“What do you know about his life?” – Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela talk Loving Vincent

A man, the madness, and his magical painting.

Vincent Van Gogh will always be remembered for his visionary work as well as the mental illness that plagued him most of his adult life. In a film that has 100 artists tackling intricate hand-painted frame, the artist is brought back to life in vivid and brilliance. To celebrate the release of Loving Vincent, we spoke to directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela about their film!

WMMOW: How are you?

Hugh Welchman: We’re melting zombies. I think Dorota is melting faster than me so I’ll probably be answering most of the questions.

WMMOW: I’m sorry to hear that.

Dorota Kobiela: No it’s fine.

HW: We just had two Paris premieres – one at the Musée d’Orsay which is a great place to have a Vincent film. We also had a public premiere last night.

WMMOW: And now you’ve flown here for more screenings and the BFI London Film Festival!

DK: Actually, we took the train. For the first time in my life, I took the Eurostar which was lovely.

WMMOW: Are you excited to showcase this wonderful film? I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It is truly a magnificent piece of film that caused floods of tears.

Hugh Welchman: I’m sorry for the floods of tears but as filmmakers, we’re happy that it moved you.

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WMMOW: Are you happy that it’s getting out there?

HW: It has been a long journey. We made it for audiences. For us, it is the most exciting part but it also is the most nerve-wracking. We spent a long time on it so it’s like, “what if people don’t like it?” We’re had a pretty amazing run at the festivals so hopefully people will enjoy it.

WMMOW: There were different stories surrounding his death, why did you chose to keep the ambiguity?

DK: Well, we just don’t know. No one will. We didn’t want to push a theory. As Maguerite Gachet, played by Saoirse Ronan says, “You want to know so much about his death, what do you know about his life? “ 

HW: We started out looking at why he committed suicide at that particular time when everything was going so well for him. So we wanted to see ‘what actually happened in those final weeks?” looking at those final days  and holes in the narrative that don’t make sense. Was he accidentally short by the teenage boys he hung around with? Suddenly, you’re like “that fills in some of those holes.” But there’s no proof for that theory and we couldn’t really follow thorugh with that scenario. You could argue he was a bit of a martyr and didn’t want them (the boys) to get blamed for an accident. He was sensitive and caring. That’s the speculation. But he told several people that he shot himself.

When there’s a solution, we’ll film an epilogue.

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WMMOW: So it interestingly plays as a biopic but also a mystery thriller? How tricky was it to balance all the themes?

DK: His work and his art are the interesting centre of it

HW: We spent a lot of time replicating his story through his work. There were some people we had to cut such as Segatori, his lover in Paris and a vibrant model, connected to the mafia in Paris. Funnily enough, a gang member smashed one of Vincent’s paintings over his head. With Armand Roulin, we just had the painting and the fact that he worked as a blacksmith who’d become a policeman. However with Gachet, we had letters and there was quite a bit written about him so there was no room for interpretation.

WMMOW: Thank you! 

HW & DK: Thank you!

Loving Vincent is out in cinemas Friday!
Read our review! 

Liyana – BFI London Film Festival Review

As cinemagoers. We often rely on a film to deliver on the basic promise of entertaining us, whether it be through wondrous spectacle or hysterical comedy. Yet for many of us, the delivery of dialogue or the lingering looks of an actor or actress, can have the most profound effect and unlock those deep feelings we tend to bury.

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For the orphaned children of Swaziland that sadly serves as a country with the highest rate of HIV, this is a generation that is all too acclimatised to isolation and fear. Resigned to not being able to showcase their talents to the wider world.
Enter the directorial duo of Amanda and Aaron Kopp along with acclaimed storyteller and activist Gcina Mhlophe, as they draw out the charisma and infectious enthusiasm of these children, crafting the absolutely captivating tale of Liyana that combines impactful documentary footage with spellbinding animation.

Immersed in the confines of the Likhaya Lemphilo Lensha orphans home, the collaborative and creative spirit is truly alive as Gcina prompts the children to provide specific elements to form the narrative arc and personality traits, that ultimately shape and build this particular heroine. Navigating us through this story with their wonderfully expressive narration, Liyana’s struggles as she desperately looks to rescue her young twin brothers, merely mirror the trauma and hardships they have faced in their early years.

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Living up to the ‘overcome fear and hold onto hope’ mantra of Liyana’s grandmother, this is a film that is poignant in its subversion of the tragedy that so often saturates stories that emerge from Africa.  Whilst it rarely shies away from unsettling subject matters like kidnapping and domestic abuse, Liyana is never heavy handed in its observations, allowing the sheer beauty of its compelling craft to shine through. The soul-stirring score only amplifies the enchanting watercolour effects of its animation, intertwining the emotional pull of its fact and fiction impeccably, as directors Amanda and Aaron capture both the gleeful glint and heady heartbreak that fills these children’s eyes impeccably.

Tapping into territory many of its genre counterparts wouldn’t dare to enter. Liyana is an inspirational cinematic experience that celebrates the catharsis art can provide in dark times. Gorgeous.

Liyana screens as part of BFI London Film Festival! 

Roller Dreams – BFI London Film Festival Review

I often find that the most unusual topics focussed on in a documentary are often the ones that produce the greatest results. A movie about cats in Turkey provoked more emotions than an inspiring sporting doc. A film revolving around  chickens has egged on the brightest and warmest feelings about humanity. Documentaries don’t have to be about an incredible moment or figure in history, they just have to approach the subject with care, attention, and purpose.

With Roller Dreams, a movie seemingly about the frivolity of Venice Beach roller skaters, the movie rolls into a stirring and provocative piece about ageing, politics, and the gentrification of California.

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Directed by Kate Hickey, Roller Dreams utilises old video tapes and interviews with the stars of Venice Beach to paint a portrait of the roller-skaters who entertained on the boardwalks of Los Angeles. Springing off in the seventies but rising to prominence in 1984, Roller Dreams depicts the hilarious and sun-drenched fun that soon became a tight-knit community, with many patrons still skating today. However, Roller Dreams also depicts the city in all its grit, as well as its glory. Through riots and encroaching police and government presence, the Venice Beach patch soon became a hotbed of gentrification and opposition, disheartening some of the players there.

Whether it’s the leader Mad, his wheeled soulmate Sara, or the young up-start Terrell, this personality driven documentary generally has a wonderful and bright nature that is invigorating. Hickey presents insight into the day to day world of roller skating. Though initially the practise of the sport seems somewhat tacky –  a cliche from an era that hasn’t aged well – but watching the performers tackle impossible routines with absolute perfection and precision is mind-blowing. There is definitely talent here, drenched in sublime LA sunlight and great beaming  smiles. It’s hard not to fall in love with the dancing, the dancers, and their skates as they glide across the strip.

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But Hickey, smartly changes tempo, weaving these tempered lives through interviews and how they progressed. Whether it is strict leader Mad vowing to never skate again or Sara’s ankle injury, what was once beautiful seems to fall away. Particularly when you include the world of LA altering dramatically and the council shifting and changing so much of roller skating that it became impossible to practise. With riots tinging the air, police cracked down on drug usage and used it to victimise the patrons of Venice Beach. Hickey presents this well, balancing greatly against the joyful beginning.

There are true heartbreaking moments within Roller Dreams as you’ll viscerally connect with each performer and the turbulent battles they went through. What starts as a seemingly simplistic story grows with its politics and how the world seemed against our plucky heroes on wheels. Though there are still people immersed in this practise, even though who started in 1984, it’s clear that the world has changed dramatically.

While progress may seem good, gentrification and altering the intrinsic communities here, rolls over the dreams of minorities.

Roller Dreams is playing at BFI London Film Festival! 

Wonder Woman – Review

Though it may have die-hard fans, the DC Extended Universe outings have been met with a relatively tepid response. With Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad meeting plenty of detractors, especially from the press, it’s hard to feel excited for the release of a new film.

Wonder Woman, despite having a particularly brilliant director and a leading cast member already celebrated for her performance of the character, has gradually been gaining traction. Whilst there are some lonely corners of the internet bemoaning about the marketing and particular women-only screenings, there has been a force of exhilaration from audiences totally hyped to see the film.

Now it’s out in cinemas, and it is glorious.

Wonder Woman revolves around an ancient island of Amazons who have been kept away from the general world. Created by Zeus to defeat his son Ares, the inhabitants train daily in case the God of War returns. Diana, Princess to Queen Hippolyta, saves pilot Captain Steve Trevor who crashes into their island. After discovering he is in the middle of a World War, Diana follows him to the outside world to bring an end to the bloodshed. However, the war may prove deadlier than expected, and as someone without knowledge of the outside world, Diana must save it.

Patty Jenkins commands a stellar superhero romp that, although treading familiar ground (the origin story has been done repetitively on the big screen,) still smacks an almighty punch that’ll leave you beaming from ear to ear. The minute the women of Themyscira grace the screen to the emotional finale, Wonder Woman will grasp you in its palm and leave your heart beating for more.

Visually, this is an almost masterpiece. Lazy editing may impede the final third, but from the a gorgeous exposition told through a children’s book laid out like a Renaissance painting to action sequences flitting between the slow and the ferociously energetic, precise and almost poetic battle scenes will have you drooling. As Diana enters WW1, you’ll be treated to a spectacle of dramatic and brilliant moments that’ll stick with you. Yes, as with every Superhero film, CGI is far too heavy and it’s jarring in places where you wish they’d gone au natural to add more depth to the film.

Gal Gadot has proved her worth with the character and here, she expanded on Diana Prince. The character’s naive and headstrong belief in the wonders of the world is great gateway to present a feminist idea: A hero who has had no dealing with men entered into a largely misogynist world and having to prove her worth. It’s a fascinating and ultimately successful angle that Gadot grabs and powers through with muscle and depth. There are moments she struggles with a more emotive arc, but nevertheless, the female representation is layered: Flawed in her deer-eyed beliefs but turned into great strengths, there are intricate lessons and wonderful portrayals in here. And guess what? Diana being a leading force is not at the detriment of the other female characters. It’s so so so good.

There is great humour and a lot of fun to be had here. Supporting cast such as Chris Pine who is pretty much Kirk in a soldier suit, and Robin Wright backdrop the film with spirit and no actor is wasted in their presentation here. As mentioned before, the story falters as it fails to truly step away from the usual origin story garb. Yet, Jenkins directs a compelling and truly electrifying cinematic spectacle her .

I’ll end this review on a definite high: When the credits rolled, me and other women are stoked. Excited, enthused, and exuberant at what we’ve just seen. While Wonder Woman may have its faults, the sheer velocity in which the epic film hits you is so exciting and game-changing, that it is important that all need to see. A female-led superhero film from the DCEU that is thrilling, emotional, engaging, and vital to our cinematic consumption.

Give me more, please.

Wonder Woman is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!