After becoming the toast of the art house world with his 2010 opus ‘Of Gods And Men’ and his not so acclaimed follow-up, ‘The Price Of Fame’, Xavier Beauvois returns in peak form with an elegant, leisurely paced drama set over five years during World War I, with a tale about the women of a family forced to take over the running of their farm, while their sons and husbands have departed to the battle front.
The veteran French actor turned director recovers the qualities his former work was praised for with another portrait of a close-knit community facing life-changing challenges. As the Trappist monks sent to Algeria in ‘Of Gods and Men’ went on with their lives under the threat of fundamentalists, the women in ‘The Guardians,’ facing the hardship of war, take over the everyday tasks of a farm, playing their part on guaranteeing food supplies and their own livelihood.

They are led by the matriarch Hortense, played with laudable restraint by Natalie Baye, who realizes that herself and her daughter Solange (Laura Smet) on their own won’t be strong enough to keep the labour intensive demands of the land’s agricultural cycle going. She hires a young girl from the village to lend a hand -newcomer Iris Bry who gives a show-stealing first performance as Francine, -who soon proves her worth at making the farm thrive again. Their success, though, will be met with jealousy and gossip around the village, which in turn will lead Hortense’s to a tough dilemma in order to preserve the good name of her family.

‘The Guardians’ stands out for its not so common depiction of the role rural women played during wartime, portrayed as the unsung heroines who kept everything in place while soldiers were fighting for their country which gives the film a particular cultural relevance in this times of feminist struggle for equal and fair gender representation. Through the occasional visits of their men, we know about their difficulties at the front, facing demoralization and, respectively, being injured, taken hostage and even death, putting their sense of purpose and courage to the test.

Beauvois’ film is also elevated by the painterly quality of its scenes, filmed in the French Limousine region. The director points in particular at Van Gogh’s masterpieces created under the influence of Millet as his main visual reference when he recreates many scenes of everyday rural endeavours, from the ploughing and tilling the fields to the moment of harvest, with striking luminosity and sense of composition. And yet, despite The Guardians’ length and unhurried presentation of events; those scenes don’t overstay their welcome and contribute to create a strong sense of place that graciously complements the storyline.

What makes everything work beyond its classic aesthetic sensibility, though, is how well the dramatic scenes are chosen, considering the complexity of the different characters and their circumstances in this free adaptation of Ernest Pérochon’s 1924 novel. The director manages to convey the many situations of loss, love, jealousy, hope and despair with rather affecting precision, wisely choosing what to show and what to elide. The use to letters to make us aware of how the relationships between women and their absent men are unfolding adds an extra literary value to the narrative that leaves plenty of room for reflection.

‘The Guardians’ is one of those rare works whose crafts and visuals have as much weight in the final result as the storyline itself. That balance has become the trademark of Xavier Beauvois’ reassured authorial voice, succeeding on crafting one of the best observed, satisfying and original period dramas in recent memory.

The Guardians is released in the UK on August the 17th.

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The Guardians: Women During Wartime

After becoming the toast of the art house world with his 2010 feature ‘Of Gods And Men,’ and his not so acclaimed follow-up ‘The Price Of Fame’, Xavier Beauvois returns in peak form with this elegant, leisurely paced drama set over five years during World War I, telling the story of the women in a family forced to take over the running of their farm, while their sons and husbands have departed to the battle front. Read the rest of this entry »

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Apostasy: The Human Cost Of Dogma

In one of the most powerful British debuts in recent memory, Daniel Kokotajlo delivers with ‘Apostasy’ a hard-hitting, rare look at Jehovah’s witnesses dogma, as well as the cruel sacrifices their organization can demand from its fellows.

Filmed in Greater Manchester, ‘Apostasy’ takes the viewer right into the everyday life of a family of devoted followers, a mother and her two young daughters, contrasting the individual stories of the teenagers, which represent the virtuous and the reprehensible sides in the witnesses’ beliefs, both leading to their respective, harrowing personal dramas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Path of Blood: Gripping Assemblage of Al Qaeda’s Own Footage

Based on his book of the same title, BBC veteran filmmaker Jonathan Hacker rebuilds the timeline of Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks in Saudi territory in this documentary made from 500 hours of their own footage seized by the Arab government, completed with some other recordings provided by their security services; shaping up a gripping piece of work that impresses for its craft, but less so for its intentions.
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The End Of Independence? Millennials and the Arthouse

As another summer began among blockbuster flops, a growing number of voices raised the alarm blaming Millennials’ fading interest in movies for disappointing box-office returns. Derek Thompson in his article “Hollywood has a huge millennial problem” maintains the movie industry has over-learned the lesson that sequels perform well and trying to made a sequel of every single movie it has lost its grip on young people. However, recent studies in the States confirm Millennials remain Tinseltown’s biggest customers. Arthouse theatres and small independent films are the ones they have deserted instead. As Thompson puts it, the problem for Hollywood isn’t that Millennials are ignoring sequels, it is that they ignore everything that isn’t a sequel, adaptation, or reboot. These sort of stories exist but young consumers are looking for them outside the theatres. Read the rest of this entry »

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Zama: Lucrecia Martel Screen Talk

Lucrecia Martel’s ‘Zama’ was named as one of our 10 essential films of 2017. To celebrate its UK release, we revisit the revealing masterclass the acclaimed Argentinean filmmaker gave during last year’s London Film Festival, where ‘Zama’ also had its UK premiere. Her long-awaited fourth feature, which took almost a decade to get made, is the first literary adaptation in Martel’s career, based on the 1956 Antonio Di Benedetto’s novel, which is set In the late 18th century and tells the story of Spanish official Don Diego De Zama, whom after years of dedicated service to the Spanish crown in a remote position somewhere in the South American, he believes he’s entitled to a promotion for a place in a better destination. His increasingly delusional longings serve as a reflection on the trappings of personal and social identity as well as taking an incisive, critical look at the ways of colonialism.

Interviewed by professor Maria Delgado and boasting both a healthily sarcastic sense of humour and an endless capability for amazing digression, among other things, Martel talked about her career, the themes and preoccupations’ on her body of work, some of her philosophical theories and what kept her so long from making another film after her masterpiece ‘The Headless Woman’. Read the rest of this entry »

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Frames Of Representation 2018: Our Preview

BLACK MOTHER Khalik Allah

The Frames Of Representation Film Festival is ready to raise its curtains featuring once again an unique selection of films which push aesthetic and political boundaries. In only three editions, FoR has consolidated itself as an unmissable forum for those who like cinema at its most ground-breaking, challenging in both form and content. The annual event celebrated at London’s ICA is described by its curator, Nico Marzano, as “a laboratory conceived to engage with new visions of cinema through supporting the presentation, production and distribution of innovative and politically challenging cinematic languages”.

Last year it was dedicated to ideas about “Working” and boasted the UK premieres of two of our favourite films of 2017, Jorge Thielen Armand’s ‘La Soledad’ and Eduardo Williams’ ‘The Human Surge.’ This year’s main concept is “Landscape.” and standout works from the programme such as Salomé Lamas’ ‘Extinction’ or Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias’ Cocote’ are also likely to be among 2018’s most thought-provoking and best.

Frames Of Representation will take place from April the 20th until the 28th and will showcase thirteen features and six short films from 16 countries linked together by a strong sense of place, instrumental in the depiction of the issues they reflect upon, blending the poetic with the factual; documentary with fiction and the personal essay with their wider social and political contexts. All of them are UK or European premieres for which the ICA will host Q&As with their respective directors, presented alongside a diverse series of workshops, symposiums and other related activities. Here’s a small preview featuring our picks from this year’s edition: Read the rest of this entry »

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A Gente Creature: Journey to the centre of a dehumanised society.

Based in the Dostoevsky’s short story of the same title, Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa portraits contemporary Russia as a corrupted and dehumanised society on his third feature, ‘A Gentle Creature,’ telling the ordeal of an ordinary woman living in a small village whom, after a parcel sent to her jailed husband gets returned for no apparent reason and failing to gather any further information, embarks on a journey to the prison where her partner is held.

Her allegorical journey, a labyrinthine descent into social and bureaucratic hell in which she will experience a cycle of abuse and degradation from the shady characters she encounters in her way, paint a grim picture of the moral decay of the country. Lead star Vasilina Mokovtseva gives a remarkably restrained performance focused on the stoicism of her character, who impassibly endures the humiliations thrown at every step of her search for the whereabouts of her husband, passively letting herself being pushed around. Read the rest of this entry »

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Open Agenda: Solidarity In The Films Of Ken Loach

2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s BBC drama Cathy Come Home (1966). Its innovative mix of documentary and fiction had enormous social impact and helped to create awareness on homelessness in Britain, using a medium which had rarely seen before such a controversial matter brought to its audience. In turn, the upheaval it caused led to government debate and the creation of the charity Shelter. At an early stage of Loach’s career, the play transcended the realm of entertainment and already showcased most of the qualities his films are renowned for.

The director is considered the pre-eminent contemporary representative of a long standing British tradition of social realism in cinema, which has its roots in the documentary film movement of the 1930s and 1940s, led by John Grierson, and the wartime work of Humphrey Jennings. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Third Murder: Powerful Anti-Death Penalty Courtroom Drama

Before ‘The Third Murder’ was premiered at the Venice Film Festival, early rumours trumpeted Hirokazu Kore-eda had gone all noir. Perhaps Today’s most acclaimed Japanese auteur, the filmmaker’s trademark has always been his humane and intimate look at family relationships, often with an emphasis on children and the elderly. This interest for the family has earned him comparisons to Ozu, despite seeing himself closer to more contemporary directors such as Ken Loach. That’s why this sudden turn to darker territories came as a surprise. ‘The Third Murder’ may not confirm those first impressions, but nonetheless is a significant change of register for the director who, this time, delivers a powerful anti death penalty indictment through a legal drama that explores its core murder mystery as much as its moral repercussions for everyone involved. Read the rest of this entry »

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Top 60 Best Films of 2017

AND OUR FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2017 ARE…
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2017: The Year In Film

As Oscars’ night punctuates the end of the year in film for the industry, our blog traditionally releases its annual recap of the surprises and trends that have shaped the last twelve months of cinema, as well as our list of favourites.

2017 has been a good year for films; yet rather than for its cinematic crop it will certainly be remembered for the seismic shifts it brought in cultural and social forces, prompting a significant change across all areas in our industry. The choir of voices calling for more diversity, equality and inclusiveness had been growing for a few years, but perhaps triggered by that ice storm of ultra conservative policies in Trump’s America; feminist movements, ethnic minorities and LGBT communities have joined their efforts, as they did during the 1960’s, in order to facilitate those changes.

From the beginning of the year, films such as Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out,’ a horror film inspired in the black community’s anxieties about the way they are being used by their white counterparts, or Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, which broke the usual tropes depicting homosexuality as a guilt-ridden source of personal drama, to portray instead a luminous and enjoyable summer romance, were the toast of Sundance, set the tone going all the way to become favourites of the Awards Season. In the second half, the controversial #MeToo movement stole the show and its narratives, creating shock waves around the world when stars who had been victim of sexual abuse began making their stories public. The consequences have been enormous, and there are more still to come. It put an end to Harvey Weinstein’s sleazy empire and has affected a rapidly growing number of professionals from all the corners of the industry. Its impact on this year’s awards season has been unprecedented, from perennial Academy favourites such as Woody Allen forced to cancel the red carpet for the premiere his latest work, ‘Wonder Wheel’, to Ridley Scott’s dramatic reshoot of ‘All The Money In The World’ replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer. Now consolidated as Time’s Up, a platform to help victims of all sort of harassment, the #Metoo initiative was dismissed by the few who dared questioning it as a witch hunt which was at risk of hurting the reputations of many without allowing them their right to a fair legal procedure. Read the rest of this entry »

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The 2017 Rober Awards Film Poll’s Spotify Playlist

The 2017 Rober Awards Film Poll is up and running, open for everyone to cast their votes. Sean Baker’s extraordinary look at the lives of the American underclass in The Florida Project leads the list of nominees with eight, followed by gay romances Call Me By Your Name and God’s Own Country and Lynne Ramsay’s psychological thriller You Were Never Really Here with six each.

Christopher Nolan’s recreation of the Dunkirk evacuation; Greta Gerwig’s personal account of her teenage years in Lady Bird; French AIDS drama BPM (Beats Per Minute); Paul Thomas Anderson’s superbly crafted Phantom Thread and Lucrecia Martel’s big screen adaptation of Zama are among the other films with multiple nominations.

To refresh our memories recalling the best films of the year and help with your deliberations, here’s a Spotify playlist with excerpts from the soundtracks of most of this year’s nominated films. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rober Awards 2017 Music Poll: Complete List Of Winners

Kendrick Lamar and LCD Soundsystem are the biggest winners at this year’s Rober Awards. The rapper from Compton, recently shunned out of the biggest categories at the Grammys, was voted best male and hip-hop artist of the year, and his record DAMN. took home the honours for album of the year. James Murphy’s band unsurprisingly won in the category of comeback of the year, as well as being voted the best band and song of the year for the title track of their fourth album American Dream.

Among biggest surprises St. Vincent was voted best female artist over Lorde, the young Kiwi singer though reigned in the pop artist category. Radiohead‘s ‘OK Computer’ took over Prince‘s ‘Purple Rain,’which had been the frontrunner during the last few weeks, and Japanese veteran Ryuichi Sakamoto earned the award for best electronica. Cigarettes After Sex were voted breakthrough artists and Cardi B won the Sound Of 2018 trophy.

Frank Ocean, Father John Misty and The Black Madonna were among the rest of the winners in a scandal-stricken edition hampered by complaints of individual voting manipulation in the Best Live Category which were proved right. In the wake of which, the Academy decided the prize should be shared to honour the hundreds of fans of both Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers paying tribute to the late legend, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds who genuinely voted and would have left in any case the rest of the contenders far behind.

Check the complete list of winners here: Read the rest of this entry »

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