Robin Campillo, the great French director of 120 BPM, co-wrote the screenplay from his personal experiences with ACT UP Paris during the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990’s. For his autobiographical RED ISLAND, Campillo’s screenplay gets inspired by his own childhood, which takes place in the early 1970’s.
Eight-year-old Thomas (Charlie Vauselle) lives with his family on a French Air Force base in Madagascar. It is the perfect paradise for a child to grow up having many children from similar backgrounds to play with, but Thomas is a loner at heart and often fantasises about his favourite comic book heroine Fantômette. At school, their teacher tells them that the island of Madagascar is practically the same size as France but with a slightly different shape, and at home they live their lives in a very French way hosting parties with many visitors and guests coming and going. Even though Madagascar has recently won its independence from France, it is evident from the dissatisfaction of the locals that the past colonial wounds are still as fresh…
Camillo recreates the early 70’s and the whole post-colonial world most effectively and it all feels very authentic and real. Campillo’s childhood memories are brought vividly back to life as the action here is witnessed through the eyes of a sensitive 8-year-old boy, and in Vauselle, he has found his perfect alter ego.
A rewarding experience!

Kaouther Ben Hania’s immensely powerful documentary tells the story of Olfa Hamrouni and her four daughters. It is a harrowing story and the veteran Tunisian director has also hired a few actors to complete the story – an actress to portray Olfa in the heavy dramatic scenes, two young actresses to play Ghofrane and Rahma, the eldest daughters “who were taking by the wolves” as Olfa says. Also, an actor plays several roles – the father, the lover, and a police officer, while the youngest daughters Eya and Tayssir play themselves.
It is a harrowing story immaculately written and directed by Ben Hania, whose sensitive direction allows her players to speak with honesty and grace.
A strong and deeply moving film very much worthy of its Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature Film.

Another unmissable documentary from Kevin Macdonald, the Oscar winning filmmaker of ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, TOUCHING THE VOID and WITNEY. Here he follows the career of celebrated fashion designer John Galliano, whose rise to fame came to a spectacular fall from grace following an incident in 2011. Galliano was caught on camera shouting anti-Semitic and racist insults at a couple of strangers at Café La Perle in Paris, and even though he was totally pissed out of his mind, that was no excuse for such behaviour and was immediately asked to leave Dior.
The film also examines Galliano’s life from his humble beginnings until his remarkable success and is recognised as one of the most influential fashion designers of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Macdonald’s brilliant film uses rare archive material and features interviews with Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Penelope Cruz amongst others.

This compelling true story is the perfect companion piece to the recent thrilling sports drama NYAD. The story takes place in 1927 and follows Mercedes Gleitze (Kristen Callaghan), the first British woman to swim the English Channel. Her immense battle was not just for swimming the channel, but also to get support from a hugely bureaucratic as well as xenophobic society. Even though Gleitze was born British, her German origins cause mistrust and prejudice amongst the stuffy society of the twenties, a fact that makes her achievement even more glorious.
Writer/director Elliott Hasler shoots this engaging film in monochrome and uses colour for the swimming sequences. The dialogue doesn’t always flow naturally, and it occasionally feels like a drama documentary, but the strength of the story makes this quite watchable.

This marks the remarkable feature film debut of writer/director Adura Onashile, who tells the story of eleven-year-old Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu) and her mother Grace (Deborah Lukumuena). Grace only goes out to work as a cleaner but forbids her daughter to go anywhere. It is a struggle living confined to their apartment and their only escape is their past memories…
The main premise brings to mind the recent RAGING GRACE and the rather thin storyline relies heavily on the quiet dignity of the performances.

When I first saw this disappointing film last year, I found Liam Neeson to be well cast as the eponymous hero in Neil Jordan’s film noir crime thriller and on a second viewing, I enjoyed more the strong production values. But even the ace cast that includes Jessica Lange and Diane Kruger as a mother daughter femme fatale duo, as well as Danny Houston as the slimy villain can’t rescue this otherwise dull, slow paced film.
William Monahan’ script, based on John Neville’s novel “The Black-Eyed Blonde”, follows the story of private detective Philip Marlowe, assigned by a glamorous heiress to find her missing ex-lover…
All the ingredients are here to make a perfect film noir, but sadly it lacks thrills and suspense. At least there is the winning chemistry between Jessica with her ROB ROY leading man, and their scenes together are a real joy, but not enough to save the day. (Blu-ray disc from Dazzler Media)

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