Five Programme Spanning Picks from the 2016 BFI London Film Festival
The 60th BFI London Film Festival launches this week, bringing 245 films to the capital, in 14 cinemas, over 12 days.
To celebrate the occasion, we asked our resident film nerd / Marketing Executive to select some key highlights.
Notable this year is a proactive and conscientious approach to reflecting racial diversity within the various strands, which Festival Director Clare Stewart says will “amplify the ambitions and the purpose” of the BFI’s Black Star season, launching immediately following the festival. The 2016 Opening Gala is the European premiere of Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, a powerful international love story that is not only of “great contemporary relevance”, but which equally showcases the good health of British – female directed – filmmaking.
Here are my five programme highlights which showcase the eclectic range of content on offer…
1. La La Land (Headline Gala)
La La Land – Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to the highly-acclaimed LFF2014 hit Whiplash – is debatably the hottest ticket in town this year. Word clearly travels fast, with ticket sales no doubt being fuelled by publications such as Variety and The Telegraph citing the musical as an early Oscars frontrunner. The perfect pairing of darlings Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling has given this release an added glitz, unrivalled in this year’s festival programme. And if you’re not someone easily swayed by A-list stars and hype, just check out the jaw-dropping colour, mise-en-scene and cinematography in the magical trailer below.
2. Moonlight (Official Competition)
A five-star post-premiere review from The Guardian; described by Rolling Stone as a “strong contender for movie of the year”; and New York Times Chief Critic A.O Scott has said he’s “never seen anything quite like it”. If there’s been an unexpected breakthrough hit on the 2016 festival circuit, it’s been Moonlight.
Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age character study introduces us to Chiron – an African-American whose confusing realisation of his own queer sexuality is thwarted through growing up in an unaccepting culture and environment. Set against the backdrop of Regans’ War on Drugs era America, the film’s 80s Miami setting is far from glamorous, with the tensions of drugs, violence and traditional masculinity all proving troublesome. Considering this Summer’s horrifying scenes of violence against the LGBT community in Orlando, coupled with highly publicised on-going racial tensions within North America, the film feels deeply relevant.
3. My Life as a Courgette (First Feature Competition)
A curious addition to the first feature strand is Claude Barras’ stop-motion marvel My Life as a Courgette. This Swiss-French production has already become a foreign-language Oscar contender, demonstrating animation’s ability to dazzle audiences of all ages. It tells the tale of nine-year-old Icare (aka Courgette), who finds himself in an orphanage after suffering a personal family trauma. The film’s often melancholic themes work to its advantage, offering a refreshing change from the excessively sugar coated mainstream fare so typical of the genre. Perhaps the feels of Pixar’s Inside Out are ricocheting? Kudos must be paid to the delicate script courtesy of Céline Sciamma, whose hit Girlhood – which she wrote and directed – so effortlessly captured the difficulties of growing up through struggle. Don’t worry though: the film contains light to counterbalance the shade and is suitable for any precocious child whose heart has started to beat that little bit harder.
4. Black Mirror (LFF Connects)
Much like Met Film School, LFF continues to confidently go beyond the limitations of the term ‘film’ by embracing the various other creative media. The return of LFF Connects presents an exciting schedule of talks and events focusing on innovative film, television, music, art, games and creative technologies. Flying the flag is the Season 3 return of Charlie Brooker’s devilishly wicked modern age satire Black Mirror. Co-creator Annabel Jones, along with Director Joe Wright (Atonement), will be joining Brooker at Curzon Chelsea this Thursday for a conversation regarding the six new standalone episodes created for Netflix, with new episodes being screened directly after.
5. Have You Seen My Movie? (Experimenta)
Paul Anton Smith’s Have You Seen My Movie? is a cine-essay love letter to the cinema experience; described in the programme as “an enthralling montage of magical moments of cinema-going”. By compiling film scenes from various genres, cultures and eras, this intriguing feature makes audiences rejoice over the universal pleasure of heading to a movie theatre. The film will receive its world premiere at the Prince Charles Cinema, who the BFI have wisely welcomed to the fold this year. The cult cinema has long been a haven to obsessive, loyal and passionate cinephiles, and the decision to screen there is wholly appropriate. Festival Director Clare Stewart recently made it her personal pick in a Little White Lies feature, saying “one thing is essential, go see it in the cinema”. Still plenty of tickets left on this one too!
BFI London Film Festival 2016 Official Trailer