DN is back at London Film Festival this year and it’s shaping up to be another doozy. With new films from Martin Scorsese, Rian Johnson, Taika Waititi and The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, featuring in headline galas this year, it’s fair to say the heavyweights are present at the festival once again. As per though, we at DN like to cast our sights on those who aren’t afforded the spotlight as much, and with a raft of great independent filmmakers both returning and debuting at the festival this year, we wanted to give you our rundown of what we’re excited to watch at this year’s London Film Festival.
First up is a returning personal favourite as acclaimed Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan makes his return to London with Matthias & Maxime, a film centring on the titular duo as they are forced to confront dormant feelings during a film production, leaving them to reckon with their sexual identities. It’s been heralded as a return to form for Dolan, whose last film The Death and Life of John F. Donovan was received poorly by critics last year, subsequently becoming unreleased in the UK. Fingers crossed on this one for sure. He’ll also be accompanied by fellow countryman Atom Egoyan, who we’ve kept tabs on since our Adoration interview over ten years ago, with his new film Guest of Honour.
Fellow DN alumn Anthony Chen is following up his award winning first feature Ilo Ilo with Wet Season, a sweeping portrait of a woman on a journey of self-rediscovery and similarly, it’s a pleasure to see Animator Jérémy Clapin, whose career we took a deep dive into, debuting his striking new animated feature I Lost My Body.
Lorcan Finnegan who previously chilled us with vulpine horror short Foxes, also makes the leap from shorts to features with the Jesse Eisenberg starring Vivarium.
Robert Eggers returns to British shores with his black and white, 16mm nautical horror The Lighthouse. Starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Defoe, it’s a film that took Cannes by storm earlier in the year and will no doubt be making waves at this year’s festival, appearing as the Gala of the Cult Strand. If his debut feature The Witch is anything to go by, The Lighthouse will be unlike anything else you’ll see this year.
Rounding off the other features we’re excited for are Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, whose remarkable debut feature Water Lillies, along with subsequent features Tomboy and Girlhood, are all extraordinary documents of adolescence in the face of a wider confronting society, and I have no doubt that her latest will be just as enthralling. Rosie Plays Julie sees Irish directing duo Desperate Optimists (Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor) return with a gripping drama centred on a young woman tracking down the identity of her biological mother. Molloy and Lawlor, who last joined us with their impressive first feature Helen, are a directing pair that never cease to craft creative and thought-provoking cinema. Well worth your time. I’m intrigued to see a Korean film called Heart, a film being described as Fleabag meets Hong Sang-soo (which I think is possibly the easiest sell I’ve read to get me in a cinema seat), it’s a romantic drama centred on a young filmmaker and the ill advised situation she finds herself intertwined in. The script has been praised for the brazen dialogue featured throughout many drunken conversations so it’s certain to be worth catching for that alone if that’s your tipple.
Finally, documentary filmmaker Matt Wolf makes the leap to feature with Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, about an African-American activist who recorded 30 years of TV news. I had the pleasure of catching up with Wolf for his Bayard Rustin doc Bayard & Me a couple of years ago so look forward to seeing him at work on a larger canvas.
Now, onwards to the shorts which always hold a special appeal for us here at DN. The short film programme this year at LFF is stacked with appearances from new and established filmmakers alike. In terms of the well-known, there’ll be new works from both Yorgos Lanthimos and Game of Thrones’ very own Cersei Lannister, Lena Headey, whose debut short as a director The Trap is playing the festival this year. Returning DN favourites Alice Seabright and Rosie Westhoff are present with End-O, a Kickstarted comedy-drama about Endometriosis, and Our Sister, which follows a grief-stricken autistic teenager, respectively. We’ve been a fan of both filmmakers for a while now and it’s terrific to see them get the spotlight once again. What Do You Know About The Water And The Moon by Jian Luo is one of the more unique shorts of offer this year, following the story of a 17 year old girl who gives birth to a jellyfish in her bathroom. I caught it recently at Encounters Film Festival in Bristol and it’s been lodged in my mind ever since. For fans of genre filmmaking, Leszek Mozga’s Roadkill is an animated short in an alternate universe where Deers are the dominant species, it’s a film which operates as a darkly hilarious black comedy and isn’t afraid to go to uncomfortable places.
Aside from the aforementioned it’s always fantastic to see a huge stack of other DN alums whose short films we’ll proudly be supporting at this year’s festival including the likes of Ruth Paxton with her Maxine Peake starring autopsy horror Be Still My Beating Heart. We’ve long been fans of Paxton’s experimentational approach to filmmaking, and have no doubt that her latest short will be an equal measure of enthralling and disturbing. Kaveh Mazaheri is at the festival with insurance fraud short Funfair, we spoke with Mazaheri two years ago for his previous short Retouch, which is worth checking out if just for the stories surrounding his access to the festival circuit in the wake of the Trump travel ban. The director of the emotional rollercoaster that was Wren Boys Harry Lighton has partnered up with fellow directors Marco Alessi and Matthew Jacobs Morgan for Pomepeii, which sees a young man reliving his night out via social media stories. Similarly, Trim Lamba, who’s previous social media-centric short Cracked Screen: A Snapchat Story acerbically commented on the state of tech culture, is back with Broken News, which seeks to examine the exploitation behind circulation culture. Finally, we’re excited to catch Michael Frei’s latest short Kids which is presented by renowned game studio Double Fine, whose continually innovative work makes this seal of approval all the more interesting.
All in all, it’s looking pretty darn good this year. The lineup of films on offer continues to be widespread and extensive so do be sure to have a rummage through the programme. They’ll be a few of us in tow at the festival this year so you can expect plenty of coverage across our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages, or alternatively, pop along to a screening and say hi in person. It’ll undoubtably be another exciting festival.
You can catch up on all of DN’s coverage from the London Film Festival here.