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The link between film, festivals and people. For movie pros and festival goers around the world.
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    Tim Roth, the star of “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”, will receive in Kraków at the Off Plus Camera the “Against the Current” award. In the series of special screenings, you will be able to watch directed by him “The War Zone”. We have prepared much more on the occasion of the famous Brit's visit.

    Tim Roth, who gained international fame through Quentin Tarantino's productions (“Reservoir Dogs”, Pulp Fiction”, “Four Rooms”), will be a special guest at this year's festival.

    In Kraków, Roth will receive the “Against the Current” award. This accolade is granted since 2010 to extraordinary cinema figures for their support and input in the indie cinema and culture. The first person to receive it was Jane Campion in April 2010.

    Tim Roth's visit will be a great opportunity to remind the audience of his eminent feature debut “The War Zone” (1999) starring Ray Winston and Tilda Swinton. It is a dark drama on child sexual abuse. This film brought Roth the award of the European Discovery of the Year and also won multiple accolades such as the C.I.C.A.E. Award in Berlin, British Independent Film award for Best Director as well as the Best New British Feature award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

    Tim Roth will also meet the festival goers at a 'Master Class' event in the Kijów cinema. 


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    “Spanish Dracula” by Gary Lucas is a project comprising solo guitar compositions as accompaniment to the famous Spanish film “Dracula” made in 1931.

    The project's premiere took place during the 31st Havana Film Festival, where it was named a spectacular hit. It was also presented during the London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elisabeth Hall and turned into a success, crowned with a 4-star review in “The Guardian”. The performance was also appreciated in other places in the world. The first and only Polish show of “Spanish Dracula” will be held at OFF PLUS CAMERA.

    Gary Lucas is a renowned American guitarist, member of the Gods and Monsters group. He worked for many years with Jeff Buckley, with whom he recorded the “Songs To No One” album. Lucas is the author of Buckley's biggest hits such as “Grace”, “Mojo Pin”. He also worked with many other world class stars such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Chris Cornell, John Cale. He was called one of the best and original guitarists of America by The Rolling Stone magazine.

    15th April, 10.00 PM, Lizard King, ul. Św. Tomasza 11a

     


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  • 03/29/11--14:48: All there is to DISCOVER!
  • Innovative directorial visions, forerunning scripts, unconventional ways of presenting reality and all-stars cast. In the DISCOVERIES section we will present the newest projects of widely known filmmakers as well as the unknown beginners in the cinema industry. We discover the titles of directors from France, US, UK and Chile.

     

     

     

    The majority of the films in the section has been awarded and appreciated at film festivals world wide. You will also be able to experience the Hollywood stars in more independent roles. Widely known and awarded actors Naomi Watts and Sean Penn played the lead roles in "Fair Game" by Doug Liman. The intriguing, full of suspense and sudden turns plot was created based on biography of Valerie Plame. It feels as the best of political thrillers. The facts depicted, however, are true and gave America the thrills a few years back. French director Antony Cordier will present at our festival his second feature film "Happy Few". It is a fascinating and intrinsic travel into human passions and infatuation. It tells a story of complicated love relations of two couples in their thirties. The director asks questions on passions and temptations and the four actors span their brave skills crossing the boundaries of intimacy. Another representative of the French cinema is the third directorial project of Guillaume Canet "Little White Lies". Canet is an acknowledged French actor, who in 2002 debuted with his feature "Mon Idole" (My Idol). In his newest production he continues with the drawn earlier line - he focuses on how hidden secrets can change our lives forever.

     

    The love story of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert is told by Jean-Marc Vallée in his film "The Young Victoria". The director depicts the Royal Couple on one hand as an ordinary young people madly in love, on the other though, draws the attention to their roles given them as rulers of an empire.  The film won one Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design, and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama. The DISCOVERIES section comprise a very diverse list of themes. From the Royal Court, we are taken down to prison. John Curran's drama "Stone" is mainly characteristic for the ambiguous, filled with nuance and contradictions, acting of three cinema icons: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich, as well as the precise and worked unto the tiniest detail script. Sonic Youth fans cannot miss the documentary by Yony Leyser entitled "William S. Burroughs: A Man Within" scored by the famous rock band. The film contains unused before archival footage, extracts of interviews with friends and those closest to the eminent writer, William S. Burroughs, who had a huge impact on the 20th century culture. We also recommend to watch the new film by Sebastiàn Silva and Pedro Peirano - two filmmakers that the OFF PLUS CAMERA audience should be familiarised with - thanks to their film "The Maid" which won the Kraków Film Award in 2009. In "Old Cats" (Gatos Viejos), the two artists tell a story of a conflict between mother and daughter mixing black humour with a little bit of pathos. Please be reminded that also in this section we will screen: "Four Lions" by Christopher Morris, "Carancho" by Pablo Trapero, "Undertow" by Javier Fuentes-León, "The Tempest" by Julie Taymor and "I'm Still Here" by Casey Affleck.
    Asia Korgul

     


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    Polish Feature Film Competition is one of the novelties at this year's Off Plus Camera Film Festival. This will be a unique opportunity to promote our own productions. 

     

     

     Ten films that have qualified for the competition allow an overview of the most interesting phenomena and trends in the Polish cinematography that appeared in the last year.

    “For Love” is a psychological drama by Anna Jadowska telling a story of a young married couple, who for financial reasons, decide to make money acting in a porn film. The projects touches upon a very brave theme and  can also boast the great cast including Daniel Olbrychski, Ewa Szykulska, young actors as well as the director's own script.

    “My Australia” by Ami Drozd is the first Polish feature film touching upon the Poles of Jewish origin who were made to emigrate at the end of the 1960's as a result of the then antisemitic campaign of the government.

    “Lynch” is a feature debut by Krzysztof Łukasiewicz, based on true events known in Poland as 'lynch in Włodowa'. The film is a shocking story of the dark sides of human nature, amazes with the genius acting and phenomenal music composed by Jarosław Michał Papaj.

    “Little Wires" by Aleksandra Gowin and Ireneusz Grzyb is an exceptional story of a girl Magda possessing nonconventional imagination. Magda experiences supernatural events spanning from speeding-up time to meeting the aliens.

    “Heniek” is a true story inspiration of director: Eliza Kowalewska. The characters dealing with their weaknesses will experience personally whether honesty, loyalty and friendship should be given up for money and whether revenge is truly sweet.

    “A Simple Story of Love” directed by Arkadiusz Jakubik (known for his amazing role in “The Dark House”) is a stereotype breaking concept of film in a film, talking of the process of creation, the influence of fiction onto reality and the mixing of two worlds: the real and the created by the artist.

    “Mother Theresa of Cats”
     is the first feature film made by Paweł Sala. Based on shocking true events showing the record of an unthinkable murder performed by two sons on their mother in a seemingly common family. The director holds back from actually exposing the cruelty and focuses on the psychological aspects without giving up on the sensational and criminal atmosphere full of the growing tension.

    “Between Two Fires” is a film by Agnieszka Łukasiak documenting the fate of a Belarussian emigrant who in search of a new life in Sweden falls victim of the unknown and strange world. The film is an artistic picture and, according to its author, it is a film transforming numbers and cases we read about into real people.

    “The Christening”
     is the second feature film by the young generation representative director Marcin Wrona. It tells the story of Michał, a successful man entangled into the matters of the criminal underworld, who attempts at saving his family from the mafia sentence on his head.

     
    “Made in Poland” by Przemysław Wojcieszek is based on a famous theatre play of the same title. It tells a tale of Boguś – a frustrated youngster, bitter and disappointed with the senselessness of life, trying to escape the apathy getting himself into trouble with the local gangsters, as a result of which he will have a debt to pay.


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    We would like to introduce the members of the Jury of the first Polish Feature Film Competition.

     

     The Jury will appraise ten nominated Polish productions made in 2010. Just a quick reminder that the winner takes the Polish Noble Award with 100.000PLN – to be divided between the director and the producer.

     
    Rose McGowan: actress known for such projects as “Scream”, “The Doom Generation” or the TV series “Charmed”. She attained international fame with her role in two episodes of the film “Grindhouse” by the Rodriguez-Tarantino team. The actress will head the Jury of the Polish Dramatic Competition.
    Ellen Chenoweth: the leading casting director in Hollywood. She was the casting director for such productions as “Burn After Reading”, “Gran Torino”, “No Country For Old Men”.  She will conduct industry workshops during this year's OFF PLUS CAMERA.
     
    Roger Christian gained his fame and respect through creating the art design and props for “Star Wars: Episode VI – New Hope” by George Lucas, which granted him an Oscar. He will also lead a lecture in Kraków as well as workshops on the creative and technical aspects of the job of an art designer.
     
    Kim Dong-Ho is the founder and director of the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, one of the most important festivals in Asia. He's a connoisseur of world cinematography and an expert in film study. He promotes independent cinema and underestimated directors and actors.
     
    Andrei Stepanovich Plakhov: Russian film critic and historian who co-operated with numerous influential magazines such as the Russian “Pravda”, British “The Guardian” and the French “Cahiers du cinema”. Since 2005 he is the president of the International Film Critics Association FIPRESCI.


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  • 03/31/11--02:58: Making Way
  • During the fourth festival OFF PLUS CAMERA twelve films from all
    over the world will compete for the Kraków Film Award. The head of the
    “Making Way” Jury will be Jerzy Skolimowski.

     
    The Main Competition films are presented below!

    "Erratum" is
    a social drama by Marek Lechki telling the story of a man who doesn't
    even notice how much lost he is in his life. The film was appreciated at
    numerous festivals in Pusan, Chicago and Thessaloniki.

    “Gun Hill Road”
    is a feature debut by director and scriptwriter Rashaad Ernesto Green.
    The film follows the steps of Enrique (Esai Morales) who, having spent 3
    years in prison, comes back home. Yet, the reality he discovers has
    little in common with the one he longed for.

    “Lou”
    is made by Australian director and scriptwriter Belinda Chayko, who,
    with exceptional sensitivity, presents a complicated relationship
    emerging between two characters, a sick Deyle and his granddaughter,
    Lou.

    “The Journals of Musan”
    is a feature debut by South Korean director Park Jung-Bum, discussing
    the hard situation of emigrants from Northern Korea living on the fringe
    of society. One of such people is the main protagonist, Jeon
    Seung-Chul, who struggles with finding himself in the new reality.

    “Our Day Will Come”,
    a feature debut by Romain Gavras, depicts life of a rebellious
    teenager. His life changes drastically as a result of a brutal incident,
    when he falls into the hands of an eccentric shrink (brilliant, as
    always,  Vincent Cassel).

    “Pure”
    by Swedish director Lisa Langseth is an adaptation of a theatre play
    (also by Langseth) “The Beloved”. The film tells the story of 20-year
    old Katarina (Alicia Vikander) inhabiting one of the grey districts of
    Gothenburg. Her only escape from reality is classical music. One day,
    Mozart's “Requiem” concert in the local opera house becomes a turning
    point in her monotonous life.

    “Suicide Room” by
    Jan Komasa, is a modern and bold combination of feature film with
    computer generated virtual world. The main protagonist, Dominik, is an
    exemplification of a young man, who, avoiding real problems creates for
    himself an alternative virtual reality and gradually loses contact with
    the surrounding world.

     "Sensation” by
    Irish director Tom Hall, tells the story of what happens to people who
    succeed overnight, gain money and power. The main protagonist, Donal,
    becomes a frequent visitor to erotic websites and forums. Inspired by an
    ambitious woman, he decides to change his life.

    “Skeletons”
    by Nick Whitfield, talks about a weird couple: red headed Bennett and
    his best friend Davis, who wander through the English countryside in
    order to exorcise evil spirits hidden in the minds of their customers.
    One day they receive a request they cannot cope with.  

    “Small Town Murder Songs”
    is the second feature film by Canadian
    director Ed Gass-Donnelly. Local police officer, Walter, cannot deal
    with ugly memories. The film has been divided into three sections, each
    of them bears a biblical title suggesting the interpretation of what is
    to follow.

    “Nothing’s All Bad”
    by a young Danish filmmaker Mikkel Munch-Fals consists of four threads
    following stories of four lost human beings: Anna, Anders, Ingeborg and
    Jonas. Unexpectedly, the lives of all the protagonists get entangled
    through a few accidental meetings.

    The last project is “The Off Hours”
    by Megan Griffiths. The director presents a monotonous existence of
    characters living somewhere in the north-eastern part of US. She created
    portraits of complex personalities, each of them longing for intimacy.

    Martyna Stefańska

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    Today is the beginning of the 4th edition of Poland’s biggest independent film festival – OFF PLUS CAMERA. The program includes multiple meetings with the stars of cinema, workshops, discussion panels, new sections and contests. 

     Many movie personalities accepted our invitation: one of the most famous Hindu actors – Amitabh Bachchan, versatile Polish artist Lech Majewski, Australian director and screenwriter Peter Weir, Richard Jenkins, actor with an impressive filmography, as well as the star of both ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ – Tim Roth.

     
    The jury board for the ‘Making Way’ Main Competition will consist of Jill Sprecher, American director and screenwriter, Saverio Costanzo – winner of the IFF in Bratislava and Jury Special Award at IFF in Locarno, as well as Elvis Mitchell – movie critic, a two-time jury member at Sundance Festival. The jury sessions will be presided over by Jerzy Skolimowski – dramawriter, poet, painter and director. The competition will see 12 productions from around the world, made in 2010 and 2011. The main prize is $100.000.
     
    A new addition to this year’s program is the Polish Feature Film Competition. Directors and producers will be competing for $100.000 as well. The jury board consists of Roger Christian, Academy Award winner (Art Direction in ‘Star Wars’), Ellen Chenoweth, Hollywod’s leading casting director, founder of the Busan IFF – Kim Dong-Ho, as well as Stepanovich Plakhov, Russian movie critic and historian. The jury chairperson is Rose McGowan, actress known for ‘Scream’, ‘Grindhouse’ or the TV series ‘Charmed’. 
     
    This year marks the first time the FIPRESCI International Federation of Movie Critics will present their award. The Jury will present the award to one of the movies in the Main Competition. The winner will be assessed by Guardian’s Ronald Bergan, Tomislav Sakic from Zagreb and Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, working for ‘Newsweek Poland’ and ‘Wysokie Obcasy’.
    More information on the sections of the festival can be found here: http://www.offpluscamera.com/program/szczegoly/7/647
     
    The viewers will have an unforgettable chance to meet with makers of movies screened in Krakow’s studio cinemas. We invite you to Master Classes with Rose McGowan, Peter Weir, Jerzy Skolimowski and Tim Roth among others, as well as numerous debates and discussion panels. After a day full of attractions you will have the opportunity to relax in DIVA – the festival’s official club.
    More information can be found here: http://www.offpluscamera.com/wydarzenia.
     
    This year we are cooperating with Ars Krakow Cinema Centre, Pod Baranami, Mikro, Alchemia, Agrafka and Kijów cinemas. We invite you also to extraordinary screenings on the roofs of Krakow’s tenements: Bogoria Residence and Rubinstein Hotel. Full screening program can be found here: http://www.offpluscamera.com/programf
     
    If you have not purchased your tickets yet, or have any concerns and questions – we invite you to the Festival Centre in the Pod Baranami Palace on 27 Rynek Główny (10AM-8PM). More info on tickets and passes: http://www.offpluscamera.com/program/szczegoly/7/764
     
    See you at the festival!


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    Interview With Amman Abbasi @ Off Camera

    Writer/director Amman Abbasi's debut film 'Dayveon' (2017) is a coming of age story about 13 year-old Dayveon as he navigates his way through the oppressing Arkansas summer heat and the relentless bullying of a local gang after having just lost his older brother. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and recently screened at Off Camera Festival in Krakow, Poland where it won an audience award for best cinematography by Dustin Lane.

    Amman has won Best New Direction at the Cleveland International Film Festival and Visionary Award at RiverRun International Film Festival. The film screened to international buyers at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival Market with Visit Films conducting international sales. FilmRise is handling North American distribution.

     

    I recently interviewed Amman about his experience making the film. Here is what he had to say:

    What inspired you to tell this story and was it based on real events?

    AMMAN: This story is inspired during my time working in Chicago on a documentary on a similar subject. Youth and violence in gangs. I took what I learned from Chicago and tried to tell the story in my hometown of Little Rock, AR where there is still gang presence.

     

    Why the unique name Dayveon? Does the name symbolize something?

    AMMAN: The name is the character of the film. I like the honesty of having the just the name of the character as the title. After all, this film is a portrait of a young boy - so it fits in that regard.

    Your film deals with the issues of a child growing up in a world without a male role models. Do you feel this is a worldwide epidemic in today's world?

    AMMAN: I don’t have an opinion on this if it is a worldwide epidemic or not. The film is not trying to suggest one thing verse another. Simply, an observation of what some kids may go through here in Arkansas if pushed up against similar conditions.

     

    This is your first feature. How long did it take you to make from concept to finish?

    AMMAN: It took me about 2 years. I started to write the script as I was in Chicago and then moved pretty quickly into production when I got back home to Little Rock.

     

    Devin Blackmon was fantastic. How did you find him and the rest of your cast?

    AMMAN: Devin Blackmon is great. Very talented young man with a depth of emotion and intelligence. Also very disciplined. Our casting directors, John Williams and Karmen Leech, deserve a lot of credit for putting together this cast of all non actors. This was an unconventional approach to casting by putting up flyers, ads, knocking on doors, etc. Devon came about after a pretty extensive search in Arkansas where we looked at about 400-500 kids.

    You wrote, directed, produced and composed this. Congrats!! Do you think DYI (do it yourself) is the best way to get things made in the indie world?

    AMMAN: I really enjoy the guts of filmmaking. All those things you mentioned. It is the process that is really enjoyable. I plan to continue this in my work to some degree. I am not so sure if it is the best way to get things made because I know other great filmmakers who have their own process and they get stuff made and its awesome. To each their own.

     

    Who have some of your biggest influences in film been that have inspired you the most?

    AMMAN: Dardennes Bros. Polanski. Scorsese. Many more on this list!

     

    You had your premiere at Sundance. What was that like? You most recently screened at the Off Camera Film Festival in Poland. Can you tell us about that?

    AMMAN: Sundance was intense. It was a beautiful feeling getting to premiere the film to the world with our cast and crew. OFF Camera is a one of kind film festival. The programmers and staff there really love MOVIES. You can tell. This seems pretty obvious for a film festival but you’d be surprised how often film festivals are geared to the business side of film. So it was really refreshing getting to have awesome conversations with the folks from the festival as well as all other great filmmakers they brought in. I have to say I fell in love with Krakow. So much to experience. Wow!

     

    At Off Camera, your cinematographer Dustin Lane won an award. How did you and Dustin begin working together?

    AMMAN: He certainly did and its well deserved. He has a very patient and observing eye and he puts a lot of time and effort into his craft. Dustin and I were friends before we started working together. We shared interest in the same films, paintings, music, images etc. So working together was the natural next step.

     

    Now that your first film has done so well, What will you be working on next?

    AMMAN: I’m currently working on some music and painting a little. I'm trying to wash out my brain before I start writing again (although I am writing a little right now).

     

    Interview written and conducted by Vanessa McMahon; posted on May 30, 2017
     


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    Singapore native producer Weijie Lai's latest film 'Pop-Aye' (2017) by Singapore born director Kristen Tan has received international acclaim during its festival circuit, having garnered multiple awards including the Sundance Screenwriting Award, Rotterdam Big Screen Award and the FIPRESCI Jury Award at the Netia Off Camera International Film Festival in Krakow, Poland.

    A graduate from NYU Tisch Asia in Singapore, Lai worked on two commercial feature films then went on to produce independent film. 'Pop-Aye' was sold at the 70th Cannes Film Festival Market with international sales held by Cercamon. US domestic distribution has been picked up by Kino Lorber. Lai is already busy on his next film, a Vietnamese/Singapore production called 'Taste' by Vietnamese director Le Bao. 
     
    I interviewed Weijie after our time spent at Netia Off Camera Festival and Cannes. Here is what he had to say:

     

    You have so far produced two indie features. Was it hard to get into producing in Singapore?

    WEIJIE: I actually produced two commercial feature films after graduating from NYU Tisch Asia before moving into independent producing. Thankfully, my transition from film school to producing was relatively seamless. It was a mixture of good luck and good timing! There is/was a real dearth of film producers in Singapore.

     

    Did you always know you want to produce films?

    WEIJIE: I would say I gradually found myself gravitating towards film producing. Like many, I went into film school thinking I would end up becoming a director. But I realized very quickly that I didn't necessarily possess the skills set needed to be the kind of director I was hoping to become, and instead, my instincts were more of that of a producer - I seemed to meet with a lot more success producing. It became something I really started to enjoy and grow into, the unpredictable nature of the job and having to think on your feet all the time. 

     

    Your most recent film 'Pop Aye' has gained a lot of attention worldwide. How did you come across such a unique story?

    WEIJIE: POP AYE was very much a continuation of my working relationship with filmmaker Kirsten Tan. We first got to know each other during our undergraduate studies in Singapore, and would only end up working together - on a short film titled Dadhi that also traveled to quite a number of festivals and won a bunch of prizes - almost 10 years after we first met. POP AYE was something Kirsten was writing to take her mind off the stresses of pre-production for Dahdi, fleshing out an idea she had had in her head for the longest time. Basically, one project transitioned to the next and we haven't stopped since! 

     

    What was the journey of producing 'Pop Aye' like?

    WEIJIE: It really was this roller coaster that we got onto where we had no idea what to expect at any point. I think we were very fortunate with the project in terms of the attention that it received, even during its development stages. In terms of the physical production, it was a very painful experience, we really threw ourselves in the deep end even though we had both done pretty elaborate productions in the past. I think we have learned so so much from it.

     

    What have been audience reactions been at festivals?

    WEIJIE: POP AYE has been received well by festival audiences, which is a very nice feeling. At all of the festivals we have had the privilege of attending, the screenings have all been sold out. We've enjoyed the different questions we get in each country. All tend to revolve around the elephant though!

     

    Was it difficult to get international distribution on the film? And did sales and distribution come during production or during the festival circuit?

    WEIJIE: As mentioned before, I think because of the attention the project received even during its development stages, we had a number of offers from international sales agents throughout. Our eventual sales agent, Cercamon, has done really well with the international distribution, selling the film to over 13 territories. I think the film traveling the festival circuit and picking up a few awards definitely helped a bit!

     

    The film has won awards at Rotterdam and Sundance. Did you have any idea the film would go so far?

    WEIJIE: I think just being selected for festivals such as Rotterdam and Sundance are already such an honor for us. We definitely did not expect to win awards at both, marking the first time a Singapore film has won an award in either! We went into the film with sincerity, hard work, and a wonderful team, it is of course nice to see that pay off.

     

    You recently attended Netia Off Camera in Krakow where the film won the Fipresci Award. How was your experience at Off Camera?

    WEIJIE: Netia Off Camera was a wonderful experience, and the award was a surprise bonus! The festival team members were so hospitable and they really took care of their guests. I had a lot of fun doing the Q&A - it was probably the longest we've ever done because there were so many questions. I tried to attend as many other screenings as possible, especially in the Polish competition, and also enjoyed exploring Krakow. I would love to have the opportunity to attend again and spend more time in the city.

     

    You went to Cannes Film Festival for your new film. Did you have a successful Cannes in terms of its development?

    WEIJIE: I was in Atelier with a Vietnamese project titled Taste by a really special filmmaker, Le Bao. Cannes was very intense and was quite an eye-opener I think for both him and his fellow Vietnamese producer Thao. I don't think it is something you can really prepare for! It was probably just as I felt the first time I attended Cannes, also in Atelier with POP AYE. We met many interested potential co-producers and collaborators, and received valuable feedback for the project. For now, we are taking things slow, taking in the feedback and taking the time to slowly develop the project at Torino Film Lab, where we've been selected for the Feature Lab 360. Like POP AYE, we don't want to rush into things until we feel the project is in its best possible state and everyone feels ready - if that's possible.

     

    Can you tell us what 'Taste' is about?

    WEIJIE: Very briefly, Taste follows Bassley, a Nigerian immigrant plying his trade in the Vietnamese Football League. After he breaks his leg his contract with the football team is terminated and he seeks refuge in the group of working-class Vietnamese women he sleeps with.   

     

       

     

    Interview conducted and written by Vanessa McMahon

     


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    Interview With Italian Composer Umberto Smerilli

    Pescara born Umberto Smerilli is one of Italy's emerging masterful film composers. A graduate of the Italian National School of Cinema at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Umberto is best known for his work on 'Scrambled' (2007), 'Il Torneo' (2008) and 'Worldly Girl' (2016). He is a multi talent who synergizes the old and new world with confidence, grace and Italian panache. My first encounter with Umberto was at the Off Camera Film Festival in Krakow, Poland in May, 2017 where he came to represent his latest film 'Worldly Girl'. It was a memorable meeting inside a new Mercedes going close to 200KM an hour, with him sitting shotgun and myself in the backseat behind the driver. While the rest of us in the car were holding on for dear life, Umberto sat calmly, savoring the joy ride with a big smile on his face as he spoke of his all time favorite film composers and thereafter turned the radio to full blast to sing along to Edith Piaf's “Je ne Regrette Rien.” Umberto currently resides in Rome. 

    After our crazy meeting and having witnessed his great passion of music at all moments and at any speed, I couldn't wait to interview Umberto Smerilli about his career- past, present and future. Here is what he had to say:

     

    Did you always know you want to be a film composer?

    UMBERTO: When I was seventeen, I saw 'Knife in the Water' by Roman Polanski and I was completely struck by this masterpiece. I realized then that music and image together can touch the heart and the mind at the same time. That's when I “knew.”


    Do you feel that a film score is a vital part of telling its story?

    UMBERTO: It depends on the movie. There are some movies that don’t need music for their style, genre or their structure; but in most cases, music is an incomparable ally in telling a story. For instance, music can provide further information about characters, the setting and events. But there is one thing among the others that only music can achieve, and that is the ability to show the invisible, to talk beyond appearance. This makes music fundamental any time a tale deals with magic, psychology or feelings.


    Who have been some of your greatest inspirations?

    UMBERTO: I have many masters in my mind. Among others, I love the Bernard Herrmann touch in the Hitchcock movies. Nowadays, I think Alexander Desplat under the direction of Roman Polanski delivered amazing, inspiring scores. Given that I'm Italian, I cannot forget to mention Ennio Morricone who “simply” drew the lines for music genres in Cinema, making a difference forever.


    Italian cinema used to be quite prolific. Where do you think it stands today on the world stage?

    UMBERTO: The arts reflect the society that produces it. As long as Italy has been somehow a key country in the history of the 20th century, its cinema has reflected universal passions, conflicts and history. As long as Italy bled after WW2, or struggled for economic boom in the ’60's, or was thrilled by ’70's, it has held the power to communicate to the world; always after we lost something. Nowadays, after twenty years of introspection, Italian Cinema seems to have regained its strength in speaking about the present (I don’t take in to account “Mediterraneo” and “La Vita è Bella”). Considering Rosi, Sorrentino and Garrone, I believe there is a new generation of talented Italian directors ready to speak the truth. Let's stay tuned.


    How do you think the digital revolution in film has affected film scoring?

    UMBERTO: It has been a storm. Everything is faster. Today, it's normal for a composer to be asked to score a movie during the editing in a stage, which is too close to the film's final stage. Composers are also expected to deal with temp tracks that have been easily chosen among previous film scores at the finger tips of the director and editor. Further, composers today are expected to deliver music mockups that are very close to the orchestral quality made possible by powerful software. Even though this is all very amazing and means more control and more reliability on one hand, on the other hand it also means that the creativity and the possibility to steer clear of clichés is narrowed for the composer. Sometimes, slower is better!


    Is there a film in your career so far you are most proud of?

    UMBERTO: I am very proud of “Pugni Chiusi” by Fiorella Infascelli, a documentary presented at 68°Mostra del Cinema di Venezia. It describes the protest of a group of workers of the Vinyls factory in Sardinia. They decided to imprison themselves in the old abandoned prison of Asinara. I am very happy to serve a noble cause with my craft.


    Can you speak a little about your most recent film 'Worldly Girl'?

    UMBERTO: It is a coming-of-age story set in a radical religious environment. Everything spins around the conflict of self-realization against social expectations. Love is the strength and catalyst that breaks the initial equilibrium for Giulia, a young Jehova’s Witness, who starts a relation with a “worldly” boy (a person out of the community) and is consequently shut out of her community. The film is structured almost like a biblical parable, but with a different outcome. The girl is catapulted into this world that is essentially dirty, but the moral of the story lies elsewhere. In the end, she doesn’t go back on her decisions. We tried to be objective and realistic in portraying that world. We tried to make all the characters three-dimensional because they all have a dark side to them, including the protagonist. But we have our own point of view, a non- religious approach to the story: the world is a place where it’s easy to lose your way but, for someone looking for their identity, it’s also an opportunity to find yourself; and some experiences are worth it. 'Wordly Girl' was the debut feature film for most of the crew. So it has been a great challenge for us all. We discussed each aspect of the film (script, soundtrack, photography, etc) for about two years, so we are very happy about the international recognition it's gaining in important festivals.
     

    How did you and Marco Danieli begin working together?

    UMBERTO: We both studied at Italian National School of Cinema at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia at the same time. After the course we began collaborating for short movies and documentaries and trained our common language.


    You recently traveled to Off Camera Film Festival in Krakow. How was your experience there?

    UMBERTO: The Festival was simply amazing! It had a bunch of great movies, talented directors, an outstanding jury, nice locations and crazy rides on festival sponsored Mercedes. I was very impressed by the organization of Off Camera. They really have a strategic niche film festival and it’s clear they will continue to grow. So, keep an eye open for Off Camera Film Festival!


    What are you working on next?

    UMBERTO: I am working on a comedy that will be shot this summer. The director, also a former student of Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, would like to have some music in mind while shooting. 

     

    Interview conducted by Vanessa McMahon

     


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    Tim Roth, the star of “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”, will receive in Kraków at the Off Plus Camera the “Against the Current” award. In the series of special screenings, you will be able to watch directed by him “The War Zone”. We have prepared much more on the occasion of the famous Brit's visit.

    Tim Roth, who gained international fame through Quentin Tarantino's productions (“Reservoir Dogs”, Pulp Fiction”, “Four Rooms”), will be a special guest at this year's festival.

    In Kraków, Roth will receive the “Against the Current” award. This accolade is granted since 2010 to extraordinary cinema figures for their support and input in the indie cinema and culture. The first person to receive it was Jane Campion in April 2010.

    Tim Roth's visit will be a great opportunity to remind the audience of his eminent feature debut “The War Zone” (1999) starring Ray Winston and Tilda Swinton. It is a dark drama on child sexual abuse. This film brought Roth the award of the European Discovery of the Year and also won multiple accolades such as the C.I.C.A.E. Award in Berlin, British Independent Film award for Best Director as well as the Best New British Feature award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

    Tim Roth will also meet the festival goers at a 'Master Class' event in the Kijów cinema. 


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    “Spanish Dracula” by Gary Lucas is a project comprising solo guitar compositions as accompaniment to the famous Spanish film “Dracula” made in 1931.

    The project's premiere took place during the 31st Havana Film Festival, where it was named a spectacular hit. It was also presented during the London Jazz Festival at the Queen Elisabeth Hall and turned into a success, crowned with a 4-star review in “The Guardian”. The performance was also appreciated in other places in the world. The first and only Polish show of “Spanish Dracula” will be held at OFF PLUS CAMERA.

    Gary Lucas is a renowned American guitarist, member of the Gods and Monsters group. He worked for many years with Jeff Buckley, with whom he recorded the “Songs To No One” album. Lucas is the author of Buckley's biggest hits such as “Grace”, “Mojo Pin”. He also worked with many other world class stars such as Nick Cave, Lou Reed, Chris Cornell, John Cale. He was called one of the best and original guitarists of America by The Rolling Stone magazine.

    15th April, 10.00 PM, Lizard King, ul. Św. Tomasza 11a

     


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  • 03/29/11--14:48: All there is to DISCOVER!
  • Innovative directorial visions, forerunning scripts, unconventional ways of presenting reality and all-stars cast. In the DISCOVERIES section we will present the newest projects of widely known filmmakers as well as the unknown beginners in the cinema industry. We discover the titles of directors from France, US, UK and Chile.

     

     

     

    The majority of the films in the section has been awarded and appreciated at film festivals world wide. You will also be able to experience the Hollywood stars in more independent roles. Widely known and awarded actors Naomi Watts and Sean Penn played the lead roles in "Fair Game" by Doug Liman. The intriguing, full of suspense and sudden turns plot was created based on biography of Valerie Plame. It feels as the best of political thrillers. The facts depicted, however, are true and gave America the thrills a few years back. French director Antony Cordier will present at our festival his second feature film "Happy Few". It is a fascinating and intrinsic travel into human passions and infatuation. It tells a story of complicated love relations of two couples in their thirties. The director asks questions on passions and temptations and the four actors span their brave skills crossing the boundaries of intimacy. Another representative of the French cinema is the third directorial project of Guillaume Canet "Little White Lies". Canet is an acknowledged French actor, who in 2002 debuted with his feature "Mon Idole" (My Idol). In his newest production he continues with the drawn earlier line - he focuses on how hidden secrets can change our lives forever.

     

    The love story of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert is told by Jean-Marc Vallée in his film "The Young Victoria". The director depicts the Royal Couple on one hand as an ordinary young people madly in love, on the other though, draws the attention to their roles given them as rulers of an empire.  The film won one Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design, and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama. The DISCOVERIES section comprise a very diverse list of themes. From the Royal Court, we are taken down to prison. John Curran's drama "Stone" is mainly characteristic for the ambiguous, filled with nuance and contradictions, acting of three cinema icons: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich, as well as the precise and worked unto the tiniest detail script. Sonic Youth fans cannot miss the documentary by Yony Leyser entitled "William S. Burroughs: A Man Within" scored by the famous rock band. The film contains unused before archival footage, extracts of interviews with friends and those closest to the eminent writer, William S. Burroughs, who had a huge impact on the 20th century culture. We also recommend to watch the new film by Sebastiàn Silva and Pedro Peirano - two filmmakers that the OFF PLUS CAMERA audience should be familiarised with - thanks to their film "The Maid" which won the Kraków Film Award in 2009. In "Old Cats" (Gatos Viejos), the two artists tell a story of a conflict between mother and daughter mixing black humour with a little bit of pathos. Please be reminded that also in this section we will screen: "Four Lions" by Christopher Morris, "Carancho" by Pablo Trapero, "Undertow" by Javier Fuentes-León, "The Tempest" by Julie Taymor and "I'm Still Here" by Casey Affleck.
    Asia Korgul

     


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    Polish Feature Film Competition is one of the novelties at this year's Off Plus Camera Film Festival. This will be a unique opportunity to promote our own productions. 

     

     

     Ten films that have qualified for the competition allow an overview of the most interesting phenomena and trends in the Polish cinematography that appeared in the last year.

    “For Love” is a psychological drama by Anna Jadowska telling a story of a young married couple, who for financial reasons, decide to make money acting in a porn film. The projects touches upon a very brave theme and  can also boast the great cast including Daniel Olbrychski, Ewa Szykulska, young actors as well as the director's own script.

    “My Australia” by Ami Drozd is the first Polish feature film touching upon the Poles of Jewish origin who were made to emigrate at the end of the 1960's as a result of the then antisemitic campaign of the government.

    “Lynch” is a feature debut by Krzysztof Łukasiewicz, based on true events known in Poland as 'lynch in Włodowa'. The film is a shocking story of the dark sides of human nature, amazes with the genius acting and phenomenal music composed by Jarosław Michał Papaj.

    “Little Wires" by Aleksandra Gowin and Ireneusz Grzyb is an exceptional story of a girl Magda possessing nonconventional imagination. Magda experiences supernatural events spanning from speeding-up time to meeting the aliens.

    “Heniek” is a true story inspiration of director: Eliza Kowalewska. The characters dealing with their weaknesses will experience personally whether honesty, loyalty and friendship should be given up for money and whether revenge is truly sweet.

    “A Simple Story of Love” directed by Arkadiusz Jakubik (known for his amazing role in “The Dark House”) is a stereotype breaking concept of film in a film, talking of the process of creation, the influence of fiction onto reality and the mixing of two worlds: the real and the created by the artist.

    “Mother Theresa of Cats”
     is the first feature film made by Paweł Sala. Based on shocking true events showing the record of an unthinkable murder performed by two sons on their mother in a seemingly common family. The director holds back from actually exposing the cruelty and focuses on the psychological aspects without giving up on the sensational and criminal atmosphere full of the growing tension.

    “Between Two Fires” is a film by Agnieszka Łukasiak documenting the fate of a Belarussian emigrant who in search of a new life in Sweden falls victim of the unknown and strange world. The film is an artistic picture and, according to its author, it is a film transforming numbers and cases we read about into real people.

    “The Christening”
     is the second feature film by the young generation representative director Marcin Wrona. It tells the story of Michał, a successful man entangled into the matters of the criminal underworld, who attempts at saving his family from the mafia sentence on his head.

     
    “Made in Poland” by Przemysław Wojcieszek is based on a famous theatre play of the same title. It tells a tale of Boguś – a frustrated youngster, bitter and disappointed with the senselessness of life, trying to escape the apathy getting himself into trouble with the local gangsters, as a result of which he will have a debt to pay.


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    We would like to introduce the members of the Jury of the first Polish Feature Film Competition.

     

     The Jury will appraise ten nominated Polish productions made in 2010. Just a quick reminder that the winner takes the Polish Noble Award with 100.000PLN – to be divided between the director and the producer.

     
    Rose McGowan: actress known for such projects as “Scream”, “The Doom Generation” or the TV series “Charmed”. She attained international fame with her role in two episodes of the film “Grindhouse” by the Rodriguez-Tarantino team. The actress will head the Jury of the Polish Dramatic Competition.
    Ellen Chenoweth: the leading casting director in Hollywood. She was the casting director for such productions as “Burn After Reading”, “Gran Torino”, “No Country For Old Men”.  She will conduct industry workshops during this year's OFF PLUS CAMERA.
     
    Roger Christian gained his fame and respect through creating the art design and props for “Star Wars: Episode VI – New Hope” by George Lucas, which granted him an Oscar. He will also lead a lecture in Kraków as well as workshops on the creative and technical aspects of the job of an art designer.
     
    Kim Dong-Ho is the founder and director of the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, one of the most important festivals in Asia. He's a connoisseur of world cinematography and an expert in film study. He promotes independent cinema and underestimated directors and actors.
     
    Andrei Stepanovich Plakhov: Russian film critic and historian who co-operated with numerous influential magazines such as the Russian “Pravda”, British “The Guardian” and the French “Cahiers du cinema”. Since 2005 he is the president of the International Film Critics Association FIPRESCI.


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  • 03/31/11--02:58: Making Way
  • During the fourth festival OFF PLUS CAMERA twelve films from all
    over the world will compete for the Kraków Film Award. The head of the
    “Making Way” Jury will be Jerzy Skolimowski.

     
    The Main Competition films are presented below!

    "Erratum" is
    a social drama by Marek Lechki telling the story of a man who doesn't
    even notice how much lost he is in his life. The film was appreciated at
    numerous festivals in Pusan, Chicago and Thessaloniki.

    “Gun Hill Road”
    is a feature debut by director and scriptwriter Rashaad Ernesto Green.
    The film follows the steps of Enrique (Esai Morales) who, having spent 3
    years in prison, comes back home. Yet, the reality he discovers has
    little in common with the one he longed for.

    “Lou”
    is made by Australian director and scriptwriter Belinda Chayko, who,
    with exceptional sensitivity, presents a complicated relationship
    emerging between two characters, a sick Deyle and his granddaughter,
    Lou.

    “The Journals of Musan”
    is a feature debut by South Korean director Park Jung-Bum, discussing
    the hard situation of emigrants from Northern Korea living on the fringe
    of society. One of such people is the main protagonist, Jeon
    Seung-Chul, who struggles with finding himself in the new reality.

    “Our Day Will Come”,
    a feature debut by Romain Gavras, depicts life of a rebellious
    teenager. His life changes drastically as a result of a brutal incident,
    when he falls into the hands of an eccentric shrink (brilliant, as
    always,  Vincent Cassel).

    “Pure”
    by Swedish director Lisa Langseth is an adaptation of a theatre play
    (also by Langseth) “The Beloved”. The film tells the story of 20-year
    old Katarina (Alicia Vikander) inhabiting one of the grey districts of
    Gothenburg. Her only escape from reality is classical music. One day,
    Mozart's “Requiem” concert in the local opera house becomes a turning
    point in her monotonous life.

    “Suicide Room” by
    Jan Komasa, is a modern and bold combination of feature film with
    computer generated virtual world. The main protagonist, Dominik, is an
    exemplification of a young man, who, avoiding real problems creates for
    himself an alternative virtual reality and gradually loses contact with
    the surrounding world.

     "Sensation” by
    Irish director Tom Hall, tells the story of what happens to people who
    succeed overnight, gain money and power. The main protagonist, Donal,
    becomes a frequent visitor to erotic websites and forums. Inspired by an
    ambitious woman, he decides to change his life.

    “Skeletons”
    by Nick Whitfield, talks about a weird couple: red headed Bennett and
    his best friend Davis, who wander through the English countryside in
    order to exorcise evil spirits hidden in the minds of their customers.
    One day they receive a request they cannot cope with.  

    “Small Town Murder Songs”
    is the second feature film by Canadian
    director Ed Gass-Donnelly. Local police officer, Walter, cannot deal
    with ugly memories. The film has been divided into three sections, each
    of them bears a biblical title suggesting the interpretation of what is
    to follow.

    “Nothing’s All Bad”
    by a young Danish filmmaker Mikkel Munch-Fals consists of four threads
    following stories of four lost human beings: Anna, Anders, Ingeborg and
    Jonas. Unexpectedly, the lives of all the protagonists get entangled
    through a few accidental meetings.

    The last project is “The Off Hours”
    by Megan Griffiths. The director presents a monotonous existence of
    characters living somewhere in the north-eastern part of US. She created
    portraits of complex personalities, each of them longing for intimacy.

    Martyna Stefańska

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    Today is the beginning of the 4th edition of Poland’s biggest independent film festival – OFF PLUS CAMERA. The program includes multiple meetings with the stars of cinema, workshops, discussion panels, new sections and contests. 

     Many movie personalities accepted our invitation: one of the most famous Hindu actors – Amitabh Bachchan, versatile Polish artist Lech Majewski, Australian director and screenwriter Peter Weir, Richard Jenkins, actor with an impressive filmography, as well as the star of both ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ – Tim Roth.

     
    The jury board for the ‘Making Way’ Main Competition will consist of Jill Sprecher, American director and screenwriter, Saverio Costanzo – winner of the IFF in Bratislava and Jury Special Award at IFF in Locarno, as well as Elvis Mitchell – movie critic, a two-time jury member at Sundance Festival. The jury sessions will be presided over by Jerzy Skolimowski – dramawriter, poet, painter and director. The competition will see 12 productions from around the world, made in 2010 and 2011. The main prize is $100.000.
     
    A new addition to this year’s program is the Polish Feature Film Competition. Directors and producers will be competing for $100.000 as well. The jury board consists of Roger Christian, Academy Award winner (Art Direction in ‘Star Wars’), Ellen Chenoweth, Hollywod’s leading casting director, founder of the Busan IFF – Kim Dong-Ho, as well as Stepanovich Plakhov, Russian movie critic and historian. The jury chairperson is Rose McGowan, actress known for ‘Scream’, ‘Grindhouse’ or the TV series ‘Charmed’. 
     
    This year marks the first time the FIPRESCI International Federation of Movie Critics will present their award. The Jury will present the award to one of the movies in the Main Competition. The winner will be assessed by Guardian’s Ronald Bergan, Tomislav Sakic from Zagreb and Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, working for ‘Newsweek Poland’ and ‘Wysokie Obcasy’.
    More information on the sections of the festival can be found here: http://www.offpluscamera.com/program/szczegoly/7/647
     
    The viewers will have an unforgettable chance to meet with makers of movies screened in Krakow’s studio cinemas. We invite you to Master Classes with Rose McGowan, Peter Weir, Jerzy Skolimowski and Tim Roth among others, as well as numerous debates and discussion panels. After a day full of attractions you will have the opportunity to relax in DIVA – the festival’s official club.
    More information can be found here: http://www.offpluscamera.com/wydarzenia.
     
    This year we are cooperating with Ars Krakow Cinema Centre, Pod Baranami, Mikro, Alchemia, Agrafka and Kijów cinemas. We invite you also to extraordinary screenings on the roofs of Krakow’s tenements: Bogoria Residence and Rubinstein Hotel. Full screening program can be found here: http://www.offpluscamera.com/programf
     
    If you have not purchased your tickets yet, or have any concerns and questions – we invite you to the Festival Centre in the Pod Baranami Palace on 27 Rynek Główny (10AM-8PM). More info on tickets and passes: http://www.offpluscamera.com/program/szczegoly/7/764
     
    See you at the festival!


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    Interview With Amman Abbasi @ Off Camera

    Writer/director Amman Abbasi's debut film 'Dayveon' (2017) is a coming of age story about 13 year-old Dayveon as he navigates his way through the oppressing Arkansas summer heat and the relentless bullying of a local gang after having just lost his older brother. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and recently screened at Off Camera Festival in Krakow, Poland where it won an audience award for best cinematography by Dustin Lane.

    Amman has won Best New Direction at the Cleveland International Film Festival and Visionary Award at RiverRun International Film Festival. The film screened to international buyers at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival Market with Visit Films conducting international sales. FilmRise is handling North American distribution.

     

    I recently interviewed Amman about his experience making the film. Here is what he had to say:

    What inspired you to tell this story and was it based on real events?

    AMMAN: This story is inspired during my time working in Chicago on a documentary on a similar subject. Youth and violence in gangs. I took what I learned from Chicago and tried to tell the story in my hometown of Little Rock, AR where there is still gang presence.

     

    Why the unique name Dayveon? Does the name symbolize something?

    AMMAN: The name is the character of the film. I like the honesty of having the just the name of the character as the title. After all, this film is a portrait of a young boy - so it fits in that regard.

    Your film deals with the issues of a child growing up in a world without a male role models. Do you feel this is a worldwide epidemic in today's world?

    AMMAN: I don’t have an opinion on this if it is a worldwide epidemic or not. The film is not trying to suggest one thing verse another. Simply, an observation of what some kids may go through here in Arkansas if pushed up against similar conditions.

     

    This is your first feature. How long did it take you to make from concept to finish?

    AMMAN: It took me about 2 years. I started to write the script as I was in Chicago and then moved pretty quickly into production when I got back home to Little Rock.

     

    Devin Blackmon was fantastic. How did you find him and the rest of your cast?

    AMMAN: Devin Blackmon is great. Very talented young man with a depth of emotion and intelligence. Also very disciplined. Our casting directors, John Williams and Karmen Leech, deserve a lot of credit for putting together this cast of all non actors. This was an unconventional approach to casting by putting up flyers, ads, knocking on doors, etc. Devon came about after a pretty extensive search in Arkansas where we looked at about 400-500 kids.

    You wrote, directed, produced and composed this. Congrats!! Do you think DYI (do it yourself) is the best way to get things made in the indie world?

    AMMAN: I really enjoy the guts of filmmaking. All those things you mentioned. It is the process that is really enjoyable. I plan to continue this in my work to some degree. I am not so sure if it is the best way to get things made because I know other great filmmakers who have their own process and they get stuff made and its awesome. To each their own.

     

    Who have some of your biggest influences in film been that have inspired you the most?

    AMMAN: Dardennes Bros. Polanski. Scorsese. Many more on this list!

     

    You had your premiere at Sundance. What was that like? You most recently screened at the Off Camera Film Festival in Poland. Can you tell us about that?

    AMMAN: Sundance was intense. It was a beautiful feeling getting to premiere the film to the world with our cast and crew. OFF Camera is a one of kind film festival. The programmers and staff there really love MOVIES. You can tell. This seems pretty obvious for a film festival but you’d be surprised how often film festivals are geared to the business side of film. So it was really refreshing getting to have awesome conversations with the folks from the festival as well as all other great filmmakers they brought in. I have to say I fell in love with Krakow. So much to experience. Wow!

     

    At Off Camera, your cinematographer Dustin Lane won an award. How did you and Dustin begin working together?

    AMMAN: He certainly did and its well deserved. He has a very patient and observing eye and he puts a lot of time and effort into his craft. Dustin and I were friends before we started working together. We shared interest in the same films, paintings, music, images etc. So working together was the natural next step.

     

    Now that your first film has done so well, What will you be working on next?

    AMMAN: I’m currently working on some music and painting a little. I'm trying to wash out my brain before I start writing again (although I am writing a little right now).

     

    Interview written and conducted by Vanessa McMahon; posted on May 30, 2017
     


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    Singapore native producer Weijie Lai's latest film 'Pop-Aye' (2017) by Singapore born director Kristen Tan has received international acclaim during its festival circuit, having garnered multiple awards including the Sundance Screenwriting Award, Rotterdam Big Screen Award and the FIPRESCI Jury Award at the Netia Off Camera International Film Festival in Krakow, Poland.

    A graduate from NYU Tisch Asia in Singapore, Lai worked on two commercial feature films then went on to produce independent film. 'Pop-Aye' was sold at the 70th Cannes Film Festival Market with international sales held by Cercamon. US domestic distribution has been picked up by Kino Lorber. Lai is already busy on his next film, a Vietnamese/Singapore production called 'Taste' by Vietnamese director Le Bao. 
     
    I interviewed Weijie after our time spent at Netia Off Camera Festival and Cannes. Here is what he had to say:

     

    You have so far produced two indie features. Was it hard to get into producing in Singapore?

    WEIJIE: I actually produced two commercial feature films after graduating from NYU Tisch Asia before moving into independent producing. Thankfully, my transition from film school to producing was relatively seamless. It was a mixture of good luck and good timing! There is/was a real dearth of film producers in Singapore.

     

    Did you always know you want to produce films?

    WEIJIE: I would say I gradually found myself gravitating towards film producing. Like many, I went into film school thinking I would end up becoming a director. But I realized very quickly that I didn't necessarily possess the skills set needed to be the kind of director I was hoping to become, and instead, my instincts were more of that of a producer - I seemed to meet with a lot more success producing. It became something I really started to enjoy and grow into, the unpredictable nature of the job and having to think on your feet all the time. 

     

    Your most recent film 'Pop Aye' has gained a lot of attention worldwide. How did you come across such a unique story?

    WEIJIE: POP AYE was very much a continuation of my working relationship with filmmaker Kirsten Tan. We first got to know each other during our undergraduate studies in Singapore, and would only end up working together - on a short film titled Dadhi that also traveled to quite a number of festivals and won a bunch of prizes - almost 10 years after we first met. POP AYE was something Kirsten was writing to take her mind off the stresses of pre-production for Dahdi, fleshing out an idea she had had in her head for the longest time. Basically, one project transitioned to the next and we haven't stopped since! 

     

    What was the journey of producing 'Pop Aye' like?

    WEIJIE: It really was this roller coaster that we got onto where we had no idea what to expect at any point. I think we were very fortunate with the project in terms of the attention that it received, even during its development stages. In terms of the physical production, it was a very painful experience, we really threw ourselves in the deep end even though we had both done pretty elaborate productions in the past. I think we have learned so so much from it.

     

    What have been audience reactions been at festivals?

    WEIJIE: POP AYE has been received well by festival audiences, which is a very nice feeling. At all of the festivals we have had the privilege of attending, the screenings have all been sold out. We've enjoyed the different questions we get in each country. All tend to revolve around the elephant though!

     

    Was it difficult to get international distribution on the film? And did sales and distribution come during production or during the festival circuit?

    WEIJIE: As mentioned before, I think because of the attention the project received even during its development stages, we had a number of offers from international sales agents throughout. Our eventual sales agent, Cercamon, has done really well with the international distribution, selling the film to over 13 territories. I think the film traveling the festival circuit and picking up a few awards definitely helped a bit!

     

    The film has won awards at Rotterdam and Sundance. Did you have any idea the film would go so far?

    WEIJIE: I think just being selected for festivals such as Rotterdam and Sundance are already such an honor for us. We definitely did not expect to win awards at both, marking the first time a Singapore film has won an award in either! We went into the film with sincerity, hard work, and a wonderful team, it is of course nice to see that pay off.

     

    You recently attended Netia Off Camera in Krakow where the film won the Fipresci Award. How was your experience at Off Camera?

    WEIJIE: Netia Off Camera was a wonderful experience, and the award was a surprise bonus! The festival team members were so hospitable and they really took care of their guests. I had a lot of fun doing the Q&A - it was probably the longest we've ever done because there were so many questions. I tried to attend as many other screenings as possible, especially in the Polish competition, and also enjoyed exploring Krakow. I would love to have the opportunity to attend again and spend more time in the city.

     

    You went to Cannes Film Festival for your new film. Did you have a successful Cannes in terms of its development?

    WEIJIE: I was in Atelier with a Vietnamese project titled Taste by a really special filmmaker, Le Bao. Cannes was very intense and was quite an eye-opener I think for both him and his fellow Vietnamese producer Thao. I don't think it is something you can really prepare for! It was probably just as I felt the first time I attended Cannes, also in Atelier with POP AYE. We met many interested potential co-producers and collaborators, and received valuable feedback for the project. For now, we are taking things slow, taking in the feedback and taking the time to slowly develop the project at Torino Film Lab, where we've been selected for the Feature Lab 360. Like POP AYE, we don't want to rush into things until we feel the project is in its best possible state and everyone feels ready - if that's possible.

     

    Can you tell us what 'Taste' is about?

    WEIJIE: Very briefly, Taste follows Bassley, a Nigerian immigrant plying his trade in the Vietnamese Football League. After he breaks his leg his contract with the football team is terminated and he seeks refuge in the group of working-class Vietnamese women he sleeps with.   

     

       

     

    Interview conducted and written by Vanessa McMahon

     


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    Interview With Italian Composer Umberto Smerilli

    Pescara born Umberto Smerilli is one of Italy's emerging masterful film composers. A graduate of the Italian National School of Cinema at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Umberto is best known for his work on 'Scrambled' (2007), 'Il Torneo' (2008) and 'Worldly Girl' (2016). He is a multi talent who synergizes the old and new world with confidence, grace and Italian panache. My first encounter with Umberto was at the Off Camera Film Festival in Krakow, Poland in May, 2017 where he came to represent his latest film 'Worldly Girl'. It was a memorable meeting inside a new Mercedes going close to 200KM an hour, with him sitting shotgun and myself in the backseat behind the driver. While the rest of us in the car were holding on for dear life, Umberto sat calmly, savoring the joy ride with a big smile on his face as he spoke of his all time favorite film composers and thereafter turned the radio to full blast to sing along to Edith Piaf's “Je ne Regrette Rien.” Umberto currently resides in Rome. 

    After our crazy meeting and having witnessed his great passion of music at all moments and at any speed, I couldn't wait to interview Umberto Smerilli about his career- past, present and future. Here is what he had to say:

     

    Did you always know you want to be a film composer?

    UMBERTO: When I was seventeen, I saw 'Knife in the Water' by Roman Polanski and I was completely struck by this masterpiece. I realized then that music and image together can touch the heart and the mind at the same time. That's when I “knew.”


    Do you feel that a film score is a vital part of telling its story?

    UMBERTO: It depends on the movie. There are some movies that don’t need music for their style, genre or their structure; but in most cases, music is an incomparable ally in telling a story. For instance, music can provide further information about characters, the setting and events. But there is one thing among the others that only music can achieve, and that is the ability to show the invisible, to talk beyond appearance. This makes music fundamental any time a tale deals with magic, psychology or feelings.


    Who have been some of your greatest inspirations?

    UMBERTO: I have many masters in my mind. Among others, I love the Bernard Herrmann touch in the Hitchcock movies. Nowadays, I think Alexander Desplat under the direction of Roman Polanski delivered amazing, inspiring scores. Given that I'm Italian, I cannot forget to mention Ennio Morricone who “simply” drew the lines for music genres in Cinema, making a difference forever.


    Italian cinema used to be quite prolific. Where do you think it stands today on the world stage?

    UMBERTO: The arts reflect the society that produces it. As long as Italy has been somehow a key country in the history of the 20th century, its cinema has reflected universal passions, conflicts and history. As long as Italy bled after WW2, or struggled for economic boom in the ’60's, or was thrilled by ’70's, it has held the power to communicate to the world; always after we lost something. Nowadays, after twenty years of introspection, Italian Cinema seems to have regained its strength in speaking about the present (I don’t take in to account “Mediterraneo” and “La Vita è Bella”). Considering Rosi, Sorrentino and Garrone, I believe there is a new generation of talented Italian directors ready to speak the truth. Let's stay tuned.


    How do you think the digital revolution in film has affected film scoring?

    UMBERTO: It has been a storm. Everything is faster. Today, it's normal for a composer to be asked to score a movie during the editing in a stage, which is too close to the film's final stage. Composers are also expected to deal with temp tracks that have been easily chosen among previous film scores at the finger tips of the director and editor. Further, composers today are expected to deliver music mockups that are very close to the orchestral quality made possible by powerful software. Even though this is all very amazing and means more control and more reliability on one hand, on the other hand it also means that the creativity and the possibility to steer clear of clichés is narrowed for the composer. Sometimes, slower is better!


    Is there a film in your career so far you are most proud of?

    UMBERTO: I am very proud of “Pugni Chiusi” by Fiorella Infascelli, a documentary presented at 68°Mostra del Cinema di Venezia. It describes the protest of a group of workers of the Vinyls factory in Sardinia. They decided to imprison themselves in the old abandoned prison of Asinara. I am very happy to serve a noble cause with my craft.


    Can you speak a little about your most recent film 'Worldly Girl'?

    UMBERTO: It is a coming-of-age story set in a radical religious environment. Everything spins around the conflict of self-realization against social expectations. Love is the strength and catalyst that breaks the initial equilibrium for Giulia, a young Jehova’s Witness, who starts a relation with a “worldly” boy (a person out of the community) and is consequently shut out of her community. The film is structured almost like a biblical parable, but with a different outcome. The girl is catapulted into this world that is essentially dirty, but the moral of the story lies elsewhere. In the end, she doesn’t go back on her decisions. We tried to be objective and realistic in portraying that world. We tried to make all the characters three-dimensional because they all have a dark side to them, including the protagonist. But we have our own point of view, a non- religious approach to the story: the world is a place where it’s easy to lose your way but, for someone looking for their identity, it’s also an opportunity to find yourself; and some experiences are worth it. 'Wordly Girl' was the debut feature film for most of the crew. So it has been a great challenge for us all. We discussed each aspect of the film (script, soundtrack, photography, etc) for about two years, so we are very happy about the international recognition it's gaining in important festivals.
     

    How did you and Marco Danieli begin working together?

    UMBERTO: We both studied at Italian National School of Cinema at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia at the same time. After the course we began collaborating for short movies and documentaries and trained our common language.


    You recently traveled to Off Camera Film Festival in Krakow. How was your experience there?

    UMBERTO: The Festival was simply amazing! It had a bunch of great movies, talented directors, an outstanding jury, nice locations and crazy rides on festival sponsored Mercedes. I was very impressed by the organization of Off Camera. They really have a strategic niche film festival and it’s clear they will continue to grow. So, keep an eye open for Off Camera Film Festival!


    What are you working on next?

    UMBERTO: I am working on a comedy that will be shot this summer. The director, also a former student of Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, would like to have some music in mind while shooting. 

     

    Interview conducted by Vanessa McMahon