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British Film Festival 2016: The best of the best

Ros Hull

If you are a pay TV tragic, like me, chances are you have spent quality time getting to know the excellent programming on BBC First.

Continuing that quest for excellence, BBC First is presenting the British Film Festival 2016, at Palace Electric Cinemas in Canberra. Just in its fourth year, this continues to be the festival to measure all other film festivals by. From wonderfully British eccentricity to heartbreaking kitchen sink dramas via period pieces, gut wrenching documentaries and big screen revivals of some real British jewels, this has something for everyone.

If you only went to screenings of the classic retrospective films grouped together as Local Heroes you would still be taking a masterclass in best practice for filmmaking. It is not often that we can see The Man Who Fell to Earth on the big screen. If you still think David Bowie was ‘just a singer’, go see this and have your eyes opened. And if you think Gary Oldman is just Sirius Black, take yourself along to the most tragic punk romance of them all – Sid and Nancy.

The festival opens with a film lauded at festivals in both Toronto and London. A United Kingdom is based on the true story of a British woman who fell in love with the heir to an African kingdom. Set in 1948 it promises racism, prudish morals and weasely civil servants. I am really looking forward to this one.

There is also an opportunity to discover, or rediscover, the social conscience of Britain – Ken Loach. His films are never comfortable, they rarely resolve as an ordinary narrative does, and they are unflinching in their regard for ordinary human tragedy. I do not think I will ever recall The Wind That Shakes the Barley without profound sadness. During this festival filmgoers can see his first feature, Poor Cow, his latest I, Daniel Blake – and a documentary on Loach himself. An embarrassment of riches.

If Sassy Fassy (my girls’ nickname for Michael Fassbender) is more your speed he is appearing in two films at this festival. The Light Between Oceans has a remote Australian setting and two spectacular actresses (Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weiss) as well. While Trespass Against Us is billed as a ‘thrilling crime-drama with a pulsating original score by the Chemical Brothers’. The stories could not be more different and yet … I think I will be seeing both!

It would not be modern British cinema if there was not some well-realised fantasy and the film that closes the festival promises that in abundance. An interesting newcomer, the incandescent Felicity Jones and a monster voiced by Liam Neeson come together in A Monster Calls.

Count me in. For the whole festival. Goodbye sleep.

The festival runs from 25 October – 16 November. Find more information on the sessions at NewActon’s Palace Electric here.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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