All posts by Josh Slater-Williams

Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams) is a freelance writer based in England. Alongside writing for Vague Visages, he is a regular contributor to independent British magazine The Skinny and has written for Little White Lies magazine, VODzilla.co, The Film Stage, and PopOptiq.

Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade’, teens and the internet

Of all filmmakers to tackle the subject of the relationship of young people to the internet as it is now, Bo Burnham would be among the most qualified. After all, these platforms are responsible for where he is now. The 28-year-old American comedian, musician and actor began his performance career in 2006 with YouTube videos of self-penned comedy songs. The full trajectory of his path since is too convoluted to divulge here, but the important thing is that he has written and directed his first feature: a wonderful film called Eighth Grade that’s had a healthy box office run stateside and has gone on to receive numerous major awards wins and nominations, including a Golden Globe nod for star Elsie Fisher, a thrilling new talent, and a Directors Guild of America Award win in the First-Time Feature category for Burnham just days after our phone conversation…

Full interview for The Skinny

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‘Cyrano’ meets ‘Harry Potter’: Toby MacDonald and Pauline Etienne on ‘Old Boys’

Loosely based on Edmond Rostand’s classic 19th-century play Cyrano de Bergerac, Toby MacDonald’s debut feature, Old Boys, transplants key elements of that story to a British boarding school in the late 1980s, albeit with some of the more tragic parts – the war and the bloodshed for starters – excised in favour of a more comedic update…

Full interview for the BFI

Ray & Liz: an exploration of family life in Thatcher’s Britain

In Ray & Liz, artist and photographer Richard Billingham makes his feature debut as a writer-director. A vignette-based portrait about a family falling apart, it’s inspired by his own childhood growing up in the Thatcher-era West Midlands.

It’s a period that he documented in the photo project that first brought him fame in the late ’90s. Titled Ray’s a Laugh, the series featured striking images of his parents (the titular Ray and Liz) as well as younger brother Jason, often in scenes of squalor reflecting the deprivation and isolation in which Billingham grew up. The film, however – which has since been nominated for a BAFTA  – goes even deeper.

“A film I was very interested in is The Terence Davies Trilogy [1983], which I saw in my 20s. A lot of that was shot from lived experience,” he explains…

Full interview for HUCK

10 things to see at Glasgow Film Festival 2019

Celebrating its 15th instalment, the Glasgow Film Festival runs this year between 20 February and 3 March, opening with the UK premiere of Jonah Hill’s directing debut, Mid90s. It later closes with another UK first: the premiere of Beats, an adaptation of Kieran Hurley’s award-winning play set in the Scottish rave scene of, well, the mid-90s.

Rest assured, the full festival programme isn’t solely aimed at Generation X and older millennials, though some 90s favourites are among those receiving pop-up screening treatment at creative venues; a 20th anniversary showing of The Blair Witch Project at a secret location sounds terrifying.

With more than 330 individual screenings, talks and events in between the opening and closing galas, choosing what to go to can be tricky. Here are 10 highlights from the stacked programme…

Full feature for the BFI

A beginner’s guide to the films of Lee Chang-dong

A celebrated academic and novelist prior to his directing career, Lee Chang-dong came to filmmaking relatively late in life, making his first feature in his forties. What unites all of his films is their extensive portraits of characters often at the mercy of circumstances beyond their control, be they societal and historical developments in his native South Korea, debilitating illnesses, or some omnipresent force that seems out to get them. As evidenced in his brilliant latest, Burning, Lee is unafraid to confront the ugliness of human nature. To celebrate the film’s release, we’ve put together a handy primer of his previous directorial efforts…

Full feature for Little White Lies

Steven Yeun and Lee Chang-dong on thriller ‘Burning’

Arriving eight years after previous film Poetry, Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning left last year’s Cannes without any competition prizes but with perhaps the most ardent critical support of any movie to premiere there in 2018. Much of the film’s pleasure comes from how it slowly reveals its mysteries, so it’s best to keep any plot details to a minimum. All we’ll say is that it concerns a young man, Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), reconnecting with and developing feelings for a girl from his youth, Hae-mi (newcomer Jun Jong-seo). He agrees to look after her cat while she’s abroad in Africa. When she comes back, she’s accompanied by a mysterious companion, Ben (Steven Yeun), a wealthy man with a proclivity for pyromania that may be a cover for something more sinister…

Full interview for The Skinny

1985 (Yen Tan, 1985)

In 1987, a group of gay activists in New York formed the Silence = Death Project, which began with the plastering of posters around the city featuring a pink triangle against a black background with the statement ‘Silence = Death’ below it. The group’s manifesto addressed the ongoing AIDS crisis, declaring that the silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people must be broken as a matter of survival. Their logo would later be offered to the protest group ACT UP, with which it remains closely identified, as recently seen in Robin Campillo’s film, 120 BPM. Alongside the calling out of other institutional forces like the Vatican and the Food and Drug Administration, the Silence = Death Project’s original poster also included the question “Why is Reagan silent about AIDS?”.

Set two years before this project’s launch, 1985’s writer-director Yen Tan uses silence to address both the stigmatisation of the Reagan administration and the growing AIDS epidemic. The words “gay” and “AIDS” are never spoken onscreen, but their significance looms large over this muted, moving drama, where the only real ostentatious quality is the decision to shoot it in black and white and on Super 16mm film…

Full review for VODzilla.co