Cinemas may still be in lockdown, but the film industry is slowly beginning to wake up again. With Monday 17th May earmarked as the day in which cinemas in the UK could possibly return, it’s good to see studios and distributors starting to outline their plans for the summer.
Film festivals and screening days help us plan for future programmes, and recent (online only) editions of The Glasgow Film Festival and the Independent Cinema Office’s Screening Days have proved very welcome as we gear up for another grand re-opening. Pre-pandemic, film festivals and screening days would usually be spent queuing in long ticket lines, chatting with fellow cinema operators, and cosying down into comfy auditoriums for an entire day. However, this time there were no queues to contend with. While the experience of attending physical events is hard to replicate, both the Glasgow Film Festival and the ICO both did a brilliant job of providing a rewarding experience via their online platforms.
Now to the films. Both the GFF and ICO boasted an impressive roster of films this year. Firstly, the Glasgow Film Festival opened with a film which we were already very excited about at the UPP, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari. A beautifully acted pastoral drama about a Korean family embarking on a rural venture in 1980s Arkansas, a film which deserves each one of its six Oscar nominations. We will be partnering up with the film’s distributor to bring it directly into your homes as an SVOD title (from 2nd April). However, if you want to see it on the big screen, rest assured, we plan to show it at the cinema as soon as we open this summer.
Other films at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival which caught our eye included Poly Styrene documentary I Am A Cliche (which you can still watch via our website here), Hungarian neuroscientific noir Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, gripping Danish crime-thriller Wildland, and Mohammad Rasoulof’s chilling Golden Bear-winning anthology There Is No Evil. I also quite enjoyed Zoé Wittock’s debut feature Jumbo which has the intriguing pitch of being about a romance between a young woman, played by Noémie Merlant (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), and a fairground ride!
The Independent Cinema Office’s Screening Days event may have a smaller selection, running across four days compared to Glasgow’s two-weeks, but the quality of films on show was just as impressive. I feel very privileged to say that, across two days, I was able to watch three films that I think will be right up there with the best releases of 2021 – First Cow, Nomadland, and The Father.
Nomadland is rightly in the spotlight for securing six Academy Award nominations and I think that Chloé Zhao will become the second woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow is just as good (perhaps even slightly better in my opinion), which makes its grand total of zero Oscar nominations a complete mystery to my mind. Florian Zeller’s The Father creatively adapts a stage play to the big screen with Anthony Hopkins rightfully getting high praise for his mesmerising lead performance as a man living with dementia. All three are not to be missed and will be coming to the UPP this summer.
Another film that got us very excited was the re-issue of the 1968 Senegalese comedy Mandabi. Shot primarily in the language of the Wolof people, Ousmane Sembène second feature was the first-ever made in an African language. Championed by filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, the film has been given a 4k restoration and will be released in June this year. A post-screening discussion led by the ICO stated that of the roughly 900 films released in the UK every year, on average, only one is an African production. This was followed by a brilliant presentation by the organisers of Africa In Motion Film Festival about expanding the reach of African cinema in UK independent cinemas, something which gave us plenty of food for thought.
Taking into account all these terrific releases, many of which are being released in the next few months, I think it’s safe to say that our first programme of 2021 (from Monday 17th May – fingers crossed!) will be one to get people falling back in love with cinema once again.
Tom Jowett, Programming and Events Manager