As fiercely talented as he was modest, in 1962 Finnish boxer Olli Mäki swept into national stardom as he trained for a once-in-a-lifetime fight against the World Featherweight Champion. There was only one problem: he had just fallen in love. Inside of the ring, it was Finland vs. the USA, but outside, it was boxing vs. romance.
Based on this true story, Juho Kuosmanen's charming debut feature, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, was awarded the Un Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Here Juho reveals why he found Olli Mäki's story so compelling.
The Syrian Civil War is the most catastrophic humanitarian crisis of our era. The conflict has killed more than 400,000 people, wounded almost 2 million, and forced more than 11 million people to flee their homes – more than half Syria’s pre-war population. Of those who have fled their homes, 6.6 million are internally displaced, 4.8 million are refugees in neighbouring countries, and another 1 million have fled to Europe.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, half a million Syrians have been held prisoner or “disappeared” since 2011, mostly in government prisons and security facilities where torture has become industrialized, with some 60,000 people having been tortured to death or died as a result of inhumane conditions.
As of 2016, dozens of governments – including from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, among many others – have spent billions of dollars either directly participating in the conflict or training, funding and arming different parties to the war. At the same time thousands of foreign nationals from dozens of countries have gone to Syria to fight with one or another side. Moving in the opposite direction, the Islamic State group is thought to have sent hundreds of operatives into Europe amongst the fleeing refugees, some of whom were responsible for terrorist attacks in Paris and in Brussels.
Against this backdrop, in this interview The War Show directors Obaidah Zytoon and Andreas Dalgaard discuss mainstream media's portrayal of Muslims, common misunderstandings about the conflict in Syria and what they would like the audience to take with them when watching the film.
On the eve of International Women's Day, we're celebrating with a series of posts on the female directors whose films are appearing in the festival.
Here Anocha Suwichakornpong discusses history, memory and the 'past perfect progressive' tense in relation to her latest film By the Time It Gets Dark.
Ranked among the top 10 hidden gems of 2016, film critic Jonathon Romney described The Future Perfect as "A smart, undemonstrative but deeply joyful Argentinian first feature... about a young Chinese woman (Zhang Xiaobin) newly arrived in Buenos Aires and her attempts to learn Spanish. Formally economical, rich in insights about language, culture and the self, and deliciously comic with it."
Llongyfarchiadau - congratulations to Asghar Farhadi (director of A Separation, The Past) and all who worked on The Salesman, winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Academy Awards. If you enjoyed our Iranian Film Day a couple of years back, then don't miss this film when it's screened at Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Chapter in March.
Among the nominees was the visually and culturally rich Tanna, a rare film from the South Pacific. The only place to see the film in Wales last year was at WOW Film Festival!
Farhadi boycotted the awards ceremony in protest against Trump's travel ban, but in an acceptance speech read out by Iranian-born US engineer and astronaut Anousheh Ansari he said, "Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever."
Here is the 2016 festival trailer, which was made with young people in Cardigan as part of a film education project with Winding Snake and Small World Theatre.
We'll be showcasing more of the young people's work online and at an event at Small World Theatre in April.
We were absolutely thrilled to be in the company of Patricio Guzmán for our opening event at Chapter. The great Chilean director spoke at length about his influences and filmmaking process, giving us a fascinating insight into a lifetime's work. Thanks are due to all who supported the events. Don't miss the masterful The Pearl Button at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Taliesin Arts Centre and Theatr Clwyd next week.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable time with director Gareth Bryn, writer and producer Ed Talfan and cast Mark Lewis-Jones and Annes Elwy who joined us after WOW's screening of Yr Ymadawiad/The Passing at Chapter on the festival's opening night. The team were in a relaxed mood, enjoying the warm and friendly atmosphere on their home turf in Cardiff. It was brilliant also to see one of Wales's most respected and experienced actors, Mark Lewis-Jones, alongside Annes Elwy, one of Wales's up and coming young stars.
Although WOW is a film festival, we often work with charities and organisations who share an interest in the places and themes depicted in the films we show. This year we're proud to be working with the Glan Clwyd-Hossana Link in north Wales alongside our screening of Ethiopian film Lamb at Theatr Clwyd on Tuesday 15 March.
Chair of the group Catriona Chalmers, tells us about the work they do with their partner hospital in Ethiopia:
"We are a group of healthcare professionals and other staff, based at Glan Clwyd and Abergele Hospitals and surrounding GP practices in North Wales. Ten years ago we formed a link with a partner hospital in Hossana in the South of Ethiopia, and now also have a link with Primary Care (health centre) services in the area. Hossana Hospital serves over 1 million people spread over a wide area. It is staffed by a small number of busy, dedicated doctors, nurses and health officers.