TALLINN - Rebels, scandals, sex, drugs and bombs 's no wonder the U.S. government was keen to disassociate itself from the Manifest Film Festival. The festival, held this month in Tallinn and Tartu, is a celebration of American culture through film. Although the U.S. Embassy admirably contributed money toward the event, the back of the program carries a disclaimer 's the U.S. government does not endorse the content of the movies on display.
"The films chosen were, in their time, scandalous and innovative," explains Mihkel Randruut, co-director of the festival.
The eight films selected are a slice of U.S. counter-culture, chosen for their risque content and ground-breaking style. More importantly, they all fit the festival's chosen subject 's freedom of speech.
"They are from the most famous and best directors, such as Hitchcock, Welles and Kubrick. They showed topics which were not accepted at their time. For example, 'Midnight Cowboy' was the first R-rated film to win an Oscar."
As Randruut explains, many of the films looked to Europe for their influence 's a groundbreaking move for American cinema.
"Before [this time], Hollywood concentrated on epic movies with historical topics, or musicals. After that, they moved to more social topics."
Alfred Hitchcock's "Notorious" opens the festival. Risque for its time, the film shows screen sirens
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in a story of espionage and love in Rio de Janiero.
The parade of screen legends continues with "Touch of Evil," featuring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and director Orson Welles. The film, a story of drugs, cops and explosions on a Mexcian border town, is considered a defining film noir, and opens with a famous 3.5 minute continuous shot.
Then there's the movie that introduced the concept of counter-culture to mainstream cinema, and gave a name, voice and image to the alternative lifestyles of the late 1960s - the motorcycle classic "Easy Rider." The plot follows Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as they high-tail their way to New Orleans. With their huge handlebars, leather jackets and hip slang, Hopper and Fonda encouraged an entire generation to head out on two wheels. The film features a supporting cast of Jack Nicholson and the infamous music producer Phil Spector, and laid the foundation for books and films such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."
In "Midnight Cowboy," (1969) Jon Voight plays a cowboy-turned-gigolo working on the streets of New York who forms an unlikely friendship with a homeless conman, Dustin Hoffman. Undertones of a gay relationship between the two raised scandal at the time, yet the movie went on to win three Oscars including Best Film.
New York's alternative scene is again examined in "Ciao Manhattan," a trippy look inside life at Andy Warhol's notorious Factory. It tells the twin stories of Edie Sedgwick - one of Warhol's followers 's and her alter-ego character Susan Superstar. The characters' parallel quests for fame and ultimate demise are tied together 's the fictional account of Susan, as given by Edie, and the real life story of Edie, as revealed through her drug-fueled deterioration and eventual death.
Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick both offer their best take at surreal comedy through "Sleeper" (1973) and "Dr. Strangelove" (1964).
The only recent film on the program is last year's "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary about the looming threat of global warming, as told by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Shedding his political skin, Gore draws on his life-long campaigning over environmental issues to explain the science of global warming and its current and future effects on the planet. "Should we prepare for other threats besides terrorism?" Gore asks. The film has been nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, an increasingly popular and competitive category since Michael Moore's entry to the genre.
The festival directors sought the opinions of Estonian film experts to make their final selection.
This is the second U.S. cultural film festival, but the fifth film festival to be held under the Manifest logo since 2004.
The brains behind the Manifest event is a group called The Culture Makers, which was also responsible for the "Femme Fatal" film festival held in summer.
Each of the films will be introduced by cultural professors or experts who will explain their significance in shaping American society.
"Last time we had full houses, so it is necessary to book tickets," Randruut advises.
Cult Film Festival
Cinema Soprus, Tallinn
Feb. 2 's 9
Harbour Theater, Tartu
Feb. 11 - 15