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Issue 23 Playlist: The Great Indoors

words Linnea Enstrom

19th December 2014

The Great Indoors issue of Oh Comely brings you a midwife who assists home births, photographs of cosy corners and a gig set up in someone's living room. It's all about warmth and community.

But the idea of home can also have entirely different connotations, like loneliness and longing for a change that will grab you by the ankles and rip you out of your daily routine. Therefore, you won't find a single Christmas song on my playlist this month.

Instead, I'm drawn to St. Vincent's depiction of the mundane in Birth in Reverse: "Oh, what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate."

And here's a close-up of Sonny Ross' homely pattern, which illustrates the playlist in the issue.

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Sponsored Post: Eight Folksy Christmas Presents

words Alice Simkins

13th December 2014

For the second of our Christmas lists, we're featuring Folksy brands from Issue 23's Present Directory. So for all you late Christmas shoppers out there, read on for handmade wonders and discount codes!

One. This wonderful chunky silver ring is available from Ellie Christine, who makes her jewellery by hand in Somerset. folksy.com/shops/EllieChristine

Two. Flaxen Hare offer adorable kits to get children knitting. Better still, Oh Comely readers get 20% off with the code HHARE14. folksy.com/shops/flaxenhare

Three. This bracelet features a hand-crafted fine silver charm with a delicate leafy pattern. Available from Calyx Handmade Jewellery. folksy.com/shops/CalyxHandmadeJewellery

Four. This beautifully minimal, sea-side inspired pendant is from Becca Williams, who has her workshop in Birmingham’s historic jewellery quarter. She takes regular trips to the seaside to inspire her work. folksy.com/shops/BeccaWilliams

Five. These Yultide wax melts from Stamford Holistic are made with orange and cinnamon oils, and make for a great alternative to candles. folksy.com/shops/StamfordHolistic

Six. Caren Barry creates lovely printed textiles and paper goods. folksy.com/shops/carenbarry

Seven. Sheffield-based Folk It! make ready-to-go art kits that teach beginners how to make folk art. folksy.com/shops/Folkit

Eight. Flip Knit Stitch breath new life into old buttons in the most ingenious of ways; you're sure to find something upcycled and cute here. folksy.com/shops/FlipKnitStitch

Sponsored Post: Eight Lovely Christmas Presents

words Alice Simkins

12th December 2014

For all you late Christmas shoppers out there, we’ve put together a list of handmade wonders that would make lovely presents. We’ve thrown in a few promotional codes too, so have a read below for gems and good value. 

One. This gold-plated 'Key To My City' necklace is quirky and sentimental. Oh Comely readers get 20% off all items at monamara.com with the code OHCOMELY20.

Two. This wonderful bangle by Julia Parry-Jones is sold at madebyhandonline.com, which presents collections of jewellery, ceramics, textiles and sculpture. Well worth a visit.

Three. This lovely calendar from lilaccoast.co.uk features twelve hand-painted floral illustrations. It's way too pretty to scribble on, we think!

Four. We like this pom-pom cushion designed and made by Glasgow School of Art graduates Hazel Dunn and Alexandra Bland, available here.

 

Five. This lovely bee charm necklace is made in East London by Monica Boxley.

Six. If you're looking for ethically-produced, fair trade goods, look no further than eighteenrabbit.co.uk. We like this 'perching bird'; just one of the lovely gems sold at Eighteen Rabbit. Get 15% off with the code OHCOMELY.

Seven. Treat your stargazer to their very own mini-astronaut companion with this necklace from eclecticeccentricity.co.uk, creators of super-fun and quirky pieces.

Eight. Cute cards are available from etsy.com/uk/shop/kibbiedesigns.

Oh Comely Christmas: Four Art Cards and Their Stories

words Tamara Vos

10th December 2014

Our subscription welcome packs are selling like hot-cakes, and we've had a ball putting them all together here in the office. 

Inside, you'll find four of our favourite photographs, a pretty snowflake charm and a secret challenge, all tied up with Oh Comely cheer. Order any subscription before the 16th of December, and we'll pop one into the post for you, for free!

To warm you up, here's a little about each photographer featured in the package: 

Li Hui

Li is a self taught photographer who began snapping seriously in 2009. Her photos are still and evocative; her photo of a girl's head hidden by dandelion seeds and light was printed in Issue Eighteen of Oh Comely. 

Olivia Larrain

Based in Chile, Olivia studied fashion and textile design before realising that she'd become more interested in photography. Quiet and moody with a touch of darkness, her photos capture perfectly the magic of small adventures. 

Dahiana Gambos

Also based in Chile, Dahiana photographs her friends, street animals and her city. Her photos are youthful and honest, featuring muted colours, portraits and shy smiles. Her photo of two girls with their arms flung to the wind was featured in Issue Twenty Two. 

Maria Vittoria Piana Brizio

Maria is an Italian photographer who studied etching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. She photographs empty streets and imposing buildings, as well as the incidental people in amongst them. Her photo "Walking on a Dream" was featured in Oh Comely Issue Fifteen. 

Photos from top: Li Hui & Maria Vittoria Piana Brizio. 

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Sex, Lives and Paris: An Interview With Director Robin Campillo About Eastern Boys

words Alice Simkins

8th December 2014

The Paris portrayed by Eastern Boys is not what the Paris guidebooks would have you know. Covering sex, immigration and gang life, the film traces the relationship between the solitary, older Daniel (Oliver Rabourdin) and Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) a male prostitute and recent migrant to France.

Between claustrophobic Parisian train stations and apartments, an elaborate plot unfolds as we learn of Marek’s involvement with a gang, led by the 'Boss' (Daniil Vorobyov). The work of prostitution and gang culture are drawn together, provoking the viewer to come to their own conclusions on these emotive issues.

To mark the UK release of Eastern Boys, we spoke to writer-director Robin Campillo for his thoughts on the film.

Daniel’s interest in Marek turns from the sexual and romantic, towards paternal at the close of the film. What do you have to say about how their relationship develops?

When Marek tells Daniel his personal history and experinence of Chechnya, Daniel does not feel comfortable with it, and begins to question whether he wants to be with him. But there's something else here: they have another relationship that isn't purely physical, and that's interesting to me. I set the apartment scenes where Marek and Daniel spend time together, at my own flat as I wanted the film and its stories to invade my own life. 

France's migrant population is often spoken about controversially in the country's media. What social commentary are you making in Eastern Boys?

In France, when you are talking about portraying migrants on film, there is a pressue to present them as angels, as people are afraid of the National Front. But I wanted to show a different side to their life.

The gang leader, Boss, is crucial here because he is very clever: he's not a stupid, innocent guy who happens to be involved in gang life. He's an immigrant because he wants to escape time. He doesn’t want to settle down, he thinks that would be like dying. The gang is trapped in his own dream, and that’s why Marek uses prostitution as his way out.

But for all my opinions, I don’t want to lecture the spectator or single out what I think about prostitution or immigration. A speculative, ambiguous ending is more true to life: we don’t live life knowing people’s clear motivations.

Eastern Boys is out now. 

Our Free 'Happy Christmas' Subscriber Presents

words Liz Ann Bennett

21st November 2014

We're making some special little presents to welcome Oh Comely subscription newbies this Christmas. It's a taste of the magazine to make you (or a lucky friend) smile.

What's inside? Four of our favourite photographs, a snowflake charm and the instructions to a secret challenge—all tied up with fine string and pretty tags.

Order any subscription before Decemeber 16th to get one gratis.

Psst: already a subscriber? We have 150 set aside for you too. Just pop your subscription ID in this form.

Open Brief: Stories of Lost and Found

words Alice Simkins

21st November 2014

The theme of our next issue is 'Lost and Found', and we’re looking for fun or touching narratives inspired by these three words. How you interpret them is really up to you.

Have you ever come across an interesting item and made a project out of trying to find its owner? Found photographs from a bygone era, or stumbled upon a letter from your past? Maybe you've been lost in a strange city, or reunited with an old friend against all odds.

Whatever 'Lost and Found' means to you, we want to hear your experiences. Tell us your story in under 250 words and it could be featured in our next issue. Email your story to rosanna@ohcomely.co.uk, before the 8th December, with the subject headline 'Lost and Found.'

Photo: A lost property tree by Jason Rogers

Life Itself: An Interview With Director Steve James

words Jason Ward

13th November 2014

Roger Ebert was perhaps the most prominent American film critic of all time, known not just for the 46 years he spent writing reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times but also for his popular and enduring television programme At the Movies. After complications from cancer treatment necessitated the removal of his lower jaw, Roger spent the final years of his life unable to eat or speak, and yet his writing diversified and flourished during this time. In Steve James' absorbing new documentary Life Itself, based on Roger's memoir, the film-maker explores his extraordinary story while filming him during what turned out to be the last few months of his life.

Ahead of its release in cinemas, Steve sat down with us to talk about the film's complicated road to production.

When you're making a documentary about a man who co-hosted a television show for decades, published scores of books and reviewed almost every film that came out over nearly half a century, where do you start in your research?

The memoir itself was the template. It was an incredible bible for the film, and inspired in so many ways. It helped to organise his life and tell me what was important to him, which guided me towards who to interview. He devotes chapters to significant film-makers like Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog but also Bill Nack, his friend from college, and John McCue, his newspaper buddy. That said, he doesn't really talk about his film criticism in the book. He excerpts some of his profile writing, but not a single review. He doesn't talk about his show much either – there's just a simple chapter devoted to it. So there were things that I wanted to do more on and in that regard it also led me to other sources. There was a lot to get my arms around.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Roger also had a storied life. How did you decide how best to weigh your coverage of it?

After I read the memoir I knew I wanted as much as reasonably possible for the film to be a comprehensive biography of Roger's life, taking account of his critical place in cinema, his impact and what he contributed, as well as his remarkable personal life and journey. I wanted it all, but we weren't going to make a three-hour film or a mini-series, either of which we could have easily done. Instead, I wanted it to be no longer than two hours and as comprehensive as it could be in that time. That meant picking and choosing. There were lots of things we could have dealt with that we didn't, but I feel good about the choices we made. I think we hit most of the significant milestones in his life, but hopefully not in a scattershot way.

One of the most affecting things about Life Itself is how you show Roger handling the prospect of death with dignity and grace. Was that important for you to capture?

Absolutely. When we started the film we had no idea that he would pass away four months in. That just wasn't in our thinking. His health was more unstable than it had been and he was growing increasingly fragile, but he was otherwise fine. The memoir is written from the perspective of someone late in life who has been through a lot and is reflecting, so I loved the idea of going back and forth between the present and the past and finding interesting ways to do that. I wanted to film Roger going to the cinema, writing, travelling, seeing friends – even though he could no longer speak he'd still throw dinner parties and sit at the head of the table. I was going to show what a vigorous life he continued to live despite all he'd been through, and in that we would get some sense of his perseverance, his courage, his good humour in the face of everything. All of that is in the movie, it's just we didn't get to film it. We ended up shooting him largely in a hospital and a rehab institute, but those earlier things became far more poignant because you know that he is dying.

There's a moment in the documentary where Roger writes that it would be a major lapse if you didn't depict the full reality of what he was going through, but was there anything you were personally worried about showing on film?

I was initially concerned when I first got to the hospital. If you look at any pictures of Roger in public after the start of his health problems he was either wearing a black turtleneck or a white scarf wrapped around his neck. He was always very stylish, but it was strategic as well. When I walked into the hospital room for the first day of actual filming he was asleep and his jaw was hanging down. There was nothing there. It was quite pronounced and I remember thinking, “I don't know how people are going to handle this.” But I filmed it, he woke up, smiled, and his eyes lit up. I put that early in the movie to let people see what he was going through and allow them to feel that inevitable discomfort. My hope was that they'd have the same experience I had where it stops being shocking – you see past the illness and see him. You're looking into his eyes, not down his throat. For a man who was dying, he made this easy. He was remarkably co-operative and engaged.

Memoirs are usually adapted for the screen as fictionalised accounts rather than as documentaries. What did you think a documentary could express about Roger's life that might have eluded a scripted feature?

Biopics are particularly hard to do because there's a tendency to want to tell everything, and trying to tell too much can work against the inherent drama of the storytelling. It can feel like a connect-the-dots presentation of a person's life – you're never in one place long enough to feel the deep significance of that moment in their life. You have the same potential hindrance in a documentary, but one of the advantages if the subject's alive is you have them there in flesh and blood, so who they are is communicated as much by their presence as by their important milestones. For example, if we were making the scripted biography of Roger's life, we probably wouldn't spend as much time as we did on his daily travails and him coping with his condition. You're not going to give up screen-time to illness when you could be showing him when he adapted Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, hanging out with Russ Meyer and big breasted women. But in a documentary you can get so much from observing simple moments in someone's life: the way they answer a question, or how they look at their wife.You see how they live.

Life Itself is out in UK cinemas today.