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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
The film festival may be over but with arguably one of their best programmes, there’s still plenty to talk about. We asked our contributors for their highlights from LIFF2017 and it would be great to see yours in the comments:
- The Wages of Fear
- Lover for a Day
- The Teacher
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Gaza Surf Club
- Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
- The Rider
- Happy End
- Happy End
- Taste of Cherry / Ta’m e guilass
And the best film not screened at the Festival, Oktyabr / October 1917 (Ten Days that Shook the World, 1928), co-written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- The Florida Project
- Good Time
- Bad Genius
- You Were Never Really Here
- The Breadwinner
- The Rider
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:
- The Square: Opening Film
- The Florida Project
- Bad Genius
- Summer Time Machine Blues
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Opening Film
- Dave Made a Maze
- Happy End
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Closing Film
- The Endless
- 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.
The film festival is over for another year and once again has provided Leeds with a fantastic selection of films. Below we share five of our highlights from the festival and would love to see yours in the comments:
There are so many films being made around the world! The Leeds Film Festival programme is just a small sample, and the thirty or so films I saw are just a small sample of what the Festival had to offer. Here are 5 films that I enjoyed, in no particular order:
- Sieranevada – a beautifully directed and acted glimpse of a Romanian
family’s memorial commemoration, which also says something about wider
Eastern European society.
- Chi-raq – Spike Lee’s theatrical exploration of the issues around Black
Lives Matter, made with the involvement of people living in Chicago’s
- Lonesome – a love story, with live organ accompaniment, mostly set in
Coney Island, and made at a time when silent films were giving way to
the new ‘talkies’
- The Handmaiden – an exciting and beautiful Korean/Japanese story, with
different perspectives challenging us to work out what is really going
- Fukushima, Mon Amour – the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and
nuclear reactor meltdown, is the setting for this film about the lives
of people 5 years later, as seen through the eyes of a German woman who
wants to bring some pleasure to their lives
I could have added another 5 quite easily.
- The Art of Negative Thinking – Scandinavian filmmakers excel at combining disability and humour.
- Certain Women –Three well crafted stories, four excellent performances.
- Mimosas – Very fine visually but the story requires careful thought and study.
- Old Stone – A good Samaritan suffers under Chinese capitalism.
- Woman of the Dunes – A black and white classic in a good 35mm print.
- Mindhorn – The funniest film since What We Do In The Shadows. I’d forgotten how fantastic it is to see an incredibly funny film in a packed cinema. We laughed so hard we probably missed half the jokes. Followed by a brilliant surreal Q&A.
- A Man Called Ove – Perfectly combining humour and humanity, everything comes together to remind you there is some good in the world.
- The Autopsy of Jane Doe – The best horror film I’ve seen in some time. Delivers intelligent thrills and never outstays it’s welcome by becoming too silly.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Seeing this projected (from 35mm) gave me a new appreciation and managed to completely charm me where I’d previously been underwhelmed.
- Two Lovers and a Bear – A complete surprise, I knew nothing about this film and found it all completely delightful.
This was the strongest festival I remember and I’d recommend nearly all the films I saw. My next 5 films were Pet, The Birth of A Nation, The First, The Last, Life Animated and Paterson.
- Certain Women – Kelly Reichardt’s most fully realised film to date. Maile Meloy’s short stories perfectly compliment each other, providing a perfect counterpart to Reichardt’s earlier adaptations of Jon Raymond. Great performances from the central cast, especially Laura Dern and relative newcomer, Lily Gladstone.
- Mister Universo – Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s simple fiction played out by real life members of the Italian circus community. A beautiful intersection between fact and fiction, that functions as both a road movie and an affectionate family portrait.
- The Woman of the Dunes – Teshigahara/Abe’s Sisyphusian nightmare. A classic. So glad I got to see this on a big screen on 35mm.
- Graduation – Doting father, Romeo, walks moral tightropes in this austere drama from Cristian Mungiu. Shades of Haneke’s Hidden in it’s creeping sense of dread.
- Mimosas – Ecstatic fiction, quasi-western with the Atlas mountains as a backdrop. Shakib Ben Omar is a wild, charismatic lead. A natural heir to Ninetto Davoli.
It was great to have the launch of the 30th Leeds International Film Festival at the Picture House last week. There was a wonderful atmosphere and sense of anticipation as 50ish trailers and clips were shown. I left wanting to see more of everything that had been showcased.
If you haven’t picked up a guide yet, it’s now also available in digital form.
There’s a new layout for the guide this year including a more compact pull out calendar which may be prove to be useful during the festival but for lots of people has made planning a little harder. If you are struggling to see the overlaps you may find this Clashfinder website useful. It shows everything in a grid format so you can plan your dashes between venues. You can also highlight films to create your own itinerary and this allows us to see what’s popular, earlier today the top 20 was as follows:
- LIFF30 Opening Gala: Paterson + Timecode
- The Handmaiden
- Jurassic Park
- Schneider vs. Bax
- A Monster Calls
- Train to Busan
- Hacksaw Ridge
- I Am Not a Serial Killer
- Under the Shadow
- The Wailing
- The Master Cleanse
- Toni Erdmann
- Belladonna of Sadness
- Kids Police
- The First, the Last
- Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children
- The Red Turtle + Father and Daughter
Over the next few weeks we’re hoping to preview some of the festival films and it would be great to hear your plans and what you are looking forward to seeing in the comments (or get in touch if you’d like to write a full post for the blog).
Long before I joined the Friends of Hyde Park Picture House committee I got involved with Keswick Film Club and their annual film festival. I grew up near Keswick in the Lake District and the film club played a big part in enlightening me on the wonders of art house cinema.
Now in it’s 17th year Keswick Film Festival starts on Thursday and runs through until Sunday. There are 29 films spread across themes such as Best Of The Fests, highlighting popular films from other festivals such as The Assassin (2015), The Wolfpack (2015) and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2015). The Jazz theme includes a 35mm screening of Round Midnight (1986), one of the more authentic and affectionate presentations of the jazz world on the silver screen. Four films look at Memory in different ways including Imaginaerium (2015), a gothic fantasy based on the music Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish and described as a visual and aural spectacle. Another film dealing with Memory is Karen Guthrie’s The Closer We Get (also showing at the Picture House on Tuesday 1st March). Described by Mark Kermode as “a poignant examination of the bonds of family love”, Karen will be at Keswick to introduce and talk about her personal film.
Two other female directors will also be at the festival with their films. On Friday, British novelist Helen Walsh’s The Violators (2015) is “an intriguing directorial debut with a class-crossing tale of teen ennui” (Variety). Lapse Of Honour (2015) from Rayna Campbell is a gritty urban drama based in Manchester’s Moss Side and sees MOBO nominated rapper Lady Leshurr makes a seamless move into film. There are 13 other films at the festival directed by women and many more F-Rated films featuring significant roles for women both behind and in front of the camera.