Saturday, 7 February 2009

BFF2: Hit the ground running

Finally made it to Berlin today, after an abbreviated night of sleep back home (interrupted by my regular 20-minute slot on BBC Five Live, which should have been a Live From Berlin slot last night, ahem). Anyway, despite more snow in Britain this morning, City Airport was clear and we took off only an hour or so late.

I headed straight for the middle of the festival at Potsdamer Platz, to make the first meeting of the Fipresci Jury, and as I got out of the car my first view was of Kate Winslet running the gauntlet of paparazzi and fans on her way into the press centre. After the meeting I headed to my hotel, then back up to Potsdamer to look around. The press centre is a bit on the cramped side, and there's no wi-fi at all, so I will only be able to update this blog late, late at night when I get back to my room. I did manage to see two films...

Human Zoo
dir-scr Rie Rasmussen 09/Fr ****
This fascinatingly bold drama centres on a woman (played by writer-director Rasmussen, who starred in Luc Besson's Angel-A) reliving her horrific past during the ethnic cleansing war in Kosovo as she tries to reassemble her life in Marseilles. Stylish and energetic, with a fiercely feminist attitude, it's a clever look at the issue of refugees mixed with an examination of how much of our identity comes from our nationality. It's a bit populist and Besson-like, but keeps you thinking. Rasmussen and her costar Nick Corey were at the screening for a perhaps too-chatty Q&A.

White Lightnin'
dir Dominic Murphy 09/UK ***
An intriguingly dark and twisted story set in West Virginia, this British-made film takes the true story of Jesco White and spins it into a grisly fiction about a man (played by Edward Hogg) addicted to lighter fluid and other things, who splits his brain into multiple personalities as a lover, an avenging angel and Elvis. It gets increasingly gruesome as it goes - and some of the acting and storytelling isn't hugely believable. But there's a wonderful role for Carrie Fisher, and it's so unhinged that we never have a clue where it will go next. Murphy, Hogg and a series of writers, producers and crew members (the film was shot in the US and Croatia) took the stage for a fascinating Q&A afterwards - especially when they recounted anecdotes about the real Jesco, who sounds a lot more full-on than the movie character.

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