Live tweets from Iceland Noir

15 Nov


Full Twitter coverage of next weekend’s Iceland Noir festival will be provided by @NordicNoirBuzz

Originally posted on icelandnoir:

Last year Iceland Noir was a little frantic; a few too many things to do and not quite enough hands on deck, but we’re better organised this time…

We did our best last time around to keep Facebook, Twitter and various blogs updated with what was going on, but there just wasn’t the time to make it all happen and by mid-morning things had become sporadic instead of the hoped-for all-day live tweets.

This year Miriam Owen of the Nordic Noir discussion group in Scotland has kindly volunteered to look after tweeting for selected panels with the #IcelandNoir hashtag. So if you’d like to follow her progress and get her impressions of the panels and discussions at Iceland Noir, then follow her at @NordicNoirBuzz

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Nordic Film Festival 2014

10 Nov

Nordic Film Festival returns to the UK with another diverse mix of fresh and classic features, docs and shorts, showcasing some of the most celebrated and emerging filmmaking talent of the Nordic region.

This year’s theme is ‘horizons’, traversing the diverse and ever-expanding landscape of Nordic culture through cinema – from explorations to journeys, to cross-cultural experiences and collaborations.

The festival opens in London with 12 days of films,  exciting events and a number of special guests from the world of Nordic film and culture, before the festival goes on tour around the UK.

Nordic Film Festival London: 26 Nov – 7 Dec 2014

On tour: Dec 2014

Hackney Picturehouse, ArtHouse Crouch End Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Proud Archivist

+ Broadway (Nottingham), Filmhouse (Edinburgh), Glasgow Film Theatre, Tyneside Cinema

Full details of the festival are at:




Glasgow Confidential…an evening with James Ellroy

8 Nov


The Mad Dog of crime writing came to Scotland and Stirling’s Nordic Noir group went to see the master in action.

Originally posted on Nordic Noir:

The dark , wet Glasgow evening started with a well rehearsed foul-mouthed tirade, encouraging gesture and mention of an independent Scotland. Ellroy read from Perfidia, his new book, first in the prequel quartet to his already established LA quartet. The prologue and part of chapter two to be precise. His reading was eloquent and powerful as he addressed the full house at the Mitchell Theatre.

wpid-img_20141107_150139.jpgEllroy in Glasgowwpid-dsc_0153.jpg

This was followed by an interview, feet up on the table, obviously enjoying the evening . There was a lot of book character based chat and Ellroy spoke in detail about characters whose heads he had been inside and those he hadn’t. He spoke about the research for his new books. In this case he had hired  a researcher to map out exactly what had happened in December 1941 in LA so that he could place his fictional characters precisely  in that time.  He later…

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Blu-ray Review: Gomorrah – The Complete Season One

6 Nov

Roberto Saviano’s best-selling exposé of the Neapolitan Mafia is brought to the small screen in an adaptation that takes on Breaking Bad and The Wire for the title of TV’s most brutal show and wins by several knockouts.

First published in 2006, Saviano’s account of a criminal syndicate blew the whistle on a whole raft of nefarious practices that the mob wanted to remain secret. Forced to flee after receiving death threats from the Mafia, he now lives in an undisclosed location.

A feature film adaptation was released in 2008. Critically acclaimed, it was nominated for the Palme d’Or and a Golden Globe and won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Streamlining the material to fit the movie’s running time, Saviano knew that he had enough stories left over for TV series.

Presented with the unique opportunity of translating this wealth of unused accounts of life within a criminal organization, the screenwriters took two years to craft final drafts of the scripts that were true to the source material and had the potential to create visually compelling and emotionally potent television. Cameras started rolling once the entire creative team realized they had successfully captured the spirit of Saviano’s book without compromising the integrity of his journalism.

Complex, gritty and intense, Gomorrah’s authenticity sets this series apart from any other gangster drama on television. Sourced from first hand observations of criminal practices and the internal machinations of a Mafia-style organisation, the show offers a unique window into life within the mob. All incidents on screen are based on real life occurrences but some dramatic licence has been applied to compress timelines or combine events.

Resolute in their commitment to accuracy, the director and producers were determined to shoot the series in and around the Naples suburb Scampia. Substituting a district nearer to any of the major Rome film studios may have lowered production costs but it would have been a betrayal of the audience’s trust, shattering any pretence of a commitment to conveying a sense of reality.

More than a dramatic backdrop, the crime ridden district is a core character in the series. A setting from which a life free of Mob influence is impossible. Socially and economically the area is dependent upon the proceeds of illegality. High unemployment, limited access to educational opportunities, availability of drugs, and a crumbling infrastructure has allowed the Camorra to flourish. Demonstrating the regional government’s ineptness in dealing with the tide of lawlessness, local policing did not attempt to establish a presence in the area until 1987 when the first police station was opened.

Gomorrah brings to life the rise and fall of a Camorra syndicate with the passion and magnitude of a Greek tragedy, albeit a particularly bloody one. The series zooms in on the intricacies of day-to-day life within the clan revealing it to be a never-ending succession of power struggles and betrayals. From foot soldier to Mob boss, each level of the hierarchy is captured with fly on the wall levels of realism.

Far removed from The Sopranos and Lilyhammer, compelling pages of undercover journalism have been distilled with great care into the best new series of 2014. Peeling away false glamour, the expansive narrative explodes Hollywood myths about the Mafia and delivers an authoritative account of Italy’s criminal underworld. A world where business deals may settled by a game of Russian Roulette, footsoldiers are dispatched on an errand never quite knowing if they are being sent to their death, and war may erupt with a neighbouring gang without warning.

Gomorrah – The Complete Season One can be ordered from Amazon:

DVD Review: The Code

3 Nov

Hacking into BBC Four, and onto DVD, Australian techno-conspiracy thriller The Code proves Europe doesn’t have a monopoly on Noir.

Slick and compelling, a six hour drama filled with interweaving strands of subterfuge and murky morality. The spectacular unspoilt landscape of Australia’s outback is contrasted with grubby dealings in the corridors of power in a series that has more in common with Hostages and Edge of Darkness than Neighbours or Home and Away.

Series creator, and script writer, Shelley Birse has been working in Australian drama for twenty years. She spent time in Israel during the Arab Spring and was aware of the role played by pro-democracy hacktivists in bypassing online protocols to access suppressed information and disseminate video files and documents.

Recipient of a grant from Scribe, a project partly backed by Screen Australia to foster new talent. The financing gave Birse space to develop The Code without the pressure of immediate deadlines. With additional time to research and write the series she sculpted a suspense filled drama that mined ever present fears of data protection in the Wikileaks era and the dirty tricks governmental agencies will employ to shut down leaks.

Before the first episode had aired the series had won awards and been pre-sold to several territories, including America and Canada. In Australia its première trounced main rival, Big Brother, in the ratings and landed a place inside the week’s top ten most watch programmes.

Alex Wisham (Lucy Lawless of Xena, and Battlestar Galactica) is a teacher in remote New South Wales township, Lindara. One night she notices that her truck has been “borrowed” by Clarence, a young boy she has been looking after.

Forced to meet surreptitiously because of his girlfriend’s dissaproving parents, Clarence has taken the vehicle without permission. An evening joyriding around the surrounding area ends in tragedy for this young couple when a tanker collides with the truck.

Journalist Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) is fed a story by a member of the government’s press team about a cabinet minster’s extramarital relationship. In the bundle of incriminating evidence is a piece of paper with Lindara scrawled on it. Unsure how this connects to the governmental matter he’s reporting, Ned decides to dig deeper and soon finds himself investigating why the scene of a fatal car crash has been tampered with.

The corpse of Clarence’s girlfriend has been removed from the vehicle and the only tangible proof she was in the truck is a mobile phone with a corrupted video file. Curious about the footage’s Ned allows his hacker brother Jesse (Ashley Zuckerman) to attempt a repair of the damaged content.

Poor quality footage recovered from the phone documents the horror of the collision and its aftermath. A shaky frame contains a number plate. Jesse tracks the vehicle to bio-tech company but his attempt to breach their online security portals triggers an investigation by a cyber crime unit.

Operating on the mild end of the autistic spectrum, Jesse is living under parole conditions and is banned from using WiFi, internet connected mobile phones, or consorting with other hackers. Fellow computer whizz Hani (Adele Perovic) offers to assist when the Bio-Tech company tries to infect Jesse’s computer with Malware. Accepting her offer means he runs the risk of being sent to prison.

Stunning cinematography that practically begs the viewer to board a plane, subtle and smart screenwriting completed by first rate acting makes this a show to remember and enjoy all over again on DVD.

The Code is a sophisticated crime series packed with moments of high-wire tension that signals the emergence of a new form of Noir. The Australian film industry has justly been recognised for its consistently high quality productions since the release of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Now is the time to start treating the country’s TV with similar levels of respect. If more shows are produced to this standard, not getting a UK release would be criminal.

The Code can be ordered from Amazon:

London Film Festival – Interview with Director Andy Siege

19 Oct

Fifteen years after The Blair Witch Project became the most profitable film in history, a new low-budget movie has received its UK première at the London Film Festival.

Produced for $14,000, Beti and Amare is a science fiction horror film set during the second Italian-Ethiopian War. Beti (Hiwot Asres) flees from the invading forces and finds sanctuary at her grandfather’s house in the south of the country. As the troops march inwards she has to fight against the threat of starvation and avoid rape by the local militia. Salvation arrives when an egg shaped space craft crash-lands nearby.

The début feature length film for director Andy Siege, whilst in London he took time out from promotional duties to speak to us about the production, his background, and DIY filmmaking.

Grandson of actor Rudolf Siege and great-nephew of director Wolfgang Staudte, Andy Siege was raised in Africa. Born to German aid worker parents, his childhood was spent in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania. After attending film school in Canada he moved to Bath and enrolled on a master’s degree. Finishing off the course he decided to return to the country of his birth and shoot a documentary.

“We ended up getting a little bit of money together from friends and family and shot this documentary. I’d been thinking about this other project for a while. I wrote my Master’s thesis for Bath in Ethopia. I wanted to go back. Whilst shooting the documentary I wrote this screenplay. We did the pre-production in a month. We shot the film in a month then we went to Germany for post production” says Siege.

A unique film, meshing African oral culture with homages to classic western science fiction. Beti and Amare’s ragged edges are never anything but endearing and the bravura performance from Hiwot Asres signals the arrival of a new screen talent deserving of greater exposure.

Tales told to Siege throughout his childhood have been woven into the film: “The stories I heard were Zambian folk stories. There’s even one about someone who comes out of an egg so I used that in the movie blended with sci-fi. I spent a lot of time in the global north and got the sci-fi influences. The egg symbolisms and visuals are a tip of the hat to Aliens where the face huggers come out of this egg. It does represent femininity as well because he’s (Amare – Pascal Dawson) born into this world . The role that Beti takes is a mother role, though she does end up sleeping with him as well. This is her story and everything revolves around her. The egg represents a child being born. The character isn’t just from another planet, he’s completely new to everything. He comes out fully grown but she then has to teach him.”

Taught filmmaking in British Columbia, Canada. His tutors championed no frills, low budget, DIY production. Siege is a passionate advocate for the opportunities new technologies offers and is keen to differentiate DIY from guerilla filmmaking.

“The way I see it guerilla filmmaking was the 90s and things have kind of moved on with the availability of technology. I personally feel the way to describe this kind of film is DIY. I’ve put together a book about DIY filmmaking with a different chapter by a a different filmmaker and a couple of them were in the punk scene and are now doing it with film.”

“Coppolla said on the set of Apocolypse Now that people are shooting stuff on eight millimetre cameras and someday some little girl from Ohio will take her father’s camera and shoot something really beautiful. Then we’ll have a Mozart of film. There are a lot of DIY filmmakers out there and it’s just going to grow and go to amazing places. Someday we will have Coppola’s Mozart. The thing about the technology being so accessible is that you can now produce something pixel wise that you can broadcast. Now there is theoretically no reason why you can’t shoot something that looks good.”

Beti and Amare received its première at the Moscow International Film Festival and was screened in Durban before arriving in London.

“The programmers in Moscow saw it, really liked it and invited it. The movie has kind of carried itself. We sent the film to all kinds of festivals all over the world, even to sci fi festivals, and the big ones took us.”

“What I want to go against is the definition of low budget. There’s all these independent low budget films with Hollywood movie stars that cost eight million dollars to make. Whenever I make a filmmaker or a producer and the say they made a low budget film for only eight million that’s like a slap in the face to me. I made a film for fourteen thousand and I’ve been at A-list festivals. I’m very grateful to the organizers for inviting me.”

Packed with interesting directorial touches, the shoestring budget becomes an asset not a restriction. Choices made because of a lack of funds take the film into imaginative places that more seasoned directors wouldn’t have considered.

An exceptional first film from a promising young director. It will be interesting to see what he is able to do with a more substantial budget.

Beti and Amare will be released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2015.

Film News: White Pig – Sneak Peak

9 Oct

A year ago Irish filmmaker David Noel Bourke contacted EBNT with a bold plan, he was going to shoot the first ever crowdfunded Nordic Noir feature length motion picture. Thanks to the generosity of fans production has now reached the editing stage. Taking a break from piecing the movie together he has posted some tantalising teasers, giving us a sneak peak of the dark and chilling world of White Pig.


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