Independent Cinema Office Blog

News and views on the world of independent film

Posts from May 2013

News Round-up... 31/05/2013

Posted Friday 31 May 2013 by Jon Spatz in News Round-up

No Brainer

See? No brains!

In an attempt to become a minor internet celebrity, I am introducing something new and fabulous this week... the @ICOtweets official ‘Must-see-No-brainer’ award! Look out for the #MSNB tag to find out which event is just so good it takes no brains to know you have to go and see it.

Serious News Headlines

  • Another sign of what we can expect from the future of distribution and exhibition: DeLuxe Digital have selected @HP to operate the distribution of their feature films using a cloud based system-- *yawn* -- Oi! And the rest of the story can be found here.
  • Independent horror movie to be released through Facebook game. Wait. Independent horror movie to be released through Facebook... Wow.
  • I just love Lars Von Trier so much. Heard about the eight chapters of ‘Nymphomaniac’; digressionism and the new approach to audience interraction? Get over to @Screendaily and read all about it.


  • @FL_FLAMIN has begun ‘Selected III’ a touring programme of artists’ moving image throughout May and June. With works selected by artists nominated for the 2012 Jarman Award, the quality is sure to be high and demanding of your attention.
  • @LUXmovingimage has a round-up of all the must-go-to events in the world of Artists’ Moving Image. Find out more here.
  • @DigitalTheatre presents Abi Morgan’s ‘Lovesong’ @BarbicanCentre – the screening will be followed by a talk with director Scott Graham and actress Leanne Rowe. This almost wins my award. Almost.
  • Of all the genuinely kick-ass stuff held @ThePCCLondon, the panel discussion and screening of ‘The Rep’, a documentary about the year in the life of a repertory cinema, seems particularly ass kicking (and pertinent). This gets my official #MSNB award!
  • UK Green Film Festival... need I say more? How about: AWESOME.


  • Okay, it’s a biggie: the Head of Professional Training and Development position is available at the ICO (that’s us). Deep breath and... APPLY!


  • Calling all you independent cinemas, the FDA and @BKSTS are presenting ‘Making the Best of Your Image’, a training event aimed at cinema managers and operators with advice from experts on how to provide that little something extra to ensure people visit your cinema. And it’s a tenner.

Good Reads

Cannes 2013: Becky's Blog

Posted Friday 24 May 2013 by Becky Clarke in Festival Reports

Cannes bus

Cannes Bus By MOs810 (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I think this will be my sixth visit to Cannes but my excitement about going each time hasn’t diminished. As I’m packing my suitcase with clothes for summer chic on the Riviera, black tie for Red Carpet (fingers crossed I can still fit into my dress)…and mac and waterproof shoes for the torrential rain the South of France seems to be receiving. I can’t wait to get there, to see what fantastic gems of films I might discover, which people I might bump into and what parties I might be able to blag my way into.

Queueing with Screen Daily

Having been a few times before, I’ve mastered some of the logistics of navigating the festival, tip no.1 take bus no. 210 from the airport and get your ticket before you travel from the very nice English speaking ticket booth. I’m met by the lovely Sarah Bourne who has already stocked up the apartment fridge with camembert, brie, wine and chocolate…this could be heaven! After a quick lunch we head to the Croisette to try and catch a film. We make a quick stop on the way to pick up the daily (tip no. 2 an excellent resource that comes out each evening for the day ahead and lists all of the screenings you’re eligible to attend if you have the festival pass – it also means you don’t have to trawl through all the market screenings), a copy of Screen (tip no.3 excellent reading material for the ensuing queues) and a free bottle of water from the Palais (tip no. 4 hydration hydration in those pesky queues!).


We manage to conquer the queue in the salle Debussy (tip no. 5 – a very good screen for getting into films if you have the free festival pass as the auditorium is huge) and settle down for Omar, a film by Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Lost). As my first film of the festival I’m in for a real treat, a gripping drama about three childhood friends who attempt to protest the occupation of Palestine. Omar is a young man whose village has been separated down the middle by the infamous wall, and he is living on the other side to his friends. Each day Omar scales the wall, under threat of gunfire to visit his friends and his childhood sweetheart - who he has secret correspondence with by passing notes in coffee cups - to discuss plans for their resistance of the occupation. Omar’s best friend Tarek comes up with a plan to assassinate one of the Palestinian guards, and each friend must have a role to play in the plan so they are all responsible. Omar’s role is to steal the getaway car. After the successful execution of the plan, Omar soon runs into trouble as he is chased through the streets and rooftops of Palestine by the Israeli police. This is a tense and thoughtful drama that instills a sense of paranoia as you watch Omar being chased down by the police not knowing which way to turn. An emotive performance from the leading actor, Adam Bakri makes this a must see.

Beach screening of The General

After a yummy crepe dinner, we head to the beach to watch an open air screening of The General, and you can see why it’s a classic. Introduced by the composer of the score (a new score, not the original from 1926 – it took us a few minutes to realise the man on stage wasn’t over 84!), and the audience are charmed in seconds by Keaton’s acrobatic and wistful style. There are still roars of laughter throughout and the new digital restoration perfectly illuminates Keaton’s woeful expressions to magical effect.

So a fairly early night, I prepare myself for the next day’s 8.30am competition screening of Behind the Candelabra.

Up at a sprightly 7am, I dash for the early morning screening, brioche in one hand (tip no. 5 pack snacks!) and telephone portable in the other to try and secure competition tickets for the new Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) avec Monsieur Ryan Gosling (tip no. 6 get Eurotraveller on your phone so you don’t get charged per MB of data you download and put into your bookmarks so you can keep hitting refresh to scoop those tickets). Amazing! I’ve got one, I’ve got a golden ticket!...I can’t believe it, as I hit refresh for the 100th time at 8.01am (tickets go online at 8.00am), I see the immortal words…”Tickets available”. I double check in my confirmed reservations and it’s there, me and Ryan tomorrow night at 10.30pm it’s a date.

Behind The Candelabra

After the early morning excitement I get ready for the Liberace biopic Behind The Candelabra and oh what a treat! What fantastic and impressive roles for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. The costume and hair and make-up departments have done an outstanding job in turning Douglas into the perma-tanned, rhinestone dripping Liberace and likewise the fitness trainer in turning Damon into the equally convincing ‘adonis’ Scott Thorson. Rumoured to be Steven Soderbergh’s last film it’s a cracker! Charting the six year relationship between Thorson and Liberace, it is an honest portrayal of loneliness and a desire to be loved. Taking place in the 70s, there is a whiff of Boogie Nights about the film, especially Thorson’s parallel with Dirk Diggler, but this is a much more romantic view of the period. Amazing performances, eye dazzling costumes and wow can Mr Douglas tinkle those ivories!

Cannes 2013: Sarah's Blog

Posted Wednesday 22 May 2013 by Sarah Bourne in Festival Reports


You can tell it's been raining here...The bus from Nice to Cannes travels alongside a torrential murky brown river almost breaking its banks with tree tops poking through the surface. But it's clear skies now despite the forecasts saying otherwise. Simon greets me when I get to Cannes with keys to our apartment and a shiny ticket in hand for the competition gala screening of Borgman later on, what a way to arrive!

Bio Roxy

Before I get my glad rags on I'm off to the Europa Cinemas meeting. There's a neat summary here. I arrive early unaware of the loose starting time but enjoy the travelogue slideshow of beautiful cinemas from around the world and dream of a cinema inspired travels - first stop the Bio Roxy, Oberero, Sweden. Much discussion was had about the European Commission's trade negotiations with the US that includes audiovisual and film services and threatens cultural exception and diversity in the EU. Find out more and sign the petition here. I enjoy a post meeting chat with UK exhibition colleagues from Watershed, Showroom and Chapter, then pop off to get red carpet ready(ish).

Walking the red carpet is a strange but fun experience and I feel a little out of place amongst the uber glamorous masses, most of whom seem to be about 17 years old. I've got an amazing seat but when I spot two pining companions sitting apart pining for each other, I offer up my seat only to find in my new vista is impeded by a big rail in my eye line - oh well never mind, I'm just super excited to be here.


In his review in Screen Daily, Allan Hunter shrewdly comps Borgman (dir: Alex van Warmerdam, The Netherlands) to Bunuelian satire, Haneke unease and Roy Andersson absurdity but I would also throw in the blacker than black demented wit of Giorgos Lanthimos. The eponymous Borgman is a man living on the outskirts of society with a small collection of pan faced followers ready and willing to kidnap, murder and offer performance art recitals in the name of their cause, although the real motivation of their devilish endeavours is never fully revealed. The strangly charismatic Borgman gradually infiltrates himself into a well-to-do suburban family, slowly driving the matriarch of the family completely bonkers and tearing their privileged life apart piece by piece.

Post screening I join my fellow ICOers for a delightful party for the documentary, Stop Over. As we sip our bubbles by the beach, mechanical diggers valiantly trudge up and down the sand trying to stop the violent waves cascading into the party.



Becky arrived this morning and together we pop by the MEDIA desk and UK Pavillion, in the name of the ICO's upcoming Developing Your Film Festival course. We both catch the Palestinian film, Omar (dir: Hany Abu-Assad), a powerful and heartbreaking film following a young man's resistance in Israeli occupied Palestine; his convictions, friendships and relationship with the love of his life unravelling amid violence, betrayal and paranoia.

Thanks to a very kind invitation from Clare Wilford we enjoy happy hour at Screen Austraila, whose offices overlook the Palais so we can see the throngs arriving for the screening of Blood Ties in the all their finery.

Under clear starry skies on the beach, Becky and I slump into deckchairs and wrap up tight in blankets for a pristine new 4k digital print of The General (dir: Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton, 1926). The film still feels fresh as a daisy and the bittersweet moment where Keaton rides the side rods of the train made my heart sing.

Despite our blankets the stiff coastal breeze made for chilly viewing, but this film would still have felt like a treat in a blizzard. The only thing that would have topped off a truly special cinematic experience is if our very sad abandoned cups of weak but warming tea had made it through security.


Behind The Candelabra

It's up at 6.50am for the early bird screening of Palme d'Or contender and all round exciting prospect, Behind The Candelabra (dir: Steven Soderbergh) - thank you Clare for the ticket! I bow to my colleague's superior abilities to discuss the merits and intricacies of the film but I thought it was a great piece, with super filthy fun to be had with the costumes and sets full of gold and glitter and furs. There are excellent performances all round with a scene stealing turn from Rob Lowe as Liberace's personal plastic surgeon, and sterling support from an undetectable Debbie Reynolds as Liberace's polish mother and an almost undetectable Dan Ackroyd as his manager. Beneath the flamboyancy and 70's excess glitz is a touching and utterly convincing love story pitched perfectly by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. It was refreshing to see a gay partnership portrayed as any other long term relationship would be with giddy and tender moments as things blossom and detachment and anguish when things start to sour. I was disappointed that the Cannes compere at the press conference felt the most insightful question to ask Matt Damon was 'what was it like to kiss Michael Douglas?' as the couple's sexuality was a secondary element in the film.

Shield of Straw

Next up is a repeat screening of Takashi Miike's Shield of Straw / Wara No Tate (Japan) also in the running for the Palme d'Or. For the first time in my Cannes experience there are empty seats in the house, perhaps owing to the poor reviews the film had received overnight. A noble cop and his team of possibly corrupt officers must protect a child molesting serial killer at all costs from the 100 billion yen bounty on his head to ensure the Japanese legal system is upheld. Scathing criticism seems somewhat unjust as the film is a really solid genre film; a road movie crime thriller with big action set pieces peppered with quieter subtleties. It's reminiscent of Con Air (heroic slow mo through burning flames) and early 24 (chopper shots, double agents, triple crossing, corruption, tracking devices, pantomime villain, lots of shouting and a lead with over earnest sense of duty.) I enjoyed it for what it was, but it does seem an odd choice for Competition selection.


A quick picnic lunch amongst a rather odd bunch of sun worshippers on the beach is followed by the rather exceptional Wakolda (dir: Lucia Puenzo). An unsettling and slow building tale of a mysterious German physician, who has a fascination for human anatomy and growth defects. Horrifying secrets are gradually revealed as he worms his way in to the inner circle of a family in 1960s Argentina.

Bruce the Shark

Plans of catching a 10pm screening of the new Claire Denis film are dashed when the queue is already hundreds deep with 90 minutes still to go. Instead, a stroll along the Croisette in the hope that Head Juror, Steven Speilberg, may introduce the free public screening of Jaws dans la plage. Instead of the director we are treated to an intro from the film's star, a somewhat bumbling but loveable Richard Dreyfuss, who recalls the oft heard tales of the dysfunctional mechanical shark.

The day ends with a gathering of the ICO in the Station Tavern, an English pub in the back end of Cannes and a grotty but charming one at that. Drinks in hand we discuss our respective day's viewings and wax lyrical about the state of British cinema with a perfect view of the Cannes Riviera (that's the name of the hotel over the road!)

Cannes 2013: Simon's blog part 2

Posted Wednesday 22 May 2013 by Simon Ward in Festival Reports

Like Father Like Son

Heading into the final stretch of the festival, on of the films that sticks out for me is the Kore-ede, Like Father Like Son, a tender exploration of parenthood and all its responsibilities. With typically masterful precision and control, studiously avoiding any schmaltz, two families are informed that their sons, now six years old, have been swapped at birth in an apparent administrative accident. The dilemma is do they stick with the boys they have loved and raised or return them to their respective biological parents. As ever with Kore-eda, it’s a film of quiet depth and power. Possibly my favourite that I’ve seen here.


The next highlight up is Heli, by Amat Escalante, probably best known for his last film, Los Bastardos. This is an unflinching look at life in Mexico for a poor but honest family unwittingly drawn into a spiral of chaotic violence when drugs are stashed without their knowledge in their home. It undoubtedly shows some of the toughest scenes in the festival (and oddly is the third film I’ve seen here with graphic genital mutilation... yikes!). It’s a grim film but not one without hope - which purposefully eschews genre story telling, closure and cheap thrills, but is all the better for it. I think it will struggle to find UK distribution.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Luckily I managed to catch an early screening of Only Lovers Left Alive, the new Jim Jarmusch film ahead of it’s Competition screening which will happen after I’ve returned home. I grew up on early Jim Jarmusch (hard to believe it’s 30 years next year since Stranger Than Paradise). The last couple, for me at least, have been disappointing, but this is a terrific fun vampire romp (albeit in trademark laconic style) with Tilda Swinton trying to lift her lover Tom Hiddleston out of an eternal mid-life crisis while they both struggle like junkies for fresh blood. Playful, gorgeous looking and a triumph.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, starring Casey Affleck, a first time American indie, was much talked about from Sundance, with mentions of Malick’s Badlands. I thought it was fine, but too derivative of Badlands, and other tex-mex dramas like er... Casey Affleck’s The Killer Inside Me from Michael Winterbottom (which personally I thought was a much more interesting film than this although most people wouldn’t agree!).


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