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London Film Festival

The London Film Festival, officially BFI London Film Festival, is the largest public film event in the UK, with more than 300 features, documentaries and shorts from dozens of countries. It is run every year in October.

 

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The Times BFI London Film Festival opened its 50th year on Wednesday 18th October with the European premiere of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, directed by Oscar winning documentary director Kevin Macdonald.

Based on the award-winning novel by Giles Foden, the film stars Forest Whitaker as the tyrannical Ugandan President Idi Amin, alongside James McAvoy (THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA), Gillian Anderson (A COCK AND BULL STORY), Kerry Washington (FANTASTIC FOUR) and Simon McBurney (FRIENDS WITH MONEY). The novel is adapted by Peter Morgan (THE QUEEN) and Jeremy Brock (MRS BROWN).

Shot in Uganda and the UK, the film follows an incredible twist of fate when a Scottish doctor, Garrigan (James McAvoy) becomes irreversibly entangled with one of the world's most notorious dictators, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker).

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND is the first fiction feature from Kevin Macdonald, who won an Academy Award™ for ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, and a BAFTA for TOUCHING THE VOID. It is executive produced by Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, and Tessa Ross and produced by Andrea Calderwood, Charles Steel and Lisa Bryer, co-produced by Christine Ruppert. Fox Searchlight Pictures will release the film in the UK in January 2007.

Sandra Hebron, the Festival's Artistic Director comments: "THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND is a perfect Opening Night film for us: a compellingly original British feature from an imaginative and talented young director. Kevin Macdonald and his cast and crew must be congratulated for balancing historical fact with psychological insight in such a lively, accessible and thought provoking way."

Kevin Macdonald adds: "It would be an honour to be chosen any year to open The Times BFI London Film Festival - but it's particularly great to be kicking off the 50th edition. I'm so pleased to be having the European premiere of THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND in my home city and at a Festival where I myself have discovered so many wonderful movies over the years."

The closing night gala is Babel starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal and Kôji Yakusho in a film by Alejandro González Iñárritu.  Paramount Pictures and Paramount Classics present an Anonymous Content production, an Una producción de Zeta Film, and a Central Films production.produced by Jon Killik and Steve Golin.  The film is based on an idea by Guillermo Arriaga and Alejandro González Iñárritu; written by Guillermo Arriaga, and directed and produced by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

and there are more familiar faces in new movies like Fast Food Nation and Bobby.

 Bobby

Fast Food Nation - the review

Certainly, one of the best movies at the film festival - but perhaps not for those without strong stomachs for an early morning screening  - is the very controversial Fast Food Nation.

The film -  based upon the bestseller by Eric Schlosser (with director and co-writer Linklater) - takes a look at corporate America.  

When new executive, played by Greg Kinnear is sent down to the mid-Western town of Cody to investigate allegations that the meat used in the hamburgers by his employers -  fast food chain: Mickey's - may put child consumers at risk, his naive enthusiasm makes him the perfect candidate for the job.

But as the story unfolds and as the illegal migrant workers shipped in from Mexico to work on the factory floor fall foul of inadequate training and suspect procedures. the outcome appears inevitable.  If there is a problem, the cost of resolving it may be more than the company is prepared to bear; and any out spoken criticism will not be well received.

When business and politics come together sharing that nice warm feeling of a common interest it is very difficult for an individual to breach that contract - particularly when they are a part of it .  And as the story unfolds, it seems that this may prove to be the only conclusion. 

Under the direction of Linklater with a shopping list of celebrity actors, the movie seamlessly exposes the system for what it is.   Despite a few ghoulish examples of decapitated cattle, the film shows little sentiment and no mercy;  while at the same time minimizing any sensationalism for or exaggeration of the reality of the working conditions of illegal Mexicans.

The importance of the movie industry in 2006 is obvious.  Hollywood - during a period of political instability and with its boys in uniform losing their lives in a 'questionable conflict' -  is more willing than usual to rattle a few cages.

Less successful in its attempt to deliver a message is Emilio Estevez's new movie Bobby, which tells of the build up to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy through the eyes of the political staff and the employees of the Ambassador Hotel where the assassination took place.

Bobby Kennedy, the man behind the scenes during the JFK era, was seen as the potential new, brilliant face of American politics at the end of the 1960's as the war in Vietnam escalated out of control.  But in the movie Robert Kennedy's words - which often drew parallels with the politics of today - but offering a different solution - were lost in a smorgasbord of sixties memorabilia from tripping on LSD , to big hair and mini dresses; from race relations and inter-staff affairs to whimsical looks at an era long gone.  Although perhaps Estevez intended that this 'picture' was an homage to the classic film, Grand Hotel he ended up giving short shrift to a moment in history which changed the world.  Using the assassination of Bobby Kennedy as the background vehicle for a subject that tackled an earlier period of conflict and racial tension ended up diluted.   While history repeats itself today, Kennedy's speeches should have flashed across our the screen as "IMPORTANT": explaining that there may be another and more peaceful way to resolve conflict; but under Emilio Estevez's direction any message intended was lost in translation in a multitude of well meaning moments.

Only a few years later, the US pulled out of Vietnam - effectively losing the war.  Perhaps this is the message that Bobby should have focused on sharing with its audience.   In contrast, what gave Fast Food Nation the edge was its particularly potent indigestible message: the harsh reality of big business that 'business' comes first.  The very suggestion that a US organization and high street brand may blatantly be in conflict with policies frowned upon by President Bush himself  effectively shines the light of criticism on all aspects of corporate America - "top down and bottom up".  In Bobby there is a missed opportunity to not only highlight the problems but also proffer a solution.

 

A selection of other productions include classics such as Oliver and an international selection of new movies including:

 

MISCHIEF NIGHT

A brave, ambitious and very funny feature with bite, a thoroughly British film to celebrate from a filmmaker we can treasure. Penny Woolcock makes a welcome return to the Festival with the third part of her Tina trilogy, following the improvised dramas, Tina Goes Shopping and Tina Takes A Break, an outrageous comedy about race, love, religion, childhood, drugs, crime, magic...

Dir-Scr Penny Woolcock With Quasim Akhtar, Kelli Hollis, Ramon Tikaram UK 2006

 

ANGER ME

A portrait of Kenneth Anger, the legendary pioneer of independent filmmaking, discusses his extraordinary life and remarkable body of work.

Dir Elio Gelmini With Kenneth Anger, Jonas Mekas Canada 2006 72 mins

 

AFTER THE WEDDING

Jacob, a young Danish man runs a struggling orphanage in India. A seemingly generous offer from a mystery benefactor back in Copenhagen leads to a surprising revelation.

Dir Kim Rossi Stuart Scr Kim Rossi Stuart, Linda Ferri, Francesco Giammusso, Federico Starnone With Kim Rossi Stuart, Barbora Bobulova, Alessandro Morace Italy 2006  Axiom Films International

 

DARK BLUE ALMOST BLACK

A beautifully drawn (and at times very funny) observation of father-son conflicts as a twenty-something graduate attempts to move away from the stolid routines of his life while juggling a sense of loyalty to both his father and brother.

Dir-Scr Daniel Sanchez Arevalo With Quim Gutierrez, Marta Etura, Raul Arevalo Spain 2006

 

BUENOS AIRES, 1977

A remarkably realistic real life horror story, a tense probing thriller set at a time in recent history that should not be forgotton, when between 10,000 and 30,000 people disappeared after being snatched from their homes or places of work by the country's security forces. A tense probing thriller probing Argentina’s recent history.

Dir Israel Adrian Caetano Scr Israel Adrian Caetano, Esteban Student, Julian Loyola With Rodrigo de la Serna, Nazareno Casero, Lautaro Delgado Argentina 2006  Momentum Pictures

 

JONESTOWN: THE LIFE & DEATH OF A PEOPLE'S TEMPLE

The Jonestown massacre revisited, the horrible tragedy of the death of over 900 members of Peoples Temple is explored in Stanley Nelson's astonishing documentary, which presesnts an impressive collection of audio and video footage (including never-before-seen clips and present-day interviews) in an attempt to capture the atmosphere of Jones' Temple, and understand the motivation behind the massacre.

Dir Stanley Nelson USA 2006

 

THE JOURNALS OF KNUD RASMUSSEN

Beautiful, strange and poignant tale of the decline of traditional beliefs and the impact of Christianity and capitalism on the Inuit community in the early Twentieth Century from the makers of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.

Dir-Scr Zacharius Kunuk, Norman Cohn With Leah Angutimarik, Pakak Innukshuk, Neeve Irngaut Uttak Canada-Denmark 2006

 

AGUAVIVA

A compelling documentary of intercultural exchange as immigrants are invited into a sleepy town in rural Spain in the hope of addressing problems caused by population depletion. This is a story of the workings of interculturalism that avoids easy jargon in favour of astutely observed stories told by the different generations of a town quietly reinventing itself in the 21st Century.

Dir-Scr Ariadna Pujol With the inhabitants of Aguaviva Spain 2005

 

DOLLHOUSE

Morsehdal Islam returns to the festival with this delicate romance set against the backdrop of the 1971 Bangladeshi Warof independence. Islam excels in deftly exploring the subtle emotional nuances between characters juxtaposed against the danger and uncertainty of war.

Dir-Scr Morshedul Islam With Riaz, Sohana Saba, Arman Parvez Bangladesh 2006

 

CANDY

A free-spirited art student and a roguish poet find their addiction to each other taking a back seat to their taste for heroin in director Neil Armfield's intensely personal tale of recreational drug use gone bad. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by co-screenwriter Luke Davis , the film never shies away from showing the seamier side of the addiction, but does so with youthful panache and a welcome lack of easy moralising.

Dir Neil Armfield with Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush Australia 2006

 

1:1 (ONE TO ONE)

Nineteen-year-old Per is found lying badly beaten on a council estate on the outskirts of Copenhagen. As he drifts into a coma his mother can't help feeling she is partly to blame, as it was her liberal social worker sensibilities that informed her decision to keep her family in an area most white families abandoned long ago. From the outset Olesen creates a distinctive sense of place and mood. Carefully interweaving threads between parallel stories, she builds a dynamic, thought-provoking and sadly familiar tale of racial misunderstanding.

Dir Annette K Olesen with Mohammed-Ali Bakier, Joy K Petersen, Anette Støvelbaek Denmark 2006

 

KABUL EXPRESS

The first feature from prolific documentary film maker Kabir Kahn, offering an alternative South Asian perspective on the conflicts and costs of the Afghan War in this seemingly light hearted drama. Two Indian Journalists in Afghanistan go in search of the Taliban but the hunters become the hunted. Cinematographer Anushuman Mahaley captures in the widescreen the violent beauty of Afghanistan in this unusual offering.

Dir-Scr Kabir Khan with John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Salman Shahid India 2006

 

REPRISE

Fresh and stimulating, Reprise, like the literature it celebrates, offers a multiplicity of readings within its narrative structure. Essentially the story of best friends and aspiring novelists Erik and Philip, the film is also a reflection on creativity, ambition and possible worlds.

Dir - Joachim Trier with Espen Klouman Hoiner, Anders DAnielsen Lie and Viktoria Winge Norway 2006

 

CONTAINER

From its hugely effective opening sequence, Container leaves no doubt that, even by Lukas Moodysson's own high standards of invention, this new film marks a quantum leap. The poetic visuals recall the 60s US underground, but the preoccupations are genuinely modern and Moodysson's own: an astute, funny and poetic critique of the messed up world we live in.

Dir-Scr Lukas Moodysson with Peter Lorentzon, Mariha Aberg and Jena Malone Sweden 2005