Thursday August 8, 2013
Jirí Menzel (President)
Czech director Jirí Menzel was 28 when he made his debut feature, Closely Watched Trains, one of the key films of the Czech New Wave. It went on to win the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1968, the first of many awards he has collected in his remarkable career. Menzel's vision combined a devotion to the poetry of the commonplace with his own special brand of slapstick and satire, a vision that he has maintained in his current film The Don Juans, showing at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival. Menzel followed that early success with other wry comedies, including Capricious Summer (1967) and Larks on a String , which was filmed in 1969 but banned by the Czech government. Set in the late 1940s, the film concerns the treatment of suspect "bourgeois elements", a professor, a saxophonist, and a milkman, who are put to work in a junkyard for rehabilitation. It was finally released in 1990 after the fall of the Communist regime, and the film went on to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Menzel was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film again in 1986 with his dark comedy My Sweet Little Village (Special Jury Prize winner at the MWFF). Among his many other works: Altered Landscapes (1974), The Wonderful Men With a Crank (1978), Short Cut (1981), The Snowdrop Festival (1984), The End of Old Times (1989, Best Direction award at the MWFF), The Beggar’s Opera (1991) and I Served the King of England (2006).
Montreal’s own Caroline Dhavernas made her small screen debut at the age of 12 on Marilyn, Lise Payette’s daily soap in the early 1990s, and it wasn’t long before she was appearing in a host of television series: Zap, Jasmine, Urgence I and II, Lobby and Le Polock. It was her role as Stephanie in Tag I and II that finally established her not merely as a child star but as an actress of great beauty and talent. Word of which spread beyond these borders and it wasn’t long before she was appearing on American TV as well, starring in such series as Wonderfalls (2004) for Fox, Off the Map (2011) for ABC, and, most recently, Hannibal (2013) for NBC. On the big screen she has appeared in a long list of Canadian, American and European features. These include Peter Greenaway's The Tulse Luper Suitcases which premiered at Cannes in 2003, Hollywoodland (2006) with Ben Affleck,, Breach (2007) with Adrien Brody, Surviving My Mother (2007) directed by Émile Gaudreault, Paul Gross’ Passchendaele (2008, which won the 2009 Genie for Best Motion Picture), another Émile Gaudreault hit, De père en flic (2009), Devil (2010) produced by M. Night Shyamalan, The Switch (2010) with Jennifer Aniston, Wrecked (2010) starring Adrien Brody, and Mars et Avril (2012) by Martin Villeneuve. She won two Gemeaux Awards, for Zap (1993) and Tag (2000), and was nominated for a best supporting actress Genie in Niagara Motel (2005).
Michael Kutza is a filmmaker, graphic designer and the founder of the Chicago International Film Festival. In addition, he has been involved in other film festivals around the world, including Taormina, Moscow, Manila, Los Angeles, Cannes, Berlin and Jerusalem, and has served as an advisor to the Berlin and Locarno events, among others. He was a member of the jury of the Moscow Festival in 1977 and the Berlin Festival in 1995. From 1979 to 1991, he served the Italian journal II Tempo as its American film correspondent. He has received numerous honours for cultural achievements, among them, in 1972, the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Festival, in 1978, the Chicago Sun-Times' "Exceptional Contribution to Chicago" award, and in 1985, the French Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 1996, the city of Chicago honorarily designated S. Michigan Ave as "Michael J. Kutza Way." In 2009, he was honored by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois as one of its "Legendary Landmarks", a title bestowed on "citizens who have made contributions to the civic and cultural life of Chicago and Illinois." In 2012 he received the American Cinematheque's Sydney Pollack Award.
Spanish director, writer and producer, Olea has worked in television and feature films. A graduate of the Escuela Oficial de Cinematografía, he reviewed films before joining Radiotelevisión in 1966. He made his big screen directorial debut in 1967 with Days of Fading Colour and followed that two years later with El Bosque del lobo. The House Without Borders (1972) was in competition at the Berlin Festival, screened at the Los Angeles Festival and was Spain’s entry at the Oscars. Torment (1974) had its premiere at San Sebastian, the same festival where Un hombre llamado Flor de Otoño garnered the best actor prize two years later.Akelarre (1983) was in the official selections of Berlin and Karlovy Vary festivals. The Fencing Master (1992), one of his biggest commercial hits, won the audience award at Chile’s Viña del Mar Festival and at the Palm Springs Festival. The film earned him the Goya for best screenplay and represented Spain at the Oscars. More recently, he directed Tiempo de tormenta (2003) and The Conspiracy (2012). Among his many honours and awards, Olea received the “Toda una vida” tribute at San Sebastian and the "Golden Spike" in Valladolid.
Filmmaker and novelsist Dai Sijie was born in Putian, China in 1954. He grew up working in his father’s tailor shop and he himself became a skilled tailor. Then came the Cultural Revolution and the Mao government sent him to a reeducation camp in rural Sichuan from 1971 to 1974. After his return, he was able to complete high school and university, where he studied art history. In 1984, he left China for France on a scholarship. There, he acquired a passion for movies. He studied at l’IDHEC, the Paris film school and became a director. He gained critical attention in 1989 with his first feature, Chine ma douleur, which won the prestigious Prix Jean-Vigo, and international acclaim in 2001 for his novel, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which was successfully adapted to the screen in 2002. He had previously directed Le Mangeur de lune (1994) and The Eleventh Child (1998). In 2003 he won the Prix Femina, one of France’s most prestigious book awards, for his novel Le complexe de Di. His 2006 film, The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters, was shown at the Montreal World Film Festival.