Countdown to LFF: The 54th London Film Festival

Oct 11th, 2010

This year’s London Film Festival is fast approaching. From the 13th to the 28th of October, over 250 exciting new films from around the world will be screened in London’s West End. Keep an eye on The Wider Screen for daily reviews, reports from press conferences, and maybe even a few interviews with directors.

To give you a taste of what’s coming up, here is preview of this year’s line-up, from the famous to the more obscure (but equally promising) films.

The jewels in LFF’s crown are its gala screenings: red carpet events attended by the director and famous cast members. This year’s galas include:

“Never Let Me Go”: an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about a bizarre boarding school. Directed by Mark Romanek, the film stars Keira Knightley.

“The King’s Speech,” winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Colin Firth plays the shy Prince Albert who is forced to become king of England following the abdication of his elder brother.

“The First Grader,” a film set in Kenya about a man who decides, late in life, that he should complete his primary education.

“Black Swan,” by Darren Aronofsky, the film everyone was talking about at TIFF. Natalie Portman stars in this ballet horror-thriller, which I reviewed as part of my Toronto round-up.

“West is West,” the follow-up to the successful British comedy East is East, which focused on the dilemmas faced by a mixed-race family torn between two cultures. The sequel follows the father (Om Puri) as he drags his youngest son off to Pakistan in an attempt to straighten out his behaviour.

“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film and winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes. The programme description in LFF’s guide ends with the following enticement: ‘There are things in this jungle you have never seen before’.

An established director or famous cast made most of the above films obvious choices for gala screenings, but there’s just as much to be excited about in the rest of the programme. Here is just a sample:

“The Magic Tree,” about a chair (made from the titular tree) which can grant wishes. This, of course, brings problems. A good film for all the family.

“In Your Hands,” a French thriller starring Kristen Scott-Thomas as a surgeon who is victimised by a man holding a grudge against her.

“Cold Weather,” tipped to be a stellar example of American independent filmmaking, judging from its warm reception by US critics. A college dropout takes the night shift at an ice factory, which will be the setting for a murder mystery.

“Guilty Pleasures,” a documentary about the romance novel industry, and the obsessive fans it attracts worldwide.

“Essential Killing,” a laconic film about a member of the Taliban who escapes from detention by the US Army. Stars Vincent Gallo (of Brown Bunny shame).

“Surviving Life,” the latest (and, it is rumoured, last) feature by legendary Czech animator and Surrealist Jan Švankmajer.

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