This week from Thursday, July 21 to Sunday, July 24, ArtsEmerson, part of Emerson College, holds its first ever Festival Focus, an annual celebration of critically acclaimed international films that screened at major festivals in the previous year and that will probably not receive a commercial release in the Boston area.
This inaugural year, Festival Focus will screen six remarkable international films including, the uniquely constructed British documentary, The Arbor, about the playwright Andrea Dunbar, the New York Times favorite Summer of Goliath, a documentary from Mexico and the Romanian The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, which was one of the most talked about entries at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and tells the reign of the infamous Romanian dictator entirely through propaganda and official footage.
Tickets for each film are $10 or $5 for students. For those interested in seeing more than one of the six movies playing during the festival should consider buying a $30 pass which gives them entry to four of any of the films.
ArtsEmerson shows atypical films year round at their theater in downtown Boston. For those moviegoers who love seeing independent or rarely seen cinema, ArtsEmerson offers a film membership that gets you eight free film admissions and discounted tickets on film and theater for a year for $60. To become a member, you can join on their membership page. For more information on tickets and the films playing at Festival Focus, check out their site.
★ Conan O’Brien gives the commencement address at Dartmouth (above).
★ Now-retired basketballer Shaquille O’Neal sets his sights on a reality TV show with his girlfriend, possibly to be located in New England. Maybe it will feature more of some of our favorite Shaq moments in Beantown.
★ Two famous Jessicas tour Yale University in Connecticut.
★ Boston-born Lenny Clarke honored by local Boy Scout troop.
Be on the lookout for Hollywood East’s latest up-and-coming artiste! Ahmed Khawaja, a 2010 graduate of Boston University’s Film & Television department, is embarking on his first full-length feature film, Ten Nights Bliss, a personal story of homelessness in which he plays himself. Khawaja, originally from Abu Dhabi, part of the United Arab Emirates, says the production is a self-record, “mostly a malicious attempt at getting back at my ex-girlfriend.”
Most of Khawaja’s childhood was spent devoid of a father figure; his own father was “absent a lot, very detached,” Khawaja says. “That’s a lot of what this movie is about, feeling detached from your own family, yet still doing everything to can to try to make it work.” Thus, when asked how his Boston University education helped his career as a director, Khawaja remarked that the staff of the Film & Television department provided him with many mentors.
In particular, Ray Carney, a professor of Film and American Studies at BU, served a father figure and role model. ”He was a funny guy and he really cared about his students.” Associate Professor John Kelly was also supportive to Khawaja as a student and aspiring director.
Boston University was also where Khawaja met and became close to the co-writer of Ten Nights Bliss, Andre Puca. Puca was a graduate student at BU and a teacher’s assistant in one of Khawaja’s courses within the College of Communication. The two began talking about films more when Puca, who is ten years older, would came to visit Khawaja at the Harvard Film Archive, where he works as an usher. The two found that they had a lot in common, and Puca became an integral part of the writing and producing of Ten Nights Bliss. For Khawaja, it was “really reassuring to have an elder brother kind of figure to look over the whole thing.”
Looking back on the process of filming over the past year, Khawaja says the best part of producing his first film was “the ability to make people have a good time that only comes about when you’re directing a film.”
Ten Nights Bliss, which Khawaja admits draws inspiration from the classic films of Jim Jarmusch, Paul Mazursky, and Charlie Chaplin, is expected to be complete by November 2010. According to Khawaja, the ultimate destination for his masterpiece is the prestigous Cannes Film Festival: “Our big thing is Cannes.” Working with the Directors Fortnight, a division of the Cannes Film Festival that debuts first films by first filmmakers, Khawaja hopes to screen the film in May 2011.
If you want to stay up to date on the filming and release of Ten Nights Bliss and any future Khawaja Films productions, contact the director at [email protected]
★ The Improper Bostonian features Brittany Curran (above), featured previously here on Hollywood East Connection!
★ Queen Latifah accepts an award from the Boston Women’s Fund at event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
★ Insiders report that Tom Cruise completely lost his cool on the set of Knight and Day.
★ “Glee” star Jane Lynch marries her girlfriend in Sunderland, MA over Memorial Day weekend.
If you can’t decide what movie to catch this weekend, why not choose to support some local filmmakers? Playing this week only at the Brattle Theater, Daddy Longlegs, is a film crewed by mostly Boston University graduates.
Screened at both the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, Daddy Longlegs is about a busy, sidetracked and constantly late dad, played by Ronnie Bronstein, who every year spends a couple of weeks with his two young sons. After months of being sad and alone, he cherishes these moments with his kids, not capable of being a stern parent but only a lovable buddy, inventing myths and somehow living them, all while working overtime in the big city. In these two weeks, a trip upstate, visitors from strange lands, a mother, a girlfriend, “magic” blankets, and a complete lawlessness seem to take over their lives.
With a fluid style, directors Josh and Benny Safdie capture the magic of parenthood, invoking memories of their inventive dad from their own childhood. They describe Daddy Longlegs as a swan song to excuses, irresponsibility, fatherhood and self-created experience.
Although hailing from New York City, Josh and Benny Safdie have a history of shooting in and around the New England area. Their previously acclaimed feature film The Pleasure of Being Robbed was filmed near Fenway Park and in Connecticut.
The filmmakers will be in person Thursday night showing their first feature film, The Pleasure of Being Robbed along with a selection of their short films at the Brattle Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance on the Brattle Theater website.
Check out the Brattle Theater website for Daddy Longlegs tickets and screening information. For more information on Josh and Benny Safdie and their upcoming projects, check out their film collective, Red Bucket Films.
A recent graduate of the film program at New York University, 22-year-old Dan Day is a writer and director from Boxford, Massachusetts. His short film, Gutter, a film about the friendship between a social reject with deep-seeded emotional problems and a chain-smoking prostitute, premiered in the Cannes’ 2009 Cinèfondation Selection, a program of the Cannes Film Festival whose objective is to present and highlight films from film schools. Of the over 1,500 entries, only 17 were chosen to be presented in the Cinèfondantion Selection, Day’s being the only US film in the festival’s student film program.
Day is currently writing a screenplay specifically for the actors of Gutter, which he intends to film in locations around New England. He can be contacted via his personal website, which also features a trailer of his Cannes’ 2009 Cinèfondation Selection submission.
HEC: How did you get started in your career as a writer/director?
My parents gave me an analog video camera when I was in the third grade. I would go over to my friend’s house after school where there were absolutely no rules (his parents were hardly ever home). Most of the time, we would be in the yard lighting toys on fire with gasoline or blowing them up with ground-up model rocket engine powder. I have a few hours worth of footage of third grade pyrotechnics. I suppose that these shots were the first moving images where I consciously began framing the camera in order to capture dramatic moments.
From a writing standpoint, I always loved to make up stories-not only for myself, but to share with my friends and family. I’ve always been an awkward conversationalist so finding creative means of communication have been important to me to connect with people I care about.
HEC: How has your education/training helped you?
I spent three years at NYU, where I made my short film, Gutter. NYU is very good about teaching all the technical aspects of the craft of filmmaking, from writing to shooting to editing. I took some great writing classes there that were taught by wonderful professors, and it was very helpful to get technical feedback on my creative work. The good thing about the film school at NYU is that students get a lot of creative freedom and a lot of constructive criticism. I valued my freedom to write whatever I wanted and not have to worry about censoring myself or fitting a mold of any kind.
That said, I think that you learn the most about movies by watching a lot of them. By no means is school for everyone, and most of my favorite directors are college dropouts.
HEC: What is it like as a writer/director?
The film industry is a pretty cutthroat, sink-or-swim world, so I feel very lucky and honored to have been recognized by Cannes. I’m currently writing the script for a feature film because I know that now, I actually have a chance at getting funding. I basically owe my potential future career to Laurent Jacob at Cannes, because Gutter was rejected by every single other festival I entered. I guess it’s because the film looks very gritty and unpolished (on purpose). I feel very privileged to have the chance to make the kind of feature I’ve always wanted.
HEC: What is the best part of being a writer/director?
Being on a set and watching your actors take the script to a whole new level. You write the script one way, but then you get to shoot it and realize that the tone has to be different than when you first imagined it. Maybe you realize a scene that was written to be played dead serious is going to seem over-melodramatic, so you have to tell the actors to just say “screw it” and take it from an odd angle. It’s a really fun thing to watch great actors give your script a life that it would have never achieved on its own.
HEC: Any advice for new graduates?
Don’t be afraid to go by your gut and disregard the advice of your teachers or peers.
HEC: What is your most memorable work experience thus far?
During the filming of Gutter, we shot some exteriors at a crack house in Brooklyn. Each morning, this huge Latino guy would come out, high as a kite, with a bulletproof vest on, leading two Doberman pinchers. He would just come out and stare at all of us. Then he would walk across the street and sic his dogs on a nearby telephone poll while we were filming scenes on this guy’s doorstep. The whole time the crew was on the verge of soiling their knickers but everyone played it cool. I had a dedicated crew.
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