Pre- and Post-Pandemic Rohmer: Ryūsuke Hamaguchi on Berlinale 2021 Premiere Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Fusako Urabe and Aoba Kawai in Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Even after two of his features were derailed by the pandemic, Japanese director Ryūsuke Hamaguchi had a busy 2020. After breaking out with his 2016 film Happy Hour, Hamaguchi returned in 2018 with what he described as his first “commercial film,” Asako I and II, as opposed to a smaller, independent production. Adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story, Drive My Car is Hamaguchi’s current “commercial” project, while the smaller-scale Berlinale 2021 premiere Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy is his smaller, independent film. (When not in production on these films, Hamaguchi, along with director Kōji Fukada and two of his Happy Hour producers, helped spearhead a crowdfunding campaign to help subsidize Japan’s mini-theaters, that country’s equivalent of the arthouse. Hamaguchi spoke about his role on that…  Read more


Sundance Institute Announces Its 2021 Sundance Screenwriters Intensive Fellows

The Sundance Institute announced today the 11 screenwriters who will participate in the Institute's ninth annual Screenwriters Intensive, which will take place digitally this year on March 4-5, 2021. Writes Ilyse McKimmie, Deputy Director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program in a press release, "the Intensive is a two-day workshop for emerging independent writers and writer/directors developing their first fiction features. This cohort of artists from traditionally underrepresented communities will have the opportunity to interrogate their stories and refine their artistic practice, all under the guidance of established writers and the Institute's Feature Film Program, led by me and the program’s Founding Director, Michelle Satter. We are inspired by this group of dynamic artists, who are each telling indelible stories with specificity,…  Read more


FilmEx Creates Virtual Annual Conference in Lieu of Usual Pre-Sundance Gathering

Virtual attendees of the 2021 FilmEx Conference

Film festivals of all sizes came together with art-house exhibitors, distributors and filmmakers in mid-January for the FilmEx conference, a five-day virtual conference in January that took the place of Arthouse Convergence's annual pre-Sundance meeting in Utah. Few are the filmmakers that have not found themselves on a Facebook debate thread at some point with other filmmakers decrying sham film festivals that took their submission fee money and then did not deliver on the most basic expectations. Well, the film festivals, film societies and arthouse theaters that participated in the past Art House Convergence conferences and now this year’s FilmEx event are fighting the good fight to be at the opposite end of that spectrum.  From inspiring business-model pivots to the…  Read more


Berlinale 2021: Mr. Bachmann and His Class, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky

What Do We See When We Look at the Sky

The ongoing Berlinale is, as you’re likely aware, the first ever to be held virtually. Which also makes Berlin the first of the Big Three film festivals to go this route, seeing as last year Cannes was cancelled and Venice managed to squeeze in a smaller-scale edition between waves of this most pernicious of pandemics. Although the Berlinale has always prided itself on being a public festival, this time it’s a professionals-only affair—a repeat in the city’s cinemas, accessible to all, is planned for June—and the customary eleven days have been reduced to five.  Parsing the rationale behind this split and compression from the vague official statements has proven difficult, though it does seem like the films themselves are getting shortchanged.…  Read more


“We Spent a Lot of Time Choosing Lenses”: Keith Thomas on The Vigil and His Forthcoming Firestarter Adaptation

Dave Davis in The Vigil

Unfolding over the course of one evening in the Hasidic community of Boro Park, Brooklyn, Keith Thomas’s debut feature, The Vigil, gets more unsettling the darker the night gets. Dave Davis plays Yakov, a young man experiencing difficulty living a newly secular life. As securing a job has proved difficult, he agrees to a friend’s impromptu request to serve as a shomer, watching over the cold body of a local man, Rubin Litvak, before the deceased is laid to rest. Anticipating an easy few hours of surfing the web on his smartphone, Yakov settles in for his watchman duties. Unfortunately for him, things are about to go bump in the night. A worthy addition to the “religious horror” subgenre, The Vigil…  Read more


Back to One, Episode 144: Chin Han

Since playing Lau in The Dark Knight, Chin Han has been on a Hollywood run, acting in blockbuster action movies like Ghost in a Shell, Skyscraper, and Captain American: Winter Soldier, as well as work on a less grand scale for Steven Soderbergh, Gus Van Sant, and the celebrated Netflix series Marco Polo. Now he stars in the eagerly anticipated new Mortal Kombat movie as the shape-shifting villain Shang Tsung. I asked him how he dealt with the history, fan passion and anticipation for the character in his preparation and how it affected him during production. He talks about his interesting process of de-linking the text and deconstructing himself as a way of building the performance. And we discuss iconic…  Read more


Wuhan, Different Everyday: Shengze Zhu on Berlinale 2021 Premiere A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces

A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces

Despite relocating to Chicago in 2015, Shengze Zhu has focused on her hometown of Wuhan throughout her career. Her first feature, Out of Focus (2014), is a creative portrait of the school-life of children from low-income families and the troubles they face. Her second, Another Year (2016), uses long takes to document the mealtimes of migrant worker families. Both are set in Wuhan but were made after she first left China in 2010 to study filmmaking in Columbia, Missouri. For Present.Perfect (2019), she widened her lens, creating a montage of live-streamers living across China entirely from desktop recordings of their broadcasts. Made in America, a sense of distance seems inherent to a project in which intimate connections with a cast of…  Read more


Phase Zero: Felipe Cazals on His 1979 Gabriel García Márquez Collaboration, El año de la peste (Year of the Plague)

El año de la peste (Image courtesy of IMCINE)

It has been a good day for everyone, even for God. No sign of rain. No evidence of disease or blood. — Henry Miller, quoted at the beginning of El año de la peste Around this time a year ago, many of us were suddenly sent home and forced to become film programmers. I asked people: after Contagion or, from a far distance, Outbreak, what was the ultimate Coronavirus movie? The Last Days of Planet Earth? Prophecies of Nostradamus? 28 Weeks Later? The Host? Tsai Ming-Liang's The Hole? The South Korean apocalypse thriller The Flu? Logan's Run? The Seed of Man? Soylent Green? 12 Monkeys? Kinji Fukasaku’s Virus? Long after I had stopped following Cuomo’s daily press conferences, the answer was Felipe Cazals’s unforgettable El año de la peste (Year…  Read more



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