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Autumn 2006 season

Tuesday 12th September at 8pm
I am Cuba [Soy Cuba]     Soviet Union / Cuba 1964  |  141 mins  |  PG
Mikheil Kalatozishvili's 1964 propaganda drama consists of four stories that chart the road to revolution in Cuba: in Havana, a prostitute is shamed by her profession; a sugar cane farmer is deprived of his livelihood by a greedy landowner; protesting university students come into conflict with armed police; and a peasant family finds itself unable to stay distanced from the revolutionary fight. What has really earned I Am Cuba its place in film history is Serguey Urusevsky's stunning and innovative cinematography, creating a unique film experience that has proved hugely influential on modern filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese to Paul Thomas Anderson. As Jamie Russell remarked in his BBCi review: "This rewrites the textbook of how to shoot a film."

Tuesday 19th January at 8pm
Tony Tikitani     Japan 2004  |  75 mins  |  U
Based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, Tony Tikitani tells the story of a withdrawn technical illustrator who unexpectedly falls for and marries the fashion-obsessed Eiko. For the first time he knows true happiness, but in the course of the relationship he is set to experience a far darker range of emotions as well. Featuring a compelling performance from celebrated Japanese theatre actor Issei Ogata, recently acclaimed for his role as Emperor Hirohito in Alexandr Sokurov's The Sun, this is an exquisitely handled minimalist work, short on dialogue but vividly capturing the emotional awakening, loneliness and pain of its lead character.

Tuesday 26th January at 8pm
Viva Zapatero     Italy 2005  |  80 mins  |  15
In most western countries, political satire has always been an essential element of critical free speech in whatever media it has been practised. In 2003 Italy, however, when satirist Sabina Guzzanti lampooned Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on a TV comedy show, she and the broadcasting company promptly found themselves sued for 20 million euros by Mediaset, the Berlusconi owned television group. Through a wide-ranging series of interviews with leading politicians, journalists and media figures, director Sabina Guzzanti examines the threat to free speech and even democracy that Berlusconi's actions and media connections represent. One of the most biting and worthy political documentaries of the year, and one that deserves to reach the widest of audiences.

Tuesday 3rd October at 8pm
The Wind That Shakes the Barley     UK / Germany / Italy / Spain / France / Ireland 2006  |  127 mins  |  15
For many of us it's been a long time coming, but Ken Loach's Palme D'Or win at Cannes for The Wind That Shakes the Barley was still a moment to cherish. Scripted by regular collaborator Paul Laverty, the film examines the guerrilla war that was fought by the Republican movement against the occupying Brish forces in 1920s Ireland. Seen primarily through the eyes of two young brothers, prospective doctor Damien and his idealistic brother Teddy, the film inevitably incurred the wrath of the tabloid right before most of them had even seen it, the incendiary subject matter blinding them to what is a typically intelligent, passionate and layered work from one of this country's finest filmmakers. {Cine Outsider review)

Tuesday 10th October at 8pm
Offside     Iran 2005  |  93 mins  |  PG
Most of us will be able to count the number of Iranian comedy films they've seen on one hand and still have fingers to spare, so the arrival of Offside, a winning blend of social commentary and character comedy, is a welcome and, given Iran's qualification for the 2006 World Cup, timely arrival on these shores. The film follows the fortunes of a group of young female football fans as they attempt to sneak into a stadium at which women are forbidden, in order to watch the Iran v Bahrain qualifying match. A surprising change of pace for Jafar Panahi, director of The Circle, this engaging, funny and bitter-sweet film nonetheless continues his critique of women's inequality in modern Iranian society. (Cine Outsider review)

Tuesday 17th October at 8pm
Paradise Now     Israel / France / Germany / Netherlands 2005  |  90 mins  |  15
Said and Khaled have been close friends since childhood, and now work as car mechanics in Nablus on the West Bank. They seem happy enough with their lives, in which politics and religion play only a small part. They are not by any stretch of the imagination fanatics, but offered the opportunity to carry out a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv, they enthusiastically accept the mission. Director and co-writer Hany Abu-Assad takes a remarkably even-handed approach to difficult subject matter, engaging us with the brothers on a personal level, but never flinching from the terrible consequences that their actions may bring. A bold and intelligent film that is also tense, compelling and emotionally affecting.

Tuesday 24th October at 8pm
U Carmen eKhayelitsha     South Africa 2005  |  120 mins  |  12A
George Bizet's 19th century opera Carmen has had its share of film interpretations, from Otto Preminger to Carlos Saura to Francesco Rosi, but British director Mark Dornford-May takes it to new ground by relocating the story in the South African shanty town of Khayelitsha. Performed in the Xhosa language by the Dimpho Di Kopane theatre company, this is a vibrant and energetic reworking of the tale, shot in a naturalistic, almost documentary style that liberates the musical from its stage origins. Featuring a superb central performance by Pauline Malefane as Carmen, the film was a hit at the 2005 Berlin Film Festical, where it scooped the top Golden Bear award.

Tuesday 31st October at 8pm
Cave of the Yellow Dog     Mongolia / Germany 2005  |  93 mins  |  U
Byambasuren Davaa, co-director of the delightful The Story of the Weeping Camel, goes it alone this time in this similarly structured blend of drama and documentary, this time focussing on a Mongolian nomad family, the Batchuluuns. As with Weeping Camel, the story here – six-year-old Nansal and her desire to keep a puppy she has found against her father's protestations – is of less importance than everyday details of family life, which are observed by Davaa in documentary fashion, with the Batchuluun family essentially playing themselves. The result is a warm and fascinating study of a family and a way of life that may soon itself be consigned to history.

Tuesday 7th November at 8pm
Fateless [Sorstalanság]     Hungary / Germany / UK 2005  |  140 mins  |  12A
Based on the 1975 novel by Imre Kertész, Fateless tells the story of 14-year-old György in WW2 Budapest, who on the advice of a neighbour travels to work by bus rather than train and finds himelf unexpectedly arrested and transported to Auschwitz. Despite the lavish production values, former cinematographer Lajos Koltai focusses not on the big picture but the everyday existence in the camp, capturing the brutality and the fear, but also the camaraderie that existed between the prisoners. A powerful and humanist work, it also has moments of unexpected beauty, some very fine performances, and a powerful score by veteran film composer Ennio Morricone.

Tuesday 14th November at 8pm
Kidulthood     UK 2006  |  89 mins  |  15
When a group of west London 15-year-olds are excused from school following the suicide of a classmate, they take to the streets of London to unleash their own particular brand of live-for-the-moment mayhem. Sex, drugs, gang war, mugging and teenage pregnancy all figure in a story that could almost have been ripped from the headlines, but as handled by first time feature director Menhaj Huda and ace cameraman Brian Tufano (Trainspotting, Billy Elliot, Last Orders), it becomes one of the most charged and energetic films about modern youth culture in a long while. Driven along by a well chosen urban soundtrack, it features some fine, naturalistic performances from the young cast, which includes Ray Winstone's daughter Jamie.

Tuesday 21st November at 8pm
The Death of Mister Lazarescu [Moartea domnului Lazarescu]     Soviet Union / Cuba 1964  |  141 mins  |  PG
After falling ill with stomach pains 62-year-old Mr. Lazarescu is, after considerable delay, transported to a Bucharest hospital. where he finds himself shuffled from one poorly-equipped and understaffed hospital to another, as beaurocracy and indifference allow his condition to deteriorate. Although set in Hungary, this is a story that could have taken place in any country whose health care system is suffering under the weight of underfunding and mismanagement. What emerges is a sad, occasionally harrowing and all too believable indictment of a system that is clearly failing the very people it was designed to protect.

Tuesday 28th November at 8pm
El Lobo     Spain 2004  |  125 mins  |  15
During the final stages of the Franco dictatorship, unsuccessful Basque construction worker Txema is one night persuaded to give shelter to two members of the Basque seperatist group ETA. Shocked by their subsequent assassination of a taxi driver, he is enlisted by the secret service to infiltrate ETA and feed back information on the group's activities. Based on the real-life story of Spanish secret agent Mikel Lejarza, this is a smartly devised and well crafted thriller that has proved a hit in its native Spain, a rarity for any film in which ETA features prominently. Briskly handled by first time feature director Miguel Courtois, it boasts an enigmatic central performance by Eduardo Noriega as Txema.

Tuesday 5th December at 8pm
Heading South [Vers le sud]     France / Canada 2005  |  108 mins  |  15
At the height of the 'Baby Doc' Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, three rich, white, middle-aged women arrive in search of handsome young men and sexual adventure, and in the process have their eyes opened to what is happening in the country they are visiting. As their various motivations and the true attitudes of the locals are gradually revealed, director Laurent Cantet explores the exploitative nature of the 'sex tourism' industry from an unusual angle, casting the wealthy women as the exploiters and the local men as their initially willing playthings. A thoughtful and insightful study of desire, privilege and willful ignorance, it features fine performances from the likes of Charlotte Rampling and The Sopranos' Karen Young.

Tuesday 12th December at 8pm
The Devil and Daniel Johnston     USA 2005  |  110 mins  |  12A
The music industry has is fair share of troubled singer-songwriters, just as the film and television industry boasts a number of documentary portraits of the same, but few have so vibrantly and entertainingly captured the spirit of their subject as this film. The troubled son of Christian fundamentalists, Johnston rose to cult fame in the 1980s for his self-distributed music and his bizarre, surrealistic artwork, finally landing a record deal while he was consigned to a mental institution for manic depression. An energetic and detailed exploration of a life less ordinary, Jeff Feuerzeig's fascinating and entertaining film is one of this year's unfairly overlooked documentary gems.

Tuesday 19th December at 8pm
Princess Raccoon [Operetta tanuki goten]     Japan 2005  |  111 mins  |  PG
Detailed plot descriptions are pointless – a young, lovelorn prince escapes assassination and falls for a shape-shifting raccoon who has taken on the guise of a beautiful woman – in this delirious fantasy musical from 82-year-old Japanese maestro Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill). Drawing on Japanese fable and folklore, Kabuki theatre and the 'Tanukigoten' musicals of the 40s and 50s, as well as a slew of western influences from Busby Berkeley to rap, Princess Raccoon is a genuine one-off, and quite unlike anything you are likely to have seen on big screen or small. The cross-cultural meld extends to the casting of Chinese favourite Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Memoires of a Geisha) as the Princess.