101 years ago a man was born who would change cinema.

23 03 2011

March 23rd, 1910 Akira Kurosawa was born in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Japan.  Kurosawa redefined the film world and to honor the day of his birth I though we’d preview the International Sections at this year’s DALLLAS IFF 2011.

“I like hot summers, cold winters, heavy rains and snows, and I think most of my pictures show this. I like extremes because I find them most alive.”

“One thing that distinguishes [him] is that he didn’t make one masterpiece or two masterpieces. He made, you know, eight masterpieces.”  Francis Ford Coppola talking about Kurosawa’s prowess.

I think its only right to begin our look at the DIFF 2011 International films by first highlighting a Japanese film.  The DIFF section is – WORLD CINEMA with 8 films from all over the world.

13 Assassins
Jûsan-nin no shikaku

World Cinema

(Japan, 2010, 141 mins, 35mm)

Directed By: Takashi Miike

Cast: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada and Yûsuke Iseya

With more than eighty films under his belt, Takashi Miike can best be described as prolific and versatile. He returns with 13 ASSASSINS, a remake of a 1963 film of the same name and based on a real-life incident.The year is 1844. A young lord rapes and kills with impunity by virtue of his political connections. Though the era of the samurai is fading, an honest government official covertly enlists 13 swordsmen to assassinate this sadistic lord before he can seize more power. With the clock ticking, the assassins lay a deadly trap for the lord and his army of bodyguards, culminating in one of the bloodiest, muddiest swordfights ever put to film.

13 ASSASSINS offers no gimmicks, wires, bullet time or modern soundtrack: it’s dead-serious, old-fashioned samurai action with both feet planted firmly on blood-soaked ground.

— Colin Geddes, Toronto IFF

World Cinema

(Denmark, 2010, 100 mins, Blu-ray Disc)

In Danish with English subtitles
Directed By: Janus Metz Pedersen

ARMADILLO follows the lives of a band of Danish soldiers during a tour of duty at the Armadillo military base in Helmand, Afghanistan. Beginning with their departure from home and concluding with their bittersweet return, their experiences are beautifully chronicled as they fight a battle that they realize they know nothing about.The cameramen joins the fight as they stand side by side with their subjects and face first-hand the destruction and anxiety that come with war. These young men taste the addictive sensations that result from battle, and how they come to grips with the mayhem they are forced to endure. Culminating with an alarming firefight with Taliban rebels these soldiers learn what it means to be war-hardened and what it means to kill.

— Andy Anderson
Among Us

World Cinema

(Sweden, 2010, 93 mins, 35mm)

In French, Swedish with English subtitles
Directed By: Johan Brisinger

Producer: Mikael Flodell
Cinematographer: Henrik Stenberg
Editor: Stephan Walfridsson
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Tcheky Karyo, Izabella Scorupco
Is our life on this Earth predetermined or is it merely a series of chance encounters? Can our viewpoint on the subject ever be changed? This film examines the possibility that there may indeed be guardian angels in disguise walking among us. When their young son is critically injured, Ernst and Cecilia’s perfectly-ordered world is turned upside down. The emotional strain on their marriage is at a crisis point when Walter, a mysterious stranger, enters their lives. Inexplicable events begin to unfold as Walter guides the couple through a confusing journey. The association has a profound impact on them jointly and individually. Hope begins to emerge in the wake of tragedy. Moving imagery, evocative cinematography and strong acting transport the viewer to a place where it is finally possible to stop seeking rational answers and simply believe in the unbelievable.
— Bridgette Poe
Mamas & Papas

World Cinema

(Czech Republic, 2010, 110 mins)

In Czech with English subtitles
Directed By: Alice Nellis

Cast: Zuzana Bydzovská, Filip Capka, Martha Issová

Alice Nellis, the writer and director of the awarding-winning feature TAJNOSTI (LITTLE GIRL BLUE) brings us MAMAS & PAPAS, a story of four couples whose lives are changed through parenthood, whether it be through childbirth, adoption, abortion or loss. The couples are connected but also “atomized,” all dealing differently with their situation to greater or lesser degrees of success. This ensemble drama vibrates with humor, pathos, and enticing cinematography that complement the sacrifices these couples must make. From the couple that is desperate to conceive to the parents who grieve after the loss of their child, Nellis’ film gives us characters whose stories are compelling, completely familiar and wholly unique.


World Cinema

(2011, 112 mins)
Blood Of Eagles
Darah Garuda

World Cinema

(Indonesia, 2010, 97 mins, 35mm)

In Indonesian with English subtitles
Directed By: Yadi Sugandi,
Conor Allyn

Producer: Conor Allyn
Cinematographer: Padri Nadeak
Cast: Rahayu Saraswati, Lukman Sardi, Darius Sinathrya, T. Rifnu Wikana, Doni Alamsyah, Atiqah Hasiholan, Rudy Wowor, Astri Nurdin, Ario Bayu
An epic, action-packed intrigue thriller set in Java during Indonesia’s War of Independence in 1947, BLOOD OF EAGLES follows a heroic band of guerrilla soldiers recruited to halt the construction of a key Dutch airfield. This is the second film in the Jakartan Red and White series. It’s a film full of heroic deeds, gunplay and fantastic explosions. Although it has all the elements of a Hollywood war epic, the film’s most interesting facet for Western audiences is the cultural resentment Indonesians have for the Dutch, which until World War II called the island country a colony. We rarely experience South Asian history, much less the birth of the Indonesian Republic. So it’s interesting that the film has a tie to Dallas. BLOOD OF EAGLES was written by the father and son team of Rob and Conor Allyn. Rob founded the international public relations firm Allyn & Company, which represented and advised the Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks and several Dallas Mayors.
— Marc Lee
The Runway

World Cinema

(Ireland , Luxembourg, 2010, 101 mins)

Directed By: Ian Power

Cast: Kerry Condon, James Cosmo, Demián Bichir

Remember when you were a kid and everything was magic and aliens? Well maybe not aliens, but your imagination ran wild and anything was possible. THE RUNWAY is takes that feeling and adds raucous humor to the mix. Inspired by actual events involving a Mexican pilot who made an emergency landing in County Cork in 1983, Ian Power’s movie re-imagines the pilot as a Colombian involved in shady dealings. He is discovered by young Paco, who just happens to have been falling to sleep at night to Spanish language tapes, because his mother told him that the father he never knew is a Spanish sailor. As the result of Paco’s somewhat dodgy interpreting, the local village resolves to help the castaway rebuild his plane and make a runway for his potential take-off. Director Ian Power puts together a Speilbergian tale full of whimsy and danger, romance and international intrigue and one amazing 80’s music soundtrack that will not be forgotten.

She Deserved It
Sie hat es verdient

World Cinema

(Germany, 2010, 89 mins, Digital Betacam)

In German with English subtitles
Directed By: Thomas Stiller

Cast: Renate Delfs, Martin Feifel, Veronica Ferres

Based on real-life events, this timely narrative illustrates the darkest side of bullying. Linda is a teenage girl whose own insecurities and frustrations lead her to viciously act out against others. By inviting Linda‘s boyfriend to her birthday party, Susanne unknowingly sets off a chain of horrific events. Is Linda a product of environment and circumstance or was she simply (in her own mother’s words) “born evil”? Perfectly realized performances combined with stellar art direction make SHE DESERVED IT an unforgettable experience. Writer-director Thomas Stiller helms an unflinchingly honest piece that explores the complexities of human nature. The non-sequential timeline means we know the outcome from the beginning, yet we are still shocked and saddened. While a tense and disturbing examination of senseless violence, SHE DESERVED IT also manages to demonstrate the redemptive power of forgiveness.

— Bridgette Poe

Indian Film Spotlight.
As Senior Programmer Sarah Harris informed us yesterday, the festival likes to spotlight on country every year.  This year’s focus is on India.  Here are the four films highlighted for DIFF 2011.


Indian Spotlight

(India , USA, 2011, 137 mins, Blu-ray Disc)

In Telugu with English subtitles
Directed By: Praveen Sattaru

The film revolves around two stories, six main characters and their journey over the period of 900 days. The characters make decisions that irrevocably change their lives. Story one is set in Hyderabad, India while the second story is set in Dallas, Texas. The film portrays true emotions with a blend of cultural disharmony mixed with individual wrong choices.

Indian Spotlight

(India, 2010, 155 mins, 35mm)

In Tamil with English subtitles
Directed By: S. Shankar

Cast: Rajnikanth, Aishwarya Rai, Danny Denzongpa

India’s most expensive film ever, ROBOT features superstars Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai-Bachan in this sci-fi blockbuster smash hit.In Chennai, Indiaia, Dr. Vasi (Rajnikanth) is a renowned scientist who has discovered a way to upgrade his robot, Chitti (Rajnikanth), so that it comprehends and generates human emotions. The upgrade is a landmark in the world of science that will grant him great success. But his plans backfire when his creation falls in love with Dr. Vasi’s beautiful fiancée, Sana, (Aishwarya Rai-Bachan) and a rival scientist, Dr. Bohra (Danny Denzongpa), gets ahold of Chitti and manipulates him to destroy the world.

Can Dr. Vasi stop Chitti and rescue Sana before it’s too late?

Mumbai Diaries
Dhobi Ghat

Indian Spotlight

(India, 2010, 100 mins, 35mm)

In Hindi, English with English subtitles
Directed By: Kiran Rao

Cast: Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogra
Official Film Website

DHOBI GHAT or MUMBAI DAIRIES is the story of love and longing in India’s bustling metropolis, Mumbai. Amidst the chaos of the city, its surging crowds, upscale high rises and slums, four lives intersect, and the encounter changes their lives forever.The film encapsulates the alienation of migrants who come to big city in search of a different life. Some are on the prowl for connections and meanings, like Shai; others come looking for survival and livelihood, like Munna the neighborhood washer-man (dhobi). Artists, like Arun, are forever seeking their muse in the myriad moods of the city; others, like Yasmin, struggle to find simple pleasures, like quiet domesticity, in a marriage that’s falling apart.

They all seek different things yet their loneliness and longing binds them together. Will the four ever find what they are looking for in the strange metropolis?


Indian Spotlight

(2011, 96 mins)

In Urdu with English subtitles

Rafiq and his family are struggling to come to terms with the loss of his older brother Tauqir, a tourist photographer, who is one of the thousands of young men who have disappeared, since the onset of the militant insurgency in Kashmir. After an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border into Pakistan,to become a militant, Rafiq returns home to an aimless existence. Until one day, he accidently finds his brother’s old camera.

One of the many great events at this year’s Festival is the EUFORIA LIVE presentation of this year’s 2011 Artist in Residence.

Euforia Live
plays in Euforia Live

Special Presentations

(210 mins)
2011 Artist in Residence Celebration with Euforia Live Performance at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Partnership with Arts Fighting Cancer.
$25 tickets can be purchased in advance. (No Sales at the door). FREE for DIFF STAR Pass HoldersScreening and Q&A of RECAPTURING CUBA: AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY (28 Min)
RECAPTURING CUBA is the journey of Cuban-American artist Rolando Diaz returning to his original roots of influence, Havana, Cuba, to capture its influence in his personal life and the art of Cuba today. Q&A with: Rolando Diaz (Artist), Brady Dial (Writer / Producer) and Peter Larsen (Photographer on Location). 

EUFORIA LIVE PERFORMANCE Euforia Live is a culmination of two authentic art forms, music and art. Seth Simmons, a classically trained composer-pianist, performs his original compositions as Cuban-American fine artist creates an original work of art Witness a world of color coming to life. Let the flames of passion stir within, as sounds and brush strokes take you to a dream-like world of romance. Experience and feel the warmth and magic of Euforia.

The Latino Showcase for 2011 has four solid films that spotlight film contribution from our Mexican and South American filmmakers.

Lavoe, The Untold Story

Latino Showcase

(Puerto Rico, 2011, 108 mins)

In English, Spanish with English subtitles
Directed By: Anthony Felton

Cast: Raúl Carbonell, Patricia Manterola, Joana Vargas

Official Film Website

Dreams turn into nightmares and talent becomes a curse as singer Hector Lavoe rises to fame and success from his humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to the professional music scene of New York in the 50s and 60s. Such is the story of the real-life salsa icon and central character of Anthony Felton’s LAVOE. The film, which was made with an ultra-low budget, not only transports the audiences through the decades as it explores the complicated life of the star singer, but it also successfully captures the evolving essence of the Latino spirit through its music selection. In the end, LAVOE can be considered both a homage to the man and salsa figure and a movie faithful to the value of Latino music history.
— Alex Garcia Topete

By Day and By Night
De dia y de noche

Latino Showcase

(Mexico, 2010, 95 mins, 35mm)

In Spanish with English subtitles
Directed By: Alejandro Molina

Cast: Sandra Echeverria, Manuel Balbi, Marius Biegai, Richie Mestre
In a post-apocalyptic world where overpopulation has run amuck, genetic manipulation becomes the answer to humanity’s problem: make people sensitive to day. That way, people splits between the dwellers of the day and the denizens of night–at once breaking families apart and challenging the definition of a normal life. Such is the setting of BY DAY AND BY NIGHT, Alejandro Molina’s feature debut. The elegant cinematography (which includes stunning landscapes) and ascetic art design of the Mexican sci-fi craft a sense of serenity and beauty that contrasts starkly with the bleakness of the story and its philosophical dilemmas–all in the tradition of sci-fi classics such as THX-1138 and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Ultimately, BY DAY AND BY NIGHT will satisfy both science fiction fans and regular audiences yearning for good cinema.
— Alex Garcia Topete

Latino Showcase

(Venezuela, 2010, 97 mins, 35mm)

In Spanish with English subtitles
Directed By: Marcel Rasquin

Cast: Eliú Armas, Beto Benites, Gonzalo Cubero
As poverty and gang violence rule the slums of Venezuela, brothers Daniel and Julio take refuge in soccer. Daniel dreams of escaping to a better life with his soccer talents while Julio focuses on supporting the family without falling victim to his own dirty deeds, until the dangers of their world catch up to them. Marcel Rasquin’s first feature HERMANO is as hard-hitting as dramas come, full of conflicts and crushing moments thanks to a smart script, good performances, and a filmmaking style that accentuates the rawness of the story. The film’s best accomplishment, though, is its truthful depiction of how soccer (and sports and passions in general) can be the sole beacon of hope for kids facing the worst hardships in developing countries, making the difference between success and tragedy in their lives.
— Alex Garcia Topete


Latino Showcase

(Peru, 2010, 83 mins, 35mm)

In Spanish with English subtitles
Directed By: Daniel Vega Videl,
Diego Vega Videl


With the Lord of Miracle’s traditional celebration as backdrop, money-lender Clemente embarks on a search through the city of Lima for the mother of his child–the one he just discovered after being abandoned by the prostitute mother. OCTOBER, a joint directorial effort of brothers Daniel and Diego Vega, is a poignant yet humorous film about how relationships and loneliness can make a difference in a person’s life–a point highlighted by the detail-oriented cinematic craft of the directors, which along the great performances and religious motifs makes for a heartwarming and compelling narrative for the audience to enjoy.
— Alex Garcia Topete

To end our piece about the incredible International flavor at this year’s DALLAS IFF, I’d like to share with you one last quote about the master director Akira Kurosawa.

Akira Kurosawa – March 23, 1910 – September 6, 1998.

In the character Dr. Sanada (Takashi Shimura) in Drunken Angel, Kurosawa created a unique hero.

“Kurosawa insists that his heroes take their stand, alone, against tradition and battle for a better world, even if the path there is not clear. Separation from a corrupt social system in order to alleviate human suffering, as Sanada does, is the only honorable course.”

Prince, Stephen (1999). The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa (2nd, revised ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691010463,.

As Kurosawa showcased the heroes of his films have to struggle for their honorable course.  The same can be said about any director’s searching to showcase their story to the audience.

Stay Tuned each day as we bring you a different look at the DALLAS IFF 2011!




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