Magical realism in Isfield

Happy springtime, Filmspotters!

We’re looking forward to two film screenings in April – the inaugural screening in partnership with Isfield Village Hall, as well as our upcoming screening of ‘A Cottage on Dartmoor’ at St Nicholas Church, Brighton, with live score from local pianist Joss Peach. More details next time for the St Nicholas Church screening – today we are concentrating on our Isfield event!

You may remember that last month we asked visitors at the Isfield Open Day to vote for which film they would like to watch at the first film night, on 18 April. The winner was Ang Lee’s visually stunning  ‘Life of Pi’, with ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ coming a close second place. Details of how to book for the screening follow below, but in honour of the winning film, we have been considering some of our favourite ‘magic realism’ films…

1. Pleasantville (1998)

This charming directoral debut from Gary Ross is a good example of the ‘what if…’ brand of magical realism. It is one of those rare beasts – an intelligent ‘mainstream’ American film, which hasn’t dated to be totally cringe-worthy, instead it uses its element of magic to great effect, with the ‘colour’ two modern day teenagers bring to an 1950s soap opera hinting at something a little deeper…

2. Zelig

You could write several articles on magical realism in Woody Allen films, from ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ to his more recent ‘Midnight in Paris’. We have chosen ‘Zelig’, though – a pseudo-documentary about an unusual character who merges into his surroundings by changing his persona and appearance completely.

3. Russian Ark

Another Filmspot favourite, this beautiful film covers 300 years of Russian history through a tour of the Winter Palace, at the Russian State Hermitage Museum. Filmed entirely in one single shot, the film brings both real and fictious characters from Russian history to life, as if they have leapt off the paintings on the walls. Visually stunning, the film plays out like a decadent dream.

4. Afterlife (1999)

Hirokazu Kore-eda is another director who has been known to dabble with magical realism throughout his career. ‘Afterlife’ presents a small group of recently deceased characters, in limbo. They are told they will recreate one single memory from their lifetime, and when they pass on to the next stage, this memory will be the only thing they take with them. A touching and poignant film, much of the emotional pull of ‘Afterlife’ comes from the fact that the memories people cherish the most are the ones that highlight the magic of the everyday.

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

This indie gem is a futuristic vision of the deep south, with flourishes of magic. The most important element of the film, however, is the relationships between the two main characters, a man called Wink and his daughter Hushpuppy. With beautiful cinematography, this is a film that both transports and enchants you.

Life of Pi: 18 April, doors at 7pm

Tickets are £6, and can be purchased from the Laughing Fish public house, Isfield, or by emailing

Bring your own refreshments to this first screening, we shall be surveying the audience to see if there is interest to provide a bar at future events.

We hope to see you all at this first event in Isfield Village Hall. We shall be back on the blog in a couple of weeks with details of our upcoming live soundtracked screening of ‘A Cottage on Dartmoor’!