The Arbor tells the story of British author, Andrea Dunbar whose works includeThe Arbor, and Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Director Cleo Barnard spent two years with the family and friends of Dunbar, recording interviews and researching her often troubled story. Weaving fiction with reality and including rare TV documentary footage of Dunbar from the 1980s, what emerges is a compelling exploration of the author, whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 29.
Benda Bilili is a documentary which charts the poverty stricken beginnings of a group of paraplegic and disabled Congolese musicians, right the way through to their European acclaim as a result of their debut album. Filmmakers Florent de la Tullaye and Renaud Barret follow the band from their humble beginnings and then on tour in the lap of luxury. This is an uplifting and moving film about the ever-unifying force of music and its ability to cross cultural and class boundaries. Shortlisted for the Grierson Award for Best Documentary.
Howl is the new film by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, directors of the documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.Starring James Franco in a charming, sensitive and gutsy performance as Allen Ginsberg, the film tells the story of the obscenity trial in the 1950s that was surrounding the publication of the poem. The film is a reminder of how relevant the poem is to this very day, both creatively and politically. Featuring stunning, visceral animation that brings the poem to life, Howl is a definite must see, and worth queuing at the returns stand for as well.
Heartbeats is the second feature film from Xavier Dolan, just one year on from his first feature I Killed My Mother, which won theRegards Jeunes Prize in 2009. The tale begins with best friends falling in love with the same charming beau, newcomer Nicolas. Their friendship is tested to the extremes when their frail emotions seem to reach breaking point, both looking for love in all the wrong places and unsure of Nicolas’ sexuality. What is astounding about this film, albeit a little contrived in parts, is the vibrancy and emotional honesty behind it all, as if we are being allowed to look at real, urgent emotions, however stylised the scenes may be. The performances come from the heart and the sound design in particular transports the emotions to a heightened state. Dolan is the writer, director and lead actor of the film and he also takes the art direction and costume design credits. All this at the age of 21, an enormously impressive achievement.
In Our Name
In Our Name is the first feature film from Brian Welsh, a recent graduate from the National Film and Television School. An accomplished and important film, the plot focuses on the difficulties facing those in the armed forces after returning home from the Middle East. Joanne Froggatt plays Suzy, who is struggling to revert to ordinary life after serving in Iraq. Her inability to settle back into family life begins to take its toll as the ensuing events soon tumble out of control. Froggatt’s performance in this tale is electrifying, conveying at once the difficulties she faces as a soldier and as a mother, dealing with the recurring horrors of Post Traumatic Stress disorder. The film is an intricate journey into a very private world, which represents a much wider problem than the borders of the small town in which it is set. At a time when debate about the aftermath of the wars in the Middle East is being sidelined amidst the global financial crisis, this is timely, gripping and important viewing. Shortlisted for the Best British Newcomer.
Mars is the latest film from Geoff Marslett about the race to discover the definitive answer to whether there is life on Mars. As the human astronauts are dispatched, tensions run high as character Charlie Brownsville discovers he has been included on the mission simply to keep the television audience entertained on the mission updates. Marslett described the unique form of rotoscoping developed for the project as “half way between a graphic novel and a hand-coloured photograph.” Fun, witty, original, and visually inventive, make sure that you book this one for take off.
Miral is the latest film by Julian Schnable (Before Night Falls / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.) It tells the story of a young Palestinian woman growing up in East Jerusalem, from the very beginning of the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. After leaving school, Miral (played by Freida Pinto) begins to question her former teacher’s approach to the conflict – that the road to peace is to be found through education and non-violent means. Schnabel’s films often have a very unique visual style and Miral is no exception, providing restless and challenging images which linger long after the frame has cut. An important message for peace in these difficult times of the Israeli occupation.
Spork is a teen flick which offers a genuinely refreshing parody of the celebrity obsession ever prevalent in today’s youth culture. Spork is unwittingly thrown into the limelight when her neighbour is prevented from entering the annual school talent show. Fresh on his first feature debut, JB Ghuman Jr’s film is a delightful movie which provides more depth than most of the American high school teen flicks on offer. Shortlisted for The Sutherland Award.
The Temptation of St Tony
The Temptation of St Tony is the hypnotic, mysterious and surreal black and white new feature from director Veiko Ounpuu, with Taavi Eelmaa playing Tony, a middle aged, middle manager, dealing with a significant crisis. This film is bound to confuse, startle and mesmerise from the outset, as the images and sounds come together in a truly unique and original way.
Black Swan is the latest film from acclaimed director, Darren Aronofsky. Focused upon the politics and drama involved within the New York City Ballet, Natalie Portman plays the lead role as Nina, an experienced dancer who is competing for the lead part in the classical ballet,Swan Lake. As Nina’s character begins to reveal layers of desire, unease and instability in the ever-competitive world of ballet, it provides a perfect framework to explore darker psychological themes as the decision-making process gains momentum. Exciting, original, beautiful, dark, haunting and brilliantly performed, this film promises to be one of the highlights of the year’s festival. Not to be missed. Shortlisted for Best Film Award.