FROM THE BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL: Two coming-of-age dramas win praise in Berlin

Although Schamus has never directed a fulllength movie before, he is the co-president of Focus Features, the arthouse branch of Universal.

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February 15, 2016 19:58
1 minute read.
NEW ZEALAND actor Temuera Morrison stars in Lee Tamahori’s ‘The Patriarch.’

NEW ZEALAND actor Temuera Morrison stars in Lee Tamahori’s ‘The Patriarch.’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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BERLIN – It’s not easy to stand out from among the (approximately) 430 movies at the Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, but James Schamus’ directorial debut, Indignation, which was shown in the Panorama section, has what it takes. This adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 coming-of-age novel is a brilliant portrait of the novelist as a young man, and stars Logan Lerman (Fury, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as the brainy, tense son of a kosher butcher from New Jersey who heads off to college in Ohio in the Fifties. Roth is a notoriously difficult author to adapt, and this is the first screen version of one of his works – there have been five previous Roth adaptations – that captures the complexity and spirit of his writing.

Although Schamus has never directed a fulllength movie before, he is the co-president of Focus Features, the arthouse branch of Universal.

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He has often collaborated with Ang Lee and has produced and co-written several of Lee’s films, among them Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain.

It seems likely that Indignation will be released in Israel, possibly at one of the film festivals.

Another movie that has gotten a lot of buzz here is Lee Tamahori’s The Patriarch, also known as Mahana, which is in the main competition. Tamahori is the half British/half Maori director from New Zealand whose 1994 film, Once Were Warriors, about the suffering and hardships of the Maori community, won worldwide acclaim. Since then, he has made mainstream action movies, such as the 2002 James Bond film, Die Another Day.

The Patriarch is the first time he has revisited his roots, and it’s a powerful, epic drama based on a novel about the feud between two successful Maori clans. Like Indignation, it’s a period comingof- age story set in the Sixties, starring Akuhata Keefe as a bookish teen who yearns to prove himself in the macho world of his family’s sheep farm and who defies his tyrannical grandfather (Temuera Morrison, an extraordinarily commanding actor, who also appeared in Once Were Warriors).

The entire cast is wonderful and the exciting, fast-paced plot shows that it is possible to pack a great deal of story into only 103 minutes. In a just world, this crowd-pleasing movie would be a major Oscar contender next year.

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