It’s that time of year again, where the British film elite and film lovers alike, head to the capital to celebrate and view the crème de la crème of the film industry at The London Film Festival. This year marks the 61st anniversary of this filmic celebration, taking place during the first and second weeks of October. With 243 films being screened from 67 countries, in just 15 cinemas across London, this 12-day event will provide us with everything we need to know for the foreseeable future from the world of film.
The Opening Night
A world premiere for Andy Serkis’s Breathe will be shown at the Opening Night Gala for the BFI London Film Festival. As Serkis’s directorial debut, this will be a tense moment for the reputable actor, after starring in franchises such as Planet Of The Apes, Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars. The premiere will take place on Wednesday 4th October, with stars Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy and Diana Cavendish showcasing poignant yet delicately humorous roles.
The plot focuses on the audacious and enigmatic, Robin Cavendish, as he is paralysed by polio whilst in Africa and given just months to live. Robin’s wife, Diana decides to bring him home against all advice, and provides him with the support, devotion and willpower that pushes him to continue to live a long, satisfying life. By defying expectations, and the limits previously branded on their lives, the Cavendishes yielded a lust for life that wouldn’t compare to that of an unhandicapped human being.
The Battle Of The Sexes
Tuesday 10th October sees the European premiere of The Battle Of The Sexes with Emma Stone and Steve Carrell starring as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. After Stone’s impressive run at the Oscars this year with her charming performance in La La Land, it seems that she has decided to channel a more diverse role this time around.
The plot centres on two former world-famous tennis players from 1973. Riggs bet that he could defeat the best women’s player of the time, King, at age 55. During a time of sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, this tennis match became one of the most-watched tennis events of all time reaching 90 million viewers worldwide. However, underneath each of their intensely scrutinised public images, lay off-court personal battles that made their rivalry more passionate. King was searching for equality in a man’s world but also coming to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed. Riggs, a serial hustler, was labelled as one of the first media-age celebrities, wrestled with his own gambling addiction that left a strain on his family. Together, these two tremendously talented tennis stars, allowed certain cultural debates to rise to the surface and remain salient in the media and in our own homes.
Considering the inclusion of this film and the importance of gender equality emerging from the film industry, it has been revealed that only a quarter of the films shown at the 61st BFI London Film Festival are directed by women. However, compared to last year, which was only a fifth of the festival’s films, this is a small improvement. Clare Stewart, the festival’s director said,
“Getting more women behind the camera is something that will have a significant impact in terms of diversifying stories. But it’s also just basic gender equity, which is what we’re after.”
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This is certainly another film of note that is experiencing its UK premiere in London. Labelled as the underdog of this year’s festival, this dark comic drama directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges (2008), Seven Psychopaths (2012)) is set to keep us on the edge of our seats.
The synopsis details Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) whose daughter was murdered, taking the case into her own hands by painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at the town’s esteemed chief of police. However, as more people get involved in this battle between Mildred and law enforcement, the more violence escalates.
As well as showing film, the BFI London Film Festival always has an impressive selection of music movies that concentrate on the evolution of music genres and the stories behind particular genres and artists.
This movie tells the story of the 90s hip-hop movement and how it became a global phenomenon. Focusing on three friends from East Long Beach, Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, who combined Motown, funk and R&B with gangsta rap. This grouping has resulted in a smooth, laid back yet melodic genre of hip hop that is still exceedingly popular today. Starring Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa among others, the story of the creation of this sub-genre is set to be raw, gritty but most of all, a musical pilgrimage.
Hear to be Heard: The Story of The Slits
The Slits were renowned as godmothers of punk who formed their band in 1976, inspiring generations of artists such as Sonic Youth and Sleater Kinney. This documentary showcases some stunning archive footage and interviews with the surviving band members. But most importantly, it tells the story of a group that changed the social setting of Britain in the patriarchal 1970s with their radical feminist outcry.
My Generation explores the impact of Britain’s working class cultural revolution of the 1960s with contributions from well-known stars from back in the day: Marianne Faithfull, Paul McCartney, Twiggy, David Bailey and Mary Quant. With Michael Caine presenting and a cracking sound track featuring The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who, this cultural journey will take you back in time and leave you with the sound of the 60s reverberating through your ears.
It is safe to say that this line-up is both exciting and controversial and will leave us with an extensive watch list. The 61st London Film Festival takes place from Wednesday 4th October to Sunday 15th October 2017. To find the festival’s full listing, check out the festival’s site.
Which of these films will you be watching?
Text: Millie Bull
Images: BFI, The Independent, Deadline, Screenrant, Fox Movies, Billboard, 1979 Radio, Hollywood Reporter, Time Out