The Film World will soon converge on London for the most exciting event of the year: the 56th BFI London Film Festival, launched under the new creative leadership of BFI’s Head of Exhibition and Festival Director, Clare Stewart.
For those of you who like figures, the Festival will screen a total of 225 fiction and documentary features, including 14 World Premieres, 15 International Premieres and 34 European Premieres. This year sees the introduction of several changes to the Festival’s format, with easy to recognise groupings entitled “Love” “Laugh” “Dare” “Family” and so on. The Festival expands this year to include four additional new venues – Hackney Picturehouse, Renoir, Everyman Screen on the Green and Rich Mix, which join existing London venues the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Ritzy Brixton and Ciné Lumière.
The Festival opens with the European Premiere of Tim Burton’s 3D animation FRANKENWEENIE. Mike Newell’s visually stunning adaptation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes will close the Festival, with key talent from both films expected to attend. Among the highly anticipated Galas is the American Express Gala World Premiere of CROSSFIRE HURRICANE, a documentary celebrating 50 years of rock legendsThe Rolling Stones who are also expected to attend the Festival.
Other Galas include the American Airlines Gala of Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, QUARTET, featuring an outstanding British cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly and Michael Gambon; and Ben Affleck directs and stars in the Accenture Gala presentation of political thriller ARGO which he also produced with George Clooney. British film directors making their mark this year include Paul Andrew Williams with London-based comedy drama, SONG FOR MARION, featuring a sterling cast headed by Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston; and Roger Michell, whose HYDE PARK ON HUDSON is the Centrepiece Gala, with Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams and is set on the eve of WWII. THE SAPPHIRES, is an inspirational Australian musical comedy set in the 60s starring comic man of the moment Chris O’Dowd, who appears alongside Australian Idol star Jessica Mauboy; and THE SESSIONS, is a moving drama, based on a true story with superb performances from John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.
· Michael Winterbottom’s EVERYDAY
· Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children
· Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths
Also screening here will be the UK premieres of:
· Michel Franco’s After Lucia – my rating ***
· David Ayer’s End of Watch – my rating ****
· Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void
· Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone – my rating ***
· François Ozon’s In the House
· Cate Shortland’s Lore
· Pablo Larraín’s No
The First Feature Competition awarded to titles recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:
3 European premieres
· Masaaki Akahori’s The Samurai that Night
· Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus
· Barry Berk’s Sleeper’s Wake
and 9 UK premieres
. Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild – my rating **** (see review)
· Tom Shkolnik’s The Comedian
· Maja Miloš’ Clip
· Gabriela Pichler’s Eat Sleep Die
· Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil
· Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighbouring Sounds
· Scott Graham’s Shell
· Andrey Gryazev’s Tomorrow
· Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda
In the Documentary Competition there are 4 World Premieres:
· Charlie Paul’s For No Good Reason
· Nick Ryan’s The Summit
· Sarah Gavron’s Village at the End of the World
· Greg Olliver’s Turned Towards the Sun
1 International Premiere
4 European Premieres
· Jay Bulger’s Beware of Mr Baker
· Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners
· Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
· Amy Berg’s West of Memphis
. Gauriloff’s Canned Dreams
· Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns’ The Central Park Five
· Ulises Rosell’s The Ethnographer
STRANDS / PATHWAYS
As I mentioned earlier, the new format falls into simple categories that are clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family. With over 200 features screened during the Festival this new approach is designed to help Festival goers find the films that mean the most to them and to open up entry points for new audiences.
The Love Gala is Michael Haneke’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner AMOUR, with Haneke making a welcome return to the Festival this year.
Other titles in this section include: BROKEN starring Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy; Ira Sachs’ KEEP THE LIGHTS ON; Xavier Dolan’s LAURENCE ANYWAYS; Liz Garbus’ documentary tribute to Marilyn Monroe LOVE, MARILYN; ROBOT AND FRANK starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, and Ursula Meier’s SISTER with Léa Seydoux and Gillian Anderson.
Riveting films that amplify, scrutinise, argue and surprise screen in the DEBATE section and this year’s Gala is the European Premiere of THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY an absorbing documentary sequel to THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA from Sophie Fiennes featuring renegade philosopher and bionic cineaste Slavoj Žižek who also takes part in an ‘In Conversation’ event during the Festival.
Other highlights in this section include Marco Bellocchio’s SLEEPING BEAUTY featuring Toni Servillo and Isabelle Huppert, Thomas Vinterberg’s THE HUNT featuring Mads Mikkelsen’s Cannes award-winning performance, and the European Premiere of ZAYTOUN.
In-your-face, up-front and arresting, the films in DARE will take audiences out of their comfort zone. The Dare Gala is Mira Nair’s Venice-opener THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, starring Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Riz Ahmed and Liev Schreiber.
Other highlights in this strand include: the European Premiere of HELTER SKELTER featuring Japanese supermodel Erika Sawajiri, the World Premiere of KELLY + VICTOR Kieran Evans’ adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Niall Griffiths, and the International Premiere of Antonio Campos’ SIMON KILLER, Carlos Reygadas’ Cannes-winner POST TENEBRAS LUX, Pablo Trapero’s gripping and intelligent drama, WHITE ELEPHANT, and Sergei Loznitsa’s critically celebrated IN THE FOG.
A romantic caravan trip quickly descends into chaos when a young couple’s dream holiday takes a wrong turn in acclaimed British director Ben Wheatley’s dark comedy SIGHTSEERS which has its UK premiere as the Laugh Gala.
Other titles in this strand include the International Premiere of Bollywood-meets-Tollywood Amelie style AIYYA, the UK Premiere of romantic comedy CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg and the European Premiere of Stephen Gyllenhaal’s GRASSROOTS, and the International Premiere of Australian cricketing ‘bro’mantic comedy SAVE YOUR LEGS!
The Gala presentation for this section is the World Premiere of Bollywood action epic CHAKRAVYUH, directed by Prakash Jha who will be attending the Festival.
Other highlights in this section include: controversial Sundance hit COMPLIANCE, Nordic Noir double bill of EASY MONEY and its sequel; the Berlin Golden Bear winner CAESAR MUST DIE and Korean box office smash NAMELESS GANGSTER: RULES OF THE TIME.
The CULT section features films from the mind-altering and unclassifiable, to fantasy, sci-fi and horror. The Cult Gala is the European Premiere of A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY chronicling the life of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman through multiple animation styles and featuring Chapman’s fellow Pythons in the voice cast.
Other highlights in this section include: ANTIVIRAL ** the feature film debut of Brandon Cronenberg; the International Premiere of Actress Katie Aselton’s directorial outing, the survival horror BLACK ROCK; Japanese maestro Takashi Miike’s FOR LOVE’S SAKE and Juan Carlos Medina’s fantasy horror PAINLESS, along with documentaries MY AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES, and ROOM 237.
Celebrated Romanian director Cristian Mungiu returns to the Festival with BEYOND THE HILLS screening as the Journey Gala . The film won Best Screenplay at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where actresses Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan also shared best actress award.
Other titles in this strand include: riveting Moroccan drama HORSES OF GOD, Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret’s documentary JOURNAL DE FRANCE, Jem Cohen’s MUSEUM HOURS, Michel Gondry’s THE WE AND THE I and the World Premiere of Marc Isaac’s new documentary about the A5 –THE ROAD: A STORY OF LIFE AND DEATH
Highlights in the Sonic screening programme include Mat Whitecross’ coming-of-age story SPIKE ISLAND about an Indie band of 1990 vintage, who are determined to see their heroes The Stone Roses; GOOD VIBRATIONS, the biopic of Terri Hooley, Belfast’s Godfather of Punk, which was declared the best Irish film at Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year; and world music is represented with films from Africa and Chile, KINSHASA KIDS and VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN.
The Festival is delighted to include two popular events from the year-round programme at BFI Southbank for the first time – BUG and Sonic Cinema, both celebrating the links between music and film. Sonic Cinema presentations include a focus on the Sigur Ros Valtari Mystery Film Experiment featuring premieres of new clips and, in celebration of Warp Films’ 10th Birthday, a special presentation of Shane Meadow’s THIS IS ENGLAND screening with a live score from composer Ludovico Einaudiand and musician Gavin Clark.
The Festival showcases films for all ages in its FAMILY section and this year’s Family Gala is ERNEST & CELESTINE, the delightful animated story of an unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse from the directors of A TOWN CALLED PANIC. In addition to Opening Night Gala FRANKENWEENIE, there are five other animated features screening in the Festival as well as an animated shorts programme. Three of the family features are hand-drawn films from France, and WOLF CHILDREN is the new hotly anticipated animated title from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda.
An original and innovative line-up of short films and animation that will enthral audiences young and old make up this year’s SHORTS programme including a dedicated section for younger audiences. Animated shorts for children include THE SANDPIXIES: DA CAPO GEORGE, THE MISSING MEATBALLS and I WANT TO SEE DWARFS.
Once again the London Calling section features a selection of shorts from budding filmmakers from across the capital and this year student films from some of the UK’s best film schools will be showcased in Back to School
These short films feature a host of well known faces including: Alison Steadman, Ralf Little, Tom Hollander, Martin Freeman, Stephen Graham and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Treasures brings recently restored cinematic treasures from archives around the world to the Festival.
This year’s previously announced Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s THE MANXMAN at the Empire Leicester Square with a live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. The Gala marks the grand finale of the BFI’s The Genius of Hitchcock project which commenced in June 2012 and is currently screening at BFI Southbank. I’ve been covering some of these gems in the weekly listings page from Thursday of each week.
Digital restoration can have spectacular results, as shown in, David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, the full length director’s cut of the brand new 4K digital restoration which will premiere at the NFT1 showcasing BFI Southbank’s new 4K projector for the first time. . Sir Laurence Olivier’s iconic RICHARD III also benefits from a fully restored print which will be screened at the Festival. Other highlights include silent movie THE SPANISH DANCER, a lavish costume romp with a live piano accompaniment; the BFI-backed revival of Roman Polanski’s TESS; a newly made documentary BERGMAN & MAGNANI:THE WAR OF VOLCANOES screening alongside a restoration of Roberto Rossellini’s VIAGGIO IN ITALIA and the latest restoration by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, AFTER THE CURFEW which is a political commentary on what happened after Indonesia was liberated from Dutch occupation.
The full programme is due to launch in October 2012 so watch this space for further details.