Belfast Film Festival 2016 Review : Green Room (dir. Jermey Saulnier)

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If you’ve read anything about Green Room you would probably be quite surprised to see a review on a blog under the moniker of Films and Faith.

This is the beauty of film festivals. The opportunity to see something outside of the norm. Outside the comfort zone. Incidentally if you are looking for a cinematic comfort zone Green Room is certainly not the film for you. I’m not normally one for gore inflected thriller/shocker but the promise of Patrick Stewart as the head of a neo-Nazi gang was too good to pass up.

Green Room  is the follow-up to 2013 film from Jeremy Saunier Blue Ruin (currently available on Netflix if you want to check that out) set firmly in the revenge thriller genre . To follow this up with a film like Green Room indicates that Saunier has a love and great knowledge of genre and he has no intention of letting up.

Unsigned punk band the ‘Ain’t Rights’ are booked to play an impromptu gig at a seedy bar in the middle of nowhere frequented by a neo-Nazi gang. When they accidentally witness  a murder the band find themselves in a fight for survival and look to escape from  the maniacal grasp of gang lead leader, played with ice cool menace by PAtrick Stewart.

I don’t want to say much more as to go into detail of incidents and deaths (of which there are many) would give too much away. Suffice to say I sat in my seat for 90 mins all sense on high alert and feeling the tension on-screen. The audience joined in with appropriate noises of disgust and awe making the film one of the most enjoyable audience experiences I’ve had in a while.

This is a film that has you on the edge of your seat from early on. Once the characters are defined and the setting complete the fun begins and it doesn’t let up until the final few minutes when all is resolved and daylight breaks through.

It may shock readers when I say I really enjoyed Green Room. I winced, I fidgeted, I tried (at points) had my fingers in my ears as a defence mechanism but I had a really great cinema experience.

Certainly Green Room will be too much for some, one couple in front of me had enough around the hour mark, but if you can stomach it Green Room will not disappoint.

Green Room is on general release from 13 May

 

Belfast Film Festival 2016 review : Closet Monster (dir. Stephen Dunn)

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Closet Monster is a coming of age tale, with a dash of body horror and a talking hamster (voiced by Isabella Rosselini). That alone should give an indication of the originality of this film.

Oscar (Connor Jessup) is attempting to escape his dead beat town, discovering his sexuality and attempting to deal with the damage caused by the breakdown of his parent’s marriage. This Molotov cocktail of emotion and hormones is from the film’s early exchanges only set to end one way.

After witnessing a hate crime, at an early age, the struggle Oscar feels is partly brought on by his father who, although loving towards his son, advises him to get rid of his floppy long hair in case someone mistakes him as gay. The lasting impressions of this throw away comment and the event surrounding it have a profound and lasting effect on Oscar and the physical churning of his guts at various points provided a few interesting body horror moments that I was genuinely surprised and impressed by.

In his attempts to escape his town Oscar will also escape his father who as the film progresses becomes more monstrous is also an excellent depiction of families. The early moments of the film show a child in awe of his Dad but as he grows older Oscar is more aware of the flaws of his father.

Closet Monster is not a perfect film. The coming out of Oscar, while interesting, is never fully formed. The father son conflict we expect from this event never quite arrives. Plenty of build is given to allow this expected confrontation but it never quite lands bar a couple of brief encounters.

Aaron Abrahams in his role as Oscar’s father is clearly struggling with what he is learning about his son but this is never fully dealt with on screen. The monster we expect never fully arrives. Oscar sees himself as the monster of this piece and his internal wrestling is interesting to a point but it always felt as if he needed further antagonism from his father to fully flesh this out.

A great electronic soundtrack really helps to enhance party sequences and sexual encounters.

This voyage of discovery is interesting and impressive when compared to some of its cinematic kin. It is however not as fully formed and developed as it could be and this is what (for me) stops this film from being great.

Belfast Film Festival Review: Records Collecting Dust

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Record Store Day was last Saturday and as part of the celebrations I attended a screening of Records Collecting Dust a documentary written and directed by San Diego based musician and filmmaker Jason Blackmore.

Records Collecting Dust documents the vinyl record collections, origins, and holy grails of alternative music stars such as Jello Biafra, Chuck Dukowski, Keith Morris, John Reis, and other underground music comrades.

The best documentary makers are able to make you care about subjects that the viewer wouldn’t normally engage with or have knowledge of. A great example of this is Senna, I (having no F1 knowledge) was able to engage with a documentary with which I knew little of the sport it revolves around or the characters involved. Sadly Records Collecting Dust fails in this regard.

While the topic of vinyl and the influence that a record may hold over a musician would interest me greatly the films execution of this is poor. The stars interviewed are all from the underground music scene. This is not a scene I am familiar with at all however no back story to these stars is given leaving me as the viewer feeling disconnected from those on screen.

The stories told are fine but they are quick and not given any real-time for depth or development. The music they refer to as influential is not played at any point which leaves viewers, who it cannot be assumed know all the refences, clueless as to what they are talking about. They refer to Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Beatles and assume that all of the audience, young or old, immediately know the music to which they refer. While their knowledge of the genre is admirable without the connection to the audience you are essentially watching a panel of interviews without any real content or depth. This sadly makes the film for largely uninteresting aside from one segement regarding ‘black power’ music as told by Matt Johnson who seems to have great knowledge but sadly does not receive enough time to fully impart this.

Records Collecting Dust is an attempt to get at what would be a really interesting topic if approached in the right way. Sadly this is a failed and flawed attempt and not a documentary I would recommend.

Belfast Film Festival : I Am Belfast

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Belfast Film Festival opened on 16th April with the latest piece of cinematic wonder from director Mark Cousins, I Am Belfast.

The spirit of Belfast is our guide, embodied in the haunting performance of Helena Bereen and Mark Cousins uses her to bring us a film that is first and foremost a love letter to the city. Part tale of wonder, part tale of mourning tinged with tender regret, this film captures Belfast in a beautiful new light.

Even for this Belfast boy the old and familiar places were given new life and their stories freshly  presented through Cousin’s amazing vision. His attention to detail in some shots of the city are truly breath taking and his moments of revelation pull at all available emotion.

Poignant and heartfelt I Am Belfast is a film that is not purely Belfast-centric but tells a story that makes us wonder what tales other cities would tell.

A sequence depicting the death of the ‘last bigot’ brings hope and gives us a vision that Belfast, or any city, could aspire to.

Our people described a salt and sweet throughout is a perfect summation of our character traits here in Belfast and we are captured well in this outing.

Mark Cousins never fails to impress me and I Am Belfast continues that trend wonderfully. All we can hope is that this part dreamscape part documentarian love letter reaches the wide audience it deserves.