Thursday 5 March 2015

Trying to catch Catch Me Daddy

So there’s this British film on release at the moment that I’d quite like to see. It’s a gritty, atmospheric chase thriller called Catch Me Daddy and centres on Laila, a teenage girl who runs away from her strict Pakistani family to live on the Yorkshire Moors in a caravan with her white boyfriend. Her estranged relatives employ gangs of thugs to find her and bring her back; inevitably proceedings take a turn for the messy and violent. It sounds right up my street – bleak social realism, nice cinematography, apparently well acted with central characters you find it easy to care about.

Furthermore, Catch Me Daddy was shown at Cannes and its star Sameena Jabeen Ahmed (below) won Most Promising Newcomer at last year’s Independent British Film Awards. The movie has been reviewed – favourably, in most cases – on national TV and radio, and in all the newspapers (not just the poncey broadsheets). In the Daily Mirror, David Edwards called it “one heck of a debut from music video director Daniel Wolfe”, while writing in the Daily Telegraph Robbie Collin described Ahmed’s performance as “blistering”. Even blockbuster-obsessed movie mags Empire and Total Film both gave it four stars.

So, clearly, whilst Catch Me Daddy isn’t a 50 Shades of Grey blockbuster, neither is it some half-arsed, unloved obscurity. Taking all this into account you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be quite easy to see the film. Just pop down to your local Odeon or Cineworld and Bob’s your auntie. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s one of those movies being shown only in “key cities”, which I presume means the likes of London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester. In other words, it won’t be coming anywhere near me in little old Southend-on-Sea.

I shouldn’t be surprised; my local Odeon regularly fails to show UK indies (despite proudly extolling the virtues of a campaign called “Back British Film” on their website) and even excludes quite a few well-known Hollywood offerings too. Do you remember that so-called “feminist western” from last year, The Homesman? Of course you do because it starred two-time Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, and Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones, who also directed it. My local Odeon didn’t show it, the Empire down the road in Basildon had it for a week only. Michael Mann’s latest, Blackhat? Didn’t show it. Give me 15 minutes and I bet I could come up with a list of 20 more high-profile films in the last year or two that have met a similar fate. And suffice to say you have more chance of seeing a unicorn making sweet love to a dodo than you do a foreign-language film in a cinema round here.

I’d be the first to admit I don’t fully understand the arcane practices of UK film distribution. I know it’s expensive and I know it’s difficult, especially if your film doesn’t feature a talking raccoon or boast a $200million budget. If you’re a distributor – in Catch Me Daddy’s case that’s StudioCanal – chances are you only have a small amount of money to spend on marketing and advertising the film so it makes perfect sense to concentrate on the big cities rather than spreading yourself too thin. In Catch Me Daddy’s case it wouldn’t surprise me if the distributor was targeting those cities with a large Pakistani community, and that certainly isn’t Southend. 

What seems odd, though, is that all those positive reviews and great publicity will have been seen by film fans all over the country - in small towns and tiny villages as well as "key cities" -  most of whom will have no chance of watching the picture in an actual cinema. Sure they could wait a few months until it comes out on DVD/Blu-ray or shows up on Channel 4 or Film4 but the speed with which the film industry moves these days I can’t believe the film would have anything like the same impact as it seems to be having now. It's moment will have been lost. Worryingly, a couple of sites are actually listing Catch Me Daddy's release on DVD as December 31, which would be ludicrous.

I’d have thought Catch Me Daddy would have been perfect for a simultaneous release in cinemas and on View on Demand. Distributors have started to get creative in this particular area so you have arthouse films such as The Duke of Burgundy available to watch through Virgin Movies or Curzon Home Cinema at precisely the same time as you can see it at London’s Prince Charles or The Cornerhouse, in Manchester. Foreign-language films have particularly benefitted from this move with the likes of Leviathan, Two Days, One Night, and the Oscar-winning Ida all going down the simultaneous VOD/cinema release road in the UK. And recently the low-budget US sci-fi movie Coherence came out as a bargain-priced DVD very soon after a limited cinema release, meaning it was able to take immediate advantage of its good reviews and positive word of mouth. 

It seems utterly perverse that in the 21st Century, trying to see a new film – especially an award-winning, well-reviewed, British film – can turn into some kind of Lord of the Rings-style quest. I know cinema chains insist on a window of 17 weeks between a film’s theatrical release and its debut on DVD and Blu-ray. But, as I’ve shown, that doesn’t seem to apply to all films and I’d be surprised if it applied to Catch Me Daddy either (although if that December 31 DVD release date is true, who knows what's going on?).

Hoping to get some answers to the questions I’ve raised, I emailed StudioCanal to ask whether they had any plans to expand Catch Me Daddy’s theatrical release and what was going on with the DVD. They didn’t get back to me and that’s fair enough as I’m sure their press office probably just consists of one or two people already up to their ears in emails and phone messages. And I’m just an internet nobody, after all, not Claudia Winkleman or Mark Kermode.

So where does that leave your humble blogger? Turns out the nearest cinema to me showing Catch Me Daddy is the Cineworld, near Canary Wharf, in east London. That’s 20 quid on the train, probably a tenner for a ticket, and an 80-mile round-trip. Forget it – let’s see what they’re showing at the Odeon in Southend, I’ve heard Will Smith’s new one is profoundly average…


  1. I thought things were improving. We started to get worldwide simultaneous release dates and there were some moves to releases on multiple formats at once and it looked like everything was opening up. But no.

    If the film companies are wondering why they're losing money, perhaps it's because they're making the films so difficult to see.

    1. It's beyond ridiculous - no wonder so many people illegally download the films they want and never go near a cinema or DVD store. It's like watching an episode of Masterchef - you can see the lovely food that has been prepared but you have no bloody chance of ever actually tasting it!