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in Filmmaking
on Feb 16, 2007

Over at Indiewire, Eugene Hernandez has an excellent report from Berlin on the premiere of Ryan Eslinger’s When a Tree Falls in the Forest. Eslinger, who was one of our 25 New Faces in 2004, is one of the youngest directors to premiere a film in Berlin’s Competition. If you read the industry papers, it’s been a mixed blessing as the film received several negative trade reviews and star Sharon Stone didn’t show for the post-screening Q and A.

Hernandez offers a more balanced view, noting fest head Dieter Kosslick’s support for Eslinger and quoting Raj Roy, the American member of the Selection Committee, about the decision to place the film in Competition.

From the piece:

“It’s a much more intimate film than the legacy of Berlinale’s competition for 57 years,” Roy added, “But I thought the combination of the support from the major talent — which works on the red carpet, let’s be honest, thats a key element of any competition film — combined with his vision as a director, which I think is solid and certainly is way beyond his years in the way he tackles filmmaking.” Given the notoriety Eslinger received from his first film, Roy was comfortable opening up the competition to the emerging director.

A couple of paragraphs later, Hernandez discusses the potential downside of such a high-profile slot:

Just as making an independent film in America is inherently risky, so to was the move to launch When A Man Falls in The Forest in front of buyers, media and audiences here in Berlin. The decision to place Eslinger’s film in the main competition has been a hot topic among festival insiders and observers all week, some saying that in the wake of damning trade reviews that hit just hours after the film’s debut, such a delicate film shouldn’t have screened in the high-profile slot where the tradition has been to showcase high profile studio films from America. While some German papers were apparently upbeat about the movie, Variety labeled it a “precocious Amerindie cinema” and Screen International dissed it as being part of a long line of Sundance misfires (citing its support from the Sundance Institute labs). Perhaps, some argued, the film belonged in the Panorama or Focus sections where audiences and critics alike are more accustomed to challenging, personal work.

“Definitely it was always was a question of whether (When A Man Falls In The Forest) could withstand the always intense pressure of Berlin,” Roy told indieWIRE the day that the trade reviews hit, “Everyone knows that this is one of the toughest gatherings of the press in the world. Cannes and Berlin are right up there, but Berlin sometimes, I feel, is tougher.”

The film receives its U.S. premiere at SXSW next month. As a fan of Eslinger’s first film, Madness and Genius, I’m looking forward to seeing it.

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