BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.

Strands

The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.

Film Review: A Separation

Farhadi’s A Separation is a compelling morality play. The film is commendable for the way it presents events, keeping a level head despite the heated proceedings.

Simin wishes to leave Iran and move abroad, hoping it will bring better opportunities for her daughter Termeh. Husband Nader is against the idea, as he has to care for his elderly father who suffers from Alzheimer’s. When Simin moves in with her parents, Nader hires a carer to look after his dad. When Nader returns home early from work one day, things become complicated for all involved…

A Separation is a multi-layered film that allows events to unfold at a natural pace. The narrative is presented with objectivity. Writer and director Farhadi offers both sympathy and disdain to all the main characters. The reasons for their actions are clear and understandable, but at the same time none of them come away unscathed.

A Separation is a well-executed film that is commendable on every level. The best thing about the film, however, is that the director asks his audience to react empirically to the action rather than emotionally. A Separation avoids the trap of so many other dramas that feature a divisive central incident. The film is not heavy-handed in suggesting whom the viewer should side with. Nor does it attempt to elicit emotion. Farhadi’s film is one to ponder on, rather than one that provokes an emotional response.

The  complicated morals of the characters are replicated somewhat by the visual style of the film. Shots are often cluttered, with the characters being obscured by objects in the foreground. Similarly, characters often speak over one another, indicating the tensions at play. Much of the action takes place in the apartment or in small rooms, adding a sense of claustrophobia. The film has a natural look, especially with the use of lighting.

Payman Moaadi offers an engaging performance as Nader. The struggle of this character is clear thanks to Moaadi’s competent portrayal. Leila Hatami is convincing as Simin, a well-developed and realistic character. Sareh Bayat is also good as Razieh, a rather tragic figure. Sarina Farhadi gives a great performance despite her young age. Particularly in the latter part of the film, she is wholly believable in the understated role.

A Separation shines a light of an Iranian culture not often depicted in the Western media. Asghar Farhadi has done a fantastic job of crafting an engaging and memorable film.