29th Leeds International Film Festival

LIFF Catalogue 2015

The picture  shows the cover of the Festival Catalogue with a still from North (Nord, Norway 2009). This was a droll and rather oddball comedy with deadpan humour. It was part of the Arctic Encounters programme. This year’s Festival had fifteen days of film screenings and events. I found this a strong and varied programme. There was a wide range of films, most were interesting, many were of high quality and there were only a few turkeys. Of course, I only saw a limited part of the Festival, but Roy has also posted on films here, and I spoke to  friends, volunteers and audience members. Generally people were very positive. They also gave me quite  a lot of recommendations, some of which I saw, some of which I hope to catch on release.

There are not any figures for attendances available yet. But overall they appear to compare well with previous years. As usual there were films that were packed out; hence I missed some. And there were also screening where there was a small coterie of film lovers. The Festival asks audiences to mark [actually tear a sheet] films on a score of 1 to 5. They are then tabulated with some sort of allowance for audience size etc. So below are those that won plaudits: the Festival Webpage is still up and titles can be checked there.

Audience award and winner :

New Narrative Feature

  1. Liza, the Fox-Fairy

  2. In The Crosswind

  3. Assassination Classroom

  4. Brooklyn

  5. Embrace of the Serpent

  6. Victoria

  7. Green Room

  8. Crow’s Egg

  9. Taxi Tehran

  10. Carol

My favourites were Taxi Teheran above, Our Little Sister and The Assassin. Meanwhile, Brooklyn, Victoria and Carol all have UK distributors.

New Documentary Feature

  1. Landfill Harmonic

  2. The Wanted 18

  3. Warriors

  4. 4. Do You Own the Dancefloor?

  5. Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster

The Wanted 18  was the best documentary for me but I also really liked Abandoned Goods.

Retrospective Feature

  1. Leon

  2. Leeds on Film

  3. The Thing (+ John Carpenter Interview)

  4. The Iron Giant

  5. Sugar Cane Alley

For me the outstanding film was Pyaasa (Guru Dutt’s Hindi classic from 1957). And, but for a clash, I would have re-seen Letter Never Sent (Neatpravinnaoe pisma), a dense expressionist Soviet film directed by Mikhail Kalatazov in 1960.

Short Film

  1. Madam Black

  2. You

  3. Clumsy Little Acts of Tenderness

  4. Stutterer

  5. Life with Herman H Rott

My favourite short film was the Polish film Gigant. This year though I did not see a complete programme of short films so I can only note the awards that went to a really extensive selection of films.

I do also have my own categories.

The Silent film that I most enjoyed was Would You Believe it!, a British film from 1929 directed and starring Walter Forde, a popular comic of the period. It has a great staircase sequence and enjoyed an excellent piano accompaniment.

And the Canine film of the Festival was By Dogsledge Across Alaska. This was a Danish film (Med Hundeslaede gennem Alaska 1926) filmed by Leo Hansen. Unfortunately we only had a digital copy but there was live musical accompaniment. But the stars were the huskies who battled the arctic terrain and endured the foibles of their human masters with real patience.

And the most banal film was Eisenstein in Guanjuato (2015) scripted and directed by Peter Greenaway. Greenaway is an acquired taste, I have enjoyed some of his films. This must be his worse. The central performance is over the top, the film extracts are reframed to the wrong ratio, there is a pot pouri of techniques and little sense of the film Eisenstein worked on, Que Viva Mexico!

The Festival has a range of venues, sixteen in all. These range from actual cinemas to local Arts Venues, local Educational Institutions and a Unitarian Chapel, [which was surprisingly ornate and warm). The pride of place remains for me the Hyde Park Picture House with both digital and 35mm. The Cottage Road also has these facilities but only hosted a couple of films. The Victoria at the Town Hall has a large and impressive screen, but the dialogue is partly muffled in the hall: fine for music and effects. My biggest bugbear remains the Everyman, actually a video lounge. Unfortunately several film were programmed only in that venue: so I have to hope I will catch them elsewhere.

Now we have eleven months before the next Festival: though there are occasional screenings during the year in the Town Hall. There is a faint hope that we might again see a Festival at Bradford’s National Media Museum. Or even that the long awaited visit by the British Silent Film Festival to the North will happen.

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3 comments

  1. Sven

    The Everyman provides a very cineworldish viewing experience. Almost all of the 20 screenings I attended during the festival contained some sort of flaw. The trouble begins in trying to occupy one of the scarce seats that faces the screen rather than the wall. But even those seats do not prevent from being disrupted by waitresses trying to find the recipients of pizzas in the dark up to 15 minutes into the film.
    At the start of a film, however, neither the lights were switched off nor the audio switched from the background music to the films soundtrack on time. It is only consistent that at the end of the film the lights usually remained off and parts of the audience used the lights on their phones to find their way out.
    The Finnish film ‘Lovemilla’ was first shown without any subtitles, restarted after five minutes with Finnish subtitles and the after another five minutes with English subtitles.
    Although the screen seems to contain a black masking curtain it was never in use. This would have been especially useful during the screening of ‘Fehérlófia: Son of the White Mare’ whose MP4 version contained too much noise at the black borders that filled the unused space of the widescreen.

  2. keith1942

    Re the Everyman, I a, told that LIFF has received quite a few tweets regarding the venue. I suspect there is not much that can be done about the Venue but following up with LIFF might change matters for next year. There were several films I missed in LIFF because they were in that venue.

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