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  • Letter to the King Hisham Zaman

    EIFF 2014: ‘Letter to the King’ is a warm and compassionate ensemble piece

    Kurdish-Norwegian director Hisham Zaman’s second feature is a well-observed ensemble piece, focusing on five refugees who are given the chance to visit Oslo for the day. They live comfortably in a nearby centre but their uncertain status restricts their freedom and makes them unable to move on with their lives. Each character’s individual story represents an attempt to make a clean break from their situation; they seek legitimacy and progress, in various forms, where it has otherwise been denied. More

  • Stations of the Cross Dietrich Bruggeman

    EIFF 2014: ‘Stations of the Cross’ is an outstanding formal achievement

    Dietrich Brüggemann’s Stations of the Cross is both an indictment of fundamentalist Catholicism and a testament to the enduring value of faith. The title comes from the traditional Christian devotion, which involves meditating upon the key scenes of Christ’s suffering and death. Structured rigorously around this concept, the film is divided in 14 self-contained chapters, each representing a different station and filmed in a continuous long take. More

  • Peter Ferdinando Hyena

    EIFF 2014: ‘Hyena’ is a brutal example of British nihilism

    Hyena, the second feature from London-born director Gerard Johnson, opens with a slow motion raid on a neon-blue nightclub. The four men who carry it out are inebriated – a mixture of drink and drugs – and meet wordlessly en route in a small, plain car. When they park in an alleyway and pull on police gear, your first instinct is that they’re faking it, putting on masks. But it transpires that they really are policeman, just the kind that employ violence indiscriminately and abuse their authority to take a cut from local gangs. More

  • in

    EIFF 2013: Wang Bing’s ‘Three Sisters’ is a lengthy but hugely effective observational portrait

    Three Sisters Directed by Wang Bing Hong Kong/France, 2012 Wang Bing’s epic-length documentary is an intimate depiction of childhood in the context of extreme poverty, providing an observational portrait of a Chinese peasant family. In a remote mountain village in China’s Yunnan province, which borders Burma, the every-day lives of the three youngest members of […] More

  • Not Another Happy Ending

    EIFF 2013: Glasgow rom-com ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ is vibrant but insubstantial

    Set in a spruced-up Glasgow, Not Another Happy Ending is an offbeat romantic comedy starring Karen Gillan as Jane, a quirky young novelist struggling to overcome a nasty bout of writer’s block. With the editorial guidance of her passionate but single-minded publisher, Tom (Stanley Weber), her debut autobiographical novel became a huge bestseller, as well as reuniting her with her estranged father (Gary Lewis) and landing her a relationship with a renowned but narcissistic screenwriter, Willie (Henry Ian Cusick). Relying on Jane’s new book to rescue his ailing publishing company, Tom believes that her newfound happiness is preventing her from writing and sets out to make her life as miserable as he can. More

  • Blackbird Film 2013

    EIFF 2013: ‘Blackbird’ is a sensitive portrayal of Scotland’s vulnerable folk tradition

    Blackbird is set in a Scottish island town where the traditional culture, based around folk singing, is gradually dying out and young people are flocking to the cities in search of better opportunities. The community has been fractured by weakening local industries and a loss of identity, leading to social discord and conflicting views about how the town should move forward. Director Jamie Chambers delicately draws out these issues, showing a sad reluctance on the part of the older community to pass down their traditions, acutely aware that they have little economic value in the modern world. More

  • in

    EIFF 2013: Harry Dean Stanton profiled in the terrific ‘Partly Fiction’

    In keeping with the acting style of the object of its focus, Sophie Huber’s Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction stays away from extremes in its portrait of one of America’s greatest actors. There is affection, but it is understated and not glowing, while any melancholy elements are not over-stressed. The facts and opinions expressed, through Stanton and various collaborators, are simply allowed to be – free of added manipulation – in what amounts as a rather quiet documentary, excluding film clips with their own soundtracks and instances in which we get to see Stanton express his passion for performing music. Like the documentary’s most discussed film, Paris, Texas (1984), Partly Fiction is serene but also apt at emotional devastation, though as in Wim Wenders’ masterpiece, sorrow and optimism are intertwined. More

  • Before Snowfall

    EIFF 2013: ‘Before Snowfall’ follows its protagonist on a nuanced, multicultural journey

    Hisham Zaman’s directorial debut opens with Siyar (Abdullah Taher), a 16-year-old boy from Kurdish Iraq, being wrapped from head to toe in cling film. He is preparing to submerge himself in an oil tanker in an attempt to illegally cross the border into Turkey, making for Istanbul where he believes his runaway sister, Nermin (Bahar Ozen), is hiding with her lover. She has escaped an arranged marriage, bringing dishonour to the family, and Siyar has accepted the responsibility of resolving the situation. He embarks on a dangerous journey, replete with perilous border crossings and unfamiliar environments, with the intention of killing Nermin and restoring his family to honour. More

  • Leviathan Film 2012

    EIFF 2013: ‘Leviathan’ is an immersive sensory experience, depicting a dissonant, alien world

    Shot using multiple unmanned digital cameras on an Atlantic Ocean fishing trawler, Leviathan plunges us directly into the ship’s chaotic machinery, revealing a dissonant, alien world. The latest collaborative work from anthropologists and filmmakers, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, is a profoundly original documentary and a staggering, hallucinatory piece of cinema. There is no narration and no interviews; from the outset, we are thrust unaided and disorientated into the cacophony, bombarded with anarchic point-of-view shots and haunting, discordant sounds. More

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