Consistently creating clean and transcendent beats, Yotto has long secured his place amongst Anjunadeep’s heavyweight roster of electronic talent. The Finnish DJ’s latest offering has two tracks of club-friendly harmonies along with their extended mixes, both seamlessly combining melodic tempos with irresistible build-ups and breakdowns. You know what is coming as a Yotto track progresses, it is not teased as much as it could be but hearing that tempo switch is still a slice of audial heaven.
A long-time fellow of Anjunadeep, Yotto has recently reached out further to hatch his own label Odd One Out, one to watch for the near-future. He has been something of a mainstay of the international club scene of the last five years, though often does not receive the same credit in the mainstream as label-mates such as Andrew Beyer or Lane 8. There may be a myriad of reasons for this, but the volume and effort Yotto puts into releases will surely not be one considering his impressive back catalogue, especially since his album debuted in 2018.
This latest release showcases a DJ who has mastered their sound to an enviable degree. As often the case with Anjunadeep EPs, the extended mixes produce that slow burn so well that it is hard to go back to the edited versions. Those who like their house tracks short and sweet would not even fault these six-minute mixes, which surely just accentuate the journey of discovery and dancing. Both tracks manage to ignite in us a vibe of awakening and that rush of feelings we all know so well.
Daydreaming is perhaps the more complex of the tracks, working so well due to its dramatic, horror movie-esque synths over almost playful chimes and high-pitched, childlike samples - producing impressive emotional depth even by Yotto’s standards. Though if pitting the tracks against one another (not always recommended!), it has to be concluded that Another Riff for the Good Times may win most hearts as it simply secures what its own title suggests: a damn good riff. The focus throughout is on the melody instead of delving into the abstract. Even so, the song title is much too modest, giving its highly impassioned harmony too little credit. It is nonetheless remarkable that both tracks sync together, creating an uplifting atmosphere which would make any audiophile immediately dive into Yotto’s discography. And rightly so.
Part of LSFF 2020 – U Ok Hun?
Director Tomek Popakul brings the dark rainy underground to life in this distinctively sketchy and disjointed animated tale. Set in the anonymous reaches of the Eastern Bloc, the film is captivating from its inception as it introduces a runaway girl, appropriately named Young, hitching a ride with a stoner criminal, Skinny. Straight off, a sense of menace and uneasiness is established through the unconventional plot – Young’s motives for being on the run are alluded to but never stated – but also through the chaotic aesthetics of the piece. The characters’ stick-bodies have many points and angles; their limbs dangle and twitch; their asterisk eyes dart about; their bloody knuckles protrude alarmingly; washed-out psychedelic clothing fades against their pale skin. To call it simply trippy would be to severely undersell its unique style.
Showcased as part of LSFF’s U Ok Hun? event, which broadly explored the crossover of various subcultures and everyday life, love and loneliness, the short stood out among strong contenders due to the bizarre turns the plot takes throughout. The animation itself acts as a sort of cheat code to really bring the experimentation and psychedelia of the subject to the fore. One has to admire Popakul’s enticing design, which despite the greyness of the palette on occasion, finds beauty in the degeneracy, evident for example with the beautiful technicolour raindrops.
The two characters, intriguing enigmas in their own ways, form an unspoken bond as they experiment with drugs and being ‘on the road’ in a hippie campervan. Young even cuts and dyes her hair into an edgy shaved bob; signifying her full transition to Skinny’s transient lifestyle. Their trip, in all senses, culminates in crossing a scary border to attend a psychedelic music festival. Popakul’s creation captures the mutual mania and euphoria of an intense trip astoundingly well; the shaky nervousness, the blurred lines between reality and fabrication of the mind, the magical connection one finds with strangers and the incessant thump thump thump of a droning bassline behind everything. The sound, the colours, the confusion comes out in a tribute to drug use with all the baggage which this implies, something that words could not truly do justice to.
The dark side of acid liberation is not just ventured into but forms the basis of the plot’s turning point, as Young realises her folly and that suddenly, hopelessly, she is in too deep with someone who is dangerous and prone to violence. In nurturing this development through Young’s naïve eyes, the film creates an achingly haunting atmosphere for the viewer where discomfort is encouraged; the end, far from cathartic, secures a dark cycle of drifting and escapism. Both the bright and the bleak of drug subcultures are captured by this smart and disorientating short; ultimately the dark underbelly of a hedonistic lifestyle casts a shadow over any fleeting rays of light.
Originally posted on MyDylarama: https://www.mydylarama.org.uk/LONDON-SHORT-FILM-FESTIVAL-Conte-Anglais-dir-Daniel-Marc-Janes
This sweet, topical short from director Daniel Marc Janes is both profound and poignant, masterfully touching on the English psyche from an outsider perspective. Shot in 16mm, the visually warm picture ends with a more succinct and intimate expression of Post-Brexit Britain than any insider knowledge could secure. It was showcased as part of the London Short Film Festival’s Visions of Albion event, which presented a formidable range of new shorts – each distinct in both theme and style but which all grappled with questions about our national identity and societal decline at this time of crux and crisis.
The strength of Conte Anglais, or English Tale, lies in its breezy style - both in the way it was elegantly shot and in how it brings the English seaside to life through bright colours, nostalgic lighting, loose fashion and, of course, the sounds of the seagull. The setting, Clacton-on-Sea, defies stereotypes about the Essex coast, instead creating a harmonious atmosphere of peace, fun, and the joys of youth.
The film follows two French girls, close to each other but with vocal differences in their philosophies on life and love, as they briefly explore this seaside town as part of a journalism assignment to investigate the Brexit vote. The schism is made apparent as it is revealed that Clacton is so close to Europe geographically yet so far emotionally, as evidenced by the population’s overwhelming choice to leave the European Union. As the characters meet two local boys, their differences - between carefree lust and introspective desire for love - grow in stark contrast. The lads, with their innate Britishness but also their own apparent differences, give the girls an insightful glimpse into the mindset of England; in doing so they offer both the characters and the audience a roundabout representation of the national psyche.
The bittersweet atmosphere climaxes on the girls’ last day in Clacton, as the main character vocalises her understanding of the aimlessness but more importantly the hope of the Brexit vote. After originally discussing the differences between the romanticism of French boys and the straightforwardness of English boys, she finally experiences an epiphany in her assignment. The Brexit vote, in this small town across the pond from Europe at least, did not come out of reason, logic or tactics but a romanticism of escape and adventure; she concludes by poignantly dubbing Brexit, with great irony, ‘the most French thing Britain has ever done’.
Originally posted on MyDylarama: https://www.mydylarama.org.uk/Gaza-dir-Gary-Keane-Andrew-McConnell
Gaza never falters in its intimate portrayal of humans whose lives have been profoundly affected by political decisions made without their consent or interests at heart. The footage is unmanufactured; it is not a passive news report about the body count of an active war zone but a real character study of personal and societal perseverance through the most devastating circumstances. It is both destruction and happiness; pain and dancing; and only political insofar as it spells out that sympathy is not enough consolation for an idea of a free and just Gaza.
After the film screening at Soho’s Curzon, the co-director Andrew McConnell spoke of how he was welcomed overwhelmingly into the local community; approaching Gaza as an outsider actually created the impetus for the most intimate and heart-wrenching moments of the film. In accessing these stories, building relationships and foundations, the directors were able to breach the only realistic difference between Gaza as a ‘big open air prison’ and an actual prison. Lack of drinkable water, electricity shortages and barriers to travel render this obviously stunning and culturally rich land a zone of restrictions. It is thus sadly relevant that the directors use imagery of the sea, which is culturally important to the Gazan psyche and way of life but ultimately serves as a false symbol of freedom and escape. This gives the undeniably beautiful shots of Gazans socialising by the beach, silhouetted against the backdrop of sunsets over a long flat sea, a bittersweet feeling.
Everything in Gaza is told through the eyes of its subjects; fishermen, taxi drivers, tailors and lifeguards create the actual scope of Gazan life, the directors are just a conduit. It is apparent, and indeed painfully so, that Gazans are trying to forge their own expression out of a dire situation, evident through profiles of a disabled Palestinian rapper and a family of aspiring models creating their own catwalk at home. For such dreams to flourish even in a limited sense, in a land under massive blockade and siege, truly speaks to the spirit that the directors gleaned in their exploration of Gaza. This holds even more weight given that the directors’ original film idea was just to document the surprisingly popular pastime of surfing in Gaza. Both the original niche approach and the broader final project are powerful in that they deflate the conflict narrative surrounding merely the mention of the word ‘Gaza’.
The biggest revelation of the film, an underlying gut punch lurking throughout, comes as many Gazans, often young unemployed men, approach the Israeli border fence – a symbol of oppression and denial of a future. The harrowing scenes depict the futility of Gazans throwing rocks up against a much more powerful and ruthless enemy, but doing so out of frustration and lack of opportunities; as an outlet not as a solution. Seeing sieges in real time, concerning people and families the film has already fleshed out, brings home the devastation and misery of the cycle of conflict on the ground in this region. It is a reminder of the reality of Gazans, that the humour, the singing and the brotherhood of its people happen not just in spite of the terror and violence but because of it; this is the crux of solidarity and resistance.
Road to Palestine (1985), dir: Layaly Badr and Upper Gate (1991), dir: Arab Loutfi
Originally posted on MyDylarama: www.mydylarama.org.uk/Road-to-Palestine-1985-dir-Layaly-Badr-and-Upper-Gate-1991-dir-Arab-Loutfi
The London Palestine Film Festival’s ‘Women of the Revolution’ event featured two films from female directors – both grainy but politically vital insights into the plight of Palestinians in the 1980s.
The first, Layaly Badr’s Road to Palestine, served as a dark short with a long message – one of deep-rooted resistance and tragic injustices, a tale of Palestine’s reality for decades. The film, as a cartoon, burdens stick figures with the results of conflict and oppression, in the setting of a Palestinian refugee camp. As Badr expanded in the Q&A after the film, the drawings were actually created by European children after hearing the story of airstrikes on these camps; thus the animation is purposely childlike in its style and reaction to the horror. The danger present in the short is accentuated through dark colours, the sound of beating drums and an almost psychedelic, disjointed animation style which brings an intriguing innocence to the whole film, as it deals with such a heavy subject.
A heart-breaking point was made by the director; her film was an actual articulation of a 7-year-old Palestinian refugee’s account of an airstrike on her camp, who described the bombs as ‘balloons from the sky’. Again, the grim spectre of innocence in the face of the horror of war is blatant. Ultimately, the film points toward the sad reality that work and struggle are unbreakable bonds in Palestinian existence, and hints at how kids grow up early in prison camps due to being forced to confront the reality that ‘struggle is our only way to Palestine’.
The second film featured beautiful archival footage of interviews with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, peppered with the marks of time and, possibly, clandestine transportation. Arab Loutfi’s Upper Gate shows real people, real lives affected by the occupation of Sidon in southern Lebanon. The diverse figures interviewed have many informative stories to tell; tragic, yes, but also at times humorous, blunt or meandering. As one interviewee expands, their position as refugees in another country left them stigmatised but the pride of their homeland never wavered, it is part of their constant psychological resistance to occupation.
The film fluctuates between soothing voices, blotchy images and tales of tragedy and struggle. Though the interviews are of immense historical value, the diversity of points being made and the confusion of the conflicts they discuss often leaves one lost – a guiding narrative would’ve assisted greatly, though given the restrictions of the time, budget and otherwise, it is understandable why the dialogues are just presented as ‘raw’. Still, Loutfi managed to create an introspective piece featuring tranquil footage, of the sea or people laughing together, that contrasts seamlessly to descriptions of the brutality of the war.
Both these passionate female directors deserve recognition for what they achieved at a very politically dangerous and hostile time. As Loutfi articulated in an inspiring video testimony, ‘filmmaking is an expression and defiance against erasure of Palestinian identity.’
Originally published on MyDylarama: www.mydylarama.org.uk/It-Must-Be-Heaven-by-Elia-Suleiman
The London Palestine Film Festival opened with an expectedly strong, but nonetheless captivating experience, screening Elia Suleiman’s It Must Be Heaven at the Barbican. The film’s protagonist leads a life by observation, with Suleiman playing himself - only presumably more silent and bemused. His quizzical looks throughout invite us to view the bizarre events before our eyes with a similar detached penetration, as Suleiman lives day to day in his home country, then to Paris and New York trying to sell his script, before returning to Nazareth. The film makes deft use of sound, or lack thereof in the case of Suleiman’s demeanour, creating a coalition of familiar urban scenes and eerie abandonment. The astute use of sparse sounds – whether that is the rapping on a door or the distant thunder of fireworks evoking bombs – adds a layer of tension throughout, even in scenes which don’t necessitate it.
The story plays out not as a fixed plot but as a series of comical vignettes complete with a silent-film star; short humorous snapshots of oddities loosely threaded into a narrative, with a journey and an ultimate return. Palestine, as a real place but also as the figurative, looms large; perhaps even larger outside of itself, as remnants of occupied life are uncovered in all locations. An over the top Palestinian solidarity meeting in New York and a white executive telling Suleiman that his film is ‘not about Palestine enough’ are highlights of how the imagined ideal – an idea of Palestine - often trumps real, lived experiences, such as those of Palestinian filmmakers who don’t want to make a Western-perspective creation about their homeland.
Though the mini absurdisms, a trend towards social commentary is gleaned – on nationalism, hyper-modernisation, societal repression and censorship – but slightly too often these scenes fall into pure irreverence over biting satire. The humour does, however, work in a way to blur the sense of realism in the film, giving it a dreamlike other-worldly quality that is refreshing – for instance, the emptiness of Paris in particular acts as an exposure, a bare-bones tackling of the police brutality and segregation apparent in the French state. Racial and class relations, especially salient in France, are not put under a microscope by Suileman’s silent stare but perhaps, at least, a bigger lens.
Though fantasy plays a part, the most chilling and memorable scenes bring an underlying, very real terror to the forefront. Outside of Nazareth, two Israeli Defence Forces’ soldiers are shown driving at speed, eyes not on the road but rather into a phone’s screen, as they take multiple selfies in front of their latest capture – a blindfolded young Palestinian girl in the backseat, whose appearance is highly reminiscent of 16-year old activist Ahed Tamini, who gained international attention for videos of her confrontations with Israeli soldiers. The glamorisation of the Israeli authorities’ brand of violence is well-documented in real life, through propagandistic adverts from the IDF on Twitter for example. Scenes like this prove the solace of humour and camaraderie is not always enough to reckon with such modern evil, and they truly bring the film back down to a cold reality.
The final scene is moving beyond words, and acts as a rein to the film’s few excesses, which were never a deal-breaker to its intelligence regardless. Perhaps Suleiman does not go as far as he could in drawing parallels between the oppression of his homeland and the latent authoritarianism of Western societies, but the links are left there for the viewer to connect the dots. After all, Suleiman’s character is but the observer in this film – to go beyond inference is up to us.
Originally posted on MyDylarama: https://www.mydylarama.org.uk/Soviet-Hippies-directed-by-Terje-Toomistu-UK-Premiere
Soviet Hippies, director Terje Toomistu’s second creation, is a thoughtful, insightful piece which effortlessly draws you into a counter-cultural pocket of resistance, transporting you to a time of contrasting repression and upheaval. Through the use of archival footage - crisp, clear and naked material - this film documents not just the developments of a hippie subculture in the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 70s, but the mood surrounding the ongoing passive resistance against the state. From its inception, the film produces a pang of nostalgia - even for a time and place you have no stake in - through the use of grainy and intimate footage, and splashes of dated, psychedelic animations to ensure you step lively into the time warp before you.
The narrative of the film follows a loose thread of hazy tales, heady beliefs, mystic societies and psychedelic exploration. The viewer is invited to examine the hippie warriors of yesteryear in their shaggy prime - optimistic and adamant – then, directly alongside, as starkly aged relics still grasping a core belief system, just as righteous if a bit weathered. The archival footage is incredible and really makes the film, which is all the more remarkable as Toomistu only stumbled upon the footage – a box of Super 8mm film rolls - during her research, giving the project a generous artistic boost by way of this never before seen hippie treasure trove. Considering that the history of the hippie movement in the USSR was previously widely unknown, partly due to Soviet archives which were closed until fairly recently, this was a feat – the director worked from scratch and interviewed all the participants anew, and this hard work is reflected through the consistent tone of the movie. In the Q&A after the premiere, Toomistu articulated that the original plan was to focus primarily on a reunion of old hippies in the present day. But without the real, raw historic material, the movie surely would not have been as impactful or clear in its narrative.
Throughout the documentary, the contrast between the uniformity of Soviet culture and the hippies’ pursuit of individualistic rebellion is blunt; an obvious juxtaposition which means that sprinkling the film with snapshots of regular Soviet life as way of illustration merely underlines the point. But the bigger takeaway from the film is that the repressive aspects of any society harbours dissent, and the example of Soviet hippies, which took huge inspiration from their Western and more well-known counterparts, followed a loose pattern of international turmoil and exploration of new ideas in the post-war era. And based on the film’s archival interviews with older or more conservative members of the Soviet public, reaction to these long-haired ‘modern forest folk’ would have elicited the same reactionary sentiments in Los Angeles or London (‘get a haircut!’).
One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the network that Soviet hippies established, pre-mass communication, simply using notebooks and word of mouth. Ironically named ‘the system’, its creation allowed the freedom of movement of like-minded outsiders from across the Soviet states to find each other and know where to stay in each city, outside of KGB detection. It speaks to the wonderfully subversive nature of these Soviet hippies, and of humans in difficult situations more widely. That feeling of not being alone should not be underestimated, in any cultural endeavours. As one of the many hippies interviewed in the film put it, ‘deviance was an act of power’. One suspects Toomistu, whose academic research includes transgender women in Indonesia, meant her documentary as a celebration of diversity of thought and experimentation – and ‘the system’ is a good illustration of this.
The Soviet hippie movement itself was forced underground - to the fringes of an already-hostile society or even externally - when a public meeting was shut down by the authorities on 1st June 1971. Though the annual meeting of hippies still takes place on the same date every year in Moscow, the film truly emphasises how, though traces remain, this movement really existed in not just a different time but a separate sociopolitical space. The challenges and backlash of the counterculture years, viewed through the prism of this subculture but widely applicable, are ultimately captured here through music, visuals, deeply-held opinions and emotion – building up to a worldly but raw experience, courtesy of a thorough, research-minded director. The night, hosted by Dash Arts and featuring an extensive Q&A, was even followed by a mystic ritual courtesy of one of the film’s stars Vladimir Wiedemann, just to try to keep some essence of the Soviet hippies alive. Overall, the film succeeds in giving a little burst of recognition and life to a movement which, in the words of Toomistu, had ‘no centre, no edges’.