Author Archives: The Hyphenates

The Asghar Farhadi Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ABOUT ELLY (2009) and A SEPARATION (2011)

Asghar Farhadi hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently: instead of celebrating the Best Foreign Film Academy Award nomination for his sixth feature The Salesman, coverage concentrated on his entanglement in the Trump travel ban, as both Farhadi and the film’s star Taraneh Alidoosti stated that they would boycott the awards over the block on Iranians travelling to the US. The Salesman is their fourth film together – and the third was About Elly, which got an international release after A Separation gave the director his (hopefully first of many) Academy Award in 2012. Alidoosti played the titular Elly, a shy teacher swept along on a group trip to the seaside by Sepideh, whose daughter is in her kindergarten class. Along with the three couples who’ve known each other since law school, there’s another single guest, Ahmad, and Sepideh has plans to get him and Elly together. Romantic comedy turns into a sickeningly tense he said/she said thriller when Elly disappears and Sepideh’s half-truths come to light, subtly shading the complicit and compromised lives of Tehran’s middle classes. That’s even more palpable in A Separation, where a planned divorce leads morally-upright Nader into a compromising situation: after his wife Simin leaves him to live with her mother, prior to her moving to the US to escape theocratic oppression, he hires Razieh to look after his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father. Both the grandfather and very bright daughter Termeh are caught in the battles of wills between the parents, as well as the class agony between Nader and Razieh, with a sense of consequences that many critics have compared to Michael Haneke’s Caché. Things can’t end well.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen About Elly or A Separation, you must watch the film his two subsequent films: The Past (2013), which replays some of the themes of divorce, betrayal and children bearing the brunt of adult struggles seen in A Separation, but with the added knife-twist of cross-cultural relationships and immigration, as Farhadi shoots in France. And then there’s The Salesman (2016) is a drama about drama, going back to the filmmaker’s roots in studying theatre. It follows a couple whose relationship frays during their participation in a production of Death of a Salesman, as they confront the scandalous past of their apartment’s previous tenant. What’s past is, as ever in Farhadi’s films, all too poignantly and unsettlingly present.

The Hidden Gem: Set on Iranian New Year’s Eve, Fireworks Wednesday (2006) is punctuated by small explosions, literal and metaphorical, as Alidoosti’s character Rouhi, a bride-to-be, gets sent by her employment agency to clean for a warring married couple: Mojdeh is convinced Morteza is having an affair; Morteza thinks Mojdeh is crazy. Rouhi spends a long day caught between them, their son Amir Ali, their beautician neighbour Simin, and the febrile celebratory atmosphere outside.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Tina Hassannia talking Asghar Farhadi, will be released on 28 February 2017.

Our Next Hyphenate Tina Hassannia

Author, film critic and Hi4H February 2017 guest host Tina Hassannia

We’re breaking convention to do things a little backwards this month. Let us explain.

Before we had confirmed a guest or filmmaker for this month, it was announced that director Asghar Farhadi would be unable to enter the United States to attend the Oscars ceremony – he is once again nominated, by the way – thanks to sudden, draconian, poorly-implemented immigration policy. Farhadi’s plight is not the most heartbreaking story to emerge in the past month, but it is emblematic of how ridiculous this action has been. It became clear that this is something we would have to address on the show, probably during the middle segment.

Then we realised there would probably never be a more appropriate time for us to discuss the films of Asghar Farhadi, so we decided to do something we’d never done before: we choose the filmmaker first.

This month, Hell Is For Hyphenates will be all about the incredible films of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.

With our filmmaker-of-the-month selected, we then set about searching for the perfect person to help us discuss him, and there was really only one choice: Toronto-based film critic Tina Hassannia.

Tina wrote the book on Farhadi, quite literally: Asghar Farhadi: Life and Cinema was released by The Critical Press in 2014, and is available from the Critical Press website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indigo. In the book, Tina traces Farhadi’s origins as an emerging filmmaker in Iran, from his directorial debut Dancing in the Dust through to 2013’s acclaimed The Past. The book also features an in-depth interview with Farhadi, and is undoubtedly the definitive work on this influential filmmaker.

We were delighted that Tina immediately agreed to join us on the show, and cannot wait to discuss Dancing in the Dust (2003), Beautiful City (2004), Fireworks Wednesday (2006), About Elly (2009), A Separation (2011), The Past (2013), The Salesman (2016), as well as Farhadi’s career and history with her.

This episode will also feature something else we’ve never done before, but to find out what that is, you’ll have to listen to the show when it’s released on 28 February!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Asghar Farhadi

O’Brien On Loach

We really didn’t plan it this way, but it did work out pretty well. After all, could there by a more appropriate month for us to discuss the films of one of the most political directors in the canon? Sometimes you’re blessed with synchronicity.

Apart from the charged politics, this is unlike any episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates you’ve heard before. Especially if you’ve never heard any. But double-especially if you’ve heard some.

As we said in the episode announcement, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a guest on who has been personally acquainted with the filmmaker they’ve chosen, but it is the first time the guest has been heavily involved with a good half of the films we’re discussing. Rebecca has produced the majority of Ken Loach’s films since 1990, including two Palme d’Or winners: 2006’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley and 2016’s I, Daniel Blake. As a result, she brings unique, fascinating and frequently funny insights into what happened behind the scenes.

Lee Skyped in from Melbourne, but Sophie journeyed to Sixteen Films – Rebecca and Ken’s production company – in Soho, London to record the episode. That’s about as belly-of-the-beast as you can possibly get, surrounded by props from Loach’s films as you chat about them.

Before Rebecca joins us to talk Loach, Sophie and Lee chat about three of the key films of January 2017 (splitting the difference between the inconsistent release dates of the UK and Australia), looking at Pablo Lorrain’s Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy biopic Jackie, Martin Scorsese’s passion project Silence, and Kirsten Johnson’s groundbreaking memoir Cameraperson.

It’s politics galore this month, but we also squeeze some films in there too, in our first episode of 2017!

Further reading and notes:

  • Yeah, we were a little confused during recording, but for the record, Silence takes place in the 17th We were definitely right about it featuring Catholics though.
  • We discuss the effect Cathy Come Home had on the public consciousness of homelessness, and you can learn more in this ten minute BBC audio documentary, and discover how little things have changed in the fifty years since its broadcast in this article from The Guardian.
  • Rebecca tells us that I, Daniel Blake has made more than one appearance in UK parliament: here’s Jeremy Corbyn telling Theresa May that she should watch it during the Prime Minister’s Question Time, and here’s SNP MP Mhairi Black doing the same in the House of Commons.
  • One thing we didn’t get a chance to mention on the show was that in all those lists of directors who remade their own films, you know who never gets mentioned? No prizes if you guessed Ken Loach. After all, we only noticed that he’d remade his TV play In Two Minds (1967) as Family Life (1971) during the process of watching everything he’d ever made. Time to add him to these perennial trivia articles, internet list makers!
  • Did Steven Soderbergh make a sequel to a Ken Loach film? Not really. But when he made The Limey (1999) with Terence Stamp, he used footage from Ken Loach’s first theatrical feature Poor Cow (1967), featuring a much younger Terence Stamp, in fragmented flashback sequences. Soderbergh talked briefly about incorporating the footage in an interview with Jason Anderson and in another interview with Elif Cercel.

Outro music: “Colours”, written by Donovan and performed by Terence Stamp, from Poor Cow (1967)

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Rebecca O’Brien talking the films of Ken Loach, can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed via our website.

Here are some pictures of Sophie’s visit to Sixteen Films:

Sophie and Rebecca with the sign from Jimmy’s Hall (2014)
The poster for I, Daniel Blake (2016) and some cool miscellany
Posted for the amusement of visitors, the list of swear words that had to be removed for the airport edit of Jimmy’s Hall (2014)

Hell Is For Hyphenates – January 2017

Acclaimed producer Rebecca O’Brien (I Daniel BlakeOranges and SunshineBeanFriendship’s Death) joins us for our first episode of 2017. Sophie and Lee look back at some of the key films released in January, including Pablo Lorrain’s Jackie Bouvier Kennedy biopic Jackie, Martin Scorsese’s meditative Catholic drama Silence, and Kirsten Johnson’s unique memoir Cameraperson. Then Rebecca takes us through the films of the renowned British director Ken Loach, many of which Rebecca produced, granting us unique insight into the method and process behind his works.

The Ken Loach Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

CATHY COME HOME (1966) and KES (1969)

So the world: hell/handbasket. You know who’s had two fingers up to the powers that be of every stripe, since 1965? Ken “Kenneth” Loach, that’s who. And given that politicians seem intent on turning the clock back to before civil rights, let’s go back to the beginning and remember what we’re fighting for: Cathy Come Home, originally screened on BBC TV as part of The Wednesday Play, is officially the most effective social protest film of all time, as it led to the founding of the housing charity Shelter. It was also part of the “angry young man” social realism that exploded out of postwar Britain, demanding the justice and equality that had been fought for in the war come home to root. Cathy (Carol White) – who carries on, head high, even as she loses everything – laid the template for Loach’s everyday heroes, captured in moving scenes that may look like fly-on-the-wall documentary but testify, even then, to Loach’s ability to inspire actors to connect emotionally with an audience. And if you haven’t been reduced to tear-jelly (and/or gone out on a protest) by Cathy Come Home, then settle in for Kes: even David Bradley, who plays the protagonist Billy and still lives in Barnsley where the film was made, says he can’t watch the end scene because “it’s too much”. And this from the actor who still loves the film – his first – even though Loach, seeking authenticity, didn’t call cut in the scene in which the schoolboys get caned. Kes is the kestrel Billy trains – really, into which he pours all his love and creativity. So maybe skip the climax if you’re feeling fragile. Or rage on, with the rest of Loach’s magnificent, ever-furious and tender body of work.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Cathy or Kes, you must watch Loach’s two Palme d’Or winners: the award for 2016’s I, Daniel Blake made him only the ninth filmmaker to do that prestigious double. Fifty years on (fifty! years! on!) from Cathy Come Home, Loach tackles the impacts of austerity and mealy-mouthed bureaucracy on families and communities once again, this time with a rousing central performance from comedian Dave Johns as titular hero who won’t take it no more. The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) is one of Loach’s rare forays into historical drama: along with Jimmy’s Hall (2014), it’s a human portrait of Irish radical politics, with a starring role for Cillian “briefly not being a psycho” Murphy as yet another classic Loachian character, the loyal, principled (and doomed) Irish Republican Damien O’Donovan.

The Hidden Gem: Loach has only ever made one film in America – and, as you’d expect, it’s far from a Hollywood affair. Bread and Roses, named after the classic union song, is about two Mexican sisters (Pilar Padilla and Elpidia Carrillo) who work as cleaners in LA, and are inspired to find an unorthodox and passionate campaign against their employers. Full of fire – and also tips for fighting our way out of the current crisis.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Rebecca O’Brien talking Ken Loach, will be released on 31 January 2017.

Our Next Hyphenate: Rebecca O’Brien

Producer and Hi4H January 2017 guest host Rebecca O’Brien

Our first guest for 2017, Rebecca O’Brien, got her start in cinema working at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She went on to work as location manager and production manager in films such as 1985’s My Beautiful Laundrette and 1982’s Crystal Gazing (the latter of which was co-directed by Hyphenates alum Laura Mulvey).

Her first film as producer was 1987’s Friendship’s Death, written and directed by Peter Wollen and starring Tilda Swinton, Bill Paterson and Patrick Bauchau. She has also produced the 1998 drama series Echoes the 1997 comedy film Bean, and the 2001 romance Princesca.

But she is perhaps best known for her partnership with legendary British director Ken Loach. It began in 1990 with the film Hidden Agenda, and went on to include My Name Is Joe (1998), Ae Fond Kiss… (2004), The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006), I Daniel Blake (2016) and numerous others.

So which filmmaker has Rebecca chosen to discuss on the show?

Believe it or not… legendary British director Ken Loach!

We love it when our guest has a unique insight into the filmmaker they’re talking about (such as Kate Hardie on the films of Antonia Bird, or Michael Altman discussing the films of his father), and given Rebecca has been working with Ken Loach for nearly three decades, it’s going to be fascinating to hear her unique perspective on these iconic, defining works.

In addition to the afore-mentioned films, Loach is also known for Poor Cow (1967), Kes (1969), and Cathy Come Home (1966), which is itself is objectively one of the most influential films of all time. If you don’t know the story behind that one, fear not: we’ll certainly get into the details in the recording.

We’re pretty excited to kick off the new year with such a prominent guest and iconic filmmaker, so make sure you join us on January 31 to hear Rebecca O’Brien talking Ken Loach!

Our next filmmaker of the month, Ken Loach

Hi4H’s 2016 Year In Review

Let’s skip all the non-film stuff in this recap, shall we? From Brexit to Trump and various personal crises, cinema was the last saving grace that kept us from going under. And the podcast really helped with that.

With guests ranging from the legendary Laura Mulvey to actors Rhys Muldoon and Kate Hardie, writers and critics like Garth Franklin, Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Martyn Pedler and Alicia Malone, filmmakers such as Alice Lowe, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Kriv Stenders, Rohan Spong and Terence Davies, we definitely kept things interesting.

We talked the films of John Carpenter, Max Ophüls, the Coen Bros, Antonia Bird, Shirley Clarke, Jim Henson, Guillermo Del Toro, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Peter Weir, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Nicolas Roeg and David Lean, as well as new releases and all sorts of topical film subjects. All told, we’re pretty happy with the twelve hours of audio  we released this year.

As we take stock of the year in cinema, scroll down to see the best of, worst of and general wrap-up lists of as many of our Hi4H alum as we could find. Then below, Sophie and Lee look back at 2016 and ahead to 2017.

End of Year Lists: Blogs

Four Three Film compiled a list of the best films of 2016 as chosen by its staff, which includes Hi4H alum Ian Barr & Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

In The Guardian, Luck Buckmaster runs through his picks for the best Australian films of the year

Thomas Caldwell tells us about his favourite films of 2016 on Cinema Autopsy

Thomas also contributes to the Melbourne International Film Festival’s wrap up of the year by listing his Top Five WTF Cinematic Moments (includes, essentially, eyeball eating and fart humour)

In Junkee, Mel Campbell takes us through her sixteen best films of 2016 and her ten most underrated movie gems of 2016 (and also tweeted a list of her picks for the worst films of 2016)

Over at Concrete Playground, Tom Clift & Sarah Ward tag-team with their choices for the top ten movies of 2016

Glenn Dunks writes for Junkee about his picks for the best and worst moments of queer cinema in 2016

Garth Franklin reveals his favourite films of 2016 on his website Dark Horizons

On his website The Reel Bits, Richard Gray presents his picks for the best films of 2016

Giles Hardie lets us in on his picks for the best movies of 2016 on his website Flicked

For Graffiti With Punctuation, Blake Howard gives us his quick rundown of the five worst, and compiles a video essay on his best films of 2016

Maria Lewis reveals her favourite horror films of the year for FilmInk

Drew McWeeny writes extensively on his favourite films of 2016 on his new online magazine/blog Pulp & Popcorn

For Student Edge, Simon Miraudo presents his top 11 of 2016

At SBS Film, Anthony Morris and Rochelle Siemienowicz contribute to their list of the best movies of 2016 as well as the worst movies of 2016

Paul may not be on the show any more, but he continues to see films and rank them, as evidenced by his epically-titled Best and Worst of Times: 2016 in the rearview (or, LONG LIVE CINEMA)

Lee’s rundown of his ten favourite films of the year, plus a list of every film he watched in 2016, can be found on his website

End of Year Lists: Podcasts/Broadcast

Triple R’s radio show/podcast Plato’s Cave presented the favourite films of 2016 from Thomas Caldwell, Cerise Howard, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and (spoiler alert) upcoming 2017 Hyphenates guest Emma Westwood

ABC Breakfast’s Zak Hepburn appeared on national television to present his choices for the best films of 2016


Top five Hi4H film discoveries (that you hadn’t seen before)?

Sophie: Top of the list is Antonia Bird’s Hamburg Cell, a film that I’d heard about but never been able to see (boo hiss HBO and danke schön German DVD!). It feels more urgent and courageous an achievement than ever. Shirley Clarke’s The Cool World, her only fiction feature, was a nervy, clever joy, and again current and still streets ahead in its depiction of African American boys becoming men. Peter Weir’s The Last Wave was totally new to me, and what a film: dark and risky, with that Weiry dreaminess and an unusual steeliness. And finally, two absolute classic costume/melodramas of female (almost) liberation that (hang my head) I’d never caught: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Effi Briest, the least-yet-most Fassbindery of his films in epic, gorgeous black and white, all sighs and glances; and Max Ophüls’ La signora di tutti, an addictively glamorous and mondaine prefiguration of his masterpiece Lola Montès.

Lee: As ever, I’ll be sticking with the one-per-filmmaker rule just to mix it up/make life more difficult for myself. (Note: Even though I watched all of the Fassbinders in 2015, I’ll count them for this year for reasons that I trust are self-evident.) Interestingly, we covered so many of my favourite filmmakers this year, directors whose work I was deeply familiar with – Hitchcock, Kubrick, Weir, Lean and the Coen Bros – that there were fewer discoveries than in previous years.

Nevertheless, the five first-time viewings that knocked me over the most were: Ravenous (1999, Antonia Bird), Portrait of Jason (1967, Shirley Clarke), Chinese Roulette (1976, Rainer Werner Fassbinder), Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick), Don’t Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg). These five are going to stick with me for a long, long time.

(I probably would have included a Max Ophuls in there, but I kept rubbish notes that month and I’ve completely forgotten which of his films I loved the most. I’m not the well-oiled machine I seem, listeners.)

Which new filmmakers to emerge in 2016 are you most excited about?

Sophie: Most smugly, I’m excited to see people catching up to Barry Jenkins. I saw Medicine for Melancholy, his first feature, at the London Film Festival in 2008, in an almost-empty cinema, and still have the jitters from its brilliant meditations on love, art, cities, race and space. Moonlight is a step up and expansion of his singular vision. #OscarsSoMoonlight

Less smugly, I came totally fresh to Kirsten Johnson; and Cameraperson, her fourth documentary as director (and approximately zillionth as cinematographer), blew off the top of my head. I’ve seen it three times, and still haven’t got the measure of it. I’m excited she’s working with Laura Poitras again (on a film about Julian Assange), but I want more films de Kirsten Johnson, soon.

Alice Diop’s doc On Call may not have got as big an audience as fellow refugee doc Eva Orner’s Chasing Asylum at London this year, but wow, has it stayed with me. Totally rigorous classical observational documentary, fierce with compassion and honesty. Deserves to be seen everywhere, and another talented member of the Diop filmmaking dynasty arrives.

Finally, two British first time feature filmmakers: full disclosure: I may know them or something. Regardless, I foresee big futures for Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge). They are unafraid to get messy, personal, difficult, dark, funny and bold. Having two such huge talents come along in one year (shout-out to Jane Gull for My Feral Heart and Esther May Campbell for Light Years as well): bloody hell. We’re going to need the stories they have in store for us.

Lee: I saw basically nothing this year (compared to most years), and have been experiencing massive list envy as I glance at Sophie’s answers. Even though I haven’t yet seen Prevenge, Alice Lowe is an alum of the show, and I’ll see anything she’s even tangentially related to, so can I include her? Speaking of which, I don’t believe the Lowe-starring Black Mountain Poets was the first film of director Jamie Adams, but it’s the first one I saw and I’m on board for whatever he does next.

I loved Baden Baden, so definitely Rachel Lang. I Am Not a Serial Killer is the film that appears to have put director Billy O’Brien on the map, and it’s a map I’ll be following closely in the future. And I can totally see Kirsten Johnson pulling a Laughtonesque one-and-done after Cameraperson, but if she does direct another, she’s already sold at least two tickets.

Keeping in mind our unofficial and sometimes-broken rule about our filmmakers-of-the-month having a minimum of five films to their names, which five filmmakers would you like to see us cover on the show?

Sophie: Chantal Akerman and Abbas Kiarostami both left us recently – and the incisive writing and conversations that marked their passing has made me want to look again and deeper at their expansive and elegant filmographies.

Ava DuVernay will hit the magic 5 with A Wrinkle in Time; if time could wrinkle the film out in 2017, she’d definitely be top of my Hyphenates list.

Oh, and Kelly Reichardt has just hit 6 with Certain Women, which will be in my 2017 top five, I can tell you that already. Time to talk trains, knitwear, Michelle Williams and working-class America, no?

Finally: Dorothy Arzner, Hollywood great. She got Maureen O’ Hara and Lucille Ball to cat-fight (and make up) in leotards, enough said. Oh, and she addressed rape, abortion and feminism in earlier films. TCM recently ran a popular marathon of her films… let’s go Dottie in 2017.

Lee: Since we began the show, my three white whales were Hitchcock, Kubrick and Scorsese, and in back-to-back episodes we knocked over two of them! So although we try our best never to influence our guests, I’ll be sending thoughtwaves to them all with the following names: Martin Scorsese, Nora Ephron, Kenji Mizoguchi, Michelangelo Antonioni, Catherine Breillat.

What are your most anticipated films of 2017?

Sophie: Weird question, because festivals. Moonlight, Certain Women, Cameraperson, and The Levelling will all come out in the UK in 2017, and that is awesome: anticipation for re-watching them with new audiences is already high at Mayer Towers. Looking ahead to next year’s fests, I’m already excited for Sydney Freeland’s indie thriller Deidra and Laney Rob a Train, which has been announced for Sundance, as has Dee Rees’ historical drama Mudbound. Amma Asante’s WWII drama Where Hands Touch has a 2017 release date (fingers crossed). The news that there’s a critical mass of new films written and directed by women of colour and of genius? I’ve been anticipating that for a decade and now it’s here!

If there could also be Trolls 2 pls. Because I’m complicated and random.

Lee: I agree, it’s a tough question because the best films often end up being the ones we don’t know about. I am particularly excited about a certain film with “Logan” in the title. Yes, Soderbergh is returning to cinema with Lucky Logan, from first-time writer (according to imdb, anyway) Rebecca Blunt. I look forward to seeing what it was about this script that lured my favourite living director back to the big screen OR I look forward to being shown some quotes that prove the retirement quote was actually fiction. Either way, I’m getting more Soderbergh in 2017 and this pleases me.

For the third year running, I’d like to include Martin Scorsese’s Silence. What I thought was going to be a 2015 film turned out to be a 2016 film that my home country is getting in 2017. Check in with us next year to see if it makes the cut again.

Even if the premise, the pedigree and the cast hadn’t won me over completely, I’d still be hanging for Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled because it’s Sofia Coppola. Also, any new work from filmmakers we’ve covered on the show save one. I’ll let you guess.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. Ducan Jones’s Mute. Shaun King’s Paddington 2. Gary Ross’s Ocean’s Eight. Anything Sophie tells me about, because she never steers me wrong even when I totally fail to see the films she nudges me about.

I have film critics friends who argue both for and against the concept of the guilty pleasure, and I usually find myself agreeing with whoever made their case to me last. But if you’ve listened to the show you’ll know I’m a hopeless sucker for the Marvel films, and the fact that they’ve upped their yearly output from two to three (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-man: Homecoming) is something I will vocally decry to maintain cred amongst my serious film friends as I secretly clap my hands in shameless glee.

And, of course, the Melbourne-made detective noir Trench, made by some upstart named Paul Anthony Nelson, but who’s ever heard of him?

Thank you all for listening to our show throughout the year, and for giving us so much constructive and positive feedback. If you want to help spread the love even further, know that telling your friends about the show, sharing us on social media, and leaving positive reviews on iTunes is hugely appreciated.

Happy new year, all!

Spong On Lean

Hyphenates has always been a show that celebrates all filmmakers, and we’re equally excited by the big names as we are by the obscure ones. Wielding absolutely no influence over the choices of our guests, 2016 nevertheless seemed to be a year in which we ticked off a fair number of big-name directors that have been looming over our shoulder for six-and-a-half years. The past few months alone we’ve talked Peter Weir, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Nicolas Roeg, and it feels appropriate that we should see the year out with the master that is David Lean.

It was a real delight to have Rohan Spong as our guest, and anyone who’s been lucky enough to see his astonishing documentaries – from 2011’s All the Way Through Evening to this year’s Winter At Westbeth – will no doubt be as keen as we are to hear about how David Lean became such an early influence. And it’s an origin story very much worth hearing.

Before we talk Lean, however, Sophie and Lee look back at some of this month’s key films, comparing this year’s Star Wars entry Rogue One to last year’s The Force Awakens, discussing their fiercely divergent reactions to Jim Jarmusch’s contemplative drama Paterson, dipping toes into the controversy surrounding science fiction romance Passengers, and looking at Amma Assante’s compelling biopic A United Kingdom.

Then, Rohan joins them as they compare notes on their favourite films of the year, and try to find some highlights amid the mess than was 2016.

Further reading:

  • In the Rogue One discussion, Sophie and Lee inevitably touch on the (spoilerish) topic of CGI recreation of actors. LucasFilm has spoken to the New York Times about the controversy (the piece in question with either be behind a paywall or it will use up one of your limited free articles, so be warned)
  • Here is some more info about the Notes On Blindness Oculus Rift project as mentioned by Rohan and Sophie
  • Sophie wasn’t kidding about the When Marnie Was There lunchbox, or maybe she was, but even so if you spot any in the wild definitely drop us a line
  • The incredible Lawrence of Arabia match cut as discussed in the show can be seen here
  • David Lean’s 1979 documentary Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor, which he made as he was scouting for his unrealised Mutiny on the Bounty films, can be viewed for free online at NZ OnScreen
  • All 2 hours and 20 minutes of David Lean: A Life In Film is on YouTube
  • Interviews with David Lean, Peter O’Toole and Anne V Coates talking about Lawrence of Arabia

Outro music: score from Lawrence of Arabia (1962), composed by Maurice Jarre

And don’t forget to check out our 2016 Year In Review, featuring a collection of our alumni’s best of the year lists!

The latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates featuring Rohan Spong talking the films of David Lean can be heard on Stitcher Smart Radio, subscribed to on iTunes, or downloaded/streamed directly from this website.

Hell Is For Hyphenates – December 2016

Documentarian Rohan Spong (T Is For Teacher, All the Way Through EveningWinter At Westbeth) joins us as we wrap up the year that was. We look at a handful of this month’s films, including Star Wars spinoff prequel Rogue One, Jim Jarmusch’s contemplative drama Paterson, science fiction drama Passengers, and Amma Asante’s true story adaptation A United Kingdom. Sophie, Lee and Rohan then compare notes on their absolute favourite films of 2016. Then, Rohan discusses the films and career of the director whose name is synonymous with grand, epic filmmaking: legendary filmmaker David Lean.

The David Lean Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…


When you hear David Lean’s name, you typically think of grand sweeping epics, told with the wildest of locations and the widest of screens. But that phase career didn’t begin until 1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai. For the first fifteen years of his directorial career he was making comparatively smaller, more personal films. Although many of his early works can still be considered great, one film looms large: the romantic drama Brief Encounter. Passions bubble over as a married woman falls in love with a stranger in 1940s London. Lean’s filmmaking is heartbreaking and strikingly modern, and it remains one of the most emotionally engaging films ever made. Once that’s done, your next film for the evening is an entirely different beast, and perhaps the best example there is of epic filmmaking: Lawrence of Arabia remains one of the greatest cinematic experiences of all time, and along with 2001, a film that absolutely must be seen on the big screen if at all possible. Watch these two films back-to-back and it might just be enough to turn 2016 around.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Brief Encounter, seek out The Passionate Friends (1949). While not nearly as well known or accomplished as Brief Encounter, it is a fascinating work and does cover many of the same themes, examining at infidelity through a far more complex and interesting prism than was, at the time, typically permitted. If you can’t get or have already seen Lawrence of Arabia, track down Doctor Zhivago (1965). Zhivago is as much a synonym for epic filmmaking as Lawrence is, with a 3+ hour running time, a 2.20:1 aspect ratio, and a sweeping multi-year story told against the backdrop of a revolution.

The Hidden Gem: Want to try something a little different? A David Lean film that is rarely mentioned? Take a look at Blithe Spirit (1945). This strange ghost story begins with a man (played by a frighteningly young Rex Harrison) ironically employing the services of a medium as research for his next book. When the medium manages to get in contact with an actual spirit that’s haunting the house, he finds himself caught his deceased first wife and his living second wife. It’s funny, macabre, and worth a look.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Rohan Spong talking David Lean, will be released on 31 December 2016.