| The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival


The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival

The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival


Feature by: Tom Huddleston

Posted on: 07 October 2007

In contrast to many of last year’s relatively sedate, old fashioned gala screening choices, the big films at this year’s London Film Festival feel achingly modern. It has a lot to do with the current cultural and geopolitical climate, but Western cinema in particular seems bent on exploring themes of war, loss and grief, confronting the issues head on.

The big world premiere at this year’s festival is Lions For Lambs, an all-star Washington talkathon in which Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and director Robert Redford discuss the moral issues of the War on Terror in a series of dimly lit, oak-panelled rooms. Also on the home front, Grace Is Gone features John Cusack as a grieving, everyman war widower struggling to explain events to his family. Taking a more direct approach are two films which combine documentary and fiction: Nick Broomfield’s ironically titled Battle For Haditha utilises eyewitness accounts to re-enact the infamous civilian massacre, while Brian DePalma’s Redacted combines testimony, youtube videos and media coverage to tell a fictitious story based on similar events.

Another popular contemporary theme for this year’s crop of filmmakers is the culture of celebrity and image. I’m Not There is Todd Haynes’ fractured and episodic attempt to tell the Bob Dylan story, and although the images look extraordinary some of the performances have already drawn criticism. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is another revisionist autopsy of a popular American idol, filtering the conflict between ‘hero’ James and ‘villain’ Ford through the lens of the modern star-fan relationship. Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely uses the phenomenon of look-alikes to explore some of the same themes, with Diego Luna as a dejected Michael Jackson escaping his grim life in Paris to join a Highland commune of similarly afflicted nonentities.

In the new Europe, a recurring motif seems to be migration. Festival opener Eastern Promises takes a slam-bang look at Russian organised crime on the streets of London, while Import/Export explores the hardships of immigrants fleeing the post-communist East. Asif Kapadia’s Far North tells the story of two Arctic women escaping an invasion of their homeland, while Julio Medem’s kaleidoscopic thriller Chaotic Ana follows it’s central character through past lives and across entire continents.

In the world cinema category, the number of topics and themes covered is almost as plentiful as the countries represented: Let’s Finish!!! explores the phenomenon of Korean suicide cults while the ravishingly monochrome Frozen follows the troubled adolescence of a girl in remotest Himalayan India. The World Unseen deals with the conflicted lives of Indian women in apartheid-era South Africa, while La Zona explores themes of privilege and equality in modern day Mexico.

But it isn’t all violence, hardship and self discovery. As with last year’s event, there are a number of films both for and about children. In the former category we find the welcome return of Jerry Seinfeld with the computer animated Bee Movie, and a dark and intriguing take on Sandinavian folklore in Island Of Lost Souls. In the latter comes Son Of Rambow, in which a pair of violence-obsessed English preteens attempt to make a sequel to the eponymous 80’s classic, and Shotgun Stories, about a fatherless family of boys growing up in rural Arkansas.

The festival runs from October 17th – November 1st, 2007 at venues across London. Please refer to this page during the coming weeks for reviews of select festival films.

Island of Lost Souls 09 October
Garage 10 October
Exodus 14 October
Friends of Jesus 15 October
We Want Roses Too 16 October
The Trap 17 October
Captain Ahab 18 October
Shotgun Stories 19 October
Savage Grace 23 October
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 24 October
The World Unseen 28 October
Things We Lost In The Fire 29 October
Lions for Lambs 02 November
Talk to Me 04 November
Redacted 06 November
Battle For Haditha 06 November
Chaotic Ana 08 November
Angel 12 November
Juno 12 November
Fay Grim 15 November
Reservation Road 21 November
I’m Not There 21 November


We don’t do comments anymore, but you may contact us here or find us on Twitter or Facebook.