Friday, 17 July 2015

CATCH ME DADDY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Gritty British thriller set against the backdrop of Pakistani "Honour" Killings perpetrated against "rebellious" women @ 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal

Once again, the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal proves that it is not only on the cutting edge of cinema in Canada, but that more "establishment" festivals in the country risk losing a genuine leading edge if they keep pandering to mainstream sensibilities. Catch Me Daddy had its World Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 2014, then followed by important berths at Karlovy Vary, London and Rotterdam among others, but nothing in Canada, until now.

That the film is finally having its Canadian Premiere this summer in Montreal suggests to me that the film's movers and shakers (whomever they might have been), held out for a more "prestigious" Canadian fall showcase, skipping the 2014 Fantasia spring/summer period and then got fucked over by not landing a spot in one of Canada's more "establishment" festivals, some of which, no doubt, had far too many straight to VOD films from the major studios and ho-hum mainstream Oscar bait to litter their otherwise stellar programmes with.

The winner here, is clearly Fantasia and their audiences (both domestic and international). They benefit from a first Canadian look at this powerful MUST-SEE debut from director Daniel Wolfe.

Catch Me Daddy (2014)
Sir. Daniel Wolfe
Scr. Matthew & Daniel Wolfe
Cin. Robbie Ryan
Starring: Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Conor McCarron,
Ali Ahmad, Wasim Zakir, Barry Nunney, Gary Lewis,
Anwar Hussain, Adnan Hussain, Shoby Kaman, Nichola Burley

Review By Greg Klymkiw
A great bird landed here.
Its song drew men out of rock,
Living men out of bog and heather
Its song put a light in the valley
And harness on the long moors.
Its song brought a crystal from space
And set it in men’s heads.
Then the bird died.
Its giant bones
Blackened and became a mystery.
The crystal in men’s heads
Blackened and fell to pieces.
The valleys went out
The moorlands broke loose.

- Ted Hughes, “Heptonstall Old Church
When a film opens with a recitation of the great Ted Hughes poem "Heponstall Old Church" over images of the terrible beauty of the West Yorkshire moors, you know you're either going to be watching one of the more pretentious wank-fests of the year or a genuinely terrific picture. Happily it's the latter. Music video director Daniel Wolfe and his co-writing brother Matthew made their feature debut with Catch Me Daddy and have indeed delivered one of the best UK films in years.

Blending the grim, gritty kitchen sink realism of such British New Wavers as Tony Richardson (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), Linday Anderson (This Sporting Life) and Jack Clayton (Room at the Top) with healthy dollops of 70s existential crime dramas by the likes of James Toback (Fingers) and Karel Reizs (The Gambler), a clear and healthy respect for classical filmmakers a la John Ford as well as their own youthful contemporary sensibilities born out of making music videos for some of the coolest bands in the world (Shoes and Plan B), Catch Me Daddy not only deserves a rightful place amongst the best Britain has to offer, but bodes well for future endeavours from the Wolfe Brothers.

Shot on real 35mm film by one of the UK's greatest living cinematographers Robbie Ryan (Fishtank, Ginger & Rosa, Red Road, Philomena and Jimmy's Hall), Catch Me Daddy is about Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), a young British-Pakistani woman who lives out a peaceful existence with Aaron (Connor McCarron) her happy-go-lucky (and decidedly not of colour) boyfriend. They live in a supremely depressing bit of UK anal leakage on the moors, an icky trailer park overlooking a series of ugly, traffic-congested highways. By day, Aaron boils down the drug content of what appear to be non-prescription codeine pills and takes nice long walks, whilst Laila happily works as a hairdresser's assistant in a local beauty salon. By night (and days off), the couple have a loving, carefree existence.

This is all about to end, though.

Laila, a "disobedient" young lady with pink hair, has run away from her abusive father Tariq (Wasim Zakir) and brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad). In so doing, she has brought deep shame to her traditionally patriarchal Pakistani immigrant family. She must pay and pay dearly for her disrespectful disregard of the family's honour. Tariq, a successful restaurant owner has hired two sets of thugs, working in tandem to hunt her down and bring her back for "punishment".

"Punishment", in a worst-case scenario could mean death by way of an "Honour Killing". Quite popular in Pakistan amongst extremely devout Muslim families, this incredibly backwards tradition has found its way into the fabric of Western society. (Canada is still reeling from the murder of four teenage girls in 2009, detailed in Rob Tripp's book "Without Honour, the True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders").

What follows in Catch Me Daddy is a terrifying, living nightmare as the couple try to flee two sets of violent thugs, one group comprised of caucasians, the others Pakistani. The Wolfe Brothers have cannily framed the story in an almost neo-realist fashion (with a mixture of professional and non-professional actors and actual living, breathing locations), parcelling out information on a need-to-know basis as the film bounces between the couple and the thugs.

Placing a high degree of emphasis upon the happiness experienced by Laila and Aaron might seem overtly manipulative to some, but they would be wrong about that. The carefree existence works in marked contrast to the final hour of the film, which is set amidst the darkness of night. The bottom line is that, as a thriller, the film is genuinely scary because it's impossible to erase the clear, fresh, genuinely happy air of Laila's freedom (her friendship with the ladies in the beauty parlour, her daily ritual of ordering a custom-designed milkshake and the couple's sheer joy in each other's company).

One of the most moving sequences set to celluloid in recent years involves Laila and Aaron in their trailer as it's transformed from the outer shell of its shabbiness into a glistening palace of joy, a kind of Heaven on Earth as the young lovers share some weed and listen to Patti Smith's "Horses", to which Laila performs a dance of such abandon, it's impossible not to be soaring with her. Where director Wolfe brings his music video experience to the fore so that it works dramatically is when the song remains mixed over the soundtrack at the same pitch in the trailer where it is clearly source music and then continues when the scene shifts to the thugs tracking the couple down and the music becomes score. This is a simple and pure use of music and picture which memorably and brilliantly accentuates our emotional response to the couple's happiness in clear juxtaposition with the mean-spirited, repressed evil that stalks them and gets ever-closer.

Throughout the film Wolfe, as a director, joyously blends the naturalistic with good, old fashioned classical filmmaking which yields a thoroughly compelling drama wherein his stylistic "excess" is indeed an organic part of the whole.

This is great, exciting moviemaking - pure and simple.

Finally, though, we are left with the grim reality of how any number of immigrants (from all ethnicities) choose to bring all their baggage and sick shit with them to the supposedly "New World" in marked contrast to the "freedoms" they're supposed to enjoy. Some might suggest this is a racist attitude, but in fact, it's a hard reality that we must continue to face. (God knows my "own" people, Eastern Europeans, continued to bring their sick patriarchal shit with them, which most recently resulted in the horrendous sexual slavery of women during the 90s and early 2000s - not just in their "old" worlds, but the "new" also).

Catch Me Daddy mounts with horror upon horror and when the film reaches its ultimate confrontation between father and daughter, one can't help but be reminded of the harrowing moments in John Ford's The Searchers between Ethan (John Wayne) and his "gone-Injun'" niece (Natalie Wood). Wolfe, like Ford, takes us into a melange of conflicting emotions here, but whereas Ford is lyrically, sadly elegiac, Wolfe gives us something altogether his own.

We are left, in the end, with a plea for love and tolerance, but it is grimly infused with sheer horror.


Catch Me Daddy enjoys its Canadian Premiere at the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. For dates, times and tix, visit the festival's website HERE.