Trawling the previews and festivals for the films worth watching

AbFab posterAs its August schedule is announced, the David Lean Cinema’s programmer, PHILIP HOWARD, explains the process that he and his fellow campaigners go through to select the films each month

Being the David Lean Cinema’s film programmer involves watching quite a few films – some of them when they go on general release, some at distributors’ previews, and some at film festivals. So, this weekend, I’ll go up to Brixton to watch Maggie’s Plan – if it proves to be “David Lean friendly”, then it may be included in our September programme.

There’s a preview invitation in my email inbox for a British Film Institute re-release, while in a couple of months time I’ll sit down with committee colleagues and decide what’s worth watching in the London Film Festival. At last year’s LFF, I watched 19 films over nine days – by the end, I still enjoyed the good films, but wished I could have avoided sitting through the handful of weaker titles.

There’s a very strong annual cycle to film releases, with the big studios concentrating their Oscar-worthy releases in the winter months while mostly releasing bland multiplex fare in the summer. This leaves space at this time of year for the smaller distributors, who tend to offer documentaries, foreign language titles and independent British productions. When a “prestige” film does come along in the summer months, of course, we’ll try to screen it.

Looking ahead to our August programme (arranged by Janet Smith and David Lavelli, as I was on holiday in June), this epitomises the annual cycle: while there are few “big” pictures, and quite a few which I admit you’ve probably not heard of, it’s still a high quality programme with something for almost everybody. I’m sure you’ll find something that you will like.

Personally, I can highly recommend An (Sweet Bean) and Aferim!, both of which I saw back in October at the London Film Festival. Like the wonderful Our Little Sister (also an LFF selection), An is a kind-hearted, character-driven Japanese drama with particular appeal to foodies, while Aferim! is a brilliant Romanian “Western” set in the 1830s, taking us to a fascinating, very alien world of serfs, gypsies, strange ideas and stranger hats.

One tricky aspect to DLC programming is getting access to major releases – because distributors want to encourage whole-week bookings of films (which we can’t do because we don’t open five-plus days a week), we sometimes have to wait a long time for hit films from the major studios. Many of you were therefore disappointed not to see Absolutely Fabulous in our August programme – but we’ve now booked it, and it’s now on sale for Thursday September 1 at 2.30 and 7.30.

To be added to the Save the David Lean Campaign’s email list, click here.

David Lean Cinema programme August 2016

All films are at 2.30 and 7.30pm unless stated

Tue Aug 2 WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (U) (7.30pm)
2014 Japan 103min. Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Stars: Hailee Steinfeld, Kiernan Shipka, Geena Davis, John C Reilly
Twelve-year-old Anna goes to live with kindly relatives in a seaside village. Exploring a mysterious old house across the cove, Anna meets Marnie, a girl of similar age, and blossoms through their extraordinary bond of friendship. The final film from Studio Ghibli for now (and perhaps forever), this slightly supernatural tale is in the gently moving style of recent predecessors From Up on Poppy Hill and The Wind Rises, and is as beautifully animated as you’d expect.

2016 USA 77min. Director: Laurie Anderson
Stars: Archie, Jason Berg, Heung-Heung Chin
Documentary film-maker, artist and musician Laurie Anderson provides a gentle voice-over for her own film. She sensitively describes her feelings about love and death concerning past relationship with her beloved (and tuneful!) terrier Lolabelle, the loss of husband (Lou Reed) and her mother. Made nearly thirty years after her concert film Home of the Brave, Heart of a Dog has a dream-like quality and combines a poetic, thoughtful, sometimes humorous, but always very personal view of impermanence, loss – and love…

Tue Aug 9 AFERIM! (18) (7.30pm)
2015 Romania/Bulgaria/Czech Republic/France 108min (subtitled). Director: Radu Jude
Stars: Teodor Corban, Mihai Comanoiu, Toma Cuzin
1835 in the Romanian territory of Wallachin. Costardin, a local policeman and his teenage son are hired to find the gypsy Carfin who has run away with the wife of a nobleman. When they catch up with him, Carfin argues that the woman was responsible for the seduction. Will his captors save him from a gruesome punishment? Radu Jude’s film, which won the best director prize at the 2015 Berlin film festival, is a pointed critique of racial prejudice full of gallows humour.

TheLastManOnTheMoonThu Aug 11 THE LAST MAN ON THE MOON (15)
2014 UK 96min. Director: Mark Craig
Features: Eugene Cernan, Alan Bean, Charles Duke, Jim Lovell
Mark Craig’s documentary features a discussion with Eugene Cernan, the veteran astronaut who performed one of the first spacewalks, piloted the Apollo 10 and 17 missions, and was the last man to set foot on the moon. Cernan’s honest account of the effect his determined attitude had on his family life, leading to divorce and an uneasy relationship with his daughter, is mixed with breathtaking archive material. “A compelling and fantastically straight-faced documentary” (The Times).

Tue Aug 16 TALE OF TALES (15) (7.30)
2015 Italy/France/UK 134min. Director: Matteo Garrone
Stars: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C Reilly
Based on three fairy tales by Giambattista Basile, this “fantastically mad, rigorously imagined and visually tremendous” film is certainly not one for children. In one tale, the king and queen (Reilly and Hayek) must kill a monster to solve the problem of childlessness. Meanwhile, another sex-mad monarch (Cassel) is tricked by an aged crone with nightmarish results. And Toby Jones’ king becomes obsessed with a giant flea and so jeopardises the marriage chances of his daughter. “A carnival of black-comic bad taste” (The Guardian).

Learning_to_Drive_PosterThu Aug 18 LEARNING TO DRIVE (15)
2014 UK/USA 90min. Director: Isabel Coixet
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, Grace Gummer, Sarita Choudhury
As her marriage dissolves, Manhattan author Wendy (Clarkson) decides to take driving lessons from a Sikh instructor (Kingsley) who faces an impending arranged match which also creates problems for him. In each other’s company, they find the courage to get back on the road and the strength to ‘take the wheel’. As their lives intersect, both begin to change in unpredictable ways… Learning to Drive gives a warm perspective on human behaviour.

*The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss.

Tue Aug 23 AN (SWEET BEAN) (PG) (7.30)
2015 Japan/France/Germany 113min (subtitled). Director: Naomi Kawase
Features: Kirin Kiki, Masatoshi Nagase, Kyara Uchida
‘An’ is a red-bean paste used to fill the pancakes sold by Sentaro in his diner. A man clearly disappointed with life, he is bemused when an old lady called Tokue not only volunteers to help him cook, but shares her secret recipe for her home-made paste… When Tokue disappears, Sentaro and a lonely schoolgirl who has befriended the old woman, try to find her. In the process, they uncover a shameful aspect of recent Japanese history. Kawase’s film is a sweet confection about much more than simply street food…

Thu Aug 25 ELVIS & NIXON (15)
2016 US 86min. Director: Liza Johnson
Stars: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville
The most requested image in the US Government’s National Archive is a photograph of President Richard Nixon (Spacey) with Elvis Presley (Shannon). Presley made a request to become a drug enforcement agent, and, as a result, on December 21st 1970, was able to visit Nixon in the Oval Office. We’ll never know what really happened when these two mighty egos met in one room or what was discussed, but this fictional account is both entertaining and very amusing.

Tue Aug 30 CHEVALIER (18) (7.30)
2015 Greece 105min (subtitled). Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari
Stars: Panos Koronis, Efthymis Papadimitriou, Giorgos Pyrpassopoulos, Sakis Rouvas
A diverse group of men sailing on a luxury yacht in the Aegean spend their days diving for fish. To stave off boredom, they spend their evenings taking part in increasingly strange competitions to see who can win the coveted victory “Chevalier” gold signet ring. Winner of Best Film at the London Film Festival 2015, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari and co-written by Efthymis Filippou of Lobster fame, Chevalier is an interesting, unconventional and amusing look at male bonding.


About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Art, Cinema, David Lean Cinema Campaign and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply