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.


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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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LIFF29 Planning

The 29th Leeds International Film Festival programme has now been out for nearly a week and no doubt many of you are making plans about what to see. With over 300 screenings and events, there’s an awful lot to choose from and the selection of trailers shown on Light Night made everything looks so great, or terrifying, or weird and often all of those things.

The Leeds Movie Fans Meetup Group have already started picking out some events to attend, you can find out more about these on their page.

I think I’ve just about worked out my own plan, you can find it over on Letterboxd (a wonderful website for film lovers) which is where you can also find a list of most of the LIFF29 films. I’ve also made a Google spreadsheet and Calendar which you may help your planning (please note these don’t contain accurate end times).

We were hoping to provide some previews and recommendations but we’ve been too busy poring over the programme, eliminating clashes and trying to come up with our own plans. If you have any recommendations or would just like to share your thoughts on the festival then please do get in touch and we’ll happily share them.

LIFF Launch at Light Night

Friday 9th October 6:30pm, Leeds Town Hall.

Light Night 2015
This Friday it’s Light Night Leeds and the launch of the 29th Leeds International Film Festival. With so many interesting things happening as part of Light Night it sometimes feels like a waste to be sat in the town hall watching films, but there’s also a great sense of excitement as the festival programme is revealed.

Once again there will be a showcase of trailers for the festival films, followed by a 45-minute showcase of legendary Scottish-born, Canadian experimental film artist Norman McLaren. The screening’s line up includes McLaren’s three personal favourites Begone Dull Care (1949), Neighbours (1952) and Pas de Deux (1968) as well as Opening Speech: McLaren (1960), A Chairy Tale (1957) and La Merle (1958).

As for the festival programme, we’ll just have to wait and see what the team have put together this year. Will we get to see Oscar hopefuls such as Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, Todd Haynes’ Carol, Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl or Lenny Abrahamson’s Room? Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise feels like a perfect fit for Fanomenon and could we see a virtual return of Kevin Smith with Yoga Hosers? Of course the real delight of the film festival are all the films you’d never heard of and are unlikely to see elsewhere. Usually we’re not too keen on trailers but they can be great for highlighting these gems and making everything at the festival feel unmissable.

What are you hoping will make the programme this year? Let us know in the comments below.