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An important part of a Film Programmer's job is to attend film festivals and watch the latest films in order to get a feel for what's going to released in cinemas later in the year. They also afford a unique chance to see smaller films that are still looking for distribution deals to bring them to a wider audience. Festivals also have a special buzz around them, created by a packed and vibrant programme, and the presence of talent that has worked on the films. There's often the chance to quiz filmmakers directly in Q&A sessions after some of the very first public screenings of their work.
This February I joined many other programmers, critics, and film fans from the general public to attend three days of Glasgow's annual two-week long Film Festival. I managed to cram in ten films from their extensive and well-curated selection, and here are the five titles due to be released later this year that stood out for me:
Suitable for 11+
Based on a graphic novel, this French animation is set in a smoggy alternative Paris that, without the discovery of electricity, is reliant on steam-powered technology that is steadily destroying the environment. Scientific research has been outlawed unless it is in the service of the Empire, and many pioneering scientists have mysteriously disappeared. April's parents have been experimenting with the creation of a serum that will make whoever drinks it invincible - but when they're tragically killed it's up to April and her talking cat Darwin to finish their work.
Full of action, mystery and ethical dilemmas about how science can be used to progress society, with a smattering of reluctant romance thrown in, April and the Extraordinary World is a beautifully visualised feat of the imagination. April is not only a great role model for feisty, independent girls that are keen on science, but she also has a fantastic sidekick in Darwin, the sardonic and wisecracking cat who can read April's feelings better than even she might care to admit. A great film for discussing inventions and discoveries, science, ethics, strong women, and the environment.
Suitable for 11+
It's the 1980s, and 15-year-old Connor is keen to impress older girl Raphina, and asks her to star in a music video for his as-yet non-existent band. When she agrees, the pressure's on for Connor to get a group together. Without a definite musical direction, the band get their inspiration from the latest Top of the Pops releases, and as they start to pick up momentum, each song sparks a whole new look hijacked from their most recent influences. Raphina becomes a regular fixture in the band's videos, and although friendship between her and Connor deepens, she remains just out of reach for him romantically.
A coming-of-age musical comedy that touches on difficult issues while managing to maintain a joyous and defiant mood. Not only dealing with first love and the experience of being the new kid in school in an often horribly relatable fashion, Sing Street also touches on issues around having a difficult family life, and evokes in a bittersweet manner the time period in which it's set. While there is strong nostalgia for the music and style, the film doesn't neglect to acknowledge that some of the more conservative and reactionary attitudes of the time are better left behind.
Suitable for 14+
In the 1960s, professor Stanley Milgram conducted a series of obedience experiments in an attempt to understand the compliance required from people to allow something as awful as the Holocaust to take place. When his results were published to the world, society was shocked at the apparent ease with which ordinary people could commit such cruelty.
This film takes a creative approach to the biopic, with animated sets and direct-to-audience narration from Stanley Milgram's character. Smart, snappy and entertaining, Experimenter is a fascinating insight into Milgram's career, his investigations into human nature, and his public profile, as well as highlighting the enduring notoriety of his work.
Wryly self-aware and very meta in its content, Experimenter is rich in material for discussing psychology, ethics, celebrity, and media studies, as well providing an interesting approach to filmmaking and adaptations with its unique style of presentation.
Suitable for 14+
A playful imagining of what God might be like if he were living with his family in a stuffy flat in Brussels. Mainly responsible these days for inventing rules that make life that little bit more frustrating for the population, God has grown cantankerous, and his daughter Ea is fed up of it. Taking matters into her own hands, she breaks into the database that controls life on earth and creates chaos, before running away to find six apostles to help her create her own Brand New Testament.
Whimsical, touching, and very funny, The Brand New Testament boasts an imaginative use of classical music to define the characters of each of Ea's apostles. While very funny, the use of protagonist Ea as a curious explorer in the realm of humankind lends a fresh perspective to issues such as homelessness, abuse, and depression, but treats them with a light and transformative touch that helps to open up discussions about society, philosophy, and psychology.
Suitable for 11+
Fritz Bauer was a Jewish attorney tasked with tracking down and bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, but who struggled against the covert obstruction of his superiors. In the late 1950s, many of those in power had close connections with the previous regime and put measures into place to protect their own - even as the rest of the country attempted to make peace with its past. Forced to find other, less official methods of seeking justice, Fritz engages a protégé to help him in the shape of idealistic young lawyer Angermann, but soon finds that the system has yet more ways of ensuring their silence.
Based on a true story, this is a dark comedy with a jazzy, noir-esque soundtrack that takes on a period of history when Germany was in flux, and highlights the importance of justice, even if it seems politically inconvenient for a country keen to re-establish itself in a new light. The film also deals with LGBT issues, and how this taboo of the time was used to manipulate and control those whose sexuality broke the rules.