Five films to catch at the BFI’s ace new celebration of African cinema
Too rarely celebrated, African cinema and the movies of the African diaspora are getting their moment in an expansive, kaleidoscopic BFI season this summer. Alongside an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, ‘In the Black Fantastic’ will showcase films from visionaries based on the continent itself (Haile Gerima, Djibril Diop Mambety), and some, like Julie Dash and Kasi Lemmons, whose magic realist storytelling is set across the ocean. Curated by writer and journalist Ekow Eshun, the programme will blur boundaries between the present and the past in all sorts of mesmeric ways – with films infused with the supernatural and the spiritual, the realist and the dreamlike. ‘Fantasy might be the best way to explain the strange and fantastic experience of being Black in the world,’ explains Eshun, ‘and this is a collection of works that absolutely understands that.’ He took us through his five top picks on the BFI’s programme. In the Black Fantastic runs concurrently at BFI Southbank throughout July and at the Hayward Gallery Jun 29-Sep 18. Head to the official site for programme info and tickets. Ekow Eshun’s Thames & Hudson book, ‘In the Black Fantastic’, is available now.
La ciudad perdida, el viaje a la jungla más divertido de la primavera
⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Una combinación delirantemente alocada de risas, placeres culpables y follaje de la jungla, La ciudad perdida es lo que sucedería si Indiana Jones: El templo maldito y Miss Congeniality concibieran un hijo en un tablero de Jumanji. La imperecedera protagonista de Hollywood, Sandra Bullock, presenta una figura abatida como su problemática protagonista, Loretta Sage. Es la autora de una exitosa franquicia romántica en la que ya no ha invertido. Pero después de que su publicista Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) la empujara, Loretta se embarca de mala gana en una gira para promocionar su último libro, La ciudad perdida de D, con la estrella de la portada del galán de la novela, Alan (Channing Tatum). La ciudad perdida se convierte en una metaaventura grande y desordenada cuando Loretta es secuestrada por la multimillonaria Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) y se ve envuelta en una aventura sacada directamente de las páginas de uno de sus libros. Alan pronto adoptará su alter ego ficticio, Dash, con resultados mixtos. La siguiente hora es una hilarante procesión de puños voladores, buffets de charcutería destrozados y un cameo que se roba la escena de un despeinado Brad Pitt haciendo su mejor imitación de GI Joe. Bullock entabla un romance poco convencional pero tremendamente entretenido con Tatum mientras ella camina penosamente por la jungla vestida de punta en blanco. Tatum es una alegría como su caballero alérgico al agua con una armadura brillante, y el elenco secundario t
Encanto, la nueva película de Disney ambientada en Colombia
⭑⭑⭑⭑✩ Dilo en voz baja, pero ¿la calidad de la producción de Disney Animation está comenzando a superar a la de sus amigos de Pixar? Es una pregunta para reflexionar seriamente, con películas como Raya y el último dragón, Frozen II y Moana que superan las nuevas producciónes de Pixar en cuanto a habilidades narrativas, y la nueva cinta de Disney Animation; Encanto, un cuento mágico, divertido, bullicioso y atrevido que viene cargado de melodías de Lin-Manuel Miranda, no es una excepción. El escenario es el encantador pueblo colombiano de Encanto donde vive la familia magica Madrigal. En el corazón de su adorable conjunto de chamanes, adivinos y curanderos se encuentra la modesta adolescente Mirabel (con la voz de Stephanie Beatriz), la única niña de la familia que no tiene poderes. Su puerta a la magia se le cierró literalmente en la cara y se ve obligada a convertirse en una heroína cuando la magia del clan se ve amenazada. Encanto tiene ingeniosa trama y revelaciones sorprendentes, pero es la animación en sí la que se roba el espectáculo. Los codirectores de Zootopia, Jared Bush y Byron Howard, y sus animadores, realmente han vaciado la caja de crayones de Disney para representar sus deliciosas flores, texturas de cabello y tonos de piel. El resultado se siente como una auténtica carta de amor a la diversidad de América Latina. Las canciones festivas y vibrantes de Lin-Manuel Miranda agregan otro sabor a la olla, desempaquetando de manera inteligente y pegadiza las debilid
Listings and reviews (10)
A Bunch of Amateurs
Films about filmmaking are often arthouse in style and niche in appeal, but Kim Hopkins’ (Voices of the Sea) documentary is just the kind of scrappy, everyman story that will go down a treat for the masses. Plying their trade in a leaky, rundown building in the heart of West Yorkshire are the Bradford Movie Makers, members of one of the world’s oldest film club (founded in 1932). However, their longevity has come at a cost. Crippling economic hardship and an ageing membership have left the club five years behind on rent and relying on the mercy of their landlord to keep them afloat. Far removed from the days of packing busses on group outings, the club is down to its last dozen or so members, but still remains just as determined to see out their golden years via the silver screen. The club’s remaining members meet on a weekly basis to watch their favourite homemade films and engage in hilarious bickering about which projects to embark on next (‘You’re not professional!’, ‘neither are you!’, they argue). Hopkins showcases the club’s collection of quirky, low-budget work in a way that elicits the heartiest of laughs, without making a mockery of their craftsmanship. When the curtain falls, you’ll really miss these character and their stories Shot during the pandemic, scenes of the members’ meetings present them as a carefree, eccentric bunch, but their lives away from the club are burdened with responsibility and heartbreaking personal losses. Born in 1933 and the club’s oldes
It’s only fitting that Emer Reynolds’ Joyride opens in a bustling Irish bar, because suspending disbelief for this madcap caper definitely requires the kind of open mindedness that only multiple Guinnesses will provide. Plucky 12-year-old Mully (Charlie Reid) doubles as a waiter and human jukebox at his father’s pub, belting out Broadway classics to raise money for a charity in honour of his late mother. After discovering his father’s nefarious intentions to misuse the donations, Mully makes a break for the nearest getaway vehicle, only to hit the gas and discover a woman passed out in the backseat with her baby. Unsettled by the prospect of motherhood, boozy solicitor Joy (Olivia Colman) plans to give the baby away to a family member and get on a plane to sunny Lanzarote to escape her woes. In an inexplicable turn of events, Joy forces the young boy to drive her across Ireland. The car ride that ensues features a series of predictable getaway tropes, including evading the police, running out of petrol and getting on each other’s nerves. The barrage of silly one-liners sells Olivia Colman short If you’re able to look past the police’s bizarre inaction, Mully’s implausibly excellent driving skills and the schmaltzy score, there are moments of fun to be had. Colman and Reid make a believable surrogate mother-son pairing, with the Oscar-winner predictably great at capturing a mum in the throes of postpartum depression, but the barrage of silly one-liners that follows sells her
After a lifetime spent swimming in the cesspool of Jamaica and Toronto’s criminal underworld, 40-year-old drug dealer Akilla Brown (Saul Williams) reckons it’s time to move on, only to end up in a ‘one-last-job’ scenario with an unlikely young accomplice. Needless to say – and firmly in keeping with the rules of gangland genre fare – getting out is not going to be an easy task. And that’s even before Akilla is caught in a violent bank robbery that ends with him capturing one of his assailants. That, beneath the mask, the robber turns out to be a baby-faced, 15-year-old called Sheppard (Thamela Mpumlwana) only complicates the scenario. Together, Akilla and Sheppard embark on a series of journeys around Toronto to reclaim Akilla’s stolen goods, each with the awkwardness of a drive home after a bad parent-teacher meeting. Their uneasy dynamic offers a very literal representation of the cycle of generational violence and its unflinching destruction of the innocence of Black youth. And in case this is lost on the audience, the film’s casting of Mpumlwana as both Sheppard and the young Akilla in its many flashback scenes drives home the parallels. It’s a heavy-handed device that actually works pretty well. Akilla’s Escape races out the gates to the sound of Bob Marley’s iconic 1977 hit ‘Punky Reggae Party’ and an opening sequence that blasts through Jamaica’s complicated post-colonialist history, spliced together with stylish black-and-white clips of Williams’s uninhibited skanki
Never has the road to the priesthood been paved with so many drunk drivers, foul-mouth outbursts or nasty motorcycle collisions than in Mark Wahlberg’s partly self-funded real-life drama. After succumbing to a serious injury, Stuart ‘Stu’ Long (Wahlberg) turns his back on a patchy amateur boxing career and sets his sights on becoming a Hollywood leading man. Executing this unlikely plan begins with a job as a supermarket butcher – because even talent-spotting producers enjoy a good steak, right? Instead, there’s a chance encounter with a Catholic Sunday school teacher (Narcos: Mexico’s Teresa Ruiz) that leaves him smitten. She, less so. Forever punching above his weight, the reformed bad boy attempts to woo her by attending Mass, but it isn’t until surviving a near-death motorcycle accident that he finds his true calling to become a priest; a decision that is met by staunch resistance from his family and the Church. It gets stuck in a purgatory of daddy issues and Sunday service pamphlets Accompanied by a colourful rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, Wahlberg takes to his trademark role of misfit with a heart of gold like a clenched fist to a 12oz Everlast glove. Around him, though, is an uneven gumbo of religion and family turmoil. There are a few effective scenes where Father Stu’s life-battered hero inspires those around him, but too often it reduces him to second-fiddle to the one-liners and tired monologues of his estranged father (Mel Gibson) and sceptical mother (Jacki Weaver).
The Lost City
A deliriously madcap combination of laughs, guilty pleasures and jungle foliage, The Lost City is what would happen if Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and Miss Congeniality conceived a love child on a Jumanji board. Hollywood’s evergreen leading lady, Sandra Bullock, cuts a despondent figure as its troubled protagonist, Loretta Sage. She’s the author of a bestselling romance franchise that she’s no longer invested in. But after being pushed by her publicist Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), Loretta reluctantly embarks on a tour to promote her latest book, ‘The Lost City of D’, with the novel’s heartthrob cover star Alan (Channing Tatum). The Lost City becomes one big, messy, meta adventure when Loretta gets kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) and is thrown into an adventure straight out of the pages of one of her books. Alan is soon adopting his fictional alter ego, Dash, with mixed results. It’s what would happen if The Temple of Doom and Miss Congeniality conceived a love child on a Jumanji board The next hour is a hilarious procession of flying fists, trashed charcuterie buffets and a scene-stealing cameo by a tousled Brad Pitt doing his best G.I. Joe impression. Bullock strikes up an unconventional, yet wildly entertaining will-they-won’t-they romance with Tatum as she trudges through the jungle dressed to the nines. Tatum is a joy as her water-allergic knight in shining armour, and the supporting cast bring laughs too. If you’re looking for plot
It is often said that ‘home is where the heart is’, but this raw, unshowy and powerful doc exposes just hollow that saying can ring for those who have put down roots in Britain. If media coverage alone defined what it meant to be classed as an illegal immigrant, it would paint the picture of criminals who arrived without invitation, took what wasn’t theirs and made no contributions to society. Within the opening scenes, Hostile demonstrates that the supposed crime these people have committed isn’t theft or endangering human life but the mere act of existence. Told through the lenses of four people from Black and Asian backgrounds, each harrowing vignette demonstrates how citizenship – or even a visa – can be a rug that can be swept from under your feet without warning. Powered by the raw emotion of sincere interviews with members of the Windrush generation and those who have fled conflict zones, Hostile cuts ruthlessly through the bureaucracy to spotlight the local heroes fighting against an often cruel system. More than simply a documentary, Sonita Gale’s film is call to action that brings the humanity to the forefront and cries out for a more compassionate approach from legislators to those who need our care. Here’s hoping it reaches the right people. In UK cinemas now.
Whisper it quietly but is the quality of Disney Animation’s output starting to pip that of its Pixar pals across the lot? It’s a question to give some serious thought to, with films like Raya and the Last Dragon, Frozen II and Moana outdoing recent Pixar output for storytelling chops. And the studio’s latest, a fun, boisterous and sassy magical realistic tale that comes laden with Lin-Manuel Miranda tunes, is no exception. The setting is the enchanted Colombian hillside town of Encanto where the Madrigal family lives. At the heart of its loveable ensemble of shapeshifters, fortune tellers and healers is unassuming teenager Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), the one child in the family not to receive a unique power in a special ceremony involving a candle. Her door to magic is literally slammed shut in her face, and he’s forced to become an unlikely hero when the clan’s magic is threatened. Encanto has a few nifty plot pivots and surprising reveals, but it’s the animation itself that steals the show. Zootopia co-directors Jared Bush and Byron Howard and their animators have really emptied out the Disney crayon box to render its luscious flowers, hair textures and skin tones. The result feels like a genuine love letter to the diversity of Latin America. Miranda’s shimmying, celebratory songs add another flavour into the pot, smartly and catchily unpacking the family’s foibles, as well as the movie’s themes of self-worth and identity. You will be humming ‘Welcome to the Fa
Soul – Uma Aventura com Alma
Vale a pena viver uma vida infeliz? O que nos espera para lá da morte? As questões que o último filme da Pixar coloca não são o ponto de partida habitual para uma animação. A história segue Joe (Jamie Foxx), um professor de música que sonha ser um pianista de jazz, até que um acidente lhe separa a alma do corpo. E, a menos que consiga persuadir uma alma perdida e mal-humorada (Tina Fey) de que vale a pena viver, vai deixar passar a sua grande oportunidade. Mesmo quando o artifício narrativo da corrida contra o tempo começa a parecer desgastado, o mundo do filme brilha. O título tem um inteligente duplo sentido: a ascensão ao reino espiritual e o fervor associado à cultura afro-americana. O dramaturgo Kemp Powers, que assina a realização e o argumento com Pete Docter (Up – Altamente e Divertida-Mente), deixa aqui a sua marca indelével: do brilho da pele negra à textura de uma afro e à autenticidade das conversas na barbearia. Nada disso é forçado, e é testemunho do envolvimento de pessoas que viveram de facto essas experiências. Se há algo a apontar, é que Soul é demasiado ambicioso nesse campo. A magia e a graça estão lá, mas falta a consabida habilidade da Pixar em tornar temas complexos apelativos para os jovens. Misturando coração e angústia existencial, fala mais para gerações mais velhas do que para os mais pequenos. É inteligente e, sim, comovente, mas nunca chega a levantar voo.
Is an unfulfilled life worth living? What awaits us after death? The questions posed by Pixar’s latest aren’t your average starting point for an animation. The story follows Joe (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher who dreams of becoming a jazz pianist, until an accident untethers his soul from his body. The opportunity of a lifetime will pass him by unless he can convince a grumpy lost soul (Tina Fey) that life is worth living. Even as the race-against-time device begins to feel laboured, the world of the movie sparkles. The title is a clever double entendre for the ascension to the spiritual realm and the warmth associated with Black culture. Playwright Kemp Powers co-directs and co-writes (with Pete Docter) and his influence is keenly felt: from the glisten of black skin, to the texture of an afro and the authenticity of the conversations in a barbershop. None of it is forced, testament to the involvement of people with real lived experience. If anything, Soul is guilty of over-ambition. The wizardry and wit is there, but it lacks Pixar’s usual deftness in making complex themes sing for youngsters. Mixing heart and existential angst, it’ll connect more with Joe’s generation than little ones. It’s smart and, yes, soulful but it never quite takes flight.
There is no greater danger to the lives of people from marginalised groups than the system they are born into. That’s the message of Garrett Bradley’s remarkable documentary Time. It’s the story of one Black American family’s brutal experiences with the US prison system over two decades and it’s delivered with heart-rending candour, hope and righteous anger. In 1999, Sibil Richardson, her husband Robert and his nephew were all convicted after a botched bank robbery. Her role as the driver saw her serve three years. Robert was sentenced to 60 years, without the possibility of early release or retrial. Sibil’s unrelenting fight to free her husband was captured by raw black-and-white home videos that also show her family adjusting to life without dad. These recordings are seamlessly blended with Bradley’s present-day footage to present a full timeline of events – a rousing document to the passing of time. (This is all the more impressive because the home videos weren’t given to Bradley until the final day of production.) We see Sibil single-handedly raising their six sons and maintaining an unwavering faith in her cause, despite little chance of success. The innocent giggles of her boys and the maternal warmth of her voice cut through the bleakness. The footage places the viewer firmly inside Sibil’s head: we think what she thinks; we feel what she feels; and we want what she wants. For Robert to be set free. In laying bare the circumstances behind their crime – armed robbery