BFI London Film Festival: Our Checklist


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With the booking for BFI members beginning Today and for the rest of the public in a week, the 59th BFI London Film Festival makes once again every cinephile in town salivating at the prospect of another terrific and comprehensive showcase of the best cinema from around the globe.

A total of 238 fiction and documentary works, including its usual selection of recently restored Treasures, plus 182 live action and animated shorts will be showcased in venues across London. A series of Screen talks with filmmaker Todd Haynes, actor Saoirse Ronan, casting director Laura Rosenthal and filmmakers Jia Zhangke and Walter Salles, as well as other multidisciplinary collaborations between with such influential artists as Christopher Nolan or Tacita Dean will round up this year’s excellent programme, offering something for everyone, from a preview of the forthcoming award season’s big contenders, to the discovery of the freshest arthouse talent.

In case you need some help to decide what to watch, here’s our LFF preview checklist (roughly) in chronological order of presentation. Have a happy festival:

MOUNTAINS_MAY_DEPART_still_walking_with_little_boyMOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (Jia Zhangke)/JIA ZHANGKE, A GUY FROM FENYANG (Walter Salles)
One of the most vital voices in Modern Chinese cinema will kick-start the LFF screenings, followed by a documentary Brazilian helmer Walter Salles has made about the significance of his work. Both will give one of the festival’s Screen Talks.
JAMES_WHITE_Christopher_AbbottJAMES WHITE
(Josh Mond)


The latest member of the US independent Borderline collective, of ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene” fame, earned unanimous raves at Sundance with this dramatic and very personal story of would-be-writer in the midst of a life crisis.
BLACK_GIRL_looking_upBLACK GIRL
(Ousmane Sembène)

Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation carries on its superb preservation work by restoring one of the key auteurs of African cinema’s 1966 debut feature. Looking at the consequences of colonialism through the story of a Senegalese maid and the family who employs her.
020414SH_14522.nef SUFRAGETTE
(Sarah Gavron)

In a year when a multitude of voices are rising against genre inequalities, the Opening Gala, based on the story in the late 19th and early 20th century of the female movement for the right to vote, cannot be more appropiate. Tipped as a potential awards player, Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep star.
TAXI_TEHERAN_still_man_walkingTAXI TEHRAN
(Jafar Panahi)

The Iranian auteur bravely and wittily keeps on circumventing the ban the government imposed against his filmmaking. On his latest, Berlin awarded work; he drives a taxi through the streets of his city, collecting the views of his passengers.
BEASTS_OF_NO_NATION_childBEASTS OF NO NATION
(Cary Fukunaga)

The man behind True Detective acclaimed first season goes back to the big screen with this Netflix produced tale of guerrilla soldiers in an unknown war-torn African Country. Hailed as a shockingly impressive achievement. Idris Elba's performance has been hailed as Oscar worthy.
TRUMBO_bryan_cranston_type_writerTRUMBO
(Jay Roach)

Bryan Cranston jumps into the big movie league after the huge success of Breaking Bad with this biopic of Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood writer blacklisted during the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunt.
THE_CLUB_beardTHE CLUB
(Pablo Larraín)

Grand Jury Prize winner at Berlin, The Chilean auteur follows up his acclaimed comedy, ‘No’, with this harsh drama digging in the open wounds caused by children abuse within the Catholic Church. A perfect fit for the festival's Debate strand.
HR_0393_tiff.tif HIGH-RISE
(Ben Wheatley)

Another of the festival’s most anticipated galas, one of our favourite new British directors presents this adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s satirical novel about the decadence of social values, told through the residents of a luxury tower block.
FORBIDDEN_ROOM_dreamTHE FORBIDDEN ROOM
(Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson)

Canadian artist Guy Maddin will take the IMAX theatre by storm with his epic new visual experience, developed from an interactive project called Seances, trying to capture the spirit of silent films via live happenings recorded in video and altered in innovative ways.
AFERIM_horse_ridersAFERIM!
(Radu Jude)

A Romanian western set against the backdrop of gypsy slavery in the 19th century and shot in striking black and white. Audiences have been honouring its title (Bravo! in Ottoman Turkish) everywhere it has been shown.
DAUGHTER_THE_wedddingTHE DAUGHTER
(Simon Stone)

The theatre director who revisited Ibsen’s tragedy ‘The Wild Duck’ setting it in Today’s Australia, has now adapted the play for the big screen with an all-star cast to rave reviews.
TangerineTANGERINE
(Sean Baker)

Filmed with an Iphone app, this micro-budget innovative comedy set in the world of trans sexual prostitution in LA defies narrative and technical expectations and has been one of the indie successes of the year.
BIGGER_SPLASH_A_cast_shotA BIGGER SPLASH
(Luca Guadagnino)

Tilda Swinton, repeating with the Italian director, leads a cast to die for in this remake of European seventies thriller ‘La Piscine’, where a famous couple’s vacation gets disrupted by unexpected visitors.
SON_OF_SAUL_stareSON OF SAUL
(László Nemes)

Hungarian Holocaust drama won Cannes’ Grand Prix with the fictional tale of a Jewish prisoner working in Auschwitz crematorium who finds a body he believes is his son’s and tries to arrange a furtive burial.
EMBRACE_OF_THE_SERPENT_explorer_and_tribeEMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
(Ciro Guerra)

The devastation of colonialism is again the subject of this unique Colombian feature about the journeys of two scientists in the Amazonian jungle searching for a sacred plant and helped by a shaman who was the last survivor of his people.
073 ARABIAN NIGHTS 1-3
(Miguel Gomes)

Inspired by the tales of “1000 Nights” translated to contemporary, crisis-stricken Portugal, the director of 'Tabu' has crafted a mosaic of multiple stories on a Trilogy that is our most awaited offering of the festival.
ASSASSIN_THE_orangeTHE ASSASSIN
(Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

The veteran Taiwanese master was the toast of Cannes, where he received directing honours, for his venturing into martial arts territory with another showcase of his exquisite visual flair
ROOM_mother_childROOM
(Lenny Abrahamson)

Brie Larson is generating tons of Oscar buzz, with this literary adaptation of Emma Donoghue best-seller about the strong bond between a mother and son living in captivity. One of the favourites for the festival's top prize.
BLACK_MASS_Johnny_Depp_Benedict_CumberbatchBLACK MASS
(Scott Cooper)

The story of Boston’s infamous mobster turned FBI informant Whitey Bulger is being hailed as Johnny Depp’s career saving role, after a series of box office flops. Early reactions confirm it will be one of the season’s big cinematic attractions.
DCIM101GOPRO SHERPA
(Jennifer Peedom)

The documentary selection features the latest by heavyweights such as Wiseman; Sokurov,; Cousins or Amy Berg. But in plein Everest fever, we are most curious about this look at the climbing industry and the problems faced by local guides and porters.
OUR_LITTLE_SISTER_lineOUR LITTLE SISTER
(Hirokazu Koreeda)

A highlight from the Love Strand, our favourite Japanese auteur delivers another of his finely observed slices of family life, this time focused in the relationship between four young female siblings.
THE WITCHTHE WITCH
(Robert Eggers)

One of the contenders for the first feature trophy; praised for its bleakness and singular recreation of the dark atmosphere of the times, this Sundance best director winner will take us back to 17th Century New England, years before Salem’s infamous events.
IMG_0214.CR2THE LOBSTER
(Yorgos Lanthimos)

Expect the unexpected at the Dare Gala, with the latest work by the Greek director who brought us ‘Dogtooth’. His first English language film is set in a dystopian near future when being single has been made illegal.
CEMETERY_OF_SPLENDOUR_still_hospital_bedCEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
(Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

Thai cinema’s golden boy is back with his typical blend of the spiritual and the material on a tale of soldiers falling with a sleeping sickness which works as a metaphor for his country’s state of affairs.
433975 B JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE
(Amy Berg)

In the year of the music documentary, this one looks set to follow the recent success of Amy, Cobain and Nina Simone’s. Hailed for its wealth of unseen footage and depth of research, it sounds like a terrific portrait of the the late 70’s rock icon.
GREEN ROOMGREEN ROOM
(Jeremy Saulnier)

The cult strand will bring us Saulnier's much anticipated follow-up to 'Blue Ruin', in which the US indie filmmaker consolidates himself as a master of thrills with the story of a punk band who witness a murder in the place they are booked for a gig.
SUNSET_SONG_peter_mullan_gunSUNSET SONG
(Terence Davies)

Another long awaited high profile title in this year’s official competition is the return of one of the finest Brit auteurs, adapting a 1932 novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon; an epic war tale set in the Scottish countryside.
KRISHA_smokingKRISHA
(Edward Shults)

Absolute winner of SXSW, where it earned comparisons to John Cassavetes, and fighting for the first feature trophy, this story of a dysfunctional family holiday stars the director’s real life aunt who also conquered the Texan audience.
BROOKLYN_shopBROOKLYN
(John Crowley)

Saoirse Ronan, also giving one of the Screen Talks, looks destined for awards glory with this Nick Hornsby adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel, a tale of Irish emigration with a romantic story at its core.
CAROL_over_shoulderCAROL
(Todd Haynes)

Haynes’ long awaited return was a Cannes favourite, where it got Rooney Mara the best actress gong and Cate Blanchett another pile of raves. Described as an exquisite melodrama about the love between two women defying the strict moral conventions of 1950’s America.
SET DEL FILM "LA GIOVINEZZA" DI PAOLO SORRENTINO..NELLA FOTO MICHAEL CAINE E  HARVEY KEITEL..FOTO DI GIANNI FIORITO YOUTH
(Paolo Sorrentino)

A standout title from the Journey strand, Sorrentino follows up his Foreign Language Oscar winner “The Great Beauty” with Caine and Keitel heading a starry international cast in a bittersweet drama about the friendship between to ageing artists.
PEARL_BUTTON_still_THE PEARL BUTTON
(Patricio Guzmán)

This Chilean documentary maker wowed the world with his astonishingly meditative ‘Nostalgia For The Light’ and the Berlinale’s reaction to his new work indicates he may have matched, if not bettered it, with this new exploration jumping back and forth in history.
VICTORIA_smilingVICTORIA
(Sebastian Schipper)

Drawing comparisons to Birdman for being actually shot in a single take, the frantic narration of a couple of Berlin clubbers, kidnapped and forced to rob a bank is our pick from the Thrill strand.
DHEEPAN_bunk_bedDHEEPAN
(Jacques Audiard)

Surprise winner of the Palm D’Or, the director of A Prophet turns his look at the troubles awaiting immigrants in their destinations, with a tale of ex Tamil Tiger who teams up with a stranger pretending they’re a family as a subtefuge to pass the rigid French controls.
CHEVALIER_better_still
CHEVALIER
(Athina Rachel Tsangari)

The freshest female voice in the new wave of Greek cinema, this former Yorghos Lanthimos collaborator explores the male penchant for competition and rivalry in her third feature, another work in the official competition.
OFFICE_standing_to_attentionOFFICE
(Johnnie To)

Prolific Hong-Kong veteran famous for his violent films gives a surprising career twist with a musical about corporate greed and corruption, adapting a play by her lead star Sylvia Chang. A candidate for most original feature of the event.
surprise filmSURPRISE FILM
Among the few absences we can spot in this year’s programme The Danish Girl or Spotlight would be suitable candidates. Toronto premieres such as Freeheld; I Saw The Light could also fill the gap. The Coens and Tarantino discarded, our ideal choice, though, would be Charlie Kaufman’s ‘Anomalisa.’
MY_GOLDEN_DAYS_coupleMY GOLDEN DAYS
(Arnaud Desplechin)

The Love strand seems particularly strong in this edition with the hit from Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight being another standout. Desplechin looks back in time for an emotive exploration of young love.
STEVE_JOBS_reflectionSTEVE JOBS
(Danny Boyle)

And the Closing Gala is another of the award season’s strongest contenders. Michael Fassbender impersonates the controversial Apple mogul, surrounded by a top cast and boosted by Boyle’s always surprising direction.

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