Arabian Knights

“In Portugal — a European country in crisis — a film director proposes to build fictional stories from the miserable reality he is immersed in. However, failing to find meaning in his work, he cowardly runs away and leaves the beautiful Scheherazade to stand in his shoes. She will require enthusiasm and courage so as not to bore the King with sad stories of this country. As nights go past, restlessness leads to desolation and in turn to enchantment! Therefore Scheherazade organises the stories she tells the King in three volumes. She begins like this: “It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in a sad country among all countries…”.

Why we’re excited:

Split into 3 films director Miguel Gomes has transposed the traditional text into modern day Portugal (mostly through anxiety over funds). Using the original story as a starting point he has made three tales that cover modern day issues such as housing, poverty, drugs whilst incorporating MGM musicals, punk rock and Brechtian pantomime. Could be brilliant or foolhardy.

 

The Assassin

“9th century China. 10-year-old general’s daughter Nie Yinniang is abducted by a nun who initiates her into the martial arts, transforming her into an exceptional assassin charged with eliminating cruel and corrupt local governors. One day, having failed in a task, she is sent back by her mistress to the land of her birth, with orders to kill the man to whom she was promised – a cousin who now leads the largest military region in North China. After 13 years of exile, the young woman must confront her parents, her memories and her long-repressed feelings. A slave to the orders of her mistress, Nie Yinniang must choose: sacrifice the man she loves or break forever with the sacred way of the righteous assassins.”

Why we’re excited:

Director Hou Hsiao-Hsien has a track record of making visually beautiful films and his award at Cannes for Best Director this year speaks to the qualities inherent in this historical drama.

 

Assassination

“In 1933, in an era when the fatherland has fallen, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea singles out three people whose identities are unknown to Japan for a special mission. AHN Okyun, a sniper in the Korea Independence Army, Big Gun, a graduate of the Military School, and explosives expert Duk-sam!! Yem Sek-jin, appointed by KIM Koo as the Provincial Government’s police chief, heads out to find these three people.”

Why we’re excited:

An historically based assassination romp (a line which sounds a little dubious). Director Choi Dong-hoon gave us the previously enjoyable The Thieves, tells the tail of the 1930s Japanese occupation of Korea. Despite the seemingly weighty subject matter Dong-hoon is a master of creating an entertaining adventure film.

 

Black Mass

“In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster Jimmy Bulger (Depp) to collaborate with the FBI in order to eliminate their common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Bulger to evade law enforcement while escalating his power to become the most feared crime lord in Boston and one of the most dangerous gangsters in U.S. history.”

Why we’re excited:

We’re a sucker for a crime drama and the fact that Johnny Depp appears to be “acting” rather than “performing” again is a huge plus (yes, we appreciate he’s caked in makeup)

 

Cemetery of Splendour

“Soldiers with a mysterious sleeping sickness are transferred to a temporary clinic in a former school. The memory-filled space becomes a revelatory world for housewife and volunteer Jenjira, as she watches over Itt, a handsome soldier with no family visitors. Jen befriends young medium Keng who uses her psychic powers to help loved ones communicate with the comatose men. Doctors explore ways, including coloured light therapy, to ease the mens’ troubled dreams. Jen discovers Itt’s cryptic notebook of strange writings and blueprint sketches. There may be a connection between the soldiers’ enigmatic syndrome and the mythic ancient site that lies beneath the clinic. Magic, healing, romance and dreams are all part of Jen’s tender path to a deeper awareness of herself and the world around her”

Why we’re excited:

Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives was a wonderful mix of fantastical realism with a Ken Loach/Wong Kar-Wai style of visuals. Cemetery of Splendour promises to be another delightful mix of real world issues heightened by a mix of the spiritual world.

 

Dheepan

“To escape the civil war in Sri Lanka, a former soldier, a young woman and a little girl pose as a family. They end up settling in a housing project outside Paris. They barely know one another, but try to build a life together.”

Why we’re excited:

A short and sweet synopsis but Dheepan has been winning accolades the world over, including at Cannes. Not that we’re drawn too much by plaudits but no smoke without fire? Plus the film’s trailer promises a heartbreaking quagmire of a drama.

 

Frame By Frame

“When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, taking a photo was a crime. After the regime fell from power in 2001, a fledgling free press emerged and a photography revolution was born. Now, as foreign troops and media withdraw, Afghanistan is left to stand on its own, and so are its journalists. Set in a modern Afghanistan bursting with color and character, FRAME BY FRAME follows four Afghan photojournalists as they navigate an emerging and dangerous media landscape – reframing Afghanistan for the world, and for themselves. Through cinema vérité, intimate interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage shot in secret during the Taliban regime, the film connects audiences with four humans in the pursuit of the truth.”

Why we’re excited:

It perhaps seems inconceivable to us to live in a world were a mere photograph can mean imprisonment and free press is something to be cherished rather than taken for granted. Alexandria Bombach’s film promises to showcase a country in it’s media infancy come to grips with it’s new found responsibility and right.

 

Gayby Baby

“At a time when the world is questioning the politics of same-sex families, GAYBY BABY takes us into the homes and personal dramas of four kids approaching puberty under the guidance of gay parents. In his all-female household, GUS strives to work out what it means to be a “man”; EBONY struggles to find her voice as a singer and a place where her gay family will be accepted; MATT questions how the God his lesbian mums worship can also damn them to hell; and GRAHAM’s desire to read and win the approval of his dads is complicated by a move to Fiji, where homosexuality is frowned upon. Told from the point of view of the kids, GAYBY BABY is a living, moving portrait of same-sex families that offers a refreshingly honest picture of what really counts in modern life.”

Why we’re excited:

A documentary on one of the most hotly contested social issues of the day; whether same sex partners should raise children? Gayby Baby shows live from the perspective of children raised in same sex households without dwelling too much on the politics and showing live through the eyes of the children.

 

 

Live From New York

““Saturday Night Live” has been reflecting and influencing the American story for forty years. LIVE FROM NEW YORK! explores the show’s early years, an experiment that began with a young Lorne Michaels and his cast of unknowns, and follows its evolution into a comedy institution. Archival footage is interwoven with stolen moments and exclusive commentary from “SNL” legends, journalists, hosts, crew, and others influenced by the comedy giant. LIVE FROM NEW YORK! captures what has enabled “SNL” to continually refresh itself over nearly 800 episodes and keep America laughing for forty years.”

Why we’re excited:

Although when watching back on early SNL’s now the humour is, let’s say sparse, it remains a gigantic feat of long running comedy fuelled bravado. Live From New York will hopefully offer insights into the early mechanics of the comedy staple.

 

Love and Peace

“A timid, no-hoper employee, Ryoichi Suzuki used to dream of becoming a punk rocker. However, his dream failed, and now, he is frequently bullied by his colleagues and bosses in the company. One day, he stumbles upon a small turtle at the pet shop. A love at first sight, Ryoichi decides to keep the turtle as his pet and names “Picadon”. Ryoichi talks about his dream and sing songs to his one and only friend, Picadon and starts carrying the turtle around everywhere he goes. But when his colleague finds out that Ryoichi is bringing the turtle to the office, Ryoichi is pushed to the edge and by chance, flushes Picadon down the toilet… Drifting through the sewer, Picadon is washed ashore to the mysterious strange place where the broken toys and battered dolls talk and live in harmony. However, all the toys were dumped and abandoned by the humans and they all share pain and sorrow. Picadon is saved by a mysterious old man and is given a candy that will allow him to talk like other toys. Meanwhile, a broken-hearted Ryoichi is forced to sing in front of the public by the street musicians. Ryoichi sings a song for Picadon, however, the music producer misunderstands it as an anti-war song and Ryoichi quickly break through as a star. As Ryoichi scores consecutive hits and starts fulfilling his dreams, simultaneously, Picadon gradually transforms. The old man notice that he made a mistake. He gave Picadon a candy that will make him grow every time he grants Ryoichi’s wish. At holy night, the monster appears in the city and miracle happens…!”

Why we’re excited:

A Japanese film about punk-rock, talking turtles, the end of the world by a director who previously gave us a Yakuza musical. Why aren’t you excited?

 

Sunset Song

“The film takes place during the early years of the twentieth century, with the conflicts and choices a young woman experiences reflecting the struggle between tradition and change; a struggle that continues to resonate today. Set in a rural community, Sunset Song is driven by the young heroine Chris and her intense passion for life, for the unsettling Ewan and for the unforgiving land. The First World War reaches out from afar, bringing the modern world to bear on the community in the harshest possible way, yet in a final moment of grace, Chris endures, now a woman of remarkable strength who is able to draw from the ancient land in looking to the future. Sunset Song is at once epic in emotional scale and deeply romantic at its core, given power by Terence Davies’ unflinching poetic realism.”

Why we’re excited:

Terrence Davis has proven to be one of the most quiet, unshakable forces in British cinema over the last twenty years. Delivering unsuspectingly devastating dramas like his previous film The Deep Blue Sea, Sunset Song has been his passion project for many years. It’s quality of story and visuals is assured.

 

Under Electric Clouds

“Russia 2017. Progress has been abandoned and everything is starting to fall apart. The world is on the verge of a great war. Evolving around an unfinished building, a diverse group of people struggle to find their place in this collapsing society, making up the mosaic of existence that is life itself… With sophisticated visuals and wit, writer-director Alexey German Jr. boldly pursues his exploration of Russian culture and politics by reaching deep into the soul of the human spirit. A Kyrgyz construction worker arrives in Russia, finding himself almost on a different planet due to language problems and prejudice. His problems worsen when he discovers that the construction site has been shut down… A brother and sister return from abroad to inherit their deceased father’s large estate. They have no plans to remain and complete their adored father’s ambitious architectural project. They are rejected by his close friends and they are pressured about the unfinished building… A real estate lawyer and his haunting dreams about the past begin to push away the present, as if he is living some other life, not his own… A museum guide has been working on the same art dissertation for years. His museum is now in danger of closing due to the progressive new building under construction. He must choose whether to protect his museum or move on… A war refugee who lost his entire family attempts to save a young girl held hostage near the abandoned construction site… The 40-something architect of that unfinished building simply refuses to grow up. When he falls in love with a woman many years younger, he tries to find a common language. Soviet Russia is still a part of him, but for her those were medieval times.”

Why we’re excited:

Alexey German Jr’s father’s Hard to be a God has been the talk of the cinematic world for several years now. Having completed the editing of that film after his father’s death it’s exciting to see German Jr’s own take on a sprawling story of life in Russia also set in the (slight) future. Expect deranged humour, violence and intense visuals.

By Michael Dickinson

Michael is the VultureHound Film Editor.