To mark this week’s Children’s Mental Health Week, today's family-friendly pick is Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (PG, 2009, 99min).
This glorious and intricate exploration of childhood imagination and feelings is a great opportunity to encourage younger viewers to discuss and understand more complicated emotions.
Based on the iconic much-loved children’s book by the highly influential Maurice Sendak, both the book and film pack a lot into the simple and whimsical tale of Max, a young boy dressed as a wolf, escaping into an imaginary world after being sent to bed with no supper for questionable behaviour.
This fantastical and visually stunning live-action film is unique in both tone and style, and deals with comparatively darker themes than the book. The visually astounding gigantic wild things perfectly encapsulate both fuzzy child abandonment alongside unsettling peril, which may have littler ones hiding behind the sofa but will also provide the opportunity to explore challenging yet rewarding ideas and concepts around childhood, relationships and maturity.
We would recommend accompanying this film with an essential wild rumpus!
Where the Wild Things Are is currently available to stream on Netflix.
Our Hyde and Seek pick for young audiences this weekend is the astonishing The Secret of Kells (2014, PG, 76min) from the formidable Cartoon Saloon animation studio.
Heavily inspired by Celtic and medieval art and the first in director Tomm Moore's 'Irish Folklore Trilogy’ (alongside Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers), The Secret of Kells is a glorious celebration of Irish culture, heritage and design. Different aspects of Irish mythology are woven together to deliver a historically rich and wistful tale. Just as the film’s namesake, The Book of Kells, was painstakingly illuminated with detailed imagery and colour, the animation process has been given the same attentive and intricate treatment throughout.
This clear admiration for the past adds a rich depth to the film's visuals, characters and story, resulting in a truly memorable movie that should appeal to audience of all ages.
The Secret of Kells is available on the BBC iPlayer, until Monday evening.
We’re always on a cinematic treasure hunt to unearth films from remote locations, and today’s unlikely find, streaming on Netflix, is Egyptian crime drama Cairo Station (1958, باب الحديد Bāb al-Ḥadīd, 74mins, 12).
Both a fascinating social document and surprisingly bold treatment of erotiscism and violence, given its age and historical context, Cairo Station is a neorealist film noir from one of Arabic Cinema’s most important directors, Youssef Chahine.
In the bustling main Cairo train station, a destitute and troubled Kenawi (played by Chahine himself), is given a job selling newspapers, but amongst the crowds of travellers and co-workers, he becomes dangerously obsessed with beautiful illegal cold drinks vendor Hannuma.
Completed almost exactly halfway between the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 and the repressive nationalisation of their film industry in 1966, Cairo Station screened to outraged audiences when it was released, who were expecting more conventional and traditional melodrama. Within the relative artistic freedom of this period, Chahine was able to push the boundaries of what could be represented in contemporary film, in a society of changing values and beliefs, culture, politics and wealth.
It’s a vivid portrayal that in it’s short running time is nonetheless able to examine and question gender-based prejudice and violence, masculine entitlement, economic privilege and worker’s rights – in a swirl of life as one of the world’s oldest civilisations assimilates modernity.
Cairo Station is streaming now on Netflix, together with a large selection of Youssef Chahine’s films.
Winner of a special Jury Prize when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, it’s a deep sense of resilience that marks out today’s Hyde Park Pick: This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019, 117mins, PG).
When her village is threatened with relocation, resulting from a construction project that will submerge her entire community beneath a reservoir, eighty-year-old widow Mantoa’s determination for an ancestral burial rouses in her a defiant spirit of resistance.
Set in Lesotho and partly inspired by real events, director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s debut narrative feature retains the realism of his previous documentary (Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You., 2019). The film is also grounded by an incredibly nuanced, stoic and largely wordless performance by veteran South African actor Mary Twala Mhlongo, who sadly died last year.
This central strength is reinforced by exquisitely composed imagery, a precise but painterly use of both colour and sound, and a pacing which is as meditative as it is emotionally all-consuming.
With a clever use of framing to enhance the mythic quality of the storytelling, Mosese weaves together a poignant, historical memorial of poetic mournfulness, which is an invigorating wonder to behold.
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection is available now on MUBI.
New to MUBI? In partnership with the Hyde Park Picture House, you can enjoy three months for free. Sign-up here.
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.