Today, the programme for the 57th BFI London Film Festival was announced. It’s a particularly exciting year, with dramas such as Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm and Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin all likely to cause a stir amongst film types.
In the documentary realm – as is this blog’s focus – there are numerous intriguing selections. Comprising of a remarkable 42 documentary features in total, the factual film camp at this year’s LFF is certainly well-represented.
There will be 12 documentaries appearing ‘in competition’ this year, each of which have been selected to compete for the Grierson Award for their “integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance.”
Amongst them there is the new film from prolific documentarian Alex Gibney, The Armstrong Lie. Focusing primarily on the recent years of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s life, the doc promises to provide us with an extensive account of his remarkable downfall. The film features numerous important voices, including Lance’s best friend George Hincapie and Betsy Andreu, one of his most outspoken critics, but the real interest is to be found in the fact that Gibney began filming Armstrong in 2008, just as he was making a comeback to professional cycling and before the re-emergence of doping allegations. Promising both drama and some scientific expertise, this could be one of the festival’s outstanding docs.
Also in competition are Mark Cousins’ latest film, Here Be Dragons, and Greg Barker’s Manhunt, self-described as an ‘insider’ account of the CIA’s war on Osama Bin Laden. Kitty Green’s Ukraine is Not a Brothel is also up for the Grierson Award – a portrait of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen that is likely to rekindle the interest stirred by Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer earlier this year.
Elsewhere, veteran filmmaker Frederick Wiseman presents a four-hour documentary about The University of California in At Berkeley, and Jessica Oreck promises a visual feast in Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys.
Outside of the in competition films, Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia should be one of the most vibrant biographies on offer (now post-mortem after Vidal’s passing last year, but filmed before), and a BFI restoration of 1924 mountaineering doc The Epic of Everest is a real treat.
However, my personal pick for the festival is Cutie and the Boxer, the story of famed Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko. It looks fun, colourful and a little kooky, definitely one to keep an eye on. Watch the trailer below.
Here’s the full list of the films up for the Grierson Award:
Jessica Oreck’s Aatsinki: The Story of Artic Cowboys
Alex Gibney’s The Armstrong Lie
Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley
Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer
Mark Cousins’ Here Be Dragons
Nicolas Philibert’s La Maison de la Radio
Greg Barker’s Manhunt
Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture
Paul-Julien Robert’s My Fathers, My Mother and Me
Vitaly Mansky’s Pipeline
Matt Wolf’s Teenage
Kitty Green’s Ukraine is Not a Brothel