The BFI London Film Festival

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The BFI London Film Festival is the UK’s largest and most star-studded film event. This year’s line-up includes 240 films from over 70 countries. Exhibiting both independent and mainstream films, the BFI truly has something for everybody, from historical romance to martial arts madness.

While not everyone can swing tickets to galas and previews of the festival proper, here are our favourite picks from the line-up that will be available for public consumption in the coming months.

High-Rise

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Tom Hiddleston in Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s High Rise

Adapted by Sightseers (2012) and Kill List (2011) director Ben Wheatley, and written for the screen by long-time collaborator, Amy Jump, J. G. Ballard’s dystopian novel provides the fuel and thrust for an eclectic, powerful film, with a cast including Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, and Jeremy Irons.

Black Mass

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Depp © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Johnny Depp as an actual human (as opposed to a vampire, or a computer, or a wolf, or a chameleon), what’s not to like? Albeit not a very pleasant human, Black Mass tells the true story of Whitey Bulger, Boston’s most violent criminal. Expect bald heads, swearing and goosebump-inducing performances from Depp, Joel Edgerton, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Lady in the Van

THE LADY IN THE VAN.Dame Maggie Smith plays Miss Shepherd and Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett in The Lady In The Van
Dame Maggie Smith plays Miss Shepherd and Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett in The Lady In The Van

Long-time writer/director pairing, Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner, have given us such wonders as The History Boys (2006) and The Madness of King George (1994), so we’re pleasantly hopeful for The Lady in the Van. In another true story, Maggie Smith stars as an eccentric old woman living out of her van in Alan Bennett’s (yes, the same Alan Bennett) driveway. I expect Smith has Oscars in her eyes after this one.

The Lobster

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weiss in The Lobster / Despina Spyrou
Colin Farrell and Rachel Weiss in Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster / Despina Spyrou

Yorgos Lanthimos isn’t known for making ‘normal’ films, and The Lobster doesn’t change this. It tells of a dystopian future where single people are given forty-five days in which to find love. If unsuccessful they’re transformed into animals. Amazingly this concept appealed to both Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, who both star. It has already taken Cannes by storm, selected for the Palm d’Or and winning the Jury Prize.

Carol

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Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol / Yorgos Lanthimos

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara star in this mid-century American drama about two women who fall in love, defying conformity and the social norms of the time along the way. Look out for electrifying performances from both the leads as well as bone-jangling directing from Todd Haynes.

He Named Me Malala

Tanya Malott Photographer, NYC
Tanya Malott Photographer, NYC

Experienced documentary-maker David Guggenheim presents the story of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever receiver of the Nobel Peace Prize. In her early teens Malala wrote an anonymous blog for the BBC and throughout her early life she has constantly been fighting for girls’ education in Pakistan. Guggenheim’s film is eye-opening and occasionally shocking, and conveys wonderfully the struggle of Malala.

Barney Arathoon