Simian Substitute Site For October 2013: Monkey Mini Rugby Club
Spank's LFF Diary, Wednesday 09/10/2013

London Film Festival 2013

Sheila Whitaker, and her hair. On the day that she introduced her last LFF Surprise Film, all of the festival staff charged onto the stage with her, all wearing wigs that looked exactly like that. Which was fun.When I first started attending the London Film Festival, it was being run by a woman called Sheila Whitaker. Her immediate successors - Adrian Wootton and Sandra Hebron - may have done more to broaden the scope and appeal of the Festival, but they were just building on the initial work that Sheila did. During the decade she was in charge of the LFF, she gradually moved it out of its South Bank ghetto and into the West End where it couldn't be ignored. She was my first LFF director, and like your first Doctor Who that's always a tough act to follow. She died in July of this year, and she'll be sadly missed.

I first started attending the London Film Festival in 1989. And I've been there every year since, rain or shine. So this is my 25th. Ulp.

These days, it's Clare Stewart who's in charge of the LFF, and this is her second year in the job. The changes she brought in last year - a programme grouped by vague emotional categories rather than country of origin, a running time of twelve days rather than sixteen, a generic trailer that could be for a film festival anywhere in the world, and the removal of priority postal booking - are all still in place, and I suspect we're stuck with those for the forseeable future. Although that last one may change, given the spectacular fustercluck that the first day of online booking turned into. I personally find it easier to keep pretending that it's still 1989, and put my ticket application in the post like I always did - it's infinitely less stressful, and almost anything you don't get in the initial sales period can be picked up in early October when the spare corporate tickets are released.

There are a couple more changes to note this year, however - and I'm being kind and just noting them, we can wait to see if they become an issue in future years. Some of these have slipped under the radar: the partial folding of the Archive section into the other film categories, and the curious absence of an animation programme. The first of those could be charitably looked at as a way of giving the archive screenings a higher profile rather than hiding them at the back of the programme, and I'm happy if that's the case given that they're usually an unsung highlight of the LFF. The latter is a little more worrying: animation programmer Jayne Pilling is still being credited as part of the team, so maybe there just isn't enough good stuff out there this year? We can come back to that when we get to the 2014 British Animation Awards. (Assuming there is a 2014 British Animation Awards...)

But if you follow a lot of UK film people on Twitter like I do, then there's only one change to proceedings that matters, and apparently it's the worst thing in the world. Because a press pass to the LFF used to be free, and now it costs £30. Partly, I suspect this move has been driven by the definition of 'press' being stretched over the last few years to include anyone who wants to review films for their own website. Inevitably, it's resulted in terabytes worth of self-entitled whining from people who are being asked to pay a total of £30 to attend a couple of weeks of press screenings as well as the festival itself, and think that's too much. "Why do I have to pay to give the LFF all the free publicity my reviews provide?" is the typical question being asked by a blogger getting an average of 5 hits per day. As a self-confessed optimist, I'm looking at it from the opposite angle: a press fee of £30 means that less of my BFI membership fee goes towards subsidising your shitty little blog.

My shitty little blog has been publishing daily reviews of the LFF since 1998. I've never applied for press accreditation in all that time. That's partly because, in the early days, that would have seemed like the most ludicrous idea in the world. Whereas these days - well, a) I'm too lazy, b) I like the freedom of being able to write what I want without feeling any sort of obligation towards the BFI, and c) I like the LFF as a social event - going along to these films with my friends, at times when they can come along with me, rather than 9am press screenings in the rat-infested journo camp that is the Cineworld Trocadero. (No disrespect to my hard-working colleagues at Mostly Film, however, who have paid the accreditation fee like grown-ups and will be covering the Festival as it happens.)

This festival - like the twenty-four others before it - is going to cost me a damn sight more than £30. But I'm doing this for fun, and don't think of my attendance as being some sort of human rights issue, so I don't care. And as ever, I'll be posting daily updates here about the films I've seen, with occasional contributions from Spank's Pals if they have any additional insights to offer. Let's do this one for Sheila, shall we? Watch this space.

  • Wednesday October 9th - Jodorowsky's Dune
  • Thursday October 10thAdore, As I Lay Dying, The Congress, The Lusty Men, Nobody's Daughter Haewon, One Day When The Rain Falls, Sandra
  • Friday October 11th - Computer Chess, Gare du Nord, The Sarnos: A Life In Dirty Movies
  • Saturday October 12th - Electro Chaabi, Hirokazu Kore-eda Screen Talk, Kalpana, Model Shop
  • Sunday October 13thAfternoon Delight, Eliza Lynch: Queen Of Paraguay, The Great Passage, Ida, Milius, Norte: The End Of History, A Touch Of Sin
  • Monday October 14th11.6, Abuse Of Weakness, Glückskinder, Gore Vidal: The United States Of Amnesia, Jeune Et Jolie, La Maison de la Radio
  • Tuesday October 15th - Aatsinki: The Story Of Arctic Cowboys, Kon-Tiki, Our Sunhi, A Street In Palermo, A Time In Quchi
  • Wednesday October 16th - The Doorway To Hell, The Lady From Shanghai, Picture Snatcher, We Are The Best!
  • Thursday October 17thA Long And Happy Life, Night Moves, Rigor Mortis, So Young, Tracks, Why Don't You Play In Hell?
  • Friday October 18th - The Armstrong Lie, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, The Epic Of Everest, Gloria, The Invisible Woman, Locke, The Zero Theorem
  • Saturday October 19th - The Eternal Return Of Antonis Paraskevas, Grand Piano, The Lunchbox, The Past
  • Sunday October 20th - Cowboy, Drinking Buddies, Lifelong, Luton, Nine Lives, The Strange Colour Of Your Body’s Tears, Suzanne, Tell Me Lies
  • The Wrap Party - the team's final thoughts on LFF 2013, plus additional reviews of The Parrot and the Swan, At Berkeley, Borgman, The Wishful Thinkers, My Fathers My Mother And Me, Let The Fire Burn, Night Moves, Kill Your Darlings, The Past, Half Of A Yellow Sun, Parkland, Becoming Traviata, Le Grand Cahier, A Touch of Sin


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