Films with UI ties play at renowned Venice, Cannes festivals
The Cannes Film Festival selected a film by University of Iowa graduate students Joe Bookman and D. Jesse Damazo to screen at the 2011 Cinéfondation, the festival's student film competition.
The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit, an offbeat comedy about a professional ukuleleist, his manager, and an ailing Chihuahua, was one of only 16 student films selected from more than 1,500 entries from around the world. Only three American student films screened at the 64th Festival de Cannes, which ran May 11-22, 2011, in France.
Bookman, a doctoral candidate in communication studies, and Damazo, a master of fine arts student in the cinema production program, are the first filmmakers from the UI to receive the honor of screening at the Cinéfondation. Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Green Hornet, was the president of this year's Cinéfondation jury.
"Getting your film into Cannes is a mind-bendingly unlikely thing to have happen," says Damazo, a native of Paradise, Calif., who came to Iowa City for graduate school. "Since hearing the news, Joe and I have been pretty much overwhelmed with gratitude and disbelief."
Bookman and Damazo wrote and directed the film. They also play roles onscreen as the only two characters in the film. (The other star is Edie, a Chihuahua owned by Bookman's brother.)
View the trailer at vimeo.com/26925948.
Consisting of just five shots, their 15-minute short is an experiment in long take filmmaking. They were assigned to create a long take film for a fall 2010 UI course, "Colloquium on Film and Video Production," taught by Andrew Hulse.
They shot the film from October through December of 2010 in four Iowa City locations: the Chauncey Swan parking garage, a field space near Oakland Cemetery, a recording studio on campus, and Damazo's apartment. The budget for the film was roughly $500—much of which was spent on coffee and food for the crew. The biggest expense was helium for a scene that required balloons.
Several UI units are providing financial support to send the students to the festival. "It's a huge honor, and a very special opportunity," Bookman says.
Film developed at IWP is spotlighted at Venice International Film Festival
Writers in residence at the University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) spend their time in a variety of ways: writing, researching, interacting with other writers, traveling, soaking in an American experience. For Teng Mangansakan from the Philippines, the 2008 IWP was an opportunity to develop the screenplay for Limbunan (The Bridal Quarter).
Two years later, the resulting film he directed was the closing attraction in the International Critics' Week of the 67th Venice International Film Festival Sept. 1-11.
During Critics' Week, Limbunan shared the bill with new cinema from Sweden, France, Italy, Israel, Greece, Slovenia, and Mexico. It is the first Filipino film ever featured in the lineup of Venice Critics' Week.
Limbunan glimpses into the life of a bride-to-be as she is kept from public view for a month prior to her wedding, as tradition dictates. The film follows the ritual motions of the women in a Muslim family after 16-year-old Ayesah’s betrothal to a man she barely knows.View the trailer at vimeo.com/12922674.