Menhaj Huda : Keeping it Real with Kidulthood

The distribution deal was done with Revolver but they wanted some minor cuts to the film, which I was unhappy about... They went ahead with it without ever discussing it with me directly."

cover_issue_4.jpgDirector Menhaj Huda is best known for his hit feature film Kidulthood (2006) which became a cult flick amongst teenagers across the UK and went on to win The Douglas Hickox Award at the British Independent Film Awards in 2006. As part of a series of articles on Netribution from Film and Festivals Magazine, Menhaj meets Editor Vicki Psarias and explains how he got to shoot Kidulthood on 35mm for under a million, what went on behind the scenes, and why he feels let down by the British film industry.

You're known best as the director for Kidulthood, but how did you start your career?

I never set out to be a director - I always wanted to be an editor and after university, that's where I started. I was working with music videos and I pitched an idea for a dance music show called Hypnosis to Channel 4, which they made into a series that I directed. I'd never been to film school so that was an education in itself. From that, I spent the following five years directing music videos, music shows and youth programmes.

What did you study at university? 

Engineering. I have a very technical mind so I love everything equipment wise and mechanical. Most crews are quite surprised by how much I know and understand about the technical side of filmmaking. Ultimately, they're all machines whether it's a camera or an edit suite and if you understand how machines work, you can cut corners and do things most people don't learn how to do. I've always been very confident about computers and once you have that knowledge, you can extend it and be very creative.

You work a lot with eminent cinematographer Brian Tufano, who shot Kidulthood. If you're very technical, does that ever cross into his area? 

It actually saves a lot of time as I can be very specific and say to Brian, ‘I want this particular lens' or ‘I want that shutter speed'. Other directors, however, come from different, more theatrical backgrounds or are speaking more artistically about what they want, and it's the DP's job to translate that into visuals. I know exactly what I want and how that can be done.


Clipping Path Tutorial - Using Photoshop Pen Tool

It's really a tedious job for photographers to remove the background of their photos and sometimes even unable to do so properly due to the lake of knowledge of handling the Photoshop Pen Tool. Some people even don't know about the Pen Tool and try to use some other techniques to cut-out their images, while the quality becomes very low and improper to use.


Mohamed Al Daradji's Son of Babylon feature wraps filming in Baghdad

sobFilm looks at Saddam regime's 'modern holocaust'

- second feature from Leeds based Oscar-shortlisted producers Human Film
- 400,000 bodies in mass graves found since 2003 from over 30 years of rule
- cast and crew are made up of many survivors of regime
- includes lead actress Shazada Hussein; the only woman to witness against Saddam during his trial

'If we forget the past, there is no future'
Simon Wiesenthal, KBE, Holocaust Survivor and Nazi Hunter

Son of Babylon is a Holocaust film unlike those we are familiar with. In a country embittered by decades of tyrannical rule, torture and systematic murder at the hands of Saddam’s Ba’athist party, during which an estimated one million people were displaced, a Kurdish mother and her grandson set out to discover the fate of her missing son, captured by Republican Guards 12 years earlier. Travelling across the chaotic landscape and killing fields of Iraq - paralleled by the story of her son, an Iraqi Soldier - she retraces his steps in the hope of reuniting him with his son.

Written and directed by Mohamed Al-Daradji ('Ahlaam', 2004), a Baghdad-born survivor of Saddam’s regime, having fled the country after the execution of his cousin. Produced by Isabelle Stead of Human Film (UK) & Atia Al-Daradji of Iraq Al-Rafidain (IRAQ), the film is about to wrap on location in Baghdad. The film was shot throughout Iraq and the Kurdish territories in the North of the country. Cast and crew are made up of many survivors of Saddam’s regime, including the lead actress Shazada Hussein; the only woman to witness against Saddam during his trial. Like many survivors, who lost their families to Iraq’s 30 year Holocaust, the crew of “Son of Babylon” are using this opportunity to share their experiences of suffering through this story, with the determination to prevent these atrocities from occurring again.

Since 2003, 400,000 bodies have been uncovered. The majority remain unidentified. Yet, 60 years after the Nazi Holocaust, it appears the Western world has become complacent about continuing persecutions similar in size and destruction. In a society occupied by Western Forces, millions of Iraqi, Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites continue to search for answers to the fate of their missing amongst the mounting number of mass graves. Could this obstruction prevent peace and progression in Iraq?

NB - A press conference with cast and crew of 'Son of Babylon' will be scheduled for later Saturday, 7th March, 10am at Abo Noalse Street (opposite the Sheraton Hotel.) BAGHDAD, IRAQ - anyone reading this who could go?


Salad Fingers' web legend David Firth has first retrospective at Hull International Film Festival

6 days, 5 masterclasses, 4 competitions, 3 days of industry events, 2 retrospectives and 1 Hull Short Film Festival.

starwarstheempirestrikesbackNow in it's seventh year, the Hull International Short Film Festival is cementing its position as the UK's number one short film event north of London, continuing to determinedly beat its cultural heart in a town much maligned and misunderstand - and a place where I've had some of the most memorable festival experiences anywhere. Standing besides a giant bonfire with Oscar nominated genius Virgil Widrich at a Hutt Street party in 2004, singing a spontaneous acoustic mashup of Blue Moon, Happiness is a Warm Gun and A Message to You Rudy (all use the same chord structure, btw) with the festival team last year, Hull's really quite like Glasgow, and if you've visited either you'll know what I mean.

This year sees the first Anthoney Minghella Memorial Awards, the highly anticipated retrospective of one of the UK's leading web filmmakers -  local-boy / bedroom animator wizard David 'Salad Fingers' Firth - (the "creepiest and best flash animation online" San Francisco Chronicle) who regularly chalks up millions of viewers for his films on YouTube (see below), as well as an astonishingly good exhibition of Polish film posters (featured) and more than 50 World, International, European and UK Premieres in a programme almost as full as programmer Laurence Boyce's DVD collection.

Full details of the 200+ films and the rest of the programme are at Sponsored by the University of Hull, the Anthony Minghella Awards for Best International and UK Short will see movies from intense drama to hilarious animation, all compete for the award that commemorates one of the UK’s most talented – and missed – directors. The GLIMMER Award for Best Yorkshire Short will shine the spotlight on the talent from our own region whilst Hull City Council will support the GLIMMER Award for Best Hull Short.


GOP's 'What would it look like if the world changed?' goes Creative Commons

Funded by the American Kalliopeia Foundation, the Global Oneness Project seeks to compile wisdom of unsung world changers from every corner of the planet. With all videos licensed under the Creative Commons license, the videos are free to download, share, recut, remix and reuse (hence this trimmed version here). For a documentary series with a social purpose, the license gives them the edge over films such as Age of Stupid and An Inconvenient Truth which seek to reach the widest possible audience with their messages, but are still fettered by trying to make a financial return for their investors, and therefore avoid a more re-distributoin friendly license and system (which can still be profitable). But more touching is the content of some of the films - especially Ubuntu - and on a day that the world's (mostly) elected elite try to hit the brakes before our Titanic civilisation is sunk by the icebergs ahead, What would it look like?, which weaves many threads, including a Peruvian elder and Buddhist nun with Martin Luther King and Obama's speeches, seemed to say far more than anything I could muster.

Just imagine a world where we didn't work so hard and got to spend more time outside and with friends and family. That's what a real green evolution would mean.


World's Largest Film Competition Returns to Edinburgh

From The 48 Hour Film Project:

The world's largest competition of its kind returns to Edinburgh's Cameo Cinema this May 22-24!  Filmmakers from across the UK (and beyond) will meet up to spend a wild and crazy bank holiday weekend making a film, getting it screened and judged for prizes.

Registration is now open (and quickly filling up) at We are now half full, so you are advised to register soon.


Roleplaying, Autism and Normality : Nic Balthazar on Ben X

"For me the film isn’t really about autism, it’s about what we do as a society to everyone who has a problem functioning and to all the people we call the nerds, the geeks and the dorks because they’re not what everyone else is. It’s the fascism of cool. The fascism of being ‘normal’."
Nic Balthazar

up-ben_x.jpgExploring the implications of virtual worlds, Nic Balthazar's Ben X has been seen by two thirds of Belgium's teens, and is seeking to change attitudes towards autism and bullying.

Ben, an Donnie Darko-esque teen living with his single mum, is bullied ferociously in the 'real' world. Behind his case-modded PC, a kind of 21st Century wardrobe to Narnia, he escapes to a fantasy polygon land where he rides a golden stallion and rescues a Sophian damsel, who becomes the virtual femme fatal (or not) of the piece. Although some of the characters seemed as flat as a 2D scroller, as perhaps the first realist drama to strip Web 2 bare in the cold hard glare of modern life and its cruelties, it's a timely film. Best of all, in exploring the territory of mental suffering in the face of 'normality', so often in cinema presented as something either hopefless (Pi) or dangerous (A Beautiful Mind), Ben X refreshingly finds alternatives.

Inspired by a true story, by way of a video game, novel and play, writer and director Balthazar explains the process behind the film with Billy Chainsaw below.


Seven projects selected for Power to the Pixel Pitch, 15 October

An all-star jury ranging from UKFC Premiere Fund head Sally Caplan to YouTube's Sara Pollock will judge the Pixel Pitch award for a cross media project, with details of the seven finalists now released and detailed below. One winner will walk away with the £6,000 Babelgum Pixel Pitch Award.

Tickets are now on sale for the event, which will accompany the Power to the Pixel conference, where a host of names from the Open Video Conference (including Brian Newman, Ted Hope, Nina Paley, Lance Weiler) along with Age of Stupid's Franny and Lizzie - will talk about digital marketing and distribution strategies for filmmakers.


GRETCHEN MOL - Nailing a pin-up in The Notorious Bettie Page

gretchen moll"Bettie's got a cult following in America. She is a pop icon. A lot of people dress like her, they do a burlesque show, and a lot of people will put on the wig and do acts like Bettie Page. And fashion and everything, the looks were inspired by things that she wore then. When Madonna had the cone bras in the early 90s, she was doing that in the 50s. As for her sexuality, I'm sure she was aware of it. You know, the word naïve keeps coming up, but to me it was a knowing naiveté. She knew what was going on but it was the attitude of the 50s to pick and choose what you wanted to look at and how closely you wanted to look at it. I think she was doing her job, and she was making her living, but I'm sure she knew what was going on. But it didn't serve her in any way to really investigate it and I think when she thought about it, she was making people happy and she wasn't judging them for a fetish. It was like, ‘OK, so you like shoes, you like whips or whatever.' I think within the realm of what they were doing it was like acting or playing dress up."


EIFF 2012 - Unfair World and Los Mariziano

Dead pan and wry are often traits associated with the national character of Edinburgh International Film Festival’s own natives, the Scots. So it’s intriguing to witness Argentinian and Greek directors – Ana Katz and Filippos Tsitos respectively - tackling family drama or existential inevitability in a dry-as-a-bone manner. Whether Argentinians or Greeks are noted for irony is moot, but considering the economic histories of both, it’s probably fair to assume it takes more than mere irony to weather the social meltdown both are so brutally familiar with.

So any curiosity as to whether financial allegory might play a part in the stories of Tsitos’s Unfair World or Katz’s Los Marziano gave way as tales of moral mores and sibling rivalry unfolded in their unique ways.  Both possess humour at their accomplished cores, yet stand as sinewy, absorbing fables in their own right.

Los Marziano takes the trope of falling down unexplained holes to set up the absurdity of fraternal tension. Appearing in a golf course on the edge of oldest brother Luis’s country house garden, they establish the emotional topography of an estrangement with his younger brother Juan which has played out over a period of time never explicitly quantified - but it’s probably decades. Here are two men, who entering the third stage in their lives, are dealing with the legacy of well-worn family dynamics – the responsible, successful elder brother at odds with the hapless, genial younger who has remained financially in debt to him. Their sister brokers the physical and emotional gap between them and inevitably takes the brunt of both brothers’ inappropriate treatment. It’s a universal tale of the resentments and communication issues that beset any family and it’s a beautifully scripted and shot take on a theme that often prefers high drama and histrionics. This is a film that takes its time to tell the story by letting the men’s foibles and increasingly extreme ‘accidents’ develop the narrative. Katz’s film is smart, affectionate and funny, but wears its layers lightly whilst revealing the psychological cul-de-sacs of sibling rivalry.


Karma, Community and The Edinburgh Film Festival 2011

Off_the_Beaten_Track_largeProviding a write up for the Edinburgh Film Festival 2011, which came to a close yesterday, is not straightforward for me – Edinburgh is my adopted home of 28 years, and taking pleasure and pride in its cultural events is part of why it’s a great city to live in. But whether or not we wanted it, press coverage prior to the festival launch on 15th June was sharp, even nippy: the programme was not only slimmer, but possibly just thin and rather unappetising; contentious decisions had been made with regard to content as well as form – the omission of You’ve Been Trumped being the most glaring example; and a messy year of funding cuts and a departing director seemed to be finally taking their toll.

So it has felt like Edinburgh was being set up for a fall this year, even if it is the job of journalists to report barometer readings and keep organizers on their toes. The festival has sought to prove its worth on the international festival stage without the cosseting of the August culture extravaganza with its ready supply of tourists and visitors. But in doing so it is exposed to the harsher, very competitive world of film festivals, which are now in their thousands.  And so defining a festival and attracting what you want in terms of films or names becomes an ever-tougher task.

The early reporting options were twofold: join the criticisms and moan at some early shortcomings or alternatively, champion uncritically. But neither tack was going to help the cause of supporting the event.  Instead, I’ve waited till it’s all over, and opted for an appraisal based on what I, and others, saw and experienced. It’s not exhaustive research, but it’s a start. We all want Edinburgh to survive and flourish, so here’s an attempt to get beyond the carping and work out what happened over the last 10 days, but to be realistic about what may have to be faced given the tough climate it’s weathered during the last few months.

Documented Success

Firstly, the up side and what can be celebrated. Edinburgh was operating in conjunction with Sheffield for the first time this year to provide ‘joint premiere’ opportunities for documentary. This aspect of the programme was robust: as well as docs we’d seen in Sheffield – including Bombay Beach and Hell and Back Again - there were further strong inclusions: Project Nim, Shut Up Little Man, Sound It Out, Calvet, Mrs Carey’s Concert and Off the Beaten Track, were all name checked as solid and inspired film-making.

My Edinburgh preference was Off the Beaten Track  (above); a bucolic odyssey, with the tempo and beauty of an epic. It was a tale of a pre-industrial way of life now threatened by agri-industry in Romania.  Transylvanian shepherds accompanied their flocks along lorry-ridden roads to fresh pastures, revealling an agrarian world of genuine sustainability on its way.  With horses, donkeys and motley mongrels as the biblical entourage that trekked highways, dales and meadows in an attempt to maintain a way of life in the competitive and quota-determined world of EU membership, it was an exquisitely paced piece of direct cinema.

Fiction and the not-to-be-missed


The choice of feature movies, unfortunately, felt less satisfying. Once the horror movies and films about psychos were put to the side, it required a bit more application to sate the appetite.  The Guard was a very unambitious choice for a gala screening: big names do not necessarily great films make. John McDonagh introduced his self-penned and directed tale by firstly slating the director of the previous film he’d scripted in 2003 - Ned Kelly – calling it ‘a cliché ridden pile of bourgeois bullshit’. I’d rather he’d just kept the comments off stage the night we all sat down in the Festival Theatre, as one negative word could infect the DNA of any other words uttered or written and disrupt the already delicate ecology the festival was attempting to withstand. And, as McDonagh had wandered down the genre path of comedy cop thriller, I did wonder just how unclichéd he was hoping to be with his particular outing. Turned out he was turning them all out for The Guard anyway. Yes, there were some great actors and some nice turns in choreographing the inevitable set pieces of a face-off and a shoot out, but beyond that Brendan Gleeson’s over-written smart-arsed garda, romping at times, rather than just comedying, through Oirland, was definitely one for the multiplexes. McDonagh made himself a hostage to fortune, and was burned in the process with his hubris. I don’t care about bad blood between directors and writers when the tone of an opening night should be upbeat and celebratory – McDonagh should keep it for his movie memoirs.

And if a film festival is a celebration of the less available and the more challenging, there was Béla Tarr’s ostensible swan song, Turin Horse, to take in, with long, long one take shots, references to Neitzsche and black and white photography all keeping the art house expectations met. Tarr had presented us with a bleak allegory about the apocalypse, yet claimed it was a celebration of life in the Q and A. Tarr was droll and genial, so I can only surmise that Magyar sense of joie-de-vivre is one lost a little in translation. But the horse - forlorn and masterfully captured in motion in the fabulous opening sequence - was wonderful, out-acting the humans as a being weary with resignation and burden. The father and daughter principal characters swore I thought too much for allegory, and the horse’s non-speaking part was a nice counterpoint.

But a film that had the hallmarks of its director’s black, black sense of humour played to searing effect was Post Mortem (above, right) - another macabre, unflinching trip into the history of Chile’s political past by Pablo Larraín. Following on from his second feature - the twisted, bleak, but very smart Tony Manero - this was the one film which had to be seen at Edinburgh for its UK premiere. Larraín is conducting a cinematic form of forensic research into what happened to the soul of a country that unspeakably abused its own. This time it’s the autopsy theatre that Larraín presents as the proscenium through which we glimpse Chile’s descent into hell as the 1973 military coup brings mass murder in its wake - all while public servants dissect its victims and type up its reports. Alfredo Castro from Tony Manero is again cast as a protagonist stripped of any morality or responsibility with regard to his fellow citizens, utterly absorbed in his own desires and disrupted masculinity, while Larraín drives the story with bold, spare images and a cold, comedic eye. Every frame grips in Larraín’s films, with each character, object and word rich with meaning. This might still be art house but it’s utterly compelling and absorbing – it’s a film, like Tony Manero, that gets under the skin and stays there. For the unrepresentative poll conducted for this article, it was the film that came out top – and for those critics who I heard were sniffy about the films on offer at Edinburgh, it was a missed opportunity if they felt nothing was worthy of a trip to the city. 


Co-op Youth Film Academy Searches for Scripts from Budding Young Film Writers

Are you made of the ‘write’ stuff? a youth film academy has started its search for screenplays to be made into full length feature films next year.

The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy gives 14-25 year-olds unique experiences of the movie industry and is seeking new scripts or, screenplays of classics, for next summer’s filming schedule.

It is backed by The Co-operative Group as part of its commitment to inspiring young people and, this year, it shot four movies at film-making summer camps which combine professionals from film and education to mentor students and offer everything from acting to make-up and camera through to post-production.


Exeter Phoenix Digital Short Film Commissions

Exeter Phoenix Digital is launching three new Short Film Commission schemes for 2013. We are looking for proposals to shoot short, digital format films of 5-12 minutes duration. Films must be based on an original script or treatment but can be of any genre and are to be filmed by September 2013.

Exeter Phoenix Digital will award successful proposals a commission of £500, which can be used towards the film making process.



Proposals are invited from individuals and groups who reside in Devon, UK and we actively encourage applications from students and first time filmmakers, as well as those with previous experience.

How to apply
Submissions are invited from Monday 3 December
Closing date – Friday 15 Feb 2013

All applications must be submitted using our online application process.
Download guidelines >>
Online application form >> 


Proposals are invited from individuals and groups who reside in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and we actively encourage applications from students and first time filmmakers, as well as those with previous experience.

How to apply
Submissions are invited from Monday 3 December
Closing date – Friday 15 Feb 2013

All applications must be submitted using our online application process.
Download guidelines >>
Online application form >>


The 2013 Crowd Funder Short film Commission will be a match fund award of £500 on the condition that the applicant can raise equal funds through The applicant will be expected to create their own online campaign to raise funds of up to or exceeding £500.

How to apply

Submissions are invited from Monday 3 December.
Closing date – Friday 15 Feb 2013
All applications must be submitted using our online application process.

Download guidelines >>
Download tips to Crowd Funding >>
Online application form >>


Future Shorts Partner with Noah and the Whale on Innovative New Tour, Fusing Music and Film


Short film lovers Noah and the Whale will be joined by Future Shorts on their upcoming ‘Club Silencio' Tour. The tour sees the band re-inventing some of their songs in real time to Future Shorts films.

After the huge success of the recent Guillemots rescore tour, Future Shorts are thrilled to be on board with Noah and the Whale, bringing another awe inspiring live music / short film experience to selected venues across the UK. The band are also welcoming entries for a competition to screen a winner's short film every night of tour.

A sneaky peek of what to expect, Future Shorts current screenings tour Dances with Love launched in style last Friday with Noah and the Whale performing a surprise set to specially selected shorts to an enthralled sell-out audience at Brixton's Ritzy cinema. Dances with Love UK tour and features Jeff Keen's Marvo Movie in association with the BFI alongside a programme of some the worlds finest short films including Sundance 2009 winner Lies, Kaige Chen's BAFTA and Golden Palm winning Zhanxiou Village and Grimur Hakonarson's love story about Icelandic gay wrestlers - Wrestling.


Ditto - a new film and music experience launches on 16th May

From PR Marek Steven:

Ditto is a new multi-platform collaboration between top names in music, film and writing. Individual, exclusive pieces inspired by classic works from various fields will come together live in an inspiring celebration of life - Creation, Joy, Love, Despair, Hope, Destruction and Farewell. The performance is broadcast live online for literally one time only; as all the work created will be erased forever at the finale. With events coming up at Latitude and The Big Chill, Ditto is always looking for new collaborators. With international musicians and producers influenced by dance, electronica and sonic landscapes composing, contributing and performing new works:

Sander Kleienberg, Rolando Rocha, Fluke / 2BIT, John Hendicott, Bruno DiasMieko Shimizu and James Gillespie (aka Scope). Including a piece created by Richard Norris (Beyond The Wizards Sleeve). Alongside these music pieces, newly created film and animation is being contributed by leading film and visual artists among whom are a mulitude of successful and talented visual artists.

The project brings together 23 newly commissioned pieces of visual art, with accompanying composed soundtracks delivered in a mixture of live and pre-recorded performance and a global broadcast. At the end of the event all the performance material is permanently erased and will never be replayed. This is a one-time event. For a full listing and how to get involved visit and


Google Picks up You Tube for $1.65bn

googtubeHaving previously turned down MySpace, Google has paid more than three times the amount of money NewsCorp paid for that community to pick up the video sharing social network YouTube. Conceived in February 2005 by three ex PayPal employees and with only $11.5m in venture capital funding to date, the 67-employee company boasted over 100 million films watched per day, dwarfing the audience share of many major TV stations. YouTube was one of the last remaining independent massively-popular rich-media social networks; the merger brings around 57% of web video under the code of a single corporation, according to Hitwise. 

The deal, announced late on Monday evening, came after a day of announcements from YouTube about new content deals signed with Sony  BMG, Universal Music and CBS about the use of copyrighted content. The partnerships allow for YouTube to post music videos and allow users to deploy certain copyrighted songs in their work, but at the same time has the potential to prevent users from uploading mashups or films with a backing of commercial music from these labels through a new YouTube technology. Google also unveiled a content deal with Sony BMG and Warner Music leaving the UK's EMI the only music label not partnering with either website.

The all stock $1.65bn 'merger' is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will see YouTube existing as a separate branded operation with its own offices. A merry message from YouTube founders Chad and Steve follows:



Deadline for 17th Raindance Film Festival looming

raindancelauriersmallFrom Raindance:

The final deadline for the 17th Raindance Film Festival is 19 June.

Raindance is the UK’s leading independent film festival and each year more and more films achieve success after Raindance screenings. Recent triumphs include IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS (Independent Spirit Award-winner, 2009), TOYLAND (Oscar-winner, Best Short 2009) and ONCE (Oscar-winner, Best Song, 2008).

Over the years, the festival has hosted such guests and filmmakers as Christopher Nolan, Shane Meadows, Ken Loach, Marky Ramone, Iggy Pop, Anton Corbijn, Mick Jones, Andrea Arnold, Adam Yauch, Quentin Tarantino, Faye Dunaway and Lou Reed.

But we’re here for the little guys too. Our big-name successes ensure that attention is on the whole programme. Everyone’s looking for the next big indie hit. Our audience of film fans, journalists, acquisition executives, actors, producers and directors know that a screening at the Raindance Film Festival is a sign of quality.

If you think your film has what it takes to make Raindance ’09 then submit your film before 19 June 2009.

For more details, visit


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