Thursday 13 October 2011

Hereford's foothold in Norwegian gastronomy

It's the autumn festival season and Festival Director David Gillam is currently on a gruelling (or should it be grilling?) itinerary that takes him to no less than three film festivals in the space of two weeks.

Currently at the first of this, the (to us) perversely named Films from the South Festival in Oslo, he writes, "Sandwiched between Parc Teatret cinema where I saw Mama Africa today and Villa Paradiso, the best Italian restaurant in Oslo, is the Hereford Steak House!!" BlackBerry blackout permitting, picture to follow.

Here's a precis of some of the films he's seen so far:
Zhang Yimou's latest Under The Hawthorn Tree is a maudlin, long drawn out tear jerker, a 70s period piece about two young comrades who meet during the cultural revolution but whose love is thwarted by numerous obstacles, both ideological and familial. Nicely made, of course, with an attractive innocence and naivety but too long, too simplistic.

Sleeping Sickness, winner of Berlinale Best Director Award 2011 (also playing at the BFI London Film Festival) is an interesting, disquieting film about a German doctor, Velten, and his life in Cameroon fighting an epidemic of sleep sickness.  It's a strange, disorienting picture of the white man in Africa and his relationship to the indigenous population, very good in an everyday nightmarish sort of way.

Which Way Home, nominated for Best Documentary Oscar 2011, is an excellent US/Mexican documentary about the young Central American migrants, some as young as 9, who ride the rails up to the American border in the hope of crossing to the promised land. A couple of Honduran 13 year olds, through the dangers of hoping freight cars, assaults by police, abuse and abandonment by people smugglers, support from Christian centres, locals and the Mexican immigration officials. Most are caught and end up in hostels before being sent home, some die in the desert, some are killed or maimed by 'the beast' (their name for the freight trains). Emotionally involving, well edited, visually exciting look at a world I may have been aware of but which I now know so much more about.

Man Without a Cellphone is an Israeli film that has a real feel of the texture of the life of an Israeli Arab, a second class citizen stifled in so many ways but resilient when joining with others to protest and survive. It's the uplifting story of a group of Palestine villagers who unite against the cellphone mast that the Israelis have built on their land, humane, humorous, well-drawn portraits of a wide group of individuals, young and old, male and female.

A beautifully scripted and well-crafted Brazilian film, So Hard To Forget deals with  lost love, how to survive it and move on. In London, strict, controlling English professor Julia is trying to keep up appearances while getting over her break up with Antonia. Against the backdrop of Rio's sophisticated gay scene, her flamboyant best friend Hugo has troubles of his own trying to forget dead lover Pedro while looking after the self-harming Julia. Into the mix, comes Julia's keenest student Carmen (who has a huge crush on her), and several other colourful characters. Skating between soap opera,  and mature reflection  with overtones of Wuthering Heights this has universal appeal for anyone who has ever been in love.

True love, true love so hard to forget”    Bob Dylan, Street Legal

From Singapore, the eponymous Tatsumi is the beautifully animated story of manga artist, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, the father of adult 'gegika' style of comic art. Surprisingly dark (for those of us who know nothing about manga), staying visually  true to Tatsumi's twisted drawing style it intersperses fragments of his stories – Hiroshima survivors, failing artists, murder, sex - and tells the artist's life as he himself depicted it in his manga memoirs. Different, but I suspect strictly for Manga fans.