Three of the UK’s most compelling new filmmakers shortlisted for UK film’s biggest bursary

By BFI

In contention for the £50k IWC Filmmaker Bursary Award in Association with the BFI are Daniel Kokotajlo (Apostasy), Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not a Witch) and Michael Pearce (Beast).

At an event this morning at BFI Southbank, the BFI and IWC Schaffhausen revealed the three finalists vying for the second IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in Association with the BFI – at £50,000, it is the most significant bursary of its kind in the UK film industry. Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper will join Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI and Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, to select the winner, which will be announced at LUMINOUS, the BFI’s biennial fundraising gala on 3 October 2017.

The Bursary is presented in recognition of outstanding British talent and is designed to support a writer and/or director at the beginning of their career, bringing them the financial stability and time needed to develop their creativity and focus on future projects without the pressure of deadlines or the distraction of taking paid work – a precious and extremely rare opportunity for a filmmaker.

Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI comments:

“This extraordinary partnership and the generosity of our friends at IWC Schaffhausen is enabling us to support exciting up-and-coming British talent in a truly dynamic way. We have an incredible shortlist of filmmakers with hugely different styles and who demonstrate great strength in their creative voices. As a snapshot of UK emerging talent, it is a very vibrant and encouraging picture, but for us as a judging panel, it will be a very difficult decision!”

Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, comments:

“Our priority is the support of up-and-coming filmmakers and their projects. Being storytellers ourselves, we deeply appreciate the creativity and passion that the talented directors and writers selected as the finalists for the second Filmmaker Bursary Award have invested into their work to enchant and captivate their audiences.”

A panel of senior industry figures – Rose Garnett, Director of BBC Films, Sam Lavender, Deputy of Creative at Film4, Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI Film Fund, Clare Stewart, Director of the BFI London Film Festival, and Gaylene Gould, BFI Southbank’s Head of Cinemas and Events – selected the shortlist of filmmakers. To be eligible for the Bursary Award a writer and/or director must be UK-based and have their first or second film in Official Selection at the BFI London Film Festival in Partnership with American Express®. The high calibre of shortlisted applicants is testament to the creativity alive in British independent filmmaking with the three finalists showing a diversity of voices and presenting original work with a distinctive tone.

Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI Film Fund said:

“It’s been another strong year for British film debuts and Rungano, Dan and Michael embody the ambition, the intelligence and the virtuosity that we are seeing more and more amongst a generation of emerging filmmakers. Congratulations to all them, and all the filmmakers debuting at LFF.”

Clare Stewart, Director of the BFI London Film Festival said:

“It is not only the Bursary itself that is of significant value, IWC have created an opportunity for the LFF to play a direct role in bringing all the new and emerging UK-based talent with films in the Festival to the attention of key industry decision-makers through the shortlisting process. I thank our partners at IWC, the shortlisting panel and I warmly congratulate the nominated filmmakers.”

The final three in contention for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in Association with the BFI are:

Daniel Kokotajlo
Writer, director of Apostasy, screening in the LFF’s First Feature Competition (UK Premiere)

iwc-bursary-apostasy.jpg

Daniel Kokotajlo is a self-taught film director and writer. Born and raised by a Ukrainian-Italian family in Manchester, UK. His debut feature film, Apostasy, is inspired by his own experiences growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in the north of England while attending art college. He learnt how to use a camera working as a cameraman at his local greyhound stadium. He is a recent alumnus of the Biennale Cinema College, EIFF Talent Lab, and Creative England’s Talent Centre. He was selected as a Star of Tomorrow by Screen International in 2015.

Daniel Kokotajlo said:

“I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to make my first feature film, Apostasy, and to have been shortlisted for the IWC Filmmaker Bursary Award. The journey to this point hasn’t been easy for me and that’s why this Award would be a real help – it’s a genuine means to sustain filmmakers from working class backgrounds as we continue to hone new, exciting stories.”

Rungano Nyoni
Writer, director of I Am Not a Witch, screening in the LFF’s First Feature Competition (UK Premiere)

iwc-bursary-i-am-not-a-witch.jpg

Rungano Nyoni is a self-taught writer/director born in Lusaka, Zambia and grew up in Wales, UK. Her short films have featured in over 400 film festivals. In 2009 she won a BAFTA Cymru for her short film The List. Her subsequent film Mwansa The Great was funded by UK Film Council and Focus Features (USA). It was selected at over 100 International Film Festivals, awarded over 20 prizes and nominated for a BAFTA in 2012. In 2015 Rungano was selected for the Nordic Factory, a Finnish/Danish Co Production where she co-directed Listen. Listen was nominated for a European Film Award 2015 and won the Best Short Narrative Prize at Tribeca Film Festival. Rungano’s debut feature, I Am Not a Witch, premiered this year at Cannes Film Festival in the Directors Fortnight Sidebar, and also screened at TIFF ahead of its LFF premiere.

Rungano Nyoni said:

“It’s an honour to be nominated. It’s just so rare to have the opportunity to develop your project under your own terms without having to hustle.”

Michael Pearce
Writer, director of Beast, screening in the LFF’s First Feature Competition (European Premiere)

iwc-bursary-beast.jpg

Michael’s first feature film, Beast, premiered at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival in the Platform section. In 2014 Michael was selected to be part of Guiding Lights scheme and was mentored by James Marsh. In 2013 Michael made his first TV drama, Henry, through Channel 4’s Coming Up scheme and made the short, Keeping Up with the Joneses, through the BFI’s 2012 Shorts scheme, the film was nominated at the 2014 BAFTA and BIFA awards. In 2011 Michael was one of Screen International’s UK Stars of Tomorrow and his feature script was selected to be developed through the Torino Film Lab Script & Pitch Workshops and was then selected to be part of 2012 Frame Work programme. Previously to that Michael’s short film, Rite, was nominated at the 2011 BAFTAs and BIFAs, played at over 40 international film festivals.

Michael Pearce said:

“Finding, developing and making that second film is one of the most difficult and significant career challenges a director will face. The IWC Bursary creates an opportunity where a filmmaker can forage for that 2nd film without any immediate financial pressures to work on projects they’re not passionate about. It’s a rare gift, protecting the filmmaker and endowing them with the freedom to continue dreaming in their own unique way.”

In a unique partnership that unlocks direct philanthropic support for UK creativity and the future of British film, the Filmmaker Bursary Award was created by Swiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen and the BFI. IWC Schaffhausen has been a sponsor of the BFI and the Official Time Partner of the BFI London Film Festival since 2014.

Hope Dickson Leach won the inaugural Bursary last year when her debut feature The Levelling had its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. The film went on to be released in May 2017 to great critical acclaim. Explaining the extraordinary opportunity the Bursary provided her with, Dickson Leach said:

“This last year has been a wild ride. Promoting my debut film as well as exploring future opportunities is all-encompassing, and having the time to invest in this has truly been a privilege. Winning the Bursary not only made it possible for me to make the most of this crucial moment in my career, but also raised my profile. Over the year I have worked hard to find the projects that most excite me and will provide that important step forward for my second feature, and feel lucky to be developing several as a result. I have also had time to work with my colleagues at Raising Films, the campaigning initiative I co-founded for parents and carers in the film industry. The Bursary is a unique opportunity for British filmmakers – the gift of time is surely the most precious thing any filmmaker can receive, and I can say without doubt that it has allowed me to make the most of this critical year in my life.”

Toronto: Daniel Kokotajlo talks Jehovah’s Witness drama ‘Apostasy’

By Wendy Mitchell | Screen

Manchester-born, London-based writer-director Daniel Kokotajlo makes his feature directorial debut with Apostasy, which is receiving its world premiere in Toronto’s Discovery programme.

The story, set in Oldham, Greater Manchester, is about a devout Jehovah’s Witness who commits a transgression, forcing her mother and sister to persuade her to return to the faith or shun her completely.

While the storyline isn’t exactly autobiographical, it comes from a world Kokotajlo knows intimately, as he grew up in a Jehovah’s Witness family.

Kokotajlo, a 2015 Screen International Star of Tomorrow, has previously directed shorts include The Mess Hall Of An Online Warrior (which screened at SXSW) and Myra (which was longlisted for a BAFTA).

Marcie Maclellan and Andrea Cornwell (Suite Francaise) produce the film, which was made through the iFeatures low-budget filmmaking scheme, and backers are Creative England, BBC Films, BFI and Oldgarth Media. Executive producers are Christopher Moll, Steve Jenkins, Lizzie Francke, Jim Reeve and Christopher Granier-Deferre.

Apostasy premieres at TIFF on September 8 and Cornerstone Films is handling international sales. After Toronto, the film screens in San Sebastian’s New Directors Competition and in BFI London Film Festival’s First Feature Competition.

You used to do music and visual art, so how did you make the leap to film?

I was making hip-hop records when I was about 21, I was a Bible-bashing B-boy. Around this time, I discovered people like Mike Leigh and Karel Reisz existed. I then studied film in my mid-20s, at the MA screenwriting programme at the University of Westminster. I couldn’t afford to pay for it all at once so I studied part time and was selling paintings and juggling two jobs to pay for school.

Apostasy is about a young woman who leaves the Jehovah’s Witness faith. When did you leave the faith?

I was harbouring doubts since I went to college. I realised that people at college were interested in your opinion. That was a new concept to me because being a Witness it was always about reaffirming the text, group-think, it wasn’t about encouraging independent thought. I still went to Kingdom Hall [place of worship used by Jehovah’s Witnesses] all through uni, but I kept it quiet. I wanted to leave but that religious guilt was there and I couldn’t find a way to get out of it comfortably. It wasn’t until I moved away from my hometown that I stopped going. 

How will Witnesses react to Apostasy?

I suspect they will ignore the film. Even the idea of making this film is controversial. The word ‘apostasy’ will raise an eyebrow within the Witnesses. But I’m hoping that if people in the faith watch this film and give it time, they will see it’s not critical of the Witnesses – it’s a film about people who stand up for what they believe in. Some ex-Witnesses I’ve spoken to are very angry about that part of their lives but I see it a bit more objectively.

How did you cast the film?

I made a conscious choice to focus on working actors in the northwest, to show a film audience what these actors can do. We saw hundreds of people. It was about the right look and right feel and I didn’t want them to be odd looking, they needed to be relatable, honest people. With Siobhan [Finneran], I was a huge fan of hers from Rita, Sue And Bob Too and Happy Valley. [The mother] was a complex, tricky character and Siobhan understood straight away the humanity that the role needed. Even though she’s just turned 18, [the younger daughter] Alex couldn’t be too childlike, she had to be determined and strong willed; Molly [Wright] had that. For the older sister Luisa, we needed to find someone who was naturally playful and impulsive and Sacha [Parkinson] seemed to have that quality.

How did you prepare them to play their characters?

I had a few weeks with the actors. We had a private space where we sat together and chatted about it all, just so I could get across the logic of the Witnesses. It’s hard for secular people to understand that stuff, that you have to act in a way that goes against your natural instincts. Part of rehearsals was also focused on making these people human beings.

How did taking part in iFeatures help you on the film?

They’ve been very supportive, they gave me time and space to work on the script. I made a documentary at the beginning of the process about my life, so they could see the power and how personal the story was to me. They greenlit Apostasy before the script was totally in shape which was a real boost of confidence for me.

Without spoiling the ending, did the film always have to end this way?

I’ve always been interested in how far people will go for their faith or what they truly believe in. It felt like a natural progression, from what Alex deals with to what happens at the end. It’s the eternal versus the here and now. I hope people can empathise with the situation that the family are in. This is just one example of fundamentalism and what kind of hold it can have on people.

Apostasy Added to San Sebastian Line-Up

Friday, August 25th, 2017

The world premiere of ‘Charmøren / The Charmer’ to open the New Directors section

One Indian and one British productions to complete the New Directors section, where sixteen first and second films will compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award

The debuts of an Iranian director and a British filmmaker and the second feature from an Indian filmmaker join the New Directors section at the 65th edition of the San Sebastian Festival. Finally, sixteen films will compete for the Kutxabank-New Directors Award.

The world premiere of ‘Charmøren / The Charmer’ to open the New Directors section. Milad Alami (Teheran, 1982) was born in Iran, grew up in Sweden and now lives in Denmark. His short films have been selected for the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and Clermont-Ferrand. The latest, Mommy (2015), won the Danish Academy for best film. Charmøren /The Charmer, his first feature, stars a young Iranian desperately trying to meet women who can secure his stay in Denmark. 

Coming from the field of Fine Arts, Daniel Kokotajlo (Manchester, UK), is a self-taught writer and director. He is the only filmmaker to have been selected twice for the iFeatures project development programme, with The Prefect in 2012 and Apostasy in 2015. His first feature film, Apostasy, follows a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Village Rockstars is the second feature from the film writer, producer and director Rima Das (Assam, India). Das wrote and helmed the feature Man with the Binoculars: Antardrishti (2016), a contender at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and participant in the Indian Story section of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Village Rockstars stars a 10 year-old girl desperate to own a guitar.

These three films join the list of thirteen productions already announced from Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Chile, China, France, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan, and will compete for the New Directors-Kutxabank Award. The accolade, to be decided by an international jury, comes with 50,000 euros for the director and distributor of the film in Spain. The films in this section are also candidates for the EROSKI Youth Award, voted by a jury of a maximum of 300 students between the ages of 18 and 25 years.

Journeyman to Have World Premiere at London Film Festival

Only a quarter of movies at 2017 London film festival are directed by women

Festival director Clare Stewart admits the figure, up from a fifth last year, is bad but says parity is not currently possible

Marc Brown | The Guardian

A quarter of the films shown at the 61st BFI London film festival will be directed by women – a figure the organisers admit is “bad”.

But at least the proportion is rising, the festival director, Clare Stewart, said as she announced a programme of 242 feature films and 128 shorts from 67 countries, all to be screened over 12 days in October.

Last year, a fifth of the festival’s films were directed by women – a low proportion, but better than the 13% for films released in UK cinemas.

Stewart said there was a long way to go in achieving gender parity, and the BFI needed to play its part. “It is a responsibility of film festivals to highlight the important changes that need to happen in our industry,” she said.

“Getting more women behind the camera is something that will have a significant impact in terms of diversifying stories. But it’s also just basic gender equity, which is what we’re after.”

Stewart said it was important to give prominent festival slots to talented women. Among the headline gala films announced on Thursday were Dee Rees’s Mudbound, a story of racial tension ignited by the friendship of two second world war veterans in the Deep South, and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, a brutal psychological drama starring Joaquin Phoenix

In the festival’s official competition, four of the 12 films are directed by women, including Nora Twomey’s animated drama The Breadwinner, which is executive produced by Angelina Jolie and tells of one girl’s struggle in Taliban-controlled Kabul.

The London film festival announced its lineup in the opening week of the world’s oldest film festival, Venice. Only one film out of 21 in the Venice competition is directed by a woman: Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White, which is also a London contender.

Alberto Barbera, director of the Venice film festival, said it was not the festival’s fault. “I don’t like to think in terms of a quota when you make a selection process. I’m sorry that there are very few films from women this year, but we are not producing films.”

Stewart said the London festival aimed to include more films directed by women than the 13% average, but that true parity was not possible. “We’d have to shrink the programme,” she said.

 

Andy Serkis directorial debut Breathe to open 61st London film festival

 

Read more

However, Stewart said talking about the issue was important. “Us making a point of it each year, to be speaking out about it, not trying to hide it like it is a dirty secret, is a very important element of ensuring that change happens.”

London, the UK’s largest film festival, is a big deal in the film world, but it is not quite as significant as Cannes, Venice and Toronto, which hoover up the most eye-catching world premieres.

Nevertheless, 28 films will be seen for the first time in London. They include: Paddy Considine’s Journeyman, about a boxer rebuilding his life after a near fatal injury; Roland Joffé’s The Forgiven, a South African truth and reconciliation drama starring Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and Funny Cow, starring Maxine Peake as an aspiring stand-up on the club circuit in the north of England.

Stewart said there would be “some really tough, challenging, edgy cinema” at this year’s festival, as well as films vying for the awards.

One of those could be the opening night gala film Breathe, which tells the true story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield), who contracts polio as a young man and is left severely disabled. Given only months to live, he refuses to be confined to an institution and is broken out of hospital by his wife, Diana (Claire Foy). The film charts how the couple go on to live fulfilling, joyous lives.

Breathe could not be more personal to its producer, Jonathan Cavendish, the son of Robin and Diana. Cavendish said he had wanted to make the film for 20 years but the project only began to take shape a decade ago, when William Nicholson agreed to write it. “He agreed on one condition – that you don’t pay me until or unless the film happens,” Cavendish said. “As Bill is one of the top writers in the world, I thought that was a good deal.

“He didn’t want the film to be controlled or owned by anybody else.”

Cavendish said Breathe was a film about love. “It is about love enabling you to overcome obstacles that seem insuperable. It’s not really about disabled rights as such, my father didn’t involve himself in that. He simply thought that by living the life he could live and showing what fun you could have, what joy you could have ... it would affect other people.”

The producer’s most pressing concern during the process was simple: “It was so desperately important to not fuck it up. How embarrassing would it be to make a film about your parents and your own life and then make a fuck-up of it. That’s been a strain and continues to be a strain, to be honest.”

• The 61st BFI London film festival runs from 4-15 October

Spotlight - Daniel Kokotajlo

By British Council

The writer/director of Apostasy talks about his love of films ranging from Lost Highway to Peeping Tom.

The Manchester-born writer/director makes his feature directorial debut with Apostasy, which will have its world premiere in Toronto. The film, about a Jehovah's Witness family struggling when one sister makes a transgression, is sold by Cornerstone.

What’s your connection to the British Council?
British Council has been screening my debut feature film Apostasy in its selector screening series (see more info here) and that's how it was selected to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival and then the San Sebastian Film Festival. It will also screen at the BFI London Film Festival.

What are you working on right now?
I’ve only really just finished Apostasy. I’m attending a few festivals, then I'm back to staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ve got a couple of ideas that I want to develop.

What or who originally turned you onto film?
I’ve always been into film. As a kid, I loved visiting my local video shop - a huge converted mill, packed with VHS tapes and LaserDiscs. It also had a projector in the basement, showing films all day eveyday, even if no-one was there. My mum and I would spend ages in the shop searching for something new to watch.

What was your first job in the film industry?
Err. I guess it was writing and directing Apostasy. I was able to give up my zero hour contract jobs to work on it.

What is a key piece of advice you’d give to someone starting off in filmmaking?
Stick to your guns, literally. Werner Herzog held a gun to Klaus Kinski’s head to make him act. From the sounds of it, Kinski was bit of a knob anyway, so i guess it’s okay.

What is your favourite British film?
That’s a toughie, there are so many. I’ve probably seen A Matter of Life and Death the most though. It’s so beautiful and unashamed. I have to pay dues to Mike Leigh too, especially his early TV output. Kiss of Death is my favourite— his use and rhythm of northern dialect was like nothing else i’d seen.

If you could have directed/been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
I wish i was around for Peeping Tom. And the backlash it received. I’ve been reading about how it ruined Powell’s career in the UK… I would have supported him through that nonsense. He's one of our best.

What’s the first film you remember seeing?
Disney animations, like the psychedelic Three Caballeros! But I guess I didn’t think of them as films. It was probably Back to the Future or Star Wars.

What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
That scene in Lost Highway when the weirdo approaches Bill Pullman at the party and says - “We met at your house once before. As a matter of fact, I’m there right now!” — that always gives me goosebumps.

Favourite screen kiss?
I feel like i should be choosing something more classy, but i’ve got the opening scene of Larry Clark’s Kids stuck in my head.

Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain? 
I like noir stories where formerly famous actors turn into psycho-type villains. Bettie Davis in Whatever Happened to Mary Jane? is a classic example. She fills me with dread but i can’t help feel for her too.

Who would play you in the film about your life?
I’m going through a Kirk Douglas phase (again). So i’d pick him without a doubt, I'm sure his mancunian accent is good enough for me. He has just turned 100 years old though.

Toronto Film Festival Discovery strand includes 'I Kill Giants', 'The Future Ahead'

By Jeremy Kay | Screen

The biggest ever line-up of Discovery films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) comprises 45 titles including world premieres for Anders Walter’s I Kill Giants (pictured), Constanza Novick’s The Future Ahead, and Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy.

Discovery has expanded by 25% this year and opens with Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir’s The Swan, and closes with Nic Gorman’s Human Traces.

Toronto top brass also announced the line-up of on-stage conversations with the likes of Helen Mirren, Angelina Jolie and Javier Bardem, and announced TIFF Kids, TIFF Next Wave, the return of Festival Street.

“Uncovering new talent is one of the key roles of the Festival,” Piers Handling, TIFF director and CEO, said. “The Discovery programme allows us to carve out a space for emerging filmmakers to be seen by the international film industry and has helped launch the careers of award-winning filmmakers like Maren Ade, Barry Jenkins, Steve McQueen, Christopher Nolan, and Dee Rees.”

“If you don’t support the future of filmmaking, you fall behind,” TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey said. “So we’re always looking for new talent. The fact that the Discovery programme continues to grow is deeply encouraging, and speaks to the fact that there are a lot of people that want to make films when it is often increasingly more difficult to do so.”

The final wave of programming means the festival will screen a total of 339 films, down from 397 last year. There will be 255 features compared to 296 last year following the much-publicised 20% cull.

Of the features roster, 238 are world, international or North American premieres. Of those, 147 are world premieres (139 in 2016), 19 are international (30), and 72 are North American (97).

There were 7,299 total submissions (6,933): 6,166 international (5,693) and 1,133 from Canada (1,240). The festival comprises 13 programmes compared to 16 last year. The longest film will be Ex Libris – The New York Public Library at 197 minutes.

The 42nd edition of TIFF runs from September 7 to 17.

DISCOVERY

1% (Australia), Stephen McCallum WP

¾ (Three Quarters, Germany-Bulgaria), Ilian Metev,

NAP

A Fish Out Of Water (Taiwan), Lai Kuo-An, WP

*A Worthy Companion (Canada), Carlos Sanchez, Jason Sanchez, WP

*All You Can Eat Buddha (Canada), Ian Lagarde, WP

Apostasy (UK), Daniel Kokotajlo, WP

*AVA (Iran-Canada-Qatar), Sadaf Foroughi, WP

*Black Cop (Canada), Cory Bowles, WP

The Butterfly Tree (Australia), Priscilla Cameron, IP

*Cardinals (Canada), Grayson Moore, Aidan Shipley, WP

Disappearance (Napadid Shodan, Iran-Qatar) Ali Asgari, NAP

Five Fingers For Marseilles (Menoana e Mehlano ea Marseilles, South Africa) Michael Matthews, WP

The Future Ahead (El Futuro Que Viene, Argentina) Constanza Novick, WP

The Garden (Sommerhäuser, Germany) Sonja Maria Kröner, IP

The Great Buddha+ (Taiwan), Huang Hsin-Yao, IP

The Lady From Holland (Netherlands-Germany), Marleen Jonkman, WP

Gutland (Luxembourg-Germany-Belgium), Govinda Van Maele, WP

High Fantasy (South Africa), Jenna Bass, WP

Human Traces (New Zealand), Nic Gorman, NAP – Discovery Closing Film

I Am Not A Witch (UK-France), Rungano Nyoni, NAP

I Kill Giants (UK), Anders Walter, WP

Indian Horse (Canada), Stephen Campanelli, WP

Killing Jesus (Matar a Jesús, Colombia-Argentina) Laura Mora, WP

Kissing Candice (Ireland), Aoife McArdle, WP

*Luk’Luk’I (Canada), Wayne Wapeemukwa, WP

*Mary Goes Round (Canada), Molly McGlynn, WP

Miracle (Stebuklas, Lithuania-Bulgaria-Poland) Egle Vertelyte, WP

Montana (Israel), Limor Shmila, WP

*Never Steady, Never Still (Canada), Kathleen Hepburn, WP

Oblivion Verses (Los Versos Del Olvido, France-Germany-Netherlands-Chile) Alireza Khatami, NAP

Oh Lucy! (USA-Japan), Atsuko Hirayanagi, NAP

The Poet And The Boy (Si-e-nui Sa-rang, South Korea) Kim Yang-hee, IP

Princesita (Chile-Argentina-Spain), Marialy Rivas, WP

Ravens (Sweden), Jens Assur, WP

Scaffolding (Pigumim, Israel-Poland), Matan Yair, NAP

Shuttle Life (Malaysia), Tan Seng Kiat, NAP

Simulation (Iran), Abed Abest, NAP

Soldiers. Story From Ferentari (Soldaţii. Poveste din Ferentari, Romania-Serbia-Belgium), Ivana Mladenovic, WP

Suleiman Mountain (Kyrgyzstan-Russia), Elizaveta Stishova, WP

The Swan (Svanurinn, Iceland) Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir, WP – Discovery Opening Film

Tigre Silvina Schnicer, Ulises Porra Guardiola, Argentina

World Premiere

Valley Of Shadows (Skyggenes Dal, Norway) Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen, WP

Village Rockstars (India), Rima Das, WP

Waru (New Zealand), Briar Grace-Smith, Ainsley Gardiner, Renae Maihi, Casey Kaa, Awanui Simich-Pene, Chelsea Cohen, Katie Wolfe, Paula Jones, IP

Winter Brothers (Vinterbrødre, Denmark-Iceland) Hlynur Pálmason, NAP

*Title was previously announced on August 9 with the complete Canadian feature line-up.

Daniel Kokotajlo's 'Apostasy' gets sales deal ahead of Toronto premiere

By Tom Grater | Screen

Cornerstone Films has taken world sales on Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy, which is set to have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery strand.

Writer-director Kokotajlo, a former Screen Star of Tomorrow, makes his feature debut on the project, which is set in the Jehovah’s Witness community.

Apostasy stars Siobhan Finneran (Boy A), Sacha Parkinson (Mr Selfridge), Molly Wright (The A Word), and Robert Emms (Borg/McEnroe) in the story of a Jehovah’s Witness family that that is forced apart when one of them questions the advice of the community’s elders.

Producers on the project are Andrea Cornwell of Saddleworth Films and Marcie MacLellan of Frank & Lively Productions. It was developed and produced through Creative England’s iFeatures scheme with the support of BBC Films and the BFI, in association with Oldgarth Media.

Recent projects to have graduated from iFeatures include The Levelling and Lady Macbeth, both of which played in Toronto last year.

“It has been a challenging and rewarding experience to develop this film from a simple treatment through to a uniquely moving film,” said Producer Marcie MacLellan.

“Daniel has sensitively questioned the notion of unconditional familial love. While doing so, he has created three powerful roles for strong and complex women struggling to find their place in their community and in their relationships with one another”.

Andrea Cornwell added: “We’re excited to be bringing Apostasy to TIFF, following in the footsteps of our fellow iFeatures Lady Macbeth and The Levelling. We hope that the film will resonate with international audiences as a thoughtful and challenging look at faith in today’s world”.

Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder of Cornerstone jointly commented; “We were both struck by the emotional clarity and power of Daniel’s film. He brings us into a world most of us know nothing about and asks us to open our hearts and minds to a deeply personal struggle. It’s a startling debut and one we feel will resonate with audiences at Toronto and beyond”.

Cornerstone will launch the project to buyers in Toronto.

Alison Thompson joins BFI investigation into health of independent film sector

By Andreas Wiseman | Screen

UPDATE: commission members revealed; Lionsgate’s Zygi Kamasa to chair group.

The BFI is launching a commission to investigate the health of the UK independent film industry.

Led by Zygi Kamasa, CEO Lionsgate UK and Europe, the working group will make recommendations on what should be done to improve conditions to ensure domestic and international sustainability.

Kamasa, who has been outspoken about the challengesfacing the sector and has previously mooted industrial incentives such as cheaper cinema tickets for UK films, will invite evidence and contributions from cross-industry specialists from the production, sales, distribution and exhibition sectors over the next four months.

The commission, which was one of the projects set out by the BFI in its latest five-year plan for film, is expected to work closely with industry partners including PACT, UKCA and the FDA before publishing its findings in autumn 2017.

The commission members, all from London-based (or foreign-owned) companies, will comprise:

Chris Bird (Worldwide Head of Film Licensing, Amazon)
Efe Çakarel (Mubi)
Pete Czernin (Blueprint Pictures)
Gail Egan (Potboiler Productions)
Zygi Kamasa (chair) (Lionsgate)
Philip Knatchbull (Curzon)
Hakan Kousetta (See Saw Films)
Amanda Nevill (CEO, BFI)
Danny Perkins (Studio Canal)
Ben Roberts (Director Film Fund, BFI)
Libby Savill (Partner, Latham & Watkins)
Thorsten Schumacher (Rocket Science)
Alison Thompson (Cornerstone)

Polarised landscape

The UK’s film production space remains a highly polarised landscape.

Last year was a record year for inward investment but spend on domestic films was at its lowest level in three years.

Spend reached £1.6 bn in 2016 – the highest ever recorded. That figure was largely supercharged by a record level of US investment for films shooting in the UK.

In a boon for UK crews and facilities, inward investment for film production reached £1.35bn, an 18% increase on 2015.

However, while the number of inward investment films produced in the UK was relatively stable at 48, the number of domestic films produced in the UK has declined from 282 in 2012 to only 129 in 2016 (based on non-final numbers).

The same picture is true at the box office.

Fuelled by a string of US blockbusters, 2016 saw strong total box office for the calendar year of £1.227 billion, the second highest number on record.

However, UK admissions were 168m, down 2% year-on-year, and the market share for UK independent films was only 7%, its lowest level in three years and below the ten year average.

The 7% market share for local films compared to 63% in Japan, 36% in France, 28% in Italy, 18% in Spain and 16.5% in Germany.

Range of voices

Josh Berger, BFI CEO said about the commission: “Film in the UK is booming and the role of the BFI is to ensure that independent film – the incubator of creativity - flourishes in this environment. That’s why we made a commitment to look at the health of independent film one of our first priorities in our five year plan BFI2022.

“We are delighted Zygi Kamasa will be leading the BFI UK independent film commission as chair and we look forward to hearing from a range of voices, drawing from their experience and expertise.”

Kamasa commented: “I am very happy to accept the BFI’s invitation to chair this commission, and look forward to working with them and our new board who have the depth of knowledge and experience to identify and consider the most critical issues facing our sector now and in the future.”

Maxine Peake Joins Mike Leigh's 'Peterloo' (Exclusive)

By Alex Ritman | The Hollywood Reporter

The actress has joined the ensemble cast for the upcoming period drama, backed by Amazon Studios, which is currently shooting.

Maxine Peake — the British stage and screen star whose credits includes The Theory of EverythingSilkand recent acclaimed hard-hitting BBC series Three Girls — has joined the ensemble cast of Mike Leigh's upcoming period drama PeterlooThe Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The film, which is currently shooting, tells the story of a pivotal moment in U.K. history, when the British army attacked a large group of protestors in Manchester who had gathered to demand parliamentary reform amid a period of severe economic depression. Fifteen people were killed and 400-500 were injured after cavalry charged the crowd with their sabres drawn. The shockwaves were felt across the country, and one of the effects was the creation of The Guardiannewspaper (then The Manchester Guardian), which was born out of the immediate crackdown on radicalism. 

Peake, from Manchester herself, seems a perfect fit for the film, having spoken at several events commemorating the Peterloo massacre and long been a campaigner for British working-class history. In 2013, as part of the Manchester International Festival, she recited Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem The Mask of Anarchy, written about Peterloo.

Amazon Studios is backing the project, having come aboard for North American rights in Cannes last year, with other financing from Film4, the BFI and Lipsync. Cornerstone Films is handling international sales. 

Leigh — who is remaining tight-lipped on the Peterloo's other castmembers — is reuniting on his 21st feature film (the follow-up to the Oscar contender Mr. Turner) with producer Georgina Lowe, cinematographer Dick Pope, production designer Suzy Davies, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, hair and makeup artist Christine Blundell, editor Jon Gregory and composer Gary Yershon. Gail Egan is exec producing.

Shooting on Peterloo is set to continue until August. 

Peake is also set to appear in upcoming films Funny Cow alongside Paddy Considine, and Fanny Lye Deliver'd with Freddie Fox.

Diane Keaton talks 'Hampstead', love and her career

‘Life is magical, but I don’t see happy as part of the deal’

By Neil Fisher | The Times

The actress who wooed Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino on motherhood in middle age and sexual frustration in her seventies

In Hampstead, a new British comedy directed by Joel Hopkins and released later this month. The film is (extremely loosely)based on the real story of “Harry the Hermit”, or Harry Hallowes, who lived for more than 25 years in a ramshackle encampment on Hampstead Heath. He eventually gained squatters’ rights to the land through a court order after developers threatened to demolish his patch and turn it into luxury housing. The land Hallowes had a legal claim to was worth as much as £3.5 million, according to some estimates.

Hallowes died in 2015 at the age of 79, having been dubbed “Britain’s richest tramp”, but not before a cheery reporter from The Times in-formed him in his foxhole that a film was to be made of his life, with Diane Keaton as his love interest. “I’ve never heard of the woman,” he snarled, which suggested that not only was Harry the Hermit not a Woody Allen fan, but hadn’t even seen The Godfather, which takes Hampstead snobbishness to a new level.

“Good for him,” beams Keaton, who despite having starred in films with a combined box-office haul of more than $1.3 billion, sometimes doesn’t seem to have heard of Diane Keaton the movie star either. Certainly her children, Dexter, 21, and Duke, 16, whom she adopted in her fifties, haven’t. “I don’t play the films to my kids, we’ve never gone to any of my movies — it’s so boring for them. To see me in the light of something like that . . .”

She thinks that her daughter, Dexter, recently saw Something’s Gotta Give, the 2003 Nancy Meyers-directed hit in which Keaton tames a priapic Jack Nicholson. “And she was like, you know, ‘good job’, but what else is she going to say? She’s got to say something nice.”

Keaton is 71 and looks fantastic. Not much has changed, style-wise, since Allen told her to turn up on the set of Annie Hall wearing what she wanted to wear. She is sporting a fitted coat with a huge belt over a shirt with a high collar (a Keaton trademark), what looks like men’s suit trousers rolled up to her calves, and huge black platform boots — she won’t tell me where they come from. We’re in a hotel in Soho, which is where she really likes to be when in London: “right in the centre”.

Hampstead itself came as something of a disappointment to her. “I thought it was charming, but I thought it was going to be slightly more unusual. It’s just really pretty, nice architecture . . .” She doesn’t sound enraptured. “Maybe I didn’t see enough of it. I didn’t spend the night there.”

Hopkins’s film certainly has done its best to do a Notting Hill on NW3, erasing Hampstead’s mobile phone shops and estate agents and replacing them with patisseries and indie boutiques that sell funky berets. Keaton’s Emily (wholly invented) is an impoverished American widow who volunteers at a charity shop, is nagged by her son (Grantchester’s James Norton), amorously lunched by a devious accountant and harassed by the nimbyish residents’ association of her mansion block.

Her frenemy-in-chief is played by Lesley Manville, who encourages her to look for love again with the deathless north London threat: “If you wait too long, you’ll shrivel up like imported arpricot from Waitrose.” Yet it’s when Emily sees Brendan Gleeson’s grumpy Irish hermit bathing naked in the heath ponds that love strikes (and not Weil’s disease, which might have been more realistic).

It’s a role to which Keaton brings her well-honed tenderness and bafflement: an oddball wearing her kookiness as armour. “Emily is friendly, she has an affable personality, but there’s many things that are going on inside of her that really need fixing bad. I saw her as someone who needed to take a long, hard look at who she was, not just seeing herself as a poor thing.”

I confess to Keaton that I found her trysts with Gleeson a bit tame: one minute they are picnicking on Karl Marx’s grave, the next they’re waking up in bed together. Where was the foreplay? She squeals. “Can you imagine? Oh my God.” Chewing over it, however, she agrees. “It wasn’t there. I don’t know why. I think you’re right.”

Keaton knows how much Annie Hall, which Allen based around aspects of her life and their relationship, has defined her. In her entertaining (if typically meandering) memoir Then Again, she flatly confesses: “I knew I’d won an Academy Award for playing an affable version of myself. I got it.” Keaton was born with the surname Hall, and not only was there a real “Grammy Hall”, but when Keaton told her she had been nominated for an Oscar for the movie, Grammy replied: “That Woody Allen is too funny-looking to pull some of that crap he pulls off, but you can’t hurt a Jew, can you?”

There must be worse images to be stuck with, though, than a version of your life in possibly the greatest screen comedy of all? “I’d say so,” Keaton replies. “First of all, it [Annie Hall] gave me a lot of different opportunities. Now I can do things like the books I’ve written, my interest in architecture, I built a house . . . none of this would have happened without it. I wouldn’t have been in Something’s Gotta Give, I wouldn’t have been in Reds, I wouldn’t have been in any of it.”

Before Annie Hall she had appeared with Allen in a run of more slapstick comedies, among them the sci-fi parody Sleeper and the Tolstoy-Dostoevsky spoof Love and Death, from which I can’t stop myself quoting out loud (“No, you must be Don Francisco’s sister”) as Keaton cackles with delight. She remembers filming Sleeper in the early 1970s. “Suddenly I’m in Colorado. I hadn’t really done a movie before — I mean I’d done The Godfather but that was so brief — and then we’re up there running around in the forest. It was more like a camping trip. It was just wild.”

Allen, as both director and boyfriend, was “like an idiot, but he was fun. And then when he started writing these insanely brilliant female characters, that’s when I started to really understand his gift.”

In Keaton’s book she says she still loves Allen, and they are still close. She has defended him against accusations by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow that he molested her (“I believe my friend,” Keaton told The Guardian in 2014). Last week, in Los Angeles, Allen presented Keaton with the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award and they were snapped going for dinner with Allen’s wife, Soon-Yi.

Keaton credits her maverick streak to her upbringing in southern California. On the surface it was apple-pie wholesome — she was the eldest of four, her dad was a civil engineer, her mother a housewife — but there was more under the surface. Keaton’s father drifted between projects, sometimes putting the family through various positive-thinking programmes beloved of utopian west-coasters. Her mother was unhappy. “In her heart of hearts I think she really wanted to do what I did. She wanted to perform, but she never had the opportunity I had. I saw that, and I think unconsciously I was determined that I wasn’t going to get married. I wasn’t going to be doing that kind of work — the work of raising a family and being a wife.”

She tried out for all the shows at school and joined a local theatre company without much success. The director “pulled me into his room and he said, ‘You know what you really have to do — go to a charm school because you have to fix your look.’ I’d go sobbing yet again home to Mom.”

Keaton’s anxiety about her looks fed into her unconventional fashion choices, again encouraged by her mother. “I said, ‘I’m doing it my way. I’m going to dress the way I’m going to dress.’ We’d go to the Good-will [charity shop] or the Salvation Army, we’d find material. My mother made the clothes, I designed them.” Yet unhappiness about her figure also contributed to the bulimia she suffered after moving to New York, where she was cast in Hair (she didn’t take her clothes off) and where she met a young writer and comedian called Woody Allen.

Is she in therapy, I ask, sounding only a little like Alvy. Keaton’s answer is a bit Alvy too. “Really . . . the answer to that is always going to be yes, but maybe not as it was at one point, when I was ‘in analysis’ on a daily basis, but now not so much.” Did playing Sister Mary in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope open her eyes to any revelations? Only how nice it was to chillax in Italy filming the hit Sky Atlantic series that starred Jude Law as a supremely hot pontiff. “I learnt a lot about how beautiful Rome is, how beautiful those buildings are.”

Keaton will not reprise the part in Sorrentino’s follow-up series, The New Pope. A project she does have in the pipeline, however, is Book Club, a comedy about four friends whose lives are changed by reading Fifty Shades of Grey together. Perhaps working on this movie has stirred up other parts of her personality. Last year Keaton appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show in the US and told the daytime TV audience that she was “sexually frustrated”. Is she still? “Yeah, sure! I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t see anything happening for me in that regard. I don’t see someone calling me up and saying, ‘Hey, how about dinner?’ ” Life’s just not like in the movies. “You can be bold and outrageous and it’s all good — but in real life I don’t think it’s that easy.”

Well, how did she used to do it? Apart from Allen, Keaton had well-documented romances with Warren Beatty (during the filming of Reds and after) and Al Pacino (on and off, finally ending after The Godfather Part III). “How did it happen?” She mulls it over. “You would be working. It would usually be through some sort of work situation.” She did most of the spade work, she says. “They were hardly conquests. I tried my best to make them see me, so at least they’d think, ‘Maybe I’ll take her out.’ I worked it. I made more of the effort.”

Of the relationships with the three movie stars, the one with Pacino came closest to commitment. “I just thought maybe he would marry me, eventually. But that never happened, and that is a blessing for both of us. It was very important I think that we left each other alone and said goodbye. It wasn’t my choice, however.”

Single she may be, but doesn’t she count her career, her children and her part-time job as a property developer (she says she has made more money from this than from her films) as a success? She’s doubtful. “I don’t think that’s really on the cards for me. I’m going to count that one out.”

Surely, at least, she’s happy? “I don’t really know what that means. Life is exciting, totally fascinating, it’s magical, but I don’t really see happy as part of the deal. It’s right up there with God. ‘Happy’ and ‘God’ and things that are so beyond our ability to even comprehend.” Or, as Annie Hall might put it, la-dee-da.

Hampstead is released on Friday

Alone in Berlin special film screening: how to get tickets

By The Telegraph

It's 1940 and Berlin is paralysed by fear. But following the death of their son on the Nazi front line, a working-class couple begin an extraordinary act of resistance – dropping anonymous postcards all over the city attacking Hitler and his regime.

And so begins the cat-and-mouse period thriller Alone in Berlin. But, despite being based on Hans Fallada's 1947 novel, the story itself is a true one.

It is the story of Otto and Elise Hampel, who are renamed here as Otto and Anna Quangel, and are portrayed by Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson. 

And it is full of cloak-and-dagger suspense as the Quangels become virtual spies as they look for new ways to deposit their postcards in public while evading capture for their activities.

On June 26, there will be a special advance screening of the powerfully moving true-life drama, attended by special guests, at the Imperial War Museum in London.

There will also be a private viewing of some of the museum's exhibits from Nazi Germany.

This will be followed by a panel discussion exploring "people power", the realities of protest in Germany during the Second World War and how those issues resonate today.

For anyone unable to make it to the London event, it will be broadcast in 100 cinemas across the country.

You can search for your closest cinema and book tickets at aloneinberlinfilm.com

Alone in Berlin is released in the UK and Ireland on June 30

‘Hampstead’ film premiere: Primrose Hill director hails Heath squatter’s lifestyle

By Anna Behrmann | Ham & High

Hampstead was the new Hollywood for one night only, as film stars including Brendan Gleeson, Jason Watkins, Phil Davis and Rosalind Ayres sashayed down a red carpet in front of the Everyman.

The paparazzi and film crews hoped to catch a glimpse of all the cast, although Diane Keaton, who plays the love interest for a Hampstead Heath recluse, played by Brendan Gleeson, could not make it.

Director Joel Hopkins, who grew up in Hampstead and is a New End Primary school alumni, said he was very much drawn to Harry Hallowes’ story, as a man who lived in a shack on the Heath – although the film is not Harry’s biopic.

Speaking on the red carpet, he said: “Harry’s story and Harry’s way of life inspired this film and the way he chose to live his life is the inspiration.

He added: “I grew up in Hampstead, so I felt particularly responsible to show Hampstead in a good light.

“It’s hard because I’m juggling between making a commercial romantic comedy and depicting a place that I love, so I definitely grappled with that, but I hope that I got the balance right.”

Harry Hallowes, or “Harry the Hermit”, passed away last year, having lived a relatively secluded life on Hampstead Heath from 1986.

He made headlines around the world when he was threatened with eviction from his makeshift shack, in the shadow of Athlone House.

Developers Dwyer Investments, who hoped to turn derelict Athlone House into flats, tried to gain possession of Harry’s grounds.

In 2007, Harry successfully won a legal battle and gained squatter’s rights.

In the film, there is a Ham&High journalist, who is sent to cover the community campaign to save Harry’s shack.

Mr Hopkins said: “I wanted to get across that the interest in him starts quite local – with the local press, and then it gets bigger and becomes more of a national interest story.

“The beginning of his protest, [the campaign to] save his shack, I thought we should have a local reporter in it.”

Brendan Gleeson, who plays the Heath recluse, said it was important for him to have Harry’s blessing for the film.

He first tried to speak to Harry when he was reading the script, but ultimately failed.

Lingering on the red carpet, Mr Gleeson said: “There was lashing rain, I went up to see if Harry would talk with me, he didn’t want to.

“It was one of the rangers who did the intermediary, and [Harry] wasn’t that interested in Hollywood, I respected him though.”

Mr Gleeson then wrote to Harry, and got a message back from a park ranger.

He described: “When I knew that the film was about to be made, I just wrote to him, because I didn’t want to do it behind his back.

“I was a little bit worried about invading his privacy, and I kind of got a message back from him that while he didn’t want to be part of it, he was glad of the courtesy of the letter and he was okay with it.”

Commenting on how elusive Harry was, Mr Gleeson said: “More power to him. I didn’t want to rock his cage.”

‘Hampstead’ Review: Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson Ignite Senior Sparks

By Jason Solomons | The Wrap

An American widow and an Irish drifter cross paths in this lightweight but charming romance

 

Calling a film “Hampstead” invites immediate comparisons with “Notting Hill,” the Richard Curtis-penned rom-com that put that particular West London enclave on the global map back in 1999.

Director Joel Hopkins may be hoping for similar success, although I doubt the fine residents of Hampstead itself are looking forward to an influx of foreign tourists along their leafy and quaint streets.

In any case, the area of north London’s Hampstead on which this film focuses is the Heath, a great expanse of wood and wild park land that immediately features in the movie’s twinkling opening sequence, following a child’s kite as it flies across the Heath’s famous views of the city skyline, floating above picnicking families, striding dog walkers, pert joggers and recumbent lovers. It’s a shot, I suppose, intended to rival Hugh Grant’s “walk through the seasons” along Portobello Market in “Notting Hill.” (Perhaps intentionally, the two films even share one particular location, that of Georgian gem Kenwood House).

Hopkins, who grew up around the Heath, knows the place well and is intimate with the houses, the pretty pubs, and even the restaurants. The film looks and feels right, perhaps more so than the rather touristy look he gave his earlier London film, 2009’s “Last Chance Harvey,” which also featured a UK/USA romance, as Dustin Hoffman fell for Emma Thompson.

This time, the American is Diane Keaton, playing once-wealthy housewife and long-time Hampstead resident Emily, now a widow still shocked at her banker husband’s recent demise and still dealing, badly, with his debts. Fiona (Lesley Manville), her uptight neighbor in their smart, converted apartment building, fixes her up with an oily accountant (played by British cinema’s current go-to creepy guy, Jason Watkins, “Taboo”), who offers to sort out Emily’s money problems with “no strings attached.”

Sifting through her possessions in the attic one lonely night, Emily finds her dead husband’s old binoculars and, through them, scans the Heath across the road. She spies a big man (Brendan Gleeson) washing himself in one of the ponds, like Baloo the bear. She watches as he lopes back to a shack, a kind of hut nestled away in the woods and undergrowth.

A few days later, Emily stumbles across the man resting by Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery (technically a bit of a walk from the Heath, but it’s do-able) and, after he introduces himself gruffly as Donald, they begin an unlikely friendship, fuelled by Emily learning that Donald faces eviction from his shack by greedy developers keen to build luxury flats in the grounds of the old hospital in which his abode stands.

Their friendship turns to dinner at his place (on the menu is fish, illegally caught in the pond, and home-grown vegetables, washed down with homemade wine) and pretty quickly Emily is literally shacked up with Donald, who’s proud of his fragrance of “patchouli and pond scum.”

To say this is old-fashioned cinema is slightly off — it’s cinema fashioned for the old, precision-tooled for the mid-week demographic. Keaton is actually better than I’ve seen for ages, summoning up a real vulnerability to go with her usual smarts. She goes full Keaton on the outfits, too, rustling up a succession of tweedy jackets, polka-dot scarves, collared shirts and slacks, topped with a grey wool beret. Gleason mainly wears a T-shirt, although he does accessorize with a wooden staff and occasional hat, which lends him a hint of Gandalf.

“Hampstead” plays along with the contrasts lightly. Emily’s attraction to Donald’s alternative lifestyle teaches her some life lessons (mainly: beware sniveling accountants and don’t trust rich neighbors) while Donald remains wary of reality, particularly when he becomes a reluctant local cause celèbre and ends up fighting a court case.

There are few big laughs here, as Hopkins instead relies heavily on charm, which his performers have more of than these relatively sketchy characters. Neither is there much actual drama, at least until the court scenes, which frankly feel like they belong to another movie. Yet there is a kind of blessed relief to be had in this summery cinematic amble, handsomely shot by upcoming cinematographer Felix Wiedeman (“Mr. Selfridge”) and gently scored by Stephen Warbeck (“Shakespeare in Love”) as if capturing birdsong.

Indeed, one can’t be sure what Hopkins is getting at. Despite suggesting it might be heading that way, the film never quite provides a commentary on insane property prices, heritage, conservation or any of London’s other pressing housing issues. We admire Donald’s eccentricity yet never get behind the strange story of how he comes to be living here, undetected for so long. We are probably meant to envy his self-sufficiency in the modern city, and the film is, finally, dedicated to the real-life figure of Henry Hallowes, who really did live in a shack on the Heath, and who, according to this film, “lived the way he wanted.”

“Hampstead” the movie, however, tries to tie things up too neatly and stumbles a bit as it goes, like a walker on the Heath in the wrong shoes. But Keaton’s terrific, and it’s sweet and airy and so unhurried you really feel like you’ve had a nice afternoon in the long grasses and cool breezes on the edge of the city. You wouldn’t want to live there, though.

Strange tale of the anti-Nazi bestseller, the Stasi spies and the missing Gestapo files

By Philip Oltermann | The Observer

Vincent Pérez’s film Alone in Berlin, which premieres with a grand live event at the Imperial War Museum in London on 26 June, hopes to be a summer hit in British cinemas. Starring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson, the film tells the story of a working-class German couple who embark on a propaganda campaign against Hitler’s regime after learning of the death of their son.

Based on the 1947 novel by the German writer Hans Fallada – a surprise bestseller after Penguin commissioned a new translation in 2009 – it has been hailed as a “redemptive” tale and a “story of resistance and hope”.    

Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson are the married couple who spread wartime subversion in this decently-intended adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel

Unfortunately, real life is rarely that simple. Historians in Germany allege that Fallada’s fictionalised depiction of resistance to the Nazis has only helped to cover up a true story of collaboration with the communist regime that followed in East Germany.

Fallada, who declined to follow other German writers into exile during the Third Reich and accepted a commission from Joseph Goebbels for a novel glorifying the Nazis’ rise, did not himself come up with the idea for Alone in Berlin, originally entitled Jeder stirbt für sich allein (Everybody Dies Alone).

Instead, the book was conceived and commissioned by Johannes R Becher, a leading apparatchik in the Soviet military administration, who had been charged with rebuilding German culture on anti-fascist principles. In search of heroes, Becher had come across the story of Otto and Elise Hampel, a poorly educated, previously apolitical couple who spent nearly three years evading the Gestapo in order to leave handwritten cards with anti-Nazi messages around Berlin after hearing of the death of Elise’s brother.

In order to persuade Fallada to write the book, Becher, the de facto culture minister, had to tamper with the source material. Recent research, published in Germany after Alone in Berlins revival, has shown that the batch of Gestapo files handed to Fallada was missing a volume that showed how the Hampels petitioned for mercy and accused each other of being the main instigator behind the postcard campaign.

“The GDR [the East German state] wanted resistance fighters to be uncompromising heroes who died with the word ‘revolution’ on their lips. But that was a lie, or at least not the whole story,” said Christiane Baumann, a historian who has researched how East German politicians used literature for ideological ends. “Fallada wasn’t the incarnation of the resistance, nor were the people in the original story that inspired his novel. That’s what made them so interesting,” she added.

“If Fallada had seen the Hampels’ petitions for mercy, he would certainly have written a different novel,” said Sabine Lange, an archivist, who has worked at the author’s archive in the Mecklenburg countryside.

Fallada died, aged 53, shortly before Alone in Berlin’s publication in 1947, but the cult around his works and personality continued to play a crucial role for an East German regime with an exponentially expanding ambition to monitor and control its citizens.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, East Germany bought Fallada’s estate and then the novelist’s ashes from West Germany in order to establish a museum and archive in his name at a literature centre in Neubrandenburg – one of a network of cultural institutions an increasingly paranoid state had set up with the expressed intention to attract and spy on aspiring writers with “hostile-negative attitudes”.

As with the story of the Hampels, the GDR made sure that aspects of Fallada’s personality and career which didn’t suit the mould of the spotless working-class hero remained less visible than others.

Born Rudolf Ditzen, Fallada was a conflicted character with a troubled past, who had killed a friend in a suicide pact disguised as a duel aged 18, and suffered from alcoholism and morphine addiction throughout his life. During the build-up of the new East German state, Socialist Unity party leader Walter Ulbricht had informed Moscow in a telegram that Fallada’s “novels should be published, but not his biography”.

A prison diary in which Fallada described an editor at his old publishing house as a “small degenerate Jew” remained locked in his East German publisher’s drawer for 30 years.

A Dutch academic who contacted the archive with an interest in fatalistic tendencies in Fallada’s writing was only granted restricted access, because he was pursuing a psychoanalytic approach, a “pseudoscience” compared with the true science of Marxism, noted GDR-era archive director and Fallada biographer Tom Crepon.

Crepon was not just the guardian of Fallada’s public image but also a collaborator with East Germany’s secret service, the Stasi, who under the pseudonym “IM Klaus Richter” filed regular reports on writers who passed through the centre, even going as far as accusing a rival biographer of using his interest in the novelist’s life as a cover for travelling to the west.

Even though the Fallada archive’s function as a surveillance centre became public when the Stasi’s records were opened after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some former staff members allege that the centre has yet to fully engage with its oppressive past.

Lange, who worked as an archivist at the centre for 15 years, was fired in 1999 after describing her workplace as “unfree”. “The centre had once been a nest of spies, but when the fall of the Wall came, it didn’t feel like a turning point,” she said. “Many of the old patterns of thinking remained.”

“In my view, the spirit of the past still lingers,” said Baumann, who wrote a critical study of the literature centre and its Stasi connections in 2006 which was promptly dismissed by Fallada’s son in a local newspaper. “There was never a radical break,” she added.

Approached with these allegations, the centre’s current director, Erika Becker, points out that a working group produced, though never published, a report on the literature centre’s Stasi connections in 2005.

A newly commissioned book of the Fallada archive’s GDR history was published in 2007, though some critics have accused the author of downplaying the Stasi angle. “The literature centre was the first cultural institution in Neubrandenburg which has opened up its history to discussion in public events,” said Becker.

'The Fault In Our Stars' actor Nat Wolff joins 'Semper Fi'

By Jeremy Kay | Screen

EXCLUSIVE: Director says Wolff reminds him of a “young DiCaprio”.

Rising star Nat Wolff has come on board the Rumble Films and Sparkhouse Media crime thriller Semper Fi that Cornerstone Films is shopping to buyers here.

Wolff, a YA darling who starred in The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns and will be seen later this year in Adam Wingard’s mystery thriller Death Note, will play Oyster, the young brother to Sam Clafin’s Hopper.

Henry-Alex Rubin will direct Semper Fi from a screenplay he co-wrote with Sean Mullin. Rumble Film’s David Lancaster, who was nominated for the best picture Oscar for Whiplash, and Karina Miller of Sparkhouse Media are producing.

CAA co-represents US rights with Cornerstone to the story about Hopper, a straight-laced police officer and Marine Corps Reservists sergeant who forces his wild younger brother Oyster to face the music when he kills a man in a bar-room brawl.

After Hopper returns from a tour of duty in Iraq, he is dismayed to learn Oyster’s court appeal has been rejected and plots to break him out of prison.

“I’ve been watching Nat’s performances over the past few years and he reminds me of young DiCaprio – he’s highly likeable yet always mischievous and unpredictable,” Rubin said.

Miller added: “Oyster is a deliciously complex character – he’s part dreamer, part rebel, part man and part boy. His emotional arc is so engaging and extreme that I can’t help but get excited by the thought of watching an actor with Nat’s talent bring this character to life.”

Cannes: Cornerstone Boards Mike Leigh’s ‘Peterloo’

By Robert Mitchell | Variety

Palme d'Or-winning director set to begin production next week

Palme d’Or-winning director Mike Leigh is set to start production on his new film “Peterloo,” which Cornerstone Films is introducing to international buyers at the Cannes Film Festival. Shooting will begin Monday on location in England and continue until late August.

“Peterloo” tells the story of the infamous 1819 massacre at a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester, England, when many working people were injured and killed.

“There has never been a feature film about the Peterloo Massacre,” said Leigh, adding that the historical event’s universal significance was becoming “ever more relevant in our own turbulent times.”

The film is produced by Georgina Love and executive produced by Gail Egan. It is co-financed by Amazon Studios, Film4, the BFI and Lipsync. Film4 developed the film. Amazon Studios is handling U.S. distribution.

It reunites Leigh with some of his regular collaborators, including cinematographer Dick Pope, editor Jon Gregory, production designer Suzie Davies, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, composer Gary Yershon and make-up and hair designer Christine Blundell. A cast of more than 100 actors has been assembled for the film.

Leigh won the Palme d’Or in Cannes for his 1996 film “Secret & Lies,” which also won the prize of the Ecumenical Jury. He has competed in the official Cannes lineup five times, most recently with 2014’s “Mr. Turner,” and won the best director prize at the festival in 1993 for “Naked.” His 2010 film “Another Year” also received special mention from the Ecumenical Jury.

Three top UK sales agents talk streaming, release windows and Brexit

By Matt Mueller | Screen

Screen spoke to Alison Thompson, Gabrielle Stewart and Stephen Kelliher.

Three leading figures in the UK film sales scene came together for a robust conversation around strategies for the present and future at the Union Club in Soho, London: Alison Thompson, former Focus Features International chief and co-founder and co-president (with Mark Gooder) of Cornerstone Films; Gabrielle Stewart, who joined HanWay Films as managing director last summer from her previous position at Bloom Media; and Stephen Kelliher, director of Bankside Films.

In a pre-Cannes conversation, they talked to Matt Mueller about their enhanced roles as executive producers, sustaining a good relationship with theatrical buyers, and why Netflix should consider revealing its figures to cautious filmmakers.

How do you adapt and build your business to survive?

Gabrielle Stewart: We’re getting involved far earlier than sales companies have traditionally done in the past. Because we are linked to Recorded Picture Company, and there is a team at HanWay that works across both companies, we’re helping producers build projects — we’re really providing quite extensive EP [executive-producer] services. We have a team that is able to help build the financing plans of producers — help them find soft money around Europe, attach casting directors, that kind of thing.

Alison Thompson: I don’t think the old rules apply anymore. We all work harder than we’ve ever worked before while the ratio of films that get greenlit versus those that don’t is diminishing. One of the advantages of being a relatively new company is we’ve been able to set up the company structure in a way that is fit for purpose for 2017. There’s more multitasking, and we’re using external consultants to come on board where we need them.

Stephen Kelliher: The bullseye of what works in today’s market is getting smaller and smaller, and we have to use every resource available to us to ensure that we’re involved in the projects that can hit that bullseye. At Bankside, we have a relationship with Head Gear Films, which will put equity financing into films that Bankside wants to sell, and we’ve also begun producing and developing ourselves.

What do your buyers need to do to continue to add value to your business?

AT: The onus is on the filmmaking community and sales agents to deliver material that can work in the commercial space. There’s no question it is tough for independent distributors right now. But it’s a little easier now to identify films that have the potential to work. We talk a lot about cinema that we represent being event cinema, by which we mean material you can ‘eventise’ from the outset. You have the right kind of talent attached, you have a very clear idea of how you are going to position a movie in the market, what the poster might look like, what kind of editorial you can expect to get around a movie, how it will work on social media, and so forth.

GS: We’re having to show distributors we will be able not only to deliver a film, but a campaign that they will be able to use to release the film. We have a new head of marketing distribution, Tom Grievson, who’s new to the international business. He’s always worked on the distribution side and I felt it was important from a pre-production standpoint to have someone thinking like a distributor, working with the producers throughout production to create the campaigns and materials. More and more we will have to deliver good campaigns as well as films.

SK: In a world where people don’t need to go to the cinema anymore, what reason are you giving them to leave their house, to leave their Netflix account and go and see the movie in the cinema? You have to be able to identify those reasons from day one, and develop the materials that illustrate that audience to a distributor. And by giving people a reason, I mean having great films that are critically well received, that have a strong international festival profile, that everybody is talking about the week they’re released. Good is not good enough anymore; it has to be outstanding.

Are there opportunities that excite you, or is it a matter of working out how to navigate this landscape?

SK: The dawn of Netflix and Amazon is disrupting the traditional model, absolutely, but at the same time I wonder whether we are at the beginning of the glory days of VoD, where we will see it continue to grow and other players coming into the market. Despite all the disruption to the marketplace, from a sales company business perspective the deal with Netflix or Amazon is a very good deal to do.

GS: I also think, because there is so much money now in television, it’s creating a bigger pool of talent. It’s developing directors, it’s creating new stars. In the same way that we can be negative about the fact that it’s harder to get certain film stars because they are now filling their schedule with high-end drama series, we can also say that we’re actually generating a bigger pool of talent that is known worldwide.

AT: Looking at it from a slightly different perspective, we’ve never lived through more interesting times in our world. There is so much happening and the industry is evolving so quickly that, personally, I find it immensely exciting and fun.

SK: I agree completely. It’s not all doom and gloom.

GS: And professionals are diversifying. Traditional film producers are also doing television series, and that develops and grows their business. The studios are making less content than before and therefore they are buying more, so a lot of producers that used to work within studios are now looking to the independent world to make their films.

Does a US deal still drive international sales?

GS: The US sale ends up being the icing on the cake. Our focus is to finance the film without it and build your film for international, and then try to sell upon completion to the US. The US is a very buoyant, exciting market right now — that’s where all the upside can be found for the sales agent and the producer.

SK: If you want the film to be theatrically released in international territories, the primary driver is still US theatrical. They want to know how many screens, they want to know what the campaign is, they want that kind of surety. I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where the best deal to do for a film has been some kind of premium VoD sale in the US, and that does have a negative impact on the ability to sell foreign for theatrical release. It’s the distinction between what’s perceived as a theatrical film and what isn’t as far as international territories are concerned. [But] if you do have the right script and the right package, the pre-sales market is still buoyant.

AT: There is still fierce competition surrounding a small number of movies. But I take a slightly different view in that I think the pre-sales model has massively diminished in value over the last five years. There are not so many movies that are now pre-sold widely prior to production. So it becomes the role of the sales agent to work on getting a sufficient number of pre-sales over the line to give financiers the confidence in the material to want to go ahead and green-light. For the vast majority of material, that is now the default position.

Now that Netflix and Amazon are among your clients, what do you say to traditional buyers who fear streaming platforms might drive them out of business?

SK: It’s challenging. I’m not sure I know the answer to the question because the traditional all-rights distributors in many cases have already stepped up to a project and pre-bought it, only for a VoD platform to come in at a later point and say, “We want it but we’ll only take it if we can have the world.” You may then be faced with a situation where you have to go back and undo those deals, and that’s difficult. From a distributor’s point of view, they might wonder, “Is this going to happen to 30%, 40%, 50% of the movies that I buy? And what happens to my release schedule, to my release date, to the sustainability of my business if this is going to happen repeatedly?” It is a real issue.

GS: I’ve not yet been in that situation but certainly at Sundance I was aware of that happening — a few of the films that became hot properties at Sundance had a few international territories sold, and that process happened. I think there’s more a risk on American independent films going into Sundance because they are often the films that get picked up by Netflix or Amazon. On European cinema, I think there is less of a risk.

Stephen, you did a worldwide deal at AFM with Netflix on Cargo. What made that the right deal for that film?

SK: There are several things you have to take into consideration. In certain cases, there will not be a theatrical release for the film. Everyone has to be comfortable with that, including the filmmakers and the producers. And, as sales companies, we also need to assess whether an offer from a VoD platform takes into account the potential upside we would see on a film if it were released territory-by-territory in the traditional theatrical model, since their deal is a flat fee with no revenue share to producers.

GS: I had this experience at my previous company [Bloom] with The Siege Of Jadotville, which Netflix offered on the world when we took it to Berlin. It was a very attractive offer on what would have been quite a challenging film for distributors, and we had to have very difficult conversations with the talent and the director at the time. What would be very helpful is if there was a way for all of us and the talent involved to understand just what the figures are. Netflix don’t give away any viewing figures, and perhaps they should start doing that with filmmakers.

Is the survival of the traditional theatrical model crucial to your business?

AT: There is no question the theatrical window for a certain kind of filmgoing experience is absolutely crucial, and it’s a very rewarding part of the business to be in. But it’s high risk. The costs of marketing in theatrical are very high and the rental terms in a number of countries are pretty onerous for distributors, so the margins of profitability are increasingly slim.

GS: There’s an opportunity for us in terms of independent cinema. I was just having a conversation with a distributor to whom I’d sold quite a big film in the past for a really big MG [minimum guarantee]. He said to me, “When you look at Moonlight and Whiplash, these smaller films are the ones that are really working. I don’t know if I would have bought that big film with the big movie stars for the big MG. I’m more excited by spreading my bets and buying four smaller films for more reasonable MGs with the hope that one will break out.” I see that as an opportunity for the type of films that we’re doing because actually some surprising films are the ones that are really working and making money. We do a lot more filmmaker meetings now with distributors because they want to understand what the director’s vision is.

SK: We still set out to make films for theatrical release — that is the core ethos within the company. When digital first came on the scene, there was this idea that so many more films were going to be distributed because there wouldn’t be the P&A costs, but actually Netflix and Amazon have focused, on the whole, on films that could have theatrical releases, so that is still where we have to position ourselves.

Although your business is international, can you see Brexit posing any particular challenges?

AT: In the here and now, the exchange rate is challenging for the Brits and, going forward, a certain kind of cinema will potentially miss the MEDIA support. There is still a question mark over whether or not the UK can stay part of it. If we don’t, that would obviously impact the export of British films into Europe and the import of European films into the UK.

GS: Because the dollar is so strong at the moment, a lot of American producers are looking to Europe because it’s cheaper for them.

AT: And from a UK sales agent’s perspective, the exchange rate is actually quite handy because we earn in dollars.

GS: But that can swing around as well — that could be a temporary thing!

 

Mike Leigh’s 'Peterloo' gets sales deal, gears up for shoot

By Tom Grater | Screen

EXCLUSIVE: Cornerstone boards Amazon-backed feature.

Mike Leigh’s historical film Peterloo will begin shooting next week on location in England.

Cornerstone Films has boarded international sales on the project, which Amazon Studios is co-financing and will distribute in the US. Additional financing comes from Film4, who backed the film’s development, the BFI and posthouse-financier Lipsync.

A cast of more than 100 actors has been assembled, with the production scheduled to run until late August.

Mike Leigh’s regular collaborator Georgina Lowe (Another YearMr Turner) will produce the project, Gail Egan is executive producer.

Crew include Dick Pope (cinematography), Suzie Davies (production design), Jacqueline Durran (costumes), Christine Blundell (hair and make-up), Jon Gregory (editing) and Gary Yershon (music).

Peterloo tells the story of the infamous Peterloo massacre of 1819. The event saw British government forces charge into a crowd of 60,000 that had gathered in St Peter’s Field in Manchester to demand political reform.

An estimated 15 protestors were killed and hundreds injured, sparking outcry but also further government crackdowns.

The film is being lined up as Mike Leigh’s biggest budget production to-date.

“The universal significance of this historic event becomes ever more relevant in our own turbulent times,” commented Leigh.

 

Cannes Hot List: 15 Titles Set to Heat Up the 2017 Market

By Tatiana Siegel and Rebecca Ford | The Hollywood Reporter

As Netflix and Amazon challenge the traditional festival sales model, dealmakers are bracing for battle over a handful of key titles.

Last year, the biggest Cannes deal saw STX Entertainment plunk down $50 million for foreign rights to Martin Scorsese's mob epic The Irishman, beating out Fox and Universal in a bidding war. Fast-forward 12 months, and that film may continue to dominate the conversation at the market this year. That's because in February, The Irishman financier Gaston Pavlovich opted out of the STX pact in favor of a worldwide deal with Netflix — a move that has implications for European distributors (Netflix forgoes a traditional theatrical release and instead launches directly to its subscribers).

"The Irishman will remain a talking point," says Bloom's Alex Walton. "For example, I was just in France and Italy, and though it's old news, people still want to talk about it. The fact that this move is taking box-office dollars away from the marketplace will reach a fever pitch come Cannes."

STX had mulled legal action against Netflix, but sources say the two sides have reached an understanding. Even so, the aftershocks can still be felt given that a $125 million film has defected to a streaming service. In fact, the presales market — a major slice of Cannes deal-making — continues to adjust to the sometimes crippling presence of Netflix and Amazon.

"Many European distributors are being impacted by the changing landscape of film distribution in the U.S. [as] a number of streaming services are getting in early and buying multiterritory deals, taking a lot of films out of the market that would have otherwise been sold here in Cannes," says CAA's Roeg Sutherland. "This is something U.S. distributors have dealt with for a number of years, with some stepping up to build their slates with early-stage prebuys."

Who will step up at Cannes 2017 — both from a domestic and international perspective — remains the question. With a fully built-out staff, Annapurna Pictures is expected to make a statement. Of course, there will be plenty of films, in various stages of production, that are expected to generate heat at the market. Here are 15 that show particular promise.


 

Georgetown

Director: Christoph Waltz

BUZZ Waltz's directorial debut, in which he will star alongside Vanessa Redgrave, recounts the story of Albrecht Muth, convicted in 2011 for murdering his much older socialite wife. Brett Ratner is producing.

STATUS Pre-production
SALES AGENT Cornerstone, ICM