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“I Like My Films”

Mike Leigh

Since completing the five features that make up his anthology series Small Axe last year, Steve McQueen has codirected Uprising, a three-part documentary series on the New Cross house fire, which took the lives of thirteen Black teenagers in London in 1981. Now the International Film Festival Rotterdam has announced that it has commissioned a new installation, Sunshine State, which McQueen will present as part of the IFFR program Art Directions. The festival has also rolled out a first round of titles lined up for its Cinema Regained program of restorations, including Hungarian filmmaker Judit Elek’s The Lady from Constantinople (1969), and new documentaries on cinema such as Clara and Julia Kuperberg’s Ida Lupino: Gentlemen & Miss Lupino.

Here are a few items we hope you haven’t missed:

  • Mike Leigh talks to Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri about how Abigail’s Party (1977) “became a cause célèbre”; the enduring resonance of Meantime (1983); how he and David Thewlis drew on a key inspiration to cocreate the character of Johnny in Naked (1993); Timothy Spall and Kathryn Hunter’s outstanding work in All or Nothing (2002); and carrying the idea for Vera Drake (2004) for forty years before he made it. “I like my films,” says Leigh. They are the films he set out to make. “I won’t embark on a project if there’s the remotest possibility that anybody is going to interfere.”

  • Farran Smith Nehme has launched a newsletter, Self-Styled Siren, which is picking up where the dearly beloved blog left off. In the first missive, she argues that, thanks to “a feedback loop, where superhero films get the big budgets because they make money, and they make money because they are big-budget films worth the expense of a night out,” they have edged out movies for grown-ups. She lays out the evidence, and the numbers don’t lie. Not only are we reminded that the 1970s were an amazing decade in American cinema, but we can also clearly see that the “takeover of top-budget top-ten filmmaking by superheroes, K–12 movies, and whiz-bang actioners that have more in common with Marvel than Samuel Fuller ever did” has indeed happened. And she wonders “if this will be what see-it-big movies are for the rest of my life. Like it or lump it, I can hear some say. Which is a legitimate response. And my legitimate counter-response is, I’ll lump it, thanks.”

  • Before Ligaya Mishan spoke with him for a T Magazine cover story, Hayao Miyazaki hadn’t given an interview to an English-language publication since 2014. The occasion is the current film series and exhibition at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, but Mishan is especially curious about the animation giant’s decision to ditch retirement four years ago and begin work on a new feature based on a 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino. “The title of your next film is How Do You Live? Will you give us the answer?” she asks. Miyazaki tells her that “I am making this movie because I do not have the answer.” Mishan also talks with producer and Studio Ghibli cofounder Toshio Suzuki and finds him “as loquacious as Miyazaki is evasive.” The resulting piece is a perceptive profile of a complex and often contradictory artist.

  • Petite maman has arrived in the UK, so Céline Sciamma recently made the rounds in London. A movie about an eight-year-old girl who realizes that her new friend is her own mother at the age of eight “was a very striking idea, but very simple,” she tells Jonathan Romney in Sight & Sound. “It felt like it didn’t even belong to me, but to some very ancient mythology, maybe in matriarchal society—it felt timeless.” As it happens, Miyazaki is a touchstone, and she brings him up in her conversations with Romney, Lillian Crawford (Little White Lies), Daisy Woodward (AnOther Magazine), and the Guardian’s Xan Brooks—who in turn is curious about the state of the industry back in France. “I see the Golden Lion in Venice and the Palme d’Or in Cannes being handed to French women by international juries and it makes me happy,” says Sciamma. “It’s a good sign, a big change.”

  • Having won top awards at Visions du Réel, Faya dayi is now among the nominees for this year’s Cinema Eye Honors as well as for a Gotham Award and three more prizes from the International Documentary Association. To make her first feature, Jessica Beshir returned to Ethiopia, where she’d lived as a child, and spoke with farmers about the impact of khat—a flowering plant, a stimulant, and a major commodity—on their lives. She tells Screen Slate’s Patrick Dahl that, when it came to editing, she was determined that if there were any “information that’s Google-able, then I have better things to do here. Because it wasn’t about that information . . . I was trying to create a world that could transmit a certain state of being . . . Again, I want to use the word ‘transmit.’ It was about transmitting energies. It was almost like a prayer. When you pray, there is a certain state. I wanted the film to be in that state.”

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