As much as we love the world on our doorstep, today we wanted to stretch our legs, journey a little further afield, and we’ve found the perfect film to help us on our way.
Directed by Anna Winstone, Rhiw Goch (On the Red Hill), is a beautiful short film (9mins) which tells the story of a picturesque Welsh cottage and how it came to be home to author Mike Parker and his partner Peredur.
Rhiw Goch is a celebration of love and solidarity within the Queer community whilst also capturing the romanticism of country living. The way in which Winstone captures this remarkable little cottage manages to convey all the love that has been poured into it over the decades, to make it not just a house but a home, and it has us looking forward to our next trip to Wales!
Rhiw Goch can currently be found on All4 – free to view as part of the Iris Prize 2020 Best of British collection.
And if you enjoy the film why not check out Mike Parker’s memoir of the same name, which was nominated for the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing.
As we bid farewell to 2020, we realise we didn’t bring together a 'best films of the year' list as we have sometimes compiled previously. There wasn’t one clear reason for that. As December rolled in and the nights were feeling pretty dark, we weren't perhaps in the right place to do that reflection... But a couple weeks into this thing called 2021, it feels important to acknowledge that the range of films released in 2020 – both in cinemas and online – were INCREDIBLE.
While major blockbusters mostly disappeared from March onwards, distributors like Curzon, Modern Films, Dogwoof, 606 and Anti-Worlds and Together Films (to name but a few) came with an outpouring of fantastic films, many of which we've recommended as part of Hyde Park Picks over the last few months. If you find yourself in need of reassurance that one good thing happened last year, these films are it!
One of the films way we actually missed along the way has just been added to Netflix – so to right a little wrong we’d like today to shout about Babyteeth (2019).
Shannon Murphy’s feature debut begins as seriously ill teenager Milla meets drug addict and petty criminal Moses. It’s love at first sight and Babyteeth captures all the electricity of that, the intensity of young love – simultaneously both completely frivolous and a matter of life or death.
Baring witness to this outpouring of affection are Milla’s parents, played by Essie Davies (Babadook) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom). This film is about their story as much as Milla and Moses', as they too are just as uncertain of how to love, worry and exist as people, as well as parents.
Funny, beautiful and raw Babyteeth is now available via Netflix.
Stunningly filmed in black and white, Embrace of the Serpent is a blisteringly poetic and psychedelic tale, exposing the ravages of colonialism on the South American landscape.
With nods to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, the Oscar-nominated film centres on Karamakate, an Amazonian tribal shaman, who leads two western explorers through the jungle, on a forty-year search for the sacred Yakruna plant.
When released in 2016, the film's director, Ciro Guerra, issued the following statement which we also wanted to share:
"Whenever I looked at a map of my country, I was overwhelmed by great uncertainty. Half of it was an unknown territory, a green sea, of which I knew nothing. The Amazon, that unfathomable land, which we foolishly reduce to simple concepts. Coke, drugs, Indians, rivers, war.
Is there really nothing more out there? Is there not a culture, a history? Is there not a soul that transcends?
The explorers taught me otherwise.
Those men who left everything, who risked everything, to tell us about a world we could not imagine. Those who made first contact, during one of the most vicious holocausts man has ever seen. Can man, through science and art, transcend brutality? Some men did.
The explorers have told their story. The natives haven’t.
This is it. A land the size of a whole continent, yet untold. Unseen by our own cinema.
That Amazon is lost now. In the cinema, it can live again."
Embrace of the Serpent is available to watch for free via All4 for the next 20 days.
With superb performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps – accompanied by a sumptuous score from Jonny Greenwood – Paul Thomas Anderson's Oscar-nominated Phantom Thread is currently available to stream on the BBC iPlayer for the next two weeks.
An illuminating portrait of an artist on a creative journey and the women who keep his world running, this beautifully shot gothic romance is the focus of the first episode of our new Philosophy & Film podcast.
Presented by Joe Saunders, the podcast is a continuation of the long-running Philosophy & Film series held at the Picture House since 2016. In each episode, Joe is joined by a different guest philosopher who nominates a film for the pair to discuss.
In episode one, Phantom Thread has been selected by Dr Natasha McKeever from the University of Leeds, who explores themes of vulnerability and love in the film.
The Philosophy & Film podcast is available to listen via our website, or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. And if you enjoy the first episode, the second and third episodes – on Blue Velvet and It's A Wonderful Life – are now also available, with more episodes being recorded in the coming weeks.
We know that today will be a day full of anxiety for most people reading this for a number of different reasons. With this in mind we have decided to share with you a short film that brings us unequivocal joy. It’s Snow (1974) directed by Canadian filmmaker Gayle Thomas is a short 5min cut-out animation inspired by the shape of snowflakes and touched with the airy magic of these fragile designs.
While lilting music invitingly frolics, snowflakes roll and whirl, pulse and glitter, shining with the many hues of twinkling lights. It’s Snow doesn’t have a narrative, it is a sensory delight pure and simple.
You can find the film available to watch for free thanks to the National Film Board of Canada here.
Interestingly, one of Thomas’ other short films, Quilt (1996), is one of the most watched films the NFB have ever hosted online. For more info on how this abstract animation got to the heart of the quilting community you can find an interview with the director here.
Birds Eye View’s Reclaim the Frame online Q&As have been a real lifeline for a lot of film lovers this year bringing a steady string of digital events into our home to help keep our brains challenged and open when its felt like our bodies had to go into a necessary hibernation.
This week we’ve enjoyed catching up with the Peccadillo Sofa Club Q&A they hosted between Leonie Krippendorff, writer and director of Cocoon, in conversation with writer Amelia Abraham. You can find a recording of the discussion here bit.ly/RTFCocoon w/ BSL interpretation & CC.
This Reclaim the Frame event is a joyful exploration of Krippendorff’s second feature. Set in the heat of a shimmering Berlin summer (a world away from the grey and icy view outside our window today), Cocoon follows Nora as she spends her days as a third wheel to her older sister Jule and her best friend Aylin, who think only of boys and their weight. Juggling pressures to fit in and a largely absent mother, things begin to change for Nora when she meets Romy.
Cocoon is a raw, honest and beautifully romantic film capturing the both the highs and lows of female adolescence. If you’d like to watch it you can rent this title you can find it online at the Leeds Film Player where we are presenting it together to rent for £7.50.
Your hearts may well need a little brush up right now, so our #HydeParkPick today should provide some shiny warmth during this particularly wintry holiday season.
Boot Polish (बूट पॉलिश, 1954, 134mins, U) is a musical drama in the best tradition of classic Hindi cinema, produced by the great Raj Kapoor. A fairy tale at heart, complete with orphan children, a wicked witch and a buttons-like character, the film is nonetheless grounded by a social realist commentary on urban poverty, shared responsibility and basic human decency - and it’s all the more wonderful for it.
When Bhola and Bel are left destitute after their mother dies, they are conscripted into a lifetime of begging by their nasty aunt Kamla. Taking to the streets, the siblings begin to save their meagre earnings to start a shoeshine business, aided by John uncle, a local bootlegger.
This life of destitution and struggle are, however, counterbalanced by some beautiful and often surreal songs, uplifting melodrama and some astonishingly assured and poignant acting from the two child leads. Whilst the film is largely shot on location, which adds an atmospheric sense of reality, it still allows for a topical and seasonally apt celebration of life, amidst the children’s bleak existence.
In a time when we are reassessing how we can improve our understanding of each other, our care and kindness, Boot Polish is a perfect example of the spirit of initiative in a hopeless situation and a determination to live to the best of our communal human values.
In 1954 Raj Kapoor wrote, "Boot Polish graphically shows the problem of destitute children, their struggle for existence and their fight against organised beggary. The purpose of this film is to bring home to you that these orphans are as much your responsibility as that of the Government. Individual charity will not solve this problem because the only solution is co-operative effort on a National scale."
Boot Polish is available to watch as part of the Mubi Library: mubi.com/films/boot-polish.
In partnership with Hyde Park Picture House, you can enjoy three months of MUBI for free. Sign up here: mubi.com/promos/hydepark