A Student Guide to BFI London Film Festival 2019

The London Film Festival has come to town! For the next two weeks, over 300 films will be screened all over central London. UCL Film & TV Society has five members who will be reviewing the festival.

A film festival may seem more appropriate for industry professionals and film journalists. However, the London Film Festival is incredibly open to the public. Most importantly, it is generous to young students with the 25 & Under scheme. You can get £5 tickets to select screenings at the festival. In addition, the BFI has committed to providing over 100 free events as part of their LFF for Free scheme, which include talks, panels, Q&As and even DJ Nights. Some can be booked in advance, but don’t be afraid to turn up and see what you can do!

Faced with an enormous catalogue, how do you even consider what to see? The curators behind LFF have kindly split the programme into strands. You can see the whole selection on the BFI’s website or pick up their hardcopy catalogues all around London.

To get you started, our LFF Blog team has put together a few recommendations and why the festival is worth checking out:

A Marriage Story

  • Good for lovers of Adam Driver’s face, people whose favourite movie is Kramer vs. Kramer, and those who crave intimate narratives on screen.
  • Why?: The family drama from Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Meyerowitz Stories, The Squid and the Whale) opened to rave reviews at Venice Film Festival and has garnered lots of award season buzz.

Get tickets for showings on the 6th, 7th and 11th of October

The Peanut Butter Falcon

  • Recommended for when you want to laugh and leave the cinema smiling, fans of Mark Twain and frontier fables.
  • Why?: The dramedy packs great performances from Shia LeBeouf and Zack Gottsagen and sets the benchmark for providing non-tokenistic representation for differently-abled folks in film.

Get tickets for showings on the 3rd and 4th of October

Circus of Books

  • Recommended for documentary lovers, frequenters of Gay’s The Word, and those who want to watch weird and wonderful parents.  
  • Why?: Apart from the opportunity to discover the social and cultural history of the gay community in Los Angeles and the history of pornography, the documentary has a personal touch as the director turns the camera onto her parents. 

Get tickets for showings on the 12th and 13th of October

A Pleasure, Comrades! (Prazer, Camaradas!)

  • Recommended for vicariously living in the Mediterranean countryside, fans of Pride (2014), or those just want to see a cute goat or two amongst cultural and generational clashes.
  • Why?: Long live the proletariat, long live the sexual revolution! Amusing misunderstandings and charming moments are abundant, based on real stories from post-Carnation Revolution rural Portugal. 

Get tickets for showings on the 3rd and 4th of October

Bombay Rose

  • Recommended for Bollywood fans, dreamy romantics rooting for star-crossed lovers, those who want to see non-family-oriented animation. 
  • Why?: The film is directed by Gitanjali Rao, whose animation shorts screened at Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim. A romantic feature film set in Mumbai, the film possesses a vibrant brush-stroke painting style and immersive sound design. 

Get tickets for showings on the 12th and 13th of October

County Lines

  • Recommended for fans of kitchen sink realism, Ken Loach stans, those who liked Beach Rats. Or maybe you’ve just binged Top Boy: Summerhouse and want something more introspective.
  • Why?: Vulnerable boys being groomed by county lines drug trafficking gangs is a massive topical issue in Britain. 

Get tickets for a showing on the 13th of October

Covering the festival is an immense challenge. The UCL Film Society Blog will be reviewing whatever screenings our correspondents can schedule in. What makes it worth it for those who are going? Keep an eye out for the names below. 

Alex Dewing
Not only are the films screened at LFF wide in their variety (with romance, thriller, comedies and cult classics to be) but they’re available to see at such good prices (only £5) and in some great cinemas. Little Monsters, a zombie focused horror-comedy, or zom-com as I like to call it, is definitely worth a watch and you can catch it at the BFI Southbank or Vue West End.

Emma Davis
I think the festival is great for catching movies you’re unlikely to see in regular programming in your nearest cinema, or movies before their official wide release date! I had the opportunity to watch Axone, and it is having its world premiere at the Festival. LFF is a great opportunity to see movies from countries, genres and directors you wouldn’t consider otherwise.

KC Wingert 
The LFF is a really great opportunity for students to catch a wide range of new, internationally-acclaimed films in Central London. No matter what genre you’re looking for, you’re likely to find it showing at the LFF. This year’s lineup features stunning examples of what happens when women of color are put in the director’s chair – see the quirky comedy Lucky Grandma or the harrowing human rights drama Clemency. If that weren’t enough, people who purchase tickets to some of the bigger screenings may catch the odd star in attendance; last year I saw Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, and director Michael Moore, and this year I’m on the lookout for Shia LaBeouf!

Louis Stall
I love the whole vibe of the LFF; being surrounded by other people that are also passionate about film is by itself a totally valid reason to attend. This year I got to see a preview of The Peanut Butter Falcon, I won’t spoil much but it was unbelievably wholesome and definitely worth a watch. I’d definitely recommend not sleeping on the range of documentaries and shorts at LFF this year as I’ve had the opportunity to view so and they are rather spectacular.

Maria Düster
This year, the BFI have really expanded opportunities for students and I recommend going to as much as you can. I’m excited to see independent documentaries – Coup 53, The Orphanage, Give Me Liberty – and headlining films as well, such as Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between truth and fiction in film, specifically documentary, and I’m interested to see how filmmakers are tackling that this year.

The BFI London Film Festival runs 2 – 13 October 2019. For more information, visit the festival website.

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