Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jury work

The TV fiction jury at work. (twb)

What fun it must be, you might think, chatting with colleagues from throughout Europe and watching TV or listening to the radio the whole day long. Well, a typical schedule will look like this: Keynote session at 8:50 am. Briefing, screening, short break, screening, 45 minutes lunchtime, screening, short break, screening, discussions and voting until 7 pm, often longer. Yes, jury work is fun. And it is hard work.

(Not to mention the fun blogging a little.)

The power of language learning

The Prix Europa "Languages Through Lenses" programme is a students’ competition open to short videos (60-90 seconds) promoting foreign language learning. Last year's winner, Richard Meitern's short film "No Fishing", was part of the opening ceremony, and this blog would be incomplete without it. So here we go.

(Noh, noh? You do not understand a word? Learn! It may save your life!)

Meet the GDR

"Weissensee". (ARD)

The German ARD and Ziegler Film present "Weissensee", a six-part fiction series telling the story of two families living in East Berlin. Two families that could hardly be more different: The Kupfers are a solid part of the GDR system, the Hausmanns have a dissident and artist background. Two families, two political systems, and more than one border between them: The inevitable love story between the GDR police officer Martin and Julia, considered superficial and "politically unreliable", boosts both the dramatic plot and the audience rate.

"Weissensee" draws us back into the days of the Cold War when Germany was divided by the wall, back into a time most of us have vivid memories about. The plot may appear melodramatic and soapy. But if so, "Weissensee" is a soap opera on a very high level.

Multiple sacrifice

"Sacrifice". (SVT)

The three-part series "Sacrifice" presented by the Swedish Television SVT actually deals with a multiple one. The well-cast and well-acted film deals with politics (the protagonists, the jewish-born Elisabeth Meyer and her Swedish colleague Charlotte Ekeblad struggle to bring the Social Democrats back into power), with racism (Elisabeth faces a death threat from extremists and is living under permanent police protection), with rivalry (there are struggles for influence within the SocDem party itself), and with disease (Elisabeth realizes that she is suffering from Alzheimer which is likely to make her election campaign impossible).

Brilliant actors, a multi-dimensional plot, a bit far fetched though and overburdened with topics: A whole panopticon packed into 90 minutes of TV fiction make "Sacrifice" a frighteningly oppressive piece.

(An aside for bloggers)

"Blogsy" (screenshot). (twb)
Blogging requires certain skills. Focus. Endurance. Curiosity. Not to mention all the other 237 journalistic virtues. Yet, what's not needed any longer is clunky hardware. Apple's iPad is a powerful blogging machine, small, light-weight and with 10 hours of battery power. The iPad is the blogger's delight, especially when equipped with the Blogsy app, offering every kind of online and offline option you can think of. Blogging finally has reached the 21st century.

Sherlock Holmes reloaded

"Sherlock", "A Study in Pink". (BBC)

Mission impossible, you might think. BBC One doesn't. They bring Sir Arthur Conan Doyles's Sherlock Holmes back to life, contemporary, intelligent, edgy, difficult, and dangerous. His alter ego John Watson is a doctor, a soldier, war-disabled, pragmatical, a war hero from Afghanistan, and the two forge an unbreakable alliance. The BBC's innovative, fast-paced "Sherlock" is a crime series, and the episode "A Study in Pink" tells the story of a woman clothed in pink suits and found dead - the fourth in a series of impossible suicides. There's only one man who can crack the case ("Aaah! Brilliant! Four impossible suicides in a series! That's christmas!"). His name is... you name it.

Although the storytelling may appear somewhat artistic, the episode is very well-acted and produced in an innovative way. Reanimating a character belonging to the cultural heritage is a hard thing. The BBC was successful. Well done lads.

Spoiler warning, stop reading! (It was the cab driver. It always is the cab driver.)

The mafia from within

"Undercover". (BNT)

Not a decent story for 9:30 am: "Undercover" is a crime series produced by the Bulgarian National TV BNT, and it tells the story of a special agent called Martin whose mission to go undercover and get hold of the local mafia boss appears to fail. Instead, the agent is about to become part of what he was meant to fight: a world full of corruption, of drug dealing, and of murder.

A thrilling, American-style film providing both action and suspense, but a couple of clich├ęs, much violence and a plot remaining somewhat unclear: "Undercover" is a piece of solid TV work.

Movie time

Prix Europa festival catalogue: 282 pages. (twb)
Day one. And the first problem: Four jurys will begin work today - TV and radio documentary, TV and radio fiction. It's a hard choice. But since it's Sunday I think I feel like TV fiction. Movie time.