WATER & POWER director Marina Zenovich will participate in a Q&A following the 7:40 PM screening at the Monica Film Center on Friday, March 3.
KEDI filmmaker Ceyda Torun will participate in Q&As after the following screenings:
5:30pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
7:50pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
1:00pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
3:20pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
5:30pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
7:50pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
1:00pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
3:20pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
5:30pm – Ceyda Torun at the Royal
Hundreds of thousands of Turkish cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame –and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.
Critics and internet cats agree – the cat documentary KEDI, which we open at the Royal, Playhouse and Town Center on February 17, will charm its way into your heart and home as you fall in love with the cats in Istanbul. This film is a sophisticated take on your typical cat video that will both dazzle and educate. What’s more, free organic “Turkish blend” catnip to opening weekend audiences, while supplies last!
In his Variety review, Joe Leydon called KEDI a “magical and remarkable…splendidly graceful and quietly magical documentary about the multifaceted feline population of Istanbul…heartfelt…the beautifully spare musical score by Kira Fontana provides the perfect accompaniment for what gradually emerges as a profoundly affecting meditation, at once dreamy and precise, on a force of nature – several forces of nature, actually, with paws and tails – surviving and thriving in an industrialized world.”
Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Sheri Linden said, “for anyone who’s curious about the historical events and municipal policies affecting Istanbul’s thriving population of street cats, KEDI offers little in the way of informative detail. But if you’d just like to hang with a few of the scrappy felines, Ceyda Torun’s entrancing documentary is manna from the cat gods. A collective portrait that’s as elegant as its light-footed subjects, it’s guaranteed to soothe a weary mind, and just might lower blood pressure, too.
Born in Istanbul, KEDI director-producer Ceyda Torun spent her formative early years among the street cats while her mother worried she’d get rabies and her sister worried she’d bring home fleas. After her family left the country when she was eleven, Ceyda lived in Amman, Jordan, and ended up in New York for her high school years, never encountering a street cat. Ceyda studied Anthropology at Boston University, returned to Istanbul to assist director Reha Erdem and then off to London to work alongside producer Chris Auty. She returned to the U.S. and co-founded Termite Films with cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann and has since directed her first feature documentary. She still misses her feline companions, gets excited whenever she sees a cat on the streets of Los Angeles, but they rarely feel the same way about her. About KEDI, she said the following:
“I grew up in Istanbul until I was eleven years old and I believe my childhood was infinitely less lonesome than it would have been if it weren’t for cats. And I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Every year that I returned to the city, I saw it change in ways that made it less and less recognizable, except for the cats; they were the one constant element, becoming synonymous with the city itself and ultimately, embodying its soul. This film is, in many ways, a love letter to those cats and the city, both of which are changing in ways that are unpredictable.
“When we set out to make this film, I had many ideas about what it should be. I hoped to show Istanbul in ways that went beyond tour guides and news headlines. I wanted to explore philosophical themes that would make you, the audience, ponder about our relationship to cats, to nature, to each other.
“In the end, I hope this film makes you feel like you just had a cat snuggle up on your lap unexpectedly, and purr fervently for a good long time, while allowing you to stroke it gently along its back; forcing you, simply because you can’t move without letting go of that softness and warmth, to think about things that you may not have given yourself time to think about in the busy life you lead, to discuss them with a group of new friends, friends from Istanbul who tell you what the city is really like.
“Hopefully this film will be that experience for you, and that you’ll leave with a yearning in your hands to pet a cat, and visit Istanbul.”
THE FREEDOM TO MARRY director Eddie Rosenstein and subject Evan Wolfson will participate in Q&A’s at the Monica Film Center after the 7:50 PM screenings on Friday and Saturday, March 10 and 11, and after the 3:10 show on Sunday, March 12.
MR. GAGA director Tomer Heymann will participate in Q&A’s after the 7:20pm screenings at the Monica Film Center Friday, Feb 10 and Saturday, Feb 11; and after the 1:10pm screening on Saturday, Feb 11 at the Playhouse.
From Indiewire: “’I am not the father of neorealism on screen, you are,’ said director Roberto Rossellini to novelist, playwright and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, one of the most prolific artists in the early years of cinema. Now, many will soon be able to watch one of Pagnol’s defining works in his career: the epic ‘Marseille Trilogy,’ a saga of love, labor and good food in 1930’s France, which will return to theaters in a brand-new 4K restoration this January 27 at the Royal in West L.A.
“The series follows young barkeep Marius (Pierre Fresnay) who is in love with the cockle monger Fanny (Orane Demazis), but cannot quell his wanderlust. Stretching out over years, their romance plays out amidst many provincial characters, like Marius’ father César (Raimu), who struggles to keep his family and community together, and Honoré Panisse (Fernand Charpin), the aged widower vying for Fanny’s hand.
“Though directed by three different filmmakers, the trilogy is written by Pagnol and thus governed by his distinctive voice and style. The first film “Marius,” directed by Alexander Korda, follows Marius and Fanny when they’re young and destined to marry, but Marius cannot get over his urge to voyage on the open sea. The second film “Fanny,” directed by Marc Allégret, follows Fanny’s grief after Marius’ sudden departure and her sudden pregnancy. The third film “César,” directed by Pagnol, takes place twenty years after “Fanny” and follows Fanny’s son Césariot (André Fouche) and his search for identity.
“The restored trilogy will premiere at the Film Forum in New York City on January 4 and at the Laemmle Royal Theatre in Los Angeles on January 27, courtesy of Janus Films.” ~ Vikram Murthi, Indiewire
MARIUS: Marius and Fanny, two young shopkeepers on the harbor front of Marseille, always seemed destined to marry, but Marius cannot overcome his urge to break free and voyage on the open sea. His father, César, is oblivious to the crisis, as is Honoré Panisse, the aged widower who is also vying for Fanny’s hand—until Fanny, knowing Marius’s happiness lies in the balance, changes their lives forever.
FANNY: Picking up moments after the end of Marius, this film follows Fanny’s grief after Marius’s departure—and her realization that she’s pregnant. Panisse continues courting her and embraces the baby’s impending arrival as a gift, so long as its paternity remains a secret. Fanny and Panisse wed, but after her baby’s birth, Marius returns unexpectedly and demands what he believes is still his.
CESAR: Twenty years have passed: Fanny’s son, Césariot, is in a military academy, and Panisse is on his deathbed, where the local priest demands that he tell his son about his biological father. Panisse refuses and dies; Fanny then divulges the secret, sending Césariot on a search for his own identity and for Marius, whose life has been fraught with calamity and poverty. Now free to follow her love, Fanny seeks out Marius as well, and with César’s help resolves their star-crossed destinies.
Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Cronk, said, “Opening on Jan. 27 at the Laemmle Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles is a new 4K digital restoration of “The Marseille Trilogy,” three classic French films from the dawn of the sound era scripted by renowned playwright Marcel Pagnol. Inspired by the growing popularity and possibilities of the moving image, Pagnol proposed a cinematic adaptation of his 1928 play, Marius, to Paramount Studios, who agreed to fund the project and enlist director Alexander Korda to helm the production. Released in 1931, Marius would prove an instant success, so much so that Pagnol’s and Korda’s neorealist-stoking depiction of the French coastal town and a pair of daydreaming shopkeepers would soon inspire two sequels, Fanny and César, made in relatively quick succession throughout the ’30s. Fanny, directed by Marc Allégret, follows Marius’ now-pregnant girlfriend as she copes with her lover’s absence and the advances of an older widower named Panisse, while César, directed by Pagnol himself, picks up 20 years later, following Fanny’s son as he investigates his past and attempts to learn the identity of his true father. Totaling nearly seven hours, “The Marseille Trilogy” unfolds with an uncommon level of intimacy and nuance, veering from comedy to melodrama in one of the era’s most expansive family sagas.”
In the New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg wrote of the Trilogy, “Often remade and revisited but never equaled, Pagnol’s Marseille trilogy — consisting of Marius and Fanny, Pagnol plays that were made into films by Alexander Korda in 1931 and Marc Allégret in 1932, and the straight-to-screen César, directed by Pagnol himself in 1936 — remains a classic of poetic French cinema. With cumulative emotional force, the three films, showing Jan. 4-12, tell the story of a gentle bar owner, César (the hulking, powerfully moving Raimu); his son, Marius (Pierre Fresnay), who loves Fanny (Orane Demazis) but can’t resist the siren call of the world away from home; and the widower Panisse (Charpin), a sailmaker who wishes to marry Fanny.”
Michael Sragow of Film Comment gushed, “The ‘girl woos boy, girl loses boy’ plot at the center of Marius (1931), Fanny(1932), and César (1936), playwright-turned-filmmaker Marcel Pagnol’s seriocomic Marseille Trilogy, is the steam engine that drives a marvelous old-school carousel. What makes this tragicomic merry-go-round so intoxicating is not its speed or pace (slow and steady), but the beauty of its weather-streaked, hand-carved figures as they chug up and down and come full circle.”
NERUDA star Luis Gnecco will participate in a Q&A after the 7:10 PM screening at the Royal on Saturday, January 7. Caroline Miranda of the Los Angeles Times will moderate.
Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, I, DANIEL BLAKE is the latest from legendary director Ken Loach. The film is a gripping, human tale about the impact one man can make. Gruff but goodhearted, Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a man out of time: a widowed woodworker who’s never owned a computer, he lives according to his own common sense moral code. But after a heart attack leaves him unable to work and the state welfare system fails him, the stubbornly self-reliant Daniel must stand up and fight for his dignity. Below is a recent interview with Mr. Loach:
There were rumors that Jimmy’s Hall was going to be your last film. Was that ever the case, and if so what persuaded you to make I, DANIEL BLAKE?
That was a rash thing to have said. There are so many stories to tell. So many characters to present…
What lies at that root of the story?
The universal story of people struggling to survive was the starting point. But then the characters and the situation have to be grounded in lived experience. If we look hard enough, we can all see the conscious cruelty at the heart of the state’s provision for those in desperate need and the use of bureaucracy, the intentional inefficiency of bureaucracy, as a political weapon: “This is what happens if you don’t work; if you don’t find work you will suffer.” The anger at that was the motive behind the film.
Where did you start your research?
I’d always wanted to do something in my home town which is Nuneaton in the middle of the Midlands, and so Paul and I went and met people there. I’m a little involved with a charity called Doorway, which is run by a friend Carol Gallagher. She introduced Paul and me to a whole range of people who were unable to find work for various reasons – not enough jobs being the obvious one. Some were working for agencies on insecure wages and had nowhere to live. One was a very nice young lad who took us to his room in a shared house helped by Doorway and the room was Dickensian. There was a mattress on the floor, a fridge but pretty well nothing else. Paul asked him would it be rude to see what he’d got in the fridge. he said, “No” and he opened the door: there was nothing, there wasn’t milk, there wasn’t a biscuit, there wasn’t anything. We asked him when was the last time he went without food, he said that the week before he’d been without food for four days. This is just straight hunger and he was desperate. He’d got a friend who was working for an agency. His friend had been told by the agency at five o’clock one morning to get to a warehouse at six o’clock. He had no transport, but he got there somehow, he was told to wait, and at quarter past six he was told, “Well there’s no work for you today.” He was sent back so he got no money. This constant humiliation and insecurity is something we refer to in the film.
Out of all the material you gathered and the people you met, how did you settle on a narrative?
That’s probably the hardest decision to take because there are so many stories. We felt we’d done a lot about young people – Sweet Sixteen was one – and we saw the plight of older people and thought that it often goes unremarked. There’s a generation of people who were skilled manual workers who are now reaching the end of their working lives. They have health problems and they won’t work again because they’re not nimble enough to duck and dive between agency jobs, a bit of this and a bit of that. They are used to a more traditional structure for work and so they are just lost. They can’t deal with the technology and they have health problems anyway. Then they are confronted by assessments for Employment and Support Allowance where you can be deemed fit for work when you’re not. The whole bureaucratic, impenetrable structure defeats people. We heard so many stories about that. Paul wrote the character Daniel Blake and the project was under way.
And your argument is that the bureaucratic structure is impenetrable by design…
Yes. The job centers now are not about helping people, they’re about setting obstacles in people’s way. There’s a job coach, as they’re called, who is not allowed now to tell people about the jobs available, whereas before they would help them to find work. There are expectations of the amount of number of people who will be sanctioned. If the interviewers don’t sanction enough people they themselves are put on ‘Personal Improvement Plans’. Orwellian, isn’t it? This all comes from research drawn from people who have worked at the DWP, they’ve worked in job centers and have been active in the Trade Union, PCS – the evidence is there in abundance. With the sanctioning regime it means people won’t be able to live on the money they’ve got and therefore food banks have come into existence. And this is something the government seems quite content about – that there should be food banks. Now they’re even talking about putting job coaches into food banks, so the food banks are becoming absorbed into the state as part of the mechanism of dealing with poverty. What kind of world have we created here?
Do you feel it’s a story that speaks mainly to these times?
I think it has wider implications. It goes back to the Poor Law, the idea of the deserving and the undeserving poor. The working class have to be driven to work by fear of poverty. The rich have to be bribed by ever greater rewards. The political establishment have consciously used hunger and poverty to drive people to accept the lowest wage and most insecure work out of desperation. The poor have to be made to accept the blame for their poverty. We see this throughout Europe and beyond.
What was it like going to film in food banks?
We went to a number of food banks together and Paul went to more on his own. The story of what we show in the food bank in the film was based on an incident that was described to Paul. Oh, food banks are awful; you see people in desperation. We were at a food bank in Glasgow and a man came to the door. He looked in and he hovered and then he walked away. One of the women working there went after him, because he was obviously in need, but he couldn’t face the humiliation of coming in and asking for food. I think that goes on all the time.
Why did you decide to set the film in Newcastle?
We went to a number of places – we went to Nuneaton, Nottingham, Stoke and Newcastle. We knew the North-West well having worked in Liverpool and Manchester so we thought we should try somewhere else. We didn’t want to be in London because that has got huge problems but they’re different and it’s good to look beyond the capital. Newcastle is culturally very rich. It’s like Liverpool, Glasgow, big cities on the coast. They are great visually, cinematic, the culture is very expressive and the language is very strong. There’s a great sense of resistance; generations of struggle have developed a strong political consciousness.
Describe the character of Daniel – who is he and what is his predicament?
Dan is a man who’s served his time as a joiner, a skilled craftsman. He’s worked on building sites, he’s worked for small builders, he’s been a jobbing carpenter and still works with wood for his own enjoyment. But his wife has died, he’s had a serious heart attack and nearly fell off some scaffolding; he’s instructed not to work and he’s still in rehabilitation, so he’s getting Employment and Support Allowance. The film tells a story of how he tries to survive in that condition once he’s been found ‘fit to work.’ He’s resilient, good humored and used to guarding his privacy.
And who is Katie?
Katie is a single mother with two small children. She’s been in a hostel in London when the local authority finds her a flat in the north where the rent will be covered by her housing benefit – that means the local authority doesn’t have to make up the difference. The flat’s fine, though it needs work, but then she falls foul of the system and she’s immediately in trouble – she’s got no family round her, no support, no money. Katie is a realist. She comes to recognize that her first responsibility is to survive somehow.
Much of the story deals with suffocating bureaucracy. How did you make that dramatic?
What I hope carries the story is that the concept is familiar to most of us. It’s the frustration and the black comedy of trying to deal with a bureaucracy that is so palpably stupid, so palpably set to drive you mad. I think if you can tell that truthfully and you’re reading the subtext in the relationship between the people across a desk or over a phone line, that should reveal the comedy of it, the cruelty of it – and, in the end, the tragedy of it. ‘The poor are to blame for their poverty’ – this protects the power of the ruling class.
What you were looking for in your Dan and in your Katie when you cast Dave Johns and Hayley Squires?
Well, for Dan we looked for the common sense of the common man. Every day he’s turned up for work, he’s worked alongside mates; there’s the crack of that, the jokes, the way you get through the day; that’s been his life until he was sick and until his wife needed support. And so alongside the sense of humor you want someone quite sensitive and nuanced. And for Katie, again it’s someone driven by circumstance who is realistic but has potential; she’s been trying to study, she failed at school but she’s been studying with the Open University. We looked for someone with sensitivity but also gutsy courage. And, as with Dan, absolute authenticity.
Dave Johns is a stand-up comic as well as an actor. Why did you cast him as Dan?
The traditional stand-up comedian is a man or woman rooted in working class experience, and the comedy comes out of that experience. It often comes out of hardship, joking about the comedy of survival. But the thing with comedians is they’ve got to have good timing – their timing is absolutely implicit in who they are. And they usually have a voice that comes from somewhere and a persona which comes from somewhere, so that’s what we were looking for. Dave’s got that. Dave’s from Byker, which is where we filmed some of the scenes, he’s a Geordie, he’s the right age, and he’s a working class man who makes you smile, which is what we wanted.
How did you come to cast Hayley Squires as Katie?
We met a lot of women who were all interesting in different ways but again, Hayley’s a woman with a working class background and she was just brilliant. Every time we tried something out she was dead right. She doesn’t soften who she is or what she says in any way, she’s just true really, through and through.
How was the shoot?
To begin with, Paul’s writing is always very precise, as well as being full of life. This means we rarely shoot material we don’t use. The critical thing in filming is planning. It is preparation: working things out; getting everyone cast before you start; getting all the locations in place before you start. To do all that you need a crew, a group of people who absolutely understand the project and are creatively committed to it. And all those things we had: amazing efficiency from everyone and great good humor. That’s what gets you through, because it means all your effort is then productive. Working with good friends is a delight and, crucially, we even got a little coffee machine that used to follow us around. That was a key element: a good espresso got us all through the day.
You changed how you edited this film from previous ones. How and why?
We’d been cutting on film for many years but we found that the infrastructure for cutting on film was just disappearing. The biggest problem was the cost of printing the sound rushes on mag stock and also printing all the film rushes. It was more than I could justify so, reluctantly, we cut on Avid. It has some advantages but I found cutting on film was a more human way of working – you can see what you’ve done at the end of the day. Avid seems quicker but I don’t think the overall time taken is any less. I just find the tactile quality of film is more interesting.
Do you make films hoping to bring about change and, if so, what would that mean in the case of I, DANIEL BLAKE?
Well it’s the old phrase isn’t it: ‘Agitate, Educate, Organize.’ You can agitate with a film -you can’t educate much, though you can ask questions – and you can’t organize at all, but you can agitate. And I think to agitate is a great aim because being complacent about things that are intolerable is just not acceptable. Characters trapped in situations where the implicit conflict has to be played out, that is the essence of drama. And if you can find that drama in things that are not only universal but have a real relevance to what’s going on in the world, then that’s all the better. I think anger can be very constructive if it can be used; anger that leaves the audience with something unresolved in their mind, something to do, something challenging.
It is the 50th anniversary of Cathy Come Home this year. What parallels are there between this new film and that film?
They are both stories of people whose lives are seriously damaged by the economic situation they’re in. It’s been an idea we’ve returned to again and again but it’s particularly sharp in I, DANIEL BLAKE. The style of filmmaking, of course, is very different. When we made Cathy we ran about with a hand-held camera, set up a scene, shot it and we were done. The film was shot in three weeks. In this film the characters are explored more fully. Both Katie and Dan are seen in extremis. In the end, their natural cheerfulness and resilience are not enough. Certainly politically the world that this film shows is even more cruel than the world that Cathy was in. The market economy has led us inexorably to this disaster. It could not do otherwise. It generates a working class that is vulnerable and easy to exploit. Those who struggle to survive face poverty. It’s either the fault of the system or it’s the fault of the people. They don’t want to change the system, therefore they have to say it’s the fault of the people. Looking back, we should not be surprised at what has happened. The only question is – what do we do about it?