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Despite changes in the number and presentation of films in this year's programme, London Film Festival had a wonderful selection of titles that made us feel hopeful about the stories cinema has to offer despite the difficult circumstances. In particular, this year's programme offered a wide variety of genres and forms of filmmaking, with plenty of the films centred on joy and connection, which made the experience of viewing them especially poignant. We were excited by many titles, below the film programming team share some of the standouts that will be available to watch soon.
This accessible, engaging and insightful documentary looks at the economic, cultural and social impact of basketball icon Michael Jordan and, more specifically, his sneakers. The Air Jordan originally released in 1984 was a landmark moment across sports, fashion and business, with months of build-up creating huge buzz amongst fans which enabled Nike to become a big-name brand through their marketing of the product. The film guides the viewer through the historical context of the US Black experiences, which transformed from a period without hope during the Reagan presidency characterised by poverty to a renaissance of Black culture in the 1990s, with the films of Spike Lee (who would reference the Air Jordan in multiple titles and even go on to direct commercials of future versions), as well as the success of Will Smith and other rising stars across sports, music and the arts. One Man and His Shoes is essential viewing for anyone interested in these subjects, told with a fast pace and stylish filmmaking.
Released in cinemas this week, October 23
This year's festival stood out for the number of quality and engaging documentaries in the programme, and The Reason I Jump, which examines the lives of five young people living with autistic spectrum disorder was right up there. Using a ground-breaking memoir written by Naoki Higsashida, a thirteen-year-old non speaking autistic boy from Japan as inspiration, the filmmakers perceptively explore the complex sensorial perspectives on the world that people living with ASD have, as well as challenging the preconceptions, misunderstandings and prejudices that have been in place for generations all over the world. Taking in the experiences of young people from Sierra Leone to Broadstairs, and featuring a valuable contribution from ‘Cloud Atlas' author David Mitchell (the father of an autistic son, and translator of Higashida's text), the documentary elicits a deep empathy from its audiences and looks set to change the conversation around autism.
Told with a personal edge by director Bassam Tariq and lead actor Riz Ahmed, Mogul Mowgli gives insight into the inner lives of those experiencing cultural diaspora in the United Kingdom. Told through the eyes of a British-born Pakistani rapper named Zed on the brink of his big break in the US, the narrative takes a turn when, during a visit to his family back in the UK, Zed is rushed to hospital with a mystery illness. Forced to confront his personal, cultural and national identity whilst also dealing with his physical health, the audience follows Zed through his fears, hopes, dreams and nightmares, culminating in one of the year's most powerful final scenes. Mogul Mowgli is a special film that allows us to not only see the world through another point of view but strongly feel it as well.
Released in cinemas this week, 23 October
Lovers Rock is a particular style of reggae music that is known for its romantic lyrics and melodies. The genre grew in London during the 70s amongst the Caribbean community, particularly those of Jamaican origin, playing at house parties and events hosted by DJs and musicians. This tender and captivating story is included in Steve McQueen's Small Axe series that will explore key cultural and political moments in British History that have been obscured (Mangrove, another film in the series, also screened at the festival). Following a young woman's encounter with a young man on the dance floor at a local house party, the film depicts the role of music and social gatherings in the making of British-Caribbean identities as well as the strength and resistance creativity provided at a time of overt racism. Including beautifully shot dance scenes and a narrative that appears to almost unfold in real-time, Lovers Rock is a wonderful homage to music and romance.
Released in November on BBC One and BBC Iplayer. Mangrove will be televised on BBC One on November 15
We look at how new documentary 'I Am Greta' explores themes around mental health, protest, democracy, and climate change through the story of Greta Thunberg.
Reading time 7 mins
Immerse your students in Black History Month with our Black Lives Matter hub, resources, film suggestions and much more.
Reading time 6 mins
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