NIAMH O’NEILL reviews Wild Nights with Emily as part of SAVAGE’s coverage of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival.  Completely subverting the clichés surrounding its eponymous poet, Madeline Olnek’s witty comedy about the life of Emily Dickinson holds an important feminist undertone. Wild Nights with Emily is an entertaining albeit outlandish film, which highlights the much-needed rebranding of the famous literary figure. Mabel Todd’s (Amy Seimetz) fairytale-esque narration provides a continual reminder of the prevailing view of Emily, as a social hermit ‘who never went out and saw no one that called’. Todd reminds us to challenge any presupposed ideas we may have of the renowned poet. This quirky and unexpected film makes for an increasingly enjoyable watch, as the audience familiarises itself with the eccentric performances from the main cast. Wild Nights with Emily begins with jaunty violin music, which announces yet another period drama – a genre to which…Continue Reading

Wild Nights with Emily

ESME MILLER reviews The Whisper of the Jaguar as part of SAVAGE’s coverage of Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Festival. In the context of Jair Bolsonaro’s recent victory, a man with an unashamedly hostile attitude towards women, homosexuals and indigenous Brazilians, The Whisper of the Jaguar is desperately needed in the current socio-political climate of Brazil. In opposition to the conservative values promoted by president-elect, the film serves both to express LGBTQ+ pride and to highlight the beauty and current endangerment of the Amazonia. Within this framework, directors Simone Jaikiriuma Paetau and Thais Guisasola explore a myriad of dichotomous themes: the indigenous vs the colonial, the expansion of industrial capitalism vs the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, and sexual emancipation vs historically ingrained female oppression. The plot is introduced by the voice of Ana, a punk musician from the inner city. She is retracing the steps of her late trans sibling, Sebastian, an…Continue Reading

The Whisper of the Jaguar

ENERZAYA GUNDALAI reviews Space Shifters at Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery. Beaded curtains, mirrors, translucent columns, and shining stainless steel orbs: these are the forms that inhabit Space Shifters. The Hayward Gallery’s recent group exhibition consists of a haphazard circus of repurposed objects. Unified by refined curatorial work, the artworks challenge preconceived notions of form and identity. Featuring 20 artists, almost all of the pieces in this exhibition relate to two major American art movements in the 1960s known as ‘Optical Art’ (or ‘Op Art’), and the Los Angeles-based era of art production, ‘West-Coast Minimalism.’ Artworks from these movements often explore ways of capturing objectivity. Space is warped to subvert the artist’s presence. This manipulation of form and space produces an ambiguity of shape that ultimately gives the viewer the agency to conceive and interpret the artwork. The exhibition spaces are constructed to transform the physical art object into an immersive…Continue Reading

Mirror, Mirror

BEATRICE KANIKA TECHAWATANASUK reviews Birds of Passage, a postcolonial take on the South American drug trade. Going beyond drug warfare and blood splattering, Birds of Passage is a true story about the Colombian narcotics trade that refuses to follow the established formula of the mafia genre. Unlike Narcos (the hit Netflix show on the same subject), the film does not employ glitzy caricatures, artificially fast-paced rhythm nor contrived dialogue. Instead, Oscar-nominated director Ciro Guerra and co-director Cristina Gallego have crafted a nuanced portrayal of the indigenous Wayúu people as they grapple with the challenges of the drug trade. The resulting product is a distinctly postcolonial story – it is refreshing, intriguing, and will not be easily replicated. Birds of Passage is foremost about family and bloodlines. At the start of the film, the Wayúu people chant: ‘if there is family, there is respect. If there is respect, there is honour.…Continue Reading

Birds of Passage

SAYEH YOUSEFI reviews an event at the British Library delving into Sylvia Plath’s personal letters and the light they shed on her as a writer. Decades after her untimely death, the life and works of Sylvia Plath are regarded as one of the pinnacles of literary curiosity. One of the most acclaimed poets of her generation and a pioneer for women writers, Plath’s personal life is often overshadowed by her grave, her public reputation and her, at times, tragic work. In an effort to gain a greater understanding into the life and thoughts of Plath, editors Karen V. Kukil and Peter K. Steinburg have curated The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume II: 1956–1963. Published by Faber and Faber, this new volume consists of a collection of letters from the later years of Plath’s life, providing readers and scholars insight into her work and personal life. They give a new look…Continue Reading

Triple-Threat Woman

MAILI NEGI iterates the Swiss Passport Office art experience at Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac. Tom Sachs’ 24-hour live art installation, Swiss Passport Office, gave privileged art enthusiasts a watered-down experience of applying for citizenship to a foreign country. Sachs chose to imitate the issuing of Swiss passports because, to him, Swiss citizenship is ‘the ultimate status nationality, representing wealth, neutrality, and freedom.’ By handing out Swiss citizenship for 20€, Sachs symbolically sold the right to travel freely (without a visa) to many counties. When asked about the experiential installation he declared, ‘I am making the world not the way it is, but the way I want it to be. I want everyone to have the most prestigious passport in the world so they can travel and trade freely’. In today’s political climate this is a statement heavy with meaning. His installation alludes to major social and political issues such as the…Continue Reading

Tom Sachs: Worlds Without Borders

HEATHER DEMPSEY reviews Been So Long, Tinge Krishnan’s glistening London musical.  Bold, neon-bathed, and utterly unashamed, Tinge Krishnan’s Been So Long is great big Camden kiss round the chops. A rose-tinted exhibit of London life, the musical follows a budding romance between well-armoured single mother Simone (Michaela Coel) and ex-prisoner Raymond (Arinzé Kene). Set in the heart of the city that has shaped each of their identities, their liaison catches both of them off guard. Fresh and frenetic, the film hums with promise, if not always hitting every note. Beginning early morning on Camden High Street, with its bustling market-set opening number, Been So Long nails its London settings. To the tangible joy of the audience, local landmarks are carefully utilised so as to engender authenticity rather than cliché. From the corner kebab shop to eclectic-as-ever night buses, these staples of city life are bound to warm the cockles of…Continue Reading

Been So Long

ISABELLA JAKOBSEN reviews The Distance You Have Come at Cockpit Theatre. In The Distance You Have Come, the stories of six different people have been put together from a selection of Scott Alan’s songs to create a new musical. Each of these interlocking tales takes a unique lens to the collision of relationships and mental health, grappling with the subjects of depression, rape, surrogacy, homosexuality and bisexuality (a pleasant surprise given common bi-erasure in the general media). Although this is a collection of songs previously written by Alan, under his direction and with the musical direction of Scott Morgan, it also flourishes as its own work, and deserves to be viewed as a dramatic piece, not just a performance of Alan’s back catalogue. The set is strikingly beautiful, consisting of a park, featuring a bench and a swing intertwined with natural elements; on the stage floor there is a giant print…Continue Reading

There In Never Neverland

SOL DIÉGUEZ reviews Dogman, a bleak crime story set in the streets of southern Italy.  Set in Magliana, a dingy suburb of Rome, Matteo Garrone’s Dogman is a skilfully crafted tale of drama and crime. Loosely based on a real story, the film follows Marcello, a good man in desperate need of acceptance and validation. Garrone’s take on such universal themes is soaked in brutal realism. This allows Dogman to fully immerse the viewer in a tense but powerful narrative. Marcello – performed spectacularly by Marcello Fonte – is an amicable but weak figure, who runs a dog-grooming business. His fondness for dogs is exceeded only by his love for his daughter, Sofia (Alida Baldari Calabria), whom he sees only occasionally. He is a well-liked member of his community and lives out his days pampering his pets and playing football with his friends. His nights, however, are spent dealing cocaine. Through…Continue Reading

Dogman

KRISTIE LUI discusses what Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians gets right, but mostly what it gets wrong. Jon M. Chu’s grand cinematic adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians provides American cinema with a portrayal of East Asians that it so direly needed. It is the first movie from a major Hollywood studio in twenty-five years to feature a full Asian cast – the last being the adaptation of Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, a novel focused on the lives of eight Chinese American immigrants. Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh as leading roles. The film topped the U.S. box office with a jaw-dropping $35 million in returns in its first five days in theatres. The figures speak for themselves – in fact, they act as a powerful cry, demanding more Asian stories and representations on the big-screen. ‘Please let this…Continue Reading

Crazy Rich Fairytales

WIKTORIA WROŃSKA reviews Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, a feverish romance on political themes. Paweł Pawlikowski’s latest feature tells the story of two passionate lovers fighting tooth and claw to survive under the communist regime of mid-century Poland. The director of Academy Award-winning Ida delivers a visually striking and musically delightful film that manages to avoid the Hollywood trap of joyful yet predictable eucatastrophe. Because, of course, in such real political tumult, love rarely conquers all. Cold War opens on composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and producer Irena (Agnieszka Kulesza) as they tour across Polish villages to scout singers and dancers for a new music group, ‘Mazurek’. From the crowd of candidates stands out a temperamental, confident town-girl called Zula (Joanna Kulig), who sees joining the group as a gateway to a better life. While Irena is unimpressed with her, Wiktor immediately becomes fascinated and takes her in. Pawlikowski goes on to capture the fickleness of their relationship through a non-linear…Continue Reading

Cold War

NICK FERRIS reviews Yuval Noah Harari’s latest publication 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Nearly a fifth of the way through the 21st century, philosophical and anthropological man of the moment Yuval Noah Harari has come out with a manifesto of thoughts and ideas concerning the world we live in now. Following the largely historically-focused Sapiens and the more broad and existential Homo Deus, 21 Lessons offers 21 chapters on 21 abstract concepts and trigger words. From terrorism and religion to capitalism and artificial intelligence, the distinctions between the concepts become irrelevant as Harari draws everything together to weave a general understanding of the world. Created through an amalgamation of interviews and discussions Harari has had over the years, 21 Lessons’ premise potentially leaves it vulnerable to accusations of it being constructed on a commercial level to appeal to a click-bait-obsessed audience. Indeed, the acknowledgment at the end that it was a…Continue Reading

21 Lessons for the 21st Century