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'Fort Bliss' - Not Another War Film

  • Sydney's Buzz
Avoiding the clichés one might expect to abound in a film about a beautiful young mother who enlists not once but twice to serve in Afghanistan, this is a feat of expert script writing and filmmaking.

Between the two stints in the Army, decorated U.S. Army medic and single mother Maggie Swann must renew her relationship with her five-year old son, adjust to her ex-husband’s new live-in and establish a new romance with a blue-eyed Mexican car mechanic, played by Manolo Cardona, who played Santiago in “Contracorriente” (“Undertow”) and is heart-throbbingly gorgeous. And she suffers from recurring memories of her stint in Afghanistan which don’t allow her to sleep much.

Michelle Monaghan who played Maggie Swann reminded me a little too much of Sandra Bullock though she is a good actress, playing the two ends of the emotional spectrum so well that I actually cried with her. Returning home and to Fort Bliss in Houston Texas after a horrendous stint in the army where she served as a medic, unable to sleep much and determined to take back her son, she plays the stoic decorated U.S. Army medic that she has become and yet, to win back her son and establish any other loving relationship, she must (and does) allow her emotions to rule in the end.

The director, Claudia Myers, who also wrote the screenplay was at the screening answering numerous questions afterward in both English and French. She is American but grew up in France. She worked extensively with the military making training movies and wanted to write a story about a woman with a career and family. This extreme situation of a career in the military also appealed to her because the woman had to play such emotional extremes, from not showing emotion in the worst circumstances of war to allowing her emotions for her son and for her lover to have free reign. This is the second feature she has directed after the 2006 Showtime movie, “ Kettle of Fish”.

The film premiered at Toronto Film Festival 2013 and is being sold internationally by Voltage who has sold it for Showgate for Japan and Umbrella for Australia, and Phase 4 for North America. “Fort Bliss” won the Audience Award at the Champs Elysees Film Festival this past June.

If only there were a family-friendly version, I would take my young grandson and his mother to see this as I think a child would empathize with the little boy, played marvelously by Oakes Fegley, if two very hot (and very meaningful) sex scenes were edited out for a family-friendly version.

The sex scenes, however, were great in that each showed the psychological needs of a long emotionally-suppressed military woman and latter the sad and determined lust of her and her lover. That was one cliché less: instead of showing the usual dreamy and loving sex motives of most films, sex revealed the emotional states of people under pressure.

The second cliché avoided was the emotional bond between mother and son. It was a film even a child could respond too, much the way children respond to the story of “Bambi” on film, and yet it avoided any sappiness. And the Army wants to see this story told, despite it showing troubling subject matter like Ptsd, reintegrating into society and sexual assault -- but to their credit they have supported it and helped the film get made in terms of accuracy.

The credits offered thanks to the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss,American Legion, American Red Cross, Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, CA, Patriot Guard Riders, U.S. Army Public Affairs, Union Editorial and the United Service Organizations (Uso).

Fort Bliss” stars Michelle Monaghan (“True Detective”, “Source Code”), Ron Livingston (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Office Space”), Manolo Cardona (“Undertow”, “Beverly Hills Chihauhua”), Gbenga Akinnagbe (“The Wire”), Emmanuelle Chriqui (“Entourage”) and Pablo Schreiber (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Orange is the New Black”).

Producers are John Sullivan, Adam Silver, Patrick Cunningham, Claudia Myers, and Brendan McDonald. Executive Producer is Matt Chessé. Cinematography is by Adam Silver with editing by Matt Chessé and Carsten Kurpanek. Original music by Asche & Spencer.

• Winner: Best Narrative Feature at the GI Film Festival

• Winner: Audience Award for "Best Feature - Independent American Film” at the Champs-Elysées Film Festival

• Winner: Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking Honors at the 2014 Newport Beach Film Festival

1 Hour, 49 Minutes / Not Yet Rated

"Fort Bliss" will play day-and-date in theaters and on VOD September 19 and will come out on DVD October 14. This is a film you want to see.
See full article at Sydney's Buzz »

Champs Elysees Film Festival: Winners and No Losers

Paris! What could be better than to be in Paris, when it sizzles and drizzles, with spectacular lightning, and an evening view of the Arc de Triomphe every night as the participants of the Champs Elysees Film Festival, U.S. in Progress and Paris Coproduction Village drink champagne and eat exciting and uniquely presented hors d’oevres.

Even as we left for the airport after our five nights at the festival, at 6 am we were treated to a full moon and the Eiffel Tower on our right, still enveloped by the navy blue night and on our left, the Seine River and the sun turning the sky rose with its long fingers of dawn.

The beautiful and erudite Jacqueline Bisset, Bertrand Tavernier, Agnes Varda, Keanu Reeves, Whit Stillman and Mike Figges were all here in this intimate and quintessentially Parisian film festival, being celebrated and giving master classes to a public which is eager to soak in American films and French films in the only film festival in Paris.

The American films showing here are indies, relevant, funny, and all special. The Official Selection of American features include Sundance premiere films “Obvious Child” which also screened in Rotterdam and is now playing in U.S., “See You Next Tuesday”, “American Promise”, “Rich Hill” (also played in Hot Docs) and “Test”; the Toronto hit about the French photographer of U.S. street scenes in 1940s and ‘50s U.S. “Searching for Vivian Maier”; Tiff’s “Fort Bliss”; Urbanworld Ff’s “The Magic City” the debut film of R. Malcolm Jones; the critical hit “Locke”; last year’s U.S. in Progress and Tiff films “ 1982”; “Summer of Blood” which went on to play in Tribeca and “Sunbelt Express” in its world premiere.

I have to mention that very relevant French films, both new and classic, are also showing. For me the standout is Jacques Tati’s “Playtime” with English subtitles by Art Buchwald which came out 1967 to the great surprise and delight of the American public lucky enough to see it. In this adventure, Monsieur Hulot has to contact an American official in Paris, but he gets lost in the maze of modern architecture which is filled with the latest technical gadgets. Caught in the tourist invasion, Hulot roams around Paris with a group of American tourists, causing chaos in his usual manner. (Written By Leon Wolters <wolters [at] strw.LeidenUniv.nl>)

Writing this after “Fort Bliss” won the Audience Award is great because I loved that film.

That it could avoid the clichés expected to abound in a film about a beautiful young mother who enlists not once but twice to serve in Afghanistan was a feat of expert script writing and filmmaking.

Between the two stints in the Army, Maggie Swann must renew her relationship with her five-year old son, adjust to her ex-husband’s new live-in and establish a new romance with a blue-eyed Mexican car mechanic, played by Manolo Cardona, who played Santiago in “Contracorriente” (“Undertow”) and is heart-throbbingly gorgeous.

Michelle Monaghan who played Maggie Swann reminded me a little too much of Sandra Bullock though she is a good actress, playing the two ends of the emotional spectrum so well that I actually cried with her. Returning home and to Fort Bliss in Houston Texas after a horrendous stint in the army where she served as a medic, unable to sleep much and determined to take back her son, she plays the stoic decorated U.S. Army medic that she has become and yet, to win back her son and establish any other loving relationship, she must (and does) allow her emotions to rule in the end.

The director, Claudia Myers, who also wrote the screenplay was at the screening answering numerous questions afterward in both English and French. She is American but grew up in France. She worked extensively with the military making training movies and wanted to write a story about a woman with a career and family. This extreme situation of a career in the military also appealed to her because the woman had to play such emotional extremes, from not showing emotion in the worst circumstances of war to allowing her emotions for her son and for her lover to have free reign. This is the second feature she has directed after the 2006 Showtime movie, “ Kettle of Fish”.

The film premiered at Toronto Film Festival 2013 and is being sold internationally by Voltage who has sold it for Showgate for Japan and Umbrella for Australia), and Phase 4 for North America.

If only there were a family-friendly version, I would take my young grandson and his mother to see this as I think a child would empathize with the little boy, played by if the two very hot (and very meaningful) sex scenes were edited out for a family-friendly version. The sex scenes, however, were great in that each showed the psychological needs of a long emotionally-suppressed military woman and latter the sad and determined lust of her and her lover. That was one cliché less: instead of showing the usual dreamy and loving sex motives of most films, sex revealed the emotional states of people under pressure. The second cliché avoided was the emotional bond between mother and son. It was a film even a child could respond too, much the way children respond to the story of Bambi on film, and yet it avoided any sappiness. And the Army wants to see this story told, despite it showing troubling subject matter like Ptsd, reintegrating into society and sexual assault -- but to their credit they have supported it and helped the film get made in terms of accuracy.

The credits offered thanks to the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss,

American Legion, American Red Cross, Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, CA, Patriot Guard Riders, U.S. Army Public Affairs, Union Editorial and the United Service Organizations (Uso).

Also playing were my favorite Tiff film “Searching for Vivian Maier” and “1982” which we (the jury) voted Best Film of Us in Progress last year in Paris and which also went on to play in Toronto. We’re waiting to see how Tommy Oliver releases it. He is now producing two other films: “ Halfway” and “Black Eyed Dog”.

Watch this moving picture of Tommy Oliver lighting up for the Us in Progress organizer Ula Sniegowska, Trust Nordisk’s Silje Glimsdal and others last year in Paris at the Champs Elysees Film Festival

My other personal favorites and wonderful discoveries were “Sun Belt Express” and “Summer of Blood”. The next blog will be about these two films and their filmmakers.

The Champs Elysees Film Festival: American Independent Film Competition

My runner-ups to the Audience Favorite, “Fort Bliss” are “Sun Belt Express” and “Summer of Blood”.

Sun Belt Express” was named in 2012 as the Indiewire Project of the Day as it began its trajectory by raising money on Kickstarter.

See the article Here

"Sun Belt Express" is a funny movie about illegal immigration, set to the south of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. The story follows Allen King, an offbeat ethics professor who ends up on a run across the Mexican border with his conservative teenage daughter in tow - and four illegal immigrants in the trunk. What follows is a family road trip where anything that can go wrong – does. Set on both sides of the border, the film is a testament to the enduring power of humor, even in the most trying of situations.

My interview with the Writer – Director Evan Buxbaum and the Producer Noah Lang took place at the Hotel Marceau, not far from the Champs Elysees where seven theaters were showing films from the Champs Elysees Film Festival, put on for the third year by Sophie Dulac – producer, distributor, arthouse exhibitor and vice-president of family-founded, Publicis, the third largest advertising agency in the world.

Women to Watch: Sophie Dulac and the Champs Elysees Film Festival

Evan Buxbaum started life as a totally unexposed-to-the-world upper Westside (NY) Jewish boy. He didn’t even go to film school. He studied political science and political conflict resolution at Swarthmore. He graduated in ’06 and learned filmmaking by making three or four shorts at the same time as he tended bar.

His “barback” (that is the busboy for bars) Gregorio Castro, shared his story of how he came to U.S. As they became better friends, Evan met other Latinos who had some insane stories about crossing the border which were oddly uplifting. They always showed an indominable spirit in telling these tough stories; they always laughed. It was a unique way to approach life with such a sense of humor.

He and Gregorio set about writing a script and made a 10 minute short, “La Linea” about people in the trunk of a car, as a test of the concept, to see if it would resonate in the way they wanted. They wanted to create a film in a space that didn’t exist. Terrible things happen on the border and the film gave him the opportunity to explore humor in adversity.

The short played in a lot of festivals and some people wanted to finance his feature and so his life was shaped over the next five years (from ages 20 to 30).

Producer Noah Lang -- who incidently is the son of actor Stephen Lang, who played a cameo in this film and was the bad guy in “Avatar” and will be again in “Avatar” 2, 3 and 4 – also went to Swarthmore but did not know Evan there. Noah was working at Cinetic when he went to Headsets and Highballs, a networking operation in NYC where a producer, telling a funny story, got him interested him in reading the script. Over the next four months, while working at Cinetic, he helped out in the development of the script and subsequently left Cinetic to produce independently and subsequently was accepted into a program The Dogfish Accelerator. There he met one of the producers and got involved. That was two years ago…and he didn’t grow broke.

A first feature is usually sheer blindness, stupidity and luck. Financing began with Kickstarter to raise seed money. That was the most difficult part of making the movie. Kickstarter is a great platform to make you do something! They had 650 donors and raised $40,000 to hire actors, an attorney, asting director and location scout. Kickstarter also created a big following. From crowdfunding they moved to private equity and cash flowed through New Mexico tax credit. They raised some money from Indiegogo for post-production and their very rough cut won the Us in Progress prize in the fall of 2013 in Wroclaw, Poland, sharing with “Lake Los Angeles ” for color, sound, foley and a full music mix. They will still use the Polish Us in Progress prize to do a final print mix and color pass and get a Dcp.

Says Noah: “This account of how we raised money is not a replicating model. The first film is a constant bargain for what you can do.”

The creative notes they received during Us in Progress were very important. It was the first time they knew what they needed to do.

“In editing you’re blind. The emotional connection is very powerful, the process however is a slog, filled with doubts,” Evan says.

The speed dating model of networking gave Evan and Noah a way to approach problems.

One French distribution company showed interest in the film and lots of international sales agents gave them advice. Some told them that the film would do well in U.K. and Russia, but would not play to a French audience.

Here in Paris, however, many people gave them their cards for French distribution. The French audience was very good and made them optimistic as their reception was overwhelmingly positive, in fact some in the audience were very passionate about the immigration issue.

“And this was supposed to be the difficult audience”, they said.

Even the French international sales agents had underestimated the French audiences. The strength of this well told story was in dealing with the issue of transplantation in a humanized, humanitarian way. The audience was very emotional and spoke of their own or their great-grandparents’ coming to France. I noticed questions were asked by Africans and North Africans as well as by French.

They are now in talks with sales agents and a domestic distributor. Stay tuned!

They have several projects jockeying for priority now. One is to work with the “Summer of Blood” team on a coproduction. This is still pre-script stage. More on “Summer of Blood” and their team to follow. Both the investors in “Summer of Blood” and “Sunbelt Express” are interested in continuing.

For more information, go to SunBeltExpressMovie.com.

Based on Noah Lang and Evan Buxbaum’s recommendations and on the fact that like it had also been in Us in Progress and in Tribeca Film Festival, I went to see “Summer of Blood” and was not disappointed.

In fact, I was surprised by the humor of this so-called “mumble gore” movie which Mpi is releasing in the U.S. The best of it all was the presentation and post screening Q&A by the director and star Onur Tukel, a Turkish Woody Allen. This is a New York story of a guy who is afraid to commit and becomes a vampire and is still afraid to commit but has a great time having sex until he realizes his former girlfriend is still the one he loves.

Onur, a Turkish guy who grew up in North Carolina, and his producer Clifford McCurdy were in Paris with “Summer of Blood”. The two could not appear more disparate. One loose, dresses in plaid shirts, has a beard and long hair, the other straight-laced, short haired, reserved. When Onur begins talking, you don’t know if he is serious or joking and he gets pretty outrageous. He says this film is a cross between “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “True Blood” and it is very Woody Allen. One of the actresses, Juliette Fairley was also there. She was sexy, drole, perky and funny in the movie. Her mother – French Jewish, her father African American met when he went to France during World War 2. She has a script about it which she is also beginning to show people. At one point in the Q&A, someone in the audience asked how Onur could be so brazen about how he portrayed his Jewish landlord or the African American date in one scene (Juliette) and he had no shame or trace of bigotry in his answer. As a Turkish American growing up in North Carolina, he had never met a Jew until he moved to New York and his landlord was actually like the landlord in the movie…why not? The question was made to seem like one in “Sunbelt Express” when the daughter asks her father how he can dare to call these people “Mexicans” and he replies, “but they are Mexicans”. The fun of poking holes in peoples’ politically corrected prejudices make both of these comedies subversively funny.

See the movie when Mpi releases it. As for “Sun Belt Express”, you’ll have to wait until they sign a distribution deal.
See full article at Sydney's Buzz »

Bam: Dynamo lines up Elephant

  • ScreenDaily
Colombian production powerhouse Dynamo is preparing to shoot Peruvian co-production The Vanished Elephant as it enters post on Que Viva La Musica and Out Of The Dark.

Dynamo partner Michel Ruben told Screendaily that Javier Fuentes-Léon will direct The Vanished Elephant as his follow-up to the 2009 romance Undertow (Contracorriente).

The co-production with Fuentes-Léon’s El Calvo Films is scheduled to commence in October in Peru. The Vanished Elephant is a film noir and will star Salvador Del Solar from Peru and Colombia’s Angie Cepeda.

Ruben said the Lima-set story is inspired by the work of Argentinian novelist Julio Cortázar, the David Hockney collage Pearl Blossom Highway and David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive.

Production finished 10 days ago on Que Viva La Musica, a co-production with Mexico’s Anima. Carlos Moreno directs and his credits include Sundance 2011 entry All Your Dead Ones (Todos Tus Muertos) and Sundance 2008 selection Dog Eat Dog.

Alex Garcia is the
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Top 100 Greatest Gay Movies

  • The Backlot
Brace yourselves. This list of the Top 100 Greatest Gay Movies is probably going to generate some howls of protest thanks to a rather major upset in the rankings. Frankly, one that surprised the hell out of us here at AfterElton.

But before we get to that, an introduction. A few weeks ago we asked AfterElton readers to submit up to ten of their favorite films by write-in vote. We conducted a similar poll several years ago, but a lot has happened culturally since then, and a number of worthy movies of gay interest have been released. We wanted to see how your list of favorites had changed.

We also wanted to expand our list to 100 from the top 50 we had done previously. We figured there were finally enough quality gay films to justify the expansion. And we wanted to break out gay documentaries onto their own list (You'll find the
See full article at The Backlot »

Film Review: ‘Undertow’ Provides Poignant Metaphor For Closeted Life

Chicago – “Undertow” is a title that has been used so often by so many different filmmakers that it now threatens to submerge a picture’s individuality. Fortunately, first-time writer/director Juan Fuentes-León’s Peruvian drama (originally titled “Contracorriente”) has already proven to be a film utterly incapable of drifting into obscurity.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Since its debut in 2009, the film has garnered numerous accolades at festivals, including the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance, as well as the Audience Award at last year’s Chicago Latino Film Festival. Though it was ultimately snubbed by the Oscars, Fuentes-León’s small-scale gem has garnered an international array of admirers for its bold yet tender exploration of subject matter still deemed controversial in many parts of the world.

Read Matt Fagerholm’s full review of “Undertow” in our reviews section.

The strength of this picture lies in its subtlety. Mauricio Vidal’s camera often remains stationary,
See full article at HollywoodChicago.com »

Peruvian Cinema: Octubre / October (2010): Interview With Diego Vega

This has been a great year to engage with Peruvian cinema. Not only did I have the chance to speak with Claudia Llosa whose film La Teta Asustada (The Milk of Sorrow, 2009) was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Academy Award®, but I was able to follow-up with Dr. Kimberly Theidon, whose research informed Llosa's film. Also, I had the opportunity to speak with Javier Fuentes-León, whose Contracorriente (Undertow, 2010) has seductively haunted the hearts of festival-goers the world over and earned the honor of being Peru's official submission to the foreign language category for the 2011 Academy Awards®. Further, I was fortunate to sit down with Diego Vega--half of the brother team behind Octubre (October, 2010)--upon the occasion of October's North American premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival (Tiff). October's full dance card on the festival circuit required filmmaker brothers Daniel and Diego Vega to divvy up rounds.
See full article at Screen Anarchy »

The Nine Best Gay Movies of 2010!

  • The Backlot
"Gay movies all suck!"

As a critic who regularly reviews movies of gay interest, I hear this a lot. And while it's undoubtedly true that there are gay movies that do suck, I'm not sure they suck at any higher rates than other genres. Do micro-budgeted gay indie movies tend to suck more? Not any more than all micro-budgeted indie movies, I'd argue. Most of us just don't watch that many micro-budgeted movies.

And even if some gay movies do suck, there are indisputably plenty of others that don't. In fact, when I sat down to make this annual list, I was surprised by how quickly I came up with a number of truly outstanding films. And what do you know? They all veered between "micro-budget" and "low-budget," with a smattering of "high-enough-budget-to-at-least-pay-a-caterer" (and there's also one studio movie).

All in all, it wasn't a bad year for gay film
See full article at The Backlot »

Interview: Javier Fuentes-León and the Oscar Submission "Undertow"

I meet first-time feature director, Us based Javier Fuentes-León in a tasty Puerto Rican restaurant called Sazon. We're there to chat up his Peruvian/Colombian movie "Undertow" (also known as Contracorriente), a romantic gay drama which is also a portrait of a rural community and also a ghost story. But the 'where from?',  'what kind?' and 'why this?' of it are surface details. Javier Fuentes-León is not into all these labels, anyway.

Javier Fuentes-León (photo src)

"For me when I moved here people were immediately like 'So what are you? Are you Spanish Peruvian? Are you Indian Peruvian?" The filmmaker says, recalling his first days in Los Angeles for film school.

"No, I'm Javier." I offer, following his train of thought. "No, I'm Javier." he confirms.

His amiable but definite resistance to labels is, as it so happens, a huge strength for the film about a married
See full article at FilmExperience »

Gay Ghost Love Story Undertow to Open in New York / Los Angeles

Manolo Cardona, Cristian Mercado, Contracorriente / Undertow Javier Fuentes-León's Contracorriente / Undertow, winner of the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance 2010 and Peru's submission to the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, opens Friday, Nov. 26, at New York's Cinema Village and Los Angeles' Laemmle's Sunset 5 (actually in West Hollywood). Undertow's synopsis, via distributor The Film Collaborative, reads as follows: In this unique ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside, a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town's rigid traditions. Miguel (Cristian Mercado), a handsome young fisherman, and his beautiful bride, Mariela (Tatiana Astengo), are about to welcome their first child. But Miguel harbors a secret; he's in love with Santiago (Manolo Cardona), a painter, who is ostracized by the town because he's gay. After a tragic accident occurs, Miguel must choose between sentencing Santiago to eternal torment or doing right by him [...]
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

MixBrasil 2010: Undertow, L.A. Zombie, Sasha at São Paulo's Gay Film Festival

François Sagat in Bruce Labruce's L.A. Zombie The 18th MixBrasil Film Festival of Sexual Diversity (a longer but much more appropriate moniker than "queer") will take place Nov. 11-18 in São Paulo and Nov. 26 (only one day) in Rio de Janeiro. MixBrasil will open with a screening of Javier Fuentes-León's Peruvian drama Contracorriente / Undertow, World Cinema (Dramatic) Audience Award winner at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and Peru’s 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission. This supernatural romantic drama has been described as "Ghost meets Brokeback Mountain." Among the other screening films featuring people (and a few zombies) of various sexual orientations are: Bruce Labruce's L.A. Zombie, a psychological, socially conscious, sexually explicit trip through decadent Los Angeles, where XXX superstar François Sagat's flesh-eating zombie brings back to life the dead men he finds on his path. Danish-based Brazilian filmmaker Carlos Oliveira's feature-film debut Rosa Morena,
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

image+nation 2010 – Montreal's Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: Undertow, Le Fil

Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona in Javier Fuentes-León's Undertow The 23rd edition of image+nation, Montreal's lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender film festival, will kick off with a screening of Javier Fuentes-León's Peruvian drama Contracorriente / Undertow at the Cinéma Impérial on Thursday, Oct. 28. The World Cinema (Dramatic) Audience Award winner at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and Peru’s 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar submission, Undertow features a love triangle with supernatural undertones: a married fisherman is in love with another guy. The film is described in the festival's press release as "Ghost meets Brokeback Mountain." Image+nation comes to a close on Nov. 7 with a screening of Medhi Ben Attia’s Le fil / The String, a Franco-Belgian comedy-drama starring Antonin Stahly-Vishwanadan (the son), veteran Claudia Cardinale (the mother), in addition to a dose of social commentary.
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Oscar 2011 Best Foreign Language Film Possibilities: Undertow, When We Leave, Even The Rain

Manolo Cardona, Cristian Mercado in Javier Fuentes-León's Undertow / Contracorriente (top); Gael Garcia Bernal, Luis Tosar in Iciar Bollain's Even the Rain (middle); Sibel Kekilli in Feo Aladag's When We Leave (bottom) Oscar 2011: Best Foreign Language Film Predictions: Biutiful, The First Beautiful Thing, Carancho Here are a few other possibilities for the 2011 Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film list of semi-finalists: Iciar Bollain's También la Lluvia / Even the Rain (Spain), about two filmmakers (Gael Garcia Bernal and Luis Tosar) exploiting Bolivian extras. The film also offers an analogy to Christopher Columbus' exploitation of American natives. Oliver Schmitz's mother-daughter drama Life, Above All (South Africa). South Africa has done well in the past decade, with a nomination for Yesterday (2004) and a victory for Tsotsi (2005). Javier Fuentes-León's Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner Undertow / Contracorriente (Peru), which deals with ghosts, forbidden gay love, and social conformism.
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Peruvian Cinema: Contracorriente (Undertow, 2009): Interview With Javier Fuentes-León

Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water / and he spent a long time watching from a lonely wooden tower / and when he knew for certain only drowning men would see him / he said, "All men shall be sailors then until the sea shall free them..."--Leonard Cohen, "Suzanne"

Javier Fuentes-León's Contracorriente (Undertow, 2009) screened in Frameline34's spotlight on South American queer cinema and won that festival's Outstanding First Feature Award, having already scored the World Cinema Audience Award (Drama) at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Among its multiple awards and distinctions, Undertow has resonated with audiences in San Sebastian, Cartagena, Miami, Montreal, Nashville, Chicago, Utrecht, Madrid, Provincetown, Slovakia, Galway, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Vancouver, bespeaking its universal message of love, loss and courageous tolerance. It has since been announced as Peru's Official Submission to the 83rd Academy Awards® for Best Foreign Language Film.

As synopsized at
See full article at Screen Anarchy »

Canada's Incendies Joins Near Complete Foreign Oscar List

  • ioncinema
I'm not sure what the cutoff date is for from the individual countries for the Foreign Language Film nominations, but Sony Pictures Classics are glad to see Canada select Denis Villeneuve's Incendies. The company now has three horses in the race and once again, places the distributor in a pretty good position to grab the most of the spots in the final five nominations. Their solid trio so far includes: the Villeneuve film that played at Venice, Telluride and Tiff with Cannes items Xavier Beauvois' Of Gods and Men and Olivier Schmitz's Life, Above All. Having seen all three mentioned titles, I can say that this will please Academy voters. Cross your fingers for Dogtooth folks. Algeria: Outside the Law, Rachid Bouchareb Austria: La Pivellina, Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel Azerbaijan: The Precinct, Ilgar Safat Belgium: Illègal, Olivier Masset-Depasse Bosnia and Herzegovina: Circus Columbia, Danis Tanovic Bulgaria: Eastern Plays,
See full article at ioncinema »

Ask the Flying Monkey: Are There Any Out Gay Characters on Children’s TV?

  • The Backlot
This week: Will there be a sequel to Shelter? What makes an anti-slur word offensive? Are gay foreign films better than American ones?

Have a question about gay male entertainment? Contact me here (and be sure and include your city and state and/or country!)

Q: Hey Arnold, the popular 1990s TV show on Nickelodeon, is known for subtly touching on issues which most, if not all, other children's shows wouldn't touch. For example, one of the character's moms was obviously an alcoholic, and the kids' fourth-grade teacher was gay (this was confirmed by the guy who made the show, Craig Bartlett). Are there any other children's shows with gay characters, whose gayness has been officially confirmed? -- Selina, Suny Oneonta

A: You’re right that creator Craig Barlett did confirm, after-the-fact, that Robert Simmons, Arnold’s second fourth grade teacher (voiced by Frasier’s Dan Butler, an out actor), was gay.
See full article at The Backlot »

Provincetown film fest hands out awards

The Provincetown International Film Festival's audience award for best narrative feature resulted in a tie, with honors going to Javier Fuentes-Leon's "Undertow" and Bruce Beresford's "Mao's Last Dancer" as the fest concluded Sunday.

Lucy Walker's "Waste Land" took home the audience award for best documentary feature, while Joseph Laraja's "Come on Down" won the audience award for best short film.

The student film grand jury prize went to Cameron Sawyer's "She's the Fox."

The Massachusetts fest, which focuses on indie film and emerging talent, presented its Filmmaker on the Edge Award to Kevin Smith. Tilda Swinton was honored with its Excellence in Acting Award, and "Howl" filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman were recognized with the Faith Hubley Memorial Award.
See full article at The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News »

Futures: "Undertow" Director Javier Fuentes-León

Futures:
"The seed for the story came accidentally while I was studying," director Javier Fuentes-León told indieWIRE of his 2010 Sundance award-winning film, "Contracorriente" (Undertow). The unusual story, which opened the recent NewFest in New York and is one of 4 in focus at this year's Outfest, takes place in a small conservative seaside village in Peru. On the surface, all appears well for a fisherman and his devoted wife who are ...
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Review: Charming “Undertow” Will Easily Catch You in its Grip

  • The Backlot
Manolo Cardona (left) and Cristian Mercado in Undertow

Every few years, a “small” movie in an unusual setting comes along that is such a charming crowd-pleaser that it sweeps through the whole world like a breath of fresh air. Movies like The Full Monty, Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Billy Elliot became classics precisely because they were “different” – heartfelt stories about people in complicated circumstances, set in places we hadn’t ever seen before.

And, of course, Hollywood learns nothing from the success of these movies, continuing to churn out soulless, over-produced tripe usually starring an unnaturally skinny Jennifer Aniston.

But I digress.

This year’s charming crowd-pleaser is gay, and if there’s any justice at all in the world, this delightful film will repeat the crossover success of previous gay crowd-pleasers like Priscilla and Beautiful Thing and find a life far,
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Two U.S. Underground Films Debut At 2010 Edinburgh International Film Festival

Two highly-anticipated second feature films from U.S. underground filmmakers will be making their World Premieres all the way over at the 64th annual Edinburgh International Film Festival, which will run for twelve days on June 16-27. The films are Rona Mark’s The Crab and Zach Clark’s Vacation!.

The Crab, which screens on June 21, is the touching story of a verbally abusive man born with two enormous, mutant-like hands; while Vacation!, which screens on June 20, tracks four urban gals let loose in a sunny seaside resort down South.

Both Mark and Clark previously screened their debut features at Eiff. Mark’s Strange Girls screened there in 2008 and Clark’s Modern Love Is Automatic screened in 2009. Both films also ended up as runners-up in Bad Lit’s annual Movie of the Year award, again Strange Girls in 2008 and Modern Love in 2009. Sadly, these two masterpieces are still unavailable on
See full article at Underground Film Journal »

Outfest Lets 2010 Lineup Out of the Closet

Outfest Lets 2010 Lineup Out of the Closet
J.B. Ghuman, Jr.'s gender-bending high school dance comedy "Spork" will join previously announced opening night film "Howl" in bookending Outfest 2010: The 28th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. In addition to "Spork" as the fest's closing night film, Outfest has just revealed two other gala screenings: Cheryl Dunye's ("The Watermelon Woman") thriller/doc hybrid "The Owls" and Javier Fuentes-León "Undertow (Contracorriente)." Fuentes-León is also a fellow of Outfest's Screenwriting Lab. ...
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