Tuesday, 19 October 2010

LFF7: Another red carpet

Ruth Sheen, Mike Leigh, Lesley Manville and Jim Broadbent were on hand for the Leicester Square red carpet premiere of Leigh's acclaimed new film Another Year last night at the London Film Festival. Tonight's big event was the UK premiere of West Is West, the long-awaited sequel to the 1998 hit East Is East.

Rarely for this festival, I was invited to a party last night for the UK premiere of Ferzan Ozpetek's new film Loose Cannons, which I liked a lot. It was a low-key reception before the screening, hosted by the UK distributor Peccadillo, but it made me feel like I was actually at a festival for a change. Meanwhile, here are some highlights from today and tomorrow...

West Is West
dir Andy DeEmmony; scr Ayub Khan-Din; with Om Puri, Linda Bassett 10/UK ****
It's been 11 years since we last caught up with the Khan family, although only five have passed in their lives. And while this sequel isn't as sharply funny as 1999's East Is East, it has some nice things to say about growing up in a multi-cultural society. Set in 1976, the story leaves England behind as family members travel to Pakistan to reconnect to the old ways and to learn something about themselves. While still comical, this is much more of a drama than the first film, taking a serious look at cultural issues as well as the internal journeys of both father and son (Puri and newcomer Aqib Khan). And at the heart of the film, Puri and Bassett are simply terrific.

Meek's Cutoff
dir Kelly Reichardt; with Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood 10/US ****
With a fierce attention to detail, Reichardt turns her focus on the old West with this evocative drama based on true events. Not only are the characters almost outrageously authentic, but the depiction of the Western frontier is unlike anything we've ever seen on screen. With a minimalistic script, the film traces a harrowing journey across a desolate Oregon landscape as a group of intrepid migrants in 1845 cross unmapped territory and try to figure out whether to trust an indigenous man they encounter at a moment of need. Actually, the film is about issues of trust and fear, and while the plot is a bit untouchable, the film is thoroughly haunting.

The Tillman Story
dir Amir Bar-Lev; narr Josh Brolin; with Pat Tillman, Mary Tillman 10/US ****
This thrillingly assembled documentary traces one family's struggle to find out the truth behind their famous son's death as a soldier serving in Afghanistan. But clearly the US government has no interest in the truth. The shocking facts are plainly laid out by the filmmakers to explore how the Bush administration abused the memory of one fallen soldier (millionaire football player Pat Tillman) for their own political gain. And they clearly weren't prepared for this tenacious family, which decided that the truth was more important than anything else. Along the way the film stirs in us a deep sense of righteous anger. It's a bit strong, but also essential viewing.

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