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The going continues to be tough for cinemas, with the number of UK & Ireland venues reporting box office down by a quarter over the past week. Solidarity to all of those facing uncertain times, and godspeed to everyone keeping the show on the road. As the latest Filmwire shows, there’s no shortage of excellent films out there - whether you’re going to the pictures, or streaming at home. Also includes a chat with Louis Hudson about his animation gathering Overlap, and the latest short by Curtis Essel.

FILM OF THE MONTH: SAINT MAUD

The descriptor of ‘elevated horror’ has been a much maligned one in recent years, a label given to arthouse chillers some critics can’t bear to link to a genre that often gleefully revels in presenting transgressive material. Rose Glass’s startling debut feature has been given said tag, but the perverse joy in Saint Maud is its unashamed embrace of pure, unadulterated horror – existential dread wrapped up in body horror and supernatural psychosis. The central relationship is between Morfydd Clark’s dogmatic carer Maud and Jennifer Ehle’s disabled former dancer Amanda, one infected by sexual jealousy and divergent opinions on the existence of God. As the devout and possibly disturbed Maud looks to ‘save’ the hedonistic Amanda from sin, Glass’s film questions whether Maud is trying to let God in, or stop something truly horrific from getting out. Soaked in atmosphere and awash with apocalyptic imagery, Saint Maud is a true revelation.

Until late Oct at Everyman, Birmingham 
Until 22 Oct at Broadway, Nottingham
Until 22 Oct at Derby QUAD
From 30 Oct at Bonington Theatre, Nottingham

I AM GRETA

The rise of unlikely climate activist Greta Thunberg is presented in Nathan Grossman’s slick new documentary, following the Swedish teenager as she has to deal with patronising politicians looking for photo ops. You won’t learn much about Thunberg the person, but perhaps that’s to be expected – for Thunberg, everything is about the message, not the person delivering it. That doesn’t make for a very gripping film, but it does make for an important one, and Grossman’s cameras have been with Greta ever since she first sat outside Stockholm parliament, unaware of the intense scrutiny about to engulf her life.

18 Oct with Q&A at various Midlands venues 

28 Oct at Kinokulture, Oswestry 

From 30 Oct at Derby QUAD 

REBECCA

Director Ben Wheatley continues to skip happily between genres, this time tackling Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic romance for Netflix, a story most famously adapted back in 1940 by one Alfred Hitchcock. Armie Hammer and Lily James gaze longingly at each other as the central couple haunted by the memory of Hammer’s dead first wife, but it’s the supporting cast of Ann Dowd and Kristin Scott Thomas who are sure to steal scenes as they stalk through the foreboding halls of the Manderley estate. 

Until 5 Nov at Red Carpet, Barton

Available from 21 Oct on Netflix

RELIC

The horror of losing your sense of self is dissected in Natalie Erika James’s creepy new film, inspired by her own grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Emily Mortimer is excellent as the worried daughter of an elderly woman slowly succumbing to dementia, who recently went missing for three days. The house she lives in is falling apart in tandem with its owner’s mind, imbuing James’s film with a powerful sense of creeping dread as the narrative slithers towards a climactic reckoning for three generations of emotionally bruised women.

Available from 30 Oct on Curzon Home CinemaAmazon Prime Video, Sky Store and more.

FALLING

Lost for many years to the arid wasteland of low budget B movies, Lance Henriksen finally gets a role he can properly sink his teeth into in Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut, playing a frustrated elderly misanthrope coming to the end of a seemingly unhappy life – a man who throws around homophobic slurs in front of his gay son (Mortensen, also starring), but also cheekily bonds with his son’s daughter. It’s a film entirely reliant on the performances, and everyone is exceptional. But this is Henriksen’s film, unleashing a whirlwind of complex male rage around which a moving familial story revolves.

See modernfilms for more information.

ETERNAL BEAUTY

A fine cast that includes Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis and Morfydd Clark ensure that Craig Roberts’s new film about the life and loves of a fortyish woman negotiating severe mental health issues doesn’t wander too far off course. Littered with moments of deadpan comedy and anchored by a nuanced performance from Hawkins, it’s a pleasingly British take on depression and schizophrenia that demonstrates what an interesting filmmaker Roberts is rapidly becoming.  

16-22 Oct at Derby QUAD 

17 Oct at Malvern Theatres 

6 & 7 Nov at Kinokulture, Oswestry 


Available on BFI PlayerCurzon Home Cinema, Sky Store and more.

RECORDER: THE MARION STOKES PROJECT

In 1979, as the Iran hostage crisis took hold, an American woman named Marion Stokes pressed record on her VCR. Over 30 years and 70,000 tapes later, she had amassed a mind-boggling amount of taped television, from commercials to chat shows to rolling news. Matt Wolf’s insightful documentary delves into Stokes’s fascinating life and her obsession with how the media moulds truth, revealing her to be a fiercely intelligent woman who inadvertently became one of the world’s most prolific archivists.

Available from 6 Nov on BFI PlayerCurzon Home Cinema, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store and more.

Throughout October & November


Tamworth Community Cinema
Tamworth in Staffordshire now has its own community cinema event, held at The Hub in the Old Swimming Baths and offering a number of family friendly titles this autumn, including Hotel Transylvania (24 Oct), The Wizard of Oz, (14 Nov), Clue (14 Nov), West Side Story (28 Nov) and The Neverending Story (28 Nov).  All screenings are completely free!

Legacy Centre Cinema
Formerly known as The Drum, the Legacy Centre of Excellence in Aston, Birmingham is currently screening a whole host of cult black cinema titles as delectable double bills. Future pairings include 90s romantic drama Love Jones with award-winning horror Get Out (23 Oct), and hit US comedy Friday with Babylon (24 Oct), the latter a rarely screened 1980 feature from Franco Rosso about West Indians living in South London.

James Whale: The Father of Frankenstein
On 27 Oct, Craig Denston presents a look into the life and high-flying career of Dudley-born director James Whale at Wolverhampton’s Penn United Reformed Church. Whale is a filmmaker best known for helming a number of classic Hollywood monster movies, including Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, his life ending when he drowned himself at the age of 67.

Cinema Paradiso: 4K
At a tumultuous time for cinemas, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate what makes picturehouses so special than these screenings of Giuseppe Tornatore’s love letter to the silver screen, showing at Everyman Mailbox and Everyman Stratford-upon-Avon on 25 Oct. Remastered for 4K, Tornatore’s film might be a bit sugary at times, but only the stone-hearted will scoff at the childlike wonder that sparkles from every frame.

At The Drive-In
The summer saw a number of drive-in events pop up in the face of the pandemic, and now the festive season brings its own vehicular screenings to Birmingham. Running from 26 Nov to 13 Dec, titles include the usual Christmas offerings (Elf, Home Alone, Die Hard), alongside some less seasonal fare like Alita: Battle Angel and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. The Birmingham venue is still to be announced, so check the website for more info.

Chado: Dreaming in Texture – a journey from print to animation
Exhibition taking place in real life at Leicester Print Workshop from 12 September to 7 November and featuring experimental animation, Chado, which combines digital animation and Risograph prints to transform a coming of age tale set in a Russian wilderness into an enchanting short film.

CYBERLANTE
Shot in Loughborough this cybercrime thriller from Raya Films is the result of an abandoned shoot earlier this year, filmed entirely on a smartphone. Available now on Amazon Prime Video.

Amplify Film Festival
Bath Film Festival, Cinecity, Cambridge Film Festival and Cornwall Film Festival have joined forces to blast brilliant new cinema into your front room! Amplify is a radical new online film festival kicking off in November with over 30 new releases. Passes available here.

Leeds International Film Festival
This year's festival is taking place in venues and online (3-19 November 2020) with the launch of Leeds Film Player. The majority of the programme will be available on the player (including Ammonite, Mogul Mowgli and Nomadland) with features setting you back a very reasonable £6 and shorts £3.

OVERLAP ANIMATION SHOW & TELL

Launched at Kongs in Birmingham early last year, Overlap Animation Show & Tell is the brainchild of award-winning animator Louis Hudson, who has quietly been building an admirable CV of animated lunacy that extends to working with the BBC, Channel 4 and Nickelodeon. We talked to Louis about the genesis of Overlap, his thoughts on the animation scene in the Midlands and the many obstacles he faced when the pandemic meant Overlap had to suddenly move online.

What did you hope to achieve with Overlap when you set it up 18 months ago?
I wanted a regular night that gave animators a reason to keep developing. There aren’t many big studios around Birmingham. It’s largely a cottage industry comprised of folks just getting on with it in isolation. That’s really hard to crack into and I’ve seen loads of great talent move away or give up. Ambitiously, I wanted Overlap to do all of the following: act as a showcase, get animators an audience, be an opportunity for new and established animators and make Birmingham’s creative scene more visible.

What kind of people attend/watch Overlap events - is it a mix of animators and people looking for more experimental animated fare?
Yeah, both. The name ‘Overlap’ comes from the animation term, but it also refers to overlapping interests, personalities and skills coming together. It’s been really satisfying seeing people at their first animation night having a great time. It adds to the honest feedback that a live audience gives to a filmmaker. If a joke doesn’t land or a plot point is confusing, you find out straight away and that just makes you a better filmmaker.

Are there any criteria for submissions, or will you consider screening pretty much anything?
If it’s interesting, entertaining and well-made, we’ll show it. Animations from as short as 1 second can be submitted. We tend not to show commercial work unless it’s special, as the focus of the night is more personal. We’re also a safe space for everyone, including smut. If there’s something a bit sensitive, I ask people to keep an open mind, but it’s usually well-received, particularly as the filmmaker has introduced it.

You get a lot of up-and-coming online animators involved with Overlap. Is that through the contacts you've built up whilst promoting your own work?
Most of the headline guests have been people I’ve got to know over the last ten years of being around as an animator, but most of the animators who have shown work at Overlap were completely unknown to me. When I started Overlap, I worried whether that was enough to fill a night every three months. But I keep finding incredible talent, particularly people who actually represent how diverse Birmingham is. The prevalence of white men in animation can be a turn off, so I hope I’m helping to change that.

How have you found doing online events since the pandemic hit?
A complete and utter nightmare. I spent a month in lockdown mushing together tech and software from Twitch streamer tutorials. I had to present, operate all the controls and monitor the streams all at the same time from a loft above where my four month old daughter was sleeping. Live streaming is a copyright minefield. Background music and a few of the videos caused copyright takedowns, so I had to shift to Twitch at the very last minute. After being up all night testing, something still went wrong and the sound wasn’t getting out. I was devastated, but a nice thing happened - everyone started bonding around the bonfire that was my flailing. We rescheduled for the next week, and by then I’d created a fool-proof launch sequence. The night went really well in the end, but it was three hours long and everyone was shattered by the end of it!

Your home since you started has been Kongs bar in Birmingham, which is now permanently closed. How did you feel when you heard it wouldn’t be reopening?
I felt really sad. Also angry at how greedy landlords are in town. It was the perfect space for what we needed. Free. Super central. Wheelchair accessible. Screen and music already set up. Mood lighting. Central stage area and a bar in the same room. With a bit of work, it felt like a brutalist cabaret bar. I immediately started looking for somewhere else. There are some maybes, but I don’t know what venue can tick as many boxes. If any venue managers are reading, I’m happy to plan for 2021!

The next Overlap night takes place online on 9 Dec. Deadline for submissions is 7 Dec. More info.

SHORT OF THE MONTH

ALLUMUAH
(dir. Curtis Essel, UK 2020, 4 mins)

Sumptuous and beguiling visuals set to a sublime score by Tariq Disu, Curtis Essel's award-winning short explores intersectional/generational relationships in a manner not too dissimilar to Beyonce's Black is King
 

OPPORTUNITIES

LEARNING & ENGAGEMENT APPRENTICE
Warwick District Council (closes 19 October)

LEARNING AND ENGAGEMENT FACILITATOR
Kettering Museum and Art Gallery (closes 23 October)

CREATIVE LEARNING PRODUCER
Sandwell Cultural Education Partnership (closes 23 October) 

PRODUCER
Dance4 (closes 26 October) 

DANCE DEVELOPMENT OFFICER
The National Centre for Craft & Design (closes 2 November) 

PROJECT COORDINATOR
Women & Theatre (closes 2 November)

PROGRAMME PRODUCER
Positive Youth Foundation (closes 16 November) 
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Flatpack Projects (CIO) · Unit 304, The Custard Factory · Gibb St · Birmingham, West Midlands B9 4AA · United Kingdom