Films with energy and vision

There do British filmmakers find the energy to keep putting out productions which are precise and sensitive, which touch upon such a variety of themes without ever losing their sense of perspective, and which don’t skim the surface but plunge deep into the heart of the matter? Unemployment, crime, broken homes, social marginalization, loneliness and despair are not just British «products»; most countries in Europe experience similar social problems. But it takes a Ken Loach or a Mike Leigh to transform the problems of «outsiders» into living, breathing art. These are artists with a clear vision, society-based thinking and a humanist approach who comment without overemphasizing, and narrate small and big tragedies not as an exception but as a part of daily life. The most important thing is that they love their heroes. They understand their pain and humiliation, and always give them a second chance. Their films are direct, their camera observes and records reality with a rare and comforting impartiality. In an age where other artists are screaming out their message with shallow, loud films, British filmmakers walk with measured stride, knowing what they want and where they are going. The fact that this year would be practically dominated by British films became apparent at February’s Berlin International Film Festival, where Paul Greengrass’s «Bloody Sunday» walked away with the Golden Bear. This exceptional chronicle of the historic peaceful demonstration in Derry, Northern Ireland, in January 1972 that British troops turned into a bloodbath, was beautifully filmed by the young director in a style which combines the directness of documentary with the flexibility provided by fictional filmmaking. The season went on with a strong British presence at May’s Cannes film festival: Leigh with «All or Nothing,» Loach with «Sweet Sixteen» (which earned Loach and Paul Laverty the Best Screenplay award), and the younger Michael Winterbottom’s «24 Hour Party People.» These are all films that have played or are still playing in mainstream movie theaters in Greece, and we can still look forward to screenings of «Dirty Pretty Things» by Stephen Frears, «Bend it Like Beckham» by Gurinder Chadha, and later, «This is Not as Love Song» by Bille Eltringham. Each film paints a different portrait of British society. Leigh’s «All or Nothing» focuses on a troubled family of outsiders who are able to find their sense of unity only after the son suffers a heart attack. Loach – possibly one of the last real left-wing directors – sets his drama, «Sweet Sixteen,» in Greenock, outside Glasgow, in an area where unemployment, poverty and drugs are rife and the local mob rules. He tells the story of a clever and energetic 16-year-old who does all it takes to ensure a home for his sister and drug-addicted mother. Sensitive, tender and honest, «Sweet Sixteen» is one of Loach’s finest moments. Frears’s «Dirty Pretty Things» takes issue with a very harsh theme in a comic manner as he examines the struggle for survival of London’s immigrants who are often forced to become involved in the market for human organs. Chadha’s «Bend it Like Beckham» is human and touching as it tells the story of a teenage girl in West London who dreams of becoming a soccer star despite her traditional Indian parents’ wishes. And finally, Eltringham’s thriller «This is Not a Love Song» examines the boundaries of human tolerance and violence in a story of two accidental criminals being ruthlessly chased down by a group of farmers.

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