Running from 10-21 October, The BFI London Film Festival is eagerly awaited each year by film fans across the globe. The official programme was launched on September 5, which will offer a 12 day celebration of cinema featuring 225 films including documentaries and 14 world premieres, alongside 111 live action and animated shorts. A stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew are expected to take part in career interviews, master classes, and other special events. Guests expected to attend include: Ben Wheatley, Billy Connolly, Brandon Cronenberg, Charlotte Rampling, Chris O’Dowd, David Walliams, David Nicholls, Dustin Hoffman, Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell, Helena Bonham Carter, Keith Richards, Marion Cotillard, Martin Landau, Michael Haneke, Michael Palin, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Salman Rushdie,Terry Jones, Tim Burton, Winona Ryder. The Festival will announce its complete guest line-up in early October.
This year sees the festival take a change of direction with a new format; placing the films into different themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family, and also extending to new venues, including Hackney Picturehouse, Renoir, Everyman Screen on the Green and Rich Mix. The BFI London Film Festival Awards have also undergone a significant change this year by introducing competitive sections that are given much more prominence in the Festival campaign and programme. The Festival opens with the European Premiere of Tim Burton’s 3D animation Frankenweenie, whilst Mike Newell’s visually stunning adaptation of Great Expectations, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes will close the Festival.
Here are some of the ESLF staff picks for this years LFF:
David Hall: Beware of Mr. Baker
LFF has a strong track record with music documentaries – I loved Lawrence of Belgravia, last year’s portrait of the eccentric Felt and Denim founder – and there are a couple of interesting looking ones this time around, including one on Big Star. But the one I am most buzzed about is Jay Bulger’s Beware Of Mr. Baker. While an undoubted musical genius, Cream drummer Ginger Baker is by all accounts one of the most disagreeable, truculent and untrustworthy people who ever lived, in or out of music. Blending archive footage, animation and anecdote heavy one-on-ones with the man himself (now holed up in South Africa) this promises to be a far cry from the usual talking heads hagiography (though plenty of famous skins men are interviewed). Baker lived life as he pounded the sticks – hard, heavy and uncompromising – so this should be a blast.
Ian Loring: Seven Psychopaths and Amour
After the brilliance that was comedic existential drama In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths – with its meta plot of a character writing a screenplay about Seven Psychopaths while being caught in a dog-napping ring – sounds like a film I need to see more than anything else this year. With a cracking ensemble cast and a hilarious trailer, I don’t see how this can’t work.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Haneke’s last film The White Ribbon, he is a filmmaker of serious heft and I sense that he’s leaving behind the narrative tricks of Funny Games and Code Unknown to instead focus on heart-wrenching drama. This is a film I expect to disturb the hell out of me (I have an intense fear of death which catches me off-guard fairly often) and should be one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of the year.
Dan Auty: Sightseers, Antiviral and Nameless Gangster
Ben Wheatley is fast becoming the most interesting and prolific British directors around. Sightseers is his third film, and it comes less than a year after the terrifying Kill List (with film no.4 currently filming). This takes a more light-hearted but no less bloody approach to its very English premise, as caravanning killers Steve Oram and Alice Lowe take to the roads to relax and murder in equal measure.
I think I probably speak for many David Cronenberg fans when I say that as much as we appreciate the loftier intentions of movies like A Dangerous Method or Cosmopolis, we do miss the heady mix of brains and gore that he delivered back in the 1980s. Luckily his son Brandon seems to have taken up his old man’s (Elliot) mantle, and with Antiviral delivers a film that sounds like it could have come straight from the mind of Cronenberg Sr. A cold, disturbing satire about the rise of ‘superstar viruses’, this is a must-see for LFFing horror fans.
South Korea continues to produce some of the most interesting cinema around, and is represented at the LFF with no fewer than six films. Nameless Gangster may not be the most eye-opening of the bunch (the crazy anthology piece Doomsday Book takes that prize), but it’s got all the elements that I love about Asian crime cinema and proved to be Korea’s highest grossing film to date this year. This epic period gangster yarn is clearly indebted to the likes of Coppola and Friedkin, but with Oldboy star Choi Min-sik in the lead role and backed by terrific reviews, it should deliver the goods.
Paul Risker: Vous N’avez Encore Rien (You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet)
One of the highlights of the 56th BFI London Film Festival will be the screening of described as, “…a witty, enthralling investigation of life, art and mortality.” A great director in the twilight of his career, any true cineaste understands the significance of a new Resnais film, and I expect Vous n’avez encore rien vu to be a wonderful followup to Wild Grass, which for many remarked Resnais’ return to form, but more than that singled him out as still one of the most interesting directors working today even after fifty years. Vous n’avez encore rien vu’s subject matter is right up Resnais’ street, and this could be a gem of this year’s festival.
Jamie-Lee Nardone: Antiviral and Rust And Bone
I first saw the trailer for Antiviral and Frightfest in August and my immediate reaction was WTF was that, and when can I see it? Brandon (son of David) Cronenberg’s debut feature set in an abstract future where celebrity obsession has reached disturbing extremes couldn’t be better timed, with young girls being given Botox to have the perfect pout of their favourite actress, or men having calf implants to look more like their favourite action-hero. The film follows Syd March, who goes to The Lucas Clinic so he can be infected with a celebrities’ illness (designed for people to become closer to their idols). Planning to sell it on the Black Market, his life is endangered when his chosen celebrity dies. Syd is left dying and racing to uncover the truth and find an antidote. A nod to his father’s earlier work, this verges on body horror and, mixed with the satire of celebrity culture, this is a must-see for LFF fans and anyone confused and in awe of our current obsession with celebrities.
Fortunate to have already been to a screening of Rust and Bone, I eagerly await the chance to see it again. Absolutely captivating and emotional, this is by far the best film I have seen this year. Based on an unlikely relationship between an impoverished muscleman seeking a home for himself and his small son and a beautiful young woman who trains killer whales at the local aqua park, we see an unlikely friendship develop between the two after a brutal accident. Remarkably toned-down, the transformation of characters is wholly believable. Touching and intense, this is an absolute must-see, and I defy anyone to leave the screening without having had the wind knocked out of them and shed a tear. Stunning.
Festival information and ticket booking
Tickets go on sale to the public on 24 September
Telephone Bookings: 0207 928 3232 between 09.30 – 20.30
Online: www.bfi.org.uk/lff (no booking or postal fee)
In person: BFI Southbank Office: 11.30 – 20.30
BFI Members receive priority booking: join at www.bfi.org.uk/join
nb. Last minute tickets are available to be purchased on the day about 30 minutes prior to the screening at Festival venues