WALES WELCOMES THE BEST OF THE WORLD..

From the Best of Bollywood, to the rolling mountains of Switzerland, Wales’ travelling film festival returns this March with an inspiring feast of cinematic magic from around the globe. First brought to our attention in 2001 – thanks to the daring imagination of festival director David Gillam – Wales One World film festival has continuously challenged, excited and touched audiences all across Wales. This year, the festival promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with a diverse range of untold stories and dazzling events to rival the popularity of previous years.

Travelling between Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff, Clwyd Theatr Cymru Mold, Taliesin Swansea and Theatr Mwldan Cardigan, WOW 2014 brings 18 of the very best world cinema films to all parts of Wales, with exclusive events across every location.

A Story of Children and Film

A Story of Children and Film

 Kicking off on Friday 21 March until Wednesday 9 April, the festival opens at Chapter Arts Centre with the Welsh premier of A Story of Children and Film; a rich exploration of the position of children in arguably the most popular art form of our time. Drawing on scenes from some of the most recognised classics, the film is directed by the celebrated Mark Cousins, the director of Channel 4’s The Story of Film, and followed by a special Q & A session. 

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Metro Manila

 But this year’s festival doesn’t stop there. Perhaps one of the most outstanding factors of WOW 2014 is the high level of work it is exhibiting, with award-winning and BAFTA nominated world cinema scattered throughout. Winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance film festival and BAFTA nominated Metro Manila promises to shock audiences with its tense and gripping thrill factor, whilst the winner of last year’s Best Documentary Prize at last year’s European film awards Winter Nomads looks to take audiences on a thought-provoking journey of discovery.

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Winter Nomads

 The ingenious work on display truly plays homage to the journey the festival has taken itself on since 2001, becoming a globally recognised and powerful event, attracting world-class talent and pulling in growing audiences year on year.

 The growing phenomenon that is WOW also means the festival can now put on bigger events, such as this years Best of Bollywood Live; a new departure for the festival thanks to a partnership between WOW and their sister project, WOW Women’s Film Club. The event will take place on Saturday 22 March with a pop-up film and live music experience at Samaj Community Centre, Grangetown. Magnificent clips of iconic Bollywood scenes accompanied by the encapsulating beat of the Bollywood Brass Band promise to transport its audience members out of the festival and into a whole new world, with a delicious array of authentic Gujarati food set to seal the evening in true style.

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Bollywood Brass Band

 And that’s not all. Big or small, popular or untold, every story that the Wales One World film festival brings to its audiences illuminates our world in which we live in, from the voices of those often kept quiet. The festival brings the world a little closer to home, and takes its audience on a journey to places they may have never been. It’s innovative, expressive and utterly inspiring; and this year’s programme looks to take the festival to new heights.

 TOP FIVE

 PAPUSZA

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 An inspired evocation of a Gypsy life lost for ever, this film charts the life of Polish Roma Poet Bronislawa, full of music, despair and triumph. With strikingly beautiful black and white imagery and a tale of discovery, this film looks to linger in the audiences’ mind for years to come.

 SOMETHING NECESSARY

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 The tale of Anne, a strong-willed widow trying to piece her life back together after the civil unrest of Kenya. The film follows her life after the 2007 elections, where devastation left her widowed, her son hospitalized and her farm in tatters. Inspiring, consuming and heart-rendering; a must.

 THE SECOND DEATH

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 Something entirely different, this classy supernatural thriller is a cleverly scripted and atmospheric portrait of a twisted ghost story and a paranormal murder mystery.

 WHEN I SAW YOU

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 A powerful Palestinian drama about a rebellious young refugee on the hunt to find his Father. A touching story of people affected by the trying times around them, desperately searching for a way out.

 THE LUNCHBOX

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Quaint and subtle, this film tells the romantic tale of two mismatched personalities that have never even met. Clever, comical and charming, this delightful picture promises to put a smile on your face.

THE BIG 2013 ROUND-UP..

After starting this little blog only five months ago, I’ve been invited to some fantastic shows and events.  I’ve had tickets to the ballet, Shakespeare, site-specific dance, political comedies and daringly realistic plays.  I could not be more grateful that these fantastic, exciting theatres and companies have wanted me to review their brilliant shows; the arts scene in Cardiff is superb, and something I am incredibly passionate about, so to be able to express my opinion on it is a wonderful feeling.

So in good New Year fashion I have decided to post my “top five” events of 2013.  Here’s to many more inspiring shows in 2014!

5) Cedar Lake

NECESSITY, AGAIN, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Baden Baden, Germany.

Contemporary ballet is my favourite form of dance, and Cedar Lake ticked every single box for me.  The New York dance company are known for their edgy, adventurous performances, daring to be different whilst providing exceptional talent through their awe-inspiring dancers.   This trio of performances was exciting, dynamic and captivating.  The time flew by, leaving me wanting more from this exciting company.  And more I certainly got, as a few weeks later I won a signed programme from the team – perfect!

 

4) Takeover Cardiff

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In October I followed the first Takeover Cardiff (put on by British Council Wales).  I interviewed three fantastic international artists and then attended the day long event before writing a review of the whole event.  The event was thought-provoking and touching; a showcase of young talent in South Wales, it took artists to the iconic cultural hubs of Cardiff.  These were kids that would normally not be given the platform to play out their talent.  British Council Wales gave them the chance to throw it into the public’s attention.  The day left me feeling like anything was possible if only you have the passion, confidence and drive to achieve it.  A stunning event which I will always remember.

 

3) The Selfish Giant

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Although not technically a performance, I can’t have a write up of 2013 without mentioning The Selfish Giant.  Clio Barnard’s modern adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale classic affected me in a way that I’m not sure a film ever has before.  It was poignantly beautiful and utterly raw, leaving me quite literally breathless in the closing scenes.  It is a film that didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable truths encapsulating modern society, whilst reflecting the most delicate friendships and love in a superb way.

 

2) Clod Ensemble’s An Anatomy in Four Quarters

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Last month I was invited to a rather unusual show.  The advertising around it gave little away.  I had no idea what to expect… but always keen to see something new, I went into it with an open mind and intrigue.  What I experienced was something I could never have expected.  An Anatomy in Four Quarter’s was spellbinding, exquisitely intelligent and overwhelmingly consuming.  A mesmerizing combination of drama, music, dance and spoken word, the performance brought the audience into the performance and took us on a journey through the anatomy of the body and the theatre.  It really was an exceptional experience, and one of those performances that days later still left you questioning the deep messages behind every movement.

 

1) Dirty Protest’s Parallel Lines

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There is no doubt for me that the highlight of 2013 was Parallel Lines by Dirty Protest theatre company.  The powerful play depicted the gritty and forbidden relationship between a seemingly perfect teacher and an under privileged student, set on the simple set of two parallel kitchens.  Everything about this play was superb; the acting, the script, the direction… it all fell together in a fantastic presentation of class, truth and relationships.  The deeply disturbing subject matter was portrayed with maturity, authenticity and skill; Katherine Chandler truly has a talent for the written word.  I cannot do this play justice; but what I can say is I cannot wait to throw myself into more of Dirty Protest in 2014.

 

I hope you all have a beautiful New Year!  Let me know of any shows that have made your 2013 special… and remember, email me if you would like me to review any of your shows in 2014! Peace!

WALES INTERNATIONAL YOUNG ARTIST AWARD TAKES THE COUNTRY BY STORM..

Last week I was lucky enough to receive an invite to the Wales International Young Artist Awards.  The event was organised and carried out by The British Council Wales, and if last month’s incredibly successful and inspiring Takeover Cardiff was anything to go by, I knew I was in for a treat.

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The awards were held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Cardiff; a fantastic venue in my opinion.  I’d not visited the hotel before, and was immediately impressed by the lavish décor and various bars and rooms.  Kicking off with a champagne reception and delicious canapés, the room quickly started filling with arts enthusiasts, friends and family and of course the talented nominees.

I love the atmosphere at arts events; it’s a wonderful feeling to be in a room with so many like-minded individuals.  I find it inspiring, and the WIYAA was no exception.  Everyone was milling around, chatting and enjoying the delectable treats on offer, whilst the nominees nervously awaited the big announcement.  It was glamorous, exciting and tense!

After about an hour we were led over to another conference room where a two piece band greeted us with a selection of smooth and lyrical songs.  Here the artist’s work was displayed prominently for guests to admire.  There were five nominees; a fine-art sculptor, a film-maker, two photographers and a ceramic designer.  The wide spectrum of work was fantastic to see and highlighted the different levels of art out there.  Every piece was exceptional with a beautiful story behind it.  I couldn’t believe that these young artists had produced such mature and intricate work.  Crowds were gathered by every piece, drinking it in and letting it take over.  You couldn’t help but notice the artist’s proud faces; what a fulfilling feeling it would be to see so many people blown away by your work!

Everyone was then directed towards the seating area, with nominees sat nervously in the front row alongside the (not so) frightening judges.  After an introduction by the Director of British Council Wales, Simon Dancey, it was time for the judges to take to the floor.

The judges talked through every piece with enthusiasm, knowledge and admiration.  First up was Eluned Glyn, a ceramic designer from Cardiff Metropolitan University.  Eluned created a selection of abstract tea-set pieces, taking her inspiration from the classic ceramic of the 20th and 21st century.  Her work echoed the old chinaware from her Grandmother’s dresser with a new lease of life from the re-creating process.  It was interesting, sophisticated and exuberated an effortless elegance.  It was chic but full of risks and daring.

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Next was Eugene Finnegan, a photographer from Trinity Saint David, Carmarthen.  Eugene’s work depicted the struggles felt by the new generation of adolescents told through a series of black and white images.  His pieces portrayed their attempts to fit in and understand the world they live in, where perceptions of ordinary are challenged on an endless basis by the hyper real portrayals of media.  Such a deep and meaningful topic was told poignantly with the simple but effective images.  You felt as if you were peering through a keyhole at an intimate moment; a perfect snapshot of reality.

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Following Eugene was Georgia Hall, a third year student of Fine Art Sculpture at Howard Gardens.  Her piece, titled ‘Conversations’, was a highly figurative form made from various materials; chicken wire, foam, concrete, cardboard, paper, tape, plaster, nylon rope and chair.  Georgia hoped that the interesting materials would entice the viewer closer to the sculpture, physically drawing them in so that they become a part of a momentary play, creating a visual narrative as if they are in conversation with a possible character.  It focused on presentation and the response of the viewer, whilst exploring the properties of materials with regards to weight scale and balance.  It was a form of art I had never experienced before.  But the mature subject matter and barrier breaking approach enthralled me; it was an exciting and an extremely communicative piece of art.

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Next up was Richard L. Pask from Caerphilly, a highly experienced individual in the film industry.  His piece of short film reflected his own stories, and the stories of the people and places around him.  It was beautifully cut and attention-grabbing, with the flair and technique of a film-maker with years of professional experience.

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Finally we were introduced to the work of Andrew Morris, a photographic artist based in Swansea.   His touching piece “What’s left behind” invited the audience to contemplate one of life’s biggest questions… what is left behind?  The interiors depicted in each of Andrew’s images belonged to a number of empty houses that had been put on the market with the intention to be sold following the death of the owner.  The images were so striking and emotional, including possessions that had belonged to the deceased owners.  The powerful photographs were almost eerie, reflecting the sad remains of a person’s life once they are gone.  Again, so simple but commanding, Andrew’s work left the audience with real food for thought.

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So with a metaphoric drum-roll, the grand envelope was handed to the judges.  The nominees took an audible deep breath, whilst the families clung to the edge of their seats.  Even I had butterflies!  This work was clearly so important to these five individuals, and their nerves must have been sky high.

“And the winner is… Andrew Morris!” And with those six words, I was subjected to the most raucous and excited celebration of a proud Mother I have ever seen!  Andrew’s family were in tears; it was the most amazing thing to watch!  As Andrew proudly took to the front to collect his prize the feeling of pride was palpable.  And rightly so!  Andrew will have his work projected on an international platform through the British Council Wales network of offices in six continents and over 100 countries!  And of course, a cash prize of £500!

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These awards were a fantastic move by the British Council Wales.  It is so important that young artists are given this platform to promote their work, and to be awarded for their talent and dedication.  As always with these events, I left feeling so inspired and proud to be a young person in Wales.  I cannot commend the British Council Wales enough for their devotion to the arts and young individuals; I look forward to all their future events!

Take a look at Andrew’s award-winning work here.

THE SELFISH GIANT: ANYTHING BUT A FAIRYTALE ENDING..

Now and again you watch a film that takes hold of you in a way like no other.  It enters your soul and takes you on a journey to a place you’ve  never been before.  It captures something beautiful, illuminating an inspiring message for the world to hear.

For me, that film was The Selfish Giant.

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Taking its title and inspiration from the Oscar Wilde fable, Clio Barnard’s tale of poverty and the loss of innocence is miles away from fairytale territory.  Led by the exceptionally talented Conner Chapman (the loud-mouthed tearaway Arbor) and Shaun Thomas (his softly spoken, horse loving best friend Swifty), the story takes its audience to a post-industrial Bradford estate where selling scrap metal is the only way to make a living.

The unlikely duo hire a horse and cart from the local scrap-dealer, Kitten, (the Selfish Giant) finding old pots and pans, broken scooters, rusty cars and washing machines to earn money for their debt-ridden Mothers.  Influenced by the greedy and manipulative Kitten, the pair set their sights on bigger prizes, hunting down stolen power cables for more lucrative rewards.  They make the perfect team; Arbor has the gift of the gab, whilst Swifty has a natural connection with the horses.  Their beautiful relationship touches on perfection, with Barnard portraying a deep and moving friendship.  Despite their poor, distressing home-life, both share a bond that money can’t buy.  Watching it unfold on screen is one of the most touching aspects of the film.  In a community where the are forced to be the breadwinners for their families, together they are able to let go and be true to themselves: they are able to be children.

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As hardships worsen still, the bleak landscape of working class England is devastating to watch.  The portrayal of the young boys’ lives are poignant, realistic and harrowing.  It’s a situation all too relevant, making the film all the more thought-provoking.  Kitten uses Arbor and Swifty for his own gain, culminating in a heart-breaking ending that left the whole audience breathless.

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I don’t want to give too much away about this film; what I do want to do is urge everyone to go and see it.  Without being too cliché, if there is one film you are going to see before 2014, make it this one.  This was easily one of the most captivating and inspiring films I have seen for a long time.  It was gritty, hauntingly beautiful and above all real.  Barnard’s portrayal of the much ignored poverty across Britain as well as the heartbreaking theft of childhood was poetic and passionate in its approach.

This is a film that will stay with me for a long time.. and I hope it will stay with you too.

INTRODUCING… LOTTE VAN GAALEN: THE NETHERLANDS’ HIGH-FLYING FILM MAKER..

It has been an absolute pleasure meeting some of the International stars of Takeover Cardiff  this week.  Not only has it been wonderful to speak to such inspirational people, but it has been incredibly interesting and inspiring to see  the different ways in which they work.  I am so excited for the fantastic things that tomorrow has to hold, and humbled that I have had first hand experience of the artist’s incredible work.

Today I met Lotte van Gale: the documentary film maker from The Netherlands.

Lotte has come to Cardiff for the very first time to work alongside Zoom Cymru for Saturday’s event, creating incredible films with 17 – 23 year olds.

Lotte’s work is emotional, appealing and innovative, and she brings to Zoom Cymru a wealth of experience and knowledge. Earlier I met her for a low-down of all things “filmy”, and what exciting things we can expect from Saturday’s showing…

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the work that you do? 

A: In the Netherlands, I work as a documentary film maker. Since graduating last year, I’ve been really lucky with some of the exciting work I have been asked to do. When I first met the guys from Zoom Cymru, I was actually participating in a European Film Forum in Milan. The Forum was basically a chance for young film makers from all over Europe to get together, network and learn from one another. That’s how I got to know them – Zoom Cymru were also there! They told me they were working with Takeover Cardiff, and were looking for an international artist. When they invited me over, I was overjoyed to say yes!

 Q: What led you to become a documentary film maker?

A: I always wanted to do something creative. Initially, I was really interested in journalism. At about the age of 17, I was introduced to this critical film by a Dutch film maker, Sunny Bergman. The film was called Berperkt Houdbaar, and revolved around the notion of female beauty, and the way that women are pressurized by the media to look a certain way. This film hugely inspired me, and let me down the path of documentary film making.

I then got into film school – quite a big feat as places are coveted in the Netherlands! This was a brilliant learning curve for me as it taught me that I didn’t want to make political or critical films. I wanted to make “film films”!

Q: What does your work tend to be about? 

A: There is no particular theme with my work. I’m not really drawn to subjects portraying actuality. I prefer to evoke a level of emotion in my work, and something that is understandable to everyone, regardless of education and background.

For example, I created a graduation film centred around the Dutch Coast. The film wasn’t filled with facts, but rather encapsulated what the coast meant to me in a poetic way. I’m currently working on a film about family relationships, and in particular gay men’s relationships with their Mothers. It’s subject matters like this that I love to convey; things that people can relate to.

 Q: Why did you want to get involved with Takeover Cardiff?

A: Firstly, I had never been to Wales! So that was an exciting step for me. It’s been brilliant to get to know Cardiff, and I’ve already met so many incredible film makers. Secondly, I felt a real connection with Zoom when I met them in Milan. I knew there and then that I wanted to work with these people.

Working with Takeover has also been fantastic as it means I get to do what I love: making films and coaching young people. Although I have taken part in many workshops, I have never taught this age group before – so it’s been a real learning experience! They have a whole new attitude to film which is so exciting to see.

 Q: Do you think events like Takeover Cardiff are important to youths and the arts community? 

A: Definitely. For the arts community, it is great to be able to cease this opportunity to display work. Although there is so much going on in the arts, often it is not visible to the community. Unless something is pushed right in front of your face, you might miss it altogether. So Takeover Cardiff is ultimately making arts available to a mass audience, allowing people to be challenged and inspired by it.

I like to think for young people that making films and taking part in media courses allows them to learn so many more general skills that will help them throughout life. Through the process of film-making, they learn how to express themselves, communicate, negotiate, plan things in advance, compromise and learn from their mistakes: I believe these are all powerful learning tools!

 Q: How have you found working with Zoom Cymru? 

A: I’ve really enjoyed it! They have provided me with a nice balance. I am given room to do my own thing and communicate in my own way, but then they are there to back me up when I need them. As I am new to working with this age group, and the people of Wales, they really help me understand people’s backgrounds and needs. I couldn’t do this alone – I have learnt so much from them, things that I will now implement in my own work away from Cardiff. They have made me feel so at home; a real family atmosphere!

Q: What do you hope to achieve through your work with Takeover Cardiff? 

A: I really hope that participants feel like they have learnt something; this is so much more important to me than the end result! I want them to feel proud of what they have achieved, and confident in their film-making skills. If the participants leave feeling like they have really contributed something, and have had a good time, then that is the best reward for me.

Q: What can we expect from Saturday’s performance? 

A: There will be two films shown on Saturday – they are really quite short films, and will be playing on a loop throughout the day at CFQ (Womanby Street). The general idea was to give participants a chance to express their view of culture in Cardiff. The first focuses on the opportunities young people are given in the arts in Cardiff. The second is a bit of a social advert; it portrays the frustration of kids about the lack of interest in teens about the history of Cardiff – this really surprised me! I mean, this kids were genuinely disappointed in the small number of their peers that were interested in places such as the Castle and Museum. Throughout the day, the participants will also be floating around the city centre, handing out leaflets and bringing in new crowds to see the films. They are all very excited to see people’s reactions – as are we!

For more information on Zoom Cymru, visit their website.

For more information on Takeover Cardiff, and a list of our partners, visit the British Council website. 

Join the conversation on Twitter @bcwales, Like ‘British Council Wales’ on Facebook, Hashtag: #TOC #YoungCurators.

RIDICULE IS NOTHING TO BE SCARED OF..

Yesterday I was fortunate to have the chance to see The Blueblack Hussar at Chapter Arts Centre, with a brilliant talk by the “posh-bruiser” himself (his words, not mine!) Jack Bond afterwards.

I’d won a pair of tickets to Chapter the night before at Ignite Cardiff, and after a quick glance on the website and a lovely chat with the Centre’s helpful box office, I was all set to share my Friday evening with Adam Ant, a fiery director and of course, the stunning cinema.

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The Blueblack Hussar is a documentary style film following Adam through his determined, methodical and let’s face it, intriguing climb back to fame.  His history tells its own tale, and Bond doesn’t feel the need to reiterate it whatsoever.  A brave choice, but in my opinion, a wise one.  We all know the ins and outs of Adam’s decline, his battle with mental illness, his wacky and weird ways.  But what we don’t know – at least, what I didn’t know – was who is the man that he has now become?

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I’d think of Adam Ant, and I’d think of the iconic white stripe, Price Charming, the Napoleon jacket… well, the stripe is gone, but the jacket still remains!  One of the first shots of Adam is of him strutting through the streets of London, pirate hat on, jacket proudly worn with a fag hanging out of his mouth.  His flamboyant style is still there, as is his chaotic personality.  He’s expressive and self-assured – almost to the point of arrogance.  You don’t see a man sectioned under the mental health act three times.  You see  the eighties pop icon, albeit it, one that has become lost along the way.

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As the film progresses, Bond follows Adam through gritty small-time gigs, comical photo shoots, awkward interviews and a sudden departure to Paris.  Adam’s personality switches from brash and angry to soft and reflective.  Never alone, he’s always closely tailed by his new, young and “colourful” band – his faithful followers.  On stage they are as one, but off set Adam very much comes across as a lone ranger.  The whole time I was watching it, I just couldn’t quite figure him out.  I didn’t really know whether I liked him or not – or whether I was even meant to.  His erratic personality threw me – who really was he?

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One thing that was evident was the relationship between Adam and Jack.  Jack is just the king of cool – you’d have to be mad not to be absolutely enthralled by him.  Two confident and assertive personalities, they just seemed to click.  Jack has a “take no shit” approach, and I can just imagine him whipping Adam into shape.  This notion was confirmed in the Q & A with Jack afterwards – he had a tale or two to tell about the many occasions where he had to take his “posh bruiser” approach with the iconic singer – well, he didn’t get the nickname for nothing!

Now and again, there were sudden glimpses of the real man underneath.  When the pair returned from Paris, Adam brought back piles of quirky trinkets.  The way he spoke about them, showing them off to Jack, was really quite lovely.  With a big smile on his face, he just seemed so excited by these tiny goods.  And so proud – proud to show them off, and proud he had found them.

The film builds up flicking between performances and Adam’s everyday goings on – with the climax being a performance at Hyde Park.  And this is the moment.  The moment your heart falls into your stomach, and all the hairs on your arms stand on edge.  The way Bond shoots it is so poignant – so simple, so effective.  The camera follows Adam as he takes the long walk backstage.  The facade is gone – you can feel how much this means to him.  After doing so many small time, grotty, penniless gigs, you feel so proud and happy for him.  As Adam reaches the side of the stage, he crosses his chest, takes a deep breath and walks on stage.  And there, the film cuts.

It was a beautiful moment to cut, and as Bond described afterwards portrayed the bird finally taking flight – it was up to us where that destination was.

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This was a beautiful, fascinating film, made even better by the wonderful talk by Jack afterwards.  Fan of Adam or not, I would recommend it to anyone.  Adam is a captivating individual, not afraid to take a chance and keep his character alive.  After all, ridicule is nothing to be scared of.