The day before it all kicks off! So I did a little cheeky pre match warm up to try get ahead of the game and quickly remembered how exhausting cramming film's into little time is. Today included a man snoring loudly behind me five minutes into the first film of the day and a near punch up over crisps. You gotta love the LFF...Anyway onto today's films...
So I kicked off the LFF 2015 with Sembene, a documentary about ‘Africa’s filmmaker’ Osuman Sembene. I must admit to an embarrassing lack of knowledge about African cinema. I can’t even think of the last film I watched that told an African story. Probably the last thing that came close was The Colour Purple and that was directed by a white Jewish American man so I don’t think that counts. And that’s kind of the point here in this documentary made by scholar and later friend of Sembene Samba Gadjigo. Sembene's whole modus operandi was to be the eyes and the mouths of those who cold to speak for themselves. A somewhat arrogant standpoint but a true one. Sembene was making films set in Africa, written by him, about African issues when not one other person was. He was a revolutionary for sure. An agitator, an auteur and passionate to the point of obsession I am now keen to watch all of his films. From the groundbreaking Black Girl about slavery to Ceddo which confronts Islam and was banned for many years; Senembe always made films which were about something he felt was wrong with Africa. His last film in was a subject, which is still hugely current today, the subject of female mutilation. The clips of his films we see, even in the very early days of no professional actors or crews still stand up and are captivating.
Sembene was the son of a fisherman in Senegal who went to France to become a labourer. An accident meant he broke his back and whilst forced into lying down for six months he not only taught himself to read but also wrote a text that for may Africans was the first book about Africans they had seen in French with an African subtitle.
Despite Samba Gadjigo’s obvious rapture of Sembene he does not shy away from showing the more unpalatable side of the man who could be rude, arrogant but never ever stops in his desire to create, sometimes at the expense of others in his life.
There is lovely animation, which heralds each section and evocative music. As a documentary itself it sometimes lacked cohesion and strong narrative and Gadiljo’s narration is slow but his pride of his part in Sembene legacy is heart-warming and there is no denying the power of the subject matter. Osuman Sembene was an inspiration on so many levels. For someone who writes about cinema I was ashamed that I did not know of Sembene films, but I do now and I am looking forward to catching up.
Stephane Brize’s slow burning French social drama, The Measure of A Man can’t help but affect largely due to a powerhouse performance by its understated star Vincent Lindon and a subject matter that affects all but the 1% and I doubt there are too many of those reading this. Are there? Actually if there are would you consider sponsoring us. Thanks.
Thierry Taugourdeau is a man recently laid off from his job and stuck in the ridiculous world of ‘back to work’ rehabilitation centres that seem not a million miles from the types of establishments offered in the UK. We open with Thierry bemoaning the fact he has undergone a 9-month process training to be a crane operator with the end result being that he has not a hope of getting a job in this field and he must start again. There is more humour in this scene than perhaps in the rest of the film but a dark humour prevails and it never veers too far into becoming depressing.
Thierry seems to be a good husband to his wife; they have what seems to be a loving a relationship despite this hardship they are going through. They have a disabled son but he his bright and we are not being asked to feel sorry for the son or Thierry, it is just the situation. There is one scene which is heart breaking - Thierry’s wife and son are dancing and the look on Thierry’s face says so much that I cried. Wonderful stuff.
Thierry lands a soul destroying job finally as a security guard at a big supermarket and it is here the film takes a political and emotional stance as we have close, tense scenes of Thierry confronting shoplifters and workers who have stepped out of line. Thierry is taught what to watch, to zoom in on potential shoplifters whom refreshingly come in all ages shapes and sizes. Here though there are threw most emotional of scenes – a man not too much older than Thierry who cannot afford to pay for stolen meat, a co worker who has is stealing coupons which has devastating consequences.
Lindon is a tour de force throughout these scenes and his steady demeanour, always remaining himself forces the viewer to become introspective and wonder if we would do the right thing? For to be like Thierry is a great thing indeed.
Ondi Timinour, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes twice turns her camera on national treasure/national upset Russell Brand and his desire for revolution in Brand: The Second Coming.
After two pretty intense films I was hugely relieved to laugh the minute the film started because let's face it, Rusell Brand is fucking funny. I am actually a fan of Mr Brand, I think he is interesting, intelligent, provocative, charming whilst also being hugely irritating and a bit of a twat. My kind of guy. Timinour’s film is a bit of strange one in that I must admit I felt I had seen a lot of it before in documentaries Brand had made and a lot of time it felt like it was Brand’s film? The journey we see Brand go through, from druggie to mega famous to wannabe guru was not a new one although Timinour definitely showed us some new angles and this is definitely a warts and all documentary. Brand’s relationship with his dad was particularly open and at times upsetting and we can get to see a bit more of Katy Perry but it's really the complexities of Brand that Timindour's zooms in on and it's fascinating stuff.
Brand has been mocked for his political aspirations and his wannabe revolutions but I for one find what he says exciting and inspiring. It’s unlikely his book is going to cause a revolution (over my dead body, says the hilarious Noel Gallagher interview - a highlight). But what he can do is get people talking and get them angry about stuff they should be angry about. Viva La Revolution!