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The 5th San Joaquin International Film Festival (SJIFF) announced that its Centerpiece films will be the Valley premiere of “Le Havre” (Finland’s official entry for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film) by Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki and “Being Elmo – A Puppeteer’s Journey” by American documentary filmmaker Constance Marks.

The films selected for the Centerpiece program are cinematic stories that capture the essence of humanity, power of expression and universality of cinema arts.

“Le Havre ” will screen Saturday, January 14th, 2012 at 7:00pm at the Stockton Empire Theatre (1825 Pacific Avenue).

“Being Elmo – A Puppeteer’s Journey” will screen Sunday, January 15th at 3:00pm at the Janet Leigh Theatre on the campus of University of the Pacific (3601 Pacific Avenue).

LE HAVRE

“A stylized and sentimental fairy tale about the way the world might be… Aki Kaurismäki has become a major inheritor of the comic-humanist tradition of Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir and Jacques Tati.” –A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“Four stars! There is nothing cynical or cheap about it, it tells a good story with clear eyes and a level gaze, and it just plain makes you feel good.” –Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

Synopsis from Janus Films : “In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbor city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Carné, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight..” (93 minutes; in French with English subtitles; produced in Finland, France and Germany in 2011)

“Le Havre” held its World Premiere in Competition for the Palm d’Or at the prestigious Festival de Cannes in May 2011, where it won the FIPRESCI International Federation of Film Critics Award. After Cannes, it was selected for many of the world’s leading international film festivals, including Toronto, Busan, San Sebastian, Karlovy Vary, Stockholm, Sarajevo, Rio de Janeiro, Taipei, Torino, Melbourne, Haifa, Haugesund Norwegian, New York, Telluride and Hamptons. In Munich, it was honored with the Arri-Zeiss-Award. In Locarno, it screened to 8,000 spectators at the open-air Piazza Grande. In Chicago, it won the top prize, the Gold Hugo. “Le Havre” is currently nominated for four 2011 European Film Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenwriter.

Director Aki Kaurismäki was born in Orimattila, Finland. His early work was featured in the Festival’s 1988 Spotlight programme. His feature films include Crime and Punishment (83), Calamari Union (85), Shadows in Paradise (86), Hamlet Goes Business (87), Ariel (88), Leningrad Cowboys Go America (89), The Match Factory Girl (90), I Hired a Contract Killer (90), La Vie de Bohème (92), Total Balalaika Show (94), Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatjana (94), Drifting Clouds (96), Juha (99), The Man Without a Past (02), Lights in the Dusk (06) and Le Havre (11).” –Toronto International Film Festival

BEING ELMO – A PUPPETEER’S JOURNEY

“Critics’ pick! A winning tale of the persistence and creativity behind one of the most famous and fuzziest faces in the world.” –Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times

“Production values are top-notch, particularly the cinematography by James Miller and Joel Goodman’s energetic, fanciful score. ‘Being Elmo’ is a rare documentary that will connect across generations and cultures to delight viewers worldwide for years to come.” –Justin Lowe, The Hollywood Reporter

Synopsis from BeingElmo.com: “Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. Few people know his creator, Kevin Clash, who dreamed of working with his idol, master puppeteer Jim Henson. Displaying his creativity and talent at a young age, Kevin ultimately found a home on Sesame Street. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this documentary includes rare archival footage, interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O’Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and others and offers a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.” (85 minutes; in English; produced in USA in 2011)

“Being Elmo – A Puppeteer’s Journey” held its World Premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Prize. It won the Audiencec Award and a Special Jury Award at the Traverse City Film Festival, and has screened at various festivals around the world, including Hot Docs Canada International Documentary Film Festival, AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs, SXSW and Mill Valley. It is currently nominated for the Audience Award at IFP’s 2011 Gotham Awards.

Director Constance Marks is an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker. She is the founder and president of Constance Marks Productions, Inc., a documentary production company based in New York City. Marks began her filmmaking career over 30 years ago as an assistant editor for the renowned Cinema Verite pioneers, David and Albert Maysles.Marks’ critically acclaimed films have been shown theatrically, broadcast widely, and garnered numerous awards. Her productions include Return to Appalachia which aired on PBS, Let’s Fall in Love: A Singles Weekend at the Concord Hotel. which was selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as one of the outstanding documentaries of the year, and Green Chimneys – a full-length documentary feature film which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on HBO. Marks has produced numerous films focusing on important social issues including homelessness, the elderly, experimental charter schools and substance abuse recovery residences. –beingelmo.com

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