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Leviathan (2014) Review

Leviathan is a Russian film that follows a small family as they fight to keep their land from the corrupt town mayor with the help of an army friend turned lawyer from Moscow. I tried to keep that synopsis as short as possible as this film is one of those films that I would recommend anyone seeing and there are so many levels to it that outlining the narrative is barely touching the surface of what is a dark masterpiece reflecting Russia.

One of the first things you will probably notice about the film, or even from the first few shots, is how beautifully shot it is. The scenery that is shown in the film is stunning and the camera and the way the shots are framed most definitely do it justice. There are also a lot of hidden symbols and foreshadowing in some of the shots so it is really worth focusing on them. It is also amazing how stark a juxtaposition the land is to the awful things that happen on it and it shows that even the most beautiful places can be poisoned by corruption.

The acting is also really good. I don’t usually watch many foreign language films as I don’t really like having to read the subtitles but it was different with Leviathan as there was no disconnect between the actors and me due to not being able to understand them. They were a perfect fit for the characters they were playing and they conveyed all of their emotions awesomely. My favourite performance has to go to the mayor as he was the most convincing out of everyone and in some scenes he really looked like the corrupt official who was trying to cling onto his job which he played.

Without giving too much away the narrative of this film is the cherry on the cake. It gives a snapshot into what Russia is really like with people losing everything they have to corruption and the needs and wants of those in power. The film is peppered with dark humour and them plunges you into the bleak reality of what life is like for some people. You can probably sense as well that this film confronts some serious issues such as the corruption but also the alcohol use of some of the characters and, one of the most hidden but overriding themes, religion. Again I don’t want to reveal too much but one of the final scenes in the church is really important for the theme of religion and is one of my favourites in the film.

Overall Leviathan is a really good film that I would highly recommend people watch. It is one of my favourite films of the year and is really interesting for the political people out there. I urge anyone to look past it being a Russian film that is subtitled as this really doesn’t take away from the experience of what is a truly great film.

Callum Bate

spinning wheel


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The Spinning Wheel

Featured image

CAT: Before the performance I was slightly apprehensive as to what to expect. I am relatively new to spoken word, and after Skyping to Leo Kay in one of the earlier Collective sessions, I realised that I’d never really experienced anything like his work.

However, when Baba visited the Next Gen ‘How to budget and project manage’ we were all blown away at his quick, witty stance on the subject. I knew the performance was going to be special.

As we, the audience, arrived into the theatre space, he and Yako welcomed us with open arms and a delicious hot vegetable soup in a cup. It felt like visiting an old friend, very approachable and caring.

Sarah: Yeah, I remember picking up one of the spoons and he said “Thanks for helping me out with the spoon!”

CAT: The Spinning Wheel takes you on a journey following his father’s footsteps (Steve Ben Israel) and how this has reflected on his son. Baba uses the archive of his father’s writings, recordings, interviews and performance footage. Starting in 50’s New York, around the world, the prisons of Brazil and coming back home again. However, we realise through the journey, home has changed, as well as America and his father.

Sarah: His father was a spoken word Artist, Activist and Anti-Capitalist. Money was tight and his parents argued a lot. Culture of the time included Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, sex, love, hedonism and music; everyone out for a good time basically. These images were projected onto stacked up empty boxes on stage which made you think of an archive which, to me, was what the performance was.

CAT: The set was dressed very thoughtfully with 3 tall stacks of cardboard boxes, reminding me of tower blocks. It creates an interchangeable space that provides the surface to create beautifully projected scenes. Whether it is a film of Steve, an animation of a dove, or his father’s den, it creates an extra layer to the piece. When the performer physically interacts with the visual projection, it was particularly powerful.

Sarah: He once collaborated with his father beat boxing. He was sad that he never had a career talk with his dad, who just didn’t want to know.

CAT: The scene where he tells of his father’s and his fellow performers’ experience of the terrifying imprisonment in Brazil I found particularly moving. The use of the projection, flashing lights and audio symbolizes the time very well.

Sarah: I actually found that part quite frightening, the flashing lights, his eyes were so wide and his mouth hung open. I could almost feel his terror.

CAT: The story is very moving, especially when he describes the passing of his father in 2012. Steve Ben Israel was an important part of ‘The Living Theatre’, a New York based avant garde theatre company, aiming to revolutionise the way that theatre performed the spoken word. However, over time it shifted into a movement for social and political change. The performance also uses the birth of Hip Hop in the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx, that Baba has grown up within, to shape the piece.

Combining rhythmic, beat boxed, performance poetry, mixed music by Yako 440 and projection, you become transfixed in the story of his father, his hopes to brighten the world, ideas of looking for alternatives for the future, and the hopes and fears of Baba himself.

Sarah: Later on into the performance he spoke of people on buses with their closed minds, lack of eye contact and fear. ‘It was as if they were thinking constantly the words “Shit”, “What”, “Fuck” over and over again’. One day Mexican musicians entered the platform, but no one paid them any attention except his father, who joined in by beat boxing. So the next time his father travelled he paid everyone a dollar for their attention, including a man hiding behind his newspaper. His father simply threw a dollar bill over the top of the newspaper, let it drift down and then just stepped off the platform afterwards.

Baba got married; it was raining. He was pushing his buggy through crowds of people in the streets and they wouldn’t move aside. One man even had a go at him. A group of tourists, however, did move aside.

CAT: Baba is very natural and frank in sharing his upbringing and the problems he faced. His presentation of his father’s stand up is hilarious. However, it is often surpassed by the more serious message of how capitalism is destroying the planet, and how revolution starts from within us. The audience and performers united near the end with the ‘Unfucking’ section.

Sarah: Yes, the ‘Unfuck it’ section, was where the audience contributed things which they wanted to ‘Unfuck’ and the performers improvised it in their song.

CAT: We basically put the world to rights. As we shouted out our particular bug bears, like UKIP and tuition fees amongst many others, Baba and his friend then improvised a rap around the issues mentioned. During this sequence I found it clear to see Baba’s gift, which is astonishing.

Sarah: His father was up for an award after he died which they wanted his son to accept. His mum, who always looked younger than she was, went with him for the award. He was worried about being late to the awards ceremony, but he realised there was no need when he arrived, as all was chaos.

His father always finished his performances in the same way, and The Spinning Wheel of Life finished their performance as he would have.  You will have to go to a performance if you want to see how it finished – and everyone really should go to see it. The audience were then given the chance to leave with a pound coin in honour of his father.

CAT: I left the show feeling exhilarated and ready to take on the world. ‘The Spinning Wheel’ is a beautiful piece and has left me really excited to see what the Collective can achieve through working with Leo and Anna.


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Cannon Hill Collective Week Five: #SoulSelfie

Holstee Manfiesto

The topic of this week’s session was reflection. Not selfie in the mirror sort of reflection, but reflective practices. Where have you come from? How have you got here? What’s changed and why has it changed? How does who you are affect your creative methods? To answer these questions we created a sort of mind map of ourselves, a soul selfie if you will.

To make a #soulselfie you begin by drawing a picture of yourself and then make a note of your skills, attitudes and attributes. My main skill is the slightly vague, ‘words’ and I’m also surprisingly good at navigating public transport for someone with no sense of direction. But the next question was did I have these skills 10 years ago? And if not where did they come from? I found that my list of attributes, being helpful, open to new people, and generally quite positive (or naively optimistic) about everything has been with me for a long time, it’s mainly my skills and attitudes such as determination that have been developed or discovered over the years.

Next up we had to define our creative practices. This is always a problem for me because I am a ‘slasher’, or multi-stringed practitioner, I am a spoken word artist/a theatre maker/a workshop facilitator/playwright, most of which fall under the umbrella of ‘storyteller’. Next we had to think about the moments of how we got there? Personally, there wasn’t a eureka moment, but I can trace loving theatre as a child and going to see The Singing Kettle, through to using drama at school as a stress relief escapism lesson. Then moving to spoken word, because I had an urge to be creative and no money to put on a play, so I signed up for a poetry slam and from there things began to snowball.

All this leads to the question of values. What do we hold as guiding compasses in our work that helps us to make decisions? But before we discussed that it was time for a break, the traditional assortment of Aldi delights mixed with the added festive stollen bites. Moving back to work, we took a partner through our #soulselfie whilst they jotted down key words that they felt summed up our values as a practitioner.

Louise told me about how she loved to research her illustrations and other illustrators, how she wished people were true to themselves rather than trying to look like everyone else and how she loved working with the ordinariness of the every day. From this, I took the buzzwords development, empathy, and empowerment. After telling Louise my tale, she surmised integrity, determination and collaboration, which I think sum up my approaches quite well.

Lastly, we spoke about manifestos (like Holstee’s one above) and we discussed whether or not they helped in making day to day decisions or if they focused mainly on creative work. I decided to have a go at making my own manifesto which you can see below as well; mine was written on the bus, can you tell?

Manifesto


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Film Review: Northern Soul


15 (102 min)
Director: Elaine Constantine
Cast: Elliot James Langridge, Josh Whitehouse, Antonia Thomas, Jack Gordon, Steve Coogan
English | 2014

Northern Soul is a cracking British film. It achieves its aim superbly of invoking the spirit of the generation. The dissolution and anger of the Northern youth was depicted effectively as they found an escape route in American Soul music on northern dance floors under the influence of narcotics. This was the backdrop for a charming and funny, if a little predictable coming of age film. The performances are great, it’s a gripping ride and there’s even space for Steve Coogan. Nice one.


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Cannon Hill Collective Week Four: Mindfulness

Plant your feet. No really, plant them – feet placed in line with your hips and anchor yourself there. Empty your lungs before we begin, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.

1, 2, 3, 4… and then hold it right there, for another 4 seconds.

1, 2, 3, 4… and then exhale for 8 seconds.

Might not sound like much but this incredibly chilled out and grounding meditation session might be the reason that mine and Louisa’s minds are so fuzzy over the individual details from the beginning of our Cannon Hill Art Collective Meeting. We are now getting into the Collective swing of things, this time focusing on mindfulness. Mindfulness can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment; using meditation as an agent to find inner clarity, insight and understanding.

Lou:

Upon entering the Foyle Studio at our home away from home mac Birmingham, we were presented with a table of random small objects e.g a tiny shovel, a napkin ring, a feather. All of which were adorable interesting things. Preya, our meditation leader introduced herself and her “random item” then invited us to follow suit.

Individually we picked an item off the table, anything that called out to us, we were then asked to introduce ourselves, our items and why we chose that said item. I picked a cylinder of glitter; representative of my excitability and potential, over the top was a big thick cap, reflective of how I felt trapped within myself.

Jess:

I’m going to be honest here guys, I went for the pebble. I nearly faltered and chose a sea shell instead but I just couldn’t choose between them and to be truthful, nothing seemed like a nicer solution than just holding onto a cool, smooth pebble whilst learning how to chill out.

 The shapes and what they represented were really just physical permissions for us to share how we’d been feeling. Since joining the Collective we have been asked to share again and again our creative processes and inspirations. Coming together to talk about our final resolved ideas has been exciting but has also made us closer. After voicing our needs to not find a meditation process that allows us to continue doing this, but instead relax and ground ourselves was a decision that we all supported for each other.

Lou:

Yes! Well aren’t you just a jar of greatness?

Jess:

You make me blush!

Lou:

Thus, on that mutual basis we were introduced to the next exercise; Conscious embodiment. A technique used to access to our bodies, as our bodies and even energies have an effect on the way we view our surrounding world and in turn how that world views us.

Jess:

Which brings us back to planting… I always think of meditation as a lone process, so this experience of being guided through gentle breathing and mental exercises wasn’t the only reality that was evidently different from my expectations. It was sharing our meditation process with another person. We practiced breathing and grounding exercises whilst being gently pushed by another member of the Collective. This quiet element of communication, checking if it was okay to lean against someone else’s’ arm, when to begin pushing and when to stop were all subtle roles of communication that we felt easily able to establish with each other.

It’ll be interesting to see how these practiced roles of support and testing will reappear as we embark on our collaborative project.

Again, the specifics and breathing techniques may appear here as kind of vague. But whilst I do find myself still repeating my 1, 2, 3, 4 breathing exercises and urging others to give meditation a go – please do not find my vagueness any kind of indication that you shouldn’t try it out. If anything, I think you should all go and find out for yourselves the benefits of meditation. No really, you should. Or pick up a pebble, that was a rather relaxing option as well.

Lou:

Through the lengthening of our spines and the roots we planted through our limbs and into the ground, individually we unveiled a great sense of more-ness. More strength, more control, more focus and more peace. It was beautifully settling. The session left me with the means to love, evolve, create.

Jess:

They will just have to trust us on this. We were left with all of the good vibes.


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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Little Angel Theatre

I felt like a little kid again, all excited to see one of my childhood favourites ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. The show is the current puppet adaptation of author Michael Rosin and illustrator Helen Oxenby’s 1989 classic. It is just as popular today as the kids where quoting the lines before it had even started!

The show is absolutely beautiful, and is quite easy to get absorbed in their world. For those of you who don’t know the story; it follows a family on an adventure to find a bear and how they get around the various obstacles that come before them. The text is translated to the theatre through long musical numbers performed by the puppeteers. The performance was powerful enough to enchant an initially wriggly audience.

I couldn’t help but stare in awe at how beautiful and simple Little Angel’s puppets where. They moved so gracefully and realistic, it was hard not to fall for their enchantment. I have been a fan of their work for a long time and it really didn’t disappoint. The set was also rather simple, adorably transforming to meet the need of the next obstacle. There was a beautiful scene where Bertie the youngest child decided to go swimming with the fishes.

I think what made the performance was the multi-talented performers. Not only did they puppeteer, but sang, played instruments and changed scenery very well. They handled the puppets amazingly and I was quite awe-struck at how gifted they were.

The climax of the show for the audience was undoubtedly when the bear appears. I personally found him quite cute and felt sorry for him when they locked him out of their house. Overall the performance is well worth a visit, by the UK’s leading puppet company. There is something for everyone whether you’re a tiny tot or an old Biddy. Do be warned, the songs are so catchy they will be stuck in your head for a long time to come!

We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, what a beautiful day! where not scared!

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