BFI London Film Festival is back at MAC – running from 4 to 15 October

Words by Jimmy Dougan (to follow him on Letterboxd click here)

Brummie cinema lovers rejoice. The BFI London Film Festival (LFF) returns to Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) on Wednesday, 4 October with a curated line-up of some of the year’s most hotly anticipated releases – screening exclusively before they hit cinemas and streaming platforms.

There’s no atmosphere on the planet quite like that of a film festival. And don’t just take my word for it. David Baldwin, Producer – Cinema & Screen at MAC, told Birmingham Review: “A fair few of these films won’t even have a trailer yet, so you can go in completely uninformed and immerse yourself in brand new cinema from across the globe.”

He’s not wrong; Lukas Dhont’s Close is one of the most singularly devastating films I’ve ever seen, and I went into it knowing nothing more than the title. What an experience.

But festivals can also take a bit of planning, even leaving you feeling daunted by the number of films screening or at how much it will all cost. But no need to panic, read on to find out Birmingham Review’s three unmissable picks as the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) returns to MAC.


Saltburn – Wednesday, 4 October at 7:30pm

This year’s Opening Night Gala slot has been awarded to Saltburn, directed by Emerald Fennell. Depending on who you ask, Fennell’s 2020 film Promising Young Woman was either a feminist call to arms against patriarchal lad culture or a catastrophically misguided dud, advocating suicide to overcome trauma. I was in the latter camp, though was smitten with Carey Mulligan’s sensational central performance and the snappy, pop-drenched soundtrack.

Saltburn tells the story of university student Oliver (Barry Keoghan) and his increasingly desperate infatuation with classmate Felix (Jacob Elordi). Keoghan’s chops are in no dispute – he was crushingly sweet in The Banshees of Inisherin – and the principal allure of Saltburn is finally getting to see him in a leading role. Let alone the fact that Elordi starred in Euphoria and the stacked supporting cast includes Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, and Richard E. Grant.

Call this critic cautiously optimistic.

Saltburn – official trailer

For more on Saltburn showing at MAC as part of the London Film Festival visit


Eileen – Wednesday, 11 October at 8:00pm

One of the films that has me most intrigued is William Oldroyd’s Eileen, co-adapted by Ottessa Moshfegh from her own intoxicatingly nasty novel of the same name.

Thomasin McKenzie stars at the titular character, a miserable and lonely young woman who works as a secretary at a prison for sex-starved teenage boys. When an alluring new psychiatrist called Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) arrives, Eileen finds herself sucked into a swirling vortex of sexual fantasy and violent catharsis.

Moshfegh is one of our most exciting literary talents, and the novel Eileen is a bleak and funny tale of twisted empowerment. That said, it isn’t Moshfegh’s strongest (that would be 2022’s Lapvona) and it doesn’t have the popular appeal of 2018’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation, so I’m fascinated to see what darkness Oldroyd, McKenzie, and Hathaway – who described it as “Carol meets Reservoir Dogs” – spin from it.

Eileen is a violent and pulpy tale with a suffocating atmosphere courtesy of cinematographer Ari Wegner, and a plot twist for the ages: brace yourself for a plunge into the abyss.

For more on Eileen showing at MAC as part of the London Film Festival visit


How to Have Sex – Saturday, 14 October at 5:30pm

A necessary – incendiary, even – examination of sex and consent comes in the form of Molly Manning Walker’s already acclaimed debut, How to Have Sex. Easily the film I’m most excited for, and winner of Cannes 2022’s ‘Un Certain Regard’ award; buzzy is an understatement for this film.

How to Have Sex follows three teenage girls on a rite-of-passage holiday to Malia. The focus of the trip is sex and drinking, something which weighs heavily on Tara (Mia McKenna-Bruce) who is yet to lose her virginity.

Manning Walker worked initially as a cinematographer on short films, before gaining acclaim for her work on the music video for A$AP Rocky’s ‘Sundress’. More recently she worked on indie-hit Scrapper, a colourful and vivid depiction of a father-daughter relationship that wasn’t afraid to push into darker territory. It deftly critiqued the failing welfare state and a disinterested social service, with two stunning performances from Lola Campbell and Harris Dickinson.

While How to Have Sex may draw superficial comparisons with 2022’s superlative Aftersun simply for being set in a typically British holiday destination, expect a topical and profoundly melancholic meditation on teenage self-image, consent, and hopefulness.

How to Have Sex – official trailer

For more on How to Have Sex showing at MAC as part of the London Film Festival visit

These are Birmingham Review’s pick of three films we think are ‘must-sees’, but the full LFF at MAC programme is a varied and exciting line-up of some of the most exciting works contemporary cinema has to offer. There’s something for everyone of all ages, proving that there’s never been a better time to be going to be going to the movies.

As David Baldwin adds: “October is literally the most wonderful time of the year for cinephiles.” Cheers to that.

What films are you excited to see at this year’s LFF screenings at MAC? Did we miss anything you feel is a ‘must see’? If you see Birmingham Review at any of the screenings during LFF at MAC make sure to let us know.

BFI London Film Festival screenings begin at MAC on 4 October and run until 15 October, with tickets for all films and events on the programme now on sale. For full listings and links to online ticket sales visit:

To read more about the BFI London Film Festival go to:

For more from MAC, including all events listings, visit

BPREVIEW: BE FESTIVAL @ Birmingham REP 02-06.07.19

Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of BE FESTIVAL

BE FESTIVAL returns to the Birmingham REP for it’s 10th year, presenting a daily programme of workshops, seminars and evening performances from Tuesday 2nd July to Saturday 6th July. There will also be the BE FESTIVAL Interval Dinner – hosted on the REP’s main stage each evening, where patrons are invited to enjoy a mid-programme meal alongside the artists preforming and the festival team.

Showcasing work from performers, artists and productions companies from all across Europe, BE FESTIVAL’s main programme begins at 7pm during the week and from 12noon on Saturday 7th July. Day tickets are priced at £24 (includes both shows and dinner) or £16 (without dinner), with concessions also available. You can also purchase a Week Pass for £60 (without dinner) or £100 (including dinner), or a separate Weekend Pass for £45 which must include dinner.

BE FESTIVAL also run ‘a separate programme of amazing visual arts, exhibitions, talks, workshops and music’ for free, every day of the festival. For more BE FESTIVAL information, including the full programme and links to online ticket sales, click here.

BE FESTIVAL (or Birmingham European Festival, to give it it’s full name) has been hosting its varied programme of theatre, performances and art for a decade now, launching at REP – where it has remained – back in 2010. Spawned from an Arts Council meeting to explore the future of theatre in Birmingham, BE’s founding mother and fathers – Isla Aguilar, Miguel Oyarzun and Mike Tweddle – formulated an event programme inspired by the Spanish ACT Festival, reportedly scribbling down their initial ideas on a napkin in a Birmingham curry house. A festival fable we want to believe so much we won’t even question it.

But film clichés and Birmingham’s cuisine culture aside, BE FESTIVAL had a serious and respectable agenda – namely, to bring the best of independent theatre and performance pieces from across Europe to be celebrated in Birmingham, with ‘the ultimate aim of breaking down borders, that only serve to divide us’. Admirable stuff, especially against the backdrop of an increasingly divisive small and big ‘p’ political mindset about Britain’s place in the wider European community.

Indeed, it seems that BE FESTIVAL has been somewhat ironically placed in the calendar over the past few years – with the regular July event being wrapped around some pretty pertinent political bluster since it all went a little sour back in 2016. But then irony knows no bounds in Whitehall, and I suspect there’s one erstwhile Secretary of Sate for Culture who’s invite might arguably get lost in the post these days.

But BE FESTIVAL is not about politics or propaganda (not directly, at least) – it is a celebration of theatre, a cultural event for Birmingham to be proud of as it opens its doors to a programme of European productions in an annual showcase event. Something that the second city was curiously lacking.

As BE FESTIVAL founders, Aguilar and Oyarzun, told Birmingham Review back in 2017, when they first came to explore Birmingham’s cultural landscape: “…we asked people ‘so when is the Theatre Festival happening? The International Theatre Festival?’ Assuming there was one. And they said ‘no, there’s no theatre festival. There’s a brilliant performance festival, there are festivals of music, festivals of cinema, but there’s no theatre festival.’ We were kind of a bit surprised by that really.” And so BE FESTIVAL was born… cue mood music, dramatic lighting and a shot of an ink stained napkin.

So, what’s on at BE FESTIVAL 2019? Too much to cover in its entirety, but with up to three performances each night ‘transforming the rarely seen backstage areas into a lively festival hub’, we’ve cherry picked a few from the overall programme that looked particularly exciting to us.

On Tuesday 2nd July, as part of the opening day for BE FESTIVAL 2019, last year’s first prize winner – BE FESTIVAL issues awards to the best performers and productions from each’s year’s line-up – Tom Cassani (UK) performs his latest piece of trickery and deception, I Promise You That Tonight. Challenging ‘those who make extraordinary claims’, Cassini will ‘proselytize, pedal and preach the importance of remaining wary’ about anyone who’s promises seem just that little too good to be true.

Wednesday 3rd July sees some adventurous physical theatre, as Maxime Dautremont and Foucauld Falguerolles (Belgium) ‘present amazing feats of acrobatics amongst axe throwing and Chinese pole technique’ in their show One Shot. Followed by choreographer Paula Rosolen’s (Germany) exploration of ‘what now remains of ‘punk’’ – using dance to dig into the ‘visual language’ of the punk movement in PUNK‽

On Thursday 4th July, Ça Marche (Catalonia / Spain) ask ‘how can we dream the best future for our world?’ in their show Silence – answering through the minds of children, ‘free of inhibitions, untainted by imagined reason or ethics.’ Heady stuff… there’s also ‘improvised chaos, snow and giant blow up monsters.’ Then on Friday 5th July, Anna Biczok (Hungary) ‘mixes memories, imagination, and changes in perspective’ to explore what it means to truly live in the moment – in her solo lecture performance titled, Precedents to a Potential Future.

As part of the final day at BE FESTIVAL 2019, on Saturday 6th July, the Barcelona based theatre company La Conquesta del Pol Sud (Spain) perform A Land Full of Heroes – a play co-produced by University of Birmingham, that follows the life of Romanian writer Carmen-Francesca Banciu as she ‘remembers her life-changing trip to Berlin in 1990, a year after the fall of the wall and off the back of the Romanian revolution in Bucharest’, asking ‘was Berlin the mirage of a new European vision?’

Then during the Saturday evening’s main programme, Marco D’Agostin (Italy) presents Avalanche – an award winning production where the two protaganists are ‘locked together in the aftermath of Cyclops’s gaze’ and dance to ‘fill their new blasted world with meaning’ in a show that is ‘desperately piecing together meaning in search of an outcome.’

And that’s, quite lietrally, not even half of it – click here for the full festival line up. Birmingham Review will also be publishing updates from each night of the BE FESTIVAL 2019, so watch this space for gentle nudges to go and check the programme out for yourself.

BE FESTIVAL 2019 – Official Trailer

BE FESTIVAL runs daily at the Birmingham REP from Tuesday 2nd July to Saturday 6th July. For direct festival information, including a full line up and links to online ticket sales, visit

For more on the wider BE FESTIVAL activity, outside of the 2019 programme, visit 

For more from the Birmingham REP, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit


NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BREVIEW: Skate Kitchen @ Midlands Art Centre 12-17.10.18

BREVIEW: Skate Kitchen @ Midlands Art Centre 12-17.10.18Words by Ashleigh Goodwin

Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen is her sixth venture into the world of directing, and features a primarily female fronted cast, led by Rachelle Vinberg in her first feature length film. Vinberg plays Camille, an isolated teenager who enjoys nothing more than skateboarding and scrolling through her Instragram feed.

Upon following the female skateboarding collective ‘The Skate Kitchen’ closely on the platform, she attends one of their meet ups in NYC and quickly befriends them. From this Camille begins to navigate adolescence with her new friends in tow, as opposed to being alone with her mum in their suburban Long Island house.

I didn’t know what to except when going into the preview – organised by Film Hub Midlands in conjunction with Telford & Wrekin Council – having avoided researching the film until I was able to catch a screening. But I imagined it would be more of a documentary that focuses on the technical side of skateboarding. And despite this not being the forefront of the film, it was still woven successfully into the narrative to create a good balance of realism and fiction. You’re able to see that Moselle’s approach to the subject is authentic and well researched; indeed, the writer/director initially approached The Skate Kitchen girls after seeing them on the subway and was curious to know more, which is what spawned the making of the eponymous film.

At its core though, Skate Kitchen is not just a skateboarding documentary or drama piece but a modern coming of age film – one that is primarily (and successfully) directed towards females, as opposed to the relationship between them and their male peers which can often be the focus of such films. Although Skate Kitchen does touch upon this too.

Compiled of relative newcomers (apart from Jaden Smith), the cast is what makes Skate Kitchen unique and charming. The girls aren’t trying to fit into their assigned roles and the characters they play just seem like an extension of themselves, which makes sense given Moselle’s approach to the film. Due to the ease of their performances and how natural their chemistry is, it makes Skate Kitchen feel  authentic and intimate, like a fly on the wall witnessing real life conversations amongst a group of girlfriends. There are no weak performances within the cast, with each member bringing a distinct personality and something individual to the film. I felt this particularly extended to Janay (Ardelia Lovelace), whose character is played with such realism it almost felt like a documentary; Lovelace is really enjoyable and interesting to watch which makes it easy to invest, emphasise, and root for her throughout.

BREVIEW: Skate Kitchen @ Midlands Art Centre 12-17.10.18Skate Kitchen’s strengths go further than being well cast and directed; the film doesn’t just explore the world of females occupying the typically male dominated domain of skateboarding, but goes beyond that to incorporate the classic coming of age tropes in a fresh, modern way. This makes it accessible to those in their teenage years, especially female viewers.

Topics that are typically shied away from are spoken about and shown in length; scenes where Camille discusses periods, tampons, sexuality, and family relationships are dealt with frankly and with blunt honesty – mainly from Kurt (played affectionately and charismatically by Nina Moran). It’s through this approach that Skate Kitchen does the job of expelling and diminishing stigma around such natural issues, alerting audiences to the fact that these are simply normal.

Concepts such as fractured families, finding freedom, body dysmorphia, and first loves are also shown throughout the course of the film, but none of them feel underdeveloped or skimmed over, with all of them fitting comfortably within the film’s narrative.

The only pitfall is that despite having strong themes, it didn’t feel as though there was much of a definitive plot to Skate Kitchen. There was no big, main, end goal. But this doesn’t detract too much, as the film presents itself as more of an exploration of coming of age as opposed to a succinct story about it. In a way this even works to the film’s favour, as it makes it more true to life; Skate Kitchen still ends up where it needs to.

Although I did feel this issue diminished the opportunity to develop certain narratives, especially when it came to Camille’s relationship with her mum – played by Elizabeth Rodriguez (better known from her performance as Aleida Diaz in Orange is the New Black). At the beginning of the film, Camille’s mum is a constant on screen – banning her daughter from skating after she ‘credit cards’ herself on the board. Camille disregards this and, to add insult to injury, starts travelling to New York regularly to meet up and practice with the girls from The Skate Kitchen.

Halfway into the film their mother-daughter relationship is in pieces, but it suddenly becomes secondary and fades into the background with them only reconciling briefly on screen near the end. When they do reconcile it’s still touching, and the scenes of Camille holding her mum’s hand whilst guiding her precariously down the street on her board are some of my favourites from the whole film. Yet it would have been nice to see them resolve their issues in a full scene – or for the mum’s narrative to be woven in more evenly throughout the whole film, as opposed to heavily then not at all.

This point also extends to her relationship with The Skate Kitchen girls, after their explosive falling out near the end we don’t see them make up again and it would have been interesting to see how this played out on screen. Although, again, this isn’t necessarily a negative – this approach shows how insignificant and irrelevant teenage arguments can be in the grander scheme, and how things can go back to normal. Rather than showing a scene where they make up verbally, we end with shots of all the girls skating carefree down New York streets with nothing but music, shots of their boards, faces, and the city.

Overall, Skate Kitchen isn’t a film I will be eagerly waiting to re-watch, but I think it’s an important, heart warming, and entertaining film to put on your list. Also the influx of these films – namely ones that are female written and directed, and feature a female dominated cast – are important. They show a perspective not present in a lot of mainstream films and address issues or topics that are often missing too, especially amongst a female teenage or young adult audience – an agenda the UK distribution company for Skate Kitchen, Modern Films, has been working hard to promote.

The use of protagonists from different cultural, racial, and economic backgrounds is also a strong tool in storytelling, and allows film to be more readily accessible to a wider range of people. Not only that, but through sharing female experiences via film, audiences can find solace, solidarity, education and guidance that they may be lacking in the public sphere and it opens up a dialogue for certain issues and topics.

Diversity within film has always been important and although there is still a long way to go, with films like Skate Kitchen the future of fair representation does seem a little brighter.

Skate Kitchen – official trailer

Skate Kitchen (rated certificate 15) is out on general release, with screenings at Midlands Art Centre from 12th to 17th October. For more details, including a full programme schedule and links to online bookings, visit 

For more from on Skate Kitchen, visit

For more on Modern Films, visit

For more on Film Hub Midlands, visit

For more on Midlands Art Centre, including venue details and further event listings, visit


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BPREVIEW: Heathers (30th Anniversary) @ Cineworld, The Mockingbird, The Electric Cinema 10.08.18

BPREVIEW: Heathers (30th Anniversary) @ Cineworld, The Mockingbird, The Electric Cinema 10.08.18

Words by Ashleigh Goodwin

Friday 10th August will mark the 30th anniversary of the cult-classic Heathers. To celebrate the occasion, multiple cinemas are bringing it to their screens for the first time since the film’s original release in 1988/89.

Heathers will be shown at The Mockingbird and The Electric Cinema on 10th August, with the start times ranging from 17:25 and 20:30 respectively. Tickets at The Mockingbird are priced at £5.70 or £8.70 (both including booking fee) for a ticket and a pint of MB lager. Further screenings will be held at The Mockingbird until 15th August, with Cineworld (Broad Street) screening Heathers for one night only on 16th August.

Tickets to The Electric’s Heathers: 30th Anniversary ‘What’s Your Damage?’ party on 10th August start from £12.45 (including booking fee) for one of their limited availability standard tickets. At the time of writing, all but one of their back-seat sofas have sold out, with the three-person Dietrich sofa still available for £16.30.

For direct event information, including film times, venue details, and online tickets sales, click here for Cineworld (Broad Street), click here for The Mockingbird, and click here for The Electric Cinema.

BPREVIEW: Heathers (30th Anniversary) @ Cineworld, The Mockingbird, The Electric Cinema 10.08.18

Despite opening to a lukewarm reception and a poor box office performance, Heathers grew to be the definition of a cult-classic and became ‘recognised as one of the high peaks of the teen movie genre’ since its original late ’80s release. Further to this, the film has spawned a modern-day remake in the form of a US anthology series – although the Paramount Network, the US production company who commissioned the series, has since dropped the project due to the content mirroring real life high school shootings in North America.

But what is too close to home for the American smaller screen still made it to the stage, with a rock musical adaptation of Heathers having run regularly for the past four years throughout North America, Australia, and most recently the UK – moving from off the West End to the Theatre Royal Haymarket in September 2018.

Heathers was directed by Michael Lehmann and depicts angst ridden teenager Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) who is attempting to navigate Westerburg High School as part of the popular cliqué the Heathers – a trio of rich, elitist seventeen-year olds. Veronica soon begins to realise that the cost of popularity is at odds with her morals and that the group may not mark her true place in the high school social hierarchy.BPREVIEW: Heathers (30th Anniversary) @ Cineworld, The Mockingbird, The Electric Cinema 10.08.18 This, combined with the arrival of a mysterious (gun-wielding) outsider Jason ‘J.D’ Dean (Christian Slater), means the normalcy of Veronica’s life begins to take a sharp decline. After the two direct a seemingly harmless prank on cliqué leader Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), in response to her unrelenting nasty behaviour, they ‘accidentally’ end up poisoning her and at J.D.’s suggestion frame it as suicide.

Veronica soon begins to realise J.D. isn’t the charming loner or idealist she first believed him to be, but a psychopath with an insatiable desire to eliminate all the popular students at Westerburg High – leaving Veronica in a race against time to stop him committing his most lethal act yet. What follows is quite simply a chaotic whirlwind of revenge, betrayal, more staged suicide, and numerous games of croquet.

Notorious for its solid casting and a screenplay that has birthed multiple ‘classic’ quotes, Heathers offers a warped, satirical portrayal of the adolescent journey. The outrageous black comedy manages to offer a bleak and ‘off the wall’ approach to the classic teenage high school film, whilst still remaining undoubtedly entertaining and topical.

As director Lehmann summarises, “we were looking at the John Hughes films [The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink] and saying ‘This is bullshit!’ The movies are fun, we like them, but we didn’t think they really represented the truly cruel nature of interpersonal behaviour in high school.”

Heathers screens at The Mockingbird and The Electric Cinema on Friday 10th August 2018 – and whilst The Electric’s Heathers: 30th Anniversary ‘What’s Your Damage?’ party event is a one off, The Mockingbird will be holding a total of five screenings with the last being on 15th August. Cineworld will be screening Heathers for one night only on 16th August.

For direct event information, including venue details and online tickets, to visit The Mockingbird click here, to visit Cineworld click here, and to visit The Electric Cinema click here.


NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.