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Event: Life on Film

October is a great month for movie buffs: it’s Cambridge Film Festival time. Velvet’s Sarah Ingram shares some early highlights from the programme

Cambridge really does pack a cultural punch. Since 1977, the annual Cambridge Film Festival has been one of the largest cultural events in the East of England. Not only does it deliver an exciting range of films from around the world that we might not otherwise see, it also attracts a star-studded collection of filmmakers and actors - luminaries such as Tilda Swinton, Ken Loach, Cate Blanchett and Mike Leigh.

One of the best things about the festival, however, is its friendliness. As festival director Tony Jones says: “What makes Cambridge different from other festivals is that it attracts big names but is nonetheless intimate and approachable. There are no red carpets, no banks of flashbulbs going off, and the chances are the acclaimed director of the much anticipated new film you’re about to see is happily hanging out in the bar, just like you!”

If old favourites are your bag, Calamity Jane, Guys and Dolls, and Singin’ in the Rain are being shown as part of the musicals strand. There are documentaries, rare silent features (with live music accompaniment) and an array of bite-sized films, some with local connections (look out for Dark Lights). And we mustn’t forget the standalone events, the Cambridge African Film Festival and the Family Film Festival.

Although the main venue is the splendid Arts Picturehouse, films are also being screened at the Heong Gallery, The Light Cinema, Emmanuel College and Kettle’s Yard.

Here’s a small selection of films we definitely want to see.

Domestique written and directed by Czech director Adam Sedlak

A domestique, apparently, is a cyclist in a road racing team whose role is to help the team leader during a race, by setting the pace or creating a slipstream. Described as a fascinating domestic drama, this film follows a couple who become increasingly mired in their own obsessions. Top cyclist Roman has had enough of serving as a domestique but as his strenuous training and strict regimen don't seem to be working, he sets up an oxygen tent at home. His obsession with his sports career, however, blinds him to his wife Sarlota's desperate desire to have a baby.

System Crasher written and directed by Nora Fingscheidt

System Crasher won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival and tells the story of Benni, a troubled 9-year-old whose out-of-control behaviour sees her being shuttled between care homes that can’t deal with her outbursts of psychotic rage. There are plenty of people who want to do the best they can for her, like child services manager Frau Bafané, but how can they when they can’t trust her? Enter Micha, a school escort who decides to take her to his cabin in the woods to commune with nature.

Life without Sara Amat directed by Laura Jou, based on the novel by Pep Puig

Leading the line-up for the festival’s popular Camera Catalonia strand, this romantic comedy captures the transition from childhood to adulthood. Pep is a 13-year-old boy who is in love with Sara Amat, a girl from his grandparents’ village. One night Sara disappears and no-one knows where she’s gone – except Pep, who finds her a few hours later hiding in his room.

Zero Impunity directed by Nicolas Blies, Stephane Hueber-Blies and animator Denis Lambert



Although this sounds like a disturbing and challenging film, it also sounds like a necessary one. An animated documentary, Zero Impunity explores the controversial subject of sexual violence in warzones. Unbelievably, this devastating crime – devastating for the victims, their families, their people as a whole (it’s a known fact that rape has been used as a weapon to humiliate and harm the enemy) - often goes unpunished by the powers-that-be. If we think we live in more civilised times, we need to think again.

Hi, AI – Love Stories from the Future written and directed by Isa Willinger

HI, AI at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival (16209143)
HI, AI at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival (16209143)

HI, AI at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival (16209157)
HI, AI at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival (16209157)

We pretty much understand that human-like robots will soon be an integral part of our lives, but this fantasy documentary shows robots interacting with humans in everyday environments today. When Chuck picks up his new robot partner Harmony from the factory, he’s told: “With an AI, you have to keep your sentences short and to the point.” Turns out, Harmony likes books. How will AI change our lives? What will we win from this new technology, and what will we lose?

The 39th Cambridge Film Festival runs October 17-24. For the full programme and information on how to book, go to cambridgefilmfestival.org.uk.

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