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More ‘edge’ to films

London Film Festival has a line-up of extraordinary escapism and socially important documentaries

27 September, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

Steve Coogan stars in the new satirical movie, Greed

FILM-MAKERS respond to their times in two ways: either by offering extraordinary escapism or by holding a mirror up to the society in front of it.

Films can be a tool to help us forget the woes on our doorstep or to high­light, quantify, and put in to context the world around us.

Think of those releases that our grandparents watched in the last Great Depression – political comedy like Mr Smith Goes To Washington, Chaplin’s masterful Modern Times, escapism such as such Disney’s seminal Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or romance like It Happened One Night…

So with today’s woes in mind, flicking through the programme for this year’s London Film Festival, organised by the BFI and running in October, it is great to see a line-up with a solid mixture of both.

Now into its 63rd year, there does seem to be a bit more of an edge about a festival that in the past has sometimes felt very tuxedo-y with its galas and visiting Hollywood royalty sprinkling the magic across the programme.

Bacurau is a timely tale set in Brazil

“Like all good art, cinema helps us make sense of the world we live in,” festival director Tricia Tuttle writes in the festival programme notes.

“And this year, film-makers are tackling burning issues of our time – often in surprising ways. This has often been true of non-fiction film-making and there are urgent works among the 42 documen­taries screening in 2019.”

Not all are docs, though: they have included the “sharp-tongued corporate satire” called Greed, by Michael Winterbottom.

Greed stars Steve Coogan and the story, it has been said, is a satire with some barbs aimed at the likes of rag trade mogul Sir Philip Green, who has been criticised for his behaviour over the ownership of defunct landmark high street firm British Home Stores.

It’s also warming to see 78 different countries represented – a reflection of London’s place as a world city, lest we forget – and a better, though not perfect, gender balance in terms of film-makers, with 40 per cent of films shown either solely or co-directed by women.

Other feature-makers in on the act include The Report, which is also a festival highlight.

Starring Adam Driver, it tells the true story of American Senate worker Daniel J Jones, who is given the job of investi­gating the use of torture by the CIA after the September 11 atrocities, and the obstacles placed in his way as he seeks to find the truth.

Diary is particularly looking forward to grabbing tickets for Bacurau by Juliano Dornelles, described as an “anarchic, bloody, socio-political Western” set in Brazil. As government gangsters watch as the Amazon burns, it feels more than timely.

So, well played those at the LFF: this is a challenging, and enlightening line-up, a reflection of what is happening outside the comfort of a cinema auditorium.

whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/

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