#PreCodeApril

Warner Archive DVDs are a bit basic, aren't they? Remember those days when DVDs used to claim interactive menus were a Special Feature? Warner Archive do.This isn’t our first encounter with the Hays Code. This was the document which came into force in 1934, and delineated precisely what sort of behaviour was unacceptable in Hollywood movies for the next three decades. It was also, by implication, the marker for the end of Hollywood’s Pre-Code era – that glorious four-year stretch between 1930 and 1934 when mild immorality ran wild on the big screen. It’s an era of filmmaking that’s been frequently celebrated by the British Film Institute, most notably in BFI Southbank's excellent 2014 season, Breaking The Code.

Shortly after that season took place, The Belated Birthday Girl bought me a four-pack of Pre-Code DVDs as a birthday present. Forbidden Hollywood Volume 7 was one of a small-run series of collections by the Warner Archive label. It contained one film from the BFI season, and three others that were unfamiliar to me. A lovely present, of course, but like most of the discs in our joint collection it was a question of when we would find the time to watch them.

That time turned out to be April 2021. My MostlyFilm colleague and Porn Valley High alumnus, FilmFan, set up the hashtag #PreCodeApril on Twitter, and invited everyone he knew to watch some Pre-Code films and write about them. If you follow the hashtag, you can see it’s been a roaring success: half the images in my timeline this month have been in black and white, as Film Twitter has rushed to post countless stills and GIFs from these films to accompany their reviews.

I don’t really do film reviews on Twitter. So here they are.

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This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 3 of 3)

Little Miss PeriodWell, you've missed it all, I'm afraid. The 2021 edition of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme was only online between February 19th and March 10th, and now it's all gone apart from a few of the accompanying webchats (specifically the season introduction, a discussion on realism in Japanese cinema, and a chat about Bizen pottery that ties in with one of the films I didn't see). Yes, the final part of this writeup of what I saw in the season is a bit late, but at least it's not three months late like last year's.

So, assuming we can skip the basics because you've already read part one and part two, here comes part three of my review of this year's programme, which of necessity has to start by explaining why the photo at the top of this page is meant to represent a menstruating woman.

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Glasgow Film Festival 2021

In other years, this design would probably have made for a pretty sweet t-shirt.It's been an interesting twelve months for online film festivals, as long as you don't think too hard about all of the stuff happening outside which has forced us to have online film festivals in the first place. On this site, I've reviewed a few of my favourite real-world fests that have successfully pivoted to video (LFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, JFTFP): and I've also covered a new one that was set up entirely from scratch (We Are One).

But here's a category I've steered clear of until now: real-world festivals that I've never got around to attending before, which are now open to me because they've moved online. Glasgow Film Festival has a perfectly fine reputation, but I'd never considered taking time out of my schedule to travel up there to be part of it. But if you put it all online and charge people a tenner a go to see a programme with some surprisingly hot movies in it, then you have my attention.

So, for one year only - hopefully, and I say that without any malice towards it - welcome to the only Scottish film festival worth a damn. (I believe the young people call this 'subtweeting'.)

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This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 2 of 3)

ExtroAs is traditionally the case with the annual Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, we need to spend a little time poking fun at the utterly generic season title and theme. To quote from their website: "Everybody wants to be part of something, no matter what you do or who you are... But what is it that people mean when they say ‘my place’; when they refer to their sense of existence and belonging?"

So, it's a season of films about people in places. Got it. To be fair, there are a couple of movies in this programme that explore a common theme in Japanese cinema, where someone fails to fit in to what's generally thought of as a very conformist society. But there's not so much of the opposite of that, where people find themselves part of something that outsiders simply can't understand. When the theme of this year's programme was announced, I hoped that they might have found room for Tonde Saitama, which we saw unsubtitled during our 2018 holiday: sure, many of the local references may not travel, but the idea of a small community revelling in how much it's hated by the big city next door is universal, and the end title song sums that up perfectly.

Sadly, we didn't get that one in this season, mainly because it was ridiculously popular and award-winning, which probably put it out of the Japan Foundation's budget. So instead, following on from the first part, here are four more films that they could afford.

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This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 1 of 3)

It's not a particularly exciting poster this year, but at least it's not the eyeball-inside-a-mouth horror that 2020's was.It's a difficult time to be thinking too hard about what'll happen in the future. But I suspect that whatever happens, in years to come we won't be hitting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme as heavily as we have been in the past.

I said that back in June last year, when I was writing about the 2020 iteration of the film festival (which I'll be calling JFTFP from now on, because life's too short). After more than a decade - we'd been going there since 2008 - of indulging in their annual collections of recent and classic Japanese cinema, finally the sheer cost of seeing these things at the ICA had just become prohibitive, with every single discount we used to get being whittled away. There were times in the past when the number of films we saw at JFTFP went into double figures, and that's not even counting the years when I was getting freebie screeners from the Japan Foundation so that I could preview them for MostlyFilm. But not any more, it would seem.

Unless, of course, there was some sort of catastrophic chain of events that resulted in the 2021 JFTFP shifting online and becoming free. So here we are.

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Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020

About a year ago - well, yes, a bit more than a year ago now, ha ha, shut up, I've been busy - anyway, last June The Belated Birthday Girl and I went to Sheffield Doc/Fest for the first time. Over the space of two days we saw six feature-length documentaries, one short film (by accident) and an on-stage interview with Werner Herzog, which you can now watch over on the left there. (See what I meant at the time about Annie Hall cosplay?)

"I suspect it won't be our last," I said at the end of the 2019 festival, having no bloody idea what 2020 would have in store for us. Mind you, let's be honest: the main barrier to future visits to Sheffield Doc/Fest was that it was in Sheffield. And this year, it wasn't. Doc/Fest transitioned to video, making a decent-sized collection of films available online from June 10th to July 10th via their Doc/Fest Selects online platform, together with a bundle of pre-filmed introductions and post-screening interviews. Best of all, the films were competitively priced at £4.50 each. Although if you were some sort of film-obsessed lunatic, you could pay £36 to have the opportunity to get a 30 hour rental of every single film over the space of that month. But who could possibly consider that kind of commitment?

Deep breath.

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We Are One

Obviously, there are lots of incredibly pressing problems that need to be solved on the planet right now. But there's been one particular problem that's been preying on my mind ever since the lockdown started in March. It's this - how are film festivals supposed to work now?

You have to sympathise with the BFI, who had to consider that question more urgently than most. Their second biggest festival of the year, the LGBTIQ+ fest that they nowadays call Flare, was due to start on March 20th but had to be cancelled just a few days beforehand. In a herculean effort, they pivoted to video in virtually no time, and had a reduced series of films running on their online player for the duration.

Their biggest festival - the London Film Festival - is coming in October, and some fascinating hints have already been dropped as to how they're going to make that happen. We'll talk about that here nearer the time, of course. But in between Flare and the LFF, the BFI was one of a number of organisations involved in the creation of We Are One, a free film festival that literally spanned the entire planet. This was back in June, so you've already missed it. Luckily, I didn't.

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Happiness is A State of Mind: #JFTFP20

No, that poster image isn't nightmare fuel in the *slightest*, is it?A Tale Of The Before Times (#4 of 5)

It's a difficult time to be thinking too hard about what'll happen in the future. But I suspect that whatever happens, in years to come we won't be hitting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme as heavily as we have been in the past. Obviously, I've no longer got access to the free screener discs I was sent when I was previewing the programme for MostlyFilm, and I can accept that: but the tickets for the public ICA screenings have been getting more and more expensive, and this year they weren't even doing the four-for-the-price-of-three deal they've had in previous years.

So this is why you're only going to be reading seven reviews from a programme containing twenty films. As for why you're reading them about three months after the tour finished, well, try looking out of the window.

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British Animation Awards 2020

You know that rumour doing the rounds recently about how there's a version of the Cats movie where the cats' bumholes *haven't* been digitally airbrushed out? I sometimes wonder if something similar exists for the BAA logo.A Tale Of The Before Times (#3 of 5)

The British Animation Awards started in 1996. Every two years since then, there's been a ceremony dishing out gongs to the finest animated films, short and long, that have been produced in this country. For me, the most interesting part of the awards is the Public Choice. A set of three programmes of animated shorts is sent around the cinemas of this nation, audiences vote on them, and the ones with the most votes take away prizes. As huge-budget commercials rub shoulders with zero-budget student films, the Public Choice is a great way for casual punters like myself to get a crash course in the current state of the art.

My first Public Choice was back in 2006, where the perfect storm of a period of unemployment and the installation of home broadband made it a good time to rekindle my interest in animated shorts. I provided a full-page report about it here, and did the same in 2008 and 2010, by which time the ubiquity of YouTube made it much easier to provide links to all the films. The decadent years of my BAA reporting were 2012 (three pages) and 2014 (also three), after which an awkward thing happened: the London screenings dropped from two at BFI Southbank to one at the Regent Street Cinema. Basically, if you couldn't make the specific date for a programme, you missed it. As a result, I only saw one of the Public Choice programmes in 2016, and none whatsoever in 2018.

But now it's 2020, and we're back, baby! Don't worry, the decadent years are over, and I'm going back to the review format I've described in a previous bi-year as 'insultingly brief'. It's the only way to go when you've got 58 short films to write about, which you originally saw back in February, and have left it so late to expand your notes that the awards have already been decided and handed out. (Not to mention how all the cinemas have since been closed down.) It's easiest to organise this by focussing on each of the three Public Choice programmes in turn, so let's do that. As it's taken most of the last four months to look up all the film and animator links, maybe you should click on some of those while you're here.

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Easter Parade 2: In Situ Boogaloo

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns. It seems like a risky economic strategy in the current climate, but there you go.Covid-19 has no respect for tradition, as we've learned. Since 2012, The Belated Birthday Girl and I have made an annual pilgrimage to Aberdeen for the BrewDog AGM, with its fifty minutes of business presentation in the middle of ten hours of drinking. We were all booked in for the 2020 AGM on Saturday April 11th, i.e. yesterday. You won't be surprised to hear that it didn't happen. (Watch this space, though.)

Other traditions, however, have turned out to be more resilient. Since 2002, with a couple of minor exceptions, The BBG and I have tried to ensure that wherever we find ourselves on Easter Sunday, we'll watch a film that was shot in that area of the world. 2020 would have been the first year that Easter Sunday coincided with our annual Aberdeen visit: we'd got as far as having a candidate film ready, in which ABZ doubled for Somalia (insert your own punchline here, Ricky) in a jolly little tale of the oil industry. In the gap between the cancellation of the AGM and the cancellation of our flights, we even had a sneaky backup plan which involved an Easter Sunday day trip out to BrewDog St Andrews.

All that fell through, of course, and now we're spending Easter Sunday 2020 in London. Which London film should we watch this year? Well, the last time I did a year-by-year roundup of our Easter films was in 2011, so let's build up to the answer slowly by seeing what we've watched since then.

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