Posts Tagged ‘Sundance UK’

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


Animals (2019) ****

Dir.: Sophie Hyde; Cast: Holiday Grainger, Alia Shawkat, Fra Fee, Dermont Murphy, Amy Molloy, Dermont Murphy; UK/Australia/ROI 2019, 109 min.

In her sophomore feature Australian filmmaker Sophie Hyde (52 Tuesdays) directs Emma-Jane Unsworth’ script of her own novel. It centres on two close friends Laura (Grainger) and Tyler (Shawcat) in Dublin who spend most of their time in being drunk and high on drugs. Well at least that’s the way it’s seemed for the past ten years. But now in their thirties, things are about to change.

Their story unfolds from the perspective of Laura, a struggling writer whose novel progresses a line a week – meanwhile she works as a barista in a coffee shop, to make ends meet. Her sister Jean (Molloy), once a wild child herself, announces that she has now chosen adult life and motherhood. Laura reacts with panic: suddenly casual boyfriend Jim (Fee), a very serious pianist, becomes a plausible alternative to her living the life of Riley with Tyler. But then along comes uber-pretentious author Marthy (Murphy) and Laura soon sees the error of her ways. And somehow the never fully explained cloud over Tyler’s life (some trauma in the past) becomes more important – or is it just the realisation, that their friendship is much more of a love story then they want to admit. Most features are built on the rock of a happy-ending with friendship being replaced by the great love conquering all – but Hyde raises doubts: is it really inevitable that all women should spend their life with the opposite gender just because mother nature and a concept called adulthood dictate it – or can Goethe’s Elective Affinities overcome the norm – at least sometimes?

Grainger and Shawkat carry the feature – their relationship is anything but ideal – but at least it is honest, and we are never allowed to forget it. Hyde directs with great sensibility, athough there are more than enough emotional episodes to go round. DoP Bryan Mason has a fine feel for the Dublin scene, even though the film actually takes place in Manchester. Animals is full of surprises and never resorts to the banal. It is a brave attempt at trying to align the impossible, but it manages to remain sincere: when Jim calls Laura Tyler’s wife, he is not too far off. AS



The Last Tree (2019) *** Sundance London 2019

Dir.: Shola Amoo; Cast: Sam Adewunmi, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Denise Black, Tai Golding, Nicholas Pinnock, DemmyLadipo; UK 2019, 100 min.

Writer/director Shola Amoo explores a conflicted teenager at odds with his environment in modern Britain, with his roots in Nigeria.

We meet Femi (Tai Golding) as a happy eleven-year old in rural Lincolnshire where he runs wild with his white school friends during the day, before returning to loving foster Mum Mary (Black) in a middle class area. But Femi is suddenly uprooted when his birth mother Yinka (Ikumelo) demands his return to her tiny flat in one of many high-rise blocks in South-London. Femi is stranded: on the phone he calls Mary ‘Nan’, but refuses to admit how much he is alienated by the black ghetto, and his authoritarian Mum. She punishes him physically, telling him “I did not raise you, to be rude”. To which Femi answers “You did not raise me”.

Sixteen-year old Femi (Adewunmi) has nothing but his memories, but he makes up for it by presenting himself as a proud African. Meanwhile, many of his mates are much more assimilated, and bully him. For a short while, he fells under the spell of the local mini-gangster Mace (Ladipo), but an upright teacher helps him to free himself from the clutches of petty crime. A romantic interlude just goes to enforce his alienation. But this all changes in the third act when his mother introduces him to his birth father in Nigeria.  A wealthy Christian, he rejected Yinka and his son because she believed in the old mysticism of the country and “was not ready to submit like a Christian woman.”

The structure of the feature underlines Femi’s conflict. There is only one scene when past and present interact positively and this involves his foster mother Mary. DoP Stil Williams uses a peachy pastel palette for the Lincolnshire scenes, than switches to hyper-realism for the South London interlude, before prime colours show his re-awakening in Nigeria.

THE LAST TREE (the title remains opaque) has not the narrative strength of Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother, the Devil, but relies on emotional power. Femi is black, African and disenfranchised British, but at the same time rejected on all three levels. He is not able to connect his childhood memories with anything in his adult life, and the question remains if he will find acceptance in Nigeria, or if the fragmentation will continue. Amoo’s feature has certainly structural fault lines, but he makes up partly for it with a radical passionate approach, showing a picture of unreconciled loneliness. AS


Wildlife (2018) ****

Writer|Dir: Paul Dano | Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould | Drama | US | 105’

A teenage boy experiences the breakdown of his parents’ marriage in  Paul Dano’s crisp coming of age family drama, set in 1960s Montana, and based on Richard Ford’s novel.

Although once or twice veering into melodrama, actor Dano maintains impressive control over his sleek and very lucid first film which is anchored by three masterful performances, and sees a young family disintegrate after the husband loses his job.

WILDLIFE has a great deal in common with Retribution Road (2008), its similar theme of aspirational hope for a couple starting out on their life in a new town, in this case Great Falls, Montana. But here the perspective is very different – in Wildlife, the entire experience is seen from the unique perspective of a pubescent boy, Joe, played thoughtfully by young Australian actor Ed Oxenbould (The Visit).

There’s an old-fashioned quality to the film that very much works to its advantage. The date is 1960 and in the mountains behind the family house a forest fire is raging, with warnings that it could well spread to the town centre if not controlled by rangers, who Jerry Brinson (Gyllenhaal) decides to join at a wage of only a dollar an hour, after much moping around the house when he loses his job on the local golf course. This comes as a big surprise to his wife Jeannette (Mulligan), an earnest homemaker who believes in her husband’s desire to make more of himself, and she sees this as a step backwards, career-wise. Meanwhile, Joe signs on as an apprentice to a local portrait photographer, a part-time job he takes to while doing very well in his school work.

Dano and his co-writer Zoe Kazan, stick to a clean, straighforward narrative but there’s a subtle brooding tension at play, and while Joe seems emotionally grounded and resilient (a tribute to his parents), Jerry and Jeannette are less so: although Jerry’s character is the most underwritten of the three, there’s a haunted quality to him as a straightforwaed dad who suddenly implodes after the shock of his firing. Jeannette also starts to lose her own sense of equilibrium:. “What kind of man leaves his wife and child in such a lonely place?,” Jeanette casts around for emotional ballast in an much older wealthy man, Warren Miller (Bill Camp), who she meets while giving swimming classes.

In some ways this fragmented behaviour is character-forming for Joe, his parents have clearly given him a rock solid babyhood, and so he can weather the shocking fliration scenes that take place between Millar and his mother, and his loss at his father’s temporary abandonment, although he finds it all difficult to fathom. This is not a film about adult infidelity and abandonment, but about how a teenage perceives and deals with it, and as such it is beautifully restrained and supremely elegant – the audience is required to suspend disbelief and take a trip back to teenagehood and the bewildering experience it offers. Dano makes the denouement an enigmatic affair, leaving the door open to hope, while acknowledging the inevitable. MT


First Reformed (2017)***** | Sundance London

Dir: Paul Schrader | Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried | US | Thriller | 108′

Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED is a sleek and elegant beast; economical, eco-themed and uncompromising yet firing on all cylinders, powered by Ethan Hawke as an anguished Christian minister fraught with spiritual and existential thoughtfulness.

The film’s richly textured themes of religious tradition, radicalisation and global warming underpin a graceful story of faith, hope, despair and finally love, redeeming all. And we wrestle and ruminate with Hawke on his personal journey from a sombre starting point to a place of peace in a rich character study that sees Schrader back on form after his ill-advised experiments with The Canyons and Dog Eat Dog.

Hawke is Toller, a sorrowing military chaplain whose marriage has failed due to the death of his son. In a white wooden-clad church in upstate New York, he has a new start in life leading a congregation that includes Mary (Seyfried), a pregnant woman who seeks his moral support over her activist husband Michael (Philip Ettinger). It soon emerges that Michael wants to get rid of their child due to his disenchantment with the corporate world he holds responsible for climate change and pollution.

There are comparisons here with Schrader’s script for Taxi Driver and Light Sleeper which also explore despair and disenchantment, although Toller is a much more down to earth decent character than John LeTour (Defoe) and Travis Bickle (De Niro) from the outset, and only seems to lose his sense of direction when his health deteriorates, and cancer becomes a possibility, leading him into a dark place of soul-searching made blacker by a tragedy involving Mary and Michael.

Toller also becomes convinced that a local businessman, sponsoring the church renovations, is actually responsible for environmental pollution on a large scale, and this presents a moral dilemma that further challenges the minster’s troubled state of mind. As the film slides between reality and somewhere more sinister. he desperately tries to lead his followers maintaining respect, compassion and dignity. Seyfried plays Mary as an open and honest woman whose motivations at first seem enigmatic but soon become clear as the two share a mutual sense of desperation and denial. There are strong performances also from Cedric the Entertainer, as a Toller’s ecclesiastical mentor and Esther, a fellow pastor who falls foul of Toller, despite her best intentions, inspiring one of the film’s most killer lines: ” I despise you: you bring out the worst in me”. MT


Sundance London 2018 | 31 May – 3 June

Once again Robert Redford brings twelve of the best indie feature films that premiered in Utah this January, with opportunities to talk to the filmmakers and cast in a jamboree that kicks off on the long weekend of 31 May until 3 June.

Desiree Akhavan picked up the Grand Jury Prize for her comedy drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post in the original US festival, and seven films are directed by women along with a thrilling array of female leads on screen, and this year’s festival champions their voices with Toni Collette (Hereditary) amongst the stars to grace this glittering occasion taking place in Picturehouse Central, Leicester Square. Robert Redford will also be in attendance.

An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (Director: Jim Hosking,

Screenwriters: Jim Hosking, David Wike) – Lulu Danger’s unsatisfying marriage takes a fortunate turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn For One Magical Night Only’.

Principal cast: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson

Eighth Grade (Director/Screenwriter: Bo Burnham) – Thirteen-year-old Kayla endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she makes her way through the last week of middle school — the end of her thus far disastrous eighth grade year — before she begins high school.

Principal cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton

Generation Wealth (Director: Lauren Greenfield) – Lauren Greenfield’s postcard from the edge of the American Empire captures a portrait of a materialistic, image-obsessed culture. Simultaneously personal journey and historical essay, the film bears witness to the global boom–bust economy, the corrupted American Dream and the human costs of late stage capitalism, narcissism and greed.

Principal cast: Florian Homm, Tiffany Masters, Jaqueline Siegel

Half the Picture (Director: Amy Adrion) – At a pivotal moment for gender equality in Hollywood, successful women directors tell the stories of their art, lives and careers. Having endured a long history of systemic discrimination, women filmmakers may be getting the first glimpse of a future that values their voices equally.

Principal cast: Rosanna Arquette, Jamie Babbit, Emily Best

Hereditary (Director/Screenwriter: Ari Aster) – After their reclusive grandmother passes away, the Graham family tries to escape the dark fate they’ve inherited.

Principal cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro

Leave No Trace (Director: Debra Granik, Screenwriters: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini) – A father and daughter live a perfect but mysterious existence in Forest Park, a beautiful nature reserve near Portland, Oregon, rarely making contact with the world. A small mistake tips them off to authorities sending them on an increasingly erratic journey in search of a place to call their own.

Principal cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Director: Desiree Akhavan, Screenwriters: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele) –1993: after being caught having sex with the prom queen, a girl is forced into a gay conversion therapy center. Based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed and controversial coming-of-age novel.

Principal cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle.

Never Goin’ Back (Director/Screenwriter: Augustine Frizzell) –Jessie and Angela, high school dropout BFFs, are taking a week off to chill at the beach. Too bad their house got robbed, rent’s due, they’re about to get fired and they’re broke. Now they’ve gotta avoid eviction, stay out of jail and get to the beach, no matter what!!!

Principal cast: Maia Mitchell, Cami Morrone, Kyle Mooney, Joel Allen, Kendal Smith, Matthew Holcomb

Skate Kitchen (Director: Crystal Moselle, Screenwriters: Crystal Moselle, Ashlihan Unaldi) – Camille’s life as a lonely suburban teenager changes dramatically when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self.

Principal cast: Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Jaden Smith, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams

The Tale (Director/Screenwriter: Jennifer Fox) – An investigation into one woman’s memory as she’s forced to re-examine her first sexual relationship and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive; based on the filmmaker’s own story.

Principal cast: Laura Dern, Isabelle Nélisse, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Ellen Burstyn, Common

Yardie (Director: Idris Elba, Screenwriters: Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman) – Jamaica, 1973. When a young boy witnesses his brother’s assassination, a powerful Don gives him a home. Ten years later he is sent on a mission to London. He reunites with his girlfriend and their daughter, but then the past catches up with them. Based on Victor Headley’s novel.

Principal cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Cleary

SURPRISE FILM! Following on from last year’s first ever surprise film, the hit rap story Patti Cake$, Sundance Film Festival: London will again feature a surprise showing.  No details as yet, but it was a favourite among audiences in Utah, and with just one screening this will be among the hottest of the hot tickets. The title will be revealed only when the opening credits roll. My bets are on Gustav Möller’s The Guilty, which picked up the World Cinema Audience Award back in January; or possibly Rudy Valdez’ drug documentary The Sentence, or it could even be Burden, which took the US Dramatic Audience Award for its story of a love affair between a villain and a woman who saves his soul. 










Generation Wealth (2018) **** Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Lauren Greenfield; Documentary; USA 2018, 106 min.

Filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield (Queen of Versailles, 2012) has put her whole working life of 25 years into this mammoth project, which is accompanied by a book and an exhibition – just to make the point. But it is not only the wealthy who are the objects of her research: Greenfield freely admits to something a woman in her documentary Thin(2006) pointed out to her: Your addiction is work.

The quote from Thin is not the only revisiting Greenfield does: the high-octane-living teens of FastForward fame are also back to report about their life thereafter. These new additions fall mostly into the category of ‘obsession’. Self-obsession usually involves finding an outlet in which to prove yourself: hedge fund manager Suzanne is not only status obsessed, but after having nearly missed the boat in having children, her latest obsession is to have a child – whatever it takes.

Kacey Jordan, an adult film star famous for her relationship with Charlie Sheen is repentant – but not before filming her own suicide attempt. Florian Homm, a hedge-fund manager who once had 600 M Euros to his name, fell foul of the US regulatory system and cannot now leave his native Germany, after having been imprisoned in Italy. He calls Germany “a prison”, but is truly proud of the fact that he bought his teenage son a prostitute in Amsterdam, “to make a man out of him”. His son watches on with his current girl friend, blushing. But there are also examples of redemption such as when Iceland’s economy boomed, a young fisherman suddenly found himself behind a desk in a bank. After the bust, he is back proudly fishing with his son, happy to have escaped the big time.

The pusuit of beauty has always been a major topic for the director (Beauty CULTure, 2011), and it is frightening to see the young Kardashians in their early teen years. But even more harrowing is Eden wood, ‘trained’ by her lower-middleclass Mom from Arkansas to win and compete in “Toddlers and Tiaras”, wishing for nothing more than a whole room full of money. Six years later, Eden has somehow managed to morph into a cheaper model of the Kardashians. Finally Cathy Gant, has spent all he money on beauty treatments in Brazil whilst neglecting her daughter, who now suffers from body dysmorphia with terrible results.

The lost American dream – lost to a mixture of capitalism, narcissism and greed is there for all to see. Nobody looks at the Jones’ next door any more, but at the Kardashians on TV. “In my work, I often look at the extremes to understand the mainstream”, says Greenfield. Perhaps she should have added “at myself”. Her interviews with her sons Noah Gabriel are as heart-breaking as her professional portraits. Cool teenager Noah puts it simple but devastatingly: “I got used to growing up without you around. The damage has been done”.

The hyper-saturated colours and absurdist wide angle-effects give the documentary a carnival-like atmosphere: this is a bonfire, not only of vanities, but also the last roll of the dice of a global civilisation (China and Russia having successfully joined the club), hell bent on destroying itself. Just asthe pyramids with all their splendour were the last gasp of the Egyptian pharoahs; in the make-believe world of TV, everyone is measuring themselves against each other with tragic consequences: the death of family, traditions and even human emotions. Unlike Egypt, this will not be the end of one civilisation, today’s humans are determined to take the whole planet down with them. AS


Marjorie Prime (2017)

Dir.: Michael Almereyda; Cast: Lois Smith, John Hamm, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins; USA 2016, 99 min.

Director/co-writer Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) adapts Jordan Harrison’s play for the screen in an un-stagey  triumph that interweaves Beckett, Sartre and Phil Dicks, exploring themes such as memory, family and death – the latter not only on a personal level, but concerning humanity as a whole: “Computers have all the time in the world”.

Eighty-five year old Marjorie (Smith) is suffering from the onset of Alzheimers and her loving family, daughter Tess (Davis) and her husband Jon (Robbins), have installed a simulated, personalised digital projection of her dead husband Walter (Hamm) in the futuristic house near the beach. Walter is in his prime, around forty, and received daily tuition by Tess and Jon about Marjorie’s life – the exception being the death of her son. Walter is also instructed to look after Marjorie’s health; he tries to make her eat and drink regularly. But basically, his function is to make Marjorie’s decline more palatable for her. They reminisce over the feel-good features of her youth, such us the crush on a high-ranging French tennis player. And Tess reminds her husband that the man in question was hardly French, just Canadian, and only an amateur player. But Jon shrugs this off: allowing Marjorie a great deal of slack, and flattery is only a minor sin. The longer the ‘interactions’ go on, the more one suspects that all participants are holograms – something author and director have clearly intended. Computers may have all the time in the world, but the human race is only too ready to be replaced by them. To start with, they have a much more precise recollection than the human race. What stands for memory, is just the recollection of the original incident, re-memorised and re-told so often that the original event assumes only a random connection to the present.

DoP Sean Williams uses the house in Long Island as a perfect background for this placcid chamber piece. Colours are subdued and the functional building is just the perfect bland showcase for the holograms. Late Schubert strings are the ideal score for this endgame, where everything is in the past; the waves of the ocean more pacifying and reliable than humans. It is good to see Geena Davis in a major role again, but Lois Smith is the centre of this Artificial Intelligent drama which plays out as a long good-bye. AS


Dina (2017)

Dir: Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles | Cast: Dina Buno, Scott Levin | Doc | US | 102′

Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles explore the joys and idiosyncrasies of an autistic Jewish couple who meet and marry in this poignant and quirkily humorous vérité portrait of love and companionship. DINA serves as an understated tribute to emotional resilience and an indomitable desire for human closeness.

Although there are clearly moments of awkwardness and embarrassment here, Santini and Sickles are never patronising, treating their subject matter with respect and dignity. DINA emerges an engaging and revealing study of human tenderness at its most touching and honest.  48 year-old-widow Dina Bruno is certainly forthright but not apparently autistic when we first meet her making arrangements for her second marriage to Scott Levin, who works in the local Walmart. She is clearly on the outer fringes of the ‘spectrum’ whereas Scott is possibly more affected. The two met at an outer Philadelphia social group for ‘neurologically diverse’ adults. Dina has been ‘retired sick’ after a stabbing attack from an ex (‘the psycho’) left her depressed and traumatised. Her first husband died of cancer.

Although the couple both seem keen on each other, it’s clear that Dina is the more experienced, sexually and emotionally, of the two. Living alone in a flat above a shop, Dina is armed with a strong sense of self-esteem and, although overweight, is happy in her skin with few of the anxieties that bug most modern woman. However, Scott has always lived with his loving parents and is possibly a virgin, admitting to masturbation and given to romantic crooning of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”,  but expressing a deep fear of tactile expression and sex. Something that Dina is determined to remedy, and Scott willing to learn.

Tenderness and tolerance are the watchwords of Dina and Scott’s relationship. They make a rather endearing couple on a bus trip to the New Jersey seaside for the first time, but when Dina presents him with a copy of The Joy of Sex, Scott is clearly out of his comfort zone. But sex – or lack of it – never becomes an issue between the two of them, simple another step on their journey towards mutual fulfilment. The wedding night is relaxed and informal with a focus on their enormous champagne glass-styled jacuzzi, rather than the lack of action between the sheets  (“I wonder what a honeymoon is like for a passionate couple” – muses Dina, aloud).

Scott’s parents are a warmly supportive couple who encourage him not to worry when he breaks down in tears over his performance anxiety, and this contrasts sharply with Dina’s fractious relationship with her slim, blond mother who finds her daughter ‘self-absorbed’. The couple are clearly sociable and have regular meet-ups with close friends Monica Ferrero and Frank Costanzo, whose happy marriage gives Dina and Scott something to hope for.

The filmmakers avoid a judgmental approach leaving the couple plenty of space to express themselves freely without time pressures in this well-crafted indie that never overstays its welcome. There’s a feeling here that Scott and Dina are forging something worthwhile and wonderful – in a small way, but a meaningful one nevertheless. When two people decide to really make a go of things, the result is invariably a success!. MT





Bitch (2017)

Dir.: Marianna Palka; Cast: Marianna Palka, Jason Ritter, Jaime King, USA 2017, 93 min.

Writer and director Marianna Palka (Good Dick) also stars in her anarchic portrait of a woman pushed aside by her husband once too often. BITCH is a slim but taut and deftly-handled feminist parable – the sheer pace and untamed aggression making it gripping and watchable.

Jill (Palka) runs home and kids for her husband Bill (Ritter), who works for a city corporation and is hardly ever home. Spending most of his time in the office, he sexually exploits a dependent co-worker into the bargain. When she gets sacked in a widespread office cull, Bill puts in a good word for her, but is rebuffed by the boss and vents his frustration on his wife, undeservedly calling her a bitch. Something snaps in Jill and she turns into a vicious virago, making life hell for husband and four children, whom she has served efficiently for so long. Moving into the cellar of the family home, Jill starts growling and behaving like a violent dog. The family is obviously shocked, and Jill’s sister Beth (King) suggests a psychiatric home. But Bill is against the idea – what would the neighbours think?. But his absence from work costs him his job, and when his lover arrives, inquiring caringly about his wellbeing, Jill ‘smells’ her presence and goes berserk. Scots actress Palka is astonishly convincing in both animal and human form, and shows how ultimately behaviour, rather than negotiation, is sometimes the only way to bring change. DoP Armando Salas assists with a handheld camera, capturing the human dog during long runs through the neighbourhood. The jazz score by Morgan Z. Whirledge is just right for this explosive tale which should send alarm bells to all males of the human variety. MT


A Ghost Story (2017) | Sundance London 2017

Dir. David Lowery; Cast: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck; USA 2017, 87 min.

David Lowery is re-united with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck of Ain’t Those Bodies Saints fame for this patchwork piece of paranormal fantasy that attempts a nostalgic revival of the time when ghost stories were free of today’s sensational stunts.

It opens with a Virginia Wolf quote “Whatever hours you wake, there was a door closing”, Mara and Affleck play an unnamed couple debating moving house: she is keen to get away from their semi-rural Texas backwater to somewhere less remote. But the sudden death of her songwriter husband, in a car accident, throws the proceedings into a long goodbye. After Mara has viewed the body in the hospital morgue, Affleck’s body suddenly rises from the gurney, and dressed in a white sheet with cut-outs for the eyes, leaves the hospital and observes her covertly from afar. The first signs of paranormal activity occur when she angers his ghoul by bringing another man back home. Later, when Mara has left the house to a Spanish family, the ghastly spirit makes plates fly and demolishes a table. From a neighbouring house, another ghost waves to Affleck, before the house falls into a state of disrepair and is torn down. We go through a future period when Affleck watches the urbanisation of the rural area, before the story turns back to the first settlers in the 19th century.

There are more questions than answers here, and whilst DoPGregory Crewdson creates an impressively spooky and atmospheric feel, shooting in an unusual format of 1.33:1, with round edges, like in old home movies, the overall impression is underwhelming. This ghost story is bewildering, rather than scary, and sometimes overstays its welcome with too many longuers in the froideur: a poor of version of Park Chan-wook masterpieces. AS


The Big Sick (2017) | Sundance London Festival 2017

Dir. Michael Showalter | Cast: Holly Hunter, Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan | US, 2016, 119 mins

A thoughtful and daringly witty script with some surprising twists and turns make this cross-cultural romantic drama, based on the true life of Pakistani Muslim comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his onscreen American girlfriend, a real pleasure. Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon co-wrote the script that successful sends up terrorism, religion and racism. The film is given a gutsy kick up the pants by Holly Hunter, superb as Emily’s mother, sparring with onscreen husband Ray Romano.

There’s a lot going on here aside from Emily’s parents’ spicy show and Kumail’s Pakistani family backstory that plays out very much like At Home with the Kumars. The film opens as Kumail is working Chicago’s comedy standup circuit with a group of convincing and funny collaborators. Naive but well-meaning, and very much a metrosexual man, Kumail drives Uber taxis in the daytime and endures regular dinners with ‘suitable’ girls who “just stop by” the family home, courtesy of his overbearing mother. MA student Emily (Kazan) enters the picture, blond and very American, and neither wants a relationship, despite hot sex on their first date. They continue to see each other, enjoying the chemistry and growing closer each day until Emily calls time on their affair realising that Kumail must marry a Muslim woman. Clearly this is not the end – despite verbal assurances to the contrary – but Emily’s sudden illness and hospitalisation forces Kumail to reconsider his future and his life. Enter Emily’s frank and forceful parents (Hunter and Romano) who at first reject him and then recognise his dedication to their rather spoilt daughter. Kumail feels warm and comfortable in this close and protective family, not dissimilar to his own.

Despite its indie credentials this is a slick and polished affair, believable and utterly engaging from start to finish with its rich vein of humour, strong performances and timely storyline. In short, it’s a winner. MT


Wilson (2017)

Icarus | Sundance London (2017)

Dir.: Bryan Fogel; Documentary with Gregory Rodchenkov; USA 2017, 120 min.

It started out more like a prank: amateur cyclist and filmmaker Bryan Fogel (Jewtown) wanted to take performance enhancing drugs to get into the top ten of the best amateur cyclists at the Haute Route mountain tour in Switzerland, having finished 14th the year before. When he contacted the Russian Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov (*1958), head of the Russian branch of WADA (World Anti-Doing Agency), to deliver said forbidden drugs, Rodchenkov was only to happy to deliver and monitor Fogel’s performance. Ironically the Fogel actually did worse on the drugs, so the filmmaker had a stunning success on his hands.

At the winter and summer Olympics in Vancouver (2010) and Beijing (2012) Russia fared very badly, and Vladimir Putin ordered “success”, particularly for the Winter Games in Sochi (2014). And results improved magically: whilst the Russian team finished sixth in Vancouver, on home soil Russia won 33 medals, including 13 Gold – coming first in the overall result. As it turned out, Dr. Rodchenkov had a big part to play. After being caught with his sister (also an ex-athlete like himself) dealing drugs in Moscow, he was sent into one of the horrendous “psychiatric” hospitals in 2011. His “redemption” on his release was to help the FSB (formerly KGB) to overcome the controls of the worldwide WADA organisation, in charge of monitoring and controlling the athletes. It helped, that the good doctor would be director of WADA in Sochi. There, he and his team collected and froze urine samples of Russian competitors before they started their steroid regime and human growth hormone injections, which Rodchenkov and his team later substituted for the contaminated samples taken officially by WADA at the time of the competition. They used a crude system of ‘re-distribution’, including the use of backdoors and hidden portals in the walls of the WADA facility.

Rodchenkov claims: “I don’t believe the Olympic Games could be won without any kind of pharmacological support”. And Don Catlin, former director of the UCLA Olympic facility, tested Lance Armstrong 50 (!) times during the latter’s career: his findings were always negative, before Armstrong confessed in 1913. Whilst Vitaly Mutko, who served eight years as Minister for Sport under Putin, was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister, another college of Rodchenkov died of a “sudden heart attack”. Luckily for Dr. Rodchenkov he had fled to the USA, and now lives under cover in the Witness Protection Programme, after The New York Times run his full confession.

ICARUS runs like a thriller: the charming Rodchenkov is first one to help Fogel to cheat, before investigations lead to the death of his friend and college – and threatens his own into the bargain. Fogel follows his every move, putting himself in a dangerous position. Whilst Rodchenkov had to leave his family behind, he at least got away alive. But it should not be forgotten that Russia is staging the Football World Cup next year, and that, after the majority of Russian competitors were banned at the Rio Olympics, these Russian track and field athletes will compete in London in August at the World Championships in front of a paying public. AS


Walking Out (2017) |Sundance 2017

Directors|writers: Alex Smith, Andrew Smith Cast: Josh Wiggins, Matt Bomer, Bill Pullman | 91min | US | Adventure Drama

walking-outDirectors Alex and Andrew Smith make a welcome return to Sundance 15 years after The Slaughter Rule, with an auteurish inter-generational hunting adventure that is spare on narrative but long on macho bonding and wild grunting from its rather one-dimentional male leads.

With the cherished memory of hunting with his traditional father (Bill Pullman) echoing in the snowbound landscapes and mountain streams of Montana, hard-bitten dad Cal (Matt Bomer) takes his own teenage son Ted (Josh Wiggins) on an adventure that serves both as an iniation into the world of big game hunting and a rites of passage endurance test that will see their roles reversed and their lives changed forever.

Ted is a rather introspective Texas teenager attached to his mobile phone and his life in the city. Although he baulks at the idea of spending time out with his spiky father Cal, who loves nothing more than to track a moose or a stag, once Ted gets a taste for hunting and shooting, he starts to enjoy the wilds of nature until an accident forces him to dig deep into his inner reserves of stamina, courage and mental resiliance. WALKING OUT is a predictable but well-crafted drama enriched by Todd McMullen’s magnificent widescreen retro-style photography that gives the piece an almost poetic and transcendent feel. MT




The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Director: Jim Hosking  Writer: Toby Harvard

Cast: Michael St Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex

93min | Drama Comedy | US

Jim Hosking’s debut feature can best be described as repulsive; at worst – a simply awful con intended to perplex and intrigue audiences with its ambiguous title, the fantasy is none other than a repetitive series of vile visuals exploring the relationship between a dysfunctional father and co-dependent son who inhabit the seedy backwaters of Los Angeles. These grotesquely sordid scenes exist merely to flesh out a vapid narrative that serves no other purpose other than providing a salacious talking point between critic and cineaste, some of whom postulate that the feature may appeal to kids – which is frankly insulting, as most kids have a modicum of taste and know when they are being taken for a ride.

The plot is simply thus: Big Ronnie (St Michaels) and his son Big Brayden (Elobar) are forced into romantic competition over Janet (De Razzo) a pleasant participant in one of their bizarre walking tours while the murderous activities of the soi-disant serial killer the Greasy Strangler, play out in the hinterland.

Visually and technically The Greasy Strangler is well-crafted with Marten Tedin’s camerawork capturing the low-life lassitude of nighttime Los Angeles. Performances are lacklustre in an outing that transcends even the cult status of being camp or kitsch. Endless stomach-lurching bodily functions are frequently thrust into our gaze – if The Greasy Strangler were an exhibit it would smell like a fetid cesspit in downtown Dakar – that said – if you get your kicks from fetid cesspits in Dakar – this is your flick – and no offence to Dakar which has a delightfully dry year-round climate and some wonderful street markets. Catch the boat to the nearby island paradise of Gorée for its fascinating history and idyllic beaches!. MT



Little Men (2016)

Dir: Ira Sachs | Cast: Jennifer Ehle, Greg Kinnear; Paulina Garcia, Theo Tapitz, Michael Barbieri, Talia Balsam | USA 2016, 87 min.

Best known for his theatre work, director and co-writer Ira Sachs’ follow up to his screen debut Love is Strange is a keenly observed story of two teenage boys whose friendship is threathened by parental intervention and an overdose of middleclass cultural aspirations.

Jake (Taplitz) moves with his parents, psychologist Kathy (Ehle) and actor father Brian (Kinnear), from a small flat in Manhattan to a bigger place in Brooklyn. The reason for their advancement is the death of Brian’s father, who left them the flat and a shop, where Chilean emigrant Gloria (Garcia) works and lives in a small backroom with her son Tony (Barbieri). Both boys are in their early teens, interested in art, and want to go to a prestigious high school. Due to her friendship with Jake’s grandfather, Gloria is still paying the same rent as when she moved in years ago and Brian needs to increase her rent to supplement his meagre income as a fringe actor and he is encouraged in this decision by his sister Audrey (Balsam), who owns a share. But Gloria cannot to pay any more and when Jake learns about the eviction order for his friend Tony, he breaks down in tears and asks his father in front of Gloria, to reconsider.

Even despite its meagre running time of 87 minutes, LITTLE MEN suffers from this rather slim narrative but the glaring flaw lies in the cultural discussions between father and son. Sachs takes very much an adult view of teenage boys: fourteen year olds do not engage in lengthy discussion about the proper way to become an artist – unless they are child prodigies – and very few are capable of intensely watching a performance of Chekov’s Seagull, even with a parent as the lead. LITTLE MEN would have been more convincing if Sachs had focused more on the conflict between Jake’s high-minded parents and the Chilean immigrant, Gloria. Performances on the whole are convincing, with a brilliant turn from Paulina Garcia in the role of Gloria. DoP Oscar Duran employs sensitive panning and long tracking shots to show the anguish and disappointment of all concerned. But a superfluous ‘second’ ending leaves even more to question. Had Sachs taken a more teenage viewpoint of the storyline, LITTLE MEN could have been a real gem. AS



Author: The J T Leroy Story (2016)

Writer|Director: Jeff Feuerzeig | With Laura Albert, Bruce Benderson, Dennis Cooper, Winona Ryder

110min | Documentary | US

Jeff Feuerzeig’s laboured and tedious documentary endlessly explores the story of a damaged woman writer who posed as a man and a transsexual and tricked stars and ordinary people for nearly six years in America.

Claiming sexual abuse from her mother’s boyfriend, Laura Albert aka J T Leroy first came to fame in the late 1990s with a slew of tales that purported to represent the voice and zeitgeist of a section of the community, gaining overnight notoriety. Celebrities such as Winona Ryder and Courtney Love claimed to be on close terms with the amorphously sexual literary talent whose second novel once premiered at the Un Certain Regard sidebar in Cannes.

But the hype ended in 2005 when Laura Albert was revealed as a buxom Brooklyn mother who adopted an English accent purporting to be LeRoy’s manager when actually it was all a con. Albert comes across as a narcissitic bore and during her flowery attempts to redeem herself – decked out as a siren – our interest continues to flag.

Feuerzeig interweaves his expose with multiple flashbacks, news footage and technical flourishes – images of literary works appear to fly out of Albert’s black-gloves hands and onto the screen intercut with interminable shots of an old-fashioned recording tape, but the tale she tells fails to fascinate after the first half hour when it becomes mired in endless detail as revelation jossles revelation.

If you are interested in the American fame dream or cult of celebrity this may well appeal but otherwise leave well alone. MT


Sundance Film Festival | Prizes Announced

112263_still1_JamesFranco_SarahGadon__byAlexDukayThe first major international festival of the independent film world: SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2016 has wrapped with another “great step forward for independent film,” according to the festival director John Cooper. For ten days in January the snow-bound hub of Park City, Utah screened 120 features, 98 of which are world premieres and include a romantic drama about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date; a two hander about a drifter who befriends a dead body and the first film to focus on the women of Wall Street.

So what’s new trendwise in 2016? Well, according to director of programming Trevor Groth: Everyone’s understanding craft so much better. There’s a changing face to what a documentary is and what it can do in the end. People are experimenting in genre in really interesting ways, so festival-goers should expect a “wild range of tones and styles” in the World Cinema dramatic competition. “Independent filmmakers are doing what they’ve always done best: connecting the dots of human existence with a deeply charged emotional current.” We look at the ones that screened during this year’s festival and the PRIZE WINNERS to look out for in the coming months.  











NEXT -AUDIENCE AWARD winner THE FIRST GIRL I LOVED  (cutting edge equivalent of Cannes “Un Certain Regard”)

W O R L D   P R E M I E R E S 

A showcase of world premieres of some of the most highly anticipated narrative films of the coming year.

agnus copyAGNUS DEI / France, Poland (Director: Anne Fontaine, Screenwriters: Sabrina N. Karine, Alice Vial, Pascal Bonitzer) — 1945 Poland: Mathilde, a young French doctor, is on a mission to help World War II survivors. When a nun seeks her assistance in helping several pregnant nuns in hiding, who are unable to reconcile their faith with their pregnancies, Mathilde becomes their only hope. Cast: Lou de Laâge, Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek, Vincent Macaigne, Joanna Kulig, Katarzyna Dabrowska. World Premiere

16753-1-1100ALI AND NINO / United Kingdom (Director: Asif Kapadia, Screenwriter: Christopher Hampton) — Muslim prince Ali and Georgian aristocrat Nino have grown up in the Russian province of Azerbaijan. Their tragic love story sees the outbreak of the First World War and the world’s struggle for Baku’s oil. Ultimately they must choose to fight for their country’s independence or for each other. Cast: Adam Bakri, Maria Valverde, Mandy Patinkin, Connie Nielsen, Riccardo Scamarcio, Homayoun Ershadi. World Premiere

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matt Ross) — Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and re-enter society, beginning a journey that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent. Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Ann Dowd. World Premiere

certain copyCERTAIN WOMEN / U.S.A. (Director: Kelly Reichardt, Screenwriter: Kelly Reichardt based on stories by Maile Meloy) — The lives of three woman intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail. Cast: Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, Jared Harris, Lily Gladstone. World Premiere

COMPLETE UNKNOWN / U.S.A. (Director: Joshua Marston, Screenwriters: Joshua Marston, Julian Sheppard) — When Tom and his wife host a dinner party to celebrate his birthday, one of their friends brings a date named Alice. Tom is convinced he knows her, but she’s going by a different name and a different biography—and she’s not acknowledging that she knows him. Cast: Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, Danny Glover. World Premiere

FRANK AND LOLA / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Matthew Ross) — A psychosexual noir love story—set in Las Vegas and Paris—about love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and, ultimately, the search for redemption. Cast: Michael Shannon, Imogen Poots, Michael Nyqvist, Justin Long, Emmanuelle Devos, Rosanna Arquette. World Premiere

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF CARING / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Rob Burnett) — Having suffered a tragedy, Ben becomes a caregiver to earn money. His first client, Trevor, is a hilarious 18-year-old with muscular dystrophy. One paralyzed emotionally, one paralyzed physically, Ben and Trevor hit the road, finding hope, friendship, and Dot in this funny and touching inspirational tale. Cast: Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Ehle, Megan Ferguson, Frederick Weller. World Premiere. CLOSING NIGHT FILM

Hollars copy copyTHE HOLLARS / U.S.A. (Director: John Krasinski, Screenwriter: Jim Strouse) — Aspiring New York City artist John Hollar returns to his Middle America hometown on the eve of his mother’s brain surgery. Joined by his girlfriend, eight months pregnant with their first child, John is forced to navigate the crazy world he left behind. Cast: John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Charlie Day. World Premiere

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE / New Zealand (Director and screenwriter: Taika Waititi) — Ricky is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this heartwarming adventure comedy. Cast: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley. World Premiere

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

LITTLE MEN / U.S.A. (Director: Ira Sachs, Screenwriter: Mauricio Zacharias) — When 13-year-old Jake’s grandfather dies, his family moves back into their old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends Tony, whose single Chilean mother runs the shop downstairs. As their friendship deepens, however, their families are driven apart by a battle over rent, and the boys respond with a vow of silence. Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri. World Premiere

LoveandFriendship_still1_ChloeSevigny_KateBeckinsale__byBernardWalshLOVE AND FRIENDSHIP / Ireland, France, Netherlands (Director and screenwriter: Whit Stillman) — From Jane Austen’s novella, the beautiful and cunning Lady Susan Vernon visits the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors of her dalliances and to find husbands for herself and her daughter. Two young men, handsome Reginald DeCourcy and wealthy Sir James Martin, severely complicate her plans. Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Tom Bennett, Stephen Fry. World Premiere

manchester copyMANCHESTER BY THE SEA / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Kenneth Lonergan) — After his older brother passes away, Lee Chandler is forced to return home to care for his 16-year-old nephew. There he is compelled to deal with a tragic past that separated him from his family and the community where he was born and raised. Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler. World Premiere

MR PIG / Mexico (Director: Diego Luna, Screenwriters: Augusto Mendoza, Diego Luna) — On a mission to sell his last remaining prize hog and reunite with old friends, an aging farmer abandons his foreclosed farm and journeys to Mexico. After smuggling in the hog, his estranged daughter shows up, forcing them to face their past and embark on an adventurous road trip together. Cast: Danny Glover, Maya Rudolph, José María Yazpik, Joel Murray, Angélica Aragón, Gabriela Araujo. World Premiere

SING STREET / Ireland (Director and screenwriter: John Carney) — A boy growing up in Dublin during the ’80s escapes his strained family life and tough new school by starting a band to win the heart of a beautiful and mysterious girl. Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Mark McKenna. World Premiere

SophieandtheRisingSun_still2_JulianneNicholson_TakashiYamaguchi__byJacksonLeeDavisSOPHIE AND THE RISING SUN / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Maggie Greenwald) — In a small Southern town in the autumn of 1941, Sophie’s lonely life is transformed when an Asian man arrives under mysterious circumstances. Their love affair becomes the lightning rod for long-buried conflicts that erupt in bigotry and violence with the outbreak of World War ll. Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Lorraine Toussaint, Takashi Yamaguchi, Diane Ladd, Joel Murray. World Premiere. SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM

WIENER DOG / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Todd Solondz) — This film tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading comfort and joy. Cast: Greta Gerwig, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, Julie Delpy, Zosia Mamet. World Premiere

D O C U M E N T A R Y   P R E M I E R E S
Renowned filmmakers and films about far-reaching subjects comprise this section highlighting our ongoing commitment to documentaries.

EAT THAT QUESTION—Frank Zappa in His Own Words / France, Germany (Director: Thorsten Schütte) — This entertaining encounter with the premier of sonic avant-garde is acidic, fun-poking, and full of rich and rare archival footage. This documentary bashes favorite Zappa targets and dashes a few myths about the man himself. World Premiere

FILM HAWK / U.S.A. (Directors: JJ Garvine, Tai Parquet) — Trace Bob Hawk’s early years as the young gay child of a Methodist minister to his current career as a consultant on some of the most influential independent films of our time. World Premiere

LOANDBEHOLDReveriesoftheConnectedWorld_headshot2_WernerHerzog_byNALO AND BEHOLD, Reveries of the Connected World / U.S.A. (Director: Werner Herzog) — Does the internet dream of itself? Explore the horizons of the connected world. World Premiere

MAPPLETHORPE – LOOK AT THE PICTURES / U.S.A. (Directors: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato) — This examination of Robert Mapplethorpe’s outrageous life is led by the artist himself, speaking with brutal honesty in a series of rediscovered interviews about his passions. Intimate revelations from friends, family, and lovers shed new light on this scandalous artist who ignited a culture war that still rages on. World Premiere

MAYA ANGELOU – AND STILL I RISE / U.S.A. (Directors: Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack) — The remarkable story of Maya Angelou — iconic writer, poet, actress and activist whose life has intersected some of the most profound moments in recent American history. World Premiere

Michael copyMICHAEL JACKSON’S JOURNEY FROM MOTOWN TO OFF THE WALL / U.S.A. (Director: Spike Lee) — Catapulted by the success of his first major solo project, Off the Wall, Michael Jackson went from child star to King of Pop. This film explores the seminal album, with rare archival footage and interviews from those who were there and those whose lives its success and legacy impacted. World Premiere

NORMAN LEAR  – Just Another Version of You / U.S.A. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) — How did a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM

Nothing copyNOTHING LEFT UNSAID: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper / U.S.A. (Director: Liz Garbus) — Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper each tell the story of their past and present, their loves and losses, and reveal how some family stories have the tendency to repeat themselves in the most unexpected ways. World Premiere

RESILIENCE / U.S.A. (Director: James Redford) — This film chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators, and communities using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction, and disease. These professionals help break the cycles of adversity by daring to talk about the effects of divorce, abuse, and neglect. World Premiere

RICHARD LINKLATER—dream is destiny / U.S.A. (Directors: Louis Black, Karen Bernstein) — This is an unconventional look at a fiercely independent style of filmmaking that arose in the 1990s from Austin, Texas, outside the studio system. The film blends rare archival footage with journals, exclusive interviews with Linklater on and off set, and clips from Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, and more. World Premiere

UNDER THE GUN / U.S.A. (Director: Stephanie Soechtig) — The Sandy Hook massacre was considered a watershed moment in the national debate on gun control, but the body count at the hands of gun violence has only increased. Through the lens of the victims’ families, as well as pro-gun advocates, we examine why our politicians have failed to act. World Premiere

UNLOCKING THE CAGE / U.S.A. (Directors: Chris Hegedus, Donn Alan Pennebaker) — Follow animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. By filing the first lawsuit of its kind, Wise seeks to transform a chimpanzee from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with basic legal protection. World Premiere

U. S   . D R A M A T I C   C O M P E T I T I O N

The 16 films in this section are world premieres and, unless otherwise noted, are from the U.S.

AS YOU ARE (Director: Miles Joris­-Peyrafitte, Screenwriters: Miles Joris­-Peyrafitte, Madison Harrison) — The telling and retelling of a relationship between three teenagers as it traces the course of their friendship through a construction of disparate memories prompted by a police investigation. C​ast: Owen Campbell, Charlie Heaton, Amandla Stenberg, John Scurti, Scott Cohen, Mary Stuart Masterson.

BirthTHE BIRTH OF A NATION (Director and screenwriter: Nate Parker) — Set against the antebellum South, this story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom. C​ast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, Mark Boone Jr.

CHRISTINE (Director: Antonio Campos, Screenwriter: Craig Shilowich) — In 1974, a female TV news reporter aims for high standards in life and love in Sarasota, Fla. Missing her mark is not an option. This story is based on true events. C​ast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Maria Dizzia, Tracy Letts, J. Smith-­Cameron.

EquityEQUITY  (Director: Meera Menon, Screenwriter: Amy Fox) — A female investment banker, fighting to get a promotion at her competitive Wall Street firm, leads a controversial tech IPO in the post-­financial-­crisis world, where regulations are tight but pressure to bring in big money remains high. C​ast: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner.​

THE FREE WORLD (Director and screenwriter: Jason Lew) — Following his release from a brutal stretch in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, Mo is struggling to adapt to life on the outside. When his world collides with Doris, a mysterious woman with a violent past, he decides to risk his newfound freedom to keep her in his life. C​ast: Boyd Holbrook, Elisabeth Moss, Octavia Spencer, Sung Kang, Waleed Zuaiter.

GOAT (Director: Andrew Neel, Screenwriters: David Gordon Green, Andrew Neel, Michael Roberts) — Reeling from a terrifying assault, a 19-­year-­old boy pledges his brother’s fraternity in an attempt to prove his manhood. What happens there, in the name of “brotherhood,” tests both the boys and their relationship in brutal ways. C​ast: Nick Jonas, Ben Schnetzer, Virginia Gardner, Danny Flaherty, Austin Lyon.

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

JOSHY(Director and screenwriter: Jeff Baena) — Josh treats what would have been his bachelor party as an opportunity to reconnect with his friends.​ Cast: Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate.

Lovesong_still1_FerrisWheelLOVESONG  (Director: So Yong Kim, Screenwriters: So Yong Kim, Bradley Rust Gray) — Neglected by her husband, Sarah embarks on an impromptu road trip with her young daughter and her best friend, Mindy. Along the way, the dynamic between the two friends intensifies before circumstances force them apart. Years later, Sarah attempts to rebuild their intimate connection in the days before Mindy’s wedding.​ Cast: Jena Malone, Riley Keough, Brooklyn Decker, Amy Seimetz, Ryan Eggold, Rosanna Arquette.

MORRIS FROM AMERICA (U.S.-Germany / Director and screenwriter: Chad Hartigan) — Thirteen­-year-­old Morris, a hip­-hop-loving American, moves to Heidelberg, Germany, with his father. In this completely foreign land, he falls in love with a local girl, befriends his German tutor­-turned­-confidant, and attempts to navigate the unique trials and tribulations of adolescence. C​ast: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Lina Keller, Jakub Gierszal, Levin Henning.​

OTHER PEOPLE  (Director and screenwriter: Chris Kelly) — A struggling comedy writer, fresh from breaking up with his boyfriend, moves to Sacramento to help his sick mother. Living with his conservative father and younger sisters, David feels like a stranger in his childhood home. As his mother worsens, he tries to convince everyone (including himself) he’s “doing OK.” C​ast: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, Zach Woods, June Squibb. (Day One film)

SouthsideWithYou_still7_TikaSumpter_ParkerSawyers__byPatScolaSOUTHSIDE WITH YOU  (Director and screenwriter: Richard Tanne) — A chronicle of the summer afternoon in 1989 when the future president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady on an epic first date across Chicago’s South Side.​ Cast: Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers, Vanessa Bell Calloway.

SPA NIGHT  (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Ahn) — A young Korean-­American man works to reconcile his obligations to his struggling immigrant family with his burgeoning sexual desires in the underground world of gay hookups at Korean spas in Los Angeles.​ Cast: Joe Seo, Haerry Kim, Youn Ho Cho, Tae Song, Ho Young Chung, Linda Han.

SwissArmyMan_still1_PaulDano_DanielRadcliffe__byJoyceKimSWISS ARMY MAN (Directors and screenwriters: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan) — Hank, a hopeless man stranded in the wild, discovers a mysterious dead body. Together the two embark on an epic journey to get home. As Hank realizes the body is the key to his survival, this once­-suicidal man is forced to convince a dead body that life is worth living. ​Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead.​

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

16197-1-1100WHITE GIRL  (Director and screenwriter: Elizabeth Wood) — Summer, New York City: A college student goes to extremes to get her drug-dealer boyfriend out of jail. C​ast: Morgan Saylor, Brian “Sene” Marc, Justin Bartha, Chris Noth, India Menuez, Adrian Martinez.


The 16 films in this section are world premieres and, unless otherwise noted, are from the U.S.

AUDRIE AND DAISY (Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk) — After two high-school girls in different towns are sexually assaulted by boys they consider friends, online bullying leads each girl to attempt suicide. Tragically, one dies. Assault in the social media age is explored from the perspectives of the girls and boys involved, as well as their torn-­apart communities.

AUTHOR : The JT LeRoy Story” (Director: Jeff Feuerzeig) — As the definitive look inside the mysterious case of 16­-year-­old literary sensation JT LeRoy — a creature so perfect for his time that if he didn’t exist, someone would have had to invent him — this is the strangest story about story ever told.

The Bad kidsTHE BAD KIDS (Directors: Keith Fulton, Lou Pepe) — At a remote Mojave Desert high school, extraordinary educators believe that empathy and life skills, more than academics, give at-­risk students command of their own futures. This coming­-of­-age story watches education combat the crippling effects of poverty in the lives of these so-­called “bad kids.”

GLEASON (Director: Clay Tweel) — At the age of 34, Steve Gleason, former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero, was diagnosed with ALS. Doctors gave him two to five years to live. So that is what Steve chose to do: Live — both for his wife and newborn son and to help others with this disease.

HOLY HELL (Director: undisclosed) — Just out of college, a young filmmaker joins a loving, secretive, spiritual community led by a charismatic teacher in 1980s West Hollywood. Twenty years later, the group is shockingly torn apart. Told through hundreds of hours of accumulated footage, this is their story.

HOW TO LET GO OF THE WORLD  (and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change​)” (Director: Josh Fox) — Do we have a chance to stop the most destructive consequences of climate change, or is it too late? Academy Award­-nominated director Josh Fox (“Gasland”)​ travels to 12 countries on six continents to explore what we have to let go of — and all of the things that climate can’t change.

JIM (Director: Brian Oakes) — The public execution of American conflict journalist James Foley captured the world’s attention, but he was more than just a man in an orange jumpsuit. Seen through the lens of his close childhood friend, “J​im” ​moves from adrenaline-­fueled front lines and devastated neighborhoods of Syria into the hands of ISIS.

Kate copyKATE PLAYS CHRISTINE  (Director: Robert Greene) — This psychological thriller follows actor Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares to play the role of Christine Chubbuck, a Florida television host who committed suicide on air in 1974. Christine’s tragic death was the inspiration for “N​etwork,” ​and the mysteries surrounding her final act haunt Kate and the production.

KIKI  (U.S.-Sweden / Director: Sara Jordeno) — Through a strikingly intimate and visually daring lens, “K​iki” o​ffers insight into a safe space created and governed by LGBTQ youths of color, who are demanding happiness and political power. A coming­-of-­age story about agency, resilience, and the transformative art form of voguing.

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

NEWTOWN  (Director: Kim A. Snyder) — After joining the ranks of a growing club no one wants to belong to, the people of Newtown, Conn., weave an intimate story of resilience. This film traces the aftermath of the worst mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history as the traumatized community finds a new sense of purpose.

Nuts copyNUTS! (Director: Penny Lane) left — The mostly true story of Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, an eccentric genius who built an empire with his goat-­testicle impotence cure and a million-watt radio station. Animated re-enactments, interviews, archival footage, and one seriously unreliable narrator trace his rise from poverty to celebrity and influence in 1920s America.

SUITED ​(Director: Jason Benjamin) — Bindle & Keep, a Brooklyn tailoring company, makes custom suits for a growing legion of gender­-nonconforming clients.

TRAPPED ​(Director: Dawn Porter) — American abortion clinics are in a fight for survival. Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws are increasingly being passed by states that maintain they ensure women’s safety and health, but as clinics continue to shut their doors, opponents believe the real purpose of these laws is to outlaw abortion.

UNCLE HOWARD”​ (U.S.-U.K. / Director: Aaron Brookner) ​— H​oward Brookner’s first film, “B​urroughs: The Movie,​”captured the cultural revolution of downtown New York City in the early ’80s. Twenty­-five years after his promising career was cut short by AIDS, his nephew sets out to discover Howard’s never-­before-­seen films to create a cinematic elegy about his childhood idol.

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


The 12 films in this section are world premieres unless otherwise specified.

Belgica_still3_StefAerts_HlneDevos__byMenuetBELGICA right (Belgium-France-Netherlands / Director: Felix van Groeningen, Screenwriters: Felix van Groeningen, Arne Sierens) — In the midst of Belgium’s nightlife scene, two brothers start a bar and get swept up in its success. C​ast: Stef Aerts, Tom Vermeir, Charlotte Vandermeersch, Helene De Vos. (Day One film)

BETWEEN SEA AND LAND  (Colombia / Directors: Manolo Cruz, Carlos del Castillo, Screenwriter: Manolo Cruz) — Alberto, who suffers from an illness that binds him into a body that doesn’t obey him, lives with his loving mom, who dedicates her life to him. His sickness impedes him from achieving his greatest dream of knowing the sea, despite one being located just across the street. C​ast: Manolo Cruz, Vicky Hernandez, Viviana Serna, Jorge Cao, Mile Vergara, Javier Saenz.

BrahmanNaman_still1_ChaitanyaVarad_ShashankArora_TanmayDhanania_VaiswathShankar__byTizianaPuleioBRAHMAN NAHMAN (U.K.-India / Director: Q, Screenwriter: S. Ramachandran) — When Bangalore U.’s misfit quiz team manages to get into the national championships, they make an alcohol-­fueled, cross-­country journey to the competition, determined to defeat their arch­rivals from Calcutta while all desperately trying to lose their virginity. C​ast: Shashank Arora, Tanmay Dhanania, Chaitanya Varad, Vaiswath Shankar, Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy, Sid Mallya.

A GOOD WIFE  (Serbia-Bosnia-Croatia / Director: Mirjana Karanovic, Screenwriters: Mirjana Karanovic, Stevan Filipovic, Darko Lungulov) — When 50-­year-­old Milena finds out about the terrible past of her seemingly ideal husband, while simultaneously learning of her own cancer diagnosis, she begins an awakening from the suburban paradise she has been living in. C​ast: Mirjana Karanovic, Boris Isakovic, Jasna Djuricic, Bojan Navojec, Hristina Popovic, Ksenija Marinkovic.

HALAL LOVE (AND SEX)  (Lebanon-Germany-United Arab Emirates / Director and screenwriter: Assad Fouladkar) — Four tragic yet comic interconnected stories come together in this film, which follows devout Muslim men and women as they try to manage their love lives and desires without breaking any of their religion’s rules. Cast: Darine Hamze, Rodrigue Sleiman, Zeinab Khadra, Hussein Mokadem, Mirna Moukarzel, Ali Sammoury. (International premiere)

THE LURE (main photo)  (Poland / Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska, Screenwriter: Robert Bolesto) — Two mermaid sisters, who end up performing at a nightclub, face cruel and bloody choices when one of them falls in love with a beautiful young man. C​ast: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Jakub Gierszal, Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, Zygmunt Malanowicz. (International premiere)

MaleJoyFemaleLove_still1_DaizhenYing_Nanyu__byYounianLiuMALE JOY, FEMALE LOVE  right  (China / Director and screenwriter: Yao Huang) — Portrays an unlimited cycle of love stories. C​ast: Nand Yu, Daizhen Ying, Xiaodong Guo, Yi Sun.

MAMMAL  (Ireland-Luxembourg-Netherlands / Director: Rebecca Daly, Screenwriters: Rebecca Daly, Glenn Montgomery) — After Margaret, a divorcee living in Dublin, loses her teenage son, she develops an unorthodox relationship with Joe, a homeless youth. Their tentative trust is threatened by his involvement with a violent gang and the escalation of her ex­husband’s grieving rage. C​ast: Rachel Griffiths, Barry Keoghan, Michael McElhatton.

Mi Amiga copyMI AMIGA DEL PARQUE  (Argentina-Uruguay / Director: Ana Katz, Screenwriters: Ana Katz, Ines Bortagaray) — Running away from a bar without paying the bill is just the first adventure for Liz (mother to newborn Nicanor) and Rosa (supposed mother to newborn Clarisa). This budding friendship between nursing mothers starts with the promise of liberation but soon ends up being a dangerous business. C​ast: Julieta Zylberberg, Ana Katz, Maricel Alvarez, Mirella Pascual, Malena Figo, Daniel Hendler. (International premiere)

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Chile / Director: Alejandro Fernandez, Screenwriters: Alejandro Fernandez, Jeronimo Rodriguez) — An upper-­class kid gets in trouble with the one percent.​ Cast: Agustin Silva, Alejandro Goic, Luis Gnecco, Paulina Garcia, Daniel Alcaino, Augusto Schuster.

SAND STORM  (Israel / Director and screenwriter: Elite Zexer) — When their entire lives are shattered, two Bedouin women struggle to change the unchangeable rules, each in her own individual way. C​ast: Lamis Ammar, Ruba Blal­Asfour, Hitham Omari, Khadija Alakel, Jalal Masrwa.

WILD  (Germany / Director and screenwriter: Nicolette Krebitz) — An anarchist young woman breaks the tacit contract with civilization and fearlessly decides on a life without hypocrisy or an obligatory safety net. C​ast: Lilith Stangenberg, Georg Friedrich.


All these sleeplessThe 11 films in this section are world premieres unless otherwise specified. A 12th film will be announced in the weeks ahead.

ALL THESE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS (LEFT) (Poland / Director: Michal Marczak) — What does it mean to be truly awake in a world that seems satisfied to be asleep? Christopher and Michal push their experiences in life and love to the breaking point as they restlessly roam the streets of Warsaw in search for answers.​

A FLAG WITHOUT A COUNTRY  (Iraq / Director: Bahman Ghobadi) — This documentary follows the very separate paths of singer Helly Luv and pilot Nariman Anwar from Kurdistan, both in pursuit of progress, freedom, and solidarity. Both individuals are a source of strength to their society, which perpetually deals with the harsh conditions of life, war, and ISIS attacks. (N​orth American premiere)

Hooligan sparrow copyHOOLIGAN SPARROW – right (China-U.S. / Director: Nanfu Wang) — Traversing southern China, a group of activists led by Ye Haiyan, aka Hooligan Sparrow, protest a scandalous incident in which a school principal and a government official allegedly raped six students. Sparrow becomes an enemy of the state, but detentions, interrogations and evictions can’t stop her protest from going viral.

THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED (Belgium / Director: Pieter-­Jan De Pue) — A group of Kuchi children in Afghanistan dig out old Soviet mines and sell the explosives to child workers in a lapis lazuli mine. When not dreaming of an Afghanistan after the American withdrawal, Gholam Nasir and his gang control the mountains where caravans are smuggling the blue gemstones.

THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT (U.K. / Directors: Robert Cannan, Ross Adam) — Following the collapse of their glamorous romance, a celebrity director and his actress ex-­wife are kidnapped by movie­-obsessed dictator Kim Jong-­il. Forced to make films in extraordinary circumstances, they get a second chance at love — but only one chance at escape.

PLAZA DE LA SOLEDAD (Mexico / Director: Maya Goded) — For more than 20 years, photographer Maya Goded has intimately documented the lives of a close community of prostitutes in Mexico City. With dignity and humor, these women now strive for a better life — and the possibility of true love.

THE SETTLERS (France-Canada-Israel-Germany / Director: Shimon Dotan) — The first film of its kind to offer a comprehensive view of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, “The Settlers” is a historical overview, geopolitical study, and intimate look at the people at the core of the most daunting challenge facing Israel and the international community today.

sky ladder - CaiGuoQiangTheManWhoFellToEarthWorkingTitle_still1_df__byHiroIharaS​KY LADDER: The Art of Cai Guo-­Qiang​” (Director: Kevin Macdonald) — Having reached the pinnacle of the global art world with his signature explosion events and gunpowder drawings, world-­famous Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo­-Qiang is still seeking more. We trace his rise from childhood in Mao’s China and his journey to attempt to realize his lifelong obsession, Sky Ladder. (Day One film)

SONITA (Germany-Iran-Switzerland / Director: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami) — If 18­year­old Sonita had a say, Michael Jackson and Rihanna would be her parents and she’d be a rapper who tells the story of Afghan women and their fate as child brides. She finds out that her family plans to sell her to an unknown husband for $9,000. (North American premiere)

WE ARE X ​/ (U.K.-U.S.-Japan / Director: Stephen Kijak) — As glam rock’s most flamboyant survivors, X Japan ignited a musical revolution in Japan during the late ’80s with their melodic metal. Twenty years after their tragic dissolution, X Japan’s leader, Yoshiki, battles with physical and spiritual demons alongside prejudices of the West to bring their music to the world.

When Two WorldsWHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE right (Peru / Directors: Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel) — An indigenous leader resists the environmental ruin of Amazonian lands by big business. As he is forced into exile and faces 20 years in prison, his quest reveals conflicting visions that shape the fate of the Amazon and the climate future of our world. W​orld Premiere


3 ½ MINUTES (2015) LFF

Dir.: Marc Silver; Documentary; USA 2015, 98 min.

Marc Silver (Who is Dayani Cristal) has structured his documentary 3 ½ Minutes about the killing of a black teenager in Jacksonville (Fla.) and the trial of his murderer in a ‘Rashomon’ like fashion: the incident is told from of the viewpoint of the different participants, the parents of the victim and the fiancée of the killer.

On the 23.11.2012, a Sunday afternoon, four black teenagers, all of them high-school students, sat in a car at a petrol station in Jacksonville. They were approached by 45 year software developer Michael Dunn, who argued about their “loud’ music. Suddenly Dunn withdrew a concealed weapon, firing ten shots at the students in the car, killing Jordan Davis (17), miraculously missing the other three passengers. Dunn, who later claimed in his trial, that the teenagers branded a shotgun (no proof of this was ever found), drove off with his fiancée Rhonda Rouer to their hotel, where they had celebrated a wedding before. Next day, he drove them both back home, walked his dog and never contacted the police. In the courtroom, Dunn claimed the support of the “Stand your Ground” law, which allowed him to act in self-defence. Whilst the jury convicted him on the 15.2.14 on four counts of attempted murder (for which he got a combined prison sentence of 75 years), the jurors could not agree on a first-degree murder charge. In the re-trial in October of the same year, the jury did convict Dunn of First-degree murder, which leaves him no chance ever for a parole.

Silver has documented the prison calls between Dunn and his fiancée, at one point she is telling him “You’re a spirit that’s just not meant to be caged, a man of water, a man of life that’s just not to be put in a cage”. Dunn simply replied: “Right”. Ironically, Rouer’s testament in the second trial cost Dunn any chance of a parole, since his fiancée stated that he never told her about a gun being directed at him. Davis’ friends testified against him, telling the director “thug” is “the new n-word”, Dunn calling the teenagers by this name in his trial. During the trial,  Dunn either set watching detached, or teared up, when he talked about the threat he had to face, and his “heroism” in defending the life of Rhonda Rouer.

Very moving are the scenes of Jordan parents (who have separated since) in the courtroom, trying to keep their composure during the trial. Whilst Ron Davis blames himself for not protecting his son, his mother Lucia McBath will visit Washington, to speak to Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz, about the abolition of the “Stand-Your’Ground” law, of which their son was not the only black victim. Strangely enough, when the police finally arrested Dunn, they did not had to resort to shoot him, like in other cases, when the perpetrator was black.

Apart from being informative, 3 ½ Minutes is very cinematographic, juxtaposing footing from the gas station, with the various witness statements in court. Silver puts together a mosaic of everyday racism, which seems to be prevailing in US society, in spite of an Afro-American president. 3 ½ Minutes won the Documentary Special Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Festival. AS


Cartel Land (2015) |

Dir.: Matthew Heineman Documentary, USA/Mexico; 98 min.

Matthew Heineman’s second feature documentary is certainly a change in topic from his health care documentary Escape Fire: CARTEL LAND is as violent as one can imagine, an ultra-violent video game come to live.

CARTEL LAND is actually two films in one: both parts feature violent men ready to go to war for their cause because they feel their respective governments do not care. On the Arizona side of the US/Mexican border we are introduced to Tim “Nailer” Foley, who lost his job in 2008 during the recession, and has blamed Mexican immigrants for taking his job. He has ended up at the border with his friends of the ‘Arizona Border Recon’, trying to stem the “flood” of emigrants, feeling very self-righteous and comparing himself and his men to David in a fight against Goliath, a fight they have to win for the good of the USA, since the government has little interest in the issue. Foley, a bitter racist, looks much older than his years, alcohol and other drug abuse have left their marks. He and his men are like vultures, spoiling for a kill, their white-supremacy ideology condoning the most vicious attacks – these men are as much outside legality as possible and only in the Southern states of the USA could they roam in freedom.

On the other side of the border, about 1500 miles away, we meet Dr. Jose Miguel Mireles Valverde, looking after his patients during the day, whilst leading the ‘Autodefensas’ of local people against the drug cartel of Knights Templars. On first sight, the difference between him and Foley could not be greater: the doctor seems a poster-boy for goodness, but we soon learn of a certain overlap between drug dealers and the defence league: torture seems to be common on both sides. Doctor Valverde, whilst not actually condoning this, uses the same arguments as Foley: the government does not care, we have to look after ourselves – perhaps understandable words, spoken at the funeral of fifteen victims of the Templar Knights, the youngest a few month old. Later, Valverde is nearly killed in a very suspicious looking plane crash: this all out war, and the “good’ guys will take no prisoners.

The overriding problem, as nearly always with organised violence of this kind, is poverty: at the beginning of the film, we see some meth ”cookers” in action. In the desert they brew their deadly concoctions, apologetic and contrite, they excuse their trade with the utter poverty they live. “If you would be in our position” is the question hanging in the air, “what would you do?”

CARTEL LAND is shocking, not least because of its violence (never glamourised), but because of the total loss of a moral compass, on all sides. The groups claim self-defence, merrily killing and torturing each other. Rightfully, Heineman does not even try to find answers. Cartel Land leaves the audience in a stupor – ‘la bête humaine’ in action. AS


Slow West (2015)

Director/Writer: John Maclean.

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smi-McPhee, Caren Pistorius, Ben Mendelsohn.

84min Western UK-New Zealand

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic category at this year’s Sundance Festival, Slow West marks the feature debut of director John Maclean (late of the Scottish rock group The Beat Band) and marks the latest outdoor film to exploit the recently discovered scenic possibilities of New Zealand. Set in Colorado in 1870, Slow West at first seems to be shaping up as yet another grimly realistic depiction of the Old West – an amateurish attempt at a store hold-up has particularly harrowing consequences – peopled by unpleasant characters all looking after Number One. Adrift in all this is fresh-faced innocent Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) newly arrived from Scotland in search of a girl (Caren Pistorious) who has fled her former homeland with a price on her head. His quest crosses the path of cynical bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who also serves as the film’s narrator.

At the point where fellow bounty hunter Ben Mendelsohn emerges from the undergrowth bearing a bottle of absinthe and two drinking goblets like Trapper John with his jar of olives in MASH, the mood shifts to something decidedly more eccentric. It becomes difficult to figure out if what Jay is now witnessing is actually happening or if his imagination (as in Donnie Darko or A Beautiful Mind) is taking over, fuelled by the absinthe. The film’s depiction of violent death becomes progressively more light-hearted, culminating in a spectacular and cartoonish spaghetti western-style shoot-out (would all those guns really have functioned so efficiently to such lethal effect in 1870?) centring on a small shack set in a vast valley that provides a backdrop that is imposing even by the expected standards of the modern western. Richard Chatten


Dancing With Crime | Jet Storm | Richard Attenborough Classics | DVD release

JET STORM (1959) 

Written and directed by Cy Endfield (Zulu) this 1959 star-studded aviation drama has Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Stanley Baker, Hermione Baddeley, Paul Eddington, Diane Cilento, Bernard Braden, Mai Zetterling, Elizabeth Sellars.

When Ernest Tilley’s (Attenborough) daughter is killed in a hit-and-run, he’s hellbent on avenging her death. Armed with a homemade bomb, he tracks down the killer to an airport and boarding the same flight, he threatens to be the first suicide bomber. Cy Endfield’s in-jet thriller relies on the dynamite performances to ramp up the suspense and he gets them from a brilliant cast including Attenborough playing against type as a sinister potential killer, driven insane by sadness. Oscar-winning cinematographer Jack Hildyard does a great job with the claustrophobic setting (the interior of a Russian Tupolev Tu-104) and Stanley Baker is masterful as the suave captain, who has his own sad history. Elizabeth Sellers is foxy and provocative (and still rocking on at 93); Sybil Thorndyke lightens the mood with a mildly humorous turn and there is also a touching romance between Virginia Maskell and the co-pilot to sweeten things as emotions boil over in this tightly-scripted classic full of interesting texture and superb vignettes, based on a story by Sigmund Miller. MT


Directed by John Paddy Carstairs (Trouble in Store) makes its much-anticipated arrival on DVD for the first time since its theatrical release in 1947. Filmed at Cromwell Studios, Southall.

In this classic British film Noir, childhood friends and army comrades Dave Robinson (Bill Owen) and Ted Peters (a young and earnest Attenborough at 23) turn out to be very different when they get back from the War. Ted gets an honest job as a taxi driver, and saves for his wedding to his childhood sweetheart (Sheila Sim). Dave, however, is a bit of a geezer who wants easy cash and soon gets involved with a gang. When Dave is found dead in the back of Ted’s taxi, suspicions fly as Scotland Yard investigate the murder. This is schematic stuff but beautifully-crafted with Reginald Wye’s velvet visuals (The Seventh Veil) and enlivened by a score of forties band classics including “Bow Bells” and Ben Frankel’s original score. Vintage pleasure. MT


The Voices (2014) |

Director: Marjane Satrapi

Writer: Michael Perry

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver

US  Comedy Drama Thriller

This Dexter-inspired ‘serial killer pulp thriller’ is Marjane Satrapi’s imaginative follow-up to her breakout hits Persepolis and Chicken with Plums.  There are some good ideas here, and her first film in English shows that quirky comedy can work across the cultural divide, although it’s not an outstanding success on all levels. Casting the superbly versatile Ryan Reynolds as the lead is an inspired choice: as disturbed warehouse stocker Jerry, Reynolds conveys normality with a dark side but, strangely, inspires our sympathy rather than dislike for his troubled character who is a sad victim of circumstance. Having been forced to kill his mother as a child, he wears his schizophrenic tendencies smartly tucked away behind the serene (almost autistic) gaze of an ordinary pleasant-looking guy next door. Respectably holding down his job and even volunteering to organise the entertainment at the office party; he drives a jeep and lives in a disused factory complete with pink cladding and neon signs. Not only that, he talks to his dog Bosco and cat Mr Whiskers and they talk back with accents (a Glaswegian cat and a dog with a Southern drawl are hilarious). Desperately keen to find a girlfriend, his forays with co-workers of the opposite sex, (superbly played by Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick) end in violent death for all concerned.

In Michael Perry’s screenplay, laughs are few but welcome in contrast to the highly inventive elements (Jerry stores the heads of his ‘dates’ in the fridge but they carry on talking) and brutal violence (stabbing his date to death by accident when pursuing her in the woods) that puncture Jerry’s volatile and psychopathic facade. THE VOICES is tonally out of kilter as an outright comedy or a horror outing; continually throwing us off-guard, not sure what to expect.- but somehow it’s an addictively watchable film with some unexpected moments of pure genius. Recommended. MT


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Dinosaur 13 (2014)

 Director: Todd Douglas Miller

Main Actors: Susan Hendrickson, Peter L. Larson, Neal L. Larson

105 mins    Doc   US

In the summer of 1990, a group of palaeontologists from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research discovered the fossilised remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex, later to become known as ‘Sue’. Prior to this discovery, only twelve T. rex’s had been found, and all of these were less than 40% whole. In contrast, over 80% of ‘Sue’ survived, making her the largest and most complete T. rex ever found.

The group from Black Hills Institute, led by Peter Larson, paid landowner Maurice Williams $5,000 for the remains, before taking them to their base in Hill City to begin the process of restoration. In 1992, however, the FBI and National Guard swooped in and seized the remains, claiming that ‘Sue’ had been found on federal land, making her the property of the federal government. Later, ownership of ‘Sue’ would also be claimed by the Sioux tribe, and by Williams, who declared that he had never sold ‘Sue’ to Larson.

This, and the complex legal trial which followed, is the story told by Dinosaur 13, presented primarily in the words of Larson and the Black Hills palaeontologists themselves. The talking heads are handsomely shot, if a little over-cut: one gets the sense that both the filmmakers and their subjects are working hard to make the material dramatic. Luckily, they succeed.

As the film’s coverage of the trial continues, one becomes increasingly aware of the complexity of the legal situation that Larson and his cohorts found themselves in, but slowly it dawns that the moral complexity is being overlooked: sympathy for the palaeontologists is never questioned, and the court case is never presented as being anything other than unjust. And yet, the federal government brought a 39 count 153 charge indictment against the Black Hills Institute and its workers, primarily for fossil theft and customs violation. The incident with ‘Sue’ was simply part of an ongoing investigation, and these charges were not pertaining to her discovery. The trial itself, then, is somewhat at odds with the subject of the film, if we take ‘Sue’ to be its subject – but the film seems to imply a conspiracy, pulling constantly back towards the T. rex. In doing so, the film finds its strongest emotional weight, but also its biggest problem.

There’s no denying that, as we watch those involved talking us through events, we become moved both by their sense of pride and by their sense of injustice – but we never gain any insight into their working methods. The practices they are being asked to account for in a court of law are never called into question. By presenting such a one-sided account, the film forces us into feelings of sympathy and injustice, but at the same time it undercuts these very same emotions by leaving one with the bitter taste of manipulation. If a more balanced point of view had been presented, and we had arrived at the sense of injustice ourselves, the feeling would be all the more powerful.

Still, the defendants’ passion for their discovery is disarmingly engaging, and there’s no belittling the love they clearly still feel for ‘Sue’. In essence, then, one could call this a love a story. Indeed, it is a love story loving told – and that might just be where the problem lies.  Alex Barrett


Blue Ruin (2014) Sundance UK 2014

Director/Writer: Jeremy Saulnier

Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, David W Thompson

90min  US  Thriller

Blue Ruin is a slow-burning feral beast of a thriller that holds you in tight claws ’til the final bloody finale.  Awarded at Cannes, it’s the second feature of Jeremy Saulnier who cut his teeth as a cinematographer on low budget horror outings before he wrote and directed this stylish indie revenge piece, which despite a low budget makes clever use of the atmospheric Virginia countryside, stunning visuals and a hunting original soundtrack with shades of the Coen Brothers in the storytelling.

Macon Blair plays Dwight, a mysterious and homeless loner gets by scavenging until he learns of the release from prison of Wade Cleland, who murdered his father in revenge for a long-standing feud with his family.  This forces him to return to his former home and his estranged sister’s to reconcile with her and protect her from further acts of retaliation from the Clelands.  Clearly disturbed and very much an outsider, Dwight is no murderer, but the depth of feeling he had for his dad, mingled with fear and anger forces him to fight back with a vehemence he never knew he had.  Tracking Dwight down he murders him in a surprisingly brutal act of defence which cannot go unpunished. The consequences take him down an unpredictable journey from which there is no logical or possible return.  An old school pal, Ben Gaffney (Devin Ratray ) provides unexpected support as they

Although Blue Ruin opens in a straightforward vein, it reveals its narrative very gingerly so as to keep up on tenterhooks as the true awfulness slowly emerges. This unsettling treatment of leaving out so much information is intensified by minimal use of dialogue and long stretches of silence allowing the imagination to run wild and feeding on the subconscious to powerful effect. Saulnier’s skilful use of pacing is probably the most powerful tool in his arsenal of mean tricks, making him an exciting talent in the making. MT

BLUE RUIN IS ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 2 MAY 2014 and previews at SUNDANCE UK 25-27 April 2014

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Little Accidents (2014) Sundance UK 2014

Director/Writer: Sara Colangelo

Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook, Jacob Lofland, Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny

US  Drama  105min    Slow-burning mining drama really feels like the pits.

Grim reality bites for three people thrown together in the aftermath to tragedy in a depressed mining town. Sara Colangelo’s bleak drama tackles themes of class, comradeship and guilt affecting a community when ten families lose their loved-ones and potentially their livelihoods.

Boyd Holbrook plays Amos, a coal miner who is the only survivor of the accident. He’s faced with the invidious task of giving evidence on behalf of his co-workers to secure a large cash settlement from the management or keeping quiet in case the mine is shut down, risking the futures of those unaffected. Another victim is teenager Owen (Jacob Lofland from Mud) whose father was killed and whose mother (Chloe Sevigny) wants to use her settlement to spoil her bereaved sons incurring the envy of his schoolmates, one of whom, JT, is the son of the manager (Bill Doyle) implicated in the accident, caused by professional negligence. During a scuffle in the woods,  Owen witnesses JT’s death in a fall and is forced to remain silent whilst his mother (Elizabeth Banks) waits in agony for news.  The fallout to all this is intriguing and immersive as Colangelo explores the different relationships and dynamics, feeling her way intuitively with a slow-burning visual narrative, assisted by Rachel Morrison’s softly focused camerawork that makes good use of the dourly atmospheric West coast landscapes.





Memphis (2014) Sundance UK 2014

This dreamy cinema verité piece from writer-director Tim Sutton makes for an inventive sortie into the life of a struggling blues musician played by Willis Earl Beal.  Sutton’s meditative camera follows Willis (whom he claims has God-given talent) and he wanders in a daze through downtown Memphis; where sultry, mysterious visuals enrapture and entrance, telling the story through mood rather than classic narrative format.  Boys ride bikes, his grandfather follows on crutches and there is more than a hint of romance. Occasionally Beal breaks into song with snatches of bluesy, jazz music suggesting the beginnings of new compositions or are they just musical memories.? A frustrating film that somehow leaves us wanting to know and hear more. MT

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Sundance London 2013 25- 28 April O2 Arena

In 2011 Robert Redford decided his indie SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL US should go East so here we go for another year, at 02 Arena London, Greenwich, London. It’s worth the hike from central London to see a terrific slew of indie dramas and documentaries that have only just premiered in snowbound, sunnny Utah in January 2013. This year the focus is on exploring the interplay between independent film and music.

SUNDANCE LONDON 2013 will screen 18 features and a new Britflic spotlight at its Greenwich base, along with music, Q&As and other exciting events to keep you amused over a long spring weekend

Here is our review of what to go for:

THE LOOK OF LOVE **** Michael Winterbottom makes a film a year: some good, some not so good. He’s hit the jackpot this time with a raunchy, upbeat trip down memory lane sixties-style. A dazzlingly entertaining biopic of porn king Paul Raymond, played magnificently here by Steve Coogan and headlining this year’s festival. Tamsin’s Egerton’s legs are to die for and unrivalled anywhere on stage or screen.

UPSTREAM COLOUR: **** Shane Carruth’s intriguing second feature since his hit, Primer, first delighted audiences nearly ten years ago.  Upstream was the talk of the town at Berlinale in February and set to be one of the gems of this year’s festival.

BLACKFISH, a documentary about the killer whale Tilkum has a eco-friendly premise and asks the question: should killer whales ever be kept in captivity?

RUNNING FROM CRAZY:showcases the good and bad of being part of the legendary Hemingway clan. Brought to us by the Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple.

HISTORY OF THE EAGLES PART ONE: Fans will be excited to have a documentary dedicated to this much-loved band that made the best selling album of all time.  Alison Ellwood puts together archival footage and recent interviews with the stars who are still talking..just!  Promises to be an interesting story even for non-fans interested in the life and times of a rock band in the seventies and eighties.

THE MOO MAN: Have you ever wondered how the poor dairy farmers struggle on against the leviathans of mass market food retail ? Here’s a chance to find out how Sussex farmer Steve Hook upped the ante in Andy Heathcote’s delightful documentary. 4*

In the worthy corner is BLOOD BROTHERS, a doco that tells the true story of Rocky Braat who went to India on hols and ended up working with HIV-infected children. (Grand Jury Prize Sundance US 2013).









THE SUMMIT****: Everest is a walk in the park compared to the dangers of climbing K2. Nick Ryan’s skilful documentary pieces together the events surrounding one mission to the mighty mountain. More people die on the descent of K2 than conquer this treacherous snowy peak.  Winner of the Editing Award: US Documentary at Sundance 2013.

TOUCHY FEELY: ** Massage is a growth industry but what happens if you suddenly lose your desire to touch? A comedy from Humpday director Lynn Shelton and starring the watchable Rosemarie de Witt (Your Sister’s Sister) Has some great performances, particularly from Ellen Page but the uneven pace makes it a turgid affair.











THE KINGS OF SUMMER: Did you ever leave home as a teenager to spend some time with your friends?  This rites-of-passage teenage bonding drama has some hilarious moments and shows what can happen when things don’t work out exactly according to plan. 3***

EMANUEL AND THE TRUTH ABOUT FISHES: Kaya Scoledario and Jessica Biel star in a surreal comedy about childhood, motherhood and loss.  Freshly told by Italian director, Francesca Gregorini.

IN FEAR:  TV director Jeremy Lovering’s Britflic thriller about fear of the unknown for a couple on a creepy car journey in the depths of the English countryside.

IN A WORLD…: American TV star Lake Bell’s buzzworthy rom-com in which she also stars as a voiceover artist with a gift of the gab where accents are concerned.

PEACHES DOES HERSELF: 3*** Self-styled Canadian, Berlin-based electronic musician Peaches will headline as herself live at INDIGO2 In an outlandish show were she struts her stuff wearing a shredded penis and falls for the ultimate lady boy. She will also present the film PEACHES DOES HERSELF. MT




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