Tag Archives: East End Film Festival

Sink – Review

When people think of dramas centred around the working class in Britain, you think of EastEnders, gangster flicks, or kitchen sink dramas. The varying interpretations of working class people on TV and film range from gritty and naturalistic, to stylized and extreme. With new film Sink, director Mark Gillis takes his drama back to the more natural, if darker side of the spectrum.

Focusing on one man, with morals and a good work ethic who finds himself on the wrong side of the system. For Sink, writer/director Gillis has delivered a thought-provoking, raw debut feature. Featuring a strong lead performance from Martin Herdman.

Micky (Herdman), is a down on his luck industrial worker, who struggles to get by after being made redundant. His situation is made worse when his ailing father cannot stay in the care home he has lived in. With the two of them forced into Micky’s small flat and with work scarce, Micky tries to get by while still looking after his father Sam (Ian Hogg), and in recovery son Jason (Josh Herdman). With the system, and, at times, bad luck making things harder, Micky turns to other options to support his family.

Written and directed by Mark Gillis in his feature film debut. Gillis is better known for his smaller acting roles on British TV and film. Previously he directed short A Quiet Drink before moving into features.

The film acts to simply follow in its subject tale. We meet Micky as his life becomes all the more difficult. Finding work, taking care of his father and supporting his son build more and more pressure. The film shows at every turn that our system can act as punishment to those who need help. Despite clearly wanting full time work, the industrial workforce has disappeared and Micky is a casualty.

Viewers will feel frustration wanting the films lead to catch a break. Once he succumbs to bad decisions, the film turns into a tense waiting game to see if he will pay for his choices. Alternatively, can the character live with himself if there are no consequences?

What the film and story does so well is question, and indeed display, that good morals and a strong work ethic are not always enough to survive. When immoral decisions are not only your last options, but prove more successful, what does this say about our system?

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This is not all doom and gloom though, with the film displaying characters inside and out the system that help. The friendly neighbour, the job centre worker that cares or the teenagers that assist a lost man.

The obvious comparison will be the works of Ken Loach. The social realism dramas of his early years right up to I, Daniel Blake. He portrays the lives and struggle of working people in Britain with a gritty and natural eye. Handheld camera, diegetic sound and a constant scenic reminder of its London setting. At times, the film can feel a little heavy handed but it finds its feet quickly.

Leading the film with a natural performance is Herdman. He plays Micky as moral, strong but slowly cracking under the pressures of his world. He is supported by a strong cast who all aid or hinder Micky’s journey, including the actor’s own son as Jason.

A simple yet heartfelt and honest look at the current state of English working class population. The performances and natural tones make Gillis a director to look out for.

Sink is out in cinemas Friday!

East End Film Festival: Blue My Mind – Review

Adolescence is a tricky time. It is one shrouded in nightmarish hormonal changes that rage within us. Hair sprouts from every crevice, even ones you didn’t know existed. There’s all these smells that your body produces much to the ire of those around you. Emotions twirl and dip and glide, causing you to transcend different personalities all in the same day. What’s worse is that it is the time of your life where the world is throwing all kinds of social and adult pressures at you, demanding that you decide on your future now, now, now.

Now imagine your body just goes bat-shit insane, that’s the plot of incredible drama Blue My Mind.

Directed by Lisa Brühlmann, the film revolves around a young girl named Mia who has just moved to a brand new part of town. With her mother being over-bearing and her father not understanding, Mia struggles to fit into the students at school. When she is drawn to an outrageous group of girls who drink, smoke, and do drugs, Mia unexpectedly finding a close-knit of friends. However, after her first period, she starts to experience bizarre and strange changes. As she tries to keep her cool and new popularity, can Mia also keep her disfigurement a secret?

Luna Welder is an entrancing lead in this mysterious and poignant piece that studies teenage changes within the umbrella of magical realism. The lead takes charge in Brühlmann’s work as she tries to battle against the world around her as well as the rage within her. As extreme urges compel her to do weird things, she is battered by her sexuality, the need to strive in an adolescent world, as well as the pressure put upon her my her parents. It culminates in a terrific performance that leads an engrossing story.

What I am most obsessed with in this film is the colouring. Blue is, indeed, the warmest colour here as cinematographer Gabriel Lobo enhances the sea-like hues around Mia as she explores this brand new world of emotions. The piece is deep with aquamarines and turquoises that add a certain depth to the colouring. It is a completely beautiful watch.

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Though the film falls into teenage drama pitfall (seriously, who has this much alcohol and drugs when they are like 15?) Blue My Mind swims into a different conversation. There are interesting character decisions here that do differ from the norm (for example, the mean girl/leader of the girl tribe isn’t the horrible bully that you’d expect and eventually becomes the best person for Mia.) Feeling like a combination of Raw and Thirteen, this movie is such a beguiling film that will take you to the depths of adolescence and growing up.

Blue My Mind plays at East End Film Festival on 21st April

East End Film Festival: Tigre – Review

There are parts of this rich, rich world that are unknown or undiscovered to us. Idyllic spaces of vast greenery, dream-like water flowing copiously through the leaves and soils, and creatures of all-kinds creeping across the jungle floor. Within these spaces, not coveted by most Western eyes, are communities of people thriving on their own accord. In these pockets of isolation, there are equal bouts of conflict – whether it is war, survival, or even fractions of the same family, battling invisible horns upon their forehead for dominance.

Tigre is a film that floats between this sentiments with wonderful cohesiveness and precision.

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Directed by in Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola’s rich, seductive debut film revolves around sixty-five year old Rina who has spent her time away from her home in the deep Argentinian Tigre Delta. When developers threaten to repossess the land, Rina revisits her family, alongside her forty-something friend Elena. With hopes to reconnect with her adult son at the same time, the pair head back with tension already mounted on their shoulders.. As emotions broil in the hot summer sun, Rina finds herself confronting her past that had been buried for a mighty long time.

Tigre is teaming with absolute poignant and battered emotion as worlds, ages, religions, and preservation as generations meet in similarities and differences. The stifling attitudes of both the young and the old as their tribes attempt to pull forward against a whole new world. There is a constant threat that looms over the collective here and it is not just the bulldozers nipping at the jungle in attempt to flatten this seemingly quiet place. As sexuality and religion become forefront of the pieces, tensions broil over in this seductively beautiful piece.

None of this would be at all possible if it weren’t for Schnicer’s accomplished script and the mesh of performances that excavate the pulp and the grit that comes with both ageing and being young at the same time. Marilú Marini, María Ucedo, and Agustín Rittano are brilliantly as the middle-aged to elderly cast whereas María Ucedo, Magalí Fernández. Ornella D’Elia, and Tomás Raimondi, row along as the young fraction of the screen. There are absolutely impeccable performances here that bring life to this complex and brilliant film.

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Technically superb, with sound-design and cinematography beating with visual and aural intensity allows a view to see the beauty around them. Tigre melts with palpable explosions that simmer in the decadent heat of the vast Delta. As physical destruction edges closer and closer to the thicket of people in personal turmoil, as does the ruinous attitudes of everyone battling against one another in a matriarchal backlash of ideals. It’s amazingly succinct and incredibly engrossing to watch in this shimmer of green, wave of nightmarish water, and creatures crawling across the floor.

Tigre screens at East End Film Festival on 15th July 

East End Film Festival: House Without Roof – Review

The idea of family is one tricky beast to navigate. There are people around you who are intrinsically linked to you, no matter how hard you try to sahek them off. Bound by blood (that sounded more Gothic than I thought,) and diligent with duty, you could clash and bicker personally but still have to be lumped together. Of course, once you hit a sweet and legal age, you can abscond from your loved ones and live life according to who you are, only seeing the family at important holidays, sometimes birthdays, and nearly always at funerals.

Movies have always thrived upon this,conflict, looking at layered love and intimate tensions as family members quarrel over a tragedy. One such movie, House Without Roof, takes a look at strained sibling relationships in a bitter road trip movie .

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Directed by Soleen Yousef, the film revolves around three siblings, Liya, Jan, and Alan who were born in the Kurdish area of Iraq.  However, due to the political climate of their country, the trio were brought up in Germany by their loving mother. When she dies, the three are pulled together unwillingly to carry out her last wishes – to be buried by her husband who as murdered in the Saddam Hussein regime. As they embark on an a perilous journey across Kurdistan, their differences and views collide with the tense backdrop.

There is a spiritual accompaniment here to Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying as loved ones cart a dead body across a country despite protestations and strained relations. Except the film is a lot dryer in comedy (as in, it is pretty much non-existent,) and rife with social-commentary, religious and political views, and sibling rivalry.  Each component here has spent time carving out their own paths alone and separate from the war-torn culture that their mother was well-versed in. This lends itself to an intriguing and poignant film, one that balances many different components. Youseef’s work here captures the beauty as well as the macabre join to make an wrought and ultimately humanistic piece.

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The structure is somewhat simple but the clash of history, politics, and culture burns with the Kurdish sun, present as two languages weave and entwine. The growth away of Kurdistan is more present in Liya and Alan; a woman who has adapted to more independence and a young man whose enjoyed a boozy freedom in Germany whilst Jan has attempted a more serious life as the eldest. As they explore a more traditional world and combat against their family, it is within these confrontations where the film thrives.

Actors Mina Sadic, Sasun Sayan, and Murat Seven are fantastic to watch in these roles. Yousef has developed an endearing film that, albeit slightly too long, drama that is a grand depiction of the intimacies and pain between siblings.

House Without Roof premieres at East End Film Festival on 15th July 

East End Film Festival 2018: The Man You’re Not – Review

Charlie (James Wren) is an unlucky in love gardener, who’s told by all his friends that he’s simply too nice. In an effort to spice up his dating life and build up his confidence, his flat mate and neighbour encourage him to pretend to be different people in order to date several women and get a taste of what he’s been missing. It goes well for a short time, but it’s not long before Charlie is losing sense of who is, and has to make amends.

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The Man You’re Not is clearly well meaning, but sadly falls flat; admittedly the film’s final message is far less toxic than the first act suggests, and does ultimately vilify  the problematic “Nice guy” sentiment that it’s based around, but it’s a rushed and uninteresting experience. There’s no real power to the punch of it’s message when ideally it should have been the most important or through provoking part of it. At a short 80 minutes, there’s little room for satisfying development in pretty much any of the characters. The way in which the film builds it’s relationships and central conflicts followed by the resolutions and ending is akin to writing a sentence too far long for a piece of paper and having no space at the end of the line to finish; it’s all set up reasonably well through it’s first hour, then brought to a close in it’s final 20 minutes in a fairly rushed manner. Granted, as a low budget production it may not have been feasible to extend the running time and as I say, the film clearly has good intentions, it’s just unfortunate that it’s final length couldn’t accommodate the story it’s telling.

That’s not to say this film doesn’t have it’s positives; there are a few laughs scattered throughout, and that’s largely down to James Wren’s lead performance. In fact, the entire cast do a good job, but the film’s humour is uninspired and each person feels like a lazy caricature – Flamboyant gay flat mate who’s ridiculously camp and wearing a different costume in each scene, handsome neighbour who sleeps around and is always dirty minded but does have a heart underneath, a close friend who clearly has feelings for the main character but is often neglected and the main character is completely oblivious to it, the close family members who acts as the voice of reason –  It’s no crime to use cliches in a comedy but when it gets to this point that none of the characters really resemble actual people, but rather walking-talking punchlines designed to provoke a cheap laugh, it’s hard to engage with the humour. On top of that, the jokes (and a lot of the script in general) are very on the nose and contrived with maybe too much time dedicated to some mildly amusing celebrity cameos, one of which tries far too hard to be weird for the sake of being weird and there’s little laughs to be found in it.

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It’s not for lack of trying, as it means well and boasts a good cast, but The Man You’re Not suffers from lazy humour and fails to drive it’s point home in it’s short run time.

The Man You’re Not screens at East End Film Festival on 21st April. 

East End Film Festival: Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts – Review

It is probably best not to tell you too much about Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts, the third feature from Indonesian director Mouly Surya. It tells the story of a widow farmer, Marlina (Marsha Timothy) who is visited one day by an old man on a motorcycle, Markus (Egi Fedly), who tells her that he and his six buddies are going to steal all her livestock – ten goats, ten pigs, some cows and chickens. Then his gang will take turns to rape her. ‘Oh, I’m your guest – can you cook me something?’ Marlina has already endured a double tragedy. Her son, Topan, died still born eight months into her pregnancy. Her late husband, whom she initially told Markus will be back at any moment, sits wrapped in a shawl in the corner of the room – she cannot afford to bury him. Marlina stands in the kitchen of her remote farm house, far from help – the opening establishes just how cut off she is (it was filmed in Sumba) – and ponders. She takes the only action available to her for survival, which I won’t spoil, and then attempts to do the right thing.

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The film does not have the story beats of a traditional rape revenge drama. The setting makes it extraordinary. Indonesia’s recent past is marked by repression and genocide, in particular the systematic killing of one million Communists that began in 1965. The country only took steps towards democracy after the end of the 31 year rule (from 1967 to 1998) of President Suharto. Although there was limited freedom of expression under Suharto’s presidency, Indonesian cinema persisted, notably the 1973 film, Bulan di Atas Kuburan or Moon Over The Graveyard. Most of us will only be aware of Indonesia on film from Peter Weir’s 1983 film, The Year of Living Dangerously, starring Mel Gibson and an Oscar-winning Linda Hunt, Gareth Huw Evans’ 2011 police thriller, The Raid and its sequel and Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing.

In his book, ‘Indonesian Cinema’, first published in 1991, Karl Heider pointed out the difference between Indonesian and Hollywood cinema. In Indonesian films, ‘good guys do not win, bad guys are not punished, and individuals do not reach a new self awareness’. In other words, these films reflected reality. 25 years on, we see the remnants of this sensibility in Surya’s film.

Marlina is not a conventional heroine, but she is a matter-of-fact one. There is some ambiguity as to how her husband died – Marlina keeps poisoned berries in her drawer. Violence in the movie is swift and graphic but also filmed from a distance – most of the film is in medium or long shots. It is also accompanied by a sense of melancholy, a headless corpse playing a lute that Marlina burned that only she – and the audience – see.

In many ways, Marlina has a traditional narrative structure around death and (re) birth, symbolised, very literally, by Marlina’s friend, Novi (Dea Panendra), who is ten months pregnant and in search of her negligent and superstitious husband, Umbu, who believes that his wife will have a breech birth and is therefore a woman of loose morals. Novi does explain to Marlina how she really went for her husband in her second month. However, she has never been unfaithful.

The third woman of the picture is an aunt who is on her way to her nephew’s wedding with two horses to complete a dowry – without them the marriage will be called off. She boards a truck in spite of seeing Marlina holding a sword to the driver’s neck – she has more important things to worry about.

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The fourth woman is a young girl, Topan, who was given a boy’s name so she can be as strong as one. She serves Marlina her father’s ‘famous’ Chicken Satay. She reminds Marlina of the child she lost, of the motherhood that superficially at least will never be hers.

It is unclear when the film is set but it exists between two eras. Novi has a mobile phone but the police still use typewriters. A scene in a police station in which Marlina is made to wait, watching instead three officers playing ping pong, illustrates a lackadaisical attitude to law and order – the police do not have the equipment or the officers to investigate the crime against Marlina immediately.

The ending suggests an alternative to the misogyny of Indonesian society. Yet moments of ambiguity exists. When four men waiting in Marlina’s front room for something to eat (and then to abuse her) first sees her, one of them stands up and holds her hand for the longest time. The gesture falls somewhere between the courtly and the obscene.

Surya doesn’t glamorise violence – indeed at one point she makes a deliberate continuity error to illustrate how Marlina has to avert her gaze from the action that she is forced into. It is also significant that the only crying that we hear comes from men.

In short, Marlina The Murderer in Four Acts is an extraordinary film, an example of a cinema somewhere between Indian parallel cinema and a ghost story, that has a percolating effect in the memory. See it – and give it time to sink in afterwards.

Marlina The Murder in Four Acts plays East End Film Festival 12th April!