Our guide to Cambridge Film Festival 2023: Amon Warmann’s top five plus best of the rest
The second longest-running film festival in the country, Cambridge Film Festival, returns this month with a wide-ranging series of films, including several premieres.
The programming panel has attended various international film festivals, including Cannes, Sundance, the Berlinale and more to secure a selection of exceptional, award-winning films for the International Festival Highlights strand.
Owen Baker, from the festival management team, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be back with an amazing festival line-up. It’s no secret that it has been a difficult time for cinema and the arts recently, which is why I’m even more proud of the first-rate programme our incredible team have put together this year.
“There has never been a better time to come to the Cambridge Film Festival and discover a hidden gem of world cinema or see a huge preview weeks or months before your friends!
“I really encourage seasoned festival veterans and CFF first-timers to grab a programme, pick something they like the sound of and be wow-ed by the work of some incredible filmmakers.”
Among those tasked with finding the most exciting new films to bring back to Cambridge audiences was TalkSport’s TV and film critic Amon Warmann, who is also a columnist for Empire magazine. We caught up with him to discuss his personal highlights from the upcoming festival and the shows that audiences absolutely cannot afford to miss.
He also revealed he wants to hear from viewers after the screenings.
Amon said: “Please, audience members, come and talk to me about what you thought. Let’s get into it. I’m excited for those conversations. I’ve been a film critic for 12 years and in the post screening, I find talking with audiences is always one of my favourite things.”
Here are Amon’s five favourites among the offerings at Cambridge Film Festival 2023
Typist Artist Pirate King
I really liked this film which stars Monica Dolan as Audrey Amiss, who was a real life forgotten artist whose career was hampered by mental illness.
In this film, she works with a psychiatric nurse Sandra played by Kelly McDonald, and she ropes her into this road trip to try and get recognition for her talent and one final exhibition. This film is very affectionate, also quite heartbreaking at times, and quite consistently pretty weird, but in a way that I think is very endearing. I like how director Carol Morley at various points in this movie will paste scraps of Audrey Amiss’s actual real life artwork to create an especially nice portrait of an artist. And Audrey herself is by turns warm, funny, but also quite chaotic. The good thing about that character and that performance is that it is counterbalanced by what Kelly MacDonald is doing as Sandra. Monica Dolan and is just fantastic as Audrey, she’s just a complete riot. She knows her way around a one liner, and there are many of those but she also has that regalness. Your heart does break for her because of the mental illness she’s going through and they’re very upfront and authentic about putting it on screen.
To kick things off on October 19, the festival will welcome Director Carol Morley to Cambridge for the opening night.
All of us Strangers
I just saw this last week and it’s incredible. People will know Andrew Scott, who plays Adam, because he’s been in many things including, of course, Sherlock and Fleabag.
In the film, Adam has an encounter with his neighbour, played by Paul Mescal, who is another actor who is in high demand right now and deservedly so. As that relationship develops, Adam finds himself sort of going back to his family home, where his parents, who are played by Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, appear to still be alive despite the fact that they died 30 years before. So what exactly is happening there? You have to watch the film! The performances are tremendous. It is emotionally devastating, but in a way that makes your heart warm. And it also definitely deals with gay life and identity as well. This is a part coming-of-age drama, and also part romance. It does live up to the premise. That conceit of being able to say things that went unsaid through to no fault of your own, that unfolds very well. It’s fantastic.
Chicken for Linda!
This French animation focuses on a mother, Paulette, and her daughter, Linda, hence the title. Paulette feels guilty after punishing Linda for something that she did not do. And she says she’ll do anything to make it up to her.
Linda says that she wants chicken with peppers because it reminds her of a dish that her father used to make and her father has since passed away. The problem with that seemingly simple request is that there’s a strike in the streets all across town. And so Paulette can’t actually find the chicken and she has to go to increasingly crazy lengths to try and find this chicken because she wants to get it for Linda. So the premise is simple, but it’s funny. And one thing that I think will really draw people in will be the hand painted animation, which is beautiful to look at. The vocal performances are very naturalistic. And also it has something for everyone. The film has a lot to say about single parenting. I think for younger audiences, Linda has a group of friends that they will recognize themselves in. So that’s one definitely to look out for - I think this one is going to be a hit.
This is the directorial debut of Randall Park. If that name sounds familiar to you, he’s already done some excellent work on the screen in the past as an actor in the MCU (Marvel) and the DC Universe.
This stars Justin Min as Ben was the focus of this movie. He’s a struggling filmmaker. He’s sort of left to his own devices when his girlfriend Miko, played by Ally Maki moves from their California apartment to New York on internship. And what follows is a really absorbing character study, but also a film that’s frequently funny. Sherry Cola is brilliant as Alice who is the queer and very blunt best friend of Ben who is not afraid to say what she thinks. The film has a lot to say about the value of Asian American comedies and representation just for representation’s sake, which is a conversation that I find very interesting being a black man myself Also, while Ben is not especially likeable this film really pulls a lot because you are hoping always that Ben will see the light and change. I think I think Randall Park does a tremendous job and I’m very excited to talk to audience members and see what they think after this film in particular, because I think there’s a lot to discuss.
You may have heard some hype about this film because it just won some awards at the Venice Film Festival. I don’t think those will be the only awards it wins by the time it’s done.
It stars the tremendous Emma Stone. She won the Oscar for La La land and she may win the Oscar for this. It is a very weird, incredible tale about the evolution of Bella Baxter, played by Emma Stone, who is brought back to life by an unorthodox scientist played by Willem de veau. It’s wild. It’s weird. It’s wonderful. It’s winning all the awards, need I go on? This is a film that you have to see.
Our guide to more stand-out movies planned for the festival
The Pot Au Feu
Beautifully shot, this is a French historical romantic drama directed by Cannes Winner Tran Anh Hung, and starring Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel.
The film depicts a romance between a cook and the gourmet she works for. Unsurprisingly, every meal is a work of art shown in long takes and close-ups.
The ever-popular Camera Catalonia strand is home to the very best Catalonian films produced during the last year, showcasing life in the region (and across the world) with a selection of award-winning titles.
In Creatura – this year’s winner of the Europa Cinemas prize as Best European Film at Directors’ Fortnight – Elena Martín presents a frank exploration of female sexuality and desire within patriarchal societies. Martín doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects; it is a credit to her many talents that she does this whilst being both in front and behind the camera. Camera Catalonia has always championed the work of female filmmakers and this film is a perfect example of the stimulating new stories they produce.
Supported by Alchemie Technology, Voices of Earth is CFF’s Environment strand, focussing on issues such as climate change, sustainability, indigenous traditions and greenwashing.
These films present us with reality and remind us that it’s not too late to act. Plastic Fantastic reveals not only the shocking scale of the plastics crisis but offers insights into the hidden structures and systematic failures of a business model that works against real change and is driving increased plastics production. This is a return to the festival for director Isa Willinger whose film HI, AI was a huge success in 2019.
The Creativity strand showcases the remarkable films that capture the many different faces of human creativity.
Presenting amazing films that will surprise, uplift, and wow you. One example is the stunningly beautiful and touching film, Fledglings, which follows feisty Zosia, music-loving Oskar and gentle Kinga, residents of a boarding school for visually impaired children in Poland. Uplifting and moving in equal measure.
The Tales of Hoffman
As part of the BFI’s Cinema Unbound season, the festival will present a season of films, Q&A sessions and panel discussions on the work and lasting impact of legendary filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger during the Through the Looking Glass: A Journey into Powell and Pressburger’s Dreamweaving Cinema strand.
Their vivid, operatic masterpiece, The Tales of Hoffman, tells the story of the loves and losses of unlucky student Hoffman. Despite dividing critics upon its release, the picture nevertheless won the Silver Bear at Berlin. This is a cinematic spectacle that needs to be enjoyed on the big screen. The Red Shoes, I know Where I’m Going and Orlando will also be featured alongside the panel discussions and Q&As.
Till Love Do Us Part
The Identity strand of the festival uncovers personal stories that reveal universal themes.
Trapped in a well-behaved middle-class life, Shu Qiao, a 30-year-old college lecturer, accidentally embarks on a journey to find love and freedom in Ran Li’s Till love Do Us Part. This is a beautiful and thoughtful exploration of love, heartbreak and one woman’s road to finding herself in modern Chinese society.
Outstanding Contribution to Cinema Award
The festival is welcoming award-winning filmmaker and documentarian Asif Kapadia to receive the outstanding Contribution to Cinema Award and present a specially curated selection of his most important films. Asif will be attending the Festival to introduce four of his most impressive feature films and take part in audience Q&As. Confirmed at this time: Senna, with Ayrton Senna, Regionaldo Leme, and John Bisignano; Creature with Jeffrey Cirio, Erina Takahashi, and Stina Quagebeur; and The Warrior with Irfan Khan, Aino Annuddin, Noor Mani, and Damayanti Marfatia.
In addition to the films, there will also be a programme of industry talks, panel discussions, and networking events for filmmakers from across the country – all part of the Cambridge Film Festival Industry Day in partnership with BFI Network and Film Hub South East.
Cambridge Film Festival returns to the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse on October 19–26 .
The full programme and tickets are available at www.camfilmfest.com now.