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The program for the 54th BFI London Film Festival was announced last month and as ever, the prestigious European gala will screen a diverse selection of highly anticipated films by both established and emerging talent from around the world. As ever the festival will showcase a particularly strong vein of indigenous films including Opening and Closing Night Galas which spearhead the strong British presence in the global film community. During a mammoth 16 days of contemporary celluloid celebration the festival will screen a bewildering 197 features and 112 shorts, including 11 World, 23 International and 33 European premieres, many presented by cast members and filmmakers, alongside a stellar line-up of special events. The 54th BFI London Film Festival will run from 13 – 28 October at a myriad of venues around the capital, from the National Film Theatre to the West End, from the Curzon’s to the Lumieres, from the West and the East of the metropolis there will be something to interest the passing fan and film fanatic alike.


The festival is launched with Mark Romanek’s acclaimed NEVER LET ME GO, starring Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, whilst DannyBoyle’s notorious 127 HOURS will close the proceedings, with key figures from both sides of the camera in attendance. Buttressing the bookends are THE KING’S SPEECH, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter; hot from its rapturous Venice reception is Darren Aronofsky’s BLACK SWAN starring a fragile Natalie Portman; Mike Leigh’s ANOTHER YEAR; NEDS, directed by Peter Mullan; THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening; whilst art-film connoisseurs will welcome this years Cannes Palme D’Or winner UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES. Other gems include CONVICTION starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell; Alejandro González Iñárritu’s BIUTIFUL wth Javier Bardem; WEST IS WEST, the loose sequel to East is East; Xavier Beauvois’ OF GODS AND MEN; and Julian Schnabel’s returns with MIRAL featuring Slumdog star Freida Pinto.


Much of the attention will be focused on London’s Leicester Square which will host  a collection of the most vigorous films of 2010. Anton Corbijn follows up Control with the chilly THE AMERICAN starring George Clooney; CARLOS is Olivier Assayas’s expansive five hour saga of the notorious Venezuelan terrorist; the venerable Godard continues  to provoke cineastes with FILM SOCIALISME; ROBINSON IN RUINS marks Patrick Keiller’s long awaited return to the screen with a narration by Vanessa Redgrave. Additional treasures include Diego Luna’s debut ABEL; Kelly Reichardt’s MEEK’S CUTOFF features Michelle Williams and Paul Dano; LE QUATTRO VOLTE, is a mysterious quasi-documentary centred in an Italian village and RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE will make you look at Santa  in a more sinister light. Showcasing the festivals global scale are two African features, the first A SCREAMING MAN from Chad and the second BENDA BILILI which is a documentary exploring the fortunes of a clutch of Congo based urban musicians. Ken Loach leads a strong UK themed strand with ROUTE IRISH, a stream that also includes Joanna Hogg’s ARCHIPELAGO, Lucy Walker’s WASTE LAND and Richard Ayoade’s incendiary SUBMARINE.  Esoteric film fans will welcome the chance to absorb new movies from established masters, including Jan Švankmajer’s SURVIVING LIFE,  Miike Takashi’s ferocious 13 ASSASSINS and indie legend John Sayles returns with AMIGO.


The UK continues its pedigree of cinema exploring social concerns. In THE ARBOR, Clio Barnard scrutinizes the work of writer Andrea Dunbar; in MANDELSON: THE REAL PM? Director Hannah Rothschild was embedded with her controversial political figure over a tumultuous year and sports fans will support FIRE IN BABYLON which reveres the heritage of West Indian cricket. Kim Longinotto explores India during PINK SARIS whilst conceptual artist and Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing delivers her cinema debut with SELF MADE, both of which contributing to the welcome representation of female filmmakers this year.


Contemporary French cinema is celebrated through a panoply of features from established figures and budding auteurs. There are new discoveries such as Katell Quillévéré with her LOVE LIKE POISON and award winning director Antony Cordier’s HAPPY FEW, the Marion Cotillard starring LITTLE WHITE LIES  is Guillaume Canet latest feature and Catherine Breillat will enchant her acolytes with her unique take on the THE SLEEPING BEAUTY legend. Isabelle Huppert stars in  both SPECIAL TREATMENT and COPACABANA, similar gallic legends Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani appear in MAMMUTH whilst Kristin Scott Thomas is the claustrophobic focus of Lola Doillon’s IN YOUR HANDS. Finally, Isabelle Czajka returns to the festival with her corporate satire LIVING ON LOVE ALONE, the follow-up to her promising debut The Year After.


Broadening the palette beyond France includes the European entries MYSTERIES OF LISBON which is a four and a half hour epic from Raúl Ruiz; then there is WOMB, an exquisite tale starring Eva Green and Matt Smith and MY JOY, a Soviet centred parable. Pernille Fischer Christensen’s film A FAMILY revisits her recurrent interest in the notion of genealogy; EVEN THE RAIN stars Gael Garcia Bernal in a tale directed by Icíar Bollaín and written by stalwart Ken Loach collaborator Paul Laverty, whilst the murky world of Italian politics is exposed during Sabina Guzzanti’s DRAQUILA – ITALY TREMBLES , a post earthquake documentary that contains a controversial and provocative exposé of Silvio Berlusconi’s activities. Further debate is provoked in PICCO, a German film that explores the horrendous violence plaguing a youth prison which may be the ideal companion piece to Alan Clarke’s brutal Scum.


A diverse menagerie of  documentaries and fiction is collected from around the globe. The US independent movement evolves in the likes of SPORK, a gender satire of the high school movie; Geoff Marslett’s animated SF slacker MARS is gathering interest; COLD WEATHER is heralded as a new take on the crime film and THE TAQWACORES explores Muslim delinquents in Upstate New York. The incremental influence of social media is challenged in the disturbing CATFISH, a faux documentary that has garnered enormous kudos from its prior festival screenings whilst LEMMY is a comprehensive portrait of the indestructible Motorhead singer and legendary rock god. The musical trend   continues in STRANGE POWERS: STEPHIN MERRITT AND THE MAGNETIC FIELDS. Current conflicts are confronted in THE TILLMAN STORY which examines the controversy surrounding the death of a NFL player turned US soldier in Afghanistan. Other treats include the Egyptian themed MICROPHONE which is set in the vibrant underground music scene of Alexandria; AUTUMN which traverses the conflict in Kashmi; and LEAP YEAR, a Mexican feature which procured director Michael Rowe the Camera D’Or at Cannes. Finally to East Asia where the cultish Sion Sono is sure to deliver another crimson bloodbath with COLD FISH; then there is DEAR DOCTOR which is the third feature from Japan’s Miwa Nishikawa and Chang Tso-Chi’s warmly witty family piece WHEN LOVE COMES.


The BFI’s legendary reputation for conversation of this fragile art form will trumpet the digital restorations of two bona-fide classics – Renoir’s BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING and David Lean’s heroic THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI whilst the latest project from Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation will showcase a restored print of Edward Yang’s fascinating A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY. Numerous technical adversities have been surpassed to resurrect Pabst’s German Expressionist classic PANDORA’S BOX starring the silent film siren Louise Brooks. Proceedings are certain to get gritty with the pre-code films THE MATCH KING and THE MAYOR OF HELL, both of which featuring the iconic James Cagney, a potential mirror to the breezy screwball comedy TURNABOUT and captivating musical SUNNY SIDE UP. London’s post war atmosphere is captured in three short films restored by the BFI in BOW BELLS AND WATERLOO SUNSETS. Other restorations include the enormously influential agit-prop classic MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA and Manoel de Oliveira’s RITE OF SPRING.


The festivals guest list is a roll-call of cinema talent with the likes of Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Hilary Swank, Julian Schnabel, Helena Bonham Carter, Naomie Harris, Pablo Trapero, Lisa Cholodenko, Gillian Wearing, Joanna Hogg, Kim Longinotto,  Ferzan Ozpetek, Richard Ayoade and Apichatpong Weerasethakul confirmed as attendees. The popular and fascinating strand of Screen Talk events will welcome the directors Darren Aronofsky and Mark Romanek but both, alas, are already sold out. Peter Mullan, Lisa Cholodenko, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Olivier Assayas will lead Masterclasses and if you’re lucky you can book tickets here.