Oooh La La EuroCinema

Chris Lee, executive producer of 'Valkyrie,' shares a moment with the film's star, Tom Cruise. PHOTO COURTESY UNITED ARTISTS

Chris Lee, executive producer of ‘Valkyrie,’ shares a moment with the film’s star, Tom Cruise. PHOTO COURTESY UNITED ARTISTS

Hawaii’s dearth of art house theaters — that offer something more intellectually meaty than the garden-variety blockbuster — makes a pop-up cluster of cream-of-the-crop European flicks especially celebration-worthy. Thank the theater gods for an annual binge indulgence called EuroCinema. Or, thank people like founding board member of EuroCinema Hawaii, Chris Lee, and director of programming Anderson Le, who reportedly watches 400 of the world’s latest releases each year to bring top selections to Hawaii audiences.

Lee, who also is a producer of films such as Valkyrie (pictured here), says that when selecting the film lineup, his team simply goes for the best: Three of the 11 films showing at EuroCinema (Two Days, One Night from Belgium, The Human Capital from Italy, Beloved Sisters from Germany) are their country’s submissions for consideration for Best Foreign-language Film next year at the Academy Awards, and all of the films on the schedule had their premiere at festivals from Cannes to Berlin.

“What’s distinctive about the lineup,” says Lee, “is that a lot of these films wouldn’t come to Hawaii except for this film festival. We’re showing The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch (star of BBC’s Sherlock), which is going to be a big film, obviously. But if you look at, say, Beloved Sisters or the Dardenne Brothers’ gorgeous, brilliant Two Days, One Night with Marion Cotillard, you don’t know if those are going to get distributed in the United States.

“A few years ago, we premiered The Artist here and, of course, it’s black-and-white and silent, and we only had half a house. It was heartbreaking because there was a good chance it was going to be a breakout film, but nobody knew that at the time.”

Lee cites Paolo Virzi, director of Human Capital, as one of his favorites, and he points out that another feature, Clouds of Sils-Maria, starring Kristen Stewart and Juliette Binoche, played at Cannes but didn’t get as much notice as it deserves. On his list of must-sees are Mr. Turner (about the famed eccentric British painter) and the aforementioned Dardenne Brothers’ film.

“They are highly influential directors who nobody’s ever heard of,” says Lee. “Film-makers know who they are, but the public really hasn’t heard of them. Two Days, One Night is a frontrunner to get a nomination for an Academy Award, which they have never gotten before, and they’ve certainly been deserving.”

Also noteworthy is documentary A Year in Champagne because “everybody loves champagne,” notes Lee. Speaking of things that grow finer with age, he’s showing a restored classic, Marriage Italian Style, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Following the film will be a discussion by a film scholar, “who will explain why it was such a breakthrough film at the time it came out, and why it’s just a great film,” says Lee.

“It’s a digital restoration, so it won’t look like it’s 50 years old. It’ll look gorgeous.”

This year’s judges are John Ottman, editor and composer for the X-Men movies and The Usual Suspects; Julie Corman (see more below), and Aida Takla-O’Reilly, who has served twice as president of Hollywood Foreign Press Association, popularly known as Golden Globes. Their choices for Best Film, Best Actor, etc. will be announced at a Nov. 8 gala ceremony.

“We cover Kalakaua in red carpet,” says Lee. “It’s black tie and a lot of new, wonderful gowns come out for the evening. It’s at the Moana, which has a European elegance to it, so it’s the best possible setting for this film festival.”

What’s a gala without celebrities? On the red carpet will be young actor Brenton Thwaites, star of this summer’s

The Giver and the prince in Maleficent. With six movies coming out, he has earned EuroCinema’s Rising Star Award. Also in attendance will be EuroCinema’s Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Roger and Julie Corman.

“(Producer and director) Roger is the godfather of independent film,” notes Lee. “He and (producer) Julie and their company (New World Pictures) were responsible for starting the careers of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron (and many other famed, contemporary directors).”

The Cormans, along with John Ottman, also will present master classes at UH-West Oahu (Nov. 5 and 6), hosted by UH’s Academy for Creative Media that Lee directs and which nurtures student film-makers.

Lee says his mission with EuroCinema is to “make a cultural bridge through film and to support local film students,” which includes providing a student film showcase during the festival, complete with awards and scholarships for stellar student filmmaking.

If you’re asking where European films fit into an Asian film-dominated festival, well, therein lies the answer.

“Obviously, being Hawaii, the Korean, Japanese and Chinese films are always the first to sell out,” Lee points out. “But we’re bringing in the same European films they’re showing at the New York Film Festival, at Telluride, Toronto — all of the top festivals. And they’re the ones that sell out first in those places. Our mission is to get as many people in those showings as possible. We’re very blessed to have so many great films and we just want people to come see them.”

the TICKET stub
When: Oct. 30-Nov. 9
Where: Dole Cannery Theater
Cost: Varies from individual tickets to package deals