Wednesday, 23 April 2008

NICOLE KIDMAN, UN GOODWILL AMBASSADOR to support battle against violence on women

One over three women is a victim of violence. This alarming figure is the base for a serious UN commitment to solve the problem. Within a structural framework of initiatives pro women, the UN launches a web campaign called Say NO to Violence against Women to raise the issue and push ever more people to take action. The voice and face of the campaign is an exceptional movie star: Nicole Kidman.

As UN Goodwill Ambassador, Kidman puts a good deal of effort to support the cause along with UNIFEM, the UN agency providing financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality; since 1976 the agency fights women poverty, AIDS/HIV infection among women and girls, violence against women and promotes the establishment of equal opportunities in all countries.

The Say NO to Violence against Women campaign aims at collecting signatures and funds, not only with the help of Nicole Kidman, but also by spreading a promotional video and addressing calls through the internet, as well as distributing Women on the Frontline a serie of 7 documentaries that was broadcast the 18th of April on BBC world. Narrated by Annie Lennox, the film first highlights the cross-national and trans-social dimension of the phenomenon and goes on by investigating the situation in 7 countries: Austria, Colombia, Congo, Mauritania, Morocco, Nepal and Turkey.

Say NO to Violence against Women initiative continues until 25 November 2008, the internationally recognized day to eliminate violence against women, when UNIFEM will hand over the signatures to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in support of UNITE his global multi-years campaign.

to support the initiative:

the UN programmes for gender equality:

The SAY NO AGAINST VIOLENCE teaser and Nicole Kidman's call for participation

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Thursday, 17 April 2008


Toronto's Hot Docs Festival pays tribute to the work of Jennifer Baichwal, director of the beautiful Manufactured Landscapes, which as national premiere at IO, ISABELLA IFW 2007 stirred the admiration of Italian audiences. The Canadian director enters the crew of the many excellent Canadian non-fiction filmmakers (Mark Achbar, Peter Winthonick, etc.) that in recent years brought us wonderful pieces of work. With each new film Baichwal has expanded her considerable skills as a filmmaker, with Manufactured Landscapes (2006) widely considered among the finest international documentaries of 2007.

Focus On Jennifer Baichwal opens Saturday, April 19 at 11:00 AM with THE TRUE MEANING OF PICTURES: SHELBY LEE ADAMS' APPALACHIA at the SCENE Screening Room at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto.

Hot Docs is on from April 17 to 27.

Manufactured Landscapes - the trailer

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Saturday, 16 February 2008


It is time for costume drama under the Berlinale's sky. Out of Competition, with it's truck load of (young) stars this morning the Berlinale Palast got its crowd of eager international press watching The Other Boleyn Girl, debut feature by British TV director Justin Chadwick.
The Oscar's struck cast includes screenwriter Peter Morgan (nominated for The Queen), producer Alison Owen (nominated for Elizabeth), costume designer Sandy Powel (oscar winner for The Aviator and Shakespeare in Love) and of course Natalie Portman (nomination for Closer), Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana (remember him from Munich by Steven Spielberg?) respectively in the role of Anna Boleyn, her sister Mary ("the other boleyn girl" of the title) and King Henry VIII.

The film is an adaptation of the popular american book by the same title that Philippa Gregory published with much success in 2001. Gregory turned into a novel the events that brought the young Anne Boleyn first to the English throne in 1533, when she married Henry VIII, and ultimately to her execution in 1536. The novel, as the film, focuses on the Boleyn-Norfolk family plots to gain wealth and power through the "smart placement" of their young female relatives in the King's private chambers, so to say; and Anne's relation with her sister Mary, who was first "sacrified" to the King's sexual appetites. The young women, and especially Anne, grow to be ruthless in their mission to slip in the King's bed and even start taking some pleasure in scheming and plotting for more power. The story progresses as the relationship between the two Boleyn girls goes from sisterly romance to ferocious competition to treachery to forgiveness and finally closure.

Although the last in line, this family saga – fully played on sets, costumes and, well, sisterly loath, love & revenge – it is not the only film inspired by the controversial figure of Anne Boleyn, and probably the least accurate on the historical side one might add. Anne of a Thousand Days by Charles Jarrott (1969), for instance, starring Richard Burton as the King, Geneviève Bujold as Anna and Irene Papas as Catherine of Aragon, took a diametrically opposite approach to the figure of "the most influential queen consort England has ever had" (Eric Ives). Where Chadwick's films portrays Anna Boleyn as a scruple-less little shrew, who would stop at nothing, not even incest, to please her greed; Jarrott keeps closer to historical consistency by investing Anne of intelligence, determination and dignity and, most of all, not reducing King Henry VIII to a soul-less puppet at the mercy of cunning young women and noblemen which only pastime is weaving ruthless family schemes.

The Other Boleyn Girl misses on an accurate and believable plot by failing the history test in favour of a sketchy and dramatised historical likelihood, that leaves too many gaps and unexplained turns (filled one time too many by furious horse-rides through the countryside). The same flaw applies to the characters, all too one-sided, to which only the excellent job of the A-list cast manges to give some depth and humane light. Portman and Johansson are both outstanding at bringing to life these two sisters, which reletionship dictates the pace of the whole movie; nevertheless it's hard to believe that these two characters, so perfectly complementary as if they were two halves of one and the same woman, could live outside the faltering lights of a work of fiction. All in all, the film is quite impressive in terms of costumes and sets, adding to it the excellent performances and the quite striking "grandeur" for a debut feature, which coupled to the dullness of plot and shallow characters (with all due implications) makes up for something not too far from an extra-expensive TV movie (BBC level, though).

Enjoy the trailer:

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008


The prove that God exists dawn on me earlier this morning when I managed to sneek in the ultra-packed, ultra-selective press screening of Madonna's first film in the director's chair, Filth and Wisdom (see also our 16 May 2007 post), the film screened in the Panorama section of the 58th Berlin Film Festival

Imagine if the biggest pop star that ever walked the planet was to be, on top of that, and a quite good actress and a genious filmmaker, what would it be left for the rest of us, poor mortals, to hope for? And that's exactely why God loves us all: Madonna, the hugest star ever, it's quite lame as a director. Her street-wise uber-popstar self does not hide the body of evidence: an average film director with a poor poor vision. And someone might have noticed. 

The material girl – turned children book writer, turned kabbalah priestess, turned film director, etc. etc. – did try to be charming to never really answer a question during the press conference in Berlin as it was clear that just a few among the hundreds of journalists were interested in her film; in any case Madonna did not have much to say about it besides sponsoring "like a strange fan" Eugene Hutz – main character in the film and leader of russian folk-punk band Gogol Bordello –. 

Madonna started out wanting to shoot a short, but, as she noted "I fell in love with the characters, and, well, it's not a short anymore..." at this point I bet that a few of the still sane professionals in the audience found themselves wondering what in the world she managed to fall in love with? Three flatmates, two girls and a guy who slut their way through life; all three strangely similar, each in its own way, to Madonna herself: "there are aspects of Holly, Juliette and AK's struggle that I could relate to completely and I could access that memory and put it into the story.
Hutz plays A.K. an Ukrainian musician and philosopher who earns his wage by impersonating a weird male dominatrix for wealthy customers; a young mrs. Ciccone played by Holly Weston resorts to pole dancing in a club where everyone has the inclination of a good guy in a Disney movie (the word "realistic" is not in mrs. Ciccone vocabulary), and Vicky McClure playing a drug-addicted druggist who's dream is to do aid work in Africa. To pepper up her cinematic outing Madonna also introduced Richard E. Grant (brother of Hugh Grant) as a surreal (especially because of the worse make-up ever seen on screen) blind professor living in a basement feeling sorry for his colleague's success. 

Madonna's debut feature is a less than impressive strange mix between Desperately Seeking Susan and Erotica, seasoned with some of the material girl's own "amazing" philosophy: the duality of life! (and an italian journalist at the Berlinale press conference even asked how she came up with such an amazing good concept!!!) summarised by the director's memorable quote: There is a little filth in wisdom, and a little wisdom in filth... what to reply to such a disarming self-centered detachment from reality? Besides the naive philosophy holding the film, the plot, and even the punk-rock-folk personality of Eugene Hutz and the great performance of Gogol Bordello, do not help this movie to raise above the mass of new and improvised filmmakers blossoming everywhere in the modern digitalised world. Everything about it seems at best disappointing, both narratively and techinically (worse lighting and DOP within living memory). To not talk about the director's clueless depiction of society, in the particular case british society. Since Madonna declared that this was a way to put herself through filmschool and that she thought she should put her money where her mouth was, among the million things that a serious journalist could have asked during the press conference – had they not all been star-struck by this tiny, well dressed, self-confident, highly aspirational lady – the simplest question to start with could have been about the decision to sign the film with her pop-star pseudonym, rather than any other name that could bring her close to a more humble, less expectation rising, directorial debut. The impression is that Madonna, reaching the mature age of 50 coming August, is planning her future out of the limelight, but not too far away from the magical world of entertainment. A smart lady with, alas, a little talent and scarce vision...funny to have to say that about the most successful pop-star ever. 

Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian comment on the film is, in my opinion, the one that best represents it: (...) her conception of super-cool streetwise reality is so clueless it's as if Marie Antoinette had made a film about cake-munching peasants.

in so much words: a waste of money and energies, that should not be worsened by honest audiences' waste of hard earned cash at the boxoffice. Sad but true. I reckon it is not a case that Madonna announced she'll release the film on the internet (she's in talks with iTunes), in this case the last resort for a likely hopeless case on the main distribution deals' territory.

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Friday, 11 January 2008

IO, ISA meets the world: future appointments

The most intensive stage of world wide Festivals' life is just about to start, as customary Io, Isabella will be present at the hottest dates of the season. Hence, after Venice, the Nederlands Film Festival, the Festa del Cinema di Roma, the London Film Festival, IDFA, the Festival Sottodiciotto we are fully equipped to take by storm the following festivals:

Future Film Festival – Bologna, 15-20 January
International Film Festival Rotterdam – Rotterdam, 23 January-3 February
Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival – Clermont-Ferrand, 1-9 February
Berlinale – Berlin, 7-17 February

If any of our readers might be in the mood to meet us in one or more of the aboves, do not hesitate to leave a comment on this blog so that we can get in touch to partake screenings, comments and warm coffees :-)

Else, for all the "movies' forecasts", like skilled gold-miners as we are, we'll post real time the most exciting results of our tireless researches. Stay tuned.

So long!

ioisa crew

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Friday, 17 August 2007

IO, ISABELLA's DIRECTORS CONQUER THE WORLD: Lauren Greenfield's THIN nominated for Emmy Award!

It's Awards' time in the USA and, as custumary, the EMMYs will open the season. Reaching their 59th edition, the prestigious awards of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences often are, like in the case of Documentary films, a safety-net for the Oscar's flaws. Documentaries often exist in that strange world between the big screen and the small screen. Challenging nonfiction films often require funding from TV networks like PBS or HBO to be produced - though they might later earn theatrical runs or tour the film festivals' circuit –. Such films are ineligible for the limited documentary Oscar nomination. Thankfully, the Emmys make up for the Academy Awards' shortcomings. This was true last year for Martin Scorsese's Bob Dylan: No Direction Home and it's even more so looking at this year's nominations listing Spike Lee's Hurricane Katrina opus When The Leaves Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and IO, ISABELLA's 2007 Competition title Thin by Lauren Greenfield.

Produced by broadcasters' helmer HBO, Thin is a poignant account on anorexia in pure Vérité style. Lauren Greenfield's passage from the Olympus of Photography to her first steps in Filmmaking could not be better assesed and rewarded. Greenfield and her DOP Amanda Micheli tip-toe their way in Florida's Renfrew Centre for eating disorders and into the inner lives of 4 patients – Brittany, Shelly, Alisa and Polly – struggling with the disease. The filmmakers built such an incredible bond of trust with their characters that they are able to access the most intimate moments in the lives of these women, who's eating disorder is exposed down to the crudest details; not for the sake of chasing the spectacular, but to offer – and successfully so – "an experiential and emotional journey through the world of eating disorders to, ultimately, provide a greater understanding of their complexity". Greenfield manages what only the gretest non-fiction filmmakers managed before her: she materialises emotions by empathising with the subjects and by mean of skillful filmaking gramar.

Thin might not be half as spectacular as a one-sided Michael Moore's multi-billion growsing film, but its simple fly-on-the-wall approach delivers both a stunning and unprecedented portrayal of eating disorders, not forgetting a few more major corollaries; this alone makes this incredible debut film a well picked candidate for the Emmy and a must-buy for any good international commisioning editor.

The 59th Emmys Cerimony will be televised by the FOX Television Network from the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium on Sunday, September 16 at 8:00 pm (ET/PT).

THIN by Lauren Greenfield (trailer)

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Monday, 13 August 2007


Very few are aware of the fact or even imagine that Michelangelo Antonioni was a fine and original Non-Fiction filmmaker, in fact throughtout his long carreer he shot 17 documentaries. Chung kuo - Cina, his best known non-fiction film, is a work of incredible value, not only because just to be admitted with a film crew in 1972 China was already an exceptional achievement (rumors has it that the Italian Communist Party had to negotiate a political deal with the Peoples' Republic to allow Antonioni and his crew to enter the country), but especially because of its superbe quality in cinematic terms and the unique nature of the footage. An extraordinary film for which Antonioni leaves behind the metaphisical enchantments of his fiction works and adopts an intimate gaze, on a more human/e scale, to enter the daily life of a Nation known for its absolute closure towards the strangers' eyes and its political adversion for any outside world's intrusion. The same careful and intimate look marks all of Antonioni's documentaries, first of all L'amorosa menzogna (1949), an original film on the popular phenomenon of "picture stories", a theme that Federico Fellini will develop later on in his film Lo Sceicco Bianco (1952).

In a time when most media commemorates the italian Master for his "major" works, common heritage without shade of dubt, we like not to neglect his sublime Non-Fiction production, which is little represented and celebrated, but not less worthwhile and important.

Thus, we like to point out the screening of
Sette Canne e un Vestito (1949) on August 14 at the Lagunamovies in Grado (Italy); the film, of which Antonioni is also writer and editor, follows the renewal of the activities of Snia Viscosa, a factory in the North-East of Italy, after the WWII bombings of 1944 and 1945.

We further like to remind that Chung kuo - Cina has been recently released on DVD by Feltrinelli

And, least but not last, we like to publish the list of Antonioni's documentaries. We know they are very hard to find, but just in case someone might get the chance to see any of them we like to hear everything about it:

* Gente del Po, finished in 1947 (1943)
* N. U. - Nettezza urbana (1948)
* Oltre l'oblio (1948)
* Roma-Montevideo (1948)
* L'amorosa menzogna (1949)
* Sette canne e un vestito, restaured by Cineteca del Friuli in 1995 (1949)
* Bomarzo (1949)
* Ragazze in bianco (1949)
* Superstizione (1949)
* La villa dei mostri (1950)
* La funivia del Faloria (1950)
* Chung-Kuo, Cina (1972)
* Ritorno a Lisca Bianca (1983)
* Fotoromanza, music video for Gianna Nannini (1984)
* 12 registi per 12 città: Roma (promotional video for "Italia '90" World Cup) (1990)
* Noto, Mandorli, Vulcano, Stromboli, Carnevale (1992)
* Lo sguardo di Michelangelo (2004)

Here is the beginning of Chung Kuo - Cina by Michelangelo Antonioni

LINKS: Eco and Sontag comment on the Chung Kuo - Cina case

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