Watch This: Trailer for A Second Chance

The Danish film A Second Chance (En Chance Til) will premier at the 2014 Toronto Film Festival. It’s a film from Academy Award winning director Suzanne Bier.

Based on the trailer, the film looks powerful and gut-wrenching. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Maria Bonnevie.

A police officer steals a child from drug-addicted parents at a crime scene. His wife bonds with the child and threatens to kill herself if he returns the child to the real parents. It looks complicated and fraught and full of many of the deep, meaningful emotions that make me a fan of many Danish films.

It will be a while before this film reaches any likely places to view it in the U.S. – probably on a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon. It looks excellent. I hope it becomes available to Americans soon.

A Second Chance Photo by Henrik Petit

Looking for More Diversity? A Consumer Can Help. UPDATED

Let’s start with this infographic from Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? 85 Years of the Academy Awards from Lee and Low Books. This information is from a study of 85 years of awards and reveals the lack of diversity in the Oscar Awards.

We, as consumers, can do something about this lack of diversity. I’ll get to how in a minute.

Diversity in The Academy Awards
Diversity in the Academy Awards infographic from Lee and Low Books. Click for full size.

The article containing this infographic talks how independent films and filmmakers can bring about change in what we see in movies. Four independent filmmakers are interviewed in the article. They talk about what they are doing and how they use crowd sourced fundraising tools like Kickstarter to get films made.

The filmmakers interviewed also talk about watching films from other countries in languages other than English. Several people talked about rejecting attempts from directors and writers to create stereotypes rather than more realistic characters.

IndieWire picked up the infographic, as I did, and wrote about it The Diversity Gap in the Academy Awards in Infographic Form. This article emphasized that the box office drives which films get made.

The situation right now is that when a film with a female lead such as The Hunger Games or Bridesmaids takes the box office the Hollywood power structure is as surprised as Fox News was when President Obama was reelected in 2012. It shouldn’t be a surprise, it should be expected.

How Consumers Can Help

We, as consumers, are the ones spending the dollars at the box office. We, as consumers, are the ones choosing the channel on the TV or setting the DVR to record. What can we do to increase diversity?

Here are a few ideas.

  • Pay attention to Kickstarter or other fund raising campaigns for indie films and support them with a few bucks. It costs you $10 to go out to a movie, $20 if you buy a drink and some popcorn. Why not give that amount to a filmmaker who is struggling to create a film with a more diverse outlook and cast than what you’ll see at the local multiplex? For a while now, I’ve been promoting a Paper.li publication about Women Directors. Perhaps you’ve noticed links to it in my Twitter stream. Many times you’ll find links to fund raising campaigns mentioned in this publication. Start reading it.
  • Support indie filmmakers by watching their work. Sometimes you have to work a bit to find it. It might be shown as a web series or on Vimeo or in only one theater in your town that isn’t the biggest multiplex. Find it and go.
  • Look for stereotypes and stop supporting films and TV shows that support stereotypes. Talk about why you’re doing it on your blog or Twitter. Demand diversity.
  • Make your viewership for movies and TV shows and web series count. Make your eyeballs register numbers and stats in the places where diversity is done right.
  • Use Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu to watch foreign films of quality. There are plenty of them. You can read. Use that skill to read subtitles and you’ll see some amazing stories.

Lee and Low Books have done similar studies of The Tony Awards, The Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, and US politics. Thanks to them for organizing this information and making accessible visuals to help us understand the stats.

UPDATE

The Representation Blog published The Representation Test on 2/28/2014. This is a downloadable test that,

. . . gives films points for representations of people which avoid harmful and limiting stereotypes, as well as for having diversity behind-the-camera. There are 27 possible points in the test, but any film scoring 11 or above receives an “A” for representation.

Downloading and using this test, and talking about your scores in public places such as your blog and Twitter is another good way that you as a consumer can help change the status quo. You may want to to check back for new versions of the test from time to time, because the creators say it will evolve over time.

Image credit: Diversity Quilt via Flickr.

Indies and Unfamiliar Faces: The Second Time Around

I often have a problem with films when the faces are unfamiliar. This applies to an awful lot of indie films I see. The problem is that I have trouble keeping track of who the characters are and what their contribution to the story is because I don’t recognize the faces. It makes it hard for me to keep everyone organized in my head.

I don’t blame this on the filmmakers or on the stories they are telling. It’s probably some brain glitch on my part that takes me a while to learn to distinguish faces. Slow synapses or some such.

Last night I watched a movie that had a whole lot of female characters. (How unusual for me!) Only the main character was an actress I’d seen and heard of before. And her face only looked identifiable from certain angles, because I hadn’t seen a lot of her. I couldn’t keep her interactions with all the other characters sorted because I had trouble remembering who everyone was. It’s not like watching August: Osage County, where every person on the screen is someone I’d seen dozens of times before.

The particular indie I saw last night was a good movie about a marriage gone stale, and I wanted to get more out of it.

I found a solution. I watched the film twice. The second time through I had better luck keeping track of who was who and what their particular part of the story meant in the overall scheme of things.

Now that I’ve discovered this trick, I will used it again on indie films with cast members I might not know so well (yet) and on foreign films with unfamiliar actors, too.

Do you have a trick for keeping the characters organized in your head when the faces are all unfamiliar to you?

Photo credit: The Kheel Center via Flickr

Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter

Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter is a series of six films in Swedish with English subtitles. They are based on Liza Marklund’s best-selling crime novels.

Annika Bengtzon movie poster
Annika Bengtzon movie poster

The six films (with descriptions from Amazon) are:

  • Nobel’s Last Will: While covering the annual Nobel Prize Banquet, Annika witnesses the spectacular murder of two prestigious individuals right in front of her. She’s a key witness, so she’s bound by the police not to disclose anything. It’s the story of a lifetime, and she can’t write a word.
  • Prime Time: On her way to a family gathering, Annika has to leave her two children in the care of her boyfriend so she can report on the murder of a famous TV host. The ten people who’d just spent the night at a mansion where the host’s program is taped are under suspicion; Annika learns that her best friend is among them.
  • Studio Sex: When a stripper from a club called Studio Sex is killed, the case becomes political dynamite after the police find out that the Minister of Trade visited the club on the night of the murder. Working the story also brings up bad memories for Annika and she finds herself taking it all personally.
  • The Red Wolf: In the dark winter of northern Sweden, a journalist is murdered. Annika senses that the killing is linked to a terrorist attack 40 years ago, about which the journalist knew too much. Her investigation brings her into a world of old loyalties that began with the 1960s leftists and extends into the liberal government of today.
  • Lifetime: Lonely and divorced, Annika spends most of her time at work to forget her private misfortunes. She reports on the strange case of a young female police officer who’s accused of killing her policeman husband and hiding their young son. She also suspects that there’s more to this story than an enraged wife.
  • A Place in the Sun: Annika travels to Costa del Sol, Spain, to cover a story about a Swedish family who was killed during a burglary. As she investigates, it becomes clear that the murders are connected to a drug trade that reaches from the hashish farms of Morocco to the streets of Sweden.
Annika Bengtzon movie poster
Annika Bengtzon movie poster

The films star Swedish actress Malin Crépin as the workaholic crime reporter Annika Bengtzon. She works at a newspaper on a crime beat and is friends with a number of police sources.

She has two beautiful kids at home, and a husband who whines if she isn’t home being wifely for him whenever he wants a meal or the children picked up. You might guess that the husband doesn’t last through every film in the series. Yep, he gets the boot. Since Annika tends to get very involved in the cases she’s writing about, it’s a constant source of conflict between her work life and home life.

I enjoy a number of things about this series. The acting is very good. The character Annika is brilliant at solving – not just reporting on – crime and often has it figured out before the police do. She’s awesome like that.

Malin Crépin
Malin Crépin image by Frankie Fouganthin via Wikipedia

The crimes Annika reports on are fascinating – big complex mysteries with important implications and often dangerous for the intrepid reporter.

You can see all six of the films on Netflix streaming instantly. Amazon has them in two box sets: Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter: Epsiodes 1-3 and Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter: Epsides 4-6. Amazon doesn’t seem to have them available for streaming with Amazon Prime – sorry.

I hope you’ll give these films a try. I watched the first and couldn’t wait to see the rest of them.

Queen to Play: Small and Beautiful

Queen to Play – original title Joueuse – is a little-known French film that is quiet, beautiful and ultimately uplifting. Released in French in 2009, it’s available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I think you’ll love it. Beware, spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Queen to Play: Small and Beautiful”