Directed by Guy Ritchie (Revolver, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) & starring Will Smith, YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the Disney live-action remake of Aladdin.
What’s It About?
Aladdin, our beloved pickpocket orphan who falls for Princess Jasmine, the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah. To win the princess, Aladdin must do what it takes. Causing him to get tangled with the evil sorcerer Jafa!
Big Picture Film Club recently held its latest Big Picture Talks event featuring none other than investigative journalists, Ben Zand ( BBC’s World’s Most Dangerous Cities) & Seyi Rhodes (Channel 4’s Unreported World).
You can watch parts 1-7 of the event where both of our guests discussed a variety of topics, from their biggest challenges to ethics when making a documentary.
Fresh from its debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, we caught up with French filmmaker, Jenna Suru to discuss her latest film L’Âge d’Or (Golden Age). L’Âge d’Or tells the story of a French-American producer who meets an ambitious French theatre actress in Paris and decide to undertake an artistic project together.
Presh: What was your inspiration for the film? Are there any direct influences from your own upbringing?
Jenna Suru: My upbringing had a major influence on “L’Âge d’Or”. I started acting when I was 8 years old in Paris and 17 years old in Los Angeles. Then I made my final commitment to become a filmmaker and tell stories that will inspire the audience. I opened my feature film company Belle Epoque Films in France in January 2015 as moving to London, where I stayed and produced movies for about 2 years. I’ve put all the best of these inspirations in “L’Âge d’Or”. The film is a period drama set in 1967, a tribute to artists who went to Saint-Tropez in South of France in the 60s to change that world that didn’t work for them.
Saint-Tropez was a very important inspiration to me as a filmmaker to create “L’Âge d’Or”. Discovering this village that used to be a small fishing harbour and became this internationally famous point of gathering has touched my heart. It’s a village like none others, where such great artists from the UK, the US and over the world gathered to create masterpieces, where such movies as “God created women” starring Brigitte Bardot were shot. Filming there and in the 35 exceptional locations of the film was one of the deepest experiences of my artistic life.
The film makes references to the socio-political climate of the time in both the United States and France in the late 60s. How do these pressures affect the decisions Sebastian and Angèle make?
There were many pressures and tensions indeed at the time: the Vietnam war, racism, riots in America and Europe… These pressures tremendously affect the decisions Sebastian and Angèle make in the film. Sebastian and Angèle are a modern tribute to the artists that involved in May 1968, Woodstock, Isle of Wight… to change that world that didn’t work for them.
Sebastian is a penniless Franco-American producer living in Los Angeles, who returns to France in his mother’s footsteps to flee the Vietnam War. He’s convinced that art will enable him to change his life, in this world turning upside down. Angèle is an ambitious theatre actress, who plays in small Parisian theatres in front of empty seats. She’s more ambitious than what the world she’s living in has to offer her. As a woman, she feels she’s mainly asked to become a decent mother rather than pursuing any artistic purpose.
Both desperate to change the world, they decide to embark on an artistic project together, ending up in a little village in the South of France: Saint-Tropez… In this village tinged with artistic revolution and music, the experiences they have together will soon force them to face up to their choices. How far are they willing to go to change this world that doesn’t work for them?
During the 1960s Saint-Tropez had become the go-to destination for the very rich, but also acted as a hub for artists at that period of time and is an important location for the film. How did you go about recreating the feel of 1960s Saint-Tropez?
One of the main key parts of recreating the ’60s was to find the ideal locations for filming. I wanted the locations to be authentic to restore the atmosphere of the 60s. After a lot of research and location scouting, we managed to shoot in the locations that were at the very top of my wishlist. We shot in about 35 exceptional locations across France and USA for the film, including the Bir-Hakeim Bridge near the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Saint-Tropez harbour, etc.
Costumes, hair and make-up also needed to be picked up precisely to match the feel of the 60s. We did a lot of work on props and set design. The house where interior scenes (bedroom, living room, bathroom) and scenes in the garden or pool were shot, was also carefully dressed. Cars were chosen very precisely, all the cars you can see on screen are vintage cars: police car, sports car, 404, DS or Simca, the oldest of them, a Simca Presidency, dating from 1957.
You cited Blues and early Rock & Roll influences like Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed and event the Rolling Stones as key musical influences of the film. How did you go about developing the music for the “L’Âge d’Or”? Will we see some of there music included as well?
Developing the music for “L’Âge d’Or” was a big challenge as the Saint-Tropez of the 60s can’t be recreated without music, which holds a very important place in the film. For “L’Âge d’Or”, I chose songs from the very best artists from that time including Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed… Those who will watch the film will see how important music is, from beginning to end! I created a British band composed of a singer, a guitarist, a drummer, a bassist and a pianist. We recorded the soundtrack in a studio, making sure the musicality would correspond to the musical universe of the film, including the use of Gibson’s guitars from the 60s.
What were your favourite moments of filming?
Filming around Notre-Dame Cathedral for the opening of the Film was very moving. It holds a very special place in my heart, and the Cathedral is specifically mentioned by Sebastian and Angèle in the film. I feel it’s important for us filmmakers to contribute to keeping the memory of those wonderful places, especially considering the recent events.
One of my favourite moments is also the dancing scene in the bar of the Sube Hotel, a privileged place in the harbour of Saint-Tropez since the 19th century. This exceptional location takes us back to the hectic atmosphere of dancing at the time, here on great English rock. There were quite a few dancers involved in this scene which is a tribute to the importance of dancing in the ’60s. The period station and train, where Angèle and Sebastian arrive from Paris, are also very inspiring and authentic. They restored the atmosphere of the vintage railway stations, with a real train from 1967 and a real stationmaster.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
I hope “L’Âge d’Or” will help the audience find answers to their questions about changing the world on their own scale. The film suggests some ideas of how you can bring change as an artist, which is a tough journey and also often requires putting aside your personal success. The Beatles perfectly exemplify how artists managed to bring change in the 60s, for instance when they refused to perform in front of a segregated audience in Jacksonville in the USA in September 1964.
I often think about all of those who just like me are reading the news in the morning and are reminded everyday of how crazy this world is turning. The film suggests some ways to bring change through the characters of Angèle and Sebastian and encourages the young generation to take action.
L’Âge d’Or will be released in France and UK late 2019
The Last Tree is a coming of age indie-drama from British-Nigerian writer/director, Shola Amoo. The film had its European debut at the Sundance London Film Festival.
What’s It About?
The Last Tree tells the story of Femi, a British boy of Nigerian heritage. After having a happy childhood with his foster carer in rural Lincolnshire, his biological mother moves him to London to be with her. Upon moving to London, Femi struggles with his own sense of identity and developing a relationship with his mother. Writer/director, Shola Amoo described the film as a semi-autobiographical account of his own life.
Break It Down
The film is ambitious in the story it aims to tell. It is broken down in three distinct stages: part one, primarily taking place in Lincolnshire, details the life of Femi as a child; part two, takes place in London, with Femi as a 16-year-old as a teenager. This makes up the bulk of the film, the final part of the film takes place in Lagos. Despite the film being structured this way, the pacing of the film feels just right, guiding the audience along in a way that makes sense, but allows the viewer to appreciate the true weight of Femi’s journey.
The core narrative running through the film is Femi’s relationship with his mother (Gbemi Ikumelo) and how that shapes his sense of self. As a young boy, Femi (Tai Golding), enjoys relative stability with his foster carer, Mary (Denise Black). The reintroduction of his mother and the interaction between all three characters brilliantly sets up the emotional and cultural barriers between mother and son. By the middle of the film, Femi (now played by Sam Adewunmi) is hardened from his own childhood experiences, thus the relationship between him and his mother becomes much more adversarial. This makes for some of the film’s most gripping moments. Both actors who play Femi prove themselves to be great casting choices, with both delivering impressive performances and are supported by a great cast.
In aiming to tell such a complex culturally-specific story, director & screenwriter, Shola Amoo has used his own lived experience to draw upon, this brings with it a level of authenticity and nuance which turns what would be a ‘good’ film into a brilliant film. It’s very believable, therefore relatable. The Last Tree never feels over-dramatised either, which in this instance only serves to bolster the film’s authenticity. The film saves its most dramatic moments only when it is warranted and actually serves the purpose of the film. Additionally, the film raises and tackles some very important questions around culpability, family legacy and healing. Much of this pay off comes in the final 20 minutes of the film, which takes place in Lagos.
An Extra Touch
A key highlight of the film is the film’s cinematography, which was handled by Stil Williams (Kubrick by Candlelight, Gone Too Far). From the golden ethereal lighting of his childhood scenes in Lincolnshire to the striking red lighting and close-up shots in the some of The Last Tree’s grittier scenes in London, the cinematography perfectly compliments the narrative of the film. With the addition of some great use of sound design, handled by Segun Akinola, The Last Tree truly has a style of its own.
The film is one of the best portrayals to date of the British-Nigerian experience and in many respects breaks new ground in the depiction of being black in Britain. Many within the diaspora will have first and second-hand points of references to throughout the film. Nonetheless, The Last Tree is a must-watch for all audiences who appreciate a great coming of age story.
Independent British comedy, I Love My Mum tells the story of mother and son who inadvertently get shopped in a container from their UK home to Morocco. Without money or documents and still in their pyjamas, they need to find a way back to the UK. The film is produced by the growing independent company, Camelot Films, the team behind 2018’s indie-thriller Winter Ridge alongside Amunet Productions. We spoke with Alberto Sciamma, the film’s writer & director, to find out what fans can expect.
Presh: The film takes the viewer through Morocco, Italy, Spain & France. What were your favourite locations to film in?
Alberto Sciamma: All of them were great locations; the sea and port in Italy, mountains and gorges in the Pyrenees, all the way from Marrakech to Tanger, even shooting in Tilbury was great fun. Each location presented a different set of challenges, but I was lucky to be working with two fantastic Producers; Alexa Waugh and Matt Hookings. Alexa coordinated all the shooting and travelling etc, and she managed to make it all work – it was nuts.
But the real beauty was that in each place we worked with great actors. In Spain with Aida Folch, who plays the ‘love’ interest to Ron; she is a natural and very incisive actor. Dominique Pinon and Tim Downie in UK; both such great actors and with very different styles of comedy. And Frank Laboeuf and Sara Martins in Cataluña, both brilliant at improvisation and both great to be with.
We shot all the time as we moved from place to place, it was non stop, always chasing the peculiar or the unexpected, we invited accidents to happen, so we could get the spontaneous feel I was after.
The movie is explosive and raw, and to capture that energy the shoot had to be the same, and it was; we were running away from the police in Morocco as Tommy French forgot his driving license in London, had accidents with the old Mercedes car he had to drive — and Kierston endured hours of cold water and jellyfish stings…
To captured some moments it was just me and Fabio Paolucci, our DOP, climbing endless mountains to get a few seconds of footage.
I guess each of us in the team remember one of the locations with special love — depending on where we got ill.
At one point in Morocco, everyone was down; how we managed to get those scenes done, well, that was a miracle — I mean; an actor had to hold the boom, sound had to assist the director of photography, and I believe our little dog was focus pulling… it got feverishly crazy.
How much of Ron & Olga’s journey is a metaphor of British peoples relationship with Europe? Or was that not a consideration in making the film?
Ok… that’s a big question, and I would rather go to Alton Towers… but here we go:
Sometimes we talk about Europe as if it was a single homogenous entity, and it’s not. Europe is fragmented and diverse. Just look at Spain where I was born, opinions and views and attitudes change from region to region. Europe as a solid entity does not exist, or does it?
Ron and Olga are out of their comfort zone, they are fish out of water; dropped from their British made sofa into a new universe. They have issues communicating and adapting to their new surroundings — but at the end of the day they don’t care, they plough on. That sense of self-absorbing attitude fascinates me — and let’s be real, you just need to go to Magaluz (Magaluf) for a few days to experience it, or hear plenty of politicians talk about the ‘continent’; that world outside that does not speak English.
But that same attitude is everywhere, it’s not British owned. That intrinsic animosity is universal, each country tends to look at the rest with that same sense of occasional mistrust. Regardless how much we hide it behind a veneer of worldliness and sophistication… we all can be prattish; insular people with the same preconceptions and insecurities.
But for me Ron and Olga are heroic! Protected by their Teflon like skin they walk the world, like crusaders, and I just bloody love it… it’s stereotypical but so what? Stereotypes are signals, basic iconography that simplifies the world outside; regardless of how ‘far-off mark’ such iconography may be – it tell us which toilet to use.
So, to answer your question. It’s their journey a metaphor for how we view and communicate with the ‘world outside’?… Benidorm anyone? Let’s go get legless, I’m paying…
Ron (played by Tommy French) & Olga’s (Played by Keirston Wareing) relationship is key to the plot. How did you go about getting the right chemistry between lead actors?
The chemistry happened naturally, it was there from the start. First, we contacted Kierston, she is utterly fresh and strong and very gutsy. Then, knowing Kierston was playing the mum, we looked for a Ron – and we found Tommy French. Or God sent him to us…
We put them together in a room and a second later I knew I had Ron and Olga. I remember I asked them to sing ‘Always Blowing Bubbles’ together… they did. It worked perfectly as they both sounded like strangled seagulls- that sort of high pitched sound they do… so I smiled, they were Mum and son!
You’ve mentioned how your own experience of growing up in Spain but living in England for most of your life serves as a lot of the inspiration for the film. Did you feel you identified more with Ron & Olga or actually the people that Ron & Olga meet as they travel throughout Europe?
I am Ron and Olga. I remember when I first came to England, many many years ago, I fell in love with the place, maybe because I couldn’t understand a single word and that sense of not belonging was actually quite precious, and still with me. But the character I identify more with is the little fluffy dog. He yaps and yaps drinks too much and drowns in the pool – only to be resuscitated by Olga at the end. Yep, I certainly identify with that little lost creature…
In ILMM there are no good guys and bad guys, it’s a naive movie, simple in its core and I hope sincere in its absurdity. I believe my experiences are embedded in all the characters, but not even intentionally, it just happens as you write it and shape it.
Are there personal stories from your own childhood and relationship with your parents that influenced the direction of the film?
All experiences affect what you write. I was once living with a friend of mine in his house, he lived there with his mum – he was in his forties. Circumstances of life took me there; from my house in London to a lovely inflatable bed on the floor, for quite a few months…
I remember arriving very very upset to their house, I opened the door and got in; in front of me stood his mom. Seeing me all shattered and sad and teary she stepped towards me (and please take into consideration she is a very large lady) and she said:
“you want to be sad about something you little prat?! Have a look at this then!” Suddenly I saw an endless landscape of Rubenesque flesh wobbling as she removed her nighty, like a magician revealing a rabbit. My sadness disappeared. I was saved. I realised I had met ‘Olga’ for the first time… Life’s a comedy, so I wrote it.
The film is intended to be a light-hearted comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with this in mind, how did you also go about referencing the current ‘refugee crisis’ within Europe in the film?
Ron and Olga suddenly become reverse-immigrants, utterly lost and trying to find their way back home, but Ron and Olga don’t look at the world with any Intellectual curiosity, they could as well be sitting at home arguing about silly stuff.
There is a scene in the movie in which Ron an Olga must cross from Morocco to Spain in an immigrants dinghy. It’s a difficult scene, a scene that walks a moral knife edge — but I felt it important as the scene is somehow a mirror to our attitudes. We tend to act as Ron and Olga do; we want to help but create chaos instead. The scene is as pathetic as our approach to such matters.
We need a concerted global effort to resolve such devastating human crisis, but you look around and you see a lot of posturing, here and in Spain and Italy and everywhere: as individuals, we talk about it, feel bad for a sec… and then go for a pint.
I Love My Mum is out in cinemas in the UK on 31st May 2019
Layered in hidden messages, the story begins on three friends as they embark on a new venture in podcasting. A humble setting for conversation quickly yields tension-filled exchanges between the friends, opening a sequence of events that reveal secrets in their respective relationships.
Starring: Ashley Bannerman (The Infiltrator, Turn Up Charlie); Gia Ré (Eli); Michael Akinsulire (Killing Eve); Stephanie Levi-John (The Spanish Princess); CJ Beckford (Victoria).
Story: Olan Collardy and Leon Mayne Writer / Director: Leon Mayne Producer: Charlotte Toon
Written & directed by Jordan Peele, YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the blockbuster horror “Us”.
What’s it about?
Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that her past will catch up to her. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival.
On the 17th December 2018, London-based writer / director, Tomisin Adepeju held a screening event which may very well act as a catalyst for a new movement: the rise of Nigerian-British Filmmakers.
The event featured screenings from fellow Nigerian-British filmmakers, Candace Oneyeama & Adeyemi Michael. Following the screening, there was a rich and vibrant discussion on issues related to cultural identity in filmmaking, film funding and connecting with audiences, specifically among the Nigerian & African diaspora communities in the UK.
We spoke with Tomisin Adepeju and Candice Onyeama within this emerging movement to see what the future holds for Nigerian-British filmmakers.
Presh [BPFC]:What is the inspiration behind putting together the event “Re-imagining Nigerian-British Cinema”? What did you feel you got out of the event?
Tomisin: I have been thinking about putting together an event like this for a long time. My own personal growth and development as a filmmaker coupled with my discovery of brilliant work by talented filmmakers like Adeyemi Michael, Shola Amoo, Destiny Ekaragha, Joseph A. Adesunloye, Bola Agbaje, Akinola Davis Jnr (aka Crack Stevens) Candace Onyeama, William Boyd and so many others, undoubtedly confirmed that there was a profound movement that ties all of us together. My primary motivation for putting on the event was to really highlight what I feel is one of the most exciting, cinematic movement that is currently happening in this country. Since graduating from film school three years ago, I discovered that there was a growing crop of filmmakers telling stories that were very similar to the work I was doing, the films they made were directly influenced by their culture, roots and identity as Nigerian-British individuals. The movement is culturally specific but within that exists a broad range of bold, diverse stories that beautifully captures and reflects the Nigerian, Diasporic experience.
Both your short films “Appreciation” & “The Good Son” are culturally-specific in how they deal with aspects of community/family life of the Nigerian diaspora within the UK. How has this approach been received by the diaspora community? And has this response been different to the wider mainstream audience?
Tomisin: I have been incredibly humbled by the reaction of my work by the Nigerian Diaspora community, the response and feedback has been positive. I have really tried to create work that speaks directly to that specific cultural experience. Also, the fact that audiences have reacted so positively has really justified the type of stories I’m telling. It’s wonderful to know that there is an audience that want to see more films that acutely explores the lives of Nigerians in the diaspora; films that feature characters boldly speaking the languages; Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa. Regarding the response of the wider mainstream audiences, I always utilise the work of one of my cinematic heroes; Yasujiro Ozu as a reference point, his work has been widely celebrated and praised by critics and audiences. He made films that beautifully captured the nuances of his culture and roots, his work celebrated Japanese culture and its way of life, his stories transcended race and are incredibly relatable. Thus, I feel that if the wider, mainstream audience can relate to Ozu’s stories, they can equally relate to the stories I am telling. One that a viewer can relate to regardless of their culture and background, just like Ozu, I want to tell human stories.
Is there a feature film in the works? What do you have planned for the future?
Tomisin: Yes there is, I am currently prepping my debut feature film which I am planning to shoot this summer, its an adaptation of my short, The Good Son (Omo Daada), I am very excited about realising that project. I am also developing several TV projects as well, one of them is a period drama that follows a young middle class Nigerian man who moves from Lagos to London in 1867.
Presh [BPFC]: Within the U.K we’ve seen Afrobeats music have some mainstream crossover success, however, films & TV programmes exploring British-Nigerian life haven’t been explored in any great depth, why do you think this is?
It’s difficult to pin it down on a single cause but there is a shortage of mainstream films and tv programmes exploring black lives in general in Britain. Also, black screen representation that we do find tends to be monolithic rather than reflective of the rich diversity of African diasporic cultures that make up Britain today. So Nigerian-British, Ghanaian-British, Somalian-British and a host of other African diasporan experiences don’t get the on-screen exploration they deserve. However, the short film and indie landscape is different, with Nigerian-British and African descent filmmakers pushing to get our stories out there with whatever resources we have. We’re taking ownership and telling our own authentic stories of African diasporic Britain and getting it out to audiences through festivals, online, our own curated events, basically in any way that we can and there is an audience for it. So if the mainstream British film and TV industry is really interested in diversifying our screens and catering fora large and ever-growing section of their audience, they’ll have to catch up soon.
In your short film “Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest” you made an important decision to use a mix of both English and Igbo. What effect does that have on the tone of the film?
In all my films so far including my first film HUSH, I incorporate both Igbo and English. Most diasporans can relate to the feeling of living between two or more cultures not just physically but also linguistically. We often talk about ‘code-switching’, using our accents or languages to navigate different social and cultural spaces, with a lot of us having the ‘home’ language or accent we use with our families. As the protagonists in both my films are Nigerian-British, it was important for me to bring audiences, not just visually but aurally, into their diasporic worlds.
Are there aspects of the Nollywood film industry that British-Nigerians (and British-Africans) as a whole can learn from to improve how those stories are told and released?
Absolutely! I’ve got a lot of admiration for the hustle, boldness and beautiful audacity of Nollywood. Its pioneers are visionaries who were self-taught and with very little resources, managed to transform their dreams to a multi-billion dollar industry. I think that entrepreneurial spirit and daring to think outside the box, without constantly seeking the validation of the industry is something we can definitely learn from in the diaspora. Moaning less would be great too, but I think unfortunately we’re still a bit too British for that.
Another thing about the Nollywood industry is that it unapologetically speaks to its own demographic – Nigerians – and it works. We need to learn as diaspora filmmakers to start making works that can cater to diaspora audiences rather than fretting about the ‘outside gaze’ and falsely believing our experiences may be too niche to be understood. I’m not from the American West and have never experienced a rodeo but I can tell you what it is from all the Hollywood films I’ve watched – strong human stories will always resonate universally no matter who the community is. I also believe that we are very fortunate as diaspora filmmakers to be able to access two cultures and two separate film industries, so let’s use it.
Director, Destiny Ekaragha has also served as a trailblazer for this movement, she’s only the third black woman to have directed a feature-length film that was given theatrical distribution in the UK. This was for her 2014 British-Nigerian comedy Gone Too Far.
Filmmaker, Adeyemi Michael has found recent success with his short film Entitled, which was commissioned by Channel 4. The London-based filmmaker has most recently held an exhibiton screening of his film in Lagos, Nigeria. Highlighting what can be achieved by having access to both Nigerian and UK audiences.
Shola Amoo released his debut feature A Moving Image in 2016. Shola’s second feature film The Last Tree, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, has already been picked up by Picturehouse and will be released later this year. The film is a coming of age drama following a British boy of Nigerian heritage as he moves to London.
Whilst there is still a long way to go to in truly breaking through the “glass ceiling”, this crop of Nigerian-British filmmakers are a welcome sign of the positive change that’s happening within the UK film industry.
As part of its global expansion, Netflix is investing in both original programming and internet infrastructure in Africa. And with Nigeria’s Nollywood being the second largest film industry by volume (3rd by revenue), it seems likely that they’ll be an increasing demand for filmmakers who can appeal directly to the burgeoning Nigerian and Pan-African film markets, but also whose work can tap into the African diaspora both in North America and Europe. This means this movement of Nigerian-British filmmakers are in a position to potentially take advantage of upcoming changes in the Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) sector. Particularly with the emergence of Disney+ & Apple TV+streaming platforms companies will need to become more inclusive in their programming to remain competitive.