Watched in May

All watched at home on either DVD or VOD.

In relation to documentaries, I have discovered that PBS has a documentary strand called Independent Lens (it’s a bit like the BBC’s Storyville strand insofar as the films don’t appear to be specifically made for the channel), which puts films online for a limited time period after they’ve been broadcast – and they’re viewable outside of the U.S. One note of caution: they edit the films to fit a specific time slot – so although The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is 90 minutes, the version I watched was only an hour long. Still worth keeping an eye on though.

Also: where Doc Alliance has become a subscription service (you used to be able to rent individual films but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore – a subscription gets you access to everything on the site), they seem to have expanded their collection. I watched Deborah Stratman’s Illinois Parables on there but they also have films like The Event (Sergei Loznitsa, 2015) and Toponymy (Jonathan Perel, 2015) – and in many cases you have the option of paying to download a permanent copy of the film. I haven’t fully explored their catalogue yet, but if you’re into documentaries, I’d recommend taking a look.

Ramón Lluís Bande’s Equí y n’otru tiempu (2015) is available on subtitled DVD directly from the production company – here. Between 1937 and 1952, armed resistance to Franco continued in the Asturian mountains with many of the resistance fighters dying within that landscape. Bande’s film ‘proposes a cinematographic shift from the document to the monument, by filming in the present the places in which the major figures of the Asturian Guerrilla Group were killed’ (taken from the publicity material). I’m intending to watch his subsequent film – El nome de los árboles (2015) – which is available as VOD on Filmin. The 2nd film forms a diptych with the 1st, this time switching to oral history as the witness testimonies of those events need to be captured before they disappear from living memory.

The Carlos Saura Challenge: I had a fit of enthusiasm, rewatched a couple of the films and watched two others for the first time. I’ve re-written the nine posts that were part of the original run of the challenge on the old blog, and also written a completely new one for an early film that wasn’t available then…and then I thought “You’re still not even a third of the way through his filmography!” and got a bit disheartened. I had seen it as a possible way of kickstarting getting back into the habit of writing again, although – given that I’ve always struggled with momentum on this particular project – maybe that’s not a good strategy. I don’t want to give up but was thinking that simply watching the films would have to be my way of completing it because writing about them as well ends up making it into (what feels like) an epic endeavour but also something of a chore.

However, having mulled it over, I think I’ve found a way of breaking it down into stages of a more manageable size. I’m going to divide his filmography into three almost-equal periods: 1962-1979; 1980-1999; 2000-2017. I am aware that the first period might be better to end in 1981 (which is when he ended his run of thirteen films with Elías Querejeta) but 1979 represents his last film (of eight) with Geraldine Chaplin – and I’m not actually arguing that these are ‘phases’ in his career (the break with Querejeta is a dividing line in that respect); I just want to divide the time span up, and grouping by decade seems easiest. I need to write about Elisa, vida mía / Elisa, My Love and Los ojos vendados / Blindfolded Eyes but that then leaves me only one film away from completing the first period (Mamá cumple 100 años / Mama Turns 100 is the one I haven’t watched yet). So I’m intending to have a fortnight dedicated to Saura’s 1962-1979 films probably in early July (I’ve got other things going on this month), with a post on each of the thirteen films from those years. I will then move on to watching and writing about sixteen of the seventeen films (one is completely unavailable) from 1980-1999 (the films aren’t equally shared between the periods, but there’s not much I can do about that) with the intention of posting that collection over two weeks towards the end of the year – but there’s obviously a strong chance that it’ll be early next year instead. I won’t give an ETA on the last period until I know how long the middle one takes (only nine films in the last collection at the moment – Saura’s still making films – so that should feel easy-peasy in comparison). Dividing the thirty-nine (and counting!) films into smaller collections feels more do-able.

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6th Festival Márgenes: free to view online, 11th – 31st December

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I have previously written about the 4th and 5th editions of this Spanish online festival. Specifically dedicated to films – from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and Ibero-America (Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Latin American countries) – whose form, style, or duration mean that they will struggle to access the normal distribution routes or obtain a commercial release, Márgenes initially takes place in key cities in Spain, Mexico, Chile and Uruguay at the start of December, before moving online during the second half of the month. Documentaries and experimental films tend to dominate the selection.
The online side of the festival makes the films free to view. Sometimes there are rights restrictions on specific titles in certain countries – at the moment Generación Artificial and Santa Teresa y otras historias aren’t visible to me, but I don’t know if that’s a rights issue or just a glitch on the website. Films that aren’t in Spanish tend to have Spanish subtitles, but in past years the majority of the Spanish-language films have had English subtitles. The subtitles aren’t listed on the website – I’ve put a * next to the trailer links below where the festival has used a trailer with English subtitles, which is often a good indication of there being subs on the film as well [UPDATE: this hasn’t been a good indicator this time around]. But given that the films are free to view, you aren’t going to lose anything by starting a film to see whether subtitles appear. I never manage to watch everything, but I will update this post to indicate the presence of subtitles on any films I watch [UPDATE: I’ve watched two and looked at a third – I’ve added the subtitle info below].
The previous editions I’ve explored have revealed gems such as África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014), El gran vuelo / The Great Flight (Carolina Astudillo, 2014), and La sombra (Javier Olivera, 2015) (the latter was my favourite in last year’s festival). I can recommend No Cow on the Ice (I reviewed it earlier this year) and personally will be aiming to at least catch Pasaia bitartean, Santa Teresa y otras historias (if it’s available), and Las letras (on the basis that I’ve read positive things about them in relation to other film festivals). The festival announced its prizes yesterday – I’ve marked the winners below as well.
This is the line-up of titles in the 2016 official selection (clicking on the title will take you to the streaming page for that film):

> Arreta (Raquel Marques and María Zafra, 2016, Spain – 60 min) *trailer
> Generación Artificial / Artificial Generation (Federico Pintos, 2015, Argentina – 62 min) *trailer
> Historias de dos que soñaron / Tales of Two Who Dreamt (Andrea Bussmann and Nicolás Pereda, 2016, Mexico/Canada – 82 min) *trailer
> CAMIRA PRIZE: Il solengo (Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis, 2015, Italy/Argentina – 66 min) trailer
> Inadaptados (Kikol Grau, 2015, Spain – 41 min)
> BEST FILM: Las letras / The Letters (Pablo Chavarría Gutiérrez, 2015, Mexico – 77 min) [with English subtitles] trailer
> SPECIAL MENTION BY THE JURY: No Cow on the Ice (Eloy Domínguez Serén, 2015, Spain – 63 min) *trailer
> Panke (Alejo Franzetti, 2016, Argentina/Germany/Burkina Faso – 46 min) *trailer
> NUMAX EXHIBITION PRIZE: Parábola del retorno (Juan Soto, 2016, Colombia – 41 min) trailer
> Pasaia bitartean (Irati Gorostidi, 2016, Spain – 51 min) [Castilian Spanish subs] *trailer
> Placa Madre / Motherboard (Bruno Varela, 2016, Mexico/Bolivia – 54 min) trailer
> Santa Teresa y otras historias / Saint Teresa and Other Stories (Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, 2015, Dominican Republic/USA/Mexico – 65 min) [no subs] *trailer
> Yo me lo creo (Terrorismo de Autor, 2016, Spain – 40 min) trailer

The Márgenes Festival 2016 also includes a retrospective of the work of Lluís Escartín, titled ‘no tengo nada que decir, prefiero escuchar. 30 años documentando lo invisible‘ [I don’t have anything to say, I prefer to listen: 30 years documenting the invisible], and a cycle dedicated to Chilean director José Luis Torres Leiva, ‘Un lugar en el mundo‘ [A place in the world] – they are likewise free to view online until 31st December.

Iberodocs 2016

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The 3rd edition of Iberodocs takes place in Edinburgh later this week from Wednesday 4th – Sunday 8th and there is plenty in their programme to recommend. Of the films I’ve seen, I’d recommend Llévate mis amores (which was my favourite documentary at last year’s EIFF), O Futebol and No Cow on the Ice – and also the shorts Ser e voltar (which is paired with the latter feature – both are by Galician filmmakers) and Sin Dios ni Santa María (which appears in the main shorts programme) – but I’ve also heard good things about Rio Corgo and Volta à terra, so I think that the festival is pretty jam-packed with things worth seeing. I have previously reviewed (in relation to different festivals) three of the films that are being shown and I have written another three this past weekend. I will add the links below as they are published over at Eye for Film.

These are likely to be my last reviews for a while, but I hope to get back to writing on here regularly.

Reviews: AV Festival 2016

The AV Festival runs from 27th February – 27th March. That’s an unusually long runtime for a festival but there are events and screenings spread throughout that whole month, so my reviews will be appearing over the same time period. That said, quite a lot of the films being shown are ones that I either own on DVD or can access via VOD (for a lower price than a cinema ticket), so I’m currently attempting to get a head start on my reviews by watching those films at home. I’m aiming to review 20 films overall, some of which are screening during the last weekend of the festival so I will add titles and links to this post as and when the reviews go online. The first batches of reviews are for collections of shorts but almost all of the rest will be standalone features.

British Doc shorts

1930s – 40s British Documentary Movement –

Showing as part of the ‘Resistance: British Documentary Film’ strand, this collection of four shorts from the 1930s and 40s picks up on some of the same issues raised by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier – namely poor housing conditions and precarious employment in industrial areas. According to the festival’s website, the screening at the Tyneside Cinema on 1st March will show them on 35mm – I watched them on the BFI’s 4-disc boxset, Land of Promise.

 

Jennings_Finest Hour

Finest Hour: Films by Humphrey Jennings –

Jennings is perhaps the best-known name among the British documentary makers of the era and is rightly revered for his poetic artistry. What I’ve liked most though is his eye for the small details – often moments of happenstance – that have the spark of real life rather than something stiltedly staged (or self-consciously presented) for the camera. Some of his films are in the Land of Promise boxset – and the BFI also has three volumes of DVDs dedicated to the director – but several of them (indicated below) are also available to watch for free on the BFI Player.

 

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Between Times: Marc Karlin –

On the weekend of Friday 4th – Sunday 6th March, AV Festival are focussing on director Marc Karlin (details here) who spent several decades as a filmmaker consistently questioning and critiquing the British Left. I will only manage to see a couple of his films during the festival, but almost all of the films that are being screened (including the five on Nicaragua) are also available to rent on Vimeo courtesy of the Marc Karlin Archive (here) – I’m certainly planning to investigate his other works.

 

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Nightcleaners 

This documentary about the 1970-72 campaign to unionise the cleaners who worked overnight in London office blocks was screened on International Women’s Day. I didn’t have time to write about it until two days later, by which time I felt that something of its quicksilver and abstract nature had already slipped beyond my grasp. It is by no means ‘difficult’ viewing (I hadn’t been sure what to expect – it caused a stir in academic circles at the time of its original release and a lot of the contemporaneous writing about it seems to verge on the incomprehensible) but it is a film of many layers. It is also the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

 

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Levels of Democracy: Ukrainian Film Weekend

This weekend (18th-20th March) the AV Festival is focussing on radical Ukrainian documentary. Within that context they are creating a profile of Sergei Loznitsa by screening three of his films – his latest, The Event (2015), as well as Maidan (2014) and Revue (2008). I was supposed to be seeing The Event and two classics from the silent era – Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, 1930) and Enthusiasm (Symphony of the Donbas) (Dziga Vertov, 1930) – but that is not how my weekend has turned out, so there will only be my review of Revue (available on DVD in a set with his films Blockade and Landscape, which is how I saw it) for this section of the festival. If you’re interested in Loznitsa, Maidan is also available on DVD and the majority of his other documentaries are available as VOD on the Doc Alliance site (note: I wasn’t overly fussed by Revue but I like some of his other films considerably more).

  • Revue (Sergei Loznitsa, 2008)

 

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March to Aldermaston: Free Cinema

As part of the ‘Resistance: British Documentary Film’ strand, the festival is screening a showcase of shorts from the Free Cinema movement – March to Aldermaston (Lindsay Anderson, 1959), Refuge England (Robert Vas, 1959), and We Are the Lambeth Boys (Karel Reisz, 1959). The latter two are available to watch for free on the BFI Player – here and here respectively.

That’s it from me in terms of AV Festival reviews. My report on the British documentary section will appear after Easter.

Preview: AV Festival 2016

AV Festival_theme

“Meanwhile, what about Socialism? It hardly needs pointing out that at this moment we are in a very serious mess, so serious that even the dullest-witted people find it difficult to remain unaware of it. We are living in a world in which nobody is free, in which hardly anybody is secure, in which it is impossible to be honest and remain alive.” – George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

I’ve written a preview of the forthcoming AV Festival 2016 over at Eye for Film. The festival takes George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) as its thematic inspiration, asking “Meanwhile, what about Socialism?”. As I explain within the preview, AV Festival 2016 is billed as ‘Part 1’ in relation to Orwell’s book (which is divided into two parts) with ‘Part 2’ intended to arrive in two year’s time in the form of the festival’s 2018 edition (it’s a biennial festival). I read the book last month and was startled by how much of what Orwell observed and criticised in the late-1930s is still with us in 2016 – it is well worth reading. I’m looking forward to discovering how the festival has interpreted it, not least because I’ve hardly seen anything that they’ve programmed.

Eye for Film have also made a page with the full film listings of the festival – you can see that there is a lot of variety arranged around three themed weekends. I’ll be seeing a bit of everything, including several of the films at the last of those weekends – Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend – but my main focus will be the British documentary strand, which is woven throughout the programme over the course of the whole month. I’m also hoping to get to some of the exhibitions and installations that will be at various locations around the city. You can find the full details on the festival’s website – here.

Due to the timescale over which the festival is spread, I will manage to review / write about more individual films than I normally get the chance to at a single festival. I’ll be writing reviews for Eye for Film and a report on the British documentaries for desistfilm. My reviews are already starting to appear, so I will make a separate post tomorrow for the various links.

 

5th Festival Márgenes: free to view online 13th-31st December

Festival Margenes 2015

The first online festival in Spain specifically dedicated to films without a commercial release or without access to the normal methods of distribution, Festival Márgenes is now in its fifth year and continues to celebrate and support filmmakers and films committed to offering alternative perspectives on both cinema and society. The full list of criteria that the films have to meet can be found here – but essentially they have to be more than 40 minutes long, to have not been distributed, and to originate from a specific set of countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela). The films can be of any genre, although it’s noticeable that documentaries tend to feature strongly.
The festival takes place in cinemas in Madrid, Monterrey, Barcelona, Montevideo, Córdoba, México DF, and Santiago de Chile from the 3rd December and then moves online from the 13th until the 31st. The films are all available to stream for free (although there are a couple that aren’t viewable outside of specified locations – noted below). There are Spanish subtitles on films that aren’t in Spanish, but as far as I’m aware there are no English subtitles this year. But even if your Spanish is rudimentary, I’d encourage you to give it a go – a) because cinema communicates through visuals (and non-verbal sound) at least as much as it does through verbal interactions, b) you have the chance to watch some films that you possibly won’t encounter elsewhere.
I haven’t had time to start watching the 2015 selection yet, but I wrote about the 4th edition last year and saw several films that I really liked – namely África 815 (Pilar Monsell, 2014) [UPDATE Oct 2016: the film is available to rent on the Márgenes VOD platform – there’s no indication whether subtitles are included], El gran vuelo / The Great Flight (Carolina Astudillo, 2014) [UPDATE Oct 2016: also available to rent – likewise, no indication of subtitles], and Propaganda (Colectivo MAFI, 2014). Hopefully I’ll manage to watch more this year. The festival prizes have already been awarded (indicated below – but see the website for full details / jury citations and the breakdown of what the prizes entail), so I will prioritise those titles but I also want to see Revolução Industrial [Industrial Revolution] (which I’m sure I read about last year in relation to other festivals), Transeúntes (which was recently at the Seville Film Festival), and the special bonus film (not part of the competition) Ragazzi (Raúl Perrone, 2014) – I saw Perrone’s Favula in Barcelona earlier in the year (my review) and would like to see if his other films maintain the fevered rarity of that one. So basically I need more hours in the day between now and the end of the year.
It’s also worth pointing out that Márgenes has its own VOD catalogue outside of the festival – a mixture of shorts and features (some viewable for free, others pay-per-view for a modest fee) and all at the more original and idiosyncratic end of Spanish production, including several films I’ve written about previously (for example, Edificio España (Víctor Moreno, 2013) and Branka (Mikel Zatarain, 2013)).

Anyway, the full list of films in the 2015 official selection is below – clicking on the title will take you to the streaming page for that film. I will post something further when I’ve managed to watch some of the films. UPDATE (28/12/15): I’ve started watching the films and will add * next to the title if I find that they have English subtitles (note: I’m only going to have time to watch a few, so if you’re interested I suggest that you try streaming them to see whether subtitles appear). UPDATE (Oct 2016): several of the films from this collection are now available to rent on the Márgenes VOD platform – note that subtitles aren’t mentioned, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any (that was also the case during the festival period and all of the ones that I watched had subs).

Alexfilm (Pablo Chavarría, 2015), Mexico, 60 min.
As cidades e as trocas (Luísa Homem and Pedro Pinho, 2014), Portugal, 139 min.
El corral y el viento* (Miguel Hilari, 2014), Bolivia, 55 min. BEST FILM
La extranjera (Miguel Ángel Blanca, 2015), Spain, 70 min [only available in Spain].
La maldad* (Joshua Gil, 2015), Mexico, 74 min. SPECIAL MENTION BY THE JURY
La sombra* (Javier Olivera, 2015), Argentina, 72 min. CAMIRA PRIZE
L’Esma del Temps (El Sentido del Tiempo) (Alexandra Garcia-Vilà, Marta González, Marta Saleta, 2015), Spain, 54 min. HONORARY MENTION
Microbús (Alejandro Small, 2014), Peru, 44 min.
Navajazo (Ricardo Silva, 2014), Mexico, 75 min. [only available in Spain, Mexico, Chile & Uruguay].
Next (Elia Urquiza, 2015), Spain / USA, 72 min.
Revolução Industrial (Frederico Lobo and Tiago Hespanha, 2014), Portugal, 72 min.
Tú y Yo (Oriol Estrada and Natalia Cabral, 2014), Dominican Republic, 85 min. EXHIBITION PRIZE
Transeúntes* (Luis Aller, 2015), Spain, 101 min.

Review: Hand Gestures (Francesco Clerici, 2015)

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I briefly wrote about this documentary earlier in the year, but I have now written a review because it has had a limited release in the UK. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get to the one-off screening in my home city, so I’m hoping that Hand Gestures makes the jump to DVD or VOD because I’d like to watch it again – it is one of my favourite films of the year. My review is up over at Eye for Filmhere.

Reviews: Gijón

Dead-slow-ahead

I have a few reviews of films I saw in Gijón forthcoming over at Eye for Film. I’m starting with three of the features (I will add links to this post as and when they are published), but there will also be something on (some of) the Spanish shorts – I haven’t decided whether this is going to entail reviews, a report, or some combination of the two. I will either extend this post to include links to reviews of the shorts or write a separate post for them – it’ll depend on what I end up writing.

UPDATE (21/12/15), a review of one of the short films in the main competition:

I interviewed Adán Aliaga earlier in the year in relation to his feature (co-directed with David Valero), El arca de Noé / Noah’s Ark – that interview can be found here.