Ebertfest Day Three – A Separation

A SeparationA Separation was definitely my favorite film of the entire festival and also instantly became one of my favorite films of all time. Michael Barker, from Sony Pictures Classic, introduced the film as “the perfect film” and it absolutely is. There is not a single scene that I would have removed and the actors were incredibly true to life. I had not seen it beforehand, but I will definitely be seeing it again.

On the surface, A Separation is a film about a couple going through a divorce. The film opens with Simin and Nader in front of a judge discussing why they should be allowed to get divorced. She wants to leave Iran, he needs to stay to take care of his ailing elderly father and is concerned about their preteen daughter’s education. Simin helps hire a caretaker for Nader’s father, and a series of events causes the woman to have a miscarriage, but she blames this on Nader (I don’t want to get into specifics about the events leading up to this, for spoiler reasons).

The best thing about A Separation is that it keeps us guessing. We do not know the full truth, we watch as it unravels. The relationships between characters are so incredibly heartfelt that even the most flawed characters, we are all flawed in some way, become personal. Incredible script, incredible performances and a fantastic ending, A Separation is simply amazing. Even in writing this I wish I could be watching it again right now.

For the Q&A session, Michael Barker came back out along with Paul Cox (On Borrowed Time) and one of Roger’s far flung correspondents, Omer Mozaffar. Omer spoke of some cultural significance and offered some insight into things that would go right over the heads of people not deeply familiar with Persian and Muslim customs. I truly hope that the home release has some special features detailing some of the things he spoke of, it was very enlightening. Paul Cox also had a terrific line that I’m going to paraphrase, “this entire film was shot on a budget that is definitely less than the cocaine budget on a Hollywood film”. He’s probably right, and that is a frightening thing to think about. If A Separation is what can come out of Iran, I need to see more.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Some interesting Ebertfest links:

The festival’s main site: http://www.ebertfest.com/
Stream the interview sessions for free: http://ustre.am/JauL

[Update]

Movie One Hundred Ninety Eight

After getting a chance to revisit A Separation on a small screen, the film was less of a surprise but had more of an impact. Let me explain. A Separation is a film that is crafted in such a way that the viewer does not know all the details of plot. Those details are carefully laid out as the film progresses and each seemingly minuscule detail forms a hugely moving setting for each of the characters in some way. While the details of the plot were not a surprise a second time through the film, seeing the way the film is crafted gives me a tremendous appreciation for A Separation. The editing and writing is done in such a precise fashion that it’s nothing short of remarkable that the film works at all, let alone works as well as it does. Details are implied, but not explained until later but this is not confusing, it’s revelatory.

If you haven’t seen A Separation yet, I really can’t say it enough – Go see this movie. It is a perfectly crafted film with the kinds of touching human relationships that Hollywood can’t seem to produce anymore.

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Ebertfest 2012 Announcements!

Roger Ebert’s Blog – With the Ebertfest announcement

Allow me to give a brief history lesson to set up this post…

I am from the greater Chicagoland area and have been a movie lover for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family would watch Siskel and Ebert At the Movies religiously. My father wouldn’t see a movie without hearing the opinions of both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. I have literally grown up with Roger Ebert as the film critic and I’ve enjoyed reading his work my entire life.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ebertfest, here is the official site, here is the Wikipedia page. It pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a film festival helmed by Mr. Ebert. It is held near the University of Illinois campus and unlike other film festivals where submissions are welcome, Ebertfest choices are handpicked.

I am incredibly excited to get to be going this year and a good friend of mine is flying up from North Carolina to share the experience. It’s my first time going, but hopefully not my last.

Now, onto the film choices…

  • Kind Hearts and Coronets – Not only is this a great movie, but Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) picked it and will be the host for the night. Alec Guiness is simply amazing in this.
  • Big Fan – Another great movie, starring Patton Oswalt as a rabid NY Jets fan. Obviously Oswalt will join for this
  • Joe Versus the Volcano – An seemingly odd choice but one of Ebert’s favorites. I’m always up for classic Tom Hanks movies.
  • Phunny Business: A Black Comedy – Totally unaware of this documentary but it is about an all black night club and the owner. The owner of the club, Raymond Lambert, will be joining us.
  • The Truth About Beauty and Blogs – Short film, hadn’t heard of it before but it looks like it will tie into Phunny Business. Joined by Kelichi Ezie, the comedienne and filmmaker. Joined by the writer-director, actors and some crew.
  • Kinyarwanda – I have heard many things about this and if it’s as heart-wrenching as it sounds it will be mesmerizing.
  • TerriHey, I blogged about this! Star Jacob Wysocki and director, Azazal Jacobs, will join.
  • On Borrowed Time – A documentary about the past two years of Paul Cox’s life after getting a life-saving kidney transplant. Should be a fascinating watch. Cox and Nate Kohn will join.
  • A short film collection accompanied by The Alloy Orchestra including Georges Méliès’ Trip to the Moon, which you may recognize from Hugo. Alloy Orchestra members will join the discussion.
  • A Separation – This Iranian film (and Oscar winner!) is something I regret not having already seen so I greatly look forward to it. Director, Asghar Farhadi, is hoping to join.
  • Special effects techniques from the wizards that worked on The Tree of Life.
  • Higher Ground – Not the stoner comedy that its name makes it out to be, this is a film about how religion shapes a woman’s life. Screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs will join.
  • Patang – I don’t believe I had heard of this film before. The director’s father was one of Ebert’s old film students. Director Prashant Bhargava will join along with his father and assorted cast and crew.
  • Take Shelter – A movie that has ranked very high on my ‘to-watch’ list and I couldn’t be more excited that Michael Shannon will be there along with director, Jeff Nichols. So very excited for this one.
  • Citizen Kane – Not only is this one of the best movies ever, but Ebert recorded a commentary track for the DVD release some years ago and that will be playing along with the movie. It is a fantastic commentary to go along with an incredible film.

More details can obviously found in the source link at the top of this post but I must say again…I am EXTREMELY excited for this. I will be posting from the event, so expect more to come!