For all you British film fans, October is always one of the most exciting months of the year. The BFI London Film Festival is one of the cornerstones of the international film calendar, a two-week celebration of the work produced by both professional and aspiring filmmakers. Celebrating its 57th birthday this year, LFF will once again be screening some of the biggest & best films of the year; ones that go beyond the restrictive conventions of their genre, that dare to be controversial & original. There are literally hundreds of films to wet your appetite, but here are my 5 most exciting films from this year’s festival.
12 Years A Slave (Dir. Steve McQueen): 18th/19th/20th
Director McQueen reteams for the third time with Michael Fassbender for this examination of Solomon Northup’s memoir of the same name. Set in 1841, Solomon was a successful violinist and free man living in New York who was brutally abducted and sold in to slavery. Eventually being sold to the psychologically and psychically abusive plantation owner Epps, any hope of Solomon reclaiming the life he once knew is lost. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, Fassbender as Epps & co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard (to name but a few), 12 Years A Slave has the potential to be one of the decade’s most important films; a strong contender for next year’s Oscars and continuing proof of McQueen’s incredible directing talents.
Under The Skin (Dir. Jonathan Glazer): 13th/14th
Causing a huge stir at the Venice Film Festival last month, Under The Skin arrives at LFF having been described as Ken Loach meets David Lynch. Set and shot entirely on location in Scotland, it follows Scarlett Johansson’s central character, an alien sent from another world to kidnap and deliver humans to her superiors for harvesting on their home planet. The footage released to coincide with the screening in Venice captures the visually hypnotic & notably Lynchian style of Glazer’s picture. Being shown as part of the Official Festival Competition, Under The Skin is a certain front-runner to walk home with the big prize.
Hide Your Smiling Faces (Dir. Daniel Patrick Carbone): 17th/19th
Some of the most exciting films shown at LFF are part of the First Picture Competition, which recognizes some of the extraordinary debut features being released over the coming year. A notable pick from this year’s collection is Hide Your Smiling Faces, potentially Stand By Me for this generation. Following a group of kids in rural America, the film explores their sudden confrontation with adult life when one of them is found to have mysteriously died. Examining how his characters deal with loss & the memories that accompany it, writer/director Carbone creates an honest & unsentimental coming-of-age drama that may well be one of the best directorial debuts of the year.
Leave To Remain (Dir. Bruce Goodison): 11th/13th
Likely to stir great debate amongst viewers, Leave To Remain is a passion project that’s over 3 years in the making. It follows the lives of three children forced to travel to the UK to seek asylum. Played by actors who have faced such tragic events, the film raises questions about immigration in the UK and the experiences both suffered and shared by those too young to be able to make their own choices.
Enough Said (Dir. Nicole Holofcener): 12th/13th/14th
An air of poignancy hangs over Enough Said, as this will be one of the last opportunities to see the late, great James Gandolfini on the big screen. The film itself is a tender rom-com that channels the developing romances of Eva & Albert, 2 lonely souls who find each other when they need it most. Director Holofcener has an understated talent for creating relatable drama and no doubt hopes that Enough Said is a story with enough heart to make you cry and enough laughs to make you smile. Best of all, of course, it is an opportunity to experience Gandolfini’s exceptional acting talents, as he dynamically performs in a role against type that will no doubt be the subject of much buzz at this year’s festival.
For all details and to book tickets, go to http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff