Sonita (dir: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, 2016, cert 15)
One of the most impressive documentaries you will see in a long time. Wannabe rapper Sonita is a teenage Afghan refugee living in Iran with her family. Idolising Rhianna and wanting to follow in her footsteps she spends her days in a reverie of hope, super imposing her own image onto magazine cutouts of the pop star and singing to children at the school where she works as a cleaner. Sonita’s rap’s about her experiences living as a refugee couldn’t be any further removed from those of her idol’s. Ghaemmaghami blurs the filmmaker/subject line when she becomes an active participant in the narrative but this in itself makes the journey more compelling. What would you do in that situation? A fascinating and ground breaking film.
Mon 7 Nov to Wed 9 Nov various times at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8

I, Daniel Blake (dir: Ken Loach, 2016, cert 15)
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. It seems an age since Ken Loach picked up the Palme D’or at Cannes for I, Daniel Blake and it has rarely been out of the headlines since. 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 it’s a necessary voice in the dark.
Mon 7 Nov to Thu 10 Nov various times at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8 Mon 7 Nov to Thu 10 Nov various times at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70 Mon 7 Nov to Thu 10 Nov various times at Lighthouse, Chubb Building, Wolverhampton WV1 1HT £8

Napoleon Dynamite (dir: Jared Hess, 2004, cert PG)
We have such a monumental soft spot for Napoleon Dynamite. Off beat or quirky as a tag is invariably a guarantee of a director trying too hard to tap into a zeitgeist they don’t really understand and producing a crap movie. Here everything is pitched just right in a film where very little happens, but what does happen happens perfectly. Ridiculously quotable, a killer soundtrack and the greatest dance routine outside of Saturday Night Fever. John Heder’s social awkwardness as Napoleon is hilariously palpable in a role for which he was only paid a $1,000. The bottom line is if you don’t like this film then we probably can’t be friends. Now if you’ll excuse me we’re off to shoot wolverine in Alaska.
Tue 8 Nov 8pm at Mockingbird, Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham B9 4AA £5

The Bride of Frankenstein (dir: James Whale, 1935, cert PG)
That rare breed a sequel that actually trumps a great original. That is was made by son of the Black Country James Whale is even more satisfying. Ripe with subtext this is a subversive and satirical film that is not just a great horror film but a great film, indeed a masterpiece. Karloff’s monster speaks and in so doing imbues it with a certain crippled humanity that demands pity from the viewer and invests all his actions with a painfully stunted meaning. The tragedy at times is unbearable. There is no hiding place for anyone perceived as a monster. Not a wasted shot in its 75 minute running time, beautifully filmed in an expressionistic style and scored perfectly. A flawless classic. ‘To a new world of Gods and monsters’.
Wed 9 Nov 6.30pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70

Ethel & Ernest (dir: Roger Mainwood, 2016, cert 15)
Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel about his parents life is brought to the screen in a similar style to his other work about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, ‘When The Wind Blows’. The story of ‘Ethel & Ernest’ is beautifully told and the magisterial meaning to be found in the mundane is heartbreakingly rendered. Brigg’s ability to capture the essence of ordinary life has always made his work fascinating and ultimately more painful when tragedy strikes. We can all see ourselves in the story. We strongly recommend you bring along a pack of tissues, you will need them.
Fri 11 Nov to Wed 16 Nov various times at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8

American Honey (dir: Andrea Arnold, 2016, cert 15)
A first foray into film-making outside the UK for the supremely gifted English director Andrea Arnold. American Honey is a film that follows its own narrative rules as the viewer drifts lazily in and out of the lives of teenage misfits on a somewhat nebulous road trip to the nowhere of an uncertain future. Beautifully shot, sumptuous blue skies framing the action throughout. The teenage ennui reminded us of Antonioni blended with Larry Clark, but without the voyeurism of course. Superior film making and worthy of your attention.
Fri 11 Nov to Thu 17 Nov various times at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8

Elstree 1976 + Q&A (dir: John Spira, 2016, cert 12)
It’s a film nerds wet dream on Saturday when John Spira brings his Kickstarter funded documentary on the making of the original Star Wars to the Electric. Filled with remarkably candid interviews with bit part players and extras it satisfies the inner fanboy or girl by wheedling out the most obscure pieces of information. I don’t know about you but we were desperate to hear an interview with the actor who’s gaffe as a storm trooper accidentally hitting his head in the Death Star still made it into the film. It’s not going to break any boundaries of documentary film making and we usually find the whole talking heads style a bit dull, but with the fandom levels through the roof our geek muscles are well and truly stretched. There will be a Q&A with Spira following the screening.
Sat 12 Nov 3pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70

In The Mood For Love (dir: Wong Kar-wai, 2000, cert PG)
Wong Kar-Wei is one of the greatest film makers alive today. The simple yet elegant beauty of his work is stunning. The compelling minutiae of human behaviour is explored in forensic and revelatory detail. In The Mood For Love is an incomparable work. It’s study of love, betrayal, relationships and honour is delicately realised by the retrained and poignant acting of Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. Their singularly stoic refusal to embrace the amoral behaviour of others makes for a unique kind of tragedy. There is a solemn universality to their lives as time passes, along with opportunities, leaving only regret. This is a beautifully quiet and subtle piece of cinema which we can’t recommend enough.
Sun 13 Nov 3pm at Electric, Station Street, Birmingham B5 4DY £8.70

The Color Purple (dir: Steven Spielberg, 1986, cert 18)
Spielberg’s epic film version of Alice Walker’s novel has been criticised in some quarters for sugaring up the story and omitting much of the source materials darker elements. While this is certainly true the film never drifts into benign sentimentality and still packs a powerful emotional punch. Whoopi Goldberg has never been better as Celie, who endures a multitude of hardships during the first part of a turbulent twentieth century without losing her resolve. The film holds the record for most number of Oscar nominations without winning a single one, leading to accusations of racism against the academy and an organised ‘shutout’ of black actors. Shown as part of the BFI Black Star season.
Sun 13 Nov 2pm at mac, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH £8

Cine-Excess X Cult and Horror Festival starts this week please read our full feature here

Behind The Curtain film festival coming soon please read our full feature here

Shout: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture starts this week please read our full feature here

Sideways screening at the Electric with wine tasting please read our full feature here

Also screening this week is the inspirational African chess drama Queen of Katwe at the Lighthouse. Lon Chaney Jr. is The Wolf Man as the Universal Monsters season at the Electric continues and the mac is screening the Ousmane Sembène documentary Sembene! with a Q&A to follow.

Mon 7 Nov - Sun 13 Nov
Giles Logan
Published on:
Wed 5 Oct 2016