BERLIN 2000 DIARY: "Best" Isn't Good Enough, "George Washington"
Buzzes, and Northern Europe Unites
by Mark Rabinowitz/indieWIRE
(indieWIRE/2.22.2000) -- Go to a high spot in Berlin (my hotel room, for instance) and as far as
the eye can see, the city is under construction. Berliners are fed up
with the "second city of Europe" status that their metropolis has
endured for quite some time, and are determined to place Germany's
capital city alongside Paris and London as the premier urban centers of
the continent. If the partially completed Potsdammer Platz is any
indication, look for Berlin to become a model for modern and post-modern
architecture and city planning in the years to come. One cannot help but
be incredibly curious to see what happens to the city over the next 5-10
"Best" Is Not
I only wish the same care was taken in the construction and editing of
Mary McGuckian's "Best." Based on the number of folks I ran into that
had seen it, I have to say it was one of the most highly anticipated
films in the Berlin market, and yet, it managed to disappoint on almost
every level. That said, depending on how much film is on the
cutting-room floor, a massive re-edit could save the picture.
The film is the story of football (soccer) wunderkind Georgie Best who
was discovered in the mid-1950's by a scout for English league
Manchester United while a schoolboy in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Signing to Man U's youth team, Best quickly proved his extraordinary
talent, and became the star of the team and an immense star in England,
rivaling the Beatles (with whom he shared a certain shaggy haircut) in
popularity with girls and women. Unfortunately, as is often the case,
overindulgence in drinking, gambling and sex proved to be his downfall,
and he became a premiere example for wasted talent, washing out of Man U
at the age of 27, after scoring 178 goals in ten years. Showing his
typical wit, Best was once quoted as saying "I spent a lot of money on
booze, birds and fast cars...the rest I just squandered."
Two of the three major reasons the film is worth attempting to save are
the performances of lead John Lynch ("In the Name of the Father," "Some
Mother's Son") and Adrian Lester ("Primary Colors," "Love's Labour's
Lost."), who give honest, intelligent performances. The third reason is
the extraordinary story of Georgie Best himself, and his talent and
squandering thereof, which if re-edited in a coherent fashion, could
overcome the stiff script and result in a moving film. One can only hope
the possibility exists to save the film.
George Washington Returns
Christa Saredi of World Sales Christa Saredi acquired the worldwide
non-US/Canada sales rights to David Gordon Green's Forum and Market buzz
film, "George Washington." The film generated interest among several
small U.S. distributors, with one co-president stating that he expected
to close a deal shortly. The film is repped by former Blow Up Pictures
topper Sharan Sklar, who left the digital film production arm of Open
City Films after the recently completed International Film Festival
Rotterdam. Sklar was also in Berlin repping Mei Juin Chen's doc "The
World of Mei Lanfang."
Northern Europe's One Happy Family
One of the more interesting things I learned about at this year's Berlin
Market was the unique cooperation that exists between the countries of
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. As I reported in my last
piece, the collective Scandinavian booths at the European Film Market
threw a party for their four Oscar nominations, and it wasn't
immediately clear which country had produced which film.
Over drinks and cigars, I sat down with Tom Remlov, the Managing
Director of Norsk Film and co - or exec producer on many of the
company's efforts, to talk about their current and upcoming projects.
Tom said that many of their directors had received offers from Hollywood
studios, including Hans Petter Moland, the director of "Zero Kelvin" and
Karin Julsrud, the director of "Bloody Angels," which is set to be
remade in English by Good Machine.
Also, in keeping with the spirit of cooperation, several of Norsk Films
projects have been co-productions with other Scandinavian countries,
including the upcoming "Aberdeen," which stars Ian Hart, Stellan
Skarsgard and Charlotte Rampling (UK/Norway/Sweden) and "Zero Kelvin,"
which also stars Skarsgard (Norway/Sweden). Interestingly, Skarsgard and
Rampling also co-star in the Berlin competition entry, "Signs and
According to Remlov, Norsk Film also has the largest post-production
facility in Scandinavia, as well as a thriving development arm, which
includes the comedy "Il Norvegese," an Italian/Norwegian co-production
about playwright Henrik Ibsen's journeys to Italy. "This should take
some people by surprise," Remlov remarked, "as when most think of Ibsen,
they remember his serious plays, while this is a comedy about him."
(As a side note, the Scandinavians -- obviously used to cold weather --
were placed on the second floor of the Market in the hottest place in
the building. Unfair, I say.)
Looking For Oscar
Every year, for at least the past 6, I have gotten up at the crack of
dawn to watch the Oscar nominations live. Ok, Ok, I'm in indie film, but
besides the fact that indies get nominated every year, can't I love
Hollywood films, too? Well, being in Berlin afforded me the chance to
watch them at the more civilized hour of 2:30 pm. Anyway, here in
Berlin, everyone feigns disinterest in the Oscars. The press office
scoffed when I asked them about the possibility of showing the CNN
International broadcast of the nods on the big screen outside of the
Berlinale-Palast, and the Hyatt wouldn't let me into the only bar in the
place with a TV because I wasn't staying at the hotel. However,
standing in the middle of Marlene-Deitrich-Platz, I spied the only place
with a public TV. . . Tony Roma's! I sat down at the bar, requested CNN,
ordered a beer and settled in to watch the pageantry. Alas, I was the
only soul in the place even remotely interested in the proceedings.
There was a table of German fest attendees, but they couldn't have cared
The bartender, though, was interested.
Two of the more pleasant parties I attended were coincidentally related:
the annual IFP dinner, sponsored by Eastman Kodak, on the middle Sunday
night of the fest and the FILMMAKER Magazine party, co-sponsored by the
IFP, celebrating the launch of their German distribution. The former,
held in the Charlottenburg neighborhood of what used to be West Berlin,
was held at Restaurant Diekmann, a small, classy joint with a
deliriously multi-lingual staff. You could order in French, be answered
in German, order again in English and be answered in Spanish. Attendees
at the dinner included Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker, "Naked
States" director Arlene Donnelly and husband and producer David Nelson,
"Straighman" producer/director Ben Berkowitz and producer Ben Redgrave,
as well as Sharan Sklar and IFP chief Michelle Byrd.
The latter party, a drinks reception at a stylish, almost invisible,
barely completed East Berlin bar boasted many of the same attendees as
the IFP dinner, with the notable addition of REM frontman and
indie film producer, b, on hand to support Jem Cohen and
Peter Sillen's film "Benjamin Smoke," which Stipe's company C-Hundred
Film Corp presented. Other guests included "Night Waltz: The Music of
Paul Bowles" director Owsley Brown, III; Kodak's Ericka Frederich; IFFM
Coordinator Milton Tabbot, and Cowboy Booking International co-president
Stay tuned to continuing coverage of the 50th Berlinale, where you'll
learn more about Kenneth Branagh's new effort, a few choice docs, and
the case of some quality indies that distributors need to take a hard
second look at. Until then, auf Wiedersehen.