A guide to the 56th BFI London Film Festival

If you take a quick look at this year’s programme, you will see that it has undergone some significant changes – it’s only 12 days long (instead of its usual 16 days duration) and the French Revolution section is no more – but there is no reason to panic. The shorter duration of the festival is more than compensated for by the increase in the number of the relevant venues. In addition to the Leicester Square cinemas and the BFI Southbank, now for the first time, festival screenings are taking place at some of our favourite independent cinemas, from the Renoir in Bloomsbury to the Ritzy in Brixton. As for the festival’s sections, new categories have been introduced with titles such as love, laugh, debate and thrill, making it much easier for the public to navigate through the festival’s ever-eclectic selection of more than 200 films. If you need any additional help though, here is a timetable of what we believe will be the festival’s highlights:

 

DAY 1, Wednesday October 10th

Frankenweenie

Keeping in line with the general spirit of renovation, the festival kick starts with the European Premiere of Frankenweenie that finds Tim Burton expanding on his 1984 live-action short film of the same name. With a story that focuses on the attempts of a little boy to bring his beloved dog Sparky back from the dead, the film promises to be a return to form for the director who seemed to have lost something of his wonderfully gloomy touch with his recent offerings. The film will be screened simultaneously at 19:00 at the Odeon Leicester Square and at the IMAX where the public will be able to fully enjoy this gloriously crafted, stop-motion 3D animation.

 

DAY 2, Thursday October 11th

Wadjda

Cinema has an unparalleled power to transfer you to places (geographical or emotional ones) that are far away from your ordinary life. A fascinating case in point is Wadjda (15:30 VUE 7), the debut feature of female director Haifaa Al Mansour. It offers us a unique glimpse into everyday life in a country where cinemas have been banned for over 30 years, through the story of a little girl who challenges the traditions of the Saudi society in the capital city of Riyadh. Laurence Anyways (18:00 VUE 7) has an equally exciting premise, examining through an impressive visual style how the unexpected decision of Laurence (the wonderful Melvil Poupaud) to make the transition from male to female affects his relationship with his long term girlfriend. If your heart has not yet been broken to pieces by this exquisite melodrama then have a go at the gala screening of Amour (20:45 Mayfair 1). The recent Palm d’Or winner tells the story of Georges and Anne, a loving couple who are both in their 80s. When Anne suffers a stroke that leaves her partly paralysed and speechless they both try to cope with this new challenge, never losing their love for each other. Featuring incredible performances by the legendary actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, Amour is the first film in the oeuvre of  Michael Haneke that will engage both your mind and your heart.

 

DAY 3, Friday October 12th

For Love's Sake

Takashi Miike’s For Love’s Sake (12:00 NFT1) may have the word love in its title but as we have come to expect from this eccentric director, it is certainly not soppy. With his frenetic visual style, Miike offers an explosive mix of violence, romance and music galore with the characters singing and dancing to vintage Japanese pop songs. Gimme the Loot (18:15 VUE 7) will offer the perfect antidote to Miike’s delirium. The debut feature of Adam Leon follows the adventures of two Bronx kids, Malcolm and Sofia determined to make a mark on the city by tagging the famous NY Mets home-run apple. This subtle gentle little tale with a big heart earned the Grand Jury Prize at the South by Southwest festival and is a bonafide crowd pleaser. As far as heart-warming experiences go though, it will be really difficult to find a more sensational film released this year than Beasts of the Southern Wild (20:30 OWE 2). It blends the escapist power of fantasy with the harsh reality of life at a remote southern delta community – and with a performance from five- year – old actress Quvenzhané Wallis that has to be seen to be believed, the film has easily gained the glowing acclaim of both the public and the critics, receiving major awards at both Sundance and Cannes.

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