Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 9

Today was another busy day in which I spoke to a couple of directors with films showing at the Festival and saw another film in the evening.

A combination of a cold that simply will not go away and a sore neck (I somehow managed to strain it a couple of days ago) has made walking around town and even watching films a little painful. 

But despite all this, it was an interesting day and the two directors were behind two excellent films with intriguing subjects.

In the morning I went up to a members club in Soho where I met up with Mark Hartley, the director of Not Quite Hollywood, a documentary about the wave of Australian exploitation cinema that flourished in the 1970s.

He was a very funny and engaging guy to talk to and made light of the numerous noises that plagued the drawing room we spoke in.

Not only was there the ubiquitous police sirens that routinely plague Soho, but at one point there was a knocking on the walls and door so persistent that I though Jack Nicholson was going to burst in with an axe.

His film is a real gem – a very energetic and engaging documentary that I think will get a great response at the festival and generate good word of mouth.

It features a lot of hilarious footage from some films of the time – some of them which beggar belief – but also makes some interesting points about Aussie culture as well.

At lunch time I went to one of my favourite bars in town to flick through the day’s papers, especially The Times which (as you might expect) was full of W. coverage.

You can listen to the full interview with Mark here.

Cover of The Times

The newspaper is the sponsor of the festival and last night’s premiere was also The Times gala screening (each big premiere at the festival has it’s own sponsor). 

I liked the film although some of the people I have spoken to about it have been decidedly mixed in their reaction.

Part of the problem is that Bush has been in everyone’s face for the last 8 years and I think there is a certain amount of fatigue over the 43rd US president.

That said, it is interesting to note that since the US primaries began in January he has effectively been a ghost figure overshadowed by the extraordinary presidential campaign.

In fact, I wonder if in future Oliver Stone would be tempted to make a film about these primaries as they have been filled with great characters, had a gripping narrative and also revealed much about America as a country.

Maybe the problem the film has had in the US is that it can’t cover the almost unbelievably dramatic real events of the last year, including the current financial meltdown – surely the final nail in the coffin of the Bush era.

Despite all this I thought W. was a brave piece of film-making.

Although it would have been easy to take cheap shots at Bush it explored his life through the lens of the build up to Iraq in a way that was both thoughtful and engaging.

It charted at number four in the US box office last week (it appears more people were interested in seeing a talking dog) but I suspect it will do better in foreign territories.

One of the massive advantages of bar I was in was that it has free and easy wifi, which is surprisingly difficult to find in London.


No horrible BT OpenZone login nonsense or failed connections, just a popup window saying you’re online. Perfect.

This is part of the reason I frequent this place so much and use it as my de facto office in town. Other establishments please note.

I edited and uploaded my Mark Hartley interview on to my laptop before heading off down to a hotel in central London where a lot of the interviews for the festival are taking place.

For some of the bigger films a PR company or the distributor will arrange a press junket where different media outlets go along and chat with the cast and/or director for an allotted period of time.

For some of the smaller films at the festival with a smaller PR budget the filmmakers hook up with journalists a designated spot at the bar of the hotel.

It’s a bit like speed dating as you pick who you want to talk to and then move on to the next table.

In the afternoon though I met up with the director Ari Folman who is the man behind Waltz With Bashir, one of the key gala screenings at this year’s festival.

The film is really quite something, a startling animated documentary dealing with Ari’s own struggle to remember his experiences as an Israeli soldier in Lebanon during September 1982.

He was a very interesting man to speak to, not only because he directed the film but because it is actually about his own experiences.

I asked him a bunch of questions about the style of the film and how he realised them on screen and also about how the film was received in Israel.

Despite the fact that the film deals with some shocking subject matter – culminating in the Sabra and Shatila massacre which saw thousands of Palistinean refugees slaughtered by Lebanese miltitia whilst Israeli troops turned a blind eye – he told me that the reception has been very good.    

The film is really quite unique in that it combines many disparate elements – history, politics, animation, music, interviews and the documentary form – to brilliant effect.

I hope it gets a wider audience than just the arthouse circuit as the timely anti-war themes are  complemented beautifully by the groundbreaking animation.

Later in the evening I went to a screening of The Baader Meinhoff Complex which details the terrorist movement that gripped West Germany in the late 60s and 1970s.

It focuses on the Red Army Faction, the left-wing militant group formed by radicalised children of the Nazi generation, who fought an international terrorist campaign opposing American imperialism and the German establishment throughout the 1970s.

At two and a half hours long it is a farily gruelling story, but given the current political and social turmoil of the present decade it makes for interesting viewing to say the least.

I should be speaking with some of the cast and crew on Monday, so I’ll write more about it then, but it screens at the festival on Sunday and Tuesday.

> Interview: Mark Hartley on Not Quite Hollywood
Ari Folman at the IMDb
The Baader Meinhoff Complex at the LFF site