Saturday, March 29, 2014

BFI Flare: Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger

BFI Flare

“Objects have more than one meaning at the same time depending on the point of view and the context”

Kate Bornstein is utterly postmodern.  She is a proud embodiment of a hypnotic yet distasteful theory that attempts to explain the dissolution between opinions on high art and popular culture, and the subsequent redefinition of what it is to have intrinsic ‘meaning’. 

Kate has spent the last few years touring the USA trying to recruit people to the idea that they should live their lives in whatever way that they want, whether illegal, immoral or sadomasochistic, as long as they “don’t be mean” to anyone.  And she makes an incredibly convincing case.

Kate Bornstein 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

BFI Flare: Born This Way (2014)

BFI Flare

At a time when Western liberal countries are patting themselves on the back about the progressive march towards tolerance for homosexuality and equal marriage, it is easy to forget just how hard it is in other parts of the world to be ‘out’ about your sexuality.  And there is nowhere where it is harder to be gay right now than Cameroon.

Born This Way

Born This Way follows a handful of insanely brave young Cameroonians as they live their lives out of the closet in the most dangerous place in the world for LGBT citizens. Stories about beatings and mass gang rape are common; some of which are so violent that they have lead to permanent paralysis...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

BFI Flare: Valentine Road (2013)

In an era of mass rampage shootings in America, body count came to define how much attention was bestowed on any one incident by the media.  Tragedies such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and more recently Denver and Sandy Hook became hideous international news stories, where school shootings with fewer victims got less attention.

One of the stories that broke out of this disturbing cycle was the tragic shooting of a young 14 year-old called Larry King, a Latino teenager who was shot two days before Valentine’s Day in 2008.  A student called Brandon McInery shot Larry at point blank range during an I.T. class in his school in Oxnard, California.  The motive was immediately evident due to Larry’s open homosexuality and cross-dressing…

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

BFI Flare: Age Of Consent (2014)

On the 21st March 1996 underneath a railway in Vauxhall, London, the UK’s first men-only rubber & leather fetish bar opened its doors.  Inspired by some of the more niche clubs in Berlin, The Hoist was to be a space where men could meet and explore their sexuality in a safe and kinky environment.

The documentary by Charles Lum & Todd Verow is a fiercely proud celebration of individual freedoms and consensual sex.  Combining interviews about the history of legislation and homosexuality with images of explicit gay sex and a tour of the bar – the film is clearly made for gay audiences.

Interviews with Peter Tatchell, Joseph Sonnabend and Brian Robinson provide an interesting historical context for famous injustices such as section 28, differing ages of consent and the spanner case.  The most shocking fact being that the law that sent Oscar Wilde to prison (established in 1533) was only repealed in 2003!

Monday, March 24, 2014

BFI Flare: Concussion (2013)

BFI Flare

Subverting conventional media stereotypes, debut writer/director Stacie Passon has created a lesbian fantasy film with little interest in the gaze of male audiences.

Abby (Robin Weigert) is a sexually frustrated upper-middle class housewife living with Kate (Julie Fain Lawrence) and their two sons in the suburbia around New York State.  After being hit in the head by her son’s baseball she begins to question her happiness and ends up buying a property in Manhattan as a renovation project to escape her mundane family life. 


Saturday, March 22, 2014

BFI Flare: La Pasión de Michelangelo (2012)

[The Passion Of Michelangelo]

In 1983, a small town in Chile called Penablanca became the centre of attention due to a controversial local ‘miracle’.  A young boy named Miguel Angel claimed to be able to speak directly with the Virgin Mary.  This might seem somewhat dubious, but to an extremely devout catholic town in a country ruled by the dictator General Pinochet it was a miracle from heaven.

The young boy lived with a priest, Father Alcazar who would lead him up to the top of a hill and relay his metaphysical conversation over a speaker-system to a crowd of adoring fans.  This eventually led to a priest, Father Ruiz Tagle, being sent by the central church authorities to discover whether the boy was authentic or just an elaborate hoax as more and more people begin to make the pilgrimage to Miguel’s small town.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interview with Brian Robinson (BFI Flare festival programmer)

This weekend sees the opening of the BFI Flare festival in the Southbank Centre in London.  I managed to ask the programmer a couple of questions about this years schedule...

Could you talk a little about the three different strands this year? (Heart, Body, Mind)

BR: We launched the new structure last year and it’s a way of dividing up what can seem like an overwhelming number of films. In Hearts, films about love, romance and friendship include some of the films that have created the most anticipation.  Dramas such as Sarah Prefers to Run, Reaching for the Moon, G.B.F. and Last Summer. The world premiere of Derek Jarman’s Will You Dance With Me?, a video test piece filmed in Benjy’s nightclub in 1984 is another highlight.

Bodies has an interesting range of films about sex, identity and transformation including Bruce LaBruce’s Gerontophilia about physical obsession between a young man and older man; a fabulous lesbian comedy in Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? and a documentary on London’s infamous leather bar The Hoist called Age of Consent.

Minds features reflections on art, politics and community, which means that there are a lot of documentaries including The Abominable Crime, a powerful film about the struggle for LGBT equality in Jamaica, folk singer Rae Spoon in My Prairie Home and Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger, a fantastic insight into the life of a gender outlaw.

How have you balanced the fiction vs. non-fiction programming?

BR: We do aim to try for equal fiction to non-fiction but it’s not an exact science and we really just try to pick the best films.  There are fewer dramas to chose from and lesbian dramas are the hardest to find.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Interview with Stephen Hackett (Belfast Film Festival)

The Belfast Film Festival this year celebrates its 14th year and is the most important event on the calendar in Northern Ireland.  I asked Stephen Hackett, the programmer of the festival to answer a few questions:

How many films have been chosen for this year’s event?

SH: 128 Films and events.

Could you say a little about some of the distinct thematic strands that you are promoting this year, especially the Cine Roma events?

SH: The idea of Cine Roma is to present films in locations throughout the city (e.g. using schools and churches) and also to showcase films that deal with socio-political issues. It’s part of a new initiative that we have created, which is to develop outreach work into different communities and social groups in the city. We intend to develop this throughout the year, taking films on the road to locations throughout Northern Ireland.

So within Cineroma we have a number of themes such as 'Spirituality and Film', 'Sense of place'; which examines representation of different communities in documentary film. The 'Addiction' strand of films looks at substance and alcohol abuse with discussions following the screenings.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Film Review: The Machine (2014)

Just as Britain is starting to get its collective head around emerging from an economic recession into a period of recovery, a homegrown film is released that says that we shouldn’t be too complacent about it as economic collapse is looming.

Vincent (Toby Stevens) is a computer scientist trying to create artificially intelligent software that will pass the Turing Test in order to implant into the heads of recently killed soldiers to bring them back to life.  His work brings him into contact with Ava (Caity Lotz), a radical graduate who has created a program that is more advanced than any Vincent has ever seen.  They begin to work together at the Ministry of Defence under the supervision of ‘Thomson’ (Denis Lawson), a shady military hawk who is trying to develop robots as the perfect weapon.

Needless to say, things don’t go to plan and the technology puts the progressive Vincent against the authoritarian Thomson over how best to use Ava’s technology…

Monday, March 10, 2014

Interview with Edward Fletcher (Soda Pictures)

To kick off our series of interviews UK Distribution companies I got in touch with the Managing Director of Soda Pictures to talk a bit about the company and where it fits into the British Film Industry.  Edward Fletcher has founded the company in 2002 and currently works in Blossom Street in London.

Thanks for answering a few questions.  Could you start by telling me a bit about yourself in your own words?

EF: OK well, I worked in a cinema as a duty manager in Croydon and then from there went to manage a cinema in Cambridge for a few years.  From there I did an MA in Film and then worked at the ICA (Institue of Contemporary Arts), which has a small distribution-trading arm called ICA Projects.  Its remit was essentially to find films from new directors, and films that push the form. 

It was through that work that I found out about distribution in a miniature form, so I got together with a contact that I knew (Eve Gabereau) from a very different part of the industry from a marketing background and together we formed Soda Pictures in 2002.

Did you have some kind of a ‘mission statement’?

EF: Well that has to be seen in a historical context.  If you look at that period around 2002/2003 there were a lot of positive factors in the industry:  there was the birth of a whole range of new film magazines, like Empire, Hot Dog and Total Film.  UGC Cinemas took over the Virgin chain, and as a French owned chain brought a rather more European approach to programming giving new opportunities to play commercial foreign language films in selected mutiplexes, this was echoed in the acquisition choices of their own distribution company. 

Also the emergence of companies like Optimum Releasing who released Amores Perros, which was one of the first foreign language films to be ‘conventionally’ marketed to play in multiplexes.  It was very much based on the idea that the studios had a good model that attracted audiences so the direction for Art House or Independent cinema should be to not market into a ghetto.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Film Review: Highway of Tears (2014)

Highway Of Tears

In British Columbia, the furthest Western province in Canada, there is a highway that has become known locally as the ‘Highway Of Tears’.  It runs from Prince George inland to Prince Rupert on the coast and is surrounded by blue-collar industrial heartland.  The reason that is has garnered this reputation is due to the tragically high number of abductions and missing persons cases reported there.

Over the past four decades 18 official cold cases had been left unsolved, with as many as 40 unofficial cases attributed to the same highway.  The new documentary from Matthew Smiley tries to tell the stories of some of these women as well as creating a narrative as to why the cases went unnoticed for so long: Institutional racism. 

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

At the top of a funicular in the heart of Zubrowka, a fictional Eastern country soon to be subsumed by World War 2, lays the magnificent Grand Budapest Hotel: a hotel that attracts the finest aristocrats from across Europe who flock to spend time there.  This is mostly due to the diligent and enigmatic concierge Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), who has a series of liaisons with his most esteemed guests – as long as they are ageing, rich and blonde.

One of these guests is Madame D (Tilda Swinton), a wealthy widow who is found dead one morning in the eponymous hotel due to being poisoned.  Gustave and his lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) the narrator of the plot, rush to the old woman’s wake to discover that she has bequeathed the priceless painting Boy With Apple to him.  This causes outrage amongst her extended family that then accuses him of murder, leading Zero to hide the painting back in the hotel as Gustave is taken to jail. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Interview with Framestore about Gravity and VFX

The big winner at this year's Academy Awards was undoubtably Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. It won all of the major technical awards including Best Cinemtography and Best Visual Effects, so I got in touch with the post-production company that was involved with the film to ask them a few questions...

How does Framestore stand out from the other post-production companies in the UK? 

FS: It’s a very competitive sector – every year a number of the VFX nominees for the big film awards come from the UK. This year we stand out because of how well Gravity has been received and we’re truly very grateful for all the attention our work has been given.

Are there any services that are unique to the London offices of the company?

FS: Really we’re just one Framestore – anything we can do in London we can do in Montreal, New York or LA too and we collaborate on a lot of projects and people move between the offices. For the Super Bowl for example our three advertising offices all worked together on five different campaigns, while RoboCop had work by both our London and Montreal offices.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Interview with Ingrid Kvale (Secrets of Bones)

This month, BBC Four is airing a six-part documentary series looking at how bones have shaped evolution in vertebrates.  It is incredibly interesting and is presented by Ben Garrod, a scientist with obvious passion for his subject matter. 

But it is also beautifully filmed so I wanted to find out more, I approached one of the directors Ingrid Kvale on Twitter as I wanted to find out more about the show and how she came to work on the project:

Secrets of Bones director
Ingrid Kvale
You are the director (and one of the producers) of the BBC’s beautiful Secrets of Bones – how did you get the opportunity to work on the project?

Ingrid Kvale: I produced episodes 3 and 5 of the Secrets of Bones. The series producer was Aaron Paul. He directed episodes 1 and 6.  Sue Doody directed episodes 2 and 4.  The series really was a team effort. I frequently produce and direct films for the BBC Natural History Unit and I was particularly keen on working on this series as the subject and fresh approach excited me as a filmmaker. Luckily I got selected to work on it.

Oscars 2014: Full List of Winners

So the results are in and 2013 is officially over at last.

Production and Direction

12 Years a Slave

Alfonso Cuaron — Gravity


Matthew McConaughey — Dallas Buyers Club

Cate Blanchett — Blue Jasmine

Jared Leto — Dallas Buyers Club

Lupita Nyong’o — 12 Years a Slave

Pre-Production Awards

Her — Spike Jonze

12 Years a Slave — John Ridley

Genre awards


20 Feet From Stardom

The Great Beauty (Italy)

Technical Awards

Gravity — Emmanuel Lubezki


The Great Gatsby — Catherine Martin and Beverley Dunn

Gravity — Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger

The Great Gatsby — Catherine Martin 

Dallas Buyers Club — Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

Sound and Music

Frozen: Let it Go — Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez

“Gravity” — Steven Price



Short Films


The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Mr Hublot

Read my predictions here. It turned out to be a pretty predictable year after all...