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Film Festival Fever | reviews, news & interviews

Film Festival Fever

Film Festival Fever

Fantastic Foxes in Leicester Square, spies in Cambridge, bicycles at the Barbican: the pick of the autumn film festivals

Does Britain have too many film festivals? Not so very long ago, there were only two of these games around: the London Film Festival - which unveiled its full line-up this morning and begins on 14 October - and Edinburgh. Now, though, there are hundreds.

The London London Film Festival website remains the behemoth in size and scope. Long a "festival of festivals", which selected the cream of films already unveiled on the international circuit, it has slowly built the clout to command its own major world premieres: this year there are 15.

With increased funding from Film London, it has also now set its sights on entering the "top tier" of festivals, according to Amanda Nevill, the Director of the British Film Institute, speaking at the press launch in London's Leicester Square this morning. With this aim in mind, the event, traditionally non-competitive, has introduced new award categories, including a prize for Best Picture, and a stand-alone awards ceremony.

The world premieres include the opening film, Fantastic Mr Fox, a stop-motion animated version of Roald Dahl's children's book directed by Wes Anderson, whose previous film, The Darjeeling Limited, opened London two years ago. Also a world premiere, the closing night presentation is Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor-Wood's debut feature about the childhood of John Lennon.

The rest of the line-up displays the usual strong line-up of America independent cinema, including new work from Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!, the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man and Jim Jarmusch's The Limits Of Control. It also cherrypicks the selections of world cinema seen this year in Cannes, Venice and Toronto: Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winning The White Ribbon, Jane Campion's Bright Star, Atom Egoyan's Chloe and Mic-Mac, the new film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of Amelie.

Among the guests expected in town are George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Nick Park and Jane Campion. Watch this space for a more detailled guide to the pick of the mix.

Of the autumn's other film festivals, some, aimed at a hard core of enthusiasts, can only be filed under esoterica, such as the Bicycle Film Festival, dedicated to "modern urban bike culture", which takes place this month at the Barbican Cinema, London bicycle film festival website. Some, sponsored by embassies and cultural institutes, are showcases for national cinemas, whose most substantial audience is likely to be be the expat community: also at the Barbican, the current season of new Brazilian cinema Brazilian cinema season website is one of these. Others yet - despite being proudly billed as "international" - are mainly a useful resource for the locals to catch those movies which will never make it to the multiplex.

For cinephiles, there can only be one answer to this report's opening question. On the other hand, it's also the case that the media are suffering from festival fatigue. In a shrinking arts media culture, these events face an increasingly uphill struggle to win the publicity and limelight they need to attract funding. theartsdesk will aim to fill that gap by flagging them in our film buzz section.

What's more, with the annual calendar filling up fast, festivals have to jostle hard for position (and the fight for space is even more ruthless on the international scene). Edinburgh successfully moved its dates last year from August - when the film jamboree was swamped by the city's other festivals - to June. That, in turn, helped to nudge Cambridge from its former slot in July to September: it now opens on September 17 with the French Resistance drama Army Of Crime, in the presence of its director, Robert Guediguian, and includes a season celebrating spies in cinema. Cambridge Film Festival website

However a significant number of festivals are establishing themselves as worth a detour, such as the lively Sheffield Doc/Fest, now in its sixteenth year, which opens on November 4 with the world premiere of Mat Whitecross's Moving To Mars. Sheffield Film Festival website

In London, Raindance - yes, our answer to Robert Redford's Sundance Festival - kicks off on September 30 with the low-budget US comedy Hump Day. The prolific Soderbergh, the very grandfather of the modern American indie cinema, closes proceedings on October 11 with yet another of his new films, his credit-crunch drama The Girlfriend Experience.

With its young vibe and eclectic line-up Raindance Raindance website, now in its seventeenth year, has become a welcome counterpart to the London Film Festival, whose critics gripe that it has become a slick impersonal event dominated by the red carpet photo opportunity, the publicity junket and exclusive sponsors' parties. In truth, though, there is a place for both kinds of festival.

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