Bill’s Highlights From #LIFF2018

Bill Walton looks back at his highlights of Leeds International Film Festival 2018:

This year I got to 32 screenings, the majority at the Hyde Park Picture House. My choices were nearly all booked in advance from the programme, often with little background knowledge. This can mean missing out on some films that turn out to be very popular, but also means a lot of delightful surprises. Now that the experience has had time to settle, here are the films that stuck in my mind.

Night Train

A lot of my highlights were in the Time Frames section, and were in black and white: Night Train (1959), 12 Angry Men (1957), Odd Man Out (1947), The Docks of New York (1928) with live musical accompaniment, and my festival favourite La Notte (1961) which is just beautiful. I also enjoyed comedies like After Hours (1985) and Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018).

Capernaum

One of the things I like about the Festival is the rare chance to see films made in areas of conflict, often in the face of physical danger and on a financial shoestring. I would highlight Capernaum (2018) set in Beirut, The Journey (2017) set in Baghdad, and The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (2018) set in West and East Jerusalem. They were nicely complemented by the thoughtful documentary What is Democracy? (2018).

Tampopo

Then there were delightful films like The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) – another top film for me -; a very funny Japanese food-based comedy Tampopo (1985); In The Aisles (2018) set in a huge German supermarket; and highly original Belgian animations This Magnificent Cake + Oh Willy (2018).

I avoided headline films like Peterloo (2018) and Suspiria (2018) because I know that I’ll soon be able to catch them when they are released more widely. A big thank you to everyone who made LIFF 2018 possible.

 


Bill Walton

The Blues Brothers

Showing Saturday 24th November 10:30pm


Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman) to the Blues Brothers: “You are such a disappointing pair. I prayed so hard for you. It saddens and hurts me that the two young men whom I raised to believe in the Ten Commandments have returned to me as two thieves, with filthy mouths and bad attitudes.
Get out, and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”

‘Joliet’ Jake Blues (John Belushi): “We’ll put the band back together, do a few gigs, we get some bread. Bang! Five thousand bucks.”

Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd): “We’re on a mission from God”.

The Blues Brothers takes us into the world of Joliet Correctional Center, honky-tonks and sleazy backstreets, the “L” train, shopping malls, the Chicago Cubs, gas stations, Bob’s Country Bunker, the Palace Hotel Ballroom, and Chicago City Hall; a world of music, carnage and mayhem,  not to mention a varied diet of soul food, prawn cocktails, beer, dry white toast, cocaine, and Cheez Whiz.

Theirs is a world populated by nuns, gospel choirs, Holiday Inn resident musicians, Illinois Nazis, Good Ol’ Boys, and jilted sweethearts. The music and dance numbers are fabulous and fun. Get rocking with the Blues Brothers band, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker, amongst others. There’s country and western too (“We got both kinds”).

But Elwood has run up 116 outstanding parking fines and 56 other traffic violations. The authorities are after them. Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers HAS been approved. But the cops haven’t reckoned with the Bluesmobile (an ex-police Dodge Monaco).

Elwood: Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don’t fail me now.

The car chases involved more than 40 stunt drivers, plus many stunt pedestrians. 103 cars were wrecked during filming (a world record at the time).

Bill with the Bluesmobile in Illinois

So can Jake and Elwood outwit the cops, the SWAT teams, Sherman tanks, helicopters, the Nazis, the mystery woman (Carrie Fisher), and the Good Ol’ Boys and accomplish their mission?

The Lord moves in mysterious ways!

This cult film was made for the big screen. So dig out your trilby fedoras and  Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and get yourself down to the late night screening of The Blues Brothers at 10.30 pm on Saturday November 24th.


Bill Walton

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.

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Showing multiple times from Friday 24th August
Panel Discussion With Leeds Black Film Club & the Racial Justice Network
Sunday 2nd September 5pm

Bill was going to encourage you to go and see BlackkKlansman, but he realised that Spike Lee himself does a much better job in this video:

Blackkklansman is already been called one of the most important films of the year and should provide plenty to talk about so The Picture House is excited to welcome representatives of the Leeds Black Film Club and the Racial Justice Network to participate in a post film discussion after our screening of BlacKkKlansman on Sunday 2nd September. The discussion will be not be limited to the panel and audience members are invited to share thoughts/questions and ideas about topics raised in the film including the relevance of Lee’s 1970s set American drama to contemporary British culture.

If you see the film and want to talk about it before the panel, why not leave a comment below. Or even better why not send us a review and become a contributor to this blog.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Creatures of the Night, Saturday 18th August 18th 10:30pm

Do The Right Thing

Phew, What a Scorcher!! I’m not talking Leeds 2018. I’m talking 30 years back when blood temperatures matched air temperatures in Brooklyn.

Director Spike Lee takes us into the smells of sweat and garbage on a Sunday in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Here we find the Blacks and Italians, Hispanics and Koreans, living and working together. And the cops and firefighters too. Do the Right Thing was inspired by real incidents in the Baked Apple we also know as New York City.

Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L Jackson): Whoa. Y’all take a chill. You got to cool that shit off. And that’s the double-truth, Ruth.

So get out the cold beers, the ice, the fans, and turn on the fire hydrants. We’ll find the summer heat is taking its toll on everyone. Tempers are rising too.

Boring this movie is not. Analytical it is not. Do the Right Thing is a gripping, funny and stylish drama of Love and Hate, with a wonderful cast (including Spike Lee himself, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Richard Edson, Bill Nunn, Roger Guenveur Smith) and many locals from the area who are not famous names, The film-makers even paid Fruit of Islam to keep away local drug dealers who were worried about this interruption in their trade.

ML (Paul Benjamin): Well, gentlemen, the way I see it, if this hot weather continues, it’s going to melt the polar caps and the whole wide world. And all the parts that ain’t water already will surely be blooded.
Coconut Sid (Frankie Faison): You’re a simple motherfucker. Now where you read that shit, eh? Polar caps…
ML: Don’t worry about it. But when it happens, and I’m in my boat, and your black asses are drowning, don’t call for me to throw you no rope, no lifesaver, or no nothing.
Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris): You fool! You’re 30 cents away from having a quarter! Where the fuck you gon’ get a boat?

Spike Lee’s brilliant movie does raise many difficult questions and gives us no easy answers. It’s not just climate breakdown that is so up to date …  Black Lives Matter, boycotts, sexism, reparation, “decolonisation” of cultural images, and other drivers of racial tension are all boiling away in this steamy and complex stew. There’s even a mention of a potential Trump Plaza/pizza empire in Bedford-Stuyvesant! It’s us who need to come up with our own answers.

And it’s not easy when the odds are stacked against you:

Buggin’; Out (Giancarlo Esposito): You the man.
Mookie; (Spike Lee): No you the man.
Buggin’; Out: You the man.
Mookie: No you the man.
Buggin’ Out: No. I’m just a struggling Black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world.

Our movie’s title comes from a Malcolm X quote, “You’ve got to do the right thing.” But what IS the right thing? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances; Malcolm X, argues that violence is not violence, but “intelligence” when it is used in self-defence.

And Mister Senor Love Daddy says: My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn’t believe it; I didn’t believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?

It’s all there. Empathy and respect; miscommunication and hate. Public Enemy sings “Fight the Power”. Al Jarreau sings “Never Explain Love”.  And we’re still standing. Even Barack  and Michelle Obama who went to this movie on their first date in 1989.

Da Mayor: Doctor…
Mookie: C’mon, what. What?
Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
Mookie: That’s it?
Da Mayor: That’s it.
Mookie: I got it, I’m gone

So, do the right thing. That’s YOU! No excuses. Get your sorry ass down to the Picture House on August 18th.


Bill Walton

Mario, 2018

Tuesday Wonder – 24th July 6:10pm

It’s apt that Mario is screening in the ‘Tuesday Wonder’ strand at HPPH. Many would find the movie’s theme – gay footballers, and the struggles they face simply to be themselves – to be a source of some amazement, at least in Western Europe where LGBT rights are now seen to be well established. There’s barely a bat of an eyelid these days to learn someone in the public eye is gay in music, entertainment, politics… so why should sport be different? How can professional men’s football across the entire continent not have one single out gay male player?

The director and co-writer of ‘Mario’, Marcel Gisler, was similarly baffled – at first. Admittedly “not a football connoisseur”, the Swiss film-maker was interested to learn of how the competitive, often hyper-masculine environment of a pro team sport like football can be so pressured, to the extent that conformity is everything. To get ahead in a career that can be incredibly lucrative, you need to fit into the team ethic, be easier to manage than other players fighting for your position, and have a potentially tradeable market value. When it comes to personal relationships, the expectation is to have a beautiful girlfriend who in time becomes a wife, or be ‘jack the lad’ and play the field. In terms of sexuality, there’s only one team to represent.

So when professional hopefuls Mario and Leon – team-mates and flatmates at Swiss club Young Boys Berne – unexpectedly fall in love with each other, they set into motion a chain of events they can never fully control – least of all the reactions of friends, family and team-mates. Gisler’s film fizzes with energy in its scenes on the pitch, builds tension and drama off it, and invites empathy towards its two leads – both free to explore their feelings in private through youthful exuberance and a sense of fun, but forbidden to be in love in public due to the traditions of their sport.

When the time comes to make decisions, Mario must choose between his dreams of success, or the prospect of happiness with Leon. It’s a wrench of a dilemma with which to grapple. Little wonder then, that in real life we rarely ever learn of matters of the heart affecting gay or bisexual footballers.

In ‘Mario’, we’re afforded what amounts to a brief glimpse into one of the beautiful game’s longest-running and saddest stories. If football’s really not your cup of tea, don’t worry – there’s more than enough off-field drama to keep you watching. Two of its stars picked up the highest acting accolades available in their native Switzerland and it’s received applause at film festivals worldwide this year. Go along, show support, give ‘Mario’ a cheer – and hope that one day soon, someone in the Premier League or the EFL might show that being gay and being good at football are by no means mutually exclusive.


Jon Holmes (@jonboy79)

Bill’s Films of 2018 (so far)

What with the rain finally arriving, various ball game tournaments coming to an end and school terms drawing to a close, it must be the start of the great British summer. What better time to look back over all the films shown so far this year and pick out our favourites. Over the next few weeks our contributors will be posting their highlights, starting with Bill Walton:

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Human Flow
  • A Fantastic Woman
  • Distant Sky – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen
  • The Shape of Water.
  • The Yorkshire Silent Film Day including Another Fine Mess, The Unknown, and Hamlet

A good list? Feel free to share you feedback and your own highlights of the year so far in the comments below.

Human Flow, 2017

A pay-what-you-can screening Sunday 24th June 2pm

This extraordinary and beautiful documentary is being shown as part of the Hyde Park Picture House contribution to National Refugee Week. ‘Human Flow’ is a deeply human and respectful response to the plight of 65 million people displaced worldwide: a fusion of art, cinema and politics which helps us to develop the empathy and understanding we need when looking for political solutions to the global refugee crisis.

Why is Human Flow so special?

  • Director, Ai Weiwei, himself lived in internal political exile in terrible conditions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. He later escaped to the United States and then to Germany. Governments tend to think of migration in terms of numbers, of masses of migrants lacking in personal identity. By way of contrast, Ai focuses on intimate portraits of individuals and small groups, introducing us to people with hopes, families, friends, and pets. ‘Human Flow’ takes us into their frightening worlds of border fences and gates, disused railway stations, life jackets and survival blankets, interpreters and mobile phones.
  • We are facing a shifting world order. Displaced people flee the effects of war, poverty, hunger, racism, and climate breakdown which leave them with no hope for their future if they stay. Here are stories of people so desperate that they leave behind their language, homes, habits, friends and communities for life-risking journeys and unknown futures. Ai Weiwei uses technologies ranging from iPhones to drones to take us to 23 countries as far apart as Afghanistan, Greece, Myanmar and Kenya to hear from them directly.
  • Let’s not forget that Ai Weiwei is an artist as well as a human rights activist. His openness and empathy reminds me of performance artist Marina Abramović when she shared a period of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her in the New York Museum of Modern Art for three months (The Artist Is Present, 2010).
  • ‘Human Flow’ is ultimately an expression of solidarity. If someone is hurt, we are all being hurt. That refugee could be my mother, my son, my husband, or my neighbour. We are all citizens of the world. This harrowing global migration is a challenge to our freedom and democracy, for all of us, wherever we live.

Ai Weiwei says that, in the face of global displacement of human populations, resorting to physical borders and walls is like building a dam to stop a flood. It doesn’t solve the issue entirely and may well make matters worse. It is better to make paths which let this human flow continue with as much dignity and respect as possible (for example through implementing policies which match our obligations under international conventions relating to the status of refugees), while at the same time working to tackle the reasons for human displacement at their source.

‘Human Flow’ is screened at 2pm on Sunday June 24th. Entry is pay-as-you feel with proceeds going to support Asylum Seekers in Leeds through Leeds Refugee Forum and Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network.


Bill Walton

Isle of Dogs: A Dog-friendly screening 

A dog-friendly screening? Hmm … part of the Cinema’s relentless efforts to build new audiences. What could possibly go wrong? And who could resist writing a review peppered with references to Dog Day Afternoon (1976), K-9 (1989) and Lady and the Tramp (1955)? So, here are my notes:

The Picture House: Auditorium lights on low during the film, film subtitled. Dog blankets and (shh!) treats provided.

The audience: diverse and generally well behaved. A few barks here and there but, as I remarked to Jack (Russell), at least I didn’t see any dogs checking for messages on their phones while the film was running. Certainly popular. Both dog-friendly screenings have been sold out.

The film: The Isle of Dogs was a great choice. Beautiful stop-motion animation and a simple story. Despite it being set in Japan I didn’t notice any Hokkaidos or Kai Kens in the audience.

This screening was a credit to everyone, canine and human: director Wes Anderson and the excellent voice cast; with  special mention for the staff and volunteers at the Hyde Park Picture House; and of course the support of Dogs Trust.

We are promised more dog-friendly films at the Picture House. What next? Watership Down (1978), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), or the wonderful Kedi (2016) about the street cats of Istanbul?

Tibbs, the cat who once took up residence in the Picture House foyer, must be turning in their grave.


Bill Walton

Hairspray, USA 1988

Showing Saturday 31st March 11pm

Maybe you are too young to remember the ‘60s.
And if you remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there!!
Now, who first said that … was it Timothy Leary, Pete Townshend, Grace
Slick, Robin Williams or someone else? … well, whoever it was, this
great John Waters movie is your gateway to early ‘60s Baltimore.

Hairspray reveals a world of big hair, plus-size models, the Corny Collins
teenager dance show (with its “Negro Day” on the last Thursday of every
month), Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and, of course, exuberant dances like
The Twist, The Mashed Potato, and The Watusi.

Motormouth Maybelle Stubbs (Ruth Brown): No matter what you’ve
heard, we are gonna teach the white children how to do The Bird!

Despite the upbeat music, all is not well in Maryland. Racism is an ever-
present reality. Life is certainly a bit of a challenge for some of the
parents like Edna and Wilbur Turnblad (Divine and Jerry Stiller), and
Velma and Franklin Tussle (Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono). And it’s not
just the dancing. Listen up …

Amber Von Tussle, Franklin von Tussle: Segregation today. Segregation
tomorrow. Segregation forever!

But the times, they are a changin’. Something’s blowin’ in the wind.
Iggy (Josh Charles): Would you swim in an integrated swimming pool?

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake): I sure would, Iggy. I’m a modern kind of girl,
I’m all for integration.

It’s subversive. It’s gleeful. It’s bawdy. And the issues raised by
Hairspray remain very relevant today. Be there or be square!

As delightful Tracy Turnblad exclaims: Let’s dance!


Bill Walton