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IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS
James Langley’s documentary has made a huge impact since premiering at Sundance just over a year ago: it was one of the big winners at Park City, has picked up numerous awards on the festival circuit, and is up for the Best Documentary Oscar. The film is divided into three parts, each representing one of the social factions in Iraq’s fragmented society: an orphaned 11-year-old Sunni apprenticed to a curmudgeonly mechanic, Shiite followers of Muqtada al-Sadr preparing for local elections, and Kurdish farmers who are enjoying greater freedom and privileges after the arrival of U.S. troops. Langley spent over two years in Iraq shooting the film, and has created that rare thing, an incisive, enquiring documentary that is also visually extremely cinematic.

ANTIBODIES
One of Germany’s big hits of 2005, teutonic wunderkind Christian Alvart’s taut psychological chiller finally reaches our shores this week. With a plot that bears more than a passing resemblance to Silence of the Lambs, Antibodies focuses on Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring) a small town policeman trying to solve the rape and murder of a local 13-year-old girl who goes to the big city to interrogate Gabriel Engel (André Hennicke), a recently-captured pedophile serial killer who has confessed to numerous similar crimes. But as Engel plays mind games with Martens, the cop starts to believe his own teenage son may be the guilty party. Alvart relies more on unseen horrors rather than straightforward gore, and is not only a slick stylist but also incorporates religious imagery (Gabriel Engel = Angel Gabriel) and asks the age-old question about exactly where the line between good and evil lies.

BERLINALE: ODD CONNECTIONS
Halfway through many film festivals, I inevitably begin to see patterns, echoes, omens, invisible threads woven through the very fabric of the festival. Nothing so great as a Zeitgeist, what I experience is only a sense of the uncanny, the sensation of unrelated things feeling inexplicably familiar. Some connections suggest a sort of cultural currency that I don't yet trade in. Take, for example, the fact that the idea -- rather than the country -- of Switzerland pops up in two Korean films. In Dasepo Naughty Girls, the dreamboat teenage boy (who is clearly Korean) hails from that European hideaway, and then a female inmate in Park Chan-wook's nuthouse comedy I'm A Cyborg, But That's Ok imagines herself ala Heidi singing in the Swiss alps. Does Switzerland mean something to the Koreans like what Japan meant in 80s New Wave music?

 
     
 

THE YEAR IN SELF-DISTRIBUTION
Over at his Wild Diner Films blog, Sujewa Ekanayake is asking what should be more than a rhetorical question: "So, self-distribution in 2006: how did it go?" He's requesting that DIY distributing filmmakers share some of their experiences and to start it off, he's posted the numbers on his own Date Number One.

 
     

ZODIAC X NINE
For those of you excited about the March 2 release of David Fincher's latest, Zodiac, IESB.net has posted nine clips from the film. And, if you haven't read it yet, check out Jamie Stuart's "Are We there Yet?", an article on HD cinematography that talks with d.p. Harris Savides about his work on the film.

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PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - BY HOWARD FEINSTEIN
The Palm Springs International Film Festival (January 4-15), with a budget around $2.8 million, advertises itself as the fest “where star power and the cinema come together.” The order is significant. On opening weekend, this 18th edition and the fourth under director Darryl Macdonald hosted a meretricious gala at the Convention Center — replete with a video-clip homage to emcee Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight — saluting the canonized talents of the past year. These shining lights feasted with, and courted from the stage, 1,800 high-rollers — good PR for the studios as awards season commenced. Among the honorees were Kate Winslet, Jessica Biel, and the entire cast of Babel (Brad, too), including Cate Blanchett, who, at just 37, received a career achievement award. The festival invited the L.A. film press, nearly all of whom returned home by the next morning with their Tiffany swag...

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