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last update 8.Jul.18
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A Deal with the Universe
dir-scr Jason Barker
prd Loran Dunn
with Jason Barker, Tracey
tracey and jason
release UK Mar.18 flare
18/UK BFI 1h30

flare film fest
A Deal with the Universe Tracing some 15 years in the life of a couple, this autobiographical documentary is sometimes startlingly raw, as filmmaker Jason Barker and his partner Tracey chronicle their yearning to have a child, which led to extraordinary decisions along the way. Assembled as a collection of home movies and video diary entries, the film never embellishes the story. And the honesty speaks to several big issues through a uniquely trans perspective.

After 10 years together, Jason and Tracey begin the process to conceive a child, but after nearly 20 attempts, including two rounds of IVF, Tracey still isn't pregnant. And during this time, she also goes through a bout of breast cancer. So they decide to opt for Plan B: Jason comes off his hormone medication and begins ovulating again. Obviously, it's not that simple for a trans man to get pregnant, and the process requires unusual tenacity from both Jason and Tracey, not just personally but also from the people around them.

The idea of a man giving birth to his son is a perhaps somewhat brain-bending for most audience members, and Barker speaks openly to the camera about his own journey, coming to grips with the nature of his own body, embracing his female anatomy and seeing through the eyes of others as he works through each step. Along the way, he also includes both anecdotes from his younger life and home video from his early years with Tracey, creating a vivid depiction of their relationship.

The structure is a little offbeat, as it focusses almost entirely on the effort to conceive, including endless pregnancy tests, false hopes and repeated frustrations at each setback. And there's also rather a lot of footage of their cats as well as the pigeons that populate their balcony. But along the way, the story encompasses some fascinating elements, including Barker's hilariously astute stand-up performances and the couple's quirky homelife. The title refers to a pact Barker makes when he fears for the safety of his best friend.

Perhaps shifting the balance of the film to feature more footage of him pregnant and then later with their son might have given the film a different emotional arc. The climactic montage of the baby over the first several years of his life is seriously lovely, although this final sequence also leaves one question hanging rather ominously in the air. Still, what the film says along the way about family, parenthood, gender and body consciousness is not only eye-opening, but also profound and provocative. And Jason and Tracey's internal journey is deeply moving.

15 themes, language, imagery

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Postcards from the 48%
dir-prd David Nicholas Wilkinson
scr Emlyn Price, David Nicholas Wilkinson
with David Wilkinson, Nick Clegg, AC Grayling, Bob Geldof, Vince Cable, Alastair Campbell, Ian McEwan, Patience Wheatcroft, Miriam Margolyes, Joan Bakewell, Femi Oyuwole, Ruth Cadbury
demonstrations in london release UK 6.Jul.18
18/UK Guerilla 1h49

Postcards from the 48% Filmmaker David Wilkinson made this film to allow people across the UK to explain how they feel about Brexit. Carefully avoiding sensationalism, this is an honest, articulate attempt to find the facts in a situation that seems inexplicable. It's also a rather terrifying outline of just how devastating leaving the European Union will be for British people and businesses.

The film opens with a demonstration by protesters who want to remain in the EU and are frustrated that their economy is being decimated, their futures taken from them, their identities diminished. When pro-Brexit politicians constantly speak about the "will of the nation", they are insulting half of the population. As Wilkinson observes, this was not a crushing landslide, but a win by the most narrow margin possible. And actually, less than a quarter of registered voters voted to leave.

Wilkinson skilfully edits together comments by campaigners, celebrities and people on the streets. The most resonant sentiment is that this is a waste of time and resources at a time when Britain should be grappling with vital issues and leading the world. There's also the resounding sense that the campaign was so misleading that no one knew what they were voting for (aside from empty patriotism, every point made by the Leave campaign was a lie). Fully 80 percent of young people voted to remain, as they want to retain their rights to study, travel, work and live across Europe.

This is a comprehensive, factual exploration of the issue, grappling with the referendum, its ramifications and the way the split vote has fractured British society. Wilkinson also travels through England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to talk about different voting patterns and the varying effects of leaving the EU, from the loss of farm subsidies to the thorny issue of an Irish border, which would terminate the peace treaty there. The film sometimes feels long, dipping into some perhaps less persuasive topics. But everything is urgent and important.

The film never finds one positive thing about Brexit, but then neither has the UK government, which is charging headlong into it. Grayling carefully reminds us that in its own wording, the referendum was meant to be advisory only, not binding, and yet the pro-Brexit members of the government have called it mandatory. So it's no wonder that people are in open rebellion. By leaving the wealthiest single market in the world, Britain will be poorer, weaker and have a diminished voice on the world stage. Period.

PG themes, language

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