Undistributed gems

The Eye For Film team pick some of their favourite films from the the festival circuit that have yet to find a UK distributor.

by Amber Wilkinson, Anton Bitel, Rebecca Naughten, Michael Pattison, Andrew Robertson

As the year draws to a close, cinematic lists abound, with the likes of Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel and Under The Skin playing leapfrog depending on the top 10 you look at. But what about the films you didn't see? There has never been more choice in UK cinemas, with more films being released each month than there are days to see them in - 40 in December and even more than that in November - but it's still incredibly tough for even great films to make it to market. Eye For Film's writers have picked some of their favourites from the festival circuit that deserve distribution but, at the moment, will not be coming to a cinema near you in 2015....

Andrew Robertson writes...

Fish And Cat
Fish And Cat
Fish And Cat (Mahi Va Gorbeh) (2013)

It's easy to joke about Iranian cinema's fondness for kite-flying, but it works here to explain the film - there are lines that are played out, it tumbles and loops high above, but there is suspense here, moments that seem slack but snap to tension. It's a brilliant exercise in technical film-making, scripting, blocking, rehearsal, because its central conceit - a film which is a single take, no break, no interruption - does not allow for editing. When Hitchcock did 'Rope' he shot the scenes to a length defined by the size of his Technicolor camera's magazine, but he had to contend with reel changes in the cinema. Digital changes that, makes something that sparkles. Though it's not so much a lit fuse as a dropped glass - beautiful when tumbling but inevitably shattering.

If you like suspense, and that's anywhere from Haut Tension to the unfolding of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy... then give Fish And Cat a try.

Michael Pattison writes...

Across The Sea (Deniz Seviyesi) (2014)

Across The Sea
Across The Sea
So many! But I feel like I ought to draw some attention, at least, to Across The Sea, a Turkish-American co-production by co-directors Esra Saydam and Nisan Da? that I caught at Warsaw Film Festival in October. It's an ostensibly slight film, employing a melodramatic template and working within that to tell the story of a pregnant Turkish woman, who travels with her American husband to spend some time in her childhood home - where her impossibly perfect old flame still resides... Its coastal village setting, its simple but well-acted story and some fine cinematography sweep this culture-collision love-triangle along. A quick search tells me that by the time I saw it, the film had already played at Raindance, in London, at the end of September. But, festival shmestival: it deserves distribution - a home entertainment release if not a theatrical run.

Rebecca Naughten writes...

Coast Of Death
Coast Of Death
Coast Of Death (Costa Da Morte) (2013)

The power of Lois Patiño's film - an exploration of the interrelations between nature and human endeavour, and how history and legend shape a territory's perception of itself, in the director's home region of Galicia (in north-west Spain) - lies in the combination of the visual composition and a deftly layered soundscape. Key to this is the scale on which the director presents the images - humans are rendered ant-like at the edge of the frame, dwarfed by the immensity of the natural world - and how the sense of distance this scale creates is juxtaposed with an intimate level of sound (as if stories are being whispered in your ear). It is an immersive - and at times visually overwhelming - film to watch, and one that should be experienced on as big a screen as possible.

Would appeal to people who like: Deseret (James Benning, 1995).

Refugiado
Refugiado
Refugiado (2014)

Instead of a straightforward 'social issue' film, Refugiado instead frames a domestic violence narrative as an escape plot with all of the taut suspense of a first class thriller when a mother and son - Laura (Julieta Díaz) and Matías (Sebastián Molinaro) - flee their family home in the aftermath of a brutal assault. Director Diego Lerman manages to combine sequences of high tension with naturalistic and involving performances from Díaz and Molinaro, creating genuine heart-in-mouth moments as the viewer becomes caught up in both the pair's fear of the man who dominates them and the precariousness of their search for safety.

Would appeal to people who like: Panic Room; The Secret In Their Eyes

Amber Wilkinson writes...

Magical Girl
Magical Girl
Magical Girl (2014)

Carlos Vermut's second film shows how even winning a top prize at a well-regarded film festival - in this case, the Golden Shell in San Sebastian - doesn't mean an instant cinema release. His distinctive voice and playful approach to genre - also evidenced in his debut Diamond Flash, which became an online cult favourite despite not being released theatrically - make Magical Girl hard to slip into an easy marketing campaign. But this mix of black, poison-laced comedy, thriller and mystery is a winning, if unsettling, combination. All the characters - from the 12-year-old leukaemia suffering girl who wants an expensive anime dress her father (Luis Bermejo) will go to any lengths to buy, to the masochist femme fatale (Barbara Lennie) - are fractured in someway, refracting a barbed critique of modern Spain. Blackmail cash stashed in a library book on the Spanish Constitution because nobody will ever think to borrow it and a joking threat to fling a baby from a window are just two of the many arrows Vermut aims squarely at his country - but this could be a critique of almost anywhere hit by the recent economic crisis. While not a perfect film, Vermut has crafted a beguiling web of amoral intrigue that deserves to be seen and appreciated well beyond Spain.

Would appeal to people who like: Blue Velvet; Dogtooth; those wooden puzzles you take apart but can never get back together again.

Titli took home the international jury prize at Gijon International Film Festival
Titli took home the international jury prize at Gijon International Film Festival
Titli (2014)

Indian cinema has made inroads into UK cinemas in recent years, but mostly in the form of frothy comedy or Bollywood. This realist drama from debut director Kanu Behl is made from much sterner and more artistic stuff, placing the moral quandry of its title character (Shashank Arora) against a backdrop of the Delhi slums. Behl carefully constructs each character so that he avoids stereotypes and, in the case of Titli's wife-through-arranged-marriage Neela (Shivali Raghuvanshi), uses our own expectations against us. Despite being gritty and, on occasion, brutal, Behl's film never feels gratuitous and his focus is always on the way that he sins of the father (and society) are visited on its sons (and daughters). Raghuvanshi, who won the acting prize at Gijon for her role (the film also won the official competition), is a name to look out for, providing she can find more roles that stretch her as much as this. Anyone who enjoys 1970s crime flicks will find echoes here, in subject matter and in the film's super-16 grainy look.

Rory Culkin in Gabriel
Rory Culkin in Gabriel
Gabriel (2014)

Lou Howe's US indie debut may have premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (along with the almost as good Young Bodies Heal Quickly, which also fully deserves a UK release) but it could have easily held its own at one of the bigger north American indie festivals, such as Sundance or SXSW. It tells the story of Gabriel, a young man with mental health issues who is returning to his family after spending time in an institution. Howe gives us a Gabriel-eye view on the world, with Rory Culkin magnetic in the central role. We see - and hear - the world as Gabriel encounters it and get a sense of the frustrations and anger that can rise in those treated as 'different' by their family, the tension enhanced by an excellent score from Patrick Higgins and sound design by Kent Sparling. Despite his increasingly obsessional and erratic behaviour, Howe's careful plotting and Culkin's raw emotion make sure we keep hoping the kid will have his happy ending. Would appeal to anyone who likes their films character-driven and immersive. Read what Howe told me about the film here.

Anton Bitel writes...

Struggled Reagans
Struggled Reagans
Struggled Reagans (2013)

Gregg Golding’s truly out-there, no-budget debut Struggled Reagans - now rather prosaically renamed Cosplay Fetish Battle Drones - overcomes its cheap and nasty production values with a lysergic mix of ambitious ideas and jaw-dropping offensiveness. Suddenly granted Power Rangers-like abilities and lurid spandex costumes, six sexed-up young adults must do battle with a giant tumour born of their collective unconscious, in a CG-inflected conflict that simultaneously reaches the lows of trashy perversion and the highs of Hindu allegory. Definitely not for everyone, but guaranteed to elicit more WTFs than any other release from the last year.

Would appeal to people who like: the tokusatsu genre; Eighties sit-coms; hard drugs.

Snap
Snap
Snap (2013)

If its title evokes both a sound and a psychological crisis, Youssef Delara and Victor Teran’s film combines these themes in the divided personality of Jim (Jake Hoffman), an unstable loner who tries to block out the voices in his head - and the traumas of his past - though the raucous dubstep pieces that he composes on his computer at home. Yet when a tentative relationship with social worker Wendy (Nikki Reed) turns toxic, it seems that nobody can escape the darker side of their personality. Edited, like one of Jim’s musical tracks, with a violent percussiveness, Snap builds to the explosive conclusion that its title promises while always treating mental illness with sympathy and sensitivity. presumably in a bid to make the film a more commercial prospect, Snap has also subsequently been retitled Enter the Dangerous Mind, which is as blandly generic as titles come - and yet, apart from a screening at 2013’s Film4 FrightFest, this has yet to be released in the UK.

Would appeal to people who like: Taxi Driver; Clean, Shaven; Spiral (2007); Afterschool; Fight Club

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