The Cambridge Film Festival is now nearly four decades old, making it the third longest-running film festival in the country!
At this historical juncture in the UK’s relationship with Europe, the Festival strives to reflect the vast diversity and richness of European filmmaking. With 57 features (two thirds of the programme) from 19 different European countries, the selection affords fascinating insights into cultures which tend to be less familiar to us. Look out for Austrian Focus, Catalan sidebar and ‘Eye on Films’, a special showcase of emerging talent from countries such as Kosovo, Belgium and Macedonia.
Looking not only at Europe but also beyond, the Festival is to open up windows on the wider world, with features and documentaries addressing such urgent themes as the plight of migrants seeking a better future, the rise of artificial intelligence, the need to combat prejudice in all its forms, and the struggles of those trapped in repressive regimes. Even our ‘classics strand’, with its tales of US presidents in crisis, is full of contemporary resonance.
Because it’s always to decide where to begin in such a large film event, we have decided to lend you a little helping hand. Below are our top 10 dirty picks from the Festival, chosen exclusively for you. Don’t forget to click on the film title in order to accede to exclusive dirty reviews (where available). These are listed in no particular order.
An inhabitant of Istanbul claims: “in a way, street animals are our cultural symbol”. Roaming the urban streets, Istanbul’s cats live a life away from the veiled domesticated environments associated to them in the West. Cared for by the inhabitants of the city, these animals are never far from adoration. However, the community’s attention towards such cats runs deeper than simply feeding them; it exposes Istanbul’s deep understanding of nature and its historicity. Directed by Ceyda Torun, who grew up in Istanbul in the 1980s, ths documentary flows poetically and reminds one of such ‘city symphonies’ as Mark Cousin’s I Am Belfast (2015) and Terence Davis’ Of Time and the City (2008).
Set in present-day Prishtina (the capital of Kosovo), The Marriage (also pictured at the top of this article) is the story of an impossible love. It’s also the very first LGBT film from Kosovo ever. Anita (Adriana Matoshi) and Bekim (Alban Ukaj) are adding the final touches to their wedding. Their preparations are almost complete and they will tie the knot in just two weeks. Anita has been living with the trauma of her missing parents during the Kosovo War of 1999, while Bekim is very much an established man in the city. In the course of their wedding-planning, Bekim’s secret ex-lover from the past, Nol (Genc Salihu), returns from France. His return changes course of events and establishes a new connection between characters.
Terry Gilliam’s intended magnum opus is a very divisive film. DMovies’ editor Victor Fraga wasn’t particularly keen on it. He wrote: “It’s gooey inside, deflated and burnt. Its texture isn’t consistent. But it’s still digestible with some very tasty bits“.
Ian Schultz begs to differ. He travelled all the way to Paris in order to watch the movie. He wrote: “Like all of Gilliam’s films, despite being grand, it’s intensely personal. Toby and Quixote portray the director’s two sides: Toby personifies the deeply frustrated would-be artist whose passion and determination have been channelled into commerce, while Quixote is the dreamer whose life was enriched and yet damaged by the story”. Read his article by clicking here.
Now it’s your turn to make up your mind and decide whether you like it or not!
It’s big clit vs small dick energy in Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria, an aesthetic update of the original by turns confounding and magical – that neon soaked Argento look is replaced by the muted palette and instagram friendly architectural design/framing of Guadagnino. There’s enough glass brick on display to make you think twice about throwing stones, and enough conflicting, contradictory messages by this movie to have you frustrated, stupefied and eager to come back for more.
But there’s fairly little DNA shared with the Argento original. A fondness for split-focus dioptre shots aside, the closer comparative point is Possession, that masterpiece of writhing bodies in Berlin. That’s because Suspiria is far less interested in copying the emotions of the original than it is with taking a few of the themes and ideas (particularly that of displacement and cultism) through a modern lens.
How far would you go for your green card? How much is the American dream worth? Romanian nurse Mara (Mălina Manovici) wants to settle in the US because she feels that the country could offer her and her 10-year-old child Dragos more opportunities than her homeland. She isn’t fleeing poverty or war. She came to the US in a work placement for six months, and then succeed to marry one of her patients. She’s well trained and educated. But she’s soon to discover that the “Land of the Free” isn’t quite ready to welcome her with open arms.
The story starts in the impoverished and aptly-named rural town of Inviolata (Italian for “inviolable”), where a group a group of peasants work as sharecroppers in conditions analogue to slavery for the pompous Marquise De La Luna and her son the eccentric Marquis De La Luna. The decrepit buildings and working conditions suggest that the town is in the South of Italy, although its exact location is never revealed. Lazzaro helps both the peasants and the bosses without drawing much attention to himself. He’s prepared to do anything for this people. He will offer his very blood is asked to do it.
Suddenly, De La Luna’s “great swindle” is uncovered. She’s arrested and the farm abandoned. The peasants move to the city in search of pastures green. Then the film moves forward several years. The actress Alba Rohrwacher, who happens to be the director’s elder sister, plays different characters at the different times. Everyone ages. Except for Lazzaro. He looks exactly the same; even his plain clothes remain unchanged.
7. If (Lindsay Anderson, 1968):
Lindsay Anderson’s biting satire on public school life and the British establishment is generally reckoned as one of the best – and most subversive – British films ever made. The mesmerising Malcolm McDowell plays the leader of a group of disaffected sixth-formers who plot to bring armed revolution to their school Founders Day. A brilliant distillation of the spirit of 1968, a legend of popular culture, and a must for anyone who has ever felt stifled in school uniform.
8. Malcolm is a Little Unwell (Malcolm Brabant/ Trine Villemann, 2018):
This film chronicles the descent into madness of award-winning BBC foreign correspondent Malcolm Brabant after he receives a routine yellow fever vaccine required for an assignment in Africa. He begins hallucinating and starts to believe he is the new Messiah, being directed by the ghosts of dead friends who, like him, covered the siege of Sarajevo. Brabant suffers several relapses, psychotic episodes and bouts of treatment in psychiatric hospital. He captures one episode on camera himself, while his wife Trine Villemann keeps video diaries in order to document his transformation…
9. Roobha (Lenin M. Sivam, 2018):
A unique romantic tale that deals with the complexities of gender identity. Roobha, a trans-woman, struggles to find her place after being ostracized by her family. Her chance encounter with a family man, Anthony, leads to a beautiful romance. But their blissful relationship soon comes crashing down for reasons not their own. Roobha is a beautiful film that confronts the transgender stigma and biases that exist within the Tamil community. Although revered in ancient times as incarnates of the Mohini, transgender members of the community now often find themselves ridiculed and stigmatised.
10. Miss Dali (Ventura Pons, 2018):
Salvador Dalí’s complex personality is thoroughly explored in Ventura Pons’s luminous biopic. Based on the memories of Dalí’s sister, who studied for some years in Cambridge, she recounts her life with the famous painter with her British friend. Ventura Pons met Dalí on many occasions as they both admired the Catalan village of Cadaqués, background to many of Dalí’s paintings and to Pons’s beautiful film.