BFI: Flare 2018...Our [remote] Coverage...
Once again, it's that glorious time of the year for...
Unfortunately, due to a minor surgical procedure and post-operative recuperation, I can't be there in person...but, BFI: Flare have kindly given CGiii.com access to a mighty selection of films they'll be screening in good old London town...73 in all!
So...there will be many cinematic delights to be had as I while away the hours in a rather comfortable hospital bed...those post-op stitches, the dressings and that swelling will all be but a minor distraction as I delve into the cinematic cornucopia that is BFI: Flare.
All information for screenings, tickets and times can be found here
We'll try to cover the films [in order] as they appear in the programme schedule...wholly dependent up on stitches and swelling!
Comments, criticisms, disagreements and praise are always welcome...and, if you would like your name to appear in CGiii.com why not submit a review of a film we have or have not seen. The more opinions, the merrier the conversation becomes...
On with the show...
22 March 2018...
Sidney & Friends:
Directed by Tristan Aitchison
Artistry, in documentary filmmaking, is too rare. So...when a documentary's opening credits manages to grab your attention and sets the tone for the film from the outset...you just know you're going to be watching something rather special. Sidney & Friends is special.
Shot in black & white, with beautiful photography, haunting & horrific blackouts...and, a soundtrack that is worthy of [countless] awards...Sidney & Friends is a pull-no-punches, emotional rollercoaster ride...tradition & christianity, demons & priests, doctors & IDs, just a few of the insurmountable obstacles that the trans & intersex people of Kenya have to contend and negotiate with...on a daily basis. This bashing-your-head-against-a-brick-wall type of existence presents an entirely different perspective on the trans/intersex fight for equality. This is not a fight for equality, this is their [daily] fight for survival.
Grim as it may sound, the film is punctuated with moments of levity and joy...the indomitable spirit of humanity shines through...amidst the [understandable] tears and the [incomprehensible] suffering. 'God is Good' echoes throughout the film...good, because, He has given Sidney and his friends the ability to lie! Well, religion [& tradition], doctors and governments have [resoundingly] failed in protecting all of their people. When something fails...it's usually replaced!
Tristan Aitchison does a mighty fine [and artful] job in telling these stories, raising awareness is key to change. Truly, a beautiful, difficult and important work of film art.
Directed by Jules Rosskam
Possibly, not the best film to watch after Sidney & Friends...in that, challenging as it is [on so many different levels], this is Jules Rosskam's autobiographical, cathartic, personal form of art. And, as we all know, [all] art is subjective.
The main problem with autobiography is...is your story interesting enough to engage an audience? And, if so, can you tell that story in a way that will maintain interest from start to finish? Herein lies the problem, Jules Rosskam wants the answers he wants to hear. He doesn't get them. Frustrating for him and frustrating to listen to...because that's what you do with this film, you listen...to conversations and interviews that are accompanied by relevant and [too many] irrelevant images, [rather charming] home movies and [artsy] animations. It does tend to go round in circles...too much!
There was an interesting premise to this film - a kid retraces the epic trans-American roadtrip that their parents undertook in the early 70s - sadly, that retracing was abandoned after 6 weeks...leaving the film [somewhat] prematurely [somewhat] high and dry. Shame...as the film drives off in a completely different direction.
Issues surrounding...transition, an emotionally [and physically] absent father, allegations pertaining to grand-paternal & paternal sexual and physical abuse, maternal denial...are all addressed, debated, rebuffed and questioned. It's baggage-laden, serious stuff...with no definitive resolution!
But...the [only] straight-to-camera segment, the reading of the [resolving, condemning & forgiving!] letter to his brother [who suffers from severe mental health issues] could, quite easily, be viewed as...a step too far...all in the name of art, all for this cathartic film!
Art - truly - is subjective. Catharsis - truly - is personal.
Tomorrow Never Knows:
Directed by Adam Sekuler
Few films are as difficult to watch than this...quite literally, you watch someone die.
Shar Jones has early onset Alzheimer's Disease...the decision for a concious death is taken. For those of you who don't know what conscious dying is...it's a more spiritual way of putting-your-house-in-order. Tying up loose-ends, saying goodbyes, building broken bridges and saying 'I love you' to those you love...it's all about [everyone involved] being emotionally ready for the death to happen in peace with grace...with dignity.
The other decision taken is when. Shar Jones wants that control...thereby preserving who she is and the memory of her...rather than her person, her memory, herself...being lost forever in the Alzheimer's fog. To be remembered for who you were and not for who you became...a monumental decision that can never be taken lightly.
For the filmmaker, the gravity of the situation demanded a different kind of approach. Less intrusion...infinite respect. Adam Sekuler succeeds...by simply observing the often mundane daily routine of this couple's last days together. At times, it's agonising to watch...sometimes, it's heart-warming...always respectful. Death happens to us all...few of us get to die on our own terms.
Shar Jones never got to see the completed film...she knew she never would. She leaves behind an essence of her, who she was.
Air / Luft:
Directed by Anatol Schuster
There is so much to admire in this debut feature...the cinematography [especially those drone shots!], the music [even the accordian sounds good!], the performances [all plausible, all relatable] and then, there's the direction [slick, imaginative and efficient].
Manja is the perfect, wrong-side-of-the-tracks, ever-smiling, school-girl...who sees the good in just about everyone. Louk, the rebellious and unpredictable, has her issues...the two form a bond. But...will that bond go in the direction that Manja wants it to go? Or, will her desires remain - frustratingly - unrequited?
Anatol Schuster plays with his audience, it's a little cat-and-mouse...what with all the male suitors popping in and out...and, Louk running hot-and-cold to Manja's - obvious - adoration. It's all very idealistic YAs being irresponsible YAs...with the added addition of good old-country tradition [lovely scenes with Manja's Baboushka] that gives the film a solid grounding and a required context...different generations, different cultures and languages. Different lives...where love is the bond.
A fine film that may have benefitted from a stronger ending...but, by no means does it detract from the film, it does add a little mystery. But, for the sake of its target audience...it is a Y[oung]A[dult] film and, perhaps, those young adults would have preferred something more concrete...or, maybe they wouldn't! Just an opinion...on an assured debut.
23 March 2018...
Directed by Michael Schmitt
It gives us great pleasure when we deliver a glowing review...all that hard work finally being recognised!
It gives us greater pleasure when we are able to recommend a film...ensuring that the audience's money and/or time are well-spent.
When we are unable to deliver a glowing recommendation...we ask ourselves why? Documentary filmmakers should ask themselves a few questions before they even touch a camera! Why do I want to make this film? How do I make this film? What are my ambitions for my film? Do I have the technical ability to make a professional film? These are questions that Michael Schmitt should have asked himself...then, if he gave himself satisfactory answers...let pre-production begin...which usually involves making a plan! Ooops, looks like you forgot that bit!
So...instead of being overly harsh...we thought we would offer a few tips. Make and stick to a production plan [don't worry, there's always room for manoeuvre]. Buy a tripod. Maintain the focus throughout. When you can't see the sheep from the wool, shear it! Just because he's your brother [and brother-in-law to the main subject] doesn't mean he has to feature in the film, the same goes for your parents - their input is unnecessary and uninteresting. When conducting interviews, use two cameras...or, conduct two interviews one after the other. You'll be thankful you did, in the editing suite afterwards...rather than having jump-cut hell with bouncing talking heads. It's so jarring to watch...as is aspect change!
Look...when kids are making [technically] off-the-scale Youtube videos on their cell-phones...it's time to...either up the ante or get out of the game!
But, most importantly...the subject! There's nothing new here. There is no story. Everyone knows that the catholic hierarchy is a patriarchal, [internalised] homophobic den of hypocritical delinquents...in drag! Everyone knows that the catholic institution preaches: Thou shalt only love the opposite sex! Marika knows this, Marika did not challenge...and, Marika lied to the religious practice that she & other gay/lesbian catholics [so weirdly] believe in. Why believe in something that so transparently and vigorously condemns you?!? Why don't all the disgruntled catholics band together and form an all-loving, all-encompassing religious institution of their own? Now...there's a story!!!
Arachnaphobes don't play with spiders...those who do...well, Hell mend them!
Directed by Jennifer Gerber
There's nothing worse than a bible-bashing, self-hating, hypocritical homo!
There's nothing worse than a script like this...here's a sample...
A dreary, nerdy, married-to-a-woman, Southern Baptist pastor to a homeless, meth-addicted, blonde, hunky drifter:
Pastor: I just wanna come over here and introduce myself...I’m brother Eli, I’m the pastor here at First Baptist...[silence] okay...well, enjoy your food.
Drifter: I like your hands.
Pastor: Excuse me?
Drifter: Your hands...they’re pretty.
And then...in next to no time, the pastor gives the drifter a home...seconds later, they're bonking [each other's brains out] akin to randy, rabid rabbits on Viagra!
They don't come anymore whirlwind than this whirlwind romance! For yes...we all know that this little tête-à-tête will be [predictably] shortlived and will [predictably] end in tears.
The [oh so many] conflicts come and go...faster than ricocheting bullets bouncing all over the place. To hell with guilt. Who needs soul-searching when there's a blonde-haired hunk willing to deal in carnal pleasure and crystal meth?!? After all...God forgives!
There's no forgiving this [somewhat homophobic] mess of a film!
Directed by Linda Cullen & Vanessa Gildea
Hallelujah...there is a documentary filmmaking God!
This has absolutely everything a documentary needs to have...it's educational, emotional, engaging, enlightening and entertaining...with technical expertise to boot!
This is history...and, at the core, a love story...between two rather remarkable women. Without them, Ireland's fight for equality could have been delayed for decades! So...to Katharine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, an unreserved and unbridled: Thank you.
And...a great big thank you to Linda Cullen & Vanessa Gildea for this film. For managing such a complex process with chronological clarity, for introducing us to a whole host of passionate and inspiring people. For the card-carrying feminist who [once] thought equal marriage was an athema, for the fantastic definition of the 'queer community' - that's cleared that one up! For highlighting the 'in-house' fighting...same target, different aims! And, for showing that the LGBTQI+ community is - indeed - a functional and aspiring community!
Crowd-pleasers don't come anymore crowd-pleasing than this! The rewards for hard work!
Tasty: Directed by Meaghan Palmer
With work, this could - quite easily - be developed into a feature. It's definitely a story that needs to be told: Police brutality gets a' class action' kicking! It's not often 'the law' gets good press...Meaghan Palmer has hit upon a tasty kernel and delivered a fine little film with quite alot of balls!
Alaska is a Drag:
Directed by Shaz Bennett
A [major] problem with developing a [good] short film into a feature is...material. The question that needs to be asked before production begins: Is the material elastic enough to stretch to 90 or so [engaging] minutes? Alaska is a Drag suffers not through a lack of material...but, from structural issues.
Leo is a fish-filleter-cum-drag-queen-cum-boxer who yearns to escape from the sedantry life that is Alaska! The opportunity to do so presents itself in the form of a [local] qualifying round for a drag show in L.A. Right up Leo's street! So...why does the rather anticlimactic drag show appear halfway through the film?!? Did none of the [many] producers not see that this was the build-up and obvious ending to the whole film? A classic three-act structure...discovery, rehearsal, performance. Kaboom! Everything that came after the drag show could have gone before...thereby ensuring an explosive finish...a finish it so richly deserved.
There were so many storylines that could have been milked for all their worth. The sister with cancer. The broken and lost father. The love that punches instead of daring to speak its name! The material was there!!! By no stretch of the imagination is Alaska is a Drag a bad film. It's a sweet, well-performed, rich-in-ideas sort of film. It could have been something else entirely...an Alaskan Priscilla!!!
Wood: Directed by Eve Dufaud
Sometimes - oh too rare - along comes a short film that - quite literally - has the ability to take your breath away. Eve Dufaud does exactly that! Simply breath-taking. The violence is tangible. The anger is palpable. The eroticism has its roots in blood, sweat and tears. This is classy, sophisticated filmmaking. Stunning!
24 March 2018...
Rift / Rökkur:
Directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen
If you like your films to be all neatly packaged, tied up with string and bows...then, this film is - most definitely - not for you.
If, on the otherhand, you like to be kept in the dark, teased and trifled with, amid a beautiful and eerie landscape...with screaming echoes of a bygone, [now] unrequited love...while being watched by someone or something lurking in the shadows...then, Rift is right up your windswept [v]alley.
It just goes to show what talent can do with a shoestring budget...use what you've got...rather than redundantly moaning about what haven't! Erlingur Thoroddsen does just that...sometimes, less is definitely more.The less you get...the more you want!
Now, we might be going out on a limb here, bear with us...but, the parallels with the haunting and majestic Picnic at Hanging Rock are staring you in the face [well, our faces at least]! Landscape, cinematography, music, remoteness, an indistinguishable presence...and, no explanation! See...it does make sense! And, like Picnic, Rift is sensory...you can almost smell the chill, taste the tension, feel the goosebumps, hear the mystery!
Really...this is an exceptional film...for the financial constraints it had. To re-iterate: This is what talent can do with little!
Directed by Laura Marie Wayne
Aaaaaargh!!! Nearly everything we said about Marikas Missio applies here...the only difference - and it's a major difference - there is a story here...sadly, lost in all the [artsy] nonsense...that hideous voice-over, the endless footage of water, the cheesy music, the appalling camera-work [apart from two rather wonderful shots]! A classic example of the filmmaker being [way] too close to the subject and doing too much...it's that jack-of-all-trades that too many films suffer from...yet again!
Here's a piece of advice for all would-be filmmakers: Turn off the auto-focus and buy a bloody tripod!
Scott Jones suffered an horrendous, homophobic attack that left him paralysed from the waist down. His assailant was caught and sentenced to 10 years for attempted murder. Apart from re-visiting the scene of the attack and talking briefly about it...wherein he reveals something [legally significant] that he did not say to the police...a word to the wise, from an ex-lawyer, show your film to a lawyer before releasing it...unwanted attention can be a powerful tool with respect to mitigation!!! Any other details about the attack or the attacker are - frustratingly - absent.
Scott Jones is a personable, handsome, charismatic and talented young man...being a music graduate and a pianist, his paralysis has not only affected his life...but, his livelihood too. He has had to adapt and has done so...the [atrociously filmed] segments of him conducting are an absolute joy to watch. As for him standing on stage, what could have been a massively powerful scene...why diminish it with an earlier shot of him standing?!?
Finally, near the end...this is where the real story is...Scott reads out a letter he has written to his attacker. Just imagine if the film had started with this letter...restorative justice stories grip - like a vice - all those involved and all those who watch! Did Scott send the letter? We don't know...just like the rest of the film...so many questions - frustratingly - unanswered.
Directed by Robin Campillo
At first, BPM is a torrent of words...said in anger, stained with frustration, wrought from fear...and, pinned down by rage!
Terrifying times...especially when the 'authorities' refused to grasp the gravity of the situation. Or, rather, they chose to downplay the whole crisis...after all, AIDS only affected fags, blacks, junkies and whores!
In 1986, British television viewers heard John Hurt chillingly say: There is now a danger that has become a threat to us all...It is a deadly disease and there is no known cure...Aids. Don't die of ignorance.
Norman [Lord] Fowler (health and social security secretary), Sir Donald Acheson (chief medical officer) and Willie Whitelaw...acted with defiance and determination...running the ad campaign, sending a graphic no-nonsense leaflet to every household in the country, followed by a week of educational programming scheduled at peak time on all four terrestrial channels. The desired effect was almost immediate, people were talking, they knew what was in their midst, what they were up against. Terrifying times, heartbreaking times.
Other countries were slow to follow...or, in truth, blankly refused to follow...after all, AIDS only affected fags, blacks, junkies and whores!
In 1987, Act-up was formed in America...as a direct response to the then president's refusal to act. Ronald Reagan.
In 1989, Act-up was formed in France...as a direct response to the then president's refusal to act. François Mitterrand.
Without Fowler and co's intervention, without Act-up's direct action...many, many more lives would have been needlessly lost.
No matter what you may have thought [or think] about Act-up's highly contentious brand of 'activism' - they, undoubtedly, made a mighty difference. Quite possibly, those of a certain age, reading this, have Act-up [& co] to thank for still being around!
We have to thank them for that fight. We have to thank Robin Campillo for this film. A document from a heartbroken heart. From an angry heart...
At first, BPM is a torrent of words...said in anger, stained with frustration, wrought from fear...and, pinned down by rage!
With considerable skill, step-by-step, those words - slowly - start to disappear. When rivers turn to blood, words have no effect on deafened ears...when death increasingly inches towards you, words are replaced by touch...a much needed and appreciated touch.
From the raging fire that he was...to the dying ember he becomes, Nahuel Perez Biscayart delivers a heart-stopping, totally involving performance, overseen and, with delicacy...directed by Mr Campillo. This is a beautifully designed soundscape of a short life...edited with a daring, draining vitality. Oh, those final moments...that pragmatism. So many deaths, so much love lost...Arnaud Valois' face is testament to that...
Again, Mr Campillo...we thank you...
Martyr / Žrtva:
Directed by Mazen Khaled
Indeed...no doubt, a film that will polarise every audience.
More homo-suggestive than homoerotic, more closted than in-your-face homosexual, this is a life where the simplest of actions [a touch, a look, a proximity] speak louder than the loudest words, where reverence and respect are uttered with every greeting and farewell...after all, this is a culture that demands sexual subtlety.
Martyr is loaded with inference and bold parallels...in essence, what Mazen Khaled is saying is: You and I, we're not that different...for death is the greatest of all equalisers.
The narrative is simple enough...Hassane, a young, unemployed, Muslim man goes to the beach, fools around with his friends, takes a dive and drowns...his body is retrieved, transported and prepared for burial. As simple as it sounds, there is a profound complexity and dignity in the proceedings...there are the undercurrents of guilt and [that] forbidden love that flow throughout. Tableaux and parable...complimented by contemporary dance...bring this death to life. It's both deferential and visceral...challenging, affecting...and, artful.
It's succinct, it's subtle, it's surreal...it's [strangely] serene.
25 March 2018...
My Own Private Hell / Inferninho:
Directed by Pedro Diogenes & Guto Parente
If John Waters, Arturo Ripstein and [the spirit of] Rainer Werner Fassbinder were to team-up...Inferninho is what they may have come up with!
Think: Dante's Inferno meets Querelle...who has a head-on collision with [some] Pink Flamingos on Bleak Street...done on a last-strand-shoe-string budget in a squalid set and accompanied by some of the worst sung songs ever to be heard by a human ear!
And, by gum, it works...thanks, principally, to a mesmerising and commanding performance from Yuri Yamamoto. To say that My Own Private Hell is rough-around-the-edges would be a massive understatement...the back projections are as shabby as they are hysterical.
The idea that this is where old, washed-up and washed-out, wannabe, Superheroes [and cartoon characters] go to hang-out and die...is inspired. Tongue-in-cheek, off-the-wall...marvel in this nefarious, flea-pit of a bar where you will be served by a rabbit called Rabbit...under the ever-watchful eye of the tragic trans*owner and serenaded by a cacophonous screech!
A brilliantly bizarre bargain of a film.
Directed by Melanie Mayron
Hello?!? Helloooooo?!? Did someone just switch the channel?
Snapshots looks and feels like something the Hallmark channel would produce...that is, up until the steamy lesbian sex scene! The obvious draw to this film is Piper Laurie - a thrice Oscar-nominated actor! She does not disappoint...she is the sanity admist the unnecessary melodrama.
This is a tale of three generations...sapphic nostalgia [grandmother], alcohol-infused regret [daughter], time for tumultuous change [grand-daughter]. Sadly, two of these tales need not have been told, they are inconsequential to the main thrust of the film. Snapshots works well when Rose [Piper Laurie] reflects on her long lost lesbian love by the lakeside...these endearing flashbacks are [always] rudely interrupted by some [drunken and/or hysterical] squawking about that old trope, the-trouble-with-men...which is a trifle perplexing considering the men [in the film] rarely get a look in...when they do, the two flashback husbands, are a stark contrast to the [merely mentioned] contemporary men. They are affable, dim and [especially one] stoned...blissfully unaware that their wives are rutting the brains out of each other.
As far a lesbian dramas go, it's neither the worst nor [anywhere near] the best. Perhaps, a little too cautious...and, definitely, too Hallmark-ish!
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Breathe in. Hold.
An American, high-school, gay-themed, teen dramedy...what could possibly go wrong? Well...potentially, just about everything in this tired-and-tested formulaic genre!!!
Keep holding your breath, babies...because, wait for it, this is an absolute peach of a film...doing the book the justice it deserves [not many films can say that!].
Love, Simon is a modern-day [coerced] ‘coming out’ story...with a villainous teen, a love’s unrequited teen, a [modest] heart-throb and a whole host of potential Romeos, ready to strip away that modesty...oh, and there’s a fierce drama teacher who takes no prisoners!
For those, a little longer-in-the-tooth, ‘coming out’ may appear to be a little easier, less traumatic than yesteryear. How times have changed, they are sure to say...no doubt, for the better. But, for the kid who is standing with his/her hand tightly-gripped on the door-handle, it’s just as terrifying as it ever was! Because...when that door opens, nothing will ever be the same again. But...when the control of that life-changing moment is taken from you, when you are ‘outed’ – thoughts go awry, friends feel betrayed, things get ugly!
It sounds as if Love, Simon has taken a wrong turn...for the worse!!! Hold your horses, don’t throw your toys out of the cradle, keep holding your breath...all is not lost. Tis but a [necessary] hiccup. The writing is as sprightly as the direction...it dwells not on the dark...and, as Simon [good job, Mr Robinson] settles into his new skin...the hunt for his Romeo continues.
Shamelessly manipulative, seamlessly sentimental and so crowd-pleasingly sweet...it’s impossible not to clap, cheer and cry...all at the same time.
Now. Exhale. Wow.
Directed by Arthur J Bressan Jr.
Lest we forget...
An important film...the first to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis. Well done...to BFI: Flare for screening it, 33 years after it was made.
It's a film that brings back an ocean of memories...of those tear-draining, terrifying times. I remember, as a young man, walking into my local pub [The Black Cap...now, sadly gone] and missing familiar faces, being told such-and-such is in hospital, such-and-such has died...over time, so many faces disappeared.
Watching Buddies...brings it all back.
Yes, it is a little preachy and rough around the edges...but, Mr Bressan was flying solo on this one, so little was known...he did the best with what he had to work with...and, quite remarkably, managed to avoid the trite sentimentality that plagued subsequent films.
Arthur succumbed to AIDS in 1987...RIP
RIP to all the faces...friends and strangers alike. I can write no more.
26 March 2018...
Directed by James Ivory
The waves of nostalgia continue...to lap my shore...
Is it really 31 years ago when I walked into my local cinema - the Screen-on-the-Hill - to watch one of my favourite novels being brought to life?!? Yes, it is. Unlike Maurice, I have not turned into a timeless classic!
Those heady [youthful] days when James Ivory and Ismail Merchant [together] were a tour-de-force...still careless and foolish with love, Maurice resonated...in 1987, the homosexual age of consent was 21...few films dealt with homosexuality and, those that did, did not do it with such style and conscience...Maurice was an event.
Having Hugh Grant and James Wilby introduce their film - in person - 31 years later...BFI: Flare certainly pulled a rabbit out of the hat. What a photo opportunity! May its influence continue...
The Wound / Inxeba:
Directed by John Trengove
Here's a film that's ruffling quite a few traditional feathers! In essence, banned [temporarily] in its native South Africa, The Wound explores an arena that no other film has explored before...Xhosa initiation rites...with a bit of same-sex desire thrown in...to assure the controversy [and fury] continues for years to come! It is a truly unique and well-crafted film.
Let's get one thing off of our chests: Non-consensual circumcision [aka, genital mutilation], enforced circumcision...is, in the 21st century, barbaric...especially when it's done by non-medically trained foreskin hackers! The statistics for death and deformity after circumcision [without anaesthetic] are jaw-dropping. Patriarchal pressure [and peer pressure] ensure/assure/insure that boys can only become men after they get their foreskins [non-surgically] lopped off. Tell it how it is...and, it tends to sound as ridiculous as it actually is! In today's world...this needs to be addressed.
John Trengrove's film does just that...rather than laying down a judgment, he simply shows. It's brief and it's brutal. It's all about conformity and the things people will do to be seen as conformists!!! The Wound will shock. No doubt about that!
The Rainbow Nation's divisions are as vast as its size...post-Apartheid heralded a unification between the disparate...but, the division between the urban and the rural are as deep as ever. To be gay in a city is so much easier than to be gay in the middle of a traditional nowhere. This socio-economic wound is far more difficult to treat...every government, world-wide, has failed in the past, failing today and will fail in the future. Conformity is [r]evolution's greatest enemy. Education is [r]evolution's greatest asset. Wow! This film certainly hits on some massive, major issues!
Modernity's galloping horse waits for no man, neither religion, nor tradition...archaic institutions and practices are [stubbornly, erroneously and tenaciously] clinging on...but, in time, their grip will loosen. Globalisation, the internet, education and mass migration...and, film...are all playing their role in the game for change. 30 years ago, the world was a very different place...30 years from now the world will be a very different place! But...we're here in the now...and our 'now' is shrouded in a suffocating blanket of political correctness...you can't say this, you can't say that! Well, John Trengrove's film dared to say what it wanted to say.
Who said film was not powerful!?!
GODDESS by Karishma Dev Dube
A powerful little film that will make you seethe...it leaves you wondering what would happen if the shoes were on the other feet! It really does pack an almighty punch! Wow!
GOLDFISH by Yorgos Angelopoulos
One for all the male chauvinists out there...
A gay goldfish named Tom [Daley]...cute as buttons, sweet as cherry-pie...perfectly crafted.
A wonderful little film.
HANDSOME & MAJESTIC by Jeff Lee Petry and Nathan Drillot
A trans*boy tells his story...we've heard it all before and, no doubt, will hear it over-and-over again.
A few troubling details...an eyebrow piercing at his age?!? And, bearing in mind that the kid is obviously going to watch this...his parents talking about his attempted suicide is...bewildering.
LANDLINE by Matt Houghton
In all honesty, we thought this was a joke...a helpline for gay farmers in 2018!!!
As bizarre as it may sound - it's a thoroughly accomplished and beautifully made film...really rather moving!
Watch out for the sequel: TreeLine, for gay lumberjacks!
UNINVITED by Seung Yeob Lee
There's nothing worse than an interfering, meddlesome, nagging mother...and, there's nothing worse than having to watch that said mother!
It's an agonisingly slow, long-drawn-out, lifeless affair...making its 20 minute runtime seem like an eternity.
27 March 2018...
Directed by Jenée LaMarque
Sometimes you watch a film and wonder: Who was this made for? If the answer is: Solely for the cast and crew...almost immediately, the word 'oops' pops into mind!
This is an ensemble piece about a [lesbian] bachelorette party...obviously, heavily improvised...the problem with improvisation, it takes a tough director to steer it away from indulgence...oops! Dialogue-driven as it is, the director ought to have screamed 'cut' more than she did, too many conversations go on-and-on taking the film nowhere. Oops. As for the numerous straight-to-camera interjections...jump-cut hell...either the editor just wasn't up to the job...or, lazy writing, lazy performances and lazy direction made these scenes intolerable to work with and you can only work with what you've got! Oops.
There is no story to speak of...unless, a drunken revelation about not having an orgasm counts as a story! There's an irksome little man sniffing around these women like a mangy dog on heat...he manages [inexplicably] to bang the only straight woman there! There's a stoner who's stoned and a singer who sings sounding stoned. Who wrote this stuff?!? The cast did! Oops.
Too many 'oopses'.
Malila: The Farewell Flower:
Directed by Anucha Boonyawatana
Nothing can quite prepare you for the extraordinary beauty found within the frames of Malila - practically, every shot is a perfectly composed work of art.
A spiritual meditation on life, love and death...centred around the potency and purity of Jasmine. This is what can be achieved when a visionary director chooses his crew with care and consideration. There is no weak link here. Seamless editing, breathtaking cinematography, accomplished lighting...and, a sparingly-used soundtrack that waxes and wanes with the gentle, profound emotion. But...the force majeure is the control, by the actors...by this considerable and considerate director.
Even when the horror descends, there is still a sense of serenity...the unfliching grotesque becomes a beauty in itself. There's a moment that will make you gasp...as a tear - quite rightly - trickles down your cheek. You won't want to wipe it away...this film will stay with you.
As immersive as can be imagined...an extraordinary work of art.
28 March 2018...
Directed by Trudie Styler
This will certainly polarise opinion...young Mr Lawther gives a [damn fine] credible performance...but, as a rich-kid with gender identity issues and a penchant for camping it up [at every conceivable opportunity]...the audience may not [or may] get entirely behind him...at first.
But...be patient, he does grow on you...amid the diamante and darkness. It's that...I'd-rather-be-sexually-confused-in-my-mansion-than-in-a-homeless-hostel kind-of-thing! Struggling heirs elicit little empathy! Mr Lawther does a remarkable job...in shifting that opinion!
Now, it has to be said...Bette Midler is tragically [and mind-bogglingly] under-used...she and Mr Lawther could have easily presented a little cabaret performance [in the mansion] for our delectation and titillation...alas, no...although the script was crying out for it!
The director, perhaps, was not entirely in-tune with the audience's thirst for the Divine. It's Bette Midler for Christ's sake...you got her...use her! She ain't cheap!
Freak Show embraces and celebrates individuality and diversity. Despite our 'quibbly moanings' about Bette, it's a great little film.
It delivers the finest of messages...live and let live...all the world's a stage...I am what I am...be what you wanna be!
Directed by Naoko Ogigami
A gentle story about a very big issue: Parenting. Who's fit, who's not, who decides?!?
Nowadays, trans*films have become ten-a-penny. Most follow a tired and tested formula, addressing the same issues, going down the same paths, coming to the same conclusions. So, when a film comes along that goes way off-piste regarding trans*issues, it's like a breath of fresh air.
Somewhat eccentric, always polite...Close-Knit is a well-mannered joy. Sure, there are the usual trans*tropes...but, they are not dwelt upon. Instead, Naoko Ogigami focuses on the budding [surrogate] mother/daughter relationship...as they find a commonality, a trust, a bond, an understanding...and, a love. Knitting becomes their thing...as to what they are knitting...well, you'll just have to see the film! No spoilers here!
Rin Kakihara is mesmerising as the little girl...she displays a rainbow of emotions...as she negotiates the unfamiliar territory she finds herself in. For a kid, trans*acceptance is no big deal, it's the adults we have to worry about...but, kids become adults! Such a positve message, such a positive film.
And...the last shot is an absolute classic!
Silverlake: The View from Here:
Directed by Tom Joslin & Peter Friedman
It's 1993...Philadelphia hit the cinemas like a tidal wave. Whatever you may think of the film, being the first Hollywood-produced, mainstream film [with big names] to deal with HIV/AIDS, it served a purpose...Tom Hanks received the Oscar and delivered an unforgettable acceptance speech...the film, the speech...changed hearts and minds. That's Hollywood!
In the same year...another film was released...
Silverlake is not Hollywood. Silverlake is real. Harrowing...and, heart-breakingly real. A film that celebrates the life, love and death of a couple...two men who were - untimely and cruelly - ripped apart. It's a tough watch. Those toughest of times. Again, apologies...I can write no more.
29 March 2018...
Conversations with Gay Elders: Kerby Lauderdale Episode:
Directed by David Weissman
An interesting and important social history project...preserving the memories [and memory] of older gay men. Those who paved the way for where we are now.
Life stories don't come any more interesting that this. What a life this man has led...from forester to pastor, from married-with-children to divorced-and-gay, Kerby Lauderdale has led his life - in his own words - balanced between despair and delight. He is so open about his past, it's impossible not to be taken along with him...on this emotional ride. When his eyes well up with tears...your eyes will well up too.
David Weissman conducts the interview with the utmost of respect...and, care. Daring to ask the unthinkable...he still gets answers. This really is a masterclass in how to conduct an interview...documentarists: Watch, listen and learn. This is how you do it...choose your subjects wisely, put them at their ease, converse...and, listen.
Thank you, Mr Lauderdale, for sharing.
Altered States: Collection of short films...
BURN BRIDGE by Rhys JONES
A well-produced film...about two ghastly teenage boys. Perhaps, a serious injection of 'likeability' would have made this film more appealing. Still, there's talent on show.
EDMUND THE MAGNIFICIENT by Ben OCKRENT
As far as short films go...this is up there with the best of them. A gay pig no less!!! The production values are off-the-scale...and, with narration by Ian McKellan...this film has pedigree and [massive, and we mean gigantic] balls!
MISSED CONCEPTIONS by Ruby PARKER-HARBORD
A lesbian couple want a baby...sperm donor wanted! Not exactly original. The problem with this film is that it doesn't know what it is...it starts off being a 'comedy' [that laughs at 'quirky' gay men]...then, descends into a melodramatic meltdown...with a predictable ending.
OUTLINES by Ellie ROGERS
Despite being a decent production, technically speaking...plausibility flies out the window in next to no time. Would you really get the prostitute - who has just bonked your father's brains out - to pierce your nose? Thought not! Such a bizarre idea for a film!
THE SERMON by Dean PUCKETT
It's that old abomination thing again...with creepy characters by the truckload! Yes, horror is a difficult genre to pull off...especially with a short on a tight budget. But...when the grim reaper makes an appearance...this becomes a comedy!
THESE ARE MY HANDS by Evi TSILIGARIDOU
As with all experimental films...a required, acquired taste is neccessary to fully appreciate what the filmmakers are trying to do and/or say.
30 March 2018...
Directed by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh & Daniel Powell
American, independent, lesbian dramas really do need to become more distinguishable and less stereotypical. A tight budget should not necessarily mean short shrift with regards to originality.
Let's move away from the hard-drinking, home-wrecking, guitar-playing, instantly-in-love protagonist. Becks is all of these and more, she may sing like an angel...but, that's where those angelic similarities end...for Becks is not the most likeable of characters. Being predatory and [somewhat] parasitical, not exactly redeeming qualities, ensures that any sense of empathy is in short supply.
The film works best when Becks and her mother are together, in her house [her rules]...their conflict is startling, hurtful and truthful...culminating in the mother saying exactly how it is:
Do you think being gay is an excuse for being selfish?
Ouch! But, this is where the film comes alive, a mother who is trying and a daughter who isn't...if only these scenes were as long and as frequent as all the endless snogging...then, Becks would have been a far better film.
Hard Paint / Tinta Bruta:
Directed by Filipe Matzembacher & Marcio Reolon
The deserving recipient of the Teddy Award and the Premio Maguey Award for Best Film...
Just how far the internet has invaded our personal spaces, just how much we are willing to divulge on social media...when privacy was once the much-defended, prized possession of the many...the younger generations are increasingly throwing it all away. What won't they reveal!?!
Once upon a time, it was the happy hooker who did not kiss...now, it's cyber-survival-sex-work...with no touching!
Is it an underclass or a sub-culture... when the young reveal themselves at their most initmate, in the confines and safety of their own home, to [potentially] millions of voyeuristic eyes? To earn a buck or two without doing a decent day's work...or, crossing their threshold. This salacious 'working-from-home' must have consequences...serious psychological consequences! Or, are the young [now] able to lightly dismiss acts of moral turpitude with the flick of a hand?!? T'was a phase!
A serious state-of-affairs, raising some serious questions...which Hard Paint is not afraid to address and answer. There's a threat, there's a dread, there's a love and a thread that runs throughout. It's bleak, it's not-so bleak...it's colourful, it's pallid...and nothing is simply black and white. It's explosive, it implosive...it's corrosive, immersive and deceptive. This is a reality...and, with just one flick of the hand, it doesn't seem so grim after all. An astonishing, challenging piece of work.
Independent filmmaking at its absolute finest.
Brown is the Warmest Colour: Short Film Collection
BROWN QUEERS by Michelle Williams GAMAKER
CHUDALA by Maaria SAYED
THE FISH CURRY (MAACHER JHOL) by Abhishek VERMA
31 March 2018...
Directed by Stevie Cruz-Martin
This is exactly why we need film festivals...to find this kind of film, to find this kind of voice!
It took a while...but, at last, someone had the balls to address the current [often confusing] hot potato: Gender. Whether it be non-binary, gender-fluid, gender-queer, gender non-conforming, transgender, transsexual...Pulse puts its finger on it! And, presses...hard!
There's no pussy-footing around disability, there's no fluffing around trans*issues. Pulse will - indeed - upset many...because, the writer [and star], Daniel Monks speaks a truth...and, it's harsh...there's no hiding behind a politically correct, protective shroud here. This is how he sees it. This is how many see it! Academics have bamboozled us with the whole 'Gender is not biology' thing...it's a bit like LeVay's 'Gay Gene' in the 90s - people [us] cling to anything that gives them [us] legitimacy. We are not freaks. We are prime, healthy and wholesome examples of medical phenomena. And, as for the religious bible-bashing righteous, it's simple: God doesn't make mistakes! Put that in your God-fearing pipes, you can all huff and puff all you want as we celebrate our validity!
Getting back to the film...
Imagine you are a teenage boy with a physical disability and an unrequited [hidden] love for your [straight] best friend...you are given the opportunity to switch bodies...no more disability...and, you can chose your sex [or, it is gender?]! That love could be requited! You choose the opposite to your assigned-at-birth sex, still retaining your assigned-at-birth sexuality. You become a girl with a [gay] boy's mind...or, you remain a [gay] boy trapped inside a girl's body?!? Confusing, isn't it? And, remember...this is a choice! Where there once was a penis...there is no more!
Pulse plays - exquisitely - with both perception and identity. The sustained momentum of the film is staggering...it gets to a point when you think these filmmakers cannot take it any further...yet, they do. I have to live with this for the rest of my life is a line that will resonate, deafen and anger. This is a film that chimes with a chain of challenges...this is a voice that needs to be heard!
Directed by Jari Osborne
Here's a film that every able-bodied person needs to see. Andrew Gurza doesn't mince with words...he just gets right on and tells it how it is...to be disabled and gay and sexual.
Indeed, a good documentary should be revelatory...Picture This reveals much...and more, to the point where some will feel less comfortable listening to what Andrew and Stella have to say. Listen and learn! The reality is...people can be cruel. Any film that can bring about a change [in people's preception with regards to disability] is most welcome. Picture This does just that...with straight-talking warmth.
A Home at the End of the World:
Directed by Michael Mayer
Gentle, adorable and heart-wrenching.
This was Michael Mayer's debut feature...way back in 2004...heralding the beginning of what seemed to be a glorious cinematic career. Sadly, that didn't happen...nought queerer than the film industry!
Definitely, a film that deserves a re-visit. For those who haven't seen it...see it! A young Colin Farrell uses that boyish charm to perfection...he will make you cry. Such a lovely film.
You Can't Always Get What You Want: Short Film Collection
MARGUERITE by Marianne FARLEY
MINE IS YOURS by Sam COYLE
THREE CENTIMETRES by Lara ZEIDAN
Y by Gina WENZEL
1 April 2018...
Battle of the Sexes:
Directed by Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton
Is it a tennis film? Or, is it a Billie-Jean King behind-the-scenes bio-pic sort of film? It's a bit of both...where seriousness gets lost in a pedestrian, more comedic than it should've been, screenplay.
Yes...it is an entertaining and topical film...but, at what expense? The Battle of the Sexes was a media circus helmed by the contemptible, publicity-seeking, money-hungry Bobby Riggs. Steve Carrell's portrayal does him no favours...but, does paint him with a lighter brush than he [possibly] deserved. Emma Stone does a convincing job...in a watered-down, often-distracted, version of events.
If you really want a film that examines sexism and discrimination [in sport], you will have to look a little further...otherwise, as an introduction to this ludicrous event...it serves its purpose.
God's Own Country:
Directed by Francis Lee
Yes, yes, yes...we've heard all about this being the British 'Brokeback' - sheep farmers in the wilderness! But, this is so much more!
It's raw and relatable. It's rural and real. It screams...love can be found in the remotest of places!
Bleak...most definitely. Heart-warming...the cockles of your heart will be on fire! Wanna see chemistry on-screen? This is a reaction like no other!
Mr Lee uses words more sparingly than most [first-feature] directors...the film will leave you speechless...and, if you are a certain age with a surfeit of experience, nostalgia and warmth will spread through your body...as if you are thawing from a winter's chill. Yes, this film resonates. Mr Lee's experience resonates...and, communicates!
Unfortunately, the power of the film will be lost on those it would affect most...racists and homophobes should be forced to sit, watch and learn...about hard work, harsh environments and the great big thumping heart of humanity that prevails.
A deft, detailed, delicious [under-stated] triumph!
Thank you Mr Lee, for communicating.
A Fantastic Woman / Una Mujer Fantástica:
Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Oscar and Teddy award winner...what is it about A Fantastic Woman that has garnered so much praise and so many accolades? Well, it all depends on how you watch it...differing points-of-view will interpret the film [entirely] differently!
Those expecting a trans-infused, camp-extravaganza are going to be bitterly disappointed! The cynics who will regard it as just another addition to the trans*tsunami that has swept across the film [and television] production boards over the last year or so...probably will say: Told you so!
And then there are those who will play the hot potato of the moment...the political correctness card. Recently, there has been a much [heated] debate on the subject of trans*actors [exlusively] playing trans*characters...a debate that is as damaging to the acting profession as a double-bladed sword in a massacre. It's acting! Whoever takes a role - regardless of their gender identity - needs to deliver a plausible [and compelling] performance...Daniela Vega does just that - regardless of her gender identity - she acts!
You wouldn't expect a [real] serial killer to play a [fictional] serial killer - that's just downright ludicrous! Now, let that debate cease, here and now!
A Fantastic Woman is about grief. Sebastián Lelio delivers his story with a resolute composure...this composure either makes or breaks the film, depending on your point-of-view. There are no mad histrionics, there are no hysterical outbursts...Marina Vidal is staggeringly polite, simply compliant and systematically stripped of her love...by those who vehemently disapprove of her. This is a Chillean high[ish] society family...scandal will be avoided at all costs.
No denying, it is a hard watch...resisting the urge to scream at the screen, egging Marina on to stop bowing and bending is...an intolerable hardship in itself. Just imagine what she's going through!!! But...will she break, will she blow, will she take what is rightfully hers? Well...you'll just have to watch this fine, fine film to find out!
A film most worthy of all the praise and accolades.
Call Me by Your Name:
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
This is going to go down like a lead balloon...we didn't hate it, we didn't love it...we [kind of] liked it...with reservations.
The word 'masterpiece' has been bandied about a little too liberally when it comes to Call Me By Your Name...it's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, in places, it's incredibly scrappy...both in terms of writing and direction.
Nominated for 4 Oscars...all [thoroughly] undeserved.
Timothée Chalamet delivers a competent performance as the awkward, precocious teen...a character who suffers from hypothermia, he is so devoid of warmth...teens are meant to be difficult, that's their fabric. This one...well, let's just say 'detestable' is too strong a word...but, it's going in the right direction.
As for Arnie Hammer - deservedly not nominated - again, gives a competent perfomance replete with bad dancing and soft-boiled eggs...as the teen's preferred 'cherry-picker' [the fruit metaphor is carried tiresomely throughout the film] - or, as many dissenting voices have likened him [his character] to that of a statutory rapist/paedophile...the age of consent, homosexually & heterosexually, in Italy is 14 years old and has been since 1890. So, stick that in your dissenting pipes!
Now...James Ivory has directed some timeless classics: Room with a View, Howards End, The Remains of the Day & Maurice (which he also adapted for the screen). 14 years after his last screenplay, he gives the world this...and, increduously, received the Oscar nod.
Call Me By Your Name has three scenes that should have been deleted and/or re-worked. Two are distinctly directorial and the one Mr Ivory is responsible for is pivotal...and, catastrophic. When the tiresome teen decides to spill the beans about his sexuality...instead of a great out-pouring of emotional sluice as they dither round a monument for fallen soldiers, we get, to paraphrase:
I have something I need to tell you.
That's it!!! Talk about anticlimactic. However, there is one speech that soars emotionally...near the end, when the tiresome teen's father gives him a few words of advice and imparts a mighty suppressed truth. Truly, heartbreaking!
Luca Guadagnino may have been given the Oscar nod for Best Film...but, not for Best Director. There's a good reason...the film is filled with frilly, mundane irrelevances. In other words, padding. Oh, if your actor doesn't know how to smoke, don't let them smoke. A good 30 minutes could have been cut...if not 40...thus ensuring that the snail's pace would be increased exponentially...making it a better film! Ever heard of: Less is more!
Guadagnino's ideas surrounding...sex and suggestion...are particularly painful to watch. Those boiled eggs! No way of God's hallowed earth are soft-boiled eggs sexual! That ridiculous peach scene - who masturbates with a peach? Ever heard of a melon?!? Pass on the banana!
Once upon a time, when [heterosexual] lovers got down to do the dirty, the direcor cut to crashing waves and swirling surge [or, surging swirls]. Guadagnino has given the world the homosexual equivalent...swaying trees. Yes, when Elio & Oliver finally get down to do the dirty...the camera zooms through the window and settles on some swaying trees! It it wasn't so bad, it would be funny...you can ruffle my foliage anytime!
The Oscar-nominated song...Mystery of Love...a Simon & Garfunkel-ish sounding reject.
All this that has been said...in conclusion, we didn't hate the film, we didn't love it...we [kind of] liked [bits of] it...with a few [massive] reservations. Not the masterpiece that so many have [erroneously] proclaimed it to be!
Sometimes You Get What You Need: Short Film Collection
ELENA by Ayerim VILLANUEVA
MAI by Marta GONZÁLEZ
WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’ by Jacqueline PEPALL
A massive thank you to BFI:Flare...for access to an incredible selection of film. And, to all the filmmakers.
Everything we watched...
And, some of the short films...