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The programme for The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

09 September 2009

The programme for The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival, announced today by Artistic Director Sandra Hebron, includes a diverse selection of world and international premieres with a total of 191 features and 113 shorts screening alongside an exciting line-up of special events and expected guests.

Opening Night film, Wes Anderson’s FANTASTIC MR. FOX, is one of the Festival’s 15 world premieres and will be presented by the director and cast members including Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Helen McCrory.   Other films celebrating their world premieres include Sam Taylor-Wood’s Closing Night Gala NOWHERE BOY and the Festival’s first ever Archive Gala, the BFI’s new restoration of Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND, with live music accompaniment by the Prima Vista Social Club, led by Neil Brand.  The Festival will also host 23 European premieres, including Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s MICMACS, Scott Hicks’ THE BOYS ARE BACK and Robert Connolly’s BALIBO, as well as Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s THE WELL and Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson’s MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN.  The 4 international premieres that will be featured are 45365 from Bill and Turner Ross, Celine Danhier’s BLANK CITY, Mike Judge’s EXTRACT and Rumle Hammerich’s HEADHUNTER. Festival audiences will also have the chance to enjoy the UK premiere of John Lasseter’s TOY STORY 2 in Disney Digital 3D™.

Presenting a total of 146 UK premieres, the Festival showcases new work from established and emerging filmmakers alongside debuts by newly discovered talents. Directors travelling to London to introduce their latest work will include Michael Haneke (Cannes Palme d’Or winner, THE WHITE RIBBON), Atom Egoyan (CHLOE), Steven Soderbergh (THE INFORMANT!), Lone Scherfig (AN EDUCATION), Ang Lee (TAKING WOODSTOCK), Jane Campion (BRIGHT STAR), Gaspar Noé (ENTER THE VOID), Lee Daniels (PRECIOUS), Grant Heslov (THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS), and Jason Reitman (UP IN THE AIR). George Clooney will also be in attendance to support his role in THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS.  In addition, the Festival will welcome back previous alumni such as John Hillcoat (THE ROAD), Joe Swanberg (ALEXANDER THE LAST) and Harmony Korine (TRASH HUMPERS), whilst also screening films from Manoel de Oliveira (ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLONDE-HAIRED GIRL), Jim Jarmusch (THE LIMITS OF CONTROL), Claire Denis (WHITE MATERIAL), Ho-Yuhang (AT THE END OF DAYBREAK), Todd Solondz (LIFE DURING WARTIME) and Joel and Ethan Coen (A SERIOUS MAN). 

The programme introduces the work of debut directors including Tom Ford (A SINGLE MAN), Jordan Scott (CRACKS) and Warwick Thornton (SAMSON & DELILAH).  Amongst the many British directors making their feature film debuts at the Festival are Paul King (BUNNY AND THE BULL), Malcolm Venville (44 INCH CHEST), David Morrissey (DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME), Tom Harper (THE SCOUTING BOOK FOR BOYS), Lindy Heymann (KICKS) and J Blakeson (THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED).  They will screen alongside a compelling line-up of British films from directors such as Stephen Poliakoff (GLORIOUS 39), Julien Temple (OIL CITY CONFIDENTIAL), Penny Woolcock (1 DAY), Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas (AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY), Jez Lewis (SHED YOUR TEARS AND WALK AWAY) and Chris Atkins (STARSUCKERS), several of which are world premieres.

Included in a strong selection of films representing new French cinema are Jacques Audiard’s A PROPHET, André Téchiné’s THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, Jacques Rivette’s AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN, Catherine Corsini’s LEAVING and Patrice Chéreau’s PERSECUTION. This year’s French Gala is Mia Hansen-Løve’s FATHER OF MY CHILDREN and as part of the Festival’s Special Events programme, the Festival will present two exciting masterclasses with Audiard and Téchiné, in partnership with Unifrance.

Contemporary European cinema is celebrated in the Cinema Europa strand which includes 40 films, such as Jesper Ganslandt’s THE APE from Sweden, Yorgos Lanthimos’ DOGTOOTH from Greece and two Austrian-French-German co-productions:  LOURDES by Jessica Hausner and WOMEN WITHOUT MEN by Iranian-American artist Shirin Neshat. Additionally, the Film on the Square strand includes the French-Romanian co-production TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE, directed by Hanno Höfer, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu and Ioana Uricaru and Marco Bellocchio’s VINCERE, one of 8 films screening in the Festival from Italy.  Marking its 10th year of a valuable association with Film Italia, the Festival will also host MAESTRI & MULTIPLEXES: ITALIAN CINEMA NOW, a panel discussion about the issues facing contemporary Italian films and filmmakers.

The very best of world cinema is reflected in the programme, as Festival audiences have a choice of films from 46 countries around the globe.  Territories represented include Africa (Souleymane Cissé’s TELL ME WHO YOU ARE), East Asia (Bong Joon-Ho’s MOTHER), South Asia (Shyam Benegal’s THE STOLEN WELL) and the Middle East (Samuel Maoz’s LEBANON and Haim Tabakman’s EYES WIDE OPEN).  A fresh slate of new films representing the next wave of American independent filmmaking includes Sophie Barthes’ COLD SOULS, Andrew Bujalski’s BEESWAX, Sam Fleischner and Ben Chace‘s WAH DO DEM, Nicholas Jasenovec’s PAPER HEART and Suzi Yoonessi’s DEAR LEMON LIMA.

Frederick Wiseman’s LA DANSE: THE PARIS OPERA BALLET is one of 26 documentary features at the Festival which will compete for the annual Grierson Award for best feature-length documentary.  Michel Gondry’s THE THORN IN THE HEART, Ondi Timoner’s WE LIVE IN PUBLIC and Connie Field’s HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG: THE BOTTOM LINE also screen, in addition to music documentaries from Tom DiCillo (WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE: A FILM ABOUT THE DOORS) and Damani Baker and Alex Vlack (STILL BILL). With a total of nine short film programmes and four experimental shorts programmes, audiences enjoy a wealth of choice ranging from recent work by the capital’s most exciting new filmmakers in the LONDON CALLING selection, to A THING CALLED LOVE- an assortment of films examining personal relationships, from the briefest encounter to love beyond the grave. 

The Festival’s cutting edge Experimenta strand will feature the series of seven films by American avant-garde artist and theoretician Hollis Frampton known as HAPAX LEGOMENA.  Considered one of his most distinguished achievements, it will be presented in its entirety on new preservation prints.  Additionally, Johan Grimonprez’s ingenious hybrid DOUBLE TAKE will screen, as well as the latest instalment of the FILM IST series, A GIRL AND A GUN, by Gustav Deutsch. Treasures from the Archive celebrates the legacy of cinema with a wealth of classics from around the world that includes Ingmar Bergman’s THE TOUCH and Norman Z. McLeod’s TOPPER, alongside Shadi Abdel Salam’s THE NIGHT OF COUNTING THE YEARS, restored by Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.

For the sixth year running, the Festival will host a free outdoor screening in Trafalgar Square. LONDON MOVES ME is an evening of more than 20 archive shorts that, in a link to the restoration of UNDERGROUND, celebrate transport in London – a whistle stop tour from 1896 to 2009 with live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand. Open to all, LONDON MOVES ME will screen on 22 October. 

As always, complementing the screenings is a full programme of unique Special Events, with an outstanding line-up of directors, writers, actors and producers due to attend the Festival.  ENVIRONMENTAL FILMMAKING: CAN CINEMA EVER BE TRULY GREEN? and IRANIAN CINEMA: POST-NEW WAVE, POST-ELECTION...WHERE NOW? promise to be provocative free events for audiences, whilst STYLISH BY DESIGN: THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER IN CINEMA will prove both interesting and informative, as designers discuss their different styles and experiences working with top directors.

Other guests expected to attend the Festival in October include: Clive Owen; Julianne Moore; Ray Winstone; Aaron Johnson; Nick Park; Catherine Breillat; Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Emma Thompson, Matthew Beard, Olivia Williams, Dominic Cooper; Nick Hornby; Lu Chan; Juno Temple; Alex Etel; Eliza May Bennett; Hugh Bonneville; Pauline Collins; Kwyedza Kureya; Federico León; Anurag Kashyap; Tarik Saleh; Josh Harris and James Schamus with many more still to be confirmed.

Commenting on the Festival line-up, Artistic Director Sandra Hebron said: “I'm delighted that we have such a strong and varied programme this year, presenting new work from some of the world's most renowned directors alongside films from exciting new talents, and showcasing creativity and imagination from around the world. We look forward to October when film-makers, industry and media guests and our public audiences will join us in London for what promises to be an exciting, stimulating and enjoyable two weeks.”