Festivals (#110 of 1039)

Marrakech International Film Festival I Am Twenty, Zoology, Orphan, A Talk with Abderrahmane Sissako, & More

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Marrakech International Film Festival: I Am Twenty, Zoology, Orphan, A Talk with Abderrahmane Sissako, & More

Lago Film

Marrakech International Film Festival: I Am Twenty, Zoology, Orphan, A Talk with Abderrahmane Sissako, & More

The labyrinthine security apparatus surrounding the Marrakech International Film Festival's red carpet, the high-wattage of its celebrity and auteur attendees, and the live-broadcast-TV slickness of its nightly award ceremonies made for a persistently surreal backdrop. I had to remind myself that the tributes to Paul Verhoeven and Isabelle Adjani also entailed mini-retrospectives across the festival's smaller venues, and the “Tribute to Russian Cinematography” included public screenings of over two dozen movies ranging from Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin to Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan. Again, all screenings were free to the registered public. Culture: commodity or charity?

Mar del Plata International Film Festival Honoring Masao Adachi, Anti-Porno, We Are the Flesh, & More

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Mar del Plata International Film Festival 2016: Honoring Masao Adachi, Anti-Porno, We Are the Flesh, & More

Arrow Films

Mar del Plata International Film Festival 2016: Honoring Masao Adachi, Anti-Porno, We Are the Flesh, & More

With its beaches and maritime climate, Mar del Plata has been hailed as the Cannes of Latin America. The Argentine city merits the title in some ways, as Mar del Plata hosts the only A-list film festival in the region, the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, which pools a considerable number of films from top European festivals. This year's slate was a fair representation of the festival's ambition to mirror Western trends, featuring Cristi Piu's Sieranevada, Oliver Assayas's Personal Shopper, Hong sang-soo's Yourself and Yours, Radu Jude's Scarred Hearts, and Lav Diaz's The Woman Who Left.

Cairo International Film Festival The Other Land, We Are Never Alone, Clash, Kills on Wheels, Mimosas, & More

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Cairo International Film Festival: The Other Land, We Are Never Alone, Clash, Kills on Wheels, Mimosas, & More

Kino Lorber

Cairo International Film Festival: The Other Land, We Are Never Alone, Clash, Kills on Wheels, Mimosas, & More

From the window of an airplane, metropolitan Cairo seems to stretch into infinity, a truly ancient city that keeps adding onto itself, year after year. A handful of cities occupy a greater land area, but fewer appear to be as impossibly intricate and dense, its overwhelming breadth a dreamed thing. The next thing you notice is that Cairo wears its history on its sleeve. Very little fails to carry signification of events and people, past and present. Does your town have a bridge named after an historic date? The river island of Zamalek connects with Tahrir Square and points east using the “6th of October Bridge,” named for a successful show of force against Israeli occupiers in 1967. Even the hotel where most guests of the Cairo International Film Festival stayed, the Cairo Marriott, has thick roots in the 19th century, as related by a short documentary preloaded in each room's television set, explaining the colocation of a sleek, modern hotel within the 150-year-old Gezirah Palace. The Marriott, by the virtue of its dual structure, symbolizes the city's relentless, incremental layering of the new upon or within the old, the way a very old cathedral might be built over the ruins of an ancient one.

Marrakech International Film Festival A Talk with Shinya Tsukamoto, Honoring Paul Verhoeven, & a Look at The Fixer

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Marrakech International Film Festival: A Talk with Shinya Tsukamoto, Honoring Paul Verhoeven, & a Look at The Fixer

Marrakech International Film Festival

Marrakech International Film Festival: A Talk with Shinya Tsukamoto, Honoring Paul Verhoeven, & a Look at The Fixer

Under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI—to say nothing of the friendly participation of nearly three dozen multinational corporate sponsors—your correspondent was treated to just over a week in Marrakech, for the city's 16th Marrakesh International Film Festival (FIFM). On the flight from New York, a United Nations employee told me the country's vertiginous economics weren't so different from those of the United States, “but the difference is that in Marrakech, you will actually see it.” He wasn't wrong: The floors of the palatial hotel-resort-spa-compound housing the American critics' contingent were walked day and night by employees with spray bottles and paper towels, spot-cleaning every last inch of marble and glass for maximum lustre. Cab drivers in permanent turnaround outside the main quadrangle of hotels decried the festival compound for clogging traffic on the palm tree-laden main drag of El Yarmouk Boulevard, while children in the street ambushed American publicists with rose petals after the sun went down—then castigated them for refusing to pay for the privilege.

Marrakech International Film Festival An Interview with Director Béla Tarr

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Marrakech International Film Festival: An Interview with Director Béla Tarr

András Szebeni

Marrakech International Film Festival: An Interview with Director Béla Tarr

Whatever the forbidding stature of his work, Béla Tarr was the epitome of grace during a roundtable discussion at this year's Marrakech International Film Festival. At the end, he even acknowledged that he knows “the roundtable is the most horrible thing for a film journalist.” Tarr is president of the jury at this year's festival, which means mandatory morning viewings of each film in competition—and, if the rumors are true, much behind-closed-door deliberation. (Neither the festival's assembled press nor its publicists have quite recovered from the shockwaves of Francis Ford Coppola's landmark decision to grant last year's jury prize to “cinema itself.”) Three days into this year's festival, Tarr played it close to the vest, preferring to discuss his post-retirement career at the Sarajevo Film Academy's film.factory—which sounds like heaven for cinephiles—and why, even if he's no longer directing features, he's far from finished with the “drug” of filmmaking.

Los Cabos International Film Festival Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

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Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

When I left my apartment in Brooklyn for John F. Kennedy International Airport, late at night on November 8th, neither Hilary Rodham Clinton nor Donald J. Trump had yet secured the 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected the 45th president of the United States. By the time I got through security checks and made it to my gate—where TV screens were broadcasting returns from key battleground states—the race was called. Of course, I needn't hear the result: I saw it on the faces of the people waiting to board, a mix of utter shock and overwhelming concern that the future of our republic would be determined by the most inexperienced, unqualified, and roundly disreputable person to ever hold the highest office.

Zurich Film Festival 2016 Vanatoare, Europe, She Loves, Sketches of Lou, The Eremites, & More

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Zurich Film Festival 2016: Vanatoare, Europe, She Loves, Sketches of Lou, The Eremites, & More

Zurich Film Festival

Zurich Film Festival 2016: Vanatoare, Europe, She Loves, Sketches of Lou, The Eremites, & More

One of my primary curiosities coming to Zurich—in addition, of course, to exploring the historic city and its surrounding natural wonders—was to get a better sense of independent German-language cinema beyond the more recognizable names circulated in international festivals. This niche is well represented here in the Focus section, which spotlights works from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, though oddly enough, a large percentage of the films competing in this sidebar are actually set elsewhere. Case in point: Berlin-based director Alexandra Balteanu's well-meaning but interminable Vanatoare, a visually sloppy (lots of bumbling widescreen handheld work in low light) piece of Romanian miserabilism that's as much about a rundown, puddle-strewn highway underpass in perpetually overcast Bucharest as it is about any of its interchangeably down-and-out characters.

New York Film Festival 2016 Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, I Called Him Morgan, & Uncle Howard

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New York Film Festival 2016: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, I Called Him Morgan, & Uncle Howard

Kartemquin Films

New York Film Festival 2016: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, I Called Him Morgan, & Uncle Howard

Steve James displays his usual savvy for picking culturally resonant topics in his latest documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. This time it's the oddly underreported story of Abacus, the eponymous family-owned Chinatown business, which is the only U.S. bank ever indicted for fraud in connection with the subprime mortgage scandal of the late 2000s. The rest of the film's title comes from journalist Matt Taibbi, who explains that the banks actually responsible for the crisis were all deemed “too big to fail,” so none were prosecuted for their crimes. “Too big to fail translates to small enough to jail, and Abacus is small enough to jail,” he says.

New York Film Festival 2016 Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s Karl Marx City

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New York Film Festival 2016: Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s Karl Marx City

New York Film Festival

New York Film Festival 2016: Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s Karl Marx City

That so much of the archival footage from Karl Marx City is banal only makes it more troubling. The material comes from the surveillance records of the Stasi, the East German secret police that conducted extensive domestic surveillance during the Cold War era to weed out the disloyal. As such, the copious video of public spaces—buildings, streets, parks—speaks to the totality of the state's monitoring of citizens, so extreme that all of those areas aren't simply documented, but covered from every conceivable angle, allowing directors Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker to piece together continuity editing of 30-year-old footage. As Epperlein grimly notes at one point, the high level of coverage used to spy on unaware citizens walking around the city produces perhaps the closest thing to documentary truth, a complete record of lives unperturbed by knowledge of the cameras.

Zurich Film Festival 2016 Porto, La Reconquista, Lady Macbeth, & Two Lottery Tickets

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Zurich Film Festival 2016: Porto, La Reconquista, Lady Macbeth, & Two Lottery Tickets

Double Play Films

Zurich Film Festival 2016: Porto, La Reconquista, Lady Macbeth, & Two Lottery Tickets

It's generally agreed upon that one should allow themselves a few hours of decompression and acclimation when first landing in a faraway city, but as I drowsily touched down for the 12th annual Zurich Film Festival after an arduous 10-hour flight, time was not on my side, so I rushed instead to a film that captures something ineffable about the frazzled traveler's mindset. Gabe Klinger's Porto, my first taste of the festival at an evening showing, is about bemusedly roaming in half-light through a foreign city while periodically drifting in and out of recollections of a potent recent relationship gone sour.