Monday, February 27, 2023

Festival Review

With a choice of 25 films and the best shorts in our Osprey Competition, there was really something for everybody last weekend. Where to begin? 

I guess the highlight was having the director Hassan Nazer to introduce his film ‘Winners’, the Iranian comedy which is the UK entry for the Best International Film at the Oscars. Always good to have guests, this was a real coup for our David Miller, our programmer.

I cannot hope to review all the films, so I will start with the most successful; ‘Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom’ was the most popular film at the festival: 181 people watched it at Rheged and 129 of them gave it 5 stars! With an overall score of 94%, this moving, beautiful story from Bhutan’s most remote school as a city boy is won over to love the village was both easy to watch AND it was from Bhutan – our first from there.

Return to Dust’ was very different, but almost as popular (89%). A middle-aged couple in a remote village in China are forced into an arranged marriage but, surprisingly to all those around them, the marriage is successful until she falls ill and dies. Watching them making bricks out of mud and their total dependence on their donkey was truly a story from another world.

Talking of donkeys, I must mention another Oscar nominee from Poland – ‘EO’. Not quite as popular with our audiences (70%), but fascinating (to me!): we watched a donkey’s world fall apart as he wanders away from the circus, from kindness to cruelty. A definite ‘animal-rights’ movie told from the donkey’s eye-view.

Our final film was by a director we love – Hirokazu Koreeda. From Japan, his latest film ‘Broker’ was filmed in South Korea. He likes to make up ‘families’ from a group of people, in this case a woman who has deserted her baby but gone back for it, two men who are trying to find a buyer for the baby and a small orphan boy who tags along for the ride. A clever, sometimes funny, sometimes sad story links the family together and we go along as they meet potential buyers… and much more. Another big hit (80%) with the audience.

I really enjoyed ‘Joyland’ (78%) which was a film full of surprises from Pakistan. The first Pakistani film to show at Cannes Festival, which featured a family dominated by a patriarch, but breaking all traditions with a house husband who gets a job with a trans dance group and falls in love with the group’s trans leader. 

But an Eastern world festival this was not. There were films from America, Europe and UK as well, including an action-packed, petrol-head motorbike gang movie from France – ‘Rodeo’. 

A great weekend: our thanks go to all who helped! See you all next year… and this Sunday at the Alhambra for ‘Holy Spider’, the Danish Oscar hopeful. 

Vaughan Ames