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NFTS Film Curating Students LFF Top Picks

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NFTS Film Curating Students LFF Top Picks

Top Twenty Must See Films at the BFI London Film Festival

Choosing which films to view at a high profile film festival like the BFI London Film Festival can be daunting; a grand total of 242 feature films including 29 world premieres, eight international premieres, and 34 European premieres, a range which will give even the most experienced film enthusiast a challenge when deciding what to see.  

So to help you, second year students on our Film Studies, Programming and Curation MA, which is run in partnership with the BFI, have applied their curatorial skills to pick their top 20 must see films at this year’s festival, which kicks off on the 4th October and runs until the 15th October. Selecting, programming and reviewing films lies at the heart of their studies, with many of the students aspiring to work as curators and programmers at festivals when they graduate. Here are their most highly anticipated and recommended films:

1 - Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman)

For decades, Frederick Wiseman has presented audiences with immersive, non-interventionist documentary portraits of a large number of American institutions. Here he turns his gaze to the staff and users of the New York Public Library, observing small human moments as well as documenting the impact of digitisation and the march of progress on our libraries in what should be timely and unmissable documentary film making. On a related side-note, a restoration of the Maysles brothers terrific 1969 documentary about bible salesmen also screens at the festival. (Mark Donaldson)

2 – The Florida Project (Sean Baker)

Received with rave reviews at Cannes, Sean Baker betters his iPhone-shot debut, Tangerine, with another powerful portrait of the American underclass. This time he captures the restless energy of the children living in a motel next to Disney World, while raising thought-provoking questions about education and social opportunity in the States. A mostly non-professional cast joins Willem Dafoe who nails his best role in ages. (Roberto González)

3 - The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Yorgos Lanthimos follows up his beloved, twisted The Lobster with a searing, Kubrickian psychological horror film that creeps under the skin and stays with you days after you leave the cinema. Gloriously filmed and atmospherically haunting, it’s a tense and jarring work from one of today’s best filmmakers. (Andrew Espe)

4 – You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay – NFTS Graduate)

Lynne Ramsay's latest film centres on an ex-soldier attempting to rescue a kidnapped girl from a sex-trafficking ring, a story beloved of genre cinema. But this isn't interested in the bloody retribution of a Liam Neeson character, rather it's a brutal and poetic portrait of the internal struggle of a man, played by Joaquin Phoenix, whose whole life has been violence. (Mark Donaldson)

5 - A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio)

After his wonderful Gloria, Sebastián Lelio returns with another portrait of a headstrong woman, this time having to deal with hostility and rejection for being transgender after the death of her long-time partner. (Maureen Gueunet)

6 - Happy End (Michael Haneke)

Michael Haneke’s portrait of a dysfunctional bourgeois Calais family offers a summary – and a bracingly intelligent, partly satirical update – on themes from his previous films. (Maria Bolocan)

7 - Araby (Affonso Uchôa and João Dumans) 

Araby follows drifter Cristiano as he wanders across Brazil from job to job, from one experience to another. A slow melancholic ramble across a country and a sad song to the open road. (David Perrin)

8 - Angels Wear White (Vivian Qu)

An incredibly beautiful Chinese drama, Angels Wear White is sweet and powerful, and delivers a strong commentary on the place of the woman in Chinese society. (Nicolas Raffin)

9 - Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz)

After the formidable  Lebanon (2009) brought us inside a tank in the middle of the war in Lebanon, Samuel Maoz’s second fiction reflects on the same tragedy - war- but this time from within the family circle. The film, winner of the Silver Lion and critical acclaim in Venice, reminds us yet again how consuming and devastating the war in the Middle East is. (Nicolas Raffin)

10 - Good Manners (Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas)

Those who believe everything has been already done should check the work of this Brazilian couple, fresh from winning a special jury prize at Locarno. What initially looks like a study of class differences, told through the relationship between a well-off, pregnant woman and the maid she hires to help her, unexpectedly becomes a genre bending experience that hops from horror to musical, turning into a fairy tale with more plot twists than a soap opera. (Roberto González)

11 - Jeune Femme (Léonore Serraille)

A wicked film for a wayward woman, Léonore Serraile’s first feature draws the portrait of self-destructive Paula. At a complete loss in her life, she takes dubious routes to get herself back on track. Laeticia Dosch’s dizzy performance and Julie Roue’s poppy music thrillingly embody Paula’s chaotic and heart-warming personality, a must-see at the LFF!  (Maureen Gueunet)

12 - Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Through the disappearance of a child, Zvyagintsev reveals the soullessness of a divorced couple, offering a harrowing but deeply effective glimpse into the moral abyss of contemporary society. (Irene Silvera Frischknecht )

13 - The Shape Of Water (Guillermo Del Toro)

I am excited about any new film from Guillermo del Toro, but I’m especially happy that this new fantasy allows for Sally Hawkins to sink her teeth into a lead role. Versatile and yet undeniably empathetic, Hawkins is one of the best contemporary actors and I can’t wait to see her talent matched with del Toro’s singular aesthetic and voice. (Andrew Espe)

14 - Thelma (Joachim Trier – NFTS graduate)

A teenage girl taps into some long-dormant powers, in this chiller from Joachim Trier, director of Oslo, August 31st. (Maria Bolocan)

15 - Close-Knit (Naoko Ogigami)

Naoko Ogigami is one of Japan's most celebrated contemporary women directors. Moving away from her habitual quirky character studies, her new feature about a neglected girl who is taken in by her uncle and his transgender partner, promises a whole new outlook on the Japanese family drama. (Irene Silvera Frischknecht )

16 - Good Time (The Safdie Brothers) 

Fully embracing the heist-film genre, Good Time sends Robert Pattinson, a sleazy incompetent bank robber, into the New York night (shot beautifully by Sean William Price in 35mm) hatching plan after ridiculous plan in an attempt to spring his hospital bound brother out of police custody. (David Perrin)

17 - Zama (Lucrecia Martel)

Long-awaited, Lucrecia Martel’s new film screened in Venice to enthusiastic critical response. Promising to be a risk-taking work in terms of aesthetics and narrative and its depiction of colonialism in Latin America, this will certainly be one of the most surprising films at LFF. (Maureen Gueunet)

18 - Dark River (Cleo Barnard – NFTS graduate)

British talent is not in short supply in this edition, but Barnard's new work is the one I'm most intrigued by. Both her innovative documentary debut, The Arbor, and her incursion in the Loach tradition of social realism with The Selfish Giant, revealed a strong, versatile authorial voice. This adaptation of Rose Tremain's novel 'Tresspass' should affirm her as one of today's most essential directors. (Roberto González)

19 - Journeyman (Paddy Considine)

Following on from 2011's Tyrannosaur, actor, director and writer Paddy Considine's second feature promises to be another stirring tale contrasting brutal masculinity with tender emotion. The film focuses on boxer Matty Burton's (Considine) struggle to recover from a head injury that has altered his personality and how this affects his relationship with his wife (Jodie Whittaker) and daughter. (Mark Donaldson)

20 - The Mærsk Opera (Superflex)

Superflex create an operatic interpretation of the building of Copenhagen’s famous performance space, one of Europe’s most controversial buildings. Experimental film (Maria Bolocan)

Bonus track!

21 – 9 Fingers (FJ Ossang)

It is probably the only occasion to see this film on the UK territory for a long time. Lyrical and punk, 9 Doigts is representative of a rebirth of the French underground scene, at least on the international festival scene.  (Nicolas Raffin)

If you are inspired by our students’ choices or think you could do better, why not apply for our Film Studies, Programming and Curation MA, which is delivered in partnership with the BFI? Applications are open now until October 16th and the two-year course starts in January 2018.

And if this wasn't enough, find out which films made by NFTS graduates are competing in the first feature competition in our second blog focussed on the BFI London Film Festival.