Manchester International Film Festival 2017

Manchester International Film Festival 2017

The penultimate film of Saturday is Across the River;

Emma has it all as successful lawyer: Barrister husband, kids, a plush pad in Chelsea. Ryan is attempting to build an elephant out of sand on the South-bank. Many years ago he was her first love; it ended badly and they haven’t seen each other since. When their paths cross things are awkward but a tube strike has paralyzed public transport and both of them need to get home on the other side of the river. Along the way they reminisce, argue, laugh and cry.

While the film is an interesting look back at past relationships and how they can affect our ongoing view of the world and future decisions we make, Across the River lacks real entertainment value. This film is a valiant effort at exploring how people change, and our lives move in different directions, but it’s not something I would rush to watch again.

Our last film, Creedmoria, was one of the most anticipated of the day, especially after hearing Alicia Slimmer describe the troubles of filming an 80’s period piece on a very small budget.

Candy injects the “fun” into her dysfunctional life. When your brother is found by a neighbour naked and drunk, you’re stuck with a caveman of a boyfriend, you have a dickhead boss, and the madness of everyday life competes with your mother’s need to appear “normal,” you have to peek between the cracks to find the warm rays of hope. But, maybe normalcy is just a construct for other people. And, maybe breaking out of the institution is more important than fitting in. After years of trying to save those she loves, it’s time for Candy to save herself.

When I watch a film, I want to be told a story. I want to be introduced to characters who I become invested in, I want to understand where they want to go and I want to follow their journey there.

Creedmoria is jam packed full of amazing characters, and the actors do a marvelous job of bringing them to life. I enjoyed much of the film, and if anything, I wanted more than the end gave me.  Although I enjoyed this film, it seemed lacking in some way. Something made me enjoy Alicia and Steff’s tales of making the film, more than the film itself, which is a bit of a shame.

Creedmoria is kitsch, it’s dark, and it’s funny. If you enjoy a good coming of age story, you’ll enjoy Creedmoria.

Creedmoria won the awards for Best Production, Audience Award, & Best Director

We concluded our time at MANIFF 2017 with two films on Sunday. The first, Cardboard Gangsters;

Jay Connolly is a part-time DJ and low level drug dealer in North Dublin, an area victimized by gangs, drugs and social problems. When his welfare is cut off he decides it’s time for him and his gang to enter the big leagues. This attracts the attention of the local King Pin and sets Jay down a violent and bloody path.

I am so very thankful that this film was part of MANIFF 2017. Just when I was starting to get bored of all the indie drama films, along comes this hard hitting, violent, emotional, and funny Irish crime film. With an outstanding performance from John Connors, and a strong core cast behind him, Cardboard Gangsters was a very welcomed change of pace, and I really hope it’s acknowledged when the awards are announced.

Also, randomly, James Nesbitt was in the audience and loved it too!

Cardboard Gangsters won the awards for Best Actor, Best Feature, & Film of the Festival

Our last film of the festival is Katie Says Goodbye, our most anticipated film of the festival;

Katie Says Goodbye represents Independent American Cinema at its most electric as Wayne Roberts Directs this wistful and poignant portrayal of life in the middle of the American nowhere. Recalling the haunting beauty of Terrence Malick Katie Says Goodbye is a poetic and beautiful film.

Well, what a film to end on! Olivia Cooke’s performance as the annoyingly optimistic Katie was flawless. Despite being surrounded by seasoned actors such as Mireille Enos & Mary Steenburgen, she not only held her ground, but completely stole the show. 

You can’t help but root for Katie, her charm is infectious, and despite her hard luck, she damn well refuses to be a victim. I’m always skeptical of closing night films (remember DxM from Grimmfest 2015) but Katie Says Goodbye was a more than worthy closer for MANIFF 2017.

Katie Says Goodbye won the award for Best Actress

Overall we felt as though the selection for MANIFF 2017 wasn’t quite up to par compared with the previous year. The films were heavy on drama, with little variety on genre and film location. When we look back on our highlights from 2016, we have West of Redemption, (mystery, USA) Kidnap Capital (drama, violence, USA) Psychoanalysis, (comedy, mockumentary, Australia) Northern Limit Line (war, drama, South Korea) Der Nanny (comedy, Germany) & Thugocratie (thriller, France).

Compare that to this year, and most of what we was was North American or UK Drama. That’s not to say other genres and countries weren’t represented, just not as well as we would have liked. We enjoyed the weekend, but we hope that next year has a bit more variety in the selection.

That being said, there are a couple of films that we’ll remember for a long time. Despite not being recognised in the awards, we really enjoyed Hunter Gatherer, plus, Cardboard Gangsters and Katie Says Goodbye were by far our stand out highlights.

The full list of winners for MANIFF 2017 are;

Best Edit – My Life as a Film
Best Score – No Roads In
Best Animation – A Little Grey
Best Production – Creedmoria
Best Music Video – Peaceful Life
Best Experimental – Running Through Life
Best Actress – Olivia Cooke (Katie Says Goodbye)
Best Actor – John Connors (Cardboard Gangsters)
Best Student Film – Among the Dead
Best Cinematography – The Journey is the Destination
The Radisson Blu Edwardian Best Documentary – Das Wassup
Audience Pick – Creedmoria
48 Hour Film Challenge – Be Myself
Staff Pick – Happy
Best International Short – A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud
The City Suites Best UK Short – The Last Laugh
Best UK Film – The Last Laugh
Best International Film – When The Sun Shines
Best Director – Alicia Slimmer (Creedmoria)
Best Feature Film – Cardboard Gangsters
Film of the Festival – Cardboard Gangsters

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