Love film? Don’t want to sit on your arse at home watching a dvd? Tickets for October’s 56th annual BFI London Film Festival go on sale for BFI members TODAY (09:30, 14/09/12), meaning that hundreds of your (and our) most hotly anticipated movies are nearly here in London just aching to be devoured. New talents and established greats will once again grace cinemas across our fine city, and here at R|R we’re already deep in discussion over who’s going to watch what.
C.P.Thorne: What drives our desire for film? What affects our film choices? For the first time ever categories have been implemented by LFF organisers to help viewers choose what they most want to watch. Some, like ‘documentary’ or ‘first feature,’ offer obvious generic markers for film-lovers and niche enthusiasts alike. Other categories such as ‘love’ and ‘dare’ provide slightly less obvious (but much more interesting) tenets for grouping a bunch of films together. If one thing’s for sure, regardless of filmic creed, I for one have a hit-list which I’m already starting to strike off. Michael Haneke’s palme d’or winning Amour stands proud at the top of my list, not least because of the haunting power of his entire oeuvre (the Austrian director has won 3 Palme d’Ors). Similarly, Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami’s latest film Like Someone in Love holds serious allure; perhaps I am enticed by the directing giants who have dominated art cinema for the last 20 years? Also one to watch is Benh Zeitlin’s enigmatic debut feature Beasts of the Southern Wild, the trailer for which has already been circulating around cinema screens to unanimous glee.
Not only for the benefit of drawing audiences, the film categories will also provide some much-needed structure for the LFF on the whole. For the first time LFF has adopted a more conventional festival outlook, placing likely films into competitive melting pots – presumably for the added prestige that accompanies an ‘award-winning’ film.
For all those students out there, something which always seems to slink by unnoticed is the wide array of FREE (yes free) education screenings, talks, workshops and events hosted by the BFI during October. You can discover a number of fantastic films screening at the festival for free here, as well as talks and workshops for budding filmmakers and film-lovers here.
Jessica Lenten: At last years LFF the Sutherland Jury Award went deservingly to Las Acacias – the simple, touching story of a lorry driver giving a mother and her daughter a lift – beating two terrifying and much-talked-about films, Snowtown and Michael, to the title of Best First Feature. This year, the festival seeks to recognise more outstanding directorial debuts judged on the criteria of originality and imagination. The 12 films competing for the award come from around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Sweden and South Africa. My choices for the most intriguing have to include the following.
Tomorrow follows the founding members of Russian activist group Voina who seek to make big political statements through anarchist art. The group are known particularly for a stunt in which they painted a 60-metre high penis on a St Petersburg bridge. Topical in the light of the conviction of three members of Pussy Riot last month, Tomorrow sheds more light on the growing protest movements in Russia.
Shown at Sundance and Cannes, the low-budget Beasts of the Southern Wild was shot on 16mm with non-professional actors. This fantasy story is set in a fictional bayou community, telling the tale of 6 year old Hushpuppy who imagines that the floods threatening her community are caused by the melting of the polar ice caps and escaped monsters. It sounds bizarre and beautiful.
Shell is one of several British contestants for the Sutherland Award. Set in Scotland, a girl named Shell lives a remote and isolated life with her father at a petrol station. The festival website features footage in which Shell sings in the bath, and judging by this short scene, Chloe Pirries performance looks like its going to be raw and haunting.
Richard Huleatt: Like anything worth the time of day the LFF can be approached from many angles. Charlie has already highlighted some of the festival darlings who’ll be criss-crossing the recently redecorated and rather ugly Leicester Square, but this year’s festival is populated by far more than just Haneke and Kiarostami. François Ozon (In The House), Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt), Alain Resnais (You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet), Takashi Miike (For Love’s Sake) and Hou Hsiao-Hsien (10+10) will all be out and about for those who keep a close eye on their beloved auteurs. This audience is famed for its four possible reactions – “It’s definitely a [insert auteur] film” and; “[Insert auteur] has definitely changed since his/her last film,” taking these incites as either positive or negative.
Alternatively, like Jessica, you might be drawn to the gravitational pull of the Best First Feature section and it’s promise of “something new.” If this is the case then I’d recommend popping over to see Wadjda which promises to give an inside look into the everyday world of Saudi Arabia through the eyes and ears of female director Haifaa Al Mansour.
If old auteurs and future auteurs don’t float your boat then there is still lots to excite in this year’s programme. Why not see something happening live for a change? Catch amazing talks by the likes of Salman Rushdie and Slavoj Žižek, or the lesser known but equally entertaining Ian Neil who I managed to catch at this year’s East End Film Festival.
It’s not only the Screen Talks and Masterclasses that will be injecting some human interaction into the festival; there will be an abundance of live music taking place as well. Why not attend the screening of Shane Meadows’ modern classic This Is England with a live score provided by composer Ludovico Einaudiand and musician Gavin Clark. For those who shun the modern distractions of colour and sound, there is a healthy helping of silent gems with musical accompaniment. Wings is an aerial-combat epic from 1927 which was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and features the one and only Clara Bow. Other archive treasures being wheeled out this year include a brand-spanking new 4K version of Lawrence of Arabia and the world premiere of the recently restored The Manxman; the final silent Hitchcock restoration completed by the BFI.
Whatever your poison, make sure you see something at the 56th BFI London Film Festival.