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Preview: 10 films to put on your radar at BFI London Film Festival 2015
September 17, 2015
240 films from 72 countries. 16 cinemas across London. 12 days. One Festival. These are the essential numbers encapsulating the 59th edition of the BFI London Film Festival that returns to the British capital once again, like every autumn, with a stunningly rich programme running October 7-18.
From the UK premiere of some of this award-season’s most anticipated contenders to first time features, compelling documentaries, short films and a few interesting exclusive panels and Q&As with A-list filmmakers and actors, there’s so much to choose from.
If you look at the Gala screenings alone, you immediately realize the ever-growing level of quality on display at the festival. Wanting to see those films early before general release is a no brainer: from the opening gala with Suffragette, tracing the story of the early feminist movement, starring Carey Mulligan, to the closing night with Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender in the iconic role of the late Apple founder. The other galas include, among others, Todd Haynes’ Carol, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel and starring Cate Blanchette in yet another Oscar-worthy role, chilling crime drama Black Mass with Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Stephen Frears’ The Program, following iconic cyclist Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall with Ben Foster playing the controversial athlete.
After the presale for BFI members, the box office has open to the general public this morning. To help you sort through the overwhelmingly great offer when booking your tickets, we share our picks of 10 intriguing films we’re most definitely going to check out. What will you choose?
Picking from the gala titles would be too easy because you bet we’ll see them all but what about the many hidden gems the programme has to offer and that you might only have a chance to watch on the big screen (or at all) during the festival? Here’s 10 of them in no particular order:
EVOLUTION (Official Competition): After telling a female coming of age story in her striking debut Innocence (2004), French filmmaker Lucile Hadžihalilovi? (who helped Caspar Noé writing Enter The Void) finally returns with her sophomore effort, this time telling a boy’s story.
10 year old Nicolas lives on a remote island inhabited only by women and young boys. Whilst exploring the idyllic location he makes an eerie discovery that will change his life forever. A visually stunning, atmospheric horror mystery with poetic undertones that demands to be seen on the big screen.
QUEEN OF EARTH (Dare section): You had me at Elizabeth Moss. The brilliant actress who has established her talent in TV cult dramas Mad Men and Top Of The Lake is such a spectacular performer, making the price of the ticket worth no matter what. Here she teams up with critically acclaimed filmmaker Alex Ross Perry.
He oozed acerbic humour in last year’s brilliant Listen Up Phillip and now lends his dark wit to a story of mental breakdown and contorted female friendship dynamics with Moss playing a woman whose father just committed suicide and who has just been dumped by her boyfriend.
DEPARTURE (Love section): If the name Alex Lawther doesn’t ring the bell yet, you bet it will after this film is released.
The young British actor who played the young version to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing in last year’s The Imitation Game only confirms the promise of a great talent in the making.
In this delicate fist feature from British writer/director Andrew Steggall he plays melancholic dreamer Elliot who’s helping his mother to pack up their French country house in order to sell it. On one of his wanders to the local village bar where he goes to write romantic poetry, he meets local boy Clément who’s working on his motorbike. An unlikely friendship is formed but something stronger might be brewing in Elliot’s heart.
MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE (Debate section): Who could be better suited than Louis Theroux with his irreverent dry humour to tackle the controversial aura of mystery surrounding the church of Scientology?
If Alex Gibney’s chilling documentary Going Clear intrigued you and left you speechless, this is the perfect companion piece to explore Scientology with a different tone and Theroux’s proverbial inability to take no for an answer.
Filmed in Los Angeles and made in collaboration with filmmaker John Dower, this feature documentary takes the Theroux experience to the next level.
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER (Dare Section): The premise may just sound like another dysfunctional family tale: Ryder, a Californian gay teen is asked by his mother to conceal his sexuality at a family reunion in Nebraska. But when one of his young female cousins takes him to a nearby barn only to run away from it screaming and with a blood-stained skirt, things take an unexpected turn and family secrets are bound to be uncovered. Nothing like a film defying your expectations and first-time writer/director Matt Sobel sounds like one to watch.
GREEN ROOM (Cult section): When I saw revenge thriller Blue Ruin last year I was left utterly speechless by filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier’s distinct voice and unique ability to create nerve-wracking tension. Now he finally returns with another nail-biting genre film that follows an unsigned punk band booking a gig at a seedy dive bar mostly frequented by neo-Nazis. When they witness a murder, the band find themselves trapped in the venue’s green room, sieged by a gang of ruthless mercenaries led by sir Patrick Stewart in viciously creepy shape.
THE END OF THE TOUR (Journey section): Let’s hope this is finally going to be James Ponsoldt’s consecration as the American filmmaker has only impressed with his genuine storytelling style of his previous underrated films Smashed (2012) and The Spectacular Now (2013). This time around he explores 5 days in the life of brilliant American writer David Foster Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46. Jason Segel has collected rave reviews since the film’s debut at Sundance for his portrayal of the late author. Jesse Eisenberg plays the Rolling Stones journalist who spent those 5 days with Wallace back in 1996 on the national tour to promote the author’s breakthrough novel “Infinite Jest”.
BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY) (First Feature Competition): A daring debut from French filmmaker Eve Husson, this alternative take on the coming of age story, follows a group of high school students forming a private orgy society during summer.
Reminiscent of Larry Clark’s Kids but with a strong female perspective and an inevitable relevance to our day and age’s technology affecting our relationships, this stylish exploration of sexual liberation and its consequences is surely poised to stir a debate.
CLOSET MONSTER (Dare section): Surrealistic offbeat humour is at the core of this impressive debut by Canadian filmmaker Stephen Dunn who explores the mind of an artistic and sexually confused teenager eager to escape his hometown and meanwhile finding refuge into a fantasy world where his anxieties take physical form like his pet hamster voiced by Isabella Rossellini. Starring Canadian rising star Connor Jessup (TV’s Falling Skies) this is a different kind of coming of age tale blending in different genres and announcing a new original filmmaking voice.
ROOM (Official Competition): Another amazing underrated talent wider audiences need to discover is wonderful actress Brie Larson.
After captivating with her lead role in 2013’s drama Short Term 12, she is simply stunning in this tale of a young mother and her son held captive in an 11-square-foot room.
For the child the room has been his world since birth but for the young woman the concept of captivity is clear and when suddenly an opportunity for escape arises, the realization of his condition won’t be an easy one for the little boy to muster.
Adapted by author Emma Donoghue from her own bestseller and directed by the gifted Lenny Abrahamson (What Richard Did), this sounds like a one-of-a-kind, unmissable cinematic experience.
The 59th BFI London Film Festival runs 7-18 October 2015
You can explore the full programme and book your tickets here
Francesco Cerniglia – Film Editor