Film: Oscar contenders head for Bath

Robin Askew, October 15, 2014

Bristol has no shortage of great niche film festivals, from Slapstick to Encounters and Wildscreen. But if we’re lacking something, it’s a big, all-encompassing mainstream fest. For that, you have to head for Jane Austenland. Yep, the Bath Film Festival has always punched above its weight – and this year’s event is no exception. Cunningly timed to take place in the wake of the London Film Festival, it snaffles many a regional premiere of London highlights – many of them Oscar contenders – long before they’re due to open nationwide. This year, Bath is also introducing an innovative F-Rated strand. That’s not as rude as it sounds. It highlights films that pass the Bechdel test. These are movies that have at least two women in them who talk to one another about something other than a man. Bath raises the bar further by also insisting that F-rated films have a female director and a female lead who’s not simply there to support the male lead.

Here’s a quick run-down of some of the tastiest previews in this year’s programme.

What We Do in the Shadows
Flight of the Conchords’ co-founder Jemaine Clement reunites with Eagle Vs Shark director Taika Waititi for a mockumnetary about a dysfunctional family of vampires from widely differing historical periods. Their attempts to lead a quiet life are thwarted when one of them bites an irritating hipster.
Bath preview: Nov 13
Opens nationwide: Nov 21

Wild
Reese Witherspoon stars in a film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s book about how she dealt with a difficult break-up by hiking the epic Pacific Crest Trail. As you do. It’s scripted by Nick Hornby and is director Jean-Marc Vallee’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club 
Bath preview: Nov 14
Opens nationwide: Jan 16

My Old Lady
Israel Horovitz adapts his own Broadway play about an impecunious American writer (Kevin Kline) who inherits a valuable Paris apartment. Alas, it comes with a tenant for life in the form of dowager Maggie Smith. Kristin-Scott Thomas plays the biddy’s withering daughter.
Bath preview: Nov 16
Opens nationwide: Nov 21

Testament of Youth
Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir comes to the big screen courtesy of telly veteran John Kent, whose credits include The White Queen. Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who was so brilliant in A Royal Affair, plays Vera. The supporting cast includes such thesps as Dominic West, Emily Watson, Hayley Atwell and Anna Chancellor, alongside rising stars Kit Harington, Taron Egerton and Colin Morgan.
Bath preview: Nov 21
Opens nationwide: Jan 16

Song of the Sea
A lovely Irish animation from the makers of the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells. Inspired by the Selkies of Irish folklore, it’s the tale of Ben and his little sister Saoirse – the last Sea-child – who set off on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic.
Bath preview: Nov 22
Opens nationwide: TBA

Birdman
Already generating serious Oscar buzz in the US, Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s black comedy casts Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who once played a superhero and is now trying to make a comeback with his own Broadway play. Variety called it “a triumph on every level, from casting to execution”.
Bath preview: Nov 23
Opens nationwide: Jan 2

The Bath Film Festival runs from November 13-23. For more information and the full programme, visit www.bathfilmfestival.org.uk.

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