Video nasties and censorship are tackled head on in the sinister Sundance hit. Jacob Stolworthy speaks to its star Niamh Algar and director-co-writer Prano Bailey-Bond about the process from inception to fruition
Sundance Film Festival’s Midnight section has long been the holy grail for any burgeoning horror director. It’s where The Blair Witch Project (1999) kick-started the found-footage phenomenon; where Saw (2004) launched one of the most successful franchises in history; and, more recently, where It Follows (2014) and Hereditary (2018) were first unleashed, reinvigorating modern horror. Censor, which received its world premiere at this year’s virtual Sundance on Saturday (30 January), is a worthy addition to that list. In fact, it is one of the best horror films in years.
Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond, Censor tells the story of Enid (Niamh Algar), a young woman who makes a living tucked away in dingy screening rooms, watching depraved and gory films. In her notepad, she scribbles down the timings of the cuts she thinks need to be made before they’re viewed by the public.
For Enid, this fastidiousness doesn’t stem from a love of film but a sense of duty. During a tense dinner with her parents, she rebukes her father for suggesting otherwise. “It’s not entertainment,” she snaps. ”I do it to protect people.”
Like any psychological film worth its salt, nothing’s as it seems. The arrival of video nasty supremo Frederick North’s new film (creepily titled Don’t Go in the Church) sends Enid spiralling. Before long, she’s on a mission to find a sister who went missing years before. It’s here where the film kicks into gear leading to one of the most memorable climaxes for quite some time.
The idea of the film germinated “ages ago”, says Bailey-Bond, after she read an article on Hammer Horror, the London-based company known for its gothic films featuring the characters of Dracula, Frankenstein and more. Continue reading →
Two Welsh filmmakers have spoken of their joy of being shortlisted at this year’s Iris Prize.
Anna Winstone who directed Rhiw Goch (On the Red Hill) and Ian Smith, who made Go Home Polish, made the final 15 for the Best Short category.
For the first time in the Cardiff LGBT+ film festival’s history a film from the Netherlands was awarded the £30,000 prize.
Short Calf Muscle, by Victoria Warmerdam, was crowned the winner.
The organisers of the festival, which is now in its 14th year, said the money would allow the producer to make a new short film in Wales.
Winstone, 27, from Cardiff, said she was “screaming” when she learned her film had been shortlisted.
“Iris is such a big deal in the film world and for our short, whereby we borrowed a camera and only had a budget of £150, to have been selected was incredible, I thought they had made a mistake,” said Winstone.
Her documentary tells the story of a gay couple, Mike and Peredur, who inherit a house just outside Machynlleth, Powys, from an older gay couple George and Reg. The story is of the house – their sanctuary
The autobiographical films of Terence Davies are not simply nostalgic journeys into the director’s past; they are piercing insights into the filmmaker’s turbulent early life. While Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), The Long Day Closes (1992) and Of Time and the City (2008) are feature-length depictions of the people and places he knew growing up, the three short films that comprise The Terence Davies Trilogy –Children (1976), Madonna and Child (1980) and Death and Transfiguration (1983) –are the earliest looks at the filmmaker’s life, focusing on the solitary figure of Robert Tucker. Just as François Truffaut showcased the adventures of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), his surrogate self, across five films, the character of Tucker (played by a range of actors across the three films) is a stand-in for Davies. Continue reading →
With the rallying cry of its hashtagged title, Tom Gilroy’s #WaynesvilleStrong is a darkly comic and scarily plausible vision of a very near future in which low-wage work, enforced patriotism and the panoptic powers of the internet combine to create a pandemic hellscape that one laid-off meatpacking worker must delicately navigate, one videocall prompt at a time. The short was made quickly, in May and during quarantine, with everyone appropriately socially distanced, and to its great credit that what was political satire just two months ago is now turning into, with the current battles over “reopening,” political reality. The short stars Orange is the New Black‘s Nick Sandow, and the slow burn of his impatient anxiety as he subjects himself to the merciless probing of the government’s AI-fueled videochat adjudication system will create a frisson of recognition for anyone who’s been stuck on hold trying to receive their stimulus check.
Gilroy has been making independent films since the mid-’90s, with features including Spring Forward and The Cold Lands. In the conversation below, fellow director Jim McKay discusses with him the work’s relation to science fiction — particularly 1984 and J.G. Ballard, how the short was produced during quarantine with a iPhone 10, the influence of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and what it means for a work to be political today.
McKay: This film was conceived about a month into stay-at-home and made about a month later and finished a month after that. The world changed radically in those three months but the story stayed very relevant and at times is even more in-the-moment than when it was conceived. Can you talk about its inception and then how current events effected the work, if at all? Gilroy: The impetus in writing it was to respond in real time to the government roll-out of yet another unprecedented and mismanaged disaster. I never thought about what the script could be or where it could go. I’d just reached a point where there was no holding back; it was an almost unconscious act. This impulse was of course pressurized by the inability to leave the house, and some kind of “producer brain” must’ve instinctively kicked in where I realized quarantine dictated the piece would be a monologue.