Ireland meets Thailand in micro-budget feature 'Running to Standstill'
Full-length features nowadays must have a multi-million-dollar budget or never get made at all, or so the mainstream consensus goes. Young Irish director Fergus Kavanagh won’t chime in with that chorus, though. After having shot a couple of critically acclaimed short films on less-than-shoestring budgets, the 35-year-old is now set to take on his first feature, Running to Standstill, with a Hollywood executive’s nerve-racking financing of just $13,500, all inclusive.
Kavanagh’s secret is a great script that has enticed basically the entire crew and cast to not only shoulder their own expenses, but also work on deferred wages. They are no lightweights either. Kavanagh has signed Seána Kerslake, nominated as best actress at the recent Irish Film and Television Academy Awards for Dollhouse (2012), as his lead actress: Sinéad Noonan (Miss Ireland 2008) in a female supporting role; and Ross Hamilton, co-subject of Alison Millar’s multiple award-winning 2008 documentary At Home with the Clearys, as male lead. Kavanagh revealed that he also might have Brenda Fricker (Oscar winner for 1990’s My Left Foot) on board for another supporting role. Crew-wise, he has secured Pete Smithsuth as cinematographer and Aidan McCarthy (previously involved with the BBC’s long-running drama series “Downton Abbey") as editor.
Running to Standstill—with a projected length of 150 minutes—is a coming-of-age story centered on a young Irish farmer who decides to come to Thailand in search of love and adventure, and of course runs into heaps of trouble in the process. Principal shooting is scheduled to kick off in Thailand’s southern province of Phangnga on April 3 and wrap some three weeks later. Long-time Thailand visitor Kavanagh has not only succeeded in locking practically all of his shooting locations free of charge, but also has made valuable friends at the Thailand Film Office, which governs foreign productions.
It already seems certain that Running to Standstill is going to premiere at the Bangkok Film Festival in November this year, but Kavanagh plans to enter it at Cannes, Berlin and possibly Busan, too. Female lead Kerslake was the only cast member who expected that her return flight ticket to Bangkok be covered, “but otherwise everyone has shown amazing cooperation,” according to Kavanagh. “However, it really would be great if I just could raise another $3,000 or so. Securing financing, however small, from industry big-shots for a low-budget production is very, very difficult,” he admitted. He also is still searching for a theatrical distributor.
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Tamil Thriller’s Release Delayed by Muslim Protests
When Kamal Hassan, one of the biggest movie stars in Tamil-majority southern India, started shooting his action-laden spy thriller Vishwaroopam late last year, he certainly didn’t anticipate that its planned release eventually would encounter massive opposition from the region’s minority Muslim community. Several Muslim groups, who claim that several movie scenes are offensive to Islam, staged angry protests culminating in heated street battles with the police in Tamil Nadu state.
While Vishwaroopam, which is the first Indian movie and only the fourth movie worldwide to have utilized the new Auro 3D sound technology, was approved for release in a Hindi-language version in the rest of India and abroad on Jan. 25, the government of Tamil Nadu decided to impose a 15-day ban on it in the face of the violent opposition, a move that was almost immediately mirrored by the governments of Sri Lanka and Malaysia as well. Only after Hassan, who produced and directed the movie and also plays the male lead, had culled the allegedly offensive scenes could the original Tamil-language version finally make its debut in southern Indian theatres on Feb. 7. In spite of the controversy, Hassan has already announced a sequel, Vishwaroopam II, slated for release in May this year.
South Korean Movies Succeed at Berlinale
South Korean films proved a smashing success at the recent 63rd Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). The Korean Film Night, co-hosted by KOFIC and the Busan International Film Festival Committee, screened a total of ten movies, which were reportedly very well-received by the audiences and also garnered considerable interest from international buyers. Further domestic movies were also shown as part of the program line-ups in the festival’s Panorama, Generation, Forum and Berlinale Shorts sections.
Shin Su-won’s documentary drama Pluto was awarded a special jury mention in the “Generation 14plus” section, who justified their decision with the statement, “The characters in this film draw us into a universe of isolation and powerlessness in the face of brutal peer pressure to conform. We felt the cosmic dimensions of the story and the protagonist’s sense that, although being alone in school is harsh, being alone in the universe is devastating.”
Hard on the heels of Pluto’s win followed a special prize in the “Generation Kplus” section for Kim Jung-in’s short Cheong, which tells the story of a young girl who spends a day with her blind father. South Korean movies have consistently improved in their overall production quality over the past decade, slowly but steadily closing the gap with Hollywood and European standards.
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