there been a 3D moviegoing experience that leaves viewers so breathless.

Based on the groundbreaking comic book series that inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers comes the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a vision a lifetime in the making.

Valerian

In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan, The Amazing Spider-Man 2,Chronicle) and Laureline (Cara DeLevingne, Suicide Squad, Paper Towns) comprise a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha — an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with one another. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force that threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

The Inspiration

Long before Luc Besson became one of the world’s foremost action auteurs — writing, producing and directing a string of iconic hits (The Professional, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita and Lucy) — he was a young boy transfixed by a comic-book series called “Valerian and Laureline,” which debuted the decade before he happened upon it.

“ When I was 10 years old, I’d go to the kiosk every Wednesday. One time, I found this magazine called ‘Pilote.’ Inside, I discovered ‘Valerian and Laureline.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, what is this thing?’ That day, I fell in love with Laureline, and I wanted to be Valerian.”

Besson quickly became addicted to the engrossing graphic serials written by French author Pierre Christin and boldly illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières, devouring all 22 volumes.

“It was the 1970s, and it was the first time we saw this modern girl kicking ass,” he shares. “It was not about the superhero with the cape. This was much more light and free and enjoyable because Laureline and Valerian were like two normal cops today — except it’s the 28th century, and everything is weird and amazing.”

ComicFirst published by Dargaud in 1967, the comic-book series on which the film is based inspired Besson not only to imagine his seminal The Fifth Element, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets—Production Information 6 it has also influenced other filmmakers to create some of the most iconic science fiction movies of the last half-century.

With his love of “Valerian and Laureline” always in the back of his mind, Besson grew up to become the creative force behind such influential action films as La Femme Nikita and Léon: The Professional. It wasn’t until he started filming his cult-classic, retro-futuristic dystopian epic The Fifth Element, that he considered taking his childhood fantasy hero off the shelf and began toying with the idea of adapting the graphic novels into a movie.

Besson laughs: “JeanClaude Mézières, who designed The Fifth Element, said to me, ‘Why are you doing this? You should do Valerian!” Constrained by the relatively primitive visual effects technology available in the 1990s, Besson knew it would be some time before he was able to create the wondrous “Valerian and Laureline” universe he knew the source material deserved.

“When I went back to read the comic books again,” he recounts, “I decided it was impossible to make the films. The technology at the time was not good enough to re-create all these worlds and aliens.”

It would take a seismic jolt and a huge evolutionary leap forward in visual effects to enable the filmmaker to bring “Valerian and Laureline” to life. After James Cameron invited Besson to the set of his space epic, Avatar, the French director made up his mind. “When Avatar arrived, it made everything seem possible. I remember thinking, ‘One day I will come back to sci-fi with these new tools, where the only limit is your imagination. That’s when I decided to make Valerian.”

BESSON

A Visionary Approach: The World of Valerian

In order to bring his vision to life, Besson employed a unique approach to conceptualizing, creating and fleshing out the worlds and creatures that comprise Valerian universe.

Long before the cameras began rolling on the film’s production, Besson adopted a novel approach to formulating concept art for the film by building out the art in two distinct phases.

The first phase, commencing in 2010, entailed mobilizing hundreds of both amateur and professional artists to submit concept work via a competition. After narrowing down the general pool of admissions to a smaller group of designers in late 2010, Besson further pared down his selection to approximately twenty designers who met with him either in France, Los Angeles, or via Skype in order for Besson to share his vision of how to render cinematic the world of the comic book.

The artists then worked independently on developing their interpretations of Besson’s dream as a test to see if they would proceed to the second phase.

Ultimately, Besson selected six key artists to move to Phase 2 and further develop the drawings that Besson chose as part of the first phase of the concept art process.

From there, Besson provided directives and guidance to the six artists on how to combine, finesse and augment the selected drawings. By the end of the second phase, the drawings were predominantly the product of a collaborative effort between Besson and the six artists, with the exception of several drawings from the first phase, which were kept intact. This process lent itself to a thorough, thoughtful and comprehensive approach to creating painstakingly detailed designs that fit together into one cohesive vision.

A Wild Menagerie: The Species of Alpha Space Station

Also known as the City of a Thousand Planets, the Alpha Space Station is truly an intergalactic hub. “All the knowledge in the universe is there. It’s Wall Street, City of Science, United Nations, Broadway—everything is there,” explains Besson. “That makes it the most important place in the entire universe.”

Creatures

An ever-expanding metropolis, its population includes thousands of species from across the galaxy, many of which are rooted in the mythology established in the graphic novels. Besson’s fertile imagination gave birth to the creation of dozens of astonishing intergalactic characters, including the Mylea jellyfish, the massive 300-ton aquatic Bromosaur, and a Khodar’Khan by the name of Igon Siruss — voiced by Goodman — who is the criminal mastermind of the intra-dimensional trade center known as Big Market. Among the most memorable of the aliens are the Doghan Daguis — a species of multilingual information brokers who exist as a trio and make a giant impression, even though they stand just under four-feet tall. “They sell information and speak 8,000 languages,” Besson explains. “One of them starts a sentence, the next one continues the line, and the third one finishes it, because they’re one brain in three pieces. No one likes the Doghan Daguis, but you can’t kill them. If you kill one, you kill the information.”

Besson also conjured up a squad of ruthlessly efficient mechanized soldiers called K-Trons, which serve as the personal bodyguards of Commander Filitt. According to the writer/director: “They never talk and only have two functions. When the dot is green, everything’s okay. As soon as the dot turns red, you have five seconds to lie on the floor because they’re going to shoot everyone. That’s how simple they are. If you control the K-Trons, then you truly have the power.”

Lensing at Cité du Cinema: Outer Space, Outside Paris

“There is no way to make this kind of movie quickly,” sums Besson.

For three years, he supervised artists, illustrators and designers as they developed meticulous concept art. He spent another year and a half devising painstakingly detailed storyboards.

Principal photography began on January 5, 2016, with shooting wrapping in June. “I’m glad we took the time to do this right,”

Besson says. “I’m a longdistance runner. I don’t do 100 meters; my distance is 10 miles, so I’m used to long shoots. For The Big Blue, we spent 24 weeks under water and 22 weeks on land. Joan of Arc took 24 weeks. I’m stubborn, so 100 days of shooting for Valerian felt almost easy.”

Valerian was shot entirely at Besson’s Cité du Cinema in the suburbs of Paris.

Launched by Besson and his partners in 2012, this facility serves as the largest film complex in France, designed to compete with Rome’s Cinecittà film facility and England’s Pinewood Studios. With nine soundstages spread across 65 acres, Cité du Cinema has everything needed to build a fantastical cinematic universe, according to producer Besson-Silla.

Designed by Besson, the Cité du Cinema campus includes three film schools, a restaurant and a daycare center, all aimed at fostering a nurturing atmosphere for cast and crew alike. “Instead of having trailers, we have green rooms furnished like nice, cozy apartments,” Besson-Silla offers, proudly.

“We covered the walls with the designs from the film so the actors could get different scenes inside their minds. Then they’d just take the elevator down and go straight to the set.”

The bustling collegial atmosphere yielded a variety of unexpected surprises, like the time Besson alum Natalie Portman walked past Besson-Silla dressed as Jackie Kennedy for her role in Jackie.

“I also remember one very special night,” the producer reflects. “Herbie Hancock filmed that day and in the evening we said, ‘Herbie, we do have this piano…’ So this genius played for the whole crew. We had a lot of special little moments like that. Everybody was there to make a film, but in a good and nice way.”

Welcome to the 28th Century: A Unified Design Vision

To bring his childhood inspiration to life, Besson assembled a core team of longtime collaborators. “The most important thing was the coordination among the production designer, costume designer and the DP,” Besson states. “If you treat each of these elements separately, you’re in trouble. The synergy has to come from all three, so every day, I wanted the DP to see the costumes; I wanted the costume designer to see the sets. We were constantly exchanging information.”

This core team consisted of veteran costume designer Olivier Bériot, whose outfits graced Lucy and the Besson-produced thriller Taken; longtime cinematographer Thierry Arbogast; and production designer Hugues Tissandier, who had also previously teamed with Besson on Lucy.

Production wrapped, the boy who began dreaming of a space saga all those decades ago is satisfied he has done “Valerian and Laureline’s” creators justice.

Besson reflects that he has long envisioned Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as 3D escapist entertainment at its most mind-blowing: “I want people who work all day to see this movie in the theater and forget everything for two hours, like they went on a holiday.”

While the vintage source material remains inextricably embedded in the film, Besson has imprinted the science-fiction genre with his own unmistakably vibrant aesthetic. With a technology that has finally caught up to Besson’s vision, not since Avatar has there been a 3D moviegoing experience that leaves viewers so breathless.

The director took pains to ground the cavalcade of outlandish alien spectacle in a compelling human partnership. “We show you this crazy world in the 28th century, but the characters’ lives, feelings and emotions are ones that everybody can relate to,” he concludes. “You will love Valerian and Laureline because of who they are and what they go through together.”

Valerian behind

The Cast

Within minutes of meeting Dane DeHaan, who exploded onto the screen as Spidey’s nemesis in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Besson knew he had discovered the titular character of his boyhood inspiration. “I’d seen a couple of Dane’s films and liked him as an actor,” Besson says. “The first time I met him at a restaurant, he smiled, said ‘Hi,’ and that was it. I knew. The tone of his voice, the sparkle in his eyes and his smile — I thought ‘My God. This guy is Valerian.’”

DeHaan gravitated to the role because it gave him a chance to portray a swashbuckling space-age investigator who also happens to be a hopeless romantic. “Valerian has a huge crush on Laureline, but he has a history of being a player,” says the actor. “The movie’s not only about saving the universe, it’s also about Valerian’s mission to convince Laureline that they should spend the rest of their lives together.”

For the role of the intrepid Laureline, Besson needed to find an actress who could live up to the spirit of empowerment embodied by our heroine. Laureline is no shrinking violet, no damsel in distress — she is wholly equal to Valerian: brave, strong, whip-smart, and sharing in a 50/50 partnership in their crime-fighting endeavors. It would take someone wildly unique to embody the character that Besson had fallen in love with as a boy.

From then-unknown performers from Natalie Portman to Milla Jovovich, Besson has a knack for recognizing actresses with potential to break out as action stars.

By choosing his dream Laureline, Besson would place her in rarified ranks as the next global star. Ultimately, he chose model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne, who has made her mark on small dramas such as Paper Towns and big-budget blockbusters like Suicide Squad.

“I knew Cara from the modeling world, and my first concern was to make sure she was serious,” Besson notes. “Cara’s gorgeous, but I had to know if she had the capacity, physically. Could she act? Did she really want to?”

After allowing Delevingne a rigorous audition process, Besson determined the answer was a resounding “yes.” Recalls the British actress: “Luc put me Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets—Production Information 9 through trials like you’d have at drama school. He’d ask me to become an animal and that type of work. It was very old-school, and so very cool.”

 

 

It’s not just for canoeing people, it’s for everyone … It’s a true South African story.

Inspired by the true story of Siseko Ntondini and Piers Cruickshanks, who together won gold in the 2014 Dusi, Beyond the River delivers a nail-biting adventure story about the triumph of the human spirit, and is now available on DVD.

The bonus features include a documentary on the real story, as well as an insightful behind the scenes doccie and interview with writer-director Craig Freimond.

RIVER

Lemogang Tsipa (When We Were Black, Traffic! and Jab), makes his debut as Duma Madlala., with Grant Swanby (Blood Diamond, Mandela-Long Walk to Freedom and Invictus) as Steve Andrews

Brought to the big screen by Heartlines and Quizzical Pictures, the movie was written by Craig Freimond and Robbie Thorpe, directed by Freimond and produced by Thorpe, Harriet Gavshon and Ronnie Apteker. The beautifully shot film showcases some of South Africa’s spectacular KwaZulu-Natal landscapes and has been funded by the National Lotteries Commission, the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Film and Video Foundation and the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission.

Duma is a talented young man who feels trapped by his surroundings and finds himself on the wrong side of the law. After a near miss with the cops, he finds an escape in the world of canoeing, an old passion of his.

Steve is a nine-time Dusi gold medalist whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. His passion for the sport is fueled by his wanting to escape from something in his past that continues to haunt him.

Through a series of unexpected events, the two men find themselves attempting the three-day Dusi Canoe Marathon as a doubles pair. But there are a few things they must overcome, not least of which are the completely different worlds they come from. They realise that the dream they both desperately desire requires them to work together, both in the boat and beyond the river.

Starring Grant Swanby (Blood Diamond, Mandela-Long Walk to Freedom and Invictus) as Steve Andrews, and Lemogang Tsipa (When We Were Black, Traffic! and Jab), who makes his debut lead role as Duma Madlala. Other cast members include Israel Sipho Matseke Zulu, formerly Makoe (Yizo Yizo, Tsotsi and Gaz’lam), Emily Child (Shirley Adams and Village Voices), Mary Twala (Beat the Drum and Lucky), Kgosi Mongake (Invictus, The Bang Bang Club and Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom) and Garth Breytenbach (Black Sails and Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom).

RIVER 3

Beyond the River’s genesis was a powerpoint presentation that Piers Cruickshanks, academic head of the Johannesburg school Kingsmead gave at his school assembly. He had just competed in the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon with Siseko Ntondini, overcoming enormous obstacles along the way.

It was a perfect story for the NGO Heartlines which, like Participant Media, the American film production company founded in 2004 by Jeffrey Skoll, is dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change.

Fellow canoeist Brad Fisher had alerted film makers Robbie Thorpe (producer of Vaya (2016), Tell Me Sweet Something (2015) and Material (2012) and Craig Freimond (writer/director of Material (2012), Jozi (2010) and Gums & Noses (2004) to the story, thinking initially it would make a good documentary, but Freimond and Robbie convinced him that it would be great material for a feature film.

According to Freimond, who wrote the screenplay together with Robbie Thorpe, “The film had a very strange genesis. My producer Robbie got a call from these canoeists, basically an older white guy and a younger black guy from very different circumstances, who got together to do the Dusi and had an amazing and unusual experience. What was essentially Piers and Siseko’s story needed more external drama, and more character drama, so we took both of those characters and essentially moved them quite far from Piers and Siseko.”

The story behind the Cruickshanks/Ntondini partnership was the creation of the Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club by members of the Dabulamanzi Canoe club, based in Emmarentia, a leafy suburb of northern Johannesburg.

In 2013, when going for his 10th gold medal in the Dusi, Cruickshanks had a disastrous race, breaking his canoe, but running the last 30 kilometers with his boat to the finish. Ntondini, then 19, had progressed through the ranks at the Development Club, and had come 11th in the same race, just missing his first gold medal.

The following year’s competition would be a doubles race, and Ntondini asked Cruickshanks if they could do it together. They started training, but Ntondini developed a stress fracture in his leg which almost ruled them out. With the intervention of a zero gravity training machine, Ntondini was able to carry on training, and so they were able to start the race, but from right at the back of the batch.

Over the three-day race they managed to make up 53 places, and come seventh, winning Piers his seventh, and Siseko his first gold medal.

Says Swanby: “Beyond the River is one of those films you need to see on the big screen. It’s a genre movie, on one level, it’s a sport level, but on another level it’s about people it’s about togetherness about two men from totally diverse backgrounds working together to achieve an aim.”

“It’s my first time playing the lead in a film,” says Lemogang Tsipa. ”I felt like I was ready for something like this. It’s a really great dramatic story. I found it very challenging, not only playing those parts emotionally, but physically having to learn another skill, and not only look like a paddler but look like a professional paddler, one that can win gold.”

The Director of Photography was Trevor Calverley (Sink, 2016; Leading Lady 2014; Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, 2014; Material 2012).

Says Calverley, “I was very excited about the project. I enjoyed the script. A lot of challenges in the project, and it was interesting to try and solve those and get something that looks realistic on camera. Also, filming in one of the biggest droughts South Africa has had was a major challenge. A lot of the rigs we prepped just had to be abandoned because of the water levels.”

A big part of the challenge for Freimond was that the actors had to learn how to canoe: “Our leads had to be able to canoe, But we were more interested in finding the right actors and training them. We had Olympic canoeing Shaun Rubenstein who was their trainer.”

The two actors were both based in Cape Town and had to train throughout the cold Cape winter.

Said Tsipa: “It was about a four-month learning curve, The first two months we just kept going and falling in, going and falling in. We got to a point where we both doubted ourselves. It was incredibly tough.”

Another major challenge for Freimond was working on water: “Working on water was incredibly technically challenging. How do you film canoeing? Where’s the camera? What’s it on? You’re on a boat, they’re on a boat; you’re unstable, they’re unstable. We developed techniques where we would be on land with a very long lens, hold the front of the boat, they’re going, they’re canoeing, but obviously they’re not moving, but the water is flying, and then we started getting somewhere.”

Piers Cruickshanks and Siseko Ntondini were involved in the making of the film.

Piers was the stunt double for the actor playing himself. Ntondini played as an extra in many of the bigger scenes.

The film made extensive use of drones, as well as using footage from the actual Dusi (filmed by Big Shot Media) which they blended in with footage of the actors.

Nick Costaras was the editor, who managed to make the transitions seamless.

“It’s not just for canoeing people, it’s for everyone” says Grant Swanby. “Everyone who goes to see it is going to have a really amazing film experience.”

“It’s a true South African story” says Lemogang Tsipa. “You’ll see a lot of different sides of South Africa and the country.”

Freimond: “The film is quite different. I can’t think of too many films like it. It’s got a feel-good side to it, but it has also got a lot of depth. People who’ve seen it have responded to the story, the film itself, the actors, the landscapes. People will enjoy this movie.”

I liked his sense of adventure.

French director Jerôme Salle thrives on a sense of adventure, never more so than when making The Odyssey, his epic take on the life of naval officer Jacques Cousteau whose underwater exploits made him a celebrated name all over the world..

Odyssey Salle

Jérôme Salle was born in 1971 in Paris. He is a writer and director, known for The Tourist (2010), The Odyssey (2016) and The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch (2008).

Written by Jérôme Salle and Laurent Turner, The Odyssey it based on Capitaine de la Calypso by Albert Falco and Yves Paccalet, and My Father, The Captain by Jean-Michel Cousteau.

From 1949 to 1979, thirty years in the life of captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the famous researcher, scientist, inventor, filmmaker whose greatest achievement is to have made the general public more curious – and accordingly closer – to the sea.

 

Before you had the idea of making a film on this subject, what did the name Cousteau conjure up for you?

It took me back to my childhood… I was brought up in the South of France, my parents had a sailing boat, and we used to sail to all the places where Cousteau first went diving, around the Embiez, Porquerolles, all those islands in the Var region.  I also remember his documentaries being shown on TV. Right from the start, the man and his work were linked to my own life…

Did you get to know Jacques Cousteau from making the film or did you have a good idea of who he was before you started?

I had a good idea, or at least my idea, which is important before you write the story. I did not change my mind about him while shooting the film, but it took me years to be able to understand who exactly he was. He was quite a complex character and quite secretive. It is a bit of a paradox because he was showing his face all over the world but he was only showing what he wanted to show and he was hiding a lot of things. That is why it took me so long to understand this man.

I liked his sense of adventure. He was a director and he was egocentric like every director has to be. He has to deal with his family as I have had to deal with my family and the long absences of shooting all over the world. Perhaps I am not such a great father because of my job and he had the same issue. When we were shooting the film, we had struggles with the budget and had to deal with the elements – it felt like the same kind of situation Cousteau had to deal with also over the years. There were so many parallels. And there were so many aspects that you could not plan advance and in a way that was inspiring – especially on a film like this.

Odyssey 2

The project took quite a long time to set up – we’ll come back to that – but how did the idea first come about?

It all began with one of my children.  I was talking about Cousteau at home and I saw my son had no idea what I was talking about.  He didn’t know a thing about Cousteau, had never heard of the films, the Calypso, nor the crew’s red hats!  It seems incredible, because for people of my generation, Captain Cousteau was almost like Jesus, one of the most famous men in the world… After talking about this with other people, I realised that he was sinking into oblivion as far as the under 20s and even the under 30s were concerned.  So I started to look at what had been written about him: on the internet, in books.   I watched the documentaries again, and I ended up experiencing a tremendous feeling of childhood nostalgia.  I also notices that apart from Wes Anderson’s film “The Life Aquatic”, no movie had ever tackled the extraordinary life of this man… So I began to unravel the details from there and I soon felt that there was a lot of mystery surrounding him:  very little was known about Jacques-Yves Cousteau.  He had total control over his image when filming himself with his crew, but never revealed anything intimate about himself.

Imagine that the next difficulty was choosing an angle for the story you wanted to tell, from such a full yet secretive life…

Absolutely, and I had such a hard job doing it, especially as in the meantime I directed two other films, “Largo Winch “and Zulu”.  It really took me several years to get a script I was happy with … Laurent Turner, the film’s co-writer, and I read everything which had been written about the man, then met the people who had known him, because all the grey areas surrounding Cousteau were stopping me from seeing who he really was – a man who lived several lives in the space of a single lifetime…

First we has to carry out a huge amount of investigative journalism before we could begin the work of a scriptwriter.   Once this was done, we settled down to write the script.  I thought it was a good screenplay – in the sense that we got great feedback from it – but I still felt a little frustrated.  I felt it was a little too classic in its approach, too much of a biopic.  I think it was meeting the actors that enabled me to develop it further.  Pierre Niney, whom I wanted to work with, reinforced my idea of giving more space to the role of Philippe Cousteau, one of Cousteau’s sons.

At this point, the opposition between Philippe and his father suddenly seemed an obvious basis for the story…   So then I wrote a completely new version, taking out the first part about Cousteau’s younger days.   This had the advantage of allowing me offer the role to Lambert Wilson, who – fortunately – agreed almost immediately.  While I was re-writing, I practically started from the scratch, and yet I wrote it all in one go in the space of three weeks.  Thanks to the new angle, I suddenly had a very clear idea of the story I wanted to tell.

But I have to emphasise that this was only possible because of all the hard work Laurent and I had been doing for several years!  I have been a scriptwriter, and I know only too well how often the authors of the early versions get forgotten, even though that is by far the most difficult part of the work.  I loved working with Laurent, but I think that at that point, for the re-writing, I needed to be alone with my subject.

Was it one of the most challenging films that you have done?

It was one of the most challenging for many reasons. First it was really difficult to make the movie happen at all. The shooting was challenging but less so than financing the film. It is always difficult to get the money to finance a movie. This one was more difficult because it was quite expensive for sure, but also may be because the shoot was quite risky – we were shooting underwater and on the water and people got cold feet because of that. We shot all over the world in Croatia, South Africa, the Bahamas and Antarctic.

Describe your casting process – did you have particular names in mind?

OdysseyI try not to have any actors in mind, partly because you might be disappointed with a ‘no’ – it happens. Obviously I started with Cousteau – and in previous versions of the script I started earlier in Cousteau’s life and I was looking for someone around 40 to 45 years old. I could not find anyone that I was happy with. And then, for other reasons, I decided to focus on the relationship between father and son and I deleted the first part of the script. That meant I was looking for an actor around 50 years old and Lambert [Wilson] was perfect for that role. For Pierre Niney, I met him before Lambert so he was attached a long time before. Audrey Tautou was quite easy because she is Simone [Cousteau’s wife]. She read the script and immediately said, ‘Yes’ – she understood right away who she was. Lambert has the physical presence but he did have to go on quite a tough diet to get the lean physique. Pierre was the reverse – he had to bulk up by going to the gym.

Have you worked out what you’re doing next?

I always have many projects in the pipeline but as yet I don’t know which one will be next. It took some time to come down from Cousteau. The mix is of my own projects and projects that are brought to me – and I would quite like one of the latter at this point because I am fed up with myself as a writer. I don’t want to be locked in to my work as a writer and, as a director, it is exciting to work with someone different for inspiration and to have someone to spark off. Like many of us in this profession I am always frightened that it will all be over and someone will come along say, ‘Stop it – what you’re doing is bullshit’. So far it has not happened!

Was your route in to the business a traditional one of going to film school?

No not at all. I left school at 16 because I wanted to travel. And I did that for a few years and subsequently became a press photographer. I then became an art director in different countries including a spell in the UK in London and in Germany. My dream had always been to be a film director. I was not ready when I was younger and, in any case, I did not have the courage. When I was 30, I thought if I do not do it now I never will – and I started off by writing short films. I always kept my job as an art director because by that time I was married and had children to support. My wife helped me out. Some how we managed – you must know the famous singer Jacques Brel who said that you get by on five per cent talent and 95 per cent hard work and I believe that, especially in our job.

Add These New Titles To Your Collection!

the-zookeepers-wifeThe absolutely superb The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in Poland 1939, the homeland of Antonina (portrayed by Ms. Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, of The Broken Circle Breakdown). Devoted to each other, the couple thrive as personal and professional partners; the Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. With reserves of energy, Antonina rises every day to tend to both her family and their menagerie, as the gates to the majestic zoo open in welcome……until the entrance is slammed shut and the zoo is crippled in an attack as the entire country is invaded by the Germans. Stunned, the couple is forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Golden Globe Award nominee Daniel Brühl of Captain America: Civil War). Heck envisions a new, selective breeding program for the zoo.Antonina and Jan fight back on their own terms, and covertly begin working with the Resistance – realizing that their zoo’s abandoned animal cages and underground tunnels, originally designed to safeguard animal life, can now secretly safeguard human life. As the couple puts into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, Antonina places herself and even her children at great risk. Read more about The Zookeeper’s Wife / Watch the trailer

COMPETITION: Win a DVD of the exciting new South African films Tess and Kalushi: The Solomon Mhlanga Story

Fifty shades 2Fifty Shades Darker, the second chapter based on the worldwide bestselling “Fifty Shades” phenomenon invites audiences to slip into something a shade darker.The story continues as a wounded Christian Grey tries to entice a cautious Anastasia Steele back into his life…and she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian’s past start to circle them, determined to destroy any hopes for a future together. This dramatic thriller is directed by James Foley (FearHouse of Cards) and once again produced by Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips, The Social Network), Dana Brunetti (Captain Phillips, The Social Network) and Marcus Viscidi (We’re the MillersHow to Be Single), alongside E L James, the creator of the blockbuster series.  The screenplay is by E L James’ husband, Niall Leonard, based on the novel by James. The bonus features include deleted scenes, a ‘Tease to Fifty Shades Freed’ doccie, writing the screenplay, and a ‘Dark Reunion”. Read more about the film / Watch The Trailer

M79 Jessica Chastain stars in EuropaCorp's "Miss. Sloane". Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes © 2016 EuropaCorp Ð France 2 Cinema

Miss Sloane is a taut and twisting tale of a Washington powerbroker obsessed with victory. In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought-after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price. A cutthroat lobbyist on the verge of personal and professional burnout pushes legal and ethical boundaries to ensure the passage of a controversial law in Miss Sloane, a riveting political thriller from Academy Award®-nominated director John Madden. Pulling back the curtain on the secretive and powerful lobbying industry, Miss Sloane reveals how Capitol Hill games are played — and win!  Read more about Miss Sloane

the-wolves-at-the-door-2016-1The nail biting Wolves at the Door is loosely based on the Manson family murders.Four friends gather at an elegant home during the Summer of Love, 1969. Unbeknownst to them, deadly visitors are waiting outside.What begins as a simple farewell party turns to a night of primal terror as the intruders stalk and torment the four, who struggle for their lives against what appears to be a senseless attack. It was directed by renowned cinematographer John R. Leonetti from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman (Annabelle).

The-Great-Wall-Movie-SceneDirected by one of the most breathtaking visual stylists of our time, Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red LanternHeroHouse of Flying Daggers), the action-fantasy The Great Wall marks his first English-language production and the largest film ever shot entirely in China.In The Great Wall, Damon stars as William Garin, a battle-scarred mercenary and master archer taken captive by a secret army of elite warriors known as The Nameless Order.  In a vast military outpost called the Fortress City, they fight to protect humanity from supernatural forces upon one of the greatest defensive structures ever built: The Great Wall.  On his journey, Garin is joined by Pedro Pascal (Netflix’s Narcos, HBO’s Game of Thrones) as his sword-wielding sidekick, Pero Tovar, a tough, wise-cracking Spaniard who has become a brother-in-arms to William; and Willem Dafoe (PlatoonShadow of the VampireThe Grand Budapest Hotel) as Ballard, a shadowy prisoner inside the fortress who plans his escape from his longtime captors while hoping to pilfer their greatest weapon during his getaway. The bonus features include deleted and extended scenes. Read more about The Great Wall / Watch the trailer

 

 

Add these exciting local titles to your collection of South African Films!

If you want to win a DVD of Kalushi: The Solomon Mhlanga Story and Tess, tell us who wrote the screenplays for the films and send your answer and contact details with Kalushi and Tess in the subject line. Closing date: 31 July, 2017. Enter competition here

Kalushi – The Solomon Mhlanga Story – a human drama that will break your heart

Kalushi

South African filmmaker, Mandla Walter Dube, makes his feature directorial debut with this powerful true story about a nineteen-year-old hawker, Solomon Mahlangu from the streets of Mamelodi a ghetto township outside Pretoria in South Africa, who was brutally beaten by police and fled into exile following the 1976 Soweto uprisings to join the liberation movement. He returns from military training in Angola en route to their mission, his friend and comrade, Mondi, loses control and shoots two innocent people on Goch Street in Johannesburg. Mondi is severely beaten & tortured; Kalushi is forced to stand trial under the common purpose doctrine. The state seeks the highest punishment from the court, Death by Hanging. Kalushi has his back against the wall and uses the courtroom as a final battlefield. His sacrifice immortalizes him into a hero of the struggle and an international icon of June 16, 1976. Read more about Kalushi: The Solomon Mhlanga Story

Tess is a gritty no-holds-barred drama.

TessTess is a hard-hitting journey into the heart of a young prostitute who sells her soul on the streets of Cape Town. Sassy twenty-year-old Tess (Christa Visser) sells her body on Cape Town’s streets.  She survives by popping painkillers by the bunch and through her wry humour.  But her life turns upside down when she falls pregnant. Though Tess tries to run, her past torments her. She begins to question her own sanity. Tess fights back, fighting her demons, searching for the truth. When she abandons her daily ritual of popping pills, awful pictures from her past ambush her mind. But Tess does not allow herself to collapse. Instead, she learns – perhaps because of the baby in her belly – to connect with the people around her. The Congolese refugee next door (Nse Ikpe-Etim0 treats her like a daughter. An impotent client shows her his heart. Tess finds sanctuary among strong women in a belly dance studio, and discovers she can dance up a storm. With new courage she tracks down her childhood friend, Dumi, who helps her to face the truth of her past. Read more about Tess

A taut and twisting tale of a Washington powerbroker obsessed with victory.

Jonathan Perera’s screenplay for Miss Sloane took filmmaker John Madden by surprise with its richly detailed portrait of an industry that remains shrouded in mystery. “While having a sense of the job description, I didn’t know exactly what a lobbyist did, which I imagine is true of a lot of people,” says Madden, acclaimed director of such diverse films as Mrs. Brown, The Debt and Academy Award winner Shakespeare in Love.

Perera is a UK citizen and former attorney, who left his law practice in his 20s to explore more creative aspirations. While working as an elementary school teacher in Asia, Jonathan wrote his first screenplay, the political thriller Miss Sloane, a taut and twisting tale of a Washington powerbroker obsessed with victory. Perera had never penned a screenplay before or even spent much time in the U.S.

“The script was intelligent, unexpected and very satisfying. It is set in a world where everything is strategy. The natural language of the characters is irony and indirection, which makes for an extremely clever — and very funny and surprising — film. The greatest weapon the script has is that it never lands exactly where you think it’s going to.”

SLOANE

In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought-after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.

A cutthroat lobbyist on the verge of personal and professional burnout pushes legal and ethical boundaries to ensure the passage of a controversial law in Miss Sloane, a riveting political thriller from Academy Award®-nominated director John Madden. Pulling back the curtain on the secretive and powerful lobbying industry, Miss Sloane reveals how Capitol Hill games are played — and won.

Elite communications professionals, lobbyists make their living by influencing the decision-makers of the world, including the most powerful lawmakers in America.

Mysterious, secretive and fantastically powerful, even the origins of the term lobbyists is unclear, although some say it was coined by President Ulysses S. Grant to refer to special-interest representatives waiting to buttonhole him in the lobby of the Willard Hotel.

“The film defies a single description,” says Madden. “It is at once a political drama, an unpredictable and constantly surprising thriller, an exposé of a little examined, and even less well-understood mechanism of the political process, and above all, a riveting study of an extraordinary and obsessive character, defined as much by her intelligence and skills as by her gender. And most unexpected of all is its portrait of the emotional life of a heroine who would refuse to countenance that she even has one.”

“The film is about a seemingly unattainable political objective,” Madden continues. “It is an issue which has stubbornly refused to respond to legal challenge. It looks at the many tactics lobbyists use to influence people. Trying to overcome the insurmountable obstacles is the ride of the film, and it’s driven by Elizabeth Sloane. She takes no prisoners and employs tactics that might raise eyebrows. She rarely ever stops to rest. She is an utter obsessive, and obsessives are a very interesting breed to watch on film.”

Madden was perhaps most surprised by screenwriter Jonathan Perera. A U.K.- educated attorney who left his practice to try his hand at writing, Perera had never penned a screenplay before or even spent much time in the U.S.

“I’d expected a cocky, knowing, Santa Monica-dwelling film nerd,” says the director. “He’s nothing like that. He is very literate about film, but incredibly open, smart and direct, without the attitude that might go with such a precocious debut.”

Writing A Winning Screenplay

Perera was living in South Korea, teaching English at an elementary school, when he started preparing to write his first script. Instead of enrolling in film school, he read as many scripts as he could get hold of.

“I’d read the first 60 pages of a script. And then I’d go to work and think about how I would end it. In the evening, I’d read the latter sixty pages of the script and see how I did.”

An interview he heard on BBC News gave him the kernel of an idea that he needed to get started.

Jonathan Perera

JONATHAN PERERA (Writer) is a UK citizen and former attorney, who left his law practice in his 20s to explore more creative aspirations. While working as an elementary school teacher in Asia, Jonathan wrote his first screenplay, the political thriller Miss Sloane Shortly thereafter, the script was made into a feature film by Academy Award-nominated director John Madden

“It was a man named Jack Abramoff,” he remembers. “He was a lobbyist who had been sent to prison for some kind of wrongdoing. I didn’t know too much about the lobbying industry, but I knew that it could be a great basis for a film. I felt we hadn’t really seen an exploration of the influence peddling and power brokering that goes on behind the scenes in Washington.”

Miss Sloane takes the audience inside the soundproof conference rooms of a multi-billion-dollar industry that traditionally keeps a low public profile.

“I was interested to explore how they bring their power to bear,” says Perera. “It’s kind of an intersection between politics and espionage. They hew as close to the edge of the law as possible to put pressure on the representatives. And they don’t always manage to stay within the law. I wanted to push a lobbyist to the legal limit and see where it took the story.”

Perera managed to get his script in front of Ben Browning, co-president of Production and Acquisitions at FilmNation Entertainment.

“I got sent a script by a writer I didn’t know,” Browning recalls. “It was the first thing he’d ever written and it was great. The movie got made in the course of just over a year. In my experience, that never happens in Hollywood.”

Browning was impressed by the power of the writing and the originality of the storytelling. “It is a gripping drama from the very beginning, a script that you finish in one sitting,” he explains.

“It has elements of thriller, drama and politics, but more than anything else, it’s a great character piece. It’s an entertaining, fast-paced look at one of the lesser-known aspects of politics with a spectacular female leading role. And it’s not a female role that’s defined by anything conventionally female. She isn’t a wife; she isn’t a mother. Miss Sloane could have been a man, but making her a woman in a man’s world makes this character feel so much richer.”

M164 David Wilson Barnes (left) and Jessica Chastain (right) star in EuropaCorp's "Miss Sloane". Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes © 2016 EuropaCorp Ð France 2 Cinema

David Wilson Barnes (left) and Jessica Chastain (right) star in Miss Sloane

The Art Of Collaboration: Screenwriter and Director join forces

Madden and Perera spent several weeks together in London researching the political and procedural underpinnings of the story before Perera began reworking it.

“It was already a very strong script,” says Madden. “It just needed to be deepened and fleshed out. Jonathan and I are both literate in American political procedure, but not experts. We didn’t want to begin exploring things creatively without knowing that we were on solid ground with the facts.”

From their very first discussion, Perera was impressed by Madden’s keen grasp of the story.

“It’s very complicated to unpack,” he explains. “There are lots of storylines, lots of threads, lots of layers going on, but John understood it completely. More than anything else, he knew what was going on inside the characters’ heads. A large part of rewriting the movie was sitting with him and talking about how the characters should develop over the course of the story. In the first draft of the script, Elizabeth was always two steps ahead of everyone and never particularly vulnerable. Developing some of her relationships further gave us a lot more colors to work with.”

The film’s central character, Elizabeth Sloane, is a high-powered lobbyist working at a well-established white-shoe firm.

“She’s what you might call a darkarts lobbyist, meaning she will use ethically questionable methods to achieve her clients’ goals,” says Perera. “We meet her at a point in her life when she’s on the verge of a meltdown. She turns down a lucrative offer to quash a controversial piece of legislation and instead goes to work for the opposition.”

The piece of legislation in question is the fictional Heaton-Harris Bill, a bipartisan bill proposing stricter gun control legislation. “But the issue of gun legislation isn’t itself the film’s subject,” says producer Kris Thykier. “This is an engrossing film set in the world of government affairs and lobbying. Jonathan placed an emotive issue at the heart of it, but it could perhaps have been one of a number of others. The whip crack of the dialogue and the humor underneath it refresh our notions of the genre, creating something both accessible and entertaining. Elizabeth Sloane’s pursuit of her goal at any cost and her ability to play with people’s lives are riveting to watch.”

When the film opens, a Senate hearing examining Liz Sloane’s ethics is underway. As the committee questions her and the other witnesses, the action flashes back to the circumstances that have brought her there.

“The real challenge was to make a movie that’s so verbal,” says Madden. “The talk is smart and really fast, which made the script an exhilarating read. But a story about a bunch of people talking has to earn its keep as a piece of cinema, and we looked for ways to transcend that.”

Using The Film Medium To Bring The Screenplay To Life

John-Madden

JOHN MADDEN (Director, Executive Producer) is best known for directing several commercially successful independent films that were as beloved by critics as they were by audiences, including Academy Award-winning Shakespeare in Love, Proof, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Madden was born in Portsmouth and educated at Clifton College and Cambridge. He began his career as Artistic Director of the Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company, moving later to the BBC to work in television and radio drama. Between the first and second Marigold films, Madden developed the script for The BFG with Melissa Mathison, and directed the pilot for “Masters of Sex,” now in its fourth season, with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan for the Showtime network.

With his cinematographer, Sebastian Blenkov, Madden developed a cinematic approach to this most verbal of pieces. The story’s momentum and immediacy were the touchstones of this approach, which unfolds in a free-flowing rhythm of shooting that allowed several ideas and narrative strands to co-exist. This was further played out in the editorial strategy, where Alexander Berner externalized Elizabeth’s patterns of thought, constantly juxtaposing and reordering cause and effect.

As Madden puts it, “The story develops in bursts of headlong, adrenalized energy, interrupted by stasis and silence, when the void underneath the character’s obsession opens up and threatens to engulf her.”

Browning had faith that Madden would keep the action moving and the atmosphere dynamic. “

John Madden is simply an excellent filmmaker,” he says. “I put him in a category with Ang Lee or Stephen Frears. He’s defined by the fact that he makes good films, period. You can’t necessarily draw lines of continuity between his works, other than that he’s clearly attracted to great drama, he brings forth incredible performances and his films have texture and a sense of place.”

“The film will transport audiences into a world that perhaps they thought they knew, but that is so much more complex than they ever dreamed,” says Thykier.

“You’re going to be drawn in by this charismatic, compelling, often dark character and the sheer satisfaction of a tale well told.”

“The story is meant to be an exciting ride that keeps audiences on the edges of their seats,” says Perera.

“Movies about politics don’t have to be stuffy,” he adds. “The audience won’t feel lectured or talked down to. They will be second-guessing where this is going and be upended just as the characters are. Entertainment can also be intellectually engaging, it can spark a debate, but that’s not the sole objective here. The objective is to send the audience on a rollercoaster ride with an extraordinary heroine.”

M79 Jessica Chastain stars in EuropaCorp's "Miss. Sloane". Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes © 2016 EuropaCorp Ð France 2 Cinema

Jessica Chastain stars as Miss. Sloane

Casting Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane Will See You Now With an outstanding screenplay and an acclaimed director, the filmmakers had little difficulty attracting a stellar ensemble to populate the world of Miss Sloane. “

This was a fantastic film to cast,” says Madden. “It’s the kind of muscular, robust language that actors can’t wait to speak out loud. As soon as they read the script, people wanted to do it.”

In the central role of Elizabeth Sloane, the filmmakers cast two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain. A hard-charging maverick who plays fast and loose with the rules, Miss Sloane’s sole interest is winning for her clients, whoever they may be. A lone wolf to the core, she’s always a step ahead of the opposition, and sometimes even her own team. But Miss Sloane is beginning to recognize the price of her workaholic lifestyle.

“Jessica Chastain is one of the best actresses of her generation,” says Browning. “She has already created a gallery of indelible characters. She’s lightning fast with dialogue, very quick on her feet and always thinking. That was essential to this part, because Miss Sloane is the puppet-master throughout the film.”

Madden and Chastain worked together on the 2010 thriller The Debt, when the actress’s film career was just beginning. He sent this script to her soon after reading it.

“The part just fit her so perfectly,” he says. “I have known her since before she became ‘Jessica Chastain’ and recognized her as a diamond in the rough. I was hugely impressed by her then, and as I read this script I couldn’t get the idea of her in the part out of my mind.”

Chastain had long harbored a wish to team up with Madden again. “He’s so generous on set,” she says. “Even if someone comes in for one day, John does anything he can to make that person feel a part of the team. That’s why people like Christine Baranski and Jake Lacy came in for just a short time. Each day I saw the actors I would be working with and knew I was going to be in the best hands, because John had orchestrated the whole thing.”

Elizabeth Sloane is a one-of-a-kind character, the actress realized. “She’s incredibly intelligent and ambitious and compulsive in her desire to win, but she’s also really vulnerable. It was a beautiful character to embark on. The script has such intelligence. It never talks down to the audience. It explains what’s going on simply and beautifully.”

But it was the thriller aspects of the story that most impressed Chastain.

“You’re watching an incredible story about a woman who risks everything to win,” says the actress. “There are twists all over the movie. Just when you think you know what’s going on, there’s a big surprise. I like movies that keep you guessing.”

“Liz Sloane is addicted to winning. The bigger the risk, the bigger the win. That’s what entices her. The gun lobby donates heavily to political campaigns and politicians care about keeping their seats. So they have a good deal of leverage in Congress, which makes them a formidable opponent for her. The real issue we are addressing here is what is rotten in our system, what doesn’t work in American politics and why change is so difficult.”

Chastain promises viewers they are in for a fast-paced, compelling and unexpected two hours. “There’s a lot more mystery than you are used to seeing in political dramas. You won’t quite know what Liz’s motivations are or what she intends to do, because she has so many tricks up her sleeve, and that makes for a thrilling ride.”

A chance to look at a battle we all know:  the war between our intelligence, our empathy and our instinctiveness, and how that forms what defines our humanity.

The Art of filmmaking and the craft of storytelling are showcased in War For The Planet Of The Apes, unleashing  rapidly evolving simians into a world boiling over with divisions and rage as the ape vs. human battle for control of the world careens towards the ultimate winner-takes-all decision.

It is directed and written by Matt Reeves, whose Dawn of the Planet of the Apes grossed $700m at the worldwide box office – he gained feature film prominence when he helmed the much lauded science fiction-horror hit Cloverfield (2008), and wrote and directed Let Me In (2010), a remake of the Swedish horror film acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. – from a screenplay he co-wrote with Mark Bomback, who wrote screenplays for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Insurgent, The Wolverine, Total Recall, Unstoppable, Live Free or Die Hard, Deception, Race to Witch Mountain and Godsend.

For Reeves, the film that resulted is one that, no matter what becomes of humankind or apekind, speaks to the basic ideals of humanity – humanity not in the sense of being human-related but in the sense of seeking the most inspirational qualities of wisdom and benevolence.

“The wonder of these films is that they give us a chance to explore human nature at its core, but in a way that can be exciting and different.”

Breathless action, big ideas and potent storytelling combine as War For the Planet of the Apes pushes the series into new realms of legend-building as it explores the values that forge a civilization.  It all comes to life driven by the most complex and intense performance by Andy Serkis yet as the majestic Caesar, and groundbreaking visual effects from Weta Digital.

In a flurry of mythic filmmaking, audiences will witness the pivotal moment that determines the fate of human civilization forever –and be immersed in the ape leader Caesar’s emotional quest to lead his young society to a new home, even as a war between his belief in family and honor versus the lure of a vengeful reckoning churns within his soul.

At heart, this is the story of both a military and emotional last stand.  As peace between species has collapsed — and a renegade band of human soldiers led by an imperious Colonel makes a final, all-out attack — Caesar is hit with an unimaginable personal loss and a dark line inside his psyche is crossed.  Now, he is wrestling with merciless impulses and roiling doubts about his own ability to inspire the apes towards freedom. But if the apes are to survive the coming conflict, Caesar must lead.  In a time when empathy and compassion have nearly vanished both in the world and his heart, Caesar searches for the grit, sense of fellowship and striving vision to lead the apes towards a future of hope.

Director Matt Reeves photographed by Dan Doperalski at the PMC studio in Los Angeles for the 071117 Issue of Weekly Variety

Matt Reeves (Director) gained feature film prominence when he helmed the much lauded science fiction-horror hit Cloverfield (2008), about the arrival of a giant monster in New York City and its impact on the lives of several people there. Shot in hyper-realistic vérité style with a single camera carried by one of the protagonists, the film spoke to post-9/11 fears while delivering a special effects tour de force. The modestly budgeted film set a domestic record for a January release and went on to gross more than $175 million worldwide. Following Cloverfield, Reeves wrote and directed Let Me In (2010). Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, the film is a remake of the Swedish horror film Let the Right One In, about the relationship between a bullied young boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his new neighbor, a young girl who turns out to be a vampire. Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell and frequent collaborators Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-McPhee, grossed $700m at the worldwide box office

For Reeves, who returns to the franchise to take the next step after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the large-scale ambition of the third film was clear:  to follow the increasingly upright and capable – but also haunted and questioning — apes not only into the spectacle of total warfare but into stirring psychological territory as Caesar fights to hold onto his own most humane instincts.

More than ever, Reeves realized, the trajectory of the apes mirrors the archetypal myths of humanity.  “As this story starts, there is no more peace with humans, which thrusts Caesar into a deeply emotional, universal kind of conflict,” Reeves describes.  “Caesar has always been unique in that he is part ape, part human, yet neither one fully.  The hope has been that he might be able to bridge the two societies, but now it is clear that this will not come to pass.  What’s so exciting is that in exploring Caesar’s internal dilemmas at this profound moment it becomes a chance to look at a battle we all know:  the war between our intelligence, our empathy and our instinctiveness, and how that forms what defines our humanity.  At the same time as this is a very dark journey, it is also a story with so much spirit in it.”

Producer Peter Chernin, who has been instrumental to the Apes legacy from the very inception of the trilogy, says: “From the beginning, we always viewed this as a three-part story that began with the birth of Caesar, saw him become an innocent hero as head of the apes and then a smart, compassionate leader only to now be tested, grow and become even more heroic.  In a world in which intelligent apes are born, we knew it would inevitably lead to this ultimate conflict with humans. We’ve come to a remarkable place in the story.  It’s the apotheosis of Caesar’s journey – and as you see him struggle, you see his soul.  That was always what we wanted to do with this series: to explore the full panoply in way that inspires us and helps us think about what it means to be human.”

Sums ups producer Dylan Clark, who also produces along Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver:  “War is part road movie, part war story, part Western and an epic adventure – but at the heart of it all is an emotional exploration of a leader we love.  We witness Caesar wrestling with dark demons but he also comes across new signs of light.  It may be both the darkest and most hopeful part of the apes’ story.”

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A Leader Tested:  The Screenplay

At the core of The War for The Planet of the Apes is the story not only of the coming of the decisive battle between the rapidly rising apes and desperately declining humans but also of a dark night of the soul for the apes’ noble leader, Caesar.

Mark-Bomback

Mark Bomback’s (Screenplay) credits include Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Insurgent, The Wolverine, Total Recall, Unstoppable, Live Free or Die Hard, Deception, Race to Witch Mountain and Godsend. Films in development include The Art of Racing in the Rain for Disney and an untitled Ronda Rousey biopic for Paramount. While primarily a writer of feature films, Bomback co-developed the TV series Legends for TNT with writer-producer Howard Gordon, and co-authored a young adult novel, Mapmaker, with novelist Galaxy Craze. In addition, he has advised at the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Story Lab, and has taught screenwriting at his alma mater, Wesleyan University. He lives in New York with his wife and four children.

He now faces his most perilous, legend-making moment, and an urgent moral dilemma, as he begins to mistrust his ape principles and any hope for peace with a human species that has wounded him in the deepest of ways.  As the terror of war spreads to the heart of his own family, this is a Caesar at war with humans, but also with himself, one whose burning anger at the suffering he has seen must give way to a new vision if he is to take his kind forward and out of chaos.

“We put Caesar to the ultimate test in this film,” says Mark Bomback, who co-wrote the screenplay with Reeves.  “Unfortunately for Caesar, that test is a harrowing one. The apes are in trouble and he understands they are going to have to really earn their spot as the dominant species on the planet.”

Adds Reeves: “Caesar is tested in ways we found thrilling and epic and really open the movie up.  The scale of this movie is huge.  As the apes leave Muir Woods, they encounter a larger world.”

As inspiration for the film’s panoramic scale and mythic atmosphere, Reeves re-watched many of cinema’s most sweeping, action-packed spectacles, from Kurosawa’s Samurai epics to Clint Eastwood Westerns — films with which War shares a mix-mastering of conflict and comedy with themes of perseverance, sacrifice, allegiance, wilderness, heroism and questing through moral grey zones in times of dizzying uncertainty.  “Part of the thrill of making these films is the opportunity to bring new technology and new forms of cinema to classical myths, creating something unique for these times,” Reeves explains.

The classic interplay of light and dark elements, of loyalty tested and courage found all come out in Caesar’s epic journey, in which he descends into the depths of anguish as he is forced to weigh his personal dream of revenge for his own kin against the plight of his entire species facing possible defeat.

“In this third story, we wanted to take Caesar to the one place we never thought he could go,” explains Bomback.  “It’s totally surprising because no one would think Caesar was capable of anything approaching hatred or fully breaking ranks with humanity.  But we now have him in a place where he can, for the first time, understand the hatred that he saw in Koba, the former lab chimp.  It’s terrifying for everyone around him, because Caesar has always been the moral center of the group. And if Caesar spins out of control morally, what happens to the entire society?  That is ultimately what the movie is about.”

WarReeves notes that the screenplay pushed Bomback and himself to dive deep into Caesar’s interior psyche as never before – but at the same time, to expand the story vastly outwards into a thundering showdown with the frantic humans determined to eliminate the apes before it is too late.  The result is a screen-filling display of technical majesty that is also a testament to simple goodness.

“At this momentous juncture, Caesar is descending into a different journey than any before because he is battling himself,” describes Reeves.  “But even as the story brings us more inside Caesar on the most intimate emotional level, we also felt this film had to be huge, on a magnitude unlike any of the previous films, because this is both a wartime epic and a story of migration.”

As the final chapter of the trilogy, it is also the endpoint of a sprawling story that began with the Simian virus that rendered apes intelligent only to lead to an interspecies conflict that can only have one winner.  Bomback points out, “What we’re witnessing in War isn’t simply Caesar’s story; it’s the dawn of a civilization.  What you see happening now will be part of a future mythology all the apes will know for all time, as Caesar attempts to deliver his people to a new Promised Land.”

The titanic scale took cast and crew into new territory of every kind – pushing them on tech, design and to the borderlands of compassion for another species.  Much as Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a breakthrough that suggested the potential for this kind of filmmaking, War demonstrates how far its come.

“This has been an evolutionary process,” notes Peter Chernin.  “We had insane concerns on the first movie because we’d never even seen anything like this kind of performance capture, but then we started seeing these revelatory performances that were so believable, so emotionally true. Everything changed when we finished the first movie. Knowing we were capable of creating realistic, sentient apes now we could take them deeper.  One of the liberating things about this franchise is that we can explore emotional storytelling in new ways because we are creating our own vision of a society that has never existed but is intended to be real, not fantastical, and that has been great fun.”

For Chernin, Reeves has been essential to propelling the franchise forward. “The level of action, effects, acting and overall scale was a quantum leap for Matt on this film, but this time, he had the time and space to plan out the movie he envisioned.  There are action sequences on this film as phenomenal as any I’ve seen, but most importantly, Matt was utterly obsessed with the emotional side of this movie, and making this journey of apes into what is really a very humanistic story.”

“This film gives audiences more spectacle, more intensity, more humor and takes them on the biggest journey of the three movies,” concludes Dylan Clark.  “The power and poignancy Matt and Mark brought to the script inspired us to take things even further than ever before.”

matt_reeves_andy_serkis_war_apes_interview

Director Matt Reeves with Andy Serkis

Evolution And Myth: Andy Serkis As Caesar

In War For the Planet of the Apes, Caesar — the king of the new breed of primates who have come in a rapid-fire way to develop the power to think, speak and see the world in complex, emotional terms – takes on the fableistic journey of a true leader who must go through a crucible to be able to help his people.  As Dawn of The Planet of the Apes ended, Caesar was already on a precipice. He had broken his most fundamental moral tenet and killed another ape, his own very dear friend Koba, thrusting him into an abyss.

Reprising the role for which he has drawn global acclaim, Andy Serkis takes the regal Caesar into the riskiest, most psychologically nuanced zones we have seen. Serkis is renown also for bringing another digital character, Gollum, to life in the Lord of the Rings series – but never rested on those laurels.

He says that taking Caesar into a personal maelstrom – through pain and fire and surprise meetings to find his gravitas and nobility as a leader — in this film “has been the most rewarding acting challenge in my life.”  Serkis adds:  “To be able to play such a complex and complete character as Caesar all the way from infancy to this most profound juncture in his life as a leader has been incredible.”

For Matt Reeves, Serkis brings something special in this momentous juncture of Caesar’s story.  “Andy is simply one of the best, most soulful actors I have ever worked with,” says the director.  “In this film he went to emotional extremes that were deeper and more painful than in the previous two, and it was astonishing to watch how far he pushed himself.  Our working relationship is one of the joys of my life.”

War finds Caesar, sharp, measured and principled as he is, at a loss for moral footing.  He hungers for a personal reckoning, yet knows the other apes still look to him as their last chance to find a life of safety and freedom. As Serkis approached the role, he took it as a personal challenge to bring a visceral, perhaps one might even say “human” truth to a character who is a mysterious other, and yet who simultaneously embodies predicaments to which human audiences can deeply relate, no matter Caesar’s physical form.

As the apes have continued their rapid advancement from speechless animals to higher intelligence, each film has taken Serkis further in his explorations of Caesar’s expanding abilities – and War becomes the apex.  Caesar’s increasing eloquence allows Serkis to etch more and more shadings into his persona. “In the first film, there was dawning of language and it was about exploring how the apes dealt with the beginning of their evolution. In the second film, I began to think of Caesar more as a human and he started to use more intricate linguistics, expressing himself intellectually,” Serkis in explains.  “Now, Caesar can speak fluently which changes how he approaches things, how he thinks of himself and others.”

He continues:  “It has really been amazing to be able to climb inside the mind of a being who is transforming on every single level. Physically in this film, Caesar is much more upright and he uses his hands a lot more now, so he’s more like a human being in ape skin.  But as his intelligence and abilities have grown, the things he feels and remembers have become more daunting to him.”

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Serkis observes all of this was possible for him only because Reeves created an environment in which understanding Caesar’s inner emotions was given as high a priority as bringing him to life visually.

“Matt’s passion for this story is bottomless,” Serkis elaborates. “He has an incredible eye for using the camera – but the key is he never sacrifices performance.  It’s all about getting to true emotions at every single moment.  Even in the most unforgiving environment, he’s looking for the heart of these characters.”

Perhaps what has inspired Serkis most in his creation of Caesar is the idea that, like a majestic animal in a fable, he is a creation who mirrors back the essence of humanity.  That seemed especially true in War, as Caesar journeys through a time of global conflict that looks like many moments from human history, but with the intriguing difference of being seen through the revealing POV of once-wild animals.

“I think perhaps the playing out of our most fundamental human struggles through the eyes of apes allows the audience to connect to human emotions on a more visceral level,” he comments.  “We know the Great Apes are our closest cousins — they are 97 per cent the same as us – and yet we perceive this world of difference.  Perhaps, by giving them a voice and seeing the world through their different eyes, we can stand outside ourselves and really see ourselves under the microscope as we haven’t before.”

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Upping The Performance Capture Bar

The development of leading-edge performance capture technology – technology that can record even the tiniest nuances of movement, gesture and emotion to animated characters via human actors — has led to the creation of some of motion pictures’ most memorable personalities, including the apes seen in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

But the merging of this technology with human performance has not been static, and the bar keeps moving.

The filmmakers once again turned to the visual effects artists at the New Zealand-based visual effects house Weta Digital.  “Working with Dan Lemmon and the artists at Weta is so inspiring,” says Reeves.  “They are constantly raising the bar of what is possible, and the results in this film are absolutely a high water mark in visual effects to date.”

Weta Digital has continued to evolve their capture technology over the three films to ensure no matter where the story goes, the performance of the actors onset is always recorded so the animators can see the dynamics at play.

Visual Effects Producer  Ryan Stafford supervised  some 50 visual effects personnel – and overseeing a 10-person witness camera unit, an array of 35 to 45 motion capture cameras, as well as an army of data wranglers, surveyors and photographers gathering information on every detail of each of the sets.   The surveying alone was a massive job.  ““Because we don’t know while shooting what elements might ultimately be created as CG, we have to make sure that every single inch of our sets and locations were surveyed.  It takes a huge team to make sure every prop, every set dressing, every pebble on the ground is photographed. We 3-D scanned every inch of the set,” he explains.

Stafford continues:  “Then we had a huge bank of computers we called Mission Control, which had a variety of human operators. They are the ones who hit record on all the motion capture, focus the cameras and make sure all the data we get is clean. It was a monumental effort. We had to shoot every shot twice, sometimes four times, then try to fit all of those complexities into a standard shooting day.”

Ape Effects: Advances In Vfx

Advances in performance capture were just the beginning for Weta, which also pushed into new territory in several areas of digital effects to craft the film’s array of more than 1,400 highly complex effects shots.  The team working under senior VFX supervisor Joe Letteri and VFX supervisor Dan Lemmon particularly focused on creating highly realistic interactions between the apes and their environments, from their hidden fortress to the Colonel’s prison.  New concepts seen in War include:

  • A new organic forest growth software known as Totara: this next-generation simulation tool cleverly emulates nature’s own growth patterns, allowing trees to adapt to the plant life surrounding them and even makes changes to shape and color caused by aging over time –new growth is red, then leaves turn green and naturally brown as they decay. Weta considers this tool to be an early look at the exciting direction organic effects tools will take over the next decade.
  • Advanced Fur System: the fur technology used in War surpasses all used previously, bringing new levels of complexity to how digital fur behaves and interacts with the world.  The particular need to mix fresh snow with fur drove innovation as the VFX team worked through of how snow sticks to fur, clumps on it, falls off and reacts as the apes walk through snowy environments. The fur grooms also got substantially denser:  Caesar alone had nearly a million strands of hair.
  • Manuka physLight toolset: this newly-built toolset models with pinpoint accuracy how cameras pick up and respond to light.  The result is that the War team was able to light the apes similarly to how a DP would light, with all the same photographic rules applying as those used on the soundstage.
  • The CG avalanche: Weta put major research into forging the film’s spectacular avalanche, including studying the physics of fluid dynamics to accurately recreate clouds of snow rocketing down a mountain.

The project made it to the big screen after a decade as all concerned took inspiration from the real-life woman whose story they would be telling.

Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) directs The Zookeeper’s Wife from a screenplay by Angela Workman, adapted from Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book of the same name which was based on Antonina’s diaries.

4101_D006_02496_R (ctr l-r) Jessica Chastain and director Niki Caro work out a scene on the set of THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE, a Focus Features release. Credit: Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features

Jessica Chastain and director Niki Caro work out a scene on the set of THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE. Two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain stars in the title role of Antonina Żabińska, a real-life working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during WWII.

The time is 1939. The place is Poland, homeland of Antonina (portrayed by Ms. Chastain) and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh, of The Broken Circle Breakdown). Devoted to each other, the couple thrive as personal and professional partners; the Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. With reserves of energy, Antonina rises every day to tend to both her family and their menagerie, as the gates to the majestic zoo open in welcome…

…until the entrance is slammed shut and the zoo is crippled in an attack as the entire country is invaded by the Germans. Stunned, the couple is forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Golden Globe Award nominee Daniel Brühl of Captain America: Civil War). Heck envisions a new, selective breeding program for the zoo.

Antonina and Jan fight back on their own terms, and covertly begin working with the Resistance – realizing that their zoo’s abandoned animal cages and underground tunnels, originally designed to safeguard animal life, can now secretly safeguard human life. As the couple puts into action plans to save lives out of what has become the Warsaw Ghetto, Antonina places herself and even her children at great risk.

4101_D025_13287_R_CROP (l-r.) Efrat Dor stars as Magda Gross, Jessica Chastain as Antonina Zabinski, Timothy Radford as young Ryszard Zabinski, Shira Haas as Urszula and Martha Issova as Regina Kenigswein in director Niki Caro's THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE, a Focus Features release. Credit: Anne Marie Fox / Focus Features

(l-r.) Efrat Dor stars as Magda Gross, Jessica Chastain as Antonina Zabinski, Timothy Radford as young Ryszard Zabinski, Shira Haas as Urszula and Martha Issova as Regina Kenigswein

A lifelong literary devotee and believer in the power of storytelling, producer Diane Miller Levin co-optioned Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife a decade ago and has seen the movie through to its worldwide release in 2017. As an independent filmmaker, her mission statement is to make films which draw on history to inspire modern-day humanitarianism. She has scripted the feature film God Remembered Us, about Civil War heroine Clara Barton, adapted from the book A Woman of Valor by Stephen Oates.

In 2007, producer Diane Miller Levin was given Diane Ackerman’s book The Zookeeper’s Wife, as a gift by her husband. Levin was so enthralled with the recounting of strength of character that she read the book in just one night, “sitting on my stairwell. I was utterly struck by it. It felt like too important a story not to tell.” Her producing partner, Emmy Award winner Robbie Rowe Tollin, read the book and was equally inspired by it. Together, they formed Rowe Miller Productions with a commitment to see the book adapted into a major motion picture.

Ackerman’s nonfiction book drew on the wartime diaries of Antonina Żabińska while also providing in-depth research to place Antonina and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński, in the wider historical context of Polish resistance to Nazi oppression during WWII.

Robbie Rowe Tollin states, “What sets this apart from other WWII histories is that it is an intimate story between a husband and wife. We were fascinated at how it was about a family fighting to keep their everyday life, and marriage, healthy amidst a war.”

The State of Israel would later honor the Żabińskis as Righteous Among the Nations, but the couple remained modest about their achievements. Yet they had exemplified courage and compassion, sheltering over 300 people at their beloved Warsaw Zoo, which had sustained damage during Germany’s invasion of Poland, keeping these guests safe and surviving the Holocaust; saved from the Warsaw Ghetto, the rescuees were later sent on escape routes to freedom. A small number of their guests are still alive today.

Levin comments, “This story celebrates life in all forms. Diane Ackerman showed us a world where humans, animals, the spirit of all living things, are valued. Specifically, it’s about the heroism of a woman living in a time of unmitigated fear and destruction. Antonina’s instincts were both scientific and spiritual, truly a rare combination. She knew how to spot a predator and how to defuse their aggression, but she also knew how to tend to a wounded animal and how to heal them. Overcoming her natural shyness, she applied her innate understanding of animal psychology to humans, and so was able to help even the most damaged escapees to heal and feel hope for the future.

Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman’s nonfiction book drew on the wartime diaries of Antonina Żabińska while also providing in-depth research to place Antonina and her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński, in the wider historical context of Polish resistance to Nazi oppression during WWII.

“Robbie and I were floored at how Antonina answered a call to action and accepted so many challenges: hiding people in abandoned animal cages and underground tunnels, sacrificing to feed the guests and bolstering their spirits with music – all the while putting her life and the lives of her children on the line.  We were moved by how Antonina and Jan fought against hate and for survival, no matter the cost to themselves. The book eloquently depicts their bravery, and we wanted to translate that into a film.”

The duo brought The Zookeeper’s Wife to the attention of Mike Tollin, an Emmy and Peabody Award winner with an accomplished track record of making movies about real-life heroes. He optioned the book for a partnership between his Tollin Productions and their Rowe Miller Productions. He comments, “The book was a revelation. The chance to tell such an incredibly powerful and largely unknown story seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Producer Kim Zubick, at that time President of Production at Tollin Productions, rounded out the quartet as they worked at selecting a screenwriter and developing the adaptation. Zubick remarks, “I felt in my soul that Antonina’s story needed to be told. Wars are not just fought on the front lines; here was someone battling to hold on to what is good in people. Her story could inspire all of us to do the same.

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Angela Workman has written scripts about the Spanish invasion of Yucatan for Roland Emmerich; about photographer Dorothea Lange for David Fincher, to star Rooney Mara; and about the romance between ballerina Tanny LeClercq and George Balanchine for Harvey Weinstein. She wrote the original adaptation of Lisa See’s best-selling novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, the film version of which was directed by Wayne Wang and featured Hugh Jackman; and trekked all over the Far East to adapt Gavin Menzies’ 1421: The Year China Discovered the World for Warner Bros China. Longbourn, her adaptation of Jo Baker’s novel about the servants of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is gearing up to shoot in the fall of 2017 with director Sharon Maguire and StudioCanal UK. For Liddell Entertainment, Ms. Workman is embarking on an epic history, scripting a movie about the 19th-century opium wars between China and Great Britain.

“I knew we needed to find the right voice to tell Antonina’s story, and it was immediately clear that this person was Angela Workman, our screenwriter. Angela brought her own passion to the table; it was on the strength of her faith in the material and in our collaboration that she came up with a powerful treatment, which gave us a strong foundation to build from.”

Workman notes, “As a writer, so much of this story surprised me; there were so many things I didn’t know. There was an ‘underground railroad’ in Warsaw. There was an extraordinary effort by Gentiles to get people out of the Ghetto. The zoo became a way station in that effort; Jews were hidden inside the cages, in the underground animal tunnels, and inside the Żabiński house itself. This was an intensely dangerous act because German soldiers swarmed all over that zoo; their armaments were housed there – and in occupied Poland the punishment for hiding Jews was death to the rescuer and to his/her family. Antonina and Jan could have fled, but instead they made the decision to stay, to save lives, right under the noses of the Nazis.

“A zoo setting for these acts of courage is unusual, and beautifully cinematic. But it also makes us think about the idea of animal instincts, human and non-human. Who are the beasts, really? Life in a zoo illuminates the core idea of how Hitler would ultimately be defeated: you can’t control nature. The world turns forward, nature survives. Animal life survives. It will outlive a despot.”

Robbie Rowe Tollin says, “All four of us felt that Angela was a master at historical adaptations. What we found was that she was equally passionate about Antonina’s character and the material.”

Levin reports, “Angela wrangled so many facts and details. She centralized the story with imagery while also making it come alive through the beauty of her words.

“Over this past decade we developed amazing partnerships, as it truly does take a village to make a movie.”

Producer Jeff Abberley acquired the rights to the project in late 2009 through his Scion Films banner, having been introduced to it by Workman’s agent Sandra Lucchesi, who became something of a “fairy godmother” to the project. He muses, “We had developed something of a reputation for helping to get some very complex projects made over the years, and instinctively I immediately knew that we could bring this wonderful project to the screen. Any movie is difficult to make. But a female-driven drama set against the Holocaust was too great to pass up. Here was a chance to tell an inspiring true story – about a family that extends itself further and further, both in risk and embrace.

“I only had two conditions before taking the project on: first, Angela had to write it, and second, we had to get the cooperation of the surviving children, Rys and Teresa. It took six months of careful negotiation but that was worth it.”

He adds, “From the very first meeting with director Niki Caro, it was abundantly clear that she knew exactly how to make this movie. She understood what was important in the telling of Antonina and Jan’s story, and what was less relevant. The confidence that she had from the outset emboldened all of us. Her mastery of storytelling and the lyricism in her approach – not least with children and animals – mapped out the emotional heart of The Zookeeper’s Wife.”

Zubick notes, “One of the first things Niki said was, ‘I am not interested in making a war movie’ – which was fun to recall as I watched her take great delight in overseeing fires and explosions during filming – but, rather, her vision was that the story should be told from a more feminine point of view, through Antonina’s instinct to safeguard the guests’ spirits and try to preserve that which makes us human. With Niki’s input, Angela did another draft of the script and it soared.”

Niki Caro

As director and screenwriter, Niki Caro, is one of the most successful filmmakers to emerge from New Zealand. Her first feature film, Memory & Desire, focused on a Japanese married couple and was selected for Critics Week at the 1998 Cannes International Film Festival. It went on to win four New Zealand Film and Television Awards, including Best Film. Her second feature film, Whale Rider, explored the Maori community of Whangara on New Zealand’s East Coast, and made an impact globally. Whale Rider was seen by millions of people and won over two dozen prizes around the world. Ms. Caro next directed North Country, a drama set in the U.S., on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. Continuing to strive to illuminate real lives and real communities on-screen, Ms. Caro directed the sleeper hit McFarland, USA, starring Kevin Costner. Set in California’s Central Valley, the movie followed an all-Latino cross-country team to victory. She is currently completing directing Anne, a bold and inspired new vision of the beloved Anne of Green Gables story. The telefilm will commence a new Netflix series exploring the classic character of Anne Shirley, who will be portrayed by Irish-Canadian actress Amybeth McNulty, growing up in the 1890s.

Caro clarifies, “The first 20 pages of the initial draft were some of the best I’d ever read in a script, and these went unchanged for the final film. I was lucky to have Angela as our screenwriter; she knew the source material so well that together we could envision what the movie should be. Diane’s book was a resource for the texture of the film, as she had researched and recorded everything so poetically.

“I embraced how this story was very exotic, very domestic, and very feminine. Above all, it was an opportunity to explore what makes us human – and, humane.”

Producer Jamie Patricof remarks, “It’s a unique story with a title that doesn’t automatically connotate ‘a World War II film’ and that does pique people’s curiosity. Who could have imagined a miracle like this happening during that time?”

Patricof joined the project after Caro and Workman had begun working together, and found that “Niki both knows exactly what she wants and is incredibly collaborative. She was always moving to bring authenticity into every aspect of telling this story.”

Levin adds, “Niki was able to see Antonina in a new light, which people’s survival stories could be dramatized, and what the pulse of the zoo would be. If you’ve seen her other movies, you know that she zeroes in on intimate and delicate moments in her film that she puts together like lace, but she also plunges into moments of conflict which test her characters. That certainly described Antonina’s life, which we needed to show.

the-zookeepers-wife

“We didn’t hire Niki as our director because she was a woman; we hired her because she was the right person for this movie, being both pragmatic and creative.”

Workman remarks, “Adapting any book into a screenplay is a challenge. With nonfiction, you are confronted with names and statistics. But I knew that Antonina was the engine for the story, and so I had to build a storyline that centered on her, and that moved the film forward over the course of many years.

“After I met with Niki, we would communicate via phone and e-mail. She would float ideas to me, I would think about them, respond in writing; it was like a quiet dance over the miles. Niki has a gentle way about her but is just so astute with her ideas.  We had a shorthand almost immediately. Working with her was a collaboration and a joy.”

Caro adds, “At the script stage, I was always thinking about the tension of being caged – whether as an animal or human – and the visual storytelling was colored by that. It meant we shot through iron bars a lot, which is more difficult than I ever imagined…

“What we always came back to was the truth of the Holocaust, and how it was impacting the world and in particular this community. We researched documentary evidence on the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto; the children, the starvation, the poverty, the sickness, the overcrowding…somehow you have to express it in a way that people can handle. There can be no flinching from it.”

I believe that stories have the ability to change lives, to bring hope where there was none, and life to where there was none.

Director Morné du Toit’s Nul is nie niks nie is an inspiring, heart-warming story about life, death and the continued hope that can be found somewhere between the two.

NUL NIE NIKS NIE

Nul is nie niks nie is a heart-warming story about life, death and everything in between. The film tells the story of three friends (Hoender, Drikus and Chris) who set out to make Drikus’ last wish come true – to make a zombie movie. During their filmmaking process Hoender starts to deal with the loss of his father, he makes new friends, works on his self-confidence and realises that he has a lot to offer. Drikus’ love of life and determination brings the surrounding lifeless community together and gives them a new lease on life.

Morné Du Toit made his feature film directing debut with Hoofmeisie, an Afrikaans family comedy. He has worked as editor (GMR 3, Pantjieswinkel stories, Daar doer in die fliek), first AD and second unit director (Bakgat, Bakgat 2, Crazy Fight Beast Song), and as a writer and director on numerous ground-breaking work in South Africa. In 2013 Morné wrote and directed the short film thriller Prinses (26mins). In 2014 he directed Stom (26mins), a drama that deals with the harsh realities of post-natal depression. The film received respected reviews and nominations for best actor, best director and best film at the 2014 Silwerskermfees.

How did you become attached to the project?

Lizé Vosloo gave me a book by Jaco Jacobs ‘Oor ‘n motorfiets, ‘n zombiefliek en lang getalle wat deur elf gedeel kan word’, quite a mouthful, and asked me to give it a read and let her know if it would be worth adapting for screen.  I read it and I knew I wanted to be part of the project because it was a rich and multi-layered story with many interesting and complex characters.

Screenwriter Lizé Vosloo started her writing career as a junior script writer for the children’s television programme, Thabang Thabong, in 2009. Since then she has written numerous pieces for her own production company. Some of these scripts include Boek Buddies, Proefbuis en die talentkompetisie, Piggy se avontuur, Pieter die amateur kok, Wilma en die renoster, Jannie is ‘n superheld, Die Skoolkonsert and Boelie en die troeteldiere. In 2014 Lizé adapted the Trompie book series into a stage play (Stage Alive Productions) as well as the play Romeo & Juliet (Ready Shoes). 2015 was a big year for Lizé as she wrote the script for her first feature film, ‘Nul is nie niks nie’. She also co-produced the film. During 2015 she also wrote and produced the short film, Dominee-Truuks, one of the 15 chosen for the kykNET Silwerskermfees. Furthermore, Lizé wrote a series of scripts for a Bible DVD Series (Curro Holdings). She also attended Robert McKee’s writing seminar, Story, in New York City.  In 2016 Lizé adapted the bestselling novel Raaiselkind, written by Annelie Botes, into a screenplay (Sally Campher). She is currently completing the screenplay Riebeeck Kasteel for André Velts. Lizé is also part of the writing team for the kykNET sitcom Mense Mense (Nouvanaand Films) which will air late 2017. You can also read her monthly column A Bella’s Life in the Afrikaans Magazine Bella.

Tell us about your vision for the film

My vision is for the film to become a piece of cinema that will have a long life because of its theme of life and death, which is central to the story. We were loyal to the theme from the beginning and I hope the film reaches a broad audience that will find it inspiring to watch.  I believe that stories have the ability to change lives, to bring hope where there was none, and life to where there was none.

 Discuss the casting for the film

We had quite an extensive casting process and auditioned more than 400 children. Eventually, we found three lively youngsters who really brought colour to the story. Jaden van der Merwe was the first to be cast, and he set the bar for the others.  The moment we saw them in rehearsals, we knew we had hit the nail on the head because together, they brought so much maturity to the characters they portray. In a reversal of traditional roles, they teach the adults and aid their transformation.

We were equally fortunate with the adult cast. I have worked with Marisa Drummond in the past, and she is a remarkable actress who is able go anywhere with her character.  Morné Visser is an exceptional actor who is extremely present and committed to even the smallest roles.  Antoinette Louw brought so much sincerity to the character, which is what the story really needed.

 Tell us about the locations

From the outset, I tried to remain truthful to the theme of life and death.  Every weekend I would take road trips to explore various locations within striking distance from Johannesburg.  I drove thousands of kilometres looking for a town that had lost its spirit, a town with a sense of hopelessness and you would be surprised at how many of them there are in South Africa.  But it was not until I rediscovered Waterval Boven, a town I had been to a decade earlier, that I knew I had the right location.  What Waterval Boven had to offer was this beautiful landscape which in many ways represents life and hope, but the town itself, is the direct opposite of that.  The town is in decline, many of the buildings are in need of repair or paint.  When you walk through the town you can see the despondency; it is a sad place.  Spoornet moved out and in the process many people lost their jobs and have not been able to find employment since. In many ways, the town represents death and the surrounding landscape life.  I just knew that this is where the film needed to play out because the town is so symbolic of its central theme.

 Discuss the location for Hoender’s Home

Hoender and Drikus are polar opposites at the start of the film and this is also reflected in their homes.  Drikus is dying, but his home is full of life, with a lush garden and green creepers growing on the walls, whereas Hoender’s home is devoid of life, run down and with a large room full of dead space.  The location for Hoender’s home was not in Waterval Boven, but in Walkerville outside Johannesburg.  It was a sad location, surrounded by dry veld that perfectly represented Hoender’s inner world.

This is at times a heavy story.  How did you manage to imbue it with hope?

From the beginning, the theme of life and death is strong. I felt I had to keep to what was already given to me in the screenplay and be loyal to the theme. Many of the scenes are rich in life and many are rich in death, while some shift between the two. In the journey of the characters too, some bring in life and others bring death or shifts between the two. Casting was important, to ensure that characters who were meant to inspire and the characters who move from death to life had the potential to go there.

We maintained a clear colour palette. As the story develops, and we see a dead town slowly come to life, the colour palette helped with the transition from act 1 to act 2, and the junctions in the story had very definite colour palette changes as Drikus – who essentially brings life into the story – begins to influence everyone.

It’s a weighty story, but Drikus has a strong uplifting influence, which has a lot to do with his naïve zeal. This is most obvious in the scenes where the young boys explore the best locations in which to shoot their zombie movie, and they have a great deal of fun doing so. It was important for me to bring in my own experience of when I was a 13-year old filmmaker going out and making my own little movies – every location is a possibility, everything has potential to be a scene. It was important to go into a 13-year old filmmaker’s headspace and allow myself to be inspired by the character, and that ultimately lifts the story and prevents it from becoming too heavy.

Which aspects of the shoot surprised you the most?

When you read a script, you try to plan as much as possible, make sure you have the casting right, and the locations the story deserves to have, but at some point, you have to take your hands off the steering wheel. The scenes where Drikus is making his movie, going on adventures, and convincing Hoender to be part of his zombie movie, really came to life and the reason I enjoyed that so much was because I saw myself in the character as a young filmmaker. As a kid you can live in the now, not worrying about responsibilities and that is a strong theme in the story. It was beautiful to see these scenes unfold.

The scenes with Hoender and his mother Trisa are sheer magic. They portray their characters with great sensitivity and loyalty to the story. A lot of that came from Antoinette who played the character very sincerely.  You have a seasoned actress with a young actor who is acting in his first film and you put them together in a scene – obviously, we had had discussions beforehand – and they were exceptional together. I have never before managed, as a director, to get such honest performances out of actors as I did out of Antoinette and Jaden.

Tell us about the look of the film

The film follows a trajectory from death to life.  The world is established upfront as lifeless, washed out and dead. The lives of the community inside the world are also colourless, with bland shades of grey and blue. These two colours mostly form the foundation of our world throughout Act 1 and Act 2. It is when Drikus start to influence others, through his relationship with Hoender and Chris, that the colour red starts to influence people. Red is representative of the disease in Drikus’s blood and his life that rubs off on everyone. It is also representative of the blood theme that we see an abundance of in modern day zombie movies. As we move into Act 3, Drikus’ life is literally starting to influence the colour of the world our characters find themselves in. Shades of green, yellow and blue are introduced with these three colours forming the base of our life pallet. With every subsequent beat/scene, the life pallet becomes richer and more evident in the world and our characters.

Camera style

We made use of stasis and movement as a device to suggest the influence that Drikus is having on Hoender and on the community. We progress from one extreme to the other as Hoender and the community move from “death to life”, while Drikus moves “from life to death”. We have a progression in camera movement from motion to motionlessness and vice versa.

‘Inxeba’ boldly explores tradition and masculinity, and the clash between age-old rituals and modernity.

Writer-director John Trengove’s first feature film, ‘Inxeba’ (known internationally as ‘The Wound’) is taking the world by storm had its African premiere in competition at the 2017  Durban International Film Festival, scooping both Best Director for John Trengrove and Best Actor for Nakhane Touréat.

‘Inxeba’ will continue to travel around the world, having been sold to 19 countries for theatrical release thus far, and will be distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution. It will open nationwide on 2 February 2018.

‘Inxeba’ is the first feature from writer-director John Trengove, and is co-written by Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu. The Xhosa initiation ritual which forms the landscape of the film is also the subject of ‘Inxeba’ co-writer Mgqolozana’s novel, ‘A Man Who Is Not a Man’.

Musician and novelist Nakhane Touré as Xolani, a lonely factory worker who joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini), a defiant initiate from the city, discovers his mentor’s secret, Xolani's entire existence begins to unravel.

Musician and novelist Nakhane Touré as Xolani, a lonely factory worker who joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini), a defiant initiate from the city, discovers his mentor’s secret, Xolani’s entire existence begins to unravel.

‘Inxeba’, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and later opened Berlinale Panorama, was a 2014 Durban FilmMart project. This initial pitch enabled the team behind it to obtain funding from a number of international financiers, resulting in a co-production between South Africa, France, Germany and The Netherlands.

According to a Sundance review, “John Trengove’s hard-edged but beautifully wrought study of clashing Xhosa models of masculinity will be an eye-opener to outsiders — and some South Africans too.”

Described by Variety magazine as “a milestone in South African cinema”, the film stars musician and novelist Nakhane Touré as Xolani, a lonely factory worker who joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini), a defiant initiate from the city, discovers his mentor’s secret, Xolani’s entire existence begins to unravel.

  • ‘Inxeba’ (known internationally as ‘The Wound’) has won the Best Film Award in the International New Talent Competition, at the Taipei Film Festival, which runs from 29 June to 15 July. The festival screens 160 films from more than 40 countries to around 100 000 visitors each year and is recognised as the most influential showcase of international cinema in Taiwan.
  • At Cinema Jove, the Valencia International Film Festival, held in Spain from 23 June to 1 July, ‘Inxeba’ was awarded the Luna de Valencia for Best Feature Film, as well as the Best Actor Award for Nakhane Touré.
  • At one of the world’s longest-running film festivals, the Sydney Film Festival, held from 7 to 18 June, ‘Inxeba’ won the Audience Award for Best Feature, with ScreenDaily describing it as “a measured consideration of class, race, self-loathing and self-assertion”.
  • At the 41st Frameline, San Francisco’s international film festival, held from 15 to 25 June and where 147 films were screened, ‘Inxeba’ won the First Feature Award.
  • Shortly before that, it was awarded the prize for Best Feature Film at the 32nd Lovers Film Festival, an LGBTQI festival held in Turin, Italy from 15 to 20 June.
  • In April, the film received the Jury Prize for Best Narrative at the 19th annual Sarasota Film Festival in Florida, in the US. The festival is known as a world-class platform for thought-provoking films from some of the best known and emerging independent filmmakers. At the MOOOV International Film held in March 2017, in Belgium, it garnered a Special Mention.

‘Inxeba’ will continue to travel around the world, having been sold to 19 countries for theatrical release thus far, and will be distributed in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.

“The release strategy for South Africa ensures that the film will qualify as a strong contender to represent the country in the Foreign Language Film nominations for the 2018 Oscars,” says Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution. “We are excited about ‘Inxeba’ as it is an authentic South African story that has gained traction globally.”

Writer-director John Trengove

John_TrengoveJohn Trengove is a Johannesburg based writer/director with an MFA in film from New York University.

One of the Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, his career spans theatre, television, documentary, commercials and short film.

A Loerie and SAFTA recipient, John is best known for his acclaimed miniseries Hopeville that received the Rose d’Or for best drama and was nominated for an International Emmy. His short film The Goat premiered at Berlinale and Toronto in 2014 and went on to play at over 20 international festivals. John directs fringe theatre in his spare time (Including the cult hit The Epicene Butcher) and heads up the development wing of Urucu Media.

His debut feature film, The Wound, had its world premiere in competition at The Sundance Film Festival and went on to open Panorama at the Berlinale. The film will continue to travel to festivals around the world in 2017.

 

 

Be A Winner In Our Despicable Me 3 Giveaway

DESPICABLE ME

If you want to win a funtastic Despicable Me 3 Magnet Frame, Squishy Mel key chains,  Squishy Prison Break,  Stationery Set and a Sticker Sheet the title treatment on the front , tell us who directed the film and send us your answer and contact details with Despicable Me 3 in the subject line.  Deadline: 31 July, 2017.  Enter Here

 

Illumination, one of the entertainment industry’s leading producers of event-animated films, who brought moviegoers Despicable Me and the biggest animated hits of 2013 and 2015, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, continues the story of Gru, Lucy, their adorable daughters—Margo, Edith and Agnes—and the Minions in Despicable Me 3.

After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down the latest bad guy to threaten humanity, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis.  But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother—a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps—one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad.  Read more about the film 

 

Illumination is one of the entertainment industry’s leading producers of event-animated films

Founded with the mission to produce both original stories and adaptations of beloved classics, Illumination is known for developing dimensional and distinctive characters who embody both the sweet and the subversive.  Their often mischievous antics are balanced by good intentions and innocence, making them lovable and relatable.  As such, the Despicable Me franchise has become the defining DNA of the company.

Illumination

Illumination’s films have become a worldwide phenomenon.  Across the globe, Despicable Me has permeated the zeitgeist, with the Minions alone having an astonishing 95-percent awareness.  Populated with characters that are distinctive, comedic and authentic, the studio’s $4.7-billion-grossing movies—including two of the top-six animated ones of all time—captivate audiences of all ages and cultures.

In 2016, Illumination, which was recently honored by Fast Company as one of the world’s most innovative companies, launched two original properties that captivated audiences across the globe.  Last summer, The Secret Life of Pets achieved the best opening for an original movie, animated or otherwise, in U.S. history.  Likewise, the critically lauded holiday favorite Sing premiered to a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Despicable Me 3Now, Illumination, who brought moviegoers Despicable Me and the biggest animated hits of 2013 and 2015, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, continues the story of Gru, Lucy, their adorable daughters—Margo, Edith and Agnes—and the Minions in Despicable Me 3.

“In the first movie, Gru discovered what it is like to be a parent and what unconditional love is.  In the second, we explored Gru falling in love.  Now, we start off with Gru having an identity crisis because he finds himself fired from his job, as well as discovering a newfound sibling rivalry.” —Chris Meledandri

Illumination and Universal Pictures’ blockbuster Despicable Me introduced global audiences to super-villain Gru and his mischievous Minions.  After becoming a father to orphans Margo, Edith and Agnes, initially as part of an evil scheme to steal the moon, Gru ultimately gave up his life of crime and turned from Super Bad to Super Dad.

In Despicable Me 2, Gru was recruited by the Anti-Villain League (AVL) to put his skills as a former villain to use and brought the worst of the worst to justice.  Never thinking romance was in the cards, Gru wound up falling hard for his super-spy partner, Lucy.  To the delight of his daughters—who had always wanted a mom—he ultimately asked Lucy to marry him.

In Minions (which was released in 2015 but is a prequel to the Despicable Me franchise), we learned the origins of the lovable, yellow creatures and saw how Kevin, Stuart and Bob’s comedically misguided quest for an evil leader ultimately led them to team up with a young Gru.  The mischievous trio will return for Minions 2 in July 2020.

Despicable PosterThis summer, in Despicable Me 3, Gru and his new wife, Lucy, are unable to take down the latest villain to threaten humanity—an ’80s-fixated former child TV star named Balthazar Bratt who was abruptly fired in that decade and is now obsessed with revenge on Hollywood.  As a result, they are humiliated and fired by the new boss of the AVL.

After he is fired from the Anti-Villain League for failing to take down the latest bad guy to threaten humanity, Gru finds himself in the midst of a major identity crisis.  But when a mysterious stranger shows up to inform Gru that he has a long-lost twin brother—a brother who desperately wishes to follow in his twin’s despicable footsteps—one former super-villain will rediscover just how good it feels to be bad.

Chris Meledandri approached Despicable Me 3 with two primary goals.  “One was to honor the elements that audiences love,” he says.  “The second was to create new, fresh experiences and characters that make the film dynamic.  The Despicable Me movies work because, while on one hand, they’re broad, funny and fun….there’s also an emotional resonance that runs through their center.  They continue to resonate because of the characters.  The Minions charm and delight audiences, and even though Gru was a villain, we still find him highly relatable and want him to succeed in any situation.”

In Despicable Me 3, Gru discovers a family he never knew.

“While, narratively, movies are generally about protagonists overcoming obstacles, it’s how they do that—and what happens along the way—that needs to surprise and delight,” Meledandri continues.  “I’m especially proud that our team has been able to create a nostalgic pull toward characters we’ve all grown close to, as well as provide a sense of discovery with all these new elements.”

CINCO PAUL & KEN DAURIO

Variety has referred to Paul and Ken Daurio as the “Billion Dollar Screenwriters” since their films have grossed over a billion dollars at the box office worldwide. The Despicable Me film series has been massively successful at the box office, with Despicable Me grossing over $543 million worldwide and Despicable Me 2 grossing over $970 million worldwide, ranking it one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Paul and Daurio are also the hot Hollywood screenwriting team who penned the highly successful screenplays based on the beloved Dr. Seuss children’s books, “The Lorax” and “Horton Hears a Who!,” in collaboration with Chris Meledandri, the founder and CEO of Illumination.

Daurio, alongside writing partner Paul, has collaborated with Meledandri since their days at 20th Century Fox on Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!.

Paul met Daurio while working on a church musical and they bonded immediately.  In 1999, they sold their first screenplay, Special, a dark comedy that they later turned into a short film that went on to play the festival circuit.

Variety has referred to Paul and Ken Daurio as the “Billion Dollar Screenwriters” since their films have grossed over a billion dollars at the box office worldwide.

 

The writer offers that Meledandri and Healy encouraged them to not only mine the humor of this world, but to give the story emotional resonance through the siblings’ reunion.  “We thought it would be a great idea to give Gru another person to drive him nuts and make him wonder about his purpose,” says Daurio.  “Dru gets Gru excited about the possibility of being in villainy again.  It’s very, ‘Come on…just one heist.  It’s in our blood.  We’re supposed to do this…’”

Paul was inspired that the series’ longtime star would be tackling a new voice role.  “Our first idea was that Gru had a long-lost twin brother,” he notes, “and that it would be a great opportunity for Steve to play against himself.”

“Once we opened the door to Gru’s brother, we had a lot of storytelling terrain,” Meledandri says.  “The creation of Dru came down to a core idea: that we’d find expressions of a personality who looked like Gru, but was his opposite in every way.  That defined the objective.”  The excitement of meeting his twin soon fades, and Gru experiences sibling rivalry that further complicates his mid-life crisis.

The other new addition to the franchise is Balthazar Bratt, a formidable super-villain who has been plotting to destroy Hollywood after his TV show was canceled.  Bratt, who has been obsessed with the ’80s since he briefly ruled as a child star in that decade, has never gotten over that disappointment—nor forgiven his audience for abandoning him.  “Once we heard Cinco and Ken’s idea for Bratt, we connected with the humor and sadness of a faded child star from the ’80s,” explains Meledandri.  “It’s just too perfect of a place to go.  Villains are critical parts of each of our films.  You need to give Gru a worthy adversary—someone who presents a real challenge to Lucy and him, as well as someone who is worthy comedically.  Gru is so fun and lively, that if you put a very straight villain against him, that character will just disappear.”

Movies are generally about protagonists overcoming obstacles, it’s how they do that—and what happens along the way—that needs to surprise and delight.

Chris MeledandriMeledandri admits that Gru’s new nemesis is one of his favorite characters Illumination has ever created.  “Balthazar Bratt is such an original and funny villain.  He can’t get past the fact that his fans don’t care about him anymore, and his motivation is seeking revenge on the world that turned its back on him…and doing it in the guise of a grown-up version of his childhood TV persona.  When you take that wacky idea and bring Trey’s voice to it, it brings a whole new attitude into the film.  It’s the design, the voice and spectacular animation; the nuance in this performance is exceptional.  That’s a tribute to an incredible group, a team who has pulled off one of the greatest animated performances I’ve ever seen.”

Paul discusses that, naturally, Bratt needed a tagline to accompany his cheesiness: “Most ’80s child stars had memorable catchphrases, such as ‘Whatcha talkin’ ’bout, Willis?’ which was how people identified with a certain show.  Balthazar’s is ‘I’ve been a bad boy!’ and he still uses it today.”

Pierre Coffin with Minion character

Pierre Coffin began his film career studying cinema at the Paris-Sorbonne University. In 1996, he began working at Ex Machina, where he became head of animation. He next joined Wanda Productions and then Passion Pictures as an animation director. Coffin also directed animation for the award-winning 3D ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, which opened at Universal Studios Orlando in July 2012 and at Universal Studios Hollywood in April 2014.

For Despicable Me 3, director Pierre Coffin—who helms his fourth film in the franchise—collaborates with fellow director Kyle Balda, with whom Coffin had partnered on Minions, and co-director Eric Guillon—Illumination’s longtime production and character designer, who set the look of the Despicable Me films—from designs inspired by the works of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams.

Discussing the co-director and directors, Meledandri lauds: “Eric is an extraordinary designer who has created characters and environments on every film we’ve done.  He also thinks like a storyteller.  When he draws an image, frequently the image places the character in a place that suggests a very clear story.  Likewise, Pierre is not only the voice and the soul of the Minions, he is a phenomenal artist and filmmaker.  Early on, he introduced us to Kyle, who was the head of layout on Despicable Me and brings this clarity of filmmaking that extends from the construction of a sequence.  He’s a very special filmmaker in his own right and a tremendous collaborator with Pierre.”

Kyle Balda

In 1993, Kyle Balda joined the crew of Industrial Light & Magic, contributing to such films as The Mask and Mars Attacks! and serving as animation supervisor on Jumanji. After working as animator on Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners at Weta Digital in New Zealand, Balda returned to California to work at Pixar Animation Studios as an animator on A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc. and as directing animator on Toy Story 2. Alongside Chris Renaud, Balda co-directed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Balda has also directed numerous Dr. Seuss and Minions shorts for Illumination.

“With the time between the films, we have been able to advance the character models,” explains Coffin.  “For his part, Gru has softened just a touch since he became a dad.  He’s not the hardened super-villain we first met, but he still has that despicable edge to him.  Lucy is extremely stylish, and even though it makes her harder to animate, her ever-present scarf just defines her.  Margo is even more expressive and relatable in this chapter; Edith’s mischievousness is even more subtle; and Agnes—if it is possible—is more adorable than we could imagine.”

Balda reveals that because so much work occurs simultaneously, having three directing partners is advantageous.  “The acting is done at the same time as the cinematography and the story development.  Multiple directors allow us to divide tasks in the creative process.  Pierre is heavily involved in the animation process and the story, Eric is more involved in the visual concepts and character designs, and I focus on the storyboarding and editing.”

Eric_Guillon

Eric Guillon has been part of the creative backbone of Illumination since its inception. He served as art director and character designer on Despicable Me and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax as well as production designer and character designer on Despicable Me 2, Minions and Sing. Guillon has designed many of Illumination’s most beloved characters.

Daurio reflects on the wily agent’s evolution from single super-spy to new wife and mom: “This is new territory for Lucy.  She is adventurous and nothing scares her—except being a mom.  This is the one time we have seen Lucy in a situation she is not sure how to handle, and it is fun to watch her navigate her new role as a stepmom.”

Just as Lucy is adjusting to the new family dynamics, her eldest daughter is struggling in her own right.  “Margo goes from being the mom of these other girls to now, she’s got her own mom who is going to step into that role,” shares Daurio.  “That adds to a bit of conflict between Margo and Lucy, and it’s interesting to see them navigate these waters.”

While their older sister is shutting down the advances of a young Freedonian pig farmer several years her junior, Edith and Agnes are finding drama of their own.  As her little sister sets out to find an elusive unicorn that supposedly lives in the Freedonian woods, Edith goes along skeptically, but is at the ready to post the video on social media for fame and riches…in case the legend turns out to be true.

No Despicable Me chapter would be complete without everyone’s favorite mischievous henchmen, and with each subsequent film, we introduce new Minion co-stars.  In Despicable Me 3, we meet Minion Mel, who begins the revolt against Gru and leads the Minions as they strike out on their own.  “In pure Minion fashion they end up getting in trouble and are thrown in jail,” states Balda.  “They start out as underdogs, but end up being the big bosses of prison: the ones the prisoners are afraid of.”  Still, it’s impossible to imagine a world in which Gru and the Minions don’t miss each other and reconcile.  “Ultimately, it is reinforced that the Minions and Gru need one another.”

Despicable Me 3 2

About Illumination

Illumination, founded by Academy Award nominee Chris Meledandri in 2007, is one of the entertainment industry’s leading producers of event-animated films.  The company’s franchises include two of the top-six animated films of all time, and its iconic, beloved brands—infused with memorable and distinct characters, global appeal and cultural relevance—have grossed more than $4.7 billion worldwide.  Illumination was recently honored by Fast Company as one of the world’s most innovative companies.

Illumination, which has an exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures, has garnered an extraordinary number of franchise successes for a studio only a decade old.  As the creator of the hugely successful world of Despicable Me, which has just been crowned the second-largest box-office animated franchise globally, Illumination has evolved the Despicable Me series to include Minions, the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time and the most profitable film in Universal’s history, as well as the Academy Award®-nominated Despicable Me 2 and summer 2017’s much-anticipated Despicable Me 3.

In 2016 alone, Illumination launched two original properties that captivated audiences worldwide.  Last summer, The Secret Life of Pets achieved the best opening for an original movie, animated or otherwise, in U.S. history.  Likewise, the critically lauded holiday favorite Sing premiered to a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival before becoming a global smash.

Founded 10 years ago with the mission of putting a smile on the face of every member of the audience, no matter their age, Illumination continues to imagine both original stories, as well as unexpected adaptations of beloved pre-existing works.  By infusing joy and discovery into every property, the studio allows audiences to connect their experiences with each property to the Illumination brand itself.

With successful mobile games, consumer products and social/digital media, Illumination’s franchises—populated with characters that are as comedic as they are heartfelt and authentic—translate far beyond the theater.  “Despicable Me: Minion Rush” has now become the fifth-most popular game ever, while Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, has newly been joined by the wildly popular Minion Park at Universal Studios Japan…where the Minions are the No. 1 licensed characters.

In addition to this summer’s Despicable Me 3, Illumination’s upcoming films—featuring creative contributors from an unparalleled collection of writers, artists, voice talent and musicians—include Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch in November 2018, The Secret Life of Pets 2 in July 2019, Minions 2 in July 2020, and Sing 2 in December 2020.

Until you know what you are trying to say, your work isn’t complete.

The writing process is a search for meaning, a theme, what the story is really about, what gives it meaning and a purpose for being, besides making millions of dollars for stars and movie studios.

Theme is a unifying idea or motif, repeated or developed throughout a work.

War of the planet of the apes

The theme of Planet Of The Apes: Humanity’s pride and arrogance. Our superiority in thinking that we can twist, push, cheat, or circumvent the laws of nature, without consequences.

Once you have something you want to write about (Idea), defined the Premise and Concept, and know what your genre is, you need to know what the intention, objective or controlling idea – theme – of your story is.

  • Story is what happens
  • Plot is how the what happens
  • Character is who the what happens to
  • Setting is where the what happens
  • Theme is why the what happens

You have to have a clear understanding of what story it is you are trying to tell.

A good analogy is trying to sweeten a glass of ice tea. Mix regular sugar and it will sink to the bottom, making it bitter except for the bottom, which will be too sweet. Try it with Equal, and the tea will be sweet throughout. Sweetness is your message, and it must be completely diluted to disappear into the beverage of entertainment.

Karl Iglesias, The 101 Habits Of Successful Screenwriters

Explore you theme fully by taking The Write Journey

All great writing is about something

Professional screenwriters do not commit several years on a screenplay unless they have something to say.

Because writers are great observers and often sensitive souls, successful screenwriters are able to recognise and offer insights into the human condition.

Great stories have powerful themes, but they are told in an entertaining way.

The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Genre: Set in present day San Francisco, the film is a reality-based cautionary tale, a science fiction/science fact blend. The film uses the science fiction genre to explore bigger worlds and ideas

Tagline:  Evolution becomes revolution

Premise: What will happen if man’s experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy?

Concept:  When a scientist working within a large pharmaceutical corporation is committed to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s to save his father, his generic research develops a super intelligent ape that establishes a new social order amongst apes and leads them in a revolution against the human race.

Theme:  Humanity’s pride and arrogance. Our superiority in thinking that we can twist, push, cheat, or circumvent the laws of nature, without consequences.

So what exactly is theme?

  •  Theme is the glue that holds your story together and resonates throughout the telling of your story.
  • It makes writing meaningful: It opens up the story’s inner value system (Internal Content), so that writers can make a conscious connection with what the story really wants to communicate to them and through them.
  • It is the underlying Universal Human Question your story deals with.
  • It gives as a reason why we should care; it reflects the characters’ desire, conflicts, and actions that give us a reason why we care about how the story turns out and reveals itself at the end.
  • It underlies the story: if you want to express that ‘Greed is Bad’, write a story in which greed destroys people’s lives.
  • It connects characters: all the main characters in your story reflect the theme in some way. If the theme is ‘Redemption’, some characters start out fallen and are redeemed; some are fallen and are never redeemed; and some are already redeemed.
  • It leaves the reader and audience with an understanding of why the problem and the actions of the characters are relevant.
  • It is the abstract issue and feelings that grow out of the dramatic action.
  • It gives meaning to the activity of the plot and purpose to the movement of the characters.

The Audience

It is important to consider whether your theme will resonate with your intended audience.

Effectively, the key questions are: what is at stake for the audience, either emotionally or intellectually, in this story, as suggested by the themes?

Examples of themes from ground breaking films:

In Jaws a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island. The police chief Martin Brody wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper and grizzled ship captain Quint offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engage in an epic battle of man vs. nature.

Theme: Nature is still bigger than you

In The Sixth Sense Young Cole Sear is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. Cole is frightened by visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. He is too afraid to tell anyone about his anguish, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe. As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the truth about Cole’s supernatural abilities, the consequences for client and therapist are a jolt that awakens them both to something unexplainable.

Theme: Guilt versus redemption

In Chinatown Los Angeles private eye J.J. “Jake” Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband’s activities, he believes it’s a routine infidelity case. Jake’s investigation soon becomes anything but routine when he meets the real Mrs. Mulwray and realizes he was hired by an imposter. Mr. Mulwray’s sudden death sets Gittes on a tangled trail of corruption, deceit and sinister family secrets as Evelyn’s father becomes a suspect in the case.

Theme: Decency is not enough to defeat corruption

Braveheart tells the story of the legendary thirteenth century Scottish hero named William Wallace who rallies the Scottish against the English monarch and Edward I after he suffers a personal tragedy by English soldiers. Wallace gathers a group of amateur warriors that is stronger than any English army.

Theme: Freedom is worth dying for

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, the mob drama The Godfather, based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone. When the don’s youngest son, Michael, reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay, he is drawn deeper into the family business.

Theme: Family is the most important thing

Star Wars is an American epic space opera franchise, centered on a film series created by George Lucas. It depicts the adventures of various characters “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”

Theme: Faith can defeat empires

Theme focuses your material

Your sense of theme will give focus to your story material.

A substantial comprehension of what’s coming across thematically in your developing script will inform:

  • The style in which you write the story
  • The plot you devise
  • How you define and develop your characters
  • How you create and resolve your protagonist’s dilemma
  • How you resolve your story

The Functions Of Theme

A clear statement of theme provides a focal point, a unifying thread around which to weave the dramatic action.

Theme permeates your story

Theme works from the inside out, saturating the plot and the characters with certain energy.

The writer is often not aware at first of the thematic depth in the plot, because the total focus is usually on telling the best story possible.

Once the theme is identified, it:

  • Lends a sense of vision to the piece
  • Gathers the material into one main action
  • Infuses it with resonance and a sense of meaning

Many writers can only clutch abstractly at what they think is the theme of their script.

This inability to come to terms with the story’s underlying idea can weaken the material.

The writer misses the clarifying and strengthening effect that having a grasp of theme brings to the process.

If you will say that the theme of your story is teen suicide, you might find that it’s just one of the elements in the story, but not the theme.

If you would focus on how the character resolves the dilemma in the story that would become the theme of the story.

You would be looking into the mind of a self-destructive character.

Perhaps the suicide is a wakeup call.

This, then, becomes the governing idea, what the story is about thematically.

The theme informs the entire plot and

  • Ties it together
  • Sustains the story
  • Shapes the story
  • Anticipates the story
  • Drives the story
  • Sets the tone of the story

In the story on teen suicide, the focus will be on the mechanics of the character ruining his or her life, exploring the transformation that culminates in death.

In Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler aging wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson is long past his prime but still ready and rarin’ to go on the pro-wrestling circuit. After a particularly brutal beating, however, Randy hangs up his tights, pursues a serious relationship with a long-in-the-tooth stripper, and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter. But he can’t resist the lure of the ring and readies himself for a comeback.

The Wrestler is not merely the story of a retired wrestling legend, but thematically deals with the downward spiral of a man who desperately wants to live a life he has never known, a life outside fame, an ordinary life outside his extraordinary existence.

The audience come to care about the character and the action he takes shocks them profoundly. The theme resonates on a deep level because the audience will see the inescapably truth about their own failures and flaws. That is the power of great tragedy.

Explore you theme fully by taking The Write Journey

Copyright © 1999 – 2017 The Writing Studio

Add some great new titles to your collection!

keeping-up-with-the-kandasamys-2Jayan Moodley ‘s absolutely delightful comedy Keeping Up With The Kandasamys  opens a window into the lifestyle and subculture of modern-day Indian South Africans; their aspirations, dreams, challenges and the things that make them laugh and love. Set in Chatsworth, it stars Jailoshni Naidoo and Maeshni Naicker as the matriarchal rivals of neighbouring families, whose young adult children become romantically involved despite their best efforts to keep them apart, with hilarious results, they are forced to acknowledge that in the end “love will always prevail.”  The bonus features include a feature on ‘The Making of a Chatsworth Dream”.

kandasamyShanti Naidoo (played by Maeshni Naicker) is a typical Type-A personality. Always on the move, going out of her way to please people, and overcompensating for her own perceived inadequacies by constantly cooking up a storm in her kitchen. Her life would be just fine, except that her neighbour Jennifer Kandasamy (Jailoshni Naidoo), always seems to have the upper hand. When Jennifer realizes her daughter Jodi (Mishqah Parthiephal) is in love with Shanti’s son Prinesh (Madhushan Singh), she is determined to break them up.

But in order to do that she will have to enlist her rival’s help. Together the two women scheme and plot, recruit prospective partners and generally interfere with their kids wherever they can.  Sound familiar? Just how far will one go to serve one’s own selfish needs? And will they learn that in the end, it really is just happiness that matters.

WIN A KEEPING UP WITH THE KANADASAMYS DVD

If you want to add this charming film to your collection of local films, tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer and contact details with Kandasamys in the subject line to us before 15 July.  Enter competition here

Other New Titles

Trainspotting

If you are looking for a film with tons of attitude, T2 Trainspotting offers load of it! Twenty-one years after the release of his breakthrough hit, director Danny Boyle returns to Scotland and reunites with his old friends Sick Boy, Spud, and Begbie.

First there was an opportunity……then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.  Watch the trailer

There is an age restriction of 18DL

The superb bonus features include a Conversation With Danny Boyle and the Cast, deleted scenes and an interesting audio commentary by Boyle and John Hodge.

MonsterIn The fantasy horror The Monster divorced mother and her headstrong daughter must make an emergency late-night road trip to see the girl’s father. As they drive through deserted country roads on a stormy night, they suddenly have a startling collision that leaves them shaken but not seriously hurt. Their car, however, is dead, and as they try in vain to get help, they come to realize they are not alone — a terrifying evil is lurking in the woods, intent on never letting them leave.  Watch the trailer

The Monster has an age restriction of 13 DHLV

CollideIn the action packed Collide Casey Stein (Nicholas Hoult) agrees to hijack a shipment of cocaine for his old boss (Ben Kingsley) in return for money to pay for his girlfriend Juliette’s (Felicity Jones) transplant.

Unfortunately, those drugs belong to Hagen Kahl (Anthony Hopkins), Germany’s most powerful kingpin. Kahl seeks revenge by kidnapping Juliette and sending his goons after Stein. Casey must now race against time in a desperate attempt to save the woman he loves. It has an age restriction of 16V.  Watch the trailer

John WickKeanu Reeves returns for more action in John Wick: Chapter 2 when retired super-assassin John Wick’s plans to resume a quiet civilian life are cut short when Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up on his doorstep with a gold marker, compelling him to repay past favors.

After unleashing mayhem on the criminals who killed his dog, retired super assassin John Wick retrieves his beloved 1969 Mustang from the Russian mobsters who stole it, only to be pursued in a spectacular high-speed car chase through crowded New York City streets. Returning home, John’s plans to resume a quiet civilian life are cut short when Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up on his doorstep with a gold “marker” compelling him to repay past favors.

Flying to Rome, John checks in at Il Continentale headquarters, arms himself to the teeth and penetrates heavy Camorra security to surprise Gianna in her bedroom. Leaving dozens of dead thugs in his wake, John flees Rome with trained Camorra killers Cassian (Common) and Ares (Ruby Rose) in hot pursuit. Back in New York, John discovers that Santino has burned his home to the ground. Seeking help from the mysterious Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and his shadow army, John employs Brazilian jiujitsu, Glocks and even pencils as he wreaks vengeance against those who’ve wronged him. Amid the carnage, John finds the strength he needs to defy the assassin’s code — but can he preserve his own humanity?

For director Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 2 represented an opportunity to delve deeper into Wick’s universe visually as well as geographically. He recruited Guillermo del Toro collaborator Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) to serve as director of photography. “We went with a widescreen look and used anamorphic lenses because we wanted to push the limits of how much we could fill the frames. The production design and cinematography really bring John Wick’s world forward.”

 Watch the trailer

 

Your Guide To What’s Happening On The Big Screen

Latest Releases /  /  Films Released in 2017  /  Top 20 Films Of 2016

August 2017 ReleasesSeptember – December 2017

Films Released in July 2017

Information provided by the film distributors in South Africa: Ster Kinekor, Times Media Films, UIP SA, and Black Sheep Films.  Dates subject to change, visit www.sterkinekor.comwww.cinemanouveau.co.za and www.numetro.co.za for cinemas where the films will be showing.    Report broken links

Local Is Lekker: New South African Films

Nul Is Nie Niks NieThe impressive Afrikaans film Nul Is Nie Niks Nie is a heartwarming coming-of-age story about life, death and everything in between. The film tells the story of three friends (Hoender, Drikus and Chris) who set out to make Drikus’ last wish come true – to make a zombie movie. During their filmmaking process Hoender starts to deal with the loss of his father, he makes new friends, works on his self-confidence and realises that he has a lot to offer.  Drikus’ love of life and determination brings the surrounding lifeless community together and gives them a new lease on life. Lizé Vosloo wrote the screenplay for this film, inspired by the youth drama Oor ‘n motorfiets, ‘n zombiefiek en lang getalle wat deur elf gedeel kan word by Jaco Jacobs. ”My vision is for the film to become a piece of cinema that will have a long life because of its theme of life and death, which is central to the story, says director Morné du Toit. ”We were loyal to the theme from the beginning and I hope the film reaches a broad audience that will find it inspiring to watch.  I believe that stories have the ability to change lives, to bring hope where there was none, and life to where there was none.” Watch the trailer

Van der Merwe 2In every country there is a person who is the butt of all jokes. In Ireland it is Paddy, in Israel it is Hymie, in South Africa, that person is Van der Merwe… The film Van Der Merwe tells his story.Set on the Van der Merwe farmstead, the story centers on Van’s daughter Marike who returns home from a gap year in England with her new fiancé George, a British boy who is studying to become a doctor. This creates all sorts of problems and challenges for Van as he tries to come to terms with the fact that his daughter is marrying an Englishman. Van’s father is strongly against this union of ‘Brit and Boer’ and implores Van to put an end to it. Van finds himself in a precarious situation with a difficult choice: risk the rath of his father by condoning the wedding… or obey his father, whose approval he so desperately wants, and risk losing his daughter forever. When the family of the English fiancé arrives on the farm, the fireworks really begin as the clash of cultures results in a number of side-splitting incidents and hilarious situations as we witness some classic Van der Merwe jokes played out in front of our eyes. Written and directed by Bruce Lawley, with Rob van Vuuren. Watch trailer

Superheroes

spider-man-homecoming-759Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home to live with his Aunt May in Spider-Man: HomecomingUnder the watchful eye of mentor Tony Stark, Parker starts to embrace his newfound identity as Spider-Man. He also tries to return to his normal daily routine — distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just a friendly neighborhood superhero. Peter must soon put his powers to the test when the evil Vulture emerges to threaten everything that he holds dear. It is the second reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise and the sixteenth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Jon Watts (Clown, Cop Car), with a screenplay by the writing teams of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, Watts and Christopher Ford, and Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers. Watch the trailer

captainunderpantsIn the superhero comedy Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie George Beard and Harold Hutchins are two overly imaginative pranksters who spend hours in a treehouse creating comic books. When their mean principal threatens to separate them into different classes, the mischievous boys accidentally hypnotize him into thinking that he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants. Based on the children’s novel series of the same name by Dav Pilkey. Produced by DreamWorks Animation and Scholastic Entertainment, and animated by Mikros Image, it is directed by David Soren. Watch the trailer

History Revisited: From Real Life To Reel Life

ChurchillChurchill is a British historical war drama film directed by Australian writer and film director Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man). Fearful of repeating the invasion of Gallipoli in 1915, Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) attempts to stop the planned invasion of Normandy in 1944. Only the support of Churchill’s wife, Clementine (Miranda Richardson) , can halt the prime minister’s physical and mental collapse. British historical war drama Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky. Watch the Trailer

OdysseyThe Odyssey explores thirty years in the life of captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau (Lambert Wilson), the famous researcher, scientist, inventor, filmmaker whose greatest achievement is to have made the general public more curious – and accordingly closer – to the sea. A genius, a leader of men and a charismatic opinion maker, Cousteau was not without defects, his being unfaithful to ever-supportive wife Simone for example or else his vainglory…, but let him who is without sin cast the first stone. The spectator leaves Cousteau in mid-1979 at the worst time of his life: his favourite son, Philippe, has just died in the crash of a plane he was piloting. The dashing conqueror of the sea has suddenly become a broken old man, tempted to discouragement but his eldest son Jean-Michel is by his side to help him overcome his grief and go on with his mission.This French-Belgian biographical adventure was directed by Jérôme Salle and written by Salle and Laurent Turner. Watch the Trailer

DunkirkThe epic action thriller Dunkirk is written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception). In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated. The group of soldiers is lead by Corporal “Tubby” Bins (John Mills), stranded in France, and must make their way to the shores of Dunkirk in hopes of a rescue. Back in Britain, Charles Foreman (Bernard Lee), a newspaper reporter, desperately tries to raise awareness among the public of the horrible reality of the war. When the British navy calls for all civilian ships to aid in a rescue, Foreman takes out his own small boat and attempts to bring Tubby and his men home safely. Watch the trailer

Viceroys HouseThe British-Indian historical drama Viceroy’s House takes us into the home of the British rulers of India in Delhi in 1947 during the Partition of India. The final Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, is tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence, but meets with conflict as different sides clash in the face of monumental change. Downstairs in the servants quarters, Mountbatten’s new manservant, Jeet falls for the daughter’s assistant, Alia and all manner of obstacles are put in their way. With Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten, and  Gillian Anderson as Lady Mountbatten. The 1947 Partition of India has always been part of director Gurinder Chadha’s life. Though raised in West London, and born in Nairobi, Kenya 13 years after the controversial Mountbatten Plan struck a jagged line through the north-west of the freshly independent Union of India to create the Dominion of Pakistan, the British-Punjabi film-maker describes herself as someone who grew up “in the shadow of Partition”. The screenplay was crafted by Paul Mayeda Berges, Moira Buffini, and Chadha.  Watch the trailer.

NinaZoe Saldana stars as “High Priestess of Soul” Nina Simone in an already controversial new biopic Nina . Nina takes another strike by focusing on a period of the great singer’s life, her late years in France, that’s far less dramatic than numerous earlier stages. The film also hits a couple of fouls with its exceedingly expository dramatic approach and tendency to hip-hop through her career without going deep. It’s not the biographical film this stupendous, if mightily troubled, musical and political figure deserved, especially coming in the immediate wake of Liz Garbus’ riveting documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? last year. Debuting feature writer-director Cynthia Mort has spent nearly her entire career until now in television, variously as a writer, director and/or producer on the likes of Roseanne, Will & Grace and Tell Me You Love Me, while also writing Neil Jordan’s feature The Brave One. Watch the Trailer

Comedy

the-house-movie-poster-01-600x350After losing their college fund, Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) must figure out a way to earn some cash so their daughter (Ryan Simpkins) can go to school in the comedy The HouseWith help from their neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), the couple start an underground casino in the basement of their house. As the money rolls in and the good times fly, Scott and Kate soon learn that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.Directed by Andrew J. Cohen (Neighbours) , who co-wrote it with Brendan O’Brien. Watch the trailer

MubarakanKaran (Arjun) and Charan (Arjun) are identical twin brothers but their personalities are completely diverse in the Indian romantic comedy Mubarakan . Karan has grown up in London while Charan in Punjab. Karan is street-smart, calculative and flamboyant while Charan is simple, idealistic and honest in his approach! Karan is in love with Sweety (Illeana D’cruz) while Charan is in a relationship with Nafisa (Neha Sharma). Karan’s family fixes Karan’s wedding with Binkle (Athiya Shetty), daughter of one of the wealthiest families in London. He convinces his family to fix the match with Charan instead. The respective families are happy with this development except Charan because he wants to marry Nafisa. Watch the trailer

Live Theatre On The Big Screen

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF by Albee ; Directed by James MacDonald ; Designed by Tom Pye ; at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, UK ; 21 February 2017 ; Credit : Johan Persson /

This latest production of multi Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Edward Albee’s masterpiece has received widespread critical acclaim. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? follows the breakdown of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, played by Olivier Award winners Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill. In the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college, Martha (Staunton) invites a new professor Nick (Luke Treadaway) and his wife Honey (Imogen Poots) for after-party drinks, much to the displeasure of her husband George (Hill). As the alcohol flows and sunrise approaches, the young couple are drawn into George and Martha’s toxic games, until the evening reaches its climax in a moment of devastating truth-telling. Watch the trailer

Peter PanRecorded live during its sell-out UK run at the National Theatre, Peter Pan follows the adventures of the leader of the Lost Boys who loses his shadow but finds strong-willed Wendy, who helps him reattach it. In exchange, she is invited to Neverland, where Tinker Bell the fairy, Tiger Lily and the evil Captain Hook (Olivier Award-winning Anna Francolini) await and a riot of magic, music and make-believe follows. Watch the trailer

salome_production_image_5Acclaimed South African writer and director Yael Farber directs an international cast in an urgent, hypnotic re-telling of Salomé , filmed live at National Theatre’s Olivier stage. An occupied desert nation. A radical from the wilderness on hunger strike. A girl whose mysterious dance will change the course of the world. This charged retelling turns the infamous biblical tale on its head. Please note: Salomé contains nudity, and the characters depict and refer to sexual violence. Watch the trailer

Techno Thriller

The CircleIn the techno-thriller The Circle a young female tech worker (Emma Watson) takes a job at a powerful internet corporation, quickly rises up the company’s ranks, and soon finds herself in a perilous situation, which that involves privacy, surveillance and freedom. She comes to learn that her decisions and actions will determine the future of humanity. Directed and written by James Ponsoldt, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. The film stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt, and Bill Paxton. Watch the trailer

Drama

WakefieldIn the drama Wakefield Bryan Cranston takes on the role of a New York City lawyer who hides out in the attic of his home for weeks, coming out in the daytime when his family is gone to shower and eat. Howard Wakefield’s withdrawal leads him to examine his life, and he rationalizes that he has not abandoned his family because he is still in the house. When a former boyfriend re-enters his wife’s life, he realizes that he may not be able to return to life he has abandoned. It is directed and written by Robin Swicord, based on the short story of same name by E. L. Doctorow. Watch the trailer.

Things To ComeIsabelle Huppert is as brilliant as ever in her earnest portrayal of philosophy teacher Nathalie Chazeaux in the French-German drama Things To Come . As Nathalie is trying to carve out a new direction in life amidst student demonstrations, the questioning of her intellectual relevance, defining relationships coming to an end and becoming a grandmother, her former star student Fabien unexpectedly becomes both a compassionate friend and a fervent intellectual sparring partner. Things to Come has screened at numerous film festivals and won Hansen-Love the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin International Film Festival 2016. Isabelle Huppert’s performance won her several awards for Best Actress, incl. The New York Film Critics Circle’s and the Los Angeles Film Critics Associations’. Directed by Mia Hansen-Love, starring André Marcon, Roman Kolinka. French, German, English with English Subtitles (2016).Watch the trailer.

It’s Time For War

War of the planet of the apesIn War Of The Planet Of The Apes Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet. It is directed by Matt Reeves and written by Mark Bomback and Reeves. It is a sequel to the 2014 film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the third installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot series.Watch the trailer

Futuristic Adventure

valerian_and_the_city_of_a_thousand_planets_2017-wideThe futuristic action-adventure Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets is set in the 28th century, where special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) maintain order throughout the universe for the government of the human territories. Under orders from their commander (Clive Owen), the duo embark on a mission to Alpha, an intergalactic city where diverse species share their technology and resources for the betterment of all. The ever-expanding metropolis is also home to sinister forces that jeopardize the future of mankind. This French science fiction action film was produced, written and directed by Luc Besson. Watch the trailer.

Exhibition On Screen: Art On The Big Screen

HokusaiBritish Museum presents Hokusai, a documentary and exclusive private view of the British Museum exhibition, Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave.The documentary will be screened at Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau sites nationwide, the art cinema that promises a unique and inspiring cinema experience for film lovers with an appreciation of the beauty and artistry of film. Filmed in Japan, the US and the UK, Hokusai focuses on the work, life and times of Katsushika Hokusai, painter and printmaker of the Edo (Modern Tokyo) period. Hokusai is regarded Japan’s greatest artist, who influenced Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists.The film uses spectacular close-ups and expert insights to show his wide-ranging influence and legacy. Using pioneering 8K Ultra HD video technology, Hokusai’s paintings and prints are examined by world experts who are at the forefront of digital art history.The famous volcano Mount Fuji, which was a model for Hokusai in his quest for immortality during his later years, appears in the background of his most famous painting, ‘The Great Wave’, an image depicting an enormous wave threatening boats off the coast. Known as the father of manga, he vividly brought to life demonic mythological beings, erotica and fantasy. Interestingly, he is the only painter with his own emoji.Through much tragedy, and poverty, he never stopped striving for perfection in his work. The documentary is introduced by arts presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon, and features artists David Hockney, Grayson Perry and Maggi Hambling, along with leading scholars of the day. He was a master, and as Hockney put it, “He was a prodigy, like Picasso.” Hokusai releases on Saturday, 15 July 2017, for four screenings only: on 15,19 and 20 July at 19:30 and on 16 July at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban. The running time is approximately 90 minutes, including an interval. For booking information on Hokusai visit www.sterkinekor.com / Watch the trailer

Goya-848x478The Exhibition On Screen documentary Goya – Visions of Flesh and Blood explored Goya’s eventful life spanning more than 80 years, exploring his artistic oeuvre and the latest in biographical research.As well as providing unrestricted access to the acclaimed exhibition Goya: The Portraits, the film builds a compelling portrait of the artist himself through insights from international experts, masterpieces from renowned collections and visits to the locations in which Spain’s most celebrated artist lived and worked. Watch the trailer

 Sneak preview of what’s happening on the Big Screen from September to December 2017

CARS 3

Lightning McQueen Teams Up with Strong, Spirited Trainer Cruz Ramirez in a Quest to Beat Newer, Faster Next-Gen Racers in Cars  3!

If you want to win a super-fun CARS 3 hamper that includes an Umbrella and Jacket, tell us who is tasked with getting Lightning McQueen back on track after a devastating setback.  Send us your answer and contact details with Cars 3 in the subject line before 30 June, 2017. Enter competition here.  Read more about Cars 3 

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

McQueen is back on the big screen, but he’s not a rookie anymore!

Lightning McQueen raced into moviegoers’ hearts more than 10 years ago and remains an iconic character today in Cars 3 that pays homage to NASCAR with four characters based on real-life stock car racing legends.

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen.  “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

NEXT-GEN TAKES THE LEAD — Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer), a frontrunner in the next generation of racers, posts speeds that even Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) hasn’t seen. “Cars 3” is in theaters June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Directed by Fee (storyboard artist Cars, Cars 2), produced by Reher (A Bug’s Life, “La Luna” short) and co-produced by Warren (LAVA short), Cars 3 is executive produced by John Lasseter, who directed the first two films in the franchise. With a story by Fee, Ben Queen (TV’s Powerless), Eyal Podell (actor Code Black) & Jonathon E. Stewart (Doing Time short), the screenplay was penned by Kiel Murray (Cars), Bob Peterson (Up, Finding Nemo”) and Mike Rich (“Secretariat, The Rookie).

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Piston-Cup champion finds himself suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. “The next-gen racers are cool,” says director Brian Fee. “You can see instantly that cars like Jackson Storm are effortlessly fast. We designed these younger, faster cars to be sleek and aerodynamic—and they’re a sharp contrast to Lightning McQueen.”

Producer Kevin Reher says the story is reflective of real-life champions. “Lightning McQueen has been racing for more than a decade,” says Reher. “He’s struggling with the kind of issues a lot of athletes face later in their careers. Do you go out on top or fight till the end?”

While Lightning is still the same self-assured, determined and fun-loving race car audiences fell in love with, his confidence is being tested by the new cars on the track. “When we first met Lightning McQueen, he was a young rookie—a superhero,” says Fee. “He had his whole life ahead of him. And while he’s done well since we last saw him, he’s not a young hotshot racer anymore. We kept circling the idea of what happens when an athlete like Lightning is in the twilight of his career.”

Enter Cruz Ramirez. Tasked with getting Lightning McQueen back on track after a devastating setback, Cruz isn’t shy. Her training style is high-tech, enthusiastic and steadfast—she’s not afraid to apply a little tough love. But there’s more to Cruz than meets the eye. “I love Cruz’s story,” says co-producer Andrea Warren. “She’s such an admirable, likable character. She’s so passionate about racing and her role to create champions. The movie isn’t just about Lightning McQueen—it’s Cruz’s story, in many ways.”

Cars 3 pays homage to NASCAR with four characters based on real-life stock car racing legends. Chris Cooper (“Adaptation,” “American Beauty”) voices Doc Hudson’s crew chief Smokey; team owner and NASCAR racing legend Junior Johnson lends his voice to Junior “Midnight” Moon; three-time Emmy® winner Margo Martindale (FX’s “The Americans,” FX’s “Justified,” Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete”) provides the voice of Louise “Barnstormer” Nash; and Isiah Whitlock Jr. (HBO’s “The Wire,” “Cedar Rapids,” HBO’s “Veep”) is the voice of River Scott. The film also features NASCAR drivers and the voices behind the sport, as well as a host of returning characters from Radiator Springs and the “Cars” racing world.

Says screenwriter Kiel Murray, “I think what will really resonate with audiences—especially adults—is this idea of finding meaning as we age, finding a way to be valuable in every phase of our lives, and giving back to the next generation in a way we don’t ever think about when we’re just getting started.”

Getting To The Heart Of The Story:  Filmmakers Trek to the Southeast and Consult Pros to Root Story in Realty

Cars 3 PosterLightning McQueen raced into moviegoers’ hearts more than 10 years ago and remains an iconic character today. It was that 10-year period that inspired filmmakers to explore what’s next for #95.

Filmmakers consulted NASCAR veterans, including four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham, who served as Gordon’s crew chief for three of his championships. Gordon proved to be a key resource. “He talked a lot about how young racers are full of energy,” says co-producer Andrea Warren. “They like to go fast and hard, while a more experienced driver knows he doesn’t have to do that. They get to know the game well enough that they can play it in a different way.”

“We did a lot of research,” says director Brian Fee. “We looked at athletes in other sports, but really focused on NASCAR drivers. They start at such an early age and their lives are centered around driving. We even talked to a sports psychologist who explained that many of these drivers can’t imagine doing anything else.”

The ideas resonated, and became the motivation for Lightning McQueen’s journey as he faces newer, younger racers. “It’s kind of a timeless story in sports,” says screenwriter Mike Rich, who’s behind movies like “Secretariat” and “The Rookie.” “We’ve seen it with so many athletes—whether it’s Michael Jordon or Peyton Manning, Wayne Gretzky or Misty May-Treanor. The thing that’s unique to athletes is that they’re thirty-something years old when they retire. They still have the rest of their lives to think about. We asked Jeff Gordon about it and he said, ‘I was just afraid that I would never find anything else that I could do as well.’ They feel this gaping hole.”

Lightning McQueen, threatened by the next-gen racers, makes a major misstep, culminating in a dramatic crash and a lot of time for self-reflection. “Lightning’s first reaction is that he wants to do whatever the next-gen racers are doing,” says Fee. “If they’re training on simulators, he’s going to train on simulators. If they’re using wind tunnels, he’ll use wind tunnels.”

He turns to a tech-savvy trainer at the all-new Rust-eze Racing Center to get back in the game. “Cruz Ramirez is a top trainer in racing,” says screenwriter Bob Peterson. “She takes on Lightning as her ‘Senior Project’ and calls it like she sees it: he’s older now, which he doesn’t want to hear, but certainly needs to hear.”

Cruz is all about technology and knows how to create winners on cutting-edge simulated racetracks. But Lightning isn’t part of the next generation, and things don’t go as planned at the slick and fancy high-tech racing center. Sterling, the brilliant new owner of Rust-eze, isn’t interested in watching his star racer plummet. “So they make a deal,” says producer Kevin Reher. “Sterling will let Lightning race in the season opener at the Florida International Super Speedway. If he wins, great, he can decide when he retires. But if he loses, he’ll have to hang it up and become a brand for the businesscar, promoting Lightning McQueen merchandise to his fans worldwide.”

“That triggers a life-changing journey in which Lightning and Cruz hit the road,” adds Fee. “Lightning is on a mission to win. If technology isn’t the answer, he’s determined to figure out what is.”

Lightning decides to return to his roots—recalling the wisdom imparted on him by his beloved mentor, the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet. Says Fee, “He’s chasing his youth, thinking if he can just harness what Doc taught him—get his tires dirty—he’ll find whatever it is that he’s missing.”

Ultimately, he turns to his coach’s coach—Smokey, who was there during Doc’s heyday—for guidance and inspiration, while filmmakers looked to real-life coaches like Evernham and their own lives. “If you’re really trying to share an idea with an audience as a filmmaker, you have to feel it,” says Fee. “So being a parent became my main resource to find and understand the emotion in the film.

“Like a lot of us, I struggled to find enough time to explore my passion projects—we all have responsibilities at work and at home that don’t leave enough spare time,” continues Fee. “Then one day, I spent a couple hours painting a simple picture to teach my daughters about art. Something changed after that. I found the experience so much more rewarding than I ever imagined. That’s what we’re trying to communicate in this movie with the relationship between Lightning McQueen and Doc.”

CARS 3 - (Pictured) Lightning McQueen. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

CARS 3 – (Pictured) Lightning McQueen. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Lightning’s desire to tap into Doc’s wisdom through Smokey deepens the story by exploring the relationships between key characters. Mentorship is an important theme in the film. “It turns out that the life lessons Doc imparted on his trainee aren’t over yet,” says Reher. “There’s still more to learn.”

The nod to Doc and his impact on Lightning McQueen’s career is part of what brings audiences back to the feeling of the original “Cars.” “Audiences connected with the first “Cars” film in a very special way,” says Jay Ward, creative director for the “Cars” franchise. “They saw the heart in Radiator Springs; they felt the emotion in the relationships between the characters.

“‘Cars 2’ was a spy caper that was fun and exciting,” continues Ward, “but it was really more Mater’s story. In ‘Cars 3,’ we wanted to get back to Lightning McQueen and the warmth and depth that resonated with so many people in the first film.”

Story supervisor Scott Morse says the story team wanted to highlight the emotional core. “We really focused on the relationships between the characters,” says Morse. “We wanted it to feel like a true sports film, but this movie has always wanted to be a mentor story. We wanted Lightning to realize what their relationship meant to Doc.”

Morse, a father of two boys, says he tapped into his own experience as a sports coach for his sons. “I’ve coached seven teams over the last five years,” he says. “Watching them improve and grow as athletes—and the impact it had on me personally—definitely made its way into our story meetings.”

And, says Morse, you don’t have to be an aging athlete to understand Lightning McQueen’s plight. “I’m at a point in my career here at Pixar when I’m not the young kid coming in—a 20-year-old intern who had a Lightning McQueen toy as a kid. They’re as good or better and looking for opportunities. But that doesn’t mean we all step aside; we look for the positives; we look for ways to help them. And hopefully they make us all better.”

Adds screenwriter Kiel Murray, “I think what will really resonate with audiences—especially adults—is this idea of finding meaning as we age, finding a way to be valuable in every phase of our lives, and giving back to the next generation in a way we don’t ever think about when we’re just getting started.”

 

 

REAR VIEW — The legendary #95 may be leading the pack, but the high-tech Next Gen racers are closing in fast. Directed by Brian Fee and produced by Kevin Reher, “Cars 3” cruises into theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

REAR VIEW — The legendary #95 may be leading the pack, but the high-tech Next Gen racers are closing in fast. Directed by Brian Fee and produced by Kevin Reher, “Cars 3” cruises into theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Film Welcomes Racers New and Old, Plus Fan Favorites

 On his journey in “Cars 3,” Lightning McQueen crosses paths with new and intriguing characters, and filmmakers tapped top talent to bring them to life. Ranging from a fiery trainer who’s determined to reignite Lightning McQueen’s career to a group of legendary racers who, back in the day, hit the track alongside the Fabulous Hudson Hornet himself—the characters in “Cars 3” will surely make their mark on the big screen.

Production designer Jay Shuster headed up the look of the characters. Shuster, whose first film at Pixar was “Cars,” considers himself a car guy. “It’s really how I got my job here,” he says. “My dad worked at GM for 43 years back in Detroit. So, I had a portfolio full of car sketches and an understanding of the car culture at large.”

In terms of characters, says Shuster, the “Cars” world is largely defined by its limitations. “It’s a different kind of automotive engineering that goes into the designs of these characters—it’s more like an experimental alchemy. We have a parameter of a body shell with four wheels on it, a windshield and a very constrained area around the grill and headlights to engineer into a mouth. Beyond that, we exploit space, paint and graphic to define each character.”

Jeremy Lasky, director of photography-camera, faced similar challenges. “The features on a human face appear on the same plane whether they’re facing camera or in profile,” he says. “A car’s mouth is six feet in front of his eyes—from the windshield to the grill. We play a lot with angles to make sure the character is on model in every shot. We learned a lot from the first two films. But we also pushed it to another level, bringing more energy to our shots and making everything feel more alive without distracting from what’s going on in the story.”

Since 2011, when “Cars 2” was released, Pixar Animation Studios has updated its rendering system. The introduction of a new renderer within the animation world is both welcome and feared. “What’s really great about the new renderer RIS is that it’s more physically accurate,” says Michael Fong, supervising technical director. “So producing images that look like the real world is much easier because it can correctly model how light bounces and interacts with materials. But it’s still new technology, and it takes time to figure out its peculiarities—particularly for the ‘Cars’ world, where the reflections both make us and break us.”

RIS presented “Cars 3” filmmakers with an opportunity. “If you look at a car in the sunlight, you can see tiny concentric scratches and metallic flakes within the paint schemes,” says Junyi Ling, character shading supervisor. “It’s one of the things that makes a car look like a car. Traditionally, it’s been really difficult to do that, but we were able to add those features into our shading.”

According to Sudeep Rangaswamy, global technology supervisor, technology was introduced that automated the level of shading detail in a given character, depending on how close to camera he or she is. “That makes the renders more efficient, despite the increase in detail we’re now capable of achieving up close.”

Kim White, director of photography-lighting, says that the lighters’ role in reflections was almost reversed thanks to the new renderer. “They had to cheat the reflections in previous ‘Cars’ movies,” she says, acknowledging that all new technology comes with a new set of challenges. “Our characters are cars and we want them to look really beautiful, which the reflections really help us accomplish,” she says. “But they’re still characters and the audience needs to read their emotions, their expressions. There are some reflections that can be distracting, so we have to manage that.”

Authenticity on all levels continues to be a priority at Pixar—right down to the last detail. According to Jay Ward, creative director for the “Cars” franchise, the team sought to get it all right. “We paid attention to vehicle dynamics, the way each car moves, front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel drive, etcetera. Lightning McQueen’s tires have treads when he races on the dirt; he runs slicks on the track. We do all of that on purpose because there are definitely people in our audience who will notice if we get it wrong.”

An ultimate biography of Michelangelo who, is considered one of the greatest artists of the renaissance – and perhaps of all time.

The final art documentary in the current Exhibition On Screen season explores Michelangelo’s tempestuous life and takes art lovers on a journey through the great chapels and museums of Florence, Rome and the Vatican, to the print and drawing rooms of Europe, and is screened exclusively at Nouveau cinemas from 17 June.

Michelangelo: Love and Death offers a full and fresh biography of Michelangelo who, is considered one of the greatest artists of the renaissance – and perhaps of all time.

MICHAELANGELO 36 Filming at Studio Nicoli Carrara -® David Bickerstaff

 

The film documents painter, architect, poet and sculptor Michelangelo, and explores his life and work. He was known as the original, famous artist of his time, having two biographies written about him during his life, biographies on which he worked closely with the respective authors. The Exhibition on Screen documentary delves into the man behind the monumental pieces of art that defined him as the genius of the Italian Renaissance.

Michelangelo: Love and Death explores his relationship with his contemporaries and his immense artistic practice. Among the works explored are the universally adored David in Florence, the frescoes of Sistine Chapel in Rome and the Manchester Madonna.

This film goes to the heart of just who this passionate, giant of art history and much loved genius was. While we know his great work, who was the man that sculpted the universally adored, David, capturing the intricacy of his pulsating veins, sinew and muscle of the human body that would make Michelangelo known as the greatest sculptor of all time?

This intriguing documentary releases exclusively at Nouveau cinemas in Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Ster-Kinekor Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. Follow Nouveau on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

”I think, whatever you do, if you can bring a real joy and a sort of  passion to what you do, you’re going to be good at what you do because you’re going to be so engaged in it.”

Renowned British filmmaker Simon Aboud’s This Beautiful Fantastic is a contemporary fairy tale revolving around the most unlikely of friendships between a reclusive, agoraphobic young woman with dreams of being a children’s book author and a curmudgeonly old widower, set against the backdrop of a beautiful garden in the heart of London.

SIMON ABOUD

Director’s Note

At its heart this is a story of a man making his way to death and a young woman struggling to make sense of life who find each other and form an unlikely but magical friendship as Alfie teaches Bella about life and love through the metaphor of gardening and Bella reminds Alfie of what it feels like to be alive.

This Beautiful Fantastic is one of those rare scripts – a unique story with a beautiful voice that will blossom into a true cinematic gem. It is a deceptively layered piece – an adult fairy tale, a romantic story of blossoming love and a coming-of-age comedy.

My focus as a filmmaker is always on the emotional truth of the story and the characters and their journeys. In the same breath, I want This Beautiful Fantastic to be a truly cinematic entity, balancing emotional heartache and warmth with carefully choreographed cinematographic beauty.

It’s important to note that the garden itself is a major character in the film and as the garden takes on more importance in Bell’s life, so it starts to intrude more on our framing and consciousness. The garden will start to become part of the texture of the cinematography, finding its way into foreground and background.

We will be carefully building a world and a period – I like to think of it as ‘somewhere between now and then’ – that is quintessentially English, but not specific to a particular year or place. It is not present day, with all the associated contemporary technological gadgetry, but rather a nostalgic slice of fabricated Art Nouveau Englishness, reflected both in the designed architecture and sourced locations.

Music is also be an ever-present character in This Beautiful Fantastic. In addition to a pared back score led by piano and strings that follows the story and the seasons, I want to create a couple of moments where the music is more contemporary and led by a powerful female vocal so that it almost amplifies Bell’s emotions, shouts them out. In this regard, I am greatly influenced by the work of The Cocteau Twins and, more recently, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. When describing the tone of This Beautiful Fantastic, it is hard to avoid comparisons with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie (2001). All the comedy is played for real, not broad cartoon.

This Beautiful Fantastic will be quirky and warm, but never goofy or whimsical. In broad terms, it will embrace the sentiment of our story, without ever veering towards sentimentality.

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As a director, you have the ability to take the writer’s story and make it visual. This includes editing scenery and music to ensure what your writer, and you are both, that the vision is fully told. Is there any part of that process that is exhilarating or even difficult?

The whole thing is difficult. It’s an odd path to achieve to be the writer and director. For instance the work I’ve done recently, when I did the TV series  last summer in L.A., I didn’t write the story and I  found that more difficult. Because,  I think what happens is, if you’re the writer and the director, very clearly, when you’re writing you bring the director’s perspective. It should feel visual, it should leap off the page and you should hopefully elevate it to something that is visual not just one dimensional, obviously in just word. But, then also there comes a point where you take that hat off and you put a director’s hat on and hopefully, because you’ve been with it since the birth of the script, you’re so readily invested in it, so it becomes easier. However, you’ve got to be really hard with yourself to make sure you find real objectivity.  Because, obviously,  I am the writer and director with two minds on that. One is the writer and one is director – the same person as in one.

Making a small independent film is hard work. It’s absolutely difficult to get it even from the starting line; difficult to cast; difficult to raise the finance; it’s difficult to achieve the schedule. Because, if you’re doing a studio movie you’re given a few months and in a small production you’re given just a few weeks. You don’t have the finance or the luxury of doing this, that and the other.  But, in a small production,  you have far better creative freedom. Every thing balances out at the end of the day. Really, seriously, I am so lucky to have this job. I know that. I’m incredibly grateful to do what I do.

It is a gift when you’re able to finally do what you enjoy, or to find the thing that you enjoy…

I think, whatever you do, if you can bring a real joy and a sort of  passion to what you do, you’re going to be good at what you do because you’re going to be so engaged in it. But I think, in the creative business if you can get a chance to make a movie, it’s just such a privilege. It really is.

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Jessica Brown Findlay and Jeremy Irvine in This Beautiful Fantastic

Described as being a modern-day fairy tale, which have elements of magic and of the improbable. what would you say then were the elements in This Beautiful Fantastic that were magical or improbable?

What I  tried to do with the film, right, which is… I’m very glad people call it a  modern-day fairy tale. That’s what  I set out to achieve. But, I was very careful to make the film seem timeless and at the same time to ground in a reality. Which it’s  meant to be London today,  but I didn’t put any computers or mobile phones in there….I deliberately took away the things like cars, buses; I took away a lot of that. If you go through it very carefully you’ll realize the bus she gets on is modern-day where she goes is modern-day. I think, one part of fairy tale telling is the  ability to suspend belief, right. So, there’s a point I present them to you that these things are possible. But over the course of 100 minutes they hopefully, fingers crossed, take on the air of being slightly magical. So very clearly, the story that she’s telling about Luna, the bird, the whole thing has an element of magic to it. What you do is take elements of real life and you weave those into that story. Also, all the characters were slightly on the edge of reality. Yeah, that’s kind of the way I did it, but hopefully, the take out is I do believe it is magical…Well, that’s the best thing you can say to me. It’s great to believe that I achieved that.

Your story works when those working with you catch your vision. How much of your vision was realized through the actors you chose?

I think any character on the screen has got to be a collaboration between the actor and the director. They’re the two people that are going to make that character kind of live and breath. I was very, very lucky that I had four actors; all with strong will, all with creative vision, all very passionate. They all worked really hard on developing their characters. They all worked me really hard with making me justify every word I’d written for the script every day.  I think then, when you do that something special is going to happen. They were all very, very talented and I was super lucky to cast them.

Could it be that there’s a little bit of you in each of these characters?

Yes, yes, you’re very perceptive. This is not the first time being said, I think. Because it’s my first screenplay, I think it’s more autobiographical than anything else I’ve written. I’m very happy that it is but, I think what’s very interesting is that people ask me, in that I suffered from OCD, and people are saying to me, “well, so, are you Bella?” And I’ve always responded saying, “I think that I’m a bit of all of them. I really do…” What’s interesting is the most common  questions I get, “well, what’s the film about?”…And I now think, wholeheartedly,  that the film is about how important it is for someone to find a family…I don’t just mean a biological family…But, I think that it’s really  important that people find an emotional family;  where they are nurtured and where everybody helps bring about the best in everybody else. I suspect that it  also may be a kind of  reaction to what I said to you before. Which, is me remembering, you know, I said to my Dad, “I really want to be a film director.” And my Dad, well, God bless him, I loved him dearly… it’s that he just didn’t know how to praise us. He wouldn’t know how to make you a film director. But obviously now, if my son said to me “I want to be a film director”, I would say, “Yeah, bring it, I’m not going to laugh at you!”  I think the whole thing is about you have to take people seriously about their dreams. You have to try to help them get somewhere towards them.

You have a passion for gardening as well…is there somebody that instilled that in you?

Yes, I do! I have a great passion for gardening. It started with this movie. Because it got to a point where I needed to know what a Delphinium looked like. I needed to know just how big a Delphinium is and what colors they came in. So, I  eventually just started gardening and now I’m kind of obsessed with it. I love it. I’m very  passionate about it. Even to the point where the worst thing about me going to LA. to shoot this TV show was that I couldn’t see my  garden in the best time of the year, in summer. When I came back it was kind of overgrown. And I  found it quite depressing.  My wife would ask me, “What was wrong?” and I’d say “Just look at it.” So yeah, I love gardening.

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Do you think you may consider making this story into a book?

Oh yes, I have to say, I think it will be turned into a book. The book actually took on a bigger and bigger significance. What was funny was when I first started the detail of it was not super important. What was important was that it was coming out. But then, as I got further and further in to the draft, I suddenly realized I was thinking “Hang on, what happens to Luna now?” So actually there’s probably more, there’s more I ended up writing; more stories than there are in the film. So the answer is…Yes…The answer is I would love to do a children’s book.

 

 

 

This Beautiful Fantastic  Is A Great Film To Escape Into

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen (15/ 06/17)

The emotional truth British writer-director Sam Aboud forms with his utterly charming contemporary fairy tale This Beautiful Fantastic tells the alluring story of the unlikely bond between a reclusive, agoraphobic young woman and a cantankerous old widower. Read interview with Simon Aboud.

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It’s a sentimental and life-affirming film about hopeful dreams, lost love and newfound friendships, showing how rewarding it is escape from the prisons of privacy we create for ourselves, and welcome other people into our lives to awaken our humanity.

Jessica Brown Findlay is superb as the reclusive Bella who dreams of being a children’s book author, with Tom Wilkinson in top form as her wealthy landlord and amazing horticulturalist Alfie, with great support from Andrew Scott as a single father and ‘housekeeper/ cook’, and Jeremy Irvine as an impassioned inventor of mechanical toys.

At the heart of this story lies Bella’s neglected garden, and when she is forced to bring the garden back to life or face eviction, a magical friendship blossoms as Alfie teaches Bella about life and love through the metaphor of gardening and Bella reminds Alfie of what it feels like to be alive.

Ultimately, Aboud’s wonderful script is not simply a romantic story of blossoming love and a coming-of-age comedy, but a deceptively layered narrative that reveals the touching story of a man making his way to death and a young woman struggling to make sense of life who find each other and form an unlikely friendship.

This Beautiful Fantastic is a great film to escape into and make sense of the unnecessary complications that cause us to withdraw from life, instead of living it to the fullest and making the most of what is within our reach.

If there’s one thing this film will achieve, is for you to step out into your garden and bring it to life. And even if you don’t have a garden, you will create one no matter where you live, as The Beautiful Fantastic reminds us of the connection we should have to nature and how important it is to celebrate its magic.

”It’s a movie that people will feel. It’s very easy for Hollywood to become cynical and try to create something that will just provoke people… The intention of this movie is to celebrate little enthusiasms, to make people feel good and warm and to celebrate connection.”

Tom FlynnDuring the past 25 years screenwriter Tom Flynn has been selling spec scripts to studios in Hollywood, only seeing Watch It made (which he also directed). Now, with the success of Gifted, a story inspired by his one-eyed cat Fred, and his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met,’ Flynn is back to writing full time… this time getting his movies made.

In Gifted, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida.  But Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven-year-old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan)—a wealthy Bostonian whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Mary and Frank.  As family tensions and disconnections flare, uncle and niece find support in Roberta (Octavia Spencer), their protective landlady and best friend, and Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate), a young woman whose concern for her student soon develops into a relationship with her uncle as well.

GIFTED

Gifted began its journey to the big screen when producer Karen Lunder, who has produced an assortment of films including Arrival, remembers a conversation with producer Andy Cohen in which she asked: “‘What do you have that’s great and different? What is the thing you’re most excited about?’

‘’He sent me Gifted.  When I read the script, it had this timeless quality to it.  It felt like the kind of movies I grew up watching: it was a throwback of sorts to films of the 70’s and early 80’s that weren’t afraid to make you laugh and cry – that were both escapist and real.”

Says Cohen, “Screenwriter Tom Flynn had a written something special. Once in a while you get lucky and you read something that you absolutely fall in love with.  I was crying at the end of it, but I also kept laughing throughout. What I loved about it is was that it was all about the characters. They were fully realized and I knew we could get tremendous actors and a top director.” says Cohen.

“The next step was to find the right filmmaker, and Marc Webb ((500) Days Of Summer) was at the top of the list. But with a script like this,” Lunder says, “if you don’t get it right, it won’t find its audience, it won’t find its place in the world.  We had to find the right person,” and she was convinced that was Webb.

Cohen remembers, “Karen told me that she would try to get Marc to read it but not to get my hopes up as she knew how selective he was as well as being focused on another project.”

Like Lunder and Cohen, Webb responded to the writing. “I kept on waiting for this script to get bad, but it just kept getting better.  It was simple, warm and uncynical. The writing felt nourishing to me.  Mary and Frank are something like a comedy team with a lot of heart.  After spending so many years on bigger movies, I just wanted to hang out with these two.”

Says Webb: “I had been looking for a script about personal relationships, something that really gets back to the roots of what I love about cinema and characters and this just felt right.  I wanted to go away and just experience this little bit of joy, kind of under the radar. It’s a movie that people will feel. It’s very easy for Hollywood to become cynical and try to create something that will just provoke people. The intention of this movie is to celebrate little enthusiasms, to make people feel good and warm and to celebrate connection. I think we’ve done it in a way that is authentic. That’s rarer than it should be.”

In his career, Chris Evans has judiciously chosen a balance of blockbuster and smaller, more interior films. He picked Gifted for many reasons but says: “It was more the director than the role. You can have a great role and a great script. You can have a lot of pieces in place but if you don’t have a great director, you don’t have much. So for me it was Marc Webb.”

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Gifted was a story inspired by screenwriter Tom Flynn’s one-eyed cat Fred

Tom Flynn’s journey

Tom Flynn has had a successful career in Hollywood.  “He’d done really well selling big comedy scripts to the studios,” Gifted producer and Flynn’s literary manager Andy Cohen explains. “These were different spec scripts where he’d sell them and they never got made.

Flynn left Hollywood for Florida where he started selling real estate and semi-retired.  At the urging of his wife, he finally began to write the movie he really wanted to write.  He hunkered down in his sister’s empty beach house for five uninterrupted weeks. “In November and December there was nobody around and everything’s closed, so you don’t have anything else to do.” With little to distract him, Flynn walked the beach in the morning, created the dialogue in his head, and then went home every day and worked on the script.

His inspiration for Gifted was actually his sister, whom he describes as “the most unassuming ridiculously smart person you’ve ever met. When she was five everyone in the family was afraid of her, she was so determined. I had been around a brilliant mind all my life and I learned how important it was to have fun too, if she hadn’t she might have been doomed.”  She was the jumping off point for Gifted, along with his two nieces, one of whom really did punch out a bully on the school bus just like Mary Adler.  For the first time, Flynn says, he felt no pressure as he worked.  “Every other time I wrote something it was always with the market in mind, I always wrote it to sell it. This one I wrote for the characters and the story.”

“Before I knew it,” says Cohen, “I had a first draft that was nothing like anything Tom had written before. It was really something special. Once in a while you get lucky and you read something that you absolutely fall in love with. The characters were fully realized and I knew we could get tremendous actors and a top director.”

Lunder felt an immediate personal connection to Flynn’s story too.  She hunted Flynn down and persuaded him that she was the right person to get his film made and even shared the coincidence that her own no-nonsense, intimidating “Chanel grandmother” was named Evelyn like Lindsay Duncan’s character. “It’s like when you fall in love, now you have to figure out how you’re going to get married. I told him that there was something about it that I latched onto and couldn’t let go of.  I knew I had to take care of this project and make sure it got made right.”  The script eventually landed on Hollywood’s Black List, a survey of film executives’ favorite screenplays yet to be produced.

Other key players on Gifted also had serendipitous connections to components of the world that Tom Flynn had created. As it turned out, Webb himself, like Flynn, came from a family in love with mathematics.

“My father had been involved in mathematics for a very long time, so I had an immediate physical and emotional connection to the material. It just felt right,” Webb reveals. “I had been working in big movies for a long time at that point and I wanted something simple, something that got back to the roots of what I love about film, which is character, and then this came along.”

“I was really interested in working with kids,” he says. “It can be really challenging and it was new to me, which I think was the one intriguing reason I wanted to make the movie.”

Webb brought a unique vision to the film, Cohen says: “When he’s directing a scene, it’s like he’s choreographing a dance, not just where the actors stand or what they’re doing, but an emotional choreography. That’s important because each of them have their own unique arc.” Cohen adds: “You never know when you’re building your cast and your crew what you’re going to end up with. It’s this magical alchemy.  I do think it starts at the top with the director.  He paints what he wants the film to be.”

Webb is particularly pleased that Gifted is a movie in which all the intellectual powerhouses are women. “It’s a movie where women are really brilliant and it’s not done as a stunt. It’s something that feels weirdly rare, I don’t know why.  I love the idea of having girls who are good at math, women who are good at math. A woman just won the Fields Medal in mathematics [Note: In 2014, Maryam Mirzakhani, a math professor at Sanford University, was the first woman to win the most prestigious prize in her field also known as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics] I mean, it happens in the world but we just don’t always recognize that in cinema.”

Webb also thinks that fathers will respond to the message of the film, if his own reaction is any example: “I’m a forty-year-old dude, and I got choked up. All the burly grips hid behind the duvateen (light blocking fabric) because they were crying.  I think men are not encouraged to feel, which I think is one of the challenges that Frank has to face, but of course men are emotional creatures too.”

Karen Lunder says. “It’s what you hope for as a producer, to actually have each role played by the best possible person, a dream cast.”

Evans, a huge fan of (500) Days Of Summer and the Spiderman films says of his first meeting with Webb, “It just felt like we gelled. We quickly saw eye-to-eye on the process, and he gained this allegiance with myself and the rest of the cast. We just had trust. We believed in Marc’s internal barometer of what was good and what was bad.”

When Evans first read the script, he was drawn to the dialogue – “the music of the words, the exchange, the repartee” — and the story. “I love character pieces that involve family drama, they’re very relatable.” That, and the attraction of very intelligent people exchanging clever banter, he says, “is just very juicy for an actor.”

Evans worked with Webb to create who they wanted Frank Adler to be. “Frank’s a tricky guy,” Evans says. “He has a lot of guilt, which is tough to play because it’s beneath the surface. You can’t exactly show your cards and he’s kind of a closed-off emotional guy anyway. He’s tough to read. I think he’s exceptional but in a different way than his sister. There’s a lot of complexity in his past and he’s someone who didn’t cope as well with it as he does now.”

Webb says: “People often think of Chris as Captain America, this sweet all-American guy, and he is all that, but there is a dimension to him that you sense underneath, some melancholy that I think is really beautiful and hasn’t been explored a lot in his work. He’s incredibly skilled and very funny. There were a lot of actors who were interested in GIFTED, but Chris had a passion that was singular. I remember when I was meeting him, and I said, ‘We’re making a small movie.’ If he wanted to, he could exist solely in that atmosphere and I was a little nervous because I wanted him to do this one. And in about 30 seconds he said, I love this movie and we have to do it. He became an ally really quickly, a wonderful, creative collaborator and a good friend in the process.”

Lunder too thinks Evans gives “a very surprising performance…There’s something about him in the role of Frank where he’s messier, not just on the outside but on the inside. In every moment of this film Frank is carrying something from his part – his anger, guilt, resentment, fear and love. And the moment you see him with Mary, regardless of whether you know where the story is going, you can’t help but root for them.”

Director Marc Webb during filming of Gifter

Director Marc Webb during filming of Gifted

The casting of Mary was crucial to the success of Gifted, and led to an eight-month exhaustive search says Lunder. “We were not just looking for a great child actor, which is a challenge in itself.  We needed to find someone who could be funny, spunky, pull off the big emotional moments and be credible as a genius – a tall order, especially for an eight-year-old.”

Webb insists there was a good reason for the massive search: “I couldn’t have made Gifted unless I found the right Mary Adler. It was the biggest hurdle to making the movie.”   “We saw hundreds of girls but when Mckenna Grace auditioned with Evans, “their chemistry was palpable,” Lunder recalls. In Mckenna’s audition, Webb remembers asking her to prank the cat and pretend a stapler was the one-eyed Fred. “She made the stapler meow – she was hilarious. Chris couldn’t keep a straight face. But then two minutes later she would come in weeping, with her guts spilling out because she was left by the only person she knew. There’s an emotional depth and sophistication you don’t see very often in an actor, but for a child, that’s a level of virtuosity that is incredibly rare.”

Mckenna says she also learned a lot from working with Evans. “He was very focused on the set, and sometimes he would sit down and help me with my script.” Evans treated her “more like a friend, like he treats Mary. I really like that he treated me that way, except he did try not to say bad words around me.”

She allows that Mary is very smart for her age “and smarter than I am,” so it was a challenge to learn the math: “It was very hard to memorize all those numbers and those periods and all that math. I mean, I just learned all of my times tables and now I’m moving on to division while my character Mary was on calculus.”  Webb recalls that Mckenna found a way to memorize the equation that worked for her: “She made it into a song, singing along with sophisticated and very real equations with pi and alphas and absolute values and it was extraordinary. You felt like there really was some genius in the girl, a different kind of genius.”

The Original Monster Is Reborn in The Mummy

Frankenstein’s Monster.  Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The Wolf Man.  The Invisible Man.  The Mummy.

Those are but a few of the names of Universal Pictures’ iconic monsters from days past and present that conjure up unforgettably haunting cinematic images…ones that stay with us for a lifetime.  Now, Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy.

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A massive undertaking that spanned three continents, 50 sets, 64 zero-gravity weightless sessions (mid-flight), 300-pound sarcophagi, thousands of special and visual effects, decades of imagination, more than one million feet of film—not to mention countless moving parts and pieces—the world creation and cinematic launch of The Mummy represents a labor of deep love for the hundreds of cast and crew who have spent endless hours painstakingly developing and crafting an epic action-adventure that has been 5,000 years in the making.

The creative team on this action-adventure event is led by director/producer Alex Kurtzman and producer Chris Morgan, who have been instrumental in growing some of the most successful franchises of the past several years—with Kurtzman writing or producing entries in the Transformers, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible series, and Morgan being the narrative engineer of the Fast & Furious saga as it has experienced explosive growth from its third chapter on.

David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, War of the Worlds) and Academy Award winner Christopher Mcquarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission: Impossible series) and Dylan Kussman wrote the screenplay for The Mummy, which is from the screen story by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) and Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married).

Thought safely entombed deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension.   From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.

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For almost a century, audiences have been drawn to the monster characters for many reasons.  Not only do these super-humans straddle the fine line between life and death, there is such allure to the power of creatures who are capable of so much more than we dare imagine for ourselves.  Truly, we empathize with their deep struggle between dark and light.

Curiously, our fascination with monsters has a fittingly cinematic beginning.

Although explorers had excavated the majority of mummified Egyptian royalty by the time that British archaeologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon unearthed a boy king called Tutankhamen in 1922, it was this discovery that coincided with an explosion of global entertainment.  Initially, the subject matter riveted worldwide audiences in traveling museum shows throughout the decade.  But none could imagine what would happen when, one year later, in 1923, the talking motion picture (“talkie”) was introduced and began shifting the silence in movie theaters across the world.

Nor, could audiences know the depth of cinematic terror to come until Boris Karloff, the man they had seen the year prior as Frankenstein’s Monster, emerge on the screen as the first theatrical Mummy, Imhotep, in Karl Freund’s 1932 masterpiece for Universal Studios.  Screams of terror that could only be guessed at a decade earlier were now filling up theaters, heard both on screen and from the audience.

Filmmaker Sean Daniel, who has had quite a storied history of his own with Universal—serving in 1985 as the youngest production president since the studio began—has been fascinated with the subject material since he was a boy.  Not only did he produce the most recent Mummy trilogy, the now-independent producer approached Universal more than four years ago about reimagining and rebooting the anti-hero for a new generation of audiences…ones ready to be transfixed and terrified by this dark creature, just as generations before them had.

It was Daniel’s deep belief that this immortal character—who speaks to us all in the darkest of the night—draws us under its spell.  Indeed, it’s drawn this godfather of the modern Mummy movies back to fascinating source material since 1994.  “From my early days at Universal, I’ve advocated that we continue to be in the Mummy business.  I feel that this character speaks to people’s sense of what life and death are about, and who has the power over that,” the producer reflects.  “It’s mysterious, dark, exciting and scary.  Over the years, I have always wanted to see Mummy movies in theaters, and that’s why I’ve championed them.  I just believe in monster movies as a genre, and that these compelling characters and stories are meant for global audiences.”

Once the Universal-based team of director/producer Alex Kurtzman and producer Chris Morgan, who serve as the narrative architects of the Universal monsters saga—partnered with Daniel, it was decided that The Mummy would be the first chapter in Universal’s new series.

Daniel felt strongly that enough time had gone by since the last film, and there was an opportunity to reimagine the entire idea.  Working from a screen story by Jon Spaihts and Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet, The Mummy team began the next stage of development, one that would lead Kurtzman to ultimately helm the production.

The production team felt that making a version that was contemporary would be both a challenge and a huge creative opportunity.  “Critical to this was the great partnership with Alex, who had a vision for how to tell this story and create a new character—making The Mummy a woman for the first time ever,” explains Daniel.  “He created a way for us to care about this dangerous creature with powers, one whose plight and agony mean something to the audience.  That was central to Alex’s vision, and to what I was advocating to the studio about how to do this anew.”

The Mummy filmmakers gave their team the time to precisely capture the mood and spirit of this world.  “What we are trying to create here is a texture and tone rooted in the Universal horror classic, while having one foot in the modern age,” provides Kurtzman.  “This serves as a nod to these classics, while also bringing these monsters to life in a whole new era for a global audience.”

“We knew that, in order to work, this film has to be scary,” reveals the director.  “Very scary.  Yet, we still want to be able to recognize that there in a human being inside these monsters, and empathize with them.  One of the things that’s so important about the monsters is that we find a way to love them while we fear them.”

Just as the characters had such an indelible imprint on Daniel and Kurtzman, so they did with Morgan.  The producer recounts the time he met them: “When you first are introduced to monsters, it tends to be as a child, and there’s something about it that grabs you.  I remember my brother was in Cub Scouts, and I was six.  They had a day where they went to the library, and they were going to watch a horror movie.  It was for Halloween, and it was The Mummy.

“I was too young; I wasn’t supposed to see it,” he continues, “but I remember sneaking to the doorway and peeking in.  This was right at just the wrong moment for a six-year-old, which is when they are mummifying Boris Karloff alive.  I was horrified.  I remember stepping back, and I was going to walk away, but then I thought, “What is going to happen?’  So I snuck back in and I watched the rest of the movie.  Ever since then, I have been hooked on the monsters.”

As the key team behind The Mummy, Daniel, Kurtzman and Morgan were joined by fellow producer Sarah Bradshaw, who has lent her talents to such epic retellings as Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman.  While the foursome began to reimagine an antihero for a new generation, they began to ask themselves what would be most astonishing to them as moviegoers.  What they have created—from a screenplay by David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman—is as big as it is intense…an epic action-adventure that is as full of scares as it is extraordinary fun, scary and bold.

The producers felt strongly that their version of The Mummy had to be grounded in the modern era, and looked forward to bringing her into a space and time that was foreign to her.  They wondered: “What would happen if a badass female mummy, fueled by an unforgivable betrayal and centuries of thirsting for revenge, was unleashed on today’s world?”  It was also crucial for the entire team that this version of The Mummy would be unlike anything ever before seen on screen.

Over the course of development of The Mummy, global superstar Tom Cruise, who portrays soldier of fortune Nick Morton, joined the production as star and creative partner.  As did his fellow collaborators, Cruise offers that he grew up watching monster movies, and that not only inspired him to become an entertainer, but it is what drove him to this particular labor of love.  “I love The Wolf Man, Dracula and The Mummy,” he says.  “It was terrifying as a child seeing these films.  This movie is genuinely terrifying as well, yet it has the kind of scope and elegance of the original ones.”

In their initial conversations, Cruise and his producers made a pact to honor the tradition of these monster movies, and respect what the characters mean to audiences…while giving them something entirely unexpected.  Explains Cruise: “You want to see the monsters win.  That’s what is interesting about the way these stories are told.  They both terrify us and yet your feel sympathy for them.  It’s transcendent.”

Cruise and Kurtzman, who previously collaborated on Mission: Impossible III, were very much on the same page when it came to their vision for The Mummy.  The director lauds that what makes his star connect so well with moviegoers is that we’re all on the same cinematic journey together: “We both feel a tremendous inheritance and a sense of responsibility.  Tom thinks how the audience thinks, and he brings everything to life in a unique and an exciting way.”landscape-1480604242-screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-144407

The filmmakers would soon be off to the arduous task of bringing Princess Ahmanet and Nick Morton together in a place that was unfamiliar, yet timeless, to both of them.  Daniel, who has lived with the world of ancient Egypt in the front of his mind for many decades, reflects upon reinventing the story with this chapter: “In keeping with the core idea of reimagining The Mummy, we are setting the film in modern London.  We knew this would be a movie in which The Mummy was an incredible woman, and that the story would be happening today…amidst all of our lives.  There’s nothing mythical about it.  Here she is, risen after 5,000 years, and walking through one of the world great cities—causing incredible mayhem.”

Similarly, Bradshaw enforced this mandate of “sticking to reality.”  She explains: “It was always about making The Mummy grounded in today.  We wanted to have a sense that you could believe that it could happen to you.  We not only try to achieve that with the sets, but with the lighting as well.”

The producer also advises that she appreciated having such an involved collaborator as Cruise on the production.  “You definitely have to be on your toes with Tom because, when he comes on set, everything is always about making it better.  Tom will see something that perhaps the rest of us haven’t seen and you’ll say, ‘Oh….okay.’”

As they worked together, Cruise and his producers created an experience that was as scary and exotic as it was bold and daring.  The Mummy for a new generation is as audacious as it is unexpected.  While people will recognize core elements from Universal’s monster universe—this film celebrates classic mythologies—The Mummy’s characters are grappling with all of their lives upended as Ahmanet enters today’s world.

The producers appreciated Cruise’s involvement at every step of the process in making The Mummy a reinvention, one that drew its key elements from the cinematic canon.  “In pre-production, Tom would gather us together to watch films such as The Shining and Seven,” recounts Daniel.  “He drove everyone to think creatively throughout all phases of pre-production, shooting and post.”

© 2017 Universal Studios.  www.themummy.com

”I really believe that superhero movies can encourage change and courage in one’s own life, to tackle difficult things and be a hero.  We all have that potential.”

Director Patty Jenkins’ larger-than-life hero’s journey Wonder Woman tells the long-awaited origin story of Diana, the only child of Themyscira, a secret island gifted to her people from the king of the gods himself, Zeus.

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Patty Jenkins directs Connie Nielsen in Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins is a writer/director known for her debut feature, Monster, based on the life of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and for helming the pilot and finale episode of AMC’s hit show The Killing.

Patty began her career as a painter at The Cooper Union in New York City. Upon transitioning to filmmaking, she spent eight years as a First Assistant Camera Person/Focus Puller. After attending the AFI in Los Angeles, she wrote and directed “Monster.”

Jenkins went on to direct many commercials and TV programs including AMC’s “The Killing,” for which she received an Emmy nomination and won the DGA award for Best Dramatic Directing for the series pilot. She directed several other television episodes, for such popular series as Fox’s “Arrested Development” and HBO’s “Entourage.”  She was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for “Five,” a series of short films about breast cancer for Lifetime.  She shared the nomination with fellow directors Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore and Penelope Spheeris.

When did you first become familiar with the character of Wonder Woman?

I first became aware of the character when I was in elementary school and watched the 1970s television show Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter. Wonder Woman was just the coolest, most beautiful and most exciting female character I had ever seen.  Later, I saw the character on the American animated TV series Super Friends. My friends and I were obsessed with being Wonder Woman on the playground.

In addition to the pressures of helming a long-awaited motion picture event, do you feel additional responsibility that this is one of the first films in which a female superhero is leading the action?

That’s always such a hard one to answer because I think the pressures and responsibilities of making the first Wonder Woman film were already intense.  You know, that’s as big as it gets.  I try not to only focus on the fact that it’s a female character and just make Wonder Woman a great Super Hero movie.

Patty Jenkins

Why is Gal Gadot the ideal choice to play Wonder Woman?

I had never met Gal and when I heard that Zack Snyder had cast her as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman, my heart skipped a beat.  But when I started to watch Gal’s other work, and met her, I was just blown away by how special, charming, warm, wonderful, kind and strong she is.  And now that we’ve collaborated on Wonder Woman, Gal has impressed me even more with her work ethic and talent.

I’m extremely picky about casting and feel unbelievably fortunate to have had Gal cast for me.  That doesn’t always work out, but I got really lucky with Gal.

What led you to cast Chris Pine as Diana’s love interest, Steve Trevor?

That casting was especially difficult because we were looking for someone who holds all of the weight and power of a true leading man.  It takes a special kind of actor to be incredibly strong, have a great sense of humor, and be a true partner to the title character.  Chris is such a wonderfully talented actor and is so comfortable with himself.  He really slipped into that role like a glove.  From the start I was obsessing over him as the perfect Steve Trevor.

 What drew you to cast Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother, Hippolyta, and Robin Wright as General Antiope?

I was already a big fan of Connie’s work.  She has such a regal presence, as well as a warm, loving and supportive personality, all of which gave her the perfect energy for the role of Hippolyta.

For Antiope, I needed someone who seems under control and is not overly aggressive, but who is truly a badass.  Robin conveys all of that and is such a pro at everything she does.  She is truly a great actress and one I’ve always wanted to work with.

Did you follow the progress of what sounded like a rigorous physical training regimen that Connie and Robin and all of the women playing Amazons underwent?

I always wanted to but I was too busy making the movie, so I would walk by and watch the actors training and training and training.  Even during filming, the trainers were standing by and getting ready to train the actors. It was pretty intense.

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful spots in the world and served as your location for Diana’s home, Themyscira. What was it like filming there? 

In my imagination, Themyscira was like an idyllic Mediterranean island.  So what is the most incredible version of that? The Amalfi Coast!  Having that authentic landscape and architecture around us was pretty amazing, because we were able to follow that lead in building Themyscira.

Some of the locations there were difficult to reach and to film in, but it was always worth it.

You also filmed much of Wonder Woman in the UK, where you captured World War I battle scenes.  What was that experience like? 

We were based in the UK for most of the movie.  We filmed everything from the battlefield scenes to the stage work to the London location work. It was an amazing place to shoot with a terrific crew and great support.  We filmed there in the winter, and those conditions were appropriate for the context of the story, but it was pretty brutal for Gal to be out in cold weather in her Wonder Woman costume. But she was fittingly heroic about it and really made it work for her.

You’ve captured some epic action set pieces, both on the Themyscira locations and in the UK.  What was the most challenging aspect of those scenes?

They were all extremely challenging.  I think a battle scene set in the beach on Themyscira was the most daunting because of how complicated it was to shoot and the number of people involved.  But I was most obsessed about a World War I battle scene set in No Man’s Land, where Diana charges into battle by herself. I think it’s one of the most important moments in the movie for the character.  It’s an incredible moment for Diana, who is realizing what she’s capable of.  So, it’s a big action piece, but at the same time it’s one of the most important dramatic sequences in the movie. It remains one of the most important scenes, for me.

What do you hope audiences take away from seeing Wonder Woman in the cinema?

I hope the film inspires them to be heroes themselves, but I also hope they have a great time.  I think Diana is an inspiring figure, not only to women, who haven’t had many role models of this kind, but to everybody.  I really believe that superhero movies can encourage change and courage in one’s own life, to tackle difficult things and be a hero.  We all have that potential.

Power, grace, wisdom and wonder: inspiring qualities intrinsic to one of the greatest Super Heroes of all time, known the world over as Wonder Woman.

Allan Heinberg, who wrote the Wonder Woman comic for DC in 2006 and 2007,  was thrilled to make his screenwriting debut in director Patty Jenkins’ (Monster, AMC’s The Killing) larger-than-life hero’s journey Wonder Woman, marking the DC Super Hero’s first-ever stand alone feature film.

WONDER WOMAN

Patty Jenkins directed the film from a screenplay by Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, based on characters from DC. Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston.

“Wonder Woman has been my all-time favorite Super Hero since I was a first-grader watching ‘Super Friends’ on Saturday mornings in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” says Heinberg. ”To have had any part at all in bringing her story to the screen—and to have done so alongside a creative team that includes Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns—is a lifelong dream come true.”

Allan HeinbergHeinberg makes his feature film screenwriting debut as one of the writers of Wonder Woman. His television writing and producing credits include Party of Five, Sex and the City, Gilmore Girls, The O.C., Grey’s Anatomy, Looking and Scandal.  Most recently, Heinberg developed, writes, and is the showrunner of ABC and Shondaland’s The Catch, starring Mireille Enos and Peter Krause. For Marvel Comics, Heinberg created and wrote Young Avengers and its sequel, Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, with co-creator/artist Jim Cheung. For DC Comics, Heinberg co-wrote JLA: Crisis of Conscience with Geoff Johns, art by Chris Batista, and re-launched Wonder Woman with artists Terry and Rachel Dodson.

WONDER WOMAN

Gal Gadot stars in the title role of Wonder Woman, an epic action adventure that tells the long-awaited origin story of Diana, the only child of Themyscira, a secret island gifted to her people from the king of the gods himself, Zeus.  Hailing from the world of Amazons, Diana has been preparing for combat her whole life.  But to become a true warrior, she will need to carry the courage of her convictions—and an arsenal like no other—onto the most harrowing battlefield the world has ever known.

But when an American pilot crashes off their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat.  Fighting alongside men in the war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers…and her true destiny.

“The time is absolutely right to bring Wonder Woman to movie audiences,” says Jenkins.  “Fans have been waiting a long time for this, but I believe people outside the fandom are ready for a Wonder Woman movie, too.  Superheroes have played a role in many people’s lives; it’s that fantasy of ‘What would it be like if I was that powerful and that great, and I could go on that exciting journey and do heroic things?’  I’m no different.  I was seven years old when I first read Superman, and it rocked my world because I felt like Superman.  The character captured exactly what I believed in then and still do: that there is a part of every human being that wishes they could change the world for the better.”  Director Patty Jenkins talks about Wonder Woman

Patty Jenkins

Then came Wonder Woman.  “I watched the TV show, and she was everything a girl could aspire to be: strong and kind, exciting and stylish, powerful and effective, and just as fierce as the boys.  She’s a badass, and at the same time she stands for love, forgiveness and benevolence in a complicated world.  I feel so honored to be making a movie about a Super Hero who stands for such important values.”

william-marstonThough creator William Moulton Marston first introduced Wonder Woman to readers in the midst of World War II, the film is set in 1918, at the tail end of the First World War.

Producer Charles Roven explains the filmmakers’ thinking behind the time shift, noting, “Juxtaposing this commanding female character who hails from a race of equally strong independent women with the early days of the suffragette movement was really interesting.

“Secondly,” he continues, “from a visual perspective, the subtleties of the era better convey the true horrors of modern war.  It was the first war where fighting went from close range in hand-to-hand combat, or if you shot somebody you had to be relatively close and face your adversary, to being fought from a distance.  You could bomb some place without even knowing what your foe looked like, or who it is that you might be killing.  It actually became easier to kill.  We wanted that new dynamic of war to be fresh for our character, Wonder Woman, because she is used to warriors being people you looked up to, and now she’s looking at a war where there’s no such thing as a hero, really, because you can’t be a hero if you don’t know who you’re fighting.”

And that is something Wonder Woman struggles to comprehend.

Producer Zack Snyder relates, “There’s a purity to Wonder Woman that I love.  She doesn’t have a broken past, she’s not seeking revenge on the people who wronged her and she isn’t coming from a dark place.  She had an idyllic childhood and was taught to value life.  She can be a hero purely from a place of wanting to do what’s right in the world, which is really cool, and I think both Patty and Gal found the perfect way to convey that in the movie.”

Producer Deborah Snyder felt that Jenkins completely shared that vision for the film, but, more importantly, had an unparalleled passion for the character.

“Patty’s excitement followed her all through shooting,” Snyder recalls.  “She looked up to the character, and she felt a great responsibility, as did the rest of the team, to make sure she brought Wonder Woman to the screen in the most honest way possible.  This is a figure who came before us and will outlast us, who fights for freedom and justice but also believes in love.  I think that makes her enormously compelling.”

When a man—the first one Diana has ever seen—comes to shore, he opens her eyes to the larger world outside of her sheltered island, an undertaking he begins quite by accident, by crashing off Themyscira’s shores.  Producer Richard Suckle notes, “She saves his life and, in turn, it’s Steve Trevor who teaches Diana about man’s world.  They’re a great couple in the canon, but I really love the way they are in this film.  There is chemistry, and the movie does allow for that to play out within this huge action adventure, and without a damsel or a dude in distress.  They need each other, they learn from each other, and they’re equals.”

Jenkins adds, “From the moment they meet, there is a spark, and the way their love story unfolds is captivating and unique, especially for this kind of movie and for the time in which it’s set.”

WONDER WOMAN

Chris Pine, who plays Captain Steve Trevor, enjoyed the parity between them, and appreciated what Steve is able to learn from Diana as well.  “I felt part of something very special, making this film, which I think is much more than a superhero movie.  It’s using the global medium of film and this bold manner of storytelling to depict the actions of this very powerful woman in a violent, male-driven world.  She shows my character—who has been a spy, who has seen evil up close and been fully immersed in the morally gray, toxic universe of war—that there is still room for idealism and for an earnest desire to do right by others.  It’s a story that resonates and that’s very a propos to today.”

“Every superhero has his or her strong points,” Jenkins contends, “but I think the greatest thing about Wonder Woman is how good and kind and loving she is.  Yet none of that negates her power; it enhances it!”

Wonder Woman

Much like her director, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot says, “What attracted me so much to this character is that she is so many different things, and they live within her in such a beautiful way.  And because this is the first time we’re telling the story of this icon on film, Patty and I had many creative conversations about her.  She’s the greatest warrior in the comics, but she can also be vulnerable, sensitive, confident, and confused…everything, all at once.  And she never hides her intelligence or her emotions.”

“When we first meet Diana in the story, she’s a curious little girl who’s very courageous but also sassy and a little bit naughty,” Gadot smiles.  “She admires the Amazon warriors she sees all around her, and she wants to be like them, to fight.  However, Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta, is very protective of her young daughter, and does not allow her to train.  But Diana has a spark in her, and a fire in her eyes.  It’s clear that she will get her way, she will get what she wants, somehow.”

But it’s Gadot, Jenkins attests, who fulfills the image of the Wonder Woman the world has been waiting for, inside and out.  “Gal is literally the nicest, most beautiful, most dedicated individual you’ll ever meet.  All she wanted out of this whole process was to do justice to the character.  She genuinely wanted to embody the Diana everyone expects.”

And it wasn’t always easy, thanks to cold weather, extensive training, heavy action and the fact that Gadot appears in nearly every scene.  “When times would get rough on the shoot, it was Gal we looked to,” Jenkins states.  “She has such inner strength, such an iron temperament, that she could work through anything and always keep an upbeat attitude.  She’s a pretty amazing person.”

Gadot credits her director with keeping her spirits high.  “I am so lucky that Patty was directing me on this movie,” she says.  “She is so funny and warm, such a brilliant and talented person, and her vision and her passion were completely in line with mine.  I remember the first time we sat together, we talked about the film but we also talked about life, our families…everything was so similar.  To be able to work with someone you agree with creatively about almost everything is special.  And even if our ideas conflicted, we would have a fair debate and I think we not only evolved from the discussion, but the result was that we got the best we could out of the scene.  I’m grateful for her guidance and her friendship.”

A feminist icon to some, an example of love and wisdom and justice to others and a brave warrior who fights right alongside the men, Wonder Woman is all this and more.  When we meet her in the film, her experiences—or lack of them, really—have ignited an interest in everything around her, and a passion to help those in need.  She’s highly compassionate, and able to view the world in a way that we’d all like to, with a genuine curiosity.   She fights for good because she believes it.

“Diana is set apart from most comic book superheroes by her gender, but it’s her approach to justice that I believe really makes her unique,” Gadot claims.  “She not only wants to rid the world of evil by taking out the bad guys, she also wants to encourage men and women to be the best human beings they can be, and she does this through love, hope and grace.”

Jenkins agrees, further stating, “If only we could all see the world the way Diana does.  She sees the great darkness, but also looks beyond that to what mankind is capable of: great beauty.  She also has the powers of a god, a heart filled with compassion, and we wanted to give her a rich and layered and fun story to tell that everyone can connect with.  It’s just a great adventure that I hope fans—old and new—will love!”

 

“A Rosenkavalier not to be missed … Renée Fleming soars to new heights. A final chance to see one of our greatest sopranos sing one of the most moving characters in the repertory.”

The final opera in the current Met: Live in HD season is Strauss’s tragicomic romance, Der Rosenkavalier. The production, the Met’s first new staging of the piece since 1969, releases exclusively at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas on Saturday, 10 June for limited screenings.

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Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs and Renée Fleming as the Marschallin in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Photo by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The opera premiered at the Court Opera, Dresden, in 1911. Set in an idealised Vienna of the past, Strauss’s most popular opera concerns a wise woman of the world who is involved with a much younger lover, but ultimately is forced to accept the laws of time, giving him up to a pretty young heiress. Hofmannsthal’s fascinating libretto deftly combines comedy, dreamy nostalgic fantasy, genuine human drama, and light but striking touches of philosophy and social commentary. Strauss’s magnificent score, likewise, works on several levels, combining the refinement of Mozart with the epic grandeur of Wagner.

ROSENKAVALIERThe dream cast of Renée Fleming singing in her final performances of one of her signature roles as the Marschallin, and Elīna Garanča in her Met role debut as the Marschallin’s young lover, Octavian, star in Strauss’s grandest opera. This production also features Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs, the Marschallin’s oafish cousin; Erin Morley as Sophie, the innocent young woman who comes between the Marschallin and Octavian; Marcus Brück in his Met debut as Sophie’s father, Faninal; and Matthew Polenzani as the Italian Singer.

In this new staging of Der Rosenkavalier, Robert Carsen, the director behind the Met’s recent Falstaff, places the action at the end of the Habsburg Empire, underscoring the opera’s subtext of class and conflict against a rich backdrop of gilt and red damask.

Carsen’s staging features set design by Paul Steinberg, costume design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting design by Carsen and Peter Van Praet, and choreography by Philippe Giraudeau. Sebastian Weigle conducts the sparklingly perfect score.

“A Rosenkavalier not to be missed … Renée Fleming soars to new heights. A final chance to see one of our greatest sopranos sing one of the most moving characters in the repertory.” – Huffington Post

“As beautiful as ever, and a subtle, sensitive actress, Fleming gave a performance of deep feeling … Garanča’s mezzo overflowed with the warmth and richness of youth … Magical moments.” – Wall Street Journal

“Robert Carsen, in a brilliant move, has updated the original setting… Take this new production and savour it.” – The New Yorker

The running time of the opera is 4hrs and 12mins, including two intervals.

Der Rosenkavalier releases exclusively at Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, and at select Ster-Kinekor cinemas on Saturday, 10 June for limited screenings: 10 June at 17:00; 11 June at 14:30; 13 June at 11:30; 20 June at 18:00 and 21 June at 11:30. Bookings are now open.

For more information on Der Rosenkavalier and to make bookings, visit www.sterkinekor.com or download the SK App. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

 

Exciting new titles for young and old!

a-united-kingdom-rosamund-pike-and-david-oyelowoWriter-director Amma Asante’s profound A United Kingdom tells the moving story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana and how his loving but controversial marriage to a British white woman, Ruth Williams, put his kingdom into political and diplomatic turmoil. In 1947, Seretse Khama, the King of Botswana, met Ruth Williams, a London office worker. The attraction was immediate: she was captivated by his vision for a better world, he was struck by her willingness to embrace it. Both felt liberated by the social upheaval that followed the war – Seretse sensed the opportunity for change as the Empire weakened, Ruth saw the possibility for a “bigger life” as women pushed for independence and equality. They were a perfect match, yet their proposed marriage was challenged not only by their families but by the British and South African governments.  The latter had recently introduced the policy of apartheid and found the notion of a biracial a-united-kingdom-moviecouple ruling a neighbouring country intolerable.  South Africa threatened the British: either thwart the couple or be denied access to South African uranium (vital for the British nuclear program) and gold (vital to replenish reserves following the war) and face the risk of South Africa invading Botswana. Despite the terrible pressures they faced, Seretse and Ruth never wavered – they fought for their love every step of the way, and in so doing changed their nation and inspired the world. The bonus features include an insightful making of documentary, Filming in Botswana, The Legacy of Seretse and Ruth, and the London Film Festival premiere featurette. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-main-castFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling, whose seven beloved Harry Potter books were adapted into the top-grossing film franchise of all time.  Her script was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, written by her character Newt Scamander. There are growing dangers in the wizarding world of 1926 New York.  Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizarding community to the No-Majs (American for Muggles), including the Second Salemers, a fanatical 2-jk-rowling-fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-1faction bent on eradicating them.  And the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away…and is now nowhere to be found. Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures, some of which are safeguarded in the magical hidden dimensions of his deceptively nondescript leather case.  But potential disaster strikes when unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city already on edge. The bonus features include two fantastic featurettes, Meet the Fantastic Beasts and The Magizoologist.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

jonathan-2The uproarious local comedy Jonathan deals with a dreamer and wannabe stand-up comedian who embarks on a roller coaster journey of self-discovery. Jonathan, in his late 20’s, still lives with parents. After another failed open mic performance he gets drunk and crashes his father’s dream car on the way home. This is the last straw for his loving but fed up parents and his father kicks him out of the house. Sitting at a restaurant not knowing where to go, he watches car guards in the parking lot and decides that he will become a car guard just to stay afloat until the next big stand-up comedy completion that he firmly believes he can win. After a very hostile reception by the other car cards, the eldest car guard decides to take Johnathan under his wing and teaches him the finer art of being a car guard and more important he teaches Jonathan about life and how to survive as an outcast. Jonathan also falls in love with a girl way out of his league. Life takes a massive turn when Jonathan and his mentor’s LOTTO- ticket wins the lottery. Jonathan however manages to lose all the money in a matter of days. This put Johnathan on a journey to try and redeem himself. Will he be able to apply the lessons learned to make peace with his family, earn the forgiveness of his mentor and win the heart of the most beautiful girl he ever met? Read interview with writer-director Sallas de Jager / Watch the trailer

SingFor the kiddies and those who are young of heart, the delightful  Sing is set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, and stars Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times.  Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it.  Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition. Five lead contestants emerge: Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a mouse who croons as smoothly as he cons; Meena (Tori Kelly), a timid teenage elephant with an enormous case of stage fright; Rosita (Reese sing-dubladores-09-11-2016Witherspoon), an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies; and Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo. Each arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life.  And as Buster coaches each of his contestants closer and closer to the grand finale, he starts to learn that maybe the theater isn’t the only thing that is in need of saving. The fantastic bonus features include 3 new mini movies, and featurettes on how the film was made, the music video Faith, The Sing Network and The Best of Gunter. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

assassins-2Assassin’s Creed is a worlds-spanning tale of one man who finds himself at the center of an ancient battle between two powerful sects—only by harnessing the memories of his ancestor, which are contained within his own DNA, can he end the conflict and claim his own redemption. Based on the blockbuster video game series from Ubisoft, the film is directed by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) from a screenplay Michael Lesslie and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage. Marked by tragedy at an early age, Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a convict assassins-creed-fassbender1280jpg-c8e5d5_1280wfacing capital punishment when he gains an unexpected second chance at life thanks to the mysterious workings of Abstergo Industries. Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, Cal is sent back across the centuries to 15th Century Spain. There, he lives out the experiences of his distant relative, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a secret society known as the Assassins who fight to protect free will from the power-hungry the Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to topple the oppressive Templar organization in present day. Bonus Features: A 5-part documentary, Take The Pledge, taking you behind the scenes of the film; The Legacy of Assassin’s Creed and Becoming an Assassin.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

STORKSThe action-packed, animated adventure Storks takes audiences on a road trip like no other, as a super-focused stork with big ambitions, and a sunny 18-year-old orphaned girl with some wild ideas, rush to make one very special delivery. Braving danger and unforeseen setbacks, not to mention completely opposite points of view on almost everything, this unlikely pair of couriers makes the transformative journey of their lives, in an original story that celebrates friendship and family, amidst laughter and poignant moments of discovery. The bonus features include a featurette on Stork Mountain and the Master: A LEGO Ninjago short music video.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

shut-in02Shut In is a heart-pounding thriller starring Naomi Watts as a widowed child psychologist who lives an isolated existence in rural New England. When a young boy Mary (Watts) is treating goes missing, and is presumed dead, she becomes convinced that his ghost is haunting her and her bedridden son. Director Farren Blackburn says he was intrigued with what he saw as the cinematic potential afforded by the script’s economical storyline and confined setting. “When I first read Shut In, I was excited by the fact that it was a genre movie that could be very beautiful and shot with great artistry,” he says. “I’m a big fan of those pared-down ’70s American movies that had a European aesthetic. Plus, Shut In has a protagonist you really care about and who has an interesting journey, so for me it was a no-brainer.” Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

jackreacher2Since 1997, readers have been riveted by the exploits of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in the pages of author Lee Child’s “Killing Floor” and continued on in a series now spanning twenty novels. Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) returns to the big screen with his particular brand of justice in the highly anticipated, action-packed sequel Jack Reacher:  Never Go Back. The film follows Reacher as he races to uncover the truth about active duty soldiers, once under his command, who are being killed. Years after resigning command of an elite military police unit, the nomadic, righter-of-wrongs Reacher is drawn back into the life he left behind when his friend and successor, Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) is framed for espionage. Reacher will stop at nothing to prove her innocence and to expose the real perpetrators behind the killings of his former soldiers. Bonus Features: No Quarter Given:  The rooftop battle, and Reacher Returns. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

robinson1Robinson Crusoe is a wonderful fun-filled adventure for the little ones. From the over-exuberant parrot Mak to the snack-obsessed tapir Rosie, from the pernickety echidna Epi to the acrobatic pangolin Pango, from the ditzy goat Scrubby to the commonsensical kingfisher Kiki and the always-cool chameleon Carmello, things are larger-than-life on a tropical isle that is pure wild animal paradise. Then Robinson Crusoe, a marooned human, arrives in the midst of a furious storm, and their lives are forever changed by this bewildering new “creature.” No matter their differences, castaway human and quirky animals embark on a hilarious new adventure, building the island’s first tree-house and surviving together. But when two conniving members of the animal kingdom — the savage cats Mal & May – pounce into a battle for control of the island, Crusoe and his animal posse must uncover the true power of friendship against all odds (even savage cats).  Watch the trailer

PIRATES

Be a winner in our Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge Competition!

If you want to add a Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge bandana and a pin to your movie collection, tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer and contact details to us with Salazar’s Revenge in the subject line. Closing date. 30 June, 2017.  Enter competition here

Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge.

The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack.

Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.

Great new titles to add to your collection!

manchester-by-the-sea-casey-affleck-lucas-hedges-promoIn writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaking Manchester By The Sea an uncle is obliged to return home to care for his nephew after his brother dies. Unknowing he is to be the guardian and struggles with the decision. Throughout the movie he recounts past memories that caused him to leave Manchester and distance himself from his past. Casey Affleck is sensational in his Oscar-winning performance as a man whose path to redemption is one you will remember long after watching this gentle and quiet human drama.  Read an interview with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan / Watch the trailer

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In the equally powerful drama Denial, An American professor finds herself the defendant in a high-profile British libel trial that would impact the way the history of the Holocaust is told in Denial, a taut courtroom drama based on one of the most significant international legal cases in recent memory. It recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team led by Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred. This provocative story about one woman’s relentless efforts to establish justice and remind the world about the tragedies of the Holocaust, offers a gripping, inspirational real-life account based on Deborah E. Lipstadt’s book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for the big screen by esteemed playwright David Hare. Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

hoener-3In the local comedy Hoener Met Die Rooi Skoene, Kaptein Hendrik Greyling (Louw Venter), who is known amongst his colleagues as the ‘Iron Rooster’, is always in control. When he falls in cold water during the execution of his tasks, he gets the flu. In his feverish condition, he is appointed as the investigating officer of a very abnormal murder scene, where the body disappears without a trace… and quickly finds himself in the midst of the chaos and confusion of more than one murder. The bonus features include a behind the scenes doccie and Jak de Priester’s music video. Watch the trailer

passengersPassengers is an exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early. Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora) and Chris Pratt (Jim) star in an exciting action-thriller about two strangers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early.  Jim and Aurora  (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) are forced to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction as the ship teeters on the brink of collapse, jeopardizing the lives of the passengers on the greatest mass migration in human history.  The bonus features include a visit to the set with Chris Pratt, Casting The Passengers, Creating The Avalon,  Outtakes from the set,  and Book your passage: Learn more about the Homestead company.  Read more about the film / Watch the trailer

equityIn the drama Equity Naomi Bishop is an investment banker determined to overcome a previous stain to her professional reputation, which is a challenge in the male dominated financial sector she works in. As Naomi in that spirit makes her move managing a burgeoning new tech IPO, she has to endure not only the condescension of her colleagues, but also her imperious client even as troubling new developments cloud the venture’s future. Against that, the probing of a college friend turned Federal investment law prosecutor and the conniving of her double-dealing boyfriend seem to be manageable complications, until a betrayal by a trusted colleague threatens to ruin everything. The bonus features include a Q & A with Anna Gunn, Meera Menon, Alysia Reiner, Sarah Megan Thomas and Samuel Roukin at the LA Film Festival;  The Making of Equity, and  ‘’Girl Gang: The Equity of Empowerment’’. Watch the trailer

resident-evil-1Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead in Resident Evil 6: The Final Chapter. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. Bonus Features: Explore The Hive, The Bad Ass Trinity and the Women of Resident Evil. Watch the trailer

 

Inheriting one of Hollywood’s most successful franchises

When Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney got set to jump into making Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, the fifth chapter in the $3.7 billion Pirates of the Caribbean franchise,  they began a search for a new story that would take the series a few steps forward, while at the same time harken back to the elements of fantasy, action, comedy, and elements of the supernatural that had made the first film such a sensation.

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With the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl back in 2003 came the dawn of Jerry Bruckheimer’s most successful franchise, one of the most successful series of films in the history of the Disney Studios. The film series was to become a game-changing, culturealtering, zeitgeist-boosting, history-making phenomenon, with the first film followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). Collectively, these four films have brought in over $3.7 billion of worldwide box-office receipts, but, more importantly, inspired and delighted audiences of all ages around the globe.

Now, the rip-roaring Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth, a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry, a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.

Searching for a screenwriter for Pirates # 5

The search for a screenwriter eventually led them to accomplished and talented screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who began to develop the story for Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge with veteran “Pirates of the Caribbean” screenwriter Terry Rossio, who shares a story by credit with Nathanson, and wrote the screenplays for the first four films of the “Pirates of The Caribbean” Series With His Writing Partner, Ted Elliott.

Terry Rossio (Story by/Executive Producer) co-wrote Shrek, the first ever Oscar winner for Best Animated Film. With writing partner Ted Elliott, Rossio also co-wrote the Pirates of the Caribbean” series, featuring two billion dollar grossing entries, Dead Man’s Chest and On Stranger Tides. Other credits include: Aladdin, The Mask of Zorro, Déjà Vu, and Disney’s The Lone Ranger. Rossio is currently ranked behind George Lucas as the second highest grossing screenwriter in Hollywood.

While fully respectful to all that came before in the first four films, Nathanson—who has written the likes of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “The Terminal” for Steven Spielberg—was eager to make his own mark.

Jeff NathansonJeff Nathanson has written three highly successful films for director Steven Spielberg: Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and the story for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. His other credits include director Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist and the Rush Hour series. Nathanson also wrote and directed the dark comedy, The Last Shot. He is currently writing Disney’s new live action version of The Lion King, which will be directed by Jon Favreau and will be released in the summer of 2019.

“Jeff was unencumbered by the history of the franchise,” explains executive producer Chad Oman. “He was able to objectively look at the series and bring a fresh imagination and creative point of view. He’s also a very funny guy who brings a lot of humor to his writing.”

“I’m a big fan of the franchise and have enormous respect for what Ted and Terry have created,” says Nathanson. “It’s such a rich and wonderful world to step into, with so many great artists in front of and behind the camera working to bring it to life. I felt my job as a new writer coming into this established family was to both honor the spirit of the previous films while giving a new generation of fans a movie to call their own. ‘’

“The ‘Pirates’ franchise is very tricky,” continues Nathanson, “because it combines huge action with supernatural suspense, romance and comedy. It’s also a highly researched pirate epic that attempts to stay very true to the period. The key is to balance it all while telling an emotional good story, and finding ways to use these characters in ways we’ve never seen before.”

POTC Salazars Revenge PosterPirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge would continue what had become a subtext in the tradition of the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies—a story about parents and children.

“It’s a theme that has given emotional backbone to the entire series,” explains Jerry Bruckheimer.

“The story of Elizabeth Swann’s sometimes trying but tender relationship with her father, Governor Weatherby Swann, is dealt with in the first two films. Will Turner’s desperate attempts to free his father, Bootstrap Bill, from bondage aboard the Flying Dutchman, is a crucial element of the second and third movies. Angelica’s tormented relationship with her father, Blackbeard, is an important element of the fourth film. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge  both Henry Turner and Carina Smyth are either trying to liberate, or search for, their fathers. ‘’

“And meanwhile,” Bruckheimer continues, “Captain Jack shares moments with his pirate dad, Captain Teague, in the third and fourth films, and with his long-lost Uncle Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge . The ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies really are a family affair in more ways than one.”

Bruckheimer adds, “And speaking of family, we also wanted to bring Captain Barbossa, Will Turner, Gibbs and other old favorites back into the picture, but also invent a riveting new antagonist and other new characters to refresh the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ world.”

Like Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio before him, Jeff Nathanson also studied the original Disneyland attraction for tone and ideas.

“I have three kids,” he notes, “so it wasn’t hard to get the family on board for research trips to Disneyland. The ride is an incredible source of inspiration, and it’s hard not to use elements when writing the movie.”

And, in fact, the title of the new film would harken right back to the ominous words frequently and darkly intoned on the original attraction: “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

As a result of his skill and appreciation for the franchise, Nathanson’s screenplay is laced with the massive action set pieces and comedy that have become the hallmarks of the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies—with a considerable dollop of emotion and heart.

Captains At The Helm: Two Scandinavian fans of Hollywood cinema inherit one of its most successful franchises

While Jeff Nathanson was busy bringing the filmmakers’ vision and the spirit of the new adventure to life, the hunt for a director began in earnest. What no one quite expected, however, was that they would wind up not with one, but two. Or that they would hail from Norway, more than five thousand miles from Hollywood, a country with its own historic tradition of seafaring pirates…although they were better known as Vikings.

In truth, the Norwegian directing team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg—who had impressed international audiences with their Academy Award-nominated epic tale of real-life ocean exploration, “Kon-Tiki,” followed by the highly rated, big-scale Netflix miniseries “Marco Polo”—aggressively pursued the job, having been fervent fans of the franchise.

Joachim Rønning and Espen SandbergGrowing up in the 1980s in Sandefjord, a small town south of Oslo, Norway, Joachim Rønning and his childhood friend Espen Sandberg spent their free time making short films with Joachim’s dad’s 30-pound home video camera—one of the few burdens for being the first of the video generation. In 1992 they both attended Stockholm Film School in Sweden, and graduated in 1994. Later that year, they served their mandatory time in the military making “propaganda” films for the Royal Norwegian Army. In 1993 they founded their own company. They called it Roenberg— their last names put together. Early in 1996, they began directing commercials and music videos professionally in Oslo. Their debut film was Bandidas (2006), a comedy/western, written and produced by legendary French helmer Luc Besson. Their second film was Max Manus (2008), a World War II drama telling the true story of famed Norwegian saboteur Max Manus and his battle to overcome his inner demons. Max Manus rose to become the highest grossing Norwegian movie of all time, shattering box office records by selling over 1.2 million tickets in Norway alone—meaning 25% of the country’s population went to see it in theatres. Rønning and Sandberg recently won the 2017 International Filmmakers of the Year Award at CinemaCon. Rønning recently completed directing the ABC drama pilot Doomsday and will next be helming Methuselah starring Tom Cruise, and the high-concept thriller Micro, based on Michael Crichton’s final novel.

Explaining his choice of directors, Jerry Bruckheimer says, “When you bring Academy Award- nominated filmmakers who are young, aggressive and hardworking to tell a story that’s been told four times before, they have a fresh approach. And that’s what we wanted. We wanted them to come in with their creativity and their great film vocabulary to make this ‘Pirates’ really special and really fresh.”

Continuing, he adds, “They bring a lot of style and a lot of flash to the film. It’s a whole reinvention of the making of a ‘Pirates’ movie, in the way that they approached it, how they did it and how they do the music. Everything is moving very fast.”

“Espen and Joachim are big fans of the franchise,” comments executive producer Chad Oman, president of Jerry Bruckheimer Films. “They bring a lot of enthusiasm and a youthful sensibility to the project, and are used to working on water and under difficult circumstances. Although Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is on a much bigger scale than their previous productions, their background really lent itself to help them accomplish the huge tasks they would be faced with on this one.”

For the directors, the opportunity to be part of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was a dream come true.

“It’s the kind of movie we grew up with and love,” Sandberg says. “That mix of adventure, action and comedy is what we’ve always loved about big American movies.”

Confesses Rønning, “The Pirates films remind me about the kind of movies that inspired me to become a filmmaker when I was a kid. Now that I have kids of my own, it’s great to make a movie that they can watch, too. It’s a true family movie.  We know that trying to do something original with the fifth instalment was going to be a challenge, but that was important to us.’’

“It’s an amazing franchise, and a great responsibility for us,’’ says Rønning.‘’There are so many fans around the world, and we were fans as well watching the movies in Norway.”

Rønning and Sandberg were also somewhat astonished to find themselves in the employ of a producer they had admired for years. “When we were kids, we watched Bruckheimer films,” says Rønning. “But being from Norway, those kinds of movies felt very far away from us. I remember our first meetings with Jerry, and it was insane for Espen and me, because he’s a hero. We’re working with someone we grew up idolizing. He’s a legend.”

It was important to the directors that Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge  would be as fun for viewers who had never seen a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film as it would be for long time fans of the franchise.

Sandberg comments, “We made sure that we introduced all the characters and presented them in a thorough way. We also have two new main characters in the movie and a new villain. So it’s very much a movie that you can enjoy even though you haven’t seen the other movies. But if you have, it will definitely generate more depth for you. So it works on several layers.”

On their approach, Rønning says, “They’re all great movies, but the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was special. We wanted to try and go back a little bit to that to make it a little darker, a little raunchier. It was also very important for us that Jack Sparrow is always Jack Sparrow. We wanted to try, like they did very much in the first ‘Pirates’ movie, to create real characters that you can identify with. There’s a real love story and then Jack Sparrow comes in and crashes the party. That dynamic and that structure was something that we really went for and then at the same time keeping the darker elements intact.”

Sandberg adds, “We wanted to make the script and the movie, like Joachim said, in the spirit of the first movie, which had inspired us. But we were also really inspired by the ride at Disneyland because when you take that with a kid, it is fun but it’s also very scary. So we wanted to get that same thrill.”

Working on a movie of such grand scale and production value was new for the directors, but they approached it with confidence.

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“All the ‘Pirates’ movies are epic,” says Sandberg. “We wanted this movie to feel just as grand and be a fun ride. We wanted it to feel like the ride, to be fun and scary and emotional, and that means huge action pieces that are all very original and unique that you haven’t seen before. Also we wanted it to be up close and emotional, and have some touching scenes in there as well. Of course, it’s very, very funny thanks to Johnny and the other actors. It is a huge group effort, and we have an amazing team both behind and in front of the camera to make this into an epic, fun ride of a movie.”

Adds Rønning, “As Espen was saying, there’s a great tradition in the franchise to find that grand action piece that can go on for a little while and that you’ve never seen before, and that’s original. I remember in one of my first meetings with Johnny Depp, he was talking about the character Jack Sparrow and what inspired him, and he was talking about Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. So what we set out to do was to give him some of those Buster Keaton-esque comedy action moments, but for a modern audience.”

Summing up the experience of working on the film for both of them, Rønning says, “It was like a surreal moment every day on this shoot because not only is it huge in scope, production-wise, but we’re also dealing with iconic characters and iconic ships and elements that have meant so much to us growing up with this franchise as well. So, for us, it became more like a proverbial sandbox in a way, in that we had all these insanely big toys to play with. I felt there was some sense of magic walking onto that set and having these characters around. That was fantastic.”

Visionary Ridley Scott crafted a bold, uniquely terrifying, visceral experience flush with the attitude and swagger of a classic Alien movie

In space, no one can hear you scream. After nearly four decades, those words remain synonymous with the sheer, relentless intensity of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece of futuristic horror, Alien.

Now, the father of the iconic franchise returns once more to the world he created to explore its darkest corners with Alien: Covenant, a pulse-pounding new adventure, set ten years after the events depicted in Scott’s 2012 hit Prometheus, relentlessly returning to the roots of the director’s groundbreaking saga with a uniquely terrifying tale filled with white-knuckle adventure and monstrous new creatures.

With this, the sixth installment in the blockbuster series  (screenplay is by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green) , the visionary director edges ever closer toward revealing the mysterious origins of the mother of all aliens, the lethal Xenomorph from the original film.

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All is quiet aboard the spaceship Covenant. The crew and the rest of the 2,000 souls aboard the pioneering vessel are deep in hyper-sleep, leaving the synthetic Walter to walk the corridors alone. The ship is en route to the remote planet Origae-6, where, on the far side of the galaxy, the settlers hope to establish a new outpost for humanity. The tranquility is shattered when a nearby stellar ignition shreds Covenant’s energy-collection sails, resulting in dozens of casualties and throwing the mission off course. Soon, the surviving crew members discover what appears to be an uncharted paradise, an undisturbed Eden of cloud-capped mountains and immense, soaring trees far closer than Origae-6 and potentially just as viable as a home. What they’ve found, however, is actually a dark and deadly world full of unexpected twists and turns. Facing a terrible threat beyond their imagination, the embattled explorers must attempt a harrowing escape.

Welcome Aboard The Covenant

From the beginning, Ridley Scott was out for blood.

“I think Ridley’s first line was, ‘We’re going to make a hard R-rated film, and we’re going to need a lot of claret,’ which is a term for film blood,” recalls Alien: Covenant producer Mark Huffam. “That was the very first conversation—we’re out to scare the pants off everybody.”

If anyone knows how to terrify audiences with smart, sophisticated storytelling, it’s Scott. His original Alien remains a standard bearer for the horror genre, a psychologically taut, uncomfortably claustrophobic film, as lean and effective as the sleek, vicious beast that first stalked Ellen Ripley and the crew of the starship Nostromo back in 1979. “In a funny kind of way, I always thought of Alien as a B-movie, really well done,” Scott says. “The subtext was pretty basic—it was seven people locked in the old dark house and who’s going to die first and who’s going to survive.”

Director Ridley Scott is a renowned Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker honored with Best Director Oscar® nominations for his work on Black Hawk Down, Gladiator and Thelma & Louise. All three films also earned him DGA Award nominations. Scott’s most recent release was the critically acclaimed box office phenomenon The Martian.

Scott and his late brother Tony formed the commercial and advertising production company RSA in 1967. RSA has an established reputation for creating innovative and groundbreaking commercials for some of the world’s most recognized corporate brands. In 1995, the Scott brothers formed the film and television production company Scott Free. With offices in Los Angeles and London, the Scotts produced such films as In Her Shoes, The A-Team, Cyrus, The Grey and the Academy Award®-nominated drama The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

In 1977 Scott made his feature film directorial debut with The Duelist, for which he won the Best First Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival. He followed with the blockbuster science-fiction thriller Alien, which catapulted Sigourney Weaver to stardom and launched a successful franchise. In 1982 Scott directed the landmark film Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. Considered a sci-fi classic, the futuristic thriller was added to the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1993 and a director’s cut was released to renewed acclaim in 1993 and again in 2007.

In 2003 Scott was awarded a Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to the British Film Industry. He received the 30th American Cinematheque Award at the organization’s annual gala in 2016 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in Motion Picture Direction at the 2017 Directors Guild of America Awards.

For Alien: Covenant, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker sought to recapture the same foreboding atmosphere of constant danger and dread while also offering new insights that would add richness and depth to the larger Alien mythology. That approach was necessary, he says, to keep the storytelling fresh and surprising.

“You can’t keep being chased down a corridor by a monster—it gets boring,” Scott says. “It came to me that no one had asked the question, who made this and why. You could say monsters from outer space, gods from outer space, engineers from outer space invented it. They didn’t. Alien: Covenant’s going to flip that around.”

John Logan received the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and Drama League awards for his play Red. This play premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London and at the Golden Theatre on Broadway. Since then Red has had more than 200 productions across the US and has been presented in over 30 countries. In 2013, his play Peter and Alice premiered in London and I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers opened on Broadway. He also co-wrote the book for the musical The Last Ship and is the author of more than a dozen other plays including Never the Sinner and Hauptmann. As a screenwriter, Logan has been three times nominated for the Oscar and has received a Golden Globe, BAFTA, WGA, and PEN Center award. His film work includes Skyfall, Spectre, Hugo, The Aviator, Gladiator, Rango, Genius, Coriolanus, Sweeney Todd, The Last Samurai, Any Given Sunday and RKO 281. He also created and produced the television series Penny Dreadful for Showtime.

Alien: Covenant marks the third collaboration for Michael Fassbender and the director after Prometheus and The Counselor.

Together, the actor and filmmaker explored all the complex circuitry hard-wired into David, the Covenant’s loyal synthetic, even tapping into his sly, subversive side. “Ridley and I tried and find the humor in him, the funny beats with him,” Fassbender says. “We all let our guards down when we laugh, so we’re more likely to experience other things like shock and horror to a fuller effect when we haven’t been numbed because there’s been a lack of humor.”

“Alien: Covenant, for me, is in a lot of ways like the first Alien,” Fassbender says. “It’s gritty and dark, and from the get-go, when the Covenant hits the space storm, it sets a series of events in motion that don’t stop until the final frame. Ten minutes into the film, it becomes relentless. I think this is going to be the scariest one of all the films.”

It’s true. With Alien: Covenant, there’s no question that visionary Scott has returned to his element, crafting a bold, uniquely terrifying, visceral experience flush with the attitude and swagger of a classic Alien movie. Expect nothing less than relentless, heart-stopping, R-rated terror.

“I hope the film gets people very uneasy, helps your arteries start pumping, sets hearts pounding,” says the filmmaker. “I hope you have a very dry throat but can’t take your eyes off the screen. To really scare the shit out of people is quite difficult, but his might give them nightmares. And that’s a good thing.”

Alien: Covenant was shot over 74 days at the stages of Fox Studios Australia and on location in Milford Sound, New Zealand in 2016.

 

 

“Tom Stoppard’s comedy shines brightly.” – Guardian

Half a century after its premiere on The Old Vic stage, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, the mind-bending situation comedy that made a young Tom Stoppard’s name overnight, returns to the theatre in its 50th anniversary celebratory production, directed by David Leveaux.

This new production of the play was filmed live at The Old Vic Theatre in London for broadcast to cinemas around the world as part of the current National Theatre Live season for the big screen and releases in South Africa exclusively at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas on Saturday, 03 June, for limited screenings.

4. Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe. Photo by Manuel Harlan

“Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire’s split-second timing ensures this well-judged production of Stoppard’s classic fizzes with life’’ – The Guardian

‘’David Haig is on fantastic form as The Player’’ – The Independent

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead stars Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter films, The Woman in Black), Joshua McGuire (The Hour, Lovesick) and David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Witness for the Prosecution) in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy.

Against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, take centre stage.  Increasingly out of their depth, the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of the Bard’s iconic drama, as their version of the story unfolds. In a literary hall of mirrors, Stoppard’s brilliantly funny, existential labyrinth sees us witness the ultimate identity crisis.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead releases on Saturday, 03 June 2017, for four screenings only: on 03, 07 and 08 June at 19:30 and on 04 June at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban.

The running time is approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including an interval.

For booking information on Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig talk about the play:

Launched in 2009, National Theatre Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of over 6.5 million people at 2500 venues in 60 countries. The first season began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phédre starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Recent broadcasts include Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land, Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet, Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus, Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein and War Horse.

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas include:

Obsession (24 June 2017)

Jude Law (The Young Pope, Closer, The Talented Mr Ripley) stars in this new stage adaptation of Obsession, broadcast live from the Barbican Theatre in London. Ivo van Hove (NT Live: A View from the Bridge, Hedda Gabler) directs this new version of Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film.

15. Jude Law and Halina Reijn in Obsession. Photo by Jan VersweyveldGino is a drifter, down-at-heel and magnetically handsome. At a roadside restaurant he encounters husband and wife, Giuseppe and Giovanna. Irresistibly attracted to each other, Gino and Giovanna begin a fiery affair and plot to murder her husband. But, in this chilling tale of passion and destruction, the crime only serves to tear them apart.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (01 July 2017)

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF by Albee ; Directed by James MacDonald ; Designed by Tom Pye ; at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, UK ; 21 February 2017 ; Credit : Johan Persson /

Imelda Staunton (Gypsy, Vera Drake, Harry Potter films), Conleth Hill (Game Of Thrones, The Producers), Luke Treadaway (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Fortitude, The Hollow Crown) and Imogen Poots (A Long Way Down, Jane Eyre) star in James Macdonald’s new production of Edward Albee’s landmark play, filmed live at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London.

In the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college, Martha, much to her husband George’s displeasure, has invited the new professor and his wife to their home for some after-party drinks. As the alcohol flows and dawn approaches, the young couple are drawn into George and Martha’s toxic games until the evening reaches its climax in a moment of devastating truth-telling.

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising her award-winning lead performance.

 

“If music be the food of love, play on…”

Twelfth Night, the acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity – filmed live at the National’s Olivier Theatre in London – is the next National Theatre Live broadcast on the big screen and will be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas from Saturday, 27 May, for limited screenings.

This joyous new production is directed by Simon Godwin (NT Live’s Man and Superman, The Beaux’ Stratagem), with Olivier Award-winning actress Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner, Black Books, Episodes) as a transformed Malvolia in this new twist on Shakespeare’s play.

12. A scene from Twelfth Night. Photo by Marc Brenner

A scene from Twelfth Night. Photo by Marc Brenner

Viola (Tamara Lawrence) is washed ashore after her ship crashes on the rocks. Determined to survive on her own without her twin brother Sebastian (Daniel Ezra), she steps out to explore a new land. So begins a whirlwind of mistaken identity and unrequited love.

The nearby households of Olivia and Orsino are overrun with passion. Even Olivia’s upright housekeeper Malvolia (Greig) is swept up in the madness. Where music is the food of love, and nobody is quite what they seem, anything proves possible.

The cast also includes Doon Mackichan (Smack the Pony, Plebs) as a gender-flipped Feste, Phoebe Fox (The Hollow Crown, A View from the Bridge), Daniel Rigby (Eric and Ernie, One Man, Two Guvnors) and Oliver Chris (The Office, One Man, Two Guvnors, Green Wing).

Twelfth Night releases on South African screens from Saturday, 27 May 2017, for four screenings only: on 27 and 31 May and 01 June at 19:30 and on 28 May at 14:30 at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, and at Ster-Kinekor Gateway in Durban.

The running time is approximately 3 hours, including an interval.

For booking information on Twelfth Night visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Launched in 2009, National Theatre Live broadcasts have been seen by an audience of over 6.5 million people at 2500 venues in 60 countries. The first season began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phédre starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren. Recent broadcasts include Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson, Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land, Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet, Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus, Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch in Frankenstein and War Horse.

The next productions from NT Live to be screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas include:

Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (03 June 2017)

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, The Woman in Black), Joshua McGuire (The Hour) and David Haig (Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Witness for the Prosecution) star in Tom Stoppard’s brilliantly funny situation comedy, broadcast from The Old Vic theatre in London. David Leveaux’s new production marks the 50th anniversary of the play that made a young Tom Stoppard’s name overnight.

Against the backdrop of Hamlet, two hapless minor characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, take centre stage.  As the young double act stumble their way in and out of the action of Shakespeare’s iconic drama, they become increasingly out of their depth as their version of the story unfolds.

4. Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe in Rozencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead . Photo by Manuel Harlan

Obsession (24 June 2017)

Jude Law (The Young Pope, Closer, The Talented Mr Ripley) stars in this new stage adaptation of Obsession, broadcast live from the Barbican Theatre in London. Ivo van Hove (NT Live: A View from the Bridge, Hedda Gabler) directs this new version of Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film.

Gino is a drifter, down-at-heel and magnetically handsome. At a roadside restaurant he encounters husband and wife, Giuseppe and Giovanna. Irresistibly attracted to each other, Gino and Giovanna begin a fiery affair and plot to murder her husband. But, in this chilling tale of passion and destruction, the crime only serves to tear them apart.

15. Jude Law and Halina Reijn in Obsession. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Jude Law and Halina Reijn in Obsession. Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (01 July 2017)

Imelda Staunton (Gypsy, Vera Drake, Harry Potter films), Conleth Hill (Game Of Thrones, The Producers), Luke Treadaway (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Fortitude, The Hollow Crown) and Imogen Poots (A Long Way Down, Jane Eyre) star in James Macdonald’s new production of Edward Albee’s landmark play, filmed live at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London.

In the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college, Martha, much to her husband George’s displeasure, has invited the new professor and his wife to their home for some after-party drinks. As the alcohol flows and dawn approaches, the young couple are drawn into George and Martha’s toxic games until the evening reaches its climax in a moment of devastating truth-telling.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF by Albee ; Directed by James MacDonald ; Designed by Tom Pye ; at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London, UK ; 21 February 2017 ; Credit : Johan Persson /

Imelda Staunton in Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Photo by Johan Persson

Additional NT Live broadcasts in 2017 at Cinema Nouveau include:

  • Peter Pan (08 July), captured live at the National Theatre, this performance of JM Barrie’s much-loved tale screens as perfect cinema fare for the mid-year school holidays: All children, except one, grow up…
  • Salomé (22 July), directed by South African-born award-winning director Yaёl Farber
  • Marianne Elliott’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America – Part I & II (19 Aug & 02 Sept), with Andrew Garfield, Susan Brown, Nathan Lane, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Denise Gough and Russell Tovey
  • Yerma (23 Sept), Simon Stone’s radical production of Federico García Lorca’s achingly powerful masterpiece, with Billie Piper reprising her award-winning lead performance.

 

 

 

Anna Netrebko Stars In The Met’s ‘Live In Hd’ Broadcast Of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

The next production from the Met in the current Live in HD season, acclaimed English director Deborah Warner’s production of Tchaikovsky’s romantic tragedy Eugene Onegin, releases at Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas from Saturday, 20 May, for limited screenings.

Soprano Anna Netrebko reprises one of her most acclaimed roles as Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky’s opera, which the composer adapted from Pushkin’s classic verse novel. Peter Mattei stars opposite her as the self-confident title character, Eugene Onegin, who rejects Tatiana’s love until it’s too late.

Soprano Anna Netrebko reprises one of her most acclaimed roles as Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky’s opera, which the composer adapted from Pushkin’s classic verse novel. Peter Mattei stars opposite her as the self-confident title character, Eugene Onegin, who rejects Tatiana’s love until it’s too late.

Eugene Onegin premiered at the Moscow Conservatory in 1879. The opera became popular in Russia but was slow to gain popularity outside the country. The first performance in the US was at the Met in 1920. The premiere was initially sung in Italian; however, today’s productions are sung in its original Russian.

The opera, a revival of acclaimed English director Deborah Warner’s staging that opened the Met’s 2013-14 season, is conducted by Robin Ticciati, music director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

Russian mezzo-soprano Yelizaveta Lavrovskaya suggested Alexander Pushkin’s popular Russian work, Eugene Onegin, to Tchaikovsky as the basis of an opera.  The composer originally felt the plot was not strong enough to sustain an opera. However, he kept thinking about the story as an opera and ultimately felt that if he used original verses from Pushkin’s novel, the opera could be a success. Since this story was well-known, Tchaikovsky reckoned the audience could fill in any details that were not included in the actual opera, similar to Puccini’s La Bohème.

Preview: Anna Netrebko sings an excerpt from Tatiana’s Letter Scene from Act I of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Screening times for Eugene Onegin at Nouveau (Rosebank Mall, JHB; Brooklyn Mall, PTA; SK Gateway Commercial, DBN; and V&A Waterfront, CT) and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas are as follows: 20 May at 17:00; 21 May at 14:30; 23 and 31 May at 11:30; and 30 May at 18:00.

For more information and to make bookings visit www.sterkinekor.com

All the ticket discounts and benefits offered to members of the Ster-Kinekor loyalty programmes, SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club, do apply for the Met: Live in HD screenings, where applicable.

The running time of Eugene Onegin is 3hrs and 45mins, including two intervals. The intermission programme and interviews are hosted by acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming.

The final production in the current season is Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (10 June).

 

“Expect a gritty spectacular and a real thriller that draws on the lives and losses of the people from Tiger Bay, with a healthy dose of romance thrown in.”

Fans of musical theatre can anticipate the rare opportunity to attend performances of a large-scale new musical in Cape Town. Tiger Bay the Musical, a rousing epic set in Cardiff’s bustling multi-racial docklands at the turn of the last century, will have a short run at Artscape in Cape Town from May 20-27 before transferring to the UK in late 2017.

Luvo Tamba pic by jesse Kramer

Luvo Tamba in a scene from Tiger Bay The Musical – pic by Jesse Kramer

Prize-winning local author Michael Williams wrote the book and lyrics for Tiger Bay the Musical.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams

After uncovering fascinating facts about Tiger Bay’s cosmopolitan community, Williams, whose grandfather and mother hail from Cardiff, pitched the idea for a musical to the WMC, which was enthusiastic and commissioned him to write Tiger Bay the Musical.

The story is set in motion when Themba, a Zulu man who tragically lost his wife and son during the Boer War, arrives in Tiger Bay.

He finds work as a Donkeyman, hauling coal along the railway tracks, and meets Ianto, an orphan who has to live by her wits.

Tiger Bay the Musical explores the universal themes of love and redemption.

Some of the issues it examines, such as economic inequality and migrant labour, are especially pertinent in contemporary South Africa.

Daf James

Daf James

As Williams writes: “Tiger Bay the Musical is about how we can live and work better together by doing the little things right.”

Consummate musician, composer and performer Daf James has written a magnificent score that will be performed by a 20-piece orchestra.

Tiger Bay the Musical’s intensely modern, unique sound is rich in Celtic undertones.

 

 

Fusing local talent with an outstanding international creative team.

Tiger Bay the Musical continues the 12-year partnership between the Wales Millennium Centre and Cape Town Opera, combining local talent with an outstanding international creative team.

Leading the star-studded cast is Broadway musical sensation

John Owen-Jones

John Owen-Jones

. Acclaimed as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, Owen-Jones recently appeared as Valjean on the 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Misérables.

24 top South African performers join the cast, including Luvo Tamba, Judy Ditchfield and Andrew Laubscher.

Luvo Tamba

Luvo Tamba

Staging a large-scale musical is a massive undertaking and tasked to a highly accomplished creative team, led by acclaimed British director Melly Still, and co-director Max Barton, a rising star in British contemporary theatre.

Still and Barton say: “Expect a gritty spectacular and a real thriller that draws on the lives and losses of the people from Tiger Bay, with a healthy dose of romance thrown in.”

Tiger Bay the Musical is on at the Artscape Opera on 20.22.23. 24.25.26.27 May. Book seats here

 

 

Tiger Bay

”It is a quintessentially poetical and inwardly musical work. And where there is poetry, there is ballet.”

A Hero of Our Time, a riveting new production from the Bolshoi Ballet company, seen for the first time in cinema, dances its way onto the Nouveau screens from Saturday, 13 May, for limited shows.

BOLSHOI

The lead roles in the three stories are danced by Igor Tsvirko (Pechorin) and Olga Smirnova (Bela) in Bela; Artem Ovcharenko (Pechorin) and Ekaterina Shipulina (Undine) in Taman; and in Princess Mary, Ruslan Skvortsov (Pechorin), Svetlana Zakharova (Mary) and Kristina Kretova (Vera). The soloists are accompanied by the Bolshoi Ballet’s principal dancers and the corps de ballet.

The Bolshoi Ballet is the quintessential ballet company, presenting works of astounding skill, daring and bravura that leave audiences the world over spellbound. This season of ballets broadcast in cinemas is no different, with the company’s incredible productions set to feature some of the world’s greatest dancers.

A Hero of Our Time is based on the larger-than-life hero, Pechorin. The ballet has been adapted from Russian Mikhail Lermontov’s literary masterpiece in three separate stories – Bela, Taman and Princess Mary, that each recount his heart-breaking betrayals. Is Pechorin a real hero, or is he just a man like any other?

This brand new production for the Bolshoi Ballet company, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov with music composed by Ilya Demutsky, is a tragic poetic journey on pointes.

The ballet’s director, designer and author of libretto is Kirill Serebrennikov. A Hero of Our Time is one of Serebrennikov’s favorite books. But however much one might love a book, not everyone is capable of bringing it alive in ballet. “I find it surprising no one thought of doing it before,” says Serebrennikov, “as it is a quintessentially poetical and inwardly musical work. And where there is poetry, there is ballet.”

Pechorin, a young officer, embarks on a journey across the majestic mountains of the Caucasus, on a path set by his passionate encounters. Disillusioned and careless, he inflicts pain both upon himself and the women around him…

In each one of the three parts of the ballet, Pechorin is quite different. He is changed by circumstance, age, the way in which he is presented — in Bela he is seen through the eyes of another character, while in Taman and Princess Mary, he ’speaks’ for himself, via the chapters of his diary.

In all these different guises, there can be no question of Pechorin being an integrated character. Each Pechorin has his own character, as revealed in his opening monologue or his own musical characterisation, as conveyed to the audience by a particular solo musical instrument, positioned directly on stage.

Each ballet also features musical solo performances on stage. In Bela, the two solo voices are mezzo soprano Svetlana Shilova and tenor Stanislav Mostovoy, with a bass clarinet solo by Nikolai Sokolov. Taman features a cello solo by Boris Lifanovsky, while Princess Mary features soprano Nina Minasvan, with a piano solo by Nadezhda Demyanova and an English horn solo by Vladislav Komissarchuk.

A Hero of Our Time releases on South African screens on Saturday, 13 May for four screenings only – on 13, 17 and 18 May at 19:30, and on 14 May at 14:30 – only at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 2hrs 45mins, including two intervals.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s A Hero of Our Time at Nouveau, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

 

“I think the best narratives take a man on a journey that transcends his limitations and allows him to evolve from his most basic nature into someone worthy of a bigger life,”

Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne.

Everyone knows the fabled Arthurian legend…or at least thinks they do.  But in the hands of director Guy Ritchie, the tale takes on a decidedly gritty, modern edge and Arthur himself, not yet king, is instead a ruffian, a thoroughly reluctant hero compelled to discover his true destiny even as he fights against the very monarchy he is meant to rule.

DSC05923 3.dng

Guy Ritchie and Charlue Hunnam during the filming of Arthur: Legend In The Stone. Says Ritchie: “I’ll tell you what’s great about Charlie—everything. He worked very hard and he never moaned for a second, even though we asked him to do some pretty tough stuff. He’s a decent, kind, thoughtful and talented human being. I liked him at the beginning of production, I liked him more every day and I adored him by the end.”

“I think the best narratives take a man on a journey that transcends his limitations and allows him to evolve from his most basic nature into someone worthy of a bigger life,” says Ritchie, who also co-wrote and produced the film.  “In our version of the story, Arthur’s life starts small: an urchin in a brothel, running the streets, learning to fight and dodging the law with his mates.  Then the actions of others—some with good, some with not-so-good intentions—force him to expand his vision of who he could be.”

When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Arthur’s uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law), seizes the crown.  Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur (Charlue Hunnam) comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city.  But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy.

For Guy Ritchie, it was the boy’s destination that held the strongest attraction for him as a landscape for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  The origin story called for an unusual setting, one far from anything royal.

“I was always fascinated by the idea of Roman London and the lack of physical evidence of it that remains now,” Ritchie relates.  “Though it’s arguably been the world’s capital for two millennia, apart from maybe Constantinople and Rome, London is a victim of its own success and has obliterated much of its history.  Very few people know that London was once Londinium, a thriving Roman city, most of which is 15 or 20 feet underground by now thanks to the sheer quantity of buildings that have been built on top of it.  So we created our own version of it.”

DSC06185 2.dng

Guy Ritchie (Director/Producer/Screenplay) is an accomplished storyteller who has been entertaining audiences with his dynamic cinematic style for nearly two decades.

Ritchie began his career in Britain’s film industry in 1993 as a runner on Wardour Street, working his way up to a director of music videos and commercials.  In 1995, he wrote and directed his first short film, “The Hard Case,” about four cockney guys raising money to enter a card game, which formed the basis for his first feature film.

Ritchie made his writing and directing feature film debut with Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.  Made on a modest budget of $1 million and breathing new life into its genre, the film premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, became one of the UK’s biggest hits and remains a favorite.

His recent credits include directing the acclaimed blockbusters Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series.

He directed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from a screenplay by Joby Harold and Ritchie & Lionel Wigram, story by David Dobkin and Joby Harold.

A Q & A with Guy Ritchie

What is your first memory of King Arthur? Was it from a book or film?

GUY RITCHIE:  I think it was [director] John Boorman’s interpretation, Excalibur, which had an impact on me. It had bold music; everyone shouted at one another; and it was memorable. It was a commitment.

 What was the key to reimagining this timeless legend?

GUY RITCHIE:  The film is conspicuous with ideas, themes and style that come naturally to me. The fantasy aspect was necessary to make it worthy of cinema.  So it was a fusion of several components. There was a fantasy aspect, which made it worthy of the big screen, and which still fits within the King Arthur mythology.  I also liked the idea that Arthur’s origins really begin as a seriously urban, underprivileged youth—before reverting to his aristocratic roots. One could call that the journey of man, I suppose.

Did you have a favourite scene to shoot?

GUY RITCHIE:  Probably every day. I enjoy my job and I don’t think one scene trumps another.

DSC01008.dng

How did Charlie Hunnam fight to land the role of Arthur?

GUY RITCHIE:  Charlie wasn’t on my top ten list of actors for the role. But he insisted he was going to get himself in the room, and he was established enough to finagle his way into that room.  He just ground down the competition until I surrendered and cast him.  From there, I knew he was going to be the right man. We have a very similar sensibility, in terms of humour and our interest in film. So it was a shorthand with Charlie all the way through production.

How did Charlie change, physically, for the role?

GUY RITCHIE:  When he arrived to discuss the role, he was a bit slight, but his ability trumped that. By the time filming began Charlie had stuck on about 20 pounds of muscle.

 The film represents world-building on a greater scale than you’ve done before. What was that like for you?

GUY RITCHIE:  Honestly, I’ve worked harder on this film than any other I’ve done.  Creating this world involved music, fantasy, visual effects and humour—and then bringing together these components so that they don’t feel disparate.

 How did you communicate your vision for the music to composer, Daniel Pemberton?

GUY RITCHIE:  I find that the biggest challenge with many composers is simplicity. Some of the greatest pieces of music are some of the simplest pieces of music, and in my experience, musicians are inherently frightened of giving you something simple. Daniel is an original voice within that world, and I encouraged him to be bold, in being both exotic and simple.

Charlie said that you camped out on location with him and a few others during production. What can you tell us about that?

 I have a Winnebago that I converted into a log cabin. I’ve found that people are very happy to reside amongst wood, but not so with Formica. The world of film location trailers is Formica and plastic, so we changed that. The interior is like a log cabin; there’s a wood-burning stove and guitars on the walls.  I wish we’d done that sooner. We’ve created a mobile hotel that’s both aesthetically pleasing and utilitarian.

 Do you think the time is right now for a film like this?

GUY RITCHIE:  I think ultimately there’s a curious paradox between individual identity, cultural identity, national identity and a world identity—a collective identity. You have to have both and that’s the paradox. The paradox is to be authentic within your culture and environment but also exist in a world that’s accepting and broad.

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Add these great new titles to your collection

LION 1Lion, the incredible true story of Indian-born Australian Saroo Brierley and his unwavering determination to find his lost family and finally return to his first home is now realised in all its splendour on DVD. Adapted from the non-fiction book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley, it tells the heartbreaking story of a five-year-old Indian boy who, after a wrong train takes him thousands of miles away from home and family, survives many challenges before being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only the scantest of clues, he learns of a new technology called Google Earth, and sets out to find his lost family “You couldn’t make Saroo’s story up, it’s so extraordinary,” says director Garth Davis. “‘It has all of the stuff of great cinema – it has adventure and peril, it traverses continents, it travels across time. And his journey is deeply, deeply emotional.  What also makes it incredibly cinematic is that the story is so ultimately satisfying.  After years of being without his biological family and years of searching he actually, amazingly, like a needle in a haystack, found his way home.” Trailer /  Read more about the film

arrival-teaser-fbpicWhen mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team are brought together to investigate in Arrival, a provocative science fiction thriller from acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners).The elite team is lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – are brought together to investigate.  As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.“I’ve dreamed of doing science fiction since I was ten years old,” explains director Denis Villeneuve, who fell deeply in love with the short story ArrivaL is based upon, Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life.’ “It’s a genre that I feel has a lot of power and the tools to explore our reality in a very dynamic way.”  The bonus features include some insightful doccies on ”Únderstanding Arrival” and the amazing sound design. Trailer Read more about the film

BallerinaBallerina (also know as “Leap!”) is an unabashed wish-fulfilment fantasy that sweetly checks off every conceivable follow-your-heart cliché, this elegantly animated French-Canadian production isn’t inventing any new narrative choreography with its slender tale of Félicie, a plucky, impoverished Brittany orphan who heads to Paris to realize her ambition of joining the ballet. In Paris, 1884, an orphaned girl arrives in Paris from Brittany. Felicie Milliner is 11 and has no money but one big, passionate dream: to become a dancer. With nothing left to lose, Felicie takes a big risk: she “borrows” a spoiled brat’s identity and enters the Opera Ballet School. But how long can she be someone else? Mentored by the tough and mysterious cleaner, Odette, Felicie learns that talent is not enough — it takes hard work to be better than her ruthless. Trailer / Read more about the film

infernoFollowing up on the worldwide successes of The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009) is Inferno, the third highly anticipated adaptation in Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series of novels. The film re-teams director Ron Howard with Tom Hanks, who returns in one of his signature roles playing the quick-thinking and resourceful Langdon, with a screenplay by David Koepp. Inferno finds the famous symbologist (again played by Tom Hanks) on a trail of clues tied to the great Dante himself.  When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories.  Together, they race across Europe and against the clock to stop a madman from unleashing a global virus that would wipe out half of the world’s population.Hanks explains the enduring attraction of the franchise.  “There is something Dan Brown has figured out – everybody likes a good puzzle, especially one you can actually figure out the clues to one at a time and solve,” he says.  “These movies give that to the audience – it is almost an interactive film, and it has been like that since The Da Vinci Code.”  There are some exciting bonus features that include a look at Ron Howard’s ‘Director’s Journal’, a look into the characters, Visions of Hell and deleted scenes. Trailer /  Read more about the film

fallenThe much anticipated feature film adaptation of Lauren Kate’s worldwide bestselling young adult novel, Fallen comes to DVD with a cast of exciting young stars and directed by award-winning Australian director Scott Hicks. Fallen is seen through the eyes of Lucinda ‘Luce’ Price (Addison Timlin), a strong-willed seventeen-year-old living a seemingly ordinary life until she is accused of a crime she didn’t commit.  Sent off to the imposing Sword & Cross reform school, Luce finds herself being courted by two young men to whom she feels oddly connected (Jeremy Itvine and Harrison Gilbertson).  Isolated and haunted by strange visions, Luce begins to unravel the secrets of her past and discovers the two men are fallen angels, competing for her love for centuries.  Luce must choose where her feelings lie, pitting Heaven against Hell in an epic battle over true love. Trailer /  Read more about the film

MAGGIEMaggie’s Plan is terrifically funny and enjoyable – a metropolitan comedy in the former high style of Woody Allen, directed with elegance and dash by Miller and co-scripted by her with publisher-turned-screenwriter Karen Rinaldi. Greta Gerwig stars in her idiot savant Annie Hall mode as Maggie, a New York art dealer who is trying to become a single mom using sperm donated by an old school contemporary who is now making a fortune marketing pickles. Her plan is to get pregnant within four months, but then she has an encounter with handsome, distrait John (Ethan Hawke), a lecturer in “ficto-critical anthropology”, who is unhappily married to scary intellectual Georgette (Julianne Moore), who has “tenure at Columbia” – the kind of phrase that doesn’t appear much in screenplays these days. Soon, Maggie has a different plan in mind.  Watch the trailer

 

 

A love story that explores the sometimes comical and sometimes sad consequences of American puritanism in the late 50s and early 60s.

Set in 1950s Hollywood, Rules Don’t Apply is an unconventional comedy that offers a window into the often surreal realm of Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

It was written, directed, and produced by Warren Beatty, who also stars as Howard Hughes, the billionaire movie mogul, famed aviator and legendary eccentric – who was both a rule-maker for many young stars and a rule-breaker – challenging the industry’s social mores and restrictive moral code.

Elements from the real Hughes’ life are woven into a fictional comic tale that explores the changing landscape for women, the meaning of love and the transformative power of redemption and family.

Alden Ehrenreich and Warren Beatty in Rules Dont Apply

 

Set in 1950s Hollywood, Rules Don’t Apply follows the burgeoning romance between aspiring actress Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) and her ambitious driver Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich).  She is a small town beauty queen, songwriter, and devout Baptist.   He is a Methodist engaged to his junior high school sweetheart. Both are employed by billionaire Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) who has forbidden romance between his employees.  As Frank and Marla fall in love and defy the rules, the sexual and cultural repression of the 50s makes way for the more liberated 1960s.

Hollywood in 1958 was on the cusp of change.  The major studios were beginning to see their all-encompassing power wane as independent, artist-driven companies rose.  At the same time, the tightly contained Studio System – with its carefully cultivated idols under airtight contracts — would soon be declared over.  And the popular films of the day would soon begin to mirror not the conservative values of the 50s but the churning sexual, political and social revolutions of the 60s.

1958 was also when a young Warren Beatty was just starting his career.

Raised in Virginia within a Baptist family, he would arrive in Hollywood in 1958 and debut as a film star in 1961 opposite Natalie Wood in Elia Kazan’s Splendor In The Grass — a story of sexual repression’s consequences for two love-struck youngsters.  The film presaged a coming era at the movies that would question every societal precept – of love, family, industry, religion, war, sexuality, politics, right down to what makes a ‘meaningful’ life.

Beatty would himself develop into one of America’s premier Academy Award winning filmmakers. He has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won the Thalberg Award, among many others.  “In Warren’s films, there is always a sense of melancholy mixed with a sense of humor, no matter what subject he writes about” his wife and two-time co-star Annette Bening observes.  “Whether he’s making a film about Hollywood or politics or social mores.”

Bonnie & Clyde (1967) used the exploits of the Depression-era outlaws to explore the creation of anti-hero rebels and is considered one of the first films of the ‘New Hollywood’ era.  Shampoo (1975) looked at the atmosphere of Nixon’s 1968 election via the escapades of a Beverly Hills hairdresser and his wealthy clients.  Heaven Can Wait (1978)– adapted the 1941 classic Here Comes Mr. Jordan into a comedy not only about love, football and celestial errors, but one set against the increasing corporatization of late 70s America.

Reds (1981) followed real-life journalist John Reed into the Russian Revolution and romance but became equally a look at the rise of the American Left. Dick Tracy (1990) redefined the comic book genre in bringing the famed detective to life. Bugsy (1991), the story of the real-life gangster who created Las Vegas unraveled the inner contradictions of the Great American Con Man. The prescient Bulworth (1998) turned the 1996 political campaign into the tale of a plain-speaking U.S. Senator who becomes a pop sensation – in a satire touching on themes of globalization, race, media and the costs of our broken political system.

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After taking a break to raise a family, Beatty returns with Rules Don’t Apply, a film he had had in the back of his mind for many years, that reflects Beatty’s own upbringing and arrival in Hollywood at a time of societal change.

Beatty admits to a long-time amusement with Hughes: “He could do whatever he wanted to do but there was a certain level of Puritanism that he never quite kicked,”  but devised a story that utilized Hughes’ mystery and impact while avoiding a telling of the tycoon’s life. “I didn’t write a biopic of Howard Hughes at all,” says Beatty. “This is more a love story of two young people in 1958 who happen to be working for Hughes — a love story that explores the sometimes comical and sometimes sad consequences of American puritanism in the late 50s and early 60s when I first came to Hollywood.”

That theme is personified by the film’s romantic leads: Marla Mabrey, a Southern Baptist virgin pursuing Hollywood stardom despite her ‘square’ religious upbringing; and Frank Forbes, a Fresno Methodist and a member of Hughes’ vast stable of drivers who aims to follow in the tycoon’s business footsteps.  Both Marla and Frank vie to at least get a rarified chance to meet Hughes, who is hidden in a fog of rumors and speculation.  Yet as both are figuring out how to navigate the rules of their upbringings while getting ahead in Hollywood, their growing attraction makes them fall foul of Hughes’ most incontrovertible rule:  that drivers and starlets must never, ever date.

Comments Beatty: “The story of Howard Hughes himself has an inevitable downward trajectory, I was more interested in telling the story of two people who, like myself, came to Hollywood in the time of Hughes, and fell in love when the rules were against them.”

The film also hones in on how the shifting power differential between men and women makes its mark on Marla and Frank — as their relationship progresses from 1958 to the post-Kennedy era of 1964. “Over that brief period, the country saw a strong burst of feminism,” observes Beatty.  “Some refer to the late 50s and early 60s as the sexual revolution. I think it’s fair to say there were real developments in the liberation of women, and that it resulted in a lot of turmoil, re-thinking, acceptance and denial.  And it continues.”

It is in this context that Marla breaks free of the expectations of the time. As director of photography Caleb Deschanel puts it:  “We watch over the course of the film as Marla and Frank triumph over the restrictions of the 50s – and become modern people.”

The film also reflects the shifts in Hollywood in a time of cultural change. Beatty himself witnessed the evolving of the former Studio System into a new, more creatively free Hollywood that led to groundbreaking films of the 70s.  He recalls: “From the first picture that I did, I felt I began to see the handwriting on the wall.  That some actors were going to take on more responsibilities and control and I realized if I didn’t take the responsibility for delivering a movie, that I would never really get to do what I, at times, wanted to do.  Of course, there are times when you just want to act and play your character, but I’ve enjoyed doing both,” he says.

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Casting

At the center of Rules Don’t Apply are its two would-be, Howard Hughes-crossed lovers, who are up against Hughes’ controlling ways, traditional notions of sin and guilt, as well as their own highly individualistic ambitions, even as they are inescapably drawn to one another.  Beatty cast two relative newcomers to play the two Hollywood newcomers.

Lily Collins, who made her debut as Sandra Bullock’s daughter in the Oscar®-nominated The Blind Side and became the lead in The Mortal Instruments and Snow White in Mirror Mirror, plays small-town beauty queen Marla Mabrey.

“I read books on the 50s and studied actresses who worked under Howard Hughes.  But there was also a lot of just talking with Warren – who explains so well the feeling of that time – as well as with Caleb Deschanel, Albert Wolsky and Jeannine Oppewall.  I got so much from hearing them speak about the environment for women then,” she recalls.   “The more I understood the mindset of the times and the more that Warren told different stories, whether they were his personal stories or stories he’d come across in his career, I started to understand the moral shifts going on and the sexual repression.”

Alden Ehrenreich has appeared in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker and the Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar, and was cast in the coveted role of the young Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV.

For Ehrenreich, part of the appeal of Rules Don’t Apply is that it’s about a search that has now become a defining part of modern life over the last half century:  the search for how we each can break out of the limitations we think are imposed upon us: “I think the film is about a lot of things,” says the actor. “But at its heart it’s about choosing your priorities in life – about whether you’re going to let yourself be controlled by one kind of system or another or if instead, you’re going to take the chance to create your own life free from society’s pressures and guilts.”

Having become a symbol of decline in more recent times, it would be easy to forget how powerful and popular Howard Hughes was at one time.  Long before he became the quintessential celebrity eccentric in the latter half of his life, Hughes was enormously influential on the culture – as a paradigmatic chaser of the American Dream.

While writing the character, Beatty combined fact, apocryphal stories and imagination presenting  a Hughes who is as lonely and misunderstood as he is wealthy and powerful. Beatty’s Hughes is a legend wrestling with his own smothering myth, a tangle of contradictions:  at once brilliant and more than a little eccentric. Both seducer and loner, buoyed by power but in search of something more while also battling  mental illness.

Beatty never had a personal encounter with Hughes, but Hughes’ presence was strongly felt in Hollywood when Beatty arrived.  He met many people who had worked with Hughes, which gave him a different perspective.  “I knew many people who knew Howard very well – and really everyone spoke very highly of him,” he notes. “By that point, I don’t know that Howard was terribly interested in making more money. He was interested in flying, in filmmaking, in politics and in other things.”

Still there was a sense that Hughes’ unusual life lent itself to a kind of constant dissonance between his image and his reality.  “I think sometimes if you have all the financial resources and power to do whatever you want to do in life, that can be trouble,” Beatty observes.

Beatty also points out that Hughes’ cryptic public image was partly of his own making.  The late 50s was a time when privacy was more attainable even for the very famous – and it was also more cultivated, something the film plays upon.

“Hughes created a kind of mystery around himself,” suggests Beatty, “that I don’t think you could create now with all the social media.  The interesting thing is that in the 30s, 40s and even the 50s privacy was actually possible for the very famous. And sometimes privacy was maybe overly glamorized as well.  Hollywood actors were taught very much then to control how they were seen in every aspect. I don’t know that it’s possible any more, unless one wants to become a complete recluse.”

A significant South African film – a vibrant visual experience with profound food for thought

Reviewed by Daniel Dercksen  (5 May, 2017)

With Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie,  writer-director Christiaan Olwagen delivers a refreshing film that is as radical as the Voëlvry music movement that rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government and changed the hearts of a generation of South Africans who wanted to break free from oppressive separatism.

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Roelof Storm as Johnny, with Albert Pretorius and Ludwig Binge,

Olwagen’s enthused adaptation of Malan Steyn’s play Eat Everything, referring to the “Reformed Blues Band” album “Eet Kreef” , is a significant South African film that reveals a truth about our lives that deserves to be seen and will most definitely spark lively debate.

Olwagen’s extensive experience as an actor, writer and   director in plays, cabaret, comedy, drama, puppet theatre, musicals, physical theatre, television and short films, infuses the film with a vibrant and savvy sensibility, reaping powerhouse performances from a potent ensemble cast.

If there’s one reason to see the film, other than for Olwagen’s daring vision and execution, it’s for the outstanding performances by Roelof Storm, Ludwig Binge, Albert Pretorius, Rolanda Marais, and Ilana Cilliers, who crawl under the skin of their characters and bring them to life with passion and sincere honesty.

The film vividly examines the impact of the Voëlvry movement on the personal and political development of a generation of Afrikaners, as well as the havoc the Bush War inflicted on the lives of thousands of young army conscripts – the Voëlvry (Outlawed) Movement was a group of South African musicians who rebelled against the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government and allied themselves around the group called the “Reformed Blues Band” (GBB) a deliberate reference to the Reformed Church.

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The story tells of a group of ordinary people whose extraordinary vision and beliefs challenged the world they lived in during the 80s in South Africa.

Their lives as young, drunken rebels – the grandchildren of Verwoerd – saturated in the protest music of Johannes Kerkorrel, Koos Kombuis and Bernoldus Niemand are severely confronted by the Kerkorrel’s suicide in 2002 when they gather for a braai and reminisce about their days as students in Stellenbosch during the time of the Voëlvry tour.

This tragedy forces them to redeem themselves and re-examine the bond of love and friendship that united and ultimately divided them.

Just as they used music as a weapon to express themselves in a war they had with the autocratic dictates of the apartheid government, so does Olwagen use the film medium as a way to visually tell their story.

The bold and full screen titles of the opening and closing credits, as well as the introduction to the characters and timespan, and style of filmmaking reminds strongly of Andy Warhol’s experimental Underground Films of the 60s that brashly challenged perceptions and traditional conventions, as well as the alternative underground movement in South Africa during an era when 1791 men lost their lives as a result of compulsory military conscription.

The story opens with Lise (Marais), who is awoken from a dream she had about Kerkorrel and throughout the film, Olwagen uses a free-held Steadicam that evokes the feeling of Kerkorrel watching the events unfold as his soul guides us into the mindscape of the characters.

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Director Christiaan Olwagen during filming of Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie

Olwagen’s choices as a visionary are sometimes risky, but ultimately rewarding and meaningful.

He tells the story in motion and brings it vividly to life through the lens of DOP Chris Vermaak, who shot the entire film on Steadicam to achieve Olwagen’s theatrical style of rehearsal on set and to execute the director’s vision of continuous movement whilst shooting.

One scene captures the turmoil and confusion of the characters chatting at a table by letting the camera continuously circle the event, almost intruding on their space, yet keeping a safe distance.

Another scene that stands out is a raucous party scene vignette of 13 minutes,   a continuous take that features the full cast, two rock bands, an accordion player, a violinist, an opera singer, and a full university choir.

This surreal-fantasy scene metaphorically takes us down Lewis Carrol’s Rabbit Hole and like Alice in Wonderland, a drowsy Lisa encounters the Cheshire Cat, a Mad Hatter Tea-Party, Croquet Ground, flamingos,  the White Rabbit, a bottle labelled “Drink Me” and a “caterpillar” smoking a hookah.

This signifies Olwagen’s brilliance as a director, his powerful vision overpowers the senses and offers moments of pure genius, giving the film a haunting realism that allows us to quietly intrude on their lives and thoughts; it’s an introspective journey of inner conflict that forces the characters to reveal their emotions.

Olwagen effectively balances physical confrontations with gentle intimate moments that results in a dynamic cinematic experience.

The film also has a heightened realism where Olwagen uses theatrical devises as exposition.

In one of the most important scenes, we find Johnny (Storm) sitting on a sofa in a garden, as if lit on stage, when he is joined by Hein (Binge); it is here where Olwagen subtly probes the essence of what might have caused Kerkorrel’s torment and forced him to take his own life.

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Forbidden desires and hidden secrets can ultimately destroy lives, and as Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie poignantly reflects upon, is how this impacted on Kerkorrel’s life; it’s very much a reminder of how easy it is to sacrifice ourselves and our sanity for a greater cause.

Sometimes, it’s our humanity that ignites a personal war that is never conquered, but lives on in the hearts of future generations.

The idealistic life and rebellious vigour of singer-songwriter, journalist and playwright Ralph Rabie, who shot to fame as Johannes Kerkorrel, also lives on in Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie, with Storm perfectly capturing the magnetic spirit and enigmatic passion Kerkorrel had in his role as Johnny.

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The film will most definitely allow a younger generation to make sense  of  “the sins  of  their fathers” to understand the world they live in.

Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie is a definite must-see film for discerning viewers looking for escapism that offers an invigorating visual experience with profound food for thought.

© Daniel Dercksen, published with permission in Biz Community Lifestyle (5 May, 2017)

”I wanted to make the best, most moving story possible. It’s about making a story that is worthy of who the Guardians are as characters and making a film that is about those characters that’s worthy of them, and I hope that we’ve done that.”

Writer-director James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar.

When the uniquely creative and original film was released in the summer of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy became a worldwide box-office sensation, with audiences warmly embracing the eccentric cast of intergalactic characters.

James Gunn is the prolific filmmaker behind some of pop culture’s most notable feature films. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Gunn began his filmmaking career at the age of twelve by making a zombie movie with an eight-millimeter camera and an actor, his brother Sean. Thirty years later, Gunn brought to life what is now turning into one of the most memorable franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

James Gunn is the prolific filmmaker behind some of pop culture’s most notable feature films. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Gunn began his filmmaking career at the age of twelve by making a zombie movie with an eight-millimeter camera and an actor, his brother Sean. Thirty years later, Gunn brought to life what is now turning into one of the most memorable franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the story follows the team as they fight to keep their newfound family together while traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos to unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

Writer/director James Gunn recalls his reaction to seeing the characters being propelled into the pop-culture zeitgeist.  “It was truly gratifying and fulfilling that the Guardians’ characters spoke so profoundly to so many people all over the world,” says Gunn.  “At the core of the film, the Guardians are a group of outsiders who come together and find a way to make it work. I think that’s what speaks to such a wide array of people. It’s a great feeling when kids come up and say they loved the film and that their parents and grandparents loved it as well. These characters were able to connect to all generations around the world from Thailand to South America to London.”

Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan, the Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in 1969 as a team of heroes in the 31st century—each member the last of its kind.

GOTG2 PosterWith the phase two expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Guardians of the Galaxy was the first franchise introduced outside of the core Marvel cornerstone characters. The film was also a dramatic departure in tone and style from any previous Marvel film franchises.

Looking back to the development of the franchise, Feige acknowledges it wasn’t always an easy sell.

“A number of years ago we were saying that we wanted to do a space movie,” he says. “And looking through the books, we realized we had this great group of characters that had been re-formed in publishing recently called the Guardians of the Galaxy and what an outrageous grouping of people it was—most outrageously that one member was a tree and another member was a raccoon.”

Continuing, Feige adds, “I took a lot of joy in pitching that to people who had never heard of it. But it took a huge leap forward when we hired James Gunn, who initially wondered what we were talking about, and then drove home and thought about it more and tapped into his love of these kinds of movies, his love of little animals and his love of characters.”

When they met again, Gunn was 100% on board with the project. “He rewrote the script, did a new outline and added some songs,” Feige recalls. “And we knew we had something even more special than we were anticipating, and the audience responded to that. The film came out and was the success that it was. It was great because that really proves the point of you don’t have to have ever read any of these comics. You don’t have to even ever have heard of any of these comics.”

Feige was convinced that “if we deliver the movie, that’s all that matters. We knew even before the film came out that we were feeling very good about it and that the buzz was very good. And we knew the film delivered.”

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Crafting The Story

Postproduction on the Guardians of the Galaxy helped to provide director James Gunn with the roadmap to find the story in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, particularly when it came to audience reactions during screenings. The way audiences responded to the different elements of the first movie gave filmmakers a leg up in terms of story direction for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

“I knew where I wanted the story to go before the first film was out in theaters,” explains writer/director James Gunn.

“I knew what the general shape of the sequel was going to be, but the one thing I had to figure out was if I was going to tell the story of Peter Quill and his father as Volume 2, which I thought was the big reveal or save it for a later time. Ultimately I decided that it was the best story I have in hand right now and went with.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy successfully introduced the world to an eccentric group of selfish, self-interested, un-superhero like characters who are thrown together with the task of saving the entire galaxy.

For Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn was tasked with delivering a story that continued not just their exploits, but their evolutions as characters as well. When Gunn delivered his initial treatment for the story, it was a hit with his fellow filmmakers.

“What I loved about James’ vision for the film was that it was everything you love about the film—the characters, the humor, the action, the music—but it also evolved the story and franchise in a really interesting way that felt completely organic,” says executive producer Jonathan Schwartz.

“Every character is a different person at the end of the story than they are at the beginning. So keeping the characters moving forward keeps the franchise moving forward in a really honest way which is what made it really interesting to us.”

“I think one of the big advantages that James had the second time around was that he could write the script specifically for all of the actors’ voices,” adds executive producer Nikolas Korda.

“On most films you are not sure who is going play what when the script is in the development phase. Going into this film we knew almost all the characters’ voices and rhythms, what worked and what didn’t in the first film. So that really allowed James to dial the story in very early on and play to the strengths of all the actors in the film.”

And now what can fans expect from the highly anticipated sequel’s storyline? Producer Kevin Feige gives some hints: “When we started turning the wheels on a sequel, there were some very obvious clues at the end of the first film where the storyline could go. Peter talks about his father. Glenn Close, Nova Prime, tells us something very ancient, very unusual. Yondu tells us that he purposefully did not deliver Peter to his father. So James went back and started to work on where that would take us in a storyline. And it takes us to a place where we meet the Guardians only a few months after the events of Guardians 1.

“We meet them in the midst of a job, and we introduce some new villains. And more importantly we introduce some new heroes, most importantly Mantis, who is an amazing new addition to the Guardians. Returning characters Yondu and Nebula play surprising new roles in the film, and we continue to deepen the relationship between Peter Quill and Gamora, which we’ll see more of.

“Also we further the evolution of Rocket, who is not the nicest raccoon around, but who certainly has a begrudging loyalty to his team. Then we meet a new version of our beloved Groot who has crawled out of the little pot that we saw him dancing in in the first film and now is our new Baby Groot for this film,” Feige concludes.

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The Cast Of Characters Return

As the cast returns to inhabit the colorful, unique, dysfunctional Guardians characters, there is a new dynamic. The first movie was about becoming a family and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” focuses on being a family.

As James Gunn explains, “This movie is about all of the characters being a family. And being a family is a lot more difficult than becoming a family. It’s a much more complicated story. In the first movie, a bunch of characters are outsiders. They come together. But where does that leave them?”

And that’s exactly what audiences will discover as the characters’ relationships unfold, starting with Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, who faces a family issue that he is compelled to resolve—his true parentage. Chris Pratt reprises the role that propelled him into Marvel fandom and leading-man status.

On casting Chris Pratt as Star-Lord/Peter Quill, James Gunn says, “When I was auditioning Star-Lord the first time around I was looking for somebody who’d come in, do everything that was on the page, do it well, do it in a funny way, but also give that a little something extra that made Peter Quill a little bit of a different character. And Chris came in and did that immediately. Chris is a very unique movie star in that he is a combination of being a big, masculine guy but also a very vulnerable guy. He has a vulnerability that the classic movie stars hint at, whether it’s Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper. Chris really brings that to life on the screen, and I think that’s what makes him a truly modern-day movie star.”

For Pratt, “Guardians of the Galaxy” afforded him the vehicle to showcase both his comedic and physical talents in a way that he had not been able to do on film. “What appealed to me the most about this character was the opportunity to add my own personal brand of humor into it,” comments Pratt. “This was something that I knew I could do that was unique to me, and I had been dying for an opportunity to do that. I wanted to do something that was both comedic and physical. This role is a comfortable space to do that. What is so exciting to me is that I can just do the best version of my best stuff with Star-Lord.”

Zoe Saldana returns to the role of the deadly, green-skinned assassin Gamora, another character dealing with family issues related to the fact that her adoptive father is Thanos and her sister is Nebula.

“Gamora is surrounded by these idiots, the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are making her life very difficult,” adds Gunn. “She loves them. She knows she loves them. She’s aware of that. But then she has one guy, Peter Quill, who’s saying he’s in love with her, which she’s not that comfortable with. The boys are fighting constantly, and they’re all a pain. She doesn’t have any female companionship. She’s in a spot, since it’s only a couple months after the first movie, where they’re all having growing pains and sophomoric moments in their relationships. Then she comes face-to-face with her sister Nebula at the beginning of the movie. For Gamora there’s an emotional part of this. She has a fair amount of spite for her sister and on the other hand her sister says she just wants to kill her. And that is where we start Gamora’s story.”

Dave Bautista is back as the physically intimidating, tattoo-covered Drax.

According to Bautista, there is much to like about his character. “What I really love about Drax is he’s not what you’d expect from reading the comics,” says Bautista. “Everybody was expecting one thing, and we gave them another. It makes it more interesting. It’s easy just to be the big guy who’s always growling at people and intimidating people. We’ve seen it a million times. But when you get the same guy who looks the same way but just says the most ridiculous things that make you laugh, it makes him more interesting. And he’s also got that side to him that’s just all heart. He’s still heartbroken over the loss of his family. And I love that dynamic, man. I love playing with that. It’s challenging. It makes it’s interesting. It makes the character loveable and it makes people connect to him.”

When it comes to voices, James Gunn knows Rocket’s better than anyone as the director has many times professed that there is a little bit of himself in the character. Rocket, a tortured little beast who’s been torn apart and put back together, is still incredibly funny and heartfelt at times, particularly as voiced again by Academy Award® nominee Bradley Cooper.

Cooper acknowledges that both he and the filmmakers learned a lot about Rocket from doing the first movie and following the character’s journey. “We have a better understanding of who Rocket is,” Cooper says. “With the technology evolving, I think also the character has evolved. That’s been a fun process to be a part of. I’m just a small part of Rocket—so many people go into who Rocket is.”

A scene stealer in “Guardians of the Galaxy” with only the same three words of ‘I am Groot,’ was the wise, old, talking humanoid tree creature Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel. Despite his unique appearance and extremely limited communication skills, Groot embedded himself in the heart of audiences around world with just those three little words. A valuable ally and a loyal friend to Rocket and the Guardians, the character makes the ultimate sacrifice and returns in the sequel as a baby Groot.

Voiced again by Diesel, the little Groot is a totally different character. “He doesn’t have the memories of adult Groot and he is a baby,” explains Gunn. “He’s completely adorable, but has a lot more anger issues than adult Groot did. All of the other characters react to Baby Groot in different ways. Drax doesn’t like him. Rocket yells at him a lot, but he is okay with him.  Gamora definitely has motherly instincts towards him, and Quill barely acknowledges his existence.”

Here Come The Guardians

What can audiences expect when the Guardians of the Galaxy blast back into their lives?

“What I’m really hoping for is that they’ll get all of the different aspects they loved about the first movie but in a completely different way,” says Chris Pratt.  “People go the movie theater to have a profound life or mood-changing experience and this film is going to really knock their socks off.”

“This film has a ton of laughs, but it also tackles a lot of emotional issues like relationships with fathers, friends, siblings and asks the question what is family to you and how do you grow and evolve as an adult,” adds Zoe Saldana. “I love that about ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,’ because it gives you a very human essence even though it takes place in another galaxy and universe. I think audiences are really going to connect to this film and all of the heart and the great story it tells.”

Karen Gillan believes everyone will relate to the family theme of the movie. “There are so many aspects of that storyline throughout the film” Gillan says. “Everybody’s going to find something in this film that they can connect with and understand. Also, it’s so funny. People are going to have a really good time, and they’re going to be entertained. And they’re going to hear some good music.”

Dave Bautista is confident that audiences will connect to the film on a personal level as well. “The first film was more about people coming together for the greater good,” Bautista says. “And I think this film is more about relationships with people. It is the story of a family. Your family doesn’t always have to be blood family. They can be chosen family. So I think this is more of a relationship film, and everyone can relate to that.”

Producer Kevin Feige comments, “What James has done with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is something very unique and very special that continues everything that was unique and special about the first film but really evolves it and takes it to new unexpected surprising places. James said, ‘Look, the first film was a creative risk. We all decided together to do something very different. We have to do that again.’ And that’s what he’s done. And I can’t wait for people to see it.”

On that thought, Gunn sums up, “I hope that we have picked up the mantle of the first film and taken it to another place. I wanted to make the best, most moving story possible. It’s about making a story that is worthy of who the Guardians are as characters and making a film that is about those characters that’s worthy of them, and I hope that we’ve done that.”

Be A Winner! Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2

GUARDIANS

If you want to win a Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 hamper that includes a Blu-Ray of Guardians of The Galaxy,  and awesome Mix Volume 2 – CD Soundtrack, and a Groot T-Shirt …

Tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer with your contact details and Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol 2. in the subject line to us before 31 May, 2017.  Enter competition here

Picking up where “Guardians of the Galaxy”—2014’s highest grossing film of the summer—left off, Marvel Studios’ “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the action-packed, irreverent, epic space adventures of Peter Quill aka Star-Lord and his gang of eccentric characters as they patrol and protect the universe, doing mercenary work in the wake of the popularity and fame they garnered from saving Xandar.

Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, the story follows the team as they fight to keep their newfound family together while traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos to unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand.

From Comic Book To Box-Office Hit: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2

Art Documentary On The Curious World Of Hieronymus Bosch at Nouveau Cinemas

The next art documentary in the Exhibition on Screen season uncovers the fascinating world of medieval Dutch artist, Hieronymus Bosch, and is titled The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch.

After 500 years, Bosch’s paintings still shock and fascinate us, and this Exhibition on Screen documentary delves into the vivid imagination of this true visionary.

“A once-in-a-lifetime show.” – The Financial Times

“One helluva homecoming.” – The New York Times

This intriguing documentary releases at Nouveau cinemas on Saturday, 06 May.

Hieronymus Bosch The Ship of Fools c1500-1510_1

Hieronymus Bosch The Ship of Fools c1500-1510

Who was Hieronymus Bosch? Why do his strange and fantastical paintings resonate with people now more than ever? How does he bridge the medieval and Renaissance worlds? Where did his unconventional and timeless creations come from? The answers to all these questions and so much more, will be revealed in this remarkable new film from Exhibition on Screen, directed by David Bickerstaff.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch features the exhibition “Jheronimus Bosch – Visions of Genius” at Het Noordbrabants Museum in the southern Netherlands – the largest ever Bosch retrospective, with 36 of his 44 surviving masterpieces on display. This amazing exhibition, which brought the majority of Bosch’s paintings and drawings together for the first time to his home town of Den Bosch, attracted almost half a million art lovers from across the world – and museum’s opening hours extended to 1am on days to accommodate the phenomenal demand.

Accompanied by expert insights from the exhibition’s curators and leading cultural critics, the film delves into Bosch’s fascinating life and explores the details and stories within his works – including close-up views of the curiosities hidden within his brimming canvases, from cannibalistic clergymen to three-headed birds – as never before seen.

The film brings to life the original form of Bosch’s famous altarpieces, long separated, which are now divided between the world’s great museums. It also reveals new discoveries made by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project during preparations for the exhibition, using cutting-edge technology to uncover yet further layers to Bosch’s multifaceted paintings. The film’s exploration of this great creative genius should not be missed, as it brings to a fitting end a year-long programme to honour the 500th anniversary of this celebrated artist’s death.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch releases on Saturday, 06 May for four screenings only: 06, 10 and 11 May at 19:30, and on 07 May at 14:30 – at Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Ster-Kinekor Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town.  Bookings are now open, and the running time of this production is 100 minutes.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. Follow Nouveau on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

With Exhibition on Screen, award-winning arts documentary maker Phil Grabsky & Seventh Art Productions are again delighting art lovers in more than 40 countries, including South Africa.

In 2011 Phil Grabsky and his company, Seventh Art Productions, created art history when they brought major art exhibitions into cinemas across the globe with Leonardo Live from London’s National Gallery. This was the first ever live-to-cinema exhibition broadcast from a gallery or museum. Grabsky and Seventh Art Productions are also the multi award-winning film-makers behind films such as Muhammad Ali: Through the Eyes of the World, The Boy who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the acclaimed In Search Of series (about Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Chopin), Escape from Luanda and The Boy Mir – Ten Years in Afghanistan.

Among Phil’s many other films are over 120 Tim Marlow art shows that have played on TV over the past decade. Phil made the world’s first 3D visual arts film: Tim Marlow on British Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts. He has also made six award-winning history films with Monty Python’s Terry Jones. Working with co-director David Bickerstaff, Grabsky also completed the lauded short documentary Heavy Water: a Journey to Chernobyl, as well as The Making of Swallows and Amazons – the Bristol Old Vic Sets Sail and Making War Horse – both films exploring the creative processes behind theatrical productions.

Phil has written four books, including The Great Artists, with Tim Marlow. All are available in printed, audible and e-reader formats. Phil has been honoured with awards for Services to Television, Lifetime, Best Director and Services to the Arts and Education.

For more information, visit www.seventh-art.com.

 

 

Treat yourself to the best of European Cinema

The European Film Festival is back for the 4th time at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban from 5 to 14 May.

The line-up of films represents 12 countries, including Ireland and Croatia for the first time. Each film reflects the skills and take on the world of filmmakers who are not limited by national borders.

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Festival Director Katarina Hedrén who returns as the curator for the second time is delighted with the pickings: “With this year’s selection which includes films of different genres, textures and moods, the aim is to entertain, amuse and offer opportunities for reflection, new discoveries and recognition,” she says. “The theme binding the films together is cinematic excellence through acclaimed and award-winning films from 12 European countries.”

The 2017 selection is a mixed pot in terms of film themes which span from animal rights to family dynamics. Dramas and documentaries, comedies, tales of grief and a children’s adventure sit side by side on this eclectic and exciting programme.

 

For booking information, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. For queries, contact Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437). Normal benefits and ticket discounts apply to members of SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club loyalty programmes.

Venues:

Johannesburg: Rosebank Mall (Level 1), cnr Bath & Baker Streets, Rosebank

Pretoria:Brooklyn Mall (Lower Level Shop 12), Bronkhorst Street, New Muckleneuk

Cape Town: Nouveau – V&A Waterfront : King Warehouse, Red Shed, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Durban: Ster-Kinekor Nouveau – Gateway Theatre of Shopping, 1 Palm Blvd, Umhlanga Rocks

Listing of Films

American HoneyAMERICAN HONEY (United Kingdom)  Acclaimed British director Andrea Arnold returns with a road-movie set in the US Midwest. The film tells of drifting teenager Star who joins a crew of wayward magazine-selling youth led by the uncompromising Krystal (played by Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough). Under the guidance of the slightly older and seductive Jake, the strong-minded Star is expected to master the art of selling magazine subscriptions needed by nobody to anybody – rich or poor – using whatever capacities at hand. Among its achievements are the Jury Prize at Cannes (2016), the FIPRESCI Prize at Stockholm Film Festival (2016) as well as awards for Best Independent Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Outstanding Achievement in Craft for cinematography at the British Independent Film Awards (2016). It was nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding British Film of the Year.  Director: Andrea Arnold / Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough/ Genre: Drama / 163min / English (20

 

Farewell to EuropeSTEFAN ZWEIG: FAREWELL TO EUROPE (Austria) Actress-come-director Maria Schrader’s second feature film recounts the last years of Austrian novelist and playwright, Stefan Zweig’s life, which he spent exiled in the Americas, away from the war together with his wife. The agony of being uprooted is as present in the ailing author’s life as the abhorrence of meaningless counter-gestures and the sense of powerlessness in the face of fascism. It was Austria’s entry to the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The film won Schrader the award for Best Direction at the Bavarian Film Awards (2017) and Josef Hader the award for Best Actor by the German Film Critics Association (2017). Director: Maria Schrader/ Cast: Tómas Lemarquis, Barbara Sukowa, Josef Hader/ 106min/ German, English, Portuguese, French Spanish with English Subtitles (2016)

King of the BelgiansKING OF THE BELGIANS (Belgium) On a state visit to Turkey, the dutiful but uninspired King Nicolas the 3rd of Belgium learns of a coup back home (the Walloons have declared themselves fed up and independent). Prevented to go back by air, but filled with a renewed sense of purpose, the king embarks on an unorthodox road trip through the Balkans, accompanied by his reluctant aides and led by a resourceful British documentary filmmaker, initially commissioned to improve the dull monarch’s image. This thoughtful and hilarious drama was awarded by the Circle of Dutch Film Journalists at Rotterdam International Film Festival and has screened at Venice and Hamburg Film Festivals. Directors: Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth / Cast: Peter Van den Begin, Lucie Debay, Bruno Georis, Pieter van der Houwen /  94min / Flemish, French, English, Bulgarian with English Subtitles (2016)

 

The High SunTHE HIGH SUN (Croatia) Three love stories, unfolding in two Balkan villages over three consecutive decades – in 1991, 2001 and 2011 – and featuring the same key cast, capture the moods of each time – from the initial sense of doom, via the determination to survive and rebuild, to the dream of leaving the past behind though wounds are still festering. Skillful writing coupled with stellar direction and performances has seen The High Sun and Matanic win numerous awards, among them, Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes (2015), The International Confederation of Art Cinemas at Sarajevo Film Festival (2015), Best Artistic Contribution at Cairo International Film Festival (2015) and the Slovenian Art Cinema Network’s award for Best Film (2015). Director: Dalibor Matanic / Cast: Tihana Lazovic, Goran Markovic, Nives Ivankovic / 123min / Croatian with English Subtitles (2015)

Things To ComeTHINGS TO COME (France) Isabelle Huppert is as brilliant as ever in her earnest portrayal of philosophy teacher Nathalie Chazeaux. As Nathalie is trying to carve out a new direction in life amidst student demonstrations, the questioning of her intellectual relevance, defining relationships coming to an end and becoming a grandmother, her former star student Fabien unexpectedly becomes both a compassionate friend and a fervent intellectual sparring partner. Things to Come has screened at numerous film festivals and won Hansen-Love the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin International Film Festival 2016. Isabelle Huppert’s performance won her several awards for Best Actress, incl. The New York Film Critics Circle’s and the Los Angeles Film Critics Associations’. Director: Mia Hansen-Love / Cast: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka/ 102min / French, German, English with English Subtitles (2016)

 

Toni ErdmannTONI ERDMANN (Germany) In Ade’s outlandish and outstanding third feature, eccentric music teacher, father and practical-joker Winfried Conradi joins his corporate-ladder climbing daughter Ines in Bucharest following his dog’s passing. In an effort to rekindle family bonds, he infiltrates the multinational firm she works for, disguised as the life coach Toni Erdmann. Toni Erdmann was Germany’s submission for the 2017 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, and until the very end, a highly touted winner. Among its numerous and prestigious nominations and awards are nominations for the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs (2017), the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes 2016, the German Film Critics Association Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Edit and several International Cinephile Society Awards. Director: Maren Ade / Cast: Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn / 162min/  German with English Subtitles (2016)

 

The Queen of IrelandTHE QUEEN OF IRELAND (Ireland) Conor Horgan’s heartfelt documentary tells about the life and activism of Irish drag queen Pandora Panti Bliss. Born in Ireland in the late 1960s and instrumental in revolutionizing the Irish LGBT-scene, the charismatic, sharp and outspoken performer Rory O’Neill almost seems destined to play an influential role at the time of the 2015 Irish referendum for marriage equality rights. The film traces Panti’s spectacular career, public controversies as well as more personal aspects of Rory O’Neill’s life. The Queen of Ireland has screened at film festival across the world and won awards for Best Film and Best Documentary presented by Dublin Film Critics Circle. Director: Conor Horgan / Cast: Declan Buckley, Phillip McMahon, Una Mullally /Genre: Documentary/ 86 min / English (2015)

Sweet DreamsSWEET DREAMS (Italy) The course of celebrated Italian author and journalist Massimo Gramellini’s entire life changes on the day his mother dies. Sheltered by his well-meaning but distant father, the 9-year old is left to deal with the void as best as he can. Partly in denial and partly kept in the dark, Massimo grows up in a rapidly changing Italy. Though his professional star is fast rising, he remains stuck emotionally until the day he is asked to reply to the letter of a newspaper reader in distress.Based on Gramellini’s autobiography, this cinematic gem opened the Directors Fortnight at Cannes 2016 and won the International Cinephile Society’s Award for best film not released in 2017. Director: Marco Bellocchio / Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Valerio Mastandrea, Fabrizio Gifuni / 134 min / Italian with English Subtitles (2016)

 

Reijer Zwaan

Reijer Zwaan

STRIKE A POSE (Netherlands) When seven young men became Madonna’s backup dancers for her legendary Blond Ambition world tour in 1990, their lives changed. The mythical documentary Truth or Dare – shot as they traveled the world – contributed to cement Madonna’s status as an icon and one of that time’s most prominent voices for gay rights and AIDS-prevention. The cost for the superstar’s outspokenness and daring image was paid by those who returned to normal life once the dream was over. Dutch documentarians, Gould and Zwaan, give voice to these men. Strike a Pose has screened at Tribeca Film Festival and Hot Docs. It won the Jury Award for Best LGBT-film at the Key West Film Festival (2016) and was the runner-up for the Panorama Audience Award at Berlin International Film Festival (2016). Director: Ester Gould, Reijer Zwaan / Cast: Luis Camacho, Oliver S. Crumes III, Salim Gauwloos, Jose Gutierez, Kevin Stea, Carlton Wilborn and Gabriel Trupin / Documentary / 83min / English (2016)

 

SpoorSPOOR (Poland) This scenic and original mother-and-daughter directed thriller tells of part-time school teacher, retired civil engineer and passionate animal-lover, Janina Duszejko, who lives alone in a village where hunting is the preferred pastime of the small community’s big men. When one by one, these prominent pillars of society are found dead, without any trace of a perpetrator, the question on everybody’s mind is, ‘Who or what did it?’ With a career, spanning over continents, three-times Oscar-nominated director Agnieszka Holland returns with a fresh film, based on a novel, which she calls ‘a fairytale about anger’ and which competed for the Golden Bear at Berlin International Film Festival (2017). Director: Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik / Cast: Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, Wiktor Zborowski, Jakub Gierszal / Genre: Drama / 128min / Polish with English Subtitles (2017)

 

 

Game of CheckersGAME OF CHECKERS (Portugal) Five close friends gather after the passing of their common friend Martha, at a tourist resort that the deceased was about to open. The group spends the entire night after Martha’s wake reminiscing, eating, drinking, smoking, opening up old wounds, and revealing secrets, in addition to alternately forgiving and judging one another. When the morning comes, the question of the women’s future friendship remains open. Experienced TV-director Patrícia Sequeira’s first feature has won several awards, incl. Los Angeles Movie Awards for Best Narrative Feature, Best International Film and Best Actress (2016) and Cyprus International Film Festival’s awards for Best Director, Best Leading Actress and Best Script in a First Feature (2016). Director: Patrícia Sequeira / Cast: Ana Nave, Ana Padrão, Fátima Belo, Maria João Luís, Rita Blanco / 87min / Portuguese with English Subtitles (2016)

 

ZIP & ZAP AND THE CAPTAIN’S ISLAND 2ZIP & ZAP AND THE CAPTAIN’S ISLAND (Spain)  When the unruly brothers Zip and Zap commit an offense out of the ordinary, they are sentenced to a boring family boat trip with their parents. At least that is what it seems like. Stranded at a remote and mysterious island after a storm, they are invited to stay with Miss Pam, whose home is a children’s paradise with no rules. At first pleased, their parents’ sudden disappearance begins to bother Zip and Zap, who set out to find them together with their newfound friends Flecky and Macky. The visually stunning second feature film about comic book heroes Zip and Zap has screened at BFI London Film Festival (2016) as well as Miami Film Festival and the Audi Dublin International Film Festival in 2017. Director: Oskar Santos / Cast: Elena Anaya, Carolina Lapausa, Teo Planell, Tom Wilton, Toni Gómez / Genre: Drama (children’s’ adventure) PG +8 /105min / Spanish with English Subtitles (2016)

“This is a father daughter movie. It’s about being human, about being a parent, and having a family with issues. Those themes aren’t period. They’re timeless.”

Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut and stars in the outstanding American Pastoral, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth’s novel, following an all American family across several decades, as their idyllic existence is shattered by social and political turmoil that will change the fabric of American culture forever.

AMERICAN PASTORALDay 16BTS

In a post-war era booming with optimism and innocence, the legendary high-school athlete Seymour “the Swede” Levov (Ewan McGregor) marries an alluring Miss New Jersey (Jennifer Connelly) , inherits his father’s multi-million dollar glove factory, and starts a life of civic and domestic bliss, raising his beloved daughter Merry in a big country house in the serene, upscale neighborhood of Old Rimrock, New Jersey.

By all appearances, the Swede is a pillar of his community, a paragon of the “greatest generation” – admired as a self-reliant businessman, charitable boss and devoted family man, and gifted with an unerring belief in all the promises of the American Dream.

In the 1960s—amid the unrest fueled by the unpopular Vietnam War—an angry, and increasingly radical, 16 year old Merry (Dakota Fanning)becomes the lead suspect in an astonishing act of deadly violence in the Levov’s halcyon rural town, upending her father and his vision of the world.

Determined to come to grips with what has happened to his loved ones, the Swede goes on a quest not only to find Merry – now on the run as a fugitive from justice – but to restore the Levov family and his own heart.

American Pastoral is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that chronicles the profound changes in the last half-century of American life, by Philip Roth.

Phillip Roth

Philip Roth

The adaptation focuses in on the Swede’s search for his daughter and the resonant themes of uncertainty, shifting fates, family and loss, that took the filmmakers nearly thirteen years to bring to the screen.

Lakeshore Entertainment producer Gary Lucchesi reflects on what drove him to stay on course throughout the long but steadfast creative process: “I have always wanted to make a father daughter story. I read the script, I cried, and I knew I had to make the movie one way or another,” he recalls. “I saw in it the story of a man who has an uncompromising love for his daughter through thick and thin. I love dramas about human beings that you can relate to and experiences that you can imagine. That’s what really turns me on as a filmmaker. Every now and then, you get a chance to do something like this that you covet—so you give it everything you have.”

Producer Tom Rosenberg was equally moved by this portrait of a seemingly picture-perfect American family, led by a decent man, yet teetering on a foundation that is cracking perilously beneath their feet.

“Swede spends his entire life trying to get Merry back and I don’t think he ever gives up. Nothing could stop him,” he says. The production itself had to have a sense of resilience. “This was a tough one to get made,” Rosenberg concludes, “but it was worth it.”

The Adaptation

John Romano

John Romano

Screenwriter John Romano, who holds a Ph.D. in Literature and has taught English at Columbia University, was drawn to a story that not only spans one of the most dizzying periods of transition in American life—from the postWWII positivity and conformity of the late 1940s through the uncorked turmoil and disruption of the 1970s—but also moves between huge historical events and their entwining with the most private family moments.

“I knew the book well and thought it was the best book about the sixties written from the perspective of the Vietnam War revolution on the home front,” recalls Romano.

“Roth was looking at the family and the psychological roots of youth revolt,” stated Romano. “His focus, and thus our focus, is on the human experience.”

Romano also knew he faced a gauntlet in trying to balance his urge to be faithful to Roth’s distinctive language and observatory powers with the narrative drive of cinematic storytelling. I approached the adaptation with a literary understanding of the novel and felt it was important to be faithful,” he says, “because Roth is brilliantly meandering in his writing, but a movie needs to grab you by the throat and keep going. There are some structural changes but I felt it was important to be as faithful as possible to what Roth created.” Romano also highlighted the characters and the relationships in his adaptation. “This is a father daughter movie. It’s about being human, about being a parent, and having a family with issues. Those themes aren’t period. They’re timeless.”

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Ewan McGregor – the two-time Golden Globe nominee known for his wide-ranging roles in films spanning from the innovative and edgy Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine and Moulin Rouge to the acclaimed dramas Ghost Writer and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen — was attached to play the central character of the Swede in American Pastoral long before signing on to direct the film.

Ultimately, it was his love of the material that led to his decision to take a leap into his feature film directorial debut. “I was very moved by the script and I was completely taken by the Swede and the study of father daughter relationships,” he says.

“He’s a man who believes very much in living his life the right way. He’s a product of the postwar era and he absolutely embodies the idea that there was once a seemingly attainable American Dream. In a sense, the Swede is the American Dream and his daughter Merry is the ‘60s.”

McGregor knew this was a rare opportunity. “I’ve always wanted to direct, but I didn’t want to just direct for the sake of it,” explains McGregor. “I wanted to have a story that I was compelled to tell.” Recalls Gary Lucchesi: “It wasn’t as crazy as Ewan thought it was because we had already gotten to know him and we knew his passion for the project and also had really come to see him as an artist. Tom and I sat down with Ewan and had long conversations with him, and at a certain point we realized this was the director we were going to bet on. It was one of the best decisions we made.”

Adds Rosenberg: “He was meticulous, dogged and he put everything he had behind it. I’m very big on preparation, but he exceeded anything that I could imagine, so that was impressive. He also brought a great rapport with the actors. He had their total confidence and knew how to deal with their various personalities very well.”

Screenwriter John Romano says of his collaboration with McGregor, “Ewan understood Roth’s novel so well that when we began to collaborate, he pushed me even more towards the meaning of what Roth had written. The best example I can give is that the movie begins with a line that wasn’t there until Ewan became the director.”

Jennifer Connelly adds: “He’s a joy to be around and to work with. He’s so kind and generous and had a really nice way of communicating with everyone. He made a lot of time for his actors, we had a great rehearsal and very constructive rehearsal period.”

As he was prepping production, McGregor was also working to get under the skin of the film’s multifaceted and unravelling lead character. The role of Swede Levov is a particularly demanding one, beginning with the challenge posed by spanning a man’s entire adult life, from youth to old age.

In addition, McGregor faced another daunting task: bringing out the symbolic side of Roth’s iconic American athlete, industrialist and father, while also making the Swede distinctly real and human. For though the Swede never stops trying to be the upstanding man of American myths, the trajectory of his life plummets him in the opposite direction. “Throughout his life, Swede always does what people would like him to do, what’s expected of him. He never loses his moral beliefs in right and wrong. But in a way, it’s his downfall,” concludes McGregor. “Dawn, his wife, goes on to have another life. But the Swede is always looking to keep things together, to make things right again.”

Mozart’s first operatic masterpiece

Local opera lovers are in for a treat to watch South African-born soprano, Elza van den Heever, who stars in the virtuosic role of Princess Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo, of love and vengeance following the Trojan War, and will will be screened in Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas from Saturday, 29 April, for limited screenings.

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Elza van den Heever is joined by a stellar ensemble including Matthew Polenzani in the title role of the King of Crete, Idomeneo, with Nadine Sierra as Illia, Alice Coote as Idamante and Alan Opie as Arbace. This classic production from Jean–Pierre Ponnelle, which has its first Met revival in over a decade this season, is under the baton of the Metropolitan Opera’s famed Music Director Emeritus James Levine. He also conducted the first Met staging of this opera in 1982.

“Here is the Met at its best. … [James] Levine conducts, drawing a refined and affecting performance from the great Met orchestra and chorus and an impressive cast” (New York Times).

Matthew Polenzani gives a “poignant, gripping performance” (New York Times) as the king torn by a rash vow; mezzo-soprano Alice Coote “exudes noble passion and dignity” (Financial Times) in the trouser role of his noble son Idamante; soprano Nadine Sierra sings “with expressivity and tenderness” (New York Times) as the princess Ilia; and soprano Elza van den Heever “triumphs” (New York Times) as the volatile Elettra, who loves Idamante to the bounds of madness.

“Vocally and dramatically, the role is a tough assignment. The soprano Elza van den Heever triumphs in it. This Elettra has a very fragile majesty. When she gets her way, she turns vulnerable, singing with sensuality and warmth. But when crossed, she erupts with unhinged intensity and steely sound, as in her furious final aria” – New York Times

“With one aria, Elza van den Heever steals the Met’s Idomeneo…” – Broadway World

The opera was first performed at the Court Theatre (now the Cuvilliés Theatre) in Munich in 1781, conducted by the 25-year-old Mozart and starring the great 18th-century tenor Anton Raaff.

Idomeneo is set in Crete, about 1200 BC. Helen, the wife of King Menelaus of Greece, has been carried off by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, triggering the Trojan War.

As she is also the sister-in-law of Agamemnon, several Greek kings allied with him have joined forces to lay siege to the city of Troy. One of these kings is Idomeneo (Idomeneus) of Crete.

Having been away for many years, Idomeneo has, prior to his victorious return, sent ahead of him some Trojan captives, including Priam’s daughter, the Princess Ilia.

On her arrival in Crete she is rescued from a storm by Idomeneo’s young son, Idamante, who has ruled as regent in his father’s absence.

The two have fallen in love. Princess Elettra, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, also loves Idamante. After Elettra and her brother, Oreste, killed their mother and her lover, she was forced to flee their home in Argos and has taken refuge in Crete.

Screening times for Idomeneo at Nouveau (Rosebank Mall, JHB; Brooklyn Mall, PTA; SK Gateway Commercial, DBN; and V&A Waterfront, CT) and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas are as follows: 29 April at 17:00; 30 April at 14:30; 02 and 10 May at 11:30; and 09 May at 18:00. All the ticket discounts and benefits offered to members of the Ster-Kinekor loyalty programmes, SK Club, Discovery Vitality and Edgars Club, do apply for the Met: Live in HD screenings, where applicable.

The running time of Idomeneo is 4hrs, including two intervals.

For more information and to make bookings for Idomeneo, part of The Met: Live in HD season, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For information, call Ticketline on 0861-Movies (668 437).

The final two productions in the current season are Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (20 May), and Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (10 June).

”At this time in my life I continually think about — wonder about — faith and doubt, weakness, and the human condition, and these are the very themes that Endo’s book touches upon in a such a direct way.”

The screen adaptation of Martin Scorsese’s Silence, the Academy Award winning director’s long anticipated film about faith and religion, began in the late 1980’s with his writing collaborator Jay Cocks, and filming began in January 31, 2015 in Taipei, Taiwan at the city’s CMPC film studio.

silence-02079_r_3

It  tells the story of two 17th century Portuguese missionaries who undertake a perilous journey to Japan to search for their missing mentor, Father Christavao Ferreira, and to spread the gospel of Christianity, and is based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 award-winning novel, examining the spiritual and religious question of God’s silence in the face of human suffering.

Silence-00450The film follows the young missionaries, Father Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) as they search for their missing teacher and mentor and minister to the Christian villagers they encounter who are forced to worship in secret. At that time in Japan, feudal lords and ruling Samurai were determined to eradicate Christianity in their midst; Christians were persecuted and tortured, forced to apostatize, that is, renounce their faith or face a prolonged and agonizing death.

The Journey Begins

Martin Scorsese was born in 1942 in New York City, and was raised in the downtown neighborhood of Little Italy, which later provided the inspiration for several of his films.  Scorsese earned a BS degree in film communications in 1964, followed by an MA in the same field in 1966 at New York University’s School of Film. During this time, he made numerous prize-winning short films, including The Big Shave.

He is one of the most prominent and influential filmmakers working today. He has directed critically acclaimed, award-winning films including Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs of New YorkThe AviatorThe Departed which garnered an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture, Shutter Island, and Hugo for which he won the Golden Globe for Best Director. He was recognized for his latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street by receiving DGA, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations for Best Director, as well as a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Film.

Scorsese is the founder and chair of The Film Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of motion picture history. At the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Scorsese launched the World Cinema Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of neglected films from the around the world, with special attention paid to those developing countries lacking the financial and technical resources to do the work themselves. Scorsese is the founder and chair.

In 1988, at a special screening in New York for the city’s religious leaders of his latest film The Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorsese made the acquaintance of Archbishop Paul Moore. At the event Moore, who was nearing the end of his tenure as the Episcopal Bishop of New York, presented the director with a copy of Shusaku Endo’s historical novel Silence. Silence had been published in Japan in 1966 where it was highly praised, the subject at the time of the most intense, thorough and rigorous analysis. When an English edition of the book appeared some years later, the novel’s reputation as a profound examination of, and meditation upon, religious themes was further enhanced.

The first time he read the book, Silence made a huge impression on Martin Scorsese – it seemed to speak to him personally.

“The subject matter presented by Endo in his book has been in my life since I was very, very young, “Scorsese says. “I was raised in a strong Catholic family and was very much involved in religion. The bedrock I still have is the spirituality of Roman Catholicism I was immersed in as a child, spirituality that had to do with faith.”

Scorsese says that while reading the book he was astonished to discover it confronted the very deep and profound issues about Christianity that, as he puts it, “I still cope with constantly.

“At this time in my life I continually think about — wonder about — faith and doubt, weakness, and the human condition, and these are the very themes that Endo’s book touches upon in a such a direct way.”

The Novel

From the first time he read Silence, Scorsese was determined to make a movie of the book. Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence (Chinmoku), set in Japan in the era of Kakase Kirishitan (the ‘hidden Christians”), has been hailed as a supreme literary achievement and described by critics as one of the twentieth century’s finest novels.  Published in 1966, Silence received Japan’s prestigious Tanazaki Prize. It was translated into English in 1969, and since appeared in various languages throughout the world.

Endo_Shusaku

Shusaku Endo

Silence became an instant bestseller in Japan, having sold over 800,000 copies. It takes as its starting off point an historical Church scandal that had wide reverberations– the defection in Japan of a Jesuit Superior, Father Christovao Ferreira, who renounced his religion, became a Buddhist scholar and took a Japanese wife.

Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus, today form the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. Historically engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry, Jesuits are committed to doing good works in education (founding schools and universities), intellectual research, cultural pursuits, human rights and social justice. Ignatius Loyola founded the order in the 1530s and composed the Spiritual Exercises to help others follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  In 1534, Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier and their followers took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience to the Pope.

In Endo’s novel, two of Father Chistavao Ferreira’s students, Father Sebastian Rodrigues and Father Francsico Garupe, travel from Portugal to the Jesuit University in Macao and then Japan where they place themselves in great danger searching for the truth about Ferreira’s mysterious defection as they minister to the faithful in Japan, the hidden Christians who worship and practice their faith in fear for their lives.

Endo, one of the few Japanese authors to write from a Christian point of view, was born in Tokyo in 1923. He was raised in Kobe by his mother and an aunt, and baptized into the Church at age 11. His university studies were interrupted by the Second World War, and he worked for a time in a munitions factory. After the war, he studied medicine and moved to France. Throughout his life, Endo struggled with severe respiratory ailments, including tuberculosis, and endured long periods of hospitalization.

Endo began writing novels in 1958, almost all concerned with Christian themes, including A Life of Jesus, inviting comparison between him and Christian writers in the west, notably Graham Greene. Most of Endo’s characters struggle with complex, moral dilemmas, and their choices often lead to mixed or tragic results. Graham Greene called Endo “one of the finest writers alive.”

Silence is considered Endo’s masterpiece and has been the subject of intense analysis and debate in the years since publication. Garry Wills, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, compares Silence to Greene’s The Power and The Glory. He writes that whereas Graham’s hero “maintains a priestly ministry despite his own unworthiness…Endo explores a more interesting paradox. His priest defects, not from weakness but from love, to spare Christian converts the persecution mounted against them.”

Endo himself believed the book’s great appeal in his own country among Japanese leftist students was that they saw in the story of Rodrigues’s struggles with the Samurai the more recent struggles of the Japanese Marxists of the 1930s who were tortured by Japanese authorities and forced to commit ‘tenko’ – an ideological ‘about face’ or conversion.

Silence has recently been called a novel of our time. Paul Elie writing in the New York Times Sunday magazine says, “It locates in the missionary past so many of the religious matters that vex us in the post-secular moment – the claims to universal truths in diverse societies, the conflict between a profession of faith and the expression of it, and the seeming silence of God while believers are draw into violence on his behalf.”

The relevance of Silence continues to reverberate.

The Screenplay

silence-screenplay

Scorsese’s great regard for Silence increased with further readings. As he had already begun working on a screen adaptation with his writing collaborator Jay Cocks in the late 1980s, he planned it as his next film project.

Fate, however, had a different scenario in store.

To begin with Scorsese says, “I wasn’t happy with the draft we came up with.” He also encountered other problems, he says, not the least of which was finding the funding for such an undertaking, and so he put the screenplay aside.

In the ensuing years, however, the director spent a great deal of time pondering the book’s themes and characters, continuing to work off on and off with Cocks on subsequent drafts of their screenplay. Overall it took more than fifteen years for the duo to complete what they both felt was a successful and workable script, one that incorporated and gave expression and life to the novel’s deepest and most profound meanings.

A forward Scorsese penned for a 2007 English edition of the novel gives insight into not only what these themes mean for the director but also a sense of what Scorsese’s film of the book would express.

Scorsese wrote, “Christianity is based on faith but if you study its history you see that it’s had to adapt itself over and over again, always with great difficulty, in order that faith might flourish. That’s a paradox, and it can be an extremely painful one: on the face of it believing and questioning are antithetical. Yet I believe they go hand in hand. One nourishes the other. Questioning may lead to great loneliness but if it co-exists with faith – true faith, abiding faith – it can end in the most joyful sense of communion. It’s this painful paradoxical passage – from certainty to doubt to loneliness to communion that Endo understands so well.

“Sebastian Rodrigues (the central character) represents what you might call ‘the best and the brightest of the Catholic faith.”

Scorsese labels him a ‘man of the church’ as described in Bernanos’s Diary of a Country Priest and writes that “Rodrigues would most certainly have been one of those men, stalwart, unbending in his will and resolve, unshakeable in his faith—if he had stayed in Portugal, that is.

“Instead he is placed in the middle of another, hostile culture during a late stage in a protracted effort to rid itself of Christianity. Rodrigues believes with all his heart he will be the hero of a Western story that we all know very well: the Christian allegory, a Christ figure, with his own Gesthemane –a patch of wood– and his own Judas, a miserable wretch named Kichijiro.”

Indeed Judas, who Scorsese calls Christianity’s greatest villain, embodies what the filmmaker refers to one of the most pressing dilemmas in all Christian theology.

“What is Judas’s role?” he writes. “What is expected of him by Christ? What is expected of him by us today?”…. Endo looks at the problem of Judas more directly than any other artist I know.”

This problem infuses Silence, and determines Father Rodrigues’ fate.

As Scorsese writes, “…. slowly, masterfully, Endo reverses the tide [for Rodriques].  Silence is the story of a man who learns –so painfully—that God’s love is more mysterious than he knows, that He leaves much more to the ways of men that we realize, and that He is always present…even in His silence.

“I picked up this novel for the first time almost twenty years ago. I’ve reread it countless times since… It has given me a kind of sustenance that I have found in only a very few works of art.”

Silence

Pre-production

With a screenplay finally completed to his satisfaction after so many years, Scorsese, Koskoff, and Winkler stepped up efforts to secure financing for the project. Scorsese and Koskoff also began to grapple with casting and location issues: who would be the perfect actor to play the all-important role of Father Rodrigues? How to find Japanese actors for other crucial roles? And where to make the film? None of these issues would be resolved quickly or easily.

JAY COCKS 2

Jay Cocks (Screenwriter) co-wrote with Martin Scorsese the script for the director’s film The Age of Innocence earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. His script for Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, which he co-wrote with the director, was also nominated for the Oscar as well as the BAFTA award for Best Original Screenplay. Cocks has also written the screenplays for Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days and Irwin Winkler’s De-Lovely. Among his other credits are the documentaries A Shot at the Top: The Making of ‘The King of Comedy’ and By Sidney Lumet. Before turning to film writing Cocks was a film critic for Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Time and various other magazines.

Finding financing for a serious, character-driven film dealing with profound religious and philosophical issues in today’s worldwide film market was a daunting challenge.

“This project has so much meaning for Marty, it’s so personal for him that it became personal for me as well,” says Koskoff who is Scorsese’s producing partner and President of Production at his company, Sikelia. “I was determined to get the film made and I wasn’t going to rest until that was achieved. Every possible avenue—I pursued them all.”

After a series of postponements, Scorsese, Koskoff and Winkler finally met with success. With the release of Scorsese’s hugely popular and commercially successful The Wolf of Wall Street, the principal financiers to come on board the film were Fabrica de Cine and Len Blavatnik’s AI Films with assistance from SharpSword Films and IM Global.

Fabrica de Cine, headed by Gaston Pavlovich, co-produced and co-financed the Tom Hanks drama A Hologram for a King and Richard Gere’s Oppenheimer Strategies.

Len Blavatnik’s AI Films has financed or co-financed Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes and Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.

SharpSword Films is backed by Dale Brown and participated in the financing of The Ticket, starring Dan Stevens, Malin Akerman and Oliver Platt.

IM Global is one of the world’s leading international film and television production, sales and distribution platforms and is currently a co-financing partner on Hacksaw Ridge directed by Mel Gibson and Gary Ross’ Free State of Jones.

Even before the means to make the film became available, in 2008 and 2009, as various ways were being explored to secure financing, Scorsese, Koskoff and key members of the director’s creative team began to scout locations for a proposed production. Understanding that it would be prohibitively expensive to make the film in Japan, the filmmakers scouted New Zealand, Canada and other various locations in search of places to shoot the story on a more economically feasible basis, eventually finding the perfect locations in Taiwan.

Casting

Director, Martin Scorsese and Andrew Garfield on the set of the film SILENCE by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films

Director, Martin Scorsese and Andrew Garfield on the set of the film

With so many essential elements falling in place, the process of casting, which had been temporarily put on hold, moved ahead in earnest. The main priority was clear – filling the role of Father Rodrigues.

“The actor who would play Rodrigues had to have the ability and understanding to deal with the complex issues that inform the character,” Scorsese says. “I understood also that we had to find someone who would want to play the part. Over the years I had seen many actors. Some said right off the bat they had no interest in the subject and that was that.”

Over the years Scorsese had encountered many young actors who were fascinated by the material and the story, and he considered several for the role. As time went by, however, and the film failed to move forward, these actors became too old. Rodrigues is young man in his twenties.

Stepping up the search with a production start date looming, Scorsese auditioned several young actors, when lighting struck in the person of Andrew Garfield. Fresh off his Tony-nominated triumph on Broadway in Mike Nichols’ production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” as well as his stint as The Amazing Spider-Man, Garfield seemed like Rodrigues incarnate to the director.

“The story confronts such deep and difficult material, timeless, huge in scope, huge in emotion,” Garfield says. “It’s a lifetime the character goes through that we witness. He wrestles with the great and most important questions we all wrestle with – how to live a meaningful life, a life of faith, and does that require you to live in doubt as well. That’s just scratching the surface of why I was attracted to this story and this character.”

As Rodrigues’ fellow priest Father Garupe, Scorsese cast another charismatic, up-and coming young actor, Adam Driver. Well-known for his role in the HBO series Girls, and for film appearances such as Inside Llewyn Davis and the latest Star Wars installment The Force Awakens, Driver stars in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Driver, too, was intrigued and challenged by the story and excited for the chance to work with Scorsese.

To prepare he immersed himself in Endo’s book as well as in Scorsese and Cocks’ script.

“I was really taken by the idea of a crisis of faith which is always universal, and always relevant,” Driver says.

The individual characteristics of the two young men, Father Rodrigues, and Father Garupe, Driver’s character, also appealed to the actor.

“I liked that they were disgruntled guys, and questioning, which is a big part of faith. I thought of St. Peter. Doubt is healthy – it relates to everything, to acting even. Is this the right way to make a living? Is this part right? Do I want to be with these people? Am I just bad in the role? Anything creative leads to doubt. Relationships, between parents and children are filled with doubt.”

Driver was also attracted to what he calls the atypical representation of priests in the story.

“You think of priests as calm and rational. But these Jesuits were pioneers, rough and hard. They had to be durable. Conditions were harsh in that period. These men were rough, not polished, not how we think of priests today. I think of them as explorers.”

An encounter between some of the best dancers in the world and masters of contemporary choreography

For one evening, the Bolshoi takes on a new challenge with audacity in an exhilarating encounter with the masters of contemporary choreography. The result is A Contemporary Evening, which will be screened at Nouveau cinemas from 22 April for limited screenings.

6.BOL_A CONTEMPORARY EVENING_Vladislav Lantratov and Ekaterina Shipulina (c)Damir Yusupov

Vladislav Lantratov and Ekaterina Shipulina (c)Damir Yusupov

This innovative production forms part of the current season of seven wonderful ballets from Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet company – one of the world’s great powerhouses of classical ballet – currently being screened at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres.

Don’t miss the encounter between some of the best dancers in the world and the masters of contemporary choreography in the form of ‘Hans Van Manen’s Frank Bridge Variations, Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s Short Time Together and Alexei Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons.

This encounter between some of the best dancers in the world and masters of contemporary choreography results in an outstanding synthesis of bringing Van Manen’s formal beauty, León and Lightfoot’s intensity, and Ratmansky’s witty brilliance to a new level.

This exciting once-off production was filmed live from the Bolshoi on 19 March for broadcast into cinemas worldwide, including here in South Africa. With music from Benjamin Britten, Max Richter, Ludwig van Beethoven and Leonid Desyatnikov, the ballet features the Bolshoi principals, soloists and corps de ballet.

A Contemporary Evening releases on South African screens on Saturday, 22 April for four screenings only – on 22, 26 and 27 April at 19:45, and on 23 April at 14:30 – only at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Bookings are now open. The running time of this ballet production is 2 hrs 40 mins, including two intervals.

For booking information on the Bolshoi Ballet’s A Contemporary Evening at Nouveau, visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or www.sterkinekor.com. Follow us on Twitter @nouveaubuzz or on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call TicketLine on 0861 Movies (668 437).

Coming Up

The final production in this season from the Bolshoi Ballet to be screened at Nouveau is A Hero of our Time (13 May). The ballets are brought to the big screen by Fathom Events, BY Experience and Pathé Live.

The Bolshoi Ballet is the quintessential ballet company, presenting works of astounding skill, daring and bravura that leave audiences the world over spellbound. This season of ballets broadcast in cinemas is no different, with the company’s incredible productions set to feature some of the world’s greatest dancers.

FF8

In Fast and Furious 8 a mysterious woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) seduces Dom (Vin Diesel) into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage…and to bring home the man who made them a family.

If you want to win a FF8 hamper that includes a key chain, car shammy, T-shirt and 2 Fast 2 Furious DVD, tell us who wrote the screenplay and send your answer and contact details with FF8 in the subject line to us before April 30, 2017.  Enter Competition Here

Fate of the Furious, The (2017)

 

”FF8 is really about the after effects of a profound moment that threatens to shatter everything you believe in.  What happens when the central figure of your family, the one who preached the lesson of never turning your back on each other, breaks those rules?  What happens if he goes dark and his family has to take him on and stand against him?  It’s unique and, at times, a little scary.  It’s great drama for the franchise, and it gave us a reason to move forward in a compelling way..”

On the heels of 2015’s Furious 7, one of the fastest movies to reach $1 billion worldwide and the sixth-biggest global title in box-office history, comes the newest chapter in one of the most popular and enduring motion-picture serials of all time: Fast and Furious 8, which had a record-breaking 3-day opening in South Africa at R17 777 495 – when including previews FF8 delivered the second highest opening weekend at R20 135 115, just falling short of FF7, which delivered R20 971 652 in 2015.

Fate of the Furious, The (2017)

In FF8 a mysterious woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) seduces Dom (Vin Diesel) into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage…and to bring home the man who made them a family.

As evidenced by the December 2016 trailer debut of the film—which currently ranks as the biggest ever, with more than 139 million views in the 24 hours after its unveiling in Times Square—audiences’ appetite for tales from the Fast & Furious saga has never been bigger, and the franchise has never been more popular or more global.  Although this group has experienced much on the road that has brought them here—as they shot cars out of planes, through skyscrapers and down mountains—the core idea that drives them has never wavered: family.

FF8 is directed by F. Gary Gray, the filmmaker behind such blockbusters as Straight Outta Compton—the No. 1 musical biopic in the history of cinema—The Italian Job, Be Cool and Friday, from a screenplay by series architect and fellow producer Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious series, Wanted), based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious).

Furious 7 proved to be an emotionally charged culmination of the beloved franchise built on speed.  Not only were the filmmakers and cast looking to pay homage to the legacy of Paul Walker, who was inarguably the heart of the films, but also to the very best of what The Fast and the Furious sparked in film audiences more than 15 years ago…and continues to do with another generation of fans.

Completing production of the film and then promoting it worldwide was both an exhausting and energizing labor of love for all involved.  But with the end of an era came the inevitable questions of whether this was truly the finale of the beloved franchise.

Neal H. Moritz,

Neal H. Moritz, p.g.a. (Produced by) is the founder of Original Film, and one of the most prolific producers in Hollywood today. Moritz is best known for The Fast and the Furious films—including Furious 7—which broke multiple box-office records to become the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time. He has produced more than 50 major motion pictures, which have earned a box-office total of more than $10 billion worldwide.

Faced with the decision of whether to continue the saga, producers Neal H. Moritz and Vin Diesel, screenwriter Chris Morgan, Universal Pictures executives and the rest of the cast had to think long and hard about their next step together.

The Fast family was in mourning, and, at the time, few could come up with a worthwhile reason to pick up the pieces and resume the collective saga.

The outlaws of East Los Angeles’ street racing underground had risen to infamy on the international stage pulling off daring high-stakes heists.  While they had lost friends and gained enemies along the way…any new tale would ensure they would remain true to their roots.

Whatever happened, the filmmakers felt they would need to do something completely different if the series were to continue.

When it was decided that the franchise still had more riveting stories to share, they opted to throw a curveball into the mix.  The new direction would be an explosive turn of events destined to rock the dedicated fan base to its NOS-loving core.  Since the beginning, the series’ deep-seated theme of family has been entrenched in every film, and that fundamental tenet would be put to the test.

A native of New York City, Vin Diesel has become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after film stars. In addition to his huge box-office success, Diesel is a prominent producer and filmmaker and has been honored with both a hands and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre as well as a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

“I only wanted to continue the saga if we were going to collectively make the best final trilogy for ourselves, for the legacy of our brother Paul, and for Universal, who’s been so supportive over the years,” says Diesel, who has served as a producer on the series since Fast & Furious.  “With Furious 7, our focus was to not only make the best film in the saga but to honor what it has represented for almost two decades.  The key to this next chapter is to challenge those core themes that have endured, and to do it in a way that is compelling but still entertaining.”

Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who returns for his sixth tour of duty with the franchise, this time joins Moritz, Diesel and Fottrell as producer.  For the series architect who charts and crafts the interwoven multi-film story points, this arc would pose his biggest challenge; once Morgan delineated the team’s ideas for the final trilogy, it would be a mind-blowing achievement.

“Recalls Morgan of the tipping point: “FF8 is really about the after effects of a profound moment that threatens to shatter everything you believe in.  What happens when the central figure of your family, the one who preached the lesson of never turning your back on each other, breaks those rules?  What happens if he goes dark and his family has to take him on and stand against him?  It’s unique and, at times, a little scary.  It’s great drama for the franchise, and it gave us a reason to move forward in a compelling way.”

Chris Morgan

FF8 marks the ninth consecutive feature-film collaboration for Chris Morgan and Universal Pictures. The collaboration began with Justin Lin’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Morgan went on to adapt Wanted, which starred Angelina Jolie. Following that, Morgan wrote the next five installments of the Fast & Furious series, reteaming Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7.

It was an audacious premise and once Morgan, Moritz and Diesel blocked out the story points, they knew they could blaze down a new road with an original, high-octane tale while still maintaining the outlaw spirit that fans gravitate to time after time.

Remarks longtime franchise producer Moritz: “What always amazes me is how we’re able to develop and maintain that blurred line between good guy and bad guy over the course of this series.  We’ve allowed each of our characters, new and old alike, to grow in different directions.  We never go into a new chapter with any preconceived notions of what they should do, and let each movie organically grow each of these characters.  It has been satisfying to see how many different arenas we can enter and ways we can go with them.  That’s part of the fun for the audience: they love this cast of characters but are never sure exactly what’s going to happen with them.”

With each new installment in the series, Moritz and Diesel always want to keep fans on their toes and to allow them to be entertained by the unexpected.

Finding a director with the ability to deliver on every level, while retaining the series’ singular voice, has always been a prerequisite.  Justin Lin set the groundwork for a memorable four-film run when he reinvigorated the franchise with Tokyo Drift, and James Wan did it with the record setting worldwide box-office juggernaut of Furious 7.

Enter F. Gary Gray, whose versatile filmography includes the critically acclaimed biopic Straight Outta Compton, the thriller The Negotiator, actioner The Italian Job and cult comedy classic Friday, among many others.  One will see little similarities among these projects, and that’s the way Gray likes it.

F. Gary Gray

F. Gary Gray is recognized as one of the industry’s most prolific and versatile directors, known for pushing the envelope, and delivering innovative and exhilarating entertainment to a diverse audience. Throughout his career, Gray has excelled at bringing the most predominant themes from the pop-culture zeitgeist to the screen. With 25 years in the industry, Gray has been able to consistently and successfully maneuver between genres ranging from comedy to thriller to drama to action.

The director admits that he has long gravitated toward material that challenges him.  When faced with the tempting offer of taking on one of Universal’s biggest franchises, Gray was intrigued.  Still, he dug a little deeper looking for that one thing, that hook, to inspire and push his limits.  “Artists dig in more when they feel challenged, and this was a major challenge for me,” he reflects.  “I wanted to bring something different to the franchise, and it all starts with the story.  This is completely different; it’s nothing we’ve ever experienced in the Fast franchise.”

FF8 would allow Gray the opportunity to take a massive tent pole film and bring his singular approach to storytelling, eliciting performances and crafting narrative to deliver an unexpected experience on every level.

He was primed to take the series in a fascinating new direction.  Not only did Gray come to the table with innovative ideas to ground the series, he also arrived on set sharing longstanding relationships with many of the Fast cast.  The filmmaker had directed Diesel in A Man Apart, Statham and Theron in The Italian Job, and Johnson in Be Cool.  Additionally, he knows Gibson and Bridges socially from entertainment industry functions, as well as his early days in the industry, when he directed music videos and TV commercials.

Gary Scott Thompson

Gary Scott Thompson (Based on Characters Created by) is the creator and executive producer of NBC’s hit series Las Vegas and the co-writer of the hit film The Fast and the Furious. GST (as he is known by cast and crew members) was born in Ukiah, California, but spent a formative part of his childhood in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Diesel was very pleased to see the talented filmmaker join the Fast & Furious family.  “I knew from A Man Apart what Gary could pull out in terms of a darker character.  I knew he would be perfect,” he commends.  “Gary is a director who, first and foremost, focuses with exactitude on performance; that’s why we have Oscar®-winning actors in this film.  We knew he was going to pay that much-needed attention to the nuances of performance that this chapter would call for.”

Gray knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish when he first met with the producers to discuss FF8’ signature tone and direction.

“Dom Toretto is always about family, and with this storyline it’s the absolute opposite of what you expect.  I wanted to be a part of delivering not only this different story, but delivering a performance that you’ve never seen from the entire cast.”

When all was said and done, family remains the cornerstone for the Fast family, both in front of the camera and behind.  The last 15 years has left an indelible impression, and the hope is that the film’s fierce fans feel it renewed.  Concludes Gray: “FF8 definitely represents a new beginning.  This is a new chapter in the Fast saga, and we set it off, for sure.”

 

Add Disney’s classic animated feature Beauty and The Beast to your collection

Beauty Blu RayBeauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award® nomination for best picture and won two Oscars® (best original score and best song), three Golden Globes® and four GRAMMY® Awards, among a multitude of other awards. The film was the first animated feature to gross more than $100 million at the box office in its initial release and the first Disney animated feature to become a stage musical production, one which subsequently ran on Broadway for 13 years and was translated into eight languages, playing in over 20 countries.

The Blu-Ray of the animated classic includes three versions of the film, the special extended edition, the original theatrical release, and the original theatrical release with storyreel picture-in-picture; as well as a backstage peek at Composing a Classic: A Musical conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn and Richard Kraft’as well as deleted scenes.

BEAUTY POSTERThe live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

If you want to win a Blu-Ray copy of the sensational animated Beauty and the Beast, tell us who wrote the screenplay for the live-action adaptation, and send us your name and contact details, with Beauty and The Beast in the subject line before April 30, 2017.

Enter competition here

 

 

“The delightful animated film from 1991 plays as classic animation, but if you want to go a level deeper into the story and into the songs and into the emotions, that’s what this live-action film delivers: a greater depth of emotions.”

The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic directed by Bill Condon.

Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic directed by Bill Condon.

The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within.

Beauty Comes From Within

The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast – and its empowering message that true beauty comes from within – dates back to 18th century France and the first published version of the fairy tale, “La Belle et la Bête,” by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Today, the themes are still just as relevant and the story continues to enthrall storytellers, resulting in countless interpretations across all forms of media, but it is Disney’s Oscar®-nominated animated film from 1991 which has been the definitive version.

One of the studio’s most treasured titles, Beauty and the Beast was released during Disney’s second golden age of animation, along with “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” among others, and was immediately hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. As spellbindingly romantic as it is comedic, “Beauty and the Beast” is an unforgettable tale of love and friendship that transports readers to a magical fairy tale world where good triumphs over evil.

Bill-Condon-and-Emma-Watson-on-the-set-of-Beauty-and-the-Beast

Bill Condon and Emma Watson on the set of Beauty and theBeast

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award® nomination for best picture and won two Oscars® (best original score and best song), three Golden Globes® and four GRAMMY® Awards, among a multitude of other awards. The film was the first animated feature to gross more than $100 million at the box office in its initial release and the first Disney animated feature to become a stage musical production, one which subsequently ran on Broadway for 13 years and was translated into eight languages, playing in over 20 countries.

The studio felt an adaptation of the story of a kindhearted maiden and her beastly prince had the potential to enchant audiences once again, but when the studio pitched the idea to Bill Condon, his initial fear was remaking something that is flawless as is. “I consider the 1991 film to be a perfect movie,” Condon says. “When the film was released it was groundbreaking, in the way the story was told and with that incredible score from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, so I initially did not want to go near it.”

But the Oscar®-winning director, whose resume includes such diverse films as “Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts I and 2,” “Mr. Holmes” and “Kinsey,” soon realized the time was right for a live-action adaptation. A consummate storyteller, Condon could already visualize the story’s cinematic potential. “It is 25 years later and technology has caught up to the ideas that were introduced in the animated movie,” he explains. “Now it is possible, for the first time, to create a photo-real version of a talking teacup on a practical set in a completely realistic live action format.”

For the director, the allure of “Beauty and the Beast” was twofold: It was a chance to make a movie musical that is a tribute to the musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and an opportunity to revisit a story he connects with emotionally and to dig deeper into the characters to find out what makes them tick. The director has an encyclopedic knowledge of musicals and a clear understanding of how story and music converse with one another, and saw the film as a chance to bring back the musical genre.

He explains, “When I was growing up people would say theater was dying, and theater has been dying for centuries now. I think the same thing can be said about the movie musical, not for centuries, but it has sort of been dying for the last 50 years. I want audiences to embrace the form and understand that, at its best, music and movies and musical numbers in movies don’t distract, they don’t interrupt, they deepen and help create meaning. If you’re moved by something, you’re more moved when you hear some of those Alan Menken notes or hear some of those Howard Ashman lyrics.”

Emma Watson says, “Any time I hear music from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ it connects me with that childlike feeling that everything is going to be okay and that there’s hope in the world, and it just gives me this sense that everything’s fine.”

According to Academy Award®-nominated producer David Hoberman (“The Fighter,” “The Muppets”), “Bill was the perfect choice. He has an intimate knowledge of the fairy tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’ going back to the first written version, he is a big fan of acclaimed French director Jean Cocteau’s 1946 avant garde take on the story and he has seen the Broadway production multiple times, so he was already an aficionado.”

Working with co-screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” “Hercules”) and Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Rent”), Condon set out to expand upon the story’s timeless themes and add more depth and dimension to the familiar characters while still celebrating the animated film and its legacy. “There have been some recent movies that have been top to bottom reinventions or stories as seen from another character’s point of view or something,” he says. “This is not that. What we wanted to do was bring the story more into reality, not create a new story.”

He continues, “It is an honor to have a chance to create something that is both reverential of the original and somewhat of a modernization at the same time, but it is also intimidating. This is a story that has lived in many forms and in many languages, and to have an opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology and an amazing cast is such a blessing. I hope that, because this movie is so loved, we’ll be able to answer questions that fans may not have even realized they had about Belle and about the Beast specifically, and how they came to be who they are today.”

The film offers a glimpse into the Prince’s life before he became the Beast and what turned him into a man who deserves to be cursed. It also expands on Belle’s life before she goes to the castle and meets the Beast and helps explain what the two have in common and what made them who they are today.

Woven into the fabric of the story are outstanding new songs from eight-time Oscar®-winning composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas”) and veteran lyricist and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (“The Lion King,” “Evita”), and because Condon is a fan of musical theatre and knows all the songs and musical references, it made Menken’s job that much easier. “Bill really knows his stuff,” says the composer, “So we were able to begin working with a lot of tools already at our disposal and a lot of reference points we could discuss immediately. Bill is a micromanager in the best sense of the word because he is genuinely concerned with each element in the story and the music.”

In Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic, Emma Watson stars as Belle and Kevin Kline is Maurice, Belle's father.  The story and characters audiences know and love are brought to life in this stunning cinematic event...a celebration of one of the most beloved tales ever told.

In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic, Emma Watson stars as Belle and Kevin Kline is Maurice, Belle’s father. The story and characters audiences know and love are brought to life in this stunning cinematic event…a celebration of one of the most beloved tales ever told.

Be Our Guest

The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.

According to Condon, “The delightful animated film from 1991 plays as classic animation, but if you want to go a level deeper into the story and into the songs and into the emotions, that’s what this live-action film delivers: a greater depth of emotions.”

“It’s rare during principal photography when everyone on set is happy, but on this film where we had hundreds of people on set every day, everyone was genuinely pleased to be there,” says Ian McKellen. “Many of them had been working since the early hours of the morning, but I never heard a single word of complaint from anyone, technician or performer, and that speaks very well for the film.”

“I feel very lucky to have been given the chance to work with this material,” says Condon. “There’s something about this story – and specifically the score, which was written 25 years ago – that is just magical, and I think that’s what still draws people in and is what makes this such a special experience.”

 

As Europe recoiled against the work of Monet, Degas and Renoir, Americans embraced it and created their own style of impressionism.

Following the success of the previous seasons of Exhibition on Screen productions at Ster-Kinekor’s Nouveau cinemas, the fourth season is currently underway. The second docu-film is a fascinating look at the Impressionist movement from an American perspective, and is titled The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism.

The film, which releases at Nouveau cinemas on Saturday, 15 April for limited screenings, is directed by Phil Grabsky and narrated by actress Gillian Anderson.

Philip Leslie Hale, CRIMSON RAMBLER, 1909-PAFA (1)

Philip Leslie Hale, CRIMSON RAMBLER, 1909-PAFA

Taking its lead from French artists such as Renoir and Monet, the American impressionist movement followed its own path, which over a 40-year period reveals as much about America as a nation as it does about a much-loved artistic movement. It’s a story closely tied to a love of gardens and a desire to preserve nature in a rapidly urbanising nation. Travelling to studios, gardens and iconic locations throughout the United States, the UK and France, this mesmerising film is a visual feast.

In 1886, the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel brought a selection of his huge stock of impressionist paintings to New York, changing the course of art in America forever. American artists flocked to the French village of Giverny, home to the master impressionist Claude Monet, and cheered the French new wave: painting outdoors with a new found brilliance and vitality. As Europe recoiled against the work of Monet, Degas and Renoir, Americans embraced it and created their own style of impressionism.

The timing of Durand-Ruel’s transformative visit was perfect. As America steamed into the Industrial Age, urban reformers fought to create public parks and gardens: patches of beauty amid smokestacks and ash heaps. These gardens provided unlimited inspiration for artists and a never-ending oasis for the growing middle class, made up of increasingly independent women, who relished the writings of English horticulturalists Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson. Meanwhile, the rise of wide-circulation magazines cultivated the idea that gardening was a path to spiritual renewal amid industrial blight and the belief that artists should work in native landscapes.

ARTISTS GARDEN

As America made its epic move from a nation of farmers to a land of factories, the pioneering American Impressionists crafted a sumptuous visual language that told the story of an era.

The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism features the sell-out exhibition The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920 that began at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia – the birthplace of the American garden movement, and ended at the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut, widely considered the home of American impressionism.

With Exhibition on Screen, award-winning arts documentary maker Phil Grabsky & Seventh Art Productions are again set to delight art lovers in more than 40 countries, including South Africa.

The next two productions in the current season include: The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch on 06 May; and Michelangelo: Love and Death from 17 June. These films take cinema audiences behind the scenes to discover what lies behind the artists and their paintings, both creatively and technically. What each artwork reveals about the artist and the particular historical period is also uncovered.

Filmed exclusively for cinema at the exhibitions and on location, this ground-breaking series allows art lovers worldwide to enjoy, marvel at and delight in the amazing works of some of history’s most foremost painters on the big screen and in stunning high definition.

The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism releases on Saturday, 15 April for four screenings only: 15, 19 and 20 April at 19:30, and on 16 April at 14:30 – at Rosebank Nouveau in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Nouveau in Pretoria, Ster-Kinekor Gateway Nouveau in Durban and at V&A Nouveau in Cape Town.  Bookings are now open, and the running time of this production is 100 minutes.

For booking information, visit www.sterkinekor.com. Download the Ster-Kinekor App on your smart phone for updates, news and to book. Follow Nouveau on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For more information, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

 

 

This not-to-be-missed sensation offers everything you can ask of world-class entertainment and much, much more.

Review by Daniel Dercksen (10/04/17) 

If there’s one gateway to blissful showbiz, it’s the super sumptuous and glamorous Gate 69, a cosy and intimate pleasure palace where Brendan van Rhyn‘s divine creation Cathy and the Trolley Dollies offers five-star entertainment.
When you arrive at Gate 69 and are greeted by the regal Cathy Specific, you know you are in for a night you will never forget.
Trolley Dollies pic 3
With the art of drag being celebrated with the Priscilla musical, real-life drag divas Cathy Specific and her trolley dollies, the delicious Christopher Dudgeon and Rudi Jansen, are wowing audiences with this not-to-be-missed sensation that offers everything you can ask of world-class entertainment and much, much more.

Written by van Rhyn, Cathy and the Trolley Dollies is rip-roaring stand-up comedy meets musical revue, meets cabaret, a saucy satirical take on the airline industry as seen through the eyes of three 8ft aviation goddesses.

Big-haired beauties

This one-of-a-kind drag troupe, three Amazonian, big-haired beauties find themselves back at work after a three-month suspension. Demoted and down in the dumps, they capture our hopes, dreams, tears, fears, traumas and tantrums about flying.

They take us on a behind-the-scenes look at the glamorous or (not-so-glamorous) life of a flight attendant. Secrets are shared and stories are told as we indulge in a first-class dining experience during the show.
Entertainment today is largely dished up as yesterday’s left overs, but with Cathy and The Trolley Dollies we get a feast that is as fresh as daisies and colourful as a rainbow.

Polished and preened delight

When Van Rhyn as Cathy Specific pours his heart out singing Dr. Longjohn, it rips through your soul like a tidal wave. Van Rhyn is blessed with a unique talent of mesmerising his audience with the iconic Cathy, a classy act that knows no equal, his biting humour is infectious, and vocally he is at the top of his game.
Teamed up with Dudgeon and Jansen, it’s a match made in cabaret heaven, a polished and preened delight that amuses, astounds and leaves one breathless.
The trio’s alluring passion is genuine, without any pretense, and holds nothing back.
Equally memorable is Dudgeon’s dead-pan Grin It and Bare It and Jansen’s riotous Sewe Sakke Sout, as well as unforgettable renditions of Mein Herr, You Can Drive A Person Crazy and Proud Mary.
At the end of the show, you have made three new friends as these gals are women we all desperately need in real life, showing us that naughty can be nice, and that nice can be as spicy as hell.
Trolley Dollies pic 1

Deliciously devilish goddesses

What makes the show work effectively well is that it deals with relevant issues anyone can relate to, and gives us a unique opportunity to enter the wacky mindscape of those in the service industry who always welcome us with a smile and embrace us with motherly affection, killing us with their imperious affection.
Now we know! Behind the façade of friendliness lurk deliciously devilish goddesses of camp that masterfully turn frowns upside down and rattle our cages, daring to venture where angels fear to tread.
Escape into the world of Cathy and her Trolley Dollies at Gate 69 with friends, family or loved ones, a pleasure palace that also serves up delightful dishes with impeccable service, feeding our body and soul with meaningful and heartfelt entertainment.
There’s only one major problem with the show, you don’t want it to end and remain seated on their flight of eternal bliss.

Let’s hope that larger than life Cathy and her Dollies will keep on doing what they do best.Cathy and the Trolley Dollies runs every Wednesday and Thursday evening until the end of June. Tickets at R550 per person which includes designer mezze served on a double-tiered Lazy Susan, a separate hot soup and bread service and dessert. Go to www.gate69.co.za for more info.

Gate69 pics (2)