Wednesday 7 October 2020

LFF 2020: Mogul Mowgli (Dir. Bassam Tariq)


Riz Ahmed stars and writes this heavily autobiographical film about a Pakistani British rapper on the brink of success when he is diagnosed with a chronic condition.  

Mogul Mowgli is a deeply personal film that will evoke empathy with any immigrant, refugee or second generation immigrant. The camerawork is exceptional, it feels very much like handheld shots which creates the realistic atmosphere.

Z is just about to embark on his first music tour when he has some terrible news regarding his health so his competitor the hilarious rapper, RPG takes his spot.

"There would be no Drake without Whoopi Goldberg" One of the funniest sequences is when RPG visits Z and tries to console him (but fails miserably) about not being able to go on tour.

The challenge to navigate through life when someone is from dual cultures is shown in this film in a really beautiful, sometimes comic and tender way. Z's mother burns chilis, a tradition in some countries in Asia, to check if the 'evil eye' has been placed on her son. It has, and she knows because there is no scent when she burns the chilis.

There is a haunting figure of Z's imagination of a religious figure in Sikh culture, an older man with flowers across his face so we cannot identify him that constantly stalks him. 

The ending of the film is guaranteed to make you cry, a huge release. Z and his father chant "Toba Tek Singh' which we suspect is the name of the haunting figure that follows Z throughout his difficult life experience.

The end scene has so much passion and vigor which reminds the audience of the struggling and often persistent nature of immigrants and refugees. A truly spectacular, delicious film. As a consequence I want to see Riz Ahmed in concert, his message is important, intuitive and hilarious. 

Tuesday 6 October 2020

LFF: Relic (2020) Dir. Natalie Erika James


Kay (played by Emily Mortimer) receives a telephone call saying her mother hasn't been seen for a couple of days - she and her daughter Sam (played by Bella Heathcote) go and stay at her house, it's empty, filthy, with decaying food. Kay starts cleaning furiously, a couple of days go by and Edna, Kay's mother and Sam's grandmother appears in the kitchen. 

She refuses to discuss where she has been and is behaving strangely - the house becomes a motif expressing the decay of Edna's mind and in turn body. The ending is particularly heart felt as we see three generations of women laying in bed together.

The first half of the film was brilliant, the build up of tension was executed with such talent with the film score and camerawork. The second half felt more tender, sadder and in places a little loose. Emily stole the show here, a daughters desperate need to want to protect and understand her mother entwined with her guilt to potentially send her to an old people's home.

"Isn't it how it works. Gran changed your nappies and then you  change hers"

Hurray! We have a female director and writer! Natalie Erika James film, Relic opens nationwide in UK cinema's and on streaming services on October 30th 2020. 

Sunday 4 October 2020

LFF 2020: The Painter and The Thief (2020) Dir. Benjamin Ree


Hats off to DogWoof for this incredibly moving, engaging and fascinating documentary. 

Barbara is a Czech artist that's recently moved to Oslo to start a new life with her partner after leaving an abusive relationship. She isn't a well known artist, barely making ends meet, it's a complete shock when she receives the news that two men have stolen two of her paintings from a gallery. 

Barbara approaches the thief after court, asking to paint his portrait and an usual friendship blossoms between curious and kind Barbara and the thief,  the addict, the incredibly tender, and vulnerable Karl-Bertil Nordland. 

The sequence where Barbara shows his portrait is the most moving segments of this film, he breaks down in floods of tears. The longing for empathy, connection to ones self and more importantly awareness of ones self and shadows is what this film successfully captures.

This is a story of human shadows, soul connection, addiction, friendship, love and all that is in between. 

"You connected a masterpiece with me" 

Stunning film score at the end. This is film can only be described as exquisite. You can pre-order on amazon and watch it from October 30th 2020. 

Monday 26 October 2015

LFF: Tangerine (2015) Dir. Sean Baker

Vibrant, fiercely unique, compassionate, fresh and hilarious and all shot on the iPhone 5. This beautifully shot feature from Sean Baker is one of those films that leaves you feeling that you've spent every second of the last 88 minutes watching something truly special.

It's Christmas eve in an area of Los Angeles that is not usually focused on in cinema and two transgender prostitutes Sin-Dee and Alexandra are catching up, Sin-Dee finds out her beloved boyfriend, Chester has been cheating on her and so the quest to find Chester and the girl he's been doing the dirty work with begins. 

Separate to this story, the film follows Armenian taxi driver, Razmik and his day to day life picking up passengers - one crudely vomits in his cab, another takes shameless selfies - the audience soon learns Razmik is no stranger to the transgender community despite having a wife and extended family.

The quick witted editing teamed up with the addictive soundtrack in this feature hooks the audience instantly. This is certainly not a film to be limited to the LGBT community. There are plenty of laughs in this film and the two central characters are extremely lovable in their own unique ways. 

Even in the most chaotic scenes, particularly the sequence towards the end of the film in DONUT TIME cafe, insults are being thrown around the room yet Baker seems to be scratching at the surface at something very important. The film is revealing the day to day struggles of minorities in Tinseltown in a light-hearted and unapologetic way. 

Even when the Tangerine appears to be going nowhere, we believe in it -  every character, every shot / close up is incredibly engaging.  Magnolia Pictures managed to get their paws on this feisty gem so it should get a UK cinema release soon - check out the trailer below:

Thursday 24 September 2015

LFF 2015: Virgin Mountain Dir. Dagur Kári

Virgin Mountain is a little gem of a film telling the heart warming, somewhat selfless tale of forty something, morbidly obese, virgin, Fusi. A loner who lives with his mother somewhere in remote Iceland - his day job as an airport luggage mover is tiresome, he's subject to bullying at work,, plods along the life he has created for himself, a limited although secure life. Going to the same thai restaurant on his own every Friday, eating nesquick cereal, getting stoned with his friend from time to time, calling a radio DJ to request songs connects him to the world and accepting the odd bullies at work.

A friendship is sparked up with an adorable young girl next door and naturally causes suspicions of perversity but Fusi's character and heart is as innocent as a young child -  the film deals very well with portraying this.

His world is shaken up when his mothers boyfriend buys him a line dancing lessons as a means to socialise and connect with the world - although he doesn't actually stick around for the first class, instead taking sanctuary in his car whilst a blizzard erupts around him. Staggering out of the dance studio, the vivacious, Sjfon appears and asks ever so casually and confidently for a lift home -many humorous sequence occur with the two of them, namely when she requests a Dolly Parton song to be played on Fusi's favourite radio station.

The film is beautifully shot and has a particularly ritualistic essence to it, much like Fusi's life, there is a bizarre comforting rhythm to it all. Fusi soon discovers the bright and pleasant Sjfon is battling with her own demons - we see Fusi wriggly his way into her home despite her attempts of pushing him away. He embarks on continuous selfless acts; cleans her plant ridden, messy flat, takes on her shifts at work, cooks for her and makes sure she's okay. At first his motivations are not clear but by the end of the film, the audience realises through these selfless acts of love have managed to set Fusi free of his limited life.

The plot is simple and perhaps a little predictable but that is really the sheer beauty of the film - a very sincere and surface based film that shy's away from emotional complexity. Towards the end of the film we see a birds eye view shot of the plane that Fusi is on separate from the walk way - this subtle symbolism is a sly nod to the fact that this big friendly giant has not only released himself from his co-dependent relationship with his mother, he has also gained some zest for life - the film ends with our beloved Fusi embarking on his own adventure and personal journey.

We cannot recommend Virgin Mountain enough - you can buy your tickets here. 

LFF 2015: Der Nachtmahr Dir. Akiz

"What the fuck was that..?!" said one member of the press as the credits rolled. Der Nachtmahr is a surreal exploration of the struggles of a teenager. A true delight in many ways and however much we detest the term 'unique', it really is just that - set in Berlin, the film tells the story of rave goer, Tina. Attending raves is just as a regular ritual here as it is for Brits going to the pub.

Plenty of strobe lighting, loud techno music and paranoid drug fuelled moments leads anxiety driven Tina to discover a strange ET-esque creature roaming around invading her fridge at night - at first (as expected), Tina is the only person who can see this shy creature. They have a bizarre bond and are inter connected, when it eats eggs and offers Tina one, Tina exclaims she is allergic and will come out in rash if she eats it, later at the club, Tina discovers she has a rash. Naturally, this suggests the creature is most certainly from the deep depths of Tina's sub-conscience

There are lots of interesting and particularly funny moments in the film - Der Nachtmahr doesn't take itself too seriously which is part of it's charm yet it tackles some serious issues. A couple of sequences take place in Tina's therapy sessions where she's encouraged to make friends with the creature and touch it, this of course is a means for her to get beyond her obvious spiral into mental illness.

Is Tina merely just dealing with the effects of taking too many drugs? Or is this creature real?

Akiz has directed an interesting and humorous film that has attempted to follow suit with the style of Twin Peaks and perhaps be something quite avant-garde, unfortunately there are only fleeting moments of this. The film can feel quite tedious at times. Having said this, there are some interesting issues the film plays around with and its brilliantly shot - the audience connects to the outstanding performance of its main character, Tina (played by the waifer thin and brilliant, Carolyn Genzkow).

It's important to state that there is nothing scary about this film despite the suggestions of the trailer - part of the DARE stream, Der Nachtmahr screens at London Film Festival on Thursday 8th October and Saturday 10th October. You can buy tickets on the BFI website.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

LFF news: Carol (2015) UK premiere confirmed

Tod Haynes 1950s drama, Carol, will have it's UK gala premiere at this years London Film Festival. Having already screened at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, it has been deemed an Oscar favourite.

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Cate Blanchette plays Carol Aird, an older woman, hopelessly trapped in a loveless marriage who falls for Therese Belivet (played by Rooney Mara). Mara’s performance won her the best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May (along with Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon roi), where the film received its world premiere and also won the ‘Queer Palm’.

Carol was developed by Film4 who also co-financed the film and is produced in association with Larkhark Films, for StudioCanal, Hanway Films, Goldcrest, Dirty Films and InFilm. Executive producers are Tessa Ross, Dorothy Berwin, Thorsten Schumacher and Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Danny Perkins and Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, Robert Jolliffe, and co-produced by Gwen Bialic. 
StudioCanal will release the film in cinemas nationwide on November 27th 2015.
The full LFF programme will be announced on Sept 1 - see below for the official film trailer:

Wednesday 15 July 2015

London Film Festival 2015 Opening film: Suffragette

From the Director that gave us Brick Lane, Sarah Gavron directs the first ever feature film to tell the story of how women's fight for the vote. With a stellar cast; Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter the film follows a group of working class women taking their fight to Westminster.

Mulligan stars as Maud, a housewife who defies her husband and thus risks losing custody of her children in the fight for equality. Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Women's Social and Political Movement Union who went through hunger strikes and property destruction as a means of protest. 

Mulligan has always been very outspoken about the issue of sexism specifically in the film industry, she told Time Out in April this year;

"The mere fact that it's taken 100 years for this story to be told is hugely took years of struggle and women being tortured, abused and persecuted and its never been put on screen. It's such a reflection of our film industry that that story hasn't been told" 

We particularly like the poster art for the film which suggests, (as does the trailer) that this will be a gritty drama outlining the violence that followed these women in their fight for equality. 

Emotive film art released on Emmeline Pankhurst day - July 14th, 2015  

The film poster utilises the colours purple, white and green which were a key part of the Suffragette movement. Purple signifying dignity, white showing purity and green meaning hope. 

Film poster for Film4 backed, Suffragette (2015)
The film will premier at this year's London Film Festival at the Odeon Leicester Square on October 7th. Currently in it's 59th year, the BFI London Film Festival will run until the 17th October. 

To get priority booking on all films this year, become a member today. 

Link to the BFI website: 

Wednesday 15 October 2014

LFF: Natasha meets Desiree Arkhavan - Interview with the Director of Appropriate Behavior (2014)

It was 1.15pm and I was still in bed surrounded by tissues, vitamins and half a dozen half empty mugs of ginger tea - I must get up and go and meet Desiree Arkhavan, I was supposed to be there for 2pm and yet still hadn't managed to get out of my pajamas's - my first interview with a Director from LFF so you'd think I would be prepared. I wasn't. My agenda for the day was simple, partake in a casual free-flowing conversation and to get a selfie of Desiree and I - with this in mind, I'm not sure you'll get meaty answers but you'll certainly get an atmospheric sense of my experience today along with Arkhavan's essence. And perhaps a couple of laughs.

Here we go.

In the plush grounds of The Mayfair Hotel, tucked away in the profusely overheated Salon room (take note, Mayfair Hotel: put the god damn heating down, it was like the Sahara in there..), LFF hosted a relatively informal Afternoon Tea session with a couple of fantastic Directors.

A delightful range of herbal teas and coffee were available along with some amazing sandwiches (I helped myself to two), mini brownies and macaroons. Tiny PR girls manically wondered around the room with their clip boards asking for names and publications from the press. 

'The Film Tree - Natasha Saifolahi'. 'Sorry umm you're not on the list...(a pause for what seemed like an eternity) oh yes here you are, you're just under freelance because your email address wasn't connected to your publication, so I didn't realise!".


The tiny lady asked me to wait at the bar and so I did helping myself to an unusually large mug of black coffee and a brownie - I could see Desiree sat on the table about two meters ahead being interviewed by Persians - being Persian myself it was very obvious they were Persian. Us Persians have a way of spotting other Persians. It's almost like we have a radar. My sister says it's something to do with how we walk. I'm not so sure.

I've been getting over a flu and thought I was on the mend but the tube journey itself was challenging. Must power through. As I got closer to the table where Desiree was seated (the Persian press had eventually departed), I began to sweat profusely, what am I doing here? I am not even prepared, mentally, spiritually and certainly not physically. The caffeine fears had hit me teamed up with the vulnerable flu person I had become these past couple of days. It was probably the coffee. Along with the sugar from that brownie..must have pushed me over the edge.

I managed to pull myself together and sort my hair out (it was wonderfully straight and sleek when I left the house but had morphed into an afro due to the intense heat).  As I approached Desiree rather abruptly, she was taking a mouthful of her cake - when I apologised for interrupting, she kindly said it's fine - so I sat down to begin what you may want to call an interview but since listening to the voice recorder post-interview, it was me rambling on trying to find a hook, a connection to befriend this super cool Director who's film I absolutely fell in love with. Read my review on Appropriate Behavior by clicking here. 

For my first ever interview and considering I had the flu and a body temperature of 109, I think I did okay. I hope you enjoy reading!

FT: First of all congratulations on the film, I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed it, being Persian myself, it was such a pleasure to watch and I identified with your character in many ways - can you tell me how the script came about and about the shooting process.

DA: Thank you. So I was making my web series (The Slope) and I knew I wanted to make something inexpensive and that was comedy so I thought that was something I could handle for my first feature. At the time I was dealing with the aftermath of a break up and having come out to my Iranian family and I wanted to inject those theemes into a narrative but then take real liberty in the narrative so thats how that film happened.

FT: Being a creative, did you find that to be quite therapeutic?  

DA: Yeah. I mean I always like to deal with subject matter that's personal to me.. that's just my way of interacting with the world, I think that's just a a sickness I have that I need to keep the dialogue going. So that's always been my personality. I mean I like to leave therapy to the therapist office, I don't think its been my therapy but I feel like first and foremost you're thinking about your audience and about entertainment.

FT: What I found so fascinating is your film is a coming of age tale explored with the medium of culture and how that can be quite problematic especially when you're gay/bi - I was quite nervous how you'd handled the cultural aspect, as a consequence of your sexuality and coming out, are there any elements in the culture you feel stand offish about?

DA: Sorry..what was the question again?

FT: Sorry I am babbling..

DA: No you're not babbling! (Said very sincerely)

FT: (laughing..) Sorry. How do you feel about the issue of Persian guilt, is this something you've experienced and do you think it's leaked into your film and lead character.

DA:  Yes but I think we, when I say we, I mean my Producer and I, we both worked on the script. I think we chose to make her head strong and not at all guilty - I mean, I personally have a LOT of guilt but it was important to me to illustrate a person who was first and foremost true to herself and lived almost a double life, and did that claiming to be for the sake of her parents, trying to protect them, so clearly she has guilt but in other aspects in her life she doesn't have any guilt at all (pauses) But definitely.. there is SO much guilt. I think there is guilt in Persian community to be (pauses) I was going to say 'selfish' but I don't mean 'selfish'  in a negative sense, I mean taking care of your needs and your desires and in my parents generation  (unfortunately the recording was interrupted with a mobile phone signal so I couldn't make out a line or two - unfortunate as this was the most interesting part of the entire interview!!!) ..... (continued) anything you do for yourself is secondary to what you feel you obliged to be.

FT: Completely understand that. Although my upbringing was slightly different, my mother is a Buddhist and a practicing Psychotherapist and my dad left his cultural connections in Iran a long time ago after he left pre-revolution...

DA: Whoaaa..that's awesome.  

FT: So, the next question is the dreaded question: Lena Dunham. How do you feel about people comparing you to her?

DA: It's certainly not a dreaded question -I actually think its a huge compliment and I'm a big fan of her work and I should be so lucky to be compared to her..We have different lives and background, the fact our work is personal, I totally see the parallels, the reason I am not offended by this question or feel weird about it because I know we are telling very different stories and we are different people with different back stories. It's funny to me because the connotation to the question is "we already have a Lena, there is no room". That's when its a little odd to answer the question because I sometimes wonder if its made with the implication with the you know, been there done that, its been said before.

FT: I think that's a gender thing. I think if you were men and Lena was a Liam, it wouldn't be the case. But you know, that's a shame but something women in the industry have to battle with daily. 


DA: I  agree, exactly. There are so many incredible female driven stories that have been coming out in the past few years and audiences have been interested to see all of them. So I say great, you know, more comparisons are fine as long as it brings people to the theaters as long as people stay investing in these stories and we are able to make them then that's great.

FT: Do you think you will always stick to comedy or do you think you will go down the drama route?

DA: Yeah, I like comedy and drama - I never pick one or the other. My next feature has dramatic elements but its very funny and in my life I identify mostly as a comedian. That's my way of interacting with the world, to try to be funny.

FT: Is your new feature set in New York?

DA: Nooo (said in a playful inquisitive tone)

FT: London?

DA: Yeah ha! No I wish, I would love that! I have two projects right now, one is an adaptation of a young adult novel, its set in Montana, USA and the other project is based in New York.

FT: So you were born and raised in New York - did you visit London often?

DA: Yes I did - I did a year abroad in college at Queen Mary University - I love London and my Producer lives here so I come every six months to spend time with her. We did the colour correction in London , we also did the finance here and I wrote a lot of the script here. I see London as a second home to me. I love it here, I plan to come back here to work on the next script. 

FT:  When I watched your film, Frances Ha! and GIRLS, I feel like I've been let in on a 'hip' secret, wait, 'hip' makes me sound like a grandma but it feels like I'm let in on a secret about the "cool" places in New York like Brooklyn. It's very alien to me because I've only visited Manhattan once when I was fifteen. The area and the culture translates really well in your film, I pick up on the general culture of the area even though I've never visited - do you think you'll always set your films in Brooklyn?

DA: Thank you. No - I think the stories that have been personal to me were based in the neighbourhoods that I lived in. I was shooting in my home so I was shooting what I knew but I would like to be more ambitious and ideally, if I am able to raise more money, up my budget for my next work try to get outside of my back yard.

(note: during this moment, one of the tiny PR ladies walked past us and gently touched my shoulder  - I thought to myself, how lovely, a supportive gesture, was my anxiety that obvious? I smiled at her and focused back on my interview It was only when she came back a second later asking me to wrap the interview up did I realise what was going on..)

FT: Okay, I need to wrap up - that's it from me. Thank you so much for your time. It was so lovely to meet you and good luck with your next projects.


DA: Thank you, it was lovely to meet you.

From my 15 minutes with Desiree Arkhavan it's very clear just how immensely perceptive she is - she has a certain solemn essence to her which is particularly intriguing and at times baffling - She was ready to engage in conversation and give honest and interesting answers. Certainly one to watch. 

We are very pleased that UK film distributor, Peccadillo Pictures have picked up Appropriate Behavior and it'll have a general release across selected cinemas in early 2015.

Naturally, I forgot to take a selfie of Desiree and I - the only picture I did take was of the delicious offerings from LFF to us press.

What an amazing spread... I'll certainly be attending an LFF Afternoon Tea Session next year and next time, I will be better prepared, with clear thought out questions, no flu and I SHALL leave with a selfie.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

LFF: Night Bus (2014) Dir. Simon Baker

We had high expectations for Night Bus for the obvious reasons - set in London on the No39 Leytonstone double decker bus. This character led drama uses multiple shared experiences between a number of people in the confined space of the night bus. Unfortunately this feature is excruciatingly painful to endure.

The characters are dull and all too familiar here - there also appears to be a chauvinistic undertone to most of these conversations, often painting Londoners as rude and one dimensional - There are a bunch of sales men on their way home from a strip club, a Muslim girl and her friend discussing in a causal, humorous manner why she wears a hijab, two black teen boys listening to their music ever so loudly, a middle class couple arguing after dinner out with another couple (also worth noting that their argument makes absolutely no sense) and a Northern young couple dressed in Tiger onesies.

There is also a middle aged man whom we learn is going through a divorce, desperate to get home and constantly on his mobile, he's interrupted by two drunk Polish men singing bizarre songs that went on far too long. Stereotypes. There is nothing original or captivating about Night Bus. Perhaps that's the point which would have been acceptable and admirable if these characters had some depth. They don't.

First time Director, Simon Baker, has certainly wooed us with his slick editing skills and repetitive shots of the bus - he used these intervals as means to 'wrap up' individual sequences with characters on the bus. Night Bus glorified the bus driver, the film almost felt like a TV advert for London Transport, encouraging youngsters and drunkards to be aware of the challenges bus drivers face.

Irritating, bizarre and arrogant. This feature lacked charm and substance.