Leeds Film Festival - Day 10

Blood Trail (UK) (interview, and a rather nice poster)

Robert King is a freelance photographer responsible for some of the most memorable and iconic wartime pictures to be found in the national newspapers in the past decade or so. He has an unfathomable but infectious passion for going to the furthest reaches of the war-torn areas and showing the world what he finds. This documentary is the gathering together of 15 years of footage of King, from his earliest days in 1993 where he flung himself into the middle of the Bosnian war with only what he had seen on TV to help him dodge the bullets; through assorted other destinations where the papers wanted someone to go in and risk it all for pictures; Bosnia, Sarajevo, Chechnya, Iraq... Showing his failures and rejections, through getting his first break where he went into the Chechen rebellion just as everyone else was getting the hell out, to the present day where he has matured from rookie to respected photographer.

Blood Trail, as the title would suggest, is not easy to watch in places. It contains both images and video of some of the most sickening effects of war on those who neither asked for it, nor could do anything to stop it. It also profiles Robert King the man, who as he describes himself, was 'self destructive' as he was growing up. This state continued through his early career years, with excessive drink, drugs and prostitution in the middle of the war just to get the images out of his head. His dark, sometimes cruel sense of humour (such as an addiction to letting off firecrackers in a wartorn city) may offend but this is a man constantly thrusting himself into the worlds most dangerous situations, it is his form of coping. Becoming a family man with a wife and child has provided a steadying influence, but his thirst to continue heading into the fire is still strong. The film provides a contrast by mixing in present day family life, his wife and son, and a camping trip with fellow photographer Vaughan Smith shooting deer in the Tennesee forests.

It's interesting on both a historic and personal level, seeing the familiar world events unfolding as King matures and learns and becomes physically more aged. It's yet another powerful, sometimes jaw-dropping documentary film chronicling one man's passion and trying to explain, however futile that may be, why he does it. 8/10

International Fiction Competition 1 - Incommunicado Shorts

This short film collection was based around the theme of how technology has hindered contact between people rather than enhancing it.

El Tiempo Prestando [The Letting Time] (Spain) - An elderly and infirm man has moved from his flat into the house owned by his son and daughter-in-law after an injury. As their lives merge and conflict, his requests to move back to his flat are ignored and increasingly he is cut off from them, for they want the flat for themselves. 6.5/10

Mobilni Snovi [Mobile Dreams] (Bosnia/Croatia) - An elderly couple don't talk to each other any more. In a last ditch attempt to get a dialogue going, the man buys a couple of mobile phones. Unfortunately, failing memories orperhaps bloody mindednes usurps his plans. 6/10

(UK) - In a similar but slightly unfamiliar Britain, where a few more anti-terror laws have been passed, it seems, a bunch of unruly students are about to get a cold slap in the face. The war has been going badly and the government has decided to provide compulsory training for all men and boys in the country. As the kids realise their situation, will they stand up for their rights or fall in line? Chilling and interesting. 7.5/10

Alexandra (Romania) - Alexandra is the daughter of a separated mother and father, whose remaining relationship has broken down due to distrust. Tavi thinks his ex is encouraging their daughter to not think of him as dad, and Lulia feels she is shouldering most of the responsibility for her upbringing. Things erupt when Lulia sets up Saturdays as piano lesson day, the only day when Tavi is allowed to see her. The poor new husband, who seems to be the best of the three of them, can only look on helplessly. A good insight into a broken marriage, but it meandered a little. 6.5/10

Pop Art (UK) - Toby's father is in depression after the death of his mother. He gets little more than shouts from behind the locked door his father has put himself beyond. He meets a new friend at school - Art, a mute, inflatable child - who he begins to bond with. A nice little film, and it was especially impressive in some of the scenes where Art seemed to move without strings or computers. 7.5/10

Tyttojen Ilta [Girls' Night] (Finland) - A single mother and her teenage daughter decide this will be the night to get what they want. The mother heads out to the local bar to meet a web boyfriend, while the daughter ends up back at the house trying to get a party going. Both end up realising it's not quite as easy to get what you want. 7.5/10

Studeny Spoj [Cold Joint] (Slovakia) - A young girl grows up in an industrial area, spending her time exploring the cold, giant buildings full of dangerous, clunking machinery. She'd rather be there than at the house, where her babbling, drunk father and ambivolent mother provide no comfort. 6/10

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