Bermuda Opens with "Anger"; Features Oscar Shorts Contenders
by Brian Brooks
Mike Binder's "The Upside of Anger" opens the 8th Bermuda International Film Festival today, launching a line up of films competing in its features, documentary and "New Realities" sections as well as an aggressive list of shorts slated to screen, reflecting the event's status as an Academy-sanctioned festival for Oscar consideration in the shorts category.
New Line's "The Upside of Anger," which played this year at Sundance, stars Joan Allen as a suburban wife and mother who is left to raise her four aggressive daughters when her husband disappears. The plot thickens as Terry (Allen) falls for her neighbor Denny (Kevin Costner).
Seven films will screen in BIFF's "Fresh Visions" competition from around the world, including Indian director Bharatbala's "Harlom." The film follows a French couple as they travel through India on the "Palace on Wheels" train, which serves as a defacto ivory tower from India itself. Isa, however, leaves Benoit at a business meeting, and encounters a rickshaw driver, who takes her on a journey that culminates in romance, while discovering "true" India.
Norwegian director Erik Poppe's "Hawaii, Oslo," meanwhile, interweaves five storylines set against the backdrop of the hottest day of the year in Oslo, Norway. The people featured in the film are all "running for something, searching for something, or dreaming of something else" on this day. Gradually, the film reveals its interconnected relations.
Seven films will also screen in the festival's "New Realities" doc competition, including German/American production "The Devil's Miner" by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani. Set in the silver mining town of Cerro Rico, Bolivia, the film is the story of the mostly American-Indian miners who travel two faiths in their lives. Above ground, they are generally pious Catholics, but down in the mine, it is the Devil who rules. Only the Devil can decide whether rich veins of silver are to be found, so miners have filled the corridors of the mine with mysterious images to honor him. The story also focuses on two boys who work the mine, Basilio Vargas, and his brother, who both work the mine daily.
Canadian documentarians François Prévost and Hugo Latulippe's "What Remains of Us" follows the story of Tibetan refugee Kalsang Dolma as she travels home for a trip from her residence in Québec. Hidden in her backpack is a portable video player carrying a message from the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, who has lived in India since China invaded the once sovereign country in 1950. Kalsang travels the country, which has experienced widespread death since the Chinese takeover, showing the Dalai Lama's words of hope to people who crowd around the tiny screen to listen.
Sundance '05 doc "Murderball" by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro is also on tap for BIFF's doc section. The film, a favorite of the festival circuit, is the story of quadriplegics who compete in rugby from their wheelchairs profiling "larger-than-life" personalities who triumph over daunting odds. "Murderball" destroys stereotypes about what it means to be handicapped.
BIFF has selected six films for its World Cinema Showcase, including Korean director Kim Ki-duk's ("Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring") latest, "3-Iron" about a harmless loner who travels by motorcycle looking for empty houses to stay in. Also on slated are Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education," and Fatih Akin's "Head-On" as well as French comedy-drama "Look at Me," by Agnes Jaoui, winner of the best screenplay award at the 2004 Festival de Cannes.
Other special presentations include Palm Springs 2005 doc "The Last Mogul" by Barry Avrich about the late MCA/Universal chief, Lew Wasserman. Jonathan Stack and Liz Garbus' "The Farm: Life Inside Angola Prison" (1998) will also screen as a special presentation. The film follows six inmates at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, America's largest prison, once a slave plantation, but converted to a place of incarceration since the end of the Civil War. The film screens as a companion to Jonathan Stack's "Liberia: An Uncivil War," which captures the internal strife of Liberia in the summer of 2003, a country born from slavery in America.
Bermuda will fete British director Michael Winderbottm this year as the "Filmmaker in Focus." Four films will be screened by Winterbottom, including "9 Songs," "In This World," "24 Hour Party People," and "Wonderland." Iranian cinema will also be feted during the six-day festival which concludes March 24. Four titles, including 2003 Cannes Jury Prize winner "At Five in the Afternoon," Rotterdam 2005 audience winner "Turtles Can Fly" by Bahman Ghobadi, Mamad Haghighat's Cannes 2003 feature "Two Angels," and Iranian New Wave director Dariush Mehrjui's comedy, "Mama's Guest."
Paramount Classics' Slamdance 2005 feature "Mad Hot Ballroom," will close the festival. The popular doc by Marilyn Agrelo focuses on eleven-year-old New York City public school children, who take on ballroom dancing, and "reveal pieces of themselves and their world along the way." Told through their experiences, the kids are transformed from reluctant participants to determined competitors and from typical urban kids to "ladies and gentlemen," as they prepare for the final citywide competition.
[ For more information, and the festival's full lineup, please visit http://www.biff.bm ]