The Times BFI 50th Film Festival 2006

Jamie Garwood

Talking Pictures alias






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At the press launch on Thursday 14th September at the Odeon West End, Leicester Square we were treated to speeches by Amanda Nevill, director of the BFI and Sandra Hebron, the Artistic Director for the LFF.  Both spoke briefly before a quick showreel of some of the gala screenings and other selected treats from the programme that encompasses 181 features and 131 shorts from over 50 countries. 

Amanda Nevill;

'As the format of film confounds harbingers of doom, it is still impossible to match the experience of big screen movie.  Looking at the programme it reminds me of the full emotional power of cinema while it is careful not to lose magic in whichever technological format.  This year we look forward and yet back on the legacy and generosity of filmmakers we pay tribute to.'  This was followed by an extended five minute thank you to all the sponsors (main and supporting) for a good portion of her speech. 

Sandra Hebron:

'As always expectations are high and it is impossible to summarize in a few minutes these expectations.  But the festival highlights ambition and a diverse international selection of new and old directorial talent.' 

The Opening Night Gala - Wed 18 October, 19.00 Odeon Leicester Square


Director - Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September, Touching the Void)

Cast - Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy

The story of Idi Amin (Whitaker) and his friendship with Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan (McAvoy) in the backdrop of his brutal rule of Uganda. 

Closing Night Gala - Thursday 2 November, 19.00 Odeon Leicester Square

BABEL (USA-Mexico, 2006)

Director - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams)

Cast - Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal

First screened at Cannes this year, the completion of Inarritu's trilogy is his boldest attempt yet where one incident has consequences on a global scale but instead of concentrating on social problems or emotional intensity, it critiques the failure to appreciate or understand by failing to understand language. 

Gala Screenings

BOBBY (Emilio Estevez, USA, 2006)

Ensemble piece on the day of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination starring amongst others Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Laurence Fishburne and Elijah Wood. 

VENUS (Roger Michell, UK, 2006)

A showcase for Peter O'Toole and Leslie Phillips as Phillips' niece, Venus, causes havoc for their friendship when O'Toole becomes taken with the girl. 

LITTLE CHILDREN (Todd Field, USA, 2006)

Field's follow up to 'In The Bedroom' again looks at the effect of adultery on surburbia with a career-best performance by Kate Winslet. 

BREAKING AND ENTERING (Anthony Minghella, UK, 2006)

Minghella's return to London and his original work is the tale of architect Jude Law who distances himself from his safe family home to conduct a relationship with a Bosnian refugee, Juliette Binoche. 


Forster's first foray into comedy penned by new scribe Zach Helm on the life of Howard Crick (Will Ferrell) whose life has a voiceover by novelist Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) whose lead character is Howard Crick.  Support by Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhall. 

Other stuff to see is Paul Verhoeven's return to Holland and the film he has always wanted to make set in World War II, Black Book. New work by Lars Von Trier (The Boss of It All), Nanni Moretti (The Caiman), William Friedkin (Bug), Philip Noyce (Catch a Fire), Claude Chabrol (A Comedy of Power), Lukas Moodysson (Container), Christopher Guest and his troupe (For Your Consideration), Aki Kaurismaski (Lights in the Dusk) and Shane Meadows (This is England).  Not to mention talked about work from the festival circuit Andrea Arnold's Red Road and Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy..  Then there is a little film by a guy called Sasha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. 

The rest of Europe contributes well to the programme with 7 from Denmark, 7 from Italy, 4 from Spain, and the same numbers from Russia and Germany.  The World Cinema strand provides offerings from Bangladesh, Thailand, numerous productions from Japan and the rest of the Far East.  And three fascinating documentaries from America; The Bridge (Eric Steel, 2005) is a film about the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and the phenomenon of those who jump from it to commit suicide; The Ground Truth (Patricia Foulkrod, 2006) which looks at what happens to enthusiastic fighters who end up suffering from trauma and disgust at their actions in Iraq and the country's failure to deal with the consequences of war and Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (Stanley Nelson, 2006), which attempts to capture the essence of preacher Jim Jones' cult which led to the biggest mass suicide of over 900 people in the jungle of Guyana in November 1978. 

As always they a have shorts programme, treasures from the BFI archive including new prints of David Lean's 'Oliver Twist' and 'Great Expectations' and Stanley Kubrick's 'Dr. Strangelove' and a look at experimenta and a collection of masterclasses including Forest Whitaker, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Verhoeven and Richard Linklater.
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