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The lowdown on London Film Festival

Writer Lisa Balderson returns to London Film Festival to check out what might intrigue you CALM readers…

It’s October again! The days are getting shorter and darker, and the temperature has dropped enough to mean it’s time to dig out that winter coat. Oh yeah, and the London Film Festival is on too, celebrating its 60th birthday this year.

Over a 12 day period, this year’s festival will screen 245 features and 144 shorts; with most, if not all, accompanied by introductions and Q&A sessions with cast and crew. There’ll be the usual red carpet gala events, hosted at the Odeon Leicester Square and this year, an impressive 780 seat pop-up cinema located in Victoria Embankment Gardens will host the main galas for each of the established festival strands; Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic, Family and Experimenta.

With screenings, events, interviews and the inclusion of an agenda setting Symposium event – BFI’s Black Star project (BFI Black Star) – there’s plenty going on. The festival continues until 16th October, when it will close by screening British Director, Ben Wheatley’s latest offering, Free Fire. Check here for details of screenings and events: LFF 60 Listings

Be sure to check out these festival offerings.


 Orange Sunshine| USA 2016 | 94min | Dir: William A. Kirkley

Told through a series of sun kissed super-8 shot re-enactments and talking heads of those involved, Orange Sunshine documents the incredible story of ‘the Brotherhood’, a rag tag group of surfers/hippies who unwittingly become big time international drug smugglers. Led by Southern Californian native, John Griggs, the group found divinity in taking LSD, and promptly decided to leave their suburban lifestyles behind in order to bring psychedelic substances to the masses and change the world in the process with their new found religion.

During the 60s, the group lived without fear, their youth and idealisms fuelling their idyllic, low key way of life, but there is certain sadness in the interviews they give now, of a time they had to leave behind, that was too good to last. This documentary shows a different perspective on the lifestyle led by the distributors of drugs; away from the wealth and violence and towards The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. Peace man!


Tickling Giants | USA-Egypt-UK 2016 | 111min | Dir: Sara Taksler

Leaving a promising career as a cardiologist, Cairo based Bassem Youssef started a politically focused, comedy YouTube podcast (shot in his home laundry room!) which became an overnight success and led to his own hugely popular TV show, Al Bernameg (The Show).

Broadcast during Egypt’s turbulent political unrest, Al Bernameg gathered as many fans, as it did critics. The most notable of the latter, the Egyptian government. His disdainful remarks concerning his countries leaders (a total of three) during the show’s broadcast from 2011-2014), see not one, but two channels take him off air, with the first one later successfully suing him for breach of contract.

As political unrest grows in his country, so does public hatred towards Youssef, forcing him to flee his home with his wife and child. There are intimate scenes of Youssef’s home life; his wife’s support for his freedom of speech and yet equal concern for the family’s safety and concerned interviews with his brother and father as they attend the studio where Al Bernameg is filmed, under the cloud of those protesting him outside.

A truly compelling documentary, about a fearless man and his courageous team, who risk it all in order to stand up to their country’s oppressive dictators.



American Honey | USA-UK 2016 | 165min | Dir: Andrea Arnold | Cast: Sasha Lane, Riley Keough, Shia Lebouf

British Director Andrea Arnold is well known for her starkly realistic tales of working class, resolutely set in the greyest of grey British cities life (Red Road, Fish Tank). So, it comes as something of a marked change for the Director, to have set her latest offering in the US and filled the screen with atmospheric shots of sunshine and blue skies in this low key road trip.

A chance encounter at a Walmart, leads 18 year-old Star, to abandon her duties as provider for her younger siblings, and hit the road with a group of travelling magazine subscription sales people. Most are young, and the film hints at difficult back stories that they have willingly left behind for life on the road. The group are led by Krystal (played by Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough), herself a young woman likely escaping a regrettable past of her own, who takes out her daily rage on those around her. She is aided by her top salesman, Jake (Shia LaBeouf) who quickly becomes infatuated with their new recruit, causing a rift with the boss. Jake is an interesting character, worshipped by the group members themselves, but equally ridiculed and abused by Krystal. He has dreams of something different, but can’t quite know how to follow them. The group eat, sleep, work and travel together, bonded by the nothingness that they all share.

Arnold has again chosen to direct a largely inexperienced cast, the film’s main protagonist, Star (Sasha Lane) is a Texas State College freshman, whose innocence and unproven talent shine. There is often a lot of style over substance in this almost three hour film, the plot can seem like a secondary concern, but it’s certainly worth sitting back and enjoying the ride.


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