Queen of Katwe (dir: Mira Nair, 2016, cert PG)
Whilst the Disney production juggernaut pummels the viewer with its ubiquitously violent and saccharin sentimentality, what saves the film is the true story upon which it is based managing to shine through the unnecessary Hollywood sheen. Phiona Mutesi is a Ugandan chess champion who became the first titled player in Ugandan chess history. That she managed to achieve this whilst growing up in the rampant poverty of the Kampalan slums is nothing short of extraordinary. Newcomer Madina Nalwanga is excellent as Phiona and there is some beautiful footage of Kampala and its surroundings.
Mon 21 Nov to Thu 28 Nov at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8 macbirmingham.co.uk/

I, Daniel Blake (dir: Ken Loach, 2016, cert 15)
Loach is angry and so will you be after viewing the tribulations of the titular Daniel as he strives to negotiate the bureaucratic behemoth of state welfare. No sitting on the fence here and the message is certainly hammered home but when the rhetoric of the right wing press is likewise hammered into popular consciousness maybe it’s the only way. An important antidote to the vile class stereotyping so beloved of the Daily Mail and its ilk and the most relevant film you will see this year. You have been told.
Tue 22 Nov and Thu 24 Nov various times at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70 www.theelectric.co.uk/

Behind The Curtain: The Turin Horse + Q&A (dir: Bela Tarr, 2011, cert 15)
Revered film maker Bela Tarr’s meditations on the very essence of life and our place in it make for some of the most complex and life affirming pieces of cinematic art ever realised. The Hungarian director has stated this will be his last film. In 1889 Friedrich Nietzsche tried to save a horse from a horrendous whipping shortly before his crumbling sanity was exposed. This is the imagined story of that horse.
Thu 24 Nov 5.30pm at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8 macbirmingham.co.uk/

Your Name (dir: Makoto Shinkai, 2016, cert 12A)
Hailed as the natural successor to Miyazaki, Mikato Shinkai still has a long way to go to fill those enormous boots but his latest film Your Name is a good start. A beautifully rendered piece of cinema, the sweet and thoroughly naughty body swap comedy has become a sensation in Japan with hoards of fans even making pilgrimages to the locations animated on screen. It’s playful exploration of gender identity and love sits comfortably with the traditional story telling that has resonated so well with audiences. Delightful and highly recommended.
Thu 24 Nov 5.45pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70 www.theelectric.co.uk/

Behind The Curtain: United States of Love (dir: Tomas Wasilewski, 2016, cert 18)
A bleakly serious look into the lives of four unhappy Polish women just as the Communist era enters its final death throes. Injected with a grey lustre that evokes an austere miserabilism, our heroines struggle to grasp the new freedoms that should be theirs. Their intertwining lives prove as impenetrable as the concrete towers in which they live. At times incredibly cruel, whilst being shot through with a mordantly dark sense of humour, Wasilewski’s third feature is heavyweight arthouse.
Fri 25 Nov 8pm at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8 macbirmingham.co.uk/

NG83: When We Were B Boys + Q&A (dir: Sam Derby-Cooper, Luke Scott, Claude Knight, 2016, cert 12A)
Best documentary winner at the New York Hip Hop Film Festival this rollicking story of East Midlands break dancing has a big heart and even bigger sense of humour. Featuring wonderful interviews with B-Boys and B-Girls interspersed with fascinating archive footage it really is a blast. Before the screening there is a break dance and graffitti session with local spray star Panda, followed by a DJ/VJ set from PSYKHOMANTUS. Bring some lino and don’t forget your fat laces.
Sat 26 Nov 8.30pm (pre-film events start at 5pm) at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8 macbirmingham.co.uk/

Behind The Curtain: The Last Family (dir: Jan P. Matuszynski, 2016, cert 15)
Disturbing biopic of Polish painter Zdzisław Beksiński who was stabbed to death in his home in 2005. Noted for the grim subject matter of his art, Matuszynski’s film skirts this altogether and instead focuses on the Beksiński family. The artist had spent decades obsessively recording himself and his family and it is from this archive that the script is drawn. Exquisitely and inventively shot the dark slide into horrible tragedy is almost unbearable by the film’s climax. Superior film making.
Sat 26 Nov 12pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70 www.theelectric.co.uk/

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (dir: Ken Loach, 2006, cert 15)
Much has been made of Loach’s brilliant I, Daniel Blake winning the Palme d’or at Cannes this year but he first won the prestigious award in 2006 for the gripping Irish Drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The powerful tale of the Irish Civil War stars a hypnotic Cillian Murphy as Damien O’Donovan who joins the IRA, along with his brother, to fight for independence from the British. Obvious parallels with the Iraq war and Loach’s framing of the story as a socialist and not nationalist struggle drew him some almighty flack, not least being compared to Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl by one critic.
Sun 27 Nov 12pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70 www.theelectric.co.uk/

Pan’s Labyrinth (dir: Guillermo del Toro, 2006, cert 15)
A genre defying fantasy as the vivid imagination of an 11 year old girl collides with the brutal reality of fascism. Or should that be the vivid imagination of the fascists colliding with the human experience of an eleven year old girl. The truth is nebulous and del Toro teases the viewer with clues without giving anything away. A beautifully stylised film whose audaciously choreographed scenes of fantasy are devilishly juxtaposed with sudden outbursts of violence in the ‘real’ world. Imagine Alice falling down a hole and into the bloody struggle of the Spanish Civil War.
Sun 27 Nov 8.15pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70 www.theelectric.co.uk/

BFI BLACK STAR: House Party (dir: Reginald Hudlin, 1990, cert 15)
Do you remember Kid ‘n Play? Renown as much for Kid’s pneumatic hair as the three rap albums the duo released, the boys got to flex their acting chops in the 1990 cult classic House Party. Whilst the story is slight, can our heroes overcome a near endless onslaught of obstacles and get to the party, it’s told with a bristling energy and youthful exuberance. The soundtrack is peerless and the requisite dancing infectious. Great fun. Being another imaginative Flatpack event the film is being screened at Spotlight and will be followed by an after party of 90’s Hip Hop till the early hours.
Sat 26 Nov 10pm at Spotlight, Lower Trinity Street, Digbeth Birmingham, B9 4AG £3 flatpackfestival.org.uk/

Behind The Curtain festival continues read our preview here

Birmingham Film Festival starts on Friday read our preview here

Mon 21 Nov - Sun 27 Nov
Giles Logan
Published on:
Mon 24 Oct 2016