Cabaret Noise springs back into Dublin with a new series of cult flicks

Collectors of cult film curios Cabaret Noise are sounding off again, set to return to Stoneybatter in the spring with a new batch of the strange, underseen and interesting. From March through to May they’ll be hosting a trio of their well-curated and thought provoking presentations, deep from the deeper cuts of film.

Cabaret Noise will be presenting their latest series ‘MY ONLY WEAPON, A SLINGSHOT’, at The Darkroom in Stoneybatter, including a Q&A event in April. Screening are three genre films about three usually invisible communities, how they represent themselves, and their relationship to American culture on screen with low budgets and primitive technology. The films set to screen are An Autumn’s Tale (1987) on March 13thBad Black (2016) followed by Skype Q&A with producer and star Alan Ssali Hofmanis on April 13th, and Top of the Heap (1972) on May 1st.
Admission to Cabaret Noise screenings are free and donations are welcome. Below are notes on each of the films from the curators themselves.
An Autumn’s Tale 13/03/20, 7pm
“Hong Kong native Jennifer moves to New York City to study for her Master’s Degree and to reunite with her boyfriend Vincent. There, she meets her very distant relative Samuel Pang, a street smart and wise-talking waiter-by-day and gambler-by-night, who helps Jennifer settle in her apartment building in the outskirts of Brooklyn, resulting in an unlikely relationship.”
By discarding anything that would remind us of our real-world troubles, Rom-coms can offer the ultimate, fluffy escapism. Married Hong Kong filmmaker duo Mabel Cheung and Alex Law had different plans for their own stab at this genre: their goal was not just to entertain the audience with a classic will-they-won’t-they romance featuring all the typical misunderstandings and courtships, but to present the conditions of life in New York’s Chinatown accurately (with a dash of exaggeration of course, this is a rom-com after all). Drawing on their own time studying film at NYU as poor students, Law and Cheung fill the movie’s environments with many real-life anecdotes: they cast their actual friends in the community in bit roles, have their characters survive on egg sandwiches (hard-boiled eggs between toast… yes) and shot the movie on-location in the least photogenic corners of New York. The griminess of these unvarnished New York streets contrasts with the dingy Chinatown apartments these characters live in (the studio sets are almost expressionist in their squalid deprivation).

Bad Black 03/04/20 , 7pm followed by Q&A with Producer and Star Alan Ssali Hofmanis 
“A mild-mannered doctor is trained in the art of ass-kicking commando vengeance by a no-nonsense ghetto kid named Wesley Snipes, while his target, gang leader Bad Black, is plotting her own revenge against the rich businessman who hurt her.”
Wakaliwood of Uganda is probably the most successful recent attempt by a small underrepresented community to bring themselves to life on screen. Home to “da best of da best movies,” Wakaliwood is a tiny film studio based in the slum region of Wakaliga in Kampala. They specialise in deeply low budget action epics steeped in inspiration stemming from 80s Hollywood action heroes and Hong Kong martial arts films, all while maintaining a distinctly Ugandan spirit. Bad Black, the second feature they’ve produced after viral smash Who Killed Captain Alex?, is their masterpiece. It presents a series of narrative strands that intertwine in increasingly funny and surprising ways. One strand follows an American doctor in Wakaliga (played by regular Producer Alan Ssali Hofmanis) is taught the way of ass-kicking commando vengeance by a no-nonsense ghetto kid named “Wesley Snipes” to retrieve his stolen dog tags from Bad Black’s gang. Simultaneously, a young girl stuck in a cycle of abuse in a child trafficking ring eventually fights her way out and plots revenge on her former exploiters as she becomes the titular Bad Black of Uganda. These intersecting narrative strands are a fertile ground which director Nabwana IGG utilises to try out all kinds of elaborate set pieces, including training montages, bank robberies, prison escapes, and even some moments of melodrama. Every moment is filmed with such inventive panache and obvious glee that makes the lack of budget seem a feature rather than a drawback. What really ties everything together is the film’s narrator/commentator Vj Emmie: he cracks jokes about the action, puts on silly voices for characters we can’t hear, points out Hollywood references, connects the dots to the larger Wakaliwood Cinematic Universe and even admits to getting confused about the layered plotting himself. Most importantly, his presence connects the wild theatrics of the Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Van Damme references to the oral storytelling traditions of Uganda.

Top of the Heap 01/05, 7pm

“A Washington D.C. cop is proud to be one of the few African-Americans on the force. He is not well loved by his peers or by street people. Trouble erupts when he is overlooked for a promotion yet again.”

Top of the Heap was one of a handful of radical features made by black creatives during the small window of opportunity known as blaxploitation. Often shot on location featuring gratuitouis amounts of sex, violence, kung-fu, blaxploitation were cheap genre b-movies made by and for black people in the US, which mythologised their everyday struggles and shared culture into exaggerated iconography that entertained black audience and with which they could identify themselves. A passion project by TV actor Richard St. John, Top of the Heap forged a different path – instead of depicting the ghetto experience, it confronts the dark american nightmare of aspirational middle-class black existence with an alternatingly tense and surrealist touch.
George Lattimer (played by writer-director-producer Richard St. John), a cop who is proud to be one of the few African-Americans on the force, slowly loses his mental grip when he’s passed over for promotion in his department yet again. What follows is a series of intense, layered interactions, which derive their tension from a simple paradox: George is bullied and belittled as a black citizen, but feared with a badge on him. As he struggles to fulfil the many roles society thrusts on him as father, son, husband, cop and citizen under the crushing weight of America’s ingrained racism, his psyche is broken into “Pieces of a Man” (to invoke Gil Scott-Heron’s contemporary proto-rap album). These scenes are intertwined with increasingly satirical, surrealist day-dreams depicting George as an Astronaut for NASA (perhaps the only positive agreed-on bipartisan institution in the US). Late in the movie, talking about the possibility of extraterrestrial contact with a fellow cop, George remarks mournfully “America can wipe out anything.”

About Luke Dunne

Luke is a writer, film addict and Dublin native who loves how much there is for film fans in his home county. A former writer for FilmFixx and the Freakin' Awesome Network, he founded Film In Dublin to pursue his dual dreams of writing about film and never sleeping ever again.

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