A cultural week to whet your appetite

BEIRUT: In 1992, a television channel began to be transmitted across several European countries. “Arte” – or “Association Relative à la Television Européenne” (Relative Association of European Television) – is a Franco-German channel that screens cultural and artistic programs, catering mainly to France and Germany.

Ashrafieh’s Metropolis Cinema Sofil, which opened in 1982, has long played host to many film festivals as a promoter of the independent film scene. It is with this objective that the fourth edition of the “Arte Film Week” will open its doors from Thursday, showcasing the latest movies to be broadcast on the European channel. With the support of the French Institute, the weeklong “Arte Film Week” will screen films from Europe, Asia and Africa.

This movie cycle will open with Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors,” a sci-fi dramatic feature set in Paris that was among the selection of the 2012 Cannes Festival. It follows Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) who plays several different roles. This shadowy character is a captain of industry, a monster, a beggar and an assassin, switching from one life to the other.

Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue also star in the film. Minogue plays Celine, the blonde woman behind the steering wheel, transporting Monsieur Oscar around Paris. As for Mendes, she plays a model, Kay M, who accompanies Merde (also Lavant) to a cemetery. The character of Merde is taken from the 2008 feature film “Tokyo!” which consisted of three films by non-Japanese directors (Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho.)

Friday, Lebanese spectators will have the opportunity to discover Iranian filmmaker Massoud Bakhshi’s feature “A Respectable Family” – screened in the New Horizons/Al-Jadid category of this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival – a film-noir set in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Arash (Babak Hamidian) – an academic – returns to the small Iranian town of Shiraz to teach, after having lived abroad for 22 years. Far from his mother and forced to face many obstacles, Arash realizes that he is an alien in his country of origin. Bakhshi – who has long been influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville and the “New Wave” period – adds flashbacks to Arash’s childhood to the scenario to give more depth to the film.

This year’s edition of the “Arte Film Week” will pay tribute to late French filmmaker Chris Marker, who died in July 2012. His documentary “Chats Perches” (‘The Case of the Grinning Cat’) will be screened Saturday. Set in Paris in 2002, this feature reflects on the symbolism and meaning of the sudden appearance of portraits of yellow grinning cats in train stations, subways and buildings.

In his documentary – which could be defined as a social satire – Marker relates how these grinning felines were present in political incidents, scandals and protests, showing how an imaginary creature played a role in real events.

Sunday, “Oncle Boonme celui qui se Souvient de ses Vies Anterieures” (Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall his Past Lives) by Thai film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be screened. This drama reflects the type of films the director grew up with.

It follows the story of Uncle Boonme, who has been diagnosed with kidney failure and who decides to spend his final days with his family. All of a sudden, his deceased wife reappears to take care of him, and his son resurfaces in a non-human shape. In this feature Weerasethakul wanted to explore the line between the human and animal, all the while erasing it and reflecting on the mechanisms of the mind.

Senegalese director Moussa Toure’s “La Pirogue” (The Pirogue) will be screened Monday. It is set in Dakar, where many families have at least one member who has tried to get to Europe on a pirogue – a small, flat-bottomed boat. This film tells the story of Baye Laye – the captain of a pirogue – who is forced to leave his country.

He needs to fit 30 people on his small vessel and make sure everyone arrives safely in the Canary Islands. But no one knows how this dangerous trip will end. Baye Laye plays the intermediary between what the Senegalese want to leave behind and the unexpected which awaits them. Though fictional, Toure’s film accurately portrays Senegalese’s living conditions.

Presented in the “Un Certain Regard” category of the 2012 Cannes Festival, Gustave Kervern’s and Benoit Delepine’s film “Le Grand Soir” will provide a new take on the punk movement Tuesday. Jean-Pierre Bonzini (Albert Dupontel) is a salesman, while his brother Benoit Bonzini, aka Not (played by Belgian actor Benoit Poelvoorde), is known to be the oldest punk with a dog in Europe. However, life’s tricks and obstacles soon reunite them and put them both on the street, leading them to form a punk revolution of their own.

“Wo 11” (11 Flowers) – which competed in the 2012 Deauville Asian Film Festival – is a touching feature by Chinese film director Wang Xiaoshuai and will be screened next Wednesday. Set during the 1974 Chinese Cultural Revolution, an 11-year-old boy has to face harsh conditions when a murderer – who has escaped from prison – takes him under his wing.

The Chinese title of the movie means, word for word, “Me, 11 years old,” and deals with Xiaoshuai’s memories of this tender age.

The English translation is a metaphor associating each year of life to a flower. With “Wo 11,” Lebanese will be plunged into a dramatic and touching feature, linked to the film director’s childhood reminiscence.

The “Arte Film Week” will close next Thursday with Aida Begi?’s “Djeca: Children of Sarajevo.” Also part of the “Un Certain Regard” category of the Cannes Festival, this feature deals with the life-changing events that beset 23-year-old Rahima and her 14-year-old brother Nedim, both living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Orphans, they go through a turbulent adolescence until the day Rahima decides to turn to Islam for comfort. Hoping Nedim will follow in her footsteps, Rahima soon discovers her brother is leading a double life.

The “Arte Film Week” will be screened for one week at Metropolis Cinema Sofil from Thursday. For more information, visit or call 01-204-080.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 17, 2012, on page 16.




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