SLIFF 2012 Narrative Features
Oldies But Goodies
Former teacher Ota has turned a bit whimsical in his old age, complicating the lives of his son and daughter-in-law. Faced with a major surgery, Ota avoids the operation and impulsively decides that the time is right to check an item off his bucket list by tracking down the great actress Jana, who had influenced his life many years ago. When he finally meets Jana, however, the result is much different than he’d imagined. The vital, headstrong actress is dismayed at how old age has diminished her, and her situation inspires Ota to live his life again. Their meeting persuades both of them that the worst thing one can do is give up, and they set out together on an ambitious road trip to win Jana an audition in Prague.
The Olivia Experiment
In this sly comedy, Olivia is a gender-studies graduate student who has grown convinced she is an asexual. Rather than remain conflicted about her sexual identity, Olivia decides to attempt sex with a friend’s loaned-out boyfriend during the course of a weekend. As a way of gaining better insight into her issues with sex – and as a means of contributing to an enhanced understanding of asexuality – Olivia decides to film the weekend’s “experiment” with the help of a lesbian camerawoman. Olivia’s meticulous plans go awry, however, leading to some unexpected conclusions about her own and others’ sexuality. First-time feature director Schenk was co-executive producer of the TV series “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and “The Cougar.”
With director Schenk on Nov. 14.
Lek is a lonely locksmith who’s never had a girlfriend. Kong is an aspiring writer who lives with his mom. Working side-by-side at the shopping mall – one copying keys, the other selling tabloid magazines – the two misfits hatch a plan that combines their talents. Breaking into apartments during the day while the owners are at work, Lek and Kong don’t steal anything; instead, they borrow the lives, the loves, and the possessions of the residents. One day, however, the pair borrows more than they bargained for, and an injured Lek wakes up in a hospital. To his confusion, everyone calls him Kong. After his release, Lek attempts to understand what’s occurred by breaking into his friend’s home, where he discovers revealing secrets. But the mystery of Kong’s whereabouts hauntingly remains.
In this visually striking, award-winning psychological thriller, Zineb is an emotionally exhausted psychiatrist assigned to Rihana, a traumatized and pregnant young woman found in the street muttering unintelligibly about “The Lord of the Horse.” A flashback reveals the origins of Rihana’s trauma: Her dictatorial father, horseman chief of his tribe, has raised her as the son his legacy demands, trapping the girl in a prison of parental delusion. Only when Rihana falls in love with a young man is she able to carve out the beginnings of an independent life. In treating Rihana, Zineb finds that her story awakens repressed thoughts in his own troubled mind, and he becomes increasingly lost in a haunted fever-dream of fear and denial.
Under the cloud of a military dictatorship, a young mother and her daughter flee Buenos Aires for the seclusion of a ramshackle cottage along the windy dunes of an Argentine beach. As her mother listens for news from the radio with sad stoicism, restlessly curious 7-year-old Cecilia joins a nearby school overseen by a kindly teacher. Her childhood idyll, however, soon becomes contaminated by the general political crisis when the teacher has the class participate in a patriotic essay contest sponsored by the army – the very people who may have already disappeared Cecilia’s father. A superbly acted and engrossingly atmospheric drama about innocence in illicit times, “The Prize” won the Silver Bear for Artistic Achievement at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival.
A broken family under an incestuous patriarch lives uneasily within the gated courtyard of a dilapidated Baghdad house. The pregnant daughter has fallen silent, finding some limited protection with the patriarch’s young second wife and his preteen son. Hard up for money, the household must also cope with a sullen and imperious boarder who works as a contract killer. Trapped in such bleak circumstances, the family members long for the freedom and safety that lie beyond the house’s gates. Iraqi filmmaker Oday Rasheed’s second feature gorgeously captures contemporary Baghdad’s stunned atmosphere, and the performances by his formidable cast suggest unexpected resilience in the face of catastrophe.
Assembling an all-star cast of British acting royalty, Oscar®-winning actor Dustin Hoffman makes a sparking directorial debut with “Quartet.” Based on Ronald Harwood’s play, the film tells the story of three former members of an opera quartet – Cissy (Pauline Collins), Wilf (Billy Connolly), and Reginald (Tom Courtenay) – who now live quietly in Beecham House retirement home and perform an annual concert for Giuseppe Verdi’s birthday. However, the arrival of Jean (Maggie Smith) – Reginald’s ex-wife and the fourth member of the quartet – seriously roils the placid life at Beecham House. Rivalries stir and temperaments clash, putting into doubt whether the show will go on. Although this delightful film pokes gentle fun at the more humorous aspects of old age, it also movingly acknowledges the quartet members’ legitimate fears about losing the talents that have defined their lives for so long.
The Rabbi’s Cat
Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Joann Sfar – an award-winning filmmaker (“Gainsbourg”) and one of France’s most celebrated comic artists – this gorgeously animated film tells the story of a widowed rabbi and his talking cat, a sharp-tongued feline philosopher who displays a less than pure love for the rabbi’s voluptuous teenage daughter. The cat miraculously gains the ability to speak after eating the family parrot, and along with the power of speech comes an unparalleled sardonic wit. Using the forthright cat as his mouthpiece, Sfar spares no one as the film skewers faith, tradition, and authority. Set in Algeria in the 1930s – an intersection of Jewish, Arab and French culture – “The Rabbi’s Cat” is rich with the colors, textures, flavors, and music of Mediterranean Africa, moving from the tiled terraces, fountains, quays, and cafes of colonial Algiers to Maghrebi tent camps, dusty trading outposts, and deep-blue Saharan nights.
In this disturbingly realistic debut feature – which Variety calls “a triumph of low-budget filmmaking” – a female investigator in the Israeli military is ordered to interrogate a senior officer who is alleged to have abused an Arab family. Her questioning is greeted with sarcasm by the accused commander, while her colleagues, including her lover, advise her to stop the case – it is too political, too complex, and too notorious. Instead, she continues her pursuit with dog-on-bone tenacity, eschewing the approval of her male superiors in favor of morality and justice for the victims. Unfortunately, her idealistic fight against the perceived abuse of power might have far-reaching consequences for everyone involved. “Room 514” won the prize for Best New Narrative Director and received a Special Jury Mention at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
Rust and Bone
Lonely and destitute, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts, “Bullhead”) leaves the north of France for his sister’s house in Antibes after becoming the sole guardian of his estranged 5-year-old son. When he meets the radiant and beautiful Stephanie (Marion Cotillard, “La Vie En Rose”), a woman who trains Orca whales at Marineland, things quickly start to look up. Though her position on the high end of the social spectrum makes romance an unlikely prospect for the pair, when a tragic accident robs her of her legs, Stephanie reaches out in desperation to Ali. Although her spirit has been broken by the tragedy that took her legs, Stephanie gradually finds the courage to go on living through transcendent moments spent with Ali – a man with precious little pity but an enormous love of life. One of the buzz films of Cannes, “Rust and Bone” is directed by Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet,” “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”).