The BBC First British Film Festival launched three years ago. With more than 41,000 admissions this year the program is an opportunity to see some of the best cinema in the world. We’ve put together a list of the eight films to see, and a classic British dish to match.
A United Kingdom and Chargrilled Calf’s Tongue at Press Food & Wine
A United Kingdom tells the true love story of the first Botswanan president and an English woman. It’s set in 1940s England, a time when an interracial relationship was controversial. Directed by Amma Asante (Belle), the film highlights the social injustices of the era. “[It] focuses on romance and the fierce opposition the couple faced [from] British and tribal government,” says Kim Petalas, the festival’s curator. The narrative is one of concealed and forbidden emotions and of a love too unconventional for the couple’s contemporary world.
Pair this theme with an unconventional order – calf’s tongue. It might be a rare choice in Australia, but trust us, it’s worth leaving your comfort zone for. Alternately, gather nine friends and order a roast suckling Berkshire pig 24 hours in advance.
A Monster Calls and Bubble and Squeak at Crack Kitchen
An enchanting take on a coming-of-age tale, A Monster Calls is a fantasy tale. The story centres on a boy who finds refuge in the company of a tree monster in his garden while coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness. It’s Bridge to Terabithia meets The Lord of the Rings. “The film is a story of friendship and is a beautiful, cinematically stunning fantasy,” says Petalas.
What better dish to match a fantasy movie than the fantastical-sounding Bubble and Squeak? The Brits have been turning their leftover veggies into these crispy, golden breakfast patties for decades.
I, Daniel Blake and a Coopers English Bitter at The Exeter.
Ken Loach’s Palm d’Or Winner is quintessentially British and explores the struggle of the working class. The friendship between an injured carpenter and a single mother is the core of the narrative. I, Daniel Blake is an interrogation of Britain’s socio-economic issues and is as stark as it is tender. “It highlights social injustices … grouping modern-day drama and social realism,” says Petalas.
What’s more working class than a good pint? The Exeter serves the full Coopers range, but it’s the easy-drinking English bitter that best fits this film.
Trespass Against Us and Blood Sausage and Maple Bacon at Hibernia
An exploration of the country’s criminal underbelly, Trespass Against Us studies Britain’s industrial world. Unabashed patriotism permeates this crime thriller that at its core is about the fraught relationship between a father and son. Inherently British in its production – The Chemical Brothers even composed the score – this dark and gritty crime drama is a delicate balance between all-out thuggery and mischievous English comedy.
Prepare for the inevitable bloodshed by downing some blood sausage, maple bacon and chips.
Their Finest and Bacon, Eggs and Boston Baked Beans at East Terrace Continental
This star-studded romantic comedy is one for the history buffs. Taking place during The Blitz (the German bombing of British cities during World War Two), Their Finest is a film adaptation of the book Their Finest Hour and a Half. In an attempt to boost the morale of 1940s England, Catrina Cole (played by Gemma Arterton) is summoned to the British Industry of Information’s film division to make propaganda movies with a female perspective.
The film subverts the traditional wartime narrative. It offers a heroic and entirely patriotic story about a woman’s touch during a time of brutal masculinity. It’s also particularly beautiful to watch.
Boost your own morale with a typical English fry-up: bacon, eggs and Boston baked beans. Technically Boston baked beans are American, but we're calling this one close enough.
Tommy’s Honour and Wood-smoked Black Cod Fillet and Duck-Fat Chips at Sean’s Kitchen
Directed by Jason Connery (son of Sean Connery), this biopic drama revisits the story of Tom and Tommy Morris, a father-and-son duo that invented the game of golf. Set in Scotland in the mid 1800s, Tommy’s Honour is brooding, compelling and visually stunning.
Sean’s Kitchen is owned by chef Sean Connolly, which sounds uncannily like “Sean Connery”. Anyway – in Australia, the “fish” part of fish and chips usually means flake or whiting. In the UK it’s more likely to be cod or haddock. Get a taste of that tradition alongside Connolly’s rich duck-fat chips.
The Man Who Fell to Earth and a Pie at Bakery on O’Connell
This science-fiction film starring David Bowie covers mental illness, love and addiction. The Man Who Fell to Earth is part of the festival’s Retrospective: Local Heroes series. The 1976 masterpiece follows an alien who travels to Earth in search of water for his drought-stricken planet. “We felt it important to highlight the cinematic heroes of Britain, it is the ideal opportunity to showcase David Bowie’s finest work as an actor,” says Petalas. Completely restored and effortlessly timeless, this film is Bowie at his most eccentric and hypnotising.
Celebrate one of England’s most diverse and recognisable musical exports with one of its most diverse and recognisable culinary exports: the pie. Bakery O’Connell makes dozens of different varieties.
A Room with a View and Lamb Rogan Josh at The Austral Hotel
Another film featured in the Retrospective: Local Heroes series is the 1985 classic, A Room with a View. The funny, sexy and sophisticated film is director James Ivory’s most famous piece of work. A legendary British cast – including Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith and Daniel Day-Lewis – star in this adaptation of E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel. The award-winning film is a collision between a period drama and a romantic comedy and follows Lucy Honeychurch’s blossoming love life.
England began colonialising India from the mid-1700s, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that curry found a foothold in the motherland. Celebrate the era with a warming Rogan josh.
The BBC First British Film Festival will screen at Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas from November 3 to November 23, 2016.
For session times and more information visit britishfilmfestival.com.au