This morning at the Odeon Leicester Square, the director of the annual London Film Festival, Claire Stewart, officially revealed this year’s packed programme of new features, docs and shorts. London’s biggest celebration of all things cinematic gets bigger every year, with ever more spectacular and star-studded gala premieres, and films from every single corner of the globe. This year’s programme boasts no less than 240 features, which is about 20 straight days of viewing by our reckoning. And yet they manage to squeeze it all into 12!
The highlights are far too numerous to go into here – check out our exhaustive 30 films we’re looking forward to at the LFF feature for that. But we’ll just run down a few of the very highest highlights, so you can get a flavour of what’s in store.
The opening and closing films both have strong British roots: the opener is ‘A United Kingdom’, ‘Belle’ director Amma Asante’s based-on-truth story about the 1940s romance between the king of Botswana and a British woman he met while studying in London. And the closer is ‘Free Fire’, director Ben Wheatley’s first US-set production, a ‘Reservoir Dogs’-ish tale of a group of crooks in 1970s Boston who meet in a warehouse to carry out a dirty deal. The cast is spectacular, even for the director of ‘High Rise’: Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley and the inimitable Michael Smiley all feature.
There’s more homegrown excellence across the gala programme, from Dev Patel as an orphaned boy alongside Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman in ‘Lion’, to Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson in giddy fantasy ‘A Monster Calls’. You can expect many of these stars to turn up in person for the big premieres – in festival week, Leicester Square is often awash with celebs. And given that the programme features movies starring the likes of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (‘La La Land’), Jake Gylenhaal (‘Nocturnal Animals’), Amy Adams (‘Arrival’) and Michelle Williams (‘Manchester By the Sea’), this year should be no exception.
And that’s just the big movies – once you get further into the programme, things get decidedly less predictable. There’s Riz Ahmed as a hardcase private eye in ‘City of Tiny Lights’. There’s a history of the solar system in Terrence Malick’s eye-scorching ‘Voyage of Time’. There are documentaries on everything from African safaris to mass shootings to David Lynch. There’s even a reissue of legendary horror freakout ‘Phantasm’. Truly, all of cinema is here.
The London Film Festival runs from Oct 5 to 16.
Find out how you can get tickets to the LFF with our handy FAQs, and keep an eye on timeout.com/lff for all the hottest LFF reviews as they come in.