A Weekend in the Country
Spread out through the East End, this festival has a mixture of foreign and indie choices that can be worth the trip. Local film royalty was in attendance, and could be seen sauntering down Main Street with ice cream cones. Alan Alda, Sharon Stone, and Steve Buscemi could be heard “In Conversation with…” The newly refurbished Guild Hall theater is a real gem. And—let’s face it—with the trees just beginning to turn, the ocean, and the manicured lawns and historic houses on view, it’s fun to be there without breaking into a sweat. But be prepared to stand on line for every film. Some recommendations:
What sets John Rabe apart is its complex, fascinating (and underexposed) true story, about a German who ran the Siemens factory in Nanjing up to, and during, the Japanese occupation. As an old China hand, Rabe loved the country and its people, and managed to save several hundred thousand of them from certain death by setting up a neutral zone for foreign nationals in the middle of the city and hiding the Chinese there in plain sight.
Meant to star Ulrich Mühe (The Lives of Others), who died tragically only months before production was to begin, the film is now graced by the excellent Ulrich Tukur, (White Ribbon and Seraphine) in Mühe’s place. John Rabe has already nailed four top awards in Germany: best film, best actor—for Tukur–best production design, and best costumes. This is a big film, and the sixth written and directed by Florian Gallenberger; since he’s only 37, he’s likely to join the international A-list by the time John Rabe opens here in the spring.
Lukas Moodyyson’s hilarious Together and devastating Lilya 4-Ever displayed the exceptional range of this Swedish talent, so the US premiere of his newest (and first English-language) film–Mammoth–was much anticipated. Mammoth stars Michelle Williams, Gael Garcia Bernal, Marife Necessito, and Sophie Nyweide. All of them are outstanding in roles that mirror a very contemporary dilemma: the overworked mom (a pediatric surgeon); the gentle genius dad who has made millions as a game designer; and a nanny from the Philippines who devotes herself to their daughter (Nyweide), while her own sons languish without her at home. But it is newcomer Sophie Nyweide who really shines. A veteran of several films, as well as Law and Order, Nyweide is a competitive snowboarder who “owns a pet cow.” Alone at the post-screening press conference, she represented the entire cast and crew with wit and sangfroid that were truly awesome! Mammoth opens in the US on November 20th.
For environmentalists and everyone else: a modest but powerful documentary, Dirty Oil, by Leslie Iwerks (granddaughter of legendary animation artist Ub Iwerks). Iwerks has taken an unflinching look at some seriously unpleasant landscape and health abuse by the Canadian companies that drain oil sands to supply insatiable US gas guzzlers with their black gold fix.
Known for The Pixar Story, Iwerks here pulls no punches in getting her story out, and giving us a heads-up on the importance of finding a saner alternative to current practices.
On a lighter note: The Hunting Inn has the best carrot cake you’ll ever eat. One slice was enough for three of us, with takeaway for next day’s lunch.