Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Film Review: Tig (2015)

Until a couple of years ago, Tig Notaro was a moderately successful comedienne surviving on a regime of stand-up shows, TV spots, Film cameos and her touring podcast Professor Blastoff.  And then during March of 2012, everything completely changed.

Whilst filming In a World… she started to feel ill and eventually got diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection illness known as C DIFF; then as she was recovering from that she found out her mother had fallen and unexpectedly died; and then to top it all off, she was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer… so after so much bad news she made the only sensible decision:  She would fight fire, with funny.  On the night of 4th August 2012 she decided to tell her story on stage, for laughs, and instantly make comedy history… 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Film Review: Twinsters (2015)

If you got a Facebook message from someone that looked like you saying that they wanted to meet, what would you do?

Samantha Futerman is an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles enjoying some success in her career having just starred in 21 & Over, Law & Order and Memoirs of a Geisha.  She knew that she was adopted over from South Korea at birth, but was happily living with her two brothers and parents and trying to break into Hollywood.  Then one day she got a message from her doppelganger asking her where she was born…

Anaïs Bordier lives in London studying textiles at Central Saint Martins, having grown up in France.  One day a friend shows her a comedy skit YouTube video of an American girl that looks a lot like her, so she decides to send her a message…

Although this sounds like the set up for a very twee Parent Trap-style rip off, it is actually a very sweet documentary directed by the American half of Korean twins separated at birth.  After finding out about each other, they spend the first couple of weeks Skyping and texting each other (with a barrage of emojis) and then decide to take a DNA test.  Sam then catches a flight to London for an emotional meeting, during which they find out that they are indeed long-lost, identical sisters…

Thursday, October 15, 2015

LFF2015: Parabellum (2015)

Would you rather an apocalypse to be quick and terrifying or gradual and tense?  I always think the latter is more depressing and love it when filmmakers agree…

Hernan (Pablo Seijo), a nonspecific office worker in Cordoba, overhears reports on the radio of civil unrest in Buenos Aries so calmly resigns his job, cancels his phone bill, donates his cat to a cattery and catches a bus out of town.  Also on the bus are a group of other unremarkable workers who watch a promo video about their new life at some kind of retreat.  But this is no holiday; every day the guests are woken up with a tannoy announcing the day’s activities: Botany, State & Politics, camouflage, explosives… 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LFF2015: Arianna (2015)

Arianna (Ondina Quadri) is a pensive and shy nineteen-year-old studying Chinese and living with her parents in Rome.  She decides to accompany them on a trip to Tuscany to stay in their old holiday home, which has recently become available after being rented for most of her life, but when they decide that they want to leave early she stays on on her own to study and spend time with her cousin Celeste (Blu Yoshimi).

Arianna has not developed through puberty yet and has still not had her first menstrual cycle, so she quickly becomes fascinated in her developing and sexually awakened cousin.  She also, under guidance of her father (Massimo Popolizio) a doctor, uses hormone replacement patches and visits one of his gynecologist friends.  However, after spending an awkward night with one of Celeste’s male friends, she decides that she wants to change doctors and learn more about her past… 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

LFF2015: Frame By Frame (2015)

“So are you going to use this picture and try to bomb the Americans…?”

Frame by Frame is about the modern history of Afghanistan told through the eyes of four passionate photographers, Najibullah Musafer, a photography lecturer at Kabul university; Wakil Kohsar, a photojournalist and democrat; and then husband and wife photojournalists Farzana Wahidy, who covers women’s stories, and Massoud Hossaini who won the 2012 Breaking News Photography Pulitzer Prize (Here is his Talk at a Kabul TED event).

The film begins by explaining the rise of the Taliban after the soviet invasion of 1979, and how they banned photography for the next twenty years until the US invasion in 2001, leading to the beginning of a new era of press freedoms (and harsh internal terrorism).  We then follow Wakil as he explores the upcoming elections and voter registration, Farzana documenting the heinous violence inflicted on women under the Taliban era and Massoud covering various events for the newsdesk where he works. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

LFF2015: Taxi Tehran (2015)

Taxi Tehran

Between 1995 and 2006, Iranian director Jafar Panahi was winning some of the most respected prizes on the European film calendar: the Golden Lion in Venice, the Silver Bear at Berlin and even the Caméra d’Or at Cannes.  But due to his (supposedly) controversial narratives and ongoing defiance against his home country, he was arrested in 2010 and banned from filmmaking or leaving Iran.  His films eventually had to be smuggled out of the country on USB keys hidden in cakes… 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Raindance: Datuna-Potrait of America (2015)

Datuna Portrait of America

David Datuna is so excited to create his art that gets up at 4am in order to get to his studio.  And his enthusiasm is extremely infectious.

Like hundreds of thousands of others, Datuna escaped the USSR during the cold war for ‘cultural and artistic freedom’.  He grew up in totalitarian Georgia, where any appearance of difference was discouraged violently (his father got arrested 7 times for listening to Elvis…), and ended up in hyper-liberal downtown New York. He now makes vibrant pop art sculptures of flags (Jasper Johns 2.0), and collage-portraits. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Raindance: An Open Secret (2015)

In the summer of 1999, as the World Wide Web was promising all kinds of technological miracles, a new type of televisual media company launched called the Digital Entertainment Network.  It was an online video archive aimed at teenage boys with a host of original web shows aimed specifically at targeting niche audiences, including extreme sports fans, young Christians and young gay and bisexual viewers.  The company was proclaiming itself to be a radical and innovative new medium for speaking to young kids, and yet in only a few months the whole experiment was to implode under a series of extremely dark allegations about the behavior of its founders…

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Raindance: Driving With Selvi (2015)

More than 700 million women alive today
were married before their 18th birthday
250 million before age 15…

Selvi was just 14 when she was forced to marry a much older and physically abusive husband in her home of South India.  Living with him for her teenage years was such unspeakable torture that she eventually considered throwing herself under a bus to end the ordeal.  But instead she chose to get on the bus and run away to a girl’s shelter called Odanadi.  Four years later she had learned to drive, started her own company and become South India’s first taxi driver. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Raindance: The Return (2015)

Jack (Sam Donnelly) has returned to London after a few years away to hook up with old criminal connections and make some quick money.  After learning that they have all ‘gone straight’ he meets the enigmatic Laura (Amie Burns Walker) who knows of a diamond dealer called Duke with a safe full of £300,000 cash (Robert Goodman).

The criminal lovebirds hatch a plan to rob the old man, but not before he manages to find Jack’s houseboat and send a pair of goons round for an amazing Sergio Leone inspired silent stare-down. It then becomes a classic cat-and-mouse between rival criminals, but told across a twisting, time-shifting narrative… 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Raindance: Broken Land (2015)

If there was one dominant contentious geopolitical phenomenon that has dominated headlines in 2015, it is that of international borders.  Donald Trump is obsessed with Mexicans in the USA; David Cameron et al are obsessed with Syrians in Europe; Colombians are fleeing Venezuela; North Korea is goading the South again; and Israel’s encroaching of Palestine is ongoing.

The news media is abundant with ‘experts’ explaining the ‘facts’ and social media is abundant with opinions and anecdotes that have gone viral, yet much rarer are conversations with people who actually live on the border and how this physical division affects them psychically.  Documentarians Stephanie Barbey and Luc Peter have decided to focus on this underreported group, the citizens who live ‘on-the-edge’ between Mexico and Arizona. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Raindance: Mile End (2015)

When Paul (Alex Humes) is fired from his tedious office job and upsets his anxious girlfriend Kate (Heidi Agerholm Balle), he decides to take up running to get fit and pass the time whilst looking for new work.  Sceptical that he is going to take his new hobby seriously, Kate insists that he spends time with obnoxious city-boy blowhard Adrian (Valmike Rampersad).

Exhausted by Adrian’s arrogance and avarice, Paul is more intrigued by mysterious runner John (Mark Arnold) that he keeps bumping in to (quite literally).  John has a dislike of office workers and the Adrians of the city, and begins to change the way Paul sees himself and his desire for employment and acceptance by his friends… 

Raindance: Hadwin's Judgement (2015)

Hadwin's Judgement

On the bank of the Yakoun River in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, used to stand a unique tree known by the locals as The Golden Spruce.  It had an intriguing genetic mutation that let to its needles to look golden amongst the other green trees surrounding it, which led to generations of indigenous Haida people who lived on the islands giving it a mythic significance and naming it Kiid K’iyaas.

On 20th January 1997, a disillusioned former ‘forest technician’ called Grant Hadwin took some final selfies in front of the sacred tree and then expertly felled it.  The focus point of his anger was the seemingly arbitrary protection of the Golden Spruce tree amongst the rest of the doomed rainforest, and the motive behind his ecoterrorism was to draw attention to the ecological injustice and gain support for the protection of the whole forest.  Needless to say, his actions didn’t go down well with the locals…

Monday, September 28, 2015

Raindance: The Arms Drop (2015)

His cause was good, but his solution was bad…

In the autumn of 1995, a Danish dissident called Niels Holck was concocting an audacious plan to try and help rebel factions in West Bengal fight the oppressive Communist Party of India.  With the help of Peter Bleach, an ex British Intelligence Officer turned ‘defense trader’, Niels wanted to use a light aircraft to parachute drop an assortment of AK47s and other military weapons in to the region to arm the insurgents. (sound familiar?)

Unbeknownst to Niels however, Peter was in communication with the UK government, whom had told him that during a layover in India, the government would arrest the plane and he would get the credit for stopping an international terrorist.  What could possibly go wrong…?

Raindance: Gored (2015)

“Antonia Barrera is the most gored matador in human history…”

Bullfighting.  Even the word itself is provocative.  Yet unlike its analogous animal bloodsports, such as cockbaiting or Monkey Knife Fights, in its country of origin Spain, Bullfighting is still a prestigious and noble cultural entertainment.

Modern day Matador Antonia Barrera is obsessed with Bullfighting.  He has dedicated his whole life to spending time in the bullring, trying to win adulation from the crowds and working his way up to the prestige stadiums of Madrid.  From a teenager practicing on the streets, to a young adult gaining notoriety in Mexico, Barrera knew that he wanted to be in the ring.  He’s the kind of guy who says, with a deadly straight-face, things like “I’ve never had a relationship, even with a woman, as intimate as the one with the bull.”  This is his life.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Raindance: Wasp (2015)

When Oliver (Simon Haycock) brings James (Hugo Bolton) to his family’s holiday villa in the South of France, his hopes for a secluded romantic trip are thwarted by the addition of James’ friend Caroline (Elly Condron).  Recently splitting up from her own boyfriend, Caroline begins to turn her attention to Oliver and the dynamic of the holiday begins to change…

At its core, Wasp is about the importance of glances and non-verbal communication over dialogue.  The increasingly strained connection between James and Oliver, and the bourgeoning allegiance between Oliver and Caroline, mostly begins with eye contact (or lack of it).  This intention is probably why the dialogue of the film is less refined than the visuals.  Why do indie LGBT films always have to have a scene where characters analyse what it means to be gay…?  Yet as the film (and I imagine, the shoot) moves on, the dialogue becomes more natural and confident.

In between scenes, the camera constantly returns to close-ups of wasps.  At first an apparent metaphor for Caroline’s unexpected presence in the couples’ holiday, but quickly they seem to highlight a general unease and irritation in the house – a house that is becoming increasingly more oppressive.  Especially the ice-cold pool…

Whereas Oliver has a confidence and seriousness about him and is more at fault for the tension in the house, it is James who the camera lingers on for longest as he begins to doubt his two friends.  And it is James’ whose emerges as the most interesting performance.

Yet ultimately, it is undeniably the actions and sexual desires of the woman that disrupt the narrative, which is a welcome role-reversal, even for a gay love story.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Raindance: Love/Me/Do (2015)

Antonia (Rebecca Calder) is a wry and restrained investment banker who enjoys the luxuries that her career provides her, and Max (Jack Gordon) is a self-assured aspiring East London actor.  They are getting to know each playing teasing psychological games with one another and deconstructing the act of ‘dating’ over the course of a few successful evenings.  As they begin to reveal themselves, they each disclose secrets and insecurities that bring them closer together but ultimately lead to commit shocking acts of revenge…

Writer/Director Martin Stitt manages to create a pair of engaging characters with realistic dialogue, and then direct the actors to bring the script to life with beautifully comfortable and naturalistic performances.  The way in which Max embodies the deafening monotony of unemployment, and how Max and Antonia recreate the cloudy irrationality of a couples argument are both uncomfortably authentic.  As the narrative moves towards its troubling conclusion, both of the characters elicit sympathy and disdain from the audience in equal parts – the sign of a successful an engaging drama.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Raindance: God's Acre (2015)

God's Acre

Malcolm (Matthew Jure) is an East-End property developer who lost everything after the financial crisis of 2008.  He is left with only one dingy terrace house that is in dire need of renovation, yet the shock of losing so much has crippled his enthusiasm and left him with a debilitating housebound agoraphobia and appetite for heavy drinking.  His only friend Sonny (Richard Pepple) is growing increasingly frustrated with his inactivity, and adds to Malcolm’s anxiety by demanding the repayment of a substantial loan.  And just as the situation couldn’t get more stressful, his eventual attempt at home improvements lead to a dark discovery in the very structure of the building…

Saturday, June 6, 2015

SheffDocFest: Breaking A Monster

Behind every great band, there is a monster.

In 2005, two African-American kids from Brooklyn called Malcolm Brickhouse and Jared Dawkins met at a birthday party and developed a friendship over their shared interest in heavy metal music, discovered through WWE wrestling intros.  After teaching their pre-school friend Alec Atkins to play bass (from scratch), they formed a band called Unlocking The Truth and started to play gigs in Time Square – one of which ended up going viral online:

The (supposed) novelty of charismatic pre-teen, inner-city black youths playing heavy metal music with emerging competency was too good to be true for some and they were immediately hunted down by Alan Sacks, the record executive who brought the world The Jonas Brothers.  Within 18 months they become the youngest artists ever to sign a $1.8million dollar record deal with Sony.  Breaking A Monster is the inside story of their transformation from an amateur band of kids, to a lucrative and sanitized pop/metal product. 

SheffDocFest: Cobain-Montage of Heck

          "Rule 1) learn not to play your instrument
              Rule 2) don't hurt girls when you dance (or any other time)" - Kurt's Journals

The story of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana is well known to anyone lucky enough to be born on or before 1990 – he is arguably one of the few musicians to change the direction of popular music’s aesthetic during his lifetime (I’ll let you have fun figuring out who else might qualify) – yet it never hurts to re-familiarise yourself with a truly compelling story.

Cobain: Montage of Heck (great film; questionable title) is the story of the life of Kurt from birth to death, told through interviews with friends and family alongside a litter of images and enhanced animations from Kurt's prolific journals, as well as original cartoons synced with recordings of him messing around with his home cassette recorder and other audio including, of course, amazing live performances.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Film Review: Fed Up (2014)

You are what you eat.  That is the simple message from Stephanie Soechting’s new documentary about the food we produce / consume and the correlation with the ‘global obesity epidemic’ that we have been hearing for the last few decades.  Fed Up explores two parallel ideas: that the amount of sugar we ingest is more important than the levels of fat or calories (or even exercise); and that multinational food companies and corporate lobbyists have spent decades feeding us misinformation about how to live healthy lives and exploiting our ignorance for vast profits.

The film divides itself between the emotional personal journeys of a number of obese youngsters trying to lose weight, and more factual sections of historical and political analysis of the processed food industry and how it has gained such dominance in American culture. At certain points, watching Fed Up is worse than sitting through a horror film.  Horror films work by confronting characters with symbolic external threats (vampire; disaster; psychotic killers etc.), which make audiences empathise and reflect on their own axietites.  Fed Up makes you reflect about the long-term internal threat that audiences are doing to their own bodies by eating such dangerous levels of sugar.  The sugar in my tea suddenly felt obscene and frightening…. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Film Review: Next Goal Wins (2014)

Disclaimer alert: I have only recently become interested in football. Even worse, I'm one of those people who only cares about the World Cup and bugs my friends with recently learned opinions and shallow analysis. I also (like most casual sports fans) prefer an underdog over a dominating talented team - and there is no bigger underdog than the American Samoa football team... 

At the beginning of Next Goal Wins, the tiny pacific island of American Samoa have never won a official football match and are bottom of the FIFA ranking list. They also suffered the worst defeat in football history in 2001 by losing 31-0 to Australia. Yet, they are determined to prove themselves on the world stage, and with the help of despairing Dutch coach Thomas Rongen (the only applicant) they are training for gruelling qualifications to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  Yet as a American Samoan official states early on  'When no-one thinks you're good. That's what makes you dangerous...'

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Film Review: Child 44 (2015)

“You run because you’re followed,
  If you’re followed then you’re arrested,
  If you’re arrested then you’re already guilty…”

After being declared a war hero in the Battle of Berlin, Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) lives a comfortable bourgeois life in the elite of the Stalin-era Soviet secret police hunting traitors and forcing confessions from them.  One of the most recent ‘traitors’ Anatoly Brodsky (Jason Clarke) is tortured into giving Major Kuzmin (Vincent Cassell) a number of names, one of which is Demidov’s wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) whom he then has to investigate in order to prove his loyalty. 

Meanwhile Demidov has become distracted by the deaths of young boys, including the son of his close colleague Alexei Andreyev (Fares Fares) to whom he has to deliver the official death report which claims that he died in a train accident, even though he appears to have been found naked with strange surgical scars on his body… 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Film Review: The Salvation (2015)

The man with nothing to lose is often the most to fear.

In 1842, Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) and Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) are Danish immigrant soldier brothers who have come to America in search of a new life.  Yet when Jon’s wife and child come to join them from Europe they are confronted with a shocking act of hostility from the brother of the sadistic renegade officer Delarue (Jeffrey Morgan Dean) who leads a violent posse in tormenting a local town led by cowardly mayor Keane (Jonathan Pryce).  The violence and revenge then escalates between Jon and Delarue, quickly drawing the townsfolk to believe that the best action is to abandon the town and head further West…

Film Review: John Wick (2015)

After John Wick (Keanu Reeves) loses his wife to a terminal illness, he receives a package that has been sent in the event of her death that contains her final wish: that he transfers his love for her to a small puppy and to carry on his life.  This symbolic gesture gives him a coping strategy for his mourning, yet is taken away from him when a gang of Russian thugs (led by Iosef – Alfie Allen) breaks into his house and leave him and his new best friend for dead.

When Iosef’s gang boss father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) finds out about his son’s reckless actions he has to inform him that John used to be an associate of his... that was an expert in ruthlessly killing people.  Whilst John prepares to get his revenge on the family, he checks in to The Coliseum – a kind of safe space hotel for criminals that operates by a strict formal code where favours are rewarded with bespoke gold coins:  Gold coins that can also be used to hire assassins or a dead body removal service...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Film Review: The Great Invisible (2015)

Exactly five years ago today, an offshore oil-drilling rig called the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico killing 11 people and leading to the biggest oil spill in human history – 76 million gallons over 87 days.  Although claiming responsibility almost immediately (how could they not) the oil giant BP are still depriving claimants out of compensation money and the industry has still not learned the lessons from such a devastating disaster.

The Great Invisible begins with the individual stories of the tragic loss of life on the day itself and how it affected the families of the deceased.  Told through moving interviews and ominous home videos, the families and survivors explain how the conditions on the rigs were exhausting and that cost-cutting measures resulted in instant income bonuses, regardless of safety.  Then the documentary leads into how the environmental catastrophe affected the livelihood of thousands of fishing towns along the South Coast of Texas, Louisiana and Alabama, and how whole communities have been devastated due to the polluting of the sea life and the mismanaged response from the Oil giants as well as the federal governments.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Film Review: Lost River (2015)

To save themselves from the threat of eviction from an ethereal post-financial collapse Detroit, single-mother Billy (Christina Hendricks) and her son Bones (Iain de Caestecker) must both resort to extreme measures in order to find money to protect themselves.  Billy reluctantly takes a job in a macabre horror/burlesque club where performers enact elaborate self-harm performance pieces under the stewardship of sinister and lecherous Dave (Ben Mendelsohn). Meanwhile Bones and his friend Rat (Saoirse Ronan) get hunted by the local bully – imaginatively named ‘Bully’ (Matt Smith) – whilst trying to repeal a curse put on the town connected to a abandoned town flooded after an artificial river was created. (Huh?) 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BFI Flare 2015: Do I Sound Gay?

Do I Sound Gay?

Close your eyes and try and imagine the sound of a gay man’s voice.  Think you have it?  I’m guessing you can hear an over-excitable, perhaps nasal, high-pitched voice with a lisp.  Where did this voice come from and why does it ‘sound gay’.  Gay filmmaker David Thorpe is on a mission to find out how he got the voice that he does and why it has such a stigma around it, from both inside and outside of the gay community. 

BFI Flare 2015: Dressed as a Girl

“The guide to survival is you have to set yourself some rules”.  And those rules apparently are to be as outrageous, glamorous and fabulous as possible.

In nightclubs across the East End of London throughout the last decade, a collection of raucous drag performers where beginning to develop a fiercely loyal following that would push them towards the mainstream.  Dressed like a Girl is narrated by the ‘ringleader’ Jonny Woo, who poetically leads us through the rises and (minor) falls of the alternative drag scene as they get more and more attention from the elite fashion, theatre and clubbing communities. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

BFI Flare 2015: Vivant! (Alive!)


Which is inherently scarier? An external shock to the body – such as a parachute jump; or an internal shock to the body – such as a virus.  What about if you combined the two?  Vivant! is a tender look at 5 HIV+ men who spend a week camping together at a converted airbase as they prepare for their first solo sky dive.  They must learn how to jump and how to fall, and at the same time get to know each other and how each has adapted to the illness.

Good documentaries are all about empathy and insight and Vivant! offers a purely observational viewpoint of 5 gay men who live with HIV talking about the impact it has on their lives.  Director Vincent Boujon and the filmmakers do not interject and ask questions and there are no ‘talking heads’ interviews, the camera just collects their discussions as they sit round the campsite and talk – sometimes for up to 10 minute sequences. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

BFI Flare 2015: Appropriate Behaviour

Appropriate Behaviour

Shirin (Desiree Akhavan - also Writer/Director) is an outspoken twenty-something Brooklynite trying to please her Persian parents, from whom she is hiding her bisexuality, whilst trying to find meaningful employment after a break-up from her domineering, but likeable, girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson).  The news of her brother’s betrothal to a prize Iranian bride forces her to reflect on her own romantic decisions as she begins to unsuccessfully date a collection of ill-matched men and women around the city.

Friday, March 20, 2015

BFI Flare 2015: Praia do Futuro (Futuro Beach)

Futuro Beach

Futuro Beach bursts into life as two men, Heiko and Konrad, ride their motorbikes over beach sand dunes to the orgasmic repetitive pump of Suicide’s 1977 classic Ghostrider (which has frankly never sounded so good…) After running into the sea they quickly get dragged out of their depth and Heiko (Fred Lima) is seen being pulled underneath as Konrad (Clemens Schick) is saved by a local lifeguard Donata (Wagner Moura).

After Donata has to break the news to Konrad in the hospital, he gives him a lift home that ends up with them having intense sex in Donata’s car leading to a relationship that takes them through clubs, beaches and eventually back to Konrad’s native Berlin.  The only problem is that Konrad is leaving behind his partner and Donata is leaving behind his little brother Aryton, which causes some conflict that eventually leads to them having trouble in their new life in Europe… 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

BFI Flare 2015: I Am Michael

I Am Michael jumps chronologically around the ten years between Michael Glatze (James Franco) being a prominent gay activist and queer magazine editor in San Francisco and Canada and him becoming an evangelical, anti-homosexual Christian preacher in Wyoming.  A kind of going-back-in-the-closet true story that both delighted the Christian community and horrified the gay community around 10 years ago.

At first Michael is shown picking-up guys in nightclubs and taking ecstasy with his boyfriend Bennett (Zachary Qunito), before being somewhat radicalized by news of the tragic death of Matthew Shepard.  They eventually move to Canada due to Bennett getting a job, where they also meet Tyler (Charlie Carver) – a young gay radical that joins them as they live as a threesome.  The lovers decide to go on a road trip around the West Coast to lecture about LGBT rights and make a documentary about young teenagers telling their stories, where increasingly Michael complains about having heart palpitations and insists on getting advice from lots of medical professionals.  After finally getting the all-clear, he starts to attribute his recovery to a higher power and makes moves to get in touch with different religions and clear his head (and remove his homosexuality). 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Film Review: It Follows (2015)

When Jay (Maika Monroe) decides to have sex with her strange-acting new friend Hugh, he uses the opportunity to violently reveal that she has now been cursed by a dangerous demon that will follow her until she can pass it on by sleeping with someone else.  She, her two sisters Yara (Olivia Luccardi) and Kelly (Lili Sepe) and long-term friendly neighbor Paul, (Keir Gilchrist) all initially think that this is a cruel abusive joke so try to confront Hugh about it, yet Jay begins to be haunted by disturbing figures slowly approaching her that others cannot see.  This leads to the friends all trying to figure out a way to ‘cure’ Jay of her curse, that ultimately leads to tensions between the friendly men in her life who want to help her…

The premise is so simple, and feeds into such a pervasive fear among teenagers and young people (fear of sex / fear of sexually transmitted diseases), that the difficult ‘horror’ work of the film is instilled very early on without actually having to provide many twists or scares.  The very idea that casual sex can be deadly goes against every urge in teenager’s minds and is therefore a brilliantly uncomfortable theme to play out in such detail for 100 minutes… 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Submissions open for Wotever DIY Film Festival 2015!

This year, Crispy Sharp is going to be working a lot to promote the Wotever DIY Film Festival – a three-day festival that celebrates independent and lo-fi queer filmmaking held primarily at the Cinema Museum in London.  There will be a handful of feature films, a much larger amount of shorts, discussions & debates and workshops – and lots of booze and giggles.

The submission window is now open for this year’s event, with the deadline being the 31st May.  Below is a description in their own words about what they are looking for:

“We are looking for short films up to 30 minutes on a queer theme. However, we will prioritise films 15 minutes and under. Feature length films will be considered although please be aware we have very limited space for these. All films need to be DIY or independent films of any genre on a queer theme. We have a particular interest in films about queer people and queer culture reclaiming space. Other than that, our only criteria is that they must be in keeping with our Wotever ethos and as such we will not consider submissions that are racist, misogynist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist, feature religious intolerance or are in any way prejudiced or exclusionary towards a particular group or identity. We are always trying to improve accessibility at Wotever DIY Film Festival and with that we assert that all filmmakers selected for the festival must work to commit to subtitling their films. 

We welcome films that push the boundaries of queer thinking and ideology, are thought-provoking and progressive. Saying that, we also appreciate a nice queer-meets-queer love story, slap stick comedy or music video we can dance to."

All submissions must use the official submission form and be available for download or streaming to be viewed by the programming team.  For more information and to get access to the form or to ask a question please contact Theresa & Tara at woteverfilm@gmail.com (so far I’ve met half of them; they’re super lovely…)

There is more information on last year’s event at the links below as well as upcoming news.  I will also definitely have them as a guest on the Crispy Sharp Podcast in the coming weeks to explain more...