Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting "Carrie"d Away

Two years ago before heading off to the Cannes Film Festival I stopped in London to cover the premiere of Sex and the City - The Movie, and interview Carrie and the girls. This time around, it's after Cannes that I have swung by London to do the same thing...for the sequel to the hit film. The interviews take place at the stunning Claridges Hotel in Mayfair. It really is a surreal experience. Anyone will tell you I am a huge fan of the show, so it's great to be able to sit down with the four actresses in front of me, plus the man who brings their characters to life, Michael Patrick King.

This was the pic from last time. Sadly, there was no way of getting pics this time around. That's one of the things they are super-strict about. The other is time. You are told you will have exactly 5 minutes with each person. Then they shaved that to be just four minutes. That's about three and a half questions - if you're lucky maybe four. It can be a tad overwhelming because there are so many things you want to ask, but just as soon as you get going, the PR people are signalling for you to wrap up. So even if Kim Cattrall (Samantha) is telling you about who did her gorgeous, reflective nails in the movie, they will be edging you out the door, and even cut her off from speaking.
But there were some memorable moments. Michael Patrick King saying he remembered me from the last time around, and then going on to talk about how Sex and the City 2 is kind of like a World Cup for women. Kim Cattrall (Samantha) talking about how she made menopause sexy, and Cynthia Nixon telling me that the opening scene of the gay wedding was personal for her because she and her fiance, Christine Marinoni, aren't able to get married in New York because it's not legal yet.
Chris Noth, who plays Big, wasn't as charming as the man we see on the screen, so that was a bit of a damper. But seeing the gorgeous Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristin Davis (Charlotte) in their dresses was fabulous. Shame, Kristin called me adorable because my feet couldn't touch the floor (even in heels I am still short!). She visits South Africa quite often, through her work as an Oxfam Ambassador. Chris, too, said he'd just come back from there and promised that the next film he shoots will be in Cape Town.

After the interviews, I got into the lift and the actor who plays Burger, one of Carrie's past loves, was standing there, holding his luggage. I was stunned for a moment because I forgot that his name was Ron Livingston and the last thing I wanted to do was call him "Burger." Nonetheless, he said he was in town for a movie awards ceremony, and it was just coincidental that his former flame (haha!) was upstairs.

The gals at the premiere in Leicester Square, London. SJP in Alexander McQueen in honour of her late friend

I've already been asked if there's going to be a Sex and the City 3, so I had to ask the question to Michael, but he says the storyline will determine that: "how to make something that's so familiar fresh". If there is another one fantastic. If not, I will continue to play the series on DVD, because that never gets old.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cannes Closing Credits

The Red Carpet has been rolled up and packed away for another year. The 63rd edition of the Cannes Film Festival is finished. Last night's closing ceremony was beautiful - with mistress of ceremonies Kristin Scott Thomas doing a fabulous job in a gorgeous lime-green dress. The big winners are here, including the Thai director who has given the Icelandic volcano a run for its money with his name: Apichatpong Weersethakul.

There was a jovial mood about the ceremony, with much laughter as Jury President Tim Burton kept forgetting to stand up and announce each winner after a actor or actress had come on stage to introduce the category. But there was also a solemnity to the proceedings when Best Actress winner Juliet Binoche took the placard of Iranian filmmaker Jafari Panahi from the seat it had been placed on, as she walked up on stage to collect her prize. He has been on a hunger strike since being imprisoned at the beginning of the month. He was arrested for his opposition views, which he displays in his films, and so was not able to take up his place on the jury.
Salma Hayek was just stunning in her gown and should-skimming hair. Between her, Penelope Cruz and Kate Beckinsale there was enough glamour in that theatre to last until next year.

Will reflect on the highlights of the fest as soon as I can - for now, Amsterdam is calling.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sex and the Soccer

I love, love, love this poster for Sex and the City 2 which - in some countries - releases a day before the 2010 Fifa World Cup kicks off. It makes sense really: the sequel means almost as much to the ladies, as the soccer means to the guys!

A Cannes Prize

Last night the film Life Above All and its director Oliver Schmitz were honoured with the Prix Francois Chalais award here at Cannes. He wasn't able to be at the ceremony, so producer Greig Butler accepted the statue. Francois Chalais was a French journalist who covered major stories of his time, including Vietnam. He was also the most prominent journalist covering the Cannes Film Festival when it first started 60 odd years ago. Chalais was friends with Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Bridget Bardot. He died from leukemia in 1996, and this award has been handed out in his honour for the past 14 years, to films that portray the world we live in, and issues of our time.

Unfortunately, the film did not win a prize in the Un Certain Regard section in which it was. But Greig said this award was great - and Oliver said in an interview earlier this week, just to have been selected was honour enough.

From awards to award-winning artists, Mary J Blige was in town and performed a few songs at the VIP Room (the spot to be when it comes to big names performing during the festival.)

Lionel Richie, DJ Martin Solveig, Bob Sinclair, Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and La Roux are just some of the musicians that performed during this festival. Last year, I remember being upset that I missed out on seeing the petite one, Kylie, perform there. But this year made up for it! And we know where to go again next year!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cinema du Monde

One of my favourite pavillions to visit at Cannes each year is the Cinema du Monde, or Cinema of the World. Truth is, it's all cinema of the world here in Cannes, but I love how it all comes together in this space that overlooks the Majestic Beach and has such a friendly warmth about it. It's the pavillion where France supports African film. Also, Radio France International broadcasts from here, and in the past, I have taken part in interesting on-air discussions, led by David Page, who is, sadly, no longer with RFI, around issues reflected on film.

The French Embassy has been a staunch supporter of South African arts.Cannes is just one example of the ways in which they try to help develop local talent, by sending filmmakers to take part in all that happens there. And, it's thanks, in part, to them, that this journalist can report on the fantastic stories that come out of this grande dame of festivals. The co-production treaty signed between South Africa and France - which has been in the pipeline for ages - will set a whole new ball in motion to help foster cultural ties between our two countries and exchange skills too. Viva Le France! Viva Afrique du Sud!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rockin' the Red Carpet - Cannes Style

Cannes is starting to wind down, but I am going to squeeze every last bit out of it! Still films to see, parties to go to and one more Red Carpet to rock! The closing ceremony on Sunday - where the Palme d'Or winner will be announced - is always a highlight. Thanks to Hip Hop I felt fabulous on the carpet last night, for the premiere of Fair Game with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts. Sean wasn't there because he's in Washington to speak on the relief efforts in Haiti, and he was sorely missed. I love seeing him in Cannes because he really is one of my fave actors.

This is the craziness at the bottom of the Carpet

This seems to be Naomi Watts' year because she has another film in Cannes. Woody Allen's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. A friend told me last night he remembered seeing all these posters of her around Cannes and perhaps that seeped into people's minds and she was cast for all these films...hmm, maybe that is the secret to becoming the next big thing at Cannes. Get the prep done the year before!

With director Doug Liman at the press con for Fair Game

With director Woody Allen at You Will Meet A...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jagger, Javier and Jealousy in Cannes

So it's been crazy as usual...surviving on less than four hours of sleep a night and N'Espresso to keep me going. Ah, but as we say here, sleep when you're dead...or at least on the plane home!

Mick Jagger popped into town yesterday to premiere a doccie about his band, you might have heard of them - the Rolling Stones? ;) In the film, called Stones in Exile he is super skinny and young. The movie tells the story of the recording of Exile on Main Street, one of the Stones' most memorable albums. The album was recorded in Keith Richards' rented villa just down the road here, in the South of France, in 1972. What I really liked about the film, is that it uses interviews with the band members and those involved in putting the album together, but you don't see their faces. What you do see is old footage and photographs from that time, so that each of the songs recorded come to life and gain fresh insight.

From one rockstar to another...well, sort of. Javier Bardem kind of is the rock star of films, taking on dark and brooding roles. He and the beautiful Penelope Cruz walked the Red Carpet for the premiere of Biutiful, the latest feature film by Mexican director Alejandro González Inárritu.

Cannes really is like a candy shop of films - there is so much variety on offer, you can just pick and choose which ones to see. The Marche (market) part of the festival offers a whole lot of films for interested buyers (or press members) to go and see, including South African film Mad Cow and Red Wolf's A Proper Violence. 
Two fabulous friends I made in Cannes last year are working with this film and it's director here in Cannes. It's a gritty look at retribution and trying to right a wrong with another wrong. The film's tagline is "Have You Talked About It" and that's exactly what you end up doing: talking about the motives for committing murder or exacting revenge, and what happens if it should all go wrong. That's another part of the festival, the conversations that come after the films.

I feel so lucky to be able to go to the press conferences and do interviews with the cast and/or directors because they give such great insight into what goes on in the minds of the creative people working on the films. And that just takes the conversations to another level.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life Above All in Cannes

Wow, wow, wow! What an incredible moment to have witnessed: a ten-minute standing ovation for the local movie Life, Above All inside the Salle du Bussey here in Cannes. The film's director Oliver Schmitz, co-producer Greig Buckle and three actresses from the movie - actresses Lerato Mvelase, Khomotso Manyaka and Harriet Manamela - were in the theatre for its world debut.
The movie is based on an award-winning novel called Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton. It tells the story of a young girl who defies the community in which she lives to care for her mother, who has HIV/Aids. You may think, oh another film about Aids, but this is not just another film like that. Yes, it is about the disease, but more so about the story at the heart of it: the love of a daughter, her courage and strength, and how that inspires those around her. I am getting emotional thinking about it, because it is an incredible story. I sat in the audience with the rest of the film-goers and felt proud to be a South African in Cannes.

I have been looking for a film to blow me away, and this is it. 13-year-old Khomotso is a first time actor, so too is her co-star Keaobaka Makanyane. They are both from the small town of Elandsdoorn. Their talent is moving. Khomotso as the central figure of Chanda carries the audience with her on this journey she makes. Lerato and Harriet also do a superb job in their roles as Chanda's mother Lillian and her neighbour Mrs Tafa respectively. Each shot is beautiful, and so too is the music of the choir singing, which fills the movie in many poignant places.

The actresses embrace during the ovation
Outside the theatre, I met legendary movie critic Roger Ebert, who told me, via his wife, that he loved the film and put his hand to his chest to gesture so. I told him I am a fan of his tweets and read them all the time (he has lost the ability to speak because of thyroid cancer). It was amazing to meet him in person as I have admired and respected him since I studied his writings while doing my BA in Film, Media and Visual Studies. He also said that he studied at UCT, which makes us alumni because I also studied there!

Back to the movie, the film's producer Greig says they're still working on the details of a release in South Africa, but it should be before the end of the year.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Winnie' comes to Cannes

During my first time at Cannes, I interviewed Darrell Roodt and he told me about a movie he was working on about Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. He wouldn't allow me to record the fact that they had Jennifer Hudson interested in the project, but he promised he would confirm it on the record as soon as he could. Well, it took almost 3 years for it to become official and confirmed. Now here we are in Cannes, sitting talking about the project yet again, only this time Hudson and her co-star Terrence Howard are here too.

The movie will begin filming on the 31st of March and last for ten weeks. Jennifer and Terrence are due to fly to South Africa this week and will begin getting into their characters. Both came to the South African party on the beach last night, and Terrence spoke to the crowd about how honoured he was to be taking on the role of Madiba. When he started talking it sounded like he was almost already practicing Madiba's intonations and speech patterns. But after listening to him talk during my interview and again at lunch, I realize that is indeed how he speaks - careful, slowly and measured.

Jennifer is bubbly and enthusiastic. She is a year older than me and thinking about what she has achieved (a Grammy, an Oscar, a baby) makes me feel like I have done nothing with my life! Nonetheless, we were still able to share a few laughs over green nailpolish and the joys of being a girl. She says the response from some South Africans angry that a local actress is not playing Winnie don't bother her. In fact, she understands why they're upset, but as she says, she's got a job to do and she's going to do her best.

 With Walter - Jennifer's fabulous assistant

It was great to see filmmakers and festival-goers getting the gees of the World Cup - trying their hand at blowing the vuvuzela and "making the circle beeger" with their own dance moves. There are many filmmakers who are doing South Africa proud - even though they may not yet have hit the big time. But we're keeping a close eye on Oliver Schmitz and Greig Buckle, who's film Life Above All is competing in the World Cinema Showcase here, called Un Cinema Regard.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cannes Never Sleeps

How does it feel to be Michael Douglas? So went the question one such journalist asked at the press conference for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. All this time I have been working on coming up with what I thought were intelligent questions, but clearly, all it takes is a "how does it feel". And the answer, Michael happily told us, is "happy.

"Who we are and how we feel depends on what's going on at that moment. Right now I am happily married, with two young children and I am very proud of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." But he added that his work as a United Nations ambassador made him very disappointed in the world. "As you look at the greed, the volcanic ash, the flooding, you know, the earth seems to be speaking."

It was somewhat surreal to see the "real" Michael Douglas in the flesh, who gives an excellent performance reprising his role of Gordon Gekko. Shia LaBeouf (no matter how many times I write his name, I always feel like I am spelling it wrong!) wins me over in this film. I believe his desperation and his sincerity and naivety. I also think he's very cute! He said he started investing on Wall Street to get into character and up his confidence in light of working with actors he calls the "All-Stars". All stars indeed: Frank Langella, Josh Brolin, Eli Wallach, and of course Douglas. Carey Mulligan plays LaBeouf's girlfriend (art imitating life) and is even more gorgeous in real life. She is the moral compass of the film.

Then it was off to a rooftop interview with the director of Step Up 3D and a quick dash to the presentation of local films by the National Film and Video Foundation. Some interesting films coming they say in the biz, watch this space!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Controversial and Kick-Ass Cannes

Cannes may be a celebrity-filled film festival but it's also a cerebral festival, with movies that make you think. I watched the controversial documentary about the earthquake in L'Aquila that slams Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for his handling of the crisis as a means to boost his popularity. It's called DrAquila and is directed by satirist Sabina Guzzanti.

Through comedy and stark realism, as well as testimonies from people who lost their loved ones in a tragedy, which Guzzanti shows the government was well aware of before it happened, the film portrays the Italian leader as a man only concerned with his image and not the people he is meant to lead. Instead of helping re-build the city post-quake, he re-builds his ego and a false impression among the people.

It made me remember that in South Africa we're not the only ones with shameful politicians who are corrupt and embarass us. Berlusconi makes both Tiger Woods and Julius Malema look tame - with his sex scandals and ability to say silly things at inopportune moments. I can see why the Italian Minister of Culture boycotted the festival because it was screening this documentary - DraQuila holds back no punches.

I was interviewed by an Italian newspaper journalist as I walked out of the cinema, asking me my reactions. The thing is this, you hear about Berlusconi in the various media reports, but a film like this pieces it all together and gives one reason to fear the fact that this leader is in power - yet again. "A dictatorship without the torture", as one interviewee in the movie put it.

The most poignant moment comes from a journalist who lost his two children in the earthquake. He believed the lies that were spread as information from seismologists that another earthquake was not going to happen, when they knew one would. He told his two children that too, and they listened to him when he said not to get up during a tremor as it wouldn't be a problem. And so they lay in their beds as the city fell.

Then, as happens in Cannes, I had to flip the switch totally and go see another film at the total end of the scale - Step Up 3D. That's another thing to love about Cannes - you get allsorts! Director John Chu is here with his movie about the dancers who do-or-die, and I'll be speaking to him tomorrow.

Rules of Cannes

There are a few lessons I've come to learn from previous visits that I am remembering as I get back into the Cannes groove:

1 - Queuing is the activity you will most do in Cannes. Second only to running to get those queues.
2 - Cannes is glamorous for maybe 20% of the time, like when you - as a mere mortal - get to walk the Red Carpet instead of hover next to it. The rest of the time it can be quite the grind (yes, it is still hard work to be here in the French Riviera but I am not expecting you to feel sorry for me one bit!)
3. You will eat a French pastry every day you are here - even if you have given up these items in lieu of abs of steel. You will also drink more than you eat, as you dash from one event to another.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lambs and Lions - Cannes Curtain Raises

There's a glorious scene in Robin Hood where Russell Crowe as the protagonist discovers part of his heritage, and it has to do with these words:
Rise and rise again until lambs become lions
Well, the "lions" of the opening day and night of Cannes are the Oscar-winning star and his fellow Oscar winner Cate Blanchett. The kicked off the film festival with a press conference for the movie, in which the two shared a lovely banter between them - talking about kissing scenes in the forest - and then Cate taking on the role of journalist to Russell, asked him a question she knew he wanted to answer.

Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and producer Brian Grazer

Director Ridley Scott isn't here to see his film open the fest because he's recovering from knee surgery. It's a great pity because I was looking forward to interviewing him and seeing who the man behind the lens is. Ah well, Russell kept us entertained enough. He has no problem telling a journalist who asks a question he's answered before that he feels like "he is repeating himself, repeating himself" or expressing his views on how he thinks the monopolization of the media is something a Robin Hood of today's time would have to conquer.

Perhaps a lion of a different kind is Tim Burton, head of the jury that will decide who gets the Palme d'Or at the end of the fest. In the second presser of the day, he explained what's going to guide their decision. Nothing, really.
Well, he means the panel - which includes the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale and hottie Benicio del Toro - won't be going in with any pre-conceived ideas about what they want the films to be. He says they want to be surprised, and "feel the films, then discuss them and how they affect (us) intellectually and emotionally."

Jury members Benicio del Toro and Shekar Kapur

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Roll out the Red Carpet!

Bonjour Cannes! I arrived just in time to see the Palais de Festival being set up for the opening of the festival. The Palais is the main building where all the action takes place. It houses the film market and is right next to the Grande Lumiere Theatre where all the big premieres happen.

This is what the red carpet looks like before it becomes "The Red Carpet"...

The fest's unofficial photographers, who line the street outside the Palais, are ready in their spots. They come from all over France, and for many, this is a family business!

It's almost time - the curtain will officially raise on the 63rd annual Cannes Film Festival!

Oh, and I read some useful advice for when things in Cannes get a little tough (like trying to chase down Pamela Anderson on the boardwalk, from Nadia's Cannes Experience No. 1) from The Diving Bell and The Butterfly director Mathieu Almaric, who is here as an actor in Tournee:
"If you approach Cannes with a sense of humour, nothing is that bad. You have to take it for what it is, otherwise it's silly. Cannes is a circus, so you have to have fun with it."

Cannes Bound

Johannesburg - Amsterdam - Nice
No. of cups of coffee: 1 x "semi-skinny" cappucino
                                   4 x aeroplane-size cups
Estimated amount of calories burned: a gazillion while sprinting through Schipol airport in fear of missing connecting flight
Items lost: 1 x iPod with priceless music memories
Knowledge gained: Don't care about fellow passengers more than yourself, even if they are tanned, rugged-looking Kiwi's. ( I left my iPod in the seat-pocket, even while checking with my co-passenger that he had taken all his belongings.)
Cannes prep: Russell Crowe was born in New Zealand but grew up in Australia, where he currently lives. Describes Robin Hood co-star Cate Blanchett as a "magnificent actress who has complete control over her emotional responses so she can make the smallest gesture a gigantic statement."

Are we there yet?!

Monday, May 10, 2010

And so it Begins!

I used to say, "Forget the Oscars! If you want to spot some A-list celebs, then the Cannes Film Festival is the place to be."

Well, now that I have been to the Oscars, I can say this will the conviction it truly deserves!
In Cannes, the celebs are in a concentrated area, and it's easier to "bump" into them...of course it does help to know where to do said bumping! But that's just one part about being at the festival that I love. The other part is seeing what the South Africans are up to.
This will be my fourth time covering the event – thanks to the French Embassy and Samsung. The French Embassy has also made it possible for a number of up-and-coming filmmakers to attend the festival – together with their ideas and projects, hopes and dreams.

As always, top directors will face off for the festival’s main prize – the Palme D’Or. What's more exciting this year, is that a film directed and produced by South Africans, called Life, Above All has been selected for the Un Certain Regard section, which is the festival's World Cinema Showcase. The films in this section compete for the Prize Un Certain Regard.

 Just a little info to those new to the fest. It's organized in various sections, which include:

  • the Official Selection, which is the main event and features 20 films In Competition – competing for the Palme D’Or
  • 20 films from cultures near and far as part of Un Certain Regard
  • running parallel to the festival are non-competitive programmes dedicated to discovering other aspects of cinema. They include Cannes Classics, which celebrate the heritage of film, Camera d’Or, which rewards the best first film of the Festival, and Cinema de la Plage, which screens classic films for the mass public.
  • Another major part of the festival is the Marche du Film, which is the busiest movie market of the world.

Let the Cannes games begin!