Tuesday 27 February 2018

Shorts Selection

Journey’s End (2017), as I’ve mentioned in another blog, first opened as a play in 1928. It was directed in the theatre by James Whale. It ran for two years in London and, concurrently, one year on Broadway. Whale continued to direct Journey’s End in New York and, subsequently, directed the movie version in 1930. The following year he gave Frankenstein (1931) to posterity. James Whale was a gay man from Dudley.

Whale’s final days were fictionalised in the bio-pic Gods and Monsters (1998) starring Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser and Lynn Redgrave. Lynn Redgrave died of breast cancer, aged 67, in 2010. This month Brendan Fraser gave the most revealing celebrity interview by any movie star for many years. The toll that his acting roles have taken on his health is interesting enough. Then he explains how #metoo includes men too. Please check out Zach Baron’s interview with Brendan Fraser in GQ magazine.

Ian McKellen is in one of the shorts being shown – free of charge, gratis and for nothing - by Borderlines 2018 tomorrow at 2.30pm, Wednesday 28 February.

He is the narrator of Edmund the Magnificent (2017, 14 minutes) which stars David Bradley, Rebecca Front and Mark Bonnar. It was written and directed by Ben Ockrent. The comedy, set in a picture-book version of the countryside, concerns a country show, a farmer and his pig. The pig is having problems in the bedroom. Here’s the trailer:
Edmund The Magnificent - Trailer from HAUS Pictures on Vimeo.

The Full Story (2017, 8 minutes) was written by Daisy Jacobs and directed by Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Wilder. Her previous animation, and her graduation film, The Bigger Picture (2015), won a BAFTA and was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Short Film. In The Full Story (not a title made for search engines) a man, selling his childhood home, recalls its tense history. It is animated using various techniques. The film is in English but it was made in France, a major centre in animation. Here’s the trailer:

Submissions ÉCU 2015 - The Bigger Picture TRAILER from ecufilmfestival on Vimeo.

Remora (2016, 19 minutes) was written and directed by David Schofield. Filmed in Rhyl and Towyn on the North Wales coast, in November 2015, the story begins with a loan shark, his debt collectors and those vulnerable people, addicts and the mentally ill, who provide their bread and butter. Events happen. Here’s the trailer:

Remora Trailer from David Schofield on Vimeo.

And here’s the soundtrack, written by William Morris and performed by William Morris and The Didsbury String Quartet:
This is the film’s own website.

Ramona and The Chair (2016, 12 minutes) was written and directed by Dominique Lecchi. Ramona talks to her therapist but – don’t ask me how because I haven’t seen any of these – an empty chair in the room gets involved. You may recognise the empty chair from its work alongside Clint Eastwood.

I could not find a clip. The director discusses her film here:
The short has its own website.

Lecchi’s previous, and debut, short Balsa Wood (2014, 10 minutes) in its entirety:

Balsa Wood from Dominique Lecchi on Vimeo.

Fifth and finally, the comedy Some Sweet Oblivious Antidote (2017, 15 minutes). The title comes from ‘the Scottish play’, Act 5 Scene 3:

Cure her of that.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?

“Official synopsis: Exasperated by her daughter Ivie’s refusal to converse in anything other than Shakespearean verse, Esosa resorts to psychoanalysis for a cure. The psychiatrist and her therapist struggle for a solution until a full-on Shakespearean quote-off on a theatre stage uncovers the reason for Ivie’s affliction.” Source.

Another article.

It was written by Moya O’Shea, directed by Christiana Ebohon, has “a largely female crew” and a mostly British/Nigerian cast. Wunmi Mosaku is Esosa, Fatima Koroma is Ivie and Sir Lenworth George Henry, CBE plays the therapist.

Hence, three of these five shorts get a F-Rating and two of them are triple F-rated.

Ebohon has directed 96 (ninety-six) episodes of the beloved BBC1 dinner-time serial Doctors and a couple of the international smash-hit Father Brown as well as instalments of Emmerdale, Eastenders and Hollyoaks. Mark Williams, who plays the title role of Father Brown, was born in Bromsgrove.

I used to plough through scores of short films 15 years ago and, a few stand-outs aside, the quality of film-making and standard of story is far higher these days. Believe me.
Thirsting for more? Go mad.

Lenny “Lenny Lenny Len, Lenny Lenny Len, Lenny Henry Show” Henry is a Shakespearean actor from Dudley. As Stan Laurel didn’t say: All roads lead to Dudley but a pencil must be led. And we’re done. Enjoy the flicks.

Robin Clarke

Sunday 25 February 2018

I Still Hide To Smoke

I’d be surprised if this Borderlines came up with a film as relevant, shocking, courageous and timely as the one I saw last night at The Courtyard in Hereford. I’m sure I won’t see one for which, in its first incarnation as a play, the director was doused with petrol and had a lit cigarette flicked at her in a mercifully failed attempt to burn her to death. Rayhana Obermeyer’s I Still Hide To Smoke, set in a hammam in Algeria, is more than a revelation - it’s an urgent and necessary film about women, freedom, religion, sexuality, men and liberty. It has the backing of Costa-Gavras, echoes of Nell Dunn’s ‘Steaming’, and the lineage of Aristophanes ‘Lysistrata’ - not inappropriate for a film, through force of circumstance, mainly shot in Greece. The strikingly passionate performance of Hiam Abbas, an Israeli Palestinian actress most recently seen in Blade Runner 2024, brings to mind Brecht’s Mother Courage, whilst the final images of the film - countless black headscarves floating away on the wind - are a more than timely prophecy of the hijab protest we are now seeing in Tehran. Alas, last night’s screening of I Still Hide To Smoke was the only BFF screening, and the official YouTube trailer -

- isn’t, in my view, all that good. Anne Cottringer’s excellent BFF programme notes are available online, but for anyone who’s interested - and that should mean everyone - the French distributors press kit is a very thorough and beautifully produced summary of the film and its principal players. You can find it here. I urge you to seek out this brave and important film.

Stephen Hopkins

Saturday 24 February 2018

The Subliminal Strand

Phantom Thread

One delight of a new Borderlines programme is the search for strands the team may not have known they had. A 'Phantom Thread’ if you like. It is usually a good idea to set a story in a time and place. A background of civil unrest or civil war forces each character’s personal credo into sharp relief; a milieu between the war movies and tales of the defiant dispossessed. Unlike The Death of Stalin (2017) here’s a place where people can represent competing political ideologies with only the occasional threat of sudden violent death. There’s a 'There’s a Riot Going On' season: Milou en Mai (1990; France 1968), I Still Hide to Smoke (2016, Algeria 1995), The Nile Hilton Incident (2017, Egypt’s Arab Spring 2011).

Borderlines 2018 boasts a rich seam for art lovers. Ai Weiwei is best known to occasional browsers of Sunday supplements as the artist behind the 'Sunflower Seeds' sculpture at Tate Modern, London, in 2010: millions of individually hand-crafted, porcelain, sunflower seeds. Weiwei directed Human Flow (2017), a documentary about the 65 million refugees currently displaced around the World. I predict, like Steve McQueen or Anton Corbijn before him, that the framing is impeccable.
Loving Vincent

There are two bio-pics of artists: Loving Vincent (2017, Vincent Van Gogh) is animated in his Post-Impressionist style. His paintings are brought to life. Find out what 'Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate)' was really like! Maudie (2016, Maud Lewis) is a big favourite of Toyah Willcox: “I love films! I have an expensive DVD library! One of the joys of where I live is that I'm 50 yards away from an arts centre that shows a film every Monday morning. I was blown away by Maudie with Sally Hawkins. It's about the naive artist Maud Lewis. Sally Hawkins’ performance in this is one of the best technical character journeys I have ever seen.” The Guardian
JR and Agnes Varda in Faces Places

Sally Hawkins’s last four movies are Paddington (2014), Maudie (2016), The Shape of Water (2017), Paddington 2 (2017). That is strong form. They all feature plenty of water. Agnès Varda’s latest documentary Faces Places (2017) was made with the artist JR. They are a good fit. He photographs the people they meet on their travels around France and turns these images into murals. His approach brings to mind Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing’s 'Signs That Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say' (1993) on the scale of Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner’s poster campaigns. Having found JR’s website –  – I’m reasonably wrong. His humour is much sillier. This is what JR displayed on a wall in Bethlehem.
The Nile Hilton Incident

Followers of Swedish cinema should note the five Ingmar Bergman films and three other Swedish directors. Look out for the acclaimed thriller The Nile Hilton Incident and the very enjoyable comedy A Man Called Ove (2017). Give the latter a go if you enjoy a swooping character arc but couldn’t stomach Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). Borderlines 2018 opens with Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winning The Square (2017), a study of ‘the art game’. Östlund’s previous film - Force Majeure (2014), an account of a family holiday at a ski resort that reveals a stark home truth - looked good and was good. The design left no shadows for the disgraced father to hide in.
The Square

The Square
 is a big favourite of Laurie Anderson: “There are not enough comedies now, so I was relieved to see this. It’s hilarious. It skewers the art world, which is long overdue: that whole scene is pompous and ready for satire. The film looks at what happens when people step out of their social structures in Stockholm, and it makes you realise how isolated people are within their scenes. Elisabeth Moss is fantastic in it.” The Guardian

I only pay attention to the film recommendations of female solo artists who had big hit singles during 1981. It has never let me down.

Robin Clarke
Festival Volunteer