Tim Brown’s Cannes lowdown

Brighton CineCity Festival’s director takes you through his picks from Cannes 2017.

Tim Brown

Tim Brown of CineCity Festival

As ever many of the gems and real pleasures of the festival were to be found outside of the main competition, in the Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight and Out of Competition strands.

Faces Places

An excellent and engaging documentary – screening out of the main Cannes competition streams – is Faces Places (Visages Villages), which follows legendary Agnès Varda, now 89, and French photographer JR as they travel through rural France pasting up JR’s massive photographs on buildings.

As the pair form an unlikely friendship, their interactions with each other and the ordinary working people they encounter are immensely uplifting. Varda – awarded an honorary Palme d’Or in 2015, the same year she came to Brighton to present her films in person – is now suffering from failing eyesight and unable to make films on her own, but this was an absolute delight.

The Prince of Nothingwood
(Directors’ Fortnight).

Nothingwood is Afghanistan’s version of Nollywood, Bollywood or Hollywood. Sonia Kronlund makes her feature debut with this documentary profile of Salim Shaheen, the most prolific and popular actor-director-producer in Afghanistan who has made more than 100 films in the past 30 years in his war-torn country.

This is a highly entertaining celebration of cinema and a fascinating character study of a one-man industry. Vertigo is planning to release in the UK in late 2017.

I Am Not A Witch

(Directors’ Fortnight). This highly original feature debut from Zambian born, Wales- based filmmaker Rungano Nyoni and set in a world of contemporary witchcraft, is an intriguing mix of satire and fairytale.

Nine year old Shula (a wonderful central performance from Margaret Mulubwa) is banished from her village and sent to a travelling witch-camp where she is told that if she tries to escape she will be transformed into a goat. Cut through with moments of humour and surrealism, I Am Not a Witch is wonderfully shot and also features a striking soundtrack. Curzon Artificial Eye has picked it up for UK distribution.

The Rider

(Winner of Art Cinema award, Directors’ Fortnight). Two years after her debut feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, which Cinecity was delighted to screen in 2015, Chloé Zhao’s follow-up focuses on a former rodeo star, played by real-life cowboy Brady Jandreau, who must rebuild his life after his skull is crushed in a riding accident.

Brady Jandreau in The Rider, with horse

Brady Jandreau in The Rider

The film is not at all what one might surmise from a brief synopsis. The ‘masculinity in crisis’ tale is subtle and nuanced and expertly handled throughout with a balancing tenderness, especially in Brady’s relationship with his sister who has learning disabilities. Sumptuous cinematography from Joshua James Richards (he also shot God’s Own Country coming out in September, and which screens at our Hub member event on 18th July) superbly captures the vistas of South Dakota. Chloé Zhao’s first feature Songs did not get a UK release but Altitude has thankfully bought The Rider for UK distribution.

April’s Daughter

Mexican director Michel Franco (Daniel and Ana, After Lucia, Chronic) has produced another assured and unsettling drama, which won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. 17 year-old Valeria (Ana Valeria Becceril) is pregnant by her teenage boyfriend but doesn’t want her absent mother, April (Emma Suárez, last seen as Almodovar’s Julieta) to know. When her sister Clara (Joanna Larequi) goes behind her back and calls April, their mother arrives all ready to help. However, once the baby is born, it soon becomes all too clear why Valeria wanted to keep April as far away as possible.

A number of reviews refer to Franco’s cool, detached style as sometimes reminiscent of Michael Haneke but somehow at odds with a melodramatic storyline that pushes believability. But Franco is powerfully adept at skewering family dysfunction and April, brilliantly portrayed by Suárez, is a fascinating case study.

Tim’s personal highlights

As for the main competition, extensively covered elsewhere, my personal highlights were:

Loveless, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan, The Return), winner of the Jury prize. It is a masterful examination of the emptiness at the heart of contemporary Russia as a divorcing couple, in the process of selling their apartment and preparing to move on with their new lives, neglect their 12-year-old son Alyosha and barely notice when he disappears. Somehow combining elements of a police procedural with a state of the nation dissection, it confirms Zvyagintsev as one of contemporary cinema’s most accomplished film-makers. It is due for release by Altitude on Nov 10.


Loveless: Unforgettable

120 Beats Per Minute
Winner of the Grand Prix, Franco-Moroccan director Robin Campillo’s third feature follows  gay activists in 1990s Paris amid the rise of the AIDS epidemic and their battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies. With a tender love story set against a detailed backdrop of ACT UP Paris weekly meetings, 120 Beats Per Minute brilliantly links the personal and political and features an excellent ensemble cast. It is due to be released by Curzon Artificial Eye on Oct 20.

You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay’s first feature since 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin won joint best screenplay award and a best actor for Joaquin Phoenix’s contract killer (Joe) trying to rescue a politician’s kidnapped daughter from the sex trade. Joe has the physical, and – revealed through flashbacks – mental scars of time spent in the FBI and Marines but partly what makes the film so utterly compelling is the way familiar tropes are thoroughly re-invigorated and elevated by a director at the very top of her game.

There are scenes of graphic violence (the film has been described elsewhere as a 21st century Taxi Driver) but everything revealed is so finely judged and precise. The film also features a great score from Radiohead‘s Jonny Greenwood.


Film Hub staff swim the Serpentine for MediCinema

Still from the film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Film Hub staff gracefully accept Bill Murray onto Team SwimFAN


A collection of colleagues from across the BFI Film Audience Network are busy donning their wetsuits and swimming caps, in training for this year’s Swim Serpentine event in London’s Hyde Park.

On Saturday 16 September, five members of staff from various Film Hubs around the UK have joined forces to help raise funds for a charity close to their hearts, MediCinema. It runs permanent cinemas in hospitals to help patients and their carers escape the isolation of their wards and illness, and enjoy a few hours of normality.

Why we’re taking on the challenge

Image of Lis Spencer

Lis is feeling brave

“Cinema gives us a sense of wonder and an opportunity to escape our normal lives, which is especially important when your normal life is spent in a hospital bed. I hope we can raise as much money as possible to enable MediCinema bring the wonder of film to loads more people. Just got to get to brave the cold water now!”
– Lis Spencer, Strategic Development Manager, Film Hub South East.

“I completed Swim Serpentine last year, raising more than £500 for MediCinema. I hope our collective Team SwimFAN efforts this year can push us over the £2000 mark. Research has shown that the distraction of watching a film in a dedicated cinema setting can significantly reduce people’s perception of pain, so we want to help MediCinema expand its cinemas into more hospitals across the country to reach more people, and provide them with memorable cinema experiences.”

Annie Mannion swimhat

Annie at last year’s event

– Annie Mannion, Coordinator, Film Hub South East.

Film Hub staff in Team SwimFAN:

  • Paul Bowman, Film London
  • Annabel Grundy, Film Hub North
  • Tiffany Holmes, Film Hub South West / West Midlands
  • Annie Mannion, Film Hub South East
  • Lis Spencer, Film Hub South East

Please sponsor us!

See what Team SwimFAN will take on:


“MediCinema enables patients and their families to feel better with film. We do this by building, installing and running cinemas in hospitals and other healthcare facilities throughout the UK. These cinemas are custom-built using the latest technology so they look and feel just like a mainstream cinema. The only difference is they’re specially designed for a healthcare setting so whether a patient is in a wheelchair, attached to a drip or even unable to leave their bed, there is a place for them.”

– Statement from MediCinema

MediCinema’s star supporters

Celebrities who support MediCinema charity include Kate Winslet, Ewan McGregor, Thandie Newton, Damien Lewis, Mike Leigh OBE, Daniel Day-Lewis, Nick Frost and many more stars of the screen, including Kevin Spacey:

“As a Patron of MediCinema, I know how important it is for patients in hospital to be able to change the way they look at their world – and what better way to do this, than through the magic of film.”

For further information and images, please email:
Annie Mannion, Coordinator, Film Hub South East

Download your Quick Marketing Guidelines

Victoria here at Cobb PR!

Victoria ArcherCobb has recently been working with Film Hub South East on a few initiatives to help build cinema audiences in the South East.

As part of our work together, we’ve created some tailored Basic Marketing Guidelines [PDF],  specifically aimed you, the lovely members of Film Hub South East.

Included in the download are some handy tips for engaging with the right audiences, making your email newsletters stand out from the crowd and some hints on making your social media work harder for you. We also look at building relationships with journalists, tackling the media landscape and audience demographics.

The document is split into three sections:

  • PR
  • Social Media
  • Email Marketing

We hope you’ll find it useful but if you’ve got any questions then you can get in touch with me on 01273 208913. Please let us know what you think.

Watch upcoming film releases online

Film Hub Wales is offering all BFI Film Audience Network members, which includes Film Hub South East members, an opportunity to watch upcoming features and short films online.

Prevenge film still

Alice Lowe in Prevenge, available online now

To watch the films, all you have to do is sign-up to the Film Hub Wales website and follow the registration walk-through [PDF].

Once registered, you can watch a number of Welsh features, and see BFI FAN New Releases and shorts packages in full. You can also easily contact distributors to book them for your venue/organisation.

See films including:

  • Prevenge
  • Don’t Knock Twice
  • Love Is Thicker Than Water
  • A Dark Song
  • Moon Dogs
  • Mustang
  • Sonita
  • The Pearl Button
  • Best of Iris Prize
  • BFI Net.Work Shorts

We hope you enjoy the films and book them for your audiences, if you haven’t already!

(NB – All registrations are verified/approved by Film Hub Wales.)

Boost your programme with some free short films

DepicT film competition poster

Screening a short film alongside a main feature is an appealing added extra that could make all the difference between someone choosing your screening or heading to a rival cinema.

Watershed, Bristol, invites you to take advantage of the option to screen ‘DepicT! 2016’ – free of charge shorts available on DCP (or DVD). DepicT! is Watershed’s international short film competition as part of Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival (19 – 24 Sept 2017), challenging filmmakers from all over the globe to create tiny shorts of 90 secs or less.

The shorts in the DepicT! 2016 bundle are now BBFC certificated; screen them either in front of a feature film run or as you see fit. Watershed just asks that you report back with how many people attend, and let audiences know that the 2017 DepicT! call for entries is now officially open on depict.org  (entry deadline 3rd July).

  • LIVING U Dir: Ben Mankin | UK | 2016 1min 44 seconds Winner of The RPS Cinematography Award | WATCH the film
    In a run-down doctor’s waiting room… What lies beneath?
  • IMPACTS U Dir: Petra Balekic | Croatia | 2016 | 1 min 44 seconds Winner of Main DepicT! Award & Random Acts Special Mention |  WATCH the film
    What happens norms are broken by individuals?
  • PIG DREAM 15 Dir: Lee Charlish | UK | 2016 | 1 min 45 seconds DepicT! British Special Mention | WATCH the film
    Monsters don’t live under your bed; they live inside your head.
  • RUN BOY PG Dir: Meg Bagadion | Philippines | 2016 | 1 min 44 seconds  Winner of The DepicT! Audience Award | WATCH the film
    A missing toy throws a boy into a tantrum that changes his life.

How to book the free short films

To book the films, fill in this (very) short online form. For those of you that organise short film nights, note that the full 2016 shortlist and Best of DepicT! is available for bookings on DVD.

Dig into the archive and contact Clare Leczycki at Watershed if you’d like a specific selection of short films to screen.

Our top picks from Berlinale 2017

Look, there we are – red carpet at last!

Film Hub South East gang at Berlin Film Festival

Fighting off the paparazzi (From L-R: Beth Wilson, Annie Mannion, Malisa Sledmere, Lis Spencer, Rebecca Marshall, Emily Kyriakides)

We met up with some Film Hub South East member venues at #Berlinale2017. Together we’ve collated our tips for navigating your way around a major film festival, plus suggestions for forthcoming films you might want to programme at your cinema.

Beth Wilson, Film Hub South East: My top three films

  1. God’s Own Country (UK, Francis Lee)
    Beautiful, visceral and ultimately heart-warming; what more could you ask for from a rural romance?
  2. Vazante (Brazil, Daniela Thomas)
    This black and white, period piece set on a struggling diamond mine in 1820s Brazil is breathtaking to look at and watch. While the explicit acts of violence are largely off-screen, a terrible sense of unease accompanies this tragic tale from Brazil’s colonial past. Check out this review from BFI.

    On Body and Soul film

    On Body and Soul’s main characters

  3. On Body and Soul (Hungary, Ildikó Enyedi)
    This quirky love story set in an abattoir, proved to be a festival favourite amongst the jury and audiences alike. The unconventional leads are so appealing and although I was sure as to how the film was going to end, the journey along the way was joyfully unpredictable.

Other titles to look out for: Félicité , Requiem for Mrs J, Werewolf and Spoor

Roger Gibson, Chichester New Park Cinema: My top three films

  1. Spoor (Polish/Czech A.Holland)
  2. The Other Side of Hope (Finland/Kaurismaki -35mm!)
  3. The Party (UK/Sally Potter)

Emily Kyriakides, Lighthouse (and member of FHSE Management Board):

A major highlight was watching God’s Own Country by Francis Lee, which I loved! Having followed his shorts over a number of years, it was wonderful to see this very accomplished debut feature on the big screen, beautifully telling a powerful, but tender gay love-story set in a tough, no-nonsense farming community in Yorkshire. Highly recommended viewing when it is released by Picturehouse!

See a clip from God’s Own Country:

God’s Own Country also features some archive farming-in-action footage from Screen Archive South East – worth knowing for connecting a forthcoming screening of the film with related archive content.

Annie Mannion, Film Hub South East: Programming picks

One for Almodóvar fans: Pieles (Skins) (Spain, Casanova) A series of vignettes interweaving the stories of a handful of social misfits, including a lot of lilac, a mermaid fetish, and some truly unforgettable characters – one in particular, which still makes me chuckle!

Pieles stands out from the crowd thanks to its radical aesthetic and bold themes. The characters are lovable and the chapters range from the comically absurd to the morosely heart-wrenching,” – The Upcoming.co.uk

Newton cast

Newton’s main cast and director at Berlinale

For a series of Indian, comedy or political films: Newton (Germany, Masurkar)
This refreshing, gentle comedy about a government clerk on election duty in the conflict ridden jungle of Central India won the Art Cinema award for the Forum section at Berlinale. The great thing about seeing Newton at the festival was the opportunity to hear directly from the director and cast themselves after the screening during a Q&A about their experiences making the film, and the meticulous planning involved.

For a season on unusual romances and/or autism: Don’t let the brutal slaughterhouse surroundings distract from the poetic and tender love story that plays out in On Body and Soul. If you’re programming about diversity issues, then it might be useful to know that one of the couple displays many autistic tendencies, some of which help inform the direction of the plot, and some with amusing consequences.

Malisa Sledmere, No6 Cinema, Portsmouth

“Although it is hard to decide which films to choose at the beginning, the buzz about which films are the best and worth seeing soon starts to get around. I usually asked other queuers what they had seen and what they recommended and by this process the list of films to ‘must see’ gets tighter and better as time goes on.”

“For me seeing some of the festival films was very useful. At No6 we have for a long time wanted to screen a more diverse range of films than the ones that are available through the regular distributors, but I would never dare to screen a festival film just from a trailer. I would definitely want to see it in its entirety before deciding to take a chance on it and being at the festival would enable us to make the best  choices.”

More Berlinale picks from the Film Hub network

Watershed Cinema Curator Mark Cosgrove picks his four to watch out for from Berlinale 2017, plus a full run down of the In Competition films.

Film industry training opportunities now open

Flatpack Film Festival vlogging workshop

Think you have what it takes to become the next vlogging star, or know a young person who does? Spaces are available at the Vlogging Workshop at Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham on 8 & 9 April, and there are 3 places available for young people (16 – 24) from the South East. Find out how to apply.

You can watch a short video of feedback from the young participants from last year:

Inside Pictures 2017: Open for applications until 12 March

Film industry business training and leadership skills development programme, Inside Pictures, takes place between June 2017 and January 2018. Scholarships and bursaries are available. Apply now.

shortFLIX is a new initiative led by Creative England and National Youth Theatre for undiscovered filmmakers aged 18-25 who are not currently in full-time education, employment or training. Applications are open on the shortFLIX website until 8 March.

Modern Tales is a professional development initiative for emerging BAME, female and disabled filmmakers, and supports writers, directors and producers. Apply by 9 March 2017.

Data Driven Marketing – top tips for your cinema

Blog post by Annie Mannion

Annie Mannion headshot

Annie Mannion, Film Hub South East Co-ordinator

I’m privileged to be attending the Independent Cinema Office‘s Data Driven Marketing course in Leeds this week. I thought I’d use the opportunity to share some of the key lightbulb moments I’ve experienced while here, so far. In no particular order:

Young people: sadly, being in my mid-30s, I’m no longer defined as a young person (sob). But, when trying to find out how to attract and engage younger audiences to screenings, what I’d failed to realise until now was the wealth of people already available for me to ask. My friend’s daughter? The students eating their lunch on the bench outside my office? They’re right there. You probably have the same kinds of contacts at your disposal: GO ASK THEM. Chances are they’ll be able to tell you some really useful information about how to reach younger people at your venue.

Your ticket booking system: You can make quick wins by asking brief questions of those who are using your online booking system, without it seeming like you’re hassling them. Such as ‘How did you find out about this event?’ can tell you so much about the effectiveness and impact of your existing marketing efforts, and where you could focus your time and money in the future.

Find your receptive audiences for free: Log on to the Audience Finder website (it’s very quick and easy) and head to the Mapping section. Pop in your postcode and navigate the dropdown menus to identify the different audience segments in your town.  This screenshot identifies the top types of audiences for arthouse film – Metroculturals (just 5% of UK households) come first:

Arthouse film photo

What sort of people go to arthouse film?

Increase bums on seats: According to data from comScore (formerly Rentrak), 77% of UK adults say they DO visit the cinema. So, the audience is still there to engage.  They haven’t given up entirely. Your challenge is to make them go more often.

Simple ways to do this? Incentivise your audiences through membership deals, refreshments offers, say thank you for their custom, remind them of the ‘Last chance to see’ a film during the week it’s on, and send them a money-off voucher for their birthday (if you collect their birth-month information via your ticket booking system – and if not, build this in, for a marketing quick win).

A bit of useful information about the average cinema ticket booker:

  • books 6.4 days in advance of attending,
  • books 1.8 times per year,
  • spends £6.76 on each ticket, and
  • purchases 2.3 tickets per visit.

Dancing in the aisles at the Musical Matinee Club

“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t leave the house.”

This was one of the compliments paid to Suzy Harvey, host of the Musical Matinee Club screenings series at the De La Warr Pavilion, by one of its regular visitors.

Dancing at the De La Warr Pavilion

A dance interval at the De La Warr Pavilion

Such is the value and escapism that the season at the Bexhill-On-Sea venue provides to so many who attend, including those with dementia, learning disabilities and their carers.

Image of Suzy Harvey doing team briefing

Suzy Harvey briefs the team before the screening

It’s easy to see why the regulars react so warmly to Suzy (pictured, sporting fake beard!). With many years’ experience of working with people living with dementia and care providers, and as a Giggle Doctor on a children’s ward, her energy and enthusiasm for the screenings rings out. She uses her skills to engage the audience with this particular set of  enhanced relaxed* film screenings,  encouraging reminiscence and laughter through the use of props and interaction.

Produced in partnership with Bexhill Dementia Action Alliance, and part-sponsored by Film Hub South East, the season features specially selected films that always include great songs, fun props and prompts to bring the action on screen to life in the auditorium.

Goody bags for all

My visit earlier this month was to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, (and coming next is Mamma Mia, and High Society).

Props list for film

Contents of the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers props bag

Each audience member receives a goody bag of props connected with the film to use during the screening. For this film it contained a fake beard, to use to illustrate the brothers’ facial hair, plus other items to encourage interaction during the film – including coffee cups to bang together to mark when horses were galloping on the screen, and cotton wool balls to throw at each other as an impromptu “snowball fight” in the auditorium, to mimic the action onscreen.

During the interval, the audience is encouraged to stand up and dance to some music for a few minutes, something which many seemed to really relish.

Feedback from the events, both informally and from the audience surveys, is glowing. It’s easy to see why. I spoke to both Suzy Harvey and Ashley McCormick, Head of Learning and Participation at the De La Warr, about their experience of putting on the series of events, and they admit that the work involved in preparing the events is rigorous, but they both agreed it was well worth it.

A gift for your ears

You can hear more about how Suzy and Ashley and their colleagues put the Musical Matinee Club season together, including practical information about costings, marketing, briefing and training volunteers, and working in partnership with local organisations, on our forthcoming Film Hub South East podcast, Film Hubbub. Watch this space!

* Relaxed screenings are specifically designed to welcome people who may benefit from a more informal environment, including with those living with dementia and disabilities. Auditorium lights will be partially up throughout, there’s a relaxed attitude to noise, audience members are free to move around and come and go whenever they like. There is a quiet area in the Auditorium Foyer for anyone who needs a break during the screening.  Staff and volunteers have attended “Dementia Friends” awareness sessions, and will sensitively and respectfully welcome people living with dementia and their carers.

How Gregory’s Girl taught kids about science

Cinelive and BFI Education, with support from Wellcome Trust, joined forces to deliver a project exploring the science of human attraction, all inspired by the cult British classic, Gregory’s Girl.

What’s the Grey Matter with Gregory? incorporated the much-loved 1980s film Gregory’s Girl into screenings and workshops at nine locations across the UK, from Inverness to Canterbury.

Film Hub Scotland, Film Hub Wales and Film Hub South East helped to contact and engage school groups to attend, and the workshops combined the expertise of directors, science researchers, producers, venue managers, teachers, arts professionals, and educators.

“The lesson learnt by the pupils in terms of human behaviour and relationships will hopefully be reflected on by pupils and staff throughout their lives.” – Teacher, Swansea

See more about the project in the short video below, and if you’d like to develop a similar film-based initiative, do get in contact with us to discuss your idea.