Why ‘Before the Flood’ is the Most Important Documentary You Will Watch in 2016

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So, I saw this incredible documentary at its European premier last month at the BFI London Film Festival and Mr. DiCaprio was there (eek!).

It’s a must see for everyone – emphasis on everyone. There is no target audience. As long as you’re old enough to understand that our planet is beautiful and us human beings will collectively be the result of its demise (unless we pull our socks up) then you must watch it.

So this film, essentially, is to encourage us self-obsessed, materialistic, capitalism-loving homo sapiens to step it up and protect our home. Thats the most pivotal thing to remember – earth is our home.

The documentary follows Leonardo DiCaprio around the world as he observes the effects of climate change, how these tragedies are the result of capitalism and how they can be avoided. Unfortunately, so much damage has been done already that it cannot be reversed, however, we CAN prevent further destruction.

Just like Cowspiracy which DiCaprio produced, this documentary is full of beautiful frames of nature and delivers knowledge on how our actions are affecting the planet. It will terrify you, make you feel guilty for all the things you should have been doing so far to save our environment and (hopefully) encourage you from here on out to make a change.

It is entirely ludicrous to suggest that climate change is a conspiracy and if you have not yet been convinced, then Leo will convince. He guides us around the world to some of the most magical and delightful of places to look at. These images are contrasted with not so lovely ones. The destruction of forests due to palm oil, melting polar ice caps and distressed animals who’s homes have been burned to the ground.

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DiCaprio engages in interviews with a variety of the worlds most influential people, such as Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Making them aware of the situation and expressing the need for change. Before the Flood also features a glimpse of his time while filming The Revenant – the location of the final shoot had to be altered due to – guess what – global warming. The snow melted away (and it really shouldn’t have) so Alejandro G. Iñárritu marched down to the South Pole with a pissed of Tom Hardy and Leo chanting “I TOLD YOU ALL”.

It’s incredible watching a man who has such a huge spectrum of audiences use his status to educate and motivate society, but this film will also show you how Leo is just a humble man who adores animals and is fascinated by nature.

To conclude; have shorter showers, recycle, DON’T purchase anything with palm oil, become vegetarian, or even vegan – just do something. Lets look after our home, look after our animals and look after ourselves.

Before the Flood is available to watch online for free and Cowspiracy is available on Netflix. There’s no excuse – go go go!

 

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A Dark Song: Review (BFI London Film Festival)

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Irish film director Liam Gavin debuted his new horror, A Dark Song, at the BFI London Film Festival.

If you’re a big horror fan or you’re just feeling a little bit daring this halloween, A Dark Song is one to check out.

Sophia (Catherine Walker) has lost her son and is determined to make contact with him through the darkest and most dangerous of ways. She approaches alcoholic and occultist, Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram) who makes her a promise that if she hires him (and pays A LOT of cash) he will fulfil her wish by performing a fatal ritual.

I had high hopes at the start of A Dark Song. Two characters, one big spooky house, creepy happenings, promising premise – simple. However, it takes a while for anything to really happen. Mr. Solomon (as he demands to be called) has that dominant Christian Grey vibe, but minus the dashing looks and add lots of alcohol and a cockney accent. He makes promises and seems to be highly educated about ‘the other side’, however, when there is little response from the spirits the relationship between him and Sophia results in petty bickering and awkwardness.

The cinematography has been done very well. The beautiful scenery surrounding the house is used to its full advantage and the detailing within, of candles, books, cracks and drawn on symbols is highly satisfying.

There are a series of magical arrangements within this film, and during any solid action the delivery from the director and actors is chilling.

Unfortunately, the grand finale is not so grand. Being the only sequence which features any CGI, it feels misplaced and forced. Sophia begins to loose her mind towards the end, camera angels and compositions become messy (which looks great to the eye) however, this is accompanied by a flat and over-the-top ending.

 

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Nocturnal Animals: Review (BFI London Film Festival)

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Fashion designer-turned-director, Tom Ford, screened his second ever feature Nocturnal Animals at the BFI London Film Festival this autumn. Based on the 1993 novel, Tony and Susan, Ford explores three essential themes; art, fiction and love.

I was beyond impressed by Ford’s directing. He has created an eloquent film which distinctively masters two very different worlds – fashion and cinema.

Susan Marrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner, receives a transcript of her ex-husbands novel, who she hasn’t been in contact with for 11 years. With an emblematic, vengeful narrative, the story, titled ‘Nocturnal Animals’ begins to haunt Susan. As she starts to question her life choices, the audience revisit her memories. There are three parallel narratives within this film; one being the present, another being the past, which shows the coming together and breaking apart of Susan’s marriage. The final being the novel. This film explores the violence of love and how the ache of a betrayal in relationships can lead to art. Susan cheats on her husband and aborts his baby without him knowing and Tony’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) revenge encourages the rage to put pen to paper and finally write an eerie thriller.

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The cast have been picked impeccably to portray each character, considerably Amy Adams. She is chic and graceful with a sadness in her eyes that Ford captures in every single frame. The directors expertise in design and style shine through the use of his personal techniques, which portray each character through a creative structure. Susan is a painting, Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a story.

My favourite quote from the film is – “Our world is so much easier than the real world”. This sums up Nocturnal Animals which depicts a culture of wealth, style and knowledge, but not necessarily happiness.

Aesthetics identify where the film is with contemporary arts, while the narrative explores how art shapes life. This movie within a movie has style and suspense, with an unforgettable opening sequence. Ford is honest and a visionary and will leave you feeling somber and doused in his new fragrance.

 

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Bleed For This: Review (BFI London Film Festival)

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Ben Younger’s first film since Prime (2005) unfolds the inconceivable, true story of World Champion Boxer Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza.

Miles Teller portrays one of the biggest comebacks in sports history, on screen. Vinny’s win of two world title fights shoots him to stardom. However, after a near fatal car accident – which leaves his neck broken – the boxer is told he can never walk, let alone fight, again.

The film follows a generic formula for its genre. Teller’s character starts on a high – boxing and gambling with a beautiful woman by his side. He then faces a knockout (yay for boxing puns), but with soulful strength and determination Vinny returns to the ring just over a year after his tragedy. Although the premise is typical, this movie is memorable because of its incredible, true to life narrative and the compelling characters. Younger successfully creates a working class backdrop of Vinny’s home life, family and upbringing – which seems to be the driving force for his unwillingness to give up on the one thing he lives for.

There camera’s positioning is intimate and there are many moments during Vinny’s recovery that make us wince and pull a double-chin face because of the clicks and cracks that come from his body. During fight scenes, Teller moves and swings like a true boxer. When first introduced to Vinny, we experience a witty and sophisticated bad boy. After the car accident, his spirit changes and he beings to loose himself. Teller authentically portrays the transition of a man with no hope, become a man with drive, courage and discipline.

Aaron Eckhart depicts an award-deserving performance; alcoholic coach Kevin Rooney who assists Vinny throughout his journey and pushes him further than his father could bare to.

You will feel every single punch.

 

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American Honey: Review (BFI London Film Festival)

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Dare I say that American Honey was my favourite film of the festival season? The cast are exceptional and Andrea Arnold’s lucid and poetic filmmaking charms us for 2 hours and 43 minutes. Arnold has created an epic look at young life, love and truth – and how it navigates through America from dingy motels to dirty truck stops.

Star (Sasha Lane), an adolescent girl from a troubled home, runs away with a raunchy gang of magazine-sellers who travel across America distributing subscriptions from door to door. Each member of the gang are hand picked by female boss Krystal (Riley Keough), in hopes of an escape from their distressing roots.

It doesn’t take long for Star to adapt to the hard-partying and law-bending ways of her new environment and a relationship develops with Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who takes advantage of her youthful naivety. A twenty first century fairytale unfolds and we’re captivated by a fickle and exciting young love. Their relationship is unstable, twisted and intense, and at times they’re brought together with anger, just as much as attraction. Arnold keeps up her cinematic style throughout their intimate scenes, with camera concentration on breathing, eye contact and the weight of skin on skin.

LaBeouf’s performance is nothing like we’ve seen of him in some time (maybe his mojo has been hiding away in that singular dreadlock?) Jake is the chief salesman and Krystal’s prize possession; her urban background is not far different from Stars which creates a don’t-give-a-fuck mentality. If you don’t make Krystal money, you’re back on the streets – live by this. The arrival of Star causes Jake to slack, resulting in bad blood with her new boss. However, although Star is no saleswoman, she still manages to make money via her own reckless means. Most which are uncomfortable to watch, but honest of this lifestyle.

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There is no extravagant plot twist in this narrative but rather layers of conflict that construct the coming of age drama. Some audiences are criticising the length of the film, however, Robbie Ryan’s cinematography glazes the grit of each frame with honey and sunlight, making it a delight to watch, regardless of the running time. The images are aquatinted with a soundtrack that won’t leave you for weeks. American Honey is a lyrical, grim reality. It’s irresistible and a must see.

 

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A United Kingdom: Review (BFI London Film Festival)

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Rosamund Pyke and David Oyelowo fall truly, madly and deeply in love in the headlining gala feature, A United Kingdom. With a black female director, this movie is one to see and one to celebrate.

Seretse Khama, the Prince of Botswana causes outrage amongst nations when he marries Ruth Williams; a white woman and typist from London. Amma Astante unfolds this story with grace and consideration and both Pyke and Oyelowo are exceptional in portraying an interracial marriage during Africa’s colonial past.

The pair meet at an event for a British charity who’s intentions are to convert Africans to Christianity. Ruth is merely a plus one to her sister and doesn’t seem to have given much consideration about Africa. Seretse catches her eye and she admires his passionate and captivating dialogue from afar. Once he see’s her, their love affair begins. The blooming stage of their relationship is told quite briskly as the movie places focus on the relationship after their marriage and once Britain and Africa have reacted to their wedlock.

Ruth’s unconditional love results in her move to Botswana, leaving her family behind and a father who has disowned her. Her husband is the heir to his uncle and must fulfil his duty as the next leader of the tribe. They’re not welcomed with open arms and Seretse’s uncle moves to another village with his men after the couples refusal to divorce. With powerful and evoking speeches, Seretse begins to gain support from some members of the tribe, as well as make us viewers excited for the positive change he is implementing in society.

Ruth’s character development is particularly interesting; the way she adapts to African culture and lives independently on her own in Botswana, after her husband is banished from his own birth place and remains in London for a year. Astante doesn’t encourage a focus on African village life however, and we mainly only see Ruth looking lost in her new home.

Seretse and Ruth’s relationship receives much grief from the white colonists living in Africa and they participate a considerable amount in the narrative, nonetheless, there is no expansion as to how they embrace or disregard African culture.

Aside from this, A United kingdom is a sincere film and Astante has succeeded in bringing this important segment of political history to the screen. It is also important to note the success of Astante with her feature. The gender gap in Hollywood regarding female directors has shocking statists and when considering women of colour, that data plummets even further. A United Kingdom is a step in the right direction for the BFI London Film Festival, as well as cinema all round.

Here is an interesting article featuring Amma Asante, discussing the change which needs to develop within the film industry.

 

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Zoology: Review (BFI London Film Festival 2016)

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Tis the season for film lovers to unite in London and immerse ourselves in fresh cinema. I’m excited! As always, there is such a wide range of films and the first viewing I attended was of Zoology or Zoologiya – its original Russian title.

Natasha, a middle-aged zoo worker who is still living with her mother sprouts a cat like tail and becomes the talk of a post-communist Russian town. From first impressions, Natasha is depicted as a lonely, virginal and lifeless soul; her female coworkers exclude her and her only friends seem to be her elderly mother and their cat. She looks frail and frumpy. A rumour spreads around the community that a woman has embodied the devil and grown a tail. Nobody knows who she is aside from Natasha, a doctor and radiologist. Apprehensive at first, these rumour frighten her, however, eventually she begins to play along with them to her own amusement, telling the gossip girls that “if you look into her eyes you will drop dead, right there and then”.

Natasha lives in a society were female expression and individuality isn’t celebrated. She is oppressed, frightened and desperate to remove this new aspect of her identity. While being sent back and forth by her doctor and radiologist, Peter, she develops a relationship with this man, who makes her feel confident and sexy.

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Natasha’s affair with Peter evolves as the relationship with her new facet does too, this results in a makeover and new image; choppy black hair, distinctive makeup and short skirts. Her confidence elevates as she begins to embody a seductive and promiscuous psyche. During a night in town with Peter, Natasha and her tail become public knowledge when it slips out from under her dress while she is dancing in a Russian club. The club crowd run away screaming, leaving broken glasses and a hurt Natasha on an empty dance floor.

Writer/director Ivan I. Tverdovskiy effectively creates a society around the protagonist where the humans behave like zoo animals – however, after her secret is finally exposed, Natasha is the one that is mistreated like an animal.

 

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