Festivals News

London Film Festival Lineup

London Film FestivalThe full lineup for the 51st London Film Festival was announced today.

Here is the official press release:

The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival’s full programme, announced today by Artistic Director Sandra Hebron, includes 184 features and 133 shorts as well as a host of screen talks, masterclasses and live events.

Opening the Festival on Thursday 17 October is the UK premiere of David Cronenberg’s EASTERN PROMISES with Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, whilst Wes Anderson closes the Festival on November 1 with the UK premiere of THE DARJEELING LIMITED, starring Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody.

Hosting 7 World, 29 European and 128 UK premieres, the Festival welcomes both familiar faces and newcomers, showcasing established and emerging talent throughout the 16 day cinematic celebration. The programme includes the latest work from Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion winner Ang Lee (LUST, CAUTION), Alexander Sokurov (ALEXANDRA), Abdellatif Kechiche (THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN), Jan Svĕrák (EMPTIES), François Ozon (ANGEL), Sean Penn (INTO THE WILD), Ermanno Olmi (ONE HUNDRED NAILS), Michael Haneke (FUNNY GAMES), Adoor Gopalakrishnan (FOUR WOMEN), Takeshi Kitano (GLORY TO THE FILMMAKER!), Andrew Dominik (THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD), Todd Haynes (I’M NOT THERE) and Nobuhiro Yamashita (THE MATSUGANE POTSHOT AFFAIR).  Audiences will also discover debut feature directors including: Céline Sciamma (WATER LILIES), Rodrigo Plá (LA ZONA), Shivajee Chandrabhushan (FROZEN) and Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud (PERSEPOLIS).

British filmmaking talent is strongly represented by Penny Woolcock (EXODUS), Garth Jennings (SON OF RAMBOW: A HOME MOVIE), Nick Broomfield (BATTLE FOR HADITHA), Asif Kapadia (FAR NORTH),  Richard Attenborough (CLOSING THE RING) as well as by newcomers Simon Welsford (JETSAM) and Joanna Hogg (UNRELATED),  and a selection of documentaries and shorts.

Cinema-goers will also be transported around the globe with films from 43 countries including Israel, Lebanon, China and Korea, and with a special event ROMANIAN CINEMA: THE NEXT NEW WAVE?, exemplified by Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or winner 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS and Cristian Nemescu’s CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ (ENDLESS).  Spain’s Iciar Bollain directs MATAHARIS while Hungary’s ISKA’S JOURNEY is directed by Csaba Bollók and Austrian IMPORT EXPORT comes from Ulrich Seidl. Argentinian double-bill: COPACABANA by Martín Rejtman with STARS by directing duo Federico León & Marcos Martínez, sits alongside a strong Japanese presence including Masayuki Suo’s I JUST DIDN’T DO IT and Cannes Grand Prix winner THE MOURNING FOREST by Naomi Kawase while Jia Zhangke’s WU YONG (USELESS) hails from China.

The French Revolutions strand offers 14 of the country’s latest exports including Samuel Benchetrit’s I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A GANGSTER and CAPTAIN AHAB from Philippe Ramos, and French co-productions with Israel and Lebanon respectively bring Eran Kolirin’s THE BAND’S VISIT and Nadine Labaki’s CARAMEL. A brilliantly eclectic slate from the US includes Terry George’s RESERVATION ROAD, Kevin Lima’s ENCHANTED, SHOTGUN STORIES from Jeff Nichols and Kasi Lemmons’ TALK TO ME.

Documentary fans have a wealth of choice including Kim Longinotto’s HOLD ME TIGHT LET ME GO, Nicolas Philibert’s BACK TO NORMANDY, Helena Trestikova’s MARCELA from the Czech Republic, ZOO by Robinson Devor, WE WANT ROSES TOO by Alina Marazzi and Israeli Nadav Schirman’s THE CHAMPAGNE SPY. Marc Evans directs IN PRISON MY WHOLE LIFE and DOES YOUR SOUL HAVE A COLD? comes from Mike Mills.

Celebrating restorations from archives around the world, Treasures from the Archives showcases features and shorts including: the magnificent ENAMORADA, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and extraordinary, neglected classic KILLER OF SHEEP. The big screen will also come to Trafalgar Square for two nights, ablaze with archive films that celebrate London as one of the world’s great cinematic cities, including Alfred Hitchcock’s BLACKMAIL. 

Taking to the stage to discuss their careers and work will be Wes Anderson, Laura Linney, Steve Buscemi, Harmony Korine, Robert Rodriguez and Paul Greengrass, while David Lynch and Donovan will be ‘Catching the Big Fish’ together. Other expected guests include David Cronenberg, Naomi Watts, Cristian Mungiu, Sienna Miller, Andrew Dominik, Tang Wei, Ang Lee, Jason Schwartzman, Julian Schnabel, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Jan Svĕrák, Michael Moore, Asif Kapadia, Halle Berry, Susanne Bier, Sean Penn, Michael Pitt, Todd Haynes, Casey Affleck, Tamara Jenkins, Carlos Reygadas, Esther Robinson, Amy Adams, James Marsden, Jason Reitman and Kevin Lima.

Commenting on the Festival line-up, Sandra Hebron said: “In a very strong year for world cinema, we are delighted to be able to present such a wide ranging and high quality programme of films and special events, in which work by internationally renowned directors sits comfortably alongside that from many exciting new talents.  We look forward to welcoming filmmakers, audiences and press and industry delegates alike to our two week celebration of the best, most creative and original films of the year.”

Robert Thomson, Editor, The Times, added: “The list of works gathered for The Times BFI London Film Festival is a tribute to the organisers and an indication that the country’s lovers of film will be very busy in late October and early November. There will be the famous and the infamous, the stars and the hangers-on, but there will also be many a film whose intrinsic worth will broaden the mind and bring a smile to the face.”

The gala screenings shown in Leicester Square often get the most attention during the festival and here is more information on those films:

LIONS FOR LAMBS (The Times Gala)
Director and actor Robert Redford helms this complex contemporary thriller, scripted by Matthew Michael Carnahan, exploring the consequences of war. With a cast including Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, three stories are increasingly entwined across Afghanistan, California and Washington DC, revealing their profound impact on each other and the world at large.

LUST, CAUTION (The Mayor of London Gala)   
Venice Golden Lion winning director Ang Lee, returns to his roots with this espionage thriller set amidst a fascinating and troubled period in 1940’s China. Bringing together cinema icon Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and dazzling newcomer Tang Wei with the ever excellent Joan Chen, the film is based on a short story by celebrated Chinese author Eileen Chang. Lee captures the nuances of suppressed passion amidst everyday subterfuge, with emotionally devastating results.

I’M NOT THERE (Centrepiece Gala)
Six actors portray Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes’ unconventional journey into the life and times of the man, weaving together a rich, multi-layered portrait of this ever-elusive icon. Performances by Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw are set against music from the man himself, as well as cover versions from a wealth of musicians including Cat Power, Tom Verlaine and Sonic Youth.

JUNO (Film on the Square Gala)
Jason Reitman’s second feature follows a bright teenager with a fine line in sardonic wit, who has the misfortune to find herself pregnant after having sex for the first and only time. With a screenplay from ‘Pussy Ranch’ blogger Diablo Cody, titular Juno MacGuff is the ultimate cool-if-slightly-weird chick role model, deftly performed by Ellen Page, in a film with a whip smart surface and heartwarming depth.

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (American Airlines Gala)
In her first English language project, Susanne Bier directs a film which builds a genuine sense of loss and redemption. Halle Berry shines in the challenging role of Audrey Burke, a woman who has it all until her husband, played by David Duchovny, is killed in a random incident. Hoping to turn her life around, she turns to her husband’s childhood best friend and long-term addict, Jerry. With an extraordinary performance by Benicio Del Toro, Bier explores how lives are transformed by dramatic events and the feelings that emerge in the aftermath. 

INTO THE WILD (Kyoto Planet Gala)
Adapted and directed by Sean Penn from Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book, the film follows the true life story of 22-year-old Christopher McCandles, who walked out of his privileged life in search of adventure. On a journey across America to Alaska, he became an enduring symbol for people in search of truth and happiness.  American auteur cinema at its best, Penn combines artistry with an outstanding performance from Emile Hirsch and flawless support from a cast including Catherine Keener, William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden.

Australian director Andrew Dominik bases his haunting, poetic western on Ron Hansen’s novel. Venice award winner Brad Pitt has rarely been better than as the ‘gentleman outlaw’ who became an American icon, in a film that delights in questioning the myth and confounding expectations. Casey Affleck creates a complex Ford, youthful and naïve but with hidden depths of his own.

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Time Out Special Screening)       
Director Julian Schnabel’s interpretation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir and international bestseller excels at bringing the author’s interior monologue to the screen. Having suffered a massive stroke leading to ‘locked-in-syndrome’ at the age of 43, Bauby is depicted subtly and intelligently by Mathieu Amalaric, showing him as a flawed man, but droll and irreverent too.

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS (Sight & Sound Special Screening)
Cristian Mungiu’s superb arthouse nail-biter, an odyssey of desperation set in 1980’s Romania, won him the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Taking place during one night, Gabita has organised an illegal abortion for herself. However when she relies on her friend, Otila, to sort things out, the other woman has to pay her own price to make sure it happens. Anamaria Marinca delivers a piercing performance as Otila in this excruciatingly tense drama.

SICKO (Documentary Gala)
Filmmaker Michael Moore returns with his funniest and most moving film to date, examining the very unfunny fact that the USA is the only developed nation which lacks a universal health care system. Making comparisons with health services in England (one interviewee is Tony Benn), France, Canada and Cuba, he points out the irony that Guantanamo Bay detainees receive better medical care than 9/11 volunteers. There is no denying the acuteness and scale of the problem Moore identifies, and the skill with which he attacks it.

SILENT LIGHT (World Cinema Gala)
Carlos Reygadas directs this contemplative study of morality and spiritual crisis set in a Menonite community in the outskirts of Chihuahua, Mexico. Johan, a husband and father, breaks the rules of his community by falling in love and having an affair, and his inner turmoil is played out against the everyday habits and rituals which punctuate the day. Reygadas’ control and mastery of image and sound leave no doubt that we are watching cinema at its most carefully and artfully constructed.

BEE MOVIE (Family Gala)
Dreamworks bring Jerry Seinfeld’s first film script to the big screen, in this smart family 3-D animation with a sting in its tale. Seinfeld also lends his voice to Barry B Benson, your average ‘bee next door’ who becomes infatuated with New York florist Vanessa, voiced by Renée Zellweger. The smalltown bee becomes a celebrity in his own world in a film with plenty for both adults and children to enjoy.

The festival runs from October 17– November 1.

Tickets can be booked online at  or by telephone on: 020 7928 3232 from Saturday 29 September.

> The London Film Festival at Wikipedia
> Check out the films we liked from last year’s festvial

By Ambrose Heron

Editor of FILMdetail