Coming late in the year, the London Film Festival is continuing its modest streak of bringing some of the best films of the year’s other festivals – including Sundance, Cannes, Venice and Toronto – to Britain.
Many festivals insist on screening the world premieres for their films, but with a total of 234 features during the twelve day programme, the LFF’s organisers, the BFI, can afford to include previously seen and enjoyed films, not least because if the press has already had a chance to see and favourably review the films, it increases the likelihood that good reviews and word of mouth will boost ticket sales and general buzz among the public.
While Cannes fills its schedule with a favourite few and some artistic curiosities, London can pick those that are among the best received – such as the Palme d’Or winning Blue is the Warmest Colour, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska and the new Coen brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis – for its programme, along with some of the higher profile up and coming films that are likely to be vying for awards contention in the new year, such as Alfonso Cuarón’s science-fiction Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, or Dame Judi Dench’s new film Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears.
Among the other higher profile features selected to screen next month are Steve McQueen’s 19th Century drama 12 Years a Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and the second film to be directed by Ralph Fiennes, The Invisible Woman. The festival will be bookended by two films starring Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks.
The festival programmer Clare Stewart is keeping the same awards structure in place as last year, with thirteen films vying for the London Star in the Official Competition. Most of the nominees are lower profile than some of the bigger gala screenings at the festival; Clio Barnard’s Cannes hit A Selfish Giant will be up against Jonathan Glazer’s Venice selection, Under The Skin, as well as new films from David Mackenzie, Pawel Pawlikowski, Catherine Breillat, Xavier Dolan and Submarine‘s Richard Ayoade.
A welcome return to the Documentary Competition is the We Steal Secrets director Alex Gibney, who previously won the prize in London for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.
The BFI, which is getting free publicity from all the articles being published in the run-up to the tickets going on sale, will be charging the journalists who are now giving it a boost, to cover the event when it arrives.