Film captures art’s power

Special To The Times

A stirring meditation on art and remembrance, “Ninth November Night” documents Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein’s sprawling 1988 art installation recalling the horrors of the Holocaust -- and the exhibit’s defacement by vandals shortly after it was unveiled.

Directed by Henning Lohner and featuring on-camera appearances by Helnwein collectors Sean Penn and Jason Lee, the documentary short is largely the product of the passion and persistence of Malibu producer Gisela Guttman. When she struggled to find a venue in Los Angeles willing to show Helnwein’s large-scale installation, she decided to make a documentary instead.

The art installation, which revolves around a series of pictures of small children, was vandalized after its initial showing in Germany.


“The one thing I wanted to do is just be sure that people can see the entire installation, I just really wanted to bring it to Los Angeles, no matter how,” Guttman said. “The power of those images really comes across on-screen, and that’s what I wanted people to see and to think about.”

“Ninth November Night” is being screened today and Sunday during the final weekend of the AFI Fest. As the 11-day event comes to a close, and the last of the 135 films from 42 countries unspool, festival organizers report that attendance for this year is up by 35%.

The dwindling days of film festivals are notorious for their half-hearted, running-on-fumes feel, but festival organizers say some of the best films have yet to be seen.

All films receive two official screenings, and there are a handful of films receiving their second showing over the final days. Among the films being screened this weekend: Argentine director Pablo Trapero’s “Rolling Family,” the hilariously low-key Mexican film “Duck Season,” the offbeat bowling documentary “League of Ordinary Gentlemen,” and “Ferpect Crime,” the latest from the mad scientist of Spanish cinema, director Alex de la Iglesia.

That’s not to say there are only seconds and leftovers. The closing-night film Sunday is the U.S. premiere of the highly touted “The Sea Inside” from filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar, featuring a much-talked-about performance by Javier Bardem. The French Academy Awards submission “Les Choristes” screens once Saturday, and among those films screening twice over Saturday and Sunday are the American independent “Speak,” the German drama “Peas at 5:30" and the Brazilian film “The Other Side of the Street,” directed by the co-writer of “Central Station,” Marcos Bernstein.

Also showing Saturday and Sunday will be all three “Infernal Affairs” pictures -- taut, engaging thrillers featuring two of Hong Kong’s best actors, Andrew Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai.