January 30, 2023


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ARCA Festival: Titles, Highlights, Themes

6 min read

“Caravaggio’s Shadow,” “Charlotte” and “Goya, Carrière and the Ghost of Buñuel” feature in the 15-film lineup for the 2023 second edition of ARCA Intl. Festival of Films on the Arts, 2023, which opens Jan. 2 with the world premiere of “The Children of the Mountain,” ARCA’s director Mercedes Sader’s doc-feature portrait of Uruguayan sculptor Pablo Achugari.

“Art” is understood in a broad sense. Comprised of two fiction films and 14 doc features, the titles range, as programmer Sergio Fant points out, from the three greatest painters who ever lived – Caravaggio, Goya and Cézanne – to celebrated, unknown or forgotten figures in contemporary art. As “Folon”. The movie is the first documentary on Belgian Jean-Michel Follon, despite his status as Europe’s most important painter-painter in the second half of the 20th century, creating and popularizing a series of iconic paintings such as the bird-man.

However, the titles take on the Italian photographer Luigi Ghiri and the architect and urban planner Le Corbusier as well as the infrastructure of art, be it exhibitions, “inside the Uffizi” or artists’ residences such as the “Dreaming Wall”. Another film, “The Thief Collector,” even plumbs the aggressive art of art theft.

The titles, though varied, draw at least two connections. One is the age-old drive of various arts for a greater realism, which can be seen not only in Caravaggio’s religious iconography and stunning vignettes of Goa’s madness, but also in his overly simple pictures of houses and gardens around his native Modena from the 1970s.

The second is the artists’ struggle against oblivion, captured by Atchugari’s monumentalist works and the 769 autobiographical paintings of the German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon, created between 1941 and 1943 in the south of France as she (correctly) feared deportation by the Nazi authorities.

Oblivion was the fate of Santalo in Spain, spending his last years in a cramped flat in Madrid, his existence captured in Irene M. Borrego’s “La Visita y un Jardin Secreto,” which rescues his image as it portrays his condition.

These films boast extraordinary moments, as Buñuel’s co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière captures the scale of revolution embodied in the latter-day images of Goya, who rebelled not only against an eighteenth-century traditionalist but also against his own contemporary, the rationalist Enlightenment. “The opposite of truth is not wrong, the opposite of truth is not false. The opposite of truth is reason,” Carrier observes, quoting the Spanish writer José Bergamin, and drawing a through-line from Goya to Buñuel, always the great surrealist and indeed himself.

Son of the mountain
Courtesy of ARCA

Some of these titles will one day appear on streaming platforms, or may even block theatrical distribution. enjoy

Opening Night Film:

“Children of the Mountain,”(“Los Hijos de la Montana,” Mercedes Sader, Uruguay)

World premiering at ARCA, and opening this year’s festival, is a tribute to the art and life of world-renowned sculptor Pablo Achugari, who supports ARCA and whose work combines the monumental scale of ancient civilizations, the sharp echoes of nature and a preoccupation with the passage of time.

“Cezanne,” (Sophie Bruno, Belgium)

The devil is in the details. This doc features Bruno (“Rêver sous le capitalisme”), the French painter, a bridge between Impressionism and Cubism, preserved in time, through accounts of his workshop in Provence, where he revolutionized art. “A very basic approach,” Sader said.

“Charlotte,” (Eric Warren, Tahir Rana, Canada)

Voiced in different versions by Keira Knightley and Marion Cotillard, an animated feature biopic of persecuted German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon whose semi-autobiographical “Life? Or Theater?”, composed of 700 multilayered gouaches, she paints to explore the layers of her own intelligence. Directed by Warin (“Leap!”) and Rana (“Angry Birds: Summer Madness”). “Under the most extreme circumstances, art emerges as the only path to memory recovery,” says Sader.

“Wall of Dreams,” (Amelie Van Elmbot, Maya Duverdier)

Playing Berlin’s Panorama this year, where it was hailed as a crowd-pleaser, is a take on the legendary Chelsea Hotel’s current-day occupants, whose guests have included Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. It is now under construction to reopen as a luxury hotel, removing its remnants and individualist hold-out guests. Maya Duverdier co-wrote and directed with Amelie van Elombt, whose “The Elephant and the Butterfly” was produced by Martin Scorsese.

“Follon,” (Gaitan Saint-Rémy, Belgium)

A portrait of Belgian Jean-Michel Folon, artist, designer, painter, who protested against the increasing inhumanity of modern life. For Saad, “archive interviews threading the entire film are priceless.” Directed by Saint-Rémy (“de nos mains”).

“Historjà – Stitches for Snakes,” (Thomas Jackson, Sweden)

Lapland artist Britta Marakat-Labba, whose work depicts the Sami people, takes a new turn: set against the stunning snowscape of her homeland, a battle for her culture against the effects of climate change. Captured at the 2022 Göteborg Festival. “A story of art, political activism and climate change: a cocktail not to be missed,” says Sader.

A fictional land
Courtesy of ARCA

“An Imaginary Land,” (“El Pais Imaginario,” Juan Solanas, Uruguay, France)

From Argentina’s Solanas, the Cannes Jury Prize winner “L’Homme Sans Tête,” Un Certain Regard player “Nordeste” and the topsy-turvy sci-fi love story “Upside Down,” an exploration in a doc feature, 12 in his own Uruguayan Cerro Tito. The function, meaning, creation and purpose of art behind contemporary art installations.

“Infinito. L’universo di Luigi Ghirri,” (Matteo Parisini, Italy)

A departure from Ghiri’s writings, an acceptance of the important stage of an artist ahead of his time whose Italian photographic landscapes of the 70s championed color photography and the simple, creating a body of work unparalleled at the time in Europe.

“Inside the Uffizi,” (Karina Belz, Enrique Sanchez Lance, Germany)

Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, takes visitors through the delicate balance between preservation and innovation while housing some of the world’s most significant Renaissance painting collections, including Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and “Spring” and Caravaggio’s “Medusa.” From Belz (“Gerhard Richter Painting”) and Sanchez Lance (“A Symphony of Noise”).

“Goa, Career and Bunuel’s Ghosts,” (José Luis López Linares, Spain)

“You have to think of Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude in the same breath as you do Goa,” says an admiring Julian Schnabel. Best known as Bunuel’s co-author. Carrière has been caught commenting on many of Goya’s great works, capturing their essence, the scale of Goya’s modernism, and his own lifestyle in delightful and heartfelt strokes. Staging its Latin American premiere at ARCA, a Cannes classic standout and a work of sheer joy.

“Cobra: Auto-Retrato,” (Lina Chami, Brazil)

A self-portrait of the stunning Brazilian graffiti artist and peace activist Cobra, directed by Chami, best known for “The Milky Way,” a 2007 Cannes Critics’ Week contender.

Shadows of Caravaggio
Courtesy of ARCA

“Shadows of Caravaggio,” (Michel Placido, Italy)

A big-budget costume drama depicting Caravaggio’s revolutionary psychological realism, the focus is on the socially humble and daring use of chiaroscuro. Meanwhile, the Pope orders an investigation into the liberal Caravaggio, played by Riccardo Scamarcio (“John Wick Chapter 2”), who has already murdered a love rival. Isabel Huppert (“Elle”) co-stars. Directed by popular actor-writer-director Michel Placido (“Crime Novel”). Produced by Rai Cinema and France’s MACT Productions, it staged its Latin American premiere at ARCA and is the biggest film in its lineup. Wild Bunch handles sales.

“Plan for Buenos Aires,” (Gerardo Panero, Argentina)

Le Corbusier’s more than 20-year battle since 1929 to implement a modern urban plan for Buenos Aires, said Panero, whose films depict the architect Amancio Williams, or otherwise depict daily life in a center for the differently capacitated. “Plan para Buenos Aires” “testimonies record an age of grandeur and illusion,” comments Sade.

“Rubens Garchmann: King of Kitsch,”(Rubens Garchmann: Rei do Mau Gosto,” Pedro Rossi, Brazil)

Brazilian pop art painter and sculptor Garchman and a portrait of a generation of artists that captures the stress and isolation of a heavily urbanized Brazil. Directed by documentarian Rossi (“Depois de Primavera”).

“Thief Collector,” (Alison Otto, US)

Emmy Award winner Otto (“The Love Bugs”) directed a fast-paced doc-feature, picked up at SXSW, about the schoolteachers behind a $160M de Kooning heist described as “one of the greatest art thefts of a generation. .”

“La Visita e un Jardin Secreto,” (Irene M. Borrego, Spain, Portugal)

London Film School alum Borrego’s feature debut. Spanish painter Isabel Santalo was featured in numerous exhibitions. I remember him less now. “La Visita” meets him at the end of his life. With a heartfelt commentary by Antonio López, Victor Aris’s “Dream of Light” is a film about memory and forgetting, which Sader says is “intense and moving,” an “un-orthodox, non-bio doc that directly challenges the audience.”

Thief Collector
Courtesy of Heist Film LLC

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