From the Ealing Comedies to Stanley Kubrick repurposing our inner city locations for his own nefarious ends, London has long played a starring role in the global movie industry. And while our streets and studios are currently being used to shoot everything from a new James Bond to the Avengers 2 (and the other day, a Kevin Costner flick right outside our office), the BFI London Film Festival is getting ready to showcase a whole plethora of London-linked projects. We take a closer look and pick the ones Londoners should look out for.
SECOND COMING — Idris Elba stars as a tube driver in this allegorical kitchen sink drama about a London couple coming to terms with what seems to be an immaculate conception. This is the debut film of playwright debbie tucker green (she prefers lower case, the rebel).
NIGHT BUS — Exactly what it says on the tin, this comedy-drama covers a cross-section of late night Londoners as they take a nocturnal ride through town. Writer-director Simon Baker’s debut effort tells the stories of the lost souls, drunks and fare-dodgers we have all had to contend with when we’ve missed the last train (noooooo).
WAR BOOK — This clammy conspiracy thriller set in the back rooms of Parliament explores a secret nuclear protocol from the 50s which is activated to test the men and women in charge of keeping the UK safe. It stars Sophie Okonedo, Ben Chaplin and Antony Sher and features rat-a-tat West Wing style dialogue by Jack Thorne.
HONEYTRAP — Peer pressure and betrayal in Brixton: Layla arrives in London from Trinidad and, desperate to fit in, soon finds herself crossing lines before getting sucked into a situation that turns tragically violent. Writer-director Rebecca Johnson was inspired by real life cases in this exploration of London gang culture from a girl’s perspective.
NATIONAL GALLERY — This documentary by veteran film-maker Frederick Wiseman goes behind the scenes of the Trafalgar Square landmark: three hypnotic hours of curators, visitors and artwork, from Da Vinci to Degas.
SNOW IN PARADISE — Exploring key issues of the day, this Hoxton-set drama depicts the story of an East End boy’s descent into crime before he then turns to Islam. Andrew Hulme’s thriller is inspired by the true experiences of his co-writer and co-star Martin Askew.
BJORK: BIOPHILIA — Shot at Alexandra Palace in 2013, this visual treat, directed by Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland, captures the mad Icelandic munchkin and her latest musical art project Biophilia in all their pomp and glory.
72-82 — William Raban documents the first decade of work by ground-breaking charity Acme Studios. The London-based project was created to house artists and help them find studio space, as well as putting on exhibitions, with a run of notable shows in the Acme Gallery based in Covent Garden from 1976-81.
AUSTIN TO BOSTON — Half documentary, half road movie, this one sees a group of London musicians, gathered together by the Communion artist collective to travel 3,000 miles in two weeks in five old VW camper vans as they attempt to crack America.
RADIATOR — Tom Browne’s blackly-comic drama centres around a middle-aged man from London going to live in Cumbria, where he attempts to re-order the lives of his scatter-brained parents.
MARC QUINN: MAKING WAVES — This globe-trotting documentary covers one year in the life of the London artist. It asks questions about creativity as it zips between Quinn’s meeting with the Queen, exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show, then New York and Venice, where his iconic statue of Alison Lapper was displayed following its starring role in the London 2012 Paralympics.
ROSEWATER — TV satirist Jon Stewart’s directorial debut is about the London-based journalist Maziar Bahari, played here by Gael García Bernal, who spent four months being brutally interrogated in Iran in 2009.
THE IMITATION GAME — As if you didn’t know already: Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley star in this biopic about code-breaker Alan Turing. And while the story is set largely in Bletchley Park, Turing was born in Maida Vale and scenes in the movie show London in the Blitz.
TESTAMENT OF YOUTH — This First World War drama tells the true story of Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) who gave up her studies at Oxford to become a nurse in London before heading into conflict. Scenes were shot in locations around the city, including Greenwich.
MR. TURNER — Mike Leigh’s already much-vaunted new work about the great 18th century artist features his disputes with the Royal Academy and was partially-filmed in London, including the Georgian terraces around Lord North Street in Westminster.
A LITTLE CHAOS — Alan Rickman’s directorial debut is set in 17th century Versailles, but was filmed on location in England, including Richmond.
ELECTRICITY — There’s a model-off this year with Agyness Deyn taking on Cara Delevigne (see below) to see if either can cut it as an actor. Deyn, who recently said she was ‘retired’ from the catwalk (at the ancient age of 31), stars in this story about a woman whose epilepsy causes hallucinations, looking for her lost brother.
FACE OF AN ANGEL — Criminally-underexposed model Cara Delevingne gets a thoroughly-deserved leg up thanks to Michael Winterbottom. She appears here, alongside Daniel Brühl as a film-maker from London, in a crime drama inspired by the Amanda Knox case.
For those whose attention span has been shredded by modern technology, there are plenty of short films that provide a sharp shot of cinema. Film London launches its collection of specially-developed shorts under the banner London Calling, which includes Sarmad Masud’s prize-winning Two Dosas, in which geeky Pavan takes his ‘English Rose’ on a date to an Indian restaurant, where she orders off-menu and to Pavan’s growing horror, speaks in Hindi. There’s also actor Riz Ahmed’s directorial debut Daytimer, about a kid skipping school to go to a rave.
Elsewhere, you can see He Took His Skin Off For Me, which is half rom-com, half body-horror, about a man declaring his love by peeling off his outer layer, grisly but great (and filmed in Acton). Mustapha Kseibati gives us Mohammed, about a young boy caring for his older superhero-obsessed brother with learning difficulties. The drama Resonant Frequency charts a paranoid schizophrenic’s descent into psychosis and was shot on the Wyndham Estate in Camberwell. Then there’s the mesmerising fantasy The Nostalgist by Giacomo Cimini (trailer above), which was filmed inside the incredible Farmiloe Building in Clerkenwell, made to look here like a retro-futuristic city thanks to some stunning and very clever cinematography. There’s also The Showreel in which a cleaner dreams of being a screen actor, shot partly in Canary Wharf and Soho. Then finally, look out for Half Wet, an animation by London-based artist Sophie Koko Gate taht takes us back to our origins in the sea.
Tickets to films at the BFI London Film Festival are available here. The festival runs from 8-19 October.