Sabaya

Sabaya means girl, but under ISIS sabaya refers to the women and girls raped and used as slaves. They are trafficked and sold and brutalised. When ISIS invaded the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq, in the Sinjar province near the border with Syria, they slaughtered boys and men, abducted and raped girls and women, and did their best to eradicate the Yazidi as a people.

This is the fight back. Sabaya follows the Yazidi Home Centre as they track down and recover trafficked Yazidi girls. It is incredibly dangerous.

5 years on from the ISIS invasion, Kurdish forces have managed to bring them under control. Many are being held in a prison facility, and the rest are in the Al-Hol camp. Like any defeated side, who rush to hide the family silver when the army is at the gates, ISIS started to hide the Yazidi girls they had took, seeing each one as money they could use, something to be sold.

Enter the volunteers at the Yazidi Home Centre, Mahmud, Ziyad, Siham, Zahra, and countless women who go undercover in the Al-Hol camp. These undercover agents must go into ISIS-controlled territory, pretend to be ISIS supporters, and relay back to Mahmud and Ziyad any information they can glean about Yazidi girls stashed around the camp.

The nerve of these folk is unreal. They are not an army. They are not going out there in a tank or with a SWAT team as back-up. Mahmud is a middle-aged man with a handgun. Most of the women working undercover are freed sabaya working to save their sisters. Any of them would be killed without hesitation if caught.

It is a real testament to the bravery of these women, to have endured so much, and be able to face down that fear, and return to one of the most dangerous places in the world. And the dedication of people like Mahmud, who has his wifi router tied up to a car battery to ensure these women can always reach him.

And yet that awe mingles with the mundane. This vital work often just looks like an idle man glued to his phone. As a recently freed girl sobs in the back bedroom, Mahmud’s wee boy skites around the floor on a pillow. Siham feeds the chickens, then takes the girl’s chadors and niqabs out back and burns them in a cleansing bonfire.

The tone of the film can change dramatically from scene to scene, emphasising the precariousness of the relative safety the Yazidi Home Centre. In one scene it can be of Siham and Zahra nurturing liberated women to recovery with gentle familial affection, and in the next a phone call to Mahmud means everyone piling into the van to run a midnight raid in the camp, kicking their way into tents and pressing traffickers into revealing the whereabouts of their victims, and making a dash home with a found survivor under pursuit and gunfire from ISIS.

Each life saved feels like a victory. A woman freed. A loved one returned. And a part of the attempted genocide of the Yazidi thwarted.

Censor

In Thatcher’s Britain, at the height of video nasty fever, Enid, a buttoned-down film censor who sincerely believes that her work protects society, comes across a film which challenges her sense of reality. Having lost her sister many years before, the lack of resolution to her disappearance causes Enid to believe one of the actresses in a low-budget horror is her sister, now grown into adulthood. As she plunges into the murky world of the very thing she despises, she begins to lose herself in her quest to regain her sister.

Loved Censor. Within the frame of the tv screen, all the horror is bright red, shrieking with screams, and sumptuous in its gore . In the real world of Enid’s life, everything is grey, with muted, humming lights, and terse and impersonal dialogue. This contrast seems to bleed together, as Enid’s dreams take on this Argento-esque soporific quality.

Enid’s character, in both her personal and professional life, is about self-control, about the repression of extremes of emotion, and keeping a firm grasp on her trauma and grief. By contrast the violence in the videos seems ecstatic, glorying in its own gratuity, a joyful release of the darkest kind.

In some ways it’s a strange choice to use the world of the most explicitly violent horror movies, to show a slow-burning, largely unarticulated, psychological horror. On the tv screen you have all this gore, but the film’s story is of slow internal descent, of all the screws coming loose on a personal’s character, of a break-down of what has pinned them together up until this point.

And the trauma that Enid is grappling with is so massively the opposite of all that tv violence. Her sister went out to play in the forest with Enid, and Enid returned alone. Those are the only facts we have. There seems to be no tangible evidence of what happened to her sister, not by accident or foul play or anything else. Far from bombastic gore, this huge and life-changing thing seemed to happen without leaving a mark.

But a child herself at the time, Enid cannot remember what happened. And it is this hole that frustrates her the most. Because how can she not remember something that important? The greatest frustration is that the answer she seeks most in the world, might somehow be buried inside her, and she can’t see it.

Obviously for anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie before, you go straight to the trope of ‘maybe she did it and doesn’t remember’. But that’s explicitly put on the docket by Enid herself, she’s aware of that as one of her deepest fears. In reality it wouldn’t actually change a whole lot, because whatever happened, Enid blames herself. She was the older sister, it was her suggestion to go play in the woods, whether by her own hand or another’s, it’s her fault her sister is gone. And that sense of responsibility for protection, and fear of a duty failed, drives her character.

Both the character of Enid and the video nasty moral panic feel the need to externalise the terrors concealed in mundane life, in the fragility of mortality, of sanity, and security, so that they might be vanquished. However in crusading against them, it only denies looking deeper into their causes, and that which in ourselves and our lives is unknown and unknowable.

If you like this…

Night of the Kings

Fucking beautiful!

Night of the Kings focuses on a night and a day in a maximum security prison in Ivory Coast. While a token force of guards remain, the prison is really run by its king, Blackbeard. In this brutal, modern setting, the most traditional of stories plays out – an ailing king is falling, his princes vie for his crown, and to stave off oncoming death and war, he holds a night of ritual storytelling. A new inmate is picked to be storyteller, and his life and the king’s, and maybe everyone else’s as well, relies on keeping his story going until dawn.

Exquisite cinematography combines with evocative design to create this world, a city within a jail within a jungle, just as the film is about stories within stories. The sound and music transport and punctuation journeys through the prison and through the stories. A Thousand and One Nights meets the griot tradition as the storyteller’s voice calls out, and the audience respond, and some in the crowd participate in acting out, dancing, and enhancing the story.

The storyteller, Roman, tries to tell the story of his friend, Zama King, a street gangster who is caught and killed by a mob on the day Roman is arrested. In it, he tries to weave it together with ancient fairytales of sorcerer kings and queens, tying his short, violent life to the history and mythology of his country. As he does so, he tries to reach back to the falteringly remembered traditions of the griot, striving to recall from before his life as a thief.

So much is done in this movie with so little. The use of the space to give a sense to a sprawling, cut-throat city, within prison walls half lost already to the encircling jungle. The ability to convey an impending sense of threat and danger with very little actual violence. It’s amazing how breathlessly merciless the world feels, when so little takes place on screen. Roman asks what awaits him at the end of the evening’s entertainment, and is told to look up the stairs, where a hook hangs from the ceiling. The implication and dread don’t need anything more explicit than that. When Zama King is captured by the mob, in a crescendo of anger, you only see them put the tyre around his neck, then you see flames from behind the backs of the crowd, and don’t need to see more. A lot is down with very little.

The only thing I’ll say is, I would have liked the ending to have been more rounded, pulling more together from the threads within and without the stories. But it ends, as everything in this world ends, punctured by loud, bright, violence. And the abruptness of that, the lack of satisfaction in that, kinda reflects the lives of the people this film is about. It is Zama King, dead at 19. It is the inmates, who live in brutal conditions where the threat of death is ever-present. It is the story of revolution and war in Ivory Coast where the satisfying ending to its story is lost in unfinished and unfinishing violence.

If you like this…

Bhaji on the Beach

Went to Bhaji on the Beach as part of the Film4 classics season. I never saw this as a kid, coz I would have been 7 when it came out. But it’s great!

A bunch of Brummies go on a trip to Blackpool through the local South Asian Women’s centre. There’s wee auld grannies clucking their tongues at all the weans. There’s Asha, who’s going half mad in her joyless domesticity and is having visions of the cinematic romance she once envisioned for herself. There’s the teenagers who’ve come to try and get a snog away from parental eyes. There’s Hashida, the neighbourhood’s golden girl who’s found out she’s pregnant to her secret black lover. And there’s Ginder, who’s scandalised the community by running out on her husband to become a single mum.

I loved this film. It starts out a bit rocky, with some of the scenes a bit ‘Eastenders acting’, but as the film goes on everybody seems to hit their stride.

It’s so weird to see something from a time I lived in, and see it look so dated. I kept going – Look, Woolworths! Look, I had that plaid shirt! As a seaside film, it already has a level of twee nostalgia baked it, but if anything, time has lent it an increased sweetness.

It’s just a good time. Just as the characters are on a nice day out, the movie is just a feel-good ride. For all the issues hit on – domestic abuse, racism, abortion – it’s never grim, because the nucleus is of a strong community of women, sometimes in conflict with each other, but fierce to defend each other.

P.S. My favourite was granny Pushpa. She reminded me so much of my own granny, who, whenever she had to mention a controversial subject, spoke through her nose. Them down the street were “Cah-thlah-s” and they two lassies across the road were “leh-sbeh-s”. Pushpa does the same thing except she breaks into Hindi whenever she’s saying something dodgy. I loved her so much!

Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie and Tupac

It was a fucking lovely day outside today, so I went and got a Tango Ice Blast and went to see Last Man Standing.

What to say man, fuck.

So, last night I rewatched Nick Broomfield’s first documentary on this subject, Biggie and Tupac. I had a vague memory seeing it back in the day, but it was out when there was so much stuff about this being put out, it all kinda merged together. In the trailer for Last Man Standing, Broomfield says that before a lot of stuff folk wouldn’t go on the record about, whereas now with Suge Knight put away for a long time, people were coming forward to talk. I wanted to remind myself about what exactly the gaps had been.

Because 20 years is a long time. Right after it happened, the line was that Bad Boys put out a hit on Tupac and Death Row put out a hit on Biggie. Then it started coming out naw, it was a gang thing, Tupac had beat up some guy from a rival gang, they’d hit Tupac, and then Tupac’s gang took out Biggie in retaliation. Broomfield’s first film came in about here in the timeline of stories, when word started going that the LAPD had been involved in Biggie’s murder. Now, LAPD covering up shit, or deliberately not pursuing shit wasn’t a surprise to anybody. What the Broomfield documentary laid bare was there were LAPD cops on the books at Death Row, being paid as protection (“security”), who dressed in gang colours, who were heavily involved with gang members, and who were there while all the crazy illegal drugged-up shit was going down at Death Row.

Biggie and Tupac is a very different documentary to Last Man Standing. It’s not just made 20 years ago, it’s made by someone with 20 years less experience. I watched Biggie and Tupac and was struck by how naive Broomfield seems. As experienced as he was at doing documentaries even then, he just rocks up at all these places in Compton, asking people what they know with a massive camera on his shoulder. He seems completely unaware of what it means to bring a white face and camera into Compton and start asking about gang affiliation and links to organised criminal activity.

I find his language kinda ill-considered too. Like, he talks about Snoop Dogg being terrified of Suge Knight getting out of jail, on that occasion for parole violation. It’s like, you can’t talk about Snoop Dogg being terrified, quaking in his boots at Suge’s shadow, are you crazy? That is the least diplomatic thing you could fucking say in what was, at that time, still an ongoing gang war.

Also, a lot of people he interviews speak differently to him than they do when speaking to each other, or recalling a conversation. A lot of that code-switching, which kinda showed to me they weren’t really comfortable with him. Your interviewees should be telling, not translating.

Also, he didn’t seem to have any backing from anyone in Tupac’s side of things, no support from the family. He kinda painted Afeni Shakur as a deadbeat mum, who ditched Pac to do drugs his whole childhood, but showed up to cosy up with Suge when Tupac’s royalties were up for grabs after his death. I think everyone would agree, that’s not a fair and accurate portrayal of Afeni.

It’s always really suspect when something doesn’t have the family’s backing. But Violetta, Biggie’s mum really took to Broomfield and felt she got a lot out of the movie. Broomfield put her in touch with Russell Poole, the whistleblower who uncovered the links between LAPD officers and Death Row, and they shared information and support. As a result of some of the things uncovered in the documentary, Violetta sued the LAPD.

So why go back 20 years later and make the film again?

Well, for one, because no one has been arrested or charged in the murders of Tupac Shakur or Biggie Smalls. In Tupac’s case the killer confessed, and boasted about that shit all over the neighbourhood. He could have been picked up any time, but he was killed in the subsequent waves of gang violence 18 months later. In Biggie’s case, you had enough evidence that Russell Poole wanted to proceed with charging officers David Mack and Rafael Perez, among others, and was shut down by the chief of police. It’s not like these cases are a whodunnit. There are extremely viable suspects. And you’d think with two of the biggest celebrities at the time being murdered on the street in public in the centre of the city, you would *think* that would warrant pull-out-all-the-stops, no-stone-left-unturned investigation.

It’s weird now, to communicate to someone who wasn’t even born at the time, to this generation, like how big of a thing this was. Tupac got killed on the Las Vegas Boulevard, right on the fucking strip! The night of a Mike Tyson fight. You could not have more eyes on you. I dunno what the equivalent today would be, but in terms of fame and money, imagine Beyonce getting shot in Times Square on New Years’ Eve. For nobody to be caught for that kinda crime, you have to be determined not to catch someone.

Anyway, Last Man Standing. I wondered if it would simply be retreading old ground, basically the same documentary as Biggie and Tupac with some of the holes plugged. But it’s not. It’s its own seperate thing. Biggie and Tupac is very much the story about Biggie and Tupac, their rags to riches story, their talent and their friendship, destroyed by needless violence. Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie and Tupac is about Suge Knight. It’s his story.

Because in Biggie and Tupac, all roads led back to Suge Knight, violence surrounded him like it was circling a drain, yet he remains illusive throughout the film. He does one interview, it is the film’s last scene, and he refuses to comment on the murders, but makes a not-so-veiled threat against Snoop Dogg and labels him a snitch.

In Last Man Standing, we begin with Suge Knight. Who he is and what he did are the central questions of the movie. As Biggie and Tupac ends on Suge Knight making death threats, and Broomfield wondering if Snoop is going to be next in what was, at that time, a seemingly never-ending list of rappers losing their lives to this cycle of violence, you are left with the distinct impression that Suge Knight is a dangerous man, that if he gets his way, the killing won’t end. As Last Man Standing starts, we begin with the scene of Suge Knight’s most recent murder, the killing of Terry Carter. It seems the ominous assessment held true to its grim promise.

The film traces Suge Knight from his fairly comfortable upbringing, his good home life, and his promising scholarship to college, and his career in college football, and briefly at a professional level. His origins are about the furthest you can get from where he ends up. He was never involved with the Bloods, although he knew people in the gang, even a couple of friends. He wasn’t involved in any street violence.

After his football career doesn’t take off, he uses his heavy set frame as a bodyguard, and manages to work for celebrities like Bobby Brown. He makes connections and sees a good business opportunity, becoming a black-owned label putting out the work of black artists at what was the birth of the rap genre.

And if it had stopped there, Suge Knight would be a millionaire, Tupac and Biggie would be old and be living off their investments like Jay-Z, and an untold number of ordinary kids on the street would still be kicking about the neighbourhood.

The gangsta image that sold so well, went from something that was projected to something that he wanted to live. You know how they say don’t get high on your own supply? Suge Knight sold an image, and he began to buy into the shit he sold.

Some of the shit they detail as going down in Death Row Records is insane. If it was happening in a corrugated tin and concrete shack in the back of a vacant lot, it would still have been a crazy place for all this shit to go down. The fact it’s a working business office, a place where people were trying to record tracks and put an album together, during daylight working hours. In-fucking-sane. To intimidate folk, Suge Knight used to keep a opaque tank full of black piranhas in his office, like a fucking bond villain. They talk about having bitch fights, like dog fights but with women. Have two women beat the shit out each other for the crew’s entertainment. There’s orgies right there on the red carpet, over the Death Row logo.

And he just sucks everyone else into his own vortex of madness, and power, and belief he was untouchable. When he signs Tupac, he draws Tupac from his goal to make socially conscious music influenced by his mother’s Black Panther activism, to this Thug LifeTM money machine, convincing him that only he had his back. The drugs, the paranoia, and the whole too-muchness kinda destroys Tupac, drawing him into increasingly self-destructive behaviour, especially lashing out at Biggie, an old friend who he feels betrayed and abandoned by, due in large part to Suge’s manipulations.

Last Man Standing holds Suge Knight morally responsible for the death of Tupac. You can’t invite your mate out to play on the motorway, then hold yourself blameless when he ends up dead. The shit that gets Tupac killed, is Suge Knight’s shit. It’s his poison that he stirred.

As far as Biggie is concerned, it’s not even that far removed. It’s as simple as Suge pays David Mack and David Mack shot Biggie. End of. If you can’t draw a line between that few dots…

When Biggie and Tupac ended, you felt that the story was unfinished, that the killing might continue. Suge Knight is now serving a 28 year sentence. He’s 56. He won’t be eligible for parole until his 70s, and he’s not gonna make it to his 70s because he’s had blood clots and all other sorts of shit. It’s over. He had to kill one more person, but yeah, he’s finally been stopped.

Last Man Standing is the story of how one egomaniac caused so much violence, loss and misery. And all the people caught in the crossfire.

The Killing of Two Lovers

The Killing of Two Lovers is the exact opposite of what you think it’s gonna be.

From the trailer, I thought it was gonna be a tense atmosphere thriller, which it is, but my big worry is it would be a sympathetic portrait of a wife-murderer, yet another tender look at the pitiable state of a white man denied his right to domestic bliss, and avenging what was his. You know, the usual toxic masculinity bullshit.

But it’s not. Or, it is about toxic masculinity, but it’s about grappling with it, not engrandising it. It starts at the place I expected it to end. It starts at the height of the crescendo. The main character stands before his sleeping wife and her lover, a gun in his hand. But this moment is not a culmination of tension looking for ecstatic release in violence. It is shown as the precipice of horror as the main character realises this is what’s become of his life.

And so the rest of the film is of him trying to find another way to deal with this problem. Not by kicking off his baggage and going to a counsellor to hug it out, coz life’s not like that. But you see him trying make more effort with his wife, trying to make more effort with his kids, and the whole time that tension is in the background. Does he know any way to handle this that doesn’t come cascading down in rage?

Because the film follows him through these cycles. As he tries to find some way of expressing the cacophony of emotions he’s feeling. And how, with frustration, it always ends up being funnelled into anger. Because that is the only emotion men are actually taught how to express.

So the structure of the film starts from this place of horror, and spirals through these attempts to pull away from it and finding its draw once more, each time the tension rising as you become more and more invested in the characters you’re getting to know.

Masterful build in tension, beautiful cinematography, wonderful acting, and actually surprising for what is such a by-the-numbers cliche of a premise. Will surpass your expectations.

If you like this…

The Father

Jesus, what was I thinking? Staved off greeting til the last scene, then sobbed like a fucking wean. My mask is soaking.

At first you’re like, you’re an ol’ bastard aren’t you? Just coz you’re old, and ill, and pitiable, doesn’t mean you’re not a bastard, and probably have been a bastard all your days.

Then as the scenery and furniture change in subtle ways, and the cast are played by multiple actors, you get taken along on this unsettling sense of sliding through time, totally disorientated.

At first, the dad is hostile, seeing his constant confusion as a product of malicious agents, like his daughter or his carers, but as the story progresses, you just see him lose his bluster as he becomes truly scared. And you realise just what a vulnerability he is at with the people around him.

All through the film the dad, the daughter ask for reassurance from others, it is going to be ok, isn’t it? They tell each other it’s going to be alright. But it’s not. You’re going to get old, and feeble, and die. And everyone you love will leave or die or be forgotten to you.

But the world also turns the other way too if you look. The world is full of people looking out for you, loving you, caring about you. And outside, every day, is a new day. And you are alive for as long as you live to see it.

A really heartbreaking film about the absolute fundamentals of life and love.

Stray

A wonderful documentary following three stray dogs through the streets of Istanbul.

On one level this is just a lovely documentary about the lives of dogs. Istanbul had tried for years to get rid of the city’s stray dogs, with culls and inhumane tactics, until mass protests made it the first city in the world where it is illegal to put down or hold captive stray dogs. Thus the city’s strays now just wander free, and Stray shows us their world. It is beautiful. There is no narration or ‘interpretation’ for the audience. You just go where they go, see what they see. And it is beautiful. A city of lights, smells of food, the lap of the ocean in the harbour, green grassy parks, architecture both ancient and modern, awe-striking and derelict, a world replete with treasures. Unlike the complicated human drama they might wander through, the dogs care only if in this moment they are warm, they are dry, they are fed, they are safe, they are among friends. And they have all they need.

The tone of the film is a meditation, in following the dogs you are asked to see the world as they see it, to think not on any big picture, but to experience the world all around us. To look, without searching for purpose, upon the world as it is.

On another level, this film has a philosophical nature. Accompanied by quotations from Diogenes, who is known to have espoused the virtues of dogs, the film asks why human life is so contentious when dogs live among us as though the world were an untroubled bounty. As you watch the dogs walk along the water of the harbour, their life is undarkened by past memories, undisturbed by worries for the future, and unfettered by want in the present. Why can we not all live like a dog?

This perspective gives the film a unique viewpoint. The dogs occasionally hang out with a group of homeless refugee street kids, and whereas in any other documentary they would be portrayed as victims without agency on the lowest wrung of society, Stray shows them as rich with everything they need, sheltering in abandoned buildings, sleeping surrounded by friends, wrapped up together in blankets with the dogs, finding and sharing food together, and always glad to see each other, a endless wealth of kindness.

Just a lovely film.

Possessor

The first scene of this movie is of a woman searching with her fingertips along her scalp for a small scab, through which she then pushes what looks like an audio jack into her skull. As she twiddles a dial on the attached contraption, she looks in the mirror and her face cycles through from smiles and joy to tears and despair. And that one scene pretty much tells you what you are in for with this movie.

Yes, there is some gruesome physical horror. The violence in this is violent. But that’s not the heart of the horror. Watching the face of someone as the passively experience something horrifying, are made to display or suppress their deepest emotions at will, the lack of control of it all, is disturbing.

Despite being high concept, this is actually a really simple movie. Once you accept the premise – there is an assassin who can, through the use of technology, take control of people and use them to kill targets, then commit suicide, leaving no trace of outside involvement – the plot is very straightforward. A hit goes wrong, and the possessed person comes looking to take revenge on the assassin. It’s a straight murder-revenge.

But that is not to deny all the beautiful nuance instilled into the story by Cronenberg’s directing or by Andrea Riseborough’s performance as the assassin Vos. In fact, it’s the clarity of direction in the story that allows the complexities to be explored without any distractions to cause confusion.

This is just a beautiful film. Contrasting the dull, recognisably familiar, realism of Vos’s home life, with these extravagant, otherworldly sets where she murders the rich. These opulent venues pour through these sumptuous shots, reminding me of stuff like Neon Demon, or even in some ways, the sinisterly colourful Logan’s Run. The use of light, colour, shadow, and distortion expertly creates this crocodile-brain level of discomfort with the abstract experience of being invaded, violated, suppressed, and possessed. The horror of being a passenger in these scenes of orgiastic violence, where bright red blood and white teeth go flying over these elegant surroundings, is conveyed so viscerally.

And enough praise cannot be said of Andrea Riseborough’s performance. After the movie finished, I was surprised to think of how many scenes she’s actually in. The majority of the film focuses on her in the body of actor Christopher Abbott, she only gets about 20 mins at the beginning to establish her character, then she is mostly just a haunting presence, a disembodied voice, or something he sees out the corner of his eye. So how in 20 mins, does she manage to totally hold this film in the palm of her hand?

Here’s the weird thing about Possessor, your sympathy, weirdly, is with the assassin. This film shouldn’t work. That’s not how you tell a story, giving the audience a morally bereft character, who makes no attempt at any redeeming acts, and expect people to root for them. Also, Vos isn’t some charming maverick, or loveable villain, quick-witted and entertaining, someone you love to hate. Vos isn’t trying to win you over despite her flaws. And there’s no apology for the violence she enacts – the horrendous violence, which is much more than her job requires. She’s supposed to just walk up and shoot folk in the head, but she seems to revel in their suffering, stabbing and bludgeoning them. Vos should not be sympathetic.

Yet. She is. Andrea Riseborough makes her seem fragile, vulnerable, barely holding it together, losing her self to the nature of her job. Her tiny island of domestic happiness is something she seems to hold cupped in her hands like the last flickering light of her humanity. And how protective of it she is, makes the audience feel protective of it. Whatever becomes of her, this little house with husband and child, must not be imperilled. And this especially hits home when you see characters walk out of their over-the-top MTV mansions and unreal lifestyle, into the ordinary street of her terraced house. It’s like they’re walking out a high adrenaline action film and into the real world, where real people live. Where the casual violence suddenly becomes horrifying and unacceptable.

Excellent film.

If you like this…

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers is an amazing animated film about Robyn, the wolf hunter’s daughter, who meets Mebh, a wolfwalker, who is a girl when she is awake and a wolf when she dreams. Their meeting is a clash of worlds, and the possibility for a new future and freedom for both of them.

The animation style is just gorgeous. The forest and Mebh is full of flowing lines, art nouveau style, and Celtic designs. The town is Robyn’s world and it is full of rigid lines, a sharp art deco, soldiers are drawn square-shouldered, reminding me a little of the character design in the 90s Batman animated series. The visual theme of town is of squares, repeated in bars, chains, helmet guards. It is a visual representation of this world where everything is considered to have its place and everything must keep to that place, and how that rigid thinking creates a prison for us all.

Meanwhile Mebh’s wolf pack flows like liquid through the forest, the skeins of smells guiding them by scent, through curtains of cascading leaves, until they curl up in their yonic cave, safe as a womb, surrounded by their magical carvings, in the heart of the woods.

There is a stark dichotomy drawn, to underline the themes of domination throughout the film. This is about an English settlement imposed on the Irish countryside, about Christianity imposed on a pagan people, about civilisation imposed on nature, about male control and oppression imposed on women and girls. And about the ability for those things to slip like liquid through the rigid squares set out for them.

The soundtrack is absolutely banging, with hits like Running With The Wolves given their own spin, and a subtle, intricate score. The voice work is just great, with particular shout-out to Simon McBurney, who brings such a weasley villainhood to the Lord Protector.

Just a brilliant movie, go see.