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SLIFF: 'Powerful Noise,' 'The Wedding Director'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 20, 2008 - When you read about the stories that "A Powerful Noises" focuses on, you might wonder why you'd like to go. 

As the movie's website says, "Hanh is an HIV-positive widow in Vietnam. Nada, a survivor of the Bosnian war. And Jacqueline works the slums of Bamako, Mali" as a community organizer.

But the women do not give in; they fight against gender barriers and for a voice. Each makes a strong beginning toward fighting AIDS, rebuilding communities and providing education for girls. Each empowers others. - Donna Korando 

The Wedding Director

One of the leading figures of the Italian New Wave of the 1960s, Marco Bellochio is known for serious, rigorous and even dogmatic films about Italian society and politics. His films can be demanding and provocative, but they're rarely likely to be singled out for comedy. "The Wedding Director" is a change of pace for Bellochio, a strange film that falls somewhere between dark comedy and psychological thriller. It's a real curiosity: romantic, complex and even disturbing, but perversely pleasing as it follows a wayward path from satire to romance to something indefinable.

Heavy-lidded Sergio Castellito plays Franco Elica, a famous but jaded filmmaker whose chaotic life seems to be crumbling in on him. Facing charges of sexual harassment, he runs away from his production-in-progress and through a series of random events ends up in the home of a Sicilian prince (Sami Frey) who insists that the director must take charge of a vanity project filming his daughter's wedding. To further complicate things, Franco appears to fall instantly in love with the bride-to-be.

It's hard to describe "The Wedding Director" more clearly. There are allusions to "The Graduate," to Fellini, to Hitchcock, as well as an occasional hint that the director has arbitrarily tossed aside 10 or 15 minutes of traditional or expository material. One gets the sense of watching the film solely from Franco's point of view as he attempts to control his surroundings by framing them. In that respect, "The Wedding Director" is something of a cautionary tale and Franco is the antithesis of the kind of filmmaker/hero celebrated in Fellini's "8-1/2." His great mistake is that he reduces life to the images he composes, and believes that by composing them he can control them. With atypical humor, Bellochio exposes Franco's arrogance but also seems to share his optimism. -- Robert Hunt | Special to the Beacon

Short takes (from program):

At the Edge of the World

The movie follows Paul Watson's controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in its Antarctic campaign against illegal whaling, with an international volunteer crew coming together on two ships to find and stop a Japanese whaling fleet in the Ross Sea.

Say Goodnight

In this locally shot comedy, over a cocktail-fueled evening, the friends comically recount chance meetings, awkward first dates, embarrassing personal idiosyncrasies and problematic intimate encounters.

The Bet Collector

Amy runs a small convenience store out of her home. But customers are scarce, and without the help of her husband or pregnant daughter, she must supplement the family income and collects bets for a popular but illegal numbers game.

All for Free (Sve Dzaba)

After his friends are killed in a bizarre barroom argument, Goran sells his house, buys a mobile tavern and travels from town to town in Bosnia, giving away free drinks to everyone he meets.

Let the Wind Blow (Hava Aney Dey)

At the height of nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan, Arjun and his best friend, Chabia, weigh their options for the future against the reality of life on the streets of Mumbai.

Strangers (Zarim)

Eyal, an Israeli living in a kibbutz, and Rana, a Palestinian living in Paris, accidentally meet in the Berlin subway during World Cup finals. They are forced to share an apartment and fall in love - a relationship complicated when war breaks out between Israel and Lebanon.

The Custodian (El Custodio)

As a bodyguard for a high-profile politician, Ruben is reduced to a mere shadow of a man: Every action in his life is regulated by a series of mundane routines, and he must trail behind his boss, watching but never speaking.


A pair of unwanted misfits - Janko, a curmudgeonly convict fresh from prison, and Zana, a mentally unstable woman - is brought together by Novak, who wants to shed responsibility for his difficult half-brother.

The Tiger's Tail

This comedic black thriller, set in contemporary boom-time Ireland, follows a successful businessman as his life begins to unravel. On the verge of a mental breakdown, he begins seeing his own double.

Of Parents and Children (O rodicich a detech)

An aging father and his middle-aged son live vastly different lives in this comic drama. The only thing they apparently have in common is their monthly walk, a chance for each to explore his complex and ambivalent feelings toward the other.

The Thacker Case

SLIFF welcomes home former Metro East resident Brian Jun. Based on a true story, the film examines a controversial case of wrongful death in small-town Iowa.

Nights and Weekends

Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig co-write, co-direct and co-star in this intimate portrayal of longing and confusion, with the visits of a long-distance romance becoming reminders of the difficulties, not pleasures, of their relationship.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

A gripping account of a group of brave and visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn by a decades-old civil war. The film combines contemporary interviews, archival images and scenes of present-day Liberia.

Advertising for the Mob

In this hilariously profane mob comedy -- shot at familiar St. Louis locations -- an ad man decides to go into "business" for himself after being fired from his 12th agency. Displeased by incursions into his territory, the real mob boss (played with brio by the Pasta House Co.'s Kim Tucci) dispatches dimwitted underlings to eliminate the competition.

Mil Mascaras: Resurrection

When the evil and bloodthirsty Aztec Mummy is resurrected, Mascaras is recruited to put it back under wraps. Will he fall under the influence of his undead adversary? The answer hinges on the secret of his mask, which has been passed down through his ancestors since time in memoriam.

Bunny Chow

Aspiring comedians Kags, Joey and Dave make clear that life in Johannesburg is not just about hardship and townships. It's also about friends and celebrating life on a raucous road trip to Oppikoppi, South Africa's largest music festival.

The Custodian (El Custodio)

As a bodyguard for a high-profile politician, Ruben is reduced to a mere shadow of a man: Every action in his life is regulated by a series of mundane routines, and he must trail behind his boss, watching but never speaking.

Waves of Freedom

In 1947, Paul Kaye and 25 other Americans were recruited to help break the British naval blockade and illegally transport Holocaust survivors to Palestine, a trip that proved as torturous and difficult as the Israelites' journey to the Promised Land.

Strength and Honour

Irish boxer Sean Kelleher (Michael Madsen) accidentally kills his friend in the ring and promises his wife he will never box again. Years later, he is forced to break his promise so he can raise the funds needed for a life-saving surgery.

Ben X

Afflicted with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, Ben finds himself the victim of bullies' relentless attacks. When their abuses finally push him over the edge, Ben's online dream girl helps him devise a perfect plan to confront his tormenters.

Beaufort (Bufor)

During the final days of an Israeli army unit's tense, painful withdrawal in 2000 from a strategic bunker inside a 12th-century fortress near the Lebanese border, the soldiers prepare to explode the site, destroying everything their comrades have fought and died to defend.

Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole)

Affluent, sophisticated Elsa and Michele have enough money for Elsa to quit work and study history. After she graduates, Michele confesses he hasn't worked in two months. The growing distance between the couple threatens their most precious possession: the love that binds them.

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes)

Hector sees a naked girl in the woods. When he investigates, a man with a bandaged face stabs him in the arm. A chase ensues, leading Hector to a machine that transports him back in time to just before the incident. Complications ensue when Hector discovers he now shares the world with his "real time" self.

Beautiful Son

The filmmakers took their 3-year-old son (and a camera) to the best doctors when they realized something was wrong. Beau was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. "Beautiful Son" movingly documents a family's struggle to save their son and provides a revealing look at an illness reaching epidemic proportion.

1000 Journals

A San Francisco artist, known only as Someguy, distributes 1,000 blank journals, leaving them any other place an unsuspecting person might discover one. Someguy hoped to have each journal filled out by people from all walks of life in any way they saw fit, with each journal to be mailed back to him once completed.

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.

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