Dear Black Europe Resources Readers,

If  you are longing to see a film that is a bit different from usual Hollywood blockbusters, why not have a look at my selection of films from this year’s London Film Festival? I have included the internet link as well as the page number of the festival brochure, in case you would rather browse a good old pdf!

Thushari Perera

 

BFI London Film Festival 

10-21 October 2018

Black Europe Resources’ selection

 

If you wish to download the LFF Festival Brochure 2018, please click here.

 

CAPERNAUM

Capernaum

“In 2007, Nadine Labaki emerged as one of the Arab world’s most distinctive filmmakers with her feature debut Caramel. A perfectly judged tale of life in a Beirut beauty salon, the film enjoyed unprecedented international success. While some expected Labaki (who first earned her stripes as a music-video director of bubblegum but subversively feminist Arabic pop) to continue producing crowd-pleasing fare, she opted to challenge herself as a director. She next tackled sectarianism and internecine conflict in Where Do We Go Now? and now offers a moving portrait of poverty and disenfranchisement in Capernaum. It tells the story of Zain, a young boy from an impoverished family, who sues his parents for having brought him into a world of such suffering and despair. Along the way, he forges an unlikely bond with a toddler, the child of an Ethiopian maid working illegally in Lebanon. Filming on location in Beirut, Labaki draws out astonishing performances from her young leads while taking the viewer on a journey into subterranean areas of the Lebanese capital, where people exist below the poverty line and lack any legal recognition. Most importantly, Labaki humanises her characters, gradually building towards a finale that is as emotionally devastating as it is life-affirming.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 18

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IN FABRIC

“Bank clerk Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) has decided it’s time to start dating again. It’s been a while and it will get her out of the house, where her son is busy with his sadomasochistic girlfriend (Gwendoline Christie). Calling a lonely-hearts ad in a newspaper, she soon agrees on a rendezvous with the promising-sounding Adonis. Time to get herself something nice to wear. A trip to Dentley & Soper’s Trusted Department Store soon becomes a shopping experience like no other. There’s something not quite right about the staff here, from the disconcerting sales talk to their unsavoury night-time trysts. And as for those dresses… In Fabric is as wildly, perversely imaginative and visually thrilling as we have come to expect from director Peter Strickland. He follows The Duke of Burgundy by venturing even further to the outer reaches of the erotic macabre, finding pleasures in everything from shop mannequins to the sound of someone listing washing-machine parts. A potent mix of design and spooky intrigue, the film is bolstered with lashings of oddball humour – Steve Oram and Julian Barratt’s double act is a particular treat – and a hot synth score from Cavern of Anti-Matter. Essential viewing for fashion addicts and those who dig their ghost stories kinky.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 29

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THE CHAMBERMAID

“Eve is a conscientious maid with a broad smile and kind demeanour. Punctual and enterprising, paying close attention to the details that make a premier hotel so rewarding a stay, she hopes her impeccable professionalism will bring her promotion to Hotel Presidente’s exclusive penthouse floor. She records her day-to-day activities, from ensuring rooms are immaculately presented each morning and liaising with her colleagues and hotel maintenance staff to attending a literacy class that will help her chances of promotion. Avilés’ impressive debut profits from a spare script and nuanced direction, while Gabriela Cartol’s breakout performance brings charisma and warmth to Eve. With its dry humour and sly observations about class, privilege and exploitation, The Chambermaid is a confident, compelling and deeply resonant piece of filmmaking.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 33

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THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW

“Sana tries to create a normal everyday for her eight-year-old son, despite the desperateness of their situation. The pharmacy she works at is constantly raided and its owner has disappeared. To find fuel for cooking, Sana embarks on a journey to the outskirts of Damascus, only to discover a world of struggle and pain far beyond her own. She witnesses the resilience of women who spend their days digging graves for those who will soon die and comes to understand the meaning of forcible disappearance. Though it offers hope through the kindness of strangers, willing – despite their own fears and problems – to offer Sana food, shelter and comfort, Kaadan’s bold, gripping debut reminds us that the future will be burdened with the shadow of these dark times.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 33

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DEAD PIGS

“There’s no obvious explanation why farmer Old Wang’s swine herd starts to die off. Then again, equally unlikely are the plights of assorted other folk we meet in this buoyant, wide-ranging satire on modern Chinese capitalism: the American expat architect hired by a shady real estate conglomerate; Wang’s estranged sister (Vivian Wu) resisting family home eviction by said corporation; or his son (Mason Lee), posing as a successful businessman when he’s really eking out a living as a waiter. Feature debutant Yan’s gradual interweaving of these tales is performed with an old hand’s casual elegance, while the sheer vitality of her tradition-versus-progress debate evidences a neophyte’s go-for-broke invention. And the singalong finale will make you squeal with delight.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 34

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WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE?

WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD_S ON FIRE

“In 2016, unarmed 37-year-old African-American Alton Sterling was shot and killed by Baton Rouge police officers. His death sparked public outrage and resulted in mass protests, both in his home town and across the US, and added yet another name to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Minervini, a US-based Italian director (whose Stop the Pounding Heart played in LFF 2013), employs his unique and affecting style of documentary to depict the real stories of various members of Baton Rouge’s black community in the wake of the shooting. Shot in crisp black and white, the film gives voice to the community, with both young and old taking part. It reveals, with great empathy, an economically disadvantaged, socially disenfranchised group as they fight for recognition, dignity and respect.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 39

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AMIN

Amin

“Amin (Moustapha Mbengue) works as a hired hand for a building company based in a Paris suburb. He lives in a hostel that he shares with other African immigrants including a Moroccan co-worker who unlike Amin cannot adjust to his circumstances. That’s not to say Amin doesn’t miss home and his wife and three children, to whom he sends money and whatever gifts he can afford. Then he encounters Gabrielle (Emmanuelle Devos), a middle-aged French divorcée whose house Amin has been hired to renovate. As time passes, an intimacy develops between the two and they gradually open up about their lives. Faucon’s film revels in the details of Amin’s life and is aided in no small part by Mbengue and Devos’ moving performances.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 43

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JINN

“Summer is undergoing something of a spring awakening, though not all due to her own adolescent yearnings. When her mother, a divorced TV weather forecaster, converts to Islam, Summer’s own sense of self – a high-school senior devoted to sensual dance, not Allah – is left shaken. An ill-advised Instagram post in demure headscarf and revealing underwear (plus infamous ‘HalalHottie’ hashtag) fractures things further. Then there’s the cute guy Tahir at the mosque… Nijla Mumin’s vivid, non-conformist debut explores a seldom-shown sector of youth. Her sharp-eyed look at family and community shows how these pillars can at once support and bar personal freedom. But nothing can hold back newcomer Zoe Renee’s dynamic physicality and fierce spirit in her shape-shifting title role.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 45

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LAST CHILD

“That their teenage son died heroically saving a classmate from drowning offers little comfort to Sungcheol and Misook. Sungcheol focuses on his work as a decorator to deal with his grief, while Misook only feels alive when ruminating on her feelings for the dead boy. When Sungcheol learns that Kihyun, the schoolboy who survived the accident, is being bullied, he feels compelled to step in and give the lad a chance by teaching him a trade. But young Kihyun is not everything that he seems. Balancing tender yet unsentimental drama with thorny dilemmas, writer-director Shin Dong-seok perceptively explores working-class life and the emotional terrain of the masculine psyche, while the tone recalls Ibsen as it builds towards a gripping finale.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 45

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LITTLE FOREST

“When independent Hye-won (Kim Tae-ri, The Handmaiden, LFF 2016) returns from Seoul to her childhood home after a break-up, she hopes to live incognito. But nothing stays secret in the sticks. Before long, her sassy friend and the only eligible boy in the village pop round for meals. And what meals! Recalling the recipes learned from her currently absent mother (Moon So-ri), Hye-won finds her dishes and feelings evolving with the changing seasons. Based on a Japanese manga, Little Forest has been a smash hit with South Korea’s millennial female audience. Thoughtfully considering the healing nature of food and the role it plays in all our relationships, Yim Soon-rye’s film elegantly explores mother-daughter dynamics and the journey towards becoming your own person.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 45

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TEHRAN: CITY OF LOVE

“Mina is a receptionist at an upmarket beauty clinic. Unhappy about her weight but addicted to ice cream, she catfishes men she encounters at work. Hessam, a retired bodybuilder who trains affluent older men, is cast in a film with Louis Garrel, someone neither he – nor anyone around him – has ever heard of, even if the producer assures him that the French actor is very famous. Meanwhile Vahid, a singer at religious ceremonies and an expert mourner, is convinced by his friends to try singing at weddings after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Playing on the trope of unrequited love – a consistent subject of traditional Persian storytelling – this playfully observed triptych of individuals looking for romance reflects on the fleeting nature of happiness.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 47

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ANGELO

Angelo

“As an exotic gem with a courtly education, Angelo is able to use his otherness to be an appreciated guest and attraction for members of high society. But what is it like when you are deprived of your homeland at the age of five or six? What does it mean not to meet anyone who is like you? Inspired by the few remaining records of the life of the Viennese ‘court Moor’, Markus Schleinzer (director of controversial LFF 2011 film Michael) creates a moving tale about homeland, identity, conformity and the nature of belonging. Divided into three chapters from his life, this beautifully shot film, comprised of long takes, allows its audience to be intimate observers of the protagonist’s emotionally challenging journey. In times of growing intolerance, it is all-too-relevant.”

LFF Festival Brochure p.51

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FREEDOM FIELDS

“Women from all walks of life make up the newly formed football team: captain Fadwa is a petro-physicist, Nama is a student whose family are internally displaced and goalkeeper Halima is training to become a doctor. Against the backdrop of a country in strife – with vociferous conservative opposition threatening the women’s safety, as well as the national federation unwilling to take a clear position to support them – the team’s spirit is nothing short of inspirational. Filmed in the years since Libya’s 2011 revolution, British Libyan Arebi’s beautiful, self-shot debut is a captivating tribute to a young generation trying to build the future they want, all the way down to hand-cutting the grass of their future training pitch to ensure that no matter what, they will play.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 52

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HOUSE OF MY FATHERS

House of my fathers

“Akin to an ancient Greek tragedy, Suba Sivakumaran explores the bigotry and power struggles that result in war. Presenting a female perspective on the Sri Lankan civil war, we see two opposing villages – one Tamil, the other Sinhalese – construct a dividing fence, with death promised for attempting to breach it. But with the women in both villages unable to give birth, a prophecy must be fulfilled: a Sinhalese man and Tamil woman must travel into the forest of the afterlife together. On their journey, the traumatised pair meet those killed in the conflict, which opens old and bitter wounds in them. Can they carry out the requirements of the prophecy?”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 53

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THIS TEACHER

“What horrors await us when we leave home, when we swap the bustle of the city for the silence of the remote? And what lurks beneath things unsaid? This is the murky world of Mark Jackson’s wholly distinctive character study. Gifted a ticket by her childhood best friend, Hafsia (Hafsia Herzi) arrives in New York with little money. Disoriented by the persona her friend projects to this world, French-speaking Hafsia impulsively books herself a remote cabin upstate. There, she is confronted by both conservative responses to her (foreign) presence and the unnerving solitude of her surroundings. A quietly unsettling flirtation with genre conventions, rather than a straightforward thriller, Jackson gently builds a multi-layered sense of unease, culminating with truly terrifying insights into the monsters within us all.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 55

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UNSETTLING

“UK-based Israeli director Iris Zaki set up her camera on the terrace of a local café in Tekoa for one month, in order to conduct conversations with Israeli settlers on the West Bank. All too aware that her political leanings do not correspond with theirs, few accept her invitation of talking to camera. But for those that do, Zaki is assertive, never shying away from posing difficult and occasionally provocative questions. They, in turn, answer candidly, sharing their beliefs. Part-artistic impulse and part-political activism, Unsettling goes a long way in highlighting the positive role cinema can play in engaging with harmful practices, fostering constructive dialogue and creating public awareness. It is a unique film, crafted with great intelligence and one that casts much-needed light on Israeli and Palestinian geopolitics.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 55

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YOURS IN SISTERHOOD

“Yours in Sisterhood doesn’t tell a story as much as it gathers an ensemble of personal narratives related to womanhood. UK-born filmmaker Irene Lusztig asks a group of women to read unpublished letters received by Ms., the first mainstream feminist magazine published in the US. The women then engage with the letters, relating them to their own personal experiences, highlighting with appalling clarity the fact that feminism still grapples with many of the same issues that it did in the 1970s: male-dominated workplaces, domestic work, financial independence, sex work, gay motherhood, trans representation, black womanhood and interracial relationships. It is a deceptively simple, hugely effective and ultimately celebratory documentary, which should be mandatory viewing for those who want their feminism to be joyful and intersectional.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 56

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AKASHA

“Adnan, a revolutionary soldier, revels in having shot down a MiG fighter plane with the beloved AK47 he calls Nancy. In fact, his affection for the gun is rivalled only by his love for long-suffering girlfriend Lina. When Adnan is late to return to his unit after taking some leave, his commander orders a round-up of deserters. Caught off guard in Lina’s company, Adnan makes off in a hurry, leaving his gun in her bedroom. Whilst on the run, he encounters Absi, another deserter, and together they hatch a plan to retrieve Adnan’s gun from Lina. A romantic drama with comic asides is the last thing you might expect in the midst of conflict, but kuka’s film is exactly that, prioritising rich characterisation over the theatrics of war.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 63

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MADELINE’S MADELINE

“‘The emotions you are having are not your own. They are someone else’s. You are not the cat – you are inside the cat.’ So begins the woozy rollercoaster that is Madeline’s Madeline, where nothing is what it seems.Madeline (an extraordinary Helena Howard) is a biracial 16-year-old with unspecified mental health problems, the persistence of which have driven a wedge between daughter and mother (Miranda July). Having become an active member of an experimental theatre troupe, Madeline finds a surrogate mother in the ambitious director Evangeline, who begins to mine Madeline’s delicate mental state and stormy maternal relationship for the purposes of ‘collaboration’. But what does Evangeline really want? Infusing febrile life into the mother-daughter drama, Decker’s film will leave your pulse racing and your mind reeling.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 65

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SEW THE WINTER TO MY SKIN

“Qubeka’s film follows the escapades of John Kepe, a Robin Hood-like outlaw who, between 1940 and 1951, robbed the homes of racist white settlers in Apartheid-era South Africa. He then distributed his spoils – mostly livestock and bare necessities – amongst local communities, constantly evading the white authorities. But things got out of hand when the retired General Botha led a vigilante hunt for him. Told through flashbacks, from the point when Kepe stood trial and which help explore the nature of memory, Sew the Winter to My Skin is bolstered by Ezra Mabengeza’s charming performance as the rebel outlaw and veteran South African actor Peter Kurth as his nemesis. But the true star is Qubeka, whose visually ravishing film jumps between genres, finding the perfect balance between message and thrills.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 72

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ETANGS NOIRS

“Jimi is a young man living in the Brussels’ neighbourhood of Cité Modèle. After a package belonging to a woman residing in the neighbouring apartment block is mistakenly delivered to his address, Jimi attempts to hand it personally to its rightful owner. Only she is never in. As time passes, Jimi’s desire to deliver the parcel turns into an obsession. From its deceptively simple starting point, Etangs Noirs (named after the Brussels metro station), evolves into a hugely compelling and, at times, fascinatingly inscrutable venture, quite unlike anything else. Finding understated tension in the seemingly mundane and subtle foreboding in the everyday, co-directors Pieter Dumoulin and Timeau De Keyser preside over their subject matter with masterful control, always keeping the viewer in a state of intangible unease.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 78

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MAKI’LA

“Maki’la has been living on the streets of the Congolese capital for a long time. She spends most of her time with a group of young wannabe sapeurs, who use the street as a stage to display their mostly stolen designer fashions. She is married to Mbingazor, the for food, Maki finds life tough. Her frustration finally sees her coerce other street children to steal for her. When she encounters Acha, a fresh-faced new arrival from a faraway village, Maki not only encourages her to steal but the two become inseparable. Unfortunately, Mbingazor suspects that they are having a romantic relationship. Such rivalry can be deadly, as Bahango’s riveting film shows.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 80

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MAYA

Maya

“Physically and emotionally shattered in the wake of his release from captivity, war reporter Gabriel (Roman Kolinka) returns home to France. Struggling to make sense of city life after the brutality of his experience, along with the guilt he suffers knowing that a colleague remains captive, he retreats to his childhood home in India. An attraction to 18-year-old Maya (Aarshi Banerjee), the daughter of his godfather, blooms into an affair that helps Gabriel heal, even as it pricks his conscience. Working with a predominantly female crew, Hansen-Løve gently examines the nature of crisis and restorative power of life’s rhythms. And cinematographer Hélène Louvart (The Wonders, Happy as Lazzoro) savours the textures of the Goan locations so much that you can smell the sea air while the sun warms your face.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 80

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MIRIAM LIES

“Preparing to celebrate her 15th birthday – a major event in Latin America – Miriam was meant to invite her online boyfriend Jean-Louis. But on discovering he is black and with everyone believing he is the son of a French diplomat, she is drawn into a web of lies. Miriam’s mixed-race character underpins an inherent racism within the Dominican Republic, where she is constantly reminded of her second-class status. Directing duo Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada have produced a captivating tale that conveys the suffocating atmosphere of a society where girls have to conform to impossible aesthetic standards in their dutiful search for a partner. A delicate film featuring compelling performances from its young cast, Miriam Lies intelligently explores both teenage insecurities and the emotional ties that bind them.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 80

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NAMDEV BHAU IN SEARCH OF SILENCE

“Chauffeur Namdev is at the end of both his career and his wits, driven mad as he has been for years by the cacophony of Mumbai, one of the noisiest cities in the world. To make matters worse, his family can’t stop jabbering. Namdev stops talking, packs his suitcase and leaves for the fabled mountain retreat Silent Valley, where he hopes to find peace at last. However, on arriving in the Himalayas, Namdev is dismayed to find the locals are just as garrulous. Thoughtfully paced and with terrific performances, Dar Gai’s second feature confirms her as an exciting new voice in contemporary Indian cinema, delivering a beautiful portrait of an old man who is tired of life and sick of pretending otherwise.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 81

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THREE FACES

“Iranian actor Behnaz Jafari (playing herself) is distraught after receiving an apparent suicide note from a girl whose family forbid her to pursue studies at a drama school. With her director (Jafar Panahi) in tow, she flees the film she’s working on and embarks on a road trip to Iran’s rural north to locate the girl. Directing frequently farcical encounters with signature restraint, Panahi gently probes the patriarchal customs that impact women in all areas of Iranian society, astutely revealing a myopic worldview lurking beneath the veneer of apparently quaint local traditions and rituals of hospitality. While its preoccupations are ostensibly within a national context, Three Faces unearths startling resonances with contemporary global preoccupations with gender and power.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 81

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TWIN FLOWER

“In the wake of a terrible attack, teenager Anna (Anastasyia Bogach) is struck dumb and runs away from home. Basim (Kalill Kone), an immigrant from the Ivory Coast, pays his way across Sardinia with casual sex and odd jobs. Encountering each other, Basim becomes Anna’s unlikely travelling companion and protector as they flee from dangers that threaten to entrap them. Combining the tropes of the road movie and buddy-buddy drama with the added frisson of a thriller, this all-too-relevant tale, skilfully directed by Laura Luchetti, exploits the evocative landscape and unique culture of its island setting. It is also a beautifully performed drama, particularly by Bogach and Kone, who perfectly encapsulate the bonds of friendship that sees trust tentatively turn into commitment.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 81

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MANTO

“One of India’s greatest actors, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, plays maverick storyteller Saadat Hasan Manto, who had a profound impact on post-colonial writing in the subcontinent. As the British partition India, violence engulfs Bombay (Mumbai). Young risk taker Manto works as a writer in the film industry, but with attacks on Muslims increasing, Manto feels compelled to make the most difficult choice of his life. He departs from his adoring friends and beloved Bombay, taking his family to the safer world of Lahore (Pakistan). But when he fails to get his writing published, he descends into alcoholism. Worse still, he is taken to court – charged with writing obscene stories. Das’ impressive film charts Manto’s struggles as he attempts to make sense of the harsh realities of two wounded nations.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 87

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NO IFS OR BUTS

“Filming on and off for 20 years, first-time director Sarah Lewis delivers a vital portrait of Soho barbershop Cuts – not just a place to get your hair trimmed, but a space for street fashion and pop innovators. Guided by freewheeling founders James Lebon and Steve Brooks, who met when one was a rockabilly and the other a New Romantic, the salon moved from early ’80s post-punk roots to become a hip-hop club and communal hub for DJs, photographers and style icons. Weaving colourful footage with interview snippets – familiar faces include Boy George, Neneh Cherry, junglist Goldie and regular customer Isaac Julien – No Ifs or Buts highlights the subcultural strands that once grew in the heart of our city.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 87

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RUDEBOY: THE STORY OF TROJAN RECORDS

“‘The seeds for the multicultural society we live in now were formed on the dancefloor back in the day,’ says Don Letts by way of introduction to Nicolas Jack Davies’ documentary about Trojan Records, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The company was founded by Windrush immigrant Lee Gopthal, against a backdrop of rising racial hatred. Rudeboy charts the label’s evolution from 1960s ska and rock-steady to the chart-topping hits that introduced reggae to a global audience, while also recalling the prejudice that the music’s pioneering artists and producers had to overcome in London. Blending original interviews with evocative archive footage and cinematic reconstructions, the film is a timely celebration of British Jamaican working-class youth culture, style and ingenuity.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 88

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SUGAR CANE ALLEY

Sugar Cane Alley

“José, a bright and mischievous orphan, lives in a small village in 1930s Martinique. Many of the people around him, including his wise and tenacious pipe-smoking grandmother, Ma’Tine, work in the sugar cane fields and are mistr”eated by the white boss. José has a father figure in the elderly Medouze, who tells him captivating stories about Africa and the cultures that live there. The boy attends school at the insistence of his grandmother – she is ready to sacrifice everything for his chance to attain an education and escape. But when he writes an essay on the lives of poor blacks, he is accused of plagiarism and runs away. Palcy’s film paints a rich picture of life under French colonial rule and remains a stunning and powerful directorial debut.”

LFF Festival Brochure p. 104

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