The line-up for this year’s BFI London Film Festival has been announced; and it’s a bumper year for Tom Hanks fans as the Hollywood star gets a look-in at both the Opening and Closing Night Galas.
Hanks opens the festival with his latest film, Captain Phillips, directed by British “Bourne-Identity” filmmaker Paul Greengrass. It’s a biopic of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. The Closing Night Gala, Saving Mister Banks, recreates the meeting of writer PL Travers (played by Emma Thompson) and Walt Disney (Hanks) in Hollywood to discuss a film of Mary Poppins. Clips suggest a crowd-pleasing cultural clash between stiff-upper-lipped Brits and our gregarious American cousins.
Real life dramas are a recurring theme of this year’s festival. As well as Steve McQueen’s true story 12 Years A Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch, there’s Parkland, about the assassination of President John F Kennedy, with Zac Efron and Paul Giamatti, and guaranteed-weepy Philomena directed by Stephen Frears starring Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, about the true life scandal of the baby sold to adoption by the Catholic church.
In among the 234 fiction and documentary features (including 16 international premieres and 29 European premieres), there are more big names to drop: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in sci-fi thriller Gravity; Kate Winslet in Labor Day; Daniel Radcliffe as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings; and Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis.
We also like the sound of Ralph Fiennes’s The Invisible Woman, about Charles Dickens and his lover Nelly Ternan, co-starring Felicity Jones and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Sometimes people can be snotty about the London Film Festival. Sure, a lot of these big releases have already been screened at posher festivals in Toronto, Cannes and Venice.
But the London Film Festival is our film festival. The brilliant thing about LFF is that it’s not just event for film industry insiders. Joe Public can buy tickets for almost all the festival’s screenings, giving you the chance to watch a new release alongside the film’s actors, directors, and producers. In keeping with this democratic tradition, you’ll find festival films are shown all over the city too, from the Hackney Picturehouse to the Ritzy in Brixton, as well as in the swanky West End cinemas.
But tickets go fast. So here’s a head’s up: you’ve got until 12 September to become a BFI member, giving you priority on bookings. At the mo, they’re offering a special festival rate, so a year’s membership costs £35 instead of £42. If you’re hoping to share some popcorn with Mr Hanks over one of his movies, we suggest you join up and get planning.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from 9 to 20 October at various venues across the city. Visit bfi.org.uk/lff to find out more.