Cannes 2012 Ecumenical Jury Prize “The Hunt” & “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

 

War Horse review

Among the many themes that emerge or converge in the films of director, producer, writer Steven Spielberg are lonely children and war, specifically World War II. From the kids in “E.T”: the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) to the Oscar-winning “Schindler’s List” (1993),  a black and white film but viewers may remember the little Jewish girl in a red coat, waiting for transport to the Nazi death camps. And from “The Color Purple” (1985) for which he deserved an Oscar, to one of my personal favorite’s, this year’s “Super 8”, Spielberg captures lonely children, or children estranged from, or in tension with, their fathers, as none other.

Saving Private Ryan” (1998), and the TV miniseries “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “Pacific” (2010) and back to cinema with “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006), Spielberg draws the heartbreak of war with the pen of cinematic art as few others, perhaps none other. But I think with “War Horse”, opening in theaters on Christmas Day, is Spielberg’s take on the Academy Award winning 2009 film “The Hurtlocker”, his chance to show how war shreds humanity through the desperate courage and pain of a war horse.

“War Horse” is based on based on a 1982 children’s novel by Michael Marpurgo and has been made into a stage play in 2007 that friends have told me is extremely moving. It is estimated that millions of horses died in World War I from all the armies involved.

A few months before England declared war on Germany in 1914, a horse is born in Devon. Albert Narracott (Jeremy Divine), the only son and of  tenant farmers Ted (Peter Mullan) and Rose (Emily Watson). Ted goes to market to buy a workhorse, presumably a Clydesdale, but is enthralled with the strength and beauty of Joey. He spends money he does not have and takes the horse home, to the derision and disapproval of all except Albert.

Joey proves his worth by plowing an impossibly rocky field but the crop is lost in a rainstorm. When war is declared, soldiers come to the village to buy horses, and an officer promises Albert he will bring Joey home safe if he can.

Joey heads into war with the British soldiers, is lost to the Germans, taken in by a French farmer and his granddaughter but eventually ends up working the German transport lines with Topthorn, a black stallion also captured from the British army.

As the longest, most deadly war in history nears the end, Joey escapes from his cruel masters (though some wranglers were good to the horses) and in a heartbreaking sequence, wrapped in barbed wire, cut and bleeding, makes a run for it through no-mans-land. This is the films’ finest, most poignant, terrifying scene, that culminates with Germans and British units recognizing the transcendent strength of this noble steed, and changing them all, just for a moment.

There are elements of the film that won’t pass muster to the careful viewer. The crop that gets ruined is on a slope; my sister, who has a large garden, said the rain would have run off, not drowned the vegetables.  The crookedly plowed field turns into the perfectly furrowed plot from one scene to another. Albert, who eventually is old enough to go to war, is blinded by gas and then all of a sudden he can see but the audience does not get to see that moment. I wanted to see this because the characters were not well developed; the one with the most interesting potential was Rose, played by Emily Watson.

The film has been nominated for many awards for cinematography, that magical craft of bringing light and camera together, by Janusz Kaminski. Kaminski has worked on many Spielberg movies, winning Oscars for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”.  But I found the digital color “filming” to be over saturated making the characters seem almost as if they were motion-capture animation. Some of the staging of the scenes seemed to have been lifted right out of “Gone with the Wind” and “The Searchers”.

I think the dissonance I am feeling about the film is the extravagant production quality in 3D vis-à-vis a story that was more simple (as in less complex) than the huge production called for.

In the end, “War Horse” is about war and it is about the ways that animals can teach us to be more human. It’s too long, but it is inspiring. The horses, several were used for both Joey and Topthorn, will astonish you.

Everything in the film is true, and some of it did happen.

 

Hope&Joy Communication and Culture program begins!


Hi everyone!

I am so happy to be here in South Africa again, to be part of a two-year program to prepare for the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. I will only be here for a month, however!

Please visit my blog at the National Catholic Reporter for updates.

 

“Brothers” and “Bandslam” to receive Gabriel Awards

Jim Sheridan's taunt family drama about two brothers, one a felon recently out of jail, and one an Army officer in Iraq. Relationships. Choices. Family. And the terror of war.

45th Annual Gabriel Awards to Brothers; Bandslam; Gifted Hands; KNOM Radio (Alaska); WWJ-AM Radio (Southfield, MI); and CatholicTV (Watertown, MA); receive station honors; Univision KTVW Channel 33 (Phoenix) and EWTN honored for Spanish-language programming

The Gabriel Award winners for 2010 have been announced. This year’s honorees include two motion pictures, fourteen television programs, ten radio programs and four Spanish-language television programs. The annual awards are presented to film, television and radio programs and a distinguished individual whose body of work nourish and uplifts the human spirit. One religious radio and one television station and one secular radio are also honored as “Station of the Year.”

The Gabriels, presented by the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals, honor industry professionals who produce films, television and radio programs, features and spot announcements that serve viewers and listeners through the positive, creative treatment of human concerns.

This year’s winners include broadcasters from across the United States and Canada – recognizing achievements produced for national release as well as for markets 1-25 and 26+.  A Gabriel-worthy program affirms the dignity of human beings and recognizes and upholds universally-recognized human values such as community, creativity, tolerance, justice, compassion and the dedication to excellence. (A complete list of winners is attached.)

Each year a Station of the Year Award is presented to a radio and television station recognized for their community service.  This year’s Religious Radio Station of the Year Gabriel goes to KNOM Radio, Nome, Alaska. This is the 18th year KNOM has been honored with the award. The station serves one of the most remote regions of the North American continent, providing information, education, and public service programming to Indian and Eskimo villages.  This year’s Religious Television Station of the Year Gabriel goes to CatholicTV, Watertown, MA.  Secular Radio Station of the Year goes to WWJ-AM Radio in Southfield, MI.

-more-

The 2010 Gabriel Award film winners are: Drama – “Brothers”, Lionsgate and Family − “Bandslam” Walden Media.

Gabriel competition takes place in 21 television categories, 18 radio categories, 20 Spanish-language (10 Television and 10 Radio) and 3 Film (1 Drama, 1 Family, and 1 Documentary) categories in the Gabriel competition, but a Gabriel is not awarded in a category when the standard of Gabriel excellence is lacking.  Judges may also award Certificates of Merit to programs considered worthy of special recognition.  Eight Certificates of Merit have been announced in this year’s judging.

The Gabriel award is a nine-inch silver figure of Gabriel, the angel who first announced to Mary of Nazareth (and to the world) the coming of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). The statue symbolizes the communication of God’s Word to humankind.

The members of the Catholic Academy include broadcasters, journalists, producers, syndicators, public relations and other media professionals who work for both Church-related and secular radio and television stations, production facilities and communications organizations.

Music makes life easier for the new kid in school, as teens face teen, family and life issues.

Sister Rose’s reviews of Brothers and BandSlam

Lucky me! My journey home from Thailand (SIGNIS meeting)

I arrived home from the SIGNIS World Congress last Saturday night and am just getting to the end of jetlag – I hope!

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It was a great meeting and a wonderful trip home. My reflection on the journey is on my NCReporter Blog: Lucky Me!

President of SIGNIS questions church commitment to communications

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Here is my blog entry about SIGNIS first days: Catholic professional questions church commitment to communication

Yesterday was a good day, too, and I hope to post something later today. Blessings!

Follow my trip on Facebook & Twitter

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You may have noticed I have not been posting to my blog recently. This is because I am on the road… on a wonderful journey of communication and communio in Singapore and Thailand. I spent 9 days in Singapore with our Sisters and the Association of Pauline Cooperators for several workshops on media literacy and faith formation and cinema and spirituality. Wonderful (though really, really hot and humid!).

I am now in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the World Congress for Catholic Communication: SIGNIS. The theme is CHILDREN’S RIGHTS: TOMORROW’S PROMISE.

You can follow on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like (lots of photos, including the visit to the elephant reserve yesterday!):

http://www.facebook.com/SisterRoseGoesToTheMovies?ref=name

Twitter: SrRoseMovies  and then #swc2009

Fr. Peter Malone, MSH (Lights, Camera, Faith!) and Theresa Khoo, a Pauline Cooperator from Singapore

Fr. Peter Malone, MSH (Lights, Camera, Faith!) and Theresa Khoo, a Pauline Cooperator from Singapore

Peter will be giving a workshop on Asian Cinema and Spirituality…

Watch this space!

Media Literacy in Singapore

I will have the honor of visiting our Sisters and Pauline Cooperators in Singapore before participating in the SIGNIS world congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand (www.signis.net) in October. Here is the publicity for Singapore – if you happen to be in the area! (Note: photo of me taken pre-Jenny Craig days 🙂

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The Hurt Locker, a new film by Kathryn Bigelow, SIGNIS Award at Venice 2008, etc.

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If you have been reading  my blog, you know that I wrote about Kathryn Bigelow’s new film after it screened at the Venice International Film Festival last summer. In fact, the film won the SIGNIS  Jury’s Grand Prize.

The press release read:

The SIGNIS Jury has awarded its Grand Prize  to Kathryn Bigelow’s anti-war film THE HURT LOCKER. According to the jury’s statement, the motivation for this choice is the filmmaker’s uncompromising approach to the Iraq war and its consequences seen through the experience of the bomb diffusion specialists for whom war is an addiction rather than a cause. “The film challenges the audience’s view of war in general and the current war in particular because it demonstrates the struggle between violence to the body and psychological alienation.”

I was able to bring the award back with me from the festival (I was the jury president, a first for me!) and through Kathryn’s agent we set up a time for Kathryn to come to the Pauline Center for Media Studies and accept it. I also brought back three other awards from independent juries for The Hurt Locker:

Fondazione Ente dello Spetacolo/Revista del Cinematografo – Premio “La Navicella-Venezia Cinema”

ARCA (Associazione Rocreativa Nazionale Culturale Sportiva) – PREMIO GIURIA NAZIONALE ArcaCinemaGiovani

 Human Rights Network Award  from the Human Rights Film Network.

Congratulations, Kathryn! The film opens June 26, 2009 and tonight there is going to be a screening at Loyola Marymount University (sponsored by LMU’s School for Film and Television, Catholics in Media, Open Call, the City of Angels Film Festival and 42West.) Kathryn has graciously accepted to come for a Q & A afterwards.

These photos below were taken with my iPhone taken on February 3, 2009 when Kathryn came here to accept the awards (the photos were being held hostage by the Adobe video editing program and I have no idea how that happened; they were just rescued yesterday by Sr Marie Paul, our video production pro. Sr. M. Paul is now teaching me Final Cut Express and I like it a lot!) I will post any photos we take tonight on the morrow!

Sr. Rose, Kathryn Bigelow with the SIGNIS Award, and Nanciann Horvath of Open Call at the Paulince Center for Media Studies on February 3, 2009

Sr. Rose, Kathryn Bigelow with the SIGNIS Award, and Nanciann Horvath of Open Call at the Paulince Center for Media Studies on February 3, 2009

Kathryn reads about the other independent jury awards given to The Hurt Locker at the Venice Film Festival, September 2008

Kathryn reads about the other independent jury awards given to The Hurt Locker at the Venice Film Festival, September 2008

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Sisters Hosea, Rose, and Karen Joseph with Kathryn Bigelow

Sisters Hosea, Rose, and Karen Joseph with Kathryn Bigelow

 The awards

“Departures” Wins SIGNIS Jury Award at FilmFest DC

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DEPARTURES TAKES FIRST SIGNIS JURY AWARD AT FILMFEST DC

WASHINGTON, DC – A Japanese film, Departures, has received an award for its “reverence for human dignity” from SIGNIS, the official international Catholic communications organization, according to Frank Frost, jury chair.  Departures, literally translated from its Japanese title, Okuribito, as “one who sees people off,” combines serious drama with human foibles comedy to tell the story of an orchestral musician who loses his job in an economic downturn.  Returning to his ancestral village, he stumbles into a job assisting a man who “encoffins” the dead.  The practitioner he assists educates him in the meticulous rituals that lend dignity to the dead and consolation to the bereaved.  “The film is shot with an art and grace that infuses a sense of human dignity even to the grave,” says Frost.  At the same time it deals serio-comically with the prejudice that the practitioners must face from a population doing all it can to avoid the question of death.  The film is directed by Yojiro Takita.

The SIGNIS award at Filmfest DC, an international film festival now in its 23rd year, is an extension of the awards SIGNIS has been providing at major international festivals since 1947, including Cannes, Venice, and Berlin.  SIGNIS juries now participate in festivals in more than thirty countries.  By its presence in the professional cinema world, SIGNIS seeks to contribute in a concrete way to the development of a cinema aimed towards human and spiritual values.  This marks the first time a SIGNIS jury has served at a U.S. festival.  “We are pleased to become partners with SIGNIS in offering recognition to films demonstrating significant human values,” says Tony Gittens, the festival’s director.  “We look forward to having them back next year.” 

Filmfest DC this year included more than 70 films from around the world, including world premieres, DC premieres, international headliners and award winners, and Official Foreign Language Film Oscar® Selections.  This year’s festival had a special focus on films from Eastern Europe and Japan.  

“Filmfest DC is a good match for a SIGNIS jury,” says Rev. Peter Malone, MSC, chair of SIGNIS’ Film Desk.  “The selection of films at Filmfest DC is unusually high in reflecting a wide range of human and spiritual values.  And our jury examines films from the perspective of the degree to which films honestly probe and illumine what it means to be human.”

In addition to the SIGNIS Award itself, the jury chose to give special commendations to two other films of exceptional quality.  The Canadian film, The Necessities of Life, directed by Benoit Pilon, tells the story of an Inuit man torn from his family in his Arctic home to be hospitalized for tuberculosis at a Catholic hospital in Quebec, and the cultural gulf that must be bridged by both sides.  Kabei, directed by Yoji Yamada, tells the story of a man in 1940 Japan who is imprisoned for thought crimes for criticizing the country’s “crusade” against China.  The problems that beset his family and relatives in the ensuing war years gives a fresh perspective on the destructiveness war inflicts on the human fabric.

Frank Frost is an award-winning documentary producer who represents the United States affiliate of SIGNIS, the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals.  Rev. Peter Malone, MSC, is head of the SIGNIS film desk, chair of many SIGNIS and Ecumenical juries at Cannes and other European festivals, and author of several books on film and spirituality.  The third juror is Marjorie Suchocki, Professor Emerita from Claremont School of Theology, Director of the Whitehead Film Festival, and author of multiple books on theology and film.

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