Ken Loach and his latest film “I David Blake”

I have mentioned our little cinema, in our adopted french village, a number of times. We are so lucky to have it and never tire of saying so. The village itself, nestled at the foot of the Luberon mountains is steeped in ancient history. It is the site of troglodyte homes and vestiges of Roman buildings. Our own home is relatively recent as it is the third belt of building around the village. It was built sometime in the 17th century.

Our cinema is run, mostly on a voluntary basis, by a group of young people. Their taste in film is really eclectic. hence we get to see films we might never choose to go to see or indeed could not be seen in the big screen cinemas.

Last night was no exception. First we were treated to “La Methode Ken Loach” which is a web documentary, in VO with french subtitles. It can be seen here

It gives some insight into how Ken Loach and his team work on an idea and then translate it into a project. He has worked with most of his team for a very long time. His methodology is to try to re-create scenes he, or one of his team,  has witnessed or experienced. He feels that although the result looks and ‘feels’ like a documentary he is freer to present his turn on the events in his own way.

As a photographer, I was really interested in the fact that he uses, wherever possible, natural light and ‘real’ locations. This is a breath of fresh air in the whizz bang world of modern cinematography.

Finding the right actors takes up an enormous amount of time at the preparation stages. For this latest film “I Daniel Blake”, which won the Palme D’Or in Cannes, he chose two ‘unknown actors. For the leading male part he chose a comedian Dave Johns, a true “Geordie’. The female lead was an aspiring actress, Haley Squires. Each was outstanding in the part they had to play.

Part of Loach’s methodology is to let the story unfold without giving the actors all the information. Sometimes he gives one of the actors the information but not the other. This is what happened towards the end of this film. This brings out spontaneous reactions in the actors which would be almost impossible to ‘stage’.

This is a wonderful film and a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in where we are in our present day society.

A trailer can be seen here.

Read also The Guardian article:

Corbyn urges May to see I, Daniel Blake to gain insight to life on welfare

From Charlie to Timbuktu via Les Héritiers

France is still feeling the pain of the recent massacres but people are asking “Why?” and maybe they will find some answers in two films we were privileged to see in the past week.

The first was Les Héritiers  seen the Sunday night of the Unity March.


Click on the image to see the trailer in French.

Synopsis: D’après une histoire vraie.
Lycée Léon Blum de Créteil, une prof décide de faire passer un concours national d’Histoire à sa classe de seconde la plus faible. Cette rencontre va les transformer.

Based on a true story. A teacher, at the Lycée Léon Blum de Créteil, decided to get her, very weak, second year students to enter a national history competition. The experience completely changed them.

What was most pertinent about this film was the opening scene. A young veiled Muslim woman returns to the school to collect her exam results. The assistant head teacher reminds her very forcibly and extremely rudely that the wearing of scarves is forbidden for students. The ex-student reminds the teacher that she is no longer a student. This sets the scene . The student mix is multi-ethnical., multi racial and with low expectations. The young history teacher, without raising her voice, gets the students working together enthusiastically on the national history project. Despite being a true story the film ends, as films should, happily.

Timbuktu is also loosely based on a situation which happened in Mali in 2010 but there the similarities end.


Trailer in English


A group of young Jihadists move in and impose Sharia law on the music loving, laid back citizens of Timbuktu. At first they are incredulous and a young fish seller tries to protest when forced to wear gloves.

Kidane is a young farmer living, in his tent, in the desert with his wife and daughter. He accidentially kills his fisherman neighbour after the latter kills Kidanes cow.  The Jihadists mete out the full rigors of Sharia law both on Kidane and the young musicians of the area. The brutal scenes are all the more horrifying in the middle of the beautiful soft desert surroundings.

The film shows what indoctrination does to young men and how it removes all capacity for compassion. It also shows the local Imam trying to reason calmly with the Jihadists when one of them forcibly marries a beautiful local girl. But they coldly ignore him.

This is a beautifully crafted film which shows both sides of the islamic divide. Unfortunately a Mayor in Paris thought fit to ban the film without first having viewed it… A report  below.

French Mayor Bans Anti-Jihadist Muslim Film


Africa and it’s people

Two films seen over the past few weeks. The first,“12 Years a Slave”, directed by Steve McQueen, a hot favourite to win Oscars, is the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man, living in Upstate New York. Solomon falls foul of some kidnappers, in 1841, and is sold into slavery on the southern plantations of the United States.

I suspect this is a very Holywoodised version of Solomon’s true story. Every last drop of emotion is squeezed from the audience during its 134 minutes.

The film is about 15 minutes too long and Solomon’s eventual release is a little far fetched. A chance journeyman preacher, played by Brad Pitt, stops by the plantation and helps out for a short while. Solomon tells him his story and asks him to contact his family. Meanwhile the plantation boss , played by Michael Fassbender, continues to abuse his slaves both male and female.

When Solomon’s friend, from upstate New York, rides in and claims that Solomon is a free man, the Boss takes it with very little dispute. This is the man who has half killed his slaves. Solomon is returned to the bosom of his family and lives happily ever after.


Material for an Oscar – who knows?

The other film “Afrika’Aoili” is a little gem, directed by Christian Phlibert. Jean-Marc has just retired having sold his bistro. He agrees, hesitatingly,  to go on holidays, to Senegal with his friend Momo. On arrival in Senegal they meet Modou, a taxi driver, who takes on the task of introducing the pair to Africa.

(Click picture to watch the trailer)Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 14.01.12This is the REAL Africa as we knew it. The taxi itself was a typical beat up, stitched together, multicoloured vehicle which they had to push away from the kerbside at the airport. Out on the laterite covered roads they bumped their way to their accomodation having changed a punctured wheel. The “hotel is still under construction!

Jean-Marc is not used to the simple life in Africa and is quite cross, at the beginning, each time something goes wrong. Their first meal is classic African, a big tin bowl into which everyone dips their hands to eat. Jean-Marc finds it disgusting. Modou is really disappointed. He only knows life in Africa and can’t see what the problem is.

He continues to take them to meet his family and friends who are all really welcoming. Then they visit a National Park where they behave like naughty schoolboys. Modou covers the lads in black mud and he covers himself in yellow sand. A really warm friendship evolves between the three guys.

I am not sure how long the film was but it flew by and it made me laugh.

Go see it if you get a chance…

Food Glorious Food

France is synonymous with food. It is a lay country but it’s religion is surely food, talking about it, growing it, sourcing it, buying it and finally eating it. It is what I especially love about France.

When friends come to dinner they are interested in what I am cooking, we all end up in our tiny kitchen discussing how our mothers and grandmothers used to cook this or that. The wine we drink with our meal is of equal importance. It need not be an expensive wine. In fact so much the better if you have discovered some local gem. Its merits are discussed, not in the silly fashion of wine critiques, comparing it to raspberries or hot chocolate or whatever, but more where it was grown, how robust it is and how it will endure.

Friends coming to dinner try to bring you a small gift they have made themselves or something they know you will never have tasted. Walking with friends last week I was given “lactaire delicieux” mushrooms collected in the forest where we were walking, together with instructions on how to cook them. This week I received a “socca” which is a speciality of the Nice region. It is normally cooked on the street and eaten warm with a glass of chilled rosé but since we are not here in Summer my friend wanted me to have this unique experience. Like all good food its ingredients are very simple chick pea flour and olive oil. My friend added herbs which made it especially delicious.

Socca a Nicoise speciality
Socca a speciality of the south of France


On the theme of food a wonderful French film called “Les Saveurs du Palais” has just come to the screens. It is called “Haute Cuisine” in the English version. It is loosely based on the life of Danielle Mazet-Delpeuch who was the chef to President Mitterrand. The role of Danielle is played by Catherine Frot. Her love and passion for food sparkles from the screen. We hadn’t eaten before we went and were famished by the time we got home.

For the english speakers among you I am afraid the trailer is in French. I tried to source an english version but alas…. There are a couple of trailers on the video so you might have to wait to see “Les Saveurs du Palais”, you’ll see what I mean about the food!