Capital performance: The London Film Festival

The London Film Festival just gets better. In a year when Cannes and Venice disappointed, the BFI is offering us Bond, Bush, the best of British, and a choice selection of documentary and world cinema.

The London Film Festival, which runs from 15 to 30 October, is framed by celebration and commiseration this year. The 2008 event marks the 75th anniversary of the BFI, which organises the festival, but it's also the year in which its greatest champion, Anthony Minghella, passed away.

The international line-up of films is a fitting memorial to Minghella's enthusiasm, especially in a season when the world's other major film festivals are said to have been disappointments. One of the London event's great strengths is its non-competitive nature, which allows the organisers to select movies that might otherwise not qualify for inclusion.

That said, London's lack of competitive interest does make it vulnerable to criticism, too: does London – a city far larger than Venice, Cannes, Toronto or Telluride – really need a film festival? And do most Londoners even notice that it's going on?

The pull of the capital does at least guarantee a star-studded guest-list, and this year the red carpet will cushion the footsteps of, among others, Gwyneth Paltrow (starring in Two Lovers), Oliver Stone (director of W), Spike Lee (director of Miracle at St Anna), Eva Green (in Franklyn), and Benicio del Toro (in Che). There are interviews and masterclasses with the likes of Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) and Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York). And among the hundreds of films being shown is an impressive total of 15 world premieres.

You can see the programme and book at www.bfi.org.uk/lff or by calling 020-7928 3232. The organisers insist that returns and last-minute tickets are frequently available for sold-out screenings, including the gala events.

Screen grabs: the pick of the festival

Biopics

The festival opens on Wednesday next week with Peter Morgan's adaptation of his play 'Frost/Nixon', a gripping recreation of David Frost's interviews with the fallen President, starring Michael Sheen and Frank Langella. Steven Soderbergh's four-hour, two-part Che Guevara biopic 'Che' tracks the Argentinian's rise to the role of revolutionary hero in Cuba (part one) and his attempts to foment uprisings across Latin America (part two).

Turner Prize-winner Steve McQueen's first feature, 'Hunger', depicts the slow demise of another rebel, the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. Oliver Stone's 'W' ought to lighten the mood, being a mildly satirical life of the current US President. Stone says his picture (Josh Brolin plays Dubya), is "a fair, true portrait". And 'Telstar', by directorial debutant Nick Moran, is the story of Joe Meek who, in the late Fifties and early Sixties, was Britain's premier pop music producer.



Best of British

There are new films from Danny Boyle, Michael Winterbottom and Richard Eyre. Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire', a colourful romantic saga set in Mumbai, closes the event on 30 October; Winterbottom's 'Genova' is a melancholy family drama starring Colin Firth and Catherine Keener; and Eyre's 'The Other Man', based on a Bernard Schlink story, unravels the secrets in a married couple's relationship. 'Incendiary', directed by Sharon Maguire, from the novel by Chris Cleave, examines the guilt of an unfaithful wife whose husband and son have died in a terrorist attack. The other big British beast making a return is Bond... James Bond; 'Quantum of Solace' screens in the festival on 29 October, immediately after its world premiere.



World Cinema

As ever, the London Film Festival is the first and best opportunity to see some of the rest of the world's most wonderful and revealing cinema. Among the hot tickets this year is 'Waltz With Bashir', an animated memoir, in which the director Ari Folman, a former Israeli soldier, remembers his involvement in the war in Lebanon in the early 1980s. Similarly challenging and politically charged is 'The Baader Meinhof Complex', about the Red Army Faction, the violent West German terrorist group of the 1970s. The director, Bernd Eichinger, takes an unflinching look at a dark period in German history.

From Asia come two rather more light-hearted offerings: 'The Good, the Bad and the Weird' is South Korea's big film of the year, a tribute to its director Kim Jee-Woon's favourite spaghetti westerns; and 'Achilles and the Tortoise' the latest movie by Japan's irrepressible Takeshi Kitano, which parodies his country's modern art. 'The Class', winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, is based on François Bégaudeau's book 'Entre les murs', about a term in a Paris school. Bégaudeau plays a fictional version of himself, a teacher who takes on a troubled class of mixed races and religions.

Documentary

The documentary strand is just as varied in tone and subject, from 'Religulous', Bill Maher's comic take on the sillier elements of religion (most of them, by all accounts), to 'Of Time and the City', Terence Davies's "visual poem" to Liverpool, made to mark the city's year as European Capital of Culture. 'Gonzo' and 'Tyson', two biographical films about controversial Americans, will draw the crowds. 'Gonzo', made by Alex Gibney ('Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room') and narrated by Johnny Depp is a celebration of the life and work of Hunter S Thompson. 'Tyson', by the subject's film-maker friend James Toback, is a complex, intimate interview with the boxer detailing his irresistible sporting rise and very public fall from grace.

And just when you thought the rockumentary ('Metallica: Some Kind of Monster') and its spoof tributes ('This Is Spinal Tap') had been exhausted, along comes 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil', which supposedly breaks new ground in its examination of these former "demigods of Canadian metal".

New talents

Rian Johnson made a huge impact with his genre-bending debut 'Brick'. Can he match it with his second feature 'The Brothers Bloom', a con-man caper with Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz (27, 28 October)? Charlie Kaufman, writer of 'Being John Malkovich', 'Adaptation' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' makes his directorial debut with 'Synecdoche, New York', starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Judging by Kaufman's previous work, it would be foolish to attempt a plot explanation. The same could be said of 'The Possibility of an Island', a debut effort by author Michel Houellebecq from his "art-house meta-sci-fi" novel, showing in the French Revolutions strand (19, 22 October).

'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' is a sweet, offbeat teen romcom starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, directed by the equally youthful Peter Sollett ('Raising Victor Vargas'). Nick (Cera) is in a struggling rock band – as are the central characters of '1234', the first feature from Britain's Giles Borg, which looks set to be a sleeper hit (17, 24, 25 October).

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015