What to see: Highlights from the 2016 BBC First British Film Festival

SEE only the very best films from the British Isles when the BBC First British Film Festival returns this week! Natalie Ng has your highlights from this year’s amazing festival.


It’s here again! After an amazing run in 2015 which featured Brooklyn and 45 Years, two films that went on to clinch Best Actress nominations at the Oscars, BBC First is back to present Aussie audiences with the very best films from the British isles.

Judging from their selections,  this year’s BBC First British Film Festival looks to top last year’s efforts with a program consisting of 19 Australian premieres, a retrospective look at quintessentially British director Ken Loach and retrospectives coming under the theme of Local Heroes (a timely theme selection considering the tumult of the political landscape in the United Kingdom now).

The Local Heroes retrospective will include ten of the finest and uniquely British films, be it about the punk scene or a period drama. One of these will be Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), starring David Bowie.

Like last year, the festival will also continue to champion female voices in filmmaking with a strong showcase of female characters and directors within the programming. As late October and November will no doubt be a busy time for students, we’ve narrowed down the most buzz-worthy and anticipated titles from the festival to highlight.

A United Kingdom


A United Kingdom has both the privilege of being the opening film for the 60th BFI London Film Festival as well as the BBC First British Film Festival, and has also just finished a successful run at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Director Amma Asante, who broke out with her gorgeous period drama Belle (2013) returns to tell another extraordinary true life story of the romance between Botswanan King Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and his British wife, Ruth Williams Khama (Rosamund Pike).

The formidable combination of three of cinema’s brightest stars: Asante, Oyelowo and Pike, plus the subject matter about love and country, makes this film one not to be missed.

A Quiet Passion


Director Terrence Davies, who has been quietly making some of the finest British films for the past two decades which includes Sunset Song (recently screened at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival) has already returned with his latest film, A Quiet Passion.

A Quiet Passion, like Sunset Song, is a portrait of a woman. This time, Davies focus his attention on the real life 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson. Actress Cynthia Nixon, who portrays Emily Dickinson, has been praised universally by critics, with the film being called ‘a masterpiece of mood’ by The Independent.

‘A Quiet Passion’–its title and the film itself, sounds like the culmination of Davies’ career.

Their Finest


Director Lone Scherfig, who came into prominence with the sparkling 1960s coming-of-age film An Education is back with yet another look at another facet of British culture and history.

This time, we are back in the 1940s, with Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin playing two young writers who come together to write a film that will boost the morale of the British people during the second World War. The film has been described as a romantic dramedy, a tribute to filmmaking and a film that displays the importance of art and culture.

With an ensemble of promising young talent and iconic veteran actors such as Bill Nighy, Helen McCrory and Jeremy Irons, this is another film that showcases the humour and the tragedy of life, and what we love about British culture so much.

A Monster Calls


Closing the festival this year is A Monster Calls, based on the award winning children’s book by Patrick Ness. Director JA Bayona, a protege of director Guillermo Del Toro, is in his element as he brings this fantastical story of a young boy’s imagination to life.

The film deals with the power of imagination in coping with the harsh realities of everyday life as a young boy deals with his mother’s terminal illness.

Academy Award nominee and Star Wars: Rogue One star Felicity Jones plays the mother to newcomer Lewis MacDougall. Liam Neeson is in the critical role of voicing the monster, and from the looks of it, brings a haunting and magical quality to the film. This is a film you definitely want to see in cinemas.

The BBC First British Film Festival will take place at various Palace Cinemas. The Melbourne leg of the festival will take place from October 26 to November 16. For the full program, schedule and ticketing information, visit the festival’s official website for more details.

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