Deleted Scenes: LIVE AND LET DIE

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Places I’ve lived #3 – Spring House Road, Crookesmoor Sheffield

The second place I officially rented a room, a friend of other friends Darren had recently bought a house and wanted a lodger. We had lots of mutual friends and similar tastes in music, so it seemed like a more comfortable option than at K’s house. Darren and I often had a laugh, shared a love of Star Trek Voyager and Darren would sometimes rent videos of new episodes and we’d watch them together. Friday evenings were Robot Wars and out to Offbeat, Sunday mornings were hungover watching Lee and Herring. Friends often came over to watch weird movies I’d inflict on them, or to play PlayStation Driver and listen to Beachbuggy records. The band Chuck and record label Thee SPC were born and flourished around this time.

My DocFest – mini reviews – day 4 (last day)

Docfest #10 – The Worlds of Ursula K Le Guin, USA. The film I had been most looking forward to overall and the one I have most enjoyed so far. The story of Le Guin’s life is told, including her family background, but her life is integrally weaved in to her work, they are one and the same. The growth and development of her writing as important literature is covered, taking genre fiction to a higher level of attainment as works of art. Le Guin, apparently camerashy, is interviewed lots here herself, and seems a fiercely intelligent, funny and warm person. She discuss her work, and interesting point is how she maturely took criticism of her earlier work (that it wasn’t feminist enough, using male pronouns for a genderless society), to grow and develop her future work. She is clearly a writer interested in always learning and developing, which she states herself, that with each work, it was a new chance for exploration and learning. The power of words is strong with this one. But so are the visuals, some striking animated sequences represent some of Let Guin’s tales, an amazing oil painted version of elements of The Wizard of Earthsea is beautifully rendered. But, as the director herself said when I asked her in the q&a, the animations are perfectly suggestive of the stories and capture their tone but are not concrete enough to spoil the readers’ own imagined versions. The film took 10 years to make and captures Le Guin getting some of the recognition she deserves as an important figure in literature; a wonderful film about a wonderful woman, both with a strong feminist core. I now want to go and read every single one of her books!

DocFest #11 – The Gospel of Eureka, USA. Cancelled 😦 . Gutted I didn’t get to see this, about gospel and drag queens in the southern states of America. There was a power cut at The Showroom and surroundings causing all films to be cancelled for now, who knows if I’ll get to see #12. It did mean I had a wonderful opportunity to run into and have long catch up chats with some of my favourite colleagues, Chris Goldie, Rinella Cere, and Dave Clarke. I will check back at the cinema to see if the have power for my hopeful next and final film of the fest shortly…

Docfest #12 – The Insufferable Groo, USA. Last film of the fest for me, and one of my top 3 favourites. Very much like American Movie, 1999 cult doc about low budget director Mark Borchardt, this follows low budget indie director Stephen Groo, who has made around 200 films on shoestring budgets. The man, a bonafide socially challenged eccentric, is driven by passion for film and stories, and supported by a close knit crew of friends and family. He is clearly difficult to both live and work with, he lives for his art, to the point where his family (Groo has 4 children) are solely reliant on his wife’s low wage. Groo’s films are made thick and fast, getting them done, and done cheaply, is more important than getting the best shot, but that of course is their appeal. Groo has fans in Jared Hess (director of Napoleon Dynamite, Gentlemen Broncos etc), and Jack Black, and Groo’s dream is to get a slightly bigger budget and a named actor in a film, which he achieves with their help. His films clearly have cult appeal, and many funny clips make me want to watch them but I’m not sure people enjoy his films or his story for the right reasons. This doc tries to tread both sides of the line where some are clearly laughing at Groo, others with him, but he seems to earnestly want to be taken seriously and to ” win an Oscar”. I think his films look like brilliant cult pieces of work, lots of elevs, magic, staged fights and low budget superheroes (many played by Groo himself) but i’m not sure he can achieve his goal and be taken seriously in the way he’d like, which is a little bit sad given how much of his life, energy and sincerity he (and his family) put into his work. Much of the comedy in fact comes from how seriously Groo takes himself. The struggles with his DP, a female student/graduate, working voluntarily, are particularly telling. She seems awesome, talented and dedicated, but is clearly not as willing as others to put up with Groom’s “narcissism” or to compromise her own feminist principles. After being fired and rehired by Groo, she almost quits on occasion also due to his disrespect of those around him (Groo’s ‘my way or the highway’ attitude), but its a testament to Lauren’s character that she sticks around. The film is very funny, touching and fascinating document of Groo’s legacy of self made music videos, movies and self-help acting videos. Its great in the same way that American Movie was, but also sad in a similar way, we can celebrate the man and his work bit at what expense to his family, and not quite in the way Groo would like to gain the respect of his peers perhaps. All he wants to do is to win an Oscar and shake Steven Spielberg’s hand, but I think he did pretty good having his golden day with Jared Hess and Jack Black, which is also a joy to watch from behind the scenes. I was pretty gutted to have to leave for the school run and miss the q&a with cast and crew, as I feel some of my doubts would have been satiated, and it would have been cool to get and update on Groo’s current activities.

My DocFest – mini reviews – day three

Docfest #7 – Commander Arian: Germany, Spain, Syria. A close up personal portrait of the YPJ from 2015-now (and ongoing), a Syrian army where women fight for equal rights alongside their male comrades, but also in women only units, against ISIS. They are feminists, fighting to keep themselves from being “women slaves” where the culture of many of their own families treats women as ‘worth less than a piece of cloth’, where options remain only to be wives and mothers. One woman tells of her sister, kidnapped and raped by ISIS, who when she is found pregnant on her return is killed by her own family. The YPJ (Kurdish all-female militia) are soldiers, comrades and their own support network, and are as familiar with kalashnikovs as with caring for each other. They are admirable feminists, literally taking up arms for their own freedom, but also the freedom of their country. Commander Arian herself is an inspiring leader, firm and organsied, caring and philosophical, she regularly talks to the younger comrades to encourage them to consider what kind of future they want as a woman, why they have joined the fight. We follow Arian’s journey as she deals with liberating villages, car bombs, losing comrades and her own physical difficulties after taking 5 bullets. Inspiring stuff and makes you question how far you would be willing to fight for feminism and freedom. The film is dedicated to Anna Campbell, a young feminist from Brighton, who volunteered to join the YPJ to fight, who was killed in combat just 3 months ago. The director Alba Sotorra was at the screening and spoke of the humble bravery of the women, with whom she filmed on the front lines for weeks and months.

Docfest #8 – The People’s Republic of Desire, China. This is like an odd Jeff Noon short story, following the story of two real-life live streaming ‘star’ hosts on the web platform ‘YY’. An entire subculture itself of millions of people involved in watching their favourite host’s shows obsessively, showering them with digital ‘gifts’ expressed as emoticons on lollipops, or cars for the big spenders. The hosts don’t seem to have any special talents, and do little more than chat about nothing much or sing karaoke, except for encouraging their followers to buy them more gifts. The biggest stars have the richest followers, the rich followers have their own fans who applaud them for spending their wealth, money follows money. The hosts lives, however popular, seem increasingly stressful, insular and claustrophobic as they have to work even harder for theor agencies to maintain their popularity ranking. Many of the followers are young lower class Chinese people in menial jobs, with no apparent goals or opportunities in life, and YY is a form of escapism for them, they support hosts like others support sports teams. But its all such an objectionable way of bleeding money out of the poorest vulnerable lonely people in society. One host even cynically mentions something to that effect, that the shows are for “all of you who don’t have the talent of deceit”. Overall, this is a tale of abject loneliness throughout much of Chinese society, the followers don’t have friends but they have YY, and can aspire to be a live streaming host someday. The hosts are caught up in the adulation, but it’s a hollow treadmill of money making, which clearly doesn’t make anyone in this film happy at all. Yet another film illustrating a cultural end of days, craving money for money’s sake world.

Docfest #9 – Love Means Zero: USA. Biopic of Nick Bollettieri, tennis coach to the superstars in the golden ages of the sport. I don’t know that much about tennis, and had never heard of Nick, but found this entertaining and engaging, with a surprising amount of laughs. Nick was responsible for discovering Andre Agassi (amongst other tennis stars), and spent 10 years working closely with him, building a father-son relationship which ended badly over money issues, to the point where Agassi refuses to speak with Nick to this day (and wouldn’t participate in the film). Boris Becker and a bunch of other tennis pros who you might have heard of are featured here (Becker is a charismatic delight), telling their tales of interactions with Nick and his style as coach. Intense, very Italian and somewhat of a ‘character’, Nick comes across as a goal oriented taskmaster with an ability to overlook emotions in other people to get to where he wanted to be. He’s funny to watch though “i react in life and move on…hey, if you were to ask me to list the names of my 8 wives, I probably couldn’t remember” , and refers to himself often in the third person which I found most entertaining. An old man now, Nick does open up a little, expressing regret at not reconciling with Agassi sooner or handling moments in life better, but he is still very much aware of putting on “the Nick show” for the cameras throughout.