New Review: A Syrian Love Story


For anyone who has felt outraged by the dehumanisation of refugees across the media, A Syrian Love Story is a welcome tonic. Filmed over 5 years, the film documents the relationship between Raghda and Amer. Ragdha is released from prison after serving time for her activism against the Assad regime in Syria, and this is where the film begins.

Her youngest son has passed milestones without her there to witness them, her teenage boys are growing, and Amer has longed for his wife’s return. Having met in prison in their youth, Ragdha and Amer are no strangers to the drama that such a conflict creates.  But as time passes, and the family leave Syria for Lebanon (director Sean McAllister was actually arrested during filming) Radgha is wrenched from a country that is part of her very being. Syria is as much as part of her identity as being a mother or a wife, she’s ruined from her experiences in prison and it’s clear that she’s dissatisfied in her marriage to Amer.  She is fighting to maintain her identity in a system where having an identity is dangerous.

Perhaps it’s easy coming from a country where conflict is never on the doorstep, not to comprehend or even consider the effects of such an unnatural environment on a relationship. So often when war is depicted in cinema, when it is intended to be viewed by an audience who will probably never have those experiences, to whom war is an abstract, other thing, there is the recounting of the horrors of the battleground, of the bombs and the bodies. It’s easy to forget about the normal ups and downs of life in general, but romantic relationships still need to be maintained and worked on.

McAllister casts a non-judgmental eye on a couple and their three children, who are simply fighting to exist. It would be easy to sentimentalise or dramatise, but McAllister avoids doing so, and his measured attitude allows his subjects to tell their story in their own way. Tragedies of war cannot be measured through a body count, and McAllister tells a story that’s universal in its nature, yet unique through his ability amongst all the madness to latch on to something that in comparison to the broader story may seem small, but when viewed in close up, is just as sad and dramatic as things are when they are happening to us.

It’s a simple idea, a simple story with moments of tenderness that pierce through the chaos, and is a reminder there is humanity in the most inhumane of conditions. A wonderful, powerful piece of filmmaking.

For HeyUGuys

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Asif Kapadia’s Amy was released on Friday to a lot of hype. 5 star reviews were everywhere, and the natural desire for people to understand her meant that whether or not the film was any good, it was always going to do well. I did not like Kapadia’s Amy at all.

I remember a long time ago, I was very much addicted to someone. I remember one night, as with most nights during this period, I was drunk and hysterically crying. It was a period where I wasn’t eating, my stomach permanently full with anxiety. It is the only period of my life where I can safely say I was mentally unwell. My two best friends were looking at me, holding my hands, their faces a mixture of despair and frustration. They were begging me to end the situation, promising me that things were never going to get any better. They were of course, bang on the money, but it took me a very long time to find the strength to stop. Because really, you can listen to all the advice in the world, but when you are addicted to someone as I was, it will only ever end when you have had enough.

Unlike Amy Winehouse, the person I was addicted to was not a drug addict. Had he have been, and had he cared enough to want me to be one too, I can pretty much guarantee that I would have been. I would have done anything he asked, because I was completely and utterly obsessed with him.

I have since, as I’m sure nearly everyone reading this article has, been the friend holding the hand. I have been the person silently wishing that they would get away from the person or the situation that was hurting them. I have been the person literally screaming at them to wake up in the vague hope that they will see sense, but at the same time, I knew that it wouldn’t happen until they wanted it to, because like me, and like Amy, they were addicted.

Throughout her criminally short life, it appears that Amy was addicted to a lot of things. Her bulimia, which in itself is a compulsion to make yourself sick, was present long before her alcohol or drug problems, long before her addiction to Blake. It is worth noting at this stage, that it was indeed her bulimia, along with her alcohol addiction that ultimately took her life away from her.

Perhaps the worst symptom of addiction is that is separates you from everything that you really love- your behaviour alienates you from your friends and family. What Amy really loved was music. This is apparent, not through Kapadia’s film, but through the music itself. Her music was her very being. For those listening, it was the window to her heart. Whether or not you have experienced addiction, it is doubtful that anyone can deny that addiction itself is one of the greatest, most destructive evils in this world.

Sometimes, people get addiction and love confused. Maybe a heroin addict thinks they love heroin. Maybe I thought I loved him. But, in post-addiction clarity, it is very obvious that is not the case. No former alcoholic would announce that they were in love with alcohol. Love is wonderful. It is safe, it is secure, it makes you feel good, it is mutual, and it gives you all the excitement of addiction without the crushing pain that accompanies it.

So how then, when addiction was so obviously the destructive catalyst that lead to her demise, can Kapadia promote the idea that anything other than addiction is to blame? The lion’s share of the blame in the film is lobbed at the press. So I thought it would be helpful to list other artists that receive similar levels of attention and exploitation in the media:

Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Caitlyn Jenner, Britney Spears, Eminem, Drake, Kanye West, Zayn Malick, Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jay Z, Harry Styles, Katie Price, Justin Beiber, Mick Jagger, Stephen Fry, Stephen Spielberg, Kate Moss, Ricky Gervais, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham…. and I’m running out of room.

The people listed above have some things in common. They are all famous which means that on some level, they are all being exploited. Being a celebrity means that a lot of the people around you have an agenda. That is not new or interesting or illuminating, it is a fact. The people listed above are also alive. Amy is not. Many of them are survivors of addiction. Amy is not.

The people listed above also have lots of differences.  Some court the press, others do not. Some are celebrated, others are sneered at. There is no pattern. How they choose to deal with their fame is what makes them who they are. To suggest that Amy Winehouse was hounded to her death is to suggest that any one of the names listed above are earmarked for the same fate. It is to suggest that they are all doomed.

Now of course, having people around you that are supportive when you’re an addict is vital to your recovery.

What is clear is that Amy had several people around her that loved her. Some of them, including her manager Nick and her friends Juliette and Lauren openly begged her to stop. She, like thousands and thousands of others, was not ready to listen to those people. In Kapadia’s Amy, Mitch Winehouse, her father, is presented as someone who chose to exploit her. Whether or not Mitch made poor errors in judgment at times is one thing, but to suggest that anything Mitch could have done would be the difference between Amy being alive or dead is nothing short of insane. To suggest that Blake Fielder, a fellow addict (he overdosed not long after her death but survived), could have done anything to help her is equally mad.

Amy’s addiction separated her from the people that loved her, because that’s what addiction does. It is not Amy’s fault that she is not here, it is addiction’s fault. But you can’t hurt or punish addiction because it does not have feelings. You can’t ask Amy what she thinks because she is not here. But maybe you think about all the times when your behaviour was destructive, and ask yourself how often you ignored advice, or how you would feel if a stranger blamed the people that you loved for what happened.

If, like me, you feel even a mild affinity with her which generates in you a deep desire to understand her, then the best way to do this would be to listen to her music, the window to her incredible soul.

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Have a Fucking Heart


Recently, I saw a film called #Legacy. As is the standard procedure, a few days before the editor of the blog I write for offered the opportunity to interview the cast of the film. I read the synopsis and quickly realised that this film was almost certainly going to fall under the bracket of ‘urban’ film. I call it ‘urban’ in brackets because I don’t think anyone can agree upon an acceptable term to describe the fact that it is a film with non-white people in it. It is also a British, low budget indie that is likely not to get a cinema release.

These films have a special place in my heart. I enjoy watching them. The stories often told in these films are not familiar to me, they do not mirror my own life in any way. But, as I have said time and time again, that is what makes cinema great. How boring and awful would life be if everywhere you looked, all you saw was examples of your own life looking back at you. I live in London. There are lots of people just like me. They are also lots of people who are not like me. So when I watch films, what I sometimes want is examples of those people who are not like me. And if you approach every film with the desire that the characters in the film are going to be like you, and think the same way you do, and do the same things, well then good luck to you and your boring existence.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that because my experiences as a white person in the UK are constantly, constantly in the cinema in one form or another. But imagine that you NEVER EVER saw anything that represented you at all? No character that you could look to and say ‘yes, that’s how I feel.’ That would be pretty frustrating. You are, after all, a person who lives here, and has your own experiences, so why are you not listened to? Why are you not important? Well, that is basically the British film industry if you are not white.

The greatest thing about Kidulthood, when it was released way back in 2006 is that it was totally unapologetic. It wasn’t trying to say ‘hey, look how shit everything is, please feel sorry for us’, it was saying ‘this is stuff that happens and that’s just how it is.’ It wasn’t pandering, it wasn’t begging. Noel Clarke wrote that film with his heart, that much is obvious. And whether you liked the film or not, it did exceptionally well, because finally, it was something different. Then followed Adulthood, and a slew of films that fell into the ‘urban’ category. But as time passes, as is totally natural with anything, the format changed. Adam Deacon’s Anuvahood directly referenced the previous films, and seemed to be saying ‘OK, we got it, but can we actually talk about why these things happen?’ Because whilst Kidulthood broke the mold of the genre, the films that followed wanted to refine it. And the reason that this has to happen is because it is not healthy, fair or responsible to constantly perpetuate the image that these young, hooded youths are robots whose only purpose is to have sex, take drugs, and merk people. That is a dangerous untruth, because all it does is support the widely held view that these kids are bad. Films such as Attack the Block went a long way to dispel the myth, keeping the language, trends and attitudes of young people present, whilst allowing the audience to identify with them.

I reference Attack the Block and Anuvahood because #Legacy, the aforementioned film, claims, like them, to be a comedy. It is supposed to be funny. I watched it after a morning spent at a film festival, a very good one, the type that reaffirms your faith in cinema (shout out to Open City Docs.) It’s important to point out here that whilst the film can definitely be classed as ‘urban’, it is different to the other previously mentioned films in that the kids in it are not from an estate. The film has seemingly thrown the net a little wider, incorporating a slighter larger group- young, mainly non-white kids.

So I was rather surprised to find myself, less than 20 minutes in, sitting at my desk with a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes. I actually wanted to cry. I could not believe what I was seeing. I will spare you the finer details (you can read my review here) but the film was not only deeply offensive to anyone that is a human, but it was horrendously exploitative. I imagined how I would feel as a young Londoner of any race, looking at the screen, wondering if this is what the general population thought of us. I imagined how I would feel as a teenage boy, excited at the idea of  a film that is about stuff that I would find fun. And then how I would feel to realise that, according to this film, all I am good for is looking on the internet before a party to find out ’10 ways to fuck that stuck up bitch’ (No, I’m not kidding, it’s an actual scene.) And wanking. And being nasty and disrespectful to girls. Then I wondered how I would feel as a teenage girl, 6 minutes in, watching two girls without ID (you get the connotations) stripping down to their thongs and sucking a guy’s dick so I can get into a party. And then realising that every  female character except one gets naked or is mindlessly fucking someone. I imagined how I would feel being Amy Tyger, the lead actress, whose character Dani is the only girl in the film with a brain, being hounded by her mates for ‘looking like a boy’, only to get the guy she fancies in the end by putting on a nice dress and doing her make up (the boy who she fancied was also the only decent lad in the whole film.)

And then finally, I imagined how I would feel as the director, Davie Fairbanks. The guy who was so insulted by the critical reviews of his last film that he called everyone a cunt. I imagined the journey, that as an indie filmmaker, he would have been through in order to get the film made. And that’s where my compassion came to a grinding halt. Because here is a person, so desperate to make his mark in the industry that he will happily shoehorn in however many pairs of tits he possibly can to get it done, without the incentive to honestly represent his characters, and simultaneously affirming the thoughts of an already snobbish industry that won’t give these films a shot. Shame on him.

I seriously hope that Fairbanks makes a film again. To wish that he didn’t is to wish that another indie filmmaker will fail, and that’s not good for anyone. But I hope that he reaches, deep within himself and finds his fucking soul, and perhaps on the journey, Noel Clarke, who produced the film, can find the same heart that he used when making Kidulthood too. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

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New Review- Honeytrap


Honeytrap is the outstanding debut feature from director Rebecca Johnson. A coming of age tale with a brutal edge that simply must be seen.

The film’s central character is Layla, played by the exceptional Jessica Sula. Layla is 15, and has returned to Brixton to live with her mother after growing up in Trinidad. Her mother doesn’t welcome her presence, seeing Layla as a disruption to her life. Layla is largely left to he own devices, figuring everything out and adjusting to her new life on her own. She meets Shaun (Ntonga Mwanza), a sweet boy who wants to befriend and help her, and is clearly entranced by her beguiling beauty. Layla however, is drawn to local rapper Troy (Lucien Laviscount), and in an all too familiar story, gets caught up in a situation that becomes harder and harder for her to pull away from.

The film does get off to a slightly shaky start – the frostiness between Layla and her mother is challenging, and there is the worry that Layla’s mother is too much of a villain to generate any kind of empathy. But the performance of Jessica Sula alone is enough to carry the film through any niggling issues. A flashback scene at the start of the film sets the tension, yet Sula’s performance as Layla cannot be praised enough. We see the transformation from a shy, friendless child to a more confident- but not unbelievably so- young woman. Layla is vulnerable throughout; Sula rewards the audience with a layered, complex character, rather than a one-dimensional stereotype. She is foolish and selfish, yet encourages sympathy and understanding. She is sweet and alluring, yet not to the point of distraction, her performance is easily one of the best this year.

The story itself is simple, and it has to be. Johnson has a sensitivity towards her characters, and refuses to exploit their situation to create drama. The events that escalate throughout the story are tragic, but the frustration comes from the realisation that it all could have been so easily avoided if only one single person had the confidence to shout a little louder- or felt loved a little more. It’s terrifying to realise that you are aware of the inevitable outcome, because it is so familiar, and far too close to the reality of so many children who find themselves in a place where they are forced to be adults.  It’s an exceptional, essential debut from Johnson, one that should reward her with the attention that she so obviously deserves.

Originally for Hey U Guys

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Anti-Social- Interview with Reg Traviss and Josh Myers


Reg Traviss

The film centres on ‘hyper-masculine characters – that is, films set in ‘a man’s world’ with hyper-masculine characters. This tends to be a theme that runs throughout your films, what is it about these characters that you feel drawn to?

I think Anti-Social is the first film I’ve made that sort of has an underworld setting. What inspires me is characters, scenarios and situations as opposed to genre – all four of the films I’ve made are very different although I suppose they are all quite masculine environments. What we have in Anti Social are characters who are effectively modern day outlaws, and they live in a society within a society, that was what I was initially interested in.

Now of course there are aspects of the film that are ‘masculine’ in a sense – you wouldn’t expect to see women committing smash n grab robberies I suppose, but the women in the film are very much involved in the criminal world. I think what attracted me to this film is that I whilst I was interested in the genre, I wanted to make something which I felt was quite authentic. The characters in the film aren’t necessarily macho, they want to remain low key, and whilst they can be quite charming, they rely on their organisation, their daring and how audacious they will be, and their drive to make money. They’re not enforcers or thugs, they’re a different breed of criminal.

Marcus (Josh Myers) and Dee (Gregg Sulkin) are two characters who both break the law, but in completely different ways. They aren’t gangsters, dons or thugs, they’re far more complex. There’s no judgement placed on any of the characters.

I thought it would be silly for me as a director to judge them, I think it’s for the audience to judge them, all I needed to do was make sure that I didn’t romanticise their lives – that’s judging them as well in a way. There’s a lot of things in the story that are there for the audience to read in to if that’s what they choose to do. Dee is running around consciously challenging society with his artwork which is very anti-establishment and Marcus certainly isn’t from the outside, he seems very much a part of the mainstream – a conformist. And in a way he doesn’t want society to change or be brought down because that’s how he makes his living.

The irony is that Dee becomes socially acceptable, and Marcus is never socially accepted, he is outcast. All of the characters in one way or another do pay a price for their involvement in criminality. I didn’t want to judge them any more than we would judge somebody that we see in the street. I just wanted to show these people as real people and tell their story.

The cast felt like it was incredibly carefully constructed. As well as Josh, you’ve got musicians such as Skepta and Devlin-  the music that is in the film is very London-centric, and the film itself deals with issues that are very specific to London.

Absolutely. I think in principle if you took the core story, then there are other cities that it could work in, but for me, it had to be London. From the outset, I wanted London to be another character, and certainly, through some of the internal struggle that Dee has is a reflection of some of the conflict that certain people in London face.

We’re going through a phase where London is changing a lot, the amount of different subgroups and subcultures in the film are representative of what London is at the moment. The sheer fact that somebody could go to an event tonight, and on the one hand be rubbing shoulders with various socialites, and on the other side be rubbing shoulders with someone involved in organised crime, you might not be aware of it, but that can happen in London- and I’m not sure that it can be like that anywhere else.

I purposely didn’t tell the story of how Dee and his girlfriend (a wealthy model) met. we could assume it was somewhere like Shoreditch at a party- but it’s not unusual in London. You can have people from totally different parts of society that can somehow still relate to each other. You have the smash’n’grab robbers from Marcus’ world at this art event, and whilst they’re sort of mucking around and it’s not really for them, they’re not against it either and I think that’s because in their mind, it’s still part of a culture outside of the mainstream.

Behind closed doors, everyone can relate to each other, but what’s imposed on them from the outside is this idea of a social structure. The film is certainly anti-society in that way.

Josh Myers

Your character is more than just a thug – he’s a good brother, a good partner, a good son.

I’m glad that’s how Reg wrote the character – of course Marcus is a sort of villain but there’s the other side of it – he loves his girlfriend, he looks after his mother and brother. I just wanted him to be a guy that does his job and makes his money – he is good at his job, he’s highly organised. He’s just a good guy that does bad things – you could sit next to him in a restaurant and never know that he did those things.

What was it about this role in particular that attracted you?

Well firstly it was a good script, and also I love working with Reg. I personally think he’s one of the best directors working in the British film industry. He’s got a great eye for things, there’s a lot of camaraderie, I’ve known him for a long time. And to be offered this sort of role was something was great – he felt that it’s my time and I can’t be more appreciative of that. And at the same time it’s a great role – it’s great, I love everything about it, and I can’t quite believe I’m part of it!

Did you identify with Marcus at all?

Yes and no. Obviously when you’re about and about and you meet people and you hear things – not everybody is squeaky clean – but the role was sort of written for me to play myself – so it’s quite a natural character for me for me to play. I can definitely identify with his relationships – obviously I love my family and everything, but on the other side of things, as a criminal, I can’t say I relate to him that much because I’m not a villain! But I spoke to lot of people when I was researching – what they get up to, how they go about things, their mannerisms, and I had a lot of advice from Reg.

Would you say that Marcus is a hero?

I can’t say he’s a hero because I don’t like what he does, and I can’t condone what he does. I think that with my character coming from a world where his Dad is a criminal, I think it’s just an easy thing for him to do. I don’t think he’s conflicted, he just thinks- if I want something, I’m going to go and get it.

Reg: It depends on which way you look at it, but from societys’ point of view, they’re anti-heroes. The pair of them. But from within their own groups where they are socially accepted, they are heroes. Marcus is a hero in his world. But if you’re looking at the film in a broader sense, Dee is the hero, Marcus is the anti-hero because Dee actually has a choice to make and he comes through. Even with regard to the crimes though, there’s something about these sorts of crimes that’s pretty old school- they’re not snatching someone’s handbag, or mugging someone in the street, or even using weapons. It’s the fact that it’s so well organised that people find sort of appealing I think.

How do you prepare for a role like this?

Josh:  Well I did a bit of working out! But I also liked researching – watching the actual CCTV of the smash n grabs, how they did it etc. Again, meeting people who have been to prison for certain crimes, picking their brains – what is their mind-set when they know the police are after them? And I spent a lot of time with Reg working through the script. It’s actually very hard to play yourself in a way. Working with Reg helped because when we were on set, despite the fact that we’re friends- on set he’s a director, I’m an actor, and I listen to what he says.

Although you obviously don’t want to condone the behaviour of your character, did you find that talking to people who had done that sort of thing helped you understand it better?

I think I was quite fortunate to be able to speak to people who have been through it and have done their time and can talk about it openly. In a way I did end up feeling quite sorry for some of them- one guy in particular just did it for his family. I don’t condone it and I never will, but listening to some of them talk, they just felt like they had no other choice. They’re criminals so they can’t get a proper job, all they know is crime. Knowing my character was doing it for his family meant that I could understand in a way, why he wanted to be the biggest and best at what he did.

Originally for Hey U Guys

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New Review- Anti-Social


It’s easy to understand how, without any sort of backstory, Anti-Social, the latest film from director Reg Traviss, could be filed under the ‘cheap British straight-to-DVD’ lads-mag favourite. British Indie director? Check. Fairly unknown cast of often pigeon-holed ‘geezer/youth’ types? Check. Low budget? Check.  But this really isn’t a fair assumption, as becomes astonishingly clear after the first 10 minutes. Anti Social is a crime drama with all the best tropes left in (thrilling chase sequences, tense confrontations) but with an intelligent edge that seek to explore the larger changes in the modern day capital city.

Anti-Social tells the story of two brothers- Dee (Gregg Sulkin) and Marcus (Josh Myers) who seem, initially, to be wildly different. Dee is a graffiti artist whose work has started to become noticed by a Berlin-based gallery owner, who is determined to propel him out of his underworld trappings and in to a legitimate, lucrative business. Dee has a beautiful model girlfriend in Kirsten (Meghan Markle) who is supportive and encouraging of his endeavours. On the flip side there is Marcus, a key member of a highly organised gang who commit heists around the city, robbing high-end department stores. Marcus is a family man, who uses the proceeds of his crimes to support his girlfriend Emma (Sophie Colquhoun) and his struggling mother.

It would have been easy for Traviss to have the brothers at loggerheads, but instead, the brothers are united, bound by their obvious love for each other, and Marcus’ desire to protect him from the double-life he is leading. Their relationship is an allegory for London itself – worlds colliding, sometimes conflicting, often intermingling, but mainly existing side by side.

Traviss has shed light on a subject that has been aching to be explored for a long time;  the blending of subcultures and subgroups with the mainstream, accepted cultural landscape of the city. He doesn’t just do this through the plot, as the cast is as carefully crafted as the story itself. All the lead characters are Londoners, a mixture of actors and musicians already recognisable in their field, but largely unfamiliar in a wider sense. The casting of grime King Skepta and UK rapper Devlin is a key to the story as the characters they are portraying. Along with lead actor Josh Myers, a familiar face in the British crime genre, the artists themselves are part of this world that is being shown to us through the screen – it’s life imitating art to an extent.

Anti-Social is not just another British crime film, and it’s not a cheap thriller- it is an exciting, intelligent piece of cinema that is as much for lovers of the genre than it is for a mainstream audience, and should certainly be treated as such.

Originally for Hey U Guys

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New Review- Dreamcatcher

dreamcatchers_brenda-with-girl-on-leftFrom Kim Longinotto, who is arguably one of the most vital filmmakers in the documentary genre, comes Dreamcatcher. The film is a beautiful, unashamed document of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis’ of the modern world – the continued purchasing of human beings, including millions of little girls, for sex.

Prostitution is a subject that is regularly explored through cinema, but never has it been examined in such a daring, compassionate and unapologetic way. The focus is on former prostitute Brenda Myers-Powell. Myers-Powell runs Dreamcatcher, a project that aids vulnerable women who are either current or former prostitutes, or are at risk of entering that world. The help she provides varies from handing out condoms, to campaigning for the rights of incarcerated prostitutes, to being a mother-figure to those who so desperately need it. She is a modern day heroine, full of whit, but with a sturdy, calming presence.

We follow Myers-Powell through her endeavours, as she expertly manages a wide range of increasingly desperate situations; situations that are, as becomes apparent, part of her day-to-day existence. Nobody can really be prepared for the harsh reality that comes crashing down when it becomes clear that in a classroom of ‘at risk’ girls that she is working with, every single one of them has dealt with physical or sexual abuse, neglect and exposure to hard drug use from their caregivers. Every single one. In one classroom, in one part of one country – it makes the scale of the problem impossible to comprehend.

Longinotto is an expert in humanising people. Her unfathomable ability to delve in to the heart of each of her subjects, without judgment or agenda, is astonishing. This includes a reformed pimp, who now works with Myers-Powell to try and shed light on the psyche of the men who are part of this world. The inclusion of his voice is a brave, but essential move from Longinotto. The film isn’t about blame, it’s about understanding.

Myers-Powell’s incredible ability for compassion is enhanced through the film. Longinotto’s exploration of her as a woman, rather than as a former prostitute, is one of the films’ greatest achievements. Perhaps the only shred of genuine pleasure that can be gained from the film, which deals with such a horrific subject, is via Longinotto’s observation of Myers-Powell choosing which wig she is going to wear for work one day. As she frets and fusses, declaring how her choice of hair is a reflection of how she feels that day, we see her at her most empowered. Her femininity is hers to have, it does not belong to anybody else.

When you consider the subject matter, and indeed when you hear some of the painful stories that are told by the subjects – many of whom are very young girls – it’s hard to comprehend there being even an iota of hope for anyone in the situation. In fact, Longinotto is careful not to present the piece as a tale of triumph, nor as a bleak presentation of a hideous epidemic. In reflection, there is no overriding feeling of positivity – how can there be when what is presented is only the tiniest insight in to the smallest cross-section of a world-wide issue that is far beyond anybody’s control?

If there is one, absolutely glaringly obvious fact that the film illuminates unashamedly, is that every single one of our subjects does not want to be in the situation they are in. Even Myers-Powell, who throughout the film comes across as a stoic, proud, powerful women, mourns her past. She feels crippling guilt at the thought of the women that she pulled in to this world, and for her children who undoubtedly suffered as a result of her time as a sex worker. This film is a vital antidote to every titillating, romanticised study of prostitution in Hollywood; this is real, this is how it really is. What Longinotto has achieved cannot, and must not be underestimated.

For Hey U Guys

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New Review- Hinterland


HinterlandNominated for the Jury Prize at Indie Film Festival Raindance, Hinterland is first time director Harry Macqueen’s contribution to the British indie scene; a gentle, lilting film, that in parts is let down by it’s over-long scenes with not quite enough drama to maintain the viewer’s attention.

Harvey (Macqueen) and Lola (musician Lori Campbell) are childhood friends, reuniting after a long time apart. Lola has travelled the world, whilst Harvey has barely moved on- seemingly waiting, in part, for Lola’s return. They drive to a quaint cottage that Harvey’s parents own, and quickly fall in to reminiscing about their childhood. It’s platonic, although subtle hints and suggestive glances between the two suggest the possibility of something more.

The film’s greatest misgiving is that it never quite gets to the heart of what it is trying to achieve. The obvious differences in their character – Harvey the quiet, sensible type and Lola the exploring, spontaneous dreamer, are exciting because there is a natural conflict – how can two people, so similar in their early youth, and yet so different today, maintain their friendship? Is it only a friendship that they are after? Has too much changed? The truth, it seems, is interesting enough to ponder, but the conclusion reached is too subtle and unexplored to justify the run time.

In a further attempt to highlight the distance between them, Macqueen includes long scenes of near silence as the characters make their journey in to hills and back in time. But there isn’t enough going on in the first place to endure them, and the even the natural beauty surrounding them isn’t enough to maintain interest.
For a debut feature though, Hinterland is impressive. The chemistry between Harvey and Lola that morphs as the story progresses is natural and recognisable – there’s a genuine fondness and absorbing familiarity despite the awkwardness of spending so long apart. It is the interaction between the two of them that just about saves the film from feeling flat.

The photography is also outstanding, as the wild Welsh hillside that Harvey and Lola visited as youngsters is comforting and beautiful. The two are isolated, which forces them to push through their initial awkwardness, and relax in to their fondly remembered roles. It’s a shame that the film doesn’t quite achieve its aims, but it’s worth seeing; there’s certainly an exciting new talent in Harry Macqueen as a director- one can only hope that his next creation packs a slightly stronger punch.


Reviewed for Hey U Guys 

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New Review: We Still Kill The Old Way


It’s very easy to see a title like ‘We Still Kill the Old Way’ and immediately feel prickly. It’s understandable that one may assume that it’s just going to be another example of the repeatedly churned out gangster flick destined for the supermarket bargain bin, but that just means that, for those more cynical viewers, the film is going to be something of a very pleasant surprise.
The film has a simple enough premise- a group of no good hoodie-wearing thugs attack and kill a pensioner. Unfortunately for them, the pensioner was a retired gangster, and his ageing cohorts want revenge, and will go to any lengths to get it.
What makes the film stand out amongst others of its genre is that it writer Dougie Brimson, along with director Sacha Bennett, have made a conscious effort to address the obvious changes in the gangster genre. If the gangster genre is anti-establishment and meant to be used as a social commentary, which traditionally it has, then there’s been very little to come out of British cinema in recent years; which is strange given the political climate, so it is exhilarating to see a film that finally does just that.
The two gangs- the youths and the pensioners, could almost come from two different films. The youths are of the Kidulthood, Ill Manors ilk (with some of the same cast) and the old boys could have been plucked from the Italian Job, Villain, or even the later Guy Ritchie numbers, and it’s this clash of ideals that serves the narrative. The older gang still believe in respect- being courteous and well dressed, whilst the youths run around causing havoc. However, this isn’t a case of ‘look at the youth today, the country is going down the pan’, it’s more of an observation of the two generations failure to communicate; and that is an essential issue that surrounds modern day Britain. Both sides are the bad guys, or the good guys depending on how you look at it. Both are anti-establishment, and have a common enemy in the police.
The film is, as ever, not without its problems. The cinematography is botched, with some attempts to be stylish that just come across as amateur, and the casting of the youths don’t do anything to dispel the myths that all teenagers from poor backgrounds fail in stringing a sentence together. There is however a perfect piece of casting in Danni Dyer, daughter of Danny, who seems to have taken the torch with ease and will undoubtedly be a staple in other films of a similar genre.
With a long run of films of this genre being genuinely awful, it’s refreshing to see something new and exciting that brings promise to the gangster flick. It’s a lot of fun, and whilst it’s totally corrupt morally, isn’t that what gangster films are meant to be anyway?

Review for HeyUGuys


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A Bloody Great Film- Herostratus

HersostratusThink of ‘60s British Cinema and you probably think of Alfie, Blow Up, Bond. You probably don’t think of Don Levy’s only feature Herostratus, and neither did I, until now. The film was awarded money from the BFI Experimental Film Fund, and is a hidden gem amongst the stylish exciting cinema that was beginning to emerge in the ‘60s.

Set in swinging London and loosely based on the Greek tale, Herostratus tells the story of Max, a young, disillusioned poet who decides to hire a marketing company to publicise his own suicide. Played by the relative unknown Michael Gothard, the film is a dark commentary on the greedy, selfish, image obsessed culture of the time (and indeed of any time), where literally anything can be bought for a price. Max’s narcissism and naïve ideas leave him vulnerable to Farson (Peter Stevens), the sharp, soulless marketing exec who knows exactly how to stroke Max’s ego in order to get exactly what he wants. The narrative is interjected with abstract scenes (a beautiful Helen Mirren makes an appearance as a sensual Goddess, to be druelled over and marvelled at) and often frightening and obscure snippets that reference sometimes a later part of the film, and other times something totally random and confusing.

The photography is as outstanding as any film in British cinema history, a perfect blend of an eerie London through a fog-filled lens, criss-crossing with bold, luminous and often repulsive images, it is at once totally sentimental and also dazzlingly different. As with many films of the era, it is obsessed with looking at London, and does so exquisitely.
The performances are sensational. The dialogue remains sparse and often stilted; the performers are exactly that- people, saying words that are totally shallow and empty, with the only sincerity coming from Farson’s secretary Clio, played by Gabriella Licudi. Clio is perhaps the only human in the whole tale; although she has a price, just like everybody else.
It’s a crying shame that this was the only feature from director Don Levy, his obvious talent is reminiscent of Nic Roeg, Joseph Losey and even Antonioni in style. Tragically, both Levy and Gothard committed suicide, with their careers never quite reaching the peaks of their peers. But the film deserves as much praise for its daring, original filmmaking as it does for its technically brilliant delivery. It is everything that a perfect film should be. It’s exciting, engaging, shocking and breathtakingly beautiful; a true masterpiece.

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