Wednesday, October 27, 2010



Menu Rebellion

"Who needs menus? Blue Hill at Stone Barns has gone without them for years. Now it's the city's turn."

Blue Hill in New York City and, upstate, Blue Hill at Stone Barns are among the best restaurants in the world, featuring seasonal food from the best (often local) farms (including their own). They care about the ingredients and the way those ingredients are prepared.

"Starting in November, Blue Hill New York hosts menu-free Mondays every second Monday of the month, featuring a Farmer's Feast assembled from the day's harvest.

"First taste: Monday, November 8th

"The cost for the five-course tasting is $95 per guest (exclusive of tax and gratuity). An optional wine pairing will also be available for $55 per guest. For reservations, please call 212.539.1776."


Upcoming New York Farmer's Feast Dates:

December 13, 2010
January 10, 2011


Blue Hill
75 Washington Place
New York, NY 10011

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Monday, October 25, 2010



The Air Force made public a manual on Cyber War that's getting a lot of attention today. An AP article by Dan Elliot is being reprinted all over. Here's one copy of his article:

The manual itself (I think it's the one that's being cited) is dated July 15, 2010 and turns out to be one of many manuals that are published online. Here are some links to the original sources:



(A list of publications is in a scrolling box on the right side.)

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Thursday, October 21, 2010



THE DEBT is a new American film (about a Mossad operation) that played at HIFF 2010. (More about this later.)

It is a re-make of an Israeli film.

The original Israeli film will be shown at 6:45 today (THU) on the Sundance Channel.

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Robin Singer, Director Stephen Padilla and Mikal Evans
On the Red Carpet, Opening Night at HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman

For (much) more (reviews, interviews, pix, features) about HIFF 2010...

KISSES, CHLOE, written and directed by Stephen Padilla, takes a fresh, unsentimental, unromantic look at a slice of twenty-something hook-ups, friendships, rivalries, desires, personalities and sex talk. It's an extremely interesting film.

Emily (Mikal Evans) brings her current boyfriend, Alex (Brad Coolidge), for the weekend to a beach house in the Hamptons belonging to her old friend, the beautiful, blond, "flirty" Chloe (Robin Singer).

The TITULAR Postcard: it tells Emily and Alex to let themselves in
The note is signed,
"Kisses, Chloe."
Brad Coolidge and Mikal Evans
In a scene from KISSES, CHLOE

Patterns that the characters identify in each other's behavior are repeated. According to Emily, Chloe just wants to be loved. According to Chloe, Emily is immature, her relationships deteriorate quickly, and she will hang on to ex-boyfriends forever. Also according to Chloe, Alex is a "triangulator:" a guy who gets into relationships with women as long as there is a third guy in the picture to vanquish (and, she points out, Emily has no other boyfriend anymore).

The film features singularly casual and extensive conversations about the sex lives and hook-ups of the characters.

The tone of the film and the behavior of the characters is new and different.

There are only three characters in the film. Just three people talking, alone together in one house by the water. Talking a lot about sex and their sexual experience. And when they are not talking, there is silence. Awkward, painful, uncomfortable pauses, gaps in the conversation.

Mikal Evans, Robin Singer and Brad Coolidge
In a scene from KISSES, CHLOE

Both screenings of the film at HIFF were sold out. A few audience members (mostly couples in middle age), after half an hour or so of sex talk and awkward silence got up to leave. But the revealing fact is that they did not slink out or leave quietly. They announced their own morality with loud, public exclamations such as "Terrible!" "Worst movie I've ever seen!"

When audience members need to justify their own discomfort, it is a sign that a movie has touched a nerve. The remaining audience, almost everyone, seemed very enthusiastic about the film, and what it was saying.

The film script itself is very conspicuous. The film seems to be very much about what the characters are saying. It is about sex talk. There is very little touchy-feely. The one time we see the characters doing sex (not having sex? not making love?) Alex is making Emily tell him about her sexual experiences with Chloe. While the actors don't wear much at the beach, there is no nudity.

The dynamic seems to be:
=>Emily is immature,
=>the relation with Alex may be no longer at its best, and
=>bringing him to meet Emily may be a mark of naive simplicity -- not recognizing the pattern in her relationships, or
=>it may be a test of her relationship with Alex.

Emily goes to bed early, leaving Alex and Chloe alone a lot in the late evening and at night. Emily is passive, Alex is passive, and Chloe is passive even as she talks about sex. The passivity and the casual sex talk, followed by the honest ending is the unique mode of this film.

Robin Singer
In a scene from KISSES, CHLOE

Despite (or because of) all the sex talk, it seems to me that there is a pervasive feeling of loneliness. Each of the characters seems lonely in their own way. Emily retreats to bed. Alex and Chloe talk (and retreat). But connections are hard to make. They try. At the end, perhaps Emily has grown up enough to connect the next time.

Great plays (more than most films, which seem fixed in their visual interpretation and are generally hard to re-make successfully), are different (sometimes very different) with each different realization. And here, too, with a film in which the script seems primary, we can imagine making a completely different film without changing the words hardly at all.

Virtually the same script could support a very different film, in which passivity is replaced by strong (secret) objectives for each character:
=>Emily comes to the house to rekindle a relationship with Chloe;
=>Alex is deeply in love with Emily and comes to the house to re-consummate, re-energize his relation with her; and
=>Chloe wants Alex's bones.

Is Emily willing to "sell" Alex to Chloe, in return for Chloe's sexual attention? In this version of the film, there is nudity, there is a lot of touching, there are no awkward silences, and somewhat rough and "ugly" sex between Alex and Chloe is shown quite explicitly.

This version is not a better film, but it is a very different film that could use almost exactly the same words. Comparison of the film that Padilla did make with the one (I just described) he did not make, may illuminate the intentions of the filmmaker, and his take on these characters.

There are some significant similarities in style and aesthetics between this film and another film I liked (a lot) recently, The Romantics, which could be, in some sense Kisses, Chloe's older sibling (I call it with neutral sexuality a sibling, because I'm not sure if it's an older brother -- because it's robust; or an older sister -- because The Romantics is very much a woman's movie).

Just to be clear, first of all, of course, the films are different in that The Romantics is a much "bigger" film, with many, very famous actors (compared to just three not (yet!) famous actors); a (not that big, but) much bigger budget; and a (short, but) much longer shooting schedule than Kisses, Chloe's mere 12 days. The characters in The Romantics are perhaps ten years older, more educated and (somewhat) further along in their lives and careers than the characters in
Kisses, Chloe.

But the two films are similar in their simplicity, honesty, naturalistic style, and emphasis on the characters as real people. They are both dramas about love and sex.

Both films are about a triangle, with a rather passive man (Brad Coolidge has much the same role as Josh Duhamel) in the middle between two women that have a long standing friendship and a long standing rivalry.

Kisses, Chloe, is an independent, low budget film about modern singles. The commercial success of this film, I suspect, depends on positioning it as a brilliant portrayal of the sexual lifestyle of modern young singles, realized by a quartet of 3 rising young stars, and a director with a striking new vision.

This quartet: the director and all three actors, are people to watch and follow!

Director Stephen Padilla
On location with KISSES, CHLOE

Director Stephen Padilla

Kisses, Chloe, is director Stephen Padilla's second feature film. His first feature, The Little Things, was one of nine films selected for the IFP Independent Filmmaker Labs. It was named “Best of the Fest” at the Philadelphia Film Festival, won the Audience Award at Red Bank and received a Gold Remi Award at WorldFest.

His play, Picking Palin at the 2010 Fringe Fest in New York was a major success.

Stephen has an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University and a B.A. in Screenwriting from Georgetown University.

Brad Coolidge
Opening Night at HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman

Brad Coolidge (Alex)

Brad is a theatrical and film actor. He appeared in the screen adaptation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit (Slamdance Film Festival). He has appeared on stage in The Drilling Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest. He was also, apparently, very popular at FAO Schwartz (see his link below).

Robin Singer and Mikal Evans
On the Red Carpet, Opening Night at HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman

Mikal Evans (Emily)

Mikal is a terrific, subtle actress, with a lovely, warm and friendly face and personality. And she's a beautiful singer / songwriter. She provided many of the songs on the film soundtrack. She is frequently seen around town in performance: solo and with her band. Before playing Emily in Kisses, Chloe, she appeared on stage in Eighteen, Twelfth Night and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Her critically-acclaimed debut solo EP, A Jailhouse . . . A Kingdom, was released by Gypsy Eyes Records.

Robin Singer
Photo by Eric Roffman

Robin Singer (Chloe)

Robin is a beautiful, serious actress (and writer). She has the special quality in Kisses, Chloe of being both committed and distant at the same time, simultaneously outrageous and simply natural. The best actors seem to be archetypes of a specific personality of a certain generation, and Robin has that quality.

As an actress, she is always perfectly prepared -- I've seen her at work -- and always interesting. She's easy to work with. Both at work and outside of work she is genuinely nice, serious, friendly, and she giggles a lot.

Robin has appeared in a number of films, including Little Kisses (written by Neil LaBute), and Battle of the Bands (LA Reel Film Festival). She has an award winning screenplay working its way through the "system". She has new roles in a film called "Work It Out" and a comedy web series called "Public Relations," both currently in post-production.







For (much) more (reviews, interviews, pix, features) about HIFF 2010...


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010



MAC Announcements were streaming live on

Here's a quick summary:

1 - There are new MAC notebooks. 13" and 11" Fairly high resolution screens. Very slim. Very light. All solid state storage. Long battery life. Approx $1,000-$1,600. Up to 256 GB storage. 2G memory.

2 - OS X Lion imports features from iPad & iPhone, including Facetime, multitouch gestures on the trackpad, full screen apps, and various navigation features. Coming Summer 2011.

3 -- New App store for MAC apps.

4 -- There are improvements in iLife, including better audio editing for iMovie. New iLife is free with new MACs; $49 to upgrade. Most of the new features in iPhoto and iMovie are new ways of automating simple tasks. The question is whether they improve the ways of doing more customized projects. Also possibly "dangerous" : Can automation force activities you do not want to happen (such as accidently and automatically importing pix or clips you do not want in a particular place on the computer).

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Thursday, October 14, 2010



The Sloan Foundation
(officially the Alfred P Sloan Foundation) is primarily known for its support of scientific research. It has made many grants that have kick-started incredibly important research projects. The Census of Marine Life, supported by the Sloan Foundation has recently been in the news. Another project that comes to mind immediately is the Sloan Digital Sky Survey: the Sloan Foundation sponsored a detailed investigation of the objects in the universe that can be seen from Earth. This survey has been a cornerstone of modern cosmology, a field which may be seeing, currently, the most exciting developments in any observational/experimental branch of science at the moment. Our growing knowledge of the universe has dramatically changed our perspective on cosmology in the past ten years or so.

The Lagoon Nebula -- nearly 3 light-years wide
Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys
The colors map emissions from ionized gas in the nebula
sculpted by the energetic light and winds from the region's new born stars.
The nebula is a star-forming region in the constellation Sagittarius
Directly and indirectly supports research in cosmology!

The Sloan Foundation also has a program which supports the Arts, including film and theater, in an attempt to increase the “Public Understanding of Science and Technology” in diverse media.

The Sloan Public Understanding of Science and Technology initiative is run by Doron Weber.

Doron Weber
Photo by Eric Roffman

The Sloan Foundation has been a long time sponsor of the Hamptons International Film Festival. Among their contributions to the festival are a significant prize to a film that “features a realistic and compelling portrayal of science and technology”; a panel discussion, usually related to the prize-winning film; a reception, where scientists and filmmakers mingle -- and hopefully conspire, and a reading from screenplays supported by the Sloan Foundation and HIFF.

During the year, there is a period when writers may submit a screenplay for participation in a writer’s workshop during the spring or summer. Here are stories on the workshop announcements the past two years:



Submissions for the next year generally take place sometime in the winter after HIFF, with the Workshop taking place in the Spring before the next HIFF.

This year, excerpts from two scripts were read at HIFF.

Todd Krainin
Author of TUBE WARS
Photo by Eric Roffman

The first script, TUBE WARS, by Todd Krainin, is about the struggle between Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff over patents for television. It covers much the same territory as the Broadway play, The Farnsworth Invention by Aaron Sorkin. The style is different, the medium is different and, on the evidence from the reading, the way the personality of Farnsworth is presented is very different. In addition to being different from The Farnsworth Invention, TUBE WARS also faces the challenge of being different from Flash of Genius, (the 2008 Sloan Prize winner) another film about an inventor defending his right to a patent -- in this case the inventor of the windshield wiper timing/delay mechanism, who was pitted against car manufacturers.

The second film script presented was BYSTANDER, by Robert Cohen, about the investigation into reasons -- psychological and social -- that people did not call police to report the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese, despite the fact that witnesses had heard the commotion for 30 minutes or so.

The portion of this script that was read dealt mainly with academic politics -- the relations between a professor and his department chairman and his graduate student; how grants were to be supported; and what research could and should be conducted.

The challenge for every narrative play about real people doing research is to

(a - characters) make the personalities and interpersonal relationships real, interesting, believable, fresh, and unlike those in other similar stories

(b - underpinning of science and technology) make the research and the work itself interesting, understandable, and fresh, with new information and relevant insights.

(c - plot) make the plot interesting, believable, understandable and fresh.

"Interesting," "Believable," "Understandable," "Fresh" ... Similar tasks for characters, the underpinning of science and technology, and plot. It's hard to make a good script. It takes real brilliance to create a breakout film.

The readings were well done, with an exceptional cast that contributed their time, their skills and great energy.

Both readings were directed by Jan Anania and were produced and cast by Amy Devra Gossels.

The Team
Photo by Eric Roffman

BYSTANDER by Robert Cohen

Jordan Baker - Narrator
John Michael Bolger - John Darling / George Felder
Scott Cohen - Swingley
Alison Edwards - Various People
Ned Eisenberg - Joe Kelly
Will Janowitz - Boy 1
Kevin Kliner - Various People
Natalie Knepp - Various People
Michael Stuhlbarg - Bob Little

Will Janowitz and Kevin Kliner
Photo by Eric Roffman

TUBE WARS by Todd Krainin

Jordan Baker - Various People
John Michael Bolger - William Mitchell / George Everson
Scott Cohen - Various People
Alison Edwards - Narrator
Ned Eisenberg - Zworykin
Will Janowitz -Philo Farnsworth
Kevin Kliner - Sarnoff
Natalie Knepp - Pem / Various People
Michael Stuhlbarg - Various People

Natalie Knepp
Photo by Eric Roffman

Here is a list of the films that have won the Sloan Feature Film Prize in the last 11 festivals

2000: SONGCATCHER, directed by Maggie Greenwald
2001: ENIGMA, directed by Michael Apted
2002: TEKNOLUST, directed by Lynn Hershman
2003: KINSEY, directed by Bill Condon
2004: MADNESS AND GENIUS, directed by Ryan Eslinger
2005: KARDIA, directed by Su Rynard
2006: THE FOUNTAIN, directed by Darren Aronofsky
2007: THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, directed by Julian Schnabel
2008: FLASH OF GENIUS, directed by Marc Abraham
2009: AGORA, directed by Alejandro Amenábar
2010: BENEATH HILL 60 by Jeremy Sims

Many of these films, as well as the screenplays at the reading, are narrative (not documentary!) films about real people and real events. It is rare for the award to be given to a film not based on a real person or real event, a purely fictional film like The Fountain. But then, again, it is very rare for purely fictional films to deal in a realistic way with science and technology, and you can't give a prize to a film that hasn't been made. Doron Weber has on numerous occasions made a point of saying they’d be delighted to find a comedy they could support.

Some screenplays they have supported in the past are (perhaps slowly) moving toward a production.

Two stories which may be furthest along are a story about the mathematician Ramanujan and his relationship with the English mathematics professor, G. H. Hardy (a topic that was also the subject of the recent theatrical piece, “A Disappearing Number” by Complicite), and the story of Hedy Lamarr, who in addition to having a very interesting life as a personality and a beautiful movie star, was the co-inventor (the beautiful co-inventor -- inventors can be beautiful) of frequency hopping (U.S. Patent 2,292,387), a technology of great importance in technology today (such as cell phone transmission systems).

The Sloan Foundation has supported The Tribeca Film Festival and many Film Study programs as well as HIFF.

The Poster for

In theatrical development, Sloan has partnered with a number of theaters. The Ensemble Studio Theater (EST) in New York is currently presenting a full length play, supported by the Sloan Foundation, Photograph 51 (about the development of the Double Helix model of DNA), . Each year the First Light program encourages the submission of plays with science and technology at their core, which are then developed in workshops.

Sloan has partnerships with other theaters as well, including Playwrights Horizons, and the Manhattan Theater Club. While the Sloan Foundation monitors the projects from these theaters, the programs are managed and run by the theaters themselves.

To participate in one of these programs, some attention is required to notice the submission dates for each of the programs. They are announced "from time to time." Here are some links to some of the major programs affiliated with the Sloan Foundation, including in some cases links or information about the submission process, and in other cases links to information about projects they have supported.

EST is currently accepting submissions, and currently presenting a play sponsored by the Sloan Foundation.


EST is currently accepting scripts for the First Light Program through November 1, 2010.

Here's some interesting information about the play, Photograph 51, which is currently playing at EST, with links to information about the discovery of the Double Helix.




Here's an article from the Tribeca Film Institute about the TFF partnership with Sloan:


For HIFF submissions, follow the HIFF main site, or subscribe to withoutabox and put yourself on the watch list for HIFF.

Here are our articles on the last two HIFF Screenwriters Labs:



The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

The Sloan Foundation
Public Understanding of Science and Technology Initiative

For (much) more about HIFF 2010...


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010




Audience Award Narrative
Award collected by director Tom Hooper

Audience Award Documentary
Award collected by director Jill Andresevic

Narrative Jury Winner
Zicherman Screenplay Winner
Awards collected by producer Jefe Brown

Documentary Jury Winner
Award collected by director Aaron Schock

Conflict and Resolution Jury winner
Award collected by director Lisa Gossels

Short Film Winner
Award collected by director J.J. Adler

The festival will accept the award on behalf of the filmmaker Cynthia Wade.

Winner of the Investigation Discovery Award for Excellence in Journalism
Award collected by Director Iris Suh

Winner of the Victor Rabinowitz and Joanne Grant Award for Social Justice
Award collected by Directors Roger Weisberg & Vanessa Roth

Sloan Prize winner.

The Babelgum Animatron Animation Film Festival celebrates the very best in independent animated short filmmaking, and drew over 200 international submissions for its inaugural 2010 competition. Approximately ten films in each of four categories – Fantasy, Humor, Minis, and Real Life – were short listed and made eligible for cash prizes totaling $17,000. The Jury Award–winning films, announced today and screened at the Hamptons International Film Festival, can be viewed at

and on the Babelgum mobile application

Entries to the Animatron competition came from more than two dozen countries, including Albania, Taiwan, Greece, India, Spain, Russia, Romania, Poland, Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, Brazil, the U.S., and the U.K.


Jury Award Winner $2,500
“This Is J03,” Once Were Farmers (U.K.)

Runner-up $500
“Noesis,” Sophie Klevenow (Germany/U.K.)


Jury Award Winner $2,500
“Pigeon Impossible,” Lucas Martell (U.S.)

Runner-Up $500
“Ant & Len,” Jon Marsh & Duncan Raitt (U.K.)


Jury Award Winner $2,500
“Dog Judo: Meat Sprinkles,” Dave Anderson (U.K.)

Runner-up $500
“Knit’N’Purl,” Rhiannon Evans (U.K.)


Jury Award Winner $2,500
“Prayers for Peace,” Dustin Grella (U.S.)

Runner-up $500
“How to Animate,” Jordan Wood (U.K.)


Winner $5,000
“Coalition of the Willing,” Knife Party (U.K.)

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Honors Sidney Poitier
At the 38th Annual CHAPLIN AWARD Gala
Monday, May 2, 2011

The Film Society of Lincoln Center will honor Sidney Poitier at the 38th Annual Chaplin Award Gala on the evening of Monday, May 2, 2011.

Ann Tenenbaum, The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Board Chairman said that Sidney Poitier "Has not simply entertained audiences, but has been a part of films that indeed helped change our world for the better. It will be an honor to showcase his amazing body of work."

The Film Society's Annual Gala began in 1972 and honored Charles Chaplin - who returned to the US from exile to accept the commendation. Since then, the award has been renamed for Chaplin, and has honored many of the film industry's most notable talents, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and most recently, Michael Douglas.

Born in 1927 in Miami, Florida, Sidney Poitier grew up in the small village of Cat Island, Bahamas. His father, a poor tomato farmer, moved the family to the capital, Nassau, when Poitier was eleven. It was there that he first encountered cinema. Even at a young age, he recognized the ability of cinema to expand one's view of reality. At the age of sixteen, Poitier moved to New York and found a job as a dishwasher. Soon after, he began working as a janitor for the American Negro Theater in exchange for acting lessons.

An actor and director with a career spanning more than five decades in theatre, film, and television, Poitier made his film debut in 1950 with the classic NO WAY OUT. Poitier's films in the fifties, notably CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (1952), BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955) and THE DEFIANT ONES (1958), for which Poitier was nominated for an Academy Award, were frequently controversial for the time and often addressed issues of racial equality both home and abroad.

In 1961 Poitier would reprise a role he played on the Broadway stage for the Hollywood adaptation of A RAISIN IN THE SUN. In 1963, Poitier's performance in LILLIES OF THE FIELD, earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. It marked the first time a black man had been so honored.

Following this success, Poitier's film career continued to be marked by projects that were not shy to hold a mirror up to issues dealing with race. A PATCH OF BLUE (1965), IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) and GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967) addressed black/white conflicts and modern society's evolving thoughts regarding interracial romance as well.

The 1970s began a period in which Poitier made a shift from acting to directing beginning with BUCK AND THE PREACHER (1972), UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT (1974), LET'S DO IT AGAIN (1975), and the classic comedy STIR CRAZY (1980), starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

After a decade away from acting, Poitier returned to the screen in 1988 for SHOOT TO KILL and LITTLE NIKITA. Poitier also brought his talents to television, notably portraying Thurgood Marshall in "Separate But Equal" (1991) and then Nelson Mandela in the 1997 television docudrama "Mandela and De Klerk."

SIDNEY POITIER in Wikipedia:


The Film Society of Lincoln Center:

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Zrinka Cvitesic
At the Breakthrough Performers' Panel HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman

ON THE PATH is a terrific film, exceptionally richly directed by Jasmila Zbanic, and exceptionally richly acted by Zrinka Cvitesic.

This is a film which is all "sub-text." Nominally, and if you read the synopsis, the film seems to be about a man who becomes a devout Wahhabi Moslem. That is what is happening on the surface. But that text is just the enrichment of the real story.

The actress, Zrinka, speaking for herself and the director, says that in reality the film is about love -- about a couple that love each other with a bond that threatens to come apart when the man develops an obsession.

The story takes place in Bosnia, and is about a couple which is moderately, almost secularly Muslim. Then the man becomes more and more involved in very ritualistic, fundamentalist, orthodox (I'm not sure what the correct word is) Muslim practices.

But the man, they say, could have become a workaholic computer hacker, or developed any other obsession, and the essence of the story would have been the same.

The film gives life to the culture and geography of Bosnia. This immersion in the culture of Bosnia helps give the film its special richness. The richness is enhanced by the commitment of the actress and the actors to the specific life of this specific Bosnian couple. (In fact, although there is not one hint of it in the film, the principal characters are essentially created from the stories of very real people.)

But contrary to what one might expect -- what I certainly expected after reading the synopsis in the HIFF program -- there is no suggestion that the Muslim orthodoxy described in the film is in any way related to terrorism or international terrorism. This is in no way a story about politics -- though it is political. It is a love story. Still, it is political, because it seems to me the story is a defense of moderation, accommodation, compromise, and modern values in the service of love.

The description of the ways the man behaves in his Muslim orthodoxy, in reality, is not significantly different from a description that could be written about a non-religious man in love in New York who goes to Israel, where the man becomes involved in Ultra-Orthodox Zionist Judaism, with new rules for praying, touching women, and strict dietary rules; where everyone who used to be around him may fear (without any evidence) that these religious beliefs have political overtones that could have a violent outlet.

The film, in fact, is a celebration of moderation. Unlike films like Carlos and Che, where the film has a section in the beginning where the protagonist and title character is shown as idealistic, and committed to social improvement, as well as hunky, handsome and virile -- so that a section of the film could be taken out of context and used as a recruitment vehicle for terrorists -- ON THE PATH has no period where terrorism is glorified. It does not demean or mock the man's choice of religion either, though it does show the strains his choice puts on his relationships.

As a celebration of moderation, and a story of love, and a setting in a faraway, exotic land not well known to most Americans, and a story that explores religion and personal life, this film could (and I think should) have a commercial life in a circuit that includes colleges, and moderate Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious groups and organizations. Mel Gibson built a distribution system for a violent religious film. It is time to build (or re-build: these used to exist!) a distribution system for wholesome, dramatic films (foreign and domestic) that do not rely on violence or sophomoric humor.

(To expand on that thought for a moment, it may be that heavy promotion of free, full-screen, high-resolution streaming video of brilliant, but otherwise rarely seen, feature films could be used to build a market for films that currently have little or no American distribution.)

Bosnia, where the film is set, escaped about fifteen years ago from a war with neighboring Serbia in which atrocities were committed and houses and property were appropriated. That is the background for this story.

Throughout history, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia (and other countries which were once part of Yugoslavia) have been the site of many, many wars of conquest and liberation and shifting alliances and unions.

Muslims are the largest religious group in Bosnia; Catholics the largest in Croatia; Serbia is largely Protestant.

The director, Jasmila Zbanic, is a moderate Bosnian Muslim woman. She is a very independent woman. She is interested in the lives of women, their love lives, their personal lives, their happiness. One usually thinks of a "feminist" as someone who is especially interested in women as professionals, so perhaps Jasmila might be called (at least on the evidence of this movie) a "womanist," rather than a feminist.

Her method of auditioning her actors was quite unique. She had the actors all become clowns for a week, and gave them almost impossible tasks to do. I think this helped her create a cast of fearless actors, who retained strong bonds with each other.

Her direction created a film of absorbing richness, both in the behavior of the actors, and the backdrop on which the love story was played. She provides a large palette of emotion and experience; and cinematography that can be beautiful or gritty as the scene requires.

On the strength of this film, I would expect her to become a major international directing talent -- provided that Bosnian films can reach the world market.

Zrinka Cvitesic (pronounced -- I'm guessing here -- Svi TEZ itch) has exceptional range, both physically and emotionally. In this film it seems as if at least three different actresses are playing her role as she evolves through the story of the film. She is not afraid of any kind of behavior. On her website, her portfolio (see the YouTube slideshow below) shows a whole spectrum of poses from "nice young lady" to exotic model. She can be quite plain or fabulously beautiful; young and innocent to sophisticated and worldly; under control and totally free.

Zrinka was selected as a Shooting Star by the EFP, European Film Promotions, and came to HIFF as one of the Breakthrough Performers. On the Breakthrough Performers Panel, and in person, she was charming, lovely, friendly, articulate -- in English, and very interesting in providing background to the film and her own creative development.

Breakthrough Performers Zrinka Cvitesic and Pihla Viitala
Talking with Harvey Weinstein
At the Chairman's Party HIFF 2010
Photo by Eric Roffman

The Breakthrough Performers Program and the Shooting Star Program were both designed to give exceptionally promising young actors the opportunity to develop creatively and professionally by networking and being mentored by established figures in the film world; and simultaneously they promote their films throughout the world.

Although not part of this film, it should also be noted that Zrinka is a singer and a terrific dancer: she won the Croatian version of Dancing With The Stars. (Two YouTube videos are below showing her singing --in English! -- and dancing. She is quite amazing in the range of her talents!)

For ON THE PATH, Zrinka, who is Croatian, learned the Bosnian dialect and manner. In fact, in preparing the role, she needed to represent a specific Bosnian woman who had been the subject of a famous photograph (showing her suffering from anti-Bosnian violence, from which she did survive). Although that identity never shows up in the film, I suspect that the specific identification helped to create the tangible feeling of reality that permeates the film.

Zrinka speaks excellent English. In fact she lived for a bit in the US. With a look that can be natural or exotic; beauty that could make her an international supermodel, prodigious acting talent, and the facility to dance her way to the top, I'm looking forward to Zrinka's next great films, and fantastic career.

Cvitesic may be hard to figure out how to pronounce. Supermodels often go by a single name. I'll call her Zrinka!













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Monday, October 04, 2010



One of my favorite programs at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) each year is the Breakthrough Performers Program, run by Lina Todd, which recognizes a small number of extremely good young actors whose films are showing at HIFF.

Maryam Hassouni Anamaria Marinca & Hannah Herzsprung
Breakthrough Performers / Shooting Stars 2008
With Lina Todd
Photo by Eric Roffman

For the audience it is a chance to meet some actors at an early stage in their career, actors who have a real good shot at becoming huge stars. For the actors it is a chance to meet each other, to be mentored by distinguished talents in the American film industry, and to be introduced to American audiences.

In addition to seeing their breakthrough film (or films, sometimes an actor has more than one film at the Festival), there is the opportunity to speak with them informally at parties (and sometimes formally at interviews). There is also a panel presentation at which they talk about themselves, discuss filmmaking, and answer questions from the audience.
Rajendra Roy in 2009
At HIFF to moderate the Breakthrough Performers Panel
Photo by Eric Roffman

The program began as Rising Stars in 2002, when the Festival honored some new young film actors. Beginning in 2008, the program partnered with the European Shooting Stars program and invited several European actors to join the Rising Stars, calling the joint program, Breakthrough Performers. The program is run by Lina Todd. In its early years, the program was championed by Rajendra Roy, the Programmer for the Festival (who is currently Film Curator at the Museum of Modern Art -- MOMA). Rajendra returned last year to the Hamptons for the Festival, and chaired the Breakthrough Performers Panel.

The Festival this year has a very distinguished group of European Shooting Stars and International Rising Stars:


Frieda Pinto from India (Miral)
Brittany Robertson from the US (The Family Tree, Cherry)
Jessica Chastain from the US (The Debt)

Noomi Rapace, the Swedish Actress who played The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was chosen as a Rising Star, but will not be able to come because of conflicts in her shooting schedule: she's currently working on the Sherlock Holmes sequel and Clean Out with Timothy Dalton.


Zrinka Cvitesic from Croatia (On The Path)
Anais Demoustier from France (Sweet Evil)
Pihla Viitala from Finland (Bad Family)


Freida Pinto

Frieda Pinto (1984-10-18, 26 next week -- 5'6") was the object of desire in Slumdog Millionaire. She appears at HIFF in Miral by distinguished artist/director Julian Schnabel. She will soon be seen in Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Britt Robertson

Brittany (or Britt) Robertson (1990-04-18, 20 -- 5'3") is current playing Lux in Life Unexpected on CW. She was earlier seen in Swingtown on TV and, in films, was in Dan in Real Life and will soon be in Wes Craven's Scream 4. At HIFF 2010 she'll be seen in two films, Cherry, and The Family Tree.

Jessica Chastain (1977-03-29, 33 (according to WIKI) -- or 1981-03-29, 29 (IMDB) -- 5'4") has appeared on TV in ER, Law & Order and Veronica Mars. She is soon to be seen in Wilde Salome (as Salome) directed by Al Pacino. She will also be seen in Coriolanus, directed by Ralph Fiennes, and The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. She also joins an all-star cast in The Help. At HIFF 2010, she'll be seen in John Madden's The Debt as Young Rachel Singer.

The European Shooting Stars are chosen by a complex and super-selective process. 32 European countries are eligible to nominate a young star that has had an important and commercially successful film in the last year; then a jury selects 10 Shooting Stars who are announced at the Berlin Film Festival. The Shooting Stars receive many opportunities throughout the year to promote the films they have done; and they are given a statuette, the Maria. I am told that when Oscar and Maria stand next to each other, they make a nice looking couple!

Zrinka Cvitesic

Zrinka Cvitesic (1979-07-18, 31) from Croatia has acted in Theater, TV and Films. She is also a dancer, and won the Croatian version of Dancing With The Stars. She has won Best Actress Awards in her films Man Without A Moustache, and On The Path, the film being shown at HIFF.

Anais Demoustier

Anais Demoustier (1987-09-29, 23) -- from France appeared with Isabelle Huppert in Michael Haneke's The Time of the Wolf. She appears in Sweet Evil at HIFF 2010

Pihla Viitala

Pihla Viitala (1982-09-30, 26 -- 5'7") from Finland appeared in Tears of April, shown at HIFF in 2009, opposite Samuli Vauramo, a 2009 Shooting Star and Breakthrough Performer. She speaks English, Swedish, French and her native Finnish. She will be seen in Bad Family at HIFF 2010.

On The Path, Bad Family, and Sweet Evil are all "edgy" European films that deal in taboos and "politically incorrect" territory.

Over the years, the Rising Stars Program has spotlighted many important actors, including Emmy Rossum, Kate and Rooney Mara, Taylor Kitsch, Emily Blunt, Elizabeth Reaser, and Elizabeth Moss.

Hannah Herzsprung is the one actor distinguished by being selected first as a Rising Star (in 2007) and then returning the next year as a Shooting Star (in 2008).

Here is a list of the participants in the Breakthrough Performers Program at the Hamptons International Film Festival since it began in 2002. (I've tried to get all the years, participants and spellings correct... but do add a comment if you can correct an error in this list!)

In 2002, when the program started, James Coburn was the first Mentor and Rajendra Roy was the HIFF Program Director.

2002 –
Jordan Bridges
Jacqueline Kim
Ryan Locke
Andrea Navedo
Susan May Pratt

2003 –
Dean Wareham
Savannah Haske
Elizabeth Moss
Mylika Davis

2004 –
Mark Weber
Norman Reedus
Vinessa Shaw
Aaron Stanford
Eugenia Yuan

2005 –
Emily Blunt
Eugene Byrd
Florian Lukas
Jake Muxworthy
Kip Pardue
Elizabeth Reaser

2006 --
Carmen Chaplin
Dagmara Dominczyk
Matt Davis
Mido Hamada
Noah Fleiss

2007 --
Jess Weixler (Teeth)
Hannah Herzsprung (Four Minutes)
Egbert-Jan Weeber (Vivere)
Blake Lively (Elvis and Anabelle)

2008 –
Kate Mara (Stone Of Destiny),
Taylor Kitsch (Gospel Hill), and
Jake Abel (Flash Of Genius) from North America and

Maryam Hassouni (Dunya And Desie),
Anamaria Marinca (Boogie)
Hannah Herzsprung (Werther)

2009 –
Emmy Rossum (Dare)
Rooney Mara (Dare and Tanner Hall)
Zach Gilford and Emma Stone were selected, but were unable to attend

Alba Rohrwacher (Due partite --in English, The Ladies Get Their Say) from Italy
Cyron Melville (Love and Rage) from Denmark.
Samuli Vauramo (Tears of April)

2010 –
Freida Pinto (Miral)
Brittany Robertson (The Family Tree, Cherry)
Jessica Chastain (The Debt)

Zrinka Cvitešić from Croatia (On the Path)
Anaïs Demoustier (Sweet Evil) from France
Pihla Viitala (Bad Family) from Finland

The Shooting Stars program, with a long history, has had many very distinguished members. The actors known to an American audience, though, are primarily from the UK, Germany and France. Shooting Stars is a program of the European Film Promotion Network (EFP), and it can only be hoped that they will succeed in promoting films from all over Europe (the other 29 countries!) in the US.

In addition to those who've come to the US for the Breakthrough Performers Program, who are having terrific starts to their careers, here are some of the most famous participants in the Shooting Stars Program:

Moritz Bleibtreu - Germany - 1999
Sarah Bolger - Ireland - 2009
Daniel Bruhl - Germany - 2003
Daniel Craig - UK - 2000
Cecile de France - France - 2003
Nina Hoss - Germany - 2000
David Kross - Germany - 2009
Carey Mulligan - UK - 2009
Franke Potente - Germany - 1998
Ludivine Sagnier France - 2001
Rachel Weisz - UK - 1998

We should point out, though, that there are many exciting young actors in indie and studio films at HIFF that are not part of the Breakthrough Performers Program.

Some actors to watch that have not been in the Breakthrough Performer Program are:

Ashley Springer
At HIFF with DARE in 2009
Photo by Eric Roffman

Ashley Springer, terrific in 2009's Dare and in 2007's Teeth, both of which had other cast members in the Breakthrough Performers Program, though he was not. He's very intelligent, funny, and good looking, in addition to being an excellent actor, and game: in Teeth he was one of the unfortunate victims of Jess Weixler's "teeth".

Supermodel/Actress Xenia Siamas, smart, beautiful, entrepreneurial and supremely talented. Highly sought after as a model, she is doing more and more films. She played a drug addict in the 2006 Push with Chazz Palminteri. She has a featured role in Casino Jack at HIFF this year, as a stewardess, and is in development and pre-production with several film projects for next year. Watch for her!

Robin Singer
Photo by Ramsey Fendall

Lovely Robin Singer has a starring role in the three character drama Kisses, Chloe: a man, a woman, and another woman, alone, together, in a house by the sea in the Hamptons (a perfect film for HIFF)!

Here are some links:

Here are some older stories about participants in the Breakthrough Performers Program:

(Rooney was one of last year's Breakthrough Performers at HIFF 2009; these are some pix I took there.)

(Emmy Rossum was a Breakthrough Performer at HIFF 2009, and she had a starring role in the film, Dare. This is a video interview I did with her. Emmy is currently taping Shameless, a new TV series for Showtime.)


(Hannah Herzsprung, one of the finest and most popular young actresses in German was in the Breakthrough Performers Program in both 2007 and 2008. This story and others about her from the Festival have been enduringly popular. Each time one of her films opens, or she comes into attention, QPORIT gets a huge flood of traffic (largely but not entirely from Germany and Europe) for stories that mention her. Most recently this just happened again a few weeks ago.)

(Jess Weixler was one of the 2007 Breakthrough Performers.)

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