Alec Newman as tropubled DI Buchan in Reichenbach FallsBritain's latest and remotest filmfest in the Shetland Islands got off to a great start with a screening of BBC 4's drama Reichenbach Falls, a fast-moving drama made by a BBC Scotland team. The TV programme clearly proved that low budget does not exclude high production values - something known to indie filmmakers for a long time - but clearly the message is now getting through to TV drama bosses as well.


Blockbuster matures as Spiderman 3 looks at shades of grey

 spiderman 3 stillWill Self, I think, once blamed Hollywood in part for the current 'war on terror' because its depiction in epics such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter of good and evil as black and white absolutes leads the audience to simplify incredibly complex situations. Even Star Wars  – where Obi Wan rebuked Anakin's Bush-like 'you're either with us or against us' refrain at the end of Episode 3 with 'only a Sith speaks in absolutes' – still pits the good of the force directly against the dark side with no middle ground. But the greatest light and dark battle arguably takes place within, and Spiderman 3 takes Anakin's (failed) inner struggle with the dark side of power a step further in a film which looks at villainy and heroism with some rare maturity for a blockbuster.

So yes, once again, Mary Jane is left dangling and helpless from a great height in a role not as fully developed as it could or should have been (and the song numbers?!), but we are faced with three villains and indeed a hero who tread that fine tightrope between dark and light.


'Geminis' by Albertina Carri

titleSince fully entering the London rat race I have come across a number of 30-somethings that appear to feel rather bitter about being around 20-somethings, much to the bewilderment of the latter.  It is these people that will perhaps scoff at the idea that there is a big leap between being 21 and 24, crying that it is all within the same degree of naivety, but I can vouch for this leap when remembering  my reaction towards Albertina Carri’s Los Rubios, released in 2003 and one of the first films I saw during my first period of living in Buenos Aires.


From Leeds Film Festival: Khadak, A Taste of Tea & Paprkia

taste-teaA trio of films from the east exploring the subconcious world offered a mind-expanding taste of world cinema at the 20th Leeds International Film Festival.

Khadak, A Taste of Tea and Paprika each show exactly why international film festivals are so important, as they opened a wardrobe door into a Narnia both culturally and aesthetically on the other side of the world. Maybe you would see these films late on FilmFour or through a DVD club, but rarely on the huge screen of a Vue cinema, and even then perhaps only if the TV listings writers are smart enough to make it pick of the day rather than the latest Ron Howard. But at a festival with as strong a programme as Leeds (also famous for its Asian cinema strands) and with an access all areas pass costing just £60 (or a press pass in my case) there is no excuse, and very little risk of being disapointed, as I found out, over three days during the festival.


Spice Girls Story: Nina’s Heavenly Delights

Nina (Shelley Conn) & Lisa (Laura Fraser) spice up the action in the Shah family's curry retaurant 

There are plenty of surprises cooking up in the Shah family's Indian restaurant in Pratibha Parmar's debut feature, Nina's Heavenly Delights. Described by one of the cast as "My Beautiful Restaurant," the film's director acknowledges that ground- breaking launderette drama's influence upon her colourful and amusing romp across some of the boundaries that can separate people from each other. This is an uplifting film celebrating diversity and it's a real change to find Glasgow settings used to capture something of the real vibrance and vitality of that great city. James MacGregor reports on what's on the film's menu.


Mischief Night

penny_woolcockFrom the striking opening credits, with a boy throwing eggs at the screen, you know that Mischief Night is going to live up to its name.

It is both an irreverent look at life in a Leeds suburb, as well as an exploration of the effects of increased ethnic segregation. The setting of Beeston, Leeds – home of three of the July 7th bombers – also provided the backdrop to Penny Woolcock’s earlier features, Tina Goes Shopping (1999) and Tina Takes a Break (2001). Woolcock says: “people used to live together in Leeds,” but now, “these are scary times in which divisions between people are leading to terrible bloodshed.” Characters in Mischief Night also share the director’s concerns; as Tina Crabtree says, “things were different in the olden days, a bit more mixed.” Mischief Night, through the many strands of the characters’ interconnected stories, shows that these “divisions” are largely meaningless.




Iraq's Oscar entry Ahlaam gets a UK premiere at Leeds

The first post-war film from Iraq - shot by British filmmakers - makes its UK debut in Leeds ahead of a Foreign Language Oscar campaign


Ahlaam, which means dreams or utopia, made it's British premiere in Leeds last night, and is a dazzling display of world class filmmaking using guerilla techniques. Producer-writer-director Mohamed al Daradji, formerly of Leeds Met film school, carried a camera in one hand and AK 47 in the other as he shot the film in Iraq during the height of the conflict. The crew  faced regular attacks and even a kidnapping, yet somehow managed to produce a film that could be an early outside favourite for the foreign language Oscar spot, after receiving being selected to represent Iraq.


London Film Festival - Mischief Night, Dark Blue Almost Black and Buenos Aires 1977

mischief_night_tina_imme As the  50th London Film Festival gets underway, a new update from Suchandrika Chakrabarti, with previews of Penny Woolcock's Mischief Night, the Spanish Dark Blue Almost Black and a real-life Argentine horror story, Buenos Aires 1977



Sophie Scholl, inspiring tale of resistance under Nazis

sophie schollAs the credits rolled, the audience sat in stunned silence as if they had lost the ability to speak or move. I felt as if I had been punched in my solar plexus, such was the impact of Marc Rothemund's chronicle of courage and quiet heroism, Sophie Scholl, The Final Days.

For two hours we had followed a few days in the life of a young German student  who, in 1943,  distributed a few anti-Nazi leaflets in Munich University  and found herself interrogated and charged by the Gestapo who had the might of the desperate Third Reich behind them. We watched with awe as this 21 year old girl grew in courage and stature under the pressure, replacing her initial protestations of innocence with affirmations of her abhorrence at everything the fascists stood for. Scholl enhances her strong political conviction with a humble strength of faith in the righteousness of her cause.


A Transatlantic Review - Loach Rules, OK?


Ken LoachYou would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Ken Loach's films are simply OK, or all right, or not so bad. Loach divides opinion. ``The Wind That Shakes the Barley,'' which won the top prize -- the Palme D'Or -- at the Cannes Film Festival last month isn't going to change that fact. The film is, at least in part, a damning indictment of the British in Ireland in the years leading up to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.