Whether you like your humour bone dry and dripping with sarcasm, side splitting slapstick, politically incorrect, as a means of exploring social issues, witty one-liners or slow burn stories, the Laugh Strand has something to suit all tastes.
From lost films found deep in the archives, to documentaries profiling those who changed the face of American comedy, giant cheese graters to bestiality and a new female God, this year’s Laugh Strand is incredibly diverse in terms of subject matter and sense of humour, with films from Europe, Asia, Australia, the Emirates and North America. So if you like to laugh, just turn up, chill out and enjoy, but make sure you don’t choke on your popcorn.
Brand: A Second Coming (Ondi Timoner, UK, 2015)
“When I was poor and I complained about inequality people said I was bitter, now I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I’m a hypocrite.”
From his early career as a Tv presenter touring nightclubs in Ibiza, to being ejected from the GQ awards for goose-stepping across the stage, to the notorious ‘Sachsgate’ saga, to political and social activism, Russell Brand has long been one of the most recognisable, flamboyant and controversial names in British comedy. This complex and hilarious documentary follows Brand as he explores more about his historical idols including Ghandi and Malcolm X for a stand up tour, through to his more recent exploits as a political and social activist, inspiring thousands with his passion for change and tackling inequality.
Comedy is a weapon, and in the hands of Russell Brand it is one of the most dangerous, as this portrait of a man who thrives on being difficult to pin down shows in his unshakable belief in the power of humour to change to the world.
21 Nights With Pattie (Arnaud Larrieu, France, 2015)
(21 Nuits Avec Pattie)
When Caroline travels to a remote mountain village in the South of France for the funeral of her bohemian, solitary mother she hardly knew, she finds that mourning the dead is the last think on the locals’ minds. As Caroline gets to know more of the locals she meets Pattie, her mother’s housekeeper, who immediately regales her with explicit tales of her sexual exploits with many of the local men. As Caroline admits to Pattie that is stuck in a loveless, sexless (or at least good-sexless) marriage, the stage is set for extrovert Pattie, a woman who takes pride in exploring her own sexuality and owns her promiscuity, to lead lonely and troubled Caroline on a journey of discovery in pursuit of sexual ecstasy with one of the many willing local philanderers. That is until the arrival of a mysterious man claiming to be an old friend of Caroline’s mother sets off a series of hilarious and confusing events.
The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael, Belgium, 2015)
(Le Tout Nouveau Testament)
Ever wondered what things would be like if God was a lazy, spiteful, bad tempered Belgian man who ran the world from a ramshackle apartment in Brussels? Well wonder no more because Jaco Van Dormael’s latest offering, the provocative and satirical The Brand New Testament is here to show you. When God’s daughter Ea decides she’s had enough of her father’s reign, she sets out to create her new gospel with the help of her own disciples, including a natural born killer, and a woman who finds true love in the arms of a gorilla! Ea’s rebellion begins with her accidentally informing everyone on the planet of the time and date of their death, Theology has never been more fun, in this tale far more hilarious than any Religious Education class ever was.
Burn Burn Burn (Chanya Button, UK, 2015)
When Dan sends his two best friends Steph and Alex on a long and gruelling road trip to take in 5 specific but disparate places across Britain, he tags along for the ride, but less of a backseat driver as he is a glove box driver. Following Dan’s untimely death, emotionally freefalling and bemused Steph and Alex are on a pilgrimage to scatter his ashes in 5 places close to his heart. In Chanya Button’s directorial debut, this beautiful female centric story will have audiences crying tears of sadness and laughter as this story takes on a typical road trip narrative in its own intelligent way. As the two women set out on a mission to lay their friend to rest in his favourite places, they end up on a life affirming journey of self discovery, learning more and more about themselves, each other and life itself in this beautifully moving British comedy.
Cronies (Michael J Larnell, USA, 2015)
After opening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the general consensus was that Michael J Larnell has a bright future ahead of him as one of tomorrow’s great filmmakers.
In a style that echoes that of its executive producer, none other than Spike Lee, Cronies tells the story of Louis and Jack who have been friends forever, growing up together in one of the tough, poor black neighbourhoods of St Louis, and they can’t see anything changing that. But as adulthood looms Louis with his partner and baby has a sensible job at a local carwash and is attempting to become a fully functioning adult, while Jack on the other hand is on quest to stay young forever, going out partying every day. These completely different directions, along with Louis’ new friend Andrew, seriously threaten the stability of the pair’s friendship.
But then a spontaneous weed-fuelled day out pushes Louis and Jack’s friendship to the limit, paying ode to Larnell’s native St Louis, with local actors taking the starring roles in this visually stunning black and white film about friendship and growing up.
From A to B (Ali F Mostafa, UAE, 2014)
Follow his successful 2009 film City of Life, British-Emirati director Ali F Mostafa is back with another film challenging the perceptions and stereotypes of what life is really like in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in general.
Still racked with guilt over the death of his best friend Hady five years earlier, Omar is now just days away from the birth of his first child and decides to go on the road trip he and Hady never got to take together, much to the consternation of his wife. Calling on Jay and Ramy, who has become estranged from since Hady’s death, to accompany him the trio set off on a trip from Abu Dhabi to Beirut in Lebanon, via Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Facing mechanical malfunctions, wrong directions, suspicious mechanics and run-ins with the odd shady camel two, if this trip from A(bu Dhabi) to B(eirut) doesn’t drive them crazy, it might just bring them all closer together.
The Garbage Helicopter (Jonas Selberg Augustsen, Sweden-Qatar, 2015)
Q. What do you get when you put a broken clock, a giant roll of bubble wrap, a crossword obsessed poet who really isn’t good words and the world’s biggest cheese grater, in a Saab and point them southwards?
A. The Garbage Helicopter.
Baki, Saska and Enesa are 3 twenty-something year old Swedish-Roma sibling on a 1,000KM road trip across Sweden to see their Grandmother, an elderly Roma woman who has a desperate need to get back her old wall clock that has been at the clockmaker’s for over a year. In Jonas Selberg Augustensen’s debut feature, this black and white road movie has a style all of its own, tackling lazy, outdated and generally ignorant cultural stereotypes, while at the same time gently poking fun at some of the more amusing assumptions about Sweden, as the three siblings come up with more and more questions about the country they live in.
Grandma (Paul Weltz, USA, 2014)
In her first leading role since the 1980s Lily Tomlin owns this movie as she plays Elle, a foul mouthed, no nonsense poet in her 70s. Soon after Elle breaks up with her girlfriend of four months Olive, her Grandmother Sage shows up with an emergency that requires cash. So as the Grandmother and Granddaughter duo set out in a vintage Dodge, calling on old friends and flames of Elle’s for help the two instead end up unearthing long buried secrets and pulling old skeletons out of the closet. After kicking up trouble left, right and centre, Elle’s tough front eventually comes down and she is forced to deal with the fact that she is still struggling over the death of her long term partner Vi.
Latin Lover (Christina Comencini, Italy 2015)
In a tribute to classic Italian cinema and the actors who dominated the screens between 1950s-1970s, Latin Lover is the story of family feuds, bitter revelations and conspiracy theories. The very extended family of late actor Saverio Crispo, including all the women he fathered children by, are gathered to mark the tenth anniversary of his death. And if that doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster to begin with, family secrets are soon being spilled, fights break out and conspiracy theories concocted, before the arrival of Crispo’s close friend and former body double throws even more chaos into the mix, as everyone tries to establish and then come to terms with what kind of life Saverio Crispo really lead.
Live From New York! (Bao Nguyen, USA, 2015)
For over 40 years Saturday Night Live has been staple of not only American television, but also American comedy, almost any American comedy film since the mid 1970s has its roots in SNL in one way or another. Live From New York! looks back on this comic institution initially billed as a cross between 60 Minutes and Monty Python, from its founding members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, to how it launched the careers of Eddie Murphy and Alec Baldwin, to today’s superstars of comedy including Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. The documentary also looks at some of the challenges, the rivalries, controversies, and huge cultural moments SNL has been a part of, including the first show post 9/11, Sinead O’Connor vs the Pope, and of course some of the legendary sketches such as Tiny Fey as Sarah Palin. Saturday Night Live has an alumni list like no other, and has influenced the genre far further than New York City, proving the Americans can be funny after all, and re-defined what comedy is in mainstream cinema worldwide.
Lost In Munich (Petr Zelenka, Czech Republic, 2015)
(Ztraceni V Mnichove)
When happens when a 90 year old parrot, ready to tell all about his observations of the Munich Meetings between his owner Edouard Daladier, Neville Chamberlin, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, is kidnapped by a Czech journalist going through a midlife crisis? Your guess is as good as ours, in a class all of its own in the absurd stakes, and with film’s leading man is a parrot at the centre of a political scandal, Lost In Munich is one that has to been seen to be believed, and even then you might still struggle.
Men and Chicken (Anders Thomas Jensen, Denmark-Germany, 2015)
(Mænd Og Høns)
Mads Mikkelsen and David Dencik star in this outrageous, politically incorrect, fable of two ‘chalk and cheese’ brothers with the strongest of brotherly bonds, whose family tragedy sends them on an almost otherworldly adventure. A revelation following their father’s death sends Elias (Mikkelsen) and Gabriel (Dencik) on a journey to discover who they really are and leads them to the weird and wonderful Island of Ork. The Island of Ork is a truly one off place, life is very back to basics, strange passions are indulged and encouraged, and likelihood of being smacked over the head with a blunt instrument the same as being invited to indulge in a spot of bestiality – very! This is a black comedy with a big heart and the story of discovering who you are, accompanied by some crazy and ingenious prosthetics and make up.
Our Man in Havana (Carol Reed, UK, 1959)
Lovingly restored from the original negative by Sony Pictures, Our Man in Havana is a classic British comedy starring Alec Guinness as MI6’s vacuum-cleaner-salesman-turned-secret-agent man in Havana, Cuba. From being recruitment in a toilet to rocket launchers made from vacuum cleaner parts, this comedy of errors and deception captures the seductive beauty and energy of Havana beautifully in black and white CinemaScope, whilst also examining everyday life during the Cold War.
A Perfect Day (Fernando Leon, Spain, 2015)
In a 24 hours much less than perfect Benicio Del Toro and Tim Robbins are two, long serving, veteran aid workers, Mambru and B, currently dispatched to a war torn area of the Balkans. In the course of said 24 hours they have to contend with dead livestock being used as roadblock bombs, a dead body in a well, and the United Nations and all their unyielding bureaucratic rules and regulations. That is before Katya, a conflict evaluator, and Mambru’s ex lover Sophie are thrown into the plot, in this black comedy echoing classics like M*A*S*H, while at the same time exploring the realities of a worn torn region of Europe that seems hell-bent on self destruction.
Rediscovered Laurel and Hardy – The Battle of the Century (Clyde Bruckman, USA, 1927)
Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy, two of the most legendary names in 20th Century comedy, are back for one slapstick filled, pie throwing final fling. Another film from the Treasures Collection The Battle of the Century was for many years thought to be a lost film, with only half of the first reel previously been available, but after an eagle eyed collector spotted it in the Liberty of Congress’s archives it has been restored and will be screen at this year’s festival along with three other Laurel and Hardy classics: You’re Darn Tootin’, Double Whoopie and Big Business.
Ruben Guthrie (Brendan Cowell, Australia, 2015)
This typically Aussie tale confronts cultural issues, self-indulgence and macho stereotypes as Patrick Brammall plays the titual Ruben Guthrie, a hedonistic party animal whose war cry “let’s get smashed” proves to be a bit too literal following a drunken dive from the top of his swanky Sydney pad. Adding insult to (near-fatal) injury Ruben’s long-suffering fiancée, Czech model Zoya, packs her bags and leaves, offering him an ultimatum: if he quits the booze for a year, she mind come back. Despite his initial scepticism Ruben sobers up, and it’s only when he does so that he realises how much not only his job and lifestyle, but also an entire society, is underpinned and enabled by drink-fuelled antics.
Ryuzo and his Seven Henchmen (Takeshi Kitano, Japan, 2015)
(Ryuzo To Shichinin No Kobun Tachi)
Legendary Japanese auteur Takeshi Kitano goes back to his comedic roots with his latest offering, a series of unfortunate and hilarious events as eight retired, former Yukuza re-team to take on younger rivals. In a story of a similar vein to that of 2010’s R.E.D. Ryuzo and his henchmen are still crime bosses in their own minds, recalling past glories and triumphs, but as they set out on their latest mission they are soon faced with the realities of growing old. With a chaotic climax supposed to be equally inspired by Seven Samurai and Weekend at Bernie’s, Ryuzo and his Seven Henchmen is wonderfully hilarious tale about growing up, growing old and how it only matters how you see yourself – even if you are old and frail, you can still be a crime boss in your own mind.
Funny How? How Am I Funny? (Various, Various, 2014-2015)
From nuns in the West Bank to gang warfare on the streets of London, sunglasses addiction to social media, Funny How? How Am I Funny? has something to suit every style and taste of comedy in this compilation of eight short films. With offerings from the UK, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Palestine and Spain this is a collection like no other, ranging from black as night comedy, to up front and in your face slapstick, to cultural misunderstandings and irony, there is something for everyone here.
Further details including screening times and ticket availability can be found here x