Natalie Stendall

Film and fashion writer based in Birmingham, UK. Contributor to Gorilla Film Online and Audiences Everywhere. Film critic for Mansfield & Ashfield Chad newspaper and syndicated across the Midlands. Blogs at WriterLovesMovies.com.

Sheffield Doc Fest 2015: Day 3 & 4

Gorilla contributor Natalie Stendall has been picking her way through the thick jungle of the Sheffield Doc/Fest this week. Read part 1 here. After a packed weekend of film premieres, Monday at Doc Fest was a day of commissioning. The first session focussed on the evolution of specialist documentaries, whilst other commissioning sessions throughout the day explored topics including arts programming, class and culture restrictions and the increasingly blurred line between factual and entertainment.

Sheffield Doc Fest 2015: Days 1 & 2

Gorilla contributor Natalie Stendall has been picking her way through the thick jungle of the Sheffield Doc/Fest this week. The first full day of Sheffield Doc/Fest included world premieres of Magali Pettier’s portrait of farming in North Yorkshire Addicted To Sheep, Brian Hill’s noir-thriller documentary about a man who confessed to over 30 murders in Sweden The Confessions of Thomas Quick and an EU premiere of Landfill Harmonic following the fortunes of a Paraguayan orchestra with instruments made from rubbish dump materials.

Derby Film Festival: Oberhausen On Tour

Showing its commitment to filmmaking and new filmmakers, the Derby Film Festival found space for not one but TWO short film programmes on its final day. Eat My Shorts was a selection of films curated by the Derby Film Festival organisers, Oberhausen, the second of the two programmes, saw the world renowned German based short film festival turn up with six of their best that had been selected from the 4,000+ entries they received for their 2014 festival.

Short Films About Family - Flatpack 2015

Focussing on parent-child relationships, this insightful selection of short films chosen by Flatpack’s curators encapsulates family life in both ordinary and avant-garde ways. Tackling everything from intergenerational curiosity and the creation of memories, to familial expectations, responsibility and duty, these films pull their audience into recognisable and affecting worlds. Featuring Oscar nominated animation The Bigger Picture (above) and the latest film from BAFTA Scotland’s New Talent Award.

Flatpack Festival: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

The image of a girl vampire, captured in black-and-white, smokey eyes and dark lips, sweeping downhill on a skateboard in the middle of the night, her black Iranian chandor flowing behind her, is not easily forgotten. It’s also easy to read the image as a feminist one: a re-appropriation of the traditional Iranian cloak worn by women. But this is not how director Ana Lily Amirpour sees it, explained Black Sheep editor Virginie Selavy introducing the film at this year’s Flatpack Festival.

Roy Andersson Retrospective

To describe the work of Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson as ‘quirky’ would be an understatement. His distinctive art style of long takes, static shots, greyed-out palette and a kind of visual stillness blended with absurd events, is the mark of a unique filmmaker. Andersson has himself spoken about his preference for “hyper-reality”, filming each set from a single camera position in order to create static vignettes packed with details. It’s an approach naturally informed by his creation of over 400 adverts.

Cross Frequencies - Flatpack 2015

A chattering audience at the end of a screening is usually a good sign. Reactions have been provoked. Cinema has done its job. That’s exactly what happened at last night’s Cross Frequencies selection of shorts. Chatter about these experimental films – the most challenging of all the competition shorts programmes – could be heard in the theatre, the foyer and on the street outside. Sparking debate were the universal themes of Canadian film Controversies, the artistic beauty of animations Between My Fingers and Foreign Bodies (that would be equally at home in a gallery) and the incomprehensible strangeness of Seven Times A Day We Bemoan Our Lot And At Night We Get Up To Avoid Dreaming.

Numbskull (2015)

Always keen to advocate promising local filmmakers, this year’s Flatpack Festival hosted the world premiere of Numbskull, the debut feature from Birmingham based writer-director John Humphreys, best known for his UB40 and Bentley Rhythm Ace music videos. His film is a suspenseful, black and white psychological horror in the vein of M.R. James’ ghost stories and their atmospheric BBC adaptations. It opens on a desolate Ministry of Defense testing ground and a man digging into the earth.

Gorilla Goes To Flatpack Film Festival 2015

Birmingham’s ninth annual Flatpack Festival kicked off to classic screenings of Ozu’s Walk Cheerfully, Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise and the social documentaries of Philip Donnellan along with brand new features Girlhood and Force Majeure, exhibition openings, an Edwardian horror show and an 8-bit technology themed lineup. As festival director Ian Francis describes: “With 120 events across 30 venues, summing up the whole thing in a couple of paragraphs is pretty much impossible… we kick off in

Derby Film Festival – Part 2

Introducing the closing event of Derby’s first ten day Film Festival, co-director Adam Buss described the Festival’s key motivation as ‘inspiring and nurturing local talent’. A creative evening capped off the final three days of the festival, whose predominant Fantastiq theme gave emphasis to the horror, science-fiction and fantasy genres in interactive style. Cult memorabilia sales at Café Horreur, a themed film quiz, and In Conversation sessions with directors Waris Hussein, John Hough and Mic

Derby Film Festival – Part 1

This relatively small film festival has a track record of attracting heavyweight guests. In 2012 Brian Blessed took centre stage. In 2013 it was Monty Python’s Terry Jones. This year, during the Festival’s first weekend alone, special guests included actor and director Philip Davis (Hold Back The Night), the director and cast of independent World War Two film, Allies, and Derbyshire born Oscar nominee John Hurt. This year, the festival evolves from its identity focussed ID Fest roots into a ten-day cinematic event known simply as Derby Film Festival. The upshot of this transition is a much broader take on themes and, this time, it’s technology.

The Strange Little Cat

‘Do you like mind puzzles?’ It’s a smart question asked in this intricate, deliberate and visually surprising debut feature from Ramon Zürcher, for The Strange Little Cat is in essence a seventy-two minute mind puzzle all of its own. Screening as part of this year’s Flatpack Film Festival, The Strange Little Cat was introduced as an artistic version of Outnumbered. There are some similarities. The Strange Little Cat is a snapshot of family life. Zürcher’s film focuses on a single day in the com

Little Feet

“I made Little Feet to find my way back to my pure love of motion pictures,” says independent filmmaker Alexandre Rockwell, director of In The Soup and 13 Moons. In its stripped back style and focus on the freedoms of childhood, Rockwell’s latest gem, Little Feet, certainly captures the pure wonder of film. For a director whose previous collaborators include Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (Four Rooms), Little Feet takes filmmaking back to basics. Co-written with Rockwell’s eight year ol

Flatpack Film Festival

Flatpack is set in the heart of two contrasting areas of England’s second city – the prosperous business district, Colmore Row, and the city’s historical centre Digbeth, predominantly characterised by its decaying industrial buildings and emergence as a thriving centre for the arts. And Flatpack’s location is symbolic of the Festival’s split personality. Archive footage juxtaposed with cutting edge films make this eclectic festival an intriguing event in the UK film calendar and one that reaches