Sunday, 22 November 2009

Quote for the Week

'Back in 2002, when I asked [Soderbergh] if he was happy with Solaris, he commented: "it almost doesn't matter, because I'm really driven by process. I'm not a result oriented film-maker."' – From Split Personality by Demetrios Matheou in the December 09 Issue of Sight and Sound.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Goodbye Filmstock, We'll Miss You

Me in the rogues' gallery. The numbers represent the first Filmstock attended.

As regular readers of this blog might remember, around this time last I year I wrote about my first trip to Filmstock International Film Festival, which I attended as a screening filmmaker with my short film Canbury. I wrote about the 'friendly, passionate and supportive ethos with which the festival was run' before talking about some of the great films that I'd seen while there. Well, this year I was fortunate enough to have two of my shorts selected: Hungerford: Symphony of a London Bridge and Paintbrush (which, I'm thrilled to say, also picked up the audience award for its session). Getting into any festival is always a good feeling, but I was especially excited about being invited back to Filmstock. After my experience there last year I'd have attended the festival even if they'd have kicked my films back, but I have to admit that the fact they selected them added to my enjoyment and gave the trip more of a purpose (other than just that of having fun!). However, as pleased as I was to be returning to the festival, I also knew that the trip would be tinged with sadness: shortly before the festival began it was announced that this would be the last ever edition of Filmstock.

The poster for this year's festival.

Given this fact, I'd like to focus more on the festival itself rather than the films, though I did see many that liked. I doubt that what I write here will be able to capture the frankly indescribable experience of attending Filmstock, but hopefully I'll at least be able to express something of what I feel. Returning to the festival was like returning to a family fold, as warm and as welcoming as one could hope for – as well as being able to pull together a strong festival programme, it seems like organisers Neil and Justin have a knack for finding great people to work with. To restate my friend and collaborator Rahim Moledina's comment from last year, you can really 'feel the love' (this year's festival poster, as seen above, says it all). Clearly, I'm not the only one who feels this way; many people that I spoke to had returned from previous years and those who were new to the fest seemed agreed that they'd come to the party too late. I don't feel I can write much else without slipping into hyperbole, so I'll finish here, but I'd like to add that I feel immensely proud and grateful to have been a part of this festival for the last two years. I saw some great work and made some great friends, and I'll never forget my Filmstock experiences.

Finally, although this is the end of Filmstock, I'm sure it isn't the end of Neil and Justin, and I can't wait to see what they do next – both with their filmmaking and with any future festivals or events that they put on. As I said before, Filmstock is like a family, and I can't wait for there to be some kind of reunion – in whatever form it takes. So here's to Neil and Justin and whatever their future holds! Goodbye Filmstock, we'll miss you.

Me with Rahim (right) and festival organisers Neil Fox (left) and Justin Doherty (second from right).

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Quietus LFF Roundup

A feature article that I contributed to for The Quietus has been published here: Due to length the editor decided not to include all the reviews the contributors sent in, so here are the ones I did that didn't make it in:


The story of a theology student whose extreme devotion to God gets her kicked out of her convent for being a 'parody of a nun', Hadewijch is a frustrating mess of a film. Struggling to reconcile her love of God with His ever-deafening silence, Céline is taken down a devastating path by her new Muslim friend Nassir, who persuades her that God 'manifests himself through admiration'. The film starts as an insightful investigation into faith in the modern world before moving into its strongest section, in which Céline and Nassir find common ground between their faiths – surely an important message given the current political climate. It's all the more frustrating, then, when the film descends into fundamentalist stereotypes and, more crucially, stops making sense; taken on both a literal and a figurative level the last third of the film is problematic, confusing, and unsatisfying.

Alexander the Last
Although Alexander the Last might be produced by Noah Baumbach and be director Joe Swanberg's first film starring professional actors, it's still every bit as fiercely independent as one would expect a film from Swanberg to be. Dealing with an actress' struggle to keep her feelings for her onstage lover in check and her offstage marriage intact, it's hard not to read the film as a personal reaction to the making of Swanberg's previous film, in which he starred as a man in an intense long-distance relationship. Once again working with improvisation to create his material, Swanberg has managed to make an intelligent film which deals honestly with the emotional struggles faced by those attempting to be truthful and committed in both art and life.

The Time That Remains
Starting with the 1948 surrender of Nazareth to Israeli troops, and continuing up to the present day, Elia Suleiman’s new film is a deft mix of the personal and political, perfectly blending his family history with the political history of Nazareth. Although a knowledge of Palestinian politics probably helps, the family drama, stunning photography and deadpan, absurdist, and often visual humour ensure that there’s still plenty to enjoy for more casual viewers.

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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Death and Disability at the London Film Festival 2009

A piece that I wrote about a couple of trends I noticed in the films I saw at LFF has been published over at BritFilms. You can check it out here:

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