Leigh, Firth Star in Brit Film Festival

British CouncilDavies turns again to the Liverpool of his childhood in "Of Time and the City," a visual poem about his hometown.
A grab bag of the latest and strangest British cinema will reach the big screens of Moscow's Formula Kino theater next Tuesday, as the British Council's 9th Annual Festival of New British Film kicks off for a weeklong run.

This fall's addition to the yearly contemporary film series carries the same goal as ever: to expose Russian audiences to the wealth and breadth of films being made by British directors. The only slight shift in the festival's makeup this time around is an emphasis on youth.

"This year we have a bigger selection of younger directors with debut titles," said festival organizer Oksana Romina. "For instance, [Jackie Oudney's] 'French Film' and 'The Complete History of My Sexual Failings,' from Chris Waitt, are both great debuts."

The featured pictures were chosen at least in part with the Russian soul in mind. As Romina explained, two separate teams of critics -- one British, the other Russian -- were assembled by the British Council to frequent this year's other international festivals and select the field to make it to Moscow. The results are a diversity of films that are unified strictly by their directors' geographic origins.


British Council
Bell stars in "Hallam Foe," a dark tale about a son whose mother kills herself.
"Our only major theme is always to show a full picture of what contemporary British film is like," said Romina. "So, we partly go by genre -- we always choose a documentary, there's always a comedy, an independent filmmaker and so on."

The range of styles and themes explored in the 10 films screened stretches even wider. Opening night will see the latest from 'Vera Drake' director Mike Leigh, another film employing the "kitchen sink realism," for which he's famed. Its title, "Happy-Go-Lucky," describes the eternal attitude of main character Poppy, whose unfailing exuberance tries the nerves of those around her.

From there, the features grow weirder. First up on Wednesday night is "Better Things," which explores the sex lives and substance usage of multiple generations in the Cotswalds, England; Thursday filmgoers can see the mythic tale "Far North," a story of love and betrayal set in the Arctic; and Sunday showcases the debut from Waitt, who will arrive in Moscow to present his over-the-top comedy-documentary.

In yet another mood swing, a black-and-white documentary by Terence Davies about his native Liverpool, titled "Of Time and the City," will be shown Saturday night and close the festival on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The "visual poem," a patchwork of footage from sources such as BBC and British Movietone News, was screened at Cannes this year, drawing intrigued, mostly rave, reviews from critics.

Fans of Colin Firth, once the heartthrob of millions for playing Mr. Darcy in BBC's "Pride and Prejudice," will star in two of the 10 participating films -- "And When Did You Last See Your Father?" based on Blake Morrison's best-selling book about his own father and ever-versatile director Michael Winterbottom's "Genova," which depicts a family's tumultuous move to a small Italian town.

Another film that contributes to the abnormal aura of the festival's lineup is "Hallam Foe," whose title character, a young man traumatized by his mother's suicide, is played by Jamie Bell, the now-grown-up star of the classic inspirational film "Billy Elliot."

The IX Annual Festival "New British Film" begins Oct. 28 and runs until Nov. 4 at the Formula Kino movie theater, Evropeisky shopping mall, 2 Kievsky Station Square, M. Kievskaya. www.ukfilms.ru. All films are in English.