November 2016. A member of the Royal family is forced to defend his chosen partner in the face of an unscrupulous right-wing press, with the suggestion in some commentaries of negative racial undertones. It’s hard to fathom, and deeply galling, that this may still be the case but the theatrical release of Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom remains a sadly timely one in spite of this true story originating nearly seventy years ago.
In a city of millions, it isn’t right but it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Lost in an ocean of lives lived from 9 to 5, spent peering into mobile phone screens, behind closed doors or simply through a blinkered field of vision, a lot goes unseen, unnoticed and unresolved. It’s in this world – and more specifically a Tottenham housing estate – that writer-director Sean Spencer sets Panic, his impressive debut feature.
Director Jim O’Hanlan takes us down many different London roads in 100 Streets, attempting to encompass the multiple criss-crossing tales of his debut feature’s diverse ensemble. Working from the first script by local screenwriter Leon Butler, the capital’s wide-ranging social spectrums and innumerable walks of life are all to be found here but this interweaving of stories from the rich fabric of a Battersea square mile doesn’t end up going anywhere. And what it’s trying to tell us is never particularly profound, coherent or meaningful.
We are taught from a young age never to judge a book by its cover. An idiom passed down from one generation to the next to encourage acceptance and a search for meaning below surface appearance, its essence is too often lost by ignorance, misunderstanding or sheer mean-spiritedness. Jane Gull’s debut feature My Feral Heart – premiering at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival – is led by an extraordinary young actor who, in his lifetime, is likely to have been subjected to such mistreatment. It revolves around Luke (Stephen Brandon), a young man with Down Syndrome.
“Try not to fuck it up, but don’t worry if you do.” Full of late twenties anguish and uncertainty, this rather tongue in cheek mantra could be applied to many aspects of Chanya Button’s Burn Burn Burn, a film which champions the notion of trying again, and again, if at first you don’t succeed. It’s clear throughout the young director’s debut feature that this project has been a labour of love both on and off-screen; a meandering tale of trial and error in which she, and a tremendous cast, have invested a great deal.
As with many great film noirs of days gone by, City of Tiny Lights begins with the setting sun. A man’s voice speaks of “the lies people tell, the truths they don’t”, but in the gathering gloom it’s not the broad boulevards of Los Angeles that will be the setting for this murky tale of murder and intrigue. From high above a West London suburbia a camera focuses on a leather-jacketed man at a zebra crossing.
Do you dabble in kale? Nina (a wonderful Tanya Fear), the lead of Shola Amoo’s A Moving Image, jokingly says she could eat it all day, every day. While chomping down on the unappetising health food, the suggestion of a grimace plays on her face. With the camera of a visual arts project turned to face her by friend and collaborator, Isha (Hussina Raja), the Brixton native seeks to extricate herself from the quinoa yuppie brigade upon returning to live at the southern end of the Victoria line. A Moving Image is a critique of gentrification situated somewhere between a Spike Lee joint and the recent works of Ira Sachs.
Going back to basics is never a bad thing. The 2016 blockbuster season has been littered with a procession of woefully incoherent, poorly acted, CGI-dominated offerings whose money-spinning intentions have forgone one essential element of filmmaking: a good story. Those useless scurvy dogs! Mercifully, some still fly the flag for substance over style and plucky British contender Swallows and Amazons is a charming, old-fashioned adventure yarn that soars high above and away from the wreckage of vacuous, high-spending millennials.
There are very fine, often blurred lines between notoriety, fame, popularity and infamy in the movie business and few stars had to so persistently endure their objectifying slings and arrows as Ingrid Bergman. Over the course of a glittering career the wilfully independent Swedish actress made front page headlines for scandal and success in equal measure; most famously for an affair with Italian neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini which would lead to children and a second marriage.
For much of The Confession: Living the War on Terror its principle subject, Moazzam Begg – a British man suspected of terrorism, but never convicted of any crime, sits opposite a static camera responding to questions from an unseen interviewer. Smartly dressed, strikingly intelligent, eloquent and articulate, his recollections span twenty-five years of persistent turmoil.