PORTRAITS: HUMAN JOURNEYS


Dancer's Dream: Sleeping Beauty



Rudolf Nureyev, Dance Director at the Paris Opera for five years, made the greatest ballets in history part of the company's repertoire. These productions of breath-taking beauty were choreographed and directed by Nureyev himself. The company's dancers often remember Nureyev as a "dreamer". All the dancers interviewed in this film helped make Nureyev's dreams come true by bringing to life the roles he chose especially for them. As we accompany them from the initial rehearsals right up to the opening night, we will discover the true essence of each role, and the difficulties linked to its interpretation. We will also talk with them about the particulars of Nureyev's choreographic style and how it influenced their own dancing style in subsequent roles.

Direction: Francois Roussillon.
Screenplay: Francois Roussillon, Elisabeth Platel.
Editing: Philippe Leclaire.
Sound: Olivier Walczak.
Music: Piotr Illitch Tchaikovsky.
Production: Paris Opera; Francois Roussillon & Associes; La Cinquieme.
Video Colour 52'


Moment of Impact



On April 1st, 1989, in a suburb of Loveland, Colorado, Len Loktev was hit by a car and left in a near-comatose state. In that instant, the formerly jovial and independent Russian emigré was turned into an impenetrable being, imprisoned within his own body and completely dependent on others for everything. Eight years later, Julia Loktev, Len's daughter and the filmmaker, has found the courage to make this moving documentary. Loktev takes us into her family's daily life and exposes her deeply felt love, frustration and pain and that of her mother Larisa -Leonard's primary caretaker- as they interact with a father and husband who is not the man they once knew and loved. Larisa fights against the image of herself as a heroine, wanting to be seen as a woman who is coping as best she can, drawing on both her sense of humour and determination, with the fate of her family and the reality of her responsibility. With its glowing black-and-white photography and deeply poignant family portraits, Moment of Impact is a courageous meditation on the unpredictability of our existence.

Direction: Julia Loktev.
Cinematography: Julia Loktev.
Editing: Julia Loktev.
Producer: Melanie Judd.
Production: Melanie Judd
35mm B&W 117'


Pavel and Lyalya



An elderly man is on his deathbed. It is the Russian filmmaker Pavel Kogan. He lives together with his wife Lyalya, also a filmmaker, in Jerusalem. Old friends from Russia, paying them a visit, are making a film about them. The atmosphere is relaxed and homely. For example, we see the sound man-also an old acquaintance of theirs-sitting self-assuredly on screen with his boom. Neither Pavel nor Lyalya are actually interviewed, and we learn little about the background of their life in Jerusalem or Pavel's illness. We see mainly Lyalya, talking about everyday problems with her disabled husband, going to market or reminiscing about her grandmother. The only thing Pavel wants now is to return to Saint Petersburg, his former hometown. But Lyalya is convinced that he would not survive the journey. At least, every day in Jerusalem is another day spent with her husband, she reasons. During the course of the film, the camera repeatedly stays focused on the moving shadows on the wall, whenever Layalya walks off the screen. This poetic image illustrates Pavel's imminent departure, for, as Lyalya explains, medical science has no cure for this mysterious disease, and the only thing left for her to do is to take care of him and support him.

Direction: Victor Kossakovsky.
Screenplay: Victor Kossakovsky.
Cinematography: Victor Kossakovsky.
Editing: Victor Kossakovsky.
Sound: Leonid Lerner.
Producers: Victor Kossakovsky, Anatoly Nikiforov.
Production: St. Petersburg Documentary Studios.
35mm Colour 30'


Bubbeh Lee and Me



This Emmy nominated documentary is a hilarious portrait of an extraordinary, ordinary Jewish grandmother and a touching account of her grandson's search for his place in the world. Whether taking daily excursions to the grocery store to return under-ripe produce or sharing hard-won wisdom over blintzes on Rosh Hashanah, Lee Abrahams is a woman who lives life on her own terms. For her filmmaker grandson, a young gay man born to a Jewish mother and a Protestant father, 87-year-old bubbeh Lee is a vital link to self- and cultural identity, not to mention a reformed icon of love and acceptance. As the two of them relate feelings of love lost or hidden, kibbitz about strategies for shopping , and avoid meddling matchmakers, the strength of their bond emerges. A spirited reflection on family, culture and identity, Bubbeh Lee & Me examines the legacies passed through generations and shows that the journey of self-discovery can begin at any age.

Director: Andy Abrahams Wilson.
Cinematography: Andy Abrahams Wilson.
Editing: Andy Abrahams Wilson, Ron Ward.
Sound: Andy Abrahams Wilson.
Music: James David Jacobs.
Producer: Andy Abrahams Wilson.
Production: Open Eye Pictures.
16mm Colour 35'


Midnight in Cuba



This is a film montage of interviews and portraits of everyday life, featuring four young Cubans from different social backgrounds, living in or just outside Havana. Their individual trajectories, personal experiences and plans for the future combine to form the portrait of a "forgotten generation", which has been given the opportunity for the first time to air their views without fear of censorship. In the conversations with these young people, it becomes clear that they all persue a "dream" which helps them cope with the difficulties and disappointments of their everyday existence. Wendy, for example, is a talented dancer. She is determined to leave Cuba and fulfill her dream of a career in Spain, even though this will mean leaving the people she loves. Osiel is a boxer. He hopes he will one day be in a position to -literally- fight his way out of his poor background and be accepted by the Cuban Olympic team. Equis is an exponent of Cuba's bohemia. He has very romantic ideas and would love to travel the world as a rock star. Finally, sixteen-year-old Yaricel makes a living as a prostitute. She has struggled to come to the decision to stop lying, return to the village of her birth to tell her mother the truth about her existence. The image presented in this film is very different to the usual tales of dissidents trying to escape or the familiar scenes of huge political rallies, and it is precisely this realism and lack of sensationalism that convince the viewer that this is what Cuba is truly like today.

Direction: Dimitri Falk.
Cinematography: Dimitri Falk.
Editing: Fernando Villenas.
Sound: Rick Padillia.
Music: Peter Fand.
Producers: Hugh Wilson, William McCuthchen.
Production: VNF Productions. 16mm Colour 90'


Living Amongst Lions



"My African Farm". She describes an episode where several oxen have been killed by lions, and her foreman suggests that they should poison one of the dead oxen, so that when the lions come to eat, they will die from the poisoned meat. Karen Blixen considers this method cowardly and unworthy of both lion and hunter. While hunting a lion, the hunter should be brave enough to expose himself to danger. "Only that which can die is truly free", she tells the foreman, and proceeds to go lion hunting herself. Sigve Endresen recognised a similar fearlessness in the three young cancer patients he filmed for eighteen months, even if theirs is a forced, involuntary fearlessness. Ingunn, Lars and Kristin talk about their pain, despair and loneliness, but also about the joy, the love of life and serenity they have come to know, since being faced with the certainty of death. And although the title Living Amongst Lions suggests a romantic struggle, the film itself paints a sober, realistic picture of life under difficult conditions and extraordinary pressures, but in which the menace of death makes people live their lives more intensely. As one of the patients says: "Did this really have to happen before I learned to live?"

Director: Sigve Endresen.
Cinematography: Hallgrim 0degard.
Screenplay: Sigve Endresen.
Editing: Lisa Ekberg.
Sound: Gunnar Meidell.
Music: Knut Reiersrud, Reidar Skar.
Producer: Sigve Endresen.
Production: Motlys A/S
35mm Colour 83'


Wednesday



Along with 100 others -51 girls and 49 boys- Kossakovsky was born on Wednesday, July 19th, 1961, in Leningrad. His filmic mission was to track down and examine the lives of everyone he could find that had been born on that day. Of these, several had died (two of them in the war in Afghanistan), several more had emigrated, and others had moved to other cities in Russia. Kossakovsky was able to locate 70 of these people still living in what is now, again, St. Petersburg. Kossakovsky's style is one of quiet observation, as he films in the streets and in his subjects' apartments. Some open up to him completely, some are shy, and some refuse to participate at all. We see and hear from an impoverished alcoholic, a policeman, a convict, a businessman, a dentist, an artist, and many others. Religious and political leanings run the gamut. We follow closely the last few days of the pregnancy of one extremely overweight ex-drug addict who is very worried about the health of her soon-to-be-born child. Mixing humour and humanism, Kossakovsky reveals that despite the hardships endured and the tragedies overcome (or not) by the people chronicled, the overall mood is -perhaps surprisingly, given what we know about modernday Russia- one of optimism.

Direction: Victor Kossakovsky.
Screenplay: Victor Kossakovsky.
Cinematography: Victor Kossakovsky.
Editing: Victor Kossakovsky.
Producer: Viola Stephan.
Production: Viola Stephan Filmproduktion
35mm Colour 90'


Alma



Margie Thorpe works as a barkeeper and sings in her own country band. This film, of which she is both the leading character and co-producer, deals primarily with Margie's complicated relationship with her mother Alma. Born in a southern working-class family, Alma is a charming, funny, but mentally disturbed woman, who conceals the traumas of her past behind wry humor and denial. At age seven, she was raped by an uncle in a cotton field, an incident she refers to as her "first date". Past lovers are romanticized as bank robbers, murderers, and Elvis Presley. In 1965, when Margie was still an infant, Alma was given electric shock treatment in a psychiatric clinic. These events had dire repercussions on the family's life, and made Margie's youth hell. In this intimate and darkly humorous portrait of the Thorpe family, filmmaker Ruth Leitman follows Margie's struggle with a mentally ill mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. Alma is an unflinching examination of family secrets, love and abuse.

Direction: Ruth Leitman.
Cinematography: Mark Petersen.
Editing: Ann Husaini, Ruth Leitman, Darcy Bowman.
Sound: Stephen Thomas, Bill Fibben, Brendan Davis.
Music: Connie Hanes, Steve Dixon.
Producers: Ruth Leitman, Margie Thorpe, Nancy Segler, Peter Wentworth.
Production: Alma Pictures.
16mm Colour 94'


My mother's First Olylmpics



Humor, tenderness and a lot of filmmaking technique make My Mother's First Olympics, the true story of a blind woman who becomes a world champion lawn bowler, a delightful, insightful documentary. Filmed and narrated by her son Ran, Tami Carmeli's story begins when she starts to lose her sight at age 40. Though she stoically tries to hide her problem, Ran first notices when, after a trip to India, his laundry comes out purple because his mother hasn't distinguished the colors of his poorly dyed clothes. As she gradually goes blind, her family urges her to use a cane; instead, Tami, a librarian, learns a new profession as a massage therapist, and how to play lawn bowling for the blind. She is so good, she becomes Israeli champion and is sent to the Para-Olympics for the disabled in Atlanta. Avoiding the melodrama of most triumph-of-the-human-spirit tales, My Mother's First Olympics still leaves viewers with a warm afterglow.

Direction: Ran Carmeli.
Screenplay: Ran Carmeli, Noam Weissman.
Cinematography: Ran Carmeli, Nurit Aviv, Dan Geva.
Editing: Noam Weissman.
Producer: Micha Shagrir.
Production: Shiba Communication
Video Colour 53'


Andreas, Memories of a Family



In the documentary Andreas, Memories of a Family, filmmaker Nikos Pilavios has attempted to present a portrait of the private life of Andreas Papandreou, through the reminiscences of his family - his wife and four children. The main body of the film consists of home movies, filmed and lovingly preserved by Margarita Papandreou, starting in the early fifties, up until the mid-eighties. This invaluable material shows Andreas progress from a young husband in love, to a caring father, to a gentle grandfather, while at the same time, from a different viewpoint, we follow his political career, which seems to begin with his first visit to Greece and his father in 1953, after a thirteen-year absence, reaching its peak with the 1981 elections. Apart for this outstanding footage, the documentary is enriched by rare photographs from the family's private life, as well as the testimony of Margarita Papandreou and her four children - Sophia, George, Nikos and Andrikos.

Direction: Nikos Pilavios.
Screenplay: Nikos Pilavios.
Cinematography: Yiannis Sariyiannis.
Sound: Vyron Papadopoulos.
Producer: Nikos Pilavios.
Production: The George Papandreou Cultural Foundation
Video Colour-B&W 40'


Waking Up in Hilia



"When a village has no wrestlers, it is nothing. There's no one for it to root for!", say the wrestlers themselves, who consider it their inherent obligation to participate in the wrestling games of each village fair, thus honoring their own village and fellow villagers. Waking Up in Hilia tells the story of four wrestlers; two pairs of brothers, who have been wrestling for years at the various fairs in the region, the most important being is the one at the village of Hilia in northern Thrace. The brothers come from the village of Sidirohori in the prefecture of Evros, near Greece's borders with Bulgaria and Turkey. Hassan and Haké, Rejep and Osman. Wrestling: the ritualistic event that is based on the juxtaposition of male bodies, and produces the experience and emotions of male identity. Wrestling involves the immediate negotiation of male strength and prestige, and does not reflect only on Haké or Rejep, but also on the family, friends and village of each man. In these silent societies, what is missing in voice, is made up for in the gaze.

Direction: Panos Papadopoulos.
Screenplay: Panos Papadopoulos.
Cinematography: Akis Kersanidis, Drakos Polychroniadis.
Editing: Themistocles Tsilikis.
Sound: Vangelis Zelkas.
Production: Prosenghisi Film & Video Productions.
Video Colour 60'


A Free Man - The Life of Erno Fisch



Erno Fisch, the film's protagonist, was born in 1903 in Sighet, the same small town as his world-famous compatriot, Elie Wiesel. Erno Fisch was the only Jew in his town that survived the Holocaust. He escaped deportation by hiding in the forest for six months. From his memories, we find out about everyday life in the area, which later became a part of Romania. Erno Fisch lived in an era when being Jewish did not mean being different, and when he could go to a Catholic school, just because it was closer. His life-story exemplifies the fact that resignation is not the only answer to the challenges of life and history.

Direction: Judit Elek.
Cinematography: Gabor Balog, Gyorgy Palos, Tamas Nemescsüi, Balazs Sara.
Editing: Judit Elek.
Sound: Gyorgy Kovacs.
Music: Laszlü Melis.
Production: Hunnia Filmstudio; MTV 1; Kanpai Productions.
Video Colour-B&W 107'


98 Years



The chronicle of a Holy Week spent by the filmmaker with his grandfather. Also featuring are an Albanian couple that lives with the old man, and his eight-year-old granddaughter. Mixing fiction and documentary genres, the film attempts, in a tender and humorous way, to shed some light on what it might mean to "live to be a hundred".

Direction: Apostolos Karakassis.
Cinematography: Yiorgos Argyroiliopoulos.
Editing: Katerina Evangelakou, Apostolos Karakassis.
Production: Apostolos Karakassis.
Video Colour 41'