Film Scouts Diaries

2004 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Diary 5

by Henri Béhar

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic, July 9 - Back to kids - which, at least for this reporter, has emerged as the major theme of this 39th edition of the Czech Republic's main international film festival. Directed by theatre, television and documentary twin brothers Andrea and Antonio Frazzi, Certi Bambini ("A Children's Story", Italy, in competition) is a pretty disturbing film that will stay with you long after the screening is over. It follows an 11-year-old boy named Rosario who lives in a drab apartment in the suburbs of Naples with a sick bed-bound grandmother. Rosario and a couple of his friends spend their time between a dive and a gambling joint, smoking, drinking, stealing, at times selling themselves, doing everything the adults do around them. Through flashbacks triggered by an image or a sound during long subway rides, Rosario introduces the people who matter most to him - Santino, whom he admires; Damiano whom he fears; Caterina, whom he is fascinated by (teenagers all) - and drags us into what can only be called the inexorable making of a killer. Blaming it all on poverty is an easy way out; we are all at fault here.

From kids to brats, so to speak. Two students at the famous FAMU film school have, for their end-of-studies project, come up with the prank to end all pranks. Check out the context: ever since the Czech Republic converted to a market economy and particularly in the last five years, no less than 125 hypermarkets have opened here, the social habits of the locals have changed radically and the Czech Dream (out of competition) is implacably consumeristic. Within that context, directors-students Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda embarked in a social experiment: they commissioned a campaign from an A-list advertising company for the gala opening of a fictional hypermarket called Czech Dream. The top-notch campaign included flyers, radio and tv spots, jingles, ads in the papers and on the Internet. On May 31, 2003, several thousand citizens arrived at the hypermarket site, only to find a gigantic painted façade with nothing behind it - almost like a movie set. No, they did not take it too well and yes, the "Czech Dream" affair went practically all the way to the Czech parliament. Michael Moore would give this film a thunderous applause.

Michael Moore, whose Farenheit 911 is shown here out of competition (the screenings were sold out on Day One), is taken to task by none other than legendary docu maker Albert Maysles to whom the Festival is paying tribute by showing several of the films he made with his late brother David, a roster that includes such landmark works as Gimme Shelter (on the notoriously ill-fated Rolling Stones concert in Altamont), Grey Gardens (on Edith and Edie Bouvier Beale - yes, Jacqueline Kennedy's aunt and cousin) and Salesman (on four door-to-door bible salesmen). Per the interview he gave the Festival Daily, Maysles disapproves of Michael Moore's methods, which he deems "dangerous" and "disrespectful". He also indicated that among several projects, he was currently working on a new documentary about the Rolling Stones ("They're always the same guys"), another one on the Dalai Lama (financed by Richard Gere) and a film on events that took place in Atlanta in 1913, where an ordinary Jewish man, Leo Frank, was falsely charged of killing a Christian child and mixing her blood with Matzos to celebrate Passover. These events also inspired the 1998 Broadway musical called Parade, written by Alfred Uhry and scored by Jason Robert Brown, as well as The Murder of Mary Phagan, made for television in 1988 by William Hale, with Jack Lemmon as Georgia's Governor John Slaton, Kevin Spacey as a reporter and Peter Gallagher as Leo Frank... "I got very interested in the case when I was a child," Maysles said, adding that Leo Frank's daughter is still alive and living in New York...

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