Category Archives: BFI

‘Beats’: Brian Welsh on his 90s rave scene banger

Set in Scotland in 1994, Beats follows two teenage best friends, Johnno (Cristian Ortega) and Spanner (Lorn Macdonald), heading out for one final night together at an illegal rave before life takes them in different directions. Johnno’s family, encouraged by his de facto stepfather Robert (Brian Ferguson), are due to move to a newly built house in the distant suburbs. Spanner’s prospects, meanwhile, look next to zero in the context of local poverty and his relationship with his abusive criminal brother, Fido (Neil Leiper).

Directed and co-written by Brian Welsh, Beats is adapted from Kieran Hurley’s acclaimed one-man stage show, which presented converging stories in the wake of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act’s impact on rave culture. Section 63 of that act gave law enforcement the power to stop any gatherings of more than 20 people in open air settings when listening to music, “Wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.”

There’s an end of an era quality to the film’s portrayal of the 90s scene, and while raving didn’t disappear after 1994, the rest of the decade saw a form of it move into the more corporate club scene, heavy on brand image, where the experience, as influenced by those changes in the law, became more homogenised…

Full interview for the BFI

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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

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

Too Late to Die Young (Dominga Sotomayor, 2018)

Recipient of this year’s Leopard for Best Direction in the International Competition at Locarno, Too Late to Die Young is not Dominga Sotomayor’s first feature since her debut breakthrough Thursday Till Sunday (2012), as the 58-minute Mar (2014) premiered in between. It does, however, feel like a direct continuation of that first feature’s preoccupation with the implications of parents’ life-altering decisions upon the children they take along for the ride. In Thursday Till Sunday, a road trip was the backdrop for a story of a teen discovering her parents may be separating, while Too Late to Die Young, which opens with another car journey, is concerned with multiple children being uprooted…

Full review for Sight & Sound

Local Heroes: new Scottish features at Edinburgh 2018

Before launching its full programme, the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival announced the films in the lineup with notable Scottish connections. It’s standard practice for this festival, presumably tied to obligations to sponsors such as Creative Scotland, to give the slate of local productions a profile-boost before breaking out the international big guns.

Of late, this tease has proved more foreboding than enticing. With a few exceptions (such as Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio), the quality of British features receiving their world premiere at the festival in recent years has been especially patchy, and a number of the particularly dire ones have, in my experience, been those with a local connection. Romantic comedy Scottish Mussel (2015) may still be the worst feature I’ve seen at any film festival.

This year’s Scots-focused preview looked more promising, however, both for the world premieres as well as titles accruing buzz from festivals abroad. Despite the odd dud, the quality, variety and, in some cases, ambition of the features under the broad banner of Scottish filmmaking proved reflective of the state of this year’s programme as a whole…

Full feature for Sight & Sound

Out of the shadow of ‘Frankenstein’: Haifaa al-Mansour on her ‘Mary Shelley’ biopic

With her 2012 debut Wadjda, Haifaa al-Mansour achieved two milestones: she became both the first female Saudi filmmaker to direct a feature-length film and also the director of the first feature shot entirely in Saudi Arabia.

Fittingly, her follow-up feature and English language debut, Mary Shelley, sees her tackle the story of a woman who was also a groundbreaking artist in her time. Led by Elle Fanning in the title role, the film follows the love affair between poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) and the teenage Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, which resulted in the latter writing Frankenstein

Full interview for the BFI

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018: 10 to see

Now in its 72nd instalment, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world’s longest continuously-running film festival. This year’s edition opens with the UK premiere of Marc Turtletaub’s jigsaw drama Puzzle, starring Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan. The festival later closes with the UK premiere of Swimming with Men, a British comedy from director Oliver Parker, starring Rob Brydon, Jim Carter, Daniel Mays and Adeel Akhtar.

Beyond the galas, there are many premieres, discoveries and retrospectives of note. Here are 10 highlights from the big programme, with the festival running from 20 June to 1 July…

Full feature for the BFI