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By midlandsmovies, May 23 2018 03:12PM



Midlands Review - Spondon: Portrait of a Village


Directed by Mark Rivers


I didn’t know what to expect walking into the documentary Spondon: Portrait of a Village. I was anticipating a love letter to Spondon, that much I knew, but what could possibly be said about a village in Derby in 120 minutes of running time.


My experience and knowledge of Spondon is limited to the local ASDA and a visit to The Malt Shovel once for a poker tournament. What I didn’t know was that Spondon is a small village and a tight knit community built up of small businesses and passionate local residents who are keen to keep the village alive.


Screened to a sold out audience on a sunny Saturday afternoon, director Mark Rivers presents a warm portrait of Spondon making certain to include residents from all walks of life, ensuring every voice from every corner is heard.


Local business owners, natives old and young, parents, the unemployed and the retired all have something to say about the current condition Spondon is in, whether it be positive or negative. A fair portion of the film is spent examining the community’s participation and reaction to the referendum to leave the European Union which proves to be interesting viewing.


As I mentioned earlier, I was anticipating Spondon: Portrait of a Village to be a love letter of sorts, with nothing too vast and deep within the narrative. However, River’s takes the smooth with the rough, the blissful outlook on village life is combined with the worrying awareness that the village is constantly at risk of declining as big corporate chains and cultural shifts threaten their way of life.


A local butcher is losing business to the supermarkets, British Celanese has all but shut down due to the sourcing of its materials overseas. River’s shows us what we would be losing if we don’t support local business - a way of life. Professionally shot and edited, it was a pleasure to spend what didn’t feel like two hours at all due to the pacing of the film.


Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought this as the film received a rapture of an applause at the end of the screening, to my surprise from the very people who featured in the documentary.


I hope further screenings of Spondon: Portrait of a Village are planned so as to give more people the opportunity to watch this treasure of a documentary.


Guy Russell


Twitter @budguyer


By midlandsmovies, Apr 17 2018 09:24PM



Shootfighters

Directed by Richard Butterworth

Fifty-Nine Films


Shootfighters is a 30min documentary by Richard Butterworth that showcases the Leicester Shootfighters Mixed Martial Arts School circa 2011.


The school trains young men in the art of MMA, which to the uninitiated (i.e. me) looks like two people in a cage smacking the hell out of each other. Through the course of the documentary, it's made clear that there's much much more to the sport than this image.


As someone who has never practised a martial art and has little interest in sport (I know, I know), I wasn't at all sure how to approach this review before watching the film. I'm a big believer in opening your mind and letting in new experiences, though, so I thought it would be interesting to watch - and it certainly is!


Right away, I learned that there are over 50+ MMA clubs in Leicester alone, and that the sport originally had very few rules before it evolved into the form it enjoys today, as exemplified by the UFC. Then we get into the meat of the documentary.




We're introduced to Aiden Hayes (though I admit I was a little confused as the first person we see is actually his brother Andre), a 20 year old fighter who's determined to be the best mixed martial artist.


The documentary touches briefly on his troubled past as his father describes Aidan's struggles in school and how joining Shootfighters gave him focus and purpose. We're told how angry and aggressive he was before discovering the sport, and how he was able to channel this into his training. There's a real sense of the competition that he and his brother feel, the need to compete and dominate and be the best.


It's not easy. MMA is a remarkably technical sport, a melding of several disciplines and styles, and it takes a huge commitment. As one of the doc's talking heads puts it: “these guys are athletes, they're not thugs, not anyone can do this.” I think it may be easy to forget this when caught up in the showmanship of events like UFC matches. These are serious athletes pushing themselves with series training regimes.


Butterworth has a good eye for dynamic shots, mixing it up so that it never feels static no matter how many talking heads we cut to. I did find myself wishing this was a feature length documentary as I would have loved to follow Aiden's journey more closely, showing a more in-depth look at a typical training day perhaps, or seeing him interacting with his brother and exhibiting the competitive relationship we're told about. On the whole, it feels almost like more time is spent on learning about the nature and the psychology of MMA than about Aiden himself, though in fact about equal weight is given to both.


If you're interested in MMA and the mindset of someone who practices it, this documentary would be a good place to start to give you a sense of how important the sport is to the fighters. It's clear that the athletes are as passionate about this as any Olympic athlete is about their own sport. I think this documentary has chipped away at some level of snobbery I didn't even know I had, which is as good a reason as any to check it out!


Some light googling reveals very little information about Aidan Hayes' career after this was filmed. Hopefully he recovered from his injury; there is a video on YouTube that suggests he was fighting as recently as 2014 if the upload date is anything to go by. Leicester Shootfighters is of course still going strong.


I wish you luck, Aidan, I hope you're out there knocking 'em dead. But not literally, because I'm pretty sure that's illegal!


Sam Kurd


Twitter @Splend


By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2018 04:19PM



Score: A Film Music Documentary (2016) Dir. Matt Schrader


If music be the food of love play on! This fantastic documentary has a who’s who roster of infamous film music composers and the sheer range of the talent on offer is worth a watch even to a passing fan of the medium.


But if you enjoy film then you must certainly be a fan. Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Trent Reznor, Tom Holkenborg, Randy Newman, Alexandre Desplat are just some of the stars interviewed in the amazing story of movie music.


Throughout, every aspect of the process is covered, as well as the historical context, and some of the pure joy is simply listening to the interviewees talking about their influences and contemporaries.


From James Cameron explaining a spotting session (where a director and composer get together to decide where music is going to be) to Hans Zimmer talking about the fear of the first meeting (“I think you better phone John Williams, I have no idea how to do this”) the trials of composing and the enjoyment of the challenges comes across in each talking-head segment.


The documentary shows Rachel Portman working on the film RACE with a screen next to her piano which a fantastic insight into her particular process whilst the film discusses motifs (such as those in Close Encounters & Lord of the Rings) and other music theory in simple but passionate terms.


Historically we see Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire revolutionary music as well as John Barry’s swinging big band scores (James Bond). Giving further context, current Bond composer David Arnold adds no spy film would feel like one without similar style which is the same for Morricone’s iconic sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.


From the toy piano in the intro music to the TV show Rugrats to orchestral pieces, no style is left uncovered and there’s fun to be had as the composers run through their strangest instruments in a montage of the weird and wonderful.


We are told “There’s no such thing as the wrong way to do something” as the diversity of music styles and the iconic films they are from are interrogated. Drums of Mad Max: Fury Road give way to segments about the science behind music. One of the most interesting parts describes the physiological response within the brain, followed by Moby’s “air molecules” analogy.


As Randy Newman fawns over Gerry Goldsmith we get the arrival of John Williams and his incredible splash of Star Wars and Jaws in the 70s. His rediscovery of classic orchestral scores (e.g. Superman, Indiana Jones) saw a revival of the medium leading all the way to his Duel of the Fates choir at Abbey Road.


If there was one flaw it would be that we only briefly get a piece of the history/composer before we move on to the next. Many of the explorations of genres, individual composers, music history and instrumentation go by so quickly, it can be a little frustrating. Each one alone could have entire documentaries of their own dedicated to their part but it’s a small gripe in a mostly fascinating piece.


Taking us from the need for music to cover up noisy projectors at the turn of the 20th century to Trent Reznor’s experimentations in his Oscar-winning The Social Network sound design, SCORE is a comprehensive documentary covering all the major players in over 100 years of movie music. Although brief at times, it barely misses a beat and if you’re not reaching for your LPs, CD shelf or Spotify account after watching this then I’m not sure you have any right to call yourself a film fan.


8/10


Midlands Movies Mike


By midlandsmovies, Mar 16 2018 11:00AM

Quite simply, here is our ongoing and updated list of Film Festivals in the Midlands (2018 edition):


• THE SHORT CINEMA http://www.theshortcinema.co.uk info@theshortcinema.co.uk Phoenix, Leicester - August 20 – 25, 2018


• NOTTINGHAM MICRO FILM FESTIVAL Twitter @FilmNottingham http://www.nimfestival.com/ 8-10 March 2018


• INDIE-LINCS - March 15-18 2018 Based at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, and run in partnership with The School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln http://www.indie-lincs.com


• BRINDLEY PLACE OUTDOOR FEST - http://www.brindleyplace.com/event/brindleyplace-film-festival-2018/ July 16 -22 2018


• LEICESTER DOCFILM FEST https://twitter.com/docfilmfestival Contact John Coster November 2018


• BORDERLINES FEST http://www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk UK's largest rural film festival. Herefordshire/Shropshire - 23rd February - 11th March 2018


• BIRMINGHAM FILM FEST - November 22 – 25 2018 https://filmfreeway.com/festival/Birminghamfilmfestival


• BIFF FEST (Black International Film Fest) https://www.biffestival.co.uk 2018 dates TBC


• SHOCK AND GORE FESTIVAL http://www.shockandgore.co.uk The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, July. Contact david@theelectric.co.uk or https://twitter.com/shockgore July 20 – 26 2018


• DEAFFEST http://www.deaffest.co.uk The UK's International Deaf Film & Arts Festival Wolverhampton. Contact info@light-house.co.uk Friday 17th to Sunday 19th May 2019


• THE UK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL LEICESTER - http://tonguesonfire.com/ 15 March - 31 March 2018


• SHOUT FESTIVAL http://shoutfestival.co.uk Birmingham Dates TBC for 2018


• DERBY FILM FESTIVAL http://www.derbyfilmfestival.co.uk 4th - 13th MAY 2018


• FANTASTIQ FEST http://fantastiq.co.uk Fantasy/Horror Fest at Quad in Derby (part of Derby Film Fest)


• MAYHEM HORROR Film Fest - Halloween. Contact Broadway cinema in Nottingham http://www.broadway.org.uk/mayhem 11 October - 14 October 2018


• FLATPACK FEST - Birmingham, UK. http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk 13 - 22 April 2018


• EAST ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL http://www.eastwindsfilmfest.com May 2018


• BEESTON FILM FESTIVAL - https://twitter.com/BeestonFilm 8th - 11th March 2018


• SHROPSHIRE RAINBOW FILM FESTIVAL http://www.rainbowfilmfestival.org.uk/midlands-zone 5th - 7th October 2018


• GRINDHOUSE PLANET - www.grindhouseplanet.com November 2018 TBC


* BOTTLESMOKE FILM FESTIVAL - https://www.facebook.com/BottleSmokeStoke Stoke on Trent, 8th - 9th September 2018


* POCKET FILM FESTIVAL (Unseen cinema) http://www.unseencinema.co.uk/pocket-film-festival-2018/ Stafford 12-17 March 2018


* BIRMINGHAM HORROR GROUP - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/birmingham-horror-group-mini-movie-marathon-25-march-2018-tickets-41683231668 Mini-Movie Marathon Mini-Movie 25 March 2018


* SHROPSHIRE'S FIRST WORLD WAR FILM FESTIVAL https://twitter.com/wilfredowen100 Oct/Nov TBC 2018


* THE BRAVE BLACK BIRD FILM FEST Wolverhampton https://ajayhackett2113.wixsite.com/bbff Wolverhampton 25th Feb 2019 (submissions until July 2018)


Other useful Film Festival information can be find at these links:

http://www.festivalfocus.org/festival

http://film.britishcouncil.org/festivals-directory/festivals-map

http://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.co.uk

By midlandsmovies, Nov 21 2017 05:52PM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 5


As we steam full ahead towards 2018, here are a few reviews of films we’ve seen during the past year in the fifth catch-up blog of 2017.




The Discovery (2017) Dir. Charlie McDowell

Released through Netflix this drama has a fantastic cast of Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, Robert Redford and Jesse Plemons and we begin with scientist Thomas Harbor (Redford) who has proved the existence of life after death. With the world population plummeting as the public commit suicide to experience this other world the film has a very interesting premise yet sadly little else. As Redford’s weird sect at a mansion attempt to record what these dead folk are seeing in their afterlife, the boring drama spoils its ideas in scenes of unbelievable dullness and a slow moving pace. It’s great to see Netflix as the spearhead of well-budgeted independent films that tackle subjects that no longer seem to get cinema releases but this has to be noted as a well-meaning failure. An investigation into the strange images captured lead to the film’s most interesting themes and a final reveal about what they are viewing is disappointing and unfulfilling with no light at the end of a very dark and depressing drama tunnel. 4/10




Catfight (2017) Dir. Onur Tukel

Directed and written by Turkish-American Onur Tukel, Catfight is a dark comedy drama starring Sandra Oh and Anne Heche as two women who begin a feud that ends up lasting decades. Wealthy socialite Oh embarrasses her old friend Heche who is a struggling artist at a party and thus starts a violent drunken fist fight. The action is brutal, yet contains over-the-top comedy punch sounds straight from Indiana Jones and ends with Oh falling into a coma and waking years later. After finding her son died in military service and broke owing to medical bills, the previously rich Oh deals with a role-reversal as Heche’s artist has become a narcissistic and successful artist. Great support comes from the little-seen Alicia Silverstone as Heche’s put-upon and broody girlfriend and a second vengeful fight ensues before Heche herself falls into a coma and also loses her money in the same circumstances. This is a film with hints of Trading Places but has a surreal story to tackle more serious themes of war (both in relationships and a background narrative about military intervention) and loss – of memories, possessions and family. An interesting if slight film, Catfight has two fantastic female leads and sticks to a strange and unique concept yet also has the guts to follow through with a ‘Being John Malkovich’ heightened reality. A punch-drunk oddity. 5.5/10



Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Dir. Luc Besson

Based on the comic series Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and budgeted at an enormous €197 million, Besson returns to his eye-gouging visual sci-fi aesthetic first seen in the 1997 film The Fifth Element. In the 28th century, the movie follows Major Valerian (a rogue-ish Dane DeHaan) and his partner Sergeant Laureline (a feisty Cara Delevingne) who investigate a mysterious anomaly at the centre of Alpha which is an enormous space station populated by aliens from across the universe.


The film is great at portraying other-worldly environments and mystical beings in colourful CGI and whilst it’s clearly a green-screen mess, it’s such a glorious and inventive mess that most of the artifice is forgiven. An extra-dimensional bazaar called Big Market is an ingenious use of different worlds and Besson actually gives his audience credit for working out how this strange parallel phenomenon works. The film is filled with exciting action scenes which are perfunctory but again, and most importantly, fun. And whilst it’s no Star Wars, it certainly creates an understandable world that feels lived in and inhabited by wildly designed creatures. A commercial failure, the film is far from awful in comparison to similar recent science fiction universes such as the dull Jupiter Ascending. Away from the Pratt and Lawrence of Passengers from earlier this year, some critics didn’t like the strange and cold dynamic between DeHaan and Delevingne but I thought their quirkiness and less-than-Hollywood take on the characters was far more interesting.


Delivering the same fun yet inconsequential science fiction as his previous foray into the future, Besson has no way created anything close to a masterpiece but if you leave your brain at the door, the movie gives audiences thousands of better ideas than other summer hits like the trashy Transformers. 7/10




Casting JonBenet (2017) Dir. Kitty Green

This unique documentary about the death of child pageant superstar JonBenét Ramsey covers the theories and evidence surrounding the mysterious tragedy that caught the attention of an entire nation in 1996. Taking a very distinct approach, rather than the usual vox pops and archive footage, Kitty Green employs a more visceral technique where she runs a casting process for a fictional film. Amateur actors from the Colorado area where the death occurred are interviewed and assessed in their attempts to gain a part as one of the real people involved in the case. As they run through dialogue and dramatic recreations, this in itself is illuminating but the interspersed interviews allow these part-time actors to revel in their own theories surrounding the tragedy. Whilst they are auditioning for the roles of John and Patsy Ramsey, Burke Ramsey, John Mark Karr and various Boulder police officials that are “up for grabs”, they speculate on the motivations and emotions of the case. Being from the community, they give their insights from a local perspective as they impart their raw feelings and uncensored thoughts. Although I’d prefer a little more context to the case – the uninitiated are given a bare minimum of objective context – the film is intentionally provocative and emotional, reflecting the upsetting sentiments that echoed throughout the USA at the time. Upsetting yet extremely fascinating, Casting JonBenet takes a risk away from a traditional documentary format to deliver a fascinating portrait that is successful in all the ways I found I Am Not Your Negro wasn’t. 7/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Nov 20 2017 09:34AM



Sundance Film Festival award winning director comes to Birmingham


A Sundance Film Festival award winning director, who filmed her experience living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, has come to Birmingham to showcase her critically acclaimed documentary Unrest.


Jennifer Brea’s documentary Unrest which won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was shown at the Mac, as part of the third Screening Rights Film Festival.




Unrest follows her experience living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis which is more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome, and she started documenting her life after showing her doctor a video she recorded on her phone of one of her symptoms.


“I had been trying for eighteen months to explain my experience in words, millions of people have been trying for decades to explain their experiences. Words fail because people translate them to what is familiar to them and there is something about the visual image that is different.”


The documentary also follows the online community of chronic fatigue syndrome patients, and the co-director believes that it was important to give an insight into the daily lives of people from around the world, by bringing a virtual reality experience to the festival.


“I thought if we could take people into our homes and bedrooms into these spaces and moments that they never get to witness, then maybe that would have to start to change the conversation."


“I chose to create a VR experience as I think the kind of internal experience that ME patients go through is very hard to convey.”




One of the Screening Rights Film Festival’s organisers Dr Michele Aaron, said that Unrest: “Tells a personal story that has not been told within mainstream culture before, and it tells of the power of activism in this process.”


Rebekah Smith


@rebekahsmithy


By midlandsmovies, Sep 11 2017 05:43PM

2017 Movie Catch-Up Blog Part 4




Unlocked (2017) Dir. Michael Apted

After the awful ‘Rupture’ and the fantastic ‘What Happened To Monday’, Noomi Rapace is one of my favourite actresses but boy does she need a decent film (and some consistency) for her to attach her multiple talents to. Sadly, this action thriller falls way short of quality entertainment as Rapace’s ex-CIA interrogator is tricked into getting involved in a suspected terrorist chemical attack in London. The film is not short of talent with support coming from a sleazy Michael Douglas, a phone-in/hammy performance from John Malkovich (which this film needed much more of) and Toni Collette’s MI5 head who has more in common with Annie Lennox with her blonde buzz cut, than James Bond’s M. “Hey, that large nameless goon looks like Orlando Bloom” I screech before realising it is Orlando Bloom yet whose ‘acting’ and accent is so bad I almost stopped watching. Rapace’s thoughtful dark performance in ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' shows she can bring depth to characters, whilst her turn in ‘What Happened to Monday’ shows she can handle the lead in an action flick. So her involvement in two of the worst films of 2017 is much like this film – a huge HUGE disappointment. Avoid this dull, stilted and ponderous thriller like the biological plague. 4/10



Risk (2017) Dir. Laura Poitras

Laura Poitras new documentary is a solid if slightly amateur looking exposé on Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange. What is interesting is how it reveals the inherent conflicts of Assange’s work (and more fascinatingly his character) as the film flips from a behind the scenes look at the machinations of the organisation to the complexities of his impending extradition. The film contrasts the support for making public potential war crimes and surveillance with a critique of Assange and the shady sexual abuse claims. Sadly the brief-ish 91 minutes drags owing to a mix of constant shaky cam (which is less “intentional choice” than simply the only option and bad camerawork) in addition to the constant presence of Assange whose arrogance is unpalatable to say the least. Director Poitras wisely changes tack when she claims Assange sent her a message calling certain scenes a "threat to his freedom", with Assange missing the irony completely with this censorship request. Although his real-life escape to the Peruvian Embassy has a certain excitement to it, the film is unable to construct itself to create a meaningful narrative that’s more engaging. Difficult questions are approached, multi-sides of the story are presented and the work of Wikileaks analysed from various perspectives which is testament to Poitras’ investigations. Yet all the people involved are so inherently unpleasant that the interesting political and moral ramifications of these revelations are lost amongst the obnoxious posturing from insufferable people. 5/10



Hidden Figures (2017) Dir. Theodore Melfi

“If we keep labelling something 'a black film,' or 'a white film'— basically it's modern day segregation. We're all humans. Any human can tell any human’s story”. Theodore Melfi, Director.


Based on the real life 1960s story of African American female mathematicians working at NASA, Hidden Figures is a powerful drama about an important part in not just the history of the USA but for the work which helped build towards that “giant leap for Mankind”. With Soviet space supremacy on the horizon the internal pressure rises and genius mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) is headhunted to assist the lead space team during a time of demeaning segregation.


From resolving issues about heat shields to solving equations about trajectories, Katherine fights objections, prejudices and her own anonymity in the reports she creates and it’s this conflict which gives the film its engaging power. Henson’s stoic performance channels a humble woman attempting to fulfil her role against a tide of narrow-mindedness. And there is also great support from Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan who is being denied a supervisor role and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson who has to go to court to attend a white-only night school to train as an engineer. Kevin Costner plays the director of the Space Task Group and he brings back his 60s ‘JFK’ Jim Garrison with similarly framed glasses and a focus on the injustices of the world, whilst Jim Parsons is simply his ‘Bing Bang Theory’ Sheldon Cooper with an added ignorance.


The trio of put-upon lead women are outstanding and portray a proud magnificence – and some warm light-heartedness in their car journeys together – as they all attempt to become first-rate workers in a world full of social barriers. It reminded me somewhat of Race (our 2016 review here) which I enjoyed immensely but here the narrative momentum replaces a track race with the space race. The film takes some liberties with facts from the era but a 2 hour run time is going to need to use composite characters, conflated timelines and a more simplistic explanation of NASA management structures but the importance of these ladies – both in their small steps and giant leaps – should not be underestimated. Well photographed and with enough cinematic flourishes, Hidden Figures utilises the multiple talents of its terrific cast to portray the efforts and toil that moved the world towards a more “human”-kind. 8/10



Bloodrunners (2017) Dir. Dan Lantz

A 1930s b-movie prohibition flick with Ice-T as a gangster vampire has to be a lot of fun, right? Er, sadly no as this schlock horror fails to love up to its ridiculous description. Clearly low budget, my low expectations were not even fulfilled as we follow a corrupt middle-aged cop trying to make sense of the visitors and owners of a whore house and speakeasy in his town. The film takes a vampire’s life-time to get going as the film promises blood and guns (it’s a vampire gangster flick after all) but it takes nearly 2/3rds of the film to get any real action. The high concept-low budget set up cries out for silly action yet takes itself far too seriously with nods to spousal abuse, class conflict and a soppy story of love between two youngsters from opposite sides. Some cool swing music cannot hide the TV-show style sets, awful stock characters (the “crazy” priest who isn’t believed) and hackneyed writing. Again, the concept isn’t the worse idea in the world and with (a lot of) tinkering, there is an enjoyable thrill-ride in here somewhere but unfortunately Bloodrunners will make your blood run cold with its amateur delivery. Absolutely toothless. 4/10


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 6 2017 07:15PM



Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm: The Untold Secrets


Pre-release Screening, 4th August 2017, Stourbridge Town Hall


The question of who put Bella in the Wych-Elm has both baffled and captivated the public since 1943, when the body of an unidentified female was found in the innards of a tree in Hagley Woods in the West Midlands.


Director and paranormal investigator Jayne Harris set about trying to solve this long-standing mystery and uncovered some shocking revelations along the way. Stourbridge Town Hall sold out early with four hundred people wanting to be the first to see the film that documents her findings.


A director’s introduction detailed the evolution of the project, from YouTube clip to documentary feature before the audience was introduced to the case. Harris opened the introduction with claims that she isn’t a filmmaker. This is an assertion which needs to be reassessed.


The sheer wealth of material that has been excavated and created is staggering: Soaring aerial expositional shots of Hagley and its surrounding areas situate the audience slap-bang in the middle of the crime scene; ‘misplaced’ post-mortem documents were dug up and acted recreations were used effectively, never once evoking that unintentional ‘Horrible Histories’ feel that hampers some documentaries. Seamlessly put together, exhaustively researched and passionately presented, this wouldn’t look out of place under the Documentaries tab on Netflix.


Talking heads interviews with case experts and witchcraft aficionados translate as authoritative and impartial and are all the more engrossing for it. However, the medium’s insight does ask a lot of the audience, leaving this pragmatist somewhat sceptical and wishing the film was five minutes shorter.


However, depending on your inclination this and the eyewitness accounts of ghostly figures in the area will either send you running for the Wychbury hills…or running for the hills.


Although a few audio issues with the venue detracted from the presentation, it was inspiring to hear so many audience members discussing their thoughts and theories in the lobby after the film. This is clearly a case which captures the imagination and to see it in such an environment (a stone’s throw or two from the crime scene) separates this from your run-of-the-mill multiplex experience.


That the story invites such engagement is unsurprising; it’s delightfully dark and rich for exploration. Who was Bella? A prostitute, a traveller, a German intelligence agent? What about the actual killer? Was it ritualistic witchcraft, a local cover up or even Mi5 influenced? You’ll have to see it to find out for yourself.


Bella will haunt Stourbridge Town Hall again at a further screening on the 31st of October. Links to tickets will soon be available here


The DVD of Who Put Bella in the Wych-Elm is available to order here with bonus features which include copies of the original police files/photographs and an interview with Director & Producer Jayne Harris.


Robb Sheppard

https://twitter.com/RedBezzle

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