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The 56th London Film Festival unveils changes amid 2012 line-up


Feature by Jack Foley

THE full programme for the 56th London Film Festival was launched on Wednesday (September 5, 2012) by the BFI’s Head of Exhibition and Festival Director, Clare Stewart – and there are a lot of changes to look forward to.

Now taking place over 12 days, from October 10 to 21, 2012, the festival expands further from its traditional Leicester Square cinemas – Odeon West End, Vue West End, Odeon Leicester Square and Empire – and the BFI Southbank to include four additional new venues in Hackney Picturehouse, Renoir, Everyman Screen on the Green and Rich Mix, which join existing London venues the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Ritzy Brixton and Ciné Lumière.

There have also been significant changes made to the structure of the festival programme with new focused categories that are clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family.

With over 200 features screened during the festival this new approach is designed to help festival-goers find the films that mean the most to them and to open up entry points for new audiences.

There will also be the traditional galas, which this year range from opening film Frankenweenie to new Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane to Ben Affleck’s Oscar tipped Argo (pictured above) and Mike Newell’s closing film Great Expectations.

Included in the line-up of 225 fiction and documentary features are 14 World Premieres, 15 International Premieres and 34 European Premieres.

There will also be screenings of 111 live action and animated shorts. A stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew are expected to take part in career interviews, master classes, and other special events.

Here’s how it all breaks down…


The Festival opens with the European Premiere of Tim Burton’s 3D animation Frankenweenie, whilst Mike Newell’s visually stunning adaptation of Great Expectations, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes will close the Festival, with key talent from both films expected to attend.

Among the highly anticipated Galas is the American Express Gala World Premiere of Crossfire Hurricane, a documentary celebrating 50 years of rock legendsThe Rolling Stones who are also expected to attend the Festival.

For the first time this year both the Opening Night Gala and the American Express Gala red carpet events and screenings will be screened simultaneously to cinemas across the UK.

Other Galas include the American Airlines Gala of Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, Quartet, featuring an outstanding British cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly and Michael Gambon; and Ben Affleck directs and stars in the Accenture Gala presentation of political thriller Argo, which he also produced with George Clooney.

British film directors making their mark this year include Paul Andrew Williams with London-based comedy drama, Song For Marion, which screens as The Mayfair Hotel Gala and features a sterling cast headed by Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston; and Roger Michell, whose Hyde Park On Hudson is the Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London, stars Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams and is set on the eve of WWII when the King and Queen of England make a visit to see Franklin D Roosevelt in upstate New York.

Nintendo Gala The Sapphires is an inspirational Australian musical comedy set in the 60s starring comic man of the moment Chris O’Dowd, who appears alongside Australian Idol star Jessica Mauboy; and The Sessions is a moving drama, based on a true story with superb performances from John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

Awards and competitions

The BFI London Film Festival Awards have undergone a significant change this year by introducing competitive sections that are given much more prominence in the Festival campaign and programme.

The Best Film Award in partnership with American Express; the Sutherland Award for Best First Feature and the Grierson Award for Best Documentary will now be presented to the winning films from three programme sections: Official Competition, First Feature Competition and Documentary Competition.

Each section is open to international and British films and 12 films have been shortlisted for each Competition.

Official Competition

The inaugural Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes four European premieres:

Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday
Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa
Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children
Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths

Together with UK premieres of

Michel Franco’s After Lucia
David Ayer’s End of Watch
Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void
Daniele Ciprì’s It Was the Son
François Ozon’s In the House
Cate Shortland’s Lore
Pablo Larraín’s No
Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone

Titles in consideration for the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

3 European premieres

Masaaki Akahori’s The Samurai that Night
Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus
Barry Berk’s Sleeper’s Wake

and 9 UK premieres

Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tom Shkolnik’s The Comedian
Maja Miloš’ Clip
Gabriela Pichler’s Eat Sleep Die
Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil
Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighbouring Sounds
Scott Graham’s Shell
Andrey Gryazev’s Tomorrow
Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda

In the Documentary Competition category, in partnership with the Grierson Trust, recognising documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance, the Festival is screening:

4 World Premieres

Charlie Paul’s For No Good Reason
Nick Ryan’s The Summit
Sarah Gavron’s Village at the End of the World
Greg Olliver’s Turned Towards the Sun

1 International Premiere

Sébastien Lifshitz’s Les Invisibles

4 European Premieres

Jay Bulger’s Beware of Mr Baker
Shola Lynch’s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners
Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Amy Berg’s West of Memphis

3 UK Premieres

Katja Gauriloff’s Canned Dreams
Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns’ The Central Park Five
Ulises Rosell’s The Ethnographer

Closing the Awards section is the prize for Best British Newcomer, in partnership with Swarovski, which highlights new British talent and is presented to an emerging writer, actor, producer or director.

The recipient of this prize will also receive a £5,000 bursary, courtesy of Swarovski.

This year’s nominees are:

Rowan Athale – director/screenwriter Wasteland
Sally El Hosaini – director/screenwriter My Brother the Devil
Fady Elsayed – actor My Brother the Devil
Scott Graham – director/screenwriter Shell
Eloise Laurence – actor Broken
Rufus Norris – director Broken
Chloe Pirrie – actor Shell
Tom Shkolnik – director/screenwriter The Comedian


This year significant changes have been made to the structure of the Festival programme with new focused categories that are clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family.

With over 200 features screened during the Festival this new approach is designed to help Festival goers find the films that mean the most to them and to open up entry points for new audiences.


The Love Gala is Michael Haneke’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner Amour, with Haneke making a welcome return to the Festival this year.

Other titles in this section include: Broken starring Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy; Ira Sachs’ Keep The Lights On; Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways; Liz Garbus’ documentary tribute to Marilyn Monroe Love, Marilyn, and Robot and Frank starring Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon, and Ursula Meier’s Sister with Léa Seydoux and Gillian Anderson.


Riveting films that amplify, scrutinise, argue and surprise screen in the debate section and this year’s Gala is the European Premiere of The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology an absorbing documentary sequel to The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema from Sophie Fiennes featuring renegade philosopher and bionic cineaste Slavoj Žižek who also takes part in an ‘In Conversation’ event during the Festival.

Other highlights in this section include Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty, starring Toni Servillo and Isabelle Huppert, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt featuring Mads Mikkelsen’s Cannes award-winning performance, and the European Premiere of Zaytoun.


In-your-face, up-front and arresting, the films in dare will take audiences out of their comfort zone. The Dare Gala is Mira Nair’s Venice-opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist, starring Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Riz Ahmed and Liev Schreiber.

Other highlights in this strand include: the European Premiere of Helter Skelter featuring Japanese supermodel Erika Sawajiri, the World Premiere of Kelly + Victor Kieran Evans’ adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Niall Griffiths, and the International Premiere of Antonio Campos’ Simon Killer, Carlos Reygadas’ Cannes-winner Post Tenebras Lux, Pablo Trapero’s gripping and intelligent drama, White Elephant, and Sergei Loznitsa’s critically celebrated In The Fog.


From laugh out loud through romantic comedy to dry and understated – humour in all its forms can be seen in the laugh section.

A romantic caravan trip quickly descends into chaos when a young couple’s dream holiday takes a wrong turn in acclaimed British director Ben Wheatley’s dark comedy Sighsteers, which has its UK premiere as the Laugh Gala.

Other titles in this strand include the International Premiere of Bollywood-meets-Tollywood Amelie style Aiyya, the UK Premiere of romantic comedy Celeste And Jesse Forever starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg and the European Premiere of Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Grassroots, and the International Premiere of Australian cricketing ‘bro’mantic comedy Save Your Legs!


The films in thrill are nerve shredders that will get the adrenalin pumping and keep audiences on the edge of their seat; The Gala presentation for this section is the World Premiere of Bollywood action epic Chakravyuh, directed by Prakash Jha who will be attending the Festival.

Other highlights in this section include: controversial Sundance hit Compliance, Nordic Noir double bill of Easy Money and its sequel; the Berlin Golden Bear winner Caesar Must Die and Korean box office smash Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time.


The cult section features films from the mind-altering and unclassifiable, to fantasy, sci-fi and horror. The Cult Gala is the European Premiere of A Liar’s Autobiography chronicling the life of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman through multiple animation styles and featuring Chapman’s fellow Pythons in the voice cast.

Other highlights in this section include: Antiviral, the feature film debut of Brandon Cronenberg; the International Premiere of Actress Katie Aselton’s directorial outing, the survival horror Black Rock; Japanese maestro Takashi Miike’s For Love’s Sake and Juan Carlos Medina’s fantasy horror Painless, along with documentaries My Amityville Horror, The Jeffrey Dahmer Files and Room 237.


Whether it’s the journey or the destination, the films in journey will transport and shift perspectives.

Celebrated Romanian director Cristian Mungiu returns to the Festival with Beyond The Hills screening as the Journey Gala . The film won Best Screenplay at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where actresses Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan also shared best actress award.

Other titles in this strand include: riveting Moroccan drama Horses Of God, Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret’s documentary Journal De France, Jem Cohen’s Museum Hours, Michel Gondry’s The We And The I and the World Premiere of Marc Isaac’s new documentary about the A5 – The Road: A Story of Life And Death.


Highlights in the Sonic screening programme include Mat Whitecross’ coming-of-age story Spike Island, about an Indie band of 1990 vintage, who are determined to see their heroes The Stone Roses; Good Vibrations, the biopic of Terri Hooley, Belfast’s Godfather of Punk, which was declared the best Irish film at Galway Film Fleadh earlier this year; and world music is represented with films from Africa and Chile, Kinshasa Kids and Violeta Went To Heaven.


The Festival showcases films for all ages in its family section and this year’s Family Gala is Ernest & Celestine, the delightful animated story of an unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse from the directors of A Town Called Panic.

In addition to Opening Night Gala Frankenweenie, there are five other animated features screening in the Festival as well as an animated shorts programme.

Three of the family features are hand-drawn films from France, and Wolf Children is the new hotly anticipated animated title from Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda.


An original and innovative line-up of short films and animation that will enthral audiences young and old make up this year’s shorts programme including a dedicated section for younger audiences.

Animated shorts for children include The Sandpixies: Da Capo George, The Missing Meatballs and I Want To See Dwarfs.

Once again the London Calling section features a selection of shorts from budding filmmakers from across the capital and this year student films from some of the UK’s best film schools will be showcased in Back to School

These short films feature a host of well known faces including: Alison Steadman, Ralf Little, Tom Hollander, Martin Freeman, Stephen Graham and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.


This year’s the Festival will present its largest ever series of artists moving image programmes, culminating in the annual EXPERIMENTA Weekend from October 19-21, 2012.

In collaboration with the ICA, the Festival will also present several screenings of artists’ films to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair, from October 10-13, 2012.

Peter Kubelka’s new work Antiphon will screen with Arnulf Rainer in an expanded projection event – Monument Film. Both films will be physically installed on the walls of the BFI Southbank Atrium for the duration of the Festival.

The extraordinary presentation of Monument Film in the NFT1 cinema forms the centrepiece of an Experimenta Weekend which is full of outstanding visions. Thom Andersen, Nathaniel Dorsky and Laida Lertxundi return with new films, whilst Mati Diop introduces her award-winning work in London for the first time, and Beatrice Gibson premieres The Tiger’s Mind.


Treasures brings recently restored cinematic treasures from archives around the world to the Festival.

This year’s previously announced Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Manxman at the Empire Leicester Square with a live accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

The Gala marks the grand finale of the BFI’s The Genius of Hitchcock project which commenced in June 2012 and is currently screening at BFI Southbank.

Digital restoration can have spectacular results, as shown in, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, the full length director’s cut of the brand new 4K digital restoration which will premiere at the NFT1 showcasing BFI Southbank’s new 4K projector for the first time.

The screening will be accompanied by a presentation from Grover Crisp, who will give a talk about the restoration work.

Sir Laurence Olivier’s iconic Richard III also benefits from a fully restored print which will be screened at the Festival.

Other highlights include silent movie The Spanish Dancer, a lavish costume romp with a live piano accompaniment; the BFI-backed revival of Roman Polanski’s Tess; a newly made documentary Bergman & Magnani:The War Of Volcanoes screening alongside a restoration of Roberto Rossellini’s Viaggio In Italia and the latest restoration by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, After The Curfew which is a political commentary on what happened after Indonesia was liberated from Dutch occupation.

Events & Exhibitions

The events programme features the highly anticipated Screen Talks and Masterclasses.

This year’s Screen Talks in partnership with American Express, includes celebrated author Salman Rushdie whose adaptation of his own novel Midnight’s Children screens in Official Competition and Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney who is at the Festival with his new film Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God in Documentary Competition.

The Masterclasses, presented in partnership with Swarovski, feature leading music supervisor Ian Neil (Spike Island) and production design team David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco who designed Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths.

Time Out continues to support the free access ‘In Focus’ events, which this year sees four events with a focus on British Cinema.

The Art of Frankenweenie Exhibition supported by American Express is taking place at the Festival Village, Southbank Centre.

In addition, the Festival is proud to be working alongside the V&A’s major autumn exhibition Hollywood Costume with two events celebrating the role of costume on film and featuring the exhibition’s senior curator, the Academy Award- nominated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis.