Author Archives: Lauren C. Campbell

What is the Cannes film festival and why does it matter?

For decades, many have tuned in to watch stars walk the red carpet in the French Rivera in May for the biggest film festival. Cannes brings glitzy, glam, networking, and screenings to one place.

But most people, don’t know what Cannes is and why the festival is important.

How do you pronounce “Cannes”?

Most people make the mistake of pronouncing it as “cahn” or “cahns.”

But it’s more or less like “can.”

With many French words, the trailing s is not pronounced. So, it’s not “cans” or “cahns”. It’s just like a can of beans.

How does the festival work?

A few dozen films are selected to show during the festival. More than often, from prestigious directors whose work has previously played at the Festival.

Twenty films premiere “in competition” to win the top Cannes prize; the Palme d’Or (“golden palm”). This is the highest prize awarded at Cannes and is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry.

Previous winners have included films such as Sex, Lies and Videotape; Pulp Ficition; and Apocalypse Now.

The festivals official programme is divided into several sections:

  • In competition: the twenty films competing for the Palme d’Or. Among this year’s competing films are Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman and Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Livre d’Image.
  • Un Certain Regard – Twenty films selected from cultures near and far, with an “original aim and aesthetic.” It is likely these films have limited theatrical distribution and are seeking international organisation.
  • Out of Competition: films that are not competing for the main prize but re projected in the Théâtre Lumière. The film committee just wants to recognise these films. Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is due to premiere out of competition.
  • Cinéfondation: fifteen short and medium-length films from students currently enrolled in film school.
  • There are Midnight Screening, Special Screenings, Tributes and other events, playing films during the festival.

Why is Cannes so important?
The festival is considered the most prestigious in the world, mainly because of its exclusivity. The festival also has a long history of premiering some of the greatest films of all time and has even launched the careers of many prominent filmmakers.

It has propelled the success of many films during award season and months later; The Artist is just one of many that show that.

Beyond the recognition, Cannes affects which films make it in front of audiences. Some of the most influential people in the film industry attend, from distributors to financiers and publicists. Filmmakers can network with the hope to find funding and distributors for their films.

Who gets to go to Cannes?
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Cannes is an industry-only festival. Credentials are given to directors, producers, actors, publicists, distributors and journalists, who have applied for a badge. Attendees have to flash their badge to get into all screenings and events.

The festival also plays a selection of films for the public on the beach, every night at 9 o’clock.

Cannes has and will retain its position at the top of the festival hierarchy for years to come.

The ‘most unlucky production in screen history’ will premiere at Cannes film festival

Former Monty Python member and London director Terry Gilliam was discharged from hospital after suffering a minor stroke and the day before a French court ruled on a long-standing rights battle affecting the world premiere of his new film.

The judge ordered that “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” could go ahead as the closing gala of the Cannes Film Festival on 19 May.

The film, which has been in the making since 1989 and has a reputation as one of the most unlucky production in screen history, has been the subject of a distribution rights disagreement.

Gilliam began filming in 1998, with Jean Rochefort as Quixote and Johnny Depp playing Toby Grisoni. However, the shooting had to stop after Rochefort became ill.

In addition, riddled with financial difficulties and insurance problems, filming couldn’t continue.
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The director tried to restart the picture on several occasions, with the likes of Jack O’Connell, Ewan McGregor, John Hurt, Michael Palin and Robert Duvall. But due to mounted delays and funding falling through, production was halted.

In 2015, Amazon signed on to distribute the film. However, following the allegations against Roy Price, the man who approved the deal, in the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal, the company decided to drop U.S. distribution of the film.

Amazon has been reviewing the types of movies it makes and distributes in his absence.

Last month, producer Paulo Branco launched a legal challenge to stop the screening of “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”, claiming that his company Alfama Films owns the right.

However, the court ruled in Gilliam’s favour, dismissing Branco’s attempt to stop the premiere.

According to The Guardian, before the court ruling came through, the festival said it would back Terry Gilliam and planned to proceed with the premiere.

Who will design Meghan Markle’s wedding dress?

Millions across the world will watch as Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle get married in Windsor Castle on May 19.

Since its announcement, bookies began taking bets on everything related to the wedding. They cover everything from the location of Harry’s stag-do, Prince William’s choice of buzz-cut or shaved head and the designer of the dress of the soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex.

A roster of names have been predicted, from Victoria Beckham to Ralph and Russo and Stewart Parvin – one of the Queen’s dressers. But there have been no clear frontrunners.

Until now. Alexandra McQueen’s absence at the Met Gala may suggest he’s designing Markle’s dress for the big day.

McQueen often references art historical works in his garments. His fine art samples often depict figures of salvation and moments of extreme religious pathos. So why was no one wearing Alexandra McQueen at the Met?

Alexandra McQueen founded his label in 1992 and remained the creative director until he committed suicide in 2010. Since then, Sarah Burton has been at the creative helm.
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Burton designed Kate Middleton’s wedding dress and meets all requirements for a royal wedding dress designer.

Although many aren’t sure as to whether the designer would be bestowed with creating another royal wedding dress, the chances are the fashion house is busy designing the former actress’ dress. Explaining why no one was seen to be wearing McQueen at the perfectly themed Met Gala this year.

Watch more on this story on Westminster TV  at 2pm.

Did the Windrush scandal affect voters choice?

Newly-appointed Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed on Wednesday that a dedicated taskforce has received more than 7,000 calls, of which 3,000 have been identified as potential Windrush cases.

Javid told MPs, these numbers are “increasing by the day.” So far more than 700 appointments have been scheduled and more than 100 people have had their case processed and now have been issued the documents they need.

While, work is now being done to help those affected tensions have risen.

Labour had tried to use parliamentary procedure, known as “motion to return” to force the government to release documentation, which they said would reveal how much ministers knew about the problems facing the Windrush generation.

However,  it was announced on Wednesday that the Conservatives have blocked all attempts that compel the government to release the Windrush papers.

Many have turned to social media to raise their concerns and disappointment in the Government and their choices.

MP John McDonnell shared his thoughts on Theresa May’s and the parties decision to vote against the release of the Windrush documents:

So, has the scandal affected voters choice? While parties have failed to make decisive gains. One thing is clear. There’s a proportion of Labour voters who made their choice based on the fact that they didn’t  agree with the Tories position in the Windrush scandal.

Featured image by Ian Berry/Magnum Photos.

Local elections 2018 results: Lib Dem Peter Taylor elected Mayor of Watford

The new Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor takes the baton from Dorothy Thornhill who announced she’d be stepping down in March after serving 16 years.

The Liberal Democrat politician worked alongside Thornhill as her deputy and has pledged to prioritise excellent service and keep council tax down.

In his acceptance speech, Peter Taylor pays tribute to Dorothy Thronhill, who saw dramatic improvements in the towns centre, leisure services and community events during her time in power. Transforming the local parks and opening spaces with new facilities, such as Big Screen on the Beach. Broadcasting films likes Grease, Dirty Dancing, Star Wars, and even the Rio Olympic Games. Providing residents with a free Summer outdoor event.

The key pledges in Peter Taylor manifesto include:

  • Multi-million pound investment at Woodside Playing Fields, regenerating facilities and creating a mixed use family orientated play centre
  • A new wheeled sports facility and café at Oxhey Park North as well as investment to parks across our town
  • Major refurbishments to Watford Cycle Hub
  • The creation of a ‘hop on hop off’ bus to take residents round the town centre
  • A new bike hire scheme, like the one currently being used in London and other major UK cities
  • Working with West Herts Hospitals Trust to create a new visitors car park at Watford General Hospital by the end of 2019.

And Watford residents seem pleased by the results.





What do you love about yourself?

Imagine what life would be like if you stood in front of a mirror and focused on what you love about yourself rather than what you could change?

Unfortunately, many give attention to their so-called flaws. And as we’re fed images of beautiful celebrities and models on social media, in magazines, on billboards and the television, unrealistic expectations of what we should look like, dress like, and act like are set.

New figures from the Be Real Campaign for body confidence, founded by youth charity YMCA and Dove, have revealed that two in three (69%) young people are worried about parts of their appearance. According to the charity’s data, body image anxieties increase into adulthood; with 20% of young people aged 11 to 12 years old worry about their appearance, and by the age of 16 that figure rises to 32%.

The effect of poor body image can be profound. Studies show that people with low self-esteem have a higher risk of developing anxiety, an eating disorder and problems in their relationships. In 2008, researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign found that having low self-esteem at ages 15 and 18 was a risk factor for developing depression by age 21.

Building your self-esteem takes work, and doesn’t happen overnight. But here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Recognise that nobody’s perfect

No one is 100% flawless. The images you see on Instagram, in magazines and on billboards are often manipulated and altered. By comparing yourself to those images, you’re only letting yourself down.

Appreciate your own beauty

Focus on the positives. What do you love about yourself? What do your friends and family love about you? Make a list of all your positive attributes, and every time you have ‘bad’ day refer to that. Sometimes we just need a reminder of why we are great.

Curate your social feeds

The average person spends 2 hours and 15 minutes on social media every day. The images on your social media feed can subconsciously affect your self-esteem. If you find yourself making comparisons with those you follow, or feeling ‘ugly’ or ‘fat’; curate your feed. Follow accounts that empower and inspire you. Doing this can really boost your self-esteem and change your perception of beauty.


Black Panther: a shift in the representation of race in Hollywood​?

The film industry’s failure to represent people of colour dates all the way to the early 1910’s. An era where the systematic exclusion of black people from production, distribution and exhibition is evident. But many critics and activists have argued that the release of films such as Hidden Figures and Black Panther show we’ve reached a time of change. A time where black culture and people are being celebrated.

Historically, how has Hollywood represented black people?

The history of African Americans in the American motion picture industry is both long and complex. In films from the 1910s and 1920s, such as Hearts and Flags (1911) and Birth of a Nation (1915), African American characters were played by white actors in blackface, as whites and blacks were not to share screen time.

Early depictions of black men and women were confined to demeaning stereotypes, portrayed as either incompetent, criminal, child-like or the Jezebel.

In the 1929 all-black cast musical Hallelujaha southern black family is depicted as illiterate, singing and dancing gamblers. Reinforcing racist and prevalent stereotypes of the time, the film presents African American’s as sinful, hyper-sexual and incompetent.

And, if African Americans were shown as ‘good‘, they were loyal servants, butlers and mammies. Hattie McDaniel was the first African American entertainer to win an Academy Award for her performance as “Mammy”, a house servant in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.

From the mid-1910s to 30’s, a black cast or the use of a white actor in blackface reinforced the belief that the ‘proper’ social position of a black man or women was that of a servant, who was devoted to his/her white master and upheld the social order.

But things soon began to shift, in the 1940’s and 50’s the way black characters were written and portrayed in mainstream Hollywood films changed. Due to meetings and actions taken by the National Association for the Advancements of Colored People (NAACP), an agreement to improve the depictions of African Americans was made, and the opportunity for African Americans to work throughout the film industry.

While large productions featuring all-black casts continued, such as Carmen Jones (1954) and St. Louis Blues (1958), there was an increase in films that challenged social segregation norms and values, as seen in The Defiant Ones (1958).

And in the 1960’s, Sidney Portier became one of the best-known and loved utilised black actors in the industry. His level of stardom was unmatched by any other black actor before or during his time.

Portier played complex characters who weren’t just criminals, they were intelligent (In the Heat of the Night 1967), strong, helpful, sensitive and caring (Lilies of the Field (1963), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

The depiction of a black man in the 60’s and 70’s was very different from the 20’s and 30’s. While African American’s are no longer just seen as illiterate, criminal, child-like or the servant/Mammy, those stereotypes have still carried on to the 21st century.

Films like Boyz n the Hood (1991), Precious (2009), Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), The Help (2011), and Think Like a Man (2012), are focused on and reinforce negative stereotypes, such as being hyper-sexual, criminals, aggressive, unintelligent, the ‘Mammy’ and as having dysfunctional family dynamics.

But, is this more than just a black character issue? Directors_Chair_is_White_2016 According to a report issued by Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, minorities remain underrepresented in film leads (13.9%), film directors (12.6%), film writers (8.1%), broadcast scripted leads (18.7%), cable scripted leads (20.2%), broadcast reality and other leads (26.6%) and leads for cable reality and other leads (20.9%).

This lack of representation explains why critics argue the film industry presents narratives that don’t reflect black lives and experiences entirely and reinforce negative stereotypes.

As author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TED Talk: “if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and Aids, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner.”

These are the images that have been created from films such as Hotel Rwanda, Blood Diamond and others.

So, why is the success of Black Panther so important?

Writer, Michelle Yaa told us: “Brothers and sisters were shedding tears for seeing what was being described as ‘an experience’ rather than a film. You have to remember we’ve never seen a predominantly African cast in such a positive way.

Hollywood has given us slavery, but nothing before or progressive and positive, as a part of our history and experience on film.”

Despite being a fictional comic story, on a part of Africa that doesn’t exist, Yaa told us that Black Panther gave black people, the representation “they needed”.

And if it wasn’t clear, the shared images of movie-goers attending cinemas across the world in their African dress, is a clear sign of that, according to the writer.

The film industry often depicts the relationship between a black man and woman as unhealthy and somewhat toxic, such as Why Did I Get Married? (2007) and Two Can Play That Game (2001).

But in the Marvel film, the relationship between men and women was both positive and respectful. Yaa agreed with fellow panellist Dr Lez Henry that Marvel film should be “an important cultural document that can be used as an educational resource.”

How have people on social media responded to Black Panther? 

What does the future hold for black actors/directors/writers? 

Yaa says: “Realistically until Africans own some aspects of this industry it will eventually be business as usual from Hollywood capitalist and propaganda perspective. We might see ourselves differently as a consequence of the film, but the dominant narrative will still be pushed for a long, long time.

We have to invest in our own propaganda instruments to flip this script. Power and representation are what upholds the White Western industries.  They will give us little concessions but no more.  We have to develop our own economic bases around representation and propaganda.

Creatively, however, there has been a surge in Afro futuristic writings and expressions. These were always there, but the film has made awareness greater. Sadly, we can easily forget and return to what we know.  This is why Hollywood pounds us with their narratives; the media generally.”

Building on it’s reported Black Panther’s box office success of $1.28 billion worldwide, you can still watch the film in cinemas across the UK.

Leah Bryant: from creative toddler to singer-songwriter​

Leah Bryant is West London’s latest soulful star. Blending powerful ballads with melodic raps, the young singer and songwriter is on the rise. Performing at gigs across London, she has managed to captivate her audience for over 10 years. In 2017, she won the prestigious ‘ICMP/ATLA International Song Contest’, and we’re sure that won’t be her last award. We caught up with Leah and talked about her writing process, the mantra she lives by, what’s next for her career.

What was your first encounter with music?

I’d say my first encounter with music would be when I turned around 6 or 7 and heard Katie Melua’s album “Call Off The Search”, and I was instantly hooked. I quickly learnt the entirety of the album inside and out, and have been obsessed with music ever since

Have you always known what you wanted to do?

Definitely! Even as a toddler I would create songs and melodies in my living room and show them to all of the family. Creating something out of nothing has always been a passion of mine!

What did you grow up listening to? How have those voices inspired and influenced your current sound?

I grew up listening to great artists such as Katie Melua, Amy Winehouse, Natasha Bedingfield and Pink. I was influenced a lot by female empowerment, as well as the art of “not being afraid to say exactly how you feel”.

I mix between genres. I have my more “R&B Acoustic / Melodic Raps” which were definitely influenced by Natasha and Pink, and then my slower, more jazz-infused ballads are influenced by Katie and Amy’s work.

How would you describe your music to somebody who hasn’t heard it?

I would describe my music as relatable and sweet, but honest and raw. My writing is always from the heart, and I feel like that comes across in my music without a doubt.

What drew you to songwriting and performing? Have you always had a natural aptitude for music?

I’ve always studied and focused my time on performing. After receiving my diploma in Popular Music Performance in Vocals at The Institute Of Contemporary Music Performance in London at aged 16, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies towards focussing on the more intricate aspects of music. I am currently still studying at ICMP in the second year of my BA Hons Songwriting Degree.

What do you want people to feel when they hear your music?

More than anything, I want people to feel like I’m their friend, just having a chat with them about my life, except that the chat has a few chords and the odd musical riff added to it! I like to keep things as comfortable and genuine as possible.

What makes you want to create music?

Creating and writing music is my form of escapism. I can spend hours upon hours writing melodies, discovering new chord progressions, brainstorming lyrical concepts – it’s my time to have people listen to my views and what I view as a young woman, and as some people aren’t fortunate enough to get that opportunity, I think that that in itself is a privilege.

What is your process when writing a song?

I usually begin by finding a concept. Once I’ve discovered what it is that I want to write about, I brainstorm some lyrical ideas and decide what direction I want the song to go in. Then, I’d usually pick up an instrument, whether that be a Guitar, Ukulele or Piano, and I begin finding melodic sequences that I think will match the idea in my head. Mixing the emotions to music and then hearing it out loud really is the greatest thing about being a songwriter!

Do you write about your past experiences?

I write about everything and anything. Whether that be the past, the present, or my predictions for the future; there’s no end or limitations to my song concepts!

Which song was the hardest to write?

The hardest song I’ve written recently would be one called “Somewhere Down The Line”. It was about a past experience that hurt me a lot, and I think between the mixture of getting over what had happened, paired with not truly knowing how I felt until I began the writing process was a hard one for me. But I got a great song out of it in the end!

What mantra do you live by?

“Everything happens for a reason”, I wholeheartedly believe that!

What’s next?

I’m recording my first single currently! Along with my music video being filmed throughout the summer of 2018!

Lastly, where do you dream of being in ten years?

In 10 years, I hope to continue to be creating and performing my music. Whether that be to millions, hundreds, a handful of people, or just my mum and dad. As long as I’m still doing what I love, the happiness will never end.

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