The BFI London Film Festival is a celebration of British cinema, as well as one of the biggest film festivals in the United Kingdom. This year, the schedule features more than 200 films over 12 days at locations across the British capital, including a series of major hopefuls for awards season.
Tickets for many of the showings go on sale today, so here are ten films that you should be looking to grab a seat for at the BFI London Film Festival.
10. Son of Saul
Playing in official competition at the LFF, Son of Saul is a Hungarian drama film set in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. The film follows the eponymous Jewish man, who finds the body of a boy he has fatherly feelings towards whilst burning the bodies of those killed at the camp. As chaos unfolds around him, Saul tries to get the child a proper burial.
Son of Saul debuted at the Cannes Film Festival early this year to near universal acclaim from critics all over the world – it has a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It looks to be an uncompromising look at Nazi death camps, anchored by a story of strong, character-based drama.
Son of Saul is playing from 10-11 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
9. Black Mass
After a string of recent high-profile disappointments, Johnny Depp is a star who is desperately in need of a return to form. The role of Whitey Bulger in Out of the Furnace director Scott Cooper’s Black Mass could be exactly that. Depp plays the gangster as he is approached by Joel Edgerton’s FBI agent via his political high-flyer of a brother (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Black Mass has attracted rave reviews on the festival circuit of late, with particular praise lavished on Depp’s transformative performance. Trailers tease Depp on heart-stoppingly aggressive form in a true crime thriller arriving in cinemas soon after Tom Hardy’s portrayal of both Kray Twins in Legend. It’s Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Bane for the gangster crown.
Black Mass is playing from 11-16 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
8. Beasts of No Nation
Squaring up alongside Son of Saul in official competition at LFF, Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’s biggest foray into film distribution thus far. Director Cary Fukunaga marshals a brutal tale of child soldiers in an unnamed African country, under the command of Idris Elba’s violent mercenary.
Given its association with Netflix, Beasts of No Nation will be an interesting film to watch in order to see if the streaming service can be a serious player. With awards buzz circulating around it, the film itself looks set to be one of the highlights of the LFF programme, starring one of Britain’s most versatile homegrown performers. Even if he is “too street” for Bond.
Beasts of No Nation is playing from 8-9 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
7. Steve Jobs
Set to close LFF, Steve Jobs is Danny Boyle’s take on the life of the charismatic Apple figurehead, who passed away in 2011. Michael Fassbender steps into the lead role, whilst Seth Rogen plays partner in innovation Steve Wozniak. The supporting cast is full of heavyweight performers and Aaron Sorkin has penned the script.
Steve Jobs premiered at Telluride earlier this month to largely positive reviews, with Fassbender’s performance already surrounded by Oscar buzz. Those that have had more negative things to say have mainly focused on Sorkin’s over-written script, but with Boyle in the director’s chair, good things are seldom very far away.
Steve Jobs is playing 18 October at the BFI London Film Festival. Tickets are no longer available.
One of the more awards-baiting titles on this year’s LFF programme, Brooklyn tells the story of Saoirse Ronan’s Irish immigrant who heads to 1950s New York in search of her own version of the American Dream. There, she finds romance and must choose between her new home and the one she left behind.
Brooklyn, despite its rather sugary premise, looks like a heavyweight drama that could finally earn Ronan the respect she deserves as a performer. Nick Hornby doesn’t have an unblemished screen record, but few would doubt that he is the kind of writer who could make this film fly from page to screen.
Brooklyn is playing from 12-14 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
5. The Lobster
This is the kind of offbeat gem that so often lurks on the festival circuit. The Lobster is an internationally co-produced dystopian comedy from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos and winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes. It’s set in an alternate world where single people are charged with finding a mate in 45 days, or they will be transformed into beasts and exiled.
The premise sounds like a recipe for playful comedy and the cast stars a variety of reliable faces, including Colin Farrell, Ben Whishaw, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman. If it can resist the urge to go too insane, this could be one of the hidden surprises of the LFF slate.
The Lobster is playing from 13-15 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
Historical drama Suffragette is set to be the opening film of LFF, giving a turbulent period of British history the heavyweight cinematic treatment it so richly deserves. Carey Mulligan plays a fictionalised character, who is drawn into the movement to win the vote for women. Meryl Streep shows up to add awards season gravitas as Emmeline Pankhurst.
Judging by the trailers, this should be an excellent piece of work with a real political charge. Scriptwriter Abi Morgan, known for Shame and The Iron Lady, should hopefully be able to balance the politics with the emotion to produce something with a beating heart.
Suffragette is playing from 7-8 October at the BFI London Film Festival. Tickets for the 7th are unavailable.
In the race to the 2016 Academy Awards, no film has been receiving the level of attention as Carol, from director Todd Haynes. Oscar heavyweight Cate Blanchett plays the eponymous character – a married woman who catches the eye of young department store clerk Rooney Mara in 1950s New York.
Blanchett and Mara seem like dead certs to be in the mix for the acting categories at the Oscars, based on their romantic performances in the film. Mara was the joint winner of the Best Actress prize at Cannes, where Carol premiered earlier this year. It’s a film we’re going to hear a lot about in the next few months, so now is a great chance to catch it.
Carol is playing from 14-17 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
2. The Witch
Since it debuted by winning an award at Sundance in January, Robert Eggers’ 17th century chiller The Witch has been one of the buzziest films in the horror community. It follows a Puritan family living in New England, who are soon afflicted by an unknown force. Their infant disappears, the daughter is accused of witchcraft and they are banished from their town.
The Witch has potential written all over it and has been marketed well with pleasingly ambiguous trailers. On the strength of this – his directorial debut – Eggers has been hired to remake Nosferatu, which surely suggests that The Witch is something rather special.
The Witch is playing from 12-14 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
Ben Wheatley has, in his relatively short career, established himself as one of the most unique voices in British cinema. His latest is High-Rise, adapted by Wheatley’s screenwriter wife Amy Jump from JG Ballard’s 1975 novel. Tom Hiddleston is a young doctor who moves to the titular building and is seduced by its world of parties, just before violence erupts.
There’s a pleasing amount of enigma to High-Rise, which has drip-fed information since it was announced. With such an impressive creative mind behind the camera, a great cast in front of it and a bitingly satirical source text, this could be more than just the best film of the festival – it could be the best film of the entire year.
High Rise is playing from 9-11 October at the BFI London Film Festival.
Will you be attending the BFI London Film Festival? Which films are you planning to see? Let me know in the comments section.