Feb 1, 2011

Bird's Eye View Film Festival 2011 Preview: Part 1

For the last seven years the Birds Eye View Film Festival has showcased the work of female directors (still a shocking minority in the industry). I've attended screenings at the festival several times before, but this year, for the first time, I'll be reporting on it in full.

Over the next couple of posts I'll be picking out some of the films and events that most interest me from the festival programme. In this first part I'll look at the main feature programme, the second part (tomorrow or Thursday) will cover documentaries and special events.
Summaries are taken from the BEV programme.

Grown Up Movie Star
Sexual awakening - and reawakening - takes an explosive turn, with a brilliant, fiery, Sundance-winning central performance by Tatiana Maslany

Given the dominance of English language cinema it's a surprise that we don't see more Canadian films in our cinemas. The available stills suggest that award winning writer Adriana Maggs (making her directorial debut) has a sharp eye as well as a sharp pen and the fact that lead Tatiana Maslany won a special jury for best newcomer at Sundance last year bodes well for at least one standout performance.

The Imperialists Are Still Alive!
Part comedy, part alluring commentary on post-9/11 America, this razor-sharp drama follows an Arabic artist in New York

An international project, with French actress Elodie Bouchez starring in an American made film by a British writer/director. The charismatic Bouchez is always worth watching, and the film's exploration of post 9/11 politics through a main character who is heavily westernised woman of middle eastern origins promises to be interesting, providing it can avoid being heavy handed.

In a Better World
2011 Golden Globe-winner and Oscar nominee: a breathtaking exploration of cycles of violence in modern society from Susanne Bier

Susanne Bier returns to her native Denmark, following the indifferently received Things We Lost in the Fire. She's telling the stories of two families, linked by what is described as a dangerous friendship between their sons. Personally I want to see this for the cast, I became an instant fan of lead actress Trine Dyrholm after seeing her in prison drama In Your Hands, and have been wanting to see more of her work since. Similarly, Michael Persbrandt impressed me in 2009's Everlasting Moments. Combine that with the reception so far, and the quality of what's coming out of Denmark lately and this would seem to be appointment viewing, as well as a solid bet for the Foreign Film Oscar.

Meek's Cutoff
A starkly modern drama of faith and survival set on the 19th century pioneer trails across the American midwest, starring Michelle Williams

I saw this startlingly good third film by Kelly Reichardt at the London Film Festival. It's one of the best films I saw last year; stunning to look at, brilliantly acted, tense and haunting. This will be a screening well worth attending, both for the film itself and, I'm sure, for the following Q and A with the ever underrated Shirley Henderson, and hopefully Reichardt as well.

Near Dark
A sexy, bloody, seminal vampire flick by Academy Award-winner Kathryn Bigelow

A relatively rare chance, as part of the festival's Bloody Women sidebar (of which more in the second part of this preview), to see Kathryn Bigelow's modern vampire western on the big screen. Even better, it's showing at the Prince Charles cinema, which is a brilliant place to see cult movies like this.

Tiny Furniture
Lena Dunham's brilliantly offbeat quarterlife crisis comedy took America by storm

I have a feeling that I'll either fall head over heels for 24 year old Lena Dunham's first film or find it completely insufferable. Tiny Furniture was written and shot, in Dunham's home, with her family and friends co-starring, all in the space of three months; a good example of the new breed of super indie cinema. If she handles it well then this story of a 22 year old post grad trying to figure out what to do with her life should be identifiable and affecting, handled poorly it could easily be twee, shallow and annoying. I hope she pulls it off.

Vision: From the Life of Hildegaard von Bingen
Inspiring portrait of the 12th century Benedictine nun who fought to have her own convent and preach the gospel

From this year's Filmmaker Focus series, on German director Margarethe von Trotta, whose films I really have been meaning to explore. There's another reason I want to see Vision though; As someone who isn't religious, I'm fascinated by the devotion of people like nuns and monks, it's often been an intriguing subject for films, both fiction and documentary. This also sounds like a story well worth telling in and of itself, certainly it's a piece of history that I knew nothing about.

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