Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tribeca: Stranded in Canton by Mans Mansson

handwritten notes retyped from my spiral bound notebook

New York, April 24--looks like Denmark picked off a lot of awards 
at Tribeca. I missed both Bridgend and Virgin Virgin film was enough for one festival.. and I've read "Killing Williamsburg", black humor novel about fictitious suicide epidemic ...and seen Virgin Suicides....

but I did watch every frame of STRANDED IN CANTON, a very laid-back and wryly humorous film, not an award winner so far but should be, not Danish but Swedish...bittersweet...not clichéed...v open-ended ending....light, but stays with you

The story's about Lebrun, a Congolese farmer..."j'ai ma porcherie, mes poulaillers, ma ne suis pas un businessman...." whom Mansson met in Kinchasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, when he played a whole season there as a member of a football team. After his football career, Mansson went to art school in Stockholm and started making films.

Lebrun is trying to extract himself from an impossible predicament in Canton, where's he stuck with a whale load of bright yellow Joseph Kabila presidential election T-shirts, which haven't been delivered and are now worthless because the election is over. Wassim, the Lebanese warehouse manager wants a a large payment for months ofstorage. Like many of the roles in the film, Wassim plays himself and pretty much, according to Mansson reached by phone upstate, invited himself into the production when he saw the two-person crew shooting. Two people ie the director doubling up as cinematographer and his sound person. 

That's the whole deceptively simple story, how Lebrun passes the time, trying to get out of this predicament, raise the dough to pay off Wassim. He has a buddy, Frank, with terrible marketing ideas, hired as production translator from Mandarin and Cantonese, who doubles up as a main actor. There's a non-romantic interest, a Beyonce-like but Platonic Cameroonian girl-friend, who is the common sense anchor of the film and acts as a sounding board for Lebrun's delusions of savoir-faire.

The acting's very good and face cracks up as I write this because in a way it's such a ridiculous story, but so emblematic of false hopes of fast fortunes...not only of the Congolese and sub-Saharan African diaspora in Guanzhou, China's highly polluted manufacturing hub but of expatriates everywhere who are escaping the economic desitution of countries ravaged by exploitation, war and government corruption,,,,,
PS Mansson says script was not prewritten , but developed during production.  
Screenplay credits go to Mansson, Li Hongqi and George Cragg. The film is a succinct 79 minutes in Cantonese, English, French, Lingala and Mandarin, With Lebrun Iko Isibangi , Nana Nya Sylvie, Wassim Hasbini, Frank No playing versions of themselves.          

--Liza Béar

Film stills from Stranded in Canton  2014
by Mans Mansson screened at Tribeca Film Festival 2015

Left: Lebrun, Congolese entrepreneur in Guanzhou and Frank, his friend

Monday, April 20, 2015

TRIBECA: Sworn Virgin: Laura Bispuri, director

Film still of synchronized swimming sequence in Laura Bispuri's first feature Sworn Virgin, an Albanian, German, Italian Kosovan and Swiss co-production now screening at Tribeca FF.

TRIBECA: Sworn Virgin: interview with Laura Bispuri, director

A notable film seen at Tribeca FF this year is Sworn Virgin, the first feature by Italian director Laura Bispuri, starring Alba Rohrwacher as Hana/Mark in the nuanced, subtly expressive performance that her role requires.

Bispuri co-wrote the screenplay with Francesca Manieri. No, this is not an Albanian version of Orlando. .A loose adaptation of the contemporary ,novel by Elvira Dones, who is Albanian but writes in Italian, the story is initially set in a toothily ragged mountain region of Albania, a country just a ferry ride across the Adriatic from Italy, and in a remote community whose arcane mores you won't believe. This highly patriarchal society still subscribes to a Bronze Age code of behaviour known as the Kanun, or canon, among whose principal tenets is the subservience of women in every respect. In order to escape the strictures of female existence in such a society, and as permitted by the Kanun. in exchange for an oath of perpetual celibacy and remaining a virgin, Hana renames herself Mark and for fourteen years iives life as a man, coralling goats, riding horses and shooting rifles, until a signal event makes her question her assumed manhood and escape to Italy.

The following interview with Laura Bispuri was done within the strictures of

allotted time; and Bow-Tie proximity. Michael F. Moore interpreted the Italian: film stills courtesy various: thank you. A European co-production by Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo and Switzerland. Strand Releasing will distribute domestically after the festival

Next Tribeca screenings are at the Bow-Tie Cinemas, Chelsea

today Monday April 20, 5:30pm

tomorrow Tuesday April 21 3:45pm

Interview filmed & edited by Liza Béar

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Postal Activists Speak Out Against Risky USPS-Staples Deal

John J. Dennie, retired mail carrier, post activist & organizer New York City
Shirley Dunaway, reitred postal worker & activist, New York City, 

New York, April 6, 2015 --As part of a rolling series of one-hour protests outside Staples stores throughout the five boroughs, former postal workers Shirley Dunaway, long-time organizer John J. Dennie, and other ardent activists trying to save post office jobs, were out in front of Staples at Broadway and 8th Street at lunchtime, the deafening roar of the subway under the sidewalk. They are protesting a deal cut by former Postmaster General Patrick O'Donoghue about a year before his retirement with Staples management to instal what Dennie calls fake mini post offices in all 1500 branches of Staples throughout the country. These neo mini stations would be staffed by minimum or low wage workers with only 4 hours of training, not by postal service employees, who must complete 80 hours of training before they are allowed to serve the public. While all postal workers are unionized, belonging to one of four unions, a war of attrition on USPS mail workers has been going on for several years by reducing hours and services offered and closing numerous mail processing plants, requiring long rerouting of mail to the great detriment of quality of service. NB Since the USPS-Staples deal began, hours of operation have been reduced at nearby post offices. Meanwhile Staples, a struggling company, has closed 170 stores nationwide without notice and with no input from the community. The deal has replaced living wage jobs at USPS with minimum or low wage jobs for unskilled workers at Staples.The closure of Staples branches seems to indicate that not only mom&pop small business is suffering from exorbitant and skyrocketing rents, but also franchises. For more info and to get involved text POSTAL to 91990 and sign the petition at

Postal Activists Oppose USPS-Staples Contract