27th Leeds International Film Festival


The 2013 Festival runs from November 6th to the 21st. There is a printed brochure available as well as online pages. Note some additional screenings have been added since the brochure was printed. Alongside the usual venues the new Everyman multi-screen is part of the festival. However, for the fullest cinematic experience I would still recommend the Hyde Park Picture House where one can enjoy both digital and celluloid screenings.

The programme is divided into the regular five sections – Official, Retrospective, Fanomenon, Cinema Versa and Short Film City. The Official Selection focuses on contemporary World Cinema. This includes the Opening Gala film, the much-heralded Gravity in 3D. The 3D effects are supposed to be the most impressive yet though the trailer that I saw [in 2D] suggested this might be invading the auditorium rather than depth of field. All told there are 28 films from 20 separate film industries. There are several winners from the Cannes Film Festival, including Hell – Mexican winner of the Best Director Award: Nebraska, winner of Best Actor for Bruce Dern: Stranger by the Lake, winner of the Queer Pal: and the Palme ‘d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Many of the other films promise to be of a similar quality. There is a new film from Chinese director Jia Zhangke, A Touch of Sin. The Swedish director Lukas Moodysson offers We are the Best! And there is a very poetic film Silence from Irish filmmaker Pat Collins. Film buffs in particular will probably enjoy the Closing Gala film Final Cut, Ladies and Gentlemen by Hungarian filmmaker György Pálfi. This is a compendium of film extracts from early cinema to the present. It sounds like an extended variation on the marvellous closing reel of Cinema Paradiso.

The key focus in Retrospectives is the Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi. The festival features six of his films including the epic trilogy The Human Condition (1959 – 1961). These individually long films are being screened across three consecutive afternoons at the Hyde Park. This may make it difficult to see all three but this one of the outstanding achievements of Japanese cinema. These films and the 1964 Kwaidan and the 1967 Samurai Rebellion are all screening in 35mm prints. Note Kwaidan will be the full 161-minute version. There are also four films by the Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk.  He is a great stylist but also given to fairly explicit sexual scenes. And there is also a range of European classics. One not to be missed is Carlos Saura’s Carmen (1983) which combines the famous novel and opera with dazzling flamenco dancing. Then there is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles (1975). This features Delphine Seyrig as a single mother who combines her domestic duties with prostitution. The film’s simple record develops into a complex study of her situation. And there is Alexander Kluge’s 1966 Yesterday Girl, one of the films that launched the New German Cinema. In addition there is a seminar European Catalyst Films and Cinema Worldwide – this refers to ‘game changing features’ (e.g. Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione (1943) or Claude Chabrol’s Le beau serge (1958)) with participants from academia, the media and the film industry.

Fanomenon, ‘home of cult and fantasy cinema’ has an extremely varied programme. This includes two classics, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Akira (1988). Among the newer offerings that look intriguing is Cold Eyes (South Korea, 2013) an action thriller which has been a great success in its home market. Then there is The Exorcist – Director’s Cut (1973) in a new digital print: but no Mark Kermode.

The Forest (Spain, 2012) is directed by Óscar Albar, but sounds like it is strongly influenced by Guillermo Del Toro. It is set in the Spanish countryside just at the point that the Civil War breaks out, but centres on a sci-fi type plot. And there is Ikarie XB-1 (Czechoslovakia, 1963) an imaginative science fiction film that would seem to have been a strong influence on both Star Trek and 2001. There is also a certain amount of what I would term ‘schlock’. A prime example is the film ‘classic’ Santa Sangre (Mexico 1989). If you enjoyed that there are a number of films here which should be to your taste.

Cinema Versa treats documentary and underground film. Two major films and events are found in this programme. Apples of the Golan (2012) tells the story of a village caught in the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. The film will be followed by a Q&A with one or both of the filmmakers, Jill Beardworth and Keith Walsh. There is a similar programme with The Stuart Hall Project (2013). The screening will be followed by a panel discussion including either the director John Akomfrah or one of his partners in the Smoking Dogs Team. Given that their previous film, The Nine Muses (2011), received minimal exhibition around the UK, this is an important occasion. And for something completely different – Invisible Cinema Walk. A tour of the ‘lost and perhaps forgotten’ cinema screens that once graced Leeds.

Short Film City offers a series of programme of films from all round the world, running between maybe a minute and nearly half-an-hour. The Festival programme and awards also feed into the short film elements in the Hollywood Academy Awards and the British BAFTA.

So a very full sixteen days. There are a variety of Award Winners, classic films and relatively unknown new offerings. It is probably a good idea to try and sample all three elements. The brochure is pretty informative, and there is a battery of supporting sources on the Internet.

There are some 35mm prints in the Retrospectives but the main theatrical screenings will be DCPs. There will be details on formats and fulle rinformation on all the films in the Festival Catalogue. And a film extra, the Festival are supporting Prepare for Darkness – Gothic Film Festival at Kirkstall Abbey this weekend, 31 October – 3 November. The weather could be a factor but eight classics from ‘the dark heart of film’ are being screened in theatrical digital formats. Three are silent features with live musical accompaniment.

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