Notes on Blindness : A Film Review

 Notes on Blindness.   A film written and Directed by PeterMiddleton and James Spinney. Cast Dan Skinner and Simone Kirby. Duration. 1hr 30mins. UK and Cert. U.

The minds deep perceptions

Dan Skinner (John Hull) and Simone Kirby (Marilyn Hull) are the actors throughout this film who lip-synch to the tapes made over many years by the sightless John Hull.  They have four children at various stages through the timescale of the film and they are acted also filling in with precision and authentically the dropped phrases and sometimes pivotal emotional moments by child actors.  The book which is the core centre piece was called Touching the Rock (1990) and the amazing Peter White describes it thus.

Peter White, presenter of Radio 4’s In Touch programme, has described Hull’s impact on him as a blind person: “He had an uncanny knack … of analysing the experience of going blind. Not sentimentally, but with a forensic understanding of what it meant and how it felt. Until I read … Touching the Rock, I didn’t think there was very much anyone could teach me about what it felt like to be blind. After all, I had been blind all my life. But John’s description of what the sound of rain could tell you about your surroundings took my breath away.”  Peter White is on the radio practically every week and In Touch this week was without him as the only 20min. Show was of two people experiencing Glastonbury – one partially sighted and one non sighted.  It was a scary but thrilling ride for them.  Mud, going for a wee, and some crowd crushing the main downers.


The story 

This is a deeply moving film of a life’s journey which follows a path of disability which many have to take.  The subject is John Hull and how he deals with his loss of sight in extraordinary insightful ways.  I use that word because John Hull unwittingly, through his only having his individual take on blindness, discovers so much about his life, himself and his friends, family and his pupils, for he still maintains that academic place of teaching as a University lecturer  – Theology.

It is a truly remarkable and unique depiction and story of how sight loss affects people and deepens our understanding of that loss of a fundamental sense.  The why’s, and for a theologian they are no different are constantly at the forefront.  In a  way it is as a cessationist; a term I have only lately learnt that he is put in a place which God cannot restore his sight.  Gods part in his life remains and as he would have it, I am thinking, begins with the sacrifice of Jesus that we may come to accept the word of the Lord.  For John Hull this is a means of coping with the loss and of understanding his own being.  The presence of faith in people with or without their full capacity and senses is a constant.  The cessationist must atone for the sins within their compass and be faithful to one another according to the Word.

There is not a Holy emphasis of the plight John Hull finds himself dealing with.  There is little mention of the faith element.  It is nevertheless one strand of his apparatus for dealing with it, it is afterall his chief mainstay and it’s as submerged in an everyday life, a family life carried on regardless.  His wife Marylyn features strongly as the rock he is fortune to have besides his faith.  She is almost our view of the external perspective but with it being so close to the vulnerability that is present throughout the intensity is seen in this film.


Project on the Notes

Put together by PETER MIDDLETON & JAMES SPINNEY – Writers & Directors, they gathered the tales of the ‘Notes’ from both the book transcriptions and tapes on cassette of John’s recordings.  His recordings taking in everything about home life and his analysis.  It also made him invent projects which were phenomenonally useful for others in his condition.      The Audio books aspect is of awesome value alone.

After losing sight, John Hull knew that if he did not try to understand blindness it would destroy him. In 1983 he began keeping an audio diary. Over three years John recorded over sixteen hours of material, a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, excavating the interior world of blindness. Published in 1990, the diaries were described by author and neurologist Oliver Sacks as, ‘A masterpiece… The most precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read.’

Following the Emmy Award-winning short film of the same name, the feature version of Notes on Blindness takes a creative approach to the documentary form. Actors lip-synch to the voices of the family, embedding John’s original audio recordings within compelling cinematography and textured sound design. The result is a poetic and intimate story of loss, rebirth and transformation, documenting John’s extraordinary journey into ‘a world beyond sight’.
The film is released in UK cinemas on 1st July 2016.

Recovering the Base.

John at once embarked on a way of retaining his main occupation – that of teaching Theology and that in itself was and is a challenging moving doctrine as we begin to understand our minds and with it the failings which are globally fracturing.

He found the only books readily available to non sighted people were either Crime fiction or Romance.  His question was therefore to ask where do I find books on knowledge, academic subjects such as sociology, Social Sciences, Theology itself and all the Sciences?  It was an unending task in front of him and he began it by enrolling – at one stage there were forty eight alone under his direction – reading onto cassettes Audio books of all kinds and to suit the myriad of interests.        With unheralded humility he just started it and the protocols, ideas entered into common usage with the Royal National institute for the Blind. RNIB primarily the main suitor.


Story as story

This film reveals so many aspects of ourselves as John Hull uncoils his memory onto tapes.  The first thing appreciated is our access to a private situation.  His domestic and family life along with the adjustment needed to perceived values.  The cassette is an instrument of vision.  It replaces sight with sound pictures.  The film itself is directed by PETER MIDDLETON & JAMES SPINNEY in granular detail.  Framing is acute.  Unnecessary detail is obscured and the focus is intense on every close proximity to the man at the heart of it.  Whether it is of Marilyn, his rock and foil – to which we are set to probe, in reaction shots and as she speaks often in the tapes while constructing a continuity to the lives they live.  It is a detail focus of Marylyn also.  The foil for thought and reason is there within her at every level you can think of including the religious conversations John has within himself and about their joint faith.  He explains how he imagines all are smiling when he relates to a conversation.  This and other little notes are persuasively engaging.  He has what everyone through this may appreciate as an insight on sight.  No counter factual reasoning here but analytical progression to the ‘next’ step.  For him we learn about the significance of texture, solidity, space and it is shown to us through the use of rain.  A lot of it!

I will leave you to discover how it is illuminating.  Both for John and us.  There is a visit to his parents in Australia within the timescale of the film which is fraught with displaced or dislodged memories.  It becomes a further lesson for us.       How is it so important for us to be able to go back somewhere and through  – 1.  A view or picture of the past.  2. A view and analysis of the present. – Allow ourselves to combine those memories and edit them into bearable, consumable scales for are life’s assembly.  The lesson is here.  The importance of sight is everything and it has in its absence a terrible unbalancing effect when all is said and done to Johns perceptions or absence from them now unsighted.  It is such a forceful element.  Johns return from Australia is full of thoughtful detail and the direction once again deployed is for detail, for obscurity, for out of focus moments remained on.  I found leaving the screening that it took longer time for my eyes to adjust as the sense I had been exposed to had within it a prevailing immersion.  It may not be everyone’s experience but I found without consciously asking myself that my eyes were themselves responsive to a molecular adjustment.  It was like a reconfiguring and recalibration.

Conclusion ####4

This is a unique approach fortunately taken by the co-operation of the couple John and Marilyn Hull by the adventurous filmmakers Peter Middleton and James Spinney as joint directors and writers and consolidated by the whole raft of the production team. It brings to us with varying knowledge of sightless to get deep into the experience of people affected by it.  The story is one even more remarkable for the manner in which John Hull shaped things for others over a long period to expand their encounters with the normal things we take for granted. Ca selfless act and just as importantly his wife and partner Marilyn together with his quizzical, thoughtful children took hold of a curse of a disabilitating condition and reinvented it for themselves and others making it possible for others to benefit from the selfless acts of enduring kindness and rationality which does not sit well alongside the injustice of any infliction of health cast upon individuals in almost shaken revolt to our maker.  The words of John put onto tape are reflections of poetic memory here pictorialised in a remarkable way and given voice to the normality he lives within.  A truly valuable piece of collaborative work seen by those participating as a continuation of their open voices.  There is accompanying this film a virtual reality experience of sight loss which I have nor engaged with or yet experienced.  It is an extension out of the work which will accentuate for the world of three dimensions a physical reality embolding those game enough to try it to visit a part of themselves never before visited.  Dan Skinner and Simne Kirby are remarkable and brilliantly effective as are the children recruited to play their family at all stages.  It is a restrained engrossing take and casting.

John Graham

30 June 2016


Some special screenings including a Directors (2!) talk at QFT – see below.

On at Queens Film Theatre (screen 2 has luscious comfy new seats as screen 1 is also simultaneously being fitted out! So relaxing and never a moment of cinematic excitement, bewilderment, astonishment, awe will escape you given the rooted place you will have to experience it from!)   The dates 1 July to 7 July 2016 inc. at QFT. Go see in every sense of the word.

PLEASE NOTE: all QFT screenings will include audio description played through audio description headsets available from the box office.
MON 4 JULY – the 6.30pm screening will be followed by a Q&A with directors Pete Middleton and James Spinney, and Belfast-based cinematographer Gerry Floyd.
TUES 5 JULY – the 6.30pm screening will feature an enhanced audio version. The enhanced audio version of the film was created by the filmmakers and features an entirely different audio mix of the feature. This version contains additional dialogue and the levels have been mixed to make this suitable for audience members who may have a visual impairment.


This is exile : A Film Review


For The Save the Children Fund to explain the current situation in just one location in human terms and to provide a focus on the problems and seemingly indifferences to resolving the displacement of many they have undertaken to produce this documentary. This is exile.

The largest refugee crisis in the world is without question currently, the Exodus of Syrian people from their homes to places of apparent safety.  These places are first location states of displacement.  Some are actually within Syria and on the border with for example Lebanon.  Others are actually in Lebanon and are transit camps of massive size largely run by NGO’s UNHCR can be classified as such given no one Government holds sway and is a joint International aid response alongside more removed NGO’s such as Save the Children and Red Cross.

The scale is horrendous.  4,000,000 have been displaced in Syria and over 2,000,000 of them are children.  Of those about seventy percent would be classified as unaccompanied, meaning they are only with a family or group because they rendered assistance and helped them move through places to reach a ‘place of safety.’  Many children have not made it and their story and plight is an unknown.  Families are separated and the location or survival of parents is unknown in the majority of cases.

The film opens with a picture of wide open spaces with distant snow capped montainscand rough ragged terrain barely manageable as argicultural land and thereby in the main uninhabited.  It conveys the size and scale of Syria.  The relative peace is juxtaposed with convoys of trucks and a virtual caravanseri of displaced people.  It is as if a new nomadic race has been there and seasonal movements are taken but this is the deception.  This place is open land and inhospitable and a likely target for Jets to bomb given the movements through Syria of pockets of Diash (Isis) who also up use the convoys as cover for their own purposes.

 Our question is – How to we take in unaccompanied Children refugees, provide them with a safe environment, to restart their education, to give them freedom to express themselves, create opportunities to assimilate, learn languages, contribute to the society they are in, to become healthy peaceful human beings and finally enable them to assert their sense of their own identity in relation to their birthplace and to establish connections again with their families and obtain the truth together with justice for their plight and flight.

 Politics = Wisdom.      That believe it or not is its goal and purpose.

The Department for Health and Social Services has created a set of protocols to manage the few numbers of Unaccompanied children but with the size of the problem so vast it must engage in constructing a new set of principles and accords which equate with our own freedoms and establish accommodation models which international aid can be found to finance new build and monitoring staff and observers who will work on programmes equating as closely as possible to our and their expectations.  An aspect of this could be I would suggest members of the refugee community working alongside specialist Social workers, care providers, to guide, report, implement procedures which are workable and cut out layers of bureaucracy and hinderances.  There is sufficient capacity; there are so many unemployed, there are so many willing to help and put down from wherever it comes, racial hatred, prejudices of many diverse kinds and also to rote to against internal race on race exploration, control and bullying.

The film

This Is Exile: Diaries of Child Refugees is an extraordinary, intimate portrait of the lives of child refugees forced to flee Syria’s civil war.

The documentary tells children’s stories in their own words, capturing the moving truth of how they deal with the loss and hardship of living in exile from their homeland.

This is Exile was funded by friends of Save the Children and filmed in Lebanon by the Emmy-award winning director Mani Benchelah.

Made by the independent production company Make Productions, the film offers an uncompromising portrayal of refugee children’s experiences.

Holding your own screening.

If you’d like to hold your own screening of This is Exile, please download our screening pack, which contains information, step-by-step instructions and discussion points. You could also collect donations for our Syria appeal from those attending. To request a DVD, contact us on

A newsdeeply interview with Director Mani Benchelah.

From war-torn homes to near permanent refugee status, Syrian children in Lebanon are living in a situation of never-ending insecurity, award-winning film-maker Mani Benchelah tells Syria Deeply. His film provides an intimate view into the lives of a generation whose world has been turned upside down.

Told in their own voices, the film allows these children, who have already at such a young age witnessed violence and atrocities the likes of which most will never see, to tell their own story.
The film is a beautifully crafted insight into the human cost of Syria’s ongoing civil war, which has forced more than four million people – half of whom are children – to flee the country.
The U.N.’s refugee agency estimates there are more than one million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon – a number equal to a quarter of the country’s population – but the number is likely closer to more than 1.5 million.
Nearly five years into the conflict, the fighting in Syria only seems to be getting worse, and as fall quickly turns to winter across the Middle East, many of the children featured in Benchelah’s film are facing a chilly winter in tents in unheated buildings across Lebanon.

WRITTEN BY Dylan Collins   For 

Syria Deeply caught up with Benchelah last weekend before his film screened at the annual BBC Arabic Film Festival. In four bloody years, over four million people have fled Syria to neighbouring countries. More than half of the refugees are children who have experienced both the brutality of war and the painful insecurity of exile. Most Syrians believed their escape would be temporary. They hoped to return to their homes when the bombs stopped falling, when schools opened again, when the violence ended. Few predicted their exile would last years, and potentially decades.

The interview

Syria Deeply: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to make this film?

Mani Benchelah: I’m a film-maker now. I used to live in Syria, years ago, in the 90s. I went there to formally study Arabic. So, in 2011, when the uprising started, I decided I wanted to find a way to get in and to report from where the uprising was taking place. I was originally working as an independent photographer. After a few weeks in Damascus, I found a way to sneak into Homs and to report on the ongoing repression and civil uprising. That was in October and November of 2011.
I went back to Syria in February 2012 when the fighting started to be much more intense. I was still working as a photographer – for Le Monde this time – but I also started to film. I stayed a month there, in Homs again and some surrounding areas, documenting what was going on. That led to some new photography work and a film, entitled The Horror of Homs (UK Channel 4). I continued working as a filmmaker in Syria after that. I kept coming back – mainly to the Homs area.
At a certain point though, it became impossible for me to get back in. Too many of my colleagues were getting killed and kidnapped. This is about the same time the refugee crisis started to become a pressing issue in the surrounding countries, and obviously for the Syrian population. When I was in Syria, interviewing children was never a main focus of mine, but it was an underlying issue that kept coming back. It became clear pretty quickly that children were a huge chunk of the refugee population. And, because obviously they will become the new ruling generation some day, it’s important to focus on what’s happening to them and what their prospects for the future are. Around this time, I was contacted by Save the Children to make a film about children – I chose Lebanon because of the numbers and the pressing issues for refugees there. So yeah, I guess that’s how it all started.

Syria Deeply: So could you give us a brief overview of your film?

Mani Benchelah: The film is a series of portraits of Syrian children living in Lebanon as refugees, who came with their families. I followed them throughout a year, coming back to Lebanon every three months or so, following the evolution of their lives. It’s filmed in various areas in Lebanon, some in the southern suburbs of Beirut, like the Shatila refugee camp, some in the Beqaa Valley, some in Arsal, other parts are in Tripoli. The children were all of different ages, from about 7 to 16 or so.
Initially, as I met them in early 2014, the idea of returning home to Syria was still realistic in their mind. Many of them had just arrived over the previous year, most had only been there for a few months or weeks even. They thought they were there [in Lebanon] momentarily, and then they would soon head home. But as the year passed and months went by, the prospect of going home became more and more remote, and the difficulties of having to adapt to this new reality started to become their reality.
The film really isn’t very optimistic. Most refugees flee the war with the idea that it will be a temporary measure they must take in order to find shelter from the violence and that they’ll return home as soon as possible, but as the war seems to be never-ending, this prospect becomes more and more remote. This is a general reality for most refugees – not just Syrians, actually. Most of them never return home, and often end up in some kind of limbo situation as refugees for years and years. The temporary refugee status becomes permanent.
And when we think of refugees in Lebanon, I mean obviously you can’t help but think about the Palestinians, who’ve been there for over 60 years. They, too, left home with this same idea – that they’d return home sooner rather than later. Camps made of tents become neighborhoods, and they start pouring concrete and they become new parts of the cities, like Shatila and Sabra. It’s the same in Pakistan for the Afghani refugee population that has been living there for years and years now, and the same in Africa for refugee populations that cross a border and five years later, 10 years later, they are still there.

Syria Deeply: So in terms of your year or so of experience with the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon, what are the largest issues they are facing?

Mani Benchelah: I mean, I focused on the children, so for them, the main issue is education and access to health. And obviously, just being able to provide a stable environment and adequate food. Mostly though, it’s access to education and access to health. It’s very complicated for Syrian children. Even if the Lebanese authorities, with the help of the U.N., have launched programs, they’re only able to reach a small percentage of the kids.
And many many kids are dropping out of school. They’re impoverished. Their families have no income. They need the teenagers to start working. Many of the kids I was following had to drop out of school to help support their families over the year I spent with them. Others simply had no access to schools because they were too far from a school or they weren’t living in a refugee camp, and even the schools in the camps weren’t proper schools.
Syria Deeply: Over the year you spent, is there any particular moment that stuck with you as an explicative
Mani Benchelah: Every child I followed highlights an aspect of the overall plight. For example, one of the young teenagers I was following had to drop out of school despite his deep desire to learn, to continue studying and to someday go to college. It was a tipping moment when he realized he really couldn’t continue learning. It was, for me, a moment indicative of so many other Syrian children who simply cannot continue their education.
For others, the situation in Lebanon itself was the story. They fled violence in Syria to find safety in Lebanon, and after months living in a somewhat more stable and peaceful situation, the violence found them again. Militants connected to ISIS crossed the Lebanese border into the city of Arsal in 2014 while I was working there, so there were clashes between the militants, Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, and for the children I was following, the war had started again. They couldn’t escape. The psychological trauma they’d lived with in Syria started to reappear. It is a never-ending insecurity they are living with. They are children, so they don’t differentiate between who is who – it’s just another situation of an armed man that keeps on following them and trying to kill them. Or like [President] Bashar al-Assad is like some kind of monster man who is following them…like the Boogie Man or something.
One of the children had the chance to relocate to Europe with her family, and was able to start a new life in Switzerland. She’s among the very, very few who’ve been granted relocation through UNHCR [the U.N.’s refugee agency]. So, at least for her, her prospects for the future were much more optimistic. She was very optimistic when she arrived in Switzerland and realized that she had turned a page and that Syria was completely behind her. But her story is only indicative of a very small minority of the Syrian refugees. It re-emphasizes how grim the prospects are for most Syrians in Lebanon.

Syria Deeply: From where you stand, what is the most pressing issue facing the global community when it comes to Syrian refugees?

Mani Benchelah: More countries should be willing to take in refugees. In terms of the girl I just mentioned who managed to make it to Switzerland with her family, the only reason they were granted relocation is because she had been paralyzed after being hit by shrapnel while she and her family still lived in Syria. There are many kids who have similar cases that haven’t been granted the same opportunity. There should be more legal ways specifically for those refugees who are in such a vulnerable situation, particularly so that they’re not forced to make the journey illegally. I was in Greece less than a month ago, and you keep on seeing refugees who you would hope could be granted asylum or at least have their case considered. These are families traveling with handicapped kids … but if you look at the numbers of refugees compared with the number of actual relocations, it’s nothing. If you look at the number of asylum seekers most states in Europe and in the Gulf are taking, the gap is enormous. There are literally millions living in this limbo type of situation, and winter is coming

Repair the childrens minds.  All of us share the blame for allowing the damage to happen.

John Graham

23 June 2016


Most of this blog is a repost of the  Syria deeply interview and excerpts taken from the Save Children Fund site.
About the Author
Dylan Collins

Dylan Collins is an independent journalist based in the Middle East since 2010. His work has appeared with The Guardian, Al-Jazeera America, Al-Jazeera English, Syria Deeply and L’Espresso among others. Follow him on Twitter: @collinsdyl

Tale of Tales : A Film Review

Director, Matteo Garrone. Cast, Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, John C Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Toby Jones, Bebe Cave, Guillaume Delaunay, Hayley Carmichael, Christian Lees, Alba Rohrwacher, Massimo Ceccherini.  Duration 2hrs 14 mins.

In English. An Italy/France co-production.  Cert. 15.

Height of Nonsense violently rendered

Even at five foot two inches Salma Hayek is in anyone’s eyes a fullsome vision so becoming a Queen bee is no stretch.  She is centrally the Queen Of Longtrellis who creates through witchery and incubation an albino son. The King to her melancholic Queen is Longtrellis, obidient (Reilly), then King of Strongcliff, sex crazed (Cassel) and King of Highhills, a ninkcompoo (Jones), Princess Violet (Bebe Cave) whose performance bricks and twists with ferocious skillful intensive acting as Jones intelligent self driven daughter.  Fellow Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (Youth) who bizarrely lived in the same building as the 47 year old Matteo Garrone without exchanging more than pinched expressions, due to attributed rivalry, has followed the theme of age obsession, most recently in the purely forthright Youth, set in a recuperation setting without compromise to modern cosmetic rituals and is probably best remembered by the naked walk of Madalina Diana Ghenea to the pool Caine and Kietel rest their bones poolside. This film is good looking but is at the other extremity – compelling throughout with the three stories interwoven it is very engaging visually.  Unfortunately it falls down by the injudicious skipping from one story to the next.  There may be a chronology to it but each time a switch is made the viewer may dislike it because they were getting into or carried away by the previous story.  A loose narrative; and Matteo Garrone said they are loosely based on the originals, leads us into calamity, conflict, twists and turns.  There are many, many dramatic shifts well choregraphed and delightfully executed. The good old terror strikes and the use of violence is sometimes heavy and of extreme visual effect.  Similarly the actors, from the poster girl chewing a heart with a bloodied face are part gore and part satirical.  It’s a cut throat world they live in and Matteo Garrone compares it to the present.  He should get out less. Comparisons with monarchies, governments and regimes and feudal terrorists apart it is a more civilised time we live in and factually so in war statistics.


Strands of Golden Royalty

Three strands of royalty are each splendidly baroque fairytales .  The third strand has Toby Jones daughter taken into marriage with a cave-dwelling ogre (Guillaume Delaunay).  This is perhaps the funniest and more adhered to narrative.      It uses special effects to provide a fourth character – after Toby the King, Violet his unattached husband seeking daughter, an unsuitable candidate in Guillaume as the ogre – comes a flea which as legend has it has supernatural strength.  At least that’s what school taught us with them apparently towing small carriages.  The locations are stunning and this story has dense woodland and steep mountains as well as a hexagonal turreted castle in a barren hot dry landscape with more plain interiors than the others.  As locations go I noted down the credits to the areas. It listed as an Italian French co-production and locations, Sicily, Tuscany, Sermoneta, Alcatara.  This enterprise of the Production team is a major attempt at making Italy once again a renowned producer of quality cinema.  It looks to be an attempt at establishing ‘studio’ based film making; some of this was shot in Rome and the titles hinted at the tax incentives utilised and may steer any unscrupulous ‘investors or hangers on’ – Matteo Garrones Gomarrah concerned the Mafia but I’m not suggesting for a moment that cinema could be infiltrated by such nerdowells, heavens no!

This genuine skilfull adaptation of the 17th-century yarns of Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile whose followers were Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm becomes a bold retelling without using special effects, using minimal post edit manipulation.  The previous Mafia tale Gomarrah was a unique insightful form and here Matteo Garrone has an equally gritty approach as that ‘noir’ thriller and seems not so long ago but is of 2008 vintage.  Decant sets and adult themes are provocatively temptingly and unflinchingly choregraphed in this piece of three fairytales woven from the same surreal cloth.  All the actors play it straight which itself is a tough ask of self control but a reason it works.  They dispatch ludicrous situations in sumptuous settings and with nonchalant theatre as if it is reality.  Real as – feed a flea to become as big as a human, or real as – eating the heart of a dragon cooked by a virgin, hard to find there presumably to procreate or real as – a fight a sea monster for dinner.


Roccascalegna Castle, Roccascalegna, Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy

Castel del Monte, Andria, Bari, Apulia, Italy Toby Jones therefore IS the man from del Monte.  Who’d have guessed!


Bebe Cave


The Universe must obey our will.

Royalty has its pioneers and in Elizabethan England, particularly London the Queen set the tone for opulence and luxury. She had over three thousand dresses. Taking her inspiration from 1509-1547 Henry VIII House of Tudor, (1547-1553 Edward VI House of Tudor, 1553-1558 Mary I House of Tudor) 1558-1603 Elizabeth I House of Tudor was the fashionista of state brocade, lace, sables, baubles, magnificent surroundings and a mountain of learned volumes bound in velvet of Greek and Latin and more adorning the libraries. It is these allusions of court this film aspires to emulate in its decorous decant era setting design. Spanish, French and Italian all had an aesthetic seeking no comparison.

With every design of any object there is a rule not to be initially the same as anything seen before though all objects have their roots in others and are inspired by the lineage of design.  Everyone wants to stand out and be different, to define themselves by their surroundings and what they alter their appearance with.  Hunter S. Thompson had an opposite view, maybe because the first has limited prospect of being obtained and even exceptional wealth has its limits – just look at Donald Trump and his apparent 700 billion dollars – growing diminishing depending on who you listen too – HST said something along the lines of ‘there’s no point in turning up for your own funeral looking great and well preserved, in the finest condition because you looked after yourself, you could just as easily take the risks, experience difficult and challenging things, take one or two or more wrong turns and turn up and be proud to say, to yourself, My, that’s been one helluva ride!’  

Palazzo Vecchio

So while it speaks of the purity of a lust for finding all the life preserving comforts – with the cost of obtaining them – it speaks also of acting on instinct alone and tempting fate where all is thrown up in the air to land who knows where – the opposites overlap and create choices that confound.  Here the vision is caught with a sense of the fairytales realism in pursuit of the impossible dream.  It for example places great store by the creation of a Prince or Princess, except paternalistic politics of gender status are played out here as they would have been in the Italy of Giambattista Basile and right up to the present.  So no feminist vibe there then.  Also the drama of the settings is organic as well as man made, with ogres, creatures, the power of nature stating its case and the power of it is also on the ‘menu’.  Strong structural competing forces pressing on humanities composure.  The composure of being in charge of the grand magnificent universal truth commanding it to obey. The alchemy of material is one of mans finest achievements empowering as it does the molecular recalibration of our ability to exist longer than the ascribed predicting centuries.  It is also the author of an population apocalypse not awaited but upon us.

 Donnafugata Sicily       

and above right Castel del Monte, Andria, Bari, Apulia, Italy.  Toby Jones therefore is the man from del Monte!

The films theme(s)
The theme unhooking here in the film is as he Matteo Garrone suggests in interviews, one of contemporary vice also the words”violent desires can only be satisfied by violence” are central to the films pressing prescience.  Moral compacting of stories about vanity, desire and greed from the screaming fairytales of old and blood-spattered Neapolitan functional spleen bursting enormity of human depraved acts the film settles for less improvisation and Matteo Garrone manages to work the sets, the actors through much preparation and his abandonment of an earlier gift and skill for painting here becomes a mechanism to make you feel the emotions through a) The straight acting b) the visual feast of imagination realised without artifice of usual cinematic proportions.  Giambattista Basile’s “Pentamerone,” predates and even inspired many of the classics in repeated interpretations today through Disney from Rapunzel to Cinderella. As unhinged as the poet’s five-volume collection aggregated 50 fantastical stories where, it spun a spell of contemporary Neopolitain behavior with wildness, sexual insatiable appetites, animalistic projection, imploding violence. Little change out of the Euro or even lurid Old Britain there then.

The formula of fairytale moralising is ditched here to expose the Directors own mantra relating to the cosmetic values of life employed across the world with brand ‘Italy’ high most in the stakes of ‘model’ unique. Not exactly Shakespearian in analysis but fundamentally observant nevertheless. Audiences will extract therefore a more loosely picked narrative and incidental lesson of accepted values with these desires stronger than the individuals they belong to.  The person is to take a message of a self commanded life not measured against these extrodinarily hyper real visually stimulating tales propose.


Matteo Garrone commands his own authoritive mark and what is interesting is the fact he has left creating paintings for his own reasons and invested that creative verve in cinema which we can enjoy and frankly be entertained by.  It is a very interesting take on things relying for its heft on instinct.  The feel of the film has gaps and occasional annoyances.

It matters not as this is the purpose of film, to reach into narrative and extract a new take on aspects of – ourselves mostly.  For the film maker he is intent on entertaining and doing so with an allegorical set of stories that hopefully bizarrely met with resonances in our lives.  This he and the whole cast and huge team delivering it do so handsomely.

Even the Star Wars and Fantasy genres approach comparisons with our own lives also, being necessary for audiences.

In interviews he cites Fellini’s studio Casanova and the giallo of Mario Bava as cinematic influences. The biggest influence by far comes from Goyas Los Caprichos, prints about 18th-century Spain saying “I kept them with me throughout the film. In those drawings I found all I was looking for.”  That is a very informative unselfish insight to the way the work comes out and is realised.  He also rejects because of the many constraints being tempted by the big magnets of American budget films.  Here he has a crafted indulgence in Englsh which defies many principles of not just life but theatre.

Conclusion ####4

Phantasmagorical sumptuous piece of emblematic Italian cinema interwoven with Italian fairytale folklore which predates and therefore informs the works produced by Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.  While this set of three stories of Kings and Queens are only very loosely related; they come together and it is not of any import, at a funeral and a wedding as far as I can detect.  The stories interweave not intersect and follow the fables according to director Matteo Garrone only loosely and his take on them is to deliver high grade, romantic settings in a believable set of surreal type environments which he creates using old screen crafts.  There is one period interior which is the setting for the Queen Longtrellis, which I take to be utilizing high tech printed white geometric wall paneling with a decorative colored dado which is theatrical and beautifully understated focusing on the drama it is within and not typical of any period though I’m no expert.  It’s just so intelligent a way to convey the intricacy of the environments.  Architecturally other exteriors interiors contrasting are well tended genuine period pieces well chosen.   The actors all play it without laughing at its bonkers themes and where it calls for blood and gore they welcome it with open engagement.  A very important element of one of the three stories requires two actresses to don prosthetics to make them the ugly mother and daughter in a reclusive village hideaway.  Cassels is the King to encounter this pair and it is a centrally brilliant piece of original fable telling with very unusual and beautifully delivered though fractured storylines.  This is a very strong piece of original film making contrasting as said previously – on the same theme of youth and vigour – with the other Italian approach Youth – and neither subtract from the the,Es but expand them showing cultural Italy is as good as ever.
John Graham

15 June 2016


On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from and including 17 June through to 23 June 2016.

When Marnie  was here : A Film Review

When Marnie was here is based on the book by the English author Joan G. Robinson.

From the Studio Ghibli. Co-Founding Directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.

ACTORS. Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Hana Sugisaki, Hitomi Kuroki, Ryoko Moriyama (voices)DIRECTOR. Hiromasa Yonebayashi. GENRE. Animation. RATING. U. DURATION  1hr 43mins.   SUBTITLED. ORIGIN. JAPAN. 2014. At QFT they will show the English dubbed version on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June 2016 matinees.  Remainder are the original Japanese voiced and subtitled version.

Era of Japanese Animation closing.

This apparently; things are never certain, is the final film to be made under the Studio Ghibli filmhouse studio.  As this is the third (of three) signing off pieces following on from two years ago, Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese chief, announcing retirement after the release of The Wind Rises then six months later, his co-founder, Isao Takahata, doing the same in releasing The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.  The young pretender Hiromasa Yonebayashi (42) unabashed follows up with the closer. When Marnie was here apparently or looks like a consensus on his own choosing given the listing of children’s books cited as favourites, The Borrowers, Heidi and The a Secret Garden which entail the tropes associated with the studio, ghosts, memory and growing up this fits the stable and closing the door – on an empty flown offspring?

The story of When Marnie was here (a bare introduction.)

This is a traditional fairytale taken into a modernist setting.  Out of the high speed train setting of the large City, Sapporo, is where we begin.  Anna, a 12 year old, is a lone child fostered by her ‘Aunt’ and dutiful stand in mother, Yoriko, who is herself alone and with Anna having an ailment, being as asthmatic is soon sent to another ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ carer whose own children have grown and they are in a comfortable peasant late middle age. So it is to a place of rural beauty on a beautiful magical impressive shoreline Anna is to find herself growing up.

New places.

Anna (voiced by Sara Takatsuki, and by Hailee Steinfeld in the upcoming English-language version), comes to this new place full of self-concious wonder and uncertainty of her true self with her lonely upbringing so far.  Because it is thought a summer here will clear her head and she will open up to her life ahead she is struck with all the wonderment she immediately encounters.  From getting off the train and off the City connected to the rural coastal offshoot which most all have lost sight of she is taken by her new ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ the Owia family in a bone shaker of a tiny pick-up red van off the highway and along the beaten track to what some would have as an idyll.  A lovely hillside quaint ramshackled top and bottom balconied homely timber dwelling.  

Uncle is a tall thin man given to tinkering about and crafting interesting things; junk probably to his ebullient warm tubby contented wife whose ease and warmth never once falters.  It is indeed an idyll except the absence of companions of Anna’s age.  The local village kids have ‘reputations’ and she has no dealings with them due to it being summer and her own place providing a lone child with her own imagined adventures.  This is reinforced with her immersion in her gift of drawing.  While she mistrusts her own ability she is an assured sketchers and is intently drawn, excuse that .., to sketching this new place.  In Japanese – pay attention to this subtitled version, the word for Sketching is Sketchin’. So I believe!

This new place has tales to tell and I won’t tell you them.  The Marnie of the story is like another little girl of similar age who is to become her companion through this story.  It is the central plank of the narrative.  Beautifully, sublimely rendered animation just pours out with a gentle undercurrent of orchestrated strings and bows.  The scenic value of a marshy inlet provides a wonderful ghostlike setting for where the story wafts and weaves. The elegance of screen painterly framing and ease through the animation is simply awesome.  Very accomplished and rewarding subtlety is everywhere throughout.

New voices.

The Marnie character is voiced by Kasumi Arimura (and by Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men’s Sally Draper – redub).  Both shall meet but how and where and what will the relationship bring? How different are they? How alike?  In Japan according to a local philosopher; yes there’s more than me, it is a familiar idea to internalize your questions by asking Why, five times after each bring an answer it apparently discovers a core – well Mr Toyota himself used it, Sakichi Toyoda and when was the last time anyone of his cars broke down. Opps! there goes another maxim.  A recall? See snags need overcome.  Anna needs to find out what makes her work.  What her feeling mean and why she must attend to her own needs and see the outside while having a contented core, just like ‘Aunt’ Owia who never fails to be happy in sharing everything from giant toms, to juicy magnificent watermelons as she just teases these fruits of the earth – clue there they are both fruits and therefore you now know what toms are kids. This is a U friendly blog.  

Abundant nature.

The abundance of the surrounding nature from the clear star filled sky’s, with a crescent moon reflecting on the water, the tidal course bringing not the marsh little islands, paddies their called here, is ever present timeless territory for fairytale like stories.  This is in the tradition of Grimms fairy tales and no less scary making me once or twice wondering how unsettling this film might be to children of tender years.  12 up may like its familiar problems and be able to dismiss as folklore, or fable some of the moralising – no one gets hurt in essence but emotions  become very heightened and there will be adults in tears at times and it is a testament to the strength and propulsion of the animation of the dreamlike or real narrative drive.  What is behind this journey? We engage with Anna and Marnie as their story unfolds apace.  Genuinely moving it is a bracingly well told story or yarn.  I put beneath a link to another story only yesterday, put on another blog by me concerning a Japanese fable translated by an English author concerning The Stone-Cutter.  It followed on from a favourite painting of mine of a stonecutter illustrating a poem of – actually a boy knapping flints on Boxhill, often used to adorn cottages they split giving a lovely flat white plane – I used them once when the opportunity arose at Walton-on-the-Hill. See Stone shapes, for incidentals!

This film has a calling for teenagers everywhere as they reach those teenage years – Anna is 12 – soon therefore to be one and it shares the pangs and pains of formulating around your given genes your own shaped identity.  Opening up and becoming a confident human being and being able to distinguish between falsehood and meaningful experiences and of learning to trust with compassion.  These arts and gifts are partially found in the expression Anna is able to give her sketching.  She also meets along the way another more mature lady artist who shares her skills and encourages her as well as providing more grown up insights on life.  They don’t dwell on sentiment either of them but as artists define the basic essence and how to separate it from the unnecessary.

Conclusion ####4

Beware of imitations, including rediscovered remakes of the animalistic variety.  Splendid and accomplished though they are the voices and visual realism brought through giganticism gifted animation and – familiar stories is giving children and grown up expected treats.  What is on the box is not the same as the contents, you get slightly under nourishing fare.  Favourites devoured and some left unconsumed, is not the diet children deserve with films that have lately come down to highly fashioned within an inch of their hides.  Pictorially or mentally they are not challenging enough whereas this form is.  It is a viscerally engaging skilfully crafted story keeping its tension throughout and showing another world almost believable but not quite scary enough to be unsettling for the more attuned youngsters, meaning perhaps ten up.  Not Seven up it is too fizzy!  

This animation os a class above and is an art form best seen in the widescreen environment of a Cinema or even in a crowded group of children in their own little Cinema Club.  Preceded by The equally though longer and more directionally culturally ‘Japanese’ – The Princess of Kaguya, it has a loud why would any amity want to go to those extremes? Unusual in fabric beautifully presented but not giving the ‘lifelesson’ its origins intended. It was named by a male Spanish acquaintance as one of his favourites of all time which is a marker of how effective this style within the genre is and in this relative newcomers hands,  Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s hands, it is as stories with a twist and resonance for eras from the ancient through the Swedish, Scandinavian, Transylvanian, scope of fables and ghostly Gothic tales revivalism have been and served here in this manner is always welcome.  It is superbly done for and will appeal to a wide audience.  Some have said it is slightly the weaker of the trio closing Studio Ghibli, with it being a long winded ending, it is not quite that or even close to being the weakest in a triptych.  It has its own palatte and story and is brilliantly realised. The measure is not it being part of a triptych but as and of its self within a genre which houses manybsplendourscto take forward.  There is a series also to be appreciated.  See below.  Well worth seeing and several times over perhaps as a classic tale for children each generation maybe forming their own take on it.  Tested through the ages as all good yarns are.  This is like a story told intimately round a fireside except here it’s it magnificent technicolour widescreen beauty.

John Graham

7 June 2016


Thank you to Studio Ghibli for the opportunity to provide such a visually interesting blog!  It’s great to look at I think.

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 10 June through to and including 16 June 2016

Matinees on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June will be the English dubbed version.

Special note regarding more screenings of Japanese Animation from the same Studios.

Also note a series entitled Studio Ghibli Forever starts on (started 5 June) Friday 10 with this film (normal full price/member/other concess.) subtitled unless as noted, others £4.00 on Sunday 19, Princess Mononoke, Sunday 26, Spirited away, Saturday 2, Howl’s Moving Castle, Saturday 16, Ponyo (dubbed), The Wind Rises, Saturday 23, The Tale of Princess Kayguya.  See for specific times of all screenings.

Also on web is
The Stonecutter
Once upon a time there lived a stonecutter, who went every day to a great rock in the side of a big mountain and cut out slabs for gravestones or for houses. He understood very well the kinds of stones wanted for the different purposes, and as he was a careful workman he had plenty of customers. For a long time he was quite happy and contented, and asked for nothing better than what he had.

Now in the mountain dwelt a spirit which now and then appeared to men, and helped them in many ways to become rich and prosperous. The stonecutter, however, had never seen this spirit, and only shook his head, with an unbelieving air, when anyone spoke of it. But a time was coming when he learned to change his opinion.

One day the stonecutter carried a gravestone to the house of a rich man, and saw there all sorts of beautiful things, of which he had never even dreamed. Suddenly his daily work seemed to grow harder and heavier, and he said to himself: “Oh, if only I were a rich man, and could sleep in a bed with silken curtains and golden tassels, how happy I should be!”

And a voice answered him: “Your wish is heard; a rich man you shall be!”

At the sound of the voice the stonecutter looked around, but could see nobody. He thought it was all his fancy, and picked up his tools and went home, for he did not feel inclined to do any more work that day. But when he reached the little house where he lived, he stood still with amazement, for instead of his wooden hut was a stately palace filled with splendid furniture, and most splendid of all was the bed, in every respect like the one he had envied. He was nearly beside himself with joy, and in his new life the old one was soon forgotten.

For the continuation see the link above ….

Versus : The Life and Films of Ken Loach : A Film Review

Directed by Louise Osmond. UK. Documentary. Duration 1hr 33mins. Cert. TBC.

Alone amongst equals.

Miraculously Ken Loach is still making films and still on his game as he puts it, with outstanding critical, professional acclaim.  Amongst the people seen in this fulsome and truthful summation of his career as a pioneer firstly and as a filmaker who has surprising sidelines and adjuncts to his milieu, are actors whose the acute observations sometimes make strikingly insightful input, among them Gabriel Byrne whose Royal Court part in Perdition by Jim Allen in collaboration with Loach, was castigated by the mainstream press. It was also derided as propaganda and dangerous as political theatre given its exposure of the Hungarian Zionists who in exchange for extradition to Palestine sent  thousands to their horrible deaths at the hands of the Nazis.  Gabriel Byrne played the legal counsel exposing the truth.  He intimates the size of the bravado, brinkmanship, eloquence, erudite calling Ken Loach’s craft or art summons up in him.  A visceral description is given by Byrne of the head to head Loach had with Royal Court director; seen here and admitting two failings, he has been an otherwise fortuitous director with many sound works behind him, Max Stafford-Clark.                                   

Groundbreaking work.

From his BBC work which produced the celebrated ‘Wednesday Plays’ Up The Junction (1965), Cathy Come Home (1966) England’s World Cup winning year, In Two Minds (1967) and The Big Flame (1969), through to the feature films of the 1990s, Hidden Agenda (1990), Riff-Raff (1991), Raining Stones (1993), Ladybird, Ladybird (1994), Land and Freedom (1995), Carla’s Song (1996) and My Name Is Joe (1998).  The film making the greatest impact emerged with Kes.  A Kestrel for a Knave (1969) as it was known in production (a theatrical affectation). It was only shown in a few cinemas in the north initially and became an instant hit. The plight of the boy along with the flight of the bird epitomised the working class route to the factories set for the children in secondary modern and comprehensive schools. The metaphor a bit loose given the kestrel is captive also.  

Before the attention deficit disorders, the autistic spectrum or dyslexia diagnosis along with the poor dietary programmes and environmental pollution of cities such as Sheffield were this film is set the lack of options career wise was extremely limited and more so than today given the move back to the paying for third level education and limits being programmed into curriculums negating a lot of the humanities and refreshing the sciences along with the new technologies out of reach of many in sub standard schools and local conditions which are beset with social tensions and a workplace of youth exploration, zero hours contracts and rubber band economics in a country printing its way through austerity of its own making.  

Kes shows the central boy, again an exploitative approach to casting – Loach’s tendency to cast unknowns adhere to his reliance on the individual carrying the narrative – ‘Showing you yourself is politics’ – no defences – exploiting the vulnerability actors/players harmonising paradoxically with the Harold Wilson pact of Government – that of Labour delivering ‘men’ to the occupations and factories.  Certainly it became a leading way to enter a story becoming part of the story itself illustrating familiar settings and life situations as the polemic.  In films of Ken Loach’s shown abroad he was received, and still is, with idolatry as a master of drama realism and agent provocateur who matches the dislike of the United Kingdom’s sovereign upper classes, recognised the working class struggles and ultimate sacrifices made in the war and post war settlements, including probably Israel, held high as parallel life struggles.  Those countries more recently loosene from Fascism but intensely preoccupied with new forms of Fascism and ‘cultural/religious’ clashes right and left. Sadly the global picture is left empty in relation to Israel, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and the drug traffic finding itself on English, European homes.  It is a bit of a hippy approach on the soft radical left.  No dealings on colour or race are really covered.  The sexulisation, not radicalization of young women for Isis type recruitment or the misunderstood Islamic core fundamental truths in everyday life’s are lost agendas. 

All is Political.

Versus is a multitude of counterpoints.  Chiefly it is the political one. Capital v Labour.  Throughout his career, and we begin with the background of his Nuneaton, Midlands upbringing as mere observer of his families routine dependence on Manufacturing; there is footage within a large factory visited twice in the film, showing the ranks of machining in orderly rows but row after row in a vast factory as we go right to left seemingly unending expressing the servitude, the monotony, the grim conditions normal in those times.  Where now robots perform gymnastic manouvres for workers to accompany them these are similar regimented time based trades and occupations with one object in mind.  To achieve dividends and profit from man and women’s labour.  It’s also Genius v Loathsome and is self categorising.  Ken Loach describes his family visits to Blackpool and the ribald lewdness of the seaside fare in the theatres and them staying in the posh end, the northside. The film in fact begins with the esplanade, tower and carousel images familiar and now more Britains got Talent than revue and vaudeville offerings. The football team of Staney Matthews has even gone soft in the hands of the Royston  dynasty and are on the skids.            

Non-Lapsearian Socialist

It continues. Britain is on the skids in its blindness to the rip off being carried out since the films of the era of the miners strikes.  Even this year the Hillsborough Inquiry is able to link the police forces involvement in mass population manipulation and unmitigated brutality at the behest of the Thatcher government.  Ken Loach calls this period pivotal.  There is no doubt it was.  It began a breakdown in manufacturing and mass unemployment.  It began the greed cycle which is commonplace today. 

Depicting this was to Ken Loach a means of showing the general misguided public the manouvres of the Trade Union bosses, the leadership of a proletariat Labour Party and the upsurge of the worst kind of conspiratorial governance Margaret Thatcher who in thrall to Monarchy and Sovereignty never put a gilded foot wrong in solidifying the monarchal hold on all the worst forms of self interested societal class oppression imaginable.  Save Orwell and Nineteen Eighty Four.

In the beginning Ken Loach introduced to film making in the form of Television plays a new dynamic.  With sideways reflection to the fashions, Beat Generation, liberal sexual attitudes, he began to look for a social discourse relevant and reflecting the working classes whose life’s were removed from the beat generations life except by becoming consumers of it.  The churches, governments, educational establishments were mostly unchanging and Ken Loach found a way out of it through having his Tory upbringing, grammar school toes, an Oxford education.  He entered film making through collaboration with the BBC and Tony Garnett whose skills dovetailed politically and intuitively to allow them to create external drama in a BBC manifestly embedded in period, studio based drama.  Z Cars was then radical. 

Camera as a Person

Into the frame came Up the Junction which became the Television equivalent of Saturday night and Sunday morning.  The realism was achieved by Ken Loach using lesser known or basically first time actors who would work chronologically.  There then followed the groundbreaking realism of the cathartic Cathy Come Home. This is a film showing the worst cruelty suffered by a single mother having her children taken away and homelessness.  Of the situation Loach later said.

Shelter’s done some terrific work. It’s been an excellent resource for research and has obviously helped a lot of families find homes and that’s a very positive thing. What’s inadequate is the idea that homelessness is a problem that should be solved by a charity. It boils down to a structural problem within society. Who owns the land? Who owns the building industry? How does housing relate to unemployment? How do we decide what we produce, where we produce it, under what conditions? And housing fits into that. You can’t abstract housing from the economic pattern. So it is a political issue; the film just didn’t examine it at that level.

Extensively the film missed the real culprits whose profiteering on property, who owned land, who built homes and made a business complete around the financing of it was key and central.  Instead the scandal was of its desperate consequences and was seen in terms of society at loggerheads within the system not because of it.  Loach himself recognised this though it doesn’t get a mention in the film.  Other films made the same mistake though his Marxism became more evident.  No film shown; and the film tells you why, sent out clear signals that BOTH Labour and the Conservatives were intent on dismantling the unions in furtherance of a post war revival which only happened for a chosen few ‘in the end’.  Wilsons mantra was bad enough for England, Wales and Scotland but it was completely evasive of the industrial hotbed of Northern Ireland with its unique and fairly robust industries.  It was soon to see a Wilson collapse like no other as the Labour Party disowned its own kind in Northern Ireland for a pocket full of Backing Britain.

It happens to this day; working chronologically, with the Canne Palme D’or winning I, Daniel Clarke representing a fifty something man enroute to a new job and how that shapes out.  It reacts to the Cameron era of welfare being the place for those not able to fit the labour market constructed for a corporate world.
Ken Loach has in the past tried to interpret history and is given a bye-ball in his naive The Wind that shakes the Barley. Cillian Murphy is at pains to point out it redirected him in acting as he was again confronted as others had been of acting in the chronology of the piece.  Not observed were any wider aspects of separate wars and it is a monotheistic piece without the theism. The same can be said for Brothers and Sisters.  Several things crop up in this film which put Ken Loach in the John Peel (R1) school of liberal radicalism which he admits or chortles about.  The pandering often to a logic which betrays the cause while self serving and exploitative it is conflicting with the authoritive set of accusatory words chosen for Max Stafford-Clark undeserved by any fellow artist and his intermittent – how can you be intermittent? – inflexible set of principles except by being an unreasonable bullish human being.  Call it as it is called at one point – intractionism – but it does not meet reasonable criteria for professional backstabbing.  Cowardice is a word used by Loach in a petty point scoring way at one juncture.

Contempt is his prerogative and a mainstay bolstered by resilience omnipotence and a saintly guarded outlook which conceals an inherent cruelty self admitted occasionally.  The scene in favourite film of his Kes, when the boys are taken to the headmasters office for corporal punishment is a gross abuse. There are similar points of dise toon to be found by the reality being cruel in itself.  Perhaps I, Daniel Clarke shed some more light on the contradictions this director throws up.

Conclusion ###3

This film gives (Is Michael Goves name a typo and was he meant to be called Michael Gives and he just doesn’t get it? – just an aside) a great insight through fellow directors, writers, actors, family and producers of the very important contribution Ken Loach has made to the art of film making with his own politically insights.  He is furiously against all forms of Fascism, is deeply rooted in the psyche of damaged Britain and provides, continue to provide the elemental depth of reasoning neither patronising or compromising.  The underlying strength of this film is the copious account of the making, the process behind many of the more familiar films in his cannon. The works which showed the audacity of thought and the collaborative, driven desire to enable people to have a voice through the medium of Television and Film in a Nation which had Governments of different hue pander to the mass media.  The state controls are  examined throughout his films and the history is recent and of great significance both as a record and a means of expressing the ideas which shape and shaped the United Kingdom – the one seeking its own destiny as the referendum comes.  Some topics, immigration, Muslim Faith, the power of the Church of England and Sovereignty are barely evident but primarily this viewpoint relies on the people enabling do and enabling the creation of the films we are taken through.  It is a very productive process which has resulted in some odd conclusions that are identified in the summary of context as I put them above.  It is a necessary view but one which leaves you with many questions and a lot of cynisism largely through the colossal subjects they manage to confront.
John Graham

1 June 2016


To be screened at QFT BELFAST from 3 June to the 9 June 2016 with a Sunday pay what you can viewing at QFT at 4.40pm. This is in conjunction with screeningsacross the UK and Ireland.