The London Film Festival was inaugurated in 1953 by a group of film critics who wanted to present cinema-goers with a range of films not usually screened or watched in the UK. Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Edinburgh all already held annual festivals for national, international and independent film – it seemed only right that London, as an epicentre for art and culture, should establish its own. Today, the London Film Festival continues to fulfil its founders’ original vision of a ‘festival of festivals’, committed to showcasing the best films from other international cinematographic events and competitions.
With 225 features from 77 countries showing in 14 cinemas across London over 12 days, London Film Festival 2018 promises to deliver a celebration of the art of cinematography in all its variety and ingenuity. With such an extensive and varied events programme, it’s hard to choose what films to see. We at Cent are here to help you decide – see below for our genre-specific picks for short films, documentaries and full-length features. A world of cinema awaits you…
Romance and Lust
There is no single kind of love. Throughout the London Film Festival’s programme, human desire and love are celebrated in their infinite breadth, variation, ugliness and beauty.
Documentary – Of Love and Law
Fumi and Kazu have been together for fifteen years and run the first law firm in Japan established by an openly gay couple. They are dedicated to providing legal support for couples like themselves who are often deemed as ‘other’ in Japanese society. This documentary gives voice to individuals often made to feel invisible in a country which does not legally recognise gay relationships.
Feature – If Beale Street Could Talk
Directed by the academy award-winning filmmaker of Moonlight, this American romance-drama tells the story of Tish, an African-American woman fighting to prove the innocence of her wrongfully-convicted childhood soulmate and fiancé while pregnant with their child. Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel is a touching exploration of the tenderness, trust, solicitude, ardour and respect between two people devoted to one another which simultaneously resonates with the reality of race-related prejudices still evident in America today.
Short Film – Isha
The kickstarter-funded short film Isha follows Rahmi, a young Romanian Muslim man living in London with his mother and brother. His exploration of his sexuality leads him into living a double-life and learning how to navigate the difficulties of staying true to his heritage, maintaining the trust and respect of his family and dealing with the societal pressure to conform, at the same time as discovering his own identity.
Friendship blooms in the most unlikely of places and situations. It can be tender and it can be toxic. These films explore the platonic relationships that exist in infinite shades between every variety of person.
Documentary – Tender
Members of an Australian community decide to set up a non-profit funeral service for the more disadvantaged members of their close-knit township. The group tackle bureaucratic obstacles and social taboos, and unexpectedly come face to face with the impending death of one of their own members. Filmmaker Lynette Wallworth documents the generosity of the volunteers and shows us how compassion, affection and openness between people carries on in the face of loss.
Feature – Dogman
Director of Gomorrah, Matteo Garrone, here tells the story of Marcello, an artisan dog groomer living in a seaside town near Rome. He is devoted to his daughter and provides for her by assisting local thieves with petty errands. When he comes into contact with a brutal and bullying criminal, Simone, Marcello struggles to sustain his little existence, and the film ultimately builds to a shattering climax. Marcello Fonte was named Best Actor at Cannes for his portrayal of an eccentric character living on society’s margins and trying to eke out an existence with the companionship of his canine customers.
Short – Nosebleed
Luna Carmoon’s short film tells the story of a climactic week in the long-term friendship of Lilah and Coby. Over the course of the week, we see their relationship becoming increasingly poisonous and malicious.
Laughter is the best warming tonic to combat the onset of the colder months. These feel-good titles are sure to put a smile on your face.
Documentary – The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man
Director Tommy Avallone has created a documentary made up of found footage, grainy home video and anecdotal interviews – a compilation of Bill Murray myths, Bill Murray sightings and Bill Murray encounters. The Hollywood star seems to have a tendency for inserting himself into bizarre situations and wandering into people’s ordinary, everyday lives, seemingly unsure how he ended up there and bemused by his impact on those around him, but always, ultimately, creating wonderful, unexpected and hysterical moments. These moments are here gathered together in a single, hilarious and heart-warming documentary.
Feature – AKASHA
Against the backdrop of civil war in Sudan blooms a surprising debut by Hajooj Kuka in the form of a subtly comedic romantic drama. The film takes place over 24 hours in a rebel stronghold in Sudan and follows revolutionary soldier Adnan, his long-suffering girlfriend Lina and his passion for his AK47, which he calls Nancy. In this unexpectedly tender and funny feature, Kuka emphasises characterisation, relationships and dialogue over action and war.
Short – Tungrus
A suburban apartment in Mumbai, a family, an eccentric father… and their pet chicken. Simultaneously absurd and touching, this short documentary covers one week in the lives of a family sharing their domestic space with a rooster.
There is no space more emotionally fraught than the family home. The titles below draw on the tensions, laughs, loves, betrayals, joys and tragedies which pervade familial relationships.
Documentary – Evelyn
Having won an Oscar with his previous film The White Helmets, filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel now documents his own family in the aftermath of tragedy. Over a decade after his brother Evelyn’s suicide at the age of 22, Orlando and his family now embark on a walking tour of the landscapes which held meaning for Evelyn. Together, they reflect on their collective loss and trauma, and pay homage to Evelyn’s life.
Feature – Last Child
When the son of a married Korean couple drowns trying to save his classmate, the husband and wife begin a turbulent, emotional relationship with the survivor, Kihyun. Director Shin Dong-seok has created an unsentimental drama which explores maternal and paternal bonds and the masculine psyche.
Short – Third Sorrow
Yejide, a single mother, prepares for her daughter’s cutting ceremony to mark her passage into womanhood. Maternal protective instinct and obedience to tradition come into conflict in this short film directed by NFTS MA students Myriam Raja and Paidamoyo Mutonono.
Social and Political
Art can be a form of social and political documentation and/or critique. The directors of these films are committed to using their artistic medium to expose and respond to things happening in the world today.
Documentary – Yours in Sisterhood
Ms. is the first mainstream feminist magazine published in the United States. Director Irene Lusztig puts unpublished letters addressed to the magazine in the 1970s into the mouths of women living in the US today. Each woman reads a different letter and then relates its words to her own experiences. What becomes clear over the course of this striking documentary is that women today face many of the same problems as they did in the 1970s. At the same time, the documentary is celebratory, holding up women and the female experience as beautiful and intersectional.
Feature – I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians
Radu Jude’s film is a feature-length comment on its titular words, spoken by Ion Antonescu, Romanian solder-turned-Prime Minister responsible for the horrific ethnic cleansing in the 1941 Odessa Massacre. In this darkly comic film, theatre director Mariana plans to stage a huge-scale historical pageant with the wartime massacre as its theme. Romania’s past and present come into uncomfortably close contact and Romania’s troubled history of anti-Semitism is drawn out in a film which manages to be both provocative and playful, artless and artful, barbaric and funny – and never easy viewing.
Short – People of the Wasteland
Made up of footage filmed by GoPro cameras attached to the heads of Syrian fighters in the enemy region, People of the Wasteland is a devastating first-hand and close-up look at war.
The transgressive and underground films breaking taboos and conventions while celebrating the outlandish and the avant-garde – titles sure to go viral in the subcultural underground.
Feature – Ladyworld
Lord of the Flies, but with teenage girls. During a birthday party, an earthquake leaves the eight girls stranded in an underground apartment with no way out. With an eerie kind of suspended-time surrealism looming over the whole, Amanda Kramer’s film takes paranoia, jealousy, betrayal and manipulation to their extremes in a world which is at once creepy and unfamiliar, and uncannily recognisable.
Short – Right Place, Wrong Tim
In a 90s sitcom-esque absurd black comedy set in Essex, lead actor Tim spawns killer-clones of himself which turn the sitcom set into a slasher-style bloodbath.
Forget cheap scares and predictable plots – these supernatural and psychological horrorfests give you a glimpse of the dark underside of both the world we inhabit and the otherworldly.
Feature – All the Gods in the Sky
Simon, A 30-year-old factory worker, lives with his sister Estelle – disabled since childhood after an innocent game went wrong – on a rundown, isolated farm in rural France. Depressed, dogged by guilt, Simon looks to the supernatural for an escape from his tortured existence. Slotting into the genre of New French Extremity, All the Gods in the Skyis simultaneously brutal, surreal, poignant, elegant, suffocating, tortuous, lurid and heart-breaking – truly a bewildering, disconcerting and yet unforgettable cinematic experience.
Short – The Invaders
A young Muslim woman perceives a sinister presence following her home one evening which threatens the devastation of her entire existence.
Film is an art form, and these titles seek to push at the boundaries of what film can do – and what film is expected to do. From the bizarre to the utterly ingenious, this is cinema at cinema’s limits.
Documentary – Second Time Around
Spanish artist Dora Garcia’s first feature-length film is a documentary which restages works by Oscar Masotta, Argentinian essayist, artist, art critic and psychoanalyst. Masotta’s works were created in the context of political fear surrounding the disappearances of Argentinian citizens, and Garcia’s documentary draws a comparison between this history and the political landscape of today. Historical and modern day social and political trauma are seen here through the lens of the avant-garde in an experimental documentary.
Feature – Make Me Up
Rachel Maclean presents audiences with a striking feature-length, sci-fi, satirical film which seeks to break down the mythic notion of feminine beauty propagated by art history. Patriarchal art criticism comes under attack by Maclean and her host of theatrical, exaggerated characters dressed in hyper-feminine attire, who carry out female beauty education according to art history’s standards and inhabit a futuristic, pastel-toned and hyper-feminine beauty clinic.
Short – Rebirth is Necessary
Time and space, past and future, are pulled apart and twisted back together to create a realm in which black experience is explored via art, magic, spirituality, humanity, divinity, movement and music to create an inspiring and affirmative vision of Afrofuturism.
On the Road
Fresh takes on the classic road-trip movie, these films focus on the physical journey as a way of exploring transitional states of being – whether it be self-development and discovery, escape, growing up, coming to a greater understanding about the world, or simply enjoying and finding the beauty in single moments encountered along the way.
Documentary – Holy Tour
Light-hearted and joyful, this documentary focuses on a group of elderly French couples who, every year, set up camp on a roadside in the hills of France and wait to witness the passage of the racers taking part in the Tour de France. Directors Valéry Rosier and Méryl Fortunat-Rossi capture the discussions, bickerings and amusing commentaries of these spectators in a brilliantly-observed and charming documentary.
Feature – Yomeddine
In his feature-debut, Egyptian filmmaker A.B. Shawky takes audiences on a journey alongside Beshay, a leper, and Obama, a young orphan. When Beshay leaves his leper colony after his wife’s death, he decides to find his birth family who abandoned him as a child. He meets Obama on the road, and the pair form an unlikely and tender bond. A subtle and unique evocation of friendship and empathy between those deemed outsiders by society.
Short – Vertical Shapes in a Horizontal Landscape
Evoking the filmmaking of Derek Jarman, Mark Jenkin’s short film takes the viewer on a walk along the south coast of England and pays homage to the artists who lived and worked there and were inspired by its landscape and imagery.
From the biopic to the documentary – London Film Festival’s screens are filled with people who really lived, voices which really spoke and events which really happened.
Documentary – Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blanché
Despite being the first female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blanché is barely mentioned in most accounts of the history of cinema. In this documentary, Pamela B. Green seeks to rescue an influential, pioneering director, producer and writer from being erased from the history of a (still) male-dominated industry. Don’t miss this celebration of Alice Guy-Blanché’s imagination, masterful technique and her engaging cinematic narratives.
Documentary/Feature –What You Gonna Do When The World’s On Fire?
Real-life atrocity translated into the language of black-and-white arthouse cinema. In this documentary which plays out like a film, director Roberto Minervini depicts the narratives of different members of a Louisiana community in the aftermath of the shooting and killing of unarmed, 37-year-old African-American Alton Sterling by police officers. The film gives voice to a marginalised community through Minervini’s unique, visually striking, cinematic approach to documentation and storytelling.
Short – Dark Chamber
Taking its title from the Camera Obscura – an optical device which bred the modern-day camera, consisting of an enclosed space or box with a hole in one side – this short film reconstructs an event that occurred on a motorway on the border between Austria and Hungary in 2015 and altered a family’s world forever.
Programmes, schedules and tickets are all available on the BFI website.