Tonight's red carpet at the 60th London Film Festival was for The Birth of a Nation, a biopic about Nat Turner, who led a slave revolt in the early 19th century. Armie Hammer and Nat Turner (above) were on the red carpet, along with several other costars. Today was my busiest day of the festival so far, with five films. That's too much even for me! I'll try to take it a bit easier tomorrow. Highlights from Tuesday...
The Birth of a Nation
dir-scr Nate Parker; with Nate Parker, Armie Hammer 16/US ***.
Actor-filmmaker Nate Parker pours his soul into this engaging true story about a slave uprising in early 19th century Virginia. It's a slickly produced and only slightly over-egged period drama packed with present-day resonance as a young preacher finally realises he can't ignore the injustice any longer. Yes, aside from being a powerfully involving film, it has a lot to say to us today.
dir Gabe Klinger; with Anton Yelchin, Lucie Lucas 16/Por ***
Offbeat and so wispy thin that it barely seems to exist at all, this gentle drama traces circles around a romance that flares briefly. It takes its name from the northern Portuguese city where it's set, and where two young foreigners connect in an offhanded way. And while the film is beautifully shot and acted with a warm introspection, it's also somewhat indulgent in its insistence that this kind of romance has sent ripples through past and future.
I Am Not a Serial Killer
dir Billy O'Brien; with Max Records, Laura Fraser 16/Ire ***.
Irish filmmaker Billy O'Brien brings a snappy sensibility to this drama set in Middle America, never allowing the story's larger issues to become bigger than they need to be. It centres on a sociopathic teen trying to live a "normal" life, but there's also a subtle supernatural plot element that adds a whiff of horror. And while the pacing is too artful for the mainstream, the film feels fresh and original enough to hold the interest.
dir-scr Marco Berger; with Gabriel Epstein, Lucas Papa 16/Arg ***.
Essentially a mash-up of writer-director Marco Berger's Hawaii and producer-codirector Martin Farina's Fulboy, this film places nine athletic young men in an isolated resort-style house for a sweltering summer holiday and observes the physicality between them. There's a hint of a plot between two of the guys, and a few traits emerge here and there, but the movie is basically a tactile, tantalising tease that pays off only in the final moments.