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Flix are definitely not ‘Downton’ in Belfast

Apr 26, 2019

BELFAST — May's Friday Night Flix features films themed “Definitely Not Downton Abbey.” The free screenings take place Fridays at 7 p.m. in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

Directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh are both English by birth and language, and would do the Bard proud, making some great films of human drama set in working class Britain. Both bring theater experience and well-crafted writing to the screen. May's calendar only has five Fridays, so Karen Gleeson and Paul Sheridan have chosen their favorites to show.

On May 3, “Secrets & Lies” (1996, UK/France) is an award-winning film which portrays a successful black optometrist (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who decides to find her birth mother. To her surprise, her mother is a working-class white woman (Brenda Blethyn) with a dysfunctional family. The film was created in Leigh's improvisational style, with an ensemble cast of superb Leigh regulars, including Claire Rushbrook, Timothy Spall and Phyllis Logan. The film runs 136 minutes, in English and Greek, with subtitles, and is rated R.

Another award-winning film will be shown on May 10. “I, Daniel Blake” (2016, UK/France/Belgium) tells of a 59-year old carpenter in Newcastle who suffers a heart attack, after which he applies for benefits. But his benefits are refused, because he is “too fit.” As he fights the system, he befriends others with similar problems. This film was one of Loach's most popular films in his native England. The film runs 100 minutes and is rated R.

On May 17, “Vera Drake” (2004, UK/France) tells about 1950s Britain. Vera is a hard-working woman who cleans houses and cares for her close family members. She also helps out her neighbors by performing back-room abortions for no charge. It is this service, then against the law, that breaks up her close family life. Again, this film was an award-winner for Leigh. The film runs 125 minutes and rated R.

On May 24, Karen and Paul present the only American-based film. Loach directed “Bread and Roses” (2000, UK/France/Germany/Spain/Italy/Switzerland) about two Latina sisters who work as cleaners in downtown Los Angeles office buildings, and fight for the right to unionize. The film is based on a real campaign of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to achieve better working conditions. Many of the actors are cleaners in real life. Also starring Pilar Padilla, Adrien Brody and Elpidia Carrillo. The film runs 110 minutes and is rated R.

The last film in the month's series, showing May 31, is “Another Year” (2010, UK). It is a story about aging and friendship, as experienced over the course of a year. Leigh has again created a script based on his actors' improvised scenes. As usual, his gifted actors include regulars Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton. The film runs 129 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Christine Dunkle can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 108; or


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