Bill’s Highlights From #LIFF2018

Bill Walton looks back at his highlights of Leeds International Film Festival 2018:

This year I got to 32 screenings, the majority at the Hyde Park Picture House. My choices were nearly all booked in advance from the programme, often with little background knowledge. This can mean missing out on some films that turn out to be very popular, but also means a lot of delightful surprises. Now that the experience has had time to settle, here are the films that stuck in my mind.

Night Train

A lot of my highlights were in the Time Frames section, and were in black and white: Night Train (1959), 12 Angry Men (1957), Odd Man Out (1947), The Docks of New York (1928) with live musical accompaniment, and my festival favourite La Notte (1961) which is just beautiful. I also enjoyed comedies like After Hours (1985) and Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018).

Capernaum

One of the things I like about the Festival is the rare chance to see films made in areas of conflict, often in the face of physical danger and on a financial shoestring. I would highlight Capernaum (2018) set in Beirut, The Journey (2017) set in Baghdad, and The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (2018) set in West and East Jerusalem. They were nicely complemented by the thoughtful documentary What is Democracy? (2018).

Tampopo

Then there were delightful films like The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) – another top film for me -; a very funny Japanese food-based comedy Tampopo (1985); In The Aisles (2018) set in a huge German supermarket; and highly original Belgian animations This Magnificent Cake + Oh Willy (2018).

I avoided headline films like Peterloo (2018) and Suspiria (2018) because I know that I’ll soon be able to catch them when they are released more widely. A big thank you to everyone who made LIFF 2018 possible.

 


Bill Walton

My #LIFF2018 roundup

The film festival is over for another year and what an amazing two weeks it was. I managed to fit in 47 films with a total running time of 82 hours which I thought was a lot until I saw somebody had made it to 70-something screenings. I think it’s an incredible achievement by everybody involved that it’s possible for somebody to see so many films and find something to like about all of them. There were some films I struggled with (Happy As Lazzaro and Birds of Passage) but I think this was more down to my own tiredness (one of the problems of seeing so many films). Other films such as Genesis 2.0, Killing God, Await Further Instructions and I Feel Good all had great ideas that got a bit lost in the final film.

My favourite films this year were all retrospectives from the brilliant Time Frames series. I’ve always loved the Before films and it was relief to find Before Sunrise was as good as I remembered. I finally got to see 12 Angry Men for the first time and it was every bit as good as I had expected. 12 Angry Men was one of many films that seemed surprisingly relevant for 2018, as was Sidney Lumet’s other film,  Fail-Safe, another first viewing for me and made even more tense by the shadow of Trump hanging over it.

Of the new films it was Anna and The Apocalypse that I enjoyed the most. It’s the best Scottish zombie high school Christmas musical you’re going to see for some time and the soundtrack (out now) is brilliant. The audience for Pond Life seemed to be made up mostly of cast, crew and their friends and I’m not sure how many festival goers saw it or what people not involved with the film thought of it. It’s far from a perfect film but there was something about it that I really loved and I do hope that when it’s released next summer it finds an audience that appreciated it as much as I did.  In Fabric was another new film that completely pulled me in;I can’t begin to explain what it was about but I absolutely loved it.

This year I was also pleasantly surprised by a lot of the more ‘mainstream’ films. One of my few 5 star ratings was for Beautiful Boy and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Widows, The Kindergarten Teacher and Colette were all much better than I was expecting.

I’ve tried to put all the films I saw in some order over on Letterboxd where you can also find my brief thoughts hastily written between films or at the end of a long day.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on the festival in the comments or if you would like to write a longer blog post (on the festival or anything else) get in touch.

Film Festival Programme 2018

The full programme for the 32nd Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF2018) is out now. The film guide should be available to pick up in the usual places, including the Picture House (an online version doesn’t seem to be available yet). The programme is  on the Leeds Film City website,  a Clashfinder has been put together which is really useful tool to help plan your festival and there’s a Letterboxd list of all the films.

There are more than a hundred films to choose from as well as several programmes of short films and other events. The difficult process of deciding what to see begins and we’d love to hear what you think of the programme and are planning to see; let us know in the comments and we look forward to seeing you in November.

Keswick Film Festival

Keswick FIlm Festival Poster

As well as serving on the committee for the Friends I’m also involved with Keswick Film Club and in a few weeks their 19th Film Festival will be taking place. I grew up near Keswick and the film club played an important part in developing my love for art house cinema. I’ll be heading back to the Lake District town for the festival and would easily recommend a visit to see some great films in an idyllic location.

There are many films from LIFF in the programme so a great chance to catch up with some you may have missed or just want to see again. The Rider (a wonderful surprise for me and I may see it again), Sami Blood, Blade Of The Immortal, Dark River, The Square and, like Leeds, the festival will be closing with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

There are films you (probably) won’t have seen yet. Director Simon Hunter will open the festival with Edie, starring Sheila Hancock as an 84 year old who is determine to climb a mountain. A Fantastic Woman has been wowing festival audiences and critics around the world and François Ozon’s L’Amant Double has yet to get a UK release date. We also have one of the first screenings of John Hurt’s final film, That Good Night. John was the patron of the festival and visited a number of times, his wife will be introducing the film.

We’re also delighted to be showing Ken Russell’s Clouds Of Glory, thought for many years to have been lost. Commissioned by Melvyn Bragg for Granada TV, this is Ken Russell’s interpretation of the lives and loves of Coleridge and Wordsworth and was filmed locally. The screening accompanies a talk, Cumbria On Film, exploring how the region has been used for films over the years including Withnail & I and The Force Awakens.

There are also talks on director George Stevens (with screenings of Shane and Woman Of The Year) and “Scared Stiff in the 1960” before a late night screening of the original Night Of The Living Dead.

There are many more films and more guests and I haven’t even mentioned the short film competition which I’m most heavily involved with.

The festival runs from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th February, tickets are £6.50  and passes for the whole weekend are £55 (concessions are available). It mostly takes place in two venues so you can see about half of the entire programme if you get a pass.

And it’s not just about the films, Keswick is great place to visit (especially at this time of year?) and it’s only a few hours away from Leeds.

 

Leeds International Film Festival 2017

lcf_liff-2

Last week the programme for LIFF2017 was launched along with the new Leeds Film City website (also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). The paper programme should be available in the usual places (including the Picture House) and there is also a PDF version.

As always the programme is packed full of a wide variety of films and deciding what to see is tough process for film lovers. In the end I made a lot of my choices on how easily I could get from one screening to the next, of course it wouldn’t be LIFF if I didn’t have a few dashes between town and the Picture House. I made a clashfinder which shows which films are on at the same time and you may find it useful when you’re planning your festival. Other people are using the clashfinder which means I can see what films are getting highlighted the most and, although this may not reflect ticket sales, the current top 10 is as follows:

  1. The Square: Opening Film
  2. The Florida Project
  3. Bad Genius
  4. Summer Time Machine Blues
  5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Opening Film
  6. Dave Made a Maze
  7. Happy End
  8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Closing Film
  9. The Endless
  10. Good Time

I’m hoping to see all of those films so that list doesn’t surprise me much. I’ve got another 40 or so films in my current plan plus this year I’m hoping to try Night Of The Dead for the first time! What else am I looking forward to? Well there’s new films from Clio Barnard (Dark River) and Paddy Considine (Journeyman), the breakfast screening of Amélie should be a delight (plus it’s a 35mm print) and Mutafukaz looks like it’s the kind of craziness we’ve all come to expect from the festival.

What about you? What films are you looking forward to seeing and have you managed to put together a plan yet? Let us know in the comments.

Yorkshire Silent Film Festival

The first ever Yorkshire Silent Film Festival is taking place throughout July at various venues across the region. On Sunday there are four events at the Picture House with a day pass available for members for £15 (passes for non-members are £19/£17).

Harry Houdini Stars in The Grim Game (1919)

houdini

Showing at 12:40pm

Escapologist and illusionist Harry Houdini plays a man framed and imprisoned who escapes his cell and ruthlessly pursues the criminals who set him up. Lost for many years, this film was rediscovered in 2014 in the Brooklyn apartment of a retired juggler. It’s full of outlandish, breathtaking sequences, including Houdini’s world famous escape from a straitjacket while suspended from a skyscraper and a real-life mid-air plane collision which was later incorporated into the plot.

Live musical accompaniment by Jonathan Best Continue reading

Leeds Young Film Festival 2016

lyff2016

Now in it’s 17th year, the Leeds Young Film Festival starts this Thursday and as always there’s plenty to see for people of all ages. Taking place throughout the Easter school holidays (24th-31st March) the festival is aimed at young people but every year it always impresses with a great selection of films. If you’re ignoring the programme because it’s a “Kids’ festival” you’re likely to be missing out.

For starters there’s another chance to see some of the LIFF29 films you may not have seen (or want to see again):  Assassination Classroom (2015), Breaking A Monster (2015), Landfill Harmonic (2015), Lovemilla (2015) and Crow’s Egg (2014) are all showing at the Picture House. On Good Friday, tribute screenings of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) and Labyrinth (1986) allow us to remember the great work of Alan Rickman and David Bowie. Good Friday continues with 25th Anniversary screenings of the deliciously bizarre  Delicatessen (1991) and Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs (1991), who we also sadly lost last year.

Not For Rental is a programme of films curated by 15-19 year olds that runs throughout the year. Their selection for the festival are all showing at the Picture House and includes Studio Ghibli’s latest (and possibly last) When Marnie Was There (2014) and Boy and the Beast (2015) from the makers of Wolf Children and Summer Wars which have both screened at LIFF. Not For Rental have also programmed this week’s Creatures Of The Night and Tuesday Wonder slots. The late night (but slightly earlier than usual at 10:30pm) screening of Aliens (1986) should be great after seeing Alien at LIFF a few years ago and on Tuesday He Named Me Malala (2015) is the inspirational documentary about the the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, 17 year old Malala Yousafzai. Continue reading

Changing the World One Film at a Time

Friends committee member Bill Walton picks out some highlights from the first week of the 29th Leeds International Film Festival.

What I really like about the Leeds International Film Festival is the sheer variety of  subjects, styles, genres, formats, and cultures. Thus the Festival gives me a glimpse of the world seen through other eyes.

A few examples of films that were both entertaining and thought-provoking are Tangerine (2015): a lively, low budget film set in Los Angeles, which gives food for thought about sexual identity.

Tangerine

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LIFF preview – Pyaasa, India 1957.

LIFF screening Saturday November 7th 1400.

A memorable film from the 1950s Hindi Cinema. “Producer and director Guru Dutt’s intensely original film [The Thirsty One] is widely considered one of India’s unquestionable classics, striking a chord with its  vision of the romantic artist in conflict with an unfeeling materialistic world.” (Cinema Ritrovato Catalogue, 2014).

Gulab and Vijay

Gulab and Vijay

Guru Dutt also appears in the film as the poet Vijay, opposite Mala Sinha as Meena and Waheeda Rehman as Gulab. The film has a distinctive use of music and songs and exemplary black and white cinematography with fine use of crane shots. The music is by Y. G. Chawhan and the cinematography by V. K. Murthy. Dutt’s collaboration with these two artists and with the cast and production team offers a control of sound and image that stands out in the period.

Pyaasa is among a number of films from The Golden Age of Indian cinema, [late 1940s and 1950s] which have been restored and made available in either 35mm or digital versions by the recently established Film Heritage Foundation. The films offer the pleasures of the distinctive Indian musical film form. They combine melodrama and emotion with great dance and musical sequences. Pyaasa is in Academy ratio and runs 143 minutes. So this is a rare opportunity to see not just an Indian classic but an outstanding film of World Cinema.

London and Leeds Film Festivals

Jake Baldwinson reports back from the London Film Festival and looks forward to Leeds annual film festival next month.

London Film Festival

Last Friday saw the launch of the Leeds International Film Festival programme. Now, I would normally spend the following weekend poring over the free guide, working out a schedule for my filmgoing highlight of the year. This time around, however, I was attending part of  the BFI London Film Festival. I ended up packing in 7 films over a hectic couple of days, including two that have been selected for the Leeds Film Festival this year.

What I find exciting about attending a film festival, even if just for a day or two, is experiencing a melting pot of different narrative voices in a short period of time. On my Saturday in London, I went to 4 screenings; beginning with a fiction feature set in Mexico, shot in an eye-catching circular frame using innovative techniques by the filmmakers. I then finished with a documentary about a culture under threat in Thailand and Burma, filmed in a collage-style using several different formats underwater and on land. These are the complementary screenings (or ones that intriguingly clash) that you would only find at a film fest. The former, entitled Lucifer, is screening a total of three times in Leeds as part of the festival in November, and I would really recommend it. Another from LIFF’s Official Selection that I caught in London was Jafar Panahi’s extremely enjoyable, Taxi, also showing three times (including once at The Hyde Park Picture House.)

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