An introduction to the 2009 London Film Festival
The capital’s biggest film celebration starts this week. Dave Calhoun introduces our unrivalled coverage of the 15-day event
This week at Time Out we’re passing the baton from us, the critics, to you, our city’s film lovers. Wednesday sees the start of the London Film Festival, when George Clooney will walk the red carpet in Leicester Square, and we’ve spent much of the past year preparing to offer you the most informed and comprehensive guide to London’s most crucial film event.
We’ve travelled to the world’s most important film festivals, from Berlin to Venice, crammed in endless screenings and watched piles of preview DVDs sent to us from all over the globe. Which is why we’re the only publication in town able to offer you truly independent reviews of the films playing at the festival – including world premieres such as Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ and British premieres such as John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel ‘The Road’, to name but a few of the 194 feature films from 46 countries screening in our cinemas over the next two weeks.
If you head to our LFF microsite, you’ll find the results of these hours and hours of film-viewing: the first of our two-part listings guide, with reviews that run the gamut from glitzy gala selections such as ‘Bright Star’ and ‘An Education’ to more esoteric gems such as Jessica Hausner’s ‘Lourdes’ and Alexei Balabanov’s ‘Morphia’.
We’re giving away 20 tickets to the Time Out Special Screening of Michael Haneke’s ‘The White Ribbon’ – its British premiere is at the Curzon Mayfair on Wednesday October 21 – so enter our draw to win a pair of tickets. What’s more, Haneke will be making a rare appearance on stage after the film to take questions, so now might be the time to start brushing up on ‘Hidden’ or ‘Code Unknown’.
We hope that our previews will help you choose what to see over the next 15 days in the festival’s cinemas. This year the event stretches from the Vue in Leicester Square and the ICA on The Mall to BFI Southbank and the Ritzy across the river and even as far as the David Lean in Croydon and Watermans in Brentford for a few screenings under the ‘Film in the City’ banner. We may be a media partner of the festival, but we’re free to say what we like about the films and the festival – and we do. Luckily, though, we’re huge admirers of the festival as a cultural event. Others care about the festival as a postcard for London, as a publicity machine for film distributors or as a savvy stop on the campaign for golden statuettes. So be it – but we couldn’t care less about those aspects of the fortnight. It’s the films that matter, and the LFF takes film seriously.
This year, we’ll be watching closely to see how the organisers have started to spend a cash injection of £1.8 million over the next three years from the UK Film Council – an injection prescribed to make the festival shout a little more loudly on the world stage. Already, it has planned a stand-alone awards ceremony, with a new award for the best film (‘The Star of London’). We’ll soon be reporting back on that and other innovations.
What the London Film Festival offers Londoners, which we support, is a selection of the year’s best premieres from other, less accessible festivals such as Sundance and Cannes. It’s a public film festival that’s programmed with the same rigour as other events whose doors are firmly shut to the public. At the LFF, you, London’s cinema fans in your thousands, can experience films first and share with their directors and actors the delight (or trepidation) of their unveiling. And who could argue with that?
The London Film Festival runs Oct 14-29.
Author: Dave Calhoun
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