It may not be Cannes, Sundance or Toronto but, with a little breathing room since those, the London Film Festival can comfortably pick from the best. The BFI can analyse the cream of the crop and, before the onslaught of awards season, LFF selects the top dogs. The ones you can be sure will be worth the wait. Here at Culturefly, we’ve whittled down the almost 250 films on offer to a succinct ten. These are the ones to nab those final tickets to…
La La LandI remember the buzz circulating around Whiplash. Nothing prepared audiences for the cinematic punch it thumped you with in its final act. That was merely Damien Chazelle’s debut feature and, if Whiplash is anything to go by, La La Land can only be as successful. Already winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award, with nominations in Venice, La La Land has already started down a road that’ll only end at the Oscars. With an all-star cast, led by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, this musical romance is the must-see movie of the festival.
Free FireDirector Ben Wheatley wowed us all with Kill List. Followed up with Sightseers, A Field in England and last year’s High-Rise, Wheatley continues to only rise in credibility with a passionate fan base supporting his movies. Free Fire, unlike his previous efforts, is a balls-to-the-wall shoot ’em up, with an outstanding cast including Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor and Cillian Murphy (sporting a grizzly moustache). After a world premiere in Toronto, Wheatley’s next has all the hallmarks of a cult classic. “Reservoir Dogs with the ruthless spirit of 1970s B-movies” says Variety’s Peter Debruge.
Nocturnal AnimalsTom Ford, fashion designer and film director, blew everyone away with the Oscar-nominated drama, A Single Man. Set in the 60’s, it oozed class and proved that Ford held a voice we needed to hear. A busy man, he left filmmaking for 7 years before returning with Nocturnal Animals this year. Winning the Grand Jury Prize in Venice, Nocturnal Animals stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon in a dreamlike violent thriller you can’t afford to miss.
The Birth of a NationPremiering at Sundance, The Birth of a Nation nabbed both the audience award and Grand Jury at the festival. Charting the true story of a slave rebellion in 1831, The Birth of a Nation has already been compared to Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave. Directed by Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation has been marred by controversy due to a rape charge against Parker dating back to 1999 resurfacing after the film’s success at Sundance. Nevertheless, The Birth of a Nation is clearly bold, vital filmmaking in an era where America has to come to terms with its ugly history. An exciting cast includes Nate Parker himself, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King and Jackie Earle Haley.
MoonlightMany audiences won’t be familiar with director Barry Jenkins. His work includes Medicine for Melancholy and My Josephine, but it’s Moonlight that’ll introduce him to a wider audience. Starring Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali and newcomer, Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight tells the story of a young African-American coming to terms with his sexuality. It’s earned positive buzz since its worldwide debut at the Telluride Film Festival and Justin Chang, of the LA Times, even championed Moonlight’s Oscars potential.
13THIn addition to the wide-selection of feature films on offer, the London Film festival is also screening multiple documentaries. 13TH is from Selma director Ava DuVernay, exploring racial inequality of America. The title is based on the thirteenth amendment, which theoretically outlawed slavery. With the upcoming election and police scandals across America, this crucial film will be key in informing voters of the justice system in the country. Similar to Beasts of No Nation last year, 13TH is being distributed by Netflix and will drop worldwide on October 7th. In London, Duvernay will be available, via the wonders of the internet, for a Q&A in addition to the screening.
American HoneyAndrea Arnold has been distant lately. Since Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights, apart from directing the odd episode of Transparent, she hasn’t been about. American Honey marks her return, featuring Shia LeBeouf in a role that is considered one of his finest. This teenage-girl tale also introduces Sasha Lane to the world. Luckily for UK folk, American Honey is released October 14th nationwide, so it’s festival run that began in Cannes will finally come to an end.
ArrivalIt is only a matter of time before every director dips their toe into the sci-fi genre. Denis Villenueve, director of Sicario, Prisoners and Enemy, has pulled together Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner to lead this effort. A UFO has landed, and a small team is invited on board. If Alien was the pre-cursor to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, than Arrival is Villenueve’s attempt before he tackles the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner. With a flawless score on Rotten Tomatoes, Arrival seems to be winning over every crowd it performs in front of.
Certain WomenAmerican filmmaker Kelly Reichardt has been a festival favourite since River of Grass in 1996 (winning awards at Sundance). Her canon includes Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy and Night Moves. This year, Certain Women centres itself around three women, portrayed by Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Laura Dern in the suburbs of Montana.
It’s Only The End of the WorldXaviar Dolan, at the age of 27, already has 6 films under his belt. Debuting at Cannes, unlike the huge success of his previous films Mommy, Tom at the Farm and I Killed My Mother, his 2016 movie garnered a mixed response. It’s based on the play Juste la fin du monde by Jean-Luc Lagarce, and stars Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Coitillard, Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. Dolan may have hit a stumbling block in his career, but you’ll have to watch to find out.
See the full festival programme here.