‘Monsters and Men’ (2018) – Cambridge Film Festival Review

By Niamh Edmonds – Thursday 1st November and the closing night of the Cambridge Film Festival I attended a UK Premiere of the amazing film “Monsters and Men.” The 96 minute feature is due to come out in UK cinemas 11th January 2019 with an…

By Niamh Edmonds

Thursday 1st November and the closing night of the Cambridge Film Festival I attended a UK Premiere of the amazing film “Monsters and Men.” The 96 minute feature is due to come out in UK cinemas 11th January 2019 with an age rating of 15+.

The film is written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, known for “Stop” (2015) and “Stone Cars” (2014). The film features stars such as John David Washington, the up and coming Kelvin Harrison Jr, Chanté Adams and Hamilton’s (broadway) Anthony Ramos.

The film is both engaging and exciting from the beginning to the end. The film is shot and located in Brooklyn, New York State. The films plot begins when a white armed police officer shoots an unarmed black civilian, named Darius Larson. The event of the shooting was filmed by bystander Manny (Anthony Ramos) who then proceeds to upload his recording of the shooting off his phone and onto the internet. The uploading of the video sparked protests and activism in the local area against racism and police brutality.

What I liked about this film was that it had a clear message regarding police brutality against black Americans/ black communities in the United States. The film was clearly produced to spread awareness to its audience regarding this issue of policing and racism in the United States. Additionally, what I really liked was that the film had a good balance coming from both the point of view of the victims, protesters and police officers.

I would highly recommend this film because it clearly highlights police brutality and racism against black communities in the United States. The film is a really big eye-opener as to what happens everyday in the U.S; it gives a clear and shocking visual insight into how it feels to be both the oppressed and the oppressor.

‘The Archive and the Contested Landscape’ – Festival of Ideas

“This project exploring the dynamic material interplay between archives and contested landscapes was initiated by Kelcy Davenport and Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab as part of their ongoing art-geology research collaboration…

By Hannah Cox

“This project exploring the dynamic material interplay between archives and contested landscapes was initiated by Kelcy Davenport and Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab as part of their ongoing art-geology research collaboration.  The project was introduced via a symposium event in Cambridge on 22nd March 2018.  A related exhibition comprising of creative responses to the theme, by artists and non-artists inclusively, will take place in Cambridge and Basra from 22nd – 28th October 2018, as part of the Festival of Ideas.”

The first part of this exhibit took place in Cambridge whilst the second will be taking place in Basra, Iraq in 2019. The project looked interesting, an exhibit across three buildings beginning at Gallery 9 on Norfolk Street. Immediately upon entering, there were 26 copper figurines on the floor, Elizabeth’s Eade’s Net Realisable Value. After being told we could hold one, my son chose a pregnant figurine and she was placed carefully into his hands whilst I read about the piece. The 26 copper figurines have been ‘corrupted with sea water to produce startling green crystals’. Eerily reminiscent of Egyptian Shabti dolls found in the Pharaohs’ tombs, they are themselves symbols of slaves. The title relates to the calculation regarding the worth of water damaged goods, the figurines to a real life event:

“On the 3rd of November 2017, the bodies of 26 girls aged 14-18 were pulled from the sea off the South Coast of Italy. They were all of Nigerian origin. One wore a t-shirt with the words “I’m super happy”. It is believed that they were destined for the vociferous sex slave trade in Italy. The only two identified were named as Marian Shaka, who was married, and Osato Osaro. Both were pregnant.”

The power of this piece builds on you slowly. Drawing us unexpectedly into confronting the horrors of the sex slave trade still happening today. Tragedy, beauty and horror all rolled into 26 little figures, some slightly broken, and others slightly less human due to the crystal growth. We stand to move on, placing the pregnant figurine back on the floor where she longs.

The Gallery echoed with the sounds of Rosanna Greave’s film The Flaming Rage of the Sea (2018). Choreographed stilt performers represent the fens people whilst oral histories and the poem ‘The Powtes Complaint’ protest the draining of the fens and discuss the histories of the Cambridgeshire Fenland.

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The harsh landscape contrasts with the images of the traditional folk festivals and the whole piece functions as a visual poem. A very stark piece highlighting the struggle and ‘precariousness of a landscape below sea level’.

Sarah Strachan spent the weeks prior to the exhibit preparing an incredible clay water filtering vessel in the fashion of the place where the clay was sourced: the Al-Hammar Marshes in Southern Iraq. The piece, Shared Water, Contested Water, provides an artefact linking the ‘paleoclimate archive and the future demand for water’. The quality of the vessel is proof of the time, care and skill of Strachan in preparing a complex material as a part of a series of clay objects.

Many of the pieces focus on war. My first impression of Artists Activists’ T.H. Elderton and Walter Yeo was of two beautiful sculptures. They are the ‘men with the Broken Faces’, a term which the artist disagrees with as ‘these men must not have their identities transformed and grouped into a terminology to be forgotten as individuals’. By the time we came to leave I knew not to consider them beautiful, only to leave understanding and knowing that individuals went through an unimaginable hell when they lost their faces.

The next part of the exhibit was on ARU’s main campus. Ian Moffat’s Lunette: A Deep History of Australian Climate shows us the ‘stark, craggy forms’ of the crescent shaped dunes attached to Salt Lakes are layered, ‘recording thousands of years of climate change driven by the natural wobbles in the Earth’s transit around the sun’. Not only do these images open our eyes to the beauty of lunettes, but they also show the deep history Australia has and stand as a testimony to man and other creature’s abilities to change and adapt to climate change.

The third building of the exhibit was the Zion Baptist Church Crypt. Walking into the crypt was a slightly unsettling experience. Most noticeable, perhaps because the crypt walls were reverberating with the sound, was William Crosby’s WHAILES. Speakers faced the centre of the unlit room, playing whale song, and whilst it is incredibly loud, it serves to educate us about noise pollution in the world’s oceans. This piece discusses the effects of human activity on the ocean – a contested landscape that not too long ago, existed without human interference.

Events were also arranged by Kelcy Davenport to further discuss and explore the theme of the contested landscape, such as the mid-week symposium. Here, contributors to the exhibit gave talks on their work. One piece which benefitted from the symposium was Sally Stenton’s and Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab’s If the Cloud Allows.They arranged for people in Cambridge and Basra to walk in a circle and look at the moon simultaneously. The pictures in the exhibit and the story were made more powerful after seeing the short film which shows the events as they happen at the same time on 26/10/18. I doubt one could truly view this piece, as it is an experience. The two acts explore a feeling of connectivity and the significance of the cyclical movement of the groups in line with the moon and the earth.

This exhibition was a huge undertaking and an even bigger success. Thank you to Kelcy Davenport and Nawrast Sabah Abd Alwahab for arranging this exhibit and curating these works and to all who contributed to the exhibit. I sincerely recommend visiting the website and social media pages, and if you can see any of the pieces, I entreat you to. This exhibit not only explored contested landscapes, but through them brought out the importance of human connections. Through these works we are linked to cultures, war zones and people who we are led to believe are ‘them’ or ‘other’. In exploring our connections, we experience the humanity of people we often dehumanise and challenge the ideas which can lead to contested landscapes.

All quotes taken from the exhibition catalogue.

‘Burning’ (2018) – Cambridge Film Festival Review

Last week we were lucky enough to attend the Cambridge Film Festival and got the privilege of watching Burning – A Korean film with subtitles. The film follows Jong-soo (Yoo Ah-In) who is a working…

By Jess Weal & Amy Williams

Last week we were lucky enough to attend the Cambridge Film Festival and got the privilege of watching Burning – A Korean film with subtitles.

The film follows Jong-soo (Yoo Ah-In) who is a working class man from the countryside in Korea. When working an odd job, he runs into Hae-mi (Jeon Jon-Seo) who used to live in his neighbourhood, when the pair were children. She asks him to look after her cat whilst she takes a trip to Africa (which Jong-Soo thinks is imaginary). She returns a couple of weeks later with a new friend Ben (Steven Yeun), who she quickly becomes close with, causing Jong-Soo to become jealous.

Let us start by telling you this… this film is long, you will lose interest and then wish you hadn’t. Burning is – pardon the pun – a slow burner! The first hour and a half is, to put it frank, quite boring, but it turns out to be vital to the plot, once you understand what is happening.

Neither of us knew anything about this film, and to be honest, we were only interested because of Steven Yeun. We hadn’t even seen the trailer, so we really did have no idea what this film was about, just that two people had recommended it to us, one even telling us “best film of the year”. Burning managed to exceed expectations we didn’t have, we don’t know how that works but it does.

Turns out, the film was a Drama/Mystery, with clues and scenes that all make sense once you finish the film. Which is why your dozing off in the first half will come back to bite you!

Many shots lingered way longer than they needed to, and an almost silent sex scene had us giving each other awkward looks and cringing at the deep intimacy being showed through close ups of Jong-soo’s sex face. (Cringing now just thinking about it)

This film is 100% polysemic, and you come away with a million different theories and ideas about the film, especially when you think back to them earlier scenes (Told you not watching will bite you in the ass). Some theories online suggest that the film can be politically analysed through the tension of the social classes, between the rich and the poor. But, since we do not have knowledge of the class system in Korea, we didn’t interpret it that way

BE WARNED… FROM HERE ON OUT THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! STOP READING NOW.

The film gets interesting when Hae-mi goes missing after spending a night with Ben and Jong-Soo at Jong-Soo’s house, which is when Ben confesses to Jong-Soo that he likes to burn down greenhouses and admits that he is planning to burn down a greenhouse “very close” to Jong-soo. Once Jong-Soo discovers Haemi is missing, he goes on a mad hunt to find her and discovers how dodgy Ben really is. Jong-Soo decides that Ben has taken her and perhaps killed her (the evidence suggesting this is strong), he meets up with Ben and ends up brutally stabbing him, before setting fire to his car with the dead body in. And to be honest, we’re not happy about it because:

  1. We will never find out what happened to Hae-mi because the number one suspect is now dead
  2. The almost innocent Jong-soo is now a murderer.
  3. IT WAS TOO SOON TO SEE HIM DIE AGAIN ON MY SCREEN? REALLY YOU WANT ME TO WATCH HIM GET BRUTALLY MURDERED AGAIN! RIP GLENN, ALWAYS IN OUR HEART.

Amy came away believing that Ben was a serial killer, using greenhouses as a metaphor for women, and him burning down the greenhouses is really him killing women. This theory is reinforced through his sociopathic tendencies of not being able to cry as well as keeping ‘trophies’ of his ‘victims’, such as their jewellery, in a draw in his bathroom.

Jess however thought he was grooming the girls (we assume there are more than one), to be coming prostitutes or escorts. He kept their jewellery and we see him doing make up on one of the girls, which he could be doing before delivering them to the men.

There is so much you can take away from this film, so much to think about and discuss that it’ll be on your mind for days after. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t look like it is available anywhere in the UK or will be available anytime soon.

Watch the trailer below:

‘Secret Ingredient’ (2018) – Cambridge Film Festival Review

A dark comedy staring cancer, cake and criminals. Secret Ingredient, a festival stand-out and one to watch if you ever get the chance…

A dark comedy staring cancer, cake and criminals. Secret Ingredient, a festival stand-out and one to watch if you ever get the chance.

Secret Ingredient made its UK premiere at the Cambridge film festival on its third day and it’s a film worthy of that prestige.

The film tells the story of Vele, an underpaid train mechanic struggling to afford his father’s cancer medication due to price inflation. As a result, Vele considers turning to ‘alternative’ medicines but instead decides to use a marijuana cake.

This spirals into a series of events involving a duo of criminals trying to track Vele down for their missing drugs, the creation of a cultish atmosphere around the prophesied ‘healing’ properties of the cake and Vele reconnecting with his Father.

Secret Ingredient can very easily draw you in with its dark diatribe and slow-going person moments, leave you laughing at very serious points and invest you into the lives of its ensemble cast. You may even want to see more interactions between the antagonists even when they’re trying to track down our main character.

You can quickly forget it’s a foreign language movie as the text on screen is never too fast or drawn out and the backdrop of Macedonia only works to enhance a universal story.

Secret Ingredient is a treat to watch and a film I’d recommend for someone wanting to watch a serious drama or comedy.

Written by Niamh Cubitt

‘Beautiful Boy’ (2018) – Cambridge Film Festival Review

Tears, heartbreak, love – three occurring themes throughout Beautiful Boy that make this film so empowering and tear-jerking that it is one of the best films I have seen this year. Produced by Brad Pitt under his production company…

Tears, heartbreak, love – three occurring themes throughout Beautiful Boy that make this film so empowering and tear-jerking that it is one of the best films I have seen this year.

Produced by Brad Pitt under his production company, Plan B Entertainment, Steve Carrell (David) and Timothée Chalamet (Nic) star as the main characters. The film is based on the novel Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. Carrell and Chalamet both play excellent parts as we see a father (Carrell) struggle with his relationship with his son (Chalamet) as he deals with a crippling drug addiction, starting from when he turned eighteen years old.

The film lasts two hours, seeing Nic tackling his drug addiction through a non-linear narrative, exposing us to how his addiction to drugs started and the struggle David goes through to get his son back. David is a freelance journalist, writing for magazines such as
Rolling Stone as we see in the film. He pitches an article idea to his boss which is personal to him, sharing the story of Nic and how he lost his son mentally through his use of drugs.

We go back and forth in time, seeing elements of both Nic and David’s lives that piece together the impact of Nic’s life and how he turned to the use of drugs such as crystal meth, weed and LSD. The non-linear narrative works amazingly as viewers are able to view the struggles that drug addicts go through: recovery, relapse and rehab. Through flashbacks from the past, we can see the struggles Nic repeatedly goes through in his attempt to stay clean.

I love the use of music in the film too. Music adds such an emotional impact to certain scenes throughout that really make viewers feel what the characters are going through.

I cannot recommend this film enough, it really opens your eyes to what struggles, pain and emotions drug users and their relatives go through on a day-to-day basis. All I can say is get your tissues at the ready! (Be prepared for seeing the use of needles a lot too.)

Written by Eliza Rawson

‘Life Itself’ (2018) – Cambridge Film Festival Review

In this drama multiple lives intertwine and spin around each other.  We see the story of two college sweethearts, the story of a couple struggling to support their child in Spain, the story of their children and how all their lives are connected…

In this drama multiple lives intertwine and spin around each other.  We see the story of two college sweethearts, the story of a couple struggling to support their child in Spain, the story of their children and how all their lives are connected by a single event. The multi generation levelled saga is beautifully told and supported by the music of Federico Jusid, and Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel my Love. This is Dan Fogelman’s second directorial and first big thing to come out after This Is Us. With a cast consisting of some of Hollywood’s finest e.g. Antonio Banderas and Olivia Wilde, this film has all the ingredients to be a crowd pleaser. The film finds a fine balance between happiness and sadness, and keeps surprising by taking away the characters you hold dear with a twist on their life story. The timeline is a little confusing at first but becomes clear when the film unfolds.

Halfway through the films 4 chapters and epilogue, it becomes clear that the narrative voice is the daughter to the children of the two couples we see struggling. This however does not interfere with the interest to learn more about the characters. Especially as the story of Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) had more than half of the cinema in tears. The raw humour and joking ebbs away as Will Shoots himself and the story start to focus more on the Gonzalez family. As the story’s background changes to the idyllic olive farms in the countryside of Spain, it will once again start with a love story everyone romanticises, but this soon will start to crumble after a family holiday to New York. Javier and Isabel try to find a cure for their traumatised son, Rodrigo, and soon need to ask the help of rich landowner Vincent Saccione. Javier is a proud man and decides to leave his family so that Saccione can take care of his wife and son. They all meet one last time at the end of the film as Isabel falls ill.

The film had various bad reviews from acclaimed film critics but the public seem to have a different opinion on Twitter and outside the cinema. This film gives hope and happiness and then takes it away to build it up again but never disappoints.  

The Cambridge Film Festival runs from the 25th of October to the 1st of November in various places in Cambridge. For more information on the festival go to https://www.cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk

Photo taken from https://www.cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk

Cambridge 38th Film Festival – Life Itself

Director – Dan Fogelman

With – Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Isaac, Olivia Cook

Written by Merel Van Schooten