London Film Festival 2016: Top 30 things to see
James R | On 15, Sep 2016
The London Film Festival returns to – you guessed it – London this October and streaming services are all over Leicester Square and beyond.
Netflix is previewing new episodes of Black Mirror, Werner Herzog is beaming his new film live onto the web, Amazon’s first original film is airing and MUBI has its latest acquisition ready to open fresh from Cannes. That’s par for the course for this year’s LFF, which is a who’s-who guide to the biggest films of the year’s other festivals – and, with the number of must-sees stacking up from start to finish, that’s no bad thing.
Whether you’re looking to get a peak at what’s on the way to a VOD site near you, or catching up on the world’s brightest and best, here are our picks of the line-up – just in time for tickets to be released to the public today.
The LFF is full of cinematic gems from around the world, but one of the things we’re most excited about is this sneak peek of Netflix’s newly acquired Black Mirror – not least because Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones will be there in person to talk about the show, along with Joe Wright, who directs one of the episodes being screened. (Their talk is followed by a preview of two more episodes.)
Lo and Behold
Lo and Behold sees the Oscar-nominated documentarian chronicle the virtual world from its origins to its outermost reaches, exploring the digital landscape with the same curiosity and imagination he previously trained on earthly destinations as disparate as the Amazon, the Sahara, the South Pole and the Australian outback. The premiere, including a Q&A with Herzog, will take place on 13th October at Picturehouse Central – and will also be available to watch live in 60 other cinemas and online.
Another Netflix original, Christopher Guest’s latest mockumentary delves into the ultra-competitive world of sports mascots fighting for the most prestigious award in their field: The Gold Fluffy. The will be released globally on Netflix on 13th October.
Manchester by the Sea
This is only Kenneth Lonergan’s third film, but after Margaret, people are clamouring to work with the director, with Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler starring in this drama. After airing at Sundance, Amazon promptly snapped this up for its US Prime Video customers. Studiocanal are releasing it in the UK, which means it will eventually be released on Prime Video here too.
Fish Tank. Wuthering Heights. Andrea Arnold is one of the most exciting British filmmakers working today. Her latest boasts Shia LaBeouf, Sacha Lane, Riley Keough and an already infamous scene featuring Rhianna’s We Found Love in Walmart.
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki tells the true story of Finnish boxing hero, Olli Mäki, set against the summer of 1962, as Olli attempts to win the world championship featherweight title. Starring Jarkko Lahti as Mäki, the film won the Un Certain Regard prize at this year’s Cannes and was promptly snapped up by MUBI for exclusive release in UK cinemas and online.
La La Land
After Whiplash stormed the LFF, any film that has Damien Chazelle’s name on it is at the top of our to-watch list. Add in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and it’s ranked even higher.
Ava DuVernay’s documentary chronicles the history of racial inequality in the United States, examining how the country has produced the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of those imprisoned being African-American. From D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and the rebirth of the KKK to the Civil Rights Movement, the 1994 Crime Bill, the rise of ALEC, and the Black Lives Matter movement, DuVernay traces a pattern of fear and division that has consistently driven mass criminalization. The film will be released globally on Netflix on Friday 7th October.
“Welcome to Chi-Raq, land of pain, misery and strife.” Spike Lee’s joint is a modern adaptation of the Greek play Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. Teyonah Paris stars as Lysistrata, who leads a group of women in protest against the ongoing violence in Chicago’s Southside – a movement that “challenges the nature of race, sex and violence in America and around the world”. The first original production from Amazon Studios, the film has only ever been released in the US, making this a rare chance to see what Amazon first threw its weight behind.
Ben Wheatley continues to blaze a trail through British genre cinema with his latest, a stripped-down thriller that sees Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley collide at a chaotic arms deal in 1970s Massachusetts.
A Monster Calls
Ever since The Orphanage, Juan Antonio Bayona has been a director worth watching. His work on The Impossible and Penny Dreadful confirmed it. Now, he steps up to Del Toro and Spielberg levels with this adaptation of Patrick Ness’ book that has “classic” written all over it.
A United Kingdom
Amma Asante returns again to the London Film Festival with the true story of Seretse Khama, King of King of Bechuanaland (Botswana to you and us), and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1947. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike star.
The Birth of a Nation
Nate Parker’s Sundance prize winner is a gruelling account of the life of an enslaved African-American who led a slave revolt in Virginia in 1831, and stars Parker himself alongside Armie Hammer, Aunjanue Ellis, Aja Naomi King and Gabrielle Union. Since then, Parker has been caught up in 17-year-old allegations of rape, making the film’s subject matter even more provocative.
Queen of Katwe
Mira Nair’s true life tale follows one girl’s determination to escape from poverty in Uganda by becoming a chess champion. When David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o are in the same film together, you go and see it, no questions asked.
Denis Villeneuve. Amy Adams. Jeremy Renner. Tell us when we can stop saying impressive names involving in this sci-fi.
Tom Ford’s A Single Man was a jaw-dropping piece of cinema. This promises to be just as stunning.
It’s Only the End of the World
Because we all need another reason to be terrified at how talented the scarily young Xavier Dolan is.
Park Chan-wook’s latest is “more than an empty softcore drama full of scamming, backstabbing and wild sex: it’s a work of art”, we wrote in our review of it from Cannes – when it was bought by Amazon for exclusive release on Prime Video in the US.
Julian Barratt and Simon Barnaby join forces to write this comedy about a washed-up actor who once played a Manx detective called Mindhorn, with a robotic eye that allowed him to literally “see the truth”.
Because how often dop you get to see a new Paul Verhoeven film on the big screen – let alone one starring Isabelle Huppert?
Another exclusive acquisition for Amazon in the US, Jim Jarmusch’s latest “is a brilliant film, all the more so because it clearly won’t be for everybody”. Our review from Cannes.
Alice Lowe directs and stars in this tale of a pregnant serial killer, hellbent on revenge.
After The Storm
After Like Father, Like Son and Our Little Sister both debuting at London Film Festivals past, Hirokazu Koreeda is one of the stars of festival – not least because he’s one of the quietest filmmakers you’ll ever see.
“Consistently shifting but always entertaining – a study of Brazilian society, a hymn to bloody-mindedness, even an exquisitely dark David vs Goliath comedy. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius; make sure you catch it when it reaches the UK.” Our review from Cannes.
“Romania is hell; that’s the abiding message of so much of the country’s superb New Wave of filmmaking. With In Competition entry Bacalaureat, previous Palme D’Or winner Cristian Mungiu shows how the taint of corruption and cronyism left over from Ceaușescu’s days infect even the well-meaning and try to poison the hope of the next generation.” Our review from Cannes.
My Life As A Courgette
The title of this animation alone makes it worth watching.
Pablo Larraín reunites with Gael Garcia Bernal for this anti-biopic of Nobel Prize-winning poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda. If you saw No, you’ll know that means something very special is on the cards.
Christine / Kate Plays Christine
Rebecca Hall stars in this drama about the death of Florida anchorwoman Christine Chubbuck, who committed suicide live on air in 1974. Watch it in a double-bill with Robert Greene’s documentary on the making of a fictional biopic about Christine.
Kristen Stewart continues to prove herself one of the best actresses of her generation as she reunited with director Olivia Assayas.
The only person more intriguing to watch on screen than Rooney Mara? Ben Mendelsohn. Here, they team up in an adaptation of David Harrower’s prize-winning play, Blackbird.
The London Film Festival runs from Wednesday 5th to Sunday 21st October 2016. For more information, visit the official site.