LOCAL/LOCALE season at EFG: Our Beloved Month of August

This coming Sunday at 7pm the LOCAL/LOCALE season at Edinburgh Film Guild continues with a film by celebrated Portuguese writer/director Miguel Gomes. The director’s second feature film following The Face You Deserve (2004) is a sun-drenched portrait of a rural town in the region of Arganil, whose title, Our Beloved Month of August (Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto, 2008) proclaims the affection with which Gomes treats his subject. The film is at once a narrative about a family dance band and a blossoming romance and a meditation on the nature of filmmaking itself. Gomes dissolves the supposed distance between documentarian and subject, writer and actors, blending all such elements together into one glorious idiosyncratic work of cinema. AQMA_039Like Gomes later film, the multi award-winning Tabu (2012), the concept of playing lightly with notions of narrative and performance is familiar in Our Beloved Month of August, though the influence of the locals themselves is more apparent. Much like Gomes most recent trilogy of films, Arabian Nights: Volume 1 – The Restless One, Volume 2 – The Desolate One and Volume 3 – The Enchanted One non-professional actors play themselves – and other roles – whilst Gomes ‘the director’ appears as himself, struggling to reconcile budget, script and schedule on the shoot. Gomes’ ever present anxiety of creative vision hindered by financial limitations only seem to imbue him with a sense of inventive inclusion, as though what must be cut from a production gives rise to the feeling that everything and anything can and should be the film. AQMA_027Kieran Corless on Our Beloved Month of August: ‘It inhabits its chosen world and landscape so fully and imaginatively, so intimately, it’s almost as if it’s inhaling it. Slowly, stealthily, the fantastical flowers in this everyday scenario, credibly and breathtakingly. We experience that rarity in cinema, a sort of flowing, fluid buoyancy, when everything in a film is singing, all the elements are fusing in harmony.’

This will be the penultimate screening in the LOCAL/LOCALE season, with the UK premiere of Britni West’s award-winning Tired Moonlight following it on Sunday 6 December, a film which combines the docu-fictional elements of Gomes with the loose, intimacy of the low budget American indie.

Here’s the full run down of the season below. You can join the Facebook event here, and get more info on the Edinburgh Film Guild here.

Sunday 8 November: MAN OF THE STORY (KATHAPURUSHAN). Adoor Gopalakrishnan/India, Japan/1995/102/Malayalam with English subtitles.

Sunday 15 November: WHITE COAL. Georg Tiller/Austria, Poland, Taiwan/2015/70 min/English and Chinese with English subtitles.

Sunday 22 November: ALLUVION/EVERGREEN. Alluvion/Sasha Litvintseva/UK/2013/31min. Evergreen/Sasha Litvintseva/UK/2014/50 min.

Sunday 29 November: OUR BELOVED MONTH OF AUGUST (AQUELE QUERIDO MES DE AGOSTO) Miguel Gomes/Portugal, France/2008/147 min/Portuguese with English subtitles.

Sunday 6 December: TIRED MOONLIGHT. Britni West/USA/2015/76 min.

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LOCAL/LOCALE season at EFG: Man of the Story

A few weeks ago I announced a mini film season at the Edinburgh Film Guild. Taking place on Sundays at 7pm from 8 November until 6 December, LOCAL/LOCALE presents films that each address a specific place or places, using techniques of documentary and fiction, essay and narrative, to undermine our assumptions about genre and offer in turn, intelligent, beautiful and humorous comments on the human condition.

The season opens on Sunday 8 November with Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s 1995 film Man of the Story (Kathapurushan), which chronicles the life of Kunjunni (Viswanathan), born to a land-owning family but without any paternal influence, who must then reconcile his place within his family, social class, and political position. Gopalakrishnan frames the story of Kunjunni within a folk tale of a family who encounter a cannibalistic demon in the forest, where the father must decide if he would sacrifice those he loves in order to survive. It’s this melding of narrative layers and the use of personal and historical contexts that gives Man of the Story such depth, and makes it such a pleasure to watch. Kathapurushan - Infant Kunjunni +Motehr

Gopalakrishnan has used multiple narratives or films within films in some of his other work (such as Rat Trap, 1981 and A Climate for Crime/Oru Pennum Randaanum, 2008 ), which is also very socially conscious and often focuses on Kerala, in southern India where the director was born in 1941.

Writing for the Second Run DVD release of Rat Trap, Derek Malcolm said of Adoor Gopalakrishnan; ‘[his films] speak eloquently to other cultures as well. This is because they are not closed to outsiders, however subtle they are in examining Kerala’s social, political and cultural history. They invariably contain some of the eternal verities of our existence, and they do so with a humanity and skill that is not easily matched.’ Kathapurushan - Kunjunnii writing (lamp before) It’s this relevance to other cultures that makes Man of the Story a fitting opener to the LOCAL/LOCALE season. Gopalakrishnan’s film not only realises beautifully, a period of great change in Kerala, but will hopefully introduce some of the themes that will be seen throughout the film season.

Below is the full run down of the LOCAL/LOCALE season. The Edinburgh Film Guild are offering season tickets for £20 for five screenings, more information here. You can also join the Facebook event.

Sunday 8 November: MAN OF THE STORY (KATHAPURUSHAN). Adoor Gopalakrishnan/India, Japan/1995/102/Malayalam with English subtitles.

Sunday 15 November: WHITE COAL. Georg Tiller/Austria, Poland, Taiwan/2015/70 min/English and Chinese with English subtitles.

Sunday 22 November: ALLUVION/EVERGREEN. Alluvion/Sasha Litvintseva/UK/2013/31min. Evergreen/Sasha Litvintseva/UK/2014/50 min.

Sunday 29 November: OUR BELOVED MONTH OF AUGUST (AQUELE QUERIDO MES DE AGOSTO) Miguel Gomes/Portugal, France/2008/147 min/Portuguese with English subtitles.

Sunday 6 December: TIRED MOONLIGHT. Britni West/USA/2015/76 min.

Voices in the darkness: Horse Money review

Pedro Costa’s Horse Money (Cavalo Dinheiro) is the first theatrical release from Second Run DVD, who this month celebrate ten years of releasing neglected masterpieces of world cinema. Second Run have long supported Costa, previously releasing Casa De Lava (1994) and O Sangue (1989), so their first foray into theatrical distribution is apt. Celebrated on the festival circuit – Horse Money won the Best Director prize at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival – this is Costa’s first narrative feature since Colossal Youth In 2006, having directed several shorts and one feature documentary, Change Nothing (2009) in the interim.

Vitalina Varela
Vitalina Varela

Again following the retired labourer Ventura, just as he was the focus of Colossal Youth, Costa casts a shaft of light on the largely uninhabited interior spaces within the hospital that his lead wanders through. Ventura, a man in his seventies, here appears making declarations of his youth, telling the doctor that he’s nineteen and was lost in Fontainhas, his past ever present and unresolved. He encounters Vitalina, she is waiting for her widow’s pension and tells the story, with whispered intensity, of how she struggled to obtain a visa to attend her husband’s funeral. Later Ventura comes upon Benvindo, waiting for his salary; ‘’How long have you been waiting?’’
‘’Over twenty years.’’

Such interactions might perhaps exist only in the mind of Ventura. He appears frail, trembling and confused. He’s vulnerable to the neglect of the state, determined – as are those he encounters – but from their perspective easy to ignore. Until that is, he’s apprehended attempting to leave and the sight of him surrounded by soldiers, cornered by a tank is an image that describes so much about the treatment of Portugal’s post-colonial forgotten peoples. It’s this subject that Costa has made his primary concern, documenting testimony from those whose voices would otherwise be unheard.
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Costa and regular cinematographer Leonardo Simões use darkness to startling effect, as exterior light casts shadows on walls in otherwise opaque spaces, the shadow of a window frame creating a structural reference against which bodies are temporarily illuminated. Whenever a close-up occurs, its impact is magnified by the predominance of mid and wide compositions throughout, suddenly identifying the loss and desperation writ upon a lined face.

Horse Money can be thought of as a ghost story, where Ventura is at once haunting the establishment that failed him, and haunted by the voices of his community. Ventura is a figure carrying the weight of personal and collective experience with him, and here Costa has stretched his inhabiting of space and gathering of stories to its gloomy, mesmeric eventuality. An extraordinary and absorbing work of cinema.