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New Essential Indie Cinema in May

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Although GFT is currently closed, new films are being released straight to digital platforms during this lockdown period, and we are still very much in the business of finding the best of what’s out there. GFT Programme Manager Paul Gallagher offers his pick of new indie cinema coming out in May, and info on where you can watch it.

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White Riot

This low-fi documentary captures the DIY spirit and enthusiasm of the Rock against Racism movement with passion and energy. RAR was formed in 1976, prompted by ‘music’s biggest colonialist’ Eric Clapton and his support of racist MP Enoch Powell. Beginning as a Hoxton-based fanzine, the movement gained followers in London’s grassroots punk and reggae scenes, gradually spreading across the UK with a message of inclusivity and resistance to fear and hate. Told by those who there, including founder Red Saunders, White Riot puts together the history, building to a huge antifascist carnival in London’s Victoria Park, headlined by The Clash.

GFT is partnering with Modern Films on ‘virtual cinema’ screenings of White Riot from 22-31 May, and will receive a portion of income from any virtual GFT tickets they sell. Click here to purchase (scroll down to select GFT from the cinema list) or find out more. 

 

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The Assistant

If you forced me to pick only one of these choices as the must-see film for May (why would you do such a thing, you cruel people?) it would be this excellent, succinct drama. It’s a simple set-up: one day in the life of Jane (Ozark’s Julia Garner), a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who has recently landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul. You won’t find the word ‘Weinstein’ anywhere in this film’s script, but it’s silently echoed in every line. Written and directed by Kitty Green, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with industry employees, The Assistant paints a compelling and damning picture. Nothing is ever stated out loud – there is no grand dramatic moment - but Jane’s experiences in this single day tell us everything about the imprisoning nature of a toxic power-wielding culture. It gets so much right, showing an oppressive team culture that builds a weird sense of camaraderie, a kind of suffering together. The power of the film is that its truths are clearly recognisable, applicable and relevant to a wide swathe of professional environments, not just the film industry.

Watch The Assistant from 1 May on BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, MUBI and more. £9.99 rental (decreasing to £4.99 from 15 May)

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Ema

There’s a definite Marmite quality to this hugely atmospheric and unpredictable drama from Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (Jackie, No), which makes it a must-see as far as I’m concerned. The story centres on the title character, a young reggaeton dancer whose marriage to her choreographer husband is under strain for reasons not entirely clear as the story begins. The film that unfolds is a curious mix of enigmatic character drama, visually stunning dance sequences and a battle of the sexes power-struggle. It’s held together by an amazing, unreadable lead performance by Mariana Di Girolamo as Ema, and a powerfully intense score by Nicolas Jaar.

Watch Ema on MUBI from 2 May. Free preview screening on MUBI on Thursday 1 May (no subscription required).

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Camino Skies

The Camino Way, a famous 500-mile pilgrimage through French and Spanish terrain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, holds an enduring appeal for filmmakers just as it does for hikers and seekers of all stripes. This new Kiwi documentary follows a group of 6 walkers, each with their own reasons for attempting the challenge of the Camino. Among them are Sue, a 70-year old with chronic arthritis, and Julie, a 54-year old widow still reeling from several layers of grief in her life. The film gently and patiently takes us alongside these weary travellers, each of them broken by life in different ways, and slowly digs in to their lives and how they have ended up on this journey. It’s a moving and thoughtful film, ideal for times of quiet contemplation.

Watch Camino Skies on Curzon Home Cinema from 8 May. £9.99 rental.

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The Whistlers

This was one of my highlights of Glasgow Film Festival 2020, and I’m still a bit gutted we won’t be getting to show it at GFT for a run as planned, but I still highly recommend checking it out at home. It’s a globe-trotting present-day film noir, in which an undercover Romanian cop joins a gang of criminals who communicate in a secret whistling language. The tricksy storytelling ensures that we’re never far away from a double-cross or twist, and the spare, hard-boiled dialogue has a mean sense of humour to it, just like the great Hollywood noirs. Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu with a knowing eye on the films he’s referencing, this is a stylish delight for cinephiles.

Watch The Whistlers on Curzon Home Cinema from 8 May. £9.99 rental.

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Women Make Film

Never one to do things by halves, cinema’s biggest enthusiast Mark Cousins has made a 14-hour documentary about how films work, illustrated exclusively with examples from films directed by women. As he states at the start, his aim here is not to show what defines a female-directed film, but rather to show that 'film history is sexist by omission', and there is no justification for this. As with his epic The Story of Film, it’s an invigorating watch that doesn’t feel like hard work (most of the time), as the hundreds of clips just make you want to seek out all the films. Split into 40 chapters, and narrated by actresses including Tilda Swinton, Kerry Fox and Thandie Newton, Women Make Film is the best kind of film school, and this is surely the best time to get in class.

Watch Women Make Film from 18 May on Blu-ray or on BFI Player (included in subscription). BFI Player will screen in 5 episodes, releasing 1 episode per week from 18 May – 15 June.

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The County

Rams director Grímur Hákonarson delivers another crowd-pleasing Icelandic gem with this David v. Goliath tale of a widowed farmer taking on the corrupt co-operative that runs the farming industry in her county. Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir plays the flint-faced Inga with fearsome attitude, and earns our unwavering support, even if her headstrong decisions could occasionally do with a little tempering. No prizes for guessing how the plot unfolds, but if you are looking for hearty cinematic comfort food – and let’s face it: right now, who isn’t? – The County delivers in spades.

Watch The County on Curzon Home Cinema from 22 May. £9.99 rental.

Paul Gallagher
GFT Programme Manager

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