5 things to watch this weekend – 19 to 21 May

A Scottish classic returns for its 40th anniversary, while a fruit-picking drama offers a spell of sunshine.

19 May 2023

By Sam Wigley

Under the Fig Trees (2021)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and online on BFI Player

This gentle, naturalistic drama is set over a warm summer’s day in a Tunisian fig orchard. An ensemble piece, the fiction debut from documentary maker Erige Sehiri follows a group of fruit pickers at work, capturing a day of banter, flirtations, quarrels and small-scale dramas. No huge event occurs; it’s more about the ebb and flow of a working day – the film begins with the truck ride to the orchard and closes with the trip back at dusk. Through it all, there’s an unhurried, intimate and improvisational quality about the acting and dialogue, Sehiri working with non-professional actors to create a captivating feel of breezy authenticity. 

Local Hero (1983)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Local Hero (1983)
Park Circus

Granted a bigger canvas after the success of his Cumbernauld-set romantic charmer Gregory’s Girl (1980), Scottish director Bill Forsyth found himself working with Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster for this much-loved fable about an American oil exec (Peter Riegert) who travels to Scotland’s west coast to attempt to buy up a coastal town to make way for an oil refinery. Like a modern update of Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) in its picture of a businesslike outsider succumbing to local Scottish charms, Local Hero remains among the most enduring British films of the 1980s – now back in cinemas for its 40th anniversary, complete with Mark Knopfler’s anthemic guitar score.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Where’s it on? Talking Pictures TV, Friday, 11.05pm

Carnival of Souls (1962)
Criterion

One of the great one-offs, Herk Harvey’s sole feature as director is the haunted, haunting tale of a woman who, having survived a car accident, moves to a Utah town, takes up work as a church organist and finds herself mysteriously drawn to the abandoned carnival on the edge of town. Six years ahead of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Harvey’s film is ground-zero for US indie horror, being made far from the industrial hub of Hollywood and for the princely sum of $33,000. Harvey summons a huge amount of dread atmosphere for that cash: Carnival of Souls unspools as a surreal, fugue-state nightmare, scored to unearthly organ dirges.

Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV (2023)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and online on BFI Player

Fresh from this year’s Sundance lineup, Amanda Kim’s fascinating documentary offers a portrait of Korean-American avant-garde artist Nam June Paik, the man credited with revolutionising video as an artform. Kim’s film paints a picture of a visionary artist with an insatiable appetite for doing things differently, following him from music studies in Germany (meeting Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage) to years of restless experimentation as part of the Fluxus movement and New York’s downtown art community, rubbing shoulders with Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Jonas Mekas and so on. Paik found his niche by pushing the nascent video format to playful, abstract extremes, creating video art that’s proven enduringly influential on pop culture, from 80s pop videos and TV to the meme era.

Aurora (2010)

Where’s it on? Klassiki Online

Aurora (2010)

Film of the week on the streaming service dedicated to cinema from Eastern Europe and Central Asia is a highlight of the Romanian New Wave: Cristi Puiu’s weighty and surprisingly gripping three-hour anti-thriller Aurora. Puiu himself plays the central role of a fortysomething man with dark thoughts in his mind and a gun in his possession. He spends the film roaming or driving around the city, apparently with a sinister purpose. As we attempt to parse the man’s enigmatic actions and downcast mood, Puiu’s precise, controlled images hold our attention in a vice. In its way, it’s as grimly absorbing as his previous film, the more widely celebrated The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005).

BFI Player logo

All-you-can-watch access to 100s of films

A free trial, then just £4.99/month or £49/year.

Get free trial