The top 10 film strands to see at the 2014 London Film Festival Print
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 18 September 2014 07:06

245. That's the number of feature films showing at this year's London Film Festival - up 12 from last year and up 20 from 2012. It's a lot of films.

So, when public booking for tickets opens today at 10am, you've got a tough decision to make. The internet is, of course, already full of countless lists of top picks, the best films starring Benedict Cumberbatch and the celebrity guest highlights, but there are so many other films in the line-up that it's not hard to come across ones that take your fancy. Yes, even Godard has a movie playing at the BFI IMAX.

That's why the London Film Festival divides up its programme into strands: to help you find something to suit your tastes. Laugh. Dare. Love. Thrill. Cult. Debate. Journey. But let's face it, sometimes those abstract nouns and evocative verbs aren't the easiest thing to browse. What if you just want a film about robots?

And so present to you our 10 alternative strands for the LFF 2014, to make it easier to find something specific to your interests. Really like war films? Want to know more about journalism? Enchanted by Eva Green? There really is something for everyone.

Sadly, we live in a time where there aren't many countries not engaged in conflict - 11, according the latest count from the Institute for Economics and Peace - and cinema continues to explore the reasons and ramifications of war, from The Imitation Game's story of Alan Turing cracking the Enigma code in WWII and '71, which sees a young Brit (Jack O'Connell) caught behind enemy lines in 1971 Belfast, to Zero Motivation, modern military comedy about Israeli soldiers. Most moving, perhaps, of all is a restoration of 1927's The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands, which will be accompanied by a new score played by the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines.

Zero Motivation
Damn the War!
War Book
The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands
The Imitation Game

It's not easy being a journalist, judging by this collection of newspaper-related LFF entries. Jon Stewart's debut, Rosewater, is based on the memoir of Maziar Bahari, a reporter detained for 188 days in Iran, while Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Palme d’Or-winner Winter Sleep follows retired actor struggling to write a local newspaper column.

Winter Sleep
Born Yesterday

Sometimes, you just want to see people hit things. Or kick things. Or attack things with swords. With the newly announced addition of Donnie Yen's Kung Fu Jungle receiving its world premiere at the LFF, our FISTS strand is for you.

Kung Fu Jungle
Dragon Inn

True stories are a popular source of cinematic inspiration, be it Alan Turing or an Iranian prisoner. Abel Ferrara gets in on the biopic game with Willem Dafoe playing Pasolini, while Timothy Small will star as painter Joseph Mallord William Turner. Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell are already feted for their turns in Foxcatcher, about wrestling world champions Dave and Mark Shultz. There's even a film about Italian poet Leopardi and Sergei Parajanov's 1969 film about 18th-century Armenian ashugh, Sayat Nova: The Colour of Pomegranates. (Mental note: Campaign for a Pomegranates strand at next year's LFF.)

The Imitation Game
Mr. Turner
The Colour of Pomegranates

Who doesn't like a bit of Susanne Bier? The LFF certainly does: they've got two of hers included this year. George Clooney would get tons of column inches out of that alone: the Oscar-winning Danish director deserves no less.

A Second Chance

Enchanted by Eva Green? Join the queue. The queue, that is, to book tickets for either of her two films showing in Leicester Square this October.

White Bird in a Blizzard
The Salvation

I love a good cave. Mysterious, dark, covered in little bits of hair. But if Nick Cave the musician isn't your thing - he's scoring two films at this year's festival - why not try a film about an actual cave instead? Even better, book one of the below blindfolded and see where you end up in four weeks' time. (Warning: Watch out for caves.)

Far From Men
In Darkness We Fall

Cute. Furry. Always on YouTube. Animals are everywhere in modern society, so it's no surprise to see that they have infiltrated the BFI's event too. There's White Bird in a Blizzard, which stars Eva Green and Shailene Woodley as… oh. And Foxcatcher about Channing Tatum hunting fox… oh. But wait a minute: there is Animal Farm screening in the retro family catalogue. That has animals in it, right?

Animal Farm
The Lamb
White Bird in a Blizzard

As the old cinema saying goes, if it sounds like a medical condition, you know you're in for a good night. From Whiplash to 3 Hearts, these titles are all wonderfully intriguing and exciting. Unless, of course, they're being read to you by your doctor. In which case cancel your LFF tickets now and start making peace with your estranged Aunt Mildred.

3 Hearts
Hungry Hearts
Shrew's Nest
The Turning
The Goob
Butter on the Latch
The Green Prince

There are some interesting hints of technology in this year's LFF, from social media and long-distance relationships in 10,000km to our second-screen-dominated lives captured in Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children. But screw technology. What we all want to know at the LFF each year is this: are there any films with GIANT ROBOT OVERLORDS? Finally, there is. It's called, in fact, Robot Overlords. A small British sci-fi that sees a young boy escape curfew in an age of, well, robot overlords, it's a wee adventure directed by none other than Jon Wright: the guy who made the wonderful horror-comedy Grabbers. If you haven't already put this at the top of your to-see list, the film also stars Gillian Anderson. And Sir Ben Kingsley. And GIANT ROBOT OVERLORDS. Did I mention the robots?

Robot Overlords