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Semaine de la Critique - Cannes Film Festival 2013 Recap

Sunday 26 May 2013, by Abla Kandalaft

The Semaine de la Critique is already in its 52nd year and has revealed some of the biggest names in cinema by showcasing first and second shorts and features. The 4 prizes are awarded by journalists and film critics and the festival itself is run by the French Union of Film Critics. Aside from their screenings in Cannes, the films are subsequently shown throughout the region, then in Paris in June and in Beirut in July. La Semaine de la Critique can now boast as solid a place in Cannes as the Directors’ Fortnight and even longer queues.

Among the features, Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril and Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Salvo (double winner) stood out. Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox received rave reviews and standing ovations, but I still have yet to see it (screener awaits).

The selection of shorts was particularly inspired. A perfect showcase for actor Nick Clifford’s magnetic on-screen presence, The Opportunist sees him play an enigmatic and unhinged weirdo, passing himself off as someone else to get into a house party. Inspired by his actor flatmate’s charisma, director David Lassiter wrote and directed this short as a vehicle for both Clifford’s acting skills and his own directorial style. The film is expertly shot and should open many doors for actor and director alike.

Daria Belova’s award-winning Come and Play is a chilling journey through what she calls the « memories » of Berlin. The black and white film opens on the child playing « at war » with a stick of wood in Berlin. His pretend grenades become real as the barriers between imagination and reality melt away, the film is interpersed with footage from the war, that we witness through the child’s eyes and are made to feel his fear and confusion, leading us to a nightmarish climax.

Butter Lamp is Le Fresnoy film student Hu Wei’s second film presented at La Semaine. Highly original and surprisingly funny, the film is a series of shots of a Tibetan family in front of various fake backgrounds of places they aspire to see, from the Great Wall of China to Disneyland. Two other films had genuine laugh out loud moments ; Nicolas Pariser’s mockumentary Agit Pop follows the writers and editors on the day of the final issue of the eponymous hip cultural magazine, as the publisher closes its doors for good. The literary section struggles to get their feature in, the nicotine-stained antisocial film buffs jump in to fill the last issue with endless pages of top 10s, the workmen are knocking the place down. Parisers’s aim was to tackle the technical challenge of the format : long shots, depth of field, one very spacious set. The story evolved from that point. This is ultimately slapstick fun with entertaining displays of power struggles, to which each actor brings their own personality to the character they portray.

The other is the amusing and completely off-beat Vikingar by French filmmaker Magali Magistry. It opens with a confrontation between two Viking warriors. Impossible to describe without revealing too much, this is a very deserving winner. The film was born out of a whim when Magali visited Iceland and was instantly drawn to the landscape. Introducing the film, she explains she was also intrigued by the clash between the pervasing importance of the ancestral, macho Viking culture and the progressive character of Iceland’s society.

Another winner is Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure, a mock-behind-the-scenes look at a porno shoot. Between takes, the actress reads the paper, chats and jokes with her co-stars, negotiates various devices and terms of payment, in what ultimately could have been any place of work.

Lastly, Patio is a commandable piece of work, a touching and sensitive portrait of inmates in a Brazilian prison. Aly Muritiba, an ex-prison warden, set a camera behind the bars of the Patio, or yard, of his previous place of work, the only fragment of freedom for these prisoners, where they practice capoeira, play football and talk about freedom.

For more info on who won what and pictures of the Semaine, see

Daria Belova, director of Come and Play (Komm und spiel).

In Berlin, a young boy fools around with a toy gun. He is progressively thrust into an alternate reality, as the boundaries between past and present start to blur.

Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia, directors of Salvo.

Salvo is a ruthless hitman for the mafia. During a hit, he comes across Rita, a blind girl who powerlessly stands by while her brother is assassinated. The impossible happens and Rita sees for the first time...

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