BBC Films

BFI London Film Festival 2011

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Before we begin we'd like apologise for the lack of festival previews in recent months. We usually try and cover Edinburgh, Branchage, Rushes, and others, but events have conspired against us. In any case London Film Festival is arguably the UK's most important festival so we'd like to highlight some of the British films to look out for. Many of the shorts and features come from emerging and new talents, and we hope that's inspirational to young filmmakers starting out in what are viewed as difficult time for the industry.

Anthony Hopkins in 360

Anthony Hopkins in 360

As is usually the case, the festival is bookended by British productions for the opening and closing films. 360 is in fact an international co-production, partly funded by BBC Films, which sees Fernando Meirelles directing Peter Morgan's screenplay of the classic fin de siècle play Le Ronde. The play's interlocking of different stories might have been more appealing to fellow Latin American director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but Merirelles is certain to bring flair to the picture.

Rachel Weisz swoons in The Deep Blue Sea

Rachel Weisz swoons in The Deep Blue Sea

The closing film is Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea, adapted from Terence Rattigan's play as part of the playwright's centenary celebrations. The anguish and cloistered emotional repression of Rattigan would seem to be a natural home for Davies and the film looks to have excellent performance from Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston.

The remaining British films to obtain gala screenings include some of the more high profile entrants to earlier festivals this year, such as Steve McQueen's Shame, which was a hit at Venice, and the Cannes-acclaimed We Need To Talk About Kevin.

These are joined by a series of re-imaginings of classic British literature - Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus, Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights and Michael Winterbottom's Trishna (Tess of the D'Urbervilles, to you and I). Disappointing, perhaps, to those of us who clamour after contemporary stories, but we're sure they'll all be quality works.

Carey Mulligan in Steve McQueen's acclaimed Shame

Carey Mulligan in Steve McQueen's acclaimed Shame

The New British Cinema section of the bill could be the place to see more original works, in any case. Last year's whammy of Archipelago and The Arbor may be hard to top, but this year there are some fascinating-sounding entries. Shock Head Soul is the latest from Simon (Bodysong) Pumell and is billed as a multimedia memoir about nervous breakdowns, institutionalised psychosis and transgender issues. While Sket is an urban drama funded by a Peckham-based youth project that offers a post-riots window to the worlds of young women implicated in gang culture.

Shock Head Soul from director Simon Pummell

Shock Head Soul from director Simon Pummell

Tinge Krishnan has directed a Bafta-winning short and contributed to Channel 4's Coming Up strand, and has managed to assemble a great cast (Eddie Marsan, Romola Garai) for her debut feature, Junkhearts. And further directors offering their debut features are DR Hood (who has a short on Film Network) and Frances Lea, whose Strawberry Fields is the latest Microwave production. More familiar names in the New British Cinema strand include Richard Jobson with The Somnambulists and Dexter Fletcher with Wild Bill.

Nirpal Bhogal's Sket

Nirpal Bhogal's Sket

The short films in the festival are divided into numerous themed strands, and any British entrants are scattered among them (although the London Calling selection is obviously UK dominated). There are numerous new shorts from previously acclaimed directors, such as the Bafta-winner (for I Do Air) Martina Amarti with her film Chalk (Small Town programme), and the former Bafta nominees Andrea Harkin and Samuel Abrahams with Waterbaby and Hold On Me (Do The Right Thing, The School of Life), respectively.

Martina Amarti's short Chalk

Martina Amarti's short Chalk

We also have to mention the inclusion of The Ride in the Do The Right Thing strand. This was a short co-funded by BBC Film Network and BBC HD as part of the HD Shorts commissioning scheme. We're very proud to see it in the festival, following up the festival successes of ColourBleed from the same scheme.

The actor Matthew Holness (Garth Marenghi) also has a directorial effort in the programme, as does Douglas Hart, better known as the bass player from Jesus and Mary Chain who directed most of Primal Scream's videos. Finally Terry Gilliam also presents a new short (his first proper short film since The Crimson Permanent Assurance). We're not sure what that's about, but perhaps a diversion from some of the feature-funding difficulties he seems to permanently experience.

Ed Speleers and Anthony LaPaglia in The Ride

Ed Speleers and Anthony LaPaglia in The Ride

As always, we'll conclude our preview by stating there's also a great selection of international cinema featured at the festival, but we should definitely take pride in a strong and diverse lineup of British films from a frequently undervalued and resilient UK industry.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 12-27th October at various venues around London. Full details are available on the London Film Festival website

James Rocarols, 10 October 2011

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