Having opened in true Hollywood form on Wednesday night with a gala screening of Paul Greengrass's Captain Phillips, the 2013 BFI London Film Festival is well under way. What could be more glamorous than having Tom Hanks, LA royalty and a galvanized movie star, at your opening gala? Well, apparently, having Tom Hanks your closing gala, too. The festival will wrap on Sunday, 20th October with a screening of Saving Mr. Banks, another Tom Hanks starrer with Emma Thompson, directed by John Lee Hancock and produced by Ruby Films' Alison Owen.
There are over 300 feature films playing at the 2013 London Film Festival. Given its place in the festival calendar - unfolding in the wake of both Venice and Toronto - the circuit buzz precedes the London screenings and it is relatively easy to predict those films that will boost the queues and the scramble for seats. This year's crowd pleasers include Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Colour (even at three hours, a must-see for festival goers), our own Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, Alexander Payne's Nebraska and Kelly Reichardt's Night Moves.
Reichardt's first film in three years and most commercial fare to date has generated excitement and admiration for its steady camerawork, incredibly controlled pace and stellar performances. When a 9.00 am screening on a Saturday morning is near full, you are doing something right.
Other films directed by women at the festival include Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant, Chika Anadu's B for Boy and Kitty Green's documentary Ukraine is not a Brothel.
In addition to Alison Owen's attendance as the producer of the Mary Poppins' inspired Saving Mr Banks, Magnolia Mae's Gabrielle Tana is in town in Tom Hanks-style - she has two films to promote. Tana produced both Stephen Frears' highly anticipated Judi Dench and Steve Coogan-starrer, Philomena, and Ralph Fiennes' sophomore directorial effort, The Invisible Woman. Look for upcoming interviews with both Alison Owen and Gabrielle Tana from the festival.
While the National Film Theatres within the BFI's headquarters on the South Bank are charged with the natter of well-heeled, opinion spouting cinephiles and culture-vultures, London does present problems when it comes to creating an atmosphere and energy for the festival: the distances between venues can be considerable, requiring an investment of time and money to get from one cinema to the next; the attendees are still grumbling about the increased prices for press and industry festival passes; and, it simply will not stop raining - sitting in wet trousers through three screenings in a row is uncomfortable, at best.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the festival.