Open City Documentary: The Great Wall – Review

Immigration is high on everyone’s minds at the moment. We are truly gripped by the debate. In the UK, a tentative battle between sides sees the throes of people looking to find solace in less dangerous countries thrust into political and heated arguments. As Leave and Remain camps rage on with their views, hoping to sway the public to make a deafening vote this coming Thursday, the future of immigrants, migrants, and all the messiness in between will be irreversibly decided. With the hot topic burning our tongues and statuses, it’s natural that artists and film-makers will gravitate towards the issue, opening the debate up onto the big screen and allowing audiences to enter the fight with a more informed mind.
The Great Wall is a short documentary that focuses on the influx of desperate people trying to find escape in supposedly more peaceful countries.

Focusing specifically on the migrant crisis in Europe, the film looks at the barriers built to battle against the problem including metal meshes, government imposed procedures, intense guards, and old fashioned brick and mortar that have been erected by E.U. States such as England and Germany. With an overlay narration of Franz Kafka’s The Building of the Great Wall of China (in its original German) the film coasts along the Mediterranean and into the metropolitan hubs of power as director Tadhg O’Sullivan looks at those who impose political law and those who suffer from it.

Using a mesh of vivid images that juxtapose one another, Tadhg O’Sullivan’s evocative film establishes a somewhat surreal yet utterly engaging cinematic piece on migration. Focusing on the landscapes that hold key players of the “battle,” The Great Wall echoes elements of struggle, desperation, and ruthlessness.

The preamble of visuals, cities toppled by skyscrapers and homes twisting in the dust, leaves a searing image of the world as it is now. Balancing CCTV footage of people helplessly fleeing and trying to enter through any means possible, an ebb of uncontrollable empathy will flow through you. As humans, the scenes should  undoubtedly grip you as this vivid work soars on the screen. Enhanced by Kafka’s visionary work, Tadhg O’Sullivan drawling cycle of cities, shanty towns, and walls gain more pulp and meaning as our own humanity and views are tackled.

But it feels important to note that not all measures are catastrophic such as screenings to make sure criminally active folk aren’t processed into a country or to stop illegal trades of drugs, guns, and people. Somehow The Great Wall says so much without delving into interviews with principle people, making the film a truly intense and original watch.

The Great Wall offers no real political side but serves as a foundation for your own views. Are you shocked and dismayed at the site of barbed wire fences preventing people from reaching safety or comfort? Or are you shocked at the rallies of immigrants illegally crossing and posing possible dangers? The Great Wall is certainly a precipice of great discussion.

As someone who believes in an empathic and borderless world where we are open, kind, generous, and constructive with one another and each and every person on the globe, I know my particular take away from The Great Wall.


Open City Documentary: The Occupiers – Review

The 99% is a phrase that has seeped into common awareness in the years since the great financial crash of 2008. The level of wealth inequality in the 21st century is staggering, currently it is estimated that the richest 1% of Americans hold more wealth than the poorest 90% put together.

With statistics like this, it is no wonder that the past decade or so has seen a dramatic increase in angry, vocal, impassioned protests railing for change in the name of the common good. The Occupy Movement is one of the more famous recent versions of  these protest, and thanks to film-maker and activist Chloe Ruthven, we now get a rare glimpse of the front line of the infamous Occupy London protest of a few years back.

Over 136 days at the end of 2011, protesters came together to undertake a mass live-in just outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Armed with a camera and a need to document history in the making, Ruthven dove head first into the camp, and has now whittled down hundreds of hours of footage into a tight, eighty minute, warts and all account of the protest.

The tone is journalistic, and there is little flashy editing here, with Ruthven preferring to let the camera roll and capture whatever is happening in the semi-organised chaos around her. Interviews with camp residents help to bring individual stories to the collective, showing us the surprising diversity of the inhabitants.

As one activist notes, Occupy London was a microcosm of society itself, and the film reflects that, featuring a wide range of characters, from impassioned young optimists to members of the older generation who have found purpose again through the means of protest. Not all of the interviewees featured are particularly pleasant, but the film offers each one a voice and leaves the judgement up to the audience.

Although the film comes four years after Occupy London ended, it still offers an important alternative view to that of the mainly negative mainstream media of the time. Although the film is probably destined for a niche audience, it deserves to be seen by many more. Whether your particular bias leads you to view to participants as dirty hippies or proactive political heroes, you have to admire the dedication of people who gave up all the mod cons and comforts of 21st Century living to brave a British winter on  the streets standing up for what they believe.

Although the director is squarely on the side of the protesters, and the the film is ultimately positive and hopeful, it does not shy away from showing the negative elements surrounding the camp. Approximately half way through the protest and the film, the camp begins to have vulnerable people flooding in and diluting the political message, bringing instead inebriation and unease. The second half of the film begins to show the emotional effect this life is having on protesters, and certain scenes can be quite upsetting.

However despite the sometimes emotionally draining content and matter of fact presentation style, The Occupiers is a unique and necessary snapshot of a turbulent time, equally effective in showing both the intimate minutiae of day to day life and the grand political ideals that defined Occupy London.


The Secret Life of Pets – Review

Have you ever wondered what our pets get up to once we leave the house? Do they sit and wait for us to return? Do they enjoy our absence and let loose?

Illumination Entertainment, the humans behind the Despicable Me franchise as well as spin off The Minion Movie aim to answer this age old question in their latest animated adventure, The Secret Life of Pets.

The film centres on Max who lives with his owner and best friend Katie in New York City, surrounded by other pets that must endure their humans leaving them at home for work. When dog lover Katie brings home overgrown Duke as a brother, the pair instantly take a dislike to one another. Their rivalry results in the two being taken in by the pound. A rogue animal group named “Flushed Pets’ sets out to rescue them. Can the two make their way home and evade their human hating rescuers, or will their plucky neighbourhood pets come to the rescue?

As a concept, The Secret Life of Pets is a standard idea with lots of potential for entertainment. Animals lost in the big city conjures up dozens of films from Homeward Bound to Shaun the Sheep. The plot is very predictable but with its array of plucky characters and witty humour The Secret Life of Pets is a great watch for the whole family.

The film has a huge emphasis on visual humour. Anyone who has seen the film’s teaser trailer knows it turns everyday pet traits, such as barking non-stop or dragging their bottoms across the floor, into great gags. These run throughout and are one of the films strongest elements.

The film also benefits from a strong voice cast lead by Louis C.K. as Max. His dry wit and rivalry with overgrown dog Duke is a good centre to the film. Jenny Slate steals many a scene as hopelessly devoted Pomeranian Gidget. Her affections for Max and feisty determination makes her a standout character. The character of Snowball, the unhinged but adorable bunny leader of Flushed Pets, can feel a little overdone as cute but deadly is standard these days but Kevin Hart makes the character a riot to behold (he’s a bad-ass bunny).

Illumination Entertainment’s productions are done on roughly a third of a Pixar or DreamWork’s budgets. The studio are not trying to push the boundaries of animation like their competitors are. Because of this the film lacks the detail, depth, textures, and scenery expected in imminent releases such as Finding Dory and Kubo and the Two Strings. This is not to say that the animation is unappealing. The animals aare cute, the humans passable, and, with this film, they have created a stronger landscape than their previous pictures; the New York skyline and the city backdrop prominently displayed as the pets search for their lost friend.

Despite this visual drawback, the company sets out to make films that will entertain and make you laugh. The Secret Life of Pets will not likely have the runaway success of the studios previous offering The Minions but the film is a fun ride from start to finish.

The makers of Despicable Me have delivered another funny movie caper. Although lacking the emotional or narrative punch of their rivals, the visual gags mean you will never look at your pet in the same way again.

The Secret Life of Pets is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now! 

We Talk Movies On Podcasts: Episode 1

When Marnie Was There with these Nice Guys, a Preacher and their Boss!

Greetings wanderer of the audio wasteland, you look weary. Why not sit awhile, put your feet up and indulge yourself in our first foray into the world of podcasts!

Indeed, we here at We Make Movies on Weekends decided that it wasn’t enough to just make films and write about them, no!

We needed to do so much more!

And so, We Talk Movies on Podcasts was formed.

Why? I haven’t a clue, but I managed to coerce some of the other writers into joining me through a combination of threats, extortion and numerous ransoms against the safety of their family members.

But enough about me and why the voices in my head convinced me this was a smart and sensible idea. You want to know what’s awaiting you inside this cacophony of contradictions, read on and you shall find the answers that you seek!

0:33 –  When Marnie Was ThereJo gives us her thoughts on what could be Studio Ghibli’s final masterpiece. We also manage to segue into raccoons with shapeshifting testicles. I think it’s safe to say highbrow is flying somewhere above our heads.

3:44 – The Nice GuysSarah extols the virtues of this wonderful buddy cop movie. Interestingly, despite the content matter of the film, we manage to make our way through the discussion  without any references to genitalia whatsoever.

6:30 –  PreacherSarah and Graham spend several minutes gushing over this absolutely brilliant, witty and fantastically acted TV series. If you haven’t watched it yet, you definitely should!

8:29 – The Boss, In order to counteract the praise we heaped on our previous offerings, we savage this pitifully unfunny, crass piece of dreck.

12:10 – We move on from what we’ve seen to what we’re anticipating in the coming month or so ahead. Ghostbusters features high on our list, but we’re concerned the misogynist complaints against it may smother some of the more legitimate concerns.

17:20 – Continuing our theme of reboots, Independence Day: Resurgence comes out in cinemas THIS WEEK! Will it live up to its original, or will it be another lacklustre action drama?

21:45 – To round off our hat-trick of reboots, we discuss The BFG. Despite us doubting it will ever be able to compare to the Whizzpopper Song from the 1989 version, we’re hoping that it will see Spielberg return to his filmmaking roots.

And that’s where we’ll leave you for the time being. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments as well as any questions you have!

Until next time – keep watching films!

Music Credits: “Happy Alley” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom to open the BFI London Film Festival 2016!

BFI London Film Festival is THE place to go when you want to watch evocative cinema. Despite a tirade of film festivals coming our way throughout the year, London Film Festival (LFF) has always stood out. Time and time again, we revel in the gloriousness that is the

And now the opening film for 2016’s season has been announced! Drum roll please….

It is Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom.

Fitting, isn’t it?

A United Kingdom stars Rosamund Pyke and David Oyelowo (dream casting right there) and revolves around Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married. The pair have to navigate fierce opposition, not just from their family and friends, but from the British and South African governments!

Amma Asante is a glorious film director who has produced spectacular work countlessly. Her biggest film to date is Belle which is a bloody brilliant historical drama. Asante scooped up the BAFTA for promising newcomer for her debut A Way of Life too.  With an evocative story, and a magnificent cast, this is second LFF opener directed by a woman and the first opening film directed by a black woman!

Clare Stewart, London Film Festival director, says “Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom is testament to a defiant and enduring love story that also reveals a complex, painful chapter in British history. We are proud to be opening the 60th BFI London Film Festival with a film of such contemporary relevance, one that celebrates the triumph of love and intelligence over intolerance and oppression, and that confirms Asante as a distinctive and important British filmmaker.”

Whilst Asante also commented saying: “It’s a great privilege that ‘A United Kingdom’ has been selected as the opening night film of the BFI London Film Festival. The festival means a lot to me personally, having showcased my first film, A Way of Life, here and been honoured with the U.K. Film Talent Award. I’m a proud Londoner and in A United Kingdom we’ve been able to film in some of the most beautiful parts of the city as well as in the wonderful landscapes of Botswana.”

What do you think of the announcement?


The Fundamentals of Caring – Brand New Trailer!

Netflix are making movies and they are glorious. Between Special Correspondents and The Square, the VOD service has become high on the list of distributors producing truly original stuff. Next on their lists, however, is Paul Rudd drama-comdy The Fundamentals of Caring.
This brand new Netflix film The Fundamentals of Caring alongside the young and talented Craig Roberts. Together they portray a carer and a disabled young man who go on a road trip together.

With the focus on disabled people high in our minds, especially after the wave of anger that followed Me Before You, The Fundamentals of Caring could divide people’s opinions. That being said, there is genuinely something sweet and attentive about this upcoming indie flick.