Stunningly filmed in black and white, Embrace of the Serpent is a blisteringly poetic and psychedelic tale, exposing the ravages of colonialism on the South American landscape.
With nods to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, the Oscar-nominated film centres on Karamakate, an Amazonian tribal shaman, who leads two western explorers through the jungle, on a forty-year search for the sacred Yakruna plant.
When released in 2016, the film's director, Ciro Guerra, issued the following statement which we also wanted to share:
"Whenever I looked at a map of my country, I was overwhelmed by great uncertainty. Half of it was an unknown territory, a green sea, of which I knew nothing. The Amazon, that unfathomable land, which we foolishly reduce to simple concepts. Coke, drugs, Indians, rivers, war.
Is there really nothing more out there? Is there not a culture, a history? Is there not a soul that transcends?
The explorers taught me otherwise.
Those men who left everything, who risked everything, to tell us about a world we could not imagine. Those who made first contact, during one of the most vicious holocausts man has ever seen. Can man, through science and art, transcend brutality? Some men did.
The explorers have told their story. The natives haven’t.
This is it. A land the size of a whole continent, yet untold. Unseen by our own cinema.
That Amazon is lost now. In the cinema, it can live again."
Embrace of the Serpent is available to watch for free via All4 for the next 20 days.
With superb performances from Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps – accompanied by a sumptuous score from Jonny Greenwood – Paul Thomas Anderson's Oscar-nominated Phantom Thread is currently available to stream on the BBC iPlayer for the next two weeks.
An illuminating portrait of an artist on a creative journey and the women who keep his world running, this beautifully shot gothic romance is the focus of the first episode of our new Philosophy & Film podcast.
Presented by Joe Saunders, the podcast is a continuation of the long-running Philosophy & Film series held at the Picture House since 2016. In each episode, Joe is joined by a different guest philosopher who nominates a film for the pair to discuss.
In episode one, Phantom Thread has been selected by Dr Natasha McKeever from the University of Leeds, who explores themes of vulnerability and love in the film.
The Philosophy & Film podcast is available to listen via our website, or on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. And if you enjoy the first episode, the second and third episodes – on Blue Velvet and It's A Wonderful Life – are now also available, with more episodes being recorded in the coming weeks.
We know that today will be a day full of anxiety for most people reading this for a number of different reasons. With this in mind we have decided to share with you a short film that brings us unequivocal joy. It’s Snow (1974) directed by Canadian filmmaker Gayle Thomas is a short 5min cut-out animation inspired by the shape of snowflakes and touched with the airy magic of these fragile designs.
While lilting music invitingly frolics, snowflakes roll and whirl, pulse and glitter, shining with the many hues of twinkling lights. It’s Snow doesn’t have a narrative, it is a sensory delight pure and simple.
You can find the film available to watch for free thanks to the National Film Board of Canada here.
Interestingly, one of Thomas’ other short films, Quilt (1996), is one of the most watched films the NFB have ever hosted online. For more info on how this abstract animation got to the heart of the quilting community you can find an interview with the director here.
Birds Eye View’s Reclaim the Frame online Q&As have been a real lifeline for a lot of film lovers this year bringing a steady string of digital events into our home to help keep our brains challenged and open when its felt like our bodies had to go into a necessary hibernation.
This week we’ve enjoyed catching up with the Peccadillo Sofa Club Q&A they hosted between Leonie Krippendorff, writer and director of Cocoon, in conversation with writer Amelia Abraham. You can find a recording of the discussion here bit.ly/RTFCocoon w/ BSL interpretation & CC.
This Reclaim the Frame event is a joyful exploration of Krippendorff’s second feature. Set in the heat of a shimmering Berlin summer (a world away from the grey and icy view outside our window today), Cocoon follows Nora as she spends her days as a third wheel to her older sister Jule and her best friend Aylin, who think only of boys and their weight. Juggling pressures to fit in and a largely absent mother, things begin to change for Nora when she meets Romy.
Cocoon is a raw, honest and beautifully romantic film capturing the both the highs and lows of female adolescence. If you’d like to watch it you can rent this title you can find it online at the Leeds Film Player where we are presenting it together to rent for £7.50.
Your hearts may well need a little brush up right now, so our #HydeParkPick today should provide some shiny warmth during this particularly wintry holiday season.
Boot Polish (बूट पॉलिश, 1954, 134mins, U) is a musical drama in the best tradition of classic Hindi cinema, produced by the great Raj Kapoor. A fairy tale at heart, complete with orphan children, a wicked witch and a buttons-like character, the film is nonetheless grounded by a social realist commentary on urban poverty, shared responsibility and basic human decency - and it’s all the more wonderful for it.
When Bhola and Bel are left destitute after their mother dies, they are conscripted into a lifetime of begging by their nasty aunt Kamla. Taking to the streets, the siblings begin to save their meagre earnings to start a shoeshine business, aided by John uncle, a local bootlegger.
This life of destitution and struggle are, however, counterbalanced by some beautiful and often surreal songs, uplifting melodrama and some astonishingly assured and poignant acting from the two child leads. Whilst the film is largely shot on location, which adds an atmospheric sense of reality, it still allows for a topical and seasonally apt celebration of life, amidst the children’s bleak existence.
In a time when we are reassessing how we can improve our understanding of each other, our care and kindness, Boot Polish is a perfect example of the spirit of initiative in a hopeless situation and a determination to live to the best of our communal human values.
In 1954 Raj Kapoor wrote, "Boot Polish graphically shows the problem of destitute children, their struggle for existence and their fight against organised beggary. The purpose of this film is to bring home to you that these orphans are as much your responsibility as that of the Government. Individual charity will not solve this problem because the only solution is co-operative effort on a National scale."
Boot Polish is available to watch as part of the Mubi Library: mubi.com/films/boot-polish.
In partnership with Hyde Park Picture House, you can enjoy three months of MUBI for free. Sign up here: mubi.com/promos/hydepark
Over the last decade our New Year’s Eve programme has become one of our favourite events of the whole year. We see the same faces come and celebrate with us each year and it’s always both an honour and a challenge in equal measure to try and find just the right film that will speak a little of where our heart or our head is or to try conjure up some magic in just the perfect way that only cinema can.
This year while so many things are so painfully different to 'normal' that magic at least endures and again we have been wondering what films we could share today to help us along a little. With this in mind we've decided that this New Year's Eve we'd like to indulge in a special romantic double bill of Carol (2015) directed by Todd Haynes and Casablanca (1942) directed by Michael Curtiz.
Despite being made 73 years apart the sweeping beauty of both films and the iconic performances at their heart make both a treat to enjoy in the cinema or at home. Really though it’s the romance which we’re here for. Watching love stories unfold on film is like being invited into a person’s world as they are at their most vulnerable, most brave, most optimistic. Whether it all works out or not the leap of faith is always beautiful and that’s the idea we wanted to dive into this New Year’s Eve.
You can find Carol available to rent on BFI player or on Amazon Prime and Casablanca is currently playing on BBC iPlayer.
Today's pick, this Christmas Eve, couldn't be anything other than the hugely popular festive classic, It's A Wonderful Life.
As we approach the end of this most unusual of years, this will be the first time in decades that we’ve not screened the film. We know for many it’s become somewhat of a tradition to visit the Picture House at Christmas – and to be transported once again to Bedford Falls and the wonderful world of George Bailey. So with this not possible this year, we're thankful at least that the film is available to watch for free at home for the next seven days, on channel4.com.
We were also keen this year to find another way to keep the tradition alive and pay tribute to a film that for so many of you continues to mean so much. That's why we've dedicated our latest episode of our Philosophy & Film Podcast to the film – featuring a conversation between Joe Saunders and Prof Shannon Dea, from the University of Regina in Canada.
We know it won't quite be the same watching the film from home this year, but we'll be tuning in, and raising a glass to all of our incredible audiences, community partners, staff members and volunteers who have kept the cinema going through thick and thin – wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a much better 2021.