The line-up for the 60th BFI London Film Festival was officially announced this morning, with a handful of Australian films amidst the festival’s usual array of art cinema and genre fare from across the globe.
As previously announced, the Australian charge at this year’s festival will be lead by Lion, which has its UK premiere at the American Express Gala. An adaptation of Saroo Brierley’s astounding memoir A Long Way Home, it tells of an Indian man raised by adoptive parents in Tasmania, who longs to reconnect with his family, eventually tracking down his mother using Google Street View. Dev Patel sports a convincing Australian accent in the lead role, with support from Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Rooney Mara. An Australian-Indian co-production, Lion was directed by Garth Davis (Top of the Lake, Love My Way), and scripted by Luke Davies (Candy), and will eventually get a general UK release via Entertainment Films.
Lion is the first gala screening for an Australian feature since Mystery Road kicked off the Thrill strand in 2013. That film’s protagonist – Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) – is back on LFF screens in the (sorta) sequel Goldstone. Winner of the Best Film prize at the Sydney Film Festival earlier this year, the film finds Swan on another thrilling case in outback Queensland. This latest from multi-hyphenate Ivan Sen (Beneath Clouds, Toomelah) features a stellar supporting cast, including David Gulpilil, Jacki Weaver, Tom E. Lewis, and the ubiquitous David Wenham. Goldstone‘s LFF run includes two screenings at the new Embankment Garden Cinema venue, and is in the running for the festival’s Best Film Award.
Like its predecessor, Goldstone probes the thorny underbelly of racism, xenophobia, and Australian identity. Doing likewise, but with a hefty dose of pitch-black humour, Down Under is the latest feature from writer-director Abe Forsyth. Loved and loathed in perhaps equal measure for Ned (2003), his absurdist take the Ned Kelly story, this film sees Forsyth bring his comic sensibilities to no less serious a moment of national shame than the 2006 Cronulla riots, which saw pitched battles between white youths and members of Australia’s sizeable middle-eastern immigrant community. Down Under gets a trio of LFF screenings at Haymarket, Hackney Picturehouse, and Curzon Mayfair.
Laying bare Australia’s xenophobic undercurrents in an all too different manner is Chasing Asylum, a new feature length documentary from Eva Orner (The Network). The Academy Award-winning producer of Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), Orner cracks open the fragile facade of Australia’s immigration policies which remain deeply controversial, despite being hailed by some British politicians as a model of good practice. Tackling the spectre of Australia’s offshore detention programme head-on, Orner’s incisive, brave, deeply important documentary will have two LFF screenings, and is in the running for the Grierson Award for Best Documentary, hoping to complete an Australian double with Jen Peedom’s Sherpa, which took home the prize in 2015. A UK general release courtesy of the documentary maestros at Dogwoof will follow.
LFF CONNECTS: LYNETTE WALLWORTH’S COLLISIONS
Returning to LFF for the first time since showing her beautifully understated documentary Tender in 2013, Australian artist and filmmaker Lynette Wallworth. A trailblazer in the world of immersive film, Wallworth will present her first virtual reality work Collisions, a re-enactment of Aboriginal elder Nyarri Nyarri Morgan’s witnessing of a 1950s British atomic test in the South Australian outback. Described as both ‘dazzling’ and ‘devastating’, Wallworth will present Collisions in a one-off showing at the ICA.
Australia will also contribute a handful of shorts to this year’s London Film Festival. Highway (d. Vanessa Gazy) traces a troubled young hitchhiker struggling to escape a fatal prophecy on a remote mountain road (screening as part of Tales of Mystery and Imagination), whilst the Sound and Vision strand hosts both Motown (d. Alex Wu) – ‘young woman finds refuge inside an empty concert hall late at night’ – and animation The Orchestra (d. Mikey Hill).
The 60th BFI London Film Festival runs from 5-16 October 2016, at venues in the West End and across London. Tickets go on sale to the general public from September 15, with priority booking for BFI Champions and Members, as well as American Express cardholders.