The 57th edition of the BFI London Film Festival, in association with American Express ®, offers a diverse programme of films and events over twelve days of celebration of international cinema.
The countdown is on for the 57th edition of the BFI London Film Festival, with a full programme of screenings and special events, not to mention the ostentation, the solemnity, the famous faces and, most probably, the umbrellas that traditionally accompany such glamorous events. Of the festival’s main offerings, a few stand out: Stephen Frears’ latest film, “Philomena”, whose protagonist is played by the ever-majestic Dame Judy Dench, and Steve McQueen’s recent “12 Years a Slave”, which has already picked up a prize at the Toronto Festival. In addition, there will be showings of the latest features from the Cohen Brothers and Peter Greengrass, as well as Alfonso Cuarón’s newest film, “Gravity”, which sees Sandra Bullock and George Clooney taking on the roles of astronauts.
The programme includes fifteen film titles with Spanish involvement and of these, one with the potential to bag a few prizes: “Wounded” (“La herida”) by Fernando Franco is in the running for Best New Director or, more officially, The Shuterland Award-First Feature Competition. We’re tingling at the thought of it… Fifteen films means that this year Spain is well represented at the festival, though still light years away from the French (who don’t have protectionist policies for nothing) with more than fifty, the British (there’s a reason they spend all day indoors) with eighty eight, and the Americans (why else would they have invented Hollywood?) who have almost a hundred.
Seven of these fifteen are collaborative productions, in particular with France and Latin American countries. And among them, unsurprisingly, is the magnificent “La Vie d’Adèle-Chapitres 1&2”, or “Blue is the Warmest Colour” as it has been liberally translated for UK release, which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes earlier this year. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, it tells the story of a love affair between two young women, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.
it is evident that Spanish filmmakers are reflecting on the profound social anxiety that Spain is currently experiencing. “The Kids from the Port” (“Los chicos del puerto”) by Alberto Morais, “The Plague” (“La plaga”) by Neus Vallés, “The Wishful Thinkers” (“Los ilusos”) by Jonás Trueba and “Wounded” (“La herida”) by Fernando Franco present an aimless country, very much apart from the stereotypical and somewhat romanticised notions of fiesta, siesta and sangria which many Britons have of Spain.
The themes of crisis, alienation and desperation are a common thread amongst some of the selected films, and it is evident that Spanish filmmakers are reflecting on the profound social anxiety that Spain is currently experiencing. “The Kids from the Port” (“Los chicos del puerto”) by Alberto Morais, “The Plague” (“La plaga”) by Neus Vallés, “The Wishful Thinkers” (“Los ilusos”) by Jonás Trueba and “Wounded” (“La herida”) by Fernando Franco present an aimless country, very much apart from the stereotypical and somewhat romanticised notions of fiesta, siesta and sangria which many Britons have of Spain.
There is also a touch of fear and discomfort, territory in which Spain has certainly produced several works of international renown over the last few years: “Grand Piano”, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack, and the promising “Story of My Own Death” (“Història de la meva mort”), a science fiction tale about the an encounter between Dracula and Casanova, as well as the short film “That Wasn’t Me” (“Aquel no era yo”), directed by Esteban Crespo.
Speaking of short films, this festival offers five little gems – small because of their modest length, not because of any lack of quality. Indeed, the selection of short films in this festival constitutes a fantastic audiovisual education for all viewers who consider it a second-rate format. Evidence to the contrary is provided by “Contagious Rage” (“Cólera”) by Aritz Moreno, which forms part of the renowned catalogue of Kimuak-Filmoteca Vasca, “G/R/E/A/S/E” by Antoni Pinet, which presents the (literal) deconstruction of its protagonists Danny and Sandy, “Mystery” (“Misterio”) by Chema García-Ibarra, which falls into the “Freeks ‘n’ Geeks” category, and “Talking Dog for Sale, €10” (“Se vende perro que habla, €10”) by Luis-Martin Soucy whose title is pretty self-explanatory. And it’s a comedy, at last!
That out of a total fifteen, only one title should be a comedy gives some indication as to the morale of those working in the Spanish film industry. It seems that, if we should ever happen to make it out of the economic crisis, we won’t even have a “Swindler” (“Buscón”) or a “Bienvenido Mr Marshall!” to show for it. Or maybe it’s just that the gentle sirs responsible for selecting this year’s programme don’t get our sense of humour.
Whatever the reason, for all those aficionados of the seventh art, of red carpets, of umbrellas, cagoules and good cinema, the dates for the diary are the 9th to the 20th October. The films are shown at fifteen different cinemas across the city, mostly centred around the West End and Waterloo, but also in Hackney, Brixton and Chelsea, so there’s no excuse for those reluctant to travel far. And, for those who always arrive just after the screening has sold out, I recommend visiting the BFI website, where you can buy your tickets in advance. All the information, prices, photos, dates and times, as well as the festival trailer, can be found at http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff.