This Month in Film: September 2020

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So, “Operation Reopen” has officially commenced with the much anticipated release of Tenet finally arriving last month. Already, its box office figures have exceeded expectations from various analysts as it took $53.6m internationally on its opening weekend; whether it can substantially increase that figure as the film opens in USA and China this month remains unsaid. Nonetheless, this will inject plenty of confidence in exhibitors and rival studios as they prepare to unleash their own postponed releases into the markets, proving that the right film will entice audiences back into the cinema and that a staggered global release is a viable business option for the foreseeable future. In that case, let’s see what this month has in store!

THE BLOCKBUSTER: Mulan, dir. Niki Caro

Release Date: July 24th

Starring: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li, Jet Li

Despite having its world premiere in Los Angeles as well as the surrounding controversy of its stars before lockdown, we’ll finally be able to see what the fuss was all about with Disney’s latest live action remake of their 1998 animation, Mulan. Following on from accusations of whitewashing in last year’s highly successful but unspectacular remake of Aladdin, Disney have sought to rectify this through casting well established Chinese actors including Donnie Yen and Jet Li, as well as Liu Yifei in the titular role of Mulan and Niki Caro becoming the second female director of a Disney film. With the trailers evoking the wuxia genre and staying traditional to Chinese folklore, it all looks to be a step in the right direction for the Mouse House in diversifying their content for a global audience. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the controversies that have marred the marketing campaign will return, such as Liu being accused for supporting police brutality during the ongoing Hong Kong protest and subsequently leading to the hashtag #BoycottMulan. There is also the removal of key character Captain Li Shang that has now been split into two new characters in response to the Me Too movement, but was met with social media backlash at first by fans of the original film and members of the LGBTQ+ community due to his bisexuality. Expect these stories to resurface near release as well as its consumer intake on Disney+ to be under scrutiny.

THE ALTERNATIVE: Rocks, dir. Sarah Gavron

Release Date: September 18th

Starring: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu

There’s been quite a bit of buzz slowly growing around this little independent darling ever since it premiered at last year’s Toronto and London Film Festival, but was originally intended to hit cinemas on 10th April until lockdown halted those plans. Incredibly, distributor’s Altitude Films stood firm against the temptation to shove this onto VOD and to their credit, Rocks will now be getting a theatrical release this month. The story revolves around teenage girl “Rocks” who is thrust into taking care of her younger brother Emmanuel after their mum unexpectedly abandons them at home. Director Sarah Gavron’s last feature Suffragette (2015) featured a starry cast including Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and Meryl Streep. From this trailer though, the film’s aesthetic holds similarities more align to Celine Sciamma’s life-affirming Girlhood (Bande Des Filles), and the choice of casting non-professional actors in the lead roles is always a bold move from the filmmaker’s part. It’s all set to be potentially one of the year’s outstanding films.

EDITOR’S PICK: I’m Thinking of Ending Things, dir. Charlie Kaufman

Release Date: September 4th

Starring: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, David Thewlis

It’s been a busy time for one of Hollywood’s beloved screenwriters Charlie Kaufman. In July, his debut novel Antkind, which revolves around a neurotic failed film critic, was published; this month, Netflix unveils his first feature in five years, I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Adapted from Iain Reid’s 2016 novel of the same name, it’s a psychological horror that follows the premise of a young man, Jake, who takes his girlfriend to see his parents that live on a remote farm. It all seems fairly well-trodden material with the trailer reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s breakthrough hit Get Out. However with Kaufman at the helm, expect the unexpected; he has written some of the most original screenplays since the millennium began with Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the latter being one of my favourite films of all time. As the trailer teases unsettling imagery like Toni Collette’s exaggerated cackles and a dog uncontrollably shaking their fur, I’m definitely on board for this maddening ride.

SUB-EDITOR’S PICK: Antebellum, dir. Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz

Release Date: September 18th

Starring: Janelle Monáe, Kiersey Clemons, Jena Malone

With the same producer from Us and Get Out, Antebellum seems to exude the same hostile and poignant style of horror that can run much deeper than your run-of-the-mill jumpscare fest. Following successful author Veronica Henley (portrayed by Janelle Monáe) on a mind-bending terror that forces her to confront threats from the past, present and future is as much as the trailers will allow you to see, refreshingly depicting the concept of the film rather than every aspect of its plot. Originally planned for cinematic release and then delayed for 18th September on PVOD, there has already been concerns regarding its focus on slavery and the issue of diversity in film too often adhering to racially stereotypical roles and themes, as well as snippets resembling yet not crediting Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred. One can only hope that this film delivers in both horror and purpose, and with Janelle Monáe at the forefront, we can certainly look forward to what promises to be an engaging performance.

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Film Editor. 3rd year film student. Loves Céline Sciamma, hates Thor Ragnarok (bored dragged-a-lot). Would be spotted having drunk film conversations.

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2nd year English and Film minor student and Film Sub-Editor 2020/21. Loves the cinema, hates the people.

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