The BFI London Film Festival returns to the nation’s capital for its momentous 60th edition from today (5-16 October), once again offering a host of filmic delights for casual cinemagoers and militant cinephiles alike. Kicking off this year’s programme is London-born Belle director Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo as star-crossed lovers in post-war Britain – one an office worker, the other the King of (what is now) Botswana. Another British offering, Ben Wheatley’s warehouse-locked shoot ’em up Free Fire, will close the festival on 16 October.
London Film Festival tickets are now on sale to the public and so to celebrate we have selected our top ten (well, eleven) highlights from a hugely impressive LFF line-up. Readers should also note that all films have been taken from outside the main Gala programme, though tickets may well still be limited.
Already tipped for big things following its recent premiere at Telluride, director Barry Jenkins offers up a blistering coming-of-ager following shy adolescent Chiron (Alex Hibbert) as he develops his own sense of his sexuality. British actress Naomie Harris is stunning as the boy’s drug-addled matriarch, Junkie Ma. Can’t Fight the Moonlight? No, you really can’t.
The festival welcomes back Austrian provocateur Ulrich Seidl with his new film Safari, an unflinching, unapologetic portrait of affluent, white hunters on a privately-owned ranch in Namibia. Punches aren’t pulled and the documentary is unquestionably graphic in parts, but Seidl once again proves himself one of the best modern chroniclers of humanity’s most heinous ills.
It’s been some time since we’ve heard murmurs of a film leaving audiences feinting in the aisles, so it’s with a certain sense of trepidation that we recommend you book yourself a ticket to Raw. A die-hard vegetarian bites of more than she can chew when she dines on a rabbit, leaving her with an insatiable hunger for flesh in any form. The most visceral French horror since Martyrs? Quite possibly.
After the Storm
It wouldn’t be LFF without a new offering from Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda, who returns this year with Cannes select After the Storm. With substantially more teeth than this last outing, the sedate Our Little Sister, this is a return to form for the prolific auteur as he once again sheds a bittersweet light on paternal responsibility in contemporary Japan.
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki
Winner of this year’s Un Certain Regard award in Cannes, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki is arguably the best-looking boxing drama since Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Shot in sumptuous 16mm monochrome, Finish director Juho Kuosmanen does well to avoid familiar cliches whilst at the same time doing justice to one of Finland’s most cherished athletes.
The Son of Joseph
A new film from Eugene Green is always a special occasion and the BFI are on to a real winner with The Son of Joseph. Mathieu Amalric, Victor Ezenfis and Natacha Regnier star in the story of a teenager hellbent on discovering the true identity of his father. Complex, heartfelt and often humorous, this is pure catnip for arthouse aficionados.
Christine / Kate Plays Christine
One of two films exploring the real-life suicide of 29-year-old broadcaster Christie Chubbuck on American television in 1974 (the other being Robert Greene’s extraordinary experimental doc Kate Plays Christine), Simon Killer director Antonio Campos gets a career-best turn out of British actress Rebecca Hall as the tragic loner. Perfect fodder for a festival double-bill.
Celebrated Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (Beyond the Hills) is back with Graduation, another family drama full of intrigue and betrayal, but one of such persistent quality that it bagged Mungiu a share in the Best Director prize at Cannes earlier this year. The Romanian New Wave may have subsided but the movement’s finest exponents are still producing work of the highest standard.
Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante follows up his violent cartel thriller Heli with…well, a tentacle-crawling, sexual space oddity. Already garnering favourable comparisons to Jonathan Glazer’s quite extraordinary Under the Skin, which itself received its UK premiere at the festival, the less that is generally given away about The Untamed beforehand the better. Just be prepared.
George Best: All By Himself
One of several top notch documentaries making an appearance at this year’s LFF, Daniel Gordon directs the definitive film on one of the greatest footballers to ever graced these – and many other – shores. Best was of course just as well-known for alcoholism that would eventually lead to his untimely death at the age of just 59, and Gordon does a superb job of celebrating the highs and compassionately humanising the deeply dark lows.
The BFI London Film Festival takes place from 5-16 October. Book your tickets at bfi.org.uk/lff.