Journeys come in all shapes and sizes: direct from A to B with a point and purpose, taking the backroads and enjoying the journey, sometimes it’s the journey, other times it’s the destination that’s important. Journeys can be geographical, metaphorical, spiritual, and almost everything in between, they can represent a new beginning, a tragic end, a huge mistake or the best decision you’ve ever made. If you like your films with a variety of destinations, or thought provoking, perspective changing themes, from generational gaps in Israel, to learning about heritage on Indian reservations in the Badlands, from the social divides in and four legged companions Buenos Aires to the birth of African cinema in Senegal (via France of course), the Journey Strand has something for everyone.
The Assassin (Hou Hsiao Hsien, Taiwan-China-Hong Kong, 2015)
Winning the award for ‘Best Director’ at 2015’s Cannes Film Festival, and having already been selected as the Taiwanese entry for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the 88th Academy Awards (2016), The Assassin is critically acclaimed director, producer and screenwriter Hou Hsiao Hsien’s breathtaking first foray into the Wuxia subgenre of Chinese martial arts films.
Set in 9th century China, towards the end of the Tang dynasty, The Assassin tells the tale of lethal assassin Nie Yinniang as she fails an important mission. As punishment her mistress sends her back to her homeland (where her mistress kidnapped her from as a child) with new orders to kill the man who she was once promised to: her cousin, the governor of Weibo. But the journey back to her homeland and her emotions lead Nie Yinniang to defy her mistress and find a new source of strength.
Aferim! (Radu Juse, Romania-Bulgaria-Czech Republic, 2015)
Shot in stunning black and white CinemaScope, Rudu Juse turns to the past in his latest feature, with a western-style story showing the beliefs, values, aspirations and ideas of the 1830s Ottoman Empire. Chronicling a search by a sheriff and his son for a runaway Roma slave whose boyar master wants revenge on him for seducing his wife, Aferim! examines the class divide of the old empires, how callous and barbaric the ruling classes were in their treatment of the poor, all the while hinting that little has changed in the last 200 years.
Cowboys (Thomas Bidegain, France-Belgium, 2015)
Putting a modern twist on John Ford’s classic Western film The Searchers (1956), Cowboys is about a country and western obsessed French family who are thrown into crisis when their teenage daughter Kelly disappears. Stetson wearing father Alain, steps into the John Wayne role and sets off in pursuit of Kelly, joined by his son Kid, and forced to face his own prejudices. But in this modern and very topical twist rather than Native Americans as it was in John Wayne’s case, Alain has to face his prejudices about Islam. First time director Thomas Bidegain’s provocative thriller cleverly fuses classic Hollywood cinema with some very current issues throughout France and the rest of Europe.
Dog Lady (Laura Citarella, Argentina, 2015)
(La Mujer de Los Perros)
Already nominated for best film at numerous festivals so far this year, Laura Citarella’s Dog Lady comes to London having already received a very warm welcome on the world stage. This wonderful film creates an intimate portrait of one woman living a solitary existence on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, with only her dogs for company. Living in a dilapidated shack outside Argentina’s capital, constructed from the waste of the other city dwellers, the titular Dog Lady is a middle-aged woman determined to live life on her own terms. With no explanation of how she came to live in her shack with only dogs for company, the film focuses not on escape or rejection from society, but on the resourcefulness of those living on the fringes of urban modernity.
Embrace of the Serpent (Cira Guerra, Colombia-Argentina-Venezuela, 2015)
(El Abrazo de La Serpente)
In a breathtaking epic journey through the heart of Colombia’s Amazon rainforest, Embrace of the Serpent is an examination of the quests of two European explorers, one from the 1900s and the other from the 1940s, both of whom set off in search of an Amazonian flower rumoured to have magical healing properties. Based on the journals kept by both explorers this documentary takes its audience on a trip through the maze of jungles, meeting the native tribes, with an impressive 9 languages spoken in the course of its 2 hour running time. Stunning viewers by taking in the spectacular natural beauty of this part of South America, Embrace of the Serpent also shocks by demonstrating the devastating effects of colonialism and deforestation.
The End of the Tour (James Ponsoldt, USA, 2015)
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is frequently referred to as one of the best English language novels of the past 20 years, but Wallace’s talent was a ‘dark gift’ and life and art imitated each other as talent began to haunt Wallace, much like central character H in Infinite Jest. In 2008 David Foster Wallace tragically committed suicide, having suffered from depression for over 20 years. Starring acclaimed actors Jason Segal (How I Met Your Mother, 2005-14, The Five Year Engagement, 2012) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, 2010, Now You See Me, 2013) The End of the Tour is based on the 2008 memoir of Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, documenting five days spent on the road with author David Foster Wallace in 1996 shortly after the publication of Wallace’s book Infinite Jest.
Exotica, Erotica, Etc. (Evangelia Kranioti, France, 2015)
In a film exploring the feelings of dislocation and upset at living far away from home, Greek visual artist Evangelia Kranioti embarks on a voyage of discovery onboard some of the many Greek merchant navy ships as they set off around the world. Visiting over twenty different countries, Kranioti records the life and times of the sailors living aboard these vessels, in a modern reimagining of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, still regarded as one of her homeland’s biggest literary achievements. Intercutting the sailors’ everyday working lives with an interview with prostitute Sandy, a siren for hire who is also faithful to her romantic ideals of love and happiness, Exotica, Erotica, Etc. is the story of lives lived far away from home.
Gold Coast (Daniel Dencik, Denmark, 2015)
This Danish production travels back to 1836 when young botanist Wulff Joseph Wulff journeys to Africa’s Gold Coast, and the Danish colonies of Guinea (modern-day southwest Ghana) to establish and run a coffee plantation there. Initially fuelled by naïve optimism, Wulff’s experiences on the Gold Coast soon challenge his complacent Europe-centric ideals, based on fact but far from a traditional period piece, coupled with a modern musical score, Gold Coast explores the morality and actions of European colonialism in Daniel Dencik’s ambitious debut feature.
Ixcanul Volcano (Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala-France, 2015)
Having already won the Silver Bear at February’s Berlinale, Jayro Bustamante’s directional debut Ixcanul Volcano travels to London to share the story of the differences between tradition and modernity, and how the two interact. Young Mayan woman Maria lives with her family in rural Guatemala, she is promised to the foreman of the local coffee plantation where her family works, but instead she wishes to be with her coffee cutter lover, who is deemed unreliable and not worthy of her. But when Maria becomes pregnant by her coffee cutter lover, she is forced into a world unknown, transported from the ways of Mayan life to a nearby Western-style hospital, in a painful challenge of adjustment. With twists and turns along the way, Ixcanul Volcano examines an extreme clash of civilisations, and was make in collaboration with one of the Guatemalan Highlands’ traditional Mayan farming communities.
King Jack (Felix Thompson, USA, 2015)
In another debut feature for the Journey Strand, 15 year old Jack is facing another summer of petty crime, boredom and dangerous games with the other kids in small town rural America. Living with his older brother and usually absent single mother, Jack is used to being by himself, so he is reluctant when he has his young cousin dumped on him for the weekend. But as the two spend time together, Jack begins to learn the value of company and friendship in this wonderful coming-of-age drama. That is until local bully Shane arrives, wanting to settle a score with Jack.
Land of Mine (Martin Zandvliet, Denmark-Germany, 2015)
At the end of the Second World War when Denmark was liberated, over one and a half million land mines were still laid untouched under the country’s beaches. In a questionable move by the Danish and British governments, it was decided that German prisoners of war were to be tasked with removing these mines. This powerful and harrowing historical drama tells the story of a young group of prisoners working on the removal of the mines, exploring the aftermath of war and what happens once the conflict has been won. Juxtaposing the beautiful stretches of sandy beaches against the knowledge of what lies beneath them, Lane of Mine examines the morals and responsibilities of war, and how they are (or aren’t) continued in the aftermath, in a story so similar to what is currently being seen in the immigration of Middle Eastern refugees as they escape the wars the allies created.
Listen to Me Marlon (Stevan Riley, UK, 2015)
With access to previously unpublished footage Listen to Me Marlon documents the life of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars as well as being one of the most acclaimed and influential actors of all time: Marlon Brando. Previously unheard footage includes Brando’s own personal archive with hundreds of hours of audio recordings, along with extracts from his films, newspaper cuttings, rare photos and behind the scenes extras, is skilfully curated by Stevan Riley into an intimate and at times tragic portrait of a legend. With recreations and no interviewees, this is just Marlon Brando on Marlon Brando.
Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, China-Japan-France, 2015)
(Shan He Gu Ren)
“Some friends become enemies, some friends become your family.” Or so they say, and Mountains May Depart is the tale of a group of friends who eventually become family, visiting them at three specific points in their lives. The film begins on December 31st 1999, the clock is ticking down to the new millennium and Tao must choose her suitor, flashy Zhang or hard worker Liangzi. We then revisit Tao and co. in the present, 2015, and then again in another 10 years time, in an imagined version of what 2025 China will look like. This powerful humanist piece with a political centre, marks director Jia Zhangke’s first foray into English language cinema, examining how societal, economical and political forces affect our values and the ways in which we live.
The Mud Woman (Sergio Castro San Martin, Chile-Argentina, 2015)
(La Mujer de Barro)
Set amongst the arid landscapes of Northern Chile, the surrounds reflect the nature of this gritty and bleak film about encountering ghosts from the past and trying to build a better future. Maria leaves her daughter Theresa with a neighbour, packs a gun and returns to her old picking grapes in the rural Chile, with the hope that she can make enough money for them to join her brother in Santiago. But on her arrival she finds herself in a dangerous situation when she encounters thuggish Raul, the reason she left a decade earlier, is now in charge of the workers.
Murmur of the Heart (Sylvia Chang, Taiwan-UK, 2015)
How do you deal with knowing your mother abandoned you and ran away in the middle of the night to start a new life? It’s a tough enough situation to start with, but how do you deal with it when you know she took your sister with her but left you behind? And how do you deal with knowing your mother took you but left your brother behind when she decided to make a new life for herself? This emotional fall out is something now twentysomething Yu-mei and her brother Yu-nan must deal with when they reconcile in Hong Kong, in Sylvia Chang’s beautiful, heart wrenching and complex new film Murmur of the Heart.
Necktie Youth (Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, South Africa, 2015)
(In association with Mobo Film)
‘Born Frees’, South Africa’s youth population born after 1990 and the fall of apartheid, the parents of these youths fought with everything they had to survive the regime, yet the born frees in South Africa’s uptown neighbourhoods don’t seem to know how to deal with anything outside their incredibly privileged and sheltered lives.
In his directorial debut Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, plays twentysomething slacker Jabz, who spends his days hanging out with best friend September in uptown Johannesburg. In the year since the live-streamed suicide of their close friend, Jabz and September have tried to deal with it the only way they know how: drink, smoke and snort as much as they can and get out of their heads for a while. Shot in stunning black and white, Necktie Youth examines the lesser told side of the story of troubled youth, the side of the youths themselves, and having already won Best South African Film and Best Director at the Durban International Film Festival, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is being tipped as one of the major up and coming talents of modern cinema.
The New Classmate (Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, India, 2015)
(Nil Battey Sanaata)
Following the death of her husband, Chanda is left to raise their daughter Apeksha alone, working long, hard hours as a maid Chanda is determined to give Apeksha every opportunity in life. But when Apeksha falls in with the wrong crowd and her schoolwork starts to suffer, her mother takes drastic action to try and ensure her daughter stays on the right path and enrols herself in the same class as Apeksha. Things go from bad to worse as Chanda’s efforts only serve to embarrass her daughter, in this moving recount of the differences between generations and the turbulent relationships between parent and child.
Petting Zoo (Micha Magee, Germany-USA-Greece, 2015)
San Antonio, Texas has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the USA, a phenomenon that is explored through the eyes of Layla, a bright, mature 17 year old who seems to excel at almost everything, except when it comes to boys, and what to do with her future. Texan laws dictate that an under 18 must have parental consent to have an abortion, so when Layla falls pregnant and her estranged parents refuse to let her have an abortion, it seems that her future has been dictated to her. As everyone she turns to turns their back on her, Layla must go it alone and make her own decisions about her body and her future.
Massively on topic and inspired by director Micha Magee’s own experiences as a teenage girl growing up in Southern Texas, Petting Zoo is an authentic, observational feature that wonderfully captures the rugged and dramatic beauty of the Lone Star State and juxtaposes it with the dilapidated cars and houses, feral cats and unsupervised children that are the reality of this part of Texas.
The Raging Moon (Bryan Forbes, UK, 1971)
Restored by STUDIOCANAL in conjunction with the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage programme, Bryan Forbes’ The Raging Moon (released as Long Ago, Tomorrow in the United States), is screened as part of London Film Festival’s Treasures Collection. Starring a young Malcolm McDowell as jack-the-lad Bruce, Nanette Newman as Jill, daughter of a well to do family, The Raging Moon tells the story of these two lost souls who find themselves cut adrift from all they know when they both become wheelchair bound. Bruce and Jill end up inmates at a church run facility for the disabled, and gravitate towards each other, falling in love in a film that is often cited as the first motion picture ever to show disabled people having sex.
Red Leaves (Bazzi Gete, Israel, 2014)
Following the death of his wife, Ethiopian immigrant Meseganio, who has been living in Israel for 30 years, announces to his family that he is moving in with them. Used to having everything done his own way, and dictating his wife’s life, Meseganio is hurt when he finds his old fashioned misogynistic values are challenged by the younger generations of his family. Clashing with his daughter-in-law when she stands up to him and refuses to cater to his every whim, and shocked when his granddaughter beings dating a non-Ethiopian man, Red Leaves paints a compelling portrait of a man out of touch with the times, struggling to adjust to the world around him.
Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-Soo, South Korea, 2015)
(Jigeumeum Matgo Geuttaeneun Teullida)
Winner of the Golden Leopard award at this summer’s Locarno Film Festival, Right Now, Wrong Then follows the life of painter Yoo Heejung when she meets Ham Chunsu, a highly regarded arthouse film director who visits her hometown for a film festival. The pair hang out, get drunk, repeat. Told in a non-linear narrative, the film revisits the couple’s various interactions over the years looking at the egos (and lack of) of artists, and how a few tweaks in communication can alter lives.
Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti, Italy, 1960)
(Rocco E I Suoi Fratelli)
Set in Milan, Luchino Visconti’s Rocco and His Brothers is the story of a mother and her five sons from Southern Italy who migrate to the industrial north in search of a better life, in fable about poverty, aspirations and prejudice. But as is always the case, nothing is ever as simple or easy as it seems, and morals are tested, passions explored, and relationships implode in this classic Italian masterpiece that is guaranteed to leave you emotionally drained at the end of its 3 hour running time. Part of the Treasures Collection, Rocco and His Brothers has been digitally restored by the Cineteca di Bologna, with two scenes that were cut out of the original 1960 release by censors also being restored and added back into the film.
Sailing a Sinking Sea (Olivia Wyatt, USA-Myanmar-Thailand, 2015)
A seafaring community from Thailand and Myanmar’s (present day Burma) Andaman coast, the Mokens spend their time carrying on the traditions of their ancestors, fishing along the coast from thatched-roofed wooden boats, entire lives dependent on the sea. Olivia Wyatt’s documentary is part anthropological exploration and part experimental journey, diving into the ocean with the people of this community. Listening folk tales about mermaids and the magic of the tears of sea cows, traditional music, and rituals of the community, Sailing a Sinking Sea weaves a spectacular tapestry of a face disappearing way of life.
Sembene! (Samba Gadjigo, USA-Senegal, 2015)
In 1952 Ousmane Sembene was a school drop-out from Senegal, working on the docks in France whilst dreaming of becoming a voice for a new Africa. Through the use of archive footage, Sembene’s own films and personal recollection, Sembene! celebrates this self-taught novelist and filmmaker who has become known as the “father of African cinema”. In his 50 year battle to give Africans a voice, Sembene’s aim was to bring cinema to as vast an African audience as possible.
In tribute to this pioneering and determined filmmaker, both his feature length and short directional debuts Black Girl and Borom Sarret (see below) have been digitally restored and will be screened as part of both the Journey Strand and the Treasures Collection.
Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 1966)
(La Noire De…)
(In association with Mobo Films)
Restored as part of The Film Foundation’s ‘World Cinema Project’, Ousmane Sembene’s stunning yet tragic directional debut Black Girl tells the story of Diouana, a young Senegalese woman who dreams for a better life. Leaving her home and taking a job as a governess for a bourgeois French family, Diouana’s dreams quickly turn to despair when she is mistreated by her employers, and she descends into a lonely, isolated existence.
Borom Sarret (Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 1963)
Sembene’s first short film tells the story of a cart driver in Senegal’s capital Dakar, brilliantly illustrating the poverty in Africa, and how independence from Europe has not solved all the problems it was supposed to.
Songs My Brothers Taught Me (Chloe Zhao, USA, 2015)
As high school senior Johnny prepares to leave the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to start a new life with his girlfriend, his plans are interrupted by the death of his father. Johnny is reluctant to leave behind his 13 year old sister Jashaun, with whom he shares a special bond, and also shares the care of their alcoholic mother. His increasing inner conflict forces him to rethink his plans and sets them both on different paths to rediscover the meaning of home.
Juxtaposing the stunning scenery of South Dakota’s Great Planes, with the internal conflict of the younger population of the reservations, Songs My Brothers Taught Me represents the difficult decision between staying living and dying in the same place you were born, or stepping out into the unknown and writing your own future.
Sworn Virgin (Laura Bispuri, Italy-Switzerland-Germany-Albania-Kosovo, 2015)
Italian director Laura Bispuri’s feature length debut is a beautiful, moving and fragile story of a remote Albanian mountain community, where women’s lives are strictly defined and dictated by arranged marriages. The only way to escape this cruel tradition is to become a sworn virgin, and live as a man, a fate that is chosen by Hana, who becomes Mark. However after 10 years living as Mark, Hana takes a trip to Italy, embarking on a journey that opens up a tantalising yet terrifying chance for a new life.
Youth (Paulo Sorrentino, Italy, 2015)
Set mostly within a luxury Swiss spa and with an ensemble cast including Michael Caine, Harvey Kietel, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano, Youth is a bittersweet tale of two friends, former film director Mick (Keitel) and former composer Fred (Caine). While Mick is desperate to make a comeback starring his former muse and favourite actress Brenda (Fonda), Fred is trying to resist attempts to revive his greatest work. And if that isn’t enough for the pair of aging friends to contend with, things go from bad to worse as members of Fred’s family start turning up and causing chaos.
In the Neighbourhood (Various, Various, 2014-2015)
With offerings from the UK, the Netherlands, Brazil, Australia, Poland, Croatia, Belgium and the USA, In the Neighbourhood is a collection of short films all linked by the theme of neighbours and neighbourhoods. Ranging from backwoods towns to big cities, love, death and life changing discoveries are explored in this compilation of 10 vastly different but all enthralling short films.
London Calling (Various, UK, 2015)
(In association with Film London)
This being the London Film Festival, it is only fitting that up and coming British filmmakers are celebrated, London Calling showcases 7 short films from some of tomorrow’s best filmmakers, all made in association with Film London’s production schemes: BFI Net.Work and Creative Skillset.
More information on the Journey Strand is available here x