The United Kingdom, together with the US, has been at the forefront of filmmaking for many years, establishing a well-deserved reputation for quality cinema.
From comedies to dramas, the Brits have also produced some of the world’s most illustrious actors and directors.
The inaugural British Film Festival at the Palace Byron Bay, showcases 17 contemporary and classic films that celebrate all the qualities associated with British cinema – superb acting, cracking wit, earnest humanity and quality craftsmanship. From the latest, most eagerly-awaited new films to a selection of five quintessential classics that have forged their place in film history, the festival is truly a celebration of the best of British.
Thursday November 21 is opening night, with pre-film drinks, canapés and entertainment, before the Australian premiere screening of One Chance, the remarkable rags to riches story of Paul Potts, the shy but endearing winner of the first season of Britain’s Got Talent.
Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), the film stars James Corden as an inspirational nobody, a bullied shop assistant by day and amateur opera singer by night, who dared to follow his dream against all odds.
Closing the Festival is Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, which premiered to rapturous applause and was awarded Best Screenplay at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Based on the acclaimed book by Martin Sixsmith about a mother’s search for her lost son, director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons) delivers a moving and surprisingly funny delight, a compelling narrative of love and loss and ultimately a celebration of life.
Falling pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to a convent to be looked after as a ‘fallen woman’. When her baby was only a toddler, he was whisked away by the nuns to America for adoption.
Philomena spent the next fifty years searching for him in vain. Then she met Martin Sixsmith, a world-weary journalist as cynical as Philomena was trusting. Together they set off for America on a journey that would not only reveal the extraordinary story of Philomena’s son, but also the powerful bond that grew between Philomena and Martin.
Australian actor Eric Bana stars in Closed Circuit, from the producers of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a gripping and thought-provoking political thriller that explores conspiracy, terrorism and privacy in the modern age. When a bomb goes off in a busy London marketplace, a member of a terrorist cell is accused of masterminding the attack.
Arrested and imprisoned, two lawyers are assigned to his high profile case: defence attorney Martin Rose and special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe. The two have a complicated history of their own, but must work together to defend their client, uncover the unimaginable truth – and try to stay alive.
Just as the Troubles of 1970s Belfast threaten to take over his city, music-lover Terri opens a record shop called Good Vibrations and discovers a growing voice of resistance in the city’s underground punk movement. Before long he finds himself establishing a record label and leading a new community as the so-called ‘godfather of punk’.
A background of local conflict gives the film a real edge, but this is an unapologetically ramshackle rock movie, with Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones, Hunger), Dylan Moran (TV’s Black Books) and Jodie Whittaker (Attack the Block) adding fantastic performances to the mix. This is a hilarious, vibrant and triumphant story that will have audiences cheering for more.
Jude Law and Richard E Grant star in the comedy/drama Dom Hemingway.
After spending 12 years behind bars for keeping his mouth shut, the notorious safecracker Dom Hemingway is back on the streets of London and looking to collect what he’s owed. The endlessly vulgar and volatile Dom (Jude Law, Cold Mountain, and The Talented Mr Ripley) travels with his best friend Dickie (Richard E Grant, Gosford Park, Withnail & I) to the south of France to see his old crime boss.
Before long, Dom is involved with a femme fatale, a car accident and a betrayal, and decides it’s time to rethink his priorities. However, when he tries to reconnect with his long-lost daughter Evelyn, Dom finds himself sucked back into the underworld and doing what he really does best – ruining everything.
Direct from this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, this funny, profane and hugely entertaining gangster flick is driven by Jude Law’s brilliant, outrageous performance as the ultimate laddish crim. It’s also cracking good fun.
Other festival highlights include the Australian premiere of the beautifully observed and haunting Still Life, directed by Uberto Pasolini (The Full Monty). The film scooped up four prizes at the recent Venice Film Festival Horizons section, including Best Director and the Art Cinema Prize for Best Film. For 22 years, life for the calm and insular John May has been spent working for the local council, finding the next of kin for those who have passed away alone. But in this ‘age of efficiency’, John’s meticulousness is no longer desired. He’s made redundant, and left with one final assignment: a search for the relatives of a neighbour, Billy Stoke. John methodically pieces together Billy’s life; a mix of mischief, misadventure and love, most of all for an abandoned daughter, Kelly (Joanne Froggatt, Downton Abbey). John and Kelly are naturally drawn to each other, and as their friendship blossoms, his outlook opens imperceptibly to life’s infinite possibilities…
In 1999, the British Film Institute surveyed 1000 people from the world of British film and television to produce the BFI 100 list of the greatest British Films of the 20th century, and the festival will screen the top five of those films: The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed; Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935); Brief Encounter (1945), Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), and Great Expectations (1946), all directed by David Lean. Seeing these not-to-be-missed cinema classics on the big screen will remind audiences of the extraordinary power of cinema to inspire, amuse, move, thrill and above all, delight.
British Film Festival – Palace Byron Bay Cinema
Thursday November 21 – Wednesday November 27
Details on all the films screening at the British Film Festival, session times, and tickets are available at Palace Byron Bay Cinema or online at www.palacecinemas.com.au.