What to watch: Bergen International Film Festival 2014

Seeing as we are based in the cold depths of Norway, we believe it is our responsibility to inform you – the international reader – about film festivals, other than those in Venice, Toronto, Berlin and Cannes. This month (September 24 – October 01) the Bergen International Film Festival takes place, for the fourteenth consecutive year.

Should you find yourself in the beautiful city of Bergen, known for its rain and… well, its rain, you should definitely take a look at this years program. The festival is known for having a big and varied selection of movies, with a nice blend of documentaries, feature films and shorts. Often with a very liberal program, and this year is no different. With a huge focus on LGBT-movies and a refreshing amount of female directors – in all genres – this years festival is just as culturally important, as it is artistically important. Here you can read about a small selection of the movies we think you should check out, but keep in mind, there are plenty others worth a look.

You can take a look at the complete program here.

Feature films

Boys

Boys (Jongens) 

As one of the many LBGT-movies presented at the festival, Boys, seems to be one of the most grounded. It tells the story of unrequited love  (or certainly imagined unrequited love) between fifteen  year old, Sieger and Marc.

During the summer holidays, Sieger and Marc develop a friendship, but Sieger’s feelings continue to grow to something more. It’s painfully relatable to everyone, no matter your orientation or gender. From the sound of things, director, Mischa Kamp, treats it like any other love story, which is refreshing and admirable.

Calvary

Calvary

Director, John Michael McDonagh, has reunited with actor, Brandon Gleeson, in this dark comedy about a priest who is told, through confession, that he will be killed in seven days. The mysterious man who plans to kill our priest, says it’s revenge for how he was raped by a deceased catholic priest many years ago.

Brandon Gleeson is always brilliant, and in his collaboration with John Michael McDonagh in 2011′ The Guard, he outdid himself. This time, he is backed up by a collection of talented – and under-utilised british actors/actresses like, Aidan Gillen, Chris O’Dowd and Kelly Reilly.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

If there is one movie on this list that does not need any introduction, it’s Gone Girl. The latest movie from David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club and so on) is an adaptation from one of the best selling, and frankly, most intriguing crime novels of yesteryear.

Both the novel and the screenplay is written by Gillian Flynn, and is, in it’s most basic form, a typical, “did husband murder his missing wife” crime case. Yet, at least in the novel, it doesn’t take long for this typicality to transform into a captivating, and in all honesty, quite fun – in it’s meta analysis – drama.

Highway

Highway

The night before her wedding is supposed to take place, Veera is kidnapped and held for ransom. Her father – a rich businessman – doesn’t spare any expense to get her back, and while her abductors keep themselves and Veera on the move, it doesn’t take long for her to realize that she doesn’t want to go back to her family, nor get to their destination. Veera wants to continue travelling, and thus making this a road trip movie, with potentially important political back drop.

Iranian movies doesn’t see the light of day very often in Norway, but when they do, it’s important to give them a chance. Not just because it can broaden our horizons to different cultures, but also because Iranian directors have delivered brilliant movies over the years (see Asghar Farhadi’s, A Separation  (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) and Abbas Kiarostami’s, Certified Copy).

I Origins

I Origins

Whenever Mike Cahill or Brit Marling presents a new movie, you should do yourself the favour and avoid any and all information, until you get to see it yourself. The reason is their track record, consisting of Another Earth (written by both of them, and directed by Cahill), Sound of My Voice and The East, both of them written by Marling. Where The East was an intense and intriguing tale of an extremist activist group, both Another Earth and Sound of My Voice are so unique and powerful it’s difficult to describe without coming of as pretentious or overzealous.

We hope I Origins will deliver on the same level, and with Michael Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey starring alongside Marling herself, we believe it will.

It Follows

It Follows

It Follows is another movie you could hear a lot of talk about in the post-Cannes days this summer. Here, The Myth of The American Sleepover director, David Robert Mitchell, goes all out within the horror genre, without loosing the identity of his debut movie.

We meet Jay, a 19 year old girl, who after a sexual encounter, starts seeing things. She feels like someone, or something, is following her, and she can’t escape it. We know very little about the narrative, but to see Robert Mitchell take on the horror genre is enough of a reason to keep an eye open if you ask us.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime no Monogatari)

Studio Ghibli is back once again, and this marks the return of writer/director, Isao Takahata, who last made a movie with the renowned animation company in 1999, called, My Neighbour Yamadas (Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun – ). Last year gave us The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu), from the now retired, Hayao Miyazaki.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on the folktale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. As with most Studio Ghibli movies, its best to enter without too must pre-knowledge about the story or characters, to let them unfold in front of your eyes, and with Takahata’ long lost animations returning, we’re in for a treat.

Mommy

Mommy

Our love and appreciation for Xavier Dolan is no secret. We have a running feature series were we analyse each of his movies, and have reviewed Tom á la ferme as one of the best movies of 2014. Mommy is his fifth feature film, and it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, were it won the Jury Prize.

The French-Canadian youngster is continuing is collaboration with Anne Dorval (J’ai tué ma mère, Les Amours Imaginaires, Laurence Anyways), as well as Antoine Olivier Pilon, who you can see in the music video for Indochine’s College Boy, directed by Dolan. In Mommy, he continues to experiment with style and presentation, without loosing his auteur signature. Here, he’s shot the entire movie in 1×1, an aspect ratio that worked wonders for the College Boy music video, and seems to do the same for this.

Night Moves

Night Moves

Night Moves is the latest movie from Kelly Reichardt, who directed the heartfelt drama, Wendy and Lucy and the highly underrated Meek’s Cutoff. This time, there is no Michelle Williams, but we get to meet Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard as three radical environmentalists, who possibly takes their mission one step too far.

We got to see this at the Tromsø International Film Festival in January this year, and while it didn’t live up to Reichardt’s previous work, it delivers a strong and important character driven narrative about how young people want to do something they deem important. For those of you who have seen either Wendy and Lucy or Meek’s Cutoff, the mood and atmosphere still feels very much like a Reichardt movie – maybe a little darker at times – and one could argue atmosphere is her best trait as a director.

Nymphomaniac

Nymphomaniac – Director’s Cut (Part 1 and 2) 

When Lars von Triers latest movie, Nymphomaniac, was released around the world earlier this year, it was a shortened version of his original vision. Since then, the Director’s Cut has been screened at different film festivals, and BIFF can now celebrate the fact that they’re on an exclusive list alongside the Berlin and Venice film festivals.

The local newspaper sensationalised the announcement, saying “BIFF is showing five hours of hard core pornography”, but while this extended cut certainly seems to be much more explicit, there is much more to this epic than sex and nudity. This is five and a half hour of pure cinematic art, from a director whom – hate him or love him – does what he want, when he wants.

Palo Alto

Palo Alto

Palo Alto is the feature length debut from Gia Coppola, niece of Sofia Coppola, and follows three young students in their day to day life as they venture into adulthood. It’s based on a few short stories written by James Franco, who also plays a small part in the movie, and it captures the fleeting moment of adolescence with care and respect.

It’s a beautiful movie with a distinct Coppola feel, but newcomer Gia, still manages to separate herself from her family. The cast consists of Jack Kilmer (son of Val), Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) and Nat Wolff. Here you can read an extract from our review of the movie: “While simple – and some might say too much so – Palo Alto is equally a distraction, as it is a reflection of our own lives. For me (soon to turn 20) it captures a fleeting feeling I recognise in myself and many of my closest friends. Not because I relate to these three characters, but because I relate to the concept they exist within.”

The Tribe

The Tribe (Plemya) 

The Tribe is described as the most uncompromisable visual movie experiences of the year, and the trailer reveals why. These words are written out throughout the trailer: “This film is in sign language. There are no subtitles and no voice overs. Because for Love, and Hatred, You Don’t Need Translation.” 

The movie tells the story of Sergey, a deaf-mute young male, who enrols at a boarding school for people with the same affliction. Here he learns that the school is a violent underworld of organized crime. The movie is – as the trailer suggests – completely based in sign language, but lets the visuals tell the story and expose the narrative. It gained critical acclaimed at Cannes this year, and is probably one of the most unique movies at this festival.

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer is one of the best directors working today, and with Under the Skin he proves this yet again. It’s been ten years since his last movie, Sexy Beast, so this is a man who knows how to take his time to get the results he wants.

We’ve written a review of the movie, where we compare the opening sequence to that of Stanley Kubricks best work, and hail Scarlett Johansson’s performance as her best to this date. The idea that many of the scenes are shot with hidden cameras, as Johansson drives around picking up strangers, is also quite unique and gives the movie a really distinct feel and identity. It’s a one in a kind movie, that asks quite a few questions about humanity and our nature. It will without a doubt stay with your for a long time.

 You should also read up on; 10.000 KM, 1001 Gram, B’ella, Beneath the Harvest Sky, The Canal, Chef, Class Enemy, The Drop, Happy Christmas, The Kings of Summer, The Lesson, Locke, Morgenrøde, Nånting Måste Gå Sönder, Når dyrene drømmer, Snowpiercer, Things People Do, Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, Top Girl, Turist, Wetlands, White God. 

Documentaries

1971

1971

We all know who Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are, but in this documentary we go back decades to learn more about a group calling themselves, the Citizen Commission to Investigate the FBI. In 1971, when the Vietnam war was at it’s peak, eight ordinary citizens broke in to an FBI Office in Media, Pennsylvania with a mission to share any information they would come across. They found evidence of multiple and on going breaches of privacy, as a surveillance program on ordinary citizens was supervised by  J. Edgar Hoover.

In this documentary, these eight people talk about the incident for the first time ever, to examine the consequences and implications of their actions.

Altman

Altman 

Robert Altman is one of the finest American filmmakers of his generation, if not of all time, and in this documentary we get a in-depth look at his life and career. With movies like The Long Goodbye, Nashville and Short Cuts on his resumé, it’s no surprise to see the legacy of Altman be praised by the likes of Robin Williams, Paul Thomas Anderson and Julianne Moore in this documentary.

It’s a documentary everyone with a passion for the art of movies should watch, but it’s also relevant to others. Altman wasn’t an ordinary filmmaker. He was always pushing boundaries and stepping outside of conventions, a quality we all should learn from if we ever hope to keep art and culture alive.

Beyond Clueless

Beyond Clueless

The High School movie is one of the most popular genres within a young audience, and few High School movies have the same cultural impact and lasting glory as Amy Heckerlings, Clueless.  It became the talking point in the mid nineties, and the Clueless-effect can still be felt, both in movies and in real life.

In Beyond Clueless, Charlie Lyne debuts as a documentary filmmaker to examine these effects and how they have such an impact on our lives. He doesn’t limit himself to Clueless, however, but dives head first into a large catalogue of High School movies, while Fairuza Balk narrates it all.

Drone

Drone 

Since Barack Obama made office back in 2008, he has done quite a few things. Good and bad. However, his name will forever be associated with the on-going drone wars, and it should. It should also be a more common topic for discussion when talking about, both the United States and Barack Obama. There is an extreme dark grey area of morality were these drones are concerned, and it’s something we cannot ignore, simply because it’s uncomfortable to talk about, or because one might support him on other issues.

In Drone, Tonje Hessen Schei, looks upon this topic, and in doing so, she presents one the most relevant documentaries at the festival.

Everyday Rebellion

Everyday Rebellion

In the modern age, rebellions and protests against unfair regimes have an open channel through the internet. Social media like Twitter and Facebook are great tools to use to inform/include others in your movement, which was proven in Egypt back in 2011. Here, the government blocked access to both Twitter and Facebook, and later the entire internet was shut down in response to an open protest against  the current government in the country.

Everyday Rebellion wants to introduce us to many of these movements, like FEMA, a feminist group from the Ukraine, or even Occupy Wall Street in the United States. It’s important to understand these movements, to really understand the situation they spring out from, and why it’s important to care enough to be critical to your government. This is what Arash T. Riahi and Arman T. Riahi looks upon in this documentary.

The Galapagos Affair

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

We’ve all dreamt of disappearing into the woods, to live a simpler and more primitive life. In the 1930′ this is exactly what Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his mistress did.  The travelled to the uninhabited islands of Galapagos, but as the international media went on to report on their unconventional choice, more people decided to follow in their footsteps. This resulted in a small group of people coming over to the island of Floreana, and as time went on, several people went missing or turned up dead, in a mystery that is still unsolved.

Love & Engineering

Love & Engineering 

Feelings are hard to explain, some would argue impossibly so, but a Bulgarian engineer claims to be close to the scientific formula behind the extravagant feeling. He is researching how people react to one another, and with the help of his colleagues, he is trying to get even closer to a definitive result.

In Love & Engineering he sends them out on the streets, with the knowledge and tools he has given them, and tries to see if there is a definitive answer to love. Can love at first sight be a norm in a few years, or is this all talk. Either way, it has potential to be a heartfelt – and somewhat inspiring tale – about how we as a modern society interact with one another.

Song from the forest

Song From the Forest 

As a young boy, Louis Sarno, found a sound unlike any other he had ever heard. He decided to search for it, and ended up in the Bayaka-tribe in the rain forrest. He stayed there for 25 years, as a new member of the tribe, he even raised a son there. Now, he has gathered over 1000 hours of music from the Bayaka-tribe, and since is son fell sick, decided to go back to where he himself was born – New York.

Song From the Forest is a reflection of two very different lifestyles. The contrast between sky scrapers and the high and mighty trees of the rain forrest. As Louis and his son arrive in New York, they meet up with his old friends – among them, Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Only Lovers Left Alive) and with the help of a beautiful pictured landscape and a hypnotising soundtrack, this becomes a unique tale of a father and son relationship.

You should also read up on: Beautiful Noise, The Case Against 8, Damnation, Dinosaur 13, E-Team, Fight Church, The Internet’s Own Boy, Is The Man Who is Tall Happy? Keiseren, Once Upon a Forest, Print the Legend, Sacro Gra, Silvered Water, Syria-Self-Portrait.

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