Case Study: Petrov’s Flu & Accessible Foreign Language Cinema

With support from BFI, Matchbox worked with Sovereign Films to make their recent release of Petrov’s Flu accessible to Deaf and Blind audiences

The number of “foreign-language” films released in the UK has risen more or less year-on-year in the last 20, from 96 in 2001 to 346 in 2019. Parasite‘s historic 2020 Oscar win (with Bong Joon-Ho’s widely reported exhortation to overcome the “one inch tall barrier of subtitles”), seemed to signal a seachange in general audiences’ acceptance of subtitled cinema. Netflix and social media have helped to standardise the sight of subtitles with mainstream audiences while, internationally, the idea of employing same-language subtitles to improve literacy has gained traction.

At the same time, non-English language films still represent a small fraction of the UK box office, and exhibitors coming out of a pandemic have to navigate an increasingly homogenised slate of US franchise blockbusters, dwindling resources and narrow margins for error. To succeed, non-English language films also have to engage with some deeply engrained assumptions and prejudices (on both sides of the box office desk) around subtitled screenings.

Theatrical quad poster for Petrov's Flu. Features photo montage of man in profile with multiple items "exploding" from his head, including a Christmas tree, a knife and a bus
Sovereign’s theatrical poster for Petrov’s Flu

A subtitled screening, meanwhile, is not necessarily an accessible one. Just because a French film has subtitles, doesn’t mean audiences who generally rely upon descriptive subtitles (AKA captions, SDH or HoH) to enjoy cinema on equal terms will have anything like the same experience as a general audience.

I used to settle for watching films with English subtitles, and in the case of foreign language films, I would sit through the entire screening hoping that there wasn’t any English dialogue, and if there was, that I wouldn’t miss an essential plot point. It wasn’t until I started watching films with descriptive subtitles and attending captioned screenings that I realised how much I was missing out on, how much more information I was getting from descriptive labels, the presence of which drastically enhance my viewing experience and enjoyment. I was especially frustrated with the release of A Quiet Place, a groundbreaking film that spotlights deafness and sign language, as almost all of it was in English subtitles due to the characters’ use of sign language, so it was accessible for people who don’t know ASL. But it wasn’t accessible for Deaf audiences as there wasn’t any descriptive labels and there wasn’t English subtitles for the very few lines of English dialogue. The provision of descriptive subtitles makes my viewing experience an equal one, an experience that I don’t have to compromise on.

Charlotte Little, Access Consultant (Matchbox Cine)

Nevertheless, Deaf audiences are regularly excluded from non-English language cinema, whether that’s at physical screenings (where English language films are often, however understandably, given precedence in already niche slots), on VOD (where technical restrictions can mitigate full access measures, if not block them entirely) or on disc (often the last refuge for access). While dedicated programming strands and regular screening slots can ensure Deaf- or disability-focussed programming is accessible to audiences, the wide world of cinema is often frustratingly withheld.

The reasons are often complex, but the barriers to access usually can be delineated according to 1) budgetary restrictions 2) extremely tight schedules 3) a fundamental gap in knowledge and 4) perceived or real technical restrictions. We’ve found that Matchbox can be of use with all four of these elements, leaving the basic will to make improvements the final variable. Happily, most distributors and exhibitors do have that will, even if, due to some combination of the other variables, they’ve not been able to deliver accessible screenings.

Kirill Serebrennikov’s Russian-language Petrov’s Flu is the second project in an ongoing collaboration we’ve developed with one such, UK-based distributor, Sovereign Films. Beginning with Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, 2021), continuing through Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2021) and, most recently, Theo and the Metamorphosis (Damien Odoul, 2022), we’ve created descriptive subtitles and sometimes audio description for their releases – access materials that can then be used in various contexts – theatrical, VOD and/or disc. Sovereign’s releases are mostly non-English language (or have multiple audio languages, as is the case with Memoria). Our work with Sovereign, particularly on Petrov’s Flu (the release of which was supported by BFI’s Audience Fund, awarding funds from the National Lottery) is good model for how independent distributors can work with access providers to develop access materials.


A QUICK ASIDE ON TERMINOLOGYwe advocate for the term “descriptive subtitles” when discussing access materials made for films. There are essentially two categories of subtitles, and only one universally useful distinction. On one hand, you have “subtitles”, which contain only dialogue (whether it’s translated into English from another language, or simply transcribes English dialogue). On the other, you have “descriptive subtitles” which also contain descriptive elements such as sound effects [Petrov coughs], speech identifiers [Petrova] and music labels [Breezy accordion music]. Descriptive subtitles are also variously known as captions (open or closed), Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH), Hard of Hearing (HoH). Part of the problem with “captions” is that it is often used interchangeably with subtitles, leading to confusion at every possible stage – in planning and discussing accessibility, managing film materials, advertising screenings, etc. We prefer “descriptive subtitles” because it’s clear, removes ambiguity and simply denotes what the file is, rather than who it’s supposedly for (bearing in mind the majority of viewers using subtitles are not Deaf, nor hard-of-hearing; they are also widely valued by viewers for whom English is not their first language and neurodivergent audience members). NB there are further subtleties, particularly regarding file formats and when discussing various different contexts, but the least confusing and most fundamental dichotomy is subtitles vs descriptive subtitles.

Screengrab of two subtitle files opened in TextEdit. Timecodes and dialogue are present on the left-hand file; Timecodes, dialogue and descriptive elements are present in the right-hand file.
Petrov’s Flu Subtitles (left) vs Descriptive Subtitles (right)

To illustrate the difference between subtitles and descriptive subtitles and to explain the inadequacies of a basic English subtitle file for access purposes, non-English language films are very useful. For example, the basic subtitle file for Petrov’s Flu (above, left), which translates all of the Russian dialogue (and all the Cyrillic text on-screen) into English, contains 1,841 subtitles. The descriptive subtitle file (above, right), which adds all the elements in order to make the film accessible, contains 2,285 subtitles, an increase of 19.4%. The intention is to give as equal an experience as possible, and those additional 444 subtitles are essential in that regard. To understand the potential shortfall, we only have to imagine a film with the last reel missing, or with 1/5 of the screen obscured throughout.


Sovereign engaged Matchbox to produce access materials (both descriptive subtitles and audio description) for the release of Petrov’s Flu. As is relatively typical, there was a short amount of time to produce those materials, so that they could be packaged with the theatrical DCP. Often, local distributors are given either pre-packaged DCPs, ready for screening, or versions of the film with their local language subtitles already burned-in. Distributors are faced with the choice to re-package the DCPs (provided to them by sales agents) at often significant cost (labs often charge excessively for each additional subtitle file), on top of the production of the access materials themselves. Access materials, which, it should be said, are not often packaged with the films when they are sold (which does make some amount of sense for international titles – a French film, for example, will sometimes be delivered with French descriptive subtitles but not English). Meanwhile, distributors’ delivery schedules are often extremely narrow – they may take delivery of a film just weeks before their DCP must be finalised for release, or even for a planned festival screening, meaning the access materials need created and approved in a very narrow window (and, with already narrow margins, it can be hard to justify the expense of creating a new DCP for a theatrical release if you’ve created one weeks or months earlier for a festival screening, but sans access materials because there wasn’t time yet to complete them).

Photograph from set of Petrov's Flu, with a sepia tint. Three men sit in back of van, one (bald) pours a drink. The cosy van is festooned with rugs, flowers and other decorative elements
Filming Petrov’s Flu in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday December 10, 2019. (Photo: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Luckily, we had recourse to a “clean” version of Petrov’s Flu, with no burned-in subtitles. Sovereign also could give us access to various deliverables from the production, including a music cue sheet, which helped us to make full and accurate access materials. We then created a suite of files for use in various contexts – a full descriptive subtitles file, for use with the theatrical DCP (and any subsequent disc release) and a DS-only file, designed to work around the basic English subtitle file. The DS-only file removes some of the additional elements that clash with the basic file – for example speech identifiers, or sound effects that would otherwise be merged with the dialogue-only subtitles. (NB It’s possible to create a file that simply raises those clashing subtitles to the top of the screen – useful when making an accessible DCP from a video with burned-in subtitles – but most online contexts can’t support the requisite HTML code in the sidecar file, rendering them ineffective at best, at worst leaving the code visible to the viewer).

This latter is a necessarily compromised file, of diminished effectiveness, but it’s a necessary evil (for the moment), since many online platforms either can’t support multiple subtitle files (meaning the basic English file takes the only slot) or don’t support “sidecar” (read: separate, optional) subtitle files at all. This latter is the case for some VOD platforms which viewers commonly cast to their televisions – if subtitles are required, they must therefore be burned-in/hardcoded (a permanent part of the film’s image) and, again, the basic English file usually takes precedence.

In terms of audio description, it’s relatively uncommon for non-English languages films in theatrical distribution. Since AD scripts need to incorporate any on-screen text, including subtitles (which must be voiced along with the descriptions of visual information), AD is more likely to be produced against dubbed version of films. It means a film like Petrov’s Flu, as long and verbose as it is, presents a particular challenge. Dubbing an entire feature is still prohibitively expensive for an indepedent exhibitor, releasing into one market (a little more economical for Disney+ or Netflix, who coincidentally report that international audiences increasingly prefer dubbed films to subtitled ones). Truthfully, creating AD for Petrov’s Flu was a mammoth task for our scripter and our voicer, who are generally adept and well practiced at creating and delivering concise and effective descriptions. We can be confident, though, that we didn’t cut corners to deliver the file.

I’d love to see SDH subtitles become the norm on foreign films. It’s just good practice and I hope more distributors do this.

Will Mager (writer, director, producer)

We’ve been able to help Sovereign navigate all these potential complications to ensure their releases are as accessible as possible and to produce theatrical quality materials with very tight turnarounds. The key word their for us, for Sovereign and for audiences is “quality”. We’re determined that our subtitles help to create an equal experience for everyone potentially in attendance – bearing in mind that the Deaf audience itself isn’t monolithic, but encompasses people deaf from birth, those that have become deaf, hard-of-hearing people, those whose first or preferred language is BSL, etc – including a fully-hearing audience. Cinema is essentially immersive and communal and, rather than compartmentalise audiences, the hope is to bring them together.

That’s not possible with sub-par subtitles, or with unproved and unreliable technology that makes Deaf and/or disabled audiences the problem. As advocates as well as practioners, we’re focussed on making sure the materials we produce are the best quality and that they meet the expectations of the audience, rather than the bare minimum to qualify as access materials – e.g. lyrics are transcribed wherever necessary and possible and untranslated, non-English dialogue is transcribed wherever possible (if a film-maker has chosen not to translate non-English dialogue, instead of simply labelling [He speaks Spanish], if we’re able to, we’ll transcribe it, “Los subtítulos son geniales.”). As all good subtitlers do, we go the extra mile in our research to confirm spellings and phraseology, to identify needle drops and source official lyrics.

As with all our work, regardless of the context, the materials we make for Sovereign are made to the best professional quality, so audiences can be confident that their titles meet those standards while exhibitors can rely upon the materials to be present (and to present correctly). With the materials available – and crucially prepared for every context – audiences can begin to expect upon the provision being there without them asking for it.

Matchbox & Sovereign’s panel discussion on Petrov’s Flu and accessibility for non-English language films

Cinemas and other exhibitors can also make useful changes (while avoiding unfortunate mis-steps). Ensure your accessible screenings are listed and advertised prominently and correctly. Don’t lump simply subtitled screenings together with accessible screenings on your website’s “accessible” screenings page, or in your reporting – that means when you boast about the percentage of accessible screenings in your programme, it’ll be entirely accurate. Be confident and informed when engaging with your general audiences – challenge assumptions, including your own. Your general audiences may generally swerve “open-captioned” screenings, but that’s because they have the choice, and perhaps because they’ve had bad experiences of subtitled ones – they may even, as has been evidenced, wrongly believe open-captioned films screen with no sound. Educate staff, both customer-facing and behind the scenes of the value and requirements of accessibility, as well as the correct terminology, in order to avoid unnecessary barriers to access (such as when access materials are not requested from distributors, or if they are, they’re advertised incorrectly).

The truth is people will watch a film with subtitles in, even if they don’t realise it straight away. After all, the highest grossing movie of all time is Avatar, a film where over a third of its dialogue is in Na’Vi… which is subtitled.

Film Stories

There is a massive potential audience for accessible screenings of all stripes, but the main obstacles to developing it are consistency in quality and general availability. Audiences’ trust needs to be earned before they will reliably turn out for accessible screenings – and not just the (if they’re lucky) one a day, scheduled during work hours. Meanwhile, mainstream audiences are arguably largely untested in their tolerance for more accessible screenings. As practioners and advocates, all we can do is help to break down those barriers to access – all that remains is the will to finally sweep them away.

Sean Welsh


Petrov’s Flu will be released to VOD on Monday 27th June.

For more information, check sovereignfilms.co.uk, or follow Sovereign Films on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

“A Quiet Man, eh?” CRIME WAVE’s original ending, on 16mm

Last month, we travelled to New York to screen the original ending of John Paizs’ Crime Wave for the first time in 35 years – from Paizs’ own 16mm print!

In December 2021, we took our Tales from Winnipeg programme to Brooklyn, NYC. We went there at the invitation of Spectacle Theater, the legendary microcinema/”goth bodega” situated in Williamsburg (see the 2020 roundtable we hosted with Caroline Golum, Isaac Hoff & Garrett Linn of Spectacle here). Originally presented online in August 2020 (everywhere except North America), the headliners of our programme are three features – Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee (with Ela Orleans’ re-score), Dave Barber and Kevin Nikkel’s documentary Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group and John Paizs’ seminal Crime Wave, in its 2K restoration. We’ve screened Crime Wave many, many times, and because of that and because we love Spectacle so much, we were keen to do something particularly special. Thankfully, the stars aligned, spectacularly so (pun not intended). John Paizs allowed us to ship the original 16mm print of his film, unprojected since its fateful festival debut in 1985, from Winnipeg to New York. And, crucially, this particular print contained Crime Wave‘s original ending.

The story of Crime Wave‘s premiere – on Friday 13th September, 1985 – has taken on quasi-mythical status. After that “disastrous” first screening, the story often goes, distributors demanded Paizs reshoot the end of his debut feature, which he did, ensuring its status as the Great Canadian Cult Comedy. Truthfully, the version of the film screened then, at Toronto’s Festival of Festivals (precursor to TIFF), is the same one that led critic Jay Scott to proclaim, “If the great Canadian comedy ever gets made, John Paizs might be the one to make it.”

As far as distributor’s demands, John may ultimately have pre-empted them, but he didn’t even sign Crime Wave‘s ill-fated deal until the following year. The “disaster” that night in Toronto was a sound problem that brought the film’s projection to a screeching halt, lighting up the auditorium, just as the third act began. When the film resumed, the belly laughs of the preceding hour were gone, and the audience’s muted response convinced Paizs to do the unthinkable – return to Winnipeg to rewrite and re-shoot the entire final act of his debut feature, having long since exhausted its meagre budget (round about $67,000 Canadian).

Detail from the original, hand-typed Crime Wave screenplay, corresponding with the scene pictured above

The Crime Wave that you may well know and love – the best-known version of the film is still, as far as we’re concerned, criminally underappreciated – has a very distinctive third act. The film ascends into a rattling montage tracing the sharp rise and lonely fall of film-maker Steven Penny (Paizs himself), a frenzied crescendo that fulfils the promise of the first two acts by adrenalising all their wit and invention. Crime Wave goes out on a high, complete with deadpan musical coda as the credits roll. The original ending arrives at something like the same spot, narratively, but detours significantly into darker territory. As Jay Scott noted, esewhere in that oft-quoted review, “the tone switches from mildly nuts and robustly funny to robustly nuts and mildly funny.” At the premiere, the sharpness of that tonal shift coincided perfectly with the 10-20 minute interruption. The comparatively subdued atmosphere in the room afterwards (and a smattering of early departures), alongside some caveated reviews, was enough to convince Paizs he needed to completely rethink the ending.

As the festival buzz dissipated over the next six months, Paizs regrouped in Winnipeg and determinedly reconstructed Crime Wave, his stubborn focus – arguably one of the hallmarks of his hometown cohort – on his own vision and on posterity. Paizs raised a further $10-15,000 and, with the support of his Winnipeg compatriates, who passed the hat around to support the endeavour, delivered the much-loved, “faster and funnier” final cut to premiere in Vancouver on 21st March, 1986. By some estimates, though, that half-year diversion was enough to leave Crime Wave in the wilderness for good. A vaunted distribution deal failed to deliver a theatrical release and, worse, left Paizs’ film in the rights quagmire that it remains in today.

Writer and programmer Geoff Pevere, an early champion of Paizs and Crime Wave responsible for its sight-unseen invite to Toronto, remembered the 16mm print only arriving on the day of the screening, with Paizs. “Later, I heard the director had actually picked up the just-completed print from the lab on the way to catch his plane.” So: struck, screened once and stored for 35 years – that’s the print we showed at Spectacle. When we asked after it, John offered to check some carefully kept 16mm cans, soon confirming some of the heretofore “mystery” reels contained the premiere cut – and not, we hasten to add, the “Director’s Cut”. If one thing’s clear, it’s that John Paizs made the film he wanted to make, though both versions belong on a beautiful boutique blu ray release. Meanwhile, Crime Wave‘s reputation grows, year on year, with every new viewing, hopefully towards the point Paizs’ “lost” classic can find its way home.

Sean Welsh


Our Crime Wave New York story in pictures

1 | We flew into New York on the evening of Thursday 9th December, and the next morning wandered up to recce the fabled goth bodega and take some jetlagged selfies. We’re big fans of Spectacle’s programming, so figured best to get it out of our system.

2 | Next day, we picked up the print. Our friends at Anthology Film Archives (who screened Crime Wave on 16mm back in 2014) helped us out by taking delivery of John’s print, sent direct from Winnipeg. Anthology’s Jed Rapfogel raised an eyebrow (justifiably) when he heard this was not only the first outing for the original cut in 35 years but quite likely the only extant print, and as-yet unscanned/unpreserved. Off we went to Spectacle to show it to people! #TeamLanglois

3 | Spectacle had hired a 16mm projector for the special event, and with it came projectionist extraordinaire, artist, film-maker and analogue afficionado Ian Burnley. With the requisite care and reverence (not to mention sense of circumstance), Ian unveiled the reel (actually, four reels – John sent the three original reels plus one with the “official” ending, just in case)…

4 | ..and began to prepare them for screening (note John’s careful new notes and the original “MATURE” label). Ian also gave us some great recommendation for cinemas, art shows, galleries and noodles (we were glad to meet Ian).

5 | We sat down with Spectacle’s Caroline Golum to preview the reel ahead of the screening, making sure the set-up worked and John hadn’t pranked us by sending us footage of a Winnipeg family wedding. He hadn’t!

6 | All that was left was to panickedly chalk up the A-board, pose for posterity (that’s Spectacle’s Elias ZX on the left there, Megan in the middle), welcome the sold-out audience and wait for the reviews…


Crime Wave’s 2K restoration screens in Spectacle’s Best of 2021 line-up on Saturday, 8th January at 7:30pm EST and Thursday 27th January at 10pm EST, tickets here. NB this is not the version with the original ending (just the one we know and love).

Thanks to Elias ZX, Caroline Golum and volunteers at Spectacle Theater, Monica at Winnipeg Film Group, Jed Rapfogel at Anthology Film Archives, Ian Burnley and Herb Shellenberger for helping to facilitate this series. And, of course, to John Paizs.

You can read more about Crime Wave in our Tales from Winnipeg zine and in Jonathan Ball’s excellent book, John Paizs’s Crime Wave.

If you’re interested in screening any part of our Tales from Winnipeg programme, please feel free to drop us a line: sean@matchboxcineclub.com.

“Jesus Christ, Dirty Harry & Billy the Kid walk into a bar…”

Naoto Yamakawa’s cult classic The New Morning of Billy the Kid “conjures together a motley crew of Eastern and Western archetypes”. For our online screening, we made a handy primer…

To call Naoto Yamakawa’s The New Morning of Billy The Kid an unconventional Western would be to severely downplay the stramash of archetypes Yamakawa knowingly deploys in his dreamlike film. From the title, combining references to Bob Dylan’s New Morning (1970) and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973) which Dylan scored and starred in, the film pulls together multiple threads of cultural references from all directions. We’ve assembed this (incomplete!) primer to aid your viewing of our online programme, which runs 3rd-5th December 2021. Images courtesy of Naoto Yamakawa.

Billy the Kid
aka Henry McCarty, William H Bonney (1859-1881) | An orphan at 15, dead at 21, Billy the Kid found fame as a murderous outlaw and gunfighter of the American Old West. A pop culture figure for over 100 years, he’s appeared in numerous books, comics, films, stage shows, songs and video games. Played by Hiroshi Mikami.

Black and white photography: Two men, a sailor and a police detective, sit at a table on a balcony. The sailor looks down through binoculars, the detective smokes a cigarette.
Harry Callahan (Yoshio Harada), right, in The New Morning of Billy the Kid

Harry Callahan (Created 1971) | Debuting in Don Siegel’s neo-noir Dirty Harry, Inspector Harold Francis Callahan is a fictional character and protagonist of a five-film series concluding with 1988’s The Dead Pool. Played by Yoshio Harada.

Marx-Engels (Karl Marx, 1818-1883; Friedrich Engels, 1820-1895) | German philosophers and co-authors of The Communist Manifesto. Marx’ tomb bears the inscription, “Workers of all lands unite”. The latter’s motto was reportedly, “Take it easy.” Played by Rokkô Toura.

Monument Valley | Monument Valley, located on the Navajo Nation within Arizona and Utah, has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s, most famously the ten films John Ford made with John Wayne, including Stagecoach (1939), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and The Searchers (1956).

Genichiro Takahashi (1951-) | Novelist and co-writer of The New Morning of Billy the Kid. The film draws upon his written works Sayonara, Gangsters (1982), Over the Rainbow (1984) and John Lennon vs The Martians (1985), among others. His oeuvre draws inspiration equally from low- and high-brow culture. Played by Genichiro Takahashi.

Black and white photography: Three men stand closely together in a bar: a sailor, a bandit and a soldier.
Harimau (Junichi Hirata), centre, in The New Morning of Billy the Kid

Harimau aka Tani Yutaka (1911-1942) | Yutaka was a bandit known as Harimau (“Tiger” in Malay), attacking Chinese gangs and British officers and giving away what he looted to the poor, making him a local hero in Malaya, now Malaysia. He was also a secret agent for the Imperial Japanese Army, sabotaging the British war effort in the run up to World War II. Played by ​​Junichi Hirata.

Jesus Christ (c 4 BC-30/33) | Son of God. Played by Akifumi Yamaguchi.

Jishu Eiga | Japanese phrase to describe DIY or self-made films, usually with no budget, funded and produced outside of the commercial industry. Prominent directors Sôgo Ishii, Naomi Kawase, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shinya Tsukamoto cut their teeth with jishu eiga films. 

Sasaki Kojirō (1575-1612) | Prominent Japanese swordsman and long-time rival of Miyamoto Musashi, who defeated him in a legendary duel. Played by Makoto Ayukawa.

Mitsuharu Kaneko (1895-1975) | Japanese poet known as an anti-establishment figure, who during the Second World War deliberately made his son ill so he would not be drafted.

Black and white photography: A swordsman smiles against a cloudy sky
Miyamoto Musashi (Takashi Naito) in The New Morning of Billy the Kid

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) | Japanese swordsman, philosopher, strategist, writer and rōnin. Miyamoto became renowned through stories of his unique double-bladed swordsmanship and undefeated record in his 61 duels. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) drew inspiration from Miyamoto for Seiji Miyaguchi’s character Kyūzō. Played by Takashi Naito.

New Morning (1970) | The 11th studio album by Bob Dylan, of which the original Rolling Stone reviewer said, “I’ve never heard Dylan sounding so outrageously happy before.”

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) | Revisionist Western directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring (in a supporting role as “Alias”) and scored by Bob Dylan. Billy the Kid was played by Kris Kristofferson, who said of his director, “One of Sam Peckinpah’s regular stunt men put it very well. He said, ‘Sam likes to be surrounded by chaos.'”

Composite image of magazine cuttings: a Photograph of a director holding a script in front of an actor dressed as a cowboy; an excerpt from an article*; a credit: "TONY RAYNS"

*"Beyond its inevitable ration of new British TV-financed features, the festival offered three non-British world premieres, and it seemed characteristic of Edinburgh that no great drums were beaten for any of them. Yamakawa Naoto's The New Morning of Billy the Kid, from Japan, is a brilliantly sustained comedy that conjures together a motley crew of Eastern and Western archetypes and has them shoot it out in the ultimate saloon gunfight. Almost entirely studio-shot, it uses the resources of the sound-stage with a mastery to compare with the heyday of the 1930s, but to glitteringly modernist ends."
The New Morning of Billy the Kid featured in Tony Rayns’ coverage of Edinburgh festival for Sight and Sound (London, Vol 55, Iss. 4, Fall 1986, p222)

Tony Rayns (1948-) | A writer, curator, programer and tireless champion of film, one of Mr Rayns’ key specialisations is Asian cinema. Rayns was an early champion of Yamakawa’s films and one of the only writers to celebrate his work from the outset. Rayns was also involved in the creation of the film’s original English subtitles (since lost), in collaboration with Director Yamakawa, and now has very graciously worked on our 2021 subtitles.

Sgt Sanders (Created 1962) | Sgt “Chip” Saunders, played by Vic Morrow, was the co-lead character in Combat!, a US TV show (1962-1967). The show depicted the lives of a US platoon fighting its way across Europe during World War II. Played by Zenpaku Kato.

Popeye & Olive Oyl (Created 1929; 1919) | Characters of Thimble Theatre, later Popeye, comic strips. Olive Oyl was a main character for 10 years before Popeye’s 1929 appearance, sequentially becoming his girlfriend. Both are able to gain superhuman strength from eating spinach. Played by Katsuhiko Hibino and Kyoko Endoh.

Leonid Brezhnev (1906-1982) | Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union as General Secretary of the governing Communist Party and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. His 18-year term as general secretary was second only to Joseph Stalin’s in duration. Played by Katsumi Asaba.

104 (1953-2015) | Japanese telephone directory enquiries number. Played by Akio Ishii.

177 | Japanese telephone weather service, dial to hear the weather forecast for the upcoming three days. Played by Hozumi Goda

Black and white photograph: A young woman sits in a chair, looking off to the right-hand side.
Charlotte Rampling (Kimie Shingyoji) in The New Morning of Billy the Kid

Charlotte Rampling (1963-) | English actress and model, known for her work in European arthouse films in English, French, and Italian. Played by Kimie Shingyoji

Bruce Springsteen (1949-) | American singer, songwriter, and musician with over twenty studio albums. Played by Masayuki Shionoya

Tatum O’Neal (1963-) | American actress who is the youngest person to ever win a competitive Academy Award, winning at age 10 for her performance as Addie Loggins in Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1973) opposite her father, Ryan O’Neal. Played by Aura Lani

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 (Published 1969) | A science fiction infused anti-war novel, articulating Vonnegut’s experiences as an American serviceman in World War II through protagonist Billy Pilgrim. Namesake of Master’s bar. 

Naoto Yamakawa (1957-) | Film director and professor at the Department of Imaging Art, Tokyo Polytechnic University. Yamakawa began to create his own films after becoming a member of the Cinema Research Society while studying at Waseda University. 

Zelda (Active 1979–1996) | One of Japan’s first all-girl bands, playing new wave, punk, pop, post-punk, and later, reggae. Played by band members Sachiho Kojima , Sayoko Takahashi, Tomie Ishihara and Ako Ozawa


The New Morning of Billy the Kid is available to watch worldwide from 3rd December to 5th December 2021 only, via Matchbox Cine’s online platform.

The New Morning of Billy the Kid is presented by Matchbox Cine as part of BFI’s Japan 2021: Over 100 years of Japanese Cinema, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network. bfijapan.co.uk

A Super Serious Comical Movie of New and Amusing Style

Matchbox Cine is bringing Naoto Yamakawa’s cult classic The New Morning of Billy the Kid back to western audiences, in a limited online presentation with all-new translated subtitles, December 3rd-5th, 2021.

Matchbox Cine is bringing Naoto Yamakawa’s cult classic The New Morning of Billy the Kid (ビリィ★ザ★キッドの新しい夜明け, 1986) back to western audiences, in a limited online presentation, December 3rd-5th, 2021. The film has not been available anywhere with English subtitles, and hasn’t screened in the west at all, since its original, lauded festival run. This event marks its 35th anniversary with an all-new English translation.

In the film, the titular anti-hero takes a job at the Slaughterhouse Saloon, “an arena of dreams where characters, images and situations from popular culture are transmitted into something entirely new.” (Tony Rayns) There, he encounters dish-washer Marx Engels, femme-fatale Sharlotte Rampling (sic) and a range of cultural figures in new guises, including Harry Callahan, Bruce Springsteen and Jesus.

The programme will screen exclusively on Matchbox Cine’s online platform, powered by Eventive. Rounding out the programme are two Yamakawa shorts based on Haruki Murakami short stories, Attack on a Bakery (1982) and A Girl, She is 100% (1983), also with new English translations.

The entire programme features Descriptive Subtitles/SDH and optional Audio Description, to ensure the films are accessible to as many people as possible. Tickets are priced on a sliding scale, so viewers decide what to pay, based on their means, with reference to a tiered sliding scale guide, Free-£8.

The programme is presented by Matchbox Cine as part of BFI’s Japan 2021: Over 100 years of Japanese Cinema, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network. bfijapan.co.uk

Logo lock-up: Matchbox Cine's, a stylised lit match, in black and white; "Japan 2021", stylised text; BFI logo, three black circles encasing a letter each, in white; BFI Film Audience Network, text-based; The National Lottery, a stylised hand with crossed fingers and a smiling face, with text.

Shelf Life + Q&A

Matchbox return with the never-released, undiscovered final feature film from legendary director Paul Bartel!

We’re back, with our first ever hybrid event! SHELF LIFE (Paul Bartel, 1993) + Pre-recorded Cast Q&A with O-Lan Jones, Andrea Stein, Jim Turner and filmmaker Alex Mechanik is Matchbox’s first screening since January 2020.

We have a very limited capacity physical event at Cube Microplex, Bristol, 7pm on Friday 27/08 and an internationally-available, unlimited-availability online version via Eventive, from 7pm Friday 27/08 – Sunday 29/08. Attendees of the physical event will also get access to the online version, and a copy of our print publication. The programme includes a Paul Bartel trailer reel, new cast introductions and a vintage interview with Paul Bartel. The physical event will be open captioned with our new cast-approved descriptive subtitles and the online programme will have optional descriptive subtitles and brand-new audio description on the film only.

TICKETS: matchboxcine.eventive.org

SYNOPSIS: Tina, Pam, and Scotty are taken down into Mom and Dad’s well-stocked bomb shelter when Kennedy is assassinated in 1963…and they never come out. Thirty years later, Mom and Dad are a long-dead ‘bag of bones’ and the now-grown kids have created a life for themselves based on remnants from the ’60s, intermittent output from the TV and their wild imaginations.

BACKGROUND: Shelf Life was conceived and written by O-Lan Jones, Andrea Stein and Jim Turner as a result of their rumination on what must become of people boxed in tiny spaces for long, long periods of time. Director Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul, Death Race 2000, Lust in the Dust) saw the closing night performance of the play in 1992 and within six weeks they had begun shooting the film, complete with a fully fabricated fallout shelter on the stages of CFI in Hollywood. Despite a strong festival run and positive reviews, Shelf Life remained unreleased and never found the audience it deserved. After decades underground, the last remaining 35mm print was uncovered at the film archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and digitally restored – this is the UK premiere!

Q&A: This will be recorded in advance, partly to enable us to make it accessible, with quality subtitles. We record on 14/08, and you can pose questions any time between now and then via Slido: bit.ly/ShelfSlido

ZINE: We’re producing a new zine to accompany the event, with new artwork from Calvin Halliday and new responses to Shelf Life from emerging writers, including Logan Kenny. This will be free to all ticket holders and available to purchase separately.

TICKETS: Both physical and online events are priced on a sliding scale: you decide what to pay (£0-£8), with reference to our guide: bit.ly/matchboxscale

ACCESS: The screening will have brand-new, cast-approved descriptive subtitles, created by Matchbox Cinesub. The online version of the event will have optional descriptive subtitles for the entire programme and optional, brand-new audio description for the film. NB Cube Microplex is not wheelchair accessible.

VENUE + SOCIAL DISTANCING: Attendees will be required to wear a mask. We have limited seating to allow for social distancing – two seats between each set and every other row unsold. NB we are adhering to the advice of the UK Government but we also reserve the right to exercise our own judgement, should we feel the event is unsafe to deliver. In the case of cancellation, refunds will be issued automatically. NB Cube Microplex is not wheelchair accessible.

Part of Film Feels Hopeful, a UK-wide cinema season, supported by the National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network. Explore all films and events at filmfeels.co.uk.

Dave Barber RIP

We were very sad to hear this week that Winnipeg Film Group‘s legendary Dave Barber has passed away. We never had the chance to meet Dave in real life, but his documentary Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group featured in our Tales from Winnipeg online programme last year and we were delighted to have his participation in the event. His enthusiasm for WFG, the film-makers and their work was evident and we enjoyed and valued the back and forth we had with Dave before the event and afterwards.

We were also delighted when Dave agreed to write an article on WFG and his documentary for our accompanying zine, which we are publishing online for the first time, below. Our post-screening Q&A with Dave and co-director Kevin Nikkel is also embedded after the article. Winnipeg Film Group are accepting donations in efforts to establish a filmmaking fund in Dave’s name. Donations can be made here.


When I started working at the Winnipeg Film Group in 1983, little did I realise what I was getting into. Hired on to organise a film screening programme called the Cinematheque, I had no idea that I would be a front row witness to so much great, subversive original filmmaking. This nonprofit collective of independent filmmakers had just moved from an old historic block called the Bate Building in downtown Winnipeg into a red brick home called the “Kelly House”, first built in the 1880s.

It was bare bones. I had no chair and no lamp, so I brought them from home along with my dad’s typewriter. My office was upstairs on the second floor with a moose head on the wall and an old fridge. It didn’t take me long to realise that many filmmakers were outlaws at heart, completely  dedicated to creating  films and pushing everything else out of the way. They would stop at nothing to realise their vision. More than once over the years, a filmmaker would ask if they could grab a prop that was hanging on the wall or in the corner of the room. My chair wound up in a science fiction short. My typewriter wound up in John Paizs’s Crime Wave. Somebody borrowed the moose head and we never saw it again.  Our newsletter was christened The Moose. 

Dave Barber in Barber Gull Rub (Matthew Rankin, 2008)

In the next 35 years I witnessed some of the best independent filmmaking in the world, survived endless stormy personality disputes, staff turnovers, a bleeding ulcer (a near nervous breakdown) two basement office floods, a revolution in the technology of making, distributing and exhibition of movies, and now a pandemic. In some ways, it was a miracle the organisation survived…deficits and staff turnover prompted much soul searching and fund raising. But those that took the high road always pulled the organisation out of the fire. 

The Winnipeg Film Group was formed in 1974 by a collective of independent filmmakers who had a dream. To create a place where they could get filmmaking equipment to rent for cheap. They received a grant from the national arts funding body the Canada Council and, with this seed money, the organisation grew. They bought more and better 16mm filmmaking equipment. With the rise in filmmaking activity, there were more films on the shelf and an increasingly important distribution department. Many films went on to win awards and accolades at film festivals around the world. John Paizs’s wildly irreverent feature Crime Wave put the organisation on the map. Nobody had ever seen anything like this before. 

Dave Barber and Kevin Nikkel (photo: Leif Norman)

I spoke to a filmmaker in Chicago so excited by the scene he heard that was happening in Winnipeg that he wanted to move here and make films. Another woman actually did show up but after ten days of thirty-five-below weather she left town and said, “You people are all crazy.” And she’s right. A crazy obsession is what drives filmmakers to create films in Winnipeg – long cold winter nights and a city far from major centres of influence has led to a body of great artistic work that has won awards at film festivals around the world. What is it about Winnipeg? This sleepy prairie town with a population of just over 700,000 is in the middle of nowhere. A strong visual arts scene, progressive arts council funding and endless cold winters all fuel the seeds of creativity. 

When the Winnipeg Film Group moved yet again in 1986 into the Artspace Building, this time they had an equipment room much larger than the broom closet at Kelly House and a large empty space which became a studio. (re-named The Black Lodge) Hundreds of films have been shot in that space. If you set up a camera on a pedestal and filmed the room in stop motion over the years you would see a blur of sets being built and dismantled including a locomotive train for Guy Maddin’s Odilon Redon.

Dave Barber and Kevin Nikkel (photo: Leif Norman)

New emerging filmmakers walk in the door all the time. Every six years, there are radical changes in what filmmakers are creating. More recently there is a rise of the Indigenous Filmmakers Association and many significant women filmmakers creating great new work nurtured by the Winnipeg Film Group commission program Mosaic Women’s project. 

Kevin Nikkel and I faced a challenging task in making this documentary Tales From the Winnipeg Film Group. For years, many filmmakers talked about creating a documentary about the organisation but the idea was too daunting. How do you tell 40 years of history with its endless sea of changes?  

Kevin Nikkel and Dave Barber (photo: Leif Norman)

What is the story? Is there any archival footage or photographs? Who should you interview? In many ways, the Winnipeg Film Group is like the great Kurosawa movie Rashomon. Everyone sees their own version of the truth. We received an invaluable commissioning grant from TV producer Cam Bennett in the MTS Stories from Home and drew up a list of over 100 filmmakers, former staff and board members. Kevin travelled to Los Angeles, London, England and Washington, DC with his family and, while there, interviewed some filmmakers who had moved away.  We drew a graph chart on the wall and listed high points in WFG history. The birth of the group, from discussions at the Film Symposium at the University of Manitoba. The move into the Kelly House at 88 Adelaide Street. The endless wrangling over the direction of the group. The rise of various filmmaking movements. Some people didn’t want to be interviewed and some were just way too busy making films. It was very tough finding archival footage and photographs. A visiting German filmmaker Sissy Schneider made a great short documentary  film in the 1990s called Guys without an Attitude and generously allowed us to include a short except. Another German filmmaker, Alexander Bohr, made a documentary on Canadian filmmakers in 1992 and allowed us to use part of a segment on the Winnipeg Film Group shot inside our production offices in the Artspace Building. 

Cam generously allowed us an extension on the deadline to do more research and interview more people. But the clock was ticking and we soon realised we had to stop as the funding strand was collapsing. We wrestled hard in the editing room and the tone of the film changed direction several times. But the filmmaking continued. And it always will. Because it is all that matters.

Dave Barber


Winnipeg Film Group are accepting donations in efforts to establish a filmmaking fund in Dave’s name. Donations can be made here. You can read WFG’s tribute to Dave here.

The Three Worlds of Nick

We’re teaming up with Glasgow Short Film Festival again to screen a trilogy of incredible shorts from Crime Wave director John Paizs – in one feature length programme, as originally intended

40 years ago, in January 1981, cult Canadian auteur John Paizs debuted his seminal short, Springtime in Greenland. His seventh, it was the opening salvo of an intended trilogy paving the way for Paizs’ crowning achievement, his 1985 feature debut Crime Wave. The loosely connected sequence, completed with Oak, Ivy & Dead Elms (1982) and The International Style (1984) stars writer/director Paizs himself as Nick, the mute protagonist, always deadpan if not strictly impassive, the inscrutable centre of a highly stylised world, inspired equally by Disney and Devo.

Conceived as three pieces of a whole, though rarely screened together, The Three Worlds of Nick developed the style formally established by Paizs with 1980’s The Obsession of Billy Botski. In that short, Paizs placed his titular character amongst the “controlled artificiality” of classical Hollywood, mixing the highly constructed sound design of vintage radio dramas with the knowing, pop punch of New Wave music. Indeed, Paizs wanted his films to be “shorter, snappier, brighter and edgier,” envisaging them as a cinematic counterpart to the music of Devo, The B-52s and Elvis Costello. In The Three Worlds of Nick, Paizs worked towards that goal with the wit and poise later celebrated in the work of Roy Andersson and something of the compromised sincerity of Blue Velvet-era Lynch.

Paizs’ “Silent Man” figure, who would find his apotheosis in Crime Wave’s Steven Penny, was key to that development. While Botski had been merely laconic, Nick is entirely silent, a steadfast counterpoint to his frequently grandiloquent friends and antagonists. The self-casting was expedient, since Paizs’ films were made on a shoestring, with a non-professional cast and crew (the modest budgets primarily went to film stock and processing). It’s also emblematic of the inventiveness permeating the three shorts, which make a distinct virtue of Paizs’ lack of faith in his own oratorical prowess, while allowing him frequent opportunities to flirt, poker-faced, with his camera’s objectifying gaze.

Sean Welsh

Kathleen Driscoll as Carmel Frosst in The International Style

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

The Three Worlds of Nick followed after my short film The Obsession of Billy Botski. After Botski, I very much wanted to have a go at a feature but was daunted by the scale of it, a challenge I overcame by conceiving of one in three more easily fundable and doable parts. In order to give the three parts unity, I created the silent man Nick character (to be played by me), who would appear in each. The three storylines for the three parts — or worlds — came out very different from one another, going from semi-autobiography in Springtime in Greenland to escapist fantasy in The International Style, with a stop in between at college in Oak, Ivy and other Dead Elms for Nick to possibly learn a thing or three from a charismatic old WASP establishment student on campus and his right wing politics. All in all, The Three Worlds of Nick offered at the time of its completion, in 1983, and still offers today I believe, a completely unique movie watching experience. One that I guarantee still holds something special for every dedicated cineaste.

John Paizs

John Paizs, with his original poster for The Three Worlds of Nick

The Three Worlds of Nick streams live at 20.30 on Saturday 27 March, then is available to view on demand until the GSFF hub closes at midnight on Sunday 28 March. All three films feature brand-new, director-approved descriptive subtitles, produced by Matchbox Cinesub. More information can be found here.

Long Interview: Sean Welsh and Megan Mitchell (BBC Radio Scotland, 17/01/21)

Broadcaster Pauline McLean interviewed Matchbox about our National Lottery Award win, accessible film screenings and cinema under COVID

Towards the end of 2020, we were invited to speak to broadcaster (and Cage-a-rama attendee) Pauline McLean about our recent National Lottery Award, in the Culture & Arts category, for our work producing descriptive subtitles (AKA captions, SDH, HoH) for films during the COVID lockdown, ongoing work which is supported with National Lottery Funds via Film Hub Scotland.

You can listen and download the interview from BBC here. BBC doesn’t currently provide transcripts of its radio shows, so we’ve made one ourselves. Read it below, download a PDF here, or listen along with our subtitled clip.

Presenter: You’re listening to the Good Morning Scotland Weekend Edition podcast. Now, lots of people have found tasks to be done during lockdown, but spare a thought for film enthusiasts Sean Welsh and Megan Mitchell, who spent their lockdown subtitling hundreds of films for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. Well, Sean and Megan normally run Matchbox Cineworld, providing cult films for festivals. Cage-a-rama, their celebration of Nicolas Cage, should have taken place this month but they’re confident it will return and perhaps bring the eccentric actor himself to Glasgow. Well, our Arts Correspondent Pauline McLean spoke to them at the tail end of 2020.

John Waters: Hello, I’m John Waters, and I’m supposed to announce there’s no smoking in this theatre.

Megan Mitchell: Myself and my colleague Sean Welsh are Matchbox Cineclub. We’re currently based in Bristol, having just recently moved but we originally were active predominantly in Glasgow and Scotland. And we’re independent film exhibitors. And all that means is that we screen films, we run film festivals, we work with cinemas to put on film events. Our ethos, in terms of programming and what films we like to screen, we call them the outcasts, orphans and outliers of cinema,

Nicolas Cage: He jumped over three line-backers in mid-air. He sprouted antlers, like a gazelle. [He laughs] Like an elk?! [He laughs] He landed again and he ran, ran, ran. He scored a touchdown! [He laughs]

Megan Mitchell: We like to screen films – cult films for cold audiences – but also we place a keen emphasis on accessibility. So, we use a pay-what-you-can-afford sliding scale ticket model, from zero to £8, and we also present all the films with captions, for and Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences.

Pauline McLean: So, this is where the Lottery Award comes in, because a lot of people during lockdown, I guess, kicked back and thought, “Well, there’s not much for me to do.” The two of you actually decided that there was even more to do, in terms of subtitling films and you did, how many? About 250 in that time?

Sean Welsh: The number’s a little elastic. It’s actually still in a sense, it’s still going. It was 150 at the kind of midpoint. And it’s 300 now, I think. So, it’s, day-by-day it increases, because it’s still ongoing, of course. Over the summer, it was certainly about 200.

Pauline McLean: And what does that involve for you? What does the work actually involve?

Sean Welsh: It’s really varied, in fact. I mean, sometimes it’s a case of we have a subtitle file that we just have to adapt, which is to say that it’s an English language file and we need to add SDH or captioned elements, which is sound labels and sound effects and things like that. So, sometimes, it’s relatively straightforward. And other times we have to do the whole thing from scratch, which is that we have to transcribe the English dialogue as well as add these elements for Deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. And the quality of the films, or rather, the content of the films, is really varied as well and it depends on who we’ve been doing it for. We’ve done a lot of work with the Glasgow Short Film Festival, who were actually one of the first to embrace this, the idea of making their programme as accessible as possible. We worked with them a little bit last year and they’ve been building up their provision year on year, until this year, when, of course, initially, they were supposed to happen earlier in the year, but they had to postpone and then eventually delivered their whole programme online. And their whole programme this year was accessible in terms of captions, which is a huge undertaking for us. And it’s a real big investment and time for them as well. So it was really nice to see that.

Pauline McLean: And this kind of lockdown time gave you that chance to be able to sit down and do this, didn’t it? I mean it, it sounds like quite a dream job, but, in other ways, it also sounds quite laborious. You’re not just sitting watching films, you’re having to basically take them apart and put them back together again, with words anyway.

Sean Welsh: Ah, sure, I mean, if you want to stop enjoying something, you make it work. But, at the same time, we’re really grateful to be able to work like this. I mean, it’s great to have a sense of purpose about it, it’s great to work with films, but, of course, if you are working with films, day-in, day-out, it can become a little onerous. And of course, when you’re working on a film, it’s potentially up to six times as long as the film itself, you’re spending, even more than that, in fact, to produce the subtitles. So, if you imagine a film is an hour, an hour and a half long, you’re talking around a day, a day, maybe a working day, at the very least, usually about two days to do the subtitles, which is a long time to spend with any film.

Pauline McLean: So, Megan, are there particular films that you think, “Never again, I just don’t want to see that one again.”

Megan Mitchell: I think we’re quite lucky, because we’ve been able to work with a variety of festivals and exhibitors, that, every week, there’s something new and something interesting. And I think that, personally, we’ve been exposed to films that are just so varied and so interesting, in terms of their different content and approach and style that, actually, even though it can be quite arduous, I guess, to be doing it day-in, day-out, that there’s still always something fresh and exciting and you’re always reminded how important film as an art form and as a medium is,

Pauline McLean: Tell us a little bit about the original organisation that you set up Matchbox Cineclub. You originally, I guess, had five festivals that you’ve added to that, and you’re looking particularly at cult film. I think the only one that I have been to in the list, and I thought it was fabulous, was Cage-a-rama which is devoted to the films of Nicolas Cage. How did that come about?

Sean Welsh: The potted history of Matchbox is that it was founded by a chap called Tommy McCormick, who is very creative and very active in producing these kinds of organisations and events. And he started Matchbox as a way to screen short films, because, at that time, there wasn’t that many options for seeing short films on the big screen. And I got involved pretty quickly afterwards, because I wanted to get experience as a film programmer and basically took over almost entirely, but Tommy was on to bigger and better things. And then we screened pop-up screenings of cult films, essentially. And then Megan came onboard, and then our shared love of Nicolas Cage begat Cage-a-rama.

Nicolas Cage: Going to detain a blighter for enjoying his whisky?

Man: Enough.

Cage: Bangers and mash! Bubbles and squeak! Smoked eel pie!

Man: Sir?

Cage: Haggis!

Man: That’s it! Dismount the banister!

Sean Welsh: We decided that it was probably a good idea to spend an inordinate amount of time celebrating Nicolas Cage. And so we’ve done that.

Pauline McLean: Well, I was going to say, you’re not alone. For some reason, there’s a real love for Nicolas Cage in Glasgow.

Megan Mitchell: I think that, one, he’s just the best actor that’s ever lived. I’m actually the world’s leading academic on Valley Girl, which was Nicolas Cage’s first feature film, as “Nicolas Cage”.

VO: Valley Girl.

Cage: She’s out there somewhere.

VO: This is the story of a boy from Hollywood who never dreamed the girl he’d want most was down here.

Nicolas Cage as Randy in Valley Girl, wearing 3D glasses and smoking a cigarette
Randy (Nicolas Cage) in Valley Girl

Megan Mitchell: I think that me and Sean and the audience of Cage-a-rama have this shared sincere interest in Cage as an actor, as a an entity larger than life. And I think that that’s how we came to this idea of Matchbox being cult films for cult audiences, because, of course, programming Matchbox normally, outwith Cage-a-rama and our KeanuCons and things, which are maybe more known films, we’re screening stuff that you can’t see anywhere else – lost films, unknown films, cult in the sense that you really need to dig to find them. So, that unifying thread across our programming is really that cult, in, I guess, a more flexible and fluid sense, but always has that sincerity and joy that you find within these films.

Pauline McLean: But I guess also not taking itself too seriously. I think one of the films that I saw, I think last year, at the second festival was almost like a sort of pantomime audience, you know, people were kind of cheering the, you know, the particular lines that appealed to them, or…

Megan Mitchell: I was just gonna mention an event that we did that, I think, is a really nice example of audience participation in that heightened event. We hosted a funeral for the six-second video platform Vine.

[New Orleans second line funeral music]

Megan Mitchell: Some people might know that have, I guess, cult status, in terms of some of its videos and creators. And we hosted a very elaborate funeral with a mourning band and Puke, who’s a drag question performing this amazing performance with which the audience joined in, completely unprompted, with their phone lights, and had been repeating all of the Vines back to the screen itself.

[Music continues]

Audience in darkened room hold phones with lights aloft like lighters
The audience at Auld Lang Vine #RIPVine at CCA Glasgow (27/01/2019)

Megan Mitchell: And I think that we create or we try to create an environment within Matchbox events where all the audience and I think that this is where captions and accessible ticket pricing come in, feel comfortable and feel that they can engage to a level that they’re comfortable with and feel supported to do that in an environment that maybe ordinary cinemas or ordinary film screenings don’t create or haven’t been able to quite grasp yet. And I think that that’s core to the things that we want to continue to do is achieve that environment of… welcomeness, I guess, and feeling that you can be a part of all of this.

[Music continues]

Pauline McLean: And, Sean, is the ambition, eventually, to have either Nicolas Cage or Keanu Reeves come to their own festivals?

Sean Welsh: Well, we’re always, since year one of Cage-a-rama, we’ve been in contact with Cage’s agent and we’ve always been heartened by the fact that, in year four of a similar festival in the States, he took part, he came down, he had programmed the films, he came along, he officiated an engagement, I think, and he read some Edgar Allan Poe poems, before sitting and watching his own films with the audience. So, we’ve always been encouraged by the fact that that happened. So far, we haven’t quite been able to tie the knot. It’s always exciting, because he tends to spend his festive period in the UK, he has a house in Bath. And so he is usually around when we, when our festival happens, or, because we do it around about his birthday, which is in early January. And so we always think there’s a possibility is gonna pop in. But we’re kind of like a dog that chases a car. I’m not sure what we’d do, if we got him.

[Music – “Old Lost John” by Sonny Terry]

But one day, one day, and the invitation is always open, and we’re always having that kind of communication. Keanu’s a different thing, I think, because I think he’s quite humble, and a wee bit shy, and I think he’d probably be… I’m not sure he’d necessarily be comfortable in that kind of scenario. But we’ll see we’ve, we’ve got a lot of room in our hearts for Keanu, I’m sure everyone else does as well.

Keanu Reeves: When I left home, the maid asked me where I was off to. I said, “Wherever, whatever. Have a nice day.”

Sean Welsh: We thought we’d extend the invitation vice versa. I mean, they’re always welcome to come to any of our events, as is anyone – that’s the idea, open, open to everyone.

Megan Mitchell: Well, we delivered an online festival Tales From Winnipeg, which was actually more of a showcase, I guess, of purest Matchbox programming, so we had a Matchbox favourite John Paizs’ Crime Wave. We had Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee, scored by the wonderful Ela Orleans, and the Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group documentary. And that was really interesting, because that was our first foray, I guess, into online programming. And we were even on the local Winnipeggian news chatting about it and that was quite fun.

But I think, for us, we have been really lucky this year in terms of keeping busy, I guess, with captioning and the advocacy work that we’ve been doing around that. And of course, the award, for the captioning work that we’ve been doing, has been really nice and there’s been something really comforting, I guess, for us, being able to be busy during such a uncertain time. But I think moving forward, audiences are always going to want to come together and join in on something really special and I think cinemas and our festivals particularly offer something above and beyond watching films on Netflix or on streaming sites. So, 2021, we’ll see how comfortable we are delivering things to audiences. I also think, as well, that we’re really lucky in being independent film exhibitors, in that we can take the choices that feel right for us and our audiences and not have to take any, I guess, risks based on any economic factors, if we were cinema, for example. So I think, for us, we’re just biding our time, I guess. I don’t think you ever stop programming, there’s always things squirrelled away, you know – a Tik Tok festival might be next.

Sean Welsh: We have, it’s fair to say, lots and lots of ideas. And just like everyone else, it’s a real, a real shame that we’ve had to kind of wipe the board clean this year. But we’ve always said we’d prefer to be best rather than first, so even, there’s all these challenges, like Megan says, in terms of safety and looking after your audiences, because that’s the most important thing to us, and so…and we also have to deal with that thing that a lot of people in groups that are in the same position as us are in because it’s difficult for us to screen mainstream films online, you know, so we couldn’t necessarily present Cage-a-rama online. Obviously, I think we’d prefer to be able to see our audience and experience the films with them in real life. But even a version of it would be tricky for us to deliver online because…just because of the way the industry works. So, there are things we can do and there are things we may do and, like I say, we’re bursting with ideas. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

Pauline McLean: I think, in one of your discussion forums, you were recommending in a sense that for some festivals, the right thing is to do nothing, to kind of step back and not to attempt to push everything online. You were just explaining there why it’s not always possible to put things online. It also doesn’t always have the same feel, there is that balance to be achieved, isn’t there?

Megan Mitchell: Yeah. And I think that, particularly in the early point of lockdown, and going through the pandemic, quite a lot of cinemas and festivals and independent exhibitors, very rightly so, were concerned about their audiences and wanting to stay very actively engaged with them. And I think that when, we, I guess, it was during Scalarama, said that perhaps doing nothing is a better use of time, I think that none of these people in the sector are ever going to be doing nothing, but advocating for taking the time to think about how we can better the sector and improve our own events when we do get back to doing the big in-real-life things that we love. And again, we come back to captioning. Captioning’s a big part of that. And I think we’ve seen a lot of festivals and independent exhibitors who, one, have had maybe more time to think about access in a slightly different way, really engaging with captioning as a process and a real way in for audiences who maybe wouldn’t be able to engage with their events otherwise, online or not. But also cinema might be in a crisis at the moment but it’s also an opportunity and we’re seeing a lot of really exciting, urgent and important issues being discussed, not just access, but across the board in the sector. And I think that actually, that’s a really heartening thing. Even if it’s quite a scary time for cinemas themselves.

Pauline McLean: I was going to say, one of the interesting things has been, aside from Tenet, there hasn’t really been anything blockbuster-wise, this year. So, it’s given any indie films that are out there a little bit more scope than they normally would have. And I presume it also allows for those audiences, and those kind of films to have a bit more of the attention.

Sean Welsh: I think it’s fair to say that, in one sense, like, doing stuff online is great and to be able to embrace it is great. And there’s lots of different elements of online that the in-real-life events can’t offer and one of them is accessibility. But on the other hand, we don’t have the pressures that a venue has, in terms of overheads and staff and continuity of their audience. And one thing that we’re very aware of is that it would be great if more of us this kind of niche content and lesser-exposed films had a chance. But, truthfully, there’s such shifting sands for cinemas, because they have to try to get bums on seats, but they’re also dealing with an ever-changing landscape. And it’s not just about whether or not films will or will not be released, you’ve seen Wonder Woman 1984 is now going to get released day and date streaming and in theatres. That kind of thing disrupts planning for cinemas because, in a normal run of things, they have things booked several months in advance. And they also know that they’re going to be open. So, if you don’t know you’re going to be open from week to week, and you don’t know what studio releases are going to be available to you, it’s incredibly difficult to plan. And so that’s… We’re aware that, in the sector, there’s, like, a real challenge and a real need for venues and cinemas to be supported through this. It would seem that there’s an opportunity to programme these lesser known films. But unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as that.

Pauline McLean: Going back to the subject of access to films and the subtitling work that you’ve done, the reminder in the midst of all of this is that not everyone has broadband, not everyone has internet access. Is there a danger that we may have taken a step back in making film accessible because it’s going to be small, when cinemas do reopen, they’re going to be much, much smaller capacity. So, you know, how do you then cater for the people who felt they’d been left out?

Megan Mitchell: I think that this is a big question for cinemas in terms of access overall, because I don’t think it’s about stepping backwards with access online or the progression of online versus in-venue. I think that these are all deeply interconnected and very hard to untangle issues of barriers to access for audiences. So, digital poverty is playing a big part now, in terms of audiences who maybe would regularly attend cinemas but don’t have the digital technology or the internet to do so. But we’re also seeing a rising awareness I guess, in cinemas, of these issues, so, digital poverty, even when cinemas are able to or do open their doors, we have high-risk audience members, we have audience members who just can’t step over that threshold any more, even from their own home and so I think it’s just about all of these different – as it always has been in cinema – different issues of barriers to access interplaying. But, again, I think cinemas are starting to untangle all of that. And, even though there may be some deeply rooted problems, in terms of access – I’m thinking particularly around the cost of a cinema ticket, and the actual ability to enter these independent cinemas and feel that they’re a space for yourself – that we’re slowly starting to address different issues of access in a way that sets out a really strong model for addressing all of the other issues. And again, captioning being a brilliant example of exhibitors really starting to consciously think about how they can unpick these barriers and be proactive, because, actually, underpinning all of the issues within independent exhibition and independence cinemas is actions that are necessary to bring about change. And I think that we’re seeing a really exciting energy around independence cinemas that want that change and, hopefully, the pandemic has sped up some of the really useful ways of doing that. So, taking things online, thinking differently about access online and hopefully bringing that back into the cinemas.

Matchbox’s version of the increasingly popular sliding scale model for ticketing

Pauline McLean: So, rather than taking a step backwards, it could actually be an important reset moment?

Megan Mitchell: Definitely, I think the pandemic’s allowed cinemas to accelerate some of the changes that were already slowly in place, with going online, thinking about access differently online. But it’s also gave cinemas, I guess, a shock in terms of audiences and thinking about their audiences. So now, older audiences are maybe less likely to want to attend cinema screenings, but younger audiences might. And that’s a real question, I guess, for independent cinemas who have previously struggled with young audiences and maybe have rested on their laurels slightly with their access commitments and now is the time, I think, we’re really seeing an urgent need for change, but also the will for that to happen as well.

Sean Welsh: It’s important to note that we didn’t invent access, and we didn’t invent captioning for screenings, but what we were able to do is to show how it was possible to do it and to do it affordably. Because there was a will there, it’s just that we had to kind of… we helped to join up the dots. And we’ve kind of seen a real, real sense of a sea change, even over the course of this year. Because we can see that some of the people we’re working with year on year, the distributors and the film-makers are more likely to have caption files already, because they’re thinking about it. So we can see that there’s a change there that’s kind of coming in. And particularly across Scotland, obviously, we’ve done a lot of work with a lot of festivals, and even the ones that we haven’t had complete coverage, they’re starting maybe one strand, and then next year they’ll look at doing more. And we’re also showing them how to do it internally, to an extent, if they can manage that, so that it’s a bit more sustainable, you know, because it’s not just screenings, of course, it’s, like, trailers and any content they put online – clips, or if they do Q&As, all of these things. And so it’s progress. And I think, on one hand, it’s important to see it as a continuity. And, on the other hand, it’s a really good idea to lose patience with this stuff and to say, “No, it has to happen now.” Because it should happen now, it should have already happened. And, so, the more you kind of kick it into the long grass, if you allow that to happen, that’s what will happen, it’ll be put off and it’ll be put off. And, so, this pandemic, and everything around it has really been horrendous. And so when there’s an opportunity for something positive to come from it, I think it’s really good that we can seize it. And I would add to that also that audiences as a whole, and even specific audiences for cinema are much more comfortable with subtitles. In fact, before the pandemic, when we had committed to having open captioning on all our screenings, which means that subtitles are always on, no matter what, we never had any complaints from audience members. And I think there’s a wee bit of people assume that audiences are going to kick off if they’re presented with a subtitled screening. And I think it happens less than, less than people might expect and I think it’s no longer a viable excuse to not do it. It’s great to see organisations taking it on to the point where they can explain to their audiences, why they’re doing it, and bring audiences with them. Because that’s really what it’s all about.

Pauline McLean: You mentioned that you both relocated to Bristol, but it sounds like you’re still very much able to do what you do and be involved in everything that’s happening in Scotland from there.

Megan Mitchell: Definitely. I think, thanks to Zoom, and the pandemic, we probably could have moved and no-one would have known we weren’t in Glasgow any more, but it’s been really exciting for us to just come to a different context and particularly Bristol, where it has so many wonderful independent exhibitors and the Watershed Cinema that we’re able to, I guess, re-route and continue our activism for captions in a new context and a context that’s also hungry for change and are really proactive in terms of accessibility. But we’re still keeping our hands in Scotland.

Sean Welsh: I think there’s another thing that goes hand in hand with the kind of accessibility that we’ve always, we’ve chased and we’ve tried to bake in, more and more increasingly. Collaboration and cooperation have always been really important to us. We don’t believe in gatekeeping for the industry and we believe in sharing resources, and sharing advice and expertise. And, so, I think that increasingly, there’s a there’s a strong network, and it’s a network based on that kind of collegial atmosphere. And I hope we’ve been able to contribute to that and we certainly have seen there’s other people who have really responded to the fact that we put a lot of import on that. So, I think that’s the kind of thing that is portable. And we would like to stretch across the UK…and beyond!

Pauline McLean: And also, I guess, if you’re in Bristol, you’re just that little bit closer to Nicolas Cage, if he happens to pop in to his house in Bath.

Sean Welsh: If we happen to pop down and wait outside his house?

[Laughter]

Nicolas Cage: No, not the bees!

Pauline McLean: One last question for you, which is, you, know… And I ask this of so many people who work in the world of film or cinema, do you still get a joy out of going to the cinema? Can you still switch off and relax and go see a film just for the joy of it?

Megan Mitchell: Oh, absolutely. When we moved to Bristol and managed to get to the Watershed Cinema, which was the first time that I had been to the cinema since February, and the longest time that I hadn’t been inside a cinema for maybe 15 years, It just was joyful. It just felt like you were coming home. And I think that we still retain that passion for cinema in the purest sense, that we understand how transformative and how impactful films and cinema can be for people, because we still feel that. Yeah, I can only agree with that. It makes such a huge difference to have a venue that you can trust to make it safe and make you feel welcome and make you feel looked after. If nothing else, you know, people can get an idea of what a cinema really is. Because it’s not just putting films on. You could put films online and people can see the films – the same amount of people could see the films you screen, but from your website. And that’s not the cinematic experience. That’s not what a cinema is, and I think, if nothing else, again, the pandemic has pulled that into focus.

Presenter: Thanks for listening and don’t forget to tune in to the programme live, at 8:00 every Saturday and Sunday morning.


All of Matchbox Cineclub’s programmed is subtitled for the deaf and hard of hearing. Keep up to date with our events by signing up to our mailing list, here, or find our events on Facebook here. For more information on our subtitling service, read our dedicated page here.

We’re leaving Glasgow

After 10 years of hosting film events all around Glasgow, we’re moving to Bristol

After ten years (and a particularly busy most recent five), Matchbox Cineclub is leaving Glasgow and relocating to Bristol.

For at least the next three years, we’re going to be based in Bristol. We’ll be back every so often (we have at least one Glasgow event planned in 2021), but mostly we’ll be in Bristol, and we don’t yet know what that’ll mean for any IRL events.

This weekend (3rd-6th September, 2020), we should’ve been hosting Weird Weekend III at CCA Glasgow. 2020, cursed year, should’ve seen our cult film festival level up to a much bigger festival. Our plans and even programming for it have been underway since before last year’s festival. Those plans had to be scrapped, rethought, redeveloped, revised and the scrapped again. We accounted for postponement, downscaling, hybrid approaches and completely online versions, but it just wasn’t meant to be this year.

We will be doing more online programming, like our Tales From Winnipeg online-only season, and Weird Weekend will certainly return in some form. But we also want to take some time to rest (we’ve also subtitled 250+ films in the last two months) and regroup, for the first time in several years.

We’ll be handing over the reins of Scalarama Glasgow year-round planning and delivery too (let us know if you’re interested in being involved with that!), and we’re very glad to look around and see so many great independent film exhibitors in Glasgow – folks like Backseat Bingo, Cinemaattic GlasgowPity Party Film ClubQueer ClassicsRed Thread Film ClubSouthern ExposureTrash cinema, Unmellow MoviesVenom Mob Film Club and many more. Hopefully they’ll all be back screening films before too long.

We want to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last 10(!) years in Glasgow, particularly CCA GlasgowThe Old HairdressersFilm Hub Scotland, all our fellow exhibitors, to everyone that’s come to one of our events and, most of all, to those of you who’ve come to several.

It’s very strange to be planning to leave like this. We would’ve loved to host a farewell screening or just had some drinks in a big room, but none of that’s possible. Maybe, with no rooms to set, A/V to prep, bands to soundcheck, bookings to find, tickets to take, guests to entertain, merch to sell, last-minute social media to do, etc, etc, we’d have finally properly prepared an address for the audience, rather than busking some last-minute jibber-jabber. But then probably not. Hands up if you’ve already seen this one.

We love Glasgow and we’ll miss you very much.

Sean + Megan x


This website is full of stuff, interviews, articles, etc, and will become even more active now. You can find our archive of posters and event photographs on Flickr and our trailers and video content on Vimeo and YouTube. Zines, posters and merch are on sale in our shop, matchboxcineclub.bigcartel.com. 

You can also find us on Twitter and Instagram.

And you can keep up-to-date with our mailing list here: eepurl.com/duX1R9

Illustration: Vero Navarro, as commissioned by Matchbox Maw Linda Dougherty (Christmas, 2019)

Remakesploitation Fest 2020 Cancelled

It’s with very heavy hearts we have to announce the cancellation of Remakesploitation Fest 2020, our celebration of 1970s and 1980s Turkish fantastic cinema, in collaboration with Iain Robert Smith and Remakesploitation Film Club. Originally planned to run in April 2020, then postponed until October 2020, the festival would’ve featured the 2K restoration of “Turkish Star Wars” aka Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (Çetin İnanç, 1982) as well as the documentary Remake, Remix, Rip-Off (Cem Kaya, 2014) and the remakesploitation classics Fıstık Gibi Maşallah (Hulki Saner, 1964), Turist Ömer Uzay Yolu’nda (Hulki Saner, 1973), Cellat (Memduh Ün, 1975) and Şeytan (Metin Erksan, 1974).

Sadly, it’s become clear that in-person events at CCA Glasgow will not be possible for at least the rest of this year. Having postponed once already, back in March, we won’t consider rescheduling any of our events until we are certain they can go ahead safely, as originally planned.

Pass + ticket holders will be refunded automatically. This can take several days to process, but the process is underway already. If you have any questions, please get in touch: tickets@matchboxcineclub.com. — with Remakesploitation and CCA Glasgow.


Keep up to date on our future plans with our mailing list: eepurl.com/duX1R9