The BFI London Film Festival has announced the full programme for its 12-day festival in October.
There are 245 features from 74 different countries – ranging from a stop-motion film about a boy called Courgette to the lavish and already heavily lauded La La Land – all spread across a wide selection of venues throughout London. Including the brand spanking new Victoria Embankment Gardens cinema.
Your handy guide to the films you can’t miss at BFI London Film Festival 2016
For your convenience – but mainly because we’re really excited and are a bit obsessed about making lists – here’s our list of films you can’t miss at LFF2016, taking in everything from very serious Oscar-tipped dramas to a comedy about a bionic sleuth from the Isle of Man.
Arrival [dir: Denis Villeneuve]
With the arrival of… ahem… Arrival, 2016 looks as though it’s going to be bookended by thought-provoking sci-fi films. At the beginning of the year, the sensitive and intelligent Midnight Special was the film to see at the Berlin Film Festival and Arrival looks like it will be one of LFF’s standouts.
When alien ships surround the Earth, Amy Adam’s expert linguist is brought in to try and communicate with the interlopers. Based on the short story ‘Story of Your Life’, which explores themes of determinism and linguistics, and directed by Sicario’s Denis Villeneuve, I think I can safely say that Arrival will at least be better than Independence Day: Resurgence. *holds breath*
The Autopsy of Jane Doe [dir: André Øvredal]
If you haven’t seen André Øvredal’s Troll Hunter you should get right on it. It’s hilarious, surprisingly terrifying and should set you up perfectly for this morgue-based chiller starring Brian Cox. The Autopsy of Jane Doe centres on two coroners who uncover a series of increasingly bizarre and medically impossible injuries on a single fresh cadaver, while Øvredal fiendishly twists the tension to stomach-churning levels. It sounds like great fun. [Christopher Ratcliff]
The Birth of a Nation [dir: Nate Parker]
Nate Parker’s Sundance-winning drama will receive its European premiere at LFF2016. Parker directs, produces, writes and acts in this brutal account of the life of Nat Turner, an enslaved African American and preacher in Virginia, who in 1831 orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his fellow slaves to freedom.
Free Fire [dir: Ben Wheatley]
The festival closes with Ben Wheatley’s third LFF feature (after High-Rise and Sightseers) Free Fire, starring the magnificent Brie Larson (Room), Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Sam Riley. It tells the story of a gun deal gone wrong in a warehouse, resulting in a Peckinpah-style orgy of obliteration which lasts the entire film. Our editor is crapping his pants in glee about this one (I really am – editor).
The Handmaiden [dir: Park Chan-wook]
As he did with 2013’s underrated Stoker – a loose adaptation of Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry – in The Handmaiden Park Chan-wook twists some more original source material (here Sarah Water’s Victorian mystery Fingersmith) into his own thrillingly idiosyncratic and inventively strange vision. You’d expect nothing less from the director of Old Boy. Well maybe a few more live squids. [Christopher Ratcliff]
La La Land [dir: Damien Chazelle]
The most eagerly-awaited film of 2017, La La Land is a “bitter-sweet love letter” to Los Angeles directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, Grand Piano) and starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend and J.K Simmons. This dreamy, beautiful musical comedy-drama is pretty much guaranteed to sell out ridiculously quickly. Just look at the trailer. Can’t. Wait.
Lion [dir: Garth Davis]
An adaptation of a memoir by Saroo Brierley, Lion tells the true story of how Saroo, aged five, accidentally got on the wrong train from his family and ended up being adopted by an Australian couple. IT CAN EASILY HAPPEN. Twenty years later the memories come flooding back and they push the grown-up Saroo, played by Dev Patel, into finding his long-lost family. Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman co-star.
Manchester By the Sea [dir: Kenneth Lonergan]
Kenneth Lonergan’s third feature as a director explores the family dynamics between brothers, sons and nephews, as well as the process of grief, redemption and love. Following the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Casey Affleck’s Lee must relocate back to the town where he grew up to look after Joe’s son and confront his estranged wife. Manchester by the Sea is going to be a tough one to focus on through the tears.
Mifune: The Last Samurai [dir: Steven Okazaki]
A true hero and legend of Japanese cinema, the great Toshiro Mifune is celebrated in this documentary narrated by Keanu Reeves. If you’ve read the sublime biography The Emperor and the Wolf, about Mifune and his long-time collaborator Akira Kurosawa, then you will treasure this. [Christopher Ratcliff]
Mindhorn [dir: Sean Foley]
The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt plays washed-up actor Richard Thorncroft, who hit his peak long ago in the 1980s detective show Mindhorn. A Bergerac-meets-The-Bionic-Man hybrid in which Thorncroft played the titular detective from the Isle of Man with a robotic eye that allowed him to “see the truth”. Decades later Thorncroft is forced back into the role by a deranged supervillain demanding his adversary’s return. Yes it’s a bit like Three Amigos. But also crossed with Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, so don’t be surprised if it’s the best film ever made. [Christopher Ratcliff]
A Monster Calls [dir: J.A. Bayona]
Based on the best-selling book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls sees a young boy who must rely on his imagination to come to terms with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness, his father’s (Toby Kebbell) absence and his grandmother’s (Sigourney Weaver) strictness. Thankfully a giant yew tree voiced by Liam Neeson is on hand to help. The director, J.A. Bayona, uses the creative team behind Pan’s Labyrinth to create this film’s stunning, original visuals.
Paterson [dir: Jim Jarmusch]
Adam Driver plays a bus driver called Paterson who lives in a New Jersey town called Paterson in the film called… Paterson. This film isn’t to be so easily dismissed though – the three clips released so far evince the quintessential Jim Jarmusch characteristics of unhurried, confident pacing and almost introverted and contemplative tone.
Phantasm: Remastered [dir Don Coscarelli]
Yes, that’s right… LFF2016 will bring you the 4k restoration of Don Coscarelli’s 1979 cult horror Phantasm: Remastered. You have JJ Abrams and Bad Robot to thank for their tireless work in restoring one of the most bonkers and beloved horrors of the 70s. And just look at this glorious poster… I’ll be there front-row-centre, ducking. [Christopher Ratcliff]
Ten Years [dir: Various]
A film that only opened in one cinema in Hong Kong, but ended up winning the Best Film prize at the Hong Kong Film Festival. Ten Years is a collection of five short films set in 2025. These dystopian vignettes include explorations of political intrigue, family, betrayal, and isolation.
Toni Erdmann [dir: Maren Ade]
This looks great. Austrian stage actor Peter Simonischek plays a divorced father who passes his time pretending to be his own brother to confuse the postman, who then gets a visit from his very serious daughter. He then decides to take on the identity of Toni Erdmann, a former life coach/German ambassador with crooked teeth and luxurious barnet. Honestly. I can’t wait for this film.
A United Kingdom [dir: Amma Asante]
The Festival opens with the European premiere of A United Kingdom, a true story of the interracial marriage between David Oyelowo’s Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana), and Rosamund Pike’s Ruth Williams, a clerk working in London. Directed by Belle’s Amma Asante, this looks like stirringly powerful stuff.
Now that LFF is over for another year, check out our London Film Festival 2016 round-up.