×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

London Film Fest Programs Season’s Best

Opening and closing with a double dose of Tom Hanks — the European premieres of “Captain Phillips” and “Saving Mr. Banks” — the 57th BFI London Film Festival is set to give British audiences their first look at many of the year’s most talked-about films.

With a packed program of hot festival hits such as “12 Years a Slave,” “Gravity,” “Philomena,” “Labor Day,” “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Nebraska,” and “Don Jon,” the challenge for artistic director Clare Stewart in her sophomore year is to ensure that the rest of the fest’s 234 features get a fair share of the spotlight.

“It is a really strong year. As a festival director you feel really blessed at the luxury of choices on offer,” Stewart says. “But our responsibility is also to come up with a way into all parts of the program for media and audiences.”

She introduced several such innovations when she arrived last year from Sydney to take over a festival that had already grown strongly in the previous decade under former artistic director Sandra Hebron.

Stewart shrank the festival from 16 days to 12 to concentrate press and public attention, but raised the capacity 27% by expanding to more venues across London. She launched an official competition, and grouped films by thematic pathways — Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family — each with its own gala screening.

The result was a 13% leap in ticket sales to 151,000. Most gratifyingly for Stewart and her bosses at the British Film Institute, 33% of tickets were sold to first-timers.

Audience polling proved that the pathways were leading people into new discoveries. “In one of the (audience feedback videos), someone said, ‘I would never have gone to a subtitled film, but you played it the Love section so I went for it,’” Stewart notes with pleasure.

After such a major restructuring last year, Stewart is making only minor tweaks to her successful formula, such as incorporating the shorts and retrospectives into the pathways. “This is a year of consolidation,” she says. “Our more significant new initiatives are planned for next year.”

While the sponsored galas for Oscar hopefuls such as “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” are likely to garner the greatest media buzz, the beating heart of this year’s festival is its official competition.

This contains 13 films, four of them British — Richard Ayoade’s “The Double,” Clio Barnard’s “The Selfish Giant,” Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin” and David Mackenzie’s “Starred Up” — alongside Peter Landesman’s “Parkland,” Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” John Curran’s “Tracks,” Ahmad Abdalla’s “Rags and Tatters,” Catherine Breillat’s “Abuse of Weakness,” Jahmil X. T. Qubeka’s “Of Good Report,” Xavier Dolan’s “Tom at the Farm” and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Like Father, Like Son.”

“I’m very proud of the competition lineup,” notes Stewart. “The British films, for example, are all very distinctive, mature work.” She highlights “Rags and Tatters” from Egypt and “Of Good Report” from South Africa.

“These films might not immediately have drawn wider attention,” says Stewart, “but in positioning them in competition, it gives them a good profile.” This year’s splashy events include a masterclass by Alfonso Cuaron, and public interviews by Ralph Fiennes, Breillat and Kore-eda. The strength of British filmmaking will be discussed in a panel titled “British Cinema — Homegrown and All Grown Up,” while Film London chief exec and former LFF director Adrian Wooton is giving a talk titled “William Faulkner: Film Noir & Nobel Prizes” prompted by James Franco’s adaptation of “As I Lay Dying.”The 57th London Film Festival runs Oct. 9-20.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • La vaca

    Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Boards Debut by Chile’s Francisca Alegria (EXCLUSIVE)

    In what marks the company’s first Latin American project, Alec Baldwin’s El Dorado Pictures has boarded Chilean filmmaker Francisca Alegria’s debut feature, “The Cow Who Sang a Song About the Future.” The multi-Emmy-winning actor and his El Dorado partner Casey Bader will serve as executive producers of the film, slated to start principal photography in [...]

  • Hustlers Box Office

    Box Office: Why 'Hustlers' Soared While 'The Goldfinch' Flopped

    Though STX’s “Hustlers” and Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch” couldn’t be more different in terms of genre or style, the two new releases prove the divergent paths that mid-budget movies can take at the box office. Both films arrived last weekend in an environment that has been increasingly hostile to anything that’s not of the superhero [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' Set for Centerpiece Screening at Rome Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” will be among highlights of the upcoming Rome Film Festival, following its European launch as the closing film at the BFI London Film Festival. As with the Oct. 13 London premiere, key cast members of the hotly anticipated Netflix film are expected to attend the screening in Rome, as is Scorsese. [...]

  • 'Cheer Up, Mr. Lee' to be

    Korean Comedy 'Cheer Up, Mr. Lee' to be Remade in French

    Currently on-release South Korean comedy drama, “Cheer Up, Mr. Lee” is to be remade in French. “Mr. Lee” is the story of a mentally-challenged man who learns that he has a sick daughter, and embarks on a voyage of discovery with his new family member. A remake deal was struck between Yong Film, part of [...]

  • The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

    Korea: 'The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos’ Rules Chuseok Holiday Box Office

    Local films dominated cinemagoing in South Korea over the 4-day Chuseok holiday weekend, traditionally one of the year’s busiest periods. The winner was “The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos.” Opening on Wednesday, the CJ Entertainment release earned $20.2 million from 1.97 million admissions over five days. A film adaptation of CJ E&M’s 2014 hit TV [...]

  • Disco

    New Europe Sells Toronto and San Sebastian Film 'Disco' to Several Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jan Naszewski’s New Europe Film Sales has signed several distribution deals on “Disco,” which had its world premiere in Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery section and makes its European premiere in San Sebastian’s New Directors competition. The film has been picked up by Palace for Australia and New Zealand, Artcam for Czech Republic and Slovakia, Kino [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content