Posts Tagged ‘Festivals’

The Wave | Italian Female Filmmakers Weekend 2022


THE WAVE celebrates its first edition this weekend at London’s Ciné Lumière in Kensington. The aim is to showcase the latest female filmmakers working in Italy today. Expect to see  some classics too and filmmaker Q&A sessions at some screenings which will offer the opportunity for some lively and thought-provoking discussions. Highlights from the programme include Alice Rohrwacher’s HEAVENLY BODY, Laura Bispuri’s SWORN VIRGIN and last year’s Locarno highlight MATERNAL from Maura Delpero.


Brazil Indigenous Film Festival 22 – 24 October 2021

Inspired by the UN Climate Summit this first edition of the Brazil Indigenous Film Festival takes place in London’s ICA cinema on the Mall from October 22 -24, featuring a dozen or so features and shorts from indigenous filmmakers sharing their stories – both fact and fiction – from all over Brazil.

Twelve films, in six languages, from seven different groups will be showing in the three-day festivalbetween 22 – 24 October 2021. The programme is split into three strands: The Right toEarth combines work on different forms of Indigenous struggle – symbolic, practical, political, mythological – for the right to land; The Ritual Dimension documents and celebrates the Maxakali andKisedjê in rural Brazil, exploring their political rituals, and Orality, Film and History brings historical, social and philosophical perspectives from the Parakanã, Guarani–Nhandewa and Guarani–Kaiowácommunities.

A few highlights from the programme: Equilibrium, an ethno-media video art by Tupinamba journalist and educator Olinda Muniz Wenderley. The female filmmaker explores through an experimental narrative the connection of the Indigenous People with the Earth and their spirituality. Two animations explore colours of nature and traditions. The Celebration of the Spirits tells the saga of a Guajajara man, who, during a search for his lost brother, ends up on a voyage of self-discovery.

Other films to look out for are Tatakox, a hypnotic ritual film that documents celebrations evoking the spirits of dead children, and Nũhũ yãg yõg hãm: This land is our land!, winner of the Best International Film prize at this year’s SheffieldDoc/Fest.

The festival also presents two productions from Alberto Alvares: Dream of Fire, an interpretation of a dream – an omen of disease, according to Guarani Nhandewa traditions, and Tekowenhepyrun: The Origin of the Soul, is based on the belief that the soul is the connection between the body and the spirit. Alberto has had works exhibited in Arts Biennales and international film festivals.

FreeLandCamp a documentary by photographer and anthropologist Edgar Kanaykõ, portraying the massive 2017 demonstration organised by APIB, when diverse ethnic groups got together in the country’s capital, Brasília to demand their rights. Ava Yvy Vera: The Land of the People of Lightning, is a depiction of the Guarani–Kaiowá peoples’ struggle for land rights that gained international recognition after the release of a joint letter in 2012, protesting against the assaults and advances of Brazilian agribusiness.

The thought-provoking Zawxiperkwer Kaa explores the activities of the Guardians of the Forest, a group that has been fighting against illegal logging and working to protect the Awá-Guajá, one of the most threatened isolated Indigenous groups on the eastern coast of the Amazon.

This festival has the support of APIB, a national reference of the Indigenous movement in Brazil. Raising international awareness about Indigenous peoples as protagonists in the fight against climatechange and resisting the destruction of their traditional ways of living is urgently needed.

Festival Schedule:

Friday, 22 Oct @18h30 (Opening Night followed by a Q&A with festival curators and special guests)

Saturday, 23 Oct @16:20

Sunday, 24 Oct @16:20

Full programme can be seen here.

London Spanish Film Festival 2021

A chance to see a selection of recent Spanish films which may not get a general release in the UK. Most are UK premieres from new talent and established filmmakers

LA ISLA DE LAS MENTIRAS | The Island of Lies

dir. Paula Cons, with Nerea Barros, Ana Oca, Sergio Quintana, Celso Bugallo, Darío Grandinetti | Spain/Argentina/Portugal | 2020 | 93 min | cert. 15 | UK premiere | In Galician and Spanish with English subtitles

In dense fog of a Christmas morning in 1921, a boat with 260 emigrants bound to Buenos Aires sinks off the coast of Sálvora, Galicia. Three courageous women row out in a bid to save as many people as they can. The tragedy captures the imagination of an Argentine journalist who investigate the many fatal coincidences that happened on the night of the shipwreck. | Fri 24 Sep | 6.30pm


UN EFECTO ÓPTICO | An Optical Illusion

dir. Juan Cavestany, with Carmen Machi, Pepón Nieto, Luis Bermejo | Spain | 2020 | 80 min | cert. 15 | UK premiere | In Spanish with English subtitles

Alfredo and Teresa, a married couple from Burgos, decide to take a deserved trip to New York. Shortly after their arrival Teresa starts to feel strangely uncomfortable. Then Alfredo’s pictures of monuments don’t match what they remember they saw. Cavestany’s film is a distinctive and daring take on tourism, globalised provincialism, the banality of a steady couple’s daily life… and much more. | Sat 25 Sep | 6.30pm

EL SUSTITUTO | The Replacement

dir. Oscar Aibar, with Ricardo Gómez, Pere Ponce, Joaquín Climent, Bruna Cusí, Vicky Luengo, Pol López | Spain | 2021 | 117 min | cert. 18 | UK premiere | In Spanish with English subtitles

In 1982 a young father and hardened police officer moves his family from Madrid to a small Mediterranean sea town where he is to replace an inspector, murdered in mysterious circumstances. During his investigation, strange links between the inspector’s assassination, drugs and property speculation come to light. Based on real events, Oscar Aibar’s beautifully made thriller takes us to a happy retirement spot on the Mediterranean coast that Nazi’s gained possession of due to Franco’s regime and kept through the Transition | Sat 25 Sep | 8.30pm, Mon 27 Sep | 6.05pm


dir. Amalia Ulman, with Ale Ulman, Amalia Ulman, Nacho Vigalondo, Zhou Chen | USA | 2021 | 79 min | cert. 15 |London premiere | In English and Spanish with English subtitles

A jobless young woman is forced to leave London and return home to live with her eccentric mother, after the death of her father. The wolf is at the door but they continue to live beyond their means in Gijon. El Planeta explores contemporary poverty, class awareness and female desires as well as mother-daughter relationships in post-crisis Spain all throughout with a charming and subtle sense of humour. | Sun 26 Sep |6.20pm

NIEVA EN BENIDORM | It Snows in Benidorm

dir. Isabel Coixet, with Timothy Spall, Sarita Choudhury, Anna Torrent, Carmen Machi, Pedro Casablanc | Spain/UK | 2020 | 117 min | cert. 15 | UK premiere | In English and Spanish with English subtitles

After a long career at his bank Peter is “awarded” early retirement and sets off to visit his brother in Benidorm on a trip that doesn’t quite turn out as expected. A poetic take by veteran Isabel Coixet on Benidorm’s particular beauty, its gloomy side and its “unpoetic” real estate mafias as well as on love at an older age. | Fri 24 Sep | 8.35pm


SENTIMENTAL | The People Upstairs

dir. Cesc Gay, with Javier Cámara, Griselda Siciliani, Alberto San Juan, Belén Cuesta | Spain | 2020 | 82 min | cert. 15 | UK premiere | In Spanish with English subtitles

Ana and Julio are a couple who seem to spend most of their time together arguing. Salva and Laura, on the other hand, never stop having sex.  Julio is extremely annoyed when Ana invites them for dinner for an eventful evening where secrets, fears and insecurities soon surface, spiced up by witty dialogue written by Catalan Cesc Gay. The result is a highly enjoyable and intimate comedy exploring the complexities of modern relationships. | Thu 23 Sep | 8.30p,


dir. Javier Tolentino, with Golmehr Alami, Sina Derakhshan, Pezhman Dishad | 2020 | 80 min | cert. PG |doc | UK premiere | In Spanish, Persian and Kurdish with English subtitles

Javier Tolentino’s documentary debut  transports us to some of Iran’s most remote corners, discovering a truly sophisticated culture seen through the eyes of Erfan, a young Kurdish man who sings, writes poetry and dreams of being a film director. Tolentino is one of Spain’s most established journalists and film critics, now turned director.| Sun 26 Sep | 4.10pm

CHAVALAS | Girlfriends

dir. Carol Rodríguez Colás, with Vicky Luengo, Carolina Yuste, Elisabet Casanovas, Cristina Plazas, José Mota | Spain | 2021 | 91 min | cert. PG | UK premiere | In Spanish with English subtitles

After an initial stint as a professional photographer, jobless Marta finds herself having to go back to live with her parents in a suburban flat in Barcelona, where she grew up. There she reconnects with her childhood girlfriends Desi, Soraya and Bea, sharing the bond of their teenage years. Carol Rodríguez Colás’s first feature film is a sincere and tragicomic take on friendship. | Tue 28 Sep | 8.45pm

BASQUE strand

ANE | Ane is Missing

dir. David Pérez Sañudo, with Patricia López Arnaiz, Jone Laspiur, Mikel Losada, Luis Callejo | Spain | 2020 | 100 min | cert. 15 | UK premiere | In Basque and Spanish with English subtitles

When Lide discovers her teenage daugher, Ane, is missing, she teams up with ex-husband, Fernando, to track her down. As the troubled Lide’s determination grows Fernando’s fear of Ane becomes more evident. Throughout most of the film Ane feels like a ghost and an oppressing and spectral unseen presence. A first feature for awarded shorts director David Pérez Sañudo,   moves seemlessly from from mystery to family drama and then to political thriller.

Preceded by the short:


dir. Koldo Almandoz, Maria Elorza | Spain | 2021 | 7 min | doc | cert. PG | In Basque with English subtitles

Living with fear… Based o an interview on Euskadi Irratia Radio. | Tue 28 Sep | 6.30pm


dir. Lara Izaguirre, with Ane Pikaza, Héctor Alterio, Ramón Barea, Itziar Ituño | Spain | 2020 | 100 min | cert. 15 | UK premiere | In Spanish, Basque and French with English subtitles and English

Lara Izaguirre’s sophomore feature is a fresh and optimistic reflection on the road less travelled for a young Spanish woman prepared to put her self out there, and take a few risks. As the saying goes, “bad weather, good face” (in Spanish, “al mal tiempo, buena cara”). | Wed 29 Sep | 8.30pm

London Spanish FILM FESTIVAL 23-29 SEPTEMBER 2021

Les Enfants Terribles (2021) Visions du Reel 2021

Dir.: Ahmet Necdet Cupur; Documentary with Zeynep Cupur, Mahmud Cupur, Nezahat Cupur, Ahmet Cupur; Turkey/Germany 2021, 92 mins.

Taking the title from Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1950 film adaptation of Cocteau’s play this reflection on the past is also a study of a family fighting tradition – and each other – in a world that has seen so many changes.

First time director Ahmet Necdet Cupur is back home in the village of Keskincek, twenty years after freeing himself from the stifling family set-up in south eastern Turkey. Three year’s in the making, the film revisits a bitter domestic battlefield: his brother and sister-in-law on one side; his old-fashioned parents on the other. Nothing changes, or so it seems.

Starting in January 2018 Ahmet makes contact with his sister Zeynep and her audio description of what’s going on with her parents hits a raw nerve: “Keep on writing, you have shown me exactly how your life is”. Now he’s back in situ with a camera to film the goings-on. Teenage Zeynep works in a cloth factory in the nearby city of Antalya but feels too young to be married off by her father who keeps her earnings for himself, whilst mostly loafing around all day. Her dream is to study and go to university, a plan, which both her parents object to, because she is a female.

The family is in a mess and forced to marry the kids off for financial reasons: brother Mahmut was made to marry Nezahat, so as to secure her dowry (known as a ‘mahr’), but the two have never slept together, Mahmut preferring a certain Birsen, whom we never meet. Meanwhile his rather has been trying to unlock his son’s mobile, to check what’s going on.

Mahmut is no spring chicken having already held down a job in Kuwait. But the family Imam Hüseyim Cupur, won’t grant him a divorce on any grounds. And now the village gossipers are out in force wondering if he is ‘a real man’. Zeynep is fully aware that the woman is always at fault in Turkish divorce proceedings, even her own mother won’t support her.

Election Day arrives and the whole family is forced to vote for the father’s choice.  Zeynep is particularly annoyed, since this candidate has been in office for donkey’s years and hasn’t made any changes for the better. She takes it all out on her religious mother :”You say, you are old and wise. But you are not, you have never read a book in your life”. But the complaint falls on deaf ears: “Good created us to live here, in our home. And the only book I am going to read is the Koran”.

Ahmet’s involvement certainly a certain tension in the family dynamics  – never has “the fly on the wall” been closer to the action. The tone is hyper-aggressive, with both parents and children vowing to kill each other. But in the end,

But despite the conflict, things do eventually move on for both kids, Ahmet delivering a positive, if not ‘happy’ ending. The young generation is slowly taking over: religion and patriarchy are on the back foot. Ahmet’s debut is a vociferous and direct testament. AS




Bellum – The Daemon of War (2021) Visions du Reel 2021

Dir.: David Herdies, Georg Götmark; Documentary with Bill Lyon, Fredrik Bruhn, Paula Bonstein, Aisha Lyon, Sweed, Karolina Bruhn; narrated by Johannes Anyuru; Sweden/ Denmark 2021, 87 min.

War is in the DNA of humans, always has been. The Romans were masters of conquering countries on more than one continent. Their motto was “War pays for itself, so soldiers do not need to be paid, there is always plenty to plunder”. Statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC) was an early warmonger, ending his speeches in front of the Senate for years with the call for war: “Anyhow, I am of the opinion, that we should destroy Cartago”. After a few years, his peers got the message and the African city, capital of a kingdom, was indeed conquered.

This essay film from Swedish director duo David Herdies and Georg Götmark traces the history of war, present and future: veteran war photographer Paula Bronstein delivering some cruel images from Kabul.

But amidst the doom and gloom AI scientist Fredrick Bruhn has a surprisingly upbeat theory about the end of armed conflict, and US veterans Sweed and Bill Lyon are the living examples of survivors of the recent outings of the US war machine.

Not that far from Los Alamos in New Mexico, where Robert Oppenheimer and his team developed the first nuclear bomb in the State of Nevada (his prophetical warnings open the feature) is the location of the US Army’s Drone Operations and Training Base – AFB. Demonstrators with placards protest outside the gates, while veterans Sweed and co, cheer on every car leaving or entering the compound, making fun of the demonstrators. “I bet she borrowed the baby”, comments Sweed on a mother carrying her child.

Later we listen to Sweed and his friend Bill Lyon talking about their active service experience that destroyed people rather than buildings. In training, the drones attacked the simulated town of Kandahar, creating the atmosphere of an arcade game. The images are not just circles any more, but human forms, the intention is to blur the lines between the lines between practice and real actions. But for the veterans, the question is just survival: “When your compound has been hit, you are either dead, or you go back to sleep. For most people this is crazy, but I loved it. It was boring when you get home.”

Meanwhile Bronstein shows the photos of the Kabul victims she asks a boy to give her a smile. He refuses. Paula explains” I want to put some beauty into my photos, some life. To make the victims human. Meanwhile AI developer Fredrik Bruhn is hopeful about the future: “We are twenty years away from the point, when a computer can build the next generations of AI himself, he will replicate human brains, but goes much further than the 500 billion synapses of our brains. I do not see that we can have a world without war, as long as humans are in control. But robots do not have our DNA inheritance, they do not need to act like us. In the end the question will be about human existence, or the survival of digital humanity.

Bellum is perhaps too complex for its limited running time. But it certainly shows the existential question flagging up the need to write humankind out of the script. The documentary is dedicated to Bill Lyon, who, like Sweed, passed away. AS


Backyard Village (2021)

Dir.: Marteinn Thorsson; Cast: Laufey Eliasdottir, Tim Plester, Soley Eliasdottir, Eyglo Eliasdottir, Sara Dögg Asgeiersdottir, Johann Gunnarson; Iceland 2021, 92 min.

Icelandic director Marteinn Thorsson (XL) has adapted Gudmundut Oskarson’s script about grief and how not to deal with it in this zany and often bizarre tragic comedy, set in what can only be described as the back of beyond. Iceland’s hostile terrain and freezing weather lend an icy chill to the tricky human interactions, Thorsson steering his ‘ship of fools’ through to a surprising ending – narrowly avoiding self-parody,.

Colour comes from a few brightly painted wooden huts near a spa where Bryna (L. Eliasdottir) fetches up needing psychiatric help more than physical rehab. Equally disturbed is her next door neighbour, middle-aged Mark (Pelster) from England, who knocks on her door, looking for paprika (yes, it’s a weird one). Both bear the scars of family trauma: Bryna at odds with her mother for leaving when she was only five. Mark is a lone traveller dealing with a recent bereavement. Awkward conversation and a meal cooked by Mark in his self-catering ‘chalet’ allow the two to get to know one another. But their lack of knowing themselves makes it impossible for them to engage in a meaningful way. The next morning the two set off to a remote spot where Mark’s son was discovered after a two-year police search. Meanwhile Bryna’s mother has declared her ‘a missing person’ unable to reach her by ‘phone.

Later, back at base, Johanna (S. Eliasdottir) and sister Gunnhildur (E. Eliasdottir), are livid at Bryna’s sudden disappearance and concerned for her wellbeing. Mark turns up on the scene anxious to defend Bryna with a sudden intrusion that forms the quirky catalyst for a Chekovian showdown of as each desperate character revisits the past.

The feature’s shifting, twisting mood from drama, comedy and outright farce keeps us guessing in an unsettling scenario inflamed by surreal settings, DoP Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson’s stunning camerawork reflecting the magnificent terrain where humans strive to make sense of their existence in an absurd tragic-comedy. AS

Santa Barbara International Film Festival


Rascal (2020) Vilnius Film Festival (2021)

Dir/scr: Peter Dourountzis | Cast: Pierre Deladonchamps, Ophelie Bau, Sebastien Houbani | France, Thriller. 96′

Rascal is a an everyday story of a psychopath played with hard-eyed nonchalance by Pierre Delardonchamps.

There’s nothing sensationalist about the story of Dje. The title might suggest a cheeky playfulness but this couldn’t be far from the truth. Not without charm when he wants something, Dje he can also being quietly menacing as he goes with the flow living by his wits, casually violent if he needs to be. In fact, ‘casual’ sums up a man who never gets worked up about anything. This homeless opportunist is none too shabby in his stylish anorak. A recidivist bottom-feeder who gets by on the streets of Limoges, where we first meet him on a train, rudely intruding on the privacy of his neighbour in a train carriage. But that’s the most harmless trait in his repertoire of antisocial behaviour.

Peter Dourountzis’ first feature takes a detached view of his psychopathic protagonist seen through the steely lens of DoP Jean-Marc Fabre. Limoges is seen as a joyless urban centre where danger lurks at every turn as Dje slips unnoticed in the crowd until he spots an unsuspecting female glance and returns it with a smirking stare. What follows could be a seduction or something more deadly but it mostly occurs off camera, and some women can be extraordinarily accommodating to this enigmatic stranger who is never there when the going gets tough. Of no fixed abode he has no identity papers. Meanwhile, street signs in bus shelters warn women to be vigilant. There’s a killer on the loose. But why would anyone suspect Dje with his boyish looks and clean complexion?.

Rascal was originally made as a short film, Dourountzis cutting himself plenty of slack with the textured script that plays to our fertile imagination and works in a subplot about Dje connecting with an underground network of homeless misfits who offer him room in their squat. Here he meets Maya (Ophelie Bau Mektoub, My Love) and the two have a thing for a while until Dje loses control and needs to move out of the spotlight and back into the shadows. MT






People We Know Are Confused | Vilnius Film Festival (2021)

Dir.: Tomas Smulkis; Cast: Milda Noreikaite, Gabija Jaraminaite, Arunas Sakalauskas, Paulius Markevicius, Dainus Svobanas, Jolante Dapkunaite; Drama, Lithuania 2021, 102 min.

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the Lithuanian way. 

Founded in 1387, Vilnius is still shifting on the fault-lines of its turbulent past according to debut filmmaker Thomas Smulkis, who has made this resonant, unworldly feature debut with a distinct cinematic voice.

Over four summer days Smulkis distills the essence of a modern capital in flux through the surreality of three bewildered inhabitants calling it home – for the time being. An airy feeling of serenity wafts through the summery settings in the limpid light of the Northern hemisphere softened by Sigita Simkuaite’s stylish hues of eau de nil and taupe. Nature plays a signicant part here and Smulkis’ dazzling eye for detail captures everyday life on the streets in unexpected and eerily serendipitous ways.

Goda (Jaraminaite) is the most straightforward of the trio, even though her glorified existence is anything but stable. Will she be able to see the gilded trap she has built for herself? We first meet her overladen with designer shopping bags making her way into a chic apartment in a smart part of town. Goda lives alone so why are a pair of men’s shoes in the hallway? Her sister has invited a colleague to stay, although she lives somewhere else. Clearly Goda is put out, to say the least, calmly asking the stranger to leave via  email. But he stays on oblivious taking his leave on his own terms while she wanders round displaced and uncomfortable longing to regain the peace of her sanctuary.

In another part of town, medic Juste (Norakaite) and her partner and co-worker Paulius (Markevicius) are also going through a confusing time. Paulius has been offered a flat in a high rise block outside the city, but Juste does not want to live “in the middle of nowhere”. They carry on oblivious until a negative pregnancy leaves her relieved at the result. The two cycle off, and at the lights Paulius has a something unexpected to say.

In their stylish urban kitchen Vytas (Sakalauskas) placidly asks his wife of twenty years for a divorce. Later he visits his old flame Audrius (Svobanas), who is dying of cancer. A literal and metaphorical car crash sees Elena (Dapkunaite) quietly reflecting on how her ife carried for so many years in tacit denial of an emotional truth that has always been obvious for everyone concerned.

DoP Vytautas Plukas pictures these characters silently reeling in the face of calm contradiction. Vilnius reflects the silent chaos in the rubbish-strewn building sites of the centre: the character of the old city has changed forever, the capital will soon look like any other metropolis in Europe as the past is gently aid to rest – without reflection. Mostly relying on an ambient soundscape, the occasional score by Lina Lapelyte makes a weird intrusion into this perplexed but passionless world. A sensitive and aesthetically mature debut feature. AS


Human Rights Watch Festival 2021 | Women have their say

Opening this Thursday 18 March, this year’s HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FESTIVAL  kicks off with The 8th about Ireland’s women-led campaign to engineer the impossible – to overturn the 8th Amendment, a constitutional ban on abortion.

In Belly of the Beast two women wage a near impossible battle against the US Department of Corrections to expose modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons.

Mujer de Soldado reveals a deeply moving picture of female solidarity among four Peruvian women, who are bringing charges of historical rape against their abusers.

And in the Closing Night film on 26 March Unapologetic new talent Ashley O’Shay spent four years chronicling the lives of two young, black, queer women within the Black Lives movement in Chicago. In Ashley’s words: Unapologetic serves as a blueprint to that moment (last summer)…. I hope you walk away feeling inspired, and hopeful, and righteously rageful at the systems that have failed women.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL 2021 | Tickets go on sale February 18 and can be purchased via the Human Rights Watch Film Festival or Barbican Cinema On Demand.

Five Films for Freedom | BFI Flare 2021

During the FLARE LGBTIQ+ BFI’s annual celebration of all things gay five festival films have been selected to screen free internationally from 17-28 March

Five Films For Freedom 2021 sees filmmakers exploring emerging sexuality, trans-activism, homophobia and genderless love at a time when people may have been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

In a new twist for 2021, audiences will be invited to nominate their Five Films Favourite via a British Council web poll, the winners will be announced via British Council social media channels prior to 28 March. Voting opens 17 March via the #Five FilmsForFreedom homepage.

The FIVE FILMS FOR FREEDOM campaign has been going since 2015 and over 15 million people from more than 200 countries have engaged with it particularly in places where homosexuality can be prosecuted and, in some cases, punishable by death.

Five Film For Freedom programme 2021:


Bodies of Desire (India/Dir. Varsha Panikar & Saad Nawab/3 mins), directed by Varsha Panikar and multi-award-winner Saad Nawab, uses Indian poet Panikar’s work as the basis for a visual, poetic film capturing four sets of lovers in a sensual celebration of genderless love and desire.

Land of the Free (Sweden/Dir. Dawid Ullgren/10 mins) – Ullgren’s tense Swedish drama follows the fictional David and friends as they celebrate his birthday with a nightly swim at the beach. The good mood swiftly changes after two straight couples walk by and laugh – was the laughter directed at them, or something else? Who owns the truth of exactly what happened?


Pure (USA/Dir. Natalie Jasmine Harris/12 mins) is the fictional debut from 2020 Directors Guild of America Student Film Award winner Natalie Jasmine Harris, centring on a young Black girl grappling with her queer identity and ideas of ‘purity’. The film is written, produced and directed by Harris – a filmmaker passionate about the intersection between filmmaking and social justice.

Trans Happiness is Real (UK/Dir. Quinton Baker/8 mins) – a moving documentary from first-time filmmaker Quinton Baker – sees transgender activists take to the streets of Oxford, England to fight anti-trans sentiments using the power of graffiti and street art.

Victoria (Spain/Dir. Daniel Toledo/7 mins) follows a bittersweet reunion between a trans woman and her ex, sparking tension and long buried resentment. Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Daniel Toledo, Victoria also features acclaimed trans actress, writer and director Abril Zamora (The Life Ahead, The Mess You Leave Behind).

All films will be available to view from 17 – 28 March 2021 via the British Council Arts YouTube channel as well as being part of the BFI Flare digital programme on BFI Player and associated platforms.

Archipel (2021) IFFR 2021

Dir.: Felix Dufour-Laperriere; Documentary with FlorenceBlain Mbaye, Mattis Savard-Verhoeven; Canada 2021, 72 min.

Canadian director/writer/producer/editor Felix Dufour-Laperriere has created a visually striking portrait of his hometown Montreal (Quebec) with only a few real names and an assortment of mostly animated super-imposed images making any attempt at categorisation near impossible. One could call it a journey into poetry, music and live action held together by the voice-over of the two nameless narrators: a woman and man trying to communicate.



We never leave the titular Archipelago: old maps, footage and pictures give us an idea of times gone-by: people dominate, working, playing and wandering around in the delta. Names mentioned are Pierre Vallieres, a Quebec separatist politician and Jacques Verron, a reformist doctor. With animation and live-action correlated, we do not always know if this is a dream, even though the change of framing is a further point of reference guiding us, but also threatening to engulf us in this labyrinth of images. The score of Feu Doux underlines a semi-narrative of stream of consciousness and magic. Cryptic, often poetic, musings are like signs in a watery jungle landscape. The Saint Lawrence River keeps the boundaries in place and a native Innu-Aimon poem strikes a poetic and artful tone too hard to define in this multi-dimensional adventure composed of myriad art forms. It certainly  transcends any filmic reference, exuding a timeless quality which is both beguiling and discombobulating. Words may dominate, giving us some directions, but overall the enigmatic Archipel does not want be to classified, just to be watched like an seamless adventure; wild, untamed and free. AS

Rotterdam Film Festival | 2021

The Dog Who Wouldn’t be Quiet | El Perro que no calla (2020)

Dri: Ana Katz | Argentina, Drama 73′

A dreamy absurdist meditation on life with man’s best friend seems well-pitched for this time when many increasingly rely on their pets – particularly dogs – to see them through loneliness and crisis. Screaming kids are part of life but not everyone tolerates a barking dog. But our canine friends can often highlight the general mood better than humans.

In her offbeat debut feature Argentinian filmmaker Ana Katz offers a gentle lowkey reflection of the life and times of Sebastian and his canine companion, that gradually opens out to touch on wider concerns. Set in a community struggling to survive economic turndown, Sebastian is struggling to hold down a job but his dog Rita spends her lonely days howling, much to the annoyance of his neighbours. Watching calmly and intelligently as Sebastian deals with the negative comments  about her at his place of work, the realisation dawns that he will have to leave his job. But on a walk through the surrounding countryside, the decision is made for him. And this is delicately conveyed in a series of black and white sketches that carry a poignant sorrowful message.

The dog’s anxiety ripples out into a widespread ‘cri de coeur’ expressing the collective concern of a population lacking in agency and forced into passive endurance of their uneventful daily lives.

Essentially this is a series of episodes in Sebastian’s life as he goes from place to place gamely looking for work, while also playing an active part in his mother’s days with her sophisticated friends. This all culminates in a romantic meeting on the dance-floor and a family of his own.

A comet disaster, shown again in drawing form, provides an ecological watershed and the film’s lowkey Sci-fi twist that sees the Earth’s atmosphere become contaminated above ground level. Sebastian, who is now working in a farming collective, is forced to adapt to the confusing changes, including wearing a glass bubble mask (you can appreciate the social resonance here). This new normal situation becomes a routine that Sebastian and his fiends will have to accept. But it somehow is the making of him.

Filming in black-and-white film with an inconsequential original score, this is a promising debut that doesn’t quite manage to hang together despite some strong ideas, and the comedy angle is amongst them. Ana Katz get some naturalistic performances from her cast, and Daniel Katz makes for a likeable Sebastian in the central role. Rita is rather underwritten, and it’s a shame her role is so truncated as she could have provided the link to bringing the narrative together and garnering empathy from dog lovers everywhere. MT.



Black Medusa (2021) Mubi

Dir: Ismael & Youssef Chebbi | Drama, Tunisia, 95′

The Black Medusa Nada is in some ways emblematic of her home town of Tunis in this enigmatic fantasy thriller portrait of contemporary North African womanhood.

In this first feature Tunisian filmmakers Ismael and Youssef Chebbi are clearly supportive of their embittered main character – who choses not to communicate verbally – investing her with the power to hit back at the male-dominated Arab society where she has grown up in the aftermath of the revolution. Nour Hajri makes for a mesmerising Nada – the aptly named Black Medusa – who modestly goes her about her daily routine before diving into the nighttime shadows to prey on unsuspecting suitors.

Nada’s modus operandi is a ritual of revenge unfolding over nine. First, she poses as a sympathetic confidante to her male suitors – then she stabs them viciously, and seemingly with impunity. But her murderous behaviour soon rouses the suspicions of her workplace colleague Noura, who discovers a knife used in the attacks, and die is cast.

Underwritten characters and a slim but suggestive premise are clearly the result of the filmmakers budget constraints in a feature shot at lightening speed, and scripted in only two weeks. Enigma somehow works to their advantage here but not in the way they had anticipated with Nada serving the narrative as a beguiling counterpoint to the film’s much stronger (and in some ways more interesting) character – Tunis itself, gradually emerging in the nocturnal odyssey through this intriguing capital.

Stylistically brave in its striking black and white beauty and eclectic soundscape, the film makes for a slow and sinuous study of the nighttime antics of urban Tunisians in a voyeuristic expose of this classic coastal city with its ancient medinas and modern architectural flourishes and broad palm-fringed boulevards that will eventually lead to Carthage and Sidi Bou Said.

The directors meld Noir and Giallo styles satisfyingly in a memorable revenge thriller that serves as a sophisticated showcase to a siren-like capital city where a serial killer is on a voyage of discovery to liberate herself from the past. MT

ON MUBI FROM 25 January 2022




Liborio (2021) Mubi

Dir: Nino Martinez Sosa | Dominican Rep Drama 99′

A violent hurricane in the tropical jungles of the Dominican Republic in the early years of the 20th century is the catalyst for transformation deep in this debut feature from Nino Martinez Sosa.

And the focus for change is Olivorio ‘Liborio’ Mateo who takes refuge in a cave only to reappear much later as a messianic figure and force for positive change and healing in his local community. Will this Jesus-like figure bring lasting hope or is he just another false prophet?.

An age old question and one Nino Martinez Sosa explores with some ingenuity in his lively feature debut that shines a light on this largely unknown episode of history. His film imagines a bright and self-determining future for an impoverished farming community in the South of his homeland. And one that serves as a metaphor for our world today where injustice continue despite social and economic advancement, and it will always be thus.

Since Jesus came down from the Cross, people everywhere have being looking for redemption and positive change – through cults, sects and new-fangled religions. Based on local history, Liborio is another figure who captures the collective imagination of his community, and from the time he reappears after the storm his prophecies and healing powers enrich his group of followers who have, up to this time, been dominated by Catholic doctrines. He retreats with them into the mountains to start a commune in the name of freedom, but faces still opposition from invading US marines after the 1916 American invasion when tensions developed into an armed struggle.

Atmospherically lensed by Oscar Duran (who honed his skills on Sexy Beast) this highly sensory tale takes the form of seven scenes showing how Liborio (a luminous central turn from Vicente Santos) inspires the locals with his teachings amid hostility from Catholic believers, much as Jesus got a bad rap from the prevailing Jews in Palestine; the shadow of colonialism eventually making its presence known in the shape of the soldiers.

Today in the Dominican Republic ‘Liborism’ is kept alive in ritual, prayer and song connecting this dramatised history to the present, and is here brought to us by Martinez Sosa’s illuminating historical drama. MT

Rotterdam Film Festival | premiere | this year’s festival kicks off on 26 January 2022

The Edge of Daybreak (2021) IFFR 2021

Dir: Taiki Sakpisit | Thailand, Switzerland | Drama, 116′

Four decades of political turmoil and violent history unfold in this deeply visual monochrome meditation whose intimate focus is the family tragedy at its core.

A thematically rich feature debut for Thai filmmaker Taiki Sakpisit who has made quite a name for himself as a director of shorts to create an impressive body of work linked to his country’s history. He now takes on a much more ambitious project that traces back to the distant history of his homeland in a film that scratches at the edges of Gothic fantasy taking it roots from reality.

Experimental in nature and strangely beguiling carries with it a palpable tension as turmoil in running high in its Bangkok setting. A prominent government figure is spending his final hours in safety before fleeing into exile. In the chiaroscuro shadows DoP Chananun Chotrungroj’s roving voyeuristic camera alights on a naked body and we are led to believe by the film’s narrator this incident is connected to the family who inhabit a decrepit riverside mansion steeped in a mysterious past.

Days are marked out by silent rituals. Pailin, the mistress of the house, is recovering from a traumatic accident involving her daughter Ploy. Wordlessly moving around in spellbound somnambulant state she is one of the female protagonists with little agency, suppressed by her stultifying surroundings in a story that serves as a metaphor for the suffering of the Thai people who have undergone years of repressive regimes and brutal trauma.

Sakpisit directs with confidence keeping his distance from his mysterious protagonists while maintaining a focus on the females, and evoking a creeping sense of dread with an ominous soundscape to create an artistic response to his country’s legacy of militarisation and impunity.

This is a narrative which very much connects to the global concern that psychosis and traumatic stress disorder can be passed down to later generations into the collective consciousness eventually becoming endemic in the nation’s heart and soul.


Rotterdam Film Festival | FIPRESCI Award 2021

Suzanna Andler (2021) IFFR 2021

Dir: Benoit Jacquot | France, Drama, 88′

A romantic chamber piece for Charlotte Gainsbourg to strut her stuff and she makes a soigné star in YSL, faux fur and high-heels in this sophisticated drama from Cesar winning Benoit Jacquot (Farewell My Queen, Eva).

Set in a sumptuous seaside villa in Cannes – reminding us to get our skates on for this year’s revised July festival – it muses on the constantly changing dynamics of love and fidelity, and the continuing fascination for women of a certain age by younger men.

The young guy in this case is Michel (Niels Schneider most recently seen in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats). Gainsbourg plays forty something Suzanna Andler who describes herself to the estate agent showing her the villa, as “the most cheated-on woman in the Riviera”. Her millionaire husband Jean (who never appears, but speaks to her over the ‘phone from Chantilly where he also has a lover) will spend two weeks there with the family, she will then be joined by Michel keeping a low profile, naturellement.

Jacquot bases his script on a 1960s play by the famous French novelist, director and actor Marguerite Duras (he worked as her assistant in the early 1970s), set back in the day when it was ‘de rigueur’ to have a lover to compensate for the confines of the marital bed, and here cleverly escapes the strictures of the stage with an evocative seaside soundscape, the lush villa is a character in itself, and a beachside walk with the third character Julia Roy (who also appeared in Eva) as her daughter, Monique.

Staying faithful to the original, this is elegantly performed and delightful to watch, its discursive love story playing out amid gentle lulling waves and seagulls on a spring day on the Riviera, distilling the essence of this magical part of France. MT

Rotterdam Film Festival 2021 | LIMELIGHT STRAND

Pebbles (2021) IFFR 2021 | Tiger Award 2021

Dir: P S Vinothraj | Drama, India 74′

Drought is a killer in Southern India. And the village of Arittapatti is suffering. Women keep calm and patiently carry on – roasting rats to feed the family – but the men are full of rage, against themselves and the environment.

Powered forwards by a seething debut performance from Karuththadaiyaan, who plays the central character Ganapathy, this first feature from P S Vinothraj – essentially a two hander – is as much a social portrait of rural India’s patriarchal society as a anti-buddy movie about a father and his young son (Chellapandi, also a non-pro).

Forget solidarity. The desiccated landscape has reduced humanity to desperation, Ganapathy’s wife fleeing from his domestic abuse to her in-laws in a neighbouring village. Furious and determined to get his back – she is his possession, after all – Ganapathy drags his sons on the 13 km journey across a wasteland, Walkabout style, in the searing heat of the hottest day of the year.

In an odyssey Punctuated by occasional violent outbursts, and intensified by a handheld camera, what we remember most about Pebbles is the silence: this is actually a meditation on the miracle of nature and also the cruelty of man towards the environment, seen largely through the eyes of Chellapandi, a calm and thoughtful boy who refuses to give in to his father’s draconian  dominance and physical abuse preferring to marvel instead at their  their journey through this ravaged but characterful landscape. At one point they are followed by a stray puppy, the father kicks it away but Chellapandi befriends it and takes it home, he’s emerging a nature boy and the hero of the film.

Despite a dysfunctional relationship with his father the two are inexorably drawn together, the father’s negative energy fuelling the boy’s positivity and resourcefulness. It’s an intriguing study of how opposites continue to stick together somehow complimenting each other in the face of all odds.

Minutely observed and captured on the widescreen, and by use of drones, this wonderful feature, over a year in the making, is an arthouse gem that fills the viewer with a feeling of calm contemplation. A tribute to the patient resourcefulness of poverty-stricken people all over the developing world. MT

Rotterdam Film Festival 2021 | TIGER COMPETITON WINNER 2021


The Year Before the War | Gads Pirms Kara (2021 IFFR

Dir.: Davis Simanis; Cast: Petr Buchta, Inga Salina, Girts Kesteris, Lauris Dzelzitis, Eduards Johansons, Edgards Kaufelds, Gints Gravelis, Uldis Silins, Daniel Sidon, Janis Putnins; Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic | 2021, 95 min.

This stylish third feature from Latvian historian and now filmmaker Davis Simanis is a tour-de-force artfully imagining the final events of 1913 before the outbreak of war. Shot in black-and-white and combining the aesthetics of early cinema with a surrealist twist, it is a ravishing odyssey of ideas and their main protagonists seen through the eyes of nascent revolutionary Petr on his peripatetic journey through a Europe in turmoil. Romantic passion, world revolution, psychoanalysis, and seduction: Simanis’ inspired drama bubbles with ideas in a caldron of change heralding the 20th century when Europe and the world would be transformed forever.

We start the journey in Riga on New Year’s Day 1913. A young fisherman drowns himself in an icy lake “he wants to be with the fish, who know the secret of death”. Meanwhile Petr (calling himself Hans), a doorman in a posh hotel, is fired on suspicion of revolution ideas.

With the arrival of Spring Petr has made it to Switzerland, shooting his newly acquired gun into the air with a triumphant flourish. Somehow he wanders into the “Lebensreform” sanatorium where patients are  dancing around naked to escape the ravages of TB and psychosomatic illness.

Petr meets the philosopher Wittgenstein (Silins); and later, at a séance, Alma (Salina), who could  be the future spy Mata Hari. Alma is an emotional woman, full of wild and passionate expression and we see her before an audience in a cinema tent, where Biograph pictures are being shown. Alma will reappear in later episodes, emerging as an increasingly enigmatic seductive figure for Petr.

In June, our hero visits Prague and decides to enlist, running into Trotsky (Gravelis) at a political rally. Later in July, the trigger happy Petr visits Vienna where his gun comes in handy for more attacks on the establishment, shooting at a well known politician. Later, in London he will be hailed a hero as more political enemies come under fire. But by August he is already tired of all the killing.

Summer draws to a close and Petr, now in Riga, sees Alma again. He also has a brush up with Lenin (Dzelzitis). Moving to Prague in September, he visits Freud (Kesteris), who, not un-surprisingly, diagnoses Petr with an Oedipus complex, after he expressed his desire to kill his father (who has died in the meantime). The narrative gets more unhinged, with an orgy, an empty coffin and forays to government offices. At a demonstration we spot Schicklgruber (Kaufelds), who tries to break up the anarchist meeting.

All good things come to an end, and finally, Petr must face the music. Winter is once again closing in and Lenin reappears to give him instructions for the planned revolution. The film draws to a close on New Year’s Eve in Riga where Alma begs him to leave and let her die. We somehow jump forward to the Great War, where symbolically Petr satisfies his gnawing hunger by boiling and eating a human hand. He is called by his comrades Petr Ivanovitch, but still insists on being called Hans. By now he is a prosecutor in a Stalinist system, condemning dissidents to death, he “cannot see any meaning at all”.

A visual triumph for DoP Andrejs Rudzats and PD/Kristina Jurjane whose black and white camerawork leads us on a magical journey  brimming with intrigue. The second half of the feature could easily have been scripted by Kafka. Sidon, who makes a guest appearance is able to re-imagine the atmosphere of the Golem series, and Jurjane is equally brilliant at re-building cities, as we have seen in the cinema of German Expressionism. There is so much to be admired that – for once – an extra thirty minutes of this stunningly torrid rush of imagination would be most welcome. AS.

Rotterdam Film Festival | BIG SCREEN COMPETITION.


Madalena (2021) Mubi

Dir: Madiano Marcheti | Thriller Brazil 85′

More transexuals are killed in Brazil than anywhere else in the world and this sobering thought provides the touchstone to Madiano Marcheti’s assured feature debut that premiered exactly a year ago at Rotterdam’s film festival’s 50th celebration.

Madalena is a murder mystery that is never solved. We see a broken body lying in a field of lushly swaying soya, but we never discover much more – this is not a crime procedural or a whodunnit. What Madalena does provide is a haunting and unsettling snapshot of the cultural and societal references that support intolerance in this deeply religious, patriarchal and macho part of rural Brazil that remains connected and influenced by the modern world and yet at the same time, tethered in the past. In this sense the setting (where the director himself grew up) is very much a character that influences what has gone before. In this eerie tropical landscape, ostriches strut like creatures out of a Sci-fi thriller and drones trawl the skies patrolling the vast acres of farmland. Meanwhile monsters are being bred in the frivolous disco-dancing, vape-smoking, body-conscious urban hinterland, and they’re called men.

Capturing the vast open skyscapes and deathly silences of the spooky agrarian setting Marcheti stealthily explores the aftermath to Madalena’s death through three protagonists who are unknown to each other as they gradually become aware of her disappearance. The details are left unclear and we never find out how the death eventually leaks out into the news.

Club hostess Luziane calls round at Madalena’s simple village home several times, her mother pressurising her to borrow money, but Madalena is nowhere to be found. The narrative then shifts to body-builder Cristiano who works for his land-owning father, spending his time smoking drinking and injecting himself with hormones. He can’t forget what he’s seen in the soyafields, so he takes his friend Gildo back to where he originally saw the body but it’s a hostile and inhospitable terrain that keeps its secret well hidden.

In a mellow and soft-centred finale it’s left to trans woman Bianca and her girlfriends to pack up Madalena’s possessions as they share memories of happier times with their friend. Marcheti never passes judgement on his characters, they are merely there to serve the narrative – but none is particularly likeable, leaving us to reach our own conclusions on this sinister story and the hostile and unknowable place where it all unfolds. MT


Friends and Strangers (2021)

Dir/Wri: James Vaughan | Cast: Emma Diaz, Victoria Maxwell, Fergus Wilson, Greg Zimbulis | Australia, Comedy drama 82′

Sydney is the setting for this filmic breath of fresh air from promising newcomer James Vaughan exploring displacement and modern ennui with a humorous touch seen through the eyes of an easygoing young Australian. For fans of Joanna Hogg – this might appeal.

Setting off with a jaunty piano soundtrack the film opens with a rather awkward but entirely convincing conversation by two directionless millennials Alice (Diaz) and Ray (Wilson) who are set adrift in the holidays and discussing their putative travel plans in the balmy urban confines of a leafy Sydney’s suburb. Eventually they fetch up camping in a caravan by a lakeside. But the story’s focus then increasingly turns to Ray as his summer adventure broadens.

Defined by its freewheeling style and naturalistic performances (Wilson is particularly good) Friends and Strangers avoids a structured narrative playing out as a series of amusing vignettes that riff on the theme of wanderlust and endless travel for millennials before the constraints of Covid came along. Much of Alice and Ray’s time together is interrupted by members of the older generation adding context to their aimless behaviour and accentuating the solipsistic nature of the young characters un-centred existence. They say a lot but actually mean very little, and there is no real focus to their interactions. Maybe their whole style of language and dialogue results from their inherent lack of direction or need to do anything at all, dictated by the vague unpressurised lives they lead.

Cleverly observed and unhurried in its gentle style Friends and Strangers derives its humour from the fact that nothing really happens in their freewheeling laissez-faire lifestyle. Perceived slights and vague mood changes accentuate their lack of purpose and often arise out of the characters’ need to overthink situations, because nothing of real consequence ever happens as the days stretch out into a pointless void. Vaughan has certainly perfected millennial dialogue with its ubiquitous interpolations of ‘like’ and ‘kind of’ peppered everywhere. And dramatic heft – and texture – arrives in the scenes where Ray finds himself filming a wedding video for a wealthy art collector at an uptown house where the mounting stress levels are much more in tune with modern urban life – adding an hilarious Mr Bean twist to proceedings.

Dimitri Zaunders’ camera occasionally swings into widescreen mode giving us an enjoyable travelogue of Sydney’s sites and monuments not to mention some less crowded beaches and gorgeous modernist villas, where the Mr Bean accident occurs.

Slim but highly entertaining while it lasts, this is an ‘amuse bouche’ of a film that shows Vaughan as an acute observer of life, and a real talent in the making with a promising career ahead of him. MT


Mighty Flash (2021)

Dir: Ainhoa Rodrigues | Spain, Fantasy Drama 90′

Life in Southern Spain hasn’t changed much for the God-fearing and deeply suspicious repressed but dying to burst out from their in rural communities in Extremadura. And women are the keenest to break free. Or at least that’s the impression we get from Ainhoa Rodriguez’ deliciously dark and delightfully observed first feature that unfolds with a cast of non-pros on the widescreen and in intimate – often voyeuristic – closeup.

Mighty Flash is an amusing story of country folk and their sexual frustrations and ethnographical portrait of a remote group of people, spiced up with magic realist touches. These country dwellers may be cut off from the rest of Spain but they are as thick as thieves amongst themselves, supporting one another and sharing tales of farming exploits, folklore and strange happenings in the surrounding countryside – not to mention vicious social gossip. Like Dickens’ Mr Micawber they are constantly waiting for something to turn up, not just the Second Coming or the Madonna at the local Semana Santa processions. 

Isa records suggestive messages to herself that speak of strange events: “A mighty flash of light will appear above the village, which will change everything”, she hears herself say. “It is magnificent. We will all get a headache, we will lose our memories and we will disappear.” Cita is a deeply unsatisfied with her life and one morning leaves her warm matrimonial bed and heads to the church to pray, all dolled up in a mini dress and blow-dry. This naturally sparks criticism and wagging tongues amongst the other women: “nothing will come of her” they chunter conspiratorially. 

Although the womenfolk are frustrated in the deadbeat backwater, the men seem more contented with their daily grind. Nothing happens but actually everything happens. High hopes are met with unrealised dreams. But the tone here is drole and upbeat, always positive, never bitter.

Loneliness has no place in this community, despite its lack of potential. Days are fraught with the social round. All done up in pearls and fur coats – not to mention high heels – ladies lunch together and talk of sexual desire and personal fulfilment – and their dissatisfaction with the menfolk is fully realised in scenes enlivened by surrealist flourishes. María mourns her deceased husband, Paco. Sometimes, someone hears a sound that escapes everyone else. Can it be real or just a fantasy.? Female imagination catches fire while the men simply hunker down with their mates and animals – especially the little goat farmer who describes tricking a female goat into bringing up a kid from another litter.

Cleverly observed, pert and well-paced with its punchy electronic soundtrack and touches of magic realism deftly woven into the narrative, Mighty Flash is a real one off. Working hard – and successfully – to build a bond of trust with her cast Rodriquez’ first feature fizzes with intrigue behind its zipped-up facade. A brilliantly observed portrait of modern Spain that could be from the dark ages. Ironic, inspired and in the delicate spirit of Victor Erice. MT





The Cemil Show (2021) Rotterdam Film Festival 2021

Dir.: Baris Sarhan; Cast: Ozan Celik, Nesrin Cavadzade, Alican Yücesoy; Basar Alemdar, Fuat Kökek; Turkey 2020, 106 min.

This first feature by Turkish writer/director Baris Sarhan is an inventive spoof, combining ‘old’ footage of classic Turkish B-pictures with a Kafkaesque setting in a modern shopping mall. Charisma alone is not enough on to justify the film’s generous running time, and so much of the playful impact is lost as The Cemil Show strains to entertain for nearly two hours on a wafer thin story.

So the plot is simple: Cemil (Celik) is a security guard in a maze-like mall where he holds down his mundane day job desperate to be an actor. When one his favourite films is due for a re-make, Cemil throws himself into rehearsing the role of his hero, the monster villain Turgay Göral from the original outing. Full of hope he then heads off for an audition, but leaves empty-handed, disillusioned and angry.

There is a silver lining when Cemil discovers Göral (Kökek) is still alive, although very much down on his luck. He then discovers his hero’s daughter Burcu (Cavadzade) is working in the same mall, and has set her heart on Zaher (Yücesoy), the draconian staff manager. A bittersweet but rather weak ending sees Cemil watching old films with his hero Göral (Alemdar), the monstrous villain in all his films.

All said and done, The Cemil Show is a charming romp with its stylish retro B-picture extracts. DoP Soykut Turan gets a chance to show off a variety of skills, his grainy black-and-white images contrasting impressively with the more baroque colour sequences of the parallel action. Sarhan is a talented newcomer who would excels with a more disciplined approach to his filmmaking. AS


I Comete: A Corsican Summer (2021) IFFR Rotterdam Film Festival

Dir: Pascal Tagnati | France, Drama 124′

Warm, light-hearted and drôle : this free-wheeling cinema verite take on Corsican village life dances away from a formal narrative capturing the gentle offbeat nature of the Mediterranean island in summer. The first feature film from Corsican ‘theatre-maker’, actor and author Pascal Tagnati plays out in a series of quirky inconsequential vignettes – some of them quite risqué – that picture the locals at play, swimming, flirting, arguing (and even crying) as they enjoy the sumptuous scenery of this hilly island paradise at a time where villagers get together to enjoy the last days of the summer holidays.

Beautifully composed and refreshing, Tagnati’s observational approach cleverly combines drama and fiction, relying on a natural soundscape of birdsong and breeze, occasionally traditional folksongs are heard in the distance, sung in Corsican dialect (which sounds a bit like Italian, unsurprisingly), culminating in the heartrending ‘La mort de Filicone’.

I Comete is very much a collaborative effort between Tagnati and the local villagers in a cast of predominately non-pros – apart from the major roles – ad-libbing most of the way, it certainly offers an essence of the island and its people for those who’ve never been there, it works as an accidental travelogue stimulating an interest to discover more about the place. Franje, appears to be the only black resident of the village, and the kids make an older character the butt of their jokes although he seems a kind and resourceful type, and we feel quite sorry for him in his undeserved role as the ‘village idiot’. In other more downbeat moments Theo reflects on the possibility of the less happier times in his life, and Lucienne talks of freedom.

At the end of the day, the Corsicans are just like everybody else in Europe where daily life centres on friends, football, infidelity and fertility, family traditions probably loom slightly larger here than in Northern Europe but the pace is certainly slower, Tagnati lulling us into a pleasant reverie about his home, that brims with a sense of national pride and a collective joie de vivre. MT


Nulle Trace (No Trace) Slam Dance Festival 2021

Dir.: Simon Lavoie; Cast: Nathalie Doummar, Monique Gosselin; Canada 2020, 103 min.

Canadian writer/director Simon Lavoie borrows heavily from Bergman and Tarkovsky for this sketchy story about civil war in an unknown country. Using odd formats, like a 11:8 ratio, Lavoie’s feature relies on the stunning black-and-white photography of his DoP Simran Dewan – but you cannot rely on images alone to carry a film, however enigmatic.

Filmed in Quebec, Canada No Trace opens with a four-minute close-up of rails, filmed from the moving handcar, which is owned by ‘N’ (Gosselin), who looks like a trapper from a Western. She later emerges a hardened people smuggler who is guiding Awa (Doummar) and her baby daughter. N is afraid the child’s crying might alarm the guards at the border. But all goes well, and Awa will eventually meet up with her husband. But N loses her vehicle – and soon – her way in the forest where she later meets Awa, who has ben raped. N also finds the body of Awa’s husband, and her daughter who has been burned on the sticks.

The two survivors are hostile, with Awa, a Muslim, constantly praying. Lavoie wisely leads leaves the final stretch of his feature open-ended  fitting for a film with such a flimsy narrative.

A heavy, menacing score underlines the tone of gloom and doom and the threatening atmosphere, the screen goes blank for a time without any explanation and sometimes garbled language replaces proper dialogue. Nulle Trace is dressed up as arthouse fare, the title ironically symbolic of the lack of artistic coherence. AS


The Man Without a Past (2002) Now on Prime Video


Dir\Writer: Aki Kaurismaki: Cast: Markku Peltola, Kati Outinen, Sakar Kuosmanen; Finland/France/Germany 2002; 97 min.

Like many auteurs of his generation, Aki Kaurismaki is entirely self-taught. After a working life spent as a postman and film critic amongst other things, he turned his hand to film-making in the eighties and has been incredibly successful in his endeavour, producing his own films and distributing them through his own company Alphaville, and even showing them at his own arthouse cinemas in Finland. Often working with his elder brother Mika, they have shaped the face of Finnish cinema, crafting one-fifth of the Finnish film industry’s total output since 1981.

In love with the past and Finland’s lugubrious hard-drinking working classes, often down on their luck – anything post 1980 does not interest Kaurismaki visually and he made this retro look his trademark. The Man Without a Past sees him create another antihero, this time the director doesn’t even give him a name, in the credits he is just ‘M’.

M (his beloved Markku Peltola) arrives one Spring evening in Helsinki, with a small suitcase. Resting on a park bench he nods off and is attacked by three young men, who leave him for dead. Coming round in a rain-soaked stupor, he makes his way to A&E where retrograde amnesia is diagnosed. Discharged from hospital and homeless, he makes his way to a container site where he rents a place to rest his head from a conman called Antilla (Kuosmanen). The geezer exploits those down on their luck. His ‘fierce’ dog Hannibal turns out to be submissive, snuggling up with M on his bed. All this plays out with Kaurismaki’s classic blend of eccentric situational humour which is light on dialogue and heavy on innuendo.

M can’t remember a thing about his life but when he catches sight of a couple of metal workers down near the port he feels a strange affinity to their daily grind, leading him to believe he was a welder in a former life. Turning to the Samaritans for help, he falls in love with Irma (Outinen) and a new lease of life. Soon he’ part of a swing band with the local Samaritans, and manages to secure some welding work. But his luck turns sour when he gets caught up in a bank robbery and this brush with the police leads to his identification. It soon emerges he was married, but his wife divorced him on account of his gambling. When M travels back to his home town by train he finds her living in their former marital dwelling with a boyfriend. M is only too relieved he doesn’t have to fight it out with his rival, returning back to Irma in Helsinki and eventual revenge.

Kaurismaki’s classic absurdist humour is an acquired taste and The Man Without a Past is one of the best examples. When M cooks dinner for Irma in his container, she asks politely “Are you sure, I can’t help”. His deadpan response is: “I think it’s ruined already”. Later when an electrician has helped him connect his container to a power source, M asks how he could return the favour. The man answers matter of factly: “If you see me lying in the gutter face down, turn me on my back”.

Kaurismaki is best compared with Preston Sturges and his comedies of the 30s; his heroes are like the actors Buster Keaton used to preferred, “they can’t raise their voice, their only reaction are furrowed brows”. DOP Timo Salminen, who shot nearly all of Kaurismaki’s films, shows Finland as a morose country where suicide, poverty, hunger and alcoholism is rife. All this is borne, (according to the director) “out of the change in society from a mainly agricultural country, to an industrialised one – many feel rootless and alienated from the country, in a place where high rise blocks and unemployment kill the soul. ” This, and his beloved band music, are the touchstones of his film career that started in 1991.

The Man Without a Past won the Grand Prix at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, Kati Outinen best actress. AS


Ivana the Terrible (2019) Locarno

Dir.: Ivana Mladenovic; Cast: Ivanka Mladenovic, Gordana Mladenovic, Modrae Mladenovic, Kosta Mladenovic, Luca Gramic, Anca Pop, Andrei Dinescu; Serbia/Romania 2019, 86 min.

Director/co-writer Ivana Mkadenovic (Soldiers: Story from Ferentari) describes her latest, a fictional autobiography, or docu-fiction hybrid is very much in the vein of this year’s IDFA winner Radiograph of a Family although far more satirical in nature. The past and the present collide in Kladovo, Serbia, near the border to Romania, where Ivana also ‘stars’ as a histrionic millennial jilted by her Romanian lover and suffering the after-affects of PTSD. Her family, friends and former lovers play the other roles.

We first meet Ivana on a train going back home to Serbia for the summer, where we get to experience just how terrible she really is. Freed from her work commitments, she accepts the mayor’s invitation to become the face of a local music festival, and finds herself the latest citizen to be honoured with an award acknowledging the bond of friendship between Serbia and Romania. It just so happens that the Trajan (Friendship) Bridge over the Danube connecting Serbia and Romania, and where Tito and Ceausescu once famously met, is also in Kladovo, on the Serbian side, adding all sorts of bilateral connotations to the narrative, along with the generational conflicts.

Far from triumphant, Ivana’s return puts the cat amongst the pigeons on all front , escalated by her fragile state of mind. To make matters even worse (or somehow better, as it turns out), Ivana’s relationship with a much younger guy is soon the talk of the town (the general consensus being that she should settle down and start a family), but this gossip soon confers a kind of celebrity status on the petulant woman, her erratic behaviour becoming par for the course. Her behaviour certainly challenges social stereotypes in the traditional community. And the arrival of Ivana’s friend (portrayed by Romanian-Canadian singer-songwriter Anca Pop – to whose memory the film is dedicated) is a another game-changer, further enhancing her bad-girl status in the village, and there is much consternation among the old-fashioned local womenfolk when an offer to have their private parts form the basis of a local sculpture is not well-received, to say the least.

Eventually Ivana gets a lift with Anca and Andrei back to Bucharest, stopping on the way to listen to some poets reading on the Friendship bridge. Another dimension to this (un)happy merry-go-round comes in the shape of a story from the Second World War when over a thousand Jews came to Kladovo where they were to be escorted by boat to the safety of Palestine. But the ship never came, and the Jews lost their lives during the ensuing Nazi occupation of the town. MT


Let the Sunshine In (2020) **** Mubi

French Filmmaker Claire Denis is one of the most innovative pioneers of independent cinema and fiercely committed to her singular vision. Growing up the daughter of a civil servant in various African countries, she eventually went home to France and fell in love with cinema in the Cinematheque, Paris. Making films seemed inevitable and after studying at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies (IDHEC) she embarked on a career that would see her working with Jacques Rivette (who became the subject of her 1990 documentary Jacques Rivette, Le Veilleur), Dušan Makavejev, Roberto Enrico and Costa-Gavras and Wim Wenders on Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire. Through the musician John Lurie she met Jim Jarmusch and worked with him  on Down by Law. But it was with her debut feature Chocolat that she made it to the international stage in 1988. The film was selected for Cannes and the César awards, it also got her together with Agnès Godard who became her regular director of photography for all her films.

So far Claire Denis has made six documentaries and no fewer than 17 feature films, such as Nénette et Boni for which she is awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1996. Beau Travail, is one of the most stark and contemplative French films about war, standing alongside Bruno Dumont’s L’Humanite. It was chosen for Venice line-up in 1999. Set amid racial conflict in a Francophone African state, Isabelle Huppert plays a coffee plantation owner desperately trying to save her crop, her family and her life in Denis’ 2009 outing White Material.

Clearly race and post-colonial themes feature heavily in her work, but Denis has also dabbled in genres – Bastards was a thriller, 35 Shots of Rum a fantasy drama about a father and daughter in Paris. Trouble Every Day reflects the emotional anguish of a loved up but warring married coup, starring Béatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo it screened at Cannes Film Festival in 2001. Denis has also worked several times with Juliette Binoche, most recently in her critically acclaimed sci-fi outing High Life (2018) and previously in her insightfully playful comedy Let the Sunshine In. where she plays a spirited and intelligent woman trying to find love with a series of unedifyingly pompous losers. Robert Pattinson will join Denis for the The Stars at Noon (2021) which follows American traveller (Margaret Qualley) through Nicaragua during the 1980s revolution, based on the novel by American writer Denis Johnson. Her next project Stars at Noon in set in 1980s Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution when a mysterious English businessman and a headstrong American journalist strike up a romance as they find themselves involved in a dangerous labyrinth of deceit. MT



High Life, 2018 Un beau soleil intérieur, 2017 Le Camp de Breidjing, 2015 Contact, 2014 Voilà l’enchaînement, 2014 Les Salauds, 2013 Venezia 70: Future Reloaded, 2013 Aller au diable, 2011 White Material, 2010 35 rhums, 2008 Vers Mathilde, 2005 L’Intrus, 2004 Vendredi soir, 2002 Vers Nancy (Segment du film Ten Minutes Older: The Cello), 2002 Trouble Every Day, 2001 Beau travail, 1999 Nénette et Boni, 1996 Nice, very Nice (segment from A propos de Nice, la suite), 1994 J’ai pas sommeil (I Can’t Sleep), 1994 U.S. Go Home (Collection : Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge), 1994 La Robe à cerceau (from Monologues, with Chantal Akerman), 1993 Keep It for Yourself  + Figaro Story, 1991 Jacques Rivette, le veilleur. Part 1 : la nuit (Cinéaste de notre temps), 1990 S’en fout la mort (No Fear, No Die) 1990 Man No Run, 1989 Chocolat, 1988 Le 15 Mai, 1969

Unidentified (2020) ****

Dir.: Bogdan George Apetri; Cast: Bogdan Farcas, Dragos Domitru, Vasile Muraru, Ana Popescu, Kira Hagi, Andrei Aradits; Romania/Latvia/Czech Republic 2020, 123 min.

Very much in the style of the classic French crime thrillers of the 1970s, Unidentified is a modern version of Yves Boisset’s Un Condé, tackling  racism and misogyny in one fell swoop in a tightly plotted murder story. Unidentified is the sophomore feature of Romanian director Bogdan George Apetri who also wrote and edited and co-produced drawing from his experiences of working in New York.

It sees scuzzy minor Detective Florin (Farcas) down on his luck, and in need of a scape goat to his appease his boss, Commissar Sef (Muraru). The sacrificial lamb soon fetches up in the shape of Roma security guard Banel (Domitru) whose been unlucky enough to have two major disasters occur during his checkered career, both seemingly connected to insurance fraud with Banel aiding and abetting the perpetrator, the owner of hotel where he was working.

Not that Florin is is squeaky clean from the personal probity angle either. Behind with his car repayments and mortgage, and he badgers his friend Mircea (Aradits) to give him more time to pay off his debts. But money worries are not the only thing getting the obsessed detective down. In Oleg Mutu’s fluid widescreen camerawork, we watch him on a hillside, overlooking a hotel and parking lot, spying on his fiancée Stela (Popescu) who is cheating on him with a married man. It’s hardly surprising given the way Florin neglects her and always seems to be in a bad mood. But what the hell? He hatches an ingenious plan to get rid of both of them in a double murder – the perfect crime. It will involve getting to know Banel and organising for him to work in the hotel where Stela hangs out. It’s got to be meticulously planned, so it looks like an accident: He invites Banel to his home, and makes him touch a beer bottle, which he will later use as a Molotov cocktail to kill Stela. So off he goes to meet Banel in the parking lot of the hotel at nine pm. But in that classic but always effective dramatic device – things don’t go according to plan for Florin. Not during the crime but afterwards, when his boss Sef picks holes in his story.

Apetri is certainly a master storyteller, overlaying his story of detective obsession with the serene score of none other than Chopin’s delicate piano music. Helicopter shots show Florin driving around manically, chasing his prey on a murderous mission. Even at two hours plus, Unidentified keeps us in its grip in exploring a psychotic law enforcement officer, crumbling before our eyes. And apparently there’s more to look forward too, Apetri’s  feature is the first of a trilogy set in small town Romania. AS

Special Jury Award, International Competition | Warsaw Film Festival 2020 | Rendezvous with French Cinema 2021



The Father | Bashtata (2019) Oscars 2021 | Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Dir: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Vlachanov | Bulgaria Drama 87′

The Father is the third collaboration for Bulgarian auteurs Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov. This superbly scripted psychological drama follows in the wake of The Lesson (2014) and Glory (2016/7) and explores a son’s attempts to rescue his father from the hands of an unscrupulous psychic healer.

Fraught with darkly piquant humour this comedy will resonate with anyone experiencing similar issues with their own ageing parents, the judicious mixture of farce and satire intertwining to deliver an enjoyable watch while skewering the situation down to a tee.

The Father in question is a dreadful dominating demon. Vasil (Ivan Savov) has no respect for his respectable married middle-aged son Pavel (an appealing Ivan Barnev) who is almost diminished to a blithering idiot in his presence, despite being a successful businessman.

During his wife Valentina’s funeral, Vasil behaves in a disgraceful manner by asking Pavel to take some final photographs of his mother’s corpse in its coffin. When Pavel refuses, Vassil berates him in front of the assembled mourners and insists on doing it himself, belittling Pavel in the process, who later deletes the macabre snaps.

But it doesn’t end there. Vasil becomes obsessed with the idea that his wife is trying to contact him from beyond the grave (by mobile) and decides to consult with a local medium, Dr Ruvi, involving Pavel in the process. Pavel feels responsible for his father, while not liking him terribly much: thoughts of getting back to his wife and business are subsumed by those of guilt; somehow he feels drawn into Vasil’s web of madness, unable to extricate himself from the parental ties that bind. Very much in the same vein as Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Vasil exerts the same vulnerable power as Bruce Dern’s paternal figure. Clearly Vasil needs protecting from the strange requests made by Ruvi, but in helping him, Pavel takes on an irritating and undignified mission.

Pavel is also consumed by latent anger and constantly back-footed by his father’s unreasonable demands. Meanwhile Vasil become more and more absurd and desperate – the interplay between the two men providing a rich vein of humour. This entertaining two-hander (we never actually meet Ruvi or Pavel’s wife) cleverly sees Pavel emerging as the ultimate hero of the piece, Grozeva and Valchanov adding plenty of textural grist to the duo’s convincingly volatile relationship. MT



Camouflage (1976) Barwy Ochronne | Kinoteka 2020

Dir/wri: Krzysztof Zanusssi | Cast: Piotr Garlicki, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Christine Paul-Podlasky, Mariusz Dmochowski, Wojciech Alaborski | 106min  Comedy Drama  Polish with subtitles

Krzysztof Zanusssi’s Camouflage is a satire worthy of Lubitsch, set in a summer camp in the mid Seventies, where progressive professor Jaroslaw Kruszynaki (Garlicki) is battling it out with old hand and party faithful, Jacub Szelestowski (Zapasiewicz).

The pawn between the two kings is student Jarek, whose paper in the linguistic completion is original but does not tow the party line. When the deputy dean arrives for the prize-giving ceremony, all hell breaks loose: the Dean is bitten, chaos reigns and the police are called in.

Zanussi’s attack on the meritocracy based on party affiliation and nothing else, plays like out like an absurdist comedy, revealing corruption, disillusionment and confusion. Reality is always close by: Poland’s filmmakers of that era were competing with each other for major prizes at home and abroad: and while the more diffident amongst them gained support from political bureaucrats, the more adventurous found adulation and prizes in Venice and Cannes – doubt where Zanussi belonged. Since the censors could hardly fault his clever narrative construction – open to interpretation – they accused him of “mocking the system” in quoting Lenin, when Jacub argues “most important is the selection of staff”. Zanussi eventually gave in, changing ‘staff’ to ‘people’.

As a director whose style was more humorously subversive than Wajda with his dramatic frontal attacks; he employs down-to-earth characters who are very much aware of being totally compromised by the socio-political situation they find themselves in. They do not revolt openly but try just to survive with as much self-respect as possible. Zanussi never denounces his characters, but shows their reaction to the intellectual oppression of the state in relation to what they have to lose: in this way he is a humanist who accepts that the older one gets, the more there is to lose. Above all, Camouflage is witty and extremely subtle and a highlight of this canon. A great choice for a weird year! AS


UK Jewish Film Festival 2020 – ONLINE

The UK Jewish Film Festival presents an online edition from 5 – 19 November 2020 exploring Jewish and Israeli life, history and culture.

Festival screenings will take place on their own secure streaming platform available throughout the UK: Films will premiere at specific dates and times across the Festival and remain available to watch for a set period – download the film schedule here. Tickets are limited for each film so we encourage advance booking to avoid disappointment.

To ensure the best possible cinema-at-home experience, take a look at  viewing guide for ways to watch as well as our FAQs page. For support to watch the Festival with existing viewing setups, contact the box office and support team throughout the Festival duration (5th-19th November): +44(0)203 405 0710; 12pm-8pm, Sunday-Thursday; 12pm-5pm, Friday; 6.30pm-8:30pm, Saturday.



Marek Edelman…And There Was Love in the Ghetto (2020) Kinoteka 2020

Dir: Jolanta Dylewska, Andrzej Wajda | Cast: Aleksandra Popławska, Adriana Kalska, Maria Dejmek, Maria Semotiok, Kamilla Baar Kochonska; Katarzyna  Wajda, Mateusz Wajda, Patricya Rojecka, Julia Sierakwoska; Poland/Germany 2019, 79 min.

Jolanta Dylewska and veteran director Andrzej Wajda worked together on this wistful ‘behind the scenes’ story of cardiologist Marek Edelman, the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943. Edelman talks to the camera about his recollections of love in the ghetto, the romantic vignettes re-imagined by actors and intercut with archive films from the 1940s and contemporary shots from the inside of the Ghetto.

Marek Edelman (1909-2009) was also a political activist in the Polish Solidarity movement, a founder member the Jewish Labour Youth organisation before the Second World War, and later in the Ghetto. He became a cardiologist after 1945, and continued to oppose Zionism after the war, writing a letter of Solidarity to the Palestinians.

His first affair involved Dola (Poplanska) who was a nurse at the Bersohn and Bauman hospital in Warsaw, where Edelman worked. One evening, she invited young Marek into a room, telling him she could inject both of them with morphine so that they could make love. Shy Marek, who was immune to morphine, excused himself, and ran away. Later, Dola met a “Volksdeutscher” (sort of second class German) called Jozefow, who worked for Germans in the Ghetto, and the two fell in love. Dola’s husband, the couple had been divorced for a long time, was suffering from Tuberculosis and Jozefow arranged for him to live in countryside, where he brought food, which Dola fed to the invalid, before making love to Jozefow.

Mrs. Tennenbaum was a doctor at the hospital, and was lucky to get “a white card” which meant, that she was safe (at least for the time being) from deportations to the death camps. But her seventeen-year-old daughter Deda had not such luck, and her mother committed suicide, instructing her colleges in writing not to resuscitate her, but give the White Card to her daughter. Her friends honoured her wish, but Deda fell in love with a young man, and whilst they were living outside the Ghetto, with an American nurse, their lovemaking was so boisterous, that informers betrayed them to the Germans. Edelman does not know, when they were deported.

Tosia was a young woman of very middle-class background. She fell in love with a health inspector, and got pregnant. They got caught up in a round-up, when she was in her sixth month. They were dragged to the “Collection Point” near the hospital, where the Jews were forced into the wagons before deportation to the death camps. An Estonian guard wanted to shot her, but her boyfriend put her hand on her belly. The guard shot through his hand, and he was later executed, but Edelman does not know where Tosia was killed.

Hindusia Himmelfarb (Sierakowska) looked like a model Aryan: she had long blond hair and blue eyes – but she went with the children in her charge to the gas chambers. Others gave her the chance to escape the Ghetto, but she could not leave the children. Edelman comments, that her sacrifice was greater than Dr. Korzak’s – because he was an old man and she a young woman.

Pola Lifszyc was a life puppeteer, who entertained 300 children twice a week, making them happy, transporting them into another world. But Pola was worried about her very sick mother. Her boyfriend Janek, who had a rickshaw, was with her, when she learned, that her mother had been taken to the “Collection Point”. She asked Janek to take her there, and he watched helplessly, as she jumped from the rickshaw and joined her mother entering the wagon.

Edelman was not just a bystander: he watched the deportations, and tried to save friends, which he dragged out of lines into the back windows of the hospital. One day, he was looking for his friend Zoria, whom had saved already three times. But on this particular day, a woman with diamonds, asked him, to save her daughter. “I was tempted, because the diamonds meant, that I could save more people”. But Edelman decided against it, and waited for Zoria – but he failed to save her his time.

There was love in the Ghetto is heart breaking, because there are no happy endings. And we can imagine Edelman staying at the gate of the “Collection Point” to wait for friends he would try to save. The three levels work very well together: particularly the re-enactments in the contemporary Ghetto hit very much home: it could happen today. AS

Screening at  KINOTEKA | The Polish Film Festival in London,

‘Til Kingdom Come (2020) IDFA 2020

Dir.: Maya Zinshtein; Doc with Pastor William Boyd Bingham IV, Yechiel Ecksyein, Yael Eckstein, Pat Robertson, Pastor John Hagee; Israel/UK/Norway 2020, 72′.

Maya Zinshtein and her writer Mark Monroe take an in-depth look into the unlikely bond between Evangelical Christianity and the Jewish State in America.

This is represented by US organisations CUFI (Christians United for Israel) and The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCT). The relationship between President Trump, who relies heavily on Evangelic Christians, and Benjamin Netanyahu, whose key support comes from orthodox, radical Settlers in Israel, had triumphant results: Trump moved the American embassy to Jerusalem and declared in January 2020, that Israel could not only legitimately hold on to everything they conquered in war but also occupy the Palestinian West Bank, “because it says so in the Bible”.

We meet Pastor William Boyd Bingham IV in the forest outside the small community of Binghamtown, Kentucky. Here just over a third of the population barely surface the breadline and child poverty stays at 49%. The Pastor takes out an automatic weapon and starts shooting practice. No doubt which side he is on: “We are the people who brought Donald Trump to power, and he pushes our agenda.” Like his father and grandfather, he is part of the evangelical Church and an active member of the IFCJ. The organisation was founded in 1963 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and is now led by daughter Yael. The fellowship has donated over a million USDs to good causes in Israel. Naturally, the focus is the young – he even calls it indoctrination -, who are told that “Jews are better than us, and you need to except that.” His viewpoint rides roughshod over the Scriptures standpoint that Jesus will re-appear in Jerusalem, leading to a seven-year war and finally the battle of Armageddon witnessing the destruction of all but a few Jewish believers who must then join Christianity. 

Higher up the food chain, Evangelicals like Vice President Pence and Foreign Secretary Pompeo are less concerned with biblical texts, but ‘real politik’. Meanwhile nearer home, at the banquet of ‘Friends of the IDF’ in the Beverly Hill Hilton, casino magnate and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson saw the IFCJ donating major funds to the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). Meanwhile,  President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Lara Friedman, claims that the state of Israel has written off all Jews in the USA who oppose Trump and his policies.

This detail-laden documentary adds further grist to the mill of donations to Jewish causes to the detriment of Palestinian ones.  On a visit to Israel with his flock, the gun-toting Pastor Bingham IV opines: “There has to be more accessibility for the church in politics. That’s God’s plan”. He is thankful Yael Eckstein pays his church a visit as she swings through streets where shops and houses are boarded up. Meanwhile, on the Church-funded Radio WMIK, an announcer is appalled “that bombs were thrown near to children… in Israel”. 

In this sobering and depressing Zinshtein and Monroe show a bleak picture of funding and support – the bleakest part focusing on the  Kentucky Bible Belt who dream of eternal redemption. AS

CHICAGO FILM FESTIVAL  2020 | IDFA 2020        

Kinoteka (2020) Celebrating Polish Cinema | November 2020

KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival will be celebrating nearly a month of Police cinema in its new fully online programme for the 18th edition of the festival. Expanding on this year’s earlier postponed programme, the screenings roll out on 12 November with the gripping love triangle debut IRON BRIDGE from Monika Jordan-Młodzianowska. The celebration will continue to work with its partners at the Czech Centre and UK Jewish Film Festival through winter right  into next Spring.

NEW POLISH CINEMA Showcasing all that contemporary Polish cinema has to offer from Borys Lankosz’s smart genre blend of film noir and thriller DARK, ALMOST NIGHT to Jacek Borcuch’s complex moral drama DOLCE FINE GIORNATA which features a standout performance from Krystyna Janda that earned her the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival. Also featured are Małgorzata Imielska’s touchingly honest ALL FOR MY MOTHER and the family-friendly ROCK ‘N’ ROLL EDDIE.

12.11 | Iron Bridge | Monika Jordan-Młodzianowska

13.11 | Black Mercedes | Janusz Majewski| UK Jewish Festival in partnership with PCI

14.11 | Dark, Almost Night | Borys Lankosz

20.11 | Dolce Fine Giornata | Jacek Borcuch

21.11 – 24.11 | Charlatan | (Agnieszka Holland) In partnership with Made in Prague 2020 On/Off Festival & Czech Centre

27.11 | Mr Jones | Agnieszka Holland

28.11 | All For My Mother | Małgorzata Imielska

06.12 | Rock’n’Roll Eddie | Tomasz Szafrański 


Diverse, historical and contemporary portraits of Polish life are presented this year. Themes of  isolation in a seemingly all-connected world are explored in Pawel Ziemilski’s IN TOUCH, Japanese students’ struggle with learning the Polish language in Bobik Matiej’s OUR LITTLE POLAND and there is a bold account of the romantic intimacy amidst the tragedy of the Warsaw Ghetto with Jolanta Dylewska’s MAREK EDELMAN… AND THERE WAS LOVE IN THE GHETTO.

19.11 | Our Little Poland |Bobik Matiej

26.11 | Marek Edelman… And There Was Love In Ghetto | Jolanta Dylewska

03.12 | In Touch | Pawel Ziemilski


A chance to discover subversive, satirical masterpieces afresh including Krzysztof Zanussi’s  subtle but fierce critique of Communist Party politics in CAMOUFLAGE, Marek Piwowski’s THE CRUISE which is widely regarded as Poland’s first ‘cult’ film and Wojciech Marczewski’s silver bear-winning film SHIVERS.

12.11 – 6.12 | Shivers | Wojciech Marczewski

12.11 – 6.12 | Camouflage | 1977 | Krzysztof Zanussi

12.11 – 6.12 | The Cruise | 1970 | Marek Piwowski


The festival’s extended programme takes in socially-distanced film screenings and events into the new year including MISTER T. from filmmaker Marcin Krzyształowicz, which elegantly mixes post-war politics, vodka and basement jazz in a beautifully photographed look at the absurdities of the communist state.

Venue TBC | Mister T (Marcin Krzyształowicz)

Venue TBC | Charlatan | (Agnieszka Holland) In partnership with Made in Prague 2020 On/Off Festival & Czech Centre



Luxor (2020) ****

Dir/Wri: Zeina Durra | Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Janie Aziz, Michael Landers | Drama, 85′

A war zone doctor’s inner turmoil gradually surfaces in this serene second feature from British director Zeina Durra (The Imperialists are Still Alive!).

Never before has heartache appeared so muted and contemplative than in Andrea Riseborough’s portrait of post-traumatic stress disorder. She plays Hanna, a thirty-something aid worker who has just completed a stressful tour of duty in a wartorn corner of the Middle East. In Luxor, she finds herself physically and emotionally depleted, quietly contemplating her next move in the gentle faded splendour of the legendary Winter Palace Hotel on the banks of the Nile.

The genteel location is the stuff of dreams providing solace and a sanctuary for exhausted minds, damaged souls or simply those seeking a seasonal break in Eygpt’s pleasant climate. Luxor also lends a luminous spiritual dimension of this portrait of midlife crisis. A professional woman who has seen things “no human should have to witness” finds herself slipping down a path of increasing melancholy bordering on misery with the gradual realisation that normality and nurturing is now the order of the day, rather than more frontline trauma. Recuperating on quiet days of solitude amongst the ancient sites, she comes across a lover from a more light-hearted era. The passage of time – some twenty years it soon emerges –  has not dimmed the candle she once held for Sultan (Karim Saleh), an archaeologist from America. Quite to the contrary, it now burns even brighter leaving the void inside her soul crying out to be healed rather than temporarily satisfied.

Surrounded by the pharaonic tombs and towering temples, Luxor is very much the star turn. The peaceful city exudes a majestic energy empowering the film with an ethereal feeling of calm beneficence. Hana’s hotel companions, predominantly female, are genial and considerate, the only awkwardness comes after a one night stand she meets in the bar (played gamely Michael Landes) and provides a twist of humour rather than annoyance. Durra keeps dialogue to a minimum focusing on mood and feeling to sublime effect. Days spent reconnecting with her ex-lover soon expose a desperate longing that sees Hana quietly dissolving into tears, a raw nerve he unwittingly triggers in moments that are palpable in their intensity. 

Riseborough is gloriously lowkey at first, her perfect manners and placidity belying the simmering turmoil that gradually makes her more inhibited. She gives an understated physical performance, all blue-eyes, loose limbs and creamy complexion. Luxor has echoes of Columbus its scenic settings and philosophical discussions providing the peaceful backdrop for Hana’s story to unravel. And although the final scenes feel trite in contrast to the film’s thematic concerns the redemptive journey has been a beautiful and illuminating one. MT

NOW AVAILABLE online from next week | LUXOR PREMIERED AT SUNDANCE and KVIFF 2020 | KVIFF Competition returns in 2021

Corn Island (2014) Simindis kundzuli | Georgian Retro | DocLisboa 2020

Director: George Ovashvili   Writers: Roelof Jan Minneboo, Nugzar Shataidze, George Ovashvili

Cast: Ilyas Salman, Tamer Levent, Mariam Buturishvili, Ylias Salman |  Drama, Georgia 100′

Corn Island could take place anywhere. The brooding fable is set in remote islands that surface annually from the bed of the river Enguri in Eastern Georgia, enriching them with nutrients and making them ideal farmland for seasonal crop-rearing by nomads. In the silence of a serene summer an old man and a young girl  settle in this mist-clothed island paradise where they fish and cultivate the earth as isolated gunfire mingles with birdsong in the distance. Few words are exchanged but a sinister undertone persists and a watchful vigilance that seems to presage doom.

Georgian auteur Ovashvili’s multi-award winning second feature was nominated for an Oscar in the Academy Award Foreign Language section the following year, echoes the recent conflicts that have taken place in the Caucasian States. His debut drama, Gagma napiri (2009), was also inspired by these events. Corn Island is a quiet, sensory affair that succeeds in building a considerable dramatic punch through subtle performances, clever camerawork that makes good use of the changing natural light and rich tones of yellow, blue and gold and well-paced storytelling with an atmospheric occasional score. This simple but profound tale is elevated by the events taking place at its margins and yet never does its narrative succumb to the outside world making the human story all the more powerful and profound.

This season Georgian farmer (Ylias Salman) and his granddaughter (Mariam Buturishvili), are here to spend the summer, the age-old topic of school work their only desultory conversation. Army officers pass by on the distant riverbank. The girl swims in the crystalline water in a dreamlike midnight sequence auguring her sexual awakening and, as if by chance, the next day a wounded soldier is washed ashore sparking friction between the threesome and a passing boat of Russian guards patrolling the river for signs of trouble. In these heavenly surroundings a palpable tension gently smoulders between the girl, the farmer and the soldiers sparked by fear, sexual frisson and danger. When the girl flirtatiously throws water on the soldier the pair chase into the fully grown corn. This small kingdom and wains when finally tragedy strikes from an unexpected source leaving us with to ponder our existence and our insignificance in the grand scheme of things. MT


Lovers (2020) ** Venice 2020

Dir: Nicole Garcia | Drama, France 102’

Venice Film Festival is hot to trot with a selection of eclectic new European arthouse titles but this pale rider is one of the least convincing.

All dressed up with nowhere to go Lovers looks slick and sassy enough but plays out with a passionless pipe and slippers banality despite a starry cast and Nicole Garcia’s talent to amuse as a seasoned filmmaker.

The story unfolds in three chapters in Paris, Mauritius and Geneva. Catering student Lisa (Stacy Martin) is in lust with her chef boyfriend Simon (Pierre Niney), who has a sideline in drug-pedalling to wealthy Parisians: “I’m only doing it for us” he opines, as they roll naked in their fashionably taupe sheets although the sex is pretty much lifeless.

When one of Simon’s clients dies of an overdose, the two make an escape plan, but Simon disappears leaving Lisa to marry Benoit Magimel’s stout and successful bon viveur Leo, who has a chain of luxury hotels and a penchant for vintage wine. A pregnancy is not on the menu but the couple plan to adopt “a little black one” in Mauritius. But as luck would have it Simon is still the captain of Lisa’s heart although she enjoys Leo’s money and masterfulness.

Lush locations abound in Christophe Beaucarne’s elegant visuals. The interiors are straight out of House and Garden, and you notice every detail because the love story is so tepid in comparison. Lisa pines for Simon and they can’t stop following one another, but Leo is no cowering cuckhold and eventually puts his designer clad foot down. What ensues is instantly forgettable because fail to care for these lacklustre individuals and their trivial love triangle. MT



Undergods (2019) Bfi Player

Dir Chino Moya | Fantasy drama 

A murky home invasion thriller echoing Harry He’s Here to Help is one of the dread-drenched mini-dramas interlocking this dystopian deep dive into dysfunction from award-winning Spanish-born filmmaker Chino Moya.

Screening at Fantasia Festival 2020 the film is set in a post apocalyptic urban industrial wasteland that looks like Belgium or Northern France (recalling that title sequence from Andrei Zvyagintsev’s The Banishment). Undergods is long on atmosphere, rather short on surprises, deftly reworking well-worn themes of alienation, loneliness and paranoia in suspense-laden mood piece that feels relevant yet surreal. It certainly packs a spooky punch, recommended watching for those twilight hours. MT

NOW ON BFI Player Premiered at FANTASIA FESTIVAL | Montreal Canada


Proxima (2019) **** Rotterdam Film Festival 2020

Dir: Alice Winocour | Wri: Alice Winocour, Jean-Stephane Bron | Cast: Eva Green, Lars Eidinger, Matt Dillon, Sandra Huller | Sci-fi Drama 107′

Proxima is Alice Winocour’s most ambitious film to date and certainly her most unique and cinematic. It depicts the struggle of an ordinary mother (Green) who is an outstanding engineer and cosmonaut. Melding docudrama with a moving love story, Proxima is full of haunting images heightened by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ethereal score, all enveloped in a gripping storyline: Will a woman deeply attached to her young daughter make it into Space and back.

Green’s female engineer Sarah is at the heart of Proxima. She is a luminous presence – fragile tough and strangely otherworldly. Given the opportunity to join the European Space Agency’s Mars probe mission along with other seasoned spacemen – including Matt Dillon’s macho but golden-hearted leader – she takes the plunge. What starts out as matter of fact preparation for the long term mission soon becomes a fraught and increasingly affecting exploration of what is means to love, to be a parent, to meet professional goals, and to thrive and appreciate our own planet. Proxima is a ground-breaking and beautiful film as much about our life here on Earth as is about this perilous journey into the unknown.

The Parisian-born part Russian director, who has Russian blood, avoids melodrama until the final remarkable scenes. And she doesn’t stint on detail when describing the gruelling physical and emotional preparations for space travel. The final titles include a roll-call of famous cosmonaut mothers – because the crucial twist here is that Sarah must leave her daughter Stella (a determined Zelie Boulant) for six months to join the mission. Convincingly shot on location in the ESA facilities in Cologne and in Star City near Moscow, Winocour spent two years researching and writing the script (with regular Jean-Stephane Bron). It shows how motherhood can thwart ambition particular when along comes a small, needy child. And it cuts both ways – Sarah often being driven to tears of doubt and remorse rather than her toddler Stella – kids are tough! And this element gives the drama its rich emotional underbelly.

Green is convincing both as the highly driven scientist and the tender-hearted parent who may lose her life. Lars Eidinger is a lowkey but supportive presence as the astrophysicist dad. There is a subtle suspense at play throughout this remarkable journey and the moving love story at its core. MT


Shady River | Rio Turbio (2020) *** FID Marseille

Dir.: Tatiana Mazu Gonzalez; Documentary Argentine 2020, 81 min.

Amongst the wealth of stories coming out of South America at the moment is this unique and visually arresting first feature unearthing an alarming history of exploitation and repression in a Patagonian mining town.

Argentina’s Tatiana Mazu sets a combative tone to her documentary essay which takes the form of seven books, and shows a woman with rifle (the director herself?), ready to push back against old stories of witchcraft. Clearly these are a feisty bunch who don’t take kindly to a macho culture where women were forbidden to enter the underground labyrinth, which is ironically ‘female’ and talks in a women’s voice

The mine was run until 2002 by Sergio Taseli, a local asset stripper, who embarked on several high cost local projects such as the Roca-Belgrano Sur Railway, which were never completed, Taseli collecting his share of the profits beforehand.

But accidents do happen, and we see the photos of the victims. In 2004 fourteen miners died underground after a collapse. Children play amongst the wreckage in old 8mm family films, and Mazu makes use of plans, etchings, drawings, and blueprints to add grist to the grim story. It also emerges she once built a bomb with her chemistry set, intending to create havoc with the establishment.

Then there is the story of Clara who had a sex change operation, and went on to study electro mechanics. After graduating she could only find work as a secretary in the mining company offices. Nowadays, she is one of the few women working underground. But the exploitation continues: after a strike, the leaders were dismissed, and the rest of the workers had to take on their work load.

The oppressive nature of the mine is reflected in deadly silence and stark images, both In colour and black-and-white: Nature Was raped and it’s jewels torn away, crevices appearing everywhere, dark lakes and endless rows of pre-fabricated huts. There are shades of Tarkovsky in the water and the dour surroundings where industrial waste proliferates. Editor Sebastian Zanzotera takes credit for the montage of striking images that lead us into a maze of death and patriarchy.

Mazu takes us to a hidden world, far away from everything, where the newsreel images of Buenos Aires or a Miss Argentine competition seem to be from another universe all together.


Locarno Film Festival 2020 | 5-15 August 2020

Locarno Film Festival is still going ahead in its discreet lakeside setting but will be a more streamlined initiative, devised by Artistic Director Lili Hinstin, largely for the locals, as was this year’s Karlovy Vary, with a section entitled FILMS AFTER TOMORROW: twenty feature-length projects that were delayed in their completion, due to the pandemic. It’s unclear whether these films will be presented half-finished or whether they are a potted version of the blueprint for the full feature.

All this remains to be seen. That said, there’s twenty of them, in a suspended state, competing for the 2020 Pardo. These are the feature length projects that the selection committee, headed by Artistic Director Lili Hinstin, has chosen for The Films After Tomorrow, the strand of Locarno 2020 – For the Future of Films that has been conceived to offer proper support to filmmakers who had to put production on hold because of the lockdown.

The International selection
The following are the 10 international projects selected:

These the 10 projects from Switzerland:

Meanwhile Locarno Film Festival’s OPEN DOORS section (10 full-length and 10 short films) will be available for viewing worldwide, exclusively online, during the Festival from 5 through 15 Augustwebsite of the Locarno Film Festival The complete list of full-length films selected is as follows:

Apparition (Aparisyon), by Isabel Sandoval – Philippines/USA– 2012

Atambua 39° Celsius, by Riri Riza – Indonesia – 2012

Clash (Engkwentro), by Pepe Diokno – Philippines – 2009

Memories of My Body (Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku), by Garin

Nugroho – Indonesia – 2018

Sell Out!, by Yeo Joon Han – Malaysia – 2008

Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, by Antoinette

Jadaone – Philippines – 2011

Songlap, by Effendee Mazlan and Fariza Azlina Isahak – Malaysia – 2011

Tender Are the Feet, by Maung Wunna – Myanmar – 1973

The Masseur (Masahista), by Brillante Mendoza – Philippines – 2005

What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love, by

Mouly Surya – Indonesia – 2013


Las Ninas Bien | The Good Girls (2018) Mubi

Dir.: Alejandra Marquez Abella; Cast: Ilse Salas, Flavio Medina, Paulina Gaitan; Mexico 2018, 93 min.

Alejandra Marquez Abella’s flawed sophomore feature is a social anthropologist’s dream: based on characters by Guadelupe Loaeza, a group of bitchy competitive Mexican wives whose the crowning glory is having Julio Iglesias for dinner. Sofia, leads the cast of mere cyphers in an episodic narrative that drains out patience even with the modest running time.

Sofia (Salas) is desperate to deny her Latin American heritage. Sending her three children off to summer camp, she warns them “don’t hang out with Mexicans”. A European background is what she and her female rivals long for. In the social whirl, Sofia’s parties are epic productions,  funded by her husband Fernando (Medina) whose   family is of Spanish heritage. Everything is a competition for Sofia, the smallest bum note could lead to a loss of face among her female friends. But we are in the early 1980s, and the Mexican Peso suddenly bottoms out. As Sofia and her circle rely on imported goods, this is a major catastrophe all round. So when credit cards get politely refused and the servants don’t get paid, doom is imminent. To make matters worse, Sofia’s arch rival, the noveau-riche Ana Paula (Gaitan), is still quids in. Her default-position is resigned acceptance, but with the Peso tumbling further, even this seems beyond the pail.

Salas is always brilliant, cool and contained, she carries the film as much as possible. DoP Daniela Ludlow succeeds in conjuring up this lush environment of petty mini-me’s in meltdown, keeping everything close and personal, despite the widescreen format. As a chick-flick study of vanity and self-deceit this is promising but lacks emotional depth and an absorbing dramatic arc. AS


The Portuguese Woman | A Portuguesa (2019) **** Mubi

Dir.: Rita Azevedo Gomes; Cast: Clara Riedenstein, Marcello Urgeghe, Ingrid Caven, Joao Vicente, Alexandre Alves Costa; Portugal 2018, 136 min.

A languid and painterly reflection on art, feminism and beauty and the latest drama from award-winning filmmaker Rita Azevedo Gomes whose debut A Coleccaio Invisivel was based on a 1924 novella by Robert Musil, a contemporary of Stephen Zweig.

Although the timeframe is ambiguous, the setting is Europe – possibly Sintra – somewhere between the 17th/18th century. The film opens with “Unter den Linden”, sung by Ingrid Caven, who accompanies the narrative like a Brechtian chorus as we meet the recently married Lord Von Hutten (Urgeghe) and his wife, the titular Portuguese woman (Riedenstein) whose year-long honeymoon has been brought to an abrupt end when Von Hutten is called to battle by the rather combative Bishop of Trento (Costa): “War is made of debt, and peace is the conduit of corruption and vice”.

When Von Hutten finally returns to his wife and child, who are living in his decrepit castle, she has been enjoying a lengthy visit from her cousin Dom Pero Loboto (Vicente), whose stay has given rise to local gossip, and murderous jealousy on the part of the conquering soldier.

Lavishly mounted and sumptuously captured by DoP Acacio de Almeida whose intense images bring to mind the paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Gomes cleverly transforms Musil’s mysticism, his metaphors for humankind’s failure to retain traditional values, above all love, into landscapes shrouded in mist where the derelict castle represents a refuge from the outside world of strife. Manoel de Oliveira regular Agustina Bessa-Luis comes up with some brilliant dialogue pieces performed with languorous resonance by a superb ensemble cast. In the style of Oliveira, Gomes draws from literature and the world of art to create intentionally static scenes enriched by transcendental poetic realism in this enchanting and magical drama. MT

NOW ON MUBI | VIENNALE 2019 | 24 October – 26 November 2019



Parasite (2019) **** In Black and White

Dir: Bong Joon Ho | Cast: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Chang Hyae-jin, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ziso, Lee Jung-em, Jung Hyeon-jun | Drama | Korea 131′

The black and white cut of this wickedly thrilling upstairs downstairs social satire Korean-style seems even more resonant, relevant and appealing in its monochrome format.

This scabrous story is the latest in a line of hits from the South Korean master along with The Host, Snowpiercer and Okja. But this time the gloves are off as Boon Joon offers up shameless social reality and makes no bones it, dishing the dirt on the rigid class system in his homeland.

Thematically rather too similar to last year’s Plane d’Or winner Shopkeepers to offer any big surprises about South Korean life, this is nonetheless startling in its candour. The characters are ordinary people making their way as best they can. But this is a flashier film that wears its satire on its slick sleeve for all to access, and there’s nothing subtle about its social message. The ‘parasites’ are sharp individuals who cunningly see their way to the main chance. Bong Joon calls the film “a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains.” Yet in the natural world, parasites live off their hosts, depending on them for survival, but often causing disease or harm. This certainly was the case in The Servant, but does it happen here?

Head of the family Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) lives with his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) in a squalid slum, grafting a living by preparing cardboard pizza boxes. Through his backstreet contacts, young Ki-woo inveigles himself into a wealthy household of a captain of industry Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) where he is tasked with tutoring his teenage daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso). Her mother Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo-jeong) is a typically vacuous trophy wife who prances around their pristine modernist mansion all day, doing a spot of shopping when she occasionally ventures out with . Without giving any clues away, the Ki-woo’s entire family are drafted into the vast mansion, taking various guises, and booting out the old guard. As the narrative spools out with a series of plot twists, the tension gradually mounts and the gulf between rich and poor is ramped up to the maximum. No one comes out a winner after a lavish garden party where they all take part in some form or another, as blood mingles with the champagne.

Winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2019 and four Academy Awards in 2020, including the Oscar for Best International Feature, this is a confident and entertaining drama that beats as it sweeps, its production values as smooth as silk and laced with a dread-laden score. The kids give as good as the adults performance-wise and leave us pondering which is best: North Korea with its oppressively restrictive communist regime or the South with its dog eat dog capitalism based on the law of the jungle? MT






Villa Empain (2019) **** MUBI

Dir: Katharina Kastner | Doc, Belg/France/Ger/ 25′

Katerina Kastner’s impressionistic documentary debut captures the essence of the Villa Empain, one of the most beautiful architectural masterpieces of Art Deco in Brussels. In 1930, at the age of 21, Baron Louis Empain commissioned the building of a private mansion in 55 acres on the prestigious Avenue de la Nation which was later on renamed as Franklin Roosevelt Avenue.

Using the finest materials available in those interwar years (marble, bronze and precious wood), the luxurious house consisted of four polished granite facades, surrounded by a large garden with a pergola and swimming pool. A collector and curator, Louis Empain eventually decided that the property was better served as a museum of decorative and contemporary art, and it was donated to the Belgian Nation in 1937. But the Second World War changed everything and the villa languished until 1943, when it was requisitioned by the German army, eventually becoming an embassy for the USSR in peacetime when Empain recovered his property in the beginning of the sixties, before reselling it in 1973. For nearly ten years it was rented to the TV channel RTL then falling to semi-rack and ruin during the 1990s. It was eventually saved by a wealthy family who set up the Boghossian Foundation in 2007, transforming the building into an East West cultural centre and guaranteeing the revival of its fortunes.

Shot in 16mm this is a sensual creation that resonates with the passage of time, showcasing the the house’s former glory through its trials and tribulations to its present reincarnation. The clever editing brings an eerie and fleeting sense of human presence drifting through the empty rooms and light-filled gardens where leaves swirl and valuable materials shimmer in shafts of sunlight. This short but ravishing documentary takes us on a dreamy distant journey to the coast where the family once enjoyed beach holidays in a space reflected by evocative fantasies and haunted by the war years. A century of memories recorded in a treasured place in time. MT


Good Manners (2017) **** MUBI

Dir: Juliana Rojas/Marco Dutra | Brazil, France | Fantasy Drama | 135′

Good Manners is a lyrical werewolf fantasy fable that explores class, sexuality and unconditional love in contemporary São Paulo.

Handling its tonal shifts with a deftness as light-hearted as its female-centric cast Good Manners is another example of the fresh and inventive filmmaking coming out of South America at the moment. It follows a young Black woman (Clara/Isabél Zuaa) who takes a job as a home help for an expectant single mother (Ana/Majorie Estiano) who is a member of Brazil’s privileged ‘nouveau riche’.

Ana spends her time shopping and exercising in her high rise luxury condo that soon becomes Clara’s home. After a sensuous pregnancy massage, Ana starts to trust Clara implicitly giving the woman all her bank details even though Clara fails to produce satisfactory references from her landlady Dona Amélia (an amusing Cida Moreira). Alarm bells ring, but it soon emerges that Clara is not the one to be wary of. Ana has some pretty strange secrets and bizarre habits which are gradually revealed in this rather slow-burning drama enriched by clever use of hand-painted scenery for the backdrop of Sao Paulo, and pleasant musical interludes to tell its beguiling story.

Clara and Ana soon enjoy a tender relationship that is refreshingly free from jealousy or resentment. One night they kiss so passionately that Clara’s lips bleed. This signals a growing intimacy between the two that is not so much a  a lesbian awakening, as a growing closeness and dependency due to Ana’s vulnerability that feels entirely natural in her current state. This is another clever way of signalling sexual fluidity, but something more unsettling then starts to take place when Ana scratches her companion’s shoulder, again drawing blood.

Ana’s backstory is clearly a troubled one and she is saddened by the recent break with her family who continue to finance her life, despite “a mistake” on her part which remains a mystery but appears – in delicately rendered pastel drawings – to involve a one-night-stand with a rather hirsute cowboy lover. Clara is enchanted by a musical box containing a tiny dancing horse that plays a tune that will haunt the rest of the film. Then Clara discovers large hunks of meat in the ‘fridge and, during the Full Moon, Ana sleep-walks into the street, her eyes turning a ghastly yellow. When Clara follows her one night she is terrorised to find Ana killing a cat and drinking the blood.

All this seems to unfold without sensationalism, the directors handle the blend of genres with graceful aplomb making this feel more like a fairy story rather than full on horror fare. Ana’s horrific gory birth scene takes on Alien proportions but the alien here is a rather sorrowful baby werewolf – and we feel for him, rather than fear him. With Ana’s death, Clara moves back to the poverty of her favela – cue musical interlude – again, more like a scene from Les Miserables than true Brazilian favela squalor. The little boy Joel is adorable, even when he transforms to a tot werewolf during the full moon when he is taken to ‘the little bedroom’, a secure place with chains and fluffy toys.

All in all, GOOD MANNERS is graceful, softly crafted horror movie that has more in common with ‘Jackanory’, with its brightly coloured ‘beanstalk’ garden, than the terror inspired by Lon Chaney’s werewolf outings, but it nonetheless exerts a thrilling tension. Rui Pocas’ cinematography evokes vibrant images in the interiors and the CGI used for the transformations is just about convincing. Ultimately a story about the power of a mother’s transformative and unconditional love rather than a tale of destruction and woe. If there’s one criticism, GOOD MANNERS rather outstays its welcome at 135 minutes, but certainly hooks us into its spell until the grand finale. MT





The Garden Left Behind (2019) *** SXSW 2020

Dir.: Flavio Alves; Cast: Carlie Guevara, Ed Asner, Michael Madsen, Miriam Cruz, Tamara M. Williams, Anthony Abdo, Alex Cruz; USA/Brazil, 88 min.

Brazilian-born first time director/co-writer Flavio Alves, granted asylum for political reasons in the USA, has created a moving but structurally erratic portrait of a Mexican transgender woman, who lives with her grandmother as an undocumented immigrant in New York. Shot elegantly in the Bronx and Brooklyn by DoP Koshi Kiyokawa with support of the local transgender community, The Garden is carried by debutant Carlie Guevara in the central role.

Tina (Guevara) is walking along a deserted street at night when she is accosted by a carload of belligerent men shouting insults. Walking towards the camera, we sense trouble for Tina, but Alves cuts to tell her story in flashback. Tina lives with her grandmother Eliana (Cruz) in a small apartment, making money as a Uber driver. Her gender reassignment has been an expensive process, psychiatrist (Asner of ‘Lou Grant’ fame), supporting her through the different stages of the treatment. Tina has a longstanding boyfriend, Jason (Kruz), who is still ashamed to be seen with her in public, particularly in their favourite bar, tended by Kevin (Madsen). Her best friend Carol (Williams) drags Tina into the local activist scene which becomes the main focus of the feature. Support characters include a strange young man, Chris (Abdo), he seems to be negatively obsessed by Tina, scowling angrily at her during shopping trips to the local supermarket. The day-to-day scenes are strongest, we see Tina buying Eliana a new hoover, and her lovemaking scenes, to which grandma listens attentively. Both Guevara and Cruz give understated, naturalistic performances, newcomer Guevara is particular convincing, looking backwards to a past she hardly remembers, whilst being afraid of the future. Unfortunately, Alves decides on a shock-horror ending, and one which is amply telegraphed at that.

Raising the profile of escalating violence towards the transgender community, features like the The Garden Left Behind are certainly worthwhile, if not vital. In times of unrest,  these vulnerable members of society often suffer disproportionately, along with other minorities, and Alves succeeds by only featuring local members of the community – which should be a given, but is not part of the Hollywood standard. It is therefore disappointing the filmmaker lets everyone down with a melodramatic ending, attempting to tug on heartstrings in a double whammy of “revelation”. Guevara and the transgender community deserve a more subtle approach that feels real in today’s developing crisis. AS


Pearl of the Desert (2019) **** Krakow Film Festival 2020

Dir: Pushpendra Singh | Doc with Moti, Nijre and Anwar Khan Manganiyar |  India/South Korea | 82′

A young Indian boy from the lower caste Muslim Manganiyars is forced to sing traditional songs in celebration of his masters in this simple but enchanting ethnographical documentary from sophomore filmmaker Pushpendra Singh (The Shepherdess and the Seven Songs). 

The Thar Desert is vast region to the North of the Indian subcontinent, a natural barrier between Rajasthan and Pakistan’s Sindhi province which forms a vibrant natural backcloth to this fascinating coming of age story of oral history driven forward by its haunting ballads that tell of love, life and hardship (“Oh opium, you made me sell my jewellery”). The Manganiyars Muslims are a people well-known for their folk music which is handed down through the generations and supported by wealthy local Rajput benefactors (jajmans) in caravan towns. Although traditionally Muslims, these troubadour singers often tour around to perform during Hindu festivals invoking the Hindu God Krishna at ceremonies for birth, death and marriage.

Singh follows a straightforward narrative structure interweaving her film with delightful hand-drawn inter-titles that explain the origins and activities of these ancient people who also play instruments such as the bowed Kamaicha; a hand drum or Dholak, and a Khartaal or type of Indian castenet. The instruments are described in the film’s second act which also introduces dancing that feels dervish-like in style. The final act sees Moti leaving his village and travelling to make a studio recording for an Australian radio programme covering a music festival. He has finally found a ‘stardom’ of sorts in these celebrity-driven days.

The crux of narrative surrounds the Manganiyars status as ‘beggars’ a title that sits badly in today’s climate and humiliates young Moti, the central character, despite the pride he feels in his singing and in his cultural traditions. But there is no bitterness here as the Manganiyars feel a natural compulsiveness to sing and can use their vocal skills and treasured heritage to earn decent money and support their families. Singh works with DoP Ravi Kiran Ayyagari to create a vivid and lyrical cinematic gem that is informative, enjoyable to watch and beautiful to look at, its nighttime scenes in the desert are particularly alluring. MT

PEARL OF THE DESERT won the GOLDEN HEYNAL for BEST DocFilmMusic | KRAKOW FILM FESTIVAL 2020 | 31 MAY – 7 June 2020



Cannes 2020 | The Official Selection | 73rd Festival de Cannes 2020

Cannes Festival grandees announced the fifty six competition titles that should have screened during this year’s 73rd Celebration from 12 – 23 May 2020, had it not been for the Covid 19 Crisis: these films will be released in cinemas and other festivals during the remainder of 2020/21. 

There are some much anticipated films in this list – although the usual strand of Un Certain Regard comes as part of the main programme this along with the newcomers, comedies and documentaries. There are no Italian films because naturally they are now saving themselves for a showing at Venice in September.

Summer Of 85, François Ozon (France), 1h40′

Ozon is true to his provocative style in this Normandy-set story of love and passion between two young boys at the height of the 1980s. Scored by hits from Bananarama and The Cure, the film releases on 15 July 2020.

DNA, Maïwenn (Algeria, France), 1h30′

This follow up to Mon Roi, sees the director reliving her own Algerian heritage, Fanny Ardant playing her mother, Marine Vacth her sister and Louis Garrel as her best friend in a film fraught with memories and melodrama.

Love Affairs, Emmanuel Mouret (France), 2h

Passionate stories of love and tenderness seen through the eyes of an eclectic cast including Vincent Macaigne, Emilie Dequenne and Camelia Jordana

Rouge, Farid Bentoumi (France), 1h26′

Bentoumi’s sophomore feature looks at the human aftermath of an ecological scandal in Algeria.

Gagarine – Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh (France), 1h35′

In this promising debut drama a teenager shares his name with the well-known cosmonaut who was the first human to travel to outer space.

Spring Blossom, Suzanne Lindon (France), 1h13′

Arnaud Vallois (Beats per Minute) stars in this rites of passage drama that allows the director to reminisce on her teenage hood suffused with delicate memories of films, music and plays on the era.

Vaurien, Peter Dourountzis (France), 1h,35′

The human face of a serial killer is captured in this impressive debut drama that stars Ophelie Bau (Mektoub My Love).

My Best Part, Nicolas Maury (France), 1h48′

Nathalie Baye is back in a central role in this tortured debut that sees her self-mocking son desperate not to lose the love of his life.

A Good Man, Marie-Castille Mention Schaar (France),

Making her debut in the Official selection Mention Schaar tells a love story with insight, humans and universal appeal, and one that will set tongues wagging.

Teddy, Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (France), 1h48′

A werewolf movie styled by the Boukherma Brothers’ “Grolandish’ atmosphere experienced in the first film Willy and featuring ‘man of the moment’ Vincent Macaigne

Slalom, Charlène Favier (France),

Jeremie Renier stars in this vertiginous thriller about things that go downhill between a trainer and his protegee.

Médecin De Nuit, Elie Wajeman (France), 1h40′

Once again Vincent Macaigne takes centre stage as ‘patron saint of the broken’ dashing round Paris on a mission to heal in Elie Wajeman’s third feature.

Josep, Aurel (France) | Josep, Animation, 1h20′

Jump-cut animation, alternating stills and animated images make this first film from cartoonist Aurel stand out from the crowd. It tells the lesser known story: that of the Retirada, an era when refugees of the 1939 Spanish War made an Exodus to France.

Ibrahim, Samuel Guesmi (France),

The ever popular theme of father/son relationships is the crux of this debut drama that will resonate with at least half of the audience.

9 Jours À Raqqa, Xavier De Lauzanne (France) | Documentary

We all know how the Kurds have suffered, and continue to suffer in Syria where they form the largest ethnic minority. This is a film about the feminist point view, seen from the gaze of Leila Mustapha, the Kurdish mayor the Former Islamic State capital.

Cévennes, Caroline Vignal (France), 1h35′

Caroline Vignal is back for the first time in 20 years since her feature Girlfriends  (2020) in a film described as an anti-love affair comedy based on the theme “the important thing is to travel, not to arrive”.

Les Deux Alfred, Bruno Podalydès (France),

Technology gets the better of two brothers in this moving yet upbeat comedy that stars Sandrine Kiberlain.

The Big Hit, Emmanuel Courcol (France)

Drama staged in prison is nothing new. But this film sees Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot staged in way that’s entertaining for all.

The Speech, Laurent Tirard (France)

A tender comedy about love and lost love based on the novel by French writer Fabrice Caro.

L’origine Du Monde, Laurent Lafitte (France)

Origine du Monde is a 1966 painting by Gustave Courbet. Laurent Lafitte’s debut as a director takes it as his inspiration for a daringly dark comedy.

Home Front, Lucas Belvaux (Belgium)

The past comes back to haunt the veterans of the Algerian war in this drama set in a small close-knit village that stars Gerard Depardieu, Catherine Frot and Jean-Pierre Darroussin.

El Olvido Que Seremos, Fernando Trueba (Spain)

Trueba combines colour and black and white to rep present and past, in this historical epic of childhood’s paradise lost, shot in Colombia and based on a sonnet by Jose Luis Borges.

Ammonite, Francis Lee (UK), 2h (below)

Fossilised coldness and human love and tenderness coalesce in this historical drama based on the life of palaeontologist Mary Anning, from God’s Own Country director Francis Lee.

Mangrove, Steve McQueen (UK), 2h04′

In the first of his Cannes Film competition hopefuls, McQueen returns to the subject of racial tension in the UK with this story of Notting Hill’s Caribbean locals and their fight for respect in the face of putative Police harassment.

Lovers Rock, Steve McQueen (UK), 1h08′

His second film is a more stylish trance-like drama that explores the Swinging Sixties through music.

Limbo, Ben Sharrock (UK), 1h53′

There are echoes of Ulrich Seidl and Roy Andersson to Ben Sharrock’s bittersweet second film that looks at the refugee problem on one island in Scotland.

Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark), 1h55′

Danish Dogme filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg explores midlife identity crisis through a series of thoughtfully crafted broken characters in this tense and unsettling film. Regulars Marie Bonnevie, Thomas Bo Larsen, and Mads Mikkelsen join the star-studded cast.

Flee, Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark) | Animation,

The other Danish film in this year’s selection is an animation that follows an Afghan family through Russia to Europe.

Sweat, Magnus von Horn (Sweden),1h40′

The Swedish director follows The Here After (Directors’ Fortnight, 2015) with a timely saga that addresses the taboo subject of loneliness through the portrait of a social influencer and fitness coach.

Pleasure, Ninja Thyberg (Sweden),1h45′

Swedish filmmaker Ninja Thyberg expands her Cannes Canal+ award-winning short into a full blown female portrait of becoming a porn star in the world of men.

Enfant Terrible, Oskar Roehler (Germany), 2h14′

Reiner Werner Fassbinder had a short but prolific career as a filmmaker during the 1980s. Oskar Roehler takes a deep dive into the director’s quixotic personality in a film that explores the crazy world of this highly creative genius.

In the Dusk, Sharunas Bartas (Lithuania), 2h05′

Bartas uncovers a valuable story from his native Lithuania that mines the dramatic potential of the First World War, putting the focus on small countries crushed by larger ones –  in this case the USSR – to create a timely portrait of oppression that threatens and fascinates at at the same time.

February, Kamen Kalev (Bulgaria), 2h05′

A journey from childhood to adulthood is explored in this ethereal and elliptical drama from the award-winning Bulgarian director.

Heaven: To The Land of Happiness, Im Sang-soo (Korea), 1h40′

This social satire on the South Korean modern day commercialism is given a dollop of slapstick and stars Cannes veteran Min-Sir Choi.

Peninsula, Yeon Sang-ho (Korea), 1h54h

A fast-paced genre piece from the director of Train to Busan offers thrills and spills in a sci-fi outing to make John Carpenter proud.

True Mothers, Naomi Kawase (Japan), 2h20′

Marmite filmmaker Naomi Kawase brings another offering to Cannes in this sensuous humanistic tale of adoption and motherhood set in her native Japan.

The Real Thing, Koji Fukada (Japan),

Fukada follows Harmonium with this epic odyssey fraught with emotion in the style of the K-list contemporaries Kore-eda, Kurasawa and Kawase.

Aya And The Witch, Goro Miyazaki (Japan) | Animation

Goro Miyazaki follows in the footsteps of his father with this digital animation  that quails away from manga and into the realms of the great Studio Ghibli. Ostensibly a childhood tale with its idiosyncratic adult undertones and disturbing often surreal characters, this is a very much anticipated film.

Souad, Ayten Amin (Egypt)

A wonderfully exquisite coming-of-age story that fluidly follows the hopes of dreams of young Egyptians born of tradition, but looking forward to the modern world in sumptuous Alexandria where so much potential is waiting to flower in the realm of Egyptian filmmaking.

Passion Simple, Danielle Arbid (Lebanon)

Based on the best-seller by Annie Ernaux, Passion tracks the doomed relationship between a powerful Russian diplomat and a woman whose raisin d’être is gradually corroded behind her rose-tinted view of their love. Laetitia Dosch (Jeune Femme) stars

Here We Are, Nir Bergman (Isreal)

A love affair between a father and his autistic son carries us into a different world haunted by melodrama, poignant lows and illuminating highs. Always surprising and ultimately moving.

The Death Of Cinema And My Father Too, Daniel Rosenberg (Isreal)

The final days of a parent are intensely personal and sensitively sketched out in this acutely poignant Israeli study of the end of life.

Broken Keys, Jimmy Keyrouz (Lebanon)

A pianist tries to escape his persecuted Middle-Eastern town where radical Islam holds sway. The emotional power of music speaks for itself here in a drama that seeks to denounce religious dogma in favour of humanity.

Beginning, Déa Kulumbegashvili (Georgia)

After her short film Invisible Spaces was nominated for the Palme d’Or in 2014, Kulumbegashvili offers up a study of oppression that contrasts tradition with the changing face of Georgia.

Should The Wind Fall, Nora Martirosyan (Armenia), 1h40′

From Armenia comes this impressive debut that mesmerises both visually and in its pervasive atmosphere of tension. Gregoire Colin plays an engineer in charge of the airport opening in Nagorno Karabakh, the self-proclaimed Caucasian Republic.

Striding Into The Wind, Wei Shujun (China), 2h36′

Another complete surprise arrives from China – but this is a good one and very welcome in its refreshing inventiveness.

The Billion Road, Dieudo Hamadi (Democratic Republic of Congo) | Documentary

A bright but streetwise documentary that sees a group of men fighting for their rights in the modern day Rep of Congo.

Casa De Antiguidades, João Paulo Miranda Maria (Brazil), 1h27′

The light and magnificent beauty of Brazil is magically captured in this extraordinary film that shows through a lyrical story of loneliness and disenfranchisement how countries and places own us, rather than the other way round.

Septet: The Story Of Hong Kong, Ann Hui, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Hark Tsui, John Woo, Woo-Ping Yuen (Hong Kong),

A film that speaks for itself through a variety of local filmmakers.

The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson (USA) (below)

An international cast of stars get together in this unpredictable drama that assembles a series of vignettes telling the history of cinema.

Last Words, Jonathan Nossiter (USA)

Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Nick Nolte and Alba Rohrwacher are the barnstorming stars in Jonathan Nossiter’s latest, an imagined drama about the relevance of film and survival. A film that had a particular resonance in these days of pandemic and crisis.

John And The Hole, Pascual Sisto (USA)

A coming of age thriller from Ignacio Inarittu’s regular scripter Nicolas Giacobone, the action plays out in the titular hole.

Falling, Viggo Mortensen (USA)

Viggo Mortensen is the star of his directorial debut that sees a traditional dad moving in with his gay son. Laura Linney and David Cronenberg also star.

Soul, Pete Docter, Kemp Powers (USA) | Animation

A musician who loses his passion for music must reinvigorate his craft through the helpful soul of a child.

The Truffle Hunters, Gregory Kershaw, Michael Dweck (USA) | Documentary

The white truffle of Piemonte is prized by chefs and connoisseurs all over the world. And this documentary charts the history of its fascination and the secret that holds its persistent hunters in thrall.

Nadia, Butterfly, Pascal Plante (Canada)

From Canada comes a drama that tackles the thorny subject of Olympic has beens. What happens when top swimmers are forced finally to throw in the towel? Katerine Savard plays a former bronze medal winner in this valedictory exploration of physical prowess from Quebec director Pascal Plante. MT


This is Not a Movie (2019) **** Canada Now | Curzon Home Cinema

Dir.: Yung Chang; Documentary with Robert Fisk, Amira Hass; Canada/Germany 2019, 106 min.

Canadian director/co-writer Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) creates an energetic portrait of British war journalist Robert Fisk (*1946), who has chronicled conflict zones from Northern Ireland to the Syrian atrocities. After more than five decades in the field, and now living in Beirut since 1976, Frisk is seven times winner of the British Press Award’s International journalist of the year.

Alfred Hitchcock’s highly romantic drama Foreign Correspondent, was the kicker that started Fisk’s fascination with journalism. Growing up in Maidstone, Kent, he is fluent in Arabic after working in the devasted cities of Syria and the occupied West Bank. His father was a soldier in the Great War and refused to execute an enemy soldier “the only action my father undertook, with which I could identify”.

After starting with the Sunday Express he later changed to The Times, which he left after the Rupert Murdoch takeover, and has now found a home at the Independent, covering wars for the digital edition. Fisk interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times between 1993 and 1997. In the first article, he called Bin Laden an Anti-Soviet mountain warrior on the road to peace. The “mountain warrior” must have been impressed by the journalist, because he tried to convert him to his cause. Fisk also covered the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982, when the Israeli Army turned a blind eye to the Falange soldiers who massacred Palestinians in refuge camps. On the ‘phone to his current editor, Fisk has to explain why he made the reference in his report. Losing his patience, Fisk tells the man he should look it up on Google and try to make the connection.

Director Chang is as much a purist as is Fisk. When asked in an interview about his position in the question of film versus digital, he admits:”there is a grain, a quality and a depth to the image that is unmatched in digital video.” Some images were shot in 16mm by DoP Duraid Munajim, but did not make it into the final cut. But the still photos shot during the production are in 35 mm.

Fisk has always challenge the objectivity of “balanced” journalism, his viewpoint is visible throughout his work when he tries to interrogate all sides of the conflict. Whether in Homs, Aleppo, Douma or Palestine, he “is neutral and unbiased on the side of those who suffer”. In contrast to the mainstream media, he gives voice to the unrepresented. Both Chang and Fisk share a passion for travelling, and being taken out of their comfort zone. The dirctor is full of admiration for his older counterpart: “We started when Fisk was around seventy-two. But he is still active, still thinking and still writing incendiary articles and cracking forward-thinking stories. This had to be an active story.” AS


We Are One Global Film Festival 29 May until 7 June 2020


In the light of unprecedented times for the international film industry We Are One: A Global Film Festival has been programmed to go ahead from May 29 until 7 June 2020 featuring a 10 day digital programme from 21 major film festivals for audiences to enjoy for free around the world.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will run on The free film festival will not only provide entertainment during the crisis but also opportunities for organisations to receive donations: the World Health Organisation (WHO); UNICEF, UNHCR; Save the Children; Doctors Without Borders, Leket Israel, GO Foundation and Give2Asia, among others. Audiences will be able to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts through a donate button or link on every film page.

We Are One Festival White logo

The Dead and the Others (2018)| New Brazilian Cinema | Mubi

Docudrama | 114’ | Brazil/Portugal

Brazilian cinema is entering a new era in the wake of the country’s unprecedented political turmoil. Several new films are now available online along with this look at the Directed by Palme d’Or winner João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, The Dead and the Others is a haunting docudrama based on their experiences of living for nearly a year in Pedra Branca, a village inhabited by the indigenous community of the Kraho people in Northern Brazil. The Kraho very much want to continue their way of life and traditions in their rural community, striving to be self-sufficient. Their plight connects with a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world.

Fifteen year old Ihjãc has been suffering from nightmares since he lost his father and in the opening scene he walks through the rain forest in the light of the moon. A distant sound of chanting comes through the palm trees. His father’s voice calls him to the waterfall. It is now time to organise the funeral feast so his father’s spirit can depart to the village of the Dead and mourning for him can come to an end. Although his baby son Tepto was born in the local hospital, Ihjãc still spends most of his life with his family in the remote forest and although the village elders are urging him to fulfil his duty to undergo the crucial process of becoming a shaman, Ihjãc escapes back to the local town to avoid the transition. There, far from his people and culture, he faces the reality of being an indigenous native in contemporary Brazil.

With its themes of loss, displacement and cultural identity this eerie and woozily impressionistic piece that has a poignant urgency in its message, glowingly conveyed in vibrant, high contrast cinematography. MT


Robert Siodmak | Master of Shadows | Blu-ray release

Dresden 1918, Robert Siodmak left his upper-middle class, orthodox Jewish home in this epicentre of European modern art, to join a theatre touring company. He was 18, and this was the first of many radical changes that would see him becoming a pioneer of film noir, and directing 56 feature films fraught with (anti)heroes who are morose, malevolent, violent and generally downbeat (spoilers).

Robert Siodmak began his film career in 1925, translating inter-titles. Later he learnt the editing business with Harry Piel. In 1927/28 he worked under Kurt (Curtis) Bernhardt (Das letzte Fort) and Alfred Lind. But MENSCHEN AM SONNTAG (1929/30) (left) would transform his professional life forever. Together with Edgar G. Ulmer, he would direct a semi-documentary, social realist portrait that pictured ordinary Berliners, far away from the expensive “Illusionsfilme” (escapist films) of the UFA. The idea was the brainchild of Robert’s younger brother Curt (born in Kracow), who would become a screen-writer and director of Horror/SF films, and follow his brother and Ulmer to Hollywood – along with the rest of the team: Billy Wilder, Eugen Schüfftan, Fred Zinnemann and Rochus Gliese (later art director for Murnau’s Sunrise). Robert Siodmak, Ulmer and Giese would also be part of the “Remigrants”, film makers, who would return to Germany after 1945.

People_on_Sunday_2 copyMENSCHEN AM SONNTAG was filmed on a succession of Sundays in 1929. Subtitled “a film without actors” – which is misleading, since the actors – non-professionals – co-wrote and co-produced the film, had already returned to their day jobs when the film was premiered in 1930. The five main protagonists spend a weekend near a lake in a Berlin suburb: Wolfgang (a wine seller) and Christl (a mannequin) meet for the first time at the Bahnhof Zoo by accident on Saturday morning, Christl had been stood up. On the same evening, Erwin (a taxi driver) and his girl friend Annie have a violent quarrel, tearing up each other’s photos. As a result, Erwin and his friend Wolfgang travel with Christl on the following Sunday to the Nicolas Lake. And here on the ‘beach’ Wolfgang meets Brigitte (a vinyl record sales assistant), the four spend the day together; intercut with images of the forlorn “stay-at-home” Annie. The final scene returns the quartet to the heart of the metropolis: four million waiting for another Sunday. MENSCHEN AM SONNTAG is a chronicle; a document shot against the narrative UFA style of the day. There is no story, just interaction. Even in the complex narratives of his films Noir, Siodmak would always be the bystander, the person who observes much more than directs.

Inquest_2 copyINQUEST (VORUNTERSUCHUNG), Robert Siodmak’s third feature film as a director, produced in 1931, is his first ‘Kriminalfilm” (thriller). The student Fritz Bernt (Gustaf Fröhlich), has a three year-long affair with the prostitute Erna – he also receives money from her. After falling in love with his friend Walter’s sister, Fritz wants to leave Erna. Out of cowardice, he sends Walter to her flat to break the news. But Walter sleeps with Erna’s flatmate and goes for a drink afterwards. When Erna’s body is found the next morning, Fritz is the main suspect. In charge of the inquest is Dr. Bienert (Albert Bassermann), who happens to be Walter’s father. The denouement is a surprise. In many ways, INQUEST is a “Strassenfilm”, Kracauer’s definition of films where the middle-class protagonist is in love with a sexy prostitute, but goes home to roost, marrying a bourgeois girl of his own class. Some of the main scenes of the film are shot in the staircase of the house where Erna lives, the shadowy lighting clearly foreshadowing Siodmak’s Noir period. Sexuality is the enemy of bourgeois society here, and Bassermann’s Dr. Bienert is a blustering patriarch, who would sacrifice anyone to save his son.









THE BURNING SECRET (BRENNENDES GEHEIMNIS) is based on a novel by Stefan Zweig. Shot in 1932, it was to be Siodmak’s last German film for 23 years. In a Swiss Sanatorium, the twelve-year old Edgar (H.J. Schaufuss) is bored, and pleased to befriend Baron Von Haller (Willi Forst), a racing driver. But he does not know that Von Haller is using him to get close to his mother (Hilde Wagner). Soon Edgar gets suspicious, the two adults always want to be alone. He surprises them in flagrante and runs home to his father, although he does not give his secret away. When his mother arrives, he looks at her knowingly, but stays ‘mum’. Siodmak has sharpened the edges of this coming-of-age story, the novel concentrating more on romantic and psychological aspects. There is real violence between Edgar and Von Haller, and the lovemaking of the adulterous couple, which Edgar interrupts, is more vicious than affectionate. When the film was premiered in March 1933, Siodmak was already living in Paris, and Goebbels denounced the film as un-German, not surprisingly, since both the author of the novel and the director of the film were Jews living abroad in exile.

Hatred_1 copyWhen Siodmak shot MOLLENARD (1937) in France, it would be the penultimate of his French-set features. (In 1938, he would finish “Ultimatum” for the fatally ill Robert Wiene; and in the same year he is credited with “artistic supervision” for Vendetta, directed by Georges Kelber). MOLLENARD (HATRED) is the nearest to a film Noir so far: it is a fight to the death between Captain Mollenard (Harry Baur) and his wife Mathide (Gabrielle Dorziat). Captain Mollenard is a gun runner in Shanghai, he is shown as a hero, a good friend to his crew. When he returns to Dunkirk and his wife and two children, illness renders him powerless to his vitriolic wife, who tries to turn the children against him. Mollenard attempts to use his strength to re-conquer his wife, but fails, unlike during his days in Shanghai. The son takes the side of his mother, the daughter tries to drown herself, but Mollenard saves her. In the end, his crew carries the dying man out of the house, he would end his life where he was most happy – at sea. MOLLENARD is a contrast between utopia and dystopia for the main protagonist: the sea, where he is free (to commit crimes), and the bourgeois home, where he is a prisoner of conventions. He is unable to survive in this which cold, emotionless prison. MOLLENARD is seen as his greatest film in France, a dramatic version of Noir.

Snares copyPIÈGES (1939) was Siodmak’s last French film before emigrating to the USA – and his greatest box-office success of this period. Whilst most of Siodmak’s French films featured fellow emigrés in front and behind the camera, PIÈGES only has the co-author, Ernst Neubach, as a fellow emigré– the DOP, Ted Pahle, was American, and the star, Maurice Chevalier, already an legend was very much a Frenchman: Siodmak had established himself. (A fact, which would count for nothing at the start of his US career.)  PIÈGES is the story of a serial killer who murders eleven women in the music-hall world of Paris. The police, whose main suspect is the night-club-owner and womaniser Fleury (Chevalier), chooses Arienne (the debutant Marie Dea), to lure the murderer into the open. But Arienne falls in love with Fleury’s associate Brémontière, only to find out that he is the murderer. In the end the gutsy Arienne (Dea is a subtle antithesis to the French heroines of this period) has to risk her lift to save her husband Fleury’s. There are more than a few clues to the later “Phantom Lady” in PIÈGES.  Eric von Stroheim is brilliant as a mad fashion czar who has lost his fortune and adoring women.










SON OF DRACULA (1943) was already Robert Siodmak’s seventh film in Hollywood, his first for Universal. Scripted by his brother Curt, SON OF DRACULA was a great risk for Robert, it was his first outing in the classical Horror genre, not to mention the great ‘Dracula tradition’ started by Ted Browning in 1931. The film is set in the bayous of Louisianna, where Katherine Caldwell has inherited the plantation “Dark Oaks” from her father, who died suddenly under mysterious circumstances. She gives a party, and entertains Count Alucard (Lon Chaney jr.) an acquaintance  from her travels in central Europe. She discards her fiancée Frank and marries Alucard. Frank shoots the count, but the bullet passes through him, killing Katherine. In prison, Katherine visits him as a bat, turning into her human form (a first in film history), and asking Frank to kill Alucard, so they can live together forever as vampires. Frank grants her wish, but also burns her in her coffin. SON OF DRACULA is pure gothic horror, but suffered from Lon Chaney jr. being miscast in a role created by Bela Lugosi as his Alter Ego. Strongest are the scenes in the bayous, where the evil still lurks after the death of Katherine and Alucard: everything seems toxic, the spell of the vampire lives on.

Cobra_Woman_1.jpg_rgb copyCOBRA WOMAN (1943) was Robert Siodmak’s first film in colour, shot in widescreen Technicolor. Its star, Maria Montez, an aristocrat from the Dominican Republic, whose real name was Maria Africa Garcia Vidal de Santo Silas, would later gain cult status after her early death at the age of 39 from a heart attack in her bathtub in Paris. Maria plays Tollea, who is whisked away just before her wedding to Ramu, to her birth island where her evil twin sister Naja (also played by Montez) holds sway. Ramu and his helper Kado follow her, but Tollea has decided to sacrifice her love for Ramu to become the new ruler of the island, so as to prevent an eruption of the volcano provoked by Naja’s sins. COBRA WOMAN is pure camp, Siodmak said “it was nonsense, but fun”.

Phantom_Lady_1 copyIn 1943 Siodmak was on a roll: he would make four film that year, and PHANTOM LADY (1943) was also the most important of his American period to date: the first of a quartet, which would form with The Spiral Staircase, The Killers and Criss Cross, the classic Noir films of their creator.

PHANTOM LADY is based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich (William Irish), a prolific writer, whose novels and short stories were the basis for twenty films Noir of the classic period. They also provided the basis for Nouvelle Vague fare. Pivotal in Woolrich’s novels is the race against time. Scott Henderson, an engineer, is accused of murdering his wife. He proclaims his innocence, but is sentenced to death. His secretary Carol “Kansas” Richman (Ella Raines) is convinced he is not a murderer, and together with inspector Burges, she sets out to find the real culprit. Henderson’s alibi is a woman with a flamboyant hat, he meets in a bar, and spends the evening with, while  his wife was murdered – but they promised not to reveal their identities. The mystery woman  is illusive and when Carol tries to unravel her identity, the barman, who to denies having seen her at all, is run over by a car shortly after interviewed by Richman. Another witness, a drummer (Elisha Cook. Jr.), is also murdered, before Richman corners Franchot Tone, an artist, and Richman’s best friend as the murderer: he had an affair with Richman’s wife. German expressionism and Siodmak’s customary near documentary style dominate: New York is a bed of intrigue, where shadows lurk and footsteps signal danger. The majority of scenes could be watched without dialogue, particularly Cook’s drummer solo, which fits in well with the impressionist décor. With PHANTOM LADY, Robert Siodmak had found his (sub)genre.

Christmas_Holiday_10CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944), based on a novel by Somerset Maugham, has a most misleading title and is perhaps Siodmak’s most exotic film Noir. Lt. Mason, on Christmas leave, is delayed in New Orleans, where he meets the singer Jackie Lamont (Deanna Durham) who tells him her real name is Abigail Manette, and that her husband Robert (Gene Kelly) is in jail for murdering his bookie. In a long flashback, we see Robert’s mother trying to cover up her son’s crime. After Jackie leaves Mason, she is confronted in a roadhouse by Robert who has escaped from jail. Before he can shoot her, a policeman’s bullet kills him. Like “Phantom Lady”, CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY is photographed again by Woody Bredell, New Orleans is a tropical, outlandish setting and the film has much more the feel of a French film-noir than an American. Siodmak uses Wagner’s “Liebestod” to frame the love story of the doomed couple.

THE SUSPECT (1944) is one of Siodmak’s less convincing Noirs. Philip Marshall (Charles Laughton), a sedentary middle-aged man, is driven out by his heartless wife Cora, and falls in love with the much younger Mary (Ella Raines). Philip becomes a different person, and thrives with his new love. But Cora finds out about the couple and threatens Philip with disclosure, which would have ruined him professionally. He kills first Cora, then his neighbour Gilbert Simmons, who blackmails him. Inspector Huxley has no proof against him, and Philip could start a new life with his young wife in Canada, but he decides to stay and give himself up, just as Huxley had predicted. Shot entirely in a studio, THE SUSPECT lacks suspense, and is only remarkable for Laughton’s brilliant performance.

The_Strange_Affair_of_Uncle_Harry_3 copyTHE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY (1945) features a semi-incestuous relationship between brother and sister: John “Harry” Quincy (George Sanders) lives a quiet life in New Hampshire with his sisters Lettie (Geraldine Fitzgerald) and Hester. When he meets the fashion designer Deborah Brown (Ella Raines), he falls in love with her. Lettie is jeaulous, and feigns a heart attack. Harry wants to murder her, but Hester drinks the poison intended for Lettie, who is convicted for Hester’s murder, but does not give away the real culprit, since she knows that her death will prevent Harry from marrying Deborah. To mollify The “MPAA code agency”, Siodmak found a new ending: Harry wakes up at, having only dreamt the events; producer Joan Harrison resigned from the project in protest. Lettie is a psychopath in the vein of the murderer in Phantom Lady and Olivia de Havilland’s murderous twin in The Dark Mirror. But there is more ambiguity to the narrative than is obvious at first sight: there is a vey clear resemblance between Lettie and Deborah – they might have been exchangeable for Harry. THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY is one of the darkest Noirs, because all is played out on the background of a very respectable family, in small town America.

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THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945) is Siodmak’s most famous Noir, a classic because of its old-dark-house setting and the woman-in-peril theme. In a small town in New England, handicapped women are being murdered. Helen (Dorothy McGuire) is watching a silent movie in town, where a lame woman is strangled. Helen then hurries home, to look after the family matriarch Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore), who is bedridden. Since Helen is mute, she is in mortal danger: the killer lives in the house. When Helen finds the body of Blanche, who was engaged to Albert Warren (George Brent), after having left his half-brother Steve, Helen suspects Stephen and locks him in the cellar; then she tries to phone Dr. Parry, but she cannot communicate. Too late she finds out that Albert is the killer, who chases her up the spiral staircase, but his mother gets up and shoots him, causing Helen, who lost her voice after witnessing the traumatic death of her parents, to cry out loud. Very little of the background to the narrative has been mentioned: the theme being eugenics, a concept the late President Theodore Roosevelt was very keen on. Albert Warren has taken this concept a step further; he kills “weak and imperfect” humans because he believes his father would be proud of him. Like T. Roosevelt, Albert’s father was a big-game hunter. In his mother’s bedroom is a poster with a Teddy Roosevelt lookalike and the initials “TR” above an elephant’s tusk. Considering the Nazi Euthanasia programmes, this aspect of THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE has often been neglected by critics.

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THE DARK MIRROR (1946) reflects Hollywood’s interest in Freud. Two identical sisters, Terry and Ruth Collins, both played by Olivia de Havilland, are suspected of murder, when one of the women’s suitors is found dead. Inspector Stevenson is fascinated by the two woman, but would not have solved the crime without the help of Dr. Elliot, a psychoanalyst. He finds out that whilst Ruth is a very adjusted and loving person, Terry is just her opposite: a ruthless psychopath, who fabricates clues, to make Ruth look like the murderess, whilst at the same time is planning to kill her sister, before Dr. Elliot is able to expose her. Siodmak deals with the “Doppelgänger” theme, which was explored as early as in the silent film era of expressionism, by using Freudian theory to explain the perversity of the “evil” sister: rejection, confusion and lastly alienation let her spin out of control, allowing only “herself” to survive. Unlike in The Spiral Staircase, the interior is totally unthreatening, which makes Terry’s murderous lust even more terrifying.

TIme_Out_of_Mind_2 copyTIME OUT OF MIND (1946/7) is more melodrama than Noir. Chris Fortune (Robert Hutton), the son of a heartless and ambitious shipping tycoon, falls in love with the servant girl Kate (Phyllis Calvert). But in 19th century New England, this was not the social norm. Kate encourages Chris to marry a lady of his class, who turns out to be a beast and drives Chris more into alcohol dependency. Chris fancies himself as a composer, but only Kate believes in his talent. The Noir aspect is the family constellation: Chris is obviously weak, and his overbearing father (Leo G. Carroll) rules over his life. More to the point, Chris’s sister Rissa (Ella Raines) seemingly protects her younger brother, but is in reality totally obsessed by him. She represents the semi-incestuous theme running, not only through Siodmak’s, noir films.










CRISS CROSS (1949) is perhaps Siodmak’s most personal Noir. Reworking elements of The Killers – and casting Burt Lancaster again in the role of the obsessed lover -, CRISS CROSS is the story of an “amour fou”, its emotional intensity on par with Tourneur’s classic Out of the Past. Steve Thompson (Lancaster) is still in love with his ex wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo), who now lives with the gangster Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea). But when the two of them meet in a bar, the whole things starts up again. Dundee surprises them, Thompson comes up with an excuse: he needs Dundee’s help for an armed car robbery. But Dundee is suspicious: he and his gang kill Thompson’s partner and wound him after the robbery. When Anna goes missing with the money, Dundee suspects the couple have double-crossed him. Dundee has Thompson abducted, but Thompson bribes his captors and finds Anna. She is terrified by the thought that Dundee will find them and wants to abandon the wounded Steve, but Dundee arrives and shoots them both, before running towards the police. The final scene, when Anna’s and Steve’s bodies fall literally into each other, bullets flying as the police siren’s grow louder, is the apotheosis of everything that’s gone on since the scene in the bar. From then on, in true Noir fashion, all is told in flashbacks and voice-over narration. Anna is the quintessential Noir heroine, telling Steve: “All those things which have happened we’ll forget it. You see, I make you forget it. After it’s done, after it’s all over and we are safe, it will be just you and me. The way it should’ve been all along from the start”. CRISS CROSS is my personal favourite: dark, expressionistic, melancholic and wonderfully doomed.










THE GREAT SINNER (1948/9) is an awkward mixture of high literature and low-brow melodrama. Based partly on Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Gambler” and some autobiographical details of this author, Siodmak struggles to bring this expensive “A-picture” to life. The stars Gregory Peck (Fedya) and Ava Gardener (Pauline Ostrovsky) – in the first of three collaborations – do their best, but Christopher Isherwood’s script is a hotchpotch of the sensational and sentimental, tragic events unfold fast and furiously, logic and characterisation falling by the wayside. Told in a long flash-back, Pauline receives a manuscript from the dying writer Fedya, in which he tells the story of their first meeting in 1860 in Wiesbaden. Then, Fedya met Pauline on a train journey from Paris to Moscow, but follows her to the casino in Wiesbaden, to study the effects of gambling on the whole Ostrovsky clan. When Pitard, a gambler and friend of Pauline, steals Fedya’s money, the latter tries to save Pitard from his fate, and gives him the money so he can leave the city. But Pitard loses in the casino and shoots himself. Strangely enough, Fedya, who has fallen in love with Pauline, also becomes addicted to gambling – but telling himself, that he wants to win the money, so that Pauline’s father can pay back his debts to the casino owner Armand, and thus free Pauline from the engagement to the ruthless tycoon. But after some early success, Fedya looses heavily, tries to in vain to pawn a religious medal, which belongs to Pauline; finally, he wants to commit suicide, before he looses consciousness. Recovered, he finishes his novel and Pauline forgives him. In spite of a strong supporting cast including Ethel Barrymore, Melvin Douglas, Agnes Moorehead and Walter Huston, THE GREAT SINNER flopped at the box-office, having cost 20 m Dollar in today’s money, it lost 8 m Dollar. Siodmak, according to Gregory Peck, did not enjoy the responsibility of the big budget production, “he looked like a nervous wreck”.

The_File_on_Thelma_2 copyWith THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1949) Siodmak returned to the safe ground of Noir films. Thelma (Barbara Stanwyck) is unhappily married to Tony Laredo (Richard Rober), but is attracted to his animalistic sex-appeal. When she discusses burglaries at her wealthy aunt’s house, where she also lives, with assistant district attorney Cleve Marshall (Wendell Correy), the two fall in love. When the aunt is killed, and a necklace stolen, Thelma is the main suspect, because Tony has been away to Chicago. Thelma is put on trial, and Cleve pays her lawyer and plans the trial strategy with him, even though he has learned about Thelma’s past, and is convinced that she is the murderer. The aunt’s butler has seen a stranger at the crime scene, but did not recognise him. Thelma, who knows that the person is Cleve, does not give his name away. She is aquitted and wants to leave town with Tony, when Cleve confronts them. Tony beats Cleve up and the couple flee, but Thelma causes an accident on purpose, in which both are killed – but not before she has confessed to the murder. In spite of this, Cleve’s career and marriage is ruined. THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON is a neat reversal on Double Indemnity, which also starred Stanwyck as the Queen of all femme fatales. But here, Thelma and Cleve really love each other, and Thelma pays for her crime with her life, and Cleve will be ostracised by society for a long time. Whilst Wilder’s couple was evil from the beginning, Siodmak gives his lovers a much more human touch. THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON was Robert Siodmak’s last American Film Noir. He would later direct two more films, which are in certain ways close to the subgenre; but he would never again achieve the greatness of his American Film Noir cycle, even his directing output would run to another 18 films.

The_Crimson_Pirate_3In the THE CRIMSON PIRATE (1951/2) Siodmak was reunited with Burt Lancaster, who also produced the film. Set in the late 18th century in the Caribbean, Captain Vallo (Lancaster), is a pirate, who tries to make money from selling weapons to the rebels on the island of Cobra, lead by El Libre (Frederick Leicester). On the island, Vallo falls in love with El Libre’s daughter Conseuela (Eva Bartok). Later he has to rescue her father, and support the revolution – even against the wishes of his fellow pirates, who do not see the reason for such a good deed – since it is totally unprofitable! In a stormy finale with tanks, TNT, machine guns and an outstanding colourful airship, our hero, now in drag, wins the revolution and Consulea’s heart. What is most surprising is the humour and lightheartedness of the production. Everything is told tongue-in-cheek, the action scenes are overwhelming and Lancaster (the ex-circus acrobat) dominates the film with his stunts. It seems hardly credible Robert Siodmak, creator of gloom and doom, dark shadows and even darker hearts, would be responsible for such an uplifting and hilarious spectacle, 15 years before Louis Malle’s equally enchanting “Viva Maria!”. Ken Adam, the future “Bond” production designer, earned one of his first credits for this film.

It will never be absolutely clear why Robert Siodmak decided to leave Hollywood after he finished THE CRIMSON PIRATE, to work again in Germany (with a one-film stop in France, so as to repeat his journey of the thirties backwards). In the USA, he was offered a lucrative six-film deal and had shown with his last film, that he could now also handle big productions successfully. There are rumours of pending HUAC hearings, because of his friendship with Charles Spencer Chaplin, but Siodmak himself never mentioned these as a reason for the return to his homeland. Rather like Fritz Lang and Edgar Ulmer, it can only be assumed that “Heimweh” was the reason for Siodmak’s return. True, he lived in Ascona, Switzerland, but he worked nearly exclusively in Germany. What he, and other “Remigrants” did not reckon with, was the political and cultural climate in the Federal Republic of Germany. When these directors had left Germany, the Nazis had just started the transformation of the country. But in the early fifties, the democracy of the country was not chosen, but forced on the population by the Allies. Old Nazis were still in many powerful positions, and the majority of the population still grieved, full of self-pity, about their defeat. The Third Reich, and particularly the Holocaust, were more or less Taboo, both in daily life and in all cultural referenced. The film industry also suffered from the lack of a new beginning; even Veit Harlan, director of Jud Süss, was allowed to restart his career. It is no co-incidence that neither Lang or Ulmer produced anything notable after their return.

The_Devil_Strikes_at_Night_4 copyThe same can be said for Robert Siodmak, with one exception: THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT (NACHTS WENN DER TEUFEL KAM), which he directed in 1957 was, deservedly, nominated for the “Oscar” as “Best foreign film”. Set during WWII in Hamburg, the film tells the story of the serial killer Bruno Lüdke (Mario Adorf). When caught by inspector Kersten (Claus Holm), the latter’s superior, the Gestapo Officer Rossdorf (Hannes Messmer) points out that another man had already been ‘convicted’: Willi Keun (Wolfgang Peters), a small-time party member, had “been shot whilst escaping” – without informing the population about the murders, since just a monstrous criminal did not fit in with ruling ideology of the Aryan supremacy. Both, police man and Gestapo officer, now have the difficult task to start to convince the authorities that a German serial killer was on the loose for over a decade. Both will be sent to the Eastern front, to cover up the case. The film is based on real events, Bruno Lüdke (1908-1944) was mentally retarded, but may have confessed to more murders than he actually committed – to clear up unsolved murder cases. Siodmak re-creates the atmosphere of his best Noir films: the city is darkened, the image dissolves from an omniscient perspective to a particular one – particularly in the scene where Lüdke is caught in the headlights of a car. Fear and excitement permeate like a black stain throughout. Kesten’s obsession with the case create a fragmented world, where the images seem to splinter. Chaos rules, and nobody seems to be safe: the hunt for Lüdke, which frames the film, is shown like a haunting parable on the destructive nature of the 3rd Reich. Unfortunately, Siodmak fell short of this standard in the other 12 films directed in West Germany between 1955 and 1969.

The_Rough_and_the_Smooth_1In 1959 Siodmak worked in the Elstree-Borehamwood studios, to direct THE ROUGH AND THE SMOOTH, based on the novel by Robin Maugham. Robert Cecil Romer, 2nd Viscount Maugham, nephew of Somerset Maugham, was the enfant terrible of his family. Socialist and self-confessed homosexual, he was a very underrated novelist: The Servant, filmed in 1963 by Joseph Loosey, with Dirk Bogarde in the title role, is one of the classics of British post-WWII cinema. THE ROUGH AND THE SMOOTH shows similarities: Mike Thompson (Tony Britton), an archeologist, is engaged to Margaret (Natasha Parry), the daughter of his boss, who finances his work. Mike feels trapped in a loveless relationship, and falls for Ila Hansen (Nadja Tiller), a young and attractive woman. But she has a secret: not only is she in cahoots with the tough gangster Reg Barker (William Bendix), but there is a third man in her life, who has a hold over her. After Barker commits suicide, driven by Hansen’s demands, the latter tries also to blackmail Mike and Margaret. The ending is quiet original. There are very dark undertones, particularly for the late 50s, when Ila comments: “I don’t cry much, I have been hurt a lot”. THE ROUGH AND THE SMOOTH is a subversive film considering the context of its period. The camera pans over stultified Britain of the last 50s, where there seems to be no middle-ground between boring respectability and outright perversion. When the two worlds collide, the conflict is fought on both sides with grim, violent determination. With THE ROUGH AND THE SMOOTH, Siodmak, would, for the last time, come close to his American Noir films, for which he was called “Prince of the Shadows”: referring not only to the quality of the images, but also to a society, where, to quote Brecht, “we are only aware of the ones in the light, the ones in the shadows, we don’t see”. Robert Siodmak made sure that the ones in the shadows played the major roles in his Films Noir career. Andre Simonoviescz ©


Masters of Cinema home video release of CRISS CROSS; Robert Siodmak’s influential film noir masterpiece; to be released on 22 June 2020.




Only the Animals (2019) Netflix

Dir.: Dominik Moll; Cast: Damien Bonnard, Bastien Boillon, Laura Calamy, Denis Menochet, Nadia Tereszkiewicz, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Roger ‘Bibesse’ N’drin, France/Germany 2019, 116′.

German born director Dominik Moll has been sadly neglected of late. Best known for his psychological thrillers Harry He’s Here to Help and Lemming and the hilarious News from Planet Mars (which never got a UK release) he came to Venice last year with one of the best features in the Venice Days line-up . Adapted from Colin Niel’s 2014 novel of the same name, this is an intense non-linear study of human behaviour, showing greed and possessiveness as the motivator that drives us all forward in the belief we are in love.

Most of the action takes part in a remote snowbound part of the French Massif Central, but the drama opens in the port city of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. There Armand (N’drin) sets in motion a sort of Ariadne trail, with one woman paying with her life for the sins of others. Armand is a small time grafter who finds photos of Marion (Tereszkiewicz) on the net, setting her up as bait for the French farmer Denis (Menochet), who is married to insurance saleswoman Alice (Calamy).

She has fallen for one of her clients, Joseph, an unstable farmhand in Denis’ employer who has been disturbed by hallucinations since the death of his mother: “I only talk to the animals”, he tells Alice. Meanwhile back in Abidjan, Armand has succeeded in making Denis fall for Marion, extracting the first tranche of the money transfers from the farmer. Armand, who nicknames Marion ‘Armandine’ – even though he has never met her – then invents a precarious story making Denis fall into the trap of wanting to rescue Armandine – whatever the cost. But the real Marion in in a relationship with Evelyne (Tedeschi), who shares a holiday home with her husband Guillaume just down the road from Alice and Denis.

This is a complex plot, intricately put together by Moll and his co-writer Gilles Marchand (who worked with him on Harry). Suffice to say it keeps up absolutely glued to the screen, enthralled by a seductively simmering plot line, Patrick Ghiringhell’s camerawork providing plenty of visual thrills including panoramic images of the magnificent mountain region and the lively African port city. A spine-tingling score of strings primps the moments of tension.

The saying “money makes the world go round”  has never been so true, and in this particular drama it is spot on: internet and money transfers connect every part of the globe. And every character wants a part of the action. Apart from Joseph, who leaves no clues to his disappearance from the scene in this enigmatic mystery thriller. AS


IFFR – We Are One

With over 20 other major film festivals, IFFR is joining WE ARE ONE: A Global Film Festival, running from 29 May to 7 June. The online event features films from each festival and will raise money for Covid-19 relief funds. IFFR has chosen to support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a global organisation determined to save the lives of refugees.

29 MAY to 7 JUNE 2020

Cannes 2020 | Festival update

The 73rd Cannes Film Festival is not the only celebration to be postponed by the 2020 pandemic that has derailed the film calendar sending some editions online.

This is the first time Cannes has been cancelled since the Second World War, although it was also curtailed in May 1968 due to the student uprising. To think that 75 years ago we were celebrating the end of hostilities across the World, it now seems inconceivable that a human tragedy of such enormity could once again intervene.

In an interview with the trade magazine Screen Daily, festival president Thierry Fremaux spoke of plans to announce an Official Selection of films that would have taken part this year. That will hopefully come at the beginning of June 2020. All these films are scheduled to be released theatrically sometime between now and 2021, and have remained faithful to Cannes, rather than moving on to Venice or San Sebastian .

The Film Market will still go ahead with sales companies showing their Cannes 2020 slated films to buyers and professionals in a virtual line-up. But as for the Main Competition, rumours continue to circulate about possible collaboration with future festivals such as Venice, Toronto, San Sebastian and Zurich.

As for the real live festival this year’s President of the Jury, Spike Lee, intends to make back to head up next year’s 74th Edition.

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2020 | 12 -23 MAY 2020

A Paris Education | Mes Provinciales (2018) **** DVD

Dir.: Jean-Paul Civeyrac; Cast: Andranic Manet, Diane Rouxel, Jenna Thiam, Gonzague van Bervesseles, Corentin Fila, Valentine Catzeflis, Sophie Verbeck, Christine Brucher, Gregori Manoukov; France 2018, 137 min.

Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s passionate cocktail of Sex, cinema and politics is a seductive distillation of what it means to be French. Based on the novel Lettres Provinciales by Blaise Pascal, it follows the adventures of Etienne who arrived from Lyons to study filmmaking in Paris, Saint-Denis, leaving his family and friend Lucie (Rouxel) behind. Shot in ravishing black-and-white by Pierre-Hubert Martin, A Paris Education feels very much like La Maman et la Putain by Eustache, transported into contemporary times.

Etienne (Manet) is a shy, immature young man – and extremely naïve – he’s looking for a mother/father figure. Shacking up with a new flat mate Valentina (Thiam), he soon falls under the spell of the enigmatic Mathias (Fila), a fellow student and troubled provocateur who would rather criticise than actually put himself out there and make a film. Then there is Jean-Noel (Bervesseles), who is just the opposite: caring and balanced – Etienne’s two new friends could not be more different. Yet he seems to be more passionate about Mathias than anybody else – even though he hardly knows him. Meanwhile Valentina moves to Berlin and is replaced by fierce eco-warrior Annabelle (Verbeck). Etienne tries to get close to this vulnerable woman but she falls for Mathias, until his violent outbursts jeopardise their love, Mathias turning his aggression on himself; Etienne has lost both his friends – and he is literally picked up by Barbara (Catzeflis), who was only briefly introduced to him by Annabelle in the flat.

Etienne appears vulnerable but he is primarily a non-committal, both in love and work. He sails through the film like a ship without a flag: his only constant concern is to make films, people come second in every way – with the exception of Mathias. Even his relationship with his parents (Brucher/Manoukov) is far from straightforward. When they visit him in Paris he seems embarrassed and aloof. The endless discussions with his friends and co-students seem to be a way to avoid growing up, and also full-time work. In a sad epilogue, we see him gradually withdraw from Barbara: how can he commit when he only loves himself.

Music plays a central part in this affecting drama; editor Louise Narboni has worked in opera, and Bach and Mahler dominate (particularly his 5th symphony that scored Death in Venice), and underline how marginalised Etienne has become since leaving provincial life made him a big fish in small bowl.  In Paris his lack of real identity and commitment turn him into Musil’s titular hero in A Man without Attributes. A Paris Education is a tour-de-force of art and psychology, and for once, the running time of over two hours is appropriate. AS


Wolves at the Borders (2020) *** Visions du Reel 2020

Dir: Martin Pav | Doc, Czech Republic 78′

Wolves are back in the Czech Republic. And their return is causing ructions in the rural population. In his no holds barred look at the social history of man’s relationship with beast, filmmaker Martin Pav examines whether wolves still have a place in a world where drought and climate change is already wreaking havoc on the farmers particularly the vast forested areas of the Czech Republic. Wolves are, at least, a threat that can be controlled.

From an ecological point of view wolves have as much right to exist as humans, but as a voracious predator of livestock, and humans too – if given a chance, they are posing a serious threat now that their numbers are once again growing.

Not everyone is in agreement over how to tackle the wolf issue. Jan Sefc, a livestock farmer, shows how his flock of sheep is being depleted by wolves, as he throws a armful of maimed dead lambs into a rubbish bin. The wolves don’t eat the new borns, they just maul them to death, adding insult to the injuries inflicted. The problem is how to protect them. How do you build a shelter for 3000 sheep? And they don’t only kill lambs and sheep, deer are being heavily predated. “Tt’s like having a pedophile in a kindergarten” he says. For now he manages to keep the wolves at bay by monitoring the area in his truck, but he can’t be there all the time. Mayor Tomas Havrlant supports his view and is determined to gain the support of the government in this growing concern.

But conservationist Jiri Malik takes a different view, and is more concerned with water conservation in the region, seeing drought as the main enemy of farming and food production. He argues water is key to the survival of crops and the next generation. He is working on ways to improve irrigation.

Wolves have been predators in the Czech Republic since the Benedictines first arrived in the 13th century with the motto: “Pray and Work” (Ora et Labora). Records tell of attacks on humans, and the Monks civilising effects allowed the local population to protect themselves with barriers at a time when folklore was dominated by tales of wolves, synonymous with the Devil. The only punishment back then was to be cast out into the wilderness. Gradually wolves were almost entirely exterminated by the mid-18th century.

But they soon found their way back. In Czechia and neighbouring Poland and Slovakia wolves were still being culled up until the 1970s, when they were shot during the hunting season, and still harboured a fear of humans. These legendary beasts can grow to six feet tall, and now, like the foxes in the Britain, they have started to challenge man. Their population is growing again and the farmers are angry. So the Mayor has decided to file a suit against the State to gain protection for the farmers and the local economy, and encourage young people to stay in the region.

Jiri Malik feels that anything that encourages beauty, diversity, stability of an ecosystem: such as wolves, is good. Anything that goes the other way, is bad. Why don’t the farmers guard their sheep, like shepherds did in ancient times?. And this is very much the view of small-holder Lenka Stihlova who takes the wolves side of the dilemma arguing for a modus Vivendi with the animals.

With its sinister occasional score of strings and measuring detached approach, Wolves at the Borders presents a convincing case for each side in this age-old endeavour: how to live in harmony with the animal kingdom. MT





Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (2020) *** Visions du Reel 2020

Dir: Sascha Schöberl | Germany, Doc 84′ 

The cult of beauty and celebrity coalesce in this deeply unsettling documentary that looks at Beijing-based plastic surgeon Dr Han and his permanent quest for perfection, not only for himself but for his clients. The film once again connects to the narrative of live-streaming, a big business in China, as we saw in Present, Perfect (2019) the Tiger Award winner at Rotterdam last year.

In her sophomore feature, German filmmaker Sascha Schoberl makes no judgement on Han’s own self-focus. This is not a case of a little nip and tuck here and there, done discretely for women of a certainly age. Dr Han’s patients are young slim, and business orientated, and their surgery is plain for all to see.

Live fashion photos of the Dr Han in various natty outfits decorate the walls of his practice. In the firmament of China’s burgeoning plastic surgery industry, he is a star. Nor does the director question his unusual professional approach, allowing a roomful of spectators to attend the and record the live surgery on their mobile phones. The patient, a young Chinese model who undergoes the procedure without general anaesthetic, has given permission because this is all part of the process of monetising live-streaming, And it cuts both ways. The participants all garner something from the process, although why the camera looks at the patient’s face rather than the operation itself, is unclear. Clearly her stoicism – and tacit endurance – adds to the compelling nature of the footage. 

But beyond achieving beauty, girls in China are really looking to make money from the process of improvement surgery. And this is made possible and achievable thanks to Chinese massive social media platforms WeChat and Weibo who attract millions of followers to experience the surgery – live-streamed from the operating theatre to art fairs via fashion shows, and the private homes of this vast nation – they will use their mobiles not only as a form of contact and entertainment, but also to finance their lives. 

Drone footage hovers over Beijing’s vast tower blocks in the opening scenes as the camera descends on Dr Han’s substantial headquarters in the centre of the Chinese capital. Dr Han goes through his spiel encouraging and mentoring as the women congregate to attend the breast enlargement operation for a young flat-chested model whose sole aim, apart from achieving her desired breast size, is to create a platform where she can showcase her assets and make money from garnering followers on social media. The only slight criticism here is a lack of backstory: who are these girls, what are their personal stories, and how about some more clarity on Dr Han?

The procedure completed, the good doctor is not relieved that things have gone well, and that the patient has emerged fit and fulsome; he is clearly dismayed not to have attracted more followers, just click bait. Meanwhile, the enhanced model is pouting happily in her white bed holding a bunch of flowers for her followers delights, having been forced to look chipper throughout the procedure, her face having being filmed continuously by another woman encouraging her to smile, despite her nervousness.

Being a woman is highly competitive business all over the World, as increasingly so. Intelligence and personality are clearly not enough, and surgeons like Dr Han have cottoned on these women’s susceptibility and panders to their vanity and insecurity. A compelling film that questions beauty as a simultaneously essential yet vain element of society in the era of selfies. MT

Visions du Reel 2020 Online | April – May 2020, Nyon, Switzerland 


Blind Chance (1987) | Now on Blu-ray

PRZYPADEK (BLIND CHANCE) 1987 | was Krzysztof Kieslowski’s most direct attack on the authorities, produced in 1981, it was shown only “underground” for six years. A sort of Sliding Doors narrative, it is one of the few films that manages to be deeply affecting right from its opening sequence. It tells the story of Witek Dlugosz (Boguslaw Linda), born in 1956 in Posen. His father had participated in the uprising and moved to Lodz, where Witek went to school and started to study medicine. After his father died with the words “you don’t have to do what you don’t want to”, Witek decides to take a gap year, and takes the train to Warsaw. The three endings hinge on whether or not he catches his train. Version one sees him leaving the station, and arriving in Warsaw, where he starts a career as a party functionary. In the second variation, he misses the train, than fights with a railway policeman, and becomes a fervent opponent of the system. In the last version, he again misses the train, but meets a friend from university. The couple get married, and Witek lives a life faraway from strife and politics.

When, at the end, Witek has to fly to Libya for work reasons, he changes his mind at the last minute in a decision that has disastrous consequences. Kieslowski said in an interview that the last scene was proof “that the plane is waiting for all three ‘Witold’s’. All their lives end in the plane. The plane is waiting for him all the time. But, really, the plane is waiting for all of us”. Ironically, when BLIND CHANCE was invited to the Cannes Film Festival in 1987, to be shown “out of competition”, Kieslowski enquired, why the film was not to be shown ‘in competition’. Gilles Jacob, artistic director of the festival, answered in a letter that he feared the film would not be understood by the audience. So Kieslowski cut some political scenes from the film and sent the new copy back with the label “For the French censors” – which failed to change Jacob’s mind. Last year the digitally remastered BLIND CHANCE was shown in the Classics Strand at Salle Debussy during the 67th Cannes Film Festival, proudly introduced by Kieslowski’s daughter.



Claire Denis Tribute

French Filmmaker Claire Denis is one of the most innovative pioneers of independent cinema and fiercely committed to her singular vision. Growing up the daughter of a civil servant in various African countries, she eventually went home to France and fell in love with cinema in the Cinematheque, Paris. Making films seemed inevitable and after studying at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies (IDHEC) she embarked on a career that would see her working with Jacques Rivette (who became the subject of her 1990 documentary Jacques Rivette, Le Veilleur), Dušan Makavejev, Roberto Enrico and Costa-Gavras and Wim Wenders on Paris, Texas and Wings of Desire. Through the musician John Lurie she met Jim Jarmusch and worked with him  on Down by Law. But it was with her debut feature Chocolat that she made it to the international stage in 1988. The film was selected for Cannes and the César awards, it also got her together with Agnès Godard who became her regular director of photography for all her films.

So far Claire Denis has made six documentaries and no fewer than 17 feature films, such as Nénette et Boni for which she is awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1996. Beau Travail, is one of the most stark and contemplative French films about war, standing alongside Bruno Dumont’s L’Humanite. It was chosen for Venice line-up in 1999. Set amid racial conflict in a Francophone African state, Isabelle Huppert plays a coffee plantation owner desperately trying to save her crop, her family and her life in Denis’ 2009 outing White Material.

Clearly race and post-colonial themes feature heavily in her work, but Denis has also dabbled in genres – Bastards was a thriller, 35 Shots of Rum a fantasy drama about a father and daughter in Paris. Trouble Every Day reflects the emotional anguish of a loved up but warring married coup, starring Béatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo it screened at Cannes Film Festival in 2001. Denis has also worked several times with Juliette Binoche, most recently in her critically acclaimed sci-fi outing High Life (2018) and previously in her insightfully playful comedy Let the Sunshine In. where she plays a spirited and intelligent woman trying to find love with a series of unedifyingly pompous losers. Robert Pattinson will join Denis for the The Stars at Noon (2021) which follows American traveller (Margaret Qualley) through Nicaragua during the 1980s revolution, based on the novel by American writer Denis Johnson. MT



High Life, 2018 Un beau soleil intérieur, 2017 Le Camp de Breidjing, 2015 Contact, 2014 Voilà l’enchaînement, 2014 Les Salauds, 2013 Venezia 70: Future Reloaded, 2013 Aller au diable, 2011 White Material, 2010 35 rhums, 2008 Vers Mathilde, 2005 L’Intrus, 2004 Vendredi soir, 2002 Vers Nancy (Segment du film Ten Minutes Older: The Cello), 2002 Trouble Every Day, 2001 Beau travail, 1999 Nénette et Boni, 1996 Nice, very Nice (segment from A propos de Nice, la suite), 1994 J’ai pas sommeil (I Can’t Sleep), 1994 U.S. Go Home (Collection : Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge), 1994 La Robe à cerceau (from Monologues, with Chantal Akerman), 1993 Keep It for Yourself  + Figaro Story, 1991 Jacques Rivette, le veilleur. Part 1 : la nuit (Cinéaste de notre temps), 1990 S’en fout la mort (No Fear, No Die) 1990 Man No Run, 1989 Chocolat, 1988 Le 15 Mai, 1969

Transit (2018) **** Curzon Home Cinema

Dir/Writer: Christian Petzold | Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese | Drama | Ger |

Christian Petzold’s tale of love during wartime captivates with a romantic allure that feels timeless yet very much rooted in the 1940s. Unlike his 2014 drama Phoenix, this is a more ephemeral film – a noirish mystery thriller with modern credentials that imagines a believable yet imaginary scenario: there are no guns or soldiers on parade and the costumes are ‘classic’: don’t expect a clear cut finale because TRANSIT captures the essence of transience: we’re never quite sure of what will happen next.

Franz Rogowski – Europe’s answer to Joaquin Phoenix – gives a charistmatic tour de force as German refugee Georg who is escaping the Nazis in Marseille with another escapee, a writer called Weidel who dies on route. Taking his papers, which include a manuscript and a letter from an Embassy assuring him a visa, Georg has secured an identity and an escape route – but his plans are soon to change when a mysterious woman crosses his path and the two become linked by a extraordinary twist of fate.

Petzold fleshes out his sinuous storyline with some convincing characters: there’s a conductor on his way to Caracas, a Jewish woman who is stuck with her employers’ two dogs and the enigmatic Marie (Petzold’s latest Paula Beer), who is searching for her husband. Georg becomes obsessed by Marie but cannot reveal the truth of is own identity which must remain a mystery to her. This intoxicating love affair thrives on this sense of enigma and shadowplay.

The starving wartime Europeans escaping their homelands for a new beginning feel very much like today’s refugees, looking for a stable existence in this saraband for lost souls, who may even just be fleeing from themselves in a time of uncertainty. Franz Rogowski (the interloper in Happy End) shares a potent onscreen chemistry with Paula Beer’s beguiling Marie. This is a moving, memorable and thematically rich addition to Christian Petzold’s war-themes tales: Phoenix; Barbara and Jerichow  . MT


State Funeral (2019) Mubi

Dir: Sergei Loznitsa | Doc, Ukraine

Ukrainian Director Sergei Loznitsa shows how the Russian Communist dictator Joseph Stalin still held his citizens in thrall at the mammoth funeral to commemorate his death. State Funeral concludes Loznitsa’s historical trilogy that started with The Event and was followed by The Trial.

Sixty six years after his death Stalin still exerts a cultish fascination in the West. According to the Yale Professor of History Timonthy Snyder, Stalin killed more people (including Ukrainians) than Hitler killed Jews – 27 million were murdered and 15 million starved to death during his regime (mentioned in the film’s end credits) – but he is still revered by many who espouse Communist ideals in contemporary society.

Expressing a strong opinion is not Loznitsa’s style. He merely ponders the aftermath of one of modern history’s bloodiest dictators with this sombre and dignified documentary that makes used of Danielius Kokanauski’s cleverly edited archive footage to reflect the extraordinary pomp and ceremony that continued for four days and brought the Russian nation to a complete standstill as it wallowed in a sea of mass mourning, the droning voice of the loudspeakers recounting the grim details surrounding the father-like Stalin’s demise.

There is a bizarrely hypnotic quality to this wordless documentary that mesmerises for over two hours as we contemplate the massed crowds moving like silent waves around the casket covered with a shroud the colour of dried blood, known as ‘Kremlin Red’. We can make out the dictator’s children Vasily and Svetlana amongst the morass of floral tributes. Clearly they were numbed by the shock of their father’s sudden death on 5 March 1953 after a massive stroke, in his mid seventies.

Officials are seen relaying the casket on a bier surrounded by a forest of blood and bandage coloured flowers, the lid is removed to reveal the waxy face of the embalmed Stalin as a silent sea of mourners drifts by to the solemnity of a symphony orchestra and massed choir. The restrained remembrance ripples out into the countryside beyond Moscow where millions gather to pay their respects.

After three days of mourning the casket is finally closed and taken on a horse-driven vehicle to Red Square where it will remain on longterm display in the Lenin mausoleum until it is finally sealed in the walls of the Kremlin, eight years later.

The final act is one of inflated speeches and puffed up orations. Nikita Khrushchev is one of the speakers, he would go on to succeed Stalin as first secretary of main Communist Party Committee. Georgy Malenkov, Vyacheslav Molotov and Lavrentiy Beria are also in attendance. Loznitza once again triumphs with this remarkable endeavour that exerts a mysterious power over the audience, captivating despite a 135 minute running time. MT


The Green Fog (2018) **** Now on Vimeo

Dir.: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson; USA 2017,63 min.

Guy Maddin’s’ love letter to San Francisco and Hitchcock’s Vertigo is a montage of clips from features shot in around the Californian coastal city: around one hundred or so – no new material was filmed. Aesthetically, Green Fog settles somewhere in between Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) and another Maddin/Johnson collaboration, Forbidden Room from 2015. There’s no real narrative to speak of, but Green Fog will appeal to those who like their film history served with a dizzy twist of the insane.

Oblique and opaque, Green Fog shows an overbearing obsession with Hitchcock: morbid and melancholy, we follow Scottie and Judy on a drive through the city, morphing into a hell-raising ride, where love turns to disillusionment. Novak and Stewart are played by various actors: Faye Dunaway, Susan Saint James, Gina Lolabrigida; Anthony Franciosa and Dean Martin. As one actor melds into another, one forgets that they look different in this headlong rush, on foot and in automobiles, as they’re drawn to the Golden Gate Bridge and oblivion.The film’s quotes range from the thrilling (The Lady from Shanghai, 1947) to the downright bizarre (Confessions of an Opium Eater of 1962 and So I married an Axe Murderer of 1993), via obscure gems such as Obayashi’s Take Me Away! 1978, and Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983). The common thread is their Vertigo locations; if not directly then metaphorically. The titular fog, which saturates Judy from the neon street sign, re-appears throughout: under water, most menacingly in a hospital corridor. And there are even in the clips from The Great Fire, – which was started by a film fan no less.

Hitchcock’s obsession with voyeurism is celebrated in many scenes, from surveillance rooms, to men gazing at the screens, unsure of their targets – rather like Rock Hudson, on being quizzed “what are we looking for, Sir?” by a tape operator, to which Rock retorted: “I don’t know, but at this point I’ll take anything”. Karl Malden and Michael Douglas from The Streets of San Francisco are frequently found in their search for more contemporary perpetrators. Green Fog is a ghost story, a collage of landscapes and rooms (echoing Un Chien Andalou) which are haunted by loss and death, their doom underpinned by a Hermannesque score from Jacob Gavchik. Despite of the gravity of it all, Maddin still manages to be playful and impish throughout. AS



In Touch (2018) *** Kinoteka

Dir.: Pawel Ziemilski; Documentary; Poland/Iceland 2018, 61 min.

Pawel Ziemilski finds an ingenious way to tackle the timely topic of distance relationships in a challenging new documentary which won the main prize at IDFA in 2108.

Since the 1980s, the Polish town of Stare Juchy (Old Blood) has seen its population dwindling with most of the young moving to Iceland, of all places. Desperate to stay in touch, those left behind resort to electronic methods of communication. And Skype seems to be the most popular. But it’s not as simple as it seems. Gradually a different modus vivendi takes hold as the emigres adapt to their new environment, become influenced by the change of language and social set-up. Most of them will never return.

But In Touch goes beyond a study of citizens chatting to relatives and friends on a screen. Ziemilski records images of the landscape in both locations and then literally projects the footage via electronic means onto a vast canvass, a sort of moving art installation that keeps the communities in touch with each other, and their environment – rather like google Earth on a grandiose scale. Ziemilski can even project absent family members into a life-size Easter meal, or show a distant daughter painting her mother’s nails in another country. A goalkeeper on the Polish pitch tries to save shots not only from the Icelandic strikers, but also from opponents elsewhere. Sounds amazing? But – and it is a big but – the whole concept fails to convince because we never find out exactly who we’re dealing with, or how they feels about the situation. Brief, subjective, person-related information would have been so much more effective than just pictures: Greta putting her Icelandic co-workers down, telling her friend in Stare Juchy that she went for a job interview at the airport, and hoping she’ll get the job “since only Icelandic girls seem to be working there”.  

The sheer variety of these visual devices is extremely impressive, opening up new ways of enabling interaction by reconfiguring the conception of spaces, and exploring the topic in formally imaginative ways. But the concept is undermined by the plethora of sub-approaches, which often reduces the outcome as pure gimmickry.

All very imaginative in theory, but the human interaction feels impersonal and lacks real  intimacy. In Touch would work far better in the formal confines of an art gallery where visitors could drift in and out. As a cinematic experience it is often too limited by its formalism, which strangles the human touch. AS

Showing 24 March @ 8.30pm at the ICA as part of KINOTEKA | The Polish Film Festival in London,


Cinema Made in Italy 2020 | 4 – 9 March 2020

The focus is on women in this decade long celebration of Italian cinema that takes place from 4 – 9 March at Cine Lumiere in London. A rich and eclectic mix of the most recent films come under the spotlight including Liliana Cavani’s cult classic thriller The Night Porter (1974) starring Charlotte Rampling and Dirk Bogarde.

The six day event opens on 4 March with Ginevra Elkann’s playful comedy If Only (2019) that won critical acclaim at last year’s Locarno Film Festival.  Also to look forward to is Guido Lombardi’s road movie Volare that sees a young boy reconnected with his father returning from prison and Igor Tuveri’s stylish crime drama 5 is the Perfect Number starring Tony Servillo as a hitman in 1970s Naples. 

IF ONLY (Magari) | Director: Ginevra Elkann | Cast: Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, Milo Roussel, Ettore Giustiniani, Oro De Commarque, Céline Sallette, Benjamin Baroche, Brett Gelman, Luigi Catani | 100 mins

Alma, Jean and Sebastiano are three tight-knit siblings who live with their mother in Paris. One day they are packed off to Italy to spend the rest of the school holiday with their unconventional and completely broke father, Carlo(Riccardo Scamarcio), who they haven’t seen for two years. Instead of taking them on the skiing trip they had been promised, Carlo whisks them off to a rundown coastal cottage. They are joined by his bohemian co-writer and lover Benedetta (Alba Rohrwacher), and what ensues is a shambolic Christmas package to remember, complete with a first crush, acts of teenage rebellion, but also tender moments of reconciliation.  This semi-autobiographical film by accomplished producer and first-time feature director Ginevra Elkann received critical acclaim when it opened the Piazza Grande section at last year’s Locarno International Film Festival.

Ginevra Elkann studied film directing at the London Film School. She began her film career as assistant director on Bernardo Bertolucci’s Besieged and was also a video assistant on Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. She is an accomplished producer and distributor (respectively, at Italian companies Asmara Films and Good Films). Her production credits include Abdellatif Kechiche’s Mektoub, My Love (Canto uno), Noaz Deshe’s White Shadow and Babak Jalali’s Frontier Blues. Since 2006 she has been President of the ‘Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli’ art gallery in Turin.

FLESH OUT (Il corpo della sposa) | Dir: Michela Occhipinti | Cast: Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche, Amal Saad Bouh Oumar, Aminetou Souleimane, Sidi Mohamed Chinghaly | 95 mins

Living in Mauritania, working in a beauty salon and addicted to social media, Verida (Verida Beitta Ahmed Deiche) is a modern girl. However, before getting married in three months’ time she needs to undergo ‘gavage’, or force-feeding, so that she gains a substantial amount of weight to become voluptuous, and thus an ideal model of beauty and wealth. This means that her mother will ensure that she eats and drinks as much as ten times a day. As the weeks of this trial go by and the impending wedding approaches, Verida starts to question her life and her country’s traditions. Michela Occhipinti’s emotionally rich film is a sympathetic portrait of a woman awakening to misogynistic conditioning disguised as cultural convention.  The film screened in the Panorama section at last year’s Berlinale.

Born in 1968, Michela Occhipinti spent her childhood in Rome, Hong Kong, Geneva and Morocco. In 2003 she spent a year in Argentina and made her first documentary film Give Us Back the Constitution (¡Viva la Pepa!), about the country’s social situation. From 2005 – 2007 she worked with the Italian channel RAI 2 to direct several reports on immigration issues. Her other documentary films include Sei Uno Nero, about the prevention of HIV and malaria in Malawi, and the feature-length documentary Lettere dal deserto (Elogio della lentezza), which was shown at over 80 festivals around the world.

SIMPLE WOMEN | Dir:Chiara Malta | Cast: Jasmine Trinca, Elina Löwensohn, Francesco Acquaroli, Anna Malvica, Mirella Mazzeranghi, Betti Pedrazzi, Paolo Graziosi, Thomas Bradley, Michael Rodgers, Cosmina Olariu, Ozana Oancea, Roberta Zanardo, Gea Dell’Orto, Elisa Liberatori |  85 mins

Since childhood, the Italian film director Federica (Jasmine Trinca) has been passionate about cinema. One film in particular has always played an important role: Hal Hartley’s Simple Men, starring the Romanian actress Elina Löwensohn. A chance encounter with her icon offers Federica the opportunity to make a film about her life. However, the real Elina Löwensohn is very different to the one in Federica’s imagination, and soon the true characters of both the actor and the director start to be revealed.

Paris-based director Chiara Malta has written and directed numerous short films in which she mixes various forms of narration, including documentary and animation. Her feature-length documentary Armando and Politics opened the 2008 Turin Film Festival. Simple Women is her debut feature-length fiction film and had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, where it opened the Discovery section.

THE NIGHT PORTER (Il portiere di notte)  Dir: Liliana Cavani | Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, Philippe Leroy | 118 mins

Set in Vienna in 1957, a secret Nazi organisation meets periodically and ‘eliminates’ dangerous witnesses to their cruel actions during WW II. Max (Dirk Bogarde), a former SS officer, is a night porter in an elegant hotel. When Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) enters the lobby with her husband, she recognises the man who was both her torturer and protector when she was a concentration camp inmate. They eventually find a way to be alone together and replay their concentration camp scenes, thus revisiting a sadomasochistic relationship and exploring a reversal of roles. Operatic and bold, Liliana Cavani’s 1974 provocative psychological thriller deftly examines the lasting social and psychological effects of the Nazi regime.

Liliana Cavani was born in Carpi in 1933. After graduating in literature and philology at Bologna University she studied documentary filmmaking at Rome’s renowned ‘Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia’.  She is a director and screenwriter who belongs to a generation of Italian filmmakers from Emilia-Romagna who came into prominence in the 1970s, and included Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marco Bellocchio.  In 1965 her documentary Philippe Pétain: Processo a Vichy won the Golden Lion for Best TV Documentary Film at the Venice International Film Festival. In addition to feature films and documentaries, she has also directed operas.








First Cow (2020)

Dir: Kelly Reichardt | Writers Jon Raymond, Kelly Reichardt | Cast: John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones, Ewen Bremner, Scott Shepherd, Gary Farmer, Lily Gladstone, Alia Shawkat, Rene Auberjonois, Jared Kasowski | Drama US 121′

“The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.” William Blake

Kelly Reichardt’s eighth film takes us back to the old West in a timeless and fabulously crafted story of two men finding friendship as they wander the sylvan landscapes of the 19th century Oregon Trail trying to survive off the land.

This lyrical and richly textured film lulls us with a hypnotic narrative that slowly catches fire in the final stretch. The mutually compatible souls come together from different corners of the earth. Bonded by their hopes and dreams they develop a miniaturist cottage industry: the Chinamen King Lu (Orion Lee) has the business acumen, the diffident American is Boston baker “Cookie” (aka Otis Figowitz, a sensitive John Magaro) and what emerges is a painterly rendering of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: first there is hunger but gradually sophistication and greed come into play, as the smouldering story unfolds.

It all starts with the arrival of the first cow in the region, an amiable dairy heifer seen drifting gracefully along the river in a boat from San Luis Obispo. Once firmly on dry land she is encouraged by Cookie to provide the vital ingredient for his buttermilk buns. And these provide for the men’s needs in the short term. Lu suggests they sell them at the nearby market, and soon they have regular customers for their fare. Lu points out their “window” will not last for long. But before competitors catch on to their bakery bandwagon, something tragic happens.

And this comes with the arrival of the cow’s owner, Toby Jones’ Chief Factor, a wealthy English sea merchant who lives in a supposedly grand clapperboard house, with his Native American wife (Lily Gladstone). His observations on how to incentivise workers, and his sophisticated social commentary on London fashions spike this gentle story with a vein of subversive humour. We learn the buns have a subtle taste of “South Kensington” and that the ‘Empire Line’ is no longer in vogue, but canary yellow is the now the colour ‘du jour’ for ladies couture. Also that his humble cow is actually descended from the highly prized ‘Froment de Leon’ breed, crossed with Isigny in Brittany, ensuring exceptionally rich grass for grazing, hence the quality of its milk and cream. So when Factor visits the market to sample the famous buttermilk buns and orders a ‘blueberry clafoutis’, the penny starts to drop, but not into the baker’s hands.

Reichardt’s regular cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt creates painterly images that glow like Rembrandt Old Masters, enhanced by the use of the silent era’s 4:3 aspect ratio. The animal connection here is tender rather than sentimental, once again showcasing Reichardt’s relationship with animals: her well known dog Lucy has been cast in her films – notably Wendy and Lucy (2008), and Old Joy (2006) which share Reichardt’s regular writing partner, who also wrote the book on which this arthouse treasure is based: The Half Life. MT





When Lambs become Lions (2018) | ****

Dir: Jon Kasbe | Doc | US

When you fight to survive in the vast arid plains of East Africa life is tough. In his deeply affecting feature debut, award-winning filmmaker Jon Kasbe (Heartbeats Of Fiji) explores whether human life in Northern Kenya is more valuable than that of endangered species. The subject of poaching is certainly an emotive issue that strongly divides the nation’s inhabitants, many of whom are deeply opposed to the illegal practice on moral grounds. But the lucrative trade goes on.

This is the latest in a series of conservation-themed features that started with Blackfish, The Cove and last year’s Trophy. Stunningly captured on the widescreen and in intimate close-up the film contrasts Kenya’s natural beauty with the less palatable aspects of animal slaughter, that takes place not for food but for trophy hunting. And the animals do not die a quick death but a long, drawn out and painful one due to being inexpertly shot or poisoned with venomous arrows. The film’s atmospheric score adds gravitas to the melancholic episodes where Asan silently contemplates his doubtful future. And these sequences contrast with the high-octane nighttime forays into the bush to locate victims and escape the rangers’ onslaught.

Kasbe’s non-judgemental thriller unspools with a growing dramatic tension as it moves stealthily between the lives of two men: an unlikeable ivory trader (X), and his ranger nemesis Asan, who is also his cousin. The glassy-eyed macho X boasts of making a successful black market business selling ivory. As he swaggers around chain-smoking defiantly and invoking ‘Allah’, he claims not to do the killing himself. Hot on his tracks is Asan and his fellow government employed rangers who are heavily armed with rifles and threaten the poachers with their zero tolerance approach. But rangers have little to gain financially from their work, although many feel sadness for the elephants’ plight. Heavily armed with automatic rifles they also have an axe to grind against the government claiming they have not been paid two months’ wages due to an administrative error. Meanwhile, the poachers make a lucrative living. X’s sidekick Lukas posits the powerful adage “if we do not hunt we will be hunted”. The pressure to earn a pittance is also putting a strain on Asan’s marriage and growing family, and he fears he may have to go back to the petty crime of his youth. 

Although poaching is a blot on the landscape, so is the plight of the people who inhabit this impoverished region. President Uhuru Kenyatta confiscates and burns all illegal ivory stashes claiming – on a television programme – that “ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants”. Meanwhile X and Lukas watch silently desperately wishing they could lay their hands on the truckloads of bounty destined to be destroyed by the government’s crackdown. MT


Possession (1981) ****

Dir: Andrzej Zulawski  | Cast: Sam Neill, Isabelle Adjani, Margit Castensen, Heinz Bennent, Johanna Hofer | 124min  | Horror Drama  | Poland France West Germany

possession_2116In the opening scene of Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION, Isabelle Adjani (Anna) meets Sam Neill (Mark) outside their Berlin apartment block, on his return from a business trip – she appears to be dressed in mourning. It then emerges she wants a divorce, and the two of them descend rapidly into a frazzled state of anxiety – Mark rocking to and fro in a cold sweat and Anna sobbing down the telephone from her new lover’s place. Mark (a self-confessed misogynist) seems less concerned about the divorce, but is eaten up with jealousy that Anna is having sex with another man – and enjoying it. Confronting her lover Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) in his spacious book-filled apartment, Mark is understandably indignant. Heinrich is dressed like a flamenco dancer; black shirt slashed to his ageing midriff. Embracing Mark, he appeals to his sense of fair-play in understanding their mutual state of flux.

Initially banned in the UK; this is the Russian-born Polish film director’s most controversial film. Many claim to be shocked and traumatised by it; others to find it a total enigma, even a laughable mess. Certainly it gives full throttle to the full-blooded emotional fall-out when a relationship goes wrong – but this is not social realism; it is mannered horror. Isabelle Adjani won Best Actress at Cannes for her histrionic, ‘obsessive compulsive’ performance – which involves an electric carving knife – and Neill is also at his most viscerally raw, switching from demonic anger to childlike vulnerability (his eyes are especially weird – an effect achieved by coloured contact lenses), as he pleads with Anna to share her feelings so he can work to make it right. Meanwhile he is also trying to negotiate a deal with his employers and look after his infant son Bob.

Filmed by ace DoP Bruno Nuytten (Jean de Florette) in the frigid blue light of a rained-soaked Berlin winter in Kreuzberg and Mitte’s empty streets, there are unsettling vignettes where Anna is at one point pursued by a government official who asks to check the windows of the apartment where she is now living (having left Mark). In this apartment, she has produced – or apparently given birth to – a strange octopus-like blob of gore, that masquerades as a gigantic living foetus. When the inspector discovers it, she glasses him in the neck with a broken bottle of red wine, having previously offered him a drink. In another she plays Helen, a teacher from Bob’s school, and turns up unannounced to read to Bob and do the washing up for Mark: the two end up in bed. The dialogue is often dead pan and banal compared with the heightened melodrama that accompanies it – after trashing Mark’s living room in a blind rage Anna announces blandly: “I have to give Bob his yogourt”.

Admittedly, the film is a carnival of sensationalism, yet we feel nothing for the characters nor their trauma as their feelings are completely unconvincing – they are merely the psychotic and narcissistic projections of sociopathic cyphers, totally lacking in authenticity or a scintilla of humanity. Although Zulawski attempts to generate horror, as an audience we feel entirely alienated and detached from the narrative, however gory, blood-soaked or deranged it becomes. A fantastic curio and the perfect antidote to romantic Valentine’s Day. MT



The End Will Be Spectacular (2020) **** Rotterdam Film Festival

Dir.: Ersin Celik; Cast: Arjin Baysal, Delil Piran, Cîan Seve, Sevda Kina, Sahire Ozhari; Syria 2019, 135 min.

Ersin Celek’s feature debut celebrates the Kurdish fight for independence. Shot in the autonomous region of Northern Syria, The End Will be Spectacular tells the story of the siege of Diyarbakir and the ancient city of Sur, attacked by the Turkish army for over hundred days, from December 2nd 2015, after the declaration of independence by the Sur’s Kurdish assembly.

Zilan (Baysal) enters Diyarbakir to meet up with friends of her brother Andok, killed here fighting for the Kurdish PKK. She encounters a number of women fighters amongst them the commander Nucan (Ozhan), and Dilan (Kina) who also wants to avenge her brother. The overall leader is Ciyzger (Seve), whose titular speech ends with “When hope and resistance come together, no matter what happens: the end will be spectacular”. The slow and bespectacled Zilan is not the model of a resistance fighter. But she soon speeds, and gets quite nifty with her semi-automatic gun. Dilan (Kina) decides to burn her diaries, she feels personal memories are no longer relevant in times of hardship. Then Zilan and Nucan watch in horror as Dilan gives herself up to the Turkish forces. But to their surpise, the diary she is gives the Turkish commander is not a plan of the defence lines but an explosive device, killing a load of Turks, Zilan and Nucan saving her in  the aftermath. The Turkish army with their tanks makes progress, and there is an impressive burial scene amidst the first snows. Later, a traitor is caught having sold the location of the anti-tank mines to the Turks. He meets a sticky end. The siege grinds to a conclusion, Ciyager sending out a small group, including Zilan, who will tell the Kurdish villages and towns in the area about the heroic fight in the hope of garnering support and swelling their ranks.

Shot imaginatively by DoP Cemil Kizildag, The End resonates with Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers narrative-wise, but aesthetically it is closer to Malle’s Viva Maria!. Celik is very much an idealist at heart, and his portraits of women fighters is the highlight of his feature. A little overindulgence by Celek manifests itself in the running time of 135 minutes, but the emotional suspense created by the brilliant ensemble (including seven, who act out their roles in the real uprising) makes up for it. AS



Filles de Joie | Working Girls (2020) Rotterdam International Film Festival 2020

Dir: Frédéric Fonteyne | Wri: Anne Paulicevich | Cast: Noemie Lvovsky, Jonas Bloquet, Sara Forestier | Drama Belgium 91′

Belgian filmmaker Frédéric Fonteyne (1968) studied film at Institut des arts de diffusion in Louvain-la-Neuve. He realised several successful short films before his two acclaimed features, Max & Bobo (1998) and Une liaison pornografique (1999), which were both screened at IFFR. This drama about sex workers starts on a light note but soon develops into a more dejected tale of life and death. An excellent cast cannot always overcome Paulicevich’s uneven script.

Sarah Forestier’s thirty-something sex worker Axelle (aka Athena) lives with her three unruly children and a cantankerous mother in a council flat. Every morning she joins neighbour Conso (Legronne) and Dominique (Lvovsky) in a battered car to drive over the border to Belgium, where they ply their trade. Conso, a long legged black women has to run a scary racist gauntlet from the youth of the estate. Axelle is separated from her husband Yann, who still has his fingers in the pie. Their their youngest son is caught in a violent incident at Kindergarten, shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ before his attack – even though he is not a Muslim. Conso meanwhile has a boyfriend, Jean-Philippe, who gives her an expensive pendant for her birthday, raising her hopes for a way out of her depressing life.

But the women’s light hearted banter soon gives way to darker developments. Axelle’s husband Yann trails her, and confronts her as a ‘customer’, threatening to take the children away from her. Then Conso is invited to a special party by Jean-Philippe. It turns out that he is celebrating the very recent birth of his first child. The devastated Conso nearly overdoses, and Dominique and Axelle decide to teach J-P a lesson. Meanwhile, the former is appalled to find her daughter Zoe (Dewaels) “earning some pocket money”, but the real drama starts when Yann attacks Axelle in a domestic set-to defused with the help of a hammer.

Suddenly this bitter-sweet comedy gets serious morphing to a real life and death scenario in a sobering and awkward tonal shift. But these feisty women have learnt to deal with their work related ups and downs – quite literally – so anything else is all in a day’s work.

DoP Juliette Van Dormael’s nimble camera-work captures the raucous near heart-breaking hysteria. Lvovsky is the leader of the pack, looking after ‘her’ girls like a lioness with her cubs  – but failing to keep her own domestic life on track. Forestier is the most ambivalent, often attacking Conso for not being ‘serious’ enough. Working Girls doesn’t always succeed in conveying the complexities of life for sex-working parents. But Fonteyne has a good certainly crack of the whip at it nonetheless . AS




Rotterdam Film Festival 2020

In his final year as creative director Bero Beyer recently announced the 2020 line-up for the 49th International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) including the 10 films selected for the Tiger Competition. Known for its edgy arthouse bias, this year’s film include Kim Yong-hoon’s South Korean crime drama Beasts Clawing at Straws; Arun Karthick’s Nasir, a portrait of theHindu-nationalist province of Tamil Nadu; and Jorge Thielen Armand’s drama La fortaleza, set in the jungles of Venezuela.

The festival also features the Big Screen Competition and the revamped Bright Future Competition, the fifth theme programme Ordinary Heroes and a special screening of David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996) with a live musical score by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. The festival opens on the 22 January 2020 with Joao Nuno Pinto’s period drama Mosquito, exploring a Portuguese soldier’s adventures in Mozambique during the First World War, and close on 2 February with Marielle Heller’s Oscar contender A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood that revisits the popular children’s television personality Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) through his meeting with skeptical journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys).

The Tiger competition will be judged by a panel composed of Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now), Visions du Réel artistic director Emilie Bujès, South Korea-born American filmmaker Kogonada (Columbus), Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak (Dirty God) and Indonesian artist Hafiz Rancajale.

The Big Screen Competition features nine films including Danish filmmaker Malou Reymann’s A Perfectly Normal Family; Eden from Hungarian filmmaker Ágnes Kocsis (who made Pál Adrienn) and Argentinian auteur Marco Berger’s El cazador (Young Hunter) which stars End of Century’s Juan Barberini

The Bright Future Competition, comprising a selection of 15 feature-length debuts, includes Liang Ming’s Pingyao film festival award-winning Wisdom Tooth, and feature debuts from Russian filmmaker Artem Aisagaliev’s (Babai) and Bolivian Diego Mondaca’s Chaco.

The 49th International Film Festival Rotterdam | 22 January – 2 February 2020

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Images from the Tiger Competition selection

Tiger Competition

Beyer said: all the films in Tiger Competition radiate a strong sense of personal urgency and cinematic relevance, fuelled by boundary-pushing directorial visions.”

All films selected for Tiger Competition 2020:

El año del descubrimiento, Luis López Carrasco, 2020, Spain/Switzerland, world premiere

Beasts Clawing at Straws, Kim Yonghoon, 2020, South Korea, world premiere

The Cloud in Her Room, Zheng Lu Xinyuan, 2020, France/China, world premiere

Desterro, Maria Clara Escobar, 2020, Brazil/Portugal/Argentina, world premiere

Drama Girl, Vincent Boy Kars, 2020, Netherlands, world premiere

La fortaleza, Jorge Thielen Armand, 2020, Venezuela/France/Netherlands/Colombia, world premiere

Kala azar, Janis Rafa, 2020, Netherlands/Greece, world premiere

Nasir, Arun Karthick, 2020, India/Netherlands, world premiere

Piedra sola, Alejandro Telemaco Tarraf, 2020, Argentina/Mexico/Qatar/UK, world premiere

Si yo fuera el invierno mismo, Jazmín López, 2020, Argentina, world premiere

The Tiger jury consists of Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, artistic director of Visions du Réel Emilie Bujès, South Korean-born American filmmaker Kogonada, Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak and Indonesian artist, curator and filmmaker Hafiz Rancajale.

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Images from the Big Screen Competition selection

Big Screen Competition

The Big Screen Competition, part of IFFR’s Voices section, features nine films which, according to IFFR programmers, deserve to hit the big screen after the festival. A jury consisting of five audience members picks the winner of the VPRO Big Screen Award. This film gets a guaranteed theatrical release in the Netherlands and will be broadcast on Dutch TV by VPRO and NPO.

All films selected for Big Screen Competition 2020:

El cazador, Marco Berger, 2020, Argentina, world premiere

Eden, Ágnes Kocsis, 2020, Hungary/Romania, world premiere

Énorme, Sophie Letourneur, 2019, France, international premiere

The Evening Hour, Braden King, 2020, USA, international premiere

Fanny Lye Deliver’d, Thomas Clay, 2019, UK/Germany, international premiere

Mosquito, João Nuno Pinto, 2020, Portugal/France/Brazil, world premiere

A Perfectly Normal Family, Malou Reymann, 2020, Denmark,world premiere

Synapses, Chang Tso-chi, 2019, Taiwan, international premiere

A Yellow Animal, Felipe Bragança, 2020, Brazil/Portugal/Mozambique, world premiere

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Images from the Bright Future Competition selection

Bright Future Competition

The Bright Future Competition comprises a selection of 15 feature-length film debuts, screening in world or international premiere. IFFR’s competition for first-time filmmakers presents a variety of innovative, cutting-edge and promising discoveries from all over the world. The Bright Future Award is chosen by a jury of three film professionals.

All films selected for Bright Future Competition 2020:

Babai, Artem Aisagaliev, 2020, Russia/USA, world premiere

Chaco, Diego Mondaca, 2020, Bolivia/Argentina, world premiere

Los fantasmas, Sebastián Lojo, 2020, Guatemala/Argentina, world premiere

Fellwechselzeit, Sabrina Mertens, 2020, Germany, international premiere

For the Time Being, Salka Tiziana, 2020, Germany/Spain/Switzerland, international premiere

I Blame Society, Gillian Wallace Horvat, 2020, USA, world premiere

Moving On, Yoon Dan-bi, 2019, South Korea, international premiere

My Mexican Bretzel, Nuria Giménez Lorang, 2019, Spain, international premiere

Ofrenda, Juan María Mónaco Cagni, 2020, Argentina, world premiere

Panquiaco, Ana Elena Tejera, 2020, Panama, world premiere

A Rifle and a Bag, Isabella Rinaldi/Cristina Hanes/Arya Rothe, 2020, India, world premiere

Sebastian springt über Geländer, Ceylan-Alejandro Ataman-Checa, 2020, Germany, world premiere

The Trouble with Nature, Illum Jacobi, 2020, Denmark/France, world premiere

Truth or Consequences, Hannah Jayanti, 2020, USA, world premiere

Wisdom Tooth, Liang Ming, 2019, China, international premiere


The Distinguished Citizen (2016) ****

Dirs: Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn | 118min | Comedy Drama | Argentina

When an Argentinian Nobel prize winner returns to the village of his birth he discovers a lawless Wild West, or has he just become “over-civilised”.

This pithy premise underpins the latest from Argentinian directors Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn. It stars Oscar Martinez (of Paulina and Wild Tales fame) as the world-weary and emotionally avoidant author Daniel Mantovani, who returns to a remote village about six hours drive from Buenos Aires, to accept a medal. Having left there many years ago, he never felt the impetus to go back having made a successful writing career in Europe where he lives in palatial splendour in the lush hills of Barcelona’s Tibidabo.

Written by Gaston’s brother Andres Duprat, THE DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN is a tightly-scripted, insightful and often hilarious satire with echoes of Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll’s 2004 comedy Whisky with similar themes of parochial pettiness and cultural awareness. The tone is always light but touches upon some dark home truths. The elegant framing and architectural sensibilities makes this a visual pleasure, Maria Eugenia Sueiro’s interiors reflecting a faded seventies aesthetic.

The film opens as Daniel is delivering a trenchant rebuke at the acceptance ceremony mocking the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm. Fast forward five years and he is on the plane to BA where a taste of his future tribulations arrives when his airport taxi driver breaks down in a field, hours from Salas, forcing him to spend the night in the middle of nowhere round a campfire lit with one of the pages from his recent novel. The following morning that same book comes in handy as lavatory paper – and we all realise where things are going.

The narrative unspools in five parts – for no specific reason – as Daniel goes back in time to a homespun and unsophisticated community stuck in the past. This motley crew respond entirely inappropriately treating him like a local soap star rather than an intellectual introvert. He bumps into his old girlfriend Irene (Andrea Frigerio) who is now married to his butch friend Antonio (Dady Brieva), a mean dancer and an even meaner game hunter – a talent that plays out in Daniel’s hasty departure in the final scenes. The film centres on the small-town mentality that really rears its ugly head as the story develops, the inhabitants gradually turning the writer from hailed hero to vilified outsider in their collective mean-spiritedness.

This is an enjoyable and intelligent piece of cinema, dark and deadpan situational comedy arises out of bizarre encounters and bitter ironies (much in the same vein as those of the recent Toni Erdmann). The film leaves us with some memorable maxims to reflect on. “making things simple is an artistic kindness” is a choice takeaway from the role and often poignant indie gem . MT

Argentinian Film Season: El ciudadano ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen) (2016)



Jo Jo Rabbit (2019) ***

Dir: Taika Waititi | Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomas McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell | Comedy Drama 108′

Wes Anderson could easily have made this smug and painterly winsome drama that challenges hate and dogma through a re-imagining of the Hitler story. In JoJo Rabbit the arch fiend is reinvented as the cartoonish friend of an earnest German boy during the last knockings of the Second World War.

Taika Waititi got the idea from Christine Leunens’s bestseller that tells how Johannes aka Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) invents an alternative and jollier version of the Führer, who is gamely played by Waititi himself.

Meanwhile his charming mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in the attic, forcing Jojo into a private war of his own: keeping shtum while wrestling with his own conscience that teeters between his growing feelings for the girl and the dogma surrounding her religion. Gradually the strength of his belief system starts to go AWOL, and his hero turns into one of the greatest antiheroes of history.

Waititi’s tricksy and light-hearted wartime drama brings nothing new to the table – the filmmaker raises a few laughs with his outlandish character’s high jinx, but the story gradually becomes more and more repetitive. Johansson gets the best role with a genuinely complex juggling act that sees her vivaciously paying lip service to the Nazis, while also tussling with her son’s misguided take on proceedings behind closed doors at their gemütlich apartment in Berlin (filming actually took place in Czechia).

Welcome to Sodom (2018) **** WatchAUT 2019

Dir.: Florian Weigensamer, Christian Krönes; Documentary; Austria 2018, 90 min.

Austrian directors/writers Florian Weigensamer and Christian Krönes are attracted to radical material, that brings to mind the work of their compatriot, the noted documentarian Michael Glawogger (1959-2014)  Their first film A German Life, explored the life of  104 year-old Brunhilde Pomsel, Goebbels stenographer. Here they have chosen something completely different but just as fascinating.  Near the Ghanaian capital Accra is Agbogbloshie a swampland, where 250 000 tons of first world electronic dump is ‘recycled’ by about 6000 women, men and children.

The title refers to the biblical place, and Agbogbloshie is certainly making its name proud. The ground itself is unsafe, it sucks people in – after all, it’s a lagoon. Starting with a close-up of a chameleon, emaciated goats and cows roam the wasteland, where ancient dump trucks discharge old computer monitors, TV sets, fridges, printers, mobiles and cars. The mostly teenage work force are looking for aluminium, copper or zinc, anything they can glean with their self-made magnets, working away with crude mallets to break down the chassis. When they have collected enough material they take it to the dealer, who weighs their collection, before trying – usually successfully – to cheat them, reducing a meagre payment even further. Woman and girls are used as water carriers, they too inhale the poisonous dirt, the earth squelches, their health gradually deteriorates. To take their mind off things there is rap music, and even a newspaper, the ‘Daily Graphic’. And oddities, like a make-shift funeral parlour selling some expensive coffins that nobody on the site can afford to buy. A gay Jewish man from Zimbawe sells used water packets.

But there is a sense of pride among the detritus: a teenage boy declares “it’s rubbish for them, but we are the best re-cyclers”. But the common goal is to make it to France, or anywhere in Europe, “and be somebody”. Only few would admit that “this place eats up your life very fast”. Flies and filth are everywhere as the sulphur clouds hang heavy on the air. Cholera and malaria are the inevitable outcome.

Sodom makes for grim viewing but the directors avoid making this a depressing documentary, and some of the artfully framed scenes have a strange appeal, such as those when the men are burning down the metal pipes. The film plays out almost like a poem to industrial waste, dumped from all over the world. But the well-crafted images fit well with the narrative, and the sophisticated sound design conjures up the spirit of those who work in this Armageddon. There may not be much hope here; but you watch in stark  admiration, and a certain sense of shame that your next new gadget or smart phone will eventually end up polluted this dystopian hell hole and the people who spend their short lives dedicated to its daily grind. AS

WatchAUT | 13 -15 DECEMBER 2019 | Picturehouse Cinema W1       

Tlamess (2019) *** Best Director | Marrakech Film Festival 2019

Dir: Ala Eddine Slim |Cast: Abdullah Miniawy, Souhir Ben Amara, Khaled Ben Aissa Tunisia/France |121′.

Tunisian director Ala Eddine Slim follows his striking cult debut The Last of Us with another visually alluring reverie that is rather too opaque for its own good. Verging on the biblical, it once again contemplates themes of isolation and our relationship with nature. The evocative storyline focuses on a loner caught up in the wanderlust of his desert surroundings in a atmospheric soundscape created by Oiseaux Tempete with mesmerising art direction from Malek Gnaoui and  imaginative camerawork by Amine Messadi.

S (Miniawy) is a lieutenant in the army. State terrorism is the order of the day and we witness a brutal suicide. After hearing about the death of his mother S is overcome by grief and absconds from his army service to go  home, becoming Tunisia’s most wanted man. S soon meets the newly pregnant F (Amara), a bored and unhappy housewife left alone in luxury surroundings while her rich husband gads off around the world. The relationship develops into something more, F enjoying the wilderness much more than her pampered home.

The pair communicate only with their eyes, these extreme close-ups inscribed with Arabic are an expression of intimacy, the motives being fear, desperation and a new found equilibrium on F’s part. The monolith in the forest is a nod to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Full Metal Jacket is also quoted in the military scenes. Slim uses extreme contrasts: light and dark, sound and silence, open spaces versus claustrophobia, tradition collides with modernity Many of the protagonists are mute, Slim drawing much from silent cinema, the characters whirl through time and space in this hostile terrain. Tlamess is a visual triumph, leaving the audience much room for interpretation.

Marrakech Film Festival 2019 | WINNER BEST DIRECTOR 

Luca Guadagnino | Marrakech Film Festival 2019

‘Do it or Die’ is Guadagnino’s motto. He never has a plan B. Even with some heavyweight hits behind him Guadagnino still feels he has a ‘bombastic gorilla’ approach to things rather than a calm confidence. 

Born in Palermo of an Algerian mother, Luca Guadagnino (1971*) spent his early life in Ethiopia where his first experience of the cinema was watching David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia. He knew immediately that he wanted to be a film director, but had no formal idea of how this was going to happen. He approached cinema is a very haphazard way without any formal idea of what he wanted to see and had no academic reflection of cinema. A particular favourite was Nagisa Oshima’s Max Mon Amour (1986) but gradually by watching everything he could lay his hands on came a realisation of how he should approach his own career as a director. So cinema started as a way to understand himself and for many years he was still trying to find himself through film. As a director he is convinced that cinema is about form. And the form is the perspective of the filmmaker. Cinema is the act of the auteur; the person who brings their own version of the story to the film. So a boring storyline about a woman who works as a prostitute becomes a profound reflection of her way of being and her importance in the world. There is a massive difference between the story and the way you tell it.

The Protagonists (1999) was his first feature and he spent a great deal of time trying to meet and persuade the main character Tilda Swinton to be part of it all. It sees an Italian movie crew fetching up in London to make a documentary about a murder case that took place a few years before. Guadagnino expresses his profound feelings about Tilda: “You love Tilda because you can’t not love her when you meet her as a person. Her joy and her work as an artist is inspiring”. Derek Jarman’s Orlando (1992) was the film that first brought Tilda to his attention.

Derek Jarman would prove to be a strong influence in his early days as a director. He met Jarman in London and found in him a level of provocativeness and yet deep wells of humanity that really appealed to his idea of cinema at the time. Jarman’s way of putting material on the screen was as exciting and seductive as anything he’d seen in Hollywood at the time. He’d seen Tilda as a regular character in Jarman’s movies such as Caravaggio and so by the time he eventually met the actress he was already in love with the idea of casting her in his owns films. When Tilda arrived in Italy to present a series on underground filmmakers, Guadagnino had already developed a profound connection with her work as an actress. She was opposed to the mainstream cinema of the UK at that time, and it was all very polemic. Six months after the death of Jarman the two met and they are still working together to this day.

Tilda Swinton: The Love Factory saw the two working together again. Alberto Barbera supported this short documentary at the Venice Film Festival in 2002, but the film was slated by the critics, who walked out in flocks. Rather than being upset Guadagnino used this as a useful way to reflect back on his film and its possible flaws. And this experience would go on to serve as an antidote against an inflated ego.

Guadagnino returns regularly to making shorts and doesn’t want to be bound to a specific medium or feature length idea. If he has a creative impulse, then he puts it on film. In I Am Love (2009) his next significant feature, Tilda Swinton stars as Emma who has left her home in Russia to live with her husband, a powerful industrialist in Italy. She becomes the respected mother of three, but feels unfulfilled in this closeted environment and is suddenly drawn to Antonio, a talented chef who she meets through her son, with devastating consequences.

Music plays a crucial part in Guadagnino’s cinema. When he was filming Melissa P,  a drama exploring a young woman’s sexual awakening, he had the chance to work with the legendary producer Gareth Williams who introduced him to the American minimalist composer John Adams. Adams took his inspiration from Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann. Adams’ triumphant music went on to shape Melissa P. And in the same way, Adams’ symphonic music compliments the final cataclysmic scenes of I Am Love. In his latest film Suspiria (2018) music and dance also play a vital part. A darkness swirls at the centre of a world-renowned dance company and one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer played by Dakota Johnson.

In Call Me By Your Name (2017) Guadagnino works with James Ivory on a script which starts off by being faithful to Andre Aciman’s book, although then there are significant changes. He transposes the action to the seaside instead of the countryside, and sets the story in 1983 instead of 1987. But the narrative is extremely fateful and once again dance plays a part, in a much more subtle and metaphorical way. The so-called ‘forbidden’ dance at its core gives Elio (Armie Hammer) a chance to say what he needs to say to Oliver Timothee Chalamet). Something inevitable happens in their relationship, and this has to come out into the open. So actually the ‘dance’ round the statue becomes about revealing rather than hiding their personal story. And this is brought out into the open in their striking facial expressions and body language. Guadagnino has to see his actors actually on set before he decides how he shoots the scene. He wanted Timothee to be a sexually fluid young guy who is able to break away from being too academic. In other words, he didn’t want Freddy from Room with a View.  

Luca Guadagnino | Marrakech Film Festival 2019 





A Son (2019) ****

Dir: Mehdi Barsaoui | Cast: Sami Bouajila, Najla Ben Abdallah, Youssef Khemiri, Noomen Hamda, Slah Msadda | Drama, 95′

Meriem and her husband Fares seem to have it all – a carefree lifestyle, supportive friends and most of all a lovely little boy, Aziz. Meriem has just been promoted in her managerial job for a Human Resources conglomerate. Life is sweet for this privileged couple. Until tragedy strikes during their drive back from a day out in the countryside. Shots are fired from nowhere and hit the family car, amid shouts of “Allah Akhbar”. Aziz is injured. A blinding rush to the nearest hospital sees the tone shift from upbeat breeziness to heart-pumping terror.

Mehdi Barsaoui’s tense and tightly scripted melodrama makes for a stunning debut feature and subverts our expectations. Films about terrorist attacks are usually set in non-Arab countries so this brave attempt to stage a terror attack in a  Muslim country show courage and a innovation on the part of this Tunisian director, and won him the Orizzonti award for best director at Venice 2019.

But what happens next is both shocking and bewildering. The trauma of Aziz fighting life is compounded by a startling revelation that sends the family into meltdown. Blood tests to work out which parent is most suited to give the child a transfusion reveal that Fares can’t possibly be Aziz’s biological father. Naturally this is devastating: Meriem is aware of her infidelity during a difficult time in their marriage but she had no idea Aziz was not her husband’s child and so she is forced to keep this dreadful fact to herself. This complicates the already fraught scenario as Islamic law forbids organ donations from outside the nuclear family. A long waiting list is their only option as the gruelling nightmare unfolds.

At this point a rather dubious character enters the fray. Mr. Choukri (Slah Msaddak) is the sort of man you wouldn’t trust to post a letter but he attempts to support Fares forcing him into an intractable dilemma and one that money will not necessarily solve. A excellent cast act out this remarkable debut but Bouajila is particularly strong as a successful man of integrity whose masculinity is challenged by a seemingly impossible set of circumstances. MT

Marrakech Film Festival 2019


Scattered Night (2019) **** Marrakech Film Festival 2019

Dir: Sol Kim and Jihyoung Lee | S. Korea dram 90′

Sol Kim and Jihyoung Lee’s first film captures the trauma of family break-up seen through the eyes of two small children in this austere cinema verite drama that gradually builds into a convincing conclusion.

Little Seung-ah Moon (Sumin) is at the centre of it all. Barely ten, she intuitively taps into the imploding relationship of her increasingly alienated parents, searching in vain for guidance, assurance or a hint of stability as she struggles to understand how her parents still care for each other but now want the family to live apart. The questions she asks are basic and natural, but she never gets a proper replay, let alone any love or attention – apart from the occasional platitude and a throwaway comment: “you’ll understand one day”.

Scattered Night is an intense experience, the camera never leaving the child’s face through its entire running time in a compelling natural performance for one so young and vulnerable as Seung-ah Moon. But the filmmakers are not interested in Sumin’s ordinary parents, who carry their own emotional baggage from the past, influenced by society’s expectations of them, fleshed out in a sequence where grandma comes to stay. The focus here is the Sumin (Moon Seung- a) and her brother Jinho (Choi Junwoo) who are barely coping with the emotional confusion of the separation. Using sustained takes and languid pacing the filmmakers carefully observe the children’s reactions to their parent’s non-committal body language, avoiding sentimentality or melodrama in crafting a subtle and resonant snapshot that shares its tragic story full of complexity, uncertainty and pain. MT

SCATTERED NIGHT | Marrakech Film Festival 2019 


Bertrand Tavernier Tribute | 1941-2021

In December 2019 Marrakech Film Festival paid tribute to the career of noted French film director, agent, critic and producer Bertrand Tavernier – who has died at 79 – with an expansive retrospective of his films in the presence of the director himself.

Ironically, Tavernier is perhaps best known for his 1980 feature Death Watch (La Mort en Direct), a drama set in the future, when death has become very rare. It tells the story of Katherine (Romy Schneider) who finds she has an incurable disease. NTV, a major television network headed by the unscrupulous Vincent Ferriman (Harry Dean Stanton), orders cameraman Roddy (Harvey Keitel), a casual acquaintance of Katherine, to film her last days via an implanted camera/transmitter behind his eyes. When Roddy sees a live-show of Katherine on TV, he is so disgusted with himself he owns up to Katherine. But there’s a twist. The implants will lead to blindness if Roddy goes through long periods of darkness, so he can only sleep for a short bursts, and has to carry a flashlight all the time. Engulfed by his feelings for Katherine’s impending death, he suffers nervous a breakdown and loses his flashlight. When Katherine finds it, she shines it in his eyes, but he is already blind. The two visit Katherine’s estranged husband Gerald (a masterful Max von Sydow), who tells Katherine there has been a mistake and pleads with her to reconsider their relationship. But Katherine takes an overdose instead and dies, leaving Roddy and Gerald furious, wanting to kill Ferriman.

Tavernier started life as a film critic for both Cahiers du Cinema and Positif between 1961 and 1971, after having given up on his law studies in Lyon. In his documentary My Journey through French Cinema (2016) he talks about this time casting a rather uncomplimentary light on Cahiers’ writers turned filmmakers: “They were great self-promoters, because they had been journalists, and they convinced Americans they were left-wing, despite writing for right-wing publications. Godard was not a leftist, he was one of the worst contemporary tyrants”. To be fair, Tavernier also accused compatriot filmmaker Jacques Becker (Le Trou) of being a control freak “even telling the composer of the music, which notes to avoid”.

Many of Tavernier’s features are about loneliness. In his 1976 drama The Judge and The Assassin (1976), his regular collaborator Philippe Noiret is Judge Rousseau, who holds the fate of serial killer Bouvier (Michel Galabru) in his hands. Both men change during the process with Bouvier being able to talk about the process which made him kill children. Rousseau, who had a very clear view of guilt before, admits for the first time that his intransigence is part of his own isolation. The Judge and the Assassin has a lot in common with Tavernier’s debut The Clockmaker of Saint Paul (1974), based on a Simenon novel in which a grieving father tries to come to terms with alienating his son.

Political thriller Quai d’Orsay/The French Minister (2013) deals with the France and Germany resistance to the Iran War by the USA and UK government. Arthur Vlaminck (Raphael Personnaz) is a script-writer for the Foreign Minister Alexandre Taillard de Worms (Thierry Lhermite)  – based on the real life Dominic de Villipen. Arthur soon finds out the ministry is really run by Claude Maupass (Niels Arestrup), who seems phlegmatic, but is really in charge of affairs. Arthur, under fierce competition, finds a friend and ally in Maupass. The films ends with the speech by de Villipen before the UN, contradicting Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell before the Security Council. 

Later in his carer Tavernier chose to delve into costume dramas, Let Joy Reign Supreme (1975) was a prime example. In the early years 18th France, Philippe II of Orleans (Noiret) is the regent for young Louis XV. Philippe has no real power, and hopes to raise his country’s stakes with the help of the priest Guillaume Dubois (Jean Rochefort). There is a gruesome autopsy of a royal lady who lived a life of debauchery which included incest with her father. When a court conspiracy, lead by the Marquise of Pontcallec (Jean Pierre Marielle), looks like it might spark a revolution, Dubois, to the chagrin of Philippe, turns out to be an opportunist trying to elevate himself as an archbishop. For Philippe, the only hope is a proper revolution.

The Princess of Montpensier (2010) is a mixture of fiction and history, leading up to the Bartholomew Day massacre of 1572 when Catholics were slaughtered by Protestants. The religious battle between Catholics and Protestants led to infighting in the Royal family and the nobility in general. The fictional story is centred around the titular heroine (Melanie Thierry), who is married to the Prince of Montpensier (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet), but is still in love with with the Duke of Guise (Gaspare Ullieil), whom she knows since childhood. The fate of her marriage and love affair is closely linked to the religious turmoil, with the Princess being unable to convince anybody to keep the peace. AS

Marrakech Film Festival | TRIBUTE TO Bertrand Tavernier 

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


Noura’s Dream (2019) *** Marrakech Film Festival 2019

Dir/scr. Hinde Boujemaa | Cast: Hend Sabri, Lotfi Abdelli, Hakim Boumsaoudi, Imen Cherif, Saif Dhrif, Jamel Sassi Tunisia, Belgium, France, Qatar. |  92 mins.

Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was a time of change for the nation’s working class. Filmmaker Hinde Boujemaa eyed the era with caution in her 2012 documentary It Was Better Tomorrow.

In her richly textured drama debut, Boujemaa brings the epoch to life in a flawed but fascinating story set in the crumbling backstreets of Tunis and led by a towering performance from Tunisian actress Hend Sabri.

Obviously corruption reigns and petty criminals abound in this impoverishing milieu enchanted by its once glamorous colonial buildings and now fraught with world-weary resilience amongst ordinary people just trying to make their way in life.

Hospital laundry worker Noura (Sabri) is in love with Lassad (Boumsaoudi) and the two share amorous embraces and fond glances indicative of the secrecy of their romance as Noura is seeking a divorce from Jamel (Abdelli), her jailed husband. She is a mother to three children, and her female lawyer reminds her that adultery, in Tunisia, carries a five-year prison sentence. Women beware women.

Jamel is intellectually challenged, to say the least. And when he is suddenly released from prison he starts to threaten Noura again. But Lassad offers little in emotional support. Noura is caught between a rock and a hard place: but most women will be familiar with this territory.

Sabri is brilliant as the central character. Her careworn face is a testament to suffering, yet she carries on in desperation, hoping against hope that love will find a way. Her son is just another misogynist in the making and her daughter looks on almost contemptuously as she vows not to make the same mistakes. An affecting debut that says: Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. Mt

IN COMPETITION | Marrakech Film Festival 2019 



Marrakech International Film Festival 2019 | Tributes Australian Film

MARRAKECH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL is set to pay tribute to screen legend and Sundance pioneer Robert Redford in its 18th edition which also showcases an extensive retrospective of Australian Cinema. November 29th to December 7th 2019.

Marrakech Film Festival is one of the most glamorous events in the film festival circuit attracting professionals and film lovers from all over the World and honouring global film in all its forms. This year’s International Competition Jury is headed by Tilda Swinton, who has starred in over 70 feature films, most recently in The Personal History of David Copperfield, and Wes Anderson latest comedy drama The French Dispatch which will premiere early next year.

This year’s 18th edition taking place from November 29th until December 7th also plays host to an impressive tribute to Australian cinema, considered to be one of the oldest in the world. This year’s tribute is also the biggest get-together of Australian actors and directors ever to take place at a film festival. Australia has a tradition of a gutsy hard-nosed crime thrillers but also lyrical arthouse dramas and comedies that embody the infinite variety of the vast nation. From the hostile outback of Ayer’s Rock to the sophisticated urban centres Australia’s spectacular landscape provides a remarkable background for its visual arts. And although the average cinema-goer may only be able to remember Crocodile Dundee, the country has an impressive array of movies to draw on and one of the world’s most active film industries boasting memorable commercial and indie titles and directors as diverse as Baz Lurhmann, Gillian Armstong, Mel Gibson, Ivan Sen and film pioneer and screenwriter Lottie Lyell  (1890-1925) considered to be Australia’s first film star. During her short life she made an important contribution to the industry in the silent era with The Blue Mountains Mystery (1921) which she co-directed with Raymond Longford. Here is a selection of some outstanding Australian cult classics to put us in mind of what we might look forward during the Marrakech official selection in November 2019.


In Nicolas Roeg’s moving mystical coming of age drama an Aboriginal boy comes to the rescue to two teenagers abandoned by their father in the remote corner of the Outback. Walkabout is a bleak but beguiling feature that riffs on the theme of human kindness and cultural differences. Although Roeg and most of the cast are British, the film has been taken to Australias’s heart because it launched the remarkable career of Indigenous Australian actor David Gulpilil.


Directed by Toronto born maverick Ted Kotcheff and also known as Outback, Wake in Fright kicked off the Australian New Wave and is now considered one of the most extraordinary Australian features ever made. Blending horror with an immersive character drama, it was ‘lost’ for many years, until veteran producer Anthony Buckley finally tracked it down in 20o4 in a Pittsburgh warehouse. Remastered and given a theatrical release and the Bluray treatment in 2014 (courtesy of Eureka) this is one film you simply must see with its standout performances from Donald Pleasence, Chips Rafferty and Sylvia Kay.


A mesmerising and unsolved mystery about a group of school girls who disappear during a school picnic on Hanging Rock. Peter Weir’s haunting drama stays in the memory with its luminous cast and glowering background of Ayer’s Rock. Based on the novel by Joan Lindsey it was adapted for the big screen – and I mean big – by Cliff Green.


Another haunting tragedy that tells a poignant tale of war and guarantees a tearful audience. Set in Australia just before the First World War, it follows a group of Western Australian soldiers who will eventually meet their fate during the Gallipoli campaign on Turkish soil. Mel Gibson leads a cast of men whose lost innocence and dedication to duty continue to resonate nearly forty years later.

DEAD CALM (1989) not showing

Where would Australian cinema be without British-born Sam Neill and his leading lady Nicole Kidman. Alone on a yacht off the Great Barrier Reef they face up to a psychotic monster Billy Zane in this tensely gripping thriller.

ROMPER STOMPER (1992) not showing

Russell Crowe embodies stomping but he is an actor who can also do subtlety and infinite gentleness. Here in Geoffrey Wright’s urban thriller he does the former with gusto. Set in a working class Melbourne suburb, Romper Stomper sees a motley crew of neo-Nazi skinheads rise up against their changing neighbourhood with devastating consequences.

LANTANA (2001)

Kerry Armstrong, Anthony LaPaglia and Geoffrey Rush star in this taut and emotional thriller elegantly enveloped in a characterful study of human relationships in suburban Sydney. A dead body, a detective caught in flagrante, a psychiatrist whose own marriage is floundering: these are the elements that gentle stew for two engrossing hours in Ray Lawrence’s memorable mystery movie.

JAPANESE STORY (2003) not showing

In the Australian desert, a guide and a Japanese businessman who can’t stand each other are suddenly drawn together in an awkward situation that ends in tragedy. Toni Collette gives an outstanding performance as the guide in this memorable multi-award-winning psychological drama. Sue Brooks directs Alison Tilson’s brilliant script with aplomb.

THE PROPOSITION (2005) not showing

John Hillcoat directs a superb cast of Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce and Emily Watson in this bleak and feral outback Western scripted and scored by Nick Cave. What can go wrong? The answer is absolutely nothing. The Proposition won awards across the board for its thorny depiction of a criminal  family that sees an outlaw ordered to kill his older brother in order to save the life of his younger one.


David Michod’s tense and brutal urban epic sees a mafia-style family locked in bitter conflict in 1980s Melbourne. Based on a real life Pettingill family it stars Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver as a machiavellian matriarch playing each relative off against the other as she protects her 17 year old son (James Frecheville) without a shred of sentimentality.

SNOWTOWN (2011) not showing

With its unforgettable clanging score, Snowtown sent critics into a cold sweat. This Adelaide-based real crime thriller explores the descent into hell of a young man (Lucas Pittaway) at the hands of his charismatic mentor turned vicious serial killer, the infamous John Bunting – who went on to kill 11 people (chillingly played by Douglas Henshall). Snowtown was the feature debut of Justin Kurzel who  has gone on to deliver The Turning (2013), Macbeth (2015) and historical fact-based drama The True History of the Kelly Gang (2019).  

THE BABBADOOK (2014) not showing 

One of the best horror films in memory is Jennifer Kent’s truly terrifying and formally splendid psychological chiller. Melding a suspenseful narrative with finely crafted horror tropes, the film swept the board at the global film genre awards and is still popular with horror enthusiasts everywhere.

MAD MAX (1979)

Cinema goers didn’t know what had hit them when George Miller’s sadistic motor cycle thriller revved onto the big screen fuelled by murder and mayhem. It was a mesmerising experience and still is, with its odd combination of eccentric characters, stunning scenery and throat-grabbing barbarism that would spawn several sequels, but this was the weirdest yet.


The 1970s was a standout decade for Australian film not least because of the Peter Weir’s languorous mystery drama suffused with an eerie delicacy and based on Joan Lindsay’s novel that sees a group of school girls go missing on Valentine’s Day 1900 in the sizzling heat of summer. Starring Rachel Roberts, Helen Morse and Jacki Weaver, the drama went on to win a BAFTA for cinematography.


Judy Davis won a BAFTA for her performance as a writer and contemporary female role model Sybylla Melvyn in this 19th century set debut feature for Gillian Armstrong. It garnered awards across the board but went home empty handed from Cannes in the year of release.


A young man (Noah Taylor) suffers teenage angst as his crush and best friend (Leone Carmen) falls in love with an older guy in John Duigan’s poignantly funny 1960s set coming of age drama. A budding Ben Mendelsohn triumphs as the thuggish rugby playing criminal whose violence sets off an irreversible chain of events.


Based on John Bryson’s novel Evil Angels, Meryl Streep inspires terrifying evil as she fights to prove her innocence in Fred Schepisi’s biopic drama about the woman whose child was supposedly killed by a dingo in the Australian Outback.

During this year’s festival a distinguished delegation of Australian actors and directors will make the trip to Marrakech to enjoy this exceptional tribute and take part in a range of stage appearances and lives events in the Moroccan capital and its lush locations.



Mater | Mother (2019) *** Tallinn Black Nights Festival 2019

Dir.: Jure Pavlovic ; Cast: Daria Lorenci-Flatz, Neva Rosic; Croatia 2019, 96 min.

Best known for his TV work, Jure Pavlović’s marks his documentary feature debut with this convincing portrait of mother daughter discord mulling over the past both personal and national.

Middle-aged Jasna (Lorenci-Flatz) has arrived home from Germany to look after her dying mother Anka (Rosic) in a small-town Croatia. The opening panning shot sees her returning to the place she grew up. It’s an awkward rather maudlin home-coming fraught with mistrust on both sides, and the two women a while to get used to one another again in the dim and claustrophobic family home.

When does falling over, suddenly become “a fall”. The phrase is laced with dread, and usually doesn’t end well. And in Anka’s case it soon becomes clear she hasn’t got long to live and although she makes it home from hospital, she is now completely bedridden. Gradually things thaw slightly between the mother and daughter and they watch television together. It seems the line of least resistance, the holy cross placed judiciously over the screen. Jasna deals with all her mother’s paperwork and visits a lawyer in order to clear up some property issues. A cloud of deep resentment seems to hover over these meetings and Anca’s friends are always in the background, keeping an eye on her. There are hints of a troubled past, particularly when Jasna visits her father. gravestone. He died at the age forty in 1976. Jasna spends a lot of time skyping with her husband and two children in Germany, switching effortlessly to German when she talks to them. Keeping her own family affairs to herself and often hiding from her mother in the downstairs loo. Finally, on the eve before her family arrives to celebrate her own daughter’s birthday, the two women make peace, the party proceeds in stark contrast to everything which had gone on before.

Without going into finer detail, it’s safe to say that this mother daughter conflict hinges on repressed feelings of the past, but Pavlovic keeps his distance, leaving the ending open. Daria Lorenci-Flatz makes for a convincing fish out of water forced back to her hometown in this quietly intense slice of social realism that sees a loving woman daunted by the authority still radiating from her mother’s immobile body.

Jana Plecas’ camera echoes this detachment, observing the detail like a fly on-the-wall in this prison of souls. Overall, more clarity about the past would have made this chamberpiece a more satisfying watch. But family relationships are often far from satisfying. AS


UK French Film Festival (2019)

The French Film Festival UK is the only festival dedicated to French and Francophone cinema, embracing French and Francophone cinema in all its diversity, featuring a bumper programme bursting with variety and vitality. The 27th edition runs from 1 November to 15 December 2019, showing over 50 films in 35 towns and cities across the UK. 

Nana | Nana (N/C 12A+)

Dir Jean Renoir | Scr Pierre Lestringuez | based on the Emile Zola novel | Music Baudime Jam | 1926 | France | 170 mins |

This special screening of Jean Renoir’s full-length silent film includes two magnificent set pieces – a horse race and an open-air ball – accompanied live by Prima Vista Quintet 

A Paris Education | Mes Provinciales (N/C 15+)

Dir Jean-Paul Civeyrac | 2018 | France | 136 mins |

Pure love of cinema inhabits every frame of Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s sensitive and sophisticated portrait of Etienne, a provincial boy who moves to Paris to attend film school. 

By the Grace of God | Grâce à Dieu (15)

Dir François Ozon | 2019 | 137 mins |

When Alexandre learns that the priest who assaulted him decades earlier at a scouts’ camp still works with young people, he tells his family what happened and seeks out other victims so that the Church will take action.

Happy Birthday | Fête de Famille (N/C 15+)

Dir Cédric Kahn | 2019 | France | 101 mins |

Family relations unravel to wonderfully excruciating comic and dramatic effect in this all-star ensemble piece from versatile French writer-director and here, co-star, Cédric Kahn. 

Oh les filles ! | Haut les filles (N/C 12A+)

Dir François Armanet | 2019 | France | 79 mins |

Telling the untold story of French female rock stars from sixties pop to today’s gender-indifferent anthems.

The Salamander | La Salamandre (N/C 18+)

Dir Alain Tanner | 1971 | Switzerland, France | 123 mins |

Two self-proclaimed writers attempt to retell how a young woman shot her uncle. 

Yves St Laurent: The Last Collections (N/C 15+)

Dir Olivier Meyrou | 2007 (release: 2018) | France | 73 mins |

Olivier Meyrou’s controversial yet exquisitely drawn portrait of France’s last great fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent, has finally seen the light of day.

For full listings:



Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (2019) PÖFF

Tallinn Black Nights runs from the 15 November until 1 December 2019 offering an extended celebration of international films. For the second year running the festival will also showcase the latest in Baltic cinema with a special sidebar dedicated to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The idea is to offer industry professionals and film critics a wider experience and offer the festival audience a taste of local talent.

Tom Sullivan’s Arracht (Monster) is told in Gaelic and set in Ireland in 1845 where a small community fisherman is persuaded to offer board to a sinister stranger. Another world premiere is German filmmaker Hüseyin Tabak’s Hamburg set Gypsy Queen, Konstantin Lopushansky’s Through Black Glass and Narges Abyar’s When The Moon Was Full.


After her success with Come Back Free, documentary filmmaker Ksenia Okhapkina won this year’s Grand Prix at Karlovy Vary with Immortal exploring a Russian social mechanism that feels a lot like the political systems of the last century.

Manfred Vainokivi presents his latest documentary biography In Bed With A Writer, a portrait of the controversial and newly divorced Estonian writer Peeter Sauter. We follow Sauter in Estonia’s art and underground scene as he shares his thoughts on women, sex and ageing.

In a small Estonian town largely inhabited by ethnic minorities, Vladimir Loginov’s second documentary Prazdnik explores the age old phenomenon of the beauty pageant and whether they still have a place in modern society.   .

Having travelled the globe with his debut In the Crosswind, Martti Helde returns with Scandinavian Silence, a thriller that makes use of an unusual narrative device: the tale of a man reunited with his sister having spent years in jail.

One of the biggest box office hits in the country’s history, Tanel Toom’s literary based feature debut Truth and Justice follows the decade-spanning feud of two neighbours during the second half of the 19th century. Toom previously won the Student Academy Award with his short film The Confession.

Hot from a successful run at the Estonian box office, the comedic depiction of the global and local startup culture, Chasing Unicorns, is start-up entrepreneur Rain Rannu’s sophomore feature.


A culmination of one artist’s creative journey that lasted 3,5 years, Away is a fantasy animation directed, animated and composed by Gints Zilbalodis.

Chronicling the tumultuous times in Post-Soviet Latvia, Jānis Ābele’s feature film Jelgava 94 shines a light on the period where teenagers were obsessed with heavy metal.

Juris Kursietis’ second feature Oleg premiered at Quinzaine des Realiseteurs during this year’s Cannes. It’s a gritty tale of Latvian migrant workers searching for a better life in Belgium, not always on the right side of the law.

The life cycle of the Spoon in the globalised economy is Laila Pakalnina’s documentary follow up to her award-winning drama Ausma (2015) that won Jury Prize Best Cinematographer for DoP Anrijs Krenbergs.


Taxidermy, deer-farming and museum curatorship are the focus of this fascinating documentary from Aistė Žegulytė. Animus Animalis, guides us around a bizarre world where reality and artificiality blur.

Meanwhile, Ignas Jonynas’ second film Invisible presents the story of a former dancer Jonas pretending to be blind to enter a TV dance competition, as an intimate and emotional relationship builds between him and his dancing partner. He soon reconnects with the past and a dark secret.

Tomas Vengris’ debut Motherland revisits the year 1992 in a Lithuania, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a single mother and her 12-year-old return to Lithuania, after a long stay in the US, to claim the property that was taken from the woman’s parents when they were sent to labour camps decades ago.

The late 1930s is the setting for Karolis Kaupinis’ historic drama Nova Lithuania where in 1938 the young Lithuanian state celebrated twenty years of independence. Meanwhile situation in Europe is becoming increasingly tense so geographer Feliksas Gruodis sets about raising finance for his novel solution to creating a “backup Lithuania” overseas, where the country’s inhabitants could move in case the whole scenario goes pear-shaped.

Legendary director Algimantas Puipa presents The Other Side of Silence, a tale inspired by the book Bumblebee Honey by Swedish writer Torgny Lindgren. It sees   two brothers living in the same village, on the same lake, by the same forest, but sharing a mutual hatred sparked by their love of the same woman.

The 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival runs from the 15th of November until the 1st of December.


Marrakech Film Festival 2019 | Competition and Special Screenings

British actress Tilda Swinton will preside over this year’s jury at Marrakech Film Festival. At the 18th Moroccan celebration she will be joined by French director Rebecca Zlotowski, British director Andrea Arnold, Franco-Italian actress Chiara Mastroianni and five male jurors: Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho, Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt, Afghan writer and director Atiq Rahimi, Australian director David Michôd, and Moroccan director Ali Essafi. 

Films in competition for the Étoile d’Or de Marrakech are as follows:

BABYTEETH / Australia | Shannon Murphy
Starring Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Emily Barclay, Eugene Gilfedder, Essie Davis, Ben Mendelsohn 

BOMBAY ROSE / India/Fr/Qatar | Gitanjali Rao
Starring Cyli Khare, Amit Deondi, Gargi Shitole, Makrand Deshpande 

THE FEVER | Brazil | Maya Da-Rin
Starring Regis Myrupu, Rosa Peixoto 

LAST VISIT  `| Abdulmohsen Aldhabaan(Akher Ziyara) /Saudi Arabia
 Starring Osama Alqess, Abdullah Alfahad, Fahad Alghariri, Mousaed Khaled, Ghazi Hamad 

LYNN + LUCY/UK | Fyzal Boulifa
Starring Roxanne Scrimshaw, Nichola Burley 

MAMONGA /Serbia | Stefan Malešević
Starring Marta Bjelica, Dražen Pavlović,  Nabi Tang, Vuk Janošević 

MICKEY AND THE BEAR /USA | Annabelle Attanasio
Starring Camila Morrone, James Badge Dale, Calvin Demba, Ben Rosenfield, Rebecca Henderson 

MOSAIC PORTRAIT | (Ma Sai Ke Shao Nu) / China
By Zhai Yixiang
Starring Wang Yanhui, Wang Chuanjun, Zhang Tongxi, Chen Di, Xie Lixun, Liu Yiying, Ke Limu 

NAFI’S FATHER (Baamum Nafi) / Senegal | Mamadou Dia
Starring Alassane Sy, Saïkou Lô, Aïcha Talla, Penda Sy, Mamadou Bayo Sarr, Alassane Ndoye 

SCATTERED NIGHT  | (Heut-eo-jin Bam) / South Korea
By Lee Jih-young, Kim Sol
Starring Moon Seun-ga, Choi Jun-woo, Kim Hye- young, Lim Ho 

SOLE / Italia, Poland | Carlo Sironi
Starring Sandra Drzymalska, Claudio Segaluscio, Bario, Barbara Ronchi, Bruno Buzzi 

TLAMESS / Tunisia, France | Ala Eddine Slim
Starring Abdullah Miniawy, Souhir Ben Amara, Khaled Ben Aïssa 

THE UNKNOWN SAINT (Sid El-Majhoul) / Morocco, France
By Alaa Eddine Aljem
Starring Younes Bouab, Salah Bensalah, Bouchaib Essamak, Mohamed Naimane, Anas El Baz, Hassan Ben Bdida, Abdelghani Kitab, Ahmed Yaab, Ahmed Yarziz 

VALLEY OF SOULS  | (Tantas Almas) / Colombia, Belgium, Brazil, France
By Nicolás Rincón Gille
Starring Arley de Jesús Carvallido Lobo  

ADAM / Morocco, France, Belgium | Maryam Touzani
Starring Lubna Azabal, Nisrin Erradi, Douae Belkhaouda, Aziz Hattab, Hasna Tamtaoui 

THE IRISHMAN / USA | Martin Scorsese
Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin 

IT MUST BE HEAVEN / Elia Suleiman
Starring Elia Suleiman, Tarik Kopti, Kareem Ghneim, George Khleifi, Raiïa Haiïdar, Gael García Bernal 

KNIVES OUT / USA | Rian Johnson
Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer 

MARRIAGE STORY / USA | Noah Baumbach
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever, Azhy Robertson 

RAS EL SANA / Egypt | By Sakr
Starring Eyad Nassar, Ahmed Malek, Sherine Reda, Engy El Mokaddem, Ali Kassem 

NOURA’S DREAM | (Noura Tahlam) / Tunisia, France |  Hinde Boujemaa
Starring Hend Sabri, Lotfi Abdelli, Hakim Boumsaoudi, Imen Cherif, Saif Dhrif, Jamel Sassi 

There will also be a special selection of GALA Screenings 

ALL THIS VICTORY | Ahmad Ghossein – This Lebanese war drama won the Audience Award at this year’s Venice Critics’ Week

A SON | (Bik N’Ish) / Tunisia, France, Lebanon, Qatar | Mehdi M. Barsaoui
Starring Sami Bouajila, Najla Ben Abdallah, Youssef Khemiri, Noomen Hamda, Qasim Rawane, Slah Msaddak, Mohamed Ali Ben Jemaa 

SOUTH TERMINAL  | (Terminal Sud) / France | Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche
Starring Ramzy Bedia, Amel Brahim-Djelloul, Slimane Dazi, Salim Ameur-Zaïmeche, Nabil Djedouani 

STATE FUNERAL  | (Gosurdarstvennye Pohony) /  Ned/Lith  | Sergei Loznitsa | Doc

TALKING ABOUT TREES  | (Al-Hadith ’An Al-Ashjar) / France, Sudan, Germany, Chad, Qatar | Suhaib Gasmelbari | Doc 

WORKFORCE  | (Mano De Obra) / Mexico
By David Zonana
Starring Luis Alberti, Hugo Mendoza, Jonathan Sanchez, Horacio Celestino, Francisco Díaz 

(Jidar Al-Sawt) /LEBANON | By Ahmad Ghossein
Starring Karam Ghossein, Adel Chahine, Boutros Rouhana, Issam Bou, Khaled, Sahar Minkara, Flavia Juska Bechara 

IF ONLY  | (Magari) / Italy, France
By Ginevra Elkann
Starring Riccardo Scamarcio, Alba Rohrwacher, Ettore Giustiniani, Oro de Commarque, Millo Roussel, Celine Sallette, Brett Gelman 

MOFFIE / South Africa | Oliver Hermanus
Starring Kai Luke Brummer, Ryan de Villiers, Matthew Vey, Stefan Vermaak, Hilton Pelser 

NO. 7 CHERRY LANE | (Ji Yuan Tai Qi Hao) / Hong Kong, China | Yonfan
Starring Sylvia Chang, Zhao Wei, Alex Lam, Kelly Yao, Teresa Chung, Jiang Wen-li, Nathalie Duplessis 

OUR LADY OF THE NILE  | (Notre-Dame du Nil) / France, Belgium, Rwanda | Atiq Rahimi
Starring Santa Amanda Mugabekazi, Albina Sydney Kirenga, Angel Uwamahoro, Clariella Bizimana, Belinda Rubango Simbi, Pascal Greggory 


The Irishman (2019) *****

Dir: Martin Scorsese | Wri: Steven Zaillian | Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Bobby Cannavale, Jesse Plemons | US Crime Drama, 2019, 208mins

Much of the hype surrounding The Irishman has focused on the fact that it reunites Martin Scorsese with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for the first time since 1995’s Casino. It also throws Al Pacino into the mix, and marks a return to the mob-infused crime dramas with which Scorsese made his name. The excitement is understandable – Scorsese made a string of iconic hits while working with De Niro, and it was through these that he established himself as one of the great American filmmakers. 

And yet… Scorsese’s body of work has a depth and breadth to it which is often obscured by a focus on certain titles (notably GoodFellas, 1990), and there was, perhaps, a fear that Scorsese’s return to this world might present if not a step backwards, at least a retread of ground already covered. 

Fortunately, such worries prove to be unfounded: the world of The Irishman may be familiar – it even touches on the mob’s involvement in Las Vegas, which formed the backbone of Casino – but the tone is something new: though not without Scorsese’s trademark humour, the film trades the baroque exuberance of his earlier work for a more reflective pace, closer to the ruminations of Silence (2016) than the crashing excess of Casino. 

Spanning multiple timelines set over several decades, The Irishman spends as much time examining the wiles of old age as the wilds of youth. In parts, the film almost plays like a eulogy: throughout, Scorsese uses titles to tell us how characters will die, and the film’s focus on death and aging seems like a lament for the end of an era – of a certain type of lifestyle, and a certain type of cinema. In the past, Scorsese has faced accusations that he glamorises mobsters, but here everyone seems to end up worn out, tired or dead, as if those are the only possible outcomes. The religious angst which has fuelled Scorsese’s work since Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967) has here transmuted into a nihilistic acceptance of life as it is.

The story itself is drawn from the nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses, by former investigator Charles Brandt, and follows Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran’s career as a hitman for the mob, painting houses with other people’s blood. After being introduced by head mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci), Sheeran becomes right-hand man to Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and a loan-shark to the mob, supplying them with funds from the Union’s pension fund. As the decades pass, the mob’s machinations extend from the union to the White House, installing and removing presidents to suit their needs – an offhand remark about one of the Teamsters’ love of golf makes for some interesting contemporary commentary. 

Throughout the years, Sheeran’s conscience is troubled by disapproving glances from his daughter (for Sheeran has a personal family as well as his mobster family), but it is Sheeran’s friendships with Bufalino and Hoffa that really form the heart of the epic narrative, and which drive it towards its tragically moving conclusion. Given that the film serves, in so many ways, as a family reunion, it’s a fitting thematic thread and one which, thankfully, weaves a powerful tribute to the legacy of what’s come before it. Alex Barrett



The Forum (2019) *** DOK Leipzig 2019

Dir.: Marcus Vetter; Documentary; Germany/Switzerland 2019, 116 min.

DOK Leipzig opens with this fly on the wall look at the the World Economic Forum, a not-for-profit organisation that takes place in Davos aiming to improve the state of the world through dialogue between leaders across all areas of society. The film centres on Klaus Schwab, the 81-year-old founder of this get together. 

German filmmaker Marcus Vetter follows Schwab annual world get together is dealing with burning issues such as climate change, Brexit, the  ‘gilets jaunes’ protests in Paris, and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest among others. Trying to get inside so-called clandestine meetings, And while we learn a great deal, Schwab actually seems ambivalent about the merits of these secret get-togethers of the world’s elite – and for good reason. 

The Forum is intended to redress the imbalance between rich and poor, but history tells us that during the 50 years of the WEF’s existence, the gap between the haves and have-nots has grown exponentially – the middle classes, once the heartbeat of any society, are being slowly eroded.

Vetter sees the annual Davos meetings in a critical light, although Schwab claims he has always invited candidates seeking to question the way things are run by politicians and business leaders. There have been cancellations in the past by the self-acclaimed elite: a case in point was when Schwab invited a Brazilian Catholic leader, whose opinion were very left-wing. And while we watch Donald Trump being fawned over at the 2018 meeting, Greta Thurnberg and Jennifer Morgan of Greenpeace have much to say. The rainforest discussion between the Al Gore and the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro must also have been worthwhile.

Vetter obviously likes Schwab but he maintains his detached approach: “I believe he has achieved a lot, but that does not mean the meetings are not questionable affairs”. What is most interesting is the role of the invited CEOs. Discussed issues involving imported cotton, they dictate the terms and the many head of states concur. It is clear who is in charge and who is simply the executor of big business. The protests against climate change, Brexit and the rise of populists all over the world are directed against the current head of states, but it would be much more honest and efficient to discuss these burning issues with the CEO instead of the politicians. They can hardly be more intransigent than Donald Trump.

DoP Georg Zengerling’s images of Davos feel like a parody; the head of states arriving in their helicopters; the security details – like something out of a James Bond movie. And the small talk of the self-styled elite is no more lofty than that of a group of provincial business men. Clearly, this is not the tenor of a debate Schwab might have had in mind fifty years ago when he dreamt about how to discuss future problems and reflect; it is just an opportunity for big business, to cultivate new contacts and deals, whilst the politicians look on, waiting to be replaced without any one noticing. AS


After the Wedding (2019) ****

Dir: Bart Freundlich | Wir: Susanne Bier/Anders Thomas Jensen | Cast: Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn | US Drama 110′

One of two films out this season starring Julianne Moore. Both are remakes, but this orphanage-themed story is the one to go for.

Danish director Susanne Bier made the original ‘dogma styled’ version and was nominated for an Oscar back in 2006. The US version has two powerful female leads, and Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams make for a terrific duo as a successful business woman and a free-thinking philanthropist, respectively.

Earth mother Isobel (Williams) runs an orphanage in Kolkata, but the magnificent opening sequence has the drones sweeping in over the exotic landscape quickly establishing this as a glossy drama all about fraught relationships, love, and forgiveness rather than a grim slice of social realism. True there are some cheesy elements at the start of the film: we don’t particularly warm to Moore at first, as she sashays round her ample New York residence, nodding to domestic staff while she talks on her ‘phone. But her character soon proves to have a hidden agenda behind its rather glacial facade. She’s a wife, a mother of three and an accomplished entrepreneur married to Billy Crudup’s rather puppyish sculptor, Oscar.

Freundlich has clearly crafted Theresa with Moore in mind. She is businesslike, a loving mother to her kids and affectionate with her husband – a woman who seems to have it all – but we will later discover that she doesn’t. Her daughter (Abby Quinn) is about to get married, but she seems rather unsure of intended. But Theresa gives her plenty of cheesy assurances and she is busy organising her ridiculously lavish wedding and shooting orders at everyone in sight. At first we dislike this rather glib family.

And Isobel (Williams) isn’t much better. Although she clearly loves the beautifully polite kids in her orphanage, and particularly eight-year-old Jai (Vir Pachisia), there’s a steely dissatisfaction behind her doting gestures. And we soon discover why when she turns up in New York to take delivery of the “suitcase full of money” offered to her orphanage by a benefactor who demands a face to face meeting.

This donor turns out to be none other that Theresa. There’s a motif running through the drama that points to her sympathy for felled trees and wounded birds. But she’s also a draconian boss, and there’s a wonderful kick-ass scene involving her assistant, that you’d never get away with in Britain.

The New York scenes are typically over the top with lavish hotel suites, brands everywhere and riches beyond the dreams of avarice in Theresa’s waterfront estate. The first reveal in this strangely absorbing drama occurs when Oscar clocks Isobel at the wedding (she’s been press-ganged into attending by Theresa).

Bizarre the next reveal may be, but it certainly packs a punch. And the characters are sent reeling in disbelief and horror. At this point, Theresa decides to widen the remit of her donation, naturally with poisoned chalice conditions. Isabel may practice yoga and have a habit of kicking her shoes off without a by your leave, but she’s certainly no fool and remains skeptical of her Theresa’s motives. And with good reason. Another dramatic twist leads to the rationale behind Theresa’s erratic behaviour.

These two woman are tough as nails behind their faux sympathy. They display the spiky machiavellian capabilities of the deadlier sex. And it’s a joy to watch them in full flow in this engrossing melodrama that almost puts the BBC’s Dr Foster in the shade. Bier’s original had two male protagonists but these women are much more convincing and never fail to surprise us with their sneakiness. Although a beginner, Quinn is the only one who really displays  heartfelt feelings, but the other characters offer plenty to chew on in this meaty melodrama. MT


Cold Case Hammerskjold (2019) **** LFF 2019

Dir.: Mads Brügger, Documentary; Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Belgium 2019, 128 min.

Director/writer Mads Brügger (The Red Chapel) took six years to research the events leading up to the death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld on 18th of September 1961, near Zambia’s Ndala airport, hen part of Rhodesia. Brügger and his co-researcher Göran Björndahl literally dug into the cover-up, because even at the time of the ‘accident’ many voices, who talked about ‘murder’ not ‘accident’, were repressed. They claimed that Hammarskjöld’s aircraft was shot down by a fighter jet.

The Secretary General was on his way to a meeting with Moïse Tshombe, the rebel leader of the Katanga province, which had split from the newly formed Republic of Congo. Hammarskjöld wanted to broker a peace deal in the civil war, but Tshombe was just a puppet in the hands of the Belgium Union Minière du Haut Katanga, which was unwilling to give up the profits from the gold, diamond and uranium-rich country they had ruled for many decades. The Secretary General of the UN had made many enemies, not only in Belgium, but also in the UK and the USA, claiming “that Africa was a happy hunting ground for national interests”. During the research, the director came across the name of Jan van Risseghem, a Belgium mercenary who led the assassination mission code named “Celeste”. He planned to put a bomb in the plane, but when the explosion failed to materialised, a fighter jet shot Hammarskjöld’s plane down. A few survivors who witnessed the crash, all agree about the existence of a second plane.

Most of the material unearthed was connected with the South African spy agency South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAIMR), led by the white supremacist Keith Maxwell, who always dressed in white, with a tricorne hat and sword. SAIMR had up to 5000 employees, and was connected to the CIA, which explains the Ace of Spades playing card found on the body of Secretary General (the calling card of the CIA, but also a well known sign of danger). Maxwell was also responsible for “research” into Aids, his black victims injected with a serum intended to cure Aids. The details of the 1990 murder of Dagmar Feil, a marine biologist who worked for SAIMIR, but wanted to go public, is also part of the ‘confession’ of former SAIMR agent Alexander Jones, who seemed happy to go into details. “People are greedy. They want what other’s have. But they don’t want to pay for it”. His testimony also gives credence to the “second plane” theory, since he knew all the conspirators. Since his interview with Brügger, Jones is living at an undisclosed address.

The filmmaker has employed two black, female secretaries, Clarinah Mfengo and Saphir Wenzi Mabanza, who not only type furiously, but give Brügger ideas how to progress, and voice the interest of black people in this plot, where white men were victim and perpetrators.

The crashed airplane is still buried some four meters underground, and Brügger and his team had to stop digging it out after a few day’s work, the absolute proof of the assassination is still to be discovered, but few of those who have seen this documentary will question the theory. And even long after Tshombe’s removal, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other states of the region still suffer today, having endured civil wars for decades. AS




Venice Film Festival 2019 | Round-up

Celebrating its 76th Anniversary VENICE FILM FESTIVAL was another exciting occasion with the competition line-up featuring the latest from established directors with newcomers also presenting their work.

One of the standouts of this year’s mostra was a pre-festival showing of Gustav Machaty’s 1933 masterpiece ECSTASY which won him Best Director in the year following production,

The fun got going with The Truth by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Then amongst the Golden Lion hopefuls was maverick Roman Polanski who finally brings his biopic about another controversial figure Louis Dreyfus to the competition which ran from 28 August until 7 September on the Lido.

Adapted from Robert Harris novel J’Acuse stars Louis Garrel, Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner (aka Mme Polanski). Other high profile features were Todd Phillips’ The Joker – which won the Golden Lion and starsJoaquin Phoenix. And once again the lack of women directors in competition was flagged up, although there were plenty of female stars to be seen in the elegant hotspot on the Venetian coast. 

In the 21-strong competition line-up there was one trail-blazing female director in the shape of Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour (Wadjda) who attended to present her fourth feature The Perfect Candidate. Set in Riyadh it tells the story of a woman doctor who navigates her way through the male-dominated scenery to run for the council elections. 

Other auteurs include Czech Vaclav Marhoul with a wartime drama three hours long and ten years in the making: The Painted Bird (CZE/UKR/SLO) follows the plight of a Jewish boy on the run through Nazi Germany. The film stars Stellan Skarsgard. Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain was last in Venice with The Club, his latest sees a couple dealing with the aftermath of adoption, and Mexico stars Gael Garcia Bernal heads the cast. From Colombia Embrace of the Serpent director Ciro Guerra ups his game considerably with a starry cast of Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson and Greta Scacchi in a period drama dealing with themes of loyalty and trust in a distant outpost of the Spanish Empire. Waiting for the Barbarians is based on a novel by South African writer J M Coetzee.

In the Italian corner, there is more about the Mafia from Sicilian director Franco Moresco, who won the Orizzonti Jury prize at Venice with Belluscone. Una Storia Siciliana back in 2014. La mafia non e piu quella di una Volta is a documentary exploring the history and origins of the organisation. From China comes Ye Lou’s historical drama Saturday Fiction and Hong Kong based director Yonfan breaks his 6 year silence with No. 7 Cherry Lane that centres on a English literature tutor caught up in a love triangle with a woman pupil and her mother. And Sweden’s Roy Andersson was in attendance with About Endlessness.

Steven Soderbergh also featured in competition with Panama papers themed The Laundromat that stars Meryl Streep and David Schwimmer as journalists uncovering political tax avoidance sculduggery in the US. Noah Baumbach makes his first appearance at Venice with another domestic satire, this timed entitled Marriage Story: an insightful drama tempered with his usual brand of dark humour and a impressive cast of Laura Dern, Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver and Ray Liotta. Both these US outings are now on Netflix.

Veteran French filmmaker Robert Guedeguian presents a Marseilles-set family drama, and Olivier Assayas continues to surprises us with his versatility, this time with Wasp Network a story of intrigue involving Cuban political prisoners. Canadian director Atom Egoyan has selected an interested cast of David Thewlis, Luke Wilson and Rossif Sutherland (son of Donald) to flesh out a morally thorny story surrounding pupils in a high school. A slightly underwhelming feature that divided the critics.

Venice 76 ‘out of competition’ selection included documentaries and features –  from Alex Gibney, Costa Gavras, who tackles the Greek financial crisis in Adults in the Room; and Andrea Segre with ecological documentary Il Pianeta in Mare. Pink Floyd’s Roger Walters directs and appeared in a concert film going back over the last few years of his musical career. There was also a chance to see some remastered classics in the shape of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut; screened alongside a new doc about one of the greatest directors of all time Never Just a Dream: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut by Matt Wells. Gaspar Noé  Paolo Sorrentino and Sergei Loznitsa also featured in the out of competition competition section.

Meanwhile in the Horizons sidebar, German filmmaker Katrin Gebbe makes her feature debut with Pelican Blood starring Nina Hoss. And Alfredo Castro (from Golden Lion winner 2015 From Afar) is back to star in a psychological drama White on White from Chilean director Theo Court. MT


No. 7 Cherry Lane (HONG KONG) – Dir. Yonfan

The Laundromat (USA) – Dir. Steven Soderbergh

J’Accuse (FRA/ITA) – Dir. Roman Polanski

Joker (USA) – Dir. Todd Phillips

Babyteeth (AUS) – Dir. Shannon Murphy

Marriage Story (USA) – Dir. Noah Baumbach

Il Sindaco Del Rione Sanità (ITA) – Dir. Mario Martone

The Painted Bird (CZE/UKR/SLO) – Dir. Václav Marhoul

La Mafia Non È Più Quella Di Una Volta (ITA) – Dir. Franco Maresco

Martin Eden (ITA/FRA) – Dir. Pietro Marcello

Saturday Fiction (CHI) – Dir. Lou Ye

Ema (CHILE) – Dir. Pablo Larraín

Waiting For The Barbarians (ITA) – Dir. Ciro Guerra

Gloria Mundi (FRA/ITA) – Dir. Robert Guéndiguian

Ad Astra (USA) – Dir. James Gray

Guest Of Honour (CAN) – Dir. Atom Egoyan

Wasp Network (FRA/BEL) – Dir. Olivier Assayas

About Endlessness (SWE/GER/NOR) – Dir. Roy Andersson

The Perfect Candidate (SAU/GER) – Dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour

A Herdade (POR/FRA) – Dir. Tiago Guedes

The Truth (JAP/FRA) – OPENING FILM – Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda

Out Of Competition (fiction)

The King (UK/HUN) – Dir. David Michod

Seberg (USA) – Dir. Benedict Andrews

Vivere (ITA) – Dir. Francesca Archibugi

The Burnt Orange Heresy (USA/ITA) – CLOSING FILM – Dir. Giuseppe Capotondi

Mosul (USA) – Dir. Matthew Michael Carnahan

Adults In The Room (FRA/GRE) – Dir. Costa-Gavras

Tutto Il Mio Folle Amore (ITA) – Dir. Gabriele Salvatores

Out of Competition (non-fiction)

Il Pianeta In Mare (ITA) – Dir. Andrea Segre

Citizen K (UK/USA) – Dir. Alex Gibney

Woman (FRA) – Dir. Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Anastasia Mikova

Roger Waters Us + Them (UK) – Dir. Sean Evans, Roger Waters

I Diari Di Angela – Noi Due Cineasti. Secondo Capitolo. (ITA) – Dir. Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi

Citizen Rosi (ITA) – Dir. Didi Gnocchi, Carolina Rosi

The Kingmaker (USA) – Dir. Lauren Greenfield

State Funeral (NET/LIT) – Dir. Sergei Loznitsa

Collective (ROM/LUX) – Dir. Alexander Nanau

45 Seconds Of Laughter (USA) – Dir. Tim Robbins

Out of competition (special screenings)

No-One Left Behind (MEX) – Dir. Guillermo Arriaga

Zerozerozero – Episodes 1 & 2 (ITA) – Dir. Stefano Sollima

Electric Swan (FRA/GRE/ARG) – Dir. Konstantina Kotzamani

Irréversible – Inversion Intégrale (FRA) – Dir. Gaspar Noé

The New Pope – Episodes 2 & 7 (ITA/FRA/SPA) – Dir. Paolo Sorrentino

Never Just A Dream: Stanley Kubrick And Eyes Wide Shut (UK) – Dir. Matt Wells

Eyes Wide Shut (USA/UK) – Dir. Stanley Kubrick


Nobadi (2019) *** Toronto Film Festival 2019

Dir: Kark Markovics | Drama, Austria 83’

This darkly amusing social satire premiering at this year’s TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL is the third outing for actor turned director Karl Markovics who is also turning out to quite a talent behind the camera winning awards at Cannes, Sarajevo and Zurich for his features Breathing (2011) and Superwelt (2015).

Stunningly captured on the wide screen and in crisply shot close-up his latest NOBADI has quite a few surprises up its sleeve in a story that seems at first like a less ambitious version of The Interpreter – two characters come up against each other from across the divide – but this moral fable soon takes a much darker direction plumbing the depths of the immigrant crisis for one young man from Afghanistan.

A pithy and sardonic script and a steely central performance from veteran Austrian actor Heinz Trixner make this a winner. He plays a curmudgeonly old buffer Robert Senft who grudgingly employs a desperate manual labourer down on his luck to help him dig a hole in his back yard to bury his dead dog. After beating him down on his hourly rate, he agrees to pay a measley three euros to the well-mannered Adib (gamely played by newcomer Borhanulddin Hassan Zadeh). But as works starts the old man’s character is revealed in all its complexity. Meanwhile Adib comes across as decent and biddable. But what happens next is both unexpected and tragic allowing Markovics to make some subtle but light-hearted digs at the sad state of affairs in his native Austria. MT




Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy (2018) ***

Dir/Wri: Justin Kelly | Cast: Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, Diane Kruger, Jim Sturgess | US Biopic Dram | 108′

The story behind the literary persona JT LeRoy, created by American author Laura Albert, has certainly had some cinematic mileage. Albert took part in the documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story (2016) that screened a few years ago at the BFI Flare’s Film Festival, Here she is played by Laura Dern in Justin Kelly’s slick and lively re-imagining of one of the most brazen literary hoaxes known to mankind. Albert published three books in the early years of the 21st century, under her nom de plume JT LeRoy. They explored the life of a sexually confused teenage boy, abused in childhood. A gamine Kristen Stewart plays her sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, who comes to stay and ends up being persuaded by Albert to pose as JT for a promotional photo session. And it doesn’t end there. Dern and Stewart give luminous performances in this seamlessly pleasurable and darkly amusing drama that explores themes of gender fluidity, moral ambiguity and fraud. MT

Oroslan (2019) Locarno Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Matjaz Ivanisin; Cast: Bela Ropoa, Margit Gyecsek, Erzebet Ropos, Micka Ropos, Ferenc Rogan, Ilonka Braunstein; Slovenia/Czech Republic 2019, 72 min.

Writer/director Matjaz Ivanisin follows his critically acclaimed documentary Playing Men with a haunting portrait of loss in a small town Slovenia. Adapted from Zdravko Dusa’s short story ‘And That is Exactly How it Was’ Ivanism slowly pieces together the events leading up to the recent demise of a villager in a mystery that plays out like game of Poker, his life story seeping out despite the blank faces and evasiveness of his fellow townsmen.  

Ivanisin sets the scene in the slow-burning opening sequences gradually building up a picture of this tight-lipped community: in a community kitchen, meals are prepared in huge thermos flasks which are carefully put into a delivery van. A driver then drops these off at the various different houses. And slowly they are taken in – all apart from one household. Not long after a local woman knocks at the door of the house in question and her suspicions are aroused when she gets no answer. Dropping round at the pub to see what gives, she raised the alarm and several men trudge round to the house to make further enquiries.

This is a remote and close-knit village where news travels fast, and soon we see a body being removed from the house. It later emerges that Oroslan had a son and he starts to share his grief with the others revealing more information about his father’s private life with a woman called Irwanka, who could have become his stepmother. “But I made sure that they could not marry, and my father never forgave me”. More and more seeps out: his father’s alcoholism and epileptic fits.  A neighbouring woman tells the story about Oroslan passing out one day after a fit, and waking up to imagine himself in Heaven, because the woman was wearing white. Anecdotes and more snippets of information gradually seep out about his work and love life. Poignantly, an Alsatian waits outside the old man’s house waiting ruefully for his return.

Oroslan is brief but affecting despite its compact running time, certainly living up to the title of the short story: in just seventy-two minutes, a whole life is captured. Gregor Bozic’s grainy 16mm camera sketches out the intimate character of the narrative. Bold and sensitive, this is a little gem. AS


Technoboss (2019) Locarno Film Festival 2019

Dir: Joao Nicolau | Miguel Lobo Antunes | Portugal/France | Drama 112mins

Joao Nicolau’s musical bittersweet tragedy could be described as the sentimental swan song of a technophobe – quite literally. It witnesses the slow death of a salesman, but this Willy Loman is defiantly not going to give up without a struggle. Luis Rovisco (Lobo Antunes) is an endearing old buffer who is nearing retirement after dedicating his life to one company. His marriage is over so a paperback book keeps him company on lonely nights on the road, when he’s not bursting into impromptu bouts of song at every opportunity.

Naturally, he suffers the usual aches and pains of late middle age. And rather like Victor Meldrew he finds technology challenging to say the least: bank codes and car-parking barriers often get the better of him. But he’s no fool when it comes to dealing with old-fashioned paperwork and his verbal dexterity and negotiating skills serve him well and could run rings around many a digital native when it comes to servicing his clients.

Newcomer Miguel Lobo Antunes throws himself into the role with gusto and is totally unselfconscious in this inventive musical hybrid – which takes a bit of getting used to, and may not appeal to everyone with its slightly 1970s look. Although the film is overlong, Nicolau’s characterisation keeps us engaged because Luis feels like a real person – he may even be someone you know. His natural joie de vivre and charisma is infectious as the story wears on, Luis embodying the ideal salesman with his positive manner. And when he meets up again with a previous flame in the shape of a rather reluctant Lucinda (Luisa Cruz), who works in one of his regular haunts romance may even be on the cards again: If he can close any sale, let’s hope it’s this one. MT



The Apprentice | l’Apprendistato (2019) Locarno Film Festival

Dir: Davide Maldi | Doc Italy 84’

At dusk, fourteen-year-old Luca carries food into his family’s cowshed for the last time. His life in the mountains is about to come to an end: he is enrolling in catering school to learn the trade as quickly as possible.

Doing things properly will never go out of fashion, and this is particularly true when it comes to the art of serving in hotels and eating establishments. But is this kind of work still feasible in the 21st century where machines are gradually taking over. As a “a democratic republic founded on work”. Italy has always prided itself on a reputation for stratospheric standards of service. \working in the hospitality industry is a highly respectable career and serving is an art to be proud of. Hotel School has always been one of the popular options after schooldays are over.

Davide Maldi’s third feature, a docu-drama, follows a group of young apprentices at hotel school and Luca Tufano  is one of them. The young men – there are only two girls on the course – learn basic skills such as how to serve and prepare food at the table, to balance a tray, and take an order/booking over the telephone, but there is much more to learn apart from these obvious ones. The school is renowned for its strict teaching methods: students learn that the customer is king and the source of their income. The lessons on cooking, dining room etiquette, law and religion, repeated day after day, make them endlessly confront their weaknesses, insecurities and abilities. At the end of the year Luca, immaculate in his black uniform with shiny shoes, will walk into the great hall and face the first test of his new career as a waiter and future maître d’hôtel – even though his lack of people skills makes him a non-starter for this type of career. Maldi shows Maldi’s handles his subject matter with mastery and breathing dark humour into this absorbing story of the making of servants and masters. MT


Prazer, Camarades!| A Pleasure Comrades! (2019) Locarno Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Jose Filipe Costa; Cast: Cecilia Rodrigues, Eduarda Rosa, Joao Azevedo, Jose Avelino, Amanda Booth; Portugal 2019, 104 min.

Director Jose Filipe Costa (Red Line) adapts Antonio Rodriguez’ play entitled ’25th April in a rural Village’ and transforms into a provocative feature, exploring how the rural population reacted to the Portuguese revolution of 1974. Often funny, but very much in a Brechtian mood, it confronts the real world with the wishful perspective of revolutionaries from home and abroad. Once again, town and country collide, as we’ve experienced in Brexit.

The protagonists from 1975 have aged considerably: we meet them travelling in a camper van (which breaks down) and by train. Mick, who came from London when he was eighteen, was one the many foreigners entering the country to live a proper revolutionary life: “I did’nt think revolution was possible in Europe, I thought, it could happen only in South America”. Others come from Berlin and France, they all are meeting in Cova da Piedale, where their Luar Cell are building a hospital for gynaecology and paediatric services.

As the outsiders gain a grasp of Portuguese, it soon becomes clear that the village males have no intention of doing any housework.  The women, who also have to milk the lambs, work in the fields and look after the children. A meeting of the group is called, where the men will have to defend their laziness. Instead they spend their time in ‘creative pursuits’, writing pornographic poems – and teasing their wives about them lacking a sense of humour. The foreign women quote Reich, the inventor of Orgastic Potency, which will ‘help to bring about World Revolution’.

On the ground, men are told to do the washing up and when they refuse, one of the women gets out the dice, and three men end up with the lowest score. Embarrassed they head for the sink.  But while the village women toil away every Saturday doing the washing by hand – the men spend their work-free weekend in the café. The Portuguese men start to blame the European women for the gentle uprising amongst their other halves. who complain “even the young boys behave like domineering tyrants.” The lack of sex-education and a repressive sex life seriously undermines the females’ quality of life. And in a play put on by the group, the men are  seen defending the dictator Caetano, who had been brought down in 1974.

Finally in November 1975, a radio broadcast announces the Portuguese state’s expulsion of all foreign revolutionaries, “because of their destabilising interference in this country’s politics”. The village men let some of their foreign counterparts stay (even though Mick has to cut his hair short). But the women will go. There is a short scene near the end when in one of the last public meetings, the mayor declares “servants do not exist any more after the revolution”.

Costa and DoP Hugo Azevedo have used close-up intimacy and theatrical effects to show the lack of real change. Patriarchal power has not diminished, and the status quo remains unchanged: it seems that the women are prepared to except things just the way they always were. And this was very much the case with Gramsci in rural areas of Southern Italy, progressive forces have had very little impact in rural Portugal. Costa’s lesson needs to be heeded – in any society – before it can claim to be liberated from feudal structures. MT


Holiday (2018) ****

Dir/Writer: Isabella Eklöf, Wri: Johanne Algren| Cast: Thijs Romer, Victoria Carmen Sonne, Lai Yde | Thriller | Danish | 112′

If you’re worried about the current state of male empowerment this film from Denmark will adjust the skewered perception, in this year’s BFI London Film Festival showing, that women are somehow pulling rank in the pecking order and getting too big for their boots.

HOLIDAY certainly makes for uncomfortable viewing and there are some shockingly sadistic pornorgraphic scenes that are by no means gratuitous, and are actually pivotal to the plot. It’s the debut feature of writer and director Isabella Eklöf who co-wrote Cannes winner Border and also worked on Tomas Alfredson’s lugubrious vampire standout, Let the Right One In. Her third outing at the LFF is a stunning looking but savage satire that explores sexual abuse and domination.

Some may say HOLIDAY overplays its hand in its overlong preamble, making us wait nearly a hour before the feisty finale kicks in. But this torpid first hour allows Eklof and her co-writer Johanne Algren to set the scene for a devastating denouement by slathering her thriller with rich layers of texture, establishing the lowlife criminal ethos of the humans to just how boring and beastly they have become. The venal antihero Michael (Lai Yde) plays a Danish drug baron who has taken call-girl Sascha (a well-cast ectomorph Victoria Carmen Sonne) for a break in a Villa in Bodrum. While he does ‘a bit of business’, she suns herself by the pool with a motley crew of family members and hoodlums. Crude is very much the watchword in HOLIDAY. These mindless meatheads are be-decked in timepieces the size of telephones, garish trainers and vulgar designer labels such as Philip Pleinn.

In the opening scenes Sascha rocks up at the Turkish airport wearing a platinum hairpiece showing more black roots than Kunta Kinte. Her personality could be best described as vacant, she is an symbol of female submission, and for most of the film she is as naive as Bambi. But something is clearly ticking away in her reptilian brain that makes her strike out like a cobra when we’re least expecting it. Once ensconsed in the villa, Sascha has her work cut out dealing with the macho Michael who flexes his muscles with regular psychotic outbursts that end in abusive sex. This is the school of hard-knocks and not even Michael’s henchman escape a bloody good hiding when they overstep the mark. The only sights Sascha sees in the ancient Turkish port are expensive jewellery shops and lap-dancing clubs. She is there as an extension of Michael’s ego: when he’s feeling good she gets a hug or some emerald earrings (“they’re more expensive than diamonds”); when he’s feeling bad she gets a punch in the nose or even worse. But never is there meaningful sex.

On the contrary, the two have no emotional bond, but control freak that he is, Michael soon asserts his authority when Sascha strikes out on her own, and is drawn to an attractive Dutchman, Thomas (Thijs Romer), whose yacht is moored in the marina. At first it feels like she’s looking for a life raft, and escape route from Michael – but not a bit of it. Sasha flirts with Thomas, but her goal is to garner the emotional strokes she craves, feeding her latent narcissism.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Michael takes another bad mood out on Sascha, roughing her up and then abusing her sexually on the cold marble floor. The violent release gives Michael a psychopathic high and he falls asleep feeling totally fulfilled in her annihilation. Sascha soaks up the intended rejection that enforces her own lack of self esteem: the two are one. Victorious, Michael now has to lift his leg, metaphorically speaking, on Thomas. Arranging a quiet tête à trois, with the subtext of discussing yachts, Michael invites the unsuspecting Dutchman to join him and Sascha for dinner. In an act of vicois bravado, he then flagrantly humiliates both of them, and Thomas rapidly gets his coat.

The material in this uncomfortable but brilliant film could to be developed into others of the genre, if Eklöf so desires, and let’s hope she does. As female writers go, she is certainly on a par with Patricia Highsmith in her ability to create psychological complexity and conjure up tightly-plotted thrillers in glamorous surroundings, as demonstrated in this dynamite debut. MT

ON RELEASE from FRIDAY 2 August 2019




Hard Paint | Tinta Bruta (2018) ***

Dir/Writers| Filipe Matzembacher, Marcio Reolon | Cast: Shico Menegat, Bruno Fernandes, Guega Peixoto, Sandra Dani, Frederico Vasques, Denis Gosh, Camila Falcao, Aurea Baptista, Larissa Sanguine, Ze Adao Barbosa

Contrary to its flamboyant sounding title, Hard Paint sees a soulful young loner seeking seclusion in the virtual world of gay chatrooms until his colourful cover is blown with mixed consequences.

This visually alluring and sensually suggestive character study unravels in Brazil’s Porto Alegre were the troubled protagonist has reinvented himself as an online performer when his actual life disappoints him sexually and socially. But despite his vulnerable appearance Pedro (Shico Menegat) has developed a an emotional toughness that serves him well in his harsh contemporary surroundings where his androgynous appearance and pretty boy tousled locks are often viewed with contempt, desire and even open hostility.

Told in three chapters, the film is shot in intimate close up but also gets out and about in the locale capturing the skyline of this southernmost Brazilian city. The first chapter is dedicated to Pedro’s sister Luiza (Guega Peixoto), who has supported him through thick and thin and is now leaving to work in another part of Brazil, and his parents are no longer on the scene. The subdued daytime scenes provide a rhythmic counterpoint to his graphic love-making with rival Leo (Bruno Fernandes), and the dreamlike chatroom sequences where his body glows with florescent paint as he gyrates to electronic vibes.

But Leo is also competing with him online as Boy25, and he forms the subject of Chapter 2. Leo wants to move from the downmarket Porto Alegre to the bright lights of BA where he hopes to take up a dance scholarship, and soon the two are performing as a double act online, and making money. Pedro must now clear up some legal business relating to a serious road accident. Leo seems supportive as the couple’s online and offline lives start to be mutually beneficial and they share a palpable onscreen chemistry in graffic sex scenes which incredibly authentic.

Neon Boy is the appropriately titled enigmatic Third Chapter where Pedro faces the music, and the music starts to become a more noticeable part of the film. The gloves are now off and the real Pedro is revealed in some scenes of heightened drama. The weak may look vulnerable but they are often the strongest people around. MT



A Short Film About Killing (1988) | KROTKI FILM O ZABIJANIU

Dir.: Krzysztof Kieslowski; Cast: Miroslaw Baka, Krzyztof Globisz | Poland 1988, 84 min.

So powerful was the effect of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s graphic description of violence in eighties Warsaw that the Polish authorities declared a five-year moratorium on capital punishment. Forty minutes go by before the first murder: a nearly botched attempt, mercilessly shown in all the gory detail. The second killing is just the opposite: a professional job, executed by the hangman in cold blood, but much more gruesome than the first one. A rope is used in both cases, but there all similarities end.

Jacek (Baka) is a young man lost in the high-rise concrete that is Warsaw in 1988. The camera encircles him like an animal in a laboratory. He is alienated, has lost nearly all contact to friends and family, life has been sucked out of him. When he kills the taxi driver without an obvious motive it may seem senseless to the audience, but for Jacek it is only just one more unexplainable act in a chain of events he cannot comprehend any more. Jacek’s lawyer in the forthcoming murder trial, Piotr Balicki, (Globisz) is just his opposite. Not much older than the murderer he is defending, Piotr has just finished law school and is a ferocious opponent of the death penalty. He is full of idealism with his life stretching out in front of him in a clear path: he wants to do good. But he too will be scarred by the case; he stands no chance in the courtroom and for the rest of his life he will suffer from this defeat.

Kieslowski shows a grim world; children play with dead cats in dark backyards – the light seems a predominantly nauseous green, as in a  morgue. Jacek is a product of this society – we should not be surprised that he acts out his inner hollowness in this way. Many reviewers saw this film as a condemnation of the death penalty (which was only abolished in Poland in 1997), but it is more realistic to assume that Kieslowski wanted to show that Stalinism had hit rock bottom – a year before the system finally collapsed.

Both leads give dynamite performances. The camera shows this Dantesque Inferno with panoramic shots and close-ups. Jacek is cold-eyed and ashen-faced throughout. The portrait of a dying world in which murder, in whichever form it takes, is as normal as clocking-in for work. AS


Locarno International Film Festival 2019

New artistic director Lili Hinstin unveils her eclectic mix of films for the 72nd Locarno Film Festival which runs from 7 until 17 August in its luxurious lakeside location. Locarno is known for its edgy profile and this year will be no different: Films by established auteurs Koji Fukada, Asif Kapadia, Kiyoshi Kurosawa will screen alongside an inventive array of undiscovered newcomers and sophomore cinema in a selection that embraces traditional stories and more experimental and avantgarde fare.

Hinstin takes over from Carlo Chatrian, who served as artistic director of Locarno since 2013 and now returns to the Berlinale. Hinstin is the 13th artistic director of the Locarno Festival since it was founded in 1946 and is only the event’s second female artistic director following on from Irene Bignardi (2000-5).

The largest open air cinema space in Europe, the Piazza Grande, will welcome up to 8,000 viewers for 19 full-length, 2 short films, and 6 Crazy Midnight, a total 11 world premieres. The magnificent state of the art Grand Rex cinema will pay host to this year’s Retrospective BLACK LIGHT conceived by Greg de Cuir Jr. showcasing international 20th century black cinema with stars such as Pam Grier, Ousmane Sembene, Spike Lee and Euzhan Palcy who will introduce his restored print of Rue Cases-Negres.

There will be another chance to see Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Luebbe DeBoer’s Sundance breakout Greener Grass and Kapadia’s Cannes documentary Maradona, along with the Joseph Gordon-Levitt-starring hijack thriller-drama 7500, Carice Van Houten-starring Instinct, and British comedian Simon Bird’s directorial debut Days Of The Bagnold Summer. Making its world premiere is also the  intriguing Italian horror feature The Nest from Roberto de Feo whose 2010 short film Ice Scream was one of the most awarded worldwide during the year of its launch.

Films in the main competition vying for the Golden Leopard include the latest crop of South American stories: The Fever from Brazilian director Maya Da-Rin sees a disillusioned man hovering between reality and a dreamlike existence; from Argentina Maura Delpero’s Hogar (Home) is set in present day Buenos Aires where two homeless teenagers are bringing up their kids in a religious institution run by Italian nuns. Icelandic director Runar Runarsson (Sparrows) will be there with his latest Echo. The first ever Locarno competition film in Gallego entitled Longa Noite (Endless Night) is a second surreal feature from Spanish director Eloy Enciso; and previous Golden Leopard winner Pedro Costa (Horse Money) is back with a Cape Verdean set drama Vitalina Varela. Activist and award-winning animator Mina Mileva and her Bulgarian co-director Vesela Kazakova have filmed their realist drama Cat in the Wall in Peckham, London. It follows the trials and tribulations of a mother and her daughter.

This year’s Cineasti del Presenti, a sidebar dedicated to original and Avantgarde cinema, includes works from acclaimed actress Jeanne Balibar – Merveilles à Montfermeil, and Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter’s Space Dogs explores the work of Laika, the first canine astronaut. Matjaz Ivanisin’s debut drama Oroslan shows how traditional mourning rituals help to heal the community’s grief in a village in Slovenia. From the magical midsummers of American teenagers in Tyler Taormina’s Ham on Rye to Klaudia Reynicke’s surreal female-centric drama Love me Tender– these are just some of the films in a programme full of daring inventiveness.

The President of the main competition jury will be Catherine Breillat, and she is joined by this year’s guests: Mathieu Amalric, Bi Gan, Bong Joon-ho, Denis Cote, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Maren Ade, Jake Perlin, Bi Gan, Aline Schmid, Alba Rohrwacher, Hilary Swank and Bela Tarr and John Waters whose will receive a Leopard of Honour for his daring, outrageous, often hilarious work: “Somehow I became respectable…What the hell has happened!”



My Friend the Polish Girl (2018) ***

Dir.: Ewa Banasziewicz, Mateusz Dymek; Cast: Aneta Piotrowska, Emma Feldman-Cohen, Daniel Barry, Max Davies; UK 2018, 87 min.

Ewa Banasziewicz and Mateusz Dymek have directed written and produced this sometimes uneven cinema verite style mockumentary that explores whether the documentary form can ever be objective: or does the filmmaker always influence the outcome with their own subjectivity? Shot mostly in black-and-white by Dymek, with enchanting animation by Mathieu Rok, My Friend is aesthetically much more convincing than its sometimes questionable narrative.

New York filmmaker Katie (Friedman-Cohen) lives in London where she picks the Polish actor, thirty-something Alicja (Piotrowska), as the central focus for her Brexit-themed documentary. But nothing goes to plan: first of all Alicja, (who is living with her boyfriend (Barry) in the Edgware Road), tells Katie that he is suffering from terminal cancer. Michael then denies the gravity of his illness and moves out, not wanting to be filmed by a very intrusive Katie. The two women have not always got on together so Katie decides “to change” Alicja’s life, by introducing her to a group of filmmakers at the Groucho Club. Alicja is going to play a Russian prostitute (her seventh casting in this role), and shooting is due to commence, but when it does, Michael’s condition worsens with Alicja trying in vain to stop the cancer by buying expensive alternative medicines from a Harley Street doctor. To no avail, he dies and at the rather embarrassing wake for Michael, she meets his friend Max (Davies), who stays the night. By now, Katie has moved in with her girlfriend, both declaring they are misfits. But when Alicja is suddenly fired from the film set, she also runs away from Katie who is forced to use a false ending (Alicja’s suicide) to finish her film. 

Despite their best intentions the portrayal of the complicated relationship between documentary filmmakers and their subjects sometimes falls victim to rather bad taste, such as in the faux-sex scene between the two women in Alicja’s bedroom. But the female leads are so convincing in portraying their obsessive relationship they somehow manage to overcome this setback. Overall, My Friend is a brave attempt to discuss the essence of documentary filmmaking, and, in spite of everything, it is a very worthwhile watch. AS


Patrick | De Patrick (2019) Bfi Player

Dir: Tim Mielants; Cast: Kevin Janssens, Josse de Pauw, Hannah Hoekstra, Jemaine Clement Katelinje Damen, Ariane van der Velt, Pierre Bokma; Belgium 2019, 97 min.

Peaky Blinders’ Tim Mielants won the directing prize at Karlovy Vary for this subversive tragicomedy that takes place in a Belgian nudist camp fraught with scheming machiavellians.

In his late thirties the naive main character Patrick (Janssens) is still living with his father Rudy (de Pauw) and blind mother Nelly (Damen). They run a summer camp fraught with  scantily dressed, middle-aged holiday-makers. Rudy is on his last legs but his son has no aptitude for business, and so he relies on Herman (Bokma), whose wife Liliane (Van Welt) projects her lust on the undersexed Patrick.

Into this bizarre environment comes Natalie (Hoekstra) whose unfaithful musician boyfriend Dustin (Clement) immediately strikes up a relationship with another adoring female. So Natalie decides to turn her attentions to Patrick whose sideline as a joiner now becomes central to the narrative, and the tool of his trade, a hammer, one of the main protagonists. When Rudy dies, Herman and Liliane plan to take over the place, declaring Patrick ‘not fit for purpose’, in running the camp’s affairs – not least because his hammer was the weapon of choice in a catastrophe that cost the commune their entire funds. It soon emerges that the hammer was also the weapon used in a murder in Brussels.

Even though the naturalists proclaim to be progressive, they are really straight out of the 1950s. Mielants’ humour does not always come off, and De Patrick often feels repetitive – the running time could be tightened up a tab. But there are enough contradictions to keep the show on the road, and Janssens makes for a brilliant anti-hero. AS


Half Sister (2019) Polsestra **** Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Damjan Kozole; Cast: Ursa Menart, Liza Marijina, Jurij Drevensek, Peter Musevski; Republic of Macedonia/Serbia/Slovenia; 105 min.

Another tightly controlled and intriguing drama from veteran documentarian Damjan Kozole, who won best director at Karlovy Vary with Nightlife in 2016 . 

Irena and Nezha, the titular half-sisters hate each others guts – but when push comes to shove, blood proves thicker than life-long animosities. Irina (Menart) works in the local hairdressers: she is protected from the outside world by a half-open jalousie. And it soon emerges why. 

Separated from her violent husband Branco (Drevensek), she is looking for a place to stay and visits her mother. Clearly moving in with her mother is no option, the two have a fractured relationship and the same goes for her father handball coach Silvio (Musevski) who ran off with an Albanian woman when Irena was a little girl. But one of her half-sisters Anisa (Marijina) is moving to Ljubljana to study for an MA in communications, so she asks her father if she could live shares the flat with her rival Nezha, a tomboyish aggressor, who has a knife handy wherever she goes. Nezha immediately blames Silvo (who pays the rent) and Irena for setting her up. But blaming everybody – apart from her dog Jimmy – is Nezha’s default position in life. A vegan (for environmental reasons) she attacks Irena full on: “If Dad wasn’t such a pussy, he’d put you in a nuthouse”. Irena answers with well trained passive-aggressiveness. But when Branco assaults Irena, breaking her nose, the dynamic changes, Nezha going on the attack to defend Irena to the last.

Half-Sister is a brilliant character study, the near-perfect script an exception in today’s landscape of ‘atmospheric non-narratives”. DoP Miladin Colakovic’s intimate camera conveys the emotional range of the rollercoaster, and despite of the antagonistic characters involved, one cannot help but smile. Finally, Menart and Marijina gives remarkable performances, playing off each other like the real thing. AS

Karlovy Vary FILM FESTIVAL 2019 | Until 7 July 2019



El Hombre del Futuro (2019) *** Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Felipe Rios Fuente; Cast: Antonia Giesen, Jose Soza, Maria Alche, Roberto Farias; Chile 2019, 96 min.

Director/co-writer Felipe Rios Fuente’s debut feature is beautiful to look at, but based on a rather misplaced ideology. Somehow his melancholic defence of absent fathers, caught up in their so-called independence, sticks a the throat: even in Chile, country of machismo, a little more honesty would be welcome.

We meet Elena (Giesen) at high school in Cochrane, north Chile, were she discusses her future with a friend. Not much of an academic Elena has set her heart on professional boxing. Sadly this becomes a pipe dream when she heads down south to a match in the wilderness of Patagonia. Meanwhile her biological father Michelsen (Soza), whom she has not seen since her childhood, is coming to the end of his life. He seems resigned to his fate setting off on his final trip taking sheep to Patagonia and on the way picks up a young hitchhiker, Maxi (Alche). At the same time Cuatro Dedos (Farias) picks up Elena. ‘Four Fingers’ is a younger version of Michelsen, he knows that Elena is Michelsen’s daughter, whom he holds in near mythical regard. Somehow, via the hauler’s radio system, Elena sends a message to her father. He arrives in time to see her beaten up in the ring by Patagona, a much heavier woman, who is supported by the local crowd. Elena and Michelsen now travel together, deliver the sheep, and try to come to terms with their relationship. Michelsen insists he never gave up being Elena’s father, but she reminds him he never knew her at all. Fuente insists on a reconciliation, but his pleas are hollow.

The beauty of the wilderness of Patagonia is captured on spectacular widescreen images by DoP Eduardo Bunster. Fuente’s opaque choice of the title is as superfluous as his insistence that old men should be forgiven for leaving their families. Four Finger and his hero Michelsen want their freedom and independence to roam the country, but leave the responsibility of childcare to the abandoned wives. They might talk about love for those left behind, but the words are empty. Elena’s dislocation is a result of her father’s negligence, and however hard Fuente tries to romanticise their relationship, his choice of independence has certainly created her emotional insecurity. AS














The Last Autumn | Sidasta Haustio (2019) Bergamo Film Meeting

Dir.: Yrsa Roca Fannberg; Documentary with Ulfare Eyjolfsson, Oddny Snjolang Bordardottir; Iceland 2019, 78 min.

Icelandic writer/director Yrsa Roca Fannberg follows Salome with this thematically related story set in the Icelandic arctic ocean village of Norourfjordur where a couple are getting ready to sell their sheep. This is their last autumn on the farmland they have occupied all their lives, and their daughter and grandchildren, who live in Reykjavik, come and pay their final farewells.

The black and white footage of the opening sequences reflects their contented past, the rough landscape and the sea, making an imposing background where humans are dwarfed by mother nature. Soon we switch to colour and intimate domestic interiors where Ulfar and Oddny are listening to a radio broadcast about the ecological tragedy that led to the entire population of Iceland being evacuated to Denmark after a volcano eruption during the18th century.

The old sheep dog Loppa watches Ulfar bottle-feed two lambs. Later, he drives out to sea in his fishing boat coming back with a decent catch, then cutting wood to repair the barn wall – even though he knows very well that there will be no more sheep to shelter there. His daughter arrives on a small plane and they reminisce about the barn repairs: “It is beautiful to sustain life, even if it is not for yourself”.

This honest existence has been the mainstay of their lives together, but eventually the day arrives for them to round up the sheep. Loppa, his master and some other farmers go into the mountains to collect the animals, about 75 of them, herd them into the barn, and then huge travel containers. Ulfar seems to live in the past, his only contact with the outside world is the radio which brings news of those who have recently passed away. Afterwards Ulfar gives his granddaughter a ride on the tractor regaling her with an old fairy tale about Vera, a woman who fell down the cliffs.

Focusing on long panoramic panning shots, and connecting with the narrative of surviving communities and rural existence this is a melancholic journey. Carlos Vasquez’ images focus on the close interaction of humans and nature, showing that animals are far more intelligent than we often give them credit for. The relationship between Ulfare and his dog is particularly close. Dialogue is sparing reflecting the importance of action and reflection rather than ideas. Fannberg handles this slow-burner with care and patience, every shot has a function – an enchanting portrait of another disappearing world. AS


Projectionist (2019) **** Karlovy Vary 2019

Dir: Yuriy Shilov | Doc with Valentin Speshylov, Volodymyr Mak, Halyna Speshylova, Yuri Speshylov | Ukraine/Poland 78’

64 years is the average life expectancy for a man in Ukraine. And Valentin is heading that way. Pleasant and voluble with his twinkling eyes and broad smile, he has spent most of his working life as projectionist at Kiev’s oldest cinema the Kinopanorama, that opened in 1958.

Preoccupation with his mother has clearly dogged and dominated his personal life. A chain smoker with false teeth – at one point he’s seen popping them in and swigging the cleaning fluid – he loves to visit the dancing girls in the next door casting agency nearby the cramped flat shares with his ageing mother who is confined to bed with chronic constipation. But Valentin is not the only colourful character, in this picaresque and gently humorous debut from promising Ukrainian filmmaker Yuriy Shilov, Valentin’s neighbour Silpa is a batty lonely old man who dyes his hair and drinks himself to oblivion.

Camerawork lends a voyeuristic feel to the semi darkness of pokey place where Valentin’s friends pass by to say hello through the brightness of the open window. Kiev is seen crumbling in its former grandeur, Valentin and his pals the idiosyncratic old guard keeping the show on the road in a rapidly changing world while several widescreen panoramas reflect the sheer vastness of Ukraine’s capital city with its traditional curative baths and magnificent Dnieper River, the fourth longest in Europe

But when the Kinopanorama finally goes up in smoke one night, its clearly time for Valentin to seek pastures new and this amiable Ukrainian is very much game. MT

KARLOVY VARY FILM FESTIVAL | 28 June – 7 July 2019

Venezia (2019) Edinburgh Film Festival 2019

Dir: Rodrigo Guerrero | Cast: Paula Lussi, Margherita  Mannino | Drama Argentina, France, Italy 75’

At the start of Rodrigo Guerrero’s atmospheric drama VENEZIA, Sofia (Paula Lussi) lies on a bed in a hotel room, sobbing gently and utterly alone. Her mobile buzzes, but she doesn’t answer. Later, as we see her pace through the winding, narrows streets of the eponymous city, the cause of her tears and solitude is slowly revealed, her loneliness signalling an absence in her life – and an absence felt in the film itself, for the story begins in media res, with a slow-burning sense of uneasy mystery.

As such, the opening raises a string of active questions whichwould not feel out of place in a thriller, but Guerrero instead uses these intrigues as hooks by which to propel an engrossing character study – a portrait of a lost woman attempting to find solace and understanding for what life has thrown her way.

Thankfully, and in contrast to so many other recent films, the opaqueness gradually lightens, allowing us a rich understanding of the problems faced by Sofia, as wonderfully conveyed through Lussi’s hypnotic performance. Indeed, the film’s only slight misstep is the inclusion of a scene which takes the focus momentarily away from Sofia, to give us an unnecessary insight into the life of Francesca (Margherita Mannino), one of several characters who Sofia encounters as she drifts through the city – for this is Sofia’s story, and it’s in following the minutiae of her journey (physical and emotional) that the film excels.

Filmed in striking 1.33:1 images, Venezia‘s evocative, observational style follows in the arthouse tradition which is too often described as ‘detached’ – it would be better, and more accurate, to say that Guerrero’s engrossing, tender film is unsentimental and devoid of emotional manipulation, and that it’s all the more impactful as a result. Understated and light on dialogue, Venezia reminds us that, so often, less is more – and, with a slender runtime of just 75 minutes, it also offers a further rejoinder to the bloated nature of much contemporary cinema. A real, subtle gem.

Elsewhere in the programme, Sasha Collington’s LOVE TYPE D offered a very different, and much more light-hearted, portrait of a lonely woman: Frankie (Maeve Dermody), who has just been dumped for the 11th time in a row. Discovering a scientific theory that suggests her run of bad luck may be the result of genetics and, more specifically, a ‘loser in love‘ gene, Frankie sets about trying to cure herself. Slightly more high-concept than your average rom-com, Love Type D offers plenty of laughs and entertainment, frivolous though it may all be. ALEX BARRETT


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.


Blancanieves (2012) **** Edinburgh Film Festival

Dir: Pablo Berger | Cast: Maribel Verdu, Emilio Gavira, Daniel Gimenez Cacho | Spain Drama 110’

A bittersweet homage to the Golden Age of Spanish silent cinema, Pablo Berger’s intoxicating Gothic fantasy relocates the tale of Snow White to a sweepingly romantic vision of 1920s Seville, where a little girl overcomes cruel adversity to find fame as a bullfighter.

Tinged with melancholy and the macabre, along the lines of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, Blancanieves is delicately rendered in elegant black and white and set to Alfonso de Vilallonga’s lush score.

Carmen (played by Sofia Oria as a child and Macarena Garcia in later life) is the daughter of a proud and famous bullfighter who is paralysed in the ring.  After her mother’s death in childbirth, her father remarries unwisely to Marbel Verdu’s spiteful and self-centred virago Encarna. She neglects both Carmen and her father who later dies leaving the little girl at her mercy.  In this version six miniature bullfighters take the role of the seven dwarfs who come to Carmen’s rescue after finding her abandoned one day by Encarna. She is re-named ‘Blancanieves’.

As the story progresses, the production is slightly hampered by tonal differences as heightened melodrama struggles with Gothic and surreal fantasy to create slightly off-key episodes of banal humour which detract from the graceful delicacy of Kiko de la Rica’s cinematography.  A passionate and inspired creation, nevertheless, with the fresh appeal of The Artist tweaked with touches of Buñuel: it has certainly won the hearts of the Festival Circuit Juries winning no less than 33 awards in one year for script, score, cinematography, cast and costumes. Snow White has never looked so good!. MT

BLANCANIEVES screening on 22 June 2019 at EIFF | Part of the Once Upon a Time in Spain Strand


Edinburgh Film Festival 2019 – New Films

Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is taking place between 19th and 30th June. This year the Festival will screen around 121 new features, including 18 feature film World Premieres from across the globe.

This year the focus is Spain and there will be a particular emphasis on genre films from women directors from around the world, ranging from gothic romance and Western chills through to science fiction and old-fashioned horror. All this set alongside a tribute to French filmmaker Agnès Varda, a woman who has inspired generations of directors.

There will be guests including one of Britain’s most successful directors, Danny Boyle, award-winning actor and producer Jack Lowden, British documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield and Scottish writer, director and actor Pollyanna McIntosh who also brings her latest film, Darlin’ to this year’s EIFF, and director, actor, writer and producer Icíar Bollaín. 

The festival will screen the world premiere of Adrian Noble’s Mrs Lowry & Son, starring Timothy Spall as the iconic painter L S Lowry, and Vanessa Redgrave. The Black Forest described as a ‘love letter to Europe’ from writer-director Ruth Platt; and coming-of-age supernatural love story Carmilla from director Emily Harris.

The EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES strand features: Elfar Adalsteins’ End of Sentence where a bickering father and son from America take a road trip in Ireland; The Emperor of Paris starring Vincent Cassel will receive its UK Premiere at the Festival alongside Rudolph Herzog’s amusing How to Fake a War starring Katherine Parkinson and Aniara, an epic science-fiction drama about a passenger spaceship lost in the void, as well as titles including Barbara Vekarić’s Aleksi from Croatia; Susanne Heinrich’s Aren’t You Happy? from Germany and Swiss psychological drama Cronofobia. Audiences can also look forward to the return of France’s favourite Gaul in Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion.

This year’s WORLD PERSPECTIVES strand offers audiences an exciting and challenging array of new works by talented filmmakers from around the world. Highlights include: the World Premieres of Astronaut, starring Richard Dreyfuss as a lonely widower who dreams of a trip to space and Rodrigo Guerrero’s Venezia. Australian cinema features prominently this year with the acclaimed Acute Misfortune, a striking, brilliant and unconventional portrait of one of Australia’s most acclaimed and idiosyncratic painters, Adam Cullen; Other highlights include two South Korean action-adventure masterclasses in the form of Unstoppable and box office smash Extreme Job.

This year’s DOCUMENTARIES programme reflects the ability of documentary film to amaze, inspire, challenge, provoke and fascinate audiences, offering them the unique chance to travel the world and see strange and unusual sights. Strand highlights include:Memory: The Origins of Alien, a fascinating documentary about the making of Alien from the very beginning; This Changes Everything which examines the problems faced by women filmmakers and features interviews with Hollywood greats including Geena Davis, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Taraji P. Henson, Reese Witherspoon and Cate Blanchett; Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk narrated by former caddie Bill Murray and Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, from Nick Broomfield, giving audiences an insight into Leonard Cohen’s love affair with Marianne Ihlen. 

This year’s retrospective strand entitled ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPAIN, will explore Spain’s rich cinematic history through three strands: A Retrospective Celebration of Modern Spanish Cinema; A Retrospective Selection of Cult Spanish Cinema and an in-depth celebration of the work of legendary Spanish writer, actor and filmmaker, Icíar Bollaín. Designed to begin where the retrospective ends, FOCUS ON SPAIN features a selection of brand new Spanish cinema by some of the country’s most promising directors. Highlights include: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles from Salvador Simó, an accomplished and fitting homage to the great master of surrealist cinema; the directorial debut from Nicolás Pacheco Cages and gripping sci-fi thriller h0us3 from Manolo Munguía, inspired by the mysterious ‘insurance files’ famously employed by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. 

The Festival will screen a number of films by the late great Agnès Varda across a retrospective strand entitled THE FEATURES OF AGNÈS and Varda by Agnès, her final film which will be introduced by Honorary Patron Mark Cousins.

Audiences can look forward to a whistle-stop tour of the latest ideas and techniques being explored in the world of animated film in the International Animation selection, as part of the Festival’s annual dedicated ANIMATION strand, as well as a screening of an anthology of anime shorts from the Japanese Studio Ponoc – the anticipated successor to Studio Ghibli – in association with Scotland Loves Anime.

If the weather holds there will be a free open-air cinema event, Film Fest in the City with Edinburgh Live, at St Andrew Square Garden, running from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th June 2019.



Haut les Filles (2019) ****

Dir.: Francois Armanet; Cast: Jeanne Added, Jehnny Beth, Lou Doillon, Brigitte Fontaine, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Imany, Camelia Jordana, Elli Medeiros, Vanessa Paradis; France 2019, 78 min.

What if Edith Piaf had invented Rock-n-Roll, rather than Elvis Presley? Francois Armanet’s excellent Cannes documentary showcases the musings of ten popular French singers from the Sixties to the present day. The upshot is that Rock-n’-Roll is female and French.

Edith Piaf opens with a raunchy love song for her lover, the boxer Marcel Cerdan, who died in a plane crash in 1949. In the Sixties, it was the likes of Françoise Hardy and Brigitte Fontaine who challenged the predominance of men. Hardy remembers how naïve she and other chanteuses were at a time of total male dominance: When France Gall sang the saucy “Sucettes” songs with composer Serge Gainsbourg, she hadn’t the faintest idea of the double meaning of that ‘lollipop’.

Things have changed since. Camelia Jordana and Jeanne Added felt the freedom of being on stage, describing it as  “lifting me out into space”. Sixties photos of Françoise Hardy and singing partner Jacques Dutronc show a different picture, and one that was re-affirmed when she met Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg in the UK “where men expected women to look like Brigitte Bardot” – rather than Hardy’s androgynous look. Jagger claimed “she was his ideal woman”. Ironically even nowadays Charlotte Gainsbourg is hampered by old-fashioned male chauvinism. “I wish I looked more like my mother, but unfortunately I look like my father…he could not understand that I did not like to be on the cover of magazines”. She goes on to talk about the beautiful women in her family, such as Lou Doillon, daughter of filmmaker Jacques Doillon, although the two women had the same mother in the shape of Jane Birkin. Gainsbourg always thinks about herself as pretty and ugly (une jolie-laide), like the teenager she played in her film debut film La Voleuse by Claude Miller. Lou Doillon remembers the burden of having to be interesting to adults who were all creative. But although he father directed, her mother was very much in front of the camera.

Camelia Jordana also remembers that her voice only made an impression when it sounded sweet and sexy, when she got older. Jordana lately found her identity as a strong feminist via the works of Simone de Beauvoir, a signatory of Women’s Manifest, a group that fought to de-criminalise abortion in France. Of the ten, Fontaine is the most radical – and much more so now than in the Sixties. “Stop Talking and take arms. Down with the stronger sex. Death to it” is only one of her provocative songs on stage.

Elli Medeiros, who was born in Montevideo, started her career with the Stinky Toys and was discovered by Malcolm McLaren, who invited the band to London, where they appeared at the ‘100 Club’ in Oxford Street. Having arrived without gear, they asked the Sex Pistols to lend them their outfits, but the band declined. Stinky Toys ended up singing in garb belonging to The Clash. Medeiros reflects that she stopped ‘screaming out her rage on stage’, after she had learned to sing properly.

Vanessa Paradis “feels on stage like a shipmaster” and Lou Doillon compares her music “with making love, forgetting everything else, like religion”. Whilst Paradis was awakened to feminism by Beatrice Dalle, Doillon had to watch TV in her nanny’s room, where she was fascinated by Catherine Ringer of Rita Mitsouko fame. Doillon finally sums up the development of female Rock-n’-Roll stars: “In the Seventies and Eighties, girl bands were more violent on stage then male musicians. They paid the price for being on stage, having to be more mannish than the blokes.” Whilst for Lou Doillon and others, gender fluidity is the order of the day, Fontaine remains a radical feminist: “Fuck l’amour!”

When all is said and done, it’s a shame that women have always had to struggle just to maintain the status quo with men. Oh Les Filles will be remembered mainly for its fabulous music and TV archive clips which certainly prove that female talent is more than skin deep. AS


Go Where You Look! Falling off Snow Mountain (2019) Directors’ Fortnight 2019

Dirs: Laurie Anderson, Hsin-Chien Huang Virtual Reality Creation | US/China

Anderson and Hsin-Chien collaborate in three virtual reality installations presented together for the very first time at this year’s  Quinzaine.

If you’ve not experienced virtual reality it really is a transformative experience: Rather like diving you enter a whole new world, but with VR you can’t actually see your body during the process.

Laurie Anderson is a musician, filmmaker, writer, digital arts creative pioneer and, ultimately, a storyteller in the broadest sense. She discovered VR only recently and her new way of exploring narrative territories is a good way to start. New media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, who has a background in in art, design, and digital entertainment. His VR collaboration with Laurie Anderson was awarded the Best VR Experience in at Venice Film Festival in 2017. But they first worked together in 1995 on the CD-ROM Puppet Motel. 

AloftChalkroom and To the Moon, are three poetically linked and complementary pieces presented together, and each lasting around fifteen minutes. The sensory, poetic and technological dimensions of these three pieces are tightly intertwined and and considerably amplify our cinematic experience, and this one takes place in Le Suquet morgue, just to add a  surreal twist to the proceedings.

Rocking a very soigné Issy Miyake rigout, Anderson explains that there are no cameras or lenses involved in Go Where You Look and it all feels very physical and interactive, as the audience very much influence the outcome of each tour. You sit on a stool, pop on a headset and the show takes off. 

ALOFT is the nearest thing to experiencing a place crash – in the most serene way possible. As the sole passenger in the airline you begin to notice some shafts of light appearing in the ceiling and floor near the cockpit. Gradually the plane starts to fall apart, in a gentle way. Suddenly you’re floating in your seat towards what looks like a town with to connected rivers. The black box floats by, and soon other objects come into view and float by as you head towards a luminous vortex. If you grab them with your gloves paws, Laurie’s voice then tells a story. There’s a lily, a mobile ‘phone and a lump of coal. If you snatch the coal it turns out to be Mars and soon you’re hovering above the Martian landscape. A typewriter appears and you can write your name as the letters floats high up into the black stratosphere. Other experiences include a placid lake. Your hands soon turn into horses legs. 

TO THE MOON uses images and tropes from Greek mythology, literature, science, sci fi space mo- vies and politics to create an imaginary and dark new moon, and a more formal narrative structure. During the 15-minute VR experience, you take off from Earth and soar up towards the blackness which then becomes the surface of the Moon. The eeriest thing is being able to see Earth revolving with Europe stretching before you. You can then climb a lunar mountain before returning – eventually – to Earth, your two handsets guiding you forward, or even speeding you up. You see the Constellations, the Great Bear etc evaporating before your eyes. In Snow Mountain you actually climb the mountain before your virtual body dramatically tumbles away into deep space, Laurie Anderson’s voice chanting about not knowing where we all came from. In the Donkey Ride you the viewer trot along on the back of a donkey through the lunar landscape. Eventually you float up and away into a universe of stars that begins to explode like fireworks.

Certainly different and worth experiencing. Maybe one day virtual reality will be able to re-create experiences that are more personalised. For example you could embark on a world tour, or even be united with a long lost lover or a a friend of family member who has passed on. MT

QUINZAINE | 15 -24 May 2019 | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2019  


Float like a Butterfly (2018) ***

Dir: Carmel Winters | Drama | Ireland | 104′

Carmel Winters second feature is a poetic and gorgeously redolent coming of age drama set in the Emerald Isle of the 1960s where a young Irish Traveller has to contend with the death of her mother and an abusive father as she follows her dream of becoming a boxer like her idol Muhammad Ali.

Hazel Doupe gives a stunning performance as tomboy Hazel whose daily life in a wooden caravan with her younger brother and wayfarer father Michael (Dara Devaney) is fraught with altercations not only with the local Garda but also members of this feisty family and their old-fashioned attitudes towards gender roles that hamper her own natural pugilist talents.

With its universal themes Float Like A Butterfly has the rare quality of being utterly relevant today and yet quaintly traditional, its placid pacing capturing the slow-burning essence of a bygone era. Auteuse Carmel Winters’ writing and directing has a distinct lightness of touch which brings both gentleness and integrity to her storytelling. This is a drama that glows with the lush beauty of its verdant Irish setting untrammelled by time and enlivened by stirring folk music, suddenly catching fire in its final denouement. MT


Madeline’s Madeline **** (2018)

Dir: Josephine Decker | US | 90′ | Drama | Cast: Miranda July, Molly Parker, Helena Howard

Josephine Decker’s inventive, impressionistic dramas – Butter on the Latch (2013) /Though Wast Mild and Lovely (2014) are an acquired taste but one that marks her out as a distinctive female voice on the American indie circuit. And here she is at Berlinale again with a multi-layered mother and daughter tale that is probably her best feature so far. With a stunning central performance from newcomer Helena Howard and a dash of cinematic chutzpah that sends this soaring, Madeline’s Madeline is a thing of beauty, intoxicating to watch, compellingly chaotic and with a potently emotional storyline. It’s probably best described as a experimental drama set in an experimental theatre run by Evangeline (Molly Parker), who, at one point says to protege Madeline: “In all chaos there is a cosmos. In all disorder a secret order.” In other words, “there’s a method in the madness; a predictability to every unpredictability”. And this seemingly obtuse truism really sums up this most original of features.

Howard’s Madeline is an often precocious but highly gifted performer teenager and who is clearly on the spectrum but we are never quite sure of what mental condition or how much it affects her. Hospital visits are mentioned and medication is involved, and mother Regina (Miranda July) and daughter clearly have issues with each other. Evangeline has spotted the 16 year old’s talent to entertain, and is also nurturing and exploiting it, and the trio’s relationship becomes increasingly complex and unpredictable. Ashley Connor’s roving camera is all over the place creating a fluid feeling that is enjoyable, but also disorientating as Madeline becomes more and more powerful in this ingenious female ménage à trois. MT



Sundance London 2019 | 30 May – 2 June 2019

Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival brings a selection of films to London, screening at at PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL from 30 MAY – 2 JUNE 2019. Here is a selection of the features and documentaries scheduled:

THE LAST TREE/ United Kingdom (Director/Screenwriter: Shola Amoo) – Femi is a British boy of Nigerian heritage who, after a happy childhood in rural Lincolnshire, moves to inner London to live with his mum. Struggling with the unfamiliar culture and values of his new environment, teenage Femi has to figure out which path to adulthood he wants to take CAST: Sam Adewunmi, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Denise Black, Tai Golding, Nicholas Pinnock 

LATE NIGHT U.S.A. (Director: Nisha Ganatra, Screenwriter: Mindy Kaling) – Legendary late-night talk show host’s world is turned upside down when she hires her only female staff writer. Originally intended to smooth over diversity concerns, her decision has unexpectedly hilarious consequences as the two women separated by culture and generation are united by their love of a biting punchline. Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, John Lithgow, Paul Walter Hauser, Reid Scott, Amy Ryan

THE NIGHTINGALE Australia (Director/Screenwriter: Jennifer Kent) – 1825. Clare, a young Irish convictwoman, chases a British officer through the Tasmanian wilderness, bent on revenge for a terrible act of violence he committed against her family. On the way she enlists the services of Aboriginal tracker Billy, who is marked by trauma from his own violence-filled past. Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Ewen Leslie

HAIL SATAN? U.S.A. (Director: Penny Lane) – A look at the intersection of religion and activism, tracing the rise of The Satanic Temple: only six years old and already one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. The Temple is calling for a Satanic revolution to save the nation’s soul. But are they for real? 

THE FAREWELL U.S.A., China (Director/Screenwriter: Lulu Wang) – A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is given a terminal diagnosis. Billi struggles with her family’s decision to keep grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time.  CAST: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo

THE DEATH OF DICK LONG U.S.A. (Director: Daniel Scheinert, Screenwriter: Billy Chew) – Dick died last night, and Zeke and Earl don’t want anybody finding out how. That’s too bad though, cause news travels fast in small-town Alabama. CAST: Michael Abbott Jr., Virginia Newcomb, Andre Hyland, Sarah Baker, Jess Weixler 

CORPORATE ANIMALS U.S.A. (Director: Patrick Brice, Screenwriter: Sam Bain) – Disaster strikes when the egotistical CEO of an edible cutlery company leads her long-suffering staff on a corporate team- building trip in New Mexico. Trapped underground, this mismatched and disgruntled group must pull together to survive. CAST: Demi Moore, Ed Helms, Jessica Williams, Karan Soni

ASK DR RUTH  U.S.A. (Director: Ryan White) – A documentary portrait chronicling the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America’s most famous sex therapist. As her 90th birthday approaches, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and her career at the forefront of the sexual revolution. 

THE BRINK U.S.A. (Director: Alison Klayman) – Now unconstrained by an official White House post, Steve Bannon is free to peddle influence as a perceived kingmaker with a direct line to the President. As self-appointed leader of the “populist movement,” he travels around the U.S. and the world spreading his hard-line anti-immigration message

Tickets on sale Tuesday 23 April; priority booking from Friday 19 April

Find out more at


Arctic (2018) **

Writer-Dir: Joe Penna | Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smaradottir | Drama | 93’

A macho Mads Mikkelsen is marooned in Arctic nothingness in Joe Penna’s dialogue free survival saga. You could almost call ARCTIC a road movie, but there isn’t a road to speak of. And this is not really a two hander either because the woman Mads tries to save – when her own aircraft crashes trying rescue him – is just a concussed and grunting victim he feels duty bound to take with him on his mission to reach safety in the snowy wilderness of craggy peaks and perilous caverns.

Moving mountains to get her to hospital is an experience as gruelling for Mads as it since for us viewers, if you haven’t already drifted off in the opening stages. If you do remain awake, there is no backstory or attempt at characterisation to make you care whether either of the travellers makes it home. Barren of landscape and of narrative, ARCTIC follows Mads as he moves in a slow circle, due to his poor map-reading skills, after etching an enormous SOS in the snow. The only brief moment of drama is derived from seeing a Polar bear deprived of his dinner when our hero hides in a cave.  Meanwhile Mads develops clever ways of catching and eating raw fish, a sight almost as unpalatable as Joseph Trapanese’s screeching score. 

Even Stakhanov would be proud of the work Mads puts in, and his perseverance in getting the injured woman out of danger as he drags her up hill and down dale without a by your leave, and certainly no encouragement from his human bundle. Yet he never gives up hope until the final showdown where he sets off a flare which is totally ignored, leaving him to trudge on tirelessly through the elements. Mikkelsen’s grunting performance has a strange humour to it, matched only by the moment when he catches sight of an artic flower and then rapidly disappears through a pothole. Marvellous stuff. MT


November (2017) ****

Dir/Writer: Rainer Sarnet | Cast: Rea Lest, Jorgen Liik, Arvo Kukumagi, Katariina Unt, Taavi Eelmaa, Dieter Laser, Jette Loona Hermanis | Fantasy Horror | 115′

Rainer Sarnet’s wickedly weird adaptation of an Estonian folklore infused fairy tale is flawed but enthralling and full of magic moments of ethereal black&white beauty.

This is a film that wears its Baltic credentials proudly on its delicate fashioned sleeve – set in the deepest, creepiest snowbound forest in a remote region it features the Devil, ghosts and all kinds of mysterious and often mischievious characters. Adapted from Andrus Kivirahk’s best-seller ‘Rehepapp’, NOVEMBER is an endlessly fascinating film that has you gawping in terror and disbelief despite its rather enigmatic narrative that scratches at the edges of horror, fantasy and dark comedy. At it’s core NOVEMBER is a love story based on the premise of human survival in hard times.

The inhabitants of a distant Estonian village desperately eek out a living in frosty and threadbare poverty. The fantasy element strikes fearfully from the opening sequence that pictures a spiky mechanical creature flies through the air and into a stable where a slumbering calf is transfixed with fear as the creature, called a ‘Kratt’, lassoos it with a sturdy steel chain, transporting it through the night sky and into the barn of a nearby farm. And this is how the inhabitants survive by robbing and cheating each other with their supernatural robotic aids.

In this legendary land of dour and often demonic doings where characters often come back from the dead to join the living, young Liina (Rea Lest) is hoping to marry her sweetheart Hans (Jorgen Liik) while desperately avoiding the clutches of a gruesome farmer. Meanwhile Hans is in thrall to a newcomer to the village in the shape of a gorgeous German baroness (Jette Loona Hermanis), whose beauty is unrivalled and unsullied by hardship. But there’s a secret going on with both these women, and caught in a love triangle, they seek out magical ways to capture the hearts of the one the desire.

The only criticism here is that NOVEMBER is chockfull of strange and outlandish characters that fail to serve the central narrative robbing the drama of much of its delicious tension and often detracting from Sarnet’s dark humour. There’s simple too much going on. But Jacaszek sinister score provides just the right note of chilling concern to keep us waiting, and fearing that there may not be a happy ending. NOVEMBER is an arthouse gem that begs to be seen, along with Sarnet’s 2011 adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. MT 




Styx (2018) ****

Dir: Wolfgang Fischer | Cast: Susanne Wolff | Thriller | 98’

Wolfgang Fischer’s debut was evocative philosophical psycho-thriller: What You Don’t See.  STYX works along similar lines with Fischer putting his characters into difficult situations to see how they cope. Once again the result is only surface deep in this two-hander which could almost be called an eco-thriller with its glorious seascapes and focus on flora and fauna. It follows Reike, an emergency doctor who is in her mid-thirties and decides take her holidays sailing single-handedly to the Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. We are told Reike is “is confident, determined and committed” but she is also terribly naive. The film opens as she attends to an RTA before preparing for her trip equipped with the latest snazzy gear and gadgetry. Her hedonistic early days are soon over on the high seas when, after a storm, she finds herself near a stricken refugee boat.

Fischer’s sophomore effort luxuriates in a magnificent sense of place, telling its tale through visuals and atmosphere. Reike gradually faces some stark moral dilemmas as she is torn between her dream and her nagging sense of responsibility. And although we feel little for heroine, Wolff still makes for compelling viewing – a strong woman suddenly made vulnerable by her flawed sense of duty to her fellow man when she comes up against a distressed fishing trawler filled with refugees off the coast of Cape Verde.

The final stretch is tense and unsettling as Reike helps teenager Kingsley (Gedion Wekesa Odour) on board and gets emotionally involved in a story that can only end badly when her coastal support lets her down. The sober truisms of the situation are bravely laid bare in a drama that holds its own given the current refugee crisis, and while Styx offers no easy answers to the thorny dilemma it raises, it certainly offers absorbing food for thought. MT





Canada Now Week 2019

CANADA NOW festival brings a selection of new Canadian films to the United KingdomLaunching on the 24th April 2019, nine films will play across five days at the Curzon Soho and Phoenix East Finchley cinemas, followed by a nationwide tour

As always, the 2019 CANADA NOW celebrates the independent spirit that has always been a hallmark of Canadian cinema along with its cultural diversity and twist of French heritage.

The festival opens with the London premiere of Keith Behrman’s LBGTQ+ drama GIANT LITTLE ONES, a refreshingly original and emotionally powerful coming-of-age drama. And the festival closes with Barry Avrich’s PROSECUTING EVIL, a feature biopic of Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor and life-long human rights activist. CANADA NOW expects many of the filmmakers and cast to be in attendance.

Alongside eight U.K. premieres, CANADA NOW also includes a performance from Canadian filmmaker Daniel Cockburn of his surreal, autobiographical show HOW NOT TO WATCH A MOVIE.

The full programme is listed below, and tickets are now on sale:

Hugh Hefner’s After Dark: Speaking out in America (2018) **** Canada Now

Dir: Brigitte Berman | Doc CANADA | With: Bruce Belland, Kitty Bruce, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Maher, Ron Simon, Tony Bennett, Dick Gregory, Smokey Robinson, Leon Isaac Kennedy, John Burk, Annie Ross, Tim Hauser, Pete Seeger, Taj Mahal, Barry Melton, Dick Rosenzweig, Barbara Dane, Robert Clary, Roger McGuinn, Sivi Aberg, John Kay, Joan Baez, Michael Wadleigh, Gene Simmons, Jim Brown, Charles Strouse

Brigitte Berman chronicles the Playboy founder’s short but controversial foray into television in her entertaining and informative documentary.

Musical interludes and talking heads are deftly interwoven to provide an appreciation of just about everyone who was culturally significant throughout the Swinging Sixties. The initially engaging film increasingly works as a full-on history of US race relations, showing how black people were ostracised from the mainstream cultural offering music-wise.

This is not Berman’s first foray into the life of Hugh Hefner. In 2009 she made a documentary for Netflix: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. The thrust of this latest film is his TV career which took the form of two TV shows set in his own bachelor pad where sexy women pander to eminent celebrities of both sexes providing the pithy cultural and political counterpoint to a relaxed soirée:”Playboy’s Penthouse” which began in Chicago in 1959 and was known as a ‘talk-and-music syndicated show’. So while David Frost was presenting That The Was the Week That Was in the UK, Hugh Hefner had found a cool way of inviting America into his drawing where an eclectic mix of black and white musicians (culturally unheard of back in the day, along with Jazz on TV) who performed in the relaxed and genial environment. These affairs  include impromptu numbers from Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, Count Basie, Samie Davis Jr; Ray Charles and Toni Bennett.

On of the talking heads is Whoopi Goldberg who points out, Hefner “was a pioneer. There was nothing like it in television. And there was nothing like it because he made sure everybody was welcome.” But in the less liberal south stations refused to air this interracial mishmash and Hefner eventually pulled “Playboy’s Penthouse” in late 1960.

The other politically progressive show more focused on rock music and the counter-culture was “Playboy After Dark”, which launched in Hollywood in the summer of 1968 after Playboy’s operations moved to California. This saw Joan Baez;, Steppenwolf; The Byrds; Gore Vidal, Jerry Garcia. Peter, Paul and Mary, Smokey Robinson, and Woodstock director Michael Wadleigh – who looms rather too large. The mood is not as intimate in tune with the 1970s which felt a lot more serious generally and the chat focused on censorship, ecology and race. This time Hefner had graduated to ongoing partner in the shape of Barbi Benton and the summer-of-love vibe was echoed in “Born to Be Wild”. Another black talking head was football and film star Jim Brown who proudly claims “Hefner lets me say all the things I wanted to say,” namely that America’s black population should now focus on“expertise and finance.” Whatever that meant.

And as the bandwagon rolls on the focus is less on the music and fascinating celebrity chatter and more on general social commentary especially from Pete Seeger, beating his drum in the same old way as torpor gradually take hold of the final 20 minutes or so with the umpteenth rendition of “We Shall Overcome”.

It has to be said that this documentary certainly raises Hefner’s profile in a good way. He emerges culturally aware, racially tolerant, innovative and chipper who is articulate, voluable even, and professional and incisive in his interviewing technique.  And for those who remembered the era this film certainly goes down a treat. MT

CANADA NOW | 24 -28 APRIL 2019

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


La Vida in Comun (2019) **** Visions du Reel 2019

Dir.: Ezequiel Yanco; Cast: Isaias Barroso, Pablo Chernov, El Apoyo De, Uriel Alcaraz, Yuliana Alcaraz; Argentina, France 2019, 70 min. 

This lyrical rather eclectic coming-of-age documentary is set in the remote indigenous settlement of Pueblo Nacion Ranquel in Northern Argentina, where animals and the past play a central role. A puma is stalking the community and a group of young boys start tracking the animal, as part traditional rite of passage. La Vida En Comun is imbued with an atmosphere of transition, as if the whole colony is waiting and watching for something to happen. And Yanco captures this transitory nature of this temporary set-up with its Avantgarde houses that seem to be part of another world. Infact, Pueblo Raquel is decisively otherworldly – the buildings are from the future, but the teenagers live in the ancient world, where animals and humans lived side by side.

Apart from a few teachers, there is an absence of adults and so the unobserved teens are left to their own devices. The action is narrated by one of the girls who relates how, in an act of bravado to impress a girl, one of the youngest boys Isaias (Barroso) defied the older ones by hunting down the mighty puma, and maybe even killing him. Well, that’s what we’re led to believe.

Everything seems opaque, ephemeral, ready to disappear at any second. These are the reflected emotions of a land where expropriation was (and is) rife; where the natives who once owned this country are pushed back into a reservation where they are marginalised by the interlopers. The lyrical tone often betrays this savage past, but it is always there, hovering over the living souls.

Yanco creates his own world where teenagers hunt animals and look for an identity that remains elusive. La Vida en Comun is like a huge question mark: is it a mirage, or reality? The only thing that is certain is mighty puma. We can only watch in wonderment, looking at a unique world in-between. AS




Yuli (2018) ***

Dir: Icíar Bollaín | Carlos Acosta, Santiago Alfonso, Carlos Enrique Almirante, Keyvin Martinez, Laura De la Uz | Biopic Drama 104

Cuba is the dazzling backdrop to this ‘all singing all dancing’ traditionally-styled biopic that vivaciously explores the rags to riches route to the international stage of its best known living export Carlos Acosta, now an celebrated ballet dancer. Based on his 2007 memoir No Way Home, it stars Acosta himself looking back on a career that has gone from minor to major striking nearly every thematic chord in life’s libretto from childhood poverty to paternal domination, racial discrimination, political turmoil and self realisation through artistic endeavour, under the glare – and glory of Castro’s regime.

Teaming up for the third time with her English husband and scripter Paul Laverty (I, Daniel Blake) Spanish director Icíar Bollaín (The Olive Tree) creates the irrepressibly vibrant milieu of modern Cuba where Acosta is seen rehearsing for a show that chronicles his life in the medium of dance. He is then transported back – by means of a red-bound scrapbook – to memories of his childhood where as ‘Yuli’ the cheeky young Acosta (Nuñes), named after the Cuban Santéria religion, is growing up in an impoverished barrio of Havana, with his white mother Maria (Perez) and his black father Pedro (Alfonso) who we first meet dragging Yuli away from a brilliant break-dancing routine with his pals.

The draconian Pedro has set his sights on better things for the wayward whippersnapper, and soon he is forcing him into a formal training despite the boy’s natural inclination to join a football pitch rather than the stage of the respectable Cuban School of Ballet where he soon fetches up, his talent capturing the imagination of his teacher Chery (De la Uz), who encourages him into a strict regime of training.

The years go by and the grown-up Carlos (Keyvin Martínez) finds himself travelling to London to take up an offer he soon manages to refuse, missing the warmth of his native Cuba which is by now in political meltdown. Back home, his father and Cheryl point him in the direction of dance rather than ballet – despite an approach from the Royal Ballet.

Laverty’s script tiptoes lightly over Maria of the rest of the family – alluding to mental illness for his older sister Berta (Doimeadíos) – but no love stories for Carlos, despite his popularity with the opposite sex. Knowing how well-received father/son relationships are (Boyhood, Field of Dreams etc) maybe Laverty and Bollain have decided to put Carlos and Pedro in the limelight of a story of male inspiration, particularly as it is a black one, although the decision to have Pedro give a diatribe on the slavery question in Cuba seems awkward, and strangely misplaced.

Bollaín injects plenty of joie de vivre into this sun-filled optimistic portrait with its terrific dance routines and sweeping cinematography. And although Laverty’s script sometimes follows a schematic road the performances overcome this, with Olbera Nuñes and Acosta himself the standouts. Yuli provides flamboyant entertainment for ballet lovers and mainstream audiences alike, enlivened by the presence of Acosta having so much fun. MT



Sunburn *** BFI Flare 2019

Dir. Vicente Alves do Ó. Portugal. 2018. 82 mins

This sexually fluid and visually lush love-in has shades of François Ozon La Piscine to it- except Ozon’s sizzling storyline puts this tepid affair distinctly in the shade.

In the heat of a languid Portuguese summer four beautiful people are languishing in a fabulous villa, sunning themselves and salivating over the next meal. A phone-call disrupts their placid naval-gazing to announce an absent friend, now back in town will shortly pay them a visit. David’s call sends unnerving ripples through the tepid torpor. Clearly he has touched their lives in different ways. His imminent arrival now creates waves of tension in this becalmed backwater as they cogitate and speculate over the outcome.

Ricardo Barbosa plays Simao a beardy, pale-skinned script-writer prone to wearing skimpy white trunks. Vasco (Ricardo Pereira), a tanned adonis with striking come-to-bed eyes has unrequited romantic yearnings, while tousled-haired Francisco (Nuno Pardal) swings both ways with the bronzed and brooding Joana (Oceana Basílio), who is keen to have his child.

Their laconic exchanges over lunch are laced with nervous insinuations as the memories of David come silently back to haunt them. Cocktails on the terrace take a more sinister turn; their after dinner sambas seem more urgent, as distant sirens announce a far away fiasco in the cool of the night.

David’s imminent arrival casts a pall over their pleasure, both individual and collective, as they remember how he slighted them each in his own special way. Yet they seem to savour the betrayal and the hurtfulness it caused them, secretly fostering hopes for a positive reunion, why ruminating over his motives, as he talks to them, unspecifically, in voiceover.

At the end of the day, this is a story that sounds much more interesting than it actually ends up being on the big screen. These beautiful people feel strangely empty in the picture perfect place they inhabit, each possessing a curious lack of personality and certain, spontaneity. Sunburn is has a brilliant premise, poorly executed, a missed opportunity for the something really stunning. MT


Eaten by Lions | Edinburgh Film Festival 2018 ***

Dir.: Jason Wingard; Cast: Antonio Aakeel, Jack Carroll, Sarah Hoare, Natalie Davis, Kevin Eldon, Vicky Pepperdine, Asim Chaudhry, Hayley Tammaddon, Neelam Bakshi, Johnny Vegas, Tom Binns; UK 2018; 99 min.

British director Jason Wingard (In another Life) has assembled a multicultural absurdist comedy featuring two teenage half brothers: one looking for his father, the other simply following big brother where ever he goes. Their madcap journey from Bradford to Blackpool ends in the bosom of a large, wealthy Asian family, where histrionics are the rule.

Omar (Aakeel) and Pete (Carroll), are alone again after the death of their Gran. Having already lost their parents in a freak accident in Africa, where they had met their demise in the jaws of a lion. The idea of living with reactionary and repressive relatives (Eldon/Pepperdine) does not appeal to the brothers, so Omar sets out to find his genetic father, a certain Malik, whose name is on his birth certificate. In Blackpool they meet punky Amy (Hoare), her campy uncle Ray (Vegas) and a fortune teller (Binns) who turn out to be useful providing them with the address of the Choudray family. Ruled by two matriarchs Sara (Tamaddon) and Tazim (Bakshi), it turns out that Malik is not Omar’s father, his progenitor is actually Irfan (Chaudhry), Malik’s younger brother, who is about as mature as Omar himself. Pete falls into the arms of young Parveen (Davis), a teenager who doesn’t speak to her family, but is very verbal with Pete, who also has a slight walking disability. When Parveen and Pete set out in grandfather Choudray’s pristine Rolls Royce, picking up oddballs from the waterfront, the scene is set for a raucous wedding finale.

Told this way, one might expect a run-of-the-mill comedy, but every character feels rather a parody, and the clichés pile up like papadums. Everyone seems to be  OTT so the lack of straight versus crazy, the very essence of any comedy, is therefore missing.  funny numbers, but not much cohesion. DoP Matt North overdoes the colourful palette making everything as saccharine as the candyfloss on the beachfront. Humour is always highly personal affair. Let’s just say that Wingard’s lack of subtlety veers on the embarrassing, and the rather undeveloped characters and storyline make for disappointing viewing. AS

EATEN BY LIONS celebrated its World Premiere on 21June at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018 | On release from 29 March 2019 

The Tag-Along (2015) ** UK Taiwan Film Festival 2019

Dir.: Cheng Wei-hao; Cast: Wei-ning Hsu, River Huang, Liu Yin-Shang, Ming Hua-Pai; Taiwan 2015, 93 min.

Cheng Wei-hao’s horror flick is a decent debut feature but horrific it is not. Based on an old rural myth and written by Shih-Keng Chien, it set up Wei-Hao up for greater things, including a sequel, Tag Along II (2017), which scored at the box office. While the original is low on thrills, its horror elements being far too benighted,  monsters being rather too benign, Ko-Chin Chen’s atmospheric camerawork help to keep us all interested.

Estate agent Wei (Huang) lives with his grandmother Ho Wen (Shang), who spoils him rotten. His long-time DJ girlfriend Shen(Hsu) is keen on her independence Wei wants to marry and have children. The feature opens with a ‘Missing Persons’ poster of Wei’s auntie Shui (Pai), one of many who suddenly disappear. But in her case, she returns seemingly unharmed, only for Ho Wen to disappear under stranger circumstances, involving a girl in a red dress. Wei meanwhile has mortgaged his grandmother’s house to buy a luxury apartment in order to keep Shen on side, but it has the opposite effect, and then Wei disappears with his grandmother later re-appearing. Shen discovers Wei in the depths of the forest, where he is captured by evil-doers the guise of babies and monkeys.

All well and good but certainly not remotely scary and the mixture of hyper realism and horror fails to catch fire: the creepy little critters are more cute than frightening. Finally, the finale is like an advert for marriage and childbearing, somehow spoiling a diffuse project even more. 

Tag-Along II is more of the same with the director, scriptwriter and DoP collaborating once again. This follow-up sees four women in search of their missing children; again the emphasis and directive is on childbearing: any women not taking part will be punished. Needless to say the ending opens the possibility for a third part. AS


Human Rights Watch Festival | 15-22 March 2019

Creating a forum for courageous individuals fighting worthwhile causes on both sides of the lens, this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to the Barbican, BFI Southbank and Regent Street Cinema with an international line-up of 15 award-winning documentary and feature films from Venezuela, South Africa, Palestine, Thailand and more.

The festival will open at the Barbican on 14 March with Hans Pool’s Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World, which follows the revolutionary rise of the “citizen investigative journalist” collective known as Bellingcat, dedicated to redefining breaking news by exploring the promise of open source investigation. 
Among other topics highlighted in the festival are: modern-day slavery in the fishing industry, South African students’ #FeesMustFall movement and the call for the decolonization of the education system; ‘boys will be boys’ rape culture; the impact of non-consensual gender assignment surgery on intersex infants; urban displacement; and a behind the scenes access to the trial of Ratko Mladić. Many filmmakers, protagonists, Human Rights Watch researchers and activists will take part in in-depth post-screening Q&A and panel discussions, some of which are detailed below:

UK Premiere: Screwdriver Mafak
Palestine-USA-Qatar 2018. Dir Bassam Jarbawi. With Ziad Bakri, Areen Omari, Jameel Khoury. 108min. Digital. EST. 15

Shot entirely on location in the West Bank, award-winning Palestinian director Bassam Jarbawi’s debut feature film tackles the physical and emotional toll of one man’s return home after 15 years in an Israeli jail. This mesmerising drama examines the trauma of reintegration after imprisonment, together with the unpredictable set of challenges faced in modern-day Palestine.


UK Premiere: Facing the Dragon 

Afghanistan-Turkey-Germany-Australia 2018. Dir Sedika Mojadidi. 81min. Digital. EST. 15 

Afghan-American filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi pursues two awe-inspiring women on the front lines as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan and the Taliban regains their hold. As the country’s fragile democracy shakes, threats of violence increase against Shakila, a journalist, and Nilofar, a local politician. They are soon forced to choose between duty and love for their country, and their families’ safety. 


UK Premiere: Roll Red Roll 

USA 2018. Dir Nancy Schwartzman. 81min. Digital. 15 

In small-town Ohio, USA, a sexual assault involving members of the beloved high-school football team gained global attention. With unprecedented access to a local community struggling to reconcile disturbing truths and the journalist using social-media evidence to reveal them, this true-crime thriller cuts to the heart of debates around engrained rape culture, and unflinchingly asks: ‘Why didn’t anyone stop it?’ 


UK Premiere: The Sweet Requiem Kyoyang Ngarmo
India-USA 2018. Dirs Ritu Sarin, Tenzing Sonam. With Tenzin Dolker, Jampa Kalsang Tamang, Tashi Choedon. 93min. Digital. EST. 15

At the age of eight, Dolkar fled her home with her father to escape Chinese armed forces, and faced an arduous journey across the Himalayas. Now 26, she lives in a Tibetan refugee colony in Delhi, where an unexpected encounter with a man from her past awakens long-suppressed memories, propelling Dolkar on an obsessive search for the truth.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on 12 February 2019. Members of BFI Southbank can purchase tickets from 5 February and members of the Barbican can purchase tickets from 6 February.

The Snatch Thief (2018)

Wri/Dir.: Agustin Toscano; Cast: Sergio Prina, Daniel Elis, Leon Zelarrayan, Liliana Juarez, Camila Plaate, Pila Benitez Vibart; Argentina, Uruguay, France 2018,  Drama, 93 min.

Set in his home town of Tucuman in northern Argentina, Agustin Toscano’s twisty tale of a thief and his victim is spiked with mordant humour.

Social services have broken down in this poverty stricken town, the police are on strike, and Miguel (Prina) is at the end of his tether. His six-year old son Leon (Zelarrayan) lives with his mother Antonella (Plaate), waiting for child support. So Miguel and his friend Colorao (Elias) turn to crime, out of sheer desperation, using Miguel’s motorbike for a snatch-job. But their victim clings on to her bag and is dragged along for several minutes, behind them. Leaving her for dead the two run off and split the money. But Miguel feels bad and decides to visit the woman in hospital, finding her identity card in the stolen purse. Elena is alive – just, but has lost her memory. Posing as a nephew Miguel inveigles himself into her life in an clever conceit that Toscano pulls off with aplomb, his convincing plot-line playing on its plausible characters caught in a folie à deux: Miguel is a master of avoiding responsibility and Elena uses him, fully aware of his guilt. The pair make an odd couple, driving the plot forward with their intransigence and childish temper tantrums. In a way, they are both kids living in a world of wishful thinking.

DoP Arauco Hernandez Holz handheld camera searches the dark interior of Elena’s flat for every source of light, but somehow it always stays dark – like the murky world of the crime-fuelled encounter. Toscano manages a last twist – ending his humanistic play on a high note. A strong cast and imaginative direction of this simple but never simplistic storyline proves once again that a low budget need not stand in the way of a really gripping drama.  





A Decent Man | Un Om La Locul Lui (2018) *** | Bergamo Film Meeting

Dir.: Hadrian Marcu; Cast: Madalina Constantin, Bogdan Dumitrache, Arda Gales; Romania 2018,93 min.

Hadrian Marcu’s debut feature sees a man very much out of his depth emotionally when it comes to women, and especially the two women in his life. Somehow this guy finds himself in an impossible situation and retreats into the background, hoping that the women take charge. Marcu cleverly shows how  professional women often end up drawing the short straw in their emotional choices.

Based on a novel by Petru Cimpuescu, this is a classic example of how men can be highly competent in the workplace but fall apart when it comes to their private lives. And the main character does just that. And this being Romania it’s unlikely to end well. Petru, an engineer, has got involved with two women: Laura (Gales) is a doctor and pregnant with his child, and Sonia (Constantin) is the wife of his colleague who dies when the car they are travelling in goes off the road, in the film’s early scenes. Feeling stressed out and guilty Petru puts Sonia first. Soon enough, nurses in the hospital inform Laura of Petru’s infidelity, and she throws him out of her flat. Clueless and adrift, Petru hides behind Sonja, hoping for the best.

This is a very confident debut by Marcu, who never lets the action get out of hand, avoiding sentimentality as well as histrionic scenes. Dumitrache is ideal for the role of the rather hesitant Petru, who cannot do right for doing wrong. Yes, he is decent, but his emotional intelligence is limited, he wants to have his cake and eat it. When confronted by Laura, he is like a little boy who wants the teacher to let him off failing his exam. The genders seem to live a very segregated life in contemporary Romania: Petru enjoys the company of co-workers, but when he is with Laura or Sonja, or even his mother, he becomes emasculated and insecure, avoiding conflict. keeping the women apart, compartmentalising their existence, living a double life, which crashes down, when Laura learns the truth. But he has still not learnt from his mistakes, and hopes that the decision will be made for him.

DoP Adrian Silisteanu uses a handheld camera for intimate effect, keeping close to the protagonists. Even their homes tell the storyline: Petru lives in a mess; whilst Laura is a proper homemaker – even though her work is as challenging as his is. Overall, it seems Marcu has re-invented the sub-genre of male malaise, but his careful detailing and string construction of the narrative arc marks him out to be a filmaker with a future. AS



Insulaire (2018) *** Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Dir: Stephane Goël | Wri: Antoine Jacoud/Stephane Goël With: Mathieu Amalric | Doc, 92′

In 1877 a Swiss aristocrat, Alfred von Rodt, became the governor of the remote Chilean island in the South Pacific Ocean, giving birth to the legendary term “Robinson Crusoe”. Exiled from his country and family, Rodt turned his hand to surviving without them in a utopia of his own making. While Mathieu Amalric narrates Rodt’s imagined musings (in French), the story of his current descendants unfolds before our eyes, showing little has changed on the island in the intervening 142 years, as the islanders fight for survival outside the governance of Chile, seeking political autonomy and the preservation of their indigenous identity.  

On this renamed ‘Isla Robinson Crusoe’ in the remote Juan Fernandez Archipelago  (off Chile) there are no immigrants because everyone was born there along with the firecrown hummingbirds and fur seals and (originally) imported cattle and horses. Valparaiso is the nearest mainland city and from there most of the imports arrive. The islanders are still reliant on the mainland so nothing has changed since Rodt’s day, but now the population has grown to around 900, and they appear to be increasingly insular, and proud of it too.

Stephane Goël evokes this windswept island paradise with its undulating terrain formed by ancient lava flows. Extraordinary views dominate the white sandy beaches where baby seals frolic in the waves. Rodt dreamed of creating a mini Switzerland and yet nothing could be further away as these contented South American people brush along happily together bound by their collective Catholic faith. Goël does not attempt to get know any of them so this remains largely a speculative documentary where we are projecting putative notions and ideas onto existing archive and fact. Nor does he question the natives apparently placid existence, leaving us to assume that the vast open spaces and rural existence ensures tranquility. But as the film plays out there are clearly similarities with the genial South Americans here and the well-behaved Swiss of his native Berne. And the person who unites them still lives on through this community: the indefatigable pioneer von Rodt. But was he an optimist or a simply a megalomaniac propelled by the rage of being driven out.

At this moment in time where we explore ever more closely the notions of nationalism and patriotism, this island thousands of miles away is also going through the same process. MT




The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) ****

Dir.: Sara Colangelo; Cast: Maggie Gyllenhall, Parker Sewak, Gael Garcia Bernal, Daisy Tahan, Sam Jules, Michael Chernus, Ajay Naidu, Rosa Salazar; USA 2018, 96′.

Director Sara Colangelo (Little Accidents) won a Sundance directing award for this spry psychological thriller that takes constantly surprising turns.

Adapted from Nadav Lapid’s script of his French/Israeli feature of the same name (Haganenet), this is no Hollywood re-make – in fact, it was Lapid who approached the producers. By a stroke of luck, Maggie Gyllenhall (who also produced) was cast in the lead, and the result is a fascinating character study, full of ambivalence and obsessive longings.

Lisa Spinelli, having just turned forty, feels unfulfilled on many levels. Travelling to work every day on the ferry between Staten Island and Manhattan, she looks forlorn and lost in her daydreams. Husband Grant (Chernus) is a bear of man, but lazy of body and mind. Her teenage children Laine (Tahan) and Josh (Jules) are an obvious disappointment to Lisa: Laine is just interested in the latest fads, and thinks her mother’s a dinosaur. Josh is even worse, and is giving up school to join the US-Army. To counter all this, Lisa has joined a poetry group – but alas, her talents are limited, and teacher Simon (Bernal) expresses his doubts politely. Enter five-year old Jimmy (Sewak), one of Lisa’s pupils, who suddenly spouts lines of poetry, which are well beyond his tender age. Lisa is thrilled, asking Jimmy to phone her, whenever a poem is ready, and the little boy responds eagerly. And it’s not difficult to understand why: he is neglected by his divorced father Nick (Naidu) who runs a shady nightclub, and his lackadaisical  babysitter Becca (Salazar), who got the job because she gets laid by his father.

In her poetry class, Lisa passes off Jimmy’s work is her own, which leads to a quick romp with Simon (Bernal), who is suitably impressed. To get more access to Jimmy, Lisa tells Nick that Becca is often late for picking-up time, and Nick fires her, only too happy that Lisa is volunteering to look after Jimmy until he fetches him in the evening. But Nick also makes it clear he expects his son to excel in sports and business, rather than try to pursue an artistic career, like his impoverished relatives. Then everything slowly unravels towards a tense finale.

Colangelo traces Lisa’s growing obsession step by step. Creativity is her only way of escape, but it’s hard for her to realise that she is dilettante –  as Simon puts it blandly. She channels all her yearnings into Jimmy, in an effort to save both him and herself. Family and society, dominated by social media, are a great disappointment to her, and Jimmy’s father Nick, is just another materialist ignoramus. Throwing all her past life away, she has to save Jimmy from the same fate that has destroyed her. She ignores her responsibilities as a teacher (and as a human being) and becomes obsessed with Jimmy being a prodigy. Lisa, who has been so gentle and rational all her life, suddenly sees Jimmy as an embodiment of herself – and is determined that he won’t suffer the same fate as she has.

DoP Pepe Avila del Pino pictures Lisa’ descent with his subtle camerawork. The rides on the ferry are a study in melancholy, and her classroom is a real work of art, light and shadows creating a nuanced moodiness. But this is Maggie Gyllenhall’s feature: she never puts a foot wrong, going seemingly unobtrusively forward from an ideology of art as a saviour, to a a full blown psychosis. Colangelo supports her aptly, particularly with a great solution at the ending: she never denounces Lisa or the relationship between her and Jimmy, which somehow survives. Kindergarten Teacher is not perfect, but portrays a specific ambiguity which is as endearing as it is dangerous. AS





Pier Paolo Pasolini: New Restorations at Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

The cinema of Pier Paolo Pasolini is one of the highlights of this year’s Bergamo Film Meeting taking place from 9 until 17 March 2019 in the ancient city just north of Milan in Lombardia.

PASOLINI AND THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, will consist of an exhibition of the auteur’s photos and the screening of three recently restored films: the delicately erotic Il fiore delle Mille e una notte (Arabian Nights (1974), and his two entographical documentaries: Le mura di Sana’a (The Walls of Sana’a (1971) and Appunti per un film sull’India (Notes for a film about India (1968).

In 1961 Pasolini took a trip to India with Elsa Morante and the writer Alberto Moravia (Il Conformista). Pasolini’s idea was to compare the stark reality of  the appalling poverty they encountered, with the myths and legends of the vast and exotic continent with its multi-faceted cultures. The focus here is Bombay and the extreme poverty of its environs. Sixty years later, the constrast betweet rich and poor appears even more polarised.

In 1971, while filming of The Decameron, Pasolini made this 13 minute documentary serving as an impassioned plea to UNESCO to preserve Yemen’s capital and its ancient construction. The result was this short film The Walls of Sana’a.




Eastern Memories (2018) *** Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Dir: Martti Kaartinen, Niklas Kullstrom | Doc, 86′

Finnish linguist, explorer and diplomat G. J. Ramstedt (1873-1950) first published his memoirs as a radio series. And it’s easy to see how engaging his story would be without visuals. But narrated by Michael O’Flaherty (Vikings) and Frank Skog over the backdrop of visually arresting but often subversive contemporary footage it is a much more muscular experience and one that requires your constant attention and engagement. And there’s also a score to contend with. So it’s not a meditative or contemplative as you initially imagine.

Ramstedt first fetched up in Mongolia at the turn of the 20th century with the aim of mastering various Asian languages including Mongolian, Japanese, and Korean. He also wrote about Mongolian epic poetry and become the first Finnish chargé d’affaires in Japan where he also translated Japanese poetry.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen have worked long and hard on this documentary and the structural solution they have arrived at to avoid historical visuals makes for demanding viewing. The film is full of stimulating wisdom and insight of the kind we’ve grown used to expecting from the ancient Chinese and Mongolians who saw the world from a completely different point of view than the one we are currently used to in the West. And that’s very refreshing, as it projects the past into the future. A language is not just a set of equivalent words but comes into being to serve a completely different experience in all kinds of ways and Ramstedt conveys this wisdom cleaned from his studies of poetry, religion and local folklore. Mongolian is a fricative language and has adapted itself to being heard over distances, where people communicated on horseback rather than in close or intimate indoor settings. So the language needs to be rely on loud and abrasive sounds in order to be heard.

Niklas Kullström and Martti Kaartinen’s film works best in reflecting the contemplative mores of the East, and illustrates this in a scene in a remote panoramic landscape of Mongolia where two strangers meet: “If you see a stranger on the steppe it is customary to step down from the horse and wait. For a half an hour you exchange courtesies. Then you may get to the point”. MT



Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin 2019

Just as Britain leaves the EU some intriguing initiatives start to open up beckoning us closer to Europe. One in particular is a crossover event that takes place each Spring in Paris and Berlin. And as we’ve already covered Berlinale 2019 we thought it might interesting to look more closely at the Paris experience.

Not having been there for quite a while I realise that Paris has changed considerably since my last visit, and is now home to some stylish new venues film and art-wise. Rencontres takes place at several of these and also visits others beyond the usual Right Bank/Left Bank weekend stamping ground. The central meeting venues are: Louvre auditorium, Forum des images, Centre Pompidou, Le Carreau du Temple and Cité internationale des arts.

The generic blurb tells us that “events include 90% European and French premieres, cartes blanches, special sessions, thematic video sessions – performances, panel discussions and a daily forum led by directors of art centres and museums, curators, artists and distributors who will share with the audience their experience and views on new audiovisual practices. Crossing new cinema and contemporary art, this unique platform in Europe provides a rare opening on contemporary audiovisual practices. Documentary approaches, experimental fictions, videos, hybrid and multimedia forms: the programme of Rencontres Internationales is the result of a thorough research and invitations to outstanding artists, personalities from cinema and the contemporary art field comprising 120 works from 40 countries; bringing together internationally renowned artists and filmmakers with young and emerging ones presented for the first time.”

But actually this turns out to be rather good value, with daily visits to the venues outside Paris – rather beguilingly described as “hors les murs” – with a daily shuttle service to new and exciting exhibition venues such as Ile-de-France, Ivry and Clamart where the latest art videos and experimental and Avantgarde art installations take place.

Cutting to the chase film-wise, the highlight of this year’s get-together is a free screening of Claire Denis’ foray into sci-fi HIGH LIFE (2018) which takes place on the 9th March at the Louvre auditorium. The disturbing feature stars Robert Pattinson as a single father in charge of his (largely) unwanted child, and Juliette Binoche as a wicked reproductive pioneer. They are both attempting to survive in Outer Space beyond the solar system after Cosmic rays hit their shuttle. It won the FIPRESCI prize at San Sebastian 2018. How about that for some international encounters? MT




Ray and Liz (2018) ****

Dir: Richard Billingham | Cast: Justin Salinger, Ella Smith, Patrick Romer, Deidre Kelly, Tony Way, Sam Gittins, Joshua Millard-Lloyd | UK | Drama |107′

Turner prize-nominated Richard Billingham doesn’t miss a trick in portraying the squalid splendour of his early life in Birmingham during the early Seventies in his debut drama RAY & LIZ, premiering here at Locarno Film Festival.

Five years in the making, this impressively-tooled arthouse piece is not for the feint-hearted: In one scene the family dog makes quick work of some vomit spewed out after an enforced drinking spree. But this all adds to the glorious texture of his childhood experiences in the Black Country recorded fondly for posterity and in tribute to his parents, from collected photographs.

The Political undertones of the era are not swept under the grimy council house carpet but hardly forced in your face either. The Seventies were desperately difficult years for Britain, both politically and economically, and although Harold Wilson got the country back to work, it came at the price of inflation at almost 30%, the decade ending with Jim Callaghan’s humiliation at the hands of the unions in the Winter of Discontent and Margaret Thatcher taking over as prime minister in 1979.

We first meet Ray (Patrick Romer) sipping some kind of lethal home brew out of a plastic bottle after a night’s sleep, fully clothed, in his dismal bedroom. It’s a pitiful sight and we feel for him, yet he seems content enough although lost in his thoughts. As the narrative slips back and forward from Billingham’s early years to this final memory of his father, still in a council property and separated from his mother, there are poignant moments but also those that are painful to watch, such as when his “soft” uncle Lol is beaten senseless by his mother (with her shoe). And the cockroach-ridden mildewed walls and filthy ‘front room’ in their council flat makes grim viewing, as does the disgusting sight of bloated and chain-smoking Liz on one of her shouty outbursts. But the film is never maudlin. Welcome bursts of cheeky humour occasionally lurk round the corner even in this God-forsaken highrise hovel with its menagerie of invited and uninvited animals, such as the time when little Jason poured chilli powder into his father’s mouth while he was asleep. 

There are also echoes of Terence Davies in this social realist memoire. Ray lost his job when the kids were small and his reduced masculine pride sees him making himself scarce or – even useful – around the place in contrast to his surly, stroppy wife who spends her time flower arranging. The period detail here is extraordinary, almost to the point of cliché. It’s as if Billingham has sat down and made a list of every single item he remembered from his upbringing, and then painstakingly placed it on the set and in the dialogue which is rich in local expressions recalling the era. Not an appealing film to watch but an honest, authentic and heartfelt reflection of a point in time and place. MT


Jean-Pierre Léaud | Tribute | Bergamo Film Meeting 2019

Jean-Pierre Léaud (*1944) is widely known as the face of the French Nouvelle Vague. During his impressive career he made seven film with François Truffaut and eight with Jean-Luc Godard. But the indie directors of the 1990s have continued to fascinate him and more recently he has appeared in Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre (2011) and Ming-liang Tsai’s Face (2009) and the upcoming comedy from Walter Veltroni C’e Tempo (2019).

Leaud’s transition from juvenile hero to mature character actor is quite amazing: his performance as the dying Louis XIV in Albert Serra’s La Morte du Louis XIV (2016) is stunning, and the antithesis to his very beginnings. Whilst avoided the glitz of international stardom, he has enchanted six centuries of European filmmaking.

After his debut as Pierrot in Georges Lampin’s King on horseback (1958), he was to meet François Truffaut: an encounter which would change both their lives. The sly rebel, as Truffaut called himself, had met the revolutionary of the frontal attack. After filming wrapped on Les Quatre cents Coups (400 Blows) in 1959, Truffaut took charge of Léaud who was fast becoming a social outcast. The young man had been expelled from school, his parental home and a foster family. And this trauma feeds into the narrative of 400 Blows, a black-and-white hymn to adolescence. Léaud’s Antoine steals and lies his way through a drama which  ends on the run-away Antoine facing the sea. It’s one of the most impressive finales in film history. The pairing of Truffaut and Léaud would manifest itself best in the Antoine Doinel trilogy – Baisers Volés (1968), Domicile Conjugal (1970) and L’Amour en fuite (1979), both men growing up together in a strange sort of way.

In 1966 Léaud would star in Godard’s Masculin, feminin: 15 Faits Précis, winning a Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlinale for his role as Paul, who is in a ménage-a-quatre with three women in a contemporary Paris. Loosely based on Maupassant’s short stories, this feature was the beginning of the break Godard would make with narrative cinema. Also called The Children of Marx and Coca Cola (an inter-title of the feature), sex and politics are at the core. Léaud is fragile, and the lighting shows him as beautiful and vulnerable as the three women, Madeleine (Chantal Goya), Catherine (Isabelle Duport) and Elisabeth (Marlene Jobert). All four main protagonists have very different plans for the future, when their agendas collide. There is immense elegance and beauty here  (DoP Willy Kurant), and Godard treats his actors (perhaps for the last time) with more care than in the verbal politics of later films. Pauline Kael called it “that rare achievement: a work of grace in a contemporary setting” and for Andrew Sarris it was “the film of the season”.

A year later Godard would cast Léaud as part of a group in La Chinoise (1967), this time surrounded by two women and two men, but with a very much harsher political focus. Based on Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed, this was Godard’s first adventure into Maoism. Léaud is Guillaume, in love with Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky), who has a much stronger personality than him, and will finally leave him. Kirilov (Lex de Bruijin), is the weakest of the trio and he will kill himself, as in the novel. Léaud’s Guillaume is in love with Veronique, but he is very much a man of clever words, but little action. Veronique on the other hand, is much braver, and decides in the end to assassinate the Russian Cultural minister on a visit to Paris. But he mixes up the numbers of his hotel room, and kills the wrong man. Wiazemsky, the grand daughter of novelist Andrew Malraux, then the Gaullist minister for Culture, fell in love with Godard, and the couple married after the shooting. As an in-joke, Godard casts Francis Jeanson in the film (Wiazemsky’s philosophy lecturer at the Paris 10 (Nanterre) University) having a debate with Veronique while on her way to assassinate the minister.

Pier Paolo Pasolino’s Porcile (1969) tells two parallel stories. The first is about a young cannibal who has killed his father. The second features Léaud as Julian Klotz, the son of German entrepreneur (Alberto Lionello), who is part of the German economic miracle after WWII. Julian’s fiancée Ida (Wiazemsky) is very much an early version of the Baader Meinhof Group, and tries in vain to agitate him. But Julian can’t stand people in general. He prefers the company of pigs, who will be his downfall. Léaud is again the angelic outsider, treating society with avoidance. He is so much more feminine than Ida, that the role reversal is quite breathtaking and Léaud carries his limited part with great sensitivity.

Truffaut’s 1973 outing La Nuit Americaine (Day for Night), is essentially about filmmaking, showing Léaud as the weak and self-obsessed actor Alphonse. During the filming of Je vous présente Pamela , a conventional weepie, he fancies leading lady Julie Baker (Jacqueline Bisset), who has recently had a breakdown. Out of pity she sleeps with him but Alphonse then ‘phones her analyst, Dr Nelson (David Markham), who has left his own family to live with her, and spills the beans on their fling. Léaud plays the histrionic weakling with great skill. And Truffaut, playing himself as the director, assumes the role of his protector – much as in real life. Godard, who by now had broken with his ex-friend Truffaut, called Day for Night “a big lie” – later the two founding fathers of the Nouvelle Vague fought over  Léaud who somehow survived the acrimony and went on to work with another enfant terrible, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki.

I hired a Contract Killer (1990) was one of Kaurismaki’s first English language films and he made a beeline for Léaud in the lead role. The gamine actor of Day for Night had since changed dramatically. His slight, almost feminine appearance was gone, and he’d put on a substantial amount of weight – his acting too was from another dimension. He plays Henri Boulanger, an English Civil Servant, who is sacked after fifteen years of service due to privatisation. With no life outside his work, he tries – in vain – to commit suicide. Then asks a contract killer (Kenneth Colley) to step in. But Margaret (Margi Clarke) gives his life a new meaning. With time running out, Henri tries to contact the killer, to reverse the order. Léaud is totally morbid and emotionally reduced, the environment is straight out of the 1950s, the colours pale, bleached out by wear and tear. Léaud’s agile friskiness has been replaced by gentle placidness, making him look much older than forty-six. But his acting had matured too, and he slips easily into character roles nobody would have expected from him in his New Wave days. AS




Festival Focus: Bergamo Film Meeting 2019 | 9-17 March 2019

Bergamo Film Meeting unveils its 37th edition from March 9 – 17, 2019 in the mountain side venue just north of Milan in the Italian Dolomites. Bergamasco is one of Italy’s most intriguing dialects and the town boasts a wealth of gourmet restaurants and bars where you can savour saffron-flavoured risottos and a legendary pancetta laced pasta dish called casonelli alla bergamasca in a rich butter sauce accompanied by the local wines, including the famous red Moscato di Scanzo. Local handmade ice creams are based on regional ingredients, with stracciatella a speciality.

To open this year’s festival there will be a live performance of Fritz Lang’s  METROPOLIS on Friday 8th March, 20.30, Ex Chiesa di Sant’Agostino – P.le Sant’Agostino, Bergamo.

During the nine screening days and more than 180 films among feature films including world premieres, docs and short-films


Dedicated to new auteurs, the International competition will premiere 7 feature films, which will compete for the Bergamo Film Meeting Award (the audience will grant 5,000 euros to the best three films) and, from this year, for the Best Director Award (the International Jury will grant 2,000 euros to the best director). The competition line-up includes three debut features: British director Jamie Jones’ Obey; Holy Boom, which won an award at Zaragoza festival for Greek filmmaker Maria Lafi; Hadrian Marcu’s A Decent Man and Balkan feature Raindrops, Borders from Nikola Mijovic. Also in competition are two winners from last year’s San Sebastian festival: Benjamin Naishtat’s gripping Argentinian thriller RojoThe Snatch Thief from Agustin Toscano. Richard Billingham’s multi-awarded biopic Ray & Liz, 


Dedicated to documentary cinema. Two awards will be assigned: the Best Documentary CGIL Bergamo – Close Up Section (the audience will grant 2,000 euros) and the CGIL Jury Prize (the CGIL Bergamo trade union delegates will grant 1,000 euros).


The complete works of two filmmakers who, in the last few years, have portrayed Europe’s varied  aspects through a uniquely personal vision: the Norwegian BENT HAMER (10001 Grams) and the Spanish director ALBERTO RODRÍGUEZ (Marshland) along with his collaborator RAFAEL COBOS, will be guests of the Festival from March 13 to 16.


JEAN-PIERRE LÉAUD. The renowned actor will be a guest of the Festival to mark this tribute to his film canon. The retro includes I Hired A Contract Killer; La Chinoise; L’amour en Fuite, La nuit americaine, Le depart, Les quatre cent coups, Masculin et Feminin, Porcile, La mort de Louis XIV, La mama et le putain. 

Also joining the celebration will be Macedonian director and cinematographer Karpo Godino as part of THE YUGOSLAVIAN BLACK WAVE: Retro of his work.

Polish director, animator, painter, cartoonist and performer MARIUSZ WILCZYŃSKI will also join to take part in the festival.


PASOLINI AND THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, special event consisting of a photo exhibition, a panel discussion and the screening of three restored films: Il fiore delle Mille e una notte (Arabian Nights, 1974), Le mura di Sana’a (The Walls of Sana’a, 1971) and Appunti per un film sull’India (Notes for a film about India, 1968)


Everybody Knows (2018) ***

Dir: Asghar Farhadi | Cast: Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Barbara Lennie, Ricardo Darin | Drama

Penelope Cruz is the star turn of the off kilter drama. Returning to Spain from Argentina with her two teenagers, Laura is back to celebrate her sister’s Irene’s wedding. Husband Alejandro (Ricardo Darin) soon follows, and she also reconnects with an old boyfriend (Bardem) as events take a less sunny turn.

Farhadi (A Separation) directs from a script written in Farsi and translated into Spanish, which he learnt phonetically.Tepid as a psychological thriller with a telenovela-esque twist, the film’s strength and most of its attraction lies in the three dynamic central performances and the picturesque 16th century setting in the town of Torrelaguna (Madrid) which is very much a character in itself, gloriously brought to life in Jose Luis Alcaine’s zinging images. Everybody Knows provides fascinating insight into traditional Spanish country life, exposing deep fault-lines of internecine resentment, provincial pettiness and mean-spirited grudges.

The plot revolves round a secret “everybody knows” (except Laura herself) about former flame Paco (Bardem) who was devastated when she left. The whole affair seems connected to a local kidnapping that took place years previously, revealed in some newspaper cuttings that just happen to be left around in Irene’s bedroom. Soon, menacing letters start to arrive demanding money, and threatening Irene not to contact the police. This unpleasantness also lays bare a long-standing dispute between Laura’s curmudgeonly father and Paco going back years.

Laura’s absence has kept all this at bay but now it comes into full focus, re-opening old family wounds that had never really healed. Strangely nobody seems to acknowledge or discuss the perpetrators of the original kidnapping, and although this slight plothole is glossed ovrr by the polished performances of the strong cast, still remains a nagging question mark in our minds.

This is a mildly intriguing drama that rolls on despite its narrative flaws which are significantly diminished by the undeniable slickness of Farhadi’s confident direction and complemented by the lead trio in brilliant form. MT


Hannah (2017)

Dir: Andrea Pallaoro | Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Andre Wilms, Jean-Michel Balthazar, Luca Avallone | Drama | Italy | 95′

Charlotte Rampling gives an extraordinary performance in this intimate portrait of a woman coming to terms with her loss of identity after her husband (Andre Wilms) is sent to imprison for a crime that has caused the breakdown of her family.

Andrea Pallaoro’s sophomore feature keeps us wondering what has happened to cause such emotional devastation all round. Hannah battles to face an uncertain future late in life and at a time where she feels unable to bounce back with the positivity of youth, and has lost her former place in society. Soul-searching her way forward from a past that is ambiguous and unresolved. The status quo has been devastated, and we are intrigued to discover the image portrayed in the photographs she is seen destroying.

Her marriage is clearly over, and her son will no longer speak to her due to circumstances beyond her control after events she had noting to do with, and she has also lost her connection with grandson Charlie (Savinin), who is told not to speak to her in a devastating scene where she brings him a homemade cake for his birthday party. Unable to cope she  dissolves in floods of tears. Later her swimming club membership is revoked without explanation. And she is left humiliated. She clearly knows the reason why.

Rampling carries the film through each slow-burning scene. Wandering aimlessly through streets in Brussels and along a beach in Knocke she is a picture of broken a life. And we feel for her. Shattered by  anguish and pitiful in her loneliness, Rampling makes the film both compelling and quietly devastating. In an effort to keep going and survive what has gone before, Hannah joins a self-help group practising the Alexander Technique, and keeps house for a woman whose own son appears to be blind. Despite this work, Hannah seems to be highly intelligent and full of graceful manners suggesting she has somehow come down in the world, from a well-to-do household. Her son is well-spoken and her own behaviour suggests good breeding.

Clearly Pallaoro had something in mind along the lines of Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman. Hannah’s emotional fragmentation leads to her to a (symbolic) meeting with a beached whale on the beach at Knokke Heist – showing a helplessness on Pallaoro’s part, which cannot be overcome by Chayse Irvin’s stylishly cold and forbidding visuals. They show a wintry landscape, forlornly mirroring Hannah’s state of mind. MT

Andrea Pallaoro was born in Trento, Italy. He received his BA from Hampshire College before going on to study film directing at the California Institute of the Arts. His credits as director include the short Wunderkrammer (08) and the feature Medeas(13). Hannah (17) is his latest film.


Cinema Made in Italy 2019 |

CINEMA MADE IN ITALY is back in London to kick off the Spring with the latest crop of Italian films. The 9th edition takes place at Cine Lumiere and is supported by Istituto Luce Cinecitta and the Italian Cultural Institute.

LORO ****

Director: Paolo Sorrentino Cast: Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Roberto De Francesco, Dario Cantarelli, Anna Bonaiuto | 150′

Paolo Sorrentino’s savage political satire is a powerful portrait of controversial Italian public figure Silvio Berlusconi and his inner circle. | UK release date: 19 April 2019


Director: Valeria Golino | Cast: Riccardo Scamarcio, Valerio Mastandrea, Isabella Ferrari, Valentina Cervi, Jasmine Trinca, Francesco Borgese, Francesco Pellegrino, Andrea Germani, Marzia Ubaldi | 120′

Valeria Golino’s second film as a director explores brotherly love through two very different siblings. It stars her on/off partner Riccardo Scamarcio as one of two brothers brought together through adversity when one falls dangerously ill. Matteo is a man of means in central Rome, Ettore is a primary teacher in their provincial hometown. Beautifully photographed in the eternal city, Euforia ultimate predictability is rescued by the strength of its dynamic performances.


Director: Valerio Mieli | Cast: Luca Marinelli, Linda Caridi, Giovanni Anzaldo, Camilla Diana, Anna Manuelli, Eliana Bosi, David Brandon, Benedetta Cimatti, Andrea Pennacchi, 106′

After success with her debut Ten Winters this touching love story explores the ups and downs of this emotional journey for two young lovers Luca Marinelli and Linda Caridi.

LUCIA’S GRACE (Troppa Grazia) ***

Director: Gianni Zanasi | Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Elio Germano, Hadas Yaron, Giuseppe Battiston, Carlotta Natoli, Thomas Trabacchi, Daniele De Angelis, Rosa Vannucci, Elisa Di Eusanio, Davide Strava | 110′ 

Alba Rohrwacher blazes through this upbeat ecumenical drama that sees single working mother Lucia juggling her life between motherhood, an emotionally exhausting romance, and her work as a land surveyor. When she discovers that an ambitious new building project will have devastating effects on the locale, she debates whether to challenge the project when up pops a mysterious woman, claiming to be the Madonna and offering to support Lucia in flagging up her concerns, and suggesting the construction of a church as an alternative. This whimsical affair offers cheap laughs as an alternative to trusting its strong psychological elements, but Vladan Radovic’s lively camerawork and a strong cast carry it through in the end.   

THE GUEST (L’Ospite) ****

Director: Duccio Chiarini | Cast: Daniele Parisi, Silvia D’Amico, Anna Bellato, Federica Victoria Caiozzo aka Thony, Milvia Marigliano, Daniele Natali, Guglielmo Favilli : 96′

Sofa-surfing is the theme of this coming of age drama about the ups and downs of modern day love and commitment phobia. Guido (Daniele Parisi) is a 38-year-old academic who is writing a pot-boiler on Italo Calvino. But his girlfriend girlfriend (Silvia D’Amico) is having none of it, and puts an end to their flagging relationship forcing him to out of his cosy existence to face some uncomfortable truths through the experiences of lodging with his friends and family. Insightful and enjoyable  .

THE MAN WHO BOUGHT THE MOON ( L’Uomo che compró la Luna) ***

Director: Paolo Zucca |Cast: Jacopo Cullin, Stefano Fresi, Francesco Pannofino, Benito Urgu, Lazar Ristovski, Angela Molina |  103′

This off the wall spy-themed buddy movie from Sardinia stars Jacopo Cullin as a secret agent tasked with investigating a claim that one of his compatriots has bought the Moon as a gift for his girlfriend. Teaming up with his fellow Sardinian Badore (Benito Ugo) the pair set off to infiltrate the Sardinian community and investigate the ludicrous idea in a surefire but engagingly silly caper.

WHEREVER YOU ARE (Ovunque Proteggemi) ***

Director: Bonifacio Angius |Cast: Alessandro Gazale, Francesca Niedda, Antonio Angius, Anna Ferruzzo, Gavino Ruda, Mario Olivieri | 94′

Bonifacio Angius won the Junior Jury Award at Locarno for Perfidia (2014) and returns with this impressively perceptive drama about a middle-aged ‘mammalone’ with a drinking problem. Burning a hole in his mother’s pocket with his failed singing career, he has a mental breakdown and is taken to hospital, where he meets Francesca (Francesca Niedda), a young mother with drug issues. The two fall madly in love and set off on an eventful odyssey to redeem each other by reclaiming Francesca’s daughter who has been taken in to care. 


Director: Paolo Virzì |Cast: Mauro Lamantia, Giovanni Toscano, Irene Vetere, Giancarlo Giannini, Eugenio Marinelli, Marina Rocco, Paolo Sassanelli, Roberto Herlitzka, Regina Orioli, Andrea Roncato, Giulio Scarpati, Simona Marchini, Annalisa Arena, Ornella Muti, Jalil Lespert, Paolo Bonacelli | 125 ‘minutes

Ornella Muti makes a welcome return in Paolo Virzi’s playfully affectionate black comedy that explores the mysterious drowning of a film producer in the River Tiber. The main suspects are three young aspiring scriptwriters, and their outlandishly spirited alibis form the basis of an entertaining exploration that takes us back to the golden years of Italian cinema and a moving and magical trip through the backstreet of Rome

THE CONFORMIST (Il Conformista) *****

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci | Cast: Jean-Louis Tritignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Enzo Tarascio, Fosco Giachetti, José Quaglio, Yvonne Sanson | 118′

A wonderful chance to see this classic cult thriller adapted from a novel by Alberto Moravia. Set in 1938, it tells the story of an aristocratic would-be fascist who is sent to Paris to murder his former, anti-fascist philosophy tutor. Jean-Louis Tritignant is supremely sinister in the role of Marcello Clerici, whose demeanour is an eternal reminder of the banality of evil. It was an instant hit when it was released in 1970, and some say it is one of the most poetic and influential films ever made, beloved by film-makers the world over.

WE’LL BE YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL (Saremo Giovani e Bellissimi) ***

Director: Letizia Lamartire | 92 minutes)

In the early 1990s, 18-year-old Isabella (Barbora Bobulova) was a pop star. Two decades later she’s still on the road singing the same old songs with her son Bruno (Piavani) on guitar. But nothing can last for ever and soon the ties that bind will also unravel in this bittersweet and often poignantly moving musical love story.



Die Kinder Der Toten | Children of the Dead (2018) **** Berlinale 2019 | Forum

Dir: Kelly Copper/Pavel Liska | Horror | Greta Kostka, Andrea Maier, Klaus Unterreider | Austria 2019, 90′

Based on the mammoth ghost novel by Austrian author and Nobel-prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, Kelly Cooper and Pavol Liska direct, write and shoot this Super 8mm moral tale of Zombies, transposed to a contemporary Austria still haunted by its Nazi past and neo-Nazi present.

The filmmakers cleverly conflate a migration satire with a ‘herimatfilm (or homeland film) a style popular in Germany, Switzerland and Austria from the 1940s until 1970s, radically rejecting classical cinema to create instead a moody meditation on contemporary Austria, co-produced by the National Theatre and The Steirischer Herbst ensemble, The disonnant sound of the brass band is as disturbing as the mannered acting, reminiscent of silent cinema, and logically complimented by Inter-titles, whilst the macabre actors mouth their words.

At the ‘Alpenrose’ guesthouse in the Austrian region of Styria, Karin Frenzel (Meier) and her mother (Kostka) are eating dinner. The two are bitter enemies, and make no secret of it, their animosity overheard by the other guests. Suddenly a group of Syrian refugees appear asking if this is a Syrian restaurant, but are turned away by the fiercely nationalistic landlord and his wife.  Soon afterwards, Karin and her mother die in a road accident. But this is not the only tragedy to occur. A distraught forester (Unterrieder) has lost his two sons, and is scouring the woods in search of them, to no avail. This home-movie horror immerses us in the universe of the text – and somewhere else at the same time. The parade of zombies in the supermarket recalls the genre films Jelinek herself mentioned as an inspiration, only giving greater credence to the sense that this blend of text, performance, and film, was a terrific idea. Meanwhile the Syrian refugees are seen transformed into zombies, along with Karin, who is chasing her double. Whilst Karin and her double fight, the innkeeper’s wife falls prey to the Syrian Zombies, who speak in lyrical verse. Back at the Alpenrose Inn, now transformed into a gastronomic Michelin star restaurant by the Syrians, Karin and her mother have it out for the last time.

An understanding of Austrian history is somehow necessary to appreciate the finer details of why the Zombies wear yellow Jewish Stars, and other emblems of the Third Reich. The inter-titles are crafted in old fashioned German script which contrasts with   banal mise en scene. Somehow, Jelinek’s anger is channelled into a bluntly outrageous film language by the debut filmmakers in their startling unsettling fantasy horror, which leaves no room for compromise. The duo are from the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, and it’s no accident that their producer is Ulrich Seidl.

Children of the Dead won the Fipresci Prize for the Forum section of the 2019 Berlinale.






Grâce à Dieu (2019) **** Berlinale 2019 | Silver Bear Grand Jury prize

Dir/Wri: Francois Ozon | Cast: Melvil Poupaud, Denis Menochet, Swann Arlaud, Eric Caravaca, François Marthouret, Aurelie Petit, Amelie Daure, Bernard Verley | Drama, France 137′

François Ozon is known for his satirical wit and his relaxed views on sexuality. His Grand Jury Silver Bear winner By the Grace of God takes on the theme of abuse in the Catholic church and its affects on three men. But no matter how hard-hitting their experiences may be there is always a flinty glint of Ozon’s brand of dry humour peeping though to light the dark clouds of its heroes’ despair.

Grâce à Dieu is based on the real case of Father Bernard Preynat who in 2016 was charged with sexually assaulting around 70 boys in Lyon, François Ozon portrays the victims as mature men but reveals the lifelong wounds they have sustained. At the same time, the film criticises the church’s silence on paedophilia and asks about its complicity. As of January 2019, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is standing trial for ‘non-denunciation of sexual aggression’.

Ozon casts three actors at the top of their game to play the trio: Melvil Poupaud is Alexandre a wealthy Lyonnais banker who has found success with his wife Marie (Petit) and five kids. He appears to be the one least damaged by the Preyan but when it emerges the priest is still working with kids, Alexandre decides to risk jeopardising his own settled existence and blow the whistle. His parents never gave credence to his feeling back in the day, and are still making light of them, but he goes ahead with a difficult confession to the Catholic authorities. It then turns out that happily married François is the next victim, and Dénis Menochet is less cautious about his confessions, bringing his explosive emotional potential to the part. Perhaps the worst affected is Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud) who claims his whole life has been traumatised by what happened, making it difficult for him to deal parent’s divorce and destroying his ability to connect emotionally with women, and this is played out in some incendiary scenes with his partner (Daure). Gradually others join the cause and we learn how each is struggling with their private demons while creating the self-help organisation ‘La Parole Libérée’ (The Liberated Word) is just the first step.

Some of the confessions are explicit and we’re never quite sure how far Ozon tipping the balance between salaciousness and pure honesty. This is also noticeable with reference to Lyon’s gourmet traditions and fine wine and there are frequent allusions to food which is considered as important as upsetting matter in hand when the men meet up, often leading to amusing non-sequiturs: (“anymore quiche anyone”?).

The magnificent Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière dominates the impressive opening scene as the Cardinal Barbarin hoists a golden cross over the city, almost as a blessing for what is to come in this meaty, affecting and enjoyable saga that richly chronicles a true story whose implications and repercussions are still unfolding in the present. MT





Delphine et Carole (2019) Mubi

Dir.: Callisto McNulty; Documentary with Delphine Seyrig, Carole Roussopoulos; France 2019, 70 min.

Director/co-writer Callisto McNulty throws new light on the remarkable career of French actress Delphine Seyrig (1932-1990), who together with filmmaker Carole Roussopoulos (1945-2009) was one of the most noteworthy feminists in France from the late Sixties onwards. With Iona Wieder they founded the video collective Les Insoumuses (neologism, in translation Disobedient Muses) in 1975.

Seyrig’s directional debut was Ines (1974), a short documentary calling for the release of Ines Romeu, a Brazilian activist, who was incarcerated in the infamous “House of Death” of the Military Junta. she survived after years of torture and rape. And went on to meet Seyrig in the mid 1970s, when they bought one of the first Sony Portapak video cameras in France – the first was purchased by Jean-Luc Godard.

The duo staged and filmed a protest at the grave of the Unknown Soldier, pointing to the repressed fate of the even more unknown soldier’s wife and celebrating her with a massive arrangement of flowers. Seyrig also signed the ‘343 Manifesto’, admitting to have had an abortion, which was illegal until 1975 in France. Her apartment was the setting for a short film about the technique of abortion. But her first film project with Roussopoulos was Maso et Miso go Boating (1975), an ironic innuendo for Rivette’s Celine et Julie go Boating, in which different generations of women talk about their sex lives.

One woman in her sixties actually accused the younger generation of being lazy: “When it was over, I jumped up and down, I never needed an abortion”. Seyrig was also a member of the MLF (Movement de Liberation de Femmes).  

There are some illuminating TV clips from the mid-Seventies with the then Minister for Women, Françoise Giraud, former editor of Vogue and later co-founder of L’Express. Giraud supports a male journalist who states, “misogynists make the best lovers.” Later, Giraud sent a delegation to the filmmakers, urging them not to use her comments in the documentary. “Sois Belle et tais toi” (Be Pretty and shut up, 1981) followed, the two interviewing famous actresses like Jane Fonda who had been victims of “the male gaze”. Fonda reports“I did not recognise myself after my first make-up session in Hollywood – I was one from a long production line. They even asked me to have my jaw broken, so that I would have hollow cheeks. Oh yes, and a nose job too, because ‘my nose was too long, to be taken seriously in a tragedy”.

Maria Schneider makes reference to the friendships between male directors and actors on the set; whilst women often had nobody to engage with. Francois Truffaut confesses that “women end up scaring men”. There is also an amusing clip with a well-known chef seen declaring that there are no woman chefs or food critics, because women “are unsuitable” for these professions. In a short video, Seyrig and Roussopoulos filmed the protestations of sex workers who had to hide in a church to avoid being imprisoned by the police. The filmmakers were also part of the many groups who filmed the famous LIP strike, where women openly challenged the male Union for the first time.

In 1976 the two filmmakers produced “Scum’, the radical manifesto of early feminist Valerie Solanas from 1967. But the greatest achievement of Wieder, Seyrig and Roussopoulos was the foundation of The Centre Audiovsiuel de Simone de Beauvoir in 1982, an institution which has grown since to be one of the leading centres of Feminism worldwide.

Clips from many of Seyrig’s most famous features enliven this informative film that celebrates the founders of French Feminism. An excerpt from Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” is particularly relevant AS



Breve Historia del Planeta Verde (2019) *** Berlinale | Panorama 2019

Dir: Santiago Loza | Drama: Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany | 90′
Santiago Loza was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1971 where his edgy, award-winning dramas such as La Paz, Lips and Strange go down well with the arthouse crowd. There’s a Lynchian quality to his latest, a stunningly surreal story that revolves around Trans woman Tania who discovers her favourite grandmother has died peacefully after spending her final years with an alien. With two friends in tow Tania sets off across rural Argentina to bring the creature back to its origin. But when they arrive at Granny’s home in the depths of a petrified forest, the reality is even more bizarre than expected. Powerful childhood memories come flooding back to Tania. And the alien being is not the only surprise they encounter.
There are echoes of Amat Escalante’s 2016 feature The Untamed and even cult classic ET to this thrilling road movie that also works as a lyrical horror mystery. We never know what to expect. And Loza achieves this sense of discombobulation and dislocation with a mixture of magic realism, slo-mo camerawork, photo montage and an eerie electronic and ambient score that wafts us into the unknown depths of the dark continent, blending the commonplace with the utterly absurd, strange and uplifting: literally and metaphorically. Loza’s unique cinematic language and delightfully delicate visual style make this an ethereal experience. MT

Buoyancy (2019) *** Berlinale 2019

Dir.: Rodd Rathjen; Cast: Sarm Heng, Thanawut Kasro, Mony Ros; Australia 2019, 94 min

Rodd Rathjen’s feature debut has a worthy but not always convincing narrative. A teenage boy from Cambodia tries to find work in Thailand, but ends up being one of 200,000 boys from South- East Asia to ‘contribute’ six billion $ for unpaid work in the fishing industry of Thailand. More often than not, they will never see their homeland again.

Fourteen year-old Chakra (Heng) slaves away in the rice fields with his father and brother Kravaan, who is being groomed as the heir. Chakra only wants to find a girl friend, but is rejected because of his low social status. Fed up with the whole set-up he finally snaps and travels with smugglers to Thailand.  There he will have to work a month for free, to pay for the cost of the transport. But on the ramshackle trawler, where the catch is substandard seafare (to be processed into dog food), Chakra soon find out this is a life sentence of hard work. One of his fellow workers tells Chakra they “they are already” dead. The ship’s captain, Rom Ron (Kasro) and his second in command punish the crew mercilessly for any disobedience, and bind them in chains, before throwing them into the sea. Chakra’s neighbour, who is losing his mind, is bound with ropes and thrown into the water, whilst the captain brutally manhandles Chakra at the so the propellers catch Kea. More tragedy will follow.

Rathjen keeps strictly to a one-to-one realism, and DoP Michael Latham catches the doomed atmosphere on the trailer in moody images. But somehow the ending undermines what has been said before, leaving the audience with a muted reaction. MT


A Tale of Three Sisters (2019) *** Berlinale 2019

Wri/Dir: Emin Alper | Cast: Cemre Ebuzziya, Ece Yuksel, Helin Kandemir, Kayhan Acikgoz, Mufit Kayacan, Kubilay Tuncer, Hilmi Ozcelik, Basak Kivilcim Ertanoglu | Turkish, 108’

A tale of Three Sisters seems like a step backwards for Emin Alper who started his career with the outstanding psychodrama Beyond the Hill. Frenzy followed promisingly, an Istanbul set story of political turmoil.

This folkloric family fable sees him back in another rural part of Turkey, in an Anatolian mountainside village cut off from the modern world. Here three daughters are trying to escape to the capital Ankara, but are thwarted by their poor skillset and the domineering men in their lives.

Almost like a Grimm’s fairy tale the feature is imbued with a mythical quality tethered in old world customs and beliefs. There is even a village idiot who somersaults down the valley with a macabre grin – and teeth to match. But the lack of a gripping storyline sees the film rambling on for nearly two hours without a strong dramatic arc to keep us engaged.

Life goes on as it always has in this village unable to learn by its mistakes. The men drink coffee while the women look after the home. The eldest sister Reyhan (Cemre Ebuzziya) has just had a baby boy and is married to Veysal (Kayhan Acikgoz), a superstitious, embittered loser who we first meet tending his sheep on a cold winter’s night. He soon abandons the herd when confronted by two men looking to buy the fold. And his cowardly nature is the key to the second of the film’s minor tragedies unfolding in the underwhelming finale. Death, birth and illiteracy are the main setbacks for women in this patriarchal set up

Havva (Helin Kandemir), the youngest, and the middle sister Nurhan (Ece Yuksel) seem unable to be trusted with kids and have been dismissed from their care-giving jobs in Ankara by wealthy urbanite Mr Necati (Kubilay Tuncer) who controls everyone’s lot in the village. They have taken part in the Bessemer tradition whereby girls from poor families go to wealthier ones. But due to State changes these girls often never get away again and are abandoned forever in old world poverty. Their kindly widowed father, Sevket (Mufit Kayacan), is determined to find the girls other positions although they are semi-illiterate. 

Before going back to Ankara, Necati enjoys an hilltop raki picnic with Sevket and the village chief. But an unfortunate contretemps develops with Veysal ending in a punch up. Angered and resentful, the herder goes home where he also upsets Reyhan with tragic consequences.

Shot on the widescreen the magical mountain panoramas dominate along with the hostile terrain and climate. DoP Emre Erkmen works wonders with the glowing interiors where dramatic colours compliment the girls’ heightened emotions echoed in the lilting tunes of folk singers and a tremulous violin score. MT


Ghost Town Anthology (2019) **** Berlinale 2019 | Interview

Dir/Wri: Denis Côté | Fantasy Drama | Canada, 97′

Auteur Denis Côté explores the aftermath of tragedy in remotest Quebec where the supernatural coalesces with the everyday lives of a blighted rural community.

Well known for his off-piste forays into Canadian backwaters Ghost Town most reassembles his Locarno Golden Leopard winner Curling (2010). There are also tonal echoes of his debut Drifting States, and even Xavier Dolan’s Tom a la Ferme, which was visited by a similar existential angst. Cote bases his story on the novel by Laurence Olivier, who also co-wrote the script. Silence reigns throughout the film apart from an occasional droning sound which adds to the doleful sense of gloom.

Ghost Town Anthology is an unremittingly bleak affair scratching at the edges of horror but settling instead for a mournful mood throughout; its dysfunctional characters stuck in the icy grip of inertia. When Simon Dubé drives his car at full throttle into a wall of cement, the entire population clings together, while a vortex of wind and snow rages through their flatlands home of Irénee-les-Neiges, a place of 200 odd people.

And odd is the operative word. After the crash a handful of kids play around the wreckage, wearing masks reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s Scream. They are the recurring human motif throughout the film, their identity revealed in the finale. At the funeral chirpy mayor Diane Smallwood (Diane Lavallée) fronts up vehemently despite the mood of despair, determined to raise the morale of her townsfolk with a firm belief in allegiance. “my door is always open”. But in vain. Angered by an offer of bereavement support from the local council, she reacts with thinly veiled hostility when the Muslim therapist arrives in the shape of Yasmina (Sharon Ibgui).

Simon leaves behind a family of three: his mother Gisele (Josee Deschenes) and father Romuald (Jean-Michel Anctil) are numbed by the grief and gradually go their own separate ways, suffering in silence. Simon’s look-a-like brother Jimmy (Robert Naylor) is left in state of shock. A coy George and Mildred style couple – Louise (Jocelyne Zucco) and Richard (Normand Carriere) – offer tea and sympathy to timid live-alone single Adele (Shelley Duvall lookalike Larissa Corriveau) who Richard describes as “a few lightbulbs short of a chandelier”. But her fears seem valid enough: she heard thuds and whispering voices in their house, and ends up suspended by own disbelief. Pierre (Hubert Proulx) owns the village bar and wants to keep his partner happy by offering to do up a dilapidated house at the end of the street, until they discover it was the scene of a brutal murder years earlier. And soon the regular appearances of random figures in the gloaming seem to point to the existence of ghosts from the past. A handheld camera conveys the unstable nature of the experience, but also the ephemeral quality of life.

Jimmy actually sees Simon at close quarters by the ice hockey pitch. Yet he has visited his embalmed body in its temporary morgue, awaiting burial, come the thaw. Romuald picks up a hitchhiker who bears a striking resemblance to his son. Adele also sees one of the masked children surrounded by static figures in the distance. There’s nothing baleful or malevolent about these people, lending them further credibility in the scheme of things. And their low key presence seems to lend credence to the Christian belief that the dead are always amongst us. Despite the bleakness that’s a comforting takeaway. MT






37 Seconds (2019) *** Berlinale 2019 | Panorama

Dir.: Hikari; Cast: Mei Kayama, Misuzu Kanno, Shunsuke Daito, Makiko Watanabe, Minori Hagiwara; Japan 2019, 115 min.

Award-winning short-filmmaker Hikari has directed, written and co-produced her first feature 37 Seconds, a passionate but sometimes cloying portrait of cerebral palsy sufferer Yuma. Confined most of the time to a wheelchair, she is at the mercy of an over-protective mother who is afraid of being left behind, should her daughter gain independence.

Yuma (Kayama) is a gifted Manga artist whose work is exploited by her cousin Sayaka (Hagiwara), passing Yuka’s drawings off as her own and paying her a pittance in return. Yuma’s mother Kyoko (Kanno) is only interested in keeping her daughter under her own control, giving her no room to develop. Yuka’s father is absent, we learn later, when Yuka is visiting her twin sister Yuka in Thailand, that Kyoko has burned his letters and drawings to Yuma. She rebels and sends her portfolio to another publishing house where she is advised by the female editor, to have a sexual experience first if she wants to draw her Manga adventures. Yuma sets off to the Red Light district of Tokyo, hiring a male prostitute to have sex with – an experiment which goes wrong. She then meets sex workers Mai (Watanabe) and Toshiko (Kumashino) who take care of her, the latter travelling with her to Thailand to meet Yuka. Although Kyoko has tried to cut Yuma off from everyone but Sayaka, she has gradually come to terms with her daughter being a successful, independent human being, despite her disability.

The acting is impressive, particularly Kayama (who in real life is a social worker for cerebral palsy sufferers), and Kanno, who excels in her portrait of an overbearing mother, interdependent with her daughter. DoPs Stephen Blahut and Tomoo Ezaki enlivens the film with some impressive panorama shots of Tokyo and the Thai countryside, and always finds new angles to show Yuma’s fight for independence. But Hikari’s script is often too simplistic and far-fetched in her portraits of the altruistic sex workers. 37 Seconds (the time Yuma failed to breathe after being born) suffers also from a self-indulgent running time, but the rosy-coloured happy ending would have made Hollywood proud. AS




Hellhole (2019) **** Berlinale 2019

Dir.: Bas Devos; Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Willy Thomas, Hamza Belarbi, Lubna Azabal, Mieke de Grotte; Belgium/Netherlands 2019, 87 min.

Bas Devos is back with another hybrid feature, a vision of urban anxiety and alienation. The feature works as an installation where actors represent Brussels’ lost souls, very much like his 2014 Berlinale winner Violet. 

Inspired by the Brussels’ subway bombings of March 2016 Devos shows us a world out of synch. Often the images break down totally: we get a black screen. Other intervals include long shots of the skies. We watch young immigrants from the Middle East, at school and playing football. “Brussels is called the Jihadi capital of Europe. It would be better to bombard us”. One of the youngsters is Mehdi (Belarbi). He lives with his parents and two younger siblings on a council estate. His older black sheep of the family Ahmed Ahmed puts him in a no-win situation: stealing their grandmother’s jewellery, so he can pay his debts. Mehdi resists. Another bewildered soul Samira (Azabal) makes the only spoken statement of the entire feature the rest are elliptical images: “Violence for me used to be pixels on TV, now I can feel that I can touch it”.  

Meanwhile, Wannes is in a permanent state of angst, unable to get hold of his son Boris, a fighter pilot stationed in the Middle East. He tries to reach him via Skype, but the connection always breaks down. In the Mall, the brutalist architecture and cement walls close in on the shoppers creating a claustrophobic hell. Wannes has a sister, Els (de Grotte), whose husband is dying. The doctor alleviates his last hours of life. The siblings share an unspoken closeness. But closer still is his German Shepherd, who sleeps on his bed. 

Alba (Rohrwacher) is convincing as a vulnerable woman with an eating disorder. Working as a translator with the EU, she is having a break from her fiancée who lives in Rome. Alba picks up a one-night stand on a strobe-lighted dance floor, and sends him away after sex. She knows her fiancée will do the same. When she has faints at work, the fear of something sinister leads her to ask Wannes for advice, but is not convinced she has brain tumour. “The internet says so”. 

It turns out that Mehdi couldn’t find the jewellery – or at least that’s what he tells Ahmed in the Mall. He sits down depressed as two armed soldiers tell him to “keep his backpack close to his body”. At the end Wannes gets a long message from Boris explaining his job: “All images are stored and filed away. There is nothing more to it”. The camera circles a fight plane, like a commercial.

Hellhole unfurls in the city’s drab interiors. Often we get still photos – humans, seem secondary, mostly talking behind glass, in disjointed conversations. Breath-taking and original, Hellhole is like the portrait of a space station, run by aliens, as humans become more and more impersonal. AS



Mektoub my Love: Canto Uno (2017) ***

Dir; Abdellatif Kechiche (France, Italy, 180’, o.v. French s/t English/Italian) starring Shaïn Boumedine, Ophélie Bau, Salim Kechiouche, Lou Luttiau, Alexia Chardard, Hafsia Herzi

Scripted by regular collaborator Ghalya Lacroix, Abdellatif Kecihiche’s follow-up to Blue is the Warmest Colour is a big-screen version of François Begaudeau’s novel. It doesn’t warrant its three hour running time, and few filmmakers would have got away with such a sparse narrative: but somehow Kechiche succeeds, always re-inventing the plot, keeping the audience on board with hypnotic images – helped by the moody mellow camerawork of DoP Marco Graziaplena.

Kechiche returns to  Sête, where he filmed The Secret of the Grain, for this sensuous celebration of sex and food. Amin (Boumedine), a young scriptwriter from Paris, arrives in the Languedoc fishing town to join his large family who run a restaurant. He visits his friend Ophélie (Bau), whose husband is serving the French navy which does not prevent her from indulging in a passionate affair with Toni (Kechiouche), one of Amin’s family. Amin himself is very reserved, preferring the company of girls like Charlotte (Charchard), who are committed to a relationship. Amine’s mother, played by the director’s sister, always reminds him to go out to the beach. Amin follows her advice, falls in love with Jasmine (Luttiau), but is too shy to make headways, whilst Toni takes what he gets – which is lot, to the chagrin of Ophélie. Whilst his friends – Tony again in the forefront – are celebrating lust and alcohol in a nightclub, Amin photographs the birth of two lambs.

The critics at Venice have all remarked how Kechiche (again) sees women from a man’s perspective, which is fine; but they forget that in many scenes women prefer their own gender when dancing and flirting, and are geting on perfectly well without men. Mektoub, meaning destiny – or thereabouts, is certainly not on the same level as Blue, but it celebrates youth, summer, food and sex; and has in Amin, a very convincing counterpart to Toni’s always-ready stud. Mektoub is like a self-indulgent extended holiday: it could be edited down to a long luxurious weekend break, without losing out on the positive benefits. A perfect Valentine film – or maybe not. AS


The Golden Glove (2019)

Dir: Fatih Akin | Drama | Germany, 2019 | 102’

There are brief echoes of Reiner Werner Fassbinder’s Fear Eats the Soul in the opening scene of The Golden Glove. This schlocky sortie into the squalid life of a serial killer also brings to mind Ulli Lommel’s cult thriller The Tenderness of Wolves. But that’s where the comparison ends. These films offered another string to their bow. Akin’s thriller just revels in its own ghastliness, descending into a desolate world of bars and pick-up joints where in 1970s West Germany, Fritz Honka was a voracious sexual predator, butchering his victims at will.

Chilling it is not, nor remotely terrifying. The true story plays out as a pointlessly gory procedural recording each death with sensationalist fervour. Blood, gore, body parts and disgusting lavatories – you’ll laugh and shake your head at the mindless depravity of it all. 

Rather than explore the psychological profile of this demon, Akin just pictures the gruesome daily grind of Fritz Honka, a Hamburg psychopath who kept dismembered body parts of prostitutes in his attic flat in the red light district of St Pauli. When visitors complained about the smell, Honka blamed his Greek Gästarbeiter family that lived downstairs “and didn’t work”. There’s no attempt to humanise the murderer or to probe his inner life or backstory. Honka remains a cypher from beginning to end.

This is a film that doesn’t serve anyone – least of all its victims. It takes a swipe at racism and ageism but forgets to condemn misogyny. But as the credits roll, the films suddenly turns sentimental offering up poignant portraits of the real women who died – as if suddenly coming to its senses in a bid to do the right thing. We go home without understanding or clarification. A tawdry tribute to those who died.@MeredithTaylor



Sundance Film Festival | Award and Winners 2019

Sundance announced its awards last night after ten extraordinary days of the latest independent cinema. Taking place each January in Park City, snowy Utah, the festival is the premier showcase for U.S. and international independent film, presenting dramatic and documentary feature-length films from emerging and established artists, innovative short films, filmmaker forums. The Festival brings together the most original storytellers known to mankind. In his closing speech President and Founder Robert Redford commented: “At this critical moment, it’s more necessary than ever to support independent voices, to watch and listen to the stories they tell.” Over half the films shown were directed by women and 23 prizes were awarded across the board including one film from a director identifying as LGBTQI+

This year’s jurors, invited in recognition of their accomplishments in the arts were Desiree Akhavan, Damien Chazelle, Dennis Lim, Phyllis Nagy, Tessa Thompson, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Yance Ford, Rachel Grady, Jeff Orlowski, Alissa Wilkinson, Jane Campion, Charles Gillibert, Ciro Guerra, Maite Alberdi, Nico Marzano, Véréna Paravel, Young Jean Lee, Carter Smith, Sheila Vand, and Laurie Anderson.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary/China | Dirs: Nanfu Wang/Jialing Zhang,

 photo by Nanfu Wang.

ONE CHILD NATION After becoming a mother, a filmmaker uncovers the untold history of China’s one-child policy and the generations of parents and children forever shaped by this social experiment.

The U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic/USA | Dir/Wri Chinonye Chukwu


photo by Eric Branco

CLEMENCY: Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill. Cast: Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Richard Schiff, Wendell Pierce, Richard Gunn, Danielle Brooks.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary: Dirs: Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov | Macedonia

HONEYLAND – When nomadic beekeepers break Honeyland’s basic rule (take half of the honey, but leave half to the bees), the last female bee hunter in Europe must save the bees and restore natural balance.

The Souvenir| photo by Agatha A. Nitecka.

The World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic | UK | Dir/wri: Joanna Hogg

THE SOUVENIR: A shy film student begins finding her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man. She defies her protective mother and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship which comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams. Cast: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton.

The Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, | USA  Dir: Rachel Lears:

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE — A young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada and a registered nurse in Missouri build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. One of their races will become the most shocking political upset in recent American history. Cast: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic, U.S.A. Dir/Wri: Paul Downs

BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON — A woman living in New York takes control of her life – one city block at a time. Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock, Alice Lee.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary/Austria: Dir: Richard Ladkan

SEA OF SHADOWS/Austria – The vaquita, the world’s smallest whale, is near extinction as its habitat is destroyed by Mexican cartels and Chinese mafia, who harvest the swim bladder of the totoaba fish, the “cocaine of the sea.” Environmental activists, Mexican navy and undercover investigators are fighting back against this illegal multimillion-dollar business.

The Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic/Denmark Dir: May el-Toukhy

QUEEN OF HEARTS — A woman jeopardises both her career and her family when she seduces her teenage stepson and is forced to make an irreversible decision with fatal consequences. Cast: Trine Dyrholm, Gustav Lindh, Magnus Krepper.


The Audience Award: NEXT, Alex Rivera, Cristina Ibarra

THE INFILTRATORS / U.S.A. (Directors: , Screenwriters: — A rag-tag group of undocumented youth – Dreamers – deliberately get detained by Border Patrol in order to infiltrate a shadowy, for-profit detention center. Cast: Maynor Alvarado, Manuel Uriza, Chelsea Rendon, Juan Gabriel Pareja, Vik Sahay.

The Directing Award: U.S. Documentary | USA Dirs: Steven Bognar and Julia

AMERICAN FACTORY  — In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.

The Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic U.S.A. Dirs: Joe Talbot, Screenwriters: Joe Talbot,

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO — Jimmie Fails dreams of reclaiming the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Joined on his quest by his best friend Mont, Jimmie searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary NOR | Dir: Mads Brüggerwas

 photo by Tore Vollan.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld / Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium — Danish director Mads Brügger and Swedish private investigator Göran Bjorkdahl are trying to solve the mysterious death of Dag Hammarskjold. As their investigation closes in, they discover a crime far worse than killing the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic | Spain (Dir/Wri: Lucía Garibaldi,

THE SHARKS / Uruguay, Argentina – While a rumour about the presence of sharks in a small beach town distracts residents, 15-year-old Rosina begins to feel an instinct to shorten the distance between her body and Joselo’s. Cast: Romina Bentancur, Federico Morosini, Fabián Arenillas, Valeria Lois, Antonella Aquistapache.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic USA | Dir: Pippa Blanco

SHARE— After discovering a disturbing video from a night she doesn’t remember, sixteen-year-old Mandy must try to figure out what happened and how to navigate the escalating fallout. Cast: Rhianne Barreto, Charlie Plummer, Poorna Jagannathan, J.C. MacKenzie, Nick Galitzine, Lovie Simone.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Moral Urgency| USA | Dir: Jacqueline Olive

ALWAYS IN SEASON — When 17-year-old Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in rural North Carolina in 2014, his mother’s search for justice and reconciliation begins as the trauma of more than a century of lynching African Americans bleeds into the present.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Emerging Filmmaker USA : Liza Mandelup

JAWLINE — The film follows 16-year-old Austyn Tester, a rising star in the live-broadcast ecosystem who built his following on wide-eyed optimism and teen girl lust, as he tries to escape a dead-end life in rural Tennessee.

A U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing USA : Todd Douglas Miller

APOLLO 11 — A purely archival reconstruction of humanity’s first trip to another world, featuring never-before-seen 70mm footage and never-before-heard audio from the mission.

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography | U.S.A. Dir: Luke Lorentzen

MIDNIGHT FAMILY / Mexico/DOC — In Mexico City’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, the Ochoa family runs a private ambulance, competing with other for-profit EMTs for patients in need of urgent help. As they try to make a living in this cutthroat industry, they struggle to keep their financial needs from compromising the people in their care.


Hail Satan! (2019) *** Rotterdam Film Festival 2019

Dir: Penny Lane | US, Doc 95′

Satanism is gaining ground, but don’t panic. Penny Lane’s drôle but disappointing documentary will explain why. According to her findings, the old Devil we can come to know and love has actually been foisted by his own petard. His cult has been hijacked by a motley crew of rather ordinary people who just want to get together and counter the mainstream forces they see dominating America. No harm done. Counterbalancing  is certainly a reasonable idea, but not a compelling premise for a a full length feature documentary. 

Satanists have chosen the rather apt name of The Satanic Temple (TST for short) to represent their cause – and simply because no one else had chosen this title, they checked on the internet, and it was available. And their main man and co-founder really looks the part too with his glazed right eye and shifty expression: Lucien Greaves – not his real name – works jolly hard for the organisation as its spokesperson, ensconced in the black-painted wooden clad house (straight out of the film Halloween) in Salem Massachusetts. Some of the other supporters look rather weird too in their Gothic garb and horned headgear, but that’s about as scary as it gets. And they don’t have much to say for themselves  either, beyond criticising the people they vehemently oppose.

But doesn’t a religion have to have conviction, spirituality, beliefs and customs that transcend mere civic duty?. Amongst their seven tenets the Satanists list: compassion, a struggle for justice, and ‘the inviolability of the body’. But this doctrine could easily apply to the Girl Guides.

And Lane’s documentary certainly doesn’t make us quake in our boots over these so-called Satanists. Mild fascination turns gradually to boredom as Hail Satan! plays out, running round in ever decreasing circles in its effort to get to the crux of the organisation. What TST purports to represent seems ill-defined, but its certainly anti-establishment. The thrust of their activity is clearly to oppose government efforts to establish religious totems such as a granite structure listing the The Ten Commandments in front of a state house, and to erect their own idol which is a metallic figure called Behemoth.

But once we discover that name Satan is just a facade for TST’s rather pointless activities – such as attending ‘unbaptisms’ – and it adherents are just a bunch of average punters with nothing salacious or particularly macabre about them (except their black garb) the whole documentary starts to feel quite tedious. And the fact that they feature regularly on Fox News spinning endless ‘Satanic’ narratives won’t have a novelty value forever. On their website they maintain: We acknowledge blasphemy is a legitimate expression of personal independence from counter-productive traditional norms”. Isn’t this just the same as supporting free speech?. And there’s nothing evil about that.

There’s nothing even o suggest that Satanism is a religion. Ok, it doesn’t espouse violence or evil. Infact it doesn’t really espouse anything cogent at all, apart from being a force for decency and liberalism, and a mealy-mouthed opposition to the mainstream. But behind their black hoods and wicked headgear, there is little talk of faith, spirituality or even morality. Infact there’s no talk of anything other than their smug feeling of hiding behind something that actually doesn’t represent them at all. So their whole existence is misleading. But it’s gathering ground. Their numbers swell day by day, and you might even find yourself joining them one day. But make no mistake. If you’re drawn to this film in the hope of experiencing of something dark and dastardly, you will leave feeling disappointed. At the end of the day, these Satanists are just a bunch of small-town do-gooders.  MT


God of the Piano (2019) Digital release

Dir: Itay Til: Cast: Naama Pries, Ron Bitterman, Shimon Mimran, Andy Levi | Drama | Israel 80′

Anat is a young woman who will let nothing get in her way, least of all accidents of nature, in this tightly-scripted and quietly chilling first feature from Israeli director Itay Tal. Prepare to be shaken and stirred.

This study of obsession brings to mind the so-called ‘tiger’ mothers who are so focused on achieving their goals, the well-being of their family is secondary, as long as everything goes according to plan. Sadly these women often come from high-performing backgrounds themselves, and such is the case with pregnant concert pianist Anat (a superbly slick Naama Pries from Laila in Haifa), whose waters break while she’s on stage.

Anat ignores this call of nature until the end of her piece, the liquid slowly pooling round her feet. But when she discovers her chortling baby has hearing difficulties, she takes the sinister step of swapping him over with another child in the hospital birthing room.

Control freaks have been vividly portrayed in arthouse cinema of late, recent examples are Calin Peter Netzer’s Golden Bear winner Child’s Pose (2013) where a mother does her utmost to change the course of law for her son. Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher (2016) also reworks this thorny theme with a similar cold visual aesthetic and unlikeable central character. In fact, Tal’s film is full of unpleasant types, cyphers whose means to an end makes them frighteningly real in these success-focused times.

Anat’s family are all accomplished musicians including her new son Idam, who plays like a professional pianist from the early scenes – despite his lack of genetic connection with the rest of the family. Her son’s music career gradually becomes the focus of Anat’s days, coaching him as he learns to compose and perform. Even sex with her husband goes out of the window (she is seen half-heartedly pleasuring him with her hands) as she transfers her amorous efforts to composer Shimon Mimran – the only character here with charisma – who gamely offers to help the boy with his composing.

Sex with Mimran seems to satisfy Anat more than anything else in her life: it’s as if she’s finally been fed after starving for years. But rather than trusting her intuition and taking things further with this interesting man, Anat suppresses her own needs and rushes off to promote her son to the next stage of his career.

Alarm bells ring when the local hearing-impaired centre tries to get in touch, Anat eradicating any further communication from them, even visiting the clinic to make sure they strike Idam’s records from their books. Anat’s father is a fiercely competitive man and his reaction to Idam’s talent is quite chilling: rather than encouraging the boy he seethes with anger at Idam’s perfect performance of a piece he wrote at the same age. Although we cannot like Anat’s character, we start to understand her motivations, and the strain she’s under to compete in this unforgiving family environment. A slick and enjoyable thriller and a brilliant debut from Itay Tal. MT



Murder Me Monster (2018) *** IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir Alejandro Fadel. Argentina. 2018. 106′

MURDER ME MONSTER’S widescreen solemnity might bring to mind the murder investigation in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. There are vague echoes too of Amat Escalante’s The Untamed, but that’s where the similarity ends. This brooding Andes-set crime mystery is the gruesome work of Los Selvajes director Alejandro Fadel, and it is certainly not for the feint hearted with its bestial themes and deformed zombie-like characters. Infact everyone in this stomach-turning horror fantasy is on edge and whispering morosely, for one reason or another. And a series of macabre murders, where heads are torn from bodies, seem to be the reason why.

The opening scene sees the dying moments of a woman whose throat has been severed and as a herd of sheep, and some other livestock are slowly make their supper of her remains, a blind man mumbles on about the murder, as slowly Fadel builds suspense out of a series of weird incidents that seem to indicate that a feral beast is on the prowl and out of control in this remote corner of Argentina where it invariably appears to be night.

Rural police officer Cruz (Victor Lopez) is tasked with investigating the murders and the finger seems to point to local thick-lipped weirdo David (Esteban Bigliardi) who claims that a savage creature is using certain phrases to commune with him, as if through telepathy, with a ‘silly’ voice that repeats ‘Murder Me, Monster’.

Cinematographers Manuel Rebella and Julian Apezteguia evoke nightmarish visuals often using the same technique as the painter El Greco – where the characters’ faces are often starkly backlit against a murky darkness. And there’s a garish otherworldly quality to the outdoor mountain scenes that turn increasingly Lynchian as the plot thickens. Pus-yellow, murky mustard and puke green make up the colour palette of costume and set designers Florencia and Laura Caligiuri. An atmospheric ambient score keeps the tension brewing.

This is intriguing stuff, if rather too enigmatic for its own good. A rather unsatisfying narrative eventually leaves us stranded in its own mysterious backwater, and we feel rather nauseous and bewildered by the end. MT



The Man Who Surprised Everyone (2018) **** IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir: Natasha Merkulova, Aleksey Chupov | Cast: Evgeniy Tsiganov, Natalya Kudryashowa, Yuriy Kuznetsov, Vasiliy Popov, Pavel Maykov, Aleksey Filimonov, Elena Voronchikhina, Maksim Vitorgan | Drama | Russia Estonia France | 105’

Russian directing duo Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov tackle a thorny subject with deftness in this classically styled and  surprisingly moving arthouse drama that had its premiere in the Orizzonti sidebar at Venice Film Festival 2018

LGBT issues are still viewed with hostility back home in Russia but the leads are completely convincing in their subtlely nuanced and solemn portrayal of a modern couple coping with extremely challenging conditions in a remote rural outpost.

Egor is a respectable family man who we first meet navigating his boat along the Siberian Taiga where he works as a forest ranger looking out for poachers. He and his wife Natalia are expecting their second child when Egor discovers he has terminal cancer but keeps his wife in the dark about his imminent death. But this is not the only secret the thoughtful middle-aged man harbours, and the filmmakers gradually draw us in establishing the couple’s joint and several feelings of joy for her, and mounting grief and unease for him: Egor must bear alone the double burden of his cancer trauma and his nascent sexual yearnings that will certainly require his wife’s forbearance. When he tells Natasha she persuades Egor to seek further help in looking for a cure. But no traditional medicine or shamanic magic can save him. Finally, left with no other option, he makes a desperate attempt to escape the reality of his death by channelling his feelings into self-identifying as a woman with initial alarm to his close community, followed by anger, disbelief and acceptance by Natasha, and we feel for both of them. His family and the local society now have to accept his new self.

Moody rain-soaked settings and subdued interiors add to the feeling of angst and quiet desperation as the couple struggle on trapped by poverty and Natasha’s ageing and ailing father in a scenario that will be feel familiar to many.

This is a grim and provocatively complex tale that needs clever handling and one that could have gone severely awry with disastrous consequences without the skill of a competent directing team. But instead clever scripting, skilful handling of the complex issues at stake and sensitive performances make for an absorbing feature and one with considerable dramatic heft as we wait for the startling denouement that requires a certain leap of faith but one that feels plausible and satisfying in the circumstances.MT


Berlinale Competition films announced | Berlinale 2019

The full competition line-up and special films for this year’s Berlinale have now been announced. The festival opens with Lone Scherfig’s THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS and runs from the 7th February until the 17th. 

Vying for the Golden Bear, there are three Asian films: Zhang Yimou’s One Second, (China) Farewell My Son Wang by Xiaoshuai (China) and Öndög by Wang Quan’an (Mongolia). From Canada, festival regular Denis Côté wiIl bring his latest drama Ghost Town Anthology Israeli director Nadav Lapid brings his world premiere: Synonyms. The rest are from all over Europe. 

There are 20 world premieres this year in Berlin, and 16 films vying for the Golden Bear of which 6 are directed by women.

BERLINALE GOLDER BEAR – hopefuls and Competition films:

The Kindness of Strangers by Lone Scherfig (Denmark / Canada / Sweden / Germany / France) – Opening film. Andrea Riseborough, Caleb Landry Jones and Bill Nighy star in Scherfig’s 20th film exploring the lives of four people in crisis.

The Ground beneath My Feet, by Marie Kreutzer (Austria)

Kreutzer’s first film The Fatherless won her an honourable mention at Berlinale 2011. Her latest drama follows a high powered woman has everything under control until a tragic event forces her life to unravel.

So Long, My Son (Di jiu tian chang) by Wang Xiaoshuai (People’s Republic of China). Once again the social and economic changes in China from the 1980s until the present day are pulled into the spotlight through the experience of two couples.

Elisa y Marcela (Elisa & Marcela) by Isabel Coixet (Spain), The first recorded lesbian marriage is the subject of this black and white biopic from Catalan director Isabel Coixet.

The Golden Glove, Der Goldene HandschuhFatih Akin was born and grew up in Germany from Turkish parentage. His first literary adaptation is a crime thriller that traces back to Hamburg in the 1970s where a rampant serial killer was at large. (Germany / France) God

Exists, Her Name is Petrunya, (Gospod postoi, imeto i’ e Petrunija)  by Teona Strugar. The  male population of a Macedonian seaside town is scandalised when a young local woman decides to enact a traditionally men-only religious ceremony, but Petrunya holds her own in this unusual drama from award-winning director Teona Strugar Mitevska. Brings to mind Sworn Virgin. (Macedonia / Belgium / Slovenia / Croatia / France)

Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God) by François Ozon (France). French provocateur Ozon is back in Berlin with this portrait of three men who decide to challenge a Catholic priest who abused them many years previously.

I Was at Home, But by Angela Schanelec (Germany / Serbia). Franz Rogowski is the star of this Germany drama that revolves around a teenager whose brief disappearance changes the lives of his local community.

A Tale of Three Sisters (Kız Kardeşler)by Emin Alper (Turkey / Germany / Netherlands / Greece). The knock-on affects of unsuccessful adoption is the thorny theme of this drama from Emin Alper, whose award-winning, incendiary thrillers Frenzy and Beyond the Hill have delighted previous Venice and Berlinale festival-goers.

Mr. Jones by Agnieszka Holland (Poland / United Kingdom / Ukraine). Two years ago Polish director Holland won the Silver Bear with her eco-drama Spoor. She’s back in the competition line-up with a thriller about the Welsh journalist who broke the news to the Western media about the 1930s famine in the Soviet Union. Vanessa Kirby, James Norton and Peter Sarsgaard star.

Öndög by Wang Quan’an (Mongolia). Wang Quan’an is no newcomer to Berlinale. In 2010 he  won the Silver Bear for his drama Apart Together, and the Golden Bear for Tuya’s Marriage in 2006.

La paranza dei bambini (Piranhas) by Claudio Giovannesi (Italy). A gang of teenage boys terrorise the streets of Naples in this thriller based on Robert Saviano’s novel Gomorrah.

Répertoire des villes disparues (Ghost Town Anthology) by Denis Côté (Canada). It’s always a pleasure to see Denis Côté’s films – this inventive Canadian maverick was last in town with Boris Without Beatrice. Here he’s back with a fantasy drama set in the aftermath of a tragic incident in a small isolated town

Synonymes (Synonyms) by Nadav Lapid (France / Israel / Germany), with Tom Mercier, Quentin Dolmaire, Louise Chevillotte. Lapid follows his 2014 drama The Kindergarten Teacher with a story about a young Israeli man who absconds to Paris with his trusty dictionary as companion.

Systemsprenger (System Crasher) by Nora Fingscheidt (Germany) a drama focusing on an unruly kid who terrorises everyone around her, not least the child protection services.

Ut og stjæle hester (Out Stealing Horses) by Hans Petter Moland (Norway / Sweden / Denmark). Moland brought his politically incorrect thriller In Order of Disappearance to Berlin in 2014. His latest, Out Stealing Horses also stars Stellan Skargard as a grieving widow whose past comes to the present when he moves out to the depths of the Scandinavian countryside.

Yi miao zhong (One Second) by Zhang Yimou (Red Sorghum) People’s Republic of China ). Always extravagant and visually alluring, Zhang Yimou’s stylish films win awards across the board. Fresh from Venice 2018 and the Golden Horse Festival where his latest Shadow won the top prize. He tries his luck again at Berlinale 2019 with this story that sees a film buff befriending a homeless female.

Berlinale Special at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Peter Lindbergh – Women Stories – Documentary
by Jean Michel Vecchiet (Vies et morts d’Andy Warhol, Basquiat, une vie, 6 juin 1944, ils étaient les premiers)
World premiere

Berlinale Special Gala at the Friedrichstadt-Palast

India / Germany / USA
by Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox, Our Souls at Night, The Sense of an Ending)
with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Vijay Raaz, Jim Sarbh, Akash Sinha, Saharsh Kumar Shukla
European premiere

You Only Live Once  – Die Toten Hosen – Tour 2018 Documentary – World Premiere
by Cordula Kablitz-Post and concert director Paul Dugdale (Taylor Swift)

In Competition – Out of Competition

L’adieu à la nuit (Farewell to the Night) by André Téchiné (France / Germany) – Out of competition with Catherine Deneuve, Kacey Mottet Klein.
Amazing Grace realised by Alan Elliott (USA) From 1970s Warner footage – Documentary, out of competition

Marighella by Wagner Moura (Brazil) – Out of competition

The Operative by Yuval Adler (Germany / Israel / France / USA) – Out of competition

Varda par Agnès (Varda by Agnès) by Agnès Varda (France) – Documentary, out of competition

Vice by Adam McKay (USA) – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry – Out of competition

Berlinale Special films:

ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch by Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Edward Burtynsky (Canada) – Documentary
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Chiwetel Ejiofor (United Kingdom)
Brecht by Heinrich Breloer (Germany / Austria)
Celle que vous croyez (Who You Think I Am) by Safy Nebbou (France)
Es hätte schlimmer kommen können – Mario Adorf (It Could Have Been Worse – Mario Adorf) von Dominik Wessely (Germany) – Documentary
Gully Boy by Zoya Akhtar (India)
Lampenfieber (Kids in the Spotlight) by Alice Agneskirchner (Germany) – Documentary
El Norte (The North) by Gregory Nava (USA 1984)
Peter Lindbergh – Women Stories by Jean Michel Vecchiet (Germany) – Documentary
Photograph by Ritesh Batra (India / Germany / USA)
Watergate – Or: How We Learned to Stop an Out of Control President by Charles Ferguson (USA) – Documentary
Weil du nur einmal lebst – Die Toten Hosen auf Tour (You Only Live Once – Die Toten Hosen on Tour) by Cordula Kablitz-Post, concert director Paul Dugdale (Germany) – Documentary


Rotterdam Film Festival | 23 January – 3 February 2019

Rotterdam is one of the largest shipping ports in Europe and forms part of the prosperous oil-trading triangle known as ARA, along with Amsterdam and Antwerp. Rotterdam is the cradle of Modernism from the 1930s onwards and although it was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War (apart from the iconic Sonneveld House Museum which still remains, built in the Nieuwe Bouwen style). The vibrant Dutch city takes pride in its Avant garde and Art Nouveau architecture and buildings such as the Cube House (left), Kunsthal Museum and the Erasmusbrug Bridge (below) making it a magnet for design lovers – and cineastes alike.

This year’s Rotterdam Film Festival takes place from 23 January until the 3rd February with the latest World premieres running alongside 4 sections entitled Bright Future, Voices, Deep Focus and Perspectives – and a cutting-edge arts programme to add a cultural dimension to the 10 days, and this year includes SLEEPCINEMAHOTEL a one off project by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and never before seen outtakes from Sergei Parajanov’s masterpiece The Colour of Pomegranates (196

The 2019 jury comprises Chilean filmmaker and artist Alfredo Jaar; Daniela Michel, festival director of Morelia Film Festival; Katriel Schory, former director of the Israel Film Fund; Pimpaka Towira, Thai filmmaker/producer and programme director of Singapore Film Festival; and Italian filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli. The festival’s Big Screen Competition awards a prize of €30,000 to its winning director whose film will be guaranteed a theatrical release in the Netherlands, as be broadcast on the Dutch public TV network NPO.

Sacha Polak’s Dirty God will open the festival.

T  I G E R   C O M P E T I T I O N

Sons Of Denmark, Ulaa Salim, 2019, Denmark, world premiere

No coração do mundo, Gabriel Martins Alves/Maurílio Martins, 2019, Brazil, world premiere

Take Me Somewhere Nice, Ena Sendijarević, 2019, Netherlands/Bosnia and Herzegovina, world premiere (left)

Present.Perfect., Shengze Zhu, 2019, USA/Hong Kong, world premiere

Sheena667, Grigory Dobrygin, 2019, Russia, world premiere

Nona. If They Soak Me, I’ll Burn Them, Camila José Donoso, 2019, Chile/Brazil/France/South Korea, world premiere

Koko-di Koko-da, Johannes Nyholm, 2018, Sweden/Denmark, international premiere

Els dies que vindran, Carlos Marqués-Marcet, 2019, Spain, world premiere

B I G   S C R E E N   C O M P E T I T I O N

Bangla, Phaim Bhuiyan, 2019, Italy, world premiere

The Best of Dorien B., Anke Blondé, 2019, Belgium, world premiere

God of the Piano, Itay Tal, 2019, Israel, world premiere

Hail Satan?, Penny Lane, 2018, USA, international premiere

Joel, Carlos Sorín, 2018, Argentina, European premiere

Queen of Hearts, May el-Toukhy, 2019, Denmark, European premiere

Transnistra, Anna Eborn, 2018, Sweden, world premiere

X&Y, Anna Odell, 2018, Sweden/Denmark, international premiere


The Raft (2018) ***

Dir/scr. Marcus Lindeen. Sweden/Denmark/US/Germany. 2018. 97 mins.

THE RAFT is Marcus Lindeen’s follow up to The Regretters. As another studio-based experimental film it won the top prize at this year’s CPH: DOX festival, one of Europe’s most important documentary festivals. A fascinating study in sociology and psychology, it unites a group of 7 survivors from an 11-man (and woman) raft (the Alcali), who discuss the sea-bound project they took part in during the 1970s – and their experiences then provide remarkable contrast to the people they have now become – although the archive footage is more interesting than the contemporary chats, their maturity now enables them to gain insight into their younger selves.

Marcus Lindeen was essentially playing a game with these people. They had all been selected along strict guidelines (good-looking, sexually attractive parents who may miss their children and look for support from each other) and confirm (or deny) long-standing theories on violence, provocation, sexual desire and group dynamics etc. The raft in question set sail in the Atlantic in 1973 and was put together by the radical Mexican social anthropologist Santiago Genovés, who had been involved in a plane hi-jacking. It was initially Genovés who came up with the idea to put the group in a isolating situation  and thence to study the violence and conflict that potentially ensued. Very much along the same lines as the various Uk TV realit programmes – only more dangerous – there were clearly perils involved in the seaborne voyage of the Acali from the Canary Islands to Mexico, that took over three months and was crewed by volunteers of different nationalities, race, religion and social backgrounds with the sole aim of  “creating tension”. Crucially the only person who felt conflicted was Genoves himself, and he confesses to breaking down in tears one night on deck.

Strangely enough, the only one concerned about the voyage was Maria, the Swedish captain, who stayed calm throughout a near hit from a massive tanker, and everyone grew to respect her. But soon they lose faith in Genoves who withdraws, feigning illness, and later has some sort of minor breakdown. As they set sail, Lindeen had likened this to experiments with rats, but one of the women confirms that the group eventually became inseparable regardless of their radical differences.

Distilled from over eight hours of 16mm footage, this is an extraordinary endeavour. But it could never be done today with the Health and Safety limitations, let alone the lack of Suntan cream! Far from violence and conflict, what actually comes out of this fantastic voyage is the comment “we started out ‘them and us’ and we became ‘us’”. A positive conclusion to a potentially lethal experiment. MT


Sundance Film Festival | 24 January – 3 February 2019

In Park City Utah, ROBERT REDFORD and his programmer John Cooper set the indie film agenda for 2019 with an array of provocative new titles. This year’s selection has the latest documentaries from Alex Gibney and Kim Longinotto (Shootin the Mafia). There will be biopics about Harvey Weinstein, Stieg Larsson (Millennium Trilogy), designer Halston, and tragic actor Anton Yelchin. English director Joanna Hogg’s latest drama The Souvenir will compete in the World Dramatic section, and Shia LeBoeuf’s scripting debut Honey Boy will compete in the US Dramatic section.

After The Wedding

Isabel (Michelle Williams) has dedicated her life to working with the children in an orphanage in Calcutta. Theresa (Julianne Moore)…
Dir/Writer: Bart Freundlich


Would-be writer Laura (Holliday Grainger) and her free-spirited bestie Tyler (Alia Shawkat) share a messy Dublin apartment and a hearty…
Director Sophie Hyde Writer Emma Jane Unsworth

Blinded by the Light

1987, Margaret Thatcher’s England. Javed, a 16-year-old British Pakistani boy, lives in the town of Luton. His father’s recent job…
Director Gurinder Chadha, Writer Sarfraz Manzoor, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

1969. Ted (Zac Efron) is crazy-handsome, smart, charismatic, affectionate. And cautious single mother Liz Koepfler (Lily Collins) ultimately cannot resist…
Director Joe Berlinger. Screenwriter Michael Werwie

I Am Mother

Shortly after humanity’s extinction, in a high-tech bunker deep beneath the earth’s surface, a robot named Mother commences her protocol….
Director Grant Sputore, Screenwriter Michael Lloyd Green

Late Night

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a pioneer and legendary host on the late-night talk-show circuit. When she’s accused of being…
Director Nisha Ganatra. Screenwriter Mindy Kaling

Official Secrets

Based on the book , tells the true story of British secret-service officer Katharine Gun, who during the immediate run-up…
Director Gavin Hood, Screenwriter Sara Bernstein, Gregory Bernstein, Gavin Hood


An unlikely bromance between two misfit neighbors becomes an unexpectedly emotional journey when one of them is diagnosed with terminal…
Director Alex Lehmann. Screenwriter Alex Lehmann, Mark Duplass


Rafi works as a street photographer in frenzied Mumbai, snapping improvised portraits for tourists at the city’s landmarks. When his…
Director Ritesh Batra. Screenwriter Ritesh Batra


Los Angeles detective Jack Radcliff fields a distressed phone call from his niece Ashley and rushes to the rescue—only to…
Director Jacob Estes Screenwriter Jacob Estes, Drew Daywalt

Sonja – The White Swan

Before there were the Ice Capades, there was Sonja Henie. In 1936, Henie has three Olympic gold medals and ten…
Director Anne Sewitsky. Screenwriter Mette Marit Bølstad, Andreas Markusson

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Young William Kamkwamba lives with his family in rural Malawi, where he attends school regularly and shows great aptitude for…
Director Chiwetel Ejiofor Screenwriter Chiwetel Ejiofor

The Mustang

Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a tightly wound convict fresh out of solitary confinement at a maximum security prison in…
Director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. Screenwriter Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Mona Fastvold, Brock Norman Brock

The Report

Senate staffer Daniel Jones is assigned the daunting task of leading an investigation into the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program….
Director Scott Z. Burns. Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns

The Sunlit Night

Summer is off to a terrible start for Frances (Jenny Slate). Her art project fails, her boyfriend unceremoniously kicks her…
Director David Wnendt. Screenwriter Rebecca Dinerstein

The Tomorrow Man

Retiree Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) spends his quiet days watching the news, checking internet forums, and preparing for the end…
Director Noble Jones. Screenwriter Noble Jones

Top End Wedding

Lauren and Ned are engaged. They are in love. And they have just ten days to find Lauren’s mother (who…
Director Wayne Blair. Screenwriter Joshua Tyler, Miranda Tapsell

Troop Zero

Nine-year-old oddball Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) is obsessed with space and making contact with the aliens of the universe. When…
Directors Bert&Bertie. Screenwriter Lucy Alibar

Velvet Buzzsaw

In the cutthroat world of fine-art trading and representation, up-and-coming agent Josephina (Zawe Ashton) stumbles across a secret weapon: hundreds…
Director Dan Gilroy. Screenwriter Dan Gilroy
The Brink / U.S.A. (Director: Alison Klayman, Producer: Marie Therese Guirgis) — Now unconstrained by an official White House post, Steve Bannon is free to peddle influence as a perceived kingmaker with a direct line to the President. After anointing himself leader of the “populist movement,” he travels around the U.S. and the world spreading his hard-line anti-immigration message. World Premiere
ASK DR RUTH (2019) 

Don’t let her small status fool you. She may be under five feet tall but Holocaust survivor Dr Ruth Westheimer is a force to be reckoned with, as chronicled by Ryan White in his documentary portrait of the noteworthy sex therapist.

Dir: Ryan White.


Fashion designed Halston combined talent, notoriety and sheer gorgeousness to become a legend. From humble beginnings in Des Moines, Iowa this doc explores his meteoric rise to fame.

Dir: Frederic Tcheng

 Love, Antosha

Prolific young actor Anton Yelchin was wise beyond his years and influenced around him to strive for more.

Dir: Garret Price

Marianne & Leonard

Is a beautiful yet tragic love story between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen.

Dir: Nick Broomfield

 Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen

In the 1970s Merata Mita broke through barriers of race, class and gender.

Dir/writer: Hepi Mita

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Using words from Miles Davis’ Autobiography, Stanley Nelson’s biopic offers insight into our understanding of the legendary musician.

Dir: Stanley Nelson

 Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Mollu Ivins

With razor-sharp wit, outspoken journalist and firecracker Molly Ivins took on the good-old-boy corruption in the political establishment

Dir: Janice Engel. Writer: Janice Engel, Monique Zavistovski

The Great Hack

Have you ever filled out an online survey? Do you wonder why you received ads for products

Dir: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujam Wri: Erin Barnett, Pedro Kos, Karim Amer

The Inventor: Out for blood in Silicon Valley

Elizabeth Holmes arrived in Silicon Valley with a revolutionary medical invention. She called it “the Edison”

Director: Alex Gibney

 Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

After a stint as an editor early in her career, this American writer got the measure of publishing.

Dir: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders


The inside story of the meteoric rise and monstrous fall of movie titan Harvey Weinstein is laid bare.

Dir: Ursula Macfarlane

Words from a Bear

When N Scott Momaday won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize, it marked one of the first major acknowledgements of Native America.


Before You Know It

Stage manager Rachel Gurner still lives in her childhood apartment—along with her off-kilter actress sister, Jackie; eccentric playwright father Mel;…
Director Hannah Pearl Utt. Screenwriters Hannah Pearl Utt, Jen Tullock

Big Time Adolescence

It’s funny: humans have been growing up for a really long time, but somehow we still suck at it. Just…
Director Jason Orley. Screenwriter Jason Orley

Brittany Runs A Marathon

Brittany Forgler is a funny, likeable, 27-year-old hot mess of a New Yorker whose trashy nightclub adventures and early-morning walks…
Director Paul Downs Colaizzo. Screenwriter Paul Downs Colaizzo


How do you salvage your marriage when you are struggling to salvage your soul, your sense of self, and your…
Director Chinonye Chukwu. Screenwriter Chinonye Chukwu


Hala is her father’s pride and joy. Dutiful and academically gifted, she skillfully navigates both her social life as a…
Director Minhal Baig. Screenwriter Minhal Baig

Honey Boy

When 12-year-old Otis starts to find success as a child television star in Hollywood, his ex-rodeo-clown father returns to serve…
Director Alma Har’el. Screenwriter Shia LaBeouf

Imaginary Order

For Cathy, life as she’s always known it seems to be slipping away. Her sense of significance is crumbling as…
Director Debra Eisenstadt. Screenwriter Debra Eisenstadt


It’s been ten years since Amy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) adopted their son from war-torn Eritrea,…
Director Julius Onah. Screenwriter JC Lee, Julius Onah

Ms. Purple

In the dark karaoke rooms of Los Angeles’s Koreatown stripmalls, Kasie works as a girl, a young hostess paid to…
Director Justin Chon. Screenwriter Justin Chon, Chris Dinh

Native Son

Bigger “Big” Thomas, a young African American man, lives with his mother and siblings in Chicago. Half-heartedly involved with a…
Director Rashid Johnson. Screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks


After a night of partying, high-school sophomore Mandy discovers that a series of cell-phone videos of her—half-dressed and semiconscious—have gone…
Director Pippa Bianca. Screenwriter Pippa Bianco

The Farewell

After learning their beloved matriarch has terminal lung cancer, a family opts not to tell her about the diagnosis, instead…
Director Lulu Wang. Screenwriter Lulu Wang

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jimmie Fails has one hope in life: to reclaim the majestic Victorian house his grandfather built. Every week, Jimmie and…
Director Joe Talbot. Screenwriter Joe Talbot, Rob Richert

Them That Follow

In the rugged wilderness of Appalachia, the members of an isolated community of Pentecostal snake handlers led by Pastor Lemuel…
Director Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage. Screenwriter Britt Poulton, Dan Madison Savage

The Sound of Silence

A self-taught scientist, Peter (Peter Sarsgaard) works in New York as a “house tuner”—a unique, highly specialized profession he’s invented….
Director Michael Tyburski. Screenwriter Ben Nabors, Michael Tyburski

To The Stars

In a god-fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma, bespectacled and reclusive teen Iris endures the booze-induced antics of her mother…
Director Martha Stephens. Screenwriter Shannon Bradley-Colleary
US   D O C U M E N T A R Y  

Always in Season

Claudia Lacy wants answers. When her 17-year-old son, Lennon, was found hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, North Carolina,…
Director Jacqueline Olive

American Factory

In 2014, a Chinese billionaire opened a Fuyao factory in a shuttered General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio. For thousands…
Director Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert


NASA’s vaults open for the first time to spill this exquisite, never-before seen audio and 70 mm film footage of…
Director Todd Douglas Miller


is the first major documentary to explore the crisis in care of severely mentally-ill citizens. Set in Los Angeles,…
Director Kenneth Paul Rosenberg

David Crosby: Remember My Name

We’re all acquainted with archetypal rock bio-doc tropes: the unexpected rise to stardom, calamitous love affairs, a descent into drugs,…
Director A.J. Eaton

Hail Satan?

What kind of religious expression should be permitted in a secular nation? Holy hell, something is brewing! Just a few…
Director Penny Lane


Austyn Tester—handsome and 17—feels oppressed by the confines of life in his small hometown in Tennessee. But in the online-streaming…
Director Liza Mandelup

Knock Down the House

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young, bold Puerto Rican bartender from the Bronx, works double shifts to save her family’s home from…
Director Rachel Lears

Midnight Family

With striking vérité camerawork, drops us directly into the frenetic nighttime emergency ecosystem of Mexico City. In the midst of…
Director Luke Lorentzen

Mike Wallace Is Here

Deemed the “enemy of the people” by our current president, journalism in America is on the chopping block. Lies, fake…
Director Avi Belkin

Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements

Irene Taylor Brodsky builds on her powerful first feature (Audience Award winner at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival) by delving…
Director Irene Taylor Brodsky

One Child Nation

In order to expose rampant human-rights abuses, filmmaker Nanfu Wang fearlessly confronted Chinese government agents in her 2016 Sundance Film…
Director Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang


Four high-school students, Na’Kerria, Jocabed, Junior, and BJ, embark on their senior year in Pahokee, a small Florida town on…
Director Ivete Lucas, Patrick Bresnan


In the span of only a handful of generations, the tiger has been transformed from a venerated creature with a…
Director Ross Kauffman

Untitled Amazing Johnathan Documentary

It begins as a documentary about “The Amazing Johnathan,” a uniquely deranged magician who built a career out of shock…
Director Ben Berman

Where’s My Roy Cohn?

Roy Cohn personified the dark arts of twentieth-century American politics, turning empty vessels into dangerous demagogues—from Senator Joseph McCarthy to…
Director Matt Tyrnauer

Dirty God

After a vicious acid attack leaves half her body covered in scars, Jade (Vicky Knight) must come to terms with…
Director Sacha Polak. Screenwriter Sacha Polak, Susanne Farrell

Divine Love

In the Brazil of 2027, where raves celebrate God’s love and drive-through spiritual-advice booths have become the norm, Joana holds…
Director Gabriel Mascaro
Screenwriter Gabriel Mascaro, Rachel Daisy Ellis, Esdras Bezerra, Lucas ParaÍzo

Dolce Fine Giornata

Maria Linde, a free-spirited, Jewish Polish Nobel Prize winner, lives in Tuscany surrounded by warmth and chaos in her family’s…
Director Jacek Borcuch. Screenwriter Jacek Borcuch, Szczepan Twardoch

Judy & Punch

In the rough-and-tumble town of Seaside (nowhere near the sea), villagers flock to Punch and Judy’s marionette theatre. Though Punch…
Director Mirrah Foulkes. Screenwriter Mirrah Foulkes

Koko-di Koko-da

Three years after their daughter Maja’s eighth birthday was interrupted by sudden tragedy, Elin and Tobias embark on a mirthless…
Director Johannes Nyholm. Screenwriter Johannes Nyholm


Belonging to a rebel group called “the Organization,” a ragtag band of child soldiers, brandishing guns and war names like…
Director Alejandro Landes. Screenwriter Alejandro Landes, Alexis Dos Santos

Queen of Hearts

Anne, a successful lawyer, lives in a beautiful modernist home with her two daughters and physician husband, Peter. Yet when…
Director May el-Toukhy. Screenwriter Maren Louise Käehne, May el-Toukhy

The Last Tree

Femi, a British boy of Nigerian heritage, enjoys a happy childhood in Lincolnshire, where he is raised by doting foster-mother…
Director Shola Amo. Screenwriter Shola Amoo

The Sharks

Rosina ticks away the days of a restless summer in her sleepy beachside town until she sights an ominous dorsal…
Director Lucía Garibaldi, Screenwriter Lucía Garibaldi

The Souvenir

Between script pitches and camera setups, Julie hosts a film-school cohort party where she meets a mysterious man named Anthony….
Director Joanna Hogg. Screenwriter Joanna Hogg

This is not Berlin

As Mexico anticipates the 1986 World Cup, 17-year-old Carlos is less interested in soccer and more interested in listening to…
Director Hari Sama. Screenwriter Rodrigo Ordóñez, Hari Sama, Max Zunino


One sunny day, four young strangers—Hikari, Ikuko, Ishi, and Takemura—meet by chance at a crematorium. They have all recently lost…
Director Makoto Nagahisa. Screenwriter Makoto Nagahisa


Israeli human-rights lawyer Lea Tsemel is a force that won’t be deterred. Having defended Palestinians against a host of criminal…
Director Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaïche

Cold Case Hammarskjöld

In 1961, United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld’s plane mysteriously crashed, killing Hammarskjöld and most of the crew. . It’s understood…
Director Mads Brügger


Facing the serene Mediterranean Sea, 17-year-old Karma Khaial stands at the water’s edge and senses freedom. But in Gaza, the…
Director Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell


In a deserted Macedonian village, Hatidze, a 50-something woman in a bright yellow blouse and green headscarf, trudges up a…
Director Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska


On a windy night in the Colombian desert, a young Wayúu woman named Doris sleeps in her hammock and dreams…
Dirs Juan Pablo Polanco, César Alejandro Jaimes. Writers Juan Pablo Polanco, César Alejandro Jaimes, María Canela Reyes

Midnight Traveler

In 2015, after Hassan Fazili’s documentary aired on Afghan national television, the Taliban assassinated the film’s main subject and put…
Director Hassan Fazili. Writer Emelie Mahdavian

Sea of Shadows

The Sea of Cortez is facing total collapse because of a war at sea. Mexican drug cartels have discovered the…
Director Richard Ladkani

Shooting the Mafia

In the streets of Sicily, beautiful, gutsy Letizia Battaglia pointed her camera straight into the heart of the Mafia that…
Director Kim Longinotto

Stieg Larsson – The Man Who Played With Fire

Since his untimely death, Stieg Larsson has become one of the world’s most famous authors. His Millennium Trilogy— and its…
Director Henrik Georgsson. Screenwriter Henrik Georgsson

The Disappearance of My Mother

Benedetta Barzini is a revered Italian model who shattered stereotypes by becoming a journalist and professor and gained notoriety by…
Director Beniamino Barrese. Screenwriter Beniamino Barrese

The Edge of Democracy

Once a nation crippled by military dictatorship, Brazil found its democratic footing in 1985 and then, in 2002, elected a…
Director Petra Costa. Screenwriter Petra Costa

The Magic Life of V

Wizards, magic spells, and heroic sword battles are just fantasy for some, but for Veera they’re a meaningful part of…
Director Tonislav Hristov. Screenwriter Tonislav Hristov, Kaarle Aho

La Villa (2017) | The House by the Sea

Dir: Robert Guediguian | Cast: Ariane Ascaride, Jean Pierre Darroussin, Anais Demoustier Robinson Stevenin, Yann Tregouet | Drama | France | 107′

Robert Guediguian offers a paean to Provence in the 1970s when three siblings: famous actress Angèle (Ascaride), Armand (Meylan) and Joseph (Daroussin) all hark back to a jeunesse dorée at their father’s seaside villa, he has since suffered a debilitating stroke.

Armand is possibly the most stable of the trio. He has been running the local restaurant for the past two decades. Joseph pines for the good old days of the PCF, which makes him morose and depressed. The film plays out very much in line with a Checkov play where the past must be resolved before life can go on. Joseph too must face the music; his dance with a much younger fiancée Bérangère (Demoustier) must come to an end. Angèle is still mourning the drowning of her only child, and has fallen for a younger fisherman Benjamin (Stevenin), a fan of her stage appearances since he was a teenager. Neighbour Yvan is the only one in a ‘good place’ emotionally – the young doctor is in town to visit his elderly parents. Late catalysts to the party are Yvan’s parents and the appearance of three child refugees.

Director and co-writer Guediguian marks his 19th collaboration with his wife Ariane Ascaride, staying on familiar ground: he gently sketches out the older characters’ longing for the past, and the contemporary fast lane that young ones like Bérangère and Yvan cling to: for them decisions about the future are easy because they have one. Benjamin is somewhere in the middle – he is a romantic dreamer, who yearns for a life shaped on the past. Property speculators circle the coast line like vultures, Joseph cannot even put his memoirs in order. The three siblings are keen to keep the place and the restaurant open, they have to admit that nearly all their old neighbours has cashed in on the property boom. The refugee children at least provide Angèle with a sort of closure.

The ensemble acting is reliable, and DoP Pierre Milon (The Class) is kept busy, panning and tracking the hilly countryside, nature being the only stable element among the coming and going of humans who, with few exceptions, don’t appreciate the beauty of the stunning landscape. AS

Robert Guédiguian was born in Marseille. Many of his early films, including À la via, à la mort (95) and La Ville est tranquille(00), screened in the Director’s Spotlight programme at the 2002 Festival, and he returned to TIFF with his subsequent features Mon père est ingénieur (04), Le Voyage en Arménie(06), and Neiges du Kilimandjaro (11). Other credits include Le promeneur du champ de Mars (05), L’armée du crime (09), and Une histoire de fou (15). La Villa (17) is his latest film. AS


The Rider (2017) **** Blu-ray

Writer/Dir: Chloe Zhao | Drama | 100min | US | 2017

Skilfully melding narrative and documentary film techniques, The Rider is set on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and follows a Lakota cowboy after an accident derails his rodeo riding dreams.

Chinese-born Chloe Zhao is a writer, director and producer known for her previous Cannes outing Songs My Brothers Taught Me. THE RIDER, her second feature selected for the Directors’ Fortnight and has won the National Critics’ Aeard. It’s a poetic cinema vérité drama that explores themes of male pride, family loyalty and thwarted ambition through a moodily soulful young cowboy who is unable to continue his vocation in the rodeo circuit due to a life-changing injury.

Enlived by the magnificent mountains and windswept prairies of America’s Badland’s National Park, South Dakota, a cast of non-professional actors Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau and Lane Scott star alongside Cat Clifford, who appeared in Songs My Brothers Taught Me, make this resonant action drama feel both authentic and  informative on the subject of horse training and competitive riding.

Zhao convincingly conveys the wild excitement and thrilling danger of this male-dominated world where young cowboys are addicted to the high octane buzz of the rodeo the narrative sizzles with angst and poignant moments, where macho bravado must be tempered with patience and gentle coaxing required to tame and tackle the wild horses and train the, to be ridden, and this is where Brady has an innate ability.

Brady dearly loves his family, his father is a disappointment to him, drinking and gambling on the slot machines, but he also fails to comprehend the weight of responsibility left to his dad when Brady’s mum died leaving him to bring up his two siblings: his brother has been left brain-damaged from a rodeo accident and his kind-hearted sister clearly has learning difficulties. But after a fall competing in the circuit where he was once a leading star, the film’s unsettling tension derives from Brady’s bitter struggle to fulfill his future in the outside world, a pale comparison to his life in the wild outdoors, and he constantly torn between reality working in the local supermarket, and his desire to get back in the wild riding and training with his horses.

But this is Brady’s film and he gives a mesmerising and deeply moving turn with echoes of Montgomery Clift in The Misfitas, as a man so deeply connected to the land and his horses that he doesn’t know where else to go. MT


The Rider won the Art Cinema Award at CANNES 2017 and National US Critics’ Award 2018





Camorra (2018) ***

Dir; Francesco Patierno | Doc | Italy 70’

Francesco Patierno offers a pragmatic but mournful insight into the criminal identity of his birthplace Naples in this historical and socio-anthropological portrait of the capital of Campania in Southern Italy.

The phrase “see Naples and die” takes on a different meaning here from the one coined during the city’s Golden Age when it was the Bourbon capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Patierno seeks to show how the city’s criminal underbelly dealt with pernicious result of unemployment and poverty through powerful self-regulation that confined crime to the working classes.

Camorra is the result of months of research among the treasures of Rai Teche and the Riccardo Carbone archive. What emerges is a surprising trove of unseen news footage and period films from the 1960s to the 1990s, enlivened by a visceral score from local musician Meg.

The Camorra ‘phenomenon’ was born from a culture of subordination. Many post-war orphaned children found in it a structure to protect them from complete poverty and homelessness. They became street workers who learnt to sell cigarettes arriving as contraband from Morocco and further afield, smuggled in by the criminal underworld. Things changed with the advent of warlord Rafaele Cutolo, who unified the activity into a single large military and economic organization providing its members with an identity of social and territorial redemption. 

The culmination of Cutolo’s power coincides with one of the darkest events in the history of the Republic, when the Christian Democrat Ciro Cirillo was kidnapped by the Red Brigades and returned after a massive family ransom was paid. Cutolo negotiated with the terrorists for the release of the politician and the State remained in his debt.

Patierno adopts a different approach to the usual one involving the violence and blood-letting for which the organisation is known. His narrative searches for a meaning and an explanation for the Camorra’s existence, tracing its history and exploring the background of its protagonists, to offer a short but engaging watch. By understanding the roots of the organisation and its methods, positive change can hopefully be brought about.MT

NOW SHOWING AT BERTHADOCHOUSE and selected arthouse venues | VENICE FESTIVAL 2018

Tribute to Richard Lormand (1962-2018)

It is with great sadness that we pay tribute to one of our greatest supporters, film consultants and readers Richard Lormand who has died aged 56.

During a long and distinguished career Richard was a leading light in international communication, film publicity and marketing, specialising in launches at the Berlin, Cannes, Locarno and Venice festivals, and just recently, Marrakech 2018 where he was preparing the 17th edition, when he died.

LOCARNO credit

Richard was a true professional and always a pleasure to work with. He handled world premieres for numerous award-winning films, including Maren Ade’s TONI ERDMANN, Ildiko Enyedi’s ON BODY AND SOUL, Fatih Akin’s IN THE FADE and SOUL KITCHEN, Alice Rohrwacher’s THE WONDERS and HAPPY AS LAZZARO, Christian Petzold’s BARBARA and PHOENIX, Samuel Maoz’s LEBANON and FOXTROT, Lav Diaz’s THE WOMAN WHO LEFT, Ritesh Batra’s THE LUNCHBOX, Takashi Miike’s 13 ASSASSINS and BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, the Taviani Brothers’ CAESAR MUST DIE, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s UNCLE BOONMEE, Jerzy Skolimowski’s ESSENTIAL KILLING, Amos Gitai’s RABIN, Lucrecia Martel’s ZAMA and LA CIENAGA, Alexander Sokurov’s RUSSIAN ARK and FAUST, Jafar Panahi’s THREE FACES and THE CIRCLE, and Takeshi Kitano’s ZATOICHI and HANA-BI.

Richard was part of the press consultancy team of Locarno Festival and the producing teams of Mitchell Lichtenstein’s cult favourite TEETH, HAPPY TEARS (starring Demi Moore, Parker Posey, Ellen Barkin and Rip Torn) and ANGELICA (starring Jena Malone and Janet McTeer). He was also a producer on Amos Gitai’s DISENGAGEMENT, starring Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche.

Born and raised outside Lafayette, Louisiana, Richard was the son of a Japanese mother and a native French-speaking Cajun American father. He began his career as a reporter/journalist for Reuters in New York City, then went on to work for the Cannes Film Festival (France), Taormina Film Festival (Italy), Torino Film Festival (Italy) and the Viennale/Vienna Film Festival (Austria). Richard also wrote and directed the 1994 award-winning short TI-BOY’S WIFE/LA FEMME DE TI-BOY (Clermont-Ferrand, Locarno, Torino).

His charisma, warmth and professionalism are rare in these days of increasingly faceless public relations, focussing on ‘hits’ and ‘likes’ on social media. Passionately driven by genuine talent and strong stories, Richard often took chances with small independent films and invested his time and talent to make sure they were noticed. His was a personal approach, genuine and always with heart. We shall miss him so much. MT


London Turkish Film Week 2018 | 12 -16 December 2018

If there’s a common thread that runs through Turkish cinema it lies in the vast nation’s landscape and nature that shapes and often divides human relationships. And nowhere is this more so than in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner WINTER SLEEP (2014), set in the Anatolia’s mountain region of Cappadocia. Whilst the mountains represent freedom, his human characters fight it out in a claustrophobic hotel. Men are usually out of touch with their emotions in all of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s films, and Winter Sleeps anti-hero Aydin is no exception. A former actor, living from his inherited wealth his property portfolio makes him a feudal lord, even though he sees himself more as an intellectual. Living with his much younger wife Nihal and recently divorced sister Necla, Ceylan confronts him with his weaknesses, peeling away his persona away layer by layer. Ceylan pays homage to Bergman and Bresson in the long, vicious arguments between Aydin, his wife and sister where the camera catches them in shot/contra-shot movement, the close-ups showing hurt on the women’s faces, and Aydin’s sarcastic smile. Echoing Bresson in Au hazard Balthazar, Ceylan uses Schubert’s piano sonata no. 20 to score the sequences between Aydin and his wife – the region’s wild horses serve as a metaphor for their seething discontent; in a more generous mood Aydin has freed one of the beasts to return to the wild. Ceylan’s intensity never lets up, leaving WINTER SLEEP as an unforgettable chronicle of human psychological warfare, amidst a towering landscape.

GRAIN (2017), directed by Semih Kaplanogu (Honey), is based on a chapter from the Quran, but can easily compete with the best of Hollywood’s dystopia. A scientist working for an all-powerful Corporation, flees into the wasteland surrounding the heavily controlled city, to find a supply grain uncontaminated by GM. There he meets a stranger, who leads him to a secret location in the rugged terrain where they eventually find what they are looking for. Giles Nuttgens’ stark black-and-white camerawork conveys a post-apocalyptic world, dwarfing the human element. An enigmatic narrative scratches to be heard in this devastated landscape where Ufo-like fighter planes hunt down the characters like animals. Kaplanogu’s symbolism echoes Tarkovsky as his protagonists are overwhelmed by the destruction of nature, a strong ‘end of days’ feeling, where fragmentation triumphs over the human weak attempts to save themselves and the planet.  A terrifying and prescient drama. 

In her debut HICRAN AND MELEK, director Esra Vesu Ozcelik explores the true meaning of female emancipation in a discursive drama set in a small rural community where Iman’s daughter Hicran hopes to find a decent job and a fulfilling marriage. Her childhood friend Melek left a decade ago for Istanbul, where she’s been working in a night club. But her abusive boyfriend has driven her back home. The two women look at their lives but never really find any answers. Again, the landscape is shown as a feature of personal identification.

Dervis Zaim’s DREAM is by the far the most ambitious feature of this year’s programme. Sine is an architect who very much sides with Prince Charles’ traditionalist views in her dislike of contemporary building design. But she is driven to eventually distraction when no-one will support her latest scheme for a cave-like mosque. Suffering from stress and insomnia, she goes into in a sleeping clinic. The treatment has a profound effect on her psychologically and physically: her four different identities then focus on one goal: to finish the project. Based on the ‘Seven Sleepers’ myth, Dream is not only a feminist manifest, but a coruscating critique of contemporary architecture.




Berlinale 2019 – First competition films announced

Opening this year with Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers, the 69th Berlinale Film Festival (7-17 February) has announced the first competition films which include the latest from regulars François Ozon, Denis Côté and Fatih Akin.

Serbian director Angela Schanelec will present her latest film I Was at Home, but, and Emin Alper will be there with A Tale of Three Sisters, a follow up to his dazzling drama Beyond the Hill

Also competing is The Ground Beneath my Feet from Austrian filmmaker Marie Kreutzer.

In the Berlinale Special Gala Section there is Gully Boy from Zoya Aktar (India), Heinrich Breloer’s drama Brecht which stars Trina Dyrholm and Tom Schilling and Charles Ferguson’s documentary on the Watergate scandal


Der Boden unter den Füßen (The Ground Beneath My Feet) Austria/World Premiere

by Marie Kreutzer (The Fatherless, We Used to be Cool)

with Valerie Pachner, Pia Hierzegger, Mavie Hörbiger, Michelle Barthel, Marc Benjamin, Axel Sichrovsky, Dominic Marcus Singer, Meo Wulf

Der Goldene Handschuh (The Golden Glove) Germany/France/World Premiere

by Fatih Akin (Head On, In the Fade)

with Jonas Dassler, Margarethe Tiesel, Hark Bohm

Grâce à dieu (By the Grace of God) France/International Premiere

by François Ozon (8 Women, In the House)

with Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet, Swann Arlaud, Éric Caravaca, François Marthouret, Bernard Verley, Martine Erhel, Josiane Balasko, Hélène Vincent, François Chattot, Frédéric Pierrot

Ich war zuhause, aber (I Was at Home, but) Germany / Serbia/World Premiere

by Angela Schanelec (The Dreamed Path, Marseille)

with Maren Eggert, Franz Rogowski, Lilith Stangenberg, Jakob Lassalle, Clara Möller

Kız Kardeşler (A Tale of Three Sisters) Turkey / Ger/ Neth/ Greece/World Premiere

by Emin Alper (Beyond the Hill, Frenzy)

with Cemre Ebüzziya, Ece Yüksel, Helin Kandemir, Kayhan Açikgöz, Müfit Kayacan, Kubilay Tunçe

Répertoire des villes disparues (Ghost Town Anthology) Canada/World Premiere

by Denis Côté (A Skin So Soft, Bestiaire)

with Robert Naylor, Josée Deschênes, Jean-Michel Anctil, Larissa Corriveau, Rémi Goulet, Diane Lavallée, Hubert Proulx, Rachel Graton, Normand Carrière, Jocelyne Zucco

Berlinale Special Gala at the Friedrichstadt-Palast 

Gully Boy /India/ World Premiere

by Zoya Akhtar (You Won’t Get This Life Again, Lust Stories)

with Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz, Amruta Subhash, Vijay Verma 

Berlinale Special at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Brecht /Germany / Austria/World Premiere

by Heinrich Breloer (The Manns – Novel of a Century, Buddenbrooks – The Decline of a Family)

with Burghart Klaußner, Tom Schilling, Adele Neuhauser, Trine Dyrholm, Mala Emde, Franz Hartwig, Friederike Becht, Ernst Stötzner, Lou Strenger

Watergate – Documentary/USA/Euro Premiere

by Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight, Inside Job)

with Douglas Hodge, Jill Wine-Banks, Dan Rather, Lesley Stahl, Richard Ben-Veniste


An Elephant Sitting Still | Da Xiang Xi Di Er Zuo (2018)

Dir.: Hu Bo; Cast: Zhang Yu, Peng Yuang, Wang Yuwen, Liu Congxi, Ling Zhenghui, Zhnag Xialong; China 2018, 230 min.

Written, directed and edited by the Chinese director Hu Bo, his award-winning debut is an immersive masterpiece and also his  last film: he committed suicide at the age of just 29, just before the end of shooting.

The action takes place during a single suspenseful day, from dawn to dusk, where the train to the Northern Chinese city of Manzhouli is about to depart. The only noticeable feature in this miserable backwater is an elephant, who, according to rumour, simply sits and watches the world go by.

The symbolic creature draws all sort of people from the surrounding villages: There is young Wei (Yuang), abused by his venal father who father lost his job for taking bribes. Wei’s friend Li (Zhenghui) is accused by Yu (Xiaolong) of stealing his mobile ‘phone. But Li protests his innocence, and Wei defends him. At school, Yu corners the two boys on a staircase and Wei is seriously injured after a scuffle.

This is a community on its knees and at each other’s throats, forced into crime and misdemeanour by harsh economic circumstances. The sins of the parents are meted out on their kids. Wei is in love with Huang (Yuwen) but her troubled mother has projected her own fears onto the young woman causing problems for them both, and Huang to cheat on Wei with the vice-dean of the school whose luxury apartment seems to exist in a parallel universe to the rest of city.

Their secret relationship has been outed by Li, whose phone images of Huang and the teacher, have now gone viral on the internet. The teacher throws Huang out of his flat, blaming her for jeopardising his career. At home Huang is hassled by the teacher’s wife who accuses her of ruining her marriage. And so it goes on, a series of interconnected stories of misery, mistrust and pain all gracefully crafted. A poetic epilogue sees Wang, his granddaughter, Huang and Wei at the station: their train to Manzhouli has been cancelled, forcing them to take several replacement buses to their destination.

Unfolding like one of Balzac’s novels from La Condition Humaine, Hu Bo keeps the narrative going, always finding new angles, plot lines and twists. Everything is elegantly elliptical as the main protagonists meet again and again under new circumstances, completely out of their control. They are always in motion, the city providing a beguiling backdrop to their rat-like existence. In their alienated indolence the young become victims of their elders, who prove poor role models.

Chao Fan’s camera pans relentlessness over the sordidness of it all, tracking the protagonists through the minefield of misdemeanours, like a prowling beast. Even Bela Tarr, always on the lookout for a backdrop of utter desolation, would be impressed by the machinations of Elephant; and there are shades of the Hungarian director’s Werckmeister Harmonies in the the lack of substantial interplay between these characters who glide through the swamp of the city without finding an identity: nothing sticks to them, as they drowning in the quagmire. Fan’s delicately rendered camerawork leaves a great deal to the imagination: the background often distorted in a filmic milkyway. And most impressive of all, we never notice the substantial running time: Hu Bo invites us to live with these characters, and we become part of their world.

A monumental undertaking, to be remembered as a part of film history and with utter regret for being Hu Bo’s sole feature output. A team of China’s FIRST Film Festival, who co-funded Elephant, finished the saga of despair and alienation the way Hu Bo had envisaged it. Elephant won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Berlin Film Festival (Forum section) along with a string of awards at Festivals all over the world including The Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan, Asia’s equivalent to the Oscars. The copyright of An Elephant Sitting Still is now with his parents. AS


Lynne Ramsay at the Marrakech International Film Festival 2018

We spoke to Competition Jury member Lynne Ramsay to talk about her latest project and the film that most impressed her as a child growing up in Glasgow.

Known for her ground-breaking dramas RATCATCHER (1999), MORVERN CALLAR (2002) and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2011),  her latest film YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE won Best Screenplay (ex-aequo) and Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix at Cannes Film Festival 2018. (she asked not to be recorded due to a heavy cold).



Capernaum (2018) *** Marrakech International Film Festival 2018

Dir: Nadine Labaki | Drama | 105’

Nadine Labaki gained international acclaim with her delightfully upbeat debut Caramel, set around a women’s hair salon in Beirut. Here she casts non-professional actors in a politically themed fable that sees a child resorting to the strong arm of the law. Just before the film screened at this year’s Marrakech Film Festival the news broke that the film would represent the Lebanon at the Academy Awards 2019.

This Cannes Jury Prize winner, and Golden Globe 2019 hopeful has the same stylish look as her previous two features but is a much more accomplished film that puts a watchable spin on dour social realism, although it does not quite reach the heights of perfection as the script resorts to disingenuous pandering in the slack final section. Subject-wise we are back to Daniel Blake territory although this is a much better crafted film than the one that bagged Ken Loach the Palme d’Or award several years ago. It also has to be said that CAPERNAUM does not bludgeon the life out of you with an agitprop hammer, despite a rather manipulative feel to proceedings. There are similarities too with Slumdog Millionaire in its upbeat fervour powered by cute and captivating performances from its newcomer children, and particularly from its lead Zain Al Rafeea.

Labaki structures her film round a trial, although this is not a courtroom procedural and most of the action is set in the chaotic streets or in cramped interiors where 12 year old Zain (Al Rafeea), who looks more like 8, is already serving a prison sentence for stabbing, is now suing his irresponsible parents for bringing him into the world. As one of several siblings, his parents never registered his birth. And all they seem to do is have children who they are unable to support and nourish, or even love. Despite cocky indignation and a bristling sense of entitlement to his rights, Zain is a likeable kid who lives with his parents Souad (Kawthar Al Haddad) and Selim (Fadi Kamel Youssef). Rather than school, he goes out to sell fruit juice in the market, where he also collects tramadol which the family grind into clothes-washing water which is then passed to Zain’s prison-serving elder brother. Later this tramadol water comes in as a usual way of earning money when Zain strikes out on his own. Although these circumstances are all startling to Western viewers, it has to be said that they are sadly run of the mill for millions of kids all over the world. But medication here in the Lebanon seems to be free at the point of collection, a fact which is difficult to believe given the current opiod crisis in the US and Europe.

After his younger sister Sahar is sold in marriage by his parents. Zain runs away and comes across Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an Ethiopian cleaner who is in Lebanon illegally. This strand introduces a migrant theme to the narrative which also feels timely. Zain offers to look after Rahil’s toddler while she is at  work but she later disappears leaving the two to fend for themselves in what turns out to be quite an adventure.

This is a watchable drama with some endearing turns from the ensemble kiddy cast who conjure up an intoxicating chemistry considering their lack of experience. But the star of the piece is Rafeea as the cheekily adamant Zain, a tribute to kids everywhere who feel life has dealt them an unfair start, and who set out to put matters right. MT


The Dead and Others (2018) **** Marrakech International Film Festival 2018

Docudrama | 114’ | Brazil/Portugal

Directed by Palme d’Or winner João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora, THE DEAD AND THE OTHERS is an extraordinary docudrama based on their experiences of living for nearly a year in Pedra Branca, a village inhabited by the indigenous community of the Kraho people in Northern Brazil. The Kraho very much want to continue their way of life and traditions in their rural community, striving to be self-sufficient. Their plight very much connects with a global narrative of survival for small communities all over the world.

Fifteen year old Ihjãc has been suffering from nightmares since he lost his father and in the opening scene he walks through the rain forest in the light of the moon. A distant sound of chanting comes through the palm trees. His father’s voice calls him to the waterfall. It is now time to organise the funeral feast so his father’s spirit can depart to the village of the Dead and mourning can cease. Although his baby son Tepto was born in the local hospital, Ihjãc still spends most of his life with his family in the remote forest and although the village elders are urging him to fulfil his duty to undergo the crucial process of becoming a shaman, Ihjãc escapes back to the local town to avoid the transition. There, far from his people and culture, he faces the reality of being an indigenous native in contemporary Brazil.

With its themes of loss, displacement and cultural identity, this is an masterful if rather overlong piece of filmmaking that feels woozily impressionistic but also strangely urgent in its message, glowingly conveyed in vibrant high contrast cinematography MT


Marrakech Film Festival 2018 | Conversations with….

To celebrate the 17th edition – 30 November to 8 December – MARRAKECH FILM FESTIVAL has introduced an interactive new talk series.

CONVERSATION WITH is an initiative that offers a space for expression, exchange and reflection with screen legends and film luminaries:

Martin Scorsese (b.1942, US)

Director, writer, actor and producer is one of the most influential directors working today and also one of the most generous in his support of talented emerging filmmakers. In a multi-award winning career spanning nearly 60 years his work has been inspired by his early life growing up with Italian parents in New York City in crime dramas such as Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) and Goodfellas (1990), and his own religious faith as in Silence (2016) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). He has captured the spirit of legends such as boxing supremo JakeLaMotta in Raging Bull (1980), Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004) and the Dalai Lama in Kundun (1997). His animated feature Hugo (2011) was dedicated to his daughter Francesca. His thriller Cape Fear (1991) has one of the most frightening performances in film history courtesy of his long time collaborator Robert De Niro (Max Cady) and Shutter Island (2010) that was his stylistic tribute to both Out of the Past (1947) and Vertigo (1958). His other regular collaborators have been Leo DiCaprio and Bernhard Herrmann who created iconic scores for Taxi Driver and Cape Fear. His latest crime drama The Irishman based on the death of Jimmy Hoffa, is shortly to be released on Netflix.

Guillermo Del Toro (b. 1964, Mexico)

Del Toro started making programmes for Mexican TV before he directed and produced his first feature film Dona Herlinda and Her Son (1986) at the age of 21. Learning his make-up techniques from The Exorcist’s Dick Smith he got his first break in 1993 with Cronos which went on to win the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes. Since then he has won two Oscars in 2018 for The Shape of Water, a remake of Jack Arnold’s Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). He is currently working on a documentary about the filmmaker Michael Mann.

Cristian Mungiu (b. 1968, Romania)

Screenwriter, director and producer Cristian Mungiu rose to international fame in 2007 with his bleak drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days that shocked audiences with its raw depiction of backstreet abortion in communist Romania. He was the first Romanian director to win the Palme d’Or. Since then he has made a series of films exposing moral degradation in Romanian society. Beyond the Hills (2012) won his Best Screenplay at Cannes in year of its release, and his thorny depiction of family life Graduation followed four years later winning his Best Director at Cannes 2016 (ex aequo with Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper). 

Yousry Nasrallah (b.1952, Egypt)

Born into a Coptic Christian family in Cairo, Nasrallah started his career as a film critic in Beirut in the late 1970s, soon becoming assistant  to Youssef Chahine whose company Mirs would go on to produce his films that focus on Socialism, Islamic fundamentalism and expatriation. His award-winning debut Summer Thefts (1985) was described as “the only non-ideological film on Nasserism in Egypt”. El Medina (1999) describes the struggle for creative realisation of a young Egyptian actor and After the Battle competed for the Palme d’Or in 2012.

Agnes Varda (b.1928 Belgium) 

Director, writer and photographer Agnes Varda has made over 50 films in her celebrated career. She was born in Belgium but moved to France as a baby before settling in Paris where she eventually married Jacques Demy and became one of the protagonists of the French New Wave with her feature debut La Point Courte (1951). She went on to make a series of award-winning dramas focusing on life and love: Cleo de 5 a 7 (1962), Le Bonheur (1965); L’une chante, l’autre pas (1977) and Jacquot de Nantes (1991) a biopic drama dedicated to her husband. Her latest documentary Faces Places (2017) is a rural ride through France.

Robert De Niro. (b. 1943, US)

One of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro grew up in Manhattan where he launched his acting career in Brian De Palma’s The Wedding Party at the age of 26. By 1974 he had won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor in Bang the Drum Slowly, the National Society of Film Critic for Mean Streets, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather, Part II. In 1980 he won his second Oscar, as Best Actor, for Raging Bull.

De Niro’s next project will be Netflix’s The Irishman in which he stars and is producing with Martin Scorsese, for their ninth collaboration. In 2009, De Niro received the Kennedy Center Honor for his distinguished acting and the Stanley Kubrick Award from the BAFTA Britannia Awards. De Niro was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards. He served as the jury president of the 64th Cannes Film Festival.

De Niro is also known for his Tribeca Production company and the Tribeca Film Festival, which he founded with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. Through Tribeca Productions, De Niro has developed projects on which he has served as producer, director and actor. Tribeca’s A Bronx Tale in 1993 marked De Niro’s directorial debut. De Niro also directed The Good Shepherd in 2006.

During the interview De Niro confessed to not liking smoking on set. And has never had trouble keeping his personal life, personal. “Don’t bring your drama to the set, put it into your performance”.

Cannes Film Festival Creative Director Thierry Fremaux.

Thierry Fremaux has come a long way since joining the Lumiere Institute in Lyon. The Fast-talking artistic force behind Cannes also directs, along with (president) Bertrand Tavernier, the Lyon-based Lumiere Festival that each year celebrates the vitality of classic film (restored films, retrospectives and tributes). Fremaux has even made a film about the brothers (LUMIERE 2016). who were the first filmmakers with their ground-breaking invention, the cinematograph. The legendary brothers not only invented the technique of making film, but also the art and the way of bringing people together in a theatre. Thierry explains how the aim of the Lumiere Festival was to connect the past with the present – as digital internet platforms, and mobile phones now compete with the classic way of crafting films. To be ‘healthy’ with contemporary cinema we have to look to the past, and that is why Lumiere came about – back in 2009

As artistic director at Cannes his work is much more difficult than it was 30 years ago, not simply because of the volume of films presented to the festival (the team selects the line-up down from over 1800 films) but also the sheer variety. And if Cannes misses a potential new auteur then this becomes a big deal – not just a small faux pas. As he explains: “Cannes is an international festival set in France and we try to embrace the ever-widening variety of film from across every continent. In the 1990s film noir was being re-invented in Hong Kong by Phil Joanou (State of Grace), inspired by Pierre Melville. Each time a young filmmaker makes a breakout hit – the spotlight will be on him, and we can’t afford to miss that”. “Pan’s Labyrinth came as a big shock to many festival goers, as it was the kind of style that had never really been invited before, and it really surprised people about the way forward we were taking – also with animation and with documentary”. Most films “choose” Thierry rather than the other way round, as passionate filmmaking eventually shows through, as much as talent. But certain films will never be right for the competition. “You have to ask the question – is it good or not for the film to be in Cannes. Also is it suitable for the audience – or for the press – we have in Cannes”. 

At the moment Thierry works with a group of 8, sometimes 10 people to make the final Cannes selection (equally split by gender). “The culture of making films is not that same for a man as for a woman so gender equality is absolutely vital as we move to 2020. This year’s Cannes selection was criticised but we have a duty to put new names on the map. And we have to adapt Cannes for the future and to make it comfortable for the audience and the press”. Clearly there will more changes, but Thierry assures us that they will be for the better. MT




Red Snow | Akai Yuki (2018) **** Marrakech International Film Festival 2018

An island community is still haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a little boy 30 years after he went missing, in this spookily stylish Japanese crime thriller. 

Premiering at Marrakech Film Festival RED SNOW is the feature debut of Sayaka Kai known for her award-winning short Ondine’s Curse (2014). The young auteur quickly establishes a sinister mood in the eerie snowbound location where her troubled characters are all victims of their own past and still fraught with pent-up emotion and debilitating psychological scars that threaten to break out and reveal a truth too ugly to bear.

Themes of unreliable memory, child abuse and mental illness play out in the sober, icy landscapes where Takumi went missing three decades previously leaving a mood of anger, bitterness and mistrust amongst the broken inhabitants. 

The main suspect is an eccentric female cleaner with an abusive childhood – seen in repetitive flashbacks where we witness the cruelty of her sociopathic mother. Not only is she generally unpopular with the rest of the islanders, but she is also in a toxic relationship with an older man who is purportedly her pimp. And the more Takumi’s brother urges her to share her recollection of what happened, the greater her reluctance to discuss the crime, or even talk about her memory of it. 

But when a reporter arrives on the island to investigate the cold case, clues and truth start to mingle with a trail of other unsolved crimes including insurance fraud and a devastating fire. It soon appears that Takumi’s reclusive brother, a talented lacquering specialist with a workshop close to the desolate shores, could also be involved in the disappearance. 

There are distant echoes of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Woman of the Dunes to this baleful piece that seems to languish in its own misery. YAS-KAS’ atmospheric score sets a sober tone occasionally giving way to scenes of lingering silence thats seems to accentuate the bleakness of the remote settings. Sayaka Kai makes use of a re-occurring luxuriant red motif that connects the lushly lacquered boxes with the blood of Takumi’s presumptive murder that stains the mournful flashbacks haunting his brother’s dreams and memories, and recalling that fateful day when he left home on a brief errand. 

A strong cast supports lead Masatoshi Nagase as the man trying to solve the mystery. RED SNOW’s visual aesthetic is way beyond what we can usually expect from Japanese first features marking Sayaka Kai as a talented auteur in the making. MT


Teatro de Guerra (2018) * * *

Dir/Writer: Lola Arias | Doc | Argentina, Spain 2018

The Falklands War (1982-84)  took the lives of 655 Argentinian and 255 British soldiers. It ended in Argentina’s military defeat and in territorial claims on both sides that remain contentious to this day.
Experimental in nature, this frank and often moving film essay from Argentinian artist and filmmaker Lola Arias tries to discover if past trauma can ever be resolved by collectively revisiting the memories by giving soldiers from both sides a chance to explore their feelings and even re-enact their experiences 34 years after hostilities officially ended. This is an illuminating piece of filmmaking that puts us at the cutting edge of the combat through face to face interviews; news footage and staged episodes of the conflict enacted by those who actually took part.

Now in their early 50s, the 12 veterans from both sides, bear their souls in a piece that swings between moments of anguish and absurd comedy. At one point the men even break into song and perform together in a rock band, emoting and finding a cathartic outlet for their anxiety from the past. This makes for an interactive cinema – the soldiers finding a space to release their trauma and viewers experiencing the full throttle of their pain – and even elation. An engaging piece of cinema that grapples with the coal face of conflict in new and inventive ways. MT



Vmayakovsky (2018) ****Russian Film Week 2018

Dir: Alexander Shein | 115’      

“For you, cinema is just a spectacle, for me – almost a world view.” declared the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (1993 – 1930) who as well as being a socialist ‘rock-star’ performer was also an actor of the silent cinema era (The 1918 The Ladyand the Hooligan, his only surviving film, can be watched on YouTube.) Mayakovsky was part of the Russian Futurist movement believing that art and society would reject the past and strive for a new consciousness. His multi-faceted and contradictory personality was clearly the result of a troubled beginning, and his life went on to be accordingly unorthodox. Yet director Alexander Shein has managed brilliantly to employ a non-linear and iconoclastic style for VMayakovsy that captures (though often it can barely contain) this incendiary poetic talent now mythologized, alongside of Pushkin, in modern Russia.

VMayakovsky opens with a group of actors in a studio rehearsing a film script about Mayakovsky. Gradually they assume the appropriate characterisation of the poet and the people who knew him: body language, manners and revolutionary language start to emerge. This is intercut with fictionalised documentary footage of Lilya Brik (The poet’s muse and lover played by Chillopan Khamatova) as an elderly invalid reflecting on her past. One amusing moment has a gift arriving from perhaps Mayakovsky’s daughter. Lilya’s carer says it’s a package form someone called Saint Saens but it’s not the French composer, but Yves Saint Laurent. Real documentary footage of protesters in modern Moscow; recitals of Mayakovsky’s verse, social gatherings, meetings and a recreation of a Mayakovsky play keep bursting into the film. This becomes a dazzling, energetic collage of impressions and incidents that doesn’t sidestep things into an obvious drama-doc. There’s no excessive use of 1930s documentary footage or any Shostakovich ‘theme related’ music. Shein maintains a restless pace for VMayakovsky – for it’s an experimental film intent on destroying the bio-pic.

VMayakovsky is two hours long: after an hour of arresting cinematic effects its biographical data is realised as a kind of ‘theatrical tableaux’ with occasional filmed exteriors. This shift of tone deepens the film and the superb performance of Yuri Kolokolnikow (As Mayakovsy) reveals him to be a tragic character. Mayakovsky was admired by Lenin yet viewed with suspicion by Stalin and The Russian Association of Proletarian Writers: eventually falling completely out of favour with his audience and the authorities who began to detest experimentation in the arts.

There’s a marvellously satirical scene where the workers are collecting the autumn crop of apples performed against a backcloth of Stalinist Palace of Culture architecture. A close friend informs Mayakovsky that he’s been awarded a state apartment to live in. But cautions him that his writings need to conform to the new social order. This army companion (Who is also being pressured) has a fellow writer colleague of Mayakovsky released from jail and then agonises over Mayakovsky’s unwillingness to change his art. Stalin’s totalitarian world is soon conveyed as a theatre audience of complaining hats, without heads, wittily grouped in a surreal space.

VMayakovsky isn’t an easy film to watch and not everything works. Why is real footage of Communist North Korea shown? What are the crowd, in present day Moscow, actually protesting about?  And why leave out Mayakovsky’s film acting? Yet in spite of some excluded and not properly thought-through ideas, VMayakovsky provokes, stimulates and entertains: rather than an audience beginning to fully understand Mayakovsky, they experience a poetic force called Vladimir Mayakovsky who was a very vulnerable man.

VMayakovsky is a terrific achievement that reminded me of some of the film experimentation that we took for granted from the early sixties to the mideighties (Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, Jacques Rivette and the better side of Ken Russell are an obvious influence on Shein.) Sadly Shein’s feature isn’t on any form of limited release. It’s had a few University screenings in London and you can now only catch it if you take a train to Glasgow, Cambridge or Oxford this winter.

I saw VMayakovsky at a cinema inside a large London bank. The director introduced the screening, telling us that it was a joke that his film was being screened in a bank as he himself had just become bankrupt. Buying a ticket may not help to keep Alexander Shein financially afloat: yet your support could just spur him on to produce more work like the remarkably assured VMayakovsky. Alan Price © 2018       



The Forest | Les (2018) **** Russian Film Week 2018

Dir.: Roman Zhigalov; Cast: Oleg Shibayew, Natalia Rychkova, Oleg Feokzistov, Maria Avramjova, Vladimir Malyugin; Russia 2018, 97 min.

Roman Zhigalov’s feature debut is a glum, violent and dramatic passion play. In a village surrounded by dense forest, murder, rape and arson seem to dominate the troubled community, in a microcosm of Putin’s Russia. This an important portrait of Russian society, despite its over-accentuated sombre realism. 

Sixteen-year old Danila (Shibayew) lives with oppressive mother Galina (Avramkova) and brutal father Pasha (Feokzistov). Cut off from society he has a problem adjusting to school life and is bullied for his sullen manners and total lack of interest in girls. 

Meanwhile, Pasha lusts after Katya (Rychkova), even promising her to leave his family if she gives in. Katya’s husband Kolka (Malyugin) is an alcoholic with physical and emotional impairments. Little does Pasha know that Danila shares his taste for women and is much more successful than his father in finding favour with Katya. While Pasha are his mates in a battle to prevent the local Mafia buying his sawmill for a knock-down price, one of Danila’s female classmates is gang raped by boys from the district capital, and after Galina surprises her son and Katya in flagrante, she asks her husband to take action. Events eventually spiral out of control in scenes of unrelenting and sometimes graphic, but never gratuitous violence. 

Somehow here, society has taken a step backwards, with greed and lust coming to the fore at every opportunity. The local Mafia seems to represent the regime’s semi-criminal mode of government, and their power is much greater than that of the local administration. Pasha is warned – in vain – by the local mayor to sell his sawmill to the mafia: “You remember what happened in 1989 with the land of the kolkhozes”. Violence against women seems to be the norm, men of all ages still see them predominantly as sex objects, to be conquered and discarded at will.

DoP Yury Sergeyev captures the rural violence with intense close-ups and panoramic shots of the landscape. The human presence seem to offend nature, spoiling its beauty in every possible way. Rychkova is the only positive figure, and her humble humanity is constantly abused by the rest of the protagonists. Zhigalov might have sometimes overdone his orgy of violence, but in the end he succeeds in his message, showing a Russia falling back into the senseless savagery of the eighteenth century.AS



Embargo (2017) *** Utopia Portuguese Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Antonio Ferrera; Cast: Filipe Costa, Claudia Carvalho, Laura Matos; Portuga/Spain/Brazil 2010, 83 min.

Antonio Ferrara specialises in stories of the absurd – his 2018 feature The Dead Queen is based on a historical novel about a 14th century Portuguese king who had his mistress disinterred, so that she could become Queen. Embargo is a far lighter affair that follows Nuno, a madcap inventor.

Based on the novel by Jose Saramago, Ferrara pictures his hero Nuno (Costa) in the midst of a fuel crisis in contemporary Portugal, selling his revolutionary shoe scanner to everyone who shows a mild interest. He works part time on a hot dog stand, and his long-suffering girl friend Margarida (Carvalho) has to labour full time and look after their two children. Even though Nuno is hellbent on making his device a commercial success customers, nobody has any idea what practical use it could have. Eventually after various trials and tribulations, Nino is sacked from his day job and goes on the hunt for a toy rabbit, to make his daughter Sara (Matos) happy.

Nuno is a loafer par-excellence. Charming and funny, he could be the ideal companion – if he could earn a living. But his obsession with his machine takes over more and more of his life. Made on a shoe string budget, this debut of Ferrara is a labour of love, where crew and cast made up for the lack of budget with much enthusiasm and passion, even. There are some holes in the narrative, but Embargo is fun to watch, without the claim of being anything but light entertainment. AS

Cause of Death (2018) *** IDFA 2018

Dir.: Ramy A. Katz; Documentary; Israel 2018, 79 min.

On the night of March 5th 2002, a gunman opened fire in a restaurant near Tel Aviv’s Maariv Bridge. Police officer Salim Barakat, who was nearby, brought the gunman down only to be found dead next to the killer. Director/producer Ramy A. Katz (Freeflow) researches the death of the Druze policeman, following his brother Jamal on his search for the truth.

The verdict was that Salim died from a knife wound to the throat. But after visiting a memorial ceremony for Salim, held every year in the police precinct for the tenth time, Jamal begins to question the official version. He discovers that the emergency ambulance’s doctor called in that night, reporting that his brother was “murdered by gun shots” and contradicting the official diagnosis of throat slashing. We watch a video where the main witness, middle-aged Willys Hazan, claims to have shot the attacker, after slashing Jamal’s throat. He is on a drip in a hospital bed, praising Salim, but admitting that the police officer was actually the terrorist. Then Jamal, a trained investigator, meets the head of the National Centre for Forensics, and tells him about the contradictions. The director is concerned l, and questions why no autopsy was performed; asking Jamal to have his brother undergo an exhumation  –  but Jamal’s religion does not permit such an option. Jamal also confronts the chief of Police who asks him to “let his hero brother rest in peace” – the same answer Jamal gets from Hazan, whom me meets twice. Breaking down, Hazan finally concedes, that “this would not have happened had Salim been an Israeli”. Finally, tracing down the staff of the restaurant, who were on duty on the fateful night, Jamal gets the answers he was originally searching for.

This is not just a document of Jamal’s investigation, but a testament to his coming to terms with grief – and his shattered belief in the righteousness of the law. The more he learns, the more his world crumbles. In the end he has not only lost his brother, but what he called his ‘extended family’,the police officers at the station where Salim served. There are some poetic moments, particularly when Jamal talks about his belief in reincarnation that persuades him that Salim has been reborn, and that his soul now rests in the body of a young boy in primary school. Moving, passionate and gripping, Katz takes a candid approach to his narrative, letting the audience make up their mind about the social implications of this cover-up. AS




Genesis 2 (2018) *** Russian Film Week 2018

Dirs: Christian Frei, Maxim Arbugaev | Switzerland | 2018 | 113 mins

GENESIS 2 follows the yearly search for mammoth tusks in the frozen wastes of the New Siberian Islands, discovered in 1723. The task of extracting frozen genetic material from the permafrost is a tough but a worthy one intended to enable some pioneering scientists to reconstruct the long-extinct mammoth that once roamed the icy region.

Oscar-nominated documentarian Christian Frei (War Photographer) has quite literally taken on a mammoth task in exploring this hostile Arctic hinterland. Genesis 2 scratches at the edges of both horror and science, in an endeavour that occasionally feels like he has taken off more that he can chew.

As in Book of the Sea, also screening during Russian Film Week, Friel adds elements of myth to his icebound study. The film opens with narrated verses from a Yakutian epic tale, accompanied by Max Richter’s morose music, and the characters who embark on this intrepid research are all courageous – even foolhardy – enough to risk their lives for what may amount to very little: the resonance with Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, The Wild Blue Yonder, Grizzly Man and even Aguirre Wrath of God, are clearly felt. At times Frei even sounds like the great master himself.

Many of these eco-warriors are dicing with death and several will actually meet their maker in the vain hope of returning home with a slither of genetic material that they can trade for upwards of $45,00. And while this may feed their families for some time, they must endure the downside: perishing cold and even death.

Back in the comparative comfort of a smug Boston scientific seminar we hear how “synthetic biology” is going to change everything by “taking control of evolution” by creating hybrid creatures out of horses, sheep and zebras. But that seems rather glib to the anxious tusk hunters struggling to dig up the ground in the bleak terrain of the Northern hemisphere. Peter Grigoriev (Frie terms him an intellectual because ‘he likes reading a lot”) and his brother Semyon Grigoriev, the Head of the Mammoth Museum, in Yakutsk, Siberia are the main characters in this rather sombre eco-doc, are seen wading through mud in the dripping interior of a cave where “cavemen lived for hundreds of years”. It emerges that anyone who tries to dissenter a mammoth will visited by a curse but they are also deemed “lucky” to come across three polar bears. When Semyon eventually comes across the ancient flesh of tusk specimen, he can’t help tasting it, but seems rather unimpressed. Back in the lab, the aim is to create a new animal, a chimera – just the like the woolly mammoth was back in the day. `

There is a sense of wonder and awe, but also a sense of foreboding in the sober search for animal remains. The spectacular visuals create an amazing sense of the remote emptiness of the locations and the quiet desperation of Siberians who travel here in the hope of improving their lives. The bright Boston buildings and the massive shiny headquarters of China’s National Gene bank make this ‘new life’ seem rather devoid of reality when compared to the gruelling coal face search. MT


Los Reyes (2018) **** IDFA 2018 | Special Jury Award 2018

Dir: Ivan Osnovikoff, Bettina Perut | 88′ | Doc Chile 2018

Santiago streetlife plays out poignantly through a pair of canny canine caretakers in this wry and filmic foray to the capital’s largest skatepark.

LOS REYES have got it sussed. A black Labrador (Chola) and a Collie Cross (Football) are literally kings of all they survey. With shady trees and water sprinklers to cool the midday heat, they can play away from traffic in this public playground they consider their own. There’s always an odd ball or two to keep them amused, But don’t welcome motorbikes or the rubbish cart, and howl at the fire engine.

Limpidly shot on the widescreen and in intimate often minute close-up, there’s lightness of touch to this graceful and upbeat slice of city life: every twitch of a tail, every tweak of the cheek signals the dogs’ reaction to the human activities nearby. Meanwhile random male conversation is overheard from passers by. Some of it quite startling. But the kids can rest assured that their macho confessions are safe with these trusty tenants of the capital’s microcosm. On wet days they have a contingency plan – a kennel retreat by the rubbish bins. But it’s not all easygoing between the two of them. When Chola tries to hump a discarded old duvet, Football goes mad.

The film derives its subtle humour from the banal disdain of the dogs’ expressions as they tolerate the trivial and sometimes bawdy adolescent banter, shrugging off the intrusion of wildlife and a couple of donkeys who dare to cross their territory. But when uncertainty looms for the future of this canine couple, some welcome female chitchat lightens the mood. Just like humans, dogs don’t need to talk to communicate with their loved ones, but even in Santiago de Chile’s paradise park, every dog has its day. MT

WINNER | IDFA Special Jury Award for Feature-Length Documentary | 2018



Marrakech Film Festival 2018 | This year’s line-up..

The Marrakech International Film Festival has now revealed its 17th edition line-up  which runs from 30 November until the 8 December 2018.  

The competition focus is on international independent cinema, showcasing the latest from the Middle East: Mohcine Besri’s URGENT, Nejib Belkhadhi’s LOOK AT ME, and THE GIRAFFE from Egyptian filmmaker Amed Magdy. These will compete alongside sophomore and award-winning titles from this year’s international festival circuit. The 14 titles include London Film Festival winner JOY (Sudebeh Mortezai), Warsaw Film Festival awarded IRINA (Nadejda Koseva) and ALL GOOD (Eva Trobisch) which won the Best First Feature prize at Locarno 2018. Six of the films competing for the Marrakech Etoile d’Or (Gold Star) are directed by women.

The festival opens with a gala screening of Julian Schnabel’s AT ETERNITY’S GATE (above) starring Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh. There will also be another chance to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Venice Golden Lion winner ROMA, Peter Farrelly’s GREEN BOOK which stars Viggo Mortensen, and Nadine Labaki’s CAPERNAUM, which won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

There will be 17 special screenings including Gonzalo Tobal’s THE ACCUSED and Paul Dano’s WILDLIFE. Also on the specials list is EXT. NIGHT the latest drama from Ahmad Abdalla (Microphone (2010), Heliopolis (2009). Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s enchanting BIRDS OF PASSAGE will also be there (below).

A new strand entitled THE 11th CONTINENT aims to highlight local Moroccan fare in its Panorama section. Amongst others there will be the recent Cannes Doc Alliance winner SRBENKA, Brazilian documentary THE DEAD AND THE OTHERS, Lee Chang-dong’s Cannes breakout hit BURNING, Austrian historical drama ANGELO fresh from San Sebastian, and my personal favourite Locarno 2018 thriller TEGNAP (YESTERDAY) . 

The outdoor screenings in the famous JEMAA EL FNA square will include Martin Scorsese’s Dalai Lama drama KUNDUN (1997), Brian De Palma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987), Youssef Chahine’s ALEXANDRIA, AGAIN AND FOREVER (1989) and there will be classics from Agnes Varda, Martin Scorsese, Robin Wright and Robert De Niro in the tributes section. MT


GOOD GIRLS (Las niñas bien) | Mexico By Alejandra Márquez Abella

JOY | Austria By Sudabeh Mortezai

DIANE | USA By Kent Jones

THE LOAD (Teret) | Serbia, France, Croatia, Iran, Qatar By Ognjen Glavonić

THE CHAMBERMAID (La camarista) | Mexico By Lila Avilés

RED SNOW (Akai yuki) | Japan By Sayaka Kai

LOOK AT ME (Fi ‘ainaya  Regarde-moi) | Tunisia By Nejib Belkhadhi

IRINA | Bulgaria By Nadejda Koseva

VANISHING DAYS (Màn yóu) | China By Zhu Xin

URGENT (Tafaha al-kail | Une urgence ordinaire) / Morocco, Switzerland By Mohcine Besri

ROJO | Argentina, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Germany By Benjamín Naishtat

AKASHA | Sudan, South Africa, Germany, Qatar By hajooj kuka

THE GIRAFFE (La ahdun hunak) | Egypt By Ahmed Magdy

ALL GOOD (Alles ist gut) | Germany By Eva Trobisch


Shoplifters (2018) ****

Writer/Dir: Hirokazu Koreeda | Cast: Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Sosuke Ikematsu | Drama | South Korea |121′

Hirokazu Koreeda’s portrait of parenting, After the Storm, has much in common with this perceptive and often ambiguous satire about a family of small-time crooks and the misguided theft they commit for compassionate reasons, but with devastating consequences. SHOPLIFTERS is a worthwhile addition to the auteur’s preoccupations with family life, father and motherhood – both real and imagined, and is possibly his best work so far.

In Tokyo, part-time workers Osamu (Lily Franky) and his wife Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) complement their meagre income with a sideline in shoplifting. Aided and abetted by son Shota (Kairi Jyo), they often swipe groceries from the local store near the flat they share with fellow grifter Noboyu (Sakura Andô), teenager Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) and grandma Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), who turns the most lucrative tricks of the lot.

One day they take pity on an abused and timid teenager called Juri (Miyu Sasaki), offering her board and lodging in their already cramped home. This simple act of kindness is the catalyst for change in the family dynamic unleashing previously hidden motivations that range from short-sightedness to self-aggrandisement, and even narcissistic pride.

A tonal shift from upbeat bonhomie to gloomy sadness takes place in the film’s third segment when the family anticipate their emotional loss and start to fear the backlash of their rash altruism, and its damning formal retribution. Kore-eda and his cast bring out  tremendous pathos in this well-meaning family, and while we feel for them as do-gooders, – in the true sense of the word – they are crucially also law-breakers. And this is the J B Priestleyan crux of this upbeat and cleverly-crafted caper reflecting the subtle nuances of Japanese society. MT


Marrakech International Film Festival | 30 November – 8 December 2018

Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM) is back this year under the artistic control of its newly appointed director Christoph Terhechte. It will run from 30 November until 8 December 2018.

Terhechte comes with considerable arthouse experience and impeccable credentials. He was director of Berlinale’s Forum section from 2001 to 2018 and also a member of the Berlinale Competition selection committee.

This year’s 17th Edition will also honour Robert De Niro, Agnès Varda and Robin Wright along with Moroccan filmmaker Jillali Ferhati. The festival president is James Gray. International stars in the shape of Martin Scorsese, Guillermo del Toro, Cristian Mungiu, and Yousry Nasrallah will also be gracing the Moroccan city and Medina. Along with Cannes luminary Thierry Fremaux.

US director James Gray will head the International Competition jury which includes actress Dakota Johnson (50 shades of Grey, Suspiria), Indian actress Ileana D’Cruz (Barfi!), Lebanese filmmaker and visual artist Joana Hadjithomas (I Want to See), British director Lynne Ramsay (We Need To Talk about Kevin, A Beautiful Day), Moroccan director Tala Hadid (House in the Fields), French director Laurent Cantet (The Class– Palme d’Or 2008), German Actor Daniel Brühl and Mexican director Michel Franco (April’s Daughter).

From November 30th to December 8th, these nine celebrities will select the recipient of L’Étoile d’Or 2018 among the 14 first and second feature films in competition.

The Marrakech International Film Festival has been one of the biggest events devoted to Moroccan cinema and the locality offers favourable conditions for global film production. Since its inception in 2003 the most prestigious names in world cinema have been hosted and celebrated in Marrakech and include Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Marion Cotillard and Johnny Halliday. Back in the day, Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie made Marrakech their winter holiday destination and were hosted at the world famous La Mamounia Hotel.

With its fabulous climate, medieval walled Medina dating back to the Berber Empire, exotic palaces and lush gardens (Yves St Laurent designed the Majorelle), Marrakech is the ideal location for an international winter film festival. MT



Jumpman (2018) Podbrosy **** Russian Film Week 2018

Dir.: Ivan I. Tverdovsky; Cast: Denis Vlasenko, Anne Slyu, Daniil Steklov; Russia/ROI/France/ Lithuania 2018, 87 min.

Ivan I. Tverdovsky follows up his zany Zoology with a darker feature, another harsh critique of Putin’s Russia. Very much in the mould of Loveless, Jumpman is a portrait of callous exploitation, the young victim literally sold by his mother to perform life-threatening stunts, just to fill her pockets and those of her cronies.

Sixteen years ago Oksana posted her newborn Denis through the baby-hatch of an orphanage where he has lived ever since, handicapped by a rare disease, congenital analgesia, which affects his ability to feel physical pain, and needs to be medically controlled. Now, forbidden from taking care of her son, Oksana (Slyu) tricks the orphanage staff, literally kidnapping little Denis (Vlasenko) and taking him home. It soon emerges that Oksana’s motive is anything but motherly. Denis does not fee pain when injured (his mates in the orphanage played some cruel games with him), and is trained to jump on cars so his mother’s friends can extort cash from the driver. First in line is Denis’ ‘instructor’ policeman Kusnetzov (Steklov), who drives a police vehicle alongside the one earmarked for the ‘accident’, and is first on the scene when Denis lays motionless on the ground. Kusnetzovs’s mother is a doctor at the hospital where Denis is taken by an ambulance crew (also on the make). But the most profitable jobs go to Judge Olga and the bribed defence lawyer. The driver is forced to pay up a huge sum of money – and Denis gets hardly a penny, after everyone else has taken their share. At home his mother treats him more like a lover, running around half naked in a drunken state, even trying to seduce him. That all changes after Denis puts his foot down –  and this leaves only one solution.

Jumpman is a portrait of a society corrupt on every level, a society where the most vulnerable victims are treated like commodities – whether they are rich, poor or just disenfranchised.. When Denis finally quits, Kusnetzov spits in his face: “We’ll find another one, the city is full of trash like you.” AS



Suleiman Mountain (2017) *** Russian Film Week 2018

Dir: Elizaveta Stishova | Cast:Daniel Daiybekov, Turgunai Erkinbekova, Perizat Ermanbaeva | Drama | Kyrgyzstan | 101′

Enlivened by offbeat humour and vibrant widescreen images reflecting the rugged beauty of this wild Central Asian nation, SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN is the debut feature of Russian filmmaker Elizaveta Stishova. Largely funded by European finance this appealing arthouse drama explores an unconventional journey of discovery – both literal and metaphorical – for its passionate central characters: a woman, her long-lost son and husband, and his other younger wife. In a drama fraught with tense uncertainty and often brutal rituals involving folklore and shamanism – a scene involving an unconscious woman is particularly alarming – Kyrgyzstan emerges as a region caught between the modern world and one of ancient traditions where women (predictably) get a rough deal as they compete vehemently for the attention of self-seeking macho men. Their hope is that somehow, by smothering them with love and attention, they can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Sadly, twas ever thus.

Kazakhstani actor Asset Imangaliev plays the maverick male at the centre of the story, who cleverly plays his two wives off against one another. Karabas is an opportunistic adventurer who cons his way through life veering from violent outbursts to twinkling smiles as he tries to charm the pants off everyone he meets. Recently reunited with the couple’s thoughtfully endearing son Uluk, his older wife is a healing soul, desperately trying to hold the family together, while her coltish younger rival is also pregnant with Karabas’ child.

Although Kyrgyzstan initially feels exotic and remote, the human story at its core is as old and evergreen as the hills. Stishova has certainly made a watchable and lively debut. MT


The Wild Pear Tree | Ahlat Agaci (2018)****

Dir/Writer: Nuri Bilge Ceylan/Ebru Ceylan | Cast: Serkan Keskin, Hazar Erguclu, Ahmet Rifat Sungar | Drama | Turkey/France/Germany/Bulgaria/Macedonia/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Sweden 2018 | 188′

For some the countryside is a retreat where hopes and dreams merge with solitude and recovery. For a father and a son in THE WILD PEAR TREE the sweeping landscapes of Western Turkey’s Marmara region are a place of shattered hopes and despair.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan imbues his melancholy mood piece with the usual visual richness in a slow-burning saga that revolves around aspiring writer Sinan (Aydin Dogu Demirkol) who returns from army service to his native village to raise the money to publish his first book. But his father’s debts catch up with him and put a stop to his personal aspirations. Running at a little over three hours, this long-awaited follow to Winter Sleep and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia takes the customary languorous and discursive pace. The wide screen splendour also makes time for quietly intimate moments but there is no melodrama or ‘major developments’ in a film that plays out contemplatively as the story naturally unfolds.

Sinan is not particularly glad to be back home in the small rural village of Çan, where he holds the community in disdain. But his father Idris’ gambling has spiralled out of control causing his mother and sister to do without, so Sinan starts to do the rounds of friends and family in search of finance for his literary endeavour.

Contrary to the title, a wild pear tree never features in the film, and there is no love lost between Sinan and his father Idris, their relationship slowly deteriorating for obvious reasons. There is a sense of longing for urban civilisation, and while the film takes much delight in the convincingly creditable characterisations and conversation pieces, which are quietly enjoyable, often philosophical (even a little bit over talky at times), it’s clear that Sinan is no more enamoured with this rural idyll than when he reluctantly arrived.

Ceylan returns to the evergreen signature themes that have been present in his work since the beginning and have gained him a reputation and a strong following, along with his elegantly crafted widescreen style and well-rounded character studies. And there is always a touch of dry wit to lighten proceedings while grounding them in community, local politics, moral and ethical issues and family concerns.

In some ways, his latest is an expansion of his FIPRESCI and Golden Tulip winner Clouds of May (1999) and has the same ripe quality of visual sumptuousness throughout. Dermirkol plays Sinan as a vaguely unsympathetic character whose ennui with his family and rural life simply demonstrates an ardent need to get on with his aspirations rather than indicating a deeply flawed personality. But maybe they are one in the same. Ceylan eyes his antihero in a detached and observational way that makes him really convincing as a representative of his generation. In contrast to the self-sacrificing heroes of the early 1900s, Sinan is a full-fledged 21st century man. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 30 NOVEMBER 2018 | Cannes Film Festival Premiere

Hamada (2018) *** IDFA 2018

Dir.: Eloy Dominguez Seren; Documentary; Sweden/Germany/Norway 2018, 88min.

Director-writer Eloy Dominguez Seren (No Cow on the Ice) raises the profile of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in this vibrantly passionate documentary shot mainly in the Tindouf refugee Camp in Algeria.

In 1975, when Franco was on his last legs, Spain gave up some North African colonies, and Morocco (300 000 citizens entered the old colony) and Mauritania claimed the territory. However, they did not concede self-government to the Sahrawis, as they were mandated by the UN. The resulting conflict between Morocco and the refugees in their own country lasted for over forty years, with Morocco bombing the Sahrawis with Napalm in 1976, causing a humanitarian crisis as the homeless and afflicted fled to Algeria.

HAMADA follows teenagers Sidahmed and Zaara in their fruitless search for work in the self-governed camp. Sidemeh is rather a restless young. He makes some money repairing cars and radios but finds the work unsatisfying. He also lacks patience, and efforts to teach Zaara to drive soon run out of steam. He’d really like to emigrate to Spain, like everyone in the camp. But this seems like a pipe-dream and none of the others have managed to get a Visa, and Spain does not recognise the SADR or his passport. Zaara can’t get a stable job either and has no qualifications, although she is certainly better educated than Sidameh, who only knows one European country (Spain). Zaara seems more intelligent.

So Sidameh starts to plan an illegal passage to Spain, with his friend Tasalam. Meanwhile the more down to earth Zaara focuses on a potential marriage partner chatting things through with her friends. Both girls are emancipated, and expect their future husbands to leave them in peace, to live their own lives. Zaara still wants to be taught to drive, seeing this as a vital asset in the job market. Sidameh finally sells his car to finance his passage to Spain. When he eventually sets off, the convoy of cars he is travelling in, gets stuck in the desert. And the grass is far from green when he reaches his destination. Homeless and without any proper qualifications, contacts or viable work skills he seems surprises that he is treated with disdain.  Instead of focuses on his own failings, he blames his racial identity: “people make you feel inferior, just because you are an Arab”. Clearly the grass wasn’t greener. Zaara has a better and more philosophical frame of mind and soon finds this leads her to improve her chances of success. And with the help of her kind friend Tasalam, she even learns to drive.

Seren’s observational study certainly succeeds in bringing this forgotten conflict to our attention, letting the teenagers speak for themselves. The local climate and primitive conditions make life tough and extremely challenging. Sidameh is seen rebuilding a house for a family of eight, whose home has collapsed during the rainy season. Spain becomes a much longed for dream destination and their all obsess about finding this ‘Holy Grail’.  But these down-trodden people also reflect on their past: when one of them finds a fishing rod in an abandoned house, it soon emerges that the Sahrawis once made a living from fishing, before being forced into the central plains of the arid desert. MT


3 Days in Quiberon * * * (2018)

Dir/Wri: Emily Atef | Cast: Marie Baumer, Birgit Minichmayr, Charly Hübner | Germany | Drama | 115′

Award-winning German director Emily Atef’s breezy black and white playful portrait self-indulgently explores the brief sejour in the Britanny seaside resort of Quiberon of one of Europe’s most famous but now fading stars as she attempts to detoxify. At only 42, Romy Schneider’s career was on the wane and she was to die not long afterwards (in 1982). It soon becomes clear that the garrulous diva – a luminous Marie Baumer – is battling demons of all kinds and desperately missing her two children, a baby girl and a teenager who refuses to live with her.

The focus here is the two-day interview with Stern magazine German journalist Jürgs whose crafty attempts to get her to open up about the death of her first husband, who had committed suicide two years earlier, and her tortured relationship with her mother, who allegedly colluded with the press, finally pay off after plying the diva with copious amounts of white Chablis.her best friend arrives to offer support but the two soon fall out.

This playful drama takes inspiration from the glorious maritime setting of a modernist beachside hotel, and is anchored by four thoughtful performances, particularly from Bäumer who bears an uncanny resemblance to Schneider. Thomas Kiennast’s luminous photographs help to recreate a distinct Seventies feel. An enjoyable but rather superficial riff on the nature of celebrity, love and friendship. MT


The Border Fence (2018) **** IDFA 2018

Dir: Nikolaus Geyrhalter | Austria | Doc | 112′

Brenner Pass, Alpine border, spring 2016: the Austrian government announces the construction of a border fence expecting a shift of the refugee routes to Italy after the Balkan route is closed. The Austrian residents seem to fear the fence as much as the influx of refugees to their homeland. Two years later, the fence is still rolled up in a container. History took another route.

This gave Austrian documentarian Nikolaus Geyrhalter reason enough to go to the region with his camera and explore the mood there. Surveillance and border fences have long been themes in his work (Abendland, 2011), along with the delicate balance between humans and their environment (Homo sapiens, 2016). What was originally seen as a welcome from Austria soon switched to a crisis that has swept through Europe like a forest wildfire. Everyone feels challenged to protect their homeland (or heimat, as the Austrians put it). “As the first refugees, we were impressed by the welcome culture of Austria. But at some point in the reporting a switch was put”. This subtle change meant that suddenly these people became unwanted. Europe’s solidarity during the world wars was finally put to the challenge.

A short conversation in the toll booth is one of the many absurd scenes in the film: border functionaries air their negative feelings about the ‘refugees’ and migration, while going about their duties solemnly dispensing a 9 euro toll ticket every 30 seconds. In the nearby hillside, two male hunters talk about their experience with refugees on the so-called ‘Green Brenner’ borderline during the winter months, and admit to feeling sorry for the scantily clad travellers who are totally unprepared for the climate and thick snow. These human encounters are often forgotten or buried in the abstract political discourse. Meanwhile the local police try to carry on with their commitments. It’s a thankless task and one that clearly compromises them, trapped between the humanistic angle and their duty to their country. There are no winners here. Everyone tries to put forward their opinions delicately without appearing racist. But the protesters are not silent. 

Elegantly framed and filmed in long takes, Geyrhalter remains the calm observer, distancing himself from the madding crowd, muting their anxiety and anger with placcid detachment, yet still retaining a humanistic feel. THE BORDER FENCE makes for a contemplative experience, allowing the audience space and time to process this European crisis. Geyrhalter’s documentary is a study in atavistic fear and human behaviour at its most base. And while many are vehemently opposed to the crackdown on migration, others feel threatened: “Be my guest – but don’t take over my home”.  MT


The Workshop (2017) ****

Dir: Laurent Cantet | Writer: Robin Campillo | France | Cast: Marina Fois, Matthieu Lucci | 114min | Drama

Laurent Cantet follows his middle-aged rumination Return to Ithaca (2014) with an equally unsettling but darker teenage drama that takes place in a multi-cultural summer school in Provence. Youth is a subject he’s covered before in his Palme d’Or winner The Class (2008) but here the region’s working class past come back to haunt the instability of the present providing an intoxicating mix of emotions in a tense, intelligent and socially relevant drama.

The film follows Antoine who is taking part in summer school in rather downtrodden town of La Ciotat, where he hopes to write a crime thriller novel with the help of a well-known author Olivia Dejazet (Marina Fois).  Joined by seven other local teenagers from the town which has seen better days as a centre for shipbuilding – today the docks just service luxury yachts.

Whilst most of the students are critical of Dejazet’s Parisian “snootiness”, they still co-operate  – apart from Antoine (Lucci). He is provocative to both teacher and co-students, shocking them with a piece of gruesome writing, describing a mass-killer, and told in the first person singular. Downtime is spend hanging around the area, in one instance with an unlicensed firearm.  Antoine has already been playing the popular video game “The Witch3: Wild Hunt”,  where he choses the role of a Viking killer-for hire. Malik (Rammach), a young Muslim woman, is Antoine’s fiercest critic, as he continues to undermine the project, upsetting everyone with his unruly attitude. Dejazet feels hopeless – not used to open racism and Antoine’s perverse love of violence – then she tries to help him. But her efforts end in a traumatic encounter, and Antoine gives himself away: he describes the main motive of the Bataclan perpetrators as boredom, a very astute projection, considering his activities with other far-right friends.

Antoine might not have the intellectual prowess of Drieu La Rochelle, the nihilist hero of Louis Malle’ s Le Feu Follet, but there are certain parallels: both men prefer male company, the home-erotic undertones are very clear. Like many fascists, they are obsessed with death and suicide (La Rochelle killed himself in 1945 after being a collaborator), and their relationship with women tends to be antagonistic: their masculine pride does not allow them to come emotionally close to women. Antoine is a gun for hire, his phantasies of obliteration are as much directed at himself as others.

Regular collaborate Robin Campillo, who also worked on Entre les Murs with Cantet, constructs an ambivalent relationship between Dejazet and Antoine: both are aware of their social differences, but in spite this they are somehow attracted to one another. Their relationship develops into a separate story, whilst the other six students try to write their own crime novel. DoP Pierre Milon uses impressive panoramic shots, showing the empty docks, then returning to the intimate scenes of collaborate writing, without breaking the fluent movement. Cantet’s direction is  sensitive, he never denounces Antoine, seeing him as a victim of change: once he would have found a spiritual home with the dock workers, but now he is alienated and bitter. L’Atelier is a story of disenfranchisement, and storytelling – with the author as teacher, but one who’s not always in control.




Russian Film Week 2018

Russian Film Week is back for the third year running. From 25 November to 2 December the event will take place in London at BFI Southbank, Regent Street Cinema, Curzon Mayfair and Empire Leicester Square before heading to Edinburgh, Cambridge and Oxford.

The eight-day festival celebrates a selection of award-winning new dramas, documentaries and shorts, bridging the gap between Russian cinematography and the West with the aim of building bridges rather than enforcing tensions. The festival will culminate in the Golden Unicorn Awards. This year’s selection has certainly upped its game and comes thoroughly recommended. Particularly worth seeing is Rashomon re-make THE BOTTOMLESS BAG, a magical mystery drama, in black and white.

Russian Film Week opens with Avdotya Smirnova’s prize-winning historical drama THE STORY OF AN APPOINTMENT (prize for Best Script at Russia’s main national film festival Kinotavr). Based on real life events, it follows an episode from Leo Tolstoy’s life. The opening night will be held at the largest screen in the UK – Empire IMAX Leicester Square.

Other seasonal highlights include Kirill Serebrennikovэ’s Cannes awarded biographical film LETO (Summer) and SOBIBOR, Russia’s foreign-language film Oscar submission 2018. The film is the debut feature for actor-turned-director Konstantin Khabensky, and focuses on events in the titular Nazi extermination camp during 1943. The film also stars Christopher Lambert and Karl Frenzel. Danila Kozlovsky, known for his role in BBC series McMafia (2018) and numerous Russian blockbusters, will present his debut project, sports drama TRENER (‘Coach’).

The festival c Golden Unicorn Awards ceremony, including the Best Foreign Film About Russia. British actor Brian Cox will head up the jury. The awards ceremony is in aid of Natalia Vodianova’s Naked Heart Foundation.

Russian Film Week and the Golden Unicorn was founded in 2016 by Filip Perkon with a group of volunteers on a non-profit basis. From 2017 the festival supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture, Synergy University, and the BFI.


Budapest Noir (2017) *** UK Jewish Film Festival 2018

Dir.: Eva Gardos; Cast: Krisztian Kolovratnik, Reka Tenki, Janos Kulka, Adel Kovats, Franziska Töröcsik; Hungary 2017, 94 min.

Veteran director Eva Gardos (An American Rhapsody) serves up a slick but conventional noir spoof that offers decent entertainment despite its cliche-ridden script. There are too many holes in the narrative, the brothel scenes are voyeuristic, and without any knowledge of the complex Hungarian history of the era, audiences will find it hard to understand what’s going on. But BUDAPEST NOIR looks simply stunning and serves as a perceptive study of Hungarian fascism and Anti-Semitism.

In October 1936, Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Gömbös, had died of cancer in Munich. His body was received in Budapest with full military honours (Gömbös had boasted about his fascist credentials). Crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon (Kolovratnik) meets an enigmatic young woman in a restaurant, who tells the waiter that the journalist will pick up her bill. When he finds her note to him, promising to pay back the money, the womanising journalist’s interest is aroused – only to discover her murdered a few days later. But when her body then disappears from the morgue, Gordon makes his own inquiries against the advice of the authorities. He finds out that the girl in question, Fanny (Töröcsik), is the daughter of Andras Szöllosy, a wealthy Jewish coffee importer with links to the government. He converted to Catholicism, and started a lucrative business with Nazi Germany. Helped by his on/off girl friend Krisztina (Tenki), a photographer who had just had an assignment in a German camp (sic), Gordon finds out that Fanny’s father had driven his daughter into prostitution, forbidding her to see her Jewish boyfriend, because of his fears for her future. But after Fanny had become pregnant in a high-class brothel, her situation deteriorated. And when Gordon finally catches up with Fanny’s parents, he mother Irma (Kovats) reacts dramatically.

Sad to say, Hungarian Fascists were as brutal as their Germans counterparts. The ruling Regent, Admiral Horthy, felt superior to Hitler, who had spent a decade in a dosshouse. Gömbös, Horthy’s Prime Minister, wanted two nations to be more closely allied, whilst Horthy only supported Hitler without reservations after the outbreak of WWII, when Hungarian troops fought on the side of the Axis.

It is ironic that Horthy was deposed by Hitler when it came to the deportation of the 400 000 Hungarian Jews in 1944 – it turned out that the Hungarian fascists (Pfeilkreuzler) and the population as a whole, did not share Horthy’s reservation, they enthusiatiscally assisted the Germans to send the Jews to the death camps.

There are scenes of open Anti-Semitism in Budapest Noir: in one scene, a bar singer croons a song composed by a Jew, and some Anti-Semites in the audience attack him. Gordon stops them, but the real fighter is his Krisztina, who leaves him for London, to show her death camp images in an exhibition “because over there are people who really care”. The Szöllosy’s family history is typical for Jews of the region: many had converted to Catholicism, trying to deny their Jewish heritage, and, like Fanny’s father, would marry their offspring to anybody but a Jew. Gordon represents the cynical by-stander, who is only after a good story, he does not mind taking a beating, but is totally non-committed on a personal and political level. Strangely enough, Budapest Noir is – in spite of its obvious faults – a mirror of a society where the points for the future genocide are being put in place. AS


Inside Mossad: Imperfect Spies *** (2018)

Dir: Duki Dror | Doc Israel | 90′ 2018

Mossad (the National Intelligence Service of Israel) has long been regarded as Gold Standard among spy networks in a world that continues to be fascinated by international espionage. Since the First World World spies have been glamourised and vilified. Their tales have spawned a rich vein of cinema from Noir dramas to documentaries and TV series, the most recent and spine-chilling KILLING EVE has enthralled BBC audiences nationwide.

Here, award-winning documentarian Duki Dror steps behind the secret curtain to unveil insider stories from former Mossad agents – some of them as recent as last year. But it’s important to remember that nowadays these functionaries lead quite normal lives aside from their intelligence activities. And although often viewed as exciting a great deal of their work is routine and procedural – like most people they respond with relish to share their stories of adventure and derring-do.

What emerges here is both intriguing and unsettling. Back in 1960 Mossad rose to the public’s attention when an agency team led by former intelligence officer and politician Rafi Eitan, now 91, captured Nazi arch villain Adolf Eichmann and put him on trial in Israel to answer for his Holocaust crimes in a court of Law. Naturally, no-one objected to the move. But since those glory day, Mossad has simply dispatched a number of high profile terrorists considered a threat to the national interest, without a fair trial. This spirit taking the Law into their own hands has been echoed in the recent events in Salisbury, where a former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were famously poisoned on British soil, purportedly by the Russian themselves. Meanwhile, Eitan reveals an incident where an one of his compatriots was discovered to have been selling secrets to an enemy Arab country. He was kidnapped, assassinated, and his body was dropped over from a place somewhere in the Mediterranean. Another Mossad leader, Zvi Zamir also confesses with relish his time spent in service. He also refers to The Gatekeepers (2012) another documentary highlighting the activities of Israel’s other intelligence agency Shin Bet,, who famously failed to protect the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated by right-winger Yigal Amir.

Scripted by Yossi Melman and Chen Shelach (both from Zero Days) Inside the Mossad is an engrossing and succinctly made human interest story. MT


The Other Side of Everything (2017) ****

Dir/Writer: Mila Turajlic. Serbia. 2017. 100 mins.

Like most people who have been driven to their knees and learned how to survive their troubled history, the Serbians are tough cookies. And none more so than the indomitable a professor (who is also her mother) in Mila Turajlic’s engrossing documentary. THE OTHER SIDE OF EVERYTHING illuminates turbulent times in pre-World War II Serbia when Tito’s communists countermanded her family’s spacious central Belgrade apartment, and forced them to share their home with two other families.

Srbijanka was a tiny girl when Tito came to power in 1943. But the experiences of her childhood have made her a strong-willed and independent thinker who cuts to the chase with salient truisms such as: ” You don’t believe how it all can begin….until it begins.”. Her views and experiences are enriched by fascinating archive footage and news reels of the Tito years in a film that won Turajlic the main prize at Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival in 2017.

When the communists took over, the internal doors of her apartment were locked back and have remained so for more than 70 years. Serbia is a country that has never really recovered from this shocking era. It’s the sort of place where the Census-taker asks ordinary citizens searching questions like: “Have you had links to terrorism? What about genocide?”.

But it’s the personal story of its stoical matriarch that actually makes this potted history of Yugoslavia and Serbia over the past hundred years, so engaging. And it soon emerges that the casually dressed and amiably ‘bolshie’ raconteur actually took an active part in the eventual downfall of creatures like Slobodan Milosovic.

The rather opulent apartment bears witness to Srbijanka’s upmarket background of enlightened intellectuals and professionals. Her grandfather had involvement with the formation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes that later became known as Yugoslavia. Sadly, because Srbijanka was not a Communist, she was unable to study Law, but she later became a Mathematics professor at the capital’s University and worked hard to promote pro-Serbian interests. Like so many parents who have experienced terrible political regimes, she warns her daughter to be watchful and sceptical (Mila remains off camera). Yet Mila has her doubts, and this gently probing film marks their expression throughout. The Other Side serves as a worthwhile tribute to the valiant woman at its core, and to everyone who has risked their lives to make their world a better place. MT

ON RELEASE NATIONWIDE FROM 9 NOVEMBER 2018  | IDFA 2017 REVIEW | Best Feature-length Documentary Winner 2017 | SCREENINGS IN YOUR AREA


For Vagina’s Sake (2017) London Korean Film Festival 2018 ***

Dir: Kim Bo-ram | S. Korean Doc | 73′

FOR VAGINA’S SAKE takes a coyly humorous approach to a bodily function that happens to half the world’s population. A woman will lose over 10 litres of blood during her reproductive years. And while in North East Asia menstruation is still often seen as an embarrassing occurrence, Dutch women treat periods much more pragmatically according to this worthwhile but rather scatty South Korean documentary debut from Kim Bo-ram.

Boram has certainly done her research and uncovered a wealth of information about this vital bodily function, uncovering startling facts from the Dark Ages and followed it through with up to date political developments. It’s a shame then that her film is hamstrung by its choppy editing, flipping backwards and forward and flitting around like a butterfly on heat, it eventually becomes exasperating in the final scenes. It’s also focused almost entirely on women in their twenties and early thirties in Holland and South Korea.

A dinner discussion in Holland reveals that young Dutch woman go for basic applicator-free protection, while in South Korea some are still scared to insert a tampon (afraid that it may get lost) in a country where periods are still taboo and anatomical ignorance is frankly shocking. We then meet an 80 year old Korean woman whose first period came after she marred at 18, and who then went on to produce five or six daughters. In those days sanitary towels consisted of natural cotton balls wrapped in cotton material. Tied with strings round the woman’s waste they often fell down, causing horrific embarrassment. And this humiliation and fear connected with staining a public seat or losing a pad in the street is still a woman’s worst nightmare today.

There follows a potted historical and religious background which verges on the macabre (if not downright misogynistic). We learn than ancient Japan women were thrown into communal pits of menstrual blood and allowed to drown, whereas in China those who gave birth would apparently go to Hell (?). Menstrual blood was considered a puny female attempt at producing sperm.

The second part of the documentary focuses on politics developments and taxes that apply to feminine hygiene products, with a discussion on the contemporary developments in sustainable protection (material pads, sea-foam, and an overlong diatribe about the menstrual cup and its advantages.