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: Selma

SELMA

Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a historical drama which is equally parts moving and absorbing.

In 1965, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters attempt to help secure equal voting rights for citizens in Selma, Alabama. In the face of violent opposition, the civil rights activist plans a march from Selma to Montgomery…

Selma is a finely executed historical drama. Director Ava DuVernay guides the story with precision; concentrating on the events during a three-month period rather than more infamous aspects of King’s story and the civil rights movement. The film allows for pensive moments and sincere dialogue without a lapse in pacing. The conclusion is build towards with the requisite tension it requires.

The story that the film focuses on functions on a number of levels. There is a keen awareness, referenced in the film, that this is just one struggle of many within the movement. Moreover, the film gives viewers enough indication of Martin Luther King Jr. as an individual without the need for an encompassing biopic. Finally, Selma is powerful in its depiction of real struggles and tragedies.

Selma features a story that took place at a pivotal period in the civil rights movement. The film has additional weight given that some aspects portrayed are sadly mirrored in recent events that have taken place in the US. There are several moments in Selma that feel poignant, and DuVernay executes these effectively.

Bradford Young’s cinematography is decent throughout. The use of lighting is particularly strong. Costumes and stylings are also good, as is the film’s score.

David Oyelowo gives a convincing performance in Selma. Playing a much recorded character, the actor had a lot to live up to. Nevertheless, Oyelowo carries it off incredibly well; the lack of an Oscar nomination for this role is surprising. Tom Wilkinson and Carmen Ejogo offer good support.

Selma tells an important story, and has been released at a pertinent time. Highly recommended viewing.