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From Britain With Love

Blame who you will, but the potentials of digital cinema are awfully slow in being realized. The national chains are still in the process of upgrading their multiplex houses to digital projectors primarily for the costs savings they will eventually represent: They’ll be showing the same kind of movies, but they’ll be saving the costs of having to transport and tend to bulky, heavy reels of 35-millimeter film. Loss to the consumer? The clarity of a properly displayed 35-millimeter image, which to most people is the same as the difference between hearing your music digitally or on vinyl. Gain to the consumer? Probably none. (You don’t really think the theaters are going to pass those savings down in the form of lower ticket prices, do you?)

But digital cinema, in the ability to present visual material live around the world, promises so much more. Auditorium broadcasts of operas, concerts, and sporting events are a first step.

An example of the next step comes to the digitally equipped AmherstTheater over the next month with the series From Britain With Love, a collaborative presentation from the Film Society of Lincoln Center, UK Film Council, and Emerging Pictures. This showcase not only brings new independent films from England to an audience that might otherwise have to wait years to see them, it also allows viewers an opportunity to interact with the filmmakers. If you’ve ever looked with envy at the schedule of visiting filmmakers at a place like the Toronto Light Box, the year-round extension of the Toronto International Film Festival, and wished that you could have a chance to speak to directors and actors after seeing their work, From Britain With Love makes that dream come true.

The series consists of five films, each of which will be shown once. After each, someone from the film will be present at a central location to take questions from viewers in different locations, offered via Twitter. Buffalo is one of only a half-dozen cities participating in this.

From Britain With Love opens this Saturday at 8pm with Toast, adapted from the memoir of British television personality Nigel Slater. You don’t have to have any idea who Slater is (I didn’t) to enjoy this, a fresh take on one of the cinema’s oldest genres, the coming-of-age story.

The setting is England in the 1960s, though the period isn’t clear until about a third of the way through when some hippies at a holiday camp pinpoint it: Until then, 10-year-old Nigel’s life is embedded in the dreariness that saturated British life for years after it recovered from World War II. The only son of middle-class parents, Nigel yearns for more than the life he knows offers. Topping the list is food: His parents wouldn’t know fresh produce if it hit them in the head, eating everything out of cans boiled in a pot. A closet cookbook fanatic, he tries to nudge them in more exotic tastes, but even so bland a dish as spaghetti is met with suspicion.

Things change with the arrival of Mrs. Potter (Helena Bonham Carter), the new cleaning lady. Nigel is horrified at her vulgarity, but she cooks like an angel. Before long, she and Nigel are involved in a war for Dad’s love, won (as he all know) through his stomach.

Alternately funny, sad, and touching, Toast is filled with imaginative sequences in unexpected sequences, like a subtly raunchy montage of Dad becoming aroused by Mrs. Potter’s scrub work. My only disappointment was that, based as it is on a memoir, it ends with less than the kind of closure one expects in fiction. But that’s a small complaint for so rewarding a film.

Toast will be shown at 8pm this Saturday night. The film will be followed by an interactive Q&A with director SJ Clarkson, so be sure to bring whatever device you use to access the internet.

Other films in the series are listed below. For more information, visit

Monday, June 13, 8pm: IN OUR NAME

Saturday, June 25, 11am: THIRD STAR

Saturday, July 2, 11am: NEDS

Saturday, July 9, 11am: A BOY CALLED DAD

Watch the trailer for From Britain With Love

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