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…