Charles Burnett (right) and Danny Glover

Photo: Charles Burnett (right) and Danny Glover (BFI)

The Charles Burnett retrospective runs from 1-19 July at the BFI Southbank, London.

More details on the BFI website.

For over thirty years Charles Burnett has been at the forefront of American independent cinema, yet most of his films remain hidden cinematic gems, all too rarely screened. It may be that Burnett’s subtle chronicles of African-American everyday lives lack the sensationalism of many of his contemporaries. Or that America was just slow to acknowledge the achievements of black independent cinema. Whatever the reason, the tide has now turned: the re-release of Burnett’s acclaimed Killer of Sheep at last year’s London Film Festival and this year’s Berlinale, and the BFI retrospective throughout July mean that the director is finally, if belatedly, getting the recognition he deserves.

Joel Karamath: The Library of Congress has finally declared Killer of Sheep one of the most important contemporary American films. What’s it like to receive such an accolade after thirty years?

Charles Burnett: Well, it’s strange, looking back on it after all these years, as the film was never meant to be shown theatrically, because it was my student thesis film.

JK: Just as you started studying at UCLA there was a marked shift in the screen portrayal of African-Americans in mainstream productions, moving away from the optimistic Civil Rights-era movies to the more nihilistic vision of many Black Exploitation movies. How did that affect you?

CB: The reason we got into filmmaking was to try and affect the negative images Hollywood had been producing about people of colour. And then the Black Exploitation films came along while we were in school, and that became just another element that we were fighting against.

JK: I once read that one of the reasons you went to film school was to dodge the draft and not go to Vietnam. Is that true?

CB: Yes, I had irritated one of the people at the draft board because I was late in registering and they read the riot act at me, so I knew I was going at that point. But then I realised that if I took a full programme of courses I could get a student deferment, so I started taking a lot of classes and that’s how I valued education.


Interview by Joel Karamath

Read the rest of the interview in our summer print issue, which is a jazz and cinema special to coincide with the re-release of Burnett’s Killer of Sheep. To celebrate the belated recognition of one of American independent cinema’s greats, we look at the influence of jazz on film in the US with articles on Shirley Clarke, John Cassavetes, Jim Jarmusch and Beat cinema among others. For more information on where to buy the magazine and how to subscribe, please contact amanda [at]


Memories of Matsuko

Still from Memories of Matsuko

Tiger Festival

May 29-June 8
London, ICA

June 11-June 24
Brighton, Duke of York’s Picturehouse

Festival programme

Watch the trailer


Meet Korean director Im Sang-soo: Drinks and signing session at the Korean Cultural Centre, London, Friday 30 May, 6:30-9pm, and Saturday 31 May, 6:30pm, before the screening of The President’s Last Bang at the ICA.

‘Meet the distributors’ seminar, Friday 31 May, 3:30-4:30, Sofitel St James, London: A chance to watch trailers of forthcoming releases and speak to UK distributors of Asian cinema.

Following the Beijing 2008 torch relay fiasco and the opening of the largest ever Chinese cultural festival in London (China Now), the time is ripe for a festival of Far East films to grace our screens.

Returning for a bigger, brighter, louder second year, the Tiger Festival will screen thirteen features from the Far East in London and Brighton from May 29 to June 24. The independent festival is also running a short film competition with a Far Eastern theme in conjunction with as well as playing host to several side events and parties, including the official Tiger Festival Party at the ICA.

When was the last time you went to the cinema to see a purely Asian film – an Asian film without the cinematography of Chris Doyle, or the 3D wizardry of Animal Logic, or a storyline involving an American war hero? The Tiger Festival will give you a chance to do so, presenting innovative, bold cinema that offers perspectives on the world that are as varied as the region itself. So unique are the films that the festival’s organisers have had to come up with their own sub-genres to give us some sense of what’s in store: ‘Macabre Musical’, ‘Multiple Personality Thriller’, ‘Monster Fantasy Action’… This is a festival that will erase any pre-conceived notions you may have on Far Eastern cinema.

The opening night film, Memories of Matsuko (Japan, 2006, UK Premiere), is a bold choice. Part tragedy, part musical, part videogame-on-acid extravaganza, the film is largely seen through the Technicolor eyes of lost soul Shou. Asked by his estranged father to clean the apartment of a long-lost aunt who has just been found murdered, he is led to uncover her rich life, and this brings new meaning to his own. The film is certainly an acquired taste, but its bizarre mix of saccharine music video interludes and gritty dramatic bitterness makes it well worth the effort.

The festival will also screen the political satire The President’s Last Bang (Korea, 2005), giving UK audiences a rare insight into South Korea’s political climate in the late 70s. It depicts governmental corruption before focusing on the assassination of President Park Chung-hee. Director Im Sang-soo will be present for a Q&A session after the screening.

One standout from the programme is Fox Family (2006), also from Korea. With an opening line as odd as ‘Where can we find a lot of humans?’ you know you’re on to a good thing. Its initial atmosphere is very Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes, before quickly veering wildly off course to completely unexplored cinematic territory. Sex and death and their various interactions dominate the film, with a few Mighty Boosh-esque dance numbers thrown in for good measure. This is fresh filmmaking meat at its rawest.

Siouxzi Mernagh

Read our comic strip review of Johnnie To’s Mad Detective, also showing at Tiger Festival, in our June print issue. For more details on where to buy the magazine, or if you wish to subscribe, email For more information on the contents of the June issue go to our magazine page.

Interview with Makoto Shinkai

5 Centimeters per Second

Still from 5 Centimeters per Second

Screening as part of Anime Now

Date: 20-22 June 2008

Venue: BFI Southbank, London

With only one feature film, three shorts and one medium-length work to his name, Makoto Shinkai is a thirty-something animé director who has generated far more praise than his relative youth and short career would seem to deserve. Dubbed the new Hayao Miyazaki by the animé press, this is something of a misnomer as the two directors have very little in common other than creating films with greater emotional depth and a more singular vision than those of their peers. However, while Miyazaki works primarily in the nostalgic fantasy genre for a child / family audience, Shinkai makes thoughtful, austere films that tap into contemporary concerns about humanity’s relationship with technology and how it both connects and separates us from the people around us. While the director’s latest movie, 5 Centimeters per Second, is slightly underwhelming compared to his previous two films The Place Promised in Our Early Days and Voices of a Distant Star, his films at their best show a director who has a genuinely affecting visual aesthetic that recalls the live action films of Andrei Tarkovsky. It is this sensitivity to form and place that have earned the director his reputation, cemented by the fact that his first two shorts were made by the director almost entirely by himself on a home computer.

Alex Fitch: What motivated the choice of doing She and Her Cat in black and white? Was it to convey the less complicated nature of the love between a pet and their owner or was it because cats have limited colour perception? Or was it simply because you wanted to work without colour?

Makoto Shinkai: I made She and Her Cat in black and white more out of necessity than design. I made the film in 1998 and at that time it was very difficult to make colour animation due to the lack of available technology. Colour used three times as much space in the computer and it would also make the process three times slower and as I was still working at the time, I needed to minimise what is a long and complex procedure. If you make a movie now, it doesn’t matter if it’s black and white or colour because the technology is able to deal with it.

You’ve made short films and a feature-length film and now your latest film 5 Centimeters per Second is a medium-length work at 63 minutes. Do you prefer working on films of shorter lengths or features? Or does it depend on the story you want to tell?

It does depend on what kind of story I want to tell. As it takes about a month or so to make a short film and at least a year to make a feature, it all depends on how much time I have to put into it and how long I am prepared to dedicate myself to the process. If it’s a light-hearted subject matter, I may want to spend less time on it so it really depends on my level of dedication to the subject. As for 5 Centimetres per Second, because it contains three short films which make up a medium-length film, it wasn’t a heavy decision. When the film was completed, I didn’t feel as satisfied at the end of the process and this has led me to work on a feature-length film for my next project.

In both Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, it’s technology that both enables and prohibits normal communication and it seems to be a metaphor for unspoken words in relationships. Do you think technology – from letter writing to video phones – is something that gives people a chance to express their true feelings by liberating them from direct confrontation? Or does it make communication more difficult due to the lack of body language?

I believe that it depends more on the circumstance if this kind of technology expresses your feelings. For Voices of a Distant Star, one of the reasons that I used mobile phone technology is that when I made it, texting on phones and sending e-mail by phone was starting to be popular in Japan. I was in a relationship at the time and used to send texts to my girlfriend. Although my texts arrived quickly, sometimes it took a long time for the replies to get back to me. In these instances, I wondered why it took such a long time to hear back and though we both lived relatively close by in Tokyo, I felt that her feelings might be far from mine. This experience drove me to include the use of mobile phone technology within the film.

Prior to the 11th Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, the Japan Foundation presents a special screening of Voices of a Distant Star on 18 January 2014. For more information visit the Japan Foundation website.

Does the sense of isolation and the missed emotional opportunities in your films come from personal experience or particular genres you enjoyed reading / watching when you were younger?

I can’t pinpoint any particular experience to share with you and to be honest, this theme hasn’t come from watching any particular film. It is just something that has come out of myself.

In 5 Centimeters per Second, it’s difficulties with travelling and arranging meetings that makes the romance problematic; however, the method of travel – by train – seems inherently romantic. Is this something that particularly interests you, or speaking as someone who comes from a country that’s slightly obsessed with trains, am I reading too much into it?

This is a question that I get asked quite a lot by Japanese audiences too. I am not particularly interested in trains themselves and I don’t particularly enjoy drawing trains. People do point out that trains feature in my films quite prominently and what I tell them is that first of all, trains are part of everyday Japanese life and as the main characters in these films are in their teens they don’t have access to cars. Though I’m not interested in trains themselves, I am interested in scenes of trains travelling through cities or countryside. The box-shaped carriages moving through these scenes are beautiful to me and I am attracted by the idea of total strangers being taken to their destination in these boxes. I haven’t seen a level crossing in London yet but in Japan they are everywhere and I have always liked the idea of this divide between two sides that the crossings create. For much of my life, from high school to university to my working life, I used trains myself and have many memories from those days.

Long-distance relationships have their problems but seem increasingly common in the modern world, due to the ability of people meeting over the internet etc. Also, over the last half-century, more and more people have had to travel to do their jobs, making their relationships also long-distance. Are these themes that interest you or was it just the emotional content of the situations?

It’s the situations that these distant relationships create that interest me more than the distance itself.

Non-diagetic music seems very important in your films, culminating in the final section of 5 Centimeters per Second. Do you think music is something that is underused in animation in terms of either accentuating the narrative or working as the equivalent of narration from an unseen source?

I believe that the amount of music used in animation is similar to that used in live action films. In many movies, music can sometimes communicate something that the picture cannot and therefore can play a very important part. I appreciate that the use of music at the end of 5 Centimetres per Second is probably quite rare in that you won’t see it in many films and I had to question myself as to whether I should finish off with music at the climax. I am happy with the ending now but it was a tough decision to make. One of the reasons that I chose the song is because it was popular in Japan about ten years ago and I’m sure that many of us have had the experience of listening to music from the past and being reminded of times and places travelled previously. As it is such a famous song in Japan, I felt that the audience who heard it would be reminded of their own memories from ten years ago. Because I wanted this music to bring out the audience’s memories, I removed all dialogue and sound effects. Although the movie is only 60 minutes long, I included the song in the hope that their memories would help to create the experience of a feature film. As I didn’t think about other countries, I never really thought about how people around the world might react to the music and I am looking forward to hearing what other audiences think as it will be playing in London this summer.

Thinking of the conclusion of 5 Centimeters per Second, the powerful use of music recalls the heightened emotions in scenes accompanied by songs that are either performed by the characters or mimic the characters’ experiences in the films of PT Anderson (in particular Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love). Are you a fan of his work? Do you think too few filmmakers use music as a powerful enough tool in soundtracks?

Although I have heard of PT Anderson and his work, I have never seen his films.

In addition to filmmaking, you’ve also worked on interactive romance video games. Was the fact that other people could choose the outcome – be it happy or sad – something that appealed to you, so that you personally didn’t have to choose what happened to the characters?

As I don’t actually make the games, I can’t really answer this but if the question is do I like to make interactive films where the audience can choose the ending or not then I like to, as the director, decide how the outcome will be. I see that in Japan the effect of these games where you can choose the outcome has started to influence manga, novels and animé. The reason that I say this is that many of these novels for younger people take on the themes of parallel worlds and universes and The Place Promised in the Early Days also has a similar influence. Though the writer decides the ending, he pictures how the world might have been if the character had taken a different path and I am interested to see what the future holds in this area.

Introduction and interview by Alex Fitch, translation and English text by Hanako Miyata, Tim Williams and Justin Johnson.


Pang Ho Cheung and Peter Kam at Udine 10

Photo: Pang Ho Cheung and Peter Kam at Udine 10 (photo by Joey Leung)

Udine Far East Film Festival 10

18-26 April 2008

Festival website

Where can you get sixty Far East Films in a thousand-seat auditorium, fifty leading Asian directors and producers, a dozen three-meter wide red balloons, and welcoming restaurants serving pizza and red wine at 4am?

The answer is Udine, the north-eastern Italian town that has become the unlikely European Mecca for Far Eastern Films. Though in its tenth year, this April festival is a well-kept secret for those of us in the UK, now more accessible thanks to low-cost flights to nearby Trieste and Venice.

The charm and appeal of this festival lies in its intimate setting, where, after a day’s work watching movies, you are likely to be eating in the same restaurants and drinking in the same bars as the ultra-relaxed and approachable legends Hideo Nakata and Johnnie To.

It is both astonishing and encouraging to see that every event and screening were attended predominantly by the local Italian population who have an insatiable appetite for movies ranging from the bizarre and blackly comic films of Miki Satoshi (sadly, little known or distributed here), to the serious (Mr Cinema, starring Anthony Wong) and the headline-grabbing blockbusters (Assembly, Death Note); every screening from 9am to 1am was close to packed.

The locals’ enthusiasm could be seen even in the foyer of the venue, where the audiences flocked around festival merchandise: mugs, sweatshirts, caps, DVDs of previous festival films and authoritative books in all languages on topics from Wong Kar-wai to the Shaw Brothers, from kick-ass flicks to Akira Kurosawa.

The pick of the crop for this year was Zombi kampung pisang (Zombies in Banana Village), a quirky, low-budget Malay zom-com which someone somewhere will undoubtedly label as Malaysia’s Shaun of the Dead. This is no break-out blockbuster hit, nor an instant cult classic, just a surprisingly entertaining and silly film, a hidden gem amongst an already fantastic line-up.

Another standout was Going by the Book (Bareuge salja), which stars Jeong Jae-yeong (from the feel-good Welcome to Dongmakgol) as a policeman who plays the bank robber far too zealously during a role-play training exercise, outwitting his colleagues at every turn; comic set-ups involving the hostages were exploited to their full hilarious potential.

The tenth edition of this festival was celebrated with a unique trailer by Hong Kong indie favourite, Pang Ho Cheung (Isabella, AV, Beyond our Ken), who was on hand to introduce his collection of short stories Trivial Matters (Por see yee), based on a book he wrote when he was twenty-one. Topics in these stories will be familiar to Pang Ho Cheung fans: sex (opening story is of a married couple’s visit to a shrink, recounting their dissatisfaction in bed, with their dialogue cleverly paced to a… er… climax), the male vs the female (Eason Chan convincing his live-in girlfriend to give him oral sex, since she doesn’t believe in sex before marriage – but who has the last laugh?) and friendship (Gillian Chung lying to her best friend at school, and the following guilt and long-term repercussion in her adult life).

Pang Ho Cheung is certainly a director and storyteller to watch (AV was picked up for remake by the Weinstein Company as Zack and Miri Make a Porno) and we had the pleasure of interviewing his producer Subi Liang to shine a light on his work (see below).

Sadly, the Horror Day yielded nothing fresh from the region; of course, it is hard to push the boundaries of imagination further than The Ring, Audition, and more recently, A Tale of Two Sisters. However, even the promisingly titled Sick Nurses from Thailand (with an equally promising opening) plundered the long-haired Asian ghost image to no end. This is one genre that is in need of revitalising.

Despite this, the festival is definitely a must for all international cinema lovers – flights aren’t too expensive from the UK, food is great, you’ll meet a range of fans and industry types, and some of the films will never make it to the Hollywood-dominated big screens in the UK, so catch them if you can! Don’t miss the eleventh edition next April.


Joey Leung: Describe your work as a producer.

Subi Liang: When I’m working on a project, budgeting is the most important area, to deliver a film on budget. I also like to keep things on schedule. We will be involved throughout the whole life of the film, from concept right through to after we deliver the film to distributors (to the point where they think I’m interfering sometimes!). I’m also the general fixer behind the scenes, any stuff that needs sorting out, resolving arguments, anything.

JL: A lot of films of yours have universally comic situations. Why limit yourselves to working solely in Hong Kong?

SL: Much of this depends on financing and opportunities. We have been approached by overseas companies with other projects in the past and it’s definitely something we are open to for the future. Pang Ho Cheung also likes to keep creative control to keep his own style.

JL: He looks like a fun guy to work with.

SL: He’s a workaholic! He works both the crew and the production team quite hard as he has high expectations in his mind of what the outcome should be like. He’s a Virgo!

[and on cue, Pang Ho Cheung appears playfully behind us with a prosciutto slice wrapped round a bread stick and smoking it like a Marx Brothers cigar!]

JL: Hong Kong can be quite traditional and conservative in its attitudes towards sexual topics. Has the type of comedies you’ve made (with their comical sexual situations) been accepted in Hong Kong?

SL: In general, yes, they have been well received.

JL: Do you ever get bored doing interviews?

SL: Well I’ve not done many! I usually prefer being behind the scenes. Actually, I’m quite nervous right now!

Joey Leung



Still from Chappaqua

Showing as part of Flipside’s psychedelia double bill with The Trip

Date: 21 June 2008

Venue: BFI Southbank, London

Flipside on MySpace

The now well-established Flipside, the cult slot programmed by BFI archivists Vic Pratt and William Fowler at the Southbank, was introduced last year as part of the institute’s efforts to revitalise its programming and revamp its image. With an increasing number of nights catering for the current appetite for B-movies and exploitation cinema, Pratt and Fowler’s approach remains one of the most open and interesting, mixing films that have traditionally been considered either ‘art’ or ‘trash’. ‘There is a tendency to say a film is either good or bad’, says Pratt. ‘The good films we can show again and again, the rubbish we discard in the dustbin. But when you think what the odds are of making a perfect film, or even just a tolerable one, that’s quite a small percentage. And if you’re going to write off everything that was made that wasn’t a great masterpiece, that’s a lot of cinema. You’ve got to be free to fail. And you’ve got to show the work of people who’ve failed in some way but may have done something else really well.’

Their first night last February was meant to be a Joe Meek special, but that didn’t quite go according to plan: ‘It was a big night, we had a lot of press, hundreds of people had come to this, it was amazing’, says Pratt. ‘Pop bands were ringing wanting to DJ at the night, we were like, wow, we might have done something quite cool!’ (laughs) ‘But then there was a massive power cut, all the lights went out, and everyone was just milling around outside, looking glum and cold, and we all had to go home. Apparently this may have been the Joe Meek curse. There’s a legend that everything associated with Joe Meek is cursed and if you try and do anything relating to him, it’ll go wrong, and sure enough…’

Since then, though, things have gone more smoothly for Pratt and Fowler and in the last eighteen months they’ve presented programmes ranging from Rupert the Bear and Tintin to Tod Browning and weird Westerns. The June night will be a full-on psychedelic extravaganza, including Roger Corman’s legendary The Trip as well as some mind-bending experimental shorts by Bruce Conner and Larry Jordan. The centrepiece of the night, however, is the rarely screened Chappaqua, which, although it stars such 1960s luminaries as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Moondog, The Fugs and Ravi Shankar, has remained little known. ‘Chappaqua is pretty much an autobiographical film’, says Fowler. ‘It’s about Conrad Rooks, who wrote and directed it, being addicted to alcohol and drugs and going to this strange treatment centre where William Burroughs works, to get off the drugs’. (laughs) ‘And you think at that time, with all the people involved, it would just be, “drugs are great”, but it’s a kind of cross between drugs as a revelatory experience with visions of Native Americans in the desert and Rooks being a bit of a mess. For 1966, it’s quite refreshing. And it looks really gorgeous’.

The next few months’ programmes are still under wraps at the time of writing, so here’s to looking forward to whatever wonderful B-side gems Pratt and Fowler will unearth in their gleeful rummaging through the BFI’s basement.

Virginie Sélavy


John Woo at Cannes Film Festival 2008

Photo: John Woo at Cannes Film Festival 2008 (photo by Joey Leung)

Cannes Film Festival

14-25 May 2008

Festival website

Cannes. THE festival of all film festivals. Memories of Truffaut, Bardot, Godard from a bygone era, and more recently the Hollywood glitz of The Da Vinci Code, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and a chance to rub shoulders with jury members Sean Penn and Natalie Portman.

But not for this intrepid reporter.

Shunning glamour for realistic, gritty, true cinema, and working too hard to party with the stars, we bring you coverage of the REAL Cannes, the Cannes behind the scenes where deals are made, new films discovered, and new directors uncovered – the working-class heroes’ Cannes (in truth, a Cannes where virtually no party invites came our way so we went to watch some films instead…).

Here’s what happens in all the different facets that make up the Cannes Film Festival; here’s…The Electric Sheep Guide to Cannes.


(Distributors register for the Cannes Market, which runs alongside the Cannes Film Festival, giving them access to watch films and decide whether or not to buy the rights to distribute the film in their territory. You can register for the market if you pay and have some sort of link to the industry to get your accreditation.)

What a better place to start than with the… double impact of Jean-Claude Van Damme, (or JCVD as he is now known), starring in a film about Jean-Claude Van Damme about the life of… er… Jean-Claude Van Damme. JCVD starts with an implausibly long take with our universal soldier taking on an endless string of baddies in military uniforms with knives, guns, flame-throwers, more guns, and some with just good old hand-to-hand combat. Finally, when he breaks through the last door, we realise that he is on a film set; he rushes straight to the director and complains about not having a stunt double during the middle part of that lengthy sequence, uttering the immortal words, ‘I can’t do this shit anymore… I’m fucking forty-seven years old…’

Something a little different from the run-of-the-mill kick-ass Van Damme films, it was actually a clever non-linear, multi-point of view story that was just plain good fun (in fact you could probably say it was no… knock off of his usual films! OK OK, enough of the Van Damme jokes). Revolver have picked up the rights for UK so expect this to hit our cinemas towards the end of this year.

Van Damme himself was at this screening and he mingled with the audience a little afterwards, asking them if they cried during this film; there is a sensitive sequence during JCVD where he seemingly breaks off from the shoot and turns to the camera in a spontaneous monologue, talking about the falseness and superficiality of Hollywood and the struggles he has had – tears streaming down his face (this actually did move a number of the audience members).

We wonder if John Woo would have cried? Which brings us seamlessly to another feature of Cannes…


(Much like any other press conference, new films are announced and footage shown. Wow factor comes from directors and stars in attendance. Usually takes place in the large hotels where the real power play happens.)

Electric Sheep were invited along to John Woo’s press conference on his latest movie, a Chinese language historical battle epic called Red Cliff (Chi Bi). Those of you who follow Asian cinema news may already know of this title, and if you do, you will probably have read about the production difficulties plaguing this project, with Chow Yun Fat walking off the set a few days into the shoot, prompting cast changes and a lot of shuffling around (like a ten-man team whose striker has been sent off).

The cast obviously rallied around this project – most of the leading actors attended the press conference to show their support for the return of John Woo (the man who will forever be associated with the ‘gun ballet’ genre) back to Asia: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (Lust, Caution) and Zhao Wei (Shaolin Soccer) will be the big names know to Western audiences. There was also a host of well-known Asian actors who have an enigmatic presence both on and off the screen (Chang Chen, Zhang Fengyi, Lin Chiling and Hu Jun).

Despite the setbacks, the production ploughed on and the results are worth the wait. There have been a host of historical big battle epics recently (Warlords by Peter Chan and Wai Man Yip and Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon by Daniel Lee). This, however, is a bigger beast with a bigger budget and astounding results – the sweeping aerial shots of the legions of soldiers on the battlefield are not the usual cut-and-paste CGI square blocks of groups of battalions, but each battalion is done separately with their own battle formation.

Action sequences are well directed as you expect from this director,and colours are not as gritty and grey as in the aforementioned Warlords and Three Kingdoms (in fact, Red Cliff focuses on one of the battles in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese historical novel that is read by all school children in China and Hong Kong and on which Daniel Lee’s film is based). When asked by a member of the press what he had learnt and brought back from Hollywood, John Woo talked about bringing new techniques for the younger members of the crew to learn… and after a slight pause, said jokingly, ‘.. but I still have my own style, you’ll see lots of doves flying around…’

With the strong presence of a beautiful female cast, there is inevitably going to be some love interest element to the film. We must await the final cut to see the actual weighted balance between action and romance before we can pass a final verdict on this film. With some final scenes to shoot and some post-production to finish off, this title should be out in the next three months in Asia. EIV, the people who released The Departed, will be bringing this to the UK shortly after.


(Essential for any Cannes visit, if you don’t have an invite, you might as well try to blag your way into Fort Knox. Usually happens on marquees next to the beach, or if you are Hollywood ‘A’ List, in a villa on the hills.)

KOFIC, the Korean Film Council, hosted a lavish party filled with all the food and drink you could take, right on the Cannes beach. Producers, sales agents, distributors, actors, directors, journalists, film festival organisers – all the elements of Cannes were there, spirits high despite a slight drizzle.

Electric Sheep mingled briefly with new director Na Hong-jin whose tense debut, The Chaser (see below), was in the Official Selection Midnight Screenings at Cannes. We chatted and joked also with actor Kim Yun-seok (The Chaser, Tazza: The High Rollers). Some chat with sales agents from Korea and the rest of Asia revealed that this had been quite a slow and flat Cannes. There are less completed blockbusters featuring big stars than in previous years.

After 2am, the house music was suddenly turned up many notches with the bass beating so hard you could physically feel it on your chest, and no one could hear each other – many took this as a cue (or a very subtle hint) to leave and drift off into the night. The highly enjoyable KOFIC party was a great note to end Electric Sheep‘s short foray into Cannes 2008.


The Chaser (Chugyeogja), South Korea
Official Selection, Special Screenings, Cannes 2008

From first-time director Na Hong-jin comes a film that is part Seven, part 24.

Joong-ho (Kim Yun-seok) is an ex-cop turned pimp whose call-girls have recently gone missing. He assumes they ran away from the night business until he tracks their bookings back to one client in particular; the audience are then introduced to a psychopathic serial killer who keeps the girls in the basement of his house, torturing them calmly till they die – during one gruesome scene, in an intense close-up shot, he takes a hammer and chisel to the head of his latest victim, Mi-jin (Seo Yeong-hie, Shadows in the Palace) wriggling in distress whilst the hammer blows come down.

Suspense builds after Joong-ho catches the killer, takes him to the police station, only for himself to be accused of assault and impersonation of a police officer and the killer being freed – not only is the chase on again, but Mi-jin is still slowly bleeding to death in the basement, preying on Joong-ho’s conscience. By the time the police realise that they let the real killer go, Joong-ho is already in the field, a few steps ahead of them, working alone, Jack Bauer-style.

Kim Yun-seok gives an excellent performance as the tough pimp who softens up and genuinely takes responsibility, feeling he has a duty of care for his charges. Filmed mostly at night and with many hand-held sequences, The Chaser is a highly polished and accomplished first film.

Expect this film to hit our screens twice – Metrodome (the people who brought us Donnie Darko and Assembly) will be releasing this title in the UK and Warner Bros have bought the remake rights.

Joey Leung


I Love Sarah Jane

Still from I Love Sarah Jane

Edinburgh Film Festival

18-29 June 2008

Festival website

Now in its sixth decade, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is still unrelenting in its dedication to short films. This is, after all, the festival that nurtured the careers of filmmakers Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold by supporting their early shorts. This year’s festival boasts six programmes, which all reflect the festival’s commitment to screening challenging work as well as its rejection of Western-centrism: a programme of solely Scottish shorts sits alongside an international category that has contributions from Turkey and Israel among others.

Other programmes include ‘Love Bites’ – a look at the bitter aftertaste of love – and ‘Child Proof’, which groups together films that use child characters in an unconventional way. Both these categories were chosen in order to explore recurring themes in a way that would not betray the originality of the submitted material, according to the festival’s short film programmer Matt Lloyd. ‘There are so many short films that use children’, says Lloyd. ‘Often everything is seen through the eyes of a child – that is fine but it has become so prevalent. The films in our selection go against the grain. Similarly, films about relationships and love often form a large part of the work we see but we’re showing a film about an attempt at sex in a sick bed (Sick Sex). We’ve also got a film called I Love Sarah Jane, which is a love story set in a post-apocalyptic suburb overrun by zombies’.

The fact that short film allows people to push boundaries is not lost on Lloyd, who compares his role as programmer to that of a DJ. ‘I choose films I like and which I think other people will like but I also have to give consideration to how they work together in the 90 minutes of a programme. We can afford to be experimental. The beauty of it is that when you’re watching a short film programme, if you don’t like one of the films, you know it’s going to be over in a few minutes and you’ll probably like the next’.

Film conventions are also subverted in 2 Birds, a film about the growing pains of two teenagers. ‘Coming-of-age films are always about people at a crossroad in their life’, said its Icelandic director Rúnar Rúnarsson. ‘They have to make a decision and this makes them grow wise or lose their innocence. I was interested in a story about how the main characters end up after this. Some people may interpret what the characters do as taking drugs but there is no close-up of the drugs and it is not supposed to be about them specifically. I have a friend who is very Christian and for him the drugs are the Biblical apple. Apparently, there is some kind of myth about Adam and Jesus which was found written in a manuscript and he recognised this story in the film but I hadn’t heard of this – I guess some people are cleverer than me’.

Screening his film at Edinburgh must mean a lot to Rúnarsson, whose last film to be shown at the festival – The Last Farm – went on to be nominated for an Oscar. But most contributors agree that the charm of the event is the opportunity to see burgeoning themes and practices. ‘It’s great to see which works are evolving. With short films you can be experimental and really push things so it’s the place to see what is emerging – it’s like a mini-subculture’, said British director Piers Thompson.

Thompson hopes that his film K, the story of an encounter between a teenage girl and a vagrant on a bleak island, will go down as well in Edinburgh as it has done elsewhere. ‘It’s about a 15-year-old living in the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary with her father. I worked on a documentary out there and saw the location, which I just loved. It’s really barren and really strange – especially out of season. We showed it in Berlin and it worked well there as they liked the cold and clinical aspect of it’.

The aesthetic quality of a film is something that director Sarah Tripp also takes very seriously. Tripp comes from a graphic design and fine art background, and has ample experience of photography, drama and writing, so her short films are the culmination of a broad artistic outlook. ‘What I love about film is how it uses so many other art forms – the aspect of performance, storytelling, photography – and music, which is so important to narrative and the building of emotion. Film builds different sub-disciplines into one’.

Her film Let me show you some things is about a brother and sister meeting after years of estrangement and constructing a relationship by showing each other mementos from the past. It is based on a short story Tripp wrote as part of her artist-in-residence role at Glasgow’s Centre of Contemporary Arts and was turned into a film using improvisation by drama group Stage 5. ‘The film is highly autobiographical. It is about whether or not the brother and sister will reunite and about the dissipation of the relationship’.

She too has high hopes for this year’s festival. ‘I think under Hannah McGill the festival has huge potential. She is a really interesting woman with a fresh outlook. We should see new practices in the short film categories this year. Short films show that despite living in a digital era, creativity is not being compromised’.

Lisa Williams



Congregation’s nerve-jangling, heart-stopping old-time blues has been wowing audiences across London for over a year. Now, with their debut album released on May 11 (on the Bronzerat label), the band’s unique blend of psycho soul and delta fire is destined to reach a much wider audience. They’re playing in Glasgow on June 5, Bardens Boudoir (London) on June 6, Sizzle Suite (Midlands) on June 15, Dirty Water Club (London) on June 13 with Holly Golightly and at Glastonbury on June 28. For more information, go to their MySpace. They’ve compiled a list of their ten favourite films for us below, and their choices betray a love for the intense and the personal, and a penchant for tortured heroes and heroines.


1- Shadows (1959)
John Cassavetes’s Beat poetic portrayal of racial tension in 1950s New York still has relevance.
VICTORIA adds: Politically astute and visually exciting, this film is all I love about cinema.

2- The Match Factory Girl (1990)
Classic deadpan hopelessness from Aki Kaurismäki, the Finnish director who hates his own films.

3- The Conversation (1974)
Stunning portrayal of control paranoia. Great sound, and definitely the best opening sequence of any film I’ve seen.

4- Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Another portrayal of paranoia in the post-war backwoods of America. Spencer Tracy’s finest hour.

5- Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, fight on the cable car. Guys on a mission, genius.


6- Trust (1990)
Hal Hartley is one of my favourites, he creates worlds that are so desirable and performances that are filled with charm.

7- Stella Dallas (1937)
A King Vidor melodrama that cuts through so many emotions and political positions. Barbara Stanwyck is incredible as the heartbreaking lead who defiantly tries to have her voice heard.

8- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Beautifully visualised and shot, it captures the unspoken with intensity and drama and features the perfect coupling of Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.

9- Love Letter to Edie (1975)
Short ‘documentary’ about the real and imagined life of Edith Massey, capturing all you would ever need to know about the legend herself through the eyes of a superfan.

10- Dogfight (1991)
Such a tender and intimate film, managing to capture the love and excitement of music appreciation and knowledge through a young girl’s eyes so vividly and fully. I always find this film really inspiring.