Event Review - BFI London Film Festival 2015

October 20, 2015

When a big event occurs in the capital, it makes sense to attend and experience all of the excitement that the guests are partaking in. At Sternberg Clarke, we don’t just want to be the same tired entertainment planners that you might see elsewhere, we want to be the innovators, the people who are always searching for new and original entertainment ideas for your event. With this in mind, we like to visit as many events as possible and the BFI London Film Festival 2015 fitted the bill perfectly.

Showcasing 240 films from 72 countries in 16 cinemas over 12 days, there is sure to be something to catch your eye. From a talk with Dark Knight trilogy director Christopher Nolan to an introduction with a costumed talking squirrel, Nelson Nutmeg, there is a film or event for everyone in the family. Next year’s event will be the 60th, but what did the 59th hold?

 For our first film, three days into the festival, we chose to sit down and watch Son of Saul (above), a holocaust drama that had been a bit of a festival darling at Cannes and the undoubted favourite to land the Best Film in a Foreign Language Oscar in February 2016. Following a Sonderkommando, a Jew forced to work in the death camps before being killed themselves, it is an immersive and haunting experience. Saul takes it upon himself to bury a child killed in a gas chamber, desperately scaling the organised chaos of the camp to find a Rabbi in order to help provide a proper burial. The camera sticks tightly to Saul throughout, many of the horrors of Auschwitz taking place in the blurred background. The scale is huge, the topic terrifying and there are moments that leave you shaken. All in all, a terrific start to the festival, with the director Laszlo Nemes in attendance to provide an interesting Q and A.

We had to wait three days for our next film, the Norwegian disaster movie titled The Wave. The wonderfully named Roar Uthaug directs the tale of a geologist who just so happens to be uprooting his family to the city as a fjord shows some interesting seismic activity. The usual tropes of a divided family, tears amidst the chaos and somebody sacrificing themselves to save someone else are all present, but so is some impressive storytelling and smart camerawork. The ten minutes the townsfolk have before the wave wipes them out is incredible; how the graphics and sound were so good on such a small budget is anyone’s guess. Ultimately we expected a disaster film and that’s exactly what we got. It’s better than The Rock’s San Andreas, if you’re wondering.

Thursday soon arrived and after arranging lots of wonderful entertainment at events during the day, it was time for us to be entertained by Jeremy Saulnier’s new film, a follow up to the visceral revenge thriller, Blue Ruin. The plot of Green Room (title picture) concerned a punk band who are forced to take a gig in a neo-nazi bar for petrol money, but when they witness the aftermath of a murder, find themselves locked in their green room with Patrick Stewart’s furious club owner baying for their blood. Err... If that sounds like your kind of thing then go right ahead! It’s filled with blood, gore and some extremely dark humour. The distributors gave us all a free poster as we departed the cinema, always a clever way to ensure that you remember the film or event a few days later. As an aside, the Picturehouse Central is a stunning new venue that you ought to consider for your events! Check it out now!

 Friday brought with it two films after another heady day of event planning. The first was a German film titled Victoria at Curzon Mayfair (above). This has piqued our interest because of its somewhat unique plotline and filming technique. With no cuts at all, the film is one continuous take focusing on a young lady who becomes embroiled in a bank heist by men she only recently met. The plotting was clever and once the heist took place, it’s non-stop thrills as the group involved desperately attempt to escape the police in early morning Berlin. Another Q and A was provided, this time by the director, but with another film on the horizon we had to depart early! That’s the importance of good event planning, folks!

Arriving for the Surprise Film at Odeon West End, it quickly became clear that we needn’t have left Victoria early because nobody was getting in any time soon. Yes, the London Film Festival was unfortunately running behind schedule for one of its marquee films. Whoops! But never mind, for once we had all taken our seats, we were treated to Charlie Kaufman’s latest masterpiece Anomalisa, a stop motion animation about a motivational speaker who seems somewhat bored with life. Hilarious, moving and unexpectedly hilarious at times, the film was part-funded through Kickstarter and deserves to be seen. Another Q and A was provided after the film and it has to be said that many of these West End cinemas really are good events spaces for awards shows or speaking gigs. Food for thought...

 Saturday arrived and yes, it was our personal final day of the festival. After taking in five films already, we were somewhat intrigued by our last two choices from the programme. Office 3D (above) was a finance-based musical from prolific Hong Kong director Johnnie To, stepping out of his action movie comfort zone with this Margin Call meets TRON creation (if you can imagine that). The production design within the film is stunning and although some of the music and plotting were lost in translation, the imagery really was superb and this is a brilliant film to look out for if you’re in the business of theming for events.

Our final choice of film was a documentary starring Louis Theroux as he investigated the murky and bizarre world of Scientology. Unlike his usual films, My Scientology Movie is a theatrical experience where Theroux doesn’t have access to his subjects. As such, much of the film is put together in an Act of Killing-style, with reconstructions and visits to premises where Theroux is hounded by those in control of the religion. Halfway through, it becomes clear that the Church of Scientology is making a movie about him in return, something that provides a superb comedic backdrop to a compelling topic. Louis Theroux and his fellow filmmakers were all in attendance for a Q and A afterwards and were extremely humorous in their recollections.

We had a fabulous London Film Festival experience and aside from seeing intriguing films, which can best be described as ‘a bit different’, we feel strongly that we have learned a fair bit about events even now, 25 years after we started. Those in the film world are brilliant for speaking engagements, some of the venues in London are ace for events and well, that Office 3D production design should be shamelessly used for inspiration for an upcoming event! It was a wonderful 12 days and we can’t wait for next year!



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By Henry Fosdike