International Films Glow on Abu Dhabi Film Festival Screens
The human spirit is the underlying theme that captures the essence of this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival programme, which was unveiled today.
Veteran filmmakers have focused on contemporary topics that touch on the deepest concerns of people who confront political despotism, social injustice, humiliation, failures of conscience, retreats of faith, loss of identity, personal journeys and migrations.
These are some of the human dilemmas that will be addressed in this year’s captivating festival selections. More than just entertaining viewers, these films essentially pose a key question: Are we experiencing a decline in the civilization for which people have sacrificed their lives over generations? Are we heading towards an era more cruel and ruthless than humankind has ever experienced?
ART HOUSE FILMS
The Festival includes films from prominent filmmakers acclaimed for their vision and understanding of today’s ever-changing world, its protagonists as well as its outcasts. A compelling film in this year’s slate is An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival. The visionary director of No Man's Land and Cirkus Columbia, Bosnian helmer Danis Tanović, portrays the harrowing ordeal of a Gypsy family. A young mother faces a deadly illness and has to deal with a bureaucracy that requires her to pay up before she can have an operation, in a devastating condemnation of discrimination against the poor.
In China, master Jia Zhangke tackles the destruction of the human soul and the drive for revenge in the drama A Touch of Sin, winner of Best Screenplay at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Familial roots are perceptively examined in British director Stephen Frears’ Philomena and Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s award-winning Like Father, Like Son.
The director of Humanity and Outside Satan, the renowned Bruno Dumont, details the last days in the life of one of France’s most underappreciated artists in a mental asylum as she faces fabricated insanity claims brought against by her own family. Audiences will be able to go back in time and experience Dumont’s unique Camille Claudel 1915.
At the core of his new film, Jealousy, Philippe Garrel focuses on the eternal conflict between moral values and their transgression. Telling the story of a young father who works as a playwright and the many women around him, the film is a thought-provoking story that will capture the hearts of the audience.
Evil as an underlying theme is tackled in Ida, an engaging story from the Polish director of My Summer of Love, Pavel Pawlikowski, who focuses on the feelings of a young girl preparing to be ordained as a nun. Her convictions are dramatically overturned by a relative who, to her surprise, knows of a terrible secret about her family past.
One of most impressive screenplays that audiences will enjoy in the Narrative Feature Competition is the new film by Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić For Those Who Can Tell No Tales, which brings back bitter memories of the war, previously depicted in her masterpiece Grbavica (Golden Bear, Berlin Film Festival). In her new flilm, Žbanić follows the true story of a horrific discovery made by an Australian tourist about the massacre in the city of Fishguard, where Serbians had killed 3,000 Bosnian Muslims. The film’s young protagonist unveils the collective silence and political hypocrisy that led to the coverup of this horrific war crime.
After key cinematic achievements in American indie cinema including Stranger than Paradise and Dead Man, controversial director Jim Jarmusch is back with Only Lovers Left Alive, a powerful story set in Morocco as a backdrop for an intriguing black comedy on modern vampires who face risks of extinction following an incident of human blood pollution in the third millennium.
Audiences will have the opportunity to discover some fresh and promising cinema voices, such as Kazakhstani director Emir Baigazin’s surprising film Harmony Lessons centered on a youngster harassed by his colleagues at school with a series of events leading up to a murder.
Visionary Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer, this year’s 2013 Berlinale Golden Bear prizewinner, returns with a shocking and gripping film, Child's Pose, which focuses on the moral decline of an influential class in Romania following the fall of Ceaușescu.
Talented American director Kelly Reichardt presents an updated vision after her 2010 Meek’s Cutoff which focused on the daunting journey of white colonialists in the Pacific Northwest of America. In her latest film, Night Moves, Reichardt tells the story of three environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam.
Unique Indian director Richie Mehta brings a fresh yet shocking story to life in Siddharth, a drama centered on a young boy who is abducted by secret gangs who work in human trafficking.
American helmer Destin Daniel Cretton has created a unique art house film that has generated raves in the international festival circuit. Short Term 12 tells the story of a twentysomething supervising staff member of a foster care facility.
Australian director Aaron Wilson (Ahmed's Garden) is in the New Horizons competition this year with an epic tale of courage. Canopy tells the story of an Australian pilot whose plane crashes in the jungles of Singapore during World War II and his fight for salvation and peace. Walking the line between comedy and drama, Bengali director Aparna Sen is back with her new film The Jewellery Box, based on the fascinating novel Goynar Baksho, recounts the story of a lady using spirits to protect a family treasure from her greedy relatives.
Belgian director Felix van Groeningen intertwines music and love in his strong melodrama The Broken Circle Breakdown about a bluegrass musician who falls in love with a tattoo parlor operator. Following their marriage, they give birth to a girl who develops symptoms of a deadly illness. Their world collapses in pain and their love is at stake.
Some of the world’s most prominent documentary films are featured in this year’s Festival slate. Touching on political and social issues, these documentary marvels reveal the consequences of bigotry and exploitation.
Cambodian veteran Rithy Panh’s documentary The Missing Picture is a prime example of a political documentary that depicts oppression. In his latest work, Panh tells the heartbreaking story of his family’s extermination at the hands of the Khmer Rouge by using mud dummies to tell the story instead of conventional live actors.
Combining realism with a strong message to make an astonishing documentary, Italian director Gianfranco Rosi carried his camera and documented the lives of marginal people living at the edges of the ring road around the Roman capital in his masterpiece documentary Holy Gra which won the Golden Lion at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, the first documentary ever to do so. French director Fabien Constant goes for a trendy documentary style in his latest Mademoiselle C about the case of Carine Roitfeld, the journalist who was the second most powerful person at Vogue magazine and her decision to launch a competing magazine bearing her initials, CR.
American Douglas Kass returns with an intriguing documentary backed up by the most famous writer in his hometown, Jonathan Franzen, author of the critically acclaimed books Freedom and Corrections. Based on a Franzen article which had sparked much debate, Emptying the Skies focuses on an ecological crime which has been taking place for centuries in Cyprus, the brutal hunting of the rarest birds on the Mediterranean island.
Ziad El Khozaii