BFI Flare is just around the corner; the festival, now in its 32nd year, opens with Tali Shalom Ezer’s ‘My Days of Mercy’ on the 21st March. This year’s programme is bursting with wonderful queer content, ranging from cheesy teen romcoms, to sobering documentaries, to experimental short film. Flare takes great pride in its development from the “London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival”, to the “London LGBT Film Festival” and now, finally, to the much more inclusive “LGBTQ+”. This updated name is reflected in the diversity of the films on offer here – regardless of your label (or lack thereof), there’s something for all interests. Though we don’t have time to sink our teeth into everything on offer, here are a few feature films that we’re especially looking forward to:
Director: Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, Daniel Powell
Cast: Lena Hall, Dan Fogler, Mena Suvari
Summary: After a crushing breakup with her girlfriend, a Brooklyn musician moves back in with her Midwestern mother. As she navigates her hometown, playing for tip money in an old friend’s bar, an unexpected relationship begins to take shape.
At first, I thought this looked a little kitschy, especially considering the focus on music. However, ‘Becks’ has been getting some fantastic reviews since its US release last month even despite the natural lesbian movie backlash, with many stating it to be incredibly genuine and heartfelt. As a result, my curiosity is piqued; it could well be that ‘Becks’ joins the elusive club of cute lesbian indies to be held in in the hearts of gay women for years to come.
Screening Info: Thursday 29 March 2018 18:30 / Saturday 31 March 2018 16:00
Ryan Coogler is a history maker. Barely a week and a half since its release, his gargantuan Black Panther has already broken various records, with an early box office taking to rival that of Star Wars and a near-perfect score of 97% amongst critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Much like Star Wars, or perhaps Lord of The Rings, Black Panther is the kind of media that transcends ‘film’ and becomes a cultural event; the kind that is impossible not to discuss with friends, colleagues, or family. The reception to Coogler’s contribution to the seemingly endless Marvel Cinematic Universe is well-deserved; Black Panther is phenomenal. It is arguably the most outwardly political film in the MCU’s history (and is all the better for it), features a fantastic cast and utilises every one of them to create likeable, multi-dimensional characters, and also includes one of the most memorable antagonists of any recent superhero movie. Put simply, Black Panther is an incredible film and stands out amongst a sea of tired Marvel features.
Horror has always provided a foundation for social commentary. As an audience, our fear of the monsters on screen can reflect – or negate – the fears that are deeply rooted within our communities. Gender, therefore, is an obvious topic for the horror director, and the academic links between feminist analysis and genre filmmaking are extensive. It’s the reason why Much Ado takes part in ‘Women in Horror Month’; we wish to highlight the fact that women excel when it comes to the monstrous and the terrifying.
Karyn Kusama lies at the very heart of this link, as a horror filmmaker who places female stories front-and-centre within her work. Her protagonists are richly developed, flawed and driven – whether that be for blood, success, or revolution. Her films provide subtle commentary upon the patriarchal grip of masculinity, the immovable nature of grief, and the overbearing pressure of maternal love. Her stories are interwoven with humour, poignancy, and wit. From ‘Jennifer’s Body’ to ‘The Invitation’, Kusama’s short filmography is an example of how female filmmakers truly own the horror genre.
Happy Women in Horror Month! As I’m sure many others would agree, the horror genre can often feel incredibly male-dominated. Violence against women within these films is usually prominent, and in a world obsessed with inflicting this same violence in reality, being able to reclaim such a powerful tool as the horror movie is a very great thing. Besides which, this is a genre which naturally links itself to feminist thought. Traditional aspects of horror such as vampire lore, the final girl, slasher film tropes and the revenge plot all revolve around feminist themes, and it is not surprising that much academic discussion in this area concerns gender. In any case, after watching as many female-directed examples as I can find, I’ve firmly decided that women make the best horror movies. Take a look at the nine films below, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Dark, stylish and atmospheric, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is the Iranian vampire Western we never knew we needed. A sparse narrative cloaked in monochromatic tones illustrates themes of gendered violence, as the eponymous Girl hunts down villainous men. Vampire movies and feminist discourse have always gone hand in hand – the symbolic neck bite forming a transferal of agency – and Amirpour exploits this natural kinship whilst adding her own original mark to the genre. For ‘A Girl’ is a quiet, brooding movie, moving from character to character at a pace that some may find too sluggish. But this hesitance to over-embellish in a field that can so often be flamboyant is what gives the film its strength; the small moments form something so much greater, and it is the overall mood of the piece, rather than one scene or another, that marks it as a classic for feminist horror.
When considering the work of female filmmakers, Ava DuVernay is a name that stands out in the minds of many. Her achievements are overwhelming; she is the first African-American woman to win the Best Director prize at Sundance, the first black woman to be nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe, and the first black female director to have a film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. She has Emmys, Black Reel Awards, Independent Spirit Awards and countless nominations under her belt. In 2018, her film ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ will make Ava DuVernay the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over $100 million.
In many ways, these facts are shocking – DuVernay should not have had to be the first to lay claim to these achievements. Regardless, her filmography paints a picture of true passion for the moving image. From short films to television specials, documentaries to biographical films, there doesn’t seem to be much that the filmmaker won’t try her hand at. As a director, writer, producer, marketer, and distributor, DuVernay is also involved in every level of the process – occasionally even making appearances in front of the camera (‘This is the Life (2008)’). The variety of her work represents not only an ability to adapt to various genres, but also the method by which she rose to fame. DuVernay did not go to film school, and instead practised her craft through lower-budget documentary filmmaking.
After months of a less than fruitful awards season, the beginning of the home stretch is finally upon us: Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow. With our varied taste at Much Ado, some of us have celebrated as their favourite films win big at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and SAG Awards, while others have suffered as their favourites get paid dust. It’s been a tumultuous couple of months, but now it’s time to honour the grand old tradition of making predictions. Without further ado, we present our Oscar predictions, along with some films and performances that we think deserve more awards attention.
This month, I wanted to choose a director whose work I had little familiarity with, so that I too would get to experience their filmography for the first time. A few recommendations later (thanks Iana!) and I settled on Mia Hansen-Løve, a French filmmaker whose work I had always intended to get around to watching, but never really did – until now. Hansen-Løve’s films have received widespread critical acclaim, in particular, ‘Things to Come’ in 2016, which stars Isabelle Huppert and won the Silver Bear at Berlinale. Her work has been lauded for its muted and empathetic observations on everyday life, a variety of character and attention to human detail, and the slow artistry of her camera. Sure, her films may not be for everyone; they epitomise the leisurely French drama, concerned with intricate relationships, difficult emotions, and the impact of time. For the right viewer, however, Hansen-Løve’s filmography is a luxurious exhibition of real life, and an experience that I would highly recommend.
Fathers and Daughters: ‘All is Forgiven’ (2007) and ‘Father of My Children’ (2009)
First features can often be necessary stumbling blocks for filmmakers. In Hansen-Løve’s case, however, her first two films, which both focus on familial difficulties, immediately landed on their feet, contributing an assured, refined start to her career and easily holding up against her later works.