By Cleaver Patterson.
In the February 1984 issue of films magazine Derek Malcom, the newly appointed Director of the London Film Festival, introduced himself with a bold statement, claiming that “the LFF is known all over the world as one of the best-organised and best presented in the business”. Now, over thirty years later, these are claims of which the festival is still proud to boast, as the launch of the programme for this year’s event – the 59th in its history – proved. Introduced by Amanda Nevill, the BFI’s Chief Executive, and Clare Stewart, the current Festival Director of the BFI London Film Festival (as it is now officially known), the launch at the ODEON cinema in London’s Leicester Square, took those present through a world wind tour of what the public will be treated to when the festival runs between the 7th and 18th of October 2015.
If this year’s event could be said to have one underlying theme it would seem to be that of ‘female’ involvement in the film industry or, as Stewart stated, that the LFF programme team have dubbed it, “the year of the ‘strong woman’”. She went on to say, though, that while “the festival is always streaks ahead of the market in terms of the number of films directed by women – almost 50 films this year – this is still only 20% of the total programme”. In an attempt to redress this balance, Stewart’s presentation placed emphasis on a number of initiatives and special events being held during the festival aimed at highlighting gender in the media, as well as films not only made by women but which also feature them in central and pivotal roles: Stewart also highlighted the visits of actresses Geena Davis – in London during the festival to launch a global symposium on gender in the media – and Cate Blanchett who will be attending to receive the prestigious award of a BFI Fellowship.
As if to emphasise the place of women – not just in the film industry but also society as a whole – the film chosen for the festival’s Opening Night Gala is the highly anticipated historical drama Suffragette, chronicling the fight by the women’s suffrage movement in the early twentieth century for the right to vote in Britain. Directed by Sarah Gavron and featuring a host of stars including Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep, the film promises to not only be a popular choice to launch the BFI LFF 2015, but also the perfect choice to represent this year’s festival message. Bound to cause just as much of a stir is the film chosen for the Closing Night Gala. The controversial bio-pic of the founder of Apple computers Steve Jobs, helmed by British cinema’s star director Danny Boyle, promises to provide a riveting spectacle to close the festival, and one which will be a hot topic of debate with audiences and industry insiders alike in the run-up to next year’s awards season.
Highlight gala screenings this year are to include director Nicholas Hytner and writer Alan Bennett’s screen version of Bennett’s play The Lady in the Van, starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings, whilst the screening of the new drama Carol featuring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara is also highly anticipated. One of the biggest attractions for the public of the BFI LFF is the chance to see those involved in the films in the flesh, and this year, as in the past, many of the screenings will be attended by cast and crew members. As in the past, the Festival will be split by various themes which will premiere films from the UK and around the world. These will include the French romantic drama Valley of Love in the LOVE category, the American documentary Live From New York in the LAUGH category and a screening of the restored 1966 UK classic A Man for all Seasons showing as part of the DEBATE strand. Complimenting these will be various competition sections as well as on stage interviews with industry luminaries including director Todd Haynes and casting director Laura Rosenthal, talking about their experiences in the film industry.
For full programme details, and to book tickets for the BFI London Film Festival, 2015, visit their website at: www.bfi.org.uk/lff.
Cleaver Patterson is a film journalist and critic based in London. He is News Editor for the website Flickfeast, and regularly contributes to Rue Morgue magazine and the Film International website. He is a contributor to the new film encyclopaedia Movie Star Chronicles: A Visual History of 320 of the World’s Greatest Movie Stars, to be published by Aurum Press in October, 2015.