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Season’s top Sprocket operas

Fall Fest Preview 2011

OLDENBERG
Sept. 14-18
This year, the self-proclaimed German Sundance celebrates its 18th edition with a premiere gala at Oldenburg’s Lamberti Church of Emilio Estevez’s “The Way,” starring the writer-director and his father, Martin Sheen. In addition to chairing this year’s jury, actor Matthew Modine will be on hand to present his directorial effort “Jesus Was a Commie,” while longtime fest favorites the Polish twins unspool their latest microbudget romance “For Lovers Only.” A genre anthology, the Theatre Bizarre, will be presented by helmers Douglas Buck, Richard Stanley and Buddy Giovinazzo; other German premieres include back-from-the-wilderness features from two respected U.S. veterans: John Carpenter (“The Ward”) and Monte Hellman (“Road to Nowhere”). On a more strictly realistic note, “Happy New Year” by K. Lorrel Manning takes a hard-hitting look at the post-traumatic stress disorders faced by returning U.S. Marines.

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SAN SEBASTIAN
Sept. 16-24
Considered among the world’s leading Spanish-language fests, San Sebastian’s pulling-power for filmmakers remains clear — not only its location, which is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, but its unusually lucrative prize pool. While competition films slug it out for the Golden Shell, the real bonanza remains the Kutxa-New Directors Award, where debut or sophomore pics compete for a whopping €90,000 prize ($128,000); last year’s winner was Federico Veiroj’s “A Useful Life.” Also noteworthy, at$50,000, is the Horizontes award for films from Latin America. And in addition to newer fare, this year sees a typically tasty array of retrospectives, from the American Way of Death: American Film Noir, 1990-2000 to Digital Shadows: Last Generation Chinese Film, plus a tribute to French master Jacques Demy.

ZURICH
Sept. 22?-?Oct. 2
For its seventh edition, ZFF’s New World View series focuses on Turkey, with a diverse selection of a dozen recent Turkish features and documentaries. In addition to a German-language competition division (which boosts the fest’s awards categories to four, alongside the Golden Eye main competition strand), 2011 sees ZFF partnering with Doctors Without Borders for the inauguration of the Border Lines sidebar, a section dedicated to films that focus on humanitarian principles and people in crisis. Panel discussions as well as screenings will attempt to “alert the public to abuses occurring beyond the headlines,” according to fest organizers. On a lighter note, this year also sees the city’s Opera House used as a venue for the first time, hosting the closing night ceremony Oct. 1.

OSTRAVA
Sept. 23-Oct. 2
Appropriately for a fest dedicated to the art of cinematography, the third Ostrava Kamera Oko will take place in a visually stunning location: the Hlubina mine and the striking industrial structures of Lower Vitkovice, a former Czech refining complex listed by UNESCO as a heritage site. And the program makes clear its commitment to the art — not only by opening with Martin Scorsese’s made-for-HBO pilot “Boardwalk Empire” (“We’re emphasizing the importance of television as a medium of cinemato-graphy,” says program director Anna Kopecka), but by co-crediting d.p. Stuart Dryburgh squarely alongside the helmer in the fest’s literature. Among the other treats, expect masterclasses with some leading international pros, works by Gus Van Sant and Harris Savides (“Restless”), and Werner Herzog and Peter Zeitlinger (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”), as well as a tribute to renowned Slovak lenser Andrej Barla.

NEW YORK
Sept. 30-Oct.16
Opening with the North American premiere of Roman Polanski’s Venice competition entry “Carnage,” NYFF also boasts the world preem of Simon Curtis’ “My Week With Marilyn” as its Centerpiece Gala on Oct. 9. Based on Colin Clark’s diaries of his time as an assistant on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” the pic toplines Michelle Williams as the doomed screen legend and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier. Elsewhere, look out for a special screening of an 8K digital restored version of William Wyler’s 1959 epic “Ben-Hur,” Nicholas Ray’s long-out-of-circulation experimental film “We Can’t Go Home Again,” originally made in collaboration with the late helmer’s film students before his death in 1979, and a centenary tribute to Japan’s Nikkatsu studio, with 36 features ranging from Kon Ichikawa’s “The Burmese Harp” (1956) to Seijun Suzuki’s 1966 cult classic “Tokyo Drifter.”

BUSAN
Oct. 6-14
Massive re-branding is in force at this Asian colossus, as the fest changes its name from Pusan to Busan, to bring it in line with standard Korean-to-English transliteration. As if this weren’t enough, the center of the festival moves to its home in Centum City — away from the beach and its former Haeundae locations — though many of the industry events, including the Asian Film Market (still, for many international visitors, the fest’s main draw) the Asian Project Market (APM, renamed from Pusan Promotion Plan) and Bifcom, the Busan Intl. Film Commission and Industry Showcase, will be housed a couple of subway stops away, in the (necessarily) spacious Bexco center. Amid a slew of Eastern and Occidental fare, look out for a sidebar celebrating the 50th anniversary of Australia-Korea relations, a Yonfan retrospective, and a focus on filmmaker Kim Ki-duk (not the modern-day maverick, but the journeyman helmer of the 1960s and 1970s of the same name).

SITGES
Oct. 6-16
Taking as its theme the concept of artificial intelligence, the 44th edition of this genre mainstay will again serve up a tasty array of horror, sci-fi, thriller, fantasy and martial-arts pics from around the world. Opening with Kike Maillo’s family-friendly “Eva” — about human replicants in the near future — the program boasts carnage from Asia (Na Hong-jin’s ultra-violent “The Yellow Sea”) and chills from closer to home (Jaume Balaguero’s “Sleep Tight,” Carles Torrens’ “Emergo”), all spread across its flagship section, in addition to the Noves Visions and Midnight X-tremes strands. But it’s not all escapism: besidees a retrospective on A.I., another strand will focus on the short- and long-term effect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on fantastic cinema.

GHENT
Oct. 11-22
Once again hosting the World Soundtrack Awards on its closing night, this year Ghent will boast no fewer than three Oscar-winning composers in attendance: Elliot Goldenthal, Howard Shore and Hans Zimmer. The accompanying concert will see the Brussels Philharmonic perform a selection from the their works, in a concert dedicated to the memory of L.A. publicist Ronni Chasen, a longtime rep and friend of the event. Another concert Oct. 12, “Maestros of Suspense,” will showcase film music by regular Hitchcock collaborators Bernard Herrmann and Franz Waxman performed by the National Orchestra of Belgium. Meanwhile, there’s a spotlight on Scandinavia, and “Ingmar Bergman: Truth and Lies,” an exhibition at the city’s Caermersklooster, gathers the late master’s personal papers, including original scripts, notebooks, sketches and photographs, and will run until January.

LONDON
Oct. 12-27
Major changes afoot at this venerable Brit institution. For one thing, the festival’s umbrella organization, the British Film Institute, has now assumed the production responsibilities of the recently disbanded U.K. Film Council. More significantly, though, 2011 marks the final edition for longtime fest topper Sandra Hebron; her replacement, ex-Sydney festival chief Clare Stewart, will oversee not only the fest, but also the cultural and commercial performance of BFI Southbank in her role as the organization’s newly minted head of exhibition. Otherwise, expect London to do what it does best: showcase the cream of the A-list fests, reward debutante filmmakers with the Sutherland Award (won last year by Clio Barnard’s “The Arbor”), and provide an increasingly noteworthy U.K. platform for studios looking ahead to Oscar season.

ABU DHABI
Oct. 13-22
This year, Abu Dhabi commemorates the centenary of Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, who in addition to being his country’s most renowned author, wrote more than 25 original screenplays for helmers such as Youssef Chahine, Salah Abouseif and Tawfik Saleh, while in the 1990s, two of his novels were adapted by Mexican directors Arturo Ripstein (“The Beginning and the End”) and Jorge Fons (“Midaq Alley”). Expect most of his filmography to screen. Meanwhile, the fest’s expansion into the production sector continues with the second year of the Sanad fund for filmmakers from the Arab world. This time, 11 feature-length narrative and documentary films, including projects from filmmakers including Jocelyne Saab of Lebanon and Mauritania’s Abderrahmane Sissako, have been selected to share the $500,000 pool of development and post-production funding.

HAMPTONS
Oct. 13-17
The Hamptons Intl. Film Festival has a stellar track record for showcasing potential award-winners: last year, HIFF films went on to receive a combined 30 Oscar nominations — and Brit helmer Tom Hooper walked away with the Hamptons Audience Award for Oscar-winner “The King’s Speech.” This year sees a new programming relationship with the Paley Center for Media, a re-design of the fest’s signature Conflict & Resolution section, and a strategic partnership with the Perugia Intl. Film Festival, set to launch in March — the year HIFF will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Accordingly, this edition will see a special focus on Italian cinema while fest screenings will expand into new venues throughout West Hampton and Sag Harbor.

SAO PAULO
Oct. 21-Nov. 3
Size matters at Sao Paulo, which for its 35th edition will unspool more than 10 times that many films; the aim, organizers claim, is nothing less than “a comprehensive overview of the best in national and international film production.” There’s a spotlight on local production, and Intl. Perspective, which presents Brazilian premieres of foreign features, while debutante and second-time helmers compete for the New Filmmakers Award. This year, retrospectives are dedicated to still-controversial American titan Elia Kazan (and expect Kent Jones and Martin Scorsese’s “Letter to Elia” to screen alongside Kazan’s own classics), and also to Armenian filmmaker Sergei Parajanov, whose paintings and collages will also be the object of an exposition at Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo.

TOKYO
Oct. 22-30
After a horrific year in Japan, it’s little wonder that this year’s Tokyo Film Festival is concerned with themes of rebirth and consolidation. A new initiative, the Arigato Project, will see donation boxes placed at festival venues before and during the 24th TIFF, with monies raised going to support Cinema Yell Tohoku activities, screening films to people living in devastated areas of the country; commemorative Arigato (“thank you”) wristbands will be given to all donors. In programming terms, the event continues its green activities, screening films with eco-conscious themes and seeing guests tread its green carpet, while a retrospective strand will honor the work of legendary Japanese actress Kyoko Kagawa, who starred in many masterpieces from the Golden Age of Japanese cinema, including Ozu’s “Tokyo Story,” Kurosawa’s “High and Low” and Mizoguchi’s “Crucified Lovers.”

DOHA TRIBECA
Oct. 25-29
The third edition of Tribeca’s Middle Eastern venture sees it taking small but deliberate steps in the direction of more established neighborhood rivals such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The selection remains bijou — just 40 films from around the world — though there are various competition sections, including Arab film, Arab filmmaker and audience awards for narrative feature and documentary, as well as a program of networking events, industry panels, and a family day. Among the highlights, the world preem of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s latest, “Black Gold.” The first major international co-production for the Doha Film Institute and Qatar, it’s an Arabian epic starring Antonio Banderas, Frieda Pinto, Tahar Rahima and Mark Strong.

COTTBUS
Nov. 1-6
The 21st Cottbus Film Festival boasts a healthy prize pool — approximately $115,000 — divided among competitions for features, shorts and German-Polish youth films. This year’s focus strand is dedicated to Eastern Europe by Regions, with particular emphasis on Poland and the Ukraine, which — in a neat touch of cross-platform synchronicity — are also co-hosting the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. An additional strand, set in the context of the Weimar Triangle, will investigate the cinematic and cultural relationships among Poland, France and Germany, while a retrospective section, titled Location Lausitz, presents film locations in Brandenburg from the past to the present. The fest also hosts the co-production market Connecting Cottbus, by now a fixture for regional industry pros looking to partner up on feature and doc projects.

MAR DEL PLATA
Nov. 5-13
For its 26th edition, Mar del Plata turns a spotlight on recent Greek cinema, presents a study of martial-arts pics from the 1970s to the present, and, of course, unspools a healthy selection of new Latin American filmmaking. Amid a tasty selection of Retrospectives, Iron Rearguard will focus on works by overlooked Italian filmmakers, working contemporary to Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti and De Sica, while Tradition of Quality offers up a selection of classic French films from the 1930s to the early 1960s. There’s a tribute to one of Argentina’s most famous filmmakers, Rodolfo Kuhn, an homage to recently deceased Spanish master Luis Garcia Berlanga (“Welcome, Mr. Marshall!”), and a showcase dedicated to the career of U.S. genre mainstay Joe Dante.

STOCKHOLM
Nov. 9-20
In addition to Nordic premieres of recent fest hits (among the more than 180 films screening are Gus Van Sant’s “Restless,” Ruben Ostlund’s “Play” and Sean Penn starrer “This Must Be the Place”), this year Stockholm expands its activities into the production sector, with the establishment of a feature film production fund targeting female directors aligned with a Swedish production shingle. The winner will be provided with up to $300,000, offered both in cash and equipment; furthermore, local distribution for the finished film is guaranteed, provided the pic world-preems at next year’s fest. As many as nine runners-up will receive development funding for their projects. Meanwhile, an array of master-class programs and seminars will link international filmmakers and industry professionals with local auds and aspiring talents.

GIJON
Nov. 18-26
Spanish mainstay Gijon is one year off its half-century this edition, but shows no signs of slowing down. Even as its Enfants Terribles sections present the best international children’s (6-12) and teenage programming, its young jury of up to 10 teenage viewers will reward the competition feature and short. Grown-ups, meanwhile, will savor such recent fest hits as Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter,” Jonathan Caouette’s divisive doc “Walk Away Renee” and Cannes entry “House of Tolerance,” which will unspool as a part of the first Spanish retrospective devoted to its maker, French helmer Bertrand Bonello. Other highlights include a focus on French experimental film and video artist Marie Losier, whose doc “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” has garnered considerable acclaim since premiering at this year’s Berlinale.

DUBAI
Dec. 7-14
Now in its eighth year, Dubai continues to dazzle. On the one hand, auds can look forward to a broad array of screenings and masterclasses, with sections including Arabian Nights, a Celebration of Indian Cinema, Cinema for Children, Gulf Voices and a special focus, for 2011, on new German films. The Muhr competition, meanwhile for Arab, Asia-African and Emirati cinema boasts a prize pot of more than $575,000. But equally noteworthy is the fest’s industry side, with components dedicated to every stage of the filmmaking process, from talent development (the Interchange initiative) and co-production (the Dubai Film Connection, with 18 features completed to date and, from this year, a new focus on documentary funding, via a collaboration with the Copenhagen Intl. Documentary Film Festival), to post-production funding (Enjaaz) and sales and distribution (Dubai Film Mart).

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