London Film Festival returns for its 67th outing this year from the 4th – 15th October and, much like the last couple of years of the festival, the main bulk of the screenings will take place in venues across London with a selection of the programme dubbed LFF on Tour screening in partner venues country-wide. In addition to these in-venue screenings, a collection of featured films will also be available for free during the festival’s scheduled dates, with the festival’s nominated short film competition titles also available online on the BFI Player, which means that even if you’re unable to get down to any of the in-person screenings you can still get a taster of what’s on offer.
In terms of the work we’re keen to see, the lineup of feature films this year is impressively stacked with swathes of contemporary auteurs presenting new work at the festival. Some of the most coveted tickets in town are bound to be for The Boy and The Heron and Killers of the Flower Moon. The former is Studio Ghibli legend and animation-extraordinaire Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature since 2013’s The Wind Rises and whilst stills, a trailer, and much information about the film have been making their way onto the internet in recent weeks, I’ve been trying to avoid it all like the plague in order to experience the film organically like Japanese audiences did earlier in the year. The latter is Martin Scorsese’s latest work, a Leonardo Di Caprio-starring epic western drama about a collection of Native American murders that took place in 1920s Oklahoma. It garnered a really strong reception out of Cannes earlier this year and, let’s be honest, Marty rarely misses.
In terms of other well-regarded, big-name filmmakers, David Fincher returns with The Killer, a taut assassination thriller adapted from a French graphic novel starring Michael Fassbender. Bradley Cooper will be in London with his Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro which, if the trailer is anything to go by, looks like an elegant yet knotty depiction of the famed composer’s marriage to Felicia Montealegre. Sofia Coppola will be present with Priscilla, her adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s memoir, which, from the early critical reception, sounds like a complex and intimate counterpart to Baz Luhrmann’s high-octane blockbuster of her late husband. And Yorgos Lanthimos brings his unique brand of absurdism to the table with Poor Things, a steampunk black comedy that, for many critics, seemed to be the cream of the crop at Venice Film Festival last month. It’s also a project which has highlighted the critical importance of intimacy coordinators, with Lanthimos extolling the talents of EK Intimacy’s Elle McAlpine (“She made everything much easier for everyone.”) who’ll be joining us during the festival for an exhaustive interview about her work.
This small list of iconic filmmakers feels like a drop in the pond of acclaimed directors with features on show. I didn’t even mention the likes of Johnathan Glazer, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Jeff Nichols, Richard Linklater, Todd Haynes, Andrew Haigh, Hirokazu Koreeda, Wim Wenders or Michel Gondry who will also be in attendance.
Aside from the glut of stars in attendance, we definitely want to throw a spotlight on a number of smaller, independent filmmakers who have work screening that we’re excited to catch too. Directing duo, and brothers, Turner and Bill Ross IV will be there with Gasoline Rainbow, a youthful road trip movie that will be their follow-up to previous DN fave Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets. Ben Hecking’s loose, low-fi drama Haar has drawn comparisons to Jim Jarmusch and John Cassavetes, which has certainly perked our ears. Robert Morgan’s Stopmotion looks to be an eerie, strange mix of traditional horror and darkly beautiful animation which comes as no surprise given our love for his 2011 short Bobby Yeah. Playing in the Official Competition is Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s Baltimore, a feature we’re excited to catch as we’ve long been fans of the Irish Co-Directors, having featured their work several times.
Rachel Ramsay and James Erskine (who we spoke to during the 2018’s LFF for The Ice King) are present with Copa ’71, a documentary that looks to throw light on an historic moment from the Women’s World Cup. The much-talked-about Cannes Un Certain Regard winner How To Have Sex from Molly Manning Walker is set also to play, her a filmmaker we’ve had our eye since being impressed by her short Good Thanks, You? back at the 2020 edition of LFF. Prolific documentarian Alexander Phillips, who we first spoke to over ten years ago, is also part of the proceedings with his new project You Can Call Me Bill. And lastly, on the features front, we’re keen to watch Sean Price Williams’ The Sweet East, as fans of his work with the Safdie brothers and Michael Bilandic as a cinematographer, we’re very much intrigued to see how he’ll fare in the director’s chair.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Directors Notes preview if we didn’t shine a light on a handful of the short films we’re keen to see. First up two time DN alum Solmund MacPherson is present and counted for with Wildmen of the Greater Toronto Area and if MacPherson’s previous work is anything to go by, you can definitely expect a gripping, off-kilter tale that will be unlike anything else at the festival. Pu Ekaw Tnod is a new horror short from Eat Pretty filmmaker Rebecca Culverhouse that looks brilliantly unsettling. Eric K. Boulianne’s comedy drama Making Babies is about, you guessed it, a couple trying to make a baby, and all the challenges and trials that throws their way.
In terms of other filmmakers who have been featured on DN, Rob Price will have Strangers on show which looks to be a dark atmospheric short about a tense encounter on a dog walk. Mother of Mine is the new film from Jesse Lewis Reece, who we spoke to about his BAFTA nominated visual poem Eyelash. Joe Weiland, who DN spoke to a couple of months back, is present with Gorka, an excellent seaside slice-of-life dramedy about an exchange student who gets partnered with a family suddenly facing crisis, it is one we’ve already seen but we’ll definitely be using LFF as an excuse to rewatch. And to conclude, you can expect to read an interview with Festival of Slaps screening Director Abdou Cissé about his action-packed, Pan African parenting short on DN’s pages in the not-too-distant future.
Before we wrap up, it’s also worth mentioning that in recent years London Film Festival has also shown an adaptive attitude towards the multitude of storytelling formats that have arisen in the digital age. The days of exclusively screening feature films and shorts are no more, with LFF showcasing a variety of upcoming series and immersive storytelling experiences alongside the rest of its programme.
Whatever you decide to watch however, it’s bound to be another exciting year for those on UK shores and beyond who want to catch the best in contemporary cinema from around the world, and if you’re keen to get tickets but have yet to do so, you can head over to the London Film Festival website now to find out all the necessary info.