Tag Archives: documentary

A quick round-up of new titles and BFFS National Conference news

We’re all hands on deck getting prepared for the BFFS National Conference and Film Society of the Year Awards which unfortunately means I’ve been neglecting the blog a little, so in light of that, here’s a rundown of the new titles on the scheme, and a look at the films you’ll be able to preview at the National Conference. Continue reading

Country Spotlight: Argentina

In a new regular feature I’ll be taking a look at the cinematic output of different countries – looking at the history of their film industry, notable films and film-makers and what titles the Booking Scheme has to offer. Please feel free to make use of this blog, and the others in the series, as programme notes to supplement your screenings. To make this easier a pdf version can be found here. Rather than just concentrating on a single title it can be worthwhile to give your audience an idea of the wider context in which a film exists. Whether you’re programming a season of Argentinian cinema or just a single film I hope this brief overview is both informative and interesting.

History of Film Industry

Much of the early period cinema is lost or forgotten due to poor archiving and preservation, natural and political disasters, and economic and social upheaval. As a result few films remain, but it is certain that Argentina was one of the first countries in Latin America to enter film production. Film-making really took off in the 1930’s, when sound arrived and cinema embraced tango dancing. Genuine film stars arrived such as Tito Lusiardo and Amelia Bence.

Amelia Bence

The first notable film historian was Domingo Di Núbila, who, in the 1960s, produced a highly detailed account of Argentine film production since its beginnings. Núbila was something of a nationalist and celebrated those films which were unmistakably Argentinian and bemoaned the influence of Hollywood. He therefore highlights the “derailment” of Argentine cinema in the early 1940s when US influences triggered a move away from cinema inspired by Argentine culture and towards commercialisation and an imitation of Hollywood’s production system. Further, political embargoes on shipments of film stock led to Argentina’s production declining.

The cover of the magazine produced by Argentina’s Liberation Film Group.

However compared to other Latin American countries like Chile, Argentina had a much larger and well-established film industry by the middle of the 20th century and there was a significant boon in the 60s when film began to be used as a form of social and political expression. However this politicisation of films led to a rejection of the film-making that preceded it, which again detracted from preservation and appreciation of early period cinema. Further this resurgence of cultural and socially motivated cinema didn’t last long. By the 70s political changes drove such films underground and groups such as Cine Liberación risked government repression to make films like El Familiar, an allegorical feature about Latin America’s destiny. By 1976 the disappearance of three film-makers, Gleyzer, Pablo Szir and Enrique Juarez, meant that cinema softened its approach and concentrated on light-hearted topics that would not draw the ire of the censor, and government repression.

Again Argentina’s turbulent political life went through another drastic change in 1983 with the arrival of democracy. As in many other countries the decline of a repressive regime led to new forms of cultural expression, and the slapstick comedy of the late 70s was swiftly replaced by films that took a serious look at the military junta’s campaign of repression, torture and disappearances. This new wave of Argentine cinema continued into the 1990s during which notable films addressed poverty and living conditions and existential angst was evident in many films. Film was being used to ask questions about Argentina’s past in films such as Eduardo Calcagno’s controversial El Censor, a biopic of Paulina Tato a film censor from the 70s, and Marco Bechis’ Garage Olimpo which showed the torture that political dissidents, including the director, were subject to.

Garage Olimpo

This last decade is perhaps most notable for Argentine films breaking out internationally. Nine Queens was phenomenally successful both in Argentina and amongst western film critics; while The Secret In Their Eyes was a surprise Oscar winner in 2009, marking only the second time Argentina had won an Oscar. In 2012 President Kirchner signed a series of decrees that finally categorized film as a cultural industry, allowing the industry to benefit from state funding and tax regulations and was explicitly announced in order to “ensure that Argentine film productions are able to compete in the local market and project themselves abroad”.

Notable films, film-makers and stars (a very short list)


Amalia (1914) – Argentina’s first feature length film, this adaptation of José Mármol’s novel of the same name is notable not just for being the first full length production, but also because it is the first film to address a subject matter than Argentinian cinema returns to frequently: life under dictatorship. Mármol’s novel, adapted by Eugenio Py (a Frenchman acknowledged as the pioneer of film-making in Argentina), was a semi-autobiographical attack on the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas. The film is viewable, albeit untranslated on Youtube.

Mario Soffici – Starting out as an actor in 1931 Soffici soon made the move behind the camera, immediately attracting praise for The Soul of the Accordion (1935). He directed over 40 films throughout his career, several of which were regarded as great films in their time. Prisioneros de la tierra (1939) was his first socially minded work, and was awarded Film of the year by the Municipality of Buenos Aires. His film Rosaura at 10 O’Clock (1958) was an adaptation of the popular novel by Marco Denevi and was Soffici’s third and final entry into the Cannes Film Festival.

Alias Gardelito

Alias Gardelito (1961) –  An example of the ‘new cinema’ that arose in the 50s and 60s this drama charts the struggle of Toribio to live an honest life in the face of extreme poverty. The title refers to the Argentine singer Carlos Gardel, whom Toribio idolises and whose career he wants to emulate. Yet Toribio’s big break doesn’t arrive and he falls further and further into a life of crime. The film concentrates on the effect that poverty has on the psychology of its characters.

The Official Story (1985) – One of Argentina’s most successful films The Official Story played at numerous festivals including Cannes, Toronto and Berlin and was an award winner both in Argentina and at the Academy Awards. An upper-middle class family in Buenos Aires have illegally adopted a girl, Gaby. Alicia begins to wonder what happened to Gaby’s parents when a friend returns from exile and tells her about the disappearances. Gradually Alicia is forced to confront our own ignorance of her country’s crimes and her husband’s complicity with the regime.

Ricardo Darin
Ricardo Darin

Ricardo Darin – Unquestionably Argentina’s biggest star at the moment, Darin has starred in many notable films including the aforementioned Nine Queens (2000) and The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), as well as The Lighthouse (1998) and White Elephant (2012). He has been consistently praised for his versatility as an actor and was awarded the Diamond Konex Award in 2011 as the most important Entertainment personality of the last decade. Due to his growing international profile Darin is to many the face of Argentinian cinema.

Argentinian films on the BFFS Booking Scheme

Here’s a look at just a few of the available titles – we’ve also got The Official Story, Carancho, Born and Bred and many more.

Lion’s Den (2008) – Pablo Trapero is establishing himself as one of Argentina’s most exciting directors with films such as Born and Bred (2006) and Carancho (2010) showing his versatility. Lion’s Den sees him tackle another genre – prison drama, in this case with an off-the-beaten-track twist. Julia, a 25-year old student is (perhaps wrongfully) convicted of murder and is imprisoned. While the film deals with issues of her crime, her possible guilt and ideas of justice and atonement, its concentration is on Julia’s struggle to control the upbringing of her young son, who is born in prison.

Lion’s Den

La Antena (2007) – A surreal homage to silent cinema, this beautiful animation tells the tale of an Argentinian city ruled over by Mr TV. In this land no one can speak as their voices have been stolen by the dictatorial Mr TV; written words float out of their mouths instead. But a mysterious singer, The Voice, has retained the power of speech .When she is kidnapped by Mr TV, an engineer, The Inventor, discovers Mr TV has more disturbing plans in place.

The Peddler (2010) – A delightful and engaging documentary sees the directors following DIY film-maker Daniel Burmeister who turns up at a remote Argentinian village with a bunch of ready to go film scripts and asks permission to make a film there, using the villages as cast and crew. The documentary is a charming insight into both the creative process and the power of film to bring communities together.

Book a film and see the full Booking Scheme catalogue.

Girlfriend in a Coma Exclusive Interview

This week the Booking Scheme Blog welcomes Deborah, our Managing Director, to tell us about one of the latest titles on the BFFS Booking Scheme, the dazzling documentary Girlfriend in a Coma. Deborah talked with the film’s director, writer and producer, Annalisa Piras, and co-writer and former editor of the Economist, Bill Emmott. The film features some startling animation and Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Dante. Continue reading

Documentaries on the BFFS Booking Scheme

After the brilliant Doc/Fest hit Sheffield last week we’ve been thinking about documentaries, so here’s a brief look at a few of  the 150+ documentaries on offer via the BFFS Booking Scheme.

Shut Up and Play the Hits

LCD soundsystem

The carefully orchestrated end to a hugely influential band – Shut Up And Play The Hits details the build up to, and aftermath of, LCD Soundsystem’s final ever gig. An epic 4 hour gig at Madison square Garden saw LCD Soundsystem hold ‘the best funeral ever’. The doc presents an intimate portrait of frontman James Murphy, who’s honest and unflinching interview with Chuck Klosterman, as well as the footage of him the day after the gig, contrasts with the incredible concert footage. Watch the trailer

Way of the Morris

Way of the Morris

Filmmaker Tim Plester embarks on a journey from his childhood village to the battlefields of World War I as he explores the connection between the morris dancers of Adderbury and the history of his community. A film about the importance of tradition and spirit in rural communities Way of the Morris is a moving and, thanks to Plester’s self-mocking persona, amusing look at the oft-maligned art of morris dancing. Watch the trailer

The First Movie

The First Movie

In 2008 Mark Cousins’ travelled to Goptapa in Northern Iraq, a town that was devastated during Saddam Hussein’s genocide against the Kurds. But Cousins did not go to simply make a film about what happened, but to allow the children of the town to make their own films. First he introduced them to cinema – none of the children had seen a film before – and then gave them camera to make their own films. The results are magnificent, heart-breaking and insightful; and Cousins’ documentary is testament to the power of film.

Bobby Fischer Against the World


The remarkable story of Bobby Fischer, arguably the greatest chess player ever, who not only became the youngest grandmaster in history, but also won what was described as the “Match of the Century” against the Russian Boris Spassky. The match in 1972 played out against the backdrop of Cold-War tensions and made Fischer world-famous. His victory brought him huge fame across America, but he almost immediately disappeared from competitive chess and his behaviour became more erratic.  By the 1990s he was wanted by the US Government for breaking an embargo, and he was held in Japan before escaping to Iceland. Combining interviews with rare archival footage, Liz Garbus’s documentary is a fascinating and engrossing look at a troubled genius. Watch the trailer



Likely to put off those who don’t appreciate its eccentric sense of humour, Swandown is a bizarre and seemingly pointless film that I nevertheless find to be uniquely entertaining. A travelogue of sorts, filmmaker Andrew Kötting and writer Iain Sinclair steal a swan-shaped pedalo from Hastings and pedal it up the River Thames to Hackney; partly as an act of protest but mostly to demonstrate the idiocy of pedalling a pedalo 160 miles up a river. Along the way they ruminate on the English countryside and are shouted at by passers-by. Bemusing, diverting and strangely thought-provoking Swandown is (probably fortunately) one of a kind. Trailer

And if you were around at the festival here’s a few films that are on the Booking Scheme/coming soon:

We Are Poets – Profiling the teenagers that make up Leeds Young Authors, and their entry into Brave New Voices, a prestigious poetry slam competition held in Washington, DC, We Are Poets demonstrates the power of the spoken word. (Available now)

The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer confronts former members of Indonesia’s death squads. Unrepentant of their crimes, Oppenheimer encourages them to stage bizarre and chilling re-enactments of their murders. In doing so they begin to realise the horror of their actions. Winner of the Special Jury Award at Doc/Fest. (Available later this year)

Blackfish – In 2010, Tilikum, the killer whale who has become Seaworld’s biggest attraction, killed one of its trainers. Though there are no reported incidents of orcas attacking humans in the wild, this is not the first time Seaworld’s killer whales have injured trainers. Blackfish looks at the damage done to animals held in captivity and argues for a drastic reform to such practices.  (Available later this year)

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Ray Harryhausen

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan

Ray Harryhausen, the creative genius behind some of cinema’s most iconic monsters, sadly passed away this week. His career spanned many decades and his unmistakeable talent and ability to breathe life into stop motion led to him being described by John Landis as cinema’s only technical auteur.  Continue reading