“Our Festival is perfectly positioned soon after the Toronto and London film festivals so we’re able to really get the latest in British films and the best that are available.”
British Film Festival Curator Kim Petalas sat down to chat about this year’s program which, starting next week, will be rolling out across Palace Cinema screens in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth. Now in its fourth year, the 2016 Festival boasts a major line-up of A-list stars and Oscar favourites.
“The Festival is a truly national Festival, we’re in pretty much every major city and its grown in leaps and bounds,” said Petalas. “I’m really looking forward to premiering A United Kingdom which is our opening night film, it’s come straight from the world premiere in Toronto and only last week it opened the London Film Festival.”
Starring Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike and Selma’s David Oyelowo as Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana, the film has already garnered very strong reviews.
“We’ll hear a lot more about A United Kingdom as awards season heats up,” said Petalas. “(With) so much going on politically in the world I think that people will really relate to the fierce opposition to this interracial union between a British woman and a Botswanian King… and the incredible thing about it is that it’s a true story.”
A series of features centered on English filmmaker Ken Loach will also screen at the Festival, following his Palme d’Or win for I, Daniel Blake earlier this year.
“Because Ken Loach won the award this year at Cannes we thought it was important to showcase a little bit of his career,” said Petalas. “We were able to also secure a documentary about his life called Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach and then to complement that there’s a restored version of his very first film Poor Cow.”
“People will really identify with this character and they will feel so much for Daniel Blake, he’s one of the great British Ken Loach characters. You’re really there barracking for him throughout the film because the guy’s doing it tough and nobody showcases people from a difficult background in the UK trying to challenge the system and finding their way in life better than Ken Loach.”
Two Michael Fassbender features, including the west Australian-shot The Light Between Oceans, will also screen at the Festival.
“It’s a UK-Australian co-production starring Alicia Vikander and the wonderful Irish actor Michael Fassbender,” explained Petalas. “The film is stunning to look at on screen, its beautifully shot, the way that the Australian landscape is captured is just wonderful and it’s very moving.”
“Trespass Against Us is another film with Fassbender which also stars Brendan Gleeson and they play a father and son. It’s about a crime family and it deals with the relationship between father and son and the lifestyle that they lead. It’s also got a great score by The Chemical Brothers which is unique in itself.”
In addition to a ‘Local Heroes’ retrospective featuring Goldfinger and restored versions of Sid and Nancy, David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell To Earth and Highlander, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the Festival will host special screenings of classic ‘Carry On’ titles.
“I thought it was really important to showcase those films because the Carry On series was the most successful British comedy series of all time and the films are soon to be reinvigorated with Hereford Films in pre-production on a new series,” said Petalas. “The films are so politically incorrect but they were certainly a sign of the times and of the 1960s; we’re really looking forward to seeing how today’s audiences respond to the comedy that was so popular.”
The Festival will close with highly-anticipated fantasy drama A Monster Calls.
“A Monster Calls is a film that we’re all going to hear a lot more about in the Oscar window,” said Petalas. “It’s visually spectacular and incredibly moving, it stars Sigourney Weaver with a wonderful performance by newcomer Lewis MacDougall, probably a career-defining performance, and the voice of Liam Neeson as the tree monster.”
“It’s based on a book by Patrick Ness (also the film’s screenwriter) and is the story of a lonely boy who’s befriended by a friendly big lumbering monster who is slowly preparing the boy to face up to his mother’s terminal illness. The film is so original in its narrative, it’s thrilling, the visual effects are ground-breaking and it has such incredible heart, it’s a film that’s not to be missed.”
The British Film Festival will screen across Australia from October 25 – November 16