Category Archives: Film Festival

Campbell X and THE WATERMELON WOMAN


THE WATERMELON WOMAN is a self-coined – Dunyementary – a fusion of fiction and documentary style filmmaking. In THE WATERMELON WOMAN, Cheryl Dunye uses  investigative documentary shooting on video intercut with a formal fiction comedy drama structure shot on film. Inserted within the narrative is archive footage constructed by Dunye.

THE WATERMELON WOMAN is edutainment. We laugh while being educated about the erasure of Black women in cinematic history in general, and also the invisibility of Black lesbian actresses in Hollywood history. As we watch the film we begin to question what is real and what is fiction? THE WATERMELON WOMAN is the Black actress Fae Richards who had disappeared, undocumented in the mist of time.

The title “THE WATERMELON WOMAN” is a play on the association between racist depictions of Black people eating watermelons, equivalent to the often racist caricatured images of Black women as the Mammy/Maid characters in Hollywood. The title is also an homage to Melvin Van Peebles’ 1970 film WATERMELON MAN. Melvin Van Peebles is credited with starting the Blaxploitation era of cinema which heralded a new vision of modern African American cinema.

As THE WATERMELON WOMAN begins we see video footage of a white Jewish wedding with Black guests. As Cheryl, who is a wedding videographer sets up the frame, a white male photographer comes and tells the contributors to move around to suit his frame while she is shooting. She is of course outraged and tells him to wait his turn. This first scene sets the tone for the ways in which Black women’s stories are denied, overwritten or erased in Hollywood.

Cheryl in the film decides to search for the real Fae Richards. As she does so she interviews various gatekeepers of culture, who are unapologetic in their ignorance about Fae RichardsLee Edwards, the Black gay man, played by Brian Freeman (Pomo Afro Homos – 1990–1995) is uninterested in anything to do with history of women in cinema, the CLIT archivist played by Sarah Schulman hoards Black womens’ archival assets and denies Cheryl access to the material, the cultural critic Camille Paglia played by herself, who while explaining the impact of the Mammy role, denies there is a racist element to them, and even posits the roles as empowering because she insists on viewing them through her own Italian American experience.

The complicity of white women in power structures is further reinforced when we learn that Fae Richards was in a lesbian relationship with a white film director Martha Paige who cast her in the Mammy roles.  Martha Paige did nothing to write and direct roles for Fae that were outside of the Mammy/Maid roles. She instead built her reputation as a film director off plantation type dramas. In fact it is often Martha Paige who is referenced in the history books and not Fae Richards. Martha Paige is played by Alex Juhasz, one of the producers of THE WATERMELON WOMANCheryl’s relationship with Diana played by Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, L Word, American Psycho, Notorious Bettie Page, Charlie Says)  falls apart when Cheryl has the dawning realisation about her liberal white racist values and her attempted appropriation of Cheryl’s project.

At the same time Cheryl interviews older Black lesbians who let her know how much they revered Fae Richards, even as Hollywood rejected her, and dumped her when she got older. She uncovers Fae Richards rich and joyous life as a Black lesbian who was survived by June, her lover of 20 years. June is played by the iconic poet and essayist – Cheryl Clarke.

THE WATERMELON WOMAN is a genius film which subverts dominant cinema with a Black lesbian feminist aesthetic through centring dark-skinned Black women as characters and actors. And by placing Black masculine of centre women of various ages as objects of desire and love interests.   Cheryl Dunye casts herself, a black lesbian woman, as the central character, a Black lesbian filmmaker called Cheryl in order to obtain authenticity in the role, as well as intrinsically preventing any erasure of Black lesbian desire or bodies.

THE WATERMELON WOMAN is a love letter to cinema – African American cinema in Philadelphia in particular, we learn about those film companies that existed in the 1930s and see the cinemas where African Americans watched the silver screen. THE WATERMELON WOMAN while exploring the invisibility of Black lesbian women in cinema, also creates its own queer archive. There are references to other queer works of art, the documentary elements allow for the use of actual LGBT people, Dunye uses music of Black lesbians like Toshi Reagon and if you check the credits you will see interns like Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, The L Word, Carrie ).

THE WATERMELON WOMAN tells us to speak to our queer elders and hear their stories in order to document histories/herstories/theirstories so we so we know they were there.

Campbell X

MARIO a revealing look at homosexuality in The Beautiful Game.

No matter who I talk to, hardly anyone understands why it should be a problem to be an openly gay professional football player in 2018. As early as 2013, many German politicians as well as high-ranking club functionaries and representatives of professional associations took a stand and signed the “Berlin Declaration” – a position paper against homophobia in sport. We know that there are gay football players, and club-internally they receive professional guidance and management, but towards the outside, the silence is maintained.

Coming out in professional football is still a taboo. The blame for this is passed back and forth. Some say reactionary fan groups are the problem. Others point to the sponsors, who could bail out. Or individual players from chauvinistic cultures who would not be able to deal with the situation. Corny Littmann, former President of the St. Pauli football club in Hamburg, Germany, and gay himself, gave an interview on the topic in 2012. Asked why not a single player had come out as gay yet, he answered that this would be stupid. “Only a fool would do that.” Littmann regards the world of football as a professional field lacking the social competencies to deal with a coming-out.

Homophobic clichés and small-mindedness are still widespread, according to him. On average, a football player can pursue his career for 16 years and changes clubs every two to three years. He is a commodity, bought and sold again as lucratively as possible. An openly gay player would, however, encounter problems when trying to find a new club. He would be seen as “difficult”, even if his athletic performance were high. Coming out would therefore destroy his market value – and with it his entire career. So is everything, as so often in our society, a question of money?

In 2018 the FIFA World Cup will be carried out in Russia, a country that discriminates against and ostracises homosexuals. 2022 will see the World Cup in Qatar, a country that punishes homosexuality with five years’ imprisonment or 90 whiplashes. As we know, football is big business, and FIFA will make sure that nothing comes in the way of that – least of all the gay question. And we will follow both cups with excitement, and we will pay to see the games. In the end, the current status quo regarding homosexuality in professional football is a contract we have all entered into. But the weight of self-denial is a weight that the gay players carry alone.

When screenwriter Thomas Hess approached me in 2010 with his idea to make a feature film on the topic of gay love in professional football, my first question was: Hasn’t that film already been made? The topic was already present in the media, but our research showed that, apart from numerous news features, there was only a comedy dating from 2004.

The great football love story, however, had not yet been made for cinema. This is why I committed to the project. Apart from the topical relevancy, I felt very much like making another love story twenty years after “F.est un salaud”. Since classical literature, love stories that are framed by any kind of forbidden love have moved us the most. I saw the opportunity to tell a truly moving story in the given social context of a modern forbidden love. It was important to me to illustrate this context as realisticallyand contemporarily as possible. The football club BSC YB from Berne, Switzerland, generously supported me during the research and script development phases. During shooting BSC YB and the St. Pauli football club provided us with infrastructure, materials, and their names, for which I am very grateful.

Marcel Gisler

Director and co-writer of MARIO – Marcel Gisler

The Wound – When Controversy Prompts Conversation

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John Trengove’s debut feature and Oscar-shortlisted film, THE WOUND (INEXBA), has been bestowed with accolades and critical acclaim; going on to sweep the South African Film and Television Awards this past month. With such success, there was always bound to be a degree of controversy. As with any hard-hitting film that delves into themes of sexuality, masculinity and culture; finding a consensus can be difficult, if not impossible.

The controversy in question focuses on the way in which the film handles its depiction of the Xhosa ethnic group and the rite-of-passage ceremony these young men are put through as they transition to manhood. A call to ban the film was effectively successful in South Africa but has since been overturned, allowing it a full run in cinemas. Critics of the ban and controversy have pointed to an inherent homophobia that underlines the backlash – claims that are exacerbated by the fact the film hadn’t even been released when the controversy began to emerge.

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Nevertheless, isn’t any dialogue surrounding a LGBT film helpful? Isn’t a film like this essential in reaching out to queer black men and women in the 8 million strong Xhosa ethic group? Shouldn’t Cinema provide a voice to those who are oppressed?

First and foremost we must address the very nature of the controversy and how some have argued that the film exposes private and secretive cultural traditions. Furthermore, critics have contended that the filmmakers had no right to explore these customs; attacking the film as an appropriation and distortion of their culture. However, the films depiction of these traditions is never exploited. Rather, director John Trengove directly avoids graphically depicting the ceremonial event and maintains a level of ambiguity that respects the culture but also underlines the focus of the film: a love affair between two men.

When a film such as THE WOUND is classified as R-rated and essentially deemed ‘pornographic’, isn’t it essential to debate these issues? Oppressive and draconian reactions to the tougher aspects of the film are an attack on both free-speech and art itself. With cinema, audiences are given the opportunity to submerge themselves in different cultures, ideas and mind-sets. To be transported, shocked and even inspired.

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John Trengove argues that the setting of the film is in direct resistance to ideas perpetuated by many African leaders; some whom have suggested homosexuality is un-African and a symptom of western decadence. In an interview with Peccadillo our friend the film’s director stated: “We knew we wanted to tell a story about same-sex desire in a specifically African culture”, directly challenging African taboos around homosexuality that has been embedded into their culture. The filmmaker’s bold storytelling not only opposes these beliefs, it also encourages a much-needed conversation.

Devoid of the freedom that cinema can provide, people are bound to be more close-minded, more Orwellian and more muted. Cinema – no matter how hard-hitting – gives us all a voice.

So, endeavour to go and see THE WOUND when it hits UK cinemas on 27th April 2018; make up your own mind about the film and engage in a much-needed dialogue with those around you. That’s what Cinema is all about!

BEACH RATS – The Origin

 

Writer / Director Eliza Hittman talks about the original ideas behind her award winning film BEACH RATS.

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BEACH RATS

When Eliza Hittman’s debut feature, IT FELT LIKE LOVE, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, it was hailed as a refreshingly unsentimental, original and visually poetic portrait of a teenage girl’s sexual coming-of-age. Hittman was lauded as a filmmaker to watch, and the accolades continued as IT FELT LIKE LOVE played additional festivals and went into theatrical release in 2014. Richard Brody of The New Yorker named it one of the 20 best films of 2014 and wrote “Even as the movie delves deep into the characters’ complex emotional lives, it subtly and gradually—yet ineluctably—conjures a world that I was sorry to leave. I didn’t want the movie to end.”

Hittman knew she would be expected to tell another female-centered story with her second feature, but she wanted to challenge industry assumptions and herself as a filmmaker. She wanted to continue to plumb the outer and inner lives of young people, but chose a different focus. “I grew up in a family where all conversations around sexuality were taboo. I watched someone be brutalized because of their sexuality, but I’ve been barred from writing about my family specifically. My firsthand experiences with homophobia haunt my youth and inspired me to tell a story about a character wrestling with sexuality. I wanted to take on something that was very masculine, and explore the intense pressures on young men to live traditionally masculine lives in an environment with no clear alternative, role model or way out.” BEACH RATS began production on July 25, 2016, and shot for 25 days in different parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

In considering a setting for the story, she was drawn back to the South Brooklyn working-class neighborhoods of IT FELT LIKE LOVE. A native of Flatbush, Brooklyn, Hittman came to know the borough’s coastal communities through high school friends who lived in places like Manhattan Beach. “I’ve always been a little bit fascinated with those neighborhoods and I’d spend a lot of the summer just flopping around those beaches,” she says. “It’s a part of Brooklyn that feels caught between past and present. Those areas have a history of violence of all kinds–crimes against people of color and gay men, and organized crime–and, unlike other parts of the City, change has come very slowly.

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Harris Dickinson plays Frankie in BEACH RATS

 

Her image of the main character in BEACH RATS came from a Facebook image she’d found while researching wardrobe and set design for IT FELT LIKE LOVE. “It was a guy standing at a mirror holding his phone, with a big flash from the camera,” she says. “He had his shirt off and this hat on, and the visor was sort of masking his eyes. It looked like he was about to pull down his gym shorts and take a picture of his dick. There was this tension between hyper-masculine and homoerotic that the picture so clearly illustrated.”

At the same time, Hittman also became interested in Internet-related violence in the LGBTQ community, violence that has had a significant presence in these outer reaches of the City as a microcosm of events that happen throughout the world. The horrifying nature and similarities within stories where dating sites are used to lure people into sexual encounters that end with robbery, beatings, and even death. Hittman says “it’s a very dark subject, one that I know will have a divergent response as it’s a difficult topic that continually recurs.”

From there, Hittman started building out the world of Frankie, a 19-year-old facing an aimless summer at an uncertain moment in his life. His father is in the last stages of cancer, dying in hospice care in the family living room. Frankie spends his days killing time, getting high and hanging out with three delinquent fellow beach rats. At home, he squirrels himself away in the basement, where he can flirt with older men online without anyone knowing. But when a self-assured, sexy local girl named Simone makes a play for him on a Friday night at Luna Park, he awkwardly goes along with it.

 

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Eliza Hittman writer / director of BEACH RATS

 

What are little boys made of..?

If you’re blind to what is different, this story is not for you. But if your eyes are open, you should listen carefully

Every so often a film comes along where it is incredibly difficult to find the right tone. With GIRLS LOST we have been through countless design concepts and have really discussed, argued and fought over how it should look, how the synopsis should read, how to present this to the audience and even who that audience should be.

We’ve never had it like this on a single title before. But I have to say that after months of changing minds, designs and words we’ve finally cracked it, literally the day of release!

It’s an amazing film, in fact one for all the family! Read more below…

Kim (as a girl) and Momo (as a girl) from GIRLS LOST

Kim (as a boy) and love interest Tony from GIRLS LOST

“Girls Lost is maturely executed, offering a discussion that presents us with ideas that cannot be considered in haste, the post-contemplation of the film necessary.” HeyUGuys

Here’s the synopsis follow link

You can find out where and how to watch GIRLS LOST : http://www.girlslostfilm.com/

POUTfest 2016 Is Here!

Next week is going to be an exciting and busy time for the Peccadillo team. We will be celebrating the launch of POUT Fest 2016 with Holding the Man at Picturehouse Central on May 18th so come on down and join us for some excitement.

Following on from the fantastic success of POUT 2015, we are bringing you all an opportunity to experience another POUT with all new titles and events ready to take up your calendar.  POUT Fest 2016 aims to promote LGBT cinema with a variety of short films and feature length films that can inspire, move and emancipate the audience. To know more, read on at your leisure.

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Holding the Man perfectly encapsulates what POUT Fest 2016 aims to achieve; it’s daring, entertaining, touching and makes one proud to be who they are. POUT Fest 2016 will also see the launch of The Girl King, a historical film that covers the reign of the first native, female sovereign of Sweden as she is thrust into an all-male court that has no tolerance for her awakening sexuality. Enchanting visuals and intrigue map the film throughout. Girls Lost is another fantastic addition to the line-up. The hypnotic film follows three girls who discover a curious plant that has a rare magical ability; transforming the three girls into boys. As their genders change, so does the world around them leaving their responses to this change profound. We are also honoured to be showing the classic film, My Beautiful Laundrette, starring Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke. The film is a classic example of identity and inexorable love. For some laughter and fun we also have the cult film Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same gracing the POUT screens with its witty and humorous tale of romantic emotions. For all you documentary lovers we have the privilege of showing Limited Partnership, which tells the inspiring story of the first same-sex couple in the world to be legally married; taking on the US government in court to prove the legitimacy of their affection for one another.

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On May 20th Peccadillo will also be celebrating the release of Departure, a British drama starring the talents of Juliet Stevenson (Bend it like Beckham and Truly, Madly, Deeply) and Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game). The stunning debut from Andrew Steggall confronts the issues of family, first love and the dawning of one’s sexuality. With impressive visuals and an incredible cast, this is one film that will arouse the senses of the audience and anyone who has dealt with the issues presented. Get on down to the cinema to show your support for this years’ most incredible debut!

For more on POUT visit poutfest.co.uk

Interview with Asaf Korman – Director of Next To Her

How did you come across the idea for this film?

The idea for the film and the characters came from my wife, screenwriter and actress Liron Ben Shlush. Back in 2009 — she was still my girlfriend then – she told me she wanted to write a script based on her own experiences growing up with a mentally disabled sister. Talking about it for a while, we understood that this film will not be about looking after; it will be about a woman neglecting her own life for the sake of another person, and the dangers this neglect enfolds.

How was it working as a couple on the film?

Our combination, as a couple and as a screenwriter\actress and her director, defined the essence of this film. During the writing we got married and had our first child together, realizing that the film is not only about a situation of co-dependency, but also about parent-hood, about the boundaries we are forced to deal with when taking care of another person. There was a lot of anxiety before filming started. Liron had to perform nudity and love scenes with another man, and she had to deal with Dana Ivgy re-enacting her own real life sister. Eventually, these were the easiest parts of filming. The nudity and sex were technical, and the resemblance of Dana to Liron’s real sister allowed her to relate to her and made her feel comfortable.

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The challenge in working with Liron on the character of Chelli was the fact that she wrote it. We had to find a way making every situation in the film new to Liron, making her forget everything she wrote so she can experience the scenes as if they are the present reality, and not something meticulously tailored in writing. The fact that the lead actress of the film was always the only person on set knowing better then everyone the meaning of the scenes and actions was both helpful and dangerous, but the strength of the emotional connection to the story, and the semi-autobiographical elements of it, allowed her to create an amazingly complex and ambiguous character that is both her and the troubled women she could have become. This film is an act of love, in the most complex and challenging sense. It is an act of cooperation that encloses passion and pleasure, side by side with struggle and distress. It is an act of observation, of looking deep into each other’s eyes, which required true exposure, without compromise. In that sense, the film is also a continuation of my short film DEATH OF SHULA, that also touched the edge of exposure, revolving around the family’s deepest of fears, and crossing borderline between fiction and real life.

Film making demands collaboration with hundreds of people. How did you manage to work on such a personal film with others?

It was very liberating to be able to share our intimate and personal cinematic dream with a whole bunch of creative people. Our producers Haim Mecklberg and Estee Yam Mecklberg (2-team Productions) played an integral part in all the artistic aspects of the film, from start to finish, sharing their passion, vast experience and uncompromising love for filmmaking. We also had a very enthusiastic production designer, Ron Zikno, who managed to build the main location of the film as if the characters lived there forever, and filled the set with objects from Liron’s childhood memories which he carefully researched. Amit Yasour, the director of photography, apart from bringing his innovative cinematic approach and subtle style, created an artistic and non-technical environment on set which allowed us to focus on telling this story, with all the emotional challenges, the best way we could.

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Watching the film, one could think that Gabby is portrayed by a real mentally challenged actress. How did the actress manage to do that?

The actress portraying the disabled sister is a famous Israeli actress, Dana Ivgy. I met Dana in high school, she is a very close friend of mine for many years and she was lead actress in the first short film I made in high school when we were 18 years old. We have been waiting to work together again ever since, and me and Liron knew we would cast her from the early stages of writing. Our close friendship was what allowed us to trust each other going into the wild journey this character demanded. In order to play the role of Gabby, Dana worked very long hours at the hostel in Haifa where the real sister of Liron is living. She researched a lot and met doctors and specialists, trying to deeply understand the physical and mental state of the character. We also rehearsed quite a bit, trying to master the gestures of the two sisters and reach the intimacy of siblings that was so crucial to the credibility of the film.

 

Next To Her will be released in cinemas and on-demand – March 11 at Curzon Bloomsbury, ICA, Art House Crouch End and Home Manchester.

Interview with Doona Bae

 

Watching the great film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, one of my favourite books, I first saw Doona Bae. She was playing the role of Sonmi-451 a sub-member of society.  Similarly playing an outsider, lesbian police officer Young-Nam, in A GIRL AT MY DOOR, brushes on many issues, from sexism to child abuse to LGBT issues. Although these issues feature in the film, Doona Bae remarks in her interview about the film “LGBT was not the focus of the film but passed by smoothly.” It is a beautifully told story by director July Jung.

 

Doona Bae Interview 1

 

Although it surprised me that Doona would act in a smaller budget film like A GIRL AT MY DOOR, as soon as I saw it I was blown away.  Is a quiet but powerful film that gave me the chills the first time I saw it. She elaborates in her interview about the film why she chose to play the part “Once I read the first few lines, I started to like the script… the first thing that appealed to me was the loneliness “

 

Doona Bae Interview 2

 

Although she often plays English speaking roles, she connects on a deep level to films shot in her native tongue. She doesn’t have to memorise all her lines verbatim she notes:  “while filming when other actors speak to me and say their line my reaction and other actions should be more spontaneous.” This led to her natural and seamless performances, which are immediately evident.

I’d recommend watching the whole interview about the film with Doona Bae (Link below), as she expresses with a nuanced thoughtfulness she brings to her acting.

 

The Godmother of Sydney Mardi Gras

Interview with Filmmaker Fiona Cunningham-Reid. 

We sat down with documentary filmmaker Fiona Cunningham-Reid and discussed the legend of Dawn O’Donnell – Gangster, Goddess or Godmother?

 

Why did you feel it was important to tell the story of Dawn O’Donnell?

From the first time I met Dawn when filming the Mardi Gras for Channel 4 and ABC back in 1991, I was intrigued and appalled in equal measure. She was a controversial woman full of contradictions, loved and hated in equal measure. She was first and foremost a businesswoman and if there was a dollar to be turned she’d do it, and always on her own terms. But was she a gangster? Certainly, rumours swirled around her and some people wouldn’t talk on camera claiming they might be found at the bottom of Sydney Harbour with cement boots.

She was living her own legend. Equally, as so often happens with women, she was being marginalised and even left out of Sydney’s LGBT historical narratives (mostly written by men). Every bar, club, drag-show, sauna, sex-shop and even car-park – she ran them. Dawn started her empire when women were third class citizens and couldn’t even have their own bank account, yet there she was, wheeling and dealing with police, criminals and drag-queens. There was no way I wasn’t going to tell her story – and as for her astonishing physical transformation, she was irresistible – from koala-hugging baby, a rebellious convent girl, then a femme ice-skater to finally morphing into Uncle Jack, a silver-cropped butch dyke.

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The way Sydney’s Mardi-Gras is presented in the film makes it look amazing. How integral was Dawn to the festival, and is it still like this?

Initially, Dawn had zero interest in gay law reform or politics; legal or not she wasn’t bothered, everyone still wanted somewhere to drink and her pubs made money, a lot of money. On the night of the first ever Mardi Gras, which was Sydney’s response to the Stonewall riots in New York, it was pouring with rain and the police were very violent breaking up the peaceful demo and many were arrested.  Dawn, sitting in the safety of one of her pubs, said “that’ll never work, that won’t catch on…” I don’t like sounding like an oldie, but I am and I think Mardi Gras, even though it’s now huge with hundreds of thousands of people involved, is far too corporate and silly, but undoubtedly it has the best parties in the world!

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And finally, did Dawn ever come to Soho? What do you think she’d make of it, then and now?

Dawn’s first trip to London was when she was a professional ice-skater in the early 1950’s. The only place she discovered and was interested in on that trip was the Gateways Club, Kings road in Chelsea. It’s where she came out. Soho wasn’t on her radar – not then. She and Aniek traveled extensively and always checked out the gay life – and imported ideas back to Sydney – she and Aniek installed the fist ever disco lit floor in Sydney, John Travolta style! One of her biggest scams was buying a porn movie abroad and then getting a bloke back in Sydney to copy it and then sell them in her sex shops, so I’m sure she did visit Soho again to buy a few titles! What would she make of Soho now?  Dawn would say “That was a bombed out plot when I was here, knew I should have bought it, put a car-park on it – no overheads with them, and then just let it run itself and I could sell that now for how many million? – never mind”.

 

 

 

Andrew Steggall chats UK Premiere of DEPARTURE

Friday marked the UK Premiere of Andrew Steggall’s DEPARTURE at the BFI London Film Festival, our first film of the festival. Featuring two incredible central performances from Juliet Stevenson (The Village, The Hour, Bend It Like Beckham) and Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game), DEPARTURE is Andrew’s elegantly crafted debut feature film. We caught up with Andrew this week for an exclusive interview for our blog.

Elliot (Lawther) is a dreamer who, with his mother Beatrice (Stevenson), is packing up their French country house in preparation to sell it. Elliot takes breaks to wander into the local village bar, where he writes romantic poetry, wearing a vintage French army coat and eyeing up the rough beauty of local boy Clément, who works on his motorbike.

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1. Where did DEPARTURE come from – what was the genesis for the film?

Friends of mine have a house in France and I was lucky enough to spend some time there one autumn. I was walking up the lane with two friends when the idea for the film emerged very strongly in my head. The narrative revolves around a kind condensing of a number of my own adolescent memories and around the atmosphere of the house and the landscape. Needless to say the story moved on and evolved from this starting point in all sorts of ways – through the invaluable script development work of both my producer, Pietro Greppi, and brilliant BFI script development executive, Jamie Wolpert; through the necessities of budget and logistics and through the powerful presence of the actors. One of the friends I was walking up the lane that day with was the cinematographer of my short films, Brian Fawcett. He went on to shoot Departure – beautifully I think. And the house of my friends turned out to be the house we shot in and around.

2. How did you cast the film and how did you get Juliet Stevenson and Alex Lawther involved?

Alex Lawther was the first actor on board the film. I had seen him in South Downs by David Hare at the Comedy Theatre (now the Harold Pinter) in 2012 when he was just sixteen and had spoken to him and his mother at stage door after the performance. We then went on to see many young actors but in the end I came back to Alex, thank goodness. He was about to go to Thailand to film X+Y and we thought we might film rather sooner than we did, so in 2013 I dashed down to Petersfield and we met at the train station where I found him reading Camus on a bench. We then walked to a nearby park and read some scenes there. It was obvious that he was Elliot. When casting Beatrice we had explored a number of options and it wasn’t until quite late in the day that someone suggested Juliet Stevenson. It’s funny, in hindsight I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part so it was odd that I took a little while to come to her. She received the screenplay and it was difficult to find a time to meet as she is so busy. Eventually we met at her house late on a Sunday night as she unloaded her family from their car after a weekend in the country. We chatted for just over an hour and at about midnight I left her house knowing that so long as her family agreed to her going away for a month to shoot, she was onboard. The next morning I flew to France to start the design work for the 2014 shoot.

The cast and crew of DEPARTURE speak at its Mayfair premiere.

The cast and crew of DEPARTURE speak at its Mayfair premiere.

3. Where did you film DEPARTURE and how did you find the house?

We shot the film almost entirely on location in the South West of France. The house belongs to the friends I mentioned above and who were unbelievably generous in lending it to me. It sits in the forest by a river in the Montagne Noire, which runs parallel to, and north of, Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. The mayor of the village and all the locals were incredibly supportive so we were able to house the entire crew in the very small village (Cenne Monesties). A few of them even make an appearance in the film.

4. DEPARTURE touches on some incredibly powerful themes including sexuality, aging and the bond between mother and son – did you actively want to explore these during the film?

Very much so. The initial idea of the film and the dominant theme in my head was the idea of knowing something before you know it, as it were. The sense of imminent change, or electricity in the air, of inevitability. It has always struck me that the transition from a kind of almost non-existent Blakean innocence to an all-to-real experience is one that we crave for during our adolescence. But it is a one-way journey and one we rush towards with a strange mixture of dread and excitement. This is the change in the film that Elliot has a sense of knowing will occur. For the character of Beatrice, played by Juliet, the change is one that she also intuits long before it happens but it is one that she fights agains whilst inadvertently hastening. Her marriage to Philip is full of unhappiness and she causes its demise as much as he does. The film conjectures that she chose a marriage that was destined to be unhappy out of a kind of punitive guilt and then drives it to its end by resenting Philip for not loving her. His reasons for marrying are equally perverse. Which is not to say that there wasn’t love there but that it was flawed from the beginning and that it is hard to uncover where the fault lies. Probably with neither of them. Throughout the film there is a feeling that all the characters are longing, if not for sex, then for tenderness and physical contact. Elliot is just beginning his physical and sexual life and Beatrice is discovering that it is perhaps not too late to have one.

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5. What inspires you?

I guess you don’t want as long an answer as this could be? All sorts of things really: silence, forests, water, film, theatre, art, the people around me. I listen to music when I write and so it has to be non-intrusive (essentially not sung in English or not sung at all) so I listen to Bach and Dvorak and Schubert amongst others. Dvorak plays a dominant theme in the film through his opera Rusalka and particularly the Song to the Moon aria. I have just checked and I have played one of the versions I have 120 times, beaten only by Bach’s Cantatas sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and at the top apparently Do What You Do by Noah in the Whale which was the song I used in The Red Bike, a short film I made in 2010. At other times I am just as likely to be singing (in the wrong key) pretty much anything by Sondheim. A few years ago, I shared my diary with my partner, and he was particularly amused by an entry I had made when I was about fourteen which read something like: “I am listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber and feeling inspired.” So perhaps that is the answer to your question. Or it would have been that day! I think I was feeling heart broken and was listening to Aspects of Love. The first film I remember seeing was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and I was taken out of the cinema in Swindon about twenty minutes in, weeping with fear and terror. I’ve always loved Spielberg! And recently I really loved Amour by Haneke and Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazier But the stand out film of the last twelve months has to be Mad Max, Fury Road by George Miller, which just completely blew me away. Oh and I have watched The Hours by Stephen Daldry more times than is decent. The first gay themed film I saw was Maurice which I watched at the age of about thirteen when it was on television. It was on late enough for my parents to have gone to bed but I was terrified I would wake them so I crouched next to the television with the volume down to almost nothing.

Keep an eye out for more news on DEPARTURE as it comes. We are due to release early 2016.

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Pictured above – lead actor in the film Alex Lawther, director Andrew Steggall and lead actress Juliet Stevenson.