Interviews London Film Festival Podcast

Interview: Mark Hartley on Not Quite Hollywood

Not Quite Hollywood is a new documentary exploring the world of Australian exploitation cinema that began in the early 1970s.

Directed by Mark Hartley it shows how a new generation of maverick filmmakers capitalised on the relaxing of censorship laws to create wilder films on smaller budgets.

Whilst more refined directors like Peter Weir achieved worldwide acclaim with films like Picnic At Hanging Rock, more maverick directors and actors created a crazier breed of exploitation movie.

This is the trailer:

Many of the titles were sloppily made, politically incorrect and outraged critcs but some also made money in their home country and abroad.

One of the pleasing aspects of the documentary is Hartley’s irreverent approach, which allied to a huge amount of clips and interviews with the likes of George MillerQuentin TarantinoBarry Humphries and many others, makes for a thoroughly entertaining examination of Australian film culture.

I spoke with Mark recently about the film which is screening at the London Film Festvial this week.

You can listen to the interview here:


You can also download it as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Not Quite Hollywood screens at the London Film Festival on Saturday 24th and Tuesday 28th before getting a UK release in March.

Download this interview as an MP3 file
Mark Hartley at the IMDb
> Official website for the film
Buy tickets for the film at the LFF website

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

London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 8

 W. press screening

Today was the day of the European premiere of W., the new Oliver Stone film about President George W. Bush.

It screened as the Times Gala at the Odeon Leicester Square, The (London) Times of course being the sponsor of the London film festival.

I went to the press show in the morning and although I had some doubts going in, must confess I really rather liked it.

I’ll post a longer review in a separate post, but one of the most interesting aspects was the reaction of other people who saw it too. 

One person I spoke to afterwards said they were upset Stone didn’t ‘nail Bush’ (quite an image that) and another expressed his surprise that he didn’t know what Stone thought of Bush (?!). 

I suspect it will be a film divides viewers, but not necessarily along the lines one might suspect. 

Added to all this, I had the surreal experience of David Frost sitting right near me just a few minutes before the film started.

In the same cinema just over a week ago I saw a film about him and President Nixon and now I was sitting near him before a film about President Bush.

W. kicked off what was a really busy day in which I also saw Che, The Class and The Wrestler

So by the end of it all I was really, really tired.

> W. at the IMDb
> Reviews of W. at Metacritic
> Find out more about George W. Bush at Wikipedia

Cinema Festivals Interviews London Film Festival

Interview: Toa Fraser on Dean Spanley

Dean Spanley is a new film based on the novella by Irish author Lord Dunsany.

Set in the Edwardian era it is the story of a father (Peter O’Toole) and son (Jeremy Northam) who attend a lecture by a visiting Hindu Swami (Art Malik).

There they encounter Dean Spanley (Sam Neill), with whom, after a series of chance encounters, Henslowe strikes up an unlikley friendship.

It screened at the London Film Festival last Friday and I spoke to the director Toa Fraser earlier that afternoon.

You can listen to the interview here:


You can also download it as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Dean Spanley is out at UK cinemas on December 12th 2008

Download this interview as an MP3 file
Dean Spanley at the IMDb
> Toa Fraser at the IMDb
> Rotten Tomatoes UK visit the set

Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 7

LFF Delegate Centre

Today was one of those days when you realise you can’t be everywhere at once. 

With so many films on, you have to choose between making a screening, doing an interview or just catching up with stuff.

So instead of going the press show of Michael Winterbottom‘s new film Genova, I spoke with actor Liam Cunningham about Hunger, the new drama about Bobby Sands and the IRA hunger stike of 1981.

Directed by Turner prize-winning artist Steve McQueen it is one of the highlights of this festival and the most arresting debut I’ve seen in a long time.

Liam plays Father Moran, the priest who tries to talk Sands (Michael Fassbender) out of his hunger strikeand although he only appears in one scene, it is an extraordinary 17 minute sequence all done in once take.

We spoke about how they filmed this and other aspects of the movie such as its recent premiere in Belfast. 

Apparently it holds the world record for the longest single take for a single scene (although I’m not sure how this compares to Russian Ark in which the whole film was one take).

I’ll put the interview up next week when the film gets it’s UK release. Although a tough film to watch, it contains some of the most accomplished film-making you’re likely to see this year.

In the afternoon I headed over to the Delegate Centre at the BFI Southbank, which is where accredited journalists, filmmakers and industry folk go to catch up on things.

Aside from catching up on the latest issues of Variety and Screen International you can meet other people there and even watch a selected list of the films showing at the festival on DVD.

Just a reminder, if you are at the festival or are interested in any of the films or events going on, then drop me an email and I can write a post about it.

> Previous posts about Hunger
> Liam Cunningham at the IMDb
> Article in The Times about the 17 minute sequence in Hunger
> BFI Southbank

Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 6

This morning I went to the press screening of Waltz With Bashir which is showing at the Centrepiece Gala on Friday.

It deals with the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre and the memory of the Israeli soldiers involved in the invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s. 

Directed by Ari Folman, it examines his own experiences on that mission and the struggle to remember what happened when he interviews various army colleagues from the time.

The strange title is taken from a scene with one of Folman’s interviewees, who remembers taking a machine gun and dancing an ‘insane waltz’ amid enemy fire, with posters of Bashir Gemayel lining the walls behind him.

Gemayel was the Lebanese president who whose assassination helped trigger the massacre.  

The most unusual and startling aspect of the film is that it is animated, an unconventional approach for what is essentially a documentary.

Although very different in theme and tone to Creature Comforts it appears to adopt the same device in which real conversations are animated and stylised. 

A hugely ambitious film, it took four years to complete and is and international co-production between IsraelGermany and France.

Back in May it premiered to huge acclaim at Cannes and was one of the front runners to win the Palme d’Or

Much of that praise is richly deserved because this is an arresting and highly original film.

It deserves particular credit for taking a highly politicised and contentious event and yet somehow makes a wider point about the futility of war whose relevance is not just confined to the cauldron of the Middle East.

Another aspect which makes this story so intrguing is that the Israeli troops were not guilty of the massacre itself but of standing by and letting Lebanese miltia murder Palestinian refugees. 

It is the memory of, or rather the inability to remember, this event that lies at the core of the story. Has Folman unconsciously blocked out the memory? Does guilt cloud any rational perspective? 

The raw power of the source material is enhanced by some extraordinary imagery, with a remarkable and inventive use of colour for certain sections, especially those involving the sea.

Added to this is Folman’s narration which has an almost hypnotic effect when set alongside the visuals, almost as if the audience is experiencing a dream whilst watching the film itself. 

The film won 6 Israeli Film Academy awards (including Best Picture) and looks likely to be a strong contender for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

It might seem like a strange film to make about such a serious subject but it’s surreal approach only makes the horrors of war seem all too real. 

This is the trailer:


Waltz With Bashir screens at the festival on Friday and opens in the UK on Friday 21st November

> Official site
> Waltz With Bashir at the IMDb
> Reviews of the film from Cannes back in May

Cinema Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 5

Today there was a Time Out gala screening of Hunger which is one of the highlights of this year’s London Film Festival. 

It is the debut feature film of artist Steve McQueen and explores the 1981 IRA hunger strike, one of the key episodes of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

This involved a group of IRA prisoners in the Maze led by Bobby Sands go on a protracted hunger strike in order to pressurize the British government to recognise them as political prisoners.

What is interesting is the way the film explores the hellish physical and mental toll this took on the prisoners and guards at the Maze prison.

I didn’t feel I was being lectured to about the wider politics of the Troubles, but rather being forced to confront the sharp end of the conflict as well as the lengths humans will go to in extreme situations.

There are some remarkable performances: Michael Fassbender as the stubborn and  obsessive Sands, Liam Cunningham as the priest who questions the strike and Stuart Graham as a prison guard are just some of the excellent performers who don’t sound a single false note.

Although when it screened at Cannes earlier this year, there were the usual dumb headlines about a ‘controversial’ film about the IRA, but you shouldn’t be put off by the historical context.

Although the modern history of Northern Ireland has inspired some woefully misguided films (A Prayer for the Dying and The Devil’s Own spring to mind), what’s interesting is that McQueen manages to takes inside the insane brutality of the conflict by focusing on the particular situation and environment inside the Maze.

Some sequences are tough to watch: the prison guards getting rough with inmates, the prisoners smearing their walls with excrement or two people simply debating the reasons for the hunger strike, but all are handled with an incredible amount of finesse and skill.

One scene in particular is stomach turning, but somehow all the more effective for showing the depths to which some sank during this period. 

It is not a partisan film, although it is fair to say that the focus is more on Sands, particularly the coda of the film which I think some have misread.

Within the confines of the prison – and some sequences outside – the chilling atmosphere of the time is brilliantly evoked through some superb widescreen lensing by Sean Bobbit.

The sound too is well crafted, with little in the way of a conventional score and a lot of effects coming from the prisoners themselves, particularly the banging from inside the cells which at certain points is overwhelming.

Despite the potential pitfalls that surround any film about The Troubles, this is an audacious work more in the tradition of Alan Clarke’s Elephant or Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday – boldly intelligent examinations of a dark and complex conflict.  

I wrote about Hunger in greater detail after I saw it last month and since then I have heard McQueen express his sense of being an outsider coming into the British film industry from the art world.

On The Guardian’s Film Weekly podcast recently he told Jason Solomons:

I just wish there was more …passion with the film world here. 

Maybe people are too inhibited.

Maybe because I’m an outsider who came inside and I see how the house is operating and I think ‘bloody hell’.  

On the evidence of this film we need more passionate outsiders like Steve McQueen, because this is a stunning piece of work that deserves as wide an audience as possible.

Check out the trailer here:


Hunger opens in UK cinemas on October 31st

> Hunger at the LFF
> Official UK site for Hunger
> Steve McQueen at the IMDb

Cinema London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 4

Today the London Film Festival saw a gala screening of Religulous, a documentary featuring US comedian Bill Maher that explores the issue of religious faith.

Directed by Larry Charles (who also directed Borat) it is a riotous and frequently hilarious examination of why human beings believe in stories which cannot be proven, ideas that are often cruel and organisations that are usually corrupt.

The end result is a cross between Michael Moore, Borat and Maher’s own HBO show Real Time in that it is a guerilla documentary that poses smart and often humourous questions at why people believe what they believe.

Using the major faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as the foundation of the film, it also visits numerous religious destinations such as Jerusalem, the Vatican and Salt Lake City, interviewing various people connected to them.

I suspect that the reaction to this film will largely depend on whether you are religious or not.

For those who believe in God it will be a blasphemous blast of outrage whilst for those who don’t it will come as a welcome assertion of doubt.

What’s interesting about the film is that although it points out some of the more ludicrous aspects of religious faith (i.e. the talking snake, a guy trapped inside a whale, death sentences for novelists, magic underwear) it is all undercut by a solid base of intelligence.

Maher has clearly done his homework on the various faiths under the microscope and whilst he doesn’t shy away from joking about them, he also poses some serious questions about the nature of belief and it’s effect on the human race.

As Maher has said about the film, the approach isn’t just to knock religious faith but to examine why and how religion has come to affect human beings:

I’m not trying to mandate that people think anything in particular. I’m just suggesting there’s a different way to think. That’s just free speech.

But when it comes to religion, free speech has been off-limits for many years. 

This film is certainly a counterblast to the notion that religion shouldn’t be discussed openly.

But aside from the subject matter, there are many interesting aspects to the film including three that really stood out for me.

The first involves the theological discussions – many of which descend into unintentional hilarity – such as a conversation with a ‘fake’ Jesus at a religious theme park(!) who Maher informs that the resurrection story is a myth that actually predates Christianity.

The second is the clever editing and use of subtitles which contradict their subjects by voicing concerns or offering points the interviewees forgot to mention. 

(One example is the insertion of doubts expressed by the Americans who drafted the US Constitution, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams when someone suggests America is a ‘Christian’ nation.) 

The third is the rough and ready camera style which doesn’t shy away from showing the barebones crew hovering around Maher or the numerous B-roll shots which explain how they filmed where they did and the difficultirs involved.

In some ways this approach mirrors Borat and I’m sure some of the same tactics and inventive legal releases were used in order to get people to speak.

I am almost willing to guarentee that a lot of UK critics (like some of their US counterparts) will be snooty about this film, adopting a Pontius Pilate stance, saying that whilst they agree with Maher’s thrust, they disapprove of his smugness and unfair ‘attack’ on religion.

In some ways this misses the point of the film – it is meant to defalte the pomposity of religion and make us laugh at the numerous absurdities it has spawned.

The target audience here is not people of faith, but rather the agnostic and atheistic. In a sense it highlights the nonsense of religion in order to advocate the sense openly criticising those you disagree with.

Whilst many defenders of faith will say they are under attack from ‘smug atheists’ in the ‘liberal media’, surely the events of this decade have shown has dangerous religion can be in the hands of important global figures.

In a world where the current US president has stated that God shapes his foreign policy, religious fanatics encourage acolytes to fly planes into buildings and people are convinced that the Bible is actual fact, this film that shows us doubts worth believing in.   

Religulous is scheduled to open at UK cinemas in December

> Religulous at the IMDb 
> Find out more about Bill Maher and Larry Charles at Wikipedia  
> Reviews for Religulous at Metacritic

Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 3

BFI Southbank and IMAX

One of the nice things about the London Film Festival is that a lot of filmmakers are in town and today I spoke to Toa Fraser, who is the director of Dean Spanley, which screened tonight at the Odeon West End.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century and based on the novel by Baron Dunsany, it deals with a misanthropic old man (Peter O’Toole) who unexpectedly re-lives happy and painful memories thanks to the revels of a drunken curate (Sam Neill).

I’ll put the interview with Toa up on the site in the next 48 hours.

In the evening I saw the new Bond film Quantum of Solace, which aside from being one of the biggest films of the year is also having it’s first public showing as part of the festival on Wednesday 29th.

It might seem strange for such a commercial film to be part of a festival that showcases a diverse selection of films but from the organisers point of view it is a bit of a no-brainer.

Not only will the spotlight on a Bond world premiere help illuminate other parts of the festival, but the fact that 007 (like Harry Potter) is one of the few British cinema icons that connect to audiences on a global level.

The head of Sony Pictures UK (who are distributing the movie here) said before the film began that it was the first time anyone had seen it, so anticipation was high.

In many ways it delivered the goods with Daniel Craig’s more serious Bond working as well as it did in Casino Royale.

Although it looks good and will no doubt do great business at the box office, I do having a nagging doubt as to whether Marc Forster was the right director for this kind of material.

What’s odd about the film is that there seems to be more action than usual (even for a Bond film) but it’s a bit rushed and a lot of the set pieces lack the finesse and ingenuity of more contemporary rivals like The Bourne Ultimatum or The Dark Knight.

It is the character based sequences that actually work better, with the relationships between Bond, M (Judi Dench), Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and Camille (Olga Kurylenko) portrayed with the kind of wit and subtley that might surprise some audiences.

Another aspect to the film that might attract some column inches is the rather dark – if entirely plausible – view of the United States as a cynical and amoral superpower. Even the British don’t escape unscathed with one scene appearing to hint at the Blairite acquiescence to the Bush administration in the war on terror.

For more thoughts on the film check out my post here.

Quantum of Solace screens at the festival next week before opening everywhere on October 31st.

Dean Spanley opens in the UK on December 12th

> Quantum of Solace and Dean Spanley at the LFF site
> My first thoughts on Quatum of Solace
> Toa Fraser at the IMDb

London Film Festival

LFF 2008: Day 1

Crane outside the Odeon Leicester Square

The 52nd London Film Festival opened tonight with the world premiere of Frost/Nixon at the Odeon Leicester Square.  

I went to the press screening this morning and I was very impressed – not only were the central performances of the same calibre as the stage play, but it is fascinating look at two very interesting characters. 

Although Peter Bradshaw gave it the thumbs down in The Guardian today, I felt Ron Howard did an admirable job at preserving the qualities of the source material.

It might not be the heavyweight Oscar front-runner some were expecting, it is still high quality film-making with a raft of excellent performances. 

The audience reaction this morning seemed positive – some of Nixon’s best lines got hearty laughs – but I’m curious as to how it will do.

A friend of mine went to a press screening last night and said that although he liked it, that audience was a little more muted in their response.

Some of the problems it will face are the absence of major stars, it is quite ‘talky’ and the fact that a younger generation might not care that much about Richard Nixon or David Frost.

But, as a big fan of the play, I was surprised at how much Howard didn’t alter and that he kept it rooted firmly in the contrasts of the two main characters, which is the main reason the material works. 

You can read my full review of Frost/Nixon in a separate post, but I think it’s also worth setting the scene a little bit about the festival and what’s going on over the next 3 weeks.

First of all the London Film Festival is sort of ‘festival of festivals’, which means that whilst it doesn’t have the importance of Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, Venice or Toronto, it does have the advantage of picking the best films from these festivals and even, in some cases, showcasing films that have not shown at any of them.

It doesn’t perform the same industry function as Cannes or Sundance in that networking and distribution deals are much rarer, but it does provide an opportunity for the public to see some of the year’s best films be they high profile Oscar contenders or more art-house fare. 

This year some of the high profile screenings at the festival include:

As usual there will be a series of talks, panels and strands which include French films, shorts and documentaries.

BFI Southbank entrance

For accredited folk like me  there have been regular screenings down at the BFI Southbank for the past couple of weeks and I’ve already seen some films I’ve really liked, such as Religulous, Sugar and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist

But more about them when they actually screen at the festival. 

Last year I did a series of podcasts from the festival, where I discussed various films and events but that proved to be harder work than I imagined.

It involved recording, editing and uploading a lot of audio and I wasn’t really sure at the end of it all if that was the best way of reflecting what was going on. This year I’m going to try and be a bit more flexible.

For example, I want to cast the net a bit wider with my interviews.

I’ll be speaking to some of the actors and directors behind some of the more high profile films but I’m also keen to hear from anyone else at the festival – maybe you have a short film there, are going a talk or just attending a screening. 

I’ll put up a post each day about what’s happening from my angle which  will usually involve the films I’m seeing and generally anything of interest, such as photos, links and news. 

But if you have any suggestions feel free to contact me – you can use the contact form on this site or email me via [email protected]

You can also reach me via FacebookLinkedInMySpace and Twitter.

The Times report on this year’s lineup
Official LFF website
Check out our reports from last year

Festivals London Film Festival News

London Film Festival 2008: Lineup Announced

The full lineup for the 52nd London Film Festival has been announced.

Amongst the highlights are Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, W., Quantum of Solace, The Class, Che (in two parts), Waltz With Bashir and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.


Frost/Nixon (Opening Film): Ron Howard directs this adaptation of Peter Morgan’s play about the interviews David Frost (Michael Sheen) conducted with the disgraced Richard Nixon in 1977. Morgan adapted his own play and this could well be a heavyweight awards contender if it is anything like the highly acclaimed play.

W. (The Times Gala): Oliver Stone’s political biopic of George W. Bush which sees Josh Brolin play the outgoing US president. A highly impressive supporting cast includes Elisabeth Banks, Thandie Newton, Scott Glenn, Richard Dreyfuss, Toby Jones and James Cromwell as the film charts his extraordinary road from the black sheep of the Bush dynasty to the US presidency.

Genova (The Mayor of London Gala): Director Michael Winterbottom’s latest film is about a man (Colin Firth) who relocates to Italy with his two young daughters (Willa Holland and Perla Haney-Jardine) as he comes to terms with a family tragedy.

Waltz With Bashir (Centrepiece Gala): One of the most acclaimed films at Cannes earlier this year was this anti-war documentary. Director Ari Folman which uses animation to explore his own experiences in the Israeli Army during the first Lebanon War. Realising the limits of his own memory, he tracks down and interviews old friends and comrades in a politically charged study of innocence, memory and war.

Quantum of Solace (Film on the Square Gala): The 22nd James Bond film (which easily makes it the longest running franchise in film history) is directed by Marc Forster and sees Daniel Craig return as the legendary secret agent.  This film picks up the storyline just one hour after the end of Casino Royale, making this the first direct Bond sequel, as 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal.

The Other Man (Hewlett-Packard Gala): The latest film from award-winning theatre and film director Richard Eyre is about a husband (Liam Neeson) who suspects that his loving wife of 20 years (Laura Linney) may be cheating on him. Antonio Banderas and Romola Garai star in supporting roles

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Sky Gala): Woody Allen’s latest sees him relocate to Catalonia with this tale of two US students Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) both fall for the charms of Latin seducer Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Things are further complicated when his tempestuous ex-wife (Penelope Cruz) re-enters the scene.

The Brothers Bloom (American Airlines Gala): Writer-director Rian Johnson (who made the startling debut Brick in 2006) has assembled an impressive cast for a comedic twist on the heist movie. Brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) are expert swindlers still searching for the perfect con, who lure an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz) into their elaborate scheme.

Easy Virtue (MasterCard Gala): Australian director Stephan Elliott revisits Noel Coward’s social comedy, retaining the 1920s setting, whilst giving it a modern feel. It is about a young aristocrat (Ben Barnes) who impulsively marries a glamorous and sexy American (Jessica Biel), which leads to a culture clash. The ensemble cast also includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth and Kris Marshall.

Che [Part 1 & Part 2] (Tiscali Gala): Stephen Soderbergh’s biopic of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara (Benicio del Toro) is screened in two parts. The first chronicles his rise from doctor to successful revolutionary and the second deals with his attempt to orchestrate the great Latin American revolution.

The Class (Sight & Sound Special Screening): The winn er od the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival is an adaptation of François Bégaudeau’s novel Entre les Murs, which is based on his experiences working in a school in Paris. Bégaudeau himself plays a committed teacher attempting to reach out to his pupils through language and literature.

Hunger (Time Out Special Screening): Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen ventures into film making with this drama about the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike led by Bobby Sands. Michael Fassbender plays Sands, whilst Stuart Graham and Liam Cunningham star in supporting roles.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunger S. Thompson (Documentary Gala): ‘Gonzo’ journalist Hunter S. Thompson is the latest subject for documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, who uses a wealth of archive footage and high-profile interviewees such as Tom Wolfe and Jimmy Carter, to paint a fascinating portrait of the counterculture icon. Johnny Depp (who played Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Laothing in Las Vegas back in 1998) narrates along with extracts from Thompson’s work.

The Secret of Moonacre (Family Gala): Based on the popular children’s novel The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, director Gabor Csupo’s latest offering follows Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue-Richards), an orphan who inherits a book that provides a key to a past world and may answer the riddles of Moonacre Manor. With supporting performances from Ioan Gruffudd and Juliet Stevenson.

Slumdog Millionaire (Closing Night Film): Danny Boyle directs this true life tale of a poor teenager in Mumbai who goes on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in order to find his true love. It has already got rave reviews at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals and looks like an early awards contender.


These are the other notable films from around the world that will be screening in cinemas in Leicester Square during the festival.

24 City (Ershisi Cheng Ji) (Dir. Jia Zhangke / China)
Achilles And The Tortoise (Dir. Takeshi Kitano / Japan)
Adoration (Atom Egoyan / Canada)
American Teen (Dir. Nanette Burstein / USA)
Anvil! The Story Of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi / USA)
The Baader Meinhof Complex (Dir. Uli Edel / Germany)
Ballast (Dir. Lance Hammer / USA)
A Christmas Tale (Dir. Arnaud Desplechin / France)
Dean Spanley (Dir. Toa Fraser / UK, New Zealand)
Il Divo (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino / Italy)
Frozen River (Dir. Courtney Hunt / USA)
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Dir. Kim Jee-Woon / South Korea)
Hamlet 2 (Dir. Andrew Fleming / USA)
Heart Of Fire (Dir. Luigi Falorni / Germany & Austria)
Incendiary (Dir. Sharon Maguire / UK)
Johnny Mad Dog (Dir. Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire / France, Belgium & Liberia)
Lake Tahoe (Dir. Fernando Eimbcke / Mexico)
Let’s Talk About The Rain (Dir. Agnès Jaoui / France)
Lion’s Den (Dir. Pablo Trapero / Argentina)
Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Dir. Peter Sollett / USA)
Of Time And The City (Dir. Terence Davies / UK)
A Perfect Day (Dir. Ferzan Ozpetek / Italy)
Quiet Chaos (Dir. Antonello Grimaldi / Italy)
Rachel Getting Married (Dir. Jonathan Demme / USA)
Religulous (Dir. Larry Charles / USA)
The Secret Life Of Bees (Dir. Gina Prince–Bythewood / USA)
The Silence Of Lorna (Jean – Pierre & Luc Dardenne / Belgium, France & Italy)
Sugar (Dir. Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck / USA)
Surprise Film
Synecdoche New York (Dir. Charlie Kaufman / USA)
Three Blind Mice (Dir. Matthew Newton / Australia)
Three Monkeys (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan / Turkey, France & Italy)
Tokyo! (Dir. Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, Bong Joon–Ho / France, Japan)
Tulpan (Dir. Sergey Dvortsevoy / Russia)
Two Lovers (Dir.  James Gray / USA)
Tyson (Dir. James Toback / USA)
The Warlords (Dir. Peter Chan / China)
Wendy & Lucy (Dir. Kelly Reichardt/ USA)

For a full list of films showing at the festival go to the official LFF website.

> The Times report on this year’s lineup
> Official LFF website
> Check out our reports from last year

Festivals London Film Festival News

Slumdog Millionaire to close the London Film Festival

Slumdog Millionaire will be the closing film at this year’s London Film Festival.

Directed by Danny Boyle, it is the story of a streetkid from Mumbai (Dev Patel) who goes on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

I spoke to Danny last year and he told me a bit about the story, which you can listen to here:



The film recently received a lot of buzz and critical acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival and looks like an early awards season contender.

It will screen this week at the Toronto Film Festival and opens in the US on November 28th.

A UK release is expected for early 2009.

This is a clip from the film:

Here is the official press release:

London – Wednesday 3 September: The Closing Night Gala of The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival will be the European Premiere of Danny Boyle’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is the story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who finds himself  just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’.

Arrested on suspicion of cheating, Jamal tells the police the incredible story of his life on the streets, and of the girl he loved and lost. But what is a kid with no interest in money doing on the show? And how does he know all the answers?

When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the police and sixty million viewers are about to find out … Dev Patel (Skins) stars alongside an all-Indian cast including Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal and Freida Pinto in this uplifting drama set and shot in India.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was adapted for the screen by Oscar®-winning writer Simon Beaufoy (THE FULL MONTY) from the bestselling novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup.

The film was produced by Christian Colson and Executive Producers Tessa Ross and Paul Smith, with cinematography from Boyle’s regular collaborator Anthony Dod Mantle (28 DAYS LATER).

Pathé Distribution will release the Film4 funded film in the UK in early 2009 and Pathé International is handling international sales.

In addition to bringing the Festival’s 16 day celebration of cinema to a close, Danny Boyle will give a career interview as part of the Tiscali Screen Talks series.

Sandra Hebron, the Festival’s Artistic Director comments: ‘We’re thrilled to be closing our Festival with this latest film from one of the UK’s most talented and versatile directors. Pulling together a wealth of talent from two continents to tell this moving and truly contemporary tale, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE will bring this year’s Festival to a vibrant and cheering close.’

On having his film invited to close the London Film Festival, Danny Boyle comments: “I am delighted that the film will receive its European premiere at the London Film Festival. I hope that Londoners will respond to this story about another great megatropolis – Mumbai, “the Maximum City”.’

The full programme for The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival will be announced next Wednesday (10th September).

The London Film Festival runs from 15-30 October 2008

> Official site for the London Film Festival
> Official US site for Slumdog Millionaire at Fox Searchlight
> /Film with more photos from the film
> Listen to our full interview with Danny Boyle from April 2007 about Sunshine

[Photo Credit: Ishika Mohan / TM and © 2008 Fox Searchlight / All rights reserved.]

Interviews London Film Festival Podcast

London Film Festival 2007: Michael Pena and Andrew Garfield on Lions for Lambs

Lions for Lambs had its world premiere last week at the London Film Festival and I recently spoke to two of the actors in the film, Michael Pena and Andrew Garfield.

Michael Pena and Andrew Garfield

It is a political drama dealing with the current war on terror by focusing on three interconnected stories: a Senator (Tom Cruise) briefs a journalist (Meryl Streep) about a new government strategy for Afghanistan conflict; a college professor (Robert Redford) tries to awaken a promising but apathetic student (Andrew Garfield); and two US soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) become stranded on an Afghan mountain.

Directed by Redford, it is the first film under the new United Artists studio which Cruise now runs with Paula Wagner after his departure last year from Paramount.

Listen to the interviews by clicking below:


To download this as a podcast via iTunes just click the image below:

It opens in the UK on Friday 9th November.

> Download these interviews as an MP3 file
> Find out more about Lions for Lambs at the official LFF website
> Lions for Lambs YouTube channel

Festivals London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: The Darjeeling Limited

The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival ended last night with a screening of The Darjeeling Limited.

Poster of The Darjeeling Limited in Leicester Square on closing night

It is the fifth film from director Wes Anderson and stars Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody as three estranged brothers who go on a train journey through India.

Listen to our thoughts on the film (and final festival update) by clicking below:


Download this review via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this festival update as an MP3 file
> IMDb entry for The Darjeeling Limited
> Check out the official site for The Darjeeling Limited
> Wes Anderson discusses the film in an interview at IonCinema
> The Rushmore Academy – A Wes Anderson fansite
> Anderson discusses the inspirations for the film at the NY Film Festival

Events London Film Festival Short Films

London Film Festival 2007: TCM Classic Shorts Competition

One of the events at the festival that helps give filmmakers a foot on the industry ladder is the TCM Classic Shorts competition.

TCM Shorts competition at the NFT

Throughout the year short films are submitted and five then get shortlisted for the prestigious prize sponsored by TCM.

Last night I went along to the NFT1 to see the five finalists and they were:

A Bout De Truffe (Directed and produced by Tom Tagholm): A highly amusing and inventive comedy done in French about a truffle hunter and his pig.

Always Crashing in the Same Car (Directed by Duncan Wellaway and produced by Zoe Ball): A black comedy set over one night about two very influential men who hate each other.

Perfect to Begin (Directed by Richard Lawson and produced by Tina Gharavi): A drama about a couple who go on a holiday that soon descends into a mess.

Cocoon (Directed by Hana Tsutsumi and produced by Daniel Silber): A drama about a young child trapped in an apartment with body of his dead mother and the post man who delivers letters to the building.

Signals (Directed by Anders Habenicht and produced by Joel Burman): A dark tale of a girl attacked and raped in a Swedish park and another girl who finds a mobile near the crime scene.

The Amazing Trousers (Directed by William F Clark and produced by Andy Kemble and Jason Delahunty): A comic tale set in Edwardian England about a pair of red trousers that transform the life of a man who wears them.

All of the films were of a good standard but the three stand outs for me were: A Bout De Truffe, which was highly inventive, well acted and very funny; Signals, which was disturbing but had an innovative narrative twist; and Always Crashing in the Same Car, which was notable for its widescreen lensing and the reuniting of Richard E Grant and Paul McGann for the first time since Withnail and I.

The panel of judges (which included Simon Pegg, Lasse Hallstrom, Kevin MacDonald, Cillian Murphy, Stephen Woolley, Jason Solomons and Wendy Ide) sort of agreed with me as they went for:

1st Prize: A Bout De Truffe
2nd Prize: Always Crashing in the Same Car
3rd Prize: Perfect to Begin

If you want to check out the short films you can view them at the TCM Classic Shorts website.

But if any of the organisers are reading this, how about putting the entries online next year and taking a public vote as well as the one from the selected judges?

UPDATE: Andrew Collins was the MC for the evening and he has written about the event on his blog.

> Watch all the films online at the TCM Shorts website
> Links to short film sites at The Guardian

London Film Festival Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: Paul Greengrass

Director Paul Greengrass was in town tonight to accept The Variety UK Achievement in Film Award at the National Film Theatre as part of the BFI 51st London Film Festival.

Paul Greengrass with his Variety award

He was interviewed on stage by Variety’s Middle East correspondent Ali Jaafar and they discussed his career, from his early days making documentaries at Granada, his acclaimed docudramas like The Murder of Stephen Lawrence and Bloody Sunday, to his more recent mainstream films such as United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Click below to listen to our report on the event:


Download this review via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> See more at the official London Film Festival site
> Find out more about Paul Greengrass at the IMDb

(Photo by Stuart Wilson /Image Net)

Cinema London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: Juno

On today’s festival update we look at Juno, the new comedy from director Jason Reitman who scored a critical and commercial success last year with Thank You For Smoking.

Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby in Juno

Ellen Page plays a teenager (named Juno) who gets pregnant by her boyfriend (Michael Cera) and then decide to give the baby up for adoption to a couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman.

It gets a UK release on February 1st and in the US on December 14th.

Check out what we thought of it by clicking below:


Download this review via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Check out the London Film Festival site
> Find out more about Juno at the IMDb

London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: Into the Wild

Today we take a look at Into the Wild which had a gala screening last night at the festvial.

Sean Penn directing Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild

Directed by Sean Penn it is the true life tale of Christopher McCandless, a young American whose restless wanderings in the early 90s ended up with him living in the wilds of Alaska.

It has already got a lot of favourable reviews in the US and opens on general release in the UK on Friday 9th November.

Listen to our review by clicking below:


Download this review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site
> Visit the official website for Into the Wild
> Find out more about the film at the IMDb

Cinema London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

The Cinema Review: Sicko / Eastern Promises

This week, we take a look at two films which screened as part of the London Film Festival and go on general release this weekend.

Sicko and Eastern Promises

Sicko is the new documentary from Michael Moore and it explores the health care system in the United States.

It follows Moore as he travels the country exploring various horror stories involving health insurance companies and documents his trips to Cuba, England and France where he compares their health care systems to the one back home.

Eastern Promises
is the latest film from director David Cronenberg and is a drama set amongst the dark world of Russian gangsters in contemporary London.

Naomi Watts stars as a midwife who discovers a Russian crime family after a girl dies in her hospital. Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassell and Armin Mueller-Stahl co-star.

Listen to this week’s reviews by clicking below:


Download and subscribe to the review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

> Download this review as an MP3 file
> Get the local showtimes via Google Movies
> Check out other reviews of these films at Metacritic

Interviews London Film Festival Podcast

London Film Festival 2007: Carlos Reygadas on Silent Light

Silent Light is the latest film from Mexican director Carlos Reygadas and explores a love triangle in the Mennonite community in Northern Mexico.

Carlos Reygadas at the LFF Screening of Silent Light

It was presented in a gala screening this week at the Odeon West End and I spoke to Carlos the day after about the film and how it went down with the London audience.

Listen to the interview by clicking below:


To download this as a podcast via iTunes just click the image below:

Silent Light
opens in the UK on Friday 7th December.

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
> Check out listing and events via the official site for the London Film Festival
> The official website for Silent Light
> Carlos Reygadas at the IMDb
> Manohla Dargis of the NY Times with her review of the film at Cannes

(Photo: Getty Images)

Events London Film Festival Technology Thoughts

London Film Festival 2007: Is the Internet Killing the Film Critic?

Internet Debate at the BFI Southbank

Last night at the festival I went to one of the Time Out debates entitled Is the Internet Killing the Film Critic?

I was a little apprehensive about the actual premise. Was this just going to be another old media versus new media debate? Haven’t they already been exhausted?

It was officially billed in this way:

The internet is credited with globalisation and the democratisation of information, enabling anyone and everyone with access to a computer can share their views on an unending number of subjects.

Films seem to attract an especially large amount of public review in the way of forums, blogs and ratings via a variety of online platforms.

With this surfeit of popular opinion does the critic’s voice get lost in the crowd? This panel discusses whether the internet revolution has spurred a crisis in criticism and if so, for better or worse?

So, an old debate if you’ve been reading sites like Buzz Machine by Jeff Jarvis or even newspapers like The Guardian. But perhaps some new ideas and perspectives would be raised in the course of the discussion.

Given that I have a foot in the old and new media camps I went along intrigued as to what would be raised. The panel consisted of three journalists from traditional media and and two from new media.

It was chaired by Leslie Felperin, who currently reviews films for Variety and numerous other outlets including the Radio Times, Heat and Sight and Sound.

The panellists were:

Peter Bradshaw – Film Critic for The Guardian since 1999.

James Christopher – Chief Film Critic for The Times since 2002.

Steve Hornby – Senior Producer for BBC Movies, the film review and listings service on digital TV, web and mobile.

James Fabricant – Director of Entertainment and Head of Video, Europe, for MySpace.

Leslie started off by asking the panel for their views and then the debate went over to the audience. She was mentioned notable “movie bloggers” like David Poland and Jeffrey Wells – and generally seemed to be more clued up than the others about film writing online.

She correctly noted about how Variety’s website used to be terrible but has improved greatly. There was a brief mention of the subscription wall coming down before it shifted to the others on the panel. Overall Leslie was a good chair – clearly knowledgeable, fair and keen for contributions from the floor.

Peter started off by saying he’s been to a lot of these kind of debates and was refreshingly open about the possibilities the internet offered in changing the nature of film criticism.

He mentioned his recent piece about the 100 Movies Mashup on YouTube and how that kind of thing is being produced by the public rather than mainstream media. The Guardian could be doing stuff like that he said, but although it has the manpower it is often the case that great ideas come from unlikely sources.

I think he was being a little hard on his newspaper here. They have been by far the most innovative national newspaper (in the UK at least) in putting their content online, in a variety of different ways. Their role isn’t necessarily one of a producer but a filter of what’s good and bad. For example, I like the way they put their more traditional features and reviews alongside things like The Clip Joint.

He clearly understands and gets the online/blog world but at the same time seemed unsure of how it fitted in with his ‘traditional’ role as the film critic for a national newspaper. My feeling here is that there is a clearly a role for traditional critics if they are good enough and open to writing online.

The audience isn’t just there to be told what’s good and bad but can often be a tool in making you smarter and aware of things that you didn’t know existed. I like the comment sections on Guardian Unlimited as they often contain some very useful links to other sites and often open up another debate. Whilst there will always be trolls and mischief makers, the hassle is worth it if your audience is more engaged and part of the conversation.

One point he raised later on is that now critics are now being criticised, which is a shift from the old days of newspapers. But it seemed part of him enjoyed that aspect of what he does now and that it is only fair that critics be subject to the same scrutiny they themselves apply to films. He also seemed genuinely curious as to what sites the audience used.

Which brings us on to James Christopher, who seemed to be comically dismissive with film writing online. He started of by saying that the web guys at The Times had set up an email address for him so that readers could contact him. Apparently he has around 7,000 unanswered emails (!), which is some sort of record over at Wapping.

I don’t know whether this was a joke but it seemed odd that he wouldn’t want to engage with his readers. Whilst it’s true that you will always get some cranky emails surely it is a good idea to engage with your audience. After all they are the ones who are actually taking time to read your paper or visit your website. He seemed totally lost even when Bradshaw was bringing up basic things like YouTube and how to check out interesting videos online.

When the conversation shifted to social networking sites and the importance of users telling their friends about films they liked he seemed very dubious. I think he missed the point here as it isn’t as though reactions on MySpace or Facebook will necessarily replace traditional reviews – surely it is just another outlet for people to communicate.

Steve Hornby from BBC Movies responded by saying that the user was actually very important for them. The trend now is to try to emphasise their role in reviews. This makes sense for them, as they have a licence fee funded duty to involve their audience but also because it will make it a better site overall. It certainly seemed to chime in with what director general Mark Thompson has said in the past about Web 2.0 and interactivity.

James Fabricant from MySpace also echoed these thoughts about the importance of the user and what people can actually do online now. It is more than just reading text – which I guess was a reference to things like posting video reviews and then having people reply with their own videos.

James Christopher also mentioned his background as a theatre critic and compared it to film criticism. The key difference he noted was that a review of a film is of much less consequence to the industry as everyone has already been paid. In theatre and the live performing arts like opera and ballet, productions and jobs can depend on reviews.

By the end of the debate he seemed more open about film writing online (maybe his earlier comments were meant to be jovially provocative) and he acknowledged that technology is changing his role. He also remarked on how The Guardian has raised the bar for other newspapers and has led the way in putting their content online.

When the talk shifted to the floor it was interesting to see that one person recorded it on their mobile and one guy in front of me was checking out sites that were mentioned on his Mac (thanks to the BFI Southbank wi-fi).

There was actually quite a lot of people there and I sensed that a lot of different people came to it with different expectations. Maybe the nature of the debate was such that it went off into different tangents – at one point some one even brought up the very nature of criticism itself.

One guy seemed a little irate at James Christopher’s dismissal of social network users as reviewers and put forward his take on the wisdom of crowds argument. He said that he would always trust “10 people in a room” over 1 critic. I think this line of thinking has its good and bad points. On the one hand, I would always favour sites like Metacritic over a single reviewer, but at the same time just because you disagree with a critic doesn’t make his take on a film redundant.

Someone like Anthony Lane of The New Yorker isn’t someone I usually agree with – mainly because his reviews often seem like elaborately constructed jokes revealing his distaste for cinema – but reading him gives you another angle on a film that is different from Roger Ebert, Kenneth Turan or Harry Knowles. Surely the beauty of the web is the ability to gauge as many opinions as you like?

One audience member who worked for a film distributor I think – Marie Foulston from Soda Pictures – said that certain sites were useful in how they wrote around movies with comments on posters and trailers, which I thought was a sound point. The site she mentioned was Solace in Cinema (the guy with the Mac then immediately surfed to it) and it is a good example of a blog that provides a lot of commentary about the film going experience – checking out trailers, clips posters and feelings about upcoming releases.

For distributors I guess these sites are valuable because they are more reflective of what a lot of film fans think. The national newspaper critics have a very different experience, often seeing weekly releases back to back every Monday and Tuesday with a review that then goes out on the Thursday or Friday. Just by virtue of the fact that they are paid to see – rather than paying to see – films gives them a different perspective.

Peter Bradshaw conceded this point and said that it doesn’t really matter if people see films before him. One audience member then shot back by asking how could the general public (or even people who wrote online outside the media loop of mainstream critics) see films before the release date? I then chipped in by saying that preview screenings for online outlets were held for 300 and that maybe in future they would do more of this, depending on the film and what demographic they are chasing.

Leslie asked what sites people use to find out about films and reviews. A guy behind me said Green Cine Daily was good and one girl on the front row said that she always checks out the message boards of the IMDb. Another said Rotten Tomatoes and the guy with the Mac mentioned his website (I cant remember the title or URL) and how his community of friends/associates on it are important even if its not a massive amount of users.

James Christopher asked how do people find out about these sites and Leslie said that often the links on the sidebar direct you to other sites. But I guess for some that is a bit of a chicken and egg situation because if you don’t know about the good sites to begin with then it could be a little difficult. I would humbly suggest looking at my old post about useful film websites and checking the links on my sidebar.

One person then asked what qualifications were needed to be a film critic – which provoked an interesting reaction from panel. They mused on how most film writers have possibly done film studies but unlike other reporters there is no ‘practical experience’ of film writers. Is this a good or bad thing? Bradshaw then mentioned that he did all sorts of reporting before writing about film.

He also made the point that it was interesting that the debate about online film writing seemed louder and bigger than say online music writing – which surprised him given that the music industry is experiencing much greater upheavals than the film industry. Leslie seemed to think that film was a more open and popular meduim which more people have an opinion about. I suppose that film has less subsections than music – you basically have popular and arthouse cinema whereas music has all sorts of subgenres (e.g. Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical etc), but that could probably be another debate itself.

A Greek girl in the audience said that when she used to find out who was the top critic in the top paper but when she came to England she didn’t know who the top English critics were so now she just Googles stuff online.

Overall, it was an interesting session with some solid contributions but I think the premise should have been more about how the web is changing criticism rather than killing it. There will always be critics but I guess the question is who will they be and how will people be reading and engaging with them?

Post your thoughts below or if you were at the debate you can even leave a comment on the LFF event page.

N.B. I would have recorded it but the PA system wasn’t the best and it wouldn’t pick up well enough to put up here as an MP3. I did see a mixing desk there, so if anyone has a link to the recording then do leave it in the comments section or email me.

*UPDATE*: Thanks to Marie from Soda Pictures for getting in touch and identifying herself! (If anyone else who I didn’t mention by name was there, just let me know.)

> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site
> Check out Time Out’s blog of the festvial
> An old post by me last year about bloggers and critics
> Variety’s Peter Bart trying to define the movie blogosphere back in May
> Anne Thompson of Variety on how blogs have reshaped film coverage
> A list of film blogs at

Cinema London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Today we look at The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was on tonight in the Time Out special screening.

Mathieu Amalric and Marie-Josée Croze in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

It is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former French journalist and editor of Elle magazine who was paralysed by a stroke at the age of 43.

Although he could only movie his left eye, he managed to write a memoir of his condition through a system of blinking to nurses and interpreters.

Director Julian Schnabel (who made Before Night Falls in 2000) won Best Director at Cannes earlier this year and it stars Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze and Max Von Sydow.

Interestingly, there is a big Steven Spielberg connection with this film. Not only is it produced by Kathleen Kennedy and shot by Janusz Kaminski (two longtime Spielberg collaborators) but Amalric and Crozee were both in Munich.

The film opens in the UK on February 8th.

Listen to our review by clicking below:


Download this review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site
> Visit the official website for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
> Find out more about the film at the IMDb
> Check out Time Out’s blog of the festvial

London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: Lust, Caution

Today saw the gala screening of director Ang Lee‘s latest film Lust, Caution.

Tang Wei and Ang Lee at the LFF Gala screening of Lust, Caution

It is his first film since 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and is an adaptation of Eileen Wang’s short story about a young Chinese woman (Tang Wei) who is part of a plot to kill a leading member of the Japanese collaborationist government (Tony Leung) in 1942.

It recently won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and is Lee’s first film in Mandarin Chinese since 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

It screened tonight at the Mayor of London Gala in Leicester Square with Ang Lee, Tang Pei and writer-producer James Schamus in attendance.

Listen to the review here:


Download this review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site

(Photo: Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

London Film Festival Podcast Reviews

London Film Festival 2007: Redacted / Interview

Today at the festival I took a look at Redacted, which is Brian De Palma‘s latest film, a low budget examination of US troops in Iraq.

Redacted ticket

It was recently screened at the New York Film festival and De Palma was in an interesting Q&A where he discussed the problems of showing real life images in the film:


I also saw Interview, which sees Steve Buscemi direct and act alongside Sienna Miller in a tale of a journalist interviewing an actress.

Interview poster

Click here to listen to today’s review:


Download this review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site

London Film Festival Podcast

London Film Festival 2007: BFI Southbank

For the second day of the festival I took a trip down to the BFI Southbank, which is where the NFT1 is located.

BFI Southbank side

It is right by the Thames River just by Waterloo Bridge and next to the National Theatre.

BFI entrance

Aside from being a key venue for the festival (with screen talks and films showing throughout the festival) it is also where the British Film Institute are effectively based.

Delegate centre

For people like me covering the festival it is also a place where you can check into the Delegates Centre to check out the trades, catch up with certain festival films on DVD, file reviews on your laptop (they have free wi-fi, which is a lifeline for me) and maybe meet other people attending the festival including filmmakers and other journalists.

You also get a nice view of London from the river:

London skyline from the BFI Southbank

In this report we also discuss three films that screened today:

Interview – a drama with Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller based on the Dutch film by the late Theo Van Gogh.

Redacted – Director Brian De Palma‘s exploration of US troops in Iraq which has has been making waves at recent festivals in Venice and New York.

In the Shadow of the Moon – A documentary about the Apollo space missions.

Listen to the latest report here:


Download this review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site

London Film Festival Trailers

Juno – Trailer

This is the trailer for Juno – the new film from Jason Reitman.

It screens at the London Film Festival on Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st.


London Film Festival Podcast

London Film Festival 2007: Opening Night

Throughout this year’s London Film Festival we’ll be doing regular reports from around the capital on the films showing and what’s going on.

Outside the Odeon Leicester Square on opening night

Tonight Eastern Promises opened the festival and in this update I discuss the film and what other ones to watch out for this year.

Click on the link below to listen to the first of our audio updates:


Download this review podcast via iTunes by clicking on the image below:

If you have any questions about this year’s festival feel free to get in touch via email or the contact page.

> Download this update as an MP3 file
> Find out more at the official London Film Festival site

Cinema Interviews London Film Festival

London Film Festival 2007: David Cronenberg on Eastern Promises

David CronenbergDavid Cronenberg has been exploring the darker edges of human nature for over 30 years and his latest film Eastern Promises opens the London Film Festival tonight.

He first came to prominence in the 1970s with films such as Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977) and in the 80s broke through in to the mainstream with memorable films such as Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986) and Dead Ringers (1988).

Since the 1990s he has attempted ambitious literary adaptations with Naked Lunch (1991), M. Butterfly (1993), Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999) and Spider (2002).

Two years ago, he made A History of Violence which starred Viggo Mortensen as a man whose mysterious past comes back to revisit him. It gained a number of richly deserved awards and critical plaudits.

Eastern Promises also stars Mortensen in the lead role. However, this film explores the murky world of the Russian Mafia in London after a midwife (Naomi Watts) finds the diary of girl who has died in her hospital.

I spoke with David today just a few hours before his latest film opened the festival and you can listen to it below:


To download this as a podcast via iTunes just click the image below:

Eastern Promises
opens in general release in the UK on Friday 26th October

Note: The football match we mention at the end of the interview finished Russia 2-1 England

> Download this interview as an MP3
> Check out listing and events via the official site for the London Film Festival
> Official site for Eastern Promises
> Reviews for Eastern Promises at Metacritic
> Find out more about David Cronenberg at Wikipedia

London Film Festival

London Film Festival 2007: Preview

London Film FestivalThe 51st Times BFI London Film Festival kicks of next week and here is a preview piece of some of the films which will be playing from October 17th to November 1st.


Eastern Promises is the tale of a London midwife (Naomi Watts) who gets drawn into the world of a Russian criminal gang. Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassell and Armin Mueller-Stahl co-star and David Cronenberg directs from a script by Steven Knight. Engrossing, well acted and shocking in places, it ranks alongside the best of Cronenberg’s considerable body of work.


The Gala screenings are the prestige films that are usually in the mix for the upcoming awards season:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was the surprise winner of the Palme D’Or in Cannes earlier this year and director Cristian Mungui and actress Anamaria Marinca will introduce the film.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is not only the film with the longest title in the festival, but it is the hotly anticipated return of Aussie director Andrew Dominik. He directed Chopper in 2000 (which featured a career making performance from Eric Bana) and is now back with what looks like a very interesting western with Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.

Lust, Caution is the latest from director Ang Lee who continues to shift from genre to genre. After reinventing the Western with Brokeback Mountain, adapting a Marvel comic in Hulk and bringing Mandarin to the masses with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon he is back with this period drama set in Shanghai during World War II. It recently won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival, so it should be intriguing.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was a film that made a lot of waves in Cannes earlier this year. Directed by Julian Schnabel, it is based on the French memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby. It portrays his life after a massive stroke that meant his only way of communicating was through blinking through his left eyelid.

Lions for Lambs has the remarkable acting trio of Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise in a drama about the current Afghanistan conflict. Redford directs and the film is the first one produced by Cruise since the actor/producer left Paramount and set up shop at MGM to run the new United Artists studio. This screening will be the world premiere.

Silent Light is the new film from Mexican director Carlos Reygadas. It is the story of a forbidden love in the Mennonite community in Northern Mexico. I almost saw this in Cannes back in May, but someone I spoke to who saw it said it was slow and hypnotic. I ended up seeing an unfinished film about vampire Nazis that day, but that story can be told another time.

Sicko is another Cannes favourite and sees the return of Michael Moore to cinema screens after his record breaking 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. This one is a little different in tone as it deals with the financial and human cost of the health care system in the US.

Into the Wild is Sean Penn’s fourth feature film as director and is about the life and death of Christopher McCandless. Played in the film by Emile Hirsch, he dropped out of society in the early 90s in order to live in the Alaskan wilderness.

Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro star in the drama Things We Lost in the Fire, which is directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. It deals with a widow who invites her husband’s troubled best friend to live with her and her two children after the loss they have suffered.

Gone Baby Gone is a crime drama set in Boston from the Dennis Lehane novel. Adapted and directed by Ben Affleck, it stars Ed Harris, John Ashton and Morgan Freeman. It’s UK theatrical release has been delayed indefinitely because the plot has close echoes of the Madeleine McCann case.

I’m Not There is the latest film from Todd Haynes and sees Cate Blanchett in the unlikely role of Bob Dylan. In fact the film sees 6 different actors play the iconic singer at different stages of his life. Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere also play him. Haynes and producer Christine Vachon will be in town to present the film.

Bee Movie sees Jerry Seinfeld returns to the big screen in an animated film from DreamWorks Animation. Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick and Chris Rock co-star. It will screen as the Family Gala.

Juno is the second film from Jason Reitman who made his directorial debut in 2006 with Thank You For Smoking. This sees Ellen Page as a young teenager who has to deal with an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate (Michael Cera). It caused a lot of buzz at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.


The Darjeeling Limited ends the festival on Thursday 1 November, with director Wes Anderson, actor/screenwriter Jason Schwartzman, producer/screenwriter Roman Coppola and actors Amara Karan and Camilla Rutherford attending. Anderson’s latest is the tale of three brothers (played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) who go on a train ride through India after their father dies.


A lot of other notable films will be screening at cinemas in Leicester Square:

John Cusack will join director James C Strouse for Grace is Gone, while the cast of Enchanted: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden will join director Kevin Lima for the UK premiere of this family film.

Tamara Jenkins will introduce The Savages with Laura Linney, who will also be the subject of an onstage Screen Talk, as will Wes Anderson.

Masterclass guest Steve Buscemi will also present the premiere of Interview with Sienna Miller, while Mister Lonely cast Anita Pallenberg, James Fox and Samantha Morton will introduce the film with Harmony Korine, who is also a Masterclass participant.

Paul Greengrass will be the subject of an onstage interview and the recipient of the Variety UK Achievement in Film Award, while the intriguing pairing of David Lynch and Donovan will see the director and singer host a unique evening discussing “meditation, consciousness and creativity”.

Trafalgar Square will play host to a celebration of London as captured on archive films, ablaze on the big screen with live piano accompaniments. Free to all from 18:30 on Thursday 18 October and Friday 19 October, Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail will be screened with Blue Bottles on the first night, whilst Capital Tales on the second evening will offer a whistle-stop tour across more than 100 years of London on film from 1896 onwards.

Contemporary British filmmaking talent will be out in force for their screenings, including Nick Broomfield with his film Battle for Haditha and Asif Kapadia with Far North.

Richard Attenborough will introduce Closing the Ring, Garth Jennings will present Son of Rambow: A Home Movie and Sarah Gavron will attend the premiere of Brick Lane.

The high-profile roll call of international directors set to attend the Festival include: Julio Medem (Chaotic Ana), Jan Svĕrák (Empties), Brian de Palma (Redacted), Marjane Satrapi (Persopolis), Michael Moore (Sicko), Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light), Rituparno Ghosh (The Last Lear), Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Salvatore Maira (Valzer) and Brooklyn artist David Gatten (Film for Invisible Ink, Case No:7 Base-Plus-Fog) will present a workshop as well as his latest film works.

There will be other films and events so, so keep checking back here for regular updates.

> Official Website for the Times BFI London Film Festival
> Find out more about the London Film Festival at Wikipedia
> Check out the films we liked from last year