Monday, September 26, 2022
This documentary is a labour of love from documentarian Tim Mackenzie-Smith and benefits from interviews with five band members, including leaders Steve Scipio and Patrick Patterson. (The latter too became lawyers which helped in actually getting paid for all that sampling!) It also benefits from a lot of interviews with famous musicians talking about how they went on their own journeys to find the band behind the sound, and were inspired by Cymande in their own work.
Even more consequentially, we see how Cymande's refusal to conform, and refusal to be held back by societal discrimination, spoke to kids experiencing just that - not least a young Craig Charles.
The result is a film that will speak to fans of Cymande who didnt even know they were - people like me who instantly recognise their sound from endless reinterprations. But it deserves to be seen by anyone with an interest in the post-war British immigrant experience and remains shockingly relevant to our time. What I really loved was its message of getting on with it anyway, refusing to be pigeonholed and ignored, and carving your own path.
GETTING IT BACK - THE STORY OF CYMANDE has a running time of 89 minutes. It played SXSW 2022 and will play the BFI London Film Festival in October.
WHAT ABOUT CHINA has a running time of 135 minutes. The film won the New Vision award at the CPH:DOX festival and the Persistence of Vision award at the San Francisco Film Festival earlier this year and is nominated for the Grierson Award at this year's BFI London Film Festival. Tickets are available here.
Sunday, September 25, 2022
The only problem with the doc is its focus on Derrick May and then the final scene revelation that he has been accused of sexual assault and dropped from gigs, but denies the accusations and has not been charged. It left me breathless - like, wait, what, that's just what we're getting - a line of text? and no way of now working out what this means for his legacy. I know this doc is probably not where to litigate these claims but still this felt.... casual and cursory.
GOD SAID GIVE 'EM DRUM MACHINES has a running time of 92 minutes. The film played Tribeca 2022 and will play the BFI London Film Festival. Tickets are available here.
Douglas made his name with a couple of cricket documentaries and applies his deeply empathetic and well organised interrogation of the psychological pressures of elite sport shown in THE EDGE to the world of tennis. The result is a captivating mix of archive footage and contemporary interviews with McEnroe and his kids that reveals a troubled perfectionist, fully aware of his mistakes and yet still open to love. That hopefulness and honesty takes this way beyond a typical sports documentary and into the realms of basic life advice from a guy who's seen a lot and lived to tell the tale.
The movie opens with a puppy fat teenage McEnroe full of ambition and driven by a father who comes across as a bit of a nightmare. He blazes into the elite world of tennis but is cold-shouldered by Connors - something that only drives him further. Surprisingly - charmingly - despite his on-court antics he forms deep personal friendships with his heroes of tennis cool, Vitas Garuleitas and the near-silent Bjorn Borg. The best testament to that friendship is that the publicity-shy Borg agrees to be interviewed in this film.
McEnroe doesn't hide the conflict of those years: and what it was like to dominate tennis but to do so at the expense of a friend who then took early retirement because he couldn't cope with the defeat. It's still regretful that we missed potentially years of on-court rivalry, and one senses that McEnroe never quite recovered from not having Borg as a foil.
Meanwhile, in his personal life, McEnroe married Tatum O'Neil, hoping that their shared celebrity would lead to empathy. But few marriages survive addiction and infidelity and both Mack and his kids speak honestly about the self-destructive behaviour on both sides.
The great news for Mack is that while his tennis never really recovered, a second marriage to rock musician Patti Smyth gave him a second chance at being a husband and father, and it genuinely feels like he's in a good space with his kids now, and insofar as he's a man at peace with himself, he is that. For someone to come through tortuous elite sport, addiction, and a brutalising divorce and get to this place of honesty and acceptance, is really hopeful and makes for an inspiring film.
MCENROE has a running time of 104 minutes.The film played Tribeca 2022 and is currently available to rent and own.