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Rollo Ross

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Yes, the London Film Festival Has Begun...

Posted: 12/10/2012 01:00

I've been quite amazed at how few people seem to be aware that the London Film Festival is on but yes it is happening and it's happening right now.

I'm not sure if this is a lack of marketing - I've only seen posters on the tube - or just the typical British stance in the press not to champion things we do well. Whereas France, Germany and Italy will show a patriotic amount of coverage in their newspapers for the opening night of Cannes, Berlin and Venice, I feel our own press do a bit of a 'meh'.

But the London Film Festival really should be celebrated for its uniqueness.

Most film festivals are where films come alive or die a grisly death. Under the chilly skies of Sundance and Berlin, and behind the glamour of Cannes and Venice, there are journalists and subsequently buyers deciding the fate of productions, which sometimes have been years in the making. It's a cruel environment, but it's necessary to sort the wheat from the chaff.

London isn't cruel. It's what I would call 'Now That's What I Call Film Festivals' (although I'm probably showing my age there!) as it picks all the gems from the other festivals and puts them all in a nice tidy selection. So there's no breaking of hearts here - just a whole load of good films that generally don't have the budgets of small European countries.

These include those movies that were overlooked by the press and buyers at the more exclusive film festivals because their debut screenings clashed with the new Tarantino film or a swanky drinks party so the buyers and press didn't attend. In other words, you've probably never heard of them. But the London Film Festival and the BFI are getting behind them.

London is usually known in the film industry as the Hollywood capital of Europe as all the big studios have their European headquarters here. Our multiplexes are full of American movies and we generally hold the European premieres of big blockbusters in London (and there's normally a lot of media coverage about them!).

But for two weeks, we're kicking back at our commercial reputation by hosting a celebration of non-formulaic movies and that, in my eyes, is worth celebrating.

Most importantly, it's a film festival aimed at the public so even you can get tickets. This isn't a Cannes where getting accreditation is like applying for Oxbridge. This is something everyone can join in on.

In case you need some tips, some of the highlights from just scanning through the long list of over 200 films are Amour by Michael Haneke, A Hijacking (which will go down a storm with Borgen fans), Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt, the Cannes crowd-pleasing The Sapphires and the simply titled No, which stars Gael Garcia Bernal.

And if you want to enter the Oscars discussion, you should probably check out Argo by Ben Affleck, the police drama End of Watch and the absolutely heart-melting sex therapy movie The Sessions. And don't miss out on the black and white 3D animation Frankenweenie which opened the film festival last night and is probably Tim Burton's most seminal work.

Or if it's a cultural experience you're craving, there's always Wadjda, the first Saudi Arabian film by a female director. That is no small feat.

It's possible that the tickets to these films have already been bought by those people out there who seem to know about everything (you know who you are!), but don't fret.

There are always reserve tickets for the popular screenings (probably set aside for our truant national press so you're in with a chance there!) or you can always just take a gamble on anything available and I guarantee it's going to be a cinematic experience you don't often get in this country.

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