The Times BFI 51st Film Festival 2007

Jamie Garwood

Talking Pictures alias






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Thursday 13th September 

With two speeches from Amanda Nevill, director of the bfi, and Sandra Hebron, Artistic director of the LFF; the collective throng of national and international press from papers, TV, radio and the internet unveiled the highly anticipated programme for the 51st London Film Festival. 

Amanda Nevill: ‘We share a common belief, we are here to serve a shared common purpose brought by an individual and cultural judgment to support our collective pursuit and love of film’, referring to the work it takes to whittle down 2000 titles to the 200 plus films on show between 17th October and 1st November.  ‘We hope to champion other cinema, challenge perspectives, and allowing new voices to challenge our understanding and new eyes with which we can see differently.  As well as new features we can afford to show the depth and riches of the bfi archive that is available – the greatest collection of scholarship, learning and knowledge.’
The line up for the this year’s festival appears to have a theme (like most festivals do), this years being a theme of personal voyages of discovery in search of reason, family and/or answers; most often in foreign lands for the characters and even the directors who have gone abroad for the first time. 

The festival opens with EASTERN PROMISES (David Cronenberg, UK/Canada) about Russian mafia in the streets of London.  Collaborating with his last leading man again Viggo Mortenson, it follows the same vein of violence as ‘A History of Violence’ did and is interesting as it shows a world renowned director coming to London to film.

The festival closes with THE DARJEELING LIMITED (Wes Anderson) about three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzmann) who join together to travel across India to bond.  Repeating the themes of family and bittersweet humour with dramatic effect, Anderson appears to have struck gold again. 

Other gala screenings of note are, Robert Redford’s LIONS FOR LAMBS starring the director along with Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise about how Iraq has an effect on people in America’s capital.  Ang Lee’s LUST, CAUTION his follow up to ‘Brokeback’ sees him return to China and a story of espionage again highlighting his versatility.  Todd Haynes’ highly thought of I’M NOT THERE tells the story of Bob Dylan through the use of six different actors and different stages/moments of his long creative life, while not all necessarily Dylan they are infused with the spirit of the man on his ever continuing journey. INTO THE WILD, directed by Sean Penn, tells about a young man (Emile Hirsch) who gives up his possessions to trek America for adventure.  THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, is directed by Andrew Dominick (‘Chopper’) tells the legendary story of the west with Brad Pitt as the icon and Casey Affleck looking unnerving as the coward, it has been sitting on the shelf for two years and it looks worth the wait – and is part of a Western renaissance.  For the kids, the Family Gala is Jerry Seinfeld’s first screenplay, the Dreamsorks animated. BEE MOVIE about a bee who wants to sue mankind for the use of honey and stealing a natural resource.  

Elsewhere there are features from renowned directors: Terry George (‘Hotel Rwanda’), Brian De Palma, Werner Herzog, Steve Buscemi, Takeshi Kitano, Francois Ozon, Richard Attenborough and two special films: the UK premiere of Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez and the American version of ‘Funny Games’ directed by Michael Haneke in his first English language feature. 

In the British section look out for Nick Broomfield’s ‘Battle for Haditha’ and ‘Jetsam’ by the writer-director Simon Welsford. 

As well as that there are films from all around the world, French Revolutions sponsored by TV5 is strong as always.  As well as that there is the experimenta field and shorts programme mixing animation, digital and film shorts.  In the archive section is the phenomenal ‘Killer of Sheep’ by Charles Burnett declared a national treasure by the Library of Congress, a new print of Frank Capra’s ‘The Bitter Tea of General Yen’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and John Ford’s ‘Drums Along the Mohawk’. 

Talking in the TCM Screen Talks series will be Wes Anderson, Laura Linney (‘The Savages’), Robert Rodriguez, Steve Buscemi and Paul Greengrass will be presented with the Variety UK Achievement in Film Award on Mon 29 Oct at 18.30. 

A lot to see and only two weeks, so choose carefully but take a chance on something new because it might excite you and that is what films should do.  Excite, engage discussion and get people talking. 

The festival is but five weeks away, the clock is ticking. 
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