City Film Scene Moving in the Right Direction; Stories from Birmingham Are Beginning to Hit the Big Screen. Roger Shannon Looks at the City's Rising Independent Film Industry

Article excerpt

Birmingham film goers can't have failed to notice a recent phenomenon - B-Movies, an upsurge of documentaries and feature films, all screened in city cinemas, that have also stamped their mark on the national and international film landscape. To rework an old movie term, B - Movies are independent films produced, directed and written by the city's film makers, with B for Birmingham themes primarily at their core.

The 18 months has witnessed the following films on the city and nation's screens - Turbulence; N F A; Tortoise in Love; Titanic Love; The Casebook of Eddie Brewer; Last Shop Standing; The Last Projectionist; and Made in Birmingham/Reggae Punk Bhangra.

These feature films display an audacity of award winning range, confident versatility in genres and cinematic influences galore.

For example, Michael Baig Clifford's Turbulence riffs on the city's independent music scene and BTown status to give us a drama, in shades of The Commitments, about a failing music venue staffed by fools and looking set to close, while Steve Rainbow's N F A, a success at the 2012 prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival, takes a challenging look, in the vein of a Ken Loach, at homelessness via an original story of a successful man waking up in a homeless hostel.

Comedies Tortoise in Love and Titanic Love offer original twists on the romcom genre with dry wit and dramatic ingenuity.

Tortoise in Love had Birmingham producer Steffan Aquarone enjoy the services of an entire Oxfordshire village, whose residents, lovingly, helped create, fund and subsequently star in this nationally released film.

Titanic Love was filmed on the waterways of Birmingham 10 years after the idea had first formed, its director Mark Pressdee taking his ad-libbing cues from comic milestones such as John Landis's 1980 epic, The Blues Brothers.

The Casebook of Eddie Brewer is a 2012 paranormal mystery thriller film, shot in Erdington and directed by Andrew Spencer, whose eponymous paranormal investigator is followed by a television documentary crew from the Culture Channel.

The B-Movie documentaries are bringing stories from the city onto the screen, and celebrating the vibrant popular culture found in Birmingham. Piper's Last Shop Standing, featuring musicians Johnny Marr and Richard Hawley and named as one of the top 10 DVDs of 2012 by Q magazine, is "currently cutting a rug at numerous cinemas across the country.

The film charts the struggle of independent record shops and their unsung owners and was crowd funded via Indiegogo.

Electric Cinema owner Tom Lawes continues his innovative film career with the timely documentary about the decline of celluloid in cinemas, The Last Projectionist, which was described by BBC film critic Mark Kermode as "a beautiful, timely, and ever-so-slightly heartbreaking documentary about the changing face of cinema in the UK".

Deborah Aston's Made in Birmingham/Reggae Punk Bhangra started out as a small project, in which musicians discuss their distinctive musical styles, and subsequently has punched above its weight, harvesting two RTS nominations for Best Documentary and Best New Talent.

Mythologising the city's popular culture in this way is a recently rectified oversight, and significantly these stories are having a ringing endorsement from appreciative audiences at home in the UK and abroad at international Film Festivals. Made in Birmingham/Reggae Punk Bhangra has screened at Greece's Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival and NXNE in Toronto; Tortoise in Love has picked up international sales to Australia, New Zealand and USA.

Turbulence was internationally premiered at the Edmonton Film Festival in Canada; and The Casebook of Eddie Brewer has notched up a dozen invitations to film markets and festivals. …