Wajib (Palestine, France, Germany, UAE 2017)

Tuesday November 20th at 6.30 p.m.

This is the second title in the Leeds Palestinian Film Festival following on from the very fine Reports on Sarah and Saleem in the Leeds International Film Festival. It testifies to the variety of Palestinian film that whilst the latter film was in part a thriller this is essentially a road movie. The journeys involve delivering invitations for a forthcoming Palestinian wedding in Nazareth [the meaning of the Palestinian title is ‘duty’]. This event is both an important traditional occasion in Palestinian culture and a regular feature in Palestinian films; notably in the pioneer feature A Wedding in Galilee (Urs al-jalil, 1987).

This new film is written and directed by Annemarie Jacir. She has written and directed a number of films; the earlier When I saw You / Lamma shoftak (2014) was set in 1967 amongst Palestinian refugees in Jordan. This was a splendid drama that I saw at a screening organised by Reel Solutions in Bradford. Her new release has already won awards including being selected as ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Screenplay’ and ‘Best Actor’ by the Arab Critics assembled in Cannes this year.

The film works partly as a family drama and partly as a ‘bitter-sweet comedy’. The treatment of the political situation is handled with subtlety. It was shot in colour and is in Arabic with English sub-titles. It has received very good reviews; you can check out one here.

Daughters of the Dust, (USA 1991) – Leeds Film Festival Screening

Tuesday November 12th at 1230 p.m. and Wednesday November 14th at 3. 15 p.m. at the Hyde Park Picture House.

 

The film is screening the ‘Time Frames’ series. It was directed by an Afro-American woman, Julie Dash. It is a seminal film for both the Afro-American and the USA Independent cinemas. The basic story-line follows the migration from a Georgia island by women from an isolated and creole speaking community, once enslaved on plantations, in the early 1900s. However, the film has an unconventional use of time and space and an unusual narrative voice. This enables Julie Dash and her team to provide a film that is full of vivid imagery, metaphors and symbolism. It also dramatises the clashes within Afro-American cultures between tradition and the modern.

The film is full of poetic mages whilst the dialogue is in a form of Creole. The cinematography by Arthur Jafa is particularly fine, offering sumptuous images to accompany the characters and story. It won the Cinematography Award at the Sundance Festival and the film has since been included in the Library of Congress National Film Register

The film was partly funded by PBS American Playhouse after being turned down by major studios. Unfortunately none of Dash’s subsequent productions have received proper distribution. It remains her only well-known title despite a considerable output for cinema and television.

The film could be challenging; apart from an unconventional narrative it eschews sub-titles for the Creole [mostly understandable]. But it is a rich and compelling work. The film was originally shot on 35mm in colour and standard wide screen. It has now been restored and is distributed in a digital format. Hopefully this will do justice to the original. For two decades after its initial release it was not seen at all in Britain, so this is a welcome return. The film runs 112 minutes.

Reports on Sarah and Saleem (2018) Leeds Film Festival Screening

Screening at the Vue in the Light on  Saturday 10th November at 1030 a.m. And on Sunday 11th November at 3.30 p.m.

This is a new film from the developing Palestinian Film Industry and it is both a welcome feature in LIFF and [as in previous years] launches the Leeds Palestinian Film Festival which runs on until December.

The film deals with an affair between two married people, a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman. Affairs between Palestinians and Israeli’s have been a staple of the cinemas of both Palestine and Israel but adding marriage to the complications is rarer. The film combines the thriller genre with the romantic drama genre. The film is the work of director Muayad Alayan and [his brother] writer Rami Musa Alayan. They have worked together on both a feature and short films but I have not seen any of these. As is often the case the production relies on funding from a number of different countries, Netherlands, Palestine, Germany and Mexico.

The film was shot digitally in both East and West Jerusalem with their contrasting cityscapes and cultures. It is in colour and a 2.35:1 ratio with Arabic, Hebrew and English dialogue and sub-titles in English. It promises to be an engaging and thought provoking film. Palestinian film-makers have become expert at combining cinematic genres with political issues and characterisations.

NB. The Festival online pages do not seem to have an straight alphabetical listing,; I found the title under country [Palestine].

Monsters and Men, USA 2018 – Leeds Film Festival Screening

Vue Monday November 5th at 2 p.m. and Wednesday November 7th and 3.45 p.m.

I was very impressed with this new title. Set in New York it presents the responses of three different characters to a shooting of an African-American male by the New York City Police. Thus it addresses one of the most contentious issues in the USA today.

The shooting occurs at the start of the film and then we follow the three very different protagonists – John David Washington as Dennis Williams, Anthony Ramos as Manny Ortega and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Zyrick – as they grapple with the event and the fallout both in the Department and in the local community. The setting is the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn. The plot follows each man in sequence, though they also appear in each other’s story, providing an underlying and binding narrative.

But we watch more than just these three men. An aspect of the film that I especially liked is the way that it represents the family and community lives of the protagonists. We see parents, partners, offsprings, friends, colleagues and the activists in the community. Whilst the action is the streets is often dramatic the domestic scenes have a different tone but are equally fascinating.

This is a fine socially conscious drama but also a drama that holds the interest all the way through. It is in colour and full widescreen, running 95 minutes. The cast, both leading and supporting players, are excellent. The cinematography by Patrick Scola and the editing by Justin Chan and Scott Cummings is very well done. The film relies very much on location shooting. There is an excellent and not over-intrusive music score by Kris Bowers.

The Festival catalogue lists the film as an 18 Certificate. There is not yet an entry on the BBFC web-pages; whilst there is violence and strong language at times I find this an overly unnecessary classification. The title is screening in 11 at Vue, a large auditorium with a large screen. The level of illumination during a feature is suitably low, not always the case at Vue. However, they do not mask ratios that differ from the 16:9 screen. And there is a central aisle, a design weakness as you get latecomers blocking views as they enter. In the case of this title we had a group wander in, climb up to the back, sit down, start talking, switch on a mobile phone and then get up and leave. Clearly the wrong feature for them: a recurring problem in multiplexes.

My 20th Century / Az én XX századom, Hungary, West Germany 1989

Tuesday  October 30th at 6.30 p.m.

This was the first feature directed by Ildikó Enyedi and won the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival on its release. Ildikó’s more recent film, On Body and Soul, won the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2017 Berlinale. The 2018 Festival featured a digital restoration of this film in an excellent 4K format which retained the cinematic qualities of the original. The Hyde Park screening will only be 2K but I reckon the film will still look great.

It was an impressive feat for a first-time film-maker. Ildikó also scripted the film which combines, history, politics and surreal fantasy. Much of the pleasure is to be had from the beautiful black and white cinematography by Tibor Máthé. The images are really luminous and range from wonderful wintry landscapes to night-time chiaroscuro. The editing by Tibor Máthé ably follows the eccentric plot line as we switch between settings and dates.

The lead actor is Dorota Segda who plays identical twins, born in Budapest in 1879. Separated, their paths cross once more in 1899, making this also a New Year movie. The dates are significant in the film. 1879 takes in Thomas Edison’s first successful demonstration of the light bulb. And the film makes great play with the inventor and with cinematic references, both silent and sound. Indeed the film features tropes from the silent film era, homages to the film-maker’s predecessors.

The film takes great pleasure in presenting

“a romantic love story, a poetic fairy tale, an erotic riddle ..”

Note, it has a 15 Certificate in Britain. A real treat on offer for cineastes.

 

Film Festival Programme 2018

The full programme for the 32nd Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF2018) is out now. The film guide should be available to pick up in the usual places, including the Picture House (an online version doesn’t seem to be available yet). The programme is  on the Leeds Film City website,  a Clashfinder has been put together which is really useful tool to help plan your festival and there’s a Letterboxd list of all the films.

There are more than a hundred films to choose from as well as several programmes of short films and other events. The difficult process of deciding what to see begins and we’d love to hear what you think of the programme and are planning to see; let us know in the comments and we look forward to seeing you in November.

Faces Places / Visages villages, France 2017

Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons in the coming week

Happily here is one more chance to see the most recent film by Agnès Varda. Now ninety years old Agnès Varda has graced the world of film since the days when the nouvelle vague transformed both French and European cinemas. Her style is often eclectic and she has a whimsical turn of cinematic phrase. But she always brings a real empathy to her subjects and her films are fascinating but at the same time complex essays into contemporary society. Her new film follows a journey and odyssey with a French photographer known as JR. His approach to the medium is eccentric and unique. Travelling round in a vehicle shaped like a camera he snaps people in places and produces seriously enlarged copies of the image. This is followed by pasting the pictures on public places, mainly walls of buildings. This practice sheds a whole light on the subject and on photography itself.

In the course of their odyssey Agnes and JR discuss topics, revisit places and people and reminisce. Both are often playful but there is an underlying seriousness to their work. And the tone of their encounters and of their installations generates real charm.

A number of titles from Varda’s work over the years have been screened in programme ‘Gleaning Truths: The Films of Agnès Varda‘. These have included features like her early and seminal Cleo from 5 to 7 / Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962) or her documentaries like The Beaches of Agnès (2008) Les plages d’Agnès (2008); films from either end of her long career.

The latter film like this new title is less a documentary and more like a film essay; the forte of one of her peers Chris Marker. This friend and peer is referenced in the film by the ubiquitous cats; another peer, Jean-Luc Godard has a less happy reference. The film is in colour and with English sub-titles, running for 94 minutes.

Women Animators from Near and Far

Tuesday September 25th at 6.30 p.m.

‘They Call us Maids’

This programme offers a selection of animation by women film-makers from a round the world. There will we the opportunity to hear film-makers talking about their work. The occasion for this is the celebration of 40 years of the work of the Leeds Animation Workshop. Over this period they have produced 40 animated films and this evening sees the premiere of a new work, Own Skin, made with their support.

Leeds has been fortunate in enjoying the work of this collective which has produced both campaigning work and agitational films. Screening also is their They Call Us Maids from 2015; a film about the exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers. And there is also their earlier No Offence (1996) which uses a fairy tale form to critique sexual harassment at work. So here is the opportunity to see both their campaigning film approach and their subversive use of genre.

There will be eight other titles from Britain and from Canada, the Czech republic and the USA. A selection that will represent the rich tapestry of animation work from near and far.

‘Three Thousand’, Canada 2017

This programme should excite you. If so, the Leeds Animation Workshop have a three day residency at 42 New Briggate [right by the Grand Theatre] from Wednesday. [See the |Workshop Facebook Page].

The Eyes of Orson Welles, Britain 2018

Screening Saturday at 5.10 p.m. And Wednesday at 6.30 p.m.

More than any other film-maker of the sound era Welles seems to embody ‘renaissance man’: that is he ‘can do all things well’. His films sprawl across C20th cinema and Citizen Kane (1941) can still claim to be the outstanding Hollywood production. His series of Shakespeare adaptations on film are some of the finest renderings of the ‘Bard’, and Chimes at Midnight (1965) is one of the most moving. And F for Fake (1973) displayed his interest in magic and deception. His Federal Theatre Project productions, such as ‘Macbeth’ (1936), stood out in the decade. On Radio the Mercury Theatre’s ‘War of the Worlds’ (1938) remains the most famous media spoof in the modern era.

As an actor he graced both his own films and those of many other film-makers: in the 1956 Moby Dick he is as memorable as the great leviathan. For television he was the great raconteur; in the BBC series ‘Orson Welles Sketchbook’ he reminisced as he drew. And in the mammoth BBC Arena interview, when asked about Hollywood he responded,

‘I always liked Hollywood but it was never reciprocated’.

Equally slyly and witty were his famous commercial adverts including that for ‘Carlsberg’.

In this new film Mark Cousins explores Welles painting and drawings. This was a life-long activity and Cousins creates a biographical and artistic study using the art works, photographs, film clips and interviews. As this is Cousins there are slightly fanciful sequences but overall this is a fascinating study of one of the major film-makers of the C20th.

Dawson City: Frozen Time, USA 2016

Tuesday September 4th at 6.15 p.m.

You can now check out this film on the new Picture House Web Pages: replacing those that ‘crashed’ earlier in the year. The film is the work of the fine documentary film-maker Bill Morrison. I saw his earlier The Miners’ Hymns (2011) at the Picture House and it was a fine example of his skills in filming, selection and editing. It also has excellent use of music. This new title has fine musical accompaniment by Alex Somers.

The town and the ‘frozen time’ of the title refer to a cache of ‘lost films’ discovered in a remote township in the Klondike. These are all pre-sound films which were buried in a pool or rink in 1929. About two thirds of the films produced before the arrival of sound in the late 1920s are lost. So such a find is a real excitement for film buffs, Morrison, with his usual skill and command of technique, produces a portrait of the city and the treasure which combines historical detail with aesthetic pleasure. His work, tending to the avant garde, is often elliptical but repays continued attention.

Apart from Film Festivals, including Leeds, this fine film work has not had a British release, so it is great that there is this opportunity to see it here. The film runs for 120 minutes and Morrison uses both black and white and colour footage in the same ratio as the early films, 1.33:1.