Suggested films for the reopening Hyde Park Picture House

Chantal Ackerman

Readers are likely to have noted of the welcome surprise when in the Sight & Sound decennial poll for 2022 a little known Belgium film garnered the highest number of votes among contributing critics. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a 1975 feature written and directed by the then young film-maker Chantal Ackerman. It is long, over three hours, has an essentially minimalist style and fits into what is often called counter-cinema. It pipped three previous poll-winners, all closer to the mainstream film and all by directed by men: Ladri di biciclette: Citizen Kane: and Vertigo.

The film follows three days in the life of the titular character. She is a single mother with a teenage son and offers a challenging role for the fine French actress Delphine Seyrig. Apart from the mother and son, the only other characters are a neighbour and three gentlemen callers. It is for most of its running time a low-key drama finally disrupted by a fairly shocking sequence.

Fortunate Friends will have seen the feature during the 2013 Leeds International Film Festival with a good quality 35mm print screening at the Picture House. Given its success in the S&S poll and its important place in European cinema this would be a fine film to screen when the Picture House reopens. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a 35mm print in the country. In 2013 the Festival obtained its print from the Brussels Archive. Perhaps, a number of independent cinemas could band together to obtain a print for British audiences.

Jean-Luc Godard

Counter-cinema itself lost one of its luminaries in 2022, Jean-Luc Godard. Over the years many of his films have been seen on the Picture House screen: often challenging: frequently with fine visuals and sound: sometimes more insouciance than dramatic: always searching out new ground for cinema. His first film, A Bout de Soufflé (1960) made young audiences in particular sit up and take notice. His most recent, The Image Book (2018), broke new ground with colour and digital formats. To date there does not seem to have been a retrospective of Godard’s work; nothing at the Leeds Film Festival was a missed opportunity. So a series of films when the Picture House reopens would be welcome. The National Film Archive has 21 film prints of Godard’s titles, mainly on 35mm. These are predominantly from his earlier career: A bout de soufflé  but only on 16mm: Vivre sa vie (1962): Alphaville (1965): also Weekend and Le Mepris, both 1967. There are some titles on other formats but neither Film Socialisme (2010) or The Image Book. Even so, the prints available would offer a remarkable cinematic programme.

A much more recent movie that would also be a treat is Empire of Light (2022). The title was shot on a digital camera and format but there are several 35mm prints of the movie available; though the nearest screenings to Leeds have been Barnsley and Sheffield. The drama is set in a cinema in Margate in the early 1980s. The cinema has 35mm carbon arc projectors which we briefly see in action; presumably one reason why there are 35mm prints.

The film deals with relationships among the staff working at the cinema and the affect on these of the conflicts of the period. There include sexual activity and violence. The latter arises with sudden and unexpected power.

We see inside the projection box in three brief scenes and only once do we see someone watching a film in the auditorium. These are interesting sequences and also feed in to the themes of the drama. The film was written and directed by Sam Mendes; not every aspect of the script works successfully. The cinematography of the title are one of its virtues and were directed by the very fine cinematographer Roger Deakins. Think Fargo (1996): The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007): Sicario (2015).

In one scene Norman (Toby Jones) the Empire projectionist, tells a colleague that the projectors are K.18s; provided by the Projected Picture Trust. These are Kaylee Projectors, a firm that operated in Leeds from 1942 until 1958, during which time the company was taken over by Gaumont. Some Friends will have seen Kaylee projectors operating in a local cinema; a large number used Kaylee equipment at one time. Some fortunate members will have seen them at an event organised by the Pavilion in 2011. The old Lyric cinema, disused, still had Kaylee projectors in situ. Some skilled projectionists, including Allan at the Picture House, repaired the projectors for a series of screenings of a new 35m print. The Picture House staff organised a special tour of the venue and the event. Friends climbed up the old metal staircase to the projection box to see the projectors close up and have the carbon arc technology demonstrated. And extra treat was that, after the main screening, we watched a 35mm print of a short film, which was one of the early ventures filmed by Roger Deakins.

Review: De Cierta Manera


I very much enjoyed De Cierta Manera (One Way or Another). It was shown at Leeds City Varieties as part of Cinema Rediscovered on Tour. The screening was a collaboration between the Black Cinema Project, Twelve 30 Collective, Ajabu Ajabu, the Hyde Park Picture House and the Friends. We had an excellent live introduction given by Lisa Harewood.

Film was seen as an essential aspect of Cuban culture when De Cierta Manera was released by their revolutionary government in 1974. Filming took place over four months in a “marginalised” Havana community, drawing heavily on the experience of local people. It takes the form of an entertaining romance between two charismatic actors, a woman teacher and a macho man in who works in a bus factory. It is documentary in style and reflects how the 1959 revolution started to influence culture and personal relationships. Sadly the talented director, Sara Gómez, died of a chronic illness just after filming was completed. At the time she was Cuba’s only woman film director, and of Afro-Cuban heritage. However the Cuban leadership of the time wanted to promote their practical achievements such as in housing, employment and health rather than stories about community and women’s issues, and the film was rarely shown. It was digitally restored in 2021 and is well worth a look if you get the chance.

Bill Walton

De Cierta Manera – Tuesday 21st February 8pm

We’ve teamed up with the Picture House to present a screening of De Cierta Manera at the City Varieties on Tuesday 21st February at 8pm.

A fascinating docu-romance-drama and critical ethnographic study of a new couple, Yolanda and Mario. The filmmaker assesses the complexities of intersectional, marginalised lives in 1970s Cuba through a factual narrative that contextualises the relationship, the community, and the tensions of life in a new socialist society.

This was the first Cuban feature film directed by a woman and the last directed by Sara Gómez (1942-1974), who died suddenly while De Cierta Manera was being edited. The film was completed with the technical supervision of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Julio García Espinosa, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

This screening includes a special live introduction from Lisa Harewood

Lisa is a digital storyteller from Barbados and co-founder of The Twelve30 Collective, a curating partnership that works with cinemas, festivals, universities and community groups to screen Caribbean films for UK audiences. Lisa has written, produced and directed films, virtual and augmented reality works, and is currently developing a multiplatform documentary project about the experiences of Caribbean families separated due to migration.

Members of the Friends committee will be at the screening to answer any queries about membership or other aspects of the Friends and we hope to see some of you there.

A Bunch Of Amateurs – Sunday 18th December 1pm


Hopefully you’ve already booked tickets to the various Christmas themed films which are being screened by the HPPH over the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately we’ve been unable to put on a Christmas screening for the Friends this year but some of the Committee will be joining Wendy for the screening of ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ at 1pm on Sunday 18th December at Heart. Whilst this isn’t really a festive film, we felt that the subject matter and tone of the film really chimed with the Friends’ values. We will be in the café before the film, so come along if you can for a catch up. Bill and Wendy will be giving an update on progress at the Picture House and what’s been happening with the Friends.

“Joyous and heartbreaking celebration of film-making passion” 

Guardian 9th October 2022


Comes together as a wistful reflection on the power of cinema and community in the face of adversity.

Marina Ashioti Little White Lies

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