(28 and 30th September. Raindance Film Festival. Barbican Screening, 24th November. Preview by Rob Edgar)
“There’s a lot of great music in the film and the space to listen to it; you drop into Titus’ imagination and his nostalgia for his life that’s passed. When he finally plays in the club, you fall into a seven minute epic jazz piece played by Archie Shepp; and here he leaves his life on the stage for his daughter. Its a film that gives the space to really sit back and dive into the music for the jazz-heads, and for the cinema-goers there’s lush cinematography, complex characters, and a lot of questions to chew on when they leave the cinema.””
I’m talking to film-director Charlie Cattrall about his new feature, TITUS, which is being shown twice at the Raindance Film Festival, on the 28th and 30th of September, and on November 24th at the Barbican alongside a documentary about Shepp (hopefully with a Q&A session) before he plays his concert with the Attica Blues Orchestra
Titus, played by long-time friend of Cattrall’s: Obie Award-winning Ron Cephas-Jones “is a man who’s never made it big”, explains Cattrall. “He’s a failed genius…a 60 year old black jazz musician who was feted as the next big thing but psychologically couldn’t quite cut it. When he was on tour in Europe he found a woman who took him under her wing as his patron and he’s still living with her in London but he’s got cancer and he’s dying.
Then the film starts, he hasn’t played for 2 years, he hasn’t wanted to since his diagnosis, and if he has the operation, they will have to remove his larynx and he won’t be able to anyway. He’s basically a dead man walking but he hasn’t told anyone because of his pride. His plan is – when he gets a call from the doctor telling him that he’s got weeks to live – to kill himself and the film starts with him in that position.”
His daughter “doesn’t know that she was abandoned, she thinks that she never met her father but he left her when she was 18 months old. She then arrives in London to find him, and the film is about Titus and his daughter’s relationship, him trying to run away from her, and her trying to find herself by going to him. Through this day that they spend together he accepts the reality of his Fatherhood and plays for her for one final time, through his own pain, to show her that her nascent desire to be a singer is something that is in her blood, and is her destiny.”
The film is a merging of archetypal characters from the two ends of the American civil-rights movement, from Martin Luther Junior to Barack Obama “ it’s very much shot through with the Black-American cultural significance of jazz and the knock-on effects of societal violence towards African Americans, embodied in Titus’ struggle. At the end of the film there’s also the idea of how things can move on from that, Titus is a man who is locked in a vortex of his past and it’s something he can’t escape from – which is sad and full of pathos but something which I felt was true; you can’t escape your destiny and I didn’t want to sugercoat it – but his daughter can, hope resides with the next generation.”
As for the rest of the music? “In terms of them and the rest of the score, there’s Stephen Bentley-Klein who composed it, Shabaka Hutchings plays on it, Nathaniel Facey, Seb Rochford, Tom Challenger, George Fogel, Ryan Trebilcock, Ayana Witter-Johnson, Liam Noble…Ian Shaw is in the film, he plays the jazz-club owner. So we were blessed by a gathering of the greats of the UK Jazz Scene, as well as the indomitable Archie Shepp.
Barbican tickets HERE