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British Film Festival
John Harrison

Nine films are on show this year at the ’New British Films’ festival, organized by the British Council, from the 4-10th of October at the ‘Bolshoi Zal of the Tsentralny Doma Predprinimatelya, in the ‘Khudozhestvenni’ cinema, at Pokrovka 47. Tickets can be obtained at the door, admission is 200 rubles, however two students can get in for the price of one, if they show their students cards. More information –

This year’s crop of British films all have one thing in common. They are a long way from being anything like Hollywood blockbusters. All are thought evoking, and controversial in their own way. Half are social commentaries, and it is good to see that the old country is still capable of criticizing itself through drama type documentaries. The others are moody, emotion and association packed experiences, that strive to broach new ground, but somehow fall short of being ‘Trainspotters’. In their honesty they are simply – good films.

AE Fond Kiss (2003). Director – Ken Loach

This is my personal favorite. Ken Loach is one of the handful of distinguished British film-makers to forgo big budgets and riches to work in Britain on local themes, in an unusually romantic and non-political mode. The film is scripted by Paul Laverty, and concentrates on cultural and religious clashes within a Glasgow community. ‘AE Fond Kiss’ is about religious fanaticism – be it Islam or Catholicism. The story is told through an appealing Romeo-and-Juliet tale with lovely, unaffected performances about a second-generation Pakistani man – Casmin (played by Atta Yaqub) who falls in love with a young Irish Catholic woman, Roisin (Eva Birthistle) who teaches music at his sister’s school. There is a little problem that Casmin is due to marry to a bride chosen by his parents. The various implications of Casmin and Roisin’s union are ramified by the somewhat extremist local Roman Catholic priest who forbids Roisin living with Casmin and teaching in a Roman Catholic School at the same time.

The shots of Glasgow are brilliant, its exploration of second-generation Asians and their problems puts the film in the same camp as East Is East or Bend It Like Beckham, but traditional Loach audiences may not like the happy ending.

Touching the Void (2003). Directed by Kevin Macdonald

If you want to put somebody off mountaineering for life, take them to see this film. This is somewhere between being a drama and a documentary, and is played by the participants of an actual climbing catastrophe. The film covers the story of how two young, ambitious British climbers - the author, Joe Simpson and his friend Simon Yates set out to climb the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. Driven by ambition, they decide to conquer the mountain’s treacherous west face which at that time had not been climbed before.

Ambitions proved more powerful than their luck, and on the third day of their expedition, disaster stuck. Simpson fell and broke several bones in his leg. With no hope of rescue, the men decided to attempt descent together with Yates lowering Simpson 300 feet at a time in a slow, painful process. One further fall led to Yates unknowingly lowering his injured partner over the lip of a crevasse. Faced with hanging onto the rope holding Joe and dying of frostbite, or letting go and facing recriminations from his friends, colleagues and his own conscience, Yates eventually lets go, and later gives his friend up for dead. The truly gruesome tale of how Simpson manages to struggle off the mountain is the subject of the rest of the film.

People who have seen the film say it is ‘awesome’, works well on a big screen rather than DVD, and that the action could possibly be faster in the second half.

Yasmin. Director – Kenny Glenaan

This film is a drama which attacks a difficult, but pertinent subject of life in Britain in the 21st century: that of Muslims trying to adapt to life in Britain after 9/11. Yasmin should perhaps be seen after or before AE Fond Kiss, in that it also explores what it is to be Muslim in the North of Britain. Confident Yasmin (Archie Panjabi) has grown adept at mixing her Westernised working and social life with her more traditional culture at home. But this is no longer possible after the attacks of 9/11 as she finds herself isolated at work, and increasingly subject to overt Islamphobia. When her husband is snatched by the police and held without charge, she finds herself forced to re-evaluate her faith, her culture and her relationships.

Hamburg Cell, 2004. Director Antonia Bird

This tells the story of the three young men whose role in the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon changed the course of history. The film examines in a pretty honest way, why they were recruited by al-Qaeda, and participated in the events that culminated in the appalling events of September 11, 2001.

Bullet Boy, 2003. Director Saul Dibb

The story of Ricky (played by Ashley Walters, aka So Solid Crew’s Asher D) who is just out of a young offenders institute, trying to stay clear of trouble. The film is evocatively shot in East London, with terrific performances throughout. This is striking film of growing up, black, in London.

Trauma, 2003. Directed by Marc Evans

Although there are some scary parts in it, this is more of a psychological drama than a horror film. The main character, Ben (Colin Firth), wakes up from a coma to find out that his wife has died in a car crash, on the same day as the country is morning the death of a famous singer. Ben gradually loses his grip on reality. The visuals are great, with staccato flows of images showing Ben’s state of mind…

Frozen, 2004. Director Juliet McKoen.

Kate is a simple working girl in a local fish factory wanders around a northern English town. She lost her elder sister two years earlier without trace, but Kate nevertheless carries on searching for her both among the living and the dead. The film is about loneliness, and is beautifully produced.

Dead Man Shoes, 2004. Director Shane Meadows

A sort of British Clint Eastwood revenge story as two brothers return to the town they left 8 years previously. One of the brothers is slightly retarded, the other is protective. Revenge is sought against the gang that runs the town. The result of Meadow’s journey into a pastoral revenge theme is dark and disturbing. One of the very finest British films of the year.

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