London Film Festival 2006 – Preview

It might not be as big or as important as Cannes or Toronto but the London Film Festival starts today and I’ll be posting some updates as it goes on.

Some of the films at the festival are likely to be contenders in the upcoming awards season so it is worth keeping an eye out for what’s going on. Plus it is held in the city where I work so it seems only natural to cover it!
There’s a lot of films on but here are a select few that I’m paticularly looking forward to:

  • The Last King of Scotland: Director Kevin McDonald’s feature debut with Forrest Whitaker as 70’s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin
  • The Caiman: Director Nanni Moretti’s satire on Berlusconi’s Italy
  • For Your Consideration: The latest docu-spoof from Christopher Guest and his ensemble
  • Catch a Fire: Drama dealing with Apartheid in 1980s South Africa
  • Little Children: Kate Winslet stars in director Todd Field’s drama set in US surburbia
  • Black Book: Paul Verhoeven makes his first European film in years with this tale of a Jewish woman separated from family during World War II
  • Bug: William Friedkin’s adaptation of Tracey Letts’ off-Broadway play
  • Babel: The latest film from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu which stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gabriel Garcia Bernal.

There are some that I’ve already seen (Breaking and Entering, Stranger Than Fiction and Borat) but I’ll be posting my thoughts on those too as the festival goes on.

If you are in London or fancy visiting to see a film then just click on the official website below which should have all the information you need.

> Official Site for the 2006 London Film Festival

Venice Film Festival winners

The winners of the 63rd Venice Film Festival were:

BEST FILM: Still Life (Directed by Jia Zhang-Ke)

BEST DIRECTOR: Alain Resnais for Private Fears in Public Places 

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: Daratt (Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)

BEST ACTOR: Ben Affleck for Hollywoodland (Directed by Allen Coulter) 

BEST ACTRESS: Helen Mirren for The Queen (Directed by Stephen Frears)

BEST YOUNG ACTOR: Isild Le Besco for L’intouchable (Directed by Benoît Jacquot). 

BEST TECHNICAL CONTRIBUTION: Emmanuel Lubezki (Director of Photography for Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuarón)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Peter Morgan for The Queen (Directed by Stephen Frears)

SPECIAL LION: Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet for innovation in the language of cinema

Still Life is obviously the big surprise here and a report from Reuters said that it left critics perplexed:

The jury at the Venice Film Festival left critics and journalists perplexed and in some cases vexed when it awarded top prize to China’s “Still Life.” Jia Zhang-Ke’s picture, about two people searching for their partners as villages and towns are submerged by the giant Three Gorges Dam project in China, was introduced as a surprise entry at a point when the main competition was already nearly over. 

Many journalists at the 11-day movie marathon had not seen the film when the prizes were announced, and after a screening of the Golden Lion winner following the awards ceremony late on Saturday the response of the packed theater was muted. “This verdict leaves people perplexed (and with Rome looming),” said the headline in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, suggesting the jury had damaged Venice’s reputation at a time when Rome is launching a rival festival. 

The article by Tullio Kezich goes on to question several decisions of a jury headed by French actress Catherine Deneuve. “Apart from the award for Helen Mirren … there is not much to agree on in the list of prizes,” he wrote. Mirren won the best actress award for her portrayal of the British monarch in Stephen Frears’ “The Queen,” one of the few popular decisions alongside French veteran Alain Resnais’ best director award for “Private Fears in Public Places.”

Eyebrows were raised over the choice of Ben Affleck as best actor for his role in “Hollywoodland,” a performance that barely registered in pre-award speculation.La Stampa newspaper stressed the political message of “Still Life,” saying a Chinese film “against China” had won.

The big winner overall has to be The Queen, which has now looks like a clear front-runner for BAFTA and Oscar glory.

> Official Site for the 63rd Venice Film Festival
> BBC News on Helen Mirren’s win
> Richard Corliss of Time with a piece on the Venice Film Festival