Talking About Trees

FRANCE, SUDAN, GERMANY, CHAD, QATAR / 2019 / Arabic / Color, B&W / Digital File / 94 min

Director, Script, Photography: Suhaib Gasmelbari
Editing: Nelly Quettier, Grady Joujou
Sound: Elsading Kamal, Katharina von Schroeder
Sound Editor: Jean Mallet
Appearances: Ibrahim Shaddad, Suliman Ibrahim, Eltyeb Mahdi, Manar Al-Hiro, Hana Abdelrahman Suliman
Producer: Marie Balducchi
Production Company: AGAT Film & Cie
Source: animoproduce

Some men leave Sudan to study filmmaking abroad in the 1960s and the 1970s, with the expectation of contributing to their nation’s democracy and film history. After they come back to their homeland, they try to start screenings at an open-air movie theater that has remained abandoned for many years, but they cannot get permission from the government, and their pleadings are drowned out by adhan, the call to prayer. This film is a story of people who live with loss, and also about film history. The nation was buffeted by a series of military governments and coups, its people left exhausted. The gestures of these four elderly men reproducing the climactic scene of Sunset Boulevard (1950) in the dark might look like an amusing but empty cinematic game. Nontheless, the film shows them continuing to circulate screenings and projecting their dream of African cinema full of love and pride both silently and eloquently, as symbolized by the title taken from Brecht’s poem criticizing silence under dictatorship.

The Master

THAILAND / 2014 / Thai / Color / Digital File / 80 min

Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Appearances: Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Songyos Sugmakanan, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Kongdej Jaturanrasmee, Manotham Theamtheabrat
Producers: Soros Sukhum, Donsaron Kovitvanitcha, Cattleya Paosrijaroen
Japanese Subtitles Courtesy of: Osaka Asian Film Festival

Once there was a pirate video shop in a Bangkok market that was stocked with a rich selection of art cinema from many eras and regions—difficult to obtain in Thailand. It thrived because it worked at meeting cinephiles’ demands, not only with subtitling and packaging, but also by producing explanatory notes for each work. Filmmakers, script writers, and critics who used to be regular customers talk about the legendary place where the roots of Thai new wave films from the latter part of the 1990s to the first half of the 2000s were grounded. Through their passionate words, both their love for film and the issue of illegal copying emerge. The director used a similar method of constructing a single unified mosaic out of many interviews and episodes representing a myriad of viewpoints in his 36 (2012) to BNK48: Girls Don’t Cry (2018).

Chuck Norris vs Communism

UK, ROMANIA, GERMANY / 2015 / Romanian / Color / Digital File / 81 min

Director, Script: Ilinca Calugareanu
Photography: Jose Ruiz
Editing: Per K. Kirkegaard
Music: Anne Nikitin, Rob Manning
Appearances: Ana Maria, Moldovan
Producer: Mara Adina
Production Company, Source: Vernon Films

In Cold War-era Romania in the 1980s under Ceauescu’s dictatorship, information and visual images from the western bloc were scarce due to censorship, and TV provided nothing but boring domestic propaganda. Travel was restricted, and people were scared of being monitored by the secret police. Under such circumstances, underground VHS tapes of Hollywood movies like those starring Chuck Norris, or the Rocky series became one way to resist authority. VHS tapes obtained at the border by bribing security guards; mysterious black-market dealers; a female voiceover symbolizing the free world . . . Through dramatizations and interviews with people looking back on this history, the film depicts an era in which Romanians longed for films and thirsted for the stories they told.