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.


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.



Date: Thursday 25 September
Leigh Rd, Eastleigh, Hampshire SO50 9DE

FREE Lunch included

In partnership with Eastleigh Film Festival, Film Hub South East invites you to an Industry day and opportunity to listen to experts from the Cinema Exhibition and Distribution sector about their specialisms and discuss how films are brought to market.

Panelists include

Jason Wood – Director of Programming for Curzon Film; Jo Blair, Senior Programmer Picturehouse Cinemas; Tom Abell, Chairman of Peccadillo Pictures; Tara Barnett, Sales Executive at 20th Century Fox.

FHSE Programme

11am                        Feature Film JIMI: All is by my Side
1pm                          Lunch in the Cafe (FREE)
2pm                          Jon Barrenechea gives Film Hub South East development update
3pm                          Distributors Panel: Tom Abell & Ollie Charles Pecadillo Pictures, Tara Barnett 20      Century Fox, Nathan Gilligan Soda Pictures

4.15                          Networking Drinks in the Atrium

6pm                          Eastleigh Panel discussion and Eastleigh short film awards (remember to sign-up)

7.30pm                        UK premiere of Ego, directed by Lisa James-Larsson (remember to sign-up) 

Places are FREE. To book a place visit 

Members are also welcome to attend Eastleigh’s Industry Day events. An ideal opportunity for aspiring filmmakers, Eastleigh have brought together a panel of experts from various strands of the movie-making world. The day will offer a wide range of free continuing professional development workshops as well as networking opportunities, an insightful panel discussion, screenings of the Eastleigh Film Festival short film competition-winners and the UK premiere of Lisa James-Larsson’s romantic-comedy Ego.

Hub Members sill need to book onto the Eastleigh events individually including the Panel Discussion, short film awards and screening of Ego. For more details and to book places visit http://eastleighfilmfestival.com/industry-day