Heads Up: How the London Film festival aims to become top dog


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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? In its 56th year, it's the UK's biggest film event, with 225 films over 11 days.

Elevator pitch LFF gets competitive – while pulling in the punters.

Prime movers It's the first year under the leadership of Australian Clare Stewart; she's run the Sydney Film Festival for the past six years.

The stars The films... the opening gala is Frankenweenie, predictably gothic Tim Burton animated fare, while Mike Newell's Great Expectations closes the festival. Other galas to get excited about include Hyde Park on Hudson, tipped to be this year's The King's Speech, with a Royals-meet-the-President plot, and starring Bill Murray and Olivias Colman and Williams. The last of the Hitchcock restorations, The Manxman, comes with a new, live score, while A Liar's Autobiography tells the life of Monty Python's Graham Chapman using 14 different animation studios. Other highlights include Michael Haneke's Cannes-bothering Amour; Martin McDonagh's In Bruges follow-up Seven Psychopaths; British comedy Sightseers; Bollywood thriller, Chakravyuh; Sally Potter's drama Ginger and Rosa, and Salman Rushdie's own adaptation of Midnight's Children.

The early buzz Empire magazine wrote, "With festival season in full swing and cineastes around the world in chin-stroking mode, [the LFF] has thrown its hat in the ring with a kaleidoscope of movie treats." The Den of Geek website reported that Stewart is "promising to make the festival more accessible and inclusive. So, gone are the film programmes of old – the international categories which seemed to ram dozens of French films down your throat."

Insider knowledge For the first time, the festival is a competitive beast, with four strands: " Official Competition", "First Feature", "Documentary Competition" and "Best British Newcomer". The hope is it'll elevate the LFF's international status, à la Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

It's great that... Stewart has her eye on the general public, organising films in themed categories – "love", "thrill", "debate", etc – making it easier to browse.

It's a shame that... BFI members get priority booking, meaning a lot of hot tickets have gone before said general public even get a look in…

Hit potential It's a really varied, treat-stuffed line-up this year; should be something for everyone.

The details Various venues, London (bfi.org.uk/lff), 10 to 21 October.