It was always odds-on that the programme for the 2016 BFI London Film Festival was going to be something special. You’re only 60 once, after all. And as the list of films for this year was revealed this morning, there was an tangible sense of excitement – and the occasional discreet fist pump.
We’d already been teased with announcements for the opening Gala – Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike – and the closing film, Free Fire, from Ben Wheatley. So we knew that British films would top and tail the event, but what about everything in between?
Would La La Land be there, given all the praise heaped on it at Venice? What about Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper, especially after the demise of its distributor, Metrodome? The answer to both of those was yes – but there was a whole lot more.
With 245 feature films alone on show, I’m not going to attempt to cover them all, but seeing some of them on the list really made my day. Manchester By The Sea, for one, with Casey Affleck in customary downbeat mode as the reluctant guardian of a truculent teenager. Denis Villeneuve can do no wrong in my book after Sicario, so I was hoping for Arrival and got my wish. Recent controversy hasn’t kept Sundance Grand Jury winner, The Birth Of A Nation, away from London and the other film on my wish-list, Paterson, is also there. Adam Driver plays the lead and that’s all I need to know.
Pleasant surprises included boxing movie Bleed For This. Fingers crossed this will erase the memories of all the dodgy roles Miles Teller has played since Whiplash and let us see again what he can really do. Kelly Riechardt’s Certain Women has a trio of formidable actresses at its core – Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart (again) and Michelle Williams. And Aussie ‘outback noir’ Goldstone caught my eye because at the 2013 LFF, I saw Mystery Road, a thriller from writer/director Ivan Sen. This follow-up sees the return of indigenous actor Aaron Pedersen as an enigmatic detective and, although it doesn’t have UK distribution as yet, hopefully this outing will change that.
It doesn’t get more varied than that – although, actually it does. Just go to the festival website and take a look at the complete programme.
The London Film Festival runs from Wednesday, 5 October to Sunday, 16 October inclusive and public booking opens on Thursday, 15 September. Now all you have to do is decide what to see.