The London Film Festival’s programmers have spent the past twelve months travelling the world to see the best that international cinema has to offer and they’ve selected about 250 features to screen at the 12 day event, which starts on Wednesday night.
From the opening film – Andy Serkis’s directorial debut, the real-life story Breathe – to the closing night crime thriller from Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, the BFI’s Head of Festivals Clare Stewart has curated a diverse array of features, some of which have been delighting crowds at festivals as far back as Sundance in January and Cannes in May, others took their bows as recently as last month’s Toronto and Venice, while others are getting their world premieres at LFF.
In addition to the high-profile galas, the Festival also features a competitive strand, with awards being handed out on the final weekend, as well as several film-maker Q&As and other film discussion panels and events to whet the appetites of enthusiasts.
In a year that Clare says so many of the film-makers are particularly socially engaged, there are high-profile works that are likely to get wider releases and smaller-scale films that might never be seen again on the big screen in the UK, after this festival.
So with so much to choose from and so little time to squeeze it all in, Clare has taken the time to give us her top five tips in her round-up of “What’s Worth Seeing” at this year’s LFF.
MUDBOUND, by Dee Rees, is a searing racial drama, set in the Deep South in the 1940s.
“With a knockout cast including Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Mary J Blige and Garrett Hedlund – all of whom will be joining us and director Dee Rees at the premiere – this is a stirring and original film charting the intertwining destiny of two families, one white, one black. I think UK audiences will really respond to this film which sadly, has become even more relevant than when it premiered to great acclaim in Sundance, earlier this year.”
NO STONE UNTURNED, by Alex Gibney, is a documentary looking into the unsolved Loughinisland massacre of 1994.
“A documentary that grips like a thriller, No Stone Unturned is a true crime investigation from Academy-Award winning filmmaker Alex Gibney. The crime is the unresolved Loughinisland massacre of 1994, where six men were gunned down and five wounded in a pub in the small village in Northern Ireland while watching Ireland’s landmark victory over Italy in a World Cup football match. Including interviews with families of the victims, case investigators and committed journalists, the film uncovers a shocking case of collusion and cover-up. Alex won our Documentary Competition in 2012 with Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, and this film is likely to provoke just as much debate.”
THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, by Jessica M Thompson, is a powerful drama about a confident New York architect, trying to regain control of her life after a sexual assault.
“It is always exciting when we discover a film through our open submissions, and The Light of the Moon, the extraordinary debut feature from Jessica M Thompson, was one such discovery. Stephanie Beatriz gives a beautifully calibrated performance as a young architect, who struggles with her own responses after she is raped on a night out. While sexual assault is something that is often used in cinema as a plot device, this film deals with the subject in an emotionally honest way that confidently swerves away from cliché, and offers a rarely explored, and genuinely illuminating, perspective. The film won the audience award at the SXSW Film Festival earlier in the year.”
ZAMA, by Lucrecia Martel, is described as a political western-cum existentialist epic, based on a 1956 novel about a 17th Century Spanish naval officer.
“For something that is both beguiling and disturbing, Lucrecia Martel’s Zama is like nothing else in the festival, and unlike anything you’ll see in cinemas right now. Inspired by Antonio Di Benedetto’s existentialist novel (1956), the film follows the adventures of Don Diego de Zama, a Spanish official who wants to be moved from a remote posting in the Empire, to be closer to his wife and children. A seething critique of colonialism, Zama is less concerned with plot, and more with a strange, visually lush atmosphere that seduces and repulses. We are thrilled that Lucrecia Martel, whose extraordinary previous films are The Swamp, The Holy Child and The Headless Woman, will join us for a Screen Talk on the final Sunday of the Festival.”
WRATH OF SILENCE, by Xin Yukun, is a contemporary Chinese arthouse thriller, described as A Touch of Sin meets Spaghetti Western
“This year we’re excited to have a really strong showing of Chinese work in the festival, and this second feature from Xin Yukun playing in our Thrill strand, is a great genre highlight. It’s a mix of impeccably composed, slow-burning tension, and some electric action scenes, as a mute man searches for his missing son, coming up against the powerful forces of corruption and greed. The BFI will be embarking on a big Thriller season when the Festival is over, so this is a great way to get your kicks and raise the adrenaline levels in preparation.”