Some last words on Berlinale…

Ok I hope all is well with everyone. I wrapped up screenings at EFM-Berlinale on Wednesday, and I am just heading back to Berlin on route to Wroclaw,Poland.

I had a whirlwind trip to Cologne to catch Ennio Morricone’s 60 years of music tour. I was able to get a ticket for last nights show at the Lanxess Arena in central Cologne, just across the river from the stunning cathedral. It is worth a visit to this city just to see that magnificent structure.

The Lanxess Arena is a much more contemporary building, and probably better suited to hockey games that live orchestral performances. Be that what it may, it did facilitate a larger audience being able to attend the show. Although the sound was harsh at times, it was a strange experience as people consumed pretzels,beer, bratwurst etc, and hawkers roamed the crowd selling glasses of champagne:)

The beginning of the show was interesting. It was the first time in all the shows I have witnessed, or worked on as a stagehand with Iatse 129, that a performer was given a standing ovation before the show 🙂 The concert stage was filled with a 200+ Orchestra and choir when Ennio Morricone entered the stage to a small podium, and the show began. The first piece was a nicely arranged version on the Theme From 1900. This led into a variety of tracks from his older back catalogue including Chi Mai. The first set then ended with a powerful collection of themes from Morricone’s music for the films of Sergio Leone. The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon A Time in The West, and A Fistful Of Dynamite , where among the films that music was pulled from. The highlight being: Sean Jean from A Fistful Of Dollars, and the stupendous closing song to the first set: The Ecstasy Of Gold- featuring soprano Sussana Rigacci.

The Ecstasy Of Gold-Live

The second set opened with some new work by Morricone. Two tracks from his award-winning score for Quentin Taratino’s The Hateful Eight. Then some great tracks from The Red Tent and then a long set of music from The Mission.

The show ended, but wait…there are going to be three encores for Maestro Morricone; including, unbelievably, another version on Ecsasty Of Gold-wow!

A great show, and hopefully he can make it to North America later in the year. His schedule shows in North America had been cancelled for 2016 due to back problems. I am enroute to Wroclaw, Poland where he is performing on February 23 but that show is sold out…

I will finish off my film chat from Berlin for now, thanks everyone for reading along, and feel free to follow the blog. I will make some sporadic posts through the next few weeks before returning to Canada. I hope to check out the film institute in Bratislava, and the Cinematheque Francais in Paris, and I will see what else film related I spot on my journey.

And, my regular 2 hour film score show (Soundtrack), is still on-air weekly with a super guest host Robyn Edgar. The show airs weekly from 10:00-12:00 EST on 93.3 CFMU-FM in the Hamilton, Canada listening area. You can also listen live ,or download podcast/playlists, at : 93.3 CFMU-fm

The show has a nice Facebook page as well-with links to cool articles, playlists and more:  Soundtrack on CFMU-Facebook

The final word from Berlinale goes to an interesting article in The Guardian , exploring some of the more socially important films and issues from this years festival. Enjoy!

Refugee Crisis on display at Berlinale







EFM-Day 7

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Berlin, as I wrap up my visit. I am taking a break from screenings today for the most part. Checking out a few sights in their stead.

There was a wonderful exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who recently wrapped the exterior of  Berlins concert hall with the abandoned life jackets of thousands of Syrian refugees. Unfortunately the exhibit had been removed before I came upon the building, while strolling through the beautiful Gendarmenmarket Square.

Ai WeiWei in Berlin

Later I will head to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for an interesting film installation. Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett stars in Julian Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto” exhibition currently on show at the Bahnhof. The Australian star re-enacts famous manifestoes of such movements as Futurism, Dada, Minimalism, and others. The 13 short films explore the subversive potential and ambiguity of all kinds of manifesto: Manifesto Hamburger Bahnhof Museum

I’ve heard good things about it so think it’s a good idea for the afternoon.

An interesting  reto-German film is playing in the early evening, hope to get to it:

Abschied von gestern
Yesterday Girl
Anita G. is 22, from a Jewish family, and a migrant from East to West Germany. She is sentenced to probation after stealing a cardigan. Working in an office and also selling language learning LPs, she starts up a relationship with her boss and embezzles from the company. Anita tries in vain to enrol in university in Frankfurt. Her romantic liaison with a married government official also flounders. When she becomes pregnant, Anita, who by then is wanted by the police, turns herself in … With his look at the odyssey of a woman adrift, Alexander Kluge gave a clear signal to launch the “Young German Cinema”. He used the incessant running of this homeless woman to integrate numerous particles of reality into his film – up to and including a performance by Fritz Bauer, Hessen state attorney general and the initiator of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. Enriched with intertitles, documentary segments and third-party texts, Yesterday Girl systematically consummated the break with filmmaking conventions. In 1966, film critic Uwe Nettelbeck wrote “Kluge does not formulate solid insights, but rather incites reflection”. That approach was rewarded with the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival.
Federal Republic of Germany 1965/1966

by Alexander Kluge
with Alexandra Kluge, GĂĽnter Mack, Eva Maria Meineke, Hans Korte, Ursula Dirichs
Rating R: 16

Yesterday’s screening of 2 episodes of a new Nordic crime series called Case was excellent. It charts new territory for Icelandic TV production, and closely follows the template of such TV shows as Forbrydellsan (The Killing).

In this series director Baldvin Z moves from feature film directing (Life In A Fishbowl), to the world of series television. I will attach a link to an interview here , where he talks about the development and shooting of Case-I will add that the first 2 episodes are an excellent introduction to the story and main character arc-and left me wanting more:) I will leave you with the link for the article, and hope to give a final update tomorrow enroute to Koln for a concert by Ennio Morricone.








EFM-Day 5+6

Ok,hello again from Germany. I took a night off from updating the blog, but I do have a few films to mention. And they seem to be scattered from among the Nordic countries: Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden.

Yesterday started off with a cool new Noirdic Noir called: A Conspiracy Of Faith (Denmark-2016-Crime Drama) d. Hans Petter Moland. I have been reading a lot of the literature of Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell, both writers in the Nordic crime scene. Recently I was introduced to another writer: Jussi Adler Olsen, and his Department Q series of novels featuring the character Carl Morck.

A Conspiracy Of Faith is the third instalment of the film adaptations taken from these books. I have viewed the first of these films(Keeper Of Lost Causes ),back in Canada, and was underwhelmed. For this  Morck film, the producers have brought in a new director to take over the reins. Petter Moland has previously directed the Berlin Competition Films:The Beautiful Country (2004), and In Order Of Disappearance (2014).

The lead rĂ´le of Carl Morck is abely played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, as is that of Assad (Fares Fares), and Rose (Johanne Louise Schmidt).

The movie is an entertaining, procedural drama on the surface-but at its heart a meditation on the nature of faith in the modern world. Punctuated with scenes of black humour, the movie never misses a beat in following the story of the investigation of a past crime. A message in a bottle from 8 years ago starts Dept. Q on a search for answers to this cold case, and the mystery takes on even more importance with the dissapearence of two children.The cases seem to be linked, and Carl Mork suspects a serial killer is on the loose. The Dept. Q team must race to solve the clues from both eras, as two lives hang in the balance.

Recommended for lovers of Nordic Noir, and anyone looking for an entertaining yet thought provoking film experience

A Conspiracy Of Faith

Alena (Sweden-2016) d.Daniel De Grado, this film was a lot of fun, a really great teenage drama, mixed effectively with elements of horror and psychological thriller. This movie marks the feature film debut of director Daniel Di Grado. Based on the graphic novel by Kim W Andersson, the film stars Amalia Holm (Alena), Molly Nutley (Filippa), and Felice Jankell (Fabienne).

The central story revolves around a young girl (Alena) from a poor background, who is transferred to an elite boarding school, as she struggles to adapt to this forgein environment ,keep the ghosts of her personal life at bay.

Part ghost story-coming of age drama-psychological thriller, the director De Grado peels the layers away from our main character, slowly revealing her most frightening and terrifying secrets. The setting of the film is in many ways an emotional wasteland for Alena, but she reaches out to try and capture what she desires in her heart: love and belonging. But the demons from her past and from within make this a a short lived moment of happiness.

Recommended-great flick.


Drifters (Sweden-2015-Drama) d. Peter Gronlund

Another feature film debut it seems:) Director Gronlund has previously made 5 short films, including The Clearing (2011), which was nominated for a Swedish Academy Award. With Drifters he has focused his original story on a character Minna (Malin Levanon), a drug addict and part-time dealer struggling to make ends meet. When an opportunity arises to rip off some much needed money froma local drug runner in Stockholm, she ends up on the run with a single alchoholic mother Katja (Lo Kauppi), and ends up in a small gypsy community of caravans on the outskirts of the city.

A down beat premise, but with a very real and truthful setting , the telling of the story and action never seem false, but grounded in a brutal honesty. And admidst this story of the lives of those living a life on the edges of the mainstream , in a volitale world where the precariousness of everyday existence in on full display, the story ultimately still finds the time to show us a glimmer of hope: that some basic goodness can remain at the heart of even those in need. And that friendship transcends.



Tomorrow I will update on the last few screening I am taking in including a couple episodes on a new Icelandic crime show: Case.   Here is a niece interview with the director till then: Case

EFM at Berlinale ends for me on the 18th as I am off to Koln to see Ennio Morricone…













EFM Day 4

Endorphine (Canada-2015-Drama) d. Andre Turpin

This is new film out of Quebec from director Andre Turpin , whose previous feature: In Crab Dans La Tete , was Canada’s submission to the Academy Awards for Best Forgein Language Film at the 75th Academy Awards. As a cinematographer, he is a two-time Genie Award winner for Best Cinematography, for Maelström at the 21st Genie Awards and for Incendies at the 31st Genie Awards,and a five-time winner of the Jutra Award for Best Cinematography, for Maelström, Incendies, C’est pas moi, je le jure!, Un crabe dans la tĂŞte and Mommy.

Endorphine is a visually stunning drama,with superb cinematography and editing. With a story revolving around a central character Simone, the film cuts between different times and places in her life.

The first time she appears is as a traumatized 12 year old, suffering  guilt from the death of her mother. Then she is seen again in mid-life,compulsively following the life of her neighbour and possibly trying to prevent her death. Her third appearance is as a mid-60’s researcher giving a lecture on the theory of time, and its meaning to human existence.

The main actress of the affair is Sophie Nelisse, who was the youngest receipient of the Actra Award for Best Actress for the film: Monsieur Lazar. She excels in a difficult role, as her character has ptsd and sociopathic tendencies, with little dialogue to help flesh out her character. Add to that the overall complicated nature of the character, as she is represented over the course of many years, and these different time periods seem to effect and intertwine with each other, in keeping with the films focus on the nature of time and the fluidity of movement between past,present, and future.

A challenge for this film was with the editing , and it is a credit to the post-production team and editor that the film seems to seamlessly flow through the various stages of Simone’s life-switching back and forth almost effortlessly.

The story is a bit of a head-scratcher,but well worth digging into, and  the movie may deserve a second viewing to really appreciate the full nature of the plot and storyline. For a drama that explores the nature and meaning of our time here on Earth, could the films heroine’s struggles and questions be much different than our own?

The Stare (Japan-2015-Horror) d. Koichiro Miki

A new Japanese horror flick screened today ,and I was a little wary after the disappointing showing of: Creepy earlier in the week.  However The Stare, based on a novel by writer Shinzo Mitsuda, was a pleasant surprise. In it an young assistant director at a TV station becomes involved in a mystery surrounding the death of a young man, and the terrible realization that his death is the result of an ancient curse that emanated from a submerged Japanese village. And this real-life fairytale will threaten to kill all others to dare to approach the forsaken town.

The curse is rather simple and effective, as if you are to happen to catch the stare of the mysterious guardian of the village, you wil be followed by and surrounded by its stare, which will haunt you into an early grave.

The lead role is played effectively by J-Pop singer and Japanese Idol: Tomomi Itano. I believe she sings the End Credit song as well, if I can interpret correctly what the Japanese distributor mentioned after the screening. A cool concept for a film and a effective delivery make The Stare hard to look away from…


The Ardennes (Belgium/Netherlands-2015-Crime/Drama) d. Robin Pront

This is the director Pront’s directorial debut, after  being involved in the production of the critically accalaimed: Bullhead. A “buzz-film” at TIFF 2015, The Ardennes revolves around two brothers  played by Jeroen Perceval (Dave) and Kevin Janssens (Kenneth)who both share a shady past , and a love for the same woman.

The woman’s name is Sylvie, and she is the heart and soul of this rather grim affair. Veer Baetens is excellently cast in the part. Baetens in an actress best know for her appearance in the 2013 movie: Broken Circle Breakdown, a role that won her the award for Best Actress at the European Film Awards.

As Sylvie tries to move forward and turn her life around, her gains are tragically erased by the downward spiral that in initiated upon the release of Kenneth from prison.

A terrific looking film this is:)  The noirish lighting and cinematography paint an appropriate picture for this story of  family loyalties gone astray, amid the rainy and grey Brussels streets, and the forested winter terrain of the Ardenne hills.

And there is no sound of music at the end of this film for our characters. There is only a lonely,dark death knell to be heard amidst the falling rain.

The Ardennes

Tomorrow is another day for a few films and maybe a visit to some film market stalls, or a museum, time will tell…




EFM Day 3

OK, well it is another beautiful sunny day here in Berlin and I am stripped down to a hoodie to venture outside. Funny, as when I was here in 2013, the sun peeked its head out of the clouds on very rare occasions in the 15 days I was in town.

Regardless, it is another day to check out a few films here at the Berlinale EFM. That was after turning on the TV in my hotel room this morning , to see the strange face of cheesy German pop star Heino staring back at me, with trademark sunglasses and dyed blonde hair still intact. Good stuff:)

Well I have  new Polish film called: Ederly to take a look at in an hour so I figured it was a good time to update the blog.

So far today I checked out a very slick and cool little movie titled: Diggers(Diggery; Russia 2016-Action/Horror).

synopsis is as follows with some minor additions by yours truly:

“When the last train of the night blows through the station and disappears deep into the tunnel system beneath Moscow rather than stopping and releasing its passengers, and when authorities successfully stifle all talk of the disappeared train and passengers, it falls to a group of young people to work their way into the tunnel system to try and discover what has happened to their friends.They certainly find something, but not entirely what they were looking for…” Twitch Films

A cool subterranean setting helps propel this story that has some twists and turns and rubber suited monsters-but I liked it’s atmospheric and low key style at the beginning and also the nicely ironic ending scene. The sum of the parts doesn’t equal the whole in this film,but still a pretty good ride while it lasted. Directed by Tikhov Kornev.


Big budget French production Come What May ( En Mai Fais Ce Qu’il Te Plait-France 2015-Drama) is a film I was familiar with through it’s score by Ennio Morricone. It was nice to hear that the movie was playing here in Berlin , so I squeezed into a screening this afternoon.

It is a story of French villagers fleeing the invasion of the German army in 1939. It is also intertwined with the story of a German fleeing the Nazis ,in the search for his son. The film portrays the human tragedy of the beginning of WWII in Western Europe, from a number of viewpoints; and it also captures the violence of the invasion in sporadic but effective action scenes. A nicely done film directed by Christian Carion and starring August Niehl(Inglorious Bastards),Matthew Rhys,and Mathilde Seigner. Morricones wonderful score and the sweeping cinematography, elevate the rather predictable and recycled story line and character arcs into a higher league than expected. Pure art house cinema fare I predict…

En Mai Fais Ce Qu’il Te Plait

I missed my Polish film in the afternoon, but took a chance on a Spanish movie: The Exile ( El Destiero-Spain-2015-Thriller) and I am happy I did. Set in the alternately claustrophobic, and expansive , setting of mountainous Northern Spain during their Civil War, this film revolves around 2 polar opposite soldiers stuck on a lonely mountain outpost in the winter. Their only contact with the world is a weekly visit by a supply Sargent. That is until they come acros a wounded  Polish woman , who is a Resistance Fighter. The two soldiers nurse her back to health, for ulterior motives, but they end up becoming attached to each other. However, the raging war will eventually intervene on their  cloistered life, with tragic consequences. Directed by Arturo Ruiz and starring: Monika Kowalski, Joan Carlos Suau, and Ereic Frances. Recommended.

That’s it for tonight, no Telefilm Canada party for this guy..



EFM-Day 2

It is Day 2 of the EFM here at Berlinale, and the festival itself is in full swing after last nights Gala Opening. I was close by the main event, as I could see the barricades and hear ecstatic screaming ;which could only mean that George Clooney was nearby heading into the opening film of this years Berlinale: Hail Caesar.

However, I  ducked into the friendly confines of Cinemaxx 2 and checked out the cool new French flick: The Crew (Braquers; France 2015 Action Thriller).

Directed by Julian LeClerq, this is a heist film about a group of professional robbers who take a new rookie member into their midst for an impressive heist scene that kicks off the proceedings with a shot of adrenaline.

After the job, the film settles down for a while into on exploration of the human stories, motivations, and family struggles underpinning our characters and the unlikely bonds between them.

The plot takes an unfortunate twist however, as a mistake by one of the younger members of the crew eventually pits them against a gang of heroin dealers, and the ensuing  struggle threatens to tear families and friendships apart.

A slow build up of tension is ultimately truncated by terrific outbursts of action, as well as the realizations of tragic personal loss.

A terrific film, well shot,directed, and acted; with a great electronic film score, I will try and track down the name of the composer.

A great ending scene as well, and watching it you are left wondering what the future has in store for The Crew that remains …

The Crew

Creepy (Japan 2015)- A new film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa,who recently won Best Director in the Un Certain Regards section at Cannes 2015 for his drama: Journey To The Shore.

This new film Creepy is based on a novel by Yutaka Maekawa and revolves around an ex-police detective and criminal psychologist Takakura, who moves into a quiet suburban town seeking peace and quiet, but then suspects his new neighbour of being a serial killer.

This is a cool premise , and was a film I really wanted to like, but was hugely disappointed in the ludicrous plot turns, absurd character development, and cliches. Not to mention the irritating use of submissive female roles , and the total incompetence of the police force. Definitely a pass on this one folks….

I will write more later… As I need to get to  the second show of the day. It is a beautiful day here in Berlin: sunny and 5c.

The Dark Side Of the Moon (Germany 2015-Thriller) screening was fantastic, and it stars Jurgen Pronchnow (Das Boot) and Moritz Bleibtreu. It’s about a lawyer who has a crisis following the death of a rival in a corporate merger, and involves some psychedelic mushrooms that seem to facilitate his violent meltdown. Or do they??Based on a novel   By Martin Suter this is the feature film debut of director Stephan Rick. Recommended.

Evolution(France 2015-Thriller/Drama).This was a visually stunning dystopian drama about a secluded rugged seaside village, whose only inhabitants are women and young boys. Something very strange is taking place ,as the children seem to be unwilling subjects to strange experiments in genetic engineering; whose purpose remains unclear and enigmatic to the viewer. A strange , disturbing movie with many layers of metaphor waiting for the viewer to unravel. The new film by director  Lucile Hadzhalilovic stars Max Brebant and Lucie-Marie Parmentier ( The Crew) , and is a feast for the eyes ,especially on the Cinemaxx IMAX screen here in Berlin.Evolution premiered at TIFF 2015 ,and is a must see for those with an eye for something a little different. Think: Under The Skin.


Must log off for the day here from Berlin. But a funny story.

I was in line for the Evolution screening,when a woman got in the row behind me. She tapped me on the shoulder and asked: ” Are you in line for Evolution?”. I replied: ” I hope so, but only Darwin knows for sure”….












Berlinale/EFM 1

Well today is the first full day of screenings here in Berlin. The area around Potsdamer Platz is the nerve centre of the festival, and the nearby Martin Groupis Haus is the hub of the EFM displays and offices.

It is a grey, damp start to the 2016 fest but buzzing with people. I started off at the EFM screening room at MGB for morning showing of: Inside The Cell (France 2015-Thriller). Waiting for the doors to open I bumped into one of the organizers of the Fantasia Film Festival. Small world.

The film is great, and ultimately a timely window into the inner workings and motivations of a terrorist cell in Paris. Well shot and conceived; it follows the story of a journalist who infiltrates a forming cell, and gets in too deep to walk away. Well acted, with nicely drawn out characters;and a surprise appearance from actor Nassim Si Ahmed. He is a HFF alumni ,as he starred in Adrien Costello’s mid-length feature: Night Is Meant For Sleeping, which premiered at the 2015 Hamilton Film Festival.

I would highly recommend Inside The Cell, and I will attach a VOD link:

Inside The Cell VOD

More later, I am on my way in to see The Devil’s Mistress…

Well, The Devils Mistress(Czech/Germany 2015-Drama) screened and I must say it was a disappointment. A new film by Filip Renc it deals with the real life story of Lida Baarova. She was a Czech film star who went to Germany in 1933 to star in the UFA Studio system as it was being taken over by the Nazi’s. She would also end up having an affair with Joseph Gobbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda. The film never really reaches any kind of coherent style. It is a dull , uneven mess with some poor casting ,and strange with an almost flippant tone at times. I would recommend watching Fassbinders film Veronika Voss for a much more artistic portrayal of a similar subject matter; and it is a really cool riff on Sunset Boulevard to boot:)

The third film of the day was: What We Become ( Sorgenfri;Denmark/Germany 2015-Drama/Horror). What a pleasant surprise this film was, especially as I am not a big fan of anything Zombiesque:) I am partial too a stylish French Tv Series: Les Revenants; and this film had some of the same understated quality to it. It revolves around a small idyllic town that becomes quarantined after the outbreak of a strange virus. The undead do make an appearance halfway through the story,but it works for me. Directed by Bo Mikkelsen and picked up by IFC in the US, no Canada distro as of yet… Recommended.

Last screening starts in about an hour.It is just enough time to finish this cappuccino after a surprisingly great pizza. Italian food 3 days in a row. In Germany.Who knew?

The next film is: The Crew (Braqueres;France 2014-Action/Thriller). This is new film by director Juliem LeClerc and set in contemporary Paris. Having screened at the Busan International Film Festival, it’s now here at Berlin. Let’s see if it can top : Inside The Cell… Tall order.

Till Tomorrow





European Film Market 2016

Hello from Berlin! The EFM 2016 and Berlinale kick off this week in Germany, and I have travelled over from Canada to attend. There are definitely a couple parties to go too,( Telefilm Canada & Fantasia Film Fest Karaoke Bash!); but mainly I will be attending as many screenings as possible and also taking a look at the many stall and displays at the main Market building.

Screenings for Thursday February 11:

Inside The Cell (France 2015) Thriller

The Devil’s Mistress (Czech/Germany 2015) Drama

What We Become (Denmark/Germany 2015) Drama/Horror

The Crew (France 2015) Action/Thriller

I’ll update the screenings daily and some quick notes on some of the films. I have a tendency to watch Euro and Asian thrillers and dramas but I hope to catch a couple Canadian flicks while I am here…

More later folks