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The 2007 BRM Fall Film Festival Preview #1: Lee Issac Chung’s Munyurangabo (Liberation Day)

The 2007 BRM Fall Film Festival Preview #1: Lee Issac Chung's Munyurangabo (Liberation Day)

While the rest of the world gears up for the autumn by turning their attentions from the parade of summer blockbusters (and the requisite discussion of money money money) to the fall festivals and their impact on the awards season (and the requisite discussion of money money money), I think it is important to talk about some of the upcoming films that may be flying under the radar. The festival season kicks off in earnest this weekend when my Mrs. heads off to Telluride, and I’m looking forward to our annual Friday afternoon phone call, when we look over the program and plan her weekend. My own festival season jump starts when I leave for Toronto next Wednesday, and I thought I would spend the intervening week previewing a different film each day. Yes, while the world at large awaits Atonement (loved the book, very interested in the film), Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Michael Clayton, I’ve got my eye on some films that may not have the publicity, but seem to promise tremendous quality.

First up is Lee Issac Chung’s Munyurangabo, a film shot in Rwanda by an American director using non-actors. Munyurangabo was in this year’s Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, just played Sarajevo, and I have yet to hear or read a single negative word about it. In fact, I am not sure I have ever read a more positive Variety Review in my life:

“Like a bolt out of the blue, Korean American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung achieves an astonishing and thoroughly masterful debut with Munyurangabo, which is — by several light years — the finest and truest film yet on the moral and emotional repercussions of the 15-year-old genocide that wracked Rwanda. Pic’s supremely confident, simple storytelling and relaxed, slightly impressionist visual style follow a conflict that emerges between two friends as one makes a long-delayed homecoming. This is, flat-out, the discovery of this year’s Un Certain Regard batch, and deserves loving care from arthouse distribs after a liberating and fruitful fest tour.”— Robert Koehler, Variety

Lee Issac Chung’s Munyurangabo (Liberation Day)

The film is playing Toronto in the Contemporary World Cinema section and looks to be tremendous. A little clicking around, and I stumbled upon Lee Issac Chung’s Almond Tree Films, which has a biography of the Director:

“A son of Korean immigrants, Chung grew up on a small farm in rural Arkansas and then attended Yale University to study Biology. At Yale, with new exposure to art cinema in his senior year, Chung dropped his plans for medical school and turned to film making. Munyurangabo is his first feature film. He resides in New York with his wife Valerie and has recently formed Almond Tree Films, LLC, with his collaborators and fellow filmmakers, Samuel Anderson and Jenny Lund. In addition to supporting their personal works, the company is working to create a school for cinema in Rwanda.”

The company sounds as interesting to me as the film does; I really can’t wait to see it and talk to the team about their experience. This is what film festivals are all about and my hopes are high.

Munyurangabo (Liberation Day) is playing at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema section.

Tomorrow: Jellyfish by Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret

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