This year’s diverse programme includes over 150 titles from 30 countries, from thrillers and dramas to comedies and documentaries created by the very best of both established and emerging filmmaking talent.
Now in its 39th year, the Cambridge Film Festival celebrates cinema in all its forms while also tackling some of the critical issues facing our world today, including climate change, human rights, women’s rights, prison conditions and mental health. It takes place between 17th – 24th October at locations across the city: Cambridge Picturehouse, The Light Cinema, Emmanuel College, Kettle’s Yard and The Heong Gallery.
The programme includes UK premieres of new features, classic retrospectives, insightful documentaries, discovery titles from the global stage, family favourites, an eclectic array of short films, and several international festival winners such as MONOS and SYSTEM CRASHER.
Alongside opening and closing night galas, the much-anticipated surprise film, special events and touring programmes, CFF presents an exciting collection of outstanding cinema from around the globe under the headings; International Festival Highlights; Preview Heaven; Longing & Belonging; Human Rights; World Documentaries; Focus on Greek & Cypriot Cinema; Camera Catalonia; Restorations & Musicals-Rediscovered; microcinema; Cambridge African Film Festival; Focus on Latin America; Environmental Art Documentaries; Cambridge Family Film Festival; ShortFusion; and ShortReel.
These wide-ranging strands offer the highest creative achievements in filmmaking and a host of feature premieres, with 34 UK premieres, alongside the UK premieres of a further 36 Short Films.
OPENING & CLOSING FILMS
The Festival opens on 17th October at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse with a gala screening of ROCKS, a coming-of-age drama film. Described by Screen International as having a ‘crackling, raucous energy’ and ‘a deft balance of drama and humour’, the film, which is set in East London, follows a group of year-11 girls, amongst them Nigerian British girl Rocks and her younger brother, Emmanuel. The Festival is delighted to welcome director Sarah Gavron and writers Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson to the screening.
Meanwhile, at the The Light cinema, the Festival opens with Gavin Hood’s OFFICIAL SECRETS, starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Indira Varma, and Rhys Ifans. This American-British docudrama is based on the life of whistleblower, Katharine Gun, who leaked a memo detailing that the United States had eavesdropped on diplomats from countries tasked with passing a second United Nations resolution on the invasion of Iraq.
The Festival closes on 24th October with SORRY WE MISSED YOU from director Ken Loach, writer Paul Laverty and the award-winning team behind I, DANIEL BLAKE. Described as ‘fierce, open and angry’ by the Guardian, the film is a powerful exploration of the contemporary world of work, the gig economy and the challenges faced by one family trying to hold it all together.
INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS.
The Festival screens an impressive collection of this year’s award-winning films from international festivals, including: Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear Award Winner SYSTEM CRASHER, a drama of how the ‘system’ fails a troubled 9-year-old with psychotic episodes whose trauma goes deeper than anyone can reach. Sundance Film Festival winners include the visually stunning and thought-provoking MONOS, a survival thriller about a group of rebels set deep in the jungles of Colombia, and THE SOUVENIR, a compelling drama from award-winning director / writer Joanna Hogg about a tragic, life-altering romance. Cannes Film Festival winners include FIRE WILL COME, an unrelenting tale of the embattled and dispersed community eking out an existence in the hills of northern Spain, and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, the fourth feature from French writer-director Céline Sciamma, which offers an exquisite portrait of hidden love.
These winners are supported by further international film festival favourites: Czech director Adam Sedlak’s directorial debut DOMESTIQUE, which takes a fascinating look at a couple increasingly lost in their own obsessions; Oscar-nominated Werner Herzog’s disarming FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC, which revolves around Japan’s bizarre rent-a-family business; HOMEWARD, the visually striking look at the relationship between a Crimean Tatar father and son; and KABUL, CITY IN THE WIND, winner of the Next:Wave Award at CPH: DOX, which offers a portrait of life in Kabul amid the aftermath of past conflict and the constant threat of further bloodshed.
Rounding off the International Festival Highlights are two further films: comedy-horror STITCHES and high-energy, black comedy WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE?
Alongside the array of international award-winning features, CFF is renowned for presenting previews of some of the biggest and best films in the world, often months before they receive theatrical releases. 2019’s programme of previews is no exception. Headlining the previews are two films from the UK: THE AERONAUTS, a thrilling drama with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and HOPE GAP, a sensitive drama with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening as a together-forever couple navigating the choppy waters of married life.
Further previews not to be missed include, IT MUST BE HEAVEN, a comedy from Palestinian director Elia Suleiman that explores identity, nationality and belonging; Sundance Film Festival winner, THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, a poignant look at connections to the past and a sense of belonging; JUDY AND PUNCH, a fierce, darkly comic and epic female-driven revenge story, starring Mia Wasikowska; and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach’s MARRIAGE STORY, which takes an incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together, starring Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta and Alan Alda.
Three further films previewing at CFF include SHOOTING THE MAFIA, a portrait of a remarkable woman whose bravery and defiance helped expose the Mafia’s brutal crimes; SO LONG MY SON, Wang Xiaoshuai’s acclaimed drama chronicling people and a society in transformation; and THE TWO POPES, an intimate look at a historic turning point in the Catholic Church starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins.
LONGING & BELONGING
Themes of family, love and community are addressed in this strand, be it the story of forbidden love in AND THEN WE DANCED; brotherly love and loyalty in BROTHERS; reluctant fatherly love in CASTLE OF DREAMS; or the challenges faced by a mother whose son is groomed into a drug-selling enterprise in COUNTY LINES. Sitting alongside these comes the darkly funny CHAINED FOR LIFE about a beautiful actress who struggles to connect with her disfigured co-star on the set of a film; HERE FOR LIFE follows the experiences of 10 individuals living in London, whose lives have been shaped by loss and love, trauma and bravery, struggle and resistance; MUSE explores the mental and emotional consequences of fame (with Rupert Everett); PAPER BOATS is a heart-warming tale about the unconditional bond of family; and WILCOX, the story of a man on the edge of society searching for sense to his existence, is a powerful statement on social isolation.
CFF has selected four remarkable films offering fresh perspectives and critical insights on human rights concerns impacting people around the world. These include François Ozon’s engrossing and topical examination of the Catholic Church abuse scandal, BY THE GRACE OF GOD – winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival 2019; ZERO IMPUNITY, a call to action to join a growing global movement that demands zero tolerance for sexual violence in warzones; ON THE INSIDE OF A MILITARY DICTATORSHIP, the gripping tale of Myanmar’s disastrous transition from military dictatorship to democracy; and DARK SUNS, an epic investigation into countless murders in Mexico that reveals a staggering history of crime and injustice.
Global and personal real-life perspectives from all over the filmmaking world are represented in World Documentaries, including the compelling story of the multifaceted violinist of Lebanese origin and Armenian roots who is like no other classical violinist you have ever seen in ARA MALIKIAN. A LIFE AMONG STRINGS; and MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL features never-before-seen archival footage, studio outtakes, and rare photos to tell the story of a truly singular talent and unpacks the man behind the horn. HI AI is a fascinating look at what we win and what we lose as AI and robots take over our lives; and in MAKING WAVES, THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND, the hidden power of sound in cinema is revealed through the personal histories, experiences and expertise of sound pioneers who became award-winning artists in sound design. In SECRETARIES – A LIFE FOR CINEMA, six secretaries reminisce about their lives working alongside powerful and enlightened men who made Italian cinema history. Recollections of their lives, off and on-set, are enriched by anecdotes, revelations, unpublished photographs and other curiosities related to some of the great Italian classics. WALKING ON WATER is an illuminating portrait of a master artist and of the arduous process of launching a large-scale art production.
FOCUS ON GREEK & CYPRIOT CINEMA
The work of new films by young directors, based on real-life events is highlighted in this section. Showcasing a diverse range of cinematic styles, narratives and themes, these three debut films by Nikos Labot Char (HER JOB), Tonia Mishiali (PAUSE), and Marios Piperides (SMUGGLING HENDRIX) offer a punchy as well as sensitive analysis of the two countries’ complex relationship with their individual cultural heritage.
This year the Festival focuses almost exclusively on debut films by young Catalan filmmakers, with one exception being a second feature. There is a fresh approach to filmmaking in all the films, clearly demonstrating that creativity and good storytelling are much more important than big budgets. Leading the lineup is Laura Jou’s feature debut, the romantic comedy LIFE WITHOUT SARA AMAT, which beautifully and effortlessly captures the transition from childhood to adulthood. The other three films include the caustic and nihilistic SEVEN REASONS TO RUN AWAY (FROM SOCIETY), a brilliantly told dark comedy that leaves much to reflect on regarding modern western society; Elena Trapé’s second feature DISTANCES, which approaches the friends’ reunion genre with a direct, naturalistic style; and the striking SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER, a graduation project by a group of filmmakers from the Catalan school of cinema that has garnered critical acclaim and festival awards. The film follows a young, pregnant solicitor frantically searching for her missing father and discovering hidden truths about her family, whilst on a physical and emotional journey that takes the audience with her.
RESTORATIONS & MUSICALS REDISCOVERED
A partnership between Cambridge Film Festival and Cambridge-based Adder Technology creates an interesting juxtaposition pairing cutting-edge technology with films from the very birth of cinema.
This year, the Festival has included the 1927 classic 7TH HEAVEN, swooning romanticism meets stirring realism in Borzage’s intoxicating melodrama. Janet Gaynor’s portrayal of one of the lead characters won her the first-ever Academy Award for Best Actress. Live musical accompaniment comes from star composer Neil Brand. In terms of musicals, you can’t get better than 42ND STREET with great ensemble playing from a stellar cast, including Ginger Rogers as wisecracking chorus girl ‘Anytime Annie’. Added to the list of classics from a bygone era are CALAMITY JANE, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and GUYS AND DOLLS.
Film curator Karola Gramann presents a screening of German feminist films from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. This programme aims to provide impressions of the independent, experimental feminist films of these decades. These are low-tech and low-budget films, with a social conscience. In their own light-hearted way, these are “photoplays”.
Also included in MICROCINEMA is a screening of a programme of films by local filmmaker Sarah Wood at Kettle’s Yard, including THE BRAVEST BOAT (Sarah Wood & Ali Smith, 2019) which celebrates the legacy of Margaret Tait’s time in post-war Italy and the origin of her filmic vision.
CAMBRIDGE AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
The team behind the Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF), in collaboration with the Cambridge Film Trust, are delighted to bring you a selection of films that display the extraordinary cinematic talent of contemporary Africa. Our theme this year is exploring the past and present of African filmmaking and culture. Headlining this strand is the moving, observational documentary, BUDDHA IN AFRICA, which is focused on the experiences of Enock Alu who has been brought up in a Buddhist orphanage in Malawi. This is supported by a screening of the newly restored CAMÉRA D’AFRIQUE, an extraordinary documentary that first featured at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival and explores the rise of independent African cinema; FILM FESTIVAL FILM, a brilliant, biting, self-reflexive film working between documentary and fiction, and asking difficult questions about the film industry in relation to race and gender in our contemporary world; and the award-winning TALKING ABOUT TREES, a captivating and quietly inspiring documentary about four elderly Sudanese filmmakers trying to rekindle the flame of film culture in a country where it has been all but extinguished.
FOCUS ON LATIN AMERICA
This year, the Film Festival is also focussing on Latin American films with three award-winning features. Headlining is a Sundance Film Festival 2019 winner, the visually stunning and thought-provoking MONOS a survival thriller about a group of rebels set deep in the jungles of Colombia. Next up is the winner of the Best Feature Film, Teddy Award, Berlin Film Festival 2019, BRIEF STORY FROM THE GREEN PLANET, the gorgeous and fantastically quirky tale of a transgender woman grieving for the loss of her grandmother whilst dealing with the extra-terrestrial living in her basement. Rounding off the FOCUS ON LATIN AMERICA is the winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes Film Festival 2019, THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF EURIDICE GUSMÃO, a ravishing period saga that follows the heartbreaking tale of two sisters separated for decades by familial shame and deceit.
ENVIRONMENTAL ART DOCUMENTARIES
In a year in which Cambridge recorded the highest ever UK temperature and The Amazon saw more widespread fires, the Festival presents a series of environmental art/doc films that ask the viewer to consider what an environmental film is and what it can be. THE FLAMING RAGE OF THE SEA considers the constructed and ever-changing landscape of the Cambridgeshire Fenland, a region below sea level, through the embodied experience of landscape; OUR BLUE HEART explores what connects people in the UK to the ocean and how these connections can be used to encourage policy changes to protect our blue spaces and safeguard them for the future; THE TIME OF THE RITUAL delves into the rituals of the Yawalapiti people in the Upper Xingu in the Amazon and their strong connection to elements of nature that take on potent symbols in their lives and community; and the beautifully spiritual CEMETERY, a road film about the elephant and the sounds of the jungle.
CAMBRIDGE FAMILY FILM FESTIVAL
During the half term break, 19th – 24th October, The Cambridge Family Film Festival returns with a bumper programme of free short films, family-friendly features, and free workshops to entertain children and adults of all ages. This year’s Festival explores the topics of water, friendship and astronomy. Highlights include the UK Premiere of the new animated ADDAMS FAMILY; the latest SCOOBY DO film; WILD AMSTERDAM, a wildlife film with a difference; a host of comedy shorts; and classics such as THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE WIZARD OF OZ. The Festival also teams up with local organisations to provide activities, workshops and events to inspire and educate, including robot building, creating hanging planets, and filmmaking workshops.
Bringing emerging talent, established stars and captivating stories together, the very best of short filmmaking is represented in the Festival’s ShortFusion strand, which this year features 36 films. There are shorts to Elate, Thrill, Fear, Inspire, Connect, Ponder and Debate in these bite-sized collections of fiction, documentary, and animation.
Featuring performances from Anna Friel, Russell Tovey, Juliet Stevenson and Tuppence Middleton, and allowing up-and-coming talents to enter the frame, these films exhibit the quality and calibre of short filmmaking today, providing a rare opportunity to enjoy such works on the big screen.
Notable among the 36 strong films set to be screened are: THE DEAD ONES, the latest from filmmaker Stefan Georgiou; four films with local connections SURFACE NOISE, ROLLING, ANTEROS: LOVE RETURNED, and DARK LIGHTS; MADAME is a horror short directed by Garth Jennings; and THE SEA starring Anna Friel and Russell Tovey.
BFI NETWORK + FILM HUB SOUTH EAST SHOWCASE
This event is an opportunity to meet filmmakers from across the South East who have been funded by BFI NETWORK: watch some newly commissioned films and hear from filmmakers about their experience. Plus, we have a special talk about festival strategy and the British Council’s Travel Grant Scheme, which has recently been developed to help filmmakers travel to international short film festivals.
ShortReel is the established competition for student filmmakers in eastern and central England, run by the Arts Film Club in association with the Cambridge Film Festival. Students of all ages can submit a short film in any genre or style. The winning film is announced on Facebook and premiered at the Festival on Saturday 19th October, screening alongside HOPE GAP. The winning filmmaker is set to receive a £200 cash prize to help support and encourage their future filmmaking.
The winning film is selected by a jury chaired by local filmmaker Stefan Georgiou, director of the 2013 Cambridge Film Festival favourite, DEAD CAT, and of the short films SEXLIFE (2015) and GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2018). His latest short film, neo-noir thriller THE DEAD ONES is screening at this year’s Festival.
Further details about the 39th Cambridge Film Festival are available on the official website www.camfilmfest.com