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Phillip Bergson


Writing about Films and Festivals.

 

Film Critic, UK, member of Fipresci

 

Winner of the Student Journalist of the Year competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES", "Screen International", "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals. At the National Media Museum in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema.

As a Jury Member

 


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The Band Sails on in Mannheim

The second Gala Opening of the 57th Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival took place on 7th November 2008, in the mother-ship, so to say.Even more crowds massed for the premiere of Helma Sanders-Brahms's (surely some relation) elegant menage `a trois  Clara (original title Geliebte Clara), an opulent opus on the turbulent amours 'twixt the  troubled Schumanns (energetically brought to life by Martina Gedeck and French star Pascal Greggory) and their younger protege Johannes Brahms (an intriguingly cast  Malik Zidi, himself no stranger to Franco-German co-productions, successfully cónveying youth and maturity à la fois in his subtle portrayal of the composer who was to eclipse both his mentor Robert and become the lover of his wife Clara, then the most successful concert pianist of the time).

The renovated Stadthaus- a kind of municipal powerhosue-cum-eco-shopping plaza  in the very centre of the Mannheim Quadrat- was festively garlanded with banners and lights and a traditional red carpet.The larger auditorium. newly reseated in welcoming scarlet, was completely sold out with guests directed to the packed balcony. The festival now has an additional cinema, created in an adjacent council chamber,with comfortable seating and table lamps reminiscent of Cabaret, while upstairs a tapas bar and downstairs the Press Desk, and a Viewings Room capably cater to most of the needs of the professionally present.There is a acomforable corner with a podium for the nightly, informal Talk Shows with film-makers,apparently carved out of a library area, while across the mezzanine another bar area and cafeteria ply reasonably priced fare,hot and cold,for the paying public.

A sparkling apres-Clata reception inaugurated the Festival Salon, which became the regular rende-vous for receptions hosted by  directors with large quantities of sekt, wines and local beers, served into the small hours, though pretzels were sadly not as abundant.

The weather stayed spectacularly mild for the time of year- 17 degrees C by day and coat-less at night-, and the Indian Summer brought  recorded audiences for all the screenings. Few things can more delight festival and film directors than full houses on the Saturday for such diverse selections,such as Another Planet, Ferenc Moldovanyi's docu-poem on the suffering little children in some not-so-remote corners of our world, a production lovingly crafted  over five years which brought tears to the eyes of some viewers, watching the piteous spectacle of under-age prostitutes or tiny-but not  at all toy-soldiers conscripted in the Congo, somehow facing up to their fates with an unsettling  matter-of.-factness. The Budapest-based director was returning to Mannheim after presenting a short film here  a number of years ago, with a rare documentary selected for the International Competition and which was shot literally around the globe.It topped the poll of the critics published in the bi-lingual festival paper.

Welcomed back as additional festival venues this year were the lovely period art-house Atlantis, as well as the smaller Quadrat kino, while in Heidelberg, besides the purpose-built Unizelt, two other permanent cinemas were in use by the festival.Admissions seem likely to surpass last year's total of 60,000 by the end of this 11-day filmic wonder.

Phillip Bergson

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