Watch List: 59th BFI London Film Festival
Let’s get right to it – what should we be seeing at this year’s BFI London Film Festival? That time of year where I cast aside friends and loved ones, and to be fair, by this stage in the game most probably also my eyesight after years of screens in the dark, and spend several weeks with fellow filmgoers seeing if we can discover some of the best in filmmaking from around the world.
This year, Claire Stewart has promised ‘a year of strong women’, answering the call for greater representation of women in film. Admittedly, we’re still only at 45 of the 238 films from women… However, leading the way and opening the Festival with a European Premiere, the much anticipated Suffragette, directed by Sarah Gavron – an ensemble cast of film’s finest including Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Whishaw, in one of the first feature films documenting women’s suffrage movement. So perhaps that’s a box ticker we’ll have to take for now… Cate Blanchett is the eponymous Carol in Todd Hayne’s Cannes winner, the story of a middle aged woman, plagued by a failing marriage and a burgeoning attracting to department store worker, Therese by Rooney Mara. And things don’t get much more inspiring than David Guggenheim’s documentary, He Called Me Malala, following the incredible story of the 17 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai, the young woman shot in the head by the Taliban for championing girls’ education in Pakistan.
In an attempt to digest this year’s programme, we’ve picked three films from the usual LFF buzzwords:
Following American cyclist Lance Armstrong’s rise to hero to fallen icon, Stephen Frears and Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge present The Program, starring Ben Foster. Bryan Cranston is back on the big screen in Jay Roach’s Trumbo, charting the life of the Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday) who refused to testify in the House Committee of Un-American Activities in 1947. Look out for bonus appearances from Helen Mirren, John Goodman and Louis CK. Closing the festival for the third time, Danny Boyle presents the eagerly anticipated, Steve Jobs, with Michael Fassbender in the titular role, charting his meteoric rise through three product launches including the Mac, the NeXT Cube and iMac.
See also: Being Evel, Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, The End of the Tour
JG Ballard’s savage satire of 60s social idealism, High Rise, is brought to life by the ever dark and wonderful Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) with Tom Hiddleston as Dr Robert Laing, working our way back from a scene of destruction and dog barbequing to its once lofty and luxurious apartment. Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn is adapted by Nick Hornby as Saoirse Ronan leaves small-town, post war Ireland for New York before a tragedy forces her to leave the big lights behind and return home and make some big decisions in life and love. Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck is expanded in Simon Stone’s radical adaptation, The Daughter, exploring the play’s modern day tragedy in quiet rural Australia, where a gunshot can reverberate for an eternity.
See also: Women in Love, Room.
Running with the theme of Festival opener Suffragette, be sure to see inspirer Make More Noise! Suffragettes in Film, nestled in the Treasures strand, a compilation of 21 short films of newsreel footage and anarchic comedy. Unearth some long forgotten, thought-to-be-lost Laurel and Hardy in The Battle of the Century – plus some silent favourites. See a long sought-after Sherlock Holmes film, based on a play by William Gillette, introducing the development of Moriarty.
See also: Shooting Stars
Always a little peculiar, but always entertaining… Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster boasts an impressive cast including Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Colin Farrell and John C Reilly, in this surreal look at the perils of singledom. Outlawed in the near-future, any singletons must report to The Hotel, where they are given 45-days to find a mate or face their fate of being turned into an animal of their choosing. Or take the risk and escape to join the forest dwelling fugitives, The Loners. Patrick Stewart promises a chilling performance as a gang leader in Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, a claustrophobic thriller about the fate of a punk band who witness a murder after inadvertently booking a gig in a pub frequented by neo-Nazis. The new Apt Pupil, perhaps? Described as a ‘catastrophic thriller’, Jerzy Skolimowski’s 11 Minutes frantically looks at 11 minutes in the lives of a multitude of characters – an ambulance driver, predatory film director, motorcycle courier, street vendor, a dog – revealing the ever surprising ways their lives all overlap.
See also: The Boy, Desierto, The Survivalist.
Always a quiet highlight of the Festival, this year’s music inspired films offer record collection favourites alongside politically charged documentaries. The soulful, Southern Comfort soaked tones of Janis Joplin colour Amy Berg’s portrait of the woman that took what women were mean to do in music and kicked it right off stage in Janis: Little Girl Blue. Ever wondered what it’d be like to be the Ramones’ manger? Danny Says introduces Danny Fields, the Harvard drop-out who moved to New York to befriend the likes of Edie Sedgwick and Nico, becoming the rock journalist behind the ‘bigger than Jesus’ comparisons with The Beatles. Taking a more serious yet nonetheless inspiring turn, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll – looking back at the vibrant youth music scene that emerged in the 60s under the encouragement of Prince Sihanouk, before meeting a violent end in the Vietnam conflict.
See also: They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile, Fresh Dressed, The American Epic Sessions.
As ever, we’ll be there scouring the screens for the lastest and finest from this year’s programme.
The 59th BFI London Film Festival takes place from 7-18 October 2015 at various venues around London.
Browse the full programme online: bfi.org.uk/lff
Catch highlights from the LFF programme on the BFI Player