BFI 52nd London Film Festival

by Joanna Orland & Marko Domazet

The London Film Fest was a biggie this year… Highlights were encounters with Laura Linney and Benicio Del Toro, as well as our nightly feasts of Chicken Teriyaki. So let’s get right to it. Enjoy our coverage, cuz we sure did:


Alls I gots to say is: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? Pete. Er. O. Toole. Holy crap was this a drama or a comedy??? Dude is trippin.

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT or how I got confused, woke up with a wonky eye, panicked because the wonky eye wouldn’t go away and realised it was all because of a dog?!?

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. Undoubtedly, many a cinematic concepts have gone amiss on me and I am the first one to admit to not always understanding films of a more complex nature (i.e. anything not set in high school or with the lack of montage sequences accompanied by amazing 80’s music). With that in mind, I assumed I wouldn’t understand Dean Spanley. The write up was using lots of posh words like “Transmigration of Souls”, “curmudgeon” and “Tokay”, so I put on my intelligent outfit and prepared myself to be blown away. Well, like seeing a cow with a gun, this film left me feeling very confused.

Basically, we’re talking an old man (O’Toole), his son (some other guy) and a priest who likes to sniff and drink Tokay (Sam Neill). So you drink the Tokay and start remembering things you did in your previous life. Things like sniffing, barking, running and you know, woofing around being Peter O’Toole’s bitch. And after you’ve talked about it for two hours, your audience understands that it’s all about you talking about how you used to be a dog. Exhilarating.

Don’t be fooled by the bitter review my dear friends. Despite its medical hazards (yes, I did lose my concentration to the point of my eye going wonky on me… I felt like Paris Hilton!) this film is filled with twists, poppycocks and anecdotes that will blow your mind! For instance, did you know that dogs think that fear and old women smell the same? Or that only Imperial Tokay opens the gates to the past? Or, for that matter, that only dogs go to heaven? Woof!

Exciting and mind blowing indeed and one to enjoy with a nice ‘home-made’ brownie followed by some chicken teriyaki. In the words of my fellow teriyaki addict ‘Who let the dogs out?’

Quick Gun Murugan

3 letters:

Seriously… ??? James Bond meets cowboy western meets Austin Powers meets The Matrix meets Bollywood musical. I have no idea….

It starts off in the 1980’s (yes… how cowboy) with Quick Gun Murugan in his camp cowboy suit trying to save a town of vegetarians from evil meat-eating bandits. QGM dies and comes back 20 odd years later in order to stop Rice-Plate-Reddy, the leader of the evil meat-eating bandits, from taking over the world with his new chain restaurant McDosa.

Um, it was kind of interesting and fun, but I seriously thought it was three hours long… it was about an hour and a half…

The Other Man

Oh, I wanted to be The Other Man
I wanted to be the one who kisseth the leading lady
I wanted the lovely Linney.
An interesting story
A family falling apart.
A husband, wife and lover.
Who will win the lady’s heart?
And who will live to tell?
The red carpet was fun.
After all, annoying butting in journo wasn’t there.
The stars rolled in.
We spoke to the director.
Richard Eyre
He said he loved the cast
Had worked with Liam and Laura before
He wants people to question the film
To question their own lives.
Mission accomplished!
Laura came in
I questioned my life,
My sexuality.
Words cannot express how I feel.
She had me at hello.
Linney for president.
Oh yeah, we also chatted with Sir Richard Eyre and Liam Neeson. And ate more chicken.


I had seriously low expectations for this film. After all, Ron Howard is a preachy annoying director that over-Hollywoodizes everything he touches. And although Frost/Nixon was definitely HOLLYWOOD, it still was a good story, with good (real) characters, and AMAZING actors with Oscar-worthy performances on the Frost/Nixon front.

There is a point in the film where you actually forget that that is not the real Richard Nixon you are watching on screen. It’s bizarre, but you truly suspend belief and just accept that Frank Langella IS Richard Nixon. And Michael Sheen is just David Frost. He just is.

This film was memorable, engaging, educational, a true character portrait, and just overall bloody marvelous! I hate to give Ron H props here, but well done mate! But you seriously couldn’t have done it without Frank and Michael in the lead roles. I’m going to keep a watch out come Oscar time for these two…. Oh yeah.. and Kevin Bacon is in it too…. Add another notch to the 6 degrees belt.


Comedian Bill Maher of Politically Incorrect fame teams up with Borat director Larry Charles to create a hilarious documentary on religion! I don’t know which was more enjoyable – the film itself or the heated Q&A that went on afterwards… it even carried out into the theatre lobby!! Just amazing.

While Larry claims that Bill was listening to his interview subjects, hence his ability to dish out the quick witty comebacks, I got the feeling that maybe he was listening out for things to jibe, rather than actually listening with an open mind. This film should be taken more as a comedy rather than an educational experience, that’s fo shiz.

Anyway, most surprising religion I found was the church of Marijuana (didn’t know it was officially a religion?). Also enjoyed some of the interviews with former priests outside of the Vatican and all the crazy church-goers that couldn’t really hold their own in Bill’s presence. Even though it covered quite a wide range of religions, it was blatantly missing Buddhism and Jedi amongst a few others. Otherwise, quite extensive and damn hilare! The dude actually found a Jesus amusement park and got to interview the man playing Jesus himself!!! I was in tears from laughter.. tears…

Rachel Getting Married
(and being a religious schizophrenic)

Anne Hathaway is very cool in a young Ava Gardner sort of way. So far she’s chosen roles that have helped establish her as a beautiful and funny rom-com comedienne. So, when it came to her doing the crossover it was a wise choice to choose a director with a reputable reputation as that of Jonathan Demme.

Rachel Getting Married tells the story of Kym, a young woman who returns home from rehab for her big sister’s wedding. Her return triggers a whole lotta drama and old family tensions resurface, resulting in some good acting, a lot of improv-style scenes and a solid performance from the lead lady.

Unfortunately, Jonathan Demme didn’t stop at that as he chose to add cringe-worthy elements like a singing groom, religious schizophrenia and a man who looked like he could be Bob Geldof’s cousin.

On a positive note, the night of Rachel Getting Married will also be the night we discovered there are TWO Taro restaurants in Soho, feasted on another chicken teriyaki and coined the term terykaki.

And let us not downplay the amazing Mr. ALAN RICKMAN in the audience only a few feet away from us!

Achilles and the Tortoise

Thank GOODNESS! Finally a Takeshi Kitano film that doesn’t stink!!! This is the 3rd year running that I’ve viewed Takeshi’s latest and greatest at the LFF… The past 2 were absolute stinkers that I couldn’t even describe to you if I DID understand what was going on. Luckily Achilles and the Tortoise had a real narrative and I could actually sit through the whole thing without wondering what the heck was going on.

My only problem with Takeshi’s latest is Takeshi himself. I loved the main character of the artist through the years as a young boy, and then a young man. When Takeshi takes over the role as the elder artist, all credibility disappears. I know hardcore Takeshi fans might disagree with me and LOVE watching the director/actor onscreen, but to me he cheapened his film, turning it into more of a slapstick rather than black comedy as I had been interpreting it up until that point.

Even so, there were some GREAT bits with Takeshi on screen – notably when the boxer was beating the artist’s wife for the sake of his art. Classic.

The Secret Life of Bees

My first assignment as a photographer. Don’t remember much apart from being snubbed by another reporter, thinking that Sophie Okonendo is very, very beautiful and that I really wanted to snog Paul Bettany. (Joanna thinks he looks like a vampire, but like the Victorians, I like me a bit of pale skin. In the words of Peter O’Toole ‘Woof!’).

Anyway, what I overheard from afar was that Sophie was absolutely bricking it having to sing on screen in front of her musical co-stars of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys! I wish we had a few more minutes with Sophie as she seemed absolutely lovely and was really proud to be a part of such a strong film, based on the book The Secret Life of Bees.

Oh, and the real star of the film – Gina (not as in va….). She rocks!
No chicken teriyaki was devoured that night.


This is a biggie, but for once we have to keep our lips sealed until the official release. Tune in soon for some gossip about Condi Rice look-alike Thandie Newton, the foxy Oliver Stone and sandwiches stuffed with spring rolls.

Wendy & Lucy

This is a story about a down and out girl who loses her dog. Girl Wendy is played by Michelle Williams. Dog Lucy is played by dog of unknown origins.

There is very little dialogue in the film and very little point to the story. But even so, running at 80 minutes, it’s quite enjoyable to watch and you do get sucked into Wendy’s dilemma.

The story outside of the dog angle was far more fascinating than any dog-related theme that was going on here… Wendy dealing with homelessness, loss and overall growing up were far more captivating than the girl and dog movie that was portrayed on the surface. If the ending wasn’t such a predictable cop out, I would’ve given much higher marks for overall enjoyment and execution. Michelle Williams did a fine job anyway, despite the whole dog thing. WOOF.


The LFF decided to screen Steven Soderbergh’s and Benicio Del Toro’s epic biopics on the life of Che Guevara back to back. Apparently shot as two completely separate films in separate styles, I was curious to see the audience reaction to sitting through over 4 hours of epicness. Alas, tickets were too hard to come by… BUT we got to chat a bit with Benicio and Stevie boy on the Red Carpet. All I have to say about this is PHWOAR (obviously directed at Beni, not Stevie…)

I have no idea what I asked Benicio, and no idea what he said to me… All I know is he looked me RIGHT in the eye with great intensity…Then he could’ve been insulting my momma for all I know… My knees just went from under me…You can check out my encounter in our Gossip archives.

No idea what Stevie was on about either…. Knees were still weak….

Anyway, coming soon are the audio clips from the greatest moment in my journalistic career – aka, the moment of INTENSE EYE CONTACT with Benicio!!!!


A brother and a sister meet for the first time. They become friendly. The sister gets raped. They move out and start building a house. The local community is shocked. Human nature at it’s best and worst. Hungarian art house baby!

I have to say Delta was one of the hidden gems of this years’ LFF. Beautifully filmed, the story is told in an uncompromising fashion (lingering shots, silence, dialogue that doesn’t necessarily lead anywhere dramatically) and a final scene that leaves you shook up for days!

Variety UK Achievement in Film Award
Ralph Fiennes

This was an onstage interview with Ralph Fiennes to honour his win of this year’s Variety UK Achievement in Film Award. Ralph was very underwhelming based on my expectations. But this is a good thing. I personally find his onscreen persona very whiny and stunted, with his voice that of Kermit the Frog. In person, he was a normal, shaven-head, middle-aged man with a normal way about him. Phew… glad I didn’t have to endure an hour of Kermit with a stiff upper lip!

The interviewer was crap. Ralph handled himself very well in spite of this. Even with his long-spanning career, Ralph seemed to be quite modest about his roles and acting ability, giving Steven Spielberg full credit for his performance in Schindler’s List. Reflecting on his career, Ralph seems particularly fond of his character Justin Quayle in The Constant Gardner. Identifying most with him, and also touched by his story above all the other characters of his past. Claiming that while critics and audience alike both were rooting for Quayle to get more agitated over his wife’s death, Ralph played it low key, keeping it real and true to the mild-mannered character he believes Justin to be.

Starting the evening with a montage of Ralph’s best bits, and wrapping up with a sneak preview of his new film The Reader, even not knowing an extensive amount about Ralph’s career, by the end of the night I was his number one fan. He had to rush off after just under an hour of talks as he was performing in the theatre production of Oedipus immediately after! A dedicated actor through and through!

The Silence of Lorna

Lorna is an Albanian woman who has married junky Claudy in order to get her Belgian citizenship. This film is both touching and disturbing as it portrays Lorna’s struggle with her moral and civil obligations.

Lorna is played very compassionately by Arta Dobroshi who actually had to learn French for this film. She is very entrancing and her facial expressions and mannerisms are enough for the audience to feel empathy towards her character. Her relationship with Claudy is captivating and threads the entire story together. Even though he is not her main ‘romantic’ lead, Claudy is the central male character that the audience is not only rooting for, but longing for.

I can’t get into too much detail without ruining this film for those who haven’t seen it, but to sum up – this is a fine film overall, but it leaves the viewer a bit unsettled by the end. The Dardenne brothers were on hand with Arta to answer questions at the post-screening Q&A, but to be honest, they confused me more than they actually answered anything… and not in one of those mystical enlightening ways… They should just learn not to speak about their art really….


Every year, the LFF dust of a few old nuggets and show them the way they were intended to be seen. 2008 brought a selection ranging from silent masterpieces to pre-Hayes Hollywood pieces and judging by the vast crowd that braved the rainy weather, Treasures from the Archive is a popular one.

This year, yours truly got to watch the fun and colourful Rita Hayworth vehicle Cover Girl which was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. La Hayworth sparkled, Gene Kelly shook his booty and Eve Arden offered splendid comic support in what must be one of the most fun musicals set in the world of fashion (you know, I might even prefer it to Funny Face). Also, and this might mostly apply to those of us who are a bit geeky about old models, the film featured 12 cover girls of 1943 like Susan Shaw of Vogue fame! Fun!

My 2nd film, The Miracle Woman was a slightly different affair as it told a story of a con-evangelist and her friendship/love affair with a blind man.

Refreshingly harsh (those who’ve seen the church scene with Barbara Stanwyck will know what I’m talking about), The Miracle Woman served up some good acting, an interesting story and despite the disappointing treatment of the leading lady (I can’t give it away though!) I think it’s a swell movie! And so is the Treasures from the archive section of LFF.

London Calling

An integral (but often forgotten) part of any film festival should be its shorts programme. Short films are not only a wonderful way to exercise creativity and an integral way for future filmmakers to find their audiences, but also enjoyable and accessible ways of broadening ones horizon when it comes to film.

Amongst the events on offer at this years’ LFF, yours truly ended up at London Calling; a programme showcasing exciting films from some of the capital’s up and coming film makers (hello Avril!). Supported by Film London, the films on display dealt with a number of themes ranging from a young boy’s obsession with boobies to a crazy black horse that likes to chase families around. To break it down really quickly, this is what went down:

Playground (dir. Avril Evans) – A story with an unexpectedly spooky atmosphere. Great acting from the kid performers and a hell of a dead lady scene that stays with you for days!

The Yowie and the Magpie (dir. Dylan White)– animation, Australian, FUN!

Baghdad Express (dir. Nimer Rashed)– moving story about a teenage girl that has to chose between following her dream and working in her father’s Arabian restaurant. Good acting, nice story but visually lacking attention to detail.

Rolling on (dir. Paula Desiderio)– doc about kids who chose to skateboard. Moving.

Love Does Grow on Trees (dir Bevan Walsh)– hilarious comedy about a young teenage boy who discovers dirty magazines, love interests and the awkwardness that comes with it.

Wonder of the World/City (dir Cordelia Swann)– I fail to see the point of shooting (albeit beautiful, but so what?) still frames of objects and expecting people to see a connection. Some people call it micro budget and abstract, I call it lazy.

Cartrouble (dir Dave Hurt)– amateurish drama about a telling car journey, two lovers that can’t agree on anything and obvious symbolism in the shape of the injured bunny. Yawn.

Rainhorse (dir Sebastian Goodwin)– expertly executed suspense story about a fight between a man and a horse. Undoubtedly the film with the biggest budget and highest production value, but also the one with the clearest sense of direction.

American Teen

Hands up this was the best film of the festival! A documentary following six high school students during their senior year in a small Midwestern town. All the stereotypes are represented (the jock, the queen B, the geek, the arty girl|) and the recognisable dilemmas they’re dealing with are portrayed in an honest, moving and straightforward way. The film is structured in an excellent way and the snappy pace, the mixture of quotidian and talking heads footage make this an enjoyable (and at times eye opening!) journey. We’re talking proms, dates, getting into college, bullying, crying, bitching and once shocking stunt I wouldn’t even do now in my 20’s!

The director managed to build a solid relationship with her subjects as they not only allowed her into their world, but also opened up to her and at times showed us a very human side of their high school persona. In addition to that, American Teen has refreshingly high production values (especially for a doc) making it even more enjoyable viewing.  Please try and see it if you can!


C’est tout.

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