ELEANOR’S PICK: Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

ELEANOR’S PICK: Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Words by Eleanor Sutcliffe

Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For a direct event information, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk/whats-on/slam-dunk-festival

As one of the most anticipated dates in the UK pop punk calendar, it’s safe to say Slam Dunk Festival are taking no prisoners with this year’s line up. With a bevy of bands and artists descending upon the NEC in just under a week’s time, I took it upon myself to comb through the roster and select a number that I personally love.

ELEANOR’S PICK: Holding Absence at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Holding Absence / Rock Sound Breakout Stage

Birmingham favourites, Holding Absence, are set to make their Slam Dunk debut this year on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. Having recently announced the departure of guitarist Feisal El-Khazragi, it will be one of their first performances without him in their line up. But with Holding Absence recently nominated for Best British Breakthrough Band at the 2018 Heavy Metal Awards, plus playing a string of dates supporting Being as an Ocean across Europe in June, they’re certainly not letting El-Khazragi’s departure slow them down.

Represented by Sharptone Records – who bought us the likes of Don Broco, Miss May I and We Came As Romans – the Cardiff based band also recently toured and released a co-EP with Loathe titled This Is As One, which earned them numerous positive reviews from critics for tracks such as ‘Saint Cecilia’.

Holding Absence perform at 3:30pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Holding Absence, visit www.holdingabsence.com

Saint Cecilia’ – Holding Absence


ELEANOR’S PICK: PVRIS at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

PVRIS / Jägermeister Main Stage

Having recently performed at Coachella, PVRIS will be returning to Birmingham hot off the heels of the American leg of their All We Know of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell tour – promoting their latest album of the same name.

Lynn Gunn’s dreamy vocals, combined with the band’s heavy rock influences, have earned them a dedicated fanbase and won them Rock Sound’s Artist of the Year Award back in 2017. Here’s hoping PVRIS also perform some tracks from their debut album, White Noise, with songs such as ‘St. Patrick’ and ‘My House’ being on my personal wish list.

PVRIS perform at 8:15 pm on the Jägermeister Main Stage. For more on PVRIS, visit www.pvris.com

‘Anyone Else’ – PVRIS


ELEANOR’S PICK: Taking Back Sunday at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Taking Back Sunday / Monster Energy Main Stage

Returning to Slam Dunk for the 3rd time, Taking Back Sunday were in the first wave of bands to be confirmed to at perform this year’s festival.

Having released their 7th album, Tidal Waves, in September 2016, and parting ways with their original guitarist Eddie Rayes last month, it will be interesting to see if we get to hear any new material from the group. Although I’m hoping to hear classic tracks such as ‘You’re So Last Summer’ and ‘MakeDamnSure’ as well as songs such as ‘You Can’t Look Back’ from their latest album live.

Taking Back Sunday perform at 8:05pm on the Monster Energy Main Stage. For more on Taking Back Sunday, visit www.takingbacksunday.com

‘You’re So Last Summer’ – Taking Back Sunday


ELEANOR’S PICK: Astroid Boys at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18Astroid Boys / Impericon Stage

The Impericon stage will be hosting hardcore grime band Astroid Boys, who have always delivered impressive shows in Birmingham. Growing steadily since their formation back in 2012, they were bought to my attention after being featured in BBC Radio 4’s documentary Operation Grime, which tailed them on a tour across the UK.

Astroid Boys‘ music is not for the faint hearted – expect brutal lyrics addressing issues such as racism, mashed with hardcore and grime influences to create a sound you probably have never heard before… but will just as probably want to listen to again.

Astroid Boys perform at 2:20 pm on the Impericon Stage. For more on Astroid Boys, visit www.astroid-boys.com

‘Foreigners’ – Astroid Boys


ELEANOR’S PICK: As It Is at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

As It Is / Signature Brew Stage

Announcing the August release of their latest album, The Great Depression, only a few days ago, Brighton based As It Is will be headlining the Signature Brew stage this year.

A band who’ve amassed a dedicated fan base with tracks such as ‘Dial Tones’ and ‘Hey Rachel’, their material is catchy, easy to listen to and fun – however it’s unfair to assume they lack a more serious side. Their latest release, ‘The Wounded World’, delves into a much darker side of their ever-expanding noise, having been cited by the band as a ‘new era’ of their music which expands on ‘the societal romanticisation of depression’ and ‘the disrepair of present-day human connection’.

As ever with this band, though, As It Is approach their subject with the respect and sensitivity it warrants – referencing their new material as a means for them to work to create a positive change for mental health.

As It Is perform at 8:30pm on the Signature Brew Stage. For more from As It Is, visit www.asitisofficial.bandcamp.com

‘The Wounded World’ – As It Is


ELEANOR’S PICK: Luke Rainsford at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Luke Rainsford / The Key Club Acoustic Stage

The Key Club Acoustic Stage is hosting a stellar line up of bands and artists, including Birmingham’s Luke Rainsford – combining upbeat guitar with gut wrenching vocals, making music that is hard hitting but a real treat to listen to.

Having toured the UK extensively since the release of I Feel At Home With You in February 2017, and having recently released his latest EP, I Just Don’t Deserve To Be Loved, in April 2018, Rainsford’s music deals with difficult issues such as loss, bereavement, low self esteem and mental health. Good, honest stuff.

Luke Rainsford performs at 4:15 pm on The Key Club Acoustic Stage. For more on Luke Rainsford, visit www.lukerainsford.bandcamp.com

‘Home Safe’ – Luke Rainsford



ELEANOR’S PICK: Stand Atlantic at Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) @ NEC 28.05.18

Stand Atlantic / Rock Sound Breakout Stage

Australian trio, Stand Atlantic, will also be making their Slam Dunk debut this year, having recently toured with other performers such as ROAM and Knuckle Puck. With their latest EP, Sidewinder, reaching an impressive #10 on Rock Sound’s Top 50 Albums of 2017, and having been cited by Kerrang! as one of the hottest bands of 2018, Stand Atlantic are proving they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Claiming influences from Blink-182 to The 1975, they’re certainly considered a mixed bag musically too – but in the best possible way. Trust me. Go and listen to ‘Coffee at Midnight’. You can thank me later.

Stand Atlantic perform at 6:00 pm on the Rock Sound Breakout Stage. For more on Stand Atlantic, visit www.facebook.com/StandAtlantic 

‘Coffee at Midnight’ – Stand Atlantic

Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands) comes to the NEC in Birmingham on 28th May. For direct information on Slam Dunk Festival 2018, including details on all the events happening across the UK, visit www.slamdunkmusic.com

For a direct info and online ticket sales for Slam Dunk Festival 2018 (Midlands), visit www.gentingarena.co.uk/whats-on/slam-dunk-festival

For more from the Genting Arena, including full events listing and venue details, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk

INTERVIEW: Gary Rogers – Birmingham Film Festival @ Mockingbird Cinema 23-26.11.17

Words by Heather Kincaid / Pics courtesy of Birmingham Film Festival

Following a successful debut in 2016, Birmingham Film Festival (BFF) returns this month with an event that promises to be even bigger and better than before. More time, more screenings and new submissions categories are among the things that indie film fans can look forward to this year, with music videos and un-produced screenplays now getting a look in. Ahead of its return to the Mockingbird Cinema, Birmingham Review spoke to BFF co-founder and co-director Gary Rogers.

“We’ve got a mixture of music videos, shorts, features, documentaries, animation – you name it. There’s a bit of just about everything, really. We’ve also added an extra day to the festival this year, so now we’re running for four days as opposed to three. Last year we screened 80 films, so this year there’ll be about 100.”

“Although we accept all sorts of films, in terms of themes, I was saying recently that I’ve noticed a significant increase this year in films about mental illness this year, whether it’s general health issues or things like dementia, which is all very topical at the moment.”

Formed by a group of friends and colleagues working within Birmingham’s burgeoning filmmaking scene, the project began as something of a risky venture. Recognising a gap in the market, Rogers had been toying with the idea of a Birmingham Film Festival for some time before it eventually got off the ground. At the time, however, none of the trio responsible for turning it into a reality had much experience of organising an event of this kind.

“I’d been talking about doing a local film festival for a long time, and in my head it was only going to be quite a small affair. But while I was out shooting a film called Enter the Cage, I ended up mentioning it to the director and stunt coordinator Dean [Williams] and Kevin [McDonagh], and it just went from there. It seemed amazing to us that as the second city, Birmingham didn’t already have its own film festival. I went home and Googled the URLs just to check they were available and somehow even they hadn’t been snapped up, so we decided to go for it!”

Small-scale, themed festivals such as last month’s Screening Rights Film Festival do exist in Birmingham, of course, but the Birmingham Film Festival is unique in its approach and scale. The closest thing the city has is perhaps Flatpack Festival, but even that has a distinctly different remit.

Birmingham Film Festival @ Mockingbird Cinema 23-26.11.17“Flatpack work in a different way to us – they’re mobile so they move around between different venues, and they’re also like a self-contained little company, hiring out equipment and things like that. They do a lot of themed evenings and mainstream film screenings, whereas our screenings are 100% new, low budget, indie films, submitted directly by filmmakers. And when I say low budget, I think the biggest budget feature I’ve seen so far was made for about £160,000, which is nothing really.”

Happily, things seemed to fall quite quickly into place, thanks in large part to widespread support from the local film community. Some of this was down to the strong network of industry contacts that the organisers had built up over the years, but backing also came from more unexpected quarters.

“Sindy Campbell from Film Birmingham has been great. It was funny because she actually got in touch with us. Somebody had heard about us and asked her in a meeting what she thought about Birmingham Film Festival, and at the time she didn’t know anything about it. So she got in touch to find out what it was all about, and since then she’s been behind us 100%. We’ve also got [Peaky Blinders creator] Steven Knight as our official patron. Hopefully we’ll get him appearing this year – last year he was too busy but it would be great if he’s available this time.”

“We’ve had some support from local colleges too. Because I do a bit of work with Pauline Quirke Academy on Saturday mornings, they actually sponsored us last year, and this year we’ve been speaking to BOA and Birmingham University as well.”Birmingham Film Festival @ Mockingbird Cinema 23-26.11.17

“As far as the venue goes, we came straight to the Mockingbird, and they’ve really helped us out a lot. We did get in contact with some other cinemas in Birmingham, but most of them cost a fortune. This place was perfect for us – not only was it affordable, they’ve also been really sympathetic and keen to be part of what we’re doing. And I think it’s been good coverage for them as well; everybody who came last year said how much they loved the venue and the artistic nature of it.”

In consequence, the festival flourished, attracting huge numbers of submissions from diverse genres and countries around the world.

“For our first year we kind of had the philosophy of go big or go home, and it worked out really well. We ended up with 400 films submitted from 30+ countries, so it was really international in reach. We also organised a nice, big gala for the awards, which sold out really quickly. Last year there were 120 people at the awards, so this year we’ve gone even bigger and hired a venue that will seat up to 200.”

But as with any major undertaking, it hasn’t quite all been plain sailing, particularly since everything has been a learning curve for its creators. Along the way, there have been creases to iron out, and of course, there’s still some way to go before they’re likely to start attracting national attention.

“The first year was really scary to be honest, with it being our first time and having so many people submitting. We had people travelling in from overseas – there was even a guy from Israel who came over with his own film crew – and we were constantly worried in case things didn’t work. Mostly everything went fine, but there were some hiccups. There was one foreign language film that we decided to show which turned out not to have any subtitles on the version we tried to screen, so in the end we decided to move on and leave that one out.”

Birmingham Film Festival @ Mockingbird Cinema 23-26.11.17New features this year have also required new methods of planning and implementation. For example, the Birmingham Film Festival 2017 is accepting submissions of un-produced screenplays as well as finished films, and at the time of writing it wasn’t yet confirmed if or how these might be presented to the public. That said, things are settling into their own natural rhythm, with each director finding his own niche based on individual strengths and experience.

“I think we’ve all got a little area that we mostly look after, although we do cross over. Because I’m normally a cameraman and techie, I tend to look after a lot of the admin relating to submissions, so once we know which ones we’ve chosen, I’ll get in touch with them and chase the forms and copy, as well as sorting out the schedule for the day.”

“Dean’s [Williams] speciality is stunt work and fight choreography, and he’s very much a people person. He has lots of contacts and he’s been going around trying to get people on board, particularly celebrities. He’s also the one that’s sorted out the hotel and venue for the gala evening.”

“Kev [McDonagh] is similar in that he knows a lot of people, but he’s been mostly focusing on getting us funding and sponsorship. Obviously it’s all self-funded, so we’re really reliant on what we get from submissions and sales. But last year we did at least manage to cover the costs and still have a little bit left over, and this year we’ve got some big backers, including Birmingham Bullring, which is brilliant.”

Better still, delegation has also been possible this year, with the recruitment of more people to help out with assessing submissions and public promotion, as well as a growing number of volunteers signing up to help out at the event itself.Birmingham Film Festival @ Mockingbird Cinema 23-26.11.17

“This year we’ve got a guy called Mikey who runs Mikey’s Movie World giving us a lot of coverage. We’ve also been speaking to the local media company Think Jam, they’re really keen to get on board as well.”

“We’ve also now got a little group of people going through submissions and sort of flagging them and rating them before we watch them, whereas last year we just did all of that ourselves, which wasn’t easy. It sounds great watching 400 odd films, but wow it’s a killer when you’re actually doing it!”

“And we’ve got no shortage of volunteers. Most of them are media students but we do get people emailing us all the time and it’s getting to the stage where we can’t actually take everybody! It’s great that we’ve got so many people who want to help out, but of course you don’t want them just sitting around bored when they arrive.”

Emboldened by early success, Rogers and his collaborators are now ambitious for the future of the festival, already looking into possibilities for expansion and further diversifying the range of events on offer in years to come.

“Through my involvement in the indie film scene, I have worked with people operating on slightly higher budgets – around the £400-500,000 mark, which is big enough to have known actors in them. For example, I worked on a film last year called Milk and Honey which had people from The Bill and Emmerdale and Coronation Street in it. I think the next step is to start bringing in premieres of some of those higher end indie films, which means you’ll also get some of the stars coming in and raising the profile a bit.”

Birmingham Film Festival @ Mockingbird Cinema 23-26.11.17“One of the things we haven’t really managed to do so far is fit in Q&As. A lot of the filmmakers were asking us if they could do them after their screenings, but because time has been really tight in terms of showing everything we wanted to, even just having 20 minutes at the end of each one really eats into the schedule if you’re showing eight films in a day. So it’s been tricky, but we’ve been looking at the possibility of getting a dedicated networking space for meet and greets where filmmakers and audiences can interact.”

“On a similar note, we’d really like to put on extra events like workshops – on lighting and camera work and things like that. But again it’s all dependent on space, and renting extra space costs money. This year it will be fairly light on that side, but because we’re now in dialogue with the Bullring and they’re developing new spaces, it may be that we’ll be able to find a place for things like that next year.”

“Ultimately we’re aiming to make it a big deal in the vein of Sundance, Raindance and all those big festivals that people know – that’s where we want to be.”

Birmingham Film Festival runs at the Mockingbird Cinema from the 23rd to 26th November. For more on Birmingham Film Festival, visit www.birminghamfilmfestival.com

For more information about the Mockingbird Cinema, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.mockingbirdcinema.com

BPREVIEW: Screening Rights Film Festival @ mac 26.10-01.11.17

BPREVIEW: Screening Rights Film Festival @ mac 26.10-01.11.17

Words by Heather Kincaid

Returning for its third year in 2017, Screening Rights Film Festival is Birmingham’s international festival of social justice film –screenings features from around the world, with Q&A sessions and panel discussions on the themes and issues they address.

Held at mac, Screening Rights Film Festival 2017 will run from Thursday 26 October until Wednesday 1 November – with ticket deals available for people booking multiple screenings. For more info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here

According to the Screening Rights Film Festival website, ‘The need for heartfelt films about the depths of human adversity around the world has grown enormously in recent decades’ – as the festival organisers seek to inspire and develop debate by shining a light on filmmakers responding to major contemporary concerns. At the heart of the project is the question of the potential for film, both drama and documentary, ‘to affect, or even effect, personal, social and political change’, whether by informing, provoking, moving, inciting action, connecting people or simply bearing witness to events.

Emerging out of research conducted by former University of Birmingham film lecturer Dr Michele Aaron, Screening Rights Film Festival has spent the last couple of years steadily establishing a place in the city’s cultural calendar. With Aaron having recently taken up a post at Warwick, this year the festival has been helped by the joint support of both universities, as well as a base at mac Birmingham.

Ghost Hunting @ mac 26.10.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalBuilding on her long-held interest in the ethics of film and spectatorship, the project was originally kicked off by a symposium on ‘Screening Vulnerability’, beginning as an event series co-organised by Aaron and PhD student, John Horne. In 2016, it expanded to encompass twelve films screened in five different venues. This year, however, the focus has narrowed again, with just nine films being shown at mac. It’s a little smaller then, but the greater simplicity afforded by a single, centralised location might well work in the festival’s favour in terms of attracting audiences.

Unsurprisingly, the films being shown at the Screening Rights Film Festival reflect the organisers’ specific areas of expertise and investigation, as well as being influenced by hot topics on the global sociopolitical stage. Dr Aaron has described how, in recent years, her focus has shifted from writing about “power and ethics of representation and spectatorship in relationship to, principally, mainstream English cinema,” and towards a more outward-looking approach with an interest in film practice, often collaborating with filmmakers and community groups.

Among the manifestations of this change has been an intensive smartphone filmmaking course delivered to university students from the West Bank with the help of Palestinian youth advocacy agency, Sharek. Tramontane @ mac 26.10.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalThe best short film to come out of that ‘Tammayaz’ scheme was screened at last year’s Screening Rights Film Festival, alongside Mohamed Jabaly’s and Abu Marzouq’s Ambulance. Meanwhile, John Horne’s PhD thesis concerns the ‘western’ spectator and the ‘Arab Spring’. Accordingly, films from and/or about the Middle East feature prominently on this year’s programme, making up a total of six out of the nine films being shown.

2017’s line-up includes the documentary Ghost Hunting, in which Palestinian director Raed Andoni confronts his demons head-on by recruiting a team to help him build a replica of the Israeli interrogation centre where he was held at the age of 18.

Drama Tramontane follows the struggle of a young Lebanese man to uncover the truth about his origins and identity after discovering that his ID card is a forgery; while Raving Iran sees two DJs forced to make a choice between home and family or moving abroad to pursue their passion for forbidden ‘Western’ music.

In The Other Side of Home, a Turkish woman raises questions about identity in a moving, personal tribute to the still-denied Armenian genocide of 1915; in Mr Gay Syria, the crowdfunded debut feature of Ayşe Toprak, a group of LGBT Syrian refugees kick back against intolerance in Turkey.

Raving Iran @ mac 01.11.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalThere’s also Notes to Eternity, a more ‘impressionistic meditation’ on the Israel-Palestine conflict, centred on the lives and ideas of prominent thinkers and Israeli policy critics Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Sara Roy and Robert Fisk.

Another area of interest for the festival’s creators has been depictions of illness, madness and even death on screen. Among Aaron’s more recent projects, for example, has been the Life: Moving exhibition, comprising a series of films created with residents of Erdington’s John Taylor Hospice, lately displayed at Birmingham REP as part of a wider UK and international tour.

This year, Screening Rights Film Festival has joined forces with Flatpack Assemble to present a screening of Jennifer Brea’s Unrest, which charts the director’s own experience of living with ME, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Jaha's Promise @ mac 29.10.17 / Screening Rights Film FestivalDespite the fact that thousands of people worldwide independently attest to similar symptoms, medical science has so far failed to offer any explanation for the condition, leading many to conclude that it is purely psychosomatic. In an attempt to conduct some investigations of her own and potentially change attitudes towards the illness, Brea connected with fellow sufferers, piecing together her film from recorded Skype interviews, iPhone footage and professionally shot vérité.

Coinciding with mac Birmingham’s ongoing Women and Protest season (13 September – 26 November), Jaha Dukureh also uses personal experience as a springboard for her film Jaha’s Promise. Now based in the US, the activist began her life in Gambia where a significant number of girls are subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during infancy. Having been cut at just a week old, Jaha herself did not discover the truth or what it would mean for her until she was married to an older man at the age of 15. After having a daughter of her own, however, she vowed to return to her home country to confront its deeply embedded culture of FGM, whatever the cost.

Finally, Nick de Pencier’s Black Code uses The Citizen Lab’s 2009 exposure of global internet spy ring ‘Ghostnet’ as a starting point for a chilling exploration of 21st Century surveillance culture. In an unnerving trailer that combines archive footage with satellite imagery and CCTV-style shots, Citizen Lab director Dr Ronald Deibert describes the highly detailed and growing “digital exhaust” produced by Internet users and how three developments – mobile devices, social media and cloud computing – have resulted in “the most profound change in communication technology in the whole of human history”.

But this isn’t just a case of emails being intercepted: there are hints of cameras and audio devices being hacked and switched on unbeknownst to owners, and documents being extracted from hard-drive storage. “This is where Big Data meets Big Brother,” the trailer concludes. Prepare to leave feeling a little paranoid…

Unrest – @ mac 27.10.17 / Screening Rights Film Festival


Screening Rights International Film Festival is at mac Birmingham from Thursday 26 October until Wednesday 1 November – ticket deals are available for people booking multiple screenings. For more info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here

For more on Screening Rights Film Festival, visit www.screeningrights.org

For more information about mac Birmingham, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.macbirmingham.co.uk

BREVIEW: Daphne @ mac 13-19.10.17

Daphne @ mac 13-19.10.17

Words by Heather Kincaid / Production shots by Agatha A. Nitecka

Daphne was screened in Birmingham as part of the Flatpack: Assemble project, bringing industry showcases to the city. Daphne will be further screened to the general public at mac from Friday 13th to Thursday 19th October – for direct information, including showtimes, venue details and online ticket sales, click here. 

The amorphous structure of Peter Mackie Burns’ feature-length directorial debut perhaps owes something to its origins in a 2013 11-minute short, Happy Birthday to Me. But there’s something oddly compelling about Daphne’s resistance to following cinematic convention, as though, much like its title character, it refuses to be pinned down and made to stick to a single, clearly defined course.

Cinematography by Adam Scarth feels as restless and detached as its subject, both moving passively from one scene to the next, apparently without much sense of where they’re going. And though some inevitably will, viewers aren’t asked to sit in judgement on the character or her story but merely to observe it.

Self-obsessed, single and spiraling steadily out of control, the misanthropic Daphne is almost as unlikely a ‘hero’ as you could imagine. Though she makes a show of independence, her spikiness is little more than a mask for her unwillingness or inability to take control of the life through which she drifts, instinctively ducking out of any encounter where she detects a whiff of change or serious commitment. Because she hasn’t thought of anything better to do yet, Daphne continues to meet up with old school friends she doesn’t really like, stumbles around in a drunken, drug-fueled haze, lives off takeaways she’s forgottDaphne / Production shots by Agatha A. Niteckaen that she ordered and occasionally hooks up with strange men in whom she has no interest.

But when she witnesses a stabbing in a corner shop and stays to save the victim’s life, well… not much changes, actually. After the event, she takes up the offer of counselling, but not because she’s feeling particularly traumatised by what she’s witnessed. In fact, it’s the complete lack of an impact the incident has on her that makes her acknowledge that perhaps there’s something up. As she says to the therapist in a moment of uncharacteristic honesty, “I haven’t felt alive in a long time.”

In conversations around the film, there’s been a lot of emphasis on Daphne’s gender, whether in the form of comparisons with BBC Three’s Fleabag or in accusations of misogyny levelled at critics passing comment on her ‘likeability’. But while Daphne might be part of a new wave of women in film depicted with more unflinching honesty than we’re accustomed to, she’s certainly not the sort of character who’d see herself as any sort of feminist trailblazer. In fact, she largely fails to see herself as anything very much at all.

Arguably it’s this that makes her seem so resonantly real, but perhaps also is at the root of her sometimes being such uneasy company. Though Daphne’s dialogue is often cutting and she is someone who manifestly refuses to give a shit what anyone else things of her, it’s not so much anything she actively says or does that makes her difficult as it is her total inertia. It’s hard to decide what to make of someone who so clearly doesn’t know what to make of herself. This fragmented sense of self is visually indicated from the off, with a striking image of her descending an escalator beside a wall of mirrored strips that dramatically shatter her shifting reflection. That said, Daphne is so far from being unloveable that a bouncer who kicks her out of a club where she’s been misbehaving is enamoured enough to chase her down, ask her out and then decline her knee-jerk offer of casual sex in favour of pursuing something more meaningful. We see, too, that her friends and family are willing – determined even – to put up with her and remain in her life despite her self-destructive attempts to push them all away.

But quite apart from how her fellow characters respond to her, if you’re intellectually smug enough to laugh at her declaring Slavoj Žižek a “doughnut” as she chucks aside a book that she’s been reading just for fun; or at her revelation that she always thinks of Freud when doing coke, (and let’s face it, if you’re watching this film, you probably are) it’s almost difficult not to find her rather charming, spikiness et al. Then there are her magnificent, enviably spontaneous put-downs. “You, sir, are a fabulous cunt,” she says to bouncer David as she staggers away from him.Daphne / Production shots by Agatha A. Nitecka

Daphne also breaks the mould of the gritty, social realist style of cinema it adopts. Rather than focusing on the disenfranchised working class such films are usually designed to champion, Mackie Burns singles out a member of the expanding modern-day precariat as his protagonist. As a well-educated and possibly once fairly well-off 31-year-old (when she remembers), she could serve as a sort of cipher for the instability and disillusionment of the millennial generation, promised a seat at the feast but fast discovering she’s been left with only table scraps.

At the same time, there are hints that she’s merely treading water above a darker underbelly of urban life, which threatens to flood into her world at any moment. For one thing, there’s the homeless man on the corner she knows by name, and for whom she makes up sandwiches at work. Then of course, there’s the lad who panics and stabs the owner of the shop he’s trying to rob in front of her. He tries to rob Daphne too, but tellingly she’s got nothing on her person he deems worth stealing.

Daphne doesn’t give us any easy answers, but the clues to the residual sense of self the title character still possesses are there to hunt for, littered through the story like a trail of breadcrumbs or scrapped leftovers from whatever concoction she’s been devising in the kitchen. On one level, the film might be considered a dark romantic comedy that comes in too late to fully flesh out one affair, and finishes too early to allow the next to blossom. But perhaps surprisingly, Daphne isn’t entirely without ambition: at the restaurant where she works, she asks chef Joe to make her his sous, only to be dismissed completely out of hand (“It’ll ruin your life”) and not for the first time, it seems. She’s clearly interested enough in the idea to spend her free-time testing recipes at home, admittedly only to wrinkle her nose and bin the lot, but the drive is still there. That she doesn’t press the matter further is mostly due to her complicated relationship with the chef himself, a married man with whom she’s clearly mutually in love.

Unsure how to deal with those feelings, she seeks solace in meaningless sex, while holding potential boyfriend David at arms length. Her view of love, as a deluded human attempt to impose meaning on a random universe, is reiterated often enough to sound as though she’s trying to convince herself, and when David calls her bluff on it he unexpectedly exposes real vulnerability – Daphne suddenly flees the scene like a frightened rabbit. Blink and you might miss it, but it’s also her serious decision to quit the job after Joe ‘fesses up his feelings that heralds the beginning of possible change on the horizon.Daphne / Production shots by Agatha A. Nitecka

Meanwhile, she’s also determined to alienate herself from the one reliable figure in her life; having refused chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer, her mum has instead discovered faith and mindfulness, something which naturally frustrates her daughter. Then there’s the fear and self-doubt Daphne is contending with – in particular, her anxiety over not feeling enough about the man she saved to go and visit him. It takes her therapist to suggest that perhaps just doing something is sufficient, and enough of a feeling might well follow after.

Emily Beecham’s skill is in being able to subtly convey all this, without really saying a great deal that’s to the point. Scriptwriter Nico Mensinga’s razor sharp, bone dry dialogue is hilarious but also constantly evasive – it’s down to Beecham to present the character’s pain without ever soliciting our pity. The performance is at once distant and intimate, cold and moving, laugh-out-loud funny and rather tragic. Daphne lives and breathes through Beecham, lingering on in the mind long after the credits finish rolling, so much that you almost expect to meet up with her in your local pub, or maybe on the train back home.

Emily Beecham is backed up by a strong supporting cast as well, with Geraldine James as her surprisingly vivacious, terminally ill mum, Nathaniel Martello-White as a cheerily optimistic David, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Daphne’s jaded boss and soulmate Joe, who similarly can’t quite work out how his life has ended up like this.

The unsung fifth main character in the film is London itself – a suitably messy and complex companion for Daphne, one vividly captured by Scarth. At times, the camera hones in on the squalor of poverty in England’s capital; at others, it hovers in a sky filled with gleaming clouds and glistening skyscrapers reaching out for something more. The film showcases the rich diversity of London with all its teeming masses, as well as the profound loneliness and anonymity of living there. One particularly striking, slightly hazy birdseye view has the cold, unsympathetic eye of CCTV surveillance, with Daphne staggering past faceless crowds and traffic blurs to create a dizzying, disorienting effect.

Refreshingly then, Daphne is a film that actively resists the conventional cinematic trope of turning points and inciting incidents that change a character’s life for good, instead preferring to just let stuff happen. In real life, epiphanies are generally a long time coming, even if we tend to remember them otherwise after the fact.

Like Daphne herself, the audience is required to sift through the mundane paraphernalia of everyday existence to find the meaning underneath, if indeed there is any. It might not fall in line with standard storytelling techniques, but Daphne is a skillfully drawn character study that provides plenty enough meat to chew on for its full 90 minutes, and long thereafter.

Daphne – a film by Peter Mackie Burns

Daphne will be screened at mac on from Friday 13th to Thursday 19th October. For direct information, including showtimes, venue details and online ticket sales, click here

For more on Daphne, visit www.daphne.film

For more from Flatpack, visit www.flatpackfestival.org.uk

For more from mac, visit www.macbirmingham.co.uk

BPREVIEW: The Lord of the Rings – trilogy screenings @ Moseley Park 8-10.09

The Lord of the Rings – trilogy screenings @ Moseley Park 8-10.09

Words by Heather Kincaid

For anyone who’s ever experienced the magic of the Moseley Folk Festival, it won’t be too much of a stretch to imagine Tolkienesque creatures emerging from the greenery around the festival site. So what better place to host Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films, with one adventure screening each day from 8th to 10th September.

Screenings will start at 7pm each day, with the films being show in order across the weekend: The Fellowship of the Ring (Fri 8th Sept), The Two Towers (Sat 9th Sept), The Return of the King (Sun 10th Sept). Adult tickets are priced at £23 per day or £60 for the weekend, with concessions for children over and under 12 years old. For direct event info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

So why Moseley Park? Nestled behind an unassuming row of shops and cafés, the beautiful, eleven-acre urban oasis is sheltered from the Birmingham traffic by lush foliage. Steeped in 300 years of history, it The Fellowship of the Ring @ Moseley Park 08.09feels almost as relaxed and picturesque as Bilbo Baggins’ beloved Shire, particularly when kitted out with the rainbow colours, floral displays and quaint and quirky crafts that accompany the festivals that take place on the site.

A peaceful lake is packed with fish and waterfowl, with a Grade II listed ice house that once served the Moseley Hall Estate built into a grassy hill in the heart of the park (rumoured to be the inspiration for Tolkien’s hobbit holes). Add to this the author’s well-documented Midlands connections, and it’s perhaps a wonder a Lord of the Rings-themed event didn’t happen here sooner.

There’s perhaps a good reason for this, however. Along with Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul, the Moseley Folk Festival is currently one of only two major commercial events happening in Moseley Park, both from the same festival organisers.The Two Towers @ Moseley Park 09.09

Run by a charitable trust, the park initially opened itself up as an event space to the Mosley Folk organsiers with some pretty stringent conditions attached – hoping they could protect the concerns of local residents whilst building on the foundations of the L’Esprit Manouche jazz events previously held there. Luckily the Moseley Folk team have done a good enough job keeping trustees happy to be permitted to expand activities there, albeit under the new, rather apt name of ‘Ice House Pictures’. Could the formation of the Ice House Picture be the beginning of a new series of outdoor screenings?

Either way, this weekend brings the event that the local LOTR fan community have been waiting for in all its glory: a three-day movie marathon scheduled to The Return of the King @ Moseley Park 10.09coincide with the Middle Earth Festival at the nearby Sarehole Mill, making for a veritable extravaganza for all die-hard Ringers.

Alongside the films, with high quality audio delivered via radio headsets, there’ll be live music from the Central England Camerata as conducted by Louis Clark Junior – plus storytelling, folk dance, children’s games, costumed actors, wandering minstrels and more.

So don your walking gear and prepare for the long hike out to Mordor and back – bearing in mind there’ll be prizes for the best costumes every day. While you’re around, why not check out the re-enactments, living history camp, weapons displays, costume pageants, medieval traders and more at the Middle Earth Festival at Sarehole Mill, Hall Green (9th to 10th Sept) where Tolkien lived and played as a child.

A word of warning though, if on your travels you happen across any mysterious jewellery or treasure hoarding beings… it’s probably best to steer clear.

For more on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Film Screening, visit www.moseleyfolk.co.uk/LOTR 

For more information about Moseley Park, including news and event listings, visit www.moseleypark.co.uk