Leeds International Film Festival: A Preview

By October 15, 2014

Film, TV & Tech. Leeds.

[Vertical Cinema, Nov 7th. Courtesy of LIFF]


On October 3rd in the heart of the city at Leeds Town Hall, the 28th Leeds International Film Festival had its opening ceremony. Hundreds of people made their way there to be a part of the start of what is undoubtedly the city’s biggest cinematic event of the year.

For those not in the know, the LIFF is an annual event that celebrates some of the planet’s best filmmaking talent. Throughout the month of November, venues across the city will play host to hundreds of independent and foreign language films covering every genre, from horror to musical, with a handful of Hollywood classics thrown in for good measure. These are sorted  into five different strands (Short Film City, Retrospectives, Fanomenon, Cinema Versa and Official Selection), most of which will have their own special marathon screening events.

With this much going on, it might be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, TSOTA is on hand to give a brief run-down of what will be going on, as well as to suggest a few must-see films of the festival.


Short Film City

‘Short Film City’ is a fairly self-explanatory strand; it’s the category containing the festival’s short films. It’s set to be headlined on November 7th by Vertical Cinema (see image above), a light and sound experience featuring work from ten renowned experimental audio-visual artists. Alongside this, it will play host to a series of panoramas that focus on new filmmaking talent from Romania and Ireland, as well as some short pieces hand-selected by the makers of Kentucky Route Zero, one of the most acclaimed video game series of the last few years.

Must-see: Fantasia, a recorded performance by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra of music from the classic Disney Film (Victoria, Wed 12/Sun 16, 13.30/16.00).



[Fantasia. Courtesy of LIFF]



The annual ‘Retrospectives’ strand pays homage to some of the greats of classic cinema, and this year, it’s Ingmar Bergman, Luis García Berlanga and Juan Antonio Bardem who are getting the headline treatment. Bergman’s love affair with the island of Fårö will be explored through multiple films that he produced there, and Berlanga and Bardem will finally get the international attention they deserve as the festival examines both their collaborative work and a few of their independent projects.

There will also be the opportunity to view a selection of Hollywood classics, including Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, as well as a birthday celebration as the Hyde Park Picture House reaches its hundredth anniversary.

Finally, the special ‘War and Cinema’ sub-group will commemorate the anniversary of the First World War by gathering together propaganda newsreel, documentaries and classic silent films such as La Grande Illusion.

Must-see: A Night at the Cinema in 1914. This celebration of 100 years of Leeds’ most famous art house cinema will see guests don formal attire and step back in time to view  all the comedies, dramas and newsreels that an early 20th century audience would have seen during a night out at the cinema. (HPPH, Fri 7, 19:00).


[A Night at the Cinema in 1914. Courtesy of LIFF]



‘Fanomenon’ is the name given to LIFF’s cult screenings of sci-fi and horror films. This year, the biggest of its events will be the return of the globally-renowned ‘Day of the Dead’, which will preview Kevin Smith’s new horror-comedy Tusk as well as a screening of What We Do in the Shadows, a spoof documentary about a group of vampires sharing a flat in modern day Wellington. This will then lead into LIFF’s legendary overnight horror marathon, ‘Night of the Dead XIV’.

For those who aren’t such big fans of horror, ‘Fanomenon’ still has plenty to offer. On Friday 14th, Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins will be hosting a Q+A session as well as showcasing their new collaborative film Showpieces. ‘Anime Day 2014’ will see the Town Hall run back-to-back screenings of the best of Japanese animation, and cult classic 2001: A Space Odyssey will also be shown for the third year running.

Must-see: A Kingdom of Madness and Dreams, an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of Studio Ghibli (Victoria/Cottage Road, Fri 14/Sun 16, 15:30/15:00).



[A Kingdom of Madness and Dreams. Courtesy of LIFF]


Cinema Versa

‘Cinema Versa’ is the banner under which most of LIFF28’s music and documentary films fall under, and there’s quite a number of them that will be worth seeing. On Thursday 6th BBC Broadcaster Giles Peterson will present Brasil Bam Bam: The Story of Sonzeira in the Victoria Hall. This film charts the DJ’s journey as he travels to Rio to form a supergroup and record an album. On the 13th we will see a similar event as Scottish songwriter Edwyn Collins presents The Possibilities are Endless, a film about how he fought back from the brink of death with the help of his wife after experiencing a stroke in 2005.

The most exciting event however looks to be ‘Once in a Lifetime’, which promises to transform the Victoria Hall into a festival-style venue and will see screenings of a selection of music films. Guests can look forward to Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and The Who’s The Kids are Alright.

Must-see: Any of the films making up ‘Once in a Lifetime’. Festival seating, great music and street food in the glitz of Victoria Hall (Victoria, Sat 15, 12:00-19:30)


the who 3

[Once in a Lifetime, The Who. Courtesy of LIFF]


Official Selection

This final group contains the best LIFF28 has to offer, a series of films hand-picked by staff that contain the biggest names and best performances of the festival. Opening LIFF28 will be James Kent’s Testament of Youth, an adaptation of the best-selling memoir by Vera Brittain. The film is set just before the First World War and follows an independent young woman from Yorkshire as she receives a scholarship to Oxford and falls in love with her brother’s best friend.

Another official selection with strong Yorkshire ties will be Catch Me Daddy, a thriller showing on Monday 17th. It marks the cinematic debut of Daniel Wolfe, an award-winning director of music videos, and is set in the west of the county. The film has already received praise for its approach to cinematography, as it captures the Yorkshire landscape ‘like the setting of a long-decayed fairytale.’


LIFF28 will close on November 20th at the Hyde Park Picture House with what is shaping up to be the most anticipated film of the month, the black comedy Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Birdman stars Michael Keaton as a washed up actor, struggling to mount a Broadway play based around his role in an old superhero film. It has already received rave reviews from those who have seen it, praising Keaton’s performance and the way he ‘hilariously parodies his Batman persona.’

Must-see: Birdman. It’s the most hyped film of the festival and looks set to be very good indeed (HPPH, Thu 20, 18:30/21:00).



[Birdman. Courtesy of LIFF]

A full programme is available in the official festival catalogues, which can be found online at leedsfilm.com. Tickets and unlimited festival passes are on sale now also via the leeds film website.

Follow LIFF 28 on Twitter @leedsfilmfest 

Adam Button

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