London, 2027. The world has succumbed to chaos in a single generation, with only the United Kingdom (and perhaps Angola) still more or less functioning as a country, although the Brits have turned it into a dictatorship rife with anti-immigration legislation, where the British Army hunts down refugees. Children of Men (2006) depicts the grim, harrowing life in the metropolis in documentary style. The major problem facing earth’s population (in addition to the plague and radiation) is, however, the fact that infertility rules, with children no longer being born anywhere. Yet a resistance group supporting refugees then hears of a pregnant woman who has fled to the island. A manhunt, betrayals and civil war ensue in rapid fashion, often depicted in long single takes that astounded audiences and critics alike. Starring Clive Owens, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

This dystopian tale is based on a 1992 novel by P.D. James (1920-2014), most well-known for her Inspector Dalgliesh novels, yet who proved herself utterly capable of sketching a dismal London (where she had a home), and equally admirably brought to life by Alfonso Cuarón, who has lived in London since 2000. Other than so many novelists who have had their worked made into movies, James was pleased with the result, even featuring in a cameo at the beginning.

The reason we will be screening the movie – on 35 mm celluloid no less – is our losing yet another Zienema volunteer, this time to Leiden astronomers. Joe – everyone’s favourite Australian – would have preferred to screen Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972) as his farewell feature, but RKZ Bios recently beat us to the punch.

Cuarón is an astounding filmmaker. Recent Oscar winner Roma (2018), provides a glimpse of his youth in Mexico City, in its depiction of the life of a woman who worked for his family. After a brief career in television, he soon switched to cinema, where he immediately made his mark with his directorial debut Sólo con Tu Pareja (1991), which he co-wrote with his brother Carlos, another filmmaker. Hollywood beckoned, where he successfully directed another two book adaptations, before returning to Mexico to make the arthouse hit Y Tu Mamá También (2001), which drew the attention of J.K. Rowling, who was looking for someone to breathe new life into the Harry Potter series. Gravity (2013), really proved his worth to Hollywood. But that didn’t mean he would ever dance to their drums, as Roma proved: he does as he pleases, as does his moviemaking son Jonás, who co-wrote Gravity.

If you were wondering what London is blundering towards thanks to five forthcoming years of Boris should certainly attend this screening, as should lovers of an extra-large helping of catastrophe tinged with a dash of hope.