Posts Tagged ‘Bergamo Film Meeting’

The Golden Thread (2022) Bergamo Film Meeting

Dir: Nishtha Jain | Doc 90′

The Jute industry has been the mainstay of millions of Bengalis for hundreds of years but is now in a state of decline putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.

In artfully composed shots Nishtha Jain’s documentary exposé examines the relationship between factory and labour in an industry which has come under pressure due to the switchover to plastics. The Golden Thread transports us from the peaceful riversides of West Bengal, where the green canes of jute grow in abundance, to the two largest jute factories in the Indian region around Kolkata where the plant is woven into material. 

The Golden Thread could easily be set in the 18th century but this is modern day West Bengal. The camera follows hot on the heels of workers arriving by bike at the vast Naihati Jute Mills where the dried jute is being stored in bundles before it reaches the massive weaving looms. The frenzied din of spinning soon takes over and then cuts back to the peace and tranquility of a muddy riverside where a man in a large straw hat is cutting down green canes in preparation for drying. 

Although the heyday is over for the jute industry, Naihati is proud to announce “we manufacture environment friendly jute… which includes food grade jute products (hydrocarbon free) and geo-textiles”. State aid has kept this sustainable alternative to plastic going but the future looks bleak despite the eco potential of jute.

The challenge to survive continues for many Bengali labourers who still rely on the factory to support themselves and their families despite poor working conditions. Accidents and jammed machines are a frequent occurrence. Grievances, hopes and fears are aired and compete with the din of the whirring spinning machines. The workers’ plight is taken up by the unions who are fighting to raise pay to a minimum wage requirement of £200 a month and improve conditions in general. It’s a familiar story of quality over production that connects to a global narrative of struggling traditional industries and communities all over the world. @MeredithTaylor


BERGAMO Film Meeting | 9-17 March 2024

Bergamo Film Meeting unveils its 42nd edition from March 9 – 17, 2024. One of the most important events in the Italian festival calendar the meeting draws thousands to its annual celebration of auteur and arthouse cinema in the mountainside venue just north of Milan in the Italian Dolomites.

Home to the Duomo di Bergamo, the city is also proud of its Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the grand Cappella Colleoni, a chapel with 18th-century frescoes by Tiepolo.

Bergamasco is one of Italy’s most intriguing dialects and food-wise the town boasts a wealth of gourmet restaurants and bars where you can savour saffron-flavoured risottos and a legendary pancetta-laced pasta dish called casonelli alla bergamasca served in a rich butter sauce accompanied by the local wines – including the famous red Moscato di Scanzo. BERGAMO is also well known for its wealth of ice-cream parlours based on regional ingredients – including liguorice and zabaglione – with stracciatella a speciality. 

Film-wise there’s a really exciting line-up that includes a retrospective on the work of French director and leading proponent of the Nouvelle Vague Eric Rohmer, including his seasons series: Conte de printemps, d’automne, d’hiver and d’ete, Le Rayon Vert; and Ma Nuit chez Maud to name but a few.

St Petersburg-born French actor, director and screenwriter Sacha Guitry (1885-1957) will receive a Tribute as one of the most fascinating and versatile film personalities of the 20th Century. The honour will include screenings of his 1935 director debut Bonne Chance!, Donne-moi tes yeux (1943) and La Poison (1953) amongst others.

A Tribute to Walter Matthau will highlight an American Comedy Classics strand featuring director Elaine May’s A New Leaf, Billy Wilder’s The Front Page. and Gene Saks’ 1966 outing The Odd Couple starring Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

There will also be a chance to see the latest arthouse films fresh from the festival circuit including a selection of world premieres in the Festival’s Main Competition. @MeredithTaylor

L’Argent (1983) Bfi player

Dir.: Robert Bresson; Cast: Christian Patey, Vincent Risterucci, Caroline Lang, Sylvie Van Den Elsen, Beatrice Tabourine, Didier Baussy, Marc Ernest Forneau, Claude Cler ; France/Switzerland 1983, 83 min.

L’ARGENT would be Robert Bresson’s final feature, he was eighty-two years old but would live for another sixteen. Winning the Best Director’s Award at Cannes in 1983 was well-deserved and a suitable valediction for the aloof, enigmatic non-commercial filmmaker whose work always defied classification.

L’Argent is based on Leo Tolstoi’s last novella The Forged Coupon, and once again Bresson cast non-professional actors to shift the focus onto his rigorous style. In possibly the most unsympathetic of all his features, the simple plot centres on a forged banknote. Young student Nobert (Forneau) hands the 500 franc bill to the owners of a photographic shop (Tabourine/Baussy), who pass it on to the delivery driver Yvon Targe (Patey).

Yvon vaguely suspects the note may be a counterfeit, but passes it off in a cafe. At the same time the photographer instructs his assistant Lucien (Risterucci) to muddy the waters, and Norbert’s mother also makes use of money to get her son acquitted in court. Yvon too is exonerated in a legal battle, but loses his job. To feed the family, he drives a get-away car for a bank robbery, is caught and spends three years in prison where he meets Lucien. Yvon blames Lucien for his misfortune, embittered at the death of his daughter. And on his release from prison Yvon goes on a killing spree.

Bresson and his DoPs Pasqualino De Santis and Emmanuel Machuel avoid close-ups and tracking shots; the camera is mostly static, the medium shots often featuring the protagonists from the rear or cropping their heads and feet. Bresson refuses to show his character’s facial expressions, even in the final showdown, all violence happens off-camera. The focus is on hands or nearby objects. Jean-Francois Naudon’s elliptical editing lets the the narrative flow. Rather like Rohmer, no frame is wasted, editing takes place during the shoot.

Bresson’s formal rigidity required him to have complete control over his actors, he often used his wife and former assistant Madeleine van der Mersch to convey his ‘instructions’: The characters are simply there to serve the premise, that money has destroyed their identity as they are slowly destroyed by their greed. The story plays out with the inevitability a Dreiser novel, Bresson leaves no room for his characters to escape. The result is so full of elegantly constructed subtleties it demands more than one viewing. AS


Bergamo Film Meeting 2022

After the online experience of past few years BERGAMO FILM MEETING puts the audience and the idea of gathering together again central to this year’s live festival.

From March 26 to April 3, the 40TH EDITION celebrates cinematographic culture and auteur cinema kicking off with CIN’ACUSMONIUM, an acousmatic projection of the restored 35mm copy of Andrej Tarkovskij’s Stalker (1979). The legendary Russian filmmaker’s masterpiece relives on the screen in an all-encompassing sound-around cinematic experience on Friday, March 25th.


Bergamo dedicates a complete retrospective to the master of political cinema of Costa-Gavras (Konstantinos Gavras), who was born in Loutra Iraias (Athens) on February 13, 1933. From his mother, Greek Orthodox from his mother’s side his father, originally from Odessa (Ukraine) was a Resistance fighter during World War II, and this influenced his career as a political filmmaker. In 1949 he moved to Paris where, in 1956, he obtained French citizenship. There, he attended the Institut Des Hautes Études Cinématographiques (IDHEC). Later, he worked as assistant director to the likes of Yves Allegret, Jacques Demy and René Clément, rising to the international stage with Z (France/Algeria 1969), an amusing political satire that won the Jury Prize at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture a year later. Z is the powerful portrayal of a political assassination in Greece. The film is inspired by a novel by Vassilī Vassilikos on the Lambrakis affair, a university professor and left-wing deputy who died in 1963 “accidentally” hit by a car.



Compartiment tueurs (The Sleeping Car Murders), his first feature, was a thriller based on a detective novel by Sébastien Japrisot and produced with the support of his friends Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, who are also the film’s main characters. World War II drama Un homme de trop (Shock Troops, 1967), set in Nazi-occupied France.  L’aveu (The Confession, 1970), adapted by Jorge Semprun, followed a Czechoslovakian government minister, Jewish communist Arthur London, who was accused of treachery by party members and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Stalinist court. The film had clear implications for Costa-Gavras himself, and actors Yves Montand and Simone Signoret and forced them to re-consider their own fierce allegiance to communism.


Politics coloured his subsequent films. État de siège (State of Siege) (1973) was a direct attack on US support of South American authoritarian regimes. Séction spéciale (Special Section,1975) explores the Vichy trials, and caused an outcry in France, forcing Costa-Gavras to change tack to lighter themes with   Clair de femme (Womanlight, 1979), an intimate drama featuring Yves Montand and Romy Schneider.

Hollywood beckoned in 1982 offering Costa-Gavras  with the opportunity of directing Missing, a  denunciation of the US responsibilities in the post-Allende Chilean dictatorship. In Hanna K. (1983), Jill Clayburgh plays a Jewish lawyer struggling with a conflicted defence case, a Palestinian man accused of terrorism.

Music Box

Conseil de famille (Family Business, 1986), is a comedy about the internal contradictions of the bourgeoisie. In 1988 he shot Betrayed, a denunciation of the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan; the following year came Music box, a judicial drama in which a lawyer (Jessica Lange) takes on the defence of her father, a Hungarian exile accused of war crimes as a member of the pro-Nazi Hungarian militias. Less successful were La petite apocalypse (The Little Apocalypse, 1993), a satire on the failures and weaknesses of the European left, shot in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Mad City (1997), With Amen. (2002) Costa-Gavras tackles the thorny question of the relations between Pope Pius XII and the Nazi regime.

His latest films are: Le Couperet (The Ax, 2005), about a frustrated laid-off employee who is willing to kill his job competitors to get back on his feet; Eden à l’Ouest (Eden is West, 2009), a drama about illegal immigrants; Le Capital (Capital, 2012), about the corrupt and ruthless power struggle in the international world of finance), and Adults in the Room (2019), about the financial crisis that exploded in Greece in 2015 and the rise leftist politician Syriza to government.




Volker Schlöndorff Retro | Bergamo Film Meeting 2021

Bergamo is back with another film festival to mark the city’s triumphant return after the setbacks of the past year.

This 73rd edition – which runs from Friday 24 April  2 May – celebrates a major retrospective dedicated to director, screenwriter, producer and actor Volker Schlöndorff, one of the most significant talents of post-war German cinema. Bergamo is also set to pay homage to Polish director, writer and artist Jerzy Skolimowsky and one of the key figures of  Hungarian cinema, director and writer Márta Mészáros.

But first let’s look at Volker Schlöndorff  (*1939) whose career to date spans over 50 years with 23 feature films, nine segments for feature films, seven TV movies, three documentary and seven TV documentaries, an impressive rollcall. If there is one common factor in his feature film output, it’s his penchant for literary adaptations, starting with his 1966 debut, the Musil version of The Young Törless.

Of all the directors of the “New German” cinema – Wenders, Fassbinder and Reitz – Schlöndorff has relied most heavily on others’ work for his inspiration and has courted the critics, even more so than the audience. It is no co-incidence that Schlöndorff took on the leadership of the old Babelsberg Studios after re-unification in 1990, serving as CEO between 1992-1997.

Training in Paris at the prestigious IDHEC, Schlöndorff  worked as an assistant to Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville and Alain Resnais. His sophomore feature Törless, shot in black-and-white, bears the influence of the French masters: the story of a boarding school cabal with home-erotic undertones is told with great sensibility and relies very much on the unity between aesthetic and content. Törless is arguably the most mature feature of the fledging New German Cinema.

Michael Kohlhaas – Rebel (1969), based on the novel by German classicist Heinrich von Kleist, is a melancholic study of a failed revolutionary in the 18th century. But Schlöndorff’s major breakthrough onto the international stage was with Heinrich Böll’s adaption of The Lost Honour of Katherina Blum (1975) a film that showcased corruption in the West German establishment, Baader-Meinhoff’s activities undermining the freedom of expression and re-establishing the old Nazi power structure.

Two years late Schlöndorff directed three segments of Germany in the Autumn, a critical portrait of eight directors, Kluge and Fassbinder amongst them, seen against the background of ongoing West German reconstruction. His next feature, The Tin Drum (1979) was to place him firmly in the spotlight, winning the Palme d’Or Golden at Cannes (alongside Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now). German cinema was now a force to be reckoned with. Based on the novel by Günther Grass, The Tim Drum pictures the advent of fascism in Germany from the POV of a little boy reluctant to grow up, self-denial jostling with opportunistic desire.

Success in Europe paved the way for heavyweight productions in the US: Arthur Miller’s Dustin Hoffman starrer Death of a Salesman (1985) and Marcel Proust’s Swann in Love (1984) with Jeremy Irons and Alain Delon. Competent yet indistinctive in their style, these dramas could have been made by any talented director. In 1990 The Handmaid’s Tale followed, based on the novel of Margaret Atwood (that would later spawn the ongoing TV series).

In the mid nineties Schlöndorff was back on form again with The Ogre (1996), based on the novel by Michel Tournier. The film plays out like a horror story, a naive German (John Malkovich) inadvertently taking part in the Holocaust. In 2000 The Legend of Rita, another biographical piece, this time about Inge Viett, a member of the RAF underground, who fled to East Germany, where she settled with the help of the STASI. Based on the play by Cyril Gely, Diplomacy (2014) saw Schlöndorff returning again to German history, a combative wartime episode outlining Hitler’s order to burn Paris to the ground . Swedish diplomat Raoul Nording finally succeeds in convincing the German commander, General Dietrich von Choltiz, to defy the Nazi leader.

Overall, Schlöndorff is more comfortable working with these historical dramas plundering German history, than with blockbuster adaptations of successful novels. But he is still an important part of the German cinema of the early 1960s, whose proponents finally laid to rest the unholy UFA tradition. AS

Retrospective | BERGAMO FILM MEETING 2021

Bergamo Film Meeting 2020

BERGAMO FILM MEETING is back for its 38th edition running from 7th March until Sunday 15th in the alpine region of Lombardy. 

This year the focus is on Europe with Europe, Now!João Nicolau (Portugal), Rúnar Rúnarsson (Iceland) and Danis Tanović (Bosnia and Herzegovina) will attend the jamboree showcasing a retrospective of their entire oeuvres. The three filmmakers are known for their ability to picture the turmoil of those who find themselves at the coalface of generational issues, or torn by the complexities of socio-political conflicts – and often with dark humour.

Boys & Girls. The best of Cilect Prize, showcases a selection of graduation films from the European film schools participating in the CILECT program, and by Europe, Now! Film Industry Meetings, a brand new and all-European industry section – scheduled on 13th and 14th March – intended as a Networking Platform for European festivals, markets, training programmes and those seeking funding in a more professional and international perspective.

Also up for grabs are 7 Italian premieres that will screen in the Competition-Exhibition section; 15 documentaries in the Close-Up section; a retrospective dedicated to Polish director, screenwriter and actor Jerzy Skolimowski, one of the world’s most prominent and original figures in contemporary cinema; a tribute, accompanied by the exhibition Gwen, le livre de sable, to master animator Jean-François Laguionie; the passing of the torch between BFM and Bergamo Jazz; the Kino Club section, for young viewers; along with a diverse array of previews and events made possible thanks to the support of local cultural institutions and commercial entities. MT


The Snatch Thief (2018)

Wri/Dir.: Agustin Toscano; Cast: Sergio Prina, Daniel Elis, Leon Zelarrayan, Liliana Juarez, Camila Plaate, Pila Benitez Vibart; Argentina, Uruguay, France 2018,  Drama, 93 min.

Set in his home town of Tucuman in northern Argentina, Agustin Toscano’s twisty tale of a thief and his victim is spiked with mordant humour.

Social services have broken down in this poverty stricken town, the police are on strike, and Miguel (Prina) is at the end of his tether. His six-year old son Leon (Zelarrayan) lives with his mother Antonella (Plaate), waiting for child support. So Miguel and his friend Colorao (Elias) turn to crime, out of sheer desperation, using Miguel’s motorbike for a snatch-job. But their victim clings on to her bag and is dragged along for several minutes, behind them. Leaving her for dead the two run off and split the money. But Miguel feels bad and decides to visit the woman in hospital, finding her identity card in the stolen purse. Elena is alive – just, but has lost her memory. Posing as a nephew Miguel inveigles himself into her life in an clever conceit that Toscano pulls off with aplomb, his convincing plot-line playing on its plausible characters caught in a folie à deux: Miguel is a master of avoiding responsibility and Elena uses him, fully aware of his guilt. The pair make an odd couple, driving the plot forward with their intransigence and childish temper tantrums. In a way, they are both kids living in a world of wishful thinking.

DoP Arauco Hernandez Holz handheld camera searches the dark interior of Elena’s flat for every source of light, but somehow it always stays dark – like the murky world of the crime-fuelled encounter. Toscano manages a last twist – ending his humanistic play on a high note. A strong cast and imaginative direction of this simple but never simplistic storyline proves once again that a low budget need not stand in the way of a really gripping drama.  





A Decent Man | Un Om La Locul Lui (2018) *** | Bergamo Film Meeting

Dir.: Hadrian Marcu; Cast: Madalina Constantin, Bogdan Dumitrache, Arda Gales; Romania 2018,93 min.

Hadrian Marcu’s debut feature sees a man very much out of his depth emotionally when it comes to women, and especially the two women in his life. Somehow this guy finds himself in an impossible situation and retreats into the background, hoping that the women take charge. Marcu cleverly shows how  professional women often end up drawing the short straw in their emotional choices.

Based on a novel by Petru Cimpuescu, this is a classic example of how men can be highly competent in the workplace but fall apart when it comes to their private lives. And the main character does just that. And this being Romania it’s unlikely to end well. Petru, an engineer, has got involved with two women: Laura (Gales) is a doctor and pregnant with his child, and Sonia (Constantin) is the wife of his colleague who dies when the car they are travelling in goes off the road, in the film’s early scenes. Feeling stressed out and guilty Petru puts Sonia first. Soon enough, nurses in the hospital inform Laura of Petru’s infidelity, and she throws him out of her flat. Clueless and adrift, Petru hides behind Sonja, hoping for the best.

This is a very confident debut by Marcu, who never lets the action get out of hand, avoiding sentimentality as well as histrionic scenes. Dumitrache is ideal for the role of the rather hesitant Petru, who cannot do right for doing wrong. Yes, he is decent, but his emotional intelligence is limited, he wants to have his cake and eat it. When confronted by Laura, he is like a little boy who wants the teacher to let him off failing his exam. The genders seem to live a very segregated life in contemporary Romania: Petru enjoys the company of co-workers, but when he is with Laura or Sonja, or even his mother, he becomes emasculated and insecure, avoiding conflict. keeping the women apart, compartmentalising their existence, living a double life, which crashes down, when Laura learns the truth. But he has still not learnt from his mistakes, and hopes that the decision will be made for him.

DoP Adrian Silisteanu uses a handheld camera for intimate effect, keeping close to the protagonists. Even their homes tell the storyline: Petru lives in a mess; whilst Laura is a proper homemaker – even though her work is as challenging as his is. Overall, it seems Marcu has re-invented the sub-genre of male malaise, but his careful detailing and string construction of the narrative arc marks him out to be a filmaker with a future. AS



Red Earth, White Snow (2019) *** Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Dir.: Christine Moderbacher; Documentary with Joseph Moderbacher, Alois Doppel, Sabinus; Austria 2017, 71 min.

Christine Moderbacher serves as her own DoP in this insightful debut feature that explores her change of attitude towards the Christian missionaries at work in the Eastern Nigerian village of Nkwumeatu.

Red Earth, White Snow (Rote Erde Weisser Schnee) is very much as journey into the past. Civil war was raging when she first went to Nigeria during the late Sixties. And things have clearly moved on. But Moderbacher has changed too and is longer that God-fearing little girls she used to be. Back in the village with her father Joseph, and his Catholic helpers, the intention is to help with the harvest. But she is faced with nagging  questions about herself and the role of the Austrian Catholics, who still see themselves as saviours, sent by God.  

Joseph Moderbacher might be ageing, but he he still has the drive and optimism of he had during the Civil War when Biafra split from Nigeria for a time. But all is not well: during this time in the adopted village of his Catholic crew he really starts to feel his limitations. The tractor they need for the harvest, has broken down, and Joseph and his college Alois are unable to get it going again. Moderbacher senior is, however, the star of the show: the villagers and Sabinus, the priest, pay homage to him. Daughter Christine compares past and present and nails down the common factor between Blacks and Whites: under the guidance of a Male God, Nigerian and Austrian men cooperate to repress females, making them into second class citizens. White women are patronized, black women are treated like slaves. Catholic ideology helps to keep the status quo. The clips from the Civil War are still traumatic: so much violence, and the helplessness of the ‘civilised’ nations.

The director questions past and present: the role of a Christian ideology, which so clearly segregates race and sex now feels outdated in its ability to promote change and still offer hope and salvation. Male chauvinism is still the dominating factor. And the need to re-examine the mythos of Christian volunteer work, when Moderbacher sen. and his friends are skiing in the Austrian mountains, where they  are “so near to God”.

There are structural questions, but Moderbacher’s approach helps to lift the hypocritical cover from the Good Samaritans, who are celebrating not equality but an exercise in superiority. A sharp irony permeates the whole feature, deconstructing and re-assessing the real motivations behind do-gooders or all kinds.



Insulaire (2018) *** Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Dir: Stephane Goël | Wri: Antoine Jacoud/Stephane Goël With: Mathieu Amalric | Doc, 92′

In 1877 a Swiss aristocrat, Alfred von Rodt, became the governor of the remote Chilean island in the South Pacific Ocean, giving birth to the legendary term “Robinson Crusoe”. Exiled from his country and family, Rodt turned his hand to surviving without them in a utopia of his own making. While Mathieu Amalric narrates Rodt’s imagined musings (in French), the story of his current descendants unfolds before our eyes, showing little has changed on the island in the intervening 142 years, as the islanders fight for survival outside the governance of Chile, seeking political autonomy and the preservation of their indigenous identity.  

On this renamed ‘Isla Robinson Crusoe’ in the remote Juan Fernandez Archipelago  (off Chile) there are no immigrants because everyone was born there along with the firecrown hummingbirds and fur seals and (originally) imported cattle and horses. Valparaiso is the nearest mainland city and from there most of the imports arrive. The islanders are still reliant on the mainland so nothing has changed since Rodt’s day, but now the population has grown to around 900, and they appear to be increasingly insular, and proud of it too.

Stephane Goël evokes this windswept island paradise with its undulating terrain formed by ancient lava flows. Extraordinary views dominate the white sandy beaches where baby seals frolic in the waves. Rodt dreamed of creating a mini Switzerland and yet nothing could be further away as these contented South American people brush along happily together bound by their collective Catholic faith. Goël does not attempt to get know any of them so this remains largely a speculative documentary where we are projecting putative notions and ideas onto existing archive and fact. Nor does he question the natives apparently placid existence, leaving us to assume that the vast open spaces and rural existence ensures tranquility. But as the film plays out there are clearly similarities with the genial South Americans here and the well-behaved Swiss of his native Berne. And the person who unites them still lives on through this community: the indefatigable pioneer von Rodt. But was he an optimist or a simply a megalomaniac propelled by the rage of being driven out.

At this moment in time where we explore ever more closely the notions of nationalism and patriotism, this island thousands of miles away is also going through the same process. MT




Jonas Mekas (1922-2019) | Spotlight at Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Bergamo Film Meeting this year celebrates the work of Jonas Mekas, who died aged 96 in January this year. An avant-garde filmmaker in the true sense of the word he was also one of the influential figures in American underground cinema and made his name there in the late 1950s, founding and writing for the film magazine Film Culture. Along with the publication Village Voice there was an interplay between European avant-garde with the US Beat movement of the era and Mekas nurtured the most radical film voices in New York City.

Mekas’ roots were in Lituania where he was born in the village of Semeniškiai. But his film career was to be born out of adversity. During the final years of the Nazi occupation he was taken with his brother Adolfas to a labour camp in Germany whence they escaped into Denmark hiding out until the war ended. The two then spend four years in a refugee camp where their interest in cinema was kindled, watching classic films provided by the US forces. They both realised that their war experiences were of valuable interest and channeled their budding talent into writing scripts and eventually making their own films.

Despite this difficult start in life, Mekas was lucky enough to study at the University of Mainz, quite a privilege back in those days where many lost their studying opportunities due to conscription and the war effort in general. Luck also played a hand in sending Mekas to America with Adolfas, courtesy of the UN. Fetching up in Brooklyn in the late 1940s he bought his first 16mm camera, a Bolex, and started his life’s work. His first 35mm feature, Gun of the Trees (1961), was a politically infused indie drama ‘starring’ Adolfas and exploring the first knockings of Beat through the lives of four characters.

Commercially, his work mostly failed to attracted attention from distributors so he set about co-founding the New American Cinema Group and the Filmmakers’ Cooperative in 1962. Again this was a counter-culture initiative, upping the ante against mainstream cinema which he decried as being “boring”. His films were often screened in venues such as the Bleecker Street cinema in Greenwich Village. While distributors shied away from his work, the authorities did not. In 1964, he found himself charged with obscenity offences for screening Jean Genet’s gay film: Un Chant d’Amour.

His next experimental endeavour was a documentary called The Brig (1964) which looked at life in a Marine corps jail in Japan. By the late 1960s his gaze was also drifting towards a cinematic chronicle entitled Diaries, Notes and Sketches (1969) which featured luminaries such as Nico, Edie Sedgewick, Andy Warhol, Norman Mailer and even John Lennon and the Velvet Underground. Contrary to popular belief, Mekas was not gay himself – well, he may have swung both ways – in 1974 he married and sired a son Sebastian and a daughter Oona, with Hollis Melton.

His next project was an auto-biopic Lost, Lost, Lost (1976) that focused on his early years in America where he felt somewhat of an outsider despite his binding friendships with his fellow arthouse crowd. Paradise Not Yet Lost (1980) followed along similar lines and – some would say – his masterpiece  As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000), was an attempt to engage the audience in a lengthy look into his personal life, very much focusing on the act of film-making as much as the subject matter itself. He emerges a voyeur rather than a director as such. Recording his own life story, and distilling the events onto film, keeping a naturalistic approach at all times. And he was pleased with the results. Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man (2012) seems to be a testament to contentment. MT

TRIBUTE to Jonas Mekas | Bergamo Film MEETING 2019 

Jonas Mekas at The Internet Saga, an exhibition of his video work in Venice to coincide with the 2015 biennale.


Spotlight on Karpo Godina: The Yugoslavian Black Wave | Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Karpo Godina is probably the best known proponent of the Yugoslavian Black Wave movement of the 1960s and early ’70s. All over Europe seismic social changes were in the air and Yugoslav culture was no different. The country experienced a radical shift from the iron grip of Socialist realism to relative freedom and this was expressed in the absurdist humour, explicit sexuality and anarchic style of many of the new crop of avant-garde films.

Born in Skopje (Macedonia) in 1943, Godina soon moved with his family to Slovenia in the north where he later joined Ljubljana’s Kino Club Odsev and went on to study at the Academy of Theatre there. Film clubs were everywhere at the time and his early 8mm efforts gained him popularity as he joined the festival circuit, widening his circle as he developed his craft. And although his films often had serious social themes they also frothed with a feelgood sense of joy and irony. Even topics such as religion and army service took on absurdist proportions with his clever writing and light-hearted sense of the ridiculous. And they always looked brilliant thanks to his talent as a cinematographer and his skilful sense of lighting, framing and mise en scène. Trained under strict Soviet principles he never cut corners and was professional to the last during a career which spanned from 1968 to 2003.


This year’s Bergamo Film Meeting will pay tribute to the great filmmaker who will be there to present a selection his film archive including: Artificial Paradise, Ksenia, Red Boogie, The Medusa Raft (main pic) and others. MT



Pier Paolo Pasolini: New Restorations at Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

The cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of the highlights of this year’s Bergamo Film Meeting taking place from 9 until 17 March 2019 in the ancient city just north of Milan in Lombardia.

PASOLINI AND THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, will consist of an exhibition of the auteur’s photos and the screening of three recently restored films: the delicately erotic Il fiore delle Mille e una notte (Arabian Nights (1974), and his two entographical documentaries: Le mura di Sana’a (The Walls of Sana’a (1971) and Appunti per un film sull’India (Notes for a film about India (1968).

In 1961 Pasolini took a trip to India with Elsa Morante and the writer Alberto Moravia (Il Conformista). Pasolini’s idea was to compare the stark reality of  the appalling poverty they encountered, with the myths and legends of the vast and exotic continent with its multi-faceted cultures. The focus here is Bombay and the extreme poverty of its environs. Sixty years later, the constrast betweet rich and poor appears even more polarised.

In 1971, while filming of The Decameron, Pasolini made this 13 minute documentary serving as an impassioned plea to UNESCO to preserve Yemen’s capital and its ancient construction. The result was this short film The Walls of Sana’a.




Eastern Memories (2018) *** Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Dir: Martti Kaartinen, Niklas Kullstrom | Doc, 86′

Finnish linguist, explorer and diplomat G. J. Ramstedt (1873-1950) first published his memoirs as a radio series. And it’s easy to see how engaging his story would be without visuals. But narrated by Michael O’Flaherty (Vikings) and Frank Skog over the backdrop of visually arresting but often subversive contemporary footage it is a much more muscular experience and one that requires your constant attention and engagement. And there’s also a score to contend with. So it’s not a meditative or contemplative as you initially imagine.

Ramstedt first fetched up in Mongolia at the turn of the 20th century with the aim of mastering various Asian languages including Mongolian, Japanese, and Korean. He also wrote about Mongolian epic poetry and become the first Finnish chargé d’affaires in Japan where he also translated Japanese poetry.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen have worked long and hard on this documentary and the structural solution they have arrived at to avoid historical visuals makes for demanding viewing. The film is full of stimulating wisdom and insight of the kind we’ve grown used to expecting from the ancient Chinese and Mongolians who saw the world from a completely different point of view than the one we are currently used to in the West. And that’s very refreshing, as it projects the past into the future. A language is not just a set of equivalent words but comes into being to serve a completely different experience in all kinds of ways and Ramstedt conveys this wisdom cleaned from his studies of poetry, religion and local folklore. Mongolian is a fricative language and has adapted itself to being heard over distances, where people communicated on horseback rather than in close or intimate indoor settings. So the language needs to be rely on loud and abrasive sounds in order to be heard.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen’s film works best in reflecting the contemplative mores of the East, and illustrates this in a scene in a remote panoramic landscape of Mongolia where two strangers meet: “If you see a stranger on the steppe it is customary to step down from the horse and wait. For a half an hour you exchange courtesies. Then you may get to the point”. MT



Delta (2017) Bergamo Film Meeting 9-16 March 2019

Dir: Oleksandr Techynskyi | Doc | 78′

Ukrainian cinematographer and director Oleksandr Techynskyi grew up in the Yakutia province of North Eastern Russia where he worked as a medical assistant in a psychiatric team before leaving medicine for photo reportage in the commercial world of Vogue, Playboy and Der Spiegal. Here he transports us to the Bukovina region of the Danube Delta in his follow-up to Maidan-themed war documentary All Things Ablaze (2014). A cinema vérité portrait of nature at its most raw and pure, the locals are mere bystanders their daily banter trivialised by the stark beauty of this remote territory on the north slopes of the central Eastern Carpathians, between Romania and Ukraine.

As much a chronicle of the seasons – from autumn to spring – as an ethnographical account of survival, Delta revolves around local farmers preparing for winter and harvesting the last of the wheat, while fishermen sink their nets for the final few weeks before the river becomes icebound their surviving perch sealed in a chilly tomb. The temperature plummets and the days grow colder and bleaker.

Snow eventually falls and with it the need to slaughter livestock for food. Fortunately this takes place off screen. But death comes in human form too, and a funeral takes place on the riverbanks. Christmas for Orthodox Christians is a festive affair steeped in local traditions with its folkloric undertones linked to nature and time-held beliefs.

Dialogue is minimal and there is hardly any score save the ambient soundtrack of whirring engines, idle chatter and gentle whooshing of the water as the boats navigate their way down stream, making this a meditative and lulling experience. Cigarettes and alcohol help the locals through their arduous often gruelling daily travails. Rugged faces and gnarled hands  are testament to the hardships of working the land. The young have mostly left for the cities and the old seem to lament their passing and face the numbing coldness of the windswept terrain.

Techynskyi’s mesmerisingly camerawork lends a lustre to the rusty auburns and burnt ocres of the corn and grasses. Under his lens the water is transformed into a shuddering veil of velvet sweeping the river as far as the eye can see. Hay bails are bathed in a milky moodiness as the violet night falls softly around. By morning turquoise takes over constrasting warmly with the custard-coloured corn. A small fox runs into a trap and is hardly distinguished from the surrounding biscuity bushes as it writhes to get free. Leaden skies locked over gunmetal landscapes. Even the frost looks enchanting anointing the winter wilderness with an ethereal glow. Delta connects to the universal narrative of survival for this diminishing community where collaboration and camaraderie will always be the order of the day. MT


Jean-Pierre Léaud | Tribute | Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Jean-Pierre Léaud (*1944) is widely known as the face of the French Nouvelle Vague. During his impressive career he made seven film with François Truffaut and eight with Jean-Luc Godard. But the indie directors of the 1990s have continued to fascinate him and more recently he has appeared in Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre (2011) and Ming-liang Tsai’s Face (2009) and the upcoming comedy from Walter Veltroni C’e Tempo (2019).

Leaud’s transition from juvenile hero to mature character actor is quite amazing: his performance as the dying Louis XIV in Albert Serra’s La Morte du Louis XIV (2016) is stunning, and the antithesis to his very beginnings. Whilst avoided the glitz of international stardom, he has enchanted six centuries of European filmmaking.

After his debut as Pierrot in Georges Lampin’s King on horseback (1958), he was to meet François Truffaut: an encounter which would change both their lives. The sly rebel, as Truffaut called himself, had met the revolutionary of the frontal attack. After filming wrapped on Les Quatre cents Coups (400 Blows) in 1959, Truffaut took charge of Léaud who was fast becoming a social outcast. The young man had been expelled from school, his parental home and a foster family. And this trauma feeds into the narrative of 400 Blows, a black-and-white hymn to adolescence. Léaud’s Antoine steals and lies his way through a drama which  ends on the run-away Antoine facing the sea. It’s one of the most impressive finales in film history. The pairing of Truffaut and Léaud would manifest itself best in the Antoine Doinel trilogy – Baisers Volés (1968), Domicile Conjugal (1970) and L’Amour en fuite (1979), both men growing up together in a strange sort of way.

In 1966 Léaud would star in Godard’s Masculin, feminin: 15 Faits Précis, winning a Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlinale for his role as Paul, who is in a ménage-a-quatre with three women in a contemporary Paris. Loosely based on Maupassant’s short stories, this feature was the beginning of the break Godard would make with narrative cinema. Also called The Children of Marx and Coca Cola (an inter-title of the feature), sex and politics are at the core. Léaud is fragile, and the lighting shows him as beautiful and vulnerable as the three women, Madeleine (Chantal Goya), Catherine (Isabelle Duport) and Elisabeth (Marlene Jobert). All four main protagonists have very different plans for the future, when their agendas collide. There is immense elegance and beauty here  (DoP Willy Kurant), and Godard treats his actors (perhaps for the last time) with more care than in the verbal politics of later films. Pauline Kael called it “that rare achievement: a work of grace in a contemporary setting” and for Andrew Sarris it was “the film of the season”.

A year later Godard would cast Léaud as part of a group in La Chinoise (1967), this time surrounded by two women and two men, but with a very much harsher political focus. Based on Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed, this was Godard’s first adventure into Maoism. Léaud is Guillaume, in love with Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky), who has a much stronger personality than him, and will finally leave him. Kirilov (Lex de Bruijin), is the weakest of the trio and he will kill himself, as in the novel. Léaud’s Guillaume is in love with Veronique, but he is very much a man of clever words, but little action. Veronique on the other hand, is much braver, and decides in the end to assassinate the Russian Cultural minister on a visit to Paris. But he mixes up the numbers of his hotel room, and kills the wrong man. Wiazemsky, the grand daughter of novelist Andrew Malraux, then the Gaullist minister for Culture, fell in love with Godard, and the couple married after the shooting. As an in-joke, Godard casts Francis Jeanson in the film (Wiazemsky’s philosophy lecturer at the Paris 10 (Nanterre) University) having a debate with Veronique while on her way to assassinate the minister.

Pier Paolo Pasolino’s Porcile (1969) tells two parallel stories. The first is about a young cannibal who has killed his father. The second features Léaud as Julian Klotz, the son of German entrepreneur (Alberto Lionello), who is part of the German economic miracle after WWII. Julian’s fiancée Ida (Wiazemsky) is very much an early version of the Baader Meinhof Group, and tries in vain to agitate him. But Julian can’t stand people in general. He prefers the company of pigs, who will be his downfall. Léaud is again the angelic outsider, treating society with avoidance. He is so much more feminine than Ida, that the role reversal is quite breathtaking and Léaud carries his limited part with great sensitivity.

Truffaut’s 1973 outing La Nuit Americaine (Day for Night), is essentially about filmmaking, showing Léaud as the weak and self-obsessed actor Alphonse. During the filming of Je vous présente Pamela , a conventional weepie, he fancies leading lady Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bisset), who has recently had a breakdown. Out of pity she sleeps with him but Alphonse then ‘phones her analyst, Dr Nelson (David Markham), who has left his own family to live with her, and spills the beans on their fling. Léaud plays the histrionic weakling with great skill. And Truffaut, playing himself as the director, assumes the role of his protector – much as in real life. Godard, who by now had broken with his ex-friend Truffaut, called Day for Night “a big lie” – later the two founding fathers of the Nouvelle Vague fought over  Léaud who somehow survived the acrimony and went on to work with another enfant terrible, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki.

I hired a Contract Killer (1990) was one of Kaurismaki’s first English language films and he made a beeline for Léaud in the lead role. The gamine actor of Day for Night had since changed dramatically. His slight, almost feminine appearance was gone, and he’d put on a substantial amount of weight – his acting too was from another dimension. He plays Henri Boulanger, an English Civil Servant, who is sacked after fifteen years of service due to privatisation. With no life outside his work, he tries – in vain – to commit suicide. Then asks a contract killer (Kenneth Colley) to step in. But Margaret (Margi Clarke) gives his life a new meaning. With time running out, Henri tries to contact the killer, to reverse the order. Léaud is totally morbid and emotionally reduced, the environment is straight out of the 1950s, the colours pale, bleached out by wear and tear. Léaud’s agile friskiness has been replaced by gentle placidness, making him look much older than forty-six. But his acting had matured too, and he slips easily into character roles nobody would have expected from him in his New Wave days. AS




Festival Focus: Bergamo Film Meeting 2019 | 9-17 March 2019

Bergamo Film Meeting unveils its 37th edition from March 9 – 17, 2019 in the mountain side venue just north of Milan in the Italian Dolomites. Bergamasco is one of Italy’s most intriguing dialects and the town boasts a wealth of gourmet restaurants and bars where you can savour saffron-flavoured risottos and a legendary pancetta laced pasta dish called casonelli alla bergamasca in a rich butter sauce accompanied by the local wines, including the famous red Moscato di Scanzo. Local handmade ice creams are based on regional ingredients, with stracciatella a speciality.

To open this year’s festival there will be a live performance of Fritz Lang’s  METROPOLIS on Friday 8th March, 20.30, Ex Chiesa di Sant’Agostino – P.le Sant’Agostino, Bergamo.

During the nine screening days and more than 180 films among feature films including world premieres, docs and short-films


Dedicated to new auteurs, the International competition will premiere 7 feature films, which will compete for the Bergamo Film Meeting Award (the audience will grant 5,000 euros to the best three films) and, from this year, for the Best Director Award (the International Jury will grant 2,000 euros to the best director). The competition line-up includes three debut features: British director Jamie Jones’ Obey; Holy Boom, which won an award at Zaragoza festival for Greek filmmaker Maria Lafi; Hadrian Marcu’s A Decent Man and Balkan feature Raindrops, Borders from Nikola Mijovic. Also in competition are two winners from last year’s San Sebastian festival: Benjamin Naishtat’s gripping Argentinian thriller RojoThe Snatch Thief from Agustin Toscano. Richard Billingham’s multi-awarded biopic Ray & Liz, 


Dedicated to documentary cinema. Two awards will be assigned: the Best Documentary CGIL Bergamo – Close Up Section (the audience will grant 2,000 euros) and the CGIL Jury Prize (the CGIL Bergamo trade union delegates will grant 1,000 euros).


The complete works of two filmmakers who, in the last few years, have portrayed Europe’s varied  aspects through a uniquely personal vision: the Norwegian BENT HAMER (10001 Grams) and the Spanish director ALBERTO RODRÍGUEZ (Marshland) along with his collaborator RAFAEL COBOS, will be guests of the Festival from March 13 to 16.


JEAN-PIERRE LÉAUD. The renowned actor will be a guest of the Festival to mark this tribute to his film canon. The retro includes I Hired A Contract Killer; La Chinoise; L’amour en Fuite, La nuit americaine, Le depart, Les quatre cent coups, Masculin et Feminin, Porcile, La mort de Louis XIV, La mama et le putain. 

Also joining the celebration will be Macedonian director and cinematographer Karpo Godino as part of THE YUGOSLAVIAN BLACK WAVE: Retro of his work.

Polish director, animator, painter, cartoonist and performer MARIUSZ WILCZYŃSKI will also join to take part in the festival.


PASOLINI AND THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, special event consisting of a photo exhibition, a panel discussion and the screening of three restored films: Il fiore delle Mille e una notte (Arabian Nights, 1974), Le mura di Sana’a (The Walls of Sana’a, 1971) and Appunti per un film sull’India (Notes for a film about India, 1968)


Benjamin Naishtat interview | Marrakech Film Festival

We spoke to Benjamin Naishtat about his San Sebastian Best Director winner ROJO, a moody socio-political thriller set during Argentina’s Dirty Wars in the mid 1970s.

ROJO is now on general release via New Wave

Rojo (2018) **** Marrakech Film Festival 2018

Bergamo Film Meeting 

Walkover (1965) Walkower | Bergamo Film Meeting 2021

Dir|Wri: Jerzy Skolimowski | Cast: Aleksandra Zawieruszanka, Andrzej Leszczyc, Krzysztof Chamiec | 77min   Drama    Polish with subtitles

During the 1960s writer and director Jerzy Skolimowski focused on films exploring the ironic aspects and moral dilemmas affecting everyday life in post-Stalinist Poland. His films were the ‘Impressionists’ of an era dominated by the sweeping epics of the Polish Film School.

A debut feature, Rysopsis (Identification Marks: None) 1965 was closely followed by WALKOVER another drama set in his home town of Lodz (and also starring his off-screen partner Elzbieta Czyzewska in the opening scenes).

As Andrzej Leszczy, he represents a ‘New Wave’ hero, a raffish outsider with a certain appeal to the opposite sex. Drifting around the locale, having left the army and about to embark on engineering studies, he is taking part in a local boxing match when he meets Teresa (Aleksandra Zawieruszanka), a government engineer who has arrived in the city to work on a new factory scheme. Under Teresa’s spell (Zawieruszanka looks like a Polish equivalent of Angie Dickinson) goes to the wrong ring for the tournament. And as he sits on the train with Teresa, we see his boxing opponent following on a motorbike, viewed in a superb continuous shot from the rear of the carriage. Turning up later, Andrzej wins the contest in a “walkover” as his rival fails to turn up.

As a metaphor for individuality WALKOVER was a very personal second feature for Skolimowski, who aside from his filmmaking activities enjoyed boxing and poetry, some of which is recited in voiceover in several scenes. The film opens with the face of a woman who will later jump under Andrzej and Teresa’s train, but rather than develop this plotline, Skolimowski’s film segues unconventionally into Andrzej’s story using the furore from the accident as an enticing background introduction to the central story about the couple’s brief romance.

The tragedy of the girl under the train adds additional texture, but remains an undeveloped strand. Perhaps his intention was to use her suicide as a cry for help from the thousands of Poles who felt washed up, directionless and cynical after years of fighting a cause; rather like the troubled characters in Tadeusz Konwicki’s Last Day of Summer. It was certainly his intention to explore unconventional ways of telling a story.

Skolimowski’s drama also seems to suggest the importance of standing up against the tide of change and power.  Both Andrzej and Teresa go on to fight their individual battles in WALKOVER. Andrzej perseveres with his boxing and Teresa argues with the factory chief but they both rebel against the tide of industrial Lodz. Although the couple enjoy a night together they remain detached in the scheme of things, alienated further by the stark industrial landscape of Sixties Lodz.

The occasional modernist building sparks interest, such as in the pure lines of the outdoor restaurant scene (title photo), emphasising the pristine black and white cinematography of Antoni Nurzynski. The film also features a meandering, improvised jazzy score by Andrzej Trzaskowski (Night Train). MT




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