In Review: MOMMY

This was by far my favorite film at Cannes. Cheesy as this sounds, it was one of those rare gems that completely rips you apart, and puts you back together a new person. MOMMY, by 25-year-old Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan, tells the story of a single mother trying to care for a son, Steve, who is plagued by ADHD and violent outbursts. It is heartbreaking and technically impressive. 

Dolan masterfully juxtaposes Steve’s lack of control with a rare 1:1 aspect ratio, shrinking our field of vision to a small square. In this ratio, there is less space to distract from the characters. We feel trapped in this tiny box, just as Steve feels trapped inside his own body. However, the aspect ratio changes several times during the film, with the field of vision becoming wider whenever Steve is happy and relaxed. Although Dolan’s style can be a bit heavy-handed, it succeeded in highlighting the strengths in character and story line.

This film is a success story for many reasons, but I think the most important one is that it discusses life with disability and mental illness without making snap judgments or hiding too much behind dictionary definitions. It is not often that you see a film that can do this.

Grade: A

In Review: AMOUR FOU

This film fits several of my favorite categories: stoic, slow-moving, darkly funny, and German to the core (okay, okay, it’s an Austrian movie…but close enough). Amour Fou, which translates to “Mad Love”, comes from Austrian director Jessica Hausner, and was screened at Cannes as part of the Un Certain Regard competition. It is a loose adaptation of the double suicide of German poet Heinrich von Kleist (Christian Friedel) and his lover, Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnöink), in Berlin in 1811.

What I love most about this film is it’s stark humanity. Everything about it is bare bones, and this does much to make it appear more realistic. If the sparse script and deliciously dry acting are the star ingredients of the proverbial sundae, then the cinematography is the cherry on top. With a symmetrical composition fit to make even Wes Anderson green with envy, Amour Fou is simply beautiful from start to finish: every shot masterfully arranged to resemble a still-life painting. Each moment is held out for the viewer to savor, and every scene is a tableau within which to get lost.

In the end, Amour Fou is an expertly-drawn portrait of a life unmistakably arranged. You don’t need to live in a stuffy Georgian-era household to sympathize with the feeling of frustration that thickly fills the space of every picture-perfect room in the film. Amour Fou plays to our fears of life as pointlessly absurd — and does it well.

Grade: A

Women In Film Panel

Last week, the American Pavilion hosted a panel with several female directors, producers, marketers, and distributors holding court to talk about being a woman working in film. As I am a woman hoping to mold myself a career in the film industry, this panel was of special significance to me.

The conversation went in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting, and this was what made the experience so valuable. I assumed that these women would talk about the in-arguably different and greater set of obstacles that women face (as opposed to men) when attempting to “make it” in the business, but, in fact, they emphasized that the film industry is an “unbeaten path” for everyone. Although they appreciated attempts to celebrate women artists (who so often go unheard and unseen) they wished to be treated as Directors and Producers first and foremost (as opposed to female Directors and female Producers). 

I found this viewpoint very provocative. As someone who is still learning about the film business and my place in it, I have not experienced what these ladies have experienced. When I think of women in film, I think of problems of sexism and inequality. The difference lies in the fact that they are living these things. They are aware that these things are problems, and that is why they wish to focus on their art rather than the fact that they are women. Their experiences as women in film inform them, but do not define them.

Synthesizing this discussion with my previous beliefs has brought me to this conclusion: ultimately, I think an important part of the solution to the problem of gender inequality in the film industry is to increase the visibility of female artists. There is a heavy female presence on the business side of the industry, but not so much on the filmmaking side. To steal a page from the people over at MissRepresentation — you can’t be what you can’t see. Women need to be able to imagine themselves in these positions. In order to do this, they need to see examples of women in these positions in real life, being treated as the equals of their male counterparts. Part of this equality comes from defining female filmmakers’ work as something more than just “female.” 

Last Day

So, somehow we are at the end. This is the last day of the Festival, and I will be flying home tomorrow morning. I’m sad to be leaving (but very excited for a croissant detox). There is so much that I haven’t been able to tell you all because the internet here is so spotty and the Festival and my internship have kept me busy, but I have been taking notes and thinking a lot about what I want to write when I get home. This is the last time I will have wifi before my flight, so the next time you hear from me I will be writing to you from Minnesota (and probably specifically my kitchen table, where I will be mainlining meat and avoiding pastries at all cost).
Stay tuned for panel and film reviews galore!

Short Film Surprise!

In a surprising turn of events, the short film I made with the lovely Laurel Sager (‘15) and Quinn Kennelly (‘16) last year, originally rejected from the Short Film Corner in Cannes, has actually been accepted! This is beyond exciting news because I am so proud of our film (called “A Girl And A Gun”) and so happy to share it with an international audience. All of the films in the Corner can be viewed at any time by anyone. On the lower floor of the Marche, the Short Film Corner has tons of shorts to peruse from students all over the world! The filmmakers can see how many people have viewed their film, and anyone who is interested can contact them to find out more, or to make a distribution deal.

Best case scenario? A big distributor sees our film and loves it, we make a deal with them, and we make enough money on it for our second project to be a feature starring Joaquin Phoenix. Worst case scenario? Good news! THERE ISN’T ONE. :) Simply having our film in such a prestigious festival full of such passionate folks is honor enough for me. If there is one thing I’ve learned, you never know what’s going to happen at Cannes!

Check out our film on the official website: http://sub.festival-cannes.fr/SfcCatalogue/MovieDetail/bae5c1c9-6a8f-480d-a616-65dc21a9ba22

Internship with The American Pavilion

I think it’s time to tell you all a little bit about what I’ve been doing with my internship. Although most internships through the Business Program are with outside companies doing business at Cannes, mine is a little different. The program organizers knew I was interested in film journalism and criticism, so they set me up with the PR folks at The American Pavilion, who are in charge of publicity.

This has been awesome, because I have gotten a chance to flex my writing muscles (albeit on a small scale), and working in The Pavilion has granted me access to a lot of roundtables and panels that are not always open to the general public at the Festival.

My day to day work consists of picking up the daily trade magazines to search for mentions of The Pavilion, writing press breaks, promoting events on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, live-tweeting panels, and occasionally catering to important guests.

Although this means I spend much of my time at The Pavilion (rather than exploring the Festival as a whole), it has been a very rewarding experience. The panels I have gotten the chance to attend are extremely informative and cover a wide range of topics, from the state of marketing in the film industry to the reception of American films at Cannes. Many of these panels and roundtables host incredible people, such as the CEO of Indieflix, which has been called the Netflix of Indie films, and the directors of several films playing at Cannes. I have also had the occasional wild and crazy moment, such as the time I stood on a chair and acted as paparazzi in order to get a picture of Sylvester Stallone for my boss, or the time I parted a crowd to make room for America Ferrera!

For the most part, though, my internship with the PR team has been a lesson in professionalism and the working world. I have learned how to comport myself as a representative of an organization, and I have discovered just how important it is to take your work seriously. Even the small ripple of a random misspelling of a donor’s name in a Facebook post can cause a tidal wave of trouble for the people over at AmPav. This is perhaps the biggest insight I have gained so far: professionalism and dedication are key. If you don’t take care in what you do, it’s very unlikely that others will care about and support you and your work.

Stay tuned for more about Festival life outside of the internship (as well as a few movie reviews)!

Sorry I’ve been AWOL for so long! It has been incredibly busy for the past few days. But now it’s time to get you all up to speed! A LOT has happened since we last spoke. I finished my orientation early in the week, and have been working my internship position for four days now. 

First, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the orientation. I arrived at the Pierre & Vacances hotel a week ago, and moved in to my apartment with two other students and one mentor. Living with these ladies has been a wonderful experience as we are all passionate about film, but bring very different skill sets to the table. For example, one of my suite mates is an experienced editor, and the other a screenwriter and director. They are both part of the Film Program, a separate but equally awesome program through The American Pavilion. Living with a mentor has also been a great experience, as she has insight into the academic side of film studies.

Our orientation lasted through Wednesday, and was filled with walking tours of Cannes La Boca (the small town just off of Cannes where we are staying), Cannes, the Palais (where all of the main theaters are located), the Marche du Film (where production companies buy and sell movies), and The American Pavilion itself.

The AmPav students were also given the opportunity to hear a few different talks from SAGIndie, The American Pavilion, and the lovely folks with Cannes Classics, just to name a few. There was one talk in particular that stuck with me. Lucius Barre, a publicist and Cannes expert, came to tell us about the history of the Festival market. He spoke about the original purpose of Cannes: to create friendly relationships between nations, and to allow for different types of storytelling and viewpoints to be celebrated. Cannes, he said, is unique in that it allows us to “enter the dreamscape of others.”

He also addressed the fact that times are changing, and that what worked in the past does not necessarily work now. Young people aged 18-30, an extremely important demographic for the film industry, no longer watch movies in the theater, preferring to watch at home, online. Because of this, many people in the business are looking to the internet as a means of getting their works out in public. Barre acknowledged that there are pros and cons to this shift. On the one hand, the film industry is becoming increasingly accessible to everyone. However, the distractions of the internet often prove disastrous (Barre believes very firmly that there is no such thing as multi-tasking).

The thing I found most interesting about Barre’s talk was his advice to all of us students, and anyone who is interested in being part of the process of filmmaking: don’t let your surrounding environment stop your vision from being realized. Use the tools available to you and listen to your audience. There is nothing you cannot do, but you have to actually do it. This struck me in particular, because I often forget about the second part of that equation. I may be passionate and full of ideas, but actually making those ideas a reality is so intimidating that it is a rare dream that comes to fruition. Barre’s suggestion? Give your subconscious assignments. Go to sleep with a problem in mind, and you will wake up with a solution. I don’t know if this really works, but I think I’ll try it out tonight. What about you?

**Stay tuned for a description of my internship later today!

It Begins…

Saturday, May 11, 2014

Well, here we go! I’m finally on my way to Cannes. Sitting here in the Toronto airport (I have a six-hour layover – yikes!), I am frantically trying to think of any other ways that I can prepare for the Business Program before I arrive. After endlessly questioning my mother about what professional clothing looks like, studying Industry lingo, learning basic French phrases, and reading up on the history of the Festival and this year’s film contestants, I still feel as though I’m forgetting something important. However, I think I can chalk it up to pre-program jitters. I’m beginning to realize that there is only so much prep-work you can do. At a certain point, you have to sit back and feel confident that you can figure it out as you go along. All you can really do is show up, eager to learn. And I certainly am that!

As there is no wifi in the airport, by the time you get this I will have already arrived in Cannes, and will be checking in to my apartment and meeting my follow AmPavvers. I am so incredibly excited to share this experience with you all. See you on the other side of the Atlantic!

**DISCLAIMER 1: I apologize for the delay! This is the first opportunity I have had to use wifi…oops. :) I am actually on Day 3 of my Cannes experience. Stay tuned for an overview of my orientation, which just wrapped up today!

**DISCLAIMER 2: I lied about knowing French phrases…I keep speaking German and saying “Bon jour” when I mean “Thank you”. The struggle is real, folks! By the time I leave, I promise I will at least remember how to say “Yes”. Probably.