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It’s lights, camera and action all over town

26 September 2012 | London Calling

October welcomes the 56th BFI London Film Festival and this feast of film will make you hungry for the silver screen. The full programme of events has been divided into several categories - Cult, Dare, Debate, Family, Journey, Laugh, Love, Sonic, and Thrill.

Yes folks, it's that time of the year again when the British Film Institute holds its annual celebration of international cinema. And the forthcoming one is going for maximum visual - and publicity - impact. For the first time, the opening event - a red carpet gala in the form of the European premiere of Tim Burton's stop-motion 3D animated fantasy Frankenweenie - will be beamed live from the Odeon Leicester Square to BFI IMAX and 30 screens across the UK. There are other cinematic goodies to expect too. Major films will include Brett Morgen's Crossfire Hurricane, the first comprehensive film portrait of The Rolling Stones, with Mick, Keef, Ronnie and Charlie being expected to join the director and other crew members at the festival. And we'll be able to see Ben Affleck's political thriller Argo as well as Dustin Hoffman make his directorial debut with Quartet.

Another European premiere that of director Mike Newell's new adaptation of Dickens' novel Great Expectations (in which the suitably gothic actress Helena Bonham Carter plays Miss Havisham) - rounds-off the festival. This should be, as incoming Festival Director Clare Stewart remarks, 'a fitting conclusion to both the festival and the bicentenary celebrations of the life and work of Charles Dickens.' But there are also films like Aida Begic's Children of Sarajevo (about a generation growing up knowing nothing of stability) and Wadjda (telling the story of a young girl in Saudi Arabia wanting to buy a bicycle) which may take us from our cinematic comfort zone (Wadjda had to be filmed from blacked-out vans because of restrictions).

The full programme of events has been divided into several categories - Cult, Dare, Debate, Family, Journey, Laugh, Love, Sonic, and Thrill - by Stewart, who goes on to explain what they will offer: Cult, for instance, will show work that is 'mind-altering and unclassifiable,' whilst Debate will give 'riveting films that amplify, scrutinise, argue and surprise.' And she points-out that the awards section of the festival is structured by introducing competitive sections designed to 'give more prominence to the participating films in the festival programme'

But it's not only new material which is offered for our consumption during this 12-day event. There will also be a host of classic films, such as Sir Laurence Olivier's Richard III (1955) and Sir David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - to excite and delight us. In addition, whilst events take place at the epicentre of Britain's film industry, Leicester Square (Odeon Leicester Square, Odeon West End, the Empire, and the Vue West End), other venues in London - BFI Imax, BFI Southbank, the Cine Lumiere, the Curzon Mayfair, the Hackney Picturehouse, the ICA, the Renoir, Rich Mix, the Ritzy, and the Screen on the Green - will be hosting films too, giving a London-wide, as opposed to West End, feel to the festival.

Although this festival is international in content, it focuses the mind - perhaps unavoidably - on something else which starts with the letters B f i: the British film industry. The industry has produced outstanding work over the years: think of the remarkable output from the Ealing Studios of the 1940s and 50s, and films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), and Get Carter (1971) which have captured the gritty realism of British life. But, when we compare it with Hollywood, there's always a feeling that it could be doing more to assert itself in the cinematic market-place. This is where the festival's Education and Family programme - a very welcome addition to its content - comes in. As Justin Johnson, Programme Advisor, Young Audiences, points-out: 'This year, families have their own designated section which is an exciting new development of the Festival.' Johnson goes on to say that 'Directors and actors will be present at screenings to meet the audience and answer their questions - so there really is something for everyone.' Let's hope that budding directors will be inspired by what's on offer with this hands-on approach to the nuts and bolts of film-making to follow in the footsteps of renowned British directors like the late Sir Alfred Hitchcock, and Mike Hodges.

For everyone, whether they aspire to sit in the director's chair or simply have a good time whilst munching their popcorn and forgetting their everyday cares, the festival holds out the promise of looking at the screen and entering a world where we can drift into dreams - or find our complacencies being challenged.

 

The festival takes place between the 10th and 21st October. For further information, visit the website.

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