BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL
This year’s MINI BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL opens in Sydney on Tuesday 23 October, with other states running more or less in tandem until Wednesday 14 November. As with previous editions, it will deliver a selection of the best of the most recent UK productions and, because of that, if you miss this opportunity to catch some of the titles, most will be released theatrically in the coming year.
Opening night is the Australian premiere of Wash Westmoreland’s Colette, starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West. It tells the story of the eponymous author, one of France’s most important and ground-breaking feminist writers. The Festival closes with another Australian premiere, Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie, featuring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the famous slapstick duo, Laurel and Hardy. It’s described as the true story of one of Hollywood’s greatest comedy acts and is a touching story of their life-long friendship.
There are many exciting titles to choose from, but highlights include Rupert Everett’s much anticipated The Happy Prince, which covers the last days of Oscar Wilde and stars the director himself as Wilde, alongside Colin Firth, Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson; there’s also Mike Leigh’s new film Peterloo, an epic portrayal of the infamous 1819 massacre by government forces at a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester; Trevor Nunn’s true story, Red Joan, starring both Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson as Joan Stanley, a long-serving spy for the KGB; Richard Eyre’s The Children Act, adapted from a novel by Ian McEwan and featuring Emma Thompson as a British High Court judge who has to rule on a case involving a Jehovah’s Witness couple denying a blood transfusion to their dying son; and Idris Elba’s directorial debut Yardie, a gangster pic set in 1980s Kingston, Jamaica, and London.
The two World Wars are covered in a couple of films: David Fairhead and Ant Palmer’s stirring documentary, Spitfire, about the famous aircraft that won the Battle of Britain in WWII; and the extremely moving and confronting WWI film, Journey’s End, which is set in the trenches of northern France in March 1918 and is a must-see. It stars Paul Bettany and Sam Claflin.
There’s a retrospective entitled Swinging 60s that features two great films starring Michael Caine, Alfie and The Italian Job, along with Richard Lester’s Palme d’Or-winner The Knack… and How to Get It, the Sidney Poitier-starrer To Sir with Love and Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl, the film that made the actress a star. The Festival also includes David Batty’s documentary on the 1960s, My Generation, which is narrated by Michael Caine and features stunning archival footage and a soundtrack of the greatest hits of the era. Caine, aka Maurice Micklewhite, can also be seen in King of Thieves, a contemporary film about the gang of retirees responsible for the 2015 Hatton Garden jewellery heist, the largest robbery in UK history.
The above is just a sample of the many fine films that can be found in this year’s British Film Festival. There are 26 titles in all, so dive in and enjoy the best of British. Full details can be found here.