Tomasz Wasilewski’s United States of Love may take place just after 1989’s felling of the Berlin Wall but little of the era’s euphoric optimism transfers to the Polish writer-director’s dispassionate yet engrossing third feature. Broken down into loosely formed chapters whose pages overlap and intersect with purposeful randomness, Wasilewski’s film sees his nation on the point of transition from its barren communist past to a new era of potential enlightenment: clothes, electronic goods and Whitney Houston posters no less.
Escaping the domestic claustrophobia of a cramped apartment in After Love, Joachim Lafosse’s The White Knights may take place across the vast plains of Africa but is no less tense, restrictive and naturalistic filmmaking from one of the most prominent rising stars of European cinema.
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.
The stakes of The Ivory Game couldn’t be higher. Make the wrong moves now, or fail to make the right ones, and within a generation one of the largest and most beloved land mammals on earth will be no more. The gravity of the situation faced by the African elephant will stun many of those who behold the galling facts of Kief Davidson and Richad Ladkami’s revelatory documentary – this reviewer included: an astonishing 150, 000 elephants have been killed in the last five years and if this tide is not stemmed the animal risks total extinction within fifteen.
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.
Understanding, in every sense of the word, is the essence of Swedish filmmaker Jonny von Wallström’s deeply personal, frequently galling documentary, The Pearl of Africa. Compassion and comprehension are the principle objectives of a film that aims to spread awareness, enlightenment and with any hope, much needed societal change.
Many artists down the years have crooned that breaking up is hard to do and cinema has forever shared a similarly morbid fascination with this particular hardship. Again returning to the everyday domesticity of family life, but with significantly less psychological brutality than his 2012 film Our Children, Belgian director Joachim Lafosse’s latest feature, After Love, is an unrelentingly dour take on divorce and the agonisingly slow death rattle of what was once, presumably, a loving relationship.
There’s something deeply unsettling about the unstoppable, magma-like flow of Werner Herzog’s Into the Inferno. Imperceptibly bubbling away in time with the veteran filmmaker’s monotone delivery, and left-field, impenetrable musings on mankind’s interaction with the natural world, this documentary may concern itself with the incendiary hostility of some of Earth’s most dangerous volcanic activity but the tentacled rivulets of human consciousness attributed to these volatile mountains of fire seep under the skin to chilling effect.
“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.
Set for its launch with an opening night gala showing of Mandla Dube’s Apartheid-era biopic, Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlungu, Film Africa 2016 is the Royal African Society’s 6th annual celebration of cinema from right across the continent. Narrative film and documentaries from South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Chad, Mali and many other nations, tell compelling, insightful and thought-provoking stories and explore crucial current affairs relating to migration, urbanisation, sexuality, political freedom and much more.