Latest from Catherine Bray

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Gearing up for the Glasgow Film Festival 2015

23 Jan, 2015 Posted in: Festivals, Glasgow

The Glasgow Film Festival programme is announced and features Film4-backed films Second Coming and Catch Me Daddy plus much, much more, from 18th February to 1st March

It’s almost time once more for the Glasgow Film Festival, and once again, its programmers have put together a cracking selection of films, including a few Film4 favourites. We’re delighted to have backed Debbie Tucker Green’s drama Second Coming, which receives its Scottish premiere at the festival. Starring Nadine Marshall and Idris Elba, it follows a tight family unit navigating their way through life in the aftermath of an unexplained pregnancy.

Second Coming

Second Coming

Also on a Film4 note, Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy will play the festival, following its world premiere at Cannes in 2014. This dark, blisteringly tense thriller about a girl on the run stars award-winning newcomer Sameena Jabeen Ahmed and will be released in UK cinemas on February 27th.

Catch Me Daddy

Catch Me Daddy

Elsewhere, the festival explores Glasgow’s history on film in the Cinema City strand, looking at the way films like Under The Skin have made the most of the city as a location, while fans of classic cinema can revel in the glorious existence of an Ingrid Bergman retrospective.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to finally catching Carol Morley’s follow up to Dreams Of A Life, acclaimed teen hysteria drama The Falling. You can watch the trailer here:

The Glasgow Film Festival runs from 18th February to the 1st March. Click here to download and browse the complete programme.

 

Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

As Louise Osmond’s inspirational documentary about an unlikely group of friends who breed themselves a racehorse is about to premiere at Sundance 2015, Catherine Bray catches up with the director for a quick chat about her inspiration for the film and hopes for Sundance 2015.

Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

Apparently, Dark Horse came out of a desire on Louise Osmond’s part to make “the Rocky of horse documentaries.” It’s quite the pitch, and that’s exactly what she’s achieved. Dark Horse is the rags to riches tale of Dream Alliance, a horse from humble origins that goes on to gallop his way to success on some of the UK’s top racing tracks. The team who backed him weren’t wealthy playboys or landed gentry, but a syndicate from a down-on-its-luck Welsh village who decided to have a bash at succeeding in the so-called “sport of kings.”

Almost unbelievably, they made it. Louise credits much of the mad-cap project’s success to one woman: Jan Vokes is the fearless founder of the syndicate and the woman who first decided to breed a racehorse on a rubbish heap. “Jan is fearless really. In her lovely quiet way, she’s really inspirational. She has that attitude of ‘nope, I’m not going to let my circumstances or anyone else define me and my life.’”

Although the icy mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah, might seem like a bit of a contrast with the lush green Welsh valleys, Louise hopes Sundance audiences will relate to the film. “It’s interesting, our American publicist saw it and he really got it. We hope it’s universal enough that US audiences will see the situation, the place, the context, the village, the valley, and be able to relate it to their own country, place, state. There are a lot of places in US, after the economic crash, facing the same issues as those South Wales villages. And everyone speaks really clearly so hopefully the accents won’t be a problem!”

I can’t wait to hear how the film connects with US audiences at its premiere tomorrow (23rd January) and am also looking forward to interviewing Louise and the rest of her team in more depth closer to the film’s UK release via Picturehouses in April 2015 – watch this space.

Alicia Vikander’s Turing Test

In Ex_Machina, Alicia Vikander plays Ava, the sentient android subject of a Turing Test, required to convince Domhnall Gleeson’s computer programmer Caleb that she possesses a fully functioning artificial intelligence. We thought we’d quickly test Alicia’s humanity using six of the questions Ava and Caleb exchange during the film…

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander

1.       When did you learn to speak?

What language? It’s interesting with language because now I probably speak more English than Swedish and I had a hard time doing my Swedish interviews. I’d forgotten some of the words of my native language. People say “do you think or do you dream in English or Swedish?” but being bilingual, you realize that thoughts are not language. You don’t think in words. If you go to pick up your phone you don’t think “I’m going to pick up my phone now.”

2.       Where would you go now if you could go anywhere?

I would probably say my own bed. I’ve landed in London and been here for three days but I still haven’t been able to see my own flat yet!

3.       Do you have a favourite colour?

Blue.

4.       What makes you nervous?

That people can see right through me. That I can’t hide things.

5.       Are you a good person?

Oh! [laughs] Coming back to what I was nervous about, I guess I don’t want people to see who I really am.

6.       What’s your earliest memory?

It’s so funny with memories trying to figure out if they’re real memories or just created in your own mind, but I have a memory of me walking across a big bridge, I think it’s Christmas, and I see this red man, a man that I’m very scared of, but I’m being told that he’s Santa Claus and he will come and visit us at our home.

Result: Pass. Although she’s such a great actor, we will never know for sure.

 

Ex_Machina is in cinemas 21st January 2015

 

Domhnall Gleeson’s Turing Test

In Ex_Machina, Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, the human component in a Turing Test, tasked with deciding whether Alicia Vikander’s sentient android Ava possesses a fully functioning artificial intelligence indistinguishable from a human. We thought we’d just quickly test Domhnall’s humanity using six of the questions Ava and Caleb exchange during the film…

Domhnall Gleeson

Domhnall Gleeson

 1.       When did you learn to speak?

I believe it was early enough. I think I was two. I know that when I met my younger brother for the first time I said, ‘Oh mam, he’s beautiful.’

2.       Where would you go now if you could go anywhere?

New York.

3.       Do you have a favourite colour?

Blue. That’s the same as Caleb, I think. And then in the end his answer is that he doesn’t actually have a favourite colour because he’s a grownup. So maybe the important thing here is that I actually do have a favourite colour, and it is blue.

4.       What makes you nervous?

People who are certain about everything. That really makes me nervous!

5.       Are you a good person?

That’s the killer. [pause] It’s impossible to know. Caleb says “I think I am”, but he follows it up with, “Yes, I’m a good person,” and I don’t know if I can definitively follow that up. Because we live in a messed up world, and have I done enough for the world that I live in? Probably not. As much as I could? Probably not. So maybe I’m not.

6.       What’s your earliest memory?

I remember having a dream. In our house there were stairs which used to go down and then take a sharp right-angle turn, and I remember having a dream where I could jump from the top step and somehow turn that corner in the air and land on your feet at the bottom. I never remember my dreams. But I remember that dream from when I was pretty young. I’m sure there are previous memories, but I think they’re more based on photographs and created memories, whereas that one I know is a memory of a dream.

Result: Pass. We’re 99% convinced he’s human.

 

Ex_Machina is in cinemas 21st January 2015

 

A postcard from Branchage

02 Oct, 2014 Posted in: Festivals

Film4′s Catherine Bray sends a postcard from a weekend at the Branchage Film Festival, which ran 24th to 28th September 2014.

Branchage is a film festival on the picture postcard perfect island of Jersey, a place so pretty it almost feels a bit wrong. The festival’s name is a sort of play on words – Branchage refers to the ancient law of Jersey which states that if a resident’s hedges or trees hang over into the road when an official with a stick goes around checking, they will be fined. So immediately prior to the biannual inspection, Jersey folk cut their vegetation: that’s branchage. Of course no film could exist without cuts or editing, so it’s a film festival named after the act of cutting.

Branchage (the festival, not the law of the bushes) began in 2008, but has been on hiatus in 2012 and 2013, returning in 2014 to dazzle filmmakers and guests alike with its Famous Five style vistas and distinctive red, white and blue bunting. There’s even a pub called The Smugglers. When I post a picture of my view on Twitter, Telegraph critic Robbie Collin quite justifiably replies “that’s not a view, it’s a biscuit tin.” The island has that quality – it’s real, but it’s a reality that seems unrealistic. It’s incredibly genteel, clean and tidy. People genuinely leave their cars unlocked.

"A biscuit tin"

“A biscuit tin”

The programming itself provides a dose of something a bit edgier. We’re pleased to see Film4 represented three times, with Berberian Sound Studio, Under The Skin and Frank all giving audiences a taste of the range of some of out recent releases. From dreamlike Italian foley artistry, to the impeccably realised visuals of Glasgow seen through alien eyes, to the offbeat charms of Michael Fassbender modelling a giant head, about the only thing you could say these films had in common is that they’re all by highly individual directors working at the top of their respective games: Peter Strickland, Jonathan Glazer and Lenny Abrahamson.

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Elsewhere in the programme, there was a focus on music intersecting with film. The Opening Night Gala saw How We Used To Live play with a live score from indie darlings Saint Etienne. Of particular interest to me was 1922 banned classic Haxan, playing with a new live score. What a pity it clashed with the live wrestling!

Haxan

Haxan

Another thing the festival does well is foregrounding its short films. Rather than keeping the shorts sectioned off in a ghetto frequented mainly by dedicated talent scouts and the short filmmakers themselves, the shorts at Branchage are seen by the most mainstream of audiences, in virtue of being programmed before the features. This ensures they are seen by different audiences – people who wouldn’t necessarily pony up for an event consisting entirely of shorts.

Watching shorts

Watching shorts

Unfortunately I have to leave before Sunday night’s big spectacular: a spectacular 3D mapping lightshow by the iconic Radiophonic Orchestra projected onto a fort in the bay of St Aubin. As I head to the airport, I bump into festival director Chris Bell. How does he feel the return of Branchage went? “We’ve been away for a couple of years so it’s been great to blow off the cobwebs and do it all over again, and it’s been fantastic – Saint Etienne got us off to an incredible and incredibly moving start, and it’s just got better and better. It feels good to be back.”

Visit the Branchage website

 

by Catherine Bray

Catherine is the Editorial Director of Film4 Online. She started out in film journalism in 2004 as staff writer on cult movie magazine Hotdog and is co-producer on teen movie documentary @beyondclueless.

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