La Nana (The Maid)

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Chile. 2008. 95 mins. Director: Sebastian Silva. Screenplay: Sebastian Silva, Pedro Peirano. International sales: Shoreline Entertainment (+ 1 310 550 2060). Main cast: Catalina Saavedra, Mariana Loyola, Andrew Garcia-Huidobro. The winner of the Sundance World Cinema dramatic competition grand jury prize as well as an acting award for Catalina Saavedra, The Maid is the touching story of how a maid called Raquel, who has worked for over 20 years in one affluent Chilean household, rediscovers herself. Silva sets the drama almost entirely in the house, focusing on Saavedra's passive face as she resists the family's attempts to bring in an assistant maid before finally accepting the friendship of a spunky new workmate called Lucy (Loyola). Although small, La Nana is an intelligent microcosm of Latin social hierarchy while also focusing on one woman's journey to free herself from a mental servitude of her own making. Further festival play and the Sundance awards should help international sales prospects.

Lulu & Jimi

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Germany . 2008. 95 mins. Director/screenplay: Oskar Roehler. Producers: Gabriela Sperl, Uwe Schott. International sales: Beta Cinema (+ 49 89 67 34 69 80). Main cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin Sass, Udo Kier, Ulrich Thomsen.

Talented German auteur Roehler (The Elementary Particles, Agnes And His Brothers) borrows liberally from Douglas Sirk melodramas and Lynch's Wild At Heart in this flamboyantly camp 50s rock-and-roll love story which is all style and no substance. Colourful and entertaining, the film stars French actress Decker (badly lipsynched into German) as a rich German girl who falls for a handsome black American fairground worker (played by UK actor Nealon). Her scheming mother (Sass) subsequently does everything in her power to pull the two apart and they go on the run. Best are Sass as the malevolent matriarch, Udo Kier as her driver and secret lover and Ulrich Thomsen as a thoroughly wicked crook out to catch the lovebirds. Unlikely to catch fire outside Germany other than as a midnight movie item at film festivals.


US Documentary Competition

US. 2008. Dir: Greg Barker. Producers: John Battsek, Julie Goldman. International sales: Passion Pictures (+ 44 20 7323 9933).

Greg Barker's gut-wrenching documentary essentially follows the August 19, 2003, Al Qaeda bomb attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad which killed 23 people including UN ambassador to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello. The film swings back and forth between first-hand testimony from the rescuers trying to dig de Mello out alive and an outline of his life which could itself make up another film entirely.

A dazzlingly handsome, charismatic and fearless man, de Mello was one of the UN's most effective figureheads whose humanitarian accomplishments in Cambodia, East Timor and other war zones had made him world-famous. Although ostensibly based on Samantha Power's autobiography Chasing The Flame and featuring some heartrending interviews with de Mello's fiance, the film's main focus is on the day of his death and expertly recreates the mayhem following the blast. A highly affecting documentary which won't leave a dry eye in the house, Sergio could easily score some theatrical sales and will be a fixture at film festivals throughout the year.

Zion And His Brother

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Israel/France. 2009. 84 mins. Director/screenplay: Eran Merav. Producers: Assaf Amir, Yoav Roeh. International sales: MK2 (+ 331 44 67 30 55). Main cast: Reuven Badalov, Tzahi Grad, Ronit Elkabetz.

An unusual glimpse into the life of Israel's working classes, specifically a single mother raising her two kids in poor housing in Haifa, Zion And His Brother is an accomplished feature debut from Eran Merav which gets under the skin with its unsettling turn of events. The wonderful Ronit Elkabetz (The Band's Visit) plays a woman so anxious to secure a marriage and new house with her boyfriend that she loses control of her two sons, the hotheaded Meir (Grad) and his sensitive younger brother Zion (Badalov). But after the siblings cause the accidental death of another local kid, their relationship is strained to breaking point. Backed by MK2 in France, the film is bound to score further festival bookings and marks out a promising talent in Merav.

Toe To Toe

US Dramatic Competition

US. 2008. 100 mins. Director/screenplay: Emily Abt. Producers: Abt, Susan Leber. World sales: William Morris Independent (+ 1 310 859 4310). Main cast: Louisa Krause, Sonequa Martin, Silvestre Rasuk, Ally Walker.

Emily Abt's Toe To Toe is best as an unflinching exploration of teenage isolation boasting a tightly coiled performance by Louisa Krause as a rich white girl who gets attention by sleeping around. She even lets her sexual flirtations ruin her friendship with an ambitious poor black student (Martin). The black girl's story, however, is rampant with stock situations - the angry ghetto girls who beat her up for wanting to better herself, the proud, eloquent grandma urging her on, the determination to win a scholarship to Princeton. International buyers might not be enticed by the US-centric story, but Abt has an assured verite style which promises bigger things in the future.

La Mission


US. 2009. 117 mins. Director/screenplay: Peter Bratt. Producers: Alpita Patel, Peter Bratt, Benjamin Bratt. World sales: Submarine (+ 1 917 957 1400). Main cast: Benjamin Bratt, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Erika Alexander, Jesse Borrego.

San Francisco film-maker Peter Bratt addresses the subject of homosexuality within the fiercely macho Latino community in La Mission, a long but worthy and well-acted piece featuring his brother Benjamin Bratt as a father battling his own violent instincts. Bratt is impressively tormented as the heavily tattooed Che whose world is torn apart when he discovers that his beloved son Jesse (Valdez) is gay. Set in the Mission district of San Francisco and featuring a line of beautifully restored junk cars (Che's hobby), the film is an unusual exploration of Latin social mores in the US today, while at the same time featuring an empowered gay teen character who would rather walk away from his father than live oppressed by him. Gay and lesbian film festivals around the world will avidly pursue it and the Bratt name will help fuel sales.

The End of The Line

World Cinema Documentary Competition

UK. 2008. 90 mins. Director: Rupert Murray. Screenplay: Charles Clover. Producers: Claire Lewis, George Duffield. World sales: Submarine (+ 1 917 957 1400).

Another in the seemingly-endless stream of documentaries about impending ecological disaster, Rupert (Unknown White Male) Murray's The End Of The Line hones in on the over-fishing of the world's oceans and the likely extinction of most seafood within the next 50 years. Based chiefly around the investigations of UK reporter Charles Clover, the film looks at the decimation of various species such as bluefin tuna and cod, and how consumers can change their habits. While fascinating in its thesis, The End Of The Line has no narrative line as such, opting instead to position itself as a warning about global habits and a lesson in how to combat the imminent disaster; as an urgent plea for human cooperation, it works a treat.

Victoria Day

World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Canada. 2009. 82 mins. Director/screenplay: David Bezmozgis. Producers: Michael McNamara, Judy Holm. International sales: E1 International (+ 1 416 931 8463). Main cast: Mark Rendall, Sergiy Kotelenets, Nataliya Alyexeyenko.

A coming-of-age story revolving around a hockey-playing teen in Toronto in 1988, Victoria Day is tenderly crafted by first time film-maker Bezmozgis but almost too reserved to achieve much theatrical play outside Canada. Mark Rendall gives a strong performance as the boy, whose feelings of alienation are compounded by the fact he is the son of Russian immigrants, and Bezmozgis weaves an accurate tapestry of teenage anxiety and sexual awkwardness. The film is let down, however, by some flat teen performances in the supporting cast and by its abrupt ending which leaves much in the preceding drama unresolved.