Cinema Rediscovered on Tour: Women’s Stories from the Global South (& To Whom They Belong)

Hyde Park Picture House has worked in collaboration with Watershed, Black Cinema Project and Ajabu Ajabu to develop and tour an exciting film programme, a focus on five women’s stories from Morocco, Cuba, Venezuela, Angola and Tanzania.

Curatorial collaborators Mosa Mpetha (Black Cinema Project, Hyde Park Picture House), Darragh Amelia and Jesse Gerard (Ajabu Ajabu) presented five recently digitised or restored works from the Global South that are written by and about women in Cinema Rediscovered Film Festival July 2022. Surrounding each film from this selection existed a uniquely challenging story of ownership and distribution, opening up discussion around the imbalance of power within film cultures perpetuated globally and locally. The strand includes Sambizanga the first film by a woman to be restored by the African Film Heritage Project, an initiative created by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, the FEPACI and UNESCO – in collaboration with Cineteca di Bologna – presented in person at Cinema Rediscovered by Annouchka De Andrade, daughter of director Sarah Maldoror.

All Titles include: Door to the Sky (Morocco, 1989), De Cierta Manera (Cuba, 1974-77), Araya (Venezuela, 1959), Maangazimi: The Ancient One (Tanzania, 2001) and from Angola Sambizanga (1971).

Launching at this year’s festival – the package of films is available to book for cinemas and festivals across the UK from August 2022 to January 2023 with support from BFI awarding funds from The National Lottery and MUBI.

Hyde Park Picture House screened Araya in the City Varieties on 1 November 2022, and A Door to the Sky is showing on 29 November 2022.

We have an interview between Robb Barham (HPPH Operations & Programme Manager) and Mosa Mpetha (HPPH Creative Engagement Officer) about the curational process for this programme.

Robb: So, tell me how this strand came about, how you were invited to participate in Cinema Rediscovered, and how you built the strand together with the people that you were collaborating with.

Mosa: The strand came together through several separate streams of work, and it ended up being much bigger and better than I initially anticipated.

It started with the film Sambizanga; my friend Samra Mayanja and I created Black Cinema Project together a couple of years ago, and we were really obsessed with this film because it was the first film that we showed to our group. On researching the film we came to learn it had a particularly interesting backstory due to the fact that the filmmaker and her daughters were trying to reacquire the rights to get it taken off youtube where a shoddy version was available, and they were trying to get the rights back so they could restore it. They basically wanted people to see it in its full glory. But the producer of the film had sold the rights to a French distributor in a 50 year contract, and the French distributor wasn’t doing anything with the film.

So it really sparked our interest and when we were researching this, we started to wonder about the politics behind film rights and restitution in the film industry. What are the circumstances that allow a film to become locked away in individual, any individuals basement, uncared for and unseen? So we were particularly interested in this story and followed its journey. Unfortunately, the filmmaker, Sarah Maldoror died in 2020, after which her daughters continued on trying to get the film back. Eventually they did, largely because they got support from Scorsese’s Film Foundation and a wider funded project – the African Film Heritage Project.

They managed to get the rights back in order to restore the film which was screened in Bologna in 2021, and it was just a really exciting moment. So essentially, we knew this film had to be seen and appreciated by lots of people, on multiple big screens, and to be treated with the respect it deserves.

Continue reading

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

Celebrate Yorkshire Day with Billy Liar

Wednesday 3rd August 6pm Leeds University Union

To celebrate Yorkshire Day this year there is a screening of Billy Liar (1963) at Leeds University Union on Wednesday 3rd August at 6pm.

Before the film there will be a brief update on the upcoming changes to the Friends Membership scheme and how that fits in with the development, changes and reopening of the Picture House in the autumn.

The Friends will be moving to an annual “Pay What You Decide” membership model and focussing more on our charitable aims. Soon, The Hyde Park Picture House will be introducing their own new membership scheme which will include discounted tickets and other benefits.

We’ve made these changes because membership schemes are an important way for cinemas like the Picture House to raise income and grow audiences. The primary motivation for the Friends has always been different, focussing on our charitable objects to support and celebrate the cinema. At this point clearly separating the two so both could thrive felt like a great opportunity.

We’ve put together a page of Frequently Asked Questions on our website which explains things in more detail but if you have any other questions please get in touch

Back to Billy Liar in which Tom Courtenay plays an irresponsible funeral director’s clerk, who fiddles the petty cash, is at war with his parents, and has become involved with two young women who share the same engagement ring. An incorrigible liar and day dreamer by nature, whenever possible, Billy retreats into a fantasy world where he is the hero: a dictator of an imagined land of Ruritania or a famous novelist. Anything to avoid have to make a decision, grow up, get out.

Filmed on location in Bradford and Leeds, Billy Liar is outlier to the brand of kitchen-sink realism then current in 60s Britain. Director John Schlesinger, with screenwriters Keith Waterhouse (who wrote the 1959 novel the film is based on) and Willis Hall, craft a wonderfully cast and irreverent film that sits somewhere between reverie and reality, cleverly mirroring the modernisation of British society at the time.

Rosie, Ireland 2018

This movie was screened at the Hyde Park Picture House in 2019; now it is transmitted this coming Sunday evening at 8.40 p.m. on the new BBC Three channel [Freeview 109 – also on the BBC iPlayer) . The Picture House screening was accompanied by presentations from members of the production, including  the director;  which added a welcome dimension to the event. I was impressed and included the title in my ‘best of the year’ selection . Rotten Tomatoes had very positive reviews and commented:

“Equal parts empathy and outrage, Rosie offers a heartbreaking glimpse of economic insecurity that will hit many viewers uncomfortably close to home.”

A day in the life of a family whose lose their rented home and find that the city [Dublin] is no place to be homeless. The key character is the mother, Rosie Davis (Sarah Greene); critics generally had high praise for her performance. But the whole family cast are really good with her partner John Paul Brady (Moe Dunford) and their four children, Kayleigh (Ellie O’Halloran) and three younger children Millie (Ruby Dunne), Alfie (Darragh McKenzie) and Madison (Molly McCann) equally convincing.

The day is a bleak procession of failures and lack of provision. The parents desperately seek a shelter, even for one night, as the children suffer from their poverty and insecurity. Much of the day is spent in their car as they search the city: this offers distinctive variation on the road movie: perhaps influenced by some of the also distinctive but different variants in Iranian cinema. This is the bleak landscape for the homeless in Ireland’s capital, but this is a story that could equally be filmed in British cities and in those of North America.

The screenplay is by the noted Irish writer Roddy Doyle. And the script was developed from real-life experiences  of people caught in the trap of homelessness. Filmed on location in Dublin the cinematography by Cathal Watters  uses frequent hand-held camera and large close-ups to present the emotional problems for the family.  The director Paddy Breathnach handles the production extremely well and achieves a documentary feel to the drama.

The film was likely shot in colour on a digital format in colour, it circulated on a DCP. It should show up well on the BBC HD channel though the widescreen 2.35:1 ratio may be slightly cropped. The title runs for 86 minutes. If you missed the Hyde Park screening the title was hard to see; the fate of many independent but really worthwhile movies. So it is a definite must on Sunday; be prepared for an emotional and powerful drama.

Stan & Ollie (Britain, Canada, USA 2018)

This is a portrait of two icons of film comedy, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. However, most of the film deals with their later years, an eight month tour of Ireland and Britain in 1953, presenting performances on stage in music halls based on their famous routines. It was a success at the time and now offers a combination of celebration, humour and nostalgia. The film is screening this Wednesday [April 6th] at 9 p.m. on BBC 2. Since it is, in part, a BBC production it should be featured on the iPlayer for some time.

The film is well put together and has a fairly straightforward narrative. The stand out aspect are the performances as Stan / Steve Coogan and Ollie / John C. Reilly. For fans like myself it was as if watching the duo once again. The supporting cast is excellent, especially their two partners: Ida Laurel / Nina Arianda: Lucille Hardy / Shirley Henderson. In fact the actual tour, organised by impresario Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones), is more or less played in reverse. At the opening the audiences are small and lukewarm; the reverse of actuality. The intention it would seem is to develop a rising narrative ending with a highly successful performance and a delighted audience.

It is not all humour. The tour ended when Oliver suffered a heart attack and following the tour they were unable to work again. So there is also a disconsolate note at the conclusion. The film also shows in flashback how Stan and Ollie ended their association with Hal Roach (Danny Huston). Continue reading

Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black Filmmakers

This is a documentary screening on April 1st on Sky Arts at 2.40 a.m. This appears to be the only Sky channel available on Freeview, Channel 11. It offers a range of programmes on the arts including frequent studies of cinema, film and film-makers. The majority of these are rather lightweight; they tend to ‘talking heads’, which means the comments are spread across a series of interviewees and rarely have the space to develop complex comments. And the extracts from films tend to be short and not necessarily illustrative of the important points. Some, like the programmes on Buster Keaton or Josephine Baker, involve the European Media Company Arte and are more analytical. This documentary falls rather in the middle.

Oscar Micheaux was a pioneer film-maker in what was known in early C20th USA as ‘race cinema’. These were films produced specifically for black audiences and usually screened in segregated cinemas in the South and either in segregated auditorium or programming in the North. The earliest ‘race’ film dates from 1905 but the cinema took off around 1910 , mainly in Chicago. There were independent ‘race films’ production companies like The Lincoln Motion Picture Company [1916 to 1921] owned by black entrepreneurs. Most companies in this field were owned by white entrepreneurs. There were also black production crew and ‘stars’ like comedian Mantan Moreland, who actually appeared in a few mainstream Hollywood titles. The ‘race cinema’ died out at the end of the 1940s when Hollywood finally decided to attract the ‘black dollar’; and then the 1950s saw the appearance of black stars in Hollywood like Sidney Poitier.

Oscar Micheaux was possibly the most important producer and director in this field. His Micheaux Film Corporation was set up in Chicago in 1918 and he later also worked in New York. Between then and 1940 he made forty four movies; most, like much of the ‘race cinema’, are lost. But the surviving silent and sound films are key examples of that cinema and also are seminal film texts in the history of US film and black film-making. Continue reading

A Positive Start To 2022

Chair of the Friends, Bill Walton has started to get out more and take advantage of some of the many films on offer, here is a round up of some of the films he has seen so far this year.

The Picture House On The Road programme has screened some gems:

Licorice Pizza (2021) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A delightful romance between Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (talented son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) ably supported by actors including Sean Penn, Tom Waits and Bradley Cooper. A little over long at 133 minutes, but great entertainment.

Parallel Mothers (2021). Once again Pedro Almodóvar shows his talent for getting superlative performances out of a cast including Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit and some babies who certainly qualify as emerging talent. It includes important themes such as giving a decent burial to people killed in the Spanish Civil War (a conflict which seems more significant with today’s struggle for democracy in Ukraine); and the part women play in child rearing (Penelope Cruz puts on her ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ t-shirt to underline the point).

At the HEART Centre in Headingley I watched:

In the Heat of the Night (1967). A celebration of the contribution of Sidney Poitier to film, and to his confrontation of racism more generally. A great performance by Rod Steiger too. A film that retains its power over 50 years later.

Border (2018) an imaginative Swedish film about a customs officer who is not all she seems. Entertaining and thought provoking.

Honeyland (2019). A beautifully photographed story showing the vulnerability of living at subsistence level (in Macedonia), and the fragility of ecosystems plus a cast of many thousands (of bees).

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), a ‘food and film’ event with this classic film, another reminder of war in Europe, accompanied by delicious paella.

So the word is that great film offerings are available and audiences are starting to return. Venues are going out of their way to keep everyone safe. What are your highlights of the year so far?

The reopening of our rejuvenated Picture House is now only about six months away. With our Annual General Meeting behind us, the Friends’ Committee is actively putting plans into place to give you new opportunities to become involved. 2022 is set to be an exciting year!


Bill Walton

Knives Out, USA 2019

If you are still unable to enjoy theatrical screenings you can at least enjoy a very smart movie on terrestrial television. It offers comedy with drama; a clever pastiche [celebration rather than the spoof] of a popular genres. This highly praised title plays with the ‘murder mystery-cum-detective’ story; in particular the variant that made Agatha Christie so successful. A mysterious death occurs in a family mansion of the patriarch who made his money in writing the sort of stories presented in this movie. A famous private detective is paid anonymously to investigate the death and solve the mystery. The family members fight over the money and the mystery; one aspect of the title.

The writer and director Rian Johnson had already made a teen neo-noir: an action movie: and an episode of the Star Wars franchise. He clearly has watched innumerable examples of the genre and one can spend time spotting the influences. The plot is labyrinthine and perhaps at times too clever. There re a number of red herrings, even an occasional Hitchcock ‘macguffin’. I suspect that very few viewers will unravel the plot in advance of the conclusion; a major surprise.

The production values are good and the tempo of the film is slick. But I felt that it was the cast in particular who made the movie so effective. Christopher Plummer plays patriarch Harlan Thrombey with ease and skill that have graced so many performances. Daniel Graig as detective Benoit Blanc reveals characterisation skills that have not been much seen in his  earlier roles. And I really liked Ana de Arnas as Harlan’s nurse Maria. But all the actors are really fine in their roles. There are several canine characters; and two of them race in an important sequence.

The title was shot on a combination of 35mm and digital formats. It is screening on Channel 4 at 9 p.m. this Saturday. – 130 minutes in colour and standard wide-screen. On the HD channel it should look and sound fine. It did when screened at the Picture House.

Andy’s Look Back At 2021

Our newest committee member, Andy Smith, takes a look back at another unusual year in cinema.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty let me put some context around where my film preferences lie: Here are some of my favourite films, by which I mean films that I would happily watch over and over again, but not on a loop! (in no particular order): Casablanca (1942), Ex Machina (2014), Leon (1994), Dirty Harry (1971), Farmegeddon (2019), Wall-E (2008). I don’t mind a suspense film but I am not a fan of horror or ‘action’ movies. Although Tenet (2020) was simply brilliant… My wife and I always mark a film out of 10 as we leave the cinema – it has to be our instant impression, given without conferring which we then average and record. More that 8 is very good, less than 2 means we probably walked out if we could without disturbing people. 10s are like hen’s teeth.

The first half of 2021 was spent watching films on-line via a 12 inch laptop or DVDs via a projector on to the sitting room wall trying to replicate “The Experience” of the big screen – we even got ice creams in. It was a poor substitute.

From May we were back in cinemas and managed to rack up 20 films between then and the end of the year. Most of them were excellent – only one was poor. So a good strike rate.

The first film was Nomadland – pretty much a 10/10. What an interesting ‘storyline’ fantastic direction (Chloe Zhao), great characters (Frances McDormand, David Strathairn and members of the nomad community), cinematography (Joshua James Reynolds) and social comment.

Frances Mcdormand in Nomadland
Continue reading

Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

Tara (Charles Dickens’ servant, played by Anna Murphy): Is Tiny Tim dead?
Scrooge: Well, of course he is, imbecile.
Charles Dickens: He was very ill.
Scrooge: You can’t save every child in London.
Charles Dickens: And the family has no money for a doctor.
Tara: Then Scrooge must save him!
Scrooge: ME?
Charles Dickens: He wouldn’t…
Tara: WHY?
Charles Dickens: Well, he’s too selfish.
Tara: He can change, there’s good in him, somewhere. I know it.
Scrooge: People don’t change.
Charles Dickens: He’s been this way, for a long time. I’m not sure he can change.
Tara: Of course he can, he’s not a monster.
Scrooge: I thought this was a ghost story, not a fairy tale.

Forty people joined us for the Friends’ screening of the 2017 film The Man Who Invented Christmas. It tells the story of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) wrote and published “A Christmas Carol” during a frantic six weeks in the run up to Christmas 1843. Many thanks to Wendy the Picture House manager and her team for making the arrangements.

It is easy to underestimate the challenge of writing and publishing a book (or making a film for that matter) to a very tight deadline with a very limited budget. Dickens had written Oliver Twist in 1838 but that had been followed by three unsuccessful books. He often had writer’s block, was heavily in debt, and had a large family to support. He could easily have ended up in a debtors’ prison as his father did. Despite this A Christmas Carol became one of the best selling books of all time and went on to influence the way Christmas is celebrated across the world.

This film is not a documentary but does draw upon Dickens’ life experiences, including the ridicule he faced as a child while forced to work in a blacking (metal polish) factory. It’s worth watching for the locations, costumes and the photography, and especially for its portrayal of Dickens’ interactions with the characters which highlights the creative struggle at the moral core of the book, And I enjoyed spotting Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Miriam Margolyes, Miles Jupp and Simon Callow among the cast.

However. the film treats lightly the deep flaws in Dickens’ personality, including his recklessness and instability and his ill treatment of his wife. In my view the film is a very interesting “one-watch” but too sentimental to become a regular feature of Christmas screenings,

Agree/disagree? We welcome your comments or reviews below.


Bill Walton