LFF 2016 reviews: Chi-Raq, Lady Macbeth, Queen of Katwe
Ivan Radford | On 14, Oct 2016
From Netflix’s Black Mirror and Amazon’s originals to MUBI’s Cannes acquisitions and Dogwoof’s live-streaming premiere of Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold, the 2016 London Film Festival is embracing VOD like never before. We head to Leicester Square to check out some of the films and TV shows on offer.
Wake Up. That’s the message behind Spike Lee’s latest joint. Amazon’s first original film, Chi-Raq sees the veteran director take on modern America’s gang culture, gun crime, police brutality and the black lives matter movement with a searing, astonishing, alarming passion. As a choice of first project for Amazon Studios, it’s a bold statement of intent. As a movie, it’s a rousing call to disarm that demands to be seen.
Screenings: Sat 15 Oct 17.30 / Sun 16 Oct 12.00
Chi-Raq is released in UK cinemas on Friday 2nd Deceember
If you’ve seen The Falling on Amazon Prime Video, you’ll have come away with two questions. Firstly, why hasn’t everyone seen this? And secondly, what’s that amazing actress doing next? The actress in question? Florence Pugh. The answer? Lady Macbeth, a superb, intense chamber piece that announces her as Britain’s next big thing. Based on the novella by Nikolai Leskov, the drama sees young bride Katherine hitched to the son of a mine owner and shackled to his isolated estate in Britain’s misty moors.
When he’s called away on business, she’s alone and told never to leave the house – and so she rebels, stumbling into an affair with stable-boy Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). Once that boundary has been pushed, though, the flighty bird refuses to go back in her cage, flouting social conventions and matrimonial duty in favour of earthy lust and breathy freedom. The title hints at where things are headed, and Pugh doesn’t disappoint. Florence is phenomenal, delivering a mercurial performance that is utterly magnetic; even as she carries out increasingly immoral deeds, it’s impossible to look away when she’s on screen. Her romantic chemistry with Sebastian and her hateful sparks with her husband are only topped by her fractious bond with watchful maid Anna (Naomi Ackie – another rising star to watch out for). It’s their silent distrust that fuels the gripping, uneasy tension, as theatre director William Oldroyd captures the intimate, quietly jaw-dropping evolution of a timid, tragic woman into a matriarchal force to be reckoned with.
Screenings: Fri 14 Oct 18.30 / Sat 15 Oct 12.15 / Sun 16 Oct 14.30
Queen of Katwe
Football. Rugby. Dodgeball. Snowboarding. In the great pantheon of sports movies, chess is the one activity that barely gets a look-in. There have been more movies about dogs playing football than chess. Queen of Katwe, then, is something of a treat, as we follow the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl from Kampala’s slums who joins a chess club, run by missionary worker Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), and unexpectedly discovers she’s a natural.
An underdog sports movie with David Oyelowo as the coach? That’s enough reason to tune in to watch Mira Nair’s feel-good flick, as the sight of a young girl forging her own future with intelligence and determination is undeniably inspirational. But it’s her relationship with her mother (Lupita Nyong’o), who is busy trying to feed the family by selling maize in the street, that really grabs your heartstrings, as the two deliver understated performances of sincere affection, framed against a vibrant, grubby backdrop by DoP Sean Bobbitt. A chess movie starring David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o with a moving maternal bond at its centre? Checkmate.
Screenings: Sun 9 Oct 18.30 / Mon 10 Oct 11.30 / Wed 12 Oct 18.15