This year’s FilmBath Festival from 7–17 November features 37 feature films and 46 short films. Here are some of the highlights to whet your appetite.
Now in its 29th year, FilmBath Festival has a reputation for catching the biggest films of the awards season before they officially hit the big screen. So this year’s festival, running from 7–17 November, is the chance to see the blockbusters before anyone else.
FilmBath Festival is also known for pioneering the F-Rating classification, where films are recognised for being directed by and/or written by women, therefore supporting women in the film industry and addressing the issues around gender imbalance in this sector. Here are just a few of the festival’s highlights for 2019…
• 7 November, 6.30pm, Odeon
For his directorial debut, Scott Z Burns tackles the true story of US Senate staffer Daniel Jones (played by Adam Driver) and his investigation into the CIA’s use of torture following the September 11 attacks. Jones’ efforts and tenacity are tested by the CIA’s determination to keep the truth in the dark. A detailed political thriller that plunges the audience into a world of high-ranking intrigue and subterfuge.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
• 7 November, 9pm, Little Theatre
Director Armando Iannucci takes an irreverent attitude to this Charles Dickens adaptation. Dev Patel stars as David Copperfield, a young man of no means in Victorian England, who rises up society’s ranks through a series of comical adventures. The larger-than-life supporting characters are played by an all-star cast of British actors.
• 8 November, 6.30pm, Odeon
Director Sarah Gavron, along with writers Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, has created a magical piece of cinema centred on Shola (aka Rocks) and her younger brother Emmanuel who are faced with a foster home and separation, unless they can escape the clutches of social services. The Guardian described this as the best film at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.
By the Grace of God
• 8 November, 9pm, Little Theatre
François Ozon approaches historic sex abuse in the Catholic Church from the victims’ point of view. Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) is a devout Catholic with a wife and five children, who was abused as a boy by a priest. When he discovers that the priest still works with children, he becomes determined that the church address this scourge. A magnificently angry yet composed film that’s based on a true story.
Children of the Snow Land
• 10 November, 4pm, Chapel Arts Centre
This beautiful documentary is an account of how four-year-old Nepalese children from remote parts of the country are sent to school in Kathmandu, after which they will not see their families again for 12 years. Here we see how the children, who have been raised in the modern world, come to terms with the separation as they return to a place they have never really known: their home.
Calm with Horses
• 10 November, 6pm, Odeon
Set in contemporary Ireland, Nick Rowland’s debut feature was recently shown at Toronto to huge critical acclaim. Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) is an ex-boxer with an ex-wife and a son on the autistic spectrum. He’s trying to make a living, but the only work he can find is as muscle for the Devers family, the local drug mafia. While the plot may sound familiar, the setting and execution are unique.
• 10 November, 7.30pm, Rondo Theatre
Climate change has left the Earth uninhabitable, and the last human survivors are on a three-week journey to a new life on Mars aboard the spaceship Aniara. When an unexpected event threatens the security of their voyage, the passengers must learn to cope with the sudden uncertainty of their fate in this prescient Swedish sci-fi film.
• 11 November, 8pm, Odeon
Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest women of the 19th century, whose influence on the Underground Railroad in the United States is beginning to be recognised. This film tells part of her story, as she escapes from slavery in the south, then returns to rescue other slaves at great risk to her own life. Directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring BAFTA Rising Star nominee Cynthia Erivo.
• 11 November, 8.50pm, Rondo Theatre
Joanna Hogg’s fourth feature is a semi-fictionalised account of her own experiences as a film student in the 1980s. As Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) attempts to make her way through a male-dominated world, she develops an intense relationship with an older man whose casual charm belies a flawed and controlling character. Her mother (Tilda Swinton) can do no more than stand by and watch as her daughter learns some painful life lessons.
La Belle Époque
• 12 November, 8pm, Odeon
This thought-provoking French comedy shows jaded and disillusioned Victor (Daniel Auteuil) yearning for the passionate, simpler days of his youth. His son’s best friend (Guillaume Canet) offers him the chance to recreate the most meaningful experience of his past: the day he first met his wife. A cross between The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
• 13 November, 6.15pm, Chapel Arts Centre
In a remote corner of the former Yugoslavia, a woman tends her wild bees on a clifftop away from the world, with no equipment to protect herself and no fear of being stung. However, there is a threat on the horizon from nomadic beekeepers who have none of her expertise or care for the preservation of bees. This amazing documentary follows the clash of past and present.
And Then We Danced
• 14 November, 6.30pm, Odeon
Merab has dedicated his life to the Georgian Dance Ensemble. He has always danced with his partner Mary, and when a charming newcomer appears on the scene, Merab sees him as his rival. He discovers that his feelings stem from desire as well as competition, but a man loving a man is unacceptable in a culture emphasising the virtues of stereotypical masculinity.
• 14 November, 8.30pm, Odeon
Tom (Liam Neeson) and Joan (Lesley Manville) have been married for many years. When she is diagnosed with cancer, their whole relationship has to undergo a change. Neeson takes a step back from his action hero roles and allows Manville to show the full range of her talent as a woman coming to terms with the news everyone dreads.
Judy and Punch
• 15 November, 6.30pm, Odeon
A married couple of puppeteers entertain the common people on stage. But off-stage he abuses her, culminating in an act of such bizarre cruelty that revenge is the only justifiable option. Mia Wasikowska stars as Judy and Damon Herriman is the unlovable Punch. With echoes of The Crucible and Terry Gilliam, director Mirrah Foulkes has pulled off a remarkable piece of cinema.
• 16 November, 10.45am, Little Theatre Cinema
This authoritative and compelling documentary presents a wide range of examples from films you love and films you’ve never heard of, illustrating the importance of sound and revealing the means by which it is achieved. Those appearing are the crème de la crème, such as Spielberg, Lucas, Lynch, Nolan, Redford, and Streisand. You’ll never listen to films the same way again.
• 17 November, 6pm, Odeon
This wacky satire from Taika Waititi was the most popular film at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, but critics were harder to please. Set in Nazi Germany, it stars Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo, a ten-year-old whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi). Jojo’s commitment to antisemitism is set back when he discovers a Jewish girl is being sheltered by his mother (Scarlett Johansson). Also starring Sam Rockwell, Stephen Merchant and Rebel Wilson.
Relaxed screenings at the egg are designed for those on the autism spectrum, people living with dementia and anyone who would benefit from a relaxed cinema environment. Showings during the FilmBath Festival include The Peanut Butter Falcon (Sunday 10 November, 5.30pm) and A Minuscule Adventure (Monday 11 November, 11.30am)
FilmBath Festival takes place from 7–17 November. For the full programme, visit filmbath.org.uk
Main image: Honeyland