Stay at home: Viewing and reading suggestions

Stay at home, please.

I have been working from home for just over a week. My place of work had announced its impending closure earlier today, but I expect to still be working from home (rather than getting through my TBR pile) for the foreseeable as many of the services that my team support are either already online or will be adapted for delivery in that format. Anyhow, as it now (finally) looks like a whole lot more of us in the UK will be indoors, I thought I’d start compiling a list of things to watch / read online for free (or minimal cost). I’m going to divide things into Viewing and Reading (I may add Listening if I have time to get into podcasts), and then add links in alphabetical order as and when I encounter them.

[Last updated: 27/03/20]

Viewing:

The 100 Best Films Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime – compiled on the BFI site, and looks like it will be updated regularly.

Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival – The 10th edition will take place entirely online as a free worldwide stream between 1st-3rd May. The full schedule for individual films (shorts and features) can be found here. I’ve already made a note to make sure that I’m online to catch Jonathan Perel’s Corporate Accountability.

Chili – VOD. Not a platform that I’ve heard a lot about but they have individual titles (including films recently in UK cinemas) available for digital rental, and although they don’t appear to have much in the way of World Cinema, they do have a fairly substantial documentary section.

Doc Alliance – VOD. Subscribe for 6€/month. A vast catalogue of documentaries (including shorts) from around the world (there are often multiple versions of the same film, each with subtitles in a different language). They have recently added a strand of documentaries for children, and also seem to have branched into fiction films from Eastern Europe (I can see films by Miloš Forman, Jan Němec, and Věra Chytilová, among others, in the menu).

Festival Scope – VOD. Frequently hosts the online presence for various film festivals – films can either be rented individually, in batches with a discount, or sometimes for free. It has currently (until 5th April) got a selection of documentaries from Cinéma du réel available for free, but it will be worth checking back in the future to see whether cancelled festivals attempt to put any titles online.

Márgenes – VOD. This is the platform that hosts the Festival Márgenes every year. There are geographical restrictions on some titles (including the newly-added Hamada and La ciudad oculta – both recommended if you have access), but a lot can be rented for a couple of euros. The bulk of their catalogue is effectively independent Spanish-language cinema, including quite a few of the ‘Otro cine español’ titles that I’ve written about in the past. Explore!

Panda cam (other animals/birds can be chosen from the main navigation bar) – filmed in nature reserves, national parks, and zoos. A whole lot more relaxing than the news.

Spanish shorts – courtesy of Cinemaattic, who are intending to link to a Spanish short (with English subtitles) on their website every day for the next 90 days. Week One already includes films by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo (with his habitual cast members, Antonio de la Torre and Raul Arévalo) and Ni Dios ni Santa María by Samuel M. Delgado and Helena Girón (which I’ve previously reviewed). As I’ve said multiple times before, Spain has an excellent track record with shorts, so there are sure to be gems included.

Visions du Réel – The festival will conduct its 51st edition entirely online and for free, 17th April – 2nd May. The full programme is due to be announced on 30th March.

 

Reading:

The Big Issue – The homeless population (ever expanding in recent years thanks to austerity and other government policies) are especially vulnerable to the pandemic, and The Big Issue‘s vendors will not be encountering customers during lockdown. Most of the magazine’s income comes from those street sales; they are asking people to show their support by either buying a digital copy, taking out a three month subscription, or making a one-off donation, to help them cover costs (and continue to support their vendors) during the lockdown and its aftermath.

Diverted Traffic – a new newsletter from the London Review of Books that each day releases an archive article from behind their paywall.

The Pudding – a ‘digital publication that explains ideas debated in culture through visual essays’. Among their greatest hits: Rappers, sorted by the size of their vocabulary; Women’s pockets are inferior; Colorism in high fashion.

Translated Fiction Online Book Club – Six UK independent presses who specialise in translated fiction (Peirene Press, Charco Press (who have some excellent Latin American titles in their catalogue), Comma Press, Istros Books, Nordic Books, and Tilted Axis Press are starting an online book club, which will involve live discussion and interviews with authors and translators. Details of the books selected can be found here.

Virtual Book Channel – from LitHub. Interviews, book launches, and more.

 

Watched in August

All watched on VOD (various platforms) as my DVD player died at the start of the month.

Camilo Restrepo’s essay film about violence in Colombia – La impresión de una guerra / Impression of a War (2015) – is available to watch on Mubi UK for another week.

Jonás Trueba’s La reconquista / The Reconquest (2016) is unexpectedly on Netflix UK (I had a one-month free trial this month – which I won’t be extending into a subscription because I didn’t watch very much, although there are quite a lot of recent Spanish titles on there…and a number of Jason Statham films), as is the very good documentary I Called Him Morgan (Kasper Collin, 2017).

Festival Scope has just started its Venice Sala Web again (effectively a range of films from the current Venice Film Festival as VOD) – I haven’t watched anything yet but have taken advantage of their 5 tickets for 10€ offer (films are otherwise 4€ each). The viewing dates for the films are staggered throughout the festival’s run and it’s worth seeing them sooner rather than later as sometimes titles can disappear (speaking from previous experience).

Watched in June

A slower month.

Tijuana Tales (Jean-Charles Hue, 2017) is one of a collection of shorts from Cannes available to view on Festival Scope until 7th July.

‘The Carlos Saura Challenge: 1962-1979’ will start tomorrow with an introductory post, to be followed on subsequent days by posts on each of the thirteen films from this first period of the director’s career.

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.

Watched in April

Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro was my first trip to the cinema this year – so far I haven’t seen details of any DVD/VOD release, so it’s worth catching if it plays near you. As someone who was not overly familiar with James Baldwin’s writing (I’ll be looking to correct that), I found it riveting and sadly all-too-relevant viewing.

I’m still not watching films all that regularly. I’ve had two weeks of annual leave this month and thought that I’d watch a lot during that time (specifically some of the half dozen or so Spanish DVDs that I’ve bought in the last few months), but didn’t. However, feeling that I ‘have to’ watch stuff is part of what I’m trying to get away from, so I’m watching things as and when they take my fancy rather than setting myself a schedule.

For those who like ghost stories – Bertrand Bonello’s macabre short, Sarah Winchester, Opéra Fantôme / Sarah Winchester, Ghost Opera (2016), is currently on Mubi UK but I’ve found that it is also available in its entirety (with subtitles) on YouTube courtesy of Opéra National de Paris (who commissioned the film).

I watched Sumie García’s Relato familiar / Familiar Story (2017) and Marko Grba Singh‘s Stars of Gaomeigu (2017) [no poster available for the latter] on Festival Scope as part of the selection from Visions du Réel 2017 – the films (all are shorts or mid-lengthers) are free to view until 14th May. It’s worth checking the public (as opposed to professional) Festival Scope site fairly regularly as they have different collections available throughout each month (related to recent film festivals).

Watched in March

A quiet month for me, cinematically speaking. In the end I didn’t watch any of the FICUNAM films I mentioned last month – Sol negro (only 45 minutes long, so mid-length rather than a feature) was part of a collection of films from FICCI (Cartagena International Film Festival). Festival Scope currently has a selection of (free to view) documentaries from Cinéma du réel (available until 16th April). UPDATE (June 2017): Sol negro has been added to the Doc Alliance platform.

The only other thing I watched was a mini documentary series, Czech Film Avant-Garde (Libor Nemeškal, 2017) – subtitled and uploaded to YouTube by its writer/director. The individual episodes are each around 10 minutes.

If you subscribe to Mubi in the UK, I recommend Silence (Pat Collins, 2012). It was one of the first films that I reviewed for Eye for Film: ‘In the absence of a ‘proper’ narrative, Silence is difficult to define – like silence itself, it exists in the interstices, in this case between fiction and documentary, as a film about the search for an absence that is shaped by incontrovertible presence. But the film is well worth the effort of tuning into its wavelength.’

Watched in February

watched_feb

Plus, Mining Poems or Odes (Callum Rice, 2016) [a short film – free to view on Vimeo].

I’ve decided that I should continue watching films for the Carlos Saura Challenge even if I’m not currently writing (this may mean that I end up reshaping the project, but I’ll cross that bridge later – better to persevere in some form than give it up), hence my watching his two most recent films.

If you’re interested in Spanish language films, Festival Scope is currently showing a selection of films from FICUNAM 2017 (all free to view until 13th March) – expect at least a couple to appear in my equivalent post next month.

Watched in January

watched_january

While I’m taking a break from writing, I’m going to log what I’ve watched each month. In addition to the features above, I also watched this collection of animated shorts (free to view until 13th February).