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Keep up with all the action and buzz from the 58th BFI London Film Festival.

Samuel Wigley

It is happening again …

… not just the BFI London Film Festival, now in its 58th year, but also our rolling live blog, now – more modestly – in its second.

Over the next 12 days, the LFF will screen 248 feature films and 148 shorts and welcome more than 540 guests, including more than 170 directors and 120 actors.

That’s a lot of movies and celebrity encounters to keep track of, but we’ll be doing our very best here on the live blog to bring you the best interviews, videos, commentary and red carpet action. From dawn(ish) to dusk.

All dressed up and ready for some live blogging…

All dressed up and ready for some live blogging…

Things get under way this evening with our star-studded Opening Night Gala screening of The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley in the story of the cracking of the German Enigma code during the Second World War.

The film’s cast and crew will be joining us for the screening, but – and this bit’s doubly exciting – we’ll be live-streaming their arrival at the Odeon Leicester Square from 5.30pm tonight, so you can enjoy Cumberbatch, Knightley et al in their finery from the comfort of your own home/phone.

The countdown has already begun …

Benedict and Keira in the house

The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, together with director Morten Tyldum, have joined us for a press conference ahead of tonight’s gala screening.

We’ll have a full report and video of them in action here in quicker-than-Enigma-code-cracking time…

It’s brightening up now, but for many eager critics and journalists, this morning meant travelling through torrential downpour to London’s West End.

Their destination? The press preview screening of The Imitation Game.

It was still raining when they emerged blinking into the light, but that didn’t stop them getting their phones out to take to Twitter in their droves to offer their first-look reactions to the film. Let’s see what some of them made of it …  

You can read Time Out’s review here.

This isn’t ‘Sherlock in tweed’

With all the awards buzz for The Imitation Game centring on Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in particular, at the press conference this morning the actor was quick to suggest any such talk could only be to the benefit of the film itself, writes Matthew Thrift.

Just don’t compare Turing to that other eccentric genius, Sherlock …

The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game (2014)

Cumberbatch said: “They’re completely different people. He doesn’t swish around in a coat with curly hair, demonstrating how brilliant he is. He’s a very stoic, determined, different and definite hero. He’s smart, but I think the way he has to operate as an outsider is very much out of the conditions of his life.”

“As far as another similarity, in that he’s socially awkward, what you see is the evolution of him, which is humanising. I suppose that happens in what we do with our version of Sherlock, but I didn’t read the script and go, ‘This is our version of Sherlock in tweed, fiddling around with valves and wires’.” 

“I liked how uncompromising he was, but that’s a trait in strong characters of every variety. I do want to play stupid people too, if anyone’s got any stupid roles, bring ‘em on … The comparisons are frustrating, but I understand them.”

Eyewitness reports suggest that throngs of Benedict Cumberbatch fans have already amassed on Leicester Square waiting for his arrival for The Imitation Game. Remember, you’ll be able to watch the red carpet action live-streamed here and on our YouTube channel.

But for those who can’t wait till the red carpet begins at 5.30, here’s the man himself talking this very afternoon:

Keira Knightley on filming The Imitation Game and why she doesn’t share Alan Turing’s love of mathematics … 

“One day we thought that we all ought to be doing crosswords, so we brought in the quick crossword. There were five of us, it took us five days and we still couldn’t finish it. With the maths, it was like being back at school and feeling like you’d died.”

Keira Knightley at the press conference for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Keira Knightley at the press conference for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

Of course, it’s not all about The Imitation Game today at the LFF. In fact, the Festival screenings begin in earnest at the strike of six with a half a dozen more films at BFI Southbank and a brace at the ICA too.

A particular treat for fans of the great American director Robert Altman is a new documentary about the man himself, followed later this evening by an outing for his 1982 film Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

Based on a play by Ed Graczyk, the latter depicts the reunion of a group of women who used to be in the James Dean fan club, who come together two decades after the teen icon’s early death to reflect back on their lives.

Our programmer Geoff Andrew writes:

Crucially, Altman never ‘opens out’ the action but uses the many sightlines provided both by his characteristically prowling camera and by a mirror on the wall of his single dime-store set to reveal and illuminate the cracks in the masks of his garrulous characters. And the performances of his almost entirely female cast are uniformly superb – Cher’s, especially, being a revelation.

This new 35mm restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive could help bring fresh recognition to a film from what are often considered Altman’s wilderness years in the 1980s, when many of his films failed to receive the critical hosannas that greeted his 1970s work (MASH, McCabe & Mrs Miller, Nashville).

Anyone who’s seen his unfairly maligned musical Popeye or his wonderful campaign-trail satire Tanner ’88 knows Altman’s touch was alive and well in the ‘me’ decade, so we’ll be interested to see how Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean goes down tonight. 

Going wobbly over Benedict and Keira

Twenty minutes now until our live stream from the red carpet at The Imitation Game begins. Time enough to enjoy Benedict and Keira, along with screenwriter Graham Moore and director Morten Tyldum, speaking at a press conference today.

Excuse the wobbly vision – our cameraperson found themselves on a shaky perch …

Matthew Thrift was also there taking notes …

“It’s a little bit like coming home for me,” said director Morten Tyldum. “It was shot here in London as it was very important for us to shoot in as many actual locations as possible. It’s an important part of British history and I wanted to get it right. I can’t wait for tonight, it’s a great honour and I can’t wait to show the film to a British audience.”

Benedict Cumberbatch at the press conference for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Benedict Cumberbatch at the press conference for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The episode in British history Tyldum’s talking of is, of course, the breaking of the Enigma code machine by a team of mathematical genii led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park during WW2. Used by the Nazi’s to encrypt their radio transmissions, Turing’s counter-invention, a decryption device of devilish complexity, effectively shortened the war by as much as two years.

Despite a revisionist account of wartime codebreaking appearing back in 2001 in the form of the Kate Winslet-starring Enigma, it’s only recently that Turing’s story has become better known.

Tyldum continues, “When I read the script, I was shocked how little I knew. Why wasn’t he on the cover of my history book when I was at school? I’d just moved to Hollywood and this was a movie about outsiders, about those who are different, who think outside the norm.”

Playing such an elusive historical individual must have been beset by challenges something of which leading man Benedict Cumberbatch was keenly aware. “Physically, there’s no media of him … There’s no visual or audio recordings of him. So there’s a huge weight. Yes, it’s a blank canvas, so you have a bit of freedom, but you’re toying with something you have nothing to bounce off as a reflection.”

It seems it’s finally about time Turing took the spotlight, as Cumberbatch explained: “This has been an extraordinary decade for him, because of his centenary, because of books, exhibitions and now this film. As part of the momentum, I hope to have him at the forefront of the recognition he deserves, as a scientist, as the father of the modern computer age, as a war hero and a man who lived an uncompromising life in a time of disgusting discrimination.”

Here it is … Leicester Square is a-frenzy. The comments on YouTube are flying. Ladies and gentlemen, our live stream from the red carpet for the Opening Night gala screening of The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley …

Watch the live stream from the red carpet screening of The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Join us again tomorrow for photos and commentary from the event, and a look ahead to everything that day 2 has in store.

Some breakfast viewing before we get going for day 2 on the live blog: highlights from last night’s red carpet at our LFF Opening Night gala screening of The Imitation Game …

Crowds wait by the red carpet at the Opening Night gala screening of The Imitation Game

Crowds wait by the red carpet at the Opening Night gala screening of The Imitation Game

These were the scenes last night on Leicester Square. Fans waited hours in the rain for a glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley arriving for The Imitation Game, and their patience was rewarded with autographs and a long speech to the crowd from Benedict.

Benedict Cumberbatch on the red carpet for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Benedict Cumberbatch on the red carpet for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Inside the auditorium of the Odeon Leicester Square, Cumberbatch paid tribute to the memory of Alan Turing, the Enigma code-breaking mathematician he plays in the film.

“He helped buy us freedom while his own was contained,” the actor said, alluding to Turing’s prosecution for homosexuality by the British authorities in the years after his code-breaking efforts helped win the Second World War.

“He was a man who lived with secrets, worked with secrets, and was destroyed by his own secret. And now I’m very happy to shout from the rooftops about what a gorgeous, extraordinary, really special and unique human being he was.”

Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch on the red carpet for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch on the red carpet for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

So what’s in store for day two? As we write, Ansel Elgort, director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) and producer Helen Estabrook are gearing up to talk to the press about their new film Men, Women & Children – to be unveiled this evening as our Virgin Atlantic Gala.

Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman

We’ll have more about that film, and a report from the press conference shortly.

There’s also not one but two films by one of the most exciting British filmmakers of the moment: Peter Strickland.

First, at 6pm there’s his Björk Live: Biophilia, a typically extravagant and boundary-pushing concert film conceived in tandem with Björk. That’s followed at 8.30pm with his latest narrative feature, the intriguing erotic drama The Duke of Burgundy, which kicks off the Official Competition for Best Film and promises to be as weird and wonderful as the director’s last film, Berberian Sound Studio.

More on those (and lots more) anon.

So The Duke of Burgundy will be first out of the door as the Festival’s Official Competition begins in earnest this evening.

Like Peter Strickland’s last film, Berberian Sound Studio, it received backing from the BFI Film Fund, so your live-blogger popped upstairs here at BFI HQ to ask the Film Fund’s Senior Production and Development Executive, Lizzie Francke, what makes Strickland’s latest so special …

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

Lizzie says: Peter Strickland is one of the UK’s most innovative filmmakers working at the moment and his follow-up to the critical success Berberian Sound Studio is a similarly brilliant formal conceit anchored by an intense examination of the dreamlike conventions of cinema.

Here the point of reference is Luis Buñuel or Rainer Werner Fassbinder by way of the 1970s erotic films of Jess Franco.

It’s set mostly in an apartment in a vaguely recognisably middle European town, but one entirely populated by women, and the film revolves around the transgressive relationship between Evelyn, an amateur lepidopterist, and Cynthia, an orthopterist, a few years senior.

The film is a playful, at times touching exploration of the power games within a relationship. Collaborating with Berberian cinematographer Nic Knowland, Strickland intends it to be a film about the erotic but one which is as much about what is not seen as seen.

Make up your mind about Strickland’s latest tonight at 8.30pm.

Just the tickets

Day two of the Festival is when the hubbub of Opening Night dies down and suddenly every festival-goer’s experience diversifies, as we all plunge headfirst into our personal selections from the 248 feature films and 148 shorts.

So, what’s everybody watching?

These Instagrams capture the exciting moment when the tickets for your chosen films land through the letterbox.

And we wonder which films this Festival fan selected … 

‘It’s a complicated thing to make a movie about young people in 2014’

Director Jason Reitman has become one of the Festival’s most regular visitors, writes Paul O’Callaghan. Men, Women and Children is the fourth of his features to make its UK debut in an LFF Gala slot, hot on the heels of last year’s sweeping period melodrama Labor Day.

Jason Reitman at the press conference for Men, Women & Children at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Jason Reitman at the press conference for Men, Women & Children at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

This new film, an astute exploration of the relationship between modern technology and sexuality, initially seems like a return to the arch comic terrain of Juno or Young Adult, but soon moves towards darker and more emotional territory.

Reitman, producer Helen Estabrook and young star Ansel Elgort gathered before press today, ahead of tonight’s Leicester Square premiere. The film focuses largely on a group of high school students, and the director reflected on how much youth culture has changed since he shot Juno in 2006.

“In seven or eight years we’ve gone from the hamburger phone to the iPhone. [When we were researching Juno] the high schools we visited were built in the 60s and made of wood. [This time round] there were no lockers because there are no books. And there were device days and non-device days. And there were classes where kids had earphones in and I asked their administrator what they were listening to and he said ‘I dunno, maybe music’!”

Ansel Elgort at the press conference for Men, Women & Children at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Ansel Elgort at the press conference for Men, Women & Children at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

He explained that a key concern was ensuring that the film, which revolves to a great extent around its characters’ digital lives, remained visually appealing.

“It’s a complicated thing to make a movie about young people in 2014. If you really want to take teenagers today and make a movie about them, three quarters of the day would be them staring at a piece of glass, which is not very cinematic. So very early on we started talking about how we could display what people were seeing on screen and somehow make that part of the film.”

“When we’re on our computers we have music playing, we’re searching two things, we’re replying to an email, we’re in the midst of an IM conversation, we’re checking Facebook. And we’re so good at that now that watching a film where all these things take place is actually quite easy.”

Watch the press conference in full below.

The press speak to the actors, director and producer of Men, Women & Children

Dance in the rain

The sun’s out again, but it’s a pity it was nowhere to be seen when the red carpet came out last night. We love this birds-eye-view pic of Imitation Game co-star Charles Dance and director Morten Tyldum through their umbrellas.

Charles Dance and Morten Tyldum on the red carpet for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Charles Dance and Morten Tyldum on the red carpet for The Imitation Game at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Don’t miss ... outback drama Charlie’s Country

The veteran aboriginal actor David Gulpilil may still be best known in the UK for his breakthrough role in Nicolas Roeg’s haunting Walkabout (1970), writes Ashley Clark, but Gulpilil has been working solidly since, and he deservedly picked up the best actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his quietly devastating turn as the eponymous “blackfella” in Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country, an absorbing drama set in the Arnhem Land region of Northern Australia.

Watch the Charlie’s Country trailer

The film starts off as a beautifully observed character study, and de Heer generates plenty of dry humour from Charlie’s irritation at the daily micro-aggressions visited upon him by intrusive whitefolk (including the overly matey police), who show little respect for his culture or community.

As the film progresses, however, a more serious tone develops, and the frustrated Charlie disappears into the wild. At this point the film morphs into a lyrical, existential treatise on the desperate plight of Aboriginal people as seen through the prism of this lone figure.

Cinematographer Ian Jones also deserves special credit for his extraordinary widescreen panoramas.

Charlie’s Country’s first screening is tonight at 9pm.

Watch a clip from the latest John Boorman film

Anyone who’s had their appetite whetted for mid-century British period fare by code-breaking drama The Imitation Game need look no further than the latest film by visionary UK director John Boorman – shortly to have its first Festival screening at 6pm at BFI Southbank.

A semi-autobiographical film about an 18-year-old man called up for national service during the Korean war, Queen and Country’s cast include Callum Turner, Richard E. Grant and David Thewlis.

You can watch an extract from the film below:

Extract from Queen and Country (2014)

Queen and Country was backed by the BFI Film Fund. Writes Ben Roberts, Director of the Fund:

Queen and Country is a fond follow-up for anyone who counts the same director’s Hope and Glory (1987) among their favourites, which includes many of us in the Film Fund. The film is satisfying enough as a series of comical vignettes, but beyond the charm and the whimsy, I think Boorman is saying something rather bittersweet about a (down)shift in patriotism after two world wars and as such it offers a worthy coda.

The magic of the carpet

We like this bit of the day, when a van shows up outside on Leicester Square and out come those red rolls that will soon form a bright path to the day’s glitzy premiere.

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: van with the red carpet

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: van with the red carpet

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: red carpet preparations

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: red carpet preparations

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: red carpet

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: red carpet

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: red carpet

The 58th BFI London Film Festival: red carpet

Tonight, the carpet will lead to Men, Women & Children, Jason Reitman’s new comic drama about our infatuation with our phones and tablets. Spectators gathered in the square can expect to catch a glimpse of stars Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever, together with the film’s director and producer.

It’s not long now till our Virgin Atlantic Gala.

A digital revolution in film

Three films screening tonight at the Festival are confirmation that this is an age of rapid creative changes in the world of digital imagery, writes Georgia Korossi.

Watch the Björk: Biophilia Live trailer

Peter Strickland’s third feature, The Duke of Burgundy, is an adventure in sound and dark humour exploring the intimate relationship of two women.

Its surreal cinematography, telescopic imagery and kaleidoscopic autumnal patterns, alongside metallic appearances of butterflies trapped outside the bedroom, are hypnotic, backed with the sounds of orchestral pop duo Cat’s Eye. Strickland is himself a long-term experimental musician, and the soundtrack brings out the intriguing sounds of cats and lepidopterists.

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

Together with Nick Fenton, Strickland also filmed avant-garde Icelandic artist Björk live at London’s Alexandra Palace in 2013.

Björk: Biophilia Live is a striking music film, a journey of evocative animation, science, nature and TV’s lost signals. Cinematographer Brett Turnbull has the camera at ground level, and the screen erupts into a graphic lava flow alongside artworks by Jean Painlevé and end-credit bat sounds by Jeremy Deller.

Björk and her bespoke crew of musicians and choir dazzle on stage within an open circle of beautiful instrumentation, including a pendulum-strung gravity harp and the Sharpsichord, a harp/barrel organ hybrid.

Finally, filmed in sumptuous widescreen by André Chemetoff, French director Christophe Honoré’s Metamorphoses is a rich adaptation of Ovid’s collection of Greco-Roman myths.

Honoré’s picture is innovative for its visual effects, the digital techniques enabling a journey on Earth hand in hand with Ovid’s literary world.

Metamorphoses (2014)

Metamorphoses (2014)

Björk: Biophilia Live is our Sonic Gala at Odeon West End at 6pm. Metamorphoses screens at Ciné Lumiere at 6.15pm. The Duke of Burgundy’s first screening is at Odeon West End at 8.30.

First Feature and Documentary Competitions kick off

Heavens  night is falling and we haven’t yet given a shout out to two British films that open, respectively, the Festival’s First Feature Competition and the Documentary Competition tonight.

First up is Yann Demange’s debut feature ’71, a gripping thriller set on the night-time streets of Belfast. It’s about a soldier who’s separated from his unit and forced to fend for himself in a netherworld of conflicting loyalties and violence.

You can hear actors Jack O’Connell, Jack Lowden and Martin McCann, together with the director, talking about the project in the featurette below.

Actors Jack O’Connell, Jack Lowden and Martin McCann, and director Yann Demange, discuss ‘71

Then, the first film to screen in the Documentary Competition, at 8.30 tonight, is Hockney: A Life in Pictures, a rich film portrait of the great British artist David Hockney.

Like ‘71, Hockney: A Life in Pictures was funded by the BFI. We asked the Film Fund’s Lizzie Francke what drew them to the project … 

Hockney (2014)

Hockney (2014)

Lizzie writes: What excited us about this biographical documentary was that Hockney had such an enduring interest and relationship with the moving image. Cinema is an essential element to Hockney’s life and work therefore it is fitting his life and work find its way into the cinema.

This works as a brilliant complement to A Bigger Splash, a seminal documentary on the iconic artist from 1973.

Born in 1937, Hockney’s life parallels the development of mass photographic reproduction from black-and-white stills and 8mm to the iPad, which was a key feature of the recent, blockbusting Royal Academy show, while his approach to painting is influenced by his love of movies.

Hockney made biography an art with his sexuality explored in his work. The film is particularly moving and poignant as he reflects on the impact of AIDS with the decimation of the great creative communities of cities like New York in the 1980s.

He, along with Andy Warhol, also knew how to present the artist as showman (the iconic bleached hair and heavy frame black glasses surely an an echo of the Factory king as much as a homage to blonde glamour).

Documentary filmmaker Randall Wright (also behind the award-winning documentary on Lucien Freud) has known Hockney for a decade plus and was given unprecedented access to Hockney’s extensive archive of film and stills to trace the life of the man in pictures – both his own and those of his key influences.

The result  is a portrait that is as vivid, warm and immediate as Hockney’s work itself.

Just had our eyes pricked by these two tweets. Apparently a Hungarian canine uprising movie called White God is one to look out for. 

Here’s a doggie pic:

White God (2014)

White God (2014)

Lots of excitement down on Leicester Square right now over this fella …

That’s a lot of retweets.

Elgort is here to support his new film Men, Women & Children, which is of course the latest from Juno director Jason Reitman. We’ll be bringing you some video highlights from the adventures of Elgort and Reitman on the red carpet later tonight.

Men, Women & Children (2014)

Men, Women & Children (2014)

 

 

“Is the internet bringing us closer together or pushing us further apart?”

Watch highlights from the red carpet action at our gala screening of internet-age drama Men, Women & Children last night.

‘I just wanted to make my own version of Terry and June’

Together with his all-female cast, director Peter Strickland introduced the Official Competition screening of his new film, The Duke of Burgundy, last night at LFF, giving UK audiences the chance to find out for themselves whether the excited talk from Toronto was worth it.

Peter Strickland attends the screening of The Duke of Burgundy at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Peter Strickland attends the screening of The Duke of Burgundy at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

What does Twitter think? It seems love is in the air … and the Competition is well and truly on.

John Boorman bows out with Queen and Country

Veteran director John Boorman told an audience at last night’s Queen and Country screening that the film would be his last, writes Lou Thomas.

Speaking at a Q&A after the film screened at BFI Southbank, Boorman suggested its final camera-themed shot was an apt tribute to his career and provoked gasps when he said he would not make another.

When an audience member expressed hope that Boorman would reconsider, the director of Deliverance (1972) and Point Blank (1967) joked that he always forgot what hard work it was when offered a new film.

Boorman also paid tribute to David Thewlis’s performance in Queen and Country. Thewlis, also in attendance, is superb in a supporting role as a fastidious NCO struggling to command soldiers during British national service in the 1950s.

Queen and Country is a loose sequel to Boorman’s Hope and Glory (1987) and centres on conscript Bill Rohan (Callum Turner) as he navigates the equally taxing arenas of military life and female relationships.

Queen and Country (2014)

Queen and Country (2014)

As with Hope and Glory, the film is heavily autobiographical and delivers frequent laughter amid the nostalgia. Thewlis aside, Caleb Landry Jones, Tamsin Egerton, Richard E. Grant and Pat Shortt provide solid support in a heartfelt tale which includes several scenes set to please fans of cinematic military incompetence found in the likes of MASH (1970), Buffalo Soldiers (2001) and Jarhead (2005).

Queen and Country is screening on Sunday 12 October at Odeon West End and on Sunday 19 October at Curzon  Mayfair.

There’s news in this morning, courtesy of Screen International, that Calabrian Mafia family drama Black Souls (Anime vera) has been picked up for UK distribution by Vertigo Films.

Black Souls (2014)

Black Souls (2014)

Screen quotes Vertigo’s Rupert Preston saying: “Black Souls is really classy and intelligent filmmaking that stays with you for days after. We’re delighted and honoured to be releasing it in the UK.”

Read Adrian Wootton’s description of the film for LFF and book tickets.

Don’t miss … Brazilian coming-of-age drama Casa grande

In Casa grande, writes Alex Davidson, an impressive first feature from Brazilian director Fellipe Barbosa, Jean, a teenage boy living in Rio with his affluent family, finds that his future plans change radically when his family faces bankruptcy and a new quota system threatens his university plans.

Watch the trailer for Casa grande

From this simple premise emerges a revealing portrait of race and class, as Jean loses his servants, an ersatz second family who helped bring him up, and begins to rebel against his conservative father.

Ostracised from his friends when he is unable to repay a debt, he tries to forge a new relationship with his former servants and begins a romantic relationship with a mixed race girl he meets on the bus, someone he would never have encountered at his predominantly white all-boys school.

Thales Cavalcanti is very well cast as Jean, a not-always-sympathetic figure whose behaviour often verges on the brattish, but to whom the film is generous enough to offer a chance of redemption. But will Jean take it?

Casa grande’s first of three Festival screenings is today at noon.

@AnselElgort Twitter takeover

If you notice a different tone to some of the BFI’s tweets today, it’s because we’ve handed the reins over to this guy: Ansel Elgort, the 20-year-old star of Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars and, now, Men, Women & Children.

Who knows what he’s got in store for our account?

Angel Elgort on the red carpet for Men, Women & Children at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Angel Elgort on the red carpet for Men, Women & Children at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Scorsese: ‘Parajanov opened a door into a timeless cinematic experience’

There are some films whose striking stills are enticement enough, and today’s archival treasure The Colour of Pomegranates, Sergei Parajanov’s dazzling 1968 treatment of the life of 18th-century poet Sayat Nova, is one of them.

The Colour of Pomegranates (1968)

The Colour of Pomegranates (1968)

Nonetheless, for those who need further temptation there’s some great Festival reading to be had over at the Guardian, with a feature on the new 4K restoration of the film, which Martin Scorsese introduced at the Toronto Film Festival.

Paley writes: “The Colour of Pomegranates can be a bewildering experience for western viewers or, indeed, for anyone not steeped in the history of the region in which it is set, but the magnitude of Parajanov’s cinematic achievement is clear to see. At the Toronto screening, Scorsese said: ‘I didn’t know any more about Sayat Nova at the end of the picture than I knew at the beginning, but instead what Parajanov did was he opened a door into a timeless cinematic experience.’”

Read the full feature.

The Colour of Pomegranates, restored with funding from Cineteca di Bologna and Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project, screens at 3.13pm today and again on Sunday at 1pm.

Competition heats up with Timbuktu

Far be it from me to take issue with the decisions of film festival jurors, writes Geoff Andrew. Still, I certainly wasn’t alone in being surprised when the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival awarded not a single prize to Timbuktu, the new film by Abderrahmane Sissako, the great Mauritanian-Malian writer director who gave us Waiting for Happiness and Bamako.

Timbuktu (2014)

Timbuktu (2014)

Driven to make Timbuktu (which screens in the LFF’s Official Competition) after he learned of the stoning to death of a couple by foreign jihadists imposing their hardline regime in Mali, Sissako came up with a work that could hardly be more relevant. Juries are not there to reward relevance, you may say, and you’d be right. But they are there to reward great filmmaking, and Timbuktu is a terrific film.

Though fuelled by righteous anger at the inhumane deeds perpetrated by the fundamentalists in his country and elsewhere, the film is great partly because it is not prepared to communicate only that anger.

As anyone who’s seen his earlier work will know, Sissako is an extraordinary filmmaker with a very distinctive style and tone of his own.

Here, while he focuses most closely on the terrible consequences of jihadist rule as suffered by a Tuareg cowherd’s family, he also broadens his kaleidoscopic narrative to take in not only other victims but the jihadists themselves – who, crucially, are never stereotyped as fanatically evil villains but are depicted as intelligent but woefully misguided men.

Timbuktu (2014)

Timbuktu (2014)

Similarly, Sissako never restricts himself to stirring drama – he finds time in his film for tenderness, serenity, even poetry and touches of gentle comedy. Remarkably, the different narrative threads and the tonal shifts all cohere into a film that’s as formally imaginative and elegant as it is moving – and, sadly, all too relevant.

I’m very much looking forward to finding out how Abderrahmane Sissako achieved all this, and I’ll be asking him about Timbuktu and his other films (and yes, there will be clips) at the LFF Screen talk this coming Saturday.

I can confirm from previous encounters that he’s a good talker and a lovely man as well as a great filmmaker. It’d be good to see you there.

Look out for Mike Leigh around Leicester Square in the early evening, as he’ll be around to introduce his hugely acclaimed new biopic Mr. Turner.

We caught up with Leigh and actor Timothy Spall (who plays, nay embodies, landscape artist J.M.W. Turner) a while back to ask them about bringing the 19th-century world of the Romantic painters back to life.

Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall talk Mr. Turner

Like all of Leigh’s films, the project was initially shrouded in secrecy, known simply as Mike Leigh Untitled 13.

But when the phone rang, Ben Roberts, director of our Film Fund, didn’t think twice about lending his support to the film:

I was hooked on this from the moment we received the call from Mike’s producer to say that he was planning to make a film about Turner.

Details were scant, but Mike promised to bring the fire of Turner’s work to life onscreen and I think what he and director of photography Dick Pope have achieved in this regard is extraordinary.

Timothy Spall is superb, but I must give special mention to Marion Bailey who radiates warmth and grace as Turner’s twilight partner, Mrs Booth. It’s a film about many things, but not least embracing change, celebrating life, and facing death.

Rising star

Olivia Colman hits the roof in the poignant short The Kármán Line

Olivia Colman hits the roof in the poignant short The Kármán Line

Kimberley Sheehan admits shedding a tear or two at one of today’s short films:

In 2010, Oscar Sharp scooped the Grand Prize at the Virgin Media Shorts Competition (and later, a BIFA nomination) with Sign Language, his touching tale of a passionate Oxford Street sign holder on his final shift. Sharp’s prize was £30,000 combined with mentoring from the BFI to go towards his next project.

The resulting film, The Kármán Line, tells the story of a mother (a fantastic as always Olivia Colman) who develops a bizarre affliction, and follows her family’s attempts to deal with the situation.

It’s a truly affecting and poignant piece that further demonstrates Sharp’s ability to tell human stories in a tender and beautiful way.

It moved me to more tears than any feature film I’ve seen this year.

  • The Kármán Line is included in tonight’s The Meaning of Love shorts programme at the Vue cinema in Islington 

Kimberley Sheehan is Film Fund Assistant at the BFI Film Fund, which funded the film

Another rather impressive ticket haul from one festival-goer … 

The buzz

Twitter is still a-flutter over the screening last night of Peter Strickland’s lesbianism and lepidoptery wonder The Duke of Burgundy.

But what else have people seen? And what are they seeing tonight?

60 years young: Britain’s first animated feature

Animal Farm (1954)

Animal Farm (1954)

Some Festival reading ahead of Sunday’s unveiling of a brand new digital restoration of the 1954 cartoon version of Animal Farm.

“Most recent attention to the film has come from research into its covert part-funding via the CIA,” writes our animation curator Jez Stewart, “which is a fascinating story but has unfortunately overshadowed the creative efforts behind the film.”

Production meeting with storyboards

Production meeting with storyboards
Credit: The Halas & Batchelor Collection, BFI Special Collections

Composer Matyas Seiber, writer-producer-directors John Halas and Joy Batchelor, and animation director John Reed

Composer Matyas Seiber, writer-producer-directors John Halas and Joy Batchelor, and animation director John Reed
Credit: The Halas & Batchelor Collection, BFI Special Collections

Londoner’s film FestEvil

We bumped into London-based director Paul Taylor on Festival opening night, so fired him some quick questions about his debut short, FestEvil, a slasher movie set at a music festival.

FestEvil (2014)

FestEvil (2014)

Why do you think your film caught the eye of the LFF programmers?

A horror movie set at a music festival is hopefully an exciting premise, unless you hate horror movies, or music festivals, or both. For us we loved the idea of taking the rules and conventions of a horror movie and splicing it into the vibrant, chaotic environment of a music festival. The film explores the idea of how you can be very vulnerable and isolated even if you are surrounded by thousands of people, especially when you consider the age old question of ‘who can you really trust?’

Where did the idea for FestEvil come from?

James Longman and I, who wrote the film, go to a fair few music festivals and just started playing around with the idea of a killer being on the loose in that setting. We loved the thought that if something really dark and sinister did go down, would people even notice in the chaos of it all? And how far could things slide? I once had a friend who disappeared for two days at a music festival. She was just partying with some other people, but it was slightly disturbing how we all just accepted that she’d probably turn up. I like the idea that people might ignore little warning signs because they don’t want to let it ruin their weekend.

How difficult was it getting your first short made?

The biggest challenge was filming on location at a real music festival. We knew we wanted to ground the film in reality and add to the scale by using a real festival as a backdrop, but the logistics were incredibly challenging. Banging music, drunk and drugged up people, weather, mud … it was brutal but a huge amount of fun.

Filming FestEvil (2014)

Filming FestEvil (2014)

What are you doing next?

We wrote the original idea as a feature, but decided to make a short version first to see if it was even possible. Now we want to make a feature film version, which we think you could do on a modest budget with a small ensemble cast over one summer. We have huge faith in the idea, and see no reason it couldn’t become a big horror franchise the likes of Paranormal Activity, Saw or Big Momma’s House.

What are you looking forward to seeing at the the LFF?

I am SO excited about seeing Whiplash. Seen some clips and the trailer and it looks brilliant. Music and film are huge passions of mine, so when the two come together I get giddy. 

Phones away folks!

An hour to go before tonight’s Festival Gala screening of Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. But first let’s flash back to last night’s screening of social media-era comedy Men, Women & Children and enjoy actors Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever on stage with director Jason Reitman.

“Try not to look at your phone during the movie,” Elgort cautions, “because if you do you’re not really getting the point.”

Look who’s talking …

Look who’s talking …

LFF’s best ever year for women directors

Here’s a great bit of number-crunching from Sight & Sound: one fifth of this year’s LFF programme was directed or co-directed by women.

Critic Sophie Mayer begins: “It would technically just about be possible to cram in a viewing of all the features directed or co-directed by women at this year’s London Film Festival; with a record-breaking 54 (out of 248, 20 per cent), however, that’s 4.9 per day.”

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

For Festival Director Clare Stewart, however, who is quoted throughout the article, there’s still work to be done. Read her comments in the full feature.

Timothy Spall has arrived for the UK premiere of Mr. Turner down at Leicester Square …  and doesn’t he look dapper?

“If I invite you round for dinner, I don’t always dish up the same thing.”

Mike Leigh prepares the audience for a different kind of Mike Leigh movie.

Mr. Turner is now under way.

We wonder if Leigh bumped into that other veteran director Abel Ferrara. He’s also down on the square tonight to support the premiere of his new documentary about Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. We’ll have pro pics of both Leigh and Ferrara for our next post.

Painting the town: Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall

Mike Leigh on the red carpet for Mr. Turner at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Mike Leigh on the red carpet for Mr. Turner at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

This is what happened when Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall came to town for the UK premiere of their J.M.W. Turner biopic, Mr. Turner.

Timothy Spall on the red carpet for Mr. Turner at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Timothy Spall on the red carpet for Mr. Turner at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

It’s day four, and the most packed yet in terms of screenings and events.

For a start, two more Official Competition titles will get their first outing today.

First up is the world premiere of The Falling, the first fiction feature from Dreams of a Life director Carol Morley.

One of the very first reviews came yesterday, and it’s somewhat appetite-whetting.

The Falling (2014)

The Falling (2014)

The Guardian writes:

Carol Morley’s entirely absorbing new film is about a mysterious outbreak of mass hysterical fainting at a girls’ school in the late 1960s. The Falling is a non-sci-fi sci-fi, a deadly serious black comedy and a psychological drama in which psychological assessments are beside the point. It comes from the heart of a certain kind of Englishness: as murky, wet and luxurious as the water in which Millais drowned Ophelia.

Read the full review.

Also still in town today after a triumphant Competition screening of Timbuktu last night is Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako.

Screenwriter Kessen Tall and director Abderrahmane Sissako attend the Official Competition screening of Timbuktu at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Screenwriter Kessen Tall and director Abderrahmane Sissako attend the Official Competition screening of Timbuktu at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Sissako’s film, about the temporary occupation of Timbuktu by jihadists in 2012, broke the news yesterday when it won top prize at Belgium’s Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur (FIFF), but the venerable director chose to stay in London for the LFF screening rather than collect the prize the person – to the benefit of a packed house at Odeon West End.

On stage with his screenwriter Kessen Tall, Sissako spoke eloquently about his searing but playful film and his dismay at the “hijacking” of Islam by extremists.

There’s a second screening of Timbuktu at Curzon Soho this evening, and the director will also be holding forth at a special event as part of our Screen Talk series at 3.45pm at BFI Southbank.

The Way He Looks: ‘Many people don’t mind gay people existing, but they don’t want to see them kissing!’

Another director who was around the LFF yesterday was first-time Brazilian filmmaker Daniel Ribeiro, writes Paul O’Callaghan.

His film The Way He Looks is a truly life-affirming gay coming-of-age drama about a blind teenager’s experience of first love. It’s been delighting festival audiences worldwide since it premiered at Berlin in February, where it picked up the coveted Teddy Award for best LGBT film.

The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks (2014)

The film deals with the notion of sexuality being about much more than visual stimuli. Was this a starting point for you?

The starting point was a young gay man’s discovery of his own sexuality. I wanted to show how natural sexuality is, when it first comes about. The visual aspect of sexuality in society creates so many problems, especially when you talk about gay sexuality. Many people don’t mind gay people existing, but they don’t want to see them kissing!

Also, I read an essay about how blind people are not seen as sexual beings. Very often parents don’t talk about sex with their blind kids, they treat them as if they were asexual.

A lot of key gay films have tended to be on the bleak side, with protagonists often treated as victims. Were you aiming to redress a balance with this film’s more optimistic outlook?

All of those older films are important because that’s how society was, and in some cases continues to be. But we are very lucky today – we have relationships, we can get married. More gay people find love and are happy than get murdered violently! But we obviously still need films that deal with homophobia and the problems around sexuality.

The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks (2014)

Do you have a sense of how teenagers in Brazil today feel about LGBT rights?

Young people in Brazil are much more accepting. Most are in favour of gay marriage and adoption. I’m very hopeful for the new generation, not only in Brazil but across the world. Even though there are still a lot of people who don’t understand gay people, more and more do.

Are Brazilian audiences receptive to small-scale films like yours?

No! Our biggest problem in Brazil is that a lot of films are being made, but they’re not being watched. Big American films dominate, like everywhere else. So at any one time, three films are taking up 95% of the market.

There’s not a lot of cinemas for one thing, many were closed and converted to churches. We have 200 million people and 3,500 screens. There’s support from the government to build new cinemas so it’s improving slowly. But we need to create a culture of people watching Brazilian films, as that’s been lost.

Dragon Inn (1967) lobby card

Dragon Inn (1967) lobby card

These are rather beautiful – two original lobby cards for the classic 1967 Chinese action film Dragon Inn, the digital restoration of which gets its first of two LFF outings in, oh, 25 minutes.

Dragon Inn (1967) lobby card

Dragon Inn (1967) lobby card

We included Dragon Inn (and frankly, how couldn’t we?) in our recent list of 10 great wuxia films.

Matthew Thrift wrote:

If you’re familiar with the work of the great Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang, you’ll have caught snatches of King Hu’s wuxia masterpiece illuminating the fumbled passes of a picture palace’s dying days in Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003).

A director to rank alongside the greats, Hu’s influence was far-reaching, and he was as in command of the exquisite compositions of his widescreen vistas as the Hawksian group dynamics of his Inn trilogy’s confined spaces.

Yet in keeping with his adoration for the Beijing Opera, Hu’s is a cinema of movement. One could discuss the evolution of the wuxia genre purely in terms of its approach to film editing, and critic David Bordwell has written brilliantly on Hu’s pioneering technique.

Unifying the historical, cultural and philosophical preoccupations of wuxia’s literary antecedents with a progressive, slyly allegorical modernism, Hu’s cinema proves that genre and great art needn’t be mutually exclusive.

In just over an hour and 20 minutes, we’ll start to see the cast and crew of The Falling arrive on Leicester Square for the world premiere.

Director Carol Morley will be there, along with producer Luc Roeg, young stars Maisie Williams and Florence Pugh, and co-star Greta Scacchi.

The Falling (2014)

The Falling (2014)

Marilyn Milgrom was script consultant on the film for the BFI Film Fund:

As a fan of Carol Morley’s wonderful documentary Dreams of a Life I was excited to be working with her on her first fiction feature and delighted when it turned out to be such fun!

The film is a fictional reimagining of a true case of mass hysteria in a north London girls’ school in the late 1960s, and Carol and her team have done an amazing job of evoking both the period and the intensity of teenage relationships.

The performances of the young cast are superb and Monica Dolan’s chain-smoking headmistress took me right back to my school days.

The film speaks with a unique voice that is authentic, dream-like, beautiful, weird, sexy, funny … not unlike Carol herself.

Time to kick back with our hashtag #LFF to find out what people are seeing and what people are liking …

Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp in John Ford’s 1946 masterpiece My Darling Clementine, screening in a restored version this afternoon in the Journey strand

Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp in John Ford’s 1946 masterpiece My Darling Clementine, screening in a restored version this afternoon in the Journey strand

Don’t miss … New York vs the jungle doc Song from the Forest

In the 1980s, Jim Jarmusch’s friend and New York author Louis Sarno went to the Central African Republic and lived among the community of Yandoumbe, writes Georgia Korossi.

Song from the Forest (2014)

Song from the Forest (2014)

He went there to record the Bayakan music and the sounds of the Bayaka pygmies’ surrounding environment deep inside the rainforest. He married a Bayakan and they now have a son who one night, after falling very ill, his father promised to show New York. At the time of filmmaking, Samedi is now 13 years old and, in Michael Obert’s Song from the Forest, is ready to take the long trip to the Big Apple with his father.

Obert’s film is an intriguing portrait of two worlds of wilderness: the tropical rainforest and the wild concrete city. One is pure, the other offended by, as Jarmusch says in the film, “territories of greedy power and racism Americans don’t admit”.

Pride/For Those in Peril star George MacKay on his new film, Bypass

Among the UK films on offer this evening is Duane Hopkins’ Bypass, a bleak look at the cycles of crime and poverty that exist in working-class Britain.

Hopkins’ follow-up to 2008’s Better Things features a commanding performance from rising star George MacKay, fresh from his turn in Stephen Beresford’s Pride. Simran Hans found a moment during the rush of the Festival to talk to an actor who’s quickly become one of the faces of contemporary British cinema.

Bypass (2014)

Bypass (2014)

What drew you to the script?

Duane’s got such a specific style, and sound is really important to his work so within the stage directions there’d be notes [written into the script]. You could really get a sense of the visual style he was going for, which I thought was really interesting. [I then watched] Better Things as well, which I just absolutely loved. It’s bleak and beautiful and a really interesting piece of work.

Can you tell me more about what it was like to work with Duane?

Amazing. I think people feel he’s quite intense, because he really sort of [George stares at me intensely] listens when he listens, and takes in what you say. He’s really interested in different types of working, and likewise – I just want to learn as much as I can. We had a very close relationship; although he wanted to work as an actor and a director, because of the way he works and the person he is, it was also important that we had a relationship between ourselves as well.

What’s the main thing you’ve learned from working with Duane?

I think the level of involvement that he encourages, and that level of detail – it gives a new base to everything. If that’s the minimum that everyone can work to, that will make all the work better. The minimum was a very high standard.

Bypass (2014)

Bypass (2014)

Your character, Tim, goes through some intense hardships. Was it difficult to inhabit that emotional space?

I was really thrilled and surprised by how easy I found it to get into Tim’s emotions, rather than going “I as George would feel this way about the situation that Tim is going through.” In a way, that sometimes made it difficult emotionally, but that’s our job essentially. It’s really exciting to get outside of that sadness [you felt in the scene] feeling really excited that you felt that genuinely, rather than having to pretend that you felt it.

Are you excited about the state of British cinema?

I think the variety of films being made is great. I know the sort of ‘Beauty Queen’ answer is that “It’s about the stories” but it really does seem to be that [way in British cinema]. It always has been [and] what’s going on in the industry is testament to that. I think it’s really exciting and positive.

  • Bypass is backed by the BFI Film Fund, and screens on 11 and 14 October.

The scenes over at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 just now. We’re pleased to know that director One9 has safely touched down on British soil.

He’ll be at the Odeon Covent Garden at 6.15pm tonight for the screening of his vital new documentary Nas: Time Is Illmatic, which explores the genesis of one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time: Nas’s 1994 record Illmatic.

Tickets still available here.

Double Decker

Josephine Decker

Josephine Decker

Brooklyn-based filmmaker Josephine Decker has not one but two films in this year’s LFF, writes Paul O’Callaghan.

Her debut, Butter on the Latch, screens at the LFF tonight and is in the running for the prize for Best First Feature. It’s an audaciously odd account of a female friendship that begins to unravel over the course of a Balkan folk-music camp in the middle of a California forest. With a tone that oscillates unpredictably between mumblecore-style comedy and esoteric, Lynchian horror, it’s an extremely assured first film.

Her equally inventive follow-up film, Thou Wast Mild & Lovely, stars Festival regular Joe Swanberg, and has screened as part of this year’s Dare strand.

Butter on the Latch (2014)

Butter on the Latch (2014)

The starting point for Butter on the Latch seems to be a moment of urban burnout, with the characters fleeing from a hostile city. Do you find urban living a challenge yourself?

Definitely! That’s why I make all my movies in the countryside, so I can get out of the city at least for the two weeks that I’m on set. At the moment I live with six roommates who I met at an artists’ residency, and being part of a little community makes things much more liveable – it can be really lonely living in a big city. I think that’s why there’s been such a big resurgence of interest in eastern meditation and yoga. It’s an attempt to bring something natural into this modern experience.

The relationship between the two main characters seems intimate to begin with, but reveals itself to be quite fragile. Is this based on personal experience?

I didn’t realise until after I’d made the movie that it was a response to a female friendship breakup that I’d gone through. I was really devastated to lose this friend who had been so close to me. And when it started falling apart I was in denial for a long time. I think this sort of situation can come out of nowhere, especially when you’re young and don’t have the communication skills to work through it. It can get so dark so quickly, and that’s what happens in this film.

On one level you could call it a study of anxiety, and it reminded me in places of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist. Was that a big influence?

It’s funny, I didn’t think of him as an influence until after I’d made the film. But I realised his work had had a deep impact on me. When he decides he’s going to punch, he just knocks you out, and I absolutely love that. I love that he goes all the way, and assumes that his audience can handle not just harsh material, but experimentation with form and style, and with imagery and storytelling.

Butter on the Latch (2014)

Butter on the Latch (2014)

There are also comic scenes of improvised dialogue, which reminded me of Joe Swanberg’s films. Has working with him had a big impact on your career?

He essentially got me to start making movies. I was waiting around for $2 million to make a fantasy film, but after working as an actor with him one summer I decided I could make something myself, and do it cheaply. The production budget for Butter on the Latch was less than $20,000. Seeing him work made moviemaking seem completely achievable.

Were there any other films you looked to when you were defining the film’s tone?

I adored Black Swan, and ended up watching it about five times before we did some reshoots for a scene in which the characters get lost in the wood. I love Darren Aronofsky because he lets you into the minds of his characters, which is really what I’m trying to do too. I want to make the audience feel exactly what the characters are feeling, to be inside them rather than just observing them passively.

Last days: Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini film

Sight & Sound editor Nick James introduced the Festival’s opening screening of Pasolini with a glowing endorsement from his magazine at Odeon West End last night, writes Lou Thomas.

Pasolini (2014)

Pasolini (2014)

Abel Ferrara’s film, an interpretation of the last day of the great Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s life, is a subtle, complex film.

At its heart, Willem Dafoe’s nuanced, sensitive portrayal of the great director impresses from start to finish. Pasolini is shown giving his final interview, working in an edit suite on his last film, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), sending his second novel to a published and an unfinished script to a friend.

Viewers are left to ponder what wonders this industrious and multi-talented man may have created if he hadn’t been murdered in mysterious circumstances on a beach in Ostia, just outside Rome.

Pasolini lacks the straight-forward narrative of Gus van Sant’s Last Days (2005), although the films share a common theme: the sad end of a mighty creative force. Here instead, using Maurizio Braucci’s deft script, Ferrara recreates sections from Pasolini’s novel and unfinished script, amid scenes from his life.

Elsewhere, there are allusions to Pasolini’s own work and moments of quiet contemplation, the latter especially fitting given that many will find themselves thinking about the film after viewing.

  • Pasolini is screening at Brixton Ritzy tonight at 9pm and BFI Southbank on Monday 13 October.

Festival bladder-testers

One of the standout titles from last year’s LFF was undoubtedly Lav Diaz’s superb examination of crime and punishment in the Philippines, Norte, the End of History, writes Matthew Thrift. It is a film that completely owned every minute of its monumental 250-minute running time.

From What is Before (Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon, 2014)

From What is Before (Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon, 2014)

Securing a ticket for his follow-up this year was a priority for many a fan of his particular breed of ‘slow cinema’, but not just any ticket. With From What Is Before running a bladder-testing 338 minutes (and with no interval), the leg-sparing aisle seats and front rows became a hot commodity.

Not that it really mattered in the event. So riveting was Diaz’s control of his narrative rhythms over the course of those five-plus hours when I watched it as yesterday’s screening that any concerns for the onset of DVT were swiftly assailed. Besides, such an extended running time pales in comparison to the director’s 2004 long-haul behemoth Evolution of a Filipino Family, which clocks in at a staggering nine hours. This one was a breeze.

Winter Sleep (Kış Uykusu, 2014)

Winter Sleep (Kış Uykusu, 2014)

Lil Quinquin (2014)

Lil Quinquin (2014)

National Gallery (2014)

National Gallery (2014)

Charting the years immediately prior to Ferdinand Marcos’s implementation of martial law in 1972, Diaz once again delivers a stunning fusion of the personal and political, his riveting narrative and immaculately composed images entirely justifying the film’s intimidating length.

Yet with running times of the average summer blockbuster and prestige film alike commonly pushing the 150-minute mark, it seems we might need to get used to spending that little bit longer in our favourite cinema seats.

If you’re fidgeting at the mere thought of 338 minutes, there’s plenty more playing at the LFF this year to serve as something of a warm-up. Four of the best push the three-hour mark, with Alexei German’s magnificent Hard to Be a God (170 mins), Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep (196 mins), Bruno Dumont’s hilarious Li’l Quinquin (200 mins) and Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery (173 mins) all uniquely dazzling mini-marathons.

Whether there’s a distributor brave enough to pick up Lav Diaz’s film remains to be seen, making its final LFF screening all the more essential. The film’s a masterpiece, and those 338 minutes fly by, honestly. It’s really not to be missed, as those viewers who are four hours and 17 minutes into it right now at the second screening will attest. 

The three best images from the red carpet before this afternoon’s screening of Carol Morley’s The Falling.

Director Carol Morley (centre) with actors Maisie Williams and Ellie Bamber on the red carpet for The Falling at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director Carol Morley (centre) with actors Maisie Williams and Ellie Bamber on the red carpet for The Falling at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The cast and crew of The Falling on the red carpet at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The cast and crew of The Falling on the red carpet at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Maisie Williams on the red carpet for The Falling at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Maisie Williams on the red carpet for The Falling at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Up for Debate: National Diploma

Dieudo Hamadi’s riveting, fly-on-the-wall documentary National Diploma, screening tonight, follows a group of cash-strapped Congolese students who form a breakaway study group in response to being expelled from their school ahead of a crucial exam for not paying their fees. Ashley Clark spoke with Hamadi to find out more.

Watch the National Diploma (2014) trailer

Where did you get the idea?

I grew up in the same city (Kisangani), studied in the same school, and years later when I started to make movies I was inspired to use this as a subject because I had lived it.

How did you settle on your subjects?

I chose one specific classroom and one specific character to begin with, and then little by little, other characters started to show up.

Did you feel sorry for the administrators who have to enforce these harsh rules?

Of course, but I couldn’t tell all of the stories in the movie, and I had chosen to focus on the kids. It’s terrible for the teachers as well. They make very little money, and sometimes they have to have three jobs just to sustain themselves.

National Diploma (2014)

National Diploma (2014)

Your style is so hands-off, it’s sometimes hard to tell if it’s is a documentary or a fictional thriller!

There are two reasons why my style is like that: first of all, I find it difficult to write a script that accompanies a documentary that is showing what is happening. The second reason is that I wanted to do it really simply: just put the camera on. I was inspired by the styles of filmmakers like Rithy Panh and Raymond Depardon.

There’s a pervasive tendency in the western media to speak of Africa as a country. Does that annoy you?

First of all, we can only tell a good story when it’s a story that we really know; when it’s a story that we belong to. In my film I’m speaking of my community; I’ve lived this. It’s important that we’re seeing more and more writers and filmmakers from Cameroon, Burkina Faso and so on, so we can start to counter this image of Africa being seen as one block, and instead see it as made up of individual countries, individual realities.

What’s the core message of your film?

It’s about what a human being does when faced with struggle. More broadly, in Congo, these children go through all this struggle for a make-or-break exam, and then what? Are things really going to change? What we can we build with this energy of despair?

This just in: our video of the Q&A with Mike Leigh and the cast at the screening of Mr. Turner last night. By many accounts this is one of the films of 2014.

Did you anyone spot Noomi Rapace down on Leicester Square just now? 

She’s in town for the premiere of The Drop, a Brooklyn-set thriller from the pen of Dennis Lehane, featuring a final performance from the late James Gandolfini.

Autograph hunters should also keep an eye out later for François Ozon, here for his Competition film My New Girlfriend, and Mia Wasikowska and Sophia Fiennes for their new version of Madame Bovary. 

We’ll have all the images right here.

Some of our visitors on night four of the LFF … 

François Ozon on the red carpet for The New Girlfriend at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

François Ozon on the red carpet for The New Girlfriend at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Mia Wasikowska on the red carpet for Madame Bovary at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Mia Wasikowska on the red carpet for Madame Bovary at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

George MacKay on the red carpet for Bypass at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

George MacKay on the red carpet for Bypass at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Charlotte Spence on the red carpet for Bypass at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Charlotte Spence on the red carpet for Bypass at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Noomi Rapace on the red carpet for The Drop at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Noomi Rapace on the red carpet for The Drop at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

 

It’s the morning of day five, and some of us might have slept better than others.

After all, last night saw the first screening of hotly tipped nightmare-inducer It Follows, the second film from David Robert Mitchell. 

Watch a clip from It Follows (2014)

Matthew Thrift, who was in the audience, writes:

“I was certainly aware of it,” said director David Robert Mitchell when asked about the relationship between sex and death in horror movies, after the screening of his fantastic sophomore film, It Follows.

“My goal with this was not to moralise or make any puritanical statement by any means. I like the idea that when the trouble does start in this movie, the characters open themselves up to the danger through sex, but it’s also the thing that enables them to free themselves from it, at least temporarily.”

With its muscular, inventive direction that pays homage to both Wes Craven’s waking nightmares and the subjective mastery of John Carpenter (echoed further by the terrific synth score), It Follows represents an assured change of direction from the lyrical qualities of his debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover.

As Mitchell said: “They’re really different, but there’s also a lot of similarities. When I was writing this film, I kept thinking about the idea of taking characters that were similar to those I’d written in Myth and placing them in a nightmare to see how they might react. So much of this movie is about waiting, it’s about the quiet spaces in between moments of chaos. My first film is about quiet spaces as well, spaces between those bigger moments you might see in other teenage movies. I think they have that in common.”

Here’s what some other people were watching at #LFF last night:

So what does Sunday bring for the LFF?

Well, church-skippers still have time to make it to National Gallery, Frederick Wiseman’s latest long-form study of a cultural institution.

National Gallery (2014)

National Gallery (2014)

Described as “a triumphant summation of Wiseman’s career so far” (Edward Lawrenson), Wiseman’s film screens as part of our Documentary Competition at that other great cultural institution, BFI Southbank, in just under the hour.

Wiseman is also giving a masterclass on the art of documentary at 3.30pm, which probably counts as unmissable for documentary buffs though tickets are looking tough to come by … always worth a shot though.

Documentary fans will also want to catch today’s other Competition nominee: the Belgian film Ne me quitte pas, a charming observational documentary about two male friends and their dependency on alcohol.

Dearest (2014)

Dearest (2014)

The Official Competition, meanwhile, gets into its stride with Dearest, a missing-child drama from Peter Ho-sun Chan, the director of Comrades: A Love Story.

Then, this evening, Competition contender The Keeping Room is an American civil war thriller about two sisters and their slave left to fend for themselves on an isolated farm. Daniel Barber is the director.

Two directorial debuts screening today are also up for prizes: Macondo and Labour of Love

It’s also the day of both our Debate Gala and our Laugh Gala.

Rosewater (2014)

Rosewater (2014)

For the former, firebrand political satirist and Daily Show presenter Jon Stewart will be in town to introduce his debut as director, the real-life political thriller Rosewater, starring Gael García Bernal.

For the latter, it’s the turn of Wild Tales, a Pedro Almodovár-produced black comedy from Argentina that the Guardian called “a terrific film and a real find in Cannes.”

That’s a lot to dive into, but – as ever – it’s barely scratching the surface.

Last chance to see ... The Colour of Pomegranates

Listen up Hackneyites, amazingly there are still some tickets left for the 1pm screening of The Colour of Pomegranates at Hackney Picturehouse, says Matthew Thrift.

The Colour of Pomegranates (1968)

The Colour of Pomegranates (1968)

For years only available via substandard bootlegs that did little service to the ravishing images comprised in Sergei Parajanov’s symbolist masterpiece, the heaven-sent 4K restoration playing at the LFF offers a viewing experience to which the recent DVD release couldn’t dream to aspire.

There’s little point in approaching The Colour of Pomegranates from a literalist standpoint, so densely woven are its esoteric references to medieval Armenian poet Sayat Nova, upon whose life and work Parajanov’s film is based.

Instead of any pointed attempt at decoding its myriad allusions (especially on a first viewing), better to simply succumb to the intoxicating charms of its mise-en-scène, its breathtaking formal conceits and the opulent majesty of its visual palette.

Eschewing both camera movement and direct dialogue, Parajanov presided over every aspect of his meticulous filmmaking process from direction to design, his principal actor (Sofiko Chiaureli) playing multiple cross-gender roles.

Readings of the film abound and sly political commentary is there for the taking – it was banned by the Soviet censors for its purportedly anti-social-realist expression – but it’s the vividness of its iconographic images that sear onto your retina.

These LFF screenings are the best possible way to discover one of cinema’s towering masterpieces.

Three to see today

Some gems to look out for at the Festival today, courtesy of our roving bloggers … 

A Hard Day

One to add to the pantheon of great Korean action cinema, writes Chris Fennell, Kim Seong-hung’s A Hard Day is a perfectly executed police thriller: tightly-wound, cheerfully implausible and darkly funny.

A Hard Day (2014)

A Hard Day (2014)

The hard day of the title is just the start for Detective Ko (Lee Sun-kyun): after running down a stranger in an apparently fatal accident on the day of his mother’s funeral, he quickly finds himself hoisting dead bodies through air vents, dangling from skyscrapers, and fighting for his life as he is tormented by Terminator-like Lieutenant Park (Cho Jin-woong).

Combining Bong Joon-ho’s genre smarts, Harold Lloyd’s slapstick and the Coen Brothers’ fatalistic wit, the film breathlessly swings with every explosive revelation and spiralling shift in tone.

Kim’s sophomore feature may not be the deepest film at this year’s festival, but it’s testament to the brisk efficiency of its vision that it’s such enjoyably daft, delirious fun.

If You Don’t, I Will

I couldn’t pass up a chance to see the wonderful pairing of Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Devos, writes Demetrios Matheou. They’re two of France’s most individual performers, who together have portrayed some memorably messed up romances, notably for Arnaud Desplechin in Ma vie sexuelle and Kings & Queen. This may be their most bittersweet pairing, as a fortysomething couple whose long-term relationship is falling apart at the seams.

Watch the If You Don’t I Will (2014) trailer

He’s a misanthrope, she’s adorable; together, one ruefully points out, “we risk mutual destruction.” We wonder if her recent illness has undermined their rapport, but also how they ever worked in the first place. Writer-director Sophie Fillières resists overstatement, allowing her actors’ nuanced performances to trace their intimacy, and a history that will come to a head during a weekend hike.

Amalric also has his latest film as director at the festival, The Blue Room, in which he co-stars with his real-life wife. Knowing him, that won’t be any smoother.

White God

We all know what’s going to happen with the monkeys, writes Matthew Thrift. Charlton Heston has prepared us for that. It’s the dogs we need to worry about next.

Taking home the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes this year, along with the Palme Dog for its remarkable canine stars (so good, in fact, that one can imagine Tim Spall competitively scanning the best actor eligibility criteria, just in case), White God demonstrates as firm a grip on its genre-powered narrative twists as the realist elements of its opening act.

Watch a clip from White God (2014)

What begins as a story of a young girl and her dog Hagen, dumped for the summer on her curmudgeonly father, segues from Wendy and Lucy territory as her furry pal is abandoned (via a hearty dash of Babe: Pig in the City and Amores perros), into full-blown canine uprising with deliciously tuned inflections of horror. Man bites dog, dog bites back.

The title’s riff on Sam Fuller’s notorious White Dog establishes its allegorical as much as its genre credentials (it’d make an interesting double-bill with the restored Animal Farm, also playing at the LFF today), but it’s the sheer wit and breathless narrative momentum forged by Kornél Mundruczó’s direction that despite its varied, cross-bred allusions, ensures White God could never be mistaken for a mongrel.

  • White God screens today at Odeon Covent Garden at 8.30pm

Mia Wasikowska was one of the faces of the LFF last year, appearing in no fewer than three Festival films: Only Lovers Left Alive, The Double and Tracks.

She was back in the capital last night for her latest film, a ravishing new adaptation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, co-starring Paul Giamatti and Rhys Ifans.

Here she is wowing on-lookers on the red carpet last night.

Anyone going to the second screening of The Mule in 20 minutes might enjoy this video chat we had with the director, Angus Simpson, talking about his dark-as-hell Australian crime comedy.

“We really wanted to make a film where everybody lied to one another, and all the characters thought that they were smarter than everyone else.”

We enjoyed this pre-LFF day brunch snap. This looks like it would set you up for anything …  or John Boorman’s Queen and Country in this case.

More Festival food pics please!

‘For me the Moomins is a really special world, where I can be immersed and stay hours’

Moomins on the Riviera (2014)

Moomins on the Riviera (2014)

We sat down with director Xavier Picard, who told us about his love of all things Moomins and his new Moomins revival feature film, Moomins on the Riviera, released to celebrate the 100th anniversary of author Tove Jansson.

The rain is back, but the great cinema keeps coming.

Jon Stewart has just arrived at Leicester Square for the premiere of Rosewater, starring Gael Garcia Bernal.

The Debate Gala is about to commence.

Ip Man star Donnie Yen arrives for Kung Fu Jungle

Our Thrill programme advisor, Damon Wise, notes an enthusiastic reaction to tonight’s Laugh Gala screening of Wild Tales at the Curzon Chelsea …

Hear Jon Stewart talking about his political thriller Rosewater

“As technology has democratised people’s ability to witness, regimes are cracking down in a really oppressive way. We’re finding not just journalists being arrested, but bloggers and activists. It’s all over the world, not just in Iran.”

On the red carpet at our Gala screening this evening, satirist and Daily Show presenter Jon Stewart talks about his new political drama Rosewater, based on the real-life ordeal of London-based journalist Maziar Bahari, held captive in Iran in 2009. 

Three to see today

Some treats at the LFF today for people wanting to get out of the rain … 

The Creator of the Jungle (2014)

The Creator of the Jungle (2014)

The Creator of the Jungle

Near the Catalan village of Argelaguer, writes Christine Bardsley, a man has spent 45 years building spectacular jungle structures, tree houses, waterfalls and labyrinths with his bare hands, destroying and reconstructing them time after time throughout the decades.

His name is Garrell but he is also known as ‘Tarzan from Argelaguer’, and his sole purpose in completing these incredible feats of engineering is to create his own fantasy world in which to play, free from the constraints of the civilised world.

Director Jordi Morató combines Garrell’s own home movies of his Tarzan fantasies alongside his footage of these amazing constructions, including some superb aerial photography. By eschewing interviews with Garrell’s family, friends and fellow townsfolk, he enables us to enter untrammelled into Garrell’s imaginary world in all its wonder and see it through his eyes. It’s a fascinating study of a true original, an ode to the creative urge and a tribute to the spirit of play, and it speaks to the child in all of us.

The Wonders

Following her critically acclaimed debut feature, Corpo celeste, writes Adrian Wootton, Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher returns with an equally beguiling story, which was critically acclaimed when presented in the official competition section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The Wonders is also something of a family affair because, aside from the excellence of its young cast, it features a performance of real sensitivity by the director’s sister, accomplished actor Alba Rohrwacher.

The Wonders (2014)

The Wonders (2014)

The Wonders palpably fulfils the promise demonstrated in Corpo celeste, with its compelling story, hypnotic filmmaking and unusual atmosphere. Indeed, there is now no doubt that Alice Rohrwacher is a very special filmmaker in the canon of contemporary Italian cinema.

Gente de bien

This is a remarkably assured debut feature, writes Maria Delgado, with a firm grasp of narrative and characterisation and is grounded in three terrific central performances.

It’s about a 10-year old boy, Eric, who is sent off to live with his father – which he is not best pleased about. He’s able to take his dog, Lupe, with him but not much else. But his father is having a bit of a hard time and struggles to keep Eric entertained.

Watch a clip from Gente de bien

It’s a morality tale but one with a wonderful sense of humour and a real empathy for its characters. Director Franco Lolli avoids easy judgements and instead presents a tale where the viewer is encouraged to empathise with all three protagonists and the difficult positions they find themselves in.

I first saw Gente de bien in a cinema in Bógota with a group of UK distributors and exhibitors. We all came out of the cinema beaming with a real sense of excitement about the film. In fact, we couldn’t stop talking about it – the exquisite performances, the wonderful soundtrack, the unforced humour, the complex issues handled with understanding and sympathy.

Good morning, guest editor Paul O’Callaghan here, manning the live blog decks while your regular correspondent enjoys a well-deserved day off.

Let’s kick things off with a look at what the good folk of Twitter had to say about yesterday’s line-up.

The Art of Documentary with Frederick Wiseman

Yesterday saw the UK premiere of National Gallery, the latest from documentary master Frederick Wiseman, writes Matthew Thrift.

National Gallery (2014)

National Gallery (2014)

The film charts the myriad operational levels of London’s most famous art gallery. Rhythmically intoxicating, it proves as much a study of the way we process images (and by extension, cinema) as it does a fascinating peek behind the scenes of the National’s working methods. After the screening, Wiseman hosted a festival Masterclass, breaking down the thought processes behind sequences from a career spanning more than 40 years. Here are a few choice highlights from the talk.

“So much of what I discover during filming is down to chance. I try to determine early on what the normal routine of a place is, finding out when and where the weekly staff meeting takes place. I try to cultivate informants in the best possible sense, someone who knows the place better than I do. My experience is that almost nobody objects to being filmed. I don’t know why that is — whether it’s indifference, or vanity, or both. Most of us aren’t good enough actors to suddenly change our behaviour, we act the way we feel is appropriate for the situation we’re in, even if others may not see it that way. ”

“I try to keep an open mind during the shoot. I try to simply accumulate as much as I can, with the idea that I don’t want to foreclose any possibilities. Sometimes what you think is a good scene, in the cold light of dawn of the editing room is not so good after all. The reverse is also true. I try not to draw any conclusions as to theme or point of view during the shooting. I feel that if I do that, I may not be as open to any subsequent experiences I may have.”

“I’m very interested in comparative forms — how you deal with the same problem in a novel, a play, a poem or a ballet. I think I’ve learned more about filmmaking from thinking about how the same issues are dealt with in other forms. For example, a couple of years after I made Welfare, I read a great novel by George Conrad called The Case Worker, which is about a welfare centre in Budapest. The human situations are the same, but the way he dealt with the issues were different. Sometimes when I read essays or letters between writers about their work, I feel that they’re writing about film editing. I think I’ve learned more (about editing) from people writing about the process of writing than I have from watching movies. ”

Here are just a few of the fine individuals who braved the weather last night to swan down the red carpet.

Donnie Yen on the red carpet for Kung Fu Jungle at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Donnie Yen on the red carpet for Kung Fu Jungle at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Kyle Soller on the red carpet for The Keeping Room at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Kyle Soller on the red carpet for The Keeping Room at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Muna Otaru at the premiere of The Keeping Room at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Muna Otaru at the premiere of The Keeping Room at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Jon Stewart on the red carpet for Rosewater at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Jon Stewart on the red carpet for Rosewater at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

J.J. Abrams on the red carpet for Rosewater at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

J.J. Abrams on the red carpet for Rosewater at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The Drop proves a fitting swansong for James Gandolfini

Director Michaël R. Roskam paid tribute to the late James Gandolfini at last night’s screening of their film The Drop, writes Lou Thomas.

Michaël R. Roskam on the red carpet for The Drop at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Michaël R. Roskam on the red carpet for The Drop at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Roskam said that Gandolfini, whose appearance in The Drop was the actor’s final on-screen performance, was “very humble and inspiring”. He went to explain that Gandolfini often made co-star Tom Hardy laugh on-set, and approached the film’s production with an enthusiasm and freshness that belied his extensive acting experience.

Introducing The Drop at Curzon Mayfair, Roskam also spoke about working closely with the film’s screenwriter, acclaimed US crime novelist Dennis Lehane. Despite having written the source novels for Mystic River (2003), Gone Baby Gone (2007) and Shutter Island (2009), the film, based on Lehane’s short story Animal Rescue, is the author’s first feature film screenplay.

Describing Lehane as “very generous in his collaboration”, Roskam revealed that the writer would attend the film’s location shooting and write new dialogue, an approach keenly admired by the director.

The Drop is a fitting swansong for Gandolfini, whose erstwhile gangster Marv has long-since been usurped by the Chechen mob. Gandolfini provides impeccable support to lead Tom Hardy, on equally terrific form as Bob, Marv’s ostensibly straight-forward cousin who tends bar for him. Noomi Rapace is also excellent as the self-assured, if damaged, Nadia.

Roskam, with his first English language film, has delivered another tough, tense delight following his cracking debut Bullhead (2011), while Lehane’s script is full of dark humour, memorable characters and thrilling shocks.

Reese Witherspoon goes Wild

There was feminist drollery and media myth busting at today’s press conference for Wild, writes Thirza Wakefield.

Wild (2014)

Wild (2014)

Star Reese Witherspoon was joined by her real-life character Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the memoir on which the film is based. Also present were screenwriter Nick Hornby and producer Bruna Papandrea. The film’s May Fair Hotel Gala screening takes place tonight.

Nick Hornby, on whether Wild might be considered a chick flick:

“Well, it’s about grief, heroin addiction and promiscuity, and being really, really tough both physically and mentally — so it’s not really like any chick flick I’ve ever seen. And it’s one woman, who happens to be a woman, so I guess it’s a chick flick like the Robert Redford film All is Lost was a chick flick.”

Reese Witherspoon, on her sex scenes:

“I told myself that if [Strayed] was brave enough to be completely open as an artist and talk about those things, I couldn’t just do the parts of it that I was comfortable with. I had to do all the parts — because it is about emotional honesty. I said to Cheryl, ‘I can’t believe I have to [simulate sex with two strangers in an alley] today,’ and she said ‘I’m so sorry I was such a slut in the nineties.’”

On her hopes for the movie:

“I said to Bruna before we started: ‘If we can pull this off, it might be the first time in history a woman ends the movie with no man, no money, no parents, no job, no opportunities, and it’s a happy ending!’”

Cheryl Strayed, on having her daughter play the role of her younger self:

“If writing heals some wounds, in so many ways, witnessing the making of this movie healed those too, and never more powerfully than when I was watching my daughter live my childhood.’”

On her admiration for Witherspoon:

“[Performance] has to begin with the self. You have to be brave enough to tell your truth in order to tell a story that matters to anyone else: that is the way to the universal narrative. So many of the conversations that Reese and I had in preparation for the film […] weren’t about my hike at all; they were about our lives – talking about our childhoods… relationships we’ve had… everything from the mundane to the extraordinary. And I think that’s how you prepare to be revelatory in your work.”

An authentic and moving portrayal of young love in a confusing world

X+Y, the moving first feature by acclaimed documentarian Morgan Matthews, makes its LFF debut this evening. We recently caught up with BFI Development Executive Jamie Wolpert, who explained why the film is being supported by the BFI Film Fund.

X+Y (2014)

X+Y (2014)

“X+Y is a beautiful and touching film about an autistic boy who falls in love at the International Maths Olympiad, loosely based on director Morgan Matthews’s own documentary Beautiful Young Minds. Morgan had already impressed with the heart and wit evident in his documentary films, and the idea of a collaboration between him and fantastic playwright James Graham formed an exciting proposition.”

“Even the very first draft of the script we saw was both funny and heart-breaking, so this was a pleasure to work on. The film paints an authentic and moving portrayal of young love in a confusing world. With superb performances from Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins, as well as a stunning lead turn by Asa Butterfield, we feel the film deserves to find a wide audience. Morgan Matthews is definitely one of a growing number of directors from a documentary background set for big things in the future.”

We also grabbed Matthews for a few words about making the leap to fiction feature directing. Check out what he had to say in the video below.

Director Morgan Matthews on X+Y

Revival of a Chinese classic

Tomorrow evening we’ll be decamping to the South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall to present recently-restored Chinese silent classic The Goddess, together with the UK premiere of a new score by acclaimed composer Zou Fu.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at the film’s restoration, including interviews with contemporary Chinese directors Ning Ying and Stanley Kwan, as well as the BFI’s Isabel Davis.

The Goddess: revival of a Chinese classic

X+Y: ‘There’s no point in making a film that doesn’t move you in some way.’

Here’s a little more for you on hotly tipped British drama X+Y, the story of an autistic teenage maths prodigy and his experience of first love. Chris Fennell caught up with director Morgan Matthews at today’s filmmakers’ afternoon tea, ahead of the film’s Leicester Square premiere.

Morgan Matthews attends Filmmakers' Afternoon Tea at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Morgan Matthews attends Filmmakers' Afternoon Tea at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

X+Y is inspired by your acclaimed 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds. What made you want to take it further?

It’s a reinvention in a way. I used the world that I got to know as an inspiration really, because I didn’t see much purpose in just remaking a documentary. Although the characters and some of the themes – in terms of the narrative and the back story — are recognisable from the documentary, there’s an enormous amount that we’ve made up.

This is your first feature fiction film. How did you find the transition from documentary to fiction?

It really is my first fiction work, in that I hadn’t made a short film and I hadn’t made any TV drama. I’ve just made a lot of documentaries. It was quite daunting in a way, but exciting. You’ve got all these trucks, rooms full of people, and some big actors. My director of photography Danny Cohen shot The King’s Speech, Les Misèrables and some Shane Meadows films. These are people who know what they’re doing. Having said that, I found I adjusted to it more naturally than I expected, particularly when it came to working with actors.

The most challenging thing is the structure, because you’re coming from a world in which the way you work is quite liberated, and you’re quite free to change things according to what’s going on around you. For me it was very important to bring some of that to the very structured world of fiction filmmaking.

What do you want audiences to take from the film?

I want them to be moved by it. There’s no point in making a film that doesn’t move you in some way. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has to be in tears — these aren’t always extreme situations, they’re often everyday problems we all struggle with. I also hope it’s fun. I think there’s some levity, some laughs — I hope I’ve got that balance right. Ultimately you make a movie because you want people to see it and to enjoy it.

How pleased are you that it’s showing in the London Film Festival?

It’s fantastic. I would have been gutted if the LFF was going on and we weren’t involved! What’s wonderful about it is that it’s my hometown. We had the world premiere in Toronto and it was great, but tonight we’re having a lot of people from the original documentary turning up, we’ve got the crew, key cast members, all my family and friends. I’m really looking forward to everyone watching it together, alongside the festival audience.

Silent Storm: ‘It’s a film that shines a light on an area where very few people are willing to tread.’

Receiving its world premiere at the LFF tomorrow evening, Silent Storm is the star-powered fiction feature debut by Corinna McFarlane. McFarlane previously co-directed the widely acclaimed Sweden-set documentary Three Miles North of Molkom.

Produced by James Bond’s real-life M, Barbara Broccoli, and with Damian Lewis and Andrea Riseborough heading the cast, this week’s weather can only lend the film’s festival debut an extra level of authenticity in keeping with its remote Scottish setting.

Matthew Thrift sat down with McFarlane for a quick chat earlier today.

Corinna McFarlane attends a Filmmakers' Afternoon Tea at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Corinna McFarlane attends a Filmmakers' Afternoon Tea at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

What was the genesis of Silent Storm?

My father was orphaned as a boy in Scotland and I didn’t know my ancestry. He had a brain haemorrhage a few years ago, which he survived, but it made me feel an overwhelming calling to discover Scotland, to go on this quest. I’d been reading a lot of Jung, a lot about myth, archetype and collective consciousness. I was keenly aware that there were still so many women in the world who had no power over their lives, and so many men who were willing to hurt themselves and others in the name of a value system that was fundamentally damaging. So I wanted to look at the crises of patriarchy and religion in our culture, the way the rise of nature has made us want to go back to what is natural, both in terms of the human experience in the way we feel, but also in our sense and expression of selfhood and identity.

Which echoes many of the themes of Three Miles North of Molkom…

Yeah, Molkom was very much about the group — which this film is too — but this one’s also about judgement, by your peers, by God.

So did you want to make an explicit political statement?

As far as I’m concerned, yes. It’s a film that shines a light on an area where very few people are willing to tread, which is the crisis within religion, its intrinsic misogyny and its detachment from the human experience.

You’re in great company at the LFF this year in terms of female filmmakers.

I’m so proud. I’m not just a director, I’m a female director. The values of our world are sustained and propagated by the myths and the stories that we tell ourselves, each other and our children. The voices telling those stories need to be diverse. Only 2% of films produced are directed by women, which is bullshit. I’m a woman, I have a voice. So here I am, listen to it.

Another dismal evening of weather on the red carpet, but that hasn’t dampened the spirits of the creative team behind Wild, who are out in force for the May Fair Hotel Gala.

Watch highlights from last night’s red carpet as Reese Witherspoon and her real-life character Cheryl Strayed step out for our May Fair Hotel Gala screening of Wild.

Jennifer Lawrence makes surprise LFF appearance

Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet for Serena at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet for Serena at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Jennifer Lawrence made a surprise guest appearance at the UK premiere of Serena last night, writes Lou Thomas.

The actor introduced the film alongside director Susanne Bier at Vue West End and joked that she hoped no one present would write anything negative about the film on Twitter.

Lawrence left to fly back to Los Angeles but after the screening a panel including Bier, writer Christopher Kyle, and actors David Dencik and Ana Ularu discussed the film at a Q&A.

Bier said the film’s key theme of “a damaged woman being forceful in a man’s world” is what attracted her to the story initially. She also paid tribute to actors playing supporting roles alongside Lawrence and male lead Bradley Cooper saying she was “fortunate in getting amazing characters in smaller parts”.

A sinister Rhys Ifans (Galloway) and a suspicious Toby Jones (Sheriff McDowell), in particular, hold their own alongside their Hollywood A-list colleagues in Serena, a period noir set in the Smoky Mountains in 1929.

Lawrence and Cooper, in their third pairing on screen after the Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Oscar-nominated American Hustle (2013), play a troubled married couple with money, murder and revenge on their minds.

Serena is Bier’s second film screening at this year’s London Film Festival.

The director’s other film, A Second Chance, stars Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a cop whose wife has just had a baby and a junkie criminal who neglects his infant son.

A tense, harrowing but gripping work with an extraordinary central performance from Coster-Waldau, the film is recommended to fans of tough domestic dramas and Scandinavian noir TV such as The Killing. Given the film’s uncompromising nature and subject matter, new parents should approach with caution.

  • Serena is screening at Odeon West End on Friday 17 October, while A Second Chance screens at Curzon Mayfair today and Vue West End tomorrow.

There’s another chance to catch our Debate Gala, Rosewater, today at 12.30pm. 

It’s the directorial debut of the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, and stars Gael García Bernal as real-life journalist Maziar Bahari, who was held captive in Iran for 118 days in 2009. 

Here are both Stewart and Bahari introducing the film to a packed house on Sunday night.

“You want people to feel the reality of the absurdity of these kinds of Kafka-esque regimes.”

Today here at the LFF, we’re all pretty excited about this film …

Testament of Youth (2014)

Testament of Youth (2014)

TV director James Kent has made his transition to big-screen directing with this sumptuous movie set during the First World War and based on the beloved memoir by Vera Brittain.

Testament of Youth is our Centrepiece Gala at Odeon Leicester Square at 7.15pm this evening.

Critics are about to emerge blinking into the daylight after this morning’s press screening, and we wait with bated breath for their reactions on Twitter and the press reviews.

The director and cast members Kit Harington, Taron Egerton and Colin Morgan will then shortly be facing the journalists at a press conference at the May Fair Hotel.

We’ll have some choice quotes and a film of the event with you right here this afternoon.

Black Souls: ‘How a family can implode from within’

Last week we reported the exciting news that Calabrian mafia movie Black Souls has been picked up for UK distribution, ensuring an afterlife for British audiences beyond its outings in the Thrill strand at this year’s LFF.

Its director Francesco Munzi is in London for his film’s Festival screenings, so we sent Chris Fennell to pick his brains about this riveting family feud drama.

Black Souls director Francesco Munzi at the Filmmakers' Teas at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Black Souls director Francesco Munzi at the Filmmakers' Teas at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

What are the challenges when it comes to making a mafia movie?

Most of the challenges came from adapting the book [by Gioacchino Criaco]. I’m from Rome but the writer of the book is from the south. I was intrigued by the strong relationship between the location, which was home to the most nefarious mafia types, and the natural beauty of the wild and mountainous landscape. Below the surface was the story of the family, which gave me ample scope to explore how a family can implode from within.

Although it’s a fictional story, there’s a dominant strain of realism that runs throughout. How did you achieve this?

There was a great deal of research that went on before filming, including collaboration with the local population. We had the choice of using pro or non-pro actors and both of these bring different things in terms of language, dialect and physicality. We chose them by how they could mesh with everything.

Your film has recently been picked up for UK distribution by Vertigo? How pleased are you with that news?

I’m well chuffed. The timing is perfect and well beyond what I could imagine. It also gives me the chance of building an audience all over the world but in the UK in particular.

Wow, quite taken back by the reactions to this morning’s Testament of Youth screening. It seems like this adaptation has done Vera Brittain’s memoir proud.

It’s the first time the film’s been seen, so we should see full reviews filtering out today, but these tweets set the tone … 

Rare behind-the-scenes images from Only Angels Have Wings

Proud as we are of this year’s selection of the best new feature films and shorts, even we are forced to admit that only one film in this year’s programme features Cary Grant. Just one co-stars Rita Hayworth. Only one is directed by Howard Hawks.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

If that presents an unavoidable shortcoming in the other 247 feature films screening at LFF this year, you’ll know that our two archive screenings of Hawks’s 1939 adventure movie Only Angels Have Wings should be a high priority indeed on any festival-goer’s schedule.

It’s set at a fogbound landing strip in South America, where mail pilots make daredevil deliveries over treacherous mountains. Grant stars as a hotshot pilot, Jean Arthur as a nightclub pianist, and Hayworth as Grant’s former flame. You can read more about the film here.

The new 4K digital restoration of the film screens tomorrow afternoon and then again on Saturday. To celebrate its return to the big screen, we’ve dug out these rare behind-the-scenes images from the film’s production, showing the studio-system magic that went into making this most pleasurable of movie classics.

Howard Hawks on the set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Howard Hawks on the set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)


Howard Hawks, cast and crew on the set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Howard Hawks, cast and crew on the set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)


The set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

The set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)


Production crew on the set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Production crew on the set of Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

My LFF top five so far ...

We’re now over halfway through this year’s LFF. How to keep track of such an avalanche of film viewing?

We thought we’d ask some of our live-blog contributors for their personal top fives of the Festival so far. These guys see a lot.

First into the ring, Matthew Thrift:

It’s almost impossible to pick just five standout titles that have played the LFF so far, given how strong the programme has already proven to be. Needless to say it’s likely to be even harder come next Monday when all’s said and done. But as we cross the midpoint, if I had to choose …

5. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, USA)

Wes Craven’s waking nightmares and John Carpenter’s subjective mastery reconfigured to witty, genre-teasing effect. Muscular, inventive direction powers the most subtextually-laden horror flick you’re likely to see this year. An absolute blast.

Goodbye to Language (Adieu au langage, 2014)

Goodbye to Language (Adieu au langage, 2014)

4. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, France)

Cinema’s eternal jester returns with his most playful (and watchable) film in years. Deconstructing form and content across multi-dimensional planes, it’s a hilarious and approachable romp of consistently playful imagination. Just don’t watch it hungover.

3. Hard to Be a God (Alexei German, Russia)

A second viewing cemented German’s film as one of the most dazzlingly unique cinema experiences of the year, a hyper-sensory trudge through the blood, mud and guts of Boris Strugatsky’s source novel. German’s mise-en-scène has to be experienced (and experienced big) to be believed. Overwhelming at first glance, but few cinematic universes this year have felt so completely, vividly alive.

2. National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, USA)

After last year’s staggering At Berkeley, the greatest living documentary filmmaker turns his eye on another institution for his first film shot in the UK. So much more than a mere study of the eponymous gallery’s operational infrastructure, it’s a film about how we digest images, about looking and seeing, as much a meditation on cinema as it is all manner of art.

From What is Before (Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon, 2014)

From What is Before (Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon, 2014)

1. From What Is Before (Lav Diaz, Philippines)

Another year, another masterpiece from the Filipino maestro of long-form cinema. Clocking in at 338 minutes, it’s even longer than his standout LFF entry from last year, Norte, the End of History (even if it pales in comparison in durational terms to his 540-minute opus Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004). As profound as it is sublime.

♫ Hey Mr DJ …

“Like Flaubert remixed by Frankie Knuckles” is how programme advisor Jonathan Romney describes Eden, the latest film by acclaimed director Mia Hansen-Løve.

Eden (2014)

Eden (2014)

It’s a panoramic drama following the adventures of an aspiring DJ during the rise of French house music in the 1990s. With appearances by real-life alumni of the scene, and featuring the men in the masks behind Daft Punk as recurring characters, it’ll be adding a euphoric pulse to tonight’s Festival when it gets its first screening at Vue West End at 8.30pm.

As a warm-up set for the main event, drop the needle on this Spotify playlist of electronic classics from the film’s soundtrack.

Last chance to see ... competition nominee Dearest

It’s your final chance to see Dearest tonight at 6.15pm at Ciné Lumière … and thus your final chance to weigh up its hopes as a nominee in our Official Competition.

This is director Peter Ho-sun Chan talking about his heartbreaking child abduction drama.

Testament of Youth: lost years and ‘the power to overcome’

There was an air of poignancy at today’s press conference for Testament of Youth, writes Chris Fennell.

It’s an adaptation of Vera Brittain’s 1933 memoir of her experience of bereavement and feminist struggle during the First World War.

Director James Kent, actors Colin Morgan, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton and producer Rosie Alison attend the press conference for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director James Kent, actors Colin Morgan, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton and producer Rosie Alison attend the press conference for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Stars Kit Harington, Colin Morgan and Taron Egerton joined director James Kent and producer Rosie Alison ahead of tonight’s Centrepiece Gala.

James Kent: One of the great things that resonated with me as soon as I read the script was that this isn’t just a period film: it’s a film about ambition, love, grief, survival, courage – and those things speak to us now.

Rosie Alison: It’s an elegy not just to the young men lost in the First World War but to all youth lost in all wars. At the heart of this is the indomitable spirit of Vera Brittain who goes through this extraordinary rite of passage journey.

Nobody could forget to mention Alicia Vikander, the 26-year-old Swedish actress who plays Vera, who is currently “off saving the world”.

Kit Harington: She’s an amazing person to work with. She’s so detailed in what she does and so on point with everything she asks about in every scene.

Taron Egerton: The only way to describe her is a force of nature. She’s so diligent, so hard-working, and it’s in her second language, which is really quite astonishing. She’s extraordinary.

Actors Taron Egerton, Kit Harington, producer Rosie Alison, director James Kent and actor Colin Morgan attend the photocall for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Actors Taron Egerton, Kit Harington, producer Rosie Alison, director James Kent and actor Colin Morgan attend the photocall for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Co-star Colin Morgan also spoke with passion about what the story meant to him.

Colin Morgan: What the book’s about, what the film’s about and what the war was partially about was youth and how it’s lost. This part of youth in the film is something in this day and age we’re very privileged to have. You take that portion of youth out of your upbringing it makes life very difficult, almost impossible from an emotional point of view. I think that’s what was so impressive about Vera Brittain’s journey and which Alicia gets across phenomenally in the film, is the power to overcome, the power to pick up your life after you’ve lost – and she lost a massive part of her youth. 

A beginner’s guide to film festivals

Watch one young festival-goer’s guide to the LFF experience, courtesy of YouTuber and video diarist Beckie0.

A bit of an internet sensation, she boasts a whopping 200k subscribers to her YouTube channel and has been blogging about the Festival all week.

Bypass: a Coventry-inspired look at lives on the margins

Bypass, Duane Hopkins’ follow-up to 2008’s slice of British social realism Better Things, has its second screening tonight. Simran Hans spoke to the writer-director about working-class communities, casting George MacKay, and the one film he can’t miss at the festival.

Director Duane Hopkins attends the red carpet arrivals for Bypass during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director Duane Hopkins attends the red carpet arrivals for Bypass during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

On the inspiration for Bypass

Coventry was kind of place that originally inspired it. [In these ex-factory towns] where you didn’t have steady income, other problems started to arise to do with education and fractured families, and that’s what I found when I was taking to the kids there. They all seem to have very similar stories; maybe they hadn’t done so well at school, and because of that, they started to create a different kind of way of surviving. Bypass is an amalgamation of so many of the stories that I heard over a six months to one year research process.

On the similarities between George MacKay and his character, Tim

There’s definitely a moral compass, a humbleness, a humility, a talent, an ability to take on responsibility. Once we’d decided to work together [I said]: “You know, really, Tim is you. If you a imagine a parallel universe where you had none of the opportunities that you had, but you still had the same morality, and you still had the same compass within you, [and the same] norms and values, [he’s] essentially you. So all we have to do is strip away you, and we’ll discover Tim.”

Actors George Mackay and Charlotte Spencer and director Duane Hopkins (centre) attend the red carpet arrivals of Bypass during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Actors George Mackay and Charlotte Spencer and director Duane Hopkins (centre) attend the red carpet arrivals of Bypass during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

On working with non-actors

With the non-actors, you can’t really change anything. What they have is what they have. And you have to bear that in mind when you commit to working with them, [knowing] what they can give you is limited to a certain degree. So you find ways of getting the photograph of the thing that you need through a different route.

On putting the backstory in the hands of the actors, not the audience

I think I’m quite happy for it to exist between me and the actor. I always write the images in the story that I want see, and it’s always about “Okay, how do we make this authentic?” [The actors] have to have a different access point. It’s an interesting way of working; I don’t feel the need to put [those details] down on the page, at least not with this film.

On his London Film Festival watchlist

I’d like to see a film called Catch Me Daddy by a guy I know called Daniel Wolfe. I’ve seen earlier versions of it, but I haven’t seen the finished thing.

On the current state of British cinema

I think it’s very healthy, there are a lot of good directors. I think there are a lot of interesting films being made, and they’re quite diverse as well. You just hope that that continues. I think we’ve always had talented technicians and craftspeople.

Courtroom drama, Mumbai-style

Anyone headed to the second screening of Court this evening in Islington?

Part of our Debate strand, it’s a powerful and provocative courtroom drama about the trial of an activist and folk singer who is being prosecuted for inciting a suicide.

Court (2014)

Court (2014)

Winner of the Lion of the Future award at the Venice Film Festival, director Chaitanya Tamhane and actor Vivek Gomber flew over to support our Festival screening. Chris Fennell took his dictaphone for a chat about the film over a cup of tea.

How did you come to make Court?

Chaitanya: We’d worked together in a play that I directed called Grey Elephants in Denmark in 2009. I always wanted my next film to be to do with the Indian judiciary system. I was quite excited by the setting of the lower courtroom in Mumbai, which is chaotic and characterised by misplaced documents, uncooperative witnesses and the lawyers who are poor orators. I was broke and didn’t have the money to develop a script but that’s when Vivek said “why don’t we do it, I’ll help you”.

Vivek, how was your first actor-producer experience?

Vivek: It was very challenging but what really helped was that it was a battle that needed to be fought. I wanted to concentrate on my acting so we did a lot of planning. We had to do as much prep as we could to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible, which obviously never happened.

Director and screenwriter Chaitanya Tamhane and actor Vivek Gomber attend the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director and screenwriter Chaitanya Tamhane and actor Vivek Gomber attend the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

What can you tell us about the authentic visual style of the film?

Chaitanya: We just went for what felt right for the film and what rang true to us from the Mumbai we’d seen. We wanted to capture what we have experienced in Mumbai right back to our perceptions and our childhood memories.

Indian courts don’t allow photography or video recording. This must have made research quite difficult but it also makes what you’re doing highly original.

Chaitanya: My production designers had to spend hours and hours in courtrooms taking notes, recording dimensions and remembering as much as they could. They had to rely on their notes and their memory so they could reconstruct the courtroom in the film as close as possible to the real one.

What’s it like to have your film at the London Film Festival?

Vivek: Very special.

Chaitanya: Yes, it’s such an old and prestigious festival. They really are bringing the best films from all around the world to the audience in London. We feel privileged to be part of the selection.

Make a wish, DreamWorks

The moment we gave DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg a birthday cake to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking studio he set up with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994 … 

Katzenberg has just finished giving his keynote address at our part of our packed events programme.

Highlights coming soon.

Nine pearls of wisdom and advice from DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg

  1. “Make it safe for people to fail, then people can make work that’s original.”
  2. “Respect people’s time. Their time is as important to them as your time is to you. Return every phone call.”
  3. “I think my greatest lessons in life have come from my biggest misses, my biggest disappointments.”
  4. “As an executive, you have to find things that touch you, that move you.”
  5. “The fact that I was able to convince these geniuses that I was worth a third of Steven Spielberg and a third of David Geffin is one of the great hustles of humanity!”
  6. “There’s nothing as difficult in this world than making a good movie, which is why there are so few of them.”
  7. “We went from black and white to colour, and 70 years later we went to 3D. It might take another 70 years to find that new thing!”
  8. “How do you separate the creative from the business? Well, you don’t! It’s called show business. Movies are this unholy alliance between art and commerce.”
  9. “The most beautiful thing for me in the world is laughter, and in particular the laughter of children. I’ve got the best job in the world.”

Katzenberg was speaking at our keynote address to tie in with the 20th anniversary of DreamWorks this afternoon.

A pigeon’s perspective

It’s nearly red carpet arrivals time again … but we wonder what London’s pigeons will make of it all.

Here are some alternative images from last night’s star-studded event for Wild, as the birds might have seen it.

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Reese Witherspoon attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Nick Hornby attends the premiere of Wild as part of the 58th London Film Festival

Nick Hornby attends the premiere of Wild as part of the 58th London Film Festival

Bruna Papandera attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Bruna Papandera attends the premiere of Wild at the 58th London Film Festival

Testament of Youth gets its world premiere

Busy scenes at Leicester Square as the young cast of WWI drama Testament of Youth arrive for the world premiere.

Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, Dominic West and director James Kent are among the cast and crew arriving on the red carpet for the world premiere of Testament of Youth in our highlights video from last night.

The daughter of Vera Brittain, whose experiences during the First World War are the subject of the film, politician Baroness Shirley Williams also dropped by. Of the film, she says: “There’s this wonderful comparison between the happy, sunny life of the Edwardian age suddenly confronted with this slide into hell.”

Up close with the Testament of Youth actors on the red carpet.

Kit Harington on the red carpet for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Kit Harington on the red carpet for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Colin Morgan on the red carpet for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Colin Morgan on the red carpet for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Taron Egerton on the red carpet for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Taron Egerton on the red carpet for Testament of Youth during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Day eight’s hot tickets

So what does day eight of the LFF bring?

If we’re talking in bullet points, the hottest tickets of the day might be encapsulated thus:

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash (2014)

  • Our Accenture Gala is Sundance favourite Whiplash, a musical prodigy movie with a difference that arrives in the UK on a swell of critical excitement. Second-time director Damien Chazelle and stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons will be talking to press later this morning, so we’ll be bringing you some nuggets from them anon.
  • The Official Competition continues with the first outing for Phoenix, a drama set in post-Second World War Berlin from director Christian Petzold, one of Germany’s most interesting contemporary directors. We spoke to the film’s luminous star Nina Hoss recently and we’ll be posting that interview as a taster for tonight’s unveiling at Odeon West End. One of its Competition opponents, The Keeping Room also receives its final screening today
  • Our First Feature Competition also gathers speed with the first screening for The Tribe, a highly original new sort of thriller set in a boarding school for young deaf people. Programme advisor Jonathan Romney calls this “one of the outstanding discoveries of 2014”. Weigh up some of The Tribe’s rivals for best directorial debut at further screenings of The Goob and Gente de bien.
  • If it’s documentaries you’re after, the contest for our Grierson Award for best documentary also throws two new pretenders into the ring: The Immortalists, which gets up close and personal with the scientists who have dedicated their lives to finding a cure for ageing; and The Green Prince, a real-life spy story about a Palestinian who spent years working undercover for Israeli intelligence. There’s also a second chance to see Ulrich Seidl’s has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed In the Basement, about what Austrians choose to do in their basements; and Stray Dog, Debra Granik’s portrait of American biker Ronnie Hall.
  • The Surprise Film is always one of the Festival’s quickest films to sell out and … well, we can’t tell you much more than that. The LFF’s long-standing tradition of springing a mystery title on a packed house is matched with a long-standing tradition of keeping the secret really, really secret. Not even your live blogger can pretend to know what it will be this year, but we will be dipping into some of the speculation in the ether later today.

But, as any festival-goer knows, the Festival offers plenty of riches beyond these headline titles (or question marks), and as ever we’ll be reaching deep into the programme to shine a light on some of the day’s other cinematic offerings too.

Whipped, startled and stunned is the only way to describe critics’ reactions to the press preview of tonight’s film Whiplash … 

One long hot Norfolk summer: The Goob

Early this afternoon offers the final chance to see The Goob, the bracingly inventive directorial debut of Norwich-based filmmaker Guy Myhill.

It’s an exquisitely shot, compellingly unpredictable tale of an awkward Norfolk teenager (the titular Goob, played by Liam Walpole) and his menacing stepfather (Sean Harris), set over the course of a seemingly endless summer.

The Goob (2014)

The Goob (2014)

Paul O’Callaghan caught up with Myhill ahead of this week’s award ceremony, where The Goob is in the running for the Sutherland Award for best first feature.

The film feels very loose and organic. Was it always planned that way, or did that come about during the shoot?

We didn’t have time to be loose, we had to film it all in about 24 days! But we definitely wanted it to seem like it was all happening organically.

With Liam, who plays the Goob, certainly at the beginning of the film he has this gangly, loose physicality, so we tried to mirror that in the way that the film’s shot. In the editing, we tried to start out a little bit clunky almost – the cuts in the early scenes are quite awkward and jarring. Then as he matures through the storyline, we tried to make things a little more fluid.

Director of The Goob, Guy Myhill attends the Filmmaker Teas during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director of The Goob, Guy Myhill attends the Filmmaker Teas during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The dialogue also feels quite spontaneous, was any of it improvised?

It was all pretty much scripted, but I wasn’t particularly precious or wedded to any of it, so if the actors wanted to try something different, we certainly had room for that. But we didn’t deviate from the structure of the script at any point.

The Goob is a largely silent protagonist. Was this planned from the outset?

The film’s seen through his eyes, and that just felt true to the character. Liam was a first time actor – we weren’t initially planning to go with someone so inexperienced, but because he doesn’t say much, it allowed us to take a bit of a risk with him. He has quite an extraordinary look, and we really wanted to maximise that visual element, and not to distract from that by giving him reams of dialogue.

The film’s sense of tension is largely down to Sean Harris’s unsettling performance. Are you pleased with how this worked out?

I think Sean played it beautifully, there’s a lot of nuance there. I think he could have gone a lot further, but he didn’t want to create this out and out monster – it was more that he was a man trapped. Sometimes the character is trying his damndest to be a good stepfather, he just doesn’t quite know how. It often seems that something bad’s about to happen, but we keep pulling back. I think it’s more interesting that way.

‘I wanted it to be like The Wire’ – Somali pirate thriller Fishing without Nets

Last night, Somali piracy drama Fishing without Nets sparked some lively debate, writes Jemma Desai.

Fishing without Nets (2014)

Fishing without Nets (2014)

Director Cutter Hodierne spoke passionately and movingly about the close and collaborative relationship he had built with his Somali actors, revealing that one of his actors was a former pirate and that one of his advisors on the film had been a hostage who was converted to Islam during his detainment.

He mentioned how inspiring it had been to watch The Tribe yesterday at the Festival, and how the lack of spoken dialogue had allowed him to concentrate on some of the more intuitive parts of the filmmaking process. This mirrored his experiences making Fishing without Nets, where much of the time he couldn’t understand his actors’ spoken dialogue (he doesn’t speak Somali) so was forced to concentrate on the physical nuances of their emotions.

Chris Fennell also found a moment to bend the director’s ear …

Why did you decide to make the film?

I have a real insane curiosity with Somali piracy. I’ve been trying to over-intellectualise it when I’ve been speaking to people recently but I’ve realised it’s just a pure curiosity in the subject that drove me towards the whole process. That really was what kept the whole fire burning – just sheer passion.

Fishing without Nets director and screenwriter Cutter Hodierne attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Fishing without Nets director and screenwriter Cutter Hodierne attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

How much did know about it before?

I started out knowing nothing and then I just sort of dug into it in the way someone might if they were writing a dissertation or a newspaper article. It turned into a pretty immersive research project for me.

Over the past few years, the subject of Somali piracy has appeared in films like Captain Phillips and A Hijacking. Was there a different direction you wanted to take with this movie?

This is from the perspective of the pirates. We follow a Somali fisherman who ends up getting lured into that world. We like to think we inspired those filmmakers to make their pirate films!
But in all seriousness I just think it’s testament to how meaty the subject matter is. To make three films like that which all come from three completely different angles.

I haven’t actually seen either A Hijacking or Captain Phillips simply because we were shooting and I didn’t want any outside influences. I wanted it to be a film from every angle, like The Wire, which sort of ended up happening but in the form of other films.

Abdikani Muktar is a terrific find in the central role. What was it like working with him?

Abdi was one of the first people to get involved in the project. He was cast in an informal audition. I met a guy in the Somali community who introduced me to everyone. We met him and ultimately the role was written for him, which doesn’t usually happen for a first-time actor. He’s fantastic and I hope he keeps working – he certainly wants to. 

Posted, without comment.

Don’t miss ... the luminscent Walking under Water

With outstanding underwater camerawork, Eliza Kubarska’s film transports us to the vanishing natural world of the Badjao tribe in Borneo, south-east Asia, writes Georgia Korossi.

Walking under Water (2014)

Walking under Water (2014)

Walking under Water is a study of a native culture that lives and breathes the ocean, focusing on compressor diver Alexan and his nephew Sari, who wants to learn how to dive and fish.

The director – a graduate of Wajda School and the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts – is a dedicated traveller, and her first film is a hybrid documentary of fantasy and fact that revolves around questions of extinction, bonding and survival.

With her eye for sculpture and fine art, Kubarska looks at the forms and shapes of nature inside and above sea level, offering a unique experience and a remarkable insight into the Badjao tribe’s clash with modern civilisation. It’s a magical film.

???

We can exclusively reveal …

… that this is our round-up of social media speculation about tonight’s Surprise Film *

* A reminder from the LFF programme booklet: “Speculation may spread on social media (and is encouraged!), but the only way to find out first is to take your seat, settle down with one of the hottest tickets in the Festival, and watch those credits roll. Trust us – you’ll love it.”

Last chance to see ... Deep South thriller The Keeping Room

There’s one last screening tonight at 6.30pm for our Competition film The Keeping Room, a suspense-filled drama set during the American civil war from British director Daniel Barber.

To whet your appetite, here’s our film of the Q&A the cast and director from Sunday’s premiere.

Beating the drum for Whiplash

Before the adrenalin rush of the Accenture Gala screening of Whiplash this evening, writes Chris Fennell, director Damien Chazelle sat down with actors J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller to slow it down at today’s press conference.

Director Damien Chazelle and actor J.K. Simmons attend the press conference for Whiplash during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director Damien Chazelle and actor J.K. Simmons attend the press conference for Whiplash during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

“I started with the idea of showing the physicality of music playing and what that does to the body”, said Chazelle. “The way trumpeters screw up their lips and pianists screw up their fingers and drummers screw up their hands.”

“Damien gave me a copy of Raging Bull to watch,” said Teller, who plays a young drumming prodigy hell bent on being one of the greats.

J.K. Simmons is a thunderous presence as his intractable teacher Fletcher. Simmons talked about what drives his character:

“Passion for the music, utter perfectionism and a complete single-mindedness in pursuit of that goal. Human collateral damage notwithstanding.”

Chazelle commented on the autobiographical elements of the story.

“I was a jazz drummer in a pretty competitive ensemble with a very tough teacher and a very cutthroat atmosphere. If the movie’s about anything it’s about the fear that you feel as a musician in that circumstance and how antithetical that seems to art. You think of art, especially jazz, as something that should be freeing and liberating, but there is this element of utter rigour, utter discipline and almost military hardship that I don’t think we know enough about or see enough about in movies.”

He also talked about the spirit of improvisation that ran through filming.

“My philosophy is if you’re literally going to transpose the scripted storyboards you might as well publish them as scripted storyboards. The whole point of working with wonderful actors is actually giving them some room to play. I wouldn’t say it was completely improvisatory set, partly because we didn’t have the time for that, but when you have people as good as Miles and J.K. you want to let them riff.”

Finally, Teller told us about one of his real-life mentors.

“The closest thing I had to Fletcher was a Driver’s Ed teacher. It was just so out of left field. The guy used to get so pissed off with me if I couldn’t parallel park.”

Don’t miss … Oscar-winning classic Born Yesterday

It takes a special type of performer to triumph over Margo Channing and Norma Desmond, writes Alex Davidson, but Judy Holliday did just that with the role of Emma in Born Yesterday, for which she beat Bette Davis in All about Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. to the best actress Oscar in 1951.

Born Yesterday (1950)

Born Yesterday (1950)

Despite the formidable competition, the Academy made the right decision – Holliday gives one of cinema’s great comedy performances.

She stars as the ex-showgirl girlfriend of a boorish tycoon (Broderick Crawford at his best), who employs a tutor to teach her to be more socially acceptable to the senators he hopes to schmooze and influence.

Unfortunately for him, she turns out to me a lot smarter than he realised, and she begins to challenge his authority.

If you’ve never seen the film, you’ll never know how a simple scene of two people playing gin rummy can become a work of genius comic timing, or how words like “couth” and “antisocial” can get a laugh just from how Holliday delivers them.

And even if you’ve seen it before, you’ll never have seen it looking so handsome, as it’s screening in a brand new 4K restoration.

We know the feeling … 

Wild Tales, dark laughs and pulp fictions

Multiple-story portmanteau films rarely work – which is why the new black comedy anthology Wild Tales comes as such a delight. With our Laugh Gala film screening once more at Curzon Soho tonight, Demetrios Matheou found some time with the Argentine director Damián Szifrón.

Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales (2014)

“I think audiences recognise something of themselves in my characters, even when they go to extremes that no-one wants to go to in real life,” says Damián Szifrón. “Movies can be very cathartic.”

The Argentine writer-director is speaking about the ecstatic reactions to his black comedy Wild Tales, a portmanteau of six stories, some involving revenge, others a variety of extravagant responses to things that gall us all – cheating partners, bad drivers, bureaucracy. “The theme that runs through all of them is the pleasure of reacting, of losing control and feeling good about it – even if the stories don’t always end well.”

There are no connecting characters or story threads, the film bonded instead by imagination, humour and stylistic verve.

“I don’t think I’ve ever made a film that’s pure genre, though I would love to,” he says. “But there are genre elements here. You can notice the presence of westerns in the road rage episode. And in the wedding scene I thought of Disney films, and tried to make the bride a Cinderella who’s not allowed to go to the party.” Anyone who sees the film will observe that Szifrón’s idea of Disney is somewhat perverse.

Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales (2014)

Wild Tales is a rare thing: a successful portmanteau film. Szifrón’s Spanish producers, Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar, encouraged him “not to have the portmanteau fear”, he recalls. “It didn’t scare me. I like anthology books, and when you have the same writer pulling stories together it works very well. And there are a few good examples of portmanteau films, such as Amazing Stories, and the Dino Risi films of the 60s. Then Pulp Fiction, which in a way was incredibly coherent.

“I thought about connecting the stories in a way Pulp Fiction does. But finally I thought it was more original to let the thing breathe. The title is all that I needed.”

So has he ever just ignored common sense and let himself lose control? “I’m brave, but I’m weak,” he laughs. “I never get out of the car.” 

These folk had the right idea on a grey October afternoon … this is the buzz from today’s matinee screenings.

My LFF top five so far ...

Eight days in, we challenged another of our live blog contributors to name their favourite five Festival films to date. Here’s what Alex Davidson had to say:

Scatalogical matters played a vital part in two of the most memorable moments from my Festival so far – the audience simultaneously laughing and retching en masse at the grossest gross-out scene from Aussie comedy The Mule, and Kamel Abdeli’s thunderous plop in Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language.

Sadly neither film makes my top five, a sure indication of this year’s top-notch line-up.

5. Casa grande (Fellipe Barbosa, Brazil)

This Brazilian tale of a teenage boy whose privileged future is threatened when his family faces bankruptcy has an uncanny eye for the frustrations of adolescence, from fitting in with hostile peers to the doomed desire for privacy.

Thales Cavalcanti is great as the not-always-sympathetic boy, and I loved the fact that that the film is kind enough to give him a shot at redemption.

4. Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan, USA-UK)

I’ve never understood the appeal of Lena Dunham’s Girls, with which this film about a bisexual Iranian-American woman trying to cope with a recent breakup in New York will inevitably be compared.

Desiree Akhavan’s film is infinitely funnier, and she displays a wicked comic timing as the broken-hearted singleton. The threesome scene, the lingerie shop scene and the kids’ film workshop scenes are among the funniest of the year. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Watch a clip from Appropriate Behavior

3. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, USA)

This one’s already had the lion’s share of social media praise from the Festival, and is set to get a busload more. J.K. Simmons’ terrifying performance as a music teacher intent on pushing a protégé (Miles Teller) to his limits is likely destined for Oscar glory, while the final 20 minutes or so are as tense – and emotionally exhausting – as any thriller.

2. Ne me quitte pas (Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden, Netherlands/Belgium)

Ne me quitte pas (2014)

Ne me quitte pas (2014)

A Dutch-Belgian documentary about two male alcoholic friends, both hoping to reconnect with their families, sounds like a gloomy subject, and Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden’s film carefully balances the warmth of the comedy with the potential for tragedy.

Both men are likeable if flawed, while the last scene is one of the most poignant I’ve seen all year. Hugely recommended.

1. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, UK)

I’m longing to see this film again. Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio was a terrific film that didn’t quite know how to end, and his follow-up is even better.

I expected his film about two sapphic lovers living in an otherworld without men to be surreal, beautiful and unique, and it was all three. What took me by surprise was how funny it was. And the ‘moths’ scene nearly made me swoon.

‘I’m glad he wasn’t my music teacher!’

The Whiplash team are braving the rain on the red carpet right now for tonight’s Accenture Gala screening of Whiplash.

Here’s actor J.K. Simmons in a drier moment earlier talking about his perfectionist music teacher character. 

“He’s an asshole, I’m glad he wasn’t my music teacher!”

News from the Fest: there seems to be a general consensus that being inside the cinema with free chocolate for the premiere of Whiplash is better than drowning like rats in the foul weather outside. 

The Whiplash stars, and their moment on the red carpet.

Nope! There’s a reason we call it the best kept secret in Festivaldom. Keep the guessing coming though. The first screening gets under way in 41 minutes.

This Letterboxd list offers a handy reminder of Surprise Films back through the years from 1992-2013.

2013: The Grandmaster
2012: Silver Linings Playbook
2011: Damsels in Distress
2010: Brighton Rock
2009: Capitalism: A Love Story
2008: The Wrestler
2007: No Country for Old Men
2006: The Prestige
2005: Mrs Henderson Presents
2004: Sideways
2003: School of Rock
2002: Far from Heaven
2001: Hearts in Atlantis
2000: Meet the Parents
1999: The Insider
1998: Pleasantville
1997: Breakdown
1996: The Long Kiss Goodnight
1995: Johnny Mnemonic
1994: Bullets over Broadway
1993: The Age of Innocence
1992: Death Becomes Her

Thanks to @FilmFan1971 for posting the link to this. Internal records (or at least this live blogger’s attempts to locate them) failed.

This is where we’d love to be revealing the name of the Surprise Film.

We are, after all, a live blog. But we’ve been sworn to keep the secret for just a little while longer, so as not to spoil things for the 9pm house.

Standing ovation for Whiplash

‘People are on a physical high when they leave the theatre but their brains are working too, which is a great combination.’

This is a buzz film that’s going to be difficult to beat … highlights from the red carpet at the premiere of Whiplash.

At 9am this morning, critics went in to a press screening of tonight’s eagerly awaited American Express Gala, the wrestling drama Foxcatcher.

Foxcatcher (2014)

Foxcatcher (2014)

Perhaps some of them were expecting Rocky. What they got was a film that’s Citizen Kane-like in its survey of the corrupting power of money and status, with a tour-de-force performance from Steve Carrell as the pallid, mummy’s-boy billionaire – a bit Charles Foster Kane, a bit the big Lebowski – who takes a wrestling champion (Channing Tatum) under his wing at his vast Pennsylvania estate to train him for the next Olympics.

Here’s what the critics made of it:

Anchors aweigh for The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands

While Foxcatcher thrills audiences at Odeon Leicester Square tonight, down at Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank, audiences will be treated to action and excitement of a much older vintage.

The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927)

The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927)

This year’s Archive Gala screening is the BFI’s restoration of one of the great, forgotten British war movies: Walter Summers’ 1927 recreation of two decisive naval conflicts during the First World War, The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands.

Filmed with real battleships, with the Scilly Isles standing in for the Falklands, the film is a spectacular forerunner to the later cycle of British sea warfare movies such In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive at Dawn (1943) and The Cruel Sea (1952).

A fascinating feature in the Guardian last week referred to the film as “the best British war film you’ve never seen”, with the paper’s silent film expert Pamela Hutchinson writing that the film’s monumental efforts of reconstruction simply changed the way that battles were depicted on British screens. “In Summers’s hands,” she writes, “these twinned battles become not a revenge story, but a hymn to Navy values under pressure.”

Meanwhile, we’ve just published the blog linked below from our silent film curator, Bryony Dixon, sharing some of the excitements of working on a restoration project of this kind.

The film is being presented with a newly commissioned score by Simon Dobson, played live by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. So the night seems set to be a stirring and emotional commune with our historical past, and a chance to re-appraise one of this country’s finest silent films.

What’s more, even if you can’t make it down to the screening, you can watch the film on the BFI Player, and we’ll be hosting a tweet-along @BFI from 7pm.

The best film posters at LFF

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

Articles about film posters are often nostalgic, writes Isabel Stevens, looking back to times when surreal Polish sketches, sleek art-deco-inspired illustrations or iconic symbolist visions were just as inventive as the films they advertised.

But contrary to popular opinion, the art of film poster design is far from dead.

True, most movies introduce themselves in the same mundane fashion: a photograph of an actor’s airbrushed face emblazoned with their name, the film’s title and its critical endorsements.

But, as recent designs for films such as Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel show, there are still some directors, marketing departments and designers willing to take risks.

Inspired by Adrian Curry’s excellent yearly poster roundup for the films of the New York Film Festival on Mubi, I wondered what design gems the 248 features in the London Film Festival might offer up.

Gathered together here are the best posters I’ve found. Some are by feted designers such as Jay Shaw (the spectacular Duke of Burgundy poster above) and Fraser Muggeridge, while others come from little-known or anonymous sources, such as the poster for Justin Simien’s Dear White People, by 29-year-old Nikkolas Smith, an architect with little graphic design experience, only a nice concept and a heartfelt identification with the film’s subject.

While everyone debates the best films that they’ve seen so far at the LFF, don’t forget the paper spectacles enticing audiences to them.

The maxim? Always judge a film by its poster as well.

Steve Carell, unnerving to be around

Foxcatcher caused a major splash at Cannes this year, earning rave reviews and a best director award for Bennett Miller, writes Paul O’Callaghan.

Actor Steve Carell attends the press conference for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Actor Steve Carell attends the press conference for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

This riveting psychological drama recounts the true story of world champion wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz, and their shockingly ill-fated relationship with wealthy benefactor John E. du Pont.

The film is gaining buzz as a major awards season contender, with Steve Carell’s intensely unsettling performance as eccentric billionaire du Pont being singled out for particular praise.

Miller and Carell gathered before press this lunchtime, ahead of tonight’s American Express Gala premiere.

Actor Steve Carell and director Bennett Miller attend the press conference for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Actor Steve Carell and director Bennett Miller attend the press conference for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Bennett Miller, on casting comic actor Carell in a dark, serious role:

“Everything that I’d learnt about du Pont suggested that people underestimated what was inside of him, and I think because of the opportunities that Steve has had as an actor, opinions had formed about what to expect from him.

“Steve said to me early on ‘I’ve only played characters with mushy centres’, and du Pont absolutely does not. He seems to at first, but in fact there is something very dangerous inside him. I liked the idea that the casting would facilitate a similar feeling towards the character that people had towards du Pont in real life, which was some kind of belief that he was essentially benign.”

Steve Carell, on his preparation for the role:

“Du Pont’s physicality was very off-putting to many people. He had commissioned a documentary on himself, and the most interesting footage was the raw material that he didn’t want people to see, because that showed a side of him that was not his public persona.

“There was a sharper edge to that guy, he was less tolerant, more volatile. You can just see little hints of it here and there – the way he spoke to the documentarian and camera crew, and the way he rehearsed and planned out what he wanted to say.

“He had a very specific idea of how he wanted people to perceive him, and to get a little glimpse of that was helpful … I also spoke to people who worked with him, and were coached by him. They all had various ideas as to who he was, but they all said essentially the same thing – how unnerving he was to be around.”

On the prosthetic nose he wore for the film:

“It influenced the performance more than I anticipated. Once all the make-up went on, people responded to me very differently on set. I didn’t expect it to change things, but people naturally wanted to be separate from me, I was off-putting. So I just stayed in character, because I didn’t really have a choice – nobody wanted to talk to me!”

The Surprise Film: did you guess correctly?

“Some of you are right,” announced Festival Director, Clare Stewart at 8:32pm last night, writes Matthew Thrift.

The half dozen or so titles called out by audience members seated for the Surprise Film proved to be familiar suspects to anyone who’d even fleetingly glanced at social media that day.

Like every year, the speculation was impossible to avoid.

Interstellar, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, “That one with Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart,” all seemed popular contenders.

It was only when Alejandro González Iñarritú’s face filled the screen to deliver his video introduction that we knew what we were getting, and there was no disputing that the UK premiere of Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was a popular and eagerly awaited choice.

Watch the Birdman trailer

From it’s delirious long-take opening and near-invisible editing, designed to make the visual acrobatics of Gravity look *so* last year, Birdman proved as bold, brazen and bonkers as reports from Venice had us believe.

Featuring a mighty central turn from Michael Keaton as an actor attempting to shed the all-enveloping cape of the eponymous superhero franchise that made his name, by staging a self-penned Broadway production of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk about When We Talk about Love, the film proves a hilariously barbed study of delicate egos and rampant narcissism.

With terrific support from Edward Norton and Emma Stone (not to mention a marvellous Lindsay Duncan on film-stealing form as a venomous critic), the highest plaudits need to be saved for Emmanuel Lubezki’s dazzling photography.

As one seemingly impossible shot follows another – the film is cut to feel like a single, feature-length take – it’s easy to wonder if anyone else nominated for cinematography in the upcoming awards season need bother showing up.

Don’t miss ... gated-community paranoia drama History of Fear

No LFF is complete without dipping a toe into its Argentine fare, writes Demetrios Matheou.

History of Fear (2014)

History of Fear (2014)

Having had a blast with an atypical comedy, Damián Szifrón’s hilarious and inventive Wild Tales, it was time to return to a more familiar sobriety. And I’ve discovered a talented new director into the bargain.

Benjamin Naishtat’s History of Fear joins a growing list of Latin American films that depict contemporary society in decay.

And like the Mexican La zona and Brazil’s Neighbouring Sounds, it plays on class divide, and in particular the paranoia of the bourgeoisie behind their gated communities. The title is wonderfully bombastic, yet rather apt.

As Buenos Aires suffers beneath a heat wave – gunfire in the streets, naked men accosting cars, streetlights and elevators malfunctioning – Naishtat zooms in on a group of well-offs and their servants, keeping us dangling as to their fates.

Ominous and opaque, his film is not a comfortable watch, but a gripping one.

Last chance to see ... an ‘Iranian vampire western’

Official Competition contender A Girl Walks Home Alone Late at Night has its final Festival screening this evening at the Hackney Picturehouse at 6.15pm.

Enticingly described by programmer Michael Blyth as an “Iranian vampire western”, it’s a massively impressive debut for writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour, set in a ghost town where a female vampire stalks the nocturnal streets.

If enticement more is needed, here are the director and cast discussing the film on stage earlier this week.

“I did put on a chador one day and it made me feel like a bat, or a stingray, and I thought: This is a perfect Iranian vampire, it’s a brilliant disguise, no one’s going to expect anything from her.”

Theeb: ‘My politics is cinema. That’s what I love’

Theeb (2014)

Theeb (2014)

Writer-director Naji Abu Nowar was born in Britain and currently lives in Jordan. His debut feature, Theeb – which won him the Orizzonti award for best director in Venice this year and now competes in the LFF’s First Feature Competition – unravels in the heart of the Arabian desert on the eve of the Arab revolt. Ahead of Saturday’s LFF awards night, Georgia Korossi collared him for a chat.

Where did the idea for your first feature come from?

I always wanted to make a western and I thought this genre would work very well with the Bedouin culture. We decided to go to live with the Bedouin, and to try to make a film about their culture that has elements of the western genre, but drawn from that culture without us forcing the genre onto it.

Why did you choose to shoot on 16mm film?

I love shooting on film, that’s what I would do if I had the choice. I’ve certainly seen digital films that look like they were shot on film but I haven’t seen any great works of cinematography that look like the great films, like The Leopard (1963).

Until I see that I’ll always try and aspire to shoot on film to emulate the films that I love. It’s really thanks to my incredible producers, who managed to work out a way for us to be able to shoot on film. Now I’d like to go higher and shoot on 35mm, that’s my dream.

Theeb (2014)

Theeb (2014)

Theeb and his brother Hussein in your story care little about politics. How important is this message in your work?

One of the problems a lot of artists in the Middle East have is that they only get their work funded if it’s about a political subject matter, to do with one of the conflicts going on at the moment. A lot of people call it the burden of representation.

For me, I think it’s very important that artists have the right just to tell a story or express themselves for the sake of it, and that they’re not suddenly dismissed because they haven’t given their political stance about a particular conflict.

I’m in this for cinema. I’m not a politician trying to use cinema as a way of expressing myself. My politics is cinema. That’s what I love, that’s what I’m interested in, and I hope that Theeb will just be allowed to be a film for that sake. I hope that people will judge the film as they would judge any film rather than trying to ascribe some political message.

What was it like working in such terrific location, with non-professional actors and how did you cast the young boy, Jacir Eid?

It was an amazing experience. Jack Fox was the only professional actor and the rest of the cast all came from the Bedouin community. They were found as non-actors and they were trained for eight months to become professional actors.

Jacir Eid was a young boy from the village and he had that magic that you can’t really teach.

The only strict order given to the entire crew was to not, under any circumstances, give Jacir too much Pepsi.

Girlhood: ‘I wrote a letter to her: Dear Rihanna… ’

In anticipation of tonight’s UK premiere of Girlhood, part of our Official Competition, writer-director Celine Sciamma (Water Lilies, Tomboy) sat down this afternoon at an industry event to talk with the BFI Film Fund’s Lizzie Francke about her toweringly bold and beautiful portrait of an Afro-Franco girl gang living in the banlieues of Paris.

Girlhood (Bandes de filles, 2014)

Girlhood (Bandes de filles, 2014)

Simran Hans took notes as they discussed sex scenes, strong female characters and writing letters to Rihanna.

On getting the rights to Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’

It’s like an anthem; we had to ask for Rihanna’s consent. I wrote a letter to her: ‘Dear Rihanna’ – you get to write that once in a lifetime, you know!

On casting the girl gang

There’s improv in the movie – they had to be inventive. We had to build a group with synergy, alchemy, harmony.

Girlhood (Bandes de filles, 2014)

Girlhood (Bandes de filles, 2014)

On evading stereotypes

I wanted to make a portrait that was as vivid and as complex and as contrasted [with stereotypes] as possible. Of course [the girls are] gonna be energetic and funny but also they are melancholic and nostalgic and they can be really strong women but also totally childish.

On ascending the ranks within the film industry

You look at a festival and think “Okay, so you have to be an actress to climb those stairs.” No, you don’t have to be an actress, you can also be a director.

On why she studied screenwriting, not directing

I wanted to learn a craft. Directing is not really a job, it’s an opportunity. I try to take [writing] as a job, and not wait for the inspiration. Writing is about working.

On TV

At first I thought of [Girlhood] as a TV series. I went to [French channel] Canal+ but they said no. I think TV is more … depressing. It’s like “Whose face can we put on TV?”

When you do a film about a bad guy, nobody wants to see it; nobody wants to share an hour and a half with an asshole. But everybody wants to watch House of Cards because everybody wants to spend 12 hours with an asshole.

Girlhood (2014)

Girlhood (2014)

On working with non-actors

It was about games. We would dance, and scream. It’s about getting to know each other and feeling free and at ease. The question for me is: How do you make an event out of a face?

On the sex scene in Girlhood

Sex scenes in the movies are often about guys wanting, not about girls wanting, which seems really weird, because if girls love men, they should really want it, no?

It’s funny because nobody ever talks about that sequence. It’s kind of a taboo. You shoot a sex scene with a young girl and you don’t want to put her in a position that she doesn’t want to be in. I don’t want to steal anything from her.

I think I could steal something from a professional actor. I don’t want to steal from my non-professional actors. They can steal from me [though], that’s cool.

Tuning up for Battles

Only a few hours to go until our magnificent Archive Gala screening of silent film classic The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands.

The Royal Marines Band are already tuning up at Queen Elizabeth Hall for their live accompaniment with a new score by Simon Dobson.

To get in the mood, drop by our new list of 10 great battleship and war-at-sea films. Did we include your favourite?

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

Remember we’re also hosting a tweet-along on our Twitter account and you can also watch from home on the BFI Player.

On the run on the Yorkshire Moors: Catch Me Daddy

Competing for your attentions this evening at LFF is a first screening of another of our films in the First Feature Competition: Daniel Wolfe’s Catch Me Daddy, an atmospheric thriller about a Pakistani teenager hiding out from her traditionalist family in a village in the Yorkshire Moors.

Catch Me Daddy (2014)

Catch Me Daddy (2014)

We asked the BFI Film Fund’s Matimba Kabalika why their team helped stump up the cash for the project:

Catch Me Daddy is the daring debut feature film from renowned music video and commercials director Daniel Wolfe. The project initially caught the attention of the team because of its distinctive voice and vision – elements which are also evident throughout Daniel’s early work (notably The Good Shoes).

The resulting film is a bold, social-realist thriller with an astute and assured aesthetic to match. It follows the journey of a young girl on the run from her family who, having defied her father, becomes the hunted in a traditional honour killing. Set against the backdrop of the moody untamed wilds of the north, this film is an exhilarating offering from a filmmaker of great promise.

‘Sweet Lord, this is awesome!’

Composer Simon Dobson has fired off this Instagram from the rehearsals for tonight’s Archive Gala screening.

“Sweet Lord, this is awesome!”, runs his comment.

This just in … 

Festival director Clare Stewart has taken a moment to jot down some thoughts on this year’s terrific selection of Australian films, including competition title Son of a Gun and the latest film from acclaimed maverick Rolf de Heer.

Son of a Gun (2014)

Son of a Gun (2014)

Read her feature here.

The impossibly talented young Canadian director Xavier Dolan has just made his mark on the red carpet for tonight’s Dare Gala, Mommy.

Incredibly, this is already the 25-year-old virtuoso’s fifth feature film!

Introducing the film just now, Dolan said: “Mommy is very special to me, it’s brought us a lot of joy. It’s made us live exceptional moments, and I’m grateful for that.”

Steve Carrell and director Bennett Miller are on the red carpet, ready for tonight’s American Express gala. It’s Foxcatcher time, folks.

Starry, starry night … Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave are here too.

Here are a few more choice snaps from last night’s star-studded Foxcatcher premiere to brighten up your Friday morning.

Sienna Miller on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Sienna Miller on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Steve Carell on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Steve Carell on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Sienna Miller on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Sienna Miller on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Vanessa Redgrave on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Vanessa Redgrave on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Bennett Miller on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Bennett Miller on the red carpet for Foxcatcher during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

My LFF Top five so far…

As we head into the final weekend of the festival, Paul O’Callaghan chimes in with his top picks:

My most eagerly-anticipated films of the festival have, by and large, lived up to lofty expectations. As such, my list is comprised of several obvious choices, alongside a couple of relatively under-the-radar discoveries.

Butter on the Latch (2014)

Butter on the Latch (2014)

5. Butter on the Latch

I’ve seen numerous micro-budget debut features over the last few weeks, but this is by far the most distinctive and promising. Josephine Decker’s thrillingly experimental study of a disintegrating female friendship, set in a California forest during a Balkan folk music festival, might be crudely described as Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies meets Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

4. The Way He Looks

This incredibly sweet-natured Brazilian gay coming-of-age drama left me feeling (very momentarily) as if all was right with the world. Newcomer Ghilherme Lobo gives an impressively nuanced performance as a blind teenager who falls in love with his new classmate. The Way He Looks is warm, witty, and deeply affecting, yet never resorts to cheap sentimentality or emotional manipulation.

3. Foxcatcher

Hollywood has become increasingly conservative and risk-averse in recent years, with a sharp decline in the kind of smart, complex, star-powered dramas we used to see in abundance each awards season. Foxcatcher bucks that trend in glorious fashion. It’s a chilly, sometimes obtuse account of an unsettling true crime, with shades of There Will Be Blood and Citizen Kane, and a show-stealing performance from Steve Carell as Chemical firm heir turned wrestling coach John E. du Pont.

Mommy (2014)

Mommy (2014)

2. Mommy

Sickeningly precocious Canadian director Xavier Dolan (he’s still only 25) continues to dazzle with his fifth feature, his most fully-realised and satisfying to date. This breathlessly-paced tale of a vivacious single mother and her volatile ADHD-suffering teenage son is by turns hilarious and harrowing. At this rate, we may be mentioning Dolan in the same breath as Almodóvar or John Cassavetes within the next few years.

1. Whiplash

Damien Chazelle’s swaggeringly audacious jazz drumming thriller seems to have connected with LFF audiences as immediately as 12 Years a Slave did last year, with standing ovations at screenings, and an avalanche of gushing praise on social media. I had to resist the urge to stand and cheer on at least four separate occasions, largely as a result of J.K. Simmons’s outrageously enjoyable, career-defining turn as sadistic band instructor Terence Fletcher.

Archive Gala tweet-a-long

Last night we held a live tweet-a-long to mark the Archive Gala screening of The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands, a 1927 British silent classic which recreates two decisive WWI naval battles.

Of course we’d never condone tweeting in a cinema. Instead, we invited folks to watch the film at home via the BFI Player, and simultaneously enjoy our feed of trivia and behind-the-scenes insights. Here are a few highlights.

Don’t miss… powerful Greek family drama A Blast

Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas’s second feature A Blast is a superb portrait of a mother of two, writes Georgia Korossi.

A Blast (2014)

A Blast (2014)

Maria (Angeliki Papoulia), whose husband is a sailor stationed on a tank ship in Germany, is trapped in the misery of loneliness. She also has to contend with huge financial debt inherited from her mother (Themis Bazaka).

Like his debut feature Homeland, Tzoumerkas’s new film focuses on family life, its patterns and consequences. But in A Blast, there’s a new sense of rage. With outstanding performances from Papoulia (Alps), Bazaka (Wasted Youth) and newcomer Vassilis Doganis in the role of Maria’s husband Yannis, A Blast explores adolescence and prostitution against a backdrop of the rise of the far right.

Tzoumerkas poignantly balances personal and national turbulence. Electrifying flashback sequences, depicting Maria’s earlier years of romance with her husband, prove him a truly audacious filmmaker. Together with Ken McMullen’s OXI: An Act of Resistance, which also played at the LFF, A Blast is perhaps the most accurate account of Greece’s difficult years of austerity and the tragic impact it has had on people’s lives.

Foxcatcher cast and crew on the red carpet

Here are some lovely video highlights from last night’s big Gala premiere, including red carpet chats with Bennett Miller, Steve Carell, Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller.

Camp X-Ray: ‘I’m not an activist filmmaker’

Peter Sattler’s astute military drama Camp X-Ray screens for a third and final time at the festival tonight.

The film’s major talking point is Twilight star Kristen Stewart’s nuanced performance as a young Guantanamo Bay guard, who forges an unlikely bond with a detainee, played by acclaimed Iranian actor and filmmaker Peyman Maadi.

Paul O’Callaghan caught up with Sattler recently to discuss this impressive debut feature.

Camp X-Ray (2014)

Camp X-Ray (2014)

What compelled you to approach the subject of Guantanamo Bay in the first instance?

I have personal opinions about the war on terror, and about the way I feel America lost its way in the shake-up that surrounded 9/11. But this was never intended as a message movie, I’m not an activist filmmaker. I hate to bring up an overused term like Kafkaesque, but rather than ask how we might change Guantanamo Bay, I was more interested in looking at the lives of two people who had no power to change it. I was interested in what their relationship would be like in these strange circumstances. So I was hoping I could shine a light on this very absurd place without getting too overtly political about it.

What attracted you to the idea of a female protagonist?

I think the biggest reason was to create more conflict. Kristen Stewart’s character is antagonised not just by the detainees, but also by some of her fellow soldiers. Their sexual abuse and aggressive behaviour makes her an outsider. The whole point of the movie is to have two characters who are alone and have no one else to turn to.

The film has been particularly praised for its lead performances. How did you go about eliciting these from your actors?

The whole process was very collaborative. I had a very clear vision of what I wanted the film to be, but I allowed them to do absolutely anything they wanted. I love for something to come from an actor naturally. All I really needed to do was make sure that it fit with the tone, the style, and all the larger arcs of the film. So when we started, I made it clear that the script was not sacrosanct.

Kristen and Payman are very different actors to work with. Payman is also a writer-director, so he approaches films from a much larger authorial perspective. Kristen on the other hand is all about creating these moments of raw honesty, that’s what she craves as an actor. With Payman you can talk about very small and precise things, with Kristen it’s all about finding ways to keep things spontaneous. Payman loves rehearsal, Kristen hates it! But they’re both extremely intelligent.

Land Ho! 'it turns out that Icelanders are a friendly bunch'

Land Ho! is a bawdy road-trip comedy about two 60-somethings who go on holiday to Iceland, which plays for the last time at the LFF this evening. Chris Fennell caught up with Aaron Katz, one of the film’s two writer-directors.

Land Ho! (2014)

Land Ho! (2014)

Where did the idea for the film come from?

My co-director Martha Stevens and I went to school together in North Carolina and we’ve been good friends ever since. She’d been planning a trip to Iceland with her husband – not film related – but just started thinking ‘what if we made a movie there?’ She had this idea that maybe we could take Earl Lynn Nelson to Iceland. He’s this larger-than-life guy from New Orleans who’s her real relative and has been in some of her other movies. That was the first idea and everything else grew out of that.

So Iceland was the driving force for you then? What did it mean for you in terms of logistics and what added value did it give the movie?

It gave the movie a lot. The contrast between these two jokers who show up in Iceland having read one guide book, and this beautiful, mysterious and majestic landscape really appealed to me.

Of course it presented some challenges because we were shooting in a country neither of us were from. In the past I’d always made films in places where I’d lived — Portland, Oregon or Brooklyn — so we really had to rely on Icelanders, Icelandic co-producers and the line producer to help us out and pave the way. But it turns out that Icelanders are a friendly bunch and were ready to help us.

Senior characters so very rarely get the attention in cinema they deserve. What do you think they bring to the party?

You don’t see a lot of films about people from that age group and when you do they’re often quite broad. And certainly our movie has a bit of broad comedy in it — it’s like an homage to classic road trip films like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and maybe more recently Tommy Boy.

But we wanted these guys to be real people. Within that familiar, fun and satisfying structure we wanted characters that were three-dimensional and could do things that are unexpected. I love working within a pop filmmaking structure that’s really recognisable and then doing surprising things with it.

 

 

Resonant Frequency: ‘The public only hears about paranoid schizophrenia when someone is murdered’

Jonathan Birch’s powerful short Resonant Frequency employs disconcerting sound design to convey the harrowing experiences of a young man struggling with paranoid schizophrenia.

We caught up with Birch ahead of the film’s LFF unveiling. It plays tonight and tomorrow as part of the Radio Live Transmission shorts programme.

Resonant Frequency (2014)

Resonant Frequency (2014)

Where did the original idea for Resonant Frequency come from?

Often, the public only hears about paranoid schizophrenia when someone is murdered, so I wanted to focus on a volatile and potentially dangerous character and tell his story in a non-sensationalist way. During the course of my research I met with a young man with paranoid schizophrenia who had committed a very serious crime, and through our talks I was able to write a script that was honest and drawn from real life.

It’s a very intense film, not least because of the soundtrack. Was the sound always part of your idea of how to represent the experience of schizophrenia?

Yes, very early on I wrote a ‘sound only script’ as the sound design was going to be key to drawing the audience into the character’s world — and was one of the driving forces behind making the film. I wanted the film to be a very visceral experience and so we explored using sub bass, high pitched frequencies and hostile environmental sounds to create a very aggressive and confrontational sound track to unnerve and assault the viewer.

Did you have any other films in mind when you were working on this project?

Bruce Davidson’s photographs in Subway were a reference, especially the way he isolated his subjects against the harsh urban landscape. We also looked at Erick Zonca’s Le Petit Voleur for its use of handheld camera and the way he focuses on faces. Resonant Frequency was shot entirely handheld as I wanted to avoid any mechanical movements or stabilisation.

What’s it like having a film in the LFF?

It’s an honour, and the fact that it’s screening at BFI Southbank is the icing on the cake. It’s where I learnt about cinema history, and NFT1 is my favourite screen in London, so I can’t wait.

 

War Book: ‘A one-room drama can be entertaining and compelling’

Tom Harper’s career has positively flourished since his debut feature The Scouting Book for Boys premiered at the LFF in 2009. He subsequently established himself as a major player in British TV, directing episodes of This Is England ’86 and Peaky Blinders. Now he returns to the festival with War Book, a tense drama set entirely inside a House of Commons briefing room.

Chris Fennell found some time with Harper ahead of the film’s final festival screening, which takes place tomorrow afternoon.

War Book (2014)

War Book (2014)

Where did the idea for the film come from?

It came from the writer Jack Thorne, who had heard on the radio that they’d declassified a series of minutes from meetings of civil servants in the seventies, who would play out war game scenarios where they would prepare for a nuclear attack. That was the inspiration and he made it modern day. The same still happens today but they’re classified.

What was it like working with Jack again? Your previous collaboration The Scouting Book for Boys turned out very well.

I love Jack, he’s one of my very favourite writers. Having a relationship with someone already means you can move quickly and you speak the same language.

Jack and I share a desire to make compelling and entertaining political films. And this script was exactly that, so I leapt on it and sent it out to some actors, decided a date to start shooting, and away we went.

You must be incredibly busy. Where did you find the time to put War Book together?

Basically I had a period of time before I was due to start on The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (out next year) so we thought ‘fuck it, we’re going to do it — whether we manage to raise £50 or £500,000, we’re going to do it, no matter what’. Fortunately some money came in, but it was really liberating to say we were going to do it under any circumstances.

It’s a chilling chamber piece which brings to mind films like 12 Angry Men. Did you have any cinematic influences or reference points?

12 Angry Men was important — when I read the script I could still remember it from when I first saw it 10 years ago. It definitely presents the case that a one-room drama can be entertaining and compelling, it can be rich and it can keep moving. As a director that was a challenge I was excited about — how to keep the visual language evolving over the course of the movie, and how to keep people engaged.

Why watching Night Bus is better than catching one

Simon Baker’s Night Bus is a laudable attempt at depicting London’s nocturnal public transport, but it thankfully omits the very worst traits of its passengers, writes Lou Thomas.

Night Bus (2014)

Night Bus (2014)

While it’s true that the film will induce sighs of recognition from work-wearied or party-fatigued late night city dwellers, there is nothing illegal or even harrowing shown on-screen, bar one tearful passenger’s disintegrating relationship.

In real-life, hardened night bus aficionados may have seen a mugging, or even experienced their own. They will have avoided or enjoyed an illicit smoke at the back of the top deck, and certainly grimaced at a puddle of vomit or two.

Several night bus archetypes are present and correct, though: the posturing lads playing terrible loud music through their phones, the arguing middle-class couple returning from a jealous dinner date with friends and, of course, the drunken men laughing at themselves and everything else.

Above all, a journey on a London bus after midnight often involves joining or unavoidably hearing conversations with hilarious strangers from all over the world. You can talk to tourists, students, professionals and slackers alike, united by the need to get home cheaply. Watching Night Bus lets viewers be a part of this essential city experience, without even having to top up an Oyster card.

Night Bus screens tomorrow at 8.45pm

Tonight’s Gala screening of A Little Chaos is underway! Director Alan Rickman strolled down the red carpet just minutes ago.

Hot on the heels of Alan Rickman, the creative team behind The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby have arrived for the film’s Leicester Square premiere.

Three to see today

Some recommendations for the treasure-hunter at today’s Festival …

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

I’m no expert on Korean animated cinema, writes Chris Fennell, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, which is every bit as wacky and loveable as the title suggests.

Watch the trailer for The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

At its centre are a bizarre trio of heroes, hunted for their broken hearts: a satellite who crash lands on earth as a girl with jet-pack shoes and projectile limbs, a sorrowful milk cow with dreams of being a musician, and a magical, be-caped toilet roll called Merlin.

The easy comparison to make is with Japanese masters Studio Ghibli, yet while Jang Hyung-yun’s film has a similarly romantic and poignant tone, its warm-hearted and impossibly sustained imagination makes it utterly distinctive.

Even the most adventurous film-going families may have seen nothing quite like this before, but that’s all the more reason to seek out its earnest charms and endlessly inventive delight.

The Face of an Angel

How does one address the story of an appalling, ambiguous true crime while remaining faithful to the facts and sensitive to those involved?, asks Ashley Clark. The prolific British director Michael Winterbottom provides an interesting answer in his latest: a gripping psychological thriller.

Daniel Brühl is excellent as Thomas, a filmmaker in Italy researching his next work; it is to be about the murder of a young female student in Italy.

The Face of an Angel (2014)

The Face of an Angel (2014)

This case, of course, is based on the real life murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007, but all the names here have been changed. Plunging us straight into the heat of the ongoing case, The Face of an Angel is a fast-moving affair, stuffed with well-researched case information, sexual intrigue (Thomas quickly falls for an American journalist, played by Kate Beckinsale), noirish paranoia-thriller elements, and brainy literary allusion.

British model-turned-actress Cara Delevigne, meanwhile, delivers a star-making turn as a sparky student who becomes Thomas’ muse.

Austin to Boston

It’s not hard to fall for the twinkling, lo-fi charms of Sonic strand entry Austin to Boston, writes Matthew Thrift. Especially if you’re the kind of person who’s found the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack a permanent fixture on your iPod since its LFF bow last year.

Austin to Boston (2014)

Austin to Boston (2014)

“Starting tomorrow, 25 of us will be travelling 4,000 miles in five Volkswagen buses, to play 10 shows in a zig-zag across America, one journey bleeding into another,” announces musician-cum-driving-mechanic and honey-toned narrator, Gill Landry at the start of this love letter to folksy Americana and auto-maintenance.

The musical performances are positioned front and centre, as many taking place on the road and in the no-star digs found by its side as on the small-club stages of the American heartland.

“You could imagine they routed this tour back in England, throwing darts at a map of America,” says Landry of his cross-Atlantic road-mates, as vehicles alternately break down and stutter on. Shot partly in the nostalgic, sun-dappled glow of a Super 8 cine-camera, it proves a brief, welcome respite from the moody London skies.

Awards night is upon us

Incredibly, it’s day 11 of the Festival and we’re all in for a tense night on the live blog … 

A grandmother has to look after her grandchild’s digital horse farm in Pony Place, which screened in our After Laughter Comes Tears shorts programme

A grandmother has to look after her grandchild’s digital horse farm in Pony Place, which screened in our After Laughter Comes Tears shorts programme

Today brings the evening of the official Festival Awards, when we’ll find out which of the films we’ve been watching the past week and a half will rise to the top of the pile.

There’s the best British newcomer award; the Grierson Award, awarded to the Festival’s best documentary; the Sutherland Award for the best first feature; and, of course, we’ll be announcing the results of the Official Competition for best film.

The great British director Stephen Frears – he of My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen, Philomena… the list is long and full of such quality – will also be receiving a BFI Fellowship.

We’ll be covering the awards step by step this evening on the live blog, and throughout the day we’ll be speaking with some of the directors behind the nominated films.

Nervous times for them all.

Here’s a reminder of the nominations:

Official Competition

The Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following:

  • Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Dearest
  • Peter Strickland, The Duke of Burgundy (European Premiere)
  • Carol Morley, The Falling (World Premiere)
  • Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Céline Sciamma, Girlhood
  • Daniel Barber, The Keeping Room (European Premiere)
  • Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan
  • François Ozon, The New Girlfriend
  • Christian Petzold, Phoenix
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf, The President
  • Julius Avery, Son of a Gun (European Premiere)
  • Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu

First Feature Competition

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

  • Yann Demange,71
  • Josephine Decker, Butter on the Latch
  • Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe, Catch Me Daddy
  • Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, Difret
  • Franco Lolli, Gente de Bien
  • Guy Myhill, The Goob
  • Adityavikram Sengupta, Labour of Love
  • Sudabeh Mortezai, Macondo
  • Debbie Tucker Green, Second Coming
  • Ester Martin Bergsmark, Something Must Break
  • Naji Abu Nowar, Theeb
  • Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, The Tribe

Documentary Competition

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

  • Nadav Schirman, The Green Prince
  • Jean-François Caissy, Guidelines
  • Randall Wright, Hockney (World Premiere)
  • Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, The Immortalists (European Premiere)
  • Ulrich Seidl, In the Basement
  • Sergei Loznitsa, Maidan
  • Frederick Wiseman, National Gallery
  • Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden, Ne me quitte pas
  • Edward Lovelace & James Hall, The Possibilities Are Endless (European Premiere)
  • Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan, Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait
  • Debra Granik, Stray Dog
  • Lynette Wallworth, Tender (European Premiere)

Best British Newcomer

Closing the Awards section is the prize for Best British Newcomer which highlights new British talent and is presented to an emerging writer, actor, producer or director. This year’s nominees are:

  1. Guy Myhill – Writer/Director The Goob
  2. Florence Pugh – Supporting Actor The Falling
  3. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Actor Catch Me Daddy
  4. Rebecca Johnson – Writer/Director Honeytrap
  5. Taron Egerton – Actor Testament of Youth
  6. Daniel Wolfe & Matthew Wolfe – Writers/Directors Catch Me Daddy
  7. Alex Lawther – Supporting Actor The Imitation Game

George A. Romero: ‘Scorsese and I were the only two people who ever rented Tales of Hoffmann’

There’s a smattering of archive treasures in the programme for this afternoon.

We’ve already rhapsodised about Only Angels Have Wings and Born Yesterday in this space, but also being unveiled today is the brand new digital restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s bold fantasy The Tales of Hoffmann.

Opening titles from The Tales of Hoffmann © 1951 STUDIOCANAL FILMS Ltd.

Opening titles from The Tales of Hoffmann © 1951 STUDIOCANAL FILMS Ltd.

We’ll leave the talking in this case to George A. Romero, in the video below. Romero describes the film as the movie that made him want to make movies, and recalls how he and Martin Scorsese used to be rivals in New York for the same video copy.

George A. Romero on The Tales of Hoffmann

Do stop by our recent feature on the film too, in which curator Nathalie Morris shares some of the beautiful original designs.

Stella (Moira Shearer) dances in ‘The Ballet of the Enchanted Dragonfly’ © 1951 STUDIOCANAL FILMS Ltd.

Stella (Moira Shearer) dances in ‘The Ballet of the Enchanted Dragonfly’ © 1951 STUDIOCANAL FILMS Ltd.

James McAvoy is no stranger to the LFF, having starred in our opening night film The Last King of Scotland back in 2007.

Last night he was back in town for The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, in which he co-stars with Jessica Chastain as a married couple struggling to cope in the aftermath of a trauma.

Here he is on the red carpet last night, dressed to the nines and signing autographs ahead of the film’s premiere.

There’s tons of great stuff for the kids today at LFF.

Song of the Sea (2014)

Song of the Sea (2014)

Our Family Gala is currently under way at Odeon West End. Song of the Sea is the new film from Tomm Moore, and a return to the Celtic world of myth and magic of his exquisite hand-drawn animated masterpiece The Secret of Kells.

It’s been getting another ecstatic reaction from critics, but don’t worry if you’ve missed today’s screening – there’s another chance to see it tomorrow at 6pm.

If it’s today you’re looking for distractions for, there’s another outing for Moomins on the Riviera at 3pm as well as the first outing for the sci-fi adventure movie Robot Overlords. If you can be anywhere near the Vue in Islington for 4.15pm, this one is surely unmissable as it’s the new film from Jon Wright, who previously made the wonderful throwback monster movie Grabbers.

Here’s a little featurette we made about the making of the film.

“Robot Overlords is an adventure sci-fi film for the whole family,” comments Jamie Wolpert from our Film Fund, “Mark Stay’s script impressed us with its ambition and scale – this is the sort of film we rarely attempt in the UK despite having ample talent to take on Hollywood. Jon Wright has previously impressed with his CGI-heavy comic horror Grabbers and the film combines state of the art special effects with a Spielberg-like adventure caper.”

First Feature nominee Gente de bien: ‘It’s a psychological violence, of looking at people as though they don’t exist’

In the first of today’s catch-ups with directors who are up for prizes at tonight’s awards ceremony, Demetrios Matheou spoke with the Colombian director of First Feature nominee Gente de bien.

Gente de bien director Franco Lolli attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Gente de bien director Franco Lolli attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

A rare film from Colombia, Gente de bien is an assured first feature from writer-director Franco Lolli, who combines family drama with social critique in a class-ridden Bogotá.

“For me, the biggest problem in Colombia is class,” says the director. “Drug dealing, war, so many problems start with money and its distribution and how the class system works there.

“Bogotá is literally divided in half – north and south, rich and poor. The really rich never have anything to do with people from the lower class. It’s a psychological violence, of looking at people as though they don’t exist. And poor people hate the rich, because this condescension always leaves a mark.”

In Lolli’s intriguing scenario a wealthy, well-meaning woman tries to break down these barriers when she invites her handyman and his son to spend a Christmas holiday with her family.

It’s a social experiment doomed to failure. And the chief victim is the 10-year-old boy, who is first buffeted between his separated parents, neither of whom can afford to raise him, then left in the hands of his would-be patron.

“The film is not just about society, but family. The boy is like a bag, passed between different people. But you can’t choose your family. This is why family is sacred, however complicated it may be.”

Watch a clip from Gente de bien

Lolli is frank about being from the upper classes, which afforded him the opportunity to attend film school in Paris. But when it came time to making his first feature, he was always going to return home, and Gente de bien is a French-Colombian co-production.

“It’s better to film in places you know well, where you have a strong connection. Also, the French were more interested in me making films about Colombia.” He smiles. “I’m still exotic to them.”

He says Colombian audiences, many of whom can seldom afford to go to the cinema, will opt when they can for big budget, escapist films.

“They don’t want to see themselves on screen. But it’s important to be represented in film. It’s through representation that things change. So for me it’s a political issue.”

My LFF top five so far ...

It’s the penultimate day of the Festival. What are your favourites so far?

We asked live blog contributor Chris Fennell to whittle down his viewing into list format …

The following is both a list of the top five films I’ve seen at the festival so far and a chastening reminder to myself of what I have yet to see.

5. Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh, UK)

Mike Leigh’s biopic of J.M.W Turner impeccably captures the brilliance of both old masters. Leigh’s long-time collaborator Timothy Spall gives a career-best (and possibly Oscar-winning) performance as the harrumphing landscapist of the title.

4. The Falling (Carol Morley, UK)

The Falling (2014)

The Falling (2014)

Carol Morley’s elusive and beguiling follow-up to her acclaimed documentary Dreams of a Life is about a mysterious epidemic of mass hysterical fainting at a girls’ school. A dizzying and sugar-coated teenage fever dream swathed in poisoned rhythms and bittersweet emotion. 

3. Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, USA)

Dread slowly seeps through the mats in Bennett Miller’s muscular wrestling drama. Based on the true story of the Faustian relationship between wrestler Mark Schultz and billionaire John du Pont, it’s an insidiously transfixing satire of American exceptionalism in the mould of The Master.

2. The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine)

The Tribe (Plemya, 2014)

The Tribe (Plemya, 2014)

Performed entirely in Ukrainian sign language with nary a subtitle in sight, Slaboshpytskiy’s debut reconfigures speaking as gesture, and forces us to adjust to a new way of seeing. The most experimental (and disturbing) feature I’ve seen at the festival so far.

1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, USA)

Another story of toxic mentorism to go along with Foxcatcher, J.K Simmons is the fearsomely intractable teacher who will stop at nothing to find the next Buddy Rich. Never before has the genesis of musical perfection – in this case drumming – been captured so viscerally. The Raging Bull of music movies.

First Feature nominee The Tribe: ‘We were making a rebellious movie’

In another of today’s head-to-heads with filmmakers competing in tonight’s Festival awards, Matthew Thrift spoke to Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, the first-time director of The Tribe. One of the critical buzzes of 2014, The Tribe is in the running for best first feature and is a confrontational crime film set within the confines of a boarding school for young deaf people.

The Tribe (Plemya, 2014)

The Tribe (Plemya, 2014)

The Tribe has a very distinctive visual style. Can you talk about your relationship with your cinematographer, Valentyn Vasyanovych?

Valentyn is a brilliant operator. He’d directed two features himself before working in The Tribe. He’s also a great documentary filmmaker, and I prefer those to his fiction features. The way he finds the light for a shot is just brilliant.

You avoid close-ups for much of the film – is that meant as a distancing effect in the same way the use of sign language is?

It’s very difficult for me to talk about any single element of the production, because everything is supposed to be taken together. This is a new age for movies, and many are made with television money, so they’re shot as if for TV. We were making a rebellious movie, without dialogue, so I wanted to embrace the widescreen format and enjoy it as much as possible.

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

You call The Tribe a rebellious film, was it hard to find financial support?

I have many friends in the film industry internationally, but gaining support is difficult everywhere.

In the Ukraine it was much easier when I first started. It’s different for me because of my success, I’ve become a public figure now, getting congratulations telegrams from the president. I won a grant from the Rotterdam Film Festival, which helped this on its way, before the Ukrainian State Film Agency stepped in.

Sex and sexuality are used as a further means of communication and connection in the film …

Some critics say that my movie is very physically active, and I have no reason to argue with them. Something happened that I didn’t expect. When I removed the verbal communication from the film, I also extracted some social codes, leaving characters naked in a social context. It was an accident really.

Best film nominee Phoenix: ‘The shock is unimaginable’

Up for Best Film tonight, meanwhile, is Phoenix, the new collaboration between director Christian Petzold and Nina Hoss. Demetrios Matheou met with the award-winning actor to discuss this moving film about Jewish experience in the immediate postwar years.

Phoenix (2014)

Phoenix (2014)

Director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss have forged an indelible screen partnership, with films that resonate with years of German national trauma – whether it’s that created by reunification (Yella), during communism (Barbara) or, with Phoenix, the treatment of the Jews during World War II.

The new film is typical of their work together: intelligent, demanding, minimalist, stylish, with Hoss’s enigmatic presence as the glue.

In Phoenix the actor has her most distressing character to date, Nelly, a concentration camp survivor disfigured by the Nazis, who after plastic surgery wanders the streets of postwar Berlin in search of her husband – not a Jew himself – who may or may not have betrayed her.

Phoenix (2014)

Phoenix (2014)

“The way that Germans are today still has a lot to do with what happened after the Second World War,” says the Hoss, whose sparkle and ebullience is in stark contrast to the mood of her characters. “There will always be a certain weight of guilt; not with the younger generations, so much, but it’s very clear that we don’t ever want to forget what happened.

“Normally films are set during the war. What I loved about this script is that it’s talking about a time right after the war, and considers what happened when the surviving Jews went home. And the answer is another betrayal.”

This, she says, is because mainstream German society – still afraid of the Jews after years of propaganda – never asked about what happened to them in the camps. In fact, there was no reaction to their return at all.

“After an experience like that, of course, you  assume that when you return people will ask questions. At one point I think Nelly is thinking, ‘This is what I went through. You’re the ones who sent us there. Don’t you want to hear about it?’ But once again, the response is, ‘You don’t exist.’ For me, the shock of that is unimaginable.”

Is there nothing this man can’t do?

Exciting news …  We were thrilled when Viggo Mortensen made a surprise appearance at the Festival last night for the screening of Jauja, a visionary period adventure movie from the inimitable mind of director Lisandro Alonso.

Not only did he star in and produce this one-of-a-kind experience, but he also composed music for it. He also speaks his native tongue Danish for the first time on screen, adding to a long list of languages he’s spoken in for film roles (not least Elvish).

There were audible expressions of glee when he turned up on stage before the screening, and we sat enthralled during the post-screening Q&A as he spoke eloquently about how the project came to pass and the eccentricities of its cult-figure director.

One of our live bloggers is chatting to Viggo right now … and we’ll have that interview for you as quick as can be.

Jauja (2014)

Jauja (2014)

The actor’s one of the undoubted faces of the Festival, starring in not one but two exotic arthouse period movies about men making their way through hostile terrain (the other being Algeria-set Far from Men, in which Viggo tries French on for size).

There’s never been a better time to hear from the actor about this sudden swing into arthouse material, so stay tuned for that interview.

First Feature nominee Macondo: life on Vienna’s margins

Another hopeful for tonight’s awards is Iranian-Austrian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai, who is in the running for the First Feature prize for Macondo, the story of an 11-year-old Chechen boy refugee living in social housing on the outskirts of Vienna.

Will this be crowned the Festival’s Best First Feature? 

Chris Fennell met the director to find out more about the film.

Macondo (2013)

Macondo (2013)

Why did you decide to make this story your first feature film?

It started with a place. Macondo is the name of a refugee camp on the outskirts of Vienna where over 2,000 people live in social housing. They come from 20 different countries. It’s almost like a ghetto where mainstream society pushes out the refugees they don’t want to deal with. But at the same time it’s an interesting way if living together. I was fascinated with the place and the film developed out of that.

You’ve previously directed documentaries. What was the transition like from documentary to fiction films?

It was really natural for me because this film also has a lot of documentary elements. The actors in the film, except for two little roles, are non-professionals for whom it’s their first time in front of the camera. My way of working with them was similar.

The only big difference is in documentaries you find the dramaturgy in editing but here you find the dramaturgy in the screenplay. But I didn’t give the actors the screenplay to read so they couldn’t learn any dialogue. Everything was improvised. It was a very natural step, not even a big step I don’t think.

Macondo director Sudabeh Mortezai attends the Filmmaker Tea at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Macondo director Sudabeh Mortezai attends the Filmmaker Tea at the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Ramasan Minkailov – the young boy at the centre of your film – has received a great deal of praise. Tell us how you found him and about working with him.

He’s in every scene. He carries the entire film. That’s why it was crucial to find the right boy who has this mixture of being very tough but at the same time very fragile. He’s meant to be very young and vulnerable but he has to act like a man and be responsible for his family.

We were casting in the Chechen community in Vienna, which is quite big but also a very close-knit community, which is very hard to get access to. We saw a lot of boys but he was amazing. He had this very big personality in this very small child’s body so he was perfect.

Your camera adopts a documentary perspective but at the same time is always finely attuned to characters’ faces and movements. Why do you think this style works in the context of the story?

For me it was the only way to tell this story because I didn’t want to make a documentary in a strict sense; I wanted to tell a story which was fictionalised but was very authentic and had a very raw feel. This was the only right way to do it.

The most important decision was the casting decision because if people are not actually playing a role, they are leaving part of their own lives and their own personality on the camera.

How pleased are you to be in contention for the Sutherland trophy at this year’s festival?

I’m very pleased because you get a different kind of exposure when you’re in the competition. And it’s also in very good company so I’m proud to be part of it. 

What are your favourite Festival films?

We want to know which films you’ve loved at this year’s Festival. Tweet us @BFI with your top three favourites, using the hashtag #LFF, and we’ll publish a selection on the live blog tomorrow.

Did The Imitation Game get you going?

Was Foxcatcher worth the hype?

Preparing Odeon West End for the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Preparing Odeon West End for the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Which of our competition titles took your fancy?

Or did you find some smaller gems elsewhere in the programme?

We’ve been publishing some of our live bloggers’ favourites. Now it’s your turn … 

My LFF top five so far ...

The guests are about to start arriving for our super-glamorous festival awards night in Whitehall.

There’s just time for another personal top five from one of our live blog contributors. Demetrios Matheou steps up …

The Face of an Angel (2014)

The Face of an Angel (2014)

5. The Face of an Angel (Michael Winterbottom, UK)

Michael Winterbottom and scriptwriter Paul Viragh have found a rewardingly philosophical way of addressing the Meredith Kercher murder that reflects on tabloid journalism, crime fiction, the justice system and filmmaking – all managed with the director’s casual skill.

4. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, UK)

I adored Peter Strickland’s eccentric, piquant, frequently hilarious romance between sado-masochistic lesbians who can’t agree on who’s boss.

3. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, USA)

My heart was still pounding long after the credits rolled on this drama set in a music school that was light years away from Fame. The fusion of warped machismo, jazz perfectionism and drumming virtuosity is brutal but exhilarating.

2. Phoenix (Christian Petzold, Germany)

The latest from Christian Petzold and his magnificent muse Nina Hoss, set in postwar Berlin, felt like a fusion of Shoah and Vertigo – dramatically potent and emotionally devastating. 

1. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/Denmark)

Jauja (2014)

Jauja (2014)

I was intrigued by what the teaming of Lisandro Alonso and Viggo Mortensen would produce. And I wasn’t disappointed by this fascinating, meticulous, increasingly existential foray into colonialism, parenthood, landscape and time. 

Juror James McAvoy has arrived for this evening’s Festival Awards. The ceremony begins at 9pm. Stay right here for live coverage of the winners …

2014 LFF awards about to get going ...

We are now safely ensconced in the media room here at Banqueting House in Whitehall. 

The guests are wined and dined …

… and the 2014 BFI London Film Festival awards are due to commence in 11 minutes.

The nominations in full

Let’s remind ourselves who’s in the running this evening. 

Here’s the full list of nominations:

Official Competition

The Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following:

  • Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Dearest
  • Peter Strickland, The Duke of Burgundy (European Premiere)
  • Carol Morley, The Falling (World Premiere)
  • Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Céline Sciamma, Girlhood
  • Daniel Barber, The Keeping Room (European Premiere)
  • Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan
  • François Ozon, The New Girlfriend
  • Christian Petzold, Phoenix
  • Mohsen Makhmalbaf, The President
  • Julius Avery, Son of a Gun (European Premiere)
  • Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu

First Feature Competition

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

  • Yann Demange,71
  • Josephine Decker, Butter on the Latch
  • Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe, Catch Me Daddy
  • Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, Difret
  • Franco Lolli, Gente de Bien
  • Guy Myhill, The Goob
  • Adityavikram Sengupta, Labour of Love
  • Sudabeh Mortezai, Macondo
  • Debbie Tucker Green, Second Coming
  • Ester Martin Bergsmark, Something Must Break
  • Naji Abu Nowar, Theeb
  • Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, The Tribe

Documentary Competition

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

  • Nadav Schirman, The Green Prince
  • Jean-François Caissy, Guidelines
  • Randall Wright, Hockney (World Premiere)
  • Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, The Immortalists (European Premiere)
  • Ulrich Seidl, In the Basement
  • Sergei Loznitsa, Maidan
  • Frederick Wiseman, National Gallery
  • Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden, Ne me quitte pas
  • Edward Lovelace & James Hall, The Possibilities Are Endless (European Premiere)
  • Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan, Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait
  • Debra Granik, Stray Dog
  • Lynette Wallworth, Tender (European Premiere)

Best British Newcomer

Closing the Awards section is the prize for Best British Newcomer which highlights new British talent and is presented to an emerging writer, actor, producer or director. This year’s nominees are:

  1. Guy Myhill – Writer/Director The Goob
  2. Florence Pugh – Supporting Actor The Falling
  3. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Actor Catch Me Daddy
  4. Rebecca Johnson – Writer/Director Honeytrap
  5. Taron Egerton – Actor Testament of Youth
  6. Daniel Wolfe & Matthew Wolfe – Writers/Directors Catch Me Daddy
  7. Alex Lawther – Supporting Actor The Imitation Game

And who gets the unenviable task of choosing between so many top-notch films?

Our jury this year is headed by the brilliant producer Jeremy Thomas, a man who’s lent his name to films of the calibre of The Last Emperor, Only Lovers Left Alive, several films by Nicolas Roeg and David Cronenberg, and is currently at work on Ben Wheatley’s new film of J.G. Ballard’s cult novel High Rise.

His jurors?

We’ve got Ahmad Abdalla, director of last year’s Best Film Award nominee Rags & Tatters, and whose film Décor received its world premiere at this year’s Festival.

Chief Film Critic of industry rag Variety, Scott Foundas.

Malaysian film producer Lorna Tee.

And, last but not least, BAFTA-winning and Golden Globe-nominated James McAvoy, whose film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby received its UK Premiere last night at the Festival.

Yep, us too. Though word is things are running a little late … 

OK, we’ve had the five-minute call now. Things are getting tense.

Of course, one award we already know. That’s the BFI Fellowship for director Stephen Frears.

Let’s kill some time by enjoying this shot of the super-young Frears filming his apartheid short The Burning back in 1967.

He was just 26.

Stephen Frears filming The Burning (1967)

Stephen Frears filming The Burning (1967)

Seat-taking has been instructed. 

We’re under way!

Festival director Clare Stewart is on stage.

The LFF is a thrilling race, she says. Now it’s time to slow down and appreciate the best of the best.

Did the filmmakers take risks?, she asks. And did they pull it off?

We’re guessing tonight’s winners did just that.

 

Now it’s the turn of our host for the evening: comedian Ben Miller. 

Not, as he’s quick to clarify, Bennett Miller, the director of our American Express gala film Foxcatcher.

It’s the time of the Best British Newcomer award. The moment when fledgeling actors, writers, directors etc all get thrown into a pot to compete against each other. 

James Corden and Finola Dwyer are here to present.

Here’s the roll call:

  1. Guy Myhill – Writer/Director The Goob
  2. Florence Pugh – Supporting Actor The Falling
  3. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Actor Catch Me Daddy
  4. Rebecca Johnson – Writer/Director Honeytrap
  5. Taron Egerton – Actor Testament of Youth
  6. Daniel Wolfe & Matthew Wolfe – Writers/Directors Catch Me Daddy
  7. Alex Lawther – Supporting Actor The Imitation Game

And the winner is … Sameena Jabeen Ahmed for Catch Me Daddy!

Catch Me Daddy (2014)

Catch Me Daddy (2014)

“We were unanimous in our decision to award actress Sameena Jabeen Ahmed the Best British Newcomer Award for her breakout performance in Catch Me Daddy,” says jury president Finola Dwyer. “Sameena’s performance was very assured, confident and fearless. In the lead role of Laila, Sameena’s range of emotion was breathtaking; she was the heartbeat of the film.”

Oh dear, a bit of a technical meltdown on the live blog. Never work with children or live blogs.

You’ll probably know by now that our Documentary Competition winner is the stunning Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait.

And our First Feature prize has gone to The Tribe.

This is Silvered Water director Ossama Mohammed, just after collecting his award.

It was producer Luc Roeg who presented the award for Best First Feature to The Tribe.

The Tribe (Plemya, 2014)

The Tribe (Plemya, 2014)

“This year’s Sutherland Award presented a varied and interesting line-up of films from around the world,” he said, “but Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe distinguished itself as the most original and powerful of all the contenders. The young non-professional cast were all exceptional, but special mention must go to Yana Novikova. Slaboshpytskiy makes an audacious and highly accomplished debut as writer-director and has marked himself out as a true auteur. It’s a pleasure and privilege to commend the work.”

There was a special word too for Theeb,  Naja Abu Nowar’s film about orphaned brothers on a treacherous journey across the desert in the far reaches of the Ottoman Empire on the eve of the Arab revolt.

And the best film for 2014 is ...

Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan!

Jeremy Thomas stepped up to present the award. “We were all very engaged by the 12 films selected for Competition and really admired many of them, there were extraordinary stories and impressive images.”

“But there was one film that we were unanimous in wanting to award Best Film, Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.  Its grandeur and themes moved all of us in the same way.”

Also commended was Celine Sciamma’s Girlhood, about a young woman’s search for identity in the underprivileged suburbs of Paris.

We’ve just enjoyed a clip reel of highlights from the career of director Stephen Frears, who strides to the stage at the command of Sir David Hare to collect his BFI Fellowship. 

“I can’t think of anyone who’s made a richer, more diverse or more consistently intelligent contribution to British film in my life-time,” said Hare.

So it was to be the monumental Leviathan’s night as Best Film. 

Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan (2014)

We have a full list of tonight’s winners and juror comments here.

Stephen Frears has given a warm speech of thanks for his Fellowship, and we’re done.

Not the smoothest night of live blogging in the world, so your writer’s off for a lie down.

We’ll be sure to have ironed out the gremlins ready for the Festival’s grand finale tomorrow.

See you then. 

Watch all the best bits from last night’s Festival awards with our handy video round-up …

So, day 12. We can’t believe we’re here.

It’s the last day of the London Film Festival, the day we look forward to welcoming Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf to the capital for our Closing Night Gala of Fury.

Fury (2014)

Fury (2014)

The screening kicks off at 7pm, but we’ll be expecting some starry arrivals to the red carpet in the hour before that. If you’re around Leicester Square, keep an eye out.

Of course, there’s lots of stuff other than this big-ticket event happening today, but since Fury has just screened to press, let’s dip into Twitter to see what they made of it.

And a warning …

Lazy Sunday afternoons at the LFF

What else is left for our last day?

Well, tons actually.

If you’re looking for a Sunday afternoon film to help the roast go down, we’ve got a couple of old favourites screening in brand new digital restorations.

Guys and Dolls (1955)

Guys and Dolls (1955)

First up is Guys and Dolls, the much-loved 50s musical starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. And that’s followed later in the afternoon by the classic 1967 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, featuring 60s ‘It’ stars Julie Christie and Terence Stamp.

Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)

Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)

We shared some of the original production documents – scripts, behind-the-scenes shots etc – in a feature recently. Worth a read before lunch:

Also fitting the mood for a Sunday afternoon might be A Little Chaos, directed by Alan Rickman and starring Kate Winslet as a landscape gardener who breathes a little fresh air (and chaos) through the court of Versailles in 17th-century France. It was our Love Gala film, and today’s 3pm screening is your last chance to catch it.

A Little Chaos (2014)

A Little Chaos (2014)

Viggo Mortensen: ‘No matter how many movies you see in this festival, this one will stay with you’

Two more options for your Sunday afternoon are final screenings for not one but two different arthouse adventure movies starring Viggo Mortensen as a man adrift in hostile terrain.

Demetrios Matheou had the chance to meet the multi-talented actor …

Jauja (2014)

Jauja (2014)

Viggo Mortensen has been in town with two movies, Far from Men, a French drama set in 1950s Algeria, and Jauja, by the Argentine Lisandro Alonso, which takes place in the Patagonia of the 1800s.

The latter seems particularly personal to the actor, given it’s the first time that the Danish-American has acted in Danish, while shooting in the country where he spent his childhood.

But the draw was specifically Alonso, whose earlier films, including Los muertos and Liverpool, are minimalist masterpieces that have earned him an ardent following. “No-one makes movies like him,” observes Mortensen with evident affection. “We always try to compare filmmakers, but Lisandro has a singular voice, a very unaffected, very direct way of expressing himself and telling stories.”

The actor plays a Danish soldier and engineer, working for the Argentine army during the “conquest of the desert”, the genocide of the region’s indigenous Indians. When his teenage daughter runs off with a soldier, the captain gives chase into the desert.

Jauja (2014)

Jauja (2014)

Mortensen, who co-produced Jauja, notes that the film was a deliberate “step forward” for the director. “There’s a stronger narrative line, there’s more dialogue in the first half hour than all the other movies put together, he was working with professional actors for the first time, and with a new cinematographer.

“But these were new challenges made as part of his particular creative world. It was a bold statement for him.”

Despite the increasingly existential bent of the captain’s pursuit, and a final reel of spectacular strangeness, Mortensen observes that the captain is as realistic as any character he’s played.

“I said to Lisandro that the best way to pose these existential questions and deal with the metaphysics of it all is to have the captain always looking for a rational explanation for what’s happening.

“No matter how many movies you go to in this festival, this one will stay with you, you’ll think about it for days, weeks afterwards. Most movies don’t do that, not even good movies.”

  • Jauja screens at the Hackney Picturehouse at 1pm. Far from Men is on at Ciné Lumière at 3.30pm

My LFF top five so far ...

With just half a day left of the Festival, we asked another of our live blog contributors to whittle down their list of five favourite Festival films.

Simran Hans, over to you …

The London Film Festival serves as a showcase of the best of the fests; as a result, you’re pretty much always guaranteed a good selection. This year is no exception, with eight films clammering for the top spot in my list of five favourites (and I haven’t even seen Dear White People yet!). Special mentions to Girlhood, Mommy and The Wonders but my top five consists of:

5. Wild Tales (Damian Szifron, Argentina)

With phrases like ‘six vignettes’, ‘Laugh Strand” and ‘Argentinian’ as my only clues about what was in store, I basically went into this one blind. Damian Szifron’s black comedy recalls Pedro Almodovár’s early work (in fact, Almodovár co-produced the film) in its flashes of violence and flamboyant comedic spirit. The film follows six worst-case scenarios that include a disastrous wedding, a parking ticket and an ill-advised bout of road rage, and had my screening howling with laughter.

4. Hoop Dreams (Steve James, USA)

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Hoop Dreams (1994)

I’d never seen Steve James’s high school basketball documentary on the big screen, but this month saw the film’s 20th anniversary and a special restoration screening at the festival. Centering on two African-American teenagers, Arthur Agee and William Gates, James tracks the boys as they compete for college scholarships, all the while facing the challenges and complexities of inner-city Chicago life. An engrossing, vital and heart-burstingly alive journey that compresses four years into three short hours.

3. Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry, USA)

Shot on super 16mm, this gorgeous, grainy New York story sinks its teeth into the archetype of the narcissistic male writer. Jason Schwartzman has never been better than here as the acerbic Philip (a nod to notoriously prickly Pulitzer prize-winner Philip Roth). Even better though, is the luminous Elisabeth Moss as his increasingly exhausted girlfriend.

Listen Up Phillip (2014)

Listen Up Phillip (2014)

2. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, UK)

An immersive, elliptical mediation on intimacy, sex, love and power, Strickland’s beautiful, beguiling fever dream plays with the audience by constantly shifting its perspective. An all-female cast also means it definitely passes the Bechdel test.

1. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, USA)

Quite simply the most exhilarating 106 minutes of the festival.

Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and the Fury team have joined us for a press conference ahead of our Closing Night gala. Full report coming shortly …

Alice Rohrwacher on her bee movie The Wonders

Among the Festival films most likely to linger in the brain long after the LFF is over is The Wonders, the latest film by Alice Rohrwacher. It came hotly tipped from Cannes and more than lived up to expectations. Demetrios Matheou found himself going head to head with the Italian director … 

The Wonders (2014)

The Wonders (2014)

A fable about a dysfunctional family, self-exiled into the Italian countryside and struggling to make the best of it, Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders is at turns eccentric and mysterious, thought-provoking and comic, and appropriately rather wondrous.

While her second feature (after Corpo celeste) isn’t autobiographical, aspects of it are familiar to her, she says. These include the rural area in the cusp of the Italian regions of Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, where there are many cross-cultural families such as her own (her father, like that of the story, is German) and the bee-keeping that is her fictional family’s chief source of income.

Around these elements, she’s invented a story in which the pigheaded and belligerent Wolfgang’s determination to play the country life by his own rules pits him against his wife Angelica (Rohrwacher’s elder sister Alba) and daughters. The chief perspective is that of the older girl, Gelsomina, who spies relief in the form of a TV talent contest, presided over by a fabulously bizarre Monica Bellucci.

The Wonders director Alice Rohrwacher attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The Wonders director Alice Rohrwacher attends the Filmmaker Tea during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

For Rohrwacher, “This family is very true. I believe them. I trust them. But it’s very difficult to talk about them, which is why I did the movie. They are not traditional people from the countryside, they are not hippies, they are always from another place. They exist, but you can’t define them.”

As for her own family member on set, she says: “Working with Alba was very exciting, and necessary, not only because she is a great actress but because she is a great sister. It was important for me to try and see this story through the eyes of an elder sister, thus through Alba’s eyes. I was confronted with thoughts about her during the whole screenwriting process.”

The Wonders (2014)

The Wonders (2014)

The film’s most obvious ‘wonders’ are the extended scenes of beekeeping involving Wolfgang and Gelsomina (Sam Louwick and Alexandra Lungu), especially the girl’s party trick involving a bee emerging from her mouth. These must have given the insurers nightmares, I suggest.

“In fact, we had to shoot all of the bee scenes separately from the movie schedule. So they were outside of the film’s insurance – our own responsibility. It was almost like shooting a documentary about bees one day, then we shot the movie.”

As for the trick, “I tried it myself, saw it was possible, so asked Alexandra to do it. It’s a way to symbolise the things that Gelsomina would love to say, but can’t.”

My LFF top five so far ...

Another Festival top five from our live blog contributors. This time, it’s Georgia Korossi’s turn … and she hasn’t included Whiplash!

It’s been an adventurous programme this year at the Festival and it feels like there’s still a lot to discover when hopefully films get their general release.

Bold filmmaking made the whole experience inspiring: works such as Silvered Water, Syria Self-portrait, 6 Desires: DH Lawrence and Sardinia, CITIZENFOUR, A Blast and many more shifted our perspectives and took us outside our comfort zone. But my five favourites are…
 
5. The President (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Georgia)

Writer-director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (A Moment of Innocence) made this insightful film with a universal scope: peace for all. The President is an astonishing work that asks this simple question: if ideology is based on revenge, how can you talk about democracy?

4. The Lamb (Kutlug Ataman, Turkey)

The Lamb (2014)

The Lamb (2014)

Artist-filmmaker Kutlug Ataman is back on the big screen with this film based on a story of a poor family living in the mountains of eastern Anatolia. This touching and funny portrait of close community life is a modern-day Medea, and young Mert Tastan’s performance in the role of ‘little lamb’ boy Mert is outstanding.

3. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mali)

Timbuktu (2014)

Timbuktu (2014)

The long awaited new feature by Abderrahmane Sissako (Bamako) is a powerful story about the nomadic Tuareg people and the newly arrived jihadists who controlled Timbuktu in 2012. Sissako’s morally complex film, co-written by Kessen Tall, prove him, once again, to be a master of cinema.

2. OXI: An Act of Resistance (Ken McMullen, UK)

OXI: An Act of Resistance (2014)

OXI: An Act of Resistance (2014)

Award-winning Ken McMullen made this incredibly delicate film about the hardships people have faced in Greece since 2010. For the international community, the media has illustrated the nation’s excruciating problems in a rather misleading way. But McMullen succeeds in at least one thing: he listens to the citizens of Greece and their agonised thoughts.  

1. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, France)

Cinema’s enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard came back to the Festival with this 3D film. At the age of 83, the French auteur paid homage to the great modern philosophers, his dog Roxy, romance and humanity’s blinded conscience. In his Goodbye to Language, he superbly plays with a variety of mini-3D cameras, coolly teaching Hollywood a thing or two about new technologies.

Anyone heading to the final screening of Carol Morley’s girls-school hysteria drama The Falling at Hackney Picturehouse at 3.45pm?

It looks to be sold out, but it’s always worth trying your luck if you’re in the area.

Try this video on for size: it’s Morley with actors Maisie Williams, Florence Pugh and Monica Dolan on stage to answer audience questions after our first Festival screening.

Also, this Guardian review makes it sound incredible.

Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf and Fury’s director David Ayer: ‘It’s about guys’ chemistry and brotherhood’

This morning saw the star-studded press conference for festival closer Fury, David Ayer’s (End of Watch) war blockbuster, starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBoeuf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pina and Jon Berthnal as an American band of brothers in the thick of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Actor Brad Pitt attends the press conference for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Actor Brad Pitt attends the press conference for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Journalists were treated to a Brangelina moment and a rare appearance from an increasingly elusive Shia LaBeouf. Simran Hans was there to capture the highlights.

Director David Ayer’s message to people who are expecting Fury to be a straight genre film

They’re just flat wrong. It’s a unique animal. It’s about a family. It’s a slice of life; it’s a character study. It’s about these guys and their chemistry and their brotherhood and the love they have for each other.

Actor Shia LaBeouf attends the press conference for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Actor Shia LaBeouf attends the press conference for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Michael Pina on working with David Ayer for the second time

Working with David is like getting a root canal. You know it’s gonna suck, and you just prepare for it the best you can. It’s not easy. It sucks.

Brad Pitt, on depicting soldiers responsibly

From talking to the [war] vets, they painted this picture of the exhaustion, the mental fatigue, the cold, the fear, and the accumulative effect of the trauma of seeing and inflicting war on a daily basis. It seems that the standard issue soldier experience is the same on all sides. There’s a fantastic book that helped me [to prepare for the role], it’s called On Killing by Dave Grossman.

Ayer, on closing the London Film Festival

We shot in the UK and it brings great closure to the process. One year ago today we were shooting some of these very battle scenes. It’s a privilege.

Logan Lerman, on being the baby of the group

I was the new guy, and the liability.

Berthnal on transitioning back to normal life

This was not the kind of movie where you wrap and go get a beer, or have a nice night out on the town, or eat Chinese food. When you make your world as dark as possible for eight months straight, going home after that is tough. I have [such] respect for guys who have real battles ringing between their ears. It had a big effect on me, and I’m a monkey who wears make-up.

Director David Ayer, actors Michael Pena, Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal attend the press conference for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Director David Ayer, actors Michael Pena, Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal attend the press conference for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Shia LaBeouf, on whether he enjoyed making the film:

“Oh yeah, this has been the most incredible and rewarding experience of my life, in work and in life, [it was an] extremely important and magical moment for me in my life.”

David Ayer on deciding to shoot the film on 35mm rather than digital

Either you’re making films or videos. Film loves skin, film loves textures, and I’m sorry — I love film, film is an incredible medium.

Pitt, on doing a WWII movie at the same time as his wife, Angelia Jolie (who produced the Coen Brothers’ latest film, Unbroken)

It was actually a lovely experience. We don’t usually work at the same time, but we got our schedules all cocked up so it ended up this way. I was studying the European theatre; she was studying the Pacific theatre. It was good fun for us. Where we deal with the psychic damage of the soldier, her film is about the triumph of human spirit against the horrific [past]; [Unbroken is] a very uplifting, very beautiful film.

One to watch if you’re heading to Alan Rickman’s lavish costume drama A Little Chaos starring Kate Winslet at 3pm … 

This is Rickman commanding the stage after our Love Gala screening of the film.

David Ayer whips Twitter into film vs digital fury

Fury director David Ayer has joined a Twitter debate on the merits of film versus digital, sparked by one of his comments during our press conference. Read the conversation, including Ayer’s own comments, as it happened below:

Honeytrap: ‘I hope I’m part of a new wave of female filmmakers’

It was a homecoming of sorts on Friday night, as Rebecca Johnson’s much-hyped debut feature Honeytrap had its LFF premiere at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, writes Matthew Thrift.

A tense and terrifically assured study of gang culture and the role of women in a tough, man’s world, the film proves one of the most striking, ground-level representations of SW9 since Franco Rosso’s Babylon (1981).

We asked the director about the genesis of the film …

Honeytrap (2014)

Honeytrap (2014)

I’ve been making short films with young people in Brixon for the last eight years. I’ve always been drawn to coming-of-age stories, telling stories about young, black Brixton. I’ve often explored the theme of girls in a man’s world, set in the world of gang culture, which is a hard world.

When I came across the case that Honeytrap is based on, I realised that it presented an opportunity to tell a story that explored that theme in an extreme manner.

Have you seen much of a change in teenage and young adult culture in the eight years you’ve been making those films?

A massive change has been the advent of social media, it’s become a huge facet of everyone’s lives, but especially young people. The rise of celebrity culture has played a part, particularly in the way that street culture has become a microcosm of that. You can be a celebrity in your own little world, your online persona can become an amplification of your self-image. Status is very important in that world.

Broadly speaking, I think it’s a very negative influence. Young people, especially young people from poor backgrounds are suckered into thinking that the only worth they’re going to have is if they get rich, or at least appear to be. These people know that they’re socially disadvantaged, that people look down on them, so this whole bling culture is a way for them to shine, to say ‘look at me, I don’t care about your rules or about succeeding within your society. I’ll do it my way.’ But many of these people will spend half their lives in prison and have all their money taken off them. It’s a loser’s game.

Honeytrap (2014)

Honeytrap (2014)

How do you think Brixton has changed?

With the recession and the Tory government coming in, it’s become a very scary situation. Housing is a massive issue, and there’s been an underclass that is swelling up, and it’s only going to get worse and worse. We all know the Tories are smashing benefits and smashing the NHS, but it’s not just Brixton.

I’m not against gentrification in itself, I think it’s good for new businesses to arrive and that there’s no drug dealers hanging around outside the Ritzy, but I feel that people coming to Brixton need to embrace the diversity of the area and get involved with the community.

Did making an urban film as a female filmmaker pose any challenges in getting the film of the ground?

The fact that I’ve got an all-black cast and a female lead, as well as the fact that I’m a female writer-director, they’re all things that can be seen as risk factors. I founded this group in the UK that started in New York called Film Fatale, a networking group that meets once a month. You’ve just got to do it. If you think no-one’s going to let you do it, well that’s just bullshit. The more people that do it, the more people that will.

I hope I’m part of a new wave and that we’ll see more female stories on screen. Having said that, yes, Honeytrap is a female story, but the male characters in my film are very important. It’s not about excluding males, it’s about telling stories from all perspectives.

  • Honeytrap will be released in the UK in early 2015

Better late than never, but this one’s too good to miss. Abderrahmane Sissako might have missed out on the Best Film prize for his nominee Timbuktu at last night’s Festival awards, but that takes nothing away from his searing new film, nor from our estimation of the man as one of world cinema’s finest talents.

Here he is discussing his career, politics and the cinema at last weekend’s Screen Talk, for many there one of the highlights of this year’s Festival.

Brad Pitt has just been announced down on the red carpets at Leicester Square. It’s nearly Fury time.

You can watch the arrivals being streamed live over at the Daily Telegraph website.

Here are Pitt, LaBeouf and the Fury team at the press conference this morning, talking about the film that will be closing the London Film Festival in just over half an hour: David Ayer’s wartime action drama Fury.

Shia LaBeouf is here … just 20 minutes now till everyone will be in their seats for our Closing Night gala.

Fury brings LFF to a close, and you pick your top three films of the Festival

The Fury cast and crew have been on stage at Odeon Leicester Square, and the film has begun.

Elsewhere, there are still some late houses to come, offering you your very last chance to grab a Festival film this year. 

But this is where we’ll leave you on the live blog for tonight. We’ll be back tomorrow morning with some video highlights from tonight’s red carpet, plus photos of Pitt and LaBeouf and co in their finery.

For now, for those not inside the comfort of the cinema, you can peruse this quick readers’ poll for the best films of the Festival this year.

We put the call out on Twitter, and a selection of your top threes is below.

So, which film gets the most mentions? Clue: it begins with ‘W’.

See you again in the morning.

Join Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf on the red carpet in our highlights reel from last night’s Closing Night Gala.

Brad Pitt attends the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Brad Pitt attends the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

We leave you on the morning after the night before with some of the best images from last night’s Closing Night Gala screening of Fury, starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s record-breaking London Film Festival, and our rolling coverage on the live blog.

Same time next year?

Brad Pitt attends the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Brad Pitt attends the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Mia Goth and Shia LeBeouf attend the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Mia Goth and Shia LeBeouf attend the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Alicia von Rittberg attends the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

Alicia von Rittberg attends the closing night European Premiere gala red carpet arrivals for Fury during the 58th BFI London Film Festival

The red carpet at the closing gala premiere of Fury at the 58th London Film Festival

The red carpet at the closing gala premiere of Fury at the 58th London Film Festival

Jon Bernthal attends the gala premiere of Fury as part of the 58th London Film Festival

Jon Bernthal attends the gala premiere of Fury as part of the 58th London Film Festival

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