The BFI London Film Festival returns to the nation’s capital for its 58th edition this week (8 October), bringing with it the promise of ten days of cinematic delights for cineastes and casual movie fans alike. Opening this year’s festivities is Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, one of several British biopics with serious award season aspirations, which sees Benedict Cumberbatch take centre stage as Nazi codebreaker Alan Turning, the film also delving into his shrouded private life. The task of closing this year’s LFF on 19 October falls to another Second World War offering, American director David Ayer’s Sherman tank drama Fury. Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and Logan Lerman, expect some good old-fashioned Hollywood glitz and glamour to accompany this tale of mud, blood and ultimate sacrifice.
This year’s American Express Gala, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, is already being weighed up as a potential Oscar frontrunner following successful outings at Cannes and Toronto earlier in the year (you can read our five-star rave here). In the film, an unrecognisable Steve Carell plays the multi-millionaire benefactor to two pro wrestlers: Mark (Channing Tatum) and brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Also making a splash at Cannes this year – and gracing LFF’s Gala lineup – were Damien Chazelle’s blood-pumping Whiplash, Mike Leigh’s exquisite J.M.W. Turner tribute Mr. Turner, Canadian enfant terrible Xavier Dolan’s best yet, Mommy, Damián Szifron’s Argentinian yarn-spinner Wild Tales and 2014 Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep, the latest masterwork from lauded Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
The Official Competition strand makes a welcome return this year, with new films from Brits Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy) and Carol Morley (The Falling) going head-to-head with Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, François Ozon’s The New Girlfriend and Christian Petzold’s Phoenix amongst others. Another opportunity for silverware comes in the form of the Sutherland Award, reserved for only the most imaginative directorial debuts. Making a brief appearance before a nationwide release this Friday will be Yann Demange’s ’71, which sees rising star Jack O’Connell running for his life as a British soldier in 1970s Belfast. Other impactful British pretenders include Daniel and Matthew Wolfe’s Come to Daddy and Debbie Tucker Green’s Second Coming, both of which take a more contemporary approach to social issues closer to home. Last but certainly not least, this year’s Grierson Award for outstanding documentary filmmaking looks set to be as hotly contested as ever. Nestled amongst a particularly strong field, Sergei Loznitsa’s Ukrainian protest piece Maidan and veteran director Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery both border on the unmissable.
Though far from conclusive – and in no particular order – here are our ten tips for what you should try to catch at LFF 2014:
1. Hard to Be a God (dir. Aleksei German, Dare)
2. From What Is Before (dir. Lav Diaz, Dare)
3. Court (dir. Chaitanya Tamhane, Debate)
4. The Tribe (dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, First Feature)
5. Timbuktu (dir. Abderrahmane Sissako, Official Competition)
6. The Wonders (dir. Alice Rohrwacher, Journey)
7. Far from Men (dir. David Oelhoffen, Journey)
8. Li’l Quinquin (dir. Bruno Dumont, Laugh)
9. Still the Water (dir. Naomi Kawase, Love)
10. Blind (dir. Eskil Vogt, Dare)
The BFI London Film Festival takes place from 8-19 October 2014. For more of our coverage, simply follow this link.