Film Programmer/Curator Bristol Black Horror Club
|Touch of Evil
|Killer of Sheep
|Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
|Ganja & Hess
|Night of the Living Dead
|George A. Romero
|Children of Men
|Daughters of the Dust
Touch of Evil
Borders of sexuality, race and identity, as well as moral and ethical corruption explored in Orson Welles's A Touch of Evil. It still has the power to disturb, disrupt and question notions of authority while also having one of the most incredible opening shots of all time.
Killer of Sheep
Had the great pleasure of watching Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep on the big screen again just recently. It's mesmeric, poetic and dreamlike, while also being interspersed with cinéma vérité, or even Italian neorealist-like-qualities – say, De Sica's Bicycle Thieves (1948)? It also has a wondrously intoxicating soundtrack.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Nagisa Ôshima's Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a Paul Mayersberg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) adaptation of Laurens van der Post's novel The Seed and the Sower (1963) based on his experiences as a WWII prisoner of war. A rollercoaster ride of the human condition. David Bowie, Takeshi Kitano, Tom Conti and the ever-incredible Ryuichi Sakamoto deliver career-defining performances, and in Sakamoto's case an unforgettably evocative and timeless score.
Ganja & Hess
Ganja & Hess and the work of Bill Gunn seem to be finally getting some well-deserved critical appreciation and praise. If you've not seen it… It's a must-watch. Experimental and trailblazing, Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) and Marlene Clark (The Beast Must Die/Slaughter) explore sexuality, addiction, religion/spirituality, belonging and African-American identity. Also an appearance from Sam Waymon (Nina Simone's brother), who composed the haunting score for the film, and cinematography by James E. Hinton. Ganja & Hess is baroque and phantasmagoric, and leaves a sombre, indelible impression that requires repeat viewing.
"We're not yet allowed to make personal films – So I was offered a vampire movie to do instead. When they came back this is what they found" (Bill Gunn).
Night of the Living Dead
The rise of the Pittsburgh Zombie! A masterclass in independent collaborative filmmaking. Romero's flesh-eating 'ghouls' would irreversibly change the horror genre. Simmering with social allegory and narrative innovation and a stand-out performance from Duane Jones (Ganja & Hess/Losing Ground), Romero et al crank up the tension exponentially to the films shocking climax, challenging us to ask: 'Who are the real monsters?'
Children of Men
Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men, based on the dystopian novel by P.D. James, is a disturbingly prescient fever dream of an authoritarian near-future in the death throes of total collapse. Technically innovative and visually mind-blowing, it's a whirlwind 110mins of staggering cinematic proportions!
Solid performances from Clive Owen, Julian Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clare-Hope Ashitey and an unforgettable cameo from Michael Caine.
Geoff Murphy's 'revisionist-western-epic', with nods to Sergio Leone and the spirit of 70s counterculture Hollywood, Utu is a revenger's tragedy of unresolved colonial conflict, partially based on the true events of the New Zealand Wars 1845-72. A brilliant cast includes Bruno Lawrence (The Quiet Earth/Smash Palace), Merata Mita (director of Patu! and Bastion Point: Day 507), Anzac Wallace (The Quiet Earth), Kelly Johnson (Goodbye Pork Pie) and Wi Kuki Kaa. Utu is explosive, outspoken and raw.
Every time I watch Paul Schrader's Blue Collar it haunts me more. It's unflinching, doesn't pull any punches and is at times hysterically funny and brutally honest. What we do when we are up against the wall, the seemingly bad decisions we make when forced to live on zero-hour contracts, the voiceless and disenfranchised, and how systemic blind-spotting and greed can tear us apart, instead of unifying us and bonding together around a common cause. Also, the film's exploration of working-class masculinity, toxicity, frustration, anger and ultimately tragedy and loneliness… It's utterly gut-wrenching but ultimately rewarding.
Even though the production was infamously mired by punch-ups and oneupmanship among the three main players, Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto deliver life- and career-changing performances and, regardless of what was going on behind the scenes, provide us with blistering and authentic character studies of working-class American men. Also, an incredible soundtrack.
Spike Lee's sixth film, based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X (which Malcolm X wrote with Alex Haley) features an incredibly layered and nuanced performance by Denzel Washington and an outstanding supporting cast: Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz, Delroy Lindo as West Indian Archie, Theresa Randle, Lonette McKee, Debi Mazar, Wendell Pierce, Giancarlo Esposito, Roger Guenveur Smith – the list is endless! Ernest Dickerson's cinematography! A historical achievement of epic proportions.
Daughters of the Dust
Migration, memory, mythology, intergenerational storytelling, diasporic heritage, culture, spirituality and religion. Daughters of the Dust is lyrical and poetic and centres the Black female experience and gaze, as well as being a pioneering achievement for Julie Dash, the first African-American woman to receive a nationwide release for a feature film in American cinemas. Stunning cinematography by Arthur Jafa and production design by Kerry James Marshall.