Between London, Lagos and Lincolnshire: Shola Amoo on ‘The Last Tree’

British writer-director Shola Amoo’s second feature, The Last Tree, is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film set in the early 2000s. It centres on a young boy named Femi of Nigerian descent who’s being fostered by a white parent, Mary (Denise Black), in Lincolnshire. As Amoo explains: “The story starts when his biological mum (Gbemisola Ikumelo) picks him up, takes him to south London to live with her, and we follow his trials and tribulations as he tries to find his identity within a new culture in a multicultural London.”

“There are elements of the film taken from my life,” Amoo says of his connection to the narrative, which charts the journey of Femi into his teens. “The rest is amalgamated with other experiences I’ve heard around foster care, and friends who’ve dealt with this idea of double-consciousness: being of one community and living within another. It’s all woven together.” That sense of struggling with the values and culture of an unfamiliar community also extends to Femi’s experiences of visiting Lagos, where his biological father lives…

Full interview for the BFI

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“A Movie is Not Something Where I Need to Convey a Message About How People Are Supposed to Live”: Director Kôji Fukada on ‘A Girl Missing’

Since his debut feature, Human Comedy in Tokyo, in 2008, Kôji Fukada has steadily become one of the most interesting filmmakers working out of Japan in the last decade plus. Many of his features can be characterised by a protagonist or family unit’s apparent stability being upended by one event, a plot development that illustrates how easily and turbulently lives can spiral out of control. In his sophomore feature, Hospitalité (2010), this was played for laughs. In that film, a family printing business is gradually taken over by a former associate who talks his way into a job, moves into the building, and invites more and more people, with increasingly tenuous connections, to live with him in the cramped space.

Harmonium (2016), Fukada’s international breakthrough in terms of distribution and awards recognition, presents his darkest take on that theme to date. Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at that year’s Cannes, it sees a man invite a friend with an unsavory past back into his life, offering him a job in his garage workshop, only for the kind act to have devastating effects on him, his wife and their young daughter.

A Girl Missing (2019) is not Fukada’s direct feature follow-up to Harmonium, with The Man from the Sea (2018) having premiered in between, but it is both a reunion with one of Harmonium’s stars, Mariko Tsutsui, and a return to a mode of storytelling that contains a significant time jump. But in contrast to Harmonium, the two narratives of A Girl Missing play in parallel…

Full interview for Filmmaker

Nicolas Cage understood the maximalist potential of 3D movies

 3D boom that launched the decade is in its dying days. While many blockbusters still open with 3D versions, and James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar sequels should give the format a major boost, the numbers back up the decline. Eye-popping images aren’t the sell they were in 2009.

What’s lost as 3D fades into cultural irrelevance? Numerous directors, from Martin Scorsese to Wim Wenders, extolled the virtues of the visual gimmick, but the format also reshaped actors — or could have if given the room to evolve. In the first decade of 3D blockbusters, big names like Will Smith or Sandra Bullock were strapped into what were essentially theme park rides, the technique more of a marquee attraction rather than a lens through which to navigate around performances. We never got to the moment where 3D became a tool for actors.

There is a notable exception, however, and it concerns two films that exist in a specific subgenre: Nicolas Cage driving dangerous vehicles after escaping from hell…

Full feature for Polygon

John Waters on his new book, ‘Pink Flamingos’ and his TV cameos

“I never wanted to do cult,” John Waters says in reference to his filmography in light of the question of whether genuine cult films are still possible in the current age of new distribution strategies. “People liked it and it lost money. A few smart people liked it, the [financiers] want thousands of dumb people to like it!”

Speaking of thousands of people, if not necessarily all dumb, we’re speaking to Baltimore’s self-described ‘Pope of Trash’ a day ahead of him receiving an award at the Piazza Grande of Locarno, Switzerland, which hosts open air screenings for 8000 people each night as part of the Locarno Film Festival. For its 72nd edition, which took place in August, the festival honoured Waters with the Pardo d’onore Manor award for career achievement. Recipients of the Pardo d’onore at previous festivals have included Jean-Luc Godard, Ken Loach, William Friedkin, Jia Zhang-ke, Werner Herzog, Agnès Varda and Todd Haynes…

Full interview for The Skinny

“With Digital You Have to Spend a Lot of Money Before It Becomes Free”: Mark Jenkin on His Hand-Processed 16mm ‘Bait’

If you’ve heard much at all about Bait, the breakthrough feature of British filmmaker Mark Jenkin, it’s likely concerned the anachronistic means by which he’s constructed the experimental drama. Shot on a hand-cranked Bolex camera in black-and-white 16mm, then hand-processed by Jenkin himself with an assortment of unusual materials that lend scratchiness to the images, the film offsets potential accusations of gimmickry in making these aesthetic choices relevant to evoking something specific about where it’s set, an unnamed fishing village in the county of Cornwall in southwest England. As writer Ian Mantgani describes in his review for Sight & Sound, the film “feels pounded into existence by hand, or possibly belched up the angry sea.”

Bait looks and plays like something unearthed from the depths of the British Film Institute’s archives that just so happens to feature contemporary fashion and vehicles, with the odd reference to the news of the day in the UK—a brief radio excerpt in one scene, that has a newsreader discuss Britain’s attempted departure from the European Union, has inevitably seen the film discussed under a broad banner of so-called “Brexit cinema.”

The film premiered at the Berlinale Forum and opens across the UK on 30 August, distributed by the BFI and screening from 35mm at select venues. Ahead of that release, Jenkin spoke in-depth to Filmmaker about the strict limitations he imposed upon himself, shooting on film and doing so for cheap, abstaining from using location sound, hand-processing, how the film plays overseas and why directors have a responsibility to experiment with the artform…

Full interview for Filmmaker

Locarno Film Festival 2019: The Skinny’s Highlights

Founded in 1946, Switzerland’s Locarno Festival is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals, known for its arthouse-favouring programming, extensive retrospectives and nightly open-air screenings in the Piazza Grande, which can seat 8000 spectators. The latter is by no means the only venue, but it’s the one most associated with the festival. Having attended for the first time last year, we often recall the memory of seeing Ethan Hawke’s directorial effort Blaze amid a rare torrential downpour in the otherwise scorching town.

Taking place by Lake Maggiore at the southern foot of the Swiss Alps, Locarno can be quite pricey to attend because almost none of the food on offer is cheap, but the very welcoming atmosphere makes up for a lot. The intermingling of public, industry and press attendees every night, particularly at select pubs open until 3am, is unlike any other festival we’ve experienced. Where else might you see Béla Tarr exit an otherwise amicable-seeming conversation with Pedro Costa with a “fuck off” before getting in a car? Hopefully that’s how he says goodbye to everyone…

Full feature for The Skinny

John Waters on camp, Trump and being Mr. Know-It-All

John Waters may not have writ­ten or direct­ed a new film in 15 years, but the mul­ti-faceted artist and queer icon – crowned ​The Pope of Trash” for his trans­gres­sive cult movies like Pink Flamin­gos (1972), Female Trou­ble (1974) and Poly­ester (1981) – is always up to some­thing.

A ret­ro­spec­tive of his visu­al arts career, titled Inde­cent Expo­sure, was exhib­it­ed in his native Bal­ti­more in 2018. He’s also a pro­lif­ic writer, with his fourth book in the last decade, Mr. Know-It-All: The Tar­nished Wis­dom of a Filth Elder, released in the UK this September…

Full interview for The Face

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams