So it’s not even the end of the first week of reviewing films for the upcoming London Film Festival and the good news is that I have only crashed out during a couple of movies. Falling asleep in screening rooms is not a great asset for a reviewer granted, but I think it’s something to do with darkened rooms. Anyway a couple more decent films that I would like to recommend are Take Shelter with a standout performance from Michael Shannon and a documentary revolving around the civil rights movement in America, The Black Power Mixtape 1967 – 1975.
For my money, Michael Shannon has possibly put himself in the frame for an Oscar with his immense performance as Curtis Laforche. Curtis is a man who seems to have an idyllic family life, the pretty and doting wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain), the cute daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart), the dog and a nice house and steady job. Then one day he starts to have nightmares and visions which have a serious knock on effect. Shannon’s portrayal of a man who has difficulty with containing his nightmare-induced fears, but who is also aware that he may be suffering from some kind of metal disorder, is as captivating as it is intense. Jessica Chastain is once again casted as the demure and dutiful loving mother and wife as she was in Tree of Life. But Jeff Nichols’ direction and screenplay really offers Chastain a worthwhile contribution as Shannon, whose pragmatic character is brought to the fore, looking after the development of their deaf daughter and ‘getting’ and coping with her husband’s malady.
Take Shelter is showing on 21 and 23 October at the London Film Festival.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Politically, the civil rights movement of the ’60s and early ’70s in America was full of charismatic, idealistic and inspirational characters. An era that threw into the fold, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the voices of the influential Black Power movement. Contemporary Swedish filmmaker Goran Hugo Olsson has put together footage gained by Swedish journalists during the period. Many will be familiar with speeches by King and Malcolm X, but the interviews with Stokely Camichael and Angela Davis, both devotees of Black Power, may be fairly new and intriguing to most. Some of the footage of Davis in particular is powerful and emotive. Also interesting is the insights into Harlem and the rise of drug dependency culture of poor black Americans. Aside from the influential figures, who were speaking out in the time, some of the most telling footage is from ordinary black Americans, telling their personal stories of living in America, of combating prejudice and violence, and trying to come to terms with their place in a world that that was far from the American dream and trumpeted values of freedom and justice. Arguably, the purest form of documentary allows the footage gained to speak for itself and leave the viewer to draw inferences. The Black Power Mixtape is not in the form of the current trend of polished or stylistic documentaries favoured by film makers influenced by the likes of Michael Moore and Nick Broomfield, but that’s not a bad thing here.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is showing on 14 and 17 October at the London Film Festival
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