Leeds International Film Festival 2015.

LIFF image

LIFF image

Festival follows festival, so LFF is succeed by LIFF. The 29th Film Festival in Leeds has a really strong programme with a wide range of films over fourteen days and spread over sixteen venues. The programme, available online and in a printed brochure [leedsfilmfestivalpr@gmail.com], is organised into five sections. Below is just a few examples that caught my eye.

The Official Selection offers 35 films from a variety of countries and industries. They are all contemporary releases and many will be fresh and relatively little known here. The opening film is an adaptation of a Colm Tóibin novel by Nick Hornby, following an Irish immigrant to New York, Brooklyn. For me the most promising title is The Assassin (Nie yin niang), directed by the Taiwanese master Hsiao-hsien Hou. All his previous films have been terrific and here he explores the martial arts genre: predictably the film is booking fast. The fine Chileans director Pablo Larrain has an intriguing drama set in a religious house, The Club (El Club). Peter Greenaway, something of an acquired taste, has Eisenstein in Guanajuata: following the great Soviet artist in his Mexican journey sounds compelling. The Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi offers Happy Hour, revolving around four women and running for about five hours not one. His fellow countryman Kore-eda Hirokazu has directed another family drama, Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary): his previous films have been outstanding. British director Terence Davies has adapted a novel by the Scottish writers Lewis Gibbon, Sunset Song. And the already highly praised Taxi by Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi features.  These are just the titles in the section, reading about the less familiar titles or filmmakers suggests many other cinematic treats.

Retrospectives this year contains a theme rather than a particular filmmaker, Arctic Encounters. There is The Kautokeino Rebellion (Kautokeino-opprøret, Norway 2008), a fine period drama and one of the few films in the festival screening from 35mm. The Soviet film Letter Never Sent (Neotpravlennoe pismom, 1960 directed by Mikhail Kalatazov). I saw this film at the Göteborg Film Festival with Russian dialogue and Swedish sub-titles: the plot was tricky but I still enjoyed a great drama. Trollhunter (Trolljegeren, Norway 2014) is great fun and an ingenious monster movie. And in the Arctic Encounters and at a new venue, Mill Hill in City Square, By Dogsledge Across Alaska, (Denmark 1926).From hotter climes comes Pyaasa (India, 1957) probably the finest film directed by Guru Dutt, a legendary figure in classic popular Indian cinema. Jean-Pierre Melville, whose reputation has grown over time, has his La Silence de la Mer (1949) , set during the German occupation. There are as usual films from Early Cinema, the screenings with live accompaniment are always worthwhile, this year we have Nanook of the North (1922) at the Town Hall and the classic expressionist drama The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari, Germany 1920) at Chapel FM. And there are popular standards like Apocalypse Now (USA 1979) and The Big Blue (France 1988).

Cinema Versa has forty eight films, all in some sense documentaries but covering a variety of forms, length and topics. Choices will likely depend on tastes and interests. By Our Selves is by the slightly eccentric British filmmaker Andrew Kőtting, a combination  of record and fiction about the English poet John Clare. A modern English poet Linton Kwesi Johnson Presents Michael Smith: Upon Westminster Bridge, a film about his fellow Jamaican poet. Also from the Caribbean is the fine 1983 drama by Euzhan Palcy set in 1930s Martinique, Sugar cane Alley. And also addressing the colonial situation is The Wanted 18 (Canada 2014), the 18 of the title belonging to a small Palestinian village resisting the Zionist occupation.

Fanomenon runs to fifty six films and events, covering fantasy cinema, adventurous films and gaming. Once again you can see Blade Runner: The Final Cut (USA 21982). There is Day of the Dead at the Town Hall and Night of the Dead at the Hyde Park Picture House. There is a fairly rare Hungarian animation, Fehérlófia: Son of the White Mare (1981) by Marcell Jankovics, using a cult legend with stunning imagery. One of the rare 35mm screenings is The House with Laughing Windows (Italy 1976) with the director Pupi Avati being interviewed.  And John Carpenter enjoys a screening of his film The Thing (USA, 1982), a satellite Q&A and a Film Poster Exhibition.

And finally Short Film City, with different competitions and a range of films from around the world. Running daily at the Leeds Museum is a micro cinema with A Brief History of Cinema in Leeds. Then there are Yorkshire, British, European and International selections, including one specifically devoted to animation. Punters who make the effort will be rewarded with some fine filmmaking and a chance to vote in the Short Film Audience Award.

These titles that caught my eye only scratch the surface of the large and varied programme. You can sit down with the Brochure or browse online, the latter offering the programme day-by-day or under the different sections. And [I have not actually looked] material on Twitter and Face book. As last year the Festival is again offering Free Cinemas Week, 25 screenings which require no payment but for which one is advised to book. Unlike the London Film Festival there is limited travelling to get round the Leeds venues. I tend to prioritise the Hyde Park but some of the smaller venues have really interesting events. The largest auditorium is in the Town Hall, the Victoria, though it is better for music than dialogue – sub-titled movies help here. Note, film-buffs who like a traditional cinema may find the Everyman in the Trinity Centre not quite their cup of tea.

Apart from the programme of films the publicity has details of the venues and of tickets including a Festival Pass. You can check ticket sales on the festival website. And from Monday there is a Festival Hub in the Trinity Centre. Essentially you have to keep as much time free as you can manage for the fortnight.

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