After the disappointment of the opening night I felt it could only get better and thankfully it did. The theme of many Q&A’s this year was the problems of budgets or to be correct the lack of them, not just in the UK but also in many other countries.
This year I managed 24 films over the eleven-day period located at the Filmhouse and the Odeon in Lothian Road, the Cineworld in Fountain Park and Festival Theatre in Nicolson Street. As previous years I have done my best to support British Film. To this end I have seen 11, all of which have been worth watching. My own personnel UK favourites have been the hard-hitting Greyhawk, the uncomfortable We are Monster and the best film at this year’s festival Still Life that looks at death to give the true meaning of life. The independent American films this year were very good led by Cold in July closely followed by Joe. Germany provided me with 4 films including Cynthia Beatt’s politically etched drama A House in Berlin, the originality of Pierrot Lunaire, the riveting 1988 thriller The Cat and the reality of the childhood in Jack. Other World Cinema came from Spain, South Korea, Iran, Chile and of course the blacker than black comedy from Norway. A great selection, some of which will no doubt get a general release in due course.
|That man Smiley was back this year to judge films.|
Wednesday 18th June 2014.
Opening Night Gala World Premiere.
Did I really attend the World Premiere of Hyena at the opening night gala of this year’s EIFF? I bought my ticket in good faith for the 21.05 screening as advertised in the programme but when I arrive there seemed to be a suited and booted and evening dressed audience just leaving who had already seen the ‘premiere’. When I made some enquiries it seemed that the tickets for the earlier performance were more expensive than the one I had purchased but included ‘a star studded party’ following their screening. I found this arrangement an elitist con, excluding the ordinary Festival goer from the real World Premiere leaves a bad taste!
Once the exclusive brethren had finally vacated the Festival Theatre we were allowed in to hear the EIFF Artistic director Chris Fujiwara introduce our screening with a few choice words like “dark and violent”, and how the film demonstrated an “an important truth” and that it was “rich and interesting” with the images and sound giving us “a filmic experience” or words to that effect. Other than dark and violent I would have to disagree Chris! Then we were introduced to the producers, Elizabeth Karisen, Joanna Laurie and Stephan Woolley who in turn brought to the stage a selection of the disinterested cast. Who, other than Stephan Graham, who opined quite loudly that the movie we were finally about to see was like “Batman on acid”, never said a word.
Hyena is a story about villains, villains who work for our police force and villains that import both women and drugs into the UK. As usual these days the drug dealers and sex traffickers are ‘nasty foreigners’ – Albanian and Turkish in this instance! Giving the British police establishment a very bad name is Michael Logan. Just one of four brutal members of a corrupt special Task Force supposedly assigned to bring down these ruthless gangsters that are threatening to change London’s criminal landscape and cut out the Task Force from a share of the sex trade and drug profits! Other strands in the narrative involve an internal investigation into Logan’s shenanigans and an old colleague arriving on the scene in the form of David Martin whom Logan has some history with.
|Stephan Woolley and his fellow producers.|
From the synopsis you could so easily have imagined this to have been a sharp, quick paced and exciting movie but its main problem was that we have seen it all before, the bent cop driven by drugs and alcohol, the brutality of women something that could not be hidden behind its so called ‘inventiveness’ i.e. its loud intrusive music and unclear dialog. A movie from the ‘slime pit’ genre, you know the sort of thing, you feel unclean after watching it. This grisly humourless film was not a good start to my EIFF 2014 experience; I suppose it can only get better?
Thursday 19th June 2014.
Wicked and Wild World Premiere.
Noel Clarke is a busy man! Not only is he the producer on another of 2014’s EIFF World Premiere’s, We Are Monster (2014) but he is also the director and lead actor in the Sci-Fi thriller The Anomaly (2014). This genuine British cinematic jack-of-all-trades was also in attendance to introduce and take the Q&A following the screening of this ambitious attempt at that rare animal – a well-made British science fiction drama.
Clarke plays Ryan, a traumatised ex-soldier who we first see in the back of a moving van with a young boy called Alex who apparently is also held captive. Ryan’s life seems to be subjected to disorientating bursts with a short duration of nine minutes and 47 seconds! Now what you have got to remember is that your watching a sci-fi drama that is set in the future (5 to 10 years according to Clarke, though at times it seems further) and one that’s extremely complex which means that this blogger did not completely follow what’s going on – but then this genre is not something I always appreciate?
During the Q&A it was explained that the basic premise behind the story is the mind control of people through fear - fear, bio-technology and the fight between good and evil, again I’m not sure who represents good and bad because the father and son team of Brian Cox and Ian Somerhalder who I thought were the villains were really not evil after all but only wanted to save the world – but I suppose there are a lot of evil people about that want to save the world, at least their own version of it!
But don’t get me wrong this low budget movie with its big budget feel, is well made and I would agree that it does give the mega budgeted American genre movies a run for there money. It’s both fascinating and entertainingly physical with some great slow motion fight sequences, which have been choreographed and are as good as any you will see using computer-generated imagery and as Noel Clarke explained he used trained fighters in the film to capture the reality of the situation. He also explained that he prefers to work with people he can trust, a cast that produces a certain quantity of acting and from his experience as a director allows him to stretch the ‘budget’. Its obvious that Clarke and his cast worked very hard, bringing us a movie that involved working a six day week for a five week shot, but they ended up with a piece of work that has a lot going for it and one that its director can be proud of.
Thursday 19th June 2014.
New Perspectives UK Premiere.
Guy Pitt introduced an unusual and original story that involves a reclusive disillusioned blind British army veteran, Mel Walker, who had served in Afghanistan and who loses the one thing in life he relies on - his trusty guide dog. He suspects that the dog has been stolen and is being kept on a large imposing housing estate in Hackney, London. So it’s on the Greyhawk Estate that his somewhat perilous search begins amongst people that are not always sympathetic to his plight, people that lock themselves away in their own world attempting to ignore the turmoil that goes on around them.
A good solid seriously affecting movie that is exceptionally directed and handled bearing in mind that it deals with what could have been a tricky subject. Mel Walker is portrayed as a proud rather stubborn man who refuses to be defined by his blindness. Considering the main character is not a particular likeable person you still feel for the man, although I suspect this was helped by sympathy for the dog. The study of sight loss is not the easiest of themes to portray but thanks to a well-written story and a superb performance from Alec Newman, who is in every scene, it managers to convey some of the real life situations that blind people must have to face every day of there lives.
This low budget film marks the feature debut of writer-director team Matt and Guy Pitt who, as well Newman, where at the screening and happy to take questions from an appreciative audience. Explaining why they did not use a blind actor they told us that this was because Newman brought an invigorating energy to the role and that quite simply he was the right man for the role. The original idea came from Guy when he saw a blind person crossing a busy street with his dog and he wondered how the person would cope if the dog went missing? When asked about the location of the film they told us that it was shot over a period of three weeks in the East End of London and that the Estate was a character in its own right and that people who live in this environment are the beating heart of these non-communities. Guy Pitt added: “Greyhawk is a passion project in every sense. Each member of the cast and crew worked on it for love, first and foremost, and if ever there was a story of a man of passions and sorrow, this is it.” I would whole-heartedly recommend this film as being one that’s really worth supporting. Lets hope it gets a decent general release so that you can do just that.
Friday 20th June 2014.
New Perspectives World Premiere
Hide and Seek.
This is an intimate wee film directed and co-written by Joanna Coates about four young libertines that want to live an utopique life style. To this end two couples from London move into a country cottage in Crasswell (were the film was shot) and challenge the social norm by drawing up a sleeping router were each person swop’s sleeping arrangements with each other mixing up not only partners but also genders. All goes well until an ex boyfriend of Charlotte (played by Gemma Arterton younger sister) turns up unexpected and refuses to accept their radical way of living.
|Joanna Coates, Daniel Metz, Rea Mole and Hannah Arterton.|
The classical camerawork of Ben Hacking and the editing skills of Maya Maffioli walked a fine line between reality and performance, something that was helped by the lack of fixed dialog giving each of the characters room to improvise which in turn gave each them freedom to express their own emotions making the performances stronger and more believable. The movie grew on me, which was really down to the honesty of the cast, who commendably, along with the director, cinematographer and crew were all in attendance at its World Premiere to take part in the Q&A session following the screening.
Friday 20th June 2014.
New Prospects World Premiere.
We Are Monster.
Speaking to both the director, Anthony Petrou and the writer/actor Leeshon Alexander (who brilliantly plays both Stewart and his alto ego) following the screening of the movie I opined that there film was possible the most uncomfortable 88 minutes I have ever sat through in the cinema. Both pointed out that the film must have resonated with me because that’s the effect that it was meant to have by asking the question ‘how could someone be racially driven to commit murder’ and I would add to that how could the authorities let this happen in one of Her Majesty’s Prisons namely Feltham Young Offenders Institution?
Zahid Mubarek was a British Asian teenager who was serving a first time sentence of 90 days for stealing some razor blades worth the grand sum of £6! Before he could finish his sentence he was forced to share his cell with 20-year-old Robert Stewart who was transferred to Feltham with little or no accompanying paperwork. The wardens were said to be unaware of his racialist background, although the cross and RIP tattooed on his forehead should have given them a clue that Stewart was a seriously disturbed individual but the prison staff, in the main, ignored these warning signs. The prison authorities even refused Mubarek request to be moved to another cell when he complained that Stewart was beginning to scare him. On the 21 March 2000 just five hours from the end of his sentence Zahid Mubarek was brutally attacked and killed by Robert Stewart who had fashioned a weapon from part of the cell table something the guards failed to notice on their regular cell inspection’s!
As I said an uncomfortable, almost unbelievable, race relation’s horror story that has never received the media support it should have done. It made me feel like working walk out of the cinema, but I’m glad I stuck with it – and so should you if you ever get the opportunity to watch this contentious but well researched story made by a group of genuinely concerned and passionate people who in fact have softened the story somewhat because they were worried that people would think this horrendous tale could not passably be true if they showed the complete story. Although it must be admitted that the system let down both boys one very early in his life when he was around seven years old and the other lad when he was forced to share a cell with him it ended with an innocent human being having his life cut short because of the colour of his skin.
Saturday 21st June 2014.
Secret Master: Dominik Graf and the Hidden History of German Cinema.
The Cat. (Die Katze)
If like me your unfamiliar with the work of the German director Dominik Graf then this years retrospective Secret Master: Dominik Graf and the Hidden History of German Cinema is of great help. One of the films included in the series is The Cat reputed to be one of the masterpieces of German crime action. Released in 1988, when West Germany was still referred to as the Federal Republic, it’s basic plot is that two men rob a bank which goes somewhat askew and they end up taking hostages, but, and it’s a big but, there is far more to this film than just a hoist drama. With the main antagonist Probeck you never know what is really in his mind, is he after the money, is it revenge he’s after, is he planning to kill the husband of his lover, who just so happens to be the manager of the bank that is under threat!
A cracking cat and mouse yarn, lots of twists and turns, larger than life characters, great action and brilliantly made. It’s up there with the best of any American crime drama from that period and still stands comparison with most modern crime dramas. The most important thing is that I really enjoyed watching this movie one which is full of surprises and you never know which way it’s going until the very end.
Graf who is considered a major contempory director in Germany has divided his time between feature films and TV drama and it does show, which is not meant as a criticism because with television to get a believable exciting drama the filming and editing have to be done very quickly and can give filmmakers a lot of experience in not wasting time and money which can be useful when making feature films and Graf is the type of director that never allows the viewers concentration to wain. Hopefully some of his films will be made available on DVD.
Saturday 20th June 2014.
New Perspectives UK Premiere.
Falling Star. (Stella Cadente)
Assistant del rei
The best thing about attending a film festival is that you will no doubt see films that you may never have the chance to see anywhere else - although sometimes that can be a good thing! Louis Minarro's first feature film after three very well received documentaries is a period drama set in Catalonia in the early 1870's. Amadeo the 1st was the only King of Spain to come from the Italian House of Savoy, reigning briefly from 1870 to 1873. His ill-fated reign was beset with problems. The country was in the middle of a period of violent social upheaval, his ministers ignored him treating him as no more than a figurehead and his servants regarded him with disdain. On top of this his isolated palace was more like a prison with his beautiful wife yet to join him. Split into two tempo's or sections the first without his wife Maria Victoria and the other when she joins him, leaving after a short time unable to settle in the oppressive atmosphere.
Introduced by the director who explained that the motivation behind the film was to present this little known story as a metaphor for today with Spain experiencing the same problems it did 200 years ago including for example the Catholic Church which is beginning to extend its power’s within the country. He admits to using various cinematic styles and that the film should be 'analysed as a dream through the Kings mind’, his words not mine. He went on to say that the viewer was never expected to treat it as a standard period drama. Spanish cinemagoers found it too provocative but the country’s critics appreciated it as a modern political essay – you, the viewer, must of course make up your own mind.
|The Queen can't settle.|
Saturday 21th June 2014.
No Limits UK Premiere.
The Incomplete. (Der Unfertige)
Klaus Johannes Wolf
One of the problems with having seen so many movies over the years is that you are always on the look out for something different to stimulate your cinematic taste buds and this film certainly fills that criteria. The Incomplete (Der Unfertige) is a German documentary from Jan Soldat, born in the GDR in 1984 and who in the past has assisted in shooting porn films to gain 'artistic influences'. The subject of this film is Klaus Johannes Wolf, a sixty-year-old slave. When we first see this rather likeable man he is naked, as he is in 99% of his screen time, and chained to his bed. Soldat interviews him and we learn a little of his background telling us about his family, his father was in the army and his mother a teacher and how did not succeed in business when he set up a financial consultancy. To emphasize some of the points raised in this intriguing interview we get to see two of the places Klaus works as a slave carrying out the menial cleaning duties as well as more arousing tasks for his male clients. This formed the first part of double screening along with Pierrot Lunaire (2014)
Saturday 21st June 2014.
No Limits UK Premiere.
Krishna Kumar Krishnan
Described as 'a classic of love and passion retold in gender bending style' and 'romanticism at its most decadent providing a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears' Canadian Bruce LaBruce has succeeded on both counts. Written and directed by LaBruce as an adaptation of Arnold Schoenberg's original atonal musical poem Pierrot Lunaire, cleverly adding a transgender interpretation to the work.
Reputedly a true story - aren’t all love stories true? Pierrot Lunaire is a woman but dresses as a man and has a rather attractive girlfriend Columbine who ‘he’ obviously loves very much. When Pierrot is introduced to her father the fat capitalist pig quickly discovers that his daughters 'boyfriend' is a 'woman with a sandbag for a cock’' and forbids the couple from seeing one another, attempting to put a stop to their loving relationship. Pierrot is therefore forced in to taking extreme measures!
The film originated as a theatrical production that LaBruce directed for Berlin’s Hebbel am Ufer theatre in 2011 set in the pre aids world of 1978. The movie is a sumptuous piece of artwork that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has been fashioned from sounds and images without the need of spoken dialog. LaBruce uses inter-titles, with the story being related in song, translated for us with subtitles.
Filmed in Berlin, I don't think this black and white film would qualify for a general release, which is a great shame, but there is no doubt that it will reach an audience on the festival and gay cinema circuit’s. This wonderfully original film formed the second part of a double bill with the Incomplete (2013).
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Focus on Germany UK Premiere.
Ten years old Jack and six year old Manuel are from different fathers and live with their single mother Sanna. But Jacks not keen on the string of boyfriends his mother gets emotionally involved with. She is also rarely at home, which means that Jack has obtained by default the responsibility of running the household which means looking after his young brother, getting him out of bed, feeding him and getting them both to school. After school one evening Jack runs Manuel a bath and forgets to put in cold water so that when his brother gets in he scolds himself quite badly and ends up in hospital. Child Welfare is called to investigate and realises Sanna, although seemingly sweet and caring, is completely unable to cope with the day-to-day welfare of her two young children. It’s decided to put the older brother into a state run home leaving Manuel to be cared for by his mother and not Jack - which does not seem a very positive idea? Jack attempts to settle to his new surroundings but is hampered in his endeavours by the homes in-house bully. The holidays approach and Jack is expecting to go home for the summer but his mother does not show and he sets out to return to their apartment to see both his mothe and his wee brother.
Ok so what we have got is a story of two young brothers whose mother is incapable of looking after them properly, its obvious she loves them but she is an unfit mother because she is too preoccupied with her own pleasure’s. One can’t help but feel that if the law allowed the two boys would be better off looking after themselves. Both the youngsters are loyal to their mother, probably something she does not deserve.
Told from a child’s prospective Berger’s film makes me question why people have children when they have no intention of looking after them properly? It’s the sort of emotional realist drama that I can really appreciate but its not as emotional or sentimental as it sounds because of the strength shown by the older boy Jack. Berger, who co wrote the screenplay with Nele Mueller-Stofe manages to extract two great performances from both the juvenile leads especially Ivo Pietzcker who expresses maturity beyond his years.
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Focus on Germany UK Premiere
A House in Berlin. (Haus In Berlin)
I first came across Cynthia Beatt's work when I visited, and fell in love with, Berlin and subsequently purchased a DVD of two of her documentaries both of which featured Tilda Swinton, Cycling the Frame (1988) and The Invisible Frame (2009), a fascinating bike tour around the boundary of the Berlin Wall before it was dismantled in 1989 and the second film following the same route in 2009. Her latest work, again set in Berlin has taken 15 years to complete and had its UK Premiere at the EIFF 2014.
A Glasgow University Lecturer, Stella Miles, travels to Berlin to see an old house she has unexpectedly inherited from her Jewish great uncle. On arriving she finds that the once grand building is in desperate need of refurbishment. She befriends some of the tenants and begins to unearth the history surrounding the house. Stella has to decide whether to raise the very large some of money required to carry out a restoration or to take the offer negotiated with a property developer by her untrustworthy solicitor.
The story is narration driven, told by a friend of Stella’s, which helps to explain the period of modern German history from just before the outbreak of World War Two, when the National Socialist were Aryanising Germany, and modern Germany when reparations were made to the Jews and Israel. The house Stella has inherited was taken from its rightful owner in the 1930’s and not until after a very long and complicated process after the war that it was returned to the rightful owner, her great uncle.
Through this movie Beatt had the opportunity to tell the story of Germany’s recent past, how the young and old deal with it, Britain’s role in the Palestine mandates, the expropriation of Jewish property and to question the right of ownership of property by developers at the detriment of the tenants. Also how Berlin, just like London, was being gentrified which in turn had the effect of excluding ordinary Berliners from affording to live in the city and how certain people will always profit from the misery of others.
We were very fortunate to have the films director to introduce the film and to answer questions following it’s screening. Obviously from a Film House audience one of the first question’s that arose was the Scottish connection! She always wanted a Scottish actress to play the main part and Susan Vidler was chosen on the strength of her natural acting talent, having no time for method actors who play people like Margaret Thatcher for a living but are incapable of performing the ‘small actions’. She said she used Port Patrick and Glasgow because of its naturalistic settings. Going on to say that hopefully films like A House in Berlin would help open up an understanding of world politics and how it reflects on modern day Palestine. And of course the question of Germanys collective guilt and the shared responsibility of the war time generation in the atrocities that took place before and during the war.
As far as the filming was concerned she had a total budget of only £20,000, which meant that there was a limited time for actually shooting the film. The most difficult part, she informed us, was too ‘shoot’ the architecture. It took two years to edit the film. The location shooting not only took place in Berlin but also Rotterdam, Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway’s very own Port Patrick which entitled the project to a small amount of money from Mark Geddes and the South West Scotland Screen Commission to supplement the film overall budget.
Cynthia Beatt successfully draws from a basic simple story political ramifications that still reverberate around the modern world. A drama that sits comfortable at the crossroads between fiction and non-fiction dealing with contemporary issues arising from the past. The film should be seen by anyone who is interested the consequences of modern politics.
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Directors Showcase UK Premiere
Why would I go and see a big budget Si-Fi drama like Snowpiercier? Well there are two reasons the first is the director. South Korean Bong Joon-ho is a man whose previous oeuvre I have greatly admired, including Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006) and Mother (2009) his latest movie was his first in the English language – well most of it was! The second reason is the ensemble cast: Tilda Swinton, who is barely recognisable as a villain, Captain America himself Chris Evens, Jamie Bell, a very crinkled John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ewan Bremner and TV’s d’Artagnan Luke Pasqualino, a very nice young man incidentally, who had flown in from Prague to introduce the film and was flying back the same night!
The plot involves an experiment which took place in 2014 to counteract global warming by ‘doing something’ with a substance called CW7. This action freezes the earth into a new ice age killing most of its inhabitants. The only people left in the world are those occupying a massive train called, yes you’ve guessed it, Snowpiercier, a perpetual engine that travels on a global railway line. As with any world system a class structure is installed, with ex-bankers, politicians, megalomaniacs and the like inhabiting the front end and the proletariat inhabiting the arse end as normal. We quickly move on to 2031 and the naughty proles are beginning to get a little up themselves and want to take over the train which gives the director a chance to pull out all the stops and crack on with some great action sequences.
Luke Pasqualino did explain to us that Bong has a special way of working with nothing shot in sequence and an editor on set the whole time, incidentally the premiere was the first time that Luke had seen the film in its entirety! He went on to inform us that it was a four month shoot working 12 hour days, it was shoot in the Barrandov Studios in Prague were 27 train carriages were built on set coupled to a hydraulic system that made them actually rock as the real train would. His own role as Grey was very physically challenging but had little dialog
|Luke Pasqualino is on the right.|
Monday 23rd June 2014
Directors Showcase World Premiere.
Castles in the Sky.
Robert Watson Watt
Margaret Watson Watt
Albert Percival Rowe
This feature film charts the story of a typical British eccentric. Robert Watson-Watt was a Scottish engineer who developed what we know call radar. Tracking stations were installed during the Second World War along the east and south coasts of England to detect enemy aircraft flying in from Europe giving the Royal Air Force adequate early warning so the incoming planes could be stopped before they had a chance to attack. The system that Watson-Watt and others developed was credited with helping win the aerial Battle of Britain and ultimately the war.
Described as ‘a nail biting fight against the clock to save Great Britain’, which in fact it is not because your quite aware of the ending. Surprisingly this is apparently the first time that this story has actually been told. Originally the BBC had offered a 60-minute programme on the life of Watson-Watt and his radar progression but after two years were spent on researching and writing a screenplay it was thought better to produce a 90-minute biographical drama as a single feature film.
|David Hayman and Director Gillies Mackinnon.|
|Eddie Izzard joins in the Q&A session all the way from Dallas Texas.|
Pity Sir Robert Watson-Watt,
strange target of this radar plot.
And thus, with others I can mention,
the victim of his own invention.
His magical all-seeing eye
enabled cloud-bound planes to fly
but now by some ironic twist
it spots the speeding motorist
and bites, no doubt with legal wit,
the hand that once created it.
That typical British humour again!
Monday 23rd June 2014
American Dreams UK Premiere.
Cold in July.
Michael C Hall
Jim Bob Luke
We Are What We Are (2010).
Set in East Texas in 1989. Mild mannered family man Richard Dane (Hall) sleeping next to his wife with his young son sleeping in the next room, hears an intruder. He gets his father old gun and proceeds down the stairs to find an unarmed intruder Freddy Russell about to rob his home. Pointing the gun at the masked man it goes off spaying blood and brains all over the furniture, the wall and a large painting hanging there with. The police do not seem too concerned and put it down as self-defence. Shortly after the incident the local police in the form of Lieutenant Ray Price (co-screenwriter Nick Damici) inform Dane that Freddy Russell’s father Ben (Shepard), a violent man by all accounts, has been given parole from prison and that he’s planning a little eye for an eye action! Its not until things take a strange turn that Richard Dane is forced into a unlikely alliance with Freddy’s father and the flamboyant private eye and pig farmer Jim Bob Luke (Johnson) and things really begin to get a little out of hand.
My recommendation is to just go and see this movie, if for no other reason then to enjoy the on screen banter between Shepard and Johnson, you will not be disappointed.
Tuesday 24rd June 2014
Focus on Iran International Premiere
I suppose its not unusual for a foreign film to have more than one title, you tend to get another title in its own language in this case Ashbah, but with this Iranian film we get a third Ghosts. Which is not really surprising as the movie is loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 play of the same name that was written as a scathing commentary on 19th century morality.
Co-written by Vahidea Mohammadi and director Darlush Mehrjui, a legendary figure in Iran’s new wave film movement and best known for Cow (1996), the screenplay changes the setting to 21st century Iran.
General Suleimani is a high-ranking official who has been unceremoniously sacked and consequently starts to drink heavily. This begins to influence his family life, and his wife Sarah and their young son leave him alone for a short period of time in the large well-furnished house they call home. During this time he rapes his housemaid and she becomes pregnant. When Sarah finds out she tries to get the maid to have an abortion but she refuses. So she is paid off and is forced to leave both her position and the servant’s quarters. Marrying an old suitor they decide to keep the child. With the Generals behaviour getting worse his wife sends her eight-year-old son to live with an aunt in London. When Sarah’s son finally returns home he has become a rich and world famous artist but is unwell. His father is no longer alive but his mother still lives in the big house with a beautiful 18-year-old servant who the son falls in love with.
The 75-year-old director has produced an extravagantly stylish and enjoyable take on Ibsen’s play that’s poetic and meaningful. Well acted and beautifully filmed in black and white with just that rare glimpse of colour – a bit like life really? This melodrama is fundamentally about women suffering, especially, although not solely, the lower orders in the harsh reality of modern Iranian life. Is a son is expected to pay for the sins of his father? How long do we have to wait for the sun to come out?
Tuesday 24th June 2014
New Perspectives World Premiere.
Set Fire to the Stars.
John M Brinnin
Apparently only completed 17 days before it was shown at the 2014 EIFF Andy Goddard’s debut feature film Set Fire to the Stars (2014) is the story of Dylan Thomas’s first visit to the United States of America.
It was the American poet, literary critic and lecturer John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Woods) who invited Thomas (Celyn Jones) to New York in 1950 for the first time to embark on a three-month tour of art centres and university’s, which eventually took in about 40 venues. The movie deals with the problems that Brinnin had with Dylan Thomas’s erratic and drunken behaviour and how he befriended and tried to help the Welsh poet battle his demons, taking him to his family’s isolated summerhouse for a weeklong retreat.
Filmed in black and white at Swansea Bay in Wales in just 18 days, it’s hard to believe we are not in 1950’s America, which owes a lot the DOP Chris Seager and the production designer Edward Thomas. It was Celyn Jones (Castles in the Sky 2014) who told a very full house that he had always wanted to tell this story and portray Thomas himself, he does in fact look uncannily like him, and it was when he met Andy Goddard that the pair co-wrote the screenplay and the idea for the film began to take shape. They both agreed that the only actor that they felt was right for the part of John Brinnin was Woods, who after reading the script agreed to join the project. From then on it became a true labour of love and it shows in the final product.
A wordy two-handed character piece that highlights what I feel to be a non-sexual love affair between two world-renowned academics. But a film that has what Elijah Wood so eloquently described as ‘movement, energy and life’, and I would add humour ‘only the truth is funny’. Which in turn is due to some great writing, and superb performances from our two lead actors. This low budget film, which is hard to believe when you watch it, has a great soundtrack scored by one of Celyn Jones musical hero’s Gruff Rhys from the Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals – which we were told would be released in one form or another. Well worth seeing for Jones uncanny performance, which, given the right exposure, could see an acting nomination come the award season?
Wednesday 25th June 2014
New Perspectives UK Premiere.
Not sure why anyone would want to make another football hooligan picture, albeit one that’s just a ‘tiny’ bit different, is beyond me? Nevertheless I have a confession to make - I really enjoyed it - however you must promise not to tell anyone! Yes ok I agree it nonsense but sometimes nonsense can be quite agreeable. Basically it’s a violent thriller involving two different generations of thugs. Think ill Manors (2012) and Nick Love’s Football Factory (2004) mixed with a touch of I.D. (1994), probably the best film about the hooligan problem, and you got the nature of the film. The film stars Arsenal fan Harley Alexander-Sule, one half of the British hip-hop duo from Brighton, Rizzle Kicks, as Adam Shanko. A music star from another era David Essex, who plays the ‘old man’ Mick Snr, joins him.
|The new Guvnors.|
Gabe Turners first feature film sets out its stall from frame one and does not let up the tension, or the action, until the finally credits role. It takes the viewer to a world, which many will thankfully not know first hand, which our politicians would like to forget a place of youth unemployment and austerity where local disputes and justice are all settled by violence. Give this well made movie a chance, and Harley Alexander-Sule performance is certainly worthy of your attention.
Wednesday 25th June 2014
American Dreams UK Premiere.
David Gordon Green
Be warned this film involves a very powerful performance from Nicolas Cage, a statement you probably don’t hear very often. The only other time, recently anyway, would have possible been for his portrayal of real life policeman Glenn Flothe in The Frozen Ground (2013).
In David Gordon Greens latest outing, filmed and set in Austin Texas, Cage plays Joe of the title. Joe is an ex con, he’s the boss of a gang of men that illicitly poisons trees for a living, Joe is also a mess, he drinks and smokes to much. Although Joe has anger problems, which got him his jail sentence of 26 months after he knee capped a policeman with a gun, he has a heart of gold, treats his worker’s fairly, his whores kindly and befriends the young 15 year old Gary after giving him a job. Gary’s family consists of his alcoholic father who regularly beats him and his mother and a sister who has stopped speaking due to circumstances that are only hinted at.
We are again in Winters Bone (2009) and Out of the Furnace (2013) territory, the lower echelons of society where the American dream involves large quantities of alcohol, sudden violence and beaten up 4 wheel drive trucks. Beyond the outward appearances there’s a lonely man who works and plays hard and who befriends and builds a relationship with a 15-year-old boy who accepts responsibilities well beyond his status. These two unlikely human beings form a bond, which is the backbone of the movie, and bring to it an emotional edge that goes beyond the characters outward appearances. As I have said Cage was excellent as was Tye Sheridan, who you may have seen in The Tree of Life (2011) and as Gary in the award winning Mud (2012). This adaption of Larry Browns 1991 novel of the same name has characters you have no trouble in believing in and is a movie that has grit and bite and is rich in atmosphere, which is greatly helped by the director’s regular DOP Tim Orr. Highly recommended, due for general release in the UK towards the end of July 2014.
A rather sad footnote to this movie concerns Gary Poulter who was found dead in a shallow body of water before the film was released. It was Poulter that played Gary’s alcoholic bullying father Wade and was a real life homeless person who suffered from alcoholism and also was diagnosed with cancer. His performance was a case of art imitating real life!
Thursday 26th June 2014
Directors Showcase UK Premiere.
To Kill a Man (Matar a un hombre)
Alejandro Fernandes Almendras
This movie deservedly won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and has now had its UK Premiere at 2014 EIFF. Director and writer Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, whose third feature film this is, was at the premiere in person to introduce the film. Obviously a man with humour, he warned us that the film was a tough watch made even more difficult knowing that it was based on a true story!
Jorge is on his way home from the Centre for Forest Research where he works when a gang of men from the neighbourhood, who are supposedly playing football, verbally abuse him. On returning to the family home he is asked to go out again and get some beers, as it is his son Jorgito’s birthday. This time he is physically assaulted and has his diabetes paraphernalia stolen. When his teenage son finds out he goes to see Kalule, leader of the group that attacked his father, to buy back the stolen medical kit. When Jorge discovers this he goes to look for the boy, hears a gun shoot and a scream and finds the lad lying wounded and bleeding. Kalule in an attempt to plead self-defence shoots himself claiming that Jorgito had called to buy drugs and shot him first. Kalule, following a two-year prison sentence, wants revenge. In this interim period Jorge and his wife have separated with Jorge living in a hostel while his son and teenage daughter are still with their mother in the family home. The ex jail bird subjects the family to a reign of terror which gradually gets worse and builds up to the sexual assault of Jorge’s daughter. This final act tips Jorge over the edge.
Although the subject of this film is revenge, it’s not your Charlie Bronson Death Wish type drama. What we have is a quiet family man, who because of what’s happened has been estranged from the family he loves. He is not by nature a violent person, in fact quite the reverse, and a man who is happy to carry out a days work and live a peaceful life. But we all have a breaking point were we can be pushed to far and pressured into carrying out an act that strictly not in our nature and would leave us all wanting to relieve our guilt? Commendably the Chilean director approaches the subject intelligently and without resorting to the blood and gore normally associated with this type of genre.
A strong powerful drama that’s not over long, slightly under the 90 minute mark, with direction that allows ample time to tell the story. There are good solid performances from actors and non-actors alike (some of the crew doubled up as actors because of budget restrictions) especially the lead protagonist Daniel Candia who needed little dialog to express his feelings. The cinematographer Inti Briones captures the isolation of its ‘summer only’ location and helps build an atmosphere by shooting and holding certain shots. A very well made film that has no need of over exaggerating its psychical or emotional aggression. There are many directors who could learn from Alejandro Fernandez Almendras approach. He left us with the thought that the Chilean justice system is far worse than that portrayed on the screen!
Thursday 26th June 2014
New Perspectives UK Premiere.
A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide.
My first actual comedy at the 2014 EIFF was a feel good movie about suicide; yes that’s right a film that treats the very serious problem of taking your own life as amusing! And do you know - it worked? I know what your thinking because I’m accused of liking miserable cinematic outing’s and don’t usually like watching light hearted comedies then you have got to agree that this does sound like just the film for me. Well it was ha ha ha!
What we have is a modern version of one of the most humorous black comedies from 1971 Harold and Maude. A movie which revolved around a young man that was intrigued with death and befriends and forms a romantic relationship with a 79-year-old woman named Maude who try’s to teach him about living his life to the full. In A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide (2013) we have a young scots laddie called Tom Collins who is intent on killing himself but discovers he is bloody useless at it. After many failed attempts he end’s up having regular sessions with a disinterested psychologist called Doctor Watson. It’s during one of these visits that he meets up with his ’Maude’ Eve McKinlay a young girl who has problems of her own stemming from the loss of her single mother but who hopes that a relationship can develop between herself and Tom. That is unless Tom is successful at a ‘spectacular suicide’ where as any relationship that developed could come to a ‘dead’ stop. Tom is also tasked with visiting the lonely Mr Neilson who lives with his dog Eddie and a garage full of memories that he tries to ignore having not seen his only daughter for the past twenty years.
It’s a film about a bunch of misfits who all have one thing in common, a sense of humour. This is a successful attempt at writing intelligent dark humour by actors Keith Grantham, Graeme McGeagh and director Graham Hughes who along with other members of the cast were there to answer questions raised after the films screening. This very enjoyable film took 9 months to write but only 13 days to shoot. Again we hear the subject of monetary support, or should I say lack of. They were only able to make the film because of crowd funding and the director and others putting in money of their own. The use of different accents from the various characters meant that the location was not defined. The movie was cleverly broken up by some great animated sequences. But the thing that really rewards the price of a ticket is the humour. For once we have a comedy that is actually funny – it really makes you laugh and this in my humble opinion is down to the writing and the strength of the acting.
Friday 27th June 2014.
Special Screenings World Premiere.
Tony Benn: Will & Testament.
This wonderfully moving, and at times emotional, portrait of one of the Britain’s greatest politicians will be released in cinemas on the 3rd October 2014. I would suggest that anyone with a heart who wants to know the truth about politics in the post war period and who appreciated Ken Loach’s recent documentary The Spirit of 45 (2012) must see this excellent film. Tony Benn: Will & Testament (2014) had its World Premiere at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on Friday 27th June in front of very large appreciative audience which included many of the people involved in the making of this documentary.
For the ignorant amongst you Tony Benn was a Member of the British Parliament representing the country and the Labour Party for 47 years from 1950 until 2001 when he retired as an MP ‘in order to spend more time on politics’. During that period he served as Postmaster General, overseeing the opening of the post office tower, Minister of Technology and later as Secretary of State for Industry before being made Secretary of State for Energy. It was his fight to renounce his hereditary peerage, which would have prevented him from continuing as an MP and which succeeded in getting the Peerage Act 1963 put on the statute book, that won him a great deal of public support. But his support of the working class and his radical socialist stance won him as many enemies as friends including the right wing media that portrayed him as a hate figure. After leaving Parliament he continued to lend his support to many worthy causes including the Stop the War Coalition and even appearing at Glastonbury in 2002. It was Benn who in 2005 warned of the treat from powerful institution like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank well before the banking collapse in 2008.
The documentary, a meaningful labour of love, covered all these points and more including his unwavering support for the working class, his immense displeasure with the politics of the Thatcher government, which included him backing the greatest of all the working class battles with the rich and powerful – the 1984/85 miners strike. It also presents his own personal reflections on his childhood, his youth and his marriage to Caroline who was the love of his wife of over 50 years, until she passed away in 2000. The interviews with Tony Benn are fascinating describing a man of passionate conviction who has dedicated his life to others. We get to hear some of his pearls of wisdom that still resonate to this day, “the only question worth asking – is it right or wrong?” “Say what you mean and mean what you say” pity more politicians today do not take his advise? But my favourite is that “we immature with age” I can vouch for that!
The discussion after the screening was hosted by Ruth Winstone, Benn’s long time friend, colleague and Editor of his published diaries, and also featured Cinematographer Michael Miles, Editor Liza Ryan-Carter and Composer Michel Duvoisin. I personally had the privilege of sitting next to the films Executive Producer Jaqueline Jean-Louis.
Tony Benn, a brave and dedicated man, died on the 14th March 2014 just after the completion of this very personnel film and is still inspiring and encouraging us today - RIP.
Friday 27th June 2014
Directors Showcase UK Premiere.
In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten)
Hans Petter Moland
Pal Sveere Hagan
Birgitte Hjort Serensen
Described as ‘hugely enjoyable, gruesome, ingenious, brilliantly-cast pitch black comedy set against the hugely cinematic snow covered landscape of a rural winter’ If you found the Jo Nesbo scripted Jackpot (2011) funny, your going to just love the extremely blacker than black humour of another Norwegian export The Order of Disappearance (2014).
Certainly a revenge drama that unlike the subtle direction and handling of Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’s Chilean thriller To Kill a Man (2014) is nearer to the Death Wish (1974) and Fargo (1996) format of blood and gore.
Citizen of the year Nils Dickman drives the snowplough to keep the local roads clear. When the police inform Nils that his only son has died from a drug overdose he does not believe it and suspects he has been murdered. He sets out to find the culprits, starting at the bottom rung of the drug cartel he gradually gets to the truth but not before the body count increases. The local gang boss and health food fanatic Greven thinks that the Serbian gang, who share the local territory, are behind the sudden disappearance of his henchmen. This in turn starts a turf war that only Nils can bring to a successful but bloody conclusion.
As well as the beautifully photographed snow covered scenery it’s the politically incorrect laugh out loud humour that carries the film. It was a good job we had undertitles because the laughter drowned out the dialog at times especially when every time someone was killed the screen went black and the victims name appeared along with his gang name and a cross denoting what religion the person was i.e. a Christian or Serbian Orthodox or Jewish - Star of David! Like most Nordic films the acting was superb with both Stellen Skarsgard and Bruno Ganz unplaying their roles to great affect. A cracking watch in which two-hour’s just melted away.
Saturday 28th June 2014
New Perspectives UK Premiere.
John May has worked for the council for 22 years. His job is to find any remaining relatives or friends of those who have died alone. When there are no next of kin and based on what evidence that Mr May can find at the deceased home he has to decide what type of service these unfortunates should have, burial or cremation and make the arrangements including a short eulogy and what type of music to play. If he is unable to find anyone to attend the funeral service he will go himself. John May loves his work but then one morning his manager tells him that the authority has to cut back so is being made redundant. Meticulous and organised to the last he asks for extra time to finish his final case. William Stokes lay undiscovered for 40 days in a flat neighbouring John May’s surrounded by little more than empty bottles. Mr May finds a photo album in the flat into which has been carefully placed pictures of what may or maybe not the dead mans daughter? Intrigued he starts his detective work that gradually reveals the life and secrets of William Stokes.
Starring one of Britain's best character actors Eddie Marsan (my own favourite was Scott the cabby in Mike Leigh’s 2008 Happy Go Lucky) who deservedly won The Award for Best Performance in a British Film at the 2014 EIFF for this role along side the lovely Joanne Froggatt. Directed, written and produced by Luchino Visconti's nephew Uberto Pasolini it was set and shot in London.
As it was only a month since my own mother had died I cannot judge if this movie affected me more than it would other people, but it certainly affected me in away I could not have imagined. Having never really grieved, as my mother and I were not very close, during the film I got very emotional! This is a story about loneliness and death and how when some people pass away there is sadly no one to mourn or attend their funeral service - fortunately this was not the case with my mother but in this uncaring time we live in I am reliably informed that it is not an unusual occurrence. A very brave film that exposes the loneliness of living in a big city and one that looks at death to give the true meaning of life. See also Dreams of a Life (2011)
Saturday 28th June 2014
Directors Showcase UK Premiere.
A Most Wanted Man.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
|One of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last roles as Gunther Backmann|
A contemporary tale of intrigue one in which the modern intelligence agencies are shown to be completely paranoid about any one that even slightly resembles what they assume to be Jihadist and therefore by default a terrorist. This was my final film of the 2014 EIFF and I was tired and found the film a little to long so I will not be too judgemental and just comment that the acting was as you would expect from such a good cast very good and Anton Corbijn’s (Control 2007, The American 2010) direction and Benoit Delhomme (Lawless 2012) cinematography brought the story to life. A movie I like to see again.
|The end of another Edinburgh International Film Festival.|
 Cynthia Beatt was born in Jamaica and grew up on the Fiji Islands. After studying Art in Great Britain, she travelled through Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and India, before moving to Berlin.
 Celyn Jones. Odeon Lothian Road 24th June 2014.
 EIFF 2014 Brochure.