Entertainment behind the scenes
Emblazoned on the cover of movie industry magazine Variety’s Berlin film festival daily publication today is a full-page advertisement for “Atacama’s 33″, a retelling of the incredible story of survival in Chile’s northern Atacama desert which ended in such dramatic fashion in October.
Boy, that was quick! It seems like yesterday that the 33 miners, trapped deep underground for two months, were hauled to safety in scenes watched by hundreds of millions of well-wishers around the world.
The movie industry has rarely been one to stand on ceremony, although there are a few exceptions. “The King’s Speech”, for example, was only made after the death of the Queen Mother, who had said that watching her husband’s story re-told on the big screen would have been too painful. For its makers, the long wait was worth it as the movie starring Colin Firth basks in critical and commercial success.
Whether “Atacama’s 33″ matches that glory remains to be seen — the first advertised screening in Berlin is tomorrow morning, with potential buyers or distributors likely to be the main target of today’s advertisement. Billed as “The story of how 33 miners bravely survived, as one nation rose to the challenge” to rescue them, the film comes from America Video Films, although the fact that its theatrical arm also looks like being involved suggests that its backers see the potential for a theatrical release.
OK, we go to a lot of film festivals, and film festivals are renowned for laying it on thick with miserable, tough, gritty dramas. You get used to getting up in the morning, going to a screening where death and decay is there on the big screen. Then you go to another movie at lunch and see more downbeat, depressing themes explored. It all happens again in the afternoon, and, as often as not, in the evening too. We’re not complaining. There are worse things to do for a job than watching on and writing about films. And many of the movies that we would class as depressing are actually extremely good.
But at the Berlin film festival this year, which ended this past Saturday, we saw the most miserable film we can remember. It’s called “Caterpillar“, and it’s from Japan, and it is unlikely to set the box office alight around the world. The story revolves around a war hero who returns to his village with no arms, no legs, is deaf and can’t speak, but with a voracious sexual appetite. The story of how his wife deals with the shock takes up most of the film, but there are archive footage clips of the Sino-Japanese war, plus reconstructed scenes of rape and murder. And to top it all, the dreadful toll of World War Two is spelled out in numbers and pictures.
No thermal underwear for Shah Rukh Khan.
The 44-year-old Bollywood megastar is used to warmer climes, but has had to brave snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures during his visit to Berlin where his latest movie “My Name Is Khan” had its premiere on Friday.
Oozing charm, and making some in the audience at the movie’s press conference practically swoon, Khan bluntly stated: “Death before long johns. I am too macho for this.”
The haunting message that keeps returning throughout Tom DiCillo’s documentary about Jim Morrison and The Doors — “When You’re Strange” — is that the other three band members were growing fed up with their leader’s erratic behaviour and losing battle with drugs and alcohol. But they never brought up the issue that so much exasperated them even though Morrison’s alcohol and drug-induced demise was causing them all sorts of problems.
DiCillo’s otherwise favourable portrayal of the band, a film shown internationally for the first time at the Berlin Film Festival, is critical of drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robbie Krieger and keyboard player Ray Manzarek for failing Morrison by avoiding the issue that was tearing the singer, and their band, apart rather than talking to him about it.
Eleven years ago while covering the Berlin Film Festival, I sat down with British director Anthony Minghella, who died in a London hospital on Tuesday at the age of 54.