With Little Money & Even Less Time, ‘Border’ Makeup Designers Transform European Talents Into Trolls

Called upon to design makeup for Ali Abbasi’s Border—a singularly dark and clever fantasy, which won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prize and has been selected as Sweden’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film—Göran Lundström would do some of the…

Called upon to design makeup for Ali Abbasi's Border—a singularly dark and clever fantasy, which won Cannes' Un Certain Regard prize and has been selected as Sweden's entry for Best Foreign Language Film—Göran Lundström would do some of the most transformative work he'd ever done, turning two European talents into trolls. Demonstrating the highest degree of artistic commitment, Eva Melander put on weight and lost herself inside of many prosthetic pieces to become Tina, a…

Oscars: Can Promising Outliers Sneak Into The Category Of Best Foreign Language Film?

There are 87 titles vying for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award this year, in what continues to be a robust lineup of talent, with rich tales to tell from faraway lands. With a number of previous winners and nominees returning for another go…

There are 87 titles vying for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award this year, in what continues to be a robust lineup of talent, with rich tales to tell from faraway lands. With a number of previous winners and nominees returning for another go-round, and some movies with a strong shot at nominations in other races, this has shaped up to be one of the richest rosters of Oscar contenders in recent memory. At this early stage, there appear to be some clear…

‘Border’ Director Ali Abbasi: Here’s How I Shot the Scene That Made Cannes Squirm

This story on “Border” first appeared in the Foreign Language issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

Adapted from a short story by “Let the Right One In” author John Ajvide Lindqvist, Iranian-Swedish director Ali Abbasi’s “Border” was one of the sensations of Cannes this year, both for its oddly tender story about a customs agent who learns she isn’t human and for a scene of troll sex that made audiences squirm in their seats.

The film is the Swedish entry in this year’s Oscar foreign-language race, and this is one in a series of interviews with the directors of foreign Oscar submissions.

Also Read: ‘Border’ Film Review: Are Moviegoers Ready for Hot, Hairy Troll Sex?

Did you grow up in Iran and then move to Sweden to make films?
ALI ABBASI: I grew up in Iran, and when I was 20 or 21, I just wanted to see the world. I was thinking I would maybe settle down in Germany or in Austria, but I ended up in Sweden after a while and studied architecture there.

And then I started making some shorts, and at some point I decided to apply to film school. I kind of felt like, “I have to see how the real professional film world works, because I come from a very different background.”

That experience must have had an impact on “Border,” which is at least partly about the way we treat people we perceive as being the Other.
People ask me if that has to do with my background, with my being an outsider. And sure, I’ve been an outsider, but I don’t think it takes much to be an outsider. Being a minority or an outsider, it’s a universal experience. Even if you’re a white, middle-class person, you would still feel like an outsider if you were put in a situation that doesn’t appeal to your values.

But having said that, for some reason I always had a passion for characters who are on the fringe or the edge of society — people who are so extreme in their values that they’re on the verge of falling off the edge of civilization. Sometimes it takes so little to show how thin the layer of civilization is, when things crack.

Also Read: Troll Sex Movie ‘Border’ Wins Top Prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Section

When I saw the film in Cannes, during the troll-sex scene the audience was laughing, cringing, groaning. Did it take a while to figure out how far you could go with that scene?
Not really. For me, that scene is pretty normal in the context of the movie. It’s normal because it’s normal for the characters. It would be strange if they were f—ing on a sofa with a whiskey in their hand.

What I thought about the scene before shooting it was, “OK, we just have to have enough material.” Like every other sex scene, there would be an animalistic tendency or impulse, and then a tender, more intimate one. All the sex scenes I’ve seen, they balance between those poles. I was just trying to get a take that was more intimate, more poetic, more gentle, and then from there we would crank up the animal impulses and see how far makes sense. And once we did that, I had the range and could find the sweet spot.

For more of TheWrap’s Foreign Language issue, click here.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Oscars Give More Power in Foreign Language Voting to LA Members (Exclusive)

‘Roma,’ ‘Cold War’ Lead Academy’s List of 87 Films in the Oscars Foreign Language Race

Oscars Foreign Language Race 2018: Complete List of Submissions

This story on “Border” first appeared in the Foreign Language issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

Adapted from a short story by “Let the Right One In” author John Ajvide Lindqvist, Iranian-Swedish director Ali Abbasi’s “Border” was one of the sensations of Cannes this year, both for its oddly tender story about a customs agent who learns she isn’t human and for a scene of troll sex that made audiences squirm in their seats.

The film is the Swedish entry in this year’s Oscar foreign-language race, and this is one in a series of interviews with the directors of foreign Oscar submissions.

Did you grow up in Iran and then move to Sweden to make films?
ALI ABBASI: I grew up in Iran, and when I was 20 or 21, I just wanted to see the world. I was thinking I would maybe settle down in Germany or in Austria, but I ended up in Sweden after a while and studied architecture there.

And then I started making some shorts, and at some point I decided to apply to film school. I kind of felt like, “I have to see how the real professional film world works, because I come from a very different background.”

That experience must have had an impact on “Border,” which is at least partly about the way we treat people we perceive as being the Other.
People ask me if that has to do with my background, with my being an outsider. And sure, I’ve been an outsider, but I don’t think it takes much to be an outsider. Being a minority or an outsider, it’s a universal experience. Even if you’re a white, middle-class person, you would still feel like an outsider if you were put in a situation that doesn’t appeal to your values.

But having said that, for some reason I always had a passion for characters who are on the fringe or the edge of society — people who are so extreme in their values that they’re on the verge of falling off the edge of civilization. Sometimes it takes so little to show how thin the layer of civilization is, when things crack.

When I saw the film in Cannes, during the troll-sex scene the audience was laughing, cringing, groaning. Did it take a while to figure out how far you could go with that scene?
Not really. For me, that scene is pretty normal in the context of the movie. It’s normal because it’s normal for the characters. It would be strange if they were f—ing on a sofa with a whiskey in their hand.

What I thought about the scene before shooting it was, “OK, we just have to have enough material.” Like every other sex scene, there would be an animalistic tendency or impulse, and then a tender, more intimate one. All the sex scenes I’ve seen, they balance between those poles. I was just trying to get a take that was more intimate, more poetic, more gentle, and then from there we would crank up the animal impulses and see how far makes sense. And once we did that, I had the range and could find the sweet spot.

For more of TheWrap’s Foreign Language issue, click here.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Oscars Give More Power in Foreign Language Voting to LA Members (Exclusive)

'Roma,' 'Cold War' Lead Academy's List of 87 Films in the Oscars Foreign Language Race

Oscars Foreign Language Race 2018: Complete List of Submissions

European Film Awards: ‘Cold War’, ‘U – July 22’, ‘Border’ & ‘Dogman’ Among Winners

The European Film Academy has revealed eight prize winners ahead of the 31st European Film Awards (December 15) in Seville, including Cold War, U – July 22 and Dogman. Scroll down for the list of winners.
An eight-member jury convened in Berlin t…

The European Film Academy has revealed eight prize winners ahead of the 31st European Film Awards (December 15) in Seville, including Cold War, U – July 22 and Dogman. Scroll down for the list of winners. An eight-member jury convened in Berlin to decide on the winners in the categories for cinematography, editing, production design, costume design, hair & make-up, composer, sound design and, for the first time, visual effects. The members of the jury were: Luca…

European Film Awards Nominations: ‘Cold War’, ‘Dogman’, ‘Border’ Lead – Full List

Nominations are in for the 31st European Film Awards with previous winner Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War leading the pack. The romance drama won the Best Director prize in Cannes and Pawlikowski is up here for the same nod. Cold War, Poland’s…

Nominations are in for the 31st European Film Awards with previous winner Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War leading the pack. The romance drama won the Best Director prize in Cannes and Pawlikowski is up here for the same nod. Cold War, Poland’s Oscar hopeful this year, is also mentioned in the Best Film, Screenwriting, Actress and Actor categories. Joining Cold War in the main race are a series of Oscar entries for the Best Foreign Language Film statue. They include Sweden's…

‘Border’: Eva Melander Gives the Most Astonishing Performance of the Year By Completely Burying Herself

Melander gained 40 pounds and spent four hours in the makeup chair everyday. She explains why she committed to a daunting transformation.

ConsiderThis

In “Border,” Swedish actress Eva Melander buries herself in the role of Tina, an ostracized woman who feels out of place in society because of her otherworldly appearance. The peculiar creature she plays in director Ali Abbasi’s foreign-language Oscar submission suggests the unholy offspring of Quasimodo and a Tolkien Orc. But that’s just the starting point for an entrancing and unexpected love story when Tina — who works a lonely job in border security, using her rat-like sense of smell — wakes up to her superpowers when she meets a fawning man (Eero Milonoff) who looks just like her.

This dark fairytale owes much to its leading lady’s remarkable physical transformation, but audiences gripped by “Border” would never recognize its star on the street.

In reality, Melander is an affable, soft-spoken, 43-year-old acting veteran who has juggled a range of stage, television and film roles for over 15 years. The blue-eyed blonde looks nothing like her animalistic creation in “Border,” and the specifics of that transformation make it clear that she’s delivered the most astonishing performance of the year. If that’s all it took to crack the Best Actress race, she would rank alongside Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” and “Roma” breakout Yalizia Aparicio as the frontrunners of the pack.

At the very least, her accomplishment deserves its own spotlight. “I had a teacher in acting school who said, ‘Your fucking personality must not stand in the way of the character you’re supposed to do,’” said Melander in an interview from her hotel in New York. “How I look is one thing, but my biggest interest in the characters I do is how they look and act. My personal issues should not stand in the way of a character’s life.”

The details of Melander’s transformation speak to the full extent of that commitment. Prior to the shoot, Abassi asked if she could gain 10 kilograms — around 22 pounds — to embody Tina’s powerful, broad-shouldered physique. She wound up gaining closer to 40 pounds, working with a trainer and dietician to build up the muscle mass of her upper body while maintaining a food schedule that required her to eat every 90 minutes. “I totally agreed that we should change my body,” Melander said. “It was like an extreme sport. Part of my brain felt like this was insane, but exciting at the same time.” It was also very uncomfortable. “You get sweaty,” Melander said. “It’s hard to sleep at night. You’re breathing doesn’t go well. But I was as committed as I get.”

The physical duress didn’t stop there. Over the course of the monthlong shoot in the forests outside of Gothenburg, Melander spent four hours in the makeup chair everyday, often starting at two o’clock in the morning. Then, she would subject herself to a 10-hour shooting schedule. She was buried in nine pieces of prosthetics, covering her eyelids, nose, and mouth, so she couldn’t fall asleep or watch television to pass the time in the chair. Only her top lip remained exposed. She began listening to meditation apps. “I was trying to move myself out of my body and go to other rooms in my mind,” she said.

border cannes

“Border”

Melander’s character takes her acute sense of smell for granted, assuming it’s her only useful skill, until she learns the bizarre secret behind her existence that empowers her. But even sniffing the air presented a unique challenge on camera, given the restrictions on her facial muscles. She studied videos of dogs on YouTube to figure it out. “The lip and nose move together,” she said, squeezing her face together like wrinkled plastic. “This was my toolbox, and it was covered with silicon, gelatin, and glue. I had to figure out how to work within that.”

Abbasi spent almost two years searching for the right actress to play Eva, and initially wanted to avoid prosthetics by casting unorthodox actors who looked the part. “I really tried to find people who looked different, unsymmetrical, and overweight,” he said in a phone interview. “I wanted to find this otherness in reality life, but I realized I was focused too much on looks. This movie is really about a difficult emotional journey, and I had to find the actual actor who could do that.”

Melander impressed him, he said, because she was able to convey the experience of feeling love for the first time. “She just blushed,” he said, recalling the cue during her audition session. “It was this little thing that almost made me cry. She had an inner life that the other characters didn’t have.” But then he had to confront a practical concern: “I was afraid she looked too good and was too thin,” he said.

Melander’s eagerness to transform herself came from years of contending with roles that required her to do the extra legwork. “When I started acting in Sweden, I always felt as if I had to create my own character because I didn’t feel as if they were there,” she said. “They were just written from a familiar point of view — girlfriend, wife, friend. The story was always about somebody else. I think I’m quite trained in creating characters who have souls and lives even if they’re roughly written into the story.”

She was miffed when the first casting director for “Border” (who was later replaced) called her to explain the role, and seemed hesitant to use the word “ugly” when describing Tina’s appearance. “As an actress, that has never scared me,” she said. “You can always make yourself look better. I want to see people in television and film that I see in real life, not only TV and film faces.”

It should come as no surprise that she excels at clarifying the intentions behind the movie, which finds Tina coming out to grips with herself and finding a new purpose. “If you’re a total outsider and you’ve never felt like you’ve been seen, you’re just disconnected,” she said. “This love story allows her to come closer to herself. She’s rubbed herself out. How much do we rub ourselves out to fit in? That’s something we all think about.”

In between the premiere of “Border” and its release, Melander has been enmeshed in another transformation, playing Richard III in an experimental theater adaptation currently running in Sweden. Once again, the material asks a lot of her: She appears in every scene of the two-hour production, which has no intermission, and requires a lot of tricky maneuvers. “It’s very violent, physical, with a lot of moving foam and white paper,” she said. “We’re ripping things apart, trashing things, painting on the walls. The floor is leaning and slippery. It’s kind of a wild and weird performance.” The connection to Tina is not lost on her. “Tina and Richard III both don’t have it easy, because of their appearances and the way they approach the world,” she said.

For now, Melander only has a Swedish agent, though she’s keen on exploring how her chameleonesque abilities could make the transition to English-language projects. She listed Julianne Moore and Frances McDormand as key reference points for her ambition. McDormand is a particularly apt point of comparison: The real-life Melander bears a notable physical resemblance to the two-time Oscar winner, who grapples with the same kind of tricky balance in her roles that Melander accomplishes in her latest screen credit. “I’ve always found that I can identify with the way she does serious people who have a lot of feelings inside, but there’s always a sense of humor in her work,” Melander said. “I can always see that she’s having fun. She takes care of her characters while looking at them with a little bit of distance.”

Melander has embraced her ability to attract roles that don’t resemble each other. “People don’t call me asking me to do what I’ve already done,” she said. “They call me because they’re curious about what I can create. That’s how I approach the business.” And the capacity to go unrecognized at film festivals has allowed her mingle with a rare kind of anonymity. There’s a perk to that, too. “When people don’t realize it’s me,” she said, “it’s a good opportunity to hear honest criticism.”

“Border” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles.

Younger Audiences Flock to Amazon’s ‘Suspiria,’ A24’s Holdover ‘Mid90s’

So far, the fall box office is diverse and not dominated solely by awards titles.

Amazon Studios’ strongest platform opener to date, “Suspiria,” leads the continued strong and diverse specialized fall 2018, with “Mid90s” and other recent films finding wider interest. Oddly, the fall box office is not entirely dominated by conventional awards titles–although more are still to come.

The weekend prior to Halloween is often avoided by studios, which opened up opportunities for specialized titles to command more screens than normal. Both “The Hate U Give” (20th Century Fox) and “Mid90s” (A24) placed among the Top Ten this weekend. That exposure helps give them a better chance to find continued interest. “Hate” is especially powerful as it grows a wider audience as it expands.

Opening

Suspiria (Amazon) – Metacritic: 68; Festivals include: Venice 2018

$179,806 in 2 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $89,903

Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino’s reinvention of Dario Argento’s horror classic scored the best per screen average for the year at two New York/Los Angeles theaters. That’s a strong show of interest for this 152-minute stylish genre film with a mixed critical response. This marks the second strong opening for Guadagnino, whose “Call Me By Your Name” opened a year ago to even better results in its four initial dates. These numbers come in above the per theater numbers for Amazon’s successful “Manchester By the Sea” in 2016, and the company’s second strong opening after “Beautiful Boy” in recent weeks. That’s a consistent result for the company in its first year of distributing its own films under veteran Bob Berney.

Clearly, younger audiences drove attendance at two top theaters in its initial cities which draw general as well as specialized audiences. The film could have significant appeal outside of art houses.

What comes next: This moves to 250 theaters this Friday.

Border

Border (Neon) – Metacritic: 74; Festivals include: Cannes, Telluride, New York 2018

$71,565 in 7 theaters; PTA: $10,224

This fantastical Swedish mystery opened in six cities with a respectable initial response. A Saturday increase, when older audiences tend to go to movies) suggests the movie has both young and old appeal.

What comes next: A further expansion starts this Friday.

Burning (Well Go) – Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: Cannes, Toronto, New York 2018

$28,615 in 2 theaters; PTA: $14,313

This South Korean mystery-drama has drawn excellent initial response from Cannes and fall festivals to its strong New York opening, aided the top reviews of the year (including a rave from New York Times influencer Manohla Dargis). This played initially at two core theaters appealing to foreign-language fans, but there is a built-in Korean audience across the country (served by Well Go), so this could have a double track of appeal as it expands.

What comes next: The next wave of cities open on Nov. 9.

The Viper Club - Susan Sarandon

“The Viper Club”

Viper Club (Roadside Attractions) – Metacritic: 56; Festivals include: Toronto, Los Angeles 2018

$14,094 in 3 theaters; PTA: $4,698

Susan Sarandon stars in this story of a mother who decides to take action when her war correspondent son is kidnapped. It opened in three New York/Los Angeles theaters to minimal response.

What comes next: A quick uptick to 25 markets will test additional interest this week.

“Monrovia, Indiana”

Monrovia, Indiana (Zipporah) – Metacritic: 80; Festivals include: Venice, Toronto, New York 2018

$6,100 in 1 theater; PTA: $6,100

Frederick Wiseman, the dean of American documentary filmmakers, now in his second half century of theatrical releases, is making close to a film a year in his 80s. His latest — a contemplative view of a rural middle American town — opened with strong reviews at New York’s Film Forum to some interest, but below his equally acclaimed “Ex-Libris” last year.

What comes next: Three news cities as well as several Indiana dates begin the expansion this Friday.

“Weed the People” (Mangurama) – Festivals include: South by Southwest 2018

$4,279 in 1 theater; PTA: $4,279

The weed here is medical marijuana, the virtues of which this documentary extol. This opened in one New York theater with mostly grassroots (pun not intended) marketing.

What comes next: This will have a more calendar and single-date release pattern ahead.

“Mid90s”

A24

Week Two

Mid90s (A24)

$3,000,000 in 1,206 theaters (+1,204); PTA: $2,488; Cumulative: $3,350,000

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, set in Los Angeles’ 1990s teen skateboarding scene, expanded to over 1,000 theaters its second weekend. The gross was good enough to make the Top Ten, but the per screen average suggests that might have reached the maximum depth, and the 33 percent Saturday drop that this is likely its high point.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight)

$380,000 in 25 theaters (+20); PTA: $15,200; Cumulative: $610,139

Melissa McCarthy’s acclaimed performance as a biographer who turns fraudster had a promising second weekend ahead of its expected much wider release.

Wildlife (IFC)

$111,274 in 18 theaters (+14); PTA: $6,182; Cumulative: $249,393

Paul Dano’s film about a child in the middle of his parents’ breakup had a modest initial expansion despite featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan as the leads.

Blythe Danner and Hilary Swank appear in <i>What They Had</i> by Elizabeth Chomko, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Bleecker Street. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“What They Had”

What They Had (Bleecker Street)

$57,764 in 25 theaters (+21); PTA: $2,311; Cumulative: $82,816

This film about adult siblings coping with their older parents’ late-life issues expanded in major cities on its second weekend to modest response despite a strong ensemble cast led by Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon.

The Price of Everything (HBO)

$19,874 in 8 theaters (+7); PTA: $2,484; Cumulative: $46,856

In advance of his cable showing, this documentary about the white-hot art market opened in several new cities with some decent sampling.

THUG-002 – Amandla Stenberg stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s THE HATE U GIVE. Photo Credit: Erika Doss.

“The Hate U Give”

Photo Credit: ERIKA DOSS

Ongoing/expanding (grosses over $50,000)

The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox) Week 4

$5,100,000 in 2,375 theaters (+72); Cumulative: $18,300,000

This weekend’s continued strong performance (the gross fell only about a third) is the best indication yet that this timely drama about the aftermath of police killing has benefited from the careful handling by its studio (not usually involved in specialized niche releases). It placed #7 for the weekend.

The Old Man and the Gun (Fox Searchlight) Week 5

$1,800,000 in 1,042 theaters (+240); Cumulative: $7,214,000

Robert Redford’s late career star turn as a real-life bank robber has now grossed more than his 2013 solo vehicle “All Is Lost.” It now looks to reach around $10 million or over. It came in 11th position overall for the weekend.

Free Solo (Greenwich) Week 5

$1,062,000 in 394 theaters (+143); Cumulative: $5,178,000

Going deeper into mainstream theaters, National Geographic’s documentary about the death-defying Yosemite climb adds another million to its already impressive total.

Steve Carell, Maura Tierney, TimothŽe Chalamet, Oakley Bull, and Christian Convery star in BEAUTIFUL BOY

“Beautiful Boy”

Francois Duhamel

Beautiful Boy (Amazon) Week 3

$592,897 in 192 theaters (+46); Cumulative: $1,435,000

This story of a troubled family centering on a son’s drug addiction expands with some interest. While it’s not a breakout film at this point, its appeal is more centered on niche specialized audiences.

Colette (Bleecker Street) Week 6

$327,636 in 235 theaters (-285); Cumulative: $4,424,000

Keira Knightley’s portrayal of the French novelist is winding down after a decent specialized run that had some modest crossover appeal.

The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna) Week 6

$271,051 in 774 theaters (-367); Cumulative: $2,742,000

Jacques Audiard’s western with Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly has had a significant theatrical footprint but not a corresponding response. Whatever shows it had this weekend averaged $350.

The Happy Prince (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$80,604 in 71 theaters (+46); Cumulative: $224,239

Tea With the Dames (IFC) Week 6

$80,056 in 73 theaters (+2); Cumulative: $576,452

Four actresses sit down in a garden and talk, with enough appeal that this continues to find some ongoing limited interest.

The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 11

$78,476 in 82 theaters (-48); Cumulative: $7,608,000

Glenn Close’s long-running Nobel Award-centered drama has nearly tripled the gross of any of SPC’s films since “Call Me By Your Name.”

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‘Border’ First Trailer: Ali Abbassi’s Offbeat Oscar Contender Is a Vibrant Story of Trolls in Love

The Swedish entry for this year’s best foreign-language Oscar is an unexpected story about two outsiders who find each other.

John Ajvide Lindqvist knows a thing or two about crafting tales about outsiders in love, so it’s good news that the author behind vampire cult classic “Let the Right One In” turned his attention to another misbegotten segment of the (maybe?) mythical underclass: trolls. It’s even better news that Lindqvist’s story “Gräns” has been translated to the big screen by a filmmaker with the same affection for outsiders, thanks to Ali Abbassi and his festival hit “Border.”

Essentially a love story about trolls (maybe?), the film follows customs inspector Tina (Eva Melander, who transformed herself for the role) who possesses some unique abilities when it comes to her nose — in short, she can sniff out not just illegal contraband, but also human emotions. When Tina meets a man who shares some of her more, ahem, unique facial features, the world suddenly opens up to her in staggering (and weirdly heartwarming) new waves. Last month, Sweden chose the film as its official entry into this year’s Oscar race for best foreign-language film.

In his glowing Cannes review of the vibrant love story, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote, “Iranian-born director Abbasi’s sophomore effort … builds out such an unusual premise that it risks devolving into quirky inanity, but Abbasi grounds the narrative in an emotional foundation even as it flies off the rails. … The result is a kind of gothic romance that wouldn’t look out of place in Guillermo del Toro’s oeuvre.”

Neon picked up “Border” at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and will release the film on October 26. The film will also screen in the coming days at this year’s New York Film Festival.

Check out the first trailer for “Border” below, thanks to Entertainment Weekly.

MoviePass Films Takes Equity Stakes In NEON Films ‘Monsters And Men’ & ‘Border’

EXCLUSIVE: MoviePass Films has made a deal to invest in and co-release the next two films to be distributed by NEON: the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed Sundance award-winner Monsters and Men and Ali Abassi’s Cannes award-winner Border. Both films are c…

EXCLUSIVE: MoviePass Films has made a deal to invest in and co-release the next two films to be distributed by NEON: the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed Sundance award-winner Monsters and Men and Ali Abassi's Cannes award-winner Border. Both films are completed and will open theatrically in the U.S. this fall. MoviePass Films is a joint venture between MoviePass Inc. corporate parent Helios and Matheson Analytics and Emmett Furla Oasis (EFO) Films. Monsters and Men

Los Angeles Film Festival Launches, Hopefully Without an Identity Crisis

While LAFF made a radical move to fall, the festival did not change its focus or priorities. So far, sales are up.

Last year’s annual Los Angeles Film Festival started June 14 with Colin Trevorrow’s ill-fated “The Book of Henry” as its opening-night film, and continued with a program full of emerging independent filmmakers. The result was rock-bottom attendance with minimal press coverage, save from media sponsor The Los Angeles Times.

This year marks its first in a fall slot (September 20-28), a berth between the Toronto and New York film festivals. The opening-night premiere by record exec-turned filmmaker Andrew Slater was LA-centric music documentary “Echo in the Canyon;” held at the outdoor John Ford Amphitheater, a balmy Jakob Dylan and Michelle Phillips concert followed.

Is this the vibe that will let LAFF finally find its identity? Produced by Film Independent and now in its 24th year, the festival was once a summer home for quality international titles, then a place for world-premiere indie titles and films from under-represented demographics, it’s now under the leadership of Jennifer Cochis, a programmer and producer of James Ponsoldt’s “Smashed” and Drake Doremus’ “Douchebag.”

free solo alex honnold review

Free Solo

With the move to September, LAFF could now benefit from the influx of awards titles revealed on the fall festival circuit. However, it’s not a simple matter of build-it-and-they-will come; there’s already plenty of long-established options for distributors, who might hesitate to give their movies to an event that still trying to find itself after nearly a quarter century.

However, Film Independent president Josh Welsh said that awards movies aren’t really the point. “I don’t think the world needs another one of those big fall festivals on the awards circuit,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re still highlighting discovery and smaller titles. This is an artist-driven festival.”

While the dearth of ticket sales might appear to be a primary motivator, Welsh said the move to fall was under consideration for three years. “We’re not crazy,” he said. “But we had a growing sense that summer was an increasingly challenging time for indie films. And the fall landscape felt like a natural home.”

Cochis said that the summer slot was never a fit. “June is a home for tentpole movies and people on vacation,” she said. “Since this indie film festival started 24 years ago, it felt more like there was dissonance having an indie film festival plopped in the middle of the summer. For the first time in September, we have access to more young people who are able to attend the festival. We’ve never been able to engage with the student population at UCLA, USC, and LMU before, where people are coming to learn the craft of filmmaking, and offer student bundles and ticket prices in order to engage with a future generation of moviegoers.”

LAFF had to educate distributors and filmmakers that they were trying something new. “I talked to all the usual suspects,” Cochis said. “We also had a limited amount of slots. We’re learning by doing, trying to reorient the press and go door to door saying, ‘you might have remembered us in June; now we’re in September.’ We have a lot riding on what this will grow into being. This being year one, let’s see how this goes.”

That said, the new LAFF lineup is very similar to the emerging indie program they’ve booked in the past. Nonetheless, the festival says pass sales to date are triple what they were last year, with tickets trending up as well.

While there are few high-profile galas, there’s also a best-of-fest mindset that includes titles that may head for Oscar contention. “We’re showcasing the best new work for the LA audience from Cannes, Venice, SXSW, and Tribeca,” said Welsh.

“We have different metrics of success,” said Cochis. “These are titles journalists and people are excited to see, and so we’re giving them access.”

“United Skates”

Audiences can sample NatGeo’s Toronto documentary Audience Award winner, climbing film “Free Solo,” Fox Searchlight’s Melissa McCarthy dramedy “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” and Swedish Oscar entry and Un Certain Regard prize-winner “Border” (Neon). Other known titles include Berlin Screenwriting Silver Bear winner “Museo,” a Mexican heist film starring Gael Garcia Bernal, and Peter Bogdanovich’s Keaton documentary “The Great Buster” (Cohen Media).

The world premieres include Ike Barinholtz’s comedy “The Oath” (Roadside Attractions), starring Tiffany Haddish, John Cho, and Carrie Brownstein, and Kurt Mattila’s personal documentary “Stuntman,” which has landed executive producer Duane Johnson as it seeks a distributor.

One section that sold out right away was the Loyola Marymount VR Portal  programmed by former AFI FEST director Jacqueline Lyanga. “There’s an appetite and energy and enthusiasm for it,” said Cochis.

The Oath Tiffany Haddish Ike Barinholtz

“The Oath”

Roadside

Cochis kept the competition sections trim: under 50 films, with no set numbers per section. In fact the festival shrank to 143 titles, including shorts and VR pieces. “We kept to tiny competition sections on purpose,” she said, “to give the films a chance to be easily digestible and impact the run of the film for the filmmaker.” Welsh is also proud that many titles came through Film Independent’s labs, including Kate Nash’s documentary “Underestimate the Girl” and Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s “United Skates.”

For the festival’s opening night, Cochis went with giving the LA audience a good time with “Echo in the Canyon.” “I was weighing the platform itself — opening night at LAFF — what that means,” she said. “That stage and spotlight could be given to any variety of things. So we put forward this documentary film from a first-time filmmaker, to create an experience you could only have in LA, playing at the Ford outside with a picnic and music component. We decided to give them something unique at home.”

“Border”

The LAFF is programmed by a large group that reaches a democratic consensus after a discussion that weighs audiences as well as inclusion. While Cochis would love to reach 50/50 male/female director parity at the festival, she looks to her diverse group of programmers to have an eye for reflecting the world. “It’s not about, ‘You have to look for certain number films by gender,'” she said. “Inherently, people in the room are driving what we’re doing, always. ‘Is this film ready to go out into the world? Is this filmmaker ready to be put into the public eye?’ It’s the responsibility of every gatekeeper to use their platform correctly.”

Included in the LAFF are more episodic and new media titles such as Jason Blum’s premiere for Hulu horror series “Into the Dark,” as well as all the short films from Film Independent’s Project Involve. A 25-year celebration will be held Saturday night at the mansion of philanthropist George Soros. The festival is also welcoming Global Media Makers, nine mid-career filmmakers from the Middle East and North Africa, who will screen their films at LAFF and start a six-week residency program.

 

“The Stuntman”

 

“We’re here to to serve the filmmaker,” said Cochis. For next year, she will analyze what worked and what didn’t. “We’re not going to change for the sake of change. We’ll get on the other side of the festival first.”

Iranian Filmmaker Is Reportedly the First From His Country to Gain Exception to Trump Travel Ban — Telluride

“Border” director Ali Abbasi made it to Telluride after “a lot of paperwork,” but his travel problems are far from over.

Filmmaker Ali Abbasi lives in Copenhagen, but he has an Iranian passport; he grew up in the country and moved to Denmark when he was 20 years old. That proved complicated when his second feature “Border,” Sweden’s Oscar submission and the winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section last May, was selected for the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Due to the Trump Administration’s travel ban, which indefinitely suspends visas to Iranian citizens in addition to six other countries, Abbasi didn’t know if he could make it with his movie.

However, over the past week, the filmmaker learned that he was granted a rare exception to the rule. On Friday, he showed up at the Telluride Film Festival for the North American premiere of “Border,” which Neon will qualify in the U.S. later this year. Legal authorities have told him that he’s the first Iranian to gain an exception to the current version of the controversial policy, which the Supreme Court voted to uphold in early July. IndieWire has been unable to confirm the claim, though exceptions to the ban have been rare. In April, the Iranian American Bar Association reported that only two waivers were granted out of over 6,555 applications between December 8 and February 15.

“Some people really worked their asses off for us to be here, and we’re really grateful,” said Abbasi during a “Border” Q&A in Telluride on Saturday, when he was accompanied by his producer Nina Bisgaard, star Eva Melander, and costume designer Elsa Fischer.

Abassi noted over the last several weeks, he had to contend with “a lot of paperwork and a lot of chats with our lawyers and a lot of amusement.” Nevertheless, he found that once he arrived at the festival, he found himself in a familiar environment. “I’m going to drink some free booze, talk to you guys, and show the movie,” he said. “This wouldn’t be much different from what I’ve been doing in Sarajevo or in Oslo or anywhere else. So I’m like, why does it have to be difficult?”

Abassi has yet to book a return ticket, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to travel to Canada for the Toronto International Film Festival, where “Border” screens on September 10. In late July, the Immigrant Advocacy & Litigation Center PLLC, and Public Counsel filed a class action lawsuit against the Trump Administration on behalf of applications whose visa applications had been “wrongfully denied” or “stalled.”

When the first version of the ban was instituted in early February 2017, Iranian filmmaker Asgar Farhadi had the option to pursue a waiver to attend the Academy Awards ceremony where he would win the foreign language Oscar for “The Salesman,” but chose not to attend in protest. While it’s not yet clear if “Border” will make the shortlist, Abassi’s travel challenges are not over.

“I have to say this, though,” he said. “Since I’ve come into the United States, I’ve thought that we are so welcome. It’s great, especially after all these hurdles.”

He added that he could relate to the frustrations that some Americans had expressed to him. “I know exactly how it feels to be ashamed of your government,” he said. “I’ve been ashamed of the Iranian government since I was five. You just want to let people know that not all Iranians are like that. We’re people, you know? And I love that.”

As it turns out, “Border” deals rather directly with the challenges facing people ostracized by a close-minded society. The innovative fantasy finds Melander’s character discovering that she’s actually a troll separated from her kind at birth, and overcomes the cruel treatment she’s endured over the years when she finds romance with one of her own kind.

“In my opinion and my own experience, your identity is not something solid,” Abbasi said, reflecting on the movie’s themes. “I don’t think that just because I’m brown and from Iran, I have to feel like an Iranian doing this or that. Every person, to some extent, has the power to construct their own identity. That is an invitation for people to feel free to do so.”

Oscars: Sweden Selects Ali Abbasi’s ‘Border’ as Foreign Language Entry

Sweden has selected Ali Abbasi’s Cannes winner “Border” as its entry for best foreign language film at this year’s 91st Academy Awards. The Swedish Film Institute announced the choice Tuesday. Abbasi said he was “overwhelmed” that his film had been sel…

Sweden has selected Ali Abbasi’s Cannes winner “Border” as its entry for best foreign language film at this year’s 91st Academy Awards. The Swedish Film Institute announced the choice Tuesday. Abbasi said he was “overwhelmed” that his film had been selected. “I thought it was impossible to even get to Cannes, but as the film […]

Cannes Winner ‘Border’ In Contention Among Diverse LA Film Festival Competition Lineup

Forty feature films including 24 world premieres highlight the official LA Film Festival competition lineup in the fest’s move into the crowded fall festival corridor, away from their previous early-summer perch.
Among the movies in competition is the highly regarded Swedish film Border (Grans) from director Ali Abbasi, a NEON pickup out of Cannes that took the top prize in that festival’s No. 2 competition, Un Certain Regard. It is listed as a “California Premiere,”…

Forty feature films including 24 world premieres highlight the official LA Film Festival competition lineup in the fest’s move into the crowded fall festival corridor, away from their previous early-summer perch. Among the movies in competition is the highly regarded Swedish film Border (Grans) from director Ali Abbasi, a NEON pickup out of Cannes that took the top prize in that festival’s No. 2 competition, Un Certain Regard. It is listed as a “California Premiere,”…

Did Melania Trump Gaslight Foes With ‘I Really Don’t Care’ Jacket During Border Visit?

Melania Trump’s fashion choice when she arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Thursday sparked almost as much attention as her visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.

When before her flight to Texas, Melania Trump was seen wearing a Zara jacket with the words “I don’t really care, do u?” on the back, according to the Daily Mail. By the time she arrived, the first lady had changed jackets, but the damage was already done and backlash quickly grew on social media.

“Thank you for your refreshing honesty,” former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub said in a tweet. 

Also Read: Samantha Bee: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Is ‘Fjull of Shj-t’ (Video)

However, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said there was no message being sent at all, according to ABC reporter Meredith McGraw. “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on,” Grisham said.

NEW: @FLOTUS spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham when asked what message the first lady’s jacket intends to send: “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

– Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) June 21, 2018

Also Read: NFL Players Respond to Trump: ‘Handful of Pardons Will Not Address’ Systemic Injustice

The first lady visited the Upbring New Hope Children’s Center in McAllen, Texas, and the trip was made with the intention to give support to children who have been separated from their parents, Grisham had previously stated, according to the Associated Press. Upbring New Hope Children’s Center helps children who crossed the border unaccompanied, not children who have been taken from their parents.

“She wanted to see everything for herself,” Grisham continued. “She told her staff she wanted to go and we made that happen.”

Also Read: ‘Fox & Friends’ Rips Peter Fonda Over Barron Trump Tweet: ‘Who Even Thinks Like That?’

See reactions below to both her visit to Upbring and her wardrobe choice for the flight.

I mean let’s face it, she doesn’t. #PhotoOP
“Melania Trump made quite the sartorial statement on Thursday when she donned a jacket with the words, ‘I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?’ written across the back while boarding a plane to visit immigrant children being held at the border…” pic.twitter.com/DsAf9HVlQO

— Maya Contreras (@mayatcontreras) June 21, 2018

I get it – you’re trying to be ironic and say “if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be here, right?”

There’s a difference between BEING PRESENT and SHOWING UP. Melania, you’re at the border physically – but you’re in a cage emotionally. https://t.co/QaqxGhPqCC

— Grace Parra (@GraceParra360) June 21, 2018

I think we were undervaluing pictures when we said they were worth 1000 words. This is Melania Trump wearing a jacket that says “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” pic.twitter.com/pqPRemmuCb

— molly tanzer (abolish ICE & reunite families) (@molly_the_tanz) June 21, 2018

Today’s news:

Trump throws starbursts at Angela Merkel during G-7

Melania wears a jacket to visit kidnapped migrant children that says “I really don’t care, do you?”

Its costing taxpayers almost $800 per night for our gov’t to kidnap kids

Be proud @GOP

— Alt Fed Employee (@Alt_FedEmployee) June 21, 2018

What is happening? https://t.co/vCYVR07wNw

— Shannon Pettypiece (@spettypi) June 21, 2018

The jacket that FLOTUS had on as she boarded the plane for Texas: a $39 Zara military jacket that said in large print on the back, “I really don’t care, do u?” https://t.co/kNYAIGcdlm

— Francesca Chambers (@fran_chambers) June 21, 2018

Dear @FLOTUS, thank you for your refreshing honesty. pic.twitter.com/u7KRGJaXgB

— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 21, 2018

THIS PHOTO OP PRESS CONFERENCE IS A LOAD OF CRAP!
THIS IS THE BIGGEST FLIM FLAM CON JOB! SHAME ON EVERYONE INVOLVED!
NO TALK ABOUT HOW THEY’RE GOING TO RETURN KIDS WHOSE PARENTS HAVE BEEN DEPORTED. NO EXPLANATION OF HOW IDENTITIES ARE RECORDED AND THEIR PARENTS ARE TRACKED.

— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 21, 2018

Yes, Melania is the crisis actor.

— Randi Mayem Singer (@rmayemsinger) June 21, 2018

These kids don’t need Melania Trump, they need their parents.

Let’s focus on that, not on a publicity stunt by the White House.

— Emilia (@PoliticalEmilia) June 21, 2018

Where are the babies and the girls? If @FLOTUS demands open access to them, then she’s been helpful. Otherwise she just making these children’s situation worse by spreading propaganda.

— ????Eleni D. Kring (@EleniKring) June 21, 2018

Melania visited a child detention center for children who crossed the border unaccompanied. This is not a detention center with children who were separated from their parents.

Melania is whitewashing this scandal for good PR.

— Denizcan Grimes (@MrFilmkritik) June 21, 2018

You want an example of a crisis actor?
Look at Melania Trump.
This is nothing but a publicity stunt.
If she really cared about these kids, she would talk to her husband and work on better immigration reform.
She hasn’t.

— Emilia (@PoliticalEmilia) June 21, 2018

Check out crisis actor Melania Trump pic.twitter.com/0bwfjbmiWQ

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) June 21, 2018

Melania Trump just visited a CHILD INTERNMENT CAMP and turned it into a fucking photo-op for her husband who is guilty of kidnapping and abusing children. These people (the Trumps) have no soul.

— Ryan Knight ???? (@ProudResister) June 21, 2018

|@FLOTUS THANK YOU for showing up and asking how these children will be reunited with their families! Please help find the girls and babies.

— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) June 21, 2018

@chrislhayes @maddow @NicolleDWallace @Lawrence PLEASE FOCUS ON WHY MELANIA DID NOT VISIT GIRLS AND INFANTS! Her visit was useless and self-serving

— Becca Brettschneider (@BeccaBretts) June 21, 2018

I have some questions. https://t.co/qkBwjyQ6s9

– Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) June 21, 2018

Related stories from TheWrap:

Melania Trump Is OK, and This Weird Grainy Video Proves It (Video)

Rolling Stone Writer Suggests Melania Trump’s Absence ‘Could Be About Concealing Abuse’

Kathy Griffin Takes a Poke at Melania Trump Over ‘Very Disturbing’ Comment

CNN Contributor April Ryan Dings Melania Trump as ‘Not Culturally American’

Melania Trump’s fashion choice when she arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Thursday sparked almost as much attention as her visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.

When before her flight to Texas, Melania Trump was seen wearing a Zara jacket with the words “I don’t really care, do u?” on the back, according to the Daily Mail. By the time she arrived, the first lady had changed jackets, but the damage was already done and backlash quickly grew on social media.

“Thank you for your refreshing honesty,” former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub said in a tweet. 

However, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said there was no message being sent at all, according to ABC reporter Meredith McGraw. “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on,” Grisham said.

The first lady visited the Upbring New Hope Children’s Center in McAllen, Texas, and the trip was made with the intention to give support to children who have been separated from their parents, Grisham had previously stated, according to the Associated Press. Upbring New Hope Children’s Center helps children who crossed the border unaccompanied, not children who have been taken from their parents.

“She wanted to see everything for herself,” Grisham continued. “She told her staff she wanted to go and we made that happen.”

See reactions below to both her visit to Upbring and her wardrobe choice for the flight.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Melania Trump Is OK, and This Weird Grainy Video Proves It (Video)

Rolling Stone Writer Suggests Melania Trump's Absence 'Could Be About Concealing Abuse'

Kathy Griffin Takes a Poke at Melania Trump Over 'Very Disturbing' Comment

CNN Contributor April Ryan Dings Melania Trump as 'Not Culturally American'

Peter Fonda Apologizes for ‘Highly Inappropriate’ Barron Trump Tweet: ‘I Went Way Too Far’

Peter Fonda apologized on Wednesday after suggesting on Twitter that someone put Barron Trump “in a cage with pedophiles” in order to get President Donald Trump to do something about children being separated from their families at the border.

“I tweeted something highly inappropriate and vulgar about the president and his family in response to the devastating images I was seeing on television,” Fonda said in a statement. “Like many Americans, I am very impassioned and distraught over the situation with children separated from their families at the border, but I went way too far. It was wrong and I should not have done it. I immediately regretted it and sincerely apologize to the family for what I said and any hurt my words have caused.”

Fonda said Wednesday morning, in a now-deleted tweet: “We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles and see if mother will stand up against the giant a-hole she is married to.”

Also Read: Peter Fonda Suggests Separating Donald Trump’s Son Barron: ‘Put Him in a Cage With Pedophiles’

President Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., took to Twitter calling for Sony Pictures Classic to take action. Fonda, a two-time Oscar nominee, stars alongside Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga in Sony’s “Boundaries,” which is out Friday.

Melania Trump’s spokesperson was quick to denounce Fonda, saying, “the tweet is sick and irresponsible and USSS has been notified.”

The Secret Service told TheWrap that it was aware of the tweet but declined to offer any additional comments

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday putting an end to his administration’s policy of separating the families of undocumented migrants at the U.S. border.

The policy had drawn a lot of criticism as videos and audio clips were released, showing the cage-like conditions in which many of the separated children are being held.

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Unbearable Darkness of Trump – South of the Border Edition

Facebook Helps Raise Millions to Reunite Families Separated at the Border

‘Morning Joe’: Immigrant Kids Detained on the Border Are ‘Being Taken Hostage’

Ann Coulter Calls Crying Immigrant Kids Detained at Border ‘Child Actors’ (Video)

Peter Fonda apologized on Wednesday after suggesting on Twitter that someone put Barron Trump “in a cage with pedophiles” in order to get President Donald Trump to do something about children being separated from their families at the border.

“I tweeted something highly inappropriate and vulgar about the president and his family in response to the devastating images I was seeing on television,” Fonda said in a statement. “Like many Americans, I am very impassioned and distraught over the situation with children separated from their families at the border, but I went way too far. It was wrong and I should not have done it. I immediately regretted it and sincerely apologize to the family for what I said and any hurt my words have caused.”

Fonda said Wednesday morning, in a now-deleted tweet: “We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles and see if mother will stand up against the giant a-hole she is married to.”

President Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., took to Twitter calling for Sony Pictures Classic to take action. Fonda, a two-time Oscar nominee, stars alongside Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga in Sony’s “Boundaries,” which is out Friday.

Melania Trump’s spokesperson was quick to denounce Fonda, saying, “the tweet is sick and irresponsible and USSS has been notified.”

The Secret Service told TheWrap that it was aware of the tweet but declined to offer any additional comments

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday putting an end to his administration’s policy of separating the families of undocumented migrants at the U.S. border.

The policy had drawn a lot of criticism as videos and audio clips were released, showing the cage-like conditions in which many of the separated children are being held.

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Unbearable Darkness of Trump – South of the Border Edition

Facebook Helps Raise Millions to Reunite Families Separated at the Border

'Morning Joe': Immigrant Kids Detained on the Border Are 'Being Taken Hostage'

Ann Coulter Calls Crying Immigrant Kids Detained at Border 'Child Actors' (Video)

‘Border’ Takes Top Un Certain Regard Prize; ‘Girl’s Victor Polster Tapped Best Performance – Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival’s companion competition section, Un Certain Regard, has unveiled its picks for best in show with the top prize going to Border (Grans) from Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi. The fantasy thriller is based on a novella wr…

The Cannes Film Festival’s companion competition section, Un Certain Regard, has unveiled its picks for best in show with the top prize going to Border (Grans) from Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi. The fantasy thriller is based on a novella written by Let The Right One In‘s John Ajvide Lindqvist. Neon acquired domestic early in the festival. The film centers on a customs officer with an uncanny knack for sniffing out guilt. But when she develops a strange attraction…

Cannes Film Review: ‘Border’

A Swedish customs officer with a special talent for detecting contraband must ultimately choose between good and evil in the idiosyncratic thriller “Border,” an exciting, intelligent mix of romance, Nordic noir, social realism, and supernatural horror …

A Swedish customs officer with a special talent for detecting contraband must ultimately choose between good and evil in the idiosyncratic thriller “Border,” an exciting, intelligent mix of romance, Nordic noir, social realism, and supernatural horror that defies and subverts genre conventions. Destined to be a cult classic, this absorbing second feature from Iran-born, Denmark-based […]

Neon Picks Up Troll Love Story ‘Border’

Neon acquired North American rights to director Ali Abbasi’s troll love story “Border” following its world premiere at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, the company announced Friday.

The Swedish genre film is based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, whose previous vampire story “Let the Right One In” became an international film hit in 2010 — and was also adapted by Hollywood two years later.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Border,” the second feature from Iranian-born Danish director Abbasi, follows a border guard (Eva Melander) who has the ability to smell human emotions and catch smugglers. When she comes across a mysterious man with a smell that confounds her detection, she is forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.

Also Read: ‘Border’ Film Review: Are Moviegoers Ready for Hot, Hairy Troll Sex?

Abassi co-scripted the film with Isabella Eklöf, in collaboration with Lindqvist.

TheWrap’s Steve Pond described the film as “a quintessential midnight movie for the artiest of art-houses,” noting its depiction of maggot-eating beast people who engage in “some hairy, sweaty and distinctly unusual troll sex.”

He added, “But it’s also an allegory of how we treat outsiders, from migrants to those who don’t love the same way we do.”

Also Read: Bleecker Street Acquires Mads Mikkelsen Survival Drama ‘Arctic’

Producers include Nina Bisgaard, Piodor Gustafsson and Petra Jönsson for Meta Film Stockholm, Spark Film & TV and Kärnfilm, in co-production with Meta Film Denmark, together with Film i Väst, SVT and Copenhagen Film Fund.

The Swedish Film Institute and Nordisk Film & TV Fond provided production support. The film was also supported by the Danish Film Institute, MEDIA and Eurimages.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Border’ Film Review: Are Moviegoers Ready for Hot, Hairy Troll Sex?

Cannes Confirms ‘Don Quixote’ for Closing Night, Praises Court Win: ‘Cinema Has Regained Its Rights’

Cannes Report, Day 2: ‘Rafiki’ Makes History, ‘Don Quixote’ Scores Legal Victory

15 of Cannes’ Hottest Directors, From Spike Lee to Debra Granik to Paul Dano (Exclusive Photos)

Neon acquired North American rights to director Ali Abbasi’s troll love story “Border” following its world premiere at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, the company announced Friday.

The Swedish genre film is based on a novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, whose previous vampire story “Let the Right One In” became an international film hit in 2010 — and was also adapted by Hollywood two years later.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Border,” the second feature from Iranian-born Danish director Abbasi, follows a border guard (Eva Melander) who has the ability to smell human emotions and catch smugglers. When she comes across a mysterious man with a smell that confounds her detection, she is forced to confront hugely disturbing insights about herself and humankind.

Abassi co-scripted the film with Isabella Eklöf, in collaboration with Lindqvist.

TheWrap’s Steve Pond described the film as “a quintessential midnight movie for the artiest of art-houses,” noting its depiction of maggot-eating beast people who engage in “some hairy, sweaty and distinctly unusual troll sex.”

He added, “But it’s also an allegory of how we treat outsiders, from migrants to those who don’t love the same way we do.”

Producers include Nina Bisgaard, Piodor Gustafsson and Petra Jönsson for Meta Film Stockholm, Spark Film & TV and Kärnfilm, in co-production with Meta Film Denmark, together with Film i Väst, SVT and Copenhagen Film Fund.

The Swedish Film Institute and Nordisk Film & TV Fond provided production support. The film was also supported by the Danish Film Institute, MEDIA and Eurimages.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Border' Film Review: Are Moviegoers Ready for Hot, Hairy Troll Sex?

Cannes Confirms 'Don Quixote' for Closing Night, Praises Court Win: 'Cinema Has Regained Its Rights'

Cannes Report, Day 2: 'Rafiki' Makes History, 'Don Quixote' Scores Legal Victory

15 of Cannes' Hottest Directors, From Spike Lee to Debra Granik to Paul Dano (Exclusive Photos)

NEON Makes First Cannes 2018 Purchase With Ali Abbasi’s Acclaimed ‘Border’

The up-and-coming indie distributor is making the leap into the foreign-language film market.

NEON, the indie distributor behind the Oscar-winning “I, Tonya,” has made its first Cannes acquisition thanks to a deal purchasing North American rights to “Border.” The movie premiered to acclaim at Cannes 2018 in the Un Certain Regard section. Variety first reported the news.

“Border” is the Cannes debut of Danish-Iranian director Ali Abbassi. The script is based on a novella written by “Let The Right One In” scribe John Ajvide. Eva Melander stars as a border guard with the ability to smell human emotions and catch and detain smugglers. Her life is changed after she meets a mysterious man with a small that eludes her. Critics fell hard for the film at Cannes, with many writing it has cult classic potential.

“‘Border’ builds out such an unusual premise that it risks devolving into quirky inanity, but Abbasi grounds the narrative in an emotional foundation even as it flies off the rails,” IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote in his B+ review.

In addition to “I, Tonya,” NEON is best known for indies “Gemini,” “Colossal,” “The Bad Batch,” and “Borg vs. McEnroe.” The company has yet to push into the international film scene, which makes “Border’ a lucrative acquisition.

‘Border’ Review: Gender-Bending Fairy Tale Is a Wild Ugly Duckling Story From the Writer of ‘Let the Right One In’ — Cannes

Ali Abbasi’s strange tale of an introverted woman coming out of her shell takes some unique twists.

At first, “Border” is the story of an ostracized woman named Tina (Eva Melander), who works at a remote Danish port where she sniffs out contraband, and long ago accepted that she was ostracized because of her unusual appearance. But this is not your average ugly duckling story. As the movie charts a path to her burgeoning self-confidence, it arrives at a sex scene so unexpected and ludicrous it instantly transforms the movie into a dark fairy tale.

Iranian-born director Ali Abbasi’s sophomore effort (following 2016’s “Shelley”), co-written by the author of the Swedish vampire novel “Let the Right One In,” builds out such an unusual premise that it risks devolving into quirky inanity, but Abbasi grounds the narrative in an emotional foundation even as it flies off the rails.

While Tina possesses unique abilities, she has sagged into a mundane routine. A short, bulky woman with a gnarly overbite and exaggerated snout, she spends her days watching new arrivals at the port, sniffing the air like an animal as she puts her inexplicable sense of smell to use by picking up on contraband and busting smugglers on a regular basis. Tina’s peers don’t comprehend her special abilities, but she’s so effective at using them that nobody questions them.

Sadly, years of rude stares and teasing have turned Tina into a dour introvert who has accepted the absence of happiness in her life. She spends her evenings at home in a remote forest with her apathetic partner Roland (Jorgen Thorsson), who’s more content with watching television and petting his dogs than paying her heed; meanwhile, her senile father barely recognizes her when she pays him a visit. Tina finds some modicum of comfort from her relationship to animals, going so far as to pet a passing moose in her yard after dark, but the monotony of her day-to-day routine shows no signs of letting up. As she sneers, growls, and sniffs the air, her peculiar habits seem like a cruel joke with no apparent punchline.

Then she meets Vore (Eero Milonoff), who arrives at the port and instantly catches her gaze. They pair have markedly similar physical characteristics: the same elongated nose, jagged teeth, and long brow (the movie’s makeup art plays a big role in the plot). Vore displays a strange eagerness to subject to himself to a search from border security, which leads to the first of several revelations about his gender-bending identity and how it relates to Tina’s own feelings of displacement.

She begins to obsess over Vore, who displays all the confidence she lacks, and he begins to seduce her in a series of enigmatic encounters. Abbasi plays up the disgust factor, as Vore has a penchant for munching on maggots and relishes the presence of dirt underneath his fingernails, while Tina is at once repulsed and aroused by every detail of his existence. However, just as their courtship starts to look like an outrageous variation on Tod Browning’s “Freaks,” the story takes another turn that reveals far more about their past and takes the movie into a more fantastical realm. These sexually-fluid beings are more than the sum of their appearances, and when Tina learns as much, she’s forced to grapple with a whole new set of questions.

“Border”

The two actors play their strange characters with such believable empathy that “Border” manages to work far better than it should. While it takes a few too many dramatic detours, including a subplot involving a local pedophilia ring that distracts from the appeal of this central coupling, the movie retains an elevated sense of awe around the nature of Tina and Vore’s relationship. Beyond their strange mutant powers — sniffing emotions and attracting lightning among them — their bond speaks the capacity to dismantle social constructs associated with physical appearances by rewiring traditional standards. The result is a kind of gothic romance that wouldn’t look out of place in Guillermo del Toro’s oeuvre. “I’m deformed,” Tina says, astonished by Vore’s advances, and he fires back, “You’re perfect.”

The screenplay draws from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s short story, but it’s also credited to Isabella Eklof, whose recent directorial debut “Holiday” contains a rape scene so shocking and explicit it dares audiences to question the filmmaker’s intentions. While “Border” doesn’t harbor quite the same level of sophistication, it’s another shrewd attempt to challenge audiences about the assumptions they bring to the table.

By the time Vore proclaims that “the entire human race is a disease,” it feels like he’s indicting all of us. “Border” doesn’t stop there. While Tina gains confidence in herself, she’s unsure where her allegiances lie, and the movie concludes with the implication that not every ugly duckling has to abandon the other birds to feel like they belong.

Grade: B

“Border” premiered in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution. 

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‘Border’ Film Review: Are Moviegoers Ready for Hot, Hairy Troll Sex?

Every year, a couple of films at the Cannes Film Festival push the boundaries in a way that finds viewers laughing nervously and staring at the screen slack-jawed, either struggling to comprehend what they’re seeing or simply embracing the weirdness of it.

Master provocateurs like Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noe have yet to show their hands at this year’s Cannes, but Iranian director Ali Abbasi dropped an impressive pile of WTF on Thursday with the premiere of his film “Border” (“Grans”), in which the first of the weird mega-shocker moments came with some hairy, sweaty and distinctly unusual troll sex.

Let’s just say that gender is apparently a fluid concept in the troll world and leave it at that.

Also Read: Terry Gilliam’s Epically Troubled ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote:’ A Brief History

It drew uneasy laughter in the Salle Debussy on Thursday, and then a robust round of applause when the film ended. “Border” is a quintessential midnight movie for the artiest of art-houses, though its prospects for any kind of wide distribution in the U.S. are likely slim.

(Surprisingly, perhaps, it’s playing not in Cannes’ Midnight Screenings section, but in the tonier Un Certain Regard section.)

If you want, this is a horror film in which strange beast people eat maggots, based on a novella by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindquist, who also wrote the spooky classic “Let the Right One In.” But it’s also an allegory of how we treat outsiders, from migrants to those who don’t love the same way we do. Either way, it’s creepy and disturbing and freaky, with enough room to find whatever subtext you’re looking for.

The central character is Tina (Eva Melander), a rough-looking customs agent in Sweden who has an uncanny knack of sniffing out travelers who are trying to bring in contraband. But she’s not the human version of a drug-sniffing dog, because Tina actually smells feelings.

Also Read: Sony Classics Picks Up Lebanese Director Nadine Labaki’s ‘Capernaum’

“I can just sense these things: shame, guilt rage,” Tina tells an investigator who’s enlisted her to stop a child-pornography ring.

“Is it really possible to smell what people are feeling?” the investigator asks.

“Yes,” says Tina. And we know she’s telling the truth, because we’ve seen it happen.

Of course, it takes us a while for us (and Tina) to know why it happens, and what that means for Tina. It’s all tied in to the scars on her body and the hair in unexpected places and the hint of a tail, and the appearance of a man named Vore with some unusual appetites and a familiar look to him.

Also Read: Terry Gilliam’s Epically Troubled ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote:’ A Brief History

Oh, and what the guy keeps in his refrigerator might give David Lynch the willies, or at least a shock of recognition.

Abbasi, whose only previous film was the 2016 horror movie “Shelley,” takes us on a wild ride, with black comedy bringing laughs that catch in the throat when Tina’s professional and personal lives unexpectedly collide. “Border” is dark and unsettling and proudly deranged; it’s the kind of shocker that may not survive too well outside the festival environment, but seems to be a necessary part of every Cannes.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Cannes Confirms ‘Don Quixote’ for Closing Night, Praises Court Win: ‘Cinema Has Regained Its Rights’

Cannes Report, Day 2: ‘Rafiki’ Makes History, ‘Don Quixote’ Scores Legal Victory

Terry Gilliam’s ‘Don Quixote’ Loses Amazon as US Distributor, Wins Court Fight to Screen as Cannes Closer

Every year, a couple of films at the Cannes Film Festival push the boundaries in a way that finds viewers laughing nervously and staring at the screen slack-jawed, either struggling to comprehend what they’re seeing or simply embracing the weirdness of it.

Master provocateurs like Lars von Trier and Gaspar Noe have yet to show their hands at this year’s Cannes, but Iranian director Ali Abbasi dropped an impressive pile of WTF on Thursday with the premiere of his film “Border” (“Grans”), in which the first of the weird mega-shocker moments came with some hairy, sweaty and distinctly unusual troll sex.

Let’s just say that gender is apparently a fluid concept in the troll world and leave it at that.

It drew uneasy laughter in the Salle Debussy on Thursday, and then a robust round of applause when the film ended. “Border” is a quintessential midnight movie for the artiest of art-houses, though its prospects for any kind of wide distribution in the U.S. are likely slim.

(Surprisingly, perhaps, it’s playing not in Cannes’ Midnight Screenings section, but in the tonier Un Certain Regard section.)

If you want, this is a horror film in which strange beast people eat maggots, based on a novella by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindquist, who also wrote the spooky classic “Let the Right One In.” But it’s also an allegory of how we treat outsiders, from migrants to those who don’t love the same way we do. Either way, it’s creepy and disturbing and freaky, with enough room to find whatever subtext you’re looking for.

The central character is Tina (Eva Melander), a rough-looking customs agent in Sweden who has an uncanny knack of sniffing out travelers who are trying to bring in contraband. But she’s not the human version of a drug-sniffing dog, because Tina actually smells feelings.

“I can just sense these things: shame, guilt rage,” Tina tells an investigator who’s enlisted her to stop a child-pornography ring.

“Is it really possible to smell what people are feeling?” the investigator asks.

“Yes,” says Tina. And we know she’s telling the truth, because we’ve seen it happen.

Of course, it takes us a while for us (and Tina) to know why it happens, and what that means for Tina. It’s all tied in to the scars on her body and the hair in unexpected places and the hint of a tail, and the appearance of a man named Vore with some unusual appetites and a familiar look to him.

Oh, and what the guy keeps in his refrigerator might give David Lynch the willies, or at least a shock of recognition.

Abbasi, whose only previous film was the 2016 horror movie “Shelley,” takes us on a wild ride, with black comedy bringing laughs that catch in the throat when Tina’s professional and personal lives unexpectedly collide. “Border” is dark and unsettling and proudly deranged; it’s the kind of shocker that may not survive too well outside the festival environment, but seems to be a necessary part of every Cannes.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Cannes Confirms 'Don Quixote' for Closing Night, Praises Court Win: 'Cinema Has Regained Its Rights'

Cannes Report, Day 2: 'Rafiki' Makes History, 'Don Quixote' Scores Legal Victory

Terry Gilliam's 'Don Quixote' Loses Amazon as US Distributor, Wins Court Fight to Screen as Cannes Closer