Leeds Film Festival 2011: Day 6

I Am Jesus (Ita) (site)

Do you remember David Shayler from a while ago? He was the ex-secret service agent who got kicked out in 1996 for leaking middle-east secrets, a proto-wikileaks if you will. Well, he kept on his path of change. Today, he is the leader of a small group of eco-warriors who smoke dope and dumpster dive, he has found out two things about himself as well. First, he is Jesus reincarnate. Second, he is a transsexual. Well, god is mysterious.

He is not alone. It appears the world is infested with reincarnated Jesii, of which just three are profiled in this film. Over in Brazil, controversial self-appointed prophet INRI Christo emerged out of the Brazilian revolution clinging to the top of a police car, and now as he celebrates his 61st birthday he lives a comfortable existence being waited upon by his many 'daughters', communicating with the outside world via amusing TV appearances (not all of them respectful) and some seriously watchable youtube videos.

What you are seeing are two of his more creative maid servants, performing a choice cover of Britney Spears' Toxic. There are others to savour on their channel. Try to bear in mind that these people are completely serious about all this. But someone needs to tell him he's getting a bit too used to that crown of thorns - it was meant to be punishment if I recall.

A third Jesus lives in snow-locked Siberia, where a commune of families have built a community from scratch around the life of their saviour, the rather more quiet Vissarion, who has the look pretty much nailed but doesn't seem to like talking that much. Their community is quite large now, and devotion to their 'god' has progressed to their own services, dress codes and rare glimpses where he comes out and sits in the snow. Clearly keeping cards to his chest makes them clammer for more.

The directors have stayed completely behind the camera, and with the exception of a couple of questions, kept completely silent letting the prophets reveal themselves who they are to the viewer rather than pointing and laughing. But even though there is plenty to laugh and gawp at here, there is also a lot of love and community also in evidence. Shaylers' ragtag hippy commune is laughable when they start talking about reading his name in scriptures and deciding he was Jesus while high on magic mushrooms, but it's hard to dislike a guy who doesn't care about what people say when he goes out in a dress, has novel approaches to council tax bills and recycles thrown out produce (see Dive!) managing to provide for his commune and living semi-self sufficiently. Even though INRI himself is a massive lazy-arsed douche, his songstresses have the right attitude when people laugh at their videos - they just say they are happy to put a smile on people's faces.

So it's an entertaining, funny, shocking and wonderful film about how even though these people are clearly charlatans and frauds, they have also managed to be happy, and make others happy too. I wish them well. 8/10

Film to Change 2011 (UK)

Running parallel to the film festival is a range of talks and presentations on the subject of mental health by the local Arts and Minds film project. They have gathered together eight short films from small and medium film-makers the UK into a segment to highlight a side of mental health different to that usually depicted in the cinemas.

The Bus Stop - A woman with agoraphobia plucks up the courage to move from the confines of her house to the bus stop outside (the one I dropped off at an hour later!) The travel is a bit past her abilities just yet though, so she finds other excuses to hang around the stop. Sweet. 7/10

Home - A handful of people with mental health problems talk about what their houses mean to them, from sanctuary to an expression of their self. Too short to get to know any of them. 6/10

The Ordinary Looking House - A really sweet but ultimately sad tale, told with old photographs and sentences written on scraps of paper. A woman recounts growing up with a father who had mental health issues, and the strain it had on her siblings and mother. 7.5/10

The Bridge - A paranoid young man goes about his daily routine while heading to work, and fights once again his urges when he reaches The Bridge. It would have been effective but for the music which was annoying. 6.5/10

Tackling Judgement - Sally-Ann Robinson suffers from PTSD and depression, and posts up YouTube videos explaining the problems she goes through on days when she wakes up and can barely get out of bed. A personal and quite moving account of someone learning to cope with something they will have for life. 8/10

Diagnosis Psychosis - With a tongue-in-cheek nod to cheesy cop films, two 'American' plain clothes cops chase down a psychotic serial killer round the streets of Leeds. Silly, but with an ending cleverer than what I was expecting. 7/10

The First Step - A very clever film about a mother trying to find the will to get out of bed and begin the long road back to being a normal person instead of being so withdrawn, for her daughter if not herself. But before that, she has to get over her over analysis of it all which is causing that comfy bed to feel like a much better prospect. Very entertaining and it highlighted the simple but disabling problem really effectively. 8/10

Institute Denta-Mental - A man's anxiety on visiting a mental hospital in a converted house gets the better of him as he travels there, and he imagines all sorts of grotesque characters and treatments he might receive. 7/10

Inbred (UK) (site)

I love Hyde Park, but I wish they would get their act together. When a sell-out film is due to start at 9pm, you'd hope it would do something like that. Especially if you are looking to catch the last train home straight afterwards. I was thus not happy that we were still waiting for the damn thing to start half an hour later. Grr.

The place was packed, and for a good reason. Inbred is a local film, made by local people, and so the masses had been whipped into a frenzy. The League of Gentlemen comparisons continue as the film reveals the village of Wortlake, a rancid pit of a Yorkshire village being visited by Jeff and Kaye, a couple of care workers in charge of a quad of problem teens, off into the countryside for a weekend of walking the dales and.. stripping derelict trains?

Anyway, them there locals don't take kindly to strangers snooping around, and its not long before they are rounded up and made into one-time only attractions at a macabre circus of sorts run by the pub landlord. Can the misfit group stop themselves being picked off and get away while they still have limbs?

After a slightly ropey start (the intro was overly long and dull, and the music tried too hard) it settled down into a surprisingly well-made horror fest, with equally surprising special effects. The director seems to have a penchant for things being crushed, and we get lots of it, and plenty of blood to wash it down too. But it's also got a sharp edged humour to it, poking fun at the Yorkshire folk and even making you feel sorry for some of the bad guys. In other words, enough of both sides to ensure that mostly everyone will get some enjoyment out of it. 7.5/10

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