Bill’s Experience of #LIFF2022

Without the coziness of the Hyde Park Picture House or the grandeur of the Town Hall, this year I went for the 6 screenings for the price of 5. Choice is difficult with so many films from so many countries. I decided on:

No Bears (2022)


Highly recommended.  Once again Jafir Panahi uses his considerable film making skills to challenge the Iranian state. This time the film actors are in Turkey while Panahi directs from Iran close to the Turkish border because of government restrictions on his movement. There are stories within stories. 

In 2010 the Iranian government banned Panahi from film making for twenty years for propaganda against the state but with huge international support he found ways to continue. Since No Bears was released he  has been rearrested and is currently serving a six year prison sentence. The screening I went to was sold out.

Zuhal (2021)

A very well made black comedy about a lawyer who hears a cat meowing in her Istanbul apartment. Or does she? The sound takes over her life, as she struggles to find an explanation. Excellent cast. Recommended. (Presented jointly with Bird’s Eye View and Reclaim The Frame).

Casque d’Or (1952)

A newly restored taut French thriller. Set in 1902, it shows the struggle between an ex-con who is trying to go straight, and a local gangster boss. The reason? Marie (Simone Signoret) who is a force to be reckoned with. Highly recommended.

We Might As Well Be Dead (2022)

This satirical film creates a coherent dystopian world with a tower block as a refuge from dangers in the surrounding countryside. I struggled a bit with following the plot, but interesting enough for me to consider a repeat viewing.

Fanomenon Shorts

As well as aliens trying to take control of human relationships and breeding, I enjoyed the Japanese film Theatre (2022). Staff at a Tokyo cinema carry out plans to ensure its survival during Covid, with the help of a ghostly spirit. Inspiration for the Hyde Park Picture House!

Return to Seoul (2002)

This is summed up by the subtitle: all the people I’ll never be. Freddie, a 25-year old French adoptee goes to South Korea to find her biological family. Based on a true story. An emotionally intense exploration of clashes of cultural values around family and society in the two countries. Ji-Min Park, the headstrong Freddie, gives a powerful performance in her first film. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to all the LIFF22 staff, volunteers and venues for bringing it all together. 

Bill Walton

Leeds Palestinian Film Festival 2022

The Unreported Occupation

We pull the curtains back on the illegal occupation Israel wants the world to forget

‘Mediterranean Fever’

This year’s Festival opens, as usual, with a title screening the Leeds International Film festival. This and the complete programme can be found, with all details, on the Festival WebPages.

Mediterranean Fever, Palestine/Germany/France/Cyprus/Qatar / 2022 / 108 minutes Arabic with English subtitles – Director Maha Haj. LIFF screening at the Vue in the Light on November 16th and 17th.

This subtly tender film tackles the dynamics of male friendship and the strain of living under occupation. It focuses on the daily struggles of Haifa’s Arab community, as two middle-aged frenemies develop an unexpected relationship and are drawn together by a series of terrifying events. Premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain regard section, and won the Prize for Best Screenplay.

Following the International festival the programme of Palestinian titles offers screenings at a number of venues up until early December. There will be speakers at some events: a musical event: and an evening which includes Middle eastern food.

Fadia’s Tree, Sarah Beddington / UK / 2022 / 68 minutes / Arabic, English, English subtitles. Seven Arts Friday November 18 2022 7:00pm

Sarah Beddington’s film is a compelling documentary account of the director’s friendship with Fadia, a charismatic Palestinian woman and teacher who lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon but yearns to reconnect with her ancestral village in Palestine.

The film spans 15 years, during which time Beddington agreed to make the journey that Fadia was prevented from taking to the home village she has never seen – to find the mulberry tree that has taken on a totemic significance for generations of her displaced family.. Speaker: Susan Simnett, producer of Fadia’s Tree

Love and Resistance in the Films of Mai Masri

Double-bill – Q&A with Victoria Britain – delicious Middle Eastern buffet. Wheeler Hall Saint Anne’s Street – Monday 21 November 2022 4-7.15pm

Frontiers of Dreams & Fears, Mai Masri / Palestine / 2001 / 56 minutes

A tender insight into the lives of Palestinian children growing up in refugee camps. Although Mona and Manar live in camps miles apart, a friendship is forged through barbed wire and walls of concrete.

Hanan Ashrawi: A Woman of her Time, Mai Masri / Palestine / 1996 / 50 minutes

An intimate portrait of a formidable political activist and former spokesperson for the PLO who rejected a position in government in favour of human rights advocacy.

Roadmap to Apartheid, Ana Nogueira & Eron Davidson / South Africa/Israel / 2012 / 94 minutes. Slung Low at The Holbeck – Friday November 25 2022 7:30pm

The analogy of the Palestinian experience under Israeli occupation as apartheid is dissected in a forensic comparison with the history of apartheid in South Africa. Eye-witness accounts and unseen archive material are included. Speaker / Q&A with Robert Cohen.

Tantura, Alon Schwarz / Israel / 2022 / 85 minutes. THE HEART – Sunday November 27 2022 1:30pm

In the late 1990s, a graduate student conducted research into an alleged massacre at Tantura. His work later came under attack and his reputation was ruined, but 140 hours of audio testimonies remain. Israelis insist that the massacre never happened, while Palestinians view it as a hell that can’t be forgotten.. Speaker: Dr Kholoud Al-Ajarma.

Boycott, Julia Bacha / USA / 2021 / 70 minutes / English. Otley Courthouse – Sunday 27 November 7.30 p.m.:  Wheeler Hall – December 9th 6.30 p.m.

When a news publisher in Arkansas, an attorney in Arizona, and a speech therapist in Texas are told they must choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, they launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across 33 states in America.. Speakers. Jenny Lynn – Ben Jamal

‘Boycott’

Eye Witness – singing, film and food. Chapel FM Arts Centre – Sunday 4 December 2022 3pm – 5pm

We are delighted to offer you two eye-witness accounts of life under occupation, both reflecting the power of solidarity. The singing and film will be followed by refreshments. Tadhamon Choir- The singers are fresh from a solidarity visit from Sheffield to Palestine in October. They travelled around the West Bank, visited projects and met many community activists, witnessing first-hand the brutality of life under Israeli occupation. They will share their songs and discuss what they learnt.

Tour Wadi Hilweh, Silwan  18minutes

Sahar Abassi is a community activist and Deputy Director of the Madaa-Silwan Creative Centre She gives us a personal tour of the Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, where an art project with Art Forces from the USA reinforces local resistance to the ethnic cleansing of the neighbourhood.

And running throughout the Festival is an exhibition of photographs.

Humans of Palestine – Unique exhibition showcasing top Palestinian photographers. Otley Courthouse, 1st – 28th November

Jozi Gold Director’s Discussion

Jozi Gold (2019) was screened at Leeds University Union as part of the Hyde Park Picture House On The Road programme in conjunction with the UK Green Film Festival on Sunday 7 November 2021.

Following the film was a discussion with host Sai Murray and film director Sylvia Vollenhoven (who joined via Zoom from South Africa). Capturing the urgency of the current conversation around climate change and the deep links between UK politics, policies and institutions and the impact this has on other countries. The discussion was recorded and here we have a transcription for you to enjoy.

You can watch the film here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/jozigold

SM: Sylvia is not only a filmmaker, an award winning journalist, playwright, writer and knight fellow. Her book about identity, the Keeper of the Kumm won the award for literature, and her dance drama adaptation of the book was showcased on the main programme at the South African National Arts Festival, nominated for various awards – best director, best documentary, playwright, award for human rights in the arts etc.. Individual artist, activist and it’s our real pleasure to welcome you to this screening. Brilliant so we have a select audience gathered here today who I’m sure have questions and responses but I’d also like to begin by thanking you for such an inspiring film, a very provocative film and a really important film. Some really really interesting facts and also the way the film was put together and characters. I guess my first question comes from a conversation I had around the film with one of the people who invited me here today who is from South African heritage and who’s here. Our reaction I guess to knowing this film was about Johannesburg, about mining and your choice to follow this character – because we begin with the stilettos, with the very ornate dressed individual of the white woman but you being a black film director, that was not what was expected but she is such an interesting and intriguing character who has done a lot of good and her activism is having a lot of results. So could you speak about the choice to follow this individual and how you perhaps first became aware of her activism?

SV: Greetings! Thank you for screening the film and thank you for this opportunity. How I first got to hear about this is there’s a tiny magazine in South Africa that is small in numbers and audience but very very powerful. It’s an investigative journalism magazine called Noseweek and the editor of that magazine and I have worked together at different media houses and I’ve always been following his work and I’d seen so much of Mariette Liefferink’s activism in Noseweek. In fact, we feature in the film that Superwoman power image – that came out of Noseweek! The editor also has a son who is a journalist and Adam Wells had been following Mariette’s story and filming and he’s more of a print journalist rather than a filmmaker and he was following her around for 4 years. He has a friend who’s the director of a film in Norway and spoke to Stephan about finishing this film that he had been filming for four years but didn’t know how to structure and didn’t know how to put it all together. Stephan said well I have a friend in Sweden, Frederick Garrington[?] At WG Film would be very interested in the story, and Frederick said I’ll get on board if Silvia is the South African producer and my co-director because Frederick and I have been working together for many years and we also are very close friends for decades, having covered apartheid together and I used to be a correspondent for a Swedish outlet. So that’s how it came about. But I must say when Adam Wells, the South African journalist, came to see me and said Frederick said he’s on board if you become the South African director I was not agreeable! I just had not met Mariette and I thought I’m not going to sit here so many years after South African democracy and allow a white Africans woman to tell us what is wrong with South Africa. It just didn’t sit well with me. But then I went to Johannesburg and in Cape Town at the time and changed my mind completely. There were two things that changed my mind mainly, there were lots of little things, but the two main reasons were her integrity and her passion and the second reason was that being an activist myself I knew how important it was to have an image that was out of the ordinary, that would stop people in their tracks, and not only did she have this exotic image that was attention getting and we could use to our advantage for the activism that the film is hoping to elicit but also in the mining industry, dominated by men, and a certain kind of patriarchal class, they don’t see her coming, and by the time they sit up and take notice she’s already in the Supreme Court with a huge court case. So I thought well given my activism background I could really work with this woman.

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Bill’s Festival Highlights

Another good year! Special thanks to the Leeds International Film Festival 2021 team for screening an impressive selection of films despite Covid and the non availability of the Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall this year.

I watched a total of 8 films

Dear Future Children (2021). Very powerful interviews with young women activists facing huge personal risks in Hong Kong, Santiago and an Ugandan village, plus Q&A with the director.

The Ants and the Grasshopper (2021) following two Malawian women who share experiences of climate change with people from a wide variety of backgrounds in the USA. Great to have this screened while the COP26 Climate Conference was being held in Glasgow. (Available on LeedsFilmPlayer until Thursday)

No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics (2021), with interviews with some key American women and men artists. The documentary shows how they adapted from underground comics in the late 60s, to supporting people through the AIDS epidemic, leading on to graphic novels and a Broadway show. (Available on LeedsFilmPlayer until Thursday)

Seven Samurai (1954). Great to see on the big screen. Actors were really tough in those days!

Paris, 13th District (2021). Some interesting insights into life in the eight tower blocks of Les Olympiades.

Medusa (2021). A Brazilian feminist horror film. Despite an interesting soundtrack and colour design I struggled to follow the plot in this one.

Compartment No. 6 (2021). A great film showing the common humanity shared between a female Finnish archaeology student and a male Russian mineworker on a long train journey to Murmansk.

The Hand of God (2021). The first half is the hugely entertaining story of a gathering of an extended Italian family, followed by the story of how this and other life experiences have influenced the director’s (Paolo Sorrentino’s) work.

This is but a small taste of the huge range of films on offer. Once again it shows the importance of International Film Festivals in building the  global understanding that we so urgently need.


Bill Walton

Leeds International Film Festival 2021

It’s that time of year again and #LIFF2021 is heading back into venues and also making lots of films available to watch online. Earlier this week committee members Bill Walton and Andy Smith attended the launch of the festival and share their first impressions.

For me one of the delights of the Leeds International Film Festival has been settling into the comfy seats of the Hyde Park Picture House, and watching several films in a row. A pleasure deferred until November next year…

This year we had the usual LIFF launch, with a breathless back to back screening of many short trailers for 55 minutes. This approach does give an impression of the variety of films on offer but is not ideal for decision-making. However I came away with a few clues:

But this is just scratching the surface. I haven’t had time yet to delve into the printed programme yet, so these impressions are very much subject to change. I suggest that you have a look for yourself!

Bill Walton

I always look forward to the LIFF preview so after missing last year it was with a sense of anticipation that I went along to the Vue on Wednesday especially as the venue was bragging about their new seats….I could have happily watched more trailers [and you now can – see below] but was glad that the screening was only 55 minutes as I could not have slouched in those seats for any longer despite having fiddled with the adjustment throughout, there was not a comfortable setting for a back now in its 7th decade….

It was a whirlwind of trailers….

I picked out the same ones as Bill plus:

Our task is now to go through the brochure and working out which films and venues align with work and other commitments with the backstop of the Leeds Film Player [the clashfinder can help with this]

Andy Smith


The festival guides are available from Vue Leeds in The Light, Leeds Town Hall now and more sites around Leeds and Yorkshire soon. For a guide in the post, email your details to leeds.film@leeds.gov.uk.

A PDF version is available online and tickets and passes are on sale now.

A number of festival fans have also put together some things that may help you plan your festival.

  • Clashfinder – see what films are on at the same time, highlight your choices, export to your calendars
  • The Films of #LIFF2021 – a Letterboxd list of most of the films showing at the festival
  • Online films at #LIFF2021 – a Letterboxd lists of most of the films available on the Leeds Film Player during the festival
  • LIFF2021 Trailers – a YouTube playlist of 80+ trailers for films at the festival

Sundance Film Festival

Dr Andy Moore (@andymoore_), long-term Friend of the Picture House and Lecturer in Film, Exhibition and Curation at the University of Edinburgh, has just got back from a digital visit to Sundance Film Festival. Always one to champion the treasures which can be found when you have the opportunity to explore the festival circuit, Andy has been kind enough to write up a blog post for us on some of the films at this years’ festival which he’s most excited about.

One of the most exciting things about the film festival experience is the joy of the new discovery – that rush when you catch something really distinctive and original that feels fresh and new. For the Sundance Film Festival (which took place almost entirely online this year) this emphasis on discovery – and on distinctive, original voices – is baked into the very DNA of the festival itself.

Sundance, and its associated programs of filmmaking and talent development labs, has helped launch the careers of some of the most exciting and influential independent filmmakers of the past 30 years – from the Coen Brothers to Paul Thomas Anderson. And in championing fresh new voices, the festival has played host to the extraordinary debut features of filmmakers as varied as Marielle Heller, Kelly Reichardt, Ryan Coogler and Boots Riley (all unique voices whose work has graced the programme of the Hyde Park Picture House over the years).

Although audiences participating in this year’s fest swapped the freezing streets of Park City, Utah (and their snow boots and parkas) for slippers, dressing gowns and the comfort of their own living rooms, 2021’s virtual edition was no different on the new voices front: 39 out of the 73 features screening at this year’s festival were directorial debuts, providing plenty of opportunities to experience the joyful rush of discovery.

For me the first film to provide that dopamine hit was Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The directorial debut from musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is a pure unadulterated joy, and a discovery in more ways than one. The film, which picked up both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, unearths astonishing footage (untouched and unseen for 50 years) of a series of summer concerts that took place in Harlem in 1969. Known as the Harlem Cultural Festival, the concerts featured an array of incredible performances from legendary black musicians including Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples. Thompson’s film skilfully weaves this extraordinary concert footage together with contemporary interviews to tell a vital, generation re-defining and life-affirming story about African American history, music, culture and fashion.

Another film that shines a light on history in a way that forces you to look at the present with fresh eyes is Shaka King’s electrifying sophomore feature, Judas and the Black Messiah. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield in two of the best performances of the festival, the film tells the story of Black Panther Party chairman and revolutionary activist Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), and the FBI informant (Stanfield) who infiltrated the party and ultimately provided the information that led to Hampton’s assassination at the hands of the Chicago police.

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Leeds Film Festival Extended

Leeds Film Player

Normally at this time of year the film festival will have come to end but as we all know this year is far from normal. Plans to show films in venues had to be cancelled as cinemas closed again at the start of November but this has made the online selection even stronger and many of the films are still available until the end of the month.

I found the Leeds Player to work very well with only a few minor niggles, it’s certainly better than offer online film festival platforms with no visible watermarks and the ability to cast to TVs.

Here’s my selection of the films I liked the most that are still available to watch until November 30th.

Poster for Anne at 13,000ft

Anne at 13,000 ft

A divisive film but one I really liked with a very strong central performance; it stuck with me for days after viewing.

Poster showing Aida in front of a warehouse of refugees.

Quo Vadis, Aida?

A really powerful film centred around a translator in Bosnia, 1995 as the Serbian army take over her town. It manages to be both intimate and cover the larger scale of what happened and always feels very relevant.

17 year old Selma eating a honey cigar

Honey Cigar

A late addition to the online programme but a great coming of age film with a really good central performance that wonderfully captures the life of French-Algerian teenager living in Paris in the early nineties.

Illustrated bear wearing a regal robe with a number of human and bear character standing behind him

The Bears’ Famous Invasion

One from the Young Film Festival selection but this charming animation is a delight for all ages (and only £3 to rent).

Poster featuring a woman in a white suit covered in blood holding a pair of shears.

The Columnist

It doesn’t always make a lot of sense and can get quite silly but this is also the most fun I had watching a film for quite some time. A black comedy about a newspaper columnist taking on social media trolls.

I didn’t have time to explore the Cinema Versa strand but hear that Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer and Kubrick by Kubrick are worth watching. I’m making my way through the Shorts, as always this is a varied selection but so far have been consistently good.

I was slightly worried that there may not be as many good films this year but once again it has been a really good programme. I only saw one film that was (arguably) bad and there were a few I struggled to get on board with but I’m glad I saw everything else. You can see my comments on all of the films along with star ratings on my Letterboxd list.

A virtual Palestinian Film Festival

The Leeds Palestinian Film Festival 2020

This year’s programme is, as with so many events, on line. It runs from November 14th until November 28th. The programme is structured through four themes:

Annexation, Occupation Defiance

As Seen by Annemarie Jacir

As Seen by Children

As Seen Through Creative Eyes

All told there are fourteen features that include both dramas and documentaries. In addition there are several supporting videos. As with earlier Festivals there are a range of views and experiences from amongst Palestinians and the few critical voices found among Israelis

The Festival is available on line through ‘InPlayer’ which is an online streaming platform. It claims to be ;

‘the world’s leading pay-per-view and subscription solution’.

It appears to be based in Britain and be an independent company. It relies on the Vimeo provision. There does not appear to be a test video to check reception but when I looked both the image and sound were of a good quality.

You can check yourself on the Festival Web Pages by looking at one of the ‘free’ videos like ‘Through the Eyes of Others – Launch Event’. This is useful as there is an introduction and a conversation regarding grassroots film provision.

You can buy a festival pass for the whole period or buy tickets for individual titles. Note, with the latter your viewing window is 48 hours. I assume that the pass enables you to view right through the period.

 

Bill’s highlights from #LIFF2019

Bill lists some some personal highlights of Leeds International Film Festival 2019

  • Beanpole (2019) a gripping drama about young women in Leningrad shortly after World War 2
  • The Lighthouse (2019) a powerful Victorian gothic thriller about two lighthouse keepers
  • It Must Be Heaven (2019) an original take on the burden of being born Palestinian
  • La Belle Époque (2019) great fun, an audience favourite (showing at the Hyde Park Picture House on December 15, 18, 19)
  • Judy and Punch (2019) Punch and Judy, a feminist version!
  • Marriage Story (2019) a funny and compassionate account of a divorce (showing at the Hyde Park Picture House Nov 29 – Dec 5)
  • Dancer in the Dark (2000) with an impressive performance by Bjork
  • I Lost My Body (2019) an enjoyable animated feature film
  • Osaka Elegy (1936) a story of a brave woman in a highly patriarchal Japan

I also enjoyed films from the Cinema Versa documentary features section:

  • 143 Sahara Street (2019) portrait of a remarkable woman in her desert tea house
  • A Dog Called Money (2019) great viewing for fans of PJ Harvey about she gets inspiration for her songs from around the world (a Picture House screening is planned)

And two documentaries that show the importance of recording events on film:

  • Shooting the Mafia (2019) about the brave Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia (showing at the Picture House on January 21 2020)
  • The Cordillera of Dreams (2019) about Patricio Guzmán’s recording of the violence of Pincochet’s Chile, as s reminder to younger generation

Bill Walton

#LIFF2019 Preview: Cinema Versa


Bill Walton selects some films from the Cinema Versa strand of the festival programme:

Last Festival I only managed to see two documentaries (in the Cinema Versa section): Something Left Behind (2018) about the legendary Leeds band The Wedding Present; and What is Democracy? (2018) which highlighted how the very understanding of democracy varies from place to place around the world and over time.

They inspired me to make sure that I see more Cinema Versa films this time. So far on my list are:

So don’t forget to have a good look through the blue section of the programme. You will discover some cinematic gems.


Bill Walton