London Film Fanatiq vs the London Film Festival: Part 4 – Tall as the Baobab Tree, Good Vibrations and The Loves of Pharaoh

The fourth day holed up at BFI Southbank continued the march of eclectic fare from the 56th London Film Festival with the first representative of “Dare” (“in your face, up-front and arresting: films that take you out of your comfort zone”, so explains the official festival programme) rearing its head with Tall as the Baobab TreeGood Vibrations brought the first glimpse of the “Sonic” field while The Loves of Pharaoh was the first of several “Treasures” to be put on show.

Tall as the Baobab Tree: this debut film from Jeremy Teicher is based on the true stories from his earlier African-based documentary whilst still at university.  Focused on a rural Senegalese family, Tall as the Baobab Tree presents the conflict between tradition and modern views and education.  As Coumba, Dior Ka hopes to save her young sister (her real life sister, Oumoul) from being sold into marriage at her father’s behest.  Teicher’s film is strikingly framed, yet retains a naturalistic feel.  Consisting entirely of local villagers, the cast appears surprisingly comfortable in front of the cameras in making a considerable impression.  The story is a heart-breaking one, but at times moves at a snail’s pace with little happening at times.  Still, Tall as the Baobab Tree is a worthwhile view of a slice of African culture and the conflict it faces as the world’s views change.  8/10

Good Vibrations: the scene is set in 1970s where record-shop owner Terri Hooley became the “Godfather of Belfast Punk”, as he brought bands like The Undertones to the mainstream and soaked up a fair share of the spotlight himself, all while Northern Ireland’s the Troubles raged on.  From the filmmakers behind Cherrybomb, this rock-comedy benefits from slick edits, an amped up soundtrack and a strong leading performance from Richard Dormer as Hooley.  Jodie Whittaker is great as his long-suffering wife, but it all paints Hooley in a surprisingly unfavourable fashion.  Good Vibrations is quite funny at times, is less engaging at others but presents nothing that hasn’t been done before.  Still, it’s punkish fun for anyone up for it.  7/10


The Loves of Pharaoh: this 1922 German tragedy in six acts launched German filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch’s Hollywood career and has recently been restored with the missing footage (nearly a fifth of that originally shot) patched with still photos and scene descriptions.  Pieced together from a handful of partial existing prints from around the world, The Loves of Pharaoh is a beautiful example of the love and dedication that goes into film restoration.  The plot is engaging enough, but is somewhat secondary to the marvel of such a large scale film from 90 years ago.  Over-the-top and entirely un-PC (the “Ethiopians” would never fly in today’s world), The Love of Pharaoh is a real treat for film geeks.    8/10

Check out Part 3          Check out Part 5

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Amateur film critic and photographer residing in sunny London.