New take on ‘Othello’ goes from Cannes to Birmingham

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 02 MARCH

After impressing industry insiders at the Cannes Film Festival last year, a 21st century take on William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ receives its first public screening in Birmingham this month.

Starring Birmingham School of Acting graduate Matt Bentley, ‘Beautiful Devils’ shifts the play’s action from the streets of Venice to the music scene of modern day East London.

Birmingham School of Acting

Birmingham City University

Written by Oscar nominated writer Jennifer Majka, the story sticks close to Shakespeare’s classic story of jealousy and betrayal.

In this version, young musician Oz abandons his friend, confidant, and musical sidekick Ivan, in favour of his lover Darcy and her friend Casper. Ivan remains close to him as he rises to stardom, secretly setting out to ruin his former friend.

Ivan secures the services of Rigo (played by Matt Bentley), a producer’s son who holds a jealous grudge against Oz because he has secret and unrequited love for Darcy. Together they set about destroying the new group and lovers through lies, treachery and murder.

25 year-old Matt Bentley said that East London was a poignant location in which to update this timeless play on film:

“It shows that this 400-year-old story can be picked up and dropped anywhere in history and work. It was, and is, the genius of Shakespeare's storytelling.

“However, East London is where it’s at right now. Music and culture is exploding from there and it’s coming from young people, and the story of ‘Othello’ provides a perfect opportunity to explore this current subculture on screen.”

Alongside Matt Bentley, the film also stars Rufus Hound and ‘Game of Thrones’ actor Iain Glen, alongside a cast of emerging British actors.

‘Beautiful Devils’ will receive its public premiere simultaneously at 12 UK cinemas on Wednesday 22 March, including Vue Birmingham.

After filming took place in 2015, the film was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May last year and Matt, along with members of the cast, attended. Matt said:

“Cannes was a bucket list tick. I couldn't believe the film was going there! It had been a dream of mine to attend the festival. It was the first time we'd seen the film which was terrifying but fun.

“Carnaby Films had a big boat in the dock so we partied on that – of course, in true Cannes style! It was all a bit ridiculous, but it was a first for all of us and you just don't know when you will be invited back. It was good to live in the moment on that occasion – be grateful for it and enjoy it.”

Originally from North West London, Matt Bentley graduated from Birmingham School of Acting, part of Birmingham City University, in 2014.

Celebrating its 80th anniversary last year, Birmingham School of Acting comprises 11 studios, including a large performance studio, which has set a new benchmark for drama training facilities in the UK. It will merge with Birmingham Conservatoire – also part of Birmingham City University – in September this year.

Describing his time in the Midlands city, Matt Bentley said:

“Furthermore, I learnt to cope with the demands placed on a working actor. Certainly, I would have found the schedule of ‘Beautiful Devils’ hard if I had not been at Birmingham School of Acting for three years.”

Based on the success of the screenings on 22 March, ‘Beautiful Devils’ could get a wider UK cinema release, but the picture has already been picked up for television by Sky Movies and streaming service Netflix. You can watch the trailer below:

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