Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

My Favourite War (2020)

Dir.: Ilze Burkowska-Jacobsen; Documentary; Animation by Svein Nyhus; Latvia/Norway 2020, 80 min.

Latvian director/writer Ilze Burkowska-Jacobsen tells the story of her childhood growing up under Soviet occupation. What shines through is her romantic yearning for the countryside in a self-censored biopic enlivened by delicately drawn animations, interviews and documentary footage.

Young Ilza tells her story of dislocation and dual alliances (voiced by Mare Eihe): growing up in the ancient town of Saldus in Courland where her father was an active propagandist of Soviet values – dying in a car accident when Ilze was seven. Her mother was much more critical of the State, but toed the party line – even joining – to help her daughter advance to university and study Journalism, as her father had done before her.

Meanwhile Ilze’s grandfather, deported to Siberia for opposing the collectivisation in 1930s, was fearful of his granddaughter turning to communism, sending her to play outside while he was listening to a banned Western Radio Station. Ilze was unaware of what was going on still fervently believing in the founder of the Soviet State, Lenin: who hands her an ice cream while she is out for a drive with her parents. Later on she returns home empty-handed after waiting to buy butter, because a veteran of WWII has snaffled the last pack, not needing to queue.

At a meeting of the Soviet Youth organisation “Young Pioneers”, Ilze meets her life-long best friend Ilga who tells her to pull up her socks so as not to spoil the picture of uniformity. There is WWII footage about the Cauldron of Courland, and Ilze and her schoolfriends are literally forced to worship a certain Jacobs Kunders, who scarified himself in battle to save his comrades.

Ilze does everything to get a place at university; and thanks to her efforts she is invited to the most prestigious “Pioneer” camp on the Crimea. Towards the end of the Soviet Union it emerges that Ilze and others were forced to take up shooting lessons in honour of the war heroes adorning the school walls. The class acted in solidarity, unanimously asking to be relieved from the gun exercise. Instead they are assigned to a First Aid course, and this successful class action make a great impact on Ilze.

There are some odd sequences: a Nazi soldier, buried in a mass grave, is seen on the wall of a block of flats under construction, the neighbours taking it as a sign from God and a bad omen that construction is doomed. Another animation shows a WWII Nazi plane flying from Latvia to Berlin with its cargo of cows falling out in mid-air.

And although Ilze stays true to the Soviet cause in secondary school, Ilga becomes increasingly sceptical and this questioning attitude shows up in her final essay which is rejected due to its questioning Soviet norms. Ilga, who is seen often with Ilze in the few life interviews, felt so suicidal after her rejection she nearly killed herself. But Ilze’s mother leaves for the countryside to run her own farm, opting out of a system she does not believe in and could endanger her daughter’s future (My Mother’s Farm).

Somehow, My favourite War is two films in one: the most interesting being Ilze’s stance in acquiescing to the Status Quo, and here the animation sequences are often hilarious. Then there is Ilze second-guessing herself, and drifting off into a very uncritical Latvian history lesson. These two halves don’t make for successful whole, the adult Ilze is much less interesting than her contradictory young self. AS




A Christmas Carol (2020) ***

Dir: Jacqui and David Morris | With: Carey Mulligan, Martin Freeman, Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Kaluuya, Leslie Caron, Sian Philips, Andy Serkis | Fantasy Drama | UK

Carey Mulligan, Leslie Caron and Simon Russell Beale are the stars of this radical new retelling of the Christmas mystery that blends animation, dance, theatre and film into a dazzling fantasy reimagining that touches on the social realist aspects of deprivation and depravity along with the magical power of redemption that brings light to Charles Dickens’ Victorian classic A Christmas Carol with its best known characters Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

This satire on capitalism play within a film begins in the dark days leading up to an 1860s Christmas when a large Victorian family is preparing for their annual home performance with a selection of toys and a cardboard stage. As Grandma (Sian Phillips) begins to read the show takes off, each character performed by an actor who also dances. Russell Beale is Mr Scrooge has a young and old embodiment, Daniel Kaluuya is the voice of Mikey Boateng’s all dancing Ghost of Christmas. Despite the dour social commentary it couldn’t be more glitzy and that’s why it feels like the perfect cheer to bring this dreadful year to a close. MT


A Christmas Carol FILM 


A Christmas Carol (2020) ***

Dir: Jacqui and David Morris | With: Carey Mulligan, Martin Freeman, Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Kaluuya, Leslie Caron, Sian Philips, Andy Serkis | Fantasy Drama | UK

Carey Mulligan, Leslie Caron and Simon Russell Beale are the stars of this radical new retelling of the Christmas mystery that blends animation, dance, theatre and film into a dazzling fantasy reimagining that touches on the social realist aspects of deprivation and depravity along with the magical power of redemption that brings light to Charles Dickens’ Victorian classic A Christmas Carol with its best known characters Scrooge and Tiny Tim.

This satire on capitalism play within a film begins in the dark days leading up to an 1860s Christmas when a large Victorian family is preparing for their annual home performance with a selection of toys and a cardboard stage. As Grandma (Sian Phillips) begins to read the show takes off, each character performed by an actor who also dances. Russell Beale is Mr Scrooge has a young and old embodiment, Daniel Kaluuya is the voice of Mikey Boateng’s all dancing Ghost of Christmas. Despite the dour social commentary it couldn’t be more glitzy and that’s why it feels like the perfect cheer to bring this dreadful year to a close. MT


A Christmas Carol FILM 


Away (2019) ****

Dir: Gints Zilbalodis | Animation, Latvia, 74′

‘Staying Alive’ is how best to describe this symbolic and gorgeously fluid ‘boys own’ adventure from Latvian animation wizard Gints Zilbalodis.

Away is the culmination of a decade spent honing his craft in a series of  delightful short animations such as Aqua, Priorities and Oasis whose focus is the main character’s lone struggle to overcome a powerful force. In this case a King Kong-like shape shifter that pursues him through a preternatural jungle with the aim of swallowing him alive.

Throughout this dreamlike often hazardous odyssey the boy’s only companion is a small yellow bird who he cares for with the utmost tenderness. The film seems to connect with our own everyday battle to keep going in these uncertain times, and above all, to make the right choices.  In other words, Away is a metaphor for life that echo Miyazaki’s delicately rendered animes which can work on a simplistic or subliminal level offering appeal for kids and adults alike.

More minimalist than Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo or even The Red Turtle but just as beautiful and and driven forward by an evocative soundscape the film shirks narrative conventions to tell a story that is firmly tethered to the natural while also teetering towards the surreal. Zilbalodis controls his entire project from 3D animation and script through to editing, soundscape and production.

The tousled-haired, wide-eyed teenager lands by parachute on a lush and mysterious island and has to find his way across often perilous landscape to reach sanctuary using an old-fashioned motorbike. Amongst the creatures he encounters on his odyssey are a flock of white birds, a large tortoise and his family, and a pack of black cats who guard a powerful geyser that shoots out of a deep circular crevice, a grassy metaphor for Dante’s Inferno.

Although Away lulls us into a hypnotic sense of tranquility there is always the unsettling presence of the shape-shifter to keep us alert to danger as we start connecting with the angst of the struggling boy hero and his little bird, and indeed the tortoise, who at one point slivers down a snowy slope and on to its back, our hero coming to its rescue in one of many random acts of thoughtfulness. A beguiling and magical first feature with echoes of the best of Studio Ghibli. MT
Gints Zilbalodis (b. 1994) is a Latvian filmmaker and animator. He has made seven short films in various mediums including hand-drawn animation, 3D animation and live-action, often mixing their characteristic aesthetics.



Pinocchio (2019) ****

Dir: Matteo Garrone | Fantasy Drama, Italy 122′

Matteo Garrone’s enchanting version of Carlo Callodi’s 1883 classic has appeal for adults and pre-teens with its endearing characters and sharp social commentary.

Best described as a bedtime cautionary tale in the dark style of the Grimm or Hoffman, Garrone’s latest has shades of his 2015 Tale of Tales in the extravagant costumes. But here animals pose as humans and vice versa, although clearly it’s not salacious, veering more into terrifying territory in warning of the disastrous consequences of childhood misbehaviour in an exaggerated way.

This Pinocchio stays faithful to the page, Roberto Benigni is the woodcutter Geppetto, who begs a trunk of wood from his friend and crafts a puppet to replace the son he never had. But Garrone keeps Benigni under control – his weird 2002 adaptation in which he also starred clearly came to mind – and he’s gone after the first couple of scenes, 8 year-old Federico Ielapi’s Pinocchio running away to seek his fortune armed with 5 gold coins, as a naive but disobedient wooden puppet child. But not before burning his feet by the fireside, in one of the film’s more sinister sequences.

The ancient fishing villages near Bari and the baked landscapes of Sienna provide the vivid backdrop to a story that is certainly compelling, and the Berlinale press audience looked on with a childish fascination and very few walk-outs.

Pinocchio and some of the other puppets have authentic looking wood-grained faces and eyes that are living behind them. A tiny talking cricket (Davide Marotta) is particularly cute and so is the money-like judge (Teco Celio) who sends Pinocchio down “because the innocent always go to jail, and the guilty go free”. This is the tenor of its social satire. In one delightful scene, Pinocchio’s nose grows out when he lies, serving as a branch for starlings to peck at.

Garrone and Massimo Ceccherini collaborate on the script that is essentially as series of adventures showcasing how Pinocchio refuses to do his homework, and keeps making mistakes, as all boys do, eventually turning into a donkey sold into a life of slavery. He is also almost eaten alive and falls prey to a pair of feline fraudsters (played by Ceccherini and Rocco Papaleo), desperate to get their paws on his money. Enter the famous “magic money tree.” well known to Jeremy Corbyn, although that particular fantasist doesn’t have a part in this fairy story. The Blue Fairy does, however, and she grows into a beautiful woman (Marine Vacth) who looks after Pinocchio, assisted by her snail-like housekeeper. And eventually the boy comes good, and his reward arrives in a moving and magical finale that drags its heels but finally delivers the classic happy ending. MT

OUT ON 14 August 2020 | premiered at BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL | 20 February – 1 March 2020

BUÑUEL in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (2020)

Dir.: Salvador Simo; Animation with the voices of Jorge Uson, Fernando Ramos, Cyril Corral, Luis Enrique de Tomas; Spain/Netherlands/Germany 2019, 80 min.

Salvador Simo’s fluid animated feature is a treasure chest for film historians, and an entertaining jewel of inspiration for newcomers to the legendary artist’s work.

Based on Fermin Solis’ graphic novel about the making of Luis Bunuel’s 1933 documentary Land without Bread (Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan) it all starts at the premiere of his scandal ridden feature L’Age d’Or 1928 in the Paris cinema “Studio 28”. With the audience leaving in great numbers, there is clearly no doubt that Bunuel (Uson) will have difficulty finding backers for a new project. But luck is on his side in the shape of a winning Christmas lottery ticket purchased by his friend, the anarchist painter Ramon Acin (Ramos). The money provides finance for Land without Bread. Surrealism is victorious again. The jackpot also provides Bunuel with a new car, and he sets off with Acin and the photographer Eli Lotar (Corral), armed with  Mauricio Legendres’ book about the region of Las Hurdes (Western Spain). Pierre Unik (de Tomas) makes up the foursome, who will serve as ‘Girl Friday’ during the shoot

But the journey to Las Hurdes is full of surprises. In a small village they come across a bizarre wedding ceremony: the prospective brides riding on horseback through streets, tearing off the heads of live chickens hanging from a rope. A later scene sees the filmmakers paying a farmer to repeat the act, as they stand by in trepidation. Bunuel soon goes a step further, shooting a mountain goat, who tumbles down spectacularly into a steep ravine.

Meanwhile Bunuel comments to Acid.: “We are here to help these people, not to mess around and pretend to be artists”.  At night he plagued by dreams of his traumatic childhood, and his constant fear of death. In one dream, he encounters death, begging to live longer, because “I have so much more to do” Death simply replies: “you are not important, who says I have come for you?”

Other dreams feature his tyrannical father, who shows him a giraffe from whose open stomach birds fly. Yellow butterflies recur in many of these dreams, showing how Bunuel was trying to shake off Dali’s influence. 

Land Without Bread was banned in Spain and France. Only in 1936 did the Spanish Republic allow screenings, but the name of Ramon Acin – who had been executed along his wife by the Spanish Fascists – at the beginning of the Guerra Civil – had to be scratched off because of his anarchist past. In 1960, when Bunuel created a restored version, Acin’s name was re-instated, and Bunuel gave the money from the re-release to Acin’s daughters Katia and Sol.

The animation is about simplicity and clear lines, there is no grandstanding, and this approach goes well with the many clips from the original documentary: in both cases, the lighting is crucial and central to the aesthetic. Arturo Cardelos’ plangent piano score subtly champions the struggle between surrealism and realism, fought out by Luis Bunuel. AS    

PREMIERING ON BFI PLAYER ON 9 JULY 2020                       

Bombay Rose (2019) ***

Dir/Wri/Animator: Gitanjali Rao | 90, India

Gitanjali Rao’s lavish animated fable gleams with thematic jewels almost stifling the romantic storyline buried beneath its visual splendour.

This meticulously handcrafted gem is Gitanjali’s feature debut and, to her credit, she has directed, written and delicately drawn the vibrant animations which pay tribute to the magical city of Bombay that sees criminals go cheek and jowl with market traders, school kids and ordinary people going about there business in India’s jostling cinema city .

There almost didn’t need to be a storyline as sequences unfold into sequences, cleverly tumbling in a out of each other as one thing leads to the next in the densely packed metropolis. Kamala (voiced by Cyli Khare) works as a dancer at a dodgy nightclub while hoping to seal a marriage deal in Dubai so she can raise her younger sister Tara and finance her disabled grandfather, now on his last legs, quite literally. Into the narrative she careful weaves thorny themes of corruption, misogyny and child labour. Kamala’s sexy love interest comes in the shape of Salim (Amit Deondi), a Kashmiri guy forced to sell flowers he steals from the nearby graveyard. Meanwhile there is Mrs D’Souza (Amardeep Jha), a glamorous old former Bollywood actress who lives in private splendour of her own amidst a rose garden, and helps Tara with her English lessons, explaining the intricacies of colour to the little girl as they pick roses, enjoying the heady scent.

To watch Bombay Rose is to enter a world intoxicated by colour, from carmine to indigo, purple and mauve. Exotic horses take flight on magic carpets yet on the streets of the city poverty reigns fraught with the urban clamour of trucks and bicycles and bands and musical interludes.

Cherry Lane (2019) **** Chat with Yonfan | Marrakech Film Festival 2019

Dir Yonfan | Cast: Voices by Sylvia Chang, Zhao Wei, Alex Lam, Yao Wei, Tian Zhuangzhuang | Hong Kong 125’

Cheeky and charming but very much intended for an adult audience – and particularly cat lovers – this intoxicating animated drama is an amusingly erotic romp through modern history, deliciously enveloped in an avant-garde love story. Set in Hong Kong of the 1960s, No. 7 Cherry Lane sees an English literature student caught in a love triangle with the woman he is tutoring and her 40 year old mother.

Celebrated filmmaker, photographer, art connoisseur, and collector Yonfan returns after a decade with this languorous debut animation that visits the cauldron of political turmoil and repressed desire that was the Hong Kong of his youth.

Based on three of the director’s own short stories, and divided into three enignatically titled chapters — Dream Charade, Play Shadow and Winter Cometh — the story unfolds within the confines of an upmarket residential block in 1967, when the streets of Hong Kong were fraught with leftist protests erupting in violence between anti-colonial demonstrators and police. Meanwhile Ziming (Alex Lam) is experiencing an eruption of a different kind, involving his own sexual awakening. As a student reading modern literature at the university, he takes on a part-time job teaching English to a family recently exiled from Taiwan. Meiling (Zhao Wei) is the daughter of Mrs. Yu (Sylvia Chang), a single mother and exporter of luxury goods to Taiwan, whose own youth has been fraught with revolutionary unrest but whose present is steeped in woozy nostalgia. Ziming’s arrival stimulates literary debate about Brontë, Proust and Cao Xueqin. They indulge in Simone Signoret matinees at a local picture palace. And while a beguiling Mrs. Robinson-like relationship smoulders in the background, the family’s collection of cats indulge in of all kinds of mischievous behaviour. Ziming is beguiled both by Meiling and Mrs. Yu, as he embarks on an education sentimental no university curriculum could possibly provide.

Blending art and history, politics and eroticism. Cherry Lane showcases a new animation process, turning original 3-D illustrations into 2-D images on rice paper. Yonfan has created a delicate aesthetic that feels modern yet steeped in tradition, offering a unique paean to Hong Kong’s past that is tongue in cheek, kitsch and gently erotic. MT


I Lost My Body (2019) ****

Dir: Jeremy Clapin. France, Animation 81′

Jeremy’s Clapin’s debut is a touching and lyrical love letter to loss that delicately captures the human condition.

Almost the best thing about I Lost My Body is the way its remains ambiguous – like life itself. Bringing to mind My Life As a Courgettehopes and aspirations are cleverly woven into a storyline that explores a young man’s unexpected yet triumphant voyage of self discovery.

Jeremy Clapin’s film does require a leap of faith: it all starts with a severed hand (rendered in 2D and 3D) driven desperately to find its body in a peripatetic journey through present day Paris. Meanwhile, the hand’s owner experiences his own trials and tribulations leading up to moment the two are parted. I Lost My Body will appeal to adults and children alike – and whether or not animation is your bag, it certainly captured the imagination of audiences and juries on this year’s international festival circuit.

In a childlike but never childish way, Clapin and his co-writer Guillaume Laurant, whose script is based on the Amelie BAFTA winner’s book Happy Hand, picture the world from an inquisitive kid’s perspective, full of wonderment, birds and insects; but also one that acknowledges consumer bleats familiar in to adults: the pizza guy who arrives late, that intercom buzzer that never opens the door the first time. Crucially, I Lost My Body is also a meditative and often surreal experience.

A creative boy called Naoufel (Alfonso Arfi) grows up with his talented parents, who soon recede into the background leaving him directionless and reliant on a badass acquaintance called Raouf. Naoufel’s only possession is a prized tape-machine full of recordings – and his parent’s voices. Growing up (voiced by Hakim Fares) Naoufel relinquishes his dream to become an astronaut, settling for an earthbound existence delivering pizzas. He meets the woman of his dreams while chatting to uer through her dodgy apartment intercom; he then follows Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois) to her uncle Gigi’s joinery workshop where he is offered bed and board as an apprentice, and has a transformative accident.

Clapin brings his narrative strands together with dextrous imagery; grains of sand slip between fingers as the world revolves in time and space nurturing Naoufel’s astronaut pretensions. We are gradually captivated by Naoufel’s own romantic imagination and his desire to do his best for Gigi, and capture Gabrielle’s heart. But his flatmate Raouf also has designs on his fledgling paramour. And although Naoufel eventually loses a part of himself, he never loses his faith or courage in following his dream. Accompanied by atmospheric sound design and beautifully rendered animations, this mournful riff on life, love and self-determination is a deeply affecting experience. MT

ON RELEASE FROM 22 NOVEMBER 2019 | Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize 2019 




No. 7 Cherry Lane (2019) **** Venice Film Festival 2019 | Best Screenplay Award

Dir Yonfan | Cast: Voices by Sylvia Chang, Zhao Wei, Alex Lam, Yao Wei, Tian Zhuangzhuang | Hong Kong 125’

Very much intended for an adult audience – and particularly cat lovers – this intoxicating animated drama is an amusingly erotic romp through modern history, deliciously enveloped in an avant-garde love story. Set in Hong Kong of the 1960s, No. 7 Cherry Lane sees an English literature student caught in a love triangle with the woman he is tutoring and her 40 year old mother.

Celebrated filmmaker, photographer, art connoisseur, and collector Yonfan returns after a decade with this languorous debut animation that visits the cauldron of political turmoil and repressed desire that was the Hong Kong of his youth.

The story unfolds within the confines of an upmarket residential block in 1967, when the streets of Hong Kong were fraught with leftist protests erupting in violence between anti-colonial demonstrators and police. Meanwhile Ziming (Alex Lam) is experiencing an eruption of a different kind, involving his own sexual awakening. As a student reading modern literature at the university, he takes on a part-time job teaching English to a family recently exiled from Taiwan. Meiling (Zhao Wei) is the daughter of Mrs. Yu (Sylvia Chang), a single mother and exporter of luxury goods to Taiwan, whose own youth has been fraught with revolutionary unrest. Ziming’s arrival stimulates literary debate about Brontë, Proust and Cao Xueqin while in the background the family’s collection of cats are capable of all kinds of mischievous behaviour. Ziming is beguiled both by Mewling and Mrs. Yu, as he embarks on an education no university curriculum could possibly provide.

Blending art and history, politics and eroticism. No.7 Cherry Lane showcases a new animation process, turning original 3-D illustrations into 2-D images on rice paper. Yonfan has created a delicate aesthetic that feels modern yet steeped in tradition, offering a unique paean to Hong Kong’s past that is tongue in cheek, informative and erotic. MT



Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018) **** Edinburgh Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Milorad Krstic; Animation with the voices of Ivan Kamaras, Gabriella Hamori, Zalan Makranczi; Hungary 2018, 96 min.

Milorad Krstic (66), director, designer and script-writer of his debut animation feature, won the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlinale in 1995. Premiering here at Locarno Film Festival Ruben Brandt is mostly hand-drawn with some CG elements and very much resembles in style and narrative of the recent Folimage animation feature A Cat in Paris , even though the tone is much darker.

Psychotherapist Ruben Brandt (Kamaras) suffers from dreams and hallucinations: He is attacked by figures from famous paintings like Velazquez’ “Infanta Margarita” and Botticelli’s “Venus”. Nevertheless, Brandt goes on treating his four patients, through role-plays of stories such as Little Riding Hood. They are all highly skilled burglars; so is Mimi (Hamori), who puts Ruben’s plan into action; he wants to possess thirteen famous paintings, so Mimi heads first to the Paris Louvre, hotly pursued by detective Kowalski (Makranczi), who has been hired by various insurance companies, who put a 100million dollar bounty on Ruben’s head. But Brandt becomes increasingly desperate, his dreams growing ever more violent. We see little Ruben, his neurologist father making him watch cartoons, a favourite is Rusalocka in “The Little Mermaid”. The thieves embark on a world cruise to steal Van Gogh’s “Postman Roulin”, Titan’s “Venus of Urbino” and Picasso’s “Woman with Book”, visiting the Uffizzi, the Hermitage, Tate and MoMA. There are flying cats, and the pictures start to interact with Ruben. In the Pantheon, Ruben is asked to participate in a Western duel, before being whisked off in a plane to Arles in Provence. Matters become even more complicated it emerges that Kowalski is Ruben’s half-brother. Their father Gerhardt was a Stasi spy who defected to the USA and worked for the CIA on neurological research. He has just died, and Kowalski’s mother tells his son, “ I had to leave your father, so you could have your own dreams”. Ruben meanwhile is meeting the painter Renoir, and is trying to unravel his father’s life. After a wild hunt, when the six are hunted down by two oil-tankers and a helicopter, the chase ends in Tokyo, during the attempted theft of the last painting, Warhol’s “Double Elvis”.

On one level Ruben Brandt is a haunt caper, one the other a trip through European film history from ‘Caligari’, Eisenstein, Hitchcock to Wenders. Krstic is clear about his intentions: “To be haunted by ghosts or zombies in nightmares is a cliché, it’s more exciting to be haunted by Velázquez’s ‘Infanta Margarita’ or Botticelli’s ‘Venus.” And paraphrasing Godard he explains his aesthetic concept: “For me drawing is imagination, and animated film is imagination twenty-four times a second.” His attempt at an ‘audio-visual symphony’ might be strange at times, but is always fascinating, and even in its most absurd moments Ruben Brandt is utterly compelling. A unique, magical, trippy experience, a throwback to the Sixties with its echoes of Pink Panther.


Midnight Sun Film Festival 2019 | 12-16 June 2019

Celebrating its 34th year the Midnight Sun Film Festival presents a niche selection of this year’s features and documentaries, along with musical evenings and master classes in its luminous setting of Sodankylä, Finnish Lapland. 

At the top of the list of new films is Berlinare’s Golden Bear award, Nadar Lapid’s Synonyms, a weird and wacky drama about a young Israeli in Paris. French Canadian Denis Cotê will also be in the Arctic Circle this June with his enigmatic portrayal of a village, Ghost Town Anthology. along with Claire Denis and her latest High Life, a sci-fi drama starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche. And one of the gems of San Sebastian 2018  will be also join the party, Rojo, a film from Argentinian director Benjamin Naishtat, captures the existential angst of the military dictatorship of the 1970s.

Portuguese director Rodrigo Areias will present the Finnish premiere of his documentary film about a fishing village in the Azores, Blue Breath. One of festival’s top documentaries was a favourite at this year’s Sundance. Honeyland from directors Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, explores the life of ”the last female wild beekeeper”.

From last year’s Karlovy Vary Festival there will also I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, Romanian’s top director Radu Jude’s distinctive analysis of the country’s history and the present. Belarus is sadly not well known for its cinema, let alone its strong female characters, so Darya Zhuk’s Crystal Swan  offers a chance to sample the creative efforts of both its lead and director. Meanwhile, There will also be a chance to see Kazakh cult film director, Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s colourful melodrama The Gentle Indifference of The World.

Masterclasses and specialties

One of the festival’s guest film maker, Kent Jones, will be presenting in his masterclasses films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller The Lady Vanishes, as an expert of Kazakhstan’s New Wave of the 90s, Jermek Šinarbajev’s true rarity, Revenge (above).

What do we know about the films of the Baltic States? The artistic director of the heartfelt Riga International Film Festival, Sonora Broka, will be leading the audience to the joyful cult film specialties from musical films to erotic horror: included in the ”Baltic 101” theme will be Estonian director Rainer Sarnet’s November, Lithuanian Arünas Zebriünas’s The Devil’s Bride and Latvian Vasili Massi’s The Spider as well as Ronald Kalnis’s Four White Skirts.

Finland’s internationally best known festival curator, Mika Taanila will return to Sodankylä once again presenting not only the newest short film treasures of experimental films from all around the world, but also in a special show, the legendary short film sensation Christmas on Earth, by the shooting star of the 60s underground, Barbara Rubin, complemented with Chuck Smith’s documentary Barbara Rubin and the Exploiding NY Underground.

Music films and auteur portraits

Traditionally, music films and documentaries about filmmakers with production samples are a part of the programme at MSFF. The great actor Ethan Hawke has once again been behind the camera and directed a successful biography Blaze about Texas singer legend Blaze Foley. Airbek Daiyerbekov’s The Song of The Tree is a unique Kyrgyz musical. This time jazz is represented in two elegant documentaries: Leslie Woodhead’ssinger portrait Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things and Eric Friendler’s It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story.



Cannes Film Festival –

Thierry Frémaux (now general delegate) has unveiled the 2019 official selection. And this year’s Cannes looks to be a glittering number with plenty of real stars gracing the Croisette (Elton John, Isabelle Huppert, Tilda Swinton and Claude Lelouch), four female filmmakers in the main Competition line-up which strikes a good balance of well known auteurs and new filmmakers – and some promising British Films: Dexter Fletcher’s biopic Rocketman; Asif Kapadia new documentary about his hero Diego Maradona, and another dose of dour social realism from Ken Loach. Cannes and Netflix are still at loggerheads – in the best possible way – but where would Cannes be without a little controversy to hit to headlines…

The four Palme d’Or hopefuls directed by women are— Mati Diop’s Atlantique (she was memorable in Simon Killer);Jessica Hausner’s Sci-fi-ish debut Little Joe stars Ben Whishaw and Emily Beecham in a story set in the world of genetic engineering (left); Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (with its all female cast) and Justine Triet’s Sibyl a psychotherapist themed drama which has distinct echoes of Ozon‘s l’Amant Double. Infact, 13 of the 51 filmmakers (about 25%) are women. And Thierry intends to continue with the trend.

Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won the festival’s directing prize for Babel in 2006 will head up the jury. This year’s official poster (above) pays tribute to the director Agnès Varda, who died last month at age 90, and features an image from her final film La Pointe Courte. And for the first time ever, the opening film Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die will also play in competition. Styled as a zombie comedy is has a superb cast: Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny and Tilda Swinton.

Also in the main competition is Pedro Almodovar with Pain and Glory described as a fictionalised auto-biopic. He’s be nominated before but never won the Palme so it would be a feather in the Oscar winner’s cap. Canadian Xavier Dolan is back with a Quebec-set drama Matthias and Maxime. Il Traditore is Marco Bellocchio’s drama about Tommaso Buscetta the first mafia informant in 1980’s Sicily. Ira Sachs’s Frankie is set in the bewitching town of Sintra which will add another dimension to the story starring festival doyenne Isabelle Huppert along with Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear and Jérémie Renier. Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu tries his hand at comedy with The Whistlers which unites him once again with Vlad Ivanov (Hier and Sunset). Ladj Ly is the only first time filmmaker on the comp list and he brings a drama expanded from his 2017 short entitled Les Miserables about the Seine-Saint-Denis anti-crime brigade. Veteran favourites The Dardennes Brothers will be there will Muslim-themed Young Ahmed. Malick’s A Hidden Life (aka Radegund) explores the life of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector to the Third Reich who was executed in 1943 and contains final performances from Michael Nqyvist and Bruno Ganz, sadly no longer with us.

Other directors returning to competition include Oh Mercy, a Roubaix-set crime drama from Arnaud Desplechin and a family drama from South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho (Okja). And Cannes regular Kleber Mendonça Filho co-directs his latest (with Juliano Dornelle), a horror film entitled Bacurau.

Un Certain Regard sidebar has films from Catalan auteur Albert Serra – Liberté – and The Wild Goose Lake, a Chinese thriller by Diao Yinan (Black Coal, Thin Ice). Bruno Dumont’s follow up to Maid of Orleans story Jeannette (2017) is simply called Joan of Arc. 

And where would Cannes be without the megastars of the Riviera? Double Oscar-winning Claude Lelouch claimed the Palme d’Or back in 1966 with the iconic Un Homme et Une Femme. And he follows this up with the same classic duo in The Best Years of a Life (Out of Competition) uniting Jean-Louis Trintignant with Anouk Aimée. Veteran heavyweights Abel Ferrara and Werner Herzog also join the party.

TV-wise there will be a chance to sample Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s 10-parter  Too Old to Die Young. Venice started the TV-streaming service trend, and Cannes has now joined the bandwagon.

Thierry Frémaux left the press conference with his usual cheeky promise that other titles will soon be announced. And everyone was excited to hear that these could include Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood exploring the final years of the Golden Era with a starry line-up of Al Pacino, Leonard DiCaprio, Dakota Fanning and Margot Robbie.

For the time being no Netflix films will be included in the Palme d’Or competition, indeed the streaming giant does not have a film ready in time to be presented this year. Martin Scorsese has declared that special affects have delayed his entry of The Irishman which was very much on the cards for Thierry Frémaux and Pierre Lescure, and will now most likely appear at Venice.

Other regulars and possible contenders are Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems and the latest from Noah Baumach and Ad Astra from James Gray. So watch this space. MT



Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Elle Fanning

Maimouna N’Diaye

Kelly Reichardt

Alice Rohracher

Enki Bilal

Robin Campillo

Yorgo Lanthimos

Pawel Pawlikowski


Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) **

Dir.: Andy Serkis; Cast: Rohan Chand, Matthew Rice, Freida Pinto and the voices of Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis; USA/UK 2018, 104 min.

Do we really need a new version of Rudyard Kipling’s story collection The Jungle Book (1894) so soon after the success of John Favreau’s 2016 version? The answer is no, and not this sinister one by Andy Serkis and written by Callie Kloves which takes the much loved children’s classic to a darker more violent place where there’s no singing or dancing  – and no appeal for its fanbase or anybody under the age of twelve, for that matter. A hybrid in every way, the five-year labour of love is an uneasy mix of super-hero yarn and identity conflicts.

After the hungry tiger Shere Khan (Cumberbatch) has devoured Mowgli’s parents, the young boy (Chand) is nurtured by wolves. Bagheera (Bale), the panther and Baloo (Serkis), a not particularly cuddly bear, keeping him safe from Shere Khan, along with python Ka (Blanchett). But Mowgli will never become a proper pack wolf after he is abducted by apes, and reared in a village where hunter Lockwood (Rice) and his gentle wife (Pinto) try to ‘humanise’ the wild child. But after seeing Lockwood’s trophy cabinet, Mowgli has second thoughts.

This latest MOWGLI lacks the humanity of Kipling’s vision: it’s more a Flight-Club in the jungle than anything else. Yes, the effects are stunning, DoP Michael Seresin pulls out all the stops, and other production values are equally convincing – but it always feels like a hijack, not an adaption. Perhaps Serkis wanted to distance himself completely from anything Disney-like – but by doing so, he has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Mowgli sits uneasily  between semi-horror and a stale lecture about identity politics. At the same time it’s downright conventional picturing the partnership between Lockwood and his wife in the redundant cliché of hunter and carer. Most of all though, it lacks emotion: a muddled concept of true solidarity (the opposite of Kipling), this Mowgli is reduced to a soulless race for the line. See what you think. AS


My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

Dir: Hayao Miyazaki | Japan | Anime | 86′

This delicately drawn brightly animated fantasy is possibly the best loved of all Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli offerings. The magical ‘ghost’ story is so cute it couldn’t say boo to a goose yet remains unsentimental and rooted in reality. With a featherlight frisson of fear, Miyazaki captures the wonder, amazement and uncertainty of growing up, and our childhood need to retreat to a secret fantasy world. Brimming with hope and excitement, two tiny girls move with their father to a countryside retreat where their mother is recovering in hospital. The nearby woods are full of fantasy and intrigue. A cuddly creature called Totoro provides a source of spiritual nourishment and soulful awakening for the sisters as they face the reality of their mother’s illness constantly lurking at the back of their minds. This sumptuously beautiful Japanese anime offers versatile entertainment. There’s something for everyone to take away, if you can manage to leave. MT

MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO is now on Prime Video

Lajko in Space (2018) *** Warsaw Film Festival 2018


Dir.: Balazs Lengyel; Cast: Tamas Keresztes, JozsefGyabronka, Tibor Pallfy, Anna Boger, Bohdan Benink; Hungary 2018, 90 min.

Director/co-writer Balazs Lengyel shows no fear: his satire about the first man is Space – of course, a Hungarian, not Gagarin, as claimed by the Soviets – is a relentless attack on Stalinism, but the re-write of history is always funny, even if not always done in the best taste.

Young Lajko, a gypsy growing up in the Hungarian country site, has always been interested in Space travel. Unfortunately, one of his first attempts sends his Mum into space, together with the outdoor toilet. As a young man Lajko (Keresztes) has designed a moored balloon to take him into the stratosphere – but he ignores the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and is shot down by the Red Army. He is the victim of waterboarding, but his torturer has shot through too much money over the previous year, and is put in prison. Lajko can count on the help of his father Florian (Pallfy) and uncle Jeno (Gyabronka), the latter a party functionary. The three are sent to Baku, where the Soviet Space programme is being developed. Lajko has to compete with a Mongolian monk, a Baltic counter-revolutionary and Helga Mengele (Boger) to be the first one in Space. Helga is very upset, that “the good name of her father is by now forgotten”, even though he created ten different prototypes of an Aryan super-woman – of which she is the only survivor. When Brezhnev (Benink) arrives at the Space station, Florian steals his ring, and Jeno falls in love with the Soviet leader, admitting that he is gay for the first time. Lajko finally wins the race to be the first man in Space; meeting his mother there in the process. Needless to say, the beastly Russians put Lajko, Florian and Helga in a work camp (so that Gagarin can claim to be the winner), and poor uncle Jeno is shot dead, having just come to terms with being gay.

This is a romp, sometimes crude, but always enjoyable. DoPGyorgy Reder is very inventive, using different formats for the historical scenes, sometimes speeding up the tempo, like in silent movies. It is obvious that everyone had fun shooting this feature, and Lengyel always manages to keep the careering plot on the road. AS



Tehran Taboo (2017) ****

Dir.: Ali Soozandeh; Animation; Elmira Rafizadeh, Bilal Yasar, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, Negar Mona Alizadeh, Arash Marandi; Austria/Germany, 2017, 96 min.

First time director Ali Soozandeh shows us the seedy tightly-belted underbelly of life in Tehran, where drugs, illegal sex and all sorts of corruption are still part of a daily routine. Using rotoscoped characters and a mixture of 3D and drawn backgrounds, he creates a vibrant picture of a place full of psychotic men and women punished for their hypocrisy.

The central character is Pari (Rafizadeh), a prostitute who takes her mute son Elias (Yasar) with her to work. The first sequence is symbolic of all what follows: Pari is giving a man a blowjob in the front of the car, whilst Elias is sitting in the back, experimenting with an condom. Suddenly, Pari’s customer spots his daughter on the pavement, she is walking hand-in-hand with a boyfriend. The customer, enraged, shouts at the young man calling him a pervert. He pushes Pari aside, and crashes his car.

Pari is trying in vain to get Elias enrolled at a special needs school. But her attempts are unsuccessful, because her husband is serving a long jail sentence for drug-dealing (“I gave them 20 million to avoid the death penalty, now they want ten million for my freedom”), he refuses to sign the application form and will not allow Pari a divorce. When she asks the clerical Judge Adel to help her, he denies her rights – but finds a nice flat for her where he can visit at his leisure, loving the rough sex she provides. In the apartment block Pari where poses as a nurse, we meet Sara (Ebrahimi), who’d rather work as a teacher than have children with her repressive husband Mohsen. Sara looks after Elias, while Pari uses Judge Abdel to get her son into a school. A third narrative strand involves Donya (Alizadeh), who has a one-night stand with musician/DJ Babak (Marandi) and needs an operation to have her hymen replaced for her marriage the following week. When Pari tries to help both Sara and Donya, she discovers that both women have secrets that will lead to their undoing.

Soozandeh makes great use of mirrors and other reflective backgrounds to show the reality, hiding behind the action in front. A typical example of male society is Sara’s father-in-law, a diabetic, who uses Elias to fetch the hidden chocolate from the shelves. He watches pornographic films in Elias’ presence – but is alert enough to quickly switch the TV channels to the state-controlled news as soon as Sara comes into the room. Although the narrative is sometimes too heavy-handed, Soozandeh succeeds in painting a picture of male debauchery and violence behind the curtain of religious purity. MT


Locarno 71 | Film Festival Preview

Artistic director Carlo Chatrian has unveiled his final line-up with an exciting eclectic selection of titles spanning mainstream and arthouse fare due to run at the picturesque Lake Maggiore setting from the 1st until 11th August 2018.

Piazza Grande will screen celebrated Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka’s Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag alongside Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansmanactor, David Fincher’s Se7en and Blaze the latest film from actor turned auteur Ethan Hawke who is also to be honoured with an Excellence Award at this year’s jamboree.

There are two documentary premieres of note, screening out of competition, the first, Walking on Water (Andrey Paounov) explores the work of Bulgarian artist Christo whose Mastaba is currently gracing The Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park, the second is Etre et Avoir director Nicolas Philibert’s De Chaque Instant that looks at the life of nurses as they prepare for a lifetime of service. 

Amongst the feature debuts to world premiere is Aneesh Chaganty’s  Searching, and an animated film Ruben Grant – Collector from Slovenian artist, filmmaker and Berlinale winner Milorad Krstic, 

Hardly catching his breath since his last film Hong Sangsoo joins the International Competition line-up with Gangyun Hotel (Hotel By The River), Abbas Fahdel’s latest Yara, Radu Muntean’s follow up to One Floor Below – Alice T, Dominga Sotomayor’s Tarde Para Morir Joven, Sibel, from Turkish director duo Çagla Zencirci and Guillaume Giovanetti, and Britain’s Richard Billingham with his debut Ray And Liz.

Playing in the Filmmakers of the Present strand there is Siyabonga from South African directorJoshua Magor, a poetic feature showcasing the lavish landscapes of a nation riddled with poverty and crime.

This year’s Honorary Leopard is to go to Bruno Dumont who will present the world premiere of his mini-series Coincoin Et Les Z’inhumains screened on the Piazza after the award ceremony.

Retrospectives are always something to look forward to and Locarno 71 dedicates its classic spot to screwball comedy director Leo McCarey, with Carey Grant starrer The Awful Truth (1937) headlining the selection.

The Piazza Grande provides the biggest outdoor screening area in Europe and will be the setting for Vianney Lebasque’s festival opener Les Beaux Esprits and closing film I Feel Good from Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kerverne. MT


Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2018 | Preview

New films from RADU JUDE, ANA KATZ and SÉBASTIEN PILOTE headline the main competition at the 53rd edition of the Czech Republic’s premier festival that unspools in the spa town of Karlovy Vary from 29 June until 7 July 2018.

The ten world and two international premieres in this year’s official competition include Jude’s follow-up to his sombre genocide documentary Dead Nation (2107). I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians is another exploration of the timely topic of national identity and culture. Argentinian filmmaker Ana Katz’s will present her bittersweet family drama  Sueño Florianópolis. The Fireflies Are Gone, is the story of a rebellious yet charismatic teenager, directed by Canadian filmmaker Sébastien Pilote. The line-up also features Russian filmmaker Ivan Tverdovsky’s poetic new film Jumpman and Peter Brunner’s dark Austrian-American drama To the Night, starring Caleb Landry Jones, while Israeli director Joseph Madmony will be at KVIFF with a subtly moving drama Redemption, that explores a fathers fight to save his daughter and his own musical dream. co-directed by cinematographer Boaz Y. Yako

Other titles competing for the festival’s Crystal Globe include: Miriam Lies (Natlia Cabral, Oriol Estrada, Dominican Republic/Spain); Brothers (Omur Atay, Turkey); and History of Love (Sonja Prosenc, Slovenia.)

The  East of the West competition strand  features the latest from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia — and opens with Crystal Swan, a debut from Belarusian filmmaker Darya Zhuk in a selection from 12 female directors, including Iranian director Nima Eghlima’s social drama Amir and Elizaveta Stishova’s touching family drama Suleiman Mountain, that debuted at last year’s PYIFF.

In the Documentary strand, there is Putin’s Witness an exciting look behind the Kremlin’s Iron Curtain exposing new archive footage, from exiled Russian director Vitaly Mansky, Bridges of Time, a poetic essay from Lithuanian directors Kristine Briede and Audrius Stonys and filmmaker Marouan Omara explores the abandoned luxury Egyptian resort Sharm El Sheikh: Dream Away. Meanwhile, Andrew Bujalski’s Support the Girls,  looks at the  American middle class during a day in a traditional U.S. sports bar and plays out of competition.


I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians | Radu Jude | WP | 140′

Radu Jude’s follow up to his sombre study of wartime genocide (Dead Nation) is a more upbeat but potent feature that follows a young Romanian artist’s meticulous plans to reconstruct an historical event from 1941, when the Romanian Army carried out ethnic cleansing on the Eastern Front.

Panic Attack |Paweł Maślona | Poland | IP | 100′ 

Paweł Maślona’s debut is a dark comedy that looks at the cinematic potential of the emotional phenomenon known as the ‘panic attack’ seen through the experiences of a group of Poles in contemporary Warsaw.

The Fireflies are Gone | Sébastien Pilote | Canada | 96′ | WP

The sleepy town where Léo lives is a dead end, as far as her hopes and dreams are concerned. but happiness and self realisation beckons once she escapes her mother’s influence in this stylistically precise, pop-impressionistic film about a girl’s quest to find out who she really is. Featuring the captivating performance by Karelle Tremblay.

Domestique/ Director: Adam Sedlák | Czech Rep, Slovak Rep | 116′ WP

Adam Sedlák’s claustrophobic black and white drama explores our desire to succeed both professionally and personally in this grim domestic portrait of a top national cyclist and obsessional bicycle racer.


Geula/Redemption | Joseph Madmony\Boaz Yehonatan Yaakov Israel, 2018, 100′, WP

A deeply religious Jewish widower combines his love of music with his desperate bid to save his daughter in this gently moving drama from Israeli duo, Madmony and Yaakov.


Brothers /Kardeşler |  Ömür Atay | Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria, 2017, 103′  | WP

Directed with an assured hand, this intimate debut explores guilt and punishment in a close family set-up, showing how difficult it is to choose between moral rectitude, family, and tradition.

Miriam Lies\ Miriam miente| Oriol Estrada, Natalia Cabral |  90′ | WP

Shy girl Miriam is excited about her 15th birthday and wants to invite her online boyfriend to the celebrations, but the anticipated blind date only complicates things in this delicately drawn teenage portrait of growing up, competitiveness, and confusion.

Podbrosy / Jumpman / Skokan
Director: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy
Russia, 2018, 86 min, International premiere

Young Oksana put Denis in an orphanage, unable to cope with a new baby, but sixteen years later she wants to make amends for her neglect in Ivan Tverdovskiy’s follow-up to his stunning drama Zoology.

Sueño Florianópolis | Ana Katz | Argentina, Brazil, France, 2018, 103\, WP

Lucrecia, Pedro, and their teenage kids Julian and Florencia set out from Buenos Aires one sweltering day to the Brazilian summer resort of Florianópolis. Renowned Argentinian director Ana Katz draws upon gentle humor and light melancholy to relate a tale of first love, past lovers, fateful encounters, and fleeting joys.

To the Night | Peter Brunner | Austria, USA, 2018, 102 min, WP

As a child Norman survived a fire that killed the rest of his family. Married with a child, he is still struggling with the resulting trauma, in this atmospheric and visually spectacular study of troubled adulthood, portrayed impressively by Caleb Landry Jones.


Winter Flies | Všechno bude | Olmo Omerzu | 85′, World premiere

Capturing the mischievous essence of boyhood, this Slovenian bromance sees two eccentric souls Mára and Heduš set out into the frozen wastes in search of adventure.


History of Love | Sonja Prosenc | Slovenia, Italy, Norway, 2018, 105′ |  WP

In her freewheeling and gently poetic third feature, Sonja Prosenc explores family ties and bereavement through the story of  seventeen-year-old Ivan.



The Best Thing You Can Do with Your Life |  Zita Erffa | Ger/mex 93′

Erffa examines why her brother entered a conservative Roman Catholic order, severing all ties with the outside world in this fresh, inquiring documentary that works both as a self-healing document and a study of family estrangement.

Cielo | Alison McAlpine | Canada, Chile, 2017, 78′

After every scorching day in the Chilean Atacama desert of Atacama the night sky reveals an enigmatic gateway to the universe in this powerful cinematic experience brought to us by Canadian director Alison McAlpine (Second Sight).

Dream Away | Marouan Omara, Johanna Domke Germany, Egypt, | 86 min, WP

Sharm El Sheikh offered a paradise of golden beaches and coral gardens. But the Arab Spring and the confusion of the post revolutionary period robbed both the local workers and holiday makers of this exotic playground in the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The film offers a melancholy portrait of the resort’s dwindling employees who feverishly dream among the abandoned hotel suites.

In the Stillness of Sounds | Stéphane Manchematin, Serge Steyer | France | 90′

Marc Namblard, looks at the sedative effects of sound in this observational discourse on the tranquillity of the forest that permeates the very heart of man.

Bridges of Time / Mosty času | Director: Audrius Stonys, Kristīne Briede | Lith/Latvia/Est | 80′

Kristīne Briede and Audrius Stonys’s meditative documentary essay portrays the less- remembered generation of cinema poets of the Baltic New Wave. With finesse, they push beyond the barriers of the common historiographic investigation to offer a consummate poetic treatment of the ontology of documentary creation.

A Little Wisdom / Malá moudrostDYuqi Kang
Canada, Nepal, China, 2017, 92 min, European premiere

An isolated Buddhist monastery in southern Nepal not only provides refuge for monks, but also for orphans up to the age of sixteen. Far removed from civilisation, the boys learn about strict discipline and order yet, like all children, they hanker after adventure. An observational documentary which captures both the routine of the passing days and the vagaries of boyhood.

Breaking News / Mimořádná zpráva: Tomáš Bojar | Czech Republic | 75′, World premiere

A carefully composed observation of two newsrooms which, in March 2017, tried to cover the Czech president’s decision whether or not to run for re-election. Two teams of reporters, one extraordinary event, and two takes on one“objective” piece of news.

Putin’s Witnesses / Vitaly Mansky | Latvia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, 2018, 102 min, World premiere

On December 31, 1999 Vladimir Putin became president of Russia and renowned documentarist Vitaly Mansky draws on witness accounts of the aftermath. He then rounds it off with his own fascinating perspective and longtime experience of a man only separated by a movie camera from the frontline of Russian politics.

The Swing / Cyril Aris | Lebanon, 2018, 74 min, World premiere

Viviane and Antoine have lived together for 65 years, and while she still has her strength, he has long been bedridden. And so no one is able or has any desire to tell the weakened old man the distressing news that his beloved daughter has suddenly died. Indeed, the grief might cause his own death… A heavy, lyrical portrait tempered by familial love.

Inside Mosul / V Mosulu | Jana Andert | Czech Republic | 70 min, World premiere

A shock therapy of news coverage from the front line. Documentarist Jana Andert spent eight months with an elite Iraqi Army unit in the battle for Mosul, occupied by Islamic State fighters from 2014 to June 2017. An unflinching report from a city in ruins, robbed of its soul by one of the worst catastrophes of modern times.

Walden | Daniel Zimmermann | Switzerland, Austria, 2018, 100 min, World premiere

Gentle birdsong filters through dense forest vegetation only to be drowned out by the sudden roar of chainsaws. Thus begins a documentary comprising a mere thirteen 360° panning shots, whose uncompromising formal concept is not an easy watch. But as soon as we align our breathing with the slow rhythm of the shots, we can witness the paradoxical migration of wood from Austrian forests to a secret, far-off destination.

L’Île au trésor / Treasure Island | Guillaume Brac | France, 2018, 97 min, World premiere

The summer season at a recreation centre near Paris is in full swing, so there is no shortage of amusing interludes at the crowded swimming pool. A glimpse into the mindset of the visitors and employees of the extensive park – original French natives and immigrants who come here to relax, for want of a  more exotic holiday destination.


Crystal Swan / Crystal Swan  | Dir: Darya Zhuk | Bel,Germ, US, Russ, 2017, 95 min, WP

This year’s East of the West competition opens with Darya Zhuk’s spirited debut drama set in post Soviet Minsk where a young woman with a law degree dreams of going to the USA to work as a DJ.

53 Wars /53 wojny | Dir: Ewa Bukowska | Pol 2018, 79′ 

Anka is becoming extremely anxious about her war correspondent husband Witek, but where do you draw the line between reality and vivid imagination? An evocative psychological drama adapted from the autobiographical novel by Grażyna Jagielska about experiencing war second-hand: we don’t have to be there for it to have a destructive influence on our lives.

Amir | Dir: Nima Eghlima | Iran, 2018, 106′ | WP

Now in his thirties, Amir is beleaguered by other peoples’ problems, while he tries to keep his own family together. Amir is a timely film about contemporary Iran, about a generation whose private lives are determined more by the rules of society than by their own will.

Bear with Us/Chata na prodej | Dir: Tomáš Pavlíček | Czech Rep, 2018, 77′  WP

A family decides to sell a lovely cottage as none of them has visited it for some time, so they all decide to spend one last day there before the end. This slow-burning comedy is a riff on nostalgia with echoes of a Jaroslav Papoušek screenplay, and takes an agreeably detached view of the Czech phenomenon of weekending in the country.

Moments/Chvilky | Dir: Beata Parkanová | Czech/Slovak Reps, 2018, 95′ WP

This amusing and mature debut explores how explores how a young woman eventually takes control of her life despite her overbearing family.

Glyubokie Reki /Deep Rivers | Dir: Vladimir Bitokov | Russ, 2018, 75′

Under the watchful eye of Aleksandr Sokurov comes another searingly vivid and visually remarkable debut with profound humanistic appeal. Set in a stark landscape, the intense conflict of a family of lumberjacks comes to a head when the youngest returns to take the place of his sick father.

Breathing Into Marble | Dir: Giedrė Beinoriūtė | Lith, Latvia, Croatia, 2018, 97′ 

Lithuanian director Giedrė Beinoriūtė brings us a taut psychological drama debut adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name that sees a well-to-do family under pressure when they adopt a withdrawn little boy from the local orphanage.

Pause / Pauza | Dir: Tonia Mishiali | Greece, Cyprus, 2017, 96 min, World premiere

Elpida is trapped in a loveless marriage to a heartless, despotic man, and to make matters worse, she’s also going through the menopause. Emotional and physical changes affect her perception of reality in this formally mature, muted psychological drama that confront the issues surrounding the position of women in a patriarchal society.

Suleiman Gora / Suleiman Mountain | Director: Elizaveta Stishova
Kyrgyzstan, Russia, 2017, 101′

Drama and comedy collide in this vivid Kyrgyzstani road movie that sees a couple haunted by ghosts of the past who come back to stay, possibly for good.

Via Carpatia |Dir: Klara Kochańska, Kasper Bajon | Poland, 2018, 71 min, WP

Julia and Piotr and his mother decide on an alternative holiday| a trip across the Balkans, to a refugee camp on the Macedonian-Greek border. Student Academy Award holder Klara Kochańska makes her debut with this intimate, cinema verite road movie characterised by subtle performances.

Virágvölgy / Blossom Valley | Dir” László Csuja | Hungary, 2018, 83 min, WP

An punky, brash road movie about young lovers on the run, interwoven with poetic and realistic images. Psychotic Bianka kidnaps a child and dupes the trusting Laci into thinking that it’s his. Together they form an instant family who set off in a caravan, fleeing the law and a bunch of crooks.

Volcano / Vulkán | Dir: Roman Bondarchuk | Ukr,Ger, 2018, 106, WP

One day Lukas, employed as an interpreter for an OSCE mission, becomes lost in the middle of the steppe in southern Ukraine. His journey towards self-recognition andhappiness will be flanked by a series of strange encounters and bizarre situations…Roman Bondarchuk’s novel feature debut is a tragicomedy whose striking visuals aidhim in fleshing out the colorful world of southern Ukraine, a place which still bears unmistakable traces of the distant and not-too-distant past.



Edinburgh International Film Festival | 20 June – 1 July 2018

Artistic Director Mark Adams unveiled this year’s programme for Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), with 121 new features, including 21 world premieres, from 48 countries across the globe.

Highlights include Haifaa al-Mansour’s long-awaited follow-up to WadjdaMARY SHELLEY, with Elle Fanning taking on the role of Mary Wollstonecraft, the World Premiere of Stephen Moyer’s directorial debut, THE PARTING GLASS, starring Melissa Leo, Cynthia Nixon, Denis O’Hare, Anna Paquin (who also produces), Rhys Ifans and Ed Asnerand an IN PERSON events with guests including the award-winning English writer and director David Hare, the much-loved Welsh comedian Rob Brydon and star of the compelling Gothic drama THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE, actor George MacKay, as well as the Opening and Closing Gala premieres of PUZZLE and SWIMMING WITH MEN.


This year’s Best of British strand includes exclusive world premieres of Simon Fellows’ thriller STEEL COUNTRY, featuring a captivating performance from Andrew Scott as Donald, a truck driver turned detective; comedy classic OLD BOYS starring Alex Lawther; the debut feature of writer-director Tom Beard, TWO FOR JOY, a powerful coming-of-age drama starring Samantha Morton and Billie Piper; oddball comedy-drama EATEN BY LIONS; striking debut from writer and director Adam Morse, LUCID, starring Billy Zane and Sadie Frost; Jamie Adams’ British comedy SONGBIRD, featuring Cobie Smulders. Audiences can also look forward to a special screening of Mandie Fletcher’s delightfully fun rom-com PATRICK.


This year the AMERICAN DREAMS strand has the quirky indie comedy UNICORN STORE, the directorialOscar-winning actress Brie Larson in which she stars alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Joan Cusack; the heart-warming HEARTS BEAT LOUD starring Nick Offerman; glossy noir thriller, TERMINAL, starring and produced by Margot Robbie and starring Simon Pegg and Dexter Fletcher; IDEAL HOME in which Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan play a bickering gay couple who find themselves thrust into parenthood; 1980s set spy thriller starring Jon Hamm, THE NEGOTIATOR; and PAPILLON, starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek.


Notable features include 3/4  Ilian Metev’s glowing cinema verity portrait of family life. Malgorzata Szumovska’s oddball drama MUG that explores the aftermath of a face transplant; Aida Begic’s touching transmigration tale NEVER LEAVE ME highlighting how young Syrian lives have been affected by war; actor-turned-director Mélanie Laurent’s fourth feature DIVING, and Hannaleena Hauru’s thought-provoking THICK LASHES OF LAURI MANTYVAARA and the brooding and atmospheric drama THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE starring George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth and Matthew Stagg.


This offer a fascinating snapshot of developing world-cinema themes and styles such as BO Hu’s epic Chinese drama AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL; Berlinale award-winning South American dram THE HEIRESSESGIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY, a touching but darkly funny tale of a Chinese mother and daughter and Kylie Minogue starrer FLAMMABLE CHILDREN , a raucous comedy set in Aussie beachside suburbia in the 1970s. THE BUTTERFLY TREE starring Melissa George and Ben Elton’s THREE SUMMERS starring Robert Sheehan and set at an Australian folk music festival.


This year’s EIFF programme features a strong musical theme from Kevin Macdonald’s illuminating biopic WHITNEY, about the life and times of superstar Whitney Houston; GEORGE MICHAEL: FREEDOM – THE DIRECTOR’S CUT narrated by George Michael himself and ALMOST FASHIONABLE: A FILM ABOUT TRAVIS directed by Scottish lead-singer Fran Healy. Audiences will be inspired by the creativity of Orson Welles in Mark Cousins’ THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES; HAL, a film portrait of the acclaimed 1970s director Hal Ashby; LIFE AFTER FLASH, a fascinating exploration into the life of actor Sam J. Jones.


As the sun sets, audiences will be able to journey into the dark and often downright strange side of cinema, with a selection of genre-busting edge-of-your-seat gems including: the gloriously grisly psychosexual romp PIERCING starring Mia Wasikowska; the world premieres of Matthew Holness’ POSSUM and SOLIS staring Steven Ogg as an astronaut who finds himself trapped in an escape pod heading toward the sun; dark and bloody period drama THE MOST ASSASSINATED WOMAN IN THE WORLD and the futuristic WHITE CHAMBER starring Shauna Macdonald.


The country focus for the Festival’s 72nd edition will be Canada, allowing audiences to take a cinematic tour of the country and its culture, offering insight as well as entertainment, from filmmakers new and already established. HOCHELAGA, LAND OF THE SOULS is an informative look at Quebec’s history; but possibly best to avoid the unconvincing FAKE TATTOOS opting instead for WALL, a striking animated essay about Israel from director Cam Christiansen and FIRST STRIPES a compelling look into the Canadian military from Jean-Francois Caissy.

Weather permitting, the Festival’s pop-up outdoor cinema event Film Fest in the City with Mackays (15 – 17 June) will kick off the festivities early, with the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival running from 20 June – 1 July, 2018.

Tickets go on sale to Filmhouse Members on Wednesday 23 May at 12noon and on sale to the public on Friday 25 May at 10am.



Oddsockeaters (2017) **** DVD release

Wri/Dir: Galina Miklinova | Animation | Czech Rep | 83′

This Czech animation cleverly makes a strangely endearing storyline out of the sock that routinely go missing in the wash, while the other sits forlornly at the back of the airing cupboard waiting to be reunited with its other half.

Clearly this is an annoying scenario, and one that has worried Galina Miklinova enough for her to make a feature length musical Noir set in a dystopian corner of modern Prague, where its invisible sock inhabitants have been successful dubbed into English – with Brooklyn accents – and its central character little Hugo (Christian Vandepass) is a cute and curious stripy blue sock who has stolen not one, but an entire pair of socks to give to his grandpa Lamor on his deathbed: “baby socks give you the best nutrition” says Hugo as his grandpa’s life slips away, telling him to seek out his uncle, a gang leader, Big Boss (Gregg Weiner), the only family he has left.

The street recreations are absolutely terrific as the film deftly mixes 3D computer animated adventure with themes of alienation and homesickness, not unlike a sort urban-based and more nefarious version of The Clangers. What follows is a fascinating survival story where Hugo and his twin cousins, Ramses and Tulamor have to compete with their arch rival Professor René Kaderábek, who also shares their attic abode by the river in Prague, while drawing courage from the rules his grandpa has told him. It turns out however, that their biggest enemy is a gangster named Sid who head another gang of Oddsockeaters. The two rival gangs sock in out an this inventive and enjoyable urban adventure that never outstays its welcome during its modest running time. MT

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion I (2017) ***

Dir.: Gorö Taniguchi | Anime with the voices of Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sukurai, Ami Koshimizi, Kaori Nazuka, Yukana; Japan 135’

The first part of the Gorö Taniguchi’s revenge trilogy has a complex backstory and a massive body-count. Overwhelming fight sequences feature incredibly tall and alluringly pretty warriors: most of the characters are strangely androgynous, targeting the teenage audience. The technical excellence is underpinnedwith some serious themes about fundamentals, aimed at more adult viewers. It all kicks off in 2010 when three Super States rule the world: Britannia (Europe and Africa), Chinese Federation (Asia) and Japan. Prince Lelouch (Fukuyama), suspects that his father, the Emperor of Britannia, has murdered his mother Marianne. His sister Nunally (Nazuka) witnessed her mother’s shooting and was caught in the crossfire and rendered lame and blind by the trauma. The siblings are sent to Japan by their father, to spy on the enemy. Lelouch is a placid boy at school but when he puts on his mask he becomes Zero, a murderous vigilante, and soon with the help of C.C. (Yukana), a mysterious girl, who gives him the power of Geass, making him more or less superior to all enemies. Together with C.C. and female sidekick Kallen Kouzuki (Koshimizu) – who also has identity problems – Lelouch/Zero sets out to take revenge on his father. Code Geass is a bit of lurid fun that cuts both ways in giving adults something to chew on intellectually while their teenage kids can enjoy the remarkable visual antics. AS


Isle of Dogs * * * * (2018) Berlinale 2018

Dir: Wes Anderson | Jason Schwartzman | With: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton | Comedy Animation | US

Twenty years into the future in an isle in the Japanese archipelago five dogs are relegated to the scrap heap quite literally – a landfill site is no place for man’s best friend. In this richly rendered riotously rhythmic animation, Wes Anderson’s social satire says: man may be master of the Universe but behind every good man is his dog. And every dog here certainly has its day.

ISLE OF DOGS is undeniably a Wes Anderson masterpiece, the finely groomed stop-motion animation chockfull of current day themes such as fake news and Asian ‘flu. The canines are canny and convincing each with its own cute character; in an entirely fitting celebration for the Chinese Year of the Dog. Scenes of sushi preparation, human kidney transplant and Dog flu serum injection are delightfully impressive, all set to Alexandre Desplat’s tick-tocking score.

With its screenplay by Anderson co-scripting with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartman and Kunuchi Nomura, ISLE OF DOGS’ densely complex narrative beguiles and bamboozles, imagining a day when a dose of Dog Flu dispatches our furry friends to fend for themselves offshore, whereupon the mayor’s 12 year-old adopted son Atari, flies in to retrieve his beloved white guard-dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Delicate artwork raises a paw to Japanese masters Hagusai and Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki’s glowing Anime.

Naturally, dogs are pack animals led here by Edward Norton as Rex, with the runty Duke voiced by Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban is King; Bill Murray, Boss – and Scarlett Johansson the flirty blonde show-bitch Nutmeg. Tilda Swinton plays the TV-watching, Oracle with Harvey Keitel as Gondo. Brian Cranston’s Chief bings up the rear as the black stray who won’t obey. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig plays a perky student protester, decrying the powers that be on the Japanese mainland.

There is never a dull moment in this often barking mad delight, all bristling with whip-smart wit and deadpan humour that Wes does so well. MT


Loving Vincent (2017) * * * *

Dir: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman | With Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner, Chris O’Dowd | Animated Biography |  Poland | UK | 94′

Seven years in the making LOVING VINCENT is a mini-masterpiece from directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. Each of the 65,000 frames is hand-painted in the style of Van Gogh’s own work, to explore the mystery behind his tragic death. The film makes a superb companion piece to Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing that highlighted the close relationship between Vincent and his brother Theo, told through their extensive correspondence. Other films about the famous post-impressionist painter are Vincent & Theo and Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh. But this animated biopic drama sheds light on the controversy surrounding Vincent’s fatal gunshot wound, suggesting the possibility of murder.

Despite his prolific output of 800 paintings in fewer that ten years, Van Gogh was only 37 when he ended his troubled life in July 1890, during his stay in the countryside boarding house of the Famille Revoux in Auvers-sur-Oise,  Northern France. Although the performances are entirely animated, it is possible to identify the actors playing their roles due to the astonishing likeness of their animated counterparts. LOVING VINCENT glows with a ravishing lucidity to create a story that feels intriguing, intimate and heartfelt in its gentle examination of the facts behind Van Gogh’s turbulent final months and his early childhood memories, revealing the painter’s sorrowful ‘sadness at not amounting to anything’. Van Gogh is played by Polish actor Robert Gulaczyk and the detective work is done by Douglas Booth’s slightly sleazy Armand Roulin, who as the postman’s son, is the least convincing element of this highly inventive and enjoyable exposé. MT

NOW OUT ON BLURAY  from 12 February 2018 


Locarno International Film Festival 2018

For the 71st Locarno Festival the British-Swiss design studio Jannuzzi Smith has created an abstract series of patterns to represent our symbol – the leopard. Drops of black ink spread on yellow paper, each forming one of the accidental compositions that will be used on posters, covers and animations for Locarno71.


Berlinale: Generation 2018

Generation 2018: On true fairy tales and magical realities

Last year’s Generation strand featured some really hot titles, proving that youth cinema is capable of surprising and entertaining the older generation – not just its key audience. In its 41st edition, Generation reinforces its reputation for presenting ambitious new discoveries in the international contemporary film scene to young people told at eye level.

16 feature-length films have already been selected for the competition programmes Kplus and 14plus. In the diverse cinematic formats characteristic of the section, narratives follow their young protagonists through magical worlds of imagery, creating their very own realities that make the contradictions of the fragile adult world visible in subtle ways. The complete 2018 Generation programme will be publicised in mid-January.

Generation 14plus

303 |  Dir: Hans Weingartner | Germany | World premiere

303 tells the story of two university students, Jule (Mala Emde) and Jan (Anton Spieker) who leave Berlin together in an old camper on a road trip south, but for different reasons. As they philosophise on the world and themselves in passionate discussions, director Hans Weingartner maintains a natural closeness to the two young people against breathtaking backgrounds. After his contribution for the episodic film Germany 09, 13 Short Films About The State Of The Nation (Competition 2009), Weingartner, who was also a GWFF Best First Feature Award jury member in 2006, presents his second film at the Berlinale.

Cobain | Dir: Nanouk Leopold | Netherlands / Belgium / Germany | World premiere

After Wolfsbergen (Forum 2007), Brownian Movement (Forum 2011) and Boven is Het Still (Panorama 2013), Dutch director Nanouk Leopold will be represented at the 2018 festival in the Generation 14plus competition. In her characteristic style of quiet radicalism, her newest film follows 15-year-old Cobain as he wanders through the city in search of his self-destructive mother. On his way he runs into her old friends, social workers and the methadone clinic. In his feature film debut, Bas Keizer gently and stirringly embodies the young man who must grow up far before his time.

Danmark | Dir:  Kasper Rune Larsen | International premiere

When 16-year-old Josephine finds out she’s pregnant, she sleeps with laconic Norge and tells him he’s the father. What follows is a wary approach in which questions on responsibility and commitment become increasingly important for the two young people. In his feature film debut, in attentively registered gestures and looks, and keenly observed bodies, faces and things the two protagonists say or don’t say, Kasper Rune Larsen paints a perceptive portrait of young people with deep respect for their wishes and fears, their mistakes and desires.

Güvercin (The Pigeon) | Dir: Banu Sıvacı | Turkey | World premiere

Only on the roof of his parents’ house, above the alleys of a slum in Adana, with his beloved pigeons, can Yusuf find peace, and himself. Finding a foothold in the dystopian world outside is more difficult. Banu Sıvacı’s feature film debut – which she also wrote and produced – follows Yusuf in sharply composed imagery through difficult times. His expressions and the twists and turns of his body open up his very own inner world that has lots to tell about the outside one.

Les faux tatouages (Tattoos) Dir: Pascal Plante | Canada  | International premiere

In Les faux tatouages (Tattoos), Pascal Plante tells the story of young love – tenderly, but without drifting into pathos. Misfit Theo, played by Anthony Therrien (lead in Corbo, Generation 14plus 2015), meets Mag on his 18th birthday, and she invites him to spend the night with her. Music is the language they have in common: Framed by wild punk rhythms and filled with youthful passion, a relationship unfolds whose intensity is only increased by its unavoidably approaching end. With great candour and precision, Plante captures the hopes and dreams of young people on their path into an uncertain future.

Para Aduma (Red Cow) | Dir: Tsivia Barkai | Israel |  World premiere

Director, Berlinale Talents alumna and Jerusalem native Tsivia Barkai was already a guest of Generation in the 2006 14plus competition with her first short film Vika. In her feature film debut, she tells the story of patriarchic order, and youthful desire and rebellion. Benny, a young woman, lives in East Jerusalem and sees her father’s religious, utopian nationalism with increasing scepticism – unlike the secret embraces of her girlfriend Yael. A story told in pictures as powerful as the stormy yearnings of its heroine.

Unicórnio (Unicorn) | Dir: Eduardo Nunes | Brazil  | International premiere

The mysterious drama by Brazilian director Eduardo Nunes develops the story of 13-year-old Maria, who lives alone with her mother in rural isolation. When a young man moves into the neighborhood with his herd of goats, their lives are thrown off balance. Using intoxicatingly immersive images, Nunes transmits the radical language and magical realism of author Hilda Hilst into a mystical, fairy-tale world in an imposing widescreen format.

Virus Tropical | Columbia / France | Dir: Santiago Caicedo | European premiere

Paola is growing up in Quito, Ecuador, as the youngest of three sisters. Dreams burst, companies fail, love grows and withers. In his feature film debut, director Santiago Caicedos translates the autobiographical story of the Ecuadorian comic illustrator Powerpaola into fast-paced, graphically daring, animated images. Emancipatory protest and a declaration of love combine to form an ironic perspective on contemporary Latin America.

Generation Kplus

Allons enfants (Cléo & Paul | DIR: Stéphane Demoustier | France | World premiere

Three-and-a-half-year-old Cléo is the reigning hide-and-seek champion. But then one day she forgets which path she took in the park. Suddenly the world is full of strangers staring at their smartphones. Cléo sets out on her own in the hustle-bustle of Paris in search of her brother Paul, who is only slightly older – and lost as well. In tender proximity to its tiny protagonists, this laconic cinematic fairy tale by Stéphane Demoustier turns the daily urban doldrums into a marvelous cosmos of wonderful things, places and encounters.

The Incredible Story of the Giant Pear | Dir:  Philip Einstein Lipski, Amalie Næsby Fick, Jørgen Lerdam | International premiere

Mitcho and Sebastian are quite surprised when they fish a message in a bottle out of the water one day. Inside is a letter from the mayor J.B., who vanished without a trace, and a seed that grows into a giant pear overnight. The pear turns into a sailboat and suddenly the anxious Sebastian and the hydrophobic Mitcho find themselves in the middle of the ocean with a mad professor. Based on the picture book by Jakob Martin Strid, this fast-paced, magical animation by a trio of directors tells the story of an adventurous journey to the mysterious island where Mayor J.B. is now believed to be located.

My Giraffe | Dir: Barbara Bredero  | Netherlands / Belgium / Germany | International premiere

Patterson’s best friend has a long neck and soft, brightly-spotted fur. His name is Raf, he was born the same day as Patterson, and he is: a talking giraffe. Now the two of them are turning four, and soon it’ll be their first day of school. Only animals aren’t allowed at school. Inspired by the classic Dutch children’s song and poem by Annie M.G. Schmidt, and told with a wink, this film is an imaginative story on value and flux in an unusual friendship.

El día que resistía | Dir: Alessia Chiesa | Arg/France | World premiere

They play hide-and-seek, read to each other, roughhouse and tumble with their dog Coco: At first glance, the siblings Fan (8), Tino (6) and Claa (4) lead an unburdened childhood life. But they are completely alone, and the forest is just outside, and wasn’t there something about a big bad wolf? With ample sensuality, Berlinale Talents alumna and Argentina native Alessia Chiesa’s feature-length debut unfolds into a dreamy but increasingly gloomy world.

Gordon och Paddy (Gordon and Paddy) | Dir”: Linda Hambäck | Sweden | International premiere

Told in wildly popular Scandinavian whodunit style, frog police chief Gordon, voiced by Stellan Skarsgård, and his assistant Paddy (Melinda Kinnaman) uphold the law of the forest, track down nut thieves and protect forest residents from the fox. Courteousness is legal and dirty tricks are illegal. But that’s always a question of perspective, as this absorbing animation shows using oodles of charm and attention to detail, by filmmaker Linda Hambäck, born in South Korea.

Les rois mongols (Cross My Heart) | Dir: Luc Picard | Canada  | European premiere

Montreal, October 1970. Twelve-year-old Manon’s poverty-stricken family breaks apart: His father has cancer and his mother is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. When Manon and her little brother are to be taken to a foster family, she makes a daredevil plan. Featuring stirring actors and skillfully linked to the real-life upheavals, this film manages to create a moving portrayal of those times, simultaneously exposing the lies and lack of understanding in the grown-up world in tragic and humorous ways.

Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen) | Dir: Kamila Andini | Neth / Austral / Qatar | Euro prem

In Sekala Niskala (The Seen and Unseen), Indonesian director Kamila Andini, who presented her debut film The Mirror Never Lies at the Berlinale (Generation 2012) searches for answers to the question of how to say goodbye to a beloved person. Shaped by the Balinese understanding of Sekala – the seen, and Niskala – the unseen, Andini gives the world experience of a ten-year-old girl and her very ill twin brother an imagery of remarkable expressive power.

Supa Modo Germany | Dir: Likarion Wainaina |  Kenya | World premiere

This drama by Kenyan director Likarion Wainaina, co-produced by Tom Tykwer, tells the inspiring story of nine-year-old Jo. In her acting debut, Stycie Waweru embodies with touching earnestness the terminally ill girl who dreams of being a superhero. Against all odds and battling the time left her, a whole village takes it upon themselves to make Jo’s last wish a reality: to make a film and star in it. Wainaina succeeds in creating a deeply moving observation of the comforting value of imagination in the face of the finiteness of a still young life.


Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017)

Dir.: Masaaki Yuasa; Anime with the voices of Kana Hanazawa, Gen Hoshino, Hiroyuki Yoshino; Japan 2017, 93′

Masaaki Yuasa returns to the big screen with his first release in 13 years. Night is Short, Walk On Girl, based on the Manga by Tomohiko Morimi, is a variation on the One Night action Manga, itself the Oriental equivalent of Cornel Woolrich’s pulp novels featuring the doomed hero with just one night to prove his innocence and rescue his girl –while the clock ticks away. In this case, it’s the girl of the title, Ottome, meaning ‘girl with black hair’, who runs the show.

Set in Kyoto, Senpai (Hoshino), a shy senior college student from an upmarket background, is in love with teenager The Girl (Hanazawa) who keeps her feelings for him buttoned up. Senpai pursues her at every corner, but The Girl is much more streetwise than he is. After a mutual college friend’s wedding party, Senpai tries to find a seat near his paramour, but comes under attacked by a gang robbing him of his clothes, leaving Senpai deeply embarrassed and forced to beg strangers to lend him some underwear. The Girl, meanwhile, lucks out by winning a drinking contest with a God-like creature, Rihaku, thus liberating one of his debtors. As the night goes on, The Girl meets the ‘God of the old Books Market’ (Yoshino) along with Todo-son, an unhappy collector of erotic Japanese art, and a group of nihilists, who fall under her spell. A college theatre production turns into a out-out slapstick show, and, in the final section of this riotous night journey, The Girl fights tornados and icy hail, as the anime reaches its momentous finale

One word of warning: The title is completely misleading as The Girl never walks but rushes around madly, a tireless adventuress, seeking out excitement at every corner. Senpai is more contemplative and we learn a lot about the inner workings of his mind, where Ego and Id fight it out. There seems to be no ‘dramatic arc’ – this is a fairy tale told on speed. It would have been good to learn more about the innovative animation: for example, if people get drunk or act embarrassingly, their bodies are suffused by different shades of red, with Senpai being the main victim – but the subtitles don’t leave much time for admiration. The film’s characters are based on the drawings of the Manga by Yusuke Nakamura, and the director successfully marries this rather minimalist style with his overpoweringly fluid action scenes.

Some critics have accused Yuasa of celebrating Senpai as a stalker, but while he seems to be a bit of a control freak, he is very unsuccessful at it. Yuasa has stuck to the first sentence of the novel “This is not a story about me, it’s a story about her”. AS


Your Name (2016)

Writer|Dir:  Makoto Shinkai

Cast: Ryunosuke Kamikim Mone Kamishiraishi, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yuki, obunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani, Masaki Terasoma

If you’re missing Studio Ghibli, then Makoto Shinkai’s runaway anime ‘love story’ will certainly fit the bill, even though it doesn’t quite match up to the subtly magical humanist undertow achieved by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and Mamoru Hosoda. Billed as a Sci fi fantasy, this body-swapping romp is a sheer delight, even if the ending may leave you perplexed. It tells the story of a Tokyo schoolboy and girl who undergo weird out-of-body experiences just when a comet is passing over Japan.  But when they try to meet up back in their own bodies, real romance turns into a bittersweet and often strangely humorous affair. YOUR NAME is strangely similar in its narrative to the recent Swedish film Girls Lost. 

The comet element also vaguely echoes Japan’s 2011 tragedy when a tsunami and an earthquake wreaked havoc on the population. This is conveyed in a startlingly gorgeous opening sequence where earthbound missiles fall through the sky like incandescent fireworks. Fragments of the comet alight in the countryside where Mitsuha is living with her grandma, in a cottage beside a lake. But Mitsuha craves other bright lights: those of Tokyo, where Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is working as a waiter in the evenings after school. One day he wakes up in Mitsuha’s body, complete with breasts and other female attributes. Needless to say, Mitsuha is coping with Taki’s male bits and finding school quite a challenge, especially going to the loo. But her intuition works well when as Taki, she has a crush on a older girl.  Several times they actually wake up, and eventually manage to fathom out what is going on with their bodies.  It soon emerges that Mitsuha is actually three years ahead of Taki, living before the disaster that destroyed her town and many of neighbours.

Although Shinkai’s multiple plotlines start becoming rather confusing, largely due to memory loss that occurs when the two morph back into their own bodies, this is an impressive anime feature. And although some of the musical choices feel rather out of place with the dreamy status quo, this delightful and delicately rendered visual feast is appealing and entertaining to watch. MT




Napping Princess (2017)

Dir.: Kenji Kamiyama; Anime; Voices of: Mitsuki Takahata, Shin’nosuke Mitsushima, Tomoya Maeno; Japan 2017, 110 min.

Director/writer Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell) continues his critique of Japanese society with NAPPING PRINCESS, an Anime featuring Kokone, a teenage schoolgirl who has to clean up not only the contemporary world, but also a parallel world of sorcerers and monsters. Kamiyama makes impressive use of the Isekai genre – where protagonists have a double life in another world – showing that modern society is not that much different from other eras.

Instead of studying hard for her university entrance examine, Kokone (Takahata), regularly oversleeps and often manages on to fall asleep during lessons. In her vivid dreams, she believes that she is Ancien, the unruly daughter of the King of Heartland, who rebels against her car-obsessed father: every citizen has to drive a brand new vehicle, the production line is active 24/7. Workers are punished for lateness, even though the traffic is near to standstill. When Colossos, a giant mechanical monster appears, the King orders the building of transformer-likes machines which are pedalled from the inside by workers. Ancien, helped by the pirate Peach, makes full use of her magic powers, but is hunted down by the King’s evil mandarin Watanabe, who wants to exile the sorceress for good. Meanwhile, in the ‘real’ world problems also mount up: just before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, her hipster father Kijita (Maeno), masquerading as a car mechanic, has finished the computer programme for pilotless cars, which will transport guest and athletes during the games. The programme had been started by Kokone’s mother, who had left her father, the CEO of a big car manufacturing company, who was then unwilling, to invest in pilotless cars. After the death of his wife, Kijita has completed the software program. The Watanabe-like Deputy CEO of Kokone’s grandfather’s company, now tries to usurp his boss, trying to lay his hands on the program. When Kokone realises, that Ancien is not herself, but her mother, she has another ally and can fight back successfully on both fronts, being also helped by her class mate Miori (Mitsushina).

Also known as Ancien and the Magic Tablet (much more appropriate than this rather silly title), Kamiyana connects the two worlds perfectly: the equivalent protagonists complementing each other’s characters to the full. But the main premise is that Kokone is a perfect role model: very much in love with technology, and adept and successful at using it, just like the male protagonists. She uses her emotional intelligence to deal with the opposite sex, who are unable to empathise. The only criticism of NAPPING PRINCESS is that the back-story is told over the rolling end-credits and not integrated into the main Anime.

ON RELEASE: 16th August 2017  A full list of sites can be found here:


Locarno Film Festival 2017

IMG_3877Known for its edgy and eclectic selection of international independent titles, LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL this year celebrates its 70th Anniversary in the town’s Piazza Grande in temperatures that often sizzle in the late 30s promising a scorching experience and adding a surreal touch to Carlo Chatrain’s inventive programming.

With Olivier Assayas heading the jury proceedings will be more exciting than ever at the lakeside extravaganza, which this year has a distinct fantasy flavour, mingling Hollywood classics with more

The 70th celebration kicks off with Noemie Lvovsky’s drama TOMORROW AND THEREAFTER, starring Mathieu Amalric. And Kevin Merz’ musical biopic tribute GOTTHARD – One Life, One Soul will close the jamboree on 12 August.

2_lola-paterOther Piazza Grande titles include ATOMIC BLOND with Charlize Theron and James McAvoy; and WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY? starring Glenn Close, Noomi Rapace and Willem Dafoe.

The main competition includes Denis Cote’s TA PEAU SI LISSE; Bing Wang’s MRS FANG; Raul Ruiz’ LA TELENOVELA ERRANTE; Ben Russell’s mining film GOOD LUCK and Serge Bozon’s MADAME HYDE starring Isabelle Huppert and Romain Duris. Other buzzy titles include LUCKY starring Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch; GOLIATH by Dominik Locher; and WAJIB by When I Saw You scripter Annemarie Jacir.

scorpions_2-resStars from the independent film firmament attending this year include Mathieu Kassovitz, who has been awarded the 2017 Excellence Award; Adrien Brody, who will receive a Pardo d’Honore and Nastassja Kinski receiving a Lifetime Award. One of India’s most celebrated film stars Irrfan Khan will join Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani for their love story revenge drama THE SONG OF SCORPIONS, and veteran Fanny Ardant will attend with her new transgender-themed film LOLA PATER. Vanessa Paradis will also be on the Piazza Grande in Samuel Benchetrit’s comedy drama CHIEN about a man who becomes a submissive pet.

In a programme that features the latest European titles from Germany, Austria, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Slovenia and Belgium – not to mention Britain and the host country Switzerland –  the side-bars are also promising some hidden gems, as was the case in this year’s Cannes 70th celebration. Of particular interest will be Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s follow-up to The Strange Colour of your Body’s Tears (2013): LAISSEZ BRONZER LES CADAVRES! a thriller which stars Elina Lowensohn.

In the SIGNS OF LIFE strand Radu Jude (Aferim!) will be showing his latest, a black&white historical documentary that explores Romania’s past through recently discovered photographs THE DEAD NATION. Bosnia Herzogovina’s Boris Mitic offers IN PRAISE OF NOTHING, a ‘feelgood’ documentary filmed worldwide by 100+ DoPs and narrated by Iggy Pop. Nelson Carlo del Los Santos Arias feature debut COCOTE is a drama from the Domenican Republic that examines religious cults that challenge the central character’s Christian beliefs. Brazil, Taiwan, Argentina, Columbia, Ukraine, Korea, India, the US and Canada will also be represented. In the CINEASTI DEL PRESENTE section, standouts include 3/4 from Sofia’s Last Ambulance director Ilian Metev; Pedro Cabeleira’s psychedelic drama VERAO DANADO set in a Lisbon steeped in summer torpor; DISTANT CONSTELLATION,  Shevaun Mizrahi’s documentary that follows the eccentric inhabitants of a Turkish retirement home and SEVERINO, an obsessional love story from Brazilian director Felipe Hirsch and starring Alfredo Castro (No, The Club).

But probably most inviting of all is the extraordinary JACQUES TOURNEUR retrospective featuring over 20 of his films including some rare and lesser known titles. There are also retrospectives for this year’s awarded stars:  Nastassja Kinski; Fanny Ardant, Matthieu Kossovitz and Adrien Brody/


969151 As Boas Maneiras | Good Manners | Brazil | Marco Dutra | 132′

Clara, a lonely nurse from the outskirts of São Paulo, is hired by mysterious and wealthy Ana as the nanny for her unborn child. The two women develop a strong bond, but a fateful night changes their plans. 

965473Charleston | Romania | Andrei Cretulescu | 119′

A couple of weeks after the fatal car crash of his wife, Ioana, Alexandru is drunk and alone as he celebrates his 42th birthday. He receives an unexpected visit from Sebastian, a shy and younger man, who had been Ioana’s lover for the past five months. Sebastian wants Alexandru to help him overcome the despair caused by the woman’s death.

971753On The Seventh Day | Jim McKay | USA  Spanish, English | 97′ 

A group of undocumented immigrants from Puebla live in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. They work long hours six days a week as bicycle-delivery guys, construction workers, dishwashers, deli workers, and cotton-candy vendors. On Sundays, they savor their day of rest on the soccer fields of Sunset Park. José, a bicycle delivery man, who is young and talented, hardworking and responsible, is the soccer team’s captain. When his team makes it to the finals, he and his teammates are thrilled, but his boss throws a wrench into the celebration when he tells him he must work exactly on the day of the final. José tries to reason with him and replace himself but all his efforts fail. If he doesn’t work on Sunday, his job and his future will be on the line.

971501Gemini | US | Aaron Katz | 93′

A heinous crime tests the complex relationship between a tenacious personal assistant and her boss, a Hollywood starlet. As the assistant travels across Los Angeles to unravel the mystery, she must deal with a determined policeman. At the same time, her understanding of friendship, truth and celebrity is deeply questioned.

971960The Asteroids | Italy | Germano Maccioni

An industrial, endless, alienating province. Once a florid one, now deeply marked by the economy crisis. A province made up of broad fields and abandoned warehouses. This is the universe in which Pietro and his friend Ivan, nineteen year olds in conflict with their family and with school, gravitate. In the background are a series of thefts in churches, carried out by the elusive “candelabra gang”, and a large asteroid looming above, monitored by the astronomy station in the area since it is about to pass very close to Earth. So close that a rather weird friend, obsessed with astronomy and philosophical issues, is certain it will plummet into the planet, wiping out mankind. And while the “end of the world” approaches, Ivan convinces Pietro to take part in one final theft.

972206Good Luck | Ben Russell | France/Germany | 143′ | B&W

Shot on Super16mm, Good Luck is a portrait of two mining communities operating on opposite sides of a hostile world: the state employees of a 400m-deep underground Serbian copper mine and the Maroon laborers of an illegal gold mining operation in the jungle tropics of Suriname.

973010Travelling Soap Opera | La Telenovela Errante | Chile | Raul Ruiz /Valeria Sarmiento | 80′

“The film revolves around the concept of soap opera. Its structure is based on the assumption that Chilean reality does not exist, but rather is an ensemble of soap operas. There are four audiovisual provinces, and the threat of war is felt among the factions. The political and economic problems are immersed in a fictional jelly divided into evening episodes. The entire Chilean reality is viewed from the point of view of the soap opera, which acts as a revealing filter of this same reality”. (Raúl Ruiz)

962175Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres | France/Italy/Belgium | Cattet / Forzino

The Mediterranean, summer: azure sea, sun beating down… and 250 kilos of gold stolen by Rhino and his gang who’ve found the ideal hideout in a deserted village, cordoned off from its surroundings by an artist suffering creative block. But when two cops turn up unexpectedly, this little paradise, formerly the site of orgies and wild happenings, will turn into a hallucinatory, brutal battlefield.

mv5bnzkymdy0ndityzy0nc00yjq1ltkzotytmje1nwewm2nmzgu1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntezndk3ndc_v1_sy1000_cr006771000_al__jpg_191x283_crop_q85Lucky | US | John Carroll Lynch | 88′

Having outlived and outsmoked all his contemporaries who inhabited his off-the-map desert town, the fiercely independent Lucky, a 90-year-old atheist, finds himself at the precipice of life, thrust into a journey of self-exploration, leading towards the so-often unattainable enlightenment.

973045Madame Hyde | France/Belgium | Serge Bozon | 95′

Mrs. Géquil is an eccentric teacher despised by her colleagues and students. On a stormy night, she is struck by lightning and faints. When she wakes up, she feels different. Will she now be able to keep the powerful and dangerous Mrs. Hyde contained?

962022Mrs Fang | Doc | Bing Wang | China | 86′

Fang Xiuying was a farmer born in Huzhou, Fujian in 1948. She suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last eight years of her life. By 2015, her symptoms were already very advanced and her treatment in a convalescent home was ineffective, so it was discontinued in June 2016 and she returned home. The film follows her ordeal first in 2015, and then in 2016 during the last ten days of her life.

969503Quin Ting Zhi yan | Xu Bing | China/US | 81′

Each of us is captured on surveillance cameras, on average, 300 times a day. These all-seeing “eyes” observe Qing Ting too, a young woman, as she leaves the Buddhist temple where she has been training to become a nun. She returns to the secular world, where she takes a job in a highly mechanized dairy farm. There, Ke Fan, a technician, falls in love with her, breaks the law in an attempt to please her and is sent to jail. On his release, he can’t find Qing Ting and looks for her desperately until he figures out that she has reinvented herself as the online celebrity Xiao Xiao. Ke Fan decides to revamp himself.

962038Ta Peau si Lisse | Denis Cote | Canada | 94′

Jean-François, Ronald, Alexis, Cédric, Benoit and Maxim are gladiators of modern times. From the strongman to the top-class bodybuilder, to the veteran who has become a trainer, they all share the same definition and obsession with overcoming their limitations. They are waiting for the next competition, working hard in the gym and following extreme diets.

962055Winter Brothers |Denmark, Iceland |Danish English | 94′ 

 Winter Brothers follows two brothers working during a cold winter, their routines, habits, rituals and a violent feud that erupts between them and another family.

Wajib | Annenarie Jacir | Arabic | 96′

Living in Nazareth, Abu Shadi is a divorced father and a school teacher in his mid-sixties. His daughter is getting married and he has to live alone until his son – an architect that lives in Rome for many years now – arrives to help him with the wedding preparation. As the local Palestinian tradition requires, they have to hand-deliver the invitation to each guest personally. As the estranged pair spends days together, their fragile relationship is being challenged.

9618479 Fingers | F J Ossang | French | 99′ | B&W

In the middle of the night, Magloire smokes a cigarette in an abandoned train station when the police show up for an identity check. He starts running with no luggage and no future until he meets a dying man from whom he inherits a fortune. Subsequently, Magloire is chased by a gang and – having nothing to lose – he becomes not only their hostage, but also their accomplice.

IMG_3903GOLIATH | Dominik Locher | Switzerland | 85′

A modest young couple’s relationship is put to the test when Jessy’s unplanned pregnancy causes David to question his feelings of masculinity and identity in contemporary Switzerland.


IMG_3905DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? | Travis Wilkerson | US | 90′ 

When Wilkerson sets out to explores the mystery surrounding the murder of a black man by his great-grandfather in 1940s Alabama, he discovers something he hadn’t bargained for.


IMG_3906FREIHEIT | Jan Speckenbach | Slovakia/German/English | 100′

A mother goes away, leaving her husband and their two children in limbo. She is driven by a force she cannot ignore: freedom. In Vienna, Nora wanders through a museum, succumbs to a flirtation and then thumbs a lift to Bratislava. Nora conceals her origin behind small lies, changes her appearance, finds work as a chambermaid and makes friends with the young Slovak woman Etela, a stripper, and her husband Tamás, a cook. Meanwhile in Berlin, Philip tries to keep his family and job as well as his affair with Monika going. Against his own convictions, he, a lawyer, defends a xenophobic youngster, struggles with the role of single parent. Philip finds an – albeit unconscious – ear for his worries in the figure of a coma patient… The freedom Nora is longing for becomes Philip’s chains.

PIAZZA GRANDE – all World Premieres unless stated

Amori Che Non Sanno Stare Al Mondo | Francesca Comencini (Italy)

Atomic Blonde | David Leitch (US) (Euro Premiere)

Chien | Samuel Benchetrit (France/Belgium)

Demain Et Tous Les Autres JoursNoémie Lvovsky (France)

Drei Zinnen | Jan Zabeil

Good Time | Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie  (US) (Cannes Premiere)

Gotthard – One Life, One Soul | Kevin Merz (US)

I Walked With A Zombie | Jacques Tourneur (Classic)

Iceman | Felix Randau (Germany

Laissez Bronzer Les Cadavres | Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani

Lola Pater | Nadir Moknèche

Sicilia! | Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet

Sparring | Samuel Jouy

The Big Sick | Michael Showalter (Sundance Premiere)

The Song Of Scorpions | Anup Singh

What Happened To Monday? | Tommy Wirkola


3/4 By Ilian Metev (Bulgaria)

Abschied Von Den Eltern | Astrid Johanna Ofner (Germany)

Beach Rats | Eliza Hittman (US) (International Premiere) 

Cho-Haeng (The First Lap) | Kim Dae-Hwan (Korea) (International Premiere)

Dene Wos Guet Geit | Cyril Schäublin (Swiss German)

Distant Constellation | Shevaun Mizrahi (USA)

Easy | Andrea Magnani (Italy)

Edaha No Koto (Sweating The Small Stuff) | Ninomiya Ryutaro (Japan)

Il Monte Delle Formiche By Riccardo Palladino (Italy)

Le Fort Des Fous By Narimane Mari (France/Greece/Qatar)

Meteorlar By Gürcan Keltek (Turkey)

Milla |  Valerie Massadian (France/Portugal)

Person To Person | Dustin Guy Defa (US) (International Premiere)

Sashishi Ded (Scary Mother) Georgia/Estonia)| Ana Urushadze

Severina | Felipe Hirsch (BraziL)

Verão Danado | Pedro Cabeleira (Portugal





Genocidal Organ (2017)

Dir.: Shuko Murase; Animation; Voices of Yuichi Nakamura, Sanae Kobayashi, Takahiro Sakurai; USA/Japan 2017, 115 min.

This screen adaptation of Project Ito’s cult novel is a puzzling and often violent animation. Shuko Murase’s film is  part Jason Bourne spy thriller and part video game with countless casualties, Murase questions not only government policies, but also how human memory works.

Set in 2022, after the Bosnian capital Sarajevo was victim of a nuclear attack, the US government creates a special force to deal with genocidal tyrants, whose wars are proliferating outside the ‘safe’ world of the fully industrialised nations. This squad is led by Clavis Shepherd (Nakamura), hunting John Paul (Sakurai), an enigmatic American, who is suspected to be the ringleader of the warlords.

In Prague, Shepherd meets Lucia (Kobayashi), Paul’s ex-girl friend. We learn, that he was with her, when his wife and children were killed in the Sarajevo attack. Later Paul explains: “he does not want to be grieving again”, and therefore will keep all terrorist attacks outside the territory of the major powers. Lucia shows Clavis Kafka’s grave, and explains that Paul was working at MIT, finding a language pattern of dictators, prone to suicide. As it turns out, Paul is still in Prague, and has Clavis drugged in a seedy nightclub, where no fingerprint scans exist, which are usually needed, even if one buys a pizza. Travis escapes Paul’s clutches, and hunts him down in Africa, with a crew which is “emotionally optimised” – meaning that they do not feel any pain or regret for their mass killings. The leading trio finally assembles for the statutory show-down.

Project Ito (Satoshi Ito) published Genocidal Organ in 2007, followed by Harmony (a novelisation of Metal Gear soldiers 4), before he died of cancer aged only thirty-four in 2009. His status in SF animation circles is unrivalled, and Murase had a monumental task of keeping Ito’s followers happy. Whilst he clearly succeeds with the fan group, it’s unclear if a wider audience will share this enthusiasm for a near two-hour bombardment of half baked philosophies and gruelling mass murder. Whilst the colours are often muted, the violence is very graphic. Somehow numbness soon sets in and what seems original at the beginning, is less and less exciting as the narrative unspools. All said and done, the two hour running time does nothing to make this attack of explosions and sound effects user friendly for a larger audience. AS

ON RELEASE FROM 12 July 2017

My Life as a Courgette (2016) | Ma Vie de Courgette

Dir.: Claude Barras | Animation | Switzerland/France | 66 min.

Claude Barras’ stop-motion animation is a tender tale probing life’s saddest moment: not a kid’s film but one that resonates with the kid inside us – Heart-breaking and uplifting at the same time. Celine Scammia (Water Lilies, Girlhood) an expert on juvenile psyches, has cleverly scripted Gilles Paris’ autobiographical novel Ma Vie de Courgette, and although the film is not as dark as the book, Barras’ characters have to deal with considerable trauma, making it only suitable for the over-tens.

The story of nine-year old orphan Courgette (his real name is Icare, i.e. Icarus) is completely different from other child-themed animations Mathilda or Annie. Courgette himself has killed his alcoholic mother accidentally; he keeps one of her empty beer cans as the only memento of her life. A friendly policeman Raymond takes him to an orphanage where he meets look-alikes, who share his displacement: the faces of all the children seem to be made out of plasticine, they have a mop of coloured hair – in Courgette’s case –   huge blue hands, and golf-ball sized eyes, with the iris looking as if it was stuck on. These eyes really are mirrors of their souls, pictures of their state of mind. And despite the slender running time, David Toutevoix’ delicately rendered images convey the passing years as the orphans develop seamlessly from children to gawky pre-teens. Initially the colours are muted, particularly in Courgette’s flat, where he hides in the attic to avoid his dipsy mother. But as life improves the visuals lighten and colours become more vibrant.

When Courgette enters the orphanage he is immediately accosted by the loutish leader of the pack, Simon, who calls him ‘potatoes’; whilst the dinosaur-obsessed Ahmed becomes more of a soul mate. Alice, always shy, hides behind her hair which she parts like two curtains over her face, when embarrassed. But Courgette falls for Camille. When Raymond re-appears, he takes the two children to his flat cacti-ridden flat. But then Camille’s money-grabbing aunt takes over: she feels nothing for her niece but wants to collect the grant for raising her. But Camille and Courgette find a way of being together.

Courgette is a sensitive study in grief, but also an authentic portrait of children growing up, coming to terms with their sadness and becoming sociable beings who have learned to look out for each other, like Simon who encourages Courgette and Camille to live with Raymond, even though they are sad to leave him behind. Barras and Sciammia create a wonderful cosmos of healing: symbolised by the children using a weatherboard for their moods: ‘Cloudy’ turning more often to ‘sunny’ than not. AS


The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin (2017) | Bfi Flare 2017

Dir: Jennifer M Kroot | Doc | US/UK | 91min

Armistead Maupin churned out copy like a demon according to his editor at the San Francisco Chronicle where he worked as a regualr columnist. His prodigious talent and remarkable work ethic was possibly due to his strict upbringing by a father whom he admits to hating, according to Jennifer Kroots informative biopic of the writer and longtime advocacy for queer civil rights, and creator of the popular Tales of the City franchise.

Enriched with a commentary from talking heads Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Amy Tan, Kroot’s documentary is the first to chart the life of a writer who has known success and personal tragedy and now seems to have largely vanished from the scene, so the film will certainly be greeted with warmth and appreciation by his fans and those who have enjoyed his work, whatever the critical appraisal.

Kroot covers Maupin’s career as a journalist right through to his status as a US household name with an impressive array of photographs and archive footage showing how the he struggled to come out, as the son of a white supremacist father, and ended up with a series of gay lovers, one of whom had partnered Rock Hudson, eventually emerging as an avant-garde figure of his generation, or so the luminaries would have us believe. Rather a shame then that the film has a rather lightweight quality with cartoonish 1970s visuals in the style of Monty Python or TV’s Magpie, and unimaginative and lacklustre format. MT



Metropolis (2001) | Eureka Bluray release

29772537064_07f31a3d64_zDirected by Rintaro, written by Katsuhiro Otomo and produced by Madhouse with conceptual support from Tezuka Productions, this science-fiction anime action is loosely based on the 1949 Metropolis manga created by Osamu Tezuka, itself inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1927 German silent film of the same name, though the two do not share plot elements. The anime, however, does draw aspects of its storyline directly from the 1927 film. METROPOLIS pictures an imagined future where humans and robots coexist in a city where robots are the underdogs forced to live in the city’s backstreets. This evergreen masterpiece mirrors our own contemporary society where the indigenous population is often unemployed and feels disenfranchised, blaming the immigrants (here robots) for taking their jobs. But Rintaro’s Japanese dystopia also fetishises technology. The narrative centres around Japanese detective Shunsaku Ban who arrives in Metropolis with his nephew Kenichi, hot on the tail of a corrupt scientist Dr Laughton. During their investigations they uncover Laughton’s secret creation: an ethereal robot called Tima who has an agenda that belies her often coy demeanour. Like an exotic TinTin on speed METROPOLIS‘ Art Deco aesthetic is visually lush and incandescent, dissolving and fizzing in a sparking psychedelic spectrum of colours. Otomo’s poetic script drives the story forward combining moments of terror with touching sadness set against at atmospheric ambient soundtrack of vintage jazz. Literally out of this world. MT

BLURAY RELEASE COURTESY OF EUREKA, MASTERS OF CINEMA in a limited edition Dual-Format SteelBook on 16 January 2017, and a Special Dual-Format edition on 13 March 2017.

Dreams | (1990) | Criterion UK Bluray release

Dir: Akira Kurosawa | Cast: Martin Scorsese, Akira Terao, Mitsuko Baisho, Mitsunori Isaki, Toshie Negishi, Mieko Harada | Japan | Fantasy Drama | 119min

Akira Kurasawa trained as a artist, in common with David Lynch and Abbas Kiarostami, and this is a filmed realisation of eight of the director’s recurring dreams, presented as a series of interconnecting shorts incandescently rendered in a magic realist style presented by Kurosawa for the first time as sole writer.

The vignettes explore with sumptuous imagery his nightime imagination that is often linked to episodes of Japanese folklore featuring tragic events and fairytales: a young boy wandering through woods discovers a fox wedding; a soldier confronts the macabre spectre of the war dead who were once his companions; a radioactive leak from a power plants spills over to contaminate the local countryside; and Martin Scorsese appears as Vincent van Gogh in a glowing tribute to the artist. DREAMS is a deeply personal and ravishing jewel box of tantalising tricks showcasing Kurosawa’s talents to edify, entertain and mesmerise his audience. MT





The Darkest Universe (2016)

Dir.: Tom Kingsley, Will Sharp; Cast: Will Sharp, Tiani Ghosh, Joe Thomas, Sophie Di Martino, Chris Langham | Comedy Drama | UK 2016, 86 min.

In a bid to be original Tom Kingsley and Will Sharp (Black Pond) deliver a hotchptoch of clichés in an indie drama which is inaccessible and sometimes hilarious – for all the wrong reasons.

Financial trader Zac (Sharp) is looking for his sister Alice (also co-writer) who has disappeared on a boat moored at Camden Lock, along with her boyfriend Toby (Thomas). Random flashbacks tell the story of the missing couple, who have both been unable to communicate properly with friends and family. But soon Zac’s story of “finding himself” takes over: Rejected by his girl friend Eva (De Martino), he cuts off his hair, produces maddening videos, which hardly help to find the missing couple, and visits Toby’s father Alan (Langham), in a country house where Toby grew up. There Zac discovers Toby’s cartoon story by entitled ‘The darkest Universe’, written for his sick mother, when he was little. Zac sinks deeper and deeper into a depression, blaming himself for Alice’ disappearance, having promised their dead mother, that he would look after Alice. The solution to their disappearance is about as nonsensical as the film itself.

DoP Will Hanke’s dreamy images of floating clouds are wasted on this amateurish production, which pretends to be enigmatic, and the actors try in vain not to sink to the level of script and direction – for which they are, at least partly, responsible. AS


Ethel & Ernest (2016)

Dir: Roger Marwood | Voices by Jim Broadbent | Brenda Blethyn | Animation | UK

Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn are the voices behind Roger Marwood’s ETHEL & ERNEST, an animated portrait of marital togetherness in suburban England. Based on Raymond Briggs’ biographical tribute to his own parents, this is an emotionally resonant drama that glows in its water-coloured tenderness echoing the likes of John Betjeman and Alan Bennett in capturing the quintessential middle class tolerance and quiet humour of the era.

Against the dramatic background of the 20th century, Ethel and Ernest’s modest story unfolds as a delicate domestic tapestry. They first meet in 1928 and go to enjoy 40 years of marriage that sees them through the privations of the Second World War, the start of the Welfare State and other national events, and the birth of their son who went on the create the evocative children’s animation Snowman.

For the most part enjoyable, some of the dialogue verges on twee in phrases such as “Mr Hitler”, and “this nice Mr Atlee” which feel like an attempt to trivialise Ethel – as if women were so ignorant back then. While some of the scenes begin to feel rather predictable, this is a touching arthouse treasure that will appeal to patriotic mainstream audiences and cineastes alike. MT


Asterix and Obelix: Mansion of the Gods (2016)

Dir.: Louis Clichy, Alexandre Astier | Voices of Roger Carel, Laurent Lafitte, Alain Chabat

Animation 3D; based on the comic book of the same title by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo from 1971

France/Belgium 2014, 85 min.

After some sadly failed attempts at live-action, our Gallic heroes re-emerge as the original cartoon figures: this time in 3D and with lively CGI action.

Beastly Caesar plots in Rome (again) the downfall of the last village in Gaul not under his control. This time he wants to undermine the spirit of the villagers by building huge luxury mansions around their village and populating them with Romans, who soon find the villagers quaint and since everything is so much cheaper than in the capital of the empire, trade breaks down the barriers. But the development goes both ways: the villagers find the apartments appealing and only a pact between the exploited black slaves, who build the mansions, and Asterix and the druid Getafix (with the usual physical assistance of Obelix) avoid the villagers losing their independence.

MANSION OF THE GODS falls between two stools: whilst the action will keep younger audiences occupied, the rather complex plot with its very adult connotations is rather secondary to the main target audience. This is hardly unique: most modern animation classics are equally loved by adults – not only parents – and the younger audience. But in this specific case, the underlying ideologies are so complex that they might detract from the enjoyment for anyone not interested in labour laws, equality and racial harmony. The merits of CGI and 3D have ben endlessly discussed, and after watching MANSION OF THE GODS the 3D feels like a gimmick, adding nothing to the original. Certainly, CGI improves the action-orientated sequences, but it also somehow adds a soulless quality – our eyes are, after all, meant to watch analogue images, not digital ones.

That said, diehard fans of the original cartoons will no doubt lap this up, particularly those who devoured the original adventures back in the day. AS


Only Yesterday (1991) Studio Ghibli bluray English language release

Director: Isao Takahata  Hayao Miyazaki

With the voices of Dev Patel, Daisy Ridley

Isao Takahata’s acclaimed anime is released for the first time in this English language dubbed version, starring Dev Patel and Daisy Ridley, in celebration of its 25th Anniversary.

ONLY YESTERDAY is a memorable classic combining delicately and gloweringly rendered drawings with a charming family story that recalls the tradition of Japanese live-action cinema. The family concerned is composed of Taeko (Ridley) an unfashionably single Tokyo office worker in her twenties, who gets a gentle ribbing from her family for not being married. Harking back to her happy childhood in 1966, she decides to take a staycation in the Japanese countryside where she reflects of the blissful times she once had when the Beatles came to town and she tasted her first pineapple (it’s that sweet!). Meanwhile, she strikes up a flirty friendship with a local farmer Toshio (Patel) who she confides in, while remembering the tenderness and the trauma of the early teens, a time when everything seemed exciting, daunting and possible in contrast to the reality of her current status dealing with the stark here and now. The use of negative space in the flashback sequences gives this a feeling of dreaminess all poignantly and tenderly evoked by the Studio Ghibli masters, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. MT



Pinocchio (1940) | Bluray release 2016

Director: Norman Ferguson   Story: Carlo Collodi

Voices: Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Mel Blanc

88min | Animation | US

Carlo Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio is now considered a classic of children’s literature. Yet perhaps fewer people have read an unexpurgated edition of the book than watched Disney’s 1940 film version on the big screen. In print Pinocchio is a bad lot: obnoxious, rude, unruly and only learning to conform to society after being tortured.

With Norman Ferguson’s collaboratively directed animation we have a Disneyfication of the wooden puppet/boy. Pinocchio’s naughtiness is more redeemable due to his charm and naivety. So Walt Disney may have opted for a softer version of Pinocchio, but his film is not without its darkness.

The certification on the new blu-ray edition of Pinocchio is U and “contains no material likely to offend or harm.” True for today’s kids. Yet if you are an adult of an older generation who first saw Pinocchio between the ages of 8-10 then you might have been freaked-out by its “Pleasureland.” Here little boys are turned into donkeys and shipped across the sea to China. This was such a scary idea that you probably checked your head and bottom hoping that a pair of floppy ears and a tail hadn’t suddenly sprouted. Last night I still felt a twinge of infant fear whilst watching Pinocchio on my crystal clear blu-ray edition.

Disney and his writers shrewdly selected enough of Collodi’s negativity to make this moral tale work. Particularly in Pinocchio’s scenes with boy criminal Lampwick who introduces him to drinking, smoking and gambling. Disney’s moral is that children must learn the benefits of hard work; fear the working classes; always consider others and join the middle class to get on in life. You can accept or reject that message. However, that Pinocchio is a work of art is simply unequivocal – such is the dazzling brilliance of its animation and the camera dexterity, colour, line and shadow – making it a landmark.

Pinocchio’s realism is best illustrated by the underwater episode: Geppetto, the puppet maker, his cat and goldfish, have gone of in search of Pinocchio and their boat has been swallowed by a whale. Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket then journey down to them. For the rescue from the whale (Monstro) we are presented with artwork of a terrifically high order. Disney’s animators have a feeling for the sea with its spray, crashing waves and turbulence that is so sensual, it actually makes me feel as if I’ve been swallowed then thoroughly drenched as the whale sneezes everyone out of its body. Monstro is comparable to the whale of Huston’s Moby Dick or Spielberg’s Jaws. Only A Perfect Storm soaks me more.

Apparently, Disney is set to do a live action re-make of Pinocchio. Paul Thomas Anderson did some writing for it and was then dropped as a possible director. Now Ron Howard is attached to the project. Even if it manages to conjure up Collodi’s cruelty, I will still love their earlier effort which was the masterpiece of Disney’s animation studio. Besides, any attempt at a more faithful adaptation would involve Pinocchio killing Jiminy Cricket by stamping him underfoot. No, Walt or Ron. Not that! Alan Price.


Long Way North (2016) Tout Au Haut du Monde

Director: Remi Chaye; Animation; France/Denmark 2015, 81 min.

In this animated big screen debut Remi Chaye incorporates elements of Mulan in a 19th century snowbound adventure that follows teenage Russian aristrocrat Sasha to the North Pole in a bid to reclaim the family honour and find the ship of her grandfather Oloukine, an intrepid explorer.

This delicatately rendered 2D animation opens in St. Petersburg where Sasha is mourning  the loss of her grandfather Oloukine who was lost after setting out with his ship Daiva to find a passage to the North Pole. Her father, Count Chernetsov, is only interested in his diplomatic career, hoping to become the Russian ambassador in Rome. But the new scientific adviser to the Tsar, Prince Vladimir Tomsky, the nephew of the Imperial ruler, tries to discredit Oloukine and his mission. At a ball, Sasha challenges the Prince, who calls her grandfather a megalomaniac. Tomsky is only too happy to be insulted, and leaves in a huff: Chetnetsov can say goodbye to his post in Rome.

Sasha flees her home and sets out to find the Daiva, a supposedly unsinkable vessel that cost the State a fortune. She has to work for months in restaurant near the Arctic circle before she finds a ship which takes her near the Pole, where the frozen corpse of Oloukine is discovered. After a gruelling mission in the icy wasteland hampered by a fierce bear, the exhausted crew finally track down the Daiva and sail back to St. Petersburg, where Sasha’s parents, all forgiving, await her.

LONG WAY NORTH seems to be two films rolled into one. The action only gets going halfway through, when Sasha climbs on board to start her journey to the Pole after a lengthy and didactic preamble explores the changes Sasha goes through in her quest to raise money to finance her trip. The hand-coloured images are highly original using a bleached out pastel palette. Young audiences might have difficulty sitting through the adult-orientated narrative of the first half in St. Petersburg. Still, when Sasha finally makes it to the world of mountainous icebergs and growling polar bears, their attention will be rewarded. AS

OUT ON 17 JUNE 2017

When Marnie Was There (2016)

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi;

Anime voices of Sara Takatsuki, Kusumi Arimura

Japan 2014, 103 min.

If this is really the last film of Studio Ghibli as rumoured, Hirosama Yonebayashi’s adaption of Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 YA novel, is a worthy epitaph to a series of breathtaking re-inventions of the Animation genre that have given us all a break from the onslaught of bombastic CGI Mega blockbusters.

Successfully adapted and transferred from the original Norfolk setting to Japan, by a writing team incluing the director and David Freedman (The Magic Snowflake), When Marnie was There is a poignant study of teenage alienation and displacement. Anna (Takatsuki), a withdrawn tomboy, lives in Sapporo with her foster parents. Having found out that her guardians receive state money to look after here, she becomes even more introspective, confessing that she hates herself. Anna suffers from asthma and she is sent to the island of Hokkaido in North Japan to live her foster mother’s grandparents during the summer holidays. But even in these peaceful surroundings, Anna cannot settle down and when an overweight woman comments on her blue eyes (a rarity in Japan), Anna angrily calls her a “fat cow”.

Then during a painting trip in the countryside, she stumbles upon an old villa at the shore of a lake, where a young blond girl, Marnie (Arimura) lives. Only a few ears older than Anna, Marnie seems to be nocturnal enjoying the time when her parents give sumptuous parties, which Anna watches in amazement. At first we believe that Marnie  is an imaginary friend, conjured up by Anna to combat her loneliness, but rather traumatic scenes in a nearby haunted windmill slowly lead to revelations which explain Anna’s life before her adoption.

The old-fashioned, but delicate rendered images give the film a timeless appeal. The girls’ friendship is never cloying because their interactions and long conversations are the bond of their mutual affection. As we will find out, their displacements are interwoven in the past. The emotional world of the narrative feels very feminine (all males characters are peripheral) and is faithful to the novel, where dream world and reality have to be balanced but not without a long, introspective struggle where identity is found in the past. This approach is hardly surprising, since Ghibli’s famous star, director Isao Takahata, created an animated version of yet another YA classic, Anne of Green Gables (written by L.M. Montgomery) in 1981. A wonderfully light, but nevertheless elegiac piano soundtrack by Takatsugu Muramatsu underlines the haunting and mysterious longing of a narrative, which creates a dream world of nostalgia, wonder and allure. If When Marnie was There, is really the last Ghibli production, the loss would be irreplaceable. AS


Sundance London 2016

In June this year Robert Redford brings a selection of American independent narrative and documentary films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January this year. Although the winners have been picked up for distribution and will appear in the coming year, this should be a worthwhile film festival – best of all – it comes right to your doorstep in Central London. 

THE JT LEROY STORY  (Director / screenwriter: Jeff Feuerzeig) –The definitive look inside the mysterious case of 16-year-old literary sensation JT LeRoy – a creature so perfect for his time that if he didn’t exist, someone would have had to invent him. Perhaps someone did? The strangest story about story ever told. (Documentary)

2498THE GREASY STRANGLER | International premiere

The Greasy Strangler (Director: Jim Hosking) – When Big Ronnie and his son Brayden meet lone female tourist Janet on Big Ronnie’s Disco Walking Tour—the best and only disco walking tour in the city—a fight for Janet’s heart erupts between father and son, and the infamous Greasy Strangler is unleashed.
Principal Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex, Jesse Keen, Joe David Walters

GOAT – International premiereGoat copy
Goat (Director: Andrew Neel) – Reeling from a terrifying assault, a 19-yearold boy pledges his brother’s fraternity in an attempt to prove his manhood. What happens there, in the name of “brotherhood,” tests both the boys and their relationship in brutal ways.
Principal Cast: Nick Jonas, Ben Schnetzer, Virginia Gardner, Danny Flaherty, Austin Lyon

Indignation copyINDIGNATION – UK premiere
Indignation (Director / screenwriter: James Schamus) – It’s 1951, and among the new arrivals at Winesburg College in Ohio are the son of a kosher butcher from New Jersey and the beautiful, brilliant daughter of a prominent alum. For a brief moment, their lives converge in this emotionally soaring film based on the novel by Philip Roth.
Principal Cast: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracy Letts, Linda Emond, Danny Burstein, Ben Rosenfield


The Intervention (Director / screenwriter: Clea DuVall) – A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.
Principal Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Cobie Smulders, Alia Shawkat, Clea DuVall, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz

Winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance (Melanie Lynskey)

LIFE ANIMATED \ International premiere

Life, Animated (Director / screenwriter: Roger Ross Williams) – Owen Suskind, an autistic boy who could not speak for years, slowly emerged from his isolation by immersing himself in Disney animated movies. Using these films as a roadmap, he reconnects with his loving family and the wider world in this emotional coming-of-age story. (Documentary)

Winner of the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary


Morris from America (Director / screenwriter: Chad Hartigan) – Thirteen-year-old Morris, a hip-hop loving American, moves to Heidelberg, Germany, with his father. In this completely foreign land, he falls in love with a local girl, befriends his German tutor-turned- confidant, and attempts to navigate the unique trials and tribulations of adolescence.
Principal Cast: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Lina Keller, Jakub Gierszał, Levin Henning

Won: Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic; U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance (Craig Robinson)

other-peopleOTHER PEOPLE | UK premiere

Other People (Director / screenwriter: Chris Kelly) – A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone (including himself) he’s “doing okay.”
Principal Cast: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, Zach Woods, June Squibb

TALLULAH | International premiere

Tallulah (Director / screenwriter: Sian Heder) – A rootless young woman takes a toddler from a wealthy, negligent mother and passes the baby off as her own in an effort to protect her. This decision connects and transforms the lives of three very different women.
Principal Cast: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard, Evan Jonigkeit, Uzo Aduba

weiner-sundance-2016WEINER | International premiere TBC

Weiner (Directors / screenwriters: Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg) – With unrestricted access to Anthony Weiner’s New York City mayoral campaign, this film reveals the human story behind the scenes of a high-profile political scandal as it unfolds, and it offers an unfiltered look at how much today’s politics are driven by an appetite for spectacle. (Documentary)

Winner of the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary

WEINER-DOG | European premiere

Wiener-Dog (Director / screenwriter: Todd Solondz) – This film tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy.
Principal Cast: Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Julie Delpy, Zosia Mamet



Anomalisa (2015)

Writer| Director: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson

With the voices of: Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Tom Noonan

90min Animation | Comedy | US

Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) is joined by stop-motion specialist Duke Johnson for this gloomy but watchable dystopian tale, which raises the odd laugh in spite of its depressing outlook.

Michael Stone (Thewlis), a small celebrity and author of a Customer Service bestseller, lands in Cincinnati to speak at a congress. In the bland hotel Il Fregoli, he feels lonely and ‘phones his ex Bella, a woman whom he left abruptly 11 years ago. They meet in a bar and we are shocked to hear her speak with the voice of Tom Noonan. Michael tells her about his unhappy marriage and Bella runs off, frustrated. Back in the hotel, Michael still feels depressed so he knocks on a few doors and eventually meets Lisa (Lee), the only woman with a female voice. After much drinking, he seduces her and promises her the Earth. Disillusioned the next morning, he returns home to his wife Donna and his little son.

There something very intriguing about ANOMALISA despite its banal premise and is largely due to the fascination of the puppets. Endearing and rather cute, they have soft downy looking faces and move a round with a jerkiness that reminds us of the TV series ‘The Woodentops’. Sometimes the upper end of their faces sometimes becomes unhinged, so we can see the electronics of their brains. The women all look more or less the same and the individual male characteristics are not much more developed facially, although Michael’s intimate parts are fully formed. Everyone lives in a state of emotional regression and there are clearly anger management issues resulting from emotional stress of 21st century and talk in cliches picked up on TV or from advertising. Michael is a banal character who is disconnected from reality or the consequences of his actions: when he picks up a present for his son, he ‘overlooks’ that he is in a sex-toy shop, presenting his son on his return with an antique Japanese sex doll, which secretes sperm in the hand of the minor.

Kaufman is, as usual, very clever: The Fregoli syndrome is a psychiatric term for a paranoid development which allows the person afflicted to see all his attackers as one being. One of the causes of the condition is the long term use of anti-depressants. There are hilarious moments in Anomalisa, when Lisa sings a heartbreaking version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper in Michael’s hotel room. But overall, Anomalisa suffers from a detached approach where the audience is not always sure if Kaufman is laughing at or about his protagonists. The puppets are stunning, but the whole experimental atmosphere feels too orchestrated and contrived. A maximal aesthetic effort contrasts with a rather lightweight and schematic narrative but worth seeing for its original look. AS


Miss Hokusai (2015) | home ent release


Dir.: Keiichi Hara

Animation with voices of Anne Watanabe, Yukata Matsushige, Shion Shimizu; Japan 2015, 90 min.

Miss Hokusai is based on the real lives of the late 18th century painter and graphic artist Katsushika Hokusai and his daughter O-Ei, who is now emerging as the primary crafter of most of her father’s work, while less than a dozen of her own exclusive paintings survive today.

Director Keiichi Hara (Colorful) has set his episodic anime (based on the manga of Hinako Suguiura) in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1814, where Hokusai (Matsushige) and his daughter O-Ei (Watanabe), live the life of true and carefree bohemians, whose only concern in life is their art.

Hokusai was a convivial bon viveur who indulged in pleasures of the flesh and was not afraid of rich and noble clients. O-Ei also spends time caring for her much younger sister O-Nao (Shimizu), who has been born blind. Her father blames himself for her blindness – “I stole my daughter’s sight” –and avoids contact his younger daughter, out of shame. The scenes between the sisters are moving and extremely innovative in their execution, particularly those in the snow. After O-Nao’s death, O-Ei clings even more to her father; her clumsy romantic episodes revealing that she was not very fond of men. In real life, she married the artist Tomel around 1819, who expected her to keep house. Instead, she laughed at his not very skilful work and the marriage was short-lived. O-Ei returned to live and work with her father and after his death lived like a vagabond and little is known about her final years.

O-Ei is the portrait of a stubborn and strongly independent woman who found male society of the 18th century intolerable. Her artistic efforts were largely unrecognised and her father appears to have been cold and emotionally distant character causing O-Ei to escape into her own world of myths and fables. Her father (known to friends as Tetsuzo) frequently visits the boudoir of a restless courtesan, who he calms with a version of art therapy: Rather unconventionally, O-Ei spends a night with a geisha in a vain attempt to capture the heart of  trying of one of her father’s best students, the painter Tsutsui.

Katsushika Hokusai’s most famous painting “The great Wave off the coast of Kanagawa” purportedly influenced the work of western painters such as Monet and Klimt, and also inspired Debussy’s “La Mer”.
Miss Hokusai’s intricate artwork proves again that anime/animation is not a genre, but an art form in its own right. Hara daintily celebrates the charm of late 18th century Japan in this strongly feminine interpretation; the naïve narrative perfectly complimenting the free flowing movement of all the characters, while also serving as testament to the repression of female artists all over the world at that time. AS

Coming to DVD, Blu-ray and Collector’s Edition 25th April


Five indie films to watch out for in 2016 | Part I

As the film year gets underway there’s plenty to look forward to indiefilm-wise. Last year was all about strong performances and once again 2016 starts with the old professionals leading the way and some great new talent on the block taking us into the Spring. Documentaries are becoming more and more popular as they act as a sort of cultural exchange between countries, and in this list the American filmmakers really come up trumps.

But back in Europe, Sorrentino’s first film in English, YOUTH, opens with the Sicilian director’s signature razzmatazz and rhythm: a girl singing on a revolving bandstand in a luxurious Swiss mountainside Hotel, possibly Davos. This is where Michael Caine  is meditating the future as retired conductor Fred Ballinger; missing his wife but not his music. Joined by his film director friend, Mick (Harvey Keitel) they contemplate their lives and their married kids, Lena and Julian, (Wiesz and Stoppard respectively) and indulge in witty truisms. YOUTH is a leisurely-paced drama that feels like a languorous stroll down memory lane punctuated by explositions of dramatic choreography and entertaining vignettes from Jane Fonda as a actress friend of the men; a gorgeous prostitute who services the male guests; a couple who sit in silence at dinner (like the pair in Consequences of Love) and an obese footballer who can barely breathe.

La Giovinezza copyWeaving through the evergreen themes of ageing, memory and the continued fulfillment of physical and emotional love, the three-stranded storyline explores Lena’s sudden break-up with Julian, on the grounds that he has found a better better lover, (she spends the rest of the film justifying why she’s good in bed to anyone who’ll listen), a visit by an emissary from Her Majesty requesting a private performance for Prince Philip of his “Simple Songs” and Mick’s efforts to complete his film script with the ‘legendary’ Brenda Morel (Fonda). As a side show, Paul Dano, plays another filmmaker guest, empathising with Fred on the subject of fame and being type-cast by previous successes. YOUTH works best in the scenes involving Keitel and Caine who create some tenderly emotional moments and pleasant comedy. Caine is especially good as the staid yet sensitive ageing conductor – he’s rather formal, similar in some ways to Toni Servillo’s Tito di Girolamo, the lead in Sorrentino’s Consequences of Love, Sorrentino’s first and most satisfying drama. ON GENERAL RELEASE 29 JANUARY 2016

Amazonia_4_-___2013_Le_Pacte_Biloba_Films_Gullane copyAMAZONIA is Brazilian helmer Thierry Rogobert’s eye-popping 3D docudrama filmed entirely in the Amazon jungle. Crafting an absorbing and tense adventure story, AMAZONIA follows Kong, an endearingly cute baby cappucine monkey, who is left to his own devices as the sole survivor of a plane crash that leaves him stranded deep in the Brazilian rainforest.

From the opening sequences we instantly bond with Kong. As his bewildered little face looks up at the camera, our natural instincts come to the fore with a strong desire to protect him on his journey fending for himself in the unknown wild. Apart the natural ambient sounds of the forest: rain and random predators, Rogobert’s film is entirely unscripted providing a rich visual canvas of vibrant and exotic flora on which to meditate on Kong’s eventful journey and its surprising outcome. David Attenborough will be proud!. OUT IN FEBRUARY 2016

In JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE Amy Berg offers up a treasure trove of musical footage and interviews to flesh out a voluptuously generous portrait of the American sixties singer who sang from the heart and was tenderly in touch with her emotions: “maybe ambition is a quest for love, lots of love”.

Janis 1 copyJanis Joplin’s life was cut short when she died on October 4th, 1970 at the age of only 27, in the midst of a musical odyssey that had started to take a promising professional turn. In an era where most women were being housewives and mothers, Joplin was pushing out the boundaries of a musical career. Berg focuses on Joplin’s overwhelming desire to engage and interact with her audience rather than to be a star standing alone on a stage: “I like Music because it comes from emotion and creates emotion”. And this emphasis on her music as a gift to inspire is what ultimately makes Berg’s documentary JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE a winner on a human level. OUT ON 5 FEBRUARY 2016

Slim yet charismatically captured by writer director Felix Thompson in a feature debut that won him the Fesitval audience award at Tribeca this year, KING JACK takes place one low-key summer in leafy New York state.

KING_JACK_still_closeup_blonde_boy copyCharlie Plummer plays the Jack in question, the put-upon youngest son of a working class one parent family, who must fight or fall between the cracks, in this poignantly-painted social realist drama. A visit from his younger cousin Ben (Cory Nichols) gives Jack a chance to pull rank and turn the tables on the little boy in a charmingly protective way never extended to him by his tough older brother or his over-worked depressive mother. This arthouse pleaser is authentically told. The touch is light, fresh and honest, the visuals breathtakingly limpid and the tone gently playful without ever resorting to sombre sentimentality or hard-edged intent, although the occasional burst of violence is sharp and short-lived. Not a great deal happens that we haven’t seen before: boyish pranks jostle with pubescent longings and ‘i’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ gameplay, as the boys grow up and get to know the local more mature girls. But its a winning formula that will keep teenage audiences on tenterhooks and the arthouse crowd immersed in its soft-peddle dramatic tension and its rites of passage storyline. OUT ON 26 FEBRUARY 2016

Francois Truffaut and Alfred HitchcockHITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT is a treat for cineastes and mainstream audiences who enjoy a well-made documentary about the auteurs of the 20th film.  Although intended as a companion piece to François Truffaut’s eponymous book (that followed his 1962 interview with the ‘master of suspense’), it really concentrates on Hitchcock; his methods and his musings. Director Kent Jones has really excelled himself here with an epicurean delight for film-buffs everywhere. Not only do we get ‘Hitch’ and Truffaut but also David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich and other top-drawer directors opining on the subject of how Hitchcock influenced and formed them, cinematically-speaking. It plays out like a masterclass in filmmaking – all in 80 glorious minutes, making you want to rush home and watch his Hitchcock’s entire oeuvre in a darkened room. OUT ON 4 MARCH 4, 2016






Song of the Sea (2014) | Blu-ray release

Director: Tomm Moore  Writer: Will Collins

93min  Animation   Ireland

With: Brendan Gleeson, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan

There are some enchanting animation films that sadly most audiences avoid, considering these films for children. Not so. This year’s Oscar nominations include some dark and very significant narratives: The Tale of Princess Kaguya, The Boxtrolls and Song of the Sea are amongst them with their metaphors relating to real life and serious contemporary themes.

SONG OF THE SEA is a moving family drama with a wider context. From the director The Secret of Kells, its tale is rooted in Irish folklore with ‘faeries’ featuring in a story about a family who are grieving the disappearance of their mother, as two young children try to make their way to safety.

As is often the case with Studio Ghibli films, the narrative here is melancholy and tender with sumptuously rendered animated sequences and vibrant colours telling of the mysterious Macha – a kind of witch – and owls with eyes as big as saucers. Tomm Moore has put his distinct touch to the piece with its lilting score by folk band Kila that perfectly captures the film’s past and present context. MT



Zarafa (2014)

Directors: Remi Besançon, Jean-Christophe Lie

Script: Remi Besancon, Alexander Abela

Cast: Max Renaudin, Simon Abkarian, Francois-Xavier Demaison, Vernon Dobtcheff, Roger Dumas, Ronit Elkabetz, Deborah Francois, Thierry Fremont

Fr/Bel | 73mins | 2012 Animation

A finely wrought French animation based on the extraordinary true story of a Giraffe gifted to French royalty… although a certain dramatic licence has been taken with the ‘how it all went down’.

Told as a story within a story by grandfather sitting under the baobab tree relating it to his grandchildren, animation is absolutely the best way to put this wonderful yarn across; combining as it does the fantastical with comedy and the much darker human history of slave trade. Lawrence of Arabia meets Jules Verne meets Free Willy. Indeed, some of the more far-fetched elements of the story are infact true, as can be read in the interview with Remi. Besançon was originally sold the idea for Zarafa by his co-writer Abela, although, it being animation, it was another four years in the making once they found the finance. Indeed, Remi went off and made another live action film in the middle, while they waited for all the compositing to be completed.

Working on three levels, it’s a very well constructed and considered storyline that keeps the audience both rapt and entertained throughout its shrewd running time of 74 minutes. There’s an attention to detail and a gentle tempo, which enfolds the younger audience easily, rather in the fashion of the animations it was inspired by, coming out of that peerless Japanese powerhouse, Studio Ghibli, although it doesn’t quite hit the same level of accomplishment as the Spirited Away’s or the Princess Mononoke’s… but then, what does.

Zarafa tells the story of Maki, a young, orphaned Sudanese boy destined to be sold through the slave trade, who manages to escape his shackles. Whilst making his bid for freedom, Maki becomes the unlikely friend of a small herd of giraffe, also being hunted by Hassan, Prince of the Desert, a man intent on ensnaring a young giraffe to take to the Pasha. So the life of Maki and the young eponymous ‘Zarafa’ become irrevocably intertwined, as Maki endeavours to protect his charge and fulfil the promise he made to Zarafa’s mother.

Zarafa is really well-crafted, carefully thought-out and intelligent piece that has already demonstrated ardent support through festivals worldwide; speaking the universal language of animation and combining the exotic with just the right mix of tragedy, comedy, loopiness and larger-than-life characters to make it a winner. Tellingly, it also has enough to it that even the adults dragged along as unwilling chaperones might just find themselves enjoying it too. I predict huge DVD sales.



Rémi Bezançon | Film Director| Zarafa

*contains spoilers*

Rémi Bezançon was born in Paris in 1971 where he studied film at the École Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle and the École de Louvre.  After his feature Ma Vie en L’Air, he found success with The First Day of The Rest of Your Life in 2008 which won him Best Director, Best Writer and Best Film at the Césars in 2009.  He followed this with Un Heureux Événement, a frank an intimate exposure of motherhood, which starred Pio Marmaï (Delicacy) and Louise Bourgoin.

We met him and his co-writer, Alexander Abela, for the UK Premiere of his film ZARAFA, a finely wrought and delightfully intelligent animation based on the true story of a Giraffe gifted to French royalty…

AR: First of all, congratulations on Zarafa.. a magical film. It felt like you chose a musical feel of Lawrence of Arabia..?

RB Yes.. and we drew on Omar Sharif for Hasan too, not just the music and Maurice Bejart for the choreography. We wanted a lyrical style of music, an epic, old-fashioned style of adventure music.

AR And the style of the animation…

RB Jean-Christophe Lie has a style more like Chomet (Belleville Rendezvous) a very good style, but I wanted something more like Miyazaki for this film, like Spirited Away, Totoro -Studio Ghibli. I wanted to go more towards that style where you might get a shot of someone’s hair moving.. more descriptive.


AR It reminded me also of TinTin.

RB Yes, TinTin- in France we sit between Disney and the Japanese… the style is called ‘clear line’, like TinTin all French animation, historically, is based on the clear line, from Hergé onwards.

AR: I was interested whether you were wanting- as a director- to work in different genres, or whether the story dictated the genre.

RB The story always dictates the genre… always. My adult films are ‘poetic-realist’. For this one, I wanted to make it in a way that children would like and also a way that I would have liked to see as a child myself.

AR From what I pick up from your other films, like Women For Sale (Vendue), which concerns the European Mafia trafficking women and prostitution and here again with slavery… do you believe that your films are political?

RB Firstly, I only co-wrote that film and I didn’t direct it.


AR Understood but, even so…

RB My films aren’t very political and in a way the most political film I have made is Zarafa, because it’s a film that I believe has many resonances with how we live today; colonisation, integration, liberty and relationships between foreigners within society. We are living in countries that are closed, so it’s a film that talks about freedom in a political way.

AT In effect then, that is quite a political statement.. no?

RB Yes.. Strangely, it is more political than any of my live action films. It seems I have to make a children’s film to be able to make a film that has actually a bit more of a political bent.

AT You say you like Kurosawa, Ozu, Spielberg, Scorsese…

RB Yes, how did you know? I love these directors, Spielberg, Ozu, Kurosawa, Scorsese…

AR Do you feel they are influencing your work?

RB Yes, Seven Samurai influenced me with Zarafa, but my films are French, not in the mold of those I like, but I am inspired by them more in the way they tell a story.. but it’s important it’s not just copied, it has to be digested. But my live action films are much more inspired by the Italian films of the Seventies.

AR With this film you chose a very classic three-act structure…

RB Very classic. When you make an animated film, you have to stick to the classic. And it works for children- it works for everyone!

AR Your grandfather made home movies… on a Bolex?

RB Yes, on Bolex..

AR Do you feel this had an influence on you becoming a filmmaker?

RB Yes of course, I found it fascinating to use a little Super 8 camera to make small films of my own when I was very young and then using the first video cameras, when they came out. So I used to line up my model soldiers and film them when I was very little. But I told real stories.

AR Do you still have these films?

RB No, no (unfortunately), nothing.

AR Your next film is Nos Futurs (now out in France) Can you tell me anything of this?

RB It’s a Punk movie.

AR: A punk movie..?

RB A comedy about midlife crisis, starting filming at the end of this year.

AR: Ok. Oh, tell me, who came up with the idea for the solar eclipse (in Zarafa)? I liked that very much.

RB Me. I love the transitions..

AR: This is where you find great creative input…

RB Yes I love these things. Thank you.



Cannes Film Festival| Projections for 2015 | 13 – 24 May 2015

In a months time the World’s most well-known film festival will once again be rolling out the Red Carpet and bringing you the latest in World cinema. Meredith Taylor speculates on this year’s programme hopefuls, ahead of Thierry Frémaux’s official unveiling in mid-April.


Joel and Ethan Coen will Chair the Jury this year, so let’s start with American cinema. Todd Haynes’ glossy literary adaptation from Patricia Highsmith’s novel Salt: CAROL (below) has been waiting in the wings since being a possible opener for last year’s VENICE Film Festival. Starring Cate Blanchett it is a glamorous choice for this year’s Palme D’Or. Terrence Malick made his entrance earlier this year at BERLIN with the divisive (amongst critics) drama Knight of Cups and it’s possible that his next film, a documentary on the creation of the Earth, VOYAGE OF TIME, will be ready to grace the Red Carpet this May. Narrated by Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, this mammoth project is currently in post production. Cannes habitué Jeff Nichols also has a new film, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, a father and son Sci-Fi road movie starring Adam Driver and regular collaborator, Michael Shannon, who discovers his boy has special powers. For star quality, Cannes thrives on US stars, and who better to add glitz to the Red Carpet than George Clooney. He stars in Brad Bird’s  TOMORROWLAND, a Sci-Fi adventure that also has Hugh Laurie. Gus Van Sant’s THE SEA OF TREES, a story of friendship between an American and a Japanese man (Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe) is another possible contender. William Monahan’s lastest, a thriller entitled MOJAVE, (Mark Wahlberg and Oscar Isaac) could also bring some glamour to the Croisette. Natalie Portman’s will bring her Jerusalem set screen adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS to the Croisette. It is a drama featuring an Israeli cast including herself, as his on-screen daughter, Fania Oz.

imageMost of this year’s films will be come from Europe and Italy has some brand new offerings from their côterie of well-known directors. Nanni Moretti was last on the Croisette in 2011 with his comedy drama WE HAVE A POPE, this year he could return with another drama co-written with Francesco Piccolo, MIA MADRE, in which he also stars alongside the wonderful Margherita Buy (Il Caimano) and John Turturro. There is Matteo Garrone’s long-awaited THE TALE OF TALES, adapted from Giambattista Basile’s 17th Century work and featuring Vincent Cassel and Salma Hayek in the leads. Another literary adaptation from Italy, WONDERFUL BOCCACCIO, is a drama based on The Decameron: the tales of ten young people who escape to the hills during an outbreak of Plague in 14th century Italy. A stellar cast of Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Matthias Schoenaerts appear in Luca Guadagnino’s latest, A BIGGER SPLASH, a thriller that unravels in Italy – when an American woman (Tilda Swinton) invites a former lover to share her villa with onscreen husband Ralph Fiennes, sparks fly, particularly as Matthias Schoenaerts is the love interest.  After Cannes success with The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino could be back with YOUTH (La Giovenezza), a drama of trans-generational friendship that takes place in the Italian Alps with a starry cast of Rachel Weisz, Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano. Definite Red Carpet material. And Marco Bellocchio could well be chosen for his latest historical drama L’ULTIMO VAMPIRO which stars Italian actress of the moment, Alba Rohrwacher – recently in Berlinale with Vergine Giurata.

The Scandinavians could well be on board with Joachim Trier’s first anglophone outing LOUDER THAN BOMBS, a wartime drama in which Isabelle Huppert plays a photographer. Tobias Lindholm’s follow up to the nail-bitingly  rigorous A Highjacking, is A WAR. It has Søren Malling and Pilou Asbaek as soldiers stationed in Helmand Province, with echoes of Susanne Bier’s war-themed drama Brothers. Russian maverick Aleksandr Sokurov could present LE LOUVRE SOUS L’OCCUPATION, the third part of his quadrilogy of Power, following Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2001) and filmed in the magnificent surroundings of the Parisian museum. And Greeks could bear gifts in the shape of THE LOBSTER, Yorgos Lanthimos’ dystopian love story set in the near future and forecasting a grim future for coupledom, with Léa Seydoux, and Colin Farrell. There’s also much excitement about the long-awaited follow up Portuguese director, Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, with his 1001 NIGHTS, a re-working of the legendary Arabian tale; certainly destined for the auteurish “Un Certain Régard” sidebar together with Polish auteur Andrzej Zulawski’s Sintra-set COSMOS, a literary adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz’ novel and starring Sabine Azéma (the former partner of Alain Resnais).

macbeth-Further afield, it’s unlikely that Taiwanese fillmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien THE ASSASSIN will be ready to grace the ‘Montée des Marches’ but from Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s drama fantasy, CEMETERY OF KINGS, could well make it. Kiyoshi Kurasawa’s JOURNEY TO THE SHORE is in post production. The Japanese director is best known for award-winners, Tokyo Sonata and The Cure. Many will remember Australian director Justin Kurzel’s incendiary thriller debut SNOWTOWN, and his recent drama THE TURNING that is now on general release. His latest outing MACBETH (right) featured strongly in the Film Market at Cannes last year, starring Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender, so it could well enter the fray. For star quality and sheer impact MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (below) will make a blast onto the Riviera. Starring Britons Tom Hardy and Nicholas Hoult and the lovely Charlize Theron, the fourth in George Millar’s action thriller series could will certainly set the night on fire, in more ways than one.


SUNSET-SONG-premieres-images-du-nouveau-Terence-Davies-avec-Agyness-Deyn-47013From England there is Donmar Warehouse director, Michael Grandage’s GENIUS, a biopic of the book editor Max Perkins, who oversaw the works of Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and F Scott Fitzgerald. Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Jude Law all take part. Asif Kapadia has two films currently in production: ALI AND NINO starring Danish actress, Connie Nielsen and Mandy Patinkin, and adapted for the screen by scripter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) from a book by Kurban Said. But his anticipated biopic on the life of Amy Winehouse UNTITLED AMY WINEHOUSE DOCUMENTARY is sadly not quite ready for screening. Other British titles could include Ben Wheatley’s HIGH RISE, a Sci-Fi drama based on J G Ballard’s eponymous novel centred on the residents of a tower block and starring Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Millar and Jeremy Irons. Veteran director Terence Davies could also be back in Cannes representing Britain. In 1988, he won the FIPRESCI Prize for his autobiographical drama Distant Voices, Still Lives. His recent work SUNSET SONG, (above left) is a historical drama based on the book by Lewis Grassic Gibbon and stars Agyness Deyn (Electricity) and Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur).


Cannes PicAnd last but not least, the French have plenty to offer for their legendary ‘tapis rouge’. Cannes regular Jacques Audiard’s DHEEPAN is the story of a Sri Lankan Tamil warrior who escapes to France and ends up working as a caretaker, Gaspar Noé’s first film in English, a sexual melodrama, in which he also stars, LOVE, is ready for the competition line-up. Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s BELLES FAMILLES is the latest vehicle for Mathieu Amalric to showcase his talents. After his stint at directing made the Un Certain Régard strand in the shape of Blue Room, he appeared in the recent English TV serial ‘Wolf Hall’. Here he plays a man who is sucked back into his past while visiting his family in Paris. Marine Vacth (Jeune et Jolie) and veterans André Dussollier and Nicole Garcia also star. And what would Cannes be without Philippe Garrel’s usual contribution. This year it will be L’OMBRE DES FEMMES, a drama co-written with his partner, Caroline Deruas. Palme D’Or Winner 2013, Abdellatif Kechiche, latest film, LA BLESSURE, starring Gérard Depardieu, it not quite ready to be unwrapped. But the well-known star may well appear on the Croisette with THE VALLEY OF LOVE, Guillaume Nicloux’s California-set saga which also stars the luminous Cannes regular Isabelle Huppert, never one to shirk the Red Carpet. I’ll be bringing more possibilities as the filming year takes shape, so watch this space. MT.



The Tale of Princess Kaguya (KAGUYAHIME NO MONOGATARI)

Dir.: Isao Takahata

Animation with the voices of Aki Asakura, Takeo Chii, Nobuko Myamato

Japan 2013, 137 min.

Based on the oldest recorded Japanese narrative ‘Taketori Monogatari’, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is the swansong of Isao Takahata (GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES), co-founder of Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki. There are several screen adaptations of the story, the best known being Kon Ichikawa’s 1987 life version “THE PRINCESS FROM THE MOON”.

A bamboo cutter Okinia (Chii) finds a doll like girl sprouting from a bamboo shoot. He takes her home, but she is already growing in his hands. A few weeks later she is a young, wild teenager, running through the woods with the boys. Okina and his wife Ona (Myamato) call their foster daughter “Little Princess”, whilst the boys have named her “Little Bamboo”, because of her quick growth. The princess (Asakura) shows no signs of being different from her playmates, but when her foster father finds a cache of gold and fine, colourful garments in the wood, he realises that his foster daughter is destined to grow up a princess at court. The family moves, to the chagrin of Little Bamboo, who hates the court and her new teacher, who tries to turn her into a lady. She is even given a new name, Kaguya, meaning “creature of light”. Soon five famous suitors appear on the scene, all wanting to marry the enigmatic stranger. But Kaguya, who longs for a simple life in the woods with her friends, sets them all impossible targets, which they fail to achieve in different ways; a clever ruse to avoid marrying any of them. Finally, the emperor’s son makes a clumsy attempt to gain her love, and she prays to the forces which placed her in the bamboo sprout, to take her back to the moon. But as soon as she has asked to be taken back, she regrets it. Meeting her girlhood friend Satumaro again, they joyfully fly through the air, Satemaro promising to keep Kaguya safe. But the date of her return is fast approaching; Kaguya knows that back home she will loose all memory of her earthly stay.

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is an emotional and visual tour-de-force, the main protagonist’s desires of a peaceful life in the countryside are thwarted by her materialistic parents who want to achive status in society. Kaguya tries her best to counter the desires of her parents, she even hallucinates the landscape of her childhood, whilst looking out of the window of her palace, trying to go back in time. The eastern brush painting helps to make the images dreamlike, everything is fluid and magical, the vibrant images wafting like flowers in the wind. The silk clothes of the princess give the images an even greater transcendency, culminating in the flight sequence with Satemaro. Kaguya is the epitome of grace, perfectly suiting her: she is a delicately fluttering creature, always on the move, her mood changes translated into colourful images. Some of the early scenes are redolent of an earlier Takahata animation film HEIDI, A GIRL OF THE ALPS. The ending is an array of lighting, where arrows turn into flowers, and the God of the Moon tries to persuade Kaguya to return to her anti-septic home, bereft of any emotional content. THE TALE OF PRNCESS KAGUYA is a wonderful synthesis of dreamlike images, a metaphor for the spiritual life in conflict with materialism and status. An expressionistic phantasy, rather like the paintings of Monet, Manet or Sisley coming to life. AS



Stingray Sam | Sundance Org | January 22 – February 1 2015

Programme coming soon. Until then we’ll leave you with a treat from the archives

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Spirited Away (2001) | Blu-ray release

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Mari Netsuke Miyu Irino, Rumi HIragi, Suzanne Pleshette

126min  Japanese Animation

If ever a film deserved to be called ‘fantastic’ it is this one. Even if you’re unfamiliar with animation, you will be enchanted by this wittily perceptive drama from Hayao Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli.  Beautifully hand-drawn, delicately rendered and magical in its conception, Spirited Away is a metaphor for real life in the form of a fairytale for adults and children. Taking us on a fantasy ride to a mythical place of enchantment, its characters feel authentic and are often touched by poignant tragedy.

Miyazaki’s work is borne out of the great Hollywood traditions of Disney but also incorporates references to Lewis Carroll and L Frank Baum, offering up an eclectic mix of styles that feel both tender and intensely appealing on a psycholgical and emotional level.  Dazzlingly lithe and intricate visuals move effortlessly before our eyes with a complete absence of high-tech glitz. Some of the scenes across the lake are so intoxicating that they literally glow from the screen, offering intense pleasure in the enhanced Blu-ray format.

The Japanese family is usually at the core of Miyazaki’s narratives and this one explores a variety of themes from environmentalism and ecological awareness to forging our personal identity in an increasingly consumerist world. Here a professional couple are the proud owners of a smart German car which is transporting them to a new life in the Japanese countryside. But their little daughter Chihiro is devastated by the move and misses her old friends. Gradually the family get lost in the woodland, fetching up in a mysterious psychedelic world where they turn into pigs after eating a huge meal laid out for them. Chihiro is forced into hard labour in a bath house by the wicked owner Yubabu. Her only friend is a slightly older boy called Haku who helps her to restore her parents to their original human state.

Spirited Away won a string of awards on its release including the Oscar© for Best Animated Feature and the prestigious Golden Bear at Berlin. It went on to become Japan’s highest grossing film of all time. MT




Sex in the Socialist Republic of Poland Kinoteka 2014

Sex in the Socialist Republic of Poland is fascinating series of sex-themed Polish animation shorts from the Communist era that somehow don’t feel dated and are every bit as real in their message and enchanting in their style and delivery as anything around today.

MEDUZA (1988) is a delicately rendered story of jelly fish: SEXI LOLA AUTOMATIC captures the sexual imagination of bored, married manhood in the animation style of Blake Edwards Pink Panther and LOT TRZMIELA (Flight of the Bumblebee) is a lavishly-styled floral animation set to a dreamy score by Zofia Oraczewska, who directed a series of shorts in the sixties and seventies but sadly never graduated to full-length features. Julian Józef Antoniusz, Andrzej Czeczot, Piotr Dumała and Alexander Sroczyński amongst others also take part in this film, organised in partnership with the London International Animation Festival. MT


Wrinkles (2011)

Director: Ignacio Ferreras

Writers: Angel de la Cruz, Paco Roca, Ignacio Ferreras, Rosanna Cecchini

Voices of Matthew Modine, Martin Sheen, George Coe

89min   Animated drama

One day, we will all have empathy for Ignacio Ferreras’ characters shuffling towards death in his brilliantly-bleak animated feature set in a retirement home. Based on a comic by Paco Roca, the tragic inmates compete to survive against the odds: bereft of dignity, bewildered and beset by Alzheimer’s, incontinence, drug regimes and each other.  As they regress into a childlike state of helplessness, an ill-judged bid for freedom results in a comic tragedy. WRINKLES is a film that bravely says “Do not go gentle into that dark night!”

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Ignacio Ferraras – filmmaker

Matthew Turner spoke to Ignacio Ferreras, director of Tokyo Onlypic (2008), How to Cope with Death (2002) about WRINKLES (Arrugas) his latest film:

MJT: I saw the film in San Sebastian in 2011 and absolutely adored it. How did the project come about, first of all? Were you a big fan of Paco Roca’s comic book?

IF: Thanks. I probably should not mention this, but the film was finished right before that first showing at San Sebastian, practically without an hour to spare. It was a very crazy time leading up to that festival, I hope I never have to go through something like that again. I remember the last day of the festival, rolling up my trousers and wading into the sea behind the festival complex to get a moment of peace and quiet and adjust to the fact that after two years of non-stop work the film was finally done.

About Paco’s comic-book, I had not read it when the producer of the film, Manuel Cristobal, approached me with the idea of directing the adaptation. His proposal was in fact a brown envelope with the comic book and a note which said, “Are you interested?” or something like that. And of course I was very interested. So I was very fortunate, the project just came to me out of the blue, it was Manuel that brought us together.

MJT: How closely was Paco Roca involved with the film?

IF: Quite closely, although for the most part we were working in different countries, which is probably why we are still friends. Paco took care of all character design and was also involved in the writing. He gave me lots of additional material that he had accumulated while he was researching the comic-book but which he had not been able to use, and some of that material found its place in the film.


MJT: The film is very much like watching the comic book come to life. What are the main challenges involved in adapting a comic book into a film? Did you feel pressure to stick closely to the original artwork? How did you set about doing that?

IF: Was there pressure? That’s hard to say. I’d say not; there weren’t any situations where I wanted to introduce changes and I was overruled. For the most part I was left to do whatever I thought was necessary for the film, although of course I was always aware that I needed to remain reasonably close to the original work. It’s a difficult balancing act, on the one hand there’s a danger to just follow the inertia of the comic book and forget you are making a film. And on the other hand there’s the danger to start changing things for the sake of it, just to assert your authority over the film. I think something that was very helpful was the fact that I was working on the animatic in Edinburgh with my wife Rosanna Cecchini and we made a point that she would not read the comic-book but take my work as her starting point, so she could treat it not as an adaptation but as an original work from the start. And we had more or less a year to work on this in relative isolation, although of course we were sending groups of sequences to Paco and Manuel for feedback, but we had that space to develop the film as a film without having to justify why we were changing this or that. It is interesting that you say the film is like watching the comic book come to life because if you watch the film with the book in hand you’ll see that they are actually quite different, even if the film covers the main events in the book. But I think it is true to say that the film feels very close to the book, because it respects the intention and the characters of the book, even if some of the events do change. All too often adaptations completely change the intention and characters of the original work, like for example in Blade Runner; it’s a good film, but I wouldn’t call it an adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? because it turns the intention of the novel on its head, and I don’t think that’s fair on the original work. So I like Blade Runner as a film but not as an adaptation.

MJT: Were there any particular influences on the film? Did you watch any other films or read any books in preparation?

IF: I’d say that I’m very influenced by the work of Isao Takahata, and although I was not specifically thinking about films like Grave of the Fireflies or Only Yesterday when I was working on Wrinkles, there’s no doubt that Isao Takahata’s work has shaped the way I think about animated films. So I think it is fair to say that Isao Takahata’s work was by far the greatest influence on Wrinkles.1012666_616108041771451_1983009347_n

MJT: Do you have a favourite scene in the film?

IF: Not a particular individual scene. I think I was more concerned with the overall flow of the film and I can’t really think of scenes as separate from each other. To me the film is one big unit, I can’t say that I like one scene more than another… it’s a bit like saying what’s your favourite ingredient in a dish; you either like the dish or you don’t, but it’s hard to say what the best ingredient is, is it the steak or the salt that makes it tasty? It’s easier to say what you don’t like, when something has gone wrong and did not turn out the way you imagined, but I find it impossible to pick a favourite scene.

MJT: What was the hardest thing to get right?

IF: I think it was to get the right balance between being critical and being realistic about the budget and schedule. Animation films can be very dangerous in that way, you can easily become obsessive about the quality but of course the meter is ticking and the budget can evaporate very quickly, so you have to have a very clear idea of what standard of animation you can afford and then be consistent from beginning to end. It’s a question of making the most of what you’ve got. I imagine it is different when you are working with big budgets, but my experience working in European films, which always have a relatively small budget, is that you either have to sacrifice some of the visuals or some of the storytelling. If you spend too much on the visuals you’ll run out of money and you’ll have to start compromising on the storytelling. I decided to compromise on the visuals from the start, in order to not have to compromise on the storytelling later on. I think that was the right thing to do for this kind of story. Quite a few people have said to me that five minutes into the film they forget they are watching animation and they are just engrossed in the story, and that is, for me, the best compliment.

MJT: Did you cut anything out that you were sorry to see go?

IF: No, I didn’t cut anything because of lack of money or time or for any other external pressure, so anything that was cut was cut for the good of the film – I hope. If we had had more money, the film would still have had the same shots; they would have been finished to a better standard and they would been more beautiful to look at, but there wouldn’t be any extra shots or scenes. I cut lots of scenes that I really liked as individual scenes, but somehow they did not feel right in the flow of the film. I think this is perhaps the most important thing for a director: to be absolutely ruthless in your editing. “Kill your darlings” is one of those often repeated clichés, but I think it is right. Of course, when I look at the film now, nearly three years after finishing it, there are some things I would probably change, but that’s different.

How did you approach the casting for the English dub?

IF: I didn’t. The English dub was handled by the distributors and, although I think they have done a very good job, I did not have anything to do with it. I don’t think this is unusual, directors are not normally involved in the dubbing of their films to a foreign language. Of course in this case it so happens that I live in the UK and I speak English but that is just a coincidence. They would not have asked for my opinion if they had dubbed the film into Japanese (which by the way they didn’t, they used subtitles in Japan) so it is not surprising that I wasn’t approached when they dubbed Wrinkles into English. Now that this English language version is coming out I’m getting asked this question a lot, I think this is because dubbing a film into English is quite a rare thing and people are not really aware of how it works, but by the time Wrinkles was dubbed into English my work on the film had finished a long time ago. Generally speaking I don’t like dubbed films, but I think the dub of Wrinkles is much better than usual and the choice of Martin Sheen and George Coe for the main characters was very fortunate.


MJT: Are there any other animators you admire? Do you have any favourite animated films?

IF: As I mentioned before Isao Takahata is my favourite director, not just my favourite director of animated films but my favourite director-period. I also admire very much the work of Hayao Miyazaki. A list of my favourite animated films is really a list of their films; just look up their filmographies and you will have a complete list of my favourite animated films. And then there’s also the “French New Wave” of animated features, of which Sylvain Chomet’s The Triplets of Belleville is still my favourite exponent and which I think represents the beginning of genuinely distinctive European commercial feature animation – I’m also very interested in these films.

To this, I’d have to add  that I’m as influenced by live-action cinema as I am by animation, by the films of Kubrick, Kurosawa, Ozu and many many others. Although if I had to pick just one favourite film I think it would be Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday (Omohide Poro Poro).

MJT: What’s your next project?

IF: At the moment I’m working on an animated feature about the life of Danish writer and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, which is still in the early stages of script development. Yet again, it’s a story which might not seem like an obvious choice for an animated feature, but Kierkegaard was a really fascinating character and I think there’s an amazing film to be made about him – an amazing animated film.


The Missing Picture (2013)

Mp1 copyRithy Panh and Christophe Bataille

96min   French with English Subtitles   Documentary Animation

The serene and gentle voice of award-winning director Rithy Panh narrates this tragic and heartfelt memoir of the invasion of Cambodia on April 17th, which has helped him come to terms with the terrible losses he suffered during the time of his adolescence, when over 2 million people died during the regime.

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Using a collage of bleached-out black and white footage and finely-rendered clay figurines (symbolising stultifying control) set to a weirdly sinister score. What emerges is a a non-confrontational animated memoir of the hostilities, as individuals became a collective of meaningless numbers imprisioned by the Khmer Rouge to become Democratic Kampuchea. There were no more lovers, friends, mothers, fathers or even personal possessions as a revolutionary sea of equality washed over a society cleansed of class division – the past had to be internalised so that it could be hidden from view and retained in a secure place.

Pol Pot strides confidently through the crowds amid idolatrous applause proceeded by pictures of tortured dissidents and those that kicked against the crushing power of communism. In a regime (similar Nazism and Stalinism) characterised by hunger, torture and emotional cruelty and lack of respect or compassion for the individual, Panh tells how his father was denied a decent burial. Schools became detention centres reflecting a ‘perfect society’ where Marxist ideology reigned as revolutionary winds wafted through the paddy fields heralding ideals of creating an agrarian socialist economy which failed incontrovertibly leading to the deaths (from hunger) of millions of its inhabitants. The mantra – “Whoever apposes, is a corpse” indeed became a reality.

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Footage of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing provides a contemporary counterpoint reflecting advancement and freedom in the US as Cambodia’s people drown in the mud. While he lost his entire family during his teenage years from  1975-79, the Khmer Rouge was destroying everything outside their central control; forbidding fishing and any kind of attempt to grow private foodstuffs and demolishing hospitals,  while simultaneously rejecting offers of outside humanitarian aide.

Panh was inspired to channel his energies and creative impulses into filmmaking during this time of loss, working quietly in an agrarian cooperative work camp, lit by neon at night.  His serene depiction of pure evil is made all the more effective by its peaceful approach and intricately delicate treatment.  MT



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London Korean Film Festival 2013 7-15 November 2013

South Korean films have achieved international recognition since Lee Chang-Dong won best director at Venice Film Festival in 2002 for his film OASIS.  Going from strength and now in its 8th successful year the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) 7-22 November, is a nationwide celebration of contemporary and classic Korean cinema, with a selection of highlights also showing in Oxford, Bradford and St Andrews between 16-22 November.

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Huh Jung will be in London this year to present his successful debut, a low-budget home invasion thriller HIDE AND SEEK at a special gala premiere at Cineworld Haymarket on 6 November 2013.

SOL Kung-gu will also be in town to present a special preview of LEE Joon-ik’s latest film WISHa drama that cronicles a true-life tragic crime that shook Korea

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T H E   L A T E S T   F I L M S   F R O M   2 0 1 3

Director KIM Sung-su will be presenting his latest film, THE FLU, a disaster thriller on the scale of CONTAGION that charts the spread of a dangerous epidemic that threatens the Korean Peninsular.

JANG Cheol-soo’s comedy spy drama SECRETLY, GREATLY is the story of three undercover North Korean spies living in the South who are forced to undertake a mission ‘impossible’.  Also worth a watch is JEONG Keun-seob’s kidnap thriller MONTAGE.

There’s is a chance to catch up on the recent standouts: YIM Soon-rye’s family comedy SOUTH BOUND, actor turned award-winning director YOO Ji-tae’s MAI RATIMA, which won the Jury Prize at the Deauville Asian Film Festival and FATAL, LEE Don-ku’s a drama that played this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Also from Berlin 2013 comes E J-yong’s BEHIND THE CAMERA, An experimental mockumentary about remote filmmaking that blurs the line between fiction and reality, BEHIND THE CAMERA sees the director cast himself as a filmmaker attempting to make a film via Skype in Los Angeles. Without the director’s physical presence on set, will the production spiral into chaos? The film explores the production process and elements of reality shows.

Best know for his chaotic action movie THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRDKIM Jee-woon is a talented filmmaker whose distinctive and skilful storytelling style is told using an original visual language.  He will be in London to present a special programme of his favourite short films showcasing his unique visual style, including a Q&A where he will talk about his latest short project ONE PERFECT DAY (2013).

DAY TRIP, Park Chan-kyong’s recent drama is a venture from the joint creative team of PARKing CHANce, the collaboration between the media artist and his world renowned  auteur brother PARK Chan-wook.

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K O R E A N   C U L T   C L A S S I C S

Other highlights to watch out for are cult classics PUBLIC ENEMY (2002) a crime thriller from Kang Woo-suk, who will be in London to attend a ‘directorspective’ of his successful outings along with his latest film FISTS OF LEGEND (2013) an urban action drama.

Other cult classics in the retrospective are TWO COPS (1993), SILMIDO (2003), MOSS (2010), and the acclaimed sequel PUBLIC ENEMY RETURNS (2008).

To celebrate the 60th Anniversary since the Korean War Armistice, three classic Korean war films depicting the strife and the effects on families, friendships and the soldiers who fought, are also screening: SHIN Sang-ok’s THE RED SCARF (1964) and LEE Man-hee’s MARINES ARE GONE (1963) and LEE Kang-cheon’s PIAGOL (1955).

The festival closes on the 15 November with a drama starring HOUSEMAID’S, YOUN YuhJung who plays the family matriarch in a story that explores the shifting dynamics when three adult children return to the fold, BOOMERANG FAMILY.  She will present the Closing Night Gala alongside her co-stars. 


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Tales of the Night (2011)**** Les Contes de la Nuit

Cert12  84mins    Fantasy Animation

Fairytales have reached a point in cinema where they have been dumbed down so as not to frighten or shock children in any way.  Who remembers the unnerving “Tales From Europe” or even “The Water Margin”?  These tales were deeply sinister and wicked without being bloody. violent or foulmouthed in any way.  Kids love that element of fear and edginess on screen especially when set, as these are, in a charming Medieval style with beguiling black silhouettes delicately rendered against a lusciously colourful background.

The five animated fables filmed in cutting-edge stereoscopic 3D are enchanting and wonderful to watch.  Best of all, they have appeal for adults as well and weave a web of intrigue shot through with strands of ingenious morality retaining the ancient tradition of fierce dragons, beautiful princesses and brave knights all set to an eerie chamber choir ensemble.

This is an intelligent family film that will capture the imagination of kids and adults alike.

Showing at the Everyman Hampstead on 21st September 2013

TALES_OF_THE_NIGHT_3Meredith Taylor ©


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