4 Tage im Mai (4 Days in May) (D/RU/UA) @ Festival del Film Locarno

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 12th, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

getIt’s unusual to see a WWII movie where the Russian and German armies are depicted positively, and it’s perhaps even more unusual to see a WWII movie with as little combat as Achim Von Borries’ 4 Tage im Mai, a German/Russian/Ukrainian co-production that premiered on Piazza Grande on Tuesday night. But perhaps more than a WWII movie, 4 Tage im Mai is the coming of age story of a young orphan (played by Pavel Wenzel) dealing with his first, intense feelings of love, jealousy, ardor for combat, and a good dose of unawareness of the consequences of his feats of courage. The movie is based on a true story and set during the last four days of WWII, when a Russian troupe peacefully occupies an orphanage on the German coast. The young boy tries to defend the orphanage, at first by threatening the Russians with a rifle gun and later by enlisting the help of nearby German soldiers. Luckily for him, the Russian captain (played by Aleksei Guskov) is an honorable man who feels a paternal affection for the boy. Even though the movie is set at the closing of WWII, paradoxically the only combat scene is at the very end, once surrender has been declared and the war is officially over. And even more paradoxically, it involves two Russian troupes attacking each other, with the German platoon intervening to put an end to the fighting, but not before many soldiers have died for no good reason other than a personal settlement. Beautifully shot and at times quite funny, the film is not a masterpiece but surely worth watching, especially for its unusual perspectives.

Watch the trailer (in German) here.

Vol spécial (Special Flight) (CH) @ Festival del Film Locarno

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 7th, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

get (1)Molto toccante e applaudito il documentario di Fernand Melgar in concorso a Locarno e presentato ieri per la prima volta al Fevi in una sala gremita. Girato in uno dei 28 centri di detenzione per sans papiers in Svizzera, quello di Frambois a Ginevra, Vol spécial documenta la vita quotidiana dei pensionners, gli “ospiti”, la cui sorte – nel caso migliore – finirà con il rilascio in Svizzera con permesso di soggiorno, ma – nella più parte dei casi – terminerà con il rimpatrio forzato su un volo commerciale oppure su un “volo speciale”, ammanettati, accompagnati da tre poliziotti e letteralmente legati a una sedia e alzati di peso sull’aereo, come criminali. In ogni caso l’attesa è logorante e difficile da accettare. Nonostante il trattamento umano del personale di Frambois, sotto la direzione di Jean-Michel Claude – presente, fra l’altro, alla presentazione del film – la detenzione è vissuta come un’ingiustizia: i detenuti, infatti, non hanno commesso delitti e non sono stati processati, eppure la sera vengono chiusi a chiave in camera. Diversi richiedenti d’asilo hanno figli e famiglie in Svizzera, lavorano qui da moltissimi anni, pagando le tasse e le assicurazioni sociali. Casa, per loro, non è più casa. Nel paese d’origine non hanno più nessuno o, peggio, temono per la propria vita. Eppure la decisione è stata presa e non vi è via d’uscita.

Fernand Melgar aveva già vinto un Pardo d’oro nella sezione Cineasti del Presente nel 2008, con Forteresse. Allora, alla cerimonia di premiazione era assente Fahad Kamas poiché espulso su un volo speciale per la Svezia. Ieri Fahad era a Locarno, assieme a Pitchou Ptima, uno dei “fortunati” ritratti nel documentario, in seguito rilasciato con i documenti.

Anche se lo scopo del documentario è quello di ritrarre la pesantezza del periodo prima della deportazione, mi sarebbe piaciuto conoscere meglio la storia dei detenuti: come e da dove sono arrivati in Svizzera e su quali basi è stata presa la decisione riguardo la loro espulsione. Ma forse è proprio questo il punto di Vol spécial: i dettagli di ogni caso contano poco, quello che conta è la fatalità di una decisione presa, che verrà attuata con la forza—giusta o non giusta.

Vol spécial verrà distribuito nelle sale cinematografiche in Svizzera in autunno.

Intervista con il regista sul sito di SRG SSR: qui.
La storia di Fahad: qui.

BBC’s TV adaptation of Little Dorrit

Posted in Film on February 13th, 2011 by ndb – Be the first to comment

ARTHUR AND AMYI just finished watching the BBC television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, which is available on iTunes for $14.99. I’m a sucker for the classics, but I swear they are the best, and Little Dorritt is one of the finest: great plot, amazing “type” characters, political and social critique, and a wide array of human emotions–love, revenge, forgiveness, loyalty, betrayal, honor. The 2008 BBC version does an amazing job at utilizing the best traits of Dickens’ not always appreciated work, well deserving the seven Emmy Awards it garnered.

For those unfamiliar with this particular Dickens’ work, there is a plot summary on the BBC website (here). Little Dorritt was originally published in 19 installments. I love serial novels because the pace is calculated to keep readers hooked—and the BBC’s 14-part adaptation was just as riveting. If anything, I would complain that the 30-minute episodes were too short—but the beauty of downloading a series is that you can watch several episodes in a row (actually, had it not been for my husband dragging me to bed, I probably would have watched all 452 minutes in one go).

One aspect I loved about the story was that, even though it was written 150 years ago, it still featured the modern and very current themes of debt, Ponze schemes, and changing fortunes. And, of course, Dickens’ strange and eccentric characters are timeless. The part when the Dorrits travel to Italy was a bit boring and drawn-out, and perhaps the ending a little rushed, but these are just minor flaws in a show I otherwise highly recommend.

The Best & Worst of 2010

Posted in Film, Jazz & Other Music, Literature & Libri, Travel on December 28th, 2010 by ndb – 1 Comment

futuresounds.comAs the end of the year approaches, the “Top of 2010″ lists proliferate. I will compile some of my own this year: The top 10 places I visited in 2010; The best surprises of 2010; The top 10 books I read this year; Best achievements of the year. But for the purpose of this blog, following are some more renowned lists, featuring the best & worst of the year and the decade–because lets not forget, we are at the end of a decade.


Top 50 songs of 2010 – Rolling Stone
The 30 best albums of 2010 – Rolling Stone
The best music of 2010 – A.V. Club
The top 10 jazz albums of 2010 – NPR


The 10 Best Books of 2010 – The New York Times
The best books of 2010 – The Economist
The best books of the year – The Guardian
I libri più belli del 2010 – La Repubblica (italiano)


The best films of the ’00s – A.V. Club
The 10 worst movies of 2010 – Rolling Stone


The best travel books of 2010 – WorldHum
The 2010 best travel apps for the iPhone – TNW
The 2010 dirtiest hotels – Tripadvisor

And for those already looking ahead, here are some of the top destinations for 2011:

Top 10 places to visit in 2011 – Rough Guide
Top 10 countries for 2011 – Lonely Planet
Top 10 backpacking travel destinations for 2011 – Off Track Planet

Han jia (Winter Vacation) (CHINA)
WINNER @ the Locarno Film Festival

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 15th, 2010 by ndb – 1 Comment

01The idea behind Han jia (Winter Vacation) was first presented during the 2009 Locarno Film Festival, in the Open Doors section. This year, the movie was selected for the international competition, winning the prestigious Pardo d’oro. To be honest, the movie is very slow. Not that slow is bad per se, but boredom and indifference conveyed through sluggishness can be hard to sit through, despite the fact that the sparse dialogue is rather funny. Set in an anonymous and empty town in Northern China, Han jia follows five teenagers and their families during the last days of winter vacation and the start of school. Nothing happens. No one seems to really inhabit the town, where vegetable sellers sit quietly at their stalls all day. Nobody really talks and nobody seems to really expect anything out of life—except for a six or seven-year old boy, who is abused by everyone in his family, including his grandfather, who constantly threatens him, saying his uncle will kick him in the butt if he does not behave. At one point, the boy tells his grandfather that he doesn’t want to be his grandson anymore, and when he is asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he answers: “I want to be an orphan.” He seems to be the only one to be curious about anything, to desire anything, and to believe something different is possible. Everything in the movie seems to point to a sense of boredom, inertia, and futility: the empty rooms, the sitting and standing, just waiting, the fixed camera takes, the long silences within the dialogue, and the absence of any real plot–only to break out in one final mad, rebellious rock song just before the credits appear. The film certainly has value, but I’m not sure its place is with a Pardo d’oro.

Das Letzte Schweigen (The Silence) (D)
@ the Locarno Film Festival

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 15th, 2010 by ndb – Be the first to comment

LetzteTwenty-three years ago, a young girl named Pia was raped and murdered in a corn field, where her bicycle was found, while the body was later retrieved from a nearby lake. The same exact crime seems to have repeated itself 23 years later, when 13-year-old Sinikka’s bicycle is found in the same spot where Pia was killed. The retired detective who had worked on the first case joins forces with a young detective who just lost his wife to cancer to try to solve the case once and for all.

Thirty-two year old Swiss-born director Baran bo Odar weaves a suspenseful plot that nimbly moves between past and present, showing the pain, anguish, guilt, frustration, and loneliness of the people involved, including Pia’s mother, who still hasn’t gotten over the loss of her girl; Sinikka’s parents, who fall into a state of utter anguish and pain; and the killer and his accomplice. Viewers find out right away who committed the crimes, the real focus being on the psychological drama of the characters. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the movie is being able to glimpse at the two men who committed the original crime: the rapist and killer, Peer, who has since lived a life without remorse, but who has been longing to reconnect with his pedophile friend and witness to the crime, Timo, and Timo, who has changed his name, married, and built a new life for himself, but always burdened by guilt and remorse. An excellent movie despite the difficult subject-matter, beautifully shot.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (FIN/N/F/S) @ the Locarno
International Film Festival

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 12th, 2010 by ndb – Be the first to comment

Watching a Christmas-themed movie in August is strange, but Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, by 34-year old Finnish director Jalmari Helander is somewhat more of a scary tale/black commedy that happens to involve Santa Claus—the real Santa Claus. As the author and director explained before the Locarno International Film Festival screening a few nights ago, in Finnland and other Nordic countries the original Santa was not the nice and jolly old man we know, but a scary, horned creature who whipped children if they did not behave (“You better watch out/ You better not cry/ You better not pout/ I’m telling you why…”). When writing this story, Mr. Helander drew from this character, also adding some elements of his own.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is set in the Korvatunturi mountains, in Lapland, where the father of a young boy, Pietari, is struggling to keep his reindeer slaughterhouse business going. When a herd of raindeers is mysteriously slaughtered, he blames a group of American scientists who are excavating the nearby mountain. A series of even stranger events follow, including all the village radiators disappearing one night. Pietari suspects the truth: the “real” Santa Claus has been set free from the nearby mountain where he had been buried and frozen, and he is out to kidnap all the children. Thanks to the boy’s insightfulness and unexpected bravery, Pietari, his father, and two of his father’s friends (all men in this movie!) manage to destroy the evil Santa Claus and domesticate the elves, turning them into Santa Clauses that they will export all over the world. An unusual story choice, but I appreciated the dark humor, the suspense which always resolved in unexpected ways, the magic and the power of believing present despite the evil Santa and elves, and the beautiful Nordic scenery.

Cold Weather (USA) @ the Locarno International Film Festival

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 11th, 2010 by ndb – 1 Comment

imagesCold Weather, by 29-year old independent filmmaker from Portland Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA, Quiet City), tells the story of Doug, who returns home to Portland after dropping out of forensic science school in Chicago, getting a place with his sister Gail and taking on a job in an ice-making factory. Here, he befriends Carlos, who works as a DJ on the side. Doug spends his days reading detective stories, Sherlock Holmes being his favorite character. When his ex-girlfriend Rachel moves to town temporarily, the four start hanging out together. When Rachel does not show up one night, her friends set out to play detective, chasing what may or may not be their own fiction. Even though Cold Weather is set up as a whodunnit, it is more of a character study about four young people who are fun to be with for a couple of hours. It’s a mood picture more than a mystery, with the plot being secondary to the main relationship between the characters—as proven by the film’s open ending. The setting and actors are very realistic, the shots beautiful, and some of the dialogue extremely funny: the movie might not have enough depth to win a Pardo d’oro, but it is worth seeing.

Watch the movie trailer here.

Morgen (F/RO/H) @ the Locarno International Film Festival

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 10th, 2010 by ndb – Be the first to comment

movie_7239_posterMorgen, by 34-year old Romanian director Marian Crisan and currently in competition at the Locarno International Film Festival, is a touching debut feature film about an attempt at illegal immigration. It is also the story of a friendship between Nelu, a taciturn supermarket security guard and fisherman who lives in Romania close to the border with Hungary, and a Turkish man trying to reach his son in Germany. Nelu lets the man into his home and gives him dry clothes and something to eat, and the stranger hands over to him all his money, asking him for help crossing the border into the EU. The two do not speak each other’s languages, yet they manage to build trust and understanding. Despite the border police being initially lenient, getting him across isn’t that easy, not even with the collaboration of the local community. Morgen is a slow yet dense movie, with few spoken words and many long shots taken from behind the actors, yet the pace perfectly carries the intensity of the story. Interesting choice of not providing subtitles for the Turkish man’s dialogues, thus somehow positioning the viewer to identify more with Nelu and his dilemma about if and how to help the man. A touching and thoughtful movie—the story of one man trying to illegally cross a border, in a time when millions are trying to cross borders worldwide.

Watch the movie trailer here.
Read an interview with the director here.

Just Another Festival Night

Posted in Film, Ticino (non-Vallemaggia) on August 6th, 2010 by ndb – Be the first to comment



Venerdì alle 23.23. X-files vs. South Park on the 315 Vallemaggia bus. Fermata: Aurigeno-Moghegno. Cena Benin-Togo-Ghana in Rotonda, with great people watching. La donna viene dal Ghana e gli uomini dal Togo e Benin, così scopro più tardi. Dovrò parlargli e raccontarvi la loro storia. L’ultima birra-e-1/2 al bar Rivellino, da amici made in USA/CH. Just another festival night, col mond a Locarno, inscì normal, aspettando i film di domani.

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