With Spring comes a wealth of interesting, under-exposed and often internationally-acclaimed independent films from around the world. Here are five highlights from our March programme.
We are delighted to welcome the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme this month. The UK’s largest festival of Japanese cinema, this year’s edition focuses on “The Intricate Representations of a ‘Dark Mind’ in Japanese Cinema”. We will be presenting five films from the programme: tales of youth, love, manipulation, ambition, desire, new beginnings, and childhood. With some films also being accompanied by brief introductions from their directors, this is a rare chance to catch some of the best films released in Japan recently.
Clio Barnard – acclaimed director of The Selfish Giant, Dark River and The Arbor – is back with touching and tender drama Ali & Ava. Following two different but similarly lonely people still struggling with the ripple effects of relationships past, the film exists in the same socio-realist world as Barnard’s previous films, or Ken Loach’s body of work. But Ali & Ava is more than a love story. It’s also a tale of overcoming race, class, our past, and our own sense of expectations in life, to embrace what we truly need and desire. There will be an opportunity to hear from Clio Barnard on Friday 4 March with a pre-recorded Q&A after our evening screening.
Sebastian Meise’s Great Freedom (see image above) exposes a truth many have forgotten – when Germany was liberated from the war, newfound freedom didn’t extend to members of the LGBTQ+ community. The film follows Hans, a man repeatedly incarcerated in a high-security prison for breaking the law criminalising homosexuality. Years go by and Hans spends most of them imprisoned, but over the years, he develops the most unlikely of friendships with Viktor, a convicted murderer. As the decades roll, they grow to trust each other in a world where time seems to have stopped and yet where everything is uncertain. Franz Rogowski delivers one of the most beautiful performances of the year as Hans in this heartfelt and unmissable drama.
Every year, thousands of people risk their lives attempting to get to Europe via Turkey. With Europa, Iraqi-Italian director Haider Rashid allows audiences to experience the harrowing journey migrants and refugees must make for a chance at a better life. The film follows Kamal, a young man captured by Bulgarian authorities after crossing the border with Turkey. He manages to escape but finds himself lost in a forest, chased by the police and migrant hunters. Shot with handheld cameras, close to its subject, Europa is an incredibly tense and claustrophobic experience paced by Kamal’s breathing rhythm.
Often described as the father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembène was the first African film director to gain international recognition. Concerned with making films for the African community, his cinema was militant and Mandabi is no exception. Set in Dakar, the film follows family man Ibrahim, whose life is completely upended by the arrival of a money order from France. Whilst friends and neighbours try to get a share of the money, Ibrahim struggles to navigate the complexities of post-colonial bureaucracy and tensions only grow from there. This masterpiece of social satire will be one of our Sunday Classics this month.
Hope to see you there!