The female gaze: 13 women on and off-screen at the 62nd BFI London Film Festival

Suburban Birds (2018)
Dir. Qiu Sheng

Suburban Birds (2018)

Qiu Sheng’s debut is a treatise on capitalism, an astonishing poem about the loss of nature and eventually the loss of our trust to her. With a superb eye for close-ups, low-angle camera shots and astonishing photography, it’s a raw and at times hypnotic account of two worlds: that of childhood and professional life with a hint that our perspective on the environmental crisis will probably be revolutionised by China’s art-house cinema.

Too Late to Die Young (2018)
Dir. Dominga Sotomayor

Too Late to Die Young (2018)

Six years following her outstanding debut Thursday Till Sunday, Chilean director Dominga Sotomayor returned this year with Too Late to Die Young, a flaming account about the spirit of community in the days following the fall of Pinochet’s regime. Once again the focus is very much on children but this time Sotomayor looks closely into their place in nature with bursting photography and adolescent love.

Namdev Bhau in Search for Silence (2018)
Dir. Dar Gai

Namdev Bhau in Search for Silence (2018)

A highlight in contemporary Indian cinema, Dar Gai’s second feature is an exquisite film that deserves much attention for at least three reasons: story, plot and acting. Namdev Bhau in Search for Silence follows the journey of a 65-year-old man from Mumbai to the Himalayan for quite reflection away from the city’s noise. But Gai’s voice doesn’t stop here. Her picture holds quite a few more surprises including terrific camera shots.

Happy As Lazzaro (2018)
Dir. Alice Rohrwacher

Happy As Lazzaro (2018)

A satire on our world now, Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro exposes today’s slavery in such an intelligent way that summarises and ridicules the negligent condition of our society. Sweet peasant Lazzaro, superbly performed by Adriano Tardiolo, is leading the story who together with his fellow actors and cinematographer Hélène Louvart shooting on lustrous 16mm camera, they lead a genre-bending gem of cinematic anarchy.

Bergman: A Year in the Life (2018)
Dir. Jane Magnusson

Bergman: A Year in the Life (2018)

Director Jane Magnusson’s achievement brings together a wealth of archive interviews and clips from Ingmar Bergman’s work and it will astonish many followers of the Swedish master. Magnusson’s documentary journeys throughout Bergman’s most productive year and his most anguish. In 1957 he releases two of his internationally acclaimed films, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, directs four plays for the theatre (including Faust) and a TV film. Magnusson paints the great director’s portrait in an entirely new light.

In Fabric (2018)
Dir. Peter Strickland
Star Marianne Jean-Baptiste

In Fabric (2018)

Though the story of our favourite garments, who made them or what’s their origin, could appeal to most of us, Peter Strickland chose a rather difficult subject to tackle in his new feature In Fabric. The film doesn’t have much to offer but it’s hard not to notice Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s superb performance in the role of Sheila, a single mother trying to have a dissent life while searching for love. I loved her questioning attitude towards the weirdos surrounding her. She really stands tall and she deserves more roles on screen.

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018)
Dir. Ben Wheatley
and
In Fabric (2018)
Dir. Peter Strickland
Star Hayley Squires

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018)

Since the success of I, Daniel Blake (2016), Hayley Squires has established her world class acting and is no longer a newcomer. Appearing in two features this year (Happy New Year, Colin Burstead and In Fabric), Squires excels in diverse performances. But if I had to choose one from her recent works, her turn as Neil Maskell’s sister Gini in Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is nuanced with sterling talent.

3 Faces (2018)
Dir. Jafar Panahi
Star Behnaz Jafari

3 Faces (2018)

In 3 Faces popular actress Behnaz Jafari journeys to a community where studying is not considered a wise thing to do. The purpose of her road trip is to investigate a shocking note of suicide from a young girl Marziyeh Rezaei living in a remote village and dreaming to attend drama school. Both actress and the great director Jafar Panahi, who is under house arrest and unable to leave Iran since 2011, drive up the steep mountain road from Tehran in search for Marziyeh. But their journey and Jafari’s smart determination brings a number of surprises in this brilliant ethnographic work from Panahi, including a hidden female actor from the pre-Revolutionary days.

Roma (2018)
Dir. Alfonso Curarón
Star Yalta Aparicio

Roma (2018)

Yalta Aparicio excels in Alfonso Curarón’s outstanding Roma trying to manage with her busy life as servant Cleo in a middle class Mexican family of seven and an unwanted pregnancy. Together with her co-worker Adela, Cleo is the heart and life of the family’s home surrounded by the energy of its four children, their parents going through divorce and their dogs. Shot in a glorious granular black and white quality, the film’s intimate docu-drama of 1970s Mexico relies very much upon Aparicio’s expressive talent making it essential viewing on the subject of female strength and woman’s often isolated place in the world.

Mandy (2018)
Dir. Panos Cosmatos
Star Andrea Risenborough

Mandy (2018)

Panos Cosmatos’s hallucinatory Mandy will please many but it might pass unnoticed as a frontrunner of women’s strength. Andrea Risenborough’s title role is creative, passionate, intelligent and strong, the type of woman often disliked by or a threat to the male-dominated kind. She powerfully confronts macho aggressiveness with simple gestures and her teaming up with Nichola’s Cage’s love, it becomes all the more powerful.     

The Favourite (2018)
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Star Olivia Colman

The Favourite (2018)

All three lead performances by Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Colman storm Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest The Favourite with fuelled energy in a monstrous extravagant style. Colman’s skill however overturns the weird in Lanthimos’s reputation as sensitive and emotionally damaged Queen Anne in the Greek auteur’s 18th-century black comedy. Exceptional work on so many levels.

Birds of Passage (2018)
Dirs. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra

Birds of Passage (2018)

Based on true events in Bolivia from 1940 to 1960, Birds of Passage is a singular work of a universal message on capitalism. As the film quotes: “Let gold not shine brighter than our souls”. Its remarkable production under the watchful eye of directing duo Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra is divided in song chapters and reflects on humanity’s wild, prosperous and eventual catastrophic nature. 

The Wild Pear Tree (2018)
Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Star Hazar Erguclu

The Wild Pear Tree (2018)

Hazar Erguclu’s Hatice in Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Tree, is a vulnerable woman trapped in a conservative society. Her mesmerising supporting role in Ceylan’s filmic masterpiece revolts against the absurdity of life with a philosophical turn on the meaning of time as a silent saw.

Wild card: a fresh look into film history

Women Making Films: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (2018)
Dir. Mark Cousins

Women Making Films: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (2018-2019)

An academy of venus, the new film project by Mark Cousins, which will be 16 hours long when completed in Spring 2019. The first four hours episode is narrated by Tilda Swinton and looks at film history as taught by women.

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