BFI London Film Festival 2015 Line-up

BFI LFF 2015

Yesterday saw the reveal of not just the sexy new logo for the BFI London Film Festival 2015 but the full line-up of films. Which is more important I will leave up to you. The festival takes place in various London venues from 7th to 18th October 2015 with booking for members opening on 10th September and for the general public from the 17th. The full list of films can be found at the BFI website while below I have chosen one film from each strand of the festival. The films below constitute my gut reaction as to which films are the most exciting.

LOVE

In the Room
In the Room
Spread across many decades but set within one hotel room this film promises to explore love and lust through numerous encounters in just the one room. What better way to explore love than by examining what happens behind closed doors between couples?

Debate

My Scientology Movie
My Scientology Movie
Louis Theroux turns his sceptical gaze towards the church of Scientology in a film that has caused sufficient debate to cause the church to film their own opposing documentary about Theroux. Come for the film and stay for the likely protesting Scientologists.

Dare

The Lobster
The Lobster
Yorgos Lanthimos has impressed with his previous efforts Dogtooth and Alps so arrives at his third feature with great expectations. Set in a world in which singletons are given just less than two months to find love this romantic thriller caused a big stir at Cannes and is high on my watch list.

Laugh

Live from New York!
Live from New York!
Standing out for me in the comic strand of the festival is this documentary on the history of Saturday Night Live. As a fan of the show I relish the opportunity to get behind the scenes and see how the show that launched a thousand careers is made.

Thrill

The Ones Below
The Ones Below
The best thrillers can turn the mundane into the exhilarating and what is more mundane but intriguing than new neighbours moving in downstairs? So it is for a wealthy couple who invite their new neighbours around for dinner only to experience a tragic accident.

Cult

Elstree 1976
Elstree 1976
With Star Wars fever reaching a new peak there is no better time to enjoy a documentary featuring ten anonymous individuals who appeared as extras in those early George Lucas films. More a character study than behind the scenes exposé this looks to be a sweet documentary.

Sonic

Ruined Heart
Ruined Heart: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore
I can’t resist a lengthy title and a confusing synopsis so how can I not be drawn towards a film described as a “kaleidoscope of sex, violence and crime” with a “banging soundtrack at its core”. The idea of someone at the BFI using the term “banging” is charming enough on its own.

Journey

Youth
Youth
I’ve heard very mixed reactions towards this film coming out of other film festivals but any film giving older actors a chance to be centre stage again is OK in my book. With Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in the lead roles Youth threatens to be a lot of fun.

Family

When Marnie Was There
When Marnie Was There
As part of their family friendly selection of films the BFI have included what may well be the final film from Studio Ghibli. How can you not watch it? This is history in the making.

Experimenta

The Stuff of Film
The Stuff of Film
I have had a mixed response to this challenging strand of the festival in the past. My previous coverage of the artistic shorts has previously resulted in angry emails and notes of thanks from artists; both from the same blog post. This collection of shorts which examine how we see the moving image promise to be as frustrating and fabulous as usual.

No/Gloss Film Festival 2014 – Festival Debrief

5 Ways 2 Die

This weekend saw the third annual No/Gloss Film Festival, and for the second year in a row I went along as Mild Concern’s Northern Correspondent. No/Gloss is very much a festival about the whole experience rather than just the films; while the selected features and shorts are obviously what ultimately drives whether or not the weekend is a success, the choice of venue, artists and food vendors all play a big part in that.

This year’s festival had a very different feel to last October. Where last year’s Canal Mills venue kept the whole thing contained under one roof (plus an outdoor area for food), this year at Templeworks things were split up a little, making the festival feel more epic and giving us more to explore.

The introduction in the programme guide reveals that the festival directors felt “a distinct dark theme” throughout the 700 titles submitted for consideration. Reading that at the start of play on Saturday and knowing there were two full days ahead of me, I’ll admit I was a little concerned that it might be a bit hard work. I needn’t have worried. While naturally some of the selections were definitely just dark, dark, dark, many of them made great use of black humour to keep up the energy across both days. There were even one or two happy endings!

Pictures of Superheroes

Like last year there were two different screens to consider and I know I made some tough choices when deciding where to go and when. I managed to catch a little over half of the selections – 31 out of 58 – and there are certainly things I missed that I’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future.

By lunchtime on day one I was starting to notice the dark themes I’d heard so much about – zombie apocalypse, schizophrenia, social anxiety, OCD – and they continued into the afternoon, evident in my day one highlights.

Pictures of Superheroes is a completely absurd and totally enjoyable seventy minute comedy that’s essentially based on the main character’s life falling apart. When Marie is dumped and fired on the same day, she’s quickly employed by overworked businessman Eric to take care of the house he can’t seem to keep clean on his own. Marie discovers that’s mostly down to Joe, the room-mate that Eric has forgotten ever existed, and she quickly becomes completely entangled in their ridiculous lives.

Triangles of Happiness

My second highlight from Saturday was Triangles of Happiness, which I’m fairly confident is the funniest comedy about the financial crisis you’re likely to see. This one is a Danish production and I loved the extremes that Hanne and Carsten are willing to go to in order to keep up the appearances of their happy, wealthy, suburban lives.

I mentioned before that No/Gloss is about the whole experience and not just the films. Another memorable choice from day one was the chicken and chorizo paella from Las Paelleras who were sadly only in attendance on Saturday. Then on Sunday I sampled the delights of a Streatza woodfired pizza. I opted for the meat feast (one-third American ham, one-third pepperoni, one-third Napoli salami), and my only regret is not having the chance to buy one of their Shakshuka festival breakfasts. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for Streatza at future events!

Back to the films. For day two I’d planned my schedule around Reception, as I was keen to see the story of hotel night receptionist Victor and his unpredictable foreign guest. As a former night duty receptionist myself I was drawn to it, and I’m glad I managed to catch it – a lot of it was very familiar!

Pebble Moon

There were two wonderfully quirky animations vying to steal the crown from last year’s top pick Frau Schwein Geht In Die Scheissedisko, On Loop and The Missing Scarf. I particularly enjoyed the way the fragmented animation (and a little live action) of On Loop made it easy to see through the eyes of the insomniac protagonist. The Missing Scarf was narrated by the delightful George Takei and his soothing tones were perfect for the black comedy that played out while Albert the squirrel looked for his missing scarf.

Another favourite from Sunday was 5 Ways 2 Die – in which Makis explores different ways to commit suicide. Despite the worrying synopsis, this is a black comedy that looks great and will keep you chuckling right up until the surprising ending. And finally, I couldn’t end without a mention for Pebble Moon, a successful Kickstarter project and final year dissertation project for six students from the University of Leeds. Pebble Moon is a story told through the eyes of Lily, a young girl who is happy to tell anyone who asks that she has no mummy, just two daddies. There’s a bittersweet contrast between the world as Lily sees it and the things that we see as adults looking through a window into her life.

I could go on – each of the thirty-one films I saw had clearly earned their place at the festival and I’ve got good things to say about all of them, even those that weren’t to my taste. It was great to hear that No/Gloss received so many submissions and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings!

Raindance 2014: Kung Fu Elliot, Fourever, & Seth’s Dominion

Raindance 2014

For the past two weeks the Vue Piccadilly has played host to London’s alternative film festival; Raindance. Raindance is set up to showcase independent films and in the past has uncovered the talents of many current Hollywood heavy hitters including the likes of Christopher Nolan. Towards the end of last week I realised I had been wildly unsuccessful at seeing any films at the festival so reached out to get any online screeners I could and had my own mini festival at home.

Here is what I saw.

Kung Fu Elliot

Kung Fu Elliot

Directors Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau set out to study the real life character that is Elliot Scott, a delusional man with an Asian fetish who aspires to be Canada’s own kung fu film star. The film starts out as a Canadian version of American Movie as the cameras follow Elliot filming what he describes as “respectable cheese”. In reality Elliot is making the lowest budget action films you can imagine; filming on a cheap digital stills camera with the aid of amateur actors and his long-suffering girlfriend Linda. As is often the case with delusional personalities such as Elliot it is hard to decide how aware he is of his own delusions; how much he believes his own lies and fantasies and how much he is putting it on for effect.

The first half of the film plays out in a predictable, if highly amusing, fashion as Elliot flounders around filming one terrible scene after another. The film then takes an unexpected turn, one that was presumably just as unexpected for Bauckman and Belliveau, when Elliot travels to China and suddenly his loyalty to Linda appears to weaken and some of what he has claimed so far starts to look less and less likely. To quote Elliot directly, “you can take the ugliest Chinese woman and she’s still better looking than the prettiest Canadian girl”. Elliot starts to display a racist and reductive love for everything Asian and by the end of the film reveals himself to be a troubled man with a short temper and surprising perversions.

With Elliot Bauckman and Belliveau have stumbled upon a truly fascinating and ultimately disturbing character. What started out as a fun documentary ended up leaving me a little unsettled and certain revelations took me completely by surprise. Kung Fu Elliot is an engaging portrait of a baffling man and I urge you to take a look. The film screens at Raindance tonight, buy tickets here, and hopefully will get a release someday soon.

Fourever

Fourever

Written & directed by and starring Anton Saunders Fourever is a British drama about love and revenge. Under the guise of throwing a reunion party Johny (Anton Saunders) gathers three old friends together in order to settle old scores and address, and potentially reenact, a tragic moment in their collective history. By doing this he hopes to fix his past and win back the woman he loves.

Fourever is an impressive debut from Saunders and he steals his own film as the tightly wound Johny trying to take control of a situation he has orchestrated but is struggling to contain. The film plays with the idea of film-making as Johny, played by the film’s writer and director, tries to directly manipulate people’s actions and dictate what they say.

While I did find the central idea interesting I struggled to connect to the film and ultimately felt like the plot would have been better served in a short film rather than a feature. The meat of the film was in its conclusion and despite the austere running time there were moments when the film seemed to be treading water rather than moving forwards. A bold but imperfect debut.

Seth’s Dominion

Seth’s Dominion

Seth’s Dominion is a short and sweet documentary from Luc Chamberland exploring the world of Canadian comic artist Seth. Seth is known for writing semi-autobiographical comics that muse on the mundanity of everyday life rather than the fantastical pursuits of superheroes, a style of comics that I thankfully prefer myself. Over forty minutes we take a peek into his personal life and his work process; a process I admired as he dedicates far more time to personal projects than commercial work.

Seth comes across as a unique and driven creative force; a man who has cultivated a persona not just in his writings but in crafting his house and personal appearance. Interspersed throughout the film are short animated films that retell some of Seth’s stories in his own voice and visual style allowing us to not only witness the man but his work as well.

Despite not being overly familiar with Seth’s work I loved this documentary. It was a small love letter to an artist and a human being and showcased his aesthetic beautifully.

No/Gloss Film Festival 2014 Update

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With just a month to go until this year’s No/Gloss Film Festival in Leeds, the announcements are hotting up. The festival takes place on the 11th & 12th of October and has moved from last year’s trendy Canal Mills venue into the just as trendy, just as exciting Grade 1 listed Temple Works.

This year’s line-up includes some very cool things that set No/Gloss apart from other film festivals. Fancy going to a social media workshop led by Jon Morter, the man behind the Rage Against the Machine Christmas number one campaign? You can! How about an Indiegogo masterclass? Yep, they’ve got that covered. A super ace panel featuring film-makers who have done it themselves and are sharing their knowledge? Sorted.

Delicious food offerings? Absolutely. Temple Works have designed a very tasty looking menu of their own ‘awesome noms’ to complement already announced food vendor Streatza‘s wood-fired street pizza. I will definitely be bringing plenty of money to spend on food.

SERIES-BANNER-1

And all of that before you even get to the films. The full programme is now available for your perusal – I’ve had a good look through and there are going to be some hard decisions for me to make when it comes down to it. One highlight that sticks out for me is Danish short Reception. As a former night receptionist in a well known budget hotel chain, it sounds like this particular selection was included just for me!

Tickets are still available at £20 for entry to all films, workshops and more across the whole weekend, but they’re selling fast and won’t be available on the door.

No/Gloss Film Festival 2014

No Gloss Film Festival 2014

On the 11th and 12th of October this year a cinematic cavalcade will be taking place up North in Leeds. The event is the third annual No Gloss Film Festival and what makes this festival unique is it showcasing independent films of all shapes and sizes. While many of the bigger festivals seem to show the same batch of films as they start their march towards the Oscars No Gloss is proud to show “films unlike anything you have ever seen”.

Considering the fact that 2013’s line-up included a felt animation about a pig’s digestive system I’d say they aren’t overselling the individual nature of the festival.

Last year we sent along Mild Concern’s Northern Correspondent, Rach, to see for herself and she enjoyed it so much we’re sending her back she has insisted on returning. I’m almost certain it was the excellent line-up that has tempted her back and not the excellent food on offer but you never can be sure.

You can read the full line-up, buy tickets, and generally get distracted over at the pleasantly glossy No Gloss Film Festival website. You can currently get early bird tickets for just £12 which covers the whole weekend and is painfully the same cost as seeing just one film at a regular film festival.

I’m genuinely gutted that I can’t make it myself and urge you to go along and enjoy something a little different this October.