Film - LFF Programme Launch


Film Festival time is almost upon us once more and VentSpleen went to the BFI London Film Festival Programme launch last week to see what will be on offer...

BFI Southbank. Clare Stewart is an exhausted but happy lady and she has every right to be. As Festival Director, she is tasked with putting a London Film Festival programme together that celebrates the best that cinema has to offer. It's a task that I do not envy and yet, at the same time, I do! She is responsible for putting together what I believe will come to be regarded as one of, if not the, best Festival Line up since the Festival began. It's a monstrous cliche but there really is something for everyone and, with nearly 300 films being shown at multiple screens around the Capital, you will need to pick your films with surgical precision.

I am not one to get particularly excited by a film trailer as I have found so often that disappointment can be so easily experienced when you buy into those tantalising images. A trailer is the film's sales pitch, its opening gambit, in a courtship that can last for months. Neither do I hold much store by what the critics love or hate, they are not me and what I consider makes a good film is very much down to me. It's a very personal thing! I love Film Festivals because, in a very short space of time, you can always find something that you would never have normally seen or heard of that will totally capture your heart. When you add to that heady brew the opportunity of catching a Q and A with talented Directors and cast after the film, you can see why LFF is the most anticipated Festival in my calendar. The BFI are deeply engaged in the support and promotion of awesome cinema and, whether you are working in the film industry or a rabid film lover, waiting for them to announce the Festival line up is just tantalising.

Anyway, enough with the gushy and emotional rhetoric, I wanted to highlight a few of the films that I will be booking to see. Amma Asante is an outstanding British Director and Screen Writer so it is entirely fitting that her latest film is given the Opening Night Gala honours. A United Kingdom is a stunning film which surely will mark career highs for both David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Based on a true story, it is a love story that plays out against the backdrop of a world torn apart by racial hatred and apartheid. How strong does love have to be when nations and government's range themselves against it? Ben Wheatley's Free Fire stands as an equally breathtaking but polar opposite cinematic offering and ends the Festival at its closing gala. Wheatley enjoyed huge acclaim last year with the premiere of High Rise and will no doubt hope to repeat that achievement this year. Free Fire stars Cillian Murphy and Brie Larson in a high octane thriller with the trade mark dark Wheatley sense of humour that I absolutely love.


Arrival is a visually stunning science fiction film which will lift its star, Amy Adams, to ever higher career peaks. Carrying at its centre the theme of communication, Arrival celebrates humanity in all its complexity and beauty. Rarely have I experienced a trailer that literally leaves me gasping for breath but I found myself unable to form words after seeing Arrival. See for yourself here but Arrival is Festival sponsor Royal Bank of Canada's chosen Gala film and I shall be booking tickets as soon as booking opens.

A Monster Calls is the latest film from Director JA Bayona (The Impossible, The Orphanage) and seems likely to develop Bayona's reputation for visually beautiful cinema but at the same retaining a deep, emotional connection. I really enjoy films that bring together elements of fantasy with reality and A Monster Calls seems a safe choice to deliver.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is an occult horror film with a vicious twist and, when a film with that premise stars Brian Cox, it demands to be seen. When it is delivered by Andre Ovredal (Troll Hunter) you can be guaranteed an experience from a director that understands the horror genre but it also not afraid to deviate from well worn paths.

Alice Lowe's first feature, Pre Venge will be worth seeing and the premise of a murderous mother who is driven by her unborn child, intrigues me. JJ Abrams fan motivated 4k uplift of the 80's cult horror classic Phantasm will not be missed either; you can't beat The Tall Man! It serves as a wonderful tribute to Angus Scrimm who sadly died earlier this year. Finally, my love of classic horror will be indulged with a loving tribute to monster horror and retro terror. The Void looks promising too as it is helmed by Jeremy Gillespie who will be known as a contributing element of Astron- 6 (Manborg and Father's Day)

With films fitting into the festival strands of Love, Debate, Laugh, Dare, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic, Family, Treasures and Experimenta, LFF have provided film lovers with an embarrassment of riches. With the addition of talks and Q and A from industry experts that span all the disciplines, it has never been easier to get behind what makes the film making world such an exciting and fulfilling place to inhabit. The London Film Festival team have worked tirelessly in producing a line up that manages to demonstrate their deep and immeasurable love of cinema. In a time when there is so much uncertainty about Brexit and funding streams, London Film Festival provides a welcome breath of fresh creative air and a powerful antidote to the destructive cynicism that walks abroad.

The 60th BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th October to 16th October. You can check out the full programme here



Images - BFI