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Rocks

Director – Sarah Gavron – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12 – 93m

****

A 15-year-old, East End London schoolgirl must look after her seven-year-old brother when their mother abandons themin cinemas from Friday, September 18th

From its opening, in which a bunch of ethnically diverse, 15-year-old girls from Hackney in London’s East End clown around together, lean on a balcony and film each other on a mobile phone, it’s clear that this is something very different. It’s been made with a young, mostly female cast many of whom have little or no acting experience via intensive workshopping and improvisation. Thrown into this mix somewhere along the process a highly personal script outline has emerged from Theresa Ikoko, one of two writers involved in the lengthy development process, which seems a perfect fit for the young cast.

Although the story source was Ikoko, I’m guessing that the input of co-writer Claire Wilson is just as significant. And while I believe you can never underestimate the importance of a good script which lays the foundations of a production, in this particular instance many other collaborators both behind and in front of the cameras have also contributed a great deal, with director Gavron and her producers holding it all together.… Read the rest

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The Bold, The Corrupt And The Beautiful (Xue guan yin)

Director – Yang Ya-che – 2017 – Taiwan – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A dysfunctional family, a property investment scam and sex and drugs meet head on in this impressive, female character-driven Taiwanese drama-thriller – exclusively in these cinemas for three days from Friday, September 4th

One family, three generations of women, each with their own demons. Middle aged matriarch Madame Tang (Kara Wai) is in the process of setting up illicit property deals with a network of corrupt state officials to the tune of $3m Taiwanese. Her scheming daughter Tang Ning (Wu Ke-Xi, writer and star of Nina Wu / 2019) is involved in sexual intrigues and addicted to a lethal mixture of drink and prescription meds. Teenager Tang Chen (Vicky Chen Wen-chi) seems both incapable of forming healthy relationships of any sort with other people and constantly spying on them through gaps in doors or curtains – or just by being in places she’s not really wanted.

Tragedy befalls the Lins, one of the families involved in Madame Tang’s scheme, when they are shot dead in their family home by intruders. Somehow their teenage daughter Pien (Wen Chen-Ling) survives the massacre. Her boyfriend Marco (Wu Shu Wei) is the murder suspect.… Read the rest

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Papicha

Director – Mounia Meddour – 2019 – France, Algeria, Belgium, Qatar – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

In selected cinemas (Curzons Bloomsbury and Mayfair). Also on Barbican cinema on demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and Peccadillo Pictures On Demand from Friday, August 7th.

Algerian university fashion student Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) is often called ‘Papicha’, a typically Algerian word that refers to a funny, attractive, liberated young woman. Nedjma and her roommates love life and think nothing of going out to nightclubs to put on fashion parades.

However, this being the late 1990s an upsurge of Islamic conservatism manifests itself throughout the narrative. First, fly posters advocating the hijab for women appear on walls (Nedjma immediately tears down these posters on seeing them). Later, she confronts a young man putting these posters up, but after challenging him notices a handgun tucked in his waistband so quickly backs off.

Groups of hijab-clad women take the law into their own hands vigilante style. They surround and take away a lecturer addressing Nadjma’s class. They turn up in the middle of the night at her shared room and threaten the occupants. And worse is to come.

One of the difficulties about writing about this film is that some of its narrative incidents would be much more shocking if you don’t know exactly what’s coming.… Read the rest

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Young Ahmed (Le Jeune Ahmed)

Directors – Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne – 2019 – Belgium, France – 85m

***1/2

Exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 7th

Belgian teenager Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) is having problems with his teacher Miss Inès (Myriem Akheddiou). As he sees it, she disrespects his Muslim faith. His life timetable is governed by the time table of not, as you might expect, his school but his mosque. He must attend prayers at a specific time. Actually, his teacher and school are more than accommodating of these demands, but that’s not how Ahmed sees it.

He has long and deep discussions with his local Imam, Youssouf (Othmane Moumen), a radical jihadist and frankly a pretty creepy individual. Ahmed looks up to and trusts him. More than he does his teacher who he accuses on various occasions of betraying the faith, having a Jewish boyfriend and being an infidel. (Incidentally, this being a French language movie the word ‘infidel’ has a direct meaning of ‘unfaithful’ in that language, something I’ve never noticed before.) More than he does his mother (Claire Bodson) who he berates for having the occasional drink or two. It doesn’t help that he seems to regard women and girls as unclean and inferior.… Read the rest

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301/302

Director – Park Chul-soo – 1995 – South Korea – 98m

*****

Free to view in the Korean Film Archive as part of

Korean Film Nights Online: Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement

(Friday, July 17th – Thursday, August 27th)

Apartment New Hope Bio. A residential block of flats for the well off. Nice if you can afford it. Two rooms on each floor. The two rooms on the third floor are numbers 301 and 302.

301 has a designer-built kitchen. Perfect for newly moved-in Songhui (Pang Eun-jin) who lives for food preparation and cooking. She spends a lot of time in food markets sourcing the best ingredients. She has a collection of attractive and distinctive coloured plates because, after all, the way you serve food is important and can make all the difference.

Songhui is curious about her neighbour in 302, but Yunhui (Hwang Sin-hye) wants to keep herself to herself. Songhui will watch through her door’s spyhole and when Yunhui appears will dash out to say “hi”. If Yunhui possibly can, she will get in to 302 and close the door before Songhui can catch her.

Actually, Yunhui is curious too. At least enough so to spy through her own front door on prospective residents being shown around 301 by the estate agent in a flashback.… Read the rest

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Little Forest (Liteul Poreseuteu)

Director – Yim Soon-Rye – 2018 – South Korea – 103m

*****

This review originally appeared in DMovies.org.

The passing of the seasons. A young woman finds her true self in the Korean countryside in this adaptation of a Japanese manga; the outcome will make you drool, for more reasons than one – from the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) and the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

Raised in the countryside by her mother (Moon So-ri) but dissatisfied with life there, Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri) moves to Seoul and acquires a boyfriend. But after both of them have taken their exams, she returns to the village in which she grew up to get some space and think about her life.

The boyfriend has passed his exams and is hoping she has done the same, leaving messages on her voicemail to this effect, but she’s still waiting for her own result to come through. She doesn’t respond to his messages.

For reasons that aren’t immediately apparent, but which surface to a degree in the course of the narrative, her mother has left, presumably to start a new life now that the job of raising a well adjusted daughter is complete.… Read the rest