While I may be slightly geographically biased, for me the British Film Festival is simply the highlight of the cinematic year. Despite its relatively short history, the British Film Festival has quickly established itself onto the film festival calendar with its high quality, engaging and occasionally confronting, though always accessible programs.
This year is no exception and the 4th annual British Film Festival will take up residence at Palace Electric between 25 October – 16 November. During just over three weeks of high-class British cinema, there are 19 Australian premieres, 10 retrospective selections, and three films focusing on the double Palme d’Or winning director Ken Loach.
Accessibility has always been a cornerstone of this festival, with all films playing at multiple times over the program, so providing ample opportunity to catch numerous titles, at a more relaxed festival pace. However, if you are short on time, here are six of the best of BFF which have caught my eye, with short descriptions based on the official program.
A United Kingdom – Opening Night
Amma Asante, the director of Belle, brings a ‘rousing love story’ based on the inspirational true-life romance between Botswanan King Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and his British wife, Ruth Williams Khama (Rosamund Pike). A period piece, set in the 1940s, A United Kingdom which has been hailed by both critics and the public, arrives directly from opening the London Film Festival and an official selection at the Toronto Film Festival.
From the Academy Award-winning producers of Amy, Supersonic charts the phenomenal three-year meteoric rise that saw Manchester Brit Pop powerhouse Oasis, release their first single in 1994 and then hit a career pinnacle of record-breaking sellout shows at Knebworth Park in 1996, playing to 125,000 fans per night. A no-holes-barred documentary that takes you deep in the combustible and turbulent relationship of the two Gallagher brothers and shows how, for a short while, they really were the biggest band in the world.
I, Daniel Blake
No one defines British Cinema like Ken Loach, who champions the underdog and attempts to reveal the hardships and struggles of those at the bottom of the social hierarchy. There is no better example of Ken Loach’s gritty social realism than I, Daniel Blake, which earned him his second Palme d’Or this year in Cannes. An exceptional, important and at times darkly humorous film, focusing on one man’s struggle against bureaucratic red tape, which deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.
Lone Scherfig (An Education) directs a sterling British cast (Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy, amongst others) in this period comedy-drama based on the novel, Their Finest Hour and a Half, by Lissa Evans about a group of filmmakers struggling to make an inspirational film to boost morale during the Blitz of London in World War II. The Hollywood Reporter called it ‘A disarming movie about the uplifting power of the movies’ and has the potential to be one of the great finds of the festival.
This Beautiful Fantastic
A contemporary fairytale reminiscent of The Secret Garden, This Beautiful Fantastic is a quintessentially British tale that will resonate with anyone who has struggled to make their way in the world. In a dreamy spot in central London, Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay) fantasies about writing and illustrating a successful children’s book. Facing numerous obstacles and paralysed by her fear of flora and fauna, Bella meets her ultimate nemesis, match and mentor in miserable green-thumb Alfie (Tom Wilkinson). Fusing humour with drama and British eccentricity, This Beautiful Fantastic looks simply tantalising.
Trespass Against Us
Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in the same film. Need I say more? This fast-paced, dark crime comedy, begins at high velocity in a beat-up Subaru chasing a rabbit through fields and we are immediately thrust into a world where speed and strength settle scores and the law does not apply. Not just a film about a family of outlaws – this is a film about family itself. With a pulsating original score from The Chemical Brothers, this sounds like one wild ride.
The full program and tickets can be found here.