After almost two weeks of film viewing, it’s that time in the London Film Festival when we must start thinking about emerging back into the daylight. But with so many films seen and too few words written, we look back over our schedule for some bitesized reviews of some of the films you might have missed. Because sometimes the dazzle of glitzy red carpet welcomes can blind us from those hidden and often overlooked gems…
Dir: Suha Arraf
Arriving at a crumbling villa, Badia, played by Maria Zreik in her first leading role, finds herself thrown back in time, trapped in a time-capsule home with her three unmarried aunts. Having lost their land and status in the war with Israel, the three Palestinian Christians have taken it upon themselves to uphold the traditions and attitudes of the high society company they once kept. With etiquette lessons from posture to piano playing, the aunts take Badia under their stifling wings to help her find a husband amongst the stuffy upper classes her aunts introduce her to at tea parties, weddings, funerals and any other given opportunity. But Badia has little interest, she likes to dance, to laugh and to fall in love with inappropriate boys – just like any other teenager.Though, contrary to what her aunts would have her believe, the world outside the villa’s walls is changing as war ravages their community and so, Badia’s relationship with those that live beyond their protection.
Though shrouded in a steely exterior, love, even its most cruel, runs deep in this house. Each sister has their own story, their own secret and their own lost loves and soon Badia will join them. In Villa Touma, Suha Arraf delivers a distinctly human look at the Palestinian conflict, focusing on the people that live within its walls – and the physical and emotional walls they put up to protect themselves. Darkly comic but deeply moving, Villa Touma brings women to the front line, sharing their stories through impressive female cast and a bold female director.
Villa Touma will be screening at the London Palestine Film Festival on 30 November.
The Lost Aviator
Dir: Andrew Lancaster
Against his family’s wishes, director Andrew Lancaster opens up a painful past of love, adventure, betrayal and murder as he seeks to find the truth behind the life of his great uncle, Bill Lancaster, the eponymous Lost Aviator. And much to his family’s dismay, he wants to make a documentary about it. What ensues is a film fraught with intrigue, mystery and tension as relationships that had long been buried are brought back to life through archive footage, courtroom reports and a rather bizarre revival of scenes from a hammy Australian TV mini-series.
The story of Bill Lancaster, his adventures flying from England to Australia, his passionate affair in the skies with Australian aviatrix, Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller, an illicit love triangle, a murder trial and a mummified body, is one steeped in enough drama that merely the telling is enough to excite without needing dramatic reproductions. But setting aside this intrusion, The Lost Aviator charts the incredible story of the great aviator whose life of celebrity and scandal would lead to a horrifying fate.
Found in the Moroccan desert, buried beneath the wreckage of his plane almost 30 years after he took off on his final flight, Bill Lancaster’s body was discovered in 1962, along with a haunting account of his final eight days on earth – and of course his undying declarations of love for dear Chubbie. Ignore the dramatised fizz and focus on making up your own mind about this fascinating twentieth century mystery that still divides experts, critics and families.
Dir: Fenar Ahmad
Welcome to the gritty, urban sounds of the Danish underground music scene, fuelled by its angry and disenfranchised youth. A common enough tale (See: 8 Mile) but in Ahmad’s low-fi story of young ambition and loyalty in the face of fame, we’re presented with a stylish take on the rags-to-riches moralising.
Mikael, played by Danish rapper Gilli, splits his time creating music with his friends in his council estate flat and working on building sites. Not the most creatively inspiring life but when his highflying abilities are spotted, rising above those of his friends, by successful rapper Apollo, his luck shows signs of changing. Seduced by contracts and pay cheques, girls and champagne, Mikael is welcomed into any rapper’s delight but soon the treats of the trade grow thin when he realises his new benefactor’s intentions might not be quite as nurturing as he first thought.
Slickly edited and completed with a driving soundtrack and flashy live concert scenes, Flow is an entertaining insight into the perils and pressures of young creativity in the dog-eat-puppy world of music production. A strong addition to this year’s fantastic Sonic strand offering.
Flow is screening on Sun 19 October (Curzon Soho).
Dir: Afia Nathaniel
A feud between two tribes rages on in the Pakistani mountains. With blood being shed on both sides it seems there is no end in sight – until one tribe leader proposes a truce, in the shape of the hand in marriage of his rival’s 10-year old daughter. Reluctantly accepting, he returns to his young wife to break the news. As mother and daughter begin to prepare for the imminent wedding, she finds her inherited wedding-night sheets and, realising the gravity of what they are asking their daughter to do, she takes matters into her own hands.
Defying the dishonour she now bestows on the family, so begins their daring escape as Allah Raki and her daughter Zainab must now outrun the dangerous henchmen of both tribes until they find a possible safe passage, stowing away on the roof of an unknowing truck driver. Taking sympathy on the two, Sohail, agrees to help them, smuggling them through the stunning landscapes of rural Pakistan to Lahore.
Filmed on the perilous but nonetheless beautiful mountain roads of Pakistan, even the landscape reflects the sense of imminent danger of their plight. Gripping from first frame to final scene, Afia Nathaniel denies us a breath until her protagonists can, racing with frenetic momentum on a journey of thrilling chase, love and social commentary on the horrifying traditions of child brides and the brave women who stand up in protest.
The Film that Buys the Cinema
Dir: Various – 70 of them, in fact.
Settled in the Experimentia strand, this non-existent budget film has found its perfect home. A celebration of the innovative, the funny, the surreal and the downright baffling, The Film that Buys the Cinema is the result of a collaborative fundraising project by artist-run enterprise, The Cube to save Bristol’s Microplex Cinema. Describing itself as a ‘cinematic mutant’, this 70 minute delirious delight sees 70 directors go wild with one take and one minute, creating a nonsensical but vibrant picture of the creativity The Cube seeks to maintain.
Unedited and unadulterated, expect scenes of burning celluloid and wheelie bins, poetry, song and naked skateboarding plus contributions from Michael Rosen, Peter Strickland, Efterklang, Mark Cousins, Reggie Watts and Portishead.
There’s also an off-screen happy ending – the film did indeed buy the cinema. Sort of. With the support of public donations and events, they secured the landlord’s asking price.
The 58th BFI London Film Festival closes on Sun 19 October.