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Phillip Bergson


Writing about Films and Festivals.

 

Film Critic, UK, member of Fipresci

 

Winner of the Student Journalist of the Year competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES", "Screen International", "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals. At the National Media Museum in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema.

As a Jury Member

 


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Pierfull Pleasure in the Best British Comedy in years

Unquestionably the funniest film I saw at the  2018 Edinburgh International Film Festival, Eaten by Lions (99 minutes) had sold-out world premiere screenings, selected in the British Cinema strand. From the enthusiasm of the audience at the second screening I attended, on a suprisingly sunny Scottish Saturday lunchtime in the Cineworld complex, and their clearly appreciative questions to director,cast and crew  from the paying public, it could have warranted a more prominent placing in the programme this year, certainly eclipsing for verbal wit, visual flair and some outright farcical sequences  the rather wet closing film, Swimming with Men (of  which more--or less-later).This film is  only the second but remarkably assured feature, capably directed and co-scripted by Mancunian Jason Wingard - and in  complete contrast to the gritty look and powerful emotions of his  brilliant debut In Another Life , set in and around the Calais "Jungle" ,a top prize-winner at both Raindance and Sochi Festivals in late 2017.

In fact, Eaten by Lions  is a clever expansion of his short Going to Mecca, deservedly award-winning back in 2011, retaining the plot of the search for an estranged  father in contemporary Northern England by teenage mixed-race half- brothers, and one of the young leads, Jack Carroll, who has fast matured into something of a young Eric Morecambe, bespectacled, gauche, but with sharp asides, as the Bradfordian sibling, while Omar is now played by Antonio Aakeel (seen in City of Tiny Lights, and the recent remake of  Tomb Raider), who is  strikingly reminiscent of the young Tony Curtis in his looks, at least.The film enjoyed similar success subsequently at its screenings in the London Independent Indian Film Festival, for which it qualified thanks to its multi-cultural cast.

 

The film opens in the suburbs of the West Yorkshire city of Bradford, and on huge council-owned apartment blocks that look as if the artist David Hockney (himself a Bradfordian) has given them a lick of paint recently. Two curiously mismatched teenage siblings, apparently raised by their grandmother following the loss of their parents (the title should suggest what happened to the mother, as for what happened to the father, well that is the journey/search/plot of the film) are trying to come to terms with their bereavement. only a letter and a name suggest that he may be residing near the famed seaside resort of Blackpool (on the other side of the Pennines).The English half-brother Pete  is welcomed into the genteel home of Ken and Ellen (comical stalwarts Kevin Eldon and Vicki Pepperdine, both excellent), who make it very clear by accommodating him in a cupboard under the stairs that Omar is not really their responsibility.After some deliciously funny domestic scenes the two lads set off together to track down Omar's  birth father and they arrive at Blackpool which has rarely looked as gorgeous as in Matt North's wide-screen cinematography ablaze with some colours reminiscent of a film by Pedro Almodovar. In this legendary holiday town they encounter brilliantly etched cameo turns from some real characters...a far-from-clairvoyant on the Pier(absolutely hilarious Tom Binns as a misfortune-telling tarot reader who manages somehow to put them on the right tract); when they lose all their luggage and clothes on the beach, a charming punkette Amy(a nice turn by Sarah Hoare) takes them back to her uncle Ray's  boarding house--and he is marvellously well-played by Johnny Vegas in a cleverly restrained performance that is both sleazy, suggestive, and very, very funny. The film is full of lovely oddballs, like the best of the classic Ealing and Carry On comedies,and the Anglo-Asian family into which the pair stumble has no less skilful performances from its many members,led by Asim Chaudry as another self-centred brother (who happens to front with equal brio the current starry on-board skits on British Airways flights, providing passengers with much-needed Comic Relief ), and much affectionate satire of cross-cultural manners,including a supposedly mute and  dutiful young daughter who is rather more of a raving nympho.This has to be the funniest film about family in ages.

            Phillip Bergson                                                                                    

          The film is selected in the Dinard Film Festival 2018         www.festivaldufilm-dinard.com

                                                                                                                                                www.eatenbylions.com

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