BFI London Film Festival 2015 – The Club

Posted October 8th, 2015 by Thomas Grimshaw

Released to a fanfare of critical accolades at Berlin this year, Pablo Larrain’s The Club is a welcome surprise for those who believed his next film was to be a long-gestating remake of the gangster classic Scarface. Instead of grinding against the Hollywood machine he’s u-turned back to his native Chile for another lacerating dissection of power and abuse, that sets its spittle-flecked moral outrage against a backdrop of blackest humour. Whereas in Tony Manero, Post-Mortem and No, Larrain’s crosshairs weretargeted at the heart of the Pinochet regime, here he’s realigned them at the insidious wranglings of the Catholic Church.

The Club
Opaque in both image and content, The Club is set in the sleepy, salt-blasted coastal town of La Boca where four men live together in a life of somnambulistic routine, all officiously controlled by their pernickety housekeeper, herself an ex-nun. It soon transpires that these men are priests, excommunicated for a myriad of offences ranging from child abuse to the theft of babies from ‘undeserving’ homes. The house is a “centre of prayer and penance” a prison of sorts where the men can indefinitely ‘atone’ for their prior transgressions. As such, they are only allowed out during anti-social hours to limit their interaction with the town’s people, unable to handle money, plus additional rules that intend to inhibit the call of temptation. Their single pleasure is the care and training of their greyhound Rayo, who they race in local competitions, yet are forced to watch from afar with a pair of binoculars.

Their frugal, impenitent anonymity is threatened by the arrival of a fifth priest, Father Lazcano. Within minutes of arrival, his appearance in the small town peaks the interest of itinerant fisherman Sandokan who proceeds to spew out in graphic detail the list of sexual humiliations committed against him by their new arrival. Unable to stem the flow of bile, Lazcano commits an act of shocking violence that forces the house under investigation by Father Garcia, a member of the ‘new church.’ This distinction between the church of old and the church of new quickly evaporates as Father Garcia seeks confession from the four priests. What develops is a meticulously controlled series of transgressions and unrepentant revelations that force both sides into drastic action. As each party compromises themselves further the need to close ranks and silence the abused draws ever closer.

The Club

What impresses most about Larrain’s masterpiece is how it sustains its all-encompassing pungent tone. From it’s bleached and smudged digital imagery to the blast of unlistenable crimes that pours from Sandokan’s mouth, the film is unapologetically ugly in both form and content. You’re in an undoubtedly bleak world where an Arvo Part soundtrack is used to lighten the mood. But ugly and bleak should not be confused with dour and for all its virulent anger, there are moments of dark inky humour that allow for brief respite.

The cast are uniformly excellent, though standouts include Antonia Zegers as Mother Monica the housekeeper whose desire to keep the status quo reveals a ruthlessness that belies her meek exterior, whilst Roberto Farlas’s Sandokan presents no easy representation of victimhood, a man profoundly damaged by the ecclesiastical love he equates with his abuse and is therefore damned to repeat the crimes committed upon him. His initial confrontation is born as much from anger as it is a disturbing attempt to seduce the priest back into his arms.

All too disturbingly real in it’s portrayal of institutional power, The Club offers no easy passage to salvation. At the end the priests are forced to endure a punishment of sorts, an ironic twist of the knife that presents itself to them as a bewildering inconvenience. Yet in doing so the abused is led back into the arms of the church, tethered to its care and sanctuary, but most importantly, so that he dare not bite the hand that feeds him ever again.

Click here for information on how to buy tickets for The Club

Film of the Month: Sarah Gavron

Posted October 1st, 2015 by Kelie Petterssen


Having finished directing one of the biggest films of the year, Suffragette (2015), which will open this year’s BFI London Film Festival, Sarah Gavron is coming on board as Film of the Month judge this October.

Sarah is a versatile filmmaker, who has directed films from documentary to fiction, all of which have garnered her awards. This Little Life (2003) won a BAFTA; Brick Lane (2007) won both the Silver Hitchcock Award at the Dinard British Film Festival and C.I.C.A.E Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and her documentary Village At The End of The World (2012) was nominated for a Grierson Award at LFF.

It is a privilege to have someone of Sarah’s calibre joining the ranks of SP’s prestigious list of Film of the Month Judges – especially with the ongoing conversation around women in film this year and the Gender Equality Declaration that has just been adopted in Europe.

If you have a short of any genre that you would like her to see, head over to Film of the Month to submit before 14th October.

What’s On: The Rulebreakers: Innovations in the Doc Genre

Posted September 25th, 2015 by Kelie Petterssen


A  weekly series of 10 films at Bertha DocHouse that have influenced and developed the art of documentary and which continue to inspire us today.

The Rule Breakers is a 10 week educational series that we’re incredibly excited about. The season is a journey through the ‘boundary pushing’ docs of the 20th and 21st century, from Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran in the 30s, to Peter Watkins’ controversial Punishment Park in the 70s, right up to the radically experimental and immersive Leviathan in 2012.  In short, it’s a celebration of the films that have made documentary the complex and exciting form it is today.

Not only are these films essential viewing for any doc lovers or makers, they will also be presented each week by the eminent Professor Ian Crisite, whose bank of film knowledgeable is unparalleled, and who sprinkles his introductions with such fascinating trivia that you are guaranteed to be kept on the edge of your seat!

The series will take place every Tuesday at 3.45pm, 29th September – 8th December (with a break 3rd November)

Tickets are just £5 per screening, or you can buy a season ticket to the whole series for just £40.


Man of Aran + Intro

Dir:  Robert J. Flaherty

Tuesday 29 September 2015 3:45pm

This epic film on the harsh lives of the Aran Islanders remains controversial. With dramatised scenes, expressionistic photography and innovative sound, it pushed the boundaries between art and documenting.

Listen to Britain and Fires Were Started + Intro

Dir: Humphrey Jennings

Tuesday 6 October 2015 3:45pm

In classic Jennings style these two intimate and moving poetic portraits of a besieged Britain go against the conventional mould of wartime propaganda.

We Are The Lambeth Boys + Intro


Dir: Karel Reisz

Tuesday 13 October 2015 3:45pm

A classic from the ‘Free Cinema’ movement. Karol Reisz filmed a London boys’ club in the 1950’s, giving working-class teenagers a voice for the first time.

Salesman + Intro

Dir:  Albert Maysles & David Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin

Tuesday 20 October 2015 3:45pm

The Maysles capture, in intimate detail, the life and struggles of a group of  door-to-door bible salesmen, constructed through purely ‘observational’ sequences. 

Chronicle of a Summer + Intro

Dir: Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin

Tuesday 27 October 2015 3:45pm

Chronicle of a Summer captures the thoughts and opinions of 1960s Parisians, then asks them to reflect on the footage – creating a radical breakthrough in documentary.

Punishment Park + Intro

Dir: Peter Watkins

Tuesday 10 November 2015 3:45pm

In 1971 Watkins created a fictional arena where arrested Vietnam War protesters (non-actors) had to choose between prison sentences or three days in ‘Punishment Park’ run by ex-prison guards. The results were shocking.

Roger & Me + Intro


Dir: Michael Moore

Tuesday 17 November 2015 3:45pm

Michael Moore embarks on the ultimate self-reflexive quest to solve his hometown’s economic troubles by door-stepping General Motors chairman Roger Smith, placing himself firmly in the frame.

One Day in September + Intro

Dir: Kevin Macdonald

Tuesday 24 November 2015 3:45pm

In 1972, athletes from around the globe gathered in Munich, Germany for the Olympic Games. However, the Olympic spirit of brotherhood and peaceful competition was shattered when eight Palestinian terrorists invaded the athletes’ quarters to take the Israeli team hostage while the world looked on, incredulous. 

The Gleaners and I + Intro


Dir: Agnès Varda

Tuesday 1 December 2015 3:45pm

Agnes Varda’s essay is a self-reflexive diary/documentary of people who exist by re-using things others regard as useless in modern society. Part social critique, part art piece, the film reclaimed the genre for creative expression. 

Leviathan + Intro


Dir: Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor

Tuesday 8 December 2015 3:45pm

Taking us deep into the dangerous world of commercial fishing via an immersive cinematic experience, Leviathan won wide acclaim for its innovative and unprecedented approach to documentary making. 


Posted September 17th, 2015 by Ben

Poster for AAAAAAAH!

One of the cinematic highlights of my year has been watching Steve Oram’s sensational new film “AAAAAAAAH!” Readers of this blog will probably know him best from Ben Wheatley and Alice Lowe’s “Sightseers” but he has a long history not only as a performer but as creator of bizarre and beautiful comic short films. “AAAAAAAAH!”, which contains not a single word of known language, stars Oram alongside Toyah Wilcox, Lucy Honigman, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Julian Barratt and Tom Meeten. By all accounts it did have one of the funniest scripts you could find but because of the film’s insane central conceit all of that dialogue will only ever be known to the cast.

“AAAAAAAAH!” which is perhaps the best sequel I could ever imagine to the original “Planet of the Apes” is funny, obscene, ludicrous, poignant and braver, bolder and better than anything else you will see this year. It felt to me like a heady mix of Samuel Beckett, Lyndsay Anderson, Spike Milligan and Oliver Postgate but really that’s just me scrabbling around for a way of explaining a film that is truly unique.

There is a special screening of “AAAAAAAH!” at the Picture House Central Friday night at 21:50 and if you are in London you would be a fool to miss it. If you are an independent filmmaker then you should see it for the ambition and daring of what can be done on a true micro budget. This is easily my film of the year and though some of you will probably hate it, you need to see it as however you respond I think this is a real gauntlet thrown down to anyone with an interest in making films.

Fin De Siècle.

Posted September 15th, 2015 by Ben

I’m on the train to Paris with my brother and our friend Fiona who plays Nina in our film. She’s flicking through the complimentary magazine when she shows me a picture and says “Forgetting gender, which of these two would you rather be?”

Rolla, Henri Gervex (1878)

Knowing nothing about the painting they seemed just like lovers. She is lost in pleasure whilst he has dressed hurriedly, his expression shadowed, his thoughts seemingly rattling noisily in the street beyond the window. Clattering towards the French premiere of our film, I felt like them both. One of the demands of the manifesto that governed the creation of our film is that we tour it, joining our audience to share their reshaping of it night after night. By now my mind is out the window, already dressed and wanting to walk the streets of our next idea, but there I am also – still wrapped in the happiness of the moment. The puritan in me finds one position more praiseworthy than the other but I don’t entirely trust this; all the best lessons I’ve learnt from death are about how to live, how to deny denial. To imagine a film finished when it screens is to think a love affair over when you’re dressed. You hurry nothing by putting on your boots.

However what I saw was not the picture as the artist intended or as his audience understood. Painted in 1878 by Henri Gervex it illustrates the denouement of a poem about a man debauched. The figure is Jacques Rolla surveying his own corruption with a final understanding – having blown all his money on the girl Marion, he is about to take poison and die. Considering the picture as Fiona did, genderless, balances the status of the two in a way impossible to those who saw it at the time. The painting drew scandalised crowds, not because of her nudity but because of her clothes piled in the bottom right. 136 years on, I see a man getting dressed too quickly and killing the mood, the original audience saw a woman who has undressed too fast. The careless abandon of the garments spoke not just of the couple’s reckless lust but of her profession as a prostitute. She isn’t an artistic ideal of beauty, shockingly she is a real woman who takes off her clothes.

As narrative the picture is pretty hammy. The poem considers the culpability of the rich man who pays the poor girl for sex but Gervex’s Marion isn’t the pallid abused child of the text but a healthy woman lost in her own senses. This throws the centre of the story onto poor Jacques at the window, the shadow of his pending suicide becomes a last pathetic spurt of nobility, a final resistance to the corrupting influence of her lovely tits. Despite the scandal she is just a fin de siècle manic pixie dream girl. It’s clear that when painting the couple Gervex did not consider Fiona’s question “Forgetting gender, which of these two would you rather be?”

Film of the Month: Sean McAllister

Posted September 7th, 2015 by Kelie Petterssen


Film of the Month returns this September with a fresh new look. Cutting the red tape (metaphorically speaking) is award-winning documentarian Sean McAllister.

Sean  is known for his candid, frank films, depicting with extraordinary intimacy the lives of ordinary people who are struggling to survive but are survivors, caught up in political and personal conflict, struggling to make sense of the world we live in. His most recent film, A Syrian Love Story (2015) picked up the Jury Prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest and will be hitting UK cinemas in September. His previous work includes film Liberace of Baghdad (2004), which won the Sundance Jury Prize, and earlier works Working For The Enemy (1997) and The Minders (1998) were both nominated for a Royal Television Society Award.

If you have a short which you would like him to see, head over to Film of the Month to submit before the 14th September.


Posted August 31st, 2015 by Ben

Transgression is compelling. All filmmakers use transgressive acts to set fire to their stories but even shared taboos have cultural differences. Last weekend I had the very great pleasure of screening “NINA FOREVER” in both Kölne and Hamburg for the Fantasy Film Festival and was proudly told on numerous occasions that Germany has very strictly enforced laws on censorship, but quite contrary ones to America. “Here we have full nudity on tv constantly but you cannot show any violence, there you can kill but you mustn’t fuck”.

Now in its 29th year, FFF is Germany’s essential exploration of taboo busting filmmaking and takes the whole of the August to travel across 7 cities. Founder Rainer Stefan is a lifelong cineaste who first fell in love with movies through a Hammer Horror poster which terrified him long before he was old enough to see the film (which eventually lived up to promise of the poster and terrified him all over again). Rainer is the soul of the festival and it reflects him – passionate and precise but charming even oddly sweet. He retains both that wide-eye child’s view of horror films and an early teenager’s encyclopaedic knowledge of his passion. The festival is programmed by his colleague Frederike Dellert who for years was the outsider’s outsider, the girl who loved horror movies. She’s delighted that this status is changing, the festival’s audience is still predominantly male but the blood splattered fräuleins are on the rise. However Frederike also revels in how the spelling of her name means most people assume she’s a man, “I like to keep them in the dark for as long as I can” she admits with a grin.

Both Rainer and Frederike share a love of the verboten. The films that are too scary to watch, the stories that none of your peers want to engage with. But like jokes not all shocks translate. Sinking into the welcome embrace of a vast leather seat in a beautiful cinema in Köln I have the sudden panic that an audience craving otherwise censored gore is about to be very disappointed. “NINA FOREVER” is blood splattered and full of impossible and awful things happening in darkened rooms but alongside a lot of the FFF programme we seem like the outsider’s outsider.


Talking with Rainer on stage after the screening in Kölne.

What value labels? Thankfully “NINA FOREVER” has been received with open arms by the many festivals like FFF. Some of these get called “horror” some prefer “fantasy”, others go for “midnight” or “underground” or simply (and redundantly) “genre”. These words are noticeably not synonyms. In making our film the only taboos we set out to deliberately break were those of the 3 Act Structure, the Heroes Journey and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

After the screening Rainer asked our influences and I found myself talking about Lindsay Anderson and Richard Lester, Powell and Pressburger and that vital seam of surrealism that runs through British screen history but which tends to be overlooked. It is easy to forget that it was the peak of social realism that forged Dennis Potter, a writer determined to prove that for the British the only real taboo was the hateful yolk of conformity.

What’s On: The Land Between Us

Posted August 28th, 2015 by Kelie Petterssen

Doc-lovers! Bertha Dochouse are hosting their first ever short film screening – check out the programme for this week below…

Tuesday 8th September sees DocHouse’s very first short film screening, The Land Between Us, and one of many more to come! In the hopes of becoming, not only the centre for documentary in London, but a new platform for emerging filmmakers and those honing their craft, Bertha DocHouse are thrilled to join the ranks of the capital’s short film enthusiasts.

Join them on Tuesday 8th September at 6:30pm for a series of immersive short films that look beneath the surface of global diaspora and ‘migration’ to Europe. Today, there are over 250 million international migrants and 750 million internally displaced people across the globe. This means there are close to one billion scattered peoples who have broken ties with their homelands in search of a better life. The Land Between Us explores the lives of those who are forced to seek refuge in countries that deliver few promises and little respite from the past.

What we discover is a phenomenon that transcends not only borders, but boundaries of time and memory, and asks us to consider, in whose country do any of us really belong?

Including films from award-winning directors Marc Silver, Morgan Knibbe and Mahdi Fleifel.




Dir. Mahdi Fleifel / UK – Greece / 2013 / 12’

Xenos (Greek: ξένος, xénos) stranger, enemy, alien. In 2010, Abu Eyad and other youngPalestinian men from the Ain el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon travelled with smugglers through Syria and Turkey into Greece. Like so many other migrants, they came looking for a way into Europe but found themselves trapped in a country undergoing economic, political, and social collapse.

The Call

Dir. Reber Dosky / Netherlands / 2013 / 25’

Twenty five years ago, Habib and his family were forced to flee their native village in southeast Turkey and move to Istanbul. They were one of thousands whose villages were destroyed in the Turkish army’s attempt to suppress Kurdish resistance. After twenty years Habib returned to his homeland village to resume his former life, without his family. The Call symbolises a paternal longing for his eldest son to join him in the land of his ancestors – a land that has little significance to his children after growing up in the city.

A Life on Hold

Dir. Marc Silver & Nick Francis / UK / 2013 / 6’

When war broke out in Libya in 2011, thousands of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, who were living in or transiting through the country at the time, were forced to flee for their lives yet again. Life on Hold is an intimate portrait of Omar, a 17 year old Somalian stranded in a refugee camp on the border between Libya and Tunisia. Awaiting a chance to start his life again in a safe country, he first has to watch as his friends move on without him.

Jungle Life


Dir. Dave Young / UK / 2015 / 8’

Today, an estimated 5,000 migrants displaced from countries including Syria, Libya and Eritrea are believed to be camped in and around Calais. At least nine have died whilst trying to make the crossing into Britain since June. Filmmaker Dave Young takes us inside Calais’s largest make-shift camp “The Jungle”, home to a diverse community of displaced people, who are given the chance to tell their own stories.


Dir. Morgan Knibbe / Netherlands / 2014 / 15’

On October 3rd 2013, a boat carrying 500 Eritrean refugees sunk off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa. More than 360 people drowned. Abraham, one of the survivors, walks through a graveyard of shipwrecks and vividly remembers the nightmarish experience. Meanwhile at the harbour, we are plunged deep into the chaos, as hundreds of coffins are being loaded onto a military ship.

Still Life


Dir. Diana Keown Allan / Lebanon – USA / 2007 / 25’

“The Arab governments pushed us out of our homes… I was twelve years old… I’ve been here for 60 years.” Palestine as it was before 1948 has ceased to exist; Acre is no longer a Palestinian port and the other histories of this city now circulate as highly personal, scattered memories. Still Life is a mesmerising and hypnotic film examining the importance that a few very worn photos play in the life of Said, an elderly Palestinian now living in Lebanon. It is a moving meditation on the role memory plays in the lives of those uprooted by conflict and in exile from their homeland.


Posted August 21st, 2015 by Ben

BettyThe Mobile Cineastes
This blog started 10 years ago as my field notes from trips round the UK with Shooting People’s Mobile Cinema. Over the years since it has charted the changes to the British independent film scene, profiled some of the more interesting characters who populate it and shared many of mine and my brother’s mistakes, failures and occasional successes culminating in our utterly independent and uniquely British feature “Nina Forever”.

Part funded through our successful Kickstarter campaign and made under the aegis of a strict creative manifesto, “Nina Forever” is not just a story we had to tell, it also expresses some of our deeply held ideas as to how a film should be made. You can follow the history our film through posts on this blog dating back to 2012 and if you’re in London at the end of the month you can follow that story right up to date by attending the film’s UK premiere on 31st August at Film4 Frightfest.


Our world premiere at SXSW was daunting but (appropriately enough for a horror festival) our UK premiere is something more terrifying still, something much more personal. This is when we show our film in our own backyard. This is when after years of theorising from the sidelines I finally put my neck on the line and show you something I poured my heart and soul into. Tickets are still available and I would love to see you there.

Chris and I join a panel discussion led by Film4’s Catherine Bray about Kickstarter and DIY Filmmaking on Sunday 30th August and we’ll also be at all three of our Frightfest screenings for Q&As after the film. We are also going to be joined by our three magnificent leading actors, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Cian Barry and Abigail Hardingham, our producer Cassandra Sigsgaard and many others from our cast and crew.

I’ve been a member of Shooting People since the year 2000 and no other organisation has offered me more support. No other community has taught me, angered me and inspired me more. No one else better expresses the passion and energy that still drives me to make films. I would love to share my film with you all in the cinema on the 31st August.

Buy your tickets here.


What’s On: Brian Hill Retrospective

Posted August 17th, 2015 by Kelie Petterssen

Doc-lovers! A little message from SP’s friends at Bertha Dochouse – check out their exciting programme for this week below…

Marking the release Brian Hill’s latest film, The Confessions of Thomas Quick, Bertha DocHouse is celebrating one of the most radical and respected directors in the UK with a selective retrospective of his work.

Over the last decades, Brian Hill has consistently pushed the bar for documentary by finding inventive ways to make films that challenge audiences and stimulate debate. Brian’s ability to explore powerful social messages through innovative and engaging forms is unique. A retrospective to celebrate his wide-ranging body of work is long overdue.



The Confessions of Thomas Quick – courtesy of Bertha Dochouse

The Confessions of Thomas Quick

Brian Hill’s latest film is a real-life noir thriller which uncovers the truth behind Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, Thomas Quick.

Saturday Night & Drinking For England

A double bill of Brian Hill’s first collaborations with poet Simon Armitage takes us to Leeds on a Saturday Night and into the lives of England’s drinkers.

Feltham Sings & Songbirds

This pair of emotionally resonant films see Brian Hill collaborating with poet Simon Armitage to give voice to young men and women of Feltham and Downview Prisons– voices we rarely hear.

The Not Dead

A quieter and more intense film than others in this retrospective, The Not Dead carries a political message addressing PTSD across three generations of soldiers. The use of poetry is much subtler and more profound in this, Brian Hill’s last collaboration with Simon Armitage.

Courtesy of

The Not Dead – courtesy of


Mon 17th Aug:

18.20: The Confessions of Thomas Quick

20.30: The Confessions of Thomas Quick

Tues 18th Aug:

18.30: The Not Dead + Introduction by Brian Hill

Weds 19th Aug:

18.30: Double Bill: Saturday Night & Drinking for England + Q&A with Brian Hill

21.00: The Confessions of Thomas Quick

Thurs 20th Aug:

18.30: Double Bill: Feltham Sings & Songbirds

21.00: The Confessions of Thomas Quick

Bertha DocHouse is the UK’s first documentary cinema based at Curzon Bloomsbury. Book tickets and find more information here.